Giving thanks

I’m laying next to my sleeping babe, loving the sound of her rhythmic breathing. My heart is reminiscing how i would hold my breath every time I went to the doctor while pregnant with her: Would her tiny heart still be beating?

She’s been with us now for a little over ten months though it feels like she’s always been here. Her growth and development astound me. I wake in the morning excited to note changes- thicker, longer hair. Faster crawling. Pulling herself up on things…
She loves her tongue and just today has started to move it side ways. It’s so cute! Mimicking is her favorite activity- she blows kisses. Covers her eyes for peek-a-boo. Waves, claps, dances to anything with a rhythms …you name it. I think she’s going to break into full sentences any minute now. For the time being it sounds like she’s trying to say “baby”, “pretty” “mama” and “daddy.”
I’m amazed by what I’m learning about myself because of her. Deep desires tucked into the crevices of my heart are being carefully unpacked and realized. Things like holiday traditions with MY family, staying up late to sew a dress for my daughter to wear to church, celebrating every milestone and seeing her little face light up. It’s magical.
And at the same time, I’m realizing that before this little queen was born, I wasn’t as open to vulnerability as I thought I was. Loving a fully reliant, perfect soul so completely is sanctifying- transforming me. Just this morning I was visiting with three other women. All four of us have lost children in various stages of life. While my two losses were miscarriages, I found myself relating to their pain in ways I never could have imagined before. Suffering qualifies us. It creates a place for empathy and compassion that cannot be acquired in any other way.
And in the meantime, I’m working to change a few things to be more fit for the constant companionship of my little treasure. Oh what a season of gratitude! Every moment feels magnified with this new life that’s come to us this year. With wonder and awe, I give thanks.

Hastening

It is so easy to slip into a habit of ease or comfort…even when I am doing difficult or challenging things. For instance, I often find myself setting the same pace on the treadmill rather than cranking it up to push myself. I know what I can do and I keep it status quo. But there’s no real growth in that. Though the steadiness and predictability of it all is kind of nice.

Right now my life feels like I am on a treadmill except that the Lord is my trainer and he keeps increasing the speed. I feel him whispering in my ear that I can do this because HE is keeping pace with me. He is running right along side me, so patient as I learn to do his work in his way. It feels good. It feels hard. It feels like I am growing.

Anybody else feeling this exhilarating acceleration?

More Used Would I Be

There’s always been this space in me that’s wanted to be filled up with whatever HE wants to put there. Yet there’s this tug; a competitor for that vacancy. I am very tasked oriented and so getting THE list completed often keeps me from being available for inconvenienced discipleship. But I’m trying.

Today was the first day in a long time that wasn’t full of absolutes. I kept wondering what needed to be done, certain I had forgotten an important appointment. As far as I know, I haven’t missed anything. So I’ve waited for my divine errand. That space has opened up; pleading to go where he wants me to go, to do what he wants me to do. It’s been a day filled with tiny little surprises…whisperings and proddings pointing the direction to who and where and when. I have pushed through practicality or convenience to availability within that waiting place. And he’s filled it.

I feel useful. And content.

Tonight as I held my babe extra long, watching her slip into the sweetest slumber, all I could think about is this is exactly the life I have always dreamed of living. It seems that every single moment of my life culminates in the present. And suddenly its more than a space that is wanting to be filled up, it is all of me. This whole-souled offering that he gives back magnified. Multiplied. Enlarged. Whole and complete.

Because I Have Been Given Much

It’s been my good fortune to have inspired and motivating mentors in my life. The first that comes to mind is a kind and nurturing stake Relief Society president that taught me how to minister rather than administer, how to plan with a purpose and how to invest in individuals. I think of her often and the way she has shaped me as a leader.

Then there’s my therapist. I saw a counselor for nearly two years. She taught me so much about ownership…learning to own my feelings, my behavior and most importantly, my greatness. She’d always hug me goodbye and say “Go be awesome JBrink.” She was a huge advocate of me getting more education, speaking publicly and trying hard things. I know she smiled from heaven when I earned that PhD.

