Letter To My 35-Year-Old Self

Last week, I reflected back 10 years, today I look forward 10 years and write down some dreams and thoughts to my future self.  Here it is:

Dear 35-Year-Old Self,

I am writing this with no idea where you will be at 35 or what you will be like, but I have some hopes and dreams for you that I would like to outline for you.  Knowing you, I have a feeling when you read this in 10 years, you might feel a little disappointed if you are not where I imagine you being.  That is perfectly okay.  You might not be where I imagined, but really all I can hope for is that you are following the will of God.  That is all that really matters.

Currently I am in a place of uncertainty.  A place of transition and new territory.  I am just beginning to figure out this new role as mom.  At 35, I have no idea how many children we may have or even what location we will be at, but I hope in 10 years to be more confident as a mom.  I question myself daily.  I question if I am doing enough for Hudson.  Every day I am faced with the doubt that I am not a good enough mother.  I am pretty certain that I will still have these doubts in 10 years, they may be even more significant with the passing of time, but I do hope you have greater confidence in your ability to mother well.  Not only as mother, but I hope your confidence has increased in all areas of your life.  Ultimately I hope you stand on even firmer confidence in Christ, and through this, you may live a life that is bolder and more certain.

Along with confidence, I hope you are not as serious.  I hope in 10 years, you have become more fun and less stressed.  I know in these next few years, life is likely going to get more complicated and more full, but my prayer is that I can increase in maturity to handle it all better than my early twenties.  I hope you can better handle when things fall apart.  I hope there are less anxious tears and more belly laughs.  I hope that you can shake things off quicker and with greater ease.  I hope you can be less frantic and concerned about the things that really do not matter.  Again, I know you and I know that you are likely going to still have these same anxious and stressed out tendencies that I am currently dealing with, but along with all the other hopes I outlined, I ultimately hope you can learn to lean less on yourself and more on the Lord.

Not only do I hope you are more confident and less anxious, I hope you have become better.  I hope you are better in all senses.  I hope you are a better wife.  I hope you love Lance better and are less selfish.  I hope you are a better mother.  I hope you are more patient with Hudson and any future children you may have.  I hope you have become a better sister, daughter, friend, church member, neighbor, woman, and most importantly a better follower of Christ.  This is starting to feel overwhelming, but really all I am hoping for is that by 35 your heart is bigger and fuller and more willing to love the people in your life better.  I know you still have a long way to go, but I really hope you can read this and know that you are absolutely more intentional with the relationships in your life.

At 25, I write this with great optimism.  I really cannot wait to meet you at 35 and see the life that you are living.  I can’t wait to see the growth you have made and I really can’t wait to see Hudson as a 10-year-old.  While I write this with hopeful optimism, I am almost certain that you probably have experienced lost somewhere along these 10 years.  You probably have had some darker seasons.  You may have even gotten a little lost along the way.  I am sure there have been some really hard tears you have cried and some really beautiful laughs.  I write this knowing that there are going to be some difficulties these next 10 years that will likely test me and make me feel uncomfortable.  Whatever has happened, I hope you can look back and through both the pain and the joy, see the hand of God over it all.

Love,

Your 25-year-old self

Chocolate Cake & Blueberries

This mama needs chocolate cake and blueberries.  I am writing this on Sunday afternoon, and right before I sat down to begin writing, I cut myself a generous slice of vegan chocolate cake.  While I normally would not indulge in chocolate cake anytime before 6pm, I figured it is still my birthday weekend so chocolate cake at 3pm is allowed.  To give a little insight as to how my brain works, I chose to top it with a handful of blueberries to balance it out.  Now, blueberries are a perfect topping to cake, but I am more interested in exploring why I tossed those blueberries on.  I honestly did not even feel like eating blueberries.  I really just wanted my leftover vegan cake, but internally that felt too indulgent.  This is a small and silly example, but in a similar vein to my post last week on rest, I too often find myself adding something to what alone is perfectly good and acceptable.  Why is it so hard to just eat the cake?

Reflecting on this further, maybe adding the blueberries is a good thing.  There is something incredibly valuable in balance.  It probably would not be the best to eat cake alone every afternoon, but cake with some antioxidant-filled blueberries every once and a while is a good thing.  I need to start living my days more from this cake and blueberry mindset.  By this I mean that I need to incorporate more balance.  My Mondays and Sundays are in stark contrast.  For me, Mondays are cleaning days.  I spend basically the entire day cleaning.  Sundays are resting days.  Especially recently, I have tried to be much more intentional on the ways we spend our Sundays.  While I don’t think there is anything wrong with having days dedicated to specific things, there needs to be balance.  On Mondays, I usually end the day so burnt out because I spent the majority of my time cleaning.  Continuing with my metaphor, Mondays are all about the blueberries, but even Mondays need a sliver of cake.  Sundays are all about the cake.  No laundry.  Crockpot dinners.  No agenda.  However, a day full of cake is not good for us either.  We need protein.  We need vitamins.  We need color.  As I am currently learning, Sundays also need blueberries.  It can’t just be cake.  Balance is needed on a daily basis, but that balance is going to look different with each day.  Certain days, work will outweigh play and rest; others the rest will be the focus.  I think we can get into ruts when we forget the importance of balancing our days out.  We forget to add the blueberries to the cake.

Will the Sabbath be ruined if we sweep the floors?  Will the Monday cleaning day be ruined if I take a nap? I have a habit of functioning in a black and white mindset that does not leave room for in-betweens.  It is either all or nothing.  I am learning this is not a healthy way to live.  While there is absolutely nothing wrong with occasionally having a big slice of cake on its own,  I hope to better strive at creating my days with greater balance that makes room for both the cake parts of life and also the blueberries elements because the truth is- they both are sweet on their own and even sweeter together.

