Dear Children, Do Not Be Afraid to Pursue a Simple Life

My Dear Children,

I hope you have the courage to pursue a simple life. If you feel it is calling you, take heart and do not shrink from a seemingly ordinary way.

I know, I know, as your mother, aren’t I supposed to instill in you a sense of greatness? Aren’t I supposed to remind you on a daily basis that you can pursue whatever impressive and grand dream you have in your heart, no matter how great the obstacle?

I am doing that in my own way.

But as I look around at the histories you are learning, the tales you are reading and the contemporary rhetoric you are hearing from every corner of our culture, it seems you are being bombarded with calls toward the one narrow path of greatness. To be influencers, great leaders, money makers, jet setters, never-stop-no-matter-the-cost kind of people – that is what the world tells you that you must be in order to matter. In order to live a true life.

That kind of life is not the only true existence. If you are called toward greatness in the eyes of the world, I will love and encourage you. I will be proud of you and hope you will do it with all the integrity you possess.

If, however, you find yourself pausing and feeling uncertain that doing something impressive on paper and acclaimed by others is your calling, then I hope you will realize that you must take courage and overcome another kind of obstacle. It is a great obstacle, and one that has conquered many a soul: that of needing to please others rather than truly fulfilling one’s own true purpose.


Now, it is true that if you do not make obvious waves in this world, or have a string of achievements and accomplishments to list when people inquire about your life, you might be tempted to feel a bit smaller than others in the room. I have no idea what kind of social media connection will exist when you are of age, but you may feel like something is wrong if you are not “sharing” the kind of activities that garner widespread reactions from others. You may see so little representation in movies and novels of people who are satisfied with simple lives, that you may wonder why you are NOT unsatisfied with your life. When every fictional protagonist is seemingly miserable before pursing something great, is there something lacking in you for finding purpose and meaning in a humbler way? Are you boring or less important a person?

You’ll have those doubts and worries. You’ll question. But if your heart continues to come back to a quieter place, you must have courage. You must value your own inner voice and calling from God to live your simple life as you feel is right, even if others may at times make you feel little.

Do you want to know something amazing?

The more intentionally you live a simple life, the more you will find how extraordinary it truly is.

You will be moved by the sheer number of people in this world who seek authentic connection over superficial assembling.

You will be awed with the intimacy of being with those you love in the most natural and unassuming circumstances.

You will be surprised at your own strength in not needing to be the most impressive human in the room.

You will savor joy in pouring encouragement and affirmation into others, even while not expecting praise in return.

You will find true purpose in a humble kind of service that is not necessarily lauded, but that you know in your heart still makes a lasting difference.

You will be grateful for having the time to listen instead of always being the one to talk.

You will find liberation in not needing to constantly busy yourself in order to be worthy.

You will hear God’s voice in the seemingly ordinary. You will feel the presence of your Lord in your simple life and realize that if the Creator of the Universe loves to be with you in your ordinary kind of life, than your life is inherently infused with divinity.

If you take the humbler path, you must know that it will take grit, determination, intentionality, sacrifice and hard work. It is no less difficult and requires no less effort than the movers and shakers of this world. But do not be fooled: there are many rewards to this kind of living.

I promise that when all is said and done, if your epitaph merely reads: “here lies a good and humble person”, you will have pursued a lasting kind of greatness. 

Stories of Loving Mothers Who Do Not Love Pregnancy

It’s 2018, and we find ourselves at a crossroads when it comes to perceptions of women and pregnancy. For most of human history, the story of being “with child” was not one authored by mothers. Authored instead by a sex that never experienced pregnancy, this story held that pregnant women were in delicate and weakened conditions and therefore inferior to the strength of men. Emotionally unstable and at risk of losing the baby or her own life in the process, women were hid away during a time of confinement, only to reemerge after the birth and any required ritualistic cleansing.

In bold and empowering ways, many modern women have come forward to squelch that image and replace it with the strong and capable pregnant woman. She is fit, she is productive, she is confident. She is sporting a bump and toned biceps, or a maternity suit and briefcase. If there are some physical or emotional elements to contend with, they are not real hindrances to her lifestyle. She showcases her bump on social media for all to see. She is in love with her baby, loves being pregnant and is justified by our society because she remains healthy, happy and productive. 

This bold and revolutionary narrative is a critical component to reversing many harmful notions that have impeded women from achieving equality in society. And for women for whom this story is their experience, this reversal is a breath of fresh air and a welcomed opportunity.

