A Presidential Pardon

THIS IS LONG. It is probably the longest blog I have ever written. Normally it is something I would share on video, and in the future, I might…but for now, I want to type it so that my heart and message can be accurately conveyed without confusion.

Many of you know I use spoken word poetry to work through my issues, and when it comes to President Trump, I have a lot of them. Initially I was going to do a live spoken word I wrote on Thursday, but it was mega harsh and the tone and heart of it were neither kind nor redemptive. I could feel the Holy Spirit’s disapproval as I read it out loud to my husband. Matt encouraged me to work on it before posting it, but I knew in my heart to trash it. So I did. Instead I decided to write a blog and say basically the same thing but without the video which in my mind would somehow make it okay.

So here I am. Headphones in. Computer on. Document blank. My stubby fingers typing the phrase “I’ll be the first to say that I don’t like Donald Trump.”

But every time I type it out I feel conviction begin to rest heavily on my heart, and though my computer sits nestled in the corner of my dining room turned office where one of my sons is spinning in circles while the other watches Mickey Mouse YouTube Videos very loudly, I hear the still small voice of God say to me “You don’t know him.”

I wish I was a good enough Christian to say that I hit my knees and prayed for forgiveness or compassion or whatever it is a really good Christian would say in that moment…but I didn’t because I’m not.

I am just a person.
A person who really loves people.
A person who really loves people and wants to see their lives full of joy, hope, value, and love.
A person who really loves people and wants to see their lives full of joy, hope, value, and love and who really struggles when she feels like someone is coming in the way of that.

I have spoken openly and publically about my hate of racism and my love of people…in fact it is within those two things that my entire platform was born.

I have spoken openly against the Dakota Access Pipeline and on more than one occasion have shared my support of the peaceful protesters and movement they represent.

I have spoken openly in favor of aiding Syrian refugees and pleading for prayers on their behalf.

I have spoken openly and fiercely about strong women, their rights, and the value of what women bring to the table.

So you can see the position I have found myself in as of late.

You may not feel like that. You may feel like the Trump presidency is adding tremendous value to your life. You may feel joy and hope and value and love. If that’s you…that’s okay. This isn’t against you. It’s not even against Trump. I just want you to have some context for the space my heart was and is in.

Here I am in the midst of what I feel like is God trying to teach me something and instead of being pliable and receptive, I just keep getting frustrated. I dig the proverbial heels of my heart in and stand my ground. How could God say I don’t know him? Anyone who has twitter knows him! He is the President of the United States. His life, his past, and his mouth are at the forefront of every social media or news outlet that exists. I KNOW him. We ALL know him....and God has the nerve to say to me “You don’t know him.”

With much irritation and in a rhetorical “I-don’t-really-want-to-know-but-I’m-going-to-pacify-you” kind of way, I breathed out heavily and found my soul shouting “SO WHAT THEN IS YOUR POINT, GOD?” and though His voice was the same still small voice, His response this time felt louder and more bold, and I suddenly felt…smaller.

“I do know him.”

…and that was all He had to say.

That may seem weird to you. I know for many of you, it will not only not bring you any kind of resolution for your frustration and hurt, and to some it will even be laughable. It will make you doubt my credibility and kick yourself for even reading this far. But for me, it was enough.

I started to cry, and guys, I cried hard.

I cried because I was arrogant and embarrassed.

I cried because I was judgmental.

But most of all, I cried because I knew that for a long moment I had forgotten how gross my own heart was. I have spent weeks…months even…acting as though the sins of Donald Trump were somehow worse or more vile than the sins of own self.   

The only difference between me and Donald Trump is that his faults and failures, missteps and mistakes, and sin and slipups are on display for everyone to see. I have anonymity. When I fail and freak out and say or do horrible things – and trust me I’ve done plenty…no one sees it. I haven’t grown up in the fishbowl that is the public eye. And you know what? I’m super thankful for that, because God only knows how many of you would belittle me and leave me behind because of things I said or did when I was selfish, hurt, and lost.

I am not making excuses for his statements or behavior. Please don’t read this that way. I think that responsibility and accountability should be taken and held…and held tightly. The whole world is watching. But I cannot expect him to be perfect. I can only expect him to try and be the best. It’s easy to judge where he sits and say what we would do in his position…but do any of us REALLY know?

Do you know what the weight and responsibility for the lives of 325 million people feels like? Because I don’t.

Do you know what it is like to manage a 3 trillion dollar budget? Because I don’t.

I DO know that when my husband I are a few hundred dollars short at the end of the month I have a full scale breakdown and wonder how we will live the next few weeks.

I DO know that when my kids were born, just the weight and responsibility for their two lives kept me up several nights without any sleep and when I would sleep it would be poorly.

And I DO know that I was foolish to judge how he sits in his seat when I know nothing of that pressure or position.

The presidential seat is the highest and most respected seat in this country, but it is not the highest and most respected seat in this world. God resides in that seat and before He came off the throne to pardon me and hang on the cross to wear my sin right alongside Donald Trump’s, I was just as messed up as him.

A pardon isn’t just forgiveness. It’s total absolution. It’s not just forgiving, it’s removing and forgetting.

When Christ pardoned me, He did so freely, readily, and abundantly, even though He knew that time and time again I would let Him down. He knew I wasn’t perfect and would never be able to be perfect, so He stretched wide His arms so that the burden of perfection would be removed from my life.

Because I am not perfect, I cannot forget the mistakes of Donald Trump. BUT I can check my self-righteous attitude and arrogant heart at the door and choose to say that who he was isn’t who he is and if he is doing something, he’s doing something he believes is in the best interest for our country as a whole.

Christ bore the burden of Donald Trump’s perfection just like he bore it for me and I can no longer superimpose my opinion of what that looks like on him.

If you aren’t a Christian, I hope you know that the evangelical church does not support sexual assault, racism, misogyny, xenophobia, or any other thing that you may have (rightfully) felt President Trump embodied or represented. Please know that this message is not an excuse for behavior or a dismissal of your hurt. I have hurt, cried, and questioned with you and I have loved, given, and prayed for you.

Know moving forward, that no one, not a politician or person, represents me except for me and Christ.

Today, after a week of executive orders. I am issuing my own presidential pardon.

