First Birthdays and February Snow

You came into the world after much waiting and anticipation.

And then it happened – you happened. On May 17th, 2018, that second pink line began the countdown of meeting you.

I didn’t know it then, but your big blue eyes and curly blonde hair (both of which convince strangers I am your nanny, not your mother) – my womb was forming all of it. All of you.

I did not take one of those 268 days for granted with you inside my body; I savored every second – even the hard, sick, bed-ridden ones. You were alive, you were healthy, you were there. I don’t know that I’ve ever held such tension before: paralyzing fear, while also wanting to be fully present, knowing how fleeting the season is of holding your baby in your womb – the quickness of it, the temporary-ness, the excitement.

The fragility.

And then you were here – all 6 lbs, 3 oz, 18.5 inches of you.

Earlier this week, we woke up to snow falling and time stopped. For a split second, your bare, tiny, two-day-old body was swaddled against my chest once again as we rocked and looked out the window of our apartment on Lone Pine Drive. The flakes were big and quiet that morning, but we were warm and nestled next to the fire, both of us exactly where we wanted to be.

Nothing to do, nowhere to go. Rest and snuggles were the only agenda we had.

No one expected it then, the snow. No one saw it coming. We never do; when the weatherman brings false hope for it enough times, you know better than to get your hopes up for such a thing.  But there we were, marveling at it all coming down, and I couldn’t help but think of the parallel between it and you. Of the magic of you. The wonder of you. The surprise and (un)expectation of you from the start. You were finally in my arms. Yes, the gift of you was -is – more than my heart could hold.

And then I blinked.

Now you are one and here we are once again, just as pleasantly surprised by those big, silent, February flakes covering the grass outside our window.

And still just as pleasantly surprised by you.

 

You are Here

It was time. 12 days early, but ready we both were. My heart was having a hard time holding on (literally) and needed you to be outside of my body. It needed to beat normally again; I needed it to beat normally again. And you were ready enough, they said.

So we went.

It was 4:30pm when we arrived at the hospital, 8:30pm when my midwife gave me the IV to tell my body we were ready for you. She asks all of the necessary questions, for all the things she needs to know so you can come into the world as healthy and safe as possible. I give her my heart history, including the pregnancy complications. She looks at my monitor and says, “Oh, yes. You do run a bit low.”

She leaves the room and comes back with what seemed like a million cords and monitors.

As differently as I pictured my labor with you going, it turned out to be perfect. Those first ten hours turned out to be sleepless for both of us, but so sweet. I imagined you were frustrated at the sudden upset in my womb, beginning to contract and force you out of the only comfort you’d known for almost nine months. On the outside, I spent the night with my eyes glued to the monitors, watching our hearts beating side by side, my hand resting on my belly for what I knew would be the last night with you inside. The nurse came in hourly to increase the pitocin. I kept watching, holding, waiting, breathing.

The night eventually passed and morning came. More contractions. More waiting.

Fast forward several hours; things are progressing.

I’m sitting on an exercise ball now. I can no longer talk. Breathing is hard and takes every ounce of my energy.

I’m leaning over with all of my weight pushing against the bed. Head down, eyes closed, I breathe in big and slow. I breathe out big and slow.

Wash, rinse, repeat every 2 minutes for the next 3 hours.

The midwife comes in to check me and I am still only dilated at a 6. My heart rate is steady, but still too low. They worry the stress of the pain will be too hard on my heart.

“The anesthesiologist will be here in an hour,” they tell me. “And then we will break your water.”

That’s 30 contractions. I can do 30 more.

The anesthesiologist is kind. He tells me to breathe, and that relief is coming. Turns out the lidocaine shot, however, didn’t work and I felt every inch of that needle go into my spine.

We are 20 hours in at this point. I scream and begin to weep.

My midwife squeezes my hands, looks in my eyes, and tells me, “You’ve been a fighter since you were born, Alex. You can do this. You are doing this.”

I nod and cry harder. She’s looking straight into my eyes.

I cry because of her willingness to step into the pain and help me hold it up. It doesn’t make it go away, but it makes it just a little bit lighter; it makes it bearable. If only she knew that in holding up my body, my IV’s, my 17 thousand cords to make sure my physical heart didn’t slow down too much, she was holding up my all that my heart was holding, too. She wasn’t afraid of my pain, emotional or physical.

