To the Moms… and “Not Yet” Moms

I never imagined that being a mom would be such hard work. But it truly is worth every single sleepless night and every minute that I could have spent “for myself” that I spend playing with him instead.

This Mother’s Day, I wanted to write something to encourage the moms out there… and those who are “not yet” moms.

To the Moms

To those who are lacking in sleep, who have given up the dream of “sleeping in” ‘til 6 a.m.,

Those who just wish they could get through a day without some sort of bodily fluid staining their clothing,

To those who are so tired of saying ‘no,’ ‘Don’t eat that,’ ‘Stop doing that,’

To those who are at their wit’s end from asking their teen to look up from her cell phone,

To those who are trying not to worry themselves to sleep when he isn’t home by curfew,

To those whose babies are now having babies of their own and you’re trying to figure out how much help to offer without it being too much,

To those whose babies are now taking care of them…

You’re amazing. You give of yourself selflessly day after day. Even if your kids don’t thank you…know that your impact is changing their lives, day by day.

You are planting seeds into the most valuable ground: another life! Maybe not today, maybe not even this side of heaven, but someday, you will see a glimpse of the difference you have made in those lives.

To the “not yet” Moms

You are a mom in your heart before you’re a mom according to a birth certificate or adoption papers.

You are a mom before a baby is placed in your arms

You are a mom whether or not you ever deliver a baby

You are a mom if you give of your life to a young person,

If you encourage them to be more than they are,

You are a mom if you pray for your niece or nephew like they were your own child,

You are a mom if you cherish those around you and help them live out their callings,

Be encouraged… you have a heart of a mother. Plant seeds into the lives of those you have now. Maybe not today, maybe not even this side of heaven, but someday, you will see a glimpse of the difference you have made in those lives.

 

 

 

Keeping a Grateful Heart through the Holidays

Photo by Markus Spiske
Photo by Markus Spiske

It’s amazing how much a life can change in one year. Last Christmas, I was struggling big time. I had just one thing I had wanted all year — to get pregnant — and it wasn’t happening.

At one Christmas party, a family member actually said something like, “Haven’t you guys waited long enough to have kids?!” I seriously wanted to slap her. Of course, she didn’t know we had been trying that whole year. She also didn’t know how much it stung my heart every time someone brought it up.

The holidays can be hard when you don’t have the one thing you really want. Maybe that one thing is a husband. Maybe it’s to get pregnant. Maybe it’s to have your marriage restored.

What got me through last Christmas — in a season when I was so focused on getting that one thing — was gratitude. Instead of pouting because yet another friend found out she was pregnant, and I still wasn’t, I tried to thank God for what I did have. I thanked God for my wonderful husband, my good job, my friendships.

One verse that I stood on was Psalm 23:1, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” Just like a good Shepherd, the Lord knows what I need. He will give me what I need when I need it. So I should not live out of a lifestyle of wanting, but rather trust in the Shepherd to give me the necessities.

Photo by Biegun Wschodni
Photo by Biegun Wschodni

I pray that whatever your heart longs for this Christmas, you will continue to surrender it to Him. He truly DOES know what you need, and He will give you what you need. Meanwhile, give Him thanks for everything you already have, and choose to focus on what He’s already given you; not what you’re lacking.

The end to my story is a “happily ever after” one, but I don’t want to paint some fantastical picture that everyone’s story will end this way. I know sometimes we long for something for years and decades and that thing never happens. I don’t pretend to know why. I think Joyce Meyer sums up what our attitude should be in those seasons well with this quote: “If God asks us to stay in a situation, then He is going to give us a special grace, for a special season, to experience His peace and joy despite the circumstances.”

But sometimes, friends, THANKFULLY… sometimes, longings are fulfilled. “…a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12b

January 1, 2016 - 7:40 a.m.
January 1, 2016 – 7:40 a.m.

The end of my story is that I went to bed in 2015, not knowing what my future would hold, not knowing if I would ever get pregnant, but holding out hope in the Lord. I woke up in 2016, and within my first five minutes of being awake in this year, I discovered that I WAS PREGNANT and that 2016 would be a life-changing year!

God knows the seasons of your life, friend. Try to cherish this holiday season for what it is, and don’t let anyone else’s opinions rock you.

To the Future Mom Who is Scared

notcaptivetofearI have a 3-month old.

For so much of my life, I never imagined I’d be saying something like that.

You see, until about a year before my son was born, I was afraid of babies.

I’m not talking afraid like one is afraid of clowns or snakes or spiders, but more so afraid of taking care of someone so tiny and needy. I was afraid I couldn’t cut it.