For anyone who finds this women-led narrative to be their experience, let me say that your story needs to be broadcasted and celebrated again and again. You should be supported, encouraged and celebrated. Pregnancy should never be a barrier to equality or the achievements of dreams.

I also believe that anyone taking a glance at our society can feel the momentum moving in your favor. So long as humans can prove their productivity and strength, society will see them as an asset and of value.

But can we finally talk about another experience, a story that is also authored by mothers?

What if, as much as you want to exemplify a strong and happy pregnancy, your pregnancy story leaves you physically or emotionally compromised? What if it brings difficult complications or even loss? What if pregnancy is just plain hard for you and you struggle to find peace amidst a storm?

happy pregnancy face

Happy face for the world to see

You are grateful to be growing a baby, you are willing to endure whatever the cost, but the cost is a steep one without a place in this world for you to discuss it with any real honesty. You may have gone into your pregnancy expecting to look and feel like a pregnant Gal Gadot or Serena Williams, but ended up with a personal narrative that doesn’t fit into any pre-existing story. You know you are not an inferior being, but you are also not feeling fit, happy or confident.

This has always been my experience with pregnancy.

It’s very tempting to stifle these experiences. They make society uncomfortable. To be physically weakened or emotionally vulnerable puts a person at risk. To be weakened or exposed goes against everything our individualistic, achievement-oriented culture sees as permissible. No wonder we don’t broadcast our experiences to the world.  

But before we dismiss our stories or hide them out of embarrassment, let’s be brave, revisit this other side of pregnancy and see if there is not boldness and strength in its telling.

As paradoxical as it always seems, I believe we can find profound strength and love by acknowledging that pregnancy is often as much a struggle as a joy filled journey. We are God-made warriors and we fight a hard fought battle. Let’s be bold in proclaiming it.

Finding Courage In Honesty

Maybe your pregnancy has brought with it anxiety or depression. Maybe you’ve experienced the heartbreak of miscarriage. Maybe pregnancy has only left you with loss. You may be dealing with debilitating nausea and constant vomiting. It could be that you find yourself on bedrest due to preeclampsia. Perhaps you are just plain uncomfortable, exhausted and feel you have a permanent ticket on the struggle bus.

Acknowledging these realities in no way diminishes your strength or the love you feel for your unborn child.

It’s okay to be honest! One is not being weak or hysterical by being transparent. It’s okay to not love being pregnant all the time, because you know what? Great love often requires great sacrifice.

If we give women the space to be honest with their struggles, then we also give women the space to recognize and actualize their strength, regardless of the journey. If we stop the belittlement, condescension or accusations that women are not being grateful for their unborn babies we can see the deeper lessons at play. A society that truly wishes to promote love must do so knowing that love is not the absence of imperfections or struggles; rather it’s endurance in the face of imperfections and struggles.

Remembering the Martyrs Who Came Before Us

A martyr is a person who lays down her life for her beliefs. There are mother martyrs. They offer a radical history of love, which required the greatest sacrifice. And a harrowing mental exercise is acknowledging that any of us here today are probably only in existence because some woman in our ancestry died to bring forth life.


Mary Wollstonecraft, mother of the modern feminist movement, wrote that “nature in everything demands respect” for the duties of motherhood and the “embryo in the womb.” She died due to complications following childbirth. The baby was named Mary, author of Frankenstein

This is not a likely fate for the modern woman. What is our fate and destiny the moment we find out we are pregnant is that we are mothers and part of the same sisterhood. This fundamental shift in identify and purpose invokes reverence for the past as much as hope in the future.  

Regardless of our pregnancy experience, we do little to the credit of those who came before us if we pretend that everything about pregnancy must be rainbows and unicorns. Should we hold then that when something is difficult is should be silenced or avoided? If pregnancy, the deliverance of a child and its raising should be nothing but easy, what are we saying about the legacy of those who came before us?

Choosing a Radical Love that Changes the World

I have found in my own pregnancies, whether they involved babies in my arms or loss, my own bold and radical story. It’s not one that makes me look like Wonder Woman or a professional athlete, but it does involve a heart that has been strengthened by God for radical love.

And it’s one that defies both the weakened female inferiority of the patriarchy, and the idolization of productivity and ease which the new world worships.

I have voluntarily endured much to bring new life into this world. It is not easy and I struggle. Many times it does not provide temporal happiness or physical comfort.

