Thursday, June 27, 2013

All Other Ground is Sinking Sand

"On Christ the Solid Rock I stand,
all other ground is sinking sand"
- from the hymn "Solid Rock"

I wish this was true every moment of the day, but it's not, like not at all. Like any human, I strive and I fail and shake my fist at God and then I hide from Him in shame and then I go to sleep, wake up and press repeat. And He graciously gives me the humility and the perspective over and over again to see that He's calling me to let all of this go and stand on the solid rock of Christ that He's provided. It's not about what I can and cannot do, it's all contingent on what Christ already did. And yet I get up day after day and I strive, fail, shake my fist... different day, same story. And He deals with me with new graces every single day. And I'm learning. I'm struggling and it hurts and oh my word I spend so much of my life just wishing this was not my lot to be refined by the means He uses because I don't like the way it feels to have my selfish nature pulled away bit by bit. But if I'm honest with myself and with Him, I'm learning and I'm thankful and maybe even joyful (what?! Is this what Paul meant when he said "Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds"?). 

And so now that I've established this Truth that I'm constantly fighting against - that Christ is the solid rock I must stand upon alone - let me delve into the equally important second half of this lyric. "All other ground is sinking sand". I cannot put into words how very true this sentence is or how much my life as a whole but especially lately has been a hauntingly accurate picture of it. Yes, hauntingly. Because sinking sand is serious business. We're not talking about a crack in the pavement that causes you to stumble and scrape your knee (which can be bandaged and will heal) or a pothole that causes a flat tire (that can be patched up or at worst replaced), we're talking about sinking sand. You don't get out of sinking sand alive. Everyone can conjure up an image of it, probably not from personal experience because it's not something we really deal with in our industrialized Western culture, but there's a scene from a movie you saw as a kid or maybe as an adult (fellow 80's kids, you're probably with me on thinking of the terribly sad scene from "The Never Ending Story" of the horse that dies in the sinking sand while the boy just screams and cries as his companion is sucked into the earth). So whatever this image is, you have it in your head now, right? Focus on it. Think of the person or animal that is trapped in the sinking sand. Think of how they got there. They stumbled upon it right? Or maybe someone warned them and they kept going, thinking that they'd be fine - after all, it doesn't look like it could kill them. But there they are, being basically eaten alive by the ground beneath them. Reason, which permits them to think that the ground will continue to hold them as they walk, has defied them. This is what it means to stand on anything other than the rock of Christ. It means death, because let's face it, you don't really get out of sinking sand. You die in it. 

Have I depressed you yet? I'm sorry. I'm feeling it a little bit myself with all of that imagery! But I'm getting to the hope part. I just have to make sure that I've made it clear how desperate our disposition is before I get to that part because it really makes it all come together and makes it all the more sweeter to see just what a solid rock we have in Christ. So now I'll share a little of my own life that paints this haunting picture of sinking sand and how Christ graciously pulls me out time and time again, restoring me to the rock of my salvation so that I don't just die in the sinking sand that I keep walking right into.

