Thoughts on: Having a Baby

I have to tell you something awesome:
There is a little human. In my belly.
I am a Mom.

I feel ten million things about this.
Mostly I feel: A Certain Type of Excited.

Not Disney World Excited. Not like sitting in the back of the mini van with zero reservations shouting YEAHHH THIS IS GOING TO BE SO FUN LET’S GOOOO!

More like the type of excited I felt before I became a missionary. Like I have so much hope and desire to do this but I am also SCARED because I want CHANGE THE WORLD and am I really READY or CAPABLE of such a MONUMENTAL venture?
…YES! What?! Noooooo! Wait, yes yes yes!

There is a word for this certain type of excitement:
awe |ô|
noun
1. a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder.

The source of this reverence, fear, and wonder:
I believe that every person is made of a spirit–you might call it a soul–and a body. While our bodies began existing sometime in the womb, our spirits existed long before that, and will continue to exist long after. In other words, I believe all of our spirits are infinite, that we have no definite beginning or end.

The idea that our spirits live on after we die isn’t new, but the idea that our spirits existed before we were born– sometimes that’s new. And that is what I’m getting at here.

That’s what the Lord was getting at when he said to Jeremiah, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” He’s saying, before you were born, I knew you personally. I gave you a purpose that you were to fulfill while you were here on earth. For Jeremiah it was to be a prophet, but I have specific work to do here to, and so do you, and so does my little baby. Before this baby was inside of me, his or her spirit lived with God, learned from Him, and was prepared to come here and learn more through the experiences of his or her life. So was I. So were you. And while God is our parent in Heaven, Ken and I get to be this little person’s parents on earth. We get to teach and prepare and help. And that, is something to feel awe about.

A time when the awe really got goin:
A little over a year ago, as I was thinking about having children, I felt something strange. I didn’t know how to describe it for a while except that it felt a little sad, but in a loving way. Why, when I thought about my future children, would I feel this strange hint of sadness? It puzzled me for a while, and then a thought came to me that felt very true. “It feels like I miss them,” I thought. Yep, that was it. It felt just like missing someone. But how could I miss my kids if I’d never met them? And then I remembered what I believe about our spirits, and that if my spirit existed with God before I was born, and my children’s spirits did too, then I probably have met them. In some part of me, I probably do know them, and miss them. Since then, there has just been no other way to describe it. My mind doesn’t know this little person — we haven’t met face to face yet. But our spirits know each other, and that little soul is growing in me. I am calmed to know that someday soon we will be face to face family.

Learn more about this idea: here.

Answers to the usual things people ask:
How far along are you? 10 weeks today.
When is your due date? September 15th.
Are you sick? YES. Yes yes yes.

brad

Image

Some things I wrote about myself:

I am a certain type of person.

I really like to color and paint.
I like to be in the sun and the water.
I like to be upside down.

Upsidedown

When I am having a bad day,
I do not eat a gluten-free, sugarless vegan cookies with soy milk.
I eat that: never.
When I am having a bad day, or a good day, I seek LEGIT dessert.
I believe in sugar and butter.
More than that– I was raised to express love through butter and sugar.
Suggesting I omit those things is like suggesting I omit my childhood.
And my love.
Stop doing that.

Peace Agreement:
If you would like to eat your cookies without butter, flour, eggs, or sugar– no big.
Just let me and my butter be together.

.   .   .   .   .   .   .

Sometimes meeting people makes me nervous,
Even though I really like it.
It’s hard for me to eek through the slow process of “opening up.”
When I think we should just have a soul session right here at the table.
What’s worse is when I open the door for a small soul sesh,
And you have nothing to say.
Where is your PASSION?!
What’s really worse is when:
Neither do I.
Sometimes people just aren’t ready.
Sometimes me neither.
I should stop freaking out about this.

.   .   .   .   .   .   .

(I think the word should is a little oppressive, but maybe sometimes necessary.)

.   .   .   .   .   .   .

There are certain words I love to use, even though they are not real.
If you use them, you may have more fun talking…

1. I do not like the word cuddle. It reminds me of moldy milk. Instead I say snuggle which has now become SNUG or SNUGGIN.

2. Instead of journal, JOURN. It sounds like journal and journey at the same time,
which is neat-o. It also sounds way cooler than “diary.”

