All Is Grace

As we step into this new year and all it holds, I’m reminded to not too quickly forget the year we’ve stepped out of and all the goodness and growth it held as well.

When I think of 2017, one word comes to mind— b a b y.

Honestly, when I was first thinking about writing this post and recounting the blessings and adventures the last year held, I could think of little else beside our daughter being born. It wasn’t until I started looking back through pictures and thinking through what we had done month by month that I realized just how full a year it was even apart from our daughter.


January We stepped into 2017 with a two-year old and a broken arm. It wasn’t until March that Roman would have his last cast removed. I had honestly forgotten this had even happened this year—amazing since it was such a big ordeal at the time.

February We celebrated Valentine’s at a fun restaurant in downtown Springfield and walked the streets remembering the little apartment we shared there once upon a time before we were parents.2851D58F-.jpgLater that month we found out we were having a girl. A girl! I couldn’t stop smiling that day and my heart is still so full. She’s all magic and sunshine and I’m so very thankful.16938858_10154291813166517_5793260963927159684_nMarch My best friend came to visit from Kansas City to celebrate her 30th birthday. We stayed up late laughing until she snorted and I cried and explored all my favorite nooks in Boston together with our husbands.¬†IMG_20180104_144820.jpgNext, Darren and I flew to South Carolina so I could be in a dear friend’s wedding. This was our last trip just the two of us before baby. We walked around the campus where we met and relished a million memories from our college days and falling in love.17493194_10154369610946517_2319655507711607348_oFinally, I spent a girl’s weekend away at the Cape celebrating another 30th birthday. Though it was the end of March, we still nearly froze trying to explore the boardwalk and ocean ūüôā¬†17200940_10154823328411072_1166534279125778372_nMy belly really began to show and I couldn’t wait for warm weather and that sweet girl to be in my arms.img_20170322_103404.jpgApril¬†My parents and grandma came to visit and we had a great time exploring NYC together. My mom and grandma were able to celebrate my baby shower with me which is such a treat with them living across the country.¬†IMG_20170507_105009_127Next, Darren’s best friend came to visit with his family and after his wife and I took off to Ikea, the boys were good enough to put Roman’s new big boy bed together. It felt strange having Roman out of the crib and nursery and in his own “big boy” room. We celebrated Easter together before they headed home to Maine.¬†IMG_20170416_103634_839May Ahh May. We were tired by now as you might imagine. I was 7ish months pregnant and it had been a whirlwind of company and fun for three months straight. I was ready to slow down and focus on my boys and preparing for our girl. We got the nursery ready amid lots of other nesting projects.IMG_20170522_070619_198

IMG_20170625_102309_989June We got our new-to-us SUV on the road and broke it out on a trip to Tennessee. I was right at a month from my due date and nervous both about being so far from home that pregnant plus so many miles on the road with our son but both worked out just fine (meaning no baby was born in the car and minimal tantrums from our toddler lol). We had a reunion with my side of the family and it was such a sweet week together with everyone sharing a big cabin and catching up.19059471_637432103120404_6195418944302178349_nJuly Man oh man, July. It was finally the month we would meet our baby. I was due the 11th and told to expect her early since this was my second time around. I thought for sure we were getting a July 4th baby (not what I wanted) when I had regular contractions all day on the 3rd. I got a hospital bag ready and we stayed up late timing contractions only to have everything peter out.

The days ticked by and on the 7th we celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary.IMG_20170707_211648_100My parents and grandma came into town anticipating our daughter’s arrival. Baby girl’s due date came and went and I grew frustrated by all the extra doctor appointments, poking and prodding, and being over-due in the July heat. IMG_20170716_093307_819Roman turned three and we celebrated his birthday with family and lots of construction vehicles in his honor ūüėČ

The time my family could stay in town waiting for our daughter was fast running out and I spent many an hour pacing the driveway trying to burn off frustration and walk her out.

