Mom blogs? Tune em’ out (jk, kind of)

People sure do have opinions, especially when it comes to parenting. It’s exhausting to navigate through post after post, book after book, comment after comment… sifting through it because I genuinely want to do right by my child and I want to be educated. I figured out fairly quickly that there is a time to tune out all those voices and opinions and just focus on parenting my own kid.

I really thought I would start blogging about motherhood right away. I’ve done a handful of feeling posts, mostly just gushing about how she fills my heart and soul so much. It’s not that I haven’t gained experience and knowledge that is valuable.. it’s just that I have learned more than anything else that there is no one right way of doing things. Things being: diaper choices, food options, sleeping arrangements, discipline/no discipline, potty training, when to turn the car-seat around, to work or not to work, vaccinations… I could go on and on.

I have learned through my 16 months parenting my spunky little girl that there are only a few voices that I care to turn to, and only a handful of opinions that have affected my husband and my choices with her. Ultimately, we knew and have known what to do for her because she is our girl. Our blood. Our responsibility. It is not rude to tune out the well meaning “others” whoever they may be in order to focus on your kid and do right by them. Likewise, it is not rude to disregard someone else’s advice or opinions in order to take care of yourself and do right by YOU.

I am coming to believe that the mom bloggers, friends, and even family offering their advice can actually muddle my mom brain more than anything else.

All of that said, I am more proud than ever of my mom friends. I am so thankful to have such a wide variety of women around me. Some, I interact with regularly – others I just see from social networking. I love the differences, and most of all I love the incredible little humans being brought up by them.

It’s an amazing sisterhood to be brought into. I wish we would champion each other more. I wish we would look at each other’s special little ones and value what we are doing for them, even when it looks different.

I hope the women around me feel like their choices for their kids are respected by me, not questioned. I hope that the women around me feel safe to share their struggles but also their triumphs as moms – because there are both, and both need support.

I am still learning daily. I still reach out to moms who have been doing it longer with questions or concerns… but ultimately, I have found so much solace in knowing that I am right for her, and no one here on earth could love her better than her dad and I.

IMG_7620.JPG

 

 

Advertisements

Finding Hope

I know when Spring arrives because I start to sneeze a lot, it starts to rain off and on, and my students start to gain a new level of energy.

Likewise, I can tell when a current season in life is shifting because I start to feel differently, my emotions fluctuate, and my energy level either rise or fall.

I have been waiting for the signs of a new life season. Looking for shifts in my mind, heart, and spirit that would help connect the dots of where I’ve been to where I’m going.

I think it’s here, and I am ready.

It started with an unexpected 6 hours alone in a car. No one year old to distract me, no ability to work on school things or speech details… Just me – my tired spirit, worn down heart, and overworked mind.

Just me and the God I’ve been distancing myself from in an attempt to numb the hurts of the last two years.

He is so faithful.

From the outside, I’m sure this last season has looked pretty exciting and full of life. It was – literally. The birth of our daughter, Jemma Jane, brought about joy beyond all imagination. What people couldn’t see from the outside, though, was the doubt and fear and sadness that crept in (and stayed) after we learned that the words “church” and “safe” are not synonymous. Two decades of being raised by and literally IN the church. Two decades of giving everything I knew to give to ministry within the walls of church. Two decades of learning, growing, maturing largely as a result of time spent with church people, as a church person.

Leadership in the church is a great responsibility, one that I have always been keen to take on. Leadership, when done correctly, forces you to see things more clearly and wholly. It forces you to be on the lookout so that you can be leading well – with grace, and kindness and love. It propels you to be constantly reflecting and evaluating so that you can be the best version of yourself. For me, this constant reflection and desire to grow brought me into uncomfortable and painful conflicts with other church leaders. It brought me to a turning point, a point where I had to choose God’s clear voice over the church “home” that I was comfortable in.

When my husband and I chose to step down from leadership and away from our church, we knew it would hurt. We didn’t have any idea how much. We knew it would require sacrifice, we didn’t have any idea how much. We knew it would leave us vulnerable, we didn’t have any idea how much.

