a day late: i want to be daring

This year, I want to be daring.

I probably won’t jump out of a plane, travel the world or hike Kilimanjaro. That’s just not the kind of daring that’s calling me right now.

(Maybe when Keegan starts using the toilet. Then we’ll consider it.)

I’m interested in a whole different kind of daring these days.

About a year ago, Kyle and I read a book together that has radically changed the way we live. Sometimes we read together, it’s true. And in almost every occasion, I make it through about two pages of what his book before I exclaim in a melodramatic voice, “I JUST DON’T GET IT!” He almost always puts my book down after three paragraphs … mostly because of indifference. I love non-fiction like I love tea; give him a novel or biography about someone who’s dead and he’s set for weeks. We’ve reconciled on this–we have different taste in books. But in this particular instance, we both wanted to read Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. (Sidenote: I briefly talked about her work last year and how it was changing my life and I was telling people in Target about it, and a year later I can say it has actually changed my life.)

Because see–I read her words about the power of vulnerability, being willing to fail, and letting myself be seen right before I did approximately all of those things. I applied for a new job when I was 41 weeks pregnant (people usually don’t recommend this) and I interviewed when I had slept for just one hour. Dare greatly? Willing to fail? Uh, yeah. We plopped ourselves into a new church community with a newborn and opened ourselves up, willing to be seen. Kyle started grad school and sat in a class where he admittedly felt like a kindergartener and dared so greatly by sitting in a room full of experience. I knew something wasn’t quite right in July when I was still feeling blue, so I said it right out loud and walked myself into a support group for women suffering from postpartum depression, and I’m a better mother for it. During 2013, we most certainly dared greatly.

And so this year as I look ahead, I feel ready to be daring all over again, in lots of other ways. I want to live a less scared life. I want to stop being so afraid of failure, judgment, vulnerability, being seen, and all kinds of other things that hold me back from living a wholehearted life and following Jesus fully. I want to be daring and invite people I know and trust to tell me the hard truth about myself. I want to go through the beautiful (albeit sometimes painful) process of growth and change, because I know there’s nothing sadder than someone who’s decided to stop growing. I’m going to pay attention when I’m tempted to shut down, and learn from my mistakes and failures instead of never take any risks at all.

During a class with the Influence Network a couple of weeks ago, Jessi Connelly said it this way, “There’s no such thing as a perfect mom. So if you can’t be a perfect mom, the other option is being a mom who is unwilling to admit she’s wrong.” I lost my breath for a moment thinking about all the ways I’ve seen relationships fall apart or parents shame their kids simply because of pride. Isn’t it true? Haven’t we all ruined a relationship, burned a bridge, or had to ask for forgiveness because we held on tight to pride and didn’t just say, “I’m sorry, I made a mistake?” I want to be daring and ask for forgiveness, say I’m sorry and mean it, and reconcile when I need to. I want to let other people get a word in and listen more and talk less.

In all these ways, I hope to be daring. So here’s to 2014 and another year of daring greatly.

daring

how i (slowly) became a mother

I signed up for a writing class this past summer, thinking that now would be the perfect time to explore this untapped gift. I’ve always had a knack for words–better or worse–and hardly use them sparingly.

So when Keegan came into this world and I was suddenly without words, I didn’t know how to handle myself. Friends would text me all day long, asking if I was okay, and I didn’t really know how to respond because I didn’t know if I was okay.

Back to the writing class.

In the beginning of June, I was in on a conference call with my other “classmates,” and our teacher gave us a prompt–twenty minutes of uninterrupted writing. Her question? When it comes to writing, what are you afraid of? 

And I discovered that when it really came down to it, I was afraid of what I would find in the dark corners of my soul. Because deep down, I felt shame. Shame about motherhood, shame about my selfishness, and shame over my sudden inability to cope in a healthy way.

I need to be really scary honest here: I didn’t become a mother right away.

I know, right? That’s despicable. How could I not be so grateful for this child? How could I not love him with every fiber of my being?

But see, that’s just it. I loved him, but I felt completely unqualified to take care of him, and I didn’t know how. I felt like surely there was some other woman somewhere else who was more capable than me. In the last weeks leading up to his birth, my due date kept getting further and further in the past. My OBGYN didn’t want to induce, because it greatly “increased the risk of a c-section.” I understood that. I didn’t want that! So we waited. And I did everything possible to make this baby come on my own. I mean, everything. Every list, every natural remedy, every-single-last-thing and there was NO sign of Keegan’s arrival, right up to the induction. So finally, when he was nearly eleven days past due (and no, his due date was not wrong… for the love), my doctor decided to induce.

