Solo Retreat for the Soul

I am alone.  I can literally hear the waves crashing from my little hacienda my husband so kindly rented and gifted me for my Christmas gift this year.  In this place of solitude, you would think I would be rejoicing. You would think I would not have a care in the world and would just be drinking wine and ordering take out and watching all the romantic comedies I could squeeze in.  But here’s the thing: I already miss my family. I feel homesick. And if I am honest, I feel really anxious about being in a new little city all by myself.  

Isn’t it funny how the thing we keep saying we need and want is not actually what we need and want?

 Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly thankful for this opportunity to be alone with the Lord.  I 100% understand the privilege in being able to have the resources and life situation that allows me to run away for a little on my own.  I am grateful and I do not take this time away lightly at all. In an effort to really use the time well, I even created an hour-by-hour itinerary.

I understand the sacredness in time to be alone with the Lord, and I don’t want to waste a second of it, but again, if I am honest, I let about 45-minutes slip away. I felt nervous, a little scared, and quite frankly, like a fish out of water who has become so accustomed to depending on her family and the safety of her routine and familiar city that she has lived almost 26 years in.

Yet, those 45-minutes have come and gone, and I can feel my heart beginning to settle.  And oh, did I mention I can hear the waves crashing from my window? 

Reminiscing of New York City Days

The funny thing in all this is that 7 years ago, I would have been in my element.  7 years ago, I did most things on my own. I would go to cafés and work for hours on end all by myself.  I would go to sushi and sit at the bar and just eat and watch the sushi chefs chop and roll with such precision. 

When I was 20-years old and was living in NYC for the summer, I spent a lot of time alone. I ran late at night (okay, like 8pm) in Central Park without a fear. Most meals, I ate alone. I rode the subway back and forth with a confidence I didn’t even know I had.

My mind goes back to New York because I can remember how I responded to the type of freedom I had back then. Now, as I have a small taste of that freedom, I can’t help but crave the limitations and the noise and the mess of my actual life.  When you’re in the chaos of early motherhood, it is easy to reminisce about those New York City days. Of late night runs, of solo meals, of endless quiet time.

My Life Right Here, Right Now Is Better

Trust me, it is easy to drift off to this place, but again, here’s the thing, I have been given this lovely day retreat where there is endless quiet time and I can actually have a peaceful restaurant experience and there is no one constantly tugging at my legs, saying “more, more, mommy”.  It is just me.  The crashing waves.  A beautiful little hacienda.  And these words. Yet, my heart is already missing my crazy little boy and my handsome husband that loves me so well.

Oh my life is so full and beautiful.  It is messy, loud, dusty, busy, chaotic, but it is beautiful.  

Part of the reason, I am on this retreat is because Lance knows my heart so well and I have a tendency to wear my heart on my sleeve.  Since the summer, my soul has been struggling. I have been weary and tired and drained. I have felt unimportant and small. My joy has been low.  I have snapped at Hudson, at Lance. I have not been my best self. This time away came out of a clear need and the kindness of my husband. Thanks, Lance!

5 Things My Time Away Taught Me

My soul needed this solo retreat. It reminded me of a few things I have forgotten. It also taught me some new lessons. Whether you yourself are planning a solo retreat or you are in the grind of ordinary life, these takeaways are things that I hope can help you wherever you are.

1. Time Away is Essential 

Whatever our job is, whether we are stay-at-home moms or working moms or work-at-home moms or married without kids, we need time away. This does not make you a bad mom or a selfish wife, it simply makes you human.

It is not always going to look like staying in a hacienda on the ocean by myself, but this time away reminded me that I need to intentionally schedule time away.  This time away could be for just an hour, but I need to do this on a regular basis. It can’t be an hour away of running errands or even of working out.  It needs to be time away intentionally with the Lord. In quiet, in peace.

I realized that I often deem my down time when I escape to Costco by myself or I attend that evening workout class.  Contrary to some, Costco and core class are not life-giving to me. They are good and necessary, but when I am talking about time away, I mean time to really hear the Lord. It is going to be different for every person, but for me I am finding it involves sitting down in a new setting, reading a good book and writing down prayers. 

2. Embrace the  Uncomfortable 

This part was most surprising to me.  I was caught off guard when the initial hours of my retreat felt uncomfortable and fearful.  Like with anything that is outside of your norm, it is likely that initially it will feel weird.  The new job, the new marriage, the new baby, the new home, the new city. Maybe it is just me, but it takes me a while to warm-up to things I am not used to. 

This time away was no different. It felt weird and uncomfortable and I immediately called Lance the moment I entered the doors of the hacienda. I was very, very close to calling off the whole thing and having him and Hudson crash the retreat.  That felt right and familiar and comfortable. And here’s the thing, if I did give in to those feelings, I would have missed out on a really lovely time alone. It would have been great to have them with me, but it would not have been the same.  

Instead of giving in to the uncomfortable, I chose to embrace it.  And I am so glad I did. I heard God clearly for the first time in a while.  I read more than I have in months. For the first time in a long time, I was not worried about someone else.  I had no time constraints: I went on an evening run and I literally just stopped in the middle, went down to a little cove, sat on a rock and watched the sun go down. 

I must admit it felt good to just be. To not worry about getting back at a certain time and starting dinner right at 4pm. This time alone was needed. It allowed me to process and write things down that have been stirring in my heart.  For all those reasons, I am glad I sat in the uncomfortable; I am glad I did not give in to my longings to call off the whole solo aspect and make it just a family thing. 

