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On December 16, I turned 35. One week later, on December 23, my beautiful babies turned 2.

The last two years of my life have been largely about learning to be a mother and learning to be an author. The difficulty is that both of those things were happening simultaneously, and so I’ve had many moments when I’ve felt completely and totally unsure. I’ve felt like I was floundering in every sense. And woven into this landscape of deep, soul insecurity were these incredibly beautiful moments of seeing my true self . . . overcome with raw love, alive from the high of creating, reborn in so many ways.

Kathleen Norris says that marriage has been a “primary instrument of conversion” in her life. As I look back over the last 2 years, I can so clearly see how mothering and writing have been some of God’s greatest instruments of conversion in my life.

At 35, I feel like I’m finally just beginning to figure a few things out.

I’m learning to let God into all the tiniest cracks in my life, all the inconvenient fractures that I’d rather keep hidden. I’m learning to ask for his help in those spaces. Painfully, I must ask for that same help over and over again.

I’ve also been starting to learn how to be a better companion to myself—understanding, patient, kind. This doesn’t come easily or naturally for some of us. We have to work at battling the toxic voices and begin to accept ourselves as humans (no more than human and no less than human), and give ourselves the grace we would extend to a dear friend. Takes practice.

This self-befriending is something that spills into every area of life because a person at ease with herself is a person who can be present and awake to the world. It’s true.

In that way, I’m learning how to be on the receiving end of love, which also takes practice.

And I’m learning how to love all over again because motherhood breaks you open in shocking ways.

Thirty-five and 2 are big ages, both filled with hope and promise and anticipation. The pediatrician told me yesterday that my kids will continue to get into more mischief this year. I smiled and thought, “good for them.” I hope I get into a bit of mischief myself.

(photos by Katie Gardner Photography)

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