Scary Brave

Scary Brave, We create
How Rejection Was Actually the Beginning of the Real Thing
January 26, 2016 at 5:00 am 10
"...stand on your place of pain, your Ground Zero, and create something beautiful" -- Makoto Fujimura 
Everyone from Liz Gilbert, Brene Brown and now, visual artist Mako Fujimura are championing vulnerability as the path to bravery. Citing weakness as the way of transformation. It is the narrative of the cross -- that the way up is down. That from our weakness Christ is made strong. Frankly, I do not want this to be so. Perhaps I am a glory vacuum, where I suck it all the dust bunnies towards me and hope that in my cells and marrow, that dust and ashes will turn into art. That they'll turn into beauty as the pieces of life filter through my veins and comes exploding out in perfectly formed sentences and thoughts. Then, I reason, then, I'll have arrived. Recently, my writing was rejected. There's nothing like failure to show you how your ideals don't meet with reality. You see, I think that I thought awhile ago that writing bravely -- writing words that were a bit scary to publish -- would also result in more "yeses" than "no's." I thought that bravery (a la Brene Brown) would be my ticket to glory. I thought that I could use vulnerability as a ticket to somewhere other than being out on that limb, waiting to see if my word offerings were taken as gifts or not. It turns out brave is never easy or comfortable. And, it turns out, bravery is entirely about glory.  It's just nothing like I thought. You see, it's never been my own glory project. Truth be told, that stings. I want to hoodwink Jesus' crown of glory and take it for my own, all surreptitious-like, and cover it in nice pretty Christian bows that sometimes feel more comfortable than "vulnerable," "raw," and "rejected." It comes out in all sorts of ways. I fail to delight in the people right in front of me and ravenously eye others' successes. I lose the dance of language. I lose the ability to see and be grateful for little blessings -- sunshine, breeze, a good night's sleep. These, friends, are luxuries that I begin to feel are rights. Instead, I get an empty pit in my stomach when I hear "Unfortunately, after careful consideration...". Because as my stomach sinks, as my anger and envy increase, when I get comfy with cliche, then I am becoming a shell of who I was made to be. So right now, I'm practicing the fine art of taking every thought captive. That means this for me: I will not eat away my sadness. I will not resolve away my frustration. I will not lash out at my family because I am bummed. I will not make myself look better than x,y,z successful people so I feel good about myself. No, none of that is brave. public-domain-images-free-high-resolution-quality-photos-unsplash-0218   Friends, bravery is standing in your pain and owning it. I confess my pain is so very minor. I am healthy, I am not fleeing persecution, I have a roof over my head. I am free and safe and loved. But we all have pain; we all are overwhelmed with panic, fear, pain and depression. We're overwhelmed by the state of the world and the state of our hearts. We're overwhelmed with the future and fixated on the past. Frankly, I'm tired of living so much in my own head where it feels as though the planets revolve around me. Bravery is admitting failure. It means I confess my sins to my children -- often feebly, weakly and without enough empathy. Sometimes my offerings are very paltry. But I pray that they grow into abundant grace as they are somehow mysteriously multiplied by a Spirit that lives outside and inside of me. Because when I admit my weakness, when I own up to my own pain and the pain I've caused others, then there opens a wide space for healing by hands that are not mine. But bravery always has cause for hope. It is the hope that when things are dead and dying that there is always and forever hope of resurrection. You see, when I get focused on my own glory project, I try to squeeze out new life like the end of toothpaste tube. You know what this is? A yucky mess. Glory only comes from dying first. And it comes unexpectedly, like a joke, like a hero soaring out of the sky, like a royal proclamation and like the dawn of each new day. Glory always comes when you least expect it. So the task my friends is this: to take your pain and make beauty, like Mako Fujimura said. This is the tending of the soil of our age. This is the dutiful work of showing up, digging our hands in the dirt, and planting bulbs. And then we wait while all we have to show for the hard work is dirty fingernails. When the world around us is blanketed in snow, when all is dead and dying, there is the promise of spring curled up in winter branches (as my writer friend, Christie Purifoy writes in Roots & Sky). So our good work is to tend the garden and wait. That means that I eek out words. They are