3. Life with Your People is Always Better 

With all that said about how lovely it was to be alone, my biggest takeaway from my solo retreat was how life is so much better with my people.  It is messier and way louder, and quite frankly, all my sins are much more apparent, but it is my life, my family, and I love it with my whole heart. 

When you are in it, it is easy to daydream to retreats like the one I just had. It is easy to long for hours spent in a café, sipping a latte and reading.  It is easy to wish for just one quiet meal that does not result in food flying everywhere. And it is easy to desire freedom to run and write and watch P.S. I Love You whenever you would like.  It sure is easy, but I am here to tell you that right when I got this freedom, it was not quite as amazing as I pictured. Within the first couple hours I was already missing my family. 

Sure, I got a lot of reading in, wrote down some interesting thoughts, enjoyed a glass of wine as I voraciously flipped the pages, fell asleep to those lovely crashing waves; yet it still does not come close to my actual life.  Life with your people is always better!

4. Some Things are Better Left Unplanned

It should be no surprise that I created an hour-by-hour schedule for my retreat.  This is just how my mind operates. I want to know the plan, even if it is just me and the intention is to relax and get some writing in.  In a lot of ways I am glad I created a schedule, it allowed me to find a really great lunch spot that I likely would not have gone to if I did not plan ahead.  It also allowed me to really use the time wisely.

With my schedule, I got a lot out of my 24 hours away. I made it to a hatha yoga class at 7:30 am, got my eyebrows threaded (which always seems so hard to find the time to do in my ordinary days), listened to so many good podcasts (my favorite one I listened to was about reading the Bible chronologically), had an amazing lunch at Ellie’s Table (if you’re in San Juan Capistrano area, you should go), wrote about my feelings, ran at sunset, ate dinner with my book as company at Pierside, wrote a letter to my husband, talked a whole lot to God, started P.S. I Love You on Netflix and fell asleep to those crashing waves. 

The schedule helped me really use the time wisely, but all those things I listed, only some of them were on the schedule.  Pierside I just wandered into after my run without taking a shower. Weirdly, I scheduled a shower after my run and before dinner, which is so not me, so I just went to dinner with running shoes on and book in hand. The prayer walk on the beach I had scheduled for 1 pm, never happened because I lingered at Ellie’s Table much longer than expected.  But, prayer was scattered all throughout my time it just did not look as neat as a “prayer walk on beach.” Point in all this, is that spending time away intentionally is super important, but be okay with having some gaps and unknowns in your schedule. 
 

5. Things Might Feel the Same

When you do intentional things like this, it is easy to have this hope and even expectation that when you return, things will feel different.  That upon returning, you suddenly will be that patient mom, extra loving wife, and all-together better human being that is much more holy than before she took a solo retreat.  And here’s the thing, I felt the same. I quickly became anxious again as all my responsibilities quickly hit me with one step back into our home. I lost my patience soon after as I said “no” a million times and had to clean throw up off the floor.  But this all goes back to #3. Life is easier when you are away, you are likely going to be appear to be a much more loving and patient person than you actually are, but life is always better with your people.

This retreat did not instantly change me, but God absolutely used the time.  Through the podcasts I listened to, the words I read, the words I wrote, the miles I ran, the prayers, the yoga teacher, the lady that threaded my eyebrows, and those crashing waves, God reminded me of his nearness, he reminded me of how loved I really am, and he reminded me of the great gift and privilege it is to have the beautiful life the Lord has entrusted me with. So while I still struggle with a lot of the same things I did pre-retreat, my vision does feel clearer, my heart feels lighter, and I feel so much gratitude.  

Reflecting on 2019 + Looking Ahead Optimistically to 2020

I am not exactly sure why, but I love these in-between days after Christmas and before the New Year.  In some ways it feels kind of awkward. One big celebration is over, but another one is just a week away, so you don’t really know if you should get back to your normal routine or just wait a few more days.  I love these in-between days partially for these last few savoring days of waiting to fully get into the swing of things. This week is feeling slow and simple and I am quite frankly, loving every second.  

The days before Christmas, even with my intentionality of staying more present and focused, still felt like a scramble this year.  I think this is part of the reason why these slower days after Christmas feel so good and are so necessary.  

Recently, I have been writing a lot about routines.  But today, I want to write about living in a space where those routines are let go of almost entirely.  Routines are necessary, but I am learning this week, that a non-routine week or so is also very necessary.   

This past month I have really been struggling with low energy, low motivation, low everything.  I finally in the past day have felt better, a bit more alive and have a bit more energy to give.  This largely is from these past few days where I have fully let go of my normal routine.  

Since Christmas, I have woken up when I woke up.  I have only gone on runs when I have really felt like it, which has been only a couple times.  I have finally finished my book I started in the fall. I have done a whole lot of sitting on the couch with no agenda.  I have spent time just sitting there and watching Hudson play and my goodness, it has refreshed me. This might sound crazy to you, but I simply do not do things like that.  I have a lot of goals and hopes for 2020, but probably on the top of my list is to have more moments like this; more moments of just sitting and noticing the beautiful, little things of my life.

These past few days, we have gone on lots of walks.  We have picked up doughnuts because it felt like a good idea.  We picked up take out food on our way home from one of these walks (this might sound normal, but we rarely do things like this).  We did not have much on our agenda. I made minestrone soup that filled 2 large containers and this has been the main food in our refrigerator (I have eaten minestrone soup for lunch three days in a row). 

