Oh, the confusion!

I have now stopped and restarted this blog three times and I’m still not 100% sure where I’m going with this. So bear with me while I take some time to write out the thoughts spinning around my head. 

This week, President Trump signed something preventing immigrants from select countries from entering the U.S. for a while. My social media has since blown up with arguments and discussions – not that it has been silent since the election, inauguration, women’s march, first week of Trump’s presidency, and the March for Life. But, this seems a big exorbitant.

And I find myself torn.

I usually know precisely where I stand on issues. That’s why I have a whole category on here entitled “Soapboxes.” I know where I stand and I’m usually not afraid to voice my opinion.

This time around, though, I stand shrugging my shoulders in the middle. Not that I don’t care about it; it’s just that I find myself smack in the middle of an argument that no one will ever really win.

See, here’s one thing that sufficiently bothers me. Here we are saying that “Christians” lump all “Muslims” into one, terroristic category. That “Christians” are all “pro-life” but “don’t think past the birth and don’t care what kind of home babies are born into as long as they’re born.” “Christians” are “pro-life but hate refugees.” “Christians” voted Trump into office even though he’s [fill-in-the-blank with your word of choice].

But, aren’t you also lumping all Christians into one category as well then?

See, I am a Christian – and adamantly so. But, here’s where those stereotypes differ from me:

  • I am pro-life and anti-abortion and anti-Planned Parenthood. But, I am anti-women’s march. I am for proper sex education, funding of pregnancy care centers, women’s health, and better healthcare options. I want a total over-haul of the foster care and adoption systems as soon as possible. I think our inner city schools need a make-over and teen moms need a support system. I 100% do care about the well-being of a baby after its been born and think there are ways to do that beyond Planned Parenthood.
  • I am pro-refugee and have even talked with my husband about opening our home up to a refugee family if the need came about. However, I am also all for vetting and slowing down the process of just walking across our borders. We need to know why they’re coming in, where they’re going, and where they came from. It is no small coincidence that most of the terror attacks on our country came from one group of people; so isn’t it simply prudent that we take a step back and figure out how to make it at least more difficult for them to continue to enter our country and kill our citizens? That just seems responsible.
  • I am a Bible-believing, Bible-reading Christian and yet I take full offense to fellow Christians throwing up verses that say we are to feed and clothe those in need as a response to this new, temporary mandate. Context is crucial and I think those verses are being taken out of context and being used to throw guilt on the U.S. for protecting its rightful citizens.
  • I am a Christian – and I have Muslim friends. I do not hate Muslims nor am I afraid of them. I welcome them to my home, my dinner table, and my children’s lives. They are people with a minority who do terrible things. Kind of reminiscent of every religion, every culture around the world, don’t you think? Just like many people claim to be Christians and know nothing about Jesus’ saving grace on the cross – there are many Muslims who know nothing about the Qu’ran’s mandates to commit atrocities on “infidels.” However, there are a group that are intentionally, frequently murdering hundreds of innocent people. If there is a way to protect us from that minority, I think we should figure it out.
  • I am a Christian and my heart breaks for the refugee children trapped in Syria with no way of getting to a safe haven. This is where my confusion begins. While I agree we need to do something, I am not sure what we can realistically do. We are not the only country in the world watching these atrocities occur; therefore, we should not be the only place they can run to for safety. I do not want another WW2 on our hands, though – a time when every country closed its ears and borders to millions of people who legitimately were running for their lives, and ultimately lost the race. We can’t let that happen again. I do not have the answer to this horrid decision.
  • I am pro-traditional marriage, but I do not hate homosexuals. I believe it’s a sin; one is not born homosexual. I believe children should not be allowed to “choose their gender” like they would an ice cream flavor. I believe you should use the restroom that goes with what’s on your birth certificate. Do I hate everybody? No. Am I scared? No. I am, however, saddened that it is believed that line of thinking can be forced on me and yet I am to remain quiet and not voice my opinion or make a stand. I am not a gay-hater; I simply do not agree with the lifestyle they have chosen… just like, dare I say, they do not agree with the lifestyle of Christianity that I have chosen.

