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Real Life Legacy

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Real Life Legacy

I never feel like a good mom.

And I mean…never

My heart avidly waits for the day that I sit down after bedtime routine and have that momentary thought: “I’m a good mom.”

The irony is: The day my little was born I felt like super woman. I looked at my beautiful princess and knew instantly that she was the greatest accomplishment of my life. And when I looked into her huge, deep eyes for the first time, I really believed that I could conquer anything. 

My baby girl latched right away and ate like a champ. She stayed awake for almost 3 hours after she was born; which we were told is very unusual. She would follow sounds and shadows and the sound of my voice with little turns of her head; something else the nurses said was unusual for the first day. She was my miracle and I was excited to be her momma. Even the waking every two hours that first night to feed her was exciting!

Then on day two she almost died.

My husband and I dropped her off at the nursery on our way to the “discharge meeting” that you have to attend before being allowed to go home: The first time I’d been away from her since she was born. I was persuaded to leave her by the amazing nurse who had been there the whole time with us, because it was only supposed to take about 30 minutes. As soon as I walked away from her my chest started getting tight, and I started to count down the time…

Thirty minutes and I get my Bella back.

About thirty-five minutes later, my husband went to get our beauty from the nursery while I continued on to our room (bathroom!). When he walked in moments later without her, my heart skipped several beats in the time it took him to explain that they were doing all of the necessary tests before marking her for discharge the next morning. So, I went about the business of situating myself, and that’s when we heard an alarm that we hadn’t heard before.

I vividly remember walking out of the bathroom and commenting on the alarm to my husband. Both of us questioning what that particular alarm sound could have been for; since it was so markedly different from the beeps and alarms we had been hearing for two days. What happened next I remember in slow motion and cemented the sound of that alarm in my brain forever.

Lori, the nurse that had been with us the entire time, walked into our room…the emotional look on her face not registering in my brain…the fact that she didn’t have my Bella with her also not registering…until she mentioned the alarm. I will never forget the conversation as long as live…

“I’m sure you guys heard the alarm a few minutes ago…?”

“We did! We were just talking about what that alarm is for, because we haven’t heard that one before.” 

“Well, that alarm was for your Isabella…”

My heart stopped. My brain wasn’t processing what she was saying in real time. It was like an out of body experience where I couldn’t bring myself to actually hear what she was saying to us. It felt like she was talking so slowly, yet I remember wanting her to stop talking, because all my brain would process was that it had to be a mistake: She had to be mistaking another baby for my Bella.

“…We laid her on her back to take her vitals and she spit up. Before we were able to clear it all, she spit up again and aspirated it. She stopped breathing and then flat-lined for a several seconds. All four pediatricians on call responded to the alarm. They cleared her airway, pumped her stomach of any excess fluid and now they're monitoring her heart. She is stable, but they want to keep her on a monitor for a while just to make sure…”

I couldn’t breathe. I felt the urge to sit and to run at the same time. I wanted to scream at her for not protecting my baby, while simultaneously screaming at myself for failing at motherhood on the second day. How could this have happened?? My husband and I had fought so hard, been through so much, and believed she was our miracle baby arriving just when God had appointed her to. Yet, my baby, my beautiful Bella, had stopped breathing…stopped living…

…I promise, I will bring her down to you as soon as they clear her to leave the nursery. I am so sorry! I can’t believe this happened. You’re such a sweet little family. I’m so relieved she's ok.” 

Then my husbands steady voice… “Can we see her now, please? We’d like to see her now.

I don’t know what, but something broke in me that day. And then again on day five when my precious girl started vomiting and then refused to eat; which landed us overnight at the hospital. That trip resulted in shattering every picture I had painted in my head during all of the sleepless nights I spent hugging the belly that I had started to lose hope I’d ever have.

