On Bodies and Wildflowers

5.15.2018



"Mom, who's prettier, me or isabelle*?"

The question came innocently enough.

Perhaps it was because it came during a day when my own perception of beauty felt vulnerable, but this question made my eyes close on command. As if the darkness of my eyelids held the words- scribbled on them like chalkboards holding the answers.

I took a deep breath, trying to figure out the way to navigate this all too familiar road.

Would I walk her down the path I had grown on? It was at this very age that I  became first aware of a measure of beauty I failed to meet.

Would I go for the defeatist route? What was once said to me by well meaning church-members echoing in my head,
 "Hunny, there's always be people prettier than you and smarter than you. You might as well not compete." 

Perhaps I'd swing far to the other end, make sure she knows that SHE wins.  Shower her from head to toe on all the reasons she is and will forever be exceptional. Not answering plainly, but hinting that YES, YES, YES she's prettier (because isn't that what moms are for? To always see you as the best?)

None sat well in my mouth.

These quick fixes never vanquish the ache, do they? Once we begin the race, we crave its finish. Thinking it's a minor competition, only to find that these micro-comparisons accumulate into a weight that sinks into our souls. Did you know I can list off at least 10 people I perceive better (in varying capacities) than I? At the slightest of effort.

If each provide a path (that I am all too familiar),  and none lead anywhere good. Perhaps no path should be chosen.

The free-bird in me led. We head to the wildflowers. I pulled out a quote from pinterest (Perhaps the only time it's proved immediately useful!) jumbled as my memory had stored it.

"Do you think when a flower blooms it tries to decide who's prettier? Certainly not." All the wildflowers are beautiful. Aren't they? All created by a good God who loves beauty!"

I waited.

Was it too metaphorical for her five year old mind to grasp? Was it too....well...pinteresty?

In the silence I felt it.

Her calculating, searching in between the subtext.

It wasn't enough. I knew what she was searching for.

"One things for sure. Your blooming beautifully. You're radiant, baby girl. We don't compare beauty, though. You both are absolutely beautiful." 

Relief swept her face.  I see the smile curve upward as she rests.  She looks out the window-perhaps at wildflowers in that moment?  We begin to share her favorite differences about her dear friend. How she has lighter hair, blue eyes. Contrasting without ache. Celebratory at last.

 ____

I find myself in a target dressing room with three kids and four shirts that are certain to look awesome on me.

It turns out exactly how four shirts and three children in a target dressing room always turnout.

As I hastily put on number four- a last stand for dignity- my daughter, facing the mirror looked up and locked onto me. She grimaced and said "eh."

Was I being sensitive? Did she just say EW?

Feeling my own grimace in my soul- was I transferring my own emotions on my child?

I paused, her face reflecting my heart. Or did it? I couldn't be sure. Was she sighing at yet another piece of clothing? probably. But what if it as about me? I must address it. I must. As the lies seeped in "Wow, britt even your own daughter is ashamed of your body."

I looked at her and mustered up everything in me to challenge her.

" Hey now, whats that about?" The conversation ensued. I defended my body in gentleness. I showed her scars and strong thighs and breasts that nourish. I didn't back down on this. Gently pushing back the darkness in my own narrative. By the end she sat with a silly grin (as she saw my body wiggle in front of her.) Silly grins I'm okay with.

The way our bodies slowly wear away is a bit silly. isn't it? Silly it may be, but it will be treated tenderly.

________


She may not know it now, but this body of mine might someday be similar to hers. The freckles are already forming. And as I look back into my own memories, I see the way my body has shaped similar to my own mother.

My mother jokingly apologizes when I mention this-a product of the same culture we all are- She must know I mean it as a compliment. She must know.

Boy, did she fight to teach us what our bodies could do.  Boy, did she fight for truth for her daughters. Perhaps it is because of her relentless fight for truth, I am emboldened in mine. And so, I'll keep reminding her how wonderful she is. We need each other.

My mothers body represents womanhood to me. I remember even young, my fathers doting glances. Yes, that body-with its scars and great legs. With its 'pretty eyes' (my dad always says) and wild curly hair.  With its great skin and laugh lines. That's a body I celebrate. Because it's hers. And now it's becoming mine.

