motherhood, She Loves Magazine, Writing Elsewhere

Sisterhood and Small Victories

April 22, 2016
SheLoves - Sisterhood and Small Victories // Fiona Lynne Koefoed-Jespersen

“I’m fantasising about just walking out the door and leaving them to fend for themselves.” My SOS text went out to my closest friends, the ones I knew would not take me literally and yet would know how completely overwhelmed and spent I felt.

My phone was pinging back in minutes. Notes of empathy and understanding, humorous stories of their own motherhood-nightmares, quotes and verses to encourage me.

We women are quick to talk about how mean and competitive we become as mothers but I have been overwhelmed by the opposite, by our camaraderie in a hard season.

My first evening alone with my two children involved me sitting on the landing floor, holding the screaming two-week-old baby in my arms while the toddler sobbed equally enthusiastically on the floor in front of me. I believe I might have offered her the wrong colour toothbrush. Who knows why he was crying? I thought about joining in (I frequently do) but this time I just leant back against the wall and tried to breathe for a moment with them wailing around me.

I’m not one of those women who enjoys the newborn phase. I didn’t with my firstborn, but then those months also included a healthy amount of Netflix binging while she fed, and summer strolls to get ice cream when I got bored with the monotony of it all. This time—my son is just eight weeks old now—I am trying to survive the same hard early months but with a lively and emotional toddler to keep healthy and happy at the same time. It seems like an impossible task most days.

 

I’m back writing at She Loves again this month, after a short baby break. Click over there to read the rest of my post, about what sisterhood has looked like for me in this crazy newborn + toddler season of life (it gets more positive, I promise!)

faith, motherhood

Learning to Pray (again)

March 14, 2016
The Dance of Prayer

Hi friends. While I’m off snuggling my new baby, I’ve dug into the archives for a few of my favourite posts to share again with you. You might have read them a long time ago, or they might be completely new to you. Either way, I hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane! 

This post is from a year ago, when I had a nine month old daughter. Life had settled into some rhythm after the newborn phase but I was still realising that motherhood was going to teach me so much more than just how to get a toddler to eat a balanced diet. This learning to pray is something I am still doing, but blowing open the box I had placed prayer in was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

//

 

For a while, my mornings looked like precious sleep. After a long night of waking every couple of hours to a hungry baby, my husband would fetch her up out of the cot one last time and they’d head downstairs for some play on the sofa together, watch the sun come up.

Exhausted, I’d settle back into the warmth of the duvet, spread myself out in our small double bed, and enjoy that extra hour of sleep – the wondrous kind when you know you won’t be needed, that someone else is taking care.

My day then would start when the little bundle and her Dad re-climbed the stairs together, she hungry for my milk. The light was coming in the window already by then and I’d pull her to me, and then, when she was sated, we’d get up together, find clothes for the both of us, fold blankets, tidy up the chaotic remnants of the night.

These days, we’ve swapped roles, him and I. Now he’s the one rousing in the night to settle her. And I groggily pull myself out of bed while it’s still dark outside when baby girl is no longer content to sleep, and we tread the same path towards the sofa that she did with her Far all those months.

Together we watch the sun rise, because it’s still winter enough to catch it, and she plays with the rocking frog and the squeaking giraffe, and I lean back against the pillows and listen to a podcast, a short one, that guides me into the day in prayer and thoughtfulness. It begins with bells and it ends with a blessing which I join in with.

And this, this is the extent of my quiet time these days. We make it through one short devotional, a few pauses for quiet, and then baby girl is wanting to practice walking again and she’s making a beeline for the kitchen and shouting loudly for toast or porridge or cheese scones.

**

In the church culture I grew up in, the health of your faith was directly linked to the length and depth of your Quiet Time. Read the bible passage, study it and analyse it from all angles, in its original context. And then pray your ACT – adoration, confession, thanksgiving. Oh and remember to pray for others. Preferably with a prayer journal, and a bible so underlined and highlighted that anyone could see your advanced spirituality as soon as it slipped open.

We asked each other the question, “how is your quiet time?”, and we meant “how connected do you feel to God? are you learning? are your growing? are you walking forward with hands open?” But it came out this way. And so I learnt to judge myself accordingly. For years I thought I was terrible at prayer. When the question came I’d mumble a response about having good and bad days and quickly move on, hoping no one discovered just how long it had been.

As I grew older though, I started to suspect I was been deceived. Surely God knew I wasn’t a morning person, that I suck at structured disciplines? Surely there was more to drawing close, to entering into his presence, than this rigid approach?

I started noticing the way my mind stilled when I was baking, my fingers rubbing butter into flour, hands mixing in currants and figs and jagged dark chocolate chips. I watched how my thoughts would sing when I was walking in the forest or through the fields, sleeping baby in the buggy. I hummed as I sat at the bus stop watching the people go by, smiling at the ones who looked my way.

“Prayer is more than saying prayers at set times. Prayer, according to Brother David, is waking up to the presence of God no matter where I am or what I am doing. When I am fully alert to whatever or whoever is right in front of me; when I am electrically aware of the tremendous gift of being alive; when I am able to give myself wholly to the moment I am in, then I am in prayer.” – Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World.

I’m discovering slowly the full breadth and depth of prayer. It feels like an entire world that I have only taken mere steps into yet, but the freedom of realising that this is prayer, and yes this too is prayer, and this can be prayer too…

The mantle of guilt I’d been wearing is being lifted from my shoulders, and instead I am being taught that prayer is a dance – a dance with the divine that spins and twirls me through my day, a lively ceilidh when everything is chaotic; a gentle waltz when all is calm.

