Post-Partum Creative Expression

Post-Partum Creative Expression

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Let’s talk about the perfect, but sometimes doesn’t feel so perfect, STORM.

Hormones. No sleep. Body parts that are all kinds of sizes they weren’t before. Skin that’s flabby and swollen and creating muffin tops that make the world go round.

Emotions of love and joy and excitement and “oh God, please don’t cry again”.

And if you’re lucky, older siblings who don’t understand how your body and personhood just went through a hurricane and is somehow holding on with one thread of dignity and a side of hemmorhoid cream.

Yea, I said it.

Welcome to childbirth. And in just a few short days, you’ll be BFF’s with Dolly (Parton, that is) and wonder how your body became the creative source to keep a human being alive.

It’s amazing really. And full of curiosity and “expectation” and learning and growing.

It’s also full of what feels like “not enough time”. Though not enough time is really just a shift of priorities, even though it doesn’t always feel like that in the moment.

My biggest shift in post-partum bliss was learning how to process well. Because in the midst of trying to live a daily life, moms are constantly having to listen, trouble-shoot, respond to needs, and do all of the above without many avenues for self-care.  And this is the most crucial time in life for self-care; not just as a person but for the role of motherhood.

When I decided to be stay at home mom, my greatest asset was using motherhood as a time to learn nurture. Not only as a mother but also for myself. Bringing a baby into the world is a time of bringing new creativity and new life and new gifts to the world.

It’s also a time of re-learning and re-growing; it’s a time of exposure. It’s a season where many of the un-nurtured parts of ourselves start to show up quite loudly, and so it’s also a time of healing and repair.

The tricky part is there isn’t much personal time. A newborn is a bit of a presence “hog”, and if there are other children involved, personal time really is limited. So, what I learned to do and am still learning to do, is make the most of the time I do have for myself.  I had to shift priorities and learn how to manage all the emotions and inspirations and creativity of my being–and then funnel them into something productive and life-giving to me.  I had to give myself time for release. Because if I didn’t give myself room for creative release, I’d end up spewing out that middle-of-the-road processing onto someone else–which is usually hurried, and frustrating, and potentially hurtful.

I’m not usually a formula type person; I’m more of a go-with-the-flow type person, but sometimes my flow ends up creating a pattern. And that pattern gives me wisdom on how to do well the next time. In hopes that my post-partum pattern might be encouraging to you, here it is!

1. I get triggered (baby crying, long hours of no sleep, trouble-shooting, inspiration, extreme joy, overflowing love). These triggers can be good or hard, but they are none-the-less triggers. Now, in the midst of my high or low, I had/have to listen for a moment to find where the trigger originated.

2. I identify the root of the trigger (why was this so exhausting, frustrating, exhilarating?). How do I respond to these emotions? If it is a child that won’t stop crying, and I’m desperately trying to find out how to make my eardrums stop bleeding, and there is no end in sight after a lot of attempts….the end result is some frustration. Yes? Chances are, because this is the miracle of life, this is triggering a past scenerio in my life. It’s a metaphor for another experience that is becoming exposed–so this is a beautiful opportunity to take a step toward healing. It’s funny how God does that; He makes everything a repetitive cycle until we open our eyes. Once the emotion hits, I can just use it like a compass to help me find the root.

3. Next, I use self-control until I have time alone to actually process my situation. If it was a difficult moment, I usually give myself chocolate or two minutes alone in the bathroom. If it was a glorious high, I take a few moments to feel every single bit of joy and peace and love that is making its way inside my heart. Processing both types of emotions, hard and good, is essential. I love absorbing the realities of life.

4. And then at nap time or middle of the night or early mornings/late nights, I give myself time to process the emotions that are rising–allowing the good, bad, and ugly parts of my life to be HONEST (writing down how I feel, talking to another young mom, walking). This is when the magic happens. This is what I like to call the “Sacred Space” of life. My friend calls this time her “rants” because she has the freedom to tell it like it is, let it go, and give full voice to why she feels what she feels. This is the time of expression–getting all the locked up energy outside our minds and bodies instead of locked inside.

5. Then, I let silence be my friend. Embracing and listening to myself until all the inner-workings go “quiet”, I give myself the time to soak in nothing. It’s actually quite powerful. Calling ourselves back into rest by embracing quiet. The Bible talks about this in regards to women, about having a quiet spirit. My interpretation is not that it’s a place of keeping our voices silent, but a place of peace after our true voices have been heard and validated. It’s a place of submission because it’s a place of honor.

6. And my most favorite part follows: I create something beautiful. This is how I wrote several books while I was pregnant or with little people everywhere. It wasn’t because I was so “ambitious” or “driven”, it was because it flowed out of me from my process. It was a means of self-care and expression. It was my overflow of what God was doing in my every day life. There’s no need to “make anything up” when God is doing miracles in every moment of your day. It is just agreeing with the intercession in our lives; saying “yes” to the  process and letting the gaps close one at a time while the fullness arrives.

The reality is: childbirth transforms everything! And the most crucial part for me was and is learning and watching how it transforms me in the process. I like hindsight, but I really love being able to see as I go. I like being present–even when it’s hard and ugly–so I can feel every moment of freedom arrive at my doorstep.

It’s a gift; learning to re-prioritize. Learning to make the most of the emotions that surface now in order to compute them and process them so the abundance has a place to take root and grow.

It is a daily task for me! And one I make room for and prioritize and guard. Boundaries are our friend! And that will be my next Post-Partum blog……creating structure and healthy boundary lines in emotional processing. When to hold on, when to “let it go”, and when to say “no”………….

