Birth Story.

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(Photo taken the day I went into labor)

Birthing my son was everything I expected it to be and nothing at all like I expected it to be. It was very primal and spiritual at the same time. It took the surrendering of my mind and body, but also my birth plan. In preparation for natural childbirth, I read a ton of birthing stories, books, and how-to guidelines. In doing this, I think I prepared myself with useful tips on how to get through natural childbirth, but I also ended up putting it into a box.

You can’t put childbirth in a neat little box.

For example, I held steadfast to statistics printed in my birthing books. Things like: “Babies are usually born within 12-14 hours after the water breaks “ or “Transition occurs when the cervix dilates from 7-10 cm, and is the shortest part of labor.”

So, before I even went into labor, I had all of these guidelines for how things should happen. What I could expect and when. My labor did not fit into any box. It definitely was not what my birthing books considered “the norm” for a first time mother.

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I was four days past my due date when my water broke. The day before labor began, a Friday, I woke up feeling normal. I did a modified version of Body Pump, I went to a worship concert that my church was having. After standing and worshipping on my feet all night, we had to climb four flights of stairs to get back to our car. I joked with my husband that now that we’d gone to the concert, our baby would decide to come. Plus, it was a full moon that night…and you know what they say!

We got home around 11:30 pm, I still felt normal, except for my swollen feet. I noticed that my thighs were hurting a bit more than usual, but I attributed it to the stair-climbing and lay down to go to sleep around 12:30 a.m.

My water broke at 1:10 a.m. It was like someone had taken a pin and gently popped a water balloon inside of me. There was a first gush while I was lying down. Realizing what had just happened, I shook Jason awake and said “My water just broke!”. I climbed out of bed to get a towel and a second gush came out. It was at this point that my dog came over and began to lick up my amniotic fluid! I scolded her and sent her into the bathroom. After the second gush, my body began to shake uncontrollably. Jason asked if I was cold and I told him that I wasn’t, but I couldn’t control the shaking.

At 36 weeks pregnant, I found out that I tested positive for Group B Strep. It’s a common bacteria found in the vagina, but if passed to the baby through the birth canal, it can sometimes cause infection. (You can read more about that here.)  Testing positive for this meant that I would need administering of antibiotics at least 4 hours before the baby was born. It also meant that he was at risk earlier than normal since my water had broken first (removing the protective barrier around him). But there was no way that I was going into the hospital without contractions. So I lay a towel on the bed (it’s a little late for THAT!) and try to lay back down to get some rest, having full faith that my contractions would start soon enough. I told Jason that we should try to sleep as much as we could and that I’d wake him when I needed him.

I had my first contraction about 20 minutes after my water broke. I got out of bed, grabbed Jason’s phone so that I could start timing them. I decided not to get back in bed because I knew I would just keep him awake and he needed rest, so I went into the living room and began gathering the last of our things for the hospital. I sat down to read my daily devotional, I ate some scrambled tofu with veggies, and pitter-pattered around the house while timing contractions. Jason came out of the bedroom and asked how I was doing. I told him that my contractions were 6-9 minutes apart and manageable. We both agreed that we should wait to call the midwife until they were closer together, so once again, I told him to go get some rest and I would wake him when I needed him. It was about 5 a.m. at this point, and I decided to lay on the couch to try to rest too. This whole time, I had amniotic fluid and mucous continuously dripping from me. I was making a mess all over the house! I finally put a sanitary pad on and lay down on a towel on the couch. I fell asleep until about 7 a.m., only waking a few times to time my contractions. Since laying down, they had spaced out to 10-12 minutes apart.

Wanting to speed things along, I got up and went outside to do my morning chores. I fed the chickens, walked Marley around the yard, and tended to my garden. I’d squat down to pick cucumbers and have a contraction, so I’d hold that position until it was over. I stayed out in my garden for a good 45 minutes. I felt that they were coming closer together, so I went back in to time them. They were now 6-9 minutes apart and I went into the bedroom to wake Jason.

We ate breakfast together and loaded Marley in the car for a trip to the park. I wanted to stay active so that I could keep labor moving along, so we walked a mile at the park. I think I had two measly contractions while walking.

We got back home around 11 a.m. and Jason said that I should call the midwife just to let her know what’s going on. My contractions were still 6-9 minutes apart. I knew she was going to ask us to come in for the first round of antibiotics (and she did). We took our sweet time putting things into the car, eating lunch, and preparing the animals for our absence. We left for the hospital around 1:15 p.m.

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(In triage!)

Around 2 o’clock, they checked me into triage. I put on the standard “giving birth” night gown, it was kind of surreal…knowing that I wouldn’t be leaving again until I had my baby. They hooked me up to a machine that timed my contractions, took my BP, and did a vaginal swab to make sure that it was my water that had broken. Once I was hooked up to the machine, they saw that my contractions were 6-9 minutes apart, but I was only feeling half of them. The nurse told me that I’d just had a contraction and I was like “What? I didn’t feel a thing!”. The midwife came in to see how far along dilated I was. At this point I was only 1 cm and 50% effaced. I wasn’t disappointed about only being 1 cm, I knew that it would take time and that it was still early in the game. I’d been laboring for about 12 hours by now and felt confident that things would pick up soon.

My husband and I were supposed to spend about 20-30 minutes in triage, but the staff were backed up (they had 8 mothers go into labor that morning!), so we ended up staying in the little triage room for about 3 hours. Eventually the midwife came to take us to our L&D room, I was SO GLAD to be moving to our actual room. Once we were in our room, my husband discussed our birthing plan with the midwife and nurses. They were all on board, and so they left us alone for the next few hours to labor on our own.

My contractions were coming steady, they were still bearable. I was feeling them strongly in my lower abdomen, back, and upper thighs. It felt good to be up and moving during them, whether I was draped over the edge of the bed, with my hips swaying…or just walking in circles around the room.  This went on for hours. Jason and I stopped timing them. Every hour the midwife would come in and check on me, she would say things like ‘You’re doing great. Stay active and they’ll get stronger’, this really encouraged me. My husband was amazing too. He was right there if I needed anything, but at this point, I mainly wanted verbal encouragement. I didn’t necessarily want to be touched (ßthis would change!). My nurse, Shante, came in every hour to monitor my contractions and the baby’s heartbeat for 20 minutes at a time. His HR was great this whole time, and my contractions were around 3-6 minutes apart.

Sometime in the night, the contractions came closer together and stronger. Jason timed them for a while and saw that they were 2-5 minutes apart. I could no longer walk around through them, it took a lot to focus and breathe through each one. Late that night, I decided to get into the tub to help ease the pain. Jason turned on my birthing playlist, we dimmed the bathroom lights, and I sat in the water in a half-dazed state. When a contraction came, I would moan through it, trying really hard not to raise my voice in panic. I focused on keeping my moans low and deep, so as not to tense up. Jason sat outside of the tub, rubbing my arm and encouraging me. I stayed in the tub for probably an hour. My contractions were stronger and stronger, and my moaning became louder and louder. The midwife and nurse came in (I think they heard me in the hallway!) and said “It sounds like things are progressing! That’s a great sign! Do you want to get out of the tub so we can check you?”

It was 1 a.m., I had been laboring naturally for 24 hours straight. I felt certain that things were moving along and that I was getting closer and closer to meeting my baby. I got out of the tub and made it to the bed, asking her to ‘please hurry!’ because I couldn’t stand being on my back. She checked me and said “Honey, you’re still 1 cm dilated, but you’re also 100% effaced.”

I let out a cry of disbelief and anguish.

“How?! How is that possible?!” I looked at Jason and I could tell that he was shocked too. “Your body is progressing through the stages of labor, but your cervix is not getting the message. It’s been 24 hours since your water broke, and we can’t let you go too much longer without talking about other possibilities.”

I knew she was talking about starting a Pitocin drip. I looked at Jason with tears in my eyes. Honestly, I felt so betrayed by my body at this point. I felt so angry about the process. I felt defeated and so exhausted. After a few minutes of feeling sorry for myself, I got a new gust of determination. The midwife said she would give us a couple more hours to labor on our own and that she’d check back with me. She gave instructions to stay active, to do everything I could not to tense up with contractions, to get up and walk the halls and do whatever I could to get things moving along on my own. I nodded and they left the room.