Motherhood, even life itself, is not always easy and involves struggle. But the struggle is never a worthless experience.

Because amidst all the niceties and clichés that have a power to silence us, we see instead a stronger power.

Look at how we are made to endure! Look at how God has given us hearts with the capacity to accept life as well as sacrifice. Look at how our souls can be transformed into ones that birth empathy and compassion.

Perhaps in reflecting on these truths, we realize that in giving and receiving our pregnancy stories, we are teaching our children the true strength of their loving mommies.


Bleak Midwinter Hospitality

I pulled up to the house and placed my hastily written directions on the passenger seat beside me.

Those directions had been scribbled down with excitement and perhaps a little bit of desperation. An invitation had been extended to my children and me and there was something in my scribble that showed how greatly I wanted the invitation to come into fruition.

My family had recently moved (again.) This was a first prospect of friendship in the area. The woman had come up to me several days prior, and after hearing I was new to the area and living close to her, generously asked my children and me over.

And so my sons and I walked up to her front door and were immediately met by the faces of two smiling children and our kind host, who all welcomed us in. As the kids scampered off to play, the woman and I quickly began one of those effortless conversations that blend both newness and familiarity.

I was incredibly happy to be in the company of another. Anyone who has been the new person in town understands the significance of welcoming kindness. After settling in though, the prospects of a budding local friendship changed dramatically.

With a kind of unassuming vulnerability, this woman shared that both her and her husband had lost their jobs. As I began to take in my surroundings, I noticed the sparsely furnished home and what few toys the children had in their trove. We talked and more was revealed – of long shift work and many attempts to find adequate employment. Of a home soon to be put on the market out of necessity, and an imminent move to another state to seek family support.

This would not be a nearby friendship. She and her family would be moving in less than a month.

My heart ached both for her hardships and the loss of this fleeting connection. There are not many souls who possess this kind of graciousness. There are not many who would invite a stranger over in the midst of so much vulnerability.

“You must stay for dinner!” She exclaimed later as I began to motion that my children and I would be leaving.

“Oh my goodness, I couldn’t do that!” I said and quickly felt guilty, wondering if I had overstayed and pressured her into feeding us. The host quickly put this fear to rest. She persisted with joy. This woman very clearly would be sad for us to leave without providing us a meal.

She motioned for me to come into their kitchen to continue our visit. The refrigerator was opened and the meager contends were revealed.






This was all that was in the fridge. This was all she had to give.

But within a few moments the hotdogs were being microwaved and enfolded in slices of bread. Milk was poured for the children and water for the adults. Apples were sliced, cheese served.

I accepted the plate which had been so freely given, and realized that a meal had never cost anyone so dearly as the meal being provided by this family.

We shared in more conversation and enjoyed watching our little ones delight in one another.

Finally, it was time to leave. Hugs were given. Gratitude was exchanged for the company shared.

One brief and vulnerable exchange, the finest example of true hospitality I’ve ever experienced.

Bleak Midwinter Hospitality


The bleak midwinter landscape casts a pall for many of us as we pack away the cheerful decorations that accompany the Christmas season. We watch in stillness and perhaps a little dismay as the inviting lights and open doors that have surrounded our lives throughout the month of December disappear for the next eleven months.

For many, this is the hardest time of year. The dreary weather, and the departure of “faithful friends who are dear to us” can make us look around and wonder what we can possibly do to fill the void. The void that had been filled with closeness, community and the beauty of the holiday season.

It’s Christmastime when we all try to put our best faces forward. Our homes are trimmed, our faces jolly, our purses a little more generous than usual.  We welcome and invite and attend one another in festivities. We are ready at this time to welcome people into our lives because we feel we are the best versions of ourselves. We love for others to come over when we can provide beauty and plenty.

Now, in the deep winter, we may be tempted to retreat. It’s cold outside and we are feeling not quite so jolly. We are probably tired and fatigued, and a little fatter than we were a month ago. Our pants don’t fit as well. The goals we have set for the new year are in their most humble state.

Perhaps we should keep our doors shut for a while and hunker down. Hold off on reaching out and welcoming over those who surround us.

But my mind has been returning to that family’s example of hospitality, given at great cost, but with such pure generosity.

Is true hospitality about being ready, overflowing and prepared?

Or is it about something else entirely? Is it welcoming even when we are vulnerable? Giving even when we have little in reserve? Loving even when our hearts our full of the concerns of the world?