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Post-partum: What are my kids’ names?

Post-partum: What are my kids’ names?

My husband works for a bestselling book publisher here in Nashville, and he says that the books that sell the most off the shelves are the ones with the most “blunt” of titles. In other words; “5 Steps to be Happy” or “How to Deal with Anxiety” or “Hi, I Just Had Three Kids and Am Trying to Make Sense of My Crazy Self”. You get the idea.

So, when it came to having kids and naming them, I first went with what “sounded” well (because I love beautiful names), but I also went with what had deep meaning to us. And simply enough, the names of my kids have helped me give purpose to their everyday activities and my everyday interactions with them. In other words, I knew what each child represented to me. And by knowing that, I had wisdom with how to give myself grace and truth while walking through not only the post-partum season with them but hopefully their entire lives.

Our Ella is the female version of “Who Is Like God?” She teaches me how to listen and how to move. Our Lucy is “Light”; she teaches me about self-care and healthy boundaries. Our Oliver is “Peace and Fruitfulness”; he teaches me re-gained laughter and strength.

Some times it’s easy to think of each child as a book (we all are the authors of our stories, yes?), and their names are the blunt “title” I remind myself of when I’m trying to figure out how to raise them as well as grow personally.

If I had one thing I clung to (cling to) during my post-partum season, it is moving toward what their names and their identities mean to me. Children are God’s gifts to us; so my personal “gifts” are God’s representation of women, His light, and His peace. These are my keys. When all else seems overwhelming with dirty diapers, and crying, and temper tantrums, I go back to these keys. These are the purposes that God is having me steward in myself, in my marriage, and in each one of them. These are the gifts that have been given as a result of love between David and I; this is who we are as a family and what we value. When I can see the big picture, it’s easier to let the small and overly complicated details work themselves out. Because you know as mom’s, we obsess over the details during post-partum….ALL THE TIME. “Is my kid nursing well? Is my kid going to learn how to talk? Is my kid eating enough healthy food? Is my kid sleeping through the night?” And on and on and on. And it’s the details that start to kill our energy and our joy and our peace. The details start making us compare ourselves to one another and start mommy wars. The details make us perfectionists who are hard on ourselves for every small, minute detail that goes array (which by the way, happens MORE when that’s what we’re focusing on).

So, instead, I chose to move toward meaning which gave me the wisdom to sort out the details well. I chose to focus on identity. I decided to move toward God’s beauty for women, His light, and His peace; because those are our kids. As I focused on this, the opposites showed up often (because there is an opponent for every good choice), but I knew my goal. So, as the opposites reared their ugly head, I just reminded myself of what I had birthed. Those beautiful human beings with those identities came out of my womb. And I was going to continue moving toward their God-given design with all my might while also honoring the challenges and feelings in my heart that surfaced until they were dealt with completely. And this was quite a number of cycles, and still can be, but people are onions and we have a lot of layers. We have unresolved hurts, and experiences, and generational lines of the same that have breeded their way into our DNA–and it takes a lot of focus and hard work to re-wire ourselves.

But in all reality, the opposite feelings or meanings of their names (like: hatred or misuse of women, or darkness, or anxiety) don’t belong to their identities or to me. Those mishaps in my generational or personal wiring just became obvious to me when their true identities were born and I as tried to steward their lives well in daily life. Those mishaps just showed me where to close the gaps, so I could be happier and more effective as a person and wife and mother.

So, my first round of encouragement to the Mama’s of today is this: find out what your kids’ names mean! Sit down and ask yourself what they represent to you. And when the opposite of that starts to reveal itself (because it will), face it eye to eye. Honor the emotions that the opposition brings up, and keep moving forward toward the prize.

Because as we move toward the prize, our faith ripens and our fears disappear. And what our children need most from us as mothers is JOY.

Next up: How To Process Through Difficult Emotions (when you have barely any free time)……yippee! :)

 

 

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Post-partum: The Heaven and Hell of life.

Post-partum: The Heaven and Hell of life.

Yahoo!

Here it is: the lowdown on the ugly, hilarious, and beautiful season of postpartum hell and bliss.

Any woman who has had a child knows that having a baby leads to the biggest changes in daily life than almost any other transition. What happens in the 9 months of incubation is just a precursor to how everything tilts, and squeezes, and molds into what this new life with a little person has to offer.

I started out my postpartum experience after a long and painful birth (whose isn’t), a broken tailbone, and enough milk to feed 10,000 children. I was delighted and captivated by this new tiny human that had grown inside me, and I was also extremely vulnerable to the challenges and circumstances that developed as a result of trying to take care of this baby well.

I say “well” because I have a bit of an excellence streak (it used to be perfection–but behold! I’ve transformed), and what parent doesn’t want to parent well? Hopefully all of them.

While setting out to nurture a new life, I found myself susceptible to almost every unreconciled emotion in my heart as well as every nutrient deficit in my body. In addition to this, there were other exciting circumstances like living far away from family and community, surprise health risks, and a load of unexpected challenges that assisted in my vulnerability to parent “well”. It was, “well”, what some may call a disaster….but what we decided to call the perfect storm.

And once we embarked on this hurricane ride and had one child, we just decided to let it roll……and have three more.  We lost one to Heaven, though he is always in our hearts, and the other two came along quickly enough to make our trash can of diapers look like the city sewer. I make light of this now, and even in the midst of it forced myself to laugh quite a bit, but there were many down days and long prayers and evenings where I wished I had a bottle of wine. Because my inherent personality leans itself toward addiction, I instead chose to deal with my stressors by writing. (That was the grace of God for me.)