Finally, ten days over-due, I was induced. It was strange, going to the hospital not yet in labor but knowing I would leave with my daughter none-the-less.IMG_20170720_154958_343Last photo right before we left for the hospital.

received_10154719411036517.jpegI was apprehensive about being induced but the whole labor went far better than Roman’s and just a few hours after we arrived at the hospital our little Aletheia Rae was in our arms at last.¬†IMG_20170808_222639_248

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IMG_20170721_190017_264August¬†We spent a weekend up in Maine to celebrate Darren’s parent’s 50th anniversary. Aletheia was only two weeks old and it was fun showing her off.

When Roman was a baby, his first trip to the ocean was at Old Orchard Beach in Maine so we wanted to take Aletheia to the same place. We stopped on the way home and spent a couple of hours in the sand and sun.IMG_20170916_165423_400.jpg

September Our friends from Maine came down and stayed with us for a few days again. Gretchen and I stayed up watching Poldark while the boys played xbox ūüėČ

October We had a missionary family from the Philippines stay with us for a week. This is the first time I’ve ever had anyone I didn’t know stay in my home and I was nervous about it, especially since I’m not the most outgoing person ever. But I’m so glad we did it. The kids had fun playing together and we were so encouraged by the couple we met. I loved getting to know them and it showed me what a blessing it is to open my heart and home to someone needing a bed, even if we’re strangers when they first walk through the door.

November We flew for the first time with both kids to see my family in Kansas City for Thanksgiving. The flights went fine-ish and it was a fun time away with family.IMG_20171129_142726_787.jpgI got my nose pierced while we were there mostly because I wanted to do something a little spontaneous ūüėČIMG_20171126_143441_934.jpgDecember Life is beginning to feel normal again. Aletheia is sleeping in her own room and Roman is sleeping through the night again after being disrupted by her arrival.

I had fun decorating a lot more than I normally do for Christmas and opening presents with Roman was super fun this year since he’s old enough to know what he wants—a crane and digger to be exact.IMG_20171215_215659_576.jpgIMG_20171209_184127_350.jpg


And here I thought it had been such a quiet year with nothing but a baby born. This is the beauty of looking back, of writing down and remembering. How sweet it has been to turn this past year over in my heart and mind and to remember all God has down every step of the way.

As I thought over the past twelve months, one thing kept coming to mind: All is grace. The moments so beautiful they catch in your chest and throat and you can’t breathe for a moment taking it all in. The moments so exhausting and hard you struggle to remember any of the beauty that came before it. All is grace.¬†God is unfathomably good to give us any of it and to walk with us through every bit of it.¬†IMG_20171231_141954_568.jpgSo whatever this new year may hold, I remind myself, all is grace. However beautiful. However hard. Every bit is breathed out in His love and mercy.

But this I call to my mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’ The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. Lamentations 3:22-25 (ESV)

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Bittersweet.

The world is wrapped in night and quiet. I hear only the sound of the fan whirring outside my son’s room and the occasional car driving by. Darren is gone late and I sit tired and uninterested at the computer clicking around. I want to be inspired by something so I¬†scroll through blogs and pins and look at new clothes online; nothing amuses me.

Without any purpose or direction, I begin clicking through old photos on the computer—album after album neatly organized by season and year.

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My son used to be so tiny.

Look¬†at the¬†progress we’ve made on the house.

My hair was longer then.

That was the perfect day.

I’m lost in ocean depths of memory—of days and years, of snuggles and kisses, of adventure—and the occasional twinge of heartache or regret at something now changed or lost from a time and memory before.

I lot can happen in a couple of years. I lot has happened in a couple of years.

DSC_0369When I think back to the¬†year my son was born, I often associate that time with negative memories—tremendous change, loneliness, stress and strain, drowning.

IMG_20140723_090418And yet the photos I scroll through tonight do not tell that story. What I see is joy, baby snuggles, new parents finding their way, excitement, daring endeavors, love stretched and grown, beginnings.

IMG_20141224_170812I see stepping-stones and two people learning to grow beyond themselves and the small world they had always known. And instead of remembering the hard and bad things from those transformative days, tonight I’m reminded of all the good. Of all the love and happiness and hope that filled those¬†times too.