I got out of bed, threw on my robe, and Jason and I started walking the halls. Contractions would hit, I’d grab onto the railing for support and sway my hips fervently back and forth until it was over. Then we’d keep walking. And then another contraction would hit, and I’d do the same thing over again. My contractions were a lot stronger than they were in the tub. I began sweating and shaking through them. It came to a point where I couldn’t walk through them, so we went back to the room and I labored there.

I was so hot at this point, and my contractions were so strong that I couldn’t speak through them. In the room, it would hit, and I’d grab Jason into a tight hug and he would rub my low back forcefully over and over while I moaned into his chest. Worried that I would tense up if I stopped moving, I tried my very best to go back out into the halls and keep walking.

I threw my robe back on, with nothing underneath, went back into the hallway and a contraction hit. I grabbed the railing, squatted down, and moaned loudly. There was a dad and his two young daughters walking down the hall, and they quickly walked past while avoiding eye contact with us. I’m sure my stuff was hanging out for all to see, but I didn’t care. The contraction passed, and I kept walking. We went through this cycle for about 30 minutes, and decided to go back to the room.

Once back in the room, things started picking up. My contractions were coming one on top of the other. I threw my robe off and got on all fours. My body was shaking so much, I could not control anything I was doing. I wanted the shaking to stop so that I could relax, but I couldn’t. I tried deep breathing, but I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t move. The pain was too great. Contraction after contraction hit, my mind became a blur, I was so hot and the shaking was unbearable, I began sobbing. The midwife came in and asked if she could check me. I told her I couldn’t move. Another contraction hit, and I cried through it. I just gripped the bed for dear life and cried my way through it. My legs would not stop shaking, this whole time. My whole body shook. That was not something that I was prepared for. It felt impossible to relax with the amount of shaking that I was doing. I couldn’t breathe deeply, I couldn’t think straight, I couldn’t move. I just sat there and sobbed and shook uncontrollably. A strong contraction hit, and I sobbed “Please, God. Please! Please. Please” over and over to no one in particular. Another one came, and I kept crying and begging God.

I’d been in labor for 32 hours without so much as a Tylenol. At this point, I desperately wanted to be checked and told that I’d progressed, but I couldn’t stand the thought of her telling me I was still only 1 cm. In my mind, I knew I was experiencing signs of transition way too early. I knew that if I couldn’t relax, then I would only be dragging this out for who knows how much longer. Another contraction hit, I sobbed and begged for pain relief. The nurse looked at me and said “Stacey, I need you to ask me for pain relief when you aren’t having a contraction. Not in the middle of one. I need to know that is what you really want.” (I so appreciate her saying this to me, the whole team was really great about trying to follow my birth wishes.)

When the contraction ended, I looked at Jason and said “I can’t do this much longer. I can’t go on like this. My body won’t stop shaking enough for me to relax, and I just want to rest. I want my baby here.” I cried. The midwife and nurse left the room so that we could talk about our options in private. I could tell that my husband was exhausted, and I knew that if my midwife checked me and I hadn’t dilated, that there would be talk of Pitocin. We decided to move forward with an epidural, in hopes that it would relax my body and I’d be able to dilate.

The nurse came back in and I told her that I wanted the epidural. She said she would notify the anesthesiologist. Contractions came and went, and I cried and shook and begged. I asked the nurse how much longer until it would be. She informed me that he was finishing up with another mother, and I would be the next one. Another contraction – I clung to the end of the bed in desperation, my body shaking vigorously. Finally, the doctor arrived and went over the procedure with me. I wasn’t even listening at this point. I wanted all of this to stop. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I had nothing left.

He told me to sit on the edge of the bed, and to lean forward and be very still. Well, at this time, I had a HUGE contraction and with it, I almost leapt off of the bed into the nurses arms. She said “You can’t move while he’s doing this. Try to breathe through the pain.” To which I replied “I can’t sit here! I cannot sit on this bed! I have to get down, please let me down.” She grabbed my hand and said “Stacey, look at me. Squeeze my hand. Look at me and breathe.” I breathed deeply and almost crushed that poor girls hand. The pain in my thighs while sitting was unbearable. I begged the doctor to hurry up. And before I knew it, he was done.

The medicine kicked in within the next ten minutes. I couldn’t feel anything from low abdomen all the way to my toes. My legs felt like they weighed a thousand pounds. Once the epidural was in place, everyone left the room. And I began to cry to my husband. This time it wasn’t out of pain, but just laboring for that long and being that exhausted, it all caught up with me. I cried because I so badly wanted to make the right decisions, medically-speaking, for my baby. All of the horror stories about epidurals that I read in my birthing books came flooding back in my mind. I wondered if I had made the right decision, and at the same time, I was too tired and spent to care.

Jason soothed me. He was so great during all of it: supporting me in the hardest of moments, and crying with me in the most emotional of moments.

He sat down in the hospital recliner to rest and quickly fell asleep. I was glad that he was asleep. I lay in the bed and rested, all was quiet. My nurse and midwife came back in to hook me up to the HR monitor and contraction machine. She checked me, I was 3cm dilated. She said we could give the epidural a few hours to see if my body progressed on its own before Pitocin should be considered. I agreed.

A couple of hours later, she checked again and I was still 3 cm. She suggested that we start a small dose of Pitocin to see if that kicked things into gear. I had been in labor for 35 hours now. Jason and I discussed it, and we agreed to the smallest possible drip of Pitocin. That was all I needed. Over the next 8 hours, my body dilated from 3 cm to the full 10 cm.

Towards the end, the epidural began to wear off a little. I couldn’t feel the urge to push, but I began to feel cramping in my pelvis and thighs. I was checked at 7:30 pm and was told that I was fully dilated and that it was pushing time. The nurse looked at me and said : “Don’t get discouraged, this part usually takes anywhere from 2-3 hours.” I nodded, already knowing that it could take hours. I didn’t care, I was close to meeting my baby! With each contraction, I held my legs back and put my chin to my chest and pushed with all of my might. My son was low down in the birth canal, and after the first two pushes, we could already see his head. In between contractions, I wore an oxygen mask to keep his HR stable. The midwife would rub the top of his head for stimulation as well.

I pushed for 40 minutes and he was out. Just like that. They handed him to me, and everything I was worried about faded! In my books, I read that epidural babies are usually blue in color, unresponsive, and have trouble latching. This was so not true for my son. He came out bright pink and red, crying and so alert! They waited for the cord to stop pulsing, and Jason cut it. My son was covered in vernix, and we left him that way. He was so alert right off the bat, looking around and responding to my voice. He took to my breast immediately, and nursed for two hours for his first feeding.

I began to feel contractions while nursing him, and the nurse informed me that it was time to push the placenta out. I did three gentle pushes and out it came. After my son was in my arms, they unhooked me from the epidural and all of the other machines. My legs were getting feeling in them again and I liked that.

They left him on my chest for a couple of hours, just to snuggle and get some skin to skin. Later in the morning, they came to weigh/measure him and do his Apgar testing. He was 8 lbs. 1 oz and 20 inches. He got 9’s on both of his Apgar tests.

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Recovery:

I gave birth on a Sunday night, they let us go home on a Tuesday morning. My recovery has been great. I had a one degree tear from pushing, but it’s mostly healed by now. There is a lot of bleeding after a vaginal birth! It feels like the longest period of my life! And I still get contractions when I breastfeed (it’s the uterus shrinking back down to its normal size), but nothing like the contractions of labor.

Looking back, I would not change a thing about how it all went down (except maybe more sleep before going into labor!). I was so glad to have the epidural after all those hours of laboring. It was the right choice for us at the time. My husband and I were talking about the experience last night, and he says that he thinks our next child will be born naturally. I feel the same way. Now that I have an inkling of what sensations to expect, and what not to do to prepare, I feel confident that at least one of my children will be born naturally. After getting the epidural, though it was what I needed at the time, I missed the sensations of the contractions. I missed feeling my body do the hard work. I also am disappointed that I never felt the natural urge to push. I didn’t like how heavy the epidural made me feel, but I think his birth needed to happen the way it did so that I can be better prepared to labor naturally with my next child.