Letter to My 15-Year Old Self

Yesterday was my 25th birthday.  I am officially a quarter of a century.  I have entered the mid-twenties.  For some reason this year feels significant to me.  I think back to 10 years ago and I am proud of who I am becoming and the family Lance and I have started.  I also hopefully think ahead 10 years to the future and I have so many goals and dreams as to where I would like to be at 35.  In honor of 25 years, I wrote a letter to both my past and future self.  Here is the first letter:

Dear 15-year-old self,

Hi Kelli Sugimoto, this is Kelli Capel writing to you.  In 10 years, a lot is going to change for you.  You will get married, you will have a baby, you will come to truly know Christ.  These are the big ones, but your next ten years will be filled with little moments, little decisions that will change everything.  You are going to feel lost at times and uncertain that you are making the right decisions, but I just wanted to reassure you that you are.  Even the mistakes, led you to the life I am currently living and it really is a beautiful one.  It is so full with family, friends, the sweetest little boy and a man that loves you.  I know what you are dreaming about right now and I am pleased to tell you some of those dreams will happen in just a few short years.

Right now you are probably just in the midst of figuring out that you really love to run.  It is your freshmen year and I know you have no idea what running will become.  You are entering a chapter where running will be everything.  It is going to teach you a lot.  It is going to build within you a determination and a strength you did not even know you were capable of.  It is also going to test you.  It is going to wake you up and make you realize you are much more than just a runner.  It will show that running is a good thing, but it is not the thing.  It will get you places and open doors and give you things.  This is a lot of vagueness, all to say this: keep running, keep chasing dreams, keep getting better, keep putting in the miles and the minutes, keep believing you can.  Running will begin as the everything and it will end as really nothing, but I am learning right now that it will come back to be something really beautiful again; just with a different look.

Along with running, you are also forming some very important friendships.  Some of those friends, you are going to lose touch with and that is okay, but some, specifically a couple, will be your two best friends, 10 years later and beyond.  Enjoy your time with them now.  Things will change very quickly.  Definitely not for the worst, but it will be different.  You will all live in different states and your time together will be limited.  Soak up your time with them now.  These girls will stand by you at your wedding, they will be there for your baby shower, they will drive to see you in Arizona.  They will love you in the good and the hard.  They will be true friends through and through.

As with your friends, spend as much possible time with your family.  As strange as this may sound, you only have about 3 more years of living at home.  You only have 6 more years of being unmarried.  In three years, it will be different.  In six, entirely changed.  Your time at your family home is limited.  Appreciate it as much as you can now.  Thank your mom more for always helping pack lunches and making breakfasts and loving you so well.  Thank your dad more for all his support and believing in you always.  Spend more time with your sister.  Tell her more often all the amazing strong qualities you see in her.  Give more cuddles to your dog, Jack, he will pass in just a couple years. Go and visit grandma as often as you can.  When she tells you to “run along now” stay longer.  Treasure this season with your family.

I know now you are not even really thinking about dating or boys, but just remember the real man will come in the form of a very good friend. He is more than you are even dreaming about.  Therefore, do not take the different heart breaks too seriously.  As dramatic as they feel at the time, God has something infinitely better planned for you.  All the disappointments are one step closer to finding the life He has intended for you.  I don’t want to tell you who your husband will be (some things are better left as surprises), but trust me when I tell you that he is perfect for you.  He will be the man that helps point you back to the cross.  Through your friendship, you will be reintroduced to church and find out what it means to truly be in relationship with Jesus.  Reality LA will be an important church and community for you in the coming years.  I know right now you go to church, but I am so excited for you to fully see what it looks like and feels like to have a personal relationship with God.

Remember how you always dreamed about being a teacher and a mom?  These dreams comes true.  Teaching will be hard at times, but by the time you leave for the next dream to happen, you will have a heart so much fuller than when you began.  You will come to find that you learned more as a teacher than you ever had as a student.  You will realize that teaching is not always about the deliverance of content as it is about the example of love and kindness you can set for your students.  It turns out this is what they will really remember about you; not the proper placement of a semi-colon.

You will leave the classroom for a bit and enter your next dream.  Motherhood.  Your baby boy is more precious than you can even imagine.  He has your nose and his father’s eyes. Even in just the first few months, he is going to teach you a lot about sacrifice, patience, and love.  There is not much else I can tell you on this, considering I am just a few months in, but I am sure my future self will have some good lessons to prepare you for.

I want to leave you with these final words.  You have so much to look forward to.  There is amazing and beautiful things ahead.  A common thread you will be faced with is lack of confidence in your abilities.  Whenever you are in those places of doubt whether it be on the line of a race, in a classroom of students, up late with a sleepless baby; remember that God made you ready for each of these different seasons.  You were made for this.  Don’t ever forget that.

Love,

25-year-old self

 

 

Rest

This mama needs rest.  

Resting is something that does not come naturally to me.  I really wish it did because it is so important, but it doesn’t.  In the moments of my day that actually lend themselves well for rest, I seem to resist real rest in place of what I am calling “pretend rest.”  I think we all have a tendency to do this.  Last night, I had an unexpected window of free time.  This could have been an ideal time for rest.  I could of curled up and read more of my book.  I could have just laid down and turned on a show.  I could of just closed my eyes for a few minutes and prayed.  I could have done all these activities of rest, but instead I chose “pretend rest.”  I chose to fold the laundry, while watching “Tidying Up.”  What I really wanted to do was just lay there and watch Marie Kondo perfectly fold laundry, but that is too restful.  I must do that plus something productive.  Why do we do this?  In my life, I seem to always blend rest with what actually needs to be accomplished, which ultimately results in mediocre rest.  I don’t want mediocre rest. I want real rest.  I want the type of rest where you just nap in the middle of the day, not because you are sick, but just because.  I find the only time I truly grant my body rest is when it is fully in need of it.  When I am hit with terrible body aches and feel sick, then I can just lay there and rest.  However, if I am feeling good, I forget that I am still in need of rest in the middle of my days. I need to better grant myself permission to fully rest, not pretend rest.  Pretend rest looks like folding laundry and watching a show.  It looks like laying down while going through emails.  It looks like emptying the dishwasher while listening to a sermon.  Don’t get me wrong, these things listed above can be great ways to get things done while also relaxing or doing something more fulfilling, but I think the issue is when we deem these things as our true rest.  Rest plus something else cannot equal pure rest. Rest alone equals pure rest.  It is that simple.

