Motherhood and Too Many Photos

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If a picture is worth a thousand words, are thousands of pictures really worth millions of words? It depends on the photo, right? While my flaws are many, one that greatly annoys me is my inability to organize and reduce the amount of my digital photos. I mean, it’s bad. I’ve prided my sentimental self on being a minimalist convert these last ten years or so, but photos (and cards, letters, etc.) are another story. Since Talitha came, it’s been infinitely worse. If I’m about to delete a random iPhone photo I think, “Oh, no! What if we don’t have another photo of her with that exact same expression. I’d better keep it. Oh, and that one, too. It’s the same expression, but her hair is blowing differently in this one.” Seriously.

A few days ago I was thinking about this conundrum–how I should dedicate a whole day when Eric is off and organize (read: delete a ton) of photos. I started thinking about why I feel this need to save all the photos of my baby, and I realized that I just don’t want to miss or lose a thing; I don’t want to let any of it go. I want to be a witness of her life, a cheerleader of all her beautiful moments, and a comfort in all her difficult ones. That’s natural, right?

But as a Christ-follower mama, I know that my greatest calling as Talitha’s mother is not saving all her snapshots and mementos, but pointing her to the One who can save her soul. My wandering heart must not fixate primarily on her, but on Jesus. He calls me to love Him MOST, whose love is more than I can understand. Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe God loves my baby more than I do. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but it’s true.

In that struggle of unbelief, I pray against double-mindedness and reach toward God. I am Mary Magdalene in the dust, completely unworthy, in need, fearful and waiting for stones, wondering what I missed and why I can’t get it together. There’s a lot of fear in motherhood, wouldn’t you agree? Vaccines, life-threatening allergies, diseases, pedophiles, and regular ol’ accidents are just a few of the fears that keep me mindful of my dependence on Christ. The fragility of life and the beauty of life—and there we go. The reason I fear throwing out any of T’s photos is the beauty and fragility of life. And I love her so.

Craving the simplicity of having less, I work to manage this massive amount of photos. While I may never find “balance,” I’ll work to enjoy more moments with my daughter rather than just capture them. I’ll work to live this life, remembering the past, but not being overcome by preserving it. Documentation is important, but being selective will add both meaning and sanity.

Keep the Faith,

Audrey Ann

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Social Media and the Quest for Everything

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Like a nightmarish flight of stairs, this glittery escalator entraps me. And it’s going the opposite direction. The more I climb the higher the goal, and what is the goal? I’m asking you. I really don’t know; it’s super blurry at best.

I dream of being a writer, one well-paid and recognized by many. I want to be an influencer, but I entered the Instagram game late, and we just got Wifi. It’s like a complicated version of that hungry hippos game; I grab at those marbles in front of me, but I can’t reach. Just keep biting, and maybe, just maybe I’ll get myself a little ball of success.

So many choices that might mean something. For example, what font to choose on Insta stories? How do I get that cool background? Which camera and editing tool to use (also how to sequester the time to learn how)? The details in my posts need to show that I am whimsical, edgy, artsy, a lover of old-fashioned things, and a good Christian girl. Not too good, though, because that is boring, right? See, these little boxes and photos show who I am. They create who I am. Wait, is that right?

Do I really believe my soul’s worth is found in how many followers I have, how successful I become, or how charming I seem to others? My pragmatist voice says no, but my worries say otherwise. Funny, I thought these were high school fears. Turns out they’re adult fears, too, only illuminated by the ever-pressing social media land.

Glamorous people all around–maybe you’re one of them! I’d like to learn from your success while remembering this verse God has used in my life:

Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. James 1:9-11 (ESV)

Flower fades, falls–beautiful, but fleeting. We know this, but do we know it? Do we feel it as we stare into our phones and look at others soaring while being both gorgeous and self-deprecating? Our belief says yes, but our practice sometimes says no.

Perfect love casts out fear.

Seems like so many of us are trying to be mini celebrities. It’s the child’s game of playing in front of a mirror, except now we’re more self-conscious, and it’s not only our parents and babysitters who are watching. In essence, we are branding ourselves. On a business level, that’s a smart move, but we must be watchful of our hearts and minds. This image we create and carefully curate is never the complete story. And now I’m fretting about how pithy I sound, how cute my daughter’s outfit is, and how to hide the fact that I certainly do not have a thigh gap.

But Christ: A few weeks ago, His Holy Spirit came to me on a porch in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, with a light breeze on a dead end street, and a touch of the most reassuring love. Because in the end, that’s what I crave–to be loved. My flesh seeks accolades, affirmation, likes, money, success, but my soul wants love.

