Saturday, December 28, 2013

Hey Jude... The Newborn Edition

Hey Jude,
You are officially ten days old today.  I am holding you far more than I ever thought I would, running the supposed risk of spoiling you.  But I don't care.  You will never be ten days old again, and so my goal is to get as much of ten-day-old you as I possibly can.  And you don't mind.  You like being held and fed and read to.  And so I will do those things today.

I have taken a thousand pictures in the last ten days.  You are very photogenic.  You smile and scrunch up your face and yawn at just the right times, and I snap twenty pictures in a 30 second period, certain that one of them will be perfectly adorable.  And I am usually right.  Those pictures get posted on Facebook and Instagram so that people can appreciate your cuteness the way I do.  (Looks aren't everything, buddy, but you are very, very cute)  But I have to tell you that one of my favorite pictures from the night you were born isn't a picture of you at all.  It's a picture of me.  And while that sounds a little prideful, let me assure you that it isn't a cute picture of me.  In fact, it's not very attractive at all.  Before this picture was taken, I had experienced a little bit of trauma.  I had endured an epidural, a significant and scary blood pressure drop (risking my health and yours), a lot of nausea and throwing up, and had several anxiety attacks.  Plans changed.  I ended up in the operating room instead of the delivery room.  I was afraid.  I begged for your dad to come pray with me.  I tried to breathe through the fear.  As they began the process of bringing you into the world, I was a mess.  And then, I heard you.

You screamed before they ever fully removed you from my belly.  You were incredibly loud.  Great lungs, sweet boy, which is good news for your music loving parents.  We have high hopes for you.  And from the moment I heard you crying, my fear and sickness took a backseat to sheer and complete relief. You were alive and breathing and you were here.  Finally.

This picture of me is not just about that night.  It's about the 36 years that came before it.  It's about me at the age of five getting my first Cabbage Patch Kid from Pauline Turner, the mother of my first grade boyfriend.  The doll's name was Gizela Xena and she had red hair in pigtails and green eyes, just like me.  And I loved her.  Caring for her became my job.  Motherhood was important, and I took my responsibilities seriously.  Over the years, I collected four more Cabbage Patch Kids, and I remember each of their names with the exception of the newborn doll I received for Christmas in 1987.  (Don't worry, I won't forget your name.)  But even in those years, I dreamed of you.  Of my own baby that I would get to hold and feed and change. I could entertain myself for hours with the practices of motherhood.

This picture is about your Uncle Adam being born.  I was almost 12, and I mothered him as much as I could get away with.  I put him to bed each night, singing him to sleep in Spanish and German.  I made him alphabet flashcards when he was a toddler, certain that he would end up a genius as a result.  In high school, I babysat many Friday nights so that Nana and Papa could go to the antique auction.  We always had fun things planned on those nights, usually a trip to Peter Piper Pizza (because who doesn't like pizza and games? Oh, and exchanging tickets for prizes.)

This picture is about my growing up and the dream of you becoming more real.  As I got closer to being an adult, I babysat other people's kids.  I changed diapers and I learned about putting babies on schedules.  I mixed rice cereal and warmed up bottles.  I loved other people's kids as I waited to be ready for my own.  And even though you were a long way off, I still thought about the day you would be born.

This picture is about when I married your dad, and I was ready for you.  He wanted to wait just a little while.  And so I cried a little, and I begged a little.  And I told him about how old I was, and how I felt like I didn't have much time.  Your dad is a nice, sympathetic guy, and so before long, we made a plan.  And the plan didn't go how we thought it might.  It took some time and some hard things.  But eventually, we found out you were coming.  And I was scared.  I was fearful something would go wrong.  And at every doctor's appointment we received the good news that you were just fine.  I would hear your little heartbeat, and I would cry.  I would watch you growing like you should, and I would breathe a sigh of relief.  And everyday, I would try to remember to be thankful for that particular day with you, knowing very well that our days are not guaranteed and not wanting to take one moment for granted.

This picture is about the last weeks of my pregnancy when I couldn't sleep or walk or sit without discomfort.  It's about backaches and heartburn and being so anxious to see you.  It's about the tears and the prayers prayed on your behalf.  Because even though were you were mine long before I saw your wrinkly face and heard you cry, in this moment, you felt like mine.  I felt like your mom.  In this moment, God honored the hope that He put in my heart decades ago.  In this moment, years of faith became sight.  I am so thankful.  I am crying here, sweet boy, but I assure you that there is nothing but happiness behind those tears.  Happiness and perfect contentment.  I am so glad you are finally here.  I have been waiting.


Monday, November 25, 2013

The Baby and his Swimming Pool... (Alternate title: You will not be skinny when you give birth)

Disclaimer: When I lost my first baby, I read a book by multiple authors that had each lost a child, and one of the authors referenced her lack of ability to sympathize with exhausted new moms or with frazzled mothers of multiple children.  She said, "We can only know our own kind of grief".  And while this pregnancy and baby is something for which I am entirely grateful, it is hard for me to channel the kind of longing I felt before I was pregnant.  I can only channel back pain right this second.  So this is no disrespect to my time of infertility or to those women who long to be pregnant.  That pain is real, just like this is.  And to my new mommy friends who are up every two hours feeding a baby and to my friends who spend their days chasing children and cleaning up messes, yours is real, too.  Let's embrace the realness of the pain and the blessings of the moment.  

When a woman gets pregnant for the first time, she thinks that she will be one of the lucky ones.  You know the type.  The kind of girl that stays perfectly sized with the exception of the tiniest of baby bumps.  No stretch marks.  Not one moment of morning sickness.  No food aversions.  No mood swings.  No swelling.  No sleeping problems.  Just nine months of birds singing and preparing a sweet little nursery for the easy arrival of the cutest little bundle of joy that never cries and sleeps through the night immediately.

Well, for those of you who have yet to be pregnant, this girl doesn't exist.  Or maybe she does and I don't know her.  But either way, you will not be her.  If she is real, she is the exception and not the rule.  You will not be her.  I cannot stress that enough.  The odds are not in your favor.

When I was barely 10 weeks along, I developed something called meralgia parasthetica. Basically it's just a pinched nerve in my hip.  But what it means is that when I lie down on my left or right side, my left hip goes completely numb.  And it's not a "oh, I can't feel anything" kind of numbness, it's an overwhelming "I wish I could cut off my left leg at the hip" kind of painful numbness that only makes sense if you are the one experiencing it.  The doctor's solution is to give birth.  That will solve the problem.  Excellent.  Except not.  25 weeks down, only 5 more to go.

And since about 22 weeks, people have been commenting on my size.  And for whatever reason, complete strangers feel the freedom to make remarks about the size of my belly.  I am inclined to do the same about them, pregnant or no.  It might shut some of them up.  But at my 28 week appointment, the doctor seemed a little concerned, so he requested an ultrasound for my next appointment.  At 30 weeks, they told me.  There it was in ominous red print on a black and white sheet of paper: polyhydramnios.  I was give the paper with no explanation and was told to wait for the doctor.  So I did what any smartphone owning girl would do... I googled it.

I have been warned not to google medical terms.  WebMD is not our friend.  But I did it anyway, and it scared the bejesus out of me.  I had a quick meltdown and decided to wait to hear what the doctor had to say.  And basically, this was her diagnosis.

You have a lot of amniotic fluid in there.  A whole lot.  Doesn't seem to be a problem.  Baby is fine.  A LOT of fluid.

And that was that.

Every week since then, I have been back for an ultrasound.  Tiny gets checked.  They make sure he can move and breathe (practice breathing, anyway) and that he is growing appropriately.  He is doing all of those things.  He is a big boy.  He passes every test.  He is a genius already.