We also put away most of the Christmas decorations and took out our very dry tree. This may sound weird, but I LOVE putting away all the Christmas things. I love Christmas, but I think all the stuff and the decor and needles scattered on our floor start to really weigh on me by the end of the month.  I felt lighter almost instantly after everything was put away. Our house looked so simple and clean and blank. I loved it. My eyes felt like they could rest.  

This may sound all very strange, but these in-between Christmas and New Year’s days have convinced me the power/importance/necessity of living outside of your routine.  Of turning off that 5:30 am alarm and just waking up when you wake up. Of only working out if you really sense that is what your body needs. Of sitting on the couch.  Of minestrone soup that lasts for days. Of doughnuts. Of take-out food. Of leisurely walks.  

These in-between days have been life-giving.  I have gotten more clarity and peace and joy in these days of no routine.  In fact it has been these few non-routine days that are making me want to be back in my normal routine of waking up early and running consistently and actually taking Hudson out to do something.  I am almost ready to get back into the swing of things, but I am still savoring these final 2 days of 2019 to not fully be in it yet. 

I plan on using these last couple days to be a bit more structured, I am actually up early this morning writing and have a run over 6 miles at 8 am.  So clearly some of the strucuture is back, but besides time to write and run, the plan in these next two days is to still keep things quiet and simple and reflective.  

2019 Reflections

In these final days of 2019 (when this publishes it will already be 2020), it is hard to not reflect back on the year as a whole.  It makes it especially helpful if you had something written out at that start of the year.  This is a tangible way to help you reflect on how the year actually went. If you don’t do this already, I highly recommend that you take some time TODAY, and jot down some hopes, some prayers, some goals for 2020.  You can read my thoughts at the start of 2019 here.  

I must warn you that if you take the time to write down your heart for the year to come, you might read it at the end of year with some disappointments.  If you are ambitious at all, it is quite likely that some of your goals for the year did not happen. When I read back on my post from January 2019, I feel a tinge of disappointment when I look at my specific goals.  I laid out 5 specific goals:

  1. Get Up Early
  2. Write Daily
  3. Read Daily
  4. Invest in Friendships
  5. Take Sabbath More Seriously

And here’s the thing.  I feel like I did #1 and #5 very well.  #2-#4 I definitely did, but maybe not as consistently as I would have liked.  Especially #3. Anytime you use the word daily in your goal, you are making it really difficult to follow through.  No, I did not write every single day, nor did I read every single day, but as a whole my year was absolutely marked with more consistent disciplines of rising early, writing, reading, gathering, and resting. And for that I feel like I lived my year well.

Word for the Year

I love to choose a word for the year.  I get it, it is cliche, but there is something really powerful about not just choosing a word but actively and intentionally coming back to it as the months go on.  For that word to be on the forefront of your mind, heart, and prayers. It gets tricky and disappointing when we focus on the minute details of our goals, but it becomes much more encouraging when we focus on the heart and intention of our year as a whole.  

2019 was the year of open for us.

When I reflect back on 2019, I see how my heart has opened up this year and for that I am really thankful. 

The thing with your word being open, is that you might end the year feeling a bit drained and exhausted.  I know that is how I currently feel. This year, I said yes much more than I said no.  

Run a marathon? Yes.

Spontaneously get together with friends? Yes.

Host dinner? Yes. 

Occasionally lead bible study? Yes.

Sign-up for the toddler class? Yes.

Road trip to Arizona? Yes.

New York? Yes.

Hawaii? Of course.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

Lessons the Lord Taught Me in 2019

I am thankful for this openness.  I am thankful for this season to say yes more than I said no.  I am thankful for how much we got to travel and do this year. So different from last year with a newborn. And I am mostly thankful for the way the Lord has helped me to better see who He is shaping me to be this year.  

The thing with 2019 was that there was no big ah-ha moment. There was no big day of delivering a baby or getting married or starting a new job. However, 2019 held a lot of small choices, small decisions, ultimately of saying yes. I will join that. I will do that. I will help out with that. There were lot of miles done in secret. Lots of early mornings of pouring out my heart onto a blog that only a few very kind people read. Lots of talking with God and quite a lot of waiting. These types of years can be hard but they also can be wonderful. It is a time of preparing and pruning and getting ready for what is to come.

2019, you were good, solid, consistent. Lord, you were faithful. You protected, blessed, provided, answered prayers. And I firmly believe that you will continue to reveal your faithfulness in this new year.

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year’s Day! I so appreciate all of you that keep coming back here to This Mama Needs Grace. I look forward to everything that is in store for this little blog of mine in the year and hopefully years to come!

Happy Birthday to Us & Hello Routines!

this mama needs grace blog is one

 Happy Birthday to us!  It has officially been one year since our very first post on This Mama Needs Grace.  On October 19th, 2018, I wrote our very first blog post: “This Mama Needs…”.  Go back and check it out.  Or not, because let’s be honest, it is not the best, but the messaging is solid.  And it still is very much the driving force behind this blog: 

“My prayer is through this blog of grappling through my own ever-present need for Jesus’ abundant grace, that you too can remember that even when it feels like you have nothing together, that God loves you with a crazy love and He showers you with grace in all of your imperfections.”

A year later, and this is still my prayer.  

blogger with toddler son celebrating first year of her mom blog
I came up with a cute idea to get a cupcake at my fav spot, Susie Cakes in celebration of year 1 of tmng! But then life happens & it got smeared in the car, but hey, I tried!

