Faith, Identity, Mamahood, Writing

What if There is a Life More Beautiful Than I Dreamed?

SONY DSC

I can’t remember a time I didn’t know in my gut I wanted to be a writer, or that just as ardently, I wanted to be a wife and a mother.

Sure, as a child I also thought I might be a ballerina or a taxi driver, but even so, in my imagined future there would always be a pad, pen, husband, and brood of children awaiting my return.

As a child I was also a dreamer, a questioner, and a deep thinker. At three, I wrote my first story (a morality tale), attended my first West End musical (Starlight Express), and engaged in my first theological argument with a playmate while swinging from the tree in his backyard.

My parents often shook their heads, wondering, where did this child come from, but indulged my imagination as I re-enacted musical numbers on my Fisher Price roller skates, expounded on theories of what my stuffed animals did at night while I slept, and asked questions like “What does it feel like to kiss a boy?”

But somewhere along the line I started believing the lie that I couldn’t be fully me, fully in relationship, and fully loved. At some point I decided the only way to survive was to carefully hide the deepest parts of who I am, giving myself and others only glimpses of that creative, imaginative, insightful little girl.

Guess what? I’m tired of hiding. I’m ready to be me.

In November, when we Elevate girls were sending around initial introductions, Molly asked us to respond to the question “Where would you like to see yourself in 14 months?” Here’s what I wrote:

I would like to be writing creatively every day (or at least 5 days of the week). I’d like to have a solid blog with posts that I’m seriously proud of. I’d like to be able to say “I am a writer” and know that there’s substance to back up that claim. I’d like to either be enrolled in a master’s program or know definitively that it’s not the right time to go back to school. I’d also like to have begun a family or be pregnant – but there’s only so much planning we can do for that (yes, yes, the fun is in the trying…)!

In November I felt very clear about what I wanted: to be a writer. To make a decision about grad school. To be a mama.

Fast forward to January at the Elevate retreat, and I’m struggling to really own these dreams.

I have applied to and interviewed for a master’s program in theology, arts, and imagination (that I am so in love with, because it is so me), and I’ve started training for a half marathon in late August, but I’ve thrown the blog idea out the window (I’m still working on my voice!). I’ve pushed pause on the idea of immediately starting a family. Sure – my husband and I still agree to have fun trying, but we have decided the stress of ovulation strips and monthly devastation is taking a toll on our relationship, not to mention my sanity.

The word I claim for 2014 is “Flourish.” To grow, to create, to thrive. I declare I will renew my commitment to creative pursuits, to boldly step out and pursue a theological education, to train myself physically to be strong and fit and in the best shape I’ve ever been. I barely mention my dreams of having a baby.

Two days after the retreat, I’m holed up in a Starbucks bathroom in Laguna Niguel, peeing on a stick, partly because I’m a week late, but mostly because I want to know if it’s safe to drink the bottle of wine I’ve just bought to bring to my best friend’s house where I’ll be staying the next two nights.

And there, in the Starbucks bathroom, I see my future blooming in two very distinct, very bright blue lines.

I call my husband. Laughing. Crying. We’re going to have a baby.

I’m going to be a mama.

A trip to the doctor and I discover our baby will be arriving in September. Just five weeks after that half marathon I’ve been training for.

Well, then.

On Valentine’s Day I get the call telling me I’ve been accepted into the grad school program I’ve dreaming of. I’m in! The director tells me I’m brave and impressive and they want me. They are confident they can learn just as much from me as I can from them. Giddy, my husband and I pour teeny tiny glasses of champagne to celebrate life, love, and the dreams for which we are designed.

But I’m going to be a mama. And the baby is due three weeks after school begins.

So this is where I sit for a good month: fatigued, nauseated, and completely FULL of emotion.

