The Moments I don’t want to Forget.

There are moments that fashion a mother as well as a child. That fashion a father as well as a family. These are a few of the moments that have made up our days the last several months.

Writing them down helps keep them always in my memory bank.

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Last night I lept out of bed at 5:38 a.m. trying desperately to straighten a leg cramped by an excruciating charley horse.  Unable to straighten it out, I slipped and fell back on the bed before, desperately, jumping up to try again.

Tom woke up in shock, jumped out of bed and ran around to my side desperate to help…or at least understand why I was hopping in and out of bed in his middle of the night.

He instinctively rubbed my back while I forced my leg to straighten out and we crawled back into bed, half-awake, laughing.

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This morning I sit, a bit breathless, at the desk. Concentrating on paced-breathing with lungs that can’t quite fill to capacity. Lungs compressed by tiny limbs and my second heartbeat.

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Yesterday, at Tom’s insistence, I sat by myself for a quiet hour at Starbucks (he knows it refreshes me). My chair was outside and there, attended by sparrows perched along the plants, I thought about motherhood. About labor. About the gift and cost of sacrificing your very skin for someone smaller.

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A few weeks ago, I snipped tags off of clothes littler than my two palms. Tom and I sat on the nursery floor organizing tiny outfits by season and size.

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Taking seven pregnancy tests over the first 12 weeks. Clinging to the tiny plus sign as proof that all was well.

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Way, way back in January we carried our tiny secret to Mexico. We spent entire plane  flights reading about our baby the size of a sesame seed (already believing she was a daughter).

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Those first twelve weeks. Waiting, waiting to hear the heartbeat. Tom praying often for peace for me (anxiety and fear were next-breath real in that season).  Learning to breathe out illusions of control and inhale sustaining grace.

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Our first ultrasound, glimpsing the precious, little face that we’d already spent hours envisioning.  Our only good picture from the first scan was of her foot.

We hung that picture proudly on our refrigerator for the next three months.

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This weekend, pausing a movie to watch her kick and roll around instead. Stretching my body to its limits, pushing for more space.

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Skipping a babymoon so we’d have money to arrange her nursery and prepare for her arrival at the birth center. Not a sacrifice, life has different priorities now – the privilege of making decisions for three instead of two.

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The back rubs. The literally countless back rubs, foot rubs and head rubs from a patient husband bent on making pregnancy and working full-time as sustainable as possible for his wife.

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The internalized sense of confidence that I can do this. I can deliver her naturally.  Despite the naysayers who have spoken critical words -  I know I can do it. I was born to do it. I want to do it.

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Gratitude for the overwhelming, encouraging support that’s come from so many sources.

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Realizing I’m not afraid of labor.  Coming to understand that pain with a purpose is worth surrendering too.

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My first mother’s day card – hand-written by Evie (with help from her father).

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Thoughtful gifts from loving family & friends. Tiny shoes, yellow pants, pacifiers and slippers. The little things that will make her cozy.

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Learning the process of labor, the purpose of the muscles, the role of nutrition and supplements in creating a mother’s body and cradling a child’s.

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Striving to hold my dream of a natural birth loosely should her health and circumstances require otherwise.

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The moments of quiet prayer on the nursery floor. Tom lifting his daughter’s health, safety and heart to our God.

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The first time Tom felt her kick, lying still on bed with hand’s pressed on her growing home.  His face when he heard her heartbeat, relief in his eyes when a second ultrasound provided all-clears on some health questions, the joy on his face when he kisses her goodnight, Google searches on my phone for “things you need to teach a daughter”, the little “I Love Dad” onsie scored for one dollar, his dedication to researching Vitamin K injections, pregnancy nutrition and exercises to help sore muscles.

This isn’t my baby, this is our baby.

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Explaining  to Tom the difference between goldenrod and yellow during a late-night trip to Wal*Mart.

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Handmade art from her aunts & uncles. Beautifully crafted to fill her nursery with love and beauty.

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Test-driving strollers around the store. Carefully evaluating wheels, storage and handle heights.

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The day, at 14 weeks, when they couldn’t find her heartbeat. 24 hours of waiting in tearful uncertainty, surrounded by friend’s prayers, before a second attempt found her tiny heart buried deep inside me – beating away.

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Mrs. Bump & little bump (Tom’s nicknames for Evie & I).

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The growing realization that, no matter how long she’s with us on earth, this tiny girl has made us parents.  We’re forever mom & dad.

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The overwhelming gratitude for this gift and fighting to keep that perspective in the midst of physical fatigue and exhaustion.  Learning, in a deeper way, the necessity of abiding in Jesus.

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Sharing her first sudden rainstorm with my girl – soaked on a walk.

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Tom standing proudly on the porch, work-worn and filthy from the day, holding a watermelon. Well-aware that it was all his pregnant wife wanted.

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Sleepless nights, seeing the minutes and hours pass.

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Sharing the joys and learning curve of pregnancy with other expecting friends.

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Telling family – joyful tears and rich anticipation after a year of many changes.

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Tom challenging me to a healthy eating competition – one baby carrot (him) for every spinach leaf (me) in an attempt to help me get greens down.

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Explaining to Gus that he’s no longer an only child – a realization that has yet to dawn on his furry head.

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Cherishing the last moments, days and weeks alone my Tom, my best friend.