my offering and my garden of delight. Sometimes they fumble and other times they sing. But they are true and they are good work. So I plant words and I wait. I give them away for free. I have no idea if some words will produce a large harvest and others will fall on rocky soil. But that is not my problem: to follow and micro-manage my words, to baby their reception like tender shoots that perhaps need to die to give life to the ones next to it. No -- my job is to throw them out there, liberally, like a sower. Ashley Hales - Circling the Story -- The gift of rejection When I get caught up in the Sower's song, I get caught up in the song that has been passed down through ages. A song that has been born in baby's coos and is echoed in galaxies we cannot yet know. It's a song that bursts from the color yellow, that trembles in the spring sunshine, and hovers between the wings of birds. It's a song that I cry and ache in deep groaning when my body bore my children, with all the messy glory of becoming. It's a song that all peoples, places and languages, all political affiliations and classes must bow their heads to. It is the song of the trees, of the dirt, of the mama washing dishes and rocking babies. It is the song of redemption and it is much grander, kinder and gentler than my own song that I squeak out of my own two lips. When I am caught up in the beauty of the only one who rightfully deserves glory -- where glory is a rough-hewn garment instead of a haughty crown -- then, and only then, can I see that my own glory project was just infantile posturing. Immature grabs at power, prestige, making a name for myself. And there is no healing there, just empty aching. Shall we try on this new bravery together friends, though it feels a bit odd and awkward? For bravery is simply this: Stand in your pain. It is your gift. Scatter it liberally. It will not return void.  // I'd be honored if you considered subscribing to blog posts or my newsletter. I'd also love to host your story, too.
Scary Brave, Simplify
10,000 pounds
June 11, 2015 at 5:00 am 0
We've had a slew of moving quotes the last several weeks. Each man comes in with his pleated pants and shiny shoes and walks around our home; I open the pantry with the baby locks and spill out our secret messes, our stash of alcohol, our piles and piles of books. We count up the tricycles and kids' bikes and I wonder if we'll have to part with some of them. I go through each room, methodically telling him what we're leaving, what we're taking. 10,000 pounds. That's the estimate to move our family of 6. It seems like such a huge weight, although I'm told it's average for a family; but it makes me want to go ahead and chuck it all out the upstairs window, rent a convertible and drive, laughing, far away. Probably to Zion National Park, where I can hike and float down the river and finally exhale. The daily rhythms have stayed the same: school, snacks, rest for the littles, school pickup, snacks, homework, dinner, walk, bed. But my mind has become caught in a To Do list that messes with the magic of the moment, that keeps calling me back to purge and sell and wonder if I can really give up that trike that we gave to our 7-year-old when he turned 2, in our first house in Salt Lake City. 10,000 pounds Moving: Ashley Hales @ Circling the Story Those old snowsuits and snowshoes will soon be sitting in my trunk to donate; clothes we won't need in our temperate southern California lack-of-weather. Don't get me wrong: I can't wait to be able to walk along that sandy edge of land in the dead of winter; I can't wait to walk by the gazebo where my sister-in-law got engaged more than 20 years ago; I look forward to my kids swimming in the same waves and pools of our childhoods. But there's still the 10,000 pounds and the 10 days until we box up our 6 years and move "home," for another, different adventure. And on the other side? There's the settling in that takes another 365 days to feel comfortable, where you know your grocery stores, where you have a rhythm, and friends you can ask to watch your kids. But it's the 2-year-mark I love, the point where I get a bit of an itch, wondering if this is all there is, wondering if this mundane is the sum of life, and big dreams and all that we'd hoped for on this adventure. And then there is also the sweet digging down, where you unearth some of the hard topsoil and get to the good stuff. Where you can soak your fingernails into the dirt and see what is sprouting there -- what's always been sprouting there -- just beneath that surface that you found so unlovely, so impenetrable before you finally spent the time to just stay there and dig. So we're uprooting. It's terribly hard and wonderful and full of adventure. But I know there will always be life teeming under the surface of the new hard of starting afresh, a might river pulsing even in the glorious dark.    
