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In which it snows in the morning

Every day do something that won't compute :: Sarah Bessey

Wake up to a brighter bedroom, the snow has been falling outside all night. Take a lazy look around the room, look at the life it is reflecting back to you: a sturdy homemade bed; tangled and worn white sheets; a man with a beard is sleeping, his hand still resting on your spine; bright yellow baby rainboots tossed in a corner; piles of books. Stretch the length of your life.

The tinies will come clumping down the hall soon, their voices filled with wonder: “Mum! It snowed!” That man you kissed last night will roll out of the bed because Sundays are your day to sleep in, a deal’s a deal, you do Saturdays. But you both know you won’t go back to sleep – you never do. Watch him head upstairs to the ministry of coffee and Bubble Guppies on Netflix.

Get out of the bed and go to the window, look out into the forest. The snow is still falling, thick and lazy, almost predictably. Open the window for a few moments, just to smell it. Crawl back into your bed, pull up the covers, and grab a book. Once a week, you get to read first thing when you wake up and so here is a stack of Wendell Berry and Flannery O’Connor and Luci Shaw, practice the resistance of reading of good books.

When you go upstairs in an hour, make a pot of tea. No solitary mugs will do for a snowy Sunday, get out the big sturdy brown pot and your mother’s discarded delicate white teacups, the ones with blue and silver flowers on the rim. Hug your babies, good morning, good morning, yes, I see you. Listen to the dishwasher chug, everything is brighter and slower when it snows.

Church is cancelled, you’re pretty sure everyone is relieved for a day off anyway, an excuse to stay in their jammies, watch movies, work puzzles, roll in the snow, read novels. The more judicious might catch up on housework, pay the bills online, answer emails: the kindred spirits will make a bit of room for delicious indolence.

Decide to do something real today, then bake a loaf of bread. Yeast, flour, water, salt – simple is good for the soul and the belly. Guide small hands into kneading properly, let everything rise in its time.

Scratch a few lines into a journal. Write a bit but try not get frustrated because you are interrupted seven times in fifteen minutes. Read a psalm. Pray in the shower. Listen as you go through your day. Clean the kitchen. Bath a baby. Make the beds. Use the good dishes for a lunch of plain soup. Scatter children’s books around the house like bait. Put on lipstick. Flirt in the kitchen in quiet saucy voices. Comfort tired children, prescribe naps and quilts with seriousness. Promise a movie later on. Later when the snow settles, you’ll go for a walk in the dim, into the in-between for a conversation with yourself, you’ll be so relieved to be away from them all for a few moments but yearning to return to them all by the end of the block.

Watch the snow fall in the ordinary beauty of a Sabbath spent practicing what makes you feel most fully human.

 

Continue Reading · abundant life, enough, family, gratitude, love, marriage · 15

In which I am learning to live with the ache

Evelynn newborn

Evelynn at two months old, photo by Rachel Barkman Photography

Our old baby crib is now sitting in pieces in the garage. We will take it to the dump soon (it has one of those now-outlawed dropsides so we can’t resell it or donate it). Whole sections of the bars are gnawed to bare wood by little teething babies, there are bits of sticker glue and swipes of Sharpie marker here and there, the screws are a bit loose. It’s in rough shape after nearly eight years and three big babies-to-toddlers in quick succession. There are a lot of sacred memories hidden in that dismantled old crib. The day we took it apart, I cried over that junky old crib. Goodbye, old friend.

It is likely that there are no more babies for us.

I was never one of those girls who wanted to have a houseful of babies, who just wanted to get married and have babies and stay home with them. I mean, I was okay with kids but it wasn’t my thing. I quit babysitting at 14 because I figured there had to be a better way to make money than that. And even after our miscarriages and challenges with fertility, I was unprepared for how completely transformative I found motherhood, how I loved even the mundane dailyness, how I found joy here.

I know that everyone’s experience is different, and I’m not saying that mine is normative but it’s real and I can’t deny it: I came into myself when I became a mother. I was reborn, all over again. The experience of pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding my babies profoundly changed me AND it changed my view of God entirely.

So, of course, it’s hard to know that stage of my life is done now.

But it is.

It’s likely that I won’t ever be pregnant again, that I won’t carry a baby within me again, that I won’t ever give birth again. (Yes, I’m one of those awful women who loves pregnancy and giving birth.) When I think about not breastfeeding – one of the most real things I’ve ever done with this body – ever again, I catch my breath with longing.

And yet, I love this new stage of life with the tinies. Just when I think we’re at my favourite stage with them, something new comes along and I think, “oh, wow! no, this part is my favourite!”

People tell you a lot about how much parenting will change your life and they’re right. But usually they mean that you won’t ever sleep in again (you won’t) and a few other things about how much we “give up” to become parents. No one tells you how much you’re going to laugh. No one tells you how much wisdom resides in these small humans, how much they will teach you about love and life and friendship and forgiveness and worship. No one tells you how good and freeing it is to leave your selfishness behind. No one tells you about recapturing your own wonder and innocence, about re-reading the Ramona books, about playing football in the basement, about birthday parties and snow days and every day beauty. All the best things I know about the big nouns and verbs of a life came back into my life because of them.

