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Mother’s Day thoughts in my head but we’ve got a busy weekend ahead and I don’t want to forget to write out some things…

The longer I am a mom, the more I appreciate my Mom.

The more I have to resist raising my voice, I wonder how she kept it cool all those years. With grace and gentleness, I cannot remember a single time she raised her voice at me. But I never questioned her authority.

The more I learn who my kids are, their interests and how they are so different from me, I appreciate that my Mom never tried to force me into a box of what I was supposed to be interested in or make me a mirror image of my peers. As a little girl, when a lot of kids were at the ballfields on Saturdays, I was in a neighborhood art class. As a pre-teen when kids were asking for various ‘age-appropriate’ Christmas gifts, I got a bread maker I had wanted. When high school prom rolled around and I wasn’t interested in going to mine [not that I even got asked to mine ;)], I didn’t get some speech about how I’d miss out or needed to get dolled up, I had dinner and watched a movie with my Momma, which I doubt she even remembers because it was such an ordinary day, but I’ve never forgotten that memory.

The days I’m running on zero sleep with little energy, I think about how many days she must have been feeling depleted but still gave us her time and her love and without complaint. And still does. I think I can confidently speak for my sisters, too, she’s never made us feel like a burden.

As I learn what motherhood looks like to me, sometimes that looks different than the way we were raised, in little ways and sometimes significant ways, and I never get a condescending “well back when I was raising you this is how we did it”. Our parenting is always met with respect and an eagerness to understand why we feel such and such is best, which – I’m friends with a lot of young moms, I know this is rare.

I think about the days she prayed with me and for me, and it challenges me to pray for/with my kids more. I think about the meals she and I cooked together and it makes me pause to allow the kids to actually be a part of the process and not just micromanaged so a mess isn’t made. I think about little treasures she’s purchased for me over the years and not because it was a holiday or birthday but “just because it reminded [her] of [me]”, and it makes me take note of things that make my kids smile so that I can find treasures of their own over the years.

More vividly because it was more recent, I think about the way she cared for her mother in her final years. What that must be like to have grown up under a woman who all of these same things could be said about, and then have to say goodbye. There are some moments that could never be verbalized to anyone else, they are only known to those who exist within those moments – and many of my Maw Maw’s last days fit into that category. The magnitude of those memories can probably never be written out in a way that carries the proper weight with them, but watching the way my Mom cared so delicately for her Mom pushes me to be a more gentle human being. I hope that I can thank you for these things for many more years to come, but I just wanted to highlight them as Mother’s Day approaches.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mom’s out there, and especially so to mine. Love you Momma. ❤

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Dear Mom Trying To Figure It Out,

I see you at the store, juggling your crew. You look sort of tired – but I won’t mention that to you. I see how you bounce along the aisle as you wear your baby in a wrap, and hold your toddlers hand. I see your cart full – but not full of food – full of a 4 or 7 year old, which leaves a little less room for groceries, so you’re playing food tetris….you might even be losing the game 😉 but as long as the eggs make it out unbroken you’re still winning in my book. You do this all with a smile on your face, trying to keep your tone in check for the moments the energetic one wants to dart for another aisle or rushes towards all the breakables (because they will never rush towards something as harmless as cotton balls, right?). I see you make it to the car, and as the final child and bag is loaded in, you breathe deeply – the marathon is over for the moment, until the next time you need milk.

I want you to know you’re seen, and you’re doing a good job. I want you to know that long after they are grown and making their own trips to the store, they will remember these moments that you took them along on the adventure of the ordinary. (After all, I still do – If you’re reading this…I could go for a breakfast pizza, momma 😉 )

 

I see you at the doctor’s office. It doesn’t matter if you’re waiting for your appointment, or one for the kids, you have a full crew and I watch you receive the comments: “wow your hands are full, don’t you know how ‘those’ happen?” said with a snarky smile, or “look how blessed you are!” said so sweetly. I watch you show the same kindness to each person. I observe how you know what maintains the sanity of each kid, and it’s never the same thing. A book for one, a snack for another, mommy’s hand or lap for yet another. I visibly notice how tense you get when one is crying, you feel like they are disturbing everyone around you – and they might be – but that’s okay.

I want you to know that it wasn’t just me who saw you respond to a critic and complimenter with the same gentleness, your children saw this, too. I want you to know that the way you handle each of their needs in the “maintain sanity” part of waiting, you’re showing them that each of their needs is just as important as their siblings and likewise their siblings are just as important as they are. You’re validating each of them while at the same time reminding them to think of others. I want you to know that even though you feel like your screaming baby is grating the nerves of the onlooker beside you, you’re an example to the general public that we all have different things out of our control, some as visible as an inconsolable child. So let them look, just as much as your child’s cries are out of your control  – so is the onlookers response to you. It’s not you, it’s them. And I know, it makes you all the more patient the next time you see or hear an upset little one or experience people from different walks of life. Don’t let rude people let you grow cold, let them make you softer in judgement towards everyone you meet.

