I met him after his class a couple weeks ago for an impromptu little wine date. We stayed up way too late and it was more refreshing than countless hours of sleep.
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Thursday, July 10, 2014
To soaking in the beauty and strangeness of new surroundings. Running on little Edisto Island in 3 mile circles looked like this...
I have never felt hotter while running. As in temperature, not state of mind. ;). It was blazing. I could literally inhale the heat rising from the pavement. But it was weirdly exhilarating.
And it gave me such a burst of energy every day. I could keep up after my boys even after Jason had to leave us for a few days... I could take them for long bike rides and chase them on the beach and splash with them in the pool.
I credit running for the energy I have been blessed with for this special and especially exhausting season in my life. I am not the most productive or organized of mothers. But I am pretty much always energetic. No one feels happy all the time, and nobody's life is without suffering and hardship and work... but I can honestly say that even on tough days, I feel like I am given just enough grace (and energy) to choose joy. Real, tangible, grateful, humorous joy. Much like how, in the hottest of runs on the island, sweat pouring down my back and heat pounding on my face, I was able to press in and get a heart-soaring, muscle-tingling second wind.
Running is a gift from God right now. It fills my sails and my tank and my heart. That second wind - physically and emotionally - is the greatest help I could get right now.
A few nights out at the beach, after the boys had crashed from a long day of sand and saltwater, I was able to hop on my rental bike and leave the baby monitor with my sweet mother in law and her as-sweet sister.
It was special to just feel like me for a few hours. And it was special to be able to see things like this...
That color is not a filter, hand on the bible. It was unbelievable - a hurricane raging offshore from us, and the whole island was lit with this eerie, fiery glow.
I dropped my bike and ran up to the beach to catch the sight of lightning flashing over the water in the distance, as the sun set behind me.
I felt in that moment, sitting on the sand by the sea, and then riding back to the condo with the wind in my hair and the pink fading overhead - that I am loved beyond measure. I am a small person in a big world, and it is exciting and dangerous and beautiful. And there are so many adventures I get to have. Not the least of which are the two pairs of bright eyes that greet me every morning and just want to play with me all day long. This is how I feel about being a mama.
I am grateful for the zest and energy for this time in my life that I honestly think comes from running. This time in life can be a tempting one for us women to feel like martyrs or victims or has-beens. Its not that we don't love our babies - but I get how it just overwhelms you, along with the piles of crusty dishes and moldy laundry. I am grateful that God gave me a stress outlet that also fills me. And its free. ;)
getting a run in with my double Bob on my favorite trail at home, right before a storm
Running isn't for everyone. My mom had this experience with cycling [she is a badass on a bike]. But I have to believe that God is able and wanting to help every mother find something to give them the joy and energy needed for their vocation. I know myself... I know my own failings and temptations... and I know I can't give myself the credit for the fact that I am simply loving this season. Sure its a lot of work; duh I yell and cry and say bad words plenty of times. But it is every bit as full of laughter and slobbery kisses and hilarious hijinks at bedtime and the contagious delight of your child getting to discover God and the world and himself. The tipping point, for me at least, is having the energy to lift up your head from the spilled milk and stained walls and see it. Having the energy for the bathtub splash fights and kitchen dance parties and epic story telling - these things make all the difference. Having the energy to laugh instead of cry.
So, here's a surge of gratitude to running... for this joy it gives me that I get to be right where I am, with every sweaty fiber of my being.
If you find yourself stuck in the hardships of motherhood, I have been there... and I know it has nothing to do with being a good mother, or being cut out for the vocation. I truly believe, if you press in just a little harder, if you seek out your own God-intended outlet and energizer... that second wind is waiting for you.
"My yoke is easy and my burden is light; come to me all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will refresh you." - Matthew 11:30
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Friday, June 20, 2014
We found ourselves in Colonial Williamsburg last weekend on a very quick trip up to a friend's first baby's baptism in Virginia.