Social media is an amazing tool–whether you’re keeping in touch with your friends, growing a business, or something else. But do not for one second forget that every person online matters just as much as another, no matter their finesse or following. God gave us the dignity of being made in His image, and the most glorious and rewarding thing in the world is to be a follower of Him. As His follower, I’m free to pursue these dreams while daily placing them in His hands and asking for the Holy Spirit to lead. And that, my friends, is where I want to be for the rest of my days, well known or not.

Keep the Faith,

Audrey Ann

Talitha’s 1st Birthday Party

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As Murphy’s Law would have it, our normally happy (albeit passionate/prone to short fits) baby girl had her worst spell of teething the night before her party. We all faced the day very tired and yet so thankful for our friends and family who could join us to celebrate the sweet life of our Talitha Rose, whom we affectionally call “Talisaur” and “T-Rose.” What a gift!

I had such fun scouting ideas on Pinterest and working with grocery store flowers. The concept was “feminine and floral dinosaur” and I think it was smashing. We kept the food simple (donuts, fruit, and Starbucks iced coffee from Walmart), and I bought her smash cake from a health food store. Also, I dropped her cake and therefore I actually “smashed” it first. Lovely. Note to self: the cardboard under the cake is very slippery on a cake stand (insert pangs of disappointment). Even now, I can envision that darling cake crumpled on the grass.

However, since I’ve been able to balance my body with the help of Plexus supplements, I’ve noticed that I can handle situations that would have pushed me to frazzled tears a few months back. And having a friend with a culinary degree on hand certainly didn’t hurt. I actually liked the “rustic” look better! Thank you so much, Linneah!

We thank God for our daughter, and we pray that she would come to know him and love him very soon. Hope you enjoy a few photos of our day, and apologies to my mom and dad (and other guests) that we forgot to get photos with them! It was a lovely day.

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Eric made this wooden tray, and I just love it.

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Cheap dino toys+gold spray paint

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Pre-caketastrophy (see what I did there?) 😉 My dad would be proud.

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Lack of sleep+teething+people singing to you=her face

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Linneah to the rescue!

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Our precious gift from God.

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Facetime with the paternal grandparents

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Oh, my heart. May she walk with God and face this ever-alarming world with the courage, grace, and compassion he gives.

Keep the Faith,

Audrey Ann

Photos: My wonderful mom (not pictured, boo). If you’re in Indiana, check her out! Her work is lovely.

Bringing Home the World: AKA Being a Pirate

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I mentioned our home is small, but did I mention that it’s peppered with treasures? As a little girl, I went through this stage where I loved playing pirates with my brothers. Knowing some of the history along with the romance of pirate stories, I assured my dad that I was a “good pirate.” He informed me in his wonderful, black-and-white way that there was no such thing as a “good pirate,” for by definition, pirates were thieves and scoundrels. (People wonder why I am inclined to, in the end, value fact over feeling every single time.) However, traversing the seas and gathering a bit of plunder still appeals to me, as does cherishing truth, and my home is an expression of that little girl make-believe.

Do not read that to mean that we have piles of clunky junk. Our house is not a tiny museum; it’s our home with just a few little treasures here and there–some permanently line the walls and some we pull out on special occasions. I prefer not to have a particular place to display of them together, but to have them scattered naturally about the house. In my mind, they don’t need a designated area, because they are not a fragmented part marked “our travels.” Instead, they are representative threads of the tapestry of our lives.

I shop at Walmart and Goodwill like it’s my job and squirrel away a good percentage of the paycheck, but there are times we will purchase a special piece that reminds us of a sweet (or difficult) time in our life. There can be a strategic element to whimsy: save a lot, splurge a little. Make your home a reflection of your family and the unique life only you have lived.

Prefer to stay at home rather than travel? That is just fine. What is your area like? What kind of things represent it? I was born and raised in Indiana, and on my front porch here in South Carolina sits a bench made by my sweet dad from trees in the woods behind their house. How special is that?! Does your area lack art galleries or even artisan markets (or maybe that’s not currently in the budget)? Press indigenous flowers, gather rocks, or peruse a local antique shop in search of old photos or small art pieces that show off the place you call home. Even things like old tools and aprons can be transformed into lovely conversation pieces. And how fun is it that only you have such a piece?

Oh, and are a few of my treasures contraband from my favorite beaches? Well, you never can tell. Here I go again, trying to be a “good pirate.” Aaaarrrrgggghhhh. Please let me know what treasures you find and create.