I need a lot of grace in this area of my life.  I need to not just rest and turn everything off, I need to rest in the fullness of what God has already accomplished and done for me.  Everything I could do will never be enough.  It will never save me.  I am enough and I am saved solely through the grace of God.  I was reminded of this truth as I read Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:5-8 earlier this week:

“You are saved by grace!  He also raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might display the immeasurable riches of his grace through his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift- not from works so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:5-8).

I feel like I can end this here.  There is not much else I can write that is not perfectly captured in those verses from Ephesians.  It is all God.  It is all grace.  And it is all good.  We are so little and are to-do lists are so insignificant to what has already been accomplished.  Therefore, there is no point in filling our time with pretend rest when what we truly need is to fully rest in the goodness of God and his ever-sufficient grace.

2019: The Year of Open

Last Friday, Lance and I had our first date night in a while, and it was amazing.  One of the pieces of advice we both seemed to hear a lot in pregnancy was that you must prioritize your marriage when you start having kids.  Already, I can see how true this is.  The reality is that life is so much busier and more structured than it used to be and if we do not intentionally make the time to just be Lance and Kelli, husband and wife; we will live our lives solely as mommy and daddy.  This is not good for anyone, including Hudson, especially Hudson.  I want my son and any future children we may have to look at our marriage and see a strong Christ-centered marriage that sets an example for them.  We realized that we need to be more intentional about having date nights once a month.  Since this date fell just a few days before the New Year, we ended our date at Urth Cafe and set intentions, goals, and habits we hope to strive after as a family.  We first attempted to come up with what we wanted our overarching theme for the year to be.  What one word did we want to really focus and embody in 2019?  While a few words were tossed on the table, we landed with open.  I wrote it in big letters in my planner: “2019: The Year of Open.”  In many ways, this directly aligns with a vision and campaign at our church entitled The Open Campaign.  In the way that our church is striving to be more open to the surrounding community, Lance and I also hope that we can live 2019 well with an open heart, home, and hand.  The aspect I really love about this concept of openness is that it is two-fold.  In one sense, being open allows us to pour out into others, but the opposite is true as well.  Embracing a posture of openness, also allows us to be filled up.  Both are essential.  Unfortunately, I have a tendency to hyper-focus on the pouring out, that I forget to fill up.  This year, I personally want to better embrace this idea of allowing time and space to be filled up.  I wanted to share 5 ways in which I am attempting to do a better job in this area.

  1. Get Up Early.  When I was teaching, I woke up every morning at 5am.  While I initially dreaded that early morning alarm, it allowed me to be so much more productive and efficient with my time.  I did not realize it at the time, but that early morning commute was a really important time for me to wake up, plan the day, and pray.  It gave me a pause before the day fully started.  Once I stopped working, I stopped setting the alarm and chose to have Hudson be my new alarm clock.  This worked initially, but I began to realize I was starting my days grumpy and unprepared for the day ahead.  Even if it is just 15 minutes of uninterrupted, quiet morning time, I am able to start the day at peace and in joy.  While I don’t quite feel ready to set my alarm back to 5am, setting it to 6am this week has allowed for time to sip my coffee, drink a glass of water, light a candle, write down what Hudson did the previous day, and spend some time alone with the Lord reading my Bible and praying for the day ahead.  These sound like such simple things, especially the one on drinking water, but I am finding it is these simple acts that put me in the right frame of mind to be open to loving and pouring out to the people in my life.
  2. Write Daily. Writing is something I really enjoy to do.  I have always been the journal keeping type of girl.  Journaling and just writing in general really helps me process how I am feeling and why I am feeling that way.  While I really love writing, I have not prioritized it.  I hope to keep a daily practice of making sure I am writing on a daily basis. It might not always be a full blog post in one day, but regardless of the type of day I am having, I hope that I can take at least a few minutes of it to practice my craft of writing.  Even in just a week, I have experienced certain days where the words just rolled off my fingertips and others where the interruptions were abundant and the words scarce.  I am not concerned about length or even initial quality, I really just want to write because it is something I love to do.  The other goal in writing is that I can share some of what I write to be open and vulnerable.  It does not come naturally to me to want to share personal pieces of my life, but I want to be more open in this way.  I know that I am not alone in a lot of my experiences, especially recently in motherhood, so I hope some of what I write can connect well to others.
  3. Read Daily. Like they say, garbage in, garbage out.  Some of my very worst days are the ones spent scrolling on Instagram at every free moment.  Some of my very best days are the ones where I forget where my phone even is and I pick up a book or am outside.  What I consume in a day greatly affects my mood and outlook.  While I am a very slow learner at times, I am finally coming to terms that I cannot handle Instagram.  In the past few months I have deleted and re-downloaded it basically every single week.  I delete it because I am consuming too much of it and then re-download it just to check one thing and the next thing I know I have scrolled away an hour.  Time is now even more precious now, and I do not want to waste it away scrolling through content that often times does not even motivate or inspire me.  I close the app and I feel tired and unmotivated to do anything at all.  I am done with it (hopefully for at least a longer stretch than just a week).  I am very intentionally training myself to pick up a book rather than my phone.  Similarly to the writing intention, I am not expecting to finish novels in just a couple days.  I am a slow reader. This week I have just been reading a chapter a day.   This may seem small, but it is a whole chapter more than what I previously would read in a day. To me, it is not about going through all the bookshelves.  It is about slowing down and just reading.  And not just reading to read, but really delving in and being invested to the people and the lives I read about.  This past week I keep having an image of myself as a little girl staying up past my bedtime reading The Boxcar Children in bed.  I can still remember how those books made me feel.  All I wanted was to be in bed reading about the adventures of Henry and Jessie and the other Alden siblings. I craved those stories.  For quite some time now, I have not craved reading like I used to.  I think schooling and being forced to constantly read material that was not always the most riveting created this lack of desire within me.  I also think I became tired.  Reading is more effort than Netflix.  Whatever the reason, I stopped reading for pleasure and I am really missing it.  I want to return to that little girl curled up reading The Boxcar Children.  Reading, along with listening to really great podcasts, fills me up.  It opens up my perspective and feeds my love for words and storytelling.  Reading is good for me, Instagram is not.  So here’s to hoping in 2019 I read more and scroll less.
  4. Invest In Friendships.  We are built for connection.  God intended for us to live in community.  I love community and I love people, but I am learning more and more that I am naturally more introverted.  It takes more internal convincing and pushing to get myself out to meet with friends.  I always leave a phone call, a brunch, a walk with a friend in such a better mood and mindset.  I love connecting.  I long for connection, but I often times forget that this is a need of mine.  This year, I want to be more intentional about having an open schedule and calendar that allows for planned meetings with friends and even last-minute ones (because sometimes these impromptu meetings are the most important ones).  Friendship is a gift of God.  He is so kind to place people in our lives that make us laugh and make us better.  I never want to be too busy to take the time to invest in the friendships I already have and reach out to make new ones as well.  This year one of my hopes is to be slow to say no when it comes to friends and connection.
  5. Take Sabbath More Seriously. Recently, I have been extremely convicted in not taking the Sabbath as seriously as I should.  When I was running in college, I used to be annoyed that our coach always had long runs on Sundays.  The longest run of the week was on the day that was meant for rest.  I felt like I could not fully practice a Sabbath when I was running 12 miles at 7am on Sunday morning.  Now I am no longer tied to this obligation of Sunday long runs, yet still I find myself not fully embracing the Sabbath.  I still find myself scrambling to get things done even on a Sunday.  I am not fully satisfied with the work that I have done, so feel like I still need to get a few loose ends taken care of.  This is not the Lord’s desire for us.  If even the Lord needs the seventh day to rest, how much more I need it.  He does not care how clean our house is by Sunday; he wants us to rest regardless the state of our home or the length of our to-do list.  So much of my days and weeks are filled with obligations and things I must do, I really want to strive towards using the 6 days of the week in more intentional ways that will open up my Sundays so I can really have no agenda other than church and small group.