Faith + Vulnerability, linkup, Scary Brave
What “Real” Really Means (a five-minute Friday post [on a Sunday])
March 22, 2015 at 1:55 pm 3
I'm a bit afraid of writing this one. What happens when you really think about "real"? There's the faux real -- the smiles, the tears, the carefully orchestrated story that produces emotion and even truth and vulnerability; but you know it's not really real. It doesn't deal with the reality of the everyday, the crazy-making moments; those are carefully left out in a rush to sprint to the finish line. To tie it all up neatly with a bow. What is a "real" story anyway?  Every story is fashioned with words, and thoughts and emotions; every story bends according to who is telling it and who is listening. REAL Do I tell you about those words I uttered when you were in the other room? Do I tell my friend about hurt and failure and the real truth about me? That I am a little girl, frightened and fighting, most of the time. How I long to go back and tell the younger me that this growing up thing is ruthless and hard and sometimes I want to just claw my way out of adulthood because it feels too hard; the hurts are just too real. That I am the author of my own pain, and that I am the author of my own brave story. And though nothing very remarkable may have happened to me, that the ordinary is where glory is birthed. And yes, that too, is where the real is. The real is in the sweeping and the crying and the carrying. The real is in the rest and the quiet and the laughter. The real is where you hurt me with words because you are hurt; and where I lash out or shut down because I am tired and hurt too. The real is looking at something or someone to save us. To look to date night, or girls night, or time away or to a glass of wine to save me from the mundane. To save me from the hard task of showing up and to be unseen. Indeed, to place all my burdens of meaning on another -- whether friend, child or husband -- is entirely too much to bare. The real is the struggle. The real is tears -- the release mingled of loss, joy and pain and hope. Yes, hope. The real is always hope. It is hope that I am seen -- in a complete way and I am not tossed out or condemned or asked to be made into some altogether-new creation. I am seen, loved, fully known: from my defensiveness to my idealism, I am known. It's always a bit scary, to ask another if they want the real you. To see if they'll look at you and into you, and behind your eyes, and take it all in -- the horrible and the beautiful. But that is not only real, it is the hope of glory.    *** This post was written in response to the Five Minute Friday prompt "real." You write a post in 5 minutes without editing (so apologies for spelling errors!). Go and read some more!  
Faith + Vulnerability, Scary Brave
My dirty little secret: I never wanted to be a mother
January 20, 2015 at 6:00 am 36
I have a little secret: I never wanted to be a mother. At least not in the conventional sense. And certainly not a mother to four. I wasn't one of those baby-loving, babysitting girls who fawned over the little ones in the church nursery. I had more important things to do like schoolwork and have a boyfriend and think up big, crazy dreams that would take me to prestigious colleges and travel all around the world. I thought motherhood as a calling was what you did if you didn't have any better option. I never wanted to be a mother | Circling the Story   The long, slow pouring-out of motherhood was never my idea of a good time. [tweetthis]The long, slow pouring-out of motherhood was never my idea of a good time. [/tweetthis] I was supposed to be the smart one. The one living overseas doing important work, thinking big thoughts and living an adventure. But at 25 I found myself pregnant for the first time and my husband and I lay awestruck on our bed, giddy with laughter -- at the newness and hopefulness of it all. But just a few weeks after that, I miscarried. It was then that my transformation into "mother" began. I became disconnected from the self I had known and became something new. I hated myself as I cramped and bled and cried. All I wanted was to be separated from my body that was letting go of this little life. And so motherhood, for me, began in loss. And the losses compounded -- not in miscarriages -- but in the sleepless nights, the pouring out of milk, reeking of baby spit-up, changing poopy blow-outs and, as they grew, calming fears and refereeing sibling fights. And as we felt like we were finally getting out from under the weight of the neediness of little babies, another would come along, leaving us flattened to the ground. Leaving us needy -- arms outstretched -- needing more of Jesus; or in worse moments, fighting for preservation, clutching on to shreds of our old selves as these same