And before you even go thereI know all the conspiracy theories behind induction. I watched “The Business of Being Born” while I was pregnant. We took birthing classes and I read every book I could get my hands on. I know that contractions with Pitocin are 3x more painful than contractions without. I packed our bags at 36 weeks, ready to go. I had a birthing ball that I bounced on endlessly in the last weeks leading up to Keegan’s birth. My due date came and passed. Nothing. I drank raspberry tea like it was my part-time job. Nothing. I ate every spicy thing I could find and put special, weird ingredients in my food. Nothing. I did lots of that thing “they” say makes labor start. Nothing.

So off we went, ten days after Keegan’s due date. We arrived that night to spend the evening in the hospital. I don’t remember a lot about that day. I remember eating lots of ice chips, and I asked my blonde nurse where she did her hair. Even in labor, I was thinking about my hair. (If this isn’t a window into idolatry, I don’t know what is.) I wore an oxygen mask all day because Keegan’s heart rate was dropping due to the Pitocin.

And you know what? It would be really easy for me to keep going here… to tell you about the pain that followed and the weeks of depression that quickly came after and how I battled through shame and guilt over how it all went down, but you know what?

I’m done with shame. I’m alive. Keegan’s alive. We’re healthy. I am done wondering if things could have gone different, should have been better, or whatever. I have a healthy, beautiful, happy baby and I through with shame and moving onto gratitude.

And for me? Gratitude has changed everything.

I didn’t instantly become a mom. It wasn’t as instinctive as I hoped, and it took extra time for me. If that isn’t you, you need to know, you have a gift. I am jealous. But if that is you, and you feel a little like me and a lot of crazy, I need to say something to you here. So would you sit down and let me whisper something directly to you?

You are enough.

It’s okay that you don’t have this figured out yet. 

It’s alright if it wasn’t what you thought it was going to be.

There is grace for you. 

There is love for you. 

And there is hope. 

I don’t know where shame has taken your soul captive, or how long you’ve let yourself believe something that just isn’t true, but I do know this: it’s not worth it and it’s eating you alive. Never before had I experienced what the true healing power of Jesus could do until I gave Him my shame and said, “Here, take it, I don’t want it anymore.” And slowly, I became a mother. I became a mother when I left it all there, in all its muck, and instead decided that this motherhood thing was designed to be messy, imperfect, and a little-bit-crazy. That maybe, perhaps, motherhood was created in such an overwhelming way that we would have no choice but to reach out our hands and ask for help, to come to the Father desperate for guidance, and to allow others to come in and love our babies in ways we cannot.

I patiently waited, Lord, for you to hear my prayer.
You listened and pulled me from a lonely pit
full of mud and mire.
You let me stand on a rock with my feet firm,
and you gave me a new song, a song of praise to you.
Many will see this, and they will honor and trust you, the Lord God.
(Psalm 40:1-3 CEV)
keegan.

granola and glasses of milk

On a Tuesday afternoon, a week after Keegan was born, my phone rang. I recognized the area code, so I answered, hoping it would be someone with answers to something.

“Hello?”

“Hi, is this Anne Wilson?”

“Yes.”

“Hi, Anne! I’m one of the nurses from your hospital. I was just calling to check in and see how you and your little baby are doing.”

“Ok.”

“So . . . how are you doing?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know? Honey, are you crying?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, sweetheart. It’s going to get better. I wouldn’t go back to the first few weeks with my first for anything. I know it’s so hard right now, but it really does get better.”

When? When does it get better?”

I was standing in my kitchen, letting the tears flow into the sink with water running, hurling down handfuls of granola, forcing myself to eat something—anything—that resembled nourishment and substance. I was in full-on-ugly-cry-mode, the kind that makes everyone in the room uncomfortable, and all I could think was, “When will this baby sleep?” I was exhausted, nerve-wracked, and recovering from a serious surgery. All my hopes and dreams of childbirth, nursing, and motherhood seemed to be laughing back at me and the only word that came to mind when I looked into my son’s eyes was simply . . .

FAILURE.

Nothing was going like I planned. Nothing seemed to work. Where was this feeling of euphoric love mothers wrote about, spoke about, told stories about? I didn’t feel it; all I could think about was sleep. And now that I know him, I so desperately wish I could go back to that time, stare that woman in the face, and say, “You can do this. All those people who say ‘it’s going to get better’? They’re not lying to you. It really will.

