Faith, Life, Momming

Redeemed

We all have unpleasant memories. We’ve all experienced painful situations and seasons. One of my most terrifying experiences happened two years ago, and the worst of it started around Mother’s Day weekend. This isn’t your typical Mother’s Day blog post, but this is a story that needs to be told.

I was the stereotypical girly-girl growing up. I loved dresses, playing dress up in my mom’s old formal gowns, having tea parties, painting my nails, and playing with dolls. I dreamed of getting married and having kids. My dream of being a mom came true a couple of weeks before my 28th birthday. Six months after my son was born, I discovered I was expecting a second baby.

My kids are two of the greatest joys in my life, and I am honored to be there mom. However, after my daughter was born, I began experiencing postpartum anxiety and terrifying intrusive thoughts about the potential dangers for my new baby and the harm I had the power to cause. These horrible, unwanted thoughts led me to have thoughts of harming myself, lest I harm my precious daughter. I suffered in silence for many weeks out of fear that my children would be taken away. I knew I had to get help when I found myself crying in our bathroom closet.

I reached out to my midwife, began medication, and got into therapy. For the first few moths of medication and therapy, I felt broken and afraid I would never feel whole or normal ever again. I leaned on and clung to God. I filled my mind with His truth, and gradually the intrusive thoughts faded.

Two years later, I can finally say I’m beginning to feel “normal” again. Certain situations still trigger memories of the thoughts I had during my nightmare, but they no longer control me, paralyze me with fear, cause me to question myself and my identity, or cover me in waves of anxiety. In time, my scars may fade, and the memories of my nightmare may become dim and dull. But for now, I redeem my nightmare. I do not let it shame me into silence. If one woman finds hope and the courage to reach out for help because of my story, it will all have been worth it.

Postpartum anxiety is eclipsed by postpartum depression. We hear about postpartum depression, we’re given signs to watch for, but until two years ago, this mama had no idea to watch for anxiety or OCD in the months following the births of my children. Maybe this is the first time you’ve heard of anything besides postpartum depression. I highly encourage you to research it and to learn what to watch for in yourself and/or in the women around you.

This Mother’s Day weekend, if you are struggling in the postpartum phase, please reach out to your OB/GYN or midwife and a therapist. Do not let fear isolate you. You do not have to fight alone. There is hope, and you will be able to celebrate being a mother in time.

Faith, Momming

Twelve

Today was the day. Today contained a milestone I had hoped I wouldn’t have to see. At first, I was confident I wouldn’t see it, and then, as time passed, my confidence faded. Today marks twelve months of negatives.

Twelve months of not being pregnant. Twelve months of hope ending in disappointment. Twelve months of praying. Twelve months of waiting. Twelve months of dreaming.

Infertility is defined as twelve months of failing to conceive, and we are there. We’ve had a male factor infertility diagnosis for a couple of months now (considerably worse than it was in 2017), and I have an appointment scheduled with my OB/GYN next month. Hopefully we’ll get some answers.

When we first started trying for a third, I was confident it would happen quickly. When I got pregnant the first time, it was the week after we were prayed for and I surrendered to God. I got a positive pregnancy test when my son was only six months old, and the odds of conceiving had been extremely, extremely low. Because we’d gotten pregnant easily after being prayed for and we’d had a surprise pregnancy, I thought we were done with difficulty getting pregnant.

I was wrong.

While this time around has been a little easier because I do have two incredible little blessings, it has still been hard.

I’ve struggled.

I’ve struggled because so many of the people around me get pregnant right away. I envy their ease and the fact that they don’t have to walk through this valley.

I’ve struggled because it doesn’t match what I’d dreamed of. I’d wanted four kids, but I may only have two, and if God blesses us, three. The thought of a third being too much younger than the first two makes me sad because I was three years older than my brother who was less than two years older than our sister, and I felt alone. I don’t want that for my kids.

