What I Hope My Girls Learn About Growing Old by Joellyn Hoekstra

The month of May means it’s birthday season in our house. My girl is turning 2. My boy just turned 4. He’s pretty proud of his new, bigger number. We even had a fun birthday countdown going on in the kitchen window. My main man is creeping up on his 30’s. He is looking forward to the coming decade and looking good too (if I do say so myself). My mom’s birthday was on the 3rd. She, on the other hand, is not so thrilled this year. Her number is bigger than she would like it to be. I’m sitting here in the middle of my babies and my parents. I am proud of my time here in this earthly body, and I like that it’s starting to show. I know it’s easy for me to think this way now, but I hope I always do. 

The ideal body type and age, in this society, seems to be somewhere between 12-25. Of course it’s not bad to long for a frame that is unhindered and active, but sometimes I think we have gone a bit overboard. How much money is spent on age concealing products each year? I don’t even want to know. My mom actually doesn’t look her age, but her time boasts of 4 children birthed and raised, 9 years of breastfeeding, 12 grand babies, 47 years of marriage, and approximately 24,000 days of experience. She’s done them well, with beauty and grace. She has learned from life’s lessons with many personal experiences of joy and sorrow. She carries that with her, and she shares with others.

We don’t often celebrate the story that our bodies have come to tell. You and I have to consider that the way we look and how we carry ourselves impacts others around us. Do people look to you for advice and wisdom? Are you someone who others naturally feel comfortable around? As a young nurse, I have been a preceptor for nursing students who are much older than I am. I have always found it fascinating that when we go into a patient’s room together at the start of the day, it is often the older looking nursing student who the patient will turn to for answers to their questions. Their age makes the patient feel like they have more to offer. It’s not bad for that new nurse to use this to their advantage. In time, they will have the skills to match their wiser looking structure, and they will likely develop a fast connection and earn a sense of trust from their patients without having to prove it.

I have a friend who is a CNA (certified nurses assistant). Trust me, there is not a person on this earth who has seen more naked strangers than a CNA. The other day we were marveling that when you care for a person (and wash their body) you can usually tell what kind of life they have lived. Even if they can’t speak anymore, sometimes you just know exactly what kind of person is in your hands. Some bodies are more hunched from years of heads hung low. Others show a different story. You can see it in the kind of wrinkles on their face. You just know they have worn a smile more often than a frown. 

One of my favorite photo documentations of age comes from, Lucy Hilmer. It’s called, “Birthday Suits.” She has photographed herself on her birthday for 40 years wearing nothing but her white undies. It’s awesome. She turned 70 last year. What I love most about these images is how evident it is that she is unashamed of her body even as it is changing. I especially love the year following the birth of her daughter. That’s where I am, and it gives me such strength. 

Women seem to have a serious desperation to hide or undo the look of having just carried and birthed babies. I get that, but sometimes I just want to linger in it a bit longer. I feel like an instrument who has been used in the most tangible way immediately following my children’s births. I have surrendered myself to bring life. I don’t feel the need to hide that. I look like a woman who has sacrificed, and that gives me credibility. I refuse to give into the lie that our bodies were made for preservation—to be put on a shelf and looked at. I hope that I am spent and used up completely when my days in this body are through.

People ask me all the time what their breasts are going to look like when they are nursing their babies. They are worried about their sex life, to be honest. I usually encourage them to think about how their new body tells a generous story for the two lovers as a couple, and that is truly stunning. When did we allow this incredibly profound human work of bringing life into the world to become a bad thing when it comes to our body image? I would even venture to say that you might think back on your honeymoon self and remember that it was so romantic because you looked your best. I believe this actually has more to do with the fact that you were confident in your skin. You don’t need to have a 21-inch waistline to choose assurance and carry yourself with dignity. Even into the bedroom. 

I have no problem with wanting to look good, but we have got to get rid of the idea that the only way to look good is to look like a younger, less-experienced version of ourselves. Please, for the sake of young women looking up to you (which is a privilege), be poised. I want my girls to grow into the women God has created them to be, and I hope they are never hesitant to wear the story of their days as a beautiful banner of life. They need to see more healthy examples of this. 