One of the intentions I set for myself this year was to “be humble.” When asked my reason for choosing this way of being, I responded it was because I wanted to have a realistic viewpoint of my capabilities – I don’t want to be puffed up, but I also don’t want to be so deflated I lose confidence. Humility is a personal value I have; it’s also, in my belief, a fruit of the spirit of someone walking closely with God.

After our January retreat I scratched out “be humble” and replaced it with “be strong.”

So now here I am, almost forced into humility – because really, which one of us can ordain the timing of the creation of new life? But I’m also called to be strong – and now it’s not just for me, but for the little life growing inside me.

I’ve always said God has a great sense of humor.

With barely a baby bump, I’m already feeling the need to protect and arm myself in a mother bear fashion, ready for the opinions of others. To some, like my grandma, from the beginning the obvious answer was to keep moving forward:

“Women have been having babies and going to school for decades now. Why should you be different? Don’t give up your dream!”

(Love that woman.)

To others, the obvious answer was that having a baby trumps personal ambition. And honestly, as much respect as I have for women who seem to do and have it all, at first I agreed the latter plan was the best choice for me.

I generally do best with only a few important things in my life – I’m a deep diver, an all-or-nothing introvert who needs time and space to process and practice new things. I always pictured myself as the new mom who holes away for the first few months, learning all there is to know about this new tiny creature who requires so much time, energy, and care.

But then I thought: what if?

What if I could be the mama student with the baby sling and bag full of books? What if I could still pursue all I dreamed of this year? (Okay, with the exception of the half marathon. At 8 months pregnant? No way. Not happening.)

What if I could be an example to my child, showing him or her how important it is to pursue our passions, to get clear on our values, and synchronize our lives with what we know to be real, true, and holy?

What if I could still complete the program in the two years I have left here before my husband and I are relocated?

What if there was some creative option I hadn’t yet imagined?

So I decided to be bold.

I contacted the school and explained my situation. Within a week, I had chatted with my very encouraging admissions counselor and met with a warm and welcoming registrar, who helped me set up what seems to be a manageable schedule.

I enrolled. And I start classes this May.

In one month, I’ll be driving my pregnant self to Seattle three days a week to study theology, art, and imagination, with a personal focus on creative writing. I’ll be getting a head start on the studies I’ll put on hold next fall as I welcome my sweet new baby (to hole up and process and practice to my heart’s content). The plan is to pick those studies right back up where I left them at the beginning of 2015.

But as I’ve been reminded in this season, a lot of life can happen when you’re making plans. As I keep walking forward through 2014, I pray I will do so with an open heart, open mind, and open hands, ready to receive whatever comes next.

Originally appeared on Stratejoy

Standard
Faith, Identity, Mamahood

Big Decisions

ErinCollage-650x650In the spring of 2010, I packed up all of my belongings and jumped into my trusty Honda to start a new chapter in my life.

I had spent the last 5 years in Seattle, Washington, a beautiful, quirky, wonderful city which had begun to feel more like home than any place I’d ever lived. Now, I was leaving, heading to Bethesda, Maryland, to join my boyfriend, Tim, who was in his second year of medical school.We were serious about each other, and sensed a beautiful future stirring somewhere off on the horizon. Tim and I had been together for over a year, but the decision to move came quickly.

Within three weeks of asking my boss if I could telecommute from the East Coast, I hit Highway 90 with Tim by my side, ready to drive cross-country and spend the largest number of consecutive days we’d ever spent together.

It was one of the bravest, scariest, most authentic choices I’d ever made. I knew it was the right move, but it happened so quickly I didn’t realize how much confusion would follow me.

Three months into my new life in Maryland, much had changed.

I had an apartment much lovelier than I’d ever had before – and could hardly afford the rent.

I lived a 10-minute drive away from my amazing boyfriend, but, knee-deep in his second year of medical school, he hardly had one or two evenings to share with me each week.

I was reconnecting with old friends from college who lived in DC, but my Metro stop was a 15 minute drive from my apartment and a 30-minute ride into the city.

