mothertogether

On loss

What happens when the worst that you feared, happens?

Last week, that happened. Well, to be honest, I have a lot of fears roaming around in my head, so just one of those fears came to pass. Anxiety and "worst case scenario" thinking are some of my strong suits. (No, I am not proud of that, but hey ... work in progress.) So, this week in particular, as Jon and I walked into the doctor's office, we were once again faced with the words we heard 2 years ago that our pregnancy wasn't progressing and we'd be losing our baby.

Mid-January I took a pregnancy test and couldn't wait to share the news with everyone that Brighton would be a big sister. I was apprehensive because we had been down this road before, but I learned through our last miscarriage that life is meant to be celebrated, so if I only had 6 weeks to celebrate that life, those 6 weeks were still worth celebrating. So we chose to not shy away from sharing the news with our close family and friends. These are the people we do life with, and doing life includes the highs and the lows. 

A few weeks after the pregnancy test confirmed a little brother or sister on the way, I started feeling the same way I did when the first miscarriage happened and I just knew we'd be facing it again. And I knew we'd have to tell all the people who knew the good news, the bad news. Nobody likes sharing bad news, but when I'm the subject of that bad news, I hate it even more. It's extremely humbling to be in a position of allowing the people around you to rally and say, "I'm bringing you dinner", or "Need a night out? We'll watch Brighton." Grief has humbled me and forced me to quit trying to be superwoman and have it all together because sometimes I don't. (Actually, a lot of times, but that's a different story.)

Have you ever had scenarios in your life happen where you just never thought that would be your story? Where it seems like such an out of body experience? For me, the first time I remember this happening was in college when my Nonna was diagnosed with cancer. I remember sitting in a coffee shop with my brother, trying to process what was happening and I just kept thinking, "this doesn't happen in real life", "this happens to other people". Cancer was a far away, distant, unknown scenario that I never fathomed would be a part of my story. 

Miscarriage was the same far away, "not my story" story. Except now, it is my story. Twice. Except this time, I had the sweetest, happiest, most beautiful baby girl leaving the doctor's office with me. While we grieved one life, we had another life in our arms to celebrate. We left in silence, drove home in silence, I went and grabbed a freeze from Pressed Juicery (it's like frozen yogurt, but it's all fruit and veggies, so that's a win) and then I went home and started to make dinner. That's the funny thing about getting bad news: life keeps going. Life didn't stop because of the news we received. Brighton still needed attention and dinner, Jon still needed to go to work. 

As I was trying to get dinner together for Brighton, I slumped over the kitchen sink and the tears came. A few seconds later, Brighton was hugging my leg. I got down on my knees and she looked at me like she understood, and wrapped her little arms around me. Then got up, stroked my face, and then continued to tear apart the kitchen. Kids are incredible. We don't often give them enough credit. We dismiss them for being children, and not "understanding", but when my almost two-year-old saw her mommy crying, she knew something wasn't right and she knew the appropriate response was a hug. So then I got even more emotional because the love that exists between me and that little girl is indescribable. 

Processing grief with a baby like Brighton has been overwhelming. Normally, I'd like to take a day off and lay out the couch with some coffee and Netflix. But you don't get days off when you're a stay at home mom. So through the sadness, I have had to push through and show up for my family. Showing up after grief is one of the most difficult things we can do, but it's also one of the most inspiring and courageous things we can do. My good friend Trish and I had the opportunity to speak at an event together about writing and the power of words, and she was sharing about how the people who live the most inspiring lives are the people who have overcome hardship and taken risks. My hope when I started this blog after my first miscarriage was that my pain would be used to encourage others and that continues to be my hope. My hope continues to be that this mommy blog or whatever you want to label it would be a place where you can come and be encouraged that you are not alone, that God is good, and that we are all just trying to figure life out.  I refuse to let this pain go to waste.

So what happens when the worst you feared, happens? God is still there. God was right there to meet me through the tears in my car. He was there in the hug from my toddler. He was there with me while I showed up for the event I was speaking at even though I wanted to be on my couch. As someone who is constantly fearing the worst, my miscarriage was a reminder that when the worst happens, you'll still be ok because God is there and He is good. 