Here are some snapshots of just a few of our pieces. More to come!

Left: Sea glass and sea treasures from the Pacific (mainly Guam and then Hawaii) and a basket I wove from a palm branch (with a lot of help from a Chamorro lady)

Right: Pressed flowers from Africa (given by an old friend)

Left: Magnets on the fridge from all our travels with a piece of drift wood in the windowsill

Right: Coasters from Cambodia and Guam

Left: Rug from downtown Charleston (originally from Istanbul). Ironwork piece from a Charleston antique shop–perhaps made by renowned Philip Simmons

Right: Mosaic–a commission piece from a local artist on Guam. Wooden bowl from Haiti

 

Happy treasure-hunting!

Keep the Faith,

Audrey Ann

Baby Snuggles and New Year’s Resolutions

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Oh, blasted New Year’s traditions we get ourselves into of our own free will. Since Eric and I have been married, we’ve kept a little notebook to write in at the end of every year. We list events of the previous year, including a smattering of disasters but mostly accomplishments–hard things we overcame, reasons to be a bit proud, and remembrances of how God has been faithful to us.

This year was different. Glancing through the previous years’ submissions, a dazed feeling came over me, and I could only think of one “thing,” one “accomplishment” for this year. Baby, baby, baby. It was the year of Talitha.

This thought overwhelmed me for a few seconds, but then I remembered the intense and even painful love that flooded our lives since the birth of little T-Rose. I thought of the many days at home with her, but also our many road trips and even our recent trot across the globe to visit Guam and Hawaii. I thought of the dedication and determination I’ve gathered (with help from God, Christian friends/mentors, and my husband) to deal with baby blues, to walk confidently in my “different” body, and to eat healthy while watching the scale descend at a numbingly slow pace.

As with so many things, there seems to be a rather jolting pendulum swing when it comes to perceptions of motherhood. One says motherhood means that your old life and any semblance of order and regular ol’ beauty is gone. Embrace the mom bun, leggings, and giant t-shirts every day and everywhere. Showers are optional for this mama. The other says that motherhood doesn’t have to touch you very much at all. Your child is a cute, albeit expensive, accessory. Like a poodle, only not.

While I don’t pretend to know the answers of what the “ideal mother” looks like, I know these extreme views of her are flawed. Yes, we must figure out at each stage and with each consecutive child how to keep our personal and professional dreams afloat and fit in a semi-regular shower, but while death to self does (and should) occur, we must not lose ourselves and our zest for this fabulous and short life. So for me, 2017 was a year of growth, a year of love, and yes, it was the year of Talitha Rose. How blessed am I? Her smile, which she gives liberally, undoes me, and I am so grateful to be her one and only mama. Here’s to a new year full of thankfulness, determination, contentment, and lots of baby snuggles. Thanks be to the Prince of Peace.

Keep the Faith,

Audrey Ann

Photo Credit: Creationfoto Photography by Barbara Sanders

Small House Big Door

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My husband and I live in an 810 square foot home. On Guam we lived in a 250 square foot studio apartment. Yes, you read that correctly. We basically did the island thing in a sardine can with a tile floor and windows. It’s a miracle we did not smother to death. Only kidding. As I was thinking about home decor and my notions about what to have and not to have in the home, I thought it would be apropos to start with our philosophy of the home in general. Now, this is what’s currently working for us, with only one child, and we are all about visiting our friends/family with large houses and will one day most likely upsize (bring on some glorious space, a-men).

For now, we love being as debt-free as possible. We believe in living beneath our means and have found that doing so actually opens up life’s possibilities quite a bit, whether that means extra travel, being able to help others, or save for that ever-impending rainy day. Our two biggest challenges have been storage and hosting–well, other than the top challenge which has been to stop apologizing for our home or making fun of it in a way that appears self-deprecating but is really prideful, because we want people to know that we could have a larger house, blah blah blah.

Storage: Eric built some storage units, we utilize our attic, and we don’t buy very much stuff.

Hosting: We have most events during decent weather outdoors (cue giant table in our yard, a campfire, and twinkle lights). OR we comfort ourselves with the notion that most people on the planet have homes smaller than ours, so it’s okay to ask people to get cozy.

We want our home to be a welcoming place of peace–a refuge where guests can feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. We want our home to be stimulating with interesting artwork, books, and conversation. We want our home to have tasty treats where our guests won’t feel hungry for anything except the Lord, if they don’t know Him. A few weeks ago I was looking for a hashtag (which I barely use) to describe this concept, and I found #smallhousebigdoor. Apparently it’s some building unit in Korea, but I still like it for our home–it’s a small place, but we hope to bless many.

