Pregnancy Broke my Body, but I Don’t Need to Stay Broken

patrick-hendry-45138.jpgAs a transplant to Utah I’m still very much in the season of making new friends and getting to know people. We don’t know each other’s back story. We don’t know each other’s struggles and triumphs. It’s all new.

The other day I was at the gym with one of my new friends—because really they’re all new—as I struggled through the brutal workout she had prepared for me I lamented “My how the mighty have fallen.” In place of a once strong and tough body there is so much weakness, so much that is broken, so much room for healing.

My heart was pounding and I found myself dizzy and nauseated. She stood by my side as I struggled not to throw up. It was a pretty depressing moment. How the mighty have fallen indeed.

Then a few nights later another “new” friend and I hosted a girls night. We talked about our lives and things that brought us to this moment. I talked about teaching yoga and the years I spent working at the  renown Glen Ivy Hot Springs spa in Southern California. I pulled up the spa’s website to give her a picture of it’s picturesque pools and facilities.

There, on the front page was a promo video. We pressed play and a few seconds in there was this tiny little yoga teacher chatting while holding Warrior Three. She seemed so at ease and the fact that she could even stand on one leg amazed me. Then she turned her head and my stomach filled with knots. It was me. My face, my body, and yet that girl seemed so utterly foreign to me.

I turned the video off and had a great evening with this amazing bunch of new friends but when I went home I felt overwhelmed with sadness and personal disappointment. Today the thought of standing on one leg sends chills down my spine. I sit, uncomfortably, consistently shifting from side to side. At night I roll and whimper in constant pain only relived by the muscle relaxers that I resent taking. I resent waking up groggy and out of it. I resent the pain all together.

The truth is pregnancy broke me. And while I’d never take back those pregnancies and the sweet little children my body carried, I lament the way carrying them effected my body. Last year, on this very blog I shared a bit more of my story and you’re welcome to check it out here, but today and yesterday and that day at the gym I’m moving forward, one little step at a time.

I’m ready to make peace with my body. I’m ready to accept the pain and seek healing. I’m ready to get back in the saddle and maybe even return to teaching. I’m ready, my head is ready, but my body is a few steps behind, and this is a fact that I need to accept.

Compassion has always been at the core of each yoga class I’ve taught. I’ve never really been one to stand on my head, my intent has always been to work on something deeper something more internal. These two years, having to step away from that physical practice has ultimately taught me more about the spiritual and mental. It’s also grown that compassion in ways I could have never understood before.

I know that I have an uphill battle ahead of me. I know that I have to be patient and compassionate with myself. These are hard words to hear, patience compassion. They roll around in my head before I can truly digest them. I hope, dear friend, that you too can learn that self compassion, that patience mixed with determination to heal. I can promise you this, it will not come overnight, but it will come.

 

Photo Cred: Patrick Hendry unsplash

Follow the Sun

The summer before I began High School my grandparents and Aunt took me on a whirlwind bus tour of Europe. We landed in London, took a ferry across the English Channel departing from the Cliffs of Dover and arriving upon the shores of Calais. We tracked mile after mile in a bus filled with strangers that became our traveling companions. In my family’s opinion it was the best way to become introduced to Europe. Since my professional aspiration at the time was to become a travel journalist I’d need to know my geography first-hand. The bus tour did the trick. The tour led us south-east from Paris to Switzerland and down to Tuscany. From Tuscany we descended deep into the heart of Italy. During the long trek I gazed out the bus windows to be greeted with the most welcoming view of the Italian countryside. Rows upon rows of sunflowers, my Papa’s favorite. It seemed no matter which direction we turned we were welcomed with more sunflowers. We no longer needed to look at our watches to keep time, the sunflowers did it for us. At morning the sunflowers would slowly lift their heavy heads as if to offer us a sleepy “good morning”. At mid-day the sunflowers would stand up straight, their blooms reaching up toward the heavens, soaking in every ounce of sunlight they could process, and as evening approached they’d reach toward the last rays of the setting sun before bidding us a weary buona notte.

followthesun

Heliotropism

It’s amazing to me that most of plant life—nature—is pre-programmed to seek out light. It will creep and crawl defying all odds to find sunlight. A plant subject to heliotropism, like my beloved Italian sunflower, literally turns its head to the light. The face of the flower looks up, reaches, stretches, seeks light. Every single day of it’s existence. Every.single.day.

