Sunday, November 3, 2013

Nostalgia: There Were People Who Made A Difference

Favorite says I never blog anymore.  I remind him we have offspring to care for and that takes a significant amount of time which pushes my housework and grading to the few hours after said offspring goes to sleep at night.  There's little time left for blogging.

But today I'm feeling nostalgic.  We recently lost our music minister, and I'm thinking back to the days when the girls and I would lead worship.  I grew up a lot in the ten years we shared that responsibility, and I learned even more about God, how He works and our perceptions of how He works.

We weren't openly accepted by all the congregants in our church.  It was just the three of us, so we were limited in what we could provide, and I would argue that a piano and three girls can only get so loud, but "too loud" or "not loud enough" were regular comments.  We heard a lot about song choices, because apparently the Apostle Paul and John the Baptist really only promote the Gaithers and the Wesley brothers.  Anything else was just this side of heresy.  People would comment if we closed our eyes, opened our eyes or sang a chorus one too many times no matter who was at the altar.  And introducing new stuff?  Those Sundays the devil himself must have inhabited our personalities.

But there were people who loved us through that ministry.  I learned so much from those people; in fact, I would venture to say those were the people who taught me what it is to serve others and love them openly.

I learned that even though music can be very polarizing, not everyone's response is the same.  Some sing along with the music.  Some simply sit and listen.  Some raise their hands.  Others stay in their seats and find themselves in the midst of quiet time with the Lord.

When we first started singing, I thought every quiet mouth was a loss.  At the end of those ten years, I realized that responses are as predictable as the weather in southern Illinois.  To relegate the worth of music to the responses it begets?  It's a narrow response to the reality of worship.

Of course, I showed up every Sunday wholeheartedly believing that there were SPECIFIC songs we HAD to sing.  If we failed to pick the right songs that Sunday, the Lord would withhold his Holy Spirit and no one would respond to the Lord's call on their lives.

Sad, isn't it?  God will only rain Himself on us if we say the magic words?  ("How great is our God?  Sing with me...")  But it was the mentality I held until I realized He responded to an attitude of worship and the hearts of those who came to meet Him.  (Actually, I partially knew that last part when we started the ministry.  Why I convinced myself of anything else is beyond explanation.)

Those are the things I miss in my worship pastor--not because they aren't present in the interim, but because I loved his heart for music.  He and his wife wholeheartedly devoted themselves to understanding worship, and I loved seeing that devotion play out on Sunday mornings.

Their current hire is a great place for them.  I'm sure there will be a lot of growth and they will look back, ten years or more from now, and see all the changes that have taken place over the course of their ministry.  But I want them to remember the people who loved them in the middle of the journey. 

Those were the people who made such a difference for me.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

October 15th: To Remember

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.

This year should feel different for me because 2013 has been a big year for us.  What I'm about to tell you doesn't change how blessed I feel to have Ryan, though:  we still hurt.

Favorite and I both believed we would feel differently about loss after we held Ryan in our arms, but I think the truth is that loss is more poignant now.  We are aware of what we missed--what we are still missing.

My life is no longer saddled in grief.  I don't agonize over what could have been.  But I am aware of what was and what is, and that awareness is often a daily realization.  I think that's why days like this are so important.  We need to remember.  Remembrance is the very thing that changes the core of who we become in response to pain.

In recent years, I've become aware of how common miscarriage is.  The statistics say twenty-five percent.  My experience says either the statistics are wrong, or I am surrounded by all twenty-five percent.  Each of these situations has been different.  Some have handled the loss very privately, some openly, some with tears, others with shrugged shoulders.  What I've realized, however, is these were all tangible losses--even when that isn't obvious to the observer.

So I remember.  I remember the blessing and the joy and the excitement.  And I remember in order to respond with compassion, forgiveness and grace.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

On Friendship

I miss her.  That's enough of a reminder that even the best of decisions come with negative consequences.

There were a lot of reasons we shouldn't have been compatible.  We're both loud and opinionated.  I was a bit of a recluse and she had no idea how to sit at home.  She was a runner (or at least a former runner).  I believed running would be best left to chase scenes in movies (and seriously reconsidered then).

But for a lot of reasons, she encouraged me to push beyond previously held boundaries.  She was just as excited to find out I was pregnant as my family was.  She called me after every.single.doctor's.appointment.  (Seriously.  How do you even keep on track of those things?)  And I'm pretty sure she wanted to snuggle Ryan as much as I did.

She had her faults.  (I probably have a few extras.)  Some people believed those faults were glaring enough to discount her, but for me?  She was the friend I needed when I needed one.  For some reason, I get the idea I fulfilled that role for her, too.  And that type of friendship is hard to overlook.  It demands a loyalty I can't and won't attempt to explain.

I never presumed her decisions would be easy, and I told her as much.  Even now, I think and rethink the boundaries that were set and try to determine how things could've been different.

But I miss her all the same.


Monday, September 30, 2013

Quick Reflections: James Week One Day Two

A note from my Bible study (I'm revisiting James:  Mercy Triumphs.  It's a study I never finished, but I sense the timeliness of it in my life now.  I'm making an honest effort to get into the Word daily.):

"The power of the resurrection trumps the power of the past if we're willing to let it...When, like a laser, the call of Christ sears a hole through your self-protectiveness, you go wherever He leads whether or not you feel like you fit" (Moore 21).

I wonder if I've spent too long asking God to put someone in a leadership position who is willing to push boundaries and challenge mediocrity when He's continually asking me to do that very thing.  I'm not a fan of leadership, because, like John Proctor in The Crucible, "God knows how black my sins are."  Those positions should be relegated to those who don't taint Christianity any more than it already has been throughout history.

But my heart...My heart keeps asking for something more than showing up, reciting and declaring.  How much am I really living my supposed ideals?  Moore, anticipating James' thoughts after Peter's imprisonment, states, "We may lose our heads, but we cannot lose our souls.  The stakes are up.  The fire is lit.  It's time to live like those who cannot die.  Welcome to the lives of those called Christians" (22--emphasis, Moore).  Those thoughts?  They make me wonder where my life is reflecting these ideals.

Monday, September 23, 2013

When Enough is Enough

It's been a weird year.  So many good things have happened.  So many weird things have happened.  And many of them continue to culminate in the same thought for me:  oversharing.

This blog has been a public place--one I've been proud to update regularly in the hope I was encouraging others.  But the fact of the matter is I've become uncomfortable with the questions that surround social media.  How much should I share?  What should I share?  How safe are my pictures/thoughts?

Recent events (and a two week old conversation with BigBro) have lead me to one obvious conclusion:  I am no longer comfortable with the public nature of this blog. 

In a week, I intend to make this space private.  I am not against sharing with readers (mostly those I know, but also those for whom I've developed a great affinity--Pissed and Mindee in particular.  But there are more of you to consider).  Those who are interested will be required to email me so I can add their email addresses to a "safe" list.

This isn't a decision I've taken lightly or one I've made overnight.  Writing is a cathartic process for me, and I've been glad to encourage readers along the way.  It occurs to me, however, I've been willing to limit the people with whom I interact personally.  Why would I not embrace privacy with my own words?

Thank you for reading for the last few years.  It's been a ride.  I've been so thankful for the comments, encouragement and prayers along the way.  I covet them now.  But I also appreciate your understanding for this decision.

Sometimes, it's just time to say enough.

Friday, September 13, 2013

On Prayer: Asking the Questions

I've attended various versions of buy-from-home parties where I have increased my clothing accessories, slapped my monogram on various items and outfitted my kitchen for the culinary apocalypse.  Without fail, these sales ladies have employed one tactic to generate interest in their professional pursuits:  The Question Game.

I love the question game because I am essentially a four-year-old masquerading as a thirty-something woman.  I win every.single.time, and have a variety of spoils to show for my efforts. 

Really, though, it's not a skill I developed for those parties.  I just have a lot of questions. So when a pastor at my church starting asking congregants for questions about prayer, I thought, "The man has no idea what sort of Pandora's box he has opened." 