I felt freedom and a great deal of grown-up responsibility as a full-time teleworker, but put pressure on myself to be constantly on-call.

The more time I spent with Tim, the more I was convinced I wanted to be with him for the rest of my life, but the demands of medical school made him unable to make the leap just yet.

In short, I was lonely. I was afraid. I worried I might have made a mistake.

Enter Stratejoy and the Joy Equation. . That summer I woke every morning to journal about my fears, my hopes, my dreams, and desires – with no censorship. I visualized myself, 5 years into the future, married to Tim and expecting his child, working for myself, blogging in the mornings, maybe working on a book, and spending my afternoons meeting with friends in coffee shops, having heartfelt conversations.

I was fearless in these journal entries, allowing myself the space to dream, to seek, to yearn. I began slowly putting my goals into action, practicing gratitude, and honoring my core values. I had big, hard, beautiful conversations with Tim. We began dreaming together of the future and all that it held for us, together.

Fast forward three years to October 2013. Tim and I, married 2 years, had just moved back to the Pacific Northwest, into our first house, in Tacoma, WA. It had been 6 months since I had quit my full-time job. After a lovely sabbatical full of travel, adventure, reading, and self-reflection, I was working part-time as a marketing communications manager for an old friend. And I was once again dreaming of the future.

Tim and I had been talking about starting a family sometime in the next year, and for months it’s all I could think of.

The extra room in our new house? A future nursery.

The hot yoga studio down the street I had been so excited to try? Can’t do it – might make it harder to conceive.

Drinks out with friends? Sushi? Training for a new race? Might be too risky.

So each month I’d have a couple weeks of freedom followed by a few weeks of legalism and terror. I was getting tired of the dance. It was causing strain in our marriage, and stress on my body.

I thought what I wanted most, over everything else, was a baby. But in quiet, honest moments, it became clear to me it’s not all I wanted.

I wanted passion and purpose.

I wanted to be writing creatively.

I wanted to go back to school and learn how to help people in emotional pain.

I wanted to go back to school and learn how to talk to people about God in a way that is helpful and healing.

I wanted to begin developing a better relationship with my body, to celebrate my design and womanhood and treat my body with the love and respect it deserves.

I wanted to be fully, unabashedly ME.

I was meeting new friends, getting connected at church, already involved in my community, but I knew it would take time to develop the kind of trust needed to gain true accountability with these new friendships. Then I remembered the clarity and empowerment I gained that Joy Equation summer…and promptly began lurking on the Statejoy website. When I saw the advertisement for Elevate Mastermind, I knew I wanted to apply.

Accountability? Sisterhood? Champagne? Dance parties? Yes, please.

The night Molly announced her call for applications, I stayed up until midnight, typing and typing, fervently wishing and hoping and praying that come January, I’d be sitting in a yurt with 13 other women, risking vulnerability and dreaming big.

When Molly called to tell me I was in, I hung up the phone and prayed. And prayed. And prayed. This was going to be a huge investment – time, energy, money – and I needed to be sure I wasn’t just blindly signing up for something because it was shiny and sparkly and sounded so fun.

And the more I prayed, the more it became clear to me that Elevate was exactly what I needed to do this year. It was so clear I laughed out loud. My prayers aren’t always answered so specifically (or so quickly), but that day they were: I knew in my heart, with utmost confidence, that I needed these women who would make up the tribe. I needed to hear their stories and get to know them and learn from them. And I needed to boldly offer myself – in all my beautiful, messy vulnerability – and learn how to practice being exactly who I am and who I was created to be. And maybe, just maybe, they’d learn something from me, too.

It’s crazy to think back now, because so much has changed since that night in October. So much has changed since that magical, champagne bubbly, yurt-loving weekend in January.

I’m excited to see what comes next.

I wanted this year to be a big year, and beautiful year, a year of creation and joy and purpose. I am confident it will be, even if it looks slightly different than the way I dreamed it would be.

Originally appeared on Stratejoy

Standard