A little over 3 weeks ago, I gave birth to my second child, another baby girl. Nope, this isn't my birth story (though that is coming) but it does have a lot to do with my life surrounding the birth of my daughter. I'd be lying if I said that these 3 weeks have been full of joy. That doesn't mean that there haven't been many sweet moments and that she isn't a wonderful blessing because those things are true. But unlike the overly romanticized and sticky sweet picture of the beautiful (and thin) glowing blonde mother with her hair waving in the wind, wearing a flowy dress in a field of flowers, smiling at her newborn baby who is also returning the sentiment, I'm living in the reality of having a newborn baby and a toddler. This means that I need to lose 20 pounds, my boobs are constantly leaking milk, my eyes are frequently pouring out tears because of hormonal changes, I'm the most tired and the impatient I've ever been. I'm worried that my newborn baby is going to cry and I won't be able to soothe her like I couldn't with my first. I'm worried that she won't gain enough weight and that my body will fail to make enough milk to meet her needs. I'm afraid that my emotions will take over and I'll be depressed like I was for the first year of my firstborn's life. I am living so outside of the moment it's almost unbelievable. I want affirmation that she will be okay and thrive and that my toddler's brain won't rot because of all of the Netflix we're watching and she won't be irrevocably damaged by the lashes of my tongue that I have to ask her forgiveness for so many times a day. I just want to get through this part. I want to get to the sweet stuff because I'm afraid to just live in the moment and see that the sweet stuff is scattered throughout all of life. The reality is that I don't want the sweetness, I want the ease. I'm incredibly, disgustingly selfish. I want my body back, I want to be able to put that sweet little baby girl down for bed and drink a beer while I snuggle with my husband on the couch instead of falling asleep exhausted with a huge glass of water on my bedside table to chug and chug to keep my milk supply up for my newborn who needs to nurse so very many hours of my day right now. I want to fit into those jeans that I bought that looked oh so good on me right before I found out I was pregnant. But none of this is my reality right now. And I'm shaking my fist at God. Then I'm finding myself hiding in shame because I'm supposed to just absolutely love this. This is what I was created for - to love and nurture my children. And I don't hate it, not by a long shot, but I struggle to love it. And I've asked myself why a million times and there are lots of explanations I can come up with that play a role, like my experience with colic, low weight gain, failing to be able to breastfeed, and postpartum depression with my first child, the lack of godly mothers in my family, my analytical brain that picks everything apart far too much, my background of anxiety and depression, but the real answer is simple. And it's true for me and for you, even if you don't share my feelings on motherhood. The answer is sin. I'm a sinner. I'm constantly kicking Christ off the throne and exalting myself. And I must look ridiculous to Him, even more ridiculous than my toddler mustering up all her pride to yell at me "give that to me, mommy!" as she sees me holding my iPhone (a coveted item in my house). I look at her and think WTF? You're 2 years old and you're telling me to give you something that doesn't even belong to you? If you're a mom, you've had these thoughts too  when your kid just outright defies your authority like that. On one hand, you're gut reaction is anger (which in my best moments I can control) but on the other hand, you look at this tiny person who feels like you were just yesterday swaddling and nursing to sleep and think "you're ridiculous!". But isn't this what we sound like when we defy God's authority by not trusting Him and even being angry with Him for what we think He's holding out on us? Yep, but like 100 fold. 

Goodness, we are fickle creatures. We stand on the rock and slide right off into the sinking sand. And like my toddler, we're smirking while we do it. And there He stands, every single time, with His righteous hand outstretched to pull us out of the pit we willingly stepped in, knowing full well the pain it's causing Him to watch His beloved child walk out of His loving protection. He doesn't glare at us, guilt us into submission, or bring up all the reasons what we're doing is so inconvenient and hurtful to Him. He just loves us. He disciplines us and let's us feel the consequences of our sin so that we can be made more like Christ and less like the selfish, bratty humans that our flesh confines us to.

See, all those things I said God doesn't do to us, that's what I do to my kids. In my heart and even to their faces. And even just today. I see my toddler's defiant behavior and I have no tolerance for it. I feel hurt by her behavior and I lash out at her. I even threw a cup across the kitchen after she stuck her hand in it for what felt like the millionth time I had told her not to and she then proceeded to smirk at me and giggle when I reminded her not to do it. It made sense in my sinful mind - she'd see my authority as I raised my voice and showed physical aggression with the cup (after all, I didn't raise my hand at her). But I was immediately convicted that this was not the way to handle that situation at all. I asked her forgiveness and you know what? I yelled at her again probably 10 minutes later. My heart was way out of wack today (and many other days). All of this was going on while I was wearing my 3 week old, who was asleep on my chest in the baby carrier. My toddler knew I was limited in what I could do in response to her behavior because I needed to take care of the baby and that made me even more angry. But what I failed to realize in the moment was that she was acting out because she is struggling with the adjustment to having a new baby in the house just like I am. The object of our defiant behavior is really the same too. It's God. She's under my authority because I'm under God's so we're both acting out at Him. Shaking our fists at Him. Saying we don't want to deal with this lot He's given us. And we're butting heads because we're not believing the gospel, which not only unites us to God but to each other.  And this is just in the 3 hours that I was alone at home with both of my girls for the first time since the baby was born. I'm thinking there is no way that this can be my life from here on out. I'm completely discouraged and just downright angry with God in this moment. And suddenly my house feels like it's built on sinking sand and we're all just slowly falling into the earth underneath us.

