I realized something important in the past couple of weeks. My actions have largely been governed by how I might be perceived or thought of by other people. I was concerned about what they might think of me or if this group or that group would approve. I was keeping “friends” on newsfeed because I didn’t want to appear as though I was unwilling to hear “the other side” of one discussion or another. I kept justifying it to myself, saying I wanted to be well-rounded, I wanted to have an open mind, I wanted to keep myself in check.
However, this was only partly true. I wanted to appear righteous in their eyes. I wanted to be approved of by people of many persuasions, politically, religious, or otherwise. I was pandering and trying to make people like me. I was succumbing to the temptation of allowing my actions to be ruled by how I might be perceived. And it was destroying me. I was stressed, depressed, angry, anxious, irritable. It was hurting me and my family. It was hurting my relationship with God. And truthfully, it was hurting those very relationships. Even now, writing this, people keep flashing through my mind and I’m instinctively choosing words that will be approved of. It’s deeply ingrained.
The only one I should be trying to please is GOD. Period. I have a wide variety of people in my actual, real, everyday life, who I discourse with. I am not someone to hold so tightly to my viewpoints that I refuse to listen to anyone who might think differently, as is evidenced by the way my views have changed in the last decade. I don’t need my Facebook feed to impress anyone. I know who I am. I know who I belong to. I know who I need to please.
I’m a people pleaser, plain and simple. I don’t want to make anyone unhappy or uncomfortable. I recognize this as a good thing in many contexts, but I also see how it can hurt me and my relationship with God, as well as my relationship with others. I don’t need to be filled with fear when I log onto my Facebook account. I don’t need to stew in anxiety over the opinions of others all for the sake of appearing well-rounded. Even now, I don’t need to write or post this to explain myself to anyone. I’m writing more to process and get my thoughts down, to work through the jumbled mess of thoughts and feelings inside of me.
I dearly love some of the people I unfriended. But the stress I was putting myself through isn’t worth the appearance of a friendship on a virtual platform. I feel freer than I have in years. I feel a huge weight off my shoulders that I can log onto my Facebook and not FEAR what I might read. I can scroll through my newsfeed without my blood pressure rising through the roof. I can actually enjoy social media again. And that, my friends, as someone who already struggles with anxiety and depression, is worth its weight in gold. I can focus on my school work, I can focus on my kids and my husband, I can actually enjoy my days instead of living in anger and dread of what I might see on the little screen of my phone or computer. To my friends who won’t read this, thank you. You were and are wonderful people. Thank you for your loving and usually kind way of speaking what you believed to be true. Thank you for the years of gently opening my mind and heart to ways of thinking that I hadn’t previously considered. However, that time in my life has come to a close for now. Instead of bringing life, it became a poison to my very soul. So I am moving on. I’m not refusing to hear other opinions, I’m simply making my social media, and therefore my entire life, a more peaceful place. That’s what I need right now. Peace be with you.
I have to start this birth story with the events of the weeks before his actual birth. During each of the last three weeks of my pregnancy, I had at least 2 bouts of prodromal (“false”) labor, and this number increased to almost every day by the end. The contractions would come strong and frequent for hours at a time, rendering me unable to do much around the house or parent Kaelyn well. Every time, I would wonder, “is this it?!”, only to have the contractions slow down and fizzle out. It was exhausting. The waiting and wondering were almost unbearable.
On Friday night, March 28th, after a quiet day with only a few contractions here and there, I was lying in bed wondering (as I did every night) if I would go into labor that night. I just had this feeling that he was coming soon. I tried to tell myself that it was just wishful thinking, not wanting to set myself up for disappointment again. But I knew it. I knew he would be coming that weekend. I told my husband that, but no one else. Maybe because I didn’t want to jinx it, maybe because I didn’t want to be let down if I was wrong. But deep down, I knew I’d be meeting my baby very soon. With that, I was able to sleep well that night.