3. Instead of ocean, OSH. Say it with a long O sound and a nice shhhhh at the end. Like the first syllable of kosher or motion. It just sounds better. Admit it. I love this sound. If a word has this sound, I’ll use it every time. Example: Lotion: LOSH!

4. You did that ON PURP! A friendly accusation.

5. Neutral. Like, “Put it in neutral!” I don’t get the chance to say this word very often, but when I do, I revel in it. Check out this abbreve: NEUTCH. You can do it. Just take the -ral sound out of Neutral. Like the GOOTCH in Gucci. The HOOCH in Hoochie Mama. It is a ridiculous sound that only comes in ridiculous words and it is SO FUN TO SAY. Try it. Pretend you are pushing a friend’s broken-down car. You are huffing and puffing and she’s up there in the driver’s seat tryin to steer but it won’t budge. Tell her: “PUT IT IN NEUUUUTCH!” Yeah, try and tell me you didn’t enjoy that.

Quote

Identity poems today.

I wear knee-length jean shorts.
I wear jorts.
I cut my old jeans off at the knees,
and roll them once or twice,
to make my jorts.
I wear knee-length jorts even though my thighs
pudge out a little at the bottom,
Because I am Mormon,
and it is dang hot this summer.

I read things on my Kindle.
They are electronic books.
Like the paper version,
Only you swipe instead of turn the page.
Having a Kindle makes me feel Official.
Because I own a tablet
Not made of stone.

I argue with my husband.
Useless banter.
Sometimes for fun
And sometimes by accident
And a few times,
on purpose.
Because I just have a lot of emotions,
And that is a weird thing to handle.
I’m sorry.

I live in Texas.
Austin, Texas.
That has been true
For exactly seven days.
I live in Texas
And I embrace that.
But I need a job
And a friend
Please.

jorts

This is me talking about God.

Story time:
I used to be a teacher at the MTC.
That stands for Missionary Training Center.

I often asked the new missionaries,
“What do you need to feel in order to experience conversion?”
I wasn’t looking for any one answer in particular, just trying to get them thinking.

I often heard things like:
“Feel that God loves you.”
“Feel a desire to believe”
“Feel that He is listening.”

Once, from a brand new sister missionary in the back corner, I heard this:
“You need to feel uncomfortable.”

She explained that conversion requires a change of heart.
Some sort of self-renovation.
You cannot change or progress without leaving your comfort zone.
And so, she concluded, you need to feel uncomfortable.

I believe she was right.

Let’s talk about this.
Maybe the word conversion is strange and foreign to you.
You could call it inspiration or enlightenment or something more ambiguous if you like.
For me, that move can sometimes be deceiving.

Watch:
God >> Divine Being >> Higher Power >> Vibrations of Light >> Force of the Universe.
With each move, your subject becomes more broad.
You are covering a larger scope of ideas with just one word. This type of language is good if you’re speaking to a bunch of people from diverse backgrounds. It helps us unite and relate to a large spectrum of ideas. Yoga teachers are masters at this. But here’s the deal: in embracing that ambiguity, in trying to include every possible belief that others have, you may pass over the opportunity to clearly define what your belief is.

And so, I believe the safety of ambiguity also comes with a loss of clarity, relevance, and intimacy.
Who is God to you?
I think it can be simpler than a vast, vague sphere of ideas.
I think God is a man we can know, rather than a force that comes and goes in mysterious waves but is never quite as personal as a friend. I can be uncomfortable to try and communicate with someone you don’t know. But that is not the type of uncomfortable I’m talking about here. What I’m saying is that while the conversion experience must at some point feel uncomfortable, our relationship with God as a being, as a Father, does not have to be. It can be simple. And clear. And awesome.

Kind of like this:
There was a time when I really wanted to learn how to play the guitar. My good friend Jared offered to help. He was kind. He didn’t mind that my musical background consisted solely of jammin to the radio, he was just pumped to teach me–so I decided to try it. Still, it was uncomfortable for me. Holding the guitar, finding the chords, staying in rhythm–all of that was weird. It was a position I’d never been in before and most of the time I felt pretty embarrassed. Jared was patient. Sometimes he would explain things in a way that didn’t make sense to me, but I trusted him. I knew he was listening and that he cared about me, but learning to play like him was hard. It required much more. Same thing with God.