But then I sense Him reaching His hand out to me as I'm sinking down. All is not lost. I can get out of this sinking sand and back onto solid rock. So I'm reminded of the gospel, of the Father's great love for His children, of the Redeemer's love for the flock, and I'm struck by my unwillingness to love my children in a way that mirrors how Christ loves me. And yet I can love them this way, hard as it may be in the moment when my flesh is fighting hard for it's way, because He's given and continues to give me the grace to do it. So up on the rock I climb. I can see no other way out than to stand upon the rock of Christ alone. Everything else I try, everything else, leads me straight into overwhelming despair. And yet even being fully aware of this, I will continually spend my days smirking and stepping off of the rock and walking straight into that sinking sand, often waiting until I've almost completely drowned before I grab onto His hand to pull me out. Even as I write this I battle my fleshly desire to be angry with God, unsatisfied at His will for my life not meeting my expectations, for seemingly making everything difficult and stacking the cards against me in the sin department (generational sin is a real and messy thing). But as long as I'm fighting those thoughts, I'm standing on the solid rock of Christ and the sinking sand can't kill me. 

Friday, August 17, 2012


He only is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I shall not be shaken.
 On God my salvation and my glory rest;
The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.
Trust in Him at all times, O people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us. 
- Psalm 62:6-8

Strange as it may seem, I find myself envying my dog from time to time. All in all, I prefer my life over his, but there is something about the way he spends his days that I've found I long for. And it's the way he rests. 

Anyone who has a pet knows what I mean, or maybe you're thinking about this for the first time, either way it's not a unique phenomenon. Dogs and cats spend a lot of their day sleeping, and in the midst of all kinds of circumstances. In my house, a screaming toddler, music, a frantic mother, clanging dirty dishes and running tap water do not keep him from his rest. And I'm talking about rest, not just sleep. 

In a non-intellectualized way, I think of sleep as a necessity and rest as an action. You can burn yourself out and eventually sleep really without choice because inevitably your body will shut down by design to protect you. You NEED sleep. But rest is something that comes by discipline for us humans, at least. It is a submission in a way, a voluntary giving up of the constant to-do's and a giving in to a protective state that is very much needed but equally skirted away from. Webster isn't defining these two words and I am taking some liberty with the way I am defining them here so bear that in mind. 

Looking at the scripture above, I am struck at the language used by the psalmist. "On God my salvation and glory rest, the rock of my strength, my refuge is in God... God is a refuge for us". Do you feel pressure to be still yet? If not, read it again. Rest, rock, refuge (used twice) - what do these words have in common? Stillness, peace, a laying down, a giving up of action for something that feels written into our very innermost being - to be still before God and to give in to Him.

I confess right now that resting is so very hard for me. I'm painfully aware of my sin and my position of need for Christ's redemption. And yet I still feel the need to grovel in my sin. To be made low and stay low, looking away from Him in shame. This is an ongoing struggle in my life I've come to accept is part of my sanctification. Depression has been, is and probably always will be woven throughout my story here on earth. And all of it, though sovereignly allowed to touch me by His merciful, just and loving hand, comes from a heart that is wild and restless. I long to submit myself fully to Him, to lay down my groveling, my dark despondency over my lack of worthiness, my pride and insatiable desire for more of me, more of this broken world but I struggle to let it all go. A friend reminded me to embrace being in that place, the place of feeling crushed and made low because God is drawing me in through it. I so very clearly see my need for Him in the midst of this restlessness and my heart longs more for the rest he provides, he promises. And she was right. God surely speaks to us in the most pronounced way as we walk through the dark restless parts of this life. He reminds of us His rest and we are brought low to give in to that rest, to lay it all down and just give in to Him. Like a wife to her husband, we must give ourselves as Christ's bride to our perfect lover. 