We initially told ourselves we would take three months to heal (ha!). We were pregnant at the time, and thought that the birth of our baby girl would be a representation of the birth of new things and would naturally and seamlessly allow us time to just be together, healing and processing. In some senses, this was exactly true… but the reality is that now with a 14 month old – we are still in the middle of learning to love the church again. Learning to be loved by the church again, Learning to see Christ and his vision for church again.

So, the last season has been challenging and confusing, to say the least and I have been waiting for signs of change, signs of hope. I have been waiting for hope. Hoping that hope would drop into my lap. I’m sitting in a car listening to a podcast because I am really bored and podcasts are like the new “thing” that the cool people (aka my husband and small group and everyone else I know) are doing… I turned on Christy Nockels “Beauty in the Mundane” podcast just to fill the car with noise. She had a guest named Annie F. Downs. She wrote a book that sounded interesting and she started out with this passage from Romans…

“Not only so, but we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” (Romans 5:3-5 NIV).

I bought the book as soon as I got home. I read this passage again, and was challenged by Annie Down’s statement along with it that “hope is an expensive commodity, not easily won, always fought for, and the result of a process that may take some time.”

I cringed.

I read it again.

I cringed.

Hope will not just fall in my lap and take over my mind? I have been waiting. Passive aggressively avoiding conversations about Jesus or with him for that matter, because I was waiting for the moment when hope would overflow and fix my heart.

Cringe. Hope is a result of perseverance. Hope is actively fought for.

 

Dot connected: I need to choose perseverance and then trust that hope will follow in abundance.

It’s been a day since this dot was really connected. So, I mean, I’m still processing it all. It’s like the rain that came in hard last night. The bedroom was lighting up with bolts of lightning, the sky ringing with thunder, and the ground was being drenched in rain. This morning there were puddles, but the flowers have not all bloomed and the grass is still brown in some places. Spring is coming, but it takes time.

I can feel the healing of this rain soaking my innerbeing – filling me with the memory of what hope feels like. Blooms are being prepped as I type this. I know it. I ordered a second book by Rachel Held Evans titled “Searching for Sunday” with the subtitle “loving, leaving, and finding the church”. It fell into my lap and I’m guessing it’s just another piece of the puzzle. He is guiding me into new life. He is bringing me back to Himself, and I know that in doing so He is guiding me back to the church.

I need to keep processing this.

I need accountability and cheerleading because it’s so easy to fall into hopelessness, thereby forgetting to persevere which makes hope impossible.

I will persevere, I will find hope.

To my fellow educator:

Inhale.
Shoulders back.
Breathe.
Eyes closed.

Relax.
Focus.
Be present.
Eyes open.

20+ pairs of eyes, 20+ minds, 20+ mouths that chatter at once, 20+ bodies filling up a room and making it come to life.

Some days, I don’t feel I have the energy to make it through a whole day as the primary adult for my students.

Some days, I don’t feel I have the mental capacity to make one more decision or grade one more piece of homework with dreadful handwriting.

Some days,  I don’t feel I have the patience to calmly redirect, clarify, or guide them towards correct behavior or the correct academic strategy.

These days, I need to follow the steps.

Inhale.
Shoulders back.
Breathe.
Eyes closed.

Relax.
Focus.
Be present.
Eyes open.

This job is not one for the weak. It requires great strength to always be on your toes, both literally and figuratively.

This job is not one to be taken lightly. It requires abundant amounts of compassion and discernment to see these individuals for WHO they are and to foster environments that are both orderly and flexible… both structured and free… both academic and creative… both education focused and character driven…

Follow the steps.

Inhale.
Shoulders back.
Breathe.
Eyes closed.

Relax.
Focus.
Be present.
Eyes open.

I grow humans.

I fight for human rights.

I teach humans how to survive and how to thrive.

I teach humans how to be kind.

I teach humans how to discover new things in the ordinary day to day.

I watch them bud day after day.

Sometimes the blooms are small, and few.

Sometimes the blooms are enormous, and many.

Follow the steps.

Inhale.
Shoulders back.
Breathe.
Eyes closed.

Relax.
Focus.
Be present.
Eyes open.

Create the environment in which you can thrive – yes YOU. Teachers need the right environment to thrive in too.

When the day has gotten out of your hands, get it back by taking it back.

Turn on music.