That first family who had welcomed me into their home had conditioned themselves to being so hospitable that even the bleakest of circumstances could not quell their giving spirit.

And now, when I’m feeling tired, and my children are crazy from too much sugar, I’m reminded that there is never a time when we shouldn’t give of ourselves and what we have to others.

In that way we can fill the void of the post-Christmas slump, by remembering our hearts can “repeat the sounding joy” by giving the whole year through.


Reflections on Turning Thirty and Being Happy

Originally published as a micro-blog on the Things I Teach My Children Facebook page

Baby girl, your mama is turning 30 soon.

This means absolutely nothing to your brand-new-self, but believe it or not, 30 is the age when a woman is supposed to start feeling “old”. She cracks jokes at her own expense, reaches for “anti-aging” creams to mask emerging wrinkles, and feels a lingering suspicion that she isn’t quite as desirable at 30 as she was at 29.

Sweet daughter, I have no idea how this has gone on for as long as it has…this “anti-aging”, youth obsessed standard that women are pressured into believing. In an age that is advocating for girls to possess positive body images and to always “dream big”, our society still bombards us with the message that being young is the ultimate desire for a woman.

When we turn 30, we are led to believe we should feel depressed instead of grateful. All that prime life left for us to live and we are made to feel past our prime.

Daughter, I’ve decided I’m simply not buying it. I’m not buying the anti-aging cream and I’m not buying this idea that women must always look and appear “young” to be of value. In fact, I’ve decided not only for my sake, but yours as well, that I will be loudly and proudly pro-aging for as long as I live.

When I turn 30, I plan to celebrate. I plan to be happy. I plan to be grateful to have lived and loved yet another year on this earth, even if it means my skin and body show the additional experience.

And if ever I falter and wonder if I’m just full of hot air, I’ll look at your perfectly new face and remember it will be just as perfect when it is thirty years old.

And I hope you will celebrate and I hope you will be happy.


Rebel with a Cause: Teens and the Throw Away Youth Culture


I’ve been hearing murmurs on the internet about recent changes to Teen Vogue. The publication is apparently now offering articles which discuss politics and current events. This is big news because it’s a departure from the kind of fluff material often geared toward adolescents.

So I took a gander at Teen Vogue’s Facebook page. I found articles on make-up, a comical amount revolving around Jenner and Kardashian family drama, a few helpful hygiene tips, horoscopes and a sex act “how-to guide”, which failed to disclose its serious health risks, but did manage to highlight a grossly inaccurate diagram of the female anatomy.

Well, that was a waste of life, I thought as I closed the page. Perhaps there were some articles of depth buried amidst the trash, but the trash clearly outweighed anything of substance. If Teen Vogue is being championed as a bastion of American adolescence then my heart goes out to teens. Their potential and capabilities are being underestimated in tragic proportions.

But before going further, I want to clarify that this article is not a rant about “young people these days.”

It’s a criticism of how we as adults frequently underestimate the capabilities of teenagers. It’s a harsh condemnation of those grown-ups who profit by promoting a reckless and superficial youth culture (here’s looking at you, Teen Vogue). Finally, it’s a reminder that we can never start early enough in affirming young people of their self-worth and capabilities.

The Teenage Brain

Developmentally teenagers are still in the midst of brain maturation. Amazingly enough, the human brain does not finish maturing until approximately age 25. This should evoke compassion and understanding from parents and educators when we encounter choices and behaviors that seem reckless or ill-conceived. The desire for a teen to be an adult before he or she has reached full maturity is certainly a legitimate cause of teenage angst.

But the level of teenage angst and drifting that our culture now experiences is a recent phenomenon. Certainly teenagers have always felt at odds with the older generations. Young people have always tended to act without the inhibitions of older people.  It’s only been in recent decades, however, that being a teenager has been defined by a rampant material culture, entertainment geared exclusively toward their age group, and an educational system which confines them together in close quarters without the normalizing influences of the outside world. The extreme pressure for teens to participate in extracurricular activities also consumes more time they could otherwise spend with other age groups.

As an adult, when I think of being a teenager in those terms it sounds like a ring in Dante’s Inferno.

Aren’t the teenage years meant for so much more than this?

Rebel with a Cause

I do not have teenage children. I’m actually about as far away from my adolescent years as my children are close to them.

