counting down and preparing

I’m (generally) a planner. I (generally) like to know what’s going on at all times. I like to have things in order and I enjoy being overly prepared way in advance. It makes me feel comfortable. Calm. Happy. And, at peace. PLUS…. it gives me a chance to make changes or adjust when things come up. Because they always do.

So, days away from my 28th week, the beginning of my 3rd trimester, I’m counting down.
Thanksgiving Day I’ll be 31 weeks. 31. 31. 31. That’s insane.
New Year’s Eve I’ll be 36 weeks.
My ob tells me to be ready the first week in January (37w), but to not be surprised if these girls make their debut in December.

whoa.

Nothing new. I’ve mentioned this in my last few posts and I guess I keep saying it because this is real. And, it is happening. But, I’m having a hard time believing it. God’s faithfulness has blown my mind. The tangible truth that he gives good gifts is difficult to grasp. And, I just. can’t. get a handle on it.
Now, considering the type of person that I am….. I’m not ready. I’m not ready. I’m not ready. I feel like we have so much to do, purchase, organize, wash, and just make ready before the girls get here. Even though I watched my belly grow, my tops shrink, and my dresses fill out, December/January felt so far away and this reality felt so unreal. Yes, I saw these babies grow before my eyes from a little ball of cells with a beating heart, I watched their limbs grow and develop, their little faces mature…. I felt their kicks grow stronger and watched them vie for space in my belly but to know that I will be watching them grow on the outside in a matter of weeks is unreal. I can’t believe it. I literally cannot believe it. And, I’m not ready. {I don’t think.}

I love movies. I mean, I love movies. And, we’ve been going quite a bit lately. I want to see all the best movies out… My favorite are romantic comedies & films that depict love conquering all. I’m intentionally putting off  all of the girlie movies for the days/nights I’m stuck at home or will be at home. So, we’ve been watching the deeper more thought provoking movies (which I love, too!!!) and ended up catching The Judge last night. Amazing. Amazing. Amazing. For more than a few reasons, but left me wallowing deep in my feelings and more than ever adamant about preparing for raising our children. (No, I’m not telling the movie, so you can relax!!! lol). All of this felt great because just a few days ago, I sent Thomas and email with a list of things I wanted to begin focusing on, discussing, and working toward in terms of spiritually preparing to raise our girls with a heart for Jesus.  I went to Flourish in June and was about 6 weeks pregnant. It was a beautiful conference which scheduled quiet time with Jesus. During that time I wrote down every character trait I wanted our kids to have (and, yes…. I wrote children many times and felt silly for doing so but that was what was on my heart), wrote scriptures associated with those traits and attached women in the Bible who portrayed the traits I longed for them to have.

After the movie, I was left encouraged to do all the things I’ve been running from, personally writing about, and convicted to do. I rambled on and on about how important it is for me to deal with hard things, emotions, hurts, and disappoints and to communicate because doing so builds and strengthens relationships, not doing it tears them apart. And, hardens us. I’ve hardened in many ways and although I’ve been praying that God soften my heart, I truly don’t feel as if I’ve surrendered enough for Him to do it.

I know that not dealing with our own personal shit before we have kids and after they arrive, leave them be the ones shoveling both theirs and ours. If we don’t deal with our own junk, we pass that junk onto them. I know that our issues impact our kids, shape their lives, their perceptions, and experiences. Noyhing will ever be perfect but my goodness I want to give my kids the best foundation possible.

I don’t want the things I suck at to impair my children. I don’t want the fact that mommy hates crying and being emotional so she doesn’t like really digging deep and dealing with things to hurt them. And, it will. It will hurt them, my relationship with them, how they see me interacting with their daddy, and their view of me being a person who is supposed to be the heart and lifeline of our home. All of my decisions will shape and impact their lives. For better or worse. 

Treating them with grace, freely and relentlessly showing forgiveness, and intentionally guiding them to truth that they NEED Jesus will be all of our saving grace.

Especially when the less than attractive side of mommy comes out…. when she’s impatient, harsh, hard, seeking perfection & the best from herself and everyone around her, is HARD. It’s stressful. It’s limiting. It doesn’t help to build relationships or people.

With two extra little firecrackers (which they will inevitably be) in our home, finding a new balance will be hard, but finding it will be our peace. Learning to deal with things…. learning to be gentle, assuring, and kind even when frustrated will be what shapes our girls to be kind and self assured. It is what will keep the feel of our home warm, safe, and sure. It is what will tether us together when we’re disappointed in each other… when we’ve hurt each other… when we’ve just been less than loving and gracious.

Wanna know what’s burdening me right now?