Because Christ pardoned me and because I claim to know Him and love Him, I must pardon Donald Trump. 

The Really Real You

At some point in the recent past, the collective realms of social media grew tired of the perfectly posed pristine posts that filled it and as a whole began to beg for real. Suddenly people claiming to be “the real deal” began cropping up, giving us unfettered access into their lives, even if their lives were messy and imperfect. It was no longer just celebrities with hundreds of thousands of followers, but regular men and women who were simply sharing their stories. Hashtags like #thisisme #perfectlyimperfect #therealdeal and #nofilter began to show up at the end of posts as people bragged about the fact that they didn’t need to hide behind a filter or a photo to be accepted. Daily we feed our eyes with images and our minds with blogs of people’s messy reality and we gorge ourselves on it like starving pigs at feed trough.

We praise the model who shares an unedited, untouched, make up free photo of her skin saying “No retouching for me, from now on, I’m showing it like it is!”

We defend the young actress who takes to the red carpet with unshaven legs saying “I didn’t feel like shaving today, and if men don’t have to, why should I?”

We celebrate the mom who shares a picture of her living room covered in toys as she holds her kids in her arms saying “The mess can wait until tomorrow, right now my hands (and heart) are full.”

We encourage the girl who shares her too big before pictures in her too small bathing suit saying “Weight loss challenge starts today! I’m not proud of where I am, but I am proud of where I’m going!”

We share these stories and photos because they seem real. They cut through the crap and show the not so glamourous aspects of living life, even if they aren’t living it so well. We see these behind the scene moments and say “YES! Finally someone telling it like it is and not sugarcoating it!” We no longer feel like the peasants looking up at glamourous kings, instead we feel like peasants among peasants in all our messed up reality.

After all, you can’t have reality without the word real in it…can you?

I think you can. I think the world has reality without real every day. Maybe it shouldn’t even be called reality anymore. Maybe drop the real and just call it ity. Because the truth is, even at our realest, none of us are really being real.

Because we fear that if we are really, really, real people will reject us.

The model who shared an unedited, untouched, make up free photo of her skin didn’t share that she gets expensive facials every single week to make sure her skin looks good without a filter.

The young actress who takes to the red carpet with unshaven legs didn’t share that the only reason she wore crop pants instead of a gown was because she didn’t shave and she was mortified that a photographer noticed and she just tried to make the best of it.

The mom who shared a picture of her living room covered in toys as she holds her kids in her arms didn’t share that she was only holding her kids because fifteen minutes before that she had a full blown meltdown and screamed at her kids because of the messy living room and they cried, so now she’s holding them because she feels guilty.

The girl who shared her too big before pictures in her too small bathing suit didn’t share that moments before she took the picture she puked up her lunch and then sucked in her stomach as much as possible.

I really wish those people would have shared those parts of their story.

I wish I shared more of mine. Each day someone messages me to say “I love you! You’re so real!” and though I am thankful, I laugh, because if they only knew how little of the real I really share, they probably wouldn’t message me or love me. Because my real is rough. I am willing to bet that yours is too. I bet that so many times you wanted to share your really real, and you got scared that you would be criticized and rejected, so you didn’t. Social media sucks sometimes, so you probably would have been criticized and rejected, but for every one person who condemns you, two sit and stare at their screens, tears falling down their face, because for once they don’t feel so alone.

Your broken pieces and their broken pieces are more alike than you know and when you share the really real, you become relatable and your heart connects with theirs. In that moment, your really real and their really real meet and in that moment they stand together, broken and on the way to healing.

Keep sharing your reality. Not the reality you think people want to see, but the reality you really live in. Share more and more. Share the ups and the wins, but also share the hard, the sick, the messed up, and the broken. Lay your cards out on the table and say “this is me, I am all in, take it or leave it” and while many will leave it, many more will take it and the world will be stronger for it. I believe in you. The real you. The really real you will change lives that the real you never could.  

The Right Word - The Wrong Time

In May 2016 I found myself sitting in the Madison Square Garden Arena patiently awaiting the start of the first ever Hillsong Colour Conference in the States. I brought a friend, we flew from Florida to New York and I sat down with an expectant heart.

As I sat, though a party was happening all around me, something different began to happen to heart within my chest. And though it makes little sense to say out loud, I could physically feel God's hands at work within me. You know that tiny hammer that archaeologists use to chip away rocks on delicate fossils? That is EXACTLY how my heart felt. I know, I know. Weird. But it's true. It was such a real feeling I could almost see it. That feeling wrecked me. I wept the whole first night and the whole next day. The people around me thought a was a lunatic. My poor friend probably did too. I mean I cried the whole time. Each moment of service, no matter how heavy or funny, I cried as He pulled me deeper and deeper into His love.

On the last day, in the middle of the last service God spoke to me about a platform and how I should handle it. A platform that I didn't have - a platform that frankly didn't even have an iota of existence. I laughed as I told my husband about it, joking that I had intercepted His transmission for someone else. I doubted the word because it didn't seem to fit me or my stage of life...AT ALL. He might as well have told me I was going home to become a rocket scientist. So I put it behind me and came home to continue planting our church, raising our sons, and working our business.

Within a few weeks of returning home, my entire life changed. One single Facebook Live video broadcast changed my world forever. I felt like God gave me something to say, so I said it, and in the two months following that moment I had developed an international platform, signed a book deal, and was beginning to travel and speak. 

I don't say that to brag, because it isn't me. It was nothing that I did - it virtually happened overnight. It was all Him. It was not in my own strength, abilities, or even desires really. 

Remembering the word He gave me at Colour, I rested in His grace, and thanked Him for knowing what was in my heart before I did. So here I am. New and very young. Inexperienced and raw. I love people so much it hurts - I pray every day that never changes. I make a lot of mistakes, but each one pulls me closer into the arms of a Father who stretches me and grows me through them. I don't have all the answers, but I know The One who does. Today, I do my best to steward it well, but it's a juggling act. It is my heart's desire to live only to point people toward the hope and love that can be found in Christ, and Christ alone. 