Did you notice that word open pop-up in each of the 5 intentions?  2019, my hope and prayer is that I can live out these intentions, not with obligation or pressure, but with joyful willingness because I know these things will allow me to ultimately be more open to your will in my life.

 

To Take a Hike

This mama needs to take a hike.  I will explain the hike part later, but first thing to know is that today is New Year’s Day.  January 1st, 2019.  I am a fan of New Year’s.  I love goal setting and dreaming up big plans for the next year.  I love the chance to start new patterns and fix old ones.  I love cleaning and organizing and putting away all the christmas decorations.  I also love reflecting on the past year and taking the time to really examine it.  This morning as I put out my new, blue and floral planner; I flipped through my 2018 planner.  I was instantly drawn in, as I turned the pages of each month and was taken back.  As I paged through, I was struck with a feeling of disappointment.  The months from January-May were covered with events, important to-dos, and meetings.  As I looked through those months, it felt like I was looking at the planner of a different person.  I had forgotten how full my teaching days were.  The calendar for each month had 10 different colors of ink on them, arrows were drawn, and each little box was bursting with words.  By June it was blank.  Of course, June and July had nothing.  Hudson was born.  But then August-December looked so much less important than January-May.  A lot of days, the boxes were blank.  The to-do list section had changed from planning lessons and meeting with parents to cleaning floors and organizing the spice rack.  At first when I saw these differences in calendars this morning, I felt unimportant.  Do my days matter as much as they used to?  This is a terribly sad question to ask and I think it makes the Lord feel sad too because I know deep down that He loves me with a great love that is absolutely unrelated to what I do.  He loves me because I am His daughter.  I am clothed in Christ.  His love has nothing to do with how full my calendar looks or how busy and important I appear on paper.  Thankfully I have a husband that can also point me to this truth and pull me away from the lies that I so often fall trapped in.  This is where the hike part comes in.

We hiked at Will Rogers today.  When I say we, I am also including everyone else that chose to hike on New Year’s Day.  I guess that is a thing.  It was the most crowded I have ever seen it.  Anyway, our hike started rocky.  Actually, our day started rocky.  I let that calendar comparison eat away at me.  I let the lies of “I am not enough” take over.  I let it affect what was supposed to be a happy hike to start off 2019.  I even suggested to Lance that he should just go without me and I can suffer alone in the freezing house (heater is broken).  I can be very dramatic.  Despite my sour attitude, we managed to leave the house.  We were warmed up by the heat of the car.  It is amazing how being extra cold can affect your outlook.  As my freezing hands and toes began to thaw, I felt better.  When I had hot peach blossom tea in my hands from Alfred’s, I felt even better.  As we drove through the beautiful Brentwood neighborhoods and dreamed about our future, I felt light and happy.  However, when we got out of the car and began our hike, it was freezing again and that poor attitude again so quickly returned.  I find it amazing how quickly I forget.  How quickly I turn away back into my sin.  It is scary.  Sin is scary.  This is just another reason why we so desperately need Jesus.  While we almost turned around, we kept walking.  Once on the trail, Lance suggested we both say what we are thankful for.  At that point, he was hoping to salvage what was left of our New Year’s hike.  At first, I did not want to.  I did not feel like it.  But, I could see he was just trying to turn things around so I went.  I told him that I was thankful for him.  For loving me despite the fact that I can make it really hard sometimes.  Then he went.  He told me he was thankful for me.  For the fact that I stay at home with Hudson and care for him.  He told me how much it means to him and how he knows it can get overlooked and not feel as important but that he sees all that I do.  This hit my heart in such a raw way because it was exactly what I needed to hear.  It released tears because all morning I was crying out to be seen and heard through my poor attitude and Lance (through the Holy Spirit) fed me the words my soul thirsted for.   It took away the lies that my 2018 planner told me.  I went on to explain to Lance how I had been feeling and my experience with the planner earlier that morning.  And again he gave me another truth.  He told me all that I do with Hudson, those types of things cannot be put down in a calendar or in a to-do list. This does not make them unimportant.  This again spoke so directly to my heart.  I was taken to all the late night nursings, the holdings, the shushings, the soothings, the playing, the changing of diapers and outfits, and all of the loving.  Those things cannot be put on a planner.  They typically are not what we write down in our to-do lists for the day, but that absolutely does not take away from their great importance.

