Thursday, June 8, 2017

Wellness 2017

Wellness 2017

For the last 5 months, wellness has been my word. You know, every year you pick a word and then that is your theme for the year? The last few years they have built upon one another. Last year’s word was hard because I felt the Lord calling me to come alongside Nick and whatever word he was going to be using. Commit. What a year!
So, this year it is wellness. What did that even mean, what does it mean today? What will it mean by December 31?
 At first, wellness meant mental, spiritual and some health. I know, I was pushing it all far away from my mind, the fact that my health needed attention. You know, mommas especially, can have a tendency to put themselves last. This isn’t a post about allowing yourself to let things go and be ok with it, but it isn’t about being so hard on yourself that you don’t live either. What it IS about, is a need to pay attention to ourselves, so that we can be an honest version of ourselves, healthy for our families, and at home in our own skin.
So, in March I got my eyes checked. It seemed like an easy way to start taking care of myself. It wasn’t the dentist, whom I hate. That is actually next week. The day before my 32nd birthday. Haha. Figures. Anyway, so I got my eyes checked and had to get some glasses for driving/seeing distance. They are fun and it wasn’t a huge deal, but it felt nice to know more about that part of my health. (I know some of you are reading this and appalled that I didn’t get my eyes checked since the age of 5) None the less, here we are. After the last 5 years of life, going through traumatic experiences and learning to live life after loss etc I am finally to a point where being completely honest with myself was my only way forward.
All the way forward to 30 days ago. Well, more like 40 days ago. I came across some information about Whole30. I know, the most strict and restrictive eating plan known. Haha. Anyway, I am not a researcher. I don’t have the attention span. So, I asked my personal researcher, Nick, to read up on it and get back to me. In the mean time, he had been dealing with wrist pain and had an appt with his primary care (which is another appointment that is on my list to make. I have already had my “yearly” if you know what I mean. TMI?!?) haha. He came home from that appointment with some discouraging news and he had just read about the Whole 30 and basically told me we were doing it and we were going to do it for a long while. Ok. Here we go. So, I did some actual research and pinned my little heart out on a secret Whole30 board of course, because I didn’t want anyone to know we were going to be another few people who failed at a whole30. I figured if I kept the board secret and failed at it, it wouldn’t be such a deal. Nick continued to get the plan in place and listened to the book. I was a bit of a crab about it even though it was my idea. Haha. So the journey began and all of a sudden the first week was over and I was feeling a bit empowered. When we first started our Whole30, we had our vacation in mind. The one we are on as I write this. We didn’t want to be on it while we took our big girl to DFW for a fun birthday weekend.   I can tell you in all honesty that we did the Whole 30 days and it wasn’t the end of the world.  It might have been the best thing we could have done for ourselves.
See, since I was fairly young, I’ve had a weird relationship with food. I never thought much of it until middle school, but I was taught to love myself even if I wasn’t the exact version I wanted to see, so I didn’t really change the things I didn’t like. I wished they would change, but was honestly too lazy to try to change them. So, through high school and college I didn’t really hate myself, but I didn’t better myself either. Marriage came and the newly wed lbs came on. Pregnancy 1, then 2 suddenly after that and then a few years of grieving and trying to figure out life came on me. I found myself years down the road with this need to actually give some attention to my body. 9 months ago I took on a new role at Family Life Church. When I stepped into the roll of Worship Pastor/Creative Arts I had no clue what I was actually walking into. God has stretched me far beyond what I thought I even needed to be. There have been very dark days and there have been many amazing days. I can’t explain the depth to which my faith has plunged, but I kinda love it. What a refreshing thing to be in over my head in the middle of God’s will. It has come with some major challenges, deep hurts, lots of confusion and many a night of crying out for wisdom, direction, just His closeness. I began to hear him talk to me about my health, specifically my weight, my disrespect to my body. My neglect of the body he gave me. I would see a live stream of a service and shudder because what I saw wasn’t how I felt I looked. It didn’t depict my inner self either. I didn’t look like my personality, in my mind. So, all of that to say, along with Nick’s Dr’s appointment, the rubber met the road. Here we were at a crossroads. I could continue down the comfortable road, the one I’ve known for half my life, or the hard road. Well, I was already proving to myself that taking the harder road in my place of service/work/ministry hasn’t caused me to fall over dead then maybe choosing the hard road to my health was going to be worth it too.
Whole30, you can research it yourself. You can cringe and deep sigh and roll your eyes at it too at first. Yet, I will tell you that I have never felt more control and true discipline in my life regarding food, in my life. I have a respect for myself enough to not destroy myself with emotional eating (as much, y’all it is still a struggle and probably always will be), mindless snacking, the need for a drink or a sonic run every day, etc. There are freedoms I now enjoy that I have not even imagined before. The massive detox of all things, grain, dairy, legumes, sugar, etc totally reset my system and has been an absolute blessing to me. Has it been hell at times? Why, yes. Yes it has. Have I enjoyed cooking EVERY. SINGLE. MEAL. Now and forever amen. No, I have not enjoyed it every time. Have I loved running the dishwasher every day and running out of clean forks every other day? Nope. But, have I enjoyed experimenting, challenging myself and then proving to myself that I can do hard things? YES. It really has been an adventure that I have enjoyed and embraced. I have learned that strawberries don’t need sugar on them. Haha. I realized that I can make a mean jar of Ranch Dressing. Fresh salsa makes a great dressing. Plantains are delightful. Scrambled eggs for breakfast every day isn’t all that bad, especially when cooked in coconut oil. :D
Why am I writing all of this? I know that it isn’t breaking news and I don’t have any wisdom I am going to drop on you, but I want to document this for myself. I want to continue to keep learning, keep challenging myself and in His grace be obedient. Obedience is hard. Is it worth it? Every time.
Now, I will say, I could not have done this without Nick. The accountability, the person I can be most honest with, doing this alongside has made all the difference. We starting exercising too, because our energy had switched because of our detox of so many things that were causing us to crash at the end of the day. We are watching less TV, spending more time outside, going to the pool, working out 3x a week at least, etc.  Our kids eat better because we are. The girls will throw down a bowl of grapes or strawberries like nothing else. Ava has been very aware of this journey with me. She knows I am focusing on being healthy. She is a cheerleader. I’m thankful that she is seeing me be mindful of my health, but for the right reasons, not for the sake of a size or I don’t think I’m pretty or something…
So we are enjoying our vacation, having some treats and celebrating our daughter and when we return home, we will be doing another Whole30. There is something that continues to better us through this routine that we are not done banking on. So, we will continue along and be thankful for the benefits of being disciplined. God is a God of order. He is not a God of chaos.
I am not sure where you are in your life or what your struggles are, but if you have any question about being obedient in the hard thing…. Do it. Just go ahead and do the hard thing. You can do hard things. You can say no to things. You can say yes to things. You can walk in obedience. NOT perfectly, but wholly. As we pursue Holiness. We obviously will never achieve perfect holiness, true righteousness, that is why grace is so beautiful. Yet, I know we can achieve obedience to the fullest, wild abandon in our faith, adventures and challenges can be accepted and experienced to levels never before known.
There are 6 more months to this year. I am thankful that God doesn’t operate in time like we do. He allows me to take on new adventures and challenges with him, at the pace I can, in the time I need, in the way that is best. Another thing, I’m so thankful for a friend who understands and  supports whatever thing God is doing in my life. Surround yourself with support, with wisdom, with true blues. They are hard to find. If you have 1, you are blessed. Finding a rhythm to your life is so important as well. IT is ok to eat the same breakfast every day of your life. It is fine to have staple items that you know support your health. It is ok to not schedule something every day. It is amazing for your kids if you really listen and allow yourself to be aware and attentive. 