Why I'll Always Pick Him

***After posting this, it has come to my attention that I need to make some clarifications. 1) My kids are not a burdensome chore – while motherhood is hard work…and it is work…they are easygoing, happy, healthy, fun kids who I CHOSE to stay home and raise – not because of obligation but because of a deep desire to want to raise them well and make sure every need they have is met and met by myself or my husband. I gave up a career for my children and they are worth every moment of it. This blog was meant to put a HUMOROUS spin on hard days of motherhood, not make my kids out to be unwanted burdens. 2) My husband is not a sideline parent doing nothing and picking up my pieces once I have done all there is to do. He is the best husband and father I have ever seen. If anything, he works twice as hard as me because he loves and parents them and then goes above and beyond to make sure I am served well and have everything I need. 3) (And probably most important!) My kids are not unloved. I didn’t say I didn’t love them, I said I love my husband in a different, greater, deeper way…which I do and always will. Without him they would cease to exist – he is why I wanted children and marriage and a legacy outside of ourselves, and as such my love will first and always go to him, but my children are BY NO MEANS unloved. In fact, I love them with every fiber of my body. I grew them, sustained them, and give every day of my life to attend to them. They are one of the greatest loves of my life – just not my first love.

I also want to make sure that it is known that this blog applies to a deeper relationship than just my children’s father. I understand that circumstances, life choices, slip ups, accidents (though no child is a mistake), and hard things happen. I, of course, would fault no mother for loving her children more than the man who simply fathered her children – as that alone encompasses a number of situations. The love and feeling I describe in this comes from a place of covenant, of marriage, and of my husband who I love and out of our love came my children. Thank you.***

While I love and ADORE my sons more than breath and life, it’s no secret that I love my husband more. I have met more than one mother or wife (or combination of the two) that didn’t understand how I could say that my husband was more important to me than they were. They didn’t understand how I said that I loved my husband more than I loved my sons. They couldn’t seem to comprehend that if it came down to it, I would pick him…not them…every single time…and will continue to do every day for the rest of my life….to me it’s easy really.

– I’ll always pick him because when I’m crying in a heaping mess BECA– USE OF THEM on the bathroom floor, he can pick me up and rock me in his arms while I cry into his cotton t-shirt covered chest as opposed to a sour towel that’s been used for who knows what (spit up?) and has been sitting on the bathroom floor for who knows how long (4 days).

– I’ll always pick him because one day, my kids will go and they will leave me to live their lives…as they rightfully should…and I don’t want to look back and wonder where the last 18+ years of my marriage went because I was ignoring my husband to take care of eventual deserters.

– I’ll always pick him because they can hear the sound of a candy wrapper in the middle of a dead sleep from across the house during a thunderstorm and will come running to devour it before I even get a bite, but he leaves Snickers in the refrigerator for me because he knows I like them cold (and they can’t open the door).

– I’ll always pick him because when I yell at him because yelling at them does no good and if I don’t yell at something my head will explode and get brains on my already kid stained carpet, he just stands there and takes it, and then looks at me and smiles a little smile that makes me forget why I even yelled in the first place.

– I’ll always pick him because he pushes me toward my dreams, and they push me toward crazy town.

– I’ll always pick him because I don’t have to change his diaper (BECA– USE ALL I DO IS CHANGE DIAPERS…OH SWEET FIG NEWTONS HOW MUCH WASTE CAN TWO CHILDREN PRODUCE!?), but I know that one day if he had to change mine, he would do it and love me more in those moments than at the height of my health.

– I’ll always pick him because he chews with his mouth closed and doesn’t try to feed me his half chewed gold fish.

– I’ll always pick him because he saw me get big with a baby (twice), give birth to a baby (twice), and get droopy after a baby (twice) and he would still have sex with me every moment of the day if he could…and not in some hedonistic “I’m a man and all I think about his sex” kind of way…but in that “when he looks at me I know he sees me like the sun and moon and stars” kind of way, and just wants to be as close to me as possible, because I am his beloved and he is mine.

– I’ll always pick him because he knows that if I say they have been hanging all over me all day and I need some space to not be touched that I really mean I want to lay my feet in his lap just far enough that he can rub them, but not so close that I’m crowded, which he does without complaint.

– I’ll always pick him because they will grow and their baby face cuteness will fade, but his never will, even with old age.

– I’ll always pick him because if they have a bad dream and crawl in the bed, they put their knees in my neck and elbows in my spine and toes up my nose with no care for my comfort WHATSOEVER. But if he has a bad dream he just pulls me really close and buries his head in the back of my neck – breathing in my dirty wife and mom smell that somehow comforts him instead of killing him.

– I’ll always pick him because when they get on my nerves I have to live with it, but I can tell him to go away.

Simply put…

– I’ll always pick him because he always picks me.

Atlas Gets Born

This will probably be one of the shortest birth stories in the history of birth stories. But spice it up as I may, it was a very quick experience at the end of a very LONG pregnancy.

Because we got pregnant with Atlas when August was 3 months old and I was still breastfeeding we didn’t know when exactly we conceived, so they just picked his due date based on his ever changing size resulting in a very frustrating ever changing due date.

Depending on his conception date when I finally went into labor I was somewhere between 40 1/2 and 43 weeks pregnant. Based on my initial due date – I would have been knocking on the door of 43 weeks. I was pregnant forever it seemed like. We tried every trick in every list to get him out. Nothing worked. I was 3cm dilated and 70% effaced for over 6 weeks. On Tuesday the 24th I was told I had finally had some progression and was now 4cm and 100% thinned and effaced. But still no signs of labor. Talk about discouraging. I had my membranes stripped twice to no avail. So finally my doctor scheduled an induction date – Tuesday, March 3rd at 8 pm. We just assumed that would be the day we met him.

Thursday, February 26th was a normal day aside from the fact that I woke up feeling weird. Not sick but not healthy. Not lethargic but not energetic. No cramping or contractions. I just felt BLAH. So we got a babysitter and Matt took me to dinner to spend time and talk and see if it would pull me out of my funk. When we got home we put August to bed and went right to bed ourselves.

