Stupid Chapstick (when Mother’s Day stings…)

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photo-1457153797314-80e6a376a555.jpeg“She is NOT a mom” the lady behind me LOUDLY whispered.

It was Mother’s Day and the “gift” was chapstick. The year before it was a pen. Let’s be honest, a pen is not the gift that every woman longs for. But chapstick, I mean most of us could use another chapstick rolling around the bottom of our purses, right?

They passed the gift down the row, and there was one extra once it got to me at the end of the row. I wasn’t a mother yet. But oh how my heart ached to be. We were walking the difficult unchartered waters of infertility. I thought perhaps that extra chapstick was some kind of sign. A sign that God saw me. And then the lady behind me loudly blurted the above statement and crashed my hopes. (Relax I know He saw me… I’ll get there.)

My mom says I changed my first diaper at the ripe old age of three. She walked in the room and found my poor little friend laying on the floor and me changing his diaper. I’ve had the heart of a mama for as long as I can remember. I started babysitting at 11, and by the end of junior high had saved enough that I was able to buy a car with it when I turned 16! Babies were my jam, my hobby, my job, and all I ever really wanted.

When you want to be a mom, and for whatever reason it hasn’t happened yet, Mother’s Day stings. Whether it’s a flower, pen, or chapstick, however small they may all be, nobody likes to be left out. Reality is not everyone gets to choose when and how they become a mother. That doesn’t negate the sacrifice of those who are mothers or force us to not honor them. I do think it does require some sensitivity in how we do so.
Adam named Eve, the mother all living, before her womb carried a child. And God called Abram the Father of many nations long before his wife bore a child. God isn’t afraid to call us who we will become in the future.

“as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”[a]) in the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did;”

Romans 4:17

And when we look closer, all women are mothering something. We are made to mother, we are created in the image of the original Nurturer. Here’s one interesting definition of mother – something or someone that gives rise to or exercises protecting care over something else; origin or source.

I am not saying we cannot or shouldn’t honor mothers for their care and selfless sacrifice. I have 3 month old twins, so I am no stranger to laying down my wants and desires for them. I spent 9 weeks on bedrest for their best interest, and I’d do it all over again for their highest good. The love of a mother is fierce and something to be honored, respected, and cherished!!

What I am saying is that it’s important to be sensitive to ALL the women around you on Mother’s Day. We often don’t know where she is at on her journey of motherhood. Because that lady next to you…

She may be –

*called to mother the nations, a ministry, or career.

*longing to be pregnant.

*getting over a painful miscarriage.

*grieving the loss of a child.

*longing for a husband and a family of her own.

So be sensitive in the things you say and do. You don’t have to be over the top or awkward, but just be gentle, loving, and honoring as we always should be.

Dear Mama, called to mother in a less common way, thank you. Thank you for mothering the nations. Thank you for nurturing where you are. Thank you for mothering through your creativity, giftings, and call, we need you and we appreciate you.

Dear Mama, struggling with infertility, hang in there. I have full faith that your arms will one day hold the littles you long for. God is in the business of making families despite the obstacles this world can bring. Give yourself grace while you wait. Treat yourself on the hard days and let yourself be sad. Then find hope again and keep on hoping.

Dear Grieving Mama, I am so sorry for you loss. I hate this for you. As you tend to the needs of those around you, don’t forget to tend to your tender soul. Find the small ways along the way, a bubble bath, journaling, reading in a coffee shop, but be sure to take some time for yourself to process the pain.

Dear “not yet” Mama who longs for her husband, again hang in there. He is well able to provide you with the desires of your heart. Most likely you will look back and see how He has truly made all things beautiful in his time. He is so good.

Dear Birth Mother, never have I seen a more sacrificial love that watching a mother place her baby in the arms of another mother. You are a hero. Your love amazes me. You are a mother and I am in awe of your bravery.

Psalm 84:11 says that “He withholds no good thing.” Know that His love for you is fierce. Be tender to your heart as you await your promises.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Want to grow in HOPE? Check out my devotional called “Embracing Mystery!”