I needed that hike today.  Actually, like always, I needed Jesus.  It just so happened that Jesus spoke through Lance on that hike, so I guess I needed all three.  For those of you who also were in a funk at the start of the New Year, I hope these words can encourage you that the shaky start does not need to define your 2019.  I hope that you can see through my sin and silliness, that grace can enter in just a moment when you least expect it and that hike you thought was going downhill can actually be the very thing that starts your year off in the best possible way.

 

To Leave the Laundry

This mama needs to leave the laundry.  I am a list-type of person.  I easily become unfocused and overwhelmed when I don’t have a list to direct my day.  Even if I don’t have a physical list on paper, I feel like I am constantly carrying around a mental list in my head.  I am currently learning that I am writing these lists in all the wrong ways.  While there is nothing inherently wrong with a to-do list, if that list is not composed correctly or with enough breaks and rest and joy, that list is going to leave you burned out.  The way I write out my lists is that I think of all the practical things that need to get done.  Regardless of what day it is, I can almost guarantee that there will be dishes in the sink and dirty laundry in the basket.  These two tasks seem to be never-ending.  Once I list these things out, I tack on the things that really bring me joy, like writing this blog, reading my new copy of Homebody, and working on a scrapbook of Hudson’s first year, to the very end of the list.  I do this almost every day and the same thing happens nearly every day.  I don’t get to the things that truly fill me up and bring me joy.  The result? I end my days feeling exhausted, burned out, and ironically unproductive.  By doing the things that I have to do, I end not feeling as fulfilled or even as productive because the projects that really energize are left untouched.  While the kitchen is usually pretty tidy and laundry never sits in the basket untouched for very long, the scrapbook project I began sits in the corner of our bedroom neglected.  The books I’ve been looking forward to reading have piled up.  The empty room I have been looking forward to converting to a playroom gathers dust.

All this to conclude that I need to restructure how I write out my lists.  I need to start putting some of the things that really bring me joy at the top of my lists not at the very bottom.  I need to be more intentional about writing in things like pause, rest, play.  I need to be okay with occasionally leaving the laundry and instead picking up that book.  I need to fully let go of this false notion that in order to do the fun, fulfilling, and restful things; I must first accomplish the mundane and necessary things of life.  While the laundry of course must be done and the dishes must be put away and the dinners must be made; it is not always as urgent as I make it out to be.  Laundry can pile up for one more day.  Dishes can sit over night.  Dinner can come out later and be more simple.

The irony in all of this, is that I am still in the midst of learning this lesson for myself.  I have begun this post over a week ago.  I have been interrupted multiple times in writing this.  What were the interruptions? Laundry, a baby, dinner.  I know deep in my heart what I long for and could actually use, but I still do the things I feel are the priority.  I am still learning, but hopeful that I can slowly let go of the “have to’s” in order to embrace the “love to’s”.

6 Lessons in the First 6 Months of Motherhood

Two Saturdays ago Hudson turned 6 months!  I really cannot believe he is already half a year.  These past 6 months have been filled with so much joy, but to be fully honest, these past few months have also been a real challenge.  Motherhood has already been so much harder than I was expecting; however, it also has been even more beautiful that I ever could have dreamed up.  The Lord has been doing some major heart work within me through this early part of motherhood and I wanted to list out the six biggest lessons He has taught me so far.

6 lessons learned by a new mother in her first 6 months postpartum

1. Plan for the Unexpected

Lance and I are big planners.  We plan mostly everything.  We plan out our meals each week.  We plan out vacations.  We plan out when we will workout. We plan things out.  We like it.  I think mostly because it gives us a sense of control.  So, when we started hearing about the importance of making a birth plan, we made one.  We had it nicely laid out in a Google Doc and made multiple copies to give our parents, the doctor, and the nurses.

 Even though everyone kept telling me to not be too attached to my plan, I could not help but think that my birth would at least mostly go with the plan that was neatly typed up.  Sure, there might be a couple things that would or would not happen, but all the major things like a vaginal birth, that would have to happen.  C-section was definitely a word that we did not type up, but that ended up being our reality.  

After nearly 40 hours and Hudson’s heart rate dropping, I had to have a C.  This was my first reality check that they were right.  You cannot be too attached to your plans.  Delivering Hudson in an OR was not how I pictured it.  I was picturing using all the lamaze breathing I learned in class.  I was picturing breathing in the lavender essential oils lofting out of the diffuser we brought.  I was picturing pushing and laboring and sweating.  Instead I was cut open.  This of course was not the plan.  

I was initially disappointed about it.  This was my very first taste of motherhood and it was not what I expected, not what I imagined.  But, in the whole scheme of things, it did not matter.  Hudson was born healthy.  He was beautiful.  And while he was delivered by C-section, I will forever remember the very moment I heard him cry.  I have never felt so much joy and relief.  The C was the first lesson.  Then, came breastfeeding.