Apprehensive about all the unpredictable ways our lives will be changing but….excited and honored to be on a new journey together.

Baby Update (4).

The countdown continues with the start of 32 weeks of pregnancy on Thursday, July 4th. I plan to celebrate with a lot of watermelon and fireworks ;).

Since my last update, about a month ago, Evie has grown so much! She’s now a little under 3 1/2 pounds and about 18 inches long – kicking like crazy (particularly at 3 a.m) and STILL transverse breech. BAH. She’s been laying sideways almost the entire pregnancy and, apparently, still hasn’t run out of room. Please pray she flips around soon, it’s not the most comfortable for me and, if she stays that way, it makes natural delivery insanely complicated to impossible.

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Bump.

 She did finally get a clean bill of health at our ultrasound a few weeks ago!!!  There had been a few concerns at our first ultrasound (around 18 weeks) which, thank God, were all fully resolved (and attributed to her being so small at our first ultrasound/positioned so a clear picture was difficult) – after three months of waiting in uncertainty it was such a relief to hear. The concerns didn’t involve anything life-threatening but could have eventually required  surgery to correct a few things with her digestive system.

It was fun to get a second glimpse of her and see her little face (I think she looks like her daddy).

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Evie Claire.

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See? Haha.

I’ve continued to feel good this pregnancy. Finally made the switch from walking outdoors to walking indoors with a walking DVD – South Carolina made breathing, pregnancy and  walking impossible in the summer humidity. Walking in my living room has allowed me to average about ten miles a week. I think that and the massive amount of water I drink every day (somewhere around 150 oz.) is what’s kept swelling down so far. I have a desk job which means very little movement during the day and the potential for a LOT of swelling, I’ve been working hard to counteract that because  I HATE the tingling feeling of swollen hands and feet. So far so good but, with some weeks left to go and my SC address it could still happen.

Still no food cravings. I just don’t think it’ll happen this pregnancy – still a slight aversion to greens (and occasionally greek yogurt. Weird. Sometimes it’s so…gloppy). I disguise the greens in smoothies and eggs which makes it manageable to eat a lot of them, looking forward to having a predictable appetite again soon though. And looking forward to sleeping on my stomach, oh, sweet heaven.

Random tidbits: had heartburn last night for the first time during this pregnancy (unpleasant) – holding out hope for Evie to have hair?? We start our childbirth class in a few weeks and are knee-deep in reading up on all things baby (vitamin K injections, newborn eye ointment, choosing a pediatrician, baby schedules etc.). I like to know what all of the options are before I make a decision about something which boils down too…a lot of reading and research. Thankfully I like both reading and researching. Also, surprise coffee dates with the hubs, where you spend two hours trading information on vaccinations, are a whole new level of sexy in marriage, haha.

I can’t wait to see Tom hold his girl. He keeps talking to her and about her and asking me when “little bump” (not to be confused with Mrs. Bump – me, haha) will arrive. He wants to come home and see his tiny daughter “laying on the floor on her blanket having tummy time” (a sentence he’s said to me about 50 times). Tom is such a wonderful combination of strong and sweet, we have a lot to learn about parenting but I’m so excited to share the journey with him.

Finally, we’re making lot of progress on the nursery! I hate starting projects early so we did nothing, literally nothing for about the first seven months. Now though, with a due date in nine weeks and a full-term baby in six we should probably prepare.

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Nursery colors.

We’ve cleared out the corner of the study that will be her nursery and will be painting some gray stripes on the walls this weekend. Since we have to move in the spring I’m trying to decorate with items that can be easily transported and will keep the same decorative feel in her room.

We were kindly given a changing table that I’ll be touching up to match our crib (my project this weekend while Tom stripes the walls). We’ve also been collecting little accessories for her nursery – her initial in my favorite color (I also want to get some wicker baskets in this shade for the changing table), the perfect yellow pillow for her rocker, a laundry hamper that reminds me of India, the changing table and a beautiful canvas done by my sweet sister (for encouragement in labor).

(you can click on each individual picture to see them full-size).

I also bought the first clothes I’ve purchased for her this week  (aside from a pink onsie I got when we found out we were pregnant – even then we had a feeling she was a girl). I found three rompers and two sleepers at a children’s consignment shop (oh, and a onsie that says “I <3 Dad” :D).  The clothes are so TINY! Seriously, she has a pair of yellow socks that are barely as long as my finger.

As we press on into the final stages it’s starting to feel more and more real.

Currently, I have such a peace about the rest of the pregnancy and the decisions we’re making for her. Don’t get me wrong, we’re anxious to meet her and I’m curious how my specific labor and delivery will go but… I know she’ll come when she’s ready and, with Tom by my side and the care of some wonderful midwives I’m confident we can do this. I’ve tried to prepare well physically with diet and nutrition, mentally with studying and understanding pregnancy and labor and emotionally with conversations with Tom and our midwives about expectations and pacing in labor. Spiritual preparation has been a really beautiful time of late-night prayers laying on her nursery floor and talking about how we’ll love her and teach her grace. We’ve done what we can but, at the end of the day I’m reminded how much I can’t control with my pregnancy (something I wrestled with a lot at the beginning).