My grandma - who divides her time between my parents' house in South Carolina and my mom's sister's house in Dale City - still owns the house that my mom grew up in, in a beautiful old neighborhood just outside of the colonial square, by Queens Lake. We crashed there Saturday night and got to visit with my cousin and my aunt who lives around the corner.
It was an exhausting trip, honestly. We were up at 5 am to leave for Williamsburg on Saturday, and we pulled back into our driveway, crumb-covered, baggy-eyed, wrinkly and stiff at 11:30 Sunday night. Without kids, that is plausible. With a toddler and a baby, it was a little nuts. (I guess that would explain why it is Friday that I am writing about last weekend).
But they were champs.
As we packed the car Friday evening, Will hopped up and down and around us asking 5 million and one questions about the "Ahbenture" we were about to take him on. He was excited by the dent in the routine, and it was fun to surprise him with a few new books and cheap toys for the road, the way my mom used to do with us. He got so contagiously excited over a little Crayola pack and matchbox cars.
And then, there was Williamsburg.
In all the years of my childhood making visits to Grandma's house every other year or so, I realized in the car that I don't think I had ever been there in the summer. Fall, winter, and spring, yes; but I really don't think I can recall a summer trip.
Since we have been coming to Williamsburg my whole life, we never do the [expensive] tours, but it was nice to walk around the shady streets and point things out to Will. Naturally, his favorite was the horses pooping in the road. Naturally.
Something you may not know about me... It is a little point of vanity for my mom's family that my grandma's maiden family name is inscribed above one of the pews of Bruton Parish.
Okay, a big point of vanity. ;) I can't remember if it was put there for her grandfather or great grandfather. But as a girl, it gave me a little shiver of appreciation for the fact that my grandma is a DAR. And I guess I could be too, if I wanted to pay the yearly dues.
But really? I was there walking down the road with my babies, seeing all the intense history buff tourists, geared up for walking this town like its the AT - in fanny packs, Camelbacks, and sensible shoes... and I realized, despite my heritage, this place doesn't really do it for me anymore. This town is a museum. The culture of the city is the past, not the present. After having seen much more of Charleston than Williamsburg in the past 4 years, I realized that is a huge difference between the two. Charleston has a living breathing culture of the present as well as a tenacious appreciation and preservation of the past. It is invigorating to experience the tension of that contrast when you visit!
Williamsburg feels hollow in comparison.
My favorite part about Williamsburg honestly is the Parkway. Someday when I can afford my dream Gary Fisher road bike I'm coming back to ride the whole thing.
It was cool to run out there again though, and I loved seeing my cousins. They were so kind and welcoming. It felt weird and amazing when I gave my older cousin Amber a huge hug and introduced my sons to her for the first time. She has known me all my life, and she had never met Will and Henry. It was wild to realize, I have had a life outside of these guys... these unique, lively little persons who fill my whole world... there was a time not too long ago that they weren't even a blip on the horizon. The feeling was almost as wild as the coming-of-age moment when you make a version of that discovery about your own parents.
And the baptism in Richmond was beautiful. Though my poor cramped kids were so sick of sitting still, there was nothing for it but to let them crawl and climb all over the back of the church during the ceremony after Mass on Sunday.
Thats us in the background, trying to stay out of trouble. ;)
While I chased them around back there, Will and Henry started playing their very first game of Hide and Seek. You should've heard Henry's big ole belly laugh!
Taking little "Adbentures" as Will calls it with your family, no matter how exhausting, is fulfilling in a way that nothing else quite is.
Friday, June 13, 2014
I am going to come out and raise my hand to say something. I am a young, conservative Catholic, who was homeschooled and sheltered and didn't date until college... and I wear a bikini! Not strut-my-stuff proudly, not sexed-up or showily, but I wear a bikini... comfortably.
Jason used to be in seminary before we got married. He says that it was always funny to him, a native Southern boy who grew up in the heat of Charleston and Greenville, hearing these guys from the midwest and northern states go off on how scandalous the idea of bikinis were to them. For Jason, and all the guys who came from a coastal, warm-climate background like himself, this was as foreign and bizarre to hear as "all swimsuits on women are scandalous". Or jeans. Or makeup.