But there likely won’t be anymore Bessey babies for us. Our family is complete, it seems, we’ll always be a Five-Family, as the tinies call us. There are many personal reasons why we’ve come to this decision as a family.

In my head, I know that this is the right decision. In my heart, I know this is the right decision. Brian and I are in complete agreement.

And yet there is The Ache.

Always The Ache, right underneath my lungs, in the pit of my gut, the ache of what that means and the grief of moving on, of love, of knowing: No more babies. No more nursing quietly in the night. No more flour sack of milk-drunk baby bliss. No more gummy smiles. No more tiny diapers. No more baby clothes. No more crib. No more baby wearing. No more new baby smell. No more of the millions of moments that knit your heart so completely to another small soul.

The season of having babies – the one that so radically changed me – is over. I’m okay with that. Most days, I’m even very happy about it, relieved perhaps. It’s an intense season of life, make no mistake. We’re ready for this new season, looking forward with anticipation to new things. Other days, it’s hard.

I know we like to pretend like we can have everything all at once. It’s a nice illusion. But there are transitions in our lives: times for certain seasons and times when those seasons end. Are we happier for pretending that we can have everything anytime we like? Or are we better when we acknowledge the end of one chapter of our lives, grieve and sing and give weight to the passing of it, and move forward? To everything, there is a season.

I am starting to think that, no matter how many children we have, no matter the reasons why, no matter how old we are, when you’re done having babies, we always carry The Ache.

I have a friend who had six children, and she said that she had The Ache when they were done. I have other friends who had two, who had The Ache. Other friends who had four or five or six. I have friends who are in their thirties with toddlers, in their forties with teenagers, other women in their fifties and menopausal, and they still talk about The Ache: I miss that still, they say wistfully. That was a nice time in my life.

I don’t know that we ever lose that ache. I don’t know if we ever get rid of it. I don’t know if we should. Maybe it’s meant to be there with us. So I’m learning to live with The Ache now.

I’m learning to let it be there, part of me, probably always a part of me, without justification or change of circumstance. When you have been given the tremendous gift of being able to have a baby, to give birth to that baby, to love that baby, it marks you. It should, perhaps, and so this season has marked more than just my stretched-out body, it has marked my soul.

The Ache reminds me of the great and terrible beauty I have seen, of what love I have experienced, of the sorrow and brokenness of loss, of all the love that is still here, of the wonder and miracle of life, of the sweetness of co-creation, of the labour and release, of transcendence.

Praise God, my babies are growing up and that is its own joy and beauty. I’ll miss toddlers in the same way, I’ll miss preschoolers, I’ll miss their kindergarten self, their Grade Two self, as well, and so on through their lives.

Right now, the Ache is for no more babies in my life. This was a beautiful time in my life, please notice that it’s changing. But the Ache changes and grows as we move through our years, I imagine, perhaps in proportion to the life we live, the love we gather and give. Someday, I’ll miss these very days, talk about them with the same language, perhaps.

And in another few years, the blink of an eye, I’ll be sitting in a house, alone: the laundry will be done at last, the house will be clean – and it will stay clean, and the floors will be quiet, no one will be asking me for anything at all, my time will be my own, and I will feel the full weight of The Ache for which I’ve been holding vigil at last. 

It’s simply the Ache of time passing, because this is what time does, and our souls are noticing the passing of a season, and it’s okay. It’s okay to let it Ache. It means we’re living and it means we’re loving our life as it stands, loving it enough to notice a transition away.

I am making my peace with The Ache, holding a bit of space for its presence in my life today. Someday it will be my old friend.

Continue Reading · baby, babywearing, family, giving birth, gratitude, journey, love, parenting, women · 350

In which there is joy in enough

It seems that we always need to get through the details, the mundane daily stuff, of who is doing what and when and why before we can get to the really good heart stuff. My mother’s blue eyes are the same as my youngest daughter’s blue eyes.  She laughs too loud (so do I) and she’s an incredibly beautiful woman, even more so as she ages. Her lines are falling in pleasant places and she looks so much like her Dad, it’s uncanny sometimes. I can see the grey at her temples and the bones in her hands are tiny like a bird’s. We talked a mile a minute, cramming a lot of laughter and weirdness into a short amount of time, diving straight in.

She listened to me (Isn’t it such a gift to just be listened to?) as everything in my heart spilled out about how tired I am sometimes, about how physically and emotionally exhausting this mothering thing can be with its sheer constancy. I jumped from yammering about homeschooling and my many thoughts on true education and spirituality and then I was telling her that we kind of want to sell everything and move to Africa or India to make some sort of a difference—maybe I could be a midwife!—and have you heard about this, that and the other thing? How this person did this thing and I thought it was awesome or terrible or hurtful, and everything that I want for myself and all the time I want back and money concerns and how I kind of need a minivan because three car seats don’t fit well in our car  but if I have to drive an ugly vehicle, then I want it to be weird-ugly not boring-ugly and on and on and on.