What ended up happening through 6 years of being pregnant, nursing, pregnant then miscarried, pregnant and nursing, and then pregnant then nursing again was that I found God and myself in a million ways I least expected. And in the midst of it, I created a book out it. I had spent over 18 years journaling through the course of my life, and as I added this last 6 on, it was imperative that all of these loose pages of frustration, and sadness, and confusion, and joy, and happiness, and serendipity turn into something that could be shared with others in their own respective journeys. It was not only the greatest form of self-care that I had ever done for myself (18 years of stuffed emotions, people), but it also made me alive to each present moment so that I could, in fact, take care of my children well (and enjoy it!) in addition to openning up my future for endless possibilities.

I came into my postpartum season a train wreck, and I’ve come out with a whole new life. It hasn’t been just because the “baby” season is over because I still have babies; it’s because every gaping wound that needed healing got touched. And even though it stings when a wound gets salt in it, the end result is cleansing and healing. And though there are still days when I want to hide my closet and eat my Reese Peanut Butter Cups all alone, I can laugh about it–almost all the time.

I am so grateful for my postpartum season. It has been the deepest, and most terrifying beautiful, and the most transformative time in my life. It has made me come alive.

So this next series of blogs is dedicated to that! Using this brilliantly challenging season to make us aware, awake, and alive……and then giving that gift to our kids.

More coming very soon………xo

 

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Self-Awareness Saves Lives

Self-Awareness Saves Lives

My mantra for the last 2 years has been “Self-awareness saves lives.” In every step I take or word I speak, I’ve been trying to capture each thought and heart motive.  This has meant speaking less and listening more.  One of the things I’ve tried to do most with my kids is to listen to their voices. To hear what they are truly “saying” and respond to that. I’m sensitive to sound by design, very tuned into pitch and tone. My body physically reacts to certain pitches with joy or with pain. We all are designed this way but some of us lean more sensitive (or more muted). It’s a blessing to be able to hear so distinctly because I’m able to become self-aware. (Although the downside is that I tend to be hard on myself because I can often be too self-aware, taking blame when it’s not really mine.) I’ve been tuning my ear to hear what God’s heart is toward me (and toward everyone else), and it’s been my mission to take personal stock and responsibility for the sounds that come from my mouth and actions. The Scriptures say that “Life and Death are in the power of tongue” Proverbs 18:21. Every word can create a blessing or a curse over myself or someone else.  Since I’m particularly sensitive to pitch and tone, I’m also particularly sensitive to how people speak to me or around me. It’s amazing and horrifying at times how out of tune this world can be. It’s enough to make me sick at times–literally.

I figured if I want to be of any good influence in a world that desperately needs something, it’s my turn to say something. Perhaps it’s why I like Voice Over so much, because I get a new voice with every project. I get new strength every time I share or speak. It teaches me more about what I am hearing and solidifies sounds and tones inside myself that I was trying to find again and reconcile with. I love being with people who can help me draw out those sounds–the ones I’ve been looking for.

On the contrary, I’ve had to back away from other sounds that perpetually bring death. Because with each sound that is off key, I don’t have the time to be able to bounce back quickly. (I’ve got little people everywhere!) It’s a process, learning to be self-aware and honoring myself. Learning to listen and then actually following directions.

If we aren’t self-aware, we usually don’t listen well. We usually spout off opinions, talk before asking, blame others for mishaps, and whine whine whine. All of these carry a low vibrational pitch. Each of these sounds bring death. I can get into the science behind this more in another blog series, but for now, the metaphor can speak for itself. If we are self-aware, we have an opportunity for transformation. We set ourselves up for trading in false beliefs, and stored up grief and anger for higher vibrational tones like love, peace, and joy. This is where I intend to live as much as I possibly can. Honestly, though, there’s a lot of middle work to get there. But I’ve found no greater purpose in my day than submitting low-level energy to God and receiving a the new gift He has for me to replace it.

I’ve been re-learning how to sing the last few months. This is ironic because I never thought about singing all that much even though I live in Music City. (Sometimes, God has been so patiently waiting for us to open our eyes!) But as I keep “listening” to myself and to the tones and the pitches around me, I keep asking God to work me out of old patterns and old mindsets and low-vibrational words. And He has and is. And in the midst of this, He has been re-wiring my voice box (again) to release new sounds and new tones. And even when I become too self-aware for my own good and try to talk myself out of things, He keeps making it clear to me that it’s my turn to “say something”. And if you know me, I get bored easily and don’t fit into boxes well. So, I’m learning to create with my sound.  I’m learning to bring life from the tongue and turn it into music and healing and voice, and it’s transforming me.

Perhaps why I write this out loud is to make space for you to listen as well. To open yourself up and to quiet yourself enough to listen to the “sounds” you make. Are they happy? Are you happy? Do you speak positively most of the day or negatively? Do you build others up? Do you complain?

What comes out of your mouth?

If we all work together and take responsibility for our own actions, perhaps we could make some progress!

I never intended to make an album or to write a musical or to produce music, but God has a funny way of drawing out our individual callings when we stop to listen.

May we bring life and not death, and may we be people who bless one another instead of curse. May we take account for ourselves and our actions first, taking the plank out of our eye before pointing out the speck in a neighbor. May we always be pulling others UP because as we bless each other, we bless ourselves…and most importantly, we bless God–who gave us the gift to create. There is no fuller way to live than to Love, and I’m excited to go in deeper………….