Embracing Mystery

Twin Birth Story Part II

If you haven’t already read part one, click here.

I heard someone come in the room a little after noon and recognized my Dr’s pink tennis shoes under the curtain. She checked me and said, “well you are ready to push.”

We were still in shock at how quickly things were going. It felt like we’d just gotten to the hospital. But I started pushing! She sat on the end of my bed and coached me through pushing. My mom and sister were both those “I pushed once and the baby was out” girls. I was not. I think bedrest really affected my stamina.

Chuck had to literally push my shoulders forward, because my abs were so weak. The Dr let me push in the nice delivery room and said we didn’t have to go to the OR until the last minute. After about an hour of trial and error with learning how to push, it was time to go to the OR.

They wheeled me down the hall and whisked Chuck away to get his OR garb. I guess my epidural wasn’t super strong because I was able to basically transfer myself onto the operating table. There was a guy putting sensors on me that I think was part of the anesthesia team. Someone put a lovely hat on me and mentioned something about how it had hippos on it. Exactly the animal pregnant women want to be associated with right? Oh well, we bless them.

There was a good bit of scurrying around and soon Chuck came through the door. I kinda chuckled at his hat and robe. He had the camera around his neck and was all ready to be a dad.

Okay time to push again!! The Dr asked for another nurse to hold my other leg while Chuck and the random guy with the sensors pushed my shoulders forward. My birth was seriously a team effort. Some women hate that there are so many people in a twin birth, but I was actually thankful for all the help!

Chuck counted 12 people in the room at one point.

Not too long after, our Autumn Hope entered the world. She didn’t cry. Of course, I immediately start asking over and over, “is she okay?” I watched them give her oxygen and then she let out a scream. Chuck and I both took deep breaths and shed a few tears. Apparently the cord was around her neck.

With no time to waste it was time to get baby B out. They used an ultrasound to find her position, and the Dr had the nurses put pressure on my tummy to keep her in place. When she went to turn her, she found she had slipped right into head down. Good girl! My babies had been listening to mama in all our nighttime bath conversations. 🙂

Baby B felt much easier in some ways because I finally knew what it felt like to push correctly. With her, I kept saying “can I push?!” In unison, they’d say “YES.” Less than 20 minutes after her big sister, our Charlotte Joy entered the world with a loud scream and outstretched arms as if to say “I’m here everyone!”

She was so pink and red compared to Autumn. Apparently her cord was super short. The NICU asked once when her water broke, and I had no idea. I asked the Dr and she said she didn’t even know. Twin births are are so intense, it can be hard to keep track of everything.

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After they weighed the girls they laid Autumn and then Charlie on my chest. Then the anesthesiologist jumped in and started taking pictures of us and the girls. What a gift! She was standing on stools to get shots. It was hilarious!IMG_1912

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There is nothing you can compare to that moment. Nothing.

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My cheesy little babies. They just stared at each other. It was so sweet!

The girls were on the smaller side. My Dr had told me they were measuring small at my last sonogram, but it took awhile for it all to register. Charlie was 3 oz from being able to come to the room with me. They joked that she probably peed on her way to the scale. They even weighed her again in NICU in hopes they could bring her to me. Not having Charlie with us was the hardest part for sure!

After the delivery we went back to the room and Autumn immediately ate like a champ! I was so thankful that I got the delivery I hoped for!

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My Dr came in and told me she was proud of me and gave me a kiss on the forehead. A little later, Chuck and my nurse were both staring at me. Chuck was saying did you bust a blood vessel on your forehead while you were pushing. I was so confused, and they were both staring at me trying to figure out what it was. Then eventually it hit me, it was her lipstick!

Ha! I was so thankful for the team of people who helped bring our girls safely into the world.

 

Autumn Hope 4 lb 9 oz
Autumn Hope 4 lb 9 oz
Charlotte Joy 4 lb 5 oz
Charlotte Joy 4 lb 5 oz

Later that evening I went to recovery where I had the best night nurses. Since my hospital stay was mostly filled with nursing and pumping we didn’t have much time for visitors but my parents came down from East Texas. It was sweet for them to come and meet the girls!

proud papa
proud papa

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Charlie in the NICU
Charlie in the NICU

We came home with Autumn 2 days later.

