Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Motherhood Spectrum

It was around 1:00 a.m., and I had been called into work for an exam. Still trying to wake up, I grabbed my badge and my keys and headed to the hospital.

After asking the standard questions while I set up my ultrasound machine, I wasn't especially concerned. But as soon as I put the probe down, everything changed. Even at first glance I knew it wasn’t good, and that night I had the unfortunate duty of confirming to a hopeful mama that yet another one of her babies wasn't going to make it. 

It's the worst. The absolute hardest part of my job.

I left her room quickly, wanting to give her some privacy, but not before hugging her. As I pushed my machine down the ER hallway, I could feel the tears stinging my eyes just thinking about her broken mama heart. 

Before becoming a mom myself, I may have thought or even told this woman, “you’ll make a great mother some day.” But now I recognize her spirit and know for certain, she already is one. I saw it in her eyes. She already knows the fierce love, the ache, and the yearning to protect that is familiar ground for a mother. She already has that uncanny maternal instinct of knowing something is wrong, despite reassurance from medical professionals. She might not have any babies on this side of heaven, but she is no less a mother than I am


Rather than a binary system - you are or you're not - I’m finding that motherhood is really more of a spectrum. 

The Motherhood Spectrum is a long, long line of potential phases on which you might land. It ranges from the Not Yets to the One Days, the Almosts and the Right Nows, all the way to the Yesterday Moms. Everyone has arrived to the spectrum in their own unique way; no two stories the same. And as we scan our eyes down the line, we don't have to look very hard to see our differences - be it our age, number of children, or arrival to motherhood - but when we look closer, deeper, we find that we’re far more alike than we are different. We all share something that shines brighter than anything that sets us apart: our mama hearts

And instead of just a simple line, picture the spectrum as a gigantic table, so long you can't see where it ends in either direction. There are seats lined up one side and down the other and it's a musical chairs sort of scenario, with women moving from one seat to another as their story changes. Each woman has a place setting in front of her. There's a crisp white card folded in half, and written in pretty black script is that beautiful word, "Mother". That card says you belong. We've saved a place for you.

Good news: there are a thousand ways to find your seat at this table, among this blessed community. More good news? There is enough room for all of us. 


Maybe your encounter with motherhood has been through longing birthed only in your heart so far. You believe the lie that you can’t sit down at the table yet, so instead you stand awkwardly to the side waiting on your invitation. I say, grab a seat, sister. You're one of us.

Maybe you're knee-deep in the every day muck and glory of motherhood, with one, two, three, or ten babies calling you mama and tugging on your hemline. You can't even sit for more than 90 seconds without someone needing your attention. It's okay, let this sisterhood pitch in and buoy you up. Rest a little. 

You might be the one who said “I do” not only to a husband, but to children who call another woman "mom". However, I would imagine that in your day to day, you do not “step-mother” those children, right? You just mother them. Well there are no steps here, friend, only seats. 

Perhaps you labored through mountains of paperwork and preparation and emotional turmoil to retrieve your child who is called an orphan no more. When you feel like others just don't understand you, I urge you have a seat and tell us your story. 

Some of you are called "aunt" or "grandma" (by DNA or not) but you know you love that little boy or girl as if they were your very own. Let me tell you something: yes, our children need you, but so do we. Please keep showing up at the table. 

Others are pouring their mother love into children who will never refer to them as mommy, be it through ministry, foster care, advocacy, or even your chosen profession. Keep pouring, keep loving, and then come here to the table to be filled up again. You are vital to the village. 

Maybe you're the mama bird in her quiet, calm nest, no longer filled with fluttering or chirping. And I would ask this of you - please stay near to this community; we need your wisdom and your prayers and your understanding. We need you when the days feel too hard and too long to remind us that it'll all be over far too soon.

And, if like my patient that night, you find yourself as a mother to a child in heaven, I can only promise you one thing: not everyone at the table will understand your grief, but we will all understand your heart. The irreplaceable, never diminished love of a mother is our tightest bond.

So here's the deal: Love is what makes a mama. And if your heart pumps maternal love through your veins, then you are welcome and needed here in this beautiful sisterhood of motherhood. There's a place setting with your name on it. We may have found our seat in a different way from the woman next to us, but that just makes for more interesting dinner conversation. 


Today, I want to celebrate you and acknowledge you. All of you

You. Are. Amazing. 

You inspire me and I'm honored to sit alongside you at this glorious table.

(c) D Crowe Photography

Saturday, April 30, 2016

my journaling Bible + my first G I V E A W A Y !

