A Room for Her

Here’s a little peek into Paisley’s room.

(Someday I’ll get a camera that takes pretty pictures. And then another day I’ll learn to use it.)

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Nana Becky made her quilt. Mom, Grandma and Aunt Dawn bought her Pottery Barn bedding.

Nana Becky made her quilt. Mom, Grandma and Aunt Dawn bought her Pottery Barn bedding.

I spray painted these chipboard letters from Hobby Lobby and hot-glued them to this antique mirror.

I spray-painted chipboard letters from Hobby Lobby and hot-glued them to this antique mirror.

Where the poop happens...

Where the poop happens…

"She is clothed in strength and dignity and laughs without fear of the future." (Prov. 31:25) Printable found on Etsy. Waiting on pictures of little lady to fill her frames.

“She is clothed in strength and dignity and laughs without fear of the future.” (Prov. 31:25) Printable found on Etsy. Waiting on pictures of little lady to fill her frames.

"In the morning when I rise, give me Jesus." Printable found here.

“In the morning when I rise, give me Jesus.” Printable found here. My friend, Julie, made the little blue bird.

Bunting made by Pascha, Laura and Morgan

Bunting made by Pascha, Laura and Morgan. Got the antique dresser at The Rink in OKC.

Pip doll! Buy one and the company gives one to a little girl in an orphanage!

Pip doll! Buy one and the company gives one to a little girl in an orphanage!

I've always loved this simple gold cross in Gram and Grampa's house. Grandma Mary surprised me with it in February!

I’ve always loved this simple gold cross in Gram and Grampa’s house. Grandma Mary surprised me with it in February!

Us girls will share a closet.

I guess I’ll share my closet…

Ambiance. Joey keeps asking me if he can sleep in here...

Ambiance. Joey keeps asking me if he can sleep in here…

Big Momma

So I promised myself I’d learn to love this pregnant body.

I’m afraid that has not happened.

My pregnancy with Finn was difficult in every way imaginable. Looking back, I most certainly was depressed. I was terribly anemic from five months of lost blood, I was angry and spiritually I was hanging on by a thread. I cried myself to sleep many nights and sometimes heard the sobs of my sweet husband on the pillow next to me. We grieved over the dreams we had for Finn before he was even born. I was desperate, but the Lord was so near to me in that sorrow. “You are closer than my trouble/More present than any danger,” Thank you, Charlie Hall. Thank you, Jesus.

I was unable to work out for five months of that pregnancy, and by the time I was “cleared,” I had learned of Finn’s Spina Bifida, wasn’t sleeping, and was so physically weak and exhausted, I couldn’t exercise if I wanted to. To add to my declining health, I also allowed myself “treats” that were otherwise off-limits. Root beer, Sonic drinks, burgers, Braum’s peanut butter malts (for the love!) and many a Dara Marie cookie. Maybe these delights made my heart ache a little less in the moment. Whatever.

32 weeks with Finn

32 weeks with Finn

This pregnancy with Paisley has been so different. I did not bleed, I’ve been able to work out (even run up until 20ish weeks), lift weights, I’ve eaten more fruits and veggies, and my ultra-sounds show an active and healthy baby girl. I’m happy. But I’m also bigger. And the scale shows I’m consistently about 10 lbs. heavier than I was with Finn–ten pounds on my frame makes a big difference. I guess I didn’t believe the ole’ “you’re larger quicker with your second baby” story. Maybe true for you, but not for me. I’m a fitness professional, for heaven’s sake. These rules don’t apply to me. 😉

32 weeks with Paisley...no, I have not taken professional maternity pics this time around. Guilty.

32 weeks with Paisley…no, I have not taken professional maternity pics this time around. Guilty.

Whether I lost muscle during my first pregnancy and gained muscle this time around or whether it’s true that you are fatter with a girl than with a boy doesn’t matter. You don’t care about my personal struggle with my changed body and I don’t blame you. I shouldn’t care either.

But I’ll be honest: it bothers me. So much of my career and how I identify myself is intertwined with my body. How it feels. How it responds to nutrition. How strong it is. What I can do with it. How it looks.

I read an article by a pregnant celebrity while waiting in the doctor’s office during my second trimester. I honestly don’t remember who is was, but I recall she had a brain. She discussed how she had grown to love and accept her changing body. How she nurtured it, listened to it, smiled at her naked self in the mirror and fed it accordingly–much like how one would with a kitten or baby chick. I read her story and longed for that kind of acceptance of myself. I prayed for it.

It still hasn’t happened.

