Thursday, October 15, 2015

Four Reminders from My First Year of Motherhood

This time last year, the simple act of reclining was my dream. With thirty pounds overwhelming my abdomen and another five unevenly dispersed between my wrists and ankles, there was no reclining to be had. Baby might flip, they said, so I should lie on my left side if I desired to lounge. Otherwise, my options were to sit upright (which proved both boring and tiring), stand (and allow gravity the opportunity to draw my puffiness down to what were formerly my ankles), or bounce on my beloved Bosu ball (which forced me to finally practice my kegel exercises in a feeble attempt not to wet myself). 

Many of my pregnant friends are in the midst of similar circumstances, which brings back all the memories. I’m also reminiscing because Hadley’s first birthday is but a few weeks away (though in many ways, I still feel pregnant, ha!). As they say, it goes by fast.  Just shy of a year later, I think I finally have enough margin in my brain to acknowledge the things I’m learning that deserve documentation. Lest you believe I’m sharing with the goal of teaching you something, dear reader, here is my disclaimer: I’m mostly writing to myself! These are the lessons I want to remember for as long as God allows me the grace of being a mama.

Reminder #1: Don’t hold onto methods. Hold onto Jesus.

Mommy advice is helpful… sometimes. It’s a beautiful thing to ask questions and to learn from those who have gone before you. Many of my motherhood victories happened by sheer imitation. I’ve learned a lot from the wise mamas with whom I’ve had the blessing of rubbing shoulders. But I’ve also painstakingly learned that sometimes, okay, many times, the advice of mommy mentors and friends just doesn’t work for your family, and that is okay. As a hypothetical—okay, personal example, if you’re implementing surefire Babywise techniques and your little one refuses to consistently sleep through the night until 10 months of age, no sweat! The Spirit is with you in the midst of that middle of the night feeding. Don’t frustratedly miss out on him because whatever method you’re implementing isn’t “working” the same way it did for others. This is hard for someone like myself. I love systems and formulas, but I know in my heart it’s a good thing our earthly plans aren’t always “successful.” If we could achieve all of our parenting goals by reading books or talking with friends, we wouldn’t need Jesus. The methods aren’t bad, but we’re missing the greatest security of all when we fall back on them instead of him.

Reminder #2: Resist comparison like it’s a disease.

Hadley recently overcame her first sickness at 11 months of age: Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease. Woof. If you’re reading and you don’t have kids I trust you’re utterly disgusted, so I’ll refer to it as HFM from this point forward. The HFM virus spreads through contact with objects an infected person has touched, contact with their bodily fluids, or, get this, THE AIR. Basically, if you’re under six and you’re around a kid that has HFM, the odds are against you. Kiddos don’t show symptoms until days after they’ve caught it, so they run around unknowingly infecting others. The transmission of this contagious sickness is similar to that of comparison. It can happen even before you see it coming and in a number of ways: comparison to other mamas, comparison to your pre-baby self, comparison to your ideal self, comparison to other kiddo’s development, or their clothing, or their toys, and the list goes on. Speaking from experience, it is like a toxic disease that will only lead to one of two things: dissatisfaction or defeat. It puts us at odds with ourselves, other mamas, and as cliché as it sounds (thanks to the well-known quote), it will wreck havoc on our joy.  But comparison isn’t something you can just resolve to stop doing. Trust me, I’ve tried. There’s no way to eradicate it alone. We need Jesus, the healer of all disease, sickness, and infirmity to give us a new set of eyes: eyes that see both others and ourselves through the lens of grace. 

Reminder #3: Show others as much grace as you expect them to show you.

When you get pregnant it’s like you’re growing a giant bulls-eye on your stomach that says, “OVER HERE! Direct all of your pregnancy and parenting advice towards me!” People will start dishing it out like free candy on Halloween—minus the whole knocking on the door and saying, “Trick-or-treat,” fun. Contrary to Halloween candy, lots of the time the advice you receive as a mama comes from strangers. They may not know how to approach your new, hormonal, and very-tired self in a gentle manner, which will likely result in hurt feelings. People warned me that random people would freely comment on the size, development, and behavior of my child, but it still totally caught me off guard.  After a few startling instances, I determined to grow a thicker skin. I snarled my way around the grocery store with a comeback in tow, ready to defend my baby from eager advice-givers. That’s when it hit me. I need to be quick to respond to our offenders in grace, instead of passing judgment on them. The parable of the servant in Matthew 18 comes to mind. A man owed ten thousand talents to the king. He should have lost everything, but his master pitied him and forgave him of his debt. Moments later, the forgiven servant sought out another man who owed him a small debt of only a hundred denarii. The forgiven servant proceeded to choke the man and demand that he pay the debt. My point? I am like this servant who has no place to be choke-holding anyone. Christ has forgiven me, the chief of sinners, and I should overflow that same mercy and grace to others.