A few friends have asked us since if there was anything that would have helped us through that time. And honestly, there isn’t. We just had to make it through. But, there are some words of wisdom I can share with those that are close to someone going through postpartum.

A few disclaimers: I am not a psychologist or a doctor.  I write this purely as someone who’s been there, not an expert. Also, every woman is different. Some may snap out of it (like I did), and for some, it may linger for months, if not years. If you are close to a woman battling postpartum depression, be her advocate and delicately tell her if you think she may be suffering from depression more serious than the first few weeks of baby blues. There is no shame in getting help.

1.    Love them well, and from a distance.
I don’t mean that you can’t go over to their house. I wanted to show Keegan off to the entire world. But try not over stay your welcome, as it can be very nerve-wracking for the new mother (and father). She’s just trying to keep her head on her own body, and the added pressure of hosting a guest for a long period of time can be quite overwhelming.

2.    Be specific.
Most mothers I’ve talked to aren’t sure how to brush their teeth during the newborn fog. So when someone says, “Just let me know if I can help you!” it’s overwhelming and quite frankly, goes unnoticed. We know the intentions are genuine, but we don’t know what to say back. Instead, offer to do something very specific, like, “Can I come rock a screaming baby for you?” or, “Can I come do your laundry?” or, “Can I come clean your kitchen?” followed by, “Give me a time and I’ll be there, no pressure to entertain me!” Then show up. One of my friends came over one morning, and after leaving her downstairs for maybe five minutes, I came down to find a clean kitchen and empty dishwasher. I could’ve cried. Another friend came one night while Keegan had been screaming 2+ hours and rocked him to sleep while we sat on the couch and stared at each other. Had we had the hydration necessary to produce real tears, Kyle and I both would’ve cried.

3.    Just go with it.
Your friend might not be recognizable to you for a month (or two, or three). Just go with it. You may go days (or weeks) without hearing back from her after you’ve texted or called. Choose not to be offended. Try to avoid comments (even joking) about how she’s “a little hormonal” or “going crazy.” She knows she’s not quite herself, and she wishes she was, and all she really needs now is encouragement, love, and support. Save the jokes for a year from now. They’ll (most likely) be funny then. But not yet.

4.    Feed them.
During our first weekend home with Keegan, Kyle and I went an entire day without eating real food. No, we didn’t eat paper, but we chugged down glasses of milk as substitutes for food because we really were that sleep-deprived. I was so grateful for all the people who brought us meals that took mere seconds to prepare. If I thought about it before, I would’ve drafted a letter to give each one of them about the meaning of food and how their gift was like a thousand birthdays. Because it really was.

5.    Give the husband a really big hug. And a cup of coffee.
I can’t speak to this, because I’m not the husband… but from the wife’s perspective, I wish I could go back to that time and write him hundreds of love letters. Because he did everything for us those first few weeks, and I didn’t have the energy to give him the thanks he deserved.

So there’s my non-professional input on how to help a friend who just brought a bundle of screaming love home from the hospital. She is going to be wearing different skin for a while, and that’s okay. Just go with it.

i work in threes

A few years ago, a bright-eyed, blonde girl with the last name “Durham” decided it’d be a really clever idea to get married, move cities, and graduate from college all within three weeks. Everyone looked at her like she was insane. And she was.

Almost four years later, that same girl was confronted with having her first baby, raising said baby, and leaving one job and starting another (which also meant changing churches) all within three months.

Okay, I can’t write in third person anymore.

Seriously, life kicked our butt in April. But all I can say is I truly have never been more grateful (and excited) for any season of life. We love getting to know this little guy, and I am stupefyingly blessed for this new adventure as a writer. Oh, don’t worry–I have frequent moments where panic ensues and I think, “Am I cut out for this?” But then I pause, breathe, and remember to release control. I choose to show up and believe that God will equip me for the place He has brought me.

We’re thankful. And tired. So I ask you to bear with us, again, as blogging may be on the sporadic (and random) side of life over the next month or so.

Until then, here’s a picture to hold you over.

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transitions

It’s been a life-changing 9 weeks. We feel so blessed and honored that God gave us the gift of being parents to Keegan. Let’s be real, it’s also been hard. There have been a lot of late nights, early mornings, and days I’ve gone without brushing my teeth.

