4. New Year’s Eve

On New Year’s Eve of 2011 I took a walk with a cute, quiet guy from my Sunday School class.  I liked him instantly, but he was so quiet, and it left me wondering how a relationship could blossom.  About an hour after I got home he called and invited me out for dessert at The Cheesecake Factory.  That evening, sitting in his truck in my parent’s driveway, he asked me to be his girlfriend.  We’ll be celebrating four years of marriage in February.

New Year’s Eve used to be the evening my three best friends and I gathered together, made dinner, and spent the evening hanging out.  Now, I spend New Year’s Eve with my husband and children, a bottle of Welches finest sparkling grape juice, and SeaQuest DSV reruns.  (Yes, the show with the talking dolphin. I love it and I’m not ashamed.)  It’s also a time to reflect on the past year, revel and gape that yes, I am an adult, and another year has passed, and how did my kids ever get to big? I know for some 2016 was wretched; 2015 was my year in the valley, and 2016 has been much, much better.

It was, albeit, a year we lost a lot of beloved celebrities, and politically speaking, it was…interesting.  (  Interesting.  Yeah, let’s leave it at that.)  However, as I reflected on 2015 and the difficulty it brought my family, I felt determined to look at each year – no, each day – as a gift.  Having your world turned upside down as your spouse’s mortality is dangled in front of you tends to do that; so does looking at the world as a parent for the first time.  So here, in no particular order, are just a few of the major moments and lessons 2016 provided:

  1. We celebrated our first child’s first birthday.  My baby is one.  How did that happen? Where did the time go?  Time really is fleeting.  He’s one now, and soon he’ll be grown.  Enjoy every single day, even the hard ones.
  2. I found out I was pregnant with our second child!  We were blessed to share the news with our friends and family at W’s first birthday.  God is so good, and we are so blessed.
  3. W began to walk, talk, and throw hissy fits.  He says, “No” a lot now, but one day he’ll say, “I love you.”  He runs away just as much as he runs to me.  Those hissy fits will eventually end, and it’s my job to teach him how to accept disappointment gracefully.  This is a stage (sometimes an ugly one), but I am blessed with these frustrations.  They shed a new light on how God views me, and how, despite my hissy fits, rejections, and time spent running away from Him, He is always there with open arms, ready to accept me back, and love me when I am at my worst.
  4. I got a new job; a new, scary job.  I left a boss I loved working for, and I’ve had to acclimate myself to a new boss; new preferences, new tasks, and new expectations.    It was, at times, scary, hard, and trying.  It was also exciting, challenging, and a chance to grow.  Proverbs 16:9 says the Lord directs my steps, and over the past few years I have seen that truth in motion.  Each challenge placed before me is there because He desires it to be so, and I know when challenges arise I am never alone.  This job has allowed me to stretch myself professionally, personally, and I am grateful for the opportunities because of it.
  5. My husband and I celebrated our third year of marriage.  Our first year was wonderful, and I’m so, so, so thankful to admit the third year is so much better than the first!  I’m looking forward to our fiftieth.
  6. My second child was born.  No pregnancy or delivery horror story here; the only hiccup was gestational diabetes, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  After a relatively easy delivery and a pleasant hospital stay we returned home and reality set in.  Being a parent is hard; being the parent of two children is even harder.  Having friends and family who support you, who love you, who are there when you need to cry for no reason at all make it so much easier.
  7. Maternity leave for three blessed months.  Praise God for maternity leave!  I am so thankful I was able to take 12 glorious weeks off to snuggle, struggle, and learn with my new little dude.  I’m also grateful for coworkers who carried my load while I was gone, making my time off stress-free and worry-free when it came to work.

A lot more happened in 2016, but those are my highlights.  I’m thankful for each and every one of them, and the lessons I learned along the way.  I’m thankful God provided for my family, kept us healthy, and blessed us in big and small ways all throughout 2016.  As I get older (and hopefully wiser), I realize that no matter what, God is in control of my life.  He guides my steps, gives me opportunities to stretch and grow, and most importantly, will never leave me or forsake me.  Come what may, I am safe in His hands, and I am thankful for each day I get.

