Tuesday, November 8, 2016

When We Wake Up Tomorrow.

Today we get the chance to show up and choose the leader of our nation. For many, myself included, this day won't bring relief based on the candidate chosen. For Christians, it's not supposed to. We live in a world that is broken and no woman or man, outside of Christ, will be able to fix it and we know this.

We know that Jesus is the one who sets up governments and authorities and can use even the most evil leader in his sovereignty. Yet, we are called to be wise stewards of our resources and a vote is nothing to waste. So of course I voted.

I also realize that throughout history and in my own life, times of hardship and lack of godly leadership, have lead the people to rise up and make changes in their own hearts and lives. We're already living in a dark world--how much darker does it have to get before our hearts are stirred beyond simply voting. Yes voting is important, but we cannot stop there.

Psalm 20:7-8 reminds us:
Some nations boast of their chariots and horses,
but we boast in the name of the Lord our God. 
Those nations will fall down and collapse,
but we will rise up and stand firm.

I wrote my own poem that I hope is an encouragement to not dread tomorrow, but embrace the opportunity we have:

Tomorrow when we wake up
We won't let things go
The reality will settle in
But this time, we'll know

That no matter the ruler, 
we still have a choice. 
To let things stay the same, 
or to use our voice. 

When there's no cameras or spotlight, 
when the signs are all gone, 
may the banner over us, 
be one that is love. 

Because Love conquered death, 
and a vote cannot change. 
What God has secured, 
in Jesus's name. 

And maybe we'll continue, 
the practice of prayer. 
We'll wake up tomorrow
and begin to truly care. 

About the idols we've worshipped
the world we've created. 
The ways we've shown apathy
cannot be debated. 

Maybe tomorrow, 
we will finally wake up
and decide that this world 
will never be enough

We'll choose real life in the presence,
and take a media break. 
We'll spend our lives given, 
and worry not what we'll take. 

We'll worry not about inconvenience, 
we might even slow down. 
And notice the beauty, 
is still all around. 

In the friends we still have, 
who have hearts and fears. 
We'll share defeats and victories,
Laughter and tears. 

When we wake up tomorrow, 
let us not give up our fight
Though darkness may entrench us,
we must go shine His light. 

Monday, October 31, 2016

On both sides

Last week, I was in Asheville enjoying a much-needed reprieve from one of the most difficult seasons I've gone through. The weather turned out to be perfect and we mosied downtown to wander aimlessly through downtown Asheville. A few blocks in, we were met with passionate folks holding up their signs for their opposing candidates. Although the idea of engaging candidates wasn't my idea of taking a break, my curiosity got the best of me and I asked the campaigners why they were in favor of their candidates.

We had an interesting, yet passionate discussion. The Trump supporter said her main issue was Life. She said she represented the silent victims of abortion who couldn't stand for themselves. The Clinton supporter said that he was passionate about supporting living wage jobs. He saw too many folks fall on tough times when they were laid off and personally knew working poor who were overeducated and underpaid. The Trump supporter was eager to share at this point, proclaiming that her own children were forced to leave the city for jobs because the local economy did not support them.

Though the media would portray supporters as venomous foes, we actually had a great conversation and agreed on more than I expected. I was excited to share an example of how I get to be involved in solutions related to both of these issues through my life's work focused on helping mothers know that they don't have to choose between motherhood & success--we're here to support moms who courageously choose life and we also provide resources for moms to help them secure living wage employment. My pro-choice friend even agreed that we were doing good work to help moms who chose to parent. I walked away hopeful that they would keep up their passionate pursuits after the election was over.

On November 8th, we have a chance to vote. Everyday, we have a chance to live out our beliefs and still remain neighbors who aren't hate-filled, but passionate people who desire to take action to make a difference. Let's not let this fire die down or burn us up with hate.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Number my days

I have trouble forming sentences these days. When you're up all night and your mind is working 24/7, it doesn't quite function in the same way as it did before-and that's okay. It's working how it's supposed to right now. So bear with me--I am talking to myself mostly. I would put it in a journal, but I would misplace it so it's here for now...

This verse keeps coming up recently. And it has become painfully obvious that our days are numbered over the past few weeks. No matter the age, we aren't promised tomorrow. How am I living today? 

For me it's a reminder to choose joy when I'm soaked with spit up-knowing that sacrifice and service of the "tiniest of these" is a gift that yields literal dividends in smiles and snuggles that make the heart swell.  

And no matter how messy my house or hair is, I am making space for what's most important-which means there's no room for regret, fear, bitterness or envy. 

So as much as I want to cling tight to the imaginary reigns of control, there's wisdom in knowing I can't hold back time or speed up sleepless nights. I can only hold my hands open and heart open--inviting my people in to do life even when's it's not pretty. Because those who know you and love you at your messiest are your people. 

