enough

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nothing looks the same and it shouldn’t
so what if my breasts
don’t point in the same direction when i’m lying in my bed
they have nourished different babies, different bodies
if I’m honest
different hands have held them
not a lot
but enough
they are not one solid being
they are themselves
sacred beautiful

so what if the skin
that used to be
around my middle
sits below my hips
stretched by womb and woe
by years of feeding what was starving

so what if marks run down my body
writing the stories
of high school track and high school love
forgotten self worth
but I am enough

more than enough
so what

so what if I step into the bathroom
sneak a peak at my own self
after we’ve loved each other hard
and so what if I say damn

so what if I see a goddess in the mirror
when I toss my hair to the side
while I brush my teeth late at night

i’ll wake up tomorrow
wash my face look once again
and convince myself I’m merely
the baddest most beautiful woman that ever lived

my body shows it and so what

Ivy is One

It’s been a while since I’ve used this space for good ol’ fashioned mom blogging :) Our Ivy turned one last week and we celebrated at the beach and I will write more about what all that means to me later. But this week we celebrated at home, surrounded by friends and family and man it makes my heart so happy to know that she is so stinking loved. It was a simple party, lemonade and cucumber sandwiches, kiddie pools and cupcakes. I have never really been a big birthday party mom. Before this year we mostly just did family dinners and a few gifts. But this year the kids started wanting parties, heck I even had a birthday party. And so our house has been filled full of our favorite people sharing food and fun more times than I can count, and we. have. LOVED it. Even waking up the next day to tissue paper filled floors and a fridge full of party snack leftovers (cake for breakfast!), and a house full of sleepy kids is sweet. And Ivy’s little party was no exception. Maybe she won’t remember all the gifts and the cake and the decorations and the fuss made over her, but it was a day full of joy and celebration that we won’t forget, and today I find myself full to the brim with gratitude, for Our Ivy and the circle of friends and family that surrounds her (us).

black lives matter

SocialConstruct

image credit: A’Driane Nieves. Please take some time to view her work.

 

black mamas raisin black babies
loving black men
black brothers and sisters
cousins women and kin

folk strugglin to make it through the day
smilin fightin to survive
tryin ta stay alive

i don’t have much to offer
but it’s yours
solidarity
my voice
fist raised
it’s yours

got my eyes
mind open
woke
shaken and broken

black lives matter
black lives matter

despite the racist chatter
and the villains in the shadows
heaven wars for you my sister
your life matters

black women raisin black babies
loving black men
black brothers and sisters
cousin women and kin

be angry as you want
you don’t have to keep your chin up
cry scream if you wanna
shake your fist and your hips

dance
sing loud
shout
be proud

we see you and we love you
we got you wanna hug you
till the pain subsides
all the tears run dry
till the babies run free
and you all can breathe
and you all can be

and when a hug aint enough
mamas i’ll show up
gimme a mic and a ballot
march a chant and i’ll shout it

solidarity
peace and prosperity
fuckin shouldn’t be a rarity

black lives matter

all the day long

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(A bath with Ivy in the twilight while the Husband holds down game night)

 

Know why I’m so obsessed with these everyday moments? Why they’re so immensely powerful and exquisite to me? Because I am well aware this isn’t the life the enemy wanted for me.

Because this house and these babies, and this man of mine, this life we live with food on the table, and soft pillows and safe places… none of this was garaunteed for me (or him really but that’s his story to tell). I know how hard this was fought for, and I know I wasn’t the only one fighting for it. And I don’t just feel victorious, (though I do feel pretty victorious), I feel won, worth winning. Redeemed, worthy of the cost of that. I see that in the faces of my babies, my growing young men, my girls, that God thought them worthy of a life of peace and so He fought for them, (and me). That Jesus felt us worthy of a life of Love and so He died for us.