This post is for the gals out there who aren’t moms yet but have some sort of fear about becoming a mom someday. Because I can relate.

There were seriously several points of my adulthood when I said and thought, “I don’t know if I can handle a baby. I’d rather just adopt a kid in elementary school.”

You see, I was afraid of that which was unfamiliar. I spent almost 15 years in children’s ministry, but it was all spent working with elementary-aged kids. Kids in elementary and I get along great… we have the same maturity level, after all:)! Being the youngest child in my family, I didn’t grow up around babies, either. And when I babysat in high school and college, it was always for elementary-aged kids.

Babies were pretty much foreign to me, and it showed when it came time for me to hold friends’ newborns. Awkward! Sorry to all those friends whose babies I held ever-so-awkwardly!

But lo and behold, my husband and I knew we wanted to try for kids of our own, which would indeed require having a baby (last time I checked… they don’t ever come out of the womb as 5-year-olds!). So about a year ago, I decided it was time to face that fear head on!

I asked my church if I could volunteer in the nursery. Folks, this was a step of faith! I seriously think I had maybe changed only one or two diapers in my life before this experience. And the first diaper I changed in the nursery… let’s just saw it was a big fail and my fellow volunteer had to help me redo it!

Thankfully, though, after a few times hanging out with the babies, I started becoming comfortable with them, and some of the fear began to dissipate. I won’t say all my fear was gone by the time my baby was born because there have still been plenty of challenges I’ve had to face and fears I’ve had to overcome, but I’m so glad I didn’t allow that fear to determine the direction of my life. Instead of dwelling in fear, I did something to try to overcome the fear. We’re only held captive by our fears as long as we do nothing to try to overcome them.

perfectloveFriend, I don’t know what your fear is. Maybe you can relate to me and my former case of baby phobia. Maybe your fear is that your future baby will be born with a condition (I can relate, and if that does happen, God will give you grace. He did that for me abundantly!). Maybe your fear is that you and your husband won’t make enough money to provide for a little one (If so, see Philippians 4:19!).

Maybe your fear is that you won’t be a good parent. If so, I pray that God will speak to your heart and remind you that you are good enough because of Him. He lives inside of you, and if it is His will for you to have children someday, He will give you grace in that season.

Whatever your fear may be, ask God to drive it out by His perfect love. As you focus on His love for you and for your future child, He will gradually cause those fears to disappear.

“Perfect love drives out fear.” 1 John 4:18

May His love continue to abound in your heart and cause you to live in abundant faith instead of fear!

Joy Comes in the Morning: The Story of My Son’s Birth & NICU Stay

Just a couple weeks ago, I had one of the hardest nights of my life. But if it weren’t for that night, I wouldn’t be able to grasp the full meaning of the verse, “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5

img_4818Our firstborn, our sweet son Luke, was born on August 22. Leading up to his birth, we knew that fluid wasn’t draining properly from his kidneys, and three days before I was induced, a nephrologist told us that he would have to be admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) after delivery.

As much as I was dreading my baby having to go to the NICU, I was grateful to know that would have to happen even before his birth. But nothing could prepare me for how difficult it would be to have an infant — my first baby — in the intensive care unit.

It seems like we were met with challenges on every side when it came to Luke’s birth. I had had borderline high blood pressure during my pregnancy, which led my OBGYN to decide to induce me at 38 weeks. About one hour before Luke’s birth, my fluid levels dropped dramatically, which caused Luke’s pulse to plummet. They were able to pump me full of fluids, and fortunately, I dilated to a 10 shortly after that. Luke was ready to come out!

img_4803During delivery, my OBGYN told me at one point that the baby wasn’t happy and I really needed to push. I’m thinking, “I’m pushing with all I’ve got, but I can’t even feel anything post-epidural!” It turns out, I really needed to push because not only was Luke’s shoulder caught (shoulder dysplasia), but the umbilical cord was also wrapped around his neck … twice!

Thanks to the use of suction and my skilled OBGYN, Luke was delivered without any long-term side effects. I was even able to hold him for about 10 minutes before he had to be whisked off to the NICU. Being able to hold that little guy right after the intensity of labor was one of the most rewarding moments of my life, and I bawled my eyes out when Luke started crying as soon as they pried him away from me.