All Good and Great Things

We get off track. It happens so easily. We fill up our days with good and great stuff. We attend all the practices and cart our kids from here to there. We clean or houses, prepare meals, work demanding jobs, tend to family and friends. All good and great things.

We put our heads down and get to work.

And then, one afternoon or morning we find ourselves in absolute fatigue. We feel like we’ve been hit by a freight-train. Our bodies hurt and our brains feel foggy. And suddenly it’s all just a bit overwhelming. Something has got to give. Or does it?

Seeking the Son

I was listening to the radio the other morning. I was in one of those “I’m just tired, overwhelmed, overcommitted” funks. To be really honest maybe my schedule is a little too jam packed. I struggle to say “no” when I should. Even though I’ve read multiple books and follow amazing women leaders that have taught on this very subject. Nonetheless it literally pains me to tell someone no, to not be the answer, to not be able to solve everything.

Really it’s not my job to solve it all. But I’m hard-wired with a “solve it all” personality. When my husband was in between jobs and the job hunt went on longer than expected it was my first instinct to go get myself a full-time job. I could be the solution. I could. No problem that I was nursing a newborn, had just had a c-section, and our little boy to take care of. I could figure it out. I would just have to give up a few things, like bonding with my brand new baby and healing my body to make it all work.

I started putting my resume out and making calls and re-connecting with my professional acquaintances. In my mind what needed to be done needed to be done. No matter that our family had taken us in and had already promised to help us through this legitimately scary season of our lives. Still, I had to solve it.

It took someone much wiser than I telling me that I wasn’t the solution this time for me to back down. It was hard. It was embarrassing. It required a lot of faith for me to sit and allow God to move on his own and within his own timing. Allowing God to move within His own perfect timing is one of the most difficult things we, as believers, have to do.

I still don’t really understand why it took a year of unemployment before we found our amazing mission in Utah. Why couldn’t it have taken days or weeks? Why months, why years? Why don’t we see solutions to issues within our lifetimes? Why God, why?

At the end of the day we have to let go of so much, releasing it to God’s perfect timing, allowing Him to be the ultimate solution.

On that afternoon when I felt so weary Lysa Terkhursts voice popped on the radio. She talked about starting our days off in the word. Allowing God to take dominion over our day, first and foremost. On the days that I do this I tend to see a marked change in the way the day plays out. When I give my day up, like an offering, things seem to feel a little less heavy. And maybe it’s because I’ve sought the Son first. I’ve given it all to him. I’ve turn my head to the light and said “I can’t carry this life without you.”

There is freedom in the surrender.

I desperately want freedom. I don’t want to be bound by my insecurities, my doubts, my inability to say no when I really should, my fear of disappointing anyone around me.

Rather than putting our heads down and getting to work, I wonder if possibly it makes more sense to lift our chins, to look up with expectancy, to go to the Son first. I wager that this act of lifting our heads with also allow us to realign our lives with His will. This alignment will help us with that burden of to-dos, yeses and no’s. I dare say this will make our burden light.

Our to-do’s may never change; we may have the same exact amount of responsibility tomorrow as we had today. Maybe it was never the to-do that made our souls feel heavy and our bodies fatigued.

Maybe we need to start our days with the Son, in surrender in order to have the strength, energy, and perseverance we need to grow.

 

Photocredit: Rowan Chestnut @chestnut

 

 

 

 

 

Less, then Lovely

daiga-ellaby-154931.jpgA weekend viewing of The Minimalists new documentary appropriately titled, Minimalism, spurred a renewed vigor to purge the unnecessary things in our home. Sunday afternoon found my husband cleaning out his side of the closet and chest of drawers. By national standards we already own much less than the average American, nonetheless…

We still want less. Sweeping through the closet I heard the words, “Hey, I’ve been looking for this” multiple times. Even with all the less that we possess we still have a ton of, for lack of a better word, crap. It’s insane to me that we literally lose things amongst more things. When we’re losing stuff within our stuff we have too much stuff.