Mostly, I struggle because I know God is good and that He is able—I’ve seen it. Walking through this, it doesn’t feel like God is good or loving. I sometimes feel unseen, unloved, and unheard. I know that I’ve done all that I can do (at least until my doctor appointment), and that He is the only one who can do anything, but He hasn’t blessed us with another baby yet. If I’m honest, knowing He is the only one who can do anything, makes me reluctant to really pursue the relationship with Him that I want. My perspective needs to shift because this situation is not evidence of His lack of affection, nor is it proof that He has stopped being good.

What does this situation say?

He sees the big picture. He sees things I can’t see. He knows what is best for me and for my family. His heart is for me and my family, for our growth and for our good, because good and loving are literally descriptions of who He is. He knows exactly what my family and I need and when we need it, and because He and His character do not change, He can be trusted.

His timing is better than mine (as much as it pains me to say it). The wait doesn’t mean He has forgotten me, and it doesn’t mean He says “no”. We went to my parents’ house for Christmas this year, and because I knew there’s a bit of a letdown after Christmas, I decided we’d save our family gifts until we got back, so that we had something to look forward to. It was torture for me! I was tempted to give my husband and kids their gifts before we left. I was so anxious for them to have the gifts underneath the tree, even without their asking to open them! I had to say “no: when they asked because it wasn’t the right time yet. I was so excited for the day to come when I could finally let them open their gifts.

He is growing me, teaching me, shaping me, and deepening me through this time. Growth hurts. But you know what would be worse? Being stuck the way I am. As a mom, I want my kids to be capable. I want them to be able to solve problems and to do things for themselves. I don’t always rush to help them when they ask—instead, I will walk them through how they can accomplish whatever it is they’re needing help with. Can you imagine what life would be like if I rushed in to save the day every time they complained or faced something unpleasant? They would have never learned how to hold their heads up or how to roll over, how to crawl, sit, stand, walk, run, or jump. I’m so thankful God does not leave me as I am, but rather He continues to grow and shape me.

What are you learning from the season you’re in? What aspects of God’s character are you clinging in this season? What truths are you holding on to even when they don’t feel true in this moment?

Faith

Peace

I had a blog post nearly completed, and I accidentally deleted everything. So, let’s try this again!

A couple of months ago, my husband and I went on our first getaway since our kids were born. It was much needed. Our first stop was for a bike ride on an old railroad track turned into a trail. It was my first bike ride on an unpaved surface, and…it was also cold and windy. When my fingers and ears started getting cold within the first five minutes, I was ready to turn around, but we kept going. We road for about 13 miles total. The first couple of intersections we road through were highways, then there was a gravel road, and then there was a path with two worn out ruts. The farther we got away from the highways, the quieter it got. I’ll be the the first to admit, I’m not the most in shape person, and I had to stop a couple of times. One of the first times we stopped, we were stunned by the silence. It was almost palpable. Coming from living in a small/midsized city and in a house with two active and talkative toddlers, silence is rare. It was so peaceful.

This week’s Advent theme is: Peace.

What comes to mind when you think of the word “peace”?

Tie dye wearing hippies? Being out in the country? Your children’s nap time? Five minutes to yourself to enjoy a chocolate or a cup of coffee?

Peace is something we all dream of, and it’s something than can seem so…impossible.

Luke 2 tells us the story of Jesus’ birth and the angel’s announcement of His birth. Luke 2: 10-14 says, “But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

I don’t know about where you live, but from my perspective, the world is not a peaceful place. I’m even more convinced of the lack of peace on earth since I got married and moved to my husband’s hometown. I’ve heard more gunshots in the past (almost) five years than I had my whole life. Some of them have sounded too close for comfort.

If you don’t hear gunshots in your town, you’ve probably concluded the earth is not peaceful after a year like 2020. So what on earth were the angels talking about then?

Because of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and His resurrection, we can have peace with God.

Way back in the beginning of time, a man and a woman, named Adam and Eve, disobeyed God. When they disobeyed, sin and death entered the world, and all humanity has felt the consequences. Romans 5:10 tells us before Jesus, we were enemies of God, and through Jesus’ death on the cross, we were reconciled with God. It says, “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”

Following Jesus also brings us peace with others.