I just don’t like being pregnant. I have friends who will say they feel best when they’re pregnant. It’s the most magical time of their lives. They are fulfilling their calling. They feel optimal. I admire these women, but I can’t relate to their beautiful sentiments in the least bit.

Nonetheless, I acknowledge the beautiful and undeserved blessing of motherhood. I am fully aware that many of my nearest and dearest girlfriends would DIE to feel the aches and pains of pregnancy and would trade my swollen belly for their barren one in a heartbeat. Pregnancy is a gift. A MIRACLE. And I am thankful. Truly.

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I decided something yesterday on my walk with Finn and the black dog: if I can’t find a way to love my body during this last month of carrying Paisley around on my torso, I will at least shift my focus away from myself. That’s what parenting is all about, right!? Selflessness.

The first lesson Joey and I learned in the NICU with Finn was self.less.ness. I was no longer my first thought. Finn was. And now Paisley must be. So when I feel her literally jumping on my bladder and strumming my ribs with her precious little feet, I will pray she’s comfortable, growing strong and being molded into the lovely woman the Lord intends her to become.

Now is a good time to be selfless. This pregnancy is not about me. It’s not really my body. And this is not my life. I am His.

“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (ESV, Acts 20:24).

Garage Sale 101

This weekend we hosted a multi-family (5 to be exact) garage sale in our driveway. I’ll be honest: the cause was not charitable. We will tithe some of our proceeds and the rest we are putting toward our Mexico 2015 fund. 🙂 I grew up helping my parents hold garage sales and finding treasures in the wee hours of a Saturday morning with my grandparents. It’s nostalgic for me.

Joey and I held one the first year we moved to Norman. All our things fit onto three small card tables and people would literally slow down to notice we had nothing of value to sell and then drive off. I tried not to get my feelings hurt. This weekend’s sale, however, was quite different. Our entire driveway and garage were full of wares. Our junk; someone else’s treasure.

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If you’re thinking of hosting a garage sale yourself, here are a few tips I hope you’ll find helpful:

1. If you don’t have enough stuff to get rid of, ask a few friends to collaborate.

2. Decide location. A straight shot off a busy street with ample parking is best. Flat driveways are nice too.

3. Decide your purpose. Do you want to make money or do you want to get rid of stuff? Price your items accordingly.

4. Buy labels/tags. Assign each of the garage sale participants a color for pricing their items. This will help you keep individual items and subsequent sales separate.

5. Buy a permit from your city. Norman’s are $10 for three consecutive days.

6. Choose a weekend. We sold on Friday and Saturday. I think next time I’d just sell on Friday. We had to basically shove people out of our garage Friday afternoon but Saturday was slow and we were exhausted. We made about half as much money on Saturday as Friday.

7. Pack your garage full of tables and items the night before your sale so you can just move it all out in the morning.

Prepping the evening before...just moments before Finn threw the iPad on the concrete and shattered the screen. Boo.

Prepping the evening before…just moments before Finn threw the iPad on the concrete and shattered the screen. Boo. Lesson learned.

8. Cover your garage walls with sheets to hide anything you don’t want to sell.

9. Advertise! Post your sale to Craigslist and include that it’s Multi-Family. Provide some pics. Make signs to post at the end of your street, front of your neighborhood and any busy cross-streets. We taped poster board to empty boxes and dropped bricks in the boxes to keep them in place.

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10. Assign jobs for your friends. Have a coffee/breakfast runner. Friday morning Pascha picked up Panera. Saturday I made a quiche and Joey put on a large pot of coffee.

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Assign a few people to help set out tables in the morning. Someone should get change (Laura got about $40 in ones). Have someone bring you lunch…or else you’ll get cranky. Thanks, Morgan! Childcare. Joey took Finn to the Starbucks patio to play in his wheelchair, they visited a few friends, and even went to the Natural History Museum. SuperDad.

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And lastly, have a boy available to haul anything away that doesn’t sell to Goodwill. Jeff, you’re the man.

11. Organize. This will provide sanity in the chaos. Kitchen items stay together, home decor in one place, toys in a box (all one price?), books and dvds together, etc. Organize baby/children’s clothing by size.

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We put ours into tubs and priced them all at $1 unless otherwise marked. Hang adult clothing on racks.

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Shoes can be placed in pairs on the ground.

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Place furniture close to the street so it’s easy to load into vehicles.

