If you’re an 80’s baby like me you might remember those “choose your own adventure” books. The whole idea is to assume the role of the main character and the book periodically presents you with options. The choices you make determine the story’s ending. The thrill is in the mystery and anticipation; not knowing what will happen next! I being an eager child (& now adult) often decided to skip all of the build-up, and stress by flipping to the back and reading all three endings at once. That way I could choose the ending I liked the best and enjoy reading the story with the comfort of knowing how it ends. Only, once the adventure book lost it’s mystery it also lost its excitement. It ended up on a cluttered bedside table with a tangled up yo-yo and an abandoned braid of gimp. My impatience and need to know rushed the book and took all of the joy out of it!
It’s supposed to be the happiest time of your life but, lets be real, anyone who has planned or is in the process of planning a wedding knows that it can have it’s fair share of stress! In my case I was on a budget and wanted as much planned as possible before the day was close! I was referred to a planning website to help me since I didn’t even know where to start. I found a lot of very helpful tools on the site to help me get organized: lists, timelines, and details that I totally would have forgotten, if I even thought of them in the first place! There were a lot of “to-do” items on the list, some were logical like, make a guest list, book a venue, find a photographer. Then there were other, less helpful suggestions..
10 months from the wedding date was apparently right on schedule for me to start transforming myself into the ultimate picture-perfect bride. I was to start a diet and exercise routine, implement a rigorous skin care routine including pricey monthly facials, keep up with my mani-pedis, deep conditioning, and hair cuts, but most of all (again) reduce my size! The dress sizes at the bridal salon are much different than your every day pant size, and God forbid you have back fat in that strapless!
The bridal magazines depicted nothing but statuesque, waifish brides. Facebook was advertising bridal boot camps and total body make overs.. And don’t even get me started on Instagram! The internet was filled with countless articles on how to properly pose for pictures, tone your flabby arms, get rid of cellulite in time for your honeymoon, and endless amounts of other beauty advice and expensive must-have products meant to make you “better” for the big day!
Unfortunately, the pressure to be perfect didn’t stop there. It also came from more unlikely sources… The neurosis of some of the women that were to surround me that day made me feel like I should be twice as neurotic about my own looks! I was the BRIDE after all! I like to think that I eat relatively healthily on a regular basis but when I would get a greek yogurt for breakfast or a salad for lunch at work the cashier would comment “Oh trying to fit into that dress huh?”, and my well meaning friends, family, and coworkers would give plenty of unsolicited low cal recipes and workout advice.
I wish I could have said that I was strong and didn’t let all of this affect me but that wouldn’t be the truth. No one seemed to pressure my husband about his appearance so maybe there really was something wrong with me! I compared my curvy 5 ft 1 in frame to the tall, thin models and each comment and suggestion made my insecurity grow into a giant. I didn’t understand why everyone was so focused on my appearance instead of just being happy for me! Of course I wanted to feel beautiful and confident on our wedding day but the truth was that my husband already saw me as beautiful. He knew who I was and liked it enough to propose so why should I change myself completely to marry him?
My wedding was honestly the happiest day of my life! My photographer said that he barely got any pictures of me not smiling. He was awesome and gave me all of the pictures taken that day to choose from. This included the good, bad unedited, and awkward. When I got the pictures back, all I could see was how different I looked compared to the #bridegoals I was apparently expected to resemble. I was so elated and having such a good time living in the moment that all of the modeling tips I read up on for months flew right out of my head. I forgot to stretch my neck, stick out my jaw, and make my selfie face in most of the photos.
All I could see was my flaws, my ‘double chin’ as I laughed out loud, my round face as I smiled genuinely, my large arm as it squished into my side, my non-existent neck as I scrunched up my shoulders in nervousness or delight. Ridiculous I know.. but I let it get to me and I wept over my hideousness. Damn it they were all right! I was so mad at myself! I was Shrek in a dress! Maybe I should have listened, lost another 25 lbs, got those facials….corseted, starved, bleached my hair, got a dark spray tan, become someone I wasn’t. Someone sexier, someone skinnier, someone better!