The Beginning

TMNG (this mama needs grace) initially was born because I was drowning.  I was drowning in my tears, drowning in unreasonable pressures I had set around motherhood, drowning in feeling like I was simply not enough.  The transition from working to fully staying at home was a much more difficult than I would have imagined. Since I can remember, I have always wanted to be a mom.  I have dreamed about snack making, playdates, arts and crafts. But then reality hit, and the vision I had of being a stay at home mom was not quite as peachy.  

I quickly realized I needed an outlet.  I needed a place to spill my guts. A place to be fully honest about some of my raw and difficult days as a new mama.  I needed a place to write and remember who I am. I am not just a mom, a wife, a runner. No, I am much more than that…I am His beloved daughter.  I needed to remember this.  

Year 1 Reflection

To be honest, I did not have a ton of goals when TMNG began.  I really just needed a creative project that was for myself. A year ago, I was not in the healthiest place because I was fully consumed in being a “perfect” mom. I barely took time to go on a run or to yoga and I had nothing that made me want to get up early in the morning. My days were consumed with nursing, cleaning, and making dinner. Those things just were not filling me up. I desperately needed a reason to get out of the house to pursue something I was passionate about.  I needed a fill-up and in many ways TMNG was that place for me.

So while this began as very much a personal thing, below is a quick look at what has happened in a year.

Year 1 Stats

  • 70 posts published
  • 98,621 words written
  • 264 post likes
  • 22 comments
  • 124 subscribers

I am not a numbers girl.  I am all about the words, but I also think it is important to occasionally check in with the number side of things.  Those stats in some ways impress me. I am shocked I have written those many words in a year of very much working on this thing part-time.  I am also shocked I have actually stayed with it and have been for the most part pretty consistent. This I am proud of!

In terms of comments and followers, well, we are small, but after a year of writing, creating, posting, and dreaming; I firmly believe this is just the beginning.  TMNG might be small right now, but I have this beautiful vision of what it can become so I will not stop. I feel God in this, so I will keep writing. When He tells me to stop, I will, but now is not the time.  

5 lessons learned from first year blogging

A Year of Growth

Within this year, I have written on all types of things.  From losing my grandmother to returning to running to mom routines to traveling to lessons in motherhood.  TMNG has been a place for me to ramble about the current state of my heart. It really has come to hold a lot of the hard things that have happened this year (saying good-bye to my grandma and dealing with anxiety as a new mother) to a lot of the really exciting moments (running a sub-3 marathon, celebrating 4 years of marriage, celebrating Hudson’s first birthday).  TMNG is more than just another mom blog.  It is the home place of all my crazy ideas and emotions wandering in my head and heart.  It is my open-diary for myself; my open-letter to you.  

This past year, TMNG has been a bit all over the place, trying to really figure out who we are.  We took on different subjects, styles, and formats. From super short posts to extremely long 2,500 word posts; from no pictures to pictures embedded everywhere. We have had a lot of different looks and held all types of content: lists, tips, reflections, letters. Through this year, we have grown a lot and it feels like we are finally beginning to understand our voice and purpose.

Looking Ahead

After a year of figuring out exactly who we are, we think we know.  Kind of. TMNG is changing and evolving. TMNG is still going to be the home base for my emotions and ideas to wander freely, we are just taming it up a bit. 

For year 2, TMNG will become your destination spot for all things…ROUTINES. Yes. Routines, schedules, healthy habits. And not just any routines. Simple ones.  Not overwhelming or more complicated than your life before routines. Simple and accessible ones you can start adding to your life TODAY.  The focus will be on routines revolved around the morning, quick cleaning, fitness, devotional time, meal prep, and toddlers (because that is currently where we are at over here at the Capel home).

These routines are specifically curated for not just anyone, but for the busy mama on-the-go. 

this mama needs grace blog is for the busy mom on the go

Busy mama, we see you, and this one’s for you.  

Starting next week, join us every Thursday for new content that will be geared towards providing you with specific ideas and tips on how to make different aspects of your life into a routine.  We will be talking about ALL sorts of things (working out, marriage, cleaning, dinner time), but it will all be through the lens of how to make that thing into a routine. A pattern. A thing you don’t even think about, you just do it.  

We Love Routines, You Too?

If you can’t tell, we are big fans of routines, and believe routines are the key to happier, healthier, and more productive mamas.  Mom life, especially new mom life is EXHAUSTING.  Without systems in place, it is easy to feel like you are drowning in all the responsibilities on your plate.  The thing we love about routines is that it not only is something that allows for you to be more productive, it ultimately frees up chunks of time for you to do the things that fill you up.  It allows for you to start taking the time to go to that Tuesday workout class every week, or consistently work on that side hustle you have been dreaming up for years.  It allows you to finally step into your calling and ultimately, to find CONFIDENCE in your new life as a mama. 

Not to mention, routines benefit not just us as mamas, it benefits the entire family, specifically the little humans we are raising. Check out this really interesting article that presents research that draws a link between family routines with children that are more socially and emotionally healthy. Once you start diving into the research and numbers, routines become more than a nice option for those people that are well-organized and enjoy planning. No, routines, are necessary for all of us! And as the article points out so well, routines do not mean your days are always super strict and rigid. There is flexibility, which we talk about in future posts.

So are you in, mama?  Click the button below to instantly join our community, get email reminders when a new post drops, and as a special gift to say thanks, we will send you one of our fav weekly checklists to make sure you are getting all the important things DONE! See you next week! 