And last week, I lost one of my "people." Someone who listened to a young mama and cut through the surface level facade to allow me to be real. We couldn't be more opposite in so many ways, but it didn't matter because she spent time with me--really hearing my heart and sharing hers too. 

So my goal is to be like this "Mary" in my life and quit trying to be Martha. Trading Better Homes for better relationships--lived with eternity in mind. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Rowan's Birth Story

Sunday May 31st.  My due date had arrived and despite a warning that baby could come early like all of my other babies had, I felt like I was going to stay pregnant FOREVER! At this point, I had tried everything I could to "help" baby come, but nothing had worked. My belly was extra huge by now and my midwife had talked to me about c-sections and breaking shoulders at my last appointment, so each day that passed made me more concerned. Also, I had experienced some complications and thought I lost my baby earlier in the pregnancy that caused me to be more anxious than I normally would be, so I was completely dependent on prayer and scripture for peace. Although I was feeling discouraged and super uncomfortable, I was so grateful for friends who continued to check in & encourage me--now on a daily basis :)
Within minutes of posting this big ol' belly and praying/pleading with God to let me meet my little one soon, I felt a sharp pain. I had experienced prodromal labor over the past couple of weeks, but this was much more intense. Within 5 minutes, I felt another pain. Five minutes later, it was there again. By now, I knew I wouldn't remain pregnant forever and I was pretty sure that we were going to have a due date baby. Since contractions were pretty regular and my labor was quick last time, I texted my doula and decided it was best to give my husband a heads up.  Since he had worked an extra long shift and just got into bed at 10am, I told him I was in labor and asked him to change out of his pajamas so we could leave quickly when the time came but told him I would try to labor at home and let him rest as long as possible.  

I called my mom and she sent my sister over to help with the kids.  Cayleigh arrived just as I was trying to curl my hair while having contractions. I managed to curl 2 parts in the front before the next contraction hit and she said I looked like George Washington which almost caused me to burn my forehead. Thank GOODNESS that didn't happen :) 

When Megan, my doula, arrived contractions were about 3-4 minutes apart. She immediately set the tone by sharing some techniques to help me remain relaxed and in control during the intense contractions. Since my husband was sleeping and my sister was in charge of the kids, I don't know what I would have done without Megan. I was so glad that she wrote me weeks before after I shared my fear of having a huge baby and encouraged me. While I initially thought that I didn't need a doula since this was my fourth birth and I already had a midwife, I was so grateful for her help!

Contractions were so intense and it seemed like I labored at home all day--listening to music and preparing mentally for what was ahead. I joked around with my sister in between contractions, but when I was no longer able to speak in sentences I woke my husband up, he grabbed our bags and helped my sister load up the kids while Megan helped me into the backseat of our car.  By now, I was starting to regret staying at home so long since the contractions were about a minute apart and lasted about a minute, but Megan loaded in with me and began applying counterpressure that took the edge off.  When we arrived at the hospital, I carried my birthing ball and had to stop, sit and breathe through contractions a couple of times before we were registered and taken to a room.  Afterwards, one of the nurses told me that a precious two-year old saw me on my ball and ran toward it as if she was going to scoop it out from under me and literally "have a ball."  I didn't notice anything though since I was in the zone.

Finally we were in the room and the nurse checked me and I was 9cm. She started asking the countless questions they have to cover and I told her that I just needed to push. Megan spoke up and let her know that we would make sure that they got all of the information needed, but that I just wanted to answer the essential questions at this point. The nurse obliged and went quickly through what she had to cover and soon I was transferred to another room where a team of nurses joined her and she told me I now could labor as I wished.

My midwife ended up being on vacation, so just like my other births, I wouldn't deliver with the practitioner I was used to.  The doctor that delivered Baron was making rounds at the hospital though and stopped by. She took note that I was definitely NOT that big with my last baby and asked if I was having a 10lb baby. I assured her that I was not (sincerely hoping that I was correctly). She offered to deliver if needed, but a midwife from the practice was on her way and I needed a dose of antibiotics, so I waited for the Katie, midwife, to arrive.

I cannot express how incredible the team of nurses was. After Megan explained my birth plan, they worked together and literally bent over backwards--even lying on the floor to monitor the baby's heart moving to keep track while I sat on the ball or swayed or propped on the bed. When the pain became intolerable, despite my plan, I begged for an epidural.  Without any hesitation, my nurse said "I will do whatever you want me to do, but I know you wanted to go without one and we're almost finished and getting one right now would most likely only make you numb after you've had your baby." That was just what I needed to power through. Megan also kept me reminding me that we only had to get through "30 seconds."

