the struggle.

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the struggle is real, y’all. and sometimes when i open my bible instead of throwing a temper tantrum like my nineteen month old, i realize it is the way it’s supposed to be. recently, i’ve been settling into the book of romans and am learning about the struggle of the oh so wise, paul. he calls himself a servant, and recognizes that means he is to embrace the struggle.

i hate the struggle. i get depressed by it. i get beat down by it. and i think to myself, in all my righteousness and complete darkness, if i am doing the right thing- things will shake out in my favor. sometimes they do turn out the way i have planned. but sometimes, they don’t, even when i’ve prayed, and prayed hard.

i am learning that paul prayed hard, he lived out a life worthy of the gospel. he was always ready to preach, serve, and suffer. he probably was the first one to raise his hand when the church hosted a clean up saturday. he probably put a post-it note on his bathroom mirror to remind him to pray for his preacher, and actually did it… and paul, beyond that, he was ready to die. because that’s what being a servant of jesus christ looks like sometimes. it’s not always a fun time. sometimes it’s really, really hard.

recently, while reading a commentary on romans one using blue letter bible, i read a truth that wrecked me…charles surgeon in his great wisdom said: ” i do not suppose that paul guessed that he would be sent there {rome} at the government expense, but he was. the roman empire had to find a ship for him, and a fit escort for him, and he entered he city as an ssador in bonds. when our hearts are set on a thing, and we pray for it. God may grant us the blessing; but, it may be, in a way that we never looked for. you shall go to rome, paul; but you shall go in chains.”

i’ve read these words a 100 times now and i can’t help but put myself in paul’s shoes. if i had known the stakes, would i have been so eager to follow Christ? i would have pitched a fit and said, “but, look at what i’ve done. i don’t deserve this. ” i’ve been a christian for over 20 years (by the way, they think paul had been a christian for that long when he wrote romans) and i haven’t learned to live like paul. i still feel entitled to an easier road.

i don’t deserve the easy road. and i am learning through the words of paul that i am to embrace the struggle- whatever that looks like. if i am pursuing a life worthy of the gospel- a life for Him- i have to commit to a life free from grumbling and be satisfied with the truth that He is in the struggle seeing me through regardless of the outcome.

Birth Story- Ellias Patrick

E  had a cold this week. While cuddling him, I thought about all the moments I wanted to remember from his first days. I know, there’s already many, in the last nineteen months, I’ve lost because of busyness and distractedness, but it prompted me to want to make an effort to preserve the sweetness of motherhood and beauty of life. 

The most glorious memory to date has been his birth. On Monday, June 22, 2015, my life changed forever. While E was growing in my tummy, I would think about things he would do and ways he would bring joy into my world, but when I studied him outside of the womb for the first time, I knew these thoughts wouldn’t even match the reality of his impact on me— and our entire family. {photo below is the first time I actually got to admire him on the outside.}

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I went into labor at 2 AM after taking a clary sage oil bath before bed. I labored until 5 AM before I woke my husband and that was after calling my mom to see if she thought I was really in labor. My sweet husband helped get things ready for the ride to the hospital, called his mom to help with our daughter, and timed my contractions for an hour. While at home, my water broke shortly after my mucous plug fell out (somebody should have told me what that experience would be like). We arrived at the hospital around 6:30 AM. It is worth noting that my parents beat us to the hospital.

I labored naturally until 11 AM and then made the decision to receive an epidural. While laboring naturally, I preferred to labor in the bathroom at the hospital while holding the handicap bar. My sister read scripture and affirmations to me to help me stay focused. The decision to get an epidural came after I could no longer walk around or get into the tub as I couldn’t keep the heart monitor on because of sweat… They asked me to lay in the bed as that was the only way we could monitor the baby and the pain became unbearable once on my back.

I moved to another room to get the epidural and still had little progression. My midwife brought me a peanut ball (genius invention) to labor with and had me roll over from side to side. Each time I rolled, little man’s heart rate would drop and I’d have to go back to my back. This went on for hours and they made a decision to start a pitocin drip to try and get him to progress. This dropped his heart rate some more and because of the time spent laboring, I had to stop the pitocin and also get an amniotic transfusion.

