The First Christa

When I was in college, the president of my university gave a speech that made a lasting impression on me, about how we make choices, and that limits the other choices we can make. I appreciated it because it was really thoughtful and honest, like he was preparing us for adulthood: “You’re going to have to make choices. That’s great! How lucky you are to have choices! When you do make those choices, there are other choices that will no longer be available to you. That’s called growing up.”

I’m in my late 30s now, and I’ve made a lot of choices. With that has come the bittersweetness of knowing (or wondering if) there are things that aren’t available to me anymore. It is bitter in the sense of grieving the loss of things that I thought might be – but aren’t. It is sweet because I have received what I wanted most.

Last night, Mike came home from dinner with a colleague we had both known in CA. He said that she had asked how I was doing, and that he had told her, “She’s busy being the first Christa.”

The first Christa! Ha!! There remain many fewer “first” or “youngest ever” opportunities for me. But Mike sees that I am trying to very carefully create a life that reflects my deepest values and to be the best mother I can be to Emma and Maggie, who have never had any mother ever before. I am trying to not waste a drop of this one wild and precious life.

Being named the first Christa is the best birthday gift I received this week.

And you are the first you! Congratulations!!! You must be so proud. ❤️

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22 year old me in Cambridge, England. It’s one of my favorites, as it was taken at a time when I was trying very hard to become the first Christa.
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My Mom Career

After getting a master’s in international relations, I started my career, supporting a campaign to end the genocide in Darfur. Then I helped create a nonprofit that partnered with locally-led initiatives in Rwanda to provide job training and education.

One of the things I observed while I was doing this work was how fiercely African mamas worked to take care of their families and others in their community. I use mama in a broad sense: all the women who nurture, from biological mothers to young women who, as teenagers, took in smaller children after the Rwandan genocide and raised them. I felt a conviction, for lack of a better word, that the most powerful, most influential thing anyone could ever do was take care of their closest community, starting with their selves and their families, and moving out in an ever-widening circle of compassion.

This shift in the way I was thinking about my work happened at the same time that I was, unexpectedly, becoming a biological mother myself. In several different ways, I moved from my “big” work to the very immediate work of growing a child.

Continuing to create my life – including my career – in the years since has been a sometimes pain-staking process that has required a lot of grace (from my self to my self) and patience and trusting that if I take a step, the path will appear. I still have to trust that, every day. I want to make the world a better place. I also want to be there to pick my daughter up from the bus stop in the afternoon. The meta shift in my thinking about what it means to serve my community exists alongside the real-life practice of caring for my family.

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I took this photo at a conference I attended this week, to look back on as a reminder that, as difficult and scary as it can be trying to create one’s own path of career and parenting, I am incredibly grateful that I’ve been able to do what I love most, which is: first, to love on my babies, and second, to build stronger communities through health and education access.

The topic of this education conference is the Future of Work. I hope to support educators preparing young people for meaningful, self-sustaining careers that allow them to be their best selves and take care of their families and communities. We all deserve that.

If This Isn’t Nice

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I’ve been experiencing some early midlife restlessness lately. The older I grow, the more choices I have made, and those necessarily limit the opportunities still available to me. It turns out that I’m not going to be the youngest person ever elected to Congress. (There’s still time to be the youngest person elected President, so stay tuned.)

However it also turns out that I do have a yoga practice. That was on the Person I Want to Be list that I made in my early 20s.

And tonight the girls and I ate dinner outside in the dark because it is the first warm night of the year. As we carried the candles outside, Maggie said, “This is the best day of my life.”

So there’s that.

Years pass and choices are made and possibilities change. Am I still becoming the person I wanted to be? Would I trade my four year old’s pronouncement, “This is the best day of my life,” for any other award?

If this isn’t nice, what is?

Praise report

I’m a big believer in Praise Reports, as we used to call them in Sunday School. Not because I want to make my life look like it’s perfect – you know I’m also a big believer in #keepingitreal.

I believe in Praise Reports because gratitude and contentment are practices, and I have found the more I practice, the more natural they feel. I believe in Praise Reports because I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety for a long, long time, and one of the most powerful antidotes is having a full cup emotionally. So when I experience goodness, I try to let it all in, drink it up, get full.

So. Praise Report: I love having returned to my job as a freelance fundraiser/grantwriter/social media guru. I’m currently focused on the last bit, and I love that I get paid to use social media to communicate. I find it engaging and exciting and meaningful. And fun. Did I mention fun?

And I love that I have more afternoons to pick this girl up from the bus stop. Just look at her. Those ridiculous dimples. Those eyes through which her smart and funny and creative soul shines. The upturned cuffs of her jeans with her Chuck Taylors, which I know she planned just so, because she loves putting outfits together, and I could see her being some sort of designer one day.

Praise Report. And all God’s children said, Amen.

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