Monday, December 11, 2017

Attitooodles!

So my little turned 2 on Friday and we celebrated with the stomach bug. Ya, it was a great time for us all. I'm not sure why things like this happen at such opportune times, but certainly it does. Honestly, we did have a sweet little birthday party for Ana, but I was not feeling well and felt that I missed out on being all I could be for her. None the less, she had a fun and sweet party with the close family and friends that love us so well. We had a fun Mickey Mouse party with hotdogs, gooey fish, and cake and ice cream. Ana was super excited all week for her party and was so excited to get some toys that are her own, not hand me downs from big sister.

So, the whole stomach bug thing hit us hard and apparently we shared it with some in our life as well. Sorry. We didn't even know it was happening to us until we were knee deep in it. Ew! Thankfully we are all clear of it and the house is cleaned, clothes and blankets are laundered and we are all back to normal capacity this week. I realize, when we are in the middle of illness and the craziness that comes with it I tend to throw all of my beliefs and convictions out the window. Ha!
Do you get what I'm saying?  But, for real.
Puke, poop, missing school, calling into work, etc get me in a funk. I can't seem to get a grip on the whiny attitude and entitled mood I get when my kids are sick, husband is sick, life goes in the toilet and we are all just sick and annoyed. Am I alone in this? We all get moody, the kids get stir crazy, work piles up, chores pile up, we miss out on events and things (not the worst thing in the world)... all this to say... I tend to become quite the hot mess and most annoying person to be around. Just ask Nick. ha ha. For some reason I tend to just dramatically overthink, overreact, over dramatize, and become so negative. No one enjoys being sick or having sick kids, but I guarantee that my negative attitude and the constant whining I tend to share with my family, certainly does not help. The more I internalize my situation, dwell on it and get frustrated with it, the worse it tends to get. I am a creature of habit and I like our routine and our day to day life. When something like a stomach bug gets in the way of that I, most of the time, see it as negative, terrible and a pain to deal with. Rarely do I look at it as a blessing to get a day at home with my girls, thankful we aren't chronically ill (because we would have with our sweet Noah), it could always be worse, we have all the things we need to get through the illness and move on.

But, isn't this the case? When things are well, life is going on nicely and routines are in place we are "thankful" "happy" "grateful" "focused"... we don't struggle as much, am I right? I have walked through some dark times and I remember thinking during those times how much I wished I had the "bad times" I had when I didn't know any different. Ignorance is bliss? When I didn't know how bad it could get, I thought I had it bad. So why, now that I know how bad it can  be, do I still get in that kind of funk and bad place at the hint of just a regular stomach bug episode? Why does that rock my world and put me in a terrible place? Now I know, everyone gets the right to be upset about it. No one wants to be sick, have sick kids, clean up said sick kids, etc. We just dont. It's not pleasant. It's not fair. But, here is what I'm trying to get at...

Our true character comes out in our worst times. yes? When the kids are sick, the husband is sick, the laundry is piling, you're washing bedding at 1:00am, missing work, having to catch up on it all later, etc....the attitude we carry in those times can really make a difference. It certainly isn't my child's fault that they woke up puking in their bed, is it? What good does it it do to get upset, at anyone really, for that? The honest truth is, it's hard not to let it out at someone, anyone in range really.
Why is it that we fly off the handle so quickly? (please tell me you do too) I suppose I could be the only one admitting to this and I'm ok with it. I really do think that we all struggle with complaining and whining more than we should. Some of us use the saying "first world problem" when referring to our troubles because we want people to know that we understand there are people with much heavier issues going on around the world. But, y'all, they really do.

I was so caught up in the inconvenience of it all this weekend that I forgot I have been the one who lived in the children's hospital for 5 months. I let that time slip away from me. I was so frustrated with the out of routine craziness that I didn't stop and remember that I have seen harder days. What I would have given then, to just have kids with the stomach bug, instead of a child I never saw and one who was holding on for dear life thanks to drugs and machines. Ya know, our lives are so precious and fragile. We often complain about the silliest things. Our feelings are valid at the time. Like I said, no one likes sick kids or to be sick themselves... but I  remember wishing my kid would live. I knew my girls would survive this bug. It was just a typical 24 hour deal, but I lived every day for 5 months with the reality that my son may not.
5 years and I've already let slip some of those precious life lessons. When we seem to be so frustrated and we act entitled and whiny, let us remember our own past experiences and others' current experiences who would argue that we don't have it as bad as we think we do.
I can currently think of plenty of people who would wish a 24 hour stomach bug over what they are walking through today.
Military families who are spending every day, plus the holidays without their loved one.
Those families who have lost a loved one serving in the military.
Families with children fighting cancer, heart defects, multiple birth defects...
Families who are struggling to find ways to pay bills and provide
Children who are orphans every day, plus the hard times of the holidays.
Children who are living in abusive homes
Women who are in abusive situations and feel trapped
Men who are constantly told they aren't enough, they aren't capable, they will never amount


My take away from this last weekend is this...