2. Breastfeeding Is Not Always Natural

I also had a picture of what nursing Hudson for the first time would be like.  I wasn’t necessarily picturing rainbows and butterflies but I was picturing a special moment where he actually latched on and wanted milk.  This did not happen for me.  And I felt like the biggest failure.  Just about an hour into motherhood and the one thing that I am actually supposed to do for my newborn baby, I can’t.  I was not expecting to feel like a failing mom within just an hour.  

Nursing was not what I expected.  

Our story with it was really challenging and stressful and time consuming.  I would spend at least an hour per feeding trying to get him to nurse and usually we both ended in tears.  While all of this is behind us and now I really do treasure the moments of nursing, it was definitely not always like this.  While I heard it would be hard, I also heard story after story about how beautiful and wonderful it is.  It was not wonderful for me.  It was painful.  

Physically, I was engorged which was way more painful than I had ever heard it would be.  I literally had lumps in my arms pits that were clogged milk ducts.  I could barely lie on my side.  It was that painful.  

Emotionally, I have never felt so rejected.  This baby that I loved so deeply, would become so frantic when I tried to nurse him. It was more than just him not latching, to me it seemed like he did not want me. He screamed and turned his head.  While looking back, I know there were so many factors that caused this reaction, but at the time I could not help but feel rejected and like a failure.  

I also was very much unprepared for how demanding and draining breastfeeding would be for the first couple months.  I did not even go to a breastfeeding class because I assumed it would come naturally.  That was my first mistake.  Besides the actual breastfeeding itself, there are so many rules when it comes to storing milk, pumping schedules, re-heating milk.  You can’t microwave the milk, you can’t shake it, you can’t give your baby the same bottle that they drank from earlier.  This might seem obvious to some but I literally had no idea.  

I unfortunately let the dark cloud of breastfeeding fully take over the first few weeks home with our little Hudson.  I wish I did not do this.  I was fully consumed with the mission of figuring out this nursing thing that I missed some of those tender first moments.  My days were good if I was able to actually nurse Hudson and they were bad when I was plugged into my pump for the entire day.

 All this to say, breastfeeding is hard.  And it is wonderful.  But it is especially hard those first few weeks.  If I could change anything about this particular part of my experience, it would be to fill those weeks with so much more grace.  Grace when I had to give him another bottle of pumped milk. Grace when I had to use a nipple shield for literally 4 months.  Grace when I felt like I should be like all those other moms that seem to be able to nurse their babies with such ease.  

I was so hard on myself, but the Lord was so tender with me.  Around 3 and a half months, I was reaching a breaking point.  Up to this point, I still could only nurse with a nipple shield. I never thought I could hate a tiny piece of silicon more than I hated that shield. I was embarrassed and so tired of feeling like I needed a crutch.  In my prayers one morning, I very specifically asked the Lord to allow me to not need this anymore. Two weeks later, after 4 months of needing this shield, Hudson no longer needed it.  The Lord was so tender and kind to me in the way he answered this prayer.  I really wish I was more reliant on His ever-sufficient grace much earlier than 4 months.

3. Allow Others to Help

For some reason, the moment we got home with Hudson, I felt like I needed to jump right into being the perfect stay at home mom. I also felt like I had to do everything on my own.  I kept telling myself that Lance will be leaving for work soon, so I needed to get used to doing things on my own.  Within the first couple weeks, I was already doing things like holding carseats and lifting them from the car to the stroller.  I just had major surgery and my hormones were going crazy, but still I felt like I needed to hold it all together.

 I was worrying about so much those initial first couple weeks when I really should have just been resting and soaking in the time with sweet Hudson.  I really wish I leaned more into the help I was offered. I wish I took more naps.  I wish I asked for even more dinners made.  It is okay to get help. It is especially okay when you just had a baby.  I really wish I enjoyed this season more where people were willing and happy to serve our family.  Instead of feel like a burden or super needy, I wish I just reveled in the help.  

The other major lesson in here is that it is okay if one day the only thing that gets done is feeding and loving over a baby.  I would and still feel like a failure when it feels like I did not produce any measurable outcomes except a happy baby (depending on the day) and maybe some folded laundry.  This is more of a lesson I am still in the process of learning, but I am working on being okay with this.  Certain days the house will be a mess, dinner will only be half made, Hudson will not be napping, and it will be okay.  I simply cannot do it all and I need help.  

I am so thankful for friends bringing over meals, all our family spending so much time with us at the house, and especially my mom and sister coming over nearly every morning so I could leave the house or just rest.  I am also thankful for medical help like the advice and guidance I received from doctors and lactation consultants.

 I am one that really hates asking for help.  The perfect example is when I try to buckle the back of the ergo carrier.  I don’t know how some people make it look so easy.  I still struggle with this, but my own stubbornness prevents me from just asking for help.  This results in just looking silly for a few minutes with both arms behind my back when I could have just gotten the help I needed immediately.  But is this not how we live?  We choose to look like fools frantically scrambling to do it for ourselves rather than humbly admit our need.  Well here I am, finally admitting that I need help. Please help!

4. The Newborn Season is Fleeting

It is amazing what a month brings.  I think this is one piece of wisdom I wish someone had more directly spoken to me.  Those first two months were real hard.  Like melting down on bathroom floor hard. It was two months filled with emotional waves, uncertainty and deep anxiety. I was struggling to feel happy and myself.  I was not fully myself.  While those first two months were some of the very hardest, I am amazed how quickly things did get better.

 The amount of growth and development babies go through is amazing.  From two months to four months, Hudson had become so much more predictable, attentive, and happy.  It was four months in that I could feel some of the heaviness lift.  The anxiety was slowly beginning to fade.  I was beginning to feel so much more confident with this new role as mom.  