***note to the grieving mom reading this, because that has been the whole intention of this blog since Noah’s death…Take. Care. Of. Yourself. Spend time tending to your heart for as long as you need, in whatever ways you need. Be honest and true. Exercise. Eat clean. Treat yourself too. Enjoy quiet. Enjoy alone time. Savor family. Extend grace. To those family members and friends who bail, give them grace and love, but don’t hide your needs to appease them. They don’t always understand. They need grace and forgiveness for the times they hurt us. To those people on the inter-webs who mean well, but just can’t seem to not comment, just keep scrolling. To the people who will forget your child’s birthday or death day or some special date, don’t hold it against them. Time doesn’t heal, but it gives us perspective. Just continue to allow grace to flow. Feel all the feels. Do all the traditions, special things and celebrations. Post the pictures, share their story, find a support group, keep a grief journal, give back, find ways to honor your child’s life/memory/legacy. Whatever it takes, be the best version of you for the kids you still have on earth, or for the kids who will grace your family someday. I’m telling you, take care of yourself. Don’t let the loss of your child kill your spirit for life. Take your time and then wipe your face and push forward. It’s worth it. We can do hard things because we have lived through the hardest most dark day of our life; the day we gave our baby back to Jesus. Hold on tight mommas and daddies of those gone before. Redemption will come. *****

So, ya. I’m thankful. I’m inspired. I'm refreshed. Thankful for this little weekend away to recharge and have quality time with my loves. Thankful that God allows space and ways to make us better versions of ourselves. I challenge you to do the small thing, today, that could possibly change your life. What a blessing it is to be a masterpiece that is ever changing, growing, getting more beautiful and increasing in value as time goes by. See yourself as worth the investment.
I know it has been so long since I have shared. I suppose the desire to write has just been suppressed by lots of different circumstances. Thankful for the place to share my heart though, and possibly encourage you. Be the best version of you. I used to think so little of those who thought nutrition and health were priority. I had this attitude and pride because I was in denial. I didn’t want to like those who cared about their health because I didn’t. I think that happens for people in many different ways. If you don’t want to care about your spiritual condition then you think those who do are snobby. If you don’t care about social justice then you think people are wasting their time. If you don’t care about a certain issue then you avoid it. Here’s the thing, when it becomes important to you, you will actually succeed at it. Again, thankful for grace.Thankful for patience and for growth.
Extending the invitation that if you need support or encouragement or any form of advice, I’m not certain that I can be the best help, but I can be a friend and an ear. I can point you to the One who can and will walk with you through any road.
In Him,
Noah’s mom

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Kindergarten here she comes!