Jesus teaches us to love each other, live in humility, to forgive, and to be peacemakers. We’re not responsible for the responses others may have, but we are told to do our best to live at peace with others (Romans 12:18).

Trusting Jesus gives us peace in life.

In John 16:33, Jesus acknowledges that the earth is not peaceful. He says we will have trouble, but in Him we can have peace. He says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

While the world is chaotic, we can have peace with God and others and in life because of Jesus.

Faith

Hope

My son looked out our living room window on Thanksgiving, after the sun had set. Our neighbors have started putting up Christmas lights, and when he saw them, he said, “I think it looks like Christmastime!”

The next day, he insisted we needed to wear Christmas hats while we decorated, and both of my kids wore Christmas hats as we went to one store on Black Friday. We all donned Christmas hats as we went to see a light display that evening. I think my toddler may be starting a new tradition, and I love it.

There is something so comforting, grounding, and nostalgic about traditions, especially for Christmas. My mom’s family has playing Bingo for prizes on Christmas Eve as a tradition that began generations ago and has continued on through the years. The prizes range from random snack foods to fun gadgets to bottled coffees to the always wished for gift cards. We all envy the one person who seems to win every game, despite the Bingo cards changing each round, and we feel sorry for the one person who inevitably loses more than anyone else.

When I was around 6 or 7, my mom started another Christmas Eve tradition: gingerbread house building. My houses were not very structurally sound for the first few years, and my siblings decided I was a garage builder. It’s only recently that I’ve escaped from their mockery and have proven my gingerbread house building abilities.

Another Christmas tradition my mom started was observing Advent. Starting the Sunday after Thanksgiving and continuing to Christmas Eve, my parents and all six of us kids would gather around the dining room table with a Christmas cookie or some other treat, maybe some hot chocolate, and sometimes a game or craft, and we’d take turns lighting the candle(s) and reading that week’s Bible passages. This is one tradition that I’ve already continued with my toddlers, and this year, I’d like to share it with you!

The first Sunday of Advent focuses on hope.

Right after the first man and woman sinned against God, He began to reveal His plan to redeem the people who had just broken His law. In Genesis 3:15, God spoke of one of Eve’s offspring who would strike the head of the Serpent. He said, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”” For centuries all of creation lived in expectant hope for that day.

Two thousand years ago, the One who was promised to strike the head of the Serpent was born, and now we live in hope for His return and eternity spent with Him. One day He will wipe away every tear, He, the Prince of Peace will reign over us, and we will be with Him forever.

In a year of unknowns, change, anxiety, isolation, division, loss, and so much more, I am so thankful for the hope we have in Jesus. Unlike the ten months (and counting) I have hoped for a positive pregnancy test only to be disappointed, hoping in Jesus will not leave us disappoint. One day, we will not be plagued with sickness, infertility, cancer, or death. One day the Body of Christ will be with our Bridegroom, and we will be of one heart and mind. My heart yearns for that day.

Knowing that what we are now facing pales in comparison to the joy that day will bring makes my trials and sorrows seem more bearable. Knowing I have hope brings light to the dark days because they are temporary.

How does this hope change your present? How does this hope change you?

Life

Kancation!

If you know my husband, you probably know him as a quirky, witty, easygoing, funny guy. When we got married four and a half years ago, I moved to his hometown, and I had multiple people ask me what it was like being married to Thad—he’s a character. That’s the Thad I saw on our first date as he danced in Dunkin’ Donuts. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to make of him. It wasn’t until we faced challenges that I saw there was more to him than his surface level quirkinesses. He had depth and wisdom. Over the last four and a half years, I’ve learned something else about my husband: he is a hard worker.

From working multiple jobs to pay off debt to talking with overseas factories in the evenings, he works hard to take care of our family while still making time for bike rides, walks, and outings with the kids and me. Because he’s in sales, getting away from the office is tricky. If he’s not working, he might miss an order and could lose the order and/or the customer. If there is an issue with the order and he’s not available to fix it, he could lose the customer. Since he’s almost entirely commission based, fewer sales and customers negatively impact his salary.