 

3. Kicks and Turns

Today, I am 35 weeks and one day into my second pregnancy.

This pregnancy has been drastically different from my first.  For one, we found out much, much sooner than we did with W.  I actually knew I was experiencing morning sickness and fatigue instead of running every medical horror story through my mind, convinced I had cancer.  This pregnancy I’ve had to contend with working full-time, chasing a one year old, and deal with gestational diabetes.

I’d be lying if I said I loved every minute; I can totally forgo racing to the bathroom because I’m afraid I’m going to hurl at work.  But, I’d also be lying if I told you I didn’t love the experience.

Today, like many days past, my baby is twisting, turning, and kicking inside of me.  There are times I am convinced my child has run out of room, or that he or she has confused my uterus for a dance floor.  (I do love sparkle.  Maybe there’s a disco ball in there?!)   It’s not always comfortable.  In fact, sometimes it can be downright painful.  Other times, I stare at my stomach, completely fascinated to see my child moving within.  It is a blessing I fully appreciate, and recognize not everyone receives.

Soon, very, very soon, my child will be born.  (This pregnancy has raced by!)  I am thrilled at the idea of meeting my son or daughter, of sharing the name my husband and I so thoughtfully picked out, and watching her develop a personality just as I did with her older brother.  I look forward to it, and long for it.

I also know that just like with W, I am going to miss having my child inside me.  I will miss the false sense that I can protect her from anything because she’s with me 24/7.  I will miss the bump that has severely limited my wardrobe these past few months.  Most of all, I’ll miss feeling her move inside; it is undoubtedly my favorite part of being pregnant, and I am thankful every day.

2. Toothy Grins

In the beginning, I didn’t have a hard time leaving W in daycare.  I know most mothers cry or spend hours watching the daycare nanny cam, but I did not.

Of course, in all fairness, most mothers don’t work right upstairs from their baby, either.  Working part-time was great; I would drop him off, work a five-hour shift, pick him up, and head home for cuddles.  I was exceptionally fortunate to have bosses who worked with my “mama” schedule; they know how important family is, and how quickly those childhood years are over.

The new job meant changes.  A full-time schedule, less cuddle time, but at least I was still in the same building.  That alone was a major blessing! Everyone kept telling me I could go upstairs and visit him anytime.

Just one catch with that plan… I have to leave again.

We’ve entered a new phase in the mother/child relationship – separation anxiety.  I felt like the biggest jerk the first time he cried as I was leaving.  I felt selfish and cruel; all I wanted to do was go back, pick him up, and reassure him I’d never leave.  So amidst the reassurances that he was “right upstairs” and I could “visit anytime,” I resisted.

Until the day I didn’t.

I had been strong for three whole days, but Thursday I felt beat up.  Holding W would certainly help that ache.  His toothy smile – the one only his father and I receive – that’s what I needed.

It was nap time, but he’d yet to fall asleep.  I’d timed my entrance poorly, but he was awake!  I cuddled him close while the daycare worker asked me questions I barely heard.  He was smiling his four-tooth smile just for me, leaning his forehead against mine while he played with my necklace.  I began to breathe again, feel whole again, and for the hundredth time that day I was thanking God for this sweet little boy.

I don’t want to put him down.  I don’t want to let go.  

I felt selfish again.  He would cry; he wouldn’t understand.  Why was I leaving him?  It took all my strength just to hand him over to S, the sweetest daycare worker, and right now, the woman I envied the most.  His cries pierced my heart as I hurried from the room, staring at the floor the whole way.  I stood outside his room, listening to him cry, sobbing myself.

The Assistant Director hurried to my side to make sure I was okay, and when I returned to my office I had a voicemail from S telling me how quickly my boy had fallen asleep.  Not to worry, Mama.  He’s just fine!