I see you in church. Walking along the halls while everyone else is learning and partaking. I know you seem a little unsure of what you should even be doing, should you participate in everything even though the baby might cry? Should you keep to yourself so you’re ready to console quickly? I know this is especially true if this is your first baby, everything is new – even your experience at church. I see your struggle and I want you to know, even in the moments away from the “big gatherings” you’re teaching your little one(s) about worship and commitments and what matters to you. You’re showing them that a hushed lullaby in a quiet, empty church room off to the side is just as worshipful as a hymn in corporate worship, so long as they are both lifted to the glorification of Jesus. I see you, but more importantly He sees you. You are quite literally living out Romans 12:1, your body isn’t as free to go to this bible study or that class, you are sacrificing the very placement of your body in the church building in the interest of getting down on your child’s level and showing them that their presence at church is just as important to God as yours. That the smallest of minds and tiniest of souls matter to God.

I see you in all of these places because I am you, and I’ve been there – and will continue to be for as long as I’m raising these little souls.

There are lots of women I know who have gained the title “Mom” recently, but this is true for all the tiny years – whether first or fifth time Mommy, you’re seen. I know you’re not trying to be noticed, but we are collectively in this together – trying to do the best for our littles, and so I’m standing with you in solidarity in the good times and the hard times and the times they both intertwine. I know you are in the process of figuring out this Mom thing, in my opinion it’s not really something to be figured out – but something we’ll continue learning and growing in for as long as we have the privilege to.

motherhood & healing

So we’re approaching Brantley’s “two weeks on the outside” day (Thursday), and I wanted to jot down some additional thoughts I’ve had about him and my labor/delivery.

While I was pregnant with him my labor fear was pretty high. I kind of have not fun pregnancies (let’s be real, I was still puking with this kid at like 36 weeks). So on top of just general pregnancy fatigue, the way I felt most often while I was carrying him could be summed up in one word: depleted.

I couldn’t get enough rest, command myself to find enough energy, nourish myself in a satisfying way (hungry or sick all the live long day). Also: 2 and 4 year old in my care.

I try intently to keep a positive tone while pregnant, because the more pregnancies I have- the more people I know who aren’t able to carry life or lose their babies. I never want to be someone who takes this for granted. So, while it is taxing, I try to not bug anyone with the hard moments when asked how I’m feeling and just focus on what’s going well. All of that to say, as I was nearing the due date- I felt like I didn’t have the energy to go through birthing a baby, especially given the way my previous birth went. 

When I had Timothy, I was very focused on having him naturally. My decision to do this was for a few reasons but I really wanted to have a different experience than I did with Brooklyn (which by the way you aren’t owed a reason but many people feel inclined to a reason). I was met with a good deal of support, and a few negative comments about how that was dumb to try that/you don’t get a medal for not using drugs/why would you put yourself through that, etc.

So, whenever I shared about Timothy’s birth, I shared about how I was so happy to accomplish my goal, but I never really gave myself permission to say: it was really traumatic.

If you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time you probably know I dealt with post partum depression after I had Timothy, and I think a large part of that was due to a false pressure I put on myself to convince everyone his birth was a fairy tale. 

It was, without a doubt, empowering and beautiful but it also left me somewhat traumatized as everything happened so fast and I felt like I needed to be silent about the mental battle in that delivery room and the weeks that followed lest the naysayers throw an “I told you so” in my face. I am so confident still in my decision to follow a natural birthing plan, but I’m no longer afraid to talk about the shadows that may lurk in one of the brightest moments in my life.

So as I neared Brantley’s arrival, I was really nervous to maybe plunge into a mental abyss again, and so I prayed, a lot. And I allowed myself permission to reconcile my thoughts about Timothy’s birth- I was okay with our story and not meeting anyone else’s ideal/version of sanity (because yeah: “you’re totally insane” has been said to me more than once about the whole no epidural thing). I let myself process.  

So a few days before Brantley was born I came to peace with embracing whatever was coming and not bringing my past birthing experiences into it, and letting it be whatever it would be- on its own.

So when I had Brantley, I went into it allowing myself to totally absorb all of it, instead of just trying to have a “good natural birthing experience”. 

It healed a part of me I didn’t know needed healing. 
His birth was so many things. Intense. Fast. Furious. Beautiful. Challenging. Healing.

The way my children have come into my life has deeply and uniquely shaped each of our relationships.

Brooklyn was my surprise, I loved her in an overwhelmingly protective way. She came into my life without any “trying” on my part, and that made me grow up in responsibility and protectiveness very fast. If I could not have given her consideration to be made, I dang sure was going to give her everything I could as soon as I learned I was carrying her. I hadn’t prepared to be a mom to her, but she has shaped so much of how I handle and experience motherhood. I will fully embrace whatever unexpected things come and I have seen the goodness in doing just that through her precious life.