Christians are doing themselves a disservice – to themselves and to Christ – when they get on social media and begin to debate. Amongst themselves, no less!! This is what erks me the most: Christians debating other Christians about the smallest nuance and wording in a verse in the Bible. I interpret it one way; you interpret it another. Both of us have reason to believe the other is wrong. We debate, debate, debate using Christian-ese and huge words no one really understands — only to find out that neither side has changed and we have, in the process, turned away our unbelieving friends who not only did not understand the debate or even why we’re having it, but the wording we used while we debated it!

We are pushing people away from God and out of the church while we are trying to figure out where we stand on all these socio-political issues in the U.S. right now.

We have got to stop. 

We are showing the world how divided and opinionated we are. How close-minded we can be. How “cultish” Christianity appears. We are proving them right by debating in social forums. We are allowing Satan to divide us even further while we think we’re doing the right thing – sorting through tough Scripture passages to figure out how they apply to what’s happening in the world around us.

We need to apply Scripture in a culturally-relevant way, there’s no doubt about that. We need to, more than ever, be in the living Word of God and see what He has to say about these real issues plaguing our society. I love that the Word of God truly is “living and active” and applies to every culture, every century.

But we need to do that “figuring out” in a way that doesn’t turn people off to Christianity and make us mad at each other. We’re dividing ourselves in our attempts to apply Scripture. Doesn’t that seem dangerous? Shouldn’t that shoot up red flags that something is majorly wrong with these conversations? 

Satan would like nothing more than to divide us and split us up. He would love to see us marginalized even more and for the world to look at us as the enemy even more than it does already. In doing so, he will win more souls than we will. We’re losing the battle in our generation because we’re spending too much time splitting hairs over God’s Word. 

Let’s get a grip. Study the Word. Invite people into your house for coffee and conversation. Get real and go deep – absolutely. Figure out those nuances and help us all discern how it applies to what’s up right now. But, don’t do it online in a way that turns everyone off to Jesus and puts every person who claims to be a Christian into one, giant category.

I am a Christian. But please don’t lump me in with every Christian you’ve ever met.

Until this violent storm is past.

No one ever thinks it’ll happen to them, their family. I was in this same boat three hours ago. I have a good, solid Christian family – immediate and extended on both sides. By God’s amazing grace, my grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, and cousins’ kids are almost all believers in Jesus Christ.

Which makes the word “suicide” that much more devastating.

When I got the call a few hours ago that my cousin’s boy had committed suicide on the way to school this morning, I had no words. I mean, what do you say? I burst into tears. I don’t know him – I met him when he was a baby and he’s 16 now. But, I know my cousin. And I’m a mom. Those are bonds that time and distance can’t touch.

I hung up the phone, tears streaming down my face, and reached for my 4yr old. I wrapped him in my arms and let my tears soak his blond head. He’s such a gentle boy, he didn’t mind. He held me back and let me cry, not saying anything. I held his face and kept repeating, “You are loved. You are special. God has a plan for you. You are loved! You are special! God has a plan for you!” over and over. What else can I do?

I snuggled my baby in my arms as I laid his wriggling little body down for a nap. He kissed me and I savored the moment longer than I usually do… because all of a sudden, moments are too short and the only image in my mind is my cousin’s arms, devoid of her son’s touch.

You aren’t meant to lose a child. Ever. But especially not like this.

A knot sits in the pit of my stomach. I can’t stop crying. I have been trying to continue with my routine, but I can’t. So, I did what I always do when looking for consolation: I grabbed my Bible.

Not the new one that’s still being “broken in.” The old one. The one that’s been everywhere with me and been through everything with me – except this. The one that’s marked, bent, stuffed with papers, and written all over. I held it to me like an old friend and begged God to speak again because I need something to hold onto besides grief.

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy!

I look to you for protection.

I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings 

until this violent storm is past.

I cry out to God Most High,

to God who will fulfill his purpose for me.