I still sit here, typing out words with shaky hands that flow from a body and soul that are anxious from lack of true rest. Just writing out the Truth or reading it doesn't take away the pain of being a broken human being. But He can and He does. And as an act of painfully submitting the sins I love, this wild heart that bucks to be freed right back into slavery, I trust that His love is the refuge I need. It's not my fretting or my groveling or certainly my bucking that saved me, but His perfect grace of which I am undeserving. In that position, where else can I go? To see His love is to run into it, not looking back and to give yourself entirely over to the One who calls you to be still in Him. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

for what it's worth: the struggle of the self

This blog has become somewhat of a joke despite my slightly less than best intentions for it. This is the first post I've actually typed out since September of last year, but it's one of many that has been narrated in my mind. The truth is, I have a lot to say, and it's mostly not about running a family on a budget or the day to day ups and downs of being a stay at home mom to a one year old, though these are very relevant and interesting things to write about. It's thoughts that I have while I'm doing those things that get lost in the shuffle. Thoughts that run deeply through me, that my one year old daughter and schnauzer (who are the only ones here as the words tumble through my brain) cannot and should not understand. So they get labeled, dog eared if you will, in the aspiring hope that one day I will make it my mission to sit down and let the dishes and the dust pile up a bit so that I can put these thoughts down concretely and share them with fellow adults who might find them useful or at least interesting.

So now that I've gone into too much detail just vaguely describing what I'm about to write about, here it goes.

Self is a strange notion. It all at once defines us and yet doesn't at all. And I've been thinking about this a lot lately as I've had my eyes opened to some of my idols, which just for the record is an amazingly hard but wonderful thing to experience. As a child we are told under unwise council that we can do anything we set our minds to, that all we need is self confidence. And for a moment, maybe longer, we feel like this is true and our sense of self is heightened. The illusive idea of self confidence feels attainable and no one can shake it. But then reality, also known as life or growing up, happens and we feel jaded by this utter nonsense. It isn't fitting for everyone to be anything. No one comes into the world with a talent for any and everything, nor should they. The plan of the Creator is quite different than this and it never leaves a depleted feeling as the lie of the self does. One's confidence, or better yet their worth, cannot be found in the self, which cannot even be distinctly defined. It has to be found in something larger, something more cohesive and just downright more important than themselves.

And so begins the journey to find the self for many. The disillusionment of the self confidence lie creates a hunger for something bigger, something that will shed light on who we are. But the lie is really just perpetuated again. Finding the self is just a rephrased adult version "you can be anything!". The self once again seeks the self and returns void. Who you are ends up being either a reaction or a reproduction of the circumstances in which you "found yourself".

Here is where your worth lies. What you do with this notion of self has a direct link to what you place your worth in. Despite our best efforts to stay comfortably numb to it, we truly do all have a void in our lives. And the worldly fix is to fill it up with whatever feels good, whatever inflates the self. Fill yourself with more self. But when are you filled by this method? You can't be. It is a self defeating concept that is thought through very little but acted on with great enthusiasm. And filling the void with yourself can look like many different things. Money, sex, relationships, comfort, good looks, education, children, entertainment, even ministry... I could go on. The point is that it doesn't always look glaringly bad to us by our flawed perception. We are all quick to see the wrong in living our lives for drugs or promiscuous sex, but anything that points us towards more and more of US is wrong. And it's wrong because we weren't created for it. The void is there and it can literally never be filled by any of these things, even the good things, because they cannot bear that load.

The remedy lies in this truth -the self need not be found, but lost. As Jesus says in Matthew 10, "Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it". Our desires to find ourselves, no matter what they are, cannot complete us as we need to be completed. We must see that the seeking of the self will eventually leave us empty, when the thrills of the their temporal promises of happiness are past. But here is where the beautiful story of the gospel of Christ fits perfectly into the struggle of the self. A Redemptive God steps in as a man with His own struggle of self and defeats the power of the lie for our sake. Without Christ we don't want life, we just want self and more self. Because life is found at the cross, where the sinful self was redeemed and reconciled to God and life is being confident in Christ.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

To See God: Simplicity Lived Out

Simplicity. The word rolls off the tongue beautifully and leaves a sense of calm, a glimmer of sanity in a world gone mad with overly indulgent options. I've been craving it lately, a simple life. Unsure of what it even looks like I feel myself drawn to it, needing to live without so many of the "things" that take up space in my life. But why? Why do I need to clear the space? Him. I need to see Him. I need to see more and more of Him. Because once I began to see Him, I needed less of the "things" and more of God. The vision of His glory is what our eyes were fashioned for. 