Timothy I had to fight for. I had to explore fertility options for him. I fought for a different birthing experience. I fought to love him, really. When depression took over after he was born I had to make myself bond with him, it didn’t come naturally. Holding him in the late night hours as I was balling my eyes out. Reminding him I love him even though I couldn’t fully feel it. Trying to be attuned to his needs even when depression told me not to care about anything. That fight led to an incredible bond. Everyone knows he is my side kick. He is always in my arms (when they are free). I love him fiercely and will fight for him, always. 

Brantley so far has been my refreshment. His life has made me revisit why I love being a mom. Made me appreciate the little things, the tiny moments of joy that set flames to keep you warm on the darker days. I went through such a shadowy season before he arrived. Carrying and delivering and loving him has been life-giving to parts of me that just a few months and years ago felt very dead. His tiny life has brightened my days and I love him dearly.

I may not have been seeking the title Mom when it found me, but I feel incredibly honored to hold that title. So thankful for these three unique blessings in my life.

I wanted to write about Brantley’s birth while it’s fresh on my mind. It happened so fast I’m not even sure I’ve processed it yet but I want to write while I still remember. 🙂

For a day or two before his arrival I was feeling the emotional/mental fog set in. I didn’t “know” he was coming soon, but I felt similar to how I felt before my labor with Timothy started. Extra sensitive to what was going on. A few nights preceding Brantley’s arrival I hugged Timothy a little tighter and told him I would miss him if I wasn’t there when he woke up and I couldn’t wait for him to come see his baby brother at the hospital. I remember doing the same with Brooklyn before T came. Something about that 2 year old age- they are aware enough to know you’re gone but not enough to understand why. I don’t leave my kids often so it was just on my mind to give him some extra attention this week.

Though my mind was gearing up for labor, I really didn’t think my body was. I felt as pregnant as I had been feeling and didn’t really have any labor signs. I felt good enough to hang/serve at Awana just 6 hours before I was in labor, so I really felt physically unaware of his arrival.

After putting the kids to bed after Awana I decided to call it a night, usually I have to eat dinner after I get them down but for whatever reason I decided we would eat at church beforehand so I just went to bed.

I woke up around 12:30am from a contraction, this has been pretty normal for a few weeks. Poor sleep and infrequent contractions. As I was laying there trying to go back to sleep I realized there may be a pattern to pay attention to so I started logging their frequency.

  
Once I figured out they were four minutes apart and realized they were strengthening I decided to wake Joseph. I knew it was time. I called the hospital to make sure they would admit me and then we called my parents.

My contractions still aren’t horrible at this point, but I’m having to pause in conversation if I’m experiencing one. I was still mentally together though.

By the time I finished packing my bag, writing notes to my parents about the kids schedules, and my parents arriving – we left for the hospital around 2:30am and were checked in our room around 3:15am.

I’m not really sure at what point labor shifted but I remember filling out paper work in L&D and thinking oh boy this is where the pain comes haha. I could still answer all the questions I needed to for the most part, I could just feel my aggitation rising that I had to talk to anyone. 

It’s probably about 3:30 by the time they check me and I was pleasantly surprised I was 6cm. By the time I was 3cm with T I had already lost my mind I think. I still felt together for the most part (losing it here in a minute, don’t worry). One thing that helped was counting down from 60-1 every contraction. My friend recommended that to me and it was a different distraction / coping technique than I had used with Timothy and I found it very helpful – I always knew the 1/end was coming. 

I’ve lost track of time at this point but Joseph is asking me do I need anything (because he was gonna visit the restroom) and I snapped at him to not leave my side and then hurry inbetween contractions. Haha. Looking back on things I say and the way I act during labor is embarrassing sometimes. 🙂 When I reached the point of snapping I knew this baby was coming sooner than later.

I told my (amazing!) nurse I was feeling a lot of pressure and she checked me again (I think this was around 4am?) and I was just at 7cm. Devastation! I wanted to fall apart and shortly did. 🙂 again, feeling the embarrassment as I recount all this.

The next part of this happened so fast, I don’t know the timeline, but I had a baby in my arms at 4:23am.

Within minutes of her telling me I was 7cm I was like “hey yeah I’ve gotta push” but a lot more frantic and with some screaming. Everyone in the room was like nope, you can’t, don’t, you have to wait. And I was like “you guys don’t understand #sorrynotsorry I’m gonna push”, except with more yelling and no hashtag. I have never felt my body not able to control what it’s doing, so this made me lose my mind. I wanted to stop because they suggested I did but I literally could not control what my body needed to do. With that first small push my water broke and the doctor arrived (shoutout to Dr. Sweeney for being my favorite doctor ever and also for being on cal). Next thing I know nurses are shifting me into position for him to catch the baby (because remember, #sorrynotsorry I had to push…and continued to). And then I went into that state where I only know what’s happening with me and the baby and no one else in the room and I heard Brantley scream and then I felt his snuggly body lay on me.