Sitting in my bed, snuggled up with her and my mind wanders because I've watched every Tinkerbell movie 326x. 

 My girl starts kindergarten next week. 

It is an incredible feeling to think that my first born is big enough to start doing bigger and better things, things without my constant attention or affection. She'll start a new journey that will last the next 13 years. There will be fun moments and hard moments, tears of happiness and tears of rejection. There will be all sorts of friends, events, assemblies and programs. Homework, projects, tests and quizzes. There will be rough patches and dark seasons as well as incredibly blessed and fruitful seasons. She will make friends and watch some walk away, move away or fall away. She will have wonderful teachers who inspire and frustrating ones who will push her to truly learn for herself. She'll discover who she is as a student, her style of learning and what she excels at. Over the years she will figure out if she enjoys athletics or music or all the above. She will have to learn things that we don't feel are all that necessary, like a big standardized test, but she will learn that there are many things we don't want to do, prepare for or endure but we will always do and try our best at whatever is at hand. She will learn to believe in herself in ways she never thought she would. She will learn more than a test. Trust me. 

She will be a foreign missionary in her home town. 

I say this because the world of school is one that she will enter daily. She will walk into a world of challenge and excitement, but at the same time she is entering a place of uncertainty and even darkness. Our children are never promised an easy life, a perfect life or a life without hardship. We ensure all we can to protect and provide for our kids and I will strive daily to provide all she needs to be safe, healthy, happy and whole. Yet, I understand that I am asking her to walk into a word where she isn't always going to be happy. She won't always leave school feeling whole or excited. And that's OK! It's good for her to learn that life isn't always perfect, easy or on our terms. She will learn that people will hurt you and there are people who are hurt that need grace. She will learn that she needs grace herself. She will begin to see that her world is way bigger than she's ever known before. Questions and curiosities will bubble up and there will be hard conversations, deep discussions and lots of prayers. I hope this bed I'm snuggled in will be the home for lots of these talks and tears and most of all prayers and cuddles. 

So my prayer for my girl is that she will see school as a place to be a friend, love others, learn responsibility, routine, order and most of all; grace. I pray that she extends grace to the girl who comes to school without her lunch and will share hers. I pray that she is the kid who sees others like Jesus does. I pray that she knows she is a light, a friend, a blessing to those around her. I pray that she sees opportunities outside of her comfort zone that show the love of Jesus. I pray that God protect her and place amazing friends and people in her life, but I also pray that Nick and I create a foundation of Godliness that she can rest in and soak up so that she can be a solid oak in a world of orchids. I pray that she knows we are her advocates, her prayer warriors, her safe place and her leaders who will help guide her through these years. I pray that she knows whose she is not just who she is. I pray that she is a light and a source of hope for her classmates, a joy to her teachers and a blessing to those she comes in contact with. I pray that she learns to add and subtract alongside listening and including. I pray she also has discernment to know what is right, what is wrong and what is best. 
I pray that she understands that school isn't just about education, but about how you interact with a hurting and hardened world. May she know how to respond and serve a hurting and broken community. 
She is a missionary, a deliverer of good news. May God go before her and be her strong place and the light to her path. I pray that she enjoys all the new adventures and exciting times ahead! May she learn that this world is full of hardship and ugliness, but that with Jesus she has the cure. With Jesus she has the answer. With Jesus she can be secure in whose she is. She can stand firm in faith and the truth. She can be the one who shows love. She can be the smartest person in her class, but if she doesn't love, than it doesn't matter. May she grow in every way.

Kindergarten is a big step into this mission assignment she has been given. May I support her, uphold her, provide and prepare her at every step for the task at hand. 

I'm blessed to be mothering a future woman of God. For now, I'm just thankful that she will still let me watch Tinkerbell with her. ❤️ 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Tucking Him Away

It's late. Meal prep is done. Kitchen is clean. Girls have been asleep for awhile. Now husband is asleep. It's me and the cat. I don't even really like that cat all that much, but here we are.
I long for alone time, as a mom, wife, working full time, leading worship every other week and I always end up cleaning the whole house, mess around on Facebook, play a game on my phone, work on projects etc, but I rarely just sit, alone, quietly. 
It isn't that I don't "have the time". I just don't make the time. I think for 3 years I have filled the time up because it is easier to stay busy than to really deal with pain. It is easier to fill my schedule with things and over commit myself to ministry than it is to be real with my hurt. It is easier to just mask it all because people need to see that "God is good" and "it is well". 