*This post contains affiliate links meaning I earn a small commission through purchases from the links. Thank you for supporting the writing here at Beloved Nest!

Back in January I received my first journaling Bible for my birthday from my sweet friend Shelby. I fell in love immediately.

I have since learned that Bible journaling is a whole thing -- who knew? You can use the margins for basic written notes, or you can get super creative with illustrations and pretty script inspired by what you've studied. It's a new way to dive into truths you come across, and really commit them to memory. 

I definitely haven't used my new Bible to it's full potential yet, but I'm excited to see those margins fill up over the years.

And can you believe how pretty that outer cover is?? Just picture like 16 heart eye emojis here. 

I have two other Bibles that I've been using recently: the NIV Women's Bible and the Beautiful Word Bible. 

The NIV Women's Bible features devotions throughout from women like Shauna Niequist, a favorite author of mine. And since I love words, I'm all about getting extra insight as I read certain passages. This makes a great study Bible for digging a little deeper. 

A copy of the Beautiful Word Bible was also gifted to me to try out, and I have to say, it really is beautiful. As you flip through you'll see verses highlighted in the margins in pretty script or with accompanying illustrations. (This version is NIV, but it's also available for purchase in KJV and NKJV.)

Zondervan Publishing was gracious enough to allow me to give away a copy of the Beautiful Word Bible to one of my readers! If you already have a Bible that you love to study from, this would make a really amazing gift for a girlfriend.

This is my very first giveaway (!), and I wanted to make it as simple to enter as possible - just use the Rafflecopter below for entries.

I would love it if you would share this giveaway with your friends so we can spread the word about these amazing Bibles!

If you need some inspiration as you get started with your own journaling Bible, I've listed some of my favorite people to follow on Instagram who share amazing shots of their illustrations and notes. (And don't forget to enter the giveaway below!) 

Soul Scripts - my absolute favorite!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*A random winner will be selected on May 8 and contacted through the email address provided. USA only. Thanks so much for entering!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

My first Fix

I have been hearing about Stitch Fix for a while now, and after planning a girls' trip to Nashville to see my girl Anjelah Johnson, a.k.a. Bon Qui Qui (whoop whoop!), I thought now was a good time to try my first Fix!

*Two things you should know: 1) I am not a girl who loves to shop for clothes. I could hit up antique shops all day long, but clothing? One store and I'm over it. 2) I'm pretty cheap. Most of my current wardrobe is from Target or affordable online shops. So just keep those points in mind as you read over my SF experience. Oh, and Stitch Fix did not provide this for review. It's just something I genuinely wanted to try and tell you about! :)

You start by filling out a style profile. This part was fun for me, but I'm a weirdo and I love that kind of stuff. It's pretty detailed, and allows you to provide links for the stylist to get inspiration from and find out more about you. I chose to only include my Pinterest "Wardrobe" board, but you could provide links to your Instagram, blog, anything that would help give some insight. At the end, you can add a note about specific things you would like to see in your next Fix, like if you have a special event coming up, or if you're in need of a specific type of clothing. 

When it finally arrived, I opened up my box and found a personalized note from my stylist about why she chose these items, along with a sweet note about the recent loss of my mother-in-law.

At first glance, I was excited about what I saw. 
EXCEPT....the one thing I hated off the bat was this navy polka dotted dress. Just SO NOT ME.

But I vowed I would at least try everything on, so that's what I did. (And it's possible that I hated the dress even more on my body than I did just looking at it in the box.) It didn't all. Ugh. So it went back. For sure. 

Next, were two pairs of skinny jeans. One of them was a bit pricey, but not unreasonable for a good pair of jeans ($88) and the other pair was definitely overpriced for my budget ($148), so naturally, the overpriced ones fit like a beautiful denim glove. (WHY.) But I just can't with that price tag. The other pair was an entire inch too small to even button. So both of those went back, which I was bummed about because I have such a hard time finding jeans (says every woman).  

The coral dolman top fit really well. The color was a bit much at first, but I liked the fit so much that soon the color grew on me. It's as close as I get to a red tone in my closet and I knew with summer coming up it would also look better once I had a tanner complexion. I decided to keep this. 

The grey cardigan didn't fit me in an oversize style like it was intended to, so I just didn't love how closely it hung against me for what was supposed to be a flowy cardigan. So although I loved the look and style, it was a no.