The next morning, March 29th, we got up and had a slow breakfast with Kaelyn, drinking our coffee as we watched Robin Hood together. I was having some contractions and wanted to walk, but it was a rainy day, so we decided to go to Walmart to get a handful of things that we needed. I kept having very noticeable contractions that I had to focus through; however, this was par for the course, so I didn’t get my hopes up. Shopping and walking around really did pick them up. A few times I had to stop walking during a contraction. After about an hour of walking around, we decided to head home, we needed to get Kaelyn lunch and down for a nap before our midwife, Debi, stopped by for our prenatal appointment.
We got home and I went immediately to the shower — I needed a little relief before taking on lunch and naptime. Around 1:30, right when Kaelyn went down for her nap, Debi arrived. She checked on me and the baby and asked if I wanted a cervical check. YES. I’d been having so much prodromal labor that I just had to know if I’d made any progress. She asked if I wanted her to do a membrane sweep to see if we could get things kick-started, and again, YES. I was ready to have this baby today — today would be perfect! Turns out that I was already at least a “stretchy” 4 cm — even close to a 5 when I had a contraction during the check (I actually had a couple, THAT was uncomfortable, let me tell you!). I was already halfway there!! Who knows how long I had been walking around at 4 cm dilated! It was a relief to know that all that “false” labor had done a lot of work. I knew that it would be fast once it hit. Debi had another prenatal appointment to do while she was in town, but she said that she was NOT going to leave town for a least a couple hours, as she figured that labor was going to start soon. Oh boy, was she RIGHT. Not long after she left, I started having stronger contractions that came just a few minutes apart. Debi had told me that the baby was somewhat posterior, so I leaned over the birth ball for a while and swayed (to try to get him to a better position) while Ike and I watched some TV to pass the time. Before long, I couldn’t even focus on what we were watching and I started timing the contractions. They were 2 minutes and 40 seconds apart consistently. I told Ike that he needed to call into work and say he wasn’t coming, this was probably it. We texted Debi to let her know to come straight back here after her appointment and we started to call everyone. We called a few people we had lined up to watch Kaelyn and Hannah was able to come. We called Miriam, my sister-in-law and doula, and we called Rachael, our photographer. Kaelyn woke up from her nap and I couldn’t have her around me (as sweet as she is, I just couldn’t focus with her all in my space), so we gave her my Kindle to watch some Netflix on in her bedroom until Hannah got there. Ike started running all around, trying to get things ready; at this point, I was okay with that, I was doing fine with the contractions on my own. Hannah arrived and I was still in good spirits. It was muddy and cloudy, but it wasn’t raining, so she took Kaelyn outside to play.
The contractions were getting stronger, so I needed Ike to come rub my lower back. He put a folded up blanket under my knees that were starting to get sore, which is really good thing, because it wasn’t long before my water broke! I felt the baby move, there was a loud and somewhat painful POP, and amniotic fluid kind of exploded out of me. I FREAKED. The next contraction was awful. For some reason, my water breaking like that really scared me and the contractions went from manageable to really quite painful. Ike called Debi to let her know my water broke (she was stuck in traffic on the interstate! Ugh!) and he led me to the bathroom, reassuring me that it didn’t matter that I was dripping fluid all over the carpet. I sat on the toilet and he got the shower running for me. He was still running around between contractions, trying to figure out the birth tub. While in the shower, I was really struggling. I couldn’t mentally get on top of these stronger contractions, and the water wasn’t helping, maybe because of my position or because I couldn’t get comfortable. I stayed in there for a while, ending up on my hands and knees, crying, because they hurt so bad and I just *couldn’t* *keep* *going*. Eventually, Ike got me out of the shower. By the time I got out and Ike got my bathing suit for me, Debi and Miriam were there, they had set up the tub, and were starting to fill it.