Her eyes are still locked on mine.

“You can do this,” she says. “You can. You are.”

I cry. I breathe.

“Thank you,” I whisper.

The epidural begins to set in over the next hour, give or take. Time is a blur, after all. They break my water and tell me it will speed up quickly from here.

So I wait. I rest. The lights are dim now and music is playing softly in the background. I wonder if I’m about to meet my baby boy or you. I wonder about your hair color, your eye color, what name I will be calling you in just a matter of minutes, now.

It is time to find out. The doctors and nurses put on their gloves – my midwife on the left of my face, Nate to the right. I watch too with the birth mirror, because I’m obsessed with watching life come into the world; there is not one thing like it on this earth. There are no words.

I push 3 times and s h e – you, my Rainbow Baby – are here.

A rush of blood, an umbilical cord, a loud cry.

The most beautiful, alive cry I have ever heard.

Your eyes open almost immediately when I bring you to my chest and lock with mine.

More tears. Endless tears.

“You are here,” I say to you. Over, and over, and over again.

The years of single pink lines. The countless ovulation tests. The vulnerable risk to hope again after loss. You were worth it all.

Yes, Zinnia Leigh. You are here.

 

 

White Flags & Foil Art

Aluminum foil, that’s all it was.

“For decoration!” she said. “I want to make something for decoration.”

“Foil is not for playing,” I say. “It is not a toy.”

She turned and walked out of the kitchen and as she did, my heart sank.

Her shirtless little torso (because, age 4), blonde curls bouncing, face hung low; my cold words cut her little curious heart like a knife.

Life is decoration in her world – be it magnets, picture frames, plants, handmade art in some form or another; the girls loves to create. It happens to be one of my favorite things about her. And her pride, oh her pride in her creations. 

And today, I wounded that pride. I shot down her wonder in the name of “obedience.”

In the name of “submission.”

In the name of “winning the battle.”

Time and place for all of those things – yes. We’ve encountered 72 of those other times and places today, in fact.

But the battles that make your heart sink, the ones that shoot down positive intent (in the name of play, in the name of art, in the name of beauty, creativity, wonder)… the ones that create wounds in some form or another – those ones are worth a pause.

Must I pick every battle?

I look down at my chopped veggies that I’m about to coat with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and spread on my beautifully foiled baking sheet to be roasted.

Bake at 425 for 20-25 minutes or until edges are browned, it says.

But I pause. I pause in the name of presence.

In the name of creating.

In the name of wonder.

In the name of Her.

I peel off a square of foil, fold it hot-dog style, once more in half, and once more. I give it to her and she smiles, not saying a word. I kiss her forehead and walk back into the kitchen to the tune of giddy squeals and rustling foil.

There are, in fact, some battles worth surrendering to.

Foil art being one of them. 

 

Treading Water

I close my eyes. I hold my breath. I jump.

The water is cold, but bearable.

Suddenly, I am the 10 year old shell of myself, like a fish in the water. Not a care in the world but the temperature of the water and keeping it out of my wind pipe.

I press my arms and hands forward and feel the bigness of the water, its freedom.

In this moment, I release life and focus solely on my destination, on the buoy ahead.

On my breath.

I push the water behind me with each stroke. I feel the coldness of the river rush over me as I inch little by little towards the buoy. I can see it each time I come up for a breath.

Head up, breathe; head down, push.

Over, and over, and over again.

Just when it seems like I’m making no progress, like I am merely treading water, I look back and see the dock far behind.

I press forward.

My arms are tired. My legs are burning. My ears ache, for with each breath I submerge deeper and the pressure builds; I long to know there is space for it all, for every ounce of myself; limbs and toes, fear and pain.

Under the water, I hear the roar of the boats. They are miles away, but they ring loud.

I am spent; I have nothing left.

But then I look up and realize I am only two feet away now.

As my hand touches the buoy, I exhale hard to catch my breath and realize I am yelling. I don’t fully know why or how or when I started or when I stopped, but I know that with each shriek I feel release.

I feel free.