I don’t think myself a very religious person, but this courses through my veins all the time, I feel it. “You did it, baby girl” rings true in late night moments marveling with my sisters over all the shit we came through. Death and dying and decay has nipped our heels since childhood. Serpents slithered much too close, heavy handed demons… listen this post isn’t about all that but it is.

People talk all the time about the moment they were saved, I’ve been being saved forever. I’ve been being saved forever. My babies have been being saved forever. And all these little ordinary things… these millions of moments strung together, pulling clean sheets from the dryer, teaching Eli to crack an egg, brushing Emma’s hair, listening to Gracie belt out another song, Gabe’s string bean arm hugs, Griff’s midnight tea-making, Ivy’s bathtime splashes, Joe ever and always taking me on this date or that, morning light on our messy floors, all the meals and the snuggles and the sweetness… these are not vein attempts at projecting a life of perfection. They’re simply the best way I know how to say Thanks.

This is my story, this is my song…

steady love

Louthan-46

Photo by Mae Burke

 

give me that steady love
that ready love
to be there every day
not just heady love

bring home the bacon, love
i’ll cook it up
put the kids to bed
come here
give me that solid hug

wake me up every day
with that gentle love
playful warm and familiar
see me changing love

bring your hips close to mine
kiss my neck love
in the kitchen
dance with me
before the sun comes up

don’t want that hungry
leave you shaky
break you down love

it don’t hold up
it’s not enough

it’s not enough

to get us through
the sleepless nights
and frigid days love

i want that steady love
and i’m ready now
i’ve figured out
the world can spin around
and we can settle down

i’ll lift you up love
give you my love
hold you with these hands
and call you mine love

and all the days and
all the years
we can stay
love
under the shelter of this
safe and never-failing love

The Birth of Ivy

I felt the tug of death so strong in the last year…
I realize that’s an odd way to begin a birth story but I can’t untangle life and death; they’re ever entwined, tussling and rolling around like teenage boys in a heated wrestling match. J mentions it too in his (exquisite) letter but suffice it to say, Ivy’s birth bookmarks both end and beginning for us.

We found out tiny she was swimming in my womb just a few short months after a devastating miscarriage that took not only a baby we adored already, but nearly me (thanks to a short hospital stay and a couple of blood transfusions I’m fine but recovery was a big part of the mess that was our life last year.) But there she was, our eighth little one, 10 weeks new on a fuzzy black and white screen, arms and legs steadily dancing along to the beat of her own heart. I can’t… I still… we never saw our little Olivia’s legs move, nor heard her heart beat. So when we saw Ivy on that screen, a week or so after we’d seen that second little pink line that sent us reeling, just… tears and smiles. And disbelief.

The pregnancy was lovely but the loveliness of it if I’m honest, scared the shit out of me. We saw her dance on screens four more times and I was still scared to death she’d never make it eyes open and breathing into my arms. It was Grace for sure that I was well, but I’d never actually produced another life without months and months of debilitating sickness. Knowing for sure this was our last though, I tried to enjoy it. I cherished her little hiccups, kicks and flips, documented regularly my ever-swelling belly, and threw my heart and soul into preparing our home for her arrival.

God speaks to me pretty regularly but as you may have heard me say before, I don’t always listen right away. Luckily without fail He finds a way to get through to me though. This time that looked like our babygirl kicking around inside me for what seemed like an eternity (10-14days) past my due date (my poor midwife, I was relentless, we tried all the tinctures and remedies and positions and… everything). Around day 12, I stopped trying things and just let Him have it, I told Him everything He already knew, and tried to listen (how many times have my kids done that to me?). We both took some deep breaths and sighed a little, (yes He sighs at me, not in exasperation but in that soft and knowing way parents do sometimes when their kids are pouring themselves out emotionally).