As challenging as the labor and delivery was, it was nothing compared to the trials that were in store for us over the next 8 days. Newborns need to be fed at least every three hours, and that’s especially difficult when your newborn is attached to multiple IVs, a heart rate monitor, a catheter, and under bilirubin lights. Trying to feed him under those circumstances while I was recovering from labor and delivery was exhausting. Perhaps the most emotional part was seeing my little man — so vulnerable and defenseless —

Chillin' under the bilirubin lights.
Chillin’ under the bilirubin lights.

having to go through so many treatments as a newborn. Granted, I realize that his condition was much less serious than most of the other babies in the NICU, and I’m extremely grateful that he spent only 8 days there.

After we had spent two nights in the hospital, I was discharged. This presented us with a new quandary. Where would I sleep? If I was to visit the baby once every three hours for feedings, how could that happen if I wasn’t at the hospital?

The NICU room Luke was staying in was tiny and contained a small sofa. It was just enough room for one person to “sleep” on. So we made the decision that I would spend the night in the NICU that night.

Daddy and Luke!
Daddy and Luke!

The NICU — with its crying, hurting babies, with the constant beeps of machines, with nurses coming in and out of the room throughout the night. As much as I wanted to be around my little guy, I couldn’t stand the thought of sleeping in the NICU.

But I did it. Because when you’re a parent, I’m learning, you put the needs of your child above your own and do a lot of things that you really don’t want to do. Parenting is a lifestyle of sacrifice.

As I attempted to sleep on that tiny couch that night, my baby cried his eyes out multiple times. This was where I reached rock bottom. I tried to feed him. And that was all I could do. I wasn’t allowed to hold him outside of feedings since we weren’t supposed to limit the amount of time he was under the bilirubin lights. I couldn’t even change his diaper, lest I mess up his catheter.

I did all I could. And still he cried. I felt helpless. Around 1:30 a.m., I texted my husband out of sheer desperation, “I don’t think I can do this.” I considered asking him to come pick me up so I could sleep for a few hours at home.

It was about that time that I put in my earbuds and listened to an old school Sandi Patty song, “I’ll Give You Peace.”

Here are some of the lyrics:

Sometimes when you’re in the valleys
All of your burdens you carry alone
Oh, but I know
I know when you need Me
Call I’ll be there
Longing to prove how much I care

Peace, I’ll give you peace
When the wind blowns on
Peace, whenever you call Me
I’ll give you peace
When the wind blows on

How I needed peace in those moments! As I listened to the music and drifted off to sleep for an hour or two, I felt the peace of God surround me and had a deep knowing that everything would be OK.

Still so cute, even with a "unicorn" IV attached to his forehead!
Still so cute, even with a “unicorn” IV attached to his forehead!

As dark as that hour was for me, God used it to show His faithfulness. The next morning, so many good things happened. First off, my breast milk finally started coming in! That is a huge answer to prayer for a momma of a 3-day old. Secondly, at 7 a.m., the door to Luke’s room opened and the neonatologist walked in. We had been waiting to hear whether Luke’s surgery would be at the hospital he was already at or if he would have to be transported to a different hospital. The neonatologist gave me the great news that his surgery would be at the hospital we were already at, saving us added stress and a bigger hospital bill.

Later that day, we got the great news that a guest suite at the hospital had opened up for us. We had been pretty low on the waiting list for a room, but the lady in charge knew we were NICU parents and made an opening for us.

img_4874
The day we brought our little bundle of joy home!

All of these great things that happened within a period of a few hours were proof to me that God was listening; that we weren’t alone. And the next day, Luke had his surgery, and it went great! We were able to discharge a few days later, and he’s enjoyed the last 2 weeks safe and sound at home.

Sometimes it really is darkest before the dawn. It’s during those difficult times, like my night in the NICU, that we must hold on with all our might to the faith that we have in our Savior. When you’re going through those difficult season, I encourage you to hold on to at least one verse or song that will get you through. Mull that song or verse over and over in your head until it gets into your heart — until it becomes more than just words — until it becomes living, active faith.

Why We Waited to Have Kids

IMG_4209I’ll be 33 by the time my first child (yes, that’s him to the left) is born at the end of this summer. By many folks’ standards, that’s ancient. Especially considering that my husband and I have been married for six years.

The thing is, I love kids. I have always loved kids. I’ve been volunteering in children’s ministry ever since I was 18. I have always dreamed of having lots of kiddos and all the fun we’d have together. In many ways, I’ve felt mentally ready to be a mom for years.

When Devon and I got married in 2010, we realized we would not be able to have kids right away. Here are the reasons we waited to have kids:

  1. classic_romantic_caucasian_J144_willyoumarryme_1We wanted to develop a strong foundation to our marriage.