And then there's me.  I am huge.  Measuring about 42 weeks at 36 weeks.  My maternity clothes are tight.  There is not one sleeping position that is comfortable.  Either my hips hurt or my back hurts or more often, both hurt.  I can't stand without severe back pain and Braxton Hicks contractions.  I am way past waddling. I am barely moving.  And everyone comments.  Everyone.  Cashiers.  Little old ladies in the grocery store.

When are you due?

And my new answer is "Any day now" because I want it to be true.

My dreams of the tiny baby belly are gone.  I am full fledged pregnant lady sized (and then some).  I have thrown up in my kitchen sink on a day when I could not make it to the bathroom on time.  A huge portion of my belly rests in my lap when I sit.  If I am wearing a dress, I literally tuck part of the dress in between my stomach and my legs so it doesn't feel so disgusting.  I really do this.  Peanut butter gives me heartburn.  I gag when I try to eat spaghetti sauce.  I went to the store the other day wearing flip flops in the freezing cold (and with the world's most chipped pedicure) because Jake wasn't here to tie my tennis shoes.  I just can't reach them anymore.  The only comfortable place to sit in my whole house is a vintage yellow chair that doesn't hurt my back too much, as long as I don't sit there very long.  Climbing into Jake's truck is like a scene from an old black and white slapstick comedy.  I cry every time Jake says something that hits me the wrong way.  I laughed uncontrollably through the relaxation portion of my prenatal classes.  I laughed so hard that I literally had mascara smeared across my face at the end.  I almost had an accident right then and there.  Jake was mortified.  And so was I... kind of.  I am too tired to feel too much embarrassment.  And this baby that should be feeling a little confined in a tiny little hot tub sized pool of amniotic fluid is actually swimming in his own Olympic sized pool.  Seriously, he can do the backstroke in there.  That's how much room he has.  

And there are other things.  Things I can't mention.  Things I wouldn't dare talk about for the sake of propriety and the fact that boys read this blog on occasion.  But you women who have been through this.  You know.  You know what they are.  And I am a little mad that you didn't tell me they were coming.  You could have at least warned me.

So my cutesy pregnant girl expectations are long gone.  And before I know it, this baby will be here.  My idyllic new mom expectations will also be gone with sleepless nights and spit up and diaper explosions.  And my body will still look pregnant for a while, even though it's not.  There will be a new set of things to laugh at myself for (and to cry over) then.

But for today, I'll be here in my yellow chair.  I won't get up much, except to go to the bathroom every five minutes and to grab my bottle of Tums.  And this sweet baby will keep growing and swimming for a few more weeks.  But if you need us, you'll know where to find us.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Loss and Lifelock

It happens almost everyday.  It's part of the job, I guess.  As I am enrolling people in identity theft protection, I transfer them to an automated system to collect their social security number, they transfer back to me, and then I have to read this.  It's a required part of the script.  I read the excerpt that tells them that they can add identity protection for their spouse.  Some people get angry because they think their enrollment should cover a spouse.  Some laugh and tell me they are happily single.  But there are others that get to me.  Sometimes they get quiet.  Sometimes they announce it in a matter-of-fact manner.  And sometimes they say it with a freshness that makes their pain feel tangible, even through the phone.  They tell me their spouse has died.  Most of the time they tell me exactly how long it has been, as if they have been adding up each day in their head, waiting for the next month or year to pass.  Many times they tell me how it happened.  But almost every time I want to cry.  Not just because I am pregnant and emotional, although that can't help.  But because when I look at the ages of these people, I can't help but think about how many years they spent together.  I think about what they have lost.

I make friends with these people.  Not all of them, but the nice ones I do.  (I just don't tell them to have a blessed day anymore, since it's strictly forbidden.)  They tell me stories about their life and and their kids and their travels and for some of them, I may be the only conversation they have during the day.  Those people are the ones that really like to talk.  Yesterday I spoke to a sweet bubbly woman in Oklahoma.  When I asked about her enrolling her spouse, she told me that he died eight years ago.  She referred to him as her "honey", and she said she still couldn't believe that he had the nerve to leave her since they had so much more life to live together.  I told her that I was sorry, but that she seemed happy.  She laughed as she said that she knew that her husband would come back to haunt her if he ever caught wind that she wasn't living life to the fullest without him.  But still, I could hear it.  She still feels the loss of him.

Today it was a man in his 80's.  His wife has been gone for four years.  When I asked for his email address, he said he didn't even know how to turn on the computer he owned.  He said that for the four years since his wife had passed, it had been sitting in the other room, and he hadn't ever attempted to use it.  When I asked for his phone number, he laughed and said he couldn't remember it exactly.  And so I laughed.  And then he said it wasn't funny to be old and to not be able to remember things like that.  And I had to agree.  It is probably scary.  And he could barely read his credit card number from his card.  He repeated it three times before realizing that one of the 8's was really a 3.  (I would like to recommend that credit card companies remedy this by creating optional large print easy-to-read cards for senior citizens.)  He said that his home had been broken into in the last week, and the thieves took his 70-year-old rifle and his deceased wife's diamond jewelry out of her jewelry box.  He lives on a farm, and he is afraid that one day while he is out, they will come back for more. (I kind of want to find those thieves and give them a spanking.)  And at the end of the call, he apologized for telling me so many stories.  He said I was "awful nice", and then he apologized twice for using the word "awful" to describe me.  I laughed and told him that I understood exactly what he meant and that it was just fine.

Lately I have been missing children's ministry.  I miss teaching school.  I miss the regular contact with little people.  I miss teaching them about who God is and how much He loves them.  I miss making a difference, hopefully a positive one, in the day of a kid.  And it's hard to feel like my work makes a difference, like it really means something.  But some days, I get the right kind of call.  I get the person who is at home all day alone by themselves.  And they have a lifetime of wisdom and stories and they have no one to tell them to.  And on those days, I listen.  I laugh at their stories.  I slow waaaaay down so that they can understand what I am saying.  I yell a little louder when they can't hear me.  I tell them that I am happy to wait as long as they need me to so that they can go find their social security number because they can't remember it on their own anymore.  I wait as they look around the house for their phone number.  I agree when they talk about how the world has become scary and that the government can't be trusted*.  I express my condolences over the loss of the people they love, no matter how long it's been, because I would guess it would still hurt even after years have passed.

So when I think about it, this is important, too.  This little bit of listening and showing patience and compassion.  This little bit of being Jesus to people... even people I don't know and will never meet.  And I have three more weeks of it before I go on maternity leave.  So for three more weeks, I will listen to stories over the phone and show kindness whenever I can.  I will give people peace of mind in the form of identity theft protection for a simple $9 a month, although I would give it for free if I could.  I will say little prayers for them when I hang up the phone.  And for now, that will be enough.

And because I can tell you with no penalty or repercussions, please have a blessed day.

*For the record, I don't think either political party can really be trusted.  End of political commentary.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Ten Things I Can't Do at 30 Weeks Pregnant

Ten more weeks.  I am 75% done with this pregnancy.  And in honor of the ten weeks left in Tiny Turner's gestational period, I am going to share my list of ten things that I am incapable of doing at this point.  Some are recent developments, and some have been plaguing me since this baby was the size of a sweet pea.  But they are very real.  And here they are, in no particular order... Things I can't do.

1. Sleep through the night.  I am preparing for the arrival of my newborn.  I get up every few hours to use the restroom, roll over in bed (this is a far more complicated process than it sounds), and to transfer from the bed to the couch (and back again, when time permits).  It's glorious, really.  The second I change sleep positions, my acrobat baby thinks it's time to practice for his career as a Cirque de Soleil performer.  It's cute.  For the first 15 seconds.  And then I pray for the half Unisom pill I took before bedtime to kick in and to override the in-belly baby circus so that I can rest.  It usually works.

2. Sleep without a pillow fort.  I like to call this Pillowpalooza.  I have a pregnancy pillow (a Snoogle, seen above... it's amazing), a body pillow (complete with silk pillowcase to prevent facial wrinkles), and a large collection of regular sized pillows.  I love it.  Jake loves the 1/4 of the bed he gets to sleep on.