Then one night a day or so later, around 3am, Ivy decided she was definitely on her way into our arms. We alerted midwife and family, and I braced myself for the fast-paced roller-coaster that was Eli’s birth, but that never came. Eventually we got the hint that this was going to be entirely other, and settled in to the peace and quiet that was the labor of our newest Love. Just Joe and I at first, (with the absence of me loudly groaning and moaning like I’d done every time before, the kids slept easily upstairs). Lynette came after a while and sat quietly in the corner. (In case I’ve never thanked you for sitting quietly in that corner the whole time and trusting me to labor on my own, no checking, no unnecessary directions, no demanding or even nudging, just simple but powerful grace and trust… Lynette, you are meant to be a midwife, my friend.)

And Joseph… goodness it had been a year, aye babe? But none of that mattered that night (or maybe all of it did…) You never went far, you rocked and swayed, attentive and loving, tuned into my pain and my needs and my heart, you rubbed my back, brushed the hair out of my face and whispered sweetly everything I needed to hear. And when I needed you to, you let me be without leaving my side. I rocked in my chair a good long while, eyes closed praying and hoping but truly still disbelieving Everything would be Okay.

Labor was short enough, a good four hours of our baby making her way through me, just painful enough to make it really real. Then it was time to push, and I can’t tell you how much I really did not want to. Not out of exhaustion, just plain old terrible fear. I just… listen if you hold a tiny baby in your hands that never took a breath once it will make you doubt even as a kicking and twisting little one barrels their way out into this world. So Joe stood by my side as we got ready to meet our girl and tears of fear and grief ran together down my face. And even as my body began to push, I feared holding another lifeless baby.

He was supposed to catch Ivy, our Papa Bear. We talked about it plenty, how much he loved catching Eli, being the first to lay hands on his boy. But I couldn’t let him go. I needed him, his strong hands around mine, his kind eyes locked on mine. And so he stayed.

Lynette leaned in a little closer and said something incredibly encouraging, and I decided to trust too, to hang onto the truth a little tighter that God is good. I leaned in to the pain and pushing my body already new well and prepared as much as I could to meet her. But you can’t prepare yourself to meet your baby. It is entirely impossible in any and every scenario. When that squawking little cry breaks into the earth the first time, it is otherworldly, the most real representation of heaven coming to earth that I know.

Ivy came. At 7:30 in the morning she came, just as the sun rose up in the sky and our bedroom lit up golden and bright. She drew breath on my chest, blink blinked away until her clear grey eyes opened, looked up at us and latched on to me immediately, undeniably alive, here, with us, Ours.

And she is a bundle of peace and joy, evidence that God is a show-off, gosh she’s gorgeous, and Loved. She is so Loved.

Listen, this I know- There are hard, hard things. But God is good. And that doesn’t always look like a new baby but it does always look like New Life.

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(a special thank you to my mom and sisters for coming to welcome our babiest girl, a huge thank you to Alisa for taking these photos, and another huge thank you to Donna Miller for being the best birth assistant ever).

And in case you are not already crying, here is Joseph’s letter to Ivy:

Ivy, my sweetest and most precious girl,

I could not begin to tell you what we were going through when we heard about you: death of my father, my grandmother, your Momma’s grandfather, and the passing away of your sister, Olivia.

These storms and the pains that we were going through in our own heart and souls tested the mettle of your Momma and Papa’s marriage and relationship and shook the foundation of our family to the bedrock.

Before we knew of you, it was dark. Joy was fought for and sometimes never won.

By announcing you, God reminded us that He is not far yet closer than a whisper. He promises hold infinitely true: eternal past, present and for the eternal future. He revealed that He has infinite mercy for us. He put on the most powerful display that we are indeed His kids and He is our Father in heaven. (Hosea 2:14-23)

He sustained us through your first three months in Momma’s tummy when we were so anxious about you making it since it wasn’t even a year ago that we lost your sister during the same trimester.

But even through the first half of you growing in the womb, your Momma never fell ill. Never got sick. Never got weak. With all of your brothers and sisters, well, it was a different story. We thought for sure your Mom would be too sick to even get out of bed or keep any food or water down. Nope. She was alive, happy, and strong. God is so good He heals and restores.