For me, prayer is a compulsory enigma.  I need it, but I understand very little about it.  For instance, does prayer change my heart?  Or does it change God's?  If the latter is true, under what conditions will God change His mind or is this a matter of waiting for the right time?  David interceded for his son, but that child was still lost due to sin.  But Abraham prayed on Lot's behalf and was granted his request (after what appears to be several rounds of negotiating) with no mention of sin or lack thereof in Lot's life. 

When, if ever, should I accept a "no" from God in prayer?  Do I continue to intercede for that want/need or do I call it a day and let it go?  We only see one instance of Jesus praying for his cup to pass while still relinquishing himself to God's will.  I wonder, though, if this wasn't the prayer of His life. 

But more than anything, I wonder why we seem to ignore the prayers of lament.

Throughout the Bible, I see examples of people simply crying out to God.  They aren't declaring how great He is.  They aren't asking for miracles or daily bread or even His kingdom.  They just want to know why.  Why do things happen when You are capable of stopping them.  Why is there so much grievous injury when you could heal it?  Why are there unfulfilled needs and empty pews and lifeless people?  Why, Lord?

Why do we as a church feel the need to answer these prayers?  To give a reason for God's permissiveness or His (seeming) lack of movement in some of these situations?  Why don't we allow him to be questioned in a way that really allows Him to be God?

To relegate these sorts of prayers to the closets of the individuals who pray them seems calloused and a far-reaching lack of knowledge about the types of prayer that exist in our own scripture.

Last year, I read Nichole Nordeman's book, Love Story.  In early July, before I even knew miracles could happen to me, I found myself stuck on the chapter about Job.  I was mesmerized that congregations could gather to collectively ask "Why, God?" without inserting the often expected "but." 

This form of crying out wasn't revolutionary to me.  I had done it in my living room.  On my bedroom floor.  In my bathtub.  In waiting rooms.  Exam rooms.  Classrooms.  On church pews and park benches.  Lament is what I did.  For a while, I'd venture to say it's who I was.

Maybe these types of prayers are meant to break our hearts open before the only One who really can deal with the unanswered questions.  I don't really know.  The only thing I really understood was the process of crying out.

What do these prayers demand of us?  What do they require of God?  What do they do for our hearts?  Or our relationship?  And my biggest question:  why don't we do more of it?  If these are the things modeled in scripture, the real-life scenarios we're facing, why don't we participate?

I wish I knew. 


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Emerson, Care and General Action

Favorite keeps asking me when I plan to post again (or if I ever plan to post Ryan's 5 month update).  Truthfully, I never intended to stop posting; it was just the natural consequence of several recent occurrences. 

But like Emma Stone will tell you, literature has a way of working itself into the crevices of daily life.  (Or she said something like that in Easy A--taking exception to Huckleberry Finn.  And honestly?  Who could blame her.  It's the one piece of literature I've purposely avoided in my classroom.)  So thirty-five Transcendental speeches later, I'm here to tell you that Ralph Waldo Emerson was on to something when he said, "What I must do is all that concerns me, not what people think."

Approximately thirty of my thirty-five juniors disagreed.  Most believed it necessary to acknowledge the thoughts and feelings of others.  And while I don't necessarily disagree with my students' assessments, I can say I'm not sure Emerson was advocating disregard for every person's feelings at all times.  Instead, his subsequent thoughts indicate his belief in making decisions for one's self instead of allowing the majority to rule:  "This rule, equally arduous in actual and intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude."

Maintaining a sense of perfect sweetness is a great deal harder when people continually try their cases in the court of public opinion--usually because public opinion requires a villain to vindicate the person claiming innocence.  To put it lightly, there's never a clear winner and there's almost always collateral damage.

I'm speaking from experience.  In the last few years, my reputation and the reputations of members of my family have been called into question because of one situation or another.  It didn't seem to matter if we had commented publicly on those situations.  (Mostly, we hadn't.)  Nor did past precedent play a part.  That statement is neither here nor there and you are welcome to completely disregard its validity.

Frankly, I just don't give a damn.  And that's the chair I've been sitting in for the last month or so.

Emerson's right.  All I must do is what concerns me, so here is a list of things that just don't concern me:

1.  Personal opinions about my general character:  Your thoughts are none of my business.  And you know what?  You are welcome to believe about me what you wish to believe.  Ardent belief can't turn a potato into a BMW.  Since I know that, believe away.

2.  General comments about Christian action on Facebook (or otherwise):  The most Godly people I know are doing their best to follow a Jesus they love.  It doesn't mean I always agree with their actions, but I certainly appreciate their sincere approach to the gospel of Christ.

3.  Gossip or slander about people I know or people I've never met:  Of course I have opinions.  But the past five years have been a wake-up call on the issue of personal comments about others.  Say what you need to say.  But don't expect a response.

I am not interested in defending myself.  In the past, I've always had a comment.  Always.  Largely, I think that's what is responsible for my silence about anything except for my son on the blogosphere.  Now, though?  I just don't care.  Think what you wish to think.  Disregard every part of what you've seen.  Believe absolutely everything you've heard.  Make up stuff if you want.

I.Just.Don't.Care.

And you know what I've learned?

I'm lighter.  Less uptight.  A freer version of myself.

Maybe this is the last in a long line of lessons about confidence.

And maybe it's just the beginning.

More than likely, though, this space will change.  I feel less willing to share my personal thoughts these days.  I'm more protective of my internal workings.  I've felt embarrassed that I ever shared some of the things I did in such a public forum and even more red-faced to learn the number of people who read those thoughts.

But writing, especially public writing, is a process.  And I'm in the middle of the process--how it evolves, what it becomes and how that impacts my life.

So, where do I go from here?

I can tell you comfortably:  I have no idea.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Ryan--Four Months

Ryan,

You are four months old!  A few days ago, I had the privilege to hold newborn babies and I couldn't believe that four short months would make such a big difference.  I've discovered that a Mommy's heart is always broken in half--one half mourns what is gone and the other half celebrates what is and what's to come.  So while I miss the teeny baby you were, Daddy and I are really enjoying seeing your little personality.

You weigh 16.19 lbs (66.22%) and are 24.5 inches tall (21.28%--still short!).  Your head circumference is 42.5 cm (76.44%) continuing the family tradition of big heads!  (Your cousin, Matti, was always in the 99%!)

You consistently take 6 ounces at every feeding (about five times a day), and you are wearing 3-6 month (and some 6 month) clothes.

You are constantly drooling, and you will chew on anything anyone gives you.  (Gwandma thought it was pretty funny you went for her coffee with such passion.  More proof you belong to us.) You also like sitting in your Bumbo.  I think you like the independence, but you sure do let me know when you're finished.

Every morning, you eat your bottle and then I lay you down on the chair and we sing.  You really love music.  In fact, you get really quiet and listen when I sing to you and we've learned that you generally won't take a bottle during worship at church because you can't pay as much attention to Mal and 'Mane (our worship ministers).  Your current favorites are "One Thing Remains," "Our God is Able," and "The God of Angel Armies."

While I'm singing, you usually play with your feet.  You love them.  You pull them up to play pretty well any time we lay you down, and you get super fascinated if we put shoes on you.  I found a pair of house-shoe type booties when I was cleaning out your closet and you wouldn't look away from your feet most of the day.

You are pretty good natured--mornings are your best time.  It's usually fairly easy to calm you down; however, when you do decide to melt down?  EPIC.  You can scream at the top of your lungs for an indefinite amount of time.  Typically, that happens at night when you've refused to nap.

Frankly, you're not much of a napper.  I can generally get you to take a morning nap in your swing and sometimes you take an afternoon nap--a couple of times you've napped for two hours in your swing--but you mostly catnap here and there.  If you are in your swing, you have to have your fuzzy blanket and you always pull it over your face to snooze.  I can always tell when you're tired because you rub your eyes, and you've even been known to fall asleep sitting up.