But then I looked at the pictures again and I saw something else..my genuine glee, my friends and family celebrating, my husband looking so proud, my daughter officially getting the dad she had always deserved, then I felt silly..
Look at my husband, does it look like he was wondering what size my gown was or how much I weighed in at that morning? NO WAY! He was marrying ME and that made him happy and he loves me today more than ever. Through pregnancy, getting into shape after baby, now my weight is going back up with another baby on the way. The truth is we will all change, our looks will not stay the same forever, we will all grow older. Your husband is marrying YOU! And I promise that is who he would want to see on his wedding day, a version of you that he knows, that has always been more than enough for him.
So if you are planning your wedding, do what you must to feel beautiful on your day but, don’t let the pressure of the world get to you. Be someone you and your family can recognize when you look back on your photos in 10, 15, 20 years. Let the focus be on celebrating you as you are, the honest and true love you and your future husband share, and remember that a wedding is more than just one day and what comes after is far more important; the beginning of a lifelong marriage journey and commitment for better or worse! Enjoy the superficial aspects like dresses, decor, wine, food and gifts but don’t let it consume you and take away your joy. He is marrying YOU, and you are absolutely beautiful just as you are!
Can you relate to these pressures of being a bride? Why do you think there isn’t as much pressure for grooms to look a certain way when walking down the aisle? Comment below!
Photos by: Dana Tarr
The theme of this third week of advent is joy! We light the pink candle and look forward in joy to Christmas which (unbelievably to me!) is now only days away! There are so many things in my life which bring me joy that I could choose to write about today, my husband, my children, a good book and a hot cup of coffee..but, since we are looking forward to the coming of Jesus into the world I would like to focus on him, our ultimate and eternal wellspring of joy!
The joy that comes from my relationship with him cannot be contained in my heart and spills over into every area of my life. Carrying his spirit with me enhances everything and gives even the smallest things a sense of wonder and deeper meaning. When you come to know the Lord you understand that all things are a gift from him. Think of the joy you feel or witness in your children on Christmas morning when they eagerly unwrap their presents and reveal what treasures await them. That is what a relationship with the Lord can bring to your daily life. How can you not feel joyful and thankful when you are constantly receiving gifts?
It is not always easy to see everything as a gift but, when we live in a state of gratitude it leaves little room for malcontent! Joy is our inheritance in Christ and we can claim it! Choosing joy and seeing things through his eyes just makes everything richer, deeper and more meaningful.
When I am walking through the woods and see a beautiful tree or the sunset I see more than just scenery, I see the beauty and power of God’s creation and feel happy that he created such a gorgeous world for us to live in. Or when I look at my children, I see more than just cuteness (although they are quite cute!) I remember that God knew them and set them apart before they were even born, he has plans for them which I can’t begin to imagine, and he formed them in my womb and allowed me the honor of actively participating in their creation. It’s nothing less than miraculous!
Or when I look into my husbands eyes and appreciate all that our marriage means to me and our family and how much pleasure comes with it and to know that it is also something that honors God and personifies the gospel! Or when I am pursuing my passions to write and read and create with my hands, a need that God himself placed within me. These things I enjoy so much are more than hobbies, its the avenue through which his will in me will be accomplished. Or when I see others through the loving eyes of God and appreciate how different he made us all and see the good in them and it makes me want to bring others happiness or speak words of encouragement to them when they are down. I want to share the joy that I have found so everyone can experience it!
Joy can be a choice. With so many difficult things in life and negatives to focus on we can choose instead to think positively, view ourselves and others positively, speak positively, appreciate and focus on what we have rather than focusing on what we lack. When I remember how much I have to be thankful for it is difficult not to feel joyful. Gratitude proceeds and breeds more joy. Even my trials take on meaning, I know they are shaping me into the person I’m meant to be and even in those dark times I can see God’s light shining and hold on to the glimmer of his promises.