My child is dead. Why do I have to be okay with that? Why do I continually have to push it down further away in my memory and my soul so that I don't seem weak or annoying or even rude. I do not understand why I chose to jump back into ministry the weekend after my son died. I don't know why. I don't know why nobody tried to stop me. I don't know why I was able to just sign up for all the events and ways to serve in the church and no one noticed a red flag with that. I'll never understand why I continually overbook, over schedule and underwhelm my soul. I don't know why I think that things will fall apart if I'm not there. 
I fee the tug of loyalty and commitment and the tug of the desperation to get alone, find some peace and be honest and real with myself and God. They battle each other so often. It is a gamble to even make known these things for fear of letting people down. When we go through seasons when the grief bubbles up again, I have realized that I have to be aware and I have to be willing.  Willing to be honest with myself, with my husband, with those in my immediate circle, my co-workers and ministry family. I have to refocus, find ways to relax and remind my heart that the whole purpose of ministry is simply so that others may know Christ and make him known. For me, grief/over commitment is the biggest way Satan grabs me and keeps me from thriving.

The purpose of this blog, in the beginning, was to update family and friends of the things going on in our world, then it became a place to update on Noah and then after he died it became an outlet for me through many ups and downs of grieving. I am not certain what it is anymore. I have had a block the last year or so and so just occasionaly do I feel that I have the clarity to really write something that could be read and even understood. The last few weeks, Noah has been pushing his way through my jumbled up busy mind and parked himself there. I have a lump in my throat that I had gotten rid of over the last couple of years. I think with the anniversary of a heart friend's death, the surgery of another heart friend and just a lot of bottled up emotions from the last year I realized I was drowning in some unattended to issues, heart cries, questions even. I guess I was just frustrated and sad that I'm missing out on raising a boy. I knew the day would come when I realized I was missing out on so many adventures. I knew it would come. I also knew that I had to face it and come to the point of accepting the fact that I will be tucking Noah away for the rest of my life. I may not tuck him in at night, but I tuck him away each holiday, each new season of life, each new season of my girls' lives, and I will quietly tuck him away in my momma heart during the times I watch the boys in our life hit a home run or shoot a 3 pointer. I will tuck him away. I will learn to give myself space and time and grace to cry the tears I need to, not shove more cliche sayings down my own throat to make me believe it or feel it or be ok with it. I am learning to grieve inwardly and alone and not rely so much on others around me. I don't need 200 likes on a picture of my son to make me feel better. I need alone time to just sit and miss him and then let my soul linger with the Lord before going about the momma and wife duties that ARE there for me to attend to. Noah has and will ALWAYS keep me focused and accountable. Have I prayed today? Or have I just announced to the world all my "things", all my needs, all my struggles. Have I sat and lingered with him or have I exhausted myself and others with neediness.

Maybe you don't struggle with grieving right now. I feel safe to assume that a lot or most of the people who might stumble across this are dealing with some form of grief. Be it the loss of a loved one, a divorce, a friendship gone sour or another relationship struggle... are we exhausting ourselves trying to make people hear us and our struggles or are we truly trusting and bringing to the Father our deepest longings? Besides bringing him our needs he already knows we have, are we just lingering with him and letting him soothe our souls? Are we truly being honest with God? Or are we just saying "God is good" so we don't have to deal with the fact that maybe we really struggle with that truth.  We ALL HAVE STRUGGLES. WE ALL HAVE THINGS, NEEDS, FRUSTRATIONS... How are we dealing with them, honestly?
Be aware of your emotions, your grief, your needs and really lay it out with the Father. Christian sayings, going to church, being over committed, drowning ourselves in stuff is not the answer. Be honest, get support and just be real and honest with yourself.
I was made aware of so many attitude problems, negative thoughts, struggles with people and frustrations with others that were all stemming from this toxic heart condition of my own.
Actually asking God to "search me and know me" like David writes in Psalms. It is revolutionary to be undone by Him because He puts us back together so beautifully. Scars are special.

I may be tucking Noah away more and more, but I am thankful that He always seems to teach his momma something at the times she needs it the most.


Wednesday, March 16, 2016


"You taught my feet to dance upon disappointment and I, I will worship."

I've learned in the last 3 years grief changes. It no longer defines my daily routine or thinking process. I am no longer constantly consumed with thoughts of the what ifs, whys or hows of the situation. I have a freedom from that and yet I never go a day without thinking of him.

A couple of weeks ago it was one thing after the other. Nick had been sick with the flu, Ana had drainage, Ava and I were fine, but we both are the ones with the most on the schedule and then she got strep/flu. So, overall it has been me, being single mom, while Nick is sick, and we have a ton to do. I am capable of doing it all, but I rarely have to do everything for 2 kids, plus  him, myself as well as work. (shout out to all single moms/dads out there... I am humbled by your constant energy and efforts) Long story short, I took the girls to my parents' house on a Monday afternoon so I could deep clean the house and try to get a handle on germ killing. I found myself out at the cemetery after dropping them off. It was just me, 2 special graves and a Texas sunset (oh and a cold wind)... but it was exactly what my soul needed. I sat there after cleaning up the area of old flowers, trash, etc. I just sat there, I guess like I would have if Noah and I were playing on the floor. I have never been one to talk to those who have died. I just never felt the need or connection in that way. For some reason I just needed to talk to him though. I realized I was no longer grieving the loss of a baby, but of a little boy I'll never know. We have this sweet new baby in our home and even though she will never completely fill a hole that Noah left behind, she has brought so much joy to our home and our hearts. I realized that I was missing out on how he would be bugging his big sister, loving on his little sister, running us all ragged and loving it. I sat there and just breathed in the quiet, telling him how proud of him we would always be and that his big sister doesn't go many days without saying his name, praying that he is happy in heaven or wishing he was here to play with. He is missed, forever loved and cherished.