Finally, Katie arrived just in time for me to start pushing.  With a few hard pushes my water broke and a sense of relief washed over me as the pressure was gone and the massive amount of fluid indicated that the baby wasn't the one taking up so much space. After a few seconds of relief, the contractions came back with a vengeance and I was ready to finish this challenge and meet my baby. Mentally, I went to a place that was so beyond me. The pain was unbelievable, but I kept hearing voices of encouragement--especially my husbands. Through the pain and my doubt that I could make it through, I prayed over and over and sang...
"As Your love, in wave after waveCrashes over me, crashes over meFor You are for usYou are not against usChampion of HeavenYou made a way for all to enter in"
The song that had been my anthem for the past year and a half came on as I welcome my baby into the world.
"So I will call upon Your nameAnd keep my eyes above the wavesWhen oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embraceFor I am Yours and You are mine 
Spirit lead me where my trust is without bordersLet me walk upon the watersWherever You would call meTake me deeper than my feet could ever wanderAnd my faith will be made strongerIn the presence of my Savior

Spirit lead me where my trust is without bordersLet me walk upon the watersWherever You would call meTake me deeper than my feet could ever wanderAnd my faith will be made strongerIn the presence of my Savior

Spirit lead me where my trust is without bordersLet me walk upon the watersWherever You would call meTake me deeper than my feet could ever wanderAnd my faith will be made strongerIn the presence of my Savior"
And the minutes that seemed like forever passed as I challenged all that I had to help the little life that was growing inside me make its way out into this amazing world. Relief and loved washed over me. And my husband, the one who helped in the creation of this precious gift and encouraged me throughout the entire birth process, shared the surprising news with me that we now had a new DAUGHTER!  After the nurses cleared her passages, she was in my arms and I was again in awe as I took in the the incredible wonder of our Creator and Savior.

This man stayed up well over 24 hours and still coached me through natural childbirth, looking as hot as ever. 

Fresh baby!

Me & my girl--with a little help from an IG filter ;) 

My amazing doula Megan

Because we were so surprised that we had a GIRL, we didn't have a name yet. But that didn't stop us from introducing our sweet baby girl to her doting brothers and sister. 

 Big sister, who thought she wanted to be the "only girl" obviously changed her mind as she ecstatically loved on her new sister!

Little brother, who is normally full of energy, calmly and lovingly took in the reality that he was now a BIG brother. 

And the biggest brother was overjoyed as well.  

We were so happy to share our new daughter with visiting family and friends, but she still needed a name. So we cuddled with her and got to know her. Then, we prayed and asked others for suggestions. 

I had fun discussing different names with my husband who happened to veto most of them until we talked about "Rowan."

I now believe that I was probably influenced by the sea songs that welcomed her into this world and a picture of friend "rowing" on Instagram. Although Rowan isn't related technically associated with the sea, it is a type of tree that is known for it's beauty and hardiness. The Rowan tree has red berries (my favorite color) and beautiful blooms. 

It also reminds me of this verse:

1 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,

Nor stand in the path of sinners,

Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night. 

3 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,

Which yields its fruit in its season

And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.
Psalm 1:1-3 
We discussed Caroline as a middle name since it was a classic name that reminded us of my husband's family in North Carolina & it was a "part" of my name too. However, after we decide Rowan fit our little gal, we went with Carolina since we felt like it fit better and I LOVED that it meant "song of joy/happiness" according to several of the sites we looked up.

So within an hour of leaving the hospital, we finally had a name for our baby girl.

Welcome to the world Rowan Carolina, we can't wait to see what God does in and through your life!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Becoming Missional

Recently, I took a 13-week class called Engage at my church.  I honestly signed up because I desired to grow deeper in my own personal relationship with the Lord--as I have been the beneficiary of His goodness & extraordinary provision.  I was surprised to find that the course had a very outward focus.

While I love community service and being involved in positive-change ventures, I really haven't been comfortable with sharing my own faith in everyday life. I was a bit nervous when we were challenged to share a new way of discovering truth with the people we encounter, but as the weeks went on, some really cool things started to happen.

Initially, I was amazed by how the Lord spoke to me and used His word--especially in our marriage. Then, I was offered a position working on a project with a ministry that serves working women and it was a blessing to have an easy way to start Christ-focused conversations, especially concerning the place where many of us spend most of our waking hours during the week.  And we were able to share the technique with others through the simple example and almost everyone we've shown was ministered to in the process.  It was really neat to see how God can use common people to teach the truth that resides in His guidebook--the Holy Bible.

After this journey, we continued to pray about how we would be used as a family.  We hoped to continue with a local youth ministry, but wanted to do more.  The Lord then provided a way for us to use our home to serve Him.  In my work and in this opportunity, things did not go the way that I expected.  But the more I dig into God's word, the more I see this is the case more than not. It can be discouraging in some ways, but if we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28), we can continue in His purpose without fear or defeat.  

