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.

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!

Faith, Life, Momming

Is It Well?

Fun fact about me: I’m an Air Force brat. My dad was in the Air Force until I was 16. I’ve moved a total of 11 times, and lived in 5 states (6 if you count college) and two countries. Nine out of the first 13 years of my life were spent living in base housing (two of the houses we lived in were either condemned or torn down right after we moved out). So we never really settled in, and we knew those houses weren’t truly going to be home.

The year after we got married, we moved out of the house my husband bought when he was 24 (by putting the down payment on his credit card via a cash advance……..) and we bought our first house together. It’s a split level with four floors, and after finishing the basement, we’re sitting at about 2,200 square feet. We’ve done a lot to this house. We’ve refinished the kitchen, replaced the flooring on the main level, refinished the fireplace with shiplap, replaced the windows, replaced the hall bathtub and surround, replaced the vanity in our tiny master bath, finish about half of the basement, replaced the back door, relocated the door to the garage back to its original location, and replaced or refinished a few lights. The projects seem endless, and so many places in the house don’t quite feel finished or fully decorated.

Our master bedroom had been untouched until last year. We had the mismatched chest of drawers we had each brought into the marriages, and hand-me-down decorations on our walls. After I refinished our headboard and a matching set of dressers we found on Marketplace, our room felt so much more cohesive. The newly refinished furniture necessitated a new wall color, which meant new wall decorations were required. I found a couple of pieces I loved at Hobby Lobby for our room, and one that was perfect for our bathroom (did I mention how tiny our bathroom is?). It wasn’t until last month that I realized just how perfect the artwork was for our bathroom.

If you know my story, you may remember it took us a lot longer to conceive our firstborn than I had expected it would. We received a male factor infertility diagnosis the month of our first anniversary. It wasn’t what we had hoped for, but it was good to have some clarity. On our anniversary, we made a stop at IKEA. As soon as we got off of the escalator, my husband pointed out a family not too far from us and asked if that was the associate pastor of the church I had attended and worked at before getting married. It was. We were an hour from home, and they were two hours from home, and some how we were in the same place, at the same huge store, at the same time. They had been a blessing to me while my husband and I were dating, and knowing they had dealt with infertility, I confided in the pastor’s wife. Before we said goodbye, they prayed for us (specifically that we’d have 100 babies). Later that week, I spent time praying and surrendering to God, knowing that I needed Him to do something—whether that was healing me/my husband, taking away my desire for children, or at the very least assuring me that He was with me through the desert of infertility. I heard from God, and I knew He had either healed us or that He was least with us.

Two weeks later, I cried my eyes out when I saw the second line that I had prayed to see for so many months. When my son was six months old, I was shocked to see another positive pregnancy test. I love my two little ones! I think they’re pretty cute and special.

I’ve been on both sides. I’ve experienced the exhausting roller coaster of hope and disappoint, the frustration, the jealousy, the questions, and the waiting that infertility brings. I’ve experienced the surprise, fear, and bittersweetness that an unexpected pregnancy brings. Both experiences solidified my conviction that God is the author of life, and whether I’m trying to conceive or trying to prevent pregnancy, He is the giver of life, and it comes in His timing.

A little over two years after our surprise positive pregnancy, we’re back to dealing with infertility. I’m back to seeing one line, when I have hoped and prayed to see two lines. Today we received a test result that shows our fertility has decreased since we were trying to conceive the first time. The doctor suggested we see a reproductive endocrinologist, which seems to say IUI or IVF are the next steps to take medically.

My heart is heavy. This is month ten, and I’m weary in this wait. This feels hopeless, medically speaking. My heart and arms long for another baby. While I was still pregnant with my second, I believe God gave me a vision of a third, a little boy in a blue and white striped romper. It sounds crazy, but I saw my older two sitting in front of me and the tiny little boy I held, and while I never pictured myself having a blonde baby and am still surprised that I have a blonde, my daughter had light hair.

I know nothing is too difficult for God. I know God is the giver of life. I know if the vision truly was from Him, He is able to give me a third. I know He has a good plan. I know He has perfect timing.

And yet, I’m still heavy hearted. I still feel like crying. I’m frustrated and disappointed in myself for feeling this was despite my faith and knowledge. I remember that Jesus cried at Lazarus’s tomb, despite His power and plan to raise him back to life.

Infertility is like exercise for my faith. It isn’t fun. It hurts. I don’t enjoy it. But I know that it’s good for my faith. I know that when my faith is put to the test, I get to see God’s hand at work.

And so, the artwork hanging in my bathroom is unintentionally perfect. As I wait for the tests to show one line or two, I see the words, “It is well with my soul.”

After I read the test and my hope turns to disappointment or to joy, I read the words, “It is well with my soul.”

Whether or not it feels good, “It is well with my soul.”

Whether or not I feel it in that moment, “It is well with my soul.”

This is one of those times it doesn’t feel good, and I don’t feel like “it is well”. But I know the truth is that God is faithful, able, sovereign, and so good. Despite my feelings, it truly is well.