Be careful how we express frustration in our home/with our families. (especially spouses) May we be mindful of how we declare our issues on facebook and insta for all to read. There are so many things we complain about that are so absolutely frivolous. It seems insulting to those who are in the trenches of childhood cancer, newborn heart surgeries, families with no medical answers and they are holding on to hope that they'll get a few more days with their little... there are people who are desperately hurting as we complain about small small inconveniences.

I didn't even know Ava got sick again one night because Nick dealt with all of it. He wanted me to sleep because I was trying to get through the bug and he knew I needed the rest. He tended to Ava, washed bedding, worked on cleaning the mattress, got Ava tucked in on the couch and he slept in the chair while he waited so switch the loads. The girls loved on each other as they were both sick at the same time and had to stay  home from school, they found time to play together when they started perking up, they snuggled and took turns watching shows they like. They consoled each other and you know when the kids are sick, that is when they want to snuggle the most.

Everyone is well, our home is clean, our laundry done and life moves on. We are not planning another funeral, sitting bedside with a post-op baby all puffy and swollen. We are not traveling back and forth from DFW to Amarillo. We are not wondering if a new treatment plan will work. We are not homeless. We are not without.
We are a blessed family. We were blessed even when we were in those moments, but we are so incredibly thankful to be in the place we are right now in life.

I needed the attitude check today. So I'm sharing it with you because I imagine you may need it too. We all have so much to be thankful for.
If you are in the middle of a season that seems similar to one I've mentioned... hold on tight to Jesus. He sees you, he hears you, he is with you. He does not abandon you and you are not being punished by walking through a season that is so difficult. If anything, you are being refined and defined by the Father himself. He is still the author, still in control and he is working out all things for your good. He is your hope. He is your safe place. Don't give up or give in. Just give him all the things.

Let's look at "reality" and use it to put us in a thankful place. May it humble us and remind us that we are truly blessed.When we "find the heart" we'll see that, even in the hard times we are so loved and there are so many things to cherish and be thankful for!

Love you all!

Shaina 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Big Move

The fact that I only post every few months proves that life is rapidly flying by and things are just full to the brim. I am also aware that our life isn't exactly so interesting that everyone wants to hear about it either, but I have been aware that we have made some incredibly drastic changes in our life and they have been the best thing we could have done. I finally feel like I can wrap my head around it and share, knowing that someone might benefit from it!

This year's word for me has been Wellness. You can read about that in my previous post. I will say that in my humanity I have been on board easily at times and I have completely jumped ship some as well. The learning I have accomplished in this year has been priceless though and I have also learned to give myself so much more grace. That in itself is a huge win for this "good girl"/slight perfectionist/could be borderline ocd on occasion....just sayin. Finding ways to show myself grace has been hard and so beneficial. (and I've read over 12 books this year. This is a miracle)


Some of you may have noticed that we sold our home in September. This was not necessarily a quick or rash decision, but it was something that God clearly spoke to Nick and I both about and we decided together to be obedient in it. He really pressed this upon us through some upkeep we were going to have to begin doing to the home. We decided that perhaps we were not exactly in love with the home and questioned the thought of investing so much into a home we were not wanting to remain in forever. The home has been such a blessing to us. We were able to heal and move forward from a home that we never brought Noah home to, we did bring our sweet rainbow girl, Ana, to this home and Ava did so much growing up and learning in the house. We are so thankful for the season we lived there. We just knew it was time to make a move.  Where move to, you ask?

An apartment. I know. The thought is daunting. Why in the world would we move from a nice 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom, back yard with play set, 2 car garage, etc home.... for an apartment, close neighbors, 1 less bedroom, noise, no yard...ya. This is the opposite of the American Dream.

