Breath {#wholemama and 6/31}


A few nights ago I woke up in the middle of the night with an aching headache. I tried to sleep, but the pulsing ache wouldn’t let me and I realized both my hands were tingling suspiciously. I began to worry about what could possibly be wrong with me. I knew there were things to watch out for when recovering from childbirth, but couldn’t remember if a headache was one of them. I was kind of freaking out.

I woke Israel up, “I have a really bad headache”. He asked some standard questions about location of the pain, possible hydration levels and if both hands were tingling or just one. He decided that I was really worried, but I was probably just really dehydrated and tired. So I drank some water and went back to bed. Still worrying excessively, but choosing to trust Israel’s non-headache plagued head.

As I was trying to sleep I realized I was hyperventilating and that’s why my hands were tingling. I focused my breath to calm and slow. I prayed that God would fill my head with His calm and make my headache go away.



Slow and deep.

I pictured breathing healing and God’s calm into my head and heart while massaging the base of my neck. Eventually I fell asleep and woke up two hours later feeling more relaxed. My headache was gone and I felt calm.


I went back to sleep and slept so well.

And felt so refreshed and rested in the morning.


Thinking about this again in the context of our word this week I realized a few things:

Sometimes, in the midst of pain, breathing can be hard.

We have to consciously focus on breathing slow and deep and exhaling fully.

Breathing doesn’t do us much good unless we exhale.

– breath – exhale – breath – exhale – breath – exhale –


Often I tell my kids to take a deep breath when they need to calm down and listen. And isn’t that what we hear about all sorts of things?

>>Just take a deep breath. Calm down. Wait a minute. Chill. Don’t overreact. Let it go.

These words encourage us to take a breath, but they don’t allow for an exhale. They fail to give us space to say the words that are breaking us from the inside or to release the things that if held in will  hurt us in the long run.

I think our culture fails to see the value in the exhale sometimes.

We need words that lead us to healing and wholeness instead of stuffing feelings or ignoring needs.

The exhale is just as important as the breath.

What do you need to exhale today?

Would you join in on our #wholemama linkup? We are a group of mamas looking to live more fully as our whole selves instead of constantly fragmenting our identities into various parts. We can be mamas, and spiritual, and creatives, and writers, and anything else. There is no reason why these identities cannot overlap, giving and taking freely to add to the wholeness of the other. The link goes live Tuesdays at 8AM, MDT. Write and linkup, or simply read around, by clicking the frog below.

We also have our #wholemama facebook group where I post our prompt early (friday, usually) and would love to have you there!


I am blogging everyday this October on the theme of Soul Calm. I want to take the dust of the day and sift it through my fingers. Let the dust drift away, seen and unseen, beautiful, maybe, but not mine to keep. You can find the collection of Soul Calm posts here:

Join and find other 31 dayers here!

Find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads!

“You are so fine!” :: Soul Calm {5/31}

At busy family gatherings or on playdates with my cousins or helping out after the youngest cousins were born, I remember my Aunt Chris always saying, “You are so fine.” In response to so many things.

I don’t remember exactly what at this point in my life, but most often it came when we questioned whether or not what we were doing was right or helpful or overstepping or anything out of line. And every time she extended grace and gracious hospitality, never causing us to question how welcome we were in her home or our ability to intuit what needed to happen next.

It was always: “You are so fine.” with unspoken undertones of: You are so loved. You are so whole. You are so welcome. You are more important than whatever at hand.

As an adult I’ve found myself echoing her at times and reminded of how we are so fine in Christ. I’ve found it hard to tell myself that what I am doing is sufficient even if it feels lacking.

Because all those little things that bother us when we worry about being exactly right or being taken exactly the right way are covered or even not being taken in exactly the wrong way. Those things are covered in grace.

You are so fine.

It is so fine.

It will be so fine.

You are so loved.

You are so whole.

You are so welcome.

We can let go of our tendency to strive and our worries about pleasing when we rest in our salvation instead of our own attempts at perfection.