So, dancing. I'm the last person in the world that you want to see dance or even try to dance. Yep. I cannot do it. The songs like "I hope you dance" "I would have missed the dance" etc are sweet and endearing but never made sense to me. I just don't dance or connect to the word dance. So when the song by Amanda Cook played for the first time, I heard the lyric "You taught my feet to dance upon disappointment and I, I will worship". I was struck so heavily by those words.

Noah's death was a disappointment in my life for a long time. It hurt that I wasn't answered the way I wanted to be. I was struggling to make sense of what life was, then turned into and finally what it would ever become again. So to dance upon disappointment? What does that mean and how does that look in my circumstance? I realized that anytime I donate tabs to the Ronald McDonald house in honor of Noah, I'm dancing. When I lead worship I'm dancing. When I tickle my big girl til she cries laughing so hard, I'm dancing. When we bought our home in 2014 I was dancing. When I got my job at FLC I was dancing. Sometimes dancing for me looks like getting out of bed and facing a hard day. Sometimes dancing upon my disappointment looks like being around moms with baby boys the first few months after we got home. Play dates were terribly hard, but I did it for Ava and I endured, therefore I danced. Dancing is when we make a trip down to Ft Worth, but it is also snuggling up on the couch and watching Ninja Turtles on a Friday night with pizza and cookies. Dancing in my life is not always being happy nor is it a sign of perfection or bliss. Dancing is doing life. Dancing is not letting his death destroy every good thing in my life. It is letting his death enrich my life by doing life better, with more intention, simplifying, saying no sometimes, creating moments of connection instead of disconnection. Dancing upon disappointment.

This past weekend while introducing a new song to our FLC family I was given a clear visual of the bridge that states "I'll hold on to you and you'll hold on to me". It's a beautiful line and I immediately had a picture in my mind. Nick and Ava were dancing at a wedding last weekend and it was so beautiful to see Ava glowing and having a ball with her daddy! Nick was swaying her and looking at her so sweetly as she danced with him. This moment between them reminded me that our relationship with Christ is that way. He is dancing with us and we trust him to not let us fall, he leads us even when we step on his toes and as we dance we are safe, happy and all together wrapped in the moment of just him and us. We know that life is not always happy, safe, fun or sweet like a dance. Happiness isn't guaranteed but, he promises he will lead us and not forsake us, ever.

What's more beautiful than dancing upon disappointment? That the one whom we tend to blame and get upset at during the disappointment is the one who is holding our hands and loving on us during the dance. So, trust Him in your life through your worship. Worshiping isn't just singing. Dancing isn't just for weddings. Dance in the daily details, worship in the toughest moments. Just don't give up. Dance through the adventures and the seasons of life. I promise that if you don't let go of WHO God is and WHAT he has done for you, you will see blessing and even joy again in your life!

 much love,

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Hand Me Downs

We welcomed a new little girl into our world on December 8th, 2015.

I suppose I have been somewhat quiet on the blog in the last 6 months or so. I just have not felt like forcing things that don't have to be said, I guess. I have had many attempts because I have had moments where I just needed to write, but as I would write, I realized it was all a jumbled mess and no one would understand it but me.

None the less, we've had a crazy month, to say the least. We started out with having Ana Rejoice on December 8th at 10:37am. She weighed 8lbs 10oz and was 20.5" long. She had a small emergency start because she inhaled a ton of fluid and had to be suctioned out immediately causing her the need to be in the nicu for almost 2 days. We got her out of there really quick and were able to have a "normal" time with her from there. We dealt with some jaundice (and she still turns carrot like occasionally) and had a 2 day stay in the hospital the week after we go home with her. There were some moments that first night with her under the bilirubin light that I felt so emotional and raw about the entire hospital life we led with Noah. Jaundice is just a simple newborn thing that happened with Ana and our pediatrician was VERY sure to assure me that it was simple and nothing life threatening with her knowing that I just could not handle it very well. ha. I got through those 2 days fine and we got home and got to a normal pace at home.

Everyone that sees Ana generally says that she looks so much like her brother. I love that. Ana does have a lot of her sister's faces and stretches at this point, but overall I agree that she resembles her brother in many ways. I cannot help but smile every time I hear someone say that because that means they remember his face.

As a mom of a child who died, I appreciate deeper than people know that they remember his face enough to say our daughter looks like him. What joy it brings me to have our son talked about, remembered and honored in this way. So, if you think she looks like Noah, thank you. My heart smiles every time I hear it.