Around 7:00 PM, my midwife came in and explained that something was causing his heart rate to drop each time we tried to progress delivery and she was recommending a cesarean. Until this point, I had been relatively calm, rolling with the punches, and taking each adjustment to my birth plan as it came. But, when she said cesarean, I burst into tears. Once I calmed down, I felt fortunate, because I knew the physician that was going to deliver as we had followed him early in pregnancy. I was quickly rolled to the operating room and my husband scrubbed and stood at my head along with the anesthesiologist. The physician came in the room said, “charge my phone” and a couple minutes later at 7:49 PM our sweet Ellias Patrick was in the room, 21 inches long and weighing 7 lbs 14 oz . I remember looking at my husband and asking “is that our baby?”. Jason, my husband, showed me the baby and went to the nursery with him. He had a red bump on his forehead because he was trying to drop in the birthing canal, but his umbilical cord was in the way (the need for a cesarean).The anesthesiologist stayed with me and rubbed my head until I was back together and birthing shakes were under control (a side effect of the epidural). {photo below is the first image I remember of my sweet boy}.

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The nurses rolled me back to my room and I was finally able to cuddle. In that moment, all of the pain, anxiety, and uncertainty from the last several hours faded away. From that moment forward, I have been in complete awe of the whole experience. Not only because the Lord richly blessed me with a perfect baby boy, but also because he gifted me with an incredible support system. My husband, parents, mother-in law, sister and brother-in law, helped me greatly by comforting me, caring for my oldest, and keeping me in a positive frame of mind. My medical team- nurses, midwife, and ultimately physicians, helped make sure E was protected and healthy during this the entire ordeal. For all of these things, I am grateful and humbled.

 

Realities

Do you play the comparison game? I do. I get sucked into people’s highlight reels so often that I lose sight of my own reality. The power of social media is bizarre to me. It’s like road kill. I don’t want to look at it, but I can’t stop. I truly believe it’s generated insecurity in my life (as well as wasted a lot of time, but that’s a story for another day). Today, I was praying about the ways I get sucked into the comparison game and thought about a snap chat I sent the night prior.

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This picture “seems” relaxing. It “seems” like the reality of my situation is calm and peaceful. However, in that moment, the truth, the reality, I felt anything but… The baby was screaming and being rocked by Jason just outside my door. That is NOT my definition of a relaxing atmosphere. To top it off, the view of my dirty laundry was enough to send any mom into a full blown panic attack. The bath and the wine were just a snapshot of my reality; but not all encompassing.

Almost suddenly it hit me… This is where the root of my problem resides. The truth is, I create impressions in my head- of people, things, and circumstances that are not real. I frame my attitudes, desires, and feelings of worth around these impressions and get sucked in… It leads to aggravation, depression, frustration, and anxiety and in the end, is all meaningless.

When I was praying about this dark condition of my heart, I found a couple of scriptures that encouraged me to plant myself in the promises of the Lord instead of the seeds of discontentment that are created by my mind.

Isaiah 33:6 says, “He will be your sure foundation, a rich store of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge.”

Colossians 3:1-2 says, “Set your sights on the realities of Heaven, where Christ sits in place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of Heaven, not the earth.”

When I set my eyes on the Lord, I’m not caught up in creating pictures that make it seem like I’ve got it all together. I’m also not caught in the trap of feeling insecure because I don’t. My eyes are set on the Heavenlies and I’m focused on His storehouse. The beauty and blessing that comes from hot water for a bath, a cold drink, and the opportunity to have a husband in the home willing to rock a baby so I can shave my legs. In my mind and heart, I need to be more diligent about recognizing the good. The realities of my situation are far greater than most of the world, even in the snapshot view. When I compare them to another person’s highlight reel, I lose sight of the gift in front of me.

overwhelmed.