One of the most painful contractions I have ever had woke me up a few hours later at exactly 1:32am. It was about 90 seconds long. I got out of bed and went to the bathroom (because if this was labor I was not about to poop on myself in a room of strangers…nooo way) and waited on the next one to come. 9 minutes and 50 seconds later I had my second very painful contraction…again lasting 90 seconds. I was so confused because they were still far apart but were so painful and so long that I couldn’t breath or speak so even though I only had two I decided to wake Matt up. He suggested I call the doctor and ask her opinion, so I did. While leaving a message for the doctor I had another contraction – but it had only been 4 1/2 minutes. My contractions went from nearly 10 minutes apart to nearly 4 minutes apart in an instant. Before the doctor could call back I looked at Matt and told him to call him mom to come over because we needed to go. I called my mom and told her to head to Gainesville.

After about 10 minutes she was here and I laid a towel down in my seat and (true story) asked Matt how hard it would be to clean afterbirth out of my seats to try to lighten the mood…little did we know how close we would come to that. We started the 45 minute drive to Gainesville and my contractions were still 4 1/2 minutes apart and 90 seconds long, but still I wasn’t sure if this was it. Call it denial – but we waited so long I just assumed induction would be the only way. Matt held my hand through each contraction and encouraged me in a way that only he could. By the way – the only thing harder than laboring in a hospital is laboring SEAT-BELTED in a car. Ugh. Awful. But Praise the Lord for seat warmers because they made it tolerable!

About 20 minutes into the car ride we passed the Alachua exit and I had a pushing contraction and my contractions switched to 3 minutes apart and (I thought) peed all over myself. I told Matt and he said do not push so I said he needed to go faster (In fact, I said “You need to go faster. You need to be going 100 miles an hour.” To which he replied “I am not going to go 100 miles an hour.”) because if he didn’t we were having this baby in the car. We ended up ahead of my mom on the interstate and pulled into the hospital overhang about 15 minutes later. There was no time to park.

We went up the elevator and into the labor and delivery wing – they tried getting me to sit in a wheel chair but there was no way that was happening. They let me go into a room to put on a gown even though I wasn’t checked in because I was all wet and they wanted to check my progression. About 8 minutes had passed since we got to the hospital and after throwing up I felt a little better (hello transition) the two nurses in the room checked me and let me know I was only 6cm! WHAT. SIX. NO. By the way that was my water that broke all over me – I did not pee my pants. Ha. It was at this point I think they assumed I was a dramatic girl with low pain tolerance because I was dancing around moaning with my butt hanging out of that stupid gown and I was only 6cm and then I felt it. I knew he was coming out, so I climbed up on the bed on my hands and knees (my fave birth giving position clearly) and reached down and felt his head. I told them he was coming out and I had to push and before they could say a word different I pushed one and a half times and he was out on the bed.

At 3:23 am on Friday, February 27th just 1 Hour and 51 minutes after my first contraction, Atlas Quinn Hartman (literally) erupted into this world. He waited until he was good and ready to come out, but when he was ready – HE WAS READY. 7 pounds 10 ounces 21 inches long.

Matt and one nurse with gloves who caught him and another nurse who stood beside her were all that were in there. The doctor was never called, I was never admitted, and my mom made it in just as they put him on my chest.

He came so fast he breathed in some fluid and had to have it suctioned out of his lungs with a tube – but he did great and still had high APGARs. I’m so proud of him. He was a champion baby. Had I waited for one more contraction before waking up Matt that baby would have been born in the car. God knew what he was doing and my sweet baby was perfectly healthy and well. He is good to me and his big brother loves him very much. We are blessed.

Silent Wonderment

There are a lot of things my sons will know about me. They will know how much I love them and they will know how valuable they are to me. They will know that I will always accept their kisses even if they are dirt covered or taste like snot. They will know that I think they are smart, kind, and talented. They will know that there isn’t anything in this world I wouldn’t do to protect, nurture, and develop them. They will know that I don’t like to share my drinks with them because food floaties gross me out. They will know that they can come to me at anytime for anything and I will be there for them. They will know that I value honor, honesty, compassion, and generosity above all else. At the end of my life they will know these things and many more about the mother I was to them…but you know what? There are a lot of things they won’t know about me.

They won’t know how many nights I sat up by their bed watching them until I thought my eyes might bleed to make sure they breathed.

They won’t know how many times I held them and cried as they cried asking myself if I really did want children…asking myself if I really COULD do this…asking myself if this is the life I wanted.

They won’t know how many times I had to sit them gently on the floor and walk away and collect myself because I didn’t know if I could handle it much longer.

They won’t know how many nights exhausted tears ran down my face and collected on their little bald heads as I walked and walked them because they just wouldn’t sleep unless I held them and walked.

They won’t know how many times the sound of their cry was just about enough to send me over the edge.

They won’t know how many times I wished I could have a pause, a moment, or a do over.

They won’t know how many days I wanted to shut myself in a dark room and never come out.

They won’t know how many moments I felt like all this work just might not be worth it.

They won’t know how many times I was too proud or too scared to ask for help because “I was the mom — this was my job.”

They won’t know how many times I didn’t want to hold them for another second because my arms and my heart were just too tired.

They won’t know that if it wasn’t for their dad and his constant support and help that I couldn’t take care of them – emotionally or physically.

They won’t know how hard it was to manage emotions, relationships, motherhood, and a household.

They just won’t know.

But I think I’m okay with them not knowing. I don’t feel entitled to their praise. I don’t need them to appreciate “all I did for them”. It’s in those late moments that I find peace, in those weak moments that I find strength, in those hard moments that I find my way. When they look at me like I am their beginning and end – it’s worth it. When I am sitting in a messy heap of scattered mom in tears on the floor and my toddler walks over to me and kisses my head and says “I Lah Loo Momma” I know I can make it. I know I can handle it. I know that this is the life I want. When my infant dreams on my chest and giggles as he sleeps, I know in that moment that the sleepless nights won’t last forever but if they do it’s okay because those dream giggles are sweeter than any slumber I could ever get.

Motherhood is hard. Know one will ever know every moment that makes up my motherhood — but I will. I will know all the pain and exhaustion and frustration but I will also know all the love and joy and silent wonderment.

How To Spot A Stay At Home Mom

How To Spot A Stay At Home Mom in Public

*I am a stay at home mom to two precious boys – so believe me when I say that this is in no way an attack on stay at home moms but is instead a celebration of the life that we live…because the truth is if you don’t laugh at it and see the joy you will go crazy and want to lock yourself in a closet.