Regardless of age, each of us can still vividly remember those emotions and thoughts which defined our adolescence. What did we crave as teenagers? Often we craved meaning and opportunities for self-expression, but felt confined. Confined by our educational environment, confined by the petty pressures to have whatever was trendy and popular, confined by the limited responsibilities entrusted to us by a society that saw us more as children than adults.

Is any of this avoidable? We have to hope that some of it is.

When my children are teenagers, there’s a few things I hope that they hear from the adults in their lives.

I hope they know that we *see* them. We see that they are young adults, not older children. Their desire for independence, self-autonomy and self-expression are good desires and should be received with respect and encouragement.

I want them to know that adults cannot fully understand the pressures they face. We didn’t grow up with social media. The throw-away sex culture has only intensified since we were teens. If they tell us we don’t “get it”, we’ll need to be honest and say we don’t completely understand.

When they seem focused or bogged down by petty youth culture, I hope there is a continuous discussion that they are worth so much more than the nonsense. I hope that educators, counselors and others help me in ensuring they have time for genuine immersion into a world beyond teen culture.

I hope their community presents to them with pride and respect, examples of teens who are living authentically. Teens who are utilizing their emotions, idealism, and energy toward self-discovery and change.

Finally, I hope they’ll be encouraged to be rebels with a cause. They can be countercultural. They can rebel against those elements of youth culture which do not resonate with them, as well as the injustices they see going on in the world around them.

The sky’s the limit. With their lives ahead of them, there’s no reason why they must wait to begin truly living.

After all…

Joan of Arc was 17 when she took a commanding role in the French army.

Alexander Hamilton was 13 when he was entrusted to run a trading charter.

Mary Shelley was writing Frankenstein when she was 19

Louis Braile invented the Braille System when he was 15.

Soccer phenomenon Pelé won a World Cup at 17.

Malala Yousafzai was 11 while fighting for girls’ rights to education

Teens, just like all of us, have hearts ready for deep love, minds searching for discovery, souls thirsting for God, and bodies made to reflect their inherent dignity.

How have your experiences as a teen influenced the way you parent your children? Do you think there’s an alternative to the way teens are frequently portrayed in our culture?


My Son, This is What it Means to be Southern

My son,

You asked me today what it means to be ‘southern’.

It’s good that you asked. You are being raised in the South, and you will be shaped by its meaning. Now you are very young and were given a simple answer, but as you grow this meaning will grow with you.


Being southern means being tied to the land – overgrown and luscious, maddening in density. Our land is fragrant, and always resisting cultivation. The slopping fields, deep woods, and coursing rivers bear the names of British monarchs, founding fathers, and peoples long ago stripped of the land they alone had loved. We utter all these names and thus give them power to shape us.

Being southern means enduring our summers. The heat and humidity make us a little wild. This wildness permeates our language, our posturing, our emotions, our very ideas of life, and meaning. We often straddle a desire to be both gracious and raw in authenticity.

We’ve created literature, music and cuisine celebrated the world over. We’re a land of celebrated authors and musicians, as well as countless women and men who had to leave their work nameless.

We recognize that “y’all” is the single most satisfying phrase to utter.

We crave porch sitting and tea sipping.

We showcase in no quiet or subtle ways the very marrow of human nature. We as a people have loved intensively and hated in tragic proportions. Our language is spoken with meandering poetry, and with arresting derogatoriness. We are renowned for our hospitality and made infamous by our segregation. There always seems to be a war brewing. It will be your generation’s job to finally bring peace.

Southerners claim the most paradoxical of heritages. A heritage that birthed modern ideals of liberty and freedom while simultaneously enslaving many of its members. Some people liberated while still oppressing. Some people lived in chains, but never stopped dreaming of freedom. We have tended things that should have been left behind and neglected many thing that only propelled us toward justice.

We southerners are not a melting pot, but a boiling stew, in which the influences of countless civilizations are colliding and marinating with one another. You must remember those who still yearn to taste true freedom.

My son, you must one day come to terms with the paradox of your heritage. You will be proud, but you will also feel anguish. You may love, but only after knowing that loving something doesn’t make it perfect. You can speak of your experiences, but you must also listen and learn from voices of those who have not shared your experiences.

For you, being southern will mean carrying on traditions that bring beauty to the world and embracing changes that make our culture worthy of the land which nourishes us.



A Woman for All Seasons

Join me in welcoming guest writer, Allison Aylward to the blog! A PhD candidate and new mom, Allison explores the birth pangs of early motherhood and her growing confidence to navigate the changes it brings.