I look back at the dock, my starting point; it’s so far away now.

I take one more big breath before heading back.

Breathe, push. Breathe, push.

Over, and over, and over again.

Finally, my hand touches the dock.

I’ve made it. It turns out that what felt like treading was not in vain.

And though I am tattered and exhausted, I am thankful to feel. It is in this depth of feeling that I realize I am, in fact, alive.

With every ounce I have left, I pull myself up onto the dock.

Now, I rest.

Now, I am still.

Now, I am whole.

 

Bigger Than the Sky

My Sweet Lucy Girl,

It is your last night of being three. We have been counting down the days all week. Tonight you wanted an extra book for bedtime, and I caved because, well, “It’s your last night of being three.” I tell you this as if to set a precedent, a proper expectation.

But deep down, I don’t mind.

Deep down, I know that there will come a day where I’d give anything to go back to your last night of being three to read you an extra book, to breathe in the smell of your hair (washed all by your big girl self) as you rest your head on my shoulder and listen, thumb in your mouth and bear in your hand.

We go through the bedtime routine, just as we do every night; the book, the song, the back tickles, one last drink of water (tonight, your “last one as a 3 year old”).

And then you ask me for one more snuggle. I say yes. I lay next to you and watch you rest your eyes and try so hard to keep them closed because all you want is to wake up and be four already. On the outside, we are cheering and counting down, for we are only hours away now.

But quietly, I blink back tears.

Quietly, as I watch you rest, I think about you, Lucy, and all the precious ways you are you.

I think about your books, the way you sit with your huge pile and “read” out loud.

About ladybugs, how you love to catch them and let them crawl up your arm.

About Rosie (the flower you planted yourself and named), and how excited you were to have your very own flower in the garden “just like mama.”

About swings, oh, you could swing for hours.

About music, and how much you love it – bonus points if it’s a song you have memorized so you can sing along.

About how you make your sister’s bottles, then stand on a chair at the kitchen sink and wash them, one by one.

About how much you love to help me fold washcloths and hand towels – oh, and your own socks, as of last week.

About how goofy you are – you’ve got yourself quite the sense of humor, and girl, you make us laugh.

About how much you love making cards for people you love, always covered in the same five letters (H, L, I, O, and A) because so far those are the ones you can write all by yourself without tracing.

About how much you love collecting rocks, sticks, leaves, anything from outside, really.

You are growing, girl. So fast. They say the days are long, the years short. As cheesy as it sounds, it could not be more true.

There are so many things I want you to know. So many things I want to tell you.

But for now, little one, I will leave it at this: be free, and be four. Be wild and strong and brave and curious and kind. Keep growing and learning and loving like you do. You inspire me every day with your love of learning and your stubborn spirit – regardless of how we butt heads at times, it is a beautiful thing and I am positive that you will change the world with it.

In the meantime, know that it is my honor to get front row seats to watch it all unfold, to watch you unfold and grow and become more and more you.

Above all, know how much I love you, my big 4 year old – “bigger than the sky.”

 

The Communion of Scrambled Eggs

The act of making breakfast this morning was the most sacred moment of my week by far. Maybe of the last month. Nothing fancy, just the usual buttered toast and scrambled eggs (salted please, Mommy).

That’s not generally the way I would describe cooking with a 3 year old alongside “helping,” but once again, I’m learning things in the least expected of places.

“Can I stir the eggs, Mommy?”

My insides wince, knowing that will mean twice as long and extreme supervision because – toddlers + raw eggs + glass = no good outcome ever – but I surrendered.

Surrendered to patience.

Surrendered to mess.

… Surrendered to j o y.

The simple kind, similar to that you would find in the first bloom of spring, or the first quiet hours of the morning when everyone else is still asleep, or finding a coupon for a free espresso beverage at the bottom of your purse (and every mother of tiny people said AMEN).

Joy in the simplest of places – why am I always caught so off guard, as if it’s not a lesson life teaches me over, and over, and over again?

It wasn’t until the food was plated and I carried it to the table that it hit me, the beauty of that moment. The frustrations of yesterday still looming, the chaos of life still very real, stress still rearing its hideous head and wreaking havoc on our souls more often than it should.