Not only does He heals and restores the body but He went to work on my soul and our relationship. He began the work to heal my mind, heart, and soul and did the same for your Mom. In that, he gave confidence and peace to our family when there was none before.

And just like your brother, Eli, you were strong. Kicky and squirmy. And just like your Bubba, you stayed in your Mom weeks past what we thought was your due date. Smh. That might have been a mere indication—maybe even a prophecy—that you two were to be as thick as thieves. And by the Bub’s sweetness on you, I say that indication is coming to past.

But no matter how late you were, we knew that you couldn’t stay in your Mom’s tummy forever :) We knew you would get here. We knew we would be holding you soon.

And just like the pregnancy, your arrival was just as sweet. You woke us up at 3 am. It was time. Calls to your midwife, Lynette, were made. Texts to our family and friends were sent. Your Ganna, Amanda Panda, and Alisa Pizza were on their way to help with everything.

Unlike the Bubs, we were able to take our time preparing our room for your arrival. No rush. No fuss. Breakfast made. Coffee poured. Siblings chilling.
And then you arrived. I was so ready to catch you just like I did before with Eli but your Momma didn’t want me to leave her side. I looked at her and was overwhelmed by her powerful love and gracious heart and breathtaking beauty. I thought about the incredible struggle and pain she felt in our marriage and in our lives to this point and we are still together. I decided I wasn’t going to leave her side. Not now. Not never.

Beside, Lynette was a pro. You were going to be in great hands until you could get to your Momma.

The moment you arrived: it was all the joy. The happiness. The sweet relief. The bliss. It was everything I could ever feel in one moment in time. I felt like cheering and yelling to celebrate your life and everything that the Lord has done in us and for us.

And I couldn’t stop smiling. My cheeks hurt because my grin was ear to ear.

Unlike your brother’s arrival, which was fast and furious, yours was what at one time what I called, “normal”, but that’s not it. Looking back, your birth was just like everything else your announcement brought: peace, calm, and joy.

And your Momma. She never looked as beautiful as she did when she was able to hold you for the first time. She was all the love and joy and happiness and gladness that her little heart could hold and being poured out on you.

I remember her cheeks and my cheeks were streaming with tears as I leaned over and kissed her deeply. I remember touching her face and looking into her gorgeous blue eyes and thinking to myself, “We made it!” God is so dang good to us.”

In the midst of an incredible storm in our lives, God sends you here. In so many ways, you are God’s mercy and healing for your Momma. You are God’s peace and restoration for our family. You are my prettiest and a joyful reminder that God is so mindful of me and He loves me so much.

That’s why I kiss you with my very prickly lips a hundred times a day. That is why I dive my nose into your neck smelling your sweet baby smells. That’s why I don’t want our conversations to end. You are the best reminder of who God is and what he has done for us.

I love you, my most gorgeous girl. You are my sweetest. My sweetest sweet. My Happiest Girl. My yin to Bub’s yang.

I will always love you. I will always protect you. I will be there to make you laugh and hold you tight when you cry. And I will fight for you, and us, and we, and me until my very last breath.

You mean the world to me. I thank God that you are a part of our lives forever.

I love you, Sweet Girl

Love for life,

Papa

Ivy

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Ivy,

Sweetest girl, if I’m quite honest I really didn’t believe you were real, you were mine, til I held you that first time. Despite all four sonograms, all your mighty kicks and flips, and all the healthy heartbeats your midwife broadcast from my big belly- my silly, slightly cynical heart stayed in disbelief all the way through labor actually. Even as you made your way out into this world, (a story I’ll tell another time), I needed reassurance from our birth team that you were in fact coming, here.

And now here you are. Tiny beautiful you, laid back, sweet little you. And our family is complete.