The truth is, we were a bit of a wreck when we got married. Even though we’d known each other since we were teens, our entire dating and engagement was spent long distance. There’s very little real life problem solving that occurs prior to marriage when you have a couple that’s madly in love that lives eight hours apart until a week before they get married.

So, let’s just say, things were a little rocky when we first started out. We’re two people with strong, stubborn personalities. Heads butted. Tempers soared. And I’m so glad there weren’t little kids in our lives at the time. Both of us needed a few years to learn how to be a good husband and wife before we could even dream of becoming good parents.

Now, I realize this isn’t true for every couple. Some couples have a very solid foundation to their marriage before getting married. They’ve known each other for years and have worked through tough situations before tying the knot. Even for couples that don’t feel “ready for kids” when the kids come, they make it work. But for us, I’m so glad we waited.

  1. PiggyBankIt was the wise financial decision.

When we were engaged, my husband and I decided that he would return to school for five years to earn a nursing degree and a Nurse Practitioner degree. This was a big decision to start off a marriage – one that meant we would rely on my income for five years.

Naturally, the question of when to have kids came up when we discussed our five-year plan. Sure, we could have kids and technically get by on my income, but it would require even greater sacrifices than the ones we were already making. Not to mention that we were going deeper “in the hole” every day due to the fact that we had to take out student loans for my husband’s education.

We realized that if we waited to have kids until after my husband finished school, we’d be living on two incomes and we’d be at a point where we were paying off those student loans. In essence, our kids would be born into a more stable financial environment. We decided we could afford to wait a few years to not only build a stronger financial foundation in our family, but also to help our kids have even more opportunities.

  1. Negative-Pregnancy-TestsWe didn’t have a choice but to wait.

Finally, after five years of my husband being in school, he graduated last May! It was truly one of the biggest successes of our marriage. We had waited so long to have kids and were mentally ready to have our first child within months of him starting his career.

But that didn’t happen. We started trying in January 2015 and had to wait nearly a year before I got pregnant. The year of waiting was one of the most frustrating of my life. I had already waited five years for kids! I expected God would drop a baby in my womb the minute He got the memo that Devon was out of school and that we were ready to have a kid. But that didn’t happen.

I’ve learned that our timing is not the same as God’s timing. We may think we’re ready for something, but God may still have something to teach us in the waiting. In my case, it was a matter of learning to trust Him more. There came a point after about nine months of trying that I truly started to doubt if I would ever become pregnant. My doctor mentioned that I might be infertile, and it tore me apart. Why, after all this time of faithfully waiting for my husband to get through school and for us to be at a good point in our marriage, would the Lord allow me to be infertile?

I am fruitfulIt was around that time that I discovered an amazing community of women that brought me much encouragement. A gal I grew up with, Lauren Bourne, has started a Periscope channel and blog for women struggling with infertility and miscarriage called I Am Fruitful. With God’s help, she helped me realize that birthing a child was a desire of my heart that God had put there. And therefore, it would come to pass as I delighted in the Lord (Psalm 37:4).

I know there are countless families out there who have tried years to have kids and have not been able to conceive. I don’t pretend to understand your heartache or frustration. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do know that sometimes, a child who desperately needs to be adopted is the answer to that heartache. Other times, it’s a matter of praying and trusting that God is going to help you conceive at just the right time.

Whatever your situation may be, I’ve found that often times, the solution is learning to trust God. Do you trust Him, even if you don’t become pregnant? Do you trust Him, even if you don’t have children for 10 more years?

If you’re waiting to have kids at this point in your journey, stay encouraged. Whether you’re trying to develop a stronger marriage before having kids, become more stable financially, or just waiting to get pregnant, God is not having you wait to torture you. He is a loving Father and knows what’s best for you. Trust His timing and know that He will fulfill your heart’s desires in His way.

A Baby: A Blessing or a Burden?

IMG_4504Recently, I had lunch with three ladies who are all at least 50 years older than me at the retirement community where I work. Admiring their wrinkled faces and carefully selected outfits always makes me feel like I’m hanging out with adopted grandmas. During the lunch, I had the chance to share with them the good news that my husband and I are expecting our first child.

One of the women is a 97-year-old whose sense of style and wit are still fully intact. For the sake of HIPPA, we’ll call her Betty. When Betty was 9, her mother became pregnant with yet another child while her family was trying to survive the Great Depression in rural Oklahoma. The Depression, from her perspective, sounds like everything the history books have told us it was – limited resources required folks to come up with creative ways to get by. Betty has told me stories about how they would wash their clothes using a huge tub and she would jump in the tub and dance around as the “agitator.”