I made a bit of a fool of myself, to be honest.

When I was little, the primary emotion in our house was joy. My mother was happy and we knew it (clap your hands!). She loved us and loved my dad and loved her life and we all knew it. We weren’t rich. We didn’t have a lot of stuff. We didn’t “change the world” and no one knew about us, but we were really, really happy together.

I looked at her and remembered her joy, and was hit by the knowledge that my own tinies perhaps wouldn’t describe me (yet) as a person of joy.

“So what did you do, Mum?”  I was really, truly asking her because I didn’t feel simple or restful or joyful. (One of her favourite things to tell me is that a woman can definitely have it all—just not all at once. Most of the time, she thinks I need to chill out.)

“How do you calm down your mind and heart of all the mundane daily things that somehow sap the energy and time when there is all this world to save, all this difference to make, all this stuff to do and become? How do you have the joy in all of this? It always feels like I’m not enough. I’m not doing enough or being enough for the tinies, for my husband, for my home, for my community, for my world, let alone for myself. I just never feel like I’m enough.”

Read the rest of this post at SheLoves Magazine...

This month, we’re talking about joy. There’s a link-up for you to add your voice.

Continue Reading · christmas, enough, family, gratitude, Mum · 0

In which I have an epoch (+ release party pictures!)

I can assure you, the two days we spent in California were an epoch in my life, an Is-This-Even-Real-Or-Am-I-Hallucinating couple of days.

There was a moment in the middle of my reading at the release party when I hit the line “…because you matter” and I remember lifting up my eyes and seeing a roomful of you, all of you, looking straight back at me, so beautiful and present, and I nearly burst into tears at the sight of you.

So much of what I do is on the other side of a computer, just me pecking away here at my sticky laptop in the middle of my pink 90s kitchen while Evelynn naps and the older tinies are at school. And, so to see you – really see your faces, look into your eyes – as I read those words aloud? They meant something new all over again.

You matter. You matter. You matter to me.

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Brian and I got on a plane on Thursday morning and by the afternoon, I was on Sunset in Hollywood, eating Chinese food and getting my hair done, trying to figure out if that really was Def Jam’s Russell Simmons who nearly hit me with his mini-cooper.

Welcome to California!

Laura and Nish kept laughing me and telling me to stop welling up with tears – it’s a happy day! – but I couldn’t help it. I had one big day-long moment, not the least of which was the fun of having Brian there for all of it. This was our first time away without a single baby in our care in over seven years, and so this was his first time to really be there for this weird part of my life.  Of all the moments of the two days – and there were plenty – the best part of it all was that we got to do it together. (Even if he did have a creepy moustache for Mo-vember on his face. Not that I’m bitter.) The tinies had a lovely time with their Granny & Papa for those nights, too, so that was a big relief.

Saying “thank you” feels horribly inadequate for the gift of those two days, but I need to say it anyway: thank you.

Thank you to my dearest friends, Laura and JJ, for such a beautiful party to celebrate the release of Jesus Feminist. True friends are rare, I know this, the kind of friends who are with you in every season of your life. Laura, Nish, and JJ make celebrating their friends look like a spiritual gift. I could have gone home happy after just our afternoon together getting our hair done, eating Chinese food, and hanging out. Thanks to my beloved Kristen Howerton as well for participating in the reading of the book, along with Brian, Nish, and me.

I was pretty sure that it would be just me and Brian and a few of the girls, sitting around drinking champagne and toasting an empty room. I was actually genuinely surprised to see so many people! I didn’t think I knew many people in California – but instead, it was a packed room, shoulder to shoulder. I was flabbergasted.

Thank you  to each of you who came to the events for telling me your stories and for letting me hug you awkwardly.

Thank you to every single person who braved the rain in Hollywood just to say hi to a Canadian blogger they didn’t really know at all and get a signature in my little yellow book.

Thank you to the Junia Project for all of their hard work for the Friday event. It was beautiful and life-giving. We loved hanging out with Kate and Gail Wallace and the rest of the team. They’re good people who are bringing a lot of the conversations about egalitarianism to the people outside of academia. We loved them. I even got to hug Diana Trautwein! I think my favourite part of the night was during the Q&A when Brian got up on stage to help answer a few questions. Maybe we could be a double-act from now on…..

Thanks to everyone who stuck around (for too long) just to have a chat and a chance to meet face-to-face. It was a privilege and a gift to spend even those few moments with each of you.

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After the party, we joined the rest of Hollywood at In-and-Out burger. I could not believe that it was so packed, people lined up out the door at 11:30 on a Thursday night! But we got our burgers and shakes and stuffed our faces, talked over our favourite parts of the night, and had a few laughs.

You know, being a blogger and a writer is weird sometimes. Sometimes it’s infuriating, isolating, and frustrating.

But every once in a while, a dream comes true. And it’s worth paying attention to those moments, too.

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Continue Reading · gratitude, Jesus Feminist · 22