Be encouraged by these verses below: 

Lamentations 3: 19-33 (The Message)
I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed.
I remember it all—oh, how well I remember— the feeling of hitting the bottom. But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:
God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left.
God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks.
It’s a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God. It’s a good thing when you’re young to stick it out through the hard times.
When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence.
Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions: Wait for hope to appear. Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face. The “worst” is never the worst.
Why? Because the Master won’t ever walk out and fail to return. If he works severely, he also works tenderly. His stockpiles of loyal love are immense. He takes no pleasure in making life hard, in throwing roadblocks in the way

On Identity

A friend and I were getting together after not having seen each other for a few years. She told her kids they were coming to see me and Brighton and she scoured my Instagram for a photo to remind them of who I am. When we met up she said she couldn’t find any photos of me. And she said, You know, you’re not just a mom, you have an identity apart from that. I laughed and said "I know, I know", but really ... I've forgotten. 

I had Jon take a photo of me without Brighton and I felt SO awkward. I honestly didn't know what to do without my "accessory". Brighton has become somewhat of a security blanket. She is my way out of places I don't want to be, she is my excuse when I'm feeling introverted at the park and decide it's time to leave, she is my conversation piece when I don't know what to say. 

Last week I stopped by Jon's work and ended up being a part of a Facebook live conversation about social media and I left feeling so excited because I felt like I actually contributed to society and participated in some real "adult" stuff. As soon as I said that out loud to Jon, I heard the Lord reminding me that raising a decent, Christ-loving human being is just about the most important "contribution" to society anyone can give. Ok God, I hear you. 

I've always known I wanted to be a mom and as we came closer to starting our family I had a feeling that I would want to be home, but I also love writing so I knew that my dream world would be to stay at home while working as a writer. And here I am, doing that. What!? But the enemy is so cunning because he has continued to wage war on my sense of worth and identity. In every season it's something new, right? As a teenager, our worth and identity might be coming from the accolades we receive or how many people viewed our LiveJournal post (Xanga? Myspace? No?). In college, it might be our grades, then in marriage, we battle with our identity becoming wrapped up in our husband, and now as a mother, I have to fight to keep my identity from being too closely intertwined with my work and with my daughter. I am a whole woman apart from Jon and apart from Brighton. I love them both, and they have contributed a fullness to my life, but they don't complete or define who I am. 

My identity is in Christ. 

  • I am fearfully and wonderfully made - Psalm 139
  • I am His masterpiece - Ephesians 2:10
  • I am justified and redeemed - Romans 3:24
  • I am accepted - Romans 15:7
  • I am set free - Galatians 5:1
  • I am chosen - Ephesians 1:4
  • I am forgiven - Ephesians 1:7

Do any of these strike a chord with you? As I read these over and over and "masterpiece", "accepted", and "chosen" keep standing out to me. It is SO easy in society today to feel like we are none of these things. Not enough likes, not enough followers, not enough friends, not enough invitations ... but God says I am His masterpiece, I am accepted, and I am chosen. So who CARES if I'm missing out on something? Who cares if that girl is doing something I'd like to be doing? God accepts me as I am and has chosen ME for a purpose. And that purpose is one that no one else was intended to fulfill. That is a serious pill to swallow, people. I need to learn to be faithful with (and grateful for) what is right in front of me so I can walk in that God-given identity and purpose.

My goal for 2018 was to live more simply and a big piece of that involved simply being me. A sort of stripping away of all the junk, the lies, the insecurities, the facades. That's the whole point of this blog: to talk about reality. I'm not a stylist, I'm not some sort of outfit of the day mom maven, food critique, or workshop hostess. I'm just a mom trying to figure it out and remember that it's ok to be "figuring it out". Despite our faults, despite our failures, even despite all of our accomplishments and praiseworthy moments, our identities have big, thick, gnarly, moss-covered roots that stem from an unchanging God.

Sometimes we all just need a little reminder that we a masterpiece, we are accepted, and we are chosen. Let's rest in that cozy bit of truth.

On living simply...

