Category Archives: motherhood

every time I hold your hand

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I want to remember it. Every time I hold your hand.

Earlier this month, my family visited some acquaintances who own a small home and cottage in the Hamptons. They had invited us to stay in their cottage, and we accepted. After a slightly harrowing drive out of Manhattan, we arrived late morning on a Tuesday, spent some time relaxing on the property listening to the sound of lazy lawn mowers and chirping birds, and then walked the 400 yards to the “bay beach” at the end of their block.

As per usual, I carried the family backpack and had a little hand in each of my own. Jacob scampered about, holding my hand for a few yards and then running up to his dad and then back again. Hannah Grace, as per usual, clung tight, my fiercely independent girl who always likes to have a hand to hold (as long as she can choose to hold it). Our host caught up with us and fell into step with our slow pace. Hannah Grace immediately requested her hand as well: “I hold your hand?”

Anne seemed both pleased and surprised. “Of course!” she exclaimed, and eagerly shifted her bag to the other arm. “It’s so nice to have someone who wants to hold my hand,” she remarked casually.  Continue reading

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Lessons from Vacation Bible School

This summer, my kids participated in our church’s “Vacation Bible School” program (aka, VBS). Every day for a week, we left the house early to trek down to the church’s building, where the kids attended the opening and closing assemblies and rotated through crafts, music, Bible, snack, and movement classes each day. I mostly volunteered in the preschool Bible class, performing various roles in Bible skits for over 100 little ones. The whole week was exhausting for me.

Despite being surrounded by Bible verses, memory points, smiling people with what seemed like boundless amounts of energy, and energizing pop songs about God’s love and forgiveness, I felt spent, exhausted, and alone. The transition back to New York City after over three weeks away was a difficult one, and I realized in hindsight that I had not prepared myself or the family well for the adjustment. (I actually made lists of things to do differently next time. I love lists.) And to make things more difficult, it was a hot week in New York, my husband was working out of town, and I was 7-something months pregnant. And my kids weren’t sleeping.

Each day I’d show up, feeling beaten, and run into dozens of people I knew, some fairly well, most acquaintances I hadn’t seen in a year – and everyone was all smiles and “it’s great to see you!” and “how wonderful that you’re expecting!” and hugs. I didn’t feel like smiling, and I didn’t feel like it was great to see anyone, and I didn’t feel like it was wonderful to be expecting. It all felt like hard work.  Continue reading

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the hard work of mothering

I grew up in a home that valued work. My sister and I learned not to waste time, and that working hard was one of the most important things we could do. Following the examples of my hard-working parents, I believed I could achieve anything—as long as I worked hard enough.

When my son was born, I was not ready to return to my previous job after just three months off. So I took a new job: motherhood.

I had worked hard building my career as a professional musician and arts administrator. Yet I believed spending time with my son during his most formative years was important—even if it meant leaving a job I loved and had worked hard to achieve. I now wanted to work hard to train up my child in the way he should go.

However, I often found myself longing for a different life. I grew jealous of friends and colleagues as they achieved professional success, some even having children of their own along the way. The past three-and-a-half years have been a struggle to find my place—as a mom, as a freelance writer and musician, as a Christian, as a driven and hard-working woman.

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I’m delighted to be writing again over at the fabulous website Off the Page this month. Won’t you join me there to read the rest?

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to whom?

I don’t know how to respond to these last few weeks. To the tragedy, the terror, the suffering, the injustice. To the knowledge that the ugly headlines represent just a fraction of the terrible-ness in the world.

I don’t know how to respond to my friend, who should have been celebrating her son’s first birthday this week. I don’t know how to respond to my mentor, whose husband had an unexpected heart attack. I don’t know how to respond to my children, who are growing up – too quickly – in a world filled with so much sadness. Continue reading

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amazing grace

My baby Hannah Grace is two years old. And the second verse of Amazing Grace just keeps playing on repeat in my head.

T’was grace that taught

My heart to fear,

And grace my fears relieved;

How precious did that grace appear

The hour I first believed!

Hannah Grace, each phrase is true. Your presence in my life has taught my heart to fear. The moment I first learned you were on your way, I was terrified. I didn’t think I could handle having another baby so soon after your brother. Your earliest existence made obvious to me that my control over my life was just smoke and mirrors. I had a perfect plan, and this wasn’t it. I was not in control, and I was scared. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to do it, wouldn’t be able to love you well, wouldn’t be able to love your brother well, wouldn’t be able to take care of our home and all my responsibilities. I was scared to be a mom of “two under two.”