I am a new mom, currently juggling the needs of my one year old son, my husband, and my PhD. My husband and I welcomed our son during the second year of my PhD; my Annual Progress Review was actually scheduled the day before my due date. Sweating out a progress review by panel (literally) at nine months pregnant was one of those life experiences I’ll never forget or not mine for laughs.

Prior to getting pregnant, or even as we woke up each morning, wondering if that would be the day I’d go into labour, I had not considered how I’d feel about my career path as a new mom. I had not considered the fact that I’d be pulled towards, and be completely satisfied with, a much more slowed down pace and direction for my professional life. As I approach the final stages of this PhD, my priorities are with my young son and my husband, and making sure my family’s needs are met. My desires for the trappings of an academic career have faded into the background, almost like a dream. Thanks to the wisdom of a kind friend, I now realize I’m simply moving into a different season in my life, and there will be other seasons in the future for new opportunities.

I struggled with accepting this while at the same time relishing the rebelliousness of this realization. Part of this discovery was a natural result of the PhD process. As an aspiring academic, I see academia for what it is – warts and all. Inside the ivory tower, all is not dusty old tomes, tweed jackets, and erudite conversations with leading scholars (though there is a bit of that!). It’s full of people who work incredibly hard, pushed beyond reasonable professional expectations, to deliver for the university and their students. It’s full of people who are expected to maintain a grueling research output schedule, while still handling a full teaching and administrative load that only increases each year. Academics work in uncertain conditions, knowing that their jobs could be ended without much notice.

Allison featured image

Allison finds parallels in the landscapes surrounding her home and her own life journey

As PhD candidates, we see all of this. And, in its own way, it’s useful. We are confronted with this reality and have to ask ourselves – do we want this for ourselves? Knowing what we know about the realities of academia in the 21st century, do we want to joint this relentless cycle of publishing, admin, grant writing, and if we are lucky, the odd bit of truly satisfying teaching and mentoring?

This process of professional planning was only compounded when I found out I was pregnant. We live in a society that tells women we can truly have it all, if we just ‘lean in.’ But, what society also tells us, is that if we don’t succeed in every single way at work, if we don’t embody the ultimate in domestic goddess, and if we don’t kill ourselves for our children’s well-being, then we’ve failed. Well, the truth is that no one can do this alone.

As a Type A person, recovering over-achiever in school, and having grown up in a very competitive area, I struggle with this dilemma. I’ve learned a lot about myself in this post-partum period. I actually can function on zero sleep and I have learned to make peace with clutter and laundry that was done and folded weeks ago, but never put away. A grimy bathroom doesn’t give me nightmares anymore. In a previous job, on one annual review, I was told I was a ‘pillar of patience’ when helping my colleagues learn to use a new filing system. I was amused, thinking if they only knew how short my fuse really was. Now, I own that title. I can handle a willful, angry, baby that is wrecked but doesn’t want to sleep and takes an hour to settle. I can get up again and again in the night, with a smile and a cuddle, because my son needs me. I accept that everything will take longer than it used to, and that’s ok. That’s just where my life is right now.

And it is in this current season of life, learning so much about myself, that I realised I don’t want to remain in the ivory tower. I don’t even know if I want an academic career. My priorities have shifted, my interests diverted. I know I want to continue working after the PhD is finished, but it’s not on the original path I had thought. And that is ok. Maybe later on in my life, but for now I am satisfied where I am. And in accepting this desire, I feel free. Free of the relentless pressure that society places on women, particularly mothers. Free to say that I am in the season of my life where my family takes priority. Perhaps later, in a different season, I will return to a more career focused outlook.

I want my son to see all of this. To see a mother that is confident in her choices in life; who can keep evolving and developing as she grows in years and experience. I hope that this inspires him to realise his own life will be made of seasons, and to weather their passing with confidence, just as is mother is weathering her own.

Many people experience liberation in letting go of the pressure to “have it all”. Have you experienced seasons in your life? How can children learn from these experiences?

Allison bio

Allison is a PhD candidate in the UK, researching the Colombian peace process. Her work focuses on confidence building and negotiations in the context of ongoing violence. She enjoys spending time with family, traveling, swimming, yoga, and writing. Brand new journals, full pots of coffee, and soul music make her happy. All opinions and thoughts expressed on this page are her own and not affiliated with any organisation.