Once I got warm, dry, and in my bedroom, the contractions got significantly easier to deal with. I sat on the edge of the bed and leaned on Ike. I was even able to talk to Debi and Miriam in between, and I didn’t feel the need to moan quite so loud during the contractions. I was actually able to relax the rest of my body much better. My back was hurting, but I couldn’t figure out any position that would have been more comfortable, because my hands and knees were already so sore from being on them so much already. I just kept looking at the birth tub filling with water, desperately wanting to get in, but knowing I couldn’t yet. At this point it was 4:30 and I couldn’t believe it. I’d only been in labor for about two hours and I was already doubting if I could do this, praying to God for help, and needing constant reassurance from my birth team.
Finally, around 5 or maybe a little after, the tub was ready for me. I got in and a smile came to my face! The water, oh it was so heavenly. There’s a reason they call it “the midwife’s epidural”! My back, my knees, my hands and feet, they could all relax. Gravity and positioning didn’t hurt all of the rest of me, so I was finally able to really relax during contractions and let them do the work they needed to. Ike got in with me and sat behind me so I could lean against him. I’m convinced that labor would have gone on a lot longer if I hadn’t been able to be in the tub.
Not long after I got in, I began to feel my body starting to push. I didn’t push with it. With Kaelyn’s birth, I started pushing before my body did, and I ended up pushing for two hours. I did not want to push that long again, so I wanted to wait as long as I could – preferably until I didn’t have a choice, to start pushing. Debi asked me a few times if I was feeling pushy and I kept saying, “maybe, I don’t know.” She told me just to listen to my body. After a few more contractions, she checked me and said I was complete and I could push whenever I wanted to! I remember hearing her say, “listen to your body, let your baby press down, don’t fight it, he’s coming.”
Finally, I started pushing with my body, when I really didn’t have a choice anymore. This is when Rachael came in and started taking photos. I think I remember shouting a few obscenities as Rachael walked in, lol! Debi reminded me to hold my knees back, take a big breath, and hold it while pushing, take another breath, and push again. I was able to get a good three pushes with each contraction. It hurt, I yelled, I cussed, I prayed, I begged for it to be over. But it was GOOD. He was coming down with each push. Debi told me just to melt into the water, into Ike, while resting between contractions, so I did. Ike and I had become one when we got married, but this was a different kind of unity, a completion of that unity.
Before long I started to feel that familiar sting, the stretch, the fire. At this point, I got terrified. I thought he would rip me in two. Debi and Miriam reassured me that he wouldn’t, that my body was meant to do this, and that I could put some pressure with my hand where it hurt the most as I was pushing for relief — that really helped. I kept looking at Miriam, remembering that she had just done this a few months prior, and that if she could do it, so could I. Before long, I could feel his head, it was full of hair! I was ready to get him OUT, so the next push, I pressed on past my fear and PUSHED. His head come out!! The contraction stopped before I could push again, so there we were, my baby was halfway earthside. It was an amazing moment for me, resting before the next big push, but he was halfway out. I knew I’d be holding him soon, that my life was about to change. I was so aware of the intensity and the weight that that moment held. The tension and the in between. I held onto his head (it was smaller than it had felt a few moments earlier!), and I was amazed. Amazed at this turning point, he was no longer safely inside, my body taking care of his every need, he was about to be separated and I would care for him so differently than I had been for the last nine months. Soon I would start watching him grow, nurturing and mothering him, learning to be the mom of two tiny, precious people. I will never forget those moments, knowing I was almost done, knowing that it would be worth it, knowing my baby was so close.
The next contraction started and Debi said, “PUSH!” and I did! Here he came, up into my arms! My sweet boy came out of the water, covered in sweet and somewhat slimy vernix. It was over! He was here! My sweet boy who I had been dreaming of, waiting for, praying for — he was in my arms! Oh and he was beautiful, I tell you. He hardly cried, we were warm in the water, he was against my chest, he was breathing, but so content. Debi said, “hey, have you checked to make sure it’s a boy?” — it hadn’t occurred to me! So I did and sure enough, this was our boy! Søren Avery was here, whole, and perfect.
March 29, 2014 at 6:04pm. 7lbs 7oz and 20-1/4 in long.
