Life at the Blue House

My 27th Year – Joy & Growing Pains

It was a year for growing pains. For getting the wind knocked right out of me. It was our best garden season ever. It was giving birth and the story of it being filled with God’s presence, power, and wonderfully woven work.

It was Heidi growing with the flowers. And me too. It was feeling more settled than ever in motherhood and gritting through the 1-2 kid transition. It was feeling so capable as I conquered my way through the challenges.

I asked God for the wherewithal to be a mom. Felt myself hanging on for dear life while not feeling much life at all. My prayers were a roller coaster. But I felt myself breathe in the garden again sometime in April.

in April breathing again❤ this was a pivotal moment in my postpartum journey

God gave clarity and help where I was desperate for it. I broke stale habits. I gave up Instagram. I lived right inside my life. I stopped trying to hold so many intimate stories and began living mine more intimately. I became present. Less morbid.

I spent evenings drawing my life. I baked apple pie with a vengeance. I successfully made my own pie crust and totally filled the kitchen with smoke at least once! I began writing our family recipe book with familial notes and precious anecdotes. I got lost in fiction books and made festive garlands with cookie cutters, amazon cardboard boxes, and paint pens.

I wrote poetry in longer form, began a project which is personal to me and powerful in its story. I spent many long, warm afternoons in the garden with my children. I taught Shasta how to lie in the grass for the simple enjoyment of it. This felt like magic to him and he kept inviting me to do for days afterward.

I bonded with Heidi so strongly after our whirlwind early postpartum days. I had a beautiful 5-month journey nursing my daughter.

I enjoyed gardening with my son. Our sunflowers towered effortlessly and filled our kitchen. I harvested them in my living room during November and stamped seed packets for friends and family. We hosted our 6th Thanksgiving, and I finally got my collection going of special occasion serving dishes through thrift store finds. I wrote meaningful and important letters.

I soaked up my life.

At times it was a great big cheer. In others it was gritting my teeth and drinking lots of water. In much I found great comfort in Hebrews. This verse being one of those which wrapped around my vulnerable heart,

Hebrews 13:7-Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

It was an intense year, and yet, so happy. You see it on my face in so many of these photos. . .genuine happiness. Not just joy, but happiness.

I don’t know how to fully express this year, but it was restless and radiant. It was growing with the flowers. It was screeching. It was dry. It was joy. And it was sun. I was dead on feet and dry in heart many times over, but I’ve also never had a year so vibrantly full of life!

And I think I want to remember year 27 for how it made my smile brighter than I’ve ever known it. I think that really says it all.

This is 27.

Garden Lullaby

I Got My Life Back & The December Garden

Perhaps it’s because I gave up Instagram in July. Or maybe it’s because I’m not in a waiting season or a painful one right now. Maybe it has to do with my cultivating and nurturing celebrations all throughout the year, but the truth is I’ve never felt more calm about the New Year.

I almost used the word nonchalant, but that’s not quite the adjective I’m looking for because I’m absolutely excited about January. I’ve been savoring every last bit of 2022 while looking into 2023 without pressing melancholy or morbidity.

By morbidity, I confess, I’ve approached the last two New Years basically wondering who’s going to die in that year. And that is morbid.

I think a lot of things played into that shaky mindset and I believe with all my heart that giving up Instagram is the No. 1 thing that has revolutionized my world and changed the way I’m approaching 2023 which is with CALM and excitement. Not ignorance, I know there will be hard things and tragedy in 2023, but I’m not paralyzed by it. I believe in the Presence of God and His very real Help. I’m not overwhelmed.

The reality is Instagram had such a hold on me before. The algorithm knew my history of infertility and was always bringing up miscarriage and stillborn stories. All these stories that I truly and honestly had no business knowing. These weren’t people in my church or community. These weren’t friends and family. These were tragic stories I just “happened” across incredibly often, not to mention the people I already followed (and also didn’t personally know) who had experienced infertility or miscarriage and were sharing their stories and journeys. It was absolutely too much for me! It is not wrong for them to share, but I am my responsibility and it was unhealthy for me to continue on knowing things I could not hold.

I think a common struggle people talk about is the comparison game on social media, but what about this constant, intimate awareness of evil and tragedy? This constant processing of too many things in which our brains physically can’t keep up and our spirit and mind is being bombarded in dangerous amounts! We are overwhelmed, overtaken, distracted, at odds. We cannot intimately know this many things and be okay.

grape vine beginning of December – it is all but gone now! waiting for spring 2023☺

The calm and rest I have felt both in my physical brain and inner thought life is night and day different now that I’m no longer tangled in Instagram. It’s opened up so much life for me through festive garlands and baking apple pies, in the enjoyment of long, warm, and quiet afternoons in the garden with my children, and embracing my creativity for writing and blogging in way that is much more feasible and genuine to me.