Things A Photo Cannot Capture

I caught a glimpse of my baby girl as she stood by her favorite spot in our home – a wicker bench near a window which overlooks a ridge of trees. The sun was setting below the tree line on what had been a beautiful early spring day. There was something about the way the dusk light cast a gentle glow around my daughter’s profile that made my heart ache. I reached for my phone in hopes of taking a photo of the moment. After snapping a few shots, my eyes left my daughter to review the pictures.

Dang it, I thought, something is missing. So I adjusted the brightness on my camera settings and took a few more. Still not it, I thought and continued on. Finally, with slight disappointment, I realized the moment wasn’t going to be “captured.” The phone was put down.

My eyes once more looked for the ethereal glow of fresh baby skin only to see that she had scampered away from her spot on to the next attraction.

My heart sank. The moment – so fleeting and beautiful – had been once more interrupted by my desire to capture it with a photo.

How many times in my life has this happened? When would I learn?

I love taking photos. I love surrounding my home with images of the memories my heart holds dear. In laughing with friends, it’s frequently remarked that our photos are our best anti-depressants. When I’m feeling down or had a rough day, a scroll through pictures of my kids usually sets me aboard the happy train.

Our world of parenting is inundated with the availability and convenience of taking pictures. And although it may be met with cynicism at times, I know that we are taking and sharing photos out of love for our children.  We’re proud and in awe of these tiny humans who make us see the world anew every day, and it’s a good thing that we are able to document so much of this time.

But when I’m really honest with myself, my main reason for taking pictures is something a bit more melancholic. I take pictures because I cannot stand the heartbreaking reality that I can never have this moment again with my babies. Our children will always be our babies, but they will only ever be as they are now for the briefest of moments before growth and change carries them forward.

How incredible, bittersweet and at times painful is this?

No picture will ever truly “capture” everything that makes up the moments that matter. And let’s face it, amidst the good, the bad and the ugly, every moment matters. There are not enough Shutterfly products, Instagram filters and photography sessions in this world to change the fact that all we have is this present time.

When I look back at those photos I took of my daughter, I now know that even with a few pictures on my phone, I’ll never see the same light cast a glow on my baby’s cheeks. I’ll never hear the same sweet exhales from her button nose, never feel her soft wisps of hair just as she was on the evening.

On that evening I should have let the phone alone and had the courage to take it all in, realizing that this was it – this was all there was and all I would need as her mother.

If I can just have the courage to embrace this reality more often – the tenderness and the heartache – how much more authentic and powerful would this journey in motherhood be?

Perhaps I can show my daughter that pictures have a time and a place, but life is not meant to be captured, but experienced.

Perhaps I can help her realize long before I did that in both the ordinary and extraordinary moments of life, our best bet is to allow our senses, not a device, to take it all in.

Whether it be a morning walk or a walk down the aisle, a trip to Europe or a trip to the grocery store with her baby, she should take it all in with her senses and trust that it will be enough just to live in that moment.


It’s so tempting to constantly snap pictures of our children. How do you find a balance between living in the moment and ensuring you have keepsakes for the future?

Go Ahead and Rebel Against “Success”

Our culture loves a success story. It’s this love of achievement that pushes us to perform well, collect accomplishments, and have results that indicate our efforts have been worthwhile. This pressure to excel doesn’t wait until we’ve reached mature adulthood, but rather begins when we’re kids.  


Although we’re now grown, it’s not too hard to remember being immersed in our youthful scuffle to achieve acceptance in our academic, social and extra-curricular pursuits. Now that we have little humans of our own to nurture, it can be daunting to discern how best to encourage their success. There seems to be an almost constant call to raise talented, over-achieving success stories. And children at the earliest age can be so critical of their own abilities, quickly feeling frustrated if they’re not preforming as well as they think they should.

But as the framework around parenting continues to center around helping our kids “get ahead” in life, we need to take a step back and consider what exactly is being perpetuated here?

When we hear that children of this age feel more stress than the children of the Great Depression (the Great Depression, my friends), and that more minors are now taking their lives than previous generations, it becomes clear that we desperately need to change some things. We need to let them know that the pressures they feel do not define them.

I am fully prepared to rebel against our culture’s obsession with success and am doing so for the sake of my children’s well-being.

One of the ways I’m battling this is by…playing piano. Let me clarify, by playing the piano badly.


I have attempted to “play” the piano for over half my life and continue to be terrible at it. You’ve never played piano? It’s still possible you’re better at it than me. I took up piano as a young girl around the same time I fell in love with classical music.  Within a year or two it became obvious that there was no greatness in store for me. Even mediocrity would be a dream unrealized. The years have passed, the playing has continued, but the result remains absolutely dreadful. I was and remain just plain bad at it. There is nothing tangible to “show” for all the time.