I can prepare as well as possible and things could still unfold differently than I expect. Somehow just taking time to speak that truth out loud is freeing. It reminds me that it’s not my job to ensure everything happens according to a set plan – I’m trying to hold my preferences loosely while still working towards them. We’ll see what the next few weeks hold but right now, today, I’m resting in the indescribable gift of a healthy daughter (who, at this moment is fiercely kicking the computer desk) and the reality that the sustaining grace of God is abundant for whatever the future holds.

One more thing, this song (which I may have posted before?). It’s been of my favorites this whole pregnancy but especially now as we’re reaching the end; I love listening to it and thinking about a day soon when I can hold her in my arms, not my belly, and dance her around her little room.

Something Sacred.

When it was announced this morning that the Supreme Court had overthrown the Defense of Marriage Act – I was sad.

According to celebratory Facebook statues and blogs, not to mention the relentless media coverage, sadness isn’t a popular response. For me though, it’s an honest one.

It’s often assumed that, because I’m 26, I believe in multiple definitions of marriage and am in support of the entire gay rights movement. I have respected friends on every side of this issue and it’s often a struggle for me to know how to engage a topic I hold so dear (marriage) with people I care so much about.

I typically keep conversations on homosexuality, gay rights and marriage equality restricted to one-on-one talks. I hate how instantly divisive these topics are (though I can understand why) and I feel I communicate better about them without the pressure of an audience. I’m incredibly grateful for friends, both gay and straight, who are willing to talk with me about these things – the entire conversation about these complex topics has been kept on mute for much to long.

Today though, I’m sad.

My faith makes marriage significantly more than an exclusive sexual, emotional and committed relationship; it renders it a reflection of Trinitarian Divinity. While I hardly rely on the Supreme Court to provide me with basis for ethics or my beliefs it’s hard for me to see the definition of marriage I believe in re-written.

I realize the irony – it’s what has been happening to my gay friends for years; their relationships have been trivialized and their status questioned. I don’t wish that for them and sometimes I think how much easier it would be if I could abandon my particular convictions on this whole topic. It can be exhausting to explain and defend them in a culture that has lost a Biblical definition of marriage.

Yet, I cannot abandon what I hold true about marriage. It’s written on my heart.

As I wrote in a blog on this topic last year; The intimacy between husband and wife represents the love of Christ for his church, the sacrificial love a husband should have for his wife imitates the sacrifice of Christ on the cross and His leadership of the church, a wife’s submission to leadership is reflective of the believer’s submission to their God. Marriage, at its core is spiritual (even though no marriage always feels that way).

“Did He not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union?” – Malachi 2:15

There are aspects of God’s character a man represents and aspects of his character a woman represents. Together they are meant to be the fullest picture of God to a very hurting world; strong, sensitive, gracious, protective, loving, courageous, nurturing and warm.

A man and a woman’s one flesh union is deeply intimate. The way our bodies were created to connect is astounding; a man and woman are two halves of a whole. Symmetry, connectivity, life-long companionship.

That definition of marriage is foreign to our post-Christian, secular world. When sex is a past-time marriage is, at best, a loose contract. The reflections of the Divine grow fainter and fainter.

My faith requires I accept certain limits, certain boundaries, but it demands I love and serve everyone regardless of whether they fall inside, outside or around those limits. Just like my Savior did.

I’m not going to be long-winded or melodramatic about this. I just felt the need to acknowledge that something I hold extremely sacred slipped a little further away today.

Thankfully, the call I have on my life remains exactly the same as it did yesterday - to live as a person defined by both truth and grace, that’s a sustainable calling (and a mandatory one) regardless of what culture says about marriage.

God, help me be true to it.

Baby Update (3).

The five weeks since my last post have held a lot of pregnancy milestones! It’s been an exciting time of watching our little girl grow, feeling her kicks get stronger and seeing her dance across my belly.

To start things off – a picture (again, an awkward bump selfie).

29 weeks

Thursday starts 29 weeks which means two key things – we are almost one week into THIRD trimester and I’m now SEVEN months pregnant. Those numbers are in caps because I’m still kind of in shock at how fast this stage of my life is flying by.

This morning I had my glucose and hemoglobin tests – thankfully both had excellent results. Our last ultrasound is the end of this month. Since I will (hopefully) be having a natural birth they want to give a last all clear on things like the placement of the placenta etc. (clearly this is a post for the women ;)). I’m so excited to get a glimpse of her squirmy little self again! My arms are aching to hold her.

Lately my favorite things to do is watch her kick. She’s sixteen inches long now and about 2 1/2 pounds so her kicks have gotten longer and stronger. At night I lay on the couch and count the seconds until her little feet and arms move. Last night she was rolling around like a dolphin, Tom could see it from across the living room.

Today at my midwife appointment Evie kicked the stethoscope about eight times! We were all laughing watching her react to the pressure of hands and the stethoscope on her little home. She likes to move around a lot, I feel her kicking all over the place – she’ll run out of room to move soon and, when she does, let’s hope she settles into a good position for birth (start praying now!).

Fun things I want to remember from the last few weeks;

- Tom has started calling me Mrs. Bump. Makes me laugh every time.

- Tom now calls his daughter “my little”.  Absolutely precious.

- I still want watermelon. I think that’s less a craving/more summer in SC.

- Evie got caught in her first rainstorm yesterday (my attempt at a walk was cut short), even though she had no idea it was fun to share that with her. There are so many things  I can’t wait to introduce my girl too.