Bikinis in context, when other people are also wearing them, are appropriate. Just like any other article of clothing. Once an article of clothing has become a cultural norm, the task of modesty, in my opinion, is to just approach said-article with a slightly higher standard - just so you don't stick out either way. The idea of trying to reverse or ignore the cultural norm is as funny to me as the idea of people choosing to talk in Chaucer's English because they are so disgusted with ye auld slang vernacular.
I would not have been the first woman in the world to wear jeans. Not because that particular article of clothing is evil. Or historically symbolic of liberal feminist man-eaters. But because modesty is all about choosing to not deliberately draw attention to your body. Once every woman was wearing jeans, my task as a woman is just not to wear the tightest jeans in the land. Or to pair my skinny jeans with a looser top. For this reason, I don't wear itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny bikinis. I am most comfortable in bandeau tops because I greatly dislike showing cleavage. I don't think its dignifying.
The modesty issue, to this Southern girl, is all about the context. I don't wear a bikini in the mall. Just like I don't wear shorts or strapless dresses to church. I avoid posting pictures of myself in my bikini on Facebook or Instagram, where people at home might see them out of context; I just think they stand out more that way, and its unnecessary at best. I don't even walk around in my bikini at the beach house; I throw on a coverup when I'm not on the sand or water. But I have grown to feel comfortable in a bikini, and brought my sisters and even my mom around to the same. I want my sons to grow up comfortable with women wearing bikinis, because I can't change their cultural context. They will go to the beach or the lake or the pool at their grown-up apartments and see women in bikinis. That is our cultural norm. And I don't want them to suffer unnecessary embarrassment because they simply didn't grow up expecting to see that and be totally accustomed to it.
I didn't feel comfortable wearing a bikini until I got married. I was surprised to realize my husband - who is not the type to want to "show off" his wife, but in fact always wants to err on the side of caution in most clothing situations - loves me wearing bikinis.
I actually had been scarred by a lot in my impressionable teens by one too many modesty talks by many well-meaning Catholic speakers. As a budding and very young woman just becoming aware of my own sexuality, the main thing I heard lurking unsaid behind all these talks was, and forgive me for putting it bluntly - "Guys struggle with masturbation. And if you're not careful, you will make them do that." It naturally horrified and disgusted me, and also made me incredibly, painfully self-conscious about my body and my interactions with males in general. Throughout high school, I was so uncomfortable if I had to be driven home after babysitting alone by the kind, friendly (totally respectable) dad. Or if some kid flirted with me at Youth Group. I have a golden father who loves me deeply, so I turned out okay... and my good, pure-of-heart gentleman of a husband has also really helped me to find the balance. But I for one will not be giving such modesty talks to my future teenagers. I will take the Southern route, and emphasize modesty in dress and language and body-language as being about manners. Because it is, after all. Its about what is appropriate in the society in which you live. My sons will open doors for women, they will never use swear-words in the presence of ladies, and they will not address their elders by their first names without saying "Mr" or "Ms". Such behavior is still the standard in the Carolinas. And if I am ever blessed with a daughter, she will be taught to wear a slip under a sheer dress, a bra at all times, and to dress with concern for the context and the season, keeping in mind what is comfortable and what everyone else will be wearing. And that will be all. Striving for purity of heart in all things will be a separate and unconnected conversation in my household to practical modesty.
[Even the study that proved men who saw a picture of a woman in a bikini had some biochemical reaction fails to inspire shame in me... because again. Context. If you are sitting at home at your computer, and are not out in the sun half-naked yourself, yeah I imagine such an image would jump out at your brain. It would to mine too.]