If you want to know Him,
You must be ready to go where you have never gone,
Learn new things. Embrace awkward positions.
Leave your comforts behind.

This means you will feel uncomfortable at times.
Not so much in your relationship with God,
but in the experience of becoming like Him.

I could leave you with a beautiful ending about how I stuck with guitar until I mastered it and was no longer uncomfortable. But that wouldn’t be true. I gave up on the guitar pretty fast. I just didn’t know if I was capable of the results I wanted. And if I was, would it be worth all the time I spent feeling uncomfortable? I wasn’t sure. So I stopped trying, and went back to the way I was. Now I listen to music like I always have, appreciating it from a distance without being involved. I think this is how I am with God sometimes too. Distant. Complacent.  But not happy. Not anywhere close to the potential he created me for. I keep having to remind myself to seek that potential–leave the zone of comfort.

So here’s the ending: I think that process is normal.
That is how you find out the details of who He is and how He works with you.
That is how God goes from someone you hear about, to someone you know.
That is how you move from an ambiguous notion, toward a firsthand, personal clarity.
It is also, I believe, the point of life.
We can do this.

Gallery

Nineteen years old.

Today I was riding shot gun next to Lacey on our way home from the beach. Lacey is my little sister. She is 19 years old and recently dyed her hair the color of Cheerwine. It was red and messy and free. She was singing to the radio.

Just then her phone beeped. I read her the text so she could drive. Mom had forwarded her something from a conversation with our neighbor, Mrs. Rhonda. Mrs. Rhonda used to watch our brother Bradley after school. Lacey knows her well from walking to her house each day and talking with her by the door while Brad got his shoes on and tried to find his glasses. Mrs. Rhonda also happens to be the mother of a boy Lacey loved loved loved in high school. She loved him after high school too, but she moved away and some sad things happened and after a million back-and-forths, she trained her soft-heart toward a strong-resolve to stay away from him from now on. She has succeeded in her distance for a long time. I would even say she is happy. She is drivin home from the beach with her red red hair, just singin along.

I read the text aloud. Simply put, Mrs. Rhonda said she loved little Brad and misses him. (Mrs. Rhonda is a tough love type of lady that hardly ever gets mushy about anything, so this is a big deal.) She also said she really misses Lacey. And then, just briefly at the end: “I know my son misses her too.” 

I could feel it hit her in the stomach and just like that I looked over to see a few tears behind her sunglasses. I cried too.

I just knew. I knew because a million times in my life I have driven along, singing to the radio, and been blind-sided just like this. I knew because I was her. Her with the dyed hair and the sun tan and the fresh resolve to keep her tired heart moving forward. Mostly, I knew because I love her so big that I felt it in my stomach too. I wished I could show her: it gets better.

Image

Image

Image

Image

Rounding the Corner of Conviction

It was midnight.
Past time for bed.
We brushed our teeth together.
We prayed.
I said:
“I have a writing itch. Would it hurt your feelings if I didn’t come to bed right now?”
I meant:
You may not know this, but your wife is coming alive.
Something in me is waking up.
I think he knows. He usually knows these things.
But this time, so do I.
My words are coming to me just a little easier than they have in a long time.
And oh man it feels good to skip out on sleeping so I can type type type them out.
I am here.
I know what is happening in my heart, because I am paying attention.
And here on this couch with the glowing laptop light, I belong.

I am writing.

Image

I think tonight I will try to work through this thing I’m feeling…
I have named it: My Career Identity Crisis.
Welcome to graduating from college.
Here it comes.

I think I have been re-visiting my ten-year-old self so often lately because:
That is when I started writing.
That is when I began to find a place for all this love and desire in my heart.
In my emotional, I’m-moving-back-as-soon-as-I’m-eighteen stage,
My poor Mom just didn’t know how to handle me.
Anyone could see that I needed an outlet.
She suggested I get a journal. Way to go Mom.
It was the summer after fourth grade. I found it at TJ Maxx for $3 and it was my refuge.
My safe place to figure out what the heck was going on with me.
There was no career crisis then, just little me saying:
“When I grow up, I’m going to be a writer.”
Fast forward to 2013. The world says: time to grow up.
This is the part where I actually get a real person job but…

I do not know how to become a professional writer.
Still, I fear that if I do not pursue this future,
I will ignore a huge part of myself, and eventually,
lose that part of me entirely.