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Boundaries in Relationships: Interdependent Bliss

Boundaries in Relationships: Interdependent Bliss

In an effort to fill empty spaces in our lives, codependency often flourishes. It’s easy to want to fill the pain of silence, emptiness, or a void of some kind with someone else or something. It’s partly due to our get-it-now culture. We don’t have to wait very long to get most of our “needs” satisfied. We can go to the mall for a pair of shoes, get fast food, and stop for ice cream most anytime we want. It’s not that in and of itself this is bad; because it’s not necessarily.  Sometimes our time is limited, and we need to make the most of our current situation.

On the other hand, we’ve also become accustomed to filling every emotional void in our lives right away with a material or second-best option, instead of opening our hearts up to do the more valuable work of connecting with God and with ourselves. Sometimes a person’s connection, a cheeseburger, or a pair of cute flats are what we need to open the door for connection with ourselves.  And sometimes the inside work is needed in order to manifest the connection with a person, or with a great meal, or with that new footwear. The difference is in listening to ourselves and in wisdom.  There isn’t a formula that says “Go this way 100% of the time.” We live in relationship, not necessarily in exact formulas. We ebb and flow, and this is why boundaries and authentic self care are so extremely important.  Because as we start to listen to ourselves and what we need, we also become better lifegivers.  As we take the time to care for ourselves, we open ourselves up to the wisdom we need to take our next step. Maybe our next step is connection with a person: talking to a friend, looking for a mate, or having a baby. Or maybe our next step is more inside cultivation: waiting for the Ripe time, continuing to strengthen ourselves, or building discipline. Only we can make the best decision for ourselves in each situation. We’re all working on closing our own gaps; not judging or managing anyone else’s gap.  With authentic self-care, our outflow is more likely to give pure life to others. And when we need connection with something or someone outside of God or ourselves, we can usually find it much more easily when our own love tank has been processing and getting it’s work done.

I like to use the example of marriage because it’s an easy one to relate to. Marriage can be a beautiful example of interdependence, or it can be the crumbling demise of codependence. David and I are alike in many ways; we have similar values, goals and dreams, and work ethic.  On the other hand, we enjoy process differently and are gifted in different ways.  In many ways, we are interdependent.  We have two unique and individual callings in life, and yet the two blend together really nicely when we both have taken the time to 1. do our own inner work and 2. lean on one another for support.

One of the things I most value about our relationship is our honesty and our communication.  Somehow, by the Grace of God, we both have a greater love for one another that denies codependency. This means, we let each other do their own work without trying to use each other to fill the void. It reiterates that we both came into this life with some baggage, and we both are here to support one another and offer to help each other unpack that baggage, but in the end, we are each responsible for our own luggage. We each contribute to our marriage and our family in different ways, and if we are lacking in an area, we know this: we can count on one another for support. What we also know is this: we aren’t going to fix each other or each other’s messes. Our marriage was designed to bring out the benefits and strengths in one another.  I support who David is as an individual through his style of parenting, and his career, and his hobbies–and he does mine. He also has other friends who support those gifts in him, especially the ones that can influence him in ways that I don’t necessarily fit into. (I don’t have to be his “everything”; if I do, there is an insecurity issue. This is codependency!) We have a great balance of trust and challenge and support. He is able to be David, and I hope he is to the fullest. And I am able to be Sarah. When we are individually at our best, we are the best to one another. Most of the time, we are the “first line of defense” for one another. It’s easy; we’re best friends, and so a lot of times, that’s it. But sometimes, it requires solitude or prayer to find the deeper answer we’re looking for.  And other times, it takes another friend with a different perspective to bring the missing piece.  The point is, we are responsible for ourselves first. We lean on one another for support. And we also invite others into our lives to give new perspectives and vantage points.  Ultimately, we take all these into consideration with prayer, and God helps us move toward clarity and our next step in the process.

It is beautifully interdependent. It allows us both to be individuals. We don’t control one another to fill needs. We value the opinions of each other with love and trust (especially if we need to be challenged or corrected somehow), and we open ourselves up for the advice of others who carry wisdom or expertise in an area we’re unsure about. This is bliss! And it’s an example of what it’s like to have healthy boundaries in relationships, whether that be marriage or parent/child or friendship, etc.

Everyone is ultimately responsible for his or her own decisions. We challenge and support one another toward our higher good and calling. We bring nurture and correction to wounds or situations that have gone a little out of balance. And we CELEBRATE when we’ve learned how to breathe anew and become successful in our life endeavors.

Our outside circumstances can always reveal what’s really going on in our inner processes. My inner workings determine what my relationships can look like. When I flow out of God-received love and self care, I have become the best resource for the people I want to love. I take responsibility for my own actions, and I can easily share my resources with someone who needs it.  I also find that the resources I need are often readily available. This makes life fun and productive.

Boundaries don’t always have to look loud and contain a giant red “NO”. They can be subtle, and they can just mean solitude for a season. What they do long term is create stability and productive relationships. They don’t isolate us, they develop interdependence and healthy relationships. They remove fear and control, and they give each of us the room to blossom to our fullest potential.

I am thankful for those in my life who have had boundaries with me! They have given me the greatest gift; to create and to look at God and within myself for the best answer and solution.

Don’t be afraid to say no. Take the time you need to care for yourself. Out of self-care, you will be synchronized to exactly who you need to help develop your next stage of life and character.

Be a great friend; love authentically!

Next up: Dealing with Offense (That’ll be fun, yeah?) :)

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Boundaries: Self-Care and Authentic Love

Boundaries: Self-Care and Authentic Love

Codependency is the killer of creativity.