You sleep in your crib now.  In general, we put you down around 8:30 and you sleep until 7:00 or 7:30 the next morning.  Sometimes Daddy and I listen to you on the monitor and you talk yourself back to sleep.

We've found that if you're really fussy, we can take you outside and you will calm down almost immediately.  You are especially fond of porch swings, but any sort of outside adventure will work for you.

You really love the water right now.  You would prefer the pool water to be the same temperature as your bath water.  You do love baths, too.  Daddy says we'll have to move you to the big tub soon because you splash all the water out on the counter top.

You have rolled from your front to your back once, but you really despise being laid down.  We tried to work on rolling, and it always ended with horrible facial expressions and tears.  Frankly, you would rather sit up or practice standing.  You're awfully close to sitting up all by yourself, and I've started believing you'll probably walk before you try to roll over consistently.

I love your facial expressions, and the sound of your giggling is the best thing I've ever heard in my life.  You are pretty greedy with the giggles.  People have to work for them, and even then you're fairly selective.  Sometimes you will laugh when we laugh, but you spend more time observing everything going on around you.

You're a pretty chatty little guy.  You make all sorts of noises and you "talk" to the people you're observing--especially in busy places (like the mall).

We cloth diaper almost exclusively (except when we travel), and you do well with those.  Diaper changes are hard because you are forever pulling your feet up so you can play.


Yesterday you ate with a spoon for the first time.  You had rice cereal on your face.  In your hair.  On your hands.  In your eyelashes.  Up your nose.  It was pretty well ev.ery.wh.ere.  You got a bath promptly after.

While I'm sad to see your baby days passing so quickly, I'm so enjoying giggles and talking that it's hard to be too sad.  Pretty soon we'll be writing about walking and solid food!

You've changed my life, baby boy.  I'm pretty sure my heart will never be the same.

I'll love you forever; I'll like you for always.

Mommy


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Oh God How I Need You

Ryan loves it when I sing to him.  I think it has something to do with all the interaction and the fluctuation of my voice; he really pays attention and smiles as he watches my face. 

He's been exposed to a hundred different things--"She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain," "Camptown Races," "I've Been Workin' on the Railroad," "The Blues Man," "This Girl is on Fire," etc.  Sometimes Favorite makes up songs about what Ryan is doing that day so we have a lot of songs that revolve around taking a nap, pooping in our pants and taking a bottle.

When it's just me and Ryan, though, I sing praise choruses.  When he was hours old in the hospital, I walked around our room singing "I Will Rise" while I waited for him to close his eyes.  When I buckle him in the carseat, we sing "One Thing Remains" because it gets a sweet smile instead of a fit.  When I cuddle him at night, I sometimes sing pieces of Nichole Nordeman's "I Am," or "I Need You."  (Lately, I've been introducing him to "We Build.")

Those are the songs I know--the ones I love--but they are also the legacy I want to leave for him.

During our worship services, I hold Ryan and sing quietly in his ear.  Often I pray he hears those lyrics and my voice in his head long after I'm incapable of holding him during a service.  I want God's love and constancy to be carved on his heart, so I'm forever singing and re-singing "Your love never fails/ It never gives up/ Never runs out on me."

I don't know that I could explain to him how deeply I believe those words.

In the not-so-distant past, I can remember sitting on my couch with little but a glass of wine and my sobs to keep me company.  Favorite was at work and my heartbreak settled in for an extended stay when I was alone.  Most of those sessions resulted in me hugging my knees to my chest and repeating the only thing I knew to be true:  Jesus.

Flowery prayer sessions and perfect poetry were worthless then.  Prayer was little more than the name I knew and believed.  I remembered that today when I was feeding Ryan and quietly singing, "I need You.  Oh, I need You.  Every hour I need You.  My one defense, my righteousness, Oh, God, how I need You."

It's funny that in my last three months of complete joy (and chaos--lots and lots of chaos), I hadn't thought about the three thousand prayers of almost wordless desperation that proceeded it.  I'm so grateful for what I've been given, but I don't want to forget the deep sense of neediness draws my heart to whisper to the only One who is capable of providing rest.

Brokenness isn't our problem.  Sometimes I think the issue is we'd rather stay in the desert than see the land we've been promised because we don't want to openly admit we're needy.

I'm praying that on my church family--neediness.  And on my son.

I think it's the only way we'll survive. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

On Confidence: Rightfully Placed

Just like Ray Steven's fictional pirate, there was a time in my life when I wanted to sing and dance in bright, shiny pants.  Paychecks and the need for decent insurance were fairly unimportant, but the idea that my name could be in lights on Broadway was intensely appealing. 

In college, I became a bit of a character actress--unafraid to do something crazy on stage and often going off-script to get a few extra laughs.  Fully committing to the comedic character meant I could interact with the audience in a way I never would have in my own clothes.  To this day, there are people who remind me of my antics as Captain Hook's sidekick in Peter Pan--a part I played 14 years ago.  (Truthfully, though, how could people forget the fact that I sat on the Dean of Students' lap and stuck my foot in his face compelling him to smell my feet?)

My antics on stage may have gotten me attention from the audience, but they never did lead to the one thing I really wanted:  the leading lady.  As a matter of fact, I played boys more times than I cared to admit (and I would be lying if I said it never got to me).  It was fun, but I started to feel like I would never be chosen for raw talent.  Instead, I was designated to the sidelines for my sideshow abilities.  I kept thinking that if I could do it better--really commit to the character and sing my butt off--I might finally gain the approval of the casting agents and find myself in the limelight.

I never did get the lead (and most of my twenties are proof that I would gladly perform for praise),  and I struggled to shake the approval seeking behavior I cultivated in that time period.  I was needy--clinging on every person's word trying to hear something that said I was awesome or worthwhile.

And then God pulled my heart toward women's ministry.

I didn't end up there because I had a deep yearning to lead a group.  I was just looking for an accountability partner--someone to meet up with once a week for Bible study and prayer.  After two failed attempts, I finally stepped out on a limb and hosted my first ever women's Bible study.  (That's a bit simplistic, but it's also not the point.)

I wouldn't call the first study an overwhelming success, but it definitely lit a fire in my heart.  In a few months, I saw God knit a community using a few women and the truth of His word.  Over the course of seven or eight studies (I can't remember the number at this point), our numbers fluctuated but there was a core group of women who turned my heart upside down.  They challenged me, encouraged me and broke my heart for a world that needs Christ.

(Even now, I have multiple handwritten cards I pull from a drawer when I'm having a rough day.)

And while I can describe that experience with a deep, deep sense of gratitude, there were always the frowns.  You know what I'm talking about here, right?  They're probably better categorized as the looks of disapproval, and every person everywhere has experienced them in some capacity.

Frankly, I'm no stranger to the frowns.  As a praise and worship leader, a women's Bible study facilitator and a from-childhood-to-adulthood attender in the same congregation, I had been exposed to my own fair share of the frowns.  They can rattle you--particularly if you're the type of person who needs approval.

But approval is exhausting to mine.  It's not easy to chip away at rock for the tiny diamonds revealed as the result of all that effort.  And let me be honest:  no matter who you are or what you're doing, the frowns will always find something at which to frown.

Initially, the frowns bothered me.  I have cried over rude comments and ill placed pieces of advice.  One time, out of frustration, I asked BigBro what I was doing wrong.  "How can I fix this situation?" I pleaded.  I was in a place where I would've done anything, including stepping away from the ministries I was called to for that season.  In BigBro fashion, he shrugged his shoulders and said, "You do what you're called to do regardless of the frowns."

Not stellar advice for someone who needed the praise of the masses.  (Or, at the very least, to avoid the criticism of the minority.) 

I was ready to throw in the towel because who wants to continue down the path of most resistance?  So it was in that time that God began one of the slowest burning processes of my entire life:  purifying my heart from approval-seeking behavior. 

I've always been a fan of Francis Frangipane's quote:  "To inoculate me from the praise of man, He baptized me in the criticism of man until I died to the control of man."  Praise is a seductive force.  Like a siren, it beckons and we ignore all the warning signs until our ships are obliterated on the surrounding rocks.  We end up drowning in the falsehood of our own self confidence.