Get everyone invested in a good book or interesting research.

Do the same for yourself.

Grab a snack, let them do the same.

Sit and follow the steps.

Inhale.
Shoulders back.
Breathe.
Eyes closed.

Relax.
Focus.
Be present.
Eyes open.

We will make it through this hour,
this day,
this week,
this year.

They need us, and we need them.

To my fellow teacher,

Keep on keeping on.

Follow the steps.

Inhale.
Shoulders back.
Breathe.
Eyes closed.

Relax.
Focus.
Be present.
Eyes open.

One way you will not prevent bullying is by being a bully.

As a public school teacher I have a lot of experience handling, researching, and learning about bullying.

In the education system we have worked and reworked anti-bullying policies to try to prevent and proactively combat bullying in schools. Be it cyber bullying, name calling, physical altercations, etc… we have yet to find a perfect formula.

One thing we know to be true, however, is that bullying a bully does not stop or prevent further bullying. Rather, it fosters an environment where the only way to get your point across is by becoming exactly what hurt you in the first place – a bully.

I am sitting here this Sunday evening thinking about the conversations I will inevitably have as my 5th graders come back to school after his truly historic weekend.

I feel at a loss about how to talk about what is happening in their world. Mostly because I can’t seem to find examples of people handling themselves with kindness, humility, and respect.

On Friday I had my students write this out line by line:

I am a leader.

I am able to make a difference. 

I decide what kind of person I am.

Then I asked them to think of what two words they think are most important for helping people come together.

There were a variety of words chosen. Lots of “kindness” “love” “helpful”… my two words were Kindess and Respect. I told them that these two things allow us to get to know people who are different than us. These two things help us get through hard times.

I would love to pull up pictures of strong men and women who were rallying to make positive change in our world on Saturday, but in every picture there is at least one sign that is explicitly mocking and disrespecting (bullying) the current President of the United States of America. Kindness and respect are missing, just as they were missing after President Obama was elected in both 2008 and 2012 (and in many cases prior).

I would love to pull up the biography of our current president and learn about him, but the variety of pointed insults and disturbing statements issued from his own mouth (bullying)  make it impossible to navigate with 10 year olds. Kindness and respect are not words I would associate with our President, which is painfully true of many in leadership.

Do we not understand that these kids are listening, watching, and learning from their surroundings every day?

Do we not understand that every mocking meme, every hateful tweet, every disrespectful image is creating a culture of bullying even worse than we already have?

We are creating a mass of turmoil ridden with bullying and an inability to respect those who differ in opinion.

The worst part is that the kids are actually the ones who are most capable of being kind and open minded… but we are squelching it. We are modeling hypocrisy and a double standard to our moldable and sponge-brained (I mean this in a loving way because they soak everything up!) children.

We are teaching that bullying is wrong, but bashing the Presidential candidate (be it Hillary, Trump, Bush, Obama..) in our homes.

We are teaching that bullying is wrong, but making signs about the tiny handed cheeto man in our attempt to prove our strength and our voice.

We are teaching that bulllying is wrong, but make generalized statements about entire groups of people that fit our personal agendas.

We are teaching that bullying is wrong, but throwing around words as if they don’t affect people because they are our opinion and we have the freedom of speech.

The freedom to protest peacefully, to speak freely, to share our talents and passions… these are gifts. We are abusing them and the kids are catching on and imitating us.

How can I walk in to my classroom and help my students unsee and unhear the negative, hurtful, violent, and harsh bullying they are experiencing not only in their schools but on every news channel, every social media outlet, on their streets… 

I can’t.

Not alone.

We have to rise above the temptation to give in and become what we are fighting against. 

We have to be bigger than the arguments that threaten to divide and segregate us forever.

We have to be willing to listen effectively  and willing to speak honestly and carefully.

We have to resist the snarky jabs and hateful jargon.

We educators desperately need your help. 

We need you to teach respect and kindness in your homes.

We need you to extend grace to those you disagree with via social media and explain how to do so to your children.

We need you to fight for truth in healthy, helpful, and honest ways.

We need you to be light and goodness in a dark and painful world.

Please, for the sake of the children, choose respectful ways of expressing yourself.

Please, for the sake of the children, find it in yourself to be kind.