Other updates: Still no other (noticeable) cravings and finally less aversion to greens! I’ve been blending them into fruit smoothies for months to get the nutrients but, at long last, I ate and enjoyed a spinach salad for lunch yesterday. Sleeping is getting even more interesting, I’m averaging about 4 hours a night of uninterrupted sleep and 2-3 where I wake up about once an hour. Ughh. More thankful than ever for a receptionist job that doesn’t demand a lot of energy.

Speaking of jobs, last month we finally made the decision that I would leave my job this fall. I’ve picked up enough freelance work that I can supplement our income from home and, since we own our tiny trailer, staying home is a little more of a financial possibility. I’m giddy. I’m also humbled that this is happening for us – I know so many mom’s who want to be home and just can’t. I am a little apprehensive (some days a lot apprehensive) as my freelance jobs are nowhere near the same as what I make working full-time but, after a lot of prayer, Tom & I both feel it’s the right decision for our little family this year – we’ll continue to reevaluate in the stages to come. Thankfully, we both love to budget and are fine with eating lots of quinoa, which should help in the financial transition – haha.

Our girl is coming so soon.

My last day of work is August 16th – I’ll be 37 weeks which means it’s safe for her to come. My due date is in twelve weeks – what?! We still haven’t done anything in the way of decorating the nursery. However, after much looking I settled on her colors/beddings :) (yes, I’ve changed it since my last post). We’re going with a classic yellow/gray combination that somehow reminds me of both rainy days and spring sunshine. It’s also got some Indian prints which I love!91UN7tbWx2L._SL1500_

Since Evie will actually be  getting more of a nursery corner than a full nursery (as the other half of the room is her dad’s study) I think her room will come together pretty quickly. We’re going do paint some stripes on the wall in her corner and add a few little decorative touches  – since we’ll be moving when she’s about 7 months old we’re not going to be doing any major decorating.

In other semi-related baby news; we’ve been talking about going away for a weekend before she comes – one last trip with just Tom & I (though, technically, Evie’s already been with us to Mexico). We’re thinking about Atlanta? I’ve never been but I LOVE aquariums and have been wanting to visit the Georgia aquarium for a few years now. We don’t have a lot of time or money but  a little weekend to see some fish and celebrate her soon arrival sounds worth it to me.

Any other fun (cheap) babymoon ideas?

All for now.

Steps to Symbiosis.

The cold, not-so-hard truth: my husband & I are not newlyweds anymore.

Hear me out on this ;).

We have a loooonng way to go before we hit a milestone of any significant kind (though, isn’t every day married, every kind word spoken and every loving action a milestone?) but, as we prepare to celebrate a year and a half of marriage, it’s dawning on me – we’re not newlyweds anymore. Not really.

In the last 18 months (the official date is in June) our lives have dramatically transformed. We started out in a tiny apartment, I had no job, we had limited experience in decision-making as a couple and almost everything in our lives was new; from our dishes, to our home address, to sex, to how we managed our time.

Last spring I was blessed with a full-time job and, a few months of scrimping and saving later (plus Tom taking on lots of overtime), we  purchased, painted, tiled, repaired and installed a few appliances in our “new” (haha, new in 1981) mobile home. We found and joined our wonderful church, made the decision to start our family (God apparently agreed because five seconds later our family was started) and Tom was accepted into a Master’s program which he began in January.

At 5:30 this morning it dawned on me (no pun intended) that we’ve developed mutual symbiosis in the past year and half. If marriage is a dance all the hours we’ve spent rehearsing steps are paying off in the moments when life demands we freestyle. We’ve learned how to think on our feet and stay in synch in a significantly more consistent way than we knew how to do in December of 2011 after we said “I do”.

To explain why I realized that this morning I need to back up 7 1/2 hours to 10:30 the night before.

For only the second time in our marriage (not an exaggeration) I went to bed after Tom. Granted, it was by about ten minutes but, after six months of going to bed closer to dinnertime than any actual bedtime, I’ll make last night my claim to fame. I walked into the bedroom and saw Tom’s Bible study book on the floor near the bed (he leaves for men’s Bible study at 5:45 on Thursday mornings).

Instantly I knew two things:

1) He would forget the book the next day.

2) I was too tired to take the book into the living room and put it where he would see it.

The alarm went off at 5:30 and I heard him get up and gently close the door so I wouldn’t be too disturbed (he needn’t have worried, Evie had been tap dancing on my bladder for at least 45 minutes). I rolled over to his side (no small feat at six months pregnant) and felt around on the floor for the book.

I know him well. He had indeed forgotten it.

In that moment, blind without my glasses and in the dark, I mustered all my upper body strength and spun the book under the closed, bedroom door and into the hallway where he would have to trip over it and therefore remember it.

Symbiosis.

Mutually working together to get life done.

To his credit Tom has plenty of symbiotic moments too.

Last week my favorite glass picture frame fell off the top of the refrigerator and shattered on the kitchen floor. Somewhere between my panicked gasp (as I saw it start to fall) and the crash when it splintered into pieces, Tom was already on his feet, in the kitchen with the dustpan, sweeping it all up.

He was there because he’s learned two things about me;

1) I get mad/sad when things break.

2) The best way to comfort me is to clean it up ASAP.

Symbiosis.

Mutually working together to get life done.