It was an incredible experience. I could’ve birthed this baby out of my nose and would still have this over-the-moon high that just won’t go away. I feel as if I’ve stepped right into my calling, and that’s a great feeling!

Let’s have another!

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Remaining

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“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. ” John 15: 1-4

“If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. John 15: 5-8

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.

Now remain in my love.”John 15:9

Right now, in our church, we are focusing on learning how to remain in the Father in our everyday lives. The sermon series is called ‘The Power of Same’ and you can access it here if you’d like to. We are learning how there is power behind waking up and doing the same things every day. How there is meaning in the mundane and that God is always pruning us for His purpose. If you have an hour, you should definitely give the first sermon a visit.

But, I don’t want to talk about that today. Today I want to talk about when it is so stinking hard to remain in the Lord’s love and in His word.

I had a week from hell a couple of weeks ago. For some reason- maybe it’s the pregnancy hormones? – I spent all week feeling like a completely inadequate wife and housekeeper. Add this feeling in with the three-night insomnia cruise I was on, and well…you can imagine my state of mind after the third night of no sleep.

It all started on a Thursday night. My husband was working overnight from home (in our office). He had his work technicians on speaker phone and was talking loudly back to them so they could hear (as one does when using speaker phone). I lay in the bed and tried to drown it out (just a side note- a normal person wouldn’t say he was being loud, but I am such a light sleeper that a pin dropping on the floor would wake me up)…moments later I hear the cat in the living room scratching on my new rug and I think to myself “What is she still doing in the house? Why hasn’t he put her out yet?” And then the thought hits me: It’s two in the morning. She’s still inside. SHE’S ABOUT TO PEE ON MY RUG!! 

I bolted out of bed, furious for what I knew I was about to see, slung open the door and she had just finished relieving herself. On my brand new rug. At two in the morning. I. was. livid. Not at the cat, but at my husband (because I needed someone human to yell at and to place the blame on!). I stormed into the office, yelled about the cat and the fact that he was being loud, and then stormed back to the living room, cleaner in hand and began scrubbing cat piss out of the carpet. Thirty minutes later, I cleaned up the supplies, stormed to the bedroom and slammed the door behind me.

Way to go, Stacey.

I didn’t sleep that night either.

This week happened to be a particularly cold week. It was getting down the -teens at bedtime, so the night after the pee incident we decided to transfer the chickens to a perch under the house (where it stays around 50 or 60 degrees). Since I have more experience handling the chickens, I decided that I should be the one to pick them up and Jason could hold the door open for me. We have one hen that is skittish and nervous. As I was picking her up in the most gentle of ways, she began flapping her wings and knocked me right across the nose. I saw stars and thought for sure my nose was broken. Never underestimate the strength of a chicken wing! (<–the weirdest sentence in this post, I promise). My fault for not seeing that coming…I gently put her on the new perch, breathed deeply and went back in the house glad that the day was over. (My nose wasn’t broken, FYI).

One day passes, I am still in my funk but I get up and read Jesus Calling and the Bible as I do every morning. It’s been at least four days since I’ve slept and I am so tired that my eyes are hurting. I am on the verge of tears all throughout the day. I feel silly for my feelings and the thoughts coming to my head: I am the worst wife. I can’t even control my temper. I am so freaking tired. I don’t want this responsibility anymore. I want to go for a drive and keep driving. My pets hate me. I can’t even keep up with the laundry this week. 

Sunday morning rolls around and we are getting ready to leave the house for church. I am still broken from the previous days events, but I know that worshiping and hearing God’s word will help get me focused again. Right before we head out of the door, I realize the cat is still in the house. On my rug. I don’t trust her after what happened on Thursday night, so I walk toward her to pick her up (to put her out) and as I’m lifting her to my chest she attacks me. Hissing, growling, squirming this way and that, clawing the crap out of me…just barely missing my face, but she gets my arms and hands pretty good..

It’s at this point that I say to God:

“I am done. I’m not doing this anymore. I don’t care about this stupid house. I don’t care about these stupid pets. I don’t want this life. I want a job. I want OUT of here. I don’t want what You’ve given me. Take it back. I’m DONE. I’m. DONE.”

We go to church, I am holding back tears all throughout the car ride. I eventually break down in the auditorium as we are standing and singing:

“He who was and is to come, He’s the one who lives in us, the Great I Am, Yaweh”

It is so hard to remain in the Lord sometimes. It is so hard to remain in His love and remember His love for us while we are doing laundry  or feeding our pets. I know that being at home is meant to set me free, but I can’t help but feel like this place is a prison sometimes. And maybe you feel that way about remaining in your job. We all have our own prisons that we occasionally visit. Mine is the self-pity, selfish prison…where I don’t want to do anything for anyone…and “what has this person done for me that I should do this for him??”.

This space that the Lord has me in is so quiet. It gets lonely. And to be honest, most of the time I am singing in the Spirit…I go about my day as if I were doing all of my duties for God Himself. But there are other days..days when I can’t remember His love, or the fact that I’m “already clean”. There are days when I feel myself silently begging to be placed somewhere else. And in the middle of this, do you know what God asks me to do?

“Get quieter”, He says.

“Go farther into the loneliness.”

“Keep doing for others without them doing things for you.”

So I do.

I deleted my Facebook account last week. I know that the Lord has been asking me to do this for quite some time. But I would always come up with excuses not to. Or I’d take a month-long break from it, only to get back on. As I was sitting in the sermon (the day of the cat attack), I was thinking of this, and the Lord said to me: “You can’t fully be in your calling if you are constantly trying to distract yourself from it. I can’t pull you in deeper and give you the blessing of this calling if you are constantly searching for other means of approval or love.”

Then I knew it was time to let social media go. I began thinking about what kind of mother I want to be to my child. I never want my kid to fight for attention with my phone. I don’t want to be so caught up in capturing a special moment and posting it for “friends” to see that I never really soak in that moment, you know what I mean?

And so my days feel lonelier – I say feel, but the “friends” I had on Facebook weren’t ever with me, but it felt like I had a constant audience at my fingertips; always someone to “talk” to if I ever got too lonely, or if it ever got too quiet.

So I’m deeper in this. And I have to believe that it is for His glory. I have to believe that something so amazing will come of this. Maybe I’ll create a small group and develop real relationships that way. Maybe by the time this child is born, I will be so into this calling that I will embrace the sleepless nights with ease…I’ll embrace the crying spells with joy because I’ve been to the quiet place and the lonely place, and the feeling-like-none-of-this-matters place. It does matter. And it will matter.

I have to believe this. Nothing is ever wasted with the Lord. He uses everything.

If you are in a situation where you can’t see why you are doing what you’re doing, just keep going. Even if you are at the end of your rope, never stop. Get up, make your coffee the same as you did the day before. Get dressed, go to work, pray to God when you don’t feel like it. Keep believing that He’s doing something in you. He prunes us to make us more fruitful. Don’t give up. Tomorrow may be the day when things become clear, or maybe it will be a year from now…but, you’ll look back and realize that you had to go through that hard place.

You and the Lord are tethered at the hip. You are able to stray, maybe even out of sight, so long as the tether remains, you will always find your way back to the One. Never cut the rope. Keep getting up. Keep going. Keep looking up. He’s there.

I promise.

Xoxo,

Stacey B.

[Dear Baby]

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(source)

Dear Baby,

Your daddy and I praise the Lord for you. If the love that we already have for you is even a glimpse of what our Father feels for us, then…well, I cannot even fathom such a love. We cannot wait to meet you in July, to hold you and watch you grow into a child of God. Meanwhile, I will do everything I can to keep you safe and healthy. Make yourself comfy and keep growing in there, we’ve still got a ways to go 🙂 What a blessing you are to us, we love you so.