I’ve already embraced the capsule wardrobe—however I have to admit that I’ve gone slightly over in my shoes—I can’t help it! I’ve been donating and selling pieces that I no longer love or use and have even been cleaning out the kids closets.

Nonetheless there has been a space in our home that has become a point of contention. The basement, i.e. the playroom, i.e. the abyss. For years we’ve been pointing our children away from things and towards experiences, but for some reason the stuff that they own seems to be multiplying.

Monday came and we dropped our son off at school, returned home, put the baby down for a nap, rolled our sleeves up, grabbed a bunch of trash bags and waded into the abyss. We dumped every basket and organizer on the ground and weeded through the mess. We spent an hour bagging up anything and everything that was broken or grown out of. We reduced their toys by 50 percent, reorganized their play space and dropped all of the good off at our local donation center.

We both exhaled and hit a high-five! Woohoo, we have less, we can actually see the ground in the playroom! We felt accomplished, but a little nervous about the potential fall out. We picked our son up from school, told him that we have cleaned the playroom and we now expect him to keep it clean. He ran downstairs and immediately went to his Lego table and began his after school ritual of master building.

It’s been two weeks since the massive de-cluttering of their play space and here’s the kicker, they haven’t even noticed the missing toys. They haven’t once asked, “Hey where is this or that?” They have no idea that there was a massive toy theft during nap time.

I feel a little sneaky, but now think I could actually purge even more without them noticing. Spring is around the corner, the days are going to get longer and warmer and they’ll most probably ditch the playroom for the backyard. When they do I’ll be ready with trash bags in hand!

 

 

Photo Credit: @daiga_ellaby

Beauty from Ashes

sarah-mak-54250I grew up a church girl. We lived in this tiny house in Pasadena, a property with two houses stacked into it. Our family of six squished into the back house, while another family of six smashed into the front house. The horde of children played between the two houses and even though we looked quite different we were at some point just brothers and sisters.

We were this misfit community, primarily comprised of young first generation Christian families, and their hoard of children. We would play together daily, pray together on Sundays, and do life together the rest of the days, whether that was sharing a meal or sharing toys.

As children we’d to go from home to home playing magical ponies, and as we approached our pre-teen years discuss how awesome DC Talk was. Crushes would blossom and little hearts would get broken, but then somehow someone would mend them and on we’d go. We spent summers swimming and barbecuing, we did youth group in the various homes of people we felt more comfortable calling Auntie or Uncle than we did Mr. or Mrs. We’d essentially known each other all our little lives.

This is how we did church.

I occasionally get asked what my church background looked like, and if I had to sum it up in two words it would be “messy” and “lovely”. Sometimes in our little community we could lose where one of us ended and the other began. We, in some ways, just melted into each other. I was a child, and cannot pretend to know that it was really like for the adults. I assume something rip your heart out beautiful, but perhaps something a little without boundaries at the same time. Our lives and worlds were beyond intertwined.

I’d joke that we were one step away from snake charming and that there was a lot of Sunday writhing on the floor. This typically elicits a blank stare. You’d just have to be there.

Then it was the summer of ’95 and our world burned to the ground. Our people were dying and a string suicides rocked our little community. If my mom said the words “I need to talk to you,” I’d respond with “who is dead.”

The magic was over. We moved away. I grew up.

Some of the group scattered and some stayed in the same place. A part of me felt fractured, untethered. I felt much like a moth out of its cocoon subject to winds and weather.

I floundered. And kept floundering. I went off to college and did “my own thing” as so many faith-raised kids do. I decided to be angry with God for allowing my world to break apart. I decided faith was inconvenient. I decided church was an ugly place filled with hypocrites. I decided I wanted nothing to do with it. I decided to give up.

In truth, all those lovely days spent in our little comfortable community taught me what the church is supposed to look like, but unfortunately I didn’t come out of it with a solid foundation of who God was. Was He all knowing? All loving? Gentle or angry and wrath-filled?

I only had one-half of the piece. It’s taken me years to build a foundation under existing and at moments non-exsistant faith. One night in my early 20’s I came to the scary conclusion that the work was not going to do itself. I was not necessarily going to have a Saul on the road sort of meeting with God. My anger, agnosticism, hurt, resentment, confusion, brokenness, battle wounds, all of it, the whole wide messy package was something God could very easily hold in his hand.