She was only 4 lb 3 oz at that point but perfectly healthy. I cried so much. I didn’t want to leave Charlie or the hospital especially those wonderful nurses!

IMG_1926We could not get over how tiny Autumn was in her car seat!

We are so thankful for two healthy girls and the countless answered prayers. We are in awe of how faithful God has been to us through this journey. He went over and above, and way beyond what we could imagine with our little double portion.

We may be a little sleepy, but we have never been happier or more thankful. God is good!

Twin Birth Story Part One

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I keep replaying their birth over and over in my head. I ask Chuck questions about things that I didn’t know or can’t remember. I never want to forget the experience so I am going to attempt to write the story-

When I found out we were expecting twins, I knew I wanted to attempt a vaginal birth. Obviously it is my first pregnancy and I knew there were more to come. I read every story I could find online to encourage myself that it was possible! Which is part of why I wanted to share my story here. Hopefully it can encourage others in their birth stories.

I found a doctor who would attempt vaginal delivery of twins as long as Baby A was head down.

Fairly early on I started talking to Baby A about being head down, and Baby B to follow sister when she makes her exit. I guess my sweet Autumn listened because at my 26 week 5 day appointment she was already putting pressure on my cervix causing it to shorten. My laid back doctor came into the room and said you aren’t going to like me very much. She put me on strict bedrest immediately. I spent over 9 weeks laying on my sides to keep my girls in as long as possible.

At my 35 week appointment my doctor talked to me about how labor would go, and how we would have to deliver in the OR due to hospital policy. I figured we would. She said it’s ridiculous, and she wished I could just deliver in the cozy peaceful room. She talked us through how the birth would go as if it was totally possible and didn’t even mention a c-section. That really helped me feel more confident about it actually happening! A nurse the week before had given me a long speech about how I’d probably have a c-section and it’s just another exit. She said my body was probably too small to deliver naturally etc. Thanks nurse for the encouragement, I leave that here with you.

So after 9 weeks of doing everything we could to keep them in, at 36 weeks 1 day it was time to let them come. My doctor came into my room and broke my water at 7:30am. I felt nothing at first because Autumn’s head was so LOW. They kept saying she was like a cork keeping the water in. They started me on a small dose of pitocin, and immediately contractions every 2-3 minutes. I knew pitocin was intense so I wasn’t too surprised.

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My nurse said I could get an epidural at any point, so about an hour in we called the anesthesiologist. I could sway through the contractions, but I felt it wise to save my energy for pushing rather than muscle my way through the pit contractions. My doctor actually asked me to get an epidural because often she has to go in and manual turn Baby B. Some women say that’s more painful than the contractions. I definitely had no desire to feel that! But to be honest, I think I would have gotten one even with a singleton pregnancy.

By the way, my doctor hand picked my nurse and anesthesiologist, and I was my nurses only patient since it was twins. The anesthesiologist comes in and we chat a bit about how she is from the bay area. She has an assistant who is hilarious, her name was Miley and I don’t think I’ll ever forget her. I guess we bonded when I had to bury my head in her chest while the anesthesiologist inserted the epidural. Chuck went to the other side of the room. Too many husbands were passing out holding their wives, so now you get Miley!

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Okay, I am pretty sure I could sell epidurals now, because wow that was amazing. Immediate relief. I crawled back into bed, and Chuck laid on the couch and had a nap. We had worship music playing and Valor in the diffuser. It was this blissful, peaceful atmosphere.

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While Chuck was napping the nurse came in and checked me at 10am. Okay another reason I love epidurals. She said you are about a 3, but I think I can stretch you a little. She finished and said “okay now you are a 5-6, just a couple more hours.” I was shocked. I watched a little Gilmore Girls on my iPad and before I knew it, it was noon.

 

 

Christmas Morning Hope

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Little children are God’s ongoing witness of His kingdom: a perpetual reminder of what it means to belong to the father. Children are an unspoken sermon in every home for simplicity, joy, and humility of that which makes the world worth living in. They remind us what it means to be a real Christian.