Love,

Your mama

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Just a note- I am happy to share this journey with you guys! I have a post about how I knew it was time for me to become a mom, and some funny stories from my first trimester, but this will not turn into a pregnancy blog. I will not be tracking my months on here, but I will continue to share lessons that the Lord is teaching me in my life- and I’m sure some of those will be in the field of parenting (!)…either way, thanks for listening and reading. You are loved. ❤

In the Wilderness

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I sat down to write this post with a specific topic in mind…Its been forming in my mind for about a month now, but as I started to type it just didn’t feel right. The truth is, I have a lot of things and lessons going on in my life right now that I need to get out. So, I gave this one to the Lord. It’s His post. Whatever is supposed to come out will. I’m just the vessel. So here goes…

Last October my friend and I went hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Just a side-note: I feel so stinkin’ lucky to live only 1.5 hours away from such beauty ❤ It’s my home away from home. Anyway, we went to a 5 mile trail that I had only hiked once (with the husband a few months prior) and it was so beautiful and such a hidden treasure that I wanted to take my best friend there for a day trip. It’s the sort of trail that starts out kind of “meh”, running through a campground and along a road…but then you go through a tunnel of trees and you step out into this beautiful, open field. When my husband and I went, the flowers were blooming in the field and it was the prettiest, most natural thing I’d ever come across. Untouched by human hands. No trash to be found anywhere. It’s the type of sight that stops you in your tracks, your heart makes you stand there and take it in.

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The rest of the trail winds alongside a beautiful river. There are a lot of side trails that take you down to the water to climb the rocks and wade in the shallow ends. It’s so peaceful.

So my friend and I began hiking the trail, talking of God and the things going on in our lives. We come to the meadow (the flowers are no longer there but it is still just as beautiful) and take a side-trail up to the top of a hill to take in the view. On the way back down I noticed two trail heads…something that didn’t register with me last time. I stood thinking out loud about which one to take, eventually deciding on the one that my brain had me believe was the most familiar. My friend and I hiked another mile, and it wasn’t until we found ourselves walking along an actual highway that I realized I had chosen the wrong path. We were exhausted at this point and super hungry. I had taken us a mile out of the way, which added two extra miles to our hike!

On the way back, walking in silence, wanting to get back to the actual trail…the Lord said to me: “How often my children do this.”

Not a question, but a statement.

God wasn’t referring to His children getting lost in the woods…but His children leaving Him standing on the right path to take their own, “better” path. I imagine it as being hand-in-hand with the Lord while scaling a mountain. It is a rough hike, but you have the best guide. You are laughing and the hike doesn’t seem so hard because of who you are with. You know where you going because…again, you have the best Guide.

But then we see a different path branching off of the right one. It is deceiving and enticing. It may have beautiful flowers and the right path doesn’t. It may have tall cedars while the right path has only small shrubbery. You think that way is more beautiful…surely it’s a better path, so why not take it? You let go of the Lord’s hand and leave him standing at the trail marker….where He waits for you to come back to Him so you can keep going, so you keep climbing the mountain together.

While he waits, you go on your own way. You try to figure out the path for yourself, but you aren’t getting anywhere. And though you couldn’t see them before you chose this new path, there are thorns on the flowers, and the tall cedars make you feel claustrophobic. Eventually you realize you’d rather be with Him, hiking the not-so-beautiful mountain. You miss holding His hand and the warmth of His heart that is so contagious.

So you go back to Him. And He is right where you left Him, waiting with an embrace and a smile. You open your mouth to tell Him about your adventure, and how you are sorry for trying your own path…but He stops you. Because not only does the Lord wait for us when we stray from Him, but He goes before us into those situations. He makes sure that the thorns don’t cut too deep and that the cedars aren’t so tall that they become the only thing you can see when you look up. He makes sure that we don’t get so lost in our own wilderness that we forget about Him and the path we were on before.

I also believe that a person can come out of the wilderness but not realize it because of the scales on their eyes-  the cloudiness of their vision. If you have been wondering in the wilderness for a long time, your “eyes” (<–the soul) may be so used to the dark that even small blades of grass will look like huge trees blocking your way.

The Lord waits for us. He saves us. He goes before us into the hell we have created and protects us from destroying our eyes with darkness. He calls us out of the wilderness after letting us try our own way for some time. 

On the way back to the trail, I began to think of all the times I stepped out into my own wilderness and how the Lord was with me each and every time. Even before I believed in Him! Even when I was denouncing His Great Name to my mother over lunch!

He was there when I was 20 and trying to get pregnant with my drug-addicted boyfriend.

He was there when I didn’t have a place to live, and was hopping from hotel to hotel…eventually living out of my car for a couple of days.

He was there when my sister’s friends asked me to do drugs at one of her parties.

He was there when I was working double shifts as a waitress just to pay for a class at community college.

He was there when my dad stopped showing an interest in my and my siblings life.

He was there when I was tearing my moms house upside-down looking for change just so I could get a snack and a soda.

He was there when I was engrossed in atheism books and telling everyone “I don’t believe in God.”.

He. was. there. And He is present in anything that you may be going through now. You know what I find comfort in? The fact that nothing surprises God. Nothing. None of the situations or heartache that we have faced or will ever face is going to surprise Him. He’s already in it, fighting for us. It’s not like He says “Oh man, so-and-so lost their job. What am I going to do now? I didn’t prepare for this.” Um, no! And that’s not to say that God wants us to go through hard times or pain, but we live in a fallen world and it’s part of the package. But He fights for us. None of the battles we face are ours, they are His to fight. Let’s let Him do His job.

He is with you…waiting for you…calling you out of your wilderness…go back to Him. You are loved.

Thankful…

fire

Hi loves!

I hope this post finds you all well and your hearts full of happiness 🙂 How was your Christmas? Mine was pretty low-key. We saw a lot of family, ate a lot of food, and had 4 pre-teen girls sleep over on Christmas night. It was chaotic and loud, but oh so worth it. I’ve been reflecting on this past year, and all of the great moments leave me anxious to start the new year! Bring it on, 2015! We ready for you!

But, until then…this is what I’m thankful for lately:

… for an insurance agent that was so super nice and understanding with me that it almost brought me to tears. It really does make a difference when a person loves their job!

…for four teenage family members who, not only make my truck smell like Jolly Ranchers, but fill it with the sound of giggles and loud story-telling.

…for the Netflix gurus who decided to put all 10 seasons of Friends on Instant Play this January!! Buh-bye productivity 😀

…for the good Lord waking me up every single morning, for physically being able to get myself out of the bed, and for the precious time we have together during my morning devotion.

…for “Wow, you look beautiful” compliments from a complete stranger (and from a woman, at that!) . Much needed on a day when I felt not-so-great about myself. (I am a firm believer in giving someone a compliment the moment you think that nice thought about them. Never hold it in! You never know when someone really needs to hear it 😉 )

…for the blessing of being able to do life with an amazing group of women that constantly encourage me and lift me up

…for big ol’ fat veggie burgers and mounds upon mounds of fries (just keeping it real)

…for a husband that spends his day off running errands with me and taking me to a movie! I think I’ll keep him 🙂

…for sunny, warm weather that is so odd this time of year but appreciated nonetheless

…for bear hugs from my 90 year old grandmother that is wheelchair bound. Seriously, the best hug I’ve gotten all year.

…for sweet neighbors that bring me homemade zucchini bread for no other reason except they were thinking of me. Community is the BEST.

…for a heated home, warm pj’s, and a bed to sleep in at night. The man sleeping under a bridge keeps me in a constant state of thankfulness for these things.

…for the ability to dance to while I wait for my spaghetti noodles to boil 😀

…and most of all, I am thankful for the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Thank you for coming for us so that we may spend eternity with You. You are the reason for the season, Lord!

Until next time…

Xoxo,

Stacey B.

Lessons Learned in the First Year (and a half!) of Marriage

Hi friends! I hope you all have had a lovely Thanksgiving! I am currently in full detox mode. I ate so much over the course of the last two days! But that’s what the holidays are for, right? 🙂 Now all I want are fresh, steamed veggies and brown rice! No. more. dairy. (I’m a vegan 95% of the year, haha). I hope that you had great time with family and friends, and that not only your bellies are full, but your hearts are also 🙂

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a long time. My husband and I have been married for a year and a half, and I believe it is true when they say ‘When you marry, you marry a stranger’. The first year of marriage has been amazing, but I find that I am learning more and more about who my husband is and the role that I play in his life. I have learned some great lessons in what it means to be a wife to my husband, and I wanted to share some of those, sometimes hard-earned, lessons with you in the hopes that it will help your marriage…or maybe at the end of this you will see your role differently. Take what you want from this post! Every marriage is different 🙂 Let’s begin, shall we?

couple

(These are listed in no particular order)

 

1. Never assume anything about your spouse. 

What they are thinking, their intentions behind their actions, what they are doing when they aren’t home – assume. nothing. You have no idea what is going on in your spouse’s brain. And I can bet you that half of the time when you think your husband is thinking of something deep, he is probably thinking of football or a project that needs to be done around the house 😀 For me, this came in the form of housework. My husband likes to sit a dirty dish on top of the dishwasher instead of in the dishwasher. This drove me crazy for months! Whenever I would witness this, the assumptions would begin:

“He doesn’t care about helping me keep the house clean.” “He just sits it there and thinks I’ll do it later.” “He doesn’t value me and what I do for our house.” <– do you see how quickly that escalated?! Calm down, Stacey.