It’s been a week (yes, already), since you joined us, and yes already, we can see some of your little personality. You’re full of peace (when your tummy is full), and full of wonder. I’ve never known a newborn to spend so much time quietly awake, alert but calm, and happy as a clam to be passed around from one beaming, excited sibling to the next.

Also? My goodness you are beautiful. You were born long and lean, with olive skin, lots of hair and dark blue eyes, a lovely mix of pretty much everyone in our little tribe. But I will concede you look most like your Papa, strange as it might be that such a tall, dark and handsome man makes such a gorgeous babygirl.

Ivy love, maybe your little heart already knows, but we lost a baby before we had you. I talked to God many times about how I didn’t want you to be a replacement. I didn’t want you born with some responsibility to make us whole. And He made sure that you weren’t. He even gave us a little extra time, two whole weeks, to lean on Him and let Him do that work before you got here, (and I’m quite sure He’ll continue it).

So you are free, Babygirl. You are free to be you, free to be loved and free to love. So many people are so smitten with you already. Your Papa though… I think he might be daily overwhelmed with how much he loves you. Eli too, goodness he adores you. We all do of course, it makes my heart swell to know that you, my little bird, have this safe, loving little nest to grow in, and learn to fly.

In your first week, Our Sweet Ivy, I hope, I believe, that you feel how safe and cared for, how wanted, seen and loved you are. The house sort of radiates with love and peace since you got here. The days have been filled with quiet grace and joy, I’m sure you know this hasn’t always been the case, quiet isn’t usually our forte. (And it probably won’t always be.) But goodness thank you for bringing with you all this peace and warmth.

Thank you for your squawking cries and sleepy smiles. Thank you for being snuggly, lovey, easy going, beautiful, bright eyed and strong. Thank you, my little bird, for being you. Promise that’s all we’ll ever ask.

Love and love,
Mama

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my last

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because my last baby, lucky number seven. because ohmygoodness i’m so excited to never be pregnant again (i haven’t calculated but i’m pretty sure i have spent more of my adulthood with a baby either inside or attached to me than not, and that’s okay, but sigh). because my poor belly, i’m only just learning not to hate it. because i love cute little baby bumps but i have never had a cute little baby bump; some of us have big round baby bellies and they are just as beautiful. because he loves my body so well when i’m pregnant. because yes and done and yay and love.

xoxo

time traveler’s

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i hate calvinism i said
but the truth is
i just hate whatever makes him hate…
whatever keeps him from
Love

the beliefs that lie
the lies he believes
that keep him lost
in a graceless sea

but lately there’s so much
less of that
much more truth
more holding fast
more holding tight

and we just might maybe have
just begun or started over
getting to Know one another
again

or anew

cause lately
brand new kisses
shock us both
and he looks
i look
like whoa
hey you

there you are
again
anew

Tisheana and Baby Z’s New Beginning

We met her a week ago, Church. A carseat had to be donated that first day so we could take her and her babygirl out to lunch. She sat bent over and crying telling us about how she’d borrowed clothes that morning so she could wash her one set of clothes before she came to meet us.

Over the course of a couple of hours we learned her story- a single mama who’d been denied any child support since she caught the father of her baby doing drugs and told him she didn’t want that around her baby. No child support meant she couldn’t afford to keep the room she and her babygirl had been renting. And so she went to her own father’s house, a trailer where he and twelve of his twenty one kids lived. Needless to say it was too crowded, but staying with her mom, a longtime cocaine user and dealer, was not an option either. Our friend ended up staying with her baby-daddy’s mother in an also crowded house, but the smoking there, and the fact that the father of her baby would often show up, only to ignore the presence of his daughter and the mother of his child made it all but unbearable.

We met her because finding the only shelter she could meant moving two cities away, which meant missing appointments she needed to keep her little bit of government assistance going, and subsequently having them cut off, and running out of formula for the baby. We met her because her cousin called Mrs. Amy Ford to see what the Church might be able to do. We met her when she was a little hopeless. But we met her because God.