So when we are opening our presents on Christmas morning lets remember what they are to represent, the gift of salvation and a daily, enriching, interpersonal relationship with God through his son. Let’s remember that the spirit of this holiday and the people who surround the tree are far more a gift to us than anything that we could find under it.
I know I am a little..okay, a lot.. late to be writing about the theme of Advent Week Two: Peace but, this week has been hectic! #Momlife am I right? But I digress… Jesus is called the Prince of Peace. He desires that we find peace with him not only in Heaven but also while we live out our lives here on Earth.
Just look at these precious children! The other day I had a small break down just thinking about bringing another person into existence and all that it entails. It is up to me to teach, guide, and protect them in a world full of danger, heartbreak, and harsh realities.
I just want to do the best that I can for them and although I’ve been a mother for years at times I still struggle with my confidence.
When I had my oldest daughter I was only 18 and I dealt with a lot of judgement because of that. People looked down their noses at me and doubted my ability to parent well due to my age.
I tried my best to turn that negativity into motivation. Even though writing has always been my passion, I felt I needed to pursue a more serious career (in a way to show people that I could be serious) and start making more money for myself ASAP.
I got myself through Medical Assistant school and kept that career until just a couple of years ago when I left work to stay home with my youngest. I enjoyed helping people and had a strong interest in medicine but I put my true passions on hold because of what other people might have thought.
As much as I tried to spin the judgement and shame and use it to my advantage I was still young and insecure and let it get to me. I became so defensive.
I didn’t want to hear the advice of other people and older mothers because I took it as them doubting my abilities. Even if it was coming from a loving place the advice felt hurtful and backhanded. I took it as an insult.
Just because I was young didn’t mean I didn’t love my daughter! It didn’t mean I couldn’t care for her well! She was all I had at a certain point and my world revolved around her. Just like older mothers everything I did was for her and about her and because of her.
When I was pregnant with my youngest daughter I had people giving me advice who didn’t realize that I had a daughter older than their own children.
Honestly it had been 9 years since I had an infant so of course I could have taken some advice from people who went through that stage with their children more recently! But I was still so damaged from all the scrutiny I dealt with in the past. Stubbornly, I didn’t want to hear what anyone had to say.
As I continue to grow into myself over the years I have become much more confident. I started to realize that myself and the people around me know the truth about what kind of mother I am. Knowing that allows me to care a lot less about what other people may think. I don’t need another’s approval to feel validated.
My defenses have completely dropped. I know that just because someone is older or younger it doesn’t necessarily make them better or worse equipped to be a parent.
I’m now able to take advice from others joyfully knowing that no matter how long someone’s been a parent or how many children they have we all can learn something from each other. Someone else’s motherhood doesn’t take away from my own! It only adds another perspective in our shared experience.
As women we should encourage and lift each other up! This womanhood and parenting stuff is really difficult as is so we don’t need to add any more stress by comparing ourselves! We all have something to learn from each other and at the end of the day we can all use more support!
Did you ever take well meaning advice the wrong way? How did you deal with it?
This is the story of Hope….the dog! My whole adult life I wanted a dog but I refused to get one. I was always working like crazy and didn’t think it would be fair to get a dog just to keep it locked up for 12 hours a day. When I became pregnant with my youngest I got a new job that was 3 days a week. Even though I was still busy and heavily pregnant, I knew that it was finally the right time to adopt a long-awaited companion!
My husband was on board so we started looking. One of my friends from school who I follow on Facebook owns a doggy daycare and is an amazing person who rescues and fosters pups in need. I saw my future fur-baby’s face on her page and fell in love instantly! Her name was Hope which was funny to me because it was a name that my older daughter kept suggesting for our little one. I took it as a sign and set up an appointment to meet her.