I loved reading this post from Jenny last summer about what she learned watching the Italian women. Its true. Bikinis are comfortable in a way that one-pieces aren't. And I'm not just talking about the lack of extra spandex on your torso. Bikinis force you to be at ease with your body. Wearing a tight one-piece, you are acutely aware of whether it "makes" you look skinnier or taller or whatever. Bikinis on the other hand, can't make you look anything other than what you are. When you sit down, your tummy probably pooches out a bit, planks everyday regardless. Things might jiggle when you walk. You might, like me, have stretch marks. If you are at all self-conscious of your body while you are out in the boiling sun by the water, you will be miserable. Or you can just decide to get over it.
Since most of us women in America would be loath to claim we think our own body is perfect - we each seem to have something to complain about - experiencing a day in the sun where you force yourself to just forget about your body... is unbelievably refreshing.
So, that's why I wear a bikini. Its intentional. I am not trying to make anyone feel challenged in their own swimsuit choices. After all, this simply is a cultural norm, and its not a big issue or a hill to die on (because, cultural norm). So if you are uncomfortable with the idea of being in a bikini, its probably not worth it.
But I am very glad I decided to get over it. Swimsuit season is not about looking a certain way for me anymore. Just as modesty isn't about a completely self-conscious and absurdly over-spiritualized emphasis on what is going on inside everyone else's heads. Its about the context. Its about getting outside and feeling the warmth of the sun hit every angle of your body along with all the other people around you, men and women, and choosing to not worry about your body in all its imperfection.
( I swear I am not a nudist.)
p.s.: If you are trying to get comfortable with bikinis, J.Crew is my go-to for conservative, lady-like options. And PSA: they are running a huge huge huge swimsuit sale right now. :)
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
...from the book Born to Run, by Christopher MacDougall. Wise words by one of the most legendary (and now deceased) ultra runners.
This is my chosen mantra while running. It helps me maintain good form. And it keeps me in love with the sport.
I don't run like a hamster in a wheel, exhausting myself to lose weight or look a certain way. I run for the pure love of it, for the high after a hill, after a refreshing 6 miler, after stepping out the front door on vacation into a whole new area that you get to explore for an hour, after you stretch out your tingling muscles at home.
Its the cheapest Me Time I can get.
Wednesday, June 4, 2014
I know saying "I love the beach!" or "I am a beach girl!" is kind of like saying "I love cake!" or babies! or sex!
I think most of us have an instinctive, awed response to the sea. It is so much the untouched handwork of the Creator.
I don't even care if its unique to me or millions of people or whatever. All I know is, I have counted it among my life's greatest blessings that I have been able to get to the sea at least twice a year in the last 4. And when I get to the beach, I feel the waste of every second I spend not actually on the water or laying in the sand, or walking the shoreline for miles of quiet joy.
This trip was no different. I felt an underlying buzz of excitement and aliveness all week that we were there. I was sleeping with our window open to hear the beating heart of the sea, I was hitting the sand as soon as I could get the babies lathered up in sunblock, and I was dragging Jason back out after they had gone down for the night.
Of course it was all over as soon as it had begun.
As we pulled onto the highway early Sunday morning, I turned back with my window down for one last breath of salty air, and I silently prayed the prayer I always do. "God, bring me back. And please, someday, bring me back for good."
I expected to feel blue for a few days when we got back to Charlotte. I prepared myself to feel that longing, that ache to go back. But now I find myself suddenly back into the routine, the work, the fulfilling exhaustion of our daily lives with, yes, happiness.
I don't crave a life of vacation. I was more than ready to be inundated with my daily chores, with the happy trips to the grocery store, with my regular schedule and my endless list-making.
I just would love to live that busy, hard-working life with the ocean in my windows.
I have resigned myself to the knowledge that I will never stop longing to be by the sea. To live a life where I can fall asleep to the sound of the waves crashing against the shore. To be soaked in the sun and the salt.
In the meantime, I need trips like this as often as I can get them. It helps reset me. A visit to the ocean is the only thing that effectively snaps me out of discontent, consumerism, over-spending and unintentional living. Being by the sea I am reminded that it really doesn't matter what I am wearing... I feel just as beautiful in 5 year old cut-offs and a holey white tank as I do in Free People. I am thrilled by the simplicity and the beauty of life by the ocean.