We offered her a warm bed in a safe room on the west side of Fort Worth, and she considered it on the drive to my house. And then we learned about her sisters. “I can’t be that far away from my little sisters. They’re not safe with my mom.” My heart broke, because oh do I know that feeling. (And yours did too, Church, because not one person questioned, and many gave) But then we learned just how close she was to making it, Church. She had a job before she lost her room. She had enough income to make it, just not enough to get back on her feet. And she was in school before she lost her room, trying to get an education, set an example for her sisters and make a better life for her and her babygirl (Have I mentioned the babygirl? Most beautiful baby you’ve ever seen.)  IMG_9530.2So she had sisters, a job and an education in progress in Dallas, the plan quickly changed from getting her to a room in Fort Worth to finding *them* a home in Dallas. We contacted area churches about housing and got the name of a small complex where a pastor and his wife had just moved in to help build community, and low and behold they were having a pretty phenomenal move-in-special. We believed then, that God had a home for her, and we were going to get to help provide it.

This was still the first day, a couple hours after we met her, but she was sitting across my living room when I got off that call and she smiled, my goodness her smile, she’d heard me say “two-bedroom” a couple of times and quietly exclaimed “My sisters can stay with me?!”, I still get tears thinking about it… I stayed on the phone most of the afternoon, taking calls too coordinate donations and strategize, and within a couple of hours we had enough to make more than the first months rent. As the sun set, we wrapped up our time together with a whole lot of hope and a little bit of trembling. I dropped her off with the promise of picking her up the next day to get to the government offices she needed to to reconcile all of her paperwork and responsibilities to get her funds back to where they needed to be. She went home smiling that smile but still pretty unsure any if this was really gonna pan out.

Before I got dinner started for my family the first day, I put up a little Facebook status with a few basic needs for an apartment. And before dinner was on the table, you Church, had gleefully fulfilled at least half her needs. Couches, beds, tables, diapers, clothes, linens, so many things, given so freely, so lovingly. All kinds of beautiful.

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She texted me the morning of day two to see if I was still coming, if yesterday had really happened, if the plans for that day were still on. Yes, yes, yes. I picked her and we scrolled through my facebook status and cried over drive-through donuts at your incredible generosity. “I’ve always known God was good, I just didn’t know there were people out there who cared, especially about me” she said, in shock.

The third day, Church, we went to look at her new home, because you had donated over and above her needs for rent and deposit, and all the furnishings were coming together, from all over the metroplex, from at least five different churches, from people’s neighbors and aunts and friends. The third day she put down her deposit on her new place. Screen shot 2015-01-22 at 8.01.24 AM

The next few days were spent gathering things, scheduling pick-ups and drop-offs, and spending some of the gift cards that you all donated. I have never seen someone so happy to be in Wal-mart, y’all. “The first thing I’m gonna buy is food, my own food. And some socks” she beamed. And as I dropped her off that afternoon, “Would y’all let me pay y’all back? So maybe you can help somebody else?” I grinned and said “maybe”, trying hard not to cry for the millionth time that week.

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Finally on Saturday, just five days after we met her, she got the keys to her new home. We dropped her off with a few boxes to bask in the glow of her new home while we made the first haul from Dallas to Fort Worth and back with a few helpers and a few stops in between. And Saturday night, Church, just five days after we met this mama with no home, who just needed to know people out there cared, especially about her, we said goodnight to her, her babygirl and her sisters, in their safe new home with warm beds.

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Yesterday and today have been spent getting her the last few things she needs for the apartment, and just marveling at what you’ve done, Church.

God is so good, and so faithful. And He used you this week, because you let Him. He used you to shine your Light. He used you to wrap His arms around His daughters. And I got to watch it.

There are not enough thank you’s in the world- everyone who gave and prayed and helped and sent and… everything.

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Love. And. LOVE.

P.S. God has been so incredibly gracious, that there is now a car being donated. It does need a little work, so if your heart is moved to give towards that, contact me please.