So, happy birthday to my special people—especially to my beautiful mom. You have given your body to do life’s work with great love and sacrifice. That is certainly worth celebrating. Wear this next year as a badge of honor and pride. To all other aging sisters and mommas: stand up tall in the body that you occupy. Toss your head back and throw another crease in your smile wrinkles on purpose. I’m watching you, and you are giving me strength and courage to fill every inch of my own frame with joy. I hope you can take a good, long look at yourself and say for certain that your body tells the true and remarkable story of your years. Heck, go on and make a birthday countdown for yourself this year. You’ve earned it, and it’s lovely on you.


Let’s Talk About Sex and the Church by Joellyn Hoekstra

Yes, I am going there. In a way it feels like I’m not even allowed to write about it. Not allowed, me? We Christians should be the ones speaking up excitedly about sex. It is another upside down topic in my opinion. Who is borrowing from whom? This is what gets me heated. We are not encroaching on secular territory for a dapple with a bit of fun. Sex belongs to God. It was given to us as a wedding gift with the intention of enjoyment and reproduction. The world is trespassing, and we need to reclaim our territory. Satan has always been a liar. He’s a self-proclaimed deceiver of truth. He does not create. God is the Creator. Satan only distorts what is good, and I hate to say it, but I feel like we’re letting him have this one.

As I mentioned in my introduction post, I will gladly give myself as an offering to get us thinking, talking and maybe even changing. I’m looking at us here, married Christian love-makers. We are engaged in a beautiful covenant bond with God, and that bond is sealed when our bodies are united before Him. We indeed honor Him when we become one. Not in hiding, but fully open before our Maker. What a magnificent design! My intention is not to exclude other married friends, but I feel pressed to call on fellow Christians in particular to speak up on the topic of sex. I am no expert, but the silence I am hearing on this subject cannot be better than trying to open the discussion in a healthy light. The sacred beauty of sex is precious to me, and I think it needs to be talked about in this way: out in the open and with great respect.

I have been wrestling with these thoughts and concerns since my husband and I were young and dating. We sought people out. We asked questions like, “why wait?” and “how far is too far?” When there was loud silence coming from the very people who could be celebrating sex and the true gift that it is we wondered, at times, if the world was right. Just do whatever pleases you with whomever at any time. Thankfully we walked along with other couples who were asking the same questions, and together we have come across wisdom and jewels from mentors and experienced Jesus following lovers. I only want to build on that collection for future generations, and for my children’s sake in particular.

Sex is incredibly profound. We people, here on earth, often don’t know what to do with something so fierce. It’s dangerous in our hands and we aren’t always careful with it. Actually, the world isn’t careful with it at all. I fear that sex has been stolen and dragged violently to the secular world where it’s being feasted on and degraded shamelessly. When we think of sex we are reminded of billboards, movie clips and pornography forever etched in our minds. We think of anything BUT pure. Doesn’t sex deserve to be embraced with care and admiration? Can it be redefined within the healthy, safe context of marriage?

We have an amazing gift among the good days and the bad. When we haven’t got our groove figure out yet. If we are feeling insecure. In our youth or after many long years. In the trenches of parenthood and other occupational stresses. In our waiting. After a fight so nasty it seems beyond repair. In times of great rejoicing. If we have given our bodies to the work of growing babies and we feel unsure in our new skin. In transition. When we feel misunderstood, and when there are no words. We have the most creative design in our midst. And it is ours. Sex is a gift and a pleasure to us and to God. We become one flesh and we mend. Together we heal. Simply appreciating the beauty of our other half, vulnerable before us, and being real ourselves. In the brilliant covenant of marriage. Naked and full of adventure. 

God created our marvelous bodies, and He joyfully gives us the gift of intimacy and sex in marriage. Scripture is very clear about riding ourselves of sexual immorality, but I fear we have confused the two. In the first chapter of the Bible we are told that God looked at us and said, “it is good.” Have you ever thought about the fact that God saw it fit to give us physical organs for the purpose of sexual pleasure only? They weren’t slipped in, accidentally, later on down the road. Forgive me for being so frank, but please tell me what else the clitoris is supposed to offer if not pleasure? And it is good.