When David and I were in college, we were the typical overachievers. We were involved in every activity under the sun and had committee meetings that started in the evening at the same time as we now fall into bed fast asleep. We had boundless energy, and we used that energy productively. It was a wonderful time in life, and I’m grateful for all that we learned about leadership, relationships, and generosity.

Fast forward to a life now with three kids, a full time job for David, and work that I enjoy on the side; our plates have become quite full. There are baby mouths to feed and intentional time we want to spend with one another and a list of seemingly endless house chores as toilet paper becomes unraveled, pots get dragged out of the cupboards, and dirt comes in from the back yard.

One thing I decided  when my oldest was born was that I was going to try to keep my identity in tact while also being a mother. I wanted to be a mom with everything I had, and I also knew that I was still looking for myself. It was in the mix of the two of these that I was determined to make time for creativity in the midst of chaos.  When everything around me seems to be unraveling at the seams, I could make a choice. I could go back to one “love” (or rather addiction) I had: the art of fixing everything (and not doing that well)—or I could choose another way: cultivating and creating a better solution in the midst of it.

Just like many young moms, it’s easy to start to feel like you’ve lost your identity when life is filled with poop, breastmilk leaking everywhere, throw up, sleepless nights, and crying.  Of course, there are also coos and snuggling and the smell of newborns and so much joy it’s hard to handle, but somewhere in between lies what I like to call the “gap of life”.  It’s in these moments between extreme joy and extreme exhaustion that I chose to create. I wanted to make sure that I was secure in my identity so that my children could also be secure in theirs.  I wanted them to learn from my example of healthy boundaries for myself, not from my codependency to martyr myself at the hands of everyone else’s needs.  We had ebbs and flows, and we had some big challenges to work though.  But what I found by setting boundaries for myself and by giving myself time for self care was this: I am better at being a kind human being. I am a better wife, mom, friend. I love so much more easily; I get ideas for new writing projects more easily. I write better. I just love life more.

Codependency is really an easy behavior to pick up as a mom. The needs are continuous from every which way, and there’s a pressure on women to somehow know how to raise children–even when most have never done so before.  There is tremendous pressure in helping mold someone’s life and environment. We want to do well. We want our kids to flourish. We want our family to thrive.  It’s just important that in our goals for making everyone else thrive, we also find that joy within ourselves.  There were plenty of times I sacrificed self-care in order to meet needs, and there was validity to that.  There is a season of suffering that brings out character, and entitlement, and selfishness.  Becoming a new parent does this. It’s not about mom and dad anymore; it’s about this beautiful new baby.  And in the same right, no one can endure the physical exacerbation that occurs without filling her spirit with a fresh wave of rejuvenation.

In the last blog, I talked about following our intercession. I focused on how we become a pure voice by learning how to close our own gaps. We process our own pain and we end up with joy to give.  We also end up with wisdom and correction to give.  We end up giving others real life simply by finding the way through our own turmoil. Codependency is riddled with trying to fix or control others or blame someone else for our problems.  Creating healthy boundaries for ourselves, choosing to enter our own process and recovery first, enables us to give real life to others long-term and also give corrective solutions for others when needed.  Our love tank gets filled up, and so we can step in and help release breakthrough for someone else–without strings attached. ;)

We’ve seen it modeled often in one of two ways. We’ve seen the codependent who tries to save everyone (I used to be one of those), and we also see the person who puts up so many “self-care” boundaries that she is actually isolating (I’ve also been one of those).  But if we have the courage to look somewhere in the middle, somewhere inside the beauty of our own stories, we can find a balance that brings an incredible amount of outflow.

I’m a believer that we can really “have it all” and have it all with excellence.  I’ve seen that manifest in my reality and it is continuing to do so, and it’s been not only productive but also incredibly healing.  I can be a wife and a mom who loves her home and also has a passion for other work and endeavors. It’s actually my best life!

And it’s in the simplicity of self-care. It’s in the simplicity of giving myself a few minutes of quiet and stillness, in writing and in art, in yoga and in honoring my gifts. It takes it’s shape in various forms on various days. But as I honor what is inside myself, I have enough bandwidth to meet the needs and responsibilities around me well. As I’ve started to receive love for myself, I’ve been able to start loving others more abundantly. And it’s one of the easiest (and yet disciplined) things I’ve ever done.

It doesn’t mean that the rest of the week is peaches and cream and that everything goes perfectly. Please don’t peak your head in the door when we’ve woken up late, and I’m trying to get three kids out the door in the sopping rain to take my oldest to preschool on time! There is still much to process through and work through and try to understand, but there’s a grace in the process when I know there is a creative date waiting for my presence.

So, give yourself a break! Especially if you’re a mom. Make sure you’ve set aside time for you; not only to rest or relax but also time for you to build into yourself. Create. Honor your life and your gifts by giving yourself a hand; you’ll be amazed at how your authenticity has the power to effect others’ positively!

Part 2 coming next week. I’ll talk about boundaries in relationships!

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Follow the Intercession

Follow the Intercession

The greatest gift in my life as a person, a wife, a mother, and a friend is intercession. CS Lewis says “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” If you are a person, it is inevitable; you know pain.

If you have ever birthed a child, you know pain. If you have every carried a friend’s burden, you know pain. If you have ever had a loved one pass on from this life, you know pain. If you have ever really lived, you know pain.

Pain is often part of our process. Not always, but often. And, unfortunately, many of us haven’t been given many tools to understand pain. We find a myriad of “treatments” to numb it, pill pop it, pass by it, or drink it down. This is a detriment to our culture. A detriment to our children, to our families, to our livelihood.