Jon and I sat down and talked about what we wanted for 2018, and amongst many hopes, dreams, and prayers, a few keywords resounded: simplicity and rest. 

I want this year to be a year where I don’t get caught up in the game of comparison, but instead, rest in the truths Jesus tells me and focus on what I love and care about. No more getting caught up in what OTHER people care about, or what OTHERS think should matter. 

This year, we are focusing our eyes on what matters to us and living simply. I am choosing to REST in the peace of Christ, like David describes in Psalm 23. (1-3, 6)

God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from. True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction. Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life.

God, you are my shepherd and provider, I don't need a single thing! What would it be like if we actually lived like that? I want to live this year in those lush meadows of peace. And gain focus on my life and dreams by letting Him guide me in the right direction.

Minimalism is such a funny word and has so many different connotations that come along with it. There is an extreme view where someone might picture a home with nothing in it other than the absolute essentials. There is a view where perhaps someone might envision people living in tiny homes. However, one of my favorite podcasts describes it (in my opinion) perfectly and she says minimalism, or living simply, is more about living a life that is simply: you. It's about learning what to say yes to, what to say no to, and having confidence in who you are and what you're about. 

I've been thinking about this so much lately and this primarily started because we spent the first 8 months of Brighton's life living in a small, 800 sq foot 1-bedroom apartment. We were forced into "minimalism" by necessity. We shared one tiny closet between the three of us, and had no spare room for the swings, the bouncers, and the toys, let alone an actual crib! When the nesting set in, I was throwing away everything. I realized I could no longer deal with the clutter and anything that didn't have a "space" needed to go. I started clearing out my closet and getting rid of things I didn't truly love so I could invest in staple pieces I did love and would last me longer. I felt free! 

So, as I've been thinking more about this "simple living" life, I am trying to find new ways to incorporate it more often. It's not just about "stuff". What I'm learning is that it's truly about knowing what's important to you. One host of the podcast suggested asking yourself "is it useful" and "is it beautiful"? If you can't say yes to one of those things, toss it! What is useful and beautiful to each person will be unique. For some people, the collection of antiques is a passion and their cabinets may be full of crystal treasures for the eye to behold. For me, I am loving simple. And I want this to pour into every aspect of my life, not just with possessions.  

To be honest, a lot of this has continued to stem out of necessity, but I don't mind because it has been so freeing, But, if I'm continuing to be honest, there are many days where it's difficult to remain proud and confident in my "simple living" mentality. Everyone is in the hustle; get a bigger house, get more clothes, new trends, new toys, better car, new hair ... it is just so exhausting and darnet, sometimes so enticing. It's difficult to not get swept away in it all because the reality is that none of it is inherently wrong.

But what Jon and I continue to find ourselves discussing is that we never want to overextend ourselves just to achieve what's "bigger" or what's "next". We want our lives to be full of margin so that we can enjoy the little things in life and be generous as often as possible. 

Living in a small apartment is a big source of insecurity for me. To me, at this point in my life, we should be able to afford more, have a real house, and at least have a guest bedroom and a yard for a dog. But the reality is, we live in southern California and our life looks different than that. I am someone who always dreamed of having the home where people would come all the time. Where I would have people over for dinner regularly. For 5 years, I let my insecurity of living in a small apartment stop me from doing what I love. I have let the lie that I need to have a bigger home dictate how I interact with my community. 

But moving forward, I want to remove the pressure of "society" to have more. I'm not going to apologize anymore for living in a small apartment. I love that our place is small and I love that I don't have more house to clean than I can handle on my own. Do I want a home someday with a yard? Yes of course, but I prefer cozy and quaint to large, unmanageable, and debt-ridden. I don't want to have to hire a maid in order to know that the dust isn't piling up in the hidden corners of rooms we never use.

I love that Brighton doesn't have a closet full of toys. I love that she needs to be creative with what she has and learn to go outside, rely on books, and the Tupperware that we have in the bottom drawer. 

I'm not going to feel sorry anymore that I don't go shopping all the time to stay on top of the trends. It's too exhausting to keep up anyway and most of the time I'm lucky if I make it out of the house long enough to have anyone to impress. 