Darkness. Clouds. Rain. Autumn winds.
I open the back door, coffee mug hot, full to the brim. Staring out, I feel the fresh morning breeze. I hear the drip, drip, drip, drip of raindrops on the garbage can. I close my eyes, listening to the passing of time. Willing myself to believe that each drop is one more moment closer to being in his arms.
A cough from my daughter shakes me out of my daze. I’ve got things to take care of, so I push my worries back with a prayer and make my feet move.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge him and he will make straight your paths.”
This verse has been playing in my head this morning. Lean not on your own understanding. Boy, have I been doing that lately. I feel bad for myself, I feel bad for my child, because she doesn’t have her Papa around in this season. I know that a child needs both a mother and a father, that is the best way for a child to be raised. And so I get upset that she can’t have that, and I get overwhelmed because I know I’m not enough for her.
And then I go back to this verse. If I trust in the Lord, and I trust in his sovereignty, and I trust that he has a plan for our lives, then I need to think about this differently. God is perfect. He is perfectly good. He is perfectly wise. He is perfectly sovereign. So that means that for this child, for myself, this life, this way, is the best way for her to grow up. This is indeed happening, so it is in his plan. How can I know better for myself or for my child than God? I can’t. And this is what he has laid out for our lives. So it must be the best for us. I need to stop trusting in the world’s wisdom, it is foolishness.
Well then. Why am I fretting so? Why am I worrying? I need to actively rest in his goodness. I need to be still, be content. And trust. I need to trust that he is doing something good. I need to remember that this is so much bigger than me and my family.
“Be still and know that I am God.”
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.”
Trust. Still. Abide.
A Prayer for a Daughter
Father who breathed into this daughter…
And may all the hills be an exhilaration
the trials but a trail, all the stones but stairs to God.God, clothe this girl in a gown of grace
Grace, the only dress that makes beautiful,
the style of Your spirit.
Nourish her on the comfort food of the Word,
Word, that makes her crave more of Christ, have hunger pangs for Him.
Enclose her in communion with You
You, Love who makes her love, who folds her heart into a roof
that absorbs storms for souls,
that makes her tongue speak only the words that make souls stronger.
May her vocation in this world simply be translation
Translating every enemy into esteemed guest
Translating every countenance into the face of Christ
Translating every burden into blessing
When it’s hard to be patient… make her willing to suffer
When it’s ridiculous to be thankful … make her see all is grace
When it’s radical to forgive … make her live the foundation of our faith
And when it’s time to work… make her a holy wonder.
May she be bread and feed many with her life and her laughter
May she be thread and mend brokeness and knit hearts
May she be dead to all ladders & never go higher , only lower, to the lonely, the least & the longing
Her led of the Spirit to lead many to the Cross
that leads to the tomb wildly empty.
Oh, and raise me, Lord, from the deadness of my own sins to love this beautiful girl like You do…
In the name of Christ who rose and appeared first to one of His daughters…
I suppose I shouldn’t post on only the good deployment days. That wouldn’t be fair to anyone else going through this kind of trial. It wouldn’t be honest. Or real. The reality is that hard days sure are hard. The missing him is an ache that nothing can soothe. My God can soothe my fears, my anger, my disappointments, He can meet me in this lonely place. But we are one, dear husband and I. We are meant to be together, that’s what marriage is. So when he’s gone, when he’s 8,000 miles away, it’s not an ache that can be fixed.
Sometimes there is so much going on in my head that I forget plans I’ve made, or I lose things, I get a headache. You thought “deployment brain” was fake? Yeah. Not so much. Please forgive me if you have been, or will be in the future, inconvenienced or hurt by my lack of brain power. I promise it’s not personal.
When it’s all too much to handle, I run to the Rock which is higher than I. I look to my God who is all-powerful and all-loving. And I do my best to remember his grace, his goodness. I do my best to rest in his faithfulness. I remember how he has blessed me in so many ways by giving me such a man as this, a man that would lay down his life for not only his friends, but his enemies. I am so blessed to be married to this man, a man who resembles our Savior in ways that I rarely see.