I have some dearly loved siblings getting married in the next few weeks. They’ve chosen (and been chosen by) future spouses who truly love them and are all committed to building a great marriage; it’s beautiful to see. Thinking about their weddings (and the many other beautiful weddings that have and are happening this time of year) sent me back to our first year (which, thankfully, wasn’t that far back to remember ;)).

I’ve very interested in relationships (always have been).

Not just the end result but the process – how they develop, why they develop, how they can be made stronger. I started thinking about this idea of symbiosis in marriage and how it began to develop in my own relationship (as well as things we did that well, temporarily killed it). If you’re just starting out here are a few ideas of what worked from a couple about two steps further down the road ( because really, in the whole scope of our married lives a year and a half is just the beginning).

1) Cry in front of each other.

If this is already easy for your that’s wonderful. It wasn’t for me.

I’m alright with crying when I’m happy or sad but, expressing through tears (or very honest words) when I’m hurt feels too vulnerable. Learning to cry in front of Tom when we’ve hurt each other acknowledges two things. First, our love for each other (which is why we have the ability to hurt each other in the first place) and two, our willingness to stick things out until we resolve.

For the first few months of our marriage I struggled to give him those gifts of vulnerability and commitment through conflict.

What I began to learn though was that hiding behind a locked door (my modus operandi) doesn’t accomplish anything; especially when paired with the words “I just want to be alone”. Sometimes that’s true but more often that not it’s a useless phrase hiding the question “do you care enough to come after me when I’m running away from you?”.

Tom has done a lot of coming after me (who knew that bobby pins had so many lock picking purposes?). His faithfulness to pursue me in very unlovely moments has been one of the single greatest gifts of our marriage.

I’m learning a new way.

A more vulnerable, less prideful way of conflict resolution. A way that includes tears, honestly acknowledging your hurts and, also, learning that tears and hurt are normal parts of marriage.

I’m also learning the healing power that comes when the one who caused the tears is also the one to dry the tears. That is redemption. That is marital vulnerability.

2) Acknowledge (and move towards accepting) each other’s quirks.

We all have them.

I (internally) freak out if the couch cushions are crooked (I’m working on it). I strongly prefer the bed made (because, duh, it makes the house feel different). Tom likes the strawberries in his lunch cut in half not whole and prefers to keep his flip-flops by the coat rack not on the porch.

I could go on and on.

Quirks.

We’re learning to adapt where we can and accept each other where we can’t. Now? I try to remember to put the armrest down if I’m the one to drive the van last and, a few mornings ago, Tom headed back down the hallway before work to make the bed because he knows it matters to me.

I think a lot of couples either pretend they’re not bothered by little things their spouse does (in a false attempt at keeping the peace) or assume they have the right to demand their spouse change everything that offends them. At different times Tom & I  have tried both.

After a year and a half of living with each other we’re finding the road to peace is somewhere in the middle. When we expect perfection and smooth sailing is when we’re disappointed, when we train ourselves to expect occasional frustration, to be embarrassed, to have to pick up each other’s slack in various areas – that’s when we’re able to proceed far more smoothly.

Realistic expectations are build when you acknowledge and accept the quirks and work with what you can.

3) Take time to be together.

I’ve written about this before but it’s too important in the first year or marriage not to mention again.

Prioritize your marriage.

I was shocked how quickly our calendar threatened to fill up with overtime at work, church commitments, time with friends and family, small group etc.

Time may be the single greatest gift (on top of stalwart commitment) that you can give your marriage.

The reality is that learning conflict resolution takes time, building a satisfying sexual relationship takes time, combing over the budget so your both on the same page about finances? Time. Researching graduate schools? Time. In-depth discussions about when to start your family, where to live, what car to buy? Time.

Let yourself be home together in the first months of evenings in your marriage. That gives you the space to let a disagreement over dinner flow into a heart-to-heart about what words you need to hear when you’re upset, how you grew up seeing conflict handled, ways you can grow and more.

If it sounds like a lot of work that’s because it can be.

Make yourselves some coffee (or chocolate pudding…or apple slices) and lay a solid foundation for the rest of your marriage. You won’t always have the time or need to spend three hours hashing through the small things but the ability to do so quickly (between dinner and church on a Wednesday night) is built when you spend the time practicing in the early days of your marriage.

4) Assess your relationship. 

Tom & I ask each other and ourselves a lot of questions about our relationship.

Why does that hurt me?

How can I fix it?

Why do we keep getting stuck here?

How can I serve you better?

Keep two fingers on the pulse of your marriage. Don’t choke the life out of it with interrogations and comparisons but regularly evaluate the pro’s and con’s, up’s and down’s of life together.

Stagnant water mildews, stagnant relationships become routine. Mix it up – ask tough questions that you don’t know how to answer and explore solutions, together.

5) Choose contentment.

Choose each other. Over and over again choose each other.

There are a lot of reasons to be discontent in a marriage – some valid. There are reasons of abuse and infidelity to leave a marriage. However, most of us don’t leave and don’t gripe at our spouse for those reasons. Most of us get fed up with the day-to-day realities of living with another person.

We burn out on the underwear on the floor, late dinners, stolen blankets during the night. Those are normal part of marriage but they can get wearisome. Choosing to press through and balance them out with  rose petals on the floor, late brunch on a lazy Saturday and stolen kisses under the blankets helps in choosing contentment during the dry seasons of extra work hours, exam weeks, early bedtime from pregnancy fatigue.

