Standing at my sink mid-day in the soft sun, I tend to the bowls and pans used to make banana bread. The oven heats the sugar, flour, eggs, yogurt, and slivers of banana nestled within its crumb. An aroma like a holiday morning at grandma’s lingers in the air.
I choose Christy Nockel’s “Be Held” album to stream over my waterproof, Bluetooth speaker, because she sees the heart of a child so effortlessly, and sings with a casual passion that sinks deep into my bones. I am aching for a dose of wonder and innocence.
I baptize my tools with tap water and callouses, sudsing up Mrs. Meyer’s peony-scented dish soap like fervent prayers for forgiveness.
Have I done enough? Have I earned their love today?
A stabbing pain radiates down my leg as my baby shifts inside of me. The burden of growing a new thing can be all-encompassing, not to mention heavy. Pregnancy, whether physical or metaphorical, is costly. It presses down on my hips and core, creating warmth and exhaustion. It is grounding and distracting. I can’t help but be painfully present to my moment-by-moment feelings. It challenges my beliefs about what is beautiful about me, and it changes my expectations about intimacy and the worth I derive from my ability to “deliver.”
“Dance with me,” I hear in my spirit.
I pull a yellow checkered towel from the oven handle behind me and begin polishing water from the dishes I’ve already cleaned, swaying in time with the music.
“It’s just that this world is hollow
and it wants to swallow every memory
of who you really are.”
Tears spill over as I know the lyrics that come next.
“So always remember to never forget
when you look in the mirror,
the answer is yes.
Yes, you are pure as gold,
Yes, you are beautiful,
So always remember to never forget,
always remember to never forget.”
My 7-month-pregnant belly bobs up and down with sobs. You see, this season has been one in which I struggle to feel worthy of anyone’s time or attention, especially because I come with a lot of needs—the need to rest a severely sprained ankle and go to physical therapy three days a week; the need to lie down to assuage powerful Braxton-Hicks contractions and pelvic pain. I need to have my fears seen and soothed about the rest of my pregnancy and birth process going poorly. I need to nap and be fed and held, just like a child in the arms of an attentive parent. I have begun to see my body as a limitation to abundance and strength, the growing bulkiness and ever-increasing lack of agility and energy feeding a quiet belief that I am no longer desirable or lovable.
I spend all day being the grown-up, being the body everyone else gleans life from.
Sometimes, I need the gentle invitation of my Father in heaven to dance and be delighted in.
The crumb-spattered floors between the oven and the sink became an altar of God’s presence, which wraps me up like a sherpa blanket and cuppa hot cocoa. I wipe wet hands on my apron and dance in the kitchen exactly as I am—no makeup, no stellar performance of any kind, no fancy vocational opportunities panning out, no magical increase in my bank account, just plain old everyday me being astonished by the great love of Christ in all its sensual dimensions.
As the song finishes, I do a few more gentle twirls about my small kitchen, letting go of the pressure I feel always to be working, proving my worth, and earning the love of my family and friends.
“…the life of Christ will be released deep inside you and the resting place of his love will become the very source and root of your life.” Ephesians 3:17 (TPT)
Pulling hot banana bread out of the oven, I feel renewed by Christ’s kind embrace and tender affirmations—yes, you are beautiful, yes, you are beautiful, yes, you are beautiful.
This is the kind of love I can slather with butter and stick a fork into, throwing every negative thought to the wind.
Kelsi Folsom has essays and poems published in Motherly, Coffee and Crumbs, Grit and Virtue, the DC-Area Moms Blog, Mothers Always Write, Voice of Eve, and elsewhere. She is the wife of a medical school student and a mom-to-four, navigating marriage and motherhood with black coffee, her library card, and a whole lot of prayer. She is the author of Buried in the Margins (Finishing Line Press, 2020) and poetry chapbook Words the Dirt Meant to Share (Desert Willow Press, 2018). She enjoys traveling with her family, connecting with friends, and occasionally putting her B.M. in Voice Performance to good use. You can find her on Instagram, her monthly newsletter Shameless Beauty Digest, and at her website.