Now, here we are! And I’m approaching 2023 without strong undertones of morbidity or even the normal melancholy that often accompanies the turn of a year. I GOT MY LIFE BACK. And I’m full in. I’m so much less afraid. I’m not distracted. I am peaceful.

That’s not to say I don’t struggle. It’s not to say I don’t get sucked in by other kinds of media, or stories, or that I’ll never have morbid thoughts and seasons of distress. But in giving up Instagram–a thing I was addicted to, a place I was wrapped up in stories I should never have known–I am now well.

Of course not everything can be fixed so simply. There are all sorts of reasons we approach the New Year out of sorts. God is with us!! Let us always come to Him for He will give us rest! His yoke is easy, His burden light (Matthew 11:28-30).

there she is! that last rose bud in bloom on the first day of winter no less!!🎄🎉💕

But let us also be honest where we are self-inflicting chaos and deep harm. And if we aren’t sure. . .if we don’t know where or whether we are self-inflicting harm, we can pray for help + clarity. The Holy Spirit sheds light in our confusion and fragility, and He will show us where to go and what to do next.

Immanuel, God with us! Forever and ever.

Amen.

P.S. Isn’t that red rose something? It has held on for dear life and with such confidence through November and December. I love its tenacity, the brightest part of my holiday garden, and a loud cheer for all the gold and beauty that has been!

“and don’t they say, ‘history repeats itself’? and if all my life is always with God I should know just by looking back that I can run full speed ahead. Happy New Year. And by that I mean, ‘I trust you, God. Oh God, help me. Yes, I will run!” -S.V.F. // New Year Poem, 2021-22


highlights from the blog in 2022

Garden Lullaby

Telling My Daughter’s Birth Story

Mommy Is Human But Here (Early Postpartum)

Desert Sky & The 4th Trimester

My Son’s 2nd Birthday // A Study of Time

6 Months Postpartum

Old Winter Prayer & God’s Blessing

Garden Lullaby

Old Winter Prayer, God’s Blessing & the November Garden

November came with the bursting of my son’s flower. It was gifted to us when friends found out we were pregnant with our boy. It then had quite the story in the ground then trampled, then in a Lowe’s paint bucket where it recovered, and then in the ground again where it has bloomed to bursting and will stay! I love the vibrancy of these blooms. An accurate portrayal of the joy of my son and his love for life.

I came across a prayer in my journal from January 7. Part of it read,

“Lord, please bless my garden this year. I’ve never really prayed that way before, but only You can bless it.”

I don’t typically share my prayers like this, but I sat stunned after I read this from January 7. With Heidi on the way ahead of the spring season, we weren’t making the spring garden an elaborate thing. Truth be told we never have a detailed plan. We never get to all our seeds. It’s just Ben and I throwing seeds at the wind. Figuratively, of course. But really when I picture Ben and I as gardeners, we are just laughing out in the yard, throwing seeds at the wind.

We put seeds in rather haphazardly and see what happens. We offer so little expertise to it. Every year we get a little more established, a bit more nurturing, but far from the gardening crowd. This year we “threw the seeds in” and were going to just let the garden be whatever it was going to be. We’d put our hands to it, of course, but we were having a baby. That was going to be our spring!

In the midst of postpartum, newborn days, and life, the garden truly didn’t always get what we should have given to it. But the sunflowers towered effortlessly, anyway. The rose bushes thrived–blooming in May, June, October, and November. Mums changed from stark white to a beautiful tint of purple and even some becoming purple in full. We built a playhouse. I laid in grass for hours on end with the children growing, playing, and thriving right alongside the roses. The planted wildlfowers surprised me. The morning glories were glorious. The grape vine bore fruit. It was sour, but it was loads of fun! We had snow peas. We had green grass all through the summer! It was all the sweeter having planted many of our seeds a few days before Heidi’s birth.

all these zinnias were planted a few days before Heidi’s birth☺❤

This November I walk into the house on a cold Saturday with a pile of colorful zinnias. I sit on the living room floor harvesting hundreds of sunflower seeds. Later, I’ll sit at my desk stamping seed packets for family and friends. I’ll smile at zinnias leaning over their flower bed and looking as though they are saying “hello!”

“hello!💖”

That January 7 prayer I forgot, “Lord, please bless my garden this year,” was answered tenfold.

my son’s flower just bursting!!

I gave birth to a spring baby and my garden had the spring of its life.

I’ll never get over the gift of this year’s garden. November felt like its last hoorah. As we’ve turned into December, the roses die back. The grape vine leaves turn yellow. I am drawn to look down at the garden floor scattered with leaves across the stones and grass. It is stunning.

That red rose bush you’ve seen throughout is finally succumbing. It has carried the song “What a beautiful year, what a wonderful spring, the year of your daughter, God’s blessing over us, joy!”

As the garden quiets it is my turn to sing. To let the year of God’s abundance and blessing rest heavy on me until it is I who bursts into Thanksgiving.