 

 

4 Lessons in 4 Years of Marriage

Four years ago today I married my very best friend.  And I know that is a cliché that is easy to type up and sounds nice and cute, but I truly mean it.  Before we even started dating or got engaged or got married or had a beautiful baby boy, he was first just a good friend.  He was my favorite person to spend hours at coffee shops with. My favorite person to carpool with to church. I am so thankful that before any of the love began to form, that God was knitting a friendship between our hearts that was built on His perfect love.  This bond built on our shared love of good coffee, running, God, and poetry began in coffee shops as friends. It began with carpooling to church. It began with editing each other’s poems for Maclay’s class. 

Marriage is beautiful, but it also is a lot of hard work.  It takes intentionality, dedication, sacrifice, and humility.   And becoming parents only makes it harder. In a lot of ways, becoming parents has brought us closer than we ever have been, but I would be absolutely not telling the truth if I were to say it was all roses the entire first year with Hudson.  In those early days with Hudson, I was not myself. I cried, yelled, and fought. It wasn’t Lance I was mad at it, but he was the one that was right there to take it. The truth is when you both are living on very minimal sleep and most of your time is dedicated to nursing and worrying about your little one, your marriage will likely take a back seat.  I am thankful that pretty early on in Hudson’s life, we realized that we needed to be even more intentional about putting our marriage first in this particular season. That is where the phrase: I love you more than Hudson, less than God; was born. I am no marriage expert, but I would have to think that part of the reason certain marriages end after all the kids have moved out is because the loves got reordered.  Somewhere along the way the love for the child outweighed the love for the spouse. And through this reordering, love for God, also seemed to fall in ranking. As I type this, I am praying right now, that the loves in my heart can stay in order. I pray to first and foremost, love God the most. Then, Lance. And then, sweet Hudson Boy and any other future children we may have. 

Even though we are just a few years in, these past years have taught me a lot.  Again, our marriage is by no means perfect, but I am proud of who we are becoming and this team we have become.  I look forward to (God Willing) the many, many years ahead and the lessons that will come with it. I would love to be still writing this blog in 46 years and be able to share a “50 lessons in 50 Years of Marriage” post, but for now we are at 4.  So here are my four major lessons I have learned in our first four years of marriage:

 

1. Prioritize Time Together

It was our three year anniversary that we began a new Friday tradition of sharing our rose, bud, and thorn of the week.  While it has not always been on Friday, we have been very consistent with carving out this weekly time and for us, it has been incredibly helpful.  As life continues to get more full and busy, it is essential to have a time every week where we can hit pause and stop and talk about the good, the hopeful, and the hard.  I feel so thankful that we started this weekly rhythm because while it’s sad to admit, I think if we didn’t start this, I would have missed out on knowing the heart of my husband.  I would have missed out on knowing how the small things that happened that week, like a day at the beach, was the rose of his entire week. I would have missed out on knowing why he came home so tired and the true reason we seemed to keep fighting.  I would have missed out on knowing his dreams, ambitions and hopes. While I am sure some of this stuff would have come up over dinners or outings, I don’t think it would have been as clear. It would have been paired with Hudson throwing food everywhere or with other people and noises and distractions. If you don’t intentionally set a weekly and monthly time for just the two of you, it is likely not going to happen.  Just like all good things, it takes planning and prioritizing.

2. Be Clear with Expectations 

It was just a few months after our first anniversary that we had one of our major fights that revolved around cheap wine.  My parents had given Lance and I a pizza cooking lesson. I was really excited for this date and had all these expectations of how the evening would go in my head.  In this cooking lesson you were able to bring your own bottle of wine to sip on as you flipped pizzas in the air and knotted garlic knots. I asked Lance to pick up a bottle of wine for us at Trader Joe’s for us to bring.  I didn’t tell him about any of the expectations I had. I didn’t tell him type or price tag or that I was expecting something a little bit nicer than normal. I just said wine and like the good husband Lance is, he did just that. He bought wine: 2 buck chuck.  Absolutely nothing wrong with 2 buck chuck, but it was not in line with my expectations for that night. To me, that pizza lesson was a special night for us and I wanted something a bit more special. I also was much more immature back then and cared about how people would perceive us if we brought cheap wine to a fancy cooking lesson.  It’s sad, but this wine fiasco made me cry and fight with him basically the entire day leading up to the lesson. I can still remember showing up to the kitchen with red rings around my eyes from crying all day. Thinking back, this feels so small and stupid, but I think if a lot of us our honest, the bulk of our fights are over the small and stupid.  If I had just clearly told Lance, my expectations I had for the wine he bought, none of the 2 buck chuck drama would have occurred. Sometimes all it takes is being incredibly clear. Can you please pick up a bottle of wine that is in-between the 15-30 dollar mark, preferably a Cabernet and if it has a cute label that made you think of me, that would also be a nice touch.  Be clear.  He can’t read your mind. 

3. Cheer Each Other On

One of the many reasons I love the sport of cross-country is because it is such a team sport.  I love how the 5th runner is just as important as the first. I also love that you can set goals for the whole team, but you also have your own individual goals of place and time.  I think in a lot of ways, a good marriage functions like a cross-country team. As a team, Lance and I have a lot of major, shared goals: kids, travel, home, running. Individually, we also have our own goals.  We have our own passions and career goals. This is so important and healthy! When Lance started his first company, I wish I could say I was the most supportive wife, but unfortunately I was not. I was resentful that he got to pursue his passion, while I was left dealing with the stressful job of teaching and was knee deep in essays to grade and behavior issues.  I did not do a very good job at cheering him on. And I regret this. Part of the reason I struggled to fully cheer on my husband was because I was fully consumed with work and was not pursuing any of my own passions. Currently, our marriage feels super healthy and I think that is largely to do with the fact that we both are pursuing our passions outside of work. Not only do we each have our own side projects we are working on, we also just wrapped up training for a marathon together.  This shared goal of completing our first marathon and qualifying for Boston definitely brought us closer together. As I mentioned in my last post on the marathon, it was an amazing feeling to literally be cheering each other on as we passed each other on the bridge.