Contentment is always a choice. Always.

6) Celebrate each other.

You guys, this is probably my favorite point.

Tom & I love to celebrate things. Our cat turned one? Small party. Tom got a sale at work? We’ll light a special candle at dinner. It’s Thursday? Back rubs on the living room floor (which temporarily becomes a spa).  Know your spouse’s favorite meal, snack, ice cream store, color and flower. Bonus: know their least favorite chore to do around the house (and occasionally surprise them by doing it – otherwise your knowledge works against you ;)).

Sometimes the celebration is simple as standing in the card aisle of Wal*Mart and picking out the card we would buy each other – you can read it, feel celebrated and put it back without spending a dime (true story: Tom has chased me down in the store multiple times with a card he picked out just for me, than we drop it back off on our way to the checkout line). Sometimes the celebration is as elaborate as Mexico for our first anniversary.

Oh, Mexico.

Our week there was seriously one of the best weeks of my life. Planning and saving for the trip was something we did together, anticipating it and counting down the days was something we did together, packing and boarding a plane? Together. The togetherness leading up to it culminated in a week of celebrating each other.

Just thinking about the spring sunshine, the balcony in our room, the secret of Evie Claire that we knew about but kept to ourselves, the nights spent barefoot on the beach, evening dinner reservations, card games in the coffee shop, books we got to read, devotions and prayer times overlooking the ocean – mmm, absolutely wonderful and irreplaceable memories.

The time and money (which is sometimes $0.00) spent on preparing a celebration of any size is always worth it. Make sure your spouse knows you see them and appreciate all they do.

So, the moral of this lengthy post is: your first year of marriage, get used to vulnerability, accept each other’s quirks, take time to be together and tackle hard things, assess the strengths and weaknesses you have as a couple that make your marriage unique, be content with your choice of spouse and, at the end of every day, celebrate them like crazy.

Baby Update (2).

The last (and only) baby update I wrote was when I was 18 weeks pregnant – now? Thursday starts 24 weeks and I’m six months in!

What in the world?

Evie - six months

Evie’s already wearing pink.

Another few weeks and Tom, Evie, Gus and I (yes, this is very much a team effort ;)) begin the third and, thank God, final trimester.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying my pregnancy but I’m definitely not one of those women who lives to be pregnant. It’s an odd set of physical limitations to work with. I like manual labor, I really do. I enjoy randomly re-arranging all of the furniture in the house; lifting TV’s, pushing dressers and moving couches.  I like yard work, I like sore muscles and I like cleaning and re-arranging closets, cabinets and corners for hours at a time. I’ve never (ever, ever, ever) been athletic (HA) but I’ve always been active  and pretty strong for a girl. It’s hard for me to just…sit (unless it’s pouring rain and I’m on my porch).

In a way, pregnancy may be the best thing for my spiritual life.

I’m learning stillness.

I can’t lie, it feels a tiny bit like a prison sentence. A mandatory restriction to the couch when I didn’t do anything wrong. Yet, in these days of physical fatigue and extra precautions (read: Tom making me swear not to pick up the bed…again) to keep my body healthy and help keep Evie safe, I’m learning contentment (again) and the value of stillness (again).

Solitude will never be my natural bent. I didn’t grow up with it (oldest of six children) and don’t necessarily crave it (unless I’m sick) but I still need it.

Silence is also speech – Unknown

Silence has spiritual lessons no sounds can teach. I know I miss out on those valuable lessons sometimes. I listen more fully when I’m physically still. I’m remembering that.

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness.  God is the friend of silence.  See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence…. We need silence to be able to touch souls.  ~Mother Teresa

More updates; Evie is 8 inches long and  weights about 1.2 pounds. We got to see her little legs kicking and her tiny heartbeat on our ultrasound last month! Some moments I’m so absolutely overwhelmed with love her that I want to cry (thank you, hormones). A few days ago I was at Dunkin’ Donuts (to pick up my…vitamins. Duh) and she kicked me.  That little reminder of her precious life was enough to make me tear up while trying to pay the poor (utterly confused) cashier.

At six months pregnant I crave watermelon. All the time. Sadly watermelon’s are still seven dollars apiece and…I can’t justify that. Come soon, summer watermelon prices, come soon.  I’m still not sleeping much – which makes my full-time job interesting at best and torture at worst. I have started taking naps over my lunch break (errands will just have to wait) which helps. I also finally look pregnant which is fun!

We have our baby registry - I LOVE the bedding we picked out for her. We recently found out we’ll need to move in a year (when Evie’s about seven months old) which changed a lot of my nursery plans. I plan to decorate with pictures, bright bedding and fun colors instead of re-painting the room (since decorative items are portable). I’m so excited about her that I’m even looking forward to having a diaper bag. It’s come to that.

In closing, one funny pregnancy story: last week I was at Target buying a vacuum for a wedding gift. I lifted it into the shopping cart but, when I got to the register, was forbidden to lift it from the cart (by the tiny lady behind me in line). She was sweet and said I “shouldn’t be lifting that” (if only she knew about my re-decorated living room). That was the first time in my pregnancy that anything like that has happened, when I told Tom the story I ended with “it was my first….my first…what IS that called?”. He calmly suggested that I had a received a “pregnant help”. YES. A pregnant help.