That left me with just one piece to keep: the coral top. At $58, it was more expensive than what I would normally spend on a top, but with the credits I had on my account, it ended up being in the $20-range which was more in my budget.

After you make your decisions on what to keep and what to send back, you fill out a form with feedback for each piece. This communication lets them know why a piece did or didn't work which should help with your future Fixes! Then you just put all the returns into the prepaid envelope and put it in the mail. 

1 out of 5 is not what I was hoping for, but considering it was my first Fix, it makes sense. It will take some time for the stylist to get to know my style, and how clothing fits my body type. 

Overall, I liked the experience, especially since I don't enjoy shopping. It's nice to try the clothes on in the comfort of my own home and just mail everything back that doesn't work. The major con for me is that the price points are high. It seems that most items range from $50-$70, and that's not even including pricier pieces like jeans. But my plan is to only schedule a Fix every 3 months, or when I have a credit on my account from referrals.

If you decide to try it out, I'd love if you use my referral link. If you sign up and a friend uses your unique referral code, YOU will get a $25 credit! Which is pretty awesome since that covers the "stylist fee" of the Fix, plus an extra $5 toward anything you keep! 

Let me know what you think if you decide to give it a try! 

And next time, I'll try to remember to take pictures of the clothing on me instead of just on my dining room table. Oops! #notafashionblogger

Thursday, March 31, 2016

the handprints on my dishwasher

I used to imagine what my husband and I would be like when we had our first child.

We would be parents who didn't act like "parents." We would be COOL PARENTS.

We wouldn't let our kid become the center of our universe. 

Our house wouldn't be taken over with blocks and trains and dolls. We would relegate all of that "stuff" to a small, designated area. I would not be that parent who talks about their kid incessantly, or who's social media is a gigantic, glaring spotlight on their kid, or who arranges their free time around their child's schedule and activities.


The time has come and I've had to eat all of those words. Every. Last. Crumb. 


Have you seen the State Farm commercial that shows a couple going through a typical life progression? 
The husband states, "We are never having kids." The wife's in labor in the very next shot.
"We are never moving to the suburbs." And then there he is, trimming the hedges.
My favorite part is when the exasperated dad says, "we are never having another kid" and the mom doesn't skip a beat as she unceremoniously announces, "I'm pregnant."
It's hysterical because it's TRUE. Kids have a way of turning our "nevers" into "next week" as they infiltrate every part of our lives.

You don't really see it coming, but before you know it, they take over every priority we thought we had, and the really insane part is? We don't even care. (Well, most of the time. haha). 

I'm convinced that if we're doing this parenting thing right at all, we will be consumed. 

The very nature of good parenting requires you to be all in. 


I began learning a lesson on day one of motherhood, and every day since I discover it in a new way. The other day as I walked by my handprint-covered dishwasher, I was reminded again:

Our babies leave fingerprints all over our lives. You can't compartmentalize this level of devotion to another person. There is no way my life could look the same as it did before. I can fight it....or, I can immerse myself unapologetically in the crazy-amazing adventure of motherhood, knowing it's worth it and it's only for a season.

The evidence of my motherhood is inescapable. Besides my dishwasher, take my car: obviously there's a giant carseat you can't miss, but also a myriad of toys and books scattered in the backseat for on-the-go entertainment. I have wipes, diapers, snacks, all the necessities. Not to mention a stroller that takes up 95% of my trunk space.

Oh, and my house? There is not a room you could walk in without seeing a toy, a picture of her, a kid potty, or some other toddler paraphernalia. And you'll probably leave with a Minnie Mouse sticker stuck to the bottom of your shoe. 

It's absurd.

Even my purse cannot escape the child takeover. Inside, I can usually find a single sock, a hair bow or three, and a diaper. Sometimes I hear a musical sound coming from my purse only to find Aven's play cell phone hanging out in there.

More proof that a little one is near: the slobber that seems to permanently reside on the shoulder of my t-shirt.

These scenarios should probably make me cringe, but the funny thing is, they make me smile. I look around at my life and see glimpses of her all throughout and it makes me proud. All of the outward signs are simply the testimony of my heart, if only you could see in there.

That's where you would find the fingerprints that I treasure: the ones left in invisible places. 
"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is seen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:18 

She's left her mark on my perspective, my faith, my purpose, my thoughts, my understanding of my Father God, my wants, my dreams, my whole heart. Those imprints are the ones that matter, and they aren't going anywhere. I'm forever changed. 