(We are so incredibly blessed to have such sweet people caring for our boy!)

As the day went on I felt calmer, like I’d been balanced out.  I had to remind myself babies don’t hold grudges – they just love.  My thoughts were justified the minute I walked into his classroom that evening.  He shifted his attention away from the toy he was currently playing with, gave me that sweet toothy grin, and excitedly crawled over to me.

 

1. Baby Fingers

He’ll be one soon.

That’s all I could think when they offered me the job.  He’ll be one, and I’ll be spending more time away from him than ever before.

It should have been a great day, a day to celebrate the new opportunity, but instead all I wanted to do was cry.  At home I was uncommonly quiet, and my husband knew I was grieving time lost.

It’s best for our family.  It’s best for our family, I chanted over and over again as I watched my son play.

Later that night I cradled him close, rocking back and forth like we’d done hundreds of times before.  He’ll be one soon.  One day he won’t need to me to rock him to sleep.  One day it’ll be the last time.  I wonder if I’ll know it at the time, rocking him a little bit longer than normal.  Or will I put him down and rush off to do laundry and knock off items on my “To Do” list?

He’s sucking his thumb now, a new habit and one I know I’ll eventually have to break, but for now it’s adorable.  He’s clutching my thumb with his tiny little fingers, opening and closing them over and over again as he begins to drift off to sleep.

Open.  Close.  Open.  Close.

His breathing is getting heavier now, and I’m doing everything in my power to soak this moment in.  If I hold perfectly still I can stop time in this perfect, blissful moment.  His thumb falls from his mouth; he’s asleep.  We stay like this for awhile.  I have things to do before tomorrow comes, but I can’t seem to pull myself away from this moment.

This is sacred; this is blessed time.

Eventually, I roll him closer, carefully stand, and place him in his crib.  He rolls over immediately, unaware of the emotional warfare his mother is experiencing.  I say the same prayer I’ve said from the day we brought him home.  “Lord, keep him safe.  Let him know You.”  I rub his back one more time, drag myself to the nursery door, and turn out the light.

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Photo courtesy of Pexels

The Night Before

Yesterday was my three year wedding anniversary.

Every time I repeat that sentence I can’t help but grin.  I’ve been married for three years.  I never even thought I would get married, and now look!  It’s been three years and it feels like it happened just yesterday.  It still amazes me how God brought us together, and how he continually blesses our lives.  Last year we were in a new home, and this year we have a child; it is astounding how much my life has changed!

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Courtesy of NinjaShark Photography

The night before my wedding I wanted to stop time.  Things were changing, moving too fast, and I am not a fan of change.  At home, I called a family meeting to discuss this and that for the following day.  As I stood in my parent’s study with them and my sister (her husband was kind enough to give us time alone) I kept trying to think of things to say.  Issues to resolve.  Problems to fix.  Anything that would keep us in that room together for just a little bit longer.  Anything to have it just be the four of us again.

Eventually, I ran out of things to say, someone had to go to the bathroom, and my moment was gone.  I reluctantly headed off to bed knowing tomorrow was going to change everything.

My mother came into my room to say goodnight, and I looked up at her from the only bed that had ever been mine.  She had slept in this bed as a girl, a teen, a young woman, and she’d given it to me.  It was my last night in that house in that bed.

“Everything is changing,” I whispered, trying not to sob.  I had quit my job a month ago because after the wedding we were moving.  He’d found a job too good to pass up, and while it was a great opportunity, it also meant being a newlywed in a town where I knew no one.  No job, no friends, no family.  Tomorrow I was marrying the love of my life and I was terrified.

“You don’t have to marry him, you know,” Mama said softly, brushing my hair off my forehead.  “But baby, you love him, don’t you?  He’s such a good man.”

I lost my battle with my tears, and recalled how another friend spent the night before her wedding crying into her mother’s lap.  Now, I understood why.