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12. Keep valuable items in sight. We had three Coach purses for sale and tried to keep an eye on them at all times. We neglected to watch our jewelry, however. Within two hours, four of my seven pieces were stolen. And another was stolen even when we moved the jewelry closer. This made me so sad; I’d rather just GIVE items away. Don’t steal a $2 item, people! Sheesh.

13. Keep track of sales in a notebook with families labeled by tag color.

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You can simply pull off the tag and stick it to the notebook page. Or write the price on their page if the tag falls off or in the event that you lower the price.

14. Offer lower prices as the day wears on. By the time we were packing up Saturday, just about everything was $1.

15. And maybe don’t host a garage sale when you’re a week shy of nine months pregnant. It’s hard work! Whew.

My feelings exactly, Finn.

My feelings exactly, Finn.

 

The Question of Prayer

If there’s a spiritual topic my friends and I discuss the most, it’s prayer. What’s the purpose and what does Scripture say about it?

A couple girlfriends and I shed a few tears on the topic over hand-brewed coffee and breakfast at Kitchen No. 324 just this month.

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I’ve had several friends email or call me to discuss the issue, and this semester I’ve been meeting with a college student who is struggling with prayer’s purpose as she watches a friend’s health decline slowly and painfully.

For some religions, prayer is meditation. A centering of our mind upon a single thought…or emptying our mind of all thoughts entirely. Liturgical congregations are more apt to “pray the hours,” or observe several regular moments of focused daily prayer. Prayer, in this way, is a discipline; intentional and habitual. These are sacred pauses meant to re-focus our mind on spiritual things. A watch alarm beeps, pulling us out from a stressful moment to “set our minds on things above” (Colossians 3:2). I love that. But this type of prayer can also become unfeeling and dutiful, lacking any real devotion to the Recipient.

In southern Protestant churches like the Baptist ones I’ve attended the past…oh, fifteen years or so…prayer seems to be used more as a vehicle of petition or requesting. We even use that term in Sunday school classes and small group settings: “Does anyone have any prayer requests?” We are seeking out the needs of the community around us, then offering those requests to God. Unfortunately this interchange can oftentimes become an opportunity for gossip, complaining, or “one-upping” each others’ trials, and we spend more time talking about the needs/requests than we do actually talking to God about them. Prayer in this sense is more like a help hotline or a Christmas list for Santa, I mean, God.

I’ve established in previous posts a few of my thoughts on the purpose of prayer:

1) Communication with and obedience to God     See post: Even If He Does Not

2) To intercede for others    See post: Fourteen Thousand Sheep

3) To change us, not our circumstances      See post: Bow Your Head

Check out my links to the posts above and I think you’ll get a more comprehensive idea of what the Lord’s been teaching me about prayer.

But I’m still left with more questions than answers concerning prayer and I’d like to share them with you here:

If prayer’s purpose is communication with God, then how can general communication, like the kind we encounter with our spouse or friends be “answered” or  “unanswered?” It’s simply shared. Requests are “answered.”

Why does he answer some peoples’ prayers and not others?

Personal story: I can’t tell you how many moments Joey and I (and our family and friends and many of you) have spent in prayer for Finn’s health. Even before he was born. God did not “answer” our prayer of complete healing and normalcy. He has answered many specific, miraculous prayers along the way, but Finn was born with Spina Bifida and it will always affect his life and ours in a very real and oftentimes painful way. Nevertheless, I won’t stop asking Him.

A friend was recently struggling with her daughter’s delayed mobility and missed milestones. She came to me for encouragement, wisdom and prayer. I was honored to pray for her and selfishly felt a little less “alone” because another believing momma was struggling like I am. Her child’s health was confusing and we were pleading to God for healing…together. I was elated to hear that after months of testing, her daughter’s diagnosis was normal and healthy, just delayed. Our prayers were answered! Victory. But as soon as I felt thankfulness to God for healing her, lies crept into the dark corners of my heart. Satan convinced me that she had more faith than I did. That’s why her daughter is healthy and my son is not. Her friends and family “claimed victory” and my clan just didn’t get it right. We must not have drank the right spiritual cocktail or sprinkled the appropriate amount of faith into our prayers. Lies. Lies. Lies.

Friends, our prayers are not opportunities to manipulate God into getting what we want or what we think we deserve. He loves us and I believe He wants to answer my prayers just as much as He did for my dear friend. I’m not sure why Finn is in a wheelchair, but I have come to realize that I will never understand.

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And honestly, no answer would even suffice anyway. He just is. And God is still good.

More questions:

So is there “power in prayer,” as my mom’s embroidered pillow tells me?  What does Scripture say about this? The Gospels are riddled with verses about asking (requesting) and receiving. “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith” (Matthew 21:22). I’m stumped here.