  
He was so sweet, and chunky, and soft.

  
He weighed in at 8lbs 13oz and 22 inches long.

  
I love him.

  
When morning rolled around there was a beautiful sunrise. I was so excited because Brooklyn had been hoping for a sunny day. 

  
She was thrilled to meet her brother. She cried with excitement as soon as she walked in.

   
 
Timothy had food on the brain (always) but kept saying “I wanna hold you baby nant-ney!” He’s not about that selfie life.

I won’t bore you with the rest of our stay. Just wanted to write down while it was still fresh on the brain.

Thank you so much for all of the congratulations and well wishes.

We have loved having this little guy added to our life.

I feel so special that I get to be his mom. I cannot wait to get to know him. ❤

   
    
    
    
 

honesty in prayer

I’m not one for trite sayings.

I would rather face a truth, hard or easy, head on and dive in to processing it.

I internally, and honestly probably externally, cringe when people speak to others facing difficulties and offer up unhelpful, overused, or careless words. I would love to protect everyone I love from having to wade through the well-intentioned but poorly thought out words of others.

No matter my passion for preferring others to be straight up with me with ‘real talk’ over fluffy words, I still sometimes find myself believing in a type of personal mindset that leads me to speak unavailing words to myself when considering hardship and praying about it.

Last Tuesday I got word that the 3-day-old daughter of one of my closest “mommy friends” had an extreme shift in her health, and for the remainder of the week baby Autumn’s life was hanging in the balance.

I could never pretend to identify with how this week will forever been remembered by Toby and Melissa.

As a friend, I only wanted to speak real, meaningful, and truthful words – if I spoke them at all. I really felt (and still feel, though with some clarity)lost on how to walk through this type of hardship with friends. But in the depths of my mind I continued to consider if and when I spoke to Melissa, how and what could I say that would not be insensitive, sugar coated, glossed over, meaningless words. I wanted to love and love well. I found myself giving myself pep talks on what to say, when to say it, if to say it, how to say it, and what I thought about the words I was even considering saying.

I felt like continually the Lord was prompting me to be available to listen and honest and prayerful.

I got off the phone with Melissa early Wednesday morning and considered our conversation. I felt as if I had kept close to how I felt like God wanted me to conduct myself during our interactions. I was thankful for the nudging to listen instead of speak – because now I was truly aware of how she was doing instead of just trying to place myself in the conversation or offer her words out of my mouth to make my own-self feel better in some way for “saying something helpful”. I was honest in telling her that I love her and how I was just so sorry. I didn’t feel the need to say anything fake just to make the gravity of the situation less intense: the Lord allowed me to honestly say “this is awful.”

Now that we had hung up it was time to be prayerful.

I prayed throughout the day but knew that nap time was when I would be able to speak out loud to God in a more quiet and focused way. When I laid the kids down I went into my room, put my phone beside me because I turned on some worship music, turned the monitor on so I could hear the kids, and sat on my bed.

I’ve been reading a book about Holiness for a bible study I’m involved with and as I’m sitting on the bed somehow it clicks to connect the two: what does pursuing holiness have to do with me in this moment as I wonder how and what to pray?

This past week the chapter focused in on things that we are compelled to be drawn into which perpetuate a sinful state instead of a holy state. Pretty obvious examples being: sex, lust, entertainment, noise, food, activities, social gatherings, social media etc. These are all things that stimulate us whether physically, mentally, emotionally.

As I was considering all these things, I thought about what God says, and how that cultivates holiness: “Be still, and know that I am God…”, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind….” and other passages and verses kept coming to mind about being called to stillness and rest and seeking to renew – removing what stimulates the mind and the body, so that God can stimulate the heart.

And then it was pretty obvious that I was in over my head with distractions and not really focused.

So I turned off the kids’ monitor, turned off my phone, got off my bed, and went to my sitting area in the bathroom. My bathroom has a big window that I like, and if I have a few minutes to spend alone, I’ll sometimes spend it in the chair where I fix my hair/put on make up, and look out the window that overlooks the backyard from my bathtub.

So there I was, sitting on my make up chair, looking at the gray day.

And I felt lost on what to say again.

Although this time I am not talking to a mother – my peer – who has just as little control as me over their child’s life. I am talking to the creator of the universe, who knows and discerns my thoughts. Who, even if I was going to offer words filled without my honesty, would see right past them. Who has a power I don’t possess. And I felt a little frozen. Because that’s kind of heavy stuff, and I felt somewhat burdened to be really careful about what I was about to say – I was about to petition the Lord on behalf of a dear friend, and that was a heavy moment to dwell in.