 For the longest time, I perceived that the insecurities of this culture were just mine to bear. "there's always someone prettier, eh?" Perhaps it was due to the goodness of my husband, choosing me in a million ways over a decade,  or perhaps it was because the burden just grew too heavy, but I decided along the way (and with much reminding) that this body is good. When I say "you might grow to look like me." I'll choose to use it as a compliment. I'll build her up with it. It is not a curse.

This body has brought such joy. How could it be anything but a blessing?

---

She's sitting flipping through a magazine. Five and three quarters. I glimpse her future self. She's always calculating, analyzing, trying to figure out who she'll be.

 She gazes, mesmerized at the cover. Four young women sprawled lazily in a convertible. Free. Beautiful. She points to one and says "SHE'S my favorite!" and turns to me and starts "Who do YOU think is the pretti....oh, never mind. They're all different pretty."

I agree. And then point to the gal with the wild hair and say she's my favorite-because after all, us Sprague girls have some wild hair and I like it. She grins. She decides she likes her too.

I feel a sense of accomplishment rise up. Could it be? A girl knowing her beauty, running free?

"They're all different pretty."

Could my daughter rise up and see her body as a creation of the almighty? And her friends too? Could she see herself and her fellow women strong, and good, and absolutely beautiful?

---

My body has been breaking on me as of late. a list of issues reoccurring. Texts to my mom, confirmation of doctor visits. Being faced with the human condition in more than just its fleshy surface; I'm becoming familiar with its inner workings and misalignment.

This dialogue, the one of sickness and malady, is now on the table as well.

This is new territory for me. One that I'm wading through. But the path we're choosing is this:

Even this is beautiful. It serves a purpose.  It reminds of us what is coming.

When I ache in my fleshy canvas and she sees it, she asks me tough questions. When I grieve at miscarriages and intolerance, and chronic pain, and torn ligaments, she asks me harder questions.

Right now shes quite fatalistic.  Everything a death sentence.

"Don't drop that bowl please,"
"Yeah! or it'll break and you'll DIE!"

This means mortality, too, is on the table.

These hundred conversations are weaving. Short and long dialogues about body and function. About beauty and heavenward glances. Death and glory and purpose. Joy and Sorrow. Bodies as gifts. Bodies as responsibilities. Bodies as GOOD, yet fallen.

As we talk about beauty and death and bodies and abilities over and over and over again, a tenderness is growing in me.

I know she will have to navigate the first time someone tells her that she's not enough. Then she will navigate it a second time. She will have to navigate the day she meets her limits and will have to decide if she wants to find a way around them or accept them for what they are. She will meet the day when her own body, fallen, reveals itself as not all that is good and perfect as it was designed to be. And she will wrestle with brokenness and lies and ache in due time.

My hope is that I will show her the moves. That I will teach her how to know when to pin an idea to the ground and beat it down, and when to raise it up. When to push through and when to rest. Compassion and Confidence and Boldness, not to parade her own beauty (because goodness me, she is beautiful.) but to glorify His design. To be tender with it, but smart. To care for it, but not to worship it.

The only way I can fathom that my daughter will look into a target mirror after three kids and a rough bout of situations and smile with tenderness and confidence is by showing her how.

The only way I can fathom my daughter moving towards another woman whom she feels threatened by in some capacity, is by loving and moving towards my own women who are placed in my life.

The only way I can fathom my daughter being confident when she falls outside of the moving target of commercial beauty is by rooting her in solid explanations of who she is and what her body is for.

If we're to return to the wildflower analogy,  I resonate with the peony. Wouldn't I make a good peony? I know it might not be 'wild' but it is full and lush. Lots to it.  I joke with her dad "don't hate the shake" and praise the Lord, he doesn't. She sees this before her. This tender back and forth of treasuring. Marriage has been a soft place to land with my collections of rejections.

He reminds me our weary bodies not made to be kept in perfect condition. He is a lighthouse to me, reminding me of the way back to shore, reminding me that bodies were given so that we may live. glory given so Glory we might give.

Whether she grows as a dainty as Queen Anne's lace or as fierce as a Snapdragon, or if she finds herself looking at similar peony lushness.  May my girl smile with tenderness and confidence and tell her own people,

"Look at all the beauty that has come from this."