Those criticisms ended up being a navigational tool:  I wouldn't go this direction because it would offend this group.  I wanted to avoid this topic because it could lead to hurt feelings.  I wanted to step away from this group because I was stepping on someone else's territory.  If I could eventually get it right, I just knew people would see how great I was so I "dodged, ducked, dipped, dived and dodged" until I boxed myself into a corner.

In that corner, I realized the show was over.  No curtain call.  No final bows.  I wasn't being groomed as the leading lady because I was never supposed to be the focus.

End scene.

Sometimes I feel like Christianity has become such a show.  If we do this or we say that or we write this or sing that we will finally gain the respect and admiration of those around us.  And if that happens?  We can finally feel good about what we're doing in the world.

But what I'm praying?  Is that my heart will not be shaken by praise (or seek it out) because it doesn't belong to me.  My confidence after all is not in myself but in the God who created me and developed anything useful enough to be called a skill.  A confident heart rooted in the knowledge of Christ doesn't require her name in lights--she just needs Jesus.

Perspective.  Whoo.  It doeth my heart good, y'all.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The First of the Posts on Confidence

The "nevers" got me today.

I swore when I became a mom, I would never pass judgment on another mother for a decision she made.  After all, so many of us are trying to make the best decisions we can with the limited knowledge we have until we figure out experience is the best teacher--well, until the next child.  (The next child is never the same as the ones before, apparently.)

I wasn't trying to be ugly or rude; in fact, my comment was rooted in my own insecurities about parenting.  I feel like this is the most critical test I've ever taken and every.single.answer is weighted.  Unfortunately, with four options, the "best" option is weighted 100 while subsequent answers are worth 25, 20 and 15.

(Tell me other moms feel this way, too.)

The cause of my insecurity?  I stopped nursing.

I wasn't supposed to feel guilty about it because I promised myself I wouldn't feel guilty about things that just didn't work.  And nursing?  Wasn't super successful.

The lactation specialist warned me that was a possibility--PCO can affect production--so when I went from making 5 ounces to 3 ounces at the very best feeding of the day (the first one of the morning), I shouldn't have been shocked.  And I shouldn't have been surprised that every feeding after the first one of the morning resulted in less and less.

Favorite and I were constantly supplementing.  Ryan went from eating 4-5 ounces at two months to consistently taking 6 ounces now that he's three months.  He could nurse for (literally) 3 minutes before I had to offer a bottle so he could get enough to eat. 

Right before he turned three months, Favorite and I decided to wean.  In our situation, it made sense.  There were other options, but we felt, given our circumstances, this was the best option for our family.

I haven't felt good about that decision since. 

Logically, I know Ryan won't suffer from this decision.  He is growing just fine.  (Holy crap.  That's an understatement.  My boy is a hoss.)  He is right on track developmentally (even if he hasn't rolled over, but that's our fault.  We never lay him down.  To be fair, though, he's pretty close to sitting up on his own.)

He's also adapted to the change.  He transitioned between nursing and bottle feeding like a pro; he never once developed nipple confusion or any of those other heinous things nursing mothers are warned about.  He was good with the very first formula we tried so that's been a pretty easy process, too.  I'm not even sure he knows there's been a switch.

(We use Similac Advance.  If the Similac people want to send me freebies for promoting their product, I'll gladly take them.)

So forgive me if I don't think formula is horrible or even a subpar alternative.  For us, it was a necessity, and I'm thankful to have that option.

If you're willing to keep that in mind, I promise I won't judge your parenting decisions, either.  Instead, I'll smile and nod my head sympathetically in your direction.

If all decisions are this rough emotionally, we could all use some encouragement.  Right?

How do you handle parenting judgments?  Do you judge other parents for their decisions?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Three Love Languages (OK, there are five, but only three really mattered to me)

At my parents' house, Wednesday was typically called "Wednesday Night Dinner." Our regular crew would sit around the dinner table, eat and banter. And the topics? Well, ladies and gentlemen, that was a deep, deep well. Sometimes my brothers and I would participate in the game we affectionately dubbed Who-Can-Make-Mom-Blush-First. (For those curious souls, my brothers were the regular victors in that game with LilBro taking top prize for making Mom ask what a "Fluffer" did for a living. And before you ask, no, I won't be relaying that conversation here.)

Of course, regular obligations and some rotation in our regular crew have made the original Wednesday Night Dinners a thing of the past.  Now Wednesday Night Dinners take place on Sunday evenings; sometimes they are on Sunday afternoons. (Or Saturday evenings. Or Tuesday evenings. You get the picture.)

One of our more recent topics was love languages.  According to author Gary Chapman, there are five of them:  words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch. 

(Guess which one would be a Fluffer's number one?)

Approximately five seconds into our conversation, everyone was trying to guess everyone else's bottom love language--you know, the one your spouse needs that you could do without.

Don't judge.  All conversations have to start somewhere.

Turns out, guessing is unnecessary because there is a very convenient and telling online quiz here.  (Go ahead.  This post will be here when you finish.)  That discovery led to the quietest dinner I've ever had with those people in my entire life.  People stared at cell phones, clicked and chewed for an half hour.

(I'd like to share everyone's individual results.  I have a great story about Gloria's results and the reactions around the table, but I'm not all about laying everyone's personal business out on the interwebs.)

(Alright.  That's a lie.  OF COURSE I'd share personal business if I thought it would get a laugh.  But some things require a foreknowledge I just can't explain here.)

The results were pretty telling, though.  For instance, I would feel loved if you cleaned my house, brought me a present and then offered to hang out.  I do not, however, need you to tell me you like me or hold my hand.  In fact, I need those things so little, they barely scored on the charts (both with a score of 1).  The top three, however, scored a 10, 9 and 8 respectively.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why I appear to have no feelings.

Mystery solved.

Take the quiz and share your interpretation of your results.  I'd love to hear them.







Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Love Disrupted Me

Every time I have a few minutes to write, I notice I have little to say.  I've stared at this screen for multiple hours with great stories and good thoughts and no words.

Zilch.
Nada.

I actually have 4 archived posts I managed to start but cannot finish to save my life.  And the only excuse I have?

Love.

Love has completely blown my world to smithereens.

For the last 15 years, I've believed love was quiet and unassuming.  Like running water, it changed its charges slowly over a long period of time.  So it stands to reason I wasn't prepared for the way it would rip out all the seams and overflow into every aspect of my life.

It's completely wrecked me and disrupted my orderly world nicely separated into different segments.

And how, I ask you, am I supposed to construct a coherent sentence after that?



Friday, June 14, 2013

#100inJuneChallege Update #2 (On Priorities)


I am more than 55 miles in to the #100inJuneChallenge.  This fact is both exciting and revealing because, hey, 55 miles!  In less than two weeks!  I am a machine!  But also?  55 miles.  In less than two weeks.  Do I have time for anything else?

I'm dealing with that last thought.  Time is a precious commodity, and I don't want to spend mine on inferior products so I keep weighing the worth of activities to determine what stays and what goes.  Thankfully, I have an open and luxurious summer.  Realistically, I'll be losing a significant amount of time when school reconvenes in August.  So I gotta make all this free time count.

Ok, and Favorite has set a goal for me.  If I walk 200 miles over the course of the summer, I can buy a pretty teacher planner for next year:

This is the inside "lesson planner" part.  You can see more at www.erincondren.com.
(Oh, and they aren't giving me a thing for my comments here, but it would be awesome if they would.
So, Erin, if you're reading, I would LOVE to try your product in exchange for a review.  Get back to me.)
I have no idea if the planner will be super functional for my classroom or not, but since pretty things do tend to keep my focus when I'm working, I'm willing to give it a shot.  That, and I'm starting to get used to all the walking.  And, well, I just really want to be a runner.  All this walking is just a precursor to my running ability, you know?

These new commitments come at a price, though.  Like I said, time is precious, and so far as I can tell, I'm not getting any more of it.  So I'm really starting to weigh the things I value.