Ever since Ella was born, I’ve been on a journey to express trapped pain in my body. Because of my sensitive nature, I have a predisposition to absorb every environment I walk into. Not only did I have my own life experiences and traumas to work through, but I also carried the experiences and traumas of others that I encountered. Some call it empathy, some call it hypersentivity, some call it prophetic intercession, some call it psychic abilities. What it is for sure is absorption, and many people are wired this way. Especially women!

What I learned after Ella was born was that I needed outlets to release all of the absorbed energies my body was manifesting. I started having issues with my thyroid, kidney stones, nervous exhaustion among other things. It was the beginning stages of the birthing of my life’s real voice. Just like I had given birth with each child that came into my womb and also left, I was also filled with more and more energy to disperse. But before it turned into positive energy, it showed up as anxiety. When I became touched by new life, I became more and more inspired. And the more inspired I became, the more I needed release. Without the release, the emotions that were tapped into would cause me to grow toxic inside. And that was and is always my cue to create.

When inspiration strikes and emotions are triggered, it’s the perfect time for processing. And often times, it’s the process of pain (can we say childbirth?) that propels us into real life.

It seems that because of our day in age and our ability to communicate with many people in one day (social media) as well as the great opportunity for freedom of expression, many people are in this phase of needed release.  The only problem with this is that many people don’t process their pain before they express their voice, and it actually causes more harmful results to be triggered.

This has propelled the mommy wars, the vaccination fights, the political mumbo jumbo, and all the childish behavior that is overtly overtaking our forms of communication. In all reality, it’s really sad because we have such great tools to make a difference in each other’s lives, and instead it often feels like stones are being thrown everywhere. In my opinion, we need to laugh more! We need more things to be joyful about; which means, we need to be intentional about our personal processes!

What I’ve learned as I’ve processed my own pain is this: it takes inside work to have outside results. If we’re inspired and/or triggered by something, whether it be online or with our spouses or kids or job, it is a gift.  It might not always seem like a gift at the time (because sometimes inspiration requires change), but it is. It is an opportunity to awaken, to look inside and find out what needs expressed. If we are inspired by something we find joyful, this is usually easy. If we are awakened by something that triggers our pain or insecurities, it can be a bit more work. In this case, our first response is often the blame game. The blame game is actually the WORST possible result for a triggered emotion. If we want to influence anyone or anything, it always starts with inside work. If we need to bring correction or perspective to a situation, it starts with inside work. So many of our attempts at expressing ourselves have become swords to chop each other into pieces. And when this happens, we have dug our own grave. There is little planted correction in the tone of an impure voice.

The power in freedom of expression is humility, surrender, and validation. We are each trying to fill gaps in society in some form, I hope! But in order to fill others’ gaps, we start with our own. This is why I love intercession! When I learn how to submit myself into prayer, I receive the grace I need to close my gap.  When my gap is filled, I have excess grace to give someone else. This excess grace can then be translated in conversation and transformation (even when that conversation is a difficult one). The most wonderful part of this is that after emotional pain has been released, control and fear are thrown out the window. When we’re done trying to control one another’s behavior, we are actually free to love one another. And it’s in this place of respect that we can make healthy movement forward.

The interesting part of this process is that everyone is in their own unique process! This means that my path might not look like another’s person’s path. I’m working on closing my own gap; I’m not comparing my gap to someone else’s, and I’m not trying to fix anyone else’s gap. I also work on the inside from a place of humility (because I have baggage as much as anyone else), so I don’t feel a need to judge anyone else’s gap. When I’m free from judgement, I have the perfect platform to share my perspective. When I’ve shared my perspective, it may bring course correction. And if so,  that is REAL LIFE! Then I’ve contributed in a healthy way, I’ve helped carry a burden, and I’ve helped cover a wound.  I’ve interceded. I’ve been part of a solution. This is how we transform harmful pain into productive pain; and once we’ve mastered this, we start to build muscle. And this muscle can be used to support many others.

I’ll be writing a few more blogs in the next few weeks about some personal steps we can individually take to do our own gap-closing. I’ll talk about boundaries, forgiveness, and using our voices well. If you want me to write about anything specific, please let me know. :) I’m hoping it clears a path for new creativity and new life! I’ve enjoyed finding these tools through much trial and error, and I’m really enjoying watching my Lifecoach clients and friends succeed with them as well!

More coming soon……… :)

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Orange Jello

Orange Jello

I spent some time last night working on my upcoming book about Forgiveness. I found this poetic story in one of my journals from several months ago. It reminds me of how important it is to catalog my thoughts each day…because I never know what I really write until I come back to it in the future. What an authentic picture of forgiveness and creativity; and I didn’t even know it’s beauty was hanging around in my back pocket to share. Sometimes we fill up with strength and inspiration so that it gives us the courage and the patience to walk through the process. Mothers live lives full of patience and forgiveness. It can make us bitter, or it can make us come alive.

It’s our choice. Our children are such a gift.

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There’s nothing like soaking in meditation and the sounds of God worship only to then be released into a gamet of child whines, and demands, and tears.

What we soak in some moments, gives us the strength for the next wave.

We ebb & flow.

Breathe in so we can exhale Life.

And when the chatter of surroundings competes with the peace of my new heart—

We make Orange Jello.

When the boiling water bubbles and steams–and I have to tell the kids to “Step back; don’t get burned”…

I breathe.

I exhale dust.

And when they are pushing and shoving to see the gelatin melt just as I pour in the cup of cold water,

I breathe.

And when they nag about when it’s going to be done, I grapple my words and say:

“It will be ready when it’s dark outside.”