So in the time we’ve been married, he has never taken a vacation. Sure, we’ve gone out of town, but he typically works remotely while we’re visiting family. He even responded to a few emails and took a few calls on our honeymoon. If anyone needed a vacation, it was Thad.

Recently his stress level had increased, and he had a couple of panic attacks. He hardly talked to the kids or to me. As his wife, it was difficult to see him struggling. Thankfully, his boss recognized his need for a vacation and told him he should take a week off.

Last week, my mom came to get our kids and take them to my grandparents’, and Thad and I embarked on what I’m calling a Kancation. We stayed at three beautiful places in Kansas and had such a lovely time.

We left on Monday afternoon and headed to Vassar, Kansas for a bike ride on the Flint Hills Trail. According to Kanzatrails.org, this trail is built in an old railroad corridor that dates back to the 1880s. The trail stretches for 117 miles, and Thad insisted I’d be surprised by how far I could go.

As we started out, my hands and ears began to hurt because of the cold. Thankfully, it warmed up a little, which made the ride more enjoyable. However, I quickly proved Thad’s statement wrong because I was not at all surprised to find that I was getting winded and exhausted.

Towards the middle of our ride, we saw some beautiful scenery, and we realized how incredibly quiet the trail was. There were no cars or houses around us, and even the cows were silent. The silence was a little eerie, especially after living in a house with two toddlers!

By the ninth mile, I felt like I was dying. We made it a total of 12.86 miles in an hour an thirteen minutes. Our legs felt like noodles as we walked back to our van. I cannot imagine riding the whole 117 miles!

The first night we stayed at a tiny house on a 60 acre lake in Lyndon, Kansas. It was brand new, beautiful, and so peaceful. We both slept well, despite not being awoken by cries of “I want Mama!”

Our hosts left a gift card to an adorable local coffee shop, True Brew, and after stopping for coffee the next morning, we headed towards our next stop.

For our second night, Thad booked a room at a bed and breakfast. I’d never stayed at a bed and breakfast, so I was a little apprehensive. We stopped at Chase County State Lake and hiked to the waterfall. Unfortunately, we found it to be a water trickle because it hadn’t rained in a while…

After our hike, we arrived at the beautiful Clover Cliff Ranch. The owner, Susie, met us at the door and gave us a tour before showing us to our room. The original part of the house was a one room cabin built in 1860, and two more additions completed the house by 1883. We headed out for a hike around the ranch’s 4,000 acres and then went for dinner.

By the time we returned from dinner, the other couple staying at the ranch had also returned and were watching TV in the front living room. We said “hello” in passing and went up to our room. I have to confess, after seeing the other couple, I started wondering if we were entirely safe. What if they were serial killers and we were alone with them in a big house, in the middle of nowhere? Susie had mentioned there was wood ready for a fire out back, as well as everything we needed for s’mores, so out we went!

After making s’mores, we spent some time by the fire, and I was disappointed. Part of the draw of being out in the middle of nowhere was having a better view of the stars. But for the second night in a row, the sky was cloudy, and we couldn’t see a single star. I realized I needed to pray that I’d be able to see the stars the next night. I thought about asking my mom and grandma to pray as well. A little bit later, I looked up, and the stars were starting to peek out from behind the clouds. Within a few minutes the sky directly overhead was full of stars, and I was filled with awe and thankfulness for a God who knows the desires of my heart.

The next morning we went down for breakfast. Susie served us coffee and a beautiful, delicious berry trifle for the first course, and mentioned she had been praying I would be able to see the stars.

As we were eating the trifle, the other woman staying at the ranch came down for breakfast and she started talking to Susie. While they were talking, I overheard they were in ministry, and I felt silly for having been fearful the night before. The second course was an amazing breakfast sandwich with sausage patties, egg, cheese, mushrooms, peppers, and some sort of a sauce. We want more of it!