Like this guy, for example.
 
He likes smiling.  Smiling is his favorite.
And this guy.

 
Yes, he is showcasing his pregnancy belly.  Don't judge.
Clearly, exercise is a way to stay healthy so I can enjoy time with both of them.  Favorite is also usually willing to join me when I walk/run and it's good together time for us away from Little Britches (and only about an hour at a time--we're still a little weird about leaving him).
 
So what else is there?
 
Pinned Image
 
Bible study.

I'm one of those people who gleans more from learning through conversation with others.  I need to share what I got out of the lessons and then hear a different perspective.  The when and where are a little sketchy right now.  And by sketchy?  I mean  I have no idea if there will be a when and where.  But I know, like exercise, this is something I really need.  It's a different type of health, but health all the same.

And then there's quality time with my people.  You know, besides the ones pictured above.

(Plus all of those important day-to-day tasks--laundry, random cleaning, showering, etc.)

So, time.  Yeah.  I'm learning how to use it.  And I won't always have so much of it to dedicate to walking.  These miles have to have the greatest impact possible now.

How many miles have you logged?  And priorities? 
What are yours and how do you determine what makes the list?

Friday, June 7, 2013

#100inJuneChallenge Update #1



At the time I'm writing (Thursday afternoon--hey, I gotta get it in when Little Britches is sleeping), I have 74 miles left to go in the #100inJuneChallenge.  I feel awesome about the progress I'm making, so here's what's working so far:

1.  An 8:30 am appointment with my Mom Monday through Friday--Y'all.  I am not a fan of the track.  I get bored easily and then start trying to talk my companions into quitting for the day.  So Mom and I have a route (about 2.6 miles) we walk through town.  There's no quitting half way through because no matter what?  We have to drag our sorry butts make it back to the car.  Laugh if you must, but enjoy our ingenious approach at workout accountability.

2.  RunKeeper--I love this app on my phone because it tracks my route, tracks my calories and lets me set goals.  Then, it keeps me updated regarding how close I am to meeting that goal.  Plus, Mom and I feel like we're slacking if our average pace per mile goes up.  Motivation, people.  Motivation.

3.  MyFitnessPal--Part of my commitment to the #100inJuneChallenge is to get myself back on the healthy train.  I use this app to track my calories and exercise.  It's easy to use and a good reminder of how much that donut is going to cost.  Six more miles of running?  No thank you.  I'll eat a handful of blueberries instead.

4.  Pepperplate.com--I've never been great at meal planning, but PepperPlate makes it so easy.  I can use the app on my phone or log into the website, import recipes (I use SkinnyTaste a LOT!), plan meals for the next two weeks and then import those ingredients into a shopping list I can print and take to the grocery store (or check off on my phone).  It also helps me calorie plan for evenings out, etc.

Now for the realistic portion of this update:

I weigh every day--not because I want to torture myself, but because it keeps me on track.  Downside?  Three days into this venture I had gained (gained, not lost) two pounds.  I'm counting calories, and exercising far more than I have in the last few months and I showed a gain?

I stared at my scale and tried not to cry.  And I promise I didn't look in the mirror and think about how beautiful I was.  Truthfully, I'm having a hard time looking in the mirror these days.  I know everything I need to do.  I know I can make progress.  But I also remember how slow and painstaking that progress is.

A year ago I was trying to internalize the same things I'm attempting to remember now:  I need to renew my mind to stay the course when there are no immediate rewards.

It's hard.  Walking when my entire body is sore because I went from walking 0 miles a day to walking 6 miles a day is hard.  Averaging under 1500 calories a day due to careful calorie consideration and lots of exercise is hard.  Hearing old women at the Dairy Queen comment that I am now "as big as" another girl she knows who has gained a lot of weight is hard.  (Her actual comment:  "Well you're as big as such and such."  Ouch.)

But right now?  I'm over my walking goal for the week with two days left to go.  So I'm going to count this a win.  And that 100 miles?  I'm going to own it. 

Pinned Image

How are you doing?


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Two Months--Ryan Christopher

In the three seconds since my kid has been born, he's managed to turn two months old.  I'm not entirely sure how it happened so fast, but I know it appears that bear is shrinking.  Proof?


(I just now figured out it would be a good idea to put him in a white onesie for his month pictures.  Oh, and the bear is wearing a diaper because Favorite had to "practice" before Ryan got here.)

At his two month appointment, Ryan weighed 12 lbs 0.13 oz and was 22 1/2 inches long.  We like to joke and call him Jabba the Baby, but he's truthfully only in the 54th percentile for weight (and the 32nd percentile for height--poor baby is going to be like his parents).  On the other hand, his head was 39 1/2 centimeters--the 70th percentile.  (That information is just for you, Uncle BigBro.)

He's been sleeping through the night since he was about five weeks old.  That information was enough for several of my friends at work to call me a dirty whore out of jealousy :)  Typically, he goes down around 8:30 pm and sleeps until 6 am.  There is an occasional morning he wakes up at 4 am, takes a bottle and goes back down until 7 am, but those mornings are rare so I try not to complain.

Big Yawn
Naps, though?  Naps are a different story.  He sleeps just fine in the car, but he will argue endlessly with me when I put him down for a nap at home.  I'm working through the BabyWise sleep methods to teach him to nap.  Thankfully, it's been pretty successful.

And speaking of BabyWise, that book and the Moms On Call app for the iPhone have been awesome.  I highly recommend both for new Mommies.  Initially, Favorite and I were having a difficult time determining how much he should eat at each feeding because, from time to time, he would cry after finishing a feeing.  Based on the recommendation from Moms on Call, he takes about five ounces at each feeding now.  (That amount is a rough estimate due to nursing.  I have to supplement his feedings with formula, too.  Thankfully, he transitions from breast to bottle with no issues whatsoever.)  It's also been helpful to determine how many hours we should wait between each feeding.  Right now, he goes 3-3.5 hours.


He is not really a fan of his binky.  We do offer it and occasionally he will suck on it to soothe himself.  For example, he gets one when I lay him down at night.  He'll suck on it until he's calm, but he spits it out before he goes to sleep.  And if he's mad?  Good luck trying to keep it in his mouth.

Lately, he's really been talking to us.  He coos and smiles and mimics the faces we make.  He loves attention--especially from Num-NumTheWonderChild.  He smiles at her every time he sees her.  But he's also a fan of his Daddy and his Grandparents.

That Daddy is just hilarious.

Favorite and I took Ryan swimming for the first time on our 10 year anniversary trip.


Ten seconds after this picture?  He filled that swim diaper to capacity.

He loved it so I'm pretty sure he's going to be a water-baby.  (On a side note, can you see how much that child looks like his Daddy?)

Since we were visiting the zoo, we thought the trip wouldn't be complete without this picture:

The Ryno and a real rhino
Ryan is wearing size 1 diapers which means he is one snap out on the waist of the cloth diapers.  We are cloth diapering almost exclusively now; however, we don't travel with them.  Disposables are too convenient for a trip out of town. 

We started with the BumGenius Elementals.  (I'm only going to use AIOs because I have no desire to spend time stuffing diapers.)  Several bloggers commented that these diapers were excellent, and my experience with them has been really great so far.  My one complaint is that they take FOREVER to dry.  Because of that, we gave the BumGenius Freetime a shot.  I actually prefer them because they dry so much faster, but I know a few people are probably more partial to organic cotton over microfiber.  Oh, and any person interested in cloth diapering should invest in a diaper sprayer.

(And for those interested:  we currently have 18 diapers in the rotation--6 Elementals and 12 Freetimes.  You can definitely get by with 12, but 18 guarantees I'm not doing laundry every day and I have at least 4 clean and dry diapers on hand at any given time.)

Favorite is even a fan of the cloth diapers.  Overall, they should save us around $1500 for Ryan and even more if he has siblings.  Not too shabby, eh?



 
Look at those bright eyes.  If things keep progressing at this rate, I'll be posting pictures of his Senior Prom next week.  How did he get so big so fast?