May she not fear the decay of her fleshly body, and may she recognize who made her. May she marvel. May she gather all her understanding of her worth by looking at the ability and genius of her creator. May she know he dances over what he's made.

May she bloom.

Ten Months! :: Rowan Grows

NOLA :: Sprague Adventures



We've had all sorts of excitement over the past three months. We had the opportunity to visit New Orleans back in late Feb/Early March, We came home to pack up and moved to a new place and We just began gardening! While there will be more on the move and garden later, I wanted to take some time to post a few of my favorite pictures from our trip to NOLA. If you follow me on Instagram, you've  seen a few taken with my phone. Here are a few treasures I captured with my camera.

Ben had a work trip in NOLA for two days,  and since we are 6 hours away, he asked if he could bring us along and extend the trip a bit. We're so glad he brought us! It was a wonderful time. We asked just about everyone what they recommended and received great tips. Donuts, Beignets, Po-Boys, Jambalaya, we ate our way through this city.

While Ben's company put us right on Canal Street, if you're planning a trip I'd recommend going a bit farther away from the French Quarter. It gets noisy. We stayed at the SpringHill Suites, and deeply enjoyed it. The rooms were large enough for all five of us. Obviously they were more affordable than staying on the strip, and we were still within walking distance all while it being much quieter. We brought our stroller, which is always a question I have when going to a new city. It was a very easy to navigate place. While we didn't go down Bourbon street, so I suppose I can't attest to that, the rest of the french quarter was fine to navigate along.

Food we'd Recommend:
Sucréamazing Macaroons, and other deserts. We maybe went here multiple times.
District Donuts :We had to take a bus to get there, but the public transit is pretty great there. Amazing breakfast donuts and sandwiches. Top notch Chai as well.
New Orleans Hamburger and Seafood Co.: We grabbed lunch here while walking around the French Quarter and it was quick, and wonderful. Had some Jambalaya that was delicious.
Parkway Bakery & Tavern:  Where we were introduced to the Po'Boy. and I tried Alligator for the first time! It was a laid back place that was very fun.
Midway Pizza: Fantastic Pizza. and the kids can color on the table.

Cafe du Monde was an obvious place to visit. We showed up by 8 and the line to sit down was already too long for us, so we went ahead and went to the grab and go line. To be honest, I'm glad we did. We went over to Jackson Square and ate on the bench, which gave our kids freedom to run a bit of that powdered sugar off.

The Saint Louis Cathedral is one of the oldest cathedrals in the U.S. Built in the 1700's it was beautiful to visit. We then caught a street performer on our way out that was fantastic. Magician on a Motorcycle was his street act. It was kid-friendly and Eowyn got to be in the show.

We bought some art from the square and we went to the Aquarium, while we're big into aquariums, perhaps because we had recently gone to the Aquarium in Atlanta, but it was a bit underwhelming for the cost. We enjoyed walking along the river afterward and it was a nice place to hide away from the heat (AND a gal was proposed to by her boyfriend in the underwater tunnel with the help of a scuba diver. So that was fun.)

We took a 30 minute horse carriage ride with the kids. I think Eowyn's favorite part was actually feeding and petting the horse, but it was a nice way to get an idea of any cute places we wouldn't normally think of visiting. We found a family friendly one (some tours are more tailored for adult audiences.)


We really loved this city. We went in with expectations of having to potentially shelter our little ones, perhaps because we were back inside by 6-7 every night, but we found the whole city bright.

Thanks NOLA, we really love you.

9 Months :: Rowan Grows

Eight Months :: Rowan Grows

Three Foot Point of View

2.14.2018

My middle boy has been wildly fascinated with anything I find myself doing. Since we cook quite often, we've recently stumbled on a pretty decent helper in Eli. Lately, because of a month long photo project I've been doing with, He's been asking to take photos. I recently dug out my old coolpix camera (a cute 10 year old point and shoot) and let him carry it about his days. He's had it for a week, so I thought it would be fun to upload it and see what we have.



He's something.

Excited to see if his love for photography will grow. at the very least, it gives me a glimpse into his point of view.


Creativity Centered vs. Centrifuged :: Some thoughts on where we're going.