*my favorite photo from the march came from Blake Lively’s Instagram feed. This little girl and her sign made me smile! 

Simplifying is Complicated

Okay, so let’s be real: saying I will simplify my life is one thing, doing it is another.

It’s funny, because everything I have read about simplifying is really complicated in nature and requires sacrifice to get there.

My first focus has been my physical health.I started before January 1st. In fact, I’m currently on day 25 of a 31 day workout and eating plan designed for “quick results”. I feel silly writing about it. I never wanted to be that person who wanted the world to know about their healthy workout plan… but truthfully, it deserves to be shared. It has been SO challenging and SO rewarding.

The sacrifice it required was largely time. Time to plan my meals, implement said plan, and to actually get dressed, workout, and shower off the sweat. That’s a lot of time (and energy). Not to mention my 10 month old who gets more mobile everyday and thinks my floor workouts are the ideal time to crawl on me.

img_9274

It has always felt simpler to just eat what I want and count the number of times I walk up and down the stairs at school as my workout, but the reality for me is I have never truly made physical health a priority. This made my life complicated. I never felt good about myself, I caught every bug I was in a room with (and I’m a teacher so that’s a lot of bugs to catch) and I always made excuses for myself about why being “healthy” didn’t fit my schedule. One friend was honest in her response to me being on day 7 of working out, she literally laughed out loud and said “what!? Hannah working out!?”. Can’t even be mad. I have prided myself in my ability to NOT be healthy.

Dumb. Now clearly I am not out of the woods yet (Taylor Swift song totally stuck in my head now). The pattern is slowly forming in my life. I’m carving out the time and asking people to step up and hold me accountable. I am not claiming to have this figured out – I don’t. Last night I laid on the ground for roughly 11 minutes of my 52 minute workout because I did not feel energized or motivated to do another push up or lunge – but i did complete it – and today I am so glad I did.

My second step was clearing out my closet. I randomly watched that documentary on Netflix about minimalism (I know, I know… I am being SO cliche right now… beachbody programs and minimalism!?) and I was totally inspired. I donated two garbage bags of clothes and boxed up another bag’s worth to see whether I’d miss it after a month. I cleared out 35 pairs of shoes – if you know me you know this is a big deal – and it felt fantastic.

Every time I walk into my closet I feel proud and I feel organized and I feel like picking out an outfit is not a chore because everything in there is something I actually enjoy wearing. It’s simpler, and I love it.

The next step is my house, which is proving to be the most difficult task so far. The thing is that A. I have a baby and babies are small but they collect STUFF like crazy and B. I live with my husband who is definitely less of a hoarder than I am, but the two of us have built up quite the collection of things on things on things and C. time…. how do you find time to de-clutter efficiently while working full time jobs, coaching, being parents, and trying to socialize?

So what have I learned 10 (plus a few) days in to my journey towards simplification?

  1. It’s complicated to simplify, but worth it.
  2. First steps are key and bigger than you think.
  3. Accountability is not an option, it’s a must.
  4. Good friends will laugh at your hoarding ways and sweaty selfies and drive to cheer you on on your crazy endeavors and, if you’re lucky let you in on theirs.
  5. There’s no right time to start making changes.
  6. To create a lifestyle, the changes have to be everyday changes – not just when you feel like it. I don’t “feel like it” 87% of the time.
  7. Once you gather stuff to get rid of you still have to get rid of the stuff and then your entryway becomes a warzone and if you procrastinate (like me) it feels more cluttered than ever……
  8. Make time to get rid of the stuff.
  9. I still love blogging.
  10. I’m going to keep blogging.

 

 

SIMPLIFY

January 10th, 2017.

We are ten days into a new year and I have been trying to think of a way to process last year eloquently and precisely, but I’m not sure I can.

In 2016 I became a mom. I celebrated 4 years of marriage to my highschool sweetheart. I stood beside my brother as he got married, and celebrated with them as they announced their baby coming June 2017. I had my gallbladder removed. I started my 3rd year as a fifth grade teacher. I came to terms with the reality that I have anxiety, and I don’t need to know that or deal with that alone.