IMG_20150821_175427887How can I forget what it was like, holding my son almost constantly that first year? He napped on my chest every single day and together we saw the world for the very first time—he with eyes brand new to all things and me with eyes opened anew as I watched the world through his lens.

IMG_20141126_150546Yes, I was very lonely. It was a difficult time of life in relationships, in adjusting to motherhood, and to staying home. It was stressful financially with gigantic projects undertaken. There are things I regret.

But I’ve made a mistake in remembering only the hard parts. While the hard stuff changed and refined me, it shouldn’t sum up and take over all the good that came out of that time as well.

IMG_20151011_161353386It was good to be reminded tonight of all the sweetness those years held. Of the baby giggles and kisses. Of the growing as a person and finding my way. Of the marriage that made it and the house now built. To remember all the love and joy I felt along the way even in the hardest of days.

11357354_10152890497526517_1028607213778821759_oThis life is a bittersweet journey. We ebb and flow through heartache and hope and there is rarely a clear divide when the two don’t somehow mingle together in our story. How good it was to be reminded tonight of all these things ‚̧

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Life is Funny

I walk along the coast, son at my side gathering rocks, shells, and feathers into a bucket. We weave in and out of the shallow waves, toes sinking in the sand. He stays close by my side, enjoying the water but not quite trusting it either.

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20150817_173054.jpegThis is how he will remember childhood–summer days at the lake or beside the ocean.¬†The salty, tangy smell of water will remind and take him back to the¬†sand and waves where he adventured from the time he could first walk.

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img_20160821_221843.jpgHow strange it seems that what will someday call my son to¬†remember and reminisce remains a novelty to me.¬†My¬†childhood¬†was¬†red barns and cornfields, gravel roads¬†and¬†barn kittens. Though I love New England, My heart belongs to the Midwest prairie–and yet that is a place my son will barely know.

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img_20150830_100621.jpgThe Midwest will be a place he goes every¬†once and a while¬†to visit grandparents and family. He will hear me talk about it and¬†perhaps he will¬†always say “ya” like his Midwest momma–but it will¬†probably never be a place he really knows or loves.

Life is a funny thing–the way it twists and turns and you never quite know for sure where you’ll end up. Every time I ride the train into Boston or watch the sun set over the water, I wonder how I got here. When we ride our bikes into the heart of our quaint New England town–past maple trees and shimmering lake,¬†colonial homes and old, old, old cemeteries–I am struck by the foreign strangeness of it all.

DSC_0251And yet this place is becoming familiar too. After nearly nine years, Massachusetts is as much home to me as Missouri ever was.¬†I’ve come to love the cities and beaches, the summers spent camping in Vermont or eating at all our favorite burger stands. I¬†anticipate¬†the gorgeous falls wading through colorful leaves, sipping¬†apple cider, and chasing the sun through the last days of warmth before we descend into these unforgivable winters.

DSC_0530DSC_0527This is where my son was born, where I brought him home brand new and where I’ve learned to be his mother. This is where I’ve grown in love for my husband over the years–where we’ve gotten to know each other and learned to live life side by side through all the good and bad. This is where I’ve grown as a woman–from the girl I was when I moved here at 22, fresh out of college and newlywed.

This place has changed me, grown me, become a part of me. New England lives in my heart now. And though I’m still surprised every single summer to find myself standing beside the ocean, how thankful I am for all the unpredictable places life takes us and for the beautiful adventure this life in New England is.

 

Memory

The summer air is tangible, thick,  heavy on my skin. Humidity hangs visibly in the hazy air.

The wind is blowing; it never stops blowing here. There is a restlessness in this place–a constant motion and sound cutting through the trees, bowing the prairie grass gently from side to side.

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Everything seems bigger than me–the grass to my waist, the scruffy trees I climb barefoot and brown, the sky stretching out in ocean spans above the endless rolling farmland. I disappear into the cornfield, feeling smaller still with prickly stalks over my head pressing in around me.