2.10.2018



When this blog was first formed, it was made out of boredom and hype. A lot of people were creating blogs and it was the currency of the time. We wrote our thoughts and then added pictures (or horrible pixelated graphics) to commemorate the season. I'm not sure if longevity was the goal, or not, but it was the birth of the social media realm for me.

This blog was the first place I began to grow more vulnerable. Embracing the large screen as a friend,  when the positive feedback rolled in (oh the glory of having a small group of real friends to read your blog.) it in many ways emboldened me to live out my life with the same honest vulnerability I typed out on a keyboard.

This blog was the first place I wrote about our marriage, our children, our miscarriages, our travels. Desperation and hope are held within these online posts. Culture shock and being a misfit, thinking I'm much more informed than I am, and being humbled at the realities I'm presented. Found. Here.

So in a lot of ways, a lack of posting feels similar to the way I feel when I haven't called the friend whom has been on my mind. That lingering anxiousness. The need to say something, but the deep desire for it to be meaningful.

I think I had a large amount of creative juices that needed somewhere to go, some 9 years ago when this blog was birthed. It comforts me that those creative juices are still on this side of the screen somewhere.  No longer in a centrifuge, they're centralizing in the four walls of my home. Getting spent on fort building and tender word choice to explain sin in a way that speaks truth and yet leaves my kids free from fear.

I think those creative juices are now being poured into the unique styles of teaching my children the ways they most need. In being critical thinkers on if a curriculum is suiting our family; In forcing my heart into a place of grace and hope and finding creative ways to let go of silly things that need not define me.

Yes, it is weaving its way into complicated conversations with my husband, dancing in the tenderness of dreams and aches and evaluation. Time and again we circle. Is this what we're wanting? Is this life we're creating what we're feeling called to? How do we hope this will look in a year, five?

I'm comforted that the cleverness (because goodness, did I think I was clever when we started this all!) isn't all gone-although for a while I wasn't sure. No, it has just had a chance to simmer- an aromatic presence in my home. Now my kids can laugh at my lame jokes. A kind audience, once again.

If you're wondering if I actually think I'm clever, the answer is a resounding YES. But fear not, I have an acute social-anxiety to go with it so I ask my husband regularly "you think I'm funny, RIGHT?!"

Side tangent. In the little prince movie on amazon, there's a scene where a man has a top hat and is on his own world. Top-hat man announces he's the 'most clever and most handsome on the planet,' to which little prince replies something along the lines of "but you're the only one on the planet" and then top-hat-man responds "well, do me this kindness, admire me just the same."

I quote that to Ben on a weekly basis. I am top-hat man when it comes to cleverness in my house.

end tangent.

...that creativity has moved into the hours when my daughter feels compelled to rush to the table to journal out some image she has in her mind. Into the seconds my kids join me to 'help' at dinner.

I hear it in my terrible aussie accent, while we're studying kangaroos and in the perpetual attempts of intentionality on walks. (goodness, being "ON"  for small people is an incredible challenge for me, and yet one of the best I've challenged myself with.)

This desire to create content, a life of beauty, for many years was confined to this blog.

But now?

It's leaked into the crevices of what matter most. Spent up on the small souls I am undeservingly privileged to serve.

I've been processing the purpose of this space for a few months now. I haven't arrived yet. Attention is the new currency, I'm reading. I've plenty of presence online through Instagram and otherwise so I'm trying to decide just how much this space deserves your and my attention.

The question begs to be answered.

So, how is this blog useful in the realm of allll the other social media?

I think I'm in a place again of needing to flush things out. To visually see sentences of concepts we've been processing. Perhaps they may prove useful to you as well.

So, to set some expectations, You'll see a lot more journalesque type posts. Sorting through this season, working out how we're going about our living. The ethos of what we're aiming for.

You'll be seeing it in the form of Life Lately, as before because my love for photography is never ending, but a bit more heavy on the external influences (what we are reading, adventures that are shaping us, plans etc.) Essentially, my hope is to make this space less and less about just baby faces (goodness me, do I love baby spaces) and more about working through how a human lives in this tension of being intentional in her home, in her community, and in her unique design.