4. Pray Together (Even When You Don’t Feel Like It) 

They say you shouldn’t go to sleep mad at each other.  I can see the benefit in this, but to be fully honest, sometimes sleep is what is needed for us to resolve an argument the next morning.  We have found that when we do try to resolve something before bed, it often just becomes worse. For us, the phrase that makes more sense is don’t go to sleep without praying together.  Lance prays aloud for us every single night. We have done this from the very beginning of our marriage. The key here is to do this regardless of how you are feeling. If it was up to me and my heart, there would have been many nights where praying together would not have happened due to my own pride and selfishness.  When I am mad, my gut reaction is to turn my back and disengage. When I am mad, praying together is the last thing I want to do. The Lord knew what He was doing when he gave me Lance as a husband. Lance has this amazing ability to do the right thing even when his emotions tell him otherwise. Even on the nights when I turn my back and give him the silent treatment, he flips me over, takes my hand out of my firm angry, arm cross and prays for us.  How thankful I am for a husband that ignores my stubbornness and still is persistent in prayer.  

Happy 4 years, LMC! I am so thankful for our marriage and this beautiful life we are building together.  

On Kindness

“I can’t believe you are running in the bike lane,” she grumbled to me as I flew past her. I can’t believe, I am faster than you on a bike, I wanted to say, along with a few other mean things that would of surely just caused a more righteous anger on her part. I wanted to explain to her I was running a workout. I wanted to tell her I was currently struggling to keep up my pace and could really use some words of encouragement. I wanted to tell her that I did this all the time and I am always careful, cautious, and respectful. I wanted to question her and ask why I couldn’t be on bike path when I was clearly going a faster pace than her on the bike. I mostly wanted to shake my head and say why are you so angry? But instead of all this, I smiled, I waved, and I laughed.

The thing with kindness is that it is not always the easier choice, but I have found it is always the right one. It is the one that actually holds the power to change, transform, and teach. It would of been so easy for me to yell back at this unreasonable lady that in many ways was out of line with making that type of comment; however, that would of done nothing. It would only justify in her mind that I deserved to be reprimanded. Kindness is untouchable. She was angry and rude, and I gave her back laughter. There is nothing she can do with that. It stops the situation in its tracks. The truth is, my tongue cannot always be trusted. It is enslaved to sin and pride. If I allowed myself to speak, it would have been mean and unkind, I guarantee it. So I kept silent and I laughed and smiled. I then preceded to go down to the strand that is designated for bikes and runners. The funny thing is that she followed me and passed me as I recovered and got ready for my last set: 2 minutes, all out pace. As I began this final set, she was about 100 meters ahead. I was no longer racing the clock, I was chasing her down. Before this little encounter, I was dying, ready to be done with this painful workout, but thanks to this lady, I found a new gear. I sprinted. I flew. I felt unstoppable. And I passed her. I wanted to again say so many things, like, I can’t believe your riding so slow, but again I looked at her and smiled and then kept running.

Kindness is always better. It is always the more powerful sword. The fact is not everyone is going to like you. Not everyone likes a fast girl. Not everyone will understand you. Let’s just be real honest, would that lady have made the comment if I was running that fast, but was a man? I’m not sure, but part of me wonders if she would have. I think maybe not. This makes me sad. I long to be the gal that doesn’t shake her finger, but instead cheers, claps, encourages with loads and loads of kindness. As that lady looked at me and said, “I can’t believe…” I truly thought she was going to say, “I can’t believe how fast you are going! Way to go!”. Kindness is simply not always on the forefront of our lips. It does not always come naturally. It is far easier to critique, question, put down. Especially in those moments where we feel threatened.

Kindness can be even more difficult in those moments where we feel wronged. I have recently been delving into the enneagram. Like nonstop listening and learning about all nine of the numbers. I go back and forth on which number I am, but I am pretty sure I am a 2. The helper. A large part of me didn’t want to be this number. I am not that good. I am selfish, lazy, and not always willing to serve. However, twos are most often associated with people-pleasing. And this rings so true to my heart. I am a people-pleaser and I often am enslaved to both the applause and criticism people serve me up. The weight I give people in my life is becoming incredibly problematic. The reason I bring this up is because I started this paragraph by saying kindness is especially hard to give when we feel wronged. I think this is true for most humans, but as a two this feels especially challenging for me. I put such high expectations on people that when I feel failed by them, it is so easy for me to hold grudges and keep a score in my head. I am working on this. The Bible is super clear on how we are supposed to love regardless of how we are treated.

“Love your enemy, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” -Luke 6:27-28

This is kindness. This is love. This does not come naturally to me. The thing with kindness is that I can’t do it in my own strength. Even my attempts at kindness have underlying motives: to be perceived in a certain way, to be loved by others. The only way I can even come close to living out those verses in Luke is if I ask for the Holy Spirit’s help. It is beyond humbling to realize that even being truly nice to the people in my life is something I can’t do on my own. Oh how I need the Lord’s help. Oh how I need His Grace.