And despite unmet expectations, that have already stretched me in a good way, I am praising Him for awakening our hearts to a holistically missional mindset.  I don't fully know what that looks like, but I do know that we don't have to wait until we travel abroad or even show up to volunteer with our church.  Becoming missional is something we can do everyday.  It's ensuring that our kids are taught God's word, it's recognizing that ALL things come from God and that we are merely stewards--including our time, it's stepping out into a conversation with a stranger or friend at work as the Holy Spirit leads--risking rejection because the cost of not sharing God's Love & freedom is too high.  And when uncommon opportunities with high risk come along, it's prayerfully doing what others might not do because you we are made perfect in our weakness.

Praise God!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Quiet observation of ordinary

I took a break from blogging because I felt overwhelmed by the good, but time consuming information that floods our lives & I didn't feel it was necessary to pretend to be an expert in something or type about personal details as I am continuing on in this leap of faith that involves more uncertainty than "wisdom."

But as I am discovering, part of the beauty of the journey is looking back over where you've come from and seeing the changes that have occurred and the neat ways that my faith has been made real. 

As I was reminded during Chik-Fil-A's Leadercast session today, one of the toughest demotivators with exercise is that it takes a while to see the progress. This is true in day to day life as a mom who is navigating faith, family, relationships and calling. You read a little without retaining and feel like you'll never get it. You correct a child over and over again using well researched techniques & you get no change in attitude. You're transparent & invest in the lives of people who seem to never grow beyond superficial acquaintances. You work hard, aim high and hit a home run only to have a boss come along and change direction of the ship, chalking your hard work up to a one-time victory without a sustainable impact-so it seems. 

But this week, I don't know that there was any big sign or major victory. There was no road sign indicating that the promised land of success was just around the corner. No, this week, there was disappointment. There was a messy house and canceled school and a fender bender. There was a meeting that went terrible. And there was a severe allergy attack that made up for the past couple of years I didn't suffer that left me speechless.

But somewhere between the moment I put down my coping mechanism of my phone and decided to be in the game, that I realized how very remarkable and hopefully this broken, messy, disappointing life can be. 
And for a moment, that same ol' sun that was here all week was setting and the sticky-faced squealing children stopping begging to be pushed and simply played independently--running around the yard, dancing in and out of the radiating sun beams. I reached for my phone to take a picture, because one day I'll want to remember this moment. After all, I so enjoy going through old memories even now.

But their independence changed my mind, as I remembered that all too soon I won't have the chance to just watch them frolicking. They will not beg me for the attention that makes them feel important.  

 We make things too hard. Sometimes, all you have to do is show up. You don't have to do anything, but walk forward, even silently if you don't want to or can't speak. 

So I sat quietly. Watching. Undistracted and engaged in the little moments that lead up to big important changes I want in my life.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

IF God is Real...

Last month I attended a virtual conference in the basement of a complete stranger with her friends and a few other visitors like me.  It sounds totally sketchy, but it was awesome and reminded me of the way that the disciples traveled from town to town staying with people "of peace" that they didn't know, but trusted that the Lord would use the hospitality of strangers to bring a blessing.

And that's exactly what happened.  From the local host to the ladies in Texas that started the conference, The Lord brought a blessing & inspired a movement.  And I have to say that attending the IF: Gathering was a leap of faith in itself.  The description of the conference was vague.  I wasn't sure what to expect at all.  Also, the speakers came from diverse Christian backgrounds, so I was not sure that we would be on the same page with some teachings.  But my soul was pleasantly surprised.

The "un"conference conference idea was another iteration of a theme that I've seen a lot lately. Throwing off the things that hinder us to get back to the basics of getting to know Christ through His Word, understanding who we are through His Word, and understanding our place in this world and living accordingly. I liked it.  The ladies I joined after the conference were no longer strangers.  They were my sisters in Christ living as if God is real.

There's so much more I could say about the teaching, about the women in the room and on the screen, about the way that God brought me to one of seven couches in that basement.  But I won't for now.  I am still waiting to see how it all unfolds.

But for now, I will say that I left encouraged to dig into the Word even more, and burdened to find sisters to grow with in Christ--despite possible differences in our Christian walk.  After the conference, the phenomenal list of ladies including Jennie Allen, Ann Voskamp, Jen Hatmaker, Christine Caine, and so many other amazing Christian teachers have produced a daily devotional that makes it so easy to get into the Word and learn for yourself.  They call it IF: Equip, but I call it IF Snacks because if I'm feeling hungry, but don't have a lot of time, it's my go-to resource for Living Water.  It's a brief digestible section of the Bible that you read & answer three basic questions.  It's perfect to sustain you through the day or in addition to another study.

I hope to share some of the rich lessons and life-changing happenings as I continue to spend time in the Word through IF: Equip & I'm so excited to continue to build community with other women who are living as if God is real!

Stay tuned!