old selves turned to dust in our grasping. Never wanted to be a mother | Circling the Story Never wanted to be a mother | Circling the Story Truthfully, most days still feel like loss. Daily, I choose losing my idea of a good time in favor of showing big love to my people. We wrestle. We dance. I make food and sweep the floor. I can't just drop everything and go out on a date with my husband, I can't jet off to Greece for a week away, I can't even drink a glass of wine when I want to because of a baby who depends upon me for sustenance. Feeding on me, like the body and the blood. I've found myself in an unlikely place where motherhood has become my teacher. And not in the beautiful "Madonna and child" way -- with the tenderness of connection frozen in stone between one solitary mother and her child. No, motherhood has brought me to the end of my rope as my body has borne down four times; and I bear down again daily, as I find myself at the end of me, holding on tightly to frayed edges, birthing new life. Never wanted to be a mother | Circling the Story I've traded world travel for the smaller world of four little people. I've traded my own sleep for another's comfort. I've traded my literary theory for Goodnight, Moon and every Star Wars book imaginable. I've traded my quiet for chaos. And so everyday I (like you) face a choice. Will you believe in your bones that this life you lead day-in and day-out has sacred meaning not just in the midst of, but because of, the mundane? Will you see the mundane as glory-filled? Or, will you keep wishing for that old self, thinking that the old you will satisfy? Will you see the hard gifts of motherhood or will you cling to yourself?  The gifts of motherhood can't be measured in what we do, but in who we become. [tweetthis]The gifts of motherhood can't be measured in what we do, but in who we become. [/tweetthis] Motherhood is my greatest adventure. Because through it, this half-dozen of us are all becoming, all moving towards maturity. Sure, there's more noise, more chaos and less time for me. But, we all need something to whittle us down, to push on us until we are all changed and born anew. Even though I didn't want to be a mother, I've found as in all hard things, there is a gift there. Your hard may be infertility or choosing to not have children in a sea of parents. Your hard may be the drudgery of your work or the hurt you bear from people who should've had your back. But the hard is a gift. Because if we let it, loss pushes us to face up to our failings and cast ourselves on the wider mercy of a Christ, who welcomes us to a table and who promises to gently bear our sorrows. Never wanted to be a mother | Circling the Story If you've found my words helpful, please consider sharing by clicking the share button below. If you'd like to receive my newsletter and my free ebook on how to tell your scary brave story, subscribe here.
Scary Brave
Are you Scary Brave? Wanna be?
January 6, 2015 at 6:00 am 35
Scary brave. That's what I want to define my 2015. How about you? There's a whole bunch of fake-brave out there: machismo is usually the first impostor. But there's also the safe-brave and I've been doing that dance for years. It's why I never joined the swim team. It's why acting and singing were diversions and not passions. Fake-brave is when you only succeed at the things you know you can succeed at. Fake-brave is hedging your bets because you're more concerned about your perfect record than showing up, day after day, and maybe failing or maybe knocking it out of the park. Because failing feels like you're a failure. scary brave | circling the story I don't want to be fake-brave anymore. I want to be scary brave. Scary brave isn't the same as stupid-brave. I'm not going to be jumping off any cliffs just to be "brave." No, scary brave is the perfect marrying of faith -- of stepping out into the unknown -- and assurance. It's knowing that your performance doesn't define you. It's knowing that even if your house is a mess and you're a mess and you're kids are leaving their belongings like Hansel-and-Gretel crumbs dotting the floor, that that doesn't define you. You're still free to cuddle your kids, to speak grace upon grace to them, and pick up the pieces. There is a new day dawning. It's walking into that boardroom with your great ideas and knowing they very well may get shot down; but going in anyway. It's trying that new food, or talking to the homeless man with a twinkle in his eye, instead of saying "Sorry, I don't have any money" and walking away with your own empty eyes. Scary brave means we have nothing to prove. So it means we have everything we can risk. Because risk or failure don't define us. Did you hear that? Failure does not define you. scary brave | circling the story Okay, true story here: when my husband and I were teenage lovebirds, we went bowling once on a date. Like, how cute were we? Borrowed shoes, the jean skort, rocking out to 80's music overhead, and trying to flirt between a 10-lb. ball. Bliss, I tell you. Well, about 6 frames in I was a wreck, a grumpy, pouty wreck. Because my handsome boyfriend was killing it and I kept getting gutter ball after gutter ball. I think I seriously had 33 points. But I couldn't laugh at myself because I was failing at bowling. And failing, even at bowling, was still failing. Do you know what that wise man said to me? He said, "Ash if you're going to suck at something, bowling is a pretty good thing to be bad at." Even in those funny shoes, I couldn't laughingly embrace my poor performance. So I kept doing what I was good at. School. Standardized tests. Cheerleading. And then College and a Wedding and  Grad School. I just kept going up the mountain where the perfection path was well worn and, from the path, success looked pretty great; I looked pretty great. And then I became a mom. We all hit a perfection wall, yours might be different. Motherhood was my wall. Oh man, was it my wall.  I wanted the perfect pain-free birth. And guess what? I had a c-section. All my dreams about "perfection" hit the fan. And there were poopy blowouts, and no sleep, and tears (me and the baby), and milk everywhere. And that baby would not stop crying no matter what I did. I was at the end of my rope. I couldn't climb that hill any longer. So most of the time, to cope, I chose bitterness. "Look at that other ____ (baby, mom, wife, husband, employed person). They must have it so much better than me!" But we die on the vine of bitterness. So today, I'm choosing scary brave instead.  For me, scary brave means that I'm trying out this writer-gig for real. And it may flop. No one may want to publish a word I write. You all might run and never read a word I type out again. But I'm skirting that perfectionism path and bivouacking through the thickets instead, because I don't need to sit at the cool table anymore. I don't have anything to prove and risk feels like the fresh breath of freedom. Who wants in? Who wants to be scary brave with me? What dreams do you make too safe? Your dreams can push you into failure, but that's okay. It's okay to fail. Failing does not mean that you are a failure. If your book doesn't make the bestseller list, it says nothing about your dignity as a human being on this planet. Your story still means something. Because we're all part of a much larger story, and sometimes we can't see the beauty in the quiet moments, where our stories are forged. We can't see how the crumbs we sweep up again and again mean something; we can't see how the onslaught of papers or work projects affects change; we can't see how our paltry $2 affects the woman on the side of the road. But I think when the flames burn up all the dross in our lives, what's left will be things like bravery and story and little acts of love to the least of these. So I'm tossing in my lot with the simple, vowing to focus on the things that matter, and to leap off the edge knowing that faith and calling come through failure. I'm ready to be scary brave this year. How about you?
Scary Brave
The push headlong into empathy
June 10, 2014 at 4:10 pm 2
I'm realizing it's quite easy to experience the brutality of four littles around -- by which I mean, having four children has quite upset my lovely mental image of what being a successful wife and mother look like. My house is never clean, I'm exhausted at the end of the day and don't seem to have the time or head space to give to my husband or for my own pursuits. I just want to sleep. But it's also pushed me headlong into a study of empathy. You see, I know all about sympathy and empathy intellectually. My PhD in literature is founded on the concept of Adam Smith's explanation of sympathy in his Theory of Moral Sentiments of 1759. I can write (and I have) at least 10,000 words on the topic. But experience is a totally different teacher. Every time my five-year-old melts down because I've said "no, please wait," or my 2-year-old doesn't nap and so fusses and whines for HOURS, I'm tempted to storm out and just leave because I just cannot take it any longer. I've remembered after reading Megan Tietz's post on the Highly Sensitive Parent that both my husband and I are "highly sensitive" albeit in different ways and we have different triggers. Oy vey. Poor children of ours. I'm realizing that I have a whole slew of things that set me off -- visual and auditory clutter being the biggest ones. But that being "set off" is not an excuse to run away, or to stonewall or to do any number of things that preserve myself over and above my job of taking care of the little ones entrusted to me. Even though