But in this moment, we stopped, my little side kick and I. We stopped to break bread. A meal we prepared together, with our own hands. We slowed down enough to nourish both our bodies and our souls with simple things like toast and the presence of each other.

And today, that is more than enough.

 

A Warm Welcome

It is the first day of spring, but it has been creeping up on us for weeks it seems, so close I’ve been able to taste it. I can feel it beckoning me outside every opportunity it gets.

Birds chirp in what was just weeks ago the dead silence of winter.

Fragrant, breathtaking flowers bloom on recently bare branches.

The sun – comforting, crisp, warm – beams down on my face.

I am thankful.

The kind of thankful that doesn’t have words or reasons, it’s just there, filling my soul in ways that only spring can.

I’ve longed extra deeply for sunshine this winter, for the warmth of its rays and the beautiful aftermath it leaves in my garden. Particularly, its symbol of promise and hope.

I love spring because it reminds me that death does not have the last word. It reminds me that no matter how long the winter, the promise of those breathtaking cherry blossoms still remains. It reminds me that there’s nothing that can stop the sun from eventually coming out, from bringing beauty to the blank space of winter.

The fact that you can literally watch the bare branches of winter morph into beautifully adorned limbs lining every street in town, completely unprompted yet perfectly timed, is one of the most holy things on earth.

Perhaps what fascinates me most about spring is the tangible example it is of change. It is a reminder that there is an allotted time for everything in life: laughter and mourning; joy and sorrow; celebration and loss. We don’t just know the sweet smells of spring; we know the bitter cold of winter, too. Without the quiet, bitter, colorless chill of winter, the warm colors and smells and sounds of spring would not be as profound, as powerfully life-giving.

To know spring is to know winter. It is to understand that there are seasons in life, some full of joy and laughter, some full of mourning and heartache. I don’t know that you can have one and not the other in life. But the beauty about seasons is that each one cultivates a deeper gratitude for the others. By the time winter rolls around again next year, I’m sure I’ll be ready for it, too – whether I know it or not. My soul will be full after soaking up every moment of spring, summer, fall.

Of course, there is certainly something to say for the fact that when those autumn leaves begin to fall off the trees and we begin to head into the winter months, I’ll be ready for that bitter chill, too. Once again, winter’s predecessors prepare and strengthen my heart to take on the frigid winter months of quiet, still reflection. They refill my reserve to brave the cold, figuratively and literally.

But for today, that glorious sunshine is calling my name. And I can’t get enough of it.

 

Adjusting the Lens

This week marked a turning point after two weeks of sickness in our home. Sickness is monotony at its finest – especially when kids are involved.  It has a way of making time obsolete. Two weeks, but really, it felt like one continuous day that simply built on itself every 24 hours. Not only is every day slow and repetitive, but there is a seemingly gargantuan lack of sleep mixed in all the snot and body aches and fevers and fussiness.

Oh, what a glorious hot mess we have been over here. And yet, as usual, out of the the most strenuous and exhausting times come the most valuable lessons.

“And all of a sudden, what’s valuable is not the multitasking, but the single task – being with [her], only [her], doing nothing else.” – Shauna Niequist, Savor

There could not have been a more timely reminder; not just in the midst of this awful flu season, but in all of life.

Presence.

The mundane matters. It matters more than productivity, efficiency, responsibility; this is the hardest lesson I’ve learned, perhaps.

Appreciating this season for what it is, for all the “inconvenience” that having a two year old brings with it. Because maybe the “inconveniences” are not inconveniences; maybe they are in fact the good stuff and our lens just needs to be adjusted.

Reading all the books again.

Again.

Again.

Slowing down enough to let her into my everyday instead of trying to orchestrate her around my “everyday,” even if it means accomplishing less.

Because sometimes we need to slow down. Do less. Juggle less – sometimes less truly is more.

More for your soul.

More for your mind.

More for those closest to you. I guarantee that the people you share a home with are more concerned with a joyful you than that perfect life rhythm you seem to be chasing – so why aren’t you?

Contentment where we are is such a hard lesson to learn.  And by the time we do learn it, it’s often too late; our opportunities to enjoy the moment for what it is have already come and gone. I think there are two secrets to contentment in the present:

The first is that there is no such thing as the “perfect” life. In every season, even the best ones, there will always be something we wish we could change.