When we came to her house Hope was so sweet and timid. She was still shaken from her neglectful start in life. She came from Georgia. Apparently her owner was murdered and the people close to them didn’t know what to do with the two dogs who were left behind so they made the unfortunate decision to abandon them in the woods. Hope and her “sister” Faith were picked up and taken to a kill shelter. My friend saw them online and decided to save them in the nick of time. She paid for them to be fed and vaccinated, medicated and boarded. The before picture of my baby was so sad to see. You could count her ribs, she was infested with worms, she was suffering cellulitis, and the pain in her innocent eyes was palpable.
We made an agreement, paid the adoption fee, and readied our home for our new family member. The poor baby was skiddish for a while. She was scared to go in the car because she didn’t know if it meant her whole life would be turned upside down yet again. I felt proud that we could give her a safe and loving forever home but, I didn’t realize just how much she would give back to us.
My pregnancy was really rough. I had morning sickness and undiagnosed anemia the entire time. The hallmarks of that pregnancy were nausea and isolation. Barely able to get out of bed, my world became very small and lonely. Once Hope was home we spent so much time just snuggling and building that bond of love and trust and comfort. She forced me to get up, get some fresh air and sunlight, and take her out, she was there to keep me company when I felt so alone. She would crawl up and snuggle in deeper when I cried. She would put her snout on my belly in a sign of love, protection and solidarity. She showed me so much love and compassion, more than anyone could have shown me with words.
When I told people that I was getting a puppy right before I was ready to have a baby they thought I was crazy! And it really was like having two babies at once. Sometimes I feel like puppies are harder, because at least babies sleep most of the time at first! But, we have absolutely no regrets! We don’t remember what life was like before her, she is such a part of our family and of each of us. We know she came at exactly the right time and like most things involving love, what we received was more than we ever could have given and we can’t imagine our family without Hope.
Do you have a pet adoption story? In what ways do they add to your life?
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. -Jeremiah 29:11
Since childhood I have struggled with depression and anxiety. Though they go hand in hand my depression was the main problem when I was young. I was at a tender age where I was learning that not everything in life is pleasant and when my parents divorced it filled my safe-feeling world of innocence with doubt. As I became older anxiety took the reigns and was unfortunately exacerbated by PTSD. I am a survivor of domestic abuse (a story for another post). My ex and I had a daughter as teenagers and after a traumatic stretch of time we separated. My second family in a few short years had crumbled before my eyes.
A couple of years passed and I moved on. I went to school and worked hard to provide for my daughter as a young, single mother but, put little thought into healing myself. Time went by and things got better. I met an amazing man, now my husband, that treated me well and showed me what it was like to truly be loved and respected. I grew up Catholic but had turned away from the Lord in my youthful angst. Once I was in a stable job and relationship, the feelings I ignored in order to put my life back together after the abuse started to come back up. I was experiencing flashbacks, waking up screaming with night terrors, and this is when my anxiety became crippling. I could feel the longing for the Lord in an empty place in my soul. He was calling me and so I sought Him out and he took me in (My testimony story for another post too!).
Fast forward a few years…I was in one of the happiest but, busiest times of my life! I was engaged to my husband, working full time in the medical field, taking college classes online, raising my daughter, and planning our wedding. I was thankful that my life was so full of positive things but, my anxiety had become a staple of my everyday life and was at an all time high. I was taking medication to ward off panic attacks up to 3 times a day.
About 4 months after our beautiful wedding we found out we were expecting a baby! I was so happy to have another chance at motherhood and to finally give my daughter a sibling after 9 years. As you mamas know, pregnancy changes your life in so many ways. One way for me was that I could no longer take my medication. That crutch that I had held for so long was kicked out from under me and my only option was to limp. I was forced to find other ways to cope.
When I felt my chest tighten and my heart race I resorted to breathing exercises, hot showers, or asked my husband to talk me down. Those things helped but, what brought healing was leaning on the Lord. I would come to him in desperate prayer, meditate on his promises and ask him to take my burdens and carry them for me. As I did this I entered into a deep and transformative life of prayer. I knew that God would help me through if only I would turn to him. As my trust in him grew my hope grew with it. My anxieties faded and before I realized it they had all but vanished. Anxiety was no longer was the staple of my life, instead it was hope.