Then, the next day I was asked out by a random guy in the Aldi’s parking lot – which is less of a pregnant help and more of a pregnant…what the heck?

The adventure continues.

P.S. In my moments of mandatory stillness this song has been an incredible blessing. Enjoy.

Guest Post: Fun Activities with your Newborn!

Last week I was able to write a guest post over at Life n’ Stats! The blog is finally live – click on it and leave a comment? I’d love to keep writing for them and, the more views my post guests, the better my chances :).

Click here to read my post!

Thanks so much for your support everyone, breaking into freelance writing is HARD work. I truly appreciate the kind words, emails and encouragement from all of you as I’m pressing on with something I enjoy so much!

A Letter to my Daughter.

My precious Evie,

I felt you kicking your little legs last night.

Curled up next to your dad, grieving Boston and coming changes, your innocence brought me hope. Your feet haven’t touched a fallen earth, your fingers haven’t had to wave goodbye, your heart hasn’t been broken.

But all those things will happen, Evie. They’ll happen over and over again while you’re here.

I can’t write that without tears.

Thinking about all the inevitable pain I can’t protect you from. You’re going to grieve, you’re going to lose things that are so precious to you, your heart will be shaken in ways that cut you to your very core.

Since I can’t protect you from everything I’ll do my devoted best to prepare you for life in a shattered world.

I want to say this about faith in Jesus Christ to you, Evie Claire: it’s the heart and soul of your parent’s lives. You are already prayed for every single day; that your limbs would grow strong, organs would develop and that your wild and precious life would, one day, be devoted to Jesus.

We can’t force that belief on you, Daughter (nor would we want too, a forced faith isn’t faith it’s obligation).  You’re not ours to program or mold into our preferred image. You’re ours to discover, to forgive, to show grace too. We’re yours to ask questions of, to wrestle with your faith and struggle through tough issues with.  Don’t be afraid to ask things that shake your world just, please, talk to us about them.

I’ve lived seasons of my life silenced by fear. It’s not the way to go. We will talk with you about anything and everything, Evie. Your faith (or lack of it), your sexuality, your college choices (if you go), your fears and dreams. We will certainly not always have an easy answer but we will wrestle through it with you, we will find our knees in prayer for you and we will hug you so tightly you can’t breathe. You will always have a home with us, somewhere where everything you are belongs.

You’ll meet a lot of people who don’t believe in Jesus. You’ll meet people who have been crushed by others claiming to be Christian’s. You’ll see fights about religious, debates about what to believe (or why you shouldn’t believe anything), you’ll be pelted with arguments for and against every facet of your faith. You’ll have friends who don’t agree, other friends who reject everything they’ve been taught. In the midst of all, look to Jesus.

When Christian’s preach reconciliation and grace and live division and hate, look to Jesus. When your heart is divided between loves, look to Jesus. When you’re terrified that everything you know is slipping away, look to Jesus. When you can’t see him for the mist of the flatlands still gaze towards him, morning will come.  He has promised and, Evie, in my 26 years on earth I’ve found him faithful. Not predictable, easily understood or always visible but eternally faithful.

Can you seem Him, Evie? Can you? His face and body crushed for us? His life an exercise in precisely balanced truth and grace? He is the purest love you’ll ever know. He is The Constant in a world spinning off its axis.

Before you even know Jesus you’ll see him reflected in your daddy and me. That’s a high calling for us, a humble task.

Oh Evie, the first thing your dad did, when we found out you were a girl, was to look up  lists of everything a daughter needs to learn from her dad. He’s got you covered in the life skills department, honey. More importantly,  he will help you see what it means to love like Jesus did, He won’t do it perfectly but he’s committed to it. To you.  He’ll encourage you, tickle you till you laugh so hard you cry, teach you Greek, read you books and hold your tiny hands while he prays over your little bed. I know this because he does all those things for your momma (plus some).

You’ll see so many things that break your heart when you’re here.

Let them break it.

Stay pliable. Stay sensitive. Stay compassionate. Don’t hide behind arguments or anger. Grieve the pain and injustice than jump in to do something about it. Life’s not primarily about you, you are absolutely loved and valuable but your “job” while you’re here is to pour yourself out for the needs and hurts of those around you.

Be a healer, Evie.

Be a woman who helps others. Make a difference in a thousand small ways, they’ll add up to change lives.

I want you to know that life is not about what you wear, how much you weigh or where you work – you’ll meet people who try to convince you it’s about all three. Be the best you possible (you’re one of a beautiful kind), raise your glass in a toast to everything you’ll never be and move on with your life. Don’t waste time agonizing over what you’re not.

Be kind to every person you meet, honey. They all matter as much as you do. You don’t have to (and shouldn’t) let yourself be treated badly or agree with everyone’s actions but each human being deserves your utmost respect. Whether you agree with them or not, whether you like them or not, whether they respect you or not. You’ll have to stand up for unpopular things in your life, Evie. Your convictions may not always be widely accepted but you must never forget that you walk a fine line , balancing grace and truth, that’s suspended over beating hearts. See the person in every human.

There are a lot of big lessons and bigger truths in this letter and, when we meet you in September, Evie, you’re going to be a very little person. It’s all intertwined to me though. The reason you’ll talk to us about the big things is because we were faithful to be your dad and mom in the little things.