Monday, May 27, 2013

PAIL

For those of you still interested in participating in the #100inJuneChallenge, I will probably post updates on Mondays and Fridays.  Maybe that will create some sort of accountability for all of us!  (On a side note, I realized last night how difficult this is going to be with a not-always-agreeable infant.  Nothing like making a commitment before counting the cost, eh?)

Today, I have the privilege to be featured here.  While there are few topics I shy away from here, infertility and loss aren't subjects I approach regularly outside of the blogosphere. 

That said, I'm thankful there was a community that could easily connect me to other women who also struggled with many of the same issues.  I've heard a friendship is born when someone says, "What?  You too?  But I thought that was only me..."  And that's promising for any woman who has felt the isolation infertility and loss can cause.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The One Where I Develop a HashTag

Ryan is almost two months old and I still feel like I'm trying to get my bearings.  Some of that may be due to the fact that I had a few tiny unrealistic expectations.  Miniscule, really.

Like I thought losing the baby weight would be no problem.  I mean, my body was awesome during pregnancy.  My blood sugar got progressively lower as my pregnancy continued.  I felt good.  I slept well.  And until the last few weeks, my blood pressure was beautiful.  Oh, and I managed a reasonable weight gain--25 lbs.  (At least, that was my gain before being admitted to the hospital.  I was pumped full of fluid there so I have no way of knowing what my final gain was before Ryan was born.)

So I assumed people were crazy when they told me it would take some time to lose the weight.  I mean, yeah...time.  Like, 3 weeks?  4?  Surely by the time I returned to my classroom I would be able to button my pants again.  After all, I could still slide all of them over my hips and my legs stayed the same size.

De.  Lu.  Sional.

I have always been a chubby girl.  Rotund, even.  But at my fattest, the roles on my stomach were always relatively flat.  To quote Jen Lancaster, "A pretty fat."  I didn't realize when people told me to take loose clothing to hospital what they were actually saying was "You may look four months pregnant for a while.  Get used to it."

True to form, I look like I'm getting ready to identify the gender of my next baby.  And I'm seriously struggling to keep from beating myself up over all the progress I made last summer in the exercise/weight loss department.

I mean, I wanted this.  I wanted a baby more than anything in the world, and I am SO grateful for him.  So why I am a little depressed over this development?  Because I'm a girl.  And there's something in girl code that says, "Oh things are going too well in my life.  I have to find something to piss and moan about."

So before I get all look-at-my-baby's-two-month-pictures-and-how-much-he's-grown-and-why-can't-he-stay-a-baby-forever-how-does-time-go-this-fast, I thought I'd get this out of my system.

When people said, "Oh, you totally lose weight breast feeding," I heard, "You might become an international model if he nurses for longer than 10 seconds."

Epic fail, that one.

Even though nursing is supposed to filter most of the sugar out of my body, I still seem to struggle with my lady lumps (and not just the ones producing food).  Weird, right?  So now I'm back to really limiting sugar in my diet and I'm working toward cutting white flour completely (again).

Actually, that's the upside of this whole story: I found a wagon and I chased it down so I could get on.  And that is largely due to the fact that I returned to my school about the time the faculty has logged a joint 400 lb weight loss. 

It was like getting a kick in the teeth...but the kind that makes excited because now you can get veneers.

So in the footsteps of my friend, Morgan, who set a goal to walk 100 miles in 50 days, I'm pledging to walk/run 100 miles in the month of June.

Anyone else up for the challenge?  Let's hashtag it in twitter:  #100inJuneChallenge

What else do you do to get back on the proverbial wagon?  I'll take all the advice I can get.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Ryan's Birth Story: Part 3 (The Final Frontier)

Part 1

Part 2

I specifically waited until Grandma had left the room and Daddy was sleeping to have my break down.  I didn't want to add stress to an already stressful situation, but those hot tears and sobs needed to be spent before I completely imploded.

I didn't really expect crying to help; I was just fighting frustration.  After an almost perfect pregnancy, I found myself without much faith that my body was capable of doing something that came naturally to many women.  I could almost taste the c-section that would be required, and, to be honest, I was afraid.

I wasn't two minutes into my tear fest when my replacement nurse came in to check the monitors and had her own panic attack.  She was sure something was really wrong.  Unfortunately, Grandma chose that exact moment to return to the room. 

The nurse was scared.  Grandma thought the nurse made me cry. 

And here is where you get a few notes about Grandma.  Before you were born, Grandma was a social worker with the Department of Health and Human services.  She regularly dealt with insurance companies and often had the privilege of dealing with people who were less than forthcoming with information.

Because of this background, Grandma developed what your uncles and I like to call Mom personality #1 and Mom personality #2.

#1=An extremely naive woman who is non-confrontational and usually in a good mood.

#2=You know how National Geographic says more people are killed every year by angry hippos than any other animal?  Well, your Grandma can channel her own angry hippo.  And it ain't pretty.

Typically, Angry Hippo is reserved for insurance companies and lazy people; however, in the 5 nanoseconds that passed between your Grandma coming back into the room, registering my tears and turning to my nurse, I saw that Angry Hippo had swallowed whatever part of Mom Personality #1 had been present.

For the rest of the day, your Grandma (who I learned is extremely agile and protective) hawk-eyed every.single.procedure.  And while I never would've described her as a terrifying woman, I certainly wasn't going to poke the bear.  My nurse must have sensed the change in atmosphere because she was pretty low-key for the rest of her shift.

Around 9 am, Dr. S came in to check the progress of our through-the-night-Pitocin-gamble.  We were all frustrated to learn I had only dilated to 2.5 centimeters.  Dr. S scratched her head and said, "Well, I'm inclined to suggest we break your water and see what happens from there.  Though, we can take you for a c-section if you'd rather."

I explained that I really wanted to avoid a c-section, and she responded, "I really think your body can do this, and we have some time.  Let's break your water and see what happens."

Now I had read three different pregnancy books in the last nine months.  Not one of them indicated what would happen if the doctor broke my water.  So if you are ever planning to get pregnant ever (your wife, I mean), read carefully:

As soon as the doctor breaks your water, every muscle in your body is going to relocate to your uterus and spasm like you've been running from some crazed man trying to kill you.  Truthfully, though, it's just your uterus trying to kill you.  No worries.

For those of you who have never experienced a contraction, imagine some invisible force has reached inside your body and gripped your uterus.  Then, in order maximize your pain, the force grows tentacles and wraps them around every available muscle in the tri-state area.

Thankfully, I reacted with the strength and grace that begets my personality.  In other words?  I panicked.  Panicking is my spiritual gift, you know...or you'll learn sometime before you turn 18.

I don't mean to blow things out of proportion here because once I got my bearings and could focus on breathing, the contractions were manageable.  But that first one?  I just wasn't prepared.  Call it a theme in this story.

My day nurse, Megan, said the average dilation activity after a woman's water breaks is a centimeter an hour.  But us?  We spit in the face of average.  So when I still refused to dilate much in the hours following my water breaking, my doctor began discussing the options. 

And by options?  I mean our lack of them. 

But you know us.  Dad and I definitely reveled in the hilarious before those decisions were made.

When I'd labored for several hours, my nurse asked if I was ready for some pain medication.  I wasn't quite ready for the epidural, but I was tired enough to need something to take the edge off of each contraction--mostly because in order to manage them I needed to sit straight up, propping myself on my arms with the soles of my feet touching.  I was tense and there was no way of knowing how much longer it would take before I got to look at your sweet face.

So my nurse brought me Stadol.

As soon as the drug hit my IV, I learned that it is possible to hallucinate while maintaining a firm grasp of reality.  Any time I closed my eyes, I felt like I was being transported to an alternate reality.  Everything looked as real as it did if my eyes were open, but I knew it couldn't be real.  For example, there was a squirrel who kept pulling on my underwear.  When I opened my eyes, I could still feel that stupid squirrel pulling on my underwear, but I also knew, laboring like I was, that I wasn't wearing underwear.