Winkie Pratney

We love Christmas at our house. Sometime in November, my husband starts asking what I want for Christmas and talking about what he wants.

I love his excitement for Christmas. We both grew up with Christmas being a BIG deal. When I was growing up, we got a real Christmas tree every year. We crammed it into a corner in our living room so that it’s colorful lights could be seen through the front door by people passing by. It was usually a blue spruce from the state of Michigan (just a slight distance from our Dallas home!) We spent an entire day early in December putting “Christmas” on anything in our house that stood still for long enough. We even had little trees for all of our bedrooms. Good luck finding a room without the Christmas spirit in my childhood home every December!

Christmas morning my siblings and I all waited on the stairs until my mom and dad emerged from their bedroom. It seemed to take forever! Now I am guessing it was probably about 5:45am. We weren’t allowed to turn the corner and let our eyes capture what lay underneath the tree until the family camcorder was rolling. Remember those subtle home video cameras from the late ‘80s? Dad propped it up on his shoulder and we were finally allowed to turn the corner!

Every year anticipation and excitement flooded my heart. I can’t remember a year when I felt anxious about what was under the tree. I knew that my mom and dad loved me, and that they wanted to bless me. I wasn’t spoiled, but I knew that my parents loved me and wanted to give me good gifts. I never sat on those stairs sweating and fearing the unknown. Each year we got to give our parents a list of three things that we desired, and I knew I could trust my parents to do what was best for me with that list.

You and me are sitting on those stairs. There are things around the corner that we don’t know. There are things in boxes under the tree, and we don’t know what is in them. Somewhere along the way we may have lost our ability to embrace the mystery and get excited about the gifts that lie in our future.

What do you need to believe today to get back the place of Christmas Morning Hope?

This post is an exert from Embracing Mystery, if you’d like to read more you can find out how to get the book  here.

 

 

when rest is best…

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The day before I would turn 27 weeks, my doctor came into the room. My usually laid back doctor gave me strict orders for bedrest. My sweet baby A in true first born fashion appeared ready to meet the world, and it seemed my body was trying to begin the labor process.

I cried imagining their tiny frames outside of mine. I knew about how much they weighed and it was so hard to picture them in the outside world. We came home that day and our lifestyle suddenly, drastically changed.

My second trimester was wonderful. After a couple months of throwing up all too easily, the nausea was gone, and my energy returned. The pantry got organized. I made bows. We made much needed storage runs to make room for our twins on the way in our two bedroom apartment. I even cooked and ate salmon. Then in November, I traveled to California, and to my parents house 5 hours away for Thanksgiving. I was gone a total of 20 days. I attended a conference, had a baby shower, was a bridesmaid in one of my dearest friends wedding, Chuck did a wedding, and we spoke at a school of ministry.

When we got back from Thanksgiving at my parents, I ferociously went through all the baby things my sister sent back with us. I washed all the newborn and preemie clothes, bought those sweet little baby hangers, and hung them in their closet. The swing was in multiple pieces, so I wrested with that a bit and got it all set up. We went to get our first Christmas tree at Lowe’s the next day, and I even helped carry it up to our 2nd floor apartment.

It felt so good to accomplish so much. I love to achieve. Then came the screeching halt. And in a moment, rest became what was best. For my personality, unfortunately I needed to be forced to a place of rest. I’d felt a still, small voice telling me to, “slow down” a good bit before my doctor prescribed it.

Something deeper is happening in me. Something I can’t see. Something I cannot check off on a to-do list. My body is growing life, two lives! Every day they are making strides and growing stronger. And I need to rest and let it happen.

It’s interesting to me that the God who never sleeps nor slumbers chose to rest on the 7th day. There are so many aspects of rest that I still don’t get, but clearly God wanted us to prioritize it. He wants to heal us from our performance based mindsets, and set us free to realize that as we rest He accomplishes so much more than we ever could.

Praying today that as a mama, I can be like Mary who “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart,” and not get lost in the piles and to-do’s that are inevitable. Praying the same for you this Christmas season, that in the midst of the busyness you will find time to be still and to rest.