Thank God.
Nick and I both have felt the push to retreat from the American Dream mentality and pursue God's dream for us. We have both felt this push and the call from him to quit being "normal" whatever that looks like and  just be obedient. This means that we downsized, we got rid of so much stuff, we let go of tons of junk, our kids had to shuck a lot of toys, we had to swallow some pride, grit our teeth and begin an a new adventure. We have dreams that we know God is placing in our hearts for a place to call home, someday, that will truly be that, for more than just us 4. We know we will have the space to host our life group, the worship team, our girls' friends, the church staff, our friends and family. There are things that are stirring in my heart that only God can put there and only he can accomplish them, but he's asking for my obedience, not just my wishful thinking. We have also been on a financial journey since 2015. That year we found out we were pregnant in March, Nick would need back surgery and our car at the time needed an entirely rebuilt transmission and a suspension job. We found ourselves getting a loan from our bank and the entire year of expense was covered. We were prepared to pay that loan quicker than the couple of years we had to do it in, but it felt like a prison. We knew that life happens and that sometimes expenses come up and we just didn't want to feel trapped like that again. We also did not know that we would be experiencing a job change for Nick, the next year, but THANK GOD he made that happen in our life. We are so thankful for the position and company Nick is in now and we know that is the hand of God. (you'll hear the story later I'm sure) All of that to say, we decided to really get serious about our financial goals. Part of wellness, for me, this year, has been mental wellness and part of that was getting some things in order for our future. We had done a few of the steps in Dave Ramsey's Money Makeover and had an emergency fund saved back and were snowballing debt well. We had gotten to the place of  having only our 1 loan payment (for our 2015 year of the crazy) and our mortgage. That was it. We were feeling great about that and knew that we would never have a credit card again and felt the blessing of no student loans. haha. We were at a point where we made the decision to jump ahead at a quicker pace in our financial goals. But, that meant downsizing our living for awhile.



 "There are things that are stirring in my heart that only God can put there and only he can accomplish them, but he's asking for my obedience, not just my wishful thinking..."



When I mentioned to Ava that we may be moving to an apt, she exclaimed "YES! This is going to be amazing!"... haha! As a momma I was so thankful she was excited. I made sure we would stay in an area where she wouldn't move schools (very important to me) and we started doing the research. I didn't doubt that God would take care of my girls in the move, but this was confirmation to me that he would more than take care of them, he would allow them to thrive.
So, in early September we got with our favorite realtor (Chelsie Kinsey) and in 5 days from listing, we had a contract. God was certainly showing up and showing off. We closed in a record amount of time and we were able to make enough on our home to pay off our entire loan we had, the remainder of our home loan and then have a huge jump start on saving 3 months worth of income/next home goals. In one move of faith, we jumped ahead in our goals by leaps and bounds.

We were blessed to move into a brand new apt complex. Our new place is PERFECT for us. Because we got rid of so much stuff, we fit perfectly in the apartment. The space is exactly what we need in this time. It isn't tiny, but it is just the right size for us (and our life group fits too haha!)  Our girls love (and are young enough) to share a room. The closets are spacious, for the stuff we did keep and need to store. The kitchen/dining and living are so open, yet cozy and inviting. The laundry/utility is great and the cat is fairly happy there..if a cat actually cares... I'm not sure of that. haha
 Something about the super tall ceilings make me feel so happy. I've seen God dote upon us in this move in so many ways. I'm so thankful. Our girls are loving it and honestly, so are Nick and I. I have said it so many times since we moved in, that our little bungalow of home is SO EASY TO CLEAN, it's not overwhelming. There is no yard to keep up with, no garage to de-clutter (even though it would be nice in the winter to have one haha), etc. The time we do have right now amidst the things we are involved in, is devoted to our own little family. It is so nice to have the time to relax, have fun, do fun things, and not feel overwhelmed by housework, yard work, chores, repairs, etc.

What I want to really share is this...selling your home and downsizing and revamping your whole lifestyle is not for everyone. It is not the answer for every family. What I am saying is that whatever you feel God telling you to do right now... be obedient in that and He is faithful to show you his favor and blessing in that obedience. I am telling you, THIS WAS NOT EASY. I'm actually still in the process of getting rid of some stuff as I type this. Letting go of stuff and status and what we think the world wants from us wasn't just an easy decision or process. It took prayer, trust and LOTS OF ENERGY, some tears and all the sweating. I wanted to wait and list our home in January, Nick didn't. Trust is hard and submitting to him isn't always easy, but God proved himself through that and in many other circumstances.