He will send help from heaven to save me,

rescuing me from those who are out to get me.

My God will send forth his unfailing love and faithfulness.

These words from Psalm 57 hold comfort right now. Being able to hide under God’s wings – His love and protection no matter what is going on. This is truly a violent storm like nothing I’ve experienced before. What do you do? What do you say? How do you process something like this?

I have nothing to offer. My hands, my heart, are empty. Right now, I’m just so thankful that my first instinct was to run to God and His Words because in them are life, hope, and our very breath.

God is still God; He has not forgotten us, this does not surprise Him, and He still loves us. It won’t ever make sense. The pain will never get all better. But, we are not abandoned.

There is no situation we can encounter where God’s grace cannot reign down and cover it all. May He truly send forth love, faithfulness, and grace to our family in the coming days.

The other Baby J.

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In all my writings, somehow, I neglected to ever share about my Other Baby J. I am nowhere near his birthday or any sort of milestone; it’s just on my heart tonight to write about my youngest… so I shall. And yes, it’s long.

Baby J #2 was highly anticipated. Brother J was getting older and all of a sudden, I had this sudden urge for a newborn! While my dear husband was a little more reluctant, he finally agreed. We found out #3 was on the way Labor Day weekend, 2014.

I kept the news hidden from my family for awhile. Literally the week before I took the test, my mother had told me I had my plate full with two and should maybe consider not having a third. Little did she know… So, I was a little apprehensive of sharing the good news with them! Thankfully, they took it really well and were super excited for us.

As per usual, I was horrendously sick. The nausea was uncontrollable and I would hit the sack every evening feeling like I was floating on a ship – my world tipping and turning and unable to get the sea of my bed to calm down and just hold still for a moment! Brian spent countless nights on the couch since his every movement simply increased the nausea.

Within the first six weeks, I began to bleed. I immediately called my OB and they scheduled me for an appointment that afternoon. I called my mom and she dropped everything to come over for the day. I put my feet up and drank gallons of water while she chased the children and did my laundry. Finally, the time for our ultrasound came. My mom let me cry on her shoulder before Brian and I left; I was just certain we would return with the news of ‘no heartbeat.’

I remember lying on that hard bed, staring at the ultrasound monitor while the sweet tech talked our ears off. She explained every ounce of what we were looking at and what it all meant – something brand new for us. In Peru, we had lots of great ultrasounds, but for most of them, the techs were dead silent or gave us minimal information, whether because of the language barrier or cultural differences, I really do not know. But, this time – it was such exquisite bliss to understand what was on the screen. Then – finally – the blessed “blip-blip” of his little heart. I cried. She handed me tissues and rejoiced with us. I will forever remember this sweet ultrasound tech who was so loving in how she handled us! Baby was just fine, but I was to keep my feet up for a few more weeks.

During my “keep my feet up” stage, I got the usual massive blood work-up done and found out that my thyroid, which has forever plagued me, had gone way out of whack. I was informed by a specialist that my level was supposed to be between a 2-5 and I was at a 12. The higher the number, the less the thyroid is functioning. My friends with thyroid issues told me the highest they had ever gotten was a 7 and they were immobile. My 12 quickly helped me understand why I had zero desire to get off the couch and watched my two children run laps around the house while I dozed all. day. long. I was horribly sick. A year after I gave birth, I was still getting it under control. Not cool.

Shortly before Christmas, I took my mother with me to the BIG ultrasound – the one where we found out what we were having! I took my mom because she had never gotten to go to an ultrasound for any of the grandkids yet and I thought she might enjoy it. Brian wasn’t offended and was totally on board with it. It was a special moment and I’m so glad my mom was there. Afterwards, we ran to Target and I picked out a cute little onesie to surprise the rest of the family with the gender when I got home. So fun!

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We called him Peanut. I was shocked it was another boy – for some reason I had convinced myself it was a girl. But, God knows what each family needs and He knew we needed another crazy boy.