One day, my home will be tidy(er) and quiet. My purse will be organized without the ringing of fake cell phones. My car will be clean(er) with no goldfish in the creases or sippy cups rolling around in the floorboard. Those fingerprints on my dishwasher will have long since been Windexed away. 

One day, she'll leave me and go make her mark in a thousand other places. So for now, while she is here with me, I'll do my best to cherish everything that comes with this sweet privilege. I will encourage and embrace the handprints, both seen and unseen. 

Parenting changes everything. And I'm more than okay with that. 
I welcome it with a grateful heart. 

*All professional photos on this blog are (c) D Crowe Photography

Monday, March 14, 2016


Two and half weeks ago, I posted this on Instagram, begging for prayer:
"Sometimes life sends a gentle nudge along to remind you to take it all in because it's fleeting. Other times, that truth shoves you and knocks you down with its gravity, saying 'TODAY IS ALL WE HAVE.'"

We had just received the news that my precious mother-in-law, Brandon's step-mom, was diagnosed with AML, a type of leukemia. 

Our world stopped. Hard. 

The prognosis was given and we were completely devastated.

A year? That can't be right; that's not enough time! We need more time. 

Quickly, things got worse, much worse, and the forecast of time was drastically reduced. Days, only DAYS. And suddenly we were begging for that one year back. 


Just four days following that diagnosis, Joy was gone.

How can it be? Will it ever seem real?

Those few days were a time warp. Time was moving not at all, and so fast we couldn't catch our breath.

We stood bedside, we prayed, we paced, we cried, we hugged, we told stories, we sobbed, we held hands, we stood in the gap. For each other. For Joy. We told her we loved her. Again and again and again. We love you so much, Joy. You were so easy to love.

I wish I didn't know this, but now I can confirm: those hospice walls have heard prayers that only the language of the heart can utter, because the actual words in my mouth, they just wouldn't come. 


Every time my two year old asks "Mimi Joy?" my heart simultaneously swells and breaks. We will never stop talking about her and remembering. Remembering is a gift, and I plan to use it to it's fullest until the memories are frayed and faded and worn at the edges. I'll never put them on a shelf. They will be part of our everyday; she will be part of our everyday. It's the least we can do for someone who did so much for so many. 

If you knew Joy at all, you know this is true.


As I sit here, remembering, I still long for that year. The year we thought we would have; the year we resented until it was traded for less. 

What a difference a new perspective makes. It's as if we started down a hallway with lots of doors and possibilities, only to discover all but one of them were locked.


I won't pretend to think I can sum Joy up in one single blog post, but some of my remembering has brought sweet moments from the past decade that I knew her back into view. Placing them here is my way of dusting them off, shining them up, and displaying them like pictures in a frame.

I will miss her amazing Christmas Eve breakfast tradition.

I will miss her checking in to see when she can babysit, and the "oh Shanna, we would love to!" whenever I was the one asking.

I will miss her texting Brandon about his daddy, whenever she had a concern.

I will miss her love for a good monogram. And all things Southern.

I will miss the heart conversations about life, motherhood, and marriage.

I will miss the way she would brag and dote on Aven and all of her grandkids in that proud grandmother way.

I will miss texts from her about the latest "Bachelor" cast-off and who should have gone home instead.

I will miss the way she would smirk and say "Brandon, you are just like your daddy."

I will miss the cards she sent in the mail for every occasion.

I will miss seeing her get easily choked up over prayers and sweet family moments.

I will miss the play-by-play texts of conversations she had with Aven while she was babysitting.

I will miss her helping hand, her servant heart, her kind and humble spirit.

I will miss her gift of encouragement. She was such a cheerleader to me when it came to my writing and my mothering.

I will miss seeing her snuggle up with Aven in her recliner, rocking the day away.

I will miss everything about her.

If you are in need of a reminder on the brevity and importance of life, as we all are from time to time, let me be the one to say it today:

All we have is now. Today. Holding back is not a luxury you have. Joy would tell you to live and love with your whole heart.

And we will.

We love you and miss you every day Joy.

"...we are of good courage, I say, and are willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be at home with the Lord." 2 Corinthians 5:8

Monday, February 22, 2016

Aven's party details {& party planning for the non-hostess}

I am not a "hostess" type. The more people who RSVP with a "yes" the more I want to go hide in a corner until it's over, no matter what type of event I'm planning. 

When Aven turned two earlier this month, we decided to have her Minnie Mouse Pajama Party at our home. Although party planning is not something that comes naturally to me, I was pleased with the way it turned out.