“Knowing we have died with Christ and inhabit the invisible kingdom of God means in Christ we are fine even when we don’t feel fine.” Emily P. Freeman, Simply Tuesday p.145

I am blogging everyday this October on the theme of Soul Calm. I want to take the dust of the day and sift it through my fingers. I want to see beauty, drink peace, and rest in calm assurance. Let the dust drift away, seen and unseen, beautiful, maybe, but not mine to keep. I hope it blesses you. You can find the collection of Soul Calm posts here:


Find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads!

Join and find other 31 dayers here!

Meg Ylva – 2 weeks

 Meg is two weeks old already! 

We had a checkup this morning and she is up to 9lbs 12 oz from her birth weight of 8lbs 15oz. She is having no trouble putting on the chubs. :) she sleeps a lot still, has long naps during the day and does fairly well at night.  Instead of cryng at night when she needs something she grunts. If she doesn’t get what she needs after a fee minutes of grunting , then she’ll cry. She’s seeming to be a very quiet one in that regard at least. She seems pretty mellow and content. She started smiling a few days ago, found faces about a week ago and focuses really alertly now. 

Just a note about her middle names in case you wondered: we are pronouncing ‘Ylva’ as simply ‘Elva’ and Hazel is for my Oma whose birthday Meg missed sharing by a day. :) 

So pictures:


One week:

5 days: 


Almost two weeks:


Two weeks:  

About one week:

And a couple more newborn:
Find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads!

Benedictions and Blessings :: Soul Calm {4/31}


“In the parched deserts of post-modernity a blessing can be like the discovering of a fresh well.” pXV John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings.

One evening early this summer, I was feeling drained, but unable to allow myself to settle down and just relax. The rehashing of the day’s events left me unsettled and weary. I felt like I needed and wanted a way to release the tension of the day and just let it be. Something to bring peace, encourage, and inspire.

I felt like I needed a benediction for my day.

So I tweeted Emily P. Freeman asking if she had a recommendation, because she writes books that speak to my soul and reads similar things. And I had actually met her in person once so I felt like I could reach out more easily. She tweeted back the next morning (I was slightly fan-girl excited, of course) with a suggestion: To Bless the Space Between Us by John O’Donohue. I read it and found the gift of blessings.

Something of it has stuck with me and I wanted to write blessings for this series. I thought about writing a whole series of blessings, but since it is new to me I am going to leave it at a once a week practice for me.

We all need a little calling forth of greatness and faith and trust and hope, because my weeks are hard sometimes and I’m sure yours are, too.

The end.



So. A blessing for your week.

May our words reflect the goodness of the God who created beauty and us.

May we learn to recognize the beauty that fills our days and the gift of who we are in Christ.

May we open our hands and give ourselves the grace He already gave even in the midst of not living up to our own expectations.

May we reach toward each other with the soles of our feet and the souls of our lives planted in His goodness and not our own striving.

Peace and calm and joy to you, friends.

A blessing on your week.

I am blogging everyday this October on the theme of Soul Calm. I want to take the dust of the day and sift it through my fingers. I want to see beauty, drink peace, and rest in calm assurance. Let the dust drift away, seen and unseen, beautiful, maybe, but not mine to keep. I hope it blesses you. You can find the collection of Soul Calm posts here:


Find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads!

Join and find other 31 dayers here!

Autumn Slow :: Soul Calm {3/31}

”Instead of forgetting or running from my own smallness, what if I chose instead to look it in the face, to settles down into the place where I am, to notice what is happening around me on my ordinary days? What if these small moments are the very portal into experiencing the kingdom of God?”

-Emily P. Freeman, Simply Tuesday, p.29


I wish I could bottle up the feeling of watching trees drift and sway in a cool fall breeze.

It’s a slow calm, but also a waiting, participatory, anticipatory calm.

Somehow it leaves me happy to wait. Happy to slow and feel the breeze on my face and take my time getting to the next place.

When the weather breaks and the breezes turn cool I relish the chance to wear sweaters and go on walks. I love the patterns wet leaves print onto the sidewalk which stay long after the leaves are gone. I love the crunch of dry leaves, the scent of autumn and the colors that sing of old being soon reborn.

It is beautiful season. It invites you out of yourself and your chosen seclusion in air conditioned spaces and into the parlance of the whims of the weather: the rattling leaves, the chill in the air, bright sunshine and occasional raindrop.