For a full report of all the hilarious things I saw, you'll have to contact Grandma.  She wrote it down, blessed soul that she is.

Most of the day felt 15 minutes long to me--mostly because it was tedious.  There was little change until late into the evening when I finally started to dilate.  My body, trying to make up for lost time, seemed to dilate three centimeters at a time.  And that was really promising.

Until my temperature spiked.

For some unknown reason, I developed a 102.4 degree fever and that was a definite cause for concern.  We didn't know what was causing the fever and any sort of infection would impact you negatively.  Immediately, the doctor started pushing antibiotics and discussing a C-section.  She told me we had a limited amount of time before this situation was serious, and then left Daddy and I to talk.

Something far worse than contractions grabbed me after that conversation.  Daddy and I both cried and tried to figure out what we should do before God reminded me of my word for the year:  peace.  So with little recourse, and no ability to make an informed decision, we called PastorJosh and asked for prayer.

It was around 10:30 in the evening and most of the people in the waiting room were clearing out and heading home in hopes of getting some sleep before returning to meet you.  A few minutes after that call, many of those same people returned to that waiting room to pray for us...for you.  Even more received a call or text from PastorJosh and got out of bed (even though Easter Sunday was the very next day) to pray until we were holding you in our arms.

Thirty minutes later?  I was pushing.

Our first meeting, Baby Boy.
Nurses warned us that first time mommies can push for hours before a birth occurs.  I smiled and told my nurse you were going to be born today.  Since it was after 11 pm, my nurse smiled and nodded, but she didn't look convinced.

Daddy snapped all sorts of pictures.  You were perfect even
directly after birth.  Most babies aren't cute at this stage.
Forty minutes later, at 11:46 pm, you were here.

Ryan Christopher
March 30th, 2013
8 lbs, 0.8 oz.
22 inches
People think I'm weird when I say this, but the actual birthing experience was one of the best experiences of my life.  By the time I was pushing, I was so excited to hold you.  The nurse commented she'd never seen anyone smile while pushing (and it was freaking her out a little).  But I couldn't help myself.  I grinned the entire time.  The doctor told funny stories.  We laughed like family.

And partially, I think that's how it was meant to be.

Peaceful.  Hopeful.  And the complete fulfillment of what I'd waited 8 years for.

Total, it took 97 months to meet you.

And every single second was worth it.



So many people have waited for you.

And loved you.

This is just the beginning of your story, Ryan.

I think there's probably a lot of laughter to come.  (Including a few hilarious stories about Daddy and putting your stroller in the car for the first time...)

And I'm so excited to tell every single one until you can tell your own.

I'll love you forever; I'll like you for always.

Mommy

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Ryan's Birth Story: Part 2

39 Weeks, 4 days pregnant--Right outside the hospital on Thursday


Friday, March 29

If there's anything you're going to learn about your father, Ryan, it's that he doesn't sit well.  So going into our second day at the hospital, I had honestly hoped you would make your appearance quickly because I wasn't sure which expensive piece of hospital equipment Daddy would choose to "experiment" with first.

To be honest, I was also a little nervous about the prospect of induction.  The one thing Dad and I took a hardline stance on was Pitocin.  We just didn't want to expose you to large amounts of this particular drug, and I also knew it had the potential to make labor more intense in the long run.

The nurse came in around 8 am to remove the Cervadil and assess our overnight progress.  Over the next several hours, Megan (my nurse) and I got along really well.  But my initial reaction was less than favorable.  Why?  Because she was the first person to inform us the Cervadil did absolutely nothing.  And had I known that would be the theme for Good Friday?  The crying would have commenced at that very moment.

Dr. J came in to see us and get the ball rolling on the Pitocin drip not long after 8 am.  He determined that it was best to start slow and increase the medicine slowly.  We were grateful for his approach because he reasoned there was no need to use a large amount where a small amount would do the job.

You had been at station -1 for the last three weeks, so I assumed a small amount of Pitocin would be our ticket to the big show.  But in case you aren't seeing the theme here, my assumptions regarding your appearance into the world were largely off-base.  I also thought I would be able to walk while in labor to help my progress; however, my blood pressure and the necessity of the IV made that reality an impossibility.

I wish I could give you a detailed account of the day after our initial meeting with the doctor, but most of that day's events swim together in my mind.  At one point, I even told the doctor I'd felt nauseated for about 15 minutes before the nurse indicated I'd told her the same thing two hours before.  Time, while important, was impossible to measure outside of contractions and progress. 

But those were elusive in that first day of induction.

My contractions wouldn't strengthen.  I didn't dilate.  I didn't efface.  I tossed and turned in my bed praying for something to happen, and I even cried--twice, actually--out of frustration at the whole process.

The most exciting thing that did happen on Friday was probably when my blood pressure cuff wouldn't stop airing up.  I was caught so off-guard, I didn't have the presence of mind to rip it off.  Your Grandma and Daddy, the only two people in the room at the time, both jumped across my bed to help, but by the time the cuff was ripped off my arm, the damage had been done.  I now had a very sore arm, a bruise the size of my palm and a fear of the blood pressure cuff I wasn't allowed to remove.

People showed up off and on throughout the day.  Your Uncle Ronnie and Aunt Sheena made it in from Ohio.  Uncle Timmy and Aunt Nikki drove in from their AFB.  Friends.  Cousins.  Grandparents.  The hospital chaplain (who is also a friend).  Their visits were a nice relief from the tedious reminder that nothing was happening.  Of course, your father did his best to provide a bit of comic relief, too.  At one point in the evening, he even attempted to put a surgical glove over his entire head and blow it up with his nose.

(He wasn't successful, by the way.  The gloves were a size medium so he requested a size extra large from my night nurse.  She apparently also had a pretty interesting sense of humor because she hunted for that glove for a full 40 minutes before telling us there weren't any available.)

After almost 12 hours of Pitocin, my primary doctor (Dr. S--who was on call for the weekend) came in to discuss our options.  She identified our situation as "gray area" for her, and said we could continue the Pitocin through the night or stop it and restart it the next morning.  Since I hoped to make as much progress as possible before the next day, we chose to continue the Pitocin through the night in hopes of delivering you early the next day.

Dr. S ordered the nurse to stop the Pitocin for a couple of hours so I could eat a real meal--I'd had nothing but liquids since the night before--and then restart the IV at 10 pm.

The anticipation was intense, and after a whole day of no progress, I was on the verge of an emotional breakdown...

To be continued

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Ryan's Birth Story: Part 1

Ryan,

I watched your little back rise as you were laying on my chest today, and I thought about how important it was that I take the time to write this part of your story.  But your Momma?  She's picky about words.  This couldn't be one of those stories, as they say in the movie Big Fish, with "all of the facts and none of the flavor."  Frankly, that would be missing a large portion of the way your Daddy and I see the world.  And I truly hope you grow up to see the humor in the most stressful moments of your life.

Love,
Mommy

Thursday, March 28th

I went to my regular appointment with the fourth doctor in my practice hoping I had progressed in dilation and effacement.  The Wednesday before I had experienced some pretty hard contractions and was disappointed they completely stopped the next day so I was ready to hear some progressive news.

After a quick check, Dr. J informed Daddy and I that I was still only 1 cm and around 60% effaced.  He was, however, concerned because my blood pressure had taken a sudden jump this last week.  While everything was OK as far as you were concerned, he recommended we head to the hospital to be admitted for observation.  Then, he said, he would come by later in the evening to discuss possible induction or the next course of action.

Daddy and I headed home in order to gather a few essentials, eat lunch and then, two hours later, found ourselves walking into the hospital.

We quickly found out it was a crazy day on the second floor.  Labor and Delivery was so busy, in fact, that there were women laboring in triage rooms and I had to share a room (atypical for this floor, I was told) with another woman who hadn't progressed enough to be moved.  Of course, even if she had, I'm not sure where they would have put her.  In that short night, there were about eight births total--including one set of twins.

When we first walked into the room, my roommate was telling the nurse that she would not, under any circumstances, take an epidural.  "I'm tough," she reasoned out loud, and was echoed by her husband who assured the nurse she was a strong person.