the holiday season is a lot of fun, but it can be overwhelming. if your life is like mine, your schedule is already FULL and the thought of adding another item on the list makes you want to scream. this year, on top of all of the holiday shenanigans, our family is moving. this is crazy. a craziness that makes me want to praise the Lord for his provision and pull my hair out all at the very same time. is that possible?

perhaps, you’re like me right now. your world is total CHAOS and your chest is tight and you feel like you can’t do another thing… please let me encourage you. it is possible to grind through the season of chaos and come out on the other side. a much brighter, more relaxing side.

i try to cope with the emotion of being overwhelmed by:

{creating time for Christ} i am not as good at this as i should be, but i do make it a point to create time for Christ. i keep one of my favorite scriptures in the front of my mind all day. “cast all your anxieties on Him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7. i listen to sermons on podcast or worship music when i’m in the car. i make sure if i can’t get my devotion in that i’m still doing it with little mama at night. this helps me stay focused on His promises instead of the anxiety that is buzzing through me.

{create a list} i love lists, but i also can be overwhelmed by my list. i make a “six list” for things i need to complete TODAY and then put future ideas/tasks/etc in my iPhone. this helps me figure out what tasks i need to accomplish, what is immediate, and what can wait.

{divide and conquer} my family is always busy and sometimes that requires us to divide and conquer. right now for example, j is at our new house working on floors, and i’m taking care of the kids and working on laundry. by splitting up tasks i can get a lot done.

{it takes a village} i use my support team to help. i am not great at asking for help, but i’m learning the importance. just yesterday, i asked my mom to keep the kids and asked one of my best friends to meet me at our new house so we could clean it. i paid both my mom and my friend with sausage biscuits from McDonald’s and felt a lot less stressed as a result. the kids were well cared for and the task i needed to complete was done twice as fast.

{give yourself grace} when i  am busy and pulled in a thousand different directions i am going to mess up. my house is going to be a wreck. saxophones are going to get left at home even though it’s band day at school. and that’s ok. life happens. in the grand scheme of things, the things i miss don’t make or break our family, or me even. on the days i choose to roll with life’s messiness, things go a lot smoother.

sometimes i am overwhelmed even in spite of my coping techniques. however, i know, there’s another side. i know a pity party won’t change things. and i choose to get after it…

 

tell me: how to do you cope with being overwhelmed?

 

Non-Morning Person Routine {With Kids}

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I am not a morning person. Frankly, I don’t believe I should be required to function with kindness until 10 AM. However, I’m a mom now and I don’t have luxuries like sleeping in… And when I get mad, I remind myself I chose this! I chose to be a mama. I chose to give up my sweet morning sleep and wrestle with two kids instead… I’ve developed a quick morning routine that works, most of the time… It doesn’t work when I hit snooze and little mama gets dropped off at school at the same time as the dreaded “you are now tardy” sign gets put out in the carpool loop at school. It also doesn’t work when the baby has a blow-out right after he’s been buckled into his car seat… But mostly, it works and here’s how:

6:00 AM – Nurse

6:20 AM- Shower

(Failure to do this on time will mess the entire flow!)

6:40 AM- Wake little mama

6:50 AM- Breakfast/ Pour Coffee

6:55 AM- Blow dry hair

7:00 AM- Give little mama a fifteen minute warning/apply make-up/dress

7:10 AM- Change baby

7:15 AM- At the door

Here’s how I “win”:

I lay everything out the night before including coffee mugs, breakfast bowls, etc.

I chopped my hair so I could reduce blow dry and flat iron time. {And it was falling out postpartum..}

I don’t know how to anything more than a “five-minute face” with make-up.

Little mama is friendly in the morning.

The baby is an efficient breast feeder and normally chills in his swing after his “breakfast”.

Here’s how I “lose”:

I don’t get to do a devo to start my day.

I don’t get to exercise or stretch or ease into my morning.

If I hit snooze or if one thing goes wrong, I am late dropping off little mama to school.

If I shower the night before (which is truly ideal), I feel like death when I wake-up.

I go to bed too late and still am up in the middle of the night nursing so I feel like I’ve been hit by a mack truck. every. day.