Those first four months, I would look out into the world and see all these moms doing all the things and I felt like I was no where close to getting to that point.  I would see moms out with the stroller and the dog and I was amazed.  I was so nervous to walk by myself with an 80-pound golden that is overly excited and a baby.  Now, I don’t think twice about it and love getting out of the house with Nala and Hudson.  I am pretty certain that the person I was in July would not even recognize the mom that I have become within just a few short months.  I did not know this in July and I think this would have made all the difference. It felt like July would be the picture of what our entire year would look like, but it turns out that November and December look nothing like July and August.

5. Getting Outside is Essential 

 Within just a week, I put a pressure on myself that I had to go out and do things with Hudson.  I wish we didn’t go out as much early on.  I think in ways I was not fully ready.  While early on, I felt an eagerness to go out into the world, I am finding as the months go on and as I become even more tired, I am more inclined to just stay inside.  However, I am learning how important and helpful it can be to just go.  To leave the house even on the days where you don’t fully want to.  Sometimes, it is those days that getting out of the house can be the most beneficial.  

Especially recently, I can’t even think of a time where we went out and I regretted it.  It usually is the opposite.  I come back home with new perspective, new connection, and new energy.  I am learning that it can be really easy to convince yourself that you should not go, that you should just stay home.  I have been there.  The voices of doubt start to creep in.  I am already late.  Hudson just spit up all over himself.  He is screaming crying as I put him in his carseat.  It is often in these moments, where I wonder is it worth it?  From my experience so far, it almost always is worth it.  Even if it is the smallest outing, it can really change the day to get out.  I have let the what if’s control my day.  What if Hudson cries the whole time?  What if people think I’m a bad mom?  What if I can’t get him into the carrier properly?  These questions and doubts would prevent and sometimes still do prevent me from just going out, living, and being okay if things did not go perfectly.  

I am learning, there have been very few times that I have gone out and it was a perfect experience.  Usually something happened.  He had a blowout.  He refused to sit in stroller.  He cried in yoga class.  I think of each of those situations and if I let the what if rule my decision and chose to stay inside instead, I would have been missing out.  I would have missed out on that beautiful run we had together on the strand.  I would have missed the connection with a great friend.  I would have missed seeing the way he smiled when him and all the other babies danced with their moms at the end of class.  Things will happen when you go out.  Some good and some not so good, but without going, you are potentially missing out on something really beautiful.

6. You Were Made for This

There have definitely been those days where I wondered am I really cut out for this?  I wondered if that tugging on my heart to be a mom was accurate.  Did I hear God wrong?  Is this my calling?  But even on those days of doubt, I am daily reminded that I am made for this.  The Lord has perfectly equipped me to be mother to Hudson.  I am made for motherhood because I am made by Him.  He has crafted my heart in such a way that has prepared me for both the joys and challenges of being a mom.  I am thankful for those quiet moments alone with Hudson.  The way he looks at me right before he falls asleep.  The way he sleeps in my arms as I rock him in the glider. It is these little moments, these quiet ones that show me there is no place I would rather be than right here with him.

So if you also are experiencing these days of doubting and questioning your role as mom, remember this simple truth: you were made for this, mama.

A Heart Fill Up

This mama needs a heart fill up.  My heart was low this week.  It was in need of a fill up.  Just like the way I drive my car, my heart is often on empty while I keep pushing through the miles without taking the time to do what I really need…fill up! I am not sure what it was.  Maybe it was the after-Thanksgiving rush.  The Black Friday and Cyber Monday push to consume and save.  Maybe it was all the Christmas decor messily spread throughout our home.  Maybe it was the fact that I have a baby that refuses to sleep through the night.  Regardless of the exact reason, I felt slow this week.  I felt unproductive.  And mostly, I felt plain tired.  Mondays are my clean-up days.  On Mondays, I mostly regroup from the weekend rush and get the house back in order. Sweeping up all of Nala’s golden hair, dusting, reorganizing, folding laundry.  This Monday none of that seemed to happen.  So the rest of the week I felt behind and questioned how it seems like I only seem to be able to take care of Hudson and make dinner in a full day when most people are out in the world being productive and busy and important. These are the lies I tell myself.

On Thursday, I got my much needed fill up.  The rain almost stopped me from getting what I really, truly needed, but thankfully it did not.  Thursday was the day I went to visit my students at the school I taught the past two years at.  The night before when I looked over the weather forecast, I thought to myself, if it is rainy really hard in the morning, I will just reschedule.  And it was rainy really hard in the morning.  The easy thing would have been to just choose another day.  The students did not even know I was coming.  Just my one teacher friend knew.  While this was the easier thing to do, I really felt God tugging on my heart to go.  So I went.  While I was stuck in rainy LA traffic and had a screaming 5 month-old in the back of my car, I questioned if I heard God correctly.  But I kept driving.  When I pulled up to the school, it began to come down even harder.  I quickly wrapped my oversized scarf over my head, draped a blanket over Hudson’s carseat and ran towards the school’s entrance.  I felt slightly crazy. Why was I doing this?  But literally right when I pulled open the metal gate, two students called out “Mrs. Capel!” and ran towards me, grabbing Hudson, and helping me get out of the rain.  It was right when I heard that “Mrs. Capel” that I knew I heard Him right. This was where I was supposed to be on this rainy Thursday morning.

From that moment on, I was filled up with so much love.  It came in the form of hugs, smiles, and “we miss you so much”.  In a lot of ways, I have not missed teaching.  I have not missed the tremendous stress, the endless grading, the repeated disciplining.  However, I have absolutely missed them.  They were absolutely the very best part of my job and I miss them daily.  I miss them so much that I do sometimes wonder if it made sense to leave the school.  But then I look at my sleeping baby on the monitor as I type this and I know I made the right decision.  I miss all of my students so much, but I know I would miss even more this precious time I get with my little Hudson and for that I am very grateful.  I am learning that you simply cannot have it all or do it all.  I wish I could.  But I can’t.  I think I will always be in a season where I will be missing something or someone.  And that is okay.  While it is okay and even good to miss what we no longer have, I hope that I never miss things too much; that I prevent myself from soaking in all the good things I do have.  Because there is a lot of good to be soaked in.