I want to invite the lingering slowness of walking on a breezy day into my life a little more. Maybe taking an extra moment enjoying a scent or a landscape, sneaking nap instead of accomplishing. or reading stories instead of the to-do list.

For the sake of my hurried soul I need to slow.

At this point, as I recover from birth, I am being forced into a modicum of slow already, but embracing it fully is a whole different story.

May we all find the ability to slow this week.

May we take a long deep breath of this Saturday. Filling our lungs, and heart, and soul with the feeling of calm that comes with less agenda and more time. May we carry that feeling of restful slow into next week’s busyness and drama as we learn to embrace the soul calm that is our inheritance in Jesus.


Enjoy your Saturday, friends.


For us, in our journey to Soul Calm:

Friends’ 31 days series that I feel need to live side by side with mine. The vision is there. Read on:

Ashley Hales: Letters to Weary Women

Esther Emery: writing on “simple tasks and restful spirituality.

Chara Donahue: 31 Days of Prayers

Jamie’s instagram challenge: #MysticAutumn

As part of the #write31days challenge, I am blogging everyday this October on the theme of Soul Calm. I want to take the dust of the day and sift it through my fingers. I want to see beauty, drink peace, and rest in calm assurance. Let the dust drift away, seen and unseen, beautiful, maybe, but not mine to keep. I hope it blesses you. You can find the collection of Soul Calm posts here:


Find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads!

((In case you were wondering: This series is largely inspired by Emily P. Freeman’s book : Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World. I highly recommend it if you’ve not read it yet.))

Family :: Soul Calm {2/31 and FMF}

I’ve left my Fridays for Five Minute Friday words during this month-long series. I need to leave room for spontaneity in my life instead of relying on my formulas and to-do lists. 

So here’s five minutes from me on the word announced last night:


The calm (or lack thereof) of my outer life often influences the calm of my soul. The hustle of my to-do list leaves me at odds with myself and my family at times. 

You’d think the wild child gang of toddlers we are raising wouldn’t have anything to do with soul calm, but they do. 

Our little family does me good if I just take a moment to open my eyes and heart a little wider and push against the constant pressure of other things. 

Our munchkins show me how to live a little more open and when I can just take the moment to sit and watch them play (in one of the moments where they aren’t fighting), it gives me a little hope, much joy, and calms the restless wild of my own longings. 

I don’t worry so much when I take the time to be with my family. 

When I let myself relax in my husband’s embrace. 

When I absorb the ability to rest and exhale tension with the warmth and simple felt presence of my husband’s hand. During labor or whenever. 

When I say yes to help or ask for help from my mom, sisters and aunts after babies are born. 

This is the strength and calm that comes from family. 

I just have to let myself pause and feel it. 


Does your soul need a little calm this month, too? How can you find calm in your family today?

I am participating in the yearly #write31days challenge (you can link up and join in with a couple thousand other bloggers until the 5th!).  I’ll be blogging everyday this October on the theme of Soul Calm. I want to take the dust of the day and sift it through my fingers. I want to see beauty, drink peace, and rest in calm assurance. Let the dust drift away, seen and unseen, beautiful, maybe, but not mine to keep. I hope it blesses you. You can find the collection of Soul Calm posts here:


Today, I am also linking up with the Five Minute Friday community:



Find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads!

Beauty from Dust :: Soul Calm {1/31}

“You make beautiful things. You make beautiful things out of dust.

You make beautiful things. You make beautiful things out of us.”

-Gungor, Beautiful Things


My life breathes in and out. In and out.

Panting to keep up, getting mired in regrets or questions, or champing at the bit to begin something new. I often allow those hairy-scary moments breathe for me – in, out, sigh, worry, react to ALL the things, start again – until I lose the rhythm of a deeper steadier necessary breath of open hands and trust.

Life. It lives and moves along with or without us and sometimes it’s hard to keep up with even a semblance of who you would like to be.

I am hoping to write short and true this month; keeping my words refined to the breath of a vision. Exploring this idea of soul calm. 

Because that is what my soul needs now.

A breath at evening-time that says, “You are doing ok. Here is grace and blessing. And look at this beautiful thing God is making.”