Of course I loved him.  Of course I wanted to marry him.  Marrying him meant moving out and away, it meant leaving and cleaving, it meant my childhood was ending and I was taking one more step into adulthood.  Ultimately, it meant stepping out in faith and trusting God.

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Courtesy of NinjaShark Photography.

You should know: I glowed on my wedding day.  I relished every step down the aisle, every moment on the church stage, and the moment after our first kiss as husband and wife; the day was perfect.  Now, I look back at the night before my wedding and smile, because that night while I was grieving a life-change I know God was smiling, knowing all that was ahead.

It’s been a blessed three years, even when things have not always turned out as I anticipated.  They have been so much better.

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Courtesy of Marissa Jean Photography

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3: 5-6 

When God Speaks

Don’t you love it when you can feel God speaking to you?  You don’t have to guess or wonder – you KNOW He’s speaking to you, right then and there.

It’s simply the best feeling ever.

My relationship with God is constantly evolving, and this past year has really been a test of faith for my family.  Watching things go from seemingly perfect to dashed in just moments has been one of the most difficult experiences of my life.

It’s also made me really examine my faith and my trust in God.  Do I trust Him? Do I believe He’ll honor His Word?  Can I really abandon my worries and fears just because He tells me to do so?

It’s been a rough year.

…but He’s still talking to me.  He’s whispering words of reassurance while I’m at work, doubting myself and my choices.  He’s loving me through my baby boy, who has honestly been the bright spot of this past year, and I’m convinced God sent him to us because He knew we’d need that daily dose of love. Supporting me with encouraging friends and family who always seem to know when I need a kind word or genuinely sweet gesture.

I am so incredibly blessed.

 

Once a Writer

I used to be a writer.  Once upon a time, I was filling every available moment scribbling down character development and plot twists.  I filled journals with tales of far away lands and mystical creatures.  I dreamed of being published, being a well-know young adult lit author, and, most importantly, telling a story that only I could tell.

Once upon a time, I was publishing articles in my local newspaper, conducting interviews, and using my journalism degree to the fullest.  I interned at Walt Disney World, wrote for a Cast Member publication, and got to bring Disney magic to the page.  It was, quite honestly, one of the best times of my life.

Once upon a time, I was a writer.

In fact, if asked, I would still identify myself as one; it’s not exactly something you lose.  But if you have a gift and you don’t use it, build it, and sharpen it, that gift is bound to become dull.

I’m not sure when I “lost” that part of me, but somewhere between my thesis, graduate work, and a thankless job, I just lost that…drive.  I was tired.  I stopped reading as much as I once had, instead zoning out in front of the TV.  I had plenty of opportunity, and even some decent material, but I just never took the time.

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It’s a common mistake – not taking the time.  Getting caught up in the stress of the day, avoiding our personal “To Do” list, mindlessly letting TV take over our precious time.  It’s a mistake, and it’s a sin.

Don’t get me wrong –  watching TV isn’t sinful, but not utilizing our talents properly is; God gave us talents, and we should use them.  We have a limited amount of time on this earth, and personally, I don’t want to stand before His throne and try to explain why I didn’t use what He gave me.

I’ve felt the ache for a long time, and now it’s time to do something about it.

Recently, I attended a Bible Study where we discussed Lysa Terkeurst’s “The Best Yes.”  It’s a fabulous book, and it actually inspired this blog post.  How am I spending my time? How am I spending my soul?

In “The Best Yes”, Terkeurst said, “Writing was in my soul. And it had to come out. I knew it… God had given me a gift of time.  My time.  My choice.  My approach… After all, remember the decisions you make determine the schedule you keep.  The schedule you keep determines the life you live.  And how you live your life determines how you spend your soul” (pg. 26-27).

How much time do I have?  Honestly, not enough.  I’ve got a nine month son, I work, and I’m actively involved in my church.  I do have some time, though, and I need to make use of it.

I have a lot I want to accomplish in my life, but I’ll take it one day at a time.  I hope when I look back at 2016 I’ll be able to say I honored God with my time and my talents.