Removed from my previous distractions in my bedroom, I began to see how God was speaking to me.

“Remember how I just told you how to approach Melissa? This is how you need to approach me, these same ways are effective for me. You have access to my presence, I am a Holy God but you come to me freely and I need you here without an agenda. If you are here to get your way or be half-hearted so you don’t feel bad if you don’t get your way, that’s not something that’s going to happen, if you are here to speak to me and believe in my power, I need you 1) available to listen 2) honest 3) prayerful.”

And so I felt free to shake-off my typical prayer over a serious situation and felt clarity on how to let the words start coming out of my mouth instead of just keeping them in my heart and fluffing up what comes out of my mouth so it sounds better.

So, instead of a typical “Lord I pray your will would be done” and not really meaning that because I mean so much more, I started to speak freely and honestly. Like I said earlier, sometimes even though I expect ‘real talk’ from others, I’m not as quick to be honest with myself before God about what I think about things – I put on a private show of good-intentions and “what you’re supposed to say” before God (you know, all the “churchy” things like: it’s all in your hands, your will be done, God’s got this, you have the power to do anything, etc). I have so much to learn in my prayer life, but this was a defining moment in my last week. After listening to God nudge me to be honest with him, I got painfully honest. It was messy, but genuine.

“God, I want you to heal this baby. I do. I can’t lie about that, I can’t act like it’d be nice if you heal her but I understand if you don’t, I want to be clear here I’m pleading for you to heal her, and if you don’t – it might take me time to understand that, but I will love you and trust you but I’m not understanding of your ways always, and so I’m just being honest: I want her to live a long life. I want her mom and dad not to hurt. I want her to become best friends with her brother. I want our kids to grow up knowing each other. I know that if any set of my friends would proclaim her healing for the rest of their lives, it would and will be Melissa and Toby, so don’t you see why this would be completely plausible that you choose to heal her?

So my heart is totally raw here and I am feeling stupid saying some of this but I feel like this is what you’re asking for, so here it is.

And if you don’t heal her in the way that I’m expecting, I’m going to be sad. But really, I know you have loved me in dark places and so I know you will be there for the shadows of my inability to understand, and I pray that you would be felt fully in what dark days come ahead for my friends, because I know you will be there – for anyone that needs you in the low places, so while I want you to heal her, I’m going to accept whatever the outcome is because I’m actually being honest here – and you haven’t called me to fix everything and everyone and make everything better, or to proclaim that that’s the type of God you are, I know that our full healing and understanding are not on this earth, but you ask that I come before you and be honest, so I’m doing that in hopes that I might understand what it is to be still before you, and be moved in your presence – despite the outcome. And I feel like if I wasn’t honest and just said the things I’ve grown accustomed to saying then I would look back on regret, but I just want to make the record clear here: I’m petitioning you for something I’ve never asked for, and so this is me doing all I can do, because what more can I do than pray? And not with hopes that you’ll answer my prayer because it makes sense to me to – but that you would continue to lead me to be honest with you and rely on you when I know that life may not look like what I expect it to look like and cause me to see prayer as not just something additional to do when hoping to help someone, but as vital and truly the only thing I can do.

I know what all you can do – that’s where the ‘you have the power to do anything’ part of this prayer comes in. And I’ve said that before, but today I believe it -fully- in this moment, and so thank you for allowing me to believe that so that I can pray this. And I can only pray that whatever the result of all of this is, that you would not let me forget that you beckoned me to be honest with you and I am being honest – help me to remember that my honesty before you doesn’t bring me closer to “what I want” but brings me closer to an understanding of the access I have to you – the freedom to be honest with you, and the magnitude of that access. Help me not to take that for granted by missing opportunities to pray honestly to you. Help me not to keep a closed mouth and heart for fear of sadness, when you give me the freedom to come before you completely vulnerable.

so I’m going to be available to listen now, in hopes that you will shape my thoughts on life and healing, to understand  what it is to even ask for healing and how to accept that healing (as understood on earthly term) may not come. Amen”

I wish I could tell you I felt fireworks go off in my brain in celebration of such a moving prayer time, but that wouldn’t be honest. I felt tired and emotional and depleted of any more words. I did, however, feel peace. I felt the stillness. I knew what it was to not just have a bunch of noise buzzing around me or out of my mouth in place of genuinely talking to God about what I’m thinking. I felt, in that prayer, I had given God my best, which was in turn the most I could give my friends – the best I could give my friends, to honestly pray for their baby girl.

Baby Autumn passed away last night at 9:33 p.m.

My heart was grieved the moment I found out. I will continue to grieve alongside my friends for who knows how long. Not in the same way and not as deeply, but in solidarity with them – I hurt as they hurt.