My philosophy was "it doesn't have to be fancy!" Y'all - this is a two year old's party. She will relive it through photos one day, but she will not remember it. I tend to let myself get overwhelmed with these kind of events rather than focusing on the ultimate purpose, and I was determined not to let that happen. At the end of the day, I just wanted Aven to have a good time with all the people she loves. 

{ Hey look! This was my own Minnie party, back in the day! Check out my mom's cake decorating skills. Impressive! She definitely IS the hostess type. }

I started drafting this post the day after the party when we were still in recovery mode, because I know there are lots of people like me who feel that party planning is out of their comfort zone. But even for us non-hostess types, you can pull off a great party and have fun while planning it. 

I promise! 

Here are some shots of the party and a list of things I found to be super helpful during the planning process. 

(her ears are actually pigtail clips from this Etsy shop)

party planning for non-hostess types: keep it simple. here's how:

1. stick with a narrow theme and color scheme. 
Because it's her absolute favorite, we originally chose a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme, which would include a whole cast of characters. I soon realized that a ton of party planning is incorporating the colors of your chosen theme, and I wasn't loving the use of so many bright, bold primary colors for a little girl's birthday party. I changed it up to a simpler theme of Minnie Mouse only, and stuck with the colors black+white, gold, and pale pink. SO glad I made this change. It really made it so much easier. If possible, stick to neutrals and one or two pops of color. (Also - buy paper products and utensils in neutral colors so you can reuse the excess later).

2. choose just a couple of "statement pieces".
You could easily run around spending lots of money and time buying 200 different party decorations and supplies. OR you could choose just a couple of large-scale, key items that will be the focus of the party.

So, instead of a bunch of balloons, I used only FOUR. Yes - FOUR. I had one giant 30" pink balloon, one huge number "2" Mylar balloon, and then two regular pink balloons for our mailbox. (balloons and paper straws purchased from this Etsy shop)

I also happened to find (really, it was fate) a black and white polka dot blanket with Minnie's silhouette on it in the kid's bedding section at Target. It couldn't have been more perfect for the party and it became the primary inspiration for the rest of the decor. We used it as a focal point and backdrop on the day of the party. Bonus....we get to use it after the party! 

3. party basics: banners + signs.
There's a reason why party banners show up at every party: they're cute AND easy! I strung a three tiered one on the fireplace mantle. It was black so I just wrote "happy birthday Aven" with chalk and strung it with black and white baker's twine. I traced out the word "TWO" on glitter scrapbook paper and then strung that on the Minnie blanket backdrop. DONE. (I meant to move the "TWO" banner to the front of the high chair as decoration when we did her cupcake and candles, but I forgot. Anytime decor can pull double duty - go for it!)

I also purchased a chalkboard easel (something I wanted anyway and will for sure use again) and placed it outside by the front door as a welcome sign. It took very little time and effort and but I think it was the right touch for people to see upon arrival. 

4. favors that function as a party element.
I bought a set of 12 Mickey and Minnie ears and placed them by the front door with a sign that said "We've got Ears, say Cheers!" They doubled as both decor and party favors for the kiddos. Another idea I love is to use food as favors - some extra special little snack you've put together and pre-packaged.

5. food: pick a theme.
We decided to do a morning (10am) pajama party, so the food was a no-brainer. My awesome husband made Minnie-shaped pancakes (!), and we did other breakfast foods as well. Fruit, pigs in a blanket, hashbrown casserole, monkey bread - those types of things.

Also - let your food decorate for you. You can put your cupcakes in a pretty stand and make it the centerpiece on the table.

6. use decor you already own.
I raided Aven's nursery, my kitchen, and my box of party supplies for accent pieces that matched the party. I also borrowed several things from generous family members, like kid tables (which we covered in polka dot craft paper), platters, and trays. 

7.  Pinterest is your party-planning friend. 
Chances are, your party theme has been done, documented, and Pinterest-ed, so you can borrow other people's creative ideas when you come up short on your own. I even printed coloring sheets off a link I found on Pinterest, so the kids would have a little activity to occupy themselves with. 

8. some things just don't matter - don't waste time or brain power on them.
I am not the girl who's going to bake a birthday cake. That's just not a skill of mine. Instead, I ordered Publix cupcakes and we stuck Oreo Thins in them as Minnie ears. Done. Always work within your wheelhouse, or have friends and family help you. You don't have to do it all. 

So, which side are you on? Does it make you giddy or give you an anxiety attack? I'd love to hear any other tips you guys have!