1) Got Crust? – Give a quick glance at her shoulders and the bottom of her shirt. Is there something crusty? Maybe white and pasty? It looks like toothpaste but it could be, I don’t know, eggs? Butter? Flour? Was she baking a cake? No, she wasn’t. That’s a trifecta of diaper rash cream, breast milk, and snot. You know what? 30 minutes ago that shirt was clean and fresh out of the dryer. You know what else? All of those things got on her shirt in between taking the kids out of the car and walking into the grocery store. SHE DIDNT EVEN TAKE OUT THE DIAPER RASH OINTMENT! HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?!

2) What’s That On Her Head? – Oh that? It’s hair. Yes hair. I know, I know, but trust me – it IS hair. If she is lucky and the kids were being SUPER GREAT it will be down and wet. She had time to shower but her toddler took off his diaper and pooped on the floor before she could actually DO anything with it. So the wet dog look it is. More than likely it will be up in a bun that resembles a tangled mess of dreadlocks and…is that a Frozen sticker? You’re probably trying to figure out why her bun looks like it hasn’t been washed since she stays home all the time. Shut your mouth. Just go ahead and stop that thought right there.

3) Eyeliner or Eye Bags? – Are you struggling to tell if her eye liner is smeared or if those are bags under her eyes? The answer is yes. Those are bags under her eyes. In fact the bags under her eyes have bags under them. She hasn’t had a full nights sleep since Moses was alive. The eyeliner has been on for 3 days now…or 3 weeks. She can’t really remember. Also, her eyes are probably all puffy because she’s cried at minimum of 2 times already today even though it’s only 11. Once because she wanted to strangle everyone while trying to get everybody ready to go in a timely manner without forgetting a bottle or a baby and once when her newborn smiled at her for the first time making her glad she didn’t strangle everyone.

4) Did She Get Dressed In The Dark? – Chances are she will be wearing plain jeans that are stained even though she JUST took the tags off or too baggy gym shorts to compliment her crusty shirt. BUT WAIT. What’s this? Is that a black sock and a blue sock sticking out of her shoes? Seriously the fact that she even had enough time to find two of the same socks in different colors is a feat in itself. Stop staring and tell her to rock those mismatched socks, girl! Scratch that – don’t mention her socks or cry #3 of the day is sure to ensue…that or she will smack you.

5) Is That A Toy In Your Pocket Or Are You Just Happy To See Me? – Even though she only has 4 pockets on her jeans somehow she has managed to get a cell phone, a set of car keys, a sippy cup, a teething ring, two hot wheels, 3 rocks and a stick all graciously gifted by her 4 year old in the parking lot, a handful of cheese puffs, and some tissues in those 4 small pockets. She looks like she is stealing groceries in those jeans but really it’s just your basic survival essentials for having children.

6) ALL THE BABIES. – She might have a single infant in a carrier or have a baby strapped to her chest and two in the shopping cart with one trailing a short distance behind her picking up every pack of every item he shouldn’t have along the way. You will watch her from a distance having now identified her as a SAHM and be baffled at how even messy and tired and clearly overwhelmed because her infant wants to nurse even though she JUST ATE and her 1 year old keeps throwing his cup on the ground, she still manages to look at them completely in love like they hung the moon and the stars. Because the truth is that she wouldn’t trade those deadlocks, crusty clothes, trash filled pockets, and mismatched socks for those kids for even a moment. Most days she can’t think or pee alone and she knows that the moment she goes out in public she will get silently criticized for her parenting style or unkempt appearance but she doesn’t care. To those kids she is the world and she loves every moment of it…even the moments she doesn’t love so much.

My Body Is Not Mine

For my entire life I have struggled with my body image. I cannot remember a season since I was a child where I was not over obsessed or under impressed with the body that I had to carry around each day. Even when I felt my best, I still always felt like the worst. Whether it was my complexion, skin, weight, height, or hair, I always found something to detest. No amount of compliments ever changed my mind. I hid my insecurity behind a facade of over confidence in my intellect and abilities. A poor body image and a worse opinion of myself compounded at 16 as a junior in high school when I developed an eating disorder. I worked out more than I should, and ate less than I needed to and quickly dropped from a healthy weight to a sickly one. By God’s grace and with help I overcame the eating disorder, but I never seemed to be able to shake the constant feeling of my body never being good enough. Even in marriage with the most loving and supportive husband who adores me and my body, I have struggled with those thoughts and feelings each day without fail.

Each day, that is, until two weeks ago.

I was in the shower, because all of my great life lessons are learned in the shower, and I was thinking about my body like always. If there ever was a warranted time to struggle with my body’s appearance, it was 50 days after having a baby. Loose skin and stretch marks had me down, and I was mulling over my physical goals for 2014 when I suddenly felt this passion and excitement for my body and meeting my goals that I have never felt before. Without even thinking, I said out loud “God where did this feeling come from?” and in response I heard:

“Because you finally have learned that your body is not your own.”

Um. Excuse me God? Not my own? I carry this body. I maintain it. Last time I checked no one else was shaving these legs for me! What. Are. You. Talking. About?

Then it occurred to me…He was right. It isn’t my own. There is nothing like having a kid to make you realize that you have no control of what happens to or in your body. It is my husband’s to delight and enjoy in. It is my son’s from which he was grown, birthed, and is now sustained. But most importantly, more than any of the other things my body belongs to, it is the home of the Holy Spirit and God’s to use in anyway He sees fit. Should He decide to use me to share the gospel with a million in India, or with my kids in the kitchen, it is His. Should He use me to bring Him glory by writing novels, or by honoring my husband and making him sandwiches, it is His. And for the majority of my life, I haven’t been acting like it. I continued to mull over my new revelation in the shower, when I got out and grabbed my bible and immediately came to this:

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” – 2 Corinthians 6:19-20

Just like how I can’t focus or be on track when my physical home is out of order and in disarray, the same goes for the Holy Spirit when my spiritual home is out of order and in disarray. I suddenly had this incredible desire to make my temple FIT, to make my temple WHOLE, and to make my temple WELL. I learned that day in the shower that PHYSICAL fitness is just as important as SPIRITUAL fitness.