Secondly, the perfect life does not equal the “good life,” anyway.

These two principles change everything. Contentment is learning not only to be satisfied and grateful with the imperfect, but realizing that maybe the good stuff is the imperfect.

It’s the slobbery kisses.

It’s the unwanted interruptions; one day they won’t need you for everything anymore. And while that’s a good thing, you won’t miss it any less.

It’s reading Corduroy for a billionth time (no hyperbole there); when they’re older, their love for books will implant a hunger for learning that will drive them their entire life, yielding an invaluable depth to their human experience – and to the people around them, for that matter.

It’s all of the cuddles that come with being sick because the cuddles get fewer and further between as they grow.

It’s the little bubblebath footprints all over the bathroom that won’t always be little.

It’s flour covering every inch of the kitchen; one day that mess will become some of your most cherished memories (and theirs, too) and what you’ll remember is not how much longer it took to make those cookies or how much lumpier they turned out because you let tiny hands do the mixing.

Sure, teaching them along the way is important, but it’s not more important than creating a fertile ground for connection. For relationship. For gratitude. It’s much easier to teach a child how to clean up a mess or do their own laundry than it is to teach a child the significance of patience, of love, of gratitude – of the good stuff. What good is a perfectly ordered life if the latter are not the foundation of it all?

What if we could learn to refocus our lens? What if we could see what seems like inconvenience now through the lens of what it may look like 10, 20, 30 years from now?  What does it look like to be content in the “now,” that precious “now” that we will eventually be wishing we had back?

The answer is easier said than done, but it is simple:

Learn the sacred secret of joy.

Learn the art of cultivating an inner groundedness that is not based on being happy, but being grateful. Learn to be thankful for every glimpse and glimmer of good that God is whispering through his good world. Cherish every second of the life you have been given. And remember that everything lasts only for a season – which can be bittersweet, depending on the context.

In the bitter, may we remember that morning will come again and that there is always good to be found in the meantime – we may just have to look extra hard to find it.

But yes, it is there.

In the sweet, may we remember to slow down, soak it up, and enjoy every second.  It will come to an end too, as every season does. And when that end comes, you’ll want to look back with gratitude that it happened, not regret that you let that time slip right through your hands.

 

One Word

Happy New Year, dear ones!

I realize I’m a little late to the resolution game, but that doesn’t mean there’s been a lack of some serious reflection.

In 2015, I started recognizing how unsuccessful big, lofty goals can be come the beginning of a new year. Before you deem me as a pessimistic skeptic, let me dig a little deeper.

Goals are good. They are helpful and they are vital for our growth. But what I pondered at the beginning of 2015 was if there was a better way to execute goals so that they are actually attainable, rather than the kind you make on a wimb when you’re feeling motivated by the “January 1st” deadline and then find yourself failing miserably at come, say, “March 1st”. So that year, I decided to take tangible steps in practicing gratitude. I called it my “Year of Thankfulness.” What began as an incredibly optimistic goal turned into an amazing opportunity to put my money wear my mouth was – 2015 was the hardest year of my life, with various things I found seemingly impossible to be thankful for, at the time (a story for another post).

The irony of this goal of gratitude amidst some of the hardest days and months I’d experienced was tremendous, in certain moments. Simultaneously, however, the fact that my goal was something that could be interwoven into every second of my simple, everyday, life activities was strangely beautiful and comforting.

It was more of a theme, an anthem that I sang internally over the big picture of my life. It kept me going on my worst days, and it sank in in such rich, deep ways on my best days. Some of my most joyous moments were also in 2015.

My baby girl was born.

My friendship with my husband deepened in ways I didn’t know it could.

My faith both unraveled and expanded in such beautifully messy ways.

I learned a multitude of things that had you told me I was going to learn, I would have tried to run full force in the opposition direction (and had you tried to stop me, I would have fought you kicking and screaming).

But as 2015 came to a close and 2016 was underway, I realized something: 2015 was the first year I had even come close to achieving a goal I’d set on any New Year’s in the past. It was hard, but it also felt more doable for the duration of the entire year, rather than feeling doable for only as long as the hype of that January-March window typically does. I realized that this method was something that worked on my best days, on my worst days, and on my mediocre days.

