Faith, Postpartum

This is the Day the Lord has Made…

Last night was my night to spend at home. I thought I was going to get home and get a great night sleep, wake up early, and just be productive and carefree… well, boy, was I wrong!

When I get home – later than expected – I am a little overwhelmed by the state the house is in. It’s not a huge mess, but it wasn’t as in order as I would have hoped it would be. Our playroom wreaked of pee (still does, because I can’t find the culprit), Hazel’s toys were all over the living room, and the kitchen was filled with dirty dishes and a full dishwasher. I decide that since I am mostly healed up that I wanted to spend some time picking up my house; who would have thought I would miss picking up toys and doing dishes? Not me! When the living room and kitchen were in a better place, I went down the hallway to put some things away in Hazel’s room and noticed a wet spot on her Nugget Couch. I was instantly furious. This thing had already been peed on once and I was already exhausted and didn’t want to have to clean anything else, but I pulled the cover off and set it in the laundry room to wash in the morning.

I get all comfy and cuddle up in bed. My nice, warm, cozy bed. And I lay there. And lay there. I laid there for hours before I finally passed out. I jokingly laughed to myself that maybe I was getting too used to sleeping in the hospital recliner and didn’t know how to sleep somewhere normal anymore. Before I went to sleep, I had set my alarm for 8am planning on a full day of productivity.

My alarm went off this morning and I shut it off and rolled back over. By the time I woke up, it was 10:30am. I’m not big on sleeping in, because I feel gross and like I wasted my whole morning. Well that was exactly how I felt this morning. I finally got myself out of bed, let the dog out, and wasn’t sure what to do with myself. I fed the dog, started the washing machine, and decided I was going to watch some TV until the washer was done and I could take a shower. When I walked into the living room, I noticed Winnie, my dog, licking something on Hazel’s little llama chair. I shooed her away and noticed a bloody pee spot on the chair. I literally lost it. If I had to smell pee or clean up anything else I just didn’t know what I was going to do. I started crying and called my mom to figure out how to clean it and to vent. She suggested hydrogen peroxide and luckily that worked to get the blood out, but not the pee smell. I wiped the whole seat down with peroxide and then sprayed the chair with fabric febreeze and then put it in Hazel’s bedroom and closed the door.

I guess I should clarify that all this pee is not from my child, but it’s from one of our cats. A few months ago he started peeing everywhere and then we started seeing blood in our sinks and bathtubs. Every time we try to take him to the vet something happens – first it was that he didn’t get enough of the calming medication; the next time I had to go the ER; the most recent time our son ended up in the hospital. We know we need to take him, but we’re not sure how we will pay for it. It’s just an added layer of stress. I love him dearly, but I’m over cleaning up pee and smelling pee.

I’m crying hysterically by the time I’m done cleaning up the chair and I finally sit down and calm down while I watch the TV episode. By the time the show is over, the washing machine has finished, so I lay out the couch cover and get in the shower. The shower feels nice, but I’m not going to lie, postpartum is the hardest thing I have ever gone through and I thought I had better prepared myself this time around. But it turns out I haven’t. I absolutely dread getting out of the shower and trying to pick something out to wear and today was no different, actually it was worse. Because I spend practically all my time at the hospital, I haven’t done laundry in weeks, so the small amount of clothes that fit me and I feel comfortable in are dirty. It took me a little over half an hour to find something to put on. There was ugly crying. There was imagining myself ripping all my clothes off hangers and throwing them in the floor. It wasn’t pretty, but postpartum in general is hard. Postpartum with a baby in the hospital is hard. Postpartum with added layers of stress is hard. It’s just so hard!

As I’m laying there on my bed, tears streaming down my face, trying to have a pity party, the thought that kept popping into my head was, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Over and over. It just kept interrupting every negative thought I had. It was honestly pissing me off. I got off the bed and yelled that I get it as I turned off the light and walked down the hallway. Are you allowed to do that? Yell at God? I’ve been closer to Him than ever lately, so it warmed my heart that I could hear the help He was sending, but I was also frustrated and wanted to wallow. I think it’s allowed. I think He understands.