Because in all reality, we are ripe when it’s dark. When the sun stops shining in our direction and when the torrent blows us through the stormiest of the storms inside, we are ripe.

For forgiveness.

For the empty tomb to reveal our depravity.

For the death that comes before the emerging life.

We make Orange Jello.

 

(Side note: In biological and art history, the color orange symbolizes creativity and intimacy and the portion of the body that releases life (reproductive organs). Beautiful, isn’t it? I didn’t pick orange jello on purpose, it was what was in the cupboard.  Sometimes when in life’s trenches, we have to work with what we have.  Creativity and intimacy are free and forever healing. They can’t be bought in the store, but they can be found in God and within ourselves.)

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The Wailing Wall

The Wailing Wall

 

 

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For many years, Jews have gathered around to mourn and cry their hearts out to God at The Wailing Wall. It seems metaphorical that when a wall is built, it is either to hold a building up or it is to keep something out.  So why prayers? Why mourn at a wall?

I find it interesting that often in my own stubbornness, I have refused to mourn or grieve unless I have been closed in by a wall….A wall of my own heart or a wall in someone else’s. Either way, I get placed in a corner. And when locked out by a wall, my only choice then is to face the grief. It’s these walls that get built that make the tears flow. And when tears flow, God calls this our “holy intercession”. Closing the gap. Building a bridge. Making rain (as Ella says).

If I teach my kids anything during our long days together, I hope I teach them how to grieve well and how to pour their hearts out before David and I–and God. It may seem weird to focus on teaching a child to grieve because kids are often so full of joy, and yet grieving is one of the key ingredients to a happy life. So much of our mishaps as a society have been because of our own unreconciled grief. We simply stop learning the ways of compassion when we are filled with our own inner turmoil.

What better way to reconcile grief than at Christmas? Because a baby has been born that reconciles us all to Himself! He takes on suffering and then turns it into joy and light and eternity.

This joy and light and eternity is what we hope to partner with every Christmas. As a family, we started praying for friends at Advent several years ago. It is one of my most favorite (and difficult) things to do.  Difficult because there is a measure of suffering involved. When we take on a request to pray, we take on the burden. We help carry the pain. We help fill in the empty spots of hardship, and heartache, and longing. We say “I’ll walk with you.” But it’s also my favorite in the sense that after we share in the suffering, we also share in the reward. We share in the reconciliation, not only for our friends, but also as a family.

As we “wail at the wall” for all requests spoken, we also become reconciled. When we grieve for another, we end up grieving for ourselves. We end up celebrating in the fullness that is Jesus and we also receive the faith that He will be born again in new ways in our lives.

I love Christmas with my whole heart. It’s a time for reconciliation–with God, with ourselves, with others. It’s one of the most beautiful processes I’ve ever known. A baby that reconciles the world. When He is born in us, no grief can remain–only peace, love, and joy.

And so this Advent and Hanukkah and Christmas, we thank you! We thank you for openly sharing your requests with us, for allowing us to walk with you and carry the burden with you as you cry your heart out to God for reconciliation.

We still have a few days left, and I am anticipating many miracles! Merry Christmas friends–we love you all!

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Child Safety for Essential Oils

Child Safety for Essential Oils

After hearing many people ask questions about the safety of essential oil use for children, I thought I’d add some information on the basics of essential oil use, as well as what is helpful and appropriate for children’s use. I want to stress that before you give your children any kind of medication or essential oil or seemingly food (because it’s complicated this day in age, isn’t it?), that you research as much as you can so that you can make an informed and prayerful decision! We are grateful to live in a country where we are empowered to make healthy preventative choices for our lives; and I am a huge proponent of making informed and wise decisions.

We started using Young Living essential oils over four years ago for our (then) 5 month old daughter after she developed a kidney reflux issue. Medical Doctors wanted to treat her by prescribing a daily antibiotic for an unlimited time (which we felt was not good for her immune system). In addition to the antibiotic, they also were looking at surgery and scheduled several invasive medical tests to further understand her condition. At the conclusion of her diagnosis, not only did she have organ malformation, but she also suffered serious PTSD and sensory stimulation which was propelled by the rounds of “advanced medical testing”.  Though we were grateful to have these means for lifesaving conditions, the traditional route to help her came with bad physical side effects and a very long road of emotional healing and detox. We, by no means, have thrown all traditional medical treatment out the window for our family–but it has been by alternative therapies that we have seen miraculous transformation, not only in our daughter’s condition, but also in our individual and family’s life. Essential oils have been what has aided us through the day-by-day healing of not only her kidney issue but also the emotional and physical toxicity that was brought about by her short-lived traditional treatment. She is a bright and lively and creative little girl who has experienced miracles and LOVES her oils; she has spurned our whole family onto a healthier and more holistic lifestyle.

With that history, it’s important to know that our essential oil journey has been an “intensive”. I’ve had to learn as I go, research a lot, and use my medical background to understand how my daughter (and family) responded to each oil. For most of you, you just want to know the basics. And for the basics, I keep it very basic! But for those of you who may have a more intensive situation, I am also happy to listen and see if I can help in a private message or phone call!

For the basics, here is how I suggest starting your Essential Oil journey for your child or family.