Love,

Anna

… a full life …

photo-1422207134147-65fb81f59e38The morning started out with piles of laundry, dishes, and text messages about children’s church. After 3 loads of laundry, putting away dishes, making breakfast (twice), responding and sending text messages regarding church, friends in tough places, etc, etc, and looming thoughts about the message I was scheduled to speak that night. I finally settled into a comfy chair. I opened my journal and my Bible, and suddenly felt overwhelming thankful.

“Thank you God for a full life. Thank you for clothes to wash, dirty and clean dishes that are evidence of a countless meals and a full stomach. Thank you for a husband, and even the extra laundry that brings. Thank you that I feel good enough to get these things done. Thank you for the opportunity to speak at church tonight. Thank you for sweet baby girls growing in this belly…” I began to write in my journal as I glanced at the laundry drying on our patio.

There is always two ways (at least) to see the moment you are in. Life ebbs and flows with the busy and the slow seasons. I spent a good bit of my summer on the couch, either too tired or two nauseous to do much more. Some days I felt like I had so much less capacity. Multiple times the Lord corrected me.

He would tell me “you are growing human lives in you, and that is a capacity you have never experienced before.” I’d have to correct myself when I criticized my capacity, and realize that my capacity didn’t shrink, it was just different and hidden in that season.

I was reminded of this verse, “If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people’s sins,

If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,

Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.

I will always show you where to go.  I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places firm muscles, strong bones.

You’ll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry.

You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past.

You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again” (Isaiah 58:9-12 The Message).

There’s so much gold in this passage, but the part about “full life in the emptiest of places” really stands out to me. Here’s the bottom line, you can miss all that IS in this season, by dwelling on all that it isn’t. Somewhere in the midst of the piles, to-do lists, and demands of today is the fulfillment of yesterday’s dreams. Yes those dreams fulfilled require responsibility. They require time and TLC. And maybe that’s what the end of the passage is about, don’t we want to be these people who can fix anything and make our communities livable again?

What are you thankful for in this moment/season?

3 ways to overcome FEAR

photo-1428954376791-d9ae785dfb2d“even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.”

Psalm 139:12

Romans talks about how the earth groans in anticipation of us stepping into our place as sons and daughters of God. It seems in recent days, we have seen first hand quite a shaking. Horrific events with ISIS, the earthquake in Nepal, and the shooting in Charleston to name a few. I am not going to try to explain (or understand!) the theology of all the why’s, but what I do feel is very important is that we learn how to not give way to fear in these trying times.

Fear is the enemies only weapon, and he is working overtime to try to get sons and daughters to cave in to his lies these days. But you don’t have to! There is a way out, and it is oh so worth it to live a life free of fear. This doesn’t mean he will never try to get you to fear, it means that you are going to overcome his attempts through truth.

3 ways to overcome FEAR-

1. Trust. It’s really that simple. We have no guarantees of what will or will not happen, but we do know that we have a good Father. We do know that whatever comes our way, HE will work it together for our good. He is a God who loves to use the unlikely. He loves to win battles in the most unconventional ways AND at often at the last minute. You cannot know everything, but you can know Him.

You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you.

Isaiah 26:3

2. Meditate on His word. When my mind is tempted to go down the pathways of fear, one of the quickest way to nip it in the bud is to get in the Word. If we are spending more time googling our problems than in the Word of God, we cannot expect to have peace. Personally, I love to emerge myself in the Psalms. I submerge myself in the Bible until it’s words have more weight that my worries.

Fear not, nor be afraid;
    have I not told you from of old and declared it?
    And you are my witnesses!
Is there a God besides me?
    There is no Rock; I know not any.”

Isaiah 44:8

3. Share your fears with your spouse of a close friend and ask them to pray for you. There is something about bringing the enemies schemes into the light that brings so much freedom. Allow them to pray for you and speak truth over you. Be wise that you share with someone you know is going to help you get away from fear and not add to you fears.

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.”

Ecclesiastes 4:9

May you be filled with the peace that passes all understanding today!!

Love,

Anna