But all that doesn’t change how much I miss him and how terribly I want to just wrap my arms around him and bury my face in his neck.
This has been the longest few weeks of my life. Easy. I honestly can’t decide which is more difficult: childbirth or deployment. Missing my Other Half is more painful than I ever could have imagined. Knowing he’s in a dangerous place is not new to me, since his job at home is a police officer, but not being able to hug him between shifts sucks. Every time I get to talk to him, whether that’s on Skype or a quick message on Facebook, I breathe a sigh of relief knowing he has made it this far. The anxiety and aching is enough to overwhelm me completely, enough to paralyze me from functioning like a normal human being.
But I simply CANNOT let it do that to me. He’s gone for so long that I can’t just find someone to take the baby or put on Elmo for a year. Even if I didn’t have Squishy to take care of, I couldn’t do that to myself!
So I’m searching for ways to actually live. To find joy. To enjoy my days. It’s an honest internal battle that I win some days, and lose other days. Where I find my strength: God’s Word.
“This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!” It doesn’t say, “if everything is going well, if you have what you want and you are feeling well, be happy.” God made EACH day. The Halcyon days and the stormy days that you don’t know you’ll make through. Even the times where the powerful wind and rains don’t seem to ever stop. God made those days and tells us to rejoice in them.
In his letter, James tells us right off the bat, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness and let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” God is really DOING something with this trial. He is bringing something into my life that wouldn’t happen without this trial. He is making me whole, complete, more like himself. And that is joy! Knowing my Father is joy. I am constantly praying for God to show himself to me and teach me more about himself, so I am learning to accept the ways he is teaching me. Honestly, I could not learn the lessons I am learning if everything was good all the time. I have to lean on him and trust in his love!
God is also bringing me through this through physical means: endless cups of coffee, a glass of wine here and there, good friends and conversation, people who need love, my mama and dad, weddings to celebrate, sunsets, baby giggles, and lots of people to pray for.
He is good. He is worthy. Bless his Holy Name!
I don’t know how to tell non-Christians how to deal with unbelievable tragedy. I don’t know what to say when they ask how I believe in a good God when the unthinkable happens. I don’t have all the answers, I really don’t.
All I can do is go back to God’s promises and lean and trust, even when I don’t “feel” like He could possibly care about us. Even when I don’t “feel” His love. I know he did not promise an easy life. He promised trouble. And He doesn’t tell us why.
But He does tell us that He will be with us. He tells us that He will never forsake us. He does tell us that He has a good plan. He tells us that the fire will not consume us. He tells us that He fights for us. That if He is for us, who can be against us? He tells us that we do not mourn without hope.
He is good and we cannot possibly understand Him. So all we can do is trust. And turn to Him in worship, humility, and in repentance.
Let the tragedies of this world turn your face to Him who can fix everything, even if He doesn’t choose to when we think He should. Run without abandon to His loving embrace and trust in the promises He gives us in His Word.
I know that without Him, I would crumble. I would not be able to handle the weight of the world without being able to cry out to Him and give it to Him to carry. God can take our questions and doubts. He is big enough to take our fears and frustrations. He forgives, even when we get mad at Him when He is last one to deserve our anger.
Call me weak, call this a “crutch”. I don’t really care, because I know that deep down, no matter how strong anyone is on the outside, we all are crying out for answers, we are all crying out for comfort. We are all weak and feeble (try going without food for a few days – or getting shot in the stomach – and tell me that you are strong and can handle anything with grace and strength). And God knows our frames, He made us this way. He made us to need Him. Recognizing our need of Him is what sets Christians apart. He shows His strength in our weakness.
So I urge you, brothers and sisters, to turn to Him in your distress. Turn to Him when you are horrified. Turn to Him because there is nowhere else we can find true comfort in times like these.