Why does the hashtag ” #prayerworks ” bother me? It sounds like an advertisement for cleaning supplies on QVC.

Does God care about petty prayers like sports victories for our kids? Shouldn’t we be praying more about the process of our children learning how to lose with integrity and win with grace? Or does He care when I ask Him to please hold off on the rain for my upcoming garage sale? Do we “waste” our prayers in this way? Is that possible?

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Jesus tells us to pray like He did. He gave us a few examples:

Matthew 6:9-13 (NIV) The Lord’s Prayer

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.”

And there’s the example of His prayer in the Garden before His death:

Matthew 26:36-56 (ESV)

36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here…” and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will. [Disciples are sleeping when Jesus returns to them] 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” [Disciples are found sleeping again] 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.

Jesus teaches us that prayer is for “hallowing,” or praising God for his holiness, for requesting daily needs, for forgiveness, protection from sin, and for deliverance. And in the Garden, it’s for pleading with God about what we desire–not once, but THREE times. Jesus went to the cross despite His sobbing bequests to His Father, but He still asked. He still communed with His Lord in a real and intimate way.

So what are your thoughts on prayer? I’m hoping many of you will comment on this post and let me know what you think. One thing is certain: prayer is important for the life of a believer. Paramount, maybe. We must do it. But why and how? Help! Thanks for listening and sharing.

 

 

Receiving

Joey and I have been overwhelmed by financial blessings this past week. I want to give God glory for it, so I’ll share:

My mother-in-law, Becky, made Paisley this quilt and presented it at our Tulsa family shower (thanks, ladies!) last weekend. She’s such a sweetie, that woman.

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A special couple helped us finish a nagging house project that will prepare our home for Paisley’s arrival. It was an unexpected and incredibly generous gift. Wow.

Another friend surprised me and purchased boarding at Annie’s Ruff House for Jersey–probably more for Jersey’s welfare than for my aching back, to be honest. 🙂 She knows how I can’t stand Jersey when I’m pregnant.

The mud monster at Annie's.

The mud monster at Annie’s.

The dog makes me bend over too much! I sweep up piles of black hair, wipe her muddy paws, put on/take off her collar, trip over her leash on walks, feed her and fill her water bowl…I know, I know…we chose to have a dog…and I love her very much…blah blah blah…

And yet another generous couple asked us at just the right time if Finn was in need of any new equipment. Why yes, actually, he is. I received a phone call from OrthoCare last week telling us Finn’s RGO device was in.

Reciprocating Gait Orthosis (Help Finn Walk Thing)

Reciprocating Gait Orthosis (Help Finn Walk Thing)

Excuse me?! We didn’t actually order one; we just fitted him for one to try it out. Well, they ordered it anyway and now we have to pay for it. A $7,500 leg brace of sorts (our portion after insurance is smaller than this, however). The doctor assured me over the phone that if there’s one device that will help Finn learn to walk, it’s this one. I felt guilty denying our son an opportunity to progress, but I simply told her we couldn’t afford it and asked them to keep it on hold for a year until we had the funds. Joey and I talked it over at home and decided to have faith that if it’s something Finn really needs, God will provide the money. He always has; and I believe He always will. Enter…insanely kind family friends: “Our offer still stands: if Finn needs anything, we’re writing the check.”

Well, okay, God. We receive the gift(s). Thank you.

It’s hard for me to receive sometimes. I like to earn things and being the giver feels more natural to me. This is because I’m prideful. But I’m learning to receive with grace and humility and allow the Lord to love us through his people in this way. We are compelled by their kindness to be obedient and give what we can (and sometimes even what we can’t) with open fists and pure motives.

2 Corinthians 8:7

But just as you excel in everything-in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in love-see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

Undeserved Blessings

Mother’s Day began when Joey plopped a naked Finn (diaper only) down next to me in bed. I kissed him behind his porcelain neck and we snuggled for all of five seconds before he asked me: 1) to make a tent with the covers 2) watch “Sha Na Na,” a reference to his favorite Sesame Street episode 3) read to him 4) play with my phone 5) patted my belly and giggled 6) “waffle pease.”

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I heaved myself out of bed, guiding my belly along with my body. Pain shot through my ankles and knees and low back. Ugh. Only about six more weeks, I tell myself.

We went on a long walk. Too long. I forgot it takes me about 15 minutes longer these days to walk the same 2 mile route. I got home at 9:00. Church starts at 9:30 and I was supposed to bring donuts for the college Sunday school class. Quick text to Joey: No donuts this morning. Too hectic. Sorry.