I left that Thursday afternoon, with my heart filled to the brim.  I drove away feeling so thankful I went. So thankful for all of those kids I got to teach. And so thankful for Hudson.  Sometimes we need fill ups.  Actually, daily we need fill ups. I daily forget who I am.  I daily need to be reminded of the promises of God in scripture.  Because the reality is the world is hard and messy and not always pretty; and each day the chaos of the day can cause me to forget who I am in Christ.  This daily fill up typically comes in the form of reading my Bible, praying, and being alone.  I am a fan of being alone.  But, I am learning that being with good people also is a big source of encouragement, energy, and love for me.  Thursday was full of good people and rain.  I am thankful for both.  And I am thankful I listened to those whispers to go out.

To Believe She Can

This mama needs to believe she can.  I have always struggled with self-doubt.  I am not pretty enough, fast enough, smart enough, bold enough.  I can’t run that fast— I am not strong enough.  I can’t possibly get that job position—I am not qualified enough.  The not enoughs and cannots have been running through my inner dialogue for years now.  In some ways this inner voice of self-doubt has created a character of humility (at times, but of course I also am not humble enough).  But in a lot of ways this internal voice of mine has really beaten myself up.  It seems to show up the most when it comes to running.  In high school, I really loved running.  I had a coach I looked up to and teammates that pushed and encouraged me.  I was on a really great team and for most of my time in high school, I was anywhere from the 7th to 4th runner.  In a lot of ways, I thrived in this position.  In cross-country, 7 make a team and 5 score.  One of the things I loved most about the sport is that your 5th runner was just as important as your top runner because even if your top runner won the race, as a team it would be difficult to win if runner number 5 was high in place.  That is why it is so important to have a small gap between runner 1 and 5.  I work best in a runner number 5 position.  On the course and off.  I don’t like the pressure or the responsibility of being the best, but I crave to make a difference and impact.  As a number 5 runner I could do this.  I could still help my team without being the one that everyone had their eyes on at the front.  Something changed when I went to college.  Maybe it was the coach.  Maybe it was a newfound pressure I didn’t have in high school.  Maybe it was me.  The sport I loved slowly became an arena of self-doubt.  I ended high school, on a high.  I no longer was the 5th runner, I was the first.  It turned out I also could be a number one type of runner.  I gained a lot of confidence my senior year as I was running the fastest I ever have.  This confidence for some reason did not seem to translate over when I began running for an NCAA Division I team.  I suddenly felt lost in the fastness, in the talent.  They were so much faster than me.  This self-doubt carried itself over to racing as before races that voice was its loudest. You feel tired.  You feel sore.  You aren’t mentally or physically ready to run that pace.  You can’t hang on to that front pack- they are All-Americans, you are not.  While I still had moments of confidence where I ran well and even surprised myself, each race was an internal battle.  My coach used to always tell me I was not mean enough.  As if my ability to be super competitive in races depended on having to be mean. Throw a few elbow jabs.  Cut a few runners off.  Glare down the competition. This has never been me and I hope it never will be.  It was never a matter of meanness, but more so a need to have a stronger and more firm belief in myself. I had to believe I was fast enough, talented enough, determined enough.

All this to say, I still am not quite there yet. Self-doubt still very much creeps in to my daily dialogue to myself.  As I was running today, I was hit with the all-familiar feelings and nerves I was met with before races.  It feels funny to even say but I am nervous for tomorrow’s turkey trot.  For the past 2 months I have been training with the turkey trot as a goal. By training, I really mean running 3-4 times a week for 30-40 minutes at a pace much, much slower than I ran a few years ago.  No workouts, just squeezing in runs when I could. Whether that be early in the morning before Hudson woke up and Lance left for work or during nap times when Hudson was with his grandparents.  The first few weeks were hard.  I had to quickly come to turns that my body was not the same.  I could no longer roll out of bed and run an 8 miler with ease.  I needed more time, more coffee, more sports bra support.  Things were different now.  But I ran.  It started with running a couple times a week for 2 miles (it felt like 12).  Slowly, very slowly, with each new mile I felt a little stronger.  It was in this place of running not for a coach or really for any particular reason at all, that I have begun to mend my broken relationship with running.  This took weeks, but these past couple weeks, I have enjoyed my runs.  Like actually enjoyed them and craved to be out running again.  My body missed the miles, the steady rhythm, the fresh air.  So just as I am getting into this healthy place with running, I found my brain wandering on my run.  You shouldn’t even get towards the front of the start line.  You are going to go out too fast and blow up.  You haven’t done any true workouts.  You won’t be able to maintain a fast pace.  The voice is back.  All of this sounds and even feels a little silly because it is not like I am running at Nationals tomorrow.  I am running a local turkey trot.  But all this to show, that it doesn’t matter the situation, the voice of self-doubt is real.  But, there is a voice that is greater. Jesus.  This voice of self-doubt I have been referring to is most definitely planted by Satan.  He loves my self-doubt.  Why?  It pulls me away from the truth.  It pulls me away from seeing myself the way Jesus sees me.  It also makes me focus more on myself and less on Jesus.

I need so much grace in this area.  I need grace to fill all these holes of my not enoughs and cannots.  I daily need His grace to remind me that it is not about me. No one cares how I run the turkey trot tomorrow except for maybe Lance.  So tomorrow, I hope to run with confidence. Confidence not in my own abilities or training, but confidence in Him.

UPDATE: Turkey trot ended up being a lot of fun! Did I win? Not even close. Did I die in last mile? Yes.  But, I hit my goal of at least being under 20 minutes. The photo above is our little family post-turkey trot. Even Hudson raced!