3. Live without Tums.  It's amazing.  It can strike at any time.  Thirty seconds after I eat.  Four hours after I eat.  Sometimes when I haven't eaten anything at all.  Doesn't matter.  Heartburn just shows up whenever it chooses.  I hate heartburn.

4. Get up from my chair without the support of my arms.  I don't know exactly what to attribute it to.  Lack of working out so the muscles in my legs have disappeared?  Body totally off balance?  Either way, my arms get a workout every time I stand.  Hoisting myself up from a seated position is not the least attractive thing I do at this point, but it's close.  

5. Sit like a lady.  Crossed legs, at the knees or the ankles.  This is how I generally sit.  However, due to this thirty pound belly (let's play like the belly is where this all of this extra thirty pounds has landed), I sit like a man.  Not in public, I promise.  It's not comfortable to have your own belly resting on your lap.  It's just creepy.  So in the comfort of my own home, I sit however I like, even if it's not cute.  Side note: we went to a cloth diapering class several weeks ago, and we discovered a large percentage of the pregnant women in attendance chose to sit like a man even in this public setting.  I felt validated.

6. Use a regular bathroom stall.  Don't worry, I won't get into anything personal here.  However, when I go to exit the regular-sized public restroom stall, I have issues.  Standing directly in front of the toilet, facing the door does not allow room for the huge belly.  There just isn't room to pull the door all the way in and past the belly so that I can exit.  So I either end up leaning backwards, which is difficult when my balance is already iffy, in order to allow the door to pass or I resort to turning around and contorting my right arm around behind my back to open the door.  Or I just use the handicap stall, which also has the bonus of the handicap rail (please see #4).

7. Show any range of emotion without tears.  I can be happy or angry or embarrassed or stressed or scared or tired, and you will never know which one it is.  Because all I do is cry.  I am either completely fine and normal or I am crying.  Those are the only options.

8. Be sympathetic to other people's aches and pains.  Poor Jake.  I am sure he has experienced illness and soreness over the past 7 months, but do I actively care?  Can I care?  Not really.  Not right now.  I love him, and I do care about his physical troubles in theory.  But it seems that when he complains about his sore knee, all I can think about is how my back has been aching for the past 5 hours and how I can't get off my own couch without assistance.  And I just look at him with a blank stare that says "Don't even get me started".  I'm sure I am a joy to live with.

9. Shave my legs, paint my toenails, pick up anything off the ground.  Basically I can't do anything that requires me bending over at the waist.  A week or so ago I bought a piece of wrapped dark chocolate.  As I walked out of the grocery store, I accidentally dropped it on the ground.  I stood there for a good long while, trying to determine if it was worth attempting to pick up.  After all, I could bend at the knees and risk never getting back up without someone there to help me.  Or I could bend over at the waist, which would give me a better chance of returning to a standing position, but risk being highly unladylike with my backside in the air and increasing my chances of toppling over altogether.  At 28 weeks, I chose to pick it up.  At 30 weeks, I would probably just leave it.  And it was chocolate.  That's how you know it's serious business.

10.  Talk, walk, sleep, eat, climb stairs without sounding like an asthmatic.  I work as a telemarketer.  And several weeks ago my supervisor called me into the office to tell me that I was taking breathing pauses in odd places.  Her goal was to coach me into sounding more natural and normal.  Generally, I am happy for the constructive criticism.  I want to be better at my job.  But in this situation I just wanted to yell at her and ask her if she happened to notice to giant baby that I am carrying that compresses my lungs to the point of near asphyxiation.  And I wanted to cry.  (See #7)  Thankfully, I did neither.  Last week I was the top salesperson in my department.  Take that, supervisor.  It seems that callers don't mind that I sound like I am running a marathon when all I am doing is talking and typing.

Needless to say, I am anxious.  Anxious to meet this baby.  Anxious to obtain some of the mobility that I have lost during this pregnancy.  I know a newborn baby will bring it's own set of issues, things I won't be able to do once he arrives.  But I will be able to paint my toenails and lean over to pick up my shoes and take a deep breath. At least I can do those things if I choose to.  In the meantime, I will be tired, I will cry, and I will take shallow breaths.  And I will be very, very careful with my chocolate.

*Thanks to my sweet friends on my December 2013 Moms Facebook group for their helpful suggestions and contributions to this blog post.  I am incredibly thankful that we are all going through this together.*

Monday, September 23, 2013

Three years and counting...

Three years ago yesterday I started this blog.  I started with no real goal in mind.  I just knew I had stories to tell and I needed an outlet to tell them.  I put out a request on Facebook for name suggestions.  I signed up for a Blogger account.  And The Potluck Diaries was born.

Over the past three years, my life has changed.  I have been through breakups... thank heavens those days are over.  I met Jake and got married.  We moved and then moved and then moved again.  We are really tired of moving.  We have made friends and said goodbye to others.  We have experienced loss and then the thrill of a new little life growing.  And through all of this, I have experienced God's goodness and grace and have been able to share those things with all of you.  I have told my stories and then listened as you told yours back to me.  And I am humbled by your honesty and openness.

I am not as faithful to writing as I used to be, but I am still here and the stories are still swirling around in my head.  Soon I will be writing blogs between feeding a baby and washing cloth diapers.  I believe it can be done.  So here's to another three years of changes.  You keep reading, I'll keep writing.  Thanks for joining me on my little blogging journey.  We have made it three years.  Congratulations to us.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Does Jesus Care?

Several weeks ago I had a meltdown.  Several meltdowns, in fact.  I was mostly just feeling sorry for myself, but all I could think about was how I had just a few months to prepare for our baby's arrival and we had nothing done.  A girlfriend sent me pictures of her sweet little nursery, and though I was thrilled for her, I felt a wave of sadness that in my baby's room is nothing but furniture I need to sell and a few small boxes of thoughtful baby gifts given to me by friends and family.  I had been on the lookout for used furniture, sure that I would come across the things I needed.  Sure that they would be bargain priced.  But the sad reality was, even if I found something that would work, I didn't have the extra money to buy it.  By shopping, I felt like I was doing something, but I didn't have the money to spend even if I found what I needed.  And I was heartbroken.  I was genuinely sad.  I wanted to be buying room decorations.  I wanted to be working on little craft projects for our nursery.  I wanted to wash loads of tiny laundry and put them into a baby's dresser.  And I couldn't.  The money just wasn't there.  And so I did what all good pregnant girls do.  I cried.

I had a dollar amount in mind.  It was a stretch.  I knew it was.  But I figured that if I had THIS amount of money, I would be able to do it all.  Buy used furniture and repaint.  Start our stash of newborn cloth diapers.  Purchase vintage toy decorations.  Our baby would be set... if only I had this amount of money.  On one of my meltdown days, I said it out loud in a conversation to Jake.  I want THIS amount of money.  I cried, he listened, and I worked out how I could spend it.  And we both knew it wasn't realistic.  Not even a little.  And I would like to say that we both got down on our knees right then and there and had a Turner family prayer meeting about it.  But we didn't.  It was mentioned in conversation.  Jake did pray for me and for the sadness that I was feeling.  And then we moved on.

Fast forward one week.  I was on the phone with Jake.  He was at work, and I was at home.  I walked to the mailbox, and I opened it up.  Bill.  Bill.  Another bill.  And then... a card.  It was in a tiny envelope.  When I opened it up, it took my breath away.  For a second or two I couldn't say anything.  Jake thought something was wrong, and I couldn't get the words out to reassure him.  Nothing was wrong.  Inside this card was a check.  And the check was for exactly twice the amount I had mentioned in our conversation the week before.  Twice.  And I cried again.  That's what I do these days.