I wish that was the end of the frustrating part of my day, but it’s not. I get the car all packed up and am headed to grab lunch (the first thing I’ve eaten all day) when I realize I forgot my sweatshirt. So I have to turn around and go back to the house. I know, not a big deal, but it felt like a big deal. One of those, c’mon seriously!, moments. I get the sweatshirt and make it to Taco Bueno and literally everyone and their grandma is in the drive-thru, so I’m forced to go inside, because I have no patience left and I’m starving. I’ll admit that going inside was the best thing that could have happened. I could sit and eat without trying to balance it in my lap and just take a small breather. That’s exactly what I did.

And you know what, my day got better from there.

I made it to the bookstore across DFW to pick up a book I had ordered and then headed straight to the hospital – my happy place these days, how ironic is that? No traffic, no accidents, no stupid drivers. I surprisingly didn’t yell at a single person on the road. And then once I made it to Jameson’s room, I was instantly relieved. I got the latest update on what they are watching and waiting for. I got to kiss his little head. I got to hug my husband. I got to sit in my favorite recliner. I wrote thank you cards to the nurses. I listened to some country music. I sat on hold with the toll tag people to straighten some things out. Now I’m writing to get my feelings out of my head…

So even if I wasn’t grateful for God’s wisdom earlier, I am now.

Faith

Overwhelming Peace

The past few days have been full of strides forward with a few steps back, but through all of it I smile and laugh and sing. I am able to have such a positive attitude, because I am so full of hope!

I have been looking for the right words to express how I’ve felt since Jameson’s unexpected birth, but then stuff just keeps hitting me and I haven’t had a chance to really sit down and write it out.

Normally I am a “freaker” as in I freak out and jump to worse case scenarios and get all emotional. Everything that has happened since the morning of Jameson’s birth would typically be a freaker’s worst nightmare, but surprisingly I have been ridiculously calm. It’s been strange for me, because I think about the situation and feel like I should be upset or enraged or sad, but I’m just not… don’t get me wrong, I have moments where I breakdown, but during the thick of it, I just take it all in, give it to God, and move forward.

It’s so much more than just holding it together for my family. It’s more than putting on a brave face. It’s more than not letting the medical professionals see me weak. It’s more than faking it till you make it.

I can honestly say that I am not faking any of my smiles or laughs or positivity. I can smile because I know that God is in control. I can laugh because I know that prayer is powerful. I can be positive because I know that the peace of God surpasses all understanding.

God has heard our prayers and he has been answering them. It has been so helpful to me to write out our specific requests, but to also acknowledge the praises as well. He has provided us so much support in family, friends, and even strangers. From having our grass mowed to providing food through eating with us or giving gift cards to pet sitting to encouraging words to helping us run errands. We are so grateful to the extended community who has come forward and let us know they are praying with us! Seeing God work can really boost your mood! ­čÖé

As a freaker, my behavior in this situation has been life-changing. I am proud of myself for choosing to trust God. I am proud of myself for choosing to send out prayer requests instead of wallowing in thoughts of “why” and “what ifs”. I am so happy that God has turned me into a person who hopes instead of freaks.

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Here are some verses that have been giving me comfort during this time:

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.” – Jeremiah 17:7

“I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” – Psalm 16:7-8

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,┬ábecause you know that the testing of your faith┬áproduces perseverance.┬áLet perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature┬áand complete, not lacking anything.” – James 1:2-4

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7

“But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.” Psalms 56:3

Faith, Family

But by the grace of God I am what I am // Easter 2021

Living, He loved me
Dying, He saved me
Buried, He carried my sins far away
Rising, He justified freely forever

Happy Easter Friends!

We had such a lovely day celebrating Jesus’ resurrection and I hope you all did too.

Our day started off bright and early with a 9am church service. It was a great service reminding us of what Easter is all about. We read from 1 Corinthians 15. I loved verse 10: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.”