What is the point of me sharing any of this with you?

Well, I hope if you are someone seeking to support a loved one going through such a hard time, you would know that the best you can offer is not a bunch of fluffy words, or careless condolences, but to be available to listen to them, available to listen to God, honest in letting yourself hurt as they hurt, honest in your prayers before God, and prayerful – always.

There are so many days and weeks and months and years to come to grieve Autumn’s passing, no one can walk through that as fully as their family will. I pray that they receive support as they grieve in a way that no one else will be grieving, I pray they experience gentleness as people interact with them, I pray they feel comfort from the Only source of comfort, I pray that Autumn’s life will draw people closer to the Lord, I pray that my friends would feel comfortable finding people to be honest with about how they are doing and not afraid to let the hard moments be hard and not afraid to find glimpses of hope where they can be found.

It is no small thing to allow people into the hurtful places of your life. Thank you, Toby and Melissa, for allowing so many of us to pray for your sweet girl and for your family. We continue to pray for you and stand beside you.

For anyone that has asked “What can we tangibly do?” right now there is a Go Fund Me page set up to help with any expenses they may have in the coming days: here is the link.

 

I’ve never done a product review on the blog, but today called for having a little fun, so this is my idea of nap-time fun.

I got an email this morning from Sephora that I had some free samples (with purchase) waiting for me. It was a no brainer to go find a little something to purchase so that I could get half a dozen make-up/skin care samples.

I am not much for make-up, I wear it maybe once a week, so when I have the opportunity to try things for free…it’s exciting! I don’t mind splurging on a product that will last for a long time and make-up is certainly something I can stretch the use out of since I wear it so infrequently.

What I’m looking for in make-up might be different than what you’re looking for, so take that into consideration, but here were my key things I wanted to assess: true-to-color (where applicable), feel (light/heavy, noticeable/barely there, etc), look (natural or do I look like a clown?), versatility (is it worth while for me to invest or would I only wear this if I’m super glammed up?). I’ll just list them as they make sense with the product.

Not everything I’m reviewing came in my sample bag, I used some samples I already had or previous purchases I’ve already made:

1. Karuna Anti-Oxidant+ Face Mask

I started out with a face mask, of which I think the last time I tried a face mask was probably middle school at a “spa party”, lol.

Feel: what is this heaven on my face? Ok, so it’s a serum covered cloth that stays on your face for 10-20 minutes and then you massage in the remaining residue (if any hasn’t been absorbed).

It felt light weight and smelled amazing. I was nervous I couldn’t tolerate 10-20 minutes of something like a serum on my face but it didn’t offer any overwhelming sensation so it was easy to relax and just wait the time out.

Look: I wish I would have taken a before picture, my “pre-make-up face” is post-face mask, so you can be the judge of whether I’m glowing. 🙂 But my pre-face mask face was more red and tired looking, so this product was a win for me.

The cost in full if I were to purchase: $8.00 (for one mask), I would see this being a every couple months product, it would be great to use after a beach trip or ski trip, when your face is outside a lot more and may feel like it needs a refresher.

Purchase here: http://www.sephora.com/anti-oxidant-face-mask-P386017?skuId=1609841&icid2=karuna_collection_carousel_brand:karuna_p386017_image

2. Smashbox Iconic Photo Finish Primer

Feel: When I first squeezed some of this out I thought I was going to hate it, in my hands it felt oily but then after I applied it to my face it absorbed well and my skin didn’t feel any different to the touch, maybe a bit drier than normal.

Look: It’s supposed to reduce fine lines, pores, and even out your skin tone. I immediately could see a brightness to my skin and less visible lines, so I think it delivered on what it was supposed to. The result of wearing the product only enhance when you add foundation, blush, etc on top. I could tell a significant difference in the way my make-up looked with the primer than my typical without primer face.

Versatility: It’s a pre-make-up product, so on days where I’m going bare faced, which is most days, I wouldn’t use it. Even though that is the case for me, I could see how this is a must have product for anyone who wears make-up on a regular basis.

Purchase here: http://www.sephora.com/photo-finish-foundation-primer-P9889

3. Kat Von D Lock-it Tattoo Foundation (my color was Light 49)

True-to-color: Yes. I’ve never splurged on foundation, and so what I’m used to is about $6.00 from Target, I think I will never go back. The color match was exactly what I was looking for, and went evenly all over my face.

Feel: It is lightweight, which is what I prefer. I like natural and not noticeable.

Look: I always feel a tiny bit weird with foundation on, but you can see in the before and after photos below that I still maintain my true-to-self look, I don’t feel as if I look like a clown. It has my approval.

Versatility: It’s heavily pigmented so a little goes a long way, I could get good use out of this product. I’m pretty sure I’m gonna go buy it as soon as I publish this post.