It’s been a whirlwind of a month. Almost nothing has gone as hoped or planned. Can you spell topsy-turvy? I can: A-R-M-Y. Also, D-E-P-L-O-Y-M-E-N-T. We have been traveling all around, running around, trying to enjoy our time together, getting ready to be separated for way too long. Way too long for my heart to be ripped in two and living on opposite sides of the world. We have been throwing caution into the wind and spending cashmoney on things that we normally wouldn’t, and I can’t even tell when it’s okay and when it’s foolish. And I can barely see straight through the fog and confusion, much less through the tears. The anger. The disappointment. The pride. The sadness. Even the excitement.
I’m not sure I can explain what this life is like to anyone unfamiliar with military life. I feel like I have barely dipped my toes into the ocean of this thing called the military and my head is spinning. It’s all so new, scary, unfamiliar, frustrating, and really quite neat.
My husband’s calling – our family’s calling – is, to say the least, NOT what I expected for my life. And as I’m trying to get my bearings, I am just scrambling to hold on and stand up straight. So all I can do is keep my eyes and my feet on The Rock that is my God. All I can do is the next thing. He knows what’s going on. He has a plan. And He loves me more than I can imagine.
My days are a roller coaster of emotions and thoughts. It’s such a weird place to be in, I almost want him just to go and be gone so we can get this started so we can get it over with. I think I’m ready.
I am not doing it all perfectly. I don’t think every step, thought, and deed is honoring my God. I’m just trying to survive. It takes conscious effort to keep my eyes on Him. I suppose that’s a good thing to practice. (See? God is doing something, here).
I don’t want this year to be just about surviving. I truly want to thrive. I want my marriage to thrive and grow, I want to grow in my skills as a mother, and mostly, I want to be growing closer to my God. I have no idea what is in store.
On the one hand, I want to be thriving, but I think any Army wife will tell me that sometimes, it’s okay just to survive today. It’s okay. I’m human, frail, broken, dust. And oh, so weak. And God’s power shows through so brightly, so mightily in my weakness. So I’m going to let myself be weak for a while. I’ll let God be the strong one, carrying me through the tumultuous weeks and months before me.
If this post is confusing and hereandthere and doesn’t make sense – it’s only a reflection of where my head and heart and life are right now. So I take this opportunity to tell you all, my friends and family (and any strangers that my stumble across this), that this is where I am right now. And I need all the help, prayers, love, calls, texts, company, and hugs that I can get. Here is my cry for help to my brothers and sisters in Christ.
And my the God of grace get all the glory.
I was reading 1 Peter this morning while I was holding my teething babygirl during her nap – hoping to help her sleep longer. In chapter three, Peter begins talking about wives and husbands. It’s wonderful to read, to be reminded of the woman I am called to be. And then I read the following, “And you are [Sarah’s] children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.”
Shut. the. front. door.
Do not fear anything that is frightening? But God! It’s frightening! You want me to not be afraid of anything that is frightening? It doesn’t make any sense! Not to me, anyway. But that is what I am called to. I am called to peace, to trust, to faith. Even when it doesn’t make sense. None of these can co-exist with fear. My Good God is Sovereign. Do I really believe that? I do, but if I really do, why don’t I act like it? If I really believe that God is all Sovereign, all powerful, all wise, and all good, then truly, truly I have nothing to fear. Nothing. Not even if it is frightening.
Here are something things that I consider frightening: being away from my best friend and husband for a long time, being a single parent, a single parent to this high-needs child, sleepless nights with no backup, what if she gets really sick?, my husband being at war, what he will see, what he will do, what might happen to him, what if he doesn’t come home?, and then what about when he does?, what if he doesn’t come home whole?, him coming home not being the same man, our marriage falling apart, somehow going back to having him home when he’d been gone so long, the changes that I will face in myself, the changes in him, his scars, how his scars might hurt him, or me, or our daughter. How will anything ever be normal again?
This is the short list. And it will consume me if I let it. It will cripple and destroy me if I fear what is frightening.
I am called to not fear anything that is frightening.
Lord, help me. I choose you. I choose peace.