Here’s to happy homemaking, whatever that looks like for you!

Keep the Faith,

Audrey Ann

The Wonder of Home

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If home holds small wonders, we are more likely to believe in the big ones.

I tend to categorize homes–not by size, but by character, the charming little details that speak of both its history and the history of the family inhabiting it. Sure, some of us are natural decorators and some of us avoid Home Depot’s paint section because there are just too. many. decisions. And that’s okay. The character of a home, while it can be found partially in things like high ceilings, crown moulding, and antique fireplaces, is more about the investment and care given it from those who shelter there.

Growing up I loved the The Little House book by Virginia Lee Burton. It’s this beautiful story personifying the little house and it tells of all she goes through with the life around her and inside of her. Whenever I see a house that is abused or neglected, I think of that story, and I feel a bit sad. A home is a gift and should be cherished.

Travel is currently quite the buzzword and tends to be excessively glorified. I, too, have been caught up in wanderlust and photos of all the beautiful places with all the beautiful people traipsing through them. To be fair, the pendulum can swing both ways. Case in point: the empire that is Chip and Joanna Gaines. Seriously, Magnolia is like Martha Stewart and your favorite, most down-to-earth uncle had a baby. You just can’t help but love them! So sweet, hilarious, and inspirational. Side note: Eric and I read The Magnolia Story out loud together and both laughed and made some better habits because of it.

While we can easily get caught up in all the beautiful stuff in all the beautiful houses, we must remember that home should not be a mini museum to display grandeur (or shiplap), but a place of rest and rejuvenation for those living in it and those who visit. The goal is to thoughtfully line your home with pieces that inspire and delight you. How? Oh, I’m so glad you asked. Let’s keep exploring and making home our very favorite place to be. Some practical tidbits and thoughts coming soon!

Keep the Faith,

Audrey Ann

Raleigh, North Carolina

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I grew up watching a lot of Andy Griffith, and when they weren’t talking about Mayberry, they were talking about Raleigh. My friend, Abby, whom I lived with pre-marriage days on Guam, lives in the capital city with her husband and baby girl. So we made a long weekend trip to go visit.

While on Guam, one of the things we missed about living in the States was visiting museums, and for my husband, particularly art museums. I did a quick Google search before we left and discovered that the NC Museum of Art was located in Raleigh and boasted an amazing collection from Claude Monet to Guido Reni, as well as three miles of trails peppered with sculptures and (get this) it was FREE!

After we arrived at the home of my friend, we enjoyed time together (our little ones met for the first time!) and a good night’s rest. The next morning we hit up a local thrift store and then the NC Museum of Natural Sciences (also free!). It has a lot of fun displays about the natural science of the region. Then we stopped for a time of browsing at Form & Function, a store that offers unique, artistic interior decor, including everything from yummy candles to charming antiques.

The next morning we packed up to head back home, and our friends were so kind to take us to a coffee shop (they know our love language), Sola Coffee Cafe. Note: this place was crowded, and for good reason! At the time I was dairy-free due to baby, so I enjoyed an iced americano and an acai bowl. Such. goodness. On Saturday mornings the coffee shop offered an artisan’s market outside. There was jewelry, pottery, paintings, and more. We bought a coffee mug and a few paintings for Talitha’s room from artist Rachel Loftis. What a great weekend full of friends, art, and food.

Have you ever been to Raleigh? What did you enjoy?

Keep the Faith,

Audrey Ann

Savannah, Georgia

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Savannah. Even its name evokes feelings of warmth, ease, and a southern drawl. One of my dearest friends from college lived near Savannah, and with her being one of the most darling people on earth, I always new I had to see this lovely city. Known for being one of the only Southern cities spared from devastating fire during the Civil War, it oozes with brilliant architecture and manicured parks. It is a carefully laid out city, one of the first of its kind.

How do I know this? Well, we saved $70 by reading the history of the city off of my phone in our car, rather than doing a touristy historical excursion. Lame? Maybe, but when it’s hot and you have a baby, you will do what you can to linger a bit longer in the air conditioning.

During our trip, I had a few coffee joints on our list that we needed to try. Foxy Loxy Cafe was our first stop, and while they do offer fabulous coffee, I opted for an iced coconut milk matcha, and it was divine. Took me back to Guam for a red hot minute. Our second morning we tried out Savannah Coffee Roasters and were not disappointed. The big windows, open seating along with a delicious almond milk dirty chai and my two loves was a sweet way to begin the day. We went to The Coffee Fox that afternoon. It was fun, eclectic, in a good location, but was a bit crowded compared to the other two. Between all the coffee was gorgeous architecture (including St. John’s Cathedral), beautiful parks, and charming boutiques.