Reminder #4: Stop trying to be the perfect parent.

Throughout pregnancy I read books on the birthing process, pored over parenting blogs, researched the best baby gear, and took notes from my aforementioned mommy mentors. In my quest to do the best thing for my baby I came across the book, “Give them Grace,” by Elyse Fitzpatrick. Its message is that your child doesn’t need a perfect parent. He or she needs Jesus. And by the same token, you don’t need to be a perfect parent to prove anything to yourself, your kid, or to others. You aren’t perfect! And that’s a beautiful thing, because Jesus is.  We can lay our methods, our performance, and our expectations at the foot of the cross, resolving to walk humbly, knowing that more than anything or anyone, we need Jesus. The Gospel of grace must be central in all things, especially in our motherly hearts. That is so incredibly freeing!

Last year’s dream has become reality. I’m typing while reclining with a cup of (caffeinated) tea in hand and my almost one year old is fast asleep in her crib. Looking down, I see unclenched fists, which were forced open when surefire methods failed me. I feel contentment that can only come from delighting in a Father who knows and loves both Hadley and myself more than I ever could. I feel compassion towards those offering unsolicited advice. And more than ever, I know my need to look away from myself and to look to Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith in all seasons, especially motherhood.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Breathe in, blow, and let it fly.

It’s time to breathe life into this little space.

I know, I’ve blown up the celebratory balloon in the past and watched it fly, only to sputter to the ground moments later. a flat balloon, waiting to be filled with air.

I’ve probably watched too much Person of Interest, but the permanency of stuff on the interwebs totally freaks me out. I want my words to mean something, especially when they’re stored somewhere in a cloud for the rest of time. I want to spend lots of time thinking, exploring, and developing an idea. Then in a divine moment of inspiration, I want to sit down and write organically, from the heart, while holding a mug of organic coffee with steamed coconut milk.

That’s the pressure I’ve been putting on myself over here… hence, my (second) blogging hiatus. I’ve come to the realization that these preferences have to go for the sake of developing my craft. I need this little space to be free, useful, and productive.

This little blog has undergone as many transitions as our family over the past four years. Originally a place to keep friends and family abreast of our adventures, it then became an avenue to exercise a newfound passion (pun partially intended). Yet again it’s adapting for a new purpose: practice.

I promise that this will be an imperfect space full of crummy first drafts (thank you, Anne Lamott). All writing will take place while multitasking, whether in the kitchen surrounded by steaming pots and chopped veggies, or while pushing a stroller and dictating into the notes section of my iPhone. Just about every photo will be taken on my iPhone. Most commonly, there will be misspellings, poor grammar, and accidental offenses along the way. Read at your own risk.

I never thought I’d be a writer, but thanks to this little blog, I am one. So this is me, breathing in and blowing up this little balloon he’s given me. I hope it flies high, drawing your gaze up to the one who gives all things life, breath, and purpose.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The . of No Return

It's fair to say I've reached the point of no return when it comes to blogging. I simply cannot retract the months it's been since my last post. I've written five different sentences in hopes of smoothly transitioning to an update on life and I'm convinced it simply can't be done.

the . of no return

We moved 900 miles across country earlier this year. In the midst of said move… 

we were blessed with the news of this Little One's arrival!

Moving to GA brought with it the joy of writing for Deeply Rooted

>>> moving + helping him + pregnancy + business + writing >>>

demanded most of the energy I had to give for a few months,

but I'm ready to begin investing here once more. For a time anyway. 

Thanks for bearing with me as I transition, yet again

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Friendship 201

Even though they live across the pond in the African bush, Mr. Beless & I continue to be discipled in the ways of friendship by these two

If you don't remember, Grant & Brooks were Young Guns together at Pine Cove, chopping brush & building things, including the beginnings of a deep friendship that would carry them through three years of living together in the 1804 Leona house in College Station. 