I should not be surprised, really.  I have had so many direct answers to prayers, but this wasn't really a prayer exactly.  But there I stood, exactly one week after had given voice to my sadness and my desire, with an answer in hand.  More than an answer.  An answer times two. An answer I could not have planned or predicted or worked out on my own.  A God-orchestrated response to the longings of His child.  Something only HE could do.

Since that day, this song has been in the forefront of my mind.  It's an old hymn, long ago replaced by newer songs.  But sometimes only the old songs will do.

Does Jesus care when my heart is pained
Too deeply for mirth or song,

As the burdens press, and the cares distress,

And the way grows weary and long?

Oh, yes, He cares, I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary,
I know my Savior cares.

And he does.  God cares about the things spoken and the things unspoken.  He cares about me, six months pregnant, crying because my baby does not have a room.  (He will soon. Just you wait and see!)  He cares about you wherever you are, whatever you are doing, however you are feeling.  The smallest detail of your day, He cares about that.  The thing you feel but cannot say out loud.  He cares about that.  And He is a God that is willing to prove it, over and over again.  

Friday, August 16, 2013

Are There no Graves in Egypt?

Last month I taught our high school Sunday school class out of Exodus.  The story is a familiar one, but there is something about reading Old Testament stories again in detail.  I love paying attention to the way things are worded, to the exact dialogue that takes place beneath the familiar story line.  The children of Israel have just witnessed the power of God in the ten plagues.  They have finally escaped from Egypt, carrying with them the silver and gold and clothing that the Egyptians had given them, eager to get God's people out of the land.  They were led by a cloud and a pillar of fire, which I, for one, would love to have seen.  They have just seen miracles with their own eyes.  And still... when they were face to face with the Red Sea, they turned back and saw Pharoah and his army approaching, they freaked out.  I would have, too, I think.  Despite all that they had seen.  Despite the fact that God had just shown himself powerful and capable.  Despite the fact that He had delivered them.  They began to voice their panic.  

Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?

Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.

So dramatic.  And I get it.  Their lives were on the line here.  The lives of their children were in danger.  There was nowhere to go, it seemed.  But it's easy for me to feel judgment when I read this story.  It's easy for me to think "Why are you faithless people worried when God is about to deliver you in a huge way?!".  After all, I have read the whole story.  I know how it all works out.  But I feel for them, you know.  Because I am just the same.

We moved to Tennessee because we were supposed to.  There were lots of things we didn't know, but we knew it was the right thing to do.  And we knew that God doesn't lead anywhere that He doesn't already have provision planned.  So we came.  And here we are.  I have been casually looking for a job to supplement Jake's church salary since we arrived, but last month we saw the last of my school contract paychecks.  So now, it is serious.  The situation.  The job search.  Now, it feels a little more pressing.  And in addition to regular living expenses, we have a baby coming.  Babies are expensive.  Life is expensive.    

Yesterday, I had a little standing-by-the-Red-Sea moment.  I had a second job interview at a job that was too far away and didn't pay enough.  I redid our budget AGAIN to see if there was any way to make things work until I found a job.  I felt very overwhelmed.  Nothing was falling into place.  I felt that there was nowhere to go.  No jobs to be found.  No opportunities coming my way.  And time felt like it was closing in on me. Only four months until this baby arrives.  

I started thinking about Dallas.  I could have gone back to teach for another year.  I love the school and I love teaching.  We had a job offer in Texas.  We had friends.  Our family is there.  Couldn't God have left us there and taken care of us?  Weren't we better off financially?  And yet... that was not where God kept us.  He moved us here.  And we love it.  We do.  But sometimes it's hard to see how He is going to come through.  It's terrifying to stand here looking towards the Red Sea of tomorrow and have no idea how we are going to get across.

But here is what I know.  Just like the Israelites had seen God move and work, I have seen God move and work.  Over the last twelve months, our financial situation has been a roller coaster of no paychecks, reduced paychecks, and then no paychecks again.  And you know what?  God miraculously came through for us.  We have had more than what we needed.  We have come out of Egypt with silver and gold.  We have been taken care of.  And God didn't bring us to Tennessee to abandon us.  He didn't move us here, only to leave us to fend for ourselves.  This is not who He is.  It is not how He works.  

Your Red Sea and mine might be different things entirely, but they feel the same.  Yours can feel just as terrifying.  And because we know the rest of the story, we know the way things ended, we can rest in knowing that God has something up his sleeve.  I have said it a thousand times, and I will say it again... He has provision planned before we ever have a need.  So hang out here with me.  Stand next to the Red Sea without fear.  Enjoy the breeze off the water.  Ignore the enemy behind you. Wait for the waters to part.  Change is coming.  Deliverance is on its way.  

Thursday, August 8, 2013

It's a Miracle

I should be having a baby today.  August 8.  This was the estimated due date for our first little one, and today, the reality of it is kind of settling in.  If everything had gone according to my plan, I'd have a baby... or be very close to it.  And though I am completely in love with this new little life inside of me, and we have been carrying on conversations between us today, me talking to him and him responding with little kicks here and there, I am very aware of what could have been.  I know what I have lost.

I am involved with several online pregnancy groups.  My favorite one is for those of us who are pregnant after a loss.  We know each other's pains and fears, and it really helps to have other people who are in the same situation to speak some truth into the crazy.  And there is a saying that is often repeated... Most pregnancies end in a baby.  And they do.  It happens everyday.  Perfectly healthy babies are born.  Parents take pictures and visitors ooh and aah over tiny feet and little red, swollen faces.  And the average person expects it.  I expected it.  We expect that when we see two pink lines or we hear of them, in 8 or so months, a healthy baby will enter into the world.  We never expect the worst... until it happens.

Over the last few months, I have seen some really sad things.  A friend's baby was diagnosed with Trisomy 18 and he probably will not make it to full term.  Another has spina bifida.  I have seen many announcements of losses, both early and late.  Some of these women are real fighters.  They have lost multiple babies during pregnancy, and somehow they keep going.  There is so much loss. Just this week, another friend delivered a 7 ounce baby at 21 weeks.  She is heartbroken, and so are we.  And the weight of these stories feels so heavy.  They are big and real and they deserve to be grieved.

I do not tell you all of this to be morbid.  I tell you this because when I see the reality of loss, I just have to see the contrast.  I have to marvel at all of the life I see around me.  My mother had six children, and though she experienced her own losses, all six of us were birthed into this world healthy.  I have eleven nephews and nieces, and other than one who was born slightly premature, they were born without incident.  Almost all of my close friends have children, and they are all bright, happy healthy little people.  It seems commonplace, ordinary even.  But I have seen the other side, and I am here to tell you that it's a miracle.  Every tiny person that is born into this world is an absolute miracle.

So today, amidst the chaos of your messy home, tattling children, dirty faces, school supply madness, and french fry-laden cars, I encourage you to kiss your miracles.  Even if they are big.  Even if they don't want to be kissed.  Tell them that you are glad they are yours.  Be grateful for the blessing of a child.  If you, like me, are waiting for your child, get over the weirdness of talking to a baby that isn't here yet... one that you cannot see.  He can hear.  So talk.  Tell him you love him.  It feels strange the first few times, but you'll be glad you did.   And talk to your heavenly Father.  Give thanks for the responsibility you have been given as a parent.  He is the giver of all good gifts.  Be thankful to Him for your kids, even when the job is hard.

Today I am sad, but I am grateful.  Grateful for each day I have with this baby.  Thankful that I will meet in December, if God wills.  Grateful for the child I never met or held but will meet and hold someday.  I am grateful for new life and for the giver of life.  It's all a miracle, and I am thankful.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Seasons... or Why My Feet are Huge.