Purchase here: http://www.sephora.com/lock-it-tattoo-foundation-P311138

4. Sephora MicroSmooth Baked Sculpting Contour Trio (my color: sublime)

True-to-color: Yes

Feel: Well, there had to be one product I wasn’t crazy about. This trio I loved the colors – especially the highlighting color – but it was very flaky, falling apart. I decided to slightly wet my application brush to keep the product going on my face instead of falling over my clothes/floor. Pretty disappointing.

Look: Loved the way it looked once I was able to get it to stay on my face. The right amount of color without looking like an Oompa Loompa. 😉 I stay the same complexion most of the year, I add freckles and minor color in the summer, so it’s nice that the bronzing part of this trio isn’t too dark.

Versatility: If it was a more pressed consistency and less loose then I’d purchase, because it can be lightly or heavily applied depending on your needs. It layers on, which is appreciated for everyday wear or glamming it up for a special occasion.

Purchase here: http://www.sephora.com/microsmooth-baked-sculpting-contour-trio-P378685

5.  Urban Decay Eye Shadow – Naked Pallette

*I feel like you just need to take my word and not even read the review and know that this is the only eye shadow you could ever need*

True-to-color: As long as you’re familiar with pigmented eye shadows, yes. You might be dissatisfied if you think you would need as much as drug store eyeshadow.

Feel: For some reason I notice wearing a more shimmery tone than a more neutral tone, but that might just be me. It doesn’t bother me though. I own this palette already so I’m familiar with the way it wears.

Look: I used a combo of Naked, Buick, and Sidecar to achieve a natrual look with just a touch of highlight shimmer. My favorite for going all out is Dark Horse or Gun Metal. They are pretty pigmented so a little goes a long way. Know this or you will look like Heath Ledger as the Joker.

Versatility: There is a range of neutral, shimmer, glitter, warm and cool tones so you could wear combos of these for a day at a soccer game or a night on the town.

Purchase here (do it!!): http://www.sephora.com/naked-palette-P267200?skuId=1324532

6. NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil (my color- Bahama)

True-to-color: Yes, you can build on the boldness, the color amplifies the more you apply.

Feel: I love that this lip pencil doesn’t leave your lips feeling cakey, they still feel smooth and not like you have an overwhelming amount of product on.

Look: It’s a pinkish brown, enough to look colored but not so much that you couldn’t wear it to a simple grocery store trip and get weird looks.

Versatility: I like this color, but I also have Dragon Girl – which is like… spice up your life color. If you have a holiday party to go to or night time wedding, get you some Dragon Girl and Taylor Swift yourself up.

Purchase here: http://www.sephora.com/velvet-matte-lip-pencil-P78834?skuId=792531

7. Make Up Forever HD Microfinish Powder

Feel: Up until this point I didn’t feel like I had make-up on with everything that I had on already, this gave it that slight “oh, you’re wearing make-up” feel, but it wasn’t enough to make me turned off from the product.

Look: I could tell a difference in photos once I put this “setting” powder on, it took a little bit of the color off my face but even as I’m writing this hours later (nap time was a long time ago!) my make-up still looks the exact same, so it’s purpose is proven true, it has staying power to keep your look set.

Versatility: I would only use it if I was wearing extended make-up, maybe to a weddding or day out where I’d be gone all day.

Purchase here: http://www.sephora.com/hd-microfinish-powder-P210400?skuId=1510247

Now for the before and after…

Photo 1 is my clean, no product face (well, it’s post face mask)

Photo 2 is my made-up face.

Photo 3 is what I’d actually look like heading out of the house, I think hair and amplified lip color add to understanding the full scope of the look.

Photo 4 is an outside look at what the make-up looks like in daylight, because the bathroom was pretty dark.

All photos taken with flash and not enhanced so as to show what it photographs like with a basic iPhone.

This was fun for me, hope you enjoyed! What are your favorite face products? I’d love to know!

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I had a friend write me a letter for my birthday. Letters are one of my favorite things, so that was a treat to read. Her notes are always from the heart and make you feel valued, I sent her a selfie of my cry-face after I read it. (p.s. If you can’t send your friend’s pics like that then reevaluate your friendships. #sorrynotsorry)

I’ve read it a few times though, not really just because she said some nice things but because a particular line stays with me each time after I put the piece of paper down.

One specific thing she said was that she appreciated my willingness to be vulnerable, because whether (I) know it or not it frees up other people to be vulnerable as well.

I’ve really never considered that and so it’s left me thinking about vulnerability.

I don’t, myself, really consider it something I’m ‘willing’ to do, but instead something I can’t avoid doing.

Maybe it is the introvert in me.