When we found out we were pregnant, we immediately began praying that God would guide us as we made decisions for how to parent Keegan. In 2 Chronicles 20, there’s a story about young Jehosaphat defeating Moab and Ammon. I am not comparing our journey into parenthood to the battle Jehosaphat faced (although . . . just kidding), but I do resonate with his plea and crying out to God. When he found out that an army was attacking him, Scripture says that Jehosaphat was afraid, so he “set his face to seek the Lord.” He then called everyone together to seek help from the Lord, and they came from every town in Judah to seek him.

Scripture paints us a picture of Jehosaphat trusting and proclaiming God’s providence–that He was maker and ruler of all and that although he was afraid, and he did not know what to do, his eyes were focused on God.

I made a little bookmark with this very phrase, and placed it in every book I devoured over the course of pregnancy:

“We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

I am the kind of person that invests wholeheartedly in everything I do. I fail, a lot. But I try to invest wholeheartedly in my relationship with Jesus, my marriage, and my role as a youth pastor. When I became a mom, I quickly realized that the wholehearted way of life poured into motherhood, and that another role was added to the mix.

I am a child of God first. That has always been the case.

But now I am a mother, and it has changed everything.

And so, I asked God to make clear to me what I should do . . . if I could still be a youth pastor and a mom, if I could still do everything I did before with this new little person in our lives. Through it all, I felt overwhelmingly peaceful that He was going to give an answer, I just had no idea what it would be. Could I do this part-time? Should I go back full-time? Should I stay home with Keegan? Ultimately, we decided that I couldn’t come back as a full-time youth pastor.

I knew I couldn’t come back for one, big reason: I would be of no good to anyone. I wouldn’t serve Chapel Rock well, I wouldn’t serve students well, and I wouldn’t serve my family well. I don’t want to be a frazzled mess every Sunday, biting people’s heads off because I only slept two hours the night before. And I certainly don’t want to be a frazzled mess to my family, coming home exhausted and then only giving Keegan leftovers. He deserves more than that. Kyle does, too.

We prayed and waited patiently, as well as pouring ourselves into the word of God more than ever. From the first day I committed my life to ministry, I never expected that part of the story would be a ministry of motherhood. I guessed I would be a mother, sure. But I didn’t realize that motherhood would be a ministry.

I asked God to give me an opportunity to serve the Kingdom and be a mom. I didn’t know how that could work, but I prayed for it anyway.

He gave it.

In two weeks, I will start my new role at Traders Point Christian Church as a part-time writer for their Communications team. I will get to work from home a majority of the week, be a mom to Keegan, and give to the local church in a way that uses my gifts and passions. We are excited for this new season ahead of us, but it also means that we will be leaving Chapel Rock, and so we leave with conflicted emotions of gratitude and sadness.

To Chapel Rock: you have been all we have known as a married couple. I became “Anne Wilson” here. I learned to love people better because of mistakes I made here (I made many). You all listened to terrible sermons and made me a better communicator with your sleepy eyes. You pushed me to serve people in deeper ways because of the ways I have watched you serve others. We are sad to see this season end. But we’re not moving. We still very much hope to be a part of your lives, just in a different way. We won’t be at Chapel Rock anymore, but we will still be in Sunningdale. Thank you for all that you have given Kyle and me. We follow Jesus more deeply because of you.

bread & wine: review

As a long-time fan of Shauna Niequist, I was ecstatic to receive Bread & Wine a couple of months early to read and review. Don’t tell her, but in my mind, we’re actually really close friends and her books are just emails she’s written to me.

Is that indicative of how brilliant she is as a writer, or just creepy of me? I’ll never know.

Anyway, as my life would have it, I received it about three days after giving birth, so it took me a while to pick it up. Okay, I lied. I picked it up that day, but cried almost enough tears to fill the Nile River through the introduction, so I decided my hormones needed some space.

Nearly two months and happy hormones later, I got to reading. And for the first fifty pages or so, I started feeling ravenous/overwhelmed, and thought to myself, “I picked the wrong time to read a book about life around the table.” Lately I’ve been caught stuffing PB&J down my face around 2pm, after I realize I have forsaken lunch. I kept wishing I could bring a post full of pictures of a fancy dinner party, with laughter, lush appetizers and way too much dessert. Then I read this on page 71…

“We all have those stretches–busy parenting seasons where the nights feel like a blink and the days wear on and on, or work deadlines that throw off our routines, or extended family commitments that pull us in a thousand directions. What heals me on those days when it all feels chaotic and swirling is the simplicity of home, morning prayer, tea, and breakfast quinoa.”