I want 2018 to be a year of focus and simple living. A year where I learn to say "no" to things so I can say "yes" to the right things. A year where we put down our phones more often to take in the sounds, the sights, the smells around us and not worry about it making a moment in my Instastory. A year where we quit worrying about what everyone else is doing and be proud of where we are at and the process we are going through. A year where we decide we don't need more "stuff", but make more moments. 

So, here's to: 

More books, less screens

More simplicity, less stuff

More freedom, less fear

More presence, less comparision

More quality, less quantity

On Grace

It has been a little over a month of living in Orange County, and it's just finally starting to sink in. We have been back and forth between San Diego and then spent a week in Hawaii, so this was really my first week up here without anywhere to be or anything to do. 

A few weeks ago was our first time at church because we've been out of town every weekend and I was teary-eyed from the moment we were parking to the moment I left. (Ok, I've actually been emotional all day.) It hit me that this is real. We were searching for the toddler classroom to drop off Brighton, looking for a new place to sit, not recognizing any faces, and it hit me that this is our new Sunday routine. Then Pastor Rick did an incredibly moving tribute to the Veteran's in the room and that made me even more emotional. I mean seriously, any military tribute can make me cry. After church, we went to lunch at a ramen place (which is legit and amazing), but that made me emotional because Sundays are usually when my family gets together for lunch. In the evening, they face timed us and they were all together and I had major FOMO. #emokid #copeland 

To be honest, this transition is rough. Becoming a stay at home mom, in a new neighborhood is not easy. And plus, 16 month olds are ROUGH. Don't get me wrong, Brighton has seriously been a dream child. She is happy, a great sleeper, eats well ... but this age is just non stop. She is fussier than usual, and constantly wants my attention. Anytime I try to do anything, she is right there, tugging on my legs and whining. Jon has been out of town this week, so by Friday I found myself feeling extremely alone. As I was driving to meet with a friend, I was listening to a podcast and the host was introducing her new cohost who was sharing how she has a 16 month old who is "there all the time." She started to share what an average day for her looks like, and I breathed a sign of relief as I remembered that I'm not alone, and my 16 month old is not the only one who is a little extra needy, testing the boundaries, and makes me feel like I say "no thank you" all day long. 

Man do I need grace for myself in this new season. Grace to say, "I don't need to be and do it all." I have never been a stay at home mom before, and I don't need to have it all figured out in 1 month. I also need to give myself grace if I'm not the crafty mom, or the the homeschooling type mom, or the mom who has every day planned to a T. Every mom is different, every baby is different, and I have to give myself grace to discover who I am as a mom and not who I think I should be. I need to give myself grace to fumble through this new learning curve in motherhood. I need grace to fumble around creating an entirely new community (which, by the way is extremely difficult when you are introverted and your days are determined by your toddler). We all just need more grace. More grace for me, more grace for you ... and you get grace, and you get grace and you get graaaacceee (channel Oprah here). 

While we were in Hawaii, Brighton was watching something on my phone while we were at dinner (something we never allow) because her body clock was off with the time difference and she was losing in at the dinner table. And honestly, we were just trying to enjoy our last meal on the island. Of course, we hardly enjoyed the dinner because iPhone or not, we still had an exhausted and emotional 16 month old and on top of that I was feeling like a terrible parent because she was on my phone. But I had to remind myself, "this is not the norm, she's not on your phone all the time." And I thought of all the parents I silently judge because their kids are on screens and realized I need to give them grace too. 

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Being a mom is really hard work. I spend the entire day trying to entertain and keep a human alive, and then when Jon comes home I just want to shut off, but I need to get a second wind because now, I need to be a good wife to him. I'm not complaining, I honestly love it. I love being a mom and I love being a wife, and I want to be good at both. But it's just reality that it's exhausting! So right now, I'm learning to have grace for myself and learning when to say "no" so I can say "yes" to the right things. And when I think about it, we are ALL trying to figure life out no matter what stage we are in. To the newlywed, you go girl! You figure marriage out and give yourself grace because living with someone isn't easy! To the mom with multiple kids, you go girl! I'm exhausted with 1 so I can't imagine 4, so more grace and more power to ya as you figure out carpools and extra circulars and your own personal sanity. Grace grace grace. 