Because this was a topic that I kept bringing to my husband (along with other small habits that drove me crazy), and because nothing was changing, I decided to take it to God. And I found that the prayer I used for these minor issues in our marriage is now a prayer that I turn to for many things.

“Lord, you know these things are annoying me. If this is something that I should not be getting upset over, then please change my heart. Let me see it differently. If it is something that needs to change, then change my husbands heart. I don’t want to waste any more time or brain power getting aggravated over something so small.”

I can promise you, the next day my mood was completely different. I witnessed my husband put his cereal bowl on top of the dishwasher and my first thought was “Eh, what’s one more dish to throw in there?”. BOOM. CHANGE. But the reason that I was able to let it roll off so quickly (without out the assumptions flooding in) was because I realized…

2. My husband just doesn’t think. 

And I mean this in the sweetest way possible. My man kept a perfect 4.0 throughout college, was in the Honors Society, and is a genius when it comes to Engineering, but he doesn’t think about little things like putting a dish where it actually goes. It isn’t that he is intentionally trying to hurt my feelings or that he doesn’t value me, he really just doesn’t think about it! And unlike women, men actually have the capacity to not think of anything. It’s pretty amazing! This means that, ladies, when you ask your man what he’s thinking and he replies “Nothing, really”, he’s being completely honest! It isn’t because he doesn’t want to share his deepest thoughts with you, it’s because he knows how to turn the think-tank off. I am so jealous of this ability!

I think the Lord immediately changed my view of this behavior because He knew there was no ill-intention behind it, it is just a male thing. And now I’m thankful that I can look back and laugh about how frustrated this made me 🙂 And maybe it isn’t dishes for you, maybe your husband leaves his clothes everywhere, or maybe he leaves his shaven chin hairs on the sink (not that I speak from experience 😉 ) …but I can almost promise you that cleaning it isn’t something that just crosses his mind, and not because he doesn’t love or value you, but because he is a man. And I guess, honestly, I would rather have my guys brain power being used for more useful things like work, or problem-solving, than thinking of every single action he does in our home. Amen. So pick up the dish and move on.

3. Let your spouse serve you.

It’s okay to ask for help. Better yet, it’s okay to accept help. This was probably one of the hardest lessons I learned. I grew up quickly and was very independent from my early teens on until…well, recently. I have always provided for myself financially -living on my own, paying my own bills, working hard for myself, etc. My husband works about 70 hours a week. Sometimes we go through whole weeks only having seen each other twice, and not having had dinner together at all. In our marriage, we both serve each other in different ways. My husband serves me by working and providing for us. I serve him by taking care of our house and animals, and running errands for him when he doesn’t have time. I learned to accept our different roles early on, but what I had trouble with was accepting help when my husband wasn’t  at work.

For example, Jason would offer to make me tea in the morning and I’d tell him that I’d make it. Why? Because my mindset is: “If I have the ability to do it, then I should do it. I don’t want to bother anybody…he’s got enough on his plate.” Or after dinner, I would quickly get up and take our plates so he wouldn’t have to.

Maybe your spouse offers to do small things for you that you decline because you can “do it yourself”. But what if, after working all week, this is the only extra help/show-of-affection that your spouse has to offer you? What if my husband asking me if I’d like some tea is his way of showing appreciation for me? Why would I want to deprive him of that opportunity? These small offers come from a place of love, so freely accept them and thank God for a loving spouse.

4. Your spouse’s dreams should become your dreams.

One night, Jason and I sat down to talk about the dreams/goals each of us wants to accomplish in our lifetimes, either individually or as a married couple. You guys, having this conversation with your spouse will unlock doors to your marriage. It took my husband a minute, but eventually he began listing off things that he’s always wanted to do. And some of the things he said, I never would’ve guessed! I felt like I learned so much about him that night! The more he talked about the things he wanted to do in life, the more my mind was all “Yes! I want to help you do that! That’d be so fun for you!!”.

You and your spouse are now living life together. For better or worse, til death do you part, this man/woman is who you picked for the rest of your life- through adventure, struggle, life, death, new hobbies- everything. If my husband is “stuck” with me (tehe 🙂 ) for the rest of his life, I want to make that life as enjoyable as possible. Little did I know that as we sat and talked about his dreams, I would soon be tested in just how much I really meant what I was thinking.

One of Jason’s dreams was to go deep-sea fishing in the Gulf Stream. This is something I am not interested in in the least, I knew that one of his buddies would have to invite him for him to go. Anywho, about two weeks after this conversation we had a mini-getaway weekend of camping in the mountains planned. We hadn’t camped all summer, so I was dying to get out of the house and sleep under the stars before cold weather took over and the season passed us. We planned to leave on a Friday and stay two nights at our favorite family-owned campground in Sparta, NC. The Wednesday before we were scheduled to go, my husband received an e-mail from his boss inviting him to go on a Gulf Stream fishing trip! For two nights. I could tell when Jason mentioned it that he was a little worried that I would say ‘No, what about our plans?’, and honestly, my heart was a little broken. Not because of the camping, but because we wouldn’t be getting our much-needed getaway together. I would be without my husband for those two nights. I would be here alone, as I am all the time, when we were supposed to be soaking up quality time around a campfire. But I knew that it was a great opportunity for him. So he went. And I’m glad he did. He can now cross that off of his list. We didn’t camp this year, but that’s OK. There is next year, we can always go camping! My husband won’t always have the opportunity to go deep sea fishing!

And I didn’t whine or complain, I sent him off with kisses, extremely happy that he was getting the opportunity. And then I snuggled with my dog all weekend

I don’t think he knows this, but I keep a list of his dreams/goals in the ‘Notes’ section on my phone so I can have them at hand in case an opportunity presents itself. Also- it’s good for birthday/vacation ideas!

A happy husband makes for a happy wife. And a happy life. Encourage each others dreams!

5. Sacrifice.

I don’t think the previous point can be made without making another point on ‘Sacrificing’. At the beginning of our marriage, or especially when I finished school, I found myself saying to the Lord:

“Lord, I feel like I sacrifice in this marriage all the time. I feel as if I am only giving. I can’t give anymore. I’m tired. I just want to be. I don’t want to worry about anyone else’s happiness…what about me?”

You can’t have a balanced marriage without sacrifice- and I know how crazy and backwards that sounds, but it’s true!

I had to sacrifice a weekend getaway so my husband could live out one of his dreams. I have to sacrifice what I think marriage should be, or what society tells me it should be, in order to be present in the one I have. I’m not sure I have more to say on this point, except that if you find yourself in a place of “What is he doing for me? Why should I do so-and-so for him if he doesn’t even [fill in the blank]?” Then you need to read this post on dying to self. What will help you and your marriage more than anything else is going from a ‘me’ mentality to a ‘we’ mentality. Dare I say, even a ‘he’ mentality – one in which you are not the forefront of every thought, and your husbands/spouses needs are?

6. It’s not a contest.

This means that points are not being totaled. Hurtful arguments, words or actions are kept in the past never to be brought up again. We all say things we don’t mean in the heat of the moment, but to bring your spouses shameful action to light in a new heated discussion is only throwing more fuel onto the fire. In marriage, you are not allowed to keep score on what your spouse does or doesn’t do. Jesus doesn’t do it to us, so why would we do it to our loved one? Can you imagine if the Lord kept score?! We would all be up poop creek without a paddle! There is no way we could ever repay the Lord for what he has done for us. Can you imagine if every time you sinned, the Lord forgave you but also reminded you of how you sinned last time? That is exactly what we do when we bring up old incidences in new arguments. When you do this, you are saying to your spouse “You did this hurtful thing one time, but that is now how I see you. You were hurtful, so that means you are hurtful. Can you believe you acted that way? And here we go again with the way you are being now. This is who you are.”