I want to take the dust of the day and sift it through my fingers. I want to see beauty, drink peace, and rest in calm assurance.

Let the dust drift away, seen and unseen, beautiful, maybe, but not mine to keep.

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”

Isaiah 26:3

I am participating in the yearly #write31days challenge. I’ll be blogging everyday this October on the theme of Soul Calm. I hope it blesses you.

I’ll list and link each new post here as it is written.

Day 1: Beauty from Dust

Day 2: Family {Soul Calm and Five Minute Friday}

Day 3: Autumn Slow

Day 4: Benedictions and Blessings

Day 5:  You Are So Fine.

Day 6: Breath {#Wholemama}

How do you find calm at the end of the day?

Find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads!

What I’m Into | September 2015

I am sitting in a quiet house. The AC just kicked on again because we live in the part where cool mornings blend seamlessly into surprisingly hot afternoons.

But the house is quiet.

My three are sleeping and I am awake. I would be charging myself with a nap too, only my mom stopped by and brought the older two to the zoo so I had a chance to take a nap earlier instead of now.

It’s been a fun month.

I’m done with my long hot summer of pregnancy. We had our baby and now I’m waiting for things to settle into a new routine and chaffing at the restraints of recovering from birth. (Read: I am getting tired of being either on the couch or in my bed in a rocking chair on the front porch.) But it’s only been a week and I feel good so I’m going with this resting thing. Going and doing will come again. But now is the time for sitting and soaking and smiling in the goodness of now.

Busy, but good.

Rough sometimes, but we’ll adjust and the new normal will settle into it’s own rhythms of ease and joy and struggle.

Life, such as it is.

But now, it’s the time of month where we recap life a little.

It helps my heart to see the joy, collect some memories, and observe accomplishments.

So in September I’m into: 
Ali singing Jesus Loves Me, but also anything she can make her own words for. She’s a happy little energetic singer.

Ranger wanted to make a video of him talking so this is what happened.

Making collages of adorable, because instagram suggested I might like this app and I had to agree! I love combining everything I love and all the pictures I like in one place so I can look at them.

Everything baby. Especially these first couple weeks where Israel is home during the day and I can sneak pictures and memories of him as a daddy. Things that make me love him more as time goes on.

This basket my mom found for me while she was in Ethiopia. It is a perfect place for her to rest or sleep, a safe boundary for siblings and a nice cat-fur-free zone. Meg seems to like it, too.

Ali and Meg together. Ali is so sweet and gets oddly calm when we set her next to her baby. Ali always wants to share her special ‘binties’ (her fluffy blankets she is very attached to and possessive of) with Meg. So sweet. Sometimes I do a double take when I see them together because they are so alike (and Meg is in Ali’s handmedowns) yet so different and themselves.

I also finished crocheting Meg’s blanket about a week before she was born. You can see bits of it in the last two pictures. I’ll have to take a good picture of it at some point, but so far it is always wrapped around her because it is just so snuggly.

I have been loving baby snuggles and having her sleep on me. She seems like a restful baby after my two wild ones, but she’s only a week old so I’m not counting on it. Just enjoying it thoroughly while it lasts.

I did not read very much this month. Too busy preparing and catching up with other things. And just nominally distracted all month until the baby finally came.

My favorite for the month was Rising Strong by Brene Brown. I might write a review/recap at some point to cement the ideas a little in my own head. For the Love was good, but not as mindblowing as 7 was for me. My expectations were high so I felt let down, even though it was entertaining and hilarious, thoughtful and thoughtprovoking.

I am currently reading: Embracing the Body ( I’m finding this book is a lovely slow-read and I intend to take my time), The Rise, and then the two daily reading types I’ve been working through (Savor – I’m beginning to be bored with, honestly, and Common Prayer).


I’ve been enjoying hosting Wholemama. I wrote my thoughts on the broken whole pieces of birth, Chara Donahue wrote her thoughts on Belief and showing her kids the true ups and downs,, Sarah Torna Roberts shared her beautiful welcome into motherhood and embracing her son, and Amanda Cleary Eastep gave us a glimpse of her recent leap in faith.

Besides #wholemama, my blog has been occupied by three book reviews and an update on my 2 year old and 3.5 year old munchkins.

