Two Arms Full

This is when I annually observe “I’m not at Maryland Sheep and Wool weekend.” Gosh, that sounds petulant, probably because it is. The last time I went to MDS&W, my five year old was two months old. This year I’m again post-partum, with a two week old on my shoulder this time.

Post-partum is an interesting time for me. I have so much to be thankful for. My baby is healthy, my recovery has been fab, she sleeps as much as could be reasonably expected, I have supportive friends nearby, my spouse is a rockstar, and my in laws were just visiting for a week so I haven’t had to wash one dish.

Observing INAMDS&WW with the level of fibery engagement available to me: reading PLY Magazine during nap time!

Even this most optimal of circumstances is no good for making. Which may seem a silly complaint, but when I can’t keep my hands busy, I find my brain spinning its wheels. I’m sure it’s a combination of general discomfort and tiredness, plus a nervous anticipation of just how real everything is going to get now that my in laws are out of town and Jared is mostly going back to work. But with my hands still, my brain spins.

I usually have one hand free, one hand to hold a mobile device. I spent an embarrassing number of hours last week surfing back issues of Twist Collective and queuing patterns I’ll never get around to making. During feedings I’ll dream of all the things I could be doing. I know this about myself now, that this is how I deal with discomfort: shopping other lives.

I spent the first months of this year reading through Genesis and a commentary on it, and I finished the day before D was born. Juggling another huge book with a newborn seemed unwise, so on a whim, I snagged this book off the shelf so I could read something other than Instagram while I decide what book of the Bible to study next.

It was passed on to me by a friend. I haven’t read Ann Voskamp’s first book, though I’ve heard the cliff notes. I was concerned it might be trite. But about three pages in, I had picked up my baby and held her close, because the reality of temporality had cut right through all my avoidance. This woman gets it. Each chapter, a convenient fifteen minute read, has been a daily reminder to cut the crap, sit up, and figure out how to be present.

I deleted my ravelry queue.

My hands are empty because my arms are full. Can I focus on that? My house is a mess because children are playing in it. I’m doing laundry all the time because we have enough clothes to wear. I’m cooking more than ever because my family can afford to eat healthy home cooked meals and gee the kids actually eat the food sometimes.

I’ve been tempted by so many ways to serve myself. Plans for what I will buy and make for myself. Post-partum fitness plans to “get my body back.” Tracking my every calorie and movement so I am motivated to make the best choices for myself. Self-care is awesome, but my word, it balloons like my rav queue into self-obsession. Into fixation with my needs.

Every second spent staring at my phone, I am missing this face. But I do it anyway.

But I am not my own end. I am not going to live forever. The point of me – and this is the hardest thing to live out – is to glorify God, the God whose glory was a cross, whose cross is remembered in communion, in being with and loving others. The point of a strong healthy body is to be present with others. The point of a clean house is creative space for more messes. The point of a beautiful space is peace for my loved ones, and to invite others in. The point of good food is to share it around a table where we enjoy each other. The point of me being more fully alive is to be better poured out.

This is the hardest thing for me to live. I am not naturally generous, hospitable, or nurturing. I experience no need to be needed; I have little trouble saying no. I overcommit to my own desires first, and I burn out quickly on helping. I honestly envy those who struggle with the opposite; they seem much more suited to all my life choices.

But there’s no going back now. My arms are full and there’s no emptying them. I made these choices because I want to figure it out. I want to love well my own family and beyond. I want to press into the discomfort and find the cross there. Find the cross in my daily failures and live in grace. Give me too much comfort and I’ll escape that process as quick as I can. Throw in another baby and I’ll be forced back into the walk.

Baby D enjoys her first quilt by Mimi, my MIL. My Maryland-loving heart feels awfully sentimental about the blue crabs.

My arms are full. They almost weren’t. Three babies were lost seven years ago. I haven’t forgotten their names. There’s no replacing them, but there’s a certain completeness in having three healthy children I’ve gotten to hold in my arms. There’s no way not to be thankful if I can remember that.

My hands are empty, so I have to hold them out. My brain is spinning, with no work to latch onto, so it has to rest. I have to open my heart to feel his arms, Gods acceptance of who I am regardless of my failures, even my failure to engage the journey he has me on.

It’s all grace. Every day, every minute. Every snuggle, every smile, every hurt, every struggle. It’s all gift. I can find my way to accept them if I lean in, embrace the failure, give back, accept how small I am, how far I have to go, how loved I am regardless. Let the grace of a God who already died and rose for me do the work.

The generosity of others so far outstrips my own that I’m left speechless. The girls enjoy headbands from the care package all the way from British Columbia from online spinning friends I haven’t even met.

There’s no 12-week plan for that. No way to track my progress with selfies. No way to feel good about myself. But I would like, ten years from now, to look back and see that I’ve done the best I could to love the right things. Or even better, maybe I just won’t think about myself quite so much.

4 thoughts on “Two Arms Full

  1. I have a motto for my own life: “My life’s a failure at its best. Only His life can stand the test. Praise God, He’s fully able!”


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