Faith, Life

A Drive Through the Flint Hills

Currently we are driving through the Flint Hills of Kansas on our way to visit my grandparents. I’ve been a lot of places—the Gulf Coast, the Rocky Mountains, the Grant Canyon, the Ozarks, the Azores, and a flight over the Alps—and yet the Flint Hills are still an area I find breathtaking. They stretch as far as I can see, in every direction. The varying heights adds to the interest, and on top of that, my stomach isn’t in knots while we drive through the Flint Hills, unlike while driving through mountains. And then, there’s the lush green. Gorgeous.

You know why the Flint Hills are so green? Because they are burned and because they are rained on. These two things, things that can be devastating, produce lush, green, gorgeous hillsides. 

While I was growing up, rainy days were always disappointing. I couldn’t play in my backyard or in my neighborhood with my friends, I couldn’t go swimming—basically my plans were ruined. As an adult, rainy days mean my kids are confined to the house, my patio furniture will be all wet, any outdoor play dates or zoo visits get cancelled, and if we go anywhere, I have to stand outside getting soaked while putting kids in car seats. Bleh! Rainy days can be disappointing and they can be dreary. 

I’ve had a few rainy days the past month and a half. From conflicts, to sickness, to an unexpected surgical tooth extraction, to yet another negative pregnancy test, I’ve been feeling like the rain just keeps coming. It’s wearisome. I’m ready for sunshine. 

As we drive through the beautiful Flint Hills, I’m reminded that rain is needed. Without rain, my backyard turns brown, and without rain, my garden would die (because let’s be real, when the temperature hit the upper 90s and mosquitoes declared war on me, I started making my trips out to the garden as short as possible, and dragging the hose out and watering my garden didn’t fit in the time span I was willing to spend in my backyard). Yes, there is such a thing as too much rain; it’s called a flood, and no one needs one of those. But rain is needed to help things to grow and to thrive. 

Without rain in my life, I grow complacent, I get comfortable, I’m not challenged. When I’m not challenged, I don’t grow. 

Over the past month, I’ve been challenged. I’ve felt my strength tested, and I’ve had to depend on God. I’ve had my patience tested, and I’ve had to surrender and trust God (this one still trips me up sometimes). I’ve had my actions, my character, and my faith questioned, and I’ve had to walk in obedience to resolve it instead of walking away. It’s been a rough month. But I know I’ve grown. I know my endurance has increased. I know my faith has increased. Not because it’s been sunny and beautiful, but because it’s been rainy.

I’m still ready for at least a few sunny days! 

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James‬ ‭1:2-4‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Faith, Life

Wrestling with the Noise

When I think of today’s climate, this is what comes to mind.

https://youtu.be/bM-beloWExE(Hint: it’s a orchestra warming up.)

Its loud and jumbled. Everyone is trying to be heard. No one is playing the same melody.

It’s exhausting.

I’m exhausted.

I’m confused.

I’m tired of hearing the shouts of so many different, impassioned opinions. I’m tired of seeing so much division. I’m tired of the hateful words and actions of people who are disagreeing with each other. I’m tired of wrestling internally trying to figure out my own thoughts and opinions in all the confusion—knowing that no matter what conclusion I come to I could face hateful words from people who came to other conclusions.

Our country is so divided. Between Covid-19, Racial tensions, and an election year, discord is everywhere.

I want my friends and family to be safe and healthy. I know people who have been impacted by Covid-19. My husband knows people whose family members have died from it. It’s real.

But I also don’t want to live in fear. It’s also uncomfortable for my freedoms to feel so fragile. It’s uncomfortable to know I will be judged by people who want to live life as normal if I am cautious or by people who want to isolate themselves if I am less cautious.

I know that every person was created with dignity in the image of God. Let that sink in.

In The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis wrote, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”

No one is any more or less valuable. No one is any more or less loved. The most quoted Bible verse, John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” God sent Jesus to die for our sins before we loved Him, while we were still His enemies, while we were separated from Him, and while we were unrighteous, and He did it because even then He loved us. If God loved the World even then, I think it is safe to say He loves everyone equally. Romans 2:11 says, “God does not show favoritism.”

It is sickening to me that people are judged and treated or mistreated according to the color of their skin. It is horrifying to me that people are killed unjustly by people who are responsible for protecting our communities and our laws. It breaks my heart that my friends and family members have experienced the ugliness of the sin of racism.

It is also saddening to me that our law enforcement officers are being unappreciated, judged, and threatened regardless of their individual actions, behaviors, and thoughts. It is also disturbing that uninvolved businesses have been vandalized and stolen from.

And then…there’s a whole political scene with opposing sides bashing each other, hanging on their candidate’s every word, and often putting their identities more in their politics than in their faith.

Can I sit somewhere in the middle? Can I be cautious while not living in fear? Can I love and value people who do not look like me, despise and denounce their mistreatment, and celebrate the beauty in the diversity God has created while also valuing and appreciating the just police officers in our country and also denouncing lawless acts? Can I be a responsible, law abiding citizen while remembering that my hope is not in a political candidate and that neither the United States nor this world is my home?

Ultimately, I want to be like Jesus. I want to live like He did, trusting God and submitting to the law of the land, which happened to be the Roman Empire for Jesus (His relationship with the Pharisees and teachers of the Law is a whole other issue because they were perverting God’s law). I want to love like He loved and to honor and value those He made in His image. I want to live at peace and to be a peacemaker. I want my words and actions to be glorifying to God. I want to live in light of eternity.

What about you? Where do you stand? How are you wrestling with the noise?