After church, we headed to my parents’ house for lunch and some activities. We started with decorating cookies. We thought it would be fun to give Hazel some sprinkles and let her shake them over some sugar cookies. Our sweet little lady poured the entire container of sprinkles on one cookie. ­čśÇ So we ended up just grabbing from the pile to get some on the other cookies. When asked if she could say sprinkles, she grabbed a handful and shoved them into her mouth. Priceless!

Once the cookies were in the oven, we moved on to dying eggs. I haven’t dyed eggs in years, but I really wanted to start the tradition again. I grabbed the egg dye kits and was just going to bring a carton of eggs. I had no clue you are supposed to hard boil your eggs and have vinegar, luckily my mom came through! We only did six eggs – one for each of us – but turned out Hazel wasn’t too into it. She dropped one egg into the dye before bursting into tears and refusing to do any more. I think when she heard eggs, she thought she was going to get to eat them.

Since it was a small bunch of us this year, we kept it simple. A cookout. Burgers, chips, and deviled eggs… what else do you need?

We didn’t have time to do her Easter basket before church (and I actually kind of liked that!), so we took it over to my parents and Hazel got to open it there. She wasn’t too interested in her stuffed narwhal or the book, but wanted me to open the chalk right away and we played with the ring toss game right off the bat. I’d call it a win! Also, I’m sure this goes without saying, but we don’t do the Easter Bunny. Our kids will know that their baskets are gifts from Jeremiah and I – they are gifts in representation of God giving us the greatest gift of His son.

Once her basket was emptied, she was ready for her first egg hunt! While she was napping, Jeremiah and I went out and hid all the eggs. We didn’t hide them too hard, but we did give her some freebies just laying in plain sight. She was so cute out there looking for the eggs. She wasn’t too interested in finding them all and then opening them, but instead wanted to open them as she found them. With coaxing, she would look for them – pointing and saying the color before grabbing it. Eventually, she got them all. She had a blast opening them up and getting all the goodies inside – no candy, just little toys like bouncy balls, bracelets, and stickers.

It was such a wonderful, relaxing day. Lots of family, lots of fun, and lots of laughter. Couldn’t have asked for a better holiday!

Faith, Family

How We Christmas

It feels weird writing this after Christmas has passed, but now that all the festivities are over, I need to take a moment to collect my thoughts.

Christmas used to look the same for me every single year. My family are creatures of habit that don’t like or invite change. We had a few traditions we stuck to, but overall it was pretty basic and uneventful… not necessarily in a bad way, I just have never loved or enjoyed Christmas the way other people do. I always thought that when I grew up and had a family of my own that it would be different – that somehow Christmas would be so special. I married a guy who really likes Christmas, which you’d think would make the holiday season easier… but honestly I felt extremely uninspired this year, was hella stressed out, had a breakdown on Christmas day, and already took down all the decorations.

I’m truly relieved that Christmas is finally over and that makes me really sad which leads me to what this whole post is about – how I want to change the way my family does Christmas moving forward.

Jesus is the Reason for the Season

As a Christian, I participate in Christmas because it is the celebration of Jesus’ birth – when God gave us the greatest gift of all. With that being said, moving forward I want that to be at the core of why we do all of the things we do during this season.

Santa Free Zone

We don’t do Santa. Yep, I said it. I’ve never “played” Santa. I’ve never talked to Hazel about Santa. We have no Santa decor or books in our home. We also do not do Elf on the Shelf (side note: my mom has homemade elves that her grandmother sewed that have been in her family since she was a little girl. She inherited them and sets them up in funny places around the living room – wayyyy before elf on the shelf was a thing – and I hope to inherit them one day and do the same, but purely as a happy childhood memory). We don’t do Santa for many reasons, but this pretty much sums them all up: Christmas is about Jesus. Jesus was the greatest gift – He was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, and died as a sacrifice for all of us sinners. God sent us Jesus, so that we could have a relationship with Him. God provides us grace and forgiveness, so essentially we can receive the gift of Jesus whether we are naughty or nice.