My husband, Aaron, and I have been open to sharing honestly with other believing couples, and we have had the privilege of walking along with them and hearing their stories as we share ours. Most of them of both love and of shame intermingled. It absolutely breaks my heart to hear from a newlywed couple that they have struggled in their sex life because they feel guilty. Guilty! For having sex in their new marriage! I can’t even tell you how common we have found this to be. When the point of reference for what sex should be like is coming from a dark, hidden part of their lives, they cannot separate it and sex for them becomes dirty, wrong and shame worthy. Even in their marriage. Something intended to mend us has been fracturing instead. They feel like Christians by day and heathens by night. It’s a lie, and Satan loves it. 

We live near a small, Christian college full of students that I love and admire. We had a student (and dear friend) living with us for a time. On more than one occasion he actually arranged for a get together of his friends and soon-to-be married folk to come over and have a healthy conversation about sex with us. Seriously. We just sat around a bonfire and talked about sex with admiration and deep respect. He was concerned that the conversations on this subject among his friends were either nonexistent or unhealthy. We were attempting to re-imagine what sex could and should be for us. Talking about it with delight and without crudeness was refreshing. 

What can we do, Church, to shine the proper light on this hot topic? Pursed lips and shrugged shoulders are not enough to offer our brothers and sisters. Open the conversation up for them. I can tell you with absolute confidence that they are wondering and thinking about sex. Give them some hope about a healthy and vibrant sex life in marriage. Let’s not stand by and let them wander alone. There are slippery slopes and jagged drop offs. They need a hand. Our trustworthy, safe hands. Not the advice from a world being flippant and degrading with one of the most creative and dangerous gifts ever given. 

I want to challenge you (and myself) to be willing to open up the conversation about sex and provide some real insight. Together we can offer a far better resource than the internet for answers. Just be there to listen and be merciful. We may not always know what to say, but the fact that we aren’t disappointed in our questioning (or stumbling) friends will make a world of difference. This can create a safe space for future discussions. Let’s make it clear to these sweet, new lovers that we are someone they can turn to. We are someone they can trust. Offer knowledge, and think of your own little ones grown up some day, without shuttering. Maybe you and I will be presenting treasures of wisdom to someone who will someday offer it back to our own children. Society is perverting the gift of sex, and that is not going to change. I only wonder what could happen if we were more readily available to offer a different perspective. 

And for heaven’s sake (literally) you are free to talk about this with delight, and to enjoy a great sex life with your spouse, too.


From One Postpartum Mom To Another by Joellyn Hoekstra

It happened, and it was exactly like it has been every time. I even warned my husband weeks ago that this would come up eventually. Super Mom Syndrome caught up to me, and I had my usual post-baby meltdown. I desperately want to save you and others from becoming a victim of this harmful condition. We are not doing ourselves, other new moms, or our precious children any service by showing them that we don’t need to slow down to heal our valuable bodies after birthing humans beings out of them. This “Super Mom” mentality, especially in the postpartum period, is annoying at best and life-threatening at worst. It just doesn’t sit well with me.

So here it goes. My meltdown sounds a little bit like this (insert crying sounds and 40 minutes leading up to the discussion where I am slightly catatonic and displaying the silent treatment until I am finally convinced to talk about it):

 “I am completely overwhelmed. I don’t want to complain, but I feel like if I don’t mention it from time to time no one will remember that I really shouldn’t be doing all of this yet. Why am I entertaining in my house? Why am I out and trying to keep up with All. The. Things? I am literally keeping small humans alive with my body. I’m leaking from every single part of me. My hormones are completely out of whack. I need a shower. I smell bad. I just want to sit and smell my new baby. She’s already getting bigger. Can she stop changing so fast? I am missing it. I can’t do it all. I am not taking care of myself. If no one looks out for me I will not stop this insanity. Please see me, acknowledge the work that I am doing for us and help me to remember that I need to rest.” 

One of my favorite artists, Sara Groves, has a song in response to Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman.” It’s called “Finite.” The opening line is, “I’m not every woman. It’s not all in me…I come to an end.” I love that. It’s good to know our limits. I admire women who know when they need to call it and who aren’t afraid to do so. I’m not that way. Just because we can do All. The. Things. doesn’t mean we should. It isn’t healthy, and I’m not living well when I choose to ignore my transitioning body and family. I love the newborn phase. I have a great support system, and I have an especially kick-ass husband who helps out a ton. Therefore, my conclusion is that if I have felt this, you probably have too. 

Please allow me to go a bit extreme and nursie on you for a moment. I won’t get too technical about it, but we here in the USA are not doing so well in the area of maternal morbidity and general postpartum health. Do some basic research on it if you want to get a little freaked out. Some of the things that strike me as particularly concerning in relation to this topic are postpartum hemorrhage, uterine prolapse (uterus falling into or completely out of the vagina), postpartum depression and stress incontinence (accidentally peeing a little when you laugh and sneeze). I cannot completely separate these conditions from the overwhelming pressure on mothers to jump up and right back into their pre-pregnancy jeans. Is it worth it to be the “Super Mom” that we seem to idealize and praise? 

Historically (and presently, in some cultures) our society has protected the postpartum period with much more diligent concern and respect. Today, a mother is given an EDC (estimated date of confinement) when she discovers that she is pregnant. The name was created at a time when the birth of a child would mark the beginning of a confinement period of about 30-40 days. No going out, no heavy household chores, eating a special diet, being forced to rest while the other children are tended to, etc. The medical world has actually considered changing the term since this is no longer our standard practice. We need to remember that a woman’s body is vulnerable for a period of time. This should not be forgotten.

I have made it a life goal to serve new moms when I am not keeping a tiny baby alive myself. To try to do this now would be too “Super Mom-ish" of me. I’m thankful to have women in my life who have done this for me, and I want to care for others in this way. My plan is to hunt down young moms, force them to get back in bed and take their toddlers on long tiring walks until their naptime. Feed her. Find out what day she wants to go grocery shopping and show up to keep her little ones entertained at home. Better yet, I’d just go get the groceries for her. Fold laundry. Smack her if she offers me water when I come to visit, and find the refrigerator to get her some water as she is becoming dehydrated trying to keep everyone alive with her gigantic, engorged boobs.

Don’t get me wrong. I adore my children. I want 100 kids (see previous post). I am just saddened by the current standard for moms who have recently given birth in the States. I want to give myself (and moms everywhere) permission to take it easy and rest. It’s just a few weeks, and we will never get this time back. Let’s allow our bodies to recover. Open our hearts to wrap around the new little creation in our midst. Provide our older children a moment of rest for their sweet souls to transition as well. Keep our uteri way up high in the pelvis where they belong. Encourage our hormones to settle down into their rightful balance. I want to give us the gift of looking back on our baby’s first days and weeks with less stress and more fondness.

I confess that I am guilty of giving into pressure and trying to do too much too fast. I have even turned down people who are willing to help (insanity). I know that I need to be honest about what I can and cannot do in these first few postpartum weeks and beyond. Busy mom does not equal better mom. Together, we need to get rid of the lie that the mom who “has it all together right away” is who we actually want to be. Let’s be the mom who shows her girls how to value and protect her beautiful and changing body. Let’s show our sons how to care for and admire a woman who has sacrificed herself to bring new life into the world. Let’s show each other compassion and sacrificial love as we support one another well in this vulnerable, fragile time. That’s a real “Super Mom,” in my opinion. 


The Birth of Beauty and Suffering by Joellyn Hoekstra

I’ve now had a small plethora of birth experiences. My first was a cesarean section under general anesthesia. That means I was put to sleep for it. I don’t remember meeting my boy. Thank goodness there are pictures. My last was the complete opposite. There was hardly even time for an IV stick. I’m one of those weird people who has actually looked forward to the laboring and delivery of my babies since I was a young girl. It’s a kind of strange obsession I have. I even wanted another baby just minutes after Lottie’s birth (I know, I’m one of those crazy people). Many people tried to comfort me after Silas’ birth by reminding me that at least I have a healthy baby. Absolutely! Of course, I am beyond thankful to have my little guy. That’s not what I was missing. There are many mysterious and beautiful things going on during the birthing process, and I left his feeling like I had lost something. 

There are really two completely separate yet totally related processes going on during labor and birth. A woman is becoming a mother (or a repeat mother). She is going through a massive transition, regardless of how she has chosen to birth. There is also a child entering the world, and the two come together beautifully in the end. The mother and her perspective on this event in her life cannot be overlooked. Likewise, the child cannot be ignored, and the two should be kept safe, mother’s wishes and dignity preserved—even in a c-section (maybe even especially in this scenario). It saddens me to know how difficult it can be for a birthing mother to find a care provider who respects these two happenings individually and together. All births can be done well and carefully all the while empowering a woman in a mighty way. 

I had the opportunity to share Lottie’s birth with my sweet older sister, my incredible husband and my supportive mother-in-law/doula (two for one!). It has been important to be able to debrief with them since I have delivered my girl. My sister mentioned that it was profound for her to watch a natural birth and see the work with each contraction. She has been thinking about how this reflects a picture of our walk through life. She is so right and so wise. Our initial instinct is to fight and wrestle with grief or pain. It was powerful for her to see the contractions intentionally embraced and handed over and out of my control. We grow in the presence and process of pain and suffering, and we need people by our side. I couldn’t have done it without them.

We western folk have a real fear of pain and suffering don’t we? We have found various ways to numb it. Social media, alcohol, drugs, sex, narcotics, and baby head sniffing just to name a few. For me the birth process is an opportunity to practice suffering well. I don’t expect every woman to have this perspective. I know that I’m not the norm, but just entertain this thought with me for a moment. I longed to let myself rest in the hard contractions. It has struck me since that when I met each contraction ready to handle it with deep slow breathing I could actually rest (almost sleep) through it. When I was caught off guard and unprepared to meet the next contraction, I would be struggling and noticed that I felt stuck in whatever position I happened to be in when it hit me hard. A contraction can knock the breath right out of you when you’re not ready for it. What is the value in expecting suffering and being prepared for it in advance as believers in Jesus?

The birth process provides opportunity after opportunity (like every 2-5 minutes) to practice staring difficulty straight in the face and experiencing the courage and strength you find to get through it. I didn’t want to numb it. I didn’t want to fear it. I have been changed by my births. It’s all woven together here. The beautiful and the dark are present simultaneously throughout the laboring. It’s truly a small glimpse of the life journey. Birthing is a massive sacrifice on the part of the mother, giving all of herself to bring life into this world. What an incredible offering of the self. It is so worth the hard work.

Well-meaning Christian brothers and sisters have told me to protect myself from pain before. A few years ago I spent time in Uganda caring for vulnerable, sweet babies. One in particular, a precious boy who was so sick at the time that many people were worried he might not live. I specifically remember a friend telling me not to get too invested in him because I would be hurt if he didn’t survive. So I trusted God, and I ignored that person. I just loved that baby even harder. I cannot even begin to imagine all that would have been lost in my soul if I had taken this advice. When we go through loss and it hurts us, I think that’s a really good sign. Some of my hurts are the best things about me. They were deep enough to change me. I love those parts of my heart. Jesus is there. I wouldn’t take them back. I wish I had a stretch mark or physical scar to show for some of the deep love and hurt I have been able to experience with God by my side. 

I have felt so much joy with the coming of my new girl child. There are many emotions and such incredible highs. All the while, I have had friends and family who have experienced loss and heartache in these very weeks. There is a time for rejoicing and a time for grieving. Sometimes they happen all at once. How do we process this? Why am I holding a fresh new life with all the beauty and excitement that comes with her while others are empty handed? I did nothing to deserve this. Neither did they. My prayers were not more fervent and theirs were not lacking. Suffering is so hard. I don’t have the answers. I only know that God is good. I can rest in that truth in the midst of the unanswered questions and pain.

Sometimes we don’t like to acknowledge it, but the Bible talks about suffering. A lot. We’re told to expect it as believers and even to embrace it. That’s hard to swallow in the midst of real, true suffering. We need God in these times. He knows that. We grow and we learn to trust Him and to love Him more. We are only here for a time. Our present suffering is nothing compared to the future glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18). We are obsessed with knowing how our lives will play out. That includes birth. It’s inconvenient and unpredictable. It seems to be incompatible with our societies obsession with comfort.