This is just the beginning of a really exciting adventure. But adventures are still messy. Adventures have twists and turns and ups and downs. They have their grapevine on the I5 going through Bakersfield when you want to turn around and they have their accidental side road discoveries full of deer and orchards. So right now, even though I feel like I'm driving through mud, I just have to keep my eye out for the little bits of magic that are revealed each day, and remember that this is just the beginning, and there is so much in store. 

On comparison...

We hear it all the time: "Comparison is the thief of joy." And yet somehow, we still find ourselves in the slimy pit of comparing our lives to those around us and even worse, those we don't even know (thanks Instagram). I've also heard it said that the main issue is that we compare our behind the scenes to everyone else's highlight reels. So true, but still, I compare. 

I'm laying on the floor, no makeup, wearing pajama shorts, hair unbrushed, and toddler drooling all over me, while mindlessly scrolling through the photogenic, the picture perfect, the moments worthy of sharing with the world and think: I'm not doing anything with my life. No, I didn't just think it. I said it. And my husband looked at me and said, "Your life is so meaningful. And you are doing incredible things. You are raising a little girl." And still, despite his encouragement, I had all my reasons lined up as to why he wasn't right. Pathetic, right? But so real. And I'm sure I'm not the only one. 

Recently, I've been attempting (and often failing) to see the simple, mundane, behind-the-scenes type stuff as meaningful. They matter. I am robbing myself of the joy that every day holds because I am looking at other people's lives (well, their social media lives) and declaring that my life is dull, meaningless, and I need to do something with it. When in fact, Jon is right: I am doing something meaningful. I have a job doing what I love (writing) + I get to raise a beautiful human + be a wife to an incredible man. I realize many people wish they had the opportunity I did. Sure, I'm not 23, single, with all the time in the world to pick up new hobbies, travel the world, have people follow me around to take my photos, buy all the new clothes, and color my hair as often as I'd like. I have a lot of friends doing incredible things. I run in a circle of friends who are actors, authors, world travelers, war stoppers, Broadway performers, community builders, change makers, business builders, celebrity photographers ... should I continue? You get the drift. But God has me here for a reason. How quickly I forget that.

Ephesians 2:10 says "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." I love The Message translation of verses 7-10 (emphasis my own): "Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing."

To JOIN HIM in the work he is doing. The work he prepares for us. The work we better do! Talk about perspective. Goodness Vittoria, it's not about you anyway. But the other thing I love about verse 10 is the use of the word "workmanship". In Greek, the word used was "poiema", which means poem and I just think that is so beautiful. I love to think that God sees me as his poem. I am his workmanship. This not only tells me he cares about me, but also that I have a purpose. And my purpose (in this season at the very least) could be the unnoticed, mundane, behind-the-scenes, changing your world at home kind of work. And that is just as beautiful. 

Even if I'm not living in Beirut, educating children orphaned by the refugee crisis (No kidding, I listened to a podcast today with a couple who is doing that. Another "what am I doing with my life" moment.) my work matters. I have to believe that my purpose is significant to God - all our purposes are equally significant and important - whether we have 1 million followers or 100. Whether I have a photographer following me around or a toddler drooling on my face - we just need to quit comparing and water our own grass.

Psalm 37:4 is always quoted because it's inspiring. "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." But verse 3 was recently brought to my attention: "Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness." Dwell in the land. The grass is greener where you water it. I want to be better at watering my own yard instead of looking at everyone else's and willing it to wither. I think God is asking me to dwell right where he has me and just keep tending to my own land, which in turn would help me delight in him so he will give me the desires of my heart. Because who knows, I may not always be the one behind-the-scenes.

So what does it look like to quit the comparison game and water our own grass? I'm not sure! I don't know that it requires the extremes of deleting all social media and hiding in a hole like I'm sure we sometimes feel like doing. (Although a little break from social media never hurt anyone.) I'm looking to find the answers too. So, if you've ever fallen into the pit of comparison, we're on this journey together! Let's be people who strive to encourage each other to be present and more thankful to God for each season, job, home, etc...that he currently has us in.