Because that’s what we (humans) need, isn’t it? Something attainable. Something that seems possible and tangible and doable regardless of our life circumstances. The reality is that life is beautiful, messy, amazing, horribly painful, mediocre, extraordinary, and ordinary – all on the same token. It is unpredictable. You never know what you are going to be handed to juggle on any given day, in any given hour.

So, come 2016, I decided to proceed with the same strategy of taking something specific I’d wrestled with over the past year and make that my theme, focus, and “goal” to practice growing in over the next year to come. I love this idea because it is all of those things; it is tangible – it can be as specific or vague as you want – and it is also doable, even on the days when I fail in epic ways at being human. I also love this because I think that it’s something every human can resonate with – we all fail in epic ways and we all succeed in epic ways, depending on the season we are in – oftentimes, depending on what day of the week we are on. But this type of goal-setting: this theme, this anthem, this one focus, can be practiced in both the lowest valleys and on the highest mountaintops, regardless of what word or theme you choose.

2017 was my year of valuing the gift of being present (both on the good days and the hard days) over the hustle of constantly trying to earn my “perfection” label (thank you, Shauna Niequist; you changed my life).

{Seriously, drop everything and read this book if you haven’t already. Talk about perspective.}

And once again, as 2017 came to a close, I found that image of my kicking and screaming self as I imagined what my response would have been had I known all that 2017 would entail (again, a story for another post: http://alhanson.org/368-2/), along with some unforgettably sweet moments, too. And, once again, in the midst of this pish-posh of reflecting, I realized that I’d somehow managed to somewhat achieve my second consecutive New Year’s goal of 2017.

As 2018 rolled around, the glaring word I felt the need to focus on was authenticity. Once again, my theme came from a book I finished right at the tail end of 2017 called The Gifts of Imperfection. Brene Brown’s words in this piece have made a pivotal impact on my worldview and have reshaped how I see God, myself, and others. (Again… drop everything. Click the link above. Best $8.99 you’ll spend this year – promise.)

I don’t know about you, but as helpful as technology is today and as thankful as I am for all the enrichment that has undoubtedly come from it, the unending insecurity and pressure to hustle, gain approval, and fake it ’til you get the amount of likes that everyone else has with filters and edits and emojis – I mean ’til you make it – is wearing so heavily on my soul (especially in motherhood – can I get an “amen,” fellow mama’s?)

One of my reflections at the end of 2017 included the painful realization that more of my time than I’m willing to admit was spent on social media every day; and it didn’t take long to make a connection between that and my deeply rooted insecurity as a wife, mom, friend, and human. Life is too precious to spend in a constant state of comparison. Social media was not the only root of this insecurity and self-doubt and comparison, but it certainly didn’t help as much as it hindered in that area, either.

So here’s to authenticity. To deeply rooted connection via coffee dates or shooting friends a text asking how they’re doing instead of checking in on all of them on the screens we hide behind. To loving hard, even when we’re not always loved back. To wearing our favorite ugly sweater, even if it isn’t trendy. To being seen for who we really are, instead of the perfect versions of ourselves we construct for everyone to see. To less filters, even with our uneven skin tones, wrinkles, extra 10 unwanted pounds of postpartum baby weight, dark circles that scream lack of sleep, etc.

{Again, please don’t hear me bashing social media – it is not 100% bad. I’m not even saying farewell to it, myself. It’s simply an example of one way I’m choosing to practice this next year of authenticity: by cutting back from, say, multiple times a day to a couple times a week and seeing the ways my soul comes to life.}

So if you get more texts or calls from me this next year than you’re used to, you’ll know why.

 

Take Up Your Space

Growing up, my childhood best friend (still one of my most cherished humans on the planet) was (and still is) one of the most creative people I know. I remember we would sit in her room as young girls and each draw pictures of dance costumes for imaginary dances that we choreographed, or pictures of what our wedding dresses would look like one day. Her’s would always turn out so stunning and beautiful and.. creative, while mine were always sorry attempts at dance costumes I’d worn in previous recitals. Not only could she draw, but even at age 11, she already had such a charming sense of style and and eye for interior decor. Her room looked like a shot straight out of a vintage 50’s magazine. It was innate; it was in her veins; it was apart of her; it was like her second layer of skin. She was incredibly inspiring to me then and she still is today.