Hopefully this will serve more as a resource and less of a monthly newsletter. I know you have plenty of resources out there (pinterest, etc) but I'm starting to begin to chase after my individual friends and ask them what THEY'RE reading. Not the big names, but the quiet humans that are living their days.

hope some of you quiet humans hang around, so I can hear you. I want to know what you're doing and reading and finding useful for your lives. hopefully we can carve something out of this.

If you've made it all the way to this end, Is there anything you love reading? I almost never answer these questions. But if we were in real life and we were going to talk about something. What would it be?

I'm eager to know.

Cheers and as always, Thanks for reading.


THREE! :: Elias Grows

1.29.2018


Our first born son is now THREE! Ben had to work on his birthday in the morning, so as soon as he got home we drove out to the science museum up in Birmingham. It was an absolute blast. We were deeply impressed. Elias is such an easy to please little man, it made celebrating him all the more joyful.

So grateful you're ours, Eli.


7 Months :: Rowan Grows

Highlight Reel :: 2017

1.01.2018

While I often joke to Ben that Instagram ate my blog, I still feel a bit tender towards this space. While it's been quiet these days (pretty sure this is most quiet year we've had in some time!) I'm still quite grateful this exists. Thanks for following along through these years!

We've started this new year with influenza, so we're feeling a bit ragged. What a gift to scroll through old photos and remember all the wonderful things that have happened in the past 365 days. This year was mostly about keeping our head above water. We joked that we just had to get to christmas and things would begin to feel easy. Perhaps thats why we're sick! we let our guards down! ha. Well, we're grateful to have arrived in this place, with a soon-to-be healthy brood of kids, a warm place to lay our head and a community we are treasuring.

AND dear friends, here it is. My favorite post of the year!

If you want to see previous years, click here 
\\January// 
You came in a blur and ended just as swiftly. We celebrated our sons second year of life while growing his brother. We savored every second we could with our dear Helsinki friends and purged and packed our minutes away. 

\\February//
You were all hustle as well. Trying to carve out time to rest in the midst of packing and gearing up to move overseas. You were a blur. We were exhausted by the end of this month.

\\March//
Right when we were sure rest would never come, you showed up and allowed us to catch our breath (and get a little wet.) We moved into our new place and hibernated a bit as we set up shop back in the states. 

\\April//
You brought family to visit and sweet reminders of why we chose to come back to the states. Right at a pretty tender time of needing to be reminded.

\\May//
You blessed us with seriously fun warm weather and an anticipation for our baby coming.


\\June//
You rattled us a bit by having Rowan come a month early! Praise God for family who drove all day and all night to watch the kids while we lived at the NICU for a week.

\\July//
You were kind to us. Family visiting, being surrounded by friends. Being a family of five felt pretty great this month.

\\August//
We started homeschooling this month. I'm so glad we decided to take the plunge.

\\September//
You brought a lot of feels. The church we had found closed its doors, so we sorted through the emotions of that process. We persued adventure in the gap and continued finding our groove. Life began to feel a wee-bit-normal and we started to branch out from our little montgomery home.

\\October//
You were fantastic. We began attending a new church we now love, went trick-or-treating, celebrated our favorite man and went on lots of mini adventures.

\\November//
Eowyn began dance classes after finishing up a semester in homeschool co-op and  we as a family ended the month basking in the joy of being with Ben's side of the family for the first thanksgiving in several years!

\\December//
We ended this year with all our favorite things. Family, visiting new places and SNOW. What a wonderful way to close out 2017.

This year has been an absolute whirlwind. While we worked hard at being intentional and tender and attentive, goodness this year left us tired. We feel a bit weary. Culture shock, sorting out next steps, new dreams, new family dynamics, new friends....our introverted + planner hearts learned a thing or two about trusting an all-knowing God when it felt like most of the year was a free-fall.

Perhaps because we couldn't really anticipate what was coming, we just lived with eyes-wide open? I feel like this was such a tender year because of it. 
(but now our eyes are burning a bit and we're ready for a nap. :P)


2018, we're not really ready for you...but you're here! So we'll do how we do and enjoy you!

This is celebrating daily after all. ;)

Cheers to a new year, and all the joy and hope and opportunities for God to show his goodness.
We've been deeply blessed by his goodness through you all.

Thank you for making 2017 something so beautiful.