Does the Lord hurl shame at us? No. We are not to hurl shame at others, much less our spouses.

My husband and I rarely argue, we have more disagreements. But there have been a time or two when we’ve really gotten into a heated argument. With our last heated argument, my husband said something hurtful that I’d done in the past (just being transparent here!) and I calmly said to him “You aren’t allowed to bring that up anymore. You aren’t allowed to carry that, it was in the past, I’m ashamed of it, but it’s done. That isn’t fair.” So now it stays in the past.

We’ve also learned to argue/disagree in a smarter way. We try to keep the disagreement on the actual topic that we’re disagreeing on. We don’t let it stray from the main point. Straying in an argument is dangerous territory- that is when you start bringing all of the old actions into new territory, and this only brings bitterness and resentment to the table.

These three questions help keep me focused on what matters. I don’t ask them aloud, but I silently ask and answer them in my mind..

1. Why are we arguing?

2. What do I want out of this? (i.e. What do I want to happen at the end of this?)

3. Is this overall important?

Most of the time the answer is clear. Move. on.

7. Let your husband lead the household. 

If the answer isn’t clear, and it is about something important that you two just can’t agree on – your husband should ultimately get the final say in the matter. If you have prayed about this concern, asking God to please change your husbands heart on the matter, and it just isn’t happening…then trust that your husband has what is best for you and your family in mind, even if it is the last thing you want. This can be something as life-changing as moving to another city (even another country), having just one more child, going back to school for a higher degree – any of those big life-changing decisions.

Sometimes Jason will come to me asking my opinion on certain things, and I will give it…but I mainly ask him questions to get him talking to trying to work it out himself. For instance, we are thinking of getting a newer car. The car I drive now is an older one, getting up there on miles, but it still is the best car I’ve ever had. He’s been looking at cars, and when he asked me about this I said “Well, eventually we’ll need to get a new one. But do we have the money right now? Is it a pressing need, or more of a want? Is it something we can hold off on?” And the more he answered those questions out loud, the more he came to his own conclusion. I’m happy to help the process 🙂

If it ever came down to moving to another state, away from family, I would pray pray PRAY over it. But ultimately, I would follow my husband wherever he felt to lead us. This gives him confidence as my husband, and I’d like to think it makes him confident in decision-making in other areas of his life as well.

8. The most important thing you can do in marriage is…

…pray for your spouse. You are with them, the most intimate family member they have. You know their need emotionally, spiritually, physically, so use that and pray for them. I’d say this is the one thing that has completely enhanced my marriage. I give it to God. It isn’t mine, it is the Lords union. When my husband is working 15 hour shifts over night, sleeping for 3 hours, and then starting it all over again, I pray for him. I pray for his strength and endurance to get through his tasks. I pray that the Lord will give him a clear mind and a good day to keep him happy. And even if you don’t know your spouses needs, God does. So just pray on his behalf.

I also pray for myself as wife. I ask God to help me be the best ‘help-meet’ I can for my husband. I ask that I can serve him with a joyous heart, and I ask the Lord to show me how best I can help my husband.

God hears this and honors it. He honors God-centered marriage. He wants us to ask him for help. He designed me, the woman and wife, with a specific duty in mind. I want to live that out as best I can. And I want a happy spouse.

I hope that this has helped someone. Jason and I are far from perfect, but we love each other and we love Jesus. And sometimes it feels like that is all we need.

Things I’m still working on: sharing my food.

Don’t. touch. my. plate.

Sharing is not caring 😀

Reaching Others…

Hi (again) loves,

Shine now has a Facebook page. On this page, I will share encouraging words, scripture, blog posts, and glimpses of my everyday life. Join me over there and lets lift each other up! ❤

Love you to the moon and back,

Stacey

Stone Walls

blueridge

Hi!

Things at the homestead have been interesting, to say the least. Our smallest hen, Butters, has started acting like a rooster! It is the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen. She is trying to “mate” with two of our hens, and she does circles around them with her wing out…I’ve researched it and it seems to be a dominance thing. I’ve read that sometimes in a flock with no rooster, one of the hens will take on the role of the rooster to keep peace in the flock. You can imagine how shocked I was when I first witnessed this behavior! “Is our she a he?!!” But no, Butters is definitely a hen.

There is never a dull moment with these animals 🙂

Other than strange chicken behavior, I’ve been having fun trying to plan our vacation to Costa Rica in April. Jason and I have never been out of the country, and would not be able to go if it weren’t for a very generous gift from a sweet family member. The task of planning this trip is a bit overwhelming right now, mainly because I keep looking at maps like this, that leave me thinking “Uhhh….durrrrr hmmmmm”:

Costa Rica Illustrated Map by Maria Rabinky. Hand drawn illustrated map (source)

We have no idea where to stay (if any of you readers have been there, please help!), but we do have some ideas of what we’d like to do:

My ideas:

  1. Soak in a thermal hot spring
  2. Hike, hike, and hike some more
  3. Zipline through the forest
  4. Go on the swinging bridges in the forest
  5. Catch a glimpse of the wildlife (sloths, monkeys, colorful birds, oh my!)

Jason’s ideas:

  1. Eat a banana that was locally grown
  2. Spend some time on the beach

My husband is low maintenance for sure 😀 When I asked him the one thing that he really wanted to do while there, he immediately replied with the “eat a local banana” answer. This cracked me up! I never thought about that, but it would be awesome to eat a banana from the actual place where they’re grown and shipped from! So…in continuation of my list:

6. Eat a local banana

😀

Anyway, those things are not the reason I am writing today. Last week was hard. I described in my last post how God is teaching to die to self, and to love others sacrificially. Every day that I spend at home is a learning experience for me. Last week was a quiet one. My heart grew restless and I began questioning His calling on my life – “Lord, am I on a shelf because I am precious to you or because I put myself here out of fear?” “Have you been waiting for me to move this whole time?” “Have I misunderstood your words over my life? Are you waiting for me??” 

My heart was in such a confused state that every night before bed I would pray for an obvious sign from the Lord that I am exactly where He wants me.

And while walking in the park one day, I received it.

But first, a little background before we get into it.

——————————————————–

My last job was as a nanny to the same family for 7 years. This was the job I held all throughout my college years. I watched three smart, beautiful kids grow up over the span of seven years. There were two boys and one girl (the oldest). When I began babysitting them, they were 6 months, 3, and 5 years old. I had fun with the kids, but I also let the challenging times shape how I viewed that time of my life. While I was in this job, I did not appreciate it for what it was. I had no clue how God was using me or shaping me in this role. I thought that my job as a nanny was to get me to a place where God really wanted me. I often commented to my (now) husband: “I can’t wait to get a real job” Ha! Um, raising three kids is a real job, Stacey!

Newsflash: God really wants you exactly where you are, most of the time. He puts us specific seasons of our lives for a reason. It is not only a waste of our time to ‘wish’ ourselves out of a season, but I think it also insults God a little. 

Now that I am out of that season, I look back on it and wish I wouldn’t have let such small things stress me out. I wish I would’ve had more patience with the kids and made more memorable moments with them. I have regret about some of the ways I acted and some of the things I did/didn’t do with them. I have regret for not truly living in the moments of those years. At least that’s how see it….

So now we get to the present…where I’m fervently praying for God to show me that I am where I am supposed to be- in the home.

Last week, I took Marley to the park for a walk. It was a beautiful, sunny, fall day. It was also unseasonably warm. I began getting hot in my long sleeve exercise shirt, but the sun felt so great on my face. It is in that moment that God chose to flood me with a memory I had long forgotten from my nannying days.

 (source)

 

In this memory, John (the youngest) was about 2-3 at the time. We used to take their dog, Cookie, on a walk around the block. At the end of the block, right before going back home, there was a stone wall that the (bigger) kids used to love to hop up and balance across until jumping off at the end.