I had to give up being a breastfeeding momma: I dried up after only 3 months of pumping. I had to stop laying her flat in the bassinet beside my bed: She had to be in her crib on an elevated mattress so that her stomach could drain easily and she wouldn’t throw up. Then there was all of the little things: She hated hair bands and barrettes and tights and shoes and dresses and hats and napping and tummy time and bed time… It seemed that everything made her scream at the top of her little lungs for hours on end. The only time she seemed happy was when she was eating (food that my body didn’t provide her) and when just about anyone else was holding her. So, as much as I hate saying it, by the end of the first month I was convinced that I was failing and I wanted desperately to give her back.

And now? Now I’m the woman that sits on the edge of her bed at 2am almost every night, having already put her toddler back in bed for the 12th time, wishing for the moment that I can say, “I’m a good mom.” My girl eats everything I make for her, she wants only me to hold her, she loves hair bands and barrettes and tights and shoes and dresses and hats (as long as wearing them is her idea)…and screaming at me, hitting me, bull rushing my legs, spitting her drinks on me, throwing her food at me, slamming doors, stomping her foot… Need I go on?

I don’t feel like super woman. I don’t believe I can conquer anything. Yet, somehow, I still believe that my Bella is my greatest accomplishment.

I’m learning (slowly) that we have made the definition of a “good mom” just as subjective as we’ve made the definition of “beauty”. We’ve taken something that (I believe) is anointed and appointed by God and we’ve allowed societal opinion to try and dictate how our motherhood is defined. No matter what decision we make for our babies, there are a hundred articles and mommy blogs to tell us that we’re wrong. Just like there are a hundred youtube videos and beauty blogs to tell us that we’re not measuring up and never really making it to beautiful. 

Then of course there is social media that constantly makes us feel inadequate, because we are constantly looking at peoples best moments, staged moments, and comparing them to all of the moments that we can never seem to manage with our own kid(s). It’s in the comparison that our hearts are broken over and over again. Insecurity rules the day, vulnerability is hidden beneath the mask that we so carefully design and the truth of our reality has become our constant #momfail. 

This is not the world I want to leave for my daughter.

I may not know how to change the whole world, but I can change her world. I can leave a legacy of being real about my insecurities and show her my vulnerabilities, so that she feels the freedom to be unmasked as she grows into the woman that God has created her to be. I can leave her these small pictures of the truth of my reality so that, hopefully, she will someday look into the eyes of her own baby/toddler/child/teenager and have the moment where she will look at herself and say…

I am a good mom.

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Charisma

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Charisma

Charisma (pl. charismata

I’ve always loved learning the origin and history of words. I’m a nerd! I know it.

What I love about learning how words started, what they meant at the beginning, is how it often challenges the present use of the word. In present english, charisma is a word that we assign to a person or character that we revere; a person that has a certain compelling attractiveness or charm that inspires devotion and admiration. Most often, it’s a word that we attribute to a seemingly divine power or talent. I have used this word within this present definition for the entirety of my life! 

It wasn’t until I was reading a book regarding the markers of a healthy Christian church that I even stopped to think that this word, charisma, may have a history of different meaning. I’ve fallen into the habit lately of using words without forethought; without pausing to really consider if I am using the words I truly intend to say. Words, after all, are just words until we place them in a context that assigns them a tone and a definition. And I must admit that I am often guilty of placing otherwise innocent words within a negative context when it comes to communicating with the people I love most; Namely my husband. Anyone else?

Whether we want to admit it or not, words have power. The words we say, and the tone with which we say them, can either build someone up or tear them down. Words have the power to encourage growth or to inhibit it. And no matter how cliche it is; the tone and manner with which we use words often speaks louder than the words themselves.

Confession: This is the seemingly never ending struggle that I find myself in with my husband.

I never saw my husband coming. I was confident in the calling I believed was on my life: I was going to be single, serving in ministry as a speaker/teacher/mentor. I had finally reached a peace in my heart about not getting married (especially considering I was 25 and had never dated!), believing that the plan for my life was something bigger than I could ever imagine. I was so independent and so used to living my life unattached, that it took me about two hours to realize that my husband had asked me out on a date!