Oh, and of course we welcomed our newest, Meg Ylva Hazel.

Find me on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads!

What I'm Into

Leap in Faith {Amanda Cleary Eastep for #wholemama}

By Amanda Cleary Eastep

I’ve always wanted to skydive. To feel my heart about to come out of my mouth, to stop myself from vomiting upward into my own face, to fall and be yanked back in the nick of time.

But leaping didn’t happen that way. I decided it would be way more fun to quit my day job and freelance write full time.

I’ve never jumped off anything before. Except the jungle gym on the grade school playground. I remember sitting on the edge of the parallel ladder thingy and looking at the ground far beneath my dangling feet. At least it looked far from my third grade perspective.

I think that’s what makes courage such a personal thing. Leaping from the top of the jungle gym might not take courage for a 23-year-old athlete, but it could for an eight-year-old girl with weak ankles. One of the boys in my class had made the jump and broken his arm. I didn’t like feeling afraid, so I leapt. The landing was painful, but I escaped with minimal humiliation and felt pretty proud of myself once I stood straight and realized my shinbone wasn’t protruding from my calf.

When someone leaps, whether it’s off a high dive or out of a 9-5 career, we hold a collective breath. We are suspended in that moment, all of our individual visions and fears transfixed. We are either inspired or flinching. Either we picture ourselves in the diver’s pike position before he lines up, arms pointed, to spear the surface. Or we squint and brace for the belly flop.

I’m writing this before I’ve landed. Certainly, I could land hard. Maybe even a few months from now when the cushion of savings for the mortgage runs low and businesses are slowing down for the holiday season and not thinking of hiring writers. I could, in spite of the strides I’ve made over the past three years, succumb to my fear of financial insecurity and to my Pavlov’s dog reaction to the ka-ching of a regular paycheck.

During a recent prayer time, my husband thanked God for the “rightness” he felt in his heart about my decision. I wonder what that rightness will eventually look like, if not the usual markers of money and success. If you leap and you break your leg, does it mean you shouldn’t have leapt, or does it mean you need to learn how to land better the next time? I’ve done all I can to prepare well for this new direction. If I didn’t leap, what would that kill in me? Or worse, what might God expect less of me the next time?

When I shared my career path plans with my family, there was a mixture of questions and encouragement, ranging from the “what-about-insurances” to the “go-for-its.” My church family prayed for me. My daughters dreamed with me. When I announced my resignation on Facebook with a photo of a celebratory peach smoothie, friends rallied to Like and Comment.

We want to hope in something. We want to see someone take a shot and make it, and we hold our breath until it becomes a groan or a cheer. Before the first official day of this new adventure on Oct. 1, I’ll relish the fall, the rush of fresh air, and the aerial view of possibility.

Some people have called this a leap of faith. I always thought that implied acting on a willy-nilly impulse and Someone maybe catching you before you go splat. But that would just be jumping and crossing your fingers.

Leaping in faith involves believing.

There is a term used in fiction and filmmaking called a “willing suspension of disbelief.” If we cling only to what we know and understand, we can’t truly enjoy the adventure story. We will not be able to experience the magic spell, the hobbit quest, or the impossible James Bond-style sky dive.

So to fully live in our own stories, we must trust in our gifts and abilities…

Trust that God is not just one of the breath-holding spectators…

Trust in the voice that says, “Here is the way, walk in it.”

We must be willing to suspend our disbelief and leap.




Amanda Cleary Eastep is a #wholemama to grown kids and writes about faith and family at Living Between the Lines. She is also a freelance marketing writer for business and higher education at Word Ninja.






We’d love to have your voices, too! You can linkup with us and read more posts in the linkup below (click the frog!) or just share your thoughts in the comments!

We also have a #wholemama facebook group where I post our prompt early. We’d love to meet you there!



Find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads!

Meg Ylva Hazel Shirk

We were graced with the presence of our youngest Monday evening, September 21, at 7:53 PM.

8 days later than predicted, but seemingly ever so willing to take her time til the very last.

Born at home, 8lbs 15oz, 21 and a half inches long.

So much love.


These pictures are from her first day of the world. More to come of course.

We have been resting, adjusting, and loving these first days as a family of five.
Find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads!