With The Snap of a Shutter

A few months ago I smiled in this courtyard as the shutter snapped. My husband chased my son and tickled him into smiling.

We played peek-a-boo and cuddled up with a blanket.


And we stole kisses.


All captured on film. This moment, this season, was precious, and it needed to be saved. Preserved.


Only days after this my husband and I would fly to DC and he would begin a trial treatment for the aggressive cancer that had spread all throughout his body. I was keenly aware of what was coming. I knew the value of these pictures. I didn’t know what was ahead, but I knew our chances. As the shutter snapped I knew the very real possibility that these could be the last family pictures we would have of our family like this.



Going into it I felt nervous. There was a lot hanging over my head and somehow a lot hanging on these pictures too. I changed more times than I could count. I even put on a little makeup (which I hadn’t done in years) and quickly regretted it and wiped it off when my face broke out in hives. These pictures had to be perfect.


As I got closer I got more nervous. I hadn’t seen her in years. Tall and beautiful, she looked just like she had in high school, only now she held a camera so gracefully and naturally it looked as if it could be part of her. She smiled. We hugged. And instantly I felt at ease. Before long all of the pressure of the photos was gone. All that mattered was the moment.


The look we shared. The smile our daughter flashed. My son’s laugh.


It wasn’t a really long shoot. Thaddeus quickly lost interest despite our best attempts. But in that short time, even with a difficult preschooler, magic happened. The essence of our family was caught in the snapping of the shutter.

I stand in this spot now in a very different season, a very different place. Bryan’s cancer has shrunk by 75% since the time these pictures were captured. He lost his hair and it has begun to grow back – sprinkled white, the years this journey has put on us firmly visible to the world. The doctors remind us that we still aren’t out of the woods. The threat is still there. But it’s softening, fading, and not as prominent.

I stand here in this place now grateful for the precious season captured on film just a few short months ago. I stand here grateful for the hope of many more seasons to come.


If you are interested in seeing more work from this talented photographer, who I’m glad to call my friend, visit her web site.

Rejoicing in the journey,

If you like this post please consider buying me a cup of tea (Suggested: $3 a cup)

Self Care, Solitude, and Motherhood

The water runs over my hands as I scrub the crusted pot. My baby is snug in the wrap sucking the sweet life energy out of me as I stack dish after dish. I begin to smell the onions cooking on the stove and turn to give them a stir. My son comes running in asking me to fix a toy truck whose soft rubber wheel has snapped off. This multitasking of other people’s needs feels like my constant state.


The phone buzzes begging for attention and reminding me that it’s nearly time to pick my husband up at the bus stop. My mind returns again to the conversation I had early in the day.


“I don’t feel guilty for leaving them with him because I have them all week.” My friend’s casual relaxed statement plays around in my head over and over again. I feel almost jealous of her ability to separate from her children without guilt. I can’t even imagine leaving Bryan with the kids all weekend and not feeling guilty about it.


My mind wanders to the book sitting on the counter nearby.


“Herein lies one key to the problem. If women were convinced that a day off or an hour of solitude was a reasonable ambition, they would find a way of attaining it. As it is, they feel so unjustified in their demand that they rarely make the attempt…It is more a question of inner convictions than of outer pressures, though, of course, the outer pressures are there and make it more difficult. As far as the search for solitude is concerned, we live in a negative atmosphere as invisible, as all-pervasive and as enervating as high humidity on an August afternoon. The world today does not understand, in either man or woman, the need to be alone…

Actually these are among the most important times in one’s life – when one is alone. Certain springs are tapped only when we are alone…

Women’s life today is tending more and more toward the state William James describes so well in the German word, ‘Zerrissenheit – torn-to-pieces-hood.’ She cannot live perpetually in ‘Zerrissenheit.’ She will be shattered into a thousand pieces. On the contrary, she must consciously encourage those pursuits which oppose the centrifugal forces of today. Quiet time alone, contemplation, prayer, music, a centering line of thought or reading, of study or work. It can be physical or intellectual or artistic, any creative life proceeding from oneself. It need not be an enormous project or a great work. But it should be something of one’s own.”
Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gifts from the Sea


I have always longed for solitude, but I have never been very good at self care. Since having kids I’ve gotten even worse.


I know in my head that time alone has a great deal of value for me as an introvert. I have been told time and time again that not taking care of myself will backfire in the long run. I know that abandoning my needs for the needs of my husband and children, may seem like selflessness, but in reality it isn’t. But, somewhere in my heart I don’t believe these things. Somewhere in my heart I still feel that I am not worth the self care, that time in my own persuits isn’t valuable enough, that I am selfish if I don’t pour my whole self into my family every second of every day.


I turn back to the stubborn crusted food on the pot before me and a question rises in my mind.




HOW am I to find time for myself amidst family cares? HOW am I to find time alone with an active three year old and an 18 month old with special needs? And when if I do, HOW am I going to fight this devaluing of my own self worth, this voice that says I do not deserve it?


I have made some progress in this area since January. I have had a babysitter come one morning a week so that I can get some time to write. And every other Saturday morning I have left Bryan with the kids so that I could go teach yoga. And two or three times a month Bryan and I have left the kids for a much needed dinner date.


I am realizing  that the answer to the resounding how that echoes in the questions above is community. The only way I can get the space and time I need to fill my soul and feed my heart is by leaning on the people around me.


I dig my strength deeper into the burned sides of the crusted pan in the sink. This is were the real struggle arises for me.


Before kids it was easy enough to change around my schedule, reorder some priorities and get time to myself when I needed it. Even during busy seasons I could always find time to step out the front door and go for a long walk alone. Now there are two little people who rely on me utterly and completely. I am responsible for their well being, for meeting their needs and I have carried that weight heavily on my shoulders.


The only way for me to get time alone is for me to rely on other people almost as deeply as my children rely on me. I must ask for help. I must let my need be known. And I must trust someone else to be there, to meet my children’s needs in my absence.


This has been incredibly difficult for me, even with my husband. I feel immense guilt about leaving my children for any length of time with anyone I am not paying to be there. Even when I do pay someone to watch them I still feel deep guilt for spending money that we don’t have on something that feels unnecessary.


My phone buzzes again and I put down the sponge to read the message. My husband tells me he is almost at the bus stop. I decide to leave the pot to soak as I hurry to bundle the kids against the cold wind outside.


My friend’s words play again in my mind, “I don’t feel guilty for leaving them with him because I have them all week.” I realize I have a long way to go.


I also realize how vulnerable I feel in this need.


Lately, the small moments away have been life changing for me. On the weeks when they haven’t happened I have felt the void and wondered how I survived without them. In the past two weeks my weekly babysitter has gotten another job and been unable to come. My mother-in-law, who usually takes Thaddeus on Wednesdays so that we don’t have him during Sage’s therapy appointments, had to cancel twice. And Thaddeus was off school for a week.


I think of these things as I slip into my coat and feel the weight on my shoulders. How I long to slip the weight of motherhood off my shoulders if only for a few hours.


If I’m really going to get space to take care of my soul, I not only need to fight this feeling of guilt with all I have, I also have to be utterly dependent on other people.


So, I come back to the question…


How do I find space for myself? How do I consistently get the time alone I need, not just once a week or a few times a month, but regularly? How do I safeguard my time so that I can take care of myself despite the changes in others schedules?


I can’t say I have totally figured out the answers to these questions. But, one thing I’m realizing is that I need more than just a small handful of people I can depend on. I need a lot of people. I need a whole community of people I can call. I guess you could say I need a village.


What about you? How do you work time for yourself in amidst other responsibilities, especially the all consuming responsibilities of motherhood?


Rejoicing in the journey,
Bethany Stedman

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A Quick Peek Into A Family Tradition

This past weekend my sister-in-law got married and that meant there was lots of
family in town for the wedding. It was fun to catch up with so many people from bryan’s extended family on both his mom and dads side.
One of the events from the weekend was a very traditional Armenian BBQ with Bryan’s mom’s family – which meant lamb kabobs, along with LOTS of other food, and of course lots of vodka. It also meant Bryan’s grandpa and great uncle telling stories, papa quoting Limericks in German and plenty of funny and meaningful advice for the bride and groom. It was an experience to say the least.
I didn’t take many pictures during wedding week, but this was one event that
I’m glad I got a chance to pull my camera out for, even if I didn’t get that many pictures.
Heres a little peek into this family tradition…
Here’s Thaddeus having fun with his great uncle Geoff:
Here’s Blake and Papa working on the kabobs
Here’s the guys grilling and generally enjoying life
And the boys scolding the girls and saying that it was a boys only time
Thaddeus wanted to get in on the drinking action with the boys – here he is blowing bubbles in his milk
Here’s the beautiful bride – this pictures my favorite
Papa gave a great toast filled with funny stories and great advice
And we’ll end with the adorable couple listening to the toast
Fun times were definitely had by all.
Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

If you like this post please consider buying me a cup of tea (Suggested: $3 a cup)

Wedding Toast for Raul and Tamara

This past weekend my dear sister-in-law, Tamara, married the wonderful Raul Fernandez. Bryan and I were hoping for them to get together before the two of them even took notice of each other. They are a wonderful couple and it’s been so fun to watch there relationship develop and now to celebrate their marriage with them. Bryan and I both had the honor of standing up with them as they pledged their lives to one another and I had the extra honor of being asked to give a toast. As I’ve posted all my other wedding toasts here I thought would share this one with you all as well. Here it is:

In a quiet forest a beautiful girl walked a path alone. She loved her path, loved the quiet woods around her, loved where she had been and the unknown that stretched before her.

But, she was lonely. Sometimes she thought about going off the path, venturing out on her own, to find a friend, a partner – someone who she could walk with, someone who could help her up when she tripped, someone who would make the dark valleys a little brighter, and the high peaks a little less daunting. But, in the end she never wandered, she always came back to Trusting that the maker of the path knew what lay ahead and knew what was best for her. 

One day her path crossed with the path of a boy. It wasn’t the first time her path had crossed paths with a boy, but nothing ever really clicked with those other boys and their paths soon diverged. To all outward appearances, and even to the girl herself, this time seemed basically the same… at least at first.
The day the boy met the girl the boy said “hi” and the girl said “hello”. And they pretty much continued on their way. But, the girl knew that the boy’s path had not wondered far from her own. Sometimes she could hear him singing, sometimes she would sing back to him. They were sweet songs, but short and really not much to mention.
Then one day their paths crossed again. This time they took notice of one another. This time they stood a while and talked. This time they shared a simple first kiss. They looked out on each path which stretched before them and they could see that their paths would remain close and crossing for at least some time to come.

The boy reached out for the girls hand. The girl drew close and smiled. And on they continued along their paths, each holding the others hand. Sometimes their paths stretched further apart and they had to reach out to keep holding hands. Other times their paths crossed very close and they could whisper to one another in tones only young lovers use. 

One day the boy said, “will you?” and the girl said “yes”. Now their paths were so close they were almost indistinguishable…almost.
A short time past and then the boy said, “I do” and the girl said “I do”. On that day their separate paths became one path. And they walked on holding hands.
Now the boy would always have someone to help him up when he fell, and the girl would always have someone to help her over the boulders that they might sometimes find in their way. The boy and the girl would have each other to brighten the dark valleys, and make the high peaks seem less daunting. They could walk forward into the unknown trusting that the maker of the path, the one who brought them together, would guide them each step of the way ahead. 

Tamara and Raul, may you walk hand in hand wherever the future takes you. May you lift each other up without judgement when you fall. May you help each other over the hurdles that may stand in your way. May you make the dark valleys brighter for each other and the high peaks less challenging to climb. When the path before you twists and turns out of view, and fog covers each step of the way, may you hold each others hands a little tighter and walk forward bravely, trusting that God walks beside you and will lead you safely onward. 

And now, would you all raise your glasses with me in celebration of a boy finding a girl, in joy of God leading two people together, and in expectation of a love that will reach far into the future. To Tamara and Raul! We love you! 

Rejoicing in the journey –

If you like this post please consider buying me a cup of tea (Suggested: $3 a cup)

Thaddeus is One Now!

Sunday was my son’s first birthday. I’ve been looking forward to this day since he was first born! SERIOUSLY.

The early baby stage was so hard for me, and even though I’m sure 1 has its own challenges, 1 means he’s closer to being able to communicate and that makes me really excited! With as much as I have been anticipating this day, and with as SLOW as the past year has seemed to me, I was really surprised by how emotional I ended up being. By the end of the day I just felt so sad. I have no desire to go back or prolong the baby stage, but as I lay in bed nursing my beautiful little baby I was struck (perhaps for the first time) with the FULL realization that this season is limited. During much of the past year I felt like he would NEVER grow up and now I realize he’s actually growing up rather quickly and before I know it he won’t want to nurse or cuddle or fall asleep by my side. Before I know it he will be big and independent and although there is a part of me that wants that, there is also a part of me that felt a little pain in my heart at the thought. It’s amazing how conflicting the emotions of motherhood can be at times.

Anyway, we had a really nice day and a very nice little birthday brunch for Thaddeus. We tried to keep it small and just had 4 other families there, but with everyone’s kids it ended up being a pretty good size group. Bryan and I made this wonderful homemade doughnut recipe (I used unrefined cane sugar instead of honey for the babies). I also made an egg and spinach dish and baked oatmeal. Our friends brought fruits and walnuts picked from the tree in their backyard. We eat and the kids played and then Thad opened his presents, which were each so perfect. After that everyone joined us in praying a liturgy that Bryan and I wrote when Thad was born – we made a few tweaks to it so that it fit more with the 1st birthday occasion.

Here is a little video showing random little bits of the day:

Here is a picture of me and my little man on his 1st birthday:


If you have kids what did you do for their first birthday and how did you feel about them turning 1?

Do any of you know what you did for YOUR 1st birthday?

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

If you like this post please consider buying me a cup of tea (Suggested: $3 a cup)