Three Gift Rule

This is one that I have never done before, but am extremely excited to implement. I heard about a lady that only gives her kids three gifts on Christmas – her reasoning: Jesus’ received three gifts, so why would you get any more than him? I love love love this and think it’s brilliant and can’t believe I’d never heard of it before. Starting this next Christmas, we are going to do three gifts + stockings. Since Christmas is all about Jesus, this is a great way to weave his birth story into your festivities and keep the real meaning of Christmas on your mind and in your heart.

It’s Not Just a Tree

Last year, Hazel’s first Christmas and our first Christmas in our house, we started the tradition of going as a family to a tree farm and picking out a real tree. I’d never had a real tree growing up, so this tradition is really special to me. As our kids get older, I cannot wait to head up to the farm and let them work together on picking the right tree for us and then watch as Jeremiah cuts it down for us.

Decorating the Christmas tree has always felt like a chore to me. Growing up, I never put my ornaments in the right spot on the tree, so as I got older, I just stopped enjoying the act altogether and avoided it whenever possible. Well now I have a family who wants a decorated tree and I just dread it – this year our tree only had lights – but the more I have been thinking about Christmas and how it is about Jesus – I realized that the Christmas tree symbolizes Jesus’ death – the ultimate sacrifice. So moving forward, I won’t just be decorating a silly tree because everyone else is, I’ll be decorating a symbol of God’s love for me, so that I can look at it with awe and thanks and be reminded of what this little baby ultimately was born to do for me.

The Brighter The Better

Christmas lights are probably the best thing about Christmas for me. I love seeing the lights when I drive around at night. I feel like there are less and less lights every year which is disappointing, but only fuels me to try to make our house really bright. I wasn’t in the spirit this year, so we only did the lights around the edge of our house and some twinkly lights around our door. Next year, I hope to add some twinkly lights around our porch posts and outlining the windows. Eventually, I’m thinking we will needs lights down our front walkway as well as across our fence. Similar to our tree situation, the more I thought about what Christmas lights and how they could be connected to Jesus, I realized that in the Christmas story, the wise men follow a bright star to find the baby, that Jesus was the light of the world, and that Jesus calls us to be light in the darkness. Lights aren’t just lights after all.

Simple Christmas Day

Navigating family during Christmas can be tricky. We have a good family, but they can be overwhelming. One of the hardest parts of getting married for me is having to compromise – especially at holidays. I’m getting better and better at including my husband and meshing his traditions with mine, but I’m also an A+ people pleaser, so sometimes things get rocky when the extended family gets involved. Moving forward, I am going to be really straight yet firm about my family’s plans and festivities… we will do Christmas Eve with the whole family per tradition, but Christmas Day will look a bit different.

Ever since we got married, Jeremiah has been so kind to concede his Christmas Eve traditions for mine. But in doing that, I have tried to incorporate as much of his traditions into Christmas Day as I can, but that hasn’t always sat well with my family. Jeremiah’s always done a simple, lazy if you will, Christmas. They just kind of hang out together – watch movies, bake some cookies, play in the snow, whatever. So he really wants something reminiscent of that for us. At first it was hard to picture, because I come from a go, go, go family, but the more I thought about it – and after this latest Christmas – it sounds quite nice. So I’ve decided that starting this next Christmas, I will be creating a Christmas Day schedule. This will include breakfast (cinnamon streusel muffins – my tradition), opening presents at our own pace, late lunch (homemade pizza – Jeremiah’s tradition), nap + play games + do whatever, baking cookies, dinner (homemade pizza/sugar!!!) + watch It’s a Wonderful Life. These will be the activities – family is more than welcome to come for what they want to participate in, but I will not be bullied or guilt tripped into feeling bad for how our Christmas Day looks.

Misc.

Obviously, there will be other stuff, but I plan to keep it simple. We can go look at lights, see a nativity, attend Christmas Eve service, build gingerbread houses…. the lists goes on, but it’s going to more like, let’s do what we can and if we can’t get to it or don’t feel up to it, then we skip it. I want Christmas to be more Jesus and less pressure.

My hope is that the more we focus on Jesus and remember what we are actually celebrating, that magic of Christmas will become a lot more obvious. I’m actually looking forward to trying again next year.