Without all my time being spent worrying there was space in my heart and mind to receive the things the Lord was trying to reveal to me each day. So my trust, hope and faith grew deeper and deeper still. Sometimes I still get nervous when I worry about my children’s futures or when I don’t know how we will make it to pay day. But, instead of wallowing in my doubt I have hope! When the path ahead feels dark and unknown I try to remember where God has taken my life from where he found me. When I was bruised and broken hearted I never could have imagined the life I have been blessed with today. I trust in my heart of hearts that God has a plan for all of us, he is faithful, and he will help us to get through and provide for us every step of the way.
Do you suffer from anxiety? How do you deal with it?
If you or someone you know are in an abusive situation help is available. It is possible to move on, heal, and live a better life!
Last year I got an extraordinary gift! My dad paid for a ticket for my youngest daughter and I to come and visit him at his home in Florida! After a long New England winter I was more than happy to accept! I was excited to go but a bit nervous to leave the other half of the family up north while the little one and I enjoyed the fun and sun. I pushed back the guilt. I deserved a little rest and was determined not to get in my own way.
The day came and we made it to the airport. In the spirit of saving money I attempted to pack light and avoid checking bags. I also decided that the stroller would be too clunky compared to my comfy baby wrap (which she loves) plus, it freed up my hands. We didn’t have long until boarding time but it was a 6 am flight and I desperately needed a coffee. I waited in a long line for a $4 coffee I practically had to make myself and my babe was starting to squirm. “I’ve totally got this”, I thought to myself as I rushed back to the gate.
So there I was stomping through the airport, and what a sight I must have been! I had baby snug in her carrier on my chest, a hiking backpack filled to the brim on my back, a cross body purse on my hip, and an over stuffed diaper bag on my shoulder. She was crying and fussing and the let down feeling let me know what she was in need of. So I stopped for a moment and did what I knew I had to do; I pulled out my breast and let her feed as I continued with all of my gear still in tow to the gate. I had my reservations about feeding in public before. I had hid under blankets and stood in toilet stalls but during this trip all of my hesitation disappeared. My baby’s nutritional needs were much more important than my misplaced shame or other people’s perceptions about what was or was not appropriate.
Sure, I got a few looks but, I realized that most of the hang-ups I had were coming from within myself. Most people didn’t notice, didn’t care or gave me a knowing nod of solidarity or a smile of support. Once we were seated in the plane (me in the middle seat of course! Just my luck!) baby had fallen asleep and I was glad to have some time to exhale. The flight from Boston to Florida is thankfully short just about 3 hours. As we ascended the baby inevitably woke due to cabin pressure affecting her ears. The best way to relieve that was to cause her to swallow by feeding her and I did so without reservation. Hey, it was either see the boob, or hear the babe! If you have ever been on a plane with a crying baby you know that it was an easy choice! No one cared and I didn’t expose any more than the model on the cover of the magazine the woman next to me was reading.
When it was finally time to deplane the man that was sitting to my left helped me to get my carry-on and over stuffed backpack down from the overhead storage. I strapped my baby back to my chest, and he helped me put the backpack on my back while saying, “Wait a minute! You’re going to carry all of this yourself!? Are you sure you can really do that?” and I turned to him with a grateful smile and proudly exclaimed. “Yes, sir! I am a woman! I can do anything!” And we can, sisters! We can put aside our hang-ups to do whats best for our children, we can tenderly feed and comfort our babies and remain strong enough to carry the weight of our baggage. We can be soft and strong and fearless and amazing! Just as we were created to be!
What are your most memorable breastfeeding moments? Share below!
