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.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Waiting, Waiting and Waiting

I have done a poor job of keeping this blog up throughout my pregnancy. I had every intention of updating regularly but for one reason or another, I just didn't make the time. And now here I am with 4 days left until my due date. I guess this is as good a time as ever to make a post, right?

Today I am 39 weeks and 3 days pregnant and though that means there are 4 days left until I hit the benchmark 40 week due date, those 4 days seem like a lifetime away. I'm playing the waiting game and I have been for almost 3 weeks now. Since 37 weeks, I have been 2 cm dilated and have really felt my body preparing for labor - braxton hicks contractions (some accompanied by cramping), sore joints, swelling (i actually miss my feet), and pelvic pressure among other pains that are more awkward to mention. So I'm ready for this! I'm ready for my feet to return to me, my digestive system to work again, to be able to sleep without sore ribs and hips (note: i didn't say i was looking forward to "sleep" - i realize i won't be getting much of it!), to bend over without totally losing my breath and balance, to get off the couch without needing the assistance of a forklift... but mostly, to meet my daughter.

I've been carrying this sweet child for 9 months in my womb. To think that over those months she started out as a spot on my ovary, then a tiny heartbeat, then a tiny baby with arms and legs and now she is a fully grown newborn with a personality of her own and lungs that are ready to release their first cry and take their first breath as she enters the world is truly amazing. I imagine that moment throughout the day, when she will take her first breath and cry her first cry and I'll hear her for the very first time. I simply cannot wait. I've heard over and over again that this is the most joyous moment in your life and I know that it will be even though I haven't experienced it yet. I can feel her now, moving around in what little room she has left inside my womb, but I can't see her, touch her or hear her. I am so thankful that day is coming soon when I will be able to!

So for now I will continue to wait, for what other option do I have? It does seem brutally long and painful as I wait for her to be in my arms, but I'm reminded that this is the way God created the event to be and I must trust in His unfailing love and perfect plan. No doubt He is teaching me patience and humility and I am a stubborn pupil, fighting back hard with my own will. But the closer I get, the more I must rely on Him for strength, comfort and patience.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; 
   I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 
 When you pass through the waters, 
   I will be with you; 
 and when you pass through the rivers, 
   they will not sweep over you. 
When you walk through the fire, 
   you will not be burned; 
   the flames will not set you ablaze. 
 For I am the LORD your God, 
   the Holy One of Israel, your Savior"
Isaiah 43:1-3

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Go ZoZo!

So I had my 4D "redo" today. Let me back up. Two weeks ago, I had my 4D ultrasound. We couldn't get very good pictures of Zoey because she was breeched - still breeched rather! Head up, butt down, feet in front of her face. The girl is going to be an acrobat! Well, our ultrasound tech is awesome so she had me come back today at 31 weeks 6 days to do another 4D in hopes that she may have turned head down. And she did!

I have spent the last two weeks prepping myself for the reality that she may not turn, but praying that she would. My doctor said it was 50/50 so I had no reason to suspect that she wouldn't, but I didn't want to be totally unprepared for the reality that she may not which would result in a C-section, something that has terrified me this whole time. God is so sweet. I have really had peace about the delivery, accepted that however it happened was (and still is) out of my control and in His, which is marvelously settling to my fears. Who could I want in control more than Him?

So here I am, 8 weeks or so away from meeting my daughter and I must say I cannot wait! Not only because I feel like I swallowed a whole watermelon, my feet look like potatoes or that almost everything gives me heartburn, but because I am so blessed to be a mommy and I cannot wait to meet this sweet daughter God has graciously given to Randall and I. It's been a journey and it still is and it will continue to be... and I'm excited for that.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

When Cravings Suck

Today is New Years Day. Honestly, it's just another day. I celebrated the beginning of a new year at midnight with friends quite honestly because I'll find any excuse for a party and I kind of like New Years Eve. It's a surreal moment when you see the clock strike 12 and you realize you'll never write the 4 digit number that stands for those 365 days again, except when you're referencing the past.

But once midnight strikes, the thrill is gone. New Years Day doesn't mean a whole lot to me. My husband doesn't get the day off from work and I hate black eyed peas. It's just another day.

Normally I am glad for businesses to close on a holiday. It's good for the employees to get a break and celebrate with friends and family. But this year, I'm pregnant. I've gone most of the past 5 months without a lot of cravings and aversions, but of course they decide to kick in on one of the only days of the year that every place I want to order food from is closed. And I mean every place. Three massive let downs in a row. I went from craving something, having to give up that craving to scrounging up two other places that sounded pretty good to me only to find out they were both closed. To make it worse, the last place even lied! Their website had their business hours for New Years Day as being open until 8:00 and they weren't open all day!

So here I sit, too aware of how much cravings can really suck. I know it's mind over matter, but that's a bitter pill to swallow when my body and mind feel like they're being entirely run by a pregnancy hormone. Oh the joys of growing a life inside of you, right?

Since I know this situation will probably come up again over the next 4 months, then let me ask you something. Moms and friends of moms, bring on the advice. What kind of cravings have you gotten that were hard if not impossible to fulfill because of immediate circumstances? How did you deal?

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