We talked with the other couple for over an hour. We heard their story: he was a former Muslim who came to Christ a couple of years into their marriage, and within the last decade had left his high paying job to become a missionary to Muslims. They prayed for us. I marveled again at the goodness and faithfulness of God for ordaining a time of refreshing and encouragement in the middle of nowhere Kansas, and I hated to leave.

After leaving the Clover Cliff Ranch, we drove to Hutchinson, Kansas to tour the salt mine. As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up watching movies from the 30s to 50s, and I find those decades fascinating, so I was pretty excited when I heard the portion of the mine covered by the tour was from the 40s and 50s!

While the enormity of the mine was interesting (each pillar was either 40 ft by 40 ft or 50 ft by 50 ft), what I found most interesting was the fact that the miners’ trash was still left laying on the ground where they had left it. It is more cost effective to leave things in the mine than to bring them back up to the surface, so what comes down to the mine stays in the mine. Because the mine has no humidity, the temperature is consistent, and there are no pests, things are preserved really well, and their trash was fascinating to look at.

From the salt mine we got coffee and went to Ellsworth, Kansas where we stayed in a limestone cabin from the 1800s.

The owner, Linda, said the farm had been in her family for over 100 years. The cabin had been run down for as long as she could remember, and a few years ago, when she was having work done on another part of her property, the contractor kept coming back to the cabin and encouraged her to restore it, so she did. She believes the lower level may have been a barn and the upstairs may have been used as a living quarters while the main house was being built.

Whether it was a cabin or a barn, it was charming. From a ladder used as the stair rail to her mom’s laundry washing tub used as the kitchenette’s sink, Linda had so many special touches throughout the cabin.

Despite the cold and foggy night, the wood stove kept the cabin surprisingly cozy! When the fog cleared the next morning, we were able to see the beautiful view.

Our plan had been to travel to Little Jerusalem State Park from Ellsworth, but when the weather was cold and windy that morning, I had to ask Thad if he thought we would enjoy it in that weather. We made the decision to wait to visit Little Jerusalem until the weather was nicer and to surprise our kids and my family instead.

On our way to my grandparents’ Thad drove us to Wilson Lake State Park, and I am so glad he did! I could have easily said, “Thad, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” It was beautiful and felt much more western than the parts of Kansas I have seen. My pictures do not do this place justice.

Thad had heard of the park because there is a black diamond bike trail there. When we stopped, I assumed we were stopping for a hike. I was mistaken. We had stopped to go mountain biking. I should tell you, until last year I hadn’t ridden a bike in over a decade. Until Thad bought me a bike this spring, I hadn’t ridden since last year. I had never gone mountain biking. Our ride on the Flint Hills Trail was my first experience riding on an unpaved trail. Thad insisted we were taking the easy/kids trail. Within the first minute of mountain biking, I announced I was not enjoying it. It was bumpy! My hands and arms started hurting. I struggled to stay in the narrow rut of a trail, and I had to walk my bike up some of the steeper parts. But I did it! Would I do it again? Yes! The views were gorgeous, and we hope to go back. Sometimes changed plans are surprisingly fun!

As we traveled on to my grandparents’, we saw a sign for the “Geographic Center of the Continental US”, so we made another quick stop before being reunited with our babies.

While at my grandparents’ we finally got a picture of my grandma, my mom, my daughter, and me. I’ve wanted to do it since my daughter was born, but we’ve forgotten to do it every other time the four of us have been together.

We had such a nice time on our Kancation! I’m including the links to the places we stayed in case you would like to take a Kancation of your own!

Tiny house in Lyndon https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/43859553?adults=2&source_impression_id=p3_1603143367_jbeEUoHLtGefYyYa
Clover Cliff Ranch in Elmdale https://www.clovercliffranch.com
1800s limestone cabin in Ellsworth https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/13277814?adults=2&source_impression_id=p3_1601827029_%2B2OhXA%2Fz8ovK99KB

Special thanks to our families for making our trip possible!