This is prayer when I laugh at baby girl’s new found kicking skills as we chase the ball through the flat on wobbly legs. This is prayer when I hang the washing out in the cold sunshine on the balcony and smell Spring in the air, feel awed by the sun’s ability to bleach my whites beautifully clean again. This is prayer when I muster up the patience to gently gather my angry crying girl into my arms and rock her back to sleep, even as I huff and puff to myself. This is prayer when I sing He’s got the whole world in his hands in a quiet whisper-song as she feeds from me.

“There are real things I can do, both in my body and in my mind, to put myself in the presence of God… At the same time, I am aware that prayer is more than something I do. The longer I practice prayer, the more I think it is something that is always happening, like a radio wave that carried music through the air whether I tune in to it or not. This is hard to talk about, which is why prayer is a practice and not a discussion topic. The best I can do is tell you how it works for me.” – Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World.

There’s enough guilt comes with being a mother already, to keep hanging on to old guilts from before. I’m done reading articles that tell me the only way I can stay connected with God through this season is to rise before my child. That means before 4am this week. I call bullshit. Partly because I am very certain that my increased sleep deprivation will in no way bring more honour to God.

Also because I’m discovering another way, a way that fits me better. And maybe you’re a morning person and you embrace and love structure in your life. And so enjoy those early morning quiet times! If they feed your soul and fill up your bones with strength and life, bless you in those dark sacred moments.

Me, I’m going to keep practicing this new dance Spirit is teaching me. The one that seeks to be awake more once my feet hit the floor each morning, the one that has eyes to see and ears to hear. The one that is fed and revived and strengthened by the unstructured, surprising mess that is this mama’s prayer life with a baby.

There are still practices I want to cultivate. There are rhythms to this dance that I want to pick up. They can become “the stitches that keep the quilt of prayer in place” (Barbara Brown Taylor again).

Mostly I just want to learn how to give myself fully to this dance, to embrace it without fear of getting the steps wrong, or of looking foolish at the start. And above all, I want to get to know my dance partner better, feel his hand on my back as we move to the music, see the smile in his eyes as we spin through this life together.

faith

Doors of Hope

March 10, 2016
The Ferry to Iona

Hi friends. While I’m off snuggling my new baby, I’ve dug into the archives for a few of my favourite posts to share again with you. You might have read them a long time ago, or they might be completely new to you. Either way, I hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane! 

This post is from just a year ago, a few months before I became pregnant again, when we were both unemployed and wondering what the future held. It’s so interesting to re-read it from such a different place, and yet still have many of the same questions, the same hopes.

//

 

I was six months pregnant, but somehow I managed to make it to the top. Not a mountain, hardly even a hill, Dùn Ì is the highest point on the small island of Iona and we’d decided to make the trek to its peak. As we hiked I gradually discarded most of the many layers of clothing I’d been wearing (Scotland in March is usually pretty cold). I glared at the nimble-footed sheep that trotted past me, making it look easy.

When we reached the top we sat with our backs against the cairn, the dark stone warmed by the spring sunshine. We caught our breath and surveyed the world around us. At our feet, we could still see the monastery that St. Columba founded centuries ago. To the north were the sparkling beaches where later we’d go searching for Iona greenstones and marble. And to the west, the vast swathe of ocean that would carry us all the way past Greenland.

A week earlier we’d heard that the company my husband worked for was closing his office. He was going to be unemployed by the time our unborn baby was two months old. And so we sat on Dùn Ì that day and stared out to sea, wondering what was before us.

Iona is a holy island, “a thin place where only tissue paper separates the material from the spiritual,” George Macleod once described it. As we sat there, I really wanted to have a moment of clarity, for God to reach through that thinnest of veils and hold out the answer to our future.

I stumbled my way back down that hill without any answers, and one year later we’re still searching.

It’s a kind of wilderness, this in-between time. We have little idea where we are headed. We keep discovering new tracks in the dust and follow them enthusiastically until they disappear again.

It could easily feel like I’m lost, but rather I have the feeling I am being wooed.

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her.
And there I will give her her vineyards
and make the Valley of Trouble a door of hope.” –
Hosea 2

This season of questions and unemployment should, by all logic, be my “valley of trouble.” But I see it becoming a door of hope. Because since that afternoon when I stood on a sunny summit and asked, ”What next?” I have started to hear the whisper back, “What do you want next, beloved?”

I hear the Voice encouraging me to dream, and when I’ve not had the courage, it has whispered stories in my ear, stories of imagined futures and desires stirring, and I’ve felt my heart rousing as if it had been sleeping these past months.

Dreaming feels dangerous. Once I start to name my desires, there’s the very real possibility of disappointment. And yet when I do find the courage to stammer these dreams aloud, to my husband, my mentor, my best friend, it feels like holy ground.

Many days I impatiently demand from God that the way forward to be lit up with neon signs and clear road markings. I feel angry that I have to wait for Him. Until I realise maybe He is waiting for me.

Maybe God is waiting for me to start exploring, to dig into the things already laid down upon my heart and sift through them, inspect them and sit with them, like clues hidden inside me. Maybe if I can lay my desires out in front of me, they will become a map to hold, the Spirit leaning over my shoulder to point out the path emerging faintly on the page.

Frederick Buechner said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” And so there is something incredibly important about not hurrying through this thin place, impatient to find any path out of here.

I’m allowing myself to be wooed, allowing the landscape around me to be transformed from trouble into hope as I rediscover who I was created to be and where that deep gladness is within me that I can offer the world.