Birth presents us with beauty and pain all at once. We need support. Can birth be an opportunity to practice engaging and embracing suffering? I’m thankful to have had support, and I long for this for every other birthing mom. Can we suffer well? Can we come alongside our brothers and sisters and encourage them in suffering? Can we love knowing that it might hurt us? Are we encouraged to do these things or commanded? I don’t know what kind of suffering you’re facing now, but I long for you to be supported well and surrounded like a mother in labor. Fully embracing and acknowledging the hard work you are doing. I long for you to be prepared for it and loved well through it because you are not alone and because you are hoping and trusting in Jesus. I long for you to breathe deep and give your pain to Him. There is light in the darkness. There is glory in the end. 


My Husband Made Me by Joellyn Hoekstra

My husband made me start a blog. He’s been telling me for quite awhile, “You just need to blog about it,” and I keep on giving him reasons why I shouldn’t. Maybe he’s tired of hearing me pour out all of my thoughts and feelings in the car whenever we go anywhere. Maybe he knows I need some sort of outlet to discuss what’s on my heart. Or maybe he knows that I’m not the only woman/mother/wife/Christian/nurse/friend/daughter who is rattling these things around within. I’m a full-time nurse by night and a stay-at-home mom by day to my three-year-old son and 20-month-old daughter. And by "stay-at-home" I mean that quite literally. We pretty much just stay at home all the time because I’m nearly 40 weeks pregnant with yet another wee one. Okay, yes, I need an outlet. 

I’m torn about the idea of blogging at all. It could just be an excuse I gave my husband for not wanting to go along with it, but maybe there is something there. We live in a culture that thinks it’s completely normal to have a self-focused page about all the best things we have to offer. The world tells us it’s okay to promote yourself, and when things are getting tough you just need more “me time.” Sometimes living in this culture as a follower of Jesus feels a lot like swimming upstream and everyone is looking at you like you’re crazy. We know that the Kingdom of Heaven is upside down from this world we are living in. When we are feeling like we need more time for us we would probably really benefit from pouring ourselves out for others. My dad told me that once when I was feeling down. Don’t turn in. Look for ways to pour out and serve. And he was right.That actually filled me.

I can recall many conversations or happenings where I have offered myself, knowing I might be criticized. I mean, I don’t really hold back, and I usually discover that I’m not alone. I also like to get people thinking and open up their mind to an idea they might not have considered otherwise. I am a Labor and Delivery Nurse and a Certified Breastfeeding Counselor. When a mother says she is considering breastfeeding for a few months, I encourage her, and then I throw myself out like bait and let her know that I nursed my first for over 3 years and my second babe in tandem. I am completely aware that she will think I’m crazy. I will leave the room and there will likely be a moment behind me where a husband and wife look at each other with those big eyes and laugh--at me. But if my comment opens up the door for her to extend her nursing journey beyond a few months, it’s worth it.

My lack of tact in conversation gets me in trouble at times. My profession (L&D nurses are sadly known for this) really makes it hard to know what to talk about around the dinner table sometimes. You don’t want to talk about vaginal secretions and placental encapsulation right now? Why? Anyway, as my Godmother once told me in the context of talking about a boyfriend I had at the time, sometimes our greatest strength is our greatest weakness. I figure, while this is a definite weakness at the dinner table where my friends and family cannot get away, it can be a tremendous strength in the blogosphere. You, as a reader, can just move on if it’s not your thing. I won't even know you did.  :)

There is such comfort in knowing that you’re not alone. I’ve come off countless shifts or tough days at home with my babies where I just need to phone a friend and hear her say, “I’ve been there.” I guess I hope that’s what this blog offers. I’m acutely aware that I have been blessed with a whopping group of incredible women (and men) around me. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t specifically recall a conversation or interaction with one of these incredible individuals. I don’t think it’s entirely fair of me to keep them to myself. 

So, as I walk forward into this blog land, I offer myself to you in an attempt to open up hearts and minds and to comfort. I’m committed to praying over any post or comment made here. I live deeply rooted in Jesus and in the truth of the Word of God. This gives me confidence and joy. I am a Daughter of the one true King. It’s who I am, and it changes how I view and sift through everything I experience in this world. It is because of this that I can live and share openly and know that whatever my lot, He has taught me to say, “It is Well with my Soul.”