My wellness went to a whole new level that I didn't realize was needed, by simply downsizing the amount of stuff in my life. I am currently reading 2 books... A Simplified Life by Emily Ley and The Fringe Hours by Jessica Turner In both of these books, simplifying and creating space in our lives is the theme and goal. I have been so thankful to have a place to dig in and learn more about this need for space in my life... tangible and emotional. I have read other books like Unstuffed by Ruth Souker about de-cluttering and un-stuffing our lives of just that, stuff. She hits on a lot of good points in this. I recommend it. (all of them) There is another book called Finding Spiritual White Space by Bonnie Gray that I remember really starting this idea of wellness and space in my life. When we fill our life with so much stuff we cannot even imagine filling it with anything else, our kids, our Jesus and our most important parts of us get the boot. They just do. Never fails. As I've taken the whole year to really look at this I feel as though a year has not been enough and wellness continues into next year, but maybe in a different way. I have dabbled in wellness in just about every aspect of my life this year, but just dabbled. I haven't gone as deep into physical wellness as I had planned, spiritual wellness as I need, financial wellness is a work in progress, etc. You know? Where is it that I can journey deeper into this concept?

I have much work to do. Thankfully God walks with us, no matter the length of time it takes to really learn and grasp. He is faithful to walk in every season with us, through all the lessons and learning. Are we willing to go there though? What adventure is God calling you to? Maybe it is a health journey, a financial journey, a spiritual journey (he's calling us to that daily honestly), maybe it is a new job, new home, different city... I don't know where you are at, but I can tell you that this last year has been one of my best years because I have really pushed myself to let God show himself through hard obedience. What a blessing.

The benefits of these changes in our home are absolutely humbling and a blessing to us.
Our marriage is healthier than ever. We help each other in our goals, we have learned to communicate better and end up realizing we have so many of the same goals personally and then that overflows into our family goals. We have fun. We laugh. We have space to relax and enjoy ourselves. Our girls are realizing that life isn't about stuff, slowly, but they are. We have a clear goal financially and we are attaining it now at a more rapid pace. It is amazing to see how such lofty goals aren't lofty when they're given by the Lord and fueled by him as well. So thankful for the ability and freedom to save such large amounts of money each month to see big goals become reality in the next few years.

5 years ago I was in Fort Worth and I was dreading Christmas. We were going to be stuck in Ft Worth with a very sick little boy and life just didn't look happy or Christmas-y that year. I was alone the majority of the time and didn't know how my 2 year old would survive such a dysfunctional Christmas. But God. He showed up big that year and we were overwhelmed by intentional love from him, others and each other. We had a Christmas full of incredible memories that I will cherish forever. It snowed in Ft Worth on Christmas Day. (miracle) haha We had so much fun making our Christmas Eve snack-a-thon and Christmas Day food at the Ronald McDonald House of FT Worth and sharing with friends we met there. We were just overwhelmed by so many good things. These last few years after Noah's death have been HARD. Not only walking out grief, but just life, like parenting kids, job changes, church hurts, family misunderstandings, friends coming and going.... life has seen its share of hardship. But God. He is so kind, faithful and good to us. He is using every situation and circumstance to teach us, grow us and make us better versions of ourselves. We're so blessed and in that I don't mean with stuff or neat things are fluffy happiness.. I mean we are genuinely blessed. In the death of a child, in the loss of family members, on the other side of deep pain, in the trials of daily life... God is so faithful. He is true. He is good. He is trustworthy. He is genuine and real with us. He disciplines those he loves. Thank you, Lord, for loving us so well. :)

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas! Filter this season through the lens of the Gospel. If something doesn't seem necessary or worth it, don't do it. Don't create stress out of comparison of others or the need to impress or keep up with others. Do the best thing for your family. Don't try to go to every event. Don't get your kid a bunch of crap. They want our presence anyway. Not sure why we don't get that in our heads. Don't over do it on crafts and bucket lists if that is not realistic for your family. Give your family the best version of you and if that means less stuff and more intentional time together, simple activities or just less of all the things. Do it. Own it. Enjoy it! Holler if you need moral support in this. We are in this together. :) haha!

In His love,
Shaina

And consider this your Christmas Card. Cuz that is something that I gave up years ago. Too stressful, paying for someone to throw it in the trash.... stamps, addresses... ya. Enjoy this new picture of our crazy family!
Merry Christmas and Happy 2018!

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.

Thankful,
Shaina

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Dancing

"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,
Shaina


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.

A-Ava
N-Noah
A-Ana

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.
Blessings,  
Shaina