I am a fall girl.  I love scarves and boots and not having to wear a coat just yet.  I love that I now live in a state where fall is an event.  The leaves change color when they are supposed to, and for a month or so, every tree is a masterpiece.  I love pumpkin patches and hayrides and thinking about turkey and dressing long before it's time to have them.  There are so many beautiful parts of this season.  Fall is the season that, to me, has the most pros and the least cons.  But truthfully, if life were perpetually fall, I would miss the other three.  I would miss the warmth of summer, sitting on a restaurant patio in a tank top and flip flops.  I would miss beach weather.  And though I have seen little of it in my life, I would miss the snow in winter.  I would hate never making another snowman.  And since Spring is fall's runner-up in my book, I would surely miss that.  I would miss the life that comes after the blankness of winter.  The flowers and the greenness.  The thrill of a day that reaches 70 degrees.  I would miss perfectly formed clouds in a blue sky.  I know that it doesn't make sense for it to stay one season.  It would never work.  And God is a God of order.  He knew it wouldn't work, too.  So He created the seasons, each one with something beneficial and new, even amidst the unpleasant things.  We might have allergies and flu season and mosquitoes, but we also have rain and flowers and hillsides covered in snow.  There is a lovely balance in it all.

I am in Texas this week.  I spent my weekend in Oklahoma leading worship at a girls' retreat, and so it allowed me a trip to Texas to see friends and family.  And I am thankful.  But the retreat was in an outdoor pavilion, and air-conditioning was non-existent.  If you put a pregnant girl in Oklahoma during summer with no air conditioning, you are going to have sweat.  And swelling.  Add in a five hour car ride back to Texas, and it just adds up to misery.  

Saturday night I stayed with my sister Ashlae, and I got up Sunday morning to get dressed for church.  I chose the skirt and shirt that made me look the least pregnant, since people are prone to giving their opinions about how large I am.  And though I know it's a baby growing in there, hearing about it multiple times a day can be a little... deflating.  My what a big belly you have there!  When I went to put on my four inch wedge heels, chosen specifically to make my legs look longer and thinner, I really noticed it.  The feet that were slightly swollen the day before were now explosively swollen, even after a full night's rest.  It was not comfortable, nor was it attractive.  There was no way I could wear the skirt or the shoes. 

Thankfully, I thought to bring a second outfit.  I had an ankle length dress that would easily cover my feet and I had more practical shoes.  I changed quickly, packed up my things, and we headed to church.  For the rest of the day, I avoided looking down.  My feet looked like the feet of a stranger.  Other than the gold nail polish that covered my toes, nothing about them looked like mine.  And it seems like a small thing, but when 90% of a wardrobe no longer fits and comfort, rather than fashion, becomes the driving force behind dressing, it's work to feel good about the way I look.  I have spent 36 years with my body being a certain shape.  Various sizes, but always the same shape.  And now, it just seems strange.  I cannot decide by just looking if something will fit me.  I don't know my body anymore.  Everything about it is foreign.  Leaning over to latch my sandals has become a distant memory.  It just doesn't work.  Shaving my legs will eventually be an impossibility.  This is just all new territory for me.

But just like this summer is going to give way to fall and then to winter, this is a season.  The belly that feels like it weighs a ton already, compressed nerves, waking up three times a night to use the bathroom, clothes not fitting, swelling feet... it's all part of this season.  And the next season will bring other things.  Sleepless nights, clothes still not fitting just right, mounds of baby laundry, cloth diapering.  It will all be part of the next season.  And then my baby will grow and change and we will move onto something else.  

And this gives me hope.  Hope that nothing difficult lasts forever.  The hard things I have been through have never been permanent.  They will always give way to something new.  And so will yours.  I have friends that are in strange seasons.  One is still working her way through the death of her husband, one is struggling with how mundane marriage and family life can be, another is waiting for Mr. Right to come along, and another is waiting on a referral for an African baby that feels like it may never come.  But these too are seasons.  And before they know it, the season will change and give in to a whole new picture.  And I can't wait to see what it all looks like.  

Right now I am sitting in Starbucks, so thankful to have one near.  Our little town in Tennessee has lots of lovely things, but a Starbucks is not one of them.  This is another part of my current season... learning to live without Starbucks and Chickfila.  But even as I look down at my not-quite-back-to-normal feet, my baby is kicking.  I am wearing my maternity pants that fit underneath my belly, and I swear this child hates these pants.  Every time I wear them, he kicks and hits and rebels against them.  And feeling him move inside of me is a little freaky but also sweet.  It is proof that this baby is mobile and healthy.  And I am thrilled.  

Last night I slept for 8 long hours.  Today I get to have coffee and dessert with my lovely friend Caryn and dinner with another group of friends and I don't have to think about childcare.  I left the house this morning without having to pack a diaper back.  I just grabbed what I needed and headed out the door.  So I will take it, this season of maternity clothes and swollen feet.  I will smile at the comments about how large I am getting, and I will choose to hear that my baby is growing, just like he is supposed to.  But for goodness' sake, if you see me and I am wearing an ankle length skirt, know that it's for a reason.  And please don't look at my feet.

Monday, July 15, 2013

How We Got Here

Today I am unpacking.  I have ventured upstairs to the piles of boxes that do not contain essentials.  These are the boxes that I both love and dread.  They are filled with scrapbooks and pictures and journals.  I have letters from my grandparents who are no longer with us, birthday cards from my mom and dad, and a thousand other pieces of paper that are significant in one way or another.  They remind me of where I have been, things I have done, and how I got to where I am.  And this leads me to tell you about how we arrived in Greeneville, Tennessee.

We knew it was time to go.  We honestly had known for months that it was time, but we didn't have a release.  You know what I mean... that peace that God gives when He wants you to go.  And we searched.  We did.  We looked at ministry opportunities in the Fort Worth area, thinking that it was nice and close to home.  We talked and prayed through going to Portland, Oregon with some friends to revitalize a church there.  I bought a Fodor's travel guide to Portland at a thrift store, and I planned out the places we would see when we went.  We met up with friends moving to San Antonio to plant a church.  San Antonio is a city I love, and it was only four short hours from family.  San Antonio felt like something I could say yes to.  And still... no confirmation.  I felt like we could choose to go.  I still feel like we could have done those things and been fine.  I don't think God's will is as hard and fast as I used to believe.  I knew that there were opportunities to minister, no matter where we went.

Then there was Preston Trail Community Church, a great, established church in Frisco.  We loved Preston Trail.  We needed a new place to minister.  They needed a couple to work in their worship ministry.  The people were genuine and lovely.  And while the church was cooler* than I am, the church was growing and had active outreach ministries that we could just jump right into.  Jake was sold.  I wanted to be sold.  So we prayed and talked through it.  Through all of our conversations, I just couldn't come around to a definite yes in my spirit.  Jake and I argued about it.  When I would express my unease, it would upset him.  Eventually, I got to the point where I assumed that this was the job we would take, and that my unsettled spirit would settle as we got more involved.  After all, there was no reason to say no.  This was a great opportunity.

Then I got the call.  It was a Saturday night, and I was preparing for Saturday night services at Ranch Community Church, where Jake and I were still serving.  It was a strange, unfamiliar voice on the other end, and he introduced himself as the pastor of the church in East Tennessee where my dad was preaching that week.  He said that my dad had told him that we needed a job, and he needed a worship pastor and youth pastor.  It was a blur of a conversation, but I wrote down the details of the job and the town where he served on a white paper bag.  The town was 900 miles from Dallas.  The pay was less than what we had been offered at Preston Trail.  We knew nothing about being youth pastors.  Nothing about this job made sense.  It did not seem worth such a huge move.  I promised to discuss it with Jake, and I hung up from that call thinking one thing.

We're not doing that.  

I brought it up to Jake after the service, and he agreed.  This was not something we would consider.  And then...