I think some people have this same reaction to the mountains, or to farms in the countryside, or a peaceful lake, or the snow, or traveling the globe. Wherever your heart seems to beat faster, wherever you have been wired by nurture and nature to feel closest to God, closest to perfect happiness.
Someday, I believe, I will end up back on the coast.
My relationship with God has been one story after another of Him surprising me with fulfilling the deepest desires of my heart, so much better than I ever could have. He always allows me to have a burning desire that I have to surrender to Him; to go through a season of tasting that longing, of yearning and letting it go. But when I have sought to give up everything to happily do what He wants me to do... when I embrace the present moment and accept the grace He offers to do the work He has for me... I have never been disappointed by that work. I have never had cause to look back in regrets or what ifs.
I don't know what His plan for me is, and I am okay with that! And if I never get to live seaside in this life, I have to trust there'll be a drafty, splintery, big-windowed beach house for me in heaven.
In the meantime... my week by the ocean refreshed me for more intentionality in my lifestyle here in Charlotte. For the cooking and cleaning, for the endless dishes, for the early mornings and sleepy evenings. For the baby babbling and the dirty diapers. For saving my money for the next beach trip - and in doing so, realizing I don't actually need any more stuff. Walking for hours on the beach will do that to you; make you realize how unnecessary all that nice, material "stuff" is. Give me an old house on a beachy island, with shabby wicker furniture and rice for dinner, and my life will be complete.
I am home, I am back to work with a new excitement and awareness of how good God is, how beautiful His plan is right here in the present moment... and a mission is to simplify and save. And here is where I am going to make an embarrassing confession. One of the big changes I need to make is cutting myself off from most of my favorite big, beautiful, highly-sponsored lifestyle blogs. I hate it, because I have grown to adore so many of these cute bloggers and truly appreciate their impeccable tastes. But there's a very real problem that it creates, for me. I am naturally tempted to materialism. And when I get online and I see that one of these girls - whom I know from years of following doesn't own her house yet, or has some financial struggles, or has a husband in school with similar student loans, etc etc - is wearing a gorgeous $500 dress by a designer branded for the occupants of the Hamptons... it creates this very real frustration and brewing discontent with my clothes from last season on clearance at J.Crew, and my Hobby-Lobby decor (which even then I can barely afford), and my handmedown Buick lacrosse.
Blogging makes money because it works. Peer marketing is incredibly effective. Seeing a girl I admire online, whom I also happen to know isn't financially ahead of me, so to speak, wearing and using and enjoying these beautiful high-quality and highly priced things, I feel myself starting to justify going into debt and living above my means in order to have it all too. It makes little difference that I know she couldn't really afford that dress either.
Of course its not that simple. There are many other factors in the vicious cycle of American consumerism and record personal debt. And I am definitely inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit of these women - making a name and a business for themselves. But I have had to admit to myself that lifestyle blogs are becoming highly problematic, at least for me. And that kind of lifestyle - this Pinterest-perfect, on-trend lifestyle that is completely accessorized by to-die for throw pillows and necklaces and hats and ohhh the list never ends!... that's become a problematic kind of lifestyle for me to be daily admiring.
The problem is not the lifestyle blog. The problem is the type of lifestyle my favorite blogs have been encouraging, inadvertently or not. I need a new lifestyle to emulate and be inspired by. Being at the beach made me re-realize it. I have been reading the thoughts and reflections of the guys at The Minimalists... I got the book on Audible, and have been so uplifted and challenged in coming back from the beach with my renewed desire for someday living again the simple saltwater life - realizing that however silly it may sound, that is one of my biggest passions - and everything else that I have been spending money on is just empty filler in comparison.
I am so grateful for the reset. I needed it. My walks on the beach, my hours watching the sun rise and set, my unplugged week, uninterrupted in experiencing the beauty of nature, has lit a fire under me to choose that lifestyle for myself and my family.
p.s.: What do y'all think? Am I crazy? Or way way way too materialistic that I am at all affected by harmless lifestyle blogs?