So back to the lady on the bike. Thank you for reminding me the power in not saying a thing. Thank you for reminding me that even my attempts at kindness are not pure. And ultimately thank you for getting me to run harder than I thought I could.

6 More Lessons in the First Year of Motherhood

Happy 1st Birthday to our sweet Hudson Boy! I cannot believe a whole year has gone by! These past couple days I have been very sentimental as I have thought back to what we were doing exactly a year ago. We were waiting. And waiting and waiting. We went into the hospital Wednesday evening after my water broke. We literally walked up to the check-in counter, and I was crying. I felt so overwhelmed and nervous and no one seemed to care that I literally was standing in a puddle of amniotic fluid! Was this normal? I was expecting to be rushed to a hospital bed. I was expecting urgency. This is important people. I am about to have a baby! But, it was quite the opposite. No rushing, no urgency. Just me, crying, as I stood in a puddle. After eventually being situated into our room, the real waiting began. Like 43 hours of waiting. Those long hours were filled with pocking and prodding, lots of jello and bone broth, prayers, and an epidural that finally allowed for sleep. There were some anxious moments in those hours, especially when we were getting close to the second day of waiting and Hudson’s heart rate began to drop. I can still hear the nurse’s voice when she shakily said my name. My heart has never dropped so low. She delivered the news that I needed a C-section in the most heart-stopping, terrifying way. I literally thought the worst case scenario was happening the way she looked at me and said my name. I could handle a C-section. At that point, it didn’t even matter. Did we type it up into our neat and tidy birth plan? Nope, but most of what we had in there didn’t happen. The C was the least of my worries, all I wanted was my Hudson Boy. Finally, Friday at 4:11 pm, Hudson was born. And let me tell you, our world shifted in the best possible way. As I type this, I literally am crying because when I think about this moment it truly brings me to my knees in thankfulness to God. What a good, good Father. I remember lying numb in that OR just praying. I remember hearing his first cries and the warmth of my own tears flowing down my face. It no longer mattered that things didn’t go as planned or that my tummy will forever have a scar, none of it mattered because our sweet boy was finally here.

I tell this story because as I wrote about when Hudson turned 6-months, one of my first lessons was learning to be okay when things do not go as planned. You can read those first 6 lessons here. This lesson is only more true now. I am daily reminded that I am not the one in control. While this is a really hard lesson for someone like me that has a heart gripped to control and self-reliance, I am beginning, emphasis on beginning here, to not only let go of control, but develop the ability to laugh when things don’t go the way we planned. I immediately think about the Proverbs 31 woman.

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.

-Proverbs 31:25

Before becoming a mother, I read that verse and thought it sounded nice, but it didn’t fully sink in or connect with me. It makes so much more sense to me now. I picture her house being a mess, her toddler throwing a tantrum, her clothes stained in spit up; and despite it all, I picture her laughing with a confidence and peace that can only be explained through the presence of the Holy Spirit. I am not there yet, but I desire to be and I do believe the Lord is continuing to do a work in my heart to eventually get me to this point. While I am not there, I think back to the way I handled situations in the first few months. My heart rate probably stayed at 110 all day long. The littlest peep or cry from Hudson put me into a downward spiral. Man, was I gripped by an anxiety I have never felt before. There was definitely not a lot of laughing happening, but there certainly were a lot of tears and fear. Just yesterday, in Costco, as we were shopping for food for his birthday party, I was reminded of the work the Lord is doing within me. Hudson spilled half of his water all over himself and on the floor beneath the cart. His pants were soaked and he slowly began to get more fussy as he wanted to be out of that cart. Kelli 9-months ago would have lost it! She would of panicked and made up lies about how the cashier probably thinks I am not a very good mom. But instead, it didn’t affect me. Wet pants? Who cares, we will change it when we get home. A little fussing? Who cares, babies make noise. A bit of a mess on the floor? A casual sorry will be enough. It will be okay. The world is not ending. This may seem like a small thing to you, but let me tell you, this is huge. This confidence, this growth, it amazes me. So, if you were anything like me and are currently in those early months where everything is new and scary and anxiety-inducing, I really hope these words can encourage you. It is incredible what the Lord can do in a year. Hold on. It gets better.

Okay that was a lot, but I think all of that is important. Here are 6 more lessons I have learned as mother to sweet Hudson.

1. Don’t Sweat the Small Things

As I have already alluded to, the small things, like water spilled everywhere and crying, do not grip me in the same way they used to. One of the biggest lessons I have learned in this past year is to let go of all the little things. I will drive myself crazy if I try to control everything: naps, floors, attitudes. There are so many things that could go wrong in life, a little sand eaten by Hudson or a spill in a restaurant, are minor concerns. The world will keep spinning. I will still be a good mother.

2. Time Goes Quickly

It is easy to eagerly look ahead and think I can’t wait until fill-in-the-blank. I can’t wait until he doesn’t wake up multiple times in a night. I can’t wait until he can crawl and walk. I can’t wait until he can talk. I can’t wait until he eats solid foods. And the list goes on. Those are all exciting milestones and it is easy to dream about the next stage where things seem easier, but I have learned that things change so quickly and it is so much better to be present and grateful in the season you are in. Things are already moving way too fast. I would love to go back to myself a year ago and tell her: “These next few months are going to be hard, but stay in it, soak it up, watch him sleep as often as you can, and it will get better.” I had too many days where I dreamed of easier times, when I wish I had just accepted the season for what it was.