 

I think that 2016 was the most complicated year of my life so far. Not a bad complicated, but certainly complicated. It seemed that around every corner I was navigating something completely new… be it life with a baby, or relationship struggles that I had not experienced before, or panic attacks at moments especially not conducive to panic, or the loss of a home church, or a friend taking her life and leaving behind a chasm of unknown questions desperately in need of answer… new things were everywhere.

I fluctuated between an anxious mess and a whirlwind of ideas and possibilities. In one conversation I would be dreaming up extravagant plans to make change, in another I would be a heaving wreck seeing only my failures and inability to succeed.

Perhaps you can relate? Aren’t we all stuck in the middle of knowing what we are and should be capable of while balancing the fact that we are human begins with hearts that break, skin that wears thin, bones that ache?

It has become abundantly clear to me through this year that people are not perfect, but they are beautiful. Time is not endless, but it is beautiful. Love is not easy, but it is beautiful. I am not without error, chaos, anger, and failure – but my life is beautiful.

I have walked closely with God since I can remember. It has always been prominent in my waking and my falling asleep. He is always present, never gone from my side and never lacking in love for me.

For so long I have had a deep rooted anger because it was never and has never been painless to follow Him.

2016, through breaking and tugging and intentionally changing – the root has been pulled and replaced with a seed of knowledge. Knowledge that the beauty of Christ with me, beside me, around me, in me… the beauty of God all encompassing, ever loving, full of mercy and justice… the beauty of the Holy Spirit moving, giving, breathing… it is enough to balm the breaking of my heart and to rebuild it each day that I continue forward.

My word going into this year is: SIMPLIFY.

Simplify my thinking. Simplify my loving. Simplify my giving.

I’ll end this rambling with a quote from “The Broken Way” by Ann Voskamp. I believe that this woman is paving a way into understanding that is important for this current age.

“Love must give to the beautiful people in the backstreets of wherever our feet land, beautiful people near us and sitting across from us and streaming by us, and no matter what anyone’s saying, everyone’s just asking if they can be loved. Love gives and every smile says, Yes, you are loved. Love gives, and huge acts to try to make someone happy don’t make anyone as hugely happy as simply doing small acts to make someone feel loved.

It’s strange how that is: everybody wants to change the world, but nobody wants to do the small thing that makes just one person feel loved.”

And so, it will be in the small things this year that I will focus on seeing and making change. It will be in the way I will choose to speak to others and hear others. In the way I will choose to extend grace to those who hurt me. In the way I will choose to ask for forgiveness rather than cover up wrong-doing. In the way I will choose to take care of my own mind and body through healthier eating and living.

Simplify. Simplicity. Simple.

Christ matters. People matter. I matter. You matter.

Here’s to the next 354 days of simple living in the beautiful year of 2017.

The Advent Process

Words are escaping me.

Today is hard, but there is no specific reason for the feeling.

Sometimes I get swept into  tidal wave of overwhelming emotion that I cannot put to words.

I find myself hurting in places I had thought were healed.

Scars from years past seem to itch and tingle as if they are wanting to be reopened.

Thoughts already processed become a tangled mess  of questions that were never answered and statements that were never made clear.

I become weary. Too tired to do much more than barely cope.

Everything I have, I wonder whether it is real. Everything I lack, I yearn for.

Down I spiral.

Down I fall.

Down I tumble.

Where is hope in the day to day trying to cope?

Where, but in the promise of an all and ever loving Savior?

Where, but in that little baby born to Mary?

Advent. Where we remember his coming as a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths.

Advent. Where we imagine that young woman who said “yes” to God, and obediently trusted His will and His plan.

Advent. Where we wonder at the Wise Men who chose to put their faith in a baby, instead of the ruler who sent them out to kill him.

Advent. Where we see Shepherds singing with Angels all in the glorious coming of that babe.

Advent. Where we long for him to come again.

Advent. Where we become aware once more of the brokenness in which we dwell, of the state of our hearts in the face of today.

It’s no wonder that my scars are begging to tell their story today. It’s no wonder that my mind is reproducing memories to be re-processed. It’s no wonder that my heart is beating wildly, yearning for something more.

This is advent.

Joy and hope and light and love… and yearning and longing and preparing for that day He comes again and makes all things right.

 

 

Seeking. Learning. Growing.