December also meant sickness for me. I was so sick with a nasty cough and congestion that seemed to go on forever! I couldn’t get over how sick I was! Once that finally ended, I had such horrid ligament pain I could barely walk. I kid you not, this entire pregnancy was one issue after another.

But, my little peanut was just fine. Healthy. And HUGE!

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I still had a month to go in this picture. I felt like a TANK by the time I was done. I hibernated the last few weeks and barely left the house, I was so embarrassed. That probably sounds dumb, but I was criticized so badly about my size during my previous two pregnancies, I just couldn’t do it again. This time, I was hearing it from people that mattered the most – family – and, emotionally, I was not stable enough to listen to criticism. There was nothing I could do about it; he just kept growing! But WOA. I was big.

My doctor was amazing. She never got any medical history from me. I was never able to get my records from Peru. So, she was going off of only what I could remember from my past pregnancies and trying to piece together what probably happened medically. Even with the info I gave her, she was still willing to let me try a VBAC! I was floored and SO excited! And horribly nervous. It felt like I was giving birth for the first time, which, in essence, I was. I had never had a real contraction, my water had never broken, I had never done any pre-labor anything! I had no CLUE what would happen.

She warned me I’d probably go past my due date and she was right. I did. Longest five days of my LIFE! Older Brother arrived the day I turned 37 weeks. E came during my 38th week. To go PAST 40 seemed inconceivable! I have been lied to! Pregnancy is SO NOT “9 months” like we have always been told. If you know, like I do, from Week #3 that you’re pregnant, pregnancy is ALL of 10 months. Trust me.

My neighbor had given birth to 4 children, all naturally, and so she had lots of ideas and tips. The day before baby arrived, she yanked me out of my house and made me walk. We began early in the morning and walked almost 2 miles while she wrangled my older children. After nap time, we did it again. The kids went home with Brian and she invited me over and fed me a huge, nutritional shake and gave me a pedicure. Then, around 7:30pm, she made me walk again. I was so sore I could barely move! But, before I left for that last walk, contractions had finally begun. By the time I got home, I knew this was the real deal.

We put a movie on and I puttered around, trying to relax and get some stuff ready. We texted my dad and put him on alert since the plan was for him to come watch the kids if something happened overnight. Around 11, Brian told me to go ahead and call the doctor. Of course, they asked me to come in. Arg. I had no desire to go in at midnight! But, we did what we were told – we knew no better or different. My dad showed up in record time and fairly pushed us out the door. We laughed in the car, talking about how my dad acted like the baby would just drop out with no warning at any second!

They did a full examine at the hospital, but I just had a gut feeling I was going to be sent home. When the on-call doctor found out I had two previous c-sections, but my OB was letting me try for a VBAC, he about flipped his lid. There was no way, on his watch, that I was going to do a VBAC if he could prevent it. He was obviously adamantly opposed. They did an ultrasound since baby was so late and decided he was doing fine, but needed to come soon. I was to have my final appointment at 7am in the regular office and that was to be when my OB would decide what happened next. We had just always assumed I wouldn’t need that appointment! I also knew, in the back of my mind, that she was on vacation, but assumed she had found a replacement for that particular appointment since it was kind of important. They discharged us at 5am (so. tired.) and told us to be sure to get to that appointment at 7.The doctor insinuated that I may need to wait until Wednesday to have a c-section when my regular doctor got home from my vacation. I lost it mentally, thinking about having those contractions all the way until Wednesday!! NO WAY!

We went home and crashed. My dad had no idea we ever came in and he left the house at 6:30 when my mom showed up since had had to be somewhere by 7. My mom was shocked when we came out of the bedroom, showered and ready for my appointment! We explained what had happened and she noticed my contractions were much harder and longer and told me she hoped the next time she saw me would be with a baby! I agreed! No way did I want to come home again – I wanted it over! At this point I knew I had never had a ‘real’ contraction with E. These were miles upon miles different than anything I had ever experienced before!