I didn’t have to hide any of it.

I was studying abroad half-way across the world only to stumble into a church filled with Americans and ex-pats. The Pastor, fittingly, was from Southern California. Why I had to stagger around the world only to find someone that spoke my language to lead me back to Christ, I don’t know, but forever I’ll be grateful. This little church did church much like that messy little church in Pasadena. We broke bread together, did life together, watched Alias together.

I somehow ended up teaching Sunday school. They allowed broken messy me to teach Sunday school. We entered the season of Lent. Spring was upon us, there seemed to be more bread and wine passed during those 40 days and nights. There was a reverence and beauty that I hadn’t experienced in my past church life.

Then it was Easter Sunday. We rose before the sunrise and drove into the countryside. We climbed a hill and celebrated the resurrection as the sun rose. Right there, in that very moment, the profound impact of Christ’s sacrifice hit my heart like a freight train. Right there, from the ashes of my past I could see beauty and freedom and life and joy and release in a way I had never yet experienced.

There, right there, beauty from ashes.

 

 

 

Photo Cred: @sarahmakphotography

 

 

 

 

Monthly Minimalist: Kid Stuff

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAHi Friends,

So every few months I return to the subject of minimalism.

Why?

I can’t help it. On a near weekly basis I see how adjusting my thinking to a “less is more” frame has improved my life. I believe, with my whole heart, that it can improve yours as well.

Just the other day I sat with a group of moms talking about our “organizational tricks and tips” I, of course, returned to my favorite The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up penned by the Japanese sweetheart of tidiness Marie Kondo.

Again why?

Why do I promote this sweet little book every chance I get? Because it (I’m not kidding) has changed my life. I’ve never been much of a hoarder, in fact I find myself incredibly uncomfortable in spaces littered with stuff, I feel boxed-in, trapped. But when in a space that is open and airy I can breathe and feel at home. I want more room to breathe in my life. My life is busy balancing marriage, ministry, two amazing and wild-test-your-limits children, writing, dreaming etc. I want more room for this kind of stuff, the good stuff, and if I’m totally honest with myself I just don’t have a lot of time for stuff stuff. I view things as tools, clothing, my car, my home, and yes I’d love for all of these to be lovely, clean, and free of ketchup smears, so I find that having less helps me keep that balance.

I talked with these moms, and I kid you not this is a conversation I feel like I’ve had a thousand times, about how much stuff they have. I’ve been there, every Christmas and kids birthday I worry I might be there again, which is why much to the chagrin of some people have asked that you gift my children with experiences and necessities, oh and yeah for my little guy just about any Lego set from the new Batman Lego movie, but that is where I draw the line. So, my kid has about a thousand Legos…he builds them every single day and when he is done puts the extra pieces away in his super-duper-amazing-got-to-have-it Lego table.

Thankfully the majority of the gift givers in our circle are more than happy to hook my super blessed kiddos up with a pass to the aquarium or ski lessons rather than more stuff to fill my home. As a mom, I totally get that not all in-laws will understand the “experiential” gift, however I really encourage you to encourage those you can in that direction. Kids do not need more stuff, plus, the majority of the toys I see out there these days are utter crap—don’t mind my language, but seriously.

I’m hoping that this minimal approach to the things that are allowed in my home will help teach my children some super valuable life lessons. Here are a few that I can think of:

  1. Stewardship
  2. Gratitude
  3. To be relationally-focused rather than stuff-centric
  4. Creativity
  5. A desire to go, see, do

These examples are really just the tip of the iceberg. So, I’ll leave you with this kind of obvious reminder: We aren’t taking any of this stuff with us, so don’t allow your possessions to possess you. Teach your children young about quality over quantity this will help them to become responsible with their things at a young age. I also believe that it will help them be wise with their money in adulthood—check back with me in 15 years or so on that one!

I hope you had a great January, stay posted for February as I feature some of my favorite love stories, and I be back at the end of the month with a monthly minimalist thought for you.

Be Well,

Rachel