I raised my eyebrows because 1.  I am not tough and 2.  I realized pretty quickly this labor stuff was no joke.  It didn't take two hours before that same woman was declaring her overall hatred for the hospital, her doctor, Jesus and her own husband.  She hit the bed and moaned "Ohmygod" repeatedly.  I looked at your dad and said, "Umm...I'm not sure I can do this..."  He responded wide-eyed, "Me either."

I won't share all of the things she hollered, but you should know her vocabulary was colorful and entertaining.  Unfortunately, she didn't make labor look appealing.  So it's not surprising I got a little sick to my stomach when Dr. J came in to let us know we wouldn't be going home without a baby.  My sudden spike in blood pressure wasn't temporary, and he felt induction was our best course of action.  He reasoned that you weren't in distress, but it was best to make these decisions when baby was still healthy and safe.

Daddy and I looked at each other, looked at the sheet separating us from Armageddon over Mommyhood, and agreed that if this would keep you safe?  We were all in.

About an hour later, nurses came to move the moaner.  She apologized on her way out, but the damage had been done.  I was n.e.r.v.o.u.s.  When she was gone, I made the nurse sit down and talk to me.  I was sure that woman was transitioning from a 6 to a 7 and I just wasn't sure I was capable of handling something obviously so painful.  The nurse smiled and said, "She moved from a 2 to a 3 while she was in this room.  She was a little out of control so don't worry.  I'm sure you'll be fine."

"Can I have her epidural and mine?"  I asked, not really kidding.

"Listen," the nurse said.  "When the time comes, focus and breathe.  Don't waste time yelling or creating more drama in your room.  Your body knows what to do. You'll be fine."

Everything at that point seemed to happen really fast.  I got a new nurse due to shift change.  A couple hours later, I got a new roommate--a former student at my high school, in fact--who I will refer to as Typhoid Mary because she hacked all.night.long.  Loudly.  After telling the nurse she smokes a pack a day.

Sigh.

We really didn't have the option to be choosy, though.  My new nurse was given direction to give me Cervadil in order to finish the process so dilation could begin.  I think that started at 11 pm, but I honestly can't remember due to the sleep aid I was given.  All I do remember is periodically waking up as your monitor was readjusted so we could keep tabs on your sweet heartbeat.

(A side note to you:  You, child, are a mover and a shaker.  The nurses repeatedly commented on how active you were and How.Much.You.Move.  Of course, you were out of space.  I was 39 weeks 4 days, but you were 8 lbs and 22 inches at birth...so you were tired of people invading your space with monitors, hands, stethoscopes, etc.)

Daddy couldn't stay with me in our shared room.  There just wasn't space for him.  He scoped out a prime spot in the intensive care waiting room one floor up and left to get some sleep (or attempt to get some sleep) before the events of the next day.  The next thing I remember, it was 4 am and Andrea (my nurse) was moving me into a birthing suite.  Our induction with Pitocin would start that same morning so it was important I was as relaxed and comfortable as possible before proceeding.  I called Daddy and he made himself comfortable in our new space.

Good thing, too, because we were there for a while.

To be continued...

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Ryan

Y'all.  I have so much to say, but for now I will tell you my hands are a little full.  I promise complete stories and pictures in the very near future.  For now, I thought a few of you might be anticipating news of Ryan's arrival.  He came March 30th at 11:46 pm after an unexpected induction and three days of waiting him out in the hospital.  He is 8 lbs and a half an ouncr, 22 inches long (so maybe he will get the height we prayed for) and looks exactly like his Daddy with the exception of a head full of blond or reddish hair.  We so appreciate your support and prayers over the last nine months.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The One Where I Awkwardly Try To Share My Heart (You know. Like always. Plus extra Awkward.)

Among the things people never told me about pregnancy:
  • I would become a world-class snorer--so much so that my husband (a beast among men when it comes to nasal activity in the nighttime) would actually pray for my normal, non-snoring self to return.
  • Due sinus cavity problems (which might also contribute to the snoring), I can only breathe with my mouth open at night which basically means I've become a drooler.  Nothing sexier than a woman who slobbers in her sleep.
  • In the fashion of Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron," I've been mentally handicapped so I can only think about things in short bursts.  And then, like the fronds of a dandelion, a strong wind comes along and I'm completely carefree.
That last one is probably why most of my writing of late has been relatively lame.  I just can't seem to get what's in my head down on paper.  (I'm not really sure what my excuse was before pregnancy...)

Recently, I wrote about community in a truthful, but really unsatisfying post.  I keep writing things through the lens of expectation after years of being told to throw that particular dream out the window while driving 55 miles per hour.  I'm not disappointed with that perspective because it's one of the few ways I can explain the sense of overwhelmed-by-grace I'm navigating.  But there's so much more to that viewpoint, and I feel I'm unnecessarily narrowing the last ten years of my life to waiting for a gift and the fulfillment of that gift.

There's so much more in the meantime, y'all.

Which is probably why community keeps circling my consciousness.  Rest assured, though, if you want to read something far more compelling and truer than anything I'll ever manage to get down here, visit this particular post.  What I have to say, while similar, doesn't hold a candle to the words she managed to record.  (And isn't it always the truth that when you really start narrowing in on a topic, someone else picks it up and does it just a little better?)

(For the record, I also read her post through the lens of community.  After reading the comments, it's clear not everyone saw it that way.)

The idea of grace actively working inside a community, though.  Whoo.  That's a game-changer for sure.  A lot of my past experiences in the church (and more of my exploits in the far and recent past) include a mentality that says something like "More Grace for Me.  More Rules for You."

I'm not really sure how I justified approaching relationships in that way, and, frankly, I'm surprised someone along the way didn't ask me to tuck in my shirttail because my inner Pharisee was showing.  My biggest fear is that more people just believed my actions were the typical Christian response to people who didn't quite fit the mold.

Admittedly, I charged myself with helping the peg fit the hole--square, round or otherwise.  Myself, though?  I saw my own redemption through a much wider-angle lens--one that was capable of understanding this knowing Jesus thing was a process in the constant state of "to be continued."

It reeks of dualism, right?  Ironically enough, I was totally aware of the duplicity of that type of community, but I had no idea how to redirect those relationships into something that looked a little more like the Christ I was encountering.  So using the best spiritual gift I've ever developed, I chose to ignore it.

And, like all ignored corners of the refrigerator, my dualism grew fur, fangs and possibly the ability to cure small colds or the flu.

(I'm kidding.  Dualism isn't like Chinese takeout.)

(Or maybe...maybe I'm onto something there?)

Jesus, though, is far more diplomatic in his approach to those in need of a Saviour.  Needy people--far from perfect and without a clear plan for change--find healing.  Hope.  Open arms.

But us?  Too often, the "Christian Community" is hellbent on making someone else hug the cactus until s/he is penitent enough to join the ranks of the redeemed.

The people who have surrounded me and my family in the last year have been a breath of fresh air.  Their constant breeze hasn't been without conviction, though.  Their presence is the best form of pressure--the thumb in my back to remember exactly who this Jesus guy is.

This guy?  Met a woman at a well, asked for a drink and offered her "living water" without ever condemning her for living with a man outside of wedlock.

The same guy embraced the turn-coat who denied Him and then returned to the fold.

He loved liars.  Thieves.  Tax Collectors.  Prostitutes.

And He knew exactly what they were when he drew them to Himself.

My Jesus?  He sees people and still doesn't open conversations by saying things like, "You aren't welcome if you fill-in-the-blank."  It makes me wonder why we're developing elaborate sets of rules for who is allowed to enter the clubhouse.

When we talk about a community in Christ, the general public should envision a group of people open to loving anyone--social standing, orientation, creed nonwithstanding.  And why should we fling the doors open for the vast array of people we will encounter as a result?  Because Christ first loved us.

The consistent focus on relationship?  That's what makes this whole shindig worthwhile.  And I guess that's what I expect out of a community.