As you can tell, this is NOT an expert post. This is not a “hey, I’ve got it all together” story. This is my life and it’s a mess! Totally imperfect. And I need help, honestly. Does anyone have any advice on how to have a smoother morning even when… you don’t like mornings… your baby doesn’t sleep through the night… and you stay up too late because it’s the only one on one time you get with your husband…??? If so, I’d love to know… E-mail me. Comment below.Pray for me. Tell me I’m not alone. I’ll accept any or all of the above.

{Breastfeeding} Pumping at Work.

one of the hardest things about having a baby is breastfeeding. it requires a lot of time and energy. it gets harder when you are forced to go back to work and have to pump to make enough milk for your child while they are with another caregiver. over the past few weeks, i’ve been working on my schedule and process. it’s been difficult, but worth it. here’s my process:

+ i pack eight 2.5 ounce bottles in a cooler pack the night before.

+ pump in the morning, at lunch, early afternoon, and right before i leave work.

+ store the bottles in the mini-fridge next to my office.

+ i made a sign that says “come back in 10 minutes” for the outside of my office door. this helps folks know i am unavailable during this time and encourages them to come back.

+ i bought a pump for work. this prevents me from forgetting my equipment and removes one extra headache from the day. having all my supplies readily available makes the process much easier.

+ during my pumping times, i go through my e-mails and listen to my voicemails so i can stay on task at work.

+ i pump one breast at a time so i don’t have to use a handsfree bra (doesn’t fit well under my clothes).

+ i bring a life factory water bottle from home and keep it filled with water at all times. my production is better when i’m well hydrated.

+ for days when my production seems low, i brew a cup of mother’s milk tea and have it after lunch.

i’ve found that pumping at work is possible, but requires great dedication. without a well-polished routine, i know that i’ll get behind and inevitably give up.

{tell me}: do you pump at work? do you have a process for pumping? any tips you may have are welcomed!

 

 

Change is Good.

Things have changed quite a bit ’round here since my last post in February.

For starters, John Robert changed universities and started attending Transylvania University in Lexington, KY after a successful freshman year at Kentucky Christian University. We’ve been fundraising, moving, and adjusting to his new life in KY over the past year and he’s already moved twice… He was able to visit Haiti this summer which was an amazing gift after a hard year learning to survive in the USA. We love JR and are so honored to be a part of his journey.

IMG_1312(Photo taken this Spring after a KCU soccer game!)

Secondly, on May 27,2015, Jason and I finalized our adoption and finally were able to give our daughter, Beverly, our last name! It was a joyous occasion filled with a “gotcha day” party and the fulfillment of a promise we made to Bev when she moved in… she got her ears pierced!

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(Photo taken on Cinco de Mayo!)

And finally, we welcomed a sweet baby boy into our lives on June 22, 2015 after hours and hours of labor… Ellias weighed 7 lbs 14 oz and 21 inches long. It was love at first sight for all of us!

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(Photo taken around 3 weeks old)

This year has been filled with tremendous growth and an explosion of love. My husband and I are grateful for all of the support we’ve had over the past several months. There is NO way we could have endured the craziness without our family and friends. It’s been a wild ride!

 

{Foster Parenting} Bedtime Routine.

Creating a bedtime routine is important for both the child and the parent. When little momma first moved to our house, we found that over the course of her moves her bedtime routine had changed dramatically. As a result, she occasionally fights sleep and has struggled to stay asleep during the night. We have found that by creating a strong bedtime routine, we are able to minimize her nighttime anxiety and help her feel more rested.

Here’s our routine:

8:00 PM– Shower/Bath. She’s at the age where showering is appropriate for hair washing days, but she still enjoys bath time.

8:20 PM– Teeth/Hair/Fish. After bathtime she brushes her teeth, hair, and feeds her fish independently.

8:30 PM– Points. We review the day and give points for positive behaviors.

8:35 PM– Quiet time/Catch up. There are days when we are distracted or life gets in the way and need a few extra minutes to get back on track. We use this time as a buffer. If the day goes smoothly, we use this time for reading or coloring in bed. This helps calm the mind and encourages a SLOW down!