So my conviction to live more simply began a few weeks back. I'm not even sure what I would consider the catalyst, if there even was just one, but I know it began as I started to devour the Word. Yes, devour. I've never been one to find great joy in sitting down with my Bible. In fact, I admit that I have struggled to not view it as another "to-do" on my daily accruing lists. But something changed. 

Perhaps I do remember what started it after all. One morning while Zoey was taking her morning nap, I sat down at the breakfast table with Bible, journal and J.C. Ryle's "Expository Thoughts on John" in hand and found myself lacking after reading my John scripture reading and commentary for the day. I felt I needed something more, to see Him more. So I flipped to Psalms, my "go to", and came right to this verse, words dancing off the page: "My soul faints with longing for your salvation, but my hope is in your word" (Psalm 119:81). The instant my eyes flashed across "my hope is in your word" my heart was heavy. There it was - my problem, staring me in the face. My hope wasn't in his word. I didn't esteem his word enough. My life was too wound up in the here and now, the wants, always the wants. How did I miss this? But grace. The heaviness is lifted, I hear His voice. Gentle, soothing, so soothing. All I need to do is ask and it will be added to me. I need this. I want this. No more of my near-sighted, world-loving perspective. I asked to long, to faint with longing, to hope in His word, to live and breathe these fourteen words. I asked. I received. Oh, did I receive. 

Reading His word became less of a "to do" and more of a beloved time with my Father, Creator and Savior. As I read His word, He reveals more of Himself to me. I see Him. I don't know that I ever really saw Him before. But now I long to see Him. I asked to long and he gave me the longing. He wants us to long to see Him, to know Him, to love Him. And he equips us with all that we need to accomplish this. My heart, rebellious and hardened to Him by it's very nature, has become softened, filled with an urgent need to be connected to the Vine and a humbling yet joyful realization that I am the branch that dies apart from it. It's the seeing of God that has changed me. I wanted to long and He allowed me to see who He was, to feel it in the depths of my soul. Once you see Him, you can't help but long to see Him more. And He is so gracious, so loving to show us more.

But the longing for his word, for the revealed God, had to take the place of longing for anything else in my life. His grace reminds me of my present state - sinner in a sin-ridden world. Yes, I'm saved by grace, being made more like Christ each day and living in the promise of eternity worshipping God in a sinless, perfected pre-fall Eden state, but in the present, I'm a sinner in a world wrought with sin. So what is it in my life that has become a misplaced longing? The list begins. Spotless home, financial ease, perfect mother, perfect wife, productivity, better body, better everything. I lay it down. Sin. I pick it up again. Grace. I lay it back down. Everyday, I lay it back down. These things are not worthy of my longing. So I ask to long for Him, not them. And He begins to show me how.

When your view is obstructed, you must remove whatever is obstructing it to get see what you're looking at more clearly. In looking upon God, our view becomes obstructed by the world. The daily list of needs and wants, the past lack of them and the future worry about them. Whatever it is capturing our thoughts that are taking Him out of the focus have to be shed, moved out of the way in order for Him to come into focus. So He began to show me what those things were in my life. He still is. I'm well assured He still will be when I draw my last breath. Things like convenience, comfort, control. He's shedding them, little by little. Less of them, more of Him. Seeing God is simplicity lived out.

Living simply for me means getting rid of the unnecessaries. If I don't wear it, use it, or eat it I get rid of it. I buy only what I need, use as much fresh, unprocessed foods as possible and use the talents God has given me to make whatever I can for my family, including cleaning products. This is my personal conviction and I certainly don't think it applies to everyone. God shows himself to each of us through unique means. But the common denominator is simplicity. It's the shedding, stripping sometimes radical ripping of the worldly wants that keep us from what our eyes were created to view - Him.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Back to Baking

Since the birth of this little one...