"A Vendre" means "for sale." Some babies were actually sold during the Depression era.
“A Vendre” means “for sale.” Some babies were actually sold during the Depression era.

When Betty’s mom found out she was pregnant yet again, the baby was not seen as a blessing, but as a burden. The child would be yet another mouth to feed. “It’s wonderful that women these days can be excited about their pregnancies and see babies as the blessings that they are,” Betty told me.

Honestly, I was a little floored by this perspective. In my cozy, middle class American life, babies are seen strictly as blessings. We host extravagant baby showers to welcome these tiny humans. We throw gender reveal parties filled with pink balloons or blue-frosting cupcakes because our families are so delighted to find out if it’s a boy or girl.

I have waited and prayed for the child growing inside of me for nearly six years. My husband and I were able to choose when we wanted to have children, and because he was in school the first five years of our marriage, we were grateful that birth control allowed us to wait until we could afford a child. And now, we’re all set! We’re both working, we’re looking at buying our first house… it seems the baby will be born into a relatively peaceful, comfortable environment.

But it’s not so for every baby… not in the past, nor in the present. Obviously, for the millions of unwanted pregnancies each day, the baby is not viewed as a blessing. Some pregnancies are terminated, while other babies go to adopting families who will cherish them. Still other children are born into families that do not want them.

Lyrics from the Elvis Presley song “In the Ghetto” come to mind:

As the snow flies
On a cold and gray Chicago mornin’
A poor little baby child is born
In the ghetto
And his mama cries
‘cause if there’s one thing that she don’t need
it’s another hungry mouth to feed …

America, of course, isn’t the only place where babies have been and are still, in some cases, viewed as burdens. India. Have you seen Slumdog Millionaire? Remember the two brothers digging through the trash in hopes that they might earn a few rupies? They are Dalits, a portion of Indian society that is considered sub-human by other Indians.

dalit-about-photo-1The Dalits often try to get rid of their children because the have no means to provide for them. There are countless stories of Dalit mothers who have boarded a train with their children and abandoned them on the train. The saddest story I’ve come across, from the book, No Longer a Slumdog, is of “a little boy, half naked, lying on the sidewalk of a busy street. Next to the boy was a dog. Upon closer inspection, I saw that it was a female dog, and the little boy was actually sucking her milk.”

Stories like this rip my heart open. Stories like this make me wonder how many children I can handle… how many could I possibly open the doors of my heart and my home to? What can I do to make sure that one more child is viewed as a blessing, not a burden?

While adoption isn’t for everyone, there are so many options to help both locally and around the world. You can sponsor a child through programs like Compassion International. You can contribute to organizations like Gospel for Asia, a ministry that helps the Dalit children of India. You can foster a child in need in your own town.

When my baby is born late this summer, he or she will truly be a great blessing in our lives. After contemplating Betty’s story, I treasure that I’m in a position where I can view my child as a blessing. Still, I want to do what I can to help lift the burden from others who aren’t able to consider a child to be a blessing. I am just one person, but what can I do to help another mother embrace the fact that her baby – whatever condition he or she is born into – is nothing short of a precious gift from God?

Don’t Miss the Heart of Christmas

christmascarolsSo often, I miss the heart of Christmas. So often, I’m too busy, caught up in the hustle and bustle of buying presents, wrapping them, delivering them, cooking, cleaning, putting a cute Christmas dress on the dog…

I’m determined to not miss the heart of Christmas this year. Early in December, I asked the Lord to open the eyes of my heart to all He has for me this Christmas. And I’ve seen Him — I’ve seen Jesus this Christmas more than ever before.

In Christmas carols playing on the loudspeaker as I’m walking through the grocery store, I hear His glory being spread…

“Let every heart, prepare Him room…”

“Hark the herald angels sing, ‘Glory to the newborn King!'”

“O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!”

In the greetings from colleagues, strangers, and family, I love hearing the Name of Christ… “Merry Christmas.”

I’ve also seen Jesus through the extraordinary generosity of others. I have been gifted extraordinarily this Christmas. It was a gift so wonderful and unexpected that I shed tears when I opened it. Just receiving that gift made me want to give extraordinarily. I had the opportunity to do so when I met a woman in the grocery store parking lot on Saturday who was asking me for money. God showed me what she needed in that moment — a hot pizza and a ride, and I was able to give her both.

Don’t miss Jesus this Christmas. It may be Christmas Eve already, but it’s not too late to ask Him to show you Himself.

Merry Christmas, friends!