I get funny looks sometimes when people ask me her name. Ana Rejoice. "....." It is not a common middle name. I know. It comes from Habakuk, from a verse I held dear while on the journey in Ft. Worth with Noah. Habakuk 3:18

If you read all of Habakuk 3 you will understand that the whole chapter is full of frustration, despair, famine, drought, etc and then it wraps up with that verse. It reminds me that in ALL things we can rejoice and find the joy. In ALL things, and God showed me that even in DEATH, we can find joy and we can rejoice in the GOODNESS of our God. It took a long time after Noah died to really mean that. Yet, God is faithful and I can tell you in full honesty now, that He IS GOOD. He HEALS, He REDEEMS, He MAKES RIGHT, He even makes it OK.

Ana Rejoice has shown us, in tangible form, that he is redeeming our loss. She doesn't replace Noah in any form or fashion, but she is filling a void left by him by simply being her. She is our sweet and precious baby girl and she will always bear part of her Bubby's testimony in her name. She wore his first Christmas jammies and will forever have part of his legacy as her identity handed down as well.


She completes our little family in ways we never imagined and she could never replace our boy. She makes his testimony in our lives so much richer because she is a sweet prize for the dark days. She is worth all the mourning and long nights of crying. She eases the sting of loss. Ava has been many healing things for me over the course of the last 3 years in her own way and now Ana is the same.

I can say that I am a mother to THREE precious children. I am a girl momma and a boy mom. I am proud to be a heart mom and a mother who has experienced loss. These things shape me and make me the wife, mother and person I am today. They shape my worship leading, my walk with Christ, the way I look at and do my job, the way I interact with others, etc. I am thankful for the scar I bear from my 3 babies and I am thankful for how EACH of my children have taught me different life lessons, brought me more sleepless and joyful years of my life and have extended God's grace to me without even knowing it.

Motherhood is hard. Loss is hard. I've realized that in the middle of the night when I'm zombie like and its hard to get up to feed Ana, I just remember the long, dark, lonely nights I didn't get to pick up that sweet boy, feed him, hold him, or play with him. I did not get to have anything that even resembled normal with that baby boy and so anything I get to experience with Ana is healing for me. I've been able to breastfeed her, which is a healing thing from both of my previous baby experiences. I pumped for both, but this time around I am getting this extra special time with Ana. We were able to bring Ana home in a normal amount of time from the hospital. We have been able to just be home and soak up these first few weeks of life with her and it has been so sweet.
Sleepless nights are NOT fun, but they shouldn't be taken for granted.
A fussy and restless baby at 3:30am isn't my first choice, but I've held my child as he entered heaven and I would stay up every night with my fussy girl to get that boy back.
The messy house, crazy hours, tired eyes, soreness from surgery, the huge scar I have.. I would not trade it. I will not take any of it for granted.

If you are aching and hurting from recent loss. Don't give up. Your joy is not lost. Your redemption is coming. He will make it all right. It might not ever make sense, I'm certain it won't, but it won't always cause such long nights, confusion or anger. The healer heals. He is working in your grief. He is making you better, if you let him. He will show you Himself if you watch closely.

Thankful tonight for our Ava Renee', Noah James and Ana Rejoice.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


** disclaimer- I used our new iPad keyboard tonight and noticed later that there were multiple typos. So sorry**

There have been a number of instances in Nick and I's marriage where I had to step back and go, "woooow" (for good and for bad haha)
There have been monumental moments in our life together that stick out to me because of how he either rose to the occasion or just didn't compromise. I can think of early on when there were some job changes that required him having 2 jobs to make the money he was making at 1 job, so he worked 12 hour plus days. There was a time 6 years ago when he decided to quit smoking and we ended up buying a house that year. There was a time when he became a dad. He kept asking if I was ok if he went with ava to the NICU because he knew he needed to be with her, but was making sure I was ok during it all as well. 
Then, there was Noah. 

I'll never forget sitting in the room with him when the dr at Texas Tech had to tell us the diagnosis that Noah had. We had only just found out we were pregnant and that we were having a son. Then, to top it off, we were having a son with major medical issues, ones that were not always survivable. 

He. Was. My. Rock.
He drove me home and for the next 24 hours he let me be and feel all I needed to. He let me yell, cry, question, cry some more, lay in the fetal position in bed, cry some more, question God, blame myself(he did fight me on that), be upset, be scared and be numb. He allowed me to grieve from day 1. The entire journey we walked with Noah was one that forced us to dig DEEP into our marriage commitment.