So I made a commitment to myself. I will become the healthiest I have ever been before this year. I will be in the best shape of my life, for myself, my husband, and my child. In my opinion, it was sinful of me to be filling my body with junk, irregularly working out, and not caring about my physical health. There is something very spiritual about the physical. I felt convicted to claim to be a believer and not care for the most important thing a believer possesses, the Holy Spirit. So I started making steps. Changing the way I ate, what I cooked, and where we went. I started working out and actually looking forward to and enjoying it. I find joy and peace in caring for my body, and for the first time in my life, I don’t feel like I am trapped in my skin.

August Gets Born

You don’t know pain until you’ve had an unmedicated labor contraction. You’ve stubbed your toe? Ha! Broken bones? Psh. Been hit by a car? Not even close. Okay…maybe being hit by a car might be close, but I am still going to say labor trumps it.

Choosing to give birth naturally was an easy decision for me. It didn’t take much thought and early on in pregnancy I knew that’s how I was going to go into it.

I chose natural child birth for 3 reasons:

1: Women have been doing it for thousands of years without doctors, so I should be able to as well.
2: God built our bodies for bringing a baby into this world, and I believed he would see me through.
3: I wanted to be able to feel each little thing that was happening so I could listen to my body to best help my baby.

I didn’t read a single birthing book or take a minute of childbirth classes, I just assumed when the time came my body would know what to do.

That said, I believe mothers who choose to do it with medical help are no less INCREDIBLE than those who don’t. I think if you give birth; be it naturally, via c-section, or with an epidural, you are a heroine of epic proportions and deserve to be doted on like the CHILD BEARING QUEEN you are. So, here’s to you, mom!

I call my son’s birth “unnaturally natural” because while I had him without pain medication, I had to be induced, so there was medical intervention. My due date was January 16th and I had my 40 week ultrasound and appointment on the morning of the 15th to determine his size before I went into labor. It turned out his amniotic fluid was low and I was sent immediately down to labor and delivery to be induced. At 1:00 PM they began Pitocen and my contractions started immediately but weren’t painful. It turned out that my son wasn’t tolerating the Pitocen well though, as each time I had a contraction his heart rate would drop. The doctor stopped the Pitocen after only an hour to give him a break, then resumed it at 3:00 but the problems with his heart rate continued so the last resort was to break my water…if that didn’t help, I would have to have an emergency c-section. They broke my water at 5:30 and his heart rate improved after placing an internal monitor that delivered fluids to him, so we were able to continue without fear of a c-section.

My labor was relatively easy until about 8:00…I say it was easy because I was texting and tweeting up until that point. It’s pretty difficult to describe what a labor contraction is like, but I would describe it like this:

Imagine a boa constrictor who is covered in six billion tiny spikes of death who has crawled up your body and tightly wrapped himself around your midsection and he just keeps squeezing tighter and tighter until you think you might rip in half and then just when you are about to die he relaxes for just a few seconds before doing it all over again, each time tighter and harder with less of a break than the last.

At 8:00 that boa constrictor crawled into my hospital room and tried to kill me. The only thing more painful than contractions laying on my side, was contractions laying on my back, so I turned around and sat on my hands and knees for almost two hours until he was born. That’s right, I delivered him on all fours like some kind of super empowered cow woman.

I would like to say that I did it with no doubt or faltering, but I cannot. I BEGGED for medicine every time a boa contraction would happen, and like the champions they are, my husband distracted me and my mom or Erikah rubbed my back each time. They knew I didn’t REALLY want medicine, I just wanted relief from what I was sure was slow and painful death approaching. I cannot say enough that what truly got me through was that each time I would cry and say “I can’t do this, I’m sorry can’t do this.”, Matt would look deep into my eyes…like I CAN SEE YOUR SOUL deep into my eyes…and he would say “Yes you can, you can do this.”, and each time he said it I believed him more than the last. With each boa contraction my whole body shook like a box of Shake and Bake just waiting to be cooked. To this day I cannot believe my legs never gave out. During my super human labor trance, I remember hearing the nurse say to my mom “I have never seen anyone stay on their legs like this for so long…is she an athlete or a runner or something?” and mentally I high-fived myself and though “HECK NO LADY I LAID ON A COUCH FOR 9 MONTHS–YOU GO SISTA!”.

At some point, I’m not sure when or how dilated I was, my body started to fight back against the boa constrictor of doom and began to push on its own. They told me not to do that, but that was like telling someone not to breath. My body was doing it all on its own with no help from me. Then, with the fire of a thousand warriors my lady parts felt like they were giving birth to lava instead of a baby. I told the nurse and she said that was odd and she would check and see if everything was okay, then she started yelling “WOAH! STOP! STOP! STOP!” because apparently unbeknownst to me that lava I was giving birth to was an actual baby and his head was coming out.

After 9 hours of labor and only 12 minutes of pushing (which feels like trying to poop a boulder) like a slippery, warm, screaming wet noodle, August Rhema Hartman made his entrance into this world on January 15th, 2014 at 10:49 PM. 8 lbs 2 oz 20 inches long…with a perfectly small 13 inch head…boy did I appreciate that tiny baby head.

They told me to turn around, to which I replied “I can’t…I can’t move. My legs won’t work! I can’t move!” But they convinced me my legs did in fact work and I could move them if I tried. Then they placed the most perfectly tiny human I have ever seen on my chest, and in an instant I fell ferociously in love. The second his eyes met mine we shared a thousand moments from the last nine months. It’s hard to explain, but when he looked into my eyes I knew he knew me. With Matt by my side we looked down at the goo covered baby that we thought we would never meet, and our love grew in a way I never thought possible. We made that boy and without the two of us, he could never be. The room was full of people, but in that moment there were only the three of us and I spiraled deeper into my newfound love.

Natural childbirth was the hardest, scariest, most painful thing I’ve ever done, but it was also the most incredible, empowering, and miraculous thing I’ve ever experienced. Don’t ask me why, but I intend to do it again.

How To Fail At Marriage

PLEASE NOTE - THIS IS SATIRE. WE WISH TO SEE EVERY MARRIAGE HEALTHY AND FULFILLED, LOVING AND LONG LASTING. 

There are too many books on how to succeed in marriage. No more of that. Let’s talk about how to fail at it…I mean utterly destroy it. The simple truth is many know what it takes to make a relationship work, they just choose not to do it. So…let’s write the blog the way people are really living it…let’s write the blog about failing it.