1. Start slow. A little essential oil goes A LONG way. It’s similar to exercise! You don’t run a marathon the first day into it, you instead take a walk around the block. As you try more oils and learn as you go, you will find what works for you and your family.  Using them as directed is key! I also tried one oil at a time (similar to starting to feed a baby solid foods), so that the body has time to respond after each application before moving onto the next one. Young Living oils are therapeutic grade, which means they can be used for medicinal purposes (they are the only oils I personally use). They are very potent, and no more than 1-2 drops should be necessary…especially for kids.  For children, I suggest to start using them as a daily immune booster during fall or winter months and/or when they sick. This is a great and safe way to see how effective and healing they are for the body. My essential oil use for our kids goes down quite a bit in the summer simply because they get sun all the time, they are exercising more, and they are outside constantly. I DO NOT substitute good eating habits, exercise, or other healthy lifestyle patterns with oils. The essential oils are a great complement to those! :)

2. A great way to introduce oils to your kids is by wearing them topically yourself! If you put an oil on your neck or wrists, your child WILL be able to smell it.  Oils work well aromatically, and this is a safe way to test their reactions–especially if it’s for an infant. Putting a drop of Lavender on Mama’s chest as a baby is going down for the night is a safe and effective way to get started! And the benefits get shared by everyone.

3. Another great way to get started is to diffuse the oils. A good diffuser becomes a best friend! Many people have artificial air fresheners in their homes, but an oil diffuser is so much better. Artificial air fresheners are toxic when breathed in, and therapeutic grade essential oils are the opposite. You can choose oils that are effective against airborne bacteria to cleanse out a room (Thieves, Lemon), to take away odors (Purification), and to soothe yourself or over-active children after a long day (Lavender, Stress Away, Peace&Calming). This is a great way to be introduced to oils if you aren’t sure where to get started!

4. If you would like to apply the oils topically, I suggest using a carrier oil on kids (coconut oil works great and is a favorite at our house). You can test a small patch of skin with the essential oil and carrier oil (perhaps on the arm) to see if your child has any skin sensitivities to it. Thieves is often a common oil used for immunity. It is a fabulous oil and one of our favorites, but it does contain cinnamon bark–which can be considered “hot”. This just means that a carrier oil is advised as it can be sensitive to the skin. It’s important to read the label with each oil before applying it to make sure you are not allergic to any of the ingredients (if it is a blend).

5. It’s important to note that essential oils heal the body and stimulate the immune system. This means that essential oils can bring down a fever (by healing the ailment not just “reducing” the fever), so they have been ideal for our family! Many times if I have healed a fever/cold/infection with essential oils, I’ve only been left with residual effects like a loose cough. This is because the essential oil has pushed the toxins or bacteria out of my system. It is a good thing! Essential oils create an atmosphere for detoxification. This allows the body to work the way it was created to by ridding itself of whatever foreign substance is in the body. They can be used as preventative care, and also if you are already sick. If you use an oil, it’s good to recognize how your body responds. Sometimes you bypass the sickness with no residual cough or runny nose, etc but other times you propel nose-blowing or mucus coughing or other similar mild detox symptoms. Drink plenty of water, and enjoy your new found health afterward. You’ll start to discern “sick” cough or symptoms from detox symptoms as you use the oils. This is why a little goes a long way! You would never put a child on a Master Cleanse; you would eliminate one harmful toxin at a time. Slow is better. The goal is to progressively heal the body, one application at a time. The essential oils don’t mask symptoms, they help restore health, but like anything, it is a process.

6. Essential oils are not FDA approved, and they do not come with a prescription. If you want to be serious about using them for your family, it will take time and effort (but it is so worth it!). You will want to do research and choose the oil company best for you. Young Living has been the best for us because of the integrity of leadership, their Seed to Seal program, low distillation temperatures, organic harvests, lab testing of every bottle, and third party lab testing of every bottle. They are top notch! We have had no side effects (other than mild detox symptoms) and continue to love the company the more and more we’ve used them.

7. Some of my favorite oils for kids are Lavender (topically or in diffuser), Peace&Calming (topically or in the diffuser), Thieves (with a carrier oil on the bottom of the feet or in the diffuser), any of the citrus oils (in the diffuser). I tend to stick to calming oils or immune boosters for kids. Unless I’m intentionally dealing with an emotional issue, I stick to the basic oils with children. I use essential oils on a need basis or preventative basis (my daughter is in preschool and it’s winter), but I do not go overboard or use them for everything. Kids heal easily on their own; they usually only need a boost not an overhaul.

 

 

Some examples of our daily use would be this:

Morning time: 1-2 drops of Thieves on each child’s feet (in fall and winter usually)

Day time: Sometimes diffuse a citrus oil (Lemon, Orange, Grapefruit, etc), Peace&Calming, or perhaps a mix of Thieves and a citrus oil. I usually diffuse something once or twice a day in the winter.

Night time: Oliver gets 1 drop of Lavender on the neck at bedtime, and our girls have a diffuser in their room for Lavender or another calming oil. Sometimes I’ll also add an oil to the bottom of their feet if they’ve been under the weather or if Ella is going to school the next day.

In general, our kids usually get 2-4 drops of oil a day unless they are sick. Anything else is aromatic oils from our diffuser or from whatever I’m wearing that day.

 

I hope this helps answer some questions for the BASICS of using EO’s with kids. The field is wide and there is a ton of information and guidance about how EO’s are helpful; this is just the first step. If you want to know more information or want to host a Essential Oils 101 class, we can go into much further detail about how they work. If you have a child who is struggling with emotional issues/ developmental delays and/or sensory issues, there is a whole other side to this subject that is fascinating and full of Hope!

My schedule will open up a bit more next year to do more one-on-one consultations in regards to the oils–as well as how they relate to creativity, holistic healing, and prayer. I’ll keep writing these beginner blogs and hosting classes until then……… :)

xo

 

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