At the same time, I fear that if I do figure out this whole game of
networking/promotional branding/social media…
I will end up writing for the wrong reasons.
I will lose the truth in the pursuit of validation, popularity…
in the pursuit of “likes” and “followers.”
And here’s the deal: I could never live with that.
Though that is what the social networking world often uses writing for,
that is not writing for me.

For me, writing is about telling the truth.
Finding it. Questioning it. Admitting it.
Whatever it takes.
Through writing, I’ve faced immense monsters: depression, self-doubt, scary memories.
Through writing, I’ve found out who I am over and over again.
I have found the liberation of knowing HOW TO SAY what’s IN MY HEART.
So what’s the problem?

Let me try to explain how this has become so complicated…

When I think about professional blog writing,
I do not think of these revelations I was just expressing.
I think about product reviews.
 i.e. photos of a new shirt you bought and all your rave opinions about it.
I think about recipes w/ polished food photos, complete with witty back-story.
   i.e. the kind of thing that has so many women striving for a false perfection of “womanhood.”
I think about neatly ordered lists that promise to solve your life.
   i.e. Ten ways to be a better you. Five DIY crafts to ring in the season.
     i.e. Gross–I want to barf.

There are bloggers out there that rock that kind of stuff, and people love it!
I do not look down on these writers or these people.
(I admit I’ve got a whole pinterest board full of them recipes.)
But I will never stay up at night, itching to type out recipes and reviews.
I just don’t wanna write that stuff. I can’t. I won’t.
For me, as far as a career goes, as far as a lifelong-goal goes, that would be a deception and a waste of words.

But then again, in not writing that stuff, I have landed myself 13 followers.
Woo hoo me!
Therein lies the big question:
How can I engage the world in a conversation that tells the truth?
This is hard when it seems the world is more interested in sparkly promo posts.
But I just know it’s got to be possible.

People need real life more than they need another show-off, flashy deception.
For example, when you face doubt and instead proclaim surety, no one feels anything.
No one moves forward through those words.
Though admitting your doubts is terrifying, there is truth in the expression of doubt.
Transparency. Honesty. Clarity.
That kind of communication is real enough to be strong.
People need that.
And further, if you can then express belief regardless,
you can offer evidence of real, human faith.
People respond to that because they know it.
They know that that is what it’s like to live here in the world.
There, in those words, is a refuge for anyone that’s listening.
It’s just better that way.
There is nothing inspiring about pretending, even if you’re pretending to be inspiring.
In doing so, you forfeit your capacity to connect with others and therefore influence/be influenced by them.
You forfeit your capacity to experience with them, what it’s like to be alive.

As I sift through all of the blogs and articles out there, I am so much more interested in WHO THESE PEOPLE ARE, than what they’re buying.
Or what they’re selling.
Or what they’re advising me to do with my kitchen.
AHHH— how do I say what I’m saying here?
It’s not that I think I have something particularly inspiring and ethereal and wise to say.
It’s that I’m trying to have the guts to actually SAY SOMETHING that matters.
I just want to be out there, encouraging that type of communication.
That type of thought and connection.
The type of relief that comes with telling the truth.
That’s what words are for.

So when I look at the wide world of successful writers out there,
and see what so many of them are doing,
it terrifies me.
I want to reach the people they are reaching,
and yet I cannot reach them by the means they are using.
If I do, I will divorce myself from the original intent of reaching anyone at all.

Now, I realize that if I want to do this I have to get up off the grass and play the game.
I have to network and learn the system. I think I can do that.
But I just can’t give up my conviction.
I can’t betray my experience with words that got me here in the first place,
And I can’t ignore my late night itches that keep me up trying to say something about it.

HOME.

I am sittin here on the bed eatin blueberries,
wondering what to write about next.
I’ll just let myself talk to you.
(Or the void that is the internet.)
(Or whoever and whatever it is I speak with here.)
Here it comes.

This morning was a weird morning.
I swear I got out of bed multiple times and then woke up: still under the covers.
Ken tried to help.
I remember him nudging me with his nose like some kind of animal.
When I didn’t respond he pawed at my shoulder and made rawr sounds.
“Roaaarrrrrr! Wake up!”
“No” I said.
“But we’re pretending to be LIONS!” he replied.
“Nope.” [roll over]
“Oh. But why not?!”
And then somehow I was dressed and ready for church.
This is all I remember.