Except that I still really love to sit down and play.

The thing is, I believe I’ve loved playing all these years partly because of how poorly I perform at this. As the limits of my musical ability settled in, playing became a glorious relief and a reminder that there was more to life than striving for success.

Playing this instrument would not be a part of any success story, but rather, a love story for simply living. There was nothing that could be derived from this time at the bench and fake-ivory keys, except the joy of living in the moment. There’d be no one to impress. There’d be nothing else to gain. It would heighten an appreciation for those who did possess talent, but would never include my membership in their rank.

As a mother, playing piano has continued to be a tremendous reminder that life is more than being good at things. It is meant for experiencing and relishing the moment at hand. It’s amazing how necessary that reminder is on a day-to-day basis.

My children are growing up hearing some mighty poor performances. Right now they happily kaplunk alongside me, with only a minimal differentiation between adult and child. One day they’ll realize that their mommy ain’t that great.

But hopefully they’ll also learn that sometimes it’s okay to be bad at things. It’s okay to seek out time and activities without thought of productivity or achievement. Amidst the pressures to succeed, we are all entitled to love things intensely and not lose heart if greatness isn’t a part of the story.

And if my children can learn these things, it will help them live more authentically, humbly and joyfully.

Children should be encouraged from time to time to rebel against this notion that they must be a success. Not everything is about achieving excellence or exceptionalism. Life is meant to be experienced not achieved, and often times, the way to true “success” is to love something without fear of failure.

So what’s something you love to do that you’re no good at? Are your children getting in on the fun of this as well?

What We Have Is Ours To Share

Join me in welcoming guest contributor, Lauren Hidalgo Gassman to Things I Teach My Children for today’s post!

“This ain’t no one’s house but God’s.” These words have stuck with me since I went to Lynchburg, VA for a Workcamp service trip years ago. Our project was to scrape and paint the siding of an older couple’s home. Unfortunately, the backyard was too steep and our ladders were too short to complete the job. They welcomed us into their home all the same. They knew of the work our group was doing around their community and were thankful for our efforts. When I reflect on the homeowner’s words, I am humbled. His simple greeting reminds me that nothing is really mine because it has been entrusted to me by God.


While raising a toddler, the word “mine” is said, whined, and cried several times throughout the day. This bottle? Mine. This toy? Mine. This other kid’s toy? Mine. It is a difficult thing to teach a child what mine is: what is his, what is his to share, and what is someone else’s not meant for him. As he gets older, my hope is to teach him that most of his things are his to share.

My husband and I daily reflect on the life we have. This often includes our most valued things: our house, our jobs, our dog, Harley, and our garden. But we love these things not just because they’re ours but because they’re ours to share. I want my son to remember that nothing we have is really ours. The house we live in is a place where friends find comfort and companionship. It’s a place others can call home. Our jobs supply an income but also allow us to do what we love, to share our time and talents to make a positive change in the world. Our dog is not just ours to own. She constantly teaches us to greet others joyfully, to forgive quickly, to observe carefully, and to cuddle tenderly. Our garden is not just to feed our family. The plants sustain the bees and other pollinators. The produce we yield are made into acts of love we give to family, neighbors, and coworkers for nourishment. The scraps are given back to the earth to repeat the cycle.

None of these things were acquired in a vacuum. A realtor (and my talented mother-in-law) helped us find our house. Our parents, teachers, and mentors gave us the tools to earn our positions. Harley was rescued by a caring foster agency. Our garden was built by the previous owners and the soil, seeds, water, and sunlight are not ours to claim. God gave us each other to appreciate, recognize, and better ourselves to continue His good work.

So yes, while we bought that bottle or he was given that toy, its existence is defined beyond our ownership. Many people had a hand in their creation and many hands will benefit after us. As my son grows older, I want him to remember that toys are meant for sharing. Knowledge is meant for teaching. The gifts and talents he develops are not for his amusement. They are meant to serve others. We are meant to serve others.

Gassman Photo.jpgLauren is a wife, mother of one, and Fitness Specialist. Perpetually in gym clothes, you can find her teaching group exercise classes, training clients, gardening, baking or running her online health coaching and personal training business at She enjoys game nights, road trips where she can sing loudly, and every kind of cereal.