Well, this particular time, it was just John and I. We were about to pass the stone wall, and John wanted to go up there (just like his big brother and sister, of course!). I was afraid for him, I thought he might be too little…but he was so eager to that I decided to hoist him above me on the wall. I remembered putting him up there and his face was so proud! He felt so big and triumphant to be walking on the stone wall just like the big kids. His little hand was clasped in mine, I remember looking up and at him so proud and happy for him in that moment. His tiny fingers were tightly clamping down on mine, his focus was strong. He put one foot in front of the other, the sun was shining on our faces and once we got to the end of the wall, I did a big reach and swung him back down to the sidewalk to join me. He was so happy!

I had completely forgotten that moment. I quickly thanked God for it. And then He spoke:

“That is who you ARE. You are a soft landing for your friends and family. You are a care giver, a nurturer. You help those that can’t do it by themselves scale stone walls. And how you remember that season is not how the children remember it. Let me show you what they remember.”

Over the next few days, God put memory upon memory in my mind…those that I had long forgotten or that had been clouded by some of the more stressful times with the kids. He reminded me of the first day of Christmas break with the kids. How they ran from the bus, through the living room door and immediately began getting ready for Christmas. The middle child would turn on Christmas music, the girl and I would bake Christmas cookies in the kitchen, and John would build his train track around the Christmas tree. The smells and sounds in the house were wonderful, we all were in a good mood. He reminded me of that time we went to the zoo and got caught in a torrential downpour and had to spend most of the morning huddling together under a Dippin’ Dots umbrella…except I viewed that trip as an utter disaster, but the Lord brought it back in a different light..this time He showed me how, even though I thought it was miserable, the kids were laughing under that umbrella – they thought it a great adventure!

The way we see ourselves and our situations is not how God sees them. It’s not even how others see them. They way I was looking at John while he was balancing on the stone wall, my eyes full of pride and love, that is how God looks at me. And that is how He looks at you too. The way I tightly gripped John’s hand as he walked across the wall- the Lord grasps our hand the same way as we go through life. He boosts us up into scary situations but He never lets go of our hand. And he catches us when we have come to the end of the wall.

He delights in us the way we delight in our children. He eagerly waits for us to wake from our slumber in the morning. He misses us while we sleep. He takes pleasure in us when we turn to Him at the beginning of our day.

I know that there is a ministry in what I’m doing. I know that the next season he takes me into will be of equal importance as what He’s given me right now. I don’t know what the next season looks like, but I believe my God. Nothing is wasted. If you are anxious about your current circumstances, the Lord wants you to pray to Him. Forget all of your own plans for your life and truly seek His plan for you. Ask for revelation, ask for a clear and observable sign. God loves to show Himself to His children.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” – Matthew 7:7

“And God will open wide the gates of heaven for you to enter into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” – 2 Peter 1:11

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” – Mark 11:24

It is easy to get obsessed with the future. It is easy to worry and be anxious about what is coming next. While it is sometimes important and necessary to think in a long-term sense, I think what the Lord really wants His believers to do is to seek out the calling He has placed in their lives for that day. Not next month or next year, but that day. Pray for wisdom for this very day. Pray that you can glorify your Lord through your words and actions this day. Pray that at the end of the day, that the Lord will be pleased with what you’ve done. Doing this has made each and every day so much easier. I can rest in the Lord and know that I am doing what I need to do today. 

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”- Matthew 6:34

May the Lord bless you with revelation, with peace to get through this day, and with a glimpse of His everlasting Love. You. are. so. loved.

See you next time,

Stacey B.

A Lesson in ‘Dying to Self’

 

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When I was little, I used to love to perform for others. At 5 years old I would take my me-maw’s cane (not while she was using it, ha!), put on a cowboy hat and boots, and dance around to Billy Ray Cyrus while my grandmother looked on and clapped along. One time at Thanksgiving, I made everyone get up from the table and follow me outside so that I could show them my new gymnastics moves. What I was doing was hardly gymnastics, just a bunch of rolling and tumbling, but I was proud and I loved an audience.

As I got older, I didn’t so much as care about the audience as I did about making people laugh and smile. And maybe even seeking their approval of me.

I have always felt set apart by God. Even when I didn’t know Him. I felt destined for greatness, I felt different from others. I felt like there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do or accomplish. The world was my oyster. Before knowing Jesus, this manifested itself in me wanting to be a model (HA!), a TV personality, a veterinarian, a nanny for the stars, a singer/dancer…you get the idea. Anything that was not a sit-still job, anything that allowed my personality to flourish and that put me in front of an audience.

After meeting Jesus, it manifested itself in my wanting to go around the world to serve Him. I’ve wanted to open a local homeless shelter (because it is kind of sad how little provision the homeless have in my county). After getting in the Biology program, I saw my passion for animals so I thought I’d use that to start a farm sanctuary, intending to give some of the profits to local charity. Then I wanted to rehabilitate injured raptors/birds, or work with the Humane Society and rescue animals in need. All of these things are grand things (to me). They involve me using my skills (I’m great with animals) and centering my passions on work that I would use to glorify the Father. Sometimes (while in the program) I’d imagine myself rehabilitating a bird, and then being able to set it free in the wild…and how amazing that would feel, how great it would be to be a part of that. Other times I would imagine myself buying and renovating an old building in town to turn it into a homeless shelter that offered job training. I even began laying down the plans for it! I never felt like I couldn’t do these things.

Then I graduated.

I have applied to countless jobs, with only one nonprofit contacting me for an interview (I never got the job). After two months of looking for a job, I began to get frustrated with God. “Where do you want me? Why is this taking so long? I’m not doing anything, I feel so useless and worthless.”  I would pray for God to open doors, for Him to put something in front of me that would allow me to glorify and please Him. It eventually came to the point where I didn’t feel peace about job searching anymore. In everything I did, I felt like I was missing the mark…like God had this big sign in front of me, but I was too busy trying to fulfill my own desires that I was ignoring what He was trying to tell me.

I began to rest and listen for His voice. I began reading my Bible for clarity of mind, and BOOM. There it was..the huge billboard message that God was trying to get me see all along:

Titus 2: 3-5 — “Likewise, teach older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to too much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”

Busy. At. Home. 

I began crying as soon as I read that because I felt God taking me back through that phrase again and again. I had been so busy trying to make myself busy somewhere else that I was ignoring what God was calling me to do in my own home.

This past weekend at church, our Pastor said that the our greatest fear is often the thing that God wants to call us into. When I went home, I tried to think of what my greatest fear was…and it is this. It is what I’m living right now. My greatest fear is God calling me to live a quiet life at home instead of going out into the world to do great things for Him. My greatest fear is that His thought of “doing great things for Him” means that I stay home and serve my husband and take care of the household. My greatest fear is exchanging all of my “dreams” for everyday, ordinary tasks, like ironing my husbands clothes, or doing the dishes.

And so I accepted it. The next week I went at my chores like I was doing them for the Lord. I sang worship music all day long and felt extremely happy to be helping my spouse (who works 70 hours a week)…but then Friday came. Friday I woke up in a foul mood. I was done. I didn’t want to serve Jason. I didn’t want to help him, what about me?! And not only that, but it was his only day off and he had to spend most of it away from me. I hadn’t seen him all week, and I really missed him. I knew throughout the week that Jason would be gone for half the day on his day off, and I didn’t mind. But all of a sudden, I had become a monster. I wanted his full, undivided attention. I deserved his undivided attention after all of the chores I did that week. I was livid.

I spent all of that day in a funk, while deep inside I knew I was grieving my Spirit. I felt justified in my thoughts, though. I felt entitled to my husbands time. Clearly, I was not making Jasons only day off the greatest day ever.

Around 8 pm, I came into the living room to find candles lit everywhere and one of my favorite songs playing the background. My husband asked me to dance and I said ‘Yes’ (Jason hates dancing, so I knew he was really getting out of his comfort zone to make me happy). As we started slow-dancing, the Lord whispered in my ear:

“Dying to self is not a Monday-Friday thing…it is every single day. It doesn’t end when your husband is off of work. It means that you do whatever you can to help him succeed at the things he thinks are important. It means giving up your time and expectations to serve him. It means building him up when you are feeling broken. It means you no longer seek his approval or others, but MINE. It is hard. One of the hardest things you will ever do. But I promise that if you embrace this, I will equip you with more than you need to live in peace. You will live in my Love-Light and shine like the sun. At the end of the day, you will look to Me and I will say ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ “

I broke down and apologized to my husband for my terrible attitude. And a huge weight was lifted from me. A huge peace descended over me.