8:50 PM– Devotion/Prayer. I do a quick devotion with little mama every night. On days I forget, she usually tells my mom on me. She prays after devotion.

9:00 PM– Lights Out. Bedtime.

Bedtime is hard for us for a variety of reasons. Little momma responds to cues, but often has a lot of bottled up energy and doesn’t like going to bed. She also struggles with staying asleep and feeling grumpy in the morning. We’ve found the below tips to be extremely helpful in creating a better bedtime routine.

– No screens an hour before we begin the bedtime routine. Screens overstimulate children and it’s hard for them to shut down after screen time.

– No chocolate milk or juice with dinner. This has been the hardest for us to cut out. At first we thought, “hey, milk is milk,” but then quickly realized the sugars ramped her up and made it harder to sleep.

– Reminding her that a 9 PM bedtime is appropriate for her age and her growing body. Again, at first, she wanted to stay up and watch a show with us because we were awake. We had to tell her that her body required more sleep and that most of her friends went to sleep at the same time. This helps her remember that she’s going to bed for her best interest.

Tell me: Does your child struggle with bedtime? What methods have you found helpful?

{Love Letters} Baby Boy

Yesterday, I stumbled across a journal entry from March 11, 2014 and was instantly reminded of the work God did in my life and heart over the past year. Today, being nearly six months pregnant with a baby boy, I find it fitting to share my love letter.

Dear Baby,

I read this week about Samuel and how Hannah wanted him so badly that she committed him to God before he was born. This is how badly I want you. I want you not just as an accessory and not just because everyone else has a kiddo, but because I believe the life you will lead will bring glory and honor to our God. I believe you will love God and love people at a very young age. I believe you will influence our friends and family by your infectious laughter and your heart for others. As your mama, I want nothing more than you to live your life sold out for Jesus. It requires you to focus less on yourself and more on others. It calls you to draw strength when others just see weakness. Your faith will be your most important quality and it will guide you when I fail and when you are at a complete loss. I can’t wait to show you the love of Jesus and I can’t wait to see how he reveals himself to me through you.

I love you,

Mama

As I continue to care for this little guy, I know my prayer for his life will continue to be the same. There is NO greater joy than knowing your children love Jesus. 

{Good Reads} Choosing Him All Over Again

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Last month, I read Choosing Him All Over Again, as a part of a blog tour. I cannot recommend this book enough as it truly depicts the hardship of marriage and satan’s plan to steal, kill, and destroy the union created by God.

When I started reading the book, I had no idea that I would be making parallels between Juana and Terry and my own marriage. {Spoiler alert!} Juana leaves Terry briefly because of the lies of this world and then stands in faith believing that her marriage will be restored. While J and I have not ever talked of divorce, I can assure you that most marriages are hanging on by a thread, just like the Mikels.

In our lives, we get consumed with busyness/other stuff and put our marriages on the back burner. Juana reminded me through scripture that our first priority (after God) should be to our spouse. My husband deserves more than my leftovers. My marriage deserves more. I was so convicted by this loving reminder that I’ve been making a more conscious effort to encourage my spouse, show him grace, and most importantly pray for him. Plus, Juana gives some excellent tips on how to pray for your man. This has helped reset my train of thought and helped me to reject the world’s idea of what a marriage should look like.

I would recommend this book to anyone married or single, because I think the Biblical truths shared throughout the Mikels compelling story is worth hearing. For those single or looking to be married soon, the read will help you set your marriage on a solid foundation. As a society, we spend a lot of time planning for our wedding and little time planning to be married. Guess what? I did it too, and the first years of marriage were HARDER because of it. For those of us that are married, this book serves as a wake-up call to each of us. It encouraged me to stop accepting the status quo and start fighting for my marriage to be the way God intended.

If you are interested in reading the book, you can buy it here. If you’d like to read the book and go a little deeper ( I highly recommend), you can download a study guide here.  If you would like to learn more about Juana Mikels, check out her blog here.

Disclaimer: I received this book as a free promotional item, but the thoughts and ideas of this post are my own.