Another close friend of mine started her own business not long after becoming a mom. That’s right – on top of mastering the crazy, full time job of newborn mom life, she also quickly began crushing it as the founder, entrepreneur, and designer of a company selling hats for littles (seriously, they are the cutest: https://kinshipcap.co). But again, it’s second nature for her. Her life would not be complete if she didn’t have creative outlets that brought life not only to her, but to others.

Then there’s my beautiful friend who started a company (https://www.amazon.com/handmade/WoodntItBeNicePdx) making stationary with pictures that she photographs herself, along with adorable burlap banners for any occasion you can imagine. She, too, does this on top of her full time gig as a stay at home mama. Her free time is poured into her passion of capturing beauty in everyday things and artfully curating it into a product that allows people to pass it along to others in the form of words.

And then there are people like me who thrive with step-by-step “how to’s.” They’re my jam. Words like “creative” or “innovative” make me literally crumble and hide.

I have a system for just about everything and the thought of giving myself the space to not have a system, but to explore and consider something other than what is already safely placed right under my nose, immediately triggers anxiety, fear, and insecurity. Literally – if it weren’t for Pinterest, my wardrobe would scare people, my house would look like twenty seven people – all with different styles – tried to decorate it, and my recipe box would either be empty or filled with nasty, inedible recipes that would cause anyone I fed in my home to make a B-line for the closest restaurant in town.

So you could see why, then, after years of comparing my friends’ knacks for artistry and design, I deemed myself as simply not gifted in this area called creativity. I had other gifts and talents and that was just fine. Not everyone is gifted in the same way, and that’s the beauty of life, right?

Not quite. The thing is, it all comes back to how we define “creativity.”

What if the reason we “Uncreative’s” are using the wrong measuring stick to define whether or not we have this gift? What if we are incorrectly defining “creativity?” What if we are trying to create, to bring something out of nothing, in areas that are not the areas where we are truly gifted, and that is why we are left feeling inadequate, incompetent, and void of anything worth bringing to the table?

We have it twisted, friends. You see, being a creator is not something we do.

It is someone we are. Every one of us.

Creativity is not something we have or don’t have, but something that manifests itself differently from person to person. It is present in every human soul, it is simply embodied in various shapes and forms.

If creativity only meant being able to draw or paint or design with poise and elegance, or create the perfect aesthetic in a room, or combine the tastiest ingredients off the top of my head and create the yummiest dish known to man, count me out. So not my lanes.

But to be creative is simply this: to bring something into existence that was not there before.

That’s it.

There are no rules when it comes to being creative – and that is the beauty of it. Be it starting a business, gardening, thoughtfully giving the perfect gift, dancing, singing, writing, cooking, teaching, painting, drawing, sewing, fashion – you name it; creativity comes in all shapes and sizes.

Bringing something from nothing.

We are all creators because we were made in the image of a Creator – and a magnificent one, at that. And when it comes down to it, I believe that is why there is such deep satisfaction and joy when we create – it is who we are at our core. Anytime something is brought from nothing, creativity is born and we are our truest selves.

In all we do, may we have the boldness to do and be things that exceed what is safely accepted. May we always remember the value that art and creativity bring to the table. They are not secondary – they are central.

They are sacred. And they are found in everything.

They are where our souls come alive. They are where the mundane of everyday meet the holy, and the value of life itself is felt in the deepest, richest, most powerful ways. They are where we find the answer to the inevitable questions of, “Why are we here? What are we doing? What is this all about?”

So take up your space, beautiful one.

What do you love? What brings you life? What ways do you bring something into existence that otherwise would not be? What shoes can only you fill?

You have something to offer that no one else can. You were made for this. You have it in you – may you simply have the boldness to seek it out and bring it to life. Because here is the cold, hard truth: the world needs less cookie-cutter, safe, “socially acceptable” success and perfection and more vulnerable, real, raw, honest art – in all of its forms.

It needs more of you.