And I do.

the garden Thanksgiving week💖

God answered my old winter prayer. He blessed the garden. And I experienced the entire stunning saga.

Garden Lullaby

6 Months Postpartum, Awkward Armfuls & the October Garden

I sat in the garden a few weeks postpartum and felt the breeze. Holding my daughter close to my chest wrapped warm in her colorful quilt. My son played. I smiled. Even laughed. There was a lifting here. Happiness I could feel. The early postpartum fog rose half an inch.

I’m in the garden 6 months postpartum. The breeze is shifting from early spring to early fall. My daughter is stretched out on the same colorful quilt. I’m watering the flowers. I glance over, catch her eye, and she grins. Wide as the ocean. My son plays. There is a light-heartedness here. Happiness felt everywhere. Half a year postpartum finds me well. Finds all of us well. Time can be beautiful.

my kiddos are all blurry in the background.😍 Heidi on that colorful quilt and Shasta drawing!

My husband and I were talking about Heidi’s birth recently and his experience of her birth confirms the word I use to describe it–powerful.

I remember hearing the firm words and controlled intensity of my doctor urging Heidi to cry. Really cry. The hearty infant cry you want to hear for every birth. The cord had been wrapped around Heidi’s neck and the final moments of her delivery were difficult for her. I knew from my doctor’s tone that something wasn’t fully the way it should be after she was born, but I also didn’t feel alarming chaos since she gave care so succinctly and swiftly. All truly was well, and I rememeber asking “Is she okay?” They were effusive in their reply. Yes, she is!! AND SHE WAS!! But when my husband relays the story there’s a bit more intensity to what happened. No emergency, but some uneasy moments to be sure.

Heidi’s roses bloom one more time before true California autumn sets in!

Life is so precious and the gift of a baby, a live birth, and a healthy mom is cause for worldwide celebration every single time. I told her birth story already, and it’s a good one. But anyway, Heidi was born! And even in the intensity, the turning blue post-birth, the “MAKE HER CRY” commands, there she was.

Healthy. Whole. Strong. Spring after winter. Spring the whole time. My wonderful doctor saying more to herself than anyone else, “Congratulations. That was a beautiful, beautiful thing.”

Indeed it was. Still is.

my garden journal, page set to the year 2022

There’s more to this story. And it’s remarkable! But it’s also not really my story to tell on the internet. I just know that every single detail of Heidi’s birth was a powerful display of our God.

Still in the days following Heidi’s birth I would cry over my midwife not being there. I would struggle deeply through the fog. Days would feel like sandpaper. . .scraping, depleting. Growing pains galore. But the garden bloomed and so did I, eventually. And wowza, it’s worth the time it took!

I’ve spent plenty of October afternoons side-by-side with my daughter. Being a mother, but feeling so free and light. Seeing butterflies at the zinnias taking there sweet time.

October was Zinnia Season! These were all planted a few days before Heidi’s birth.

[Admittedly] sighing at the lovely autumn breeze making it difficult to photograph flowers. Just stop for a second. (But you can resume your breeziness soon!! I do love it, promise!😅) Enjoying the last warm afternoons and anticipating everything cozy and holiday.

Always gathering up the baby toys, that same colorful quilt, that enthusiastic Heidi o’ mine in awkward armfuls! My son toddling with us, sometimes ever so slowly!

My son’s flower bush about to bloom. November is its shining season. This is very special since Nov 2019 is when we found out about him!

It’s a season rich in its routine. Filled with chatter, “I got chu, Mommy,” overwhelm, laughter, and learning. Heidi’s birth story is 7 months in the past, still stunning us with how it turned out, how God weaved every detail and moment, how we experienced His protection and power.

Life is poignant, brilliant!

Excuse my big bold letters, but the garden knows it too.

I wrote a poem about 6 weeks into my postpartum season having been inspired by a spring bird whistling through a rainstorm. This poem, Weather, touches on the complex journey of deepening into motherhood and staying in life, of experiencing wonder & joy alongside the fog and absolute heaviness that occur during motherhood. While the heavy, indiscernable postpartum fog lifted soon after birth, the growing pains in the last 6 (now 7!) months have been intense. But I am more settled than ever. A happy mom. Loving it. Height of joy these days, but I know there will be more to weather. Impossible to avoid, but the sun abides and the bird flies. And so do I.

Weather

spring bird
sings
in a rainstorm.
a woman
grows
into a mother.
a damp, hard thing,
but a rhythm
deep in
joy,
drenched in
abiding
sun.
this bird and I
fly,
anchored.
for we’ve learned to
weather well.

S.V.F.

Welcome to the garden, November. It’s lovely to see you. Happy 7 months, Heidi. You’re radiant! Happy memories flood of finding out about Shasta. I love you more than ever, son! We’re flying. We’re anchored. We’re weathering. And it’s fall, but it’s spring. What a season.