It was a serendipity to find Chocolat, a stunning little chocolate shop with an Alice in Wonderland vibe and the best chocolate and customer service.  Oh, and if you ever visit Savannah, you must experience the The Paris Market. It is full of beautiful things and even a little coffee shop (which we did not frequent, believe it or not). Random, but it also houses the most beautiful basement you’ve ever seen. I would live down there.

This being our first trip away from home with the baby, I was both nervous and determined (with echoes of “The earlier you travel with them the better” from military wives in my head). While you do have to bring quite a bit extra with a baby, there are a few items that we have found make the trip more feasible and hopefully comfortable for the little one. Chicco Lullago Travel Bassinet is such a great little bassinet, because it sets up and tears down very easily, while providing a comfy and safe bed. I like the idea that when Talitha sleeps in her bed, it still smells like home.

Our trip to Savannah was a time of traipsing up and down a darling old city with our one-month-old. It was our first “family vacation” with the three of us, and it was grand. Enjoy some iPhone snapshots of our time!

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Now go see Savannah for yourself, and tell me what you think!

Keep the Faith,

Audrey Ann

 

Pacific Ántonia: A Blog Revamp

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I am quick to see the holes—that which is missing. I am ever striving to be a critical thinker and not a critical person. To be a critical thinker is to experience, listen, and examine. To be a critical person is to beat with a mallet. We are to be kind-hearted surgeons, not bullish versions of Donkey Kong. I want to believe that the glorious and good are every bit as real as the gloomy and despicable.

A few years ago I read a classic called My Ántonia by Willa Cather, and it rattled me in the most comforting of ways. I wrote about it here. Whenever I’ve thought about revamping the blog or having my own business, the name ‘Pacific Ántonia’ comes to me. I’m a Midwest girl who grew into myself in the Pacific—a girl, just like Ántonia, who traveled far and made a home. Through Ántonia’s character, Cather shows what it means to weather life and all its jarring changes well. And to this day, as I now live along the coast of the Atlantic, I am forever longing to make a home and travel well.

You guys, I love to travel—not merely the Instagram-perfect-Cancun-trip sort of travel. (Of course I could go for that too!) I love travel in the way that I love a green drink of wheat grass. It may be difficult to choke down at times, but man, it feels like I need it. The magic and the grit of the world should be experienced. It calls to me. I am cautious not to make it an idol in my life, but in its proper place, what a sweet treat it is! Travel shows me more beauty than I knew existed, along with the holes only Jesus can fill.

As I look into the eyes of people much different than me, I learn so much. Longing and hope spark in eyes of all ethnicities. Taking in the world does not mean embracing all of it. To experience it through the framework of a Biblical worldview is the goal. Oh, the joy of zipping up a suitcase and double-checking if you have the passports.

For all the rush and excitement of travel, though, there is nothing like the sweetness of that corner of the world you can call your own. Making home a place worth being is important—noticing details, listening, and using all the senses. From clean sheets to baked cookies, it can all be life-enriching. A place where you can laugh too loudly, and build yourself without perpetual scrutiny, but rather loving shaping. Home should be the very best of launching pads.

As much as I want to snuggle my baby forever, I also want my nest to enable my little birdie to spread her wings and fly. Home and travel are both simultaneously good. One may feel more valuable to you, but I would argue that for most of us, both are important. Now, I don’t mean you have to go to another continent (but wouldn’t that be fun?!). I mean going somewhere that is at least a little uncomfortable and new, a place to take in and say, “Ah, I never knew this was here.” It is to learn not just how to enjoy and take as a tourist, but how to give (more than just money) and enhance a new place.

Home and travel are mutually enriching. They have a symbiotic relationship of sorts. Done well, home enriches travel, and travel enriches home. Of course, both will and should look different based on desire, income, personality, and life-situation. Every adventure is a personally customized opportunity.

So, in light of all of this and the fact that this year we have travelled more than ever (with a baby to boot), my blog will shift to be somewhat of a travelogue based on places we’ve recently visited, and it will also include snippets of our home life, our heart for both of these, and some of the practical elements that help us along the way. It’s going to be fun! I would so love it if you joined me.

Keep the Faith,

Audrey Ann

Photo: Eric Masur