Have you ever experienced buyer’s remorse? Those yet to be worn stilettos in your closet tell me yes! As a writer I tend to suffer from sharer’s remorse. I will get inspired and excited and turn to social media as an outlet and end up posting a poem, opinion, or status more personal and meaningful than my usual funny cat memes. Then the neurosis begins! I hit post and read it over and over again (I’m an editor at heart). If I read it enough times I can convince myself that what I was so proud to post a few minutes ago is really lame! My introvert side deflates and drags my openness back into the safe dark turtle shell.
If you pay attention to the time stamps you will see that this was also the case with this very blog (and Instagram)! I created the account confident enough but the things I learned in my college writing classes became a hang up! What was my tone? Who is my audience and am I writing to their needs? Do I have authority to speak on these topics? I’m no expert. I struggle. Does anyone care what I have to say? How DO I feel about that?! WHO EVEN AM I?!
As a people-pleaser by nature I have always struggled with others’ perceptions of me. I have always had a hard time fitting perfectly into the little labels, boxes and expectations that people put on one another (that I truly think NO ONE lives up to 100%). Am I too much of this? Not enough that? Alas, I am an enigma and always have been. In me as in everyone exists flesh and spirit, dark and light. I am a work in progress not yet complete. Even so, God has plans for me just as I am. He knows my heart. He created me (and you!) to reflect and spread his love in a very specific and individual way. The truth is that if I wait until I’m perfect I will be waiting forever. I don’t believe that is my purpose.
I am working toward being myself and loving myself fully, writing my truth and letting others appreciate it or not. Its okay to express my feelings! I am after all speaking on the world from behind my own eyes and examining MY own existence here and no one else’s. Yes, I’m flawed but maybe someone can relate. If I can help one person not feel so alone then its worth the potential criticism, and exposure of my innermost self (which is at its very core shy yet at the same time has so much to say). I know that if I want to connect with people in any genuine way that it requires honesty, transparency, and a bit of bravery. This passion wasn’t placed in my heart so I could hide it away. Gifts are meant to be shared.
Have you ever experienced sharer’s remorse? What are your passions and gifts? Comment below!
We live in quite a fortunate time in history in terms of modern convenience. Of the many modern conveniences I enjoy each day a dishwasher is not one of them. With a growing family that means visiting the sink often to stay on top of the ever present pile of mugs and plates. Sure, there are times I’d prefer to toss them in the waste basket but soon I found the menial task had become a welcome reprieve.
The windowsill above the sink once held all of the hallmark nick-knacks of a well loved mama; assorted bottles of sand art, heart-shaped rocks, small potted herbs, perfect pine cones and gifts from little hearts and hands. One gift was a small cross that reads “Peace, be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10” One day I was on a re-arranging kick and I decided to (finally!) clear and clean the sill. I was moving all my chotchkies into an old shoebox but when I reached for the cross I hesitated, deciding to leave it where it was.
When I went back later on to do the dishes (again!) I read the message over and over. I found myself thinking deeply, staring through the humble kitchen window at the trees in the yard where my pets and children play. Warm water ran over, soothing my busy hands as I thanked God for the opportunity to be still and rest in his peace. By the time the last spoon hit the drying rack I felt my anxieties drain with the suds and dingy water. The little cross which I barely noticed before served as a gentle reminder and the chore became transformed.
Over time I have added other meaningful things to the sill and it has become a sort of altar in my home; a special place I go to pray over my family, water my herbs, offer up the work of my hands, and set my intentions for the day. It just goes to show anything can become meditative, prayerful and intentional even simple tasks. We don’t need only to be in church or on the mountain top to grow in our spirituality. God’s extraordinary presence can enrich even these ordinary parts of our lives and reveal a deeper meaning in the mundane. Now don’t get me wrong, I may not completely enjoy doing the dishes every day (every mom knows the “angry clean” LOL!) but I do know that if I approach this and all things in love, myself and those around me are simply better for it! Let’s let go of our expectations and allow God to reach us exactly where we are.
What do you do to fit in time for quiet contemplation? Comment below!