We went back to the office. It was closed. What?! I used the bathroom like twice. Paced. Held onto a chair in the lobby and tried not to cry while the contractions intensified. Waited. Finally, around 7:20, doors were unlocked and we went in. The receptionist informed us that my appointment had been canceled and none of the doctors in that day had any room for another patient. I was in tears. I held onto the counter and asked them to wait a second while I had another contraction, then demanded they help me figure out what to do since we had just spent all night in the hospital, I had a standing appointment that no one had told me was canceled, and I was in active labor! A nurse standing there said, “Go back to the hospital. They’ll keep you this time, I promise. Good luck.”

By the time we got back, it was shift-change time. A sweet night nurse we had seen the previous night encouraged me in the hallway to be an advocate for myself. She gave me tips on what to ask for and how in order to ensure a natural delivery and no c-section. Unfortunately, she was then done for the day and I never saw her again!

They did keep me. And strapped me to the bed, covered in monitors. I begged to be allowed to walk around and was met with a resounding ‘no.’ I was too high-risk with him being late and my previous sections. I was frustrated, but honestly, I was so sore from walking the day before and SO TIRED from being up all night that when a contraction hit while I was standing, the pain was so intense down my legs that they buckled and couldn’t hold me. Brian was amazing and helped me breathe through every contraction, letting me hold his arm and staring me in the face. He kept me going as they got more and more intense.

The day doctor was nicer, but still not a big fan of the idea of a VBAC. I was barely dilated and not effaced. However, my contractions were three minutes apart and strong enough that I should have been nearing delivery. But I wasn’t. It was as if my body began labor and then went, “What the?! You want me to do WHAT?! NO WAY! You’re on your own!”

My body never did prepare itself for delivery. Thanks to previous sections, there was nothing they could do without risk of rupture and we were not okay with that. By 1pm, it was obvious that even though my contractions were 2-3 minutes apart and super intense, nothing else was going to happen. When he told me, “We’re going to go ahead and prep you for a c-section,” and then left, I lost it. I sobbed and sobbed. I could not control it. One sweet nurse came over and comforted me, letting me cry and listening to my reasonings behind why I was so scared.

The last thing in the world I wanted was another c-section. No epidural had gone well. Surgery scared the heck out of me. Recovery sucks. I couldn’t hold my baby. And I would be apart from Brian. No thank you.

This time was blessedly different. God is such a good Father, isn’t He?

He gave me an amazing anesthesiologist and a wonderful assistant who was SO comforting the whole time.

In this hospital, I didn’t get an epidural; I was given a spinal, which makes you completely numb from mid-chest down. I turned into a Pentecostal while they did the procedure, muttering out loud, “Oh Lord Jesus, help me. Oh Father God, please hold me. I do not have a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind” over and over and over until a nurse finally leaned in and whispered, “Are you okay?”

As soon as my back began to grow cold, they slammed my giant, pregnant body down as fast as they could move onto the tiny, cold, metal bed. I didn’t know I could be moved that fast! The spinal was great, except I had worked myself up into almost a panic-attack and couldn’t breathe. They continued to ‘up’ my meds until I was super loopy the whole time and I still complained I couldn’t breathe, even though they assured us that I was just fine.

Brian was brought in and sat by my head. Two minutes later, James Lee entered this world kicking and screaming!

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With the other two, I was allowed to “look, but don’t touch” as my hands were strapped down and they whisked the babies away moments after birth. This time, they opened up my robe and plopped him right on my chest moments after he was born. They let me hold him, but I was shaking so bad I thought I’d drop him, so someone supported him and someone else held the paper over my head since the lights were too bright for us. I got to kiss him and snuggle him and get skin-to-skin time right there in the operating room. I could’ve held him a lot longer if I hadn’t felt so horrid and miserable. Brian held him while they finished me up and then we all were taken to recovery.

My two days of recovery in the hospital were glorious. I felt awesome. I had wonderful visitors, my pain was manageable, I got rest, and I got to hold my boy as often as I wanted, whenever I wanted.

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Best of all, my parents got to see and hold one of my newborns. It was a moment I will never, ever forget seeing my dad cry tears of joy as he held his namesake (“Lee” is my dad’s middle name).