I’m grateful for a wise man who saw potential in me then had the courage to push me to do more. As a result of his influence I’ve accomplished dreams that were tucked so deep in my heart that I barely knew they were there. He put me on the path to earn my doctorate which led me to BYU and Utah, where I met my husband. What a beautiful life we are living as a result.

Those are just a few of the people who have mentored me. Who are the people in your life that have helped to shape and develop who you are today?

I suspect we all have special people who’ve made kind investments in our progression. The more I reflect on the various people who’ve nurtured me, the more I want to give. I’m grateful for the ebb and flow of life that allows us to be takers and givers. Right now is a giving season for me. Our daughter is the primary recipient yet my heart is stretching to others. Just recently I’ve started working with a 13-year-old young woman in my ward. We’re doing our Personal Progress together. And I love it. I’m learning as much from her as I hope I am giving to her.

There’s something about one-on-one time with someone; coaching, loving, nurturing and digging deep to draw out potential and infuse confidence. What if every one of us were to prayerfully identify someone that we could help along the path of discipleship?

Here’s an invitation:
1. List individuals who have mentored you in some way. How did they help you? (think of teachers, your parents, family, Church leaders etc)
2. What qualities and skills do you have that could be helpful to someone else? (go beyond obvious outward talents. we all have unique, God-given talents that are meant to be shared.)
3. Identify a young person that you want to help… talk to their parents and leaders to get permission.
4. Find a way this young person can be helpful to you so it’s a reciprocal process. Help them to feel useful, needed, and trusted.
5. Act…and be sure to note what you’re learning in the process

Perhaps this talk from Elder Richard G. Scott will help inspire you.

And please share your thoughts and process!

In training

I’ve run at least three days a week for about eight weeks now. There have been two official 5k’s in the mix and I’ve logged about 10 miles a week. It’s not my personal best but it feels like a good post baby come back.

And. My whole body hurts…head to toe.

Upon finishing a 4.5 mile run on the treadmill the other day, I noted that I had ran a decent distance and gotten no where…I was in the exact same place in the Provo Rec center overlooking the “lion” basketball court. How strange! And how profound.

This really has me thinking. Why do I do it?

For one, I love the time with my friend. There’s something about talking through life’s joys and challenges with someone that’s just a bit further along in the trenches of marriage and motherhood.

Then there’s the amazing sense of discipline; knowing I’ve gotten up to work my body and meet a goal despite what the night consisted of for me and the small fry. I like to sweat…there’s something to be said about laboring by the sweat of our brow (and other parts) to work at something. It matters to me.

Then there’s this thinking that comes with the physical toil. Like looking at the treadmill and celebrating the distance despite no real mileage covered or scenery changed. It’s poetic in a way…climbing on a machine to work and exercise and struggle. And knowing that this is a metaphor for my life: I’m learning that life is often ho hum…that it can be the same thing over and over, mechanical. But if I’m seeking for personal growth and development so I can be more fit for the kingdom, I’ll find it. The routine of it can become meaningful. The treadmill is helping me increase my endurance and lung capacity, it’s helping me to be steady and consistent. I need to learn to be steady instead of running in bursts then collapsing in fatigue. I’m learning to pace myself and not run faster than I have strength. But. To keep running my race. I’m in training. For what? The day. I’m training and disciplining my body for the work of the day- the hours of nurturing and loving our sweet, happy baby, supporting and partnering with my good and kind husband, ordering a home, transitioning from a full-time career to stay at home motherhood. Life. I’m training for life.

And so my body hurts. I move with care because my hips and knees and back and feet and everything are sore. I let the ache remind me that I’m practicing, I’m teaching myself the value of consistency, effort, and diligence. I know that one day the run will feel more intuitive, less laborious. But for now it’s serving me. Exactly as it should..the struggle, the ache, the training.