When you experience pregnancy, everyone is focused on gender, names, a nursery, cribs, and collecting massive amounts of diapers. We have checklists and baby showers to collect a bunch of (needed, albeit) STUFF. We have childbirth classes and hospital tours, lactation consults, pedi interviews. While there are plenty of THINGS our children will need throughout their short span of newborn-hood, toddlerhood, childhood and on and on. And, duh.. it’s an exciting time. But, why is the focus on all of that but not on shaping these children’s lives? Why aren’t mommy-friends sitting mommies to be and new mommies down and talking to them about their experiences as new moms who have to maintain homes, marriages, and learn how to be a good (read: God focused) mom and wife in this new stage in her life? What this life is really going to look life before/after/during and under the surface of the beautiful photoshoots, Insta posts, and funny stories?

No one knows it all, we’re all struggling. Bringing a person into this world and having the responsibility to raise them cannot be easy. Why are we avoiding the conversation? Why are we trying to appear to be these women who have everything together and in need of nothing? As a mommy to be, I can only imagine the stress of having to care for everyone. How can we be more supportive of each other in this new role is my question. How can we build honest, trusting relationships with other new mommies who we can go to for a release? For advice and wisdom? Yes, we have our girlfriend groups and they are tight knit and deep……. But, I feel that motherhood is so personal. I feel that mothers are so harshly judged that even with our closest friends it can be hard to open up about what we need and what we’re struggling with… difficult to tell a friend that the teacher isn’t all the way wrong about her child’s behavior… or to offer help in an area that we see our friend needs help with… or to share with a friend what the future of that child and her life may look like if she doesn’t ease up on the super strict discipline or reign in a child who could use a bit more structure and discipline…. It’s hard.

Because we’re fragile and offended easily. Because we don’t know if our relationships can withstand such truth, an opinion, constructive criticism. We’re doing the best we know how to. The best we can. And, can get angry when someone points out a weakness that we may even know we have. But, who does that serve? How is being hard, in denial about our struggles, our junk helping? How is it shaping our families and our children? How is turning a blind eye benefiting us?

Who is talking about postpartum depression? Who is talking about how frustrated you’re going to be with colicky babies or late night partiers when you’re exhausted and working on two hours of sleep? or sick babies? breastfeeding issues??
Who’s talking to mamas who have lost their babies?  Who is talking about REAL LIFE?? Who is willing to?

We expect everyone to show their best face at all times because dealing with life is hard, messy, and ugly. All at once. Yes, life can be beautiful, wonderful, and peaceful, too. But, truth be told it isn’t like that all of the time. I know that because we’re all sinners and we can all make the worst of the worst decisions at times. We like to serve ourselves at some points, in some way whether small or large, that hurts another person. This life, our friendships, marriages, and relationships are hard because we are, because we’re unforgiving, we have junk we want to hide, and because we just plain ol sin everyday.

I’ve pulled out my notes from Flourish and have been studying, reading, and soaking up all of the wisdom that was given that weekend. I’ve committed to dealing with all of the hurts and disappointments that I have felt, perceived, and experienced over the past six-eight months and I’m going to talk about them. Cry about them. And, truly work towards getting over it or learning how to carry it without allowing it to cause a negative impact on my life. I’m going to make more of an effort to build deeper relationships and open up much more to that close knit group of gals and really learn to lean on them and position myself to be leaned upon.

The quality of our lives depend on it. Our depth of our character, marriages, and relationships with Christ depend on it.
Our husbands’ lives depend on it.
Our children’s lives depend on it.
Our friends’ lives depend on it.
Those we love the most depend on us truly being able to deal with our junk and love them deeply, serve them with gladness, guide them with grace and wisdom, and relate to them in a way that they learn to truly trust us with all of them – both good and bad.

Post Jam: Kari Jobe – Here.
Healing and finding peace begins with Jesus. It ends with Jesus. We have to ask and trust that He will bring people into our lives and/or further deepen the relationships we have to help us along and to push us closer to him.

I’m definitely encouraged to deal… to take a deep breathe and do hard things that will expose my heart and cause me to be vulnerable. To dig in, take root, and grow in ways that will honor God, strengthen my family, support my friends, and build my children. I know I’m not alone in wanting these things, but are we willing to take the leap to take hold of them?

Signature

it’s all a dream….

IMG_3359(photo credit: Christin Armstrong)

It’s easy to take this belly for granted or to complain about the daily nuances of a baby belly… It’s easy to get so used to it that you begin to believe that it is deserved.  That it’s just “normal”, a “regular” thing. It’s easy to feel far removed from a past that was still very much a part of who you are. Although, the evidence of this pregnancy has become my norm and is the very beginnings of being defined as a mother, I make sure to keep at the forefront of my mind how spectacular a blessing it is.