1: Lie. Lie. Lie. – If all you’re doing is being honest all the time, your relationship is going to begin to build strong bonds of trust. That’s stupid. We don’t want that. DIStrust is what we are aiming for here, so lie until your pants are on fire. If she asks where you were, lie. If he asks who you’re with, lie. While you’re at it, throw in a little secrecy. Nothing builds distrust quite like a little bag of secrets. The more lies, the better. In fact, tell just enough lies that they know you’re lying but can’t quite prove it. Keep them guessing…in the WORST way.

2: Friendsh–. Nope. None of that mess. I mean, are you kidding me? FRIENDS. Ew. Start acting like friends and next thing you know you’ll actually be enjoying each other’s company. GAG. Really you should pretend to be friendly, but never ACTUALLY be friends. Don’t go anywhere or laugh and play together…that’s a recipe for a heathy relationship disaster if I’ve ever seen one. People might get the wrong idea. What you really need is some loneliness and isolation.

3: Don’t speak unless…just don’t speak. – Communication is NOT the key. Don’t talk, don’t write, don’t even use Morris Code. Spouses who talk openly have it all wrong…once they start communicating offenses and working through their issues then BAM-50th wedding anniversary in Maui before you even realized what was happening. We are trying to get you out in 50 days or less! Keep your mouth closed and your ears closed tighter. Let your spouse SEE you without ever getting to KNOW you.

4: Embrace Selfishness. – Selflessness won’t get you anything but a happy home. Selfless couples feel fulfilled and loved when they invest in one another. That’s not for you. You need to embrace a life of unhealthy independence and selfishness. Don’t do ANYTHING, and I mean anything for your spouse. No gifts. No foot rubs. No dates. No surprises. Don’t even make that girl a sandwich. Do everything for yourself, by yourself. Oh! And while you’re at it, expect them to do everything for you too. Have them be at your beck and call and NEVER do anything for them in return.

5: Booty Cooties. – No, and I repeat NO, touching. Ladies, act like he is Sloppy Sammie from the fourth grade and you would rather eat dirt than hug him. Men, treat her like you wouldn’t touch her with a ten foot pole if someone paid you a million dollars. Couples who regularly enjoy each other’s bodies in marriage are always close and you can tell their intimacy roots run deep. We want shallow roots people, shallow roots! This includes kissing, hugging, hand holding, and the dreaded s-e-x. If you MUST get the booty cooties, refer to point 4. Be selfish. It’s about you and your needs, not them and theirs. Get in, get out, get done. Intimacy is for losers.

6: Don’t Give In…EVER. – Compromise is for weenies. When you come to a compromise with your spouse, you say “I care about your needs as much as my own, so let’s come to an agreement together.” and when you say that, you are saying “Let’s make this work.” NO, NO, NO. What you need to say is “Get back, sucka. This is my town. My way or the highway.” When you don’t compromise, you are dialing into two other key components of failing at marriage, selfishness and refusal to communicate. You are killing two birds with one stone…actually…you’re killing there. Your marriage is the third bird. You go, bird killer.

7: Affirm nothing, gain everything. – Affirmation is nothing but encouragement and emotional support. ARE YOU TRYING TO STAY TOGETHER FOREVER!? Couples who affirm one another never doubt what the other thinks or feels about them. Couples who don’t doubt are stable. Couples who are stable, succeed. The only thing you better be encouraging is his butt out the door. If you are emotionally supporting anything other than her tears on your divorce papers, you are just asking for a healthy marriage. Leave the affirmation at the altar.

8: Fight…For Your Right…To Fiiiight. – I’ll make it simple, yell. Yell all the time about everything. He didn’t take out the trash? Yell at him. She didn’t do the laundry? Yell at her. Finances falling apart? Yell at each other. Marriages without knock down drag outs don’t know what they’re missing. When you listen and respond in a calm, collected manner, you are waving a banner of patience. Patient couples are lasting couples. We hate patience. Patience is not satisfying. What is satisfying is seeing your wife in a crumpled mess of tears on the floor, or your husband slamming the door so hard a window breaks.

9: Dont forgive, don’t forget. – You should never forgive your spouse. If they have faults, remind them of them constantly. If they hurt you, never let them forget it. Forgiveness tells your spouse you love them more than the sum of their faults. That’s dumb. Their faults suck. They should know it. If you can’t keep it together, we aren’t staying together.

10: Jesus Schmesus. – There’s an old adage that says “Couples who pray together, stay together.” and man is that true! SO STAY AWAY! You definitely shouldn’t go to church. You really don’t need to pray. Actually, don’t even listen to a Christ centered podcast. Couples with Christ as the foundation are bound to succeed, and success is not what we want. Found your marriage on something fleeting and material like lust or common interests. Have faith in failure and nothing else. Like the San Francisco Earthquakes, it will crumble in no time.

Hair Today - Gone Tomorrow

August will be 5 weeks old on Wednesday, and like most babies (and much to my dismay), his newborn hair is starting to fall out. He was born with the most beautiful straight dark hair just like his dad, and now he looks like an old man with hair only in the back. His hair has rubbed off mostly on the sides where the part of his head meets my arm when I hold him or feed him…and the top of his head where I kiss him all the time. 

I tried my hardest to figure out a way to stop it from falling out because I love it, but I realized that as long as it was continually being rubbed by my arms when I held him, it would continue to fall out. The good thing about it falling out is that once the thin baby hair falls out, new, stronger permanent hair will begin to grow in its place.

It’s the same when the abrasiveness of life begins to rub against the weak areas in my life. At first, I try my best to stop it. The truth is, often times the weak areas in my life are the areas my flesh loves the most. But as time passes, I realize that once those weak places have been rubbed away, new, stronger, permanent characteristics grow back in their place.

Materialism gives way to generosity.
Selfishness gives way to selflessness.
Pride gives way to humility.
Idleness gives way to productivity.

As it is difficult to watch August’s beautiful baby hair fall out, knowing that thicker more beautiful hair will grow in it’s place makes it worth it. Just the same, as uncomfortable as it is to have these weak areas in my life rubbed away, the beauty that comes with what replaces them is more than worth it.