I grew up in California, in the height of beach chic and the informality of year-round Rainbow sandals, I come from a line of Southerners. And although the culture of the South feels foreign to this westerner, there is something there -- something about wanting to be celebrated and fawned over -- that rears its head deep within me. And darn it, I want my kids and my husband to celebrate me, O Great and Amazing Matriarch. But the beauty about my four children is that they whittle me down, down past the yearnings for significance and "me time" and past the desire to be the center of attention. Past the endless self-referential comments and past my idol of control, that I can and will control their behavior and attitudes. This whittling down hurts; it hurts like the bark being ripped from a tree to reveal its tender, green heart. I don't want to be exposed. I am quite happy with my thick, bark-like covering, thankyouverymuch. But this push into empathy, where every day I'm learning to bend down even to my children's heads and talk to them, to resist my own urge to storm out or throw them into time out, to actually listen and ask questions, is a beautiful becoming. Where new life emerges out of twisted dead roots. Where embracing the pain and vulnerability of new bark means a whole new limb can grow. By choosing to practice empathy -- bending my body towards theirs, quieting my own need to speak -- especially when it doesn't come naturally, I am choosing to make my daily and moment-by-moment choices into a new lineage. One that cuts off a narrative of privilege at the knees and replaces it with sacrifice. It's one way in which I hope to "fall on the grenade" (as my pastor says) of generational and cultural sin. I'm finding of course that such resolves cannot begin and end with me; for pulling myself up by my boot straps to practice empathy has at its core me, a pat-myself-on-the-back brand of self esteem that is ultimately still consumed with self. Instead it means that I practice another discipline: spending time in reading and meditating on the Word made flesh who emptied himself and sacrificed himself for the joy set before him -- for us, we are bringers of joy!



Books + Stories, Scary Brave
All today’s got going for it is this outfit and this cup of coffee
June 4, 2014 at 6:59 pm 4
Nothing yells entitlement like dashed hopes. I needed alone time: to write, read, or just sit with a cup of coffee without chatter or anyone touching me. Just for a bit. I wasn't asking too much. My husband, too, was on board. But you know what happened? The stomach virus from hell that makes you want to die. And not me, but the hubby. There goes my alone time, my sustenance for the soul. So I showed up at my friend's house with four crazy kids and we intervened in kid fights and big feelings while we commiserated and milk poured out of our breasts for these babes that never stop needing, never stop touching. And I wavered between wanting my cup of coffee from a drive-thru and my polka-dotted top to bring me back to myself and also realizing that coffee and clothes are just ways to numb myself. (Socially acceptable ways of course). Because really sometimes a bit of sugar, or caffeine, or a cute outfit can make your day. And there's a fine line for using these substances appropriately -- to appreciate them as moments to pause, as gifts -- and using them to escape, to feed into entitlement. I'm wrestling with escape. I actually have been daydreaming about leaving the kids and just hoping on a plane with my hubby for an exotic beach vacation. Because there's always someone on Facebook with the Vogue beach body halfway around the world drinking a mojito, and here I am with tired eyes, spider veins, and a cup of coffee, with breastmilk poring out, when all I want is one good night's sleep. Because when I'm honest, I want escape and the "I-deserve-that-mojito-and-tan" attitude is the death of my daily joy. Because I am here, now, not in Bora Bora. And living in Bora Bora in my mind will only take away form the gifts of now. And then I turn to Pinterest and I find more than a bagizillion ways in which I'm not measuring up as a mommy/crafter/writer/party-thrower. Because I don't have impromptu "Frozen" parties or make my boys a teepee or paint wooden figurines or brew Kombucha. I see food as the enemy, parties for only entertaining with the latest barware and the saddlebags on my thighs as proof that I'm not enough. That's the lie: that I could ever be enough. And that's what I run up against day after day. What I strive for: to be enough; to fulfill myself, my family, my community's hopes and dreams. Thankfully I am not their savior, though it seems my actions and attitudes sure seem to want to lean that way. What I'm realizing is that I both am enough and am not