But two years ago, you began to prove me wrong. After nearly 42 weeks of pregnancy, you made me a mom of two under two. You showed me that I could do this thing that I had feared – if I trusted God and relied on Him for everything that I lacked. This life that He’s given me with you hasn’t been easy, but each day, He relieves my fears by another degree. And now, I understand that this began before I even met you.  Continue reading

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When Work Feels Fruitless

It’s easy to think of “work” in the ways our society does – as something only related to money, status, stability. But God-given work is bigger.

Sorry for the radio silence around here. Head over to Redeemer Presbyterian’s Center for Faith and Work blog for a short post I wrote recently on the frustrations of God-given work. . .

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My primary work is as a mother. I have several advanced degrees and I spend hours sitting on the floor, wiping runny noses, or standing in the kitchen, washing dishes. Many days, it seems like everything that I do backfires. It is easy to feel like what I’m doing is a waste of my time and education. I know that raising kids is about delayed gratification – after all, “your works will praise you at the gates” – but I could use a little more affirmation along the way. The work of being a full-time mom is hard, grueling work.

It’s not unusual for work to feel this way.

Read the rest here!

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responsibility

There are really no words for today, or for yesterday, when my sweet friend lost her child, seven months after he was born. It feels useless and almost unnecessary, unimportant, to share the heaviness of the grief.

Almost harder for me, as the mother of two healthy children, has been the weight of responsibility.

I heard the news while sitting between my two children at home, at dinner. Our home is not a quiet one, and this is especially true at mealtimes (and bathtimes). The children were screaming in delight at each other, alternating between “Rooooaaaarrrr!” and “Noooooo!!!” enjoying the sounds of their voices volleying back and forth, at escalating decibel levels.

I sat, crying hot and silent tears, as they screamed, oblivious. Amidst the sadness and anger, I felt a heavy responsibility.  Continue reading

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deep calls to deep

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I’m linking up with the amazing Addie Zierman’s synchroblog on the dark places in life for this post. SHE JUST RELEASED HER SECOND BOOK!! This week!! Buy it now: Night Driving: A Story of Faith in the Dark.

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The changeling beast of depression has always been a part of my life. It has reared its ugly head in a myriad of ways – as searing anger, endless tears, chilled-to-the-bone numbness. As anorexia and suicidal thoughts. As cutting and burning and borderline alcoholism. I am all of these things.

But I am also a mom and a wife. A Christian. A musician, a writer, an arts administrator, a runner, an INFJ. I love the ocean and the sky, beautiful words and images, the way a Hopper painting is so lonely and so familiar, the way Bach makes me believe in God. I am all these things.

I am also a fighter. I fight the demons, the darkness, the negativity. Some days I win. Some days, I lose. One Thursday I was losing.  Continue reading

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a mother’s love (v 2.0)

I discovered something this week. While editing past blog posts for my writing portfolio, I learned something about God’s love. I discovered that, in a strange and beautiful way, examining my love for my daughter has shown me why I can trust God. [A different version of this post first appeared in 2015.]

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When I found out that I was pregnant with my daughter, I cried. Out of fear. Out of disbelief. I was still nursing my firstborn, and he was still a baby. I 20140707_Hollingsworth-178did not feel ready for a second.

But along she came, fast and furious – if also two weeks late. I nursed and burped her, changed and rocked her, bathed and swaddled her. Over and over. I gently washed her sensitive skin and I protected her from the sun and her big-but-still-little brother. In those first weeks and months, I loved her in the very best way that I could – by doing.

Because I felt nothing.  Continue reading

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lessons from a lighthouse

little red lighthouse

My son has this book that he loves called The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge. In the book, the little red lighthouse is proud of its job sending out beacons of light to protect the boats in the river from the rocky shores. One day, a crew of men appears:

 

Every day [the little red lighthouse] watched the strange new gray thing beside it grow and grow. Huge towers seemed to touch the sky. Strong loops of steel swept across the river.

How big it was!

How wonderful!

How powerful!

A great gray bridge, spanning the Hudson River from shore to shore. It made the little red lighthouse feel very, very small.

“Mommy, is the little red lighthouse sad?” my son asked one day after I read this passage to him.

“Yes, sweetie, it is,” I replied.

“But why?” he asked. (He is a three-year-old, after all.)

“Well, the lighthouse is afraid that he won’t have any work to do, now that the great gray bridge has been built. He’s afraid that there’s no job for him. And that makes him sad. It feels good to have a job to do, doesn’t it?”  Continue reading

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