 (too cute, right?)

...I haven't baked much. A dozen chocolate chip cookies here, some brownies there. But nothing serious and by that I mean no cupcakes. As Zoey has just left the newborn stage and entered into the wonderful world of semi-regular naps, I decided recently it was time to reconnect with an old friend, my lovely stand mixer, and whip up a batch of my favorites - mocha cupcakes (mmm!). I enjoyed every minute of making them (eh, except the clean up maybe), sharing them and of course eating them! 

A few days later, I got a request from my good friend Brooke to make cupcakes for her son's 4th birthday. I was more than happy to bake again and especially for sweet Noah, who judging from this picture Brooke sent me, seems to be a satisfied customer!


I had a lot of fun making them. It further reaffirmed my love of cupcakes and my need to get back to baking. It just feels so natural, as though when I'm doing it time passes quickly but each second is enjoyed with the rhythmic intensity of focused, passionate work. It's as though that's my little place in the world - in my little kitchen, mixing, baking and frosting cupcakes. God gave me a love for it and a talent to do it so I will not squander that. I look forward to seeing how He will use it in my life to build His kingdom. 

To sum it up, the cupcake lady is back!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The First Three Months

I'm going to be completely honest. If I have learned anything these past few months as a new mother, it's that you cannot deny the truth because it only leads you away from Christ and loved ones and that's a dangerous place to be. I know because that's where I was for the first three months of Zoey's life.

Let me start out by saying that Zoey is 4 months old and I'm IN LOVE with her. She's beautiful. Everything about her is perfect to me. She is God's creation and couldn't be more breathtaking. But as much as it breaks my heart to admit, I didn't feel this way about her all along.

The moment Zoey was born was a strange one. I was dizzy. My nurse had given me a pain medicine before the epidural because I was almost fully dilated and in a good deal of pain. The pain medicine made the room spin, which I was told was normal, but I didn't like it. The whole experience of delivery was bizarre. Once she was out and I heard her cry, I was waiting for that moment I had heard about where you feel overwhelmed with joy. I had romanticized it in my head, imagining rays of light around us as I held her for the first time with a huge smile on my face. My reaction was different. Her cry made me cry but it didn't feel like joy. It felt like fear. As they handed her to me for the first time I was terrified to hold her, but I grew more comfortable as time passed. I just kept feeling like something wasn't right but I couldn't put my finger on it. I loved her and she was precious, but I felt like a train wreck. Of course I felt sick since I unknowingly had a bladder infection and was in a great deal of pain from childbirth on top of my whirling hormones so I figured it was all normal. In retrospect, I was wrong.

The first week home was intense. When she cried, I cried. And she cried a lot. I spent most of my days and nights nursing her in great pain, which also brought me to tears. Like every new mom, I was sleep deprived which makes everything harder, but I loved her and I wanted to enjoy her so badly, but I just didn't. She didn't feel like my baby. I didn't understand her. She just wailed at me and wailed at me and I felt totally helpless. I hoped it was just baby blues and kept telling myself it would get better soon.

The weeks following got a little easier. I started to get the hang of it a little bit more but loneliness was really starting to set in. I struggled to nurse her as she would pull off and flail and scream at almost every feeding which made me miserable, but I kept going because I told myself it would get better. But it never did. I began to resent her with each feeding. I felt myself losing my patience as she would pull off and scream. I wanted to run out the door. I wanted to disappear. No one was there to help. Just me and this beautiful child that didn't even feel like mine that was screaming for me to do something for her but I didn't know what it was. I continued nursing despite this, partly out of guilt and partly because I really wanted to. It got a little better but I never stopped feeling anxious about it. I tried to bury the anxiety but that never works. It comes back tenfold later on when you do. I was depressed. I questioned why I had ever decided to have children. How could I be so stupid? What did I expect? Is this going to be the rest of my life?