The next day over lunch, we talked about it again.  And this time, we felt differently.  We were open to at least talking to the pastor.  So we arranged a quick phone call for that night, agreeing to nothing more than just seeing what he had to say.  That night Jake and I sat in the parking lot of a Steak and Shake, waiting to order our dinner, and we had a speakerphone conversation with the pastor about the church and the people and the needs of the area.  When we hung up, we drove through and ordered our dinner, and when I got home, I cried.  I cried because this was it.  The peace I had been missing with all of these other wonderful opportunities was there.  I had not yet seen the church or met the people or seen the town, but the Spirit of God inside of me said yes.  And when He says yes, I have learned not to say no.

We have been here a little over four weeks, and I can honestly say that this is the place we are supposed to be.  There is no question in my mind.  The day we arrived to our adorable little rental house, we were greeted with a crowd of people to help us unload our moving truck.  Our kitchen cabinets and refrigerator were filled with food.  There were cards and gift cards and home-canned vegetables.  We have experienced kindness and generosity and hospitality since we have arrived.  We do miss home and our friends and family.  I miss Target.  And Starbucks.  And Tex-Mex.  Several things have gone wrong.  My car has had a flat tire and the alternator is going out, and we still don't have medical coverage settled for this baby just yet.  And in all of that, we still have seen God's hand at work.  He is still meeting our needs.  He is working out provision for us just like He always has.

One of our desires when we moved here was to really serve people.  We felt that and expressed it in our conversations, and yet, we feel like we are being served and loved by people far more than we are serving and loving.  We feel so very blessed.  We are excited to see how God works in our church and community.  We can't wait to be a part of it.

*If you have been in church for any length of time, you know what I mean by the church is cooler than I am.  If you don't know, here it is.  I am leading the first song here.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Like a Penny in Your Pocket

Several summers ago, I got to go to Hawaii.  It's not the kind of thing I would be able to pull off myself, but my friend Derek's parents were taking him and were allowing him to take a friend.  He was single.  I was single.  We were great friends.  His parents were incredibly nice.  Hawaii sounded awesome.

Derek's sister Becky, also a friend, was pregnant with her second child and did not go on the trip.  She had to look on at our daily Hawaii updates on Facebook and endure Derek's endless dishonest text messages about how we met Tom Selleck.  I don't exactly remember how far along she was, but for some reason ten weeks is my guess.  One day she commented on Facebook on how tired this baby was making her.  I wasn't sure exactly how big a ten-weeks-gestation baby was, but I was confident it wasn't large.  

So I decided to be funny, and I responded with "I bet it's exhausting.  Like carrying a penny in your pocket."  

She did not think it was funny.  She responded with a copied-and-pasted list of all of the things her pregnant body was doing.  And I learned.  You don't joke with a pregnant woman about being tired.  

Fast forward almost four years.  And here I am.  Fourteen weeks pregnant, and I am tired.  And though it has gotten better, the tiredness I have lived through is nothing like I have ever known.  I am usually tough.  I can push through lack of sleep, sickness, sadness.  I keep going.  I just do what needs to be done.  But this... this is like nothing I have ever experienced.  This tiredness is debilitating.  It begs for full night's of sleep, which I get, thanks to half a Unisom every night.  Even so, it requires naps.  Long naps.  And thankfully, since school is out for the summer, I get long naps.

I hear stories about how the first trimester is hard.  The second is easier.  The third goes back to hard.  So far, I am mostly only versed in the first trimester, and I can tell you, it's the worst I have ever felt physically.  I need a nap before lunch.  I start to breathe like an asthmatic while walking from my car into my house or walking up half a flight of stairs.  I get worn out while painting my toenails.  And through these days, as I walk through rooms of still-unpacked boxes, I am reminded of the sarcastic words I so carelessly typed onto Becky's Facebook wall long ago.  So I should probably say that I am sorry, Becky.  I get it. And should you ever decide to have another child, I promise to be the most sympathetic, understanding friend you've got.

With all of this typing, I need a nap.  

Monday, June 17, 2013

There's Always Thursdays

After almost five years of living in Texas, I feel like I have a thousand things to talk about, to reflect on. And I want to write those things before I get caught up in day-to-day living and loads of laundry and meal planning. I will write about them in no particular order, just in the order they come to me. So here it goes.

Some events you always capture on film- birthdays, graduations, family reunions, vacations. You know these things are important, and you want to document them from start to finish so you will always have that reminder. Other things are non-events. They are seemingly insignificant. They are regular, everyday things until all of a sudden they aren't anymore. They can be life-changing. Life-sustaining. And you didn't even think to take a picture. That is the way it was with Thursdays.

I am sure I probably went before then, but the Thursday after my D&C, I went. I needed to be around people. Every week, my friends René and Urba planned out a little meeting place, sent out an email about the when and where to a huge group of local friends, and generally 3 or 4 of us would show up. And on January 17, I was kind of crumbling, so I went. We had hibachi, or I did. They had sushi. And in a completely God-orchestrated providence, each of the four of us that sat at the table had endured the loss of a baby. I was surrounded by girls that knew what I was going through.  They shared their stories of grief and healing, and offered unspoken hope in the fact that they went on to have lovely, healthy children afterward. For the next few months, the group grew and Thursdays became important.

We met at coffeehouses and taco joints and Ethiopian restaurants and pizza places and sandwich shops. The group varied from week to week, but essentially, it was the same little collection of girls meeting. We read through Esther and Ruth together, chapter by chapter. We talked about the cultural things in the stories that we didn't understand and the ones we did. We shared where we were spiritually and what God was teaching us. Sometimes it was profound and good and big. And sometimes it felt like He was silent, and we were free to say that, too.

We brought our kids (I even brought my niece once) and we wrestled them into submission while we read, sometimes just giving up and leaving before everyone else. We prayed with Catrina as she watched her husband wrestle with cancer and then through his ultimate heavenly healing when he passed. We prayed for Lori who spent months in limbo, not sure if she should settle into life in Dallas or if her husband's job would move her little family again. We prayed for Tulana's grandmother when they got her cancer diagnosis, and we are still praying even now. We prayed for René's kids, for Christy's health, and we watched as God spoke and answered. They joined me in prayer when we knew God was moving us away from our church. They prayed for our finances when our pay was cut. They waited with me in anticipation as we prayed through the possibility of moving to Tennessee. We joined in prayer for Constance, for provision and safety as she traveled to Thailand to work as a missionary. And we laughed. Sometimes very loudly. And we talked about things that didn't matter in addition to the hundreds of things that did.

This was how we spent our time on Thursdays over the last six months. Sometimes certain ones of us stayed way longer than the others (ahem... Catrina and René) because we needed the fellowship. We were a funny group. We all came from the same church, but God had moved us away a little at a time. We were kind of displaced. Church refugees. And then God gave us this thing that we didn't even know we needed and so we never asked for. But He knew.  And in my head, I can still hear Catrina singing page number 558 from the old red Methodist hymnal... I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together.  Though I am mostly a local church girl, I certainly found church in these moments.  I found it right there in the pizza parlors and coffee shops, over bagels and chips and salsa.  

Then Jake and I were moving. And then so was Lori. And preschool ended, so moms went from having free Thursdays to hanging out with preschoolers. Now school is out and so everyone has kids at home and I am far away in Tennessee and Lori is headed to Illinois. And just like that, our Thursdays are very different.

This was our gift for a season.  It was never meant to last because God knew we wouldn't need it forever.  Carrie has settled on a new church, and I think the other Carrie has, too.  Catrina is still walking through her first days of being a widow, and I am sure the term "widow" seems as strange to her as it does to us, no matter how true.  She is daily, walking proof that God's grace is sufficient even as we walk through the unthinkable.  Lori is packing boxes, and I am sorry that I am not there to pack with you, girl.  I really am.  Dawn has settled at a new church and loves it.  Urba is out there running laps around us, getting up at crazy hours to work out.  Chrys has moved to Fort Worth with her sweet, growing babies.  The others are doing well... moving on.  I am here in Tennessee, and though I have only been here a little while, we already feel loved and cared for by our new church family.