 

This has been weeks ago. And the Lord has kept His promise. He has equipped me with other scripture as affirmation that He has me right where He wants me.

“He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.” Psalm 23:3

All of Proverbs 31, specifically: ” She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.” (31:27)

1 Timothy 5: 10 (speaking of widows, but this applies to every woman) “…and is known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.”

I get a lot of my affirmation from 1st and 2nd Timothy, and Titus 2.

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After embracing this, there has been such a shift of Spirit in my household. My husband and I are closer than ever. He has begun telling me everyday that all of the things I do help him so much. He has begun thanking me for even the smallest of tasks…God has kept His promise. And every time my husband tells me how much my tasks mean to him, I feel even more powerfully that this is where I am supposed to be for now. But, oh, how Proverbs 31:27 is soooooo true!!

There are some days when I become idle and I allow the enemy in. If I don’t keep busy, he is right there in my ear telling me what a failure I am. How a real woman would go out and get a job. How the world would see this role as quitting or giving up…idleness is surely not my friend right now. But each and every day, I feel a shift in my heart. I feel closer to God and can hear His voice. And the self-forgetfulness is so fulfilling. Because everyday I wake up thinking “How can I help my husband today? What can I do that would please him? What deeds would God be pleased with today?”.

I am still struggling with society’s view on this new role I’ve taken on. When people ask “What are you doing? Have you found a job yet?” I still want to shrink away because I know they won’t understand. I don’t want to expose something precious to me only to have someone else dismiss it as nothing..so I still care what the world thinks. I am working on it though. God is moving in me. This is by far the hardest lesson I’ve ever had to learn. The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do…giving up who I think I should be to become who God needs me to be. I am a work in progress, but it gets better everyday.

If you are a housewife or stay-at-home mom, feel free to comment on your thoughts. I would love to chat with others in this role. Thank you for reading, and no matter where you are in life I hope that your heart is light and full of peace. Our God loves us with an everlasting love…

Love you.

PS. If you’d like to see snippets of my every day life, you can find me on Instagram.

Underlined Scripture and My Facebook-Free Month

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Hi, friends! I hope this post finds you well. My Facebook fast ends today and I wanted to report back on that. Also, I’ve been deep in scripture in my spare time and have found some amazing underlines from my Bible to share with you. But first things first-

Freedom from Facebook

Getting away from FB is something that God has been asking me to do over and over again. I would make an attempt that would last for two days, then I’d justify why I needed back on…and just like *that*, my vacation from it would be over. As would my promise to God. But, you can’t ignore the Lord. And it finally got to a point where I felt strongly like it would be for my own good to listen to Him and leave it. At the time, I was updating several times a day and always had the tab up in the background when on the computer. To be honest, it was an obsession- a much needed break from my very quiet and open schedule. I used it as a distraction to avoid the reality that I was alone all day with no job to go to. I guess you could say FB “became” my reality. I knew God was calling me to spend more time with Him, that He wanted to show me some things and speak to me. Only me. God doesn’t like sharing us with any idol. Yes, FB and social media in general can become an idol. If you wake up and it’s the first thing you think about, then it may be an idol. If you spend time wondering if what you posted will get any likes, instead of talking with your husband over dinner- it may be an idol. It was my idol.

So one day,  I decided I was ready (God is a patient God). I didn’t do a “I’m getting off here for a while, text me…” thing..I just stopped posting.

Wouldn’t you know the first week off I received three emails from FB a day- A. DAY. Telling me of all the posts and status updates I was missing, how many new notifications I had, etc. But they didn’t work. I felt relieved to not be on FB, to be accepting my own reality and this waiting season that I am in. After a week, I would only get one email a day for the next four weeks (still too much if you ask me). And- AND when FB did email me, they would say I had 16 notifications, then they would say I had 1, then I’d get another email saying I had 10..(btw, I logged on this morning and only had one that whole time!). The enemy was doing his best to distract me.

I began spending time with my Bible and Jesus Calling in the morning over tea. I found myself really listening to God. I’ve never been good at waiting. I’ve always worked or gone to school, or done both- but now, I am in a position where all I can do is wait. And try to serve Him as best I can where I am at. Over the weeks, the Lord gave me such peace and joy in my heart. I began to look forward to reading His word. I began praying and talking with Him throughout the day…thanking Him for even the smallest of things (“Lord, thank you for protecting my animals last night”). In those weeks, I grew to love Him not only as a friend but as my Father. I became aware of His Holy Spirit in my life, and how my actions can cause the Holy Spirit to grieve.

In those weeks, my relationship with my husband got better day by day. We talked more and I was actually present during the conversations (imagine that!). I began to view my time at home not as a burden, or wishing it away, but as a place to do ministry…here in my own house. I started taking that job seriously, making sure that my home is haven for my husband when he comes home from work. Making sure that I’ve cooked a meal that he can sit down to and enjoy. Washing his shirts so he doesn’t have to worry about running out of them mid-week. And the Lord blessed me with a happy heart while doing all of this. I would spend all day talking with God and listening to worship music. The Lord made it so that I spent so much time in the Spirit, that when my husband came home stressed out from work, his mood would change. I could speak life into him and encourage him. When on FB, I never had that mindset…I wanted to escape this very quiet, often lonely reality. But that is what God can do- He can turn what we think are burdens into a blessing for someone else. He can take our troubled hearts and say “You are just looking at it the wrong way, my child. Here, let me show you how I see it.”

In the week leading up to the end of my fast, I began praying for guidance and strength. This morning I logged on, checked my notifications (2 messages, 1 notification – unlike the email that said I had 16, um can we say “bait”?) and was immediately overwhelmed by all of the status updates on the page. I used to spend so much time scrolling through senseless stuff! I didn’t want to get sucked back in. I still don’t.

This isn’t to say that I’ll never use FB again, or that I’m going to delete my account…but nothing in the world will ever replace God in my life. And this relationship that I have with Him. It has been so precious to my heart that I can’t let anything interrupt it, and I won’t. Will I post things sometimes? Yes- but only things I truly want to share. I will not let it rule my life or determine my mood any longer.

In my time away, I found some amazing scripture that really speaks to me and gives me comfort. I wanted to share the underlined verses in my Bible with you. I hope they give you as much hope and peace as they have me.

 

“Yet he did not waver in unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised.” Rom 4:20-21

“And we boast in the hope of glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Rom 5: 3-5

“But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” Rom 6: 22

“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received  does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cray, ‘Abba, Father’. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” Rom 8: 14-15

“For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.” Rom 11: 32

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Rom 12: 2

“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” Rom 16: 20

“Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart.” 1 Corinth 4:5

(On competing with others for worldly things)…”They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize [of eternal life with Jesus].” 1 Corinth 9: 25-27

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinth 10: 13 (I love this because it tells me that the Enemy is a broken record when it comes to temptation. He uses the same stuff on everyone. He has no new tricks!

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Corinth 15: 58

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where teh Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinth 3: 17-18

” We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.”…”Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly  we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinth 4: 10-11, 16-18

” For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.”…”and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinth 3-4, 5 (To me, this means that we don’t let our minds wander away from us…on roads that will go nowhere or end in despair. We are to take our (selfish/self-degrading/unproductive) thoughts and turn them to Christ. Is this thought helping me? Is it of God or the devil?

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Gal 1: 10

“The only things that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Gal 5: 6

“Praise be to God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Eph 1: 3-4 He chose us. Before we were born. He calls us “holy” and “blameless”. What kind of love this is!

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” Eph 4: 29-30

“Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Eph 5: 19-20

 

Wherever you are in life, I hope that you are embracing the season you are in. If it is a season of turmoil and hardship- embrace it. God will bring you through it and you’ll be stronger in the faith for having gone through it. If it is a season of loneliness- seek God, He is the best friend anyone can have. Ask Him to make himself known to you. Speak with Him throughout the day. If it is a season of abundance, thank the Lord! In everything, thank the Lord! No matter what season you are in, there are always thanks and praises to be given. We have an amazing God that loves us more than we can imagine. Nothing in this life will ever satisfy…only Jesus. And once you know him, you won’t want anything else. I promise.

I love you all!

Xoxo,

Stacey B.