There’s so much I don’t know; where you’ll take your first steps, what country you’ll grow up in, how many siblings you’ll have, what your first word will be, what needs you’ll have, where you’ll struggle, how long we’ll have you, how long you’ll have us. So many question marks.

What I know is that every second of every day that we have each other; we’ll be there for you.

Holding you at 3 a.m. Changing another diaper. Teaching you to play with Gus (oh, you’ll love Gus), helping you count the flowers, practicing your letters, letting you be a helper even when you’re doing everything but helping, feeding you cheese, taking care of any special needs you might have, teaching you about life, showing you Jesus (and, oh Evie, you need him to make it through life). Through the in’s and out’s, the up’s and down’s, the everyday mundane. They’ll be rough days, you’ll be sick, I’ll be tired, you’ll be need, I’ll be anxious, you’ll be cranky and I’ll be angry – at times, all three of us will probably be crying but your dad and I will be there.  You’re our girl. Forever.

There’s so much more I want to say but I’ll save it for future letters, future whispers in your newborn ears and future talks when both of us are squished into your bed.

I love you so much,

Mom

Evie Claire.

Our precious baby GIRL will be here in September!! :) Her name is pronounced with a long e: ee-vee and we’re counting the seconds until we get to meet her!

EC1 (E)

EC3 (E)

Baby Update (1).

First, bump selfies? Nearly impossible to take (here’s today’s attempt).

FotoFlexer_Photo

Yay, you can see the bump!

I realized last night that I haven’t done a real pregnancy update post and, suddenly, I wanted too.  So, here goes (male readers -you’re welcome to stick around but I’m not under any delusions that this is a post that will thrill you. Don’t worry I’m not the slightest bit offended).

The Bump has finally arrived! We found out about the baby so early (around 4 1/2 – 5 weeks) that it felt like an eternity before there was anything to show for it!  The belly still comes and go’s a little bit but, as Tom said last night, “wow, I can really SEE it now!”.  It seems to be sticking around on a more regular basis.

This week we head into EIGHTEEN weeks of pregnancy. Our ultrasound is scheduled for early April (yes, we’re finding out the gender and yes, we’re telling people) which will officially be the half-way point!

So far I’ve had a great pregnancy. Mild on the nausea and extreme on the fatigue (seriously, around 8:30 most nights Tom asks if he should tuck me into bed. Also, most nights I say yes). I am starting to feel a little more energized but it comes in unpredictable spurts – on Saturday I couldn’t stop checking things off my to-do list. Yesterday? All I could do get out of bed and finish the must-do’s. In theory this gets better? Still waiting for that (though, I will take fatigue over throwing up any day). I’ve been able to keep my full-time job and stay involved in most church, family, small group activities. Very grateful for that.

Currently? I’m slowly gathering ideas for the baby registry/nursery – I don’t like clutter so we plan to just get the essentials and add as we need too. I’m thrilled to (almost) be able to choose some colors and nursery decor. I love Indian needlepoints and prints, turquoise, yellow, gray and navy so I know we’ll be building off those. Here are some ideas of what I’m thinking (all from various places around Pinterest).

We’re desperately trying to decide on a boy’s name (we’ve had our girl’s name since we were dating). We’re both 100% convinced it’s a girl buuuuttttt just to be safe we want a boy’s name too. We’d honestly be thrilled either way. We want boys and girls through a combination of natural birth and adoption – whatever order and way they want to come is fine with us.

Tom has been amazingly patient with me.

I’ve been more emotional about everything and, as already mentioned, a lot more tired. He’s been a faithful provider of back-rub’s, tolerant of the same quick dinners and comforting when I randomly dissolve into a puddle of tears (which, thankfully hasn’t been too often, ha!). His prayers for me and the health and safety of this baby are precious. He’s eagerly waiting for the day when he can feel the baby kick (he checks every night to see if he can feel even a little wiggle!) I’m very grateful for his kindness and provision as my husband and can’t wait to see him snuggle our baby.

I haven’t had any (noticeable) cravings. Early on I couldn’t get enough tomatoes and cheese….but I already ate those. I still hate pickles. No change there, haha. I gave up caffeine (in the form of coffee, I also hate soda) when we found out we were pregnant (I realize this isn’t 100% necessary – it was my personal preference). We’ve also been eating a lot more fruits, veggies and leaner proteins – the result is that, even without morning sickness, I’ve lost ten pounds in the first four 1/2 months. WEIRD. I’ll certainly take it, I was just  a surprise each time I stepped on the scale . I want to be as healthy as possible during this pregnancy (while, umm, still eating frozen yogurt). I’ll gain every oz. the baby needs to thrive but I want to be as intentional as I can to make the rest of my pregnancy, labor, delivery and recovery as  healthy as I personally can. Pray I’m not overwhelmed too regularly by the desire for pasta ;).

Lately, we’re just getting excited to discover who this baby is. Taking guesses about their little features and personality. Praying that we’ll be able to teach them about grace and unconditional love. Brainstorming art projects and games we’ll get around too eventually. There’s (obviously) so much we don’t know about parenting. Yet, I know in time and with much prayer and practice we’ll figure it out.

Counting down the days to meet you, baby. We love you so much already.