But I will miss Thursdays.  I will find a new way to spend those mornings.  Maybe I will spend time in prayer for these girls.  Maybe I will start a new Bible study on that day.  I don't know just yet.  But I'm thankful for the gift... thankful for the season.  And girls, every Thursday, I'll be thinking of you.

After I wrote this and said we had no pictures, I ran across this one.  It's the only one I know of, and we took it before we prayed and sent it to the person we prayed for.  I think it's the perfect tribute to the moments we spent together.  

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

It Never Gets Old

This morning I got a free ultrasound.  Our health insurance canceled at the end of May, and even though I was blessed to get an ultrasound at 10 weeks and all was well, I knew I would want something closer to the end of the first trimester.  My nerves needed it.  I also knew I would need some time to get health coverage and to find a doctor in Tennessee once we were moved.  Being the cheap resourceful girl that I am, I searched the internet for a place where I could go and get a little discounted peace of mind.  And I found it.  For free.

I found a local pregnancy center that has a mobile sonogram unit that parks itself in convenient locations all around Dallas.  They offer free pregnancy testing to the community at large and free sonograms to those with positive pregnancy tests.  I called and explained my situation.  The woman on the other end of the line say that I should come on in.  And this morning, I did.

I was nervous.  I have had my share my scary pregnancy dreams, and last night I had another one.  From what I hear, they are common for those of us who have experienced loss, and while I know they have nothing to do with my reality, they are nerve racking.  So this morning we drove over, and I had Jake pray with me before I went in.  They asked to speak with me alone first.  The woman who answered the door was slightly intimidating, letting me know right off the bat that they would not be looking for birth defects or abnormalities, if that's what I was after.  They would only be looking for an approximate due date and a heartbeat.  A heartbeat was what I wanted to hear, so I assured her that was fine.

Once inside with my paperwork, I took a pregnancy test, and I sat and waited with the counselor while the nurse confirmed that I was indeed pregnant.  The counselor talked with me for a minute, and even after hearing a very condensed version of my life story and knowing that I professed to be a Christian, she asked if she could share the gospel with me, just to be sure.  I said yes.  And I have to tell you that for the next few minutes, I just cried.  Now granted, I am hormonal these days, but it has been a long time since someone has shared the gospel with me one-on-one just because they thought I might need to hear it.   As she read through the familiar verses from Romans, and I nodded my head in agreement, I remembered that this story that she was telling was the thing that every part of my life is based upon.

Because of this simple story, I have relationship with God.  I have God's Word that gives me the ability to fight against fear and anxiety.  I have comfort in knowing I will one day see the child that I lost.  I have forgiveness of sin and hope of heaven.  I don't have to fear death.  I have confidence that my Father is ordering my steps.  I have faith in His provision.  I know that my life has meaning and purpose.  I can obey Him, even when it is scary, knowing that He has my best in mind.  All of these things I have because of the gospel.  And it was lovely to hear it again.  The story doesn't get old.  The truth of it still impacts me, even 30 years after I accepted it.

Afterward, the counselor held my hand and prayed with me.  She prayed for this little life that God has given to us.  She reminded me that God knew what it was like to lose a child in death, and she assured me that no one would ever love me like He does.  And she was right.  I know it.  I believe it.  But it was so good to hear it again.  It just never gets old.

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  

Who do you know that needs to hear the gospel today?  

In case you wonder, the ultrasound was beautiful and wonderful.  We saw a perfect little baby and heard an excellent heartbeat.  Baby clearly has large hands like his (her?) father and likes to nap like his mother.  We love him already.   

Saturday, June 1, 2013

On What Will Fix Me

This picture is borrowed from the internet, and is in honor of my friend Laura, who thinks posting pictures of pregnancy tests is gross.  Happy birthday, friend.

I cannot put into words the devastation I felt upon losing our first baby.  The unbelief.  The emptiness.  I felt like I had been allowed into an exclusive sorority, one that had taken almost a decade to enter, only for my membership to be retracted before it was even enjoyed.  I felt hollow and fearful that I would never have the children I have always wanted.  And I honestly believed that the thing that would fix the pain was to wait out the 2-3 month required recovery time suggested by my doctor and get pregnant again as soon as possible.  That, I thought, would fix it all.  I dreaded the thought of getting to August 8, my original due date, without having another baby on the way.  It would be too much.  I was sure of it.

So I did everything right.  I read books on miscarriage.  I attended support groups.  I lost weight.  I carefully packed up my maternity clothes and sad reminders of what we had lost, only to be reopened when we had something else to celebrate.  I read my daily Bible reading on my iPhone.  I bought a basal body thermometer, and I began waking up every morning close to the same time to take my temperature.  I recorded each day's temperature on a chart, and I learned as much as I could about luteal phases and such.  I am amazed at how God created the human body to work in such unique, yet predictable ways.  But in all of my doing, the goal really was to just get pregnant again.  This seemed to be the real fix.  Because, after all, having a family was the goal.  And pregnancy is where that seems to start.

I tested too early.  I knew it was too early.  I knew better, but I had waited over two months while my body healed.  I was done waiting.  And so on a Friday afternoon, I took a pregnancy test.  It was negative.  Or was it?  I stared at the test for a good long while, and there seemed that there may be a faint line.  I knew enough to know that sometimes women see what they want to see on these things.  So I reached out to women who knew my pain.  I posted a picture of my test on a message board of women who were expecting after having lost babies.  I asked for honest answers, and I got them.  Looked positive to them.  A line's a line, they said.  We were officially expecting.

And here is what I found.  Rather than relief and celebration, I found myself waking up at 2 a.m., hurrying to take another test, hoping that the two pink lines would still show up.  Instead of peace, I found terror.  I found disabling amounts of fear that my blood work would come back with bad news of another baby lost.  I prayed to sleep through the night because I knew if I awoke, the anxiety would overtake me and not let me go, not let me sleep.  I compared tests, certain that the lines were not as dark as they should be.  I imagined my first ultrasound, and I always imagined the doctor finding nothing, just an empty black space on a screen.  I cried when I should have been laughing, should have been thankful for the new life growing inside of me.  And it became clear very quickly.  A new baby was not the fix.

It never is, you know.  It never really fixes anything.  That thing that you long for?  That thing that you hope will make you feel secure or settled?  It won't.  Not if you can't find peace and security without them.  And I know this.  I do.  It's a lesson I have learned a thousand times and will still need to relearn, I am sure.   The security doesn't come in the people or the circumstances or the good news.  Peace does not come with a baby or a boyfriend or a wedding or a new house or a good paying job.  Fear and anxiety don't end with the custody issues are settled, when the divorce is final, when the bank account is full.  Not completely.  Because all of these things are temporary. They can change.  In an instant, the thing we find our security in can be lost.  Material things can be lost.  Relationships can fail.  Babies can be lost before they have the chance to be born.  

So I went back to what I know, to the thing that has brought me through every single difficult time in life.  I go back to the truth.  I love that the King James Version says that if my mind is "stayed on Thee"  that He will keep me in perfect peace.  I began carrying my verse cards* with me (again), and I started reading over specific verses to help with the anxiety.  And my mind began to be transformed.  The fear gave way to trust.  The anxiety was replaced by peace.  My faith in my heavenly Father became accessible to me again.  I know He is good.  I know He is faithful.  And I know that whatever circumstance I walk through, He strengthens me in it.  He gives grace to get me through it.  

I am praying daily, thanking God for this baby, knowing that this child's days are numbered by a God who loves him (or her).  By a God who loves me.  And I can trust Him.  I can trust Him even when I am unsure about the outcome.  I can trust Him when nothing else looks right.  I can trust Him when circumstances go wrong.  I can trust Him while I wait to decipher His will.  I can trust Him when all seems lost.  I can trust Him, and that is what fixes me.