Five hundred miles north, Elizabeth & I connected through the dear old KKG house at the University of Arkansas where we roomed together for the next three years. 

The four of us met, completely independently of one another, hit it off to the point of choosing to spend the rest of our lives together (in married-couple fashion), and now we're best friends, married to best friends.

As you can imagine, Grant & Elizabeth hugely impact on the way Brooks & I go about doing life, as well as our marriage. [Check out Friendship 101 for more on that.] A little over a month ago the Seifrieds returned home for some work stateside & a chance to reconnect with those they love. The four of us had been dreaming of our reunion for months prior, hoping for a place to laugh, share stories, eat well, and catch up on life. Guess what? It happened! 

We realize the value of our friendship to one another & want to continue to create opportunities for continued growth, so we've planned to do a retreat of sorts at least once a year for the rest of forever. How fun is that?! I'm telling you, the thought to pray for such goodness never even crossed our minds!

The first evening of our little getaway the men asked the ladies to help brainstorm what we want these times together to look like. Pen in hand, Elizabeth scribed as we rattled off the following criteria:

-Good eats
-Guy/Girl catch up time
-Friendship & marriage review

As we continued talking, we came up with a few questions that we plan to ask each other each year during our friendship & marriage review:

-How have we loved you well as your friends?
-How can we love you better?

-What victories have you experienced in your marriage this year?
-What hardships have you undergone this year?
-In what areas have you seen or experienced growth in your marriage this year? 
-What areas need work?

The next evening we had our first annual Beless/Seifried friendship & marriage review over a delicious steak dinner (bonus!). Truly, there are no words to communicate what a sweet time that was for the four of us. I am continually amazed at how life-giving it is to both know & be known. I'm sharing all of this because I want to encourage you (both married & single friends) to engage in intentional, life-giving conversations with the friends that you do have in hopes of building into & cultivating greater depth within those relationships, even if they're not best friend status (yet). It is such a valuable & time-worthy endeavor!

How do you cultivate depth of friendship within your relationships?
What questions would you want to ask or be asked if you held a friendship/marriage review of your own?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Hiding His Word in our Hearts

A few days ago a friend of mine asked for ideas + tips on memorizing scripture. I'm surprised she's still my friend after my lengthy response, ha! Here's my attempt at concision: I memorize scripture because it helps me remember who God is and who who I am in light of Who he is. Remembering is essential to living that out. There are endless reasons as to why you should be practicing this discipline, but the point of this post isn't to convince you, it's simply to share how you can go about doing it. I also need to preface by shouting: I did not come up with any of this on my own. All credit goes to two incredible women, Kim Vollendorf & Joyce Lasse, who were kind enough to share their methods with me when I was in college. A thousand thank you's to them both for changing my life by encouraging me to hide God's word in my heart. I hope this encourages those of you reading to do so too.

What you'll need:
.A hole punch.
.Your Bible.

First things first: choose a verse you want to memorize! This list of verses is a great place to start. Next, it's time to set up your card. 

Upper left: Reference (where you find the verse) 
Upper right: Category*
Body of the notecard: The verse, written word for word
Bottom left: Days
Bottom right: Weeks

*Note: I use categories to help me categorize the verses in my mind. That way, if I'm having a conversation on the topic of the Holy Spirit, hopefully 1 Corinthians 2:12 will come to mind. 

Back of card: Reference (again, where you can find the verse)* 
Bottom left: Months

*Note: I write the reference on the back of the card so I can quiz myself without seeing any part of the actual verse.

Now you're all set to memorize the verse you chose. Typically, I give myself a week to memorize one or two verses. For the first few days I'll carry the notecard around in my back pocket & try to read as often as possible. Once I have a good feel for it, I write the first letter of every word on my wrist to help me out. Sounds crazy, but it works! 

[1 Corinthians 2:12]

When you have the verse memorized you're ready to put it on your daily ring. You will have already committed all of the verses on your daily ring to memory, but it's important to review them to make sure you have them down-pat. Plus, reviewing + meditation help to transition the words from your head to your heart.

Review your daily ring verses 1x/day for 50 days. 
I use tally's to keep track of where I'm at in the process.

Remember to continue adding the new verses you memorize to the daily ring. 

Once you've reviewed the verses on your daily ring for 50 days, you're ready to transition them to a weekly ring.