Progression

There’s something about celebrating milestones that thrills me. Today marks the second anniversary of our marriage. The best two years has taken on new meaning. We commemorate our promises and potential together as we return to the temple today. This is also a significant event as it is the first time we will leave our daughter with a caregiver. Some may find it strange that I’ve not wanted or needed a babysitter these last four months. Truth is that I just don’t want to miss a thing. Even more so, I don’t need a break. Life feels like a dream these days, certainly not a burden. More and more I’m coming to understand the genius of God’s design for the family. I find myself feeling increased glimpses of His love as we celebrate and find joy in our babe’s development. Lately it’s been marveling at her increased neck strength, ability to roll over and her laughter. Oh her laughter! I found myself pondering the joy we feel in watching her grow then had the thought that this is how our loving Father feels for aus. While our progress may feel tiny, it’s significant in the scheme of things as it’s laying the foundation for more important events. Just as our daughter’s increased neck strength is preparing her to sit, crawl and eventually walk, our tiny steps of progression our preparing us for bigger things…to ultimately enter His presence and “go no more out.” And so on this day of celebration I give thanks for our patient progress and rejoice in the promise of forever. I am grateful for continual second chances and prompts to be still and soak it all in. This is the life we imagined and prayed for during those decades of waiting. What a gift!

Scarred Disciple

This babe of ours has loved music since she could wiggle within me. Some would suggest she had hiccups but I know she was keeping rhythm. Without fail her movements consistently matched particular songs or musicians. For instance, she loves the music of our dear friend, the extraordinary songstress Cori Connors. I loved sitting through Cori’s Christmas concert last winter, feeling within me the babe’s response to her whole souled performance.

Or there were the several times I taught the children in our stake that Doctrine is truth that points us to Jesus Christ. To practice seeking these truths, we’d identify statements as we’d sing I Am A Child of God. Without fail, this babe of mine would “leap within my womb” as I’d sing this song. On one occasion, I shared her movement with the children in the room. One perceptive and wise 5 year old responded: your baby loves the doctrine.

Indeed!

Here she is now, three full months old today, and this little angel of ours has demonstrated her moves as she dances to music every day. It’s the most extraordinary thing to see her move and acknowledge: I know exactly what the motion feels like!

More than that, I love her joyful expression, the motion of her passion.

She still loves Cori’s music and has added to her repertoire a love for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (particularly their Primary music) and Mindy Gledhill (just to name a few). This morning our little dancer was laughing and singing to each song on Mindy’s Anchor album. As I sang along the lyrics:

Oh, I’ve loved you from the start
In every single way
And more each passing day
You are brighter than the stars
Believe me when I say
It’s not about your scars
It’s all about your heart

I told the babe; you don’t have scars. and it struck me once again. God has trusted me with this perfect spirit. Oh how I want to protect her in every important way…guard her and custom fit her armor so she can be a good steward. I want her to know the power of the atonement in healing every wound she’ll incur in her mortal experience. It’s inevitable. It’s necessary.

Then I told her mama has a scar to remember you by. Every time I see it I’ll remember you came from deep within me. Immediately, a favorite passage came to my heart and mind. The tears began to flow:

Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the [daughter] of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.
Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.
Isaiah 49:15-16

I don’t want to forget. Ever. Yes. The perfected Christ has retained scars so that I can remember that He knows and loves me. He has ransomed me and made way for my return. He’s retained scars to ensure that He is recognizable to you and to me.One day he will permit me to thrust my hands into his wounds and bathe his feet in my worshipful tears of gratitude. Likewise, He’s allowed me to retain scars as a symbol of his redemption- a literal mark of his saving grace. My wounds are bound up by him and him alone.

I’m grateful for the lessons of mortality, manifest in the flesh. I love this purple scar across my womb – a symbol of her as a type of Him. And a call to be like him as I carefully guide her on her path of discipleship. Like my daughter, I feel this rhythm deep within me – the song of redeeming love.

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