I don’t like to sleep when the sun is down,
but then by the time it’s up that’s all I wanna do.
The fact that I woke up every morning at 6:30 for a year and a half is a miracle.
(That’s when I was a missionary.)
The church is true people. That actually happened.
My mission is also the only time I looked forward to going to bed.
I was worked. WORKED.
All of that feels so far away now.
Now I work at the Missionary Training Center.
I help teach missionaries.
I am all around it every day, and yet my own mission feels far far away from me.

This has happened to me before– I want to tell you about it.
Remember the house on the culdesac?
The one with golden lights in my room at night?
The one I ran away from?
I ran away because we were moving.
My Dad was getting “transferred.”
That meant I was too. And I was real sad about it.
Now I know this all sounds very trivial, but it was so real to me then.
I wasn’t old enough to drive or take a bus or have a friend bring me back.
So, in my eyes, I couldn’t ever come back on my own.
I was leaving everything I’d ever known.
My friends and my cheer team and the woods in my back yard.
My bus stop and my Mamaw and my friend down the street.
And I couldn’t do anything about it.
That’s why I packed-up some canned food in the trees.
That’s why I planned for my friend to leave me sandwiches.
I was going to keep my life there, no matter what.

We moved on my tenth birthday and my heart broke.
There’s a lot to be said about this time in my life.
But the part I want to tell you about is this:
One time, we went back.
We drove back to Greensboro and Mom said we could go by our old house.
I couldn’t wait. That was my world! My home. I was going back to my life.
I carved my name in a tree in the front yard.
(…with my Mom’s tweezers, stolen from the console of our mini-van.)
We still had the key and no one had moved in yet, so we went inside.
I burst in the door, but
There was no big rug in the living room.
Everything was painted white– no colors.
No floral couches.
No kitchen table. No hand soap on the counter.
No shoes in the closet. No candy on top of the fridge.
No curtains on the windows. No pictures in my room.
It didn’t even smell like home.
It smelled like carpet cleaner and white paint.
It was empty. It seemed bigger. Father away.
At ten years old, this didn’t make sense to me.
I was HOME but nothing belonged to me.
I was right there, but it was all gone.
I was confused and embarrassed to have expected anything different.
I cried and cried.

And sometimes, when I’m walking around the MTC, watching all the boys and girls– the Elders and Sisters— with their black name tags and their scripture bags, their big nervous hearts, I try so hard to feel at home. To feel that I love this and I know this and I’m back and I belong. But that’s not who I am anymore. That doesn’t belong to me anymore. Sometimes, I can barely remember Sister Brown. She is all around me and yet she is not my life now. And really, that’s okay. I didn’t expect for the curtains to stay on the windows this time. The problem, even then at ten years old, was not that my old home was gone, so much that my new home was yet to be found. Seeing that there is no place in the past for me only emphasized what I had been ignoring: that I must go forward and find somewhere new to belong. At ten, this was terrifying. I didn’t want to belong anywhere else. Now, nearly 15 years later, I would love to belong somewhere besides full-time missionary work. I am excited and willing and open to this idea of somewhere else.

And yet, it is scary to know that everything behind me has been painted white and re-inhabited by strangers. Until this new home comes to light, I am floating, with what’s left of my torn-up roots scraggling along beneath me. But roots aren’t meant to float around exposed. Their work is meant to be concealed, deep underground, as they dig and hold steady to whatever they can find, spreading out for stability. Branches and leaves are blown in the wind, but roots find something more solid, more safe, and more steady. Especially my roots, because everything else about me is an emotional blow-around-in-the-wind mess. In short, I’m not crying in the mini-van this time, riding towards the scary unknown. I’m driving. I’m going willingly. I have lots of safety and stability and steadiness in the man next to me. I have big faith in the future. But still, it is disorienting and unnatural to drag one’s roots around every day. I am ready for some solid ground I can belong to for a while. Not only solid ground in God or solid ground in my husband, but real, squidge-your-feet-in-the-dirt solid ground. A place. A city. A home.
Texas, here we come.

UT.tree

University of Texas from Wooldridge Hill