10 Things About Life After Pregnancy No One Warned Me About

(And If They Did, They Did A Bad Job At Warning Me)

***Let me clarify before you read my list that not only did I LOVE being pregnant, but I LOVE being a mother and I wouldn’t trade one nanosecond of it to remove any one thing off this list. I am writing this to put a humorous spin on an otherwise very hard and emotionally draining time in a new mom’s life. Also, postpartum life is very, very hard and without proper support and information, can make you feel isolated and broken. Knowing that you aren’t alone and that it gets better can make all the difference. I know it did for me. Develop a good support system. Surround yourself  with people who you can trust, confide in, and be comforted by, and laugh at yourself…that’s really all you can do. I understand that every woman, pregnancy, and labor are different, but the consensus of the women I have talked to is that all of these things are pretty standard. Please don’t be offended if something on this list did (or didn’t) happen to you and you feel as though my humor minimized it. My goal is to encourage and uplift, not tear down. I would love to hear your feedback and opinions. 

1: Your body is just not so great…actually it’s gross…your body is gross. Sure, you just experienced the miracle of bringing life into the world, and I am not trying to minimize that because it’s the most incredible thing I’ve ever done, but your body will be gross for a while. There’s no way around it, just accept it. It’s swollen, it leaks, it smells, it bleeds, it sweats, it itches, it burns, it’s loose, there’s skin everywhere, and nothing works the way it did before…it’s really unpleasant. You will take showers as often as you can, and upon exiting you will immediately feel as though you need ten more. And apparently, it gets worse before it gets better.

2: Your lips will be as dry as desert sands. Seriously. No one even hinted at this. My lips have been in a constant state of being chapped since I delivered my precious boy. No amount of Chapstick, water, lotion, face wash, or moisturizer has helped. Breastfeeding makes you super thirsty, so you will constantly be drinking water, and somehow your lips will still be dry and you will feel like you haven’t had a sip of liquid in ten years.

3: Breastfeeding hurts. Not that “it will be uncomfortable for the first few times but then it will get better” but in that “I WOULD RATHER SAW MY ARM OFF WITH A BUTTER KNIFE THAN DO THIS AGAIN” excruciating pain that seems to never end. There were nights that I cried and cried each time he ate, anxious every time he would start to root because I knew it meant I had to feed him again…God forbid you get a crack or a sore…you will be praying for swift death. Breastfeeding is the best for your baby, but don’t feel bad if it is hard for you, and know that you are not a bad mother if you are unable to see it through. I am glad I have stuck with it, but it has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. To me, it was even harder than labor, and I have wanted to quit more times than continue. My best advice is get support. Contact a lactation consultant in your area who can help you and can give you that reassurance that you’re not alone and you’re doing the right things for you and your baby. Also, PUMP.

4: Sweat happens. This goes back to point number one, your body will be gross. Because you are a hormonal mess, the first little while after delivery you will sweat like you ran a marathon in leather pants and a turtleneck, especially when you’re sleeping or breastfeeding. You can’t stop it. Do yourself a favor and lay down a towel when you’re in bed so you don’t have to wash your sheets a thousand times a day and when it comes to deodorant, APPLY-APPLY-APPLY.

5: Stretchmarks of DOOM. Believe it or not, stretchmarks look WORSE not better once the baby comes out. I naively had this idea in my head that once the baby came out, they would look better because my skin wouldn’t be so stretched…WRONG. Mine actually began to swell and itch and turned a bright red color for a little while. You should know you can get even MORE stretch marks once your not pregnant anymore once your body starts adjusting and things like your milk coming in start happening. So love on those stretchy stripes ladies, they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

6: Contractions don’t stop after labor stops. Yep. You read that right. Following the delivery of your child, you will probably continue to have contractions, especially while breastfeeding for the first few days to weeks…AND THEY HURT MAN! Without a baby to be the prize at the end of the contraction pinata, they are really just a painful (but necessary) nuisance that grips your belly like the strong arm of Satan and squeezes until you beg for mercy.

7: Introducing Moody Melinda. You will be sad for a little while. Often termed the baby blues, mood swings are incredibly common as your body tries to regulate all of the hormonal changes that are going on inside it. That compounded with the fact that you are a new mom with what feels like the weight of the world balancing on your shoulders, no sleep, and a gross body, you will pendulum swing emotionally at the drop of a hat. You won’t just cry either. Sometimes you will feel aggravated, angry, alone (no matter how much help you have), frightened, and frankly, just plain over it. You might snap, you might yell, you might not speak at all. Know that you’re normal, and once your hormones level out and you get the hang of everything, these feelings will start to fade…slowly and eventually you’ll get back to the way you were before…maybe…I don’t know. I’m still waiting on that to happen. All joking aside, postpartum depression is a very serious condition and should be dealt with right away. If you feel like you are no longer in control of your emotions, thoughts, or body, I encourage you to seek help from your support person, OB-GYN/Pediatrician, or family planning support group.***

8: Things that used to be normal before become terrifying after. First word: Pooping. Before you get all “oh my gosh I can’t believe she said that” let’s be adults. Everyone poops and ask any woman who has had a child, pooping is scary the first few times. Fret not, properly prepared, it’s not as bad as you imagine it to be. Take my advice: Tucks pads, squirt bottle, stool softeners, hydration, and prayer. Second word: Sneezing. The first time I sneezed (about 4 hours after little buddy had arrived) I almost shot out of the bed and into the ceiling. It will hurt, and every time you feel that tingling in your nose, you will clench up and pray your nose falls off so you don’t have to do it ever again.

9: Hemorrhoids. (No explanation needed.)

10: Pure Joy. No one could have prepared me for the amount of love and sheer exuberant joy that I feel as a mother. People can try and describe it, but it’s something you’ll never truly know until you experience it. I would take each thing on this list and multiply it times a hundred and August would still be worth every moment if it. My body, perfectly crafted by God for this purpose, not only grew him but even after birth is providing everything he needs to live. He knows my smell and just my touch brings him peace. He looks in my eyes and I know without question that he knows me, literally from the inside out. Each time he sighs, smiles, or sleeps, my heart swells to a size that feels as though my chest cannot contain it. Each bit if stress, sweat, strain, and ache is worth every minute, because it brought him to me. If I had to live with these 9 things forever, I would, as they are the remnants  of a miracle. My son is my miracle.