*You can get your own verse cards here.  This has been one of the greatest purchases of my adult life.**  
**My lavender jellies and a Cabbage Patch Kid named Delta Noelle were the greatest purchases of my childhood, in case you wondered.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Open Hands

Psalm 24:1 The earth is the Lord's and everything in it

Right after the loss of our baby, and at the suggestion of several friends who had walked this road before me, I attended a support group for women dealing with infertility, miscarriage, and infant loss.  There are dozens of these kinds of groups in the Dallas area, but this one was connected to a really great church in our area and I needed something Christ-focused.  I went in February, and I cried my way through my story, feeling almost instantly comfortable in this group of women because we all were in the same place.  We all knew the pain of either waiting for a child or losing a child, some of us knew both.   I think both are equally devastating.

At the end of the evening, I was given a small gift box.  It was a memorial box filled with small things, commemorating the little life that we lost.  There was a tiny handmade blanket, pinned with two tiny little metal footprints.  There was tea and a candle and a book on losing a child.  I cried as the leader presented it to me at the end of the evening.  I cried most of the way home that night.

I skipped the March meeting, but I went back this week.  And again, we took turns sharing our stories and where we are in the process of grieving.  There were a few new people, and honestly, their stories seemed far more tragic than mine.  Losing a child you didn't know is difficult and still devastating.  Losing a child you have held and loved and rocked and nursed just seems so incredibly unfair.  It feels like it would be harder.  But as these women talked, I noticed a theme in their conversation, and I was kind of surprised.  They talked about approaching life with open hands.  About knowing that everything they have, including their children, is God's and that in the end, He is free to give and take as He pleases.  

As I listened, every rebellious part of my brain stood at attention, ready to argue and fight.  Because the baby I lost was mine.  He was my first.  He felt like mine.  And I never even got to hold him.  Except the more listened, the more it sunk in that he was never really mine, just my privilege to carry for eleven short weeks (nine weeks, if we get technical about the way pregnancy really works).  And these women who had already let go in their hearts were so peaceful.  They were so very confident in the God that had allowed such huge losses.  

Over the past few days God has used their words to really speak to me.  I can go back in my memory to so many different moments in my past where I clung so tightly to things that were never mine to keep.  The lesson found in losing them was painful.  The struggle to try to keep them was exhausting, and in the end, the result was the same.  I always lost.  You will do that when you fight with an Almighty God.  I always ended the battle tired and broken.   

So today, I am sitting in my little living room in my favorite yellow chair and I am determined.  Resolute.  My mind is made up (and will probably have to be made up a thousand more times because I am stubborn and selfish like that).  I want to live life open handed.  I want to be not only a giver of good things, because the things I have are not mine anyway, but I want to live in a way that leaves every one of my dreams and aspirations and my "things" up for grabs.  I want God to be able to take them away and replace them with new dreams and new plans.  I want to be able to live through the giving and the taking and still raise my open hands to say "Blessed be the name of the Lord".

My dreams for a family.  They are Yours, Lord.  My ideas for how my life should go.  Yours.  All of my expectations and things I think I deserve.  Take those and fix them.  Replace them with Your will.  My money.  Completely yours.  My ministry.  Also yours.  My home and the things I fill it with.  All yours.  This earthly body that I have been given.  It's yours, too.  My life in it's entirety.  Just yours.  Take it all.  Here I am... Open Hands.  

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Shake it Like Sally

Sally and her dance partner (the singer is Derek St. Holmes, original lead singer for the Ted Nugent Band)

While I was in Tennessee, Jake and I had lunch with Karen and her husband Frank.  Karen is my mother's best friend and is the kind of person that everyone likes.  She genuinely loves people, and they love her back.  She and my mother are perfect friends.  They love tea rooms and books and quilting and antique malls and Jesus.  They are very similar.

But during our lunch, Karen was talking about finding new ways to be active, to keep up with her recent weight loss, and she told me something that shocked me.  It rattled everything I thought I knew about her.  Karen, the woman who is a second mother to me, has taken up line dancing.  Line dancing.  Her friend invited her to go, and she said yes.  And she loves it.  I told my mother this when I returned from my trip, and her jaw dropped.

Karen?  My Karen?


She was surprised, too.  I tried to picture Karen out there on the dance floor at her local community center, and even though it was nothing I would have expected, I was really proud of her.  To let go of insecurity and fear and just get out there and dance?  I loved it.

The next night, Jake and I found ourselves in Franklin, Tennessee.  Jake and I had made the agreement that we would visit no chain restaurants or coffee shops while on vacation.  So we considered eating dinner at Dotson's, a run-down meat and three that serves awesome fried chicken and great pies.  But I had been there plenty of times before, and I wanted something new.  So we searched online and found Puckett's Grocery in Leiper's Fork.  It was Open Mic night, and it seemed like the perfect place to spend our last night in Tennessee.  I have been to a dozens of Open Mic nights.  This was unlike any Open Mic I had ever seen.

First of all, it felt like it was in the middle of nowhere.  Leiper's Fork is off the beaten path.  Second, Puckett's Grocery was packed.  There were people lingering oustide, smoking cigarettes in the cold, misty air, standing beside the old gas pumps that may or may not have been original.  It was instantly intimidating, so we chose to forego dinner at Puckett's in favor of the Country Boy restaurant across the street.  We had dinner, a brief argument (all good couples do), and then headed back across the street to listen to some music.

There was not a free seat in the room, and it was dark, so Jake and I made our way through the crowd of people towards the back, which was the grocery store part of the building.  We stood between grocery aisles stacked with dusty pyramids of canned tomatoes and bags of hushpuppy mix, and we listened to the music.  Every now and then I would notice an older woman stand and dance around a little, completely unaware that the rest of the room was not dancing.  The longer the music played, the more she danced, waving her arms in the air and shaking her hips without a thought.   She was wearing a yellow polyester shirt and black pants that I am certain (maybe just hopeful) had an elastic waist.  She finished off the ensemble with a pair of athletic shoes.  She was awesome.

The highlight of the evening was when they called her up to sing.  I learned that her name was Sally Cummings.  She stood proudly and sang out "Help Me Make it Through the Night".  She was not the most polished singer of the night, but she was certainly the most confident.  And I knew I had to meet her.  So after her song was over, I walked over to her table, and I told her honestly that I admired her spirit.  She danced when she wanted to.  She sang when she wanted to.  She clapped wildly and yelled when she liked a song.  The rest of us and our opinions didn't really matter.  Sally was having a great time, and she didn't care who saw.

The few minutes I spent in conversation with her were fascinating.  I learned that Sally's brother Pete (who was also there that night) had toured with Elvis and Willie and the Oak Ridge Boys.  She told me that she learned long ago not to worry about what people thought about her, and she genuinely seemed appreciative of the conversation.  I asked if I could take a picture with her, and she sweetly consented.  The rest of the night was filled with great songs, fantastically talented musicians, and sweet Sally shaking it on the dance floor that they made by clearing out some of the front tables towards the end of the evening.  And on a particularly slow song, I felt inspired, and Jake and I followed suit and headed out to do the "I don't really know how to dance but I can stand here and shuffle my feet" dance.  It's the only kind of dancing that most Baptist preacher's kids know.

I have grown a lot in this area, but there are lots of things that scare me.  Things that I don't do because I fear what people will think.  What if I mess up?  What if I fail?  What if I look like an idiot?  But I am thankful for little examples.  For stories like Karen's and Sally's.  For reminders that the opinions and stares of other people don't matter.  So whatever it is you are fearing, just do that thing.  The thing that scares you to death.  Go ahead.  Get out there and do it.  Live.  Dance.  Run.  Sing. Whatever.  Shake it like Sally.

Sally singing "Help Me Make it Through the Night"

Sally and Me

Me and Pete Cummings (you can read up on him here)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...