The saddest part of this experience is that I don’t feel as if my heart has completely softened or slowed yet… I don’t feel as if I’ve caught my breathe or truly grasped the reality or heaviness of this pregnancy – which is insane. And, truly heartbreaking for me.

But, infertility will do that to you. It has a way of changing your heart and the very essence of who you are, how you relate to others, and deal with life. Some lessons of this journey are definitely beneficial, others I can definitely do without. Like, the numbness that results from constant disappointments. The roller coaster rides. The ups and downs of medications. The never ending poking, examining, and prodding. The adoption paperwork, meetings, and packets. The anxiety, fear, and difficulty in trusting what actually is or your gut feelings. Never knowing what’s coming next. The heartbreak of every failed attempt to just breathe. The empty desire to live each day without the worry or stress or chaos… because you know that that’s just not a part of infertility-trying to conceive-trying to adopt journey.

While an upside of being on this journey lends itself to the possibility of growth; in the moment, that reality doesn’t seem to matter in the moment. But, if you keep moving forward you realize that it’s the growth that has kept you going.  You don’t immediately see how you’re torn down while simultaneously built up, reinforced, and strengthened. You are stripped of everything you “knew”or “wanted” and given (without permission.. rude) completely new perspectives and desires. And, that’s frustrating. On many days I was angered and frustrated at how these past four years of infertility have negatively impacted my life. Bitter towards the seemingly most insignificant and most glaring ways it has impacted my marriage and my relationship with my husband. The wasted money, the wasted hours at doctor’s appointments, pointless injections and medications. The guilt of the twinge of jealously and sadness felt when you’re out and about and it seems that every other woman on the planet is expecting; it forces you to reckon with your inabilities and circumstances. And, dealing with it is hard. Balancing the thin line between the unmistakable joy you have for friends and family who are expanding their families and the unmistakable pain you feel when the next cycle begins or you’re in purgatory wanting to just give up but still wanting to soothe that ache in your heart. Or, issues with an adoption agency slow progress or things just aren’t going the way you feel they should. It all seems purposefulness.

The disappointment, guilt, fear, sadness, and pain colors and consumes so much of your life…. It’s easy to lose hope, to accept that it’s “never” going to happen, and to begin to believe that “expansion projects” just weren’t for you. Easy to succumb to this inner defeat that you truly don’t want to give in to but seems to be swallowing you whole.

So, you let it go. You move forward and begin to revamp your life plan. You begin to hope for new things and believe that there’s more than one way to live this life with purpose and experience fulfillment in ways that didn’t include a house full of children, noise, and sleepless nights.

And, then…..IMG_3310-Edit(photo credit: Christin Armstrong)

…. you realize that every single moment you thought was wasted is redeemed…. the humiliation, let downs, and devastations of every experience are being traded for crowns of beauty and you see with your own eyes that God really does make everything beautiful in his own time. That all things truly work tougher for good, that our Father in Heaven truly is the giver of really good and incredibly perfect gifts.

…. you learn by experience (which they say is the best teacher!) that God’s plan for your life truly is much greater than anything you could ever consider. You’re able to look back and see the struggles you’ve gone though and it pales in comparison to what is coming.

…. you are grateful for every experience meant to hurt you and break you because they drove you to the cross and positioned you to be vulnerable and open to the people put in your life to support and love you.

…. you learn that God can restore. That He gives you the desires of your heart. That your soul truly can trust in the Lord and rest in his goodness.

…. most of all, you recognize that these experiences, these years were not wasted, the circumstances not created to break you, but rather to point to someone much greater than ourselves.

This dream…. these girls…. didn’t happen because we finally “stopped trying” or because I “did things God’s way”….. This happened in spite of us  with the purpose of glorifying God alone. Our story happened the way that it did because God planned it that way. The worst of it shows God’s goodness and faithfulness, the best his grace and love for us.

Infertility isn’t the easiest life experience to walk through. Treatments and adoption aren’t either. While neither brought us children, I know how difficult they both can be. The most comforting part of walking any road is that you aren’t the first nor will you be the last to walk that same path. You aren’t alone. Finding, building, and engaging with women who have and are experiencing what you have is a blessing. Being able to walk along side other women who know that struggle is the most encouraging and comforting opportunity.

Share your story in your own way, in your own time. Other women and couples need to hear your voice…. even if it’s a whisper.

 

These little girls truly are a dream come true and I’m so thankful for all of you who have come along side of us, who have stood with us, prayed with us, cried with us, and who are finally rejoicing with us. This is a big deal. I am absolutely looking forward to celebrating our children (whoa.) with our closest friends and family this weekend. It’s going to be so special.