3. Trust Instincts

I had a lot of my doubts in the first few months. I questioned everything I did. I was too easily swayed by the opinions and advice of others. I would watch one YouTube video and implement one strategy and the next day I would read something completely opposite and try that instead. Early on, external factors were the driving force behind how I mothered. For example, if we were out and Hudson was crying and someone would say “oh, he must be hungry!” I would immediately feel this pressure to nurse him, even though, deep down, I knew hunger wasn’t the issue. I just fed him. My internal mother instinct knew his needs, but I didn’t trust it yet. Now I do, and we are both so much happier because of it.

4. Breastfeeding Can Become a Dear Friend

My relationship with breastfeeding over the course of this year has changed drastically. I used to hate it. I know hate is a strong word, but I really did. I dreaded every couple hours when it was time to nurse again. It felt like rejection and failure all in one. It felt incredibly weird and uncomfortable to me. I am a slow learner. Change is hard for me, it takes me a while to adjust and learn. Those first few months I could not even fathom the possibility of making it to a year of breastfeeding. But here I am, a year later, unsure if I want to give it up quite yet. While I would not gush about it in the same way others have talked about it, it has become part of who I am. It is like sleeping, breathing, running. It is how I start and end my days. While it used to feel weird and uncomfortable, it now only feels natural and familiar. Side note here: while I was able and chose to exclusively breastfeed, this is not for everyone, nor is it always possible for everyone. Fed is always best. This is another thing I really wish I could tell myself a year ago. I was so hard on myself. Every night was a meltdown. I wish I could have told myself that it would be okay. That I would make it, but I also wish I could tell myself breastfeeding is not the goal. I put way too much emphasis on it, and that created a lot of stress for the both of us. Just like any relationship, it can’t be forced. Take it slow. Trust the process. And you might break up and move on, or you might just find a dear, reliable friend.

5. Don’t Compare

It’s the thief of joy. It really is. You will find so much joy especially in those early months if you just focus on your baby and family. I really wish I deleted Instagram in this season. It was more harmful than helpful. My heart could not handle it. Your baby is different. You are different. Don’t compare.

6. Let God Take Over

Let the Lord enter your sleepless nights. Let him enter with you at the grocery store. Let him enter when you don’t have the energy or the words or wisdom. He can fill in all the holes, all the areas of weakness. Let Him takeover. Give him the reigns. Say Lord I can’t do this on my own. Help me! And He will.

Learning to Let Go as Mothers

Happy one day before Mother’s Day! Last Mother’s Day, people wished me a Happy Mother’s Day, and I thought it was very kind, but I felt like I didn’t fully deserve it. I did not feel like I was technically a mother yet. I hadn’t done the hard work of changing diapers, drying tears, losing sleep. But, of everything I have learned in this past year of motherhood, it is the fact that what makes a mom has nothing to do with those things. Yes, diapers, crying (both baby and mom), and little sleep is part of the job description; however, it is not what makes a mom. It is love that makes a mom. Before all the sleepless nights, the never-ending nursing sessions, and the massive diaper bag that has replaced my cute, little black Kate Spade; I was actually already a mom. I had the belly and love to prove it. This has been probably one of my greatest lessons I have learned so far. Especially in those first couple months, I felt so overwhelmed and unsure with my new title as mom. I felt completely inadequate. I felt like a fraud. Who am I to mother this child? I have no idea what I am doing! Simple things like taking the car seat in and out of the car was a struggle for me. Even holding him, I felt awkward and unsure. I lacked all confidence. I would sit at home, terrified to leave the house with him by myself.

Back then, I thought I had to prove to others (and myself) that I was a good mom. I thought my title of mother was based on what I did. Thankfully, just like my identity in Christ, it is based on nothing that I do. It is based on love. It is not even my own love because even that falters. It is a perfect love, the love of God. I am almost a year in to this whole motherhood thing, and of everything I have learned, one thing that I am even more certain of is my great need for a Savior. Motherhood has revealed within me a heart that is selfish and insecure. It has been made very clear that I cannot do this alone. It also has been made very clear that I am not in control. This past year has been full of letting go. Letting go of expectations. Letting go of my tight grip of control. And letting go of what other people think about me. I do these three things better on certain days, and have days where I hold on to everything. But I am learning to let go and this letting go is making all the difference. I am becoming such a better mom the more that I have learned to let go. Things are just not going to be perfect. The spoon will be dropped a thousand times. He will refuse to sleep. He will cry during the wedding vows. I need to let it go. I wrote a previous post about some of the specifics I have learned in the first 6 months of motherhood. You can read that post here. While I broke it down into more specific lessons, much of what I wrote revolves around letting go. It is letting go of the things I simply cannot control and learning to lean in to the one thing that actually makes me a mother: love. This whole letting go thing is not a passive excuse to not care. It is not an “oh well” mindset. It is actually quite the opposite. It is active and intentional. When I choose to let go of the things out of my control, I pray. I ask God to enter. I hand it over. I admit my lack, my need, my limits.

So mama, if you are feeling tired, overwhelmed, and uncertain in your mom abilities, I hope these words can act as encouragement. It certainly can feel overwhelming, but if you can break it down more simply to loving and letting go, I think you will ultimately find so much greater joy.

To all the mothers, thank you for everything you do. It is so much and it really matters. Enjoy your day and if possible let go of a few things and ask God to enter and take over. This might just change everything for you. Special thanks to my amazing mother that has set such a beautiful example of what it looks like to be a mother that sacrifices and loves so well.

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

 

 

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.