Faith

My Faith Story

testimony (n): the story of how a person became a Christian

Within Christian communities, you hear the word testimony a lot. In my experience, testimonies are typically very inspirational and often tell of a dramatic moment that changed a person’s life forever. For a long time, I didn’t like testimonies, because I felt like I didn’t have a good one. I still don’t necessarily like the term testimony, because of what I relate it to, but I would like to share my faith story – where I started to where I am now and the mess in between.

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Like so many, I was born into a Christian household. My parents were happily married and we went to church every Sunday. We attended a Church of Christ until I was nine. This type of church is quite traditional with attire, worship, and preaching, so when we switched to a nondenominational church, I was blown away by this totally different style. Even as a kid, I could recognize the differences – we got to wear jeans to church, there was a band playing the music during worship, and kids had their own little church service geared just for them. It was obvious everyone in the family liked it there, so we stayed and started attending regularly.

After a few months at this church, I was baptized. To this day, I regret it. I am told it was my decision, that I came to my parents and told them that I wanted to be baptized and could clearly express what that meant. Whether that is true or not, I am not sure. I don’t remember the day. I don’t remember the actual baptizing. I don’t remember any of it. What I do remember is being too young to actually understand how huge of a decision I was making and how it would alter my life. Throughout my life, I have constantly wondered if my baptism was legitimate.

As I grew up, I continued to be very involved in this church. When I joined the youth group, this need I had to be perfect had already set in. I believed I needed to do right all the time and never mess up. I didn’t cuss, party, drink, smoke – if a situation could be considered bad, I wasn’t involved. This behavior and mentality was created more out of fear of making a mistake than an understanding of grace. I believe living with this fear did me a huge disservice later on down my road.

For a couple of years, I felt that I was exactly who I was supposed to be and where I was supposed to be. I had two best friends and a handful of frienquaintances. I was involved, I felt accepted, I believed I was happy. Eventually, I realized that I did not fit in, these friendships fell apart, and I began to feel lonely. During this time, we got a new youth pastor that thought everything was a joke and the way he treated me was just the icing on the cake. All of this hit me really hard and I began to alienate myself. It started when I made the choice to stop going to youth group. It was during all of this that I realized who genuinely cared about me and that I had been just going through the motions to make those around me happy.

During my junior year of high school, I decided to start attending a youth small group again. I chose one opposite of my ex-friends in order to get a fresh start. It was a good group of people, but I refused to get close to anyone or open up. I went, I learned, I participated, and I began this impossible task of becoming the perfect Christian. Having grown up in church, I knew all the Christian lingo necessary to succeed at this quest; phrases like “God spoke to me” and “I felt God leading me to do this” littered my speech. I became an incredible actress. I could see how proud my parents and small group leader were of me, so how could I tell them that I felt nothing and that I didn’t really hear God? So I bottled it up and went on pretending.

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My faith during college was a rollercoaster with a lot of difficult twists and turns. When I started college, I was determined to find a good Christian crowd to hang out with and learn from. I found a Bible study that I liked for awhile, but after a couple of semesters, it fizzled out. I eventually joined the BSM. It was inspiring and encouraging at first, but little by little I realized I had different viewpoints and did not appreciate their pushy attitudes. While distancing myself from them, I was treated extremely poorly.

During the spring of my sophomore year, I had a complete breakdown. It started with an exhausting day and ended with me sitting alone in my car in a vacant parking lot. I was sobbing and yelling at God. I understood that they say He is silent and that this silence is supposed to help you lean on Him, but sometimes I needed answers and His silence just pushed me away. I was tired of crying out and hearing nothing, feeling nothing. After this meltdown, I felt different; kind of free. I decided that if I wasn’t important to God then He wasn’t going to be important to me. I made the decision to take a step back from my faith; to stop going to church, reading my Bible, and praying. I just wanted to live life, make mistakes, and figure out what I believed.