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And that, my friends, is how we became a family of 5. 

I can’t imagine life without our little stinker. He is LOUD, busy (began walking at 9 months!), and full of crazy energy. Sweet, smart, and musical. I love my 2nd little Baby J.

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7 months

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1 year

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1 1/2

family5

Christmas Day, 2016

Fresh Start. Again.

It’s a quiet start to 2017 on this frontier. Just me, my laptop on a nice little breakfast tray in bed, “A Year in the Life” of Gilmore Girls, my pj’s… and my thoughts.

I ended 2016 doing something that, for me, was hard and looked impossible. I was discouraged before I began, yet beyond surprised with the results. In fact, the results were so good, it’s inspired me to do something that looks intimidating and impossible this year just to see how it turns out!

What did I do? I lost weight.

With no back story, that statement is no big deal. If I went into the entire ugly ordeal, one might better understand why this is so huge for me. To summarize: since I was 19, I’ve had an awful thyroid, to the point where I actually had doctors tell me, “You won’t ever lose weight again. Just deal with it.” Two international moves and three kids later, I had convinced myself they were correct. I have watched the scale teeter but ultimately stay put for more than 10 years.

In September, I was depressed and annoyed with my metabolism. I vented to my sister and she told me about a book she thought I should read. I read it. It changed my life. Three months later, I’m down nearly 20 pounds and a crazy amount of inches that I wish I had documented!

I did what I thought was impossible. I lost weight. I look in the mirror and smile for the first time in about 12 years. I asked my daughter to take my picture this morning and – get this – I did not delete it! I’m telling you, if I can do this, I can now do anything.

It feels as if I’ve jumped a giant hurdle. It’s been inspiring. I was so adamantly opposed to dieting and I dreaded the idea of “healthy eating” because that has always equaled “vegetables,” “ew,” and way too much math. But, it’s not been like that – at all. It got me thinking: if that wasn’t so bad, maybe some of the other things that I’ve been wanting, needing, to do won’t be so bad either.

The biggest on my list has to do with my writing.

I have wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl. Just this week, I pulled out the first book I ever wrote. I was 11. I wrote a mystery, in near-perfect cursive, in a pink, spiral-bound notebook, complete with an illustrated cover, a table of contents, and little pictures on the chapter headings. I even did a dedication and an “about the author” at the end. So embarrassing! Yet, my 6 year old adores it!

I would really like to do more than just blog and hang onto a “book” from my childhood. I write for our missions magazine, but that’s really about it. I have projects in my mind and unfinished works on my hard drive. I have an underlined, circled, and dog-eared copy of the Christian Writer’s Guide on my end table. And I have done nothing with any of it.

I’m terrified of rejection. Writing is so much a part of me, I get nauseous thinking of someone tearing my heart apart and analyzing it from their own point of view, which might differ from mine, not understanding my POV or writing style and slashing hours of work to pieces. It sounds more appalling than exhilarating! So, I stall. I don’t write. I make excuses and find other things to do with my time, all the while knowing that this is something God has asked me to do and I need to do it.

In February, I do something super hard for me. I get on a plane, alone, and fly to Houston for a one-day conference with Beth Moore specifically on writing, teaching, and speaking as a ministry. I get sick on planes. I miss my family. I’ve never been to Houston. Totally, completely, and utterly out of my comfort zone. I am sick to my stomach thinking about this trip, yet every time I re-read the description of the event, I float because I remember I got in. I’m going.

My immediate “hard things” of 2017, then, are: finishing losing this horrid weight and find the “me” that’s been literally buried for almost 15 years, fly to Houston and attend a crazy huge conference on my own, and begin writing more diligently and actually sending manuscripts off to… somebody.

I enter 2017 hopeful yet filled with total fear and trepidation. I know what God has asked of me in previous years and once again, I feel like I’m standing on a precipice. He’s pushing me towards the edge and I know that very soon, I’m going to be asked to leap, not knowing if I’m jumping to the other side or to a ledge I haven’t even seen yet. For now, I prep. And wait.

January 2017
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