People often think of introverts as shy, and that is sort of true, but it’s not so much we aren’t willing to talk, it’s just we can’t really do surface conversation. This is probably why when you people talk to me in person you’re like “dang she has so much more depth online, why is she barely making eye contact” and then I get a “hey I hope you’re okay, you seem quiet” message, well it’s because I can’t really talk about shopping or tv shows or general small talk. I mean I try, but it generally makes me exhausted to carry on small talk, so I’d rather be silent or talk about the deep heart matters of life. There isn’t much inbetween. So, that translates pretty often into me being vulnerable about things other people find uncomfortable to talk about. And it’s not really that I’m more comfortable talking about ‘the unsaid things’ either, but the way I function doesn’t give me much of a choice.

That’s sort of where this blog was birthed, the “take it er (because ‘or’ was taken at the time) leave it”, I feel so compelled to word spill out of my heart sometimes, so I just put things out there and you can take them or leave them, they’ll be there either way. And the more I’ve done that over the years through writing, the less I’ve cared about what someone may think about what I think or say because I’ve come to terms with my own thoughts and convictions. I don’t write for anyone to tell me they enjoyed it or whatever, I write because I feel compelled to, as if I really can’t help it sometimes, it’s a conviction of sorts almost – these words feel like they need to be said so I’m going to say them, no matter the response or lack of response.

I think that’s an important key to vulnerability, not a fake vulnerability in offering up something that you think will make someone else feel better, but offering up something because you would feel dishonest to yourself if you didn’t get the words out.

Like telling someone you love them when they might not say it back, or calling a friend who has lost a loved one when you know you can’t do anything about it, or asking for help or accountability in an area you struggle…these are all places we can find ourselves vulnerable which could open us up to leaving the conversation feeling shameful if the love isn’t returned, the condolences are awkward, or the admission to a problem is embarrassing.

There’s a risk in that I know, one that I’ve been hurt by and one that I’ve grown by and one that I’ve felt sustained by. All of that though comes back to this unavoidable vulnerability. I’m not really sure I can fairly assess my own vulnerability because I already know my quirks and truths so I can’t rightly understand the impact those things may have on someone else because I’m too familiar with my baggage, but I want to unpack general vulnerability from others a bit because I think my friend is on to something.

One of my favorite quotes that I’ve shared a few times is from C.S. Lewis from the book The Four Loves:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

Every time I read it I get fixated on a few areas, but the last sentence resonates the most with me I think.

To love is to be vulnerable.

We often times think of love as something that’s reciprocated, but the purest form of love is loving even if love isn’t returned.

Because we’re so prone to needing reciprocating feelings from others, and acceptance, I think we’re in the habit of faking vulnerability.

We share things that appear vulnerable, but it’s really just a smoke screen, we “open ourselves up” about things that aren’t hard for us to talk about, but say them with sincerity and think that’s truly being vulnerable.

The thing about genuine vulnerability though is that it’s uncomfortable. It leaves you open to be hurt or left or feeling dumb.

Being vulnerable exposes heartache and feeling alone and insecurities, and it’s uncomfortable to admit those things sometimes because we all want to have our lives tied together with a bow, but without those admissions we wouldn’t find the benefit of being vulnerable which is that it breathes life into finding joy in the middle of sorrow and being understood by someone else who feels just as misunderstood and rising above those insecurities.

We are a people who want to be known but you can’t be known, if you don’t let yourself be seen and heard. You can sure put forth an image of who you want to be known as, but you’ll still come up short at the end of the day if you’re only presenting a fake version of yourself. To be truly known is to reveal yourself without the protection of pretense.

The foundation for cultivating a relationship is vulnerability. It is what everything else builds on. It’s why so many counselors and therapists will say that communication in a relationship is key, and what is communication at its core other than being vocally vulnerable about who you are and how things affect you and what makes you tick and why you feel a certain way about things.

But it’s difficult to do that in relationships because we want the guarantee of someone understanding us and loving us back if we love them, or accepting us if we accept them. But there aren’t guarantees on Earth. The only earthly person we have any control over embracing who we are is our own selves. So how do we find the confidence to find value in ourselves so that we may be valuable to others?

Psalm 139 speaks about a creator who knows us, not just the version we present of ourselves, but knows us so fully that He discerns our thoughts, and is acquainted with our ways, and has never had our frame hidden from Him. That speaks to each part of us: the thoughts of our minds, the actions of our ways, and the physicality of our bodies – God knows all of these things, and loves us still. And by accepting and loving ourselves because of the value God places on us, there’s a motivation to see relationships less about how someone can invest in our earthly desire to be loved and accepted and instead we see opportunities to invest in loving and accepting someone else. That is the essence of loving as Christ loved us, to love without anything needing to be returned. I think if we can give ourselves over to being vulnerable then we free ourselves up to be selfless in loving others, because we’ve come to terms with giving what we have to offer, knowing we might not get it back in return from any earthly being, but that we have love from Love himself – what is more moving than that?

Still more to think on this but that’s where I’m at right now.