Fast forward to today…

Had someone, anyone, been honest enough with me to tell me then that marrying someone who loves in an entirely different love language than me was going to be the biggest challenge of my life…I may have never done it, and totally missed the blessings God had planned! You see, I love with gifts and quality time. So, buy me a coffee and sit with me chatting for an hour and my tank is full!

I married a words of affirmation and physical touch lover…  My weakest points.

Needless to say, I wake up every day and make the choice to fight for my marriage: to fight for my husband. It has taken me all five years (plus a few months!) of being married to get to the place in my marriage that I don’t beat myself up every day, because I’ve allowed the darkness to convince my heart that my husband loves me SO well and I am terrible at loving him back.

I even went through a season of questioning the “rightness” of my marriage altogether.

I learned in that season that the darkness really is very adept at twisting our reality to fit the narrative that has the greatest potential to defeat us; to push us away from the path of goodness we are struggling to walk on. It was a conversation with my amazing sister-in-law that shook me out of the dark and forced me to see the reality of my life: The reality that I was a new mom, I was physically and emotionally exhausted, I was isolated as a result of losing my church family, I was battling a loneliness that I had never experienced before as a result of the decision to be a “stay-at-home-mom”, and I had stopped chasing after my dreams and my calling as the result of listening more often to the darkness than the light.

BUT SO WAS MY HUSBAND.

A new dad. Physically and emotionally exhausted. Isolated. Lonely. Listening to dark whispers devaluing his efforts to love and provide and support and parent.

As a result of that season, we were stuck in a cycle of absolute miscommunication, that led to lots of hurt feelings. Our words had power and our tone was too often confusing the intended definition of even the simplest of statements. Our marriage had become more about surviving the day with our baby than spending time really talking and dreaming and just being together; growing together toward a common purpose.

We had lost sight of our greatest charisma.

Learning the origin of this commonly used word reminded me this week of that season in my marriage, and also made me extremely thankful that my husband had the wisdom to force the much needed confrontation that has renewed our desire for, trust in and fight for each other and our marriage. My husband has the patience of a saint! Yet, even he can reach the point of frustration with my internal struggle to exert my independence, while at the same time surrendering in respect so that I can truly love him well.

I now understand that what we have been doing in this past season of renewal is reclaiming our charisma.

Charisma (charis, charismata), from Greek origin, was used in reference to spiritual things; more specifically spiritual gifts.

Charisma and charismata are used by the Apostle Paul in the scriptures explaining the Spiritual gifts that God, in his grace, gives to those who truly believe in salvation through his Son. The purpose of these gifts is to build up the church and to be an example of goodness, of righteousness. Therefore, when put into historical context:

CHARISMA is a GRACE GIFT.

Marriage is a charisma. (1 Corinthians 7:7) MY marriage is a grace gift, not only to me and my husband for the purpose of building up our house and our church, but to show others that they too can be built up and encouraged and chase after and receive goodness.

My prayer for you, no matter what kind of season you find yourself in, whether in marriage or in some other context of life, is that you will remember and reclaim your charisma! If you’re not a Christ follower and do not believe in such gifts being given by God, then I pray that you will make the decision (especially in your marriage relationship!) to chase after the love that you started with always! May we all reclaim our grace gifts in this new year, and may God be glorified all the more for it.

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New Years Redemption

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New Years Redemption

I have a chair.

It’s just a chair. An accent chair. A chair that didn’t cost much, isn’t worth much and is rarely required to actually perform the function for which it was built.

This chair usually sits to the side in my homes’ more formal living space. It’s a milky cream color with black scripted letters written in French. Its’ script pattern speaking to the parts of my heart that are drawn to writing and reading. The stamps pictured speaking to places I hope to someday travel to. The birds interwoven in the design reminding me that flight, exceeding boundaries, is possible for even the most average person as long as they keep dreaming.