When Zoey was 8 weeks old, I went to see a friend who had told me she had post-partum depression with her first child. As I told her everything I had been feeling, she looked at me with such understanding and empathy. She had been there and she assured me I was not crazy but that I had PPD and it was totally common. I felt relieved. I started medication and got off of it quickly because things with Zoey started getting easier and I was feeling happier. But the thing about happiness is that its situational. Around 11 weeks, Zoey's fussiness peaked. She stopped napping during the day and started nursing poorly again. It didn't take long before I started sliding downhill again. I denied it for a little while, telling myself I just had to figure out how to get her nursing and sleeping better and I'd be okay. But I couldn't deny it forever. When Randall would come home I would just shut down. I didn't know how to talk about it. I just felt scared and alone. I was still depressed. I loved Zoey so much but I just didn't feel bonded to her like I knew I should. It felt like there was a wall I was putting up that I couldn't take down by myself and I hated it.

I started taking the medicine again. But I knew that wasn't going to fix me. I needed God and I had been running head on in the opposite direction. I was ashamed. I knew what a godly mother looked like and it wasn't me. I didn't want Him to see me in my sin. I wanted to avoid Him. But He wasn't going to let go of me and once I hit the wall, I fell to my knees. I needed Him so badly. I needed the rest and peace that only He gives. I needed patience because I was impatient. I needed selflessness because I was so selfish. I needed gentleness because I was quick to anger. I needed grace because I was a sinner.

He reminded me that Zoey was His child. He knew the struggles we would face with each other and yet created me to be her mother and her my child. The whole thing seemed crazy but I knew in my heart it wasn't because God ordained it and everything He does is perfect. I found comfort in knowing that despite all of my weakness in being a mother, my utter failure at it, He was there. He picked me up and began putting the pieces back together. I began relying on Him because it was so evident to me that I couldn't do this on my own. There was no doubt about that. But with Him, I could.

Today she is happy and healthy. God answered our prayers for wisdom and provided us with what we needed to take care of Zoey. She wasn't gaining enough weight nursing so we switched her to formula, which actually greatly helped me with my depression because it had been such an emotional struggle. She takes 3-4 naps a day, rarely cries and sleeps through the night. It is such a blessing to see her thriving after she had been miserable for so long.

I'm so thankful to be able to say that today I am in love with my child. I cannot imagine life without her. There are still tough days and I'm sure there always will be, but they don't consume me anymore. I wake up each morning relying on my Creator and Savior. I lay down my selfish desire to do it all by myself (because I know where that got me) and rest in the assurance that He will equip me with what I need to take care of the sweet child He gave me.

And Then There Were Three!

So it has been quite awhile since I posted on here but cut me some slack, I've had my hands full with this little one -

Yes, the long anticipated birth of Zoey Jordan Rhodes took place on April 21, 2011.

::PAUSE::And here it comes - the birth story. I know, I know. But you don't have to read it! It won't hurt my feelings, really! This is more for me and for grown-up Zoey to have a written account of the event than anything else. Plus, I want to encourage other mommas-to-be out there who are going through this for the first time because I certainly needed (well, still do) all the encouragement I could (can!) get.

The morning of April 21 started early but it couldn't have been early enough for me. I wanted that baby OUT! Weeks of false labor, sleepless nights, backaches, seriuosly swollen ankles, and tons of anxiety made those last few weeks feel like they would never end. And I mean NEVER! Zoey decided to not come early, despite my pleading with her or on time so we scheduled an induction for the day after her due date because she was measuring big and I wanted to avoid a C-section. So at 4am on April 21, after a sleepless night of false labor, I arrived at Jackson Hospital with Randall and my dear friend Lindsay to get poked, proded, and hooked up to some machines to finally meet that sweet face I'd be longing to see for almost a year.

I'm not good with hospitals and that's a generous description. So the thought of inducing was really scary to me - knowing I'm going in to be laid on a bed and hooked up to monitors and IVs - ahh! But it turns out it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought. The nurses were really sweet and my labor was fast. And I mean fast. I hold to the theory that she was going to make her debut that day anyway because once she started coming, she didn't hit the brakes! I barely got an epidural! Barely - but I did - and am so thankful! I was induced around 6am and she was born at 10:17! Yep - a little over 4 hours. 