 Our pastor and friend, Robbie Ashlock preached this last weekend on a very necessary subject. When the bottom falls out of life and you are at a point where you trust God and get a grip. There was a moment when he was describing a time in his and his wife's marriage during the  illness and then death of her father and he said, "during all the drives back and forth from OKC, through all praying for him and going through it all we were solidifying our commitment to Christ as a couple." OK, I probably messed that up a lot, but out of the entire sermon I was stopped in my tracks by that statement. During the times the bottom falls out, we must, in our marriage especially, solidify our commitment with our spouse and Christ. We verbally confirm our faith in Christ, reminding each other when the other is at a low point that God has got us in his hands and in his plan. 
That is what I remember most about Ft. Worth and Nick. Nick never waivered in his faith. I'm sure there were monents when he was home alone, being a single father to Ava, doing all the nightly baths and bedtime routine, making sure Ava had someone to care for her during the day, him working daily at his regular job so we could pay the bills, traveling every weekend to see me and Noah. Oh, I'm sure there were nights when he questioned and struggled with the Lord over the whys and what nexts.. but when he was with me, he was strong, always honest and real, but strong. Every surgery, every procedure, every update, every teary phone call from me, every random text during the day, he was fully invested in being my support system. He sacraficed time with his son, to provide for the family as a whole and to take care of the other child we have. He was limited on the amount of time he could spend in Ft Worth and yet he made every second of each trip count for both Noah and I. He was fully present for all of us during that time. Even the day Noah died, he was strong as I could have imagined him to be for us. He was raw and undone at the thought of losing our son, but he was strong, courageos and firmly gripped to the rope as well as to me as we watched the bottom fall out of our life that day. He walked me through my nerves as I was so scared that Noah would die in my arms. He assured me that it would be ok and that I was strong enough to endure it. He held Noah first, in the operating room the day he was born and mommy would hold him as he went to heaven. He let us stay as long as I needed once our nurse got Noah cleaned and dressed. Yet, he knew we couldn't linger forever or it would just get harder and harder to leave at all. He held me as I crumpled to the ground once I had to hand noah over. He walked me to the Ronald McDonald House room, he held me til I fell asleep, he drove us home to Amarillo that next day, all while maintaining an honest emotion, but in so much mighty strength. I know that Noah got so much of his mighty strength and peace from his daddy. 

I write all of this, one because I am very pregnant with our 3rd child and I am very reflective right now and two, because Nick continues to grow into the role of husband and father every year and every season. We both grow. We have both adjusted to life and dealth with the roller coaster that grief brings a family. We have learned to grow with each other through our ups and downs since he died. Nick continued to show his strength when I couldn't function. The days I was so low and he would let me be low. The days I was super hyper to keep myself occupied, he would go along with it and do whatever random project or thing I needed haha. There were times when I was an absolute pain to be around and he would wait it out. I could go on and on of all the things I remember about Nick's journey, but you get the point. 
We aren't perfect by any means. Nick and I have our general and usual arguments and disagreements, we aren't perfect parents and frustrate each other at times. We have our personal faults and we have our issues we still deal with on a regular basis. 

Life happens and we go through terribly hard times for reasons that sometimes we don't understand. I know at the time I wasn't thinking, "our son is so sick, but it will all be ok because it will make Nick a better husband and father". Ya know? We were going through so much darkness and hardship, but we didn't know all the growth that would come from it until AFTER, it all happened. You could be stuck in a huge rut spiritually, but if I told you that in a matter of months, you would look back and see that you were really growing?

I have found that I have grown, myself, over the years. I am thankful for the ways I have learned to repsond to situations, not just react. I am realizing that not all things are so serious or hard, but that things will always work out and trusting isn't easy, but worrying isn't trusting. I have allowed the grief road to shape me in ways I didn't know I needed change in. I am more aware, more intentional, less stressed and more focused. I still struggle with age old things, because I am very human haha, but I am not obsessed with how people think of me or if I'm pleasing everyone all the time. I struggle with it, but I'm learning to let it go. I've learned that people expect things of me that I can't nor will I ever measure up to and I have to give myself grace to not always please people. 

Grief can either keep you in a hole or it can push you to new heights. 
I look back and see how incredibly blessed I am to be married to the caliber of man I am married to. I am grateful for the grace and mercy given to me as I have walked this journey. 
I look ahead and in 33 days we will have a new little girl in our family. Right now she is still this "idea" almost. I have dreamed of this coming season since Noah died. I remember having this little girl's name picked out not long after we burried Noah.  God is faithful. He is able. He sees the whole picture and walks us through the refining fires. 
The choice to grow is a daily one. The choice to quit asking why is a hard one. The choice to move forward and become the best you, you can be, is something you'll never regret. 


Thursday, July 16, 2015

I Don't Want To Give My Kids The World

At 11,000 ft above sea level, one can "see" everything better. Nick, Ava and I took the ski lift up to the very top of the mountain at Angel Fire last weekend. We got off the lift and proceeded to walk about a 1/2 mile to a small private lake, called Summit Lake. It was quaint. We got there, (after walking uphill at such a high elevation) and sat on the "shore". It was like all of a sudden, life stopped, but in a good way. There was no place to be, no schedule, no noise. Nick and Ava decided to go "exploring" so I stayed behind and my pregnant self sat there in some shade and just let life be still for a minute. I'm so terrible about letting life stop for a minute. In the capacity that we work, serve and participate, I just don't. It's not good to let life continue constantly without ever stopping to just be. The reality is that, between our jobs, trying to maintain as many nights a week at home together, worship ministry, Kairos ministry, etc... being still for longer than an hour or so at a time, in a place not our home can be nearly impossible. I am thankful for the time we had, even if it was just a day away, to get some fresh air, be together and to not have lots of things to do. Even the car ride was nice because we could have uninterrupted conversation and laughing together.