And hope was restored.

So early Easter morning, I got up and adventurous with some delicious breakfast quinoa.
Here’s how.

First, take a trip to Trader Joe’s.

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Here’s what’s in the bag:

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You’ll need approximately 4 eggs, 1 large onion, a package of chicken apple sausage, 2 cups quinoa, 4 cups water, 1 tablespoon olive oil, goat cheese, and salt and pepper to taste.
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A protein explosion, basically.

Next, get out your copy of Bread & Wine and turn to page 72. Wipe the olive oil/tears/grease off the page and get to cooking.

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Slice and soften the onion in olive oil in a pan over medium-low heat. Then slice the sausage and add it to the same pan. Watch it cook and let your mouth water.

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Next, make sure you occupy your baby/dog/spouse/roommate. And take a few photos of them.

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Pour quinoa and water into a small pot. Bring it to a boil, then turn the heat down to simmer for about 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and let it cool for 5 minutes. Oh, and start the tea.

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Scoop quinoa into bowls and then stir a scoop of onions and sausage slices into each one. In the onion & sausage pan, prepare the eggs however you wish–fried or scrambled. We chose scrambled, and we also cheated. The recipe calls for one egg per bowl, we went with two. After they’re cooked, scoop those on top of the rest and add a handful of goat cheese to each bowl.

IMG_0679Eat it by yourself with a book and cup of tea, at the table with your spouse, or on your front porch with friends. Then go buy Bread & Wine, and whatever season you find yourself in . . . entertaining friends, survival-mode, or in-need-of-spiritual-refreshment, read. Then cook. Then eat your way back to sanity.

i forgot to brush my teeth

It was four in the afternoon, and suddenly it dawned on me:

I haven’t brushed my teeth today.

“There is nothing that brings you face-to-face with your own selfishness more than parenthood,” Amanda said sympathetically. “I never knew just how selfish I was until there was a little person that constantly needed me.”

Amanda wasn’t the only one that lovingly warned me about the soul-refining process of parenthood. Everyone tried. But there’s no context for understanding just how much, in the most beautiful and bittersweet way, parenting takes the life right out of you.

About a month ago, when Keegan was almost three weeks old, we took a Saturday trip to Trader Joe’s. Keegan was asleep, I needed to leave the dungeon formerly known as our home, and Kyle–well, I think he just needed to see daylight. As soon as we pulled up, Keegan started fussing, so Kyle motioned for me to go on in, solo, while he stayed in the car with the boy. I wandered around the aisles, with lots of phrases popping up above my head…

So this is what society is like…

Am I drunk?

Did I even make a grocery list?

I wonder if I’ll have time to eat that.

Is this a banana?

Am I dreaming or is this real life?

The sleep-deprivation was insurmountable at that point, and if anyone contacted me in those first three weeks, well, I’m sorry. There’s no excuse other than I didn’t know my name most days, and the physical recovery of a major surgery + a newborn that wouldn’t eat was, well, a lot tad overwhelming. Looking back, it’s actually pretty funny. I am positive the people who passed me in the fruit section were questioning whether I was sober/alive/not homeless.

Some women waltz into parenthood, singing lullabies to their sleeping angel and asking themselves how life ever existed before him. If you are this mother, you are going to want to stop reading now. (I am so happy for you, by the way, I just know you’re probably not going to like this next part.) Will you allow me some space to be this honest? That was not me. I wish it was. Don’t get me wrong: I instantly loved Keegan. I constantly just stared at him, morning and night, putting my hand on his chest to feel him breathe.

But I also cried. Every day. Every hour. I didn’t know what was happening to me. I didn’t recognize myself. The baby blues were no stinking joke. I’m pretty sure hormones were flying out of our windows.

And then one morning, like the spring that should have arrived a few weeks ago, I woke up and said I can do this. God has equipped me to do this. I am woman, hear me mother. While feeding him that afternoon, I said aloud to my son, “Keegan, buddy, we’re going to make it.” Amanda was right; there’s nothing like it. Parenting is painfully, unpredictably beautiful. So I told him that day how hard this had been, how sorry I was for not being fully present just yet, and how much his little face made my heart swell up to the size of a hot-air balloon.

Then I went and brushed my teeth.

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Photo credit to Nathan & Ashley Siner Photography & Design (www.thesiners.com).
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