This sweet chair is the first “splurge” piece that my husband and I ever purchased. I was pregnant; after almost two years of medical professionals questioning whether it was possible. We had experienced a season of financial blessing. So, we did what lots of adults do: We took advantage of a holiday furniture sale. (Boring, I know!) 

Little did I know that this chair, the chair that whispered to my hearts dreams every day, would end up being used to refresh and confirm the greatest lesson of my life.

A few days before Christmas, in the middle of preparing our sweet little house to host both sides of our crazy, wonderful family, this chair came face to face with my toddler. You see, I got so lost in the preparation that I somehow forgot that my beautiful, intelligent, independent, strong willed, quality time needing two-and-a-half year old daughter…is, in fact, only two-and-a-half. I forgot that, no matter how well she seems to be handling time on her own; too much time without her momma results in often irredeemable toddler behavior.

This time: My baby took a brown sharpie and three different colored highlighters, that she had to use some ingenuity to get ahold of, and made a masterpiece on the seat of my sweet chair.

I wish from the depths of my soul that I could say I handled the situation with grace and unconditional love… I did not. There was quite a bit of yelling, a lot of angry tears on my part, a lot of confused tears on her part and some relationship repair that needed to happen before I could bring myself to face my poor, sentimentally valued chair. 

After two days, three methods of cleaning and four times washing every white towel in the linen closet (16!)…my sweet chair still bears the marks of my beautiful baby’s masterpiece. Although most of the marks came out, no amount of cleaner and no amount of cleaning pressure can remove them entirely. I went to bed that second day defeated; praying that something magical would happen overnight.

When I faced the chair on that third day…two days before Christmas…no magic had happened. On the verge of frustrated tears, my entire body aware of the soreness in my muscles from two days bent over scrubbing the chair… That’s when I heard it. A whisper that seemed to come from deep within my soul.

Remember.

Remember…? Remember what?!

Redemption.

Redemption. The purpose of Christ. The means by which I have found my salvation. The thing that I am absolutely incapable of providing for myself. The reason for this holiday I have spent so much time and energy planning for my family.

Remember.

And that’s when it hit me. The chair…my chair…is me.

To redeem means “to buy back”, “to free from what distresses or harms”, “to extricate from or help to overcome something detrimental”, “to free from the consequences of sin”, “to change for the better”, “to atone for an error”… No matter which definition you choose to assign, it is an action that you perform on behalf of another. None of the definitions for redeem allow for an action performed by you on behalf of yourself.

The chair was not able to protect itself against my daughters’ decision to harm it. It is also not able to redeem itself from the consequences of her actions. The chair cannot change itself for the better, it cannot free itself from the stains that it now bears and it certainly cannot atone for the egregious error it has fallen victim to.

The chair cannot redeem itself; nor can I redeem it. No matter how long or how hard I tried, no matter what tools I used, I was not able to redeem my sweet little chair. I am unable to save it.

That’s the lesson I needed to remember. My sweet little script chair now sits with a covering, a blanket, over its’ side to cover the stains. It sits reminding me of the two most undeniable truths at the foundation of everything I believe: There is nothing I can do to protect myself from the consequences of the human nature I was born into and there is nothing I will ever be able to do to redeem myself from it.

What I can do…what I have been forgetting to do in the midst of a hard year for my family…is to live redeemed. I allowed my circumstances in 2017 to shift my focus away from the fact that I have been redeemed, that I am free to live the dreams in my heart and that I can now live under a covering of grace and unconditional love. That is the assurance that my chosen faith affords me.

Thank God I have a chair!

I am excited to see what 2018 brings for me, my family and my business. I am thankful to every client that sat in my chair in 2017. It was an honor and a true privilege to serve you! I look forward to more opportunities to serve you this year; whether creating custom makeup applications for you or providing skin care and/or treatments. There are some amazing changes coming this year, and I cannot wait to share the upcoming journey with you! So, stayed tuned to find out how you can become a part of My Images’ story in 2018.

Praying you have a blessed and joyful new year!

 

 

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