enough. You see, I attempt to be enough to my husband, kids and friends through what I do (bring meals, make meals, make cool crap) rather than whose I am. A lot of self-help books keep spouting that "you are enough", "you are not broken". And that's a load of junk. Because I am broken. You are broken. Brokenness is where we live and move and have our being. And yet there is beauty there too, just in existing, just in being, just in breathing in and out, even (and perhaps because of) the brokenness. So in that sense, yes, I am enough, but not in the sense that I have an innate value apart from my identity in the Story. The Story that relishes the moment, the hard moments, where something is made from nothing and where life comes from death. A Story not built upon comfort or physical beauty but of the beauty of vulnerability, of sacrifice, of constant pouring out. And so this motherhood thing is part of the grand narrative where I get to experience the mystery and beauty and pain of death in life and life in death. Because the noise and the chatter and the touching sometimes feels like death; other times it feels like my house is so full of life it's going to burst. It's a Story where my cute top and skirt and cup of coffee do not save me from my spiraling into self-doubt and "woe is me" lack of solitude, but they do remind me of the good gifts that surround me. That as much as my frustration and anger are poured out, so is the stuff that brings life: from breast milk to the thousand little deaths to selfishness that inhabit my daily hours. And maybe I'll just give up on Facebook or Pinterest and instead celebrate the lives around me.
Books + Stories, Scary Brave
Body image after four babies
May 17, 2014 at 2:33 pm 3
I really wish I were a granola mom. Wearing flowing boho skirts and sandals and making millet cupcakes and green smoothies. But I'm not. Most of the time I feel overwhelmed and can't manage to even get the dishes all cleaned and put away at the end of the day. And fresh juices and snacks and spelt flour? Yeah those usually belong in a category of "what everyone else does on Pinterest that I fail miserably at because I can't do it." You see my tendency is to make juicing about me, about "getting my body back" rather than health. That's the lie. That having babies from your own body is somehow a slight inconvenience that enough lettuce and cardio and HIIT can eradicate. That then you'll be beautiful. Accepted. Because you've erased the physical effects of having children. You're young and beautiful again. But it's a lie. Our bodies don't miraculously go back. My four children have left marks all over my body. I have a c-section scar with my first. I have a few stretch marks. My veins became bulbous when I was pregnant with my third and I even have some leftover spider veins that won't go away no matter what diet I choose or how many hours I might log at the gym. My fourth baby was conceived even though I had an IUD in. And because it had moved outside my uterus before birth, only laparoscopic surgery could get it out so now I have a few red lines from incisions on my belly from the surgery. I know many women who wear such scars proudly. As battle wounds. Marks that they have crossed over into the realm of motherhood. I'm just not as holy as these earth mother types. I've looked in disdain at my veins every time I've eased my body into the bath water. I've sucked in my gut in a bikini only to see that those red lines are still there. And I've sworn off shorts most days because I don't like the look of my veins. I see myself and speak words of condemnation. That I'm not beautiful or sexy or that I'm a failure because I can't get my body back like all those celebrities who do so so quickly. I'm done. I'm done with the choice of either needing to exult in my scars and rolls of mother flesh that just won't budge until my children are weaned (or maybe never) or the choice to look like I'm 20 with ripped abs and tanned and toned legs. Both use body image in ultimately unhelpful ways. I choose freedom. Freedom that I'm neither defined by my mama battle scars or my quick bounce back. The freedom that looks like joy that comes outside of myself. Of utter abandon as I give myself to what I am: a wife, a mother, a woman, a child of God. To cultivate relationships, to dwell in possibilities, to run and laugh and wrestle and cheer on the sidelines. Like a child to spread my arms in the warmth and comfort of the sunshine and just run. Because it feels right and good and fun to run, to give yourself up to the task. Where bodies do and are just because they move and help bring joy to others. Spread your arms wide and notice that they move, they help get the cereal bowl down from the top shelf, they hug and are capable of feeling. Spread your arms and run.