Rushing around ensues. Mascara all over. Finn’s wheelchair smashed my bare toe as I was lifting it out of the car at church. I cursed. (Sorry). Coerced little man to go to his nursery class. Listened to what was left of the college Bible study. Jotted down a few notes for my “welcome to the church” this morning. I told the congregation the most practical, precious advice my mom ever taught me: When life is tough, look in the mirror and repeat, ‘My name is [insert name here]. Jesus loves me, and so does my mom.'” (Blog post about that advice  here.) She is a doll, that mom of mine. She’s always interested in my life, asks the best questions and would give her arm and leg for any of her clan. Love you, mom.

After wheeling Finn out from church, we listened to his favorite sing-alongs to keep from a major meltdown on the way home. His latest fascination is with the visor mirror above my head. He asks me over and over to put it “up-a-down.” Twenty-three times. Took a few selfies on the front porch

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My two blessings...Finn and Paisley.

My two blessings…Finn and Paisley.

to commemorate Mother’s Day since our photographer/daddy ran to Sprouts to get groceries (with which he made me the most delicious lunch).

Asparagus-stuffed chicken, penne with homemade pesto and grilled corn on the cob! Home run, babe.

Asparagus-stuffed chicken, penne with homemade pesto and grilled corn on the cob! Home run, babe.

Fed Finn chicken nuggets, peas and apples. Force-fed peas. Naptime long overdue. Whew! Finn is officially a two year old. Whiny, temperamental and defiant.

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If I’m not careful I can mistake these motherhood gifts for annoyances. Being a mom is much more difficult than I ever thought possible, but the Lord was good to remind me today that being called, “mom” (twice, at that) is indeed a blessing. Undeserved and divinely appointed.

Happy Happy Mother’s Day!

Time

So many blog-able moments have come and gone in the past few weeks, I can’t keep up nor remember them well enough to share. My brain cells are certainly circumnavigating to my uterus these days. I didn’t have this “pregnancy brain,” or general loss of mental capacity while pregnant with Finn. I’m training a client and suddenly I’ll stare at a set of dumbbells completely blank…no clue what to do with them. I can’t find anything. I’ll write two identical thank you cards. I mix up my words. I’ve proofread this post five times. No lie.

When it comes to time, I want it to…

S  l  o  w   down with Finn.

Speed up with Paisley.

Multiply with sleep.

Hurry through June so I can get my body back. This one is so foreign to me.

Stand still when I’m with Joey.

Help me remember with a client.

Replay.

Rewind.

Recover all those hours I wasted in college and early marriage worrying and stressing about petty things.

We watched the movie, About Time, last night. I loved it. I cried and laughed. A lot. It has British humor and there are a couple “F” words, but I thought it was fantastic nonetheless. Such a beautiful message about family and living each day fully–the way you would if you could do it all over again. And Rachel McAdams is my fav.

I want to find joy in the last month and a half of this pregnancy, despite my physical discomfort, insomnia and dwindling pile of acceptable garments to wear in public. I don’t want to wish time away, but enjoy being a family of three for just a little longer. I want to get on the floor and play dump trucks with Finn no matter how long it takes me to get back up again. I want to revel in the rain May brings to Oklahoma and not fear its tornadoes. Find beauty in the mundane. Live my life gratefully, unfettered by time.

Snapshots of recent happenings:

Roomie Reunion

Roomie Reunion

Jane came to visit. She's so fun.

Jane came to visit. She’s so fun.

My love bug.

My love bug.

I had a shower! So thankful for these incredible hostesses and friends.

I had a shower! So thankful for these incredible hostesses and friends.

Paisley and I...31 weeks

Paisley and I…31 weeks

Mom and Gram came for the shower. Such a blessing!

Mom and Gram came for the shower. Such a blessing!

Becky, my MIL (and her sister Melinda) came too!

Becky, my MIL (and her sister Melinda) came too!

Joey ran the OKC Memorial Marathon representing FBC Norman and Finn.

Joey ran the OKC Memorial Marathon representing FBC Norman and Finn.

Joey's fan club!

Joey’s fan club!

Nice stride, babe! 1:49!

Nice stride, babe! 1:49!

First bloom. Seeds are planted in the garden. Awaiting its bounty.

First bloom. Seeds are planted in the garden. Awaiting its bounty.

For everything there is an appointed time…

A time to give birth, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.

A time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to tear down, and a time to build.

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

(Eccesiastes 3:1-4)