I'm not sure when I started thinking that a busy life was a full life. I know that when we got home from Ft. Worth I got really busy to fill in some of the gaps I felt I were made when I was away from home and "normal life" for almost 6 months. I realized later that I was trying to "feel better" by being busy and that wasn't healthy or the right answer. I have always enjoyed simple things, but I have also had this struggle to always have a plan of action, something to do, somewhere to be and lately I've just sickened myself with how much ministry(not just one certain church, but as a whole in our life), get-to-gethers, ("fellowship" as we call it), running errands, service projects, fundraisers, ball games, extra curricular events, etc. It just all piles and piles and suddenly a year has gone by and we haven't even taken the time to breathe, let alone, listen to our children, spend time with our spouse or truly enjoy some quiet.

I'm not saying we should stop going to church (trust me, that's the last thing I'm saying). I am not saying we should stop serving (by any means), the times our family serves together are precious and they are full of learning, gospel and they lay a foundation for our children that is undeniably secure. Yet, we do fill our weeks with so many things that I have been reluctant to even have Ava signed up for anything "extra" without being very careful about how much time it will take to commit her to that activity. We have had to say no to some fun events and some "fellowship".

It says in 1 Timothy about leading a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified; this is good and pleasing in the sight of God our Savior who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 
Seems to me that if we weren't so busy with "stuff", but we were leading a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified that we would be pleasing to the Lord and through that lifestyle (that people would and will question incessantly) we could bring people to the Lord. THAT IS CONVICTING.
Right now, is our family life showing the peace of Christ or are we showing the world, well, the world? The Christian life is not one without stress or conflict, hard times or struggle, by any means. Yet, how much of our life are we willingly letting become overwhelming and stressful at the cost of our children's childhoods, our sanity and ultimately the time we HAVE with our families.
I've just felt so convicted and since God has been pouring into me to try to write weekly on issues I am learning, wanting to discuss, share with you, this was what I have been struggling with this whole week.

Why are we so busy? What can we do about it? How can we live the peaceful and simple life God is asking us to
(I didn't say boring, unadventurous, bland)? He doesn't want us to be boring, but he wants us to have PEACE. When did you go to bed and not lay there going through lists in your mind about what all is going on the next day? When will we decide to quit overcommitting our children to things that are so temporary? When will we decide that serving, ministry and fellowship are all GOOD things but they don't have to dominate our schedule? I know I don't actually understand this right? I only have a 4 yr old that isn't even in an extra curricular activity yet. I know, I just don't understand. Do I? Here is the thing. I want to create a plan and a foundation for our home while my kids are little so that we won't have to re-learn or back track later into some new lifestyle that doesn't make sense after years of pushing the envelope. I want to challenge Nick and myself to be picky about what we commit to, what our children commit to and how much we extend ourselves. Church will always be a priority to our family, 1 other ministry outside of church will be high on the list, 1 activity at a time for our children is totally acceptable and seeing how they get interested in things such as music, etc. We will evaluate as they grow. Deciding to say no to an event or a get-together is ok and also planning to attend and being a part of those things are healthy and awesome for our family.

My heart: may we not lose sight of the goal of the family by being a busy group of people who happen to live together. Nick and I have 18 years to mold, shape and develop our children into adults who will then go out and be the followers of Christ and model citizens God has asked us to raise them as. Will lots of activities and mindless busy-ness make that happen? I don't think so. I think intentional involvement in Biblical learning, growing with other Christians, serving the least of these, being intentional about teaching our children the value of hard work, service, sacrificial giving, etc. are all the goal. I don't want Ava to know 3 instruments, take voice lessons, play basketball, golf for fun and be in every club at school just so she'll go off to college and then me "be shocked" that she doesn't find a church home, leaves her faith all together and begins to make foolish choices because she is FREE. Lord help me if I spend the next 14 years making her busy and not feeding her spirit.

God, may we cherish our children and may we feed their souls, nurture their minds, teach them your ways, give them grace all while disciplining according to your word and truth SO THAT they can be vessels for your love and gospel WHEREVER they go.

I want to give the world to Ava (I thought). No, I want to GIVE HER JESUS. I want to give her a life that IS FULL of HIS WORD, HIS LOVE, HIS SPIRIT, HIS WAYS. I want her to love Jesus and love her life with him, not resent the church, her parents or feel like she can escape when she is out from under us.

Let us slow down the pace. Let us take TIME to teach. May we enjoy the quiet sometimes. May we make the efforts to get out of our 8-5 routine and show our children God's world, let's give our kids the opportunity to serve, minister, sacrifice and grow through sharing GOd's love and his gospel everywhere we find ourselves.

Be convicted (alongside me) but be encouraged that FRUIT will come from our efforts and we will never regret making the hard decisions.