It was during this time that I took the idea of making mistakes to heart and threw my expectations of perfection out the window. I started drinking, went to a few parties, and dropped a cuss word here and there. At first this lifestyle seemed so great. I felt so light and airy, but eventually the light and airy turned to empty. I didn’t have anything to believe in and I had no accountability system, but I was too proud to admit this to anyone. Little by little my negative thoughts and depressive feelings grew until I was one big ball of anger and hate. I didn’t know what to do and completely broke down.

With nowhere else to turn, I shared how I was feeling on social media which encouraged a friend of mine to invite me to her church small group. I decided to give it a shot. It was awkward, but I knew I needed to be there. I was in a really bad place, but I felt like these people accepted me. It was at my fourth or fifth time attending that I met my husband, Jeremiah. For awhile this church seemed like a great place. I attended for a little over a year regularly and was very involved. I liked the people, but I was pretending in my walk with God. I was still just going through the motions. I graduated with a fiance, but a stale faith.

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Jeremiah and I were married three months after I graduated and life just went on. We started attending a small local church that we liked, but I was still not praying or reading my Bible regularly. At this point, I was happily married and satisfied just going to church on Sundays. Everytime I tried to dig into my faith and make it something real, my need to be perfect set in and I got overwhelmed and ended up just giving up. In order to avoid that, I just settled into my usual routine of going through the motions.

In March of 2018, I found out I was pregnant. I was over-the-moon excited about starting a family! When I told Jeremiah, his reaction solidified that this was a good thing. We were so happy and full of joy as we learned all we could about pregnancy. During our first ultrasound at ten weeks, the technician was really quiet for awhile and then said she was having trouble seeing the baby. We were asked to come in the next week for a follow up ultrasound.

After the technician said she couldn’t find our baby I had lost it and I never fully recovered. I spent the entirety of the next week holed up in our closet sobbing, silent, or sleeping. I cried out to God asking Him to let our baby be okay. I made deals with Him telling Him I would be better, more involved, if He would save our baby. I prayed relentlessly begging Him to let the ultrasound findings just be a mistake.

When we arrived for our follow up ultrasound, we were given the news that our baby had passed away. I was heartbroken. I was depressed. I was angry. I can’t even explain how traumatizing experiencing a miscarriage is. There is so much more to it than just hearing the news that your baby was no longer thriving in your womb. I was a wreck and I felt betrayed by God.

I avoided God and all things faith-related. I stayed away from church, I stopped praying, I kept my Bible closed. I couldn’t comprehend how He could let such a tragedy happen to me. But in August, I found out I was pregnant again. What should have been the most amazing news was absolutely terrifying. I was so scared that it was going to happen again. When we found out that this baby was thriving and doing really well, I was so relieved. The fear was still there, but I was able to find some joy.

For six months, I kept God at arms-length. But staying away from my faith didn’t help me feel better and I knew I needed to make a change for this new baby. I needed to find a way to heal, so that I could be the best mother I could be for her. In November, I went back to church for the first time and it felt so strange. I didn’t sing. I couldn’t take communion. But I wasn’t in a hurry to leave. We kept coming back week after week and each week I could feel my heart softening.

By January, I was excited to attend service, I was reading my Bible every day, I was praying often, and I was attending a small group. But this time, I didn’t feel the need to be perfect. I was more than content being honest, broken, and vulnerable before God in order to find healing. And God changed my life!

It’s now April; our baby is due any day now, the small group I started attending has become a place full of honesty and friendship, I look forward to Sunday mornings, I talk to God for hours like He is a best friend and not a distant relative. Because I opened my mind and heart to God for healing, He has shown up for me in so many ways I could never have dreamed of! Although my miscarriage is still a hard thing for me to think about, I am no longer full of hate or anger and it no longer holds me back from the joys of my current pregnancy. After my husband and I started tithing, I received a promotion and a raise which provided us the funds to pay for our new baby and to buy a house.

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That is my story. I’m not proud of the pattern I have of pushing God away when things get hard or when things don’t go my way. I don’t think you need to suffer through a tragedy to have a testimony and I don’t believe there is such a thing as a good testimony. I wish it didn’t take losing a baby to bring me back to God’s open arms, but this is my story.