Signature

lover of redemption

one thing i love about being a Christian, about being a part of the body of Christ is that we are never, ever alone. God not only provides us with other believers who surround us (and who we’re able to surround) with love, friendship, support, and prayer…. but, He has also given us the Holy Spirit. It’s a like an inner best friend who is with you always… who prays for you, who guides you, who “fusses” at and convicts you when you are verring from the path you should go.

He’s given us Jesus…… the one who petitions on our behalf, the one who honored His father until death for our sakes, the one who is the perfect example of what love in action truly looks like.

this life can be so painful…. it can leave you feeling lonely and broken and depleted. But, I’m thankful that God is a redeemer. I’m thankful that He can restore and heal.

I’m thankful for the many examples of others he has set before us that remind and encourage us to remain steadfast in our faith and trust in Him. Because, it’s hard. Because it takes a strength that we don’t possess naturally. Because this lilfe is out of our hands.

A few of my favorite redemption stories is the one of Joseph. Ups and downs, lies and betrayals, yet he still trusted God and honored him in each position he found himself in. I can’t imagine how broken and hurt his heart was on so many of the circumstances he put himself in and no matter how frustrated or angry he was, he trusted God. ACTIVELY. He didn’t act out in his frustrations, he didn’t seek vengeance, he didn’t quit doing what was right. God restored his family, redeemed the time he spent isolated and in prison. God had a purpose and plan for his life. He couldn’t have seen how being sold by his brother would be GOOD for him and the Israelites, he couldn’t have seen how being lied on and thrown in prison would be GOOD for him and how he would literally save millions of people from starvation just by being obedient. He had no idea how his faithfulness and obedience would encourage me.

Let’s not talk about Job…… I love how he complained and fussed to God and God basically told him “recognize who you’re talking to…” Job trusted God when his life and health crumbled FOR NO REASON other than to be sifted, other than to be tempted by the Devil for his own sick entertainment…. But, through the emotional turmoil and depression he continued to seek God. He stayed in His face. And, God honored him for it. Restored, redeemed, and healed. For whose sake?

Hosea…. who I know was sick and tired of having to be the “good husband”. Tired of dealing with his wandering spouse who so blatantly disrespected and disregarded him and their marriage. Publicly. I know he was tired of being loving and gracious and kind to her. I know he wanted to quit. But, this story to closely resembles what Christ has done and continues to do for us daily…. how often does God rescue us, how often do we come back to him broken and hurting after disobeying? How many times does he have to forgive and cover us with mercy and grace? and, HOW does He do it every.single.time? And, who does this selfless love benefit?

The patience, quiet spirit, and obedience of Ester and Ruth.
The triumph and fall, the waywardness and steadfastness of David.
The rebellion of Jonah.
The friendship and betrayal of Judas.
All for a purpose. All honor God. All turn our attention to Christ. All make us marvel and the goodness of our God.

The struggles of this life aren’t for nothing. Yes, while they make us stronger in our faith and in our ability to persevere which builds our character and gives us hope (Romans 5:4), our stories, our faithfulness, our obedience is for the Body, as well. We are all connected and we effect each other in every way.

While this life isn’t easy, while we will have to endure setbacks, failures, the consequences of poor choices, and just sometimes the sovereign plan of God that puts us in difficult places – we know that will get through it, we know that it is purposeful, and that it will honor God in some way.

My dad used to always tell me “Obedience is better than sacrifice.” I had no idea what that meant. Mainly because, looking back, I had no idea who good obeying is for you. Even when you’d rather be doing something else much more fun and enjoyable, even when it goes against every fiber in of your (naturally sinful) heart, and you don’t see the purpose. The learned discipline is good for you. I’m glad I see that now. Glad I understand from experience on both sides how when we obey we are truly positioning ourselves for the best possible outcome.

(Sidebar, which truly frustrates me about today’s children… some have no idea how to obey. how to follow rules. how to do what they’re told….. how can they obey and learn to yield to God when they can’t obey their teachers and parents? It’s GOOD for your children to have rules and boundaries… to learn discipline and hard work. They’re going to be someone’s husband and wife and mother and father one day……… NO ONE LIKES adults who have no self control, no concern for others, and can’t do what NEEDS to be done (i.e.. LAZY!). Give your children some chores that MUST be done, don’t let them quit because “they don’t want to anymore”, don’t excuse their behavior, blame others for their wrong doings, or let them get away with not obeying because you want them to be happy. We all want our children to be happy, no ones likes to see their children cry… however, Hebrews 12:11….. discipline benefits children and all of those who will be surrounded by them for the duration of their life…… rant concluded.)

Redemption, restoration, healing, and the overwhelming joy we experience on the other side of difficulty is encouraging. KNOWING what’s promised and what’s coming is worth enduring whatever is put in front of us.

It’s not easy but it sure is worth it.

Signature