I find a dusty bare spot in the field–a circle of dirt where the tractor turned and no seed was planted. I can smell the corn, sweet and tangy. Everything smells green here–did you know green is a smell? I can remember it–the green–the smell of green grass, green crops, green trees. Everything was green and brown and blue— the sky, the dirt, the¬†oceans of prairie grass swaying in that humid¬†Midwest¬†wind.

My bare¬†feet are brown and dusty, callused as leather and as¬†good on gravel as any¬†pair of shoes. You don’t need shoes here–you can climb the trees¬†better without them–toes moving confidently against scratchy bark and branch.

I was a tomboy then. A little bit wild. Scrappy. A girl… not a wife, not a mother. A wildflower and a dreamer making plans to leave and go somewhere bigger. I did not know then how hard it might be to find a place bigger than a Midwest summer–bigger than that sky or those swaying fields of crop.

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I left. I married. I became a mother. I saw the worlds I dreamt of under apple trees and night sky.

It’s good. I’m happy. I’m proud.

But I’d give almost anything for one more day under the Missouri sun–barefoot, brown, laying in a cornfield watching the clouds roll by. I’d lay there til the stars came out. I’d watch the fireflies dance in diamond bands across the still-hot night air. I’d listen to the peepers and crickets sing their song in chorus with that ever-moving breeze. I’d hold on to the smell of green–breathing a little deeper and tucking away that Midwest magic in the pockets of my heart and soul. I’d whisper to my tomboy heart, “You’ll need these someday so hold on.”

Summer Baby

 

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“To love another person is to see the face of God.” -Victor Hugo

My boys. My world.

us together

I don’t want to let go of summer.¬†Nature is working against me though and already fall is willfully inching in around us. It’s a perfectly crisp 70 degrees out right now and I’m sitting here sipping my first pumpkin latte of the season. The Pats are playing tonight and there is very little that makes me as happy as the beginning of football season. Today when I went walking around the block, I noticed the first leaves beginning to change and glide to the ground. Normally I’m excited about all these fallish things—it’s my favorite time of year and I’m usually ready by now for riding boots and cider donuts.

But not this year. This year I¬†want to hold on forever to the green, sunshiny season when my baby was born and I was reborn as a mother. Already six weeks have passed since he came into our lives and I’m afraid he’ll be all grown up by the time the last leaves fly¬†and this summer—this most transformational of summers—will be done, gone, and forgotten in a blink.

So I’m holding on. Holding on to my summer baby and the sunshiny season when he was born.

This week I started taking him for walks around the block in his stroller. I’ve mostly been holed up in the house since he was born because it still feels like a bit of an ordeal trying to leave the house with a newborn. But you can only stay inside drinking espresso and watching Netflix for so long before you start to go a little cray cray. So we walk and explore and breathe in all that wonderful fresh air…and we don’t go crazy…it’s a win win.

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We stop all along the way and snap pictures of whatever pretty summer things we can find.

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Wild flowers

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And herbs going to seed

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And colorful bushes and leaves

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It rained last night and today the air was filled with the fresh, clean smell of wet pine needles. Big billowy whipped cream clouds went floating along and the sky was that perfect cobalt blue that follows after the rain. These are the days I want to remember. These summer days when my baby is tiny and happiest curled up tight in my arms. These days when I’m a brand new mommy and me and this baby are seeing the world together for the first time—he truly has never seen it before and I somehow see it all so differently now that he’s here.

These are the days, the perfect summer days that I want to remember forever.

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 A fresh little bud in my garden, With petals close folded from view,

Brightly nods me a cheery “Good morning” Through the drops of a fresh bath of dew.

I must patiently wait its unfolding, Tho’ I long its full beauty to see;

Leave soft breeze and warm, tender sunshine To perform the sweet office for me.

I may shield my fair baby blossom; With trellis its weakness uphold;

With nourishment wisely sustain it, And cherish its pure heart of gold.

Then in good time, which is God’s time, Developed by sunshine and shower,

Some morning I’ll find in the garden Where my bud was, a beautiful flower.

–The poem, Mother’s Garden¬†¬†

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