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

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Writing

So, I’m writing a novel…

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Two years ago, at the encouragement of CJ, a lovely young woman at church, I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated). CJ, bright-eyed and full of storylines, had already completed her first novel the previous year and was eagerly anticipating November 1 so she could get started on her next one. According to NaNoWriMo rules, she’d have to finish this novel by November 30. CJ who is an excellent writer, was also 16 at the time.  So I thought – oh yeah, I can totally do that.

I can’t over-emphasize how excited this news made my husband. I’m pretty sure he married me because he likes the way I write (notice I didn’t say communicate; verbally I’m the queen of unfinished thoughts, rabbit trails, hand gestures, many tears and exclamation points; our relationship began with written communication and while strangely he does truly love me in my moments of intense, emotional verbal processing, I think he holds my softer written words in a tender spot in his heart). Any chance he has to encourage me to pursue this introspective passion of mine, he takes with full force.

That said, he committed to making sure I was up by 6 am every morning, so I could start writing the 50,000 words required to finish the NaNoWriMo challenge. Please let it be known that I am *not* a morning person, and that cannot be changed,  I don’t care what anyone says – including my husband, who swears you can train yourself to be a morning person (but this is coming from someone who voluntarily signed up for the Army and medical school in one fell swoop. Advice from super heroes must be taken with a grain of salt). Anyway. Husband woke me up at 6 am every morning and for two weeks I sat there at the kitchen table, huddled under a blanket, clutching a coffee mug, hen pecking, word by word… a non-novel.

That’s right. I told my husband I would participate in NaNoWriMo but that I couldn’t possibly write a novel because I only think in non-fiction prose. Ask my husband for a story idea at any given time and he’ll rattle off some brilliant combination of character, location, and conflict. I, on the other hand, will stare at you blankly and say “Um, yes, well. It will be about this woman, in her early thirties, right? Yeah, so she’s had a lot of transitions in her lifetime and she really loves God but she’s often struggling with how to reconcile faith with the world around her and what it means to love Jesus, really…” You get the idea. Perhaps I am a little too self-centered (okay, I know I am, let’s be serious). But I also tend to think that I’ve been given a gift of tying pieces of my life together, of seeing things in a slightly different light, and of finding glimmers of grace in the broken down and sooty bits.

So I really do think that when it comes to writing, my calling is first and foremost to learn how to be better at this. So I committed to writing 50,000 words of non-fiction prose in November of 2011. And… it did. not. happen. After 2 weeks, I gave up. I had little time, little energy, and it was honestly a little annoying (and a bit guilt-inducing) to get all the NaNoWriMo emails encouraging me about my “novel” when a novel was not what I was writing in the slightest.

But.

This year is different. I have more time on my hands, for one. Last time I tried NaNoWriMo I was working full time, was a relatively new bride with boxes to unpack and a new husband-roommate to care for [get used to], and was completely stressed out to the max. Now I have a flexible schedule and several coffee shops in walking distance from my house. Our boxes are all unpacked. My husband is working on plans to transform our garden shed into my very own writing cottage. (Yes. You read that correctly. My husband is making me a writing cottage. Did I win the lottery or what?)

Also, I think I might have a story idea. Just maybe. It may turn out to be absolute crap, but the point of NaNoWriMo isn’t to write the most amazing novel in the history of man; the point of NaNoWriMo is to get you writing each day; and to show yourself that it is entirely possible to write 50,000 words. The thought is, you get it all out in the month of November, and then you take the next few months to edit, revise, re-imagine – heck, you can take the next year. Because the crux of it is you’ve shown yourself you can commit to and execute something worth creating.

We’ll see how it goes. But I’m hoping, since I’ve published here that I am committing to the task, you guys will help keep me accountable. Let’s see where we are this time next month, shall we?

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