I'm guessing I am one of those women whose contractions are TOO terribly bad. That's not to say that it didn't hurt, but I didn't realize I was almost 9 cm by the time I got the epidural! I was in pain, yes, but it wasn't unbearable. The anesthesiologist was behind schedule, I was progressing quicker than the nurses thought that I would so it is by God's grace I got the epidural and it took as quick as it did. It's a blur to me now but I was told it was maybe 20 minutes from the time I got the epidural to when I delivered her. I pushed for 5 minutes and there she was - the most beautiful blood-covered crying baby I could imagine. It's true - there really is nothing in the world like hearing your baby cry for the first time. It's just amazing to think those lungs were forming inside of you all of those months just waiting for that moment to be put to use (and good use for Zoey - she can really make some noise!). 

As I held her for the first time, I was overwhelmed that she was mine. I couldn't wait to take her home. And after 3 days in the hospital, we did! We came home Saturday afternoon late, ate dinner, and tried to figure out how to get her to sleep and how to get any sleep ourselves (uhh yeah right!). Around 1am, I woke up screaming in agony. My body felt like I was rolling in shards of glass and I was freezing. I took Tylenol and was able to go back to sleep. I figured I just felt bad - my body was still exhausted from it's task. Then it happened again. Of course both times I woke up Zoey (or made her cry if she was awake and not crying already). Poor Randall - he was trying desperately to help us both! The second time I took my temp and I had a fever but it didn't seem too high but because I was nursing her and worried I might be sick and get her sick, I called the OB on call at Jackson and told him my symptoms. He was really unhelpful and actually rude to me and told me that it sounded like I had a cold even though I wasn't having any respiratory symptoms. I said I thought I may have a UTI but I wasn't sure because well, you know, that area of your body has been through a lot so maybe it was something else causing the pain. He told me to drink water, continue nursing her, take Tylenol and if the fever came back to go to the ER. I thought I was fine. The fever stayed away for most of the day until about 3pm hit and it came back HARD this time. I was nursing her and all of the sudden the shards of glass feeling came back and I was shaking I was so cold. My mother-in-law was there to help out that day and I asked her to bring me a blanket but it didn't help at all. I really felt like I was going to die. My brain felt foggy (which was from my 102 fever) and my body ached so much all I could do was scream in pain. On top of that, my milk was coming in that day and Zoey and I had a long way to go before we really figured out breastfeeding so there was another source of pain! I knew I had to finish feeding her but I was so upset that I made her upset and she wouldn't finish. I was begging to be taken to the ER. So with my house slippers on, blanket wrapped around me and baby in tow, Randall and my MIL took me to the ER. 

A thousand things ran through my mind but the biggest was the serious question I was asking myself - was I going to die? I thought it was probably far fetched but I know the things that can happen after you deliver a baby and with my symptoms I knew I could be facing something serious. 

The triage nurse took my temp (102), asked me about my symptoms and ran an EKG on me. I could barely keep my balance I felt so sick. As she picked up the phone to get me a room, I could see the worry on her face and I heard it in her voice as she described my symptoms to the nurse and told her I was 3 days post-partum. She wheeled me back into a room that read "trauma room" by the door. Inside were 3 or 4 nurses and a doctor waiting to ask me a thousand questions and poke and prod me. It looked like a scene from "ER". Randall was terrified. I was terrified. The nurses were unprofessionally whispering that I was either hemorrhaging or having an aneurism. After hours of lying on that uncomfortable stretcher hooked to an IV and strapped to monitors, the prognosis was made - severe bladder infection. They gave me an IV of antibiotics, lots of IV fluids, and sent me home with an antibiotic prescription. 

I'm thankful it was something treatable. I'm thankful it wasn't an aneurism or hemorrhage as the nurses were conspiring. I'm thankful I was able to go home and be a mother to my beautiful baby girl. 

So there it is. The beginning of the story of Zoey. But just the beginning. There's more to be told as I write this 2 days after she turned 4 months old. A lot more has happened since that day but it is certainly one that I will never forget.


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