You will review the verses on your weekly ring 1x/week for 50 weeks.
I've found it helpful to choose one day of the week to review the verses on your weekly ring
For me, that day is Sunday

At this point, you've probably guessed what comes next: a monthly ring
Review the verses on your  monthly ring 1x/month for 50 months. 
Again, it's helpful to be consistent and choose a date (like the 1st Sunday of the month) on which to review your monthly ring

Finally, after reviewing your monthly ring for 50 months you'll move your verses to a semester ring that you will review 1x each semester. I don't have a photo because I haven't actually made it to that point yet. ;) 

The Verses Project is an incredible resource that my friend Suzanne shared with me. A compilation of Christian artists recorded songs of straight scripture. It's word-for-word & it's all free, so start downloading that goodness immediately! 

Reviewing gets a bit more complex once you start memorizing chapters & books, but this is a great place to start! Have you ever memorized Scripture? If so, what helps you hide His Word in your heart? 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Something Added.

I snuggled up to my big man & lay my head on his chest. A tear slipped out one eye & rolled down into the other, which turned on the slow trickle that's hard to cut off once it gets going. Breathing in & out I told myself the same thing I'd said over & over as we approached this day, "It's only a month and the sooner it starts, the sooner it's over." My mind drifted to my neighbors who recently kissed their husbands goodbye until next summer. Whew, a few weeks apart is nothing in comparison.

Regardless, whether a day, a week, or for months at a time, I do not like doing life without Mr. Beless by my side. Our last extended time apart took place in February when he went away for work. To be honest, that one didn't go so well for me, which elicited some anxiety as we approached yet another period of physical separation. I prayed a lot, talked with other Army wives, and tried to be proactive in developing a healthier approach so that it wouldn't be broadsided again. My theme for the month became, "Something added," instead of, "Something's missing." 

Last time Brooks was away I really believed I was missing out on something I deserved. That's a pretty dreary way of doing life for a month, especially since time with Brooks is a gift, not something I deserve. This time I've tried to look for the undeserved gifts that God has given to me and oh my, they are abundant!

Plus some mental pictures of time spent with Meredith/Reece/Kimberly/Suzanne!

The best part is that all of the 'somethings added' point to the One Who gives & gives & gives:

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." James 1:17

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Where's the TV?

Until a few months ago that was one of the first questions people asked when they came into our home. "We don't have one," we'd respond, to which we'd receive a remark of disbelief, a stunned facial expression, or most commonly (and my personal favorite), a combination of the two. Brooks & I don't have moral convictions against TV. We just don't have one. After people got over the initial shock of hearing the news they'd ask, "What do you do?" or "How do you do that?" Here's our answer to those that ask:

1. We read. 
Brooks & I started reading together when we were dating. We read our first book Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy independently & talked about it casually. The next book we read aloud, mostly Brooks reading to me. It's one of our favorites. Other reads we've enjoyed include: Sacred Marriage, The Meaning of Marriage & The Hunger Games trilogy, to name a few. And every year we choose a Bible Reading Plan as a means by which to read through Scripture together on a daily basis.  

2. We talk, like friends do. 
Pretty simple. Check this out if you've forgotten how to be a good friend to your spouse, family member, or roommate.
Normally we don't look this cute doing so (engagement photos, ha)!

3. We cook & we eat. 
We value our health, so we make an effort to buy groceries on a weekly basis, to research nutritious (and delicious!) recipes, & to try new things. Sometimes we cook together, sometimes I have dinner ready when Brooks gets home. Either way, we sit down at our dinner table, enjoy good eats, & catch up. 

4. We exercise. 
Again, we're passionate about pursuing good health. We enjoy going to the gym at the same time when our schedules allow it, & after dinner in the evenings (when it's not too stinking hot) we walk around our neighborhood. 

5. We travel. 
Our travel bucket list is growing by the day with family + friends scattered throughout the world. We make it a point to pay them a visit. We also keep a list of places of interest that are nearby, and explore them when we're able.

If you walk into our house today, you will now find a TV in our living room. My parents gave us gift cards to Best Buy to purchase one for my birthday. We are really grateful for it. While we still don't have cable or dish, we do enjoy watching movies and the occasional mini-series (Downton Abbey, anyone?). Hear me when I say: TV isn't a bad thing. We just don't prioritize it when there are so many other fun things to do!

 What do you + yours enjoy doing besides watching TV?