Our Story: Learning To Say “It Is Well”

Learning to say it is wellI felt my first real contraction around 11:00pm on Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014 (your due date) as I was getting ready for bed. That morning, I went out to breakfast with your Papa M at Panera Bread before work so we could have one last Daddy/Daughter date before you arrived. Had I known you would begin your grand entrance at that hour, I might have had that date the morning before. But if there’s one thing that our birth story has taught me, it’s that the future is not in our hands.

As I prepared for your arrival during the months prior to seeing your sweet face, I would often find myself listening to this version of my favorite hymn, It Is Well. Maybe it was the pregnancy hormones. Maybe it was God’s stirring in my heart. Maybe it was a lot of both. But every time I listened to this song, it seemed to speak to my soul in a way that it had never before. It was no longer just my song, it was our song. It was a clear message from God that this new role I was about to take on-being your mother-was uncharted waters for me.

I had asked God to expand my territory in 2014 and He was about to do some major demolition in my heart. He was making space. Space for you. Space for love. Space to give myself grace. The firm grip I so often had on my life was loosening each time I listened to that song. In order for space to be made, I would have to follow the next step God was revealing to me. No complete road map for me to look at, just the next step. Just an opportunity to breathe in and out, say “it is well” and place one foot in front of other.

Your dad was on the phone with your Aunt Cristina catching up when I felt that first contraction, marking the final stretch of your time of growth within me. I had been feeling contractions with you for a while, but these were different. It was time.

Breathe in. Breathe out. It is well.

Mixed emotions filled my heart:
Joy for your arrival.
Sadness that I would no longer carry you inside of me.
Doubt of my capability to be the mother you need me to be.
Exhaustion because you chose to start so late at night after I had been up since 6am that morning and put in a full day’s worth of work.
Fear because I hadn’t been able to finish my to-do list at work yet. . . I’m a recovering perfectionist.
Relief that your Papa M, Jammie, Uncle Jonathan, Aunt Michelle, and Truett would be able to meet you during their time here for Christmas.
Excitement to experience your birth after months of reading about the process. Nervousness about being admitted to a hospital for the first time.

Breath in. Breathe out. It is well.

Around 3am on Christmas Eve Day, your sweet daddy and I loaded up the car and headed towards the hospital after experiencing a few hours of close contractions. You weren’t quite ready, so we were sent home. I didn’t want to be THAT woman who went in too early, but I was. I wanted to see your sweet face. I wanted to hold you.

Breathe in. Breathe out. It is well.

After arriving home around 5am, I labored with you all day . . . and I mean all day. No sleep for more than a few 15 minute cat naps happened that day for both of us. There was a lot of focused breathing on my part and a lot of counter pressure applied by your daddy. If we weren’t already tired, this solidified our exhaustion.

Breathe in. Breathe out. It is well.

Around 11:00pm on Christmas Eve, my contractions with you started to get closer and closer again, so your daddy and I got back in our car and headed for the hospital. This time, it was confirmed you were coming. Having progressed to 3cm, we were going to see you on Christmas Day.

Best. Christmas. Present. Ever.

Welcome Laney Drew

After getting to the room where I was going to deliver you, it was about 3am at this point and the doctor came in to see me. We were told that he was going to break my water since I had been in such hard labor for so long without much progression. It was going to make my contractions more intense closer together, which would speed up my progression. Not what I wanted to hear, but we made the decision to go ahead with it. Whoa.

Breath in (Tomy, please don’t stop applying that counter-pressure!). Breathe ow-ow-ooooouuuuut. It is well.

I do believe I spent the next 3 hours of intense and unrelenting contractions singing our song in my head over and over again. Because that’s what they tell you to do; focus your thoughts and breathing on something to help through each contraction. Girlfriend, your momma was working hard as each set of contractions (yeah, I would have 4 contractions in a row and then only get 1.5 minutes break before they would start again) would come. But you were worth it.

So after 3 hours, the doctor came back in to check my progression with you. Your dad and I were anxious to see how much longer it would be until we got to see you. After 32 hours of labor thus far, we were getting pretty excited to see your face. . . and kind of miserable from all those excruciating contractions.

After those 3 hours, we were told that I had not progressed any further than I was before they broke my water. Not what we wanted to hear. Not a pace that we would be able to keep after working so hard for so long. I looked into your dad’s face and saw sheer exhaustion. He looked into mine and saw the same. At that point, neither of us had slept for more than a few minutes in over 48 hours. It was with a reluctant heart that I requested an epidural. Months of reading and preparation for a natural birth, we were going to continue the process with an epidural.

Breathe in. Breathe out (let go of your expectations for a drug-free birth). It is well.

Well, there is a reason why so many women get an epidural. Within minutes, the excruciating pain was gone. Your daddy could sleep. I could breathe and my body could fully relax. Jammie visited us in the room that morning and Papa M headed to the airport to pick up you aunt, uncle, and cousin. We tried to sleep, only getting in a few 15 minute naps. Even though I couldn’t feel the pain, I still seemed to be restless with anticipation of your arrival.

After another 12 hours of labor since the epidural, I was checked again, only to see that I was at a 7 and we were quickly approaching the end of the safe window since my water had been broken. Pitocin was recommended to help me progress. We agreed and the medicine was administered. More drugs. We were getting further and further from the birth I had expected. But even though things weren’t panning out like I had hoped they would, peace kept washing over your daddy and me. We were watching our story unfold. We were getting closer to becoming a family of 3.

Breathe in. Breathe out. It is well.

After few hours of labor and our doctor proclaimed I was finally at a 9, just shy of a 10. Hope. Excitement. Light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel joy. Your Jammie had since gone home to eat dinner and spend time with the family. Your daddy and I were excited to see you and we knew we would be getting the best Christmas present ever. You. Our sweet little Laney Drew.

Breathe in. Breathe out. It is well.

A 9. A “stretchy 9.” That’s what I was for about another 2 hours. Any time now. You were descending and all that needed to happen was for my body to fully progress so you could make your debut. But that “stretchy 9” wasn’t going anywhere. The doctor came in and suggested we go ahead with a c-section since my water had been broken for about 18 hours. What? A c-section? No. We called our families and asked them to pray for clear direction. We didn’t want to have you via c-section. That was the last thing we wanted. You were, as our nurse put it, “the best looking baby she had seen all day.” You weren’t in any sort of distress. I was a 9, almost 10. We decided to wait another hour or so.

Breathe in. Breathe out. It is well.

It didn’t take the full hour for my body to start to change. Something was up. Even though I had an epidural, I started to have an overwhelming sense that you were going to come. I had heard women talk about the “bearing down” sensation they feel when your body wants to push. Oh, there was no question in my mind that I was feeling that sensation. Your nurse was delivering another baby, so we had to wait for about 45 minutes for her to be done so she could check to see if I was actually ready to push.

Your daddy and I, up until this point, had been full of hope that I was going to fully progress. Our nurse had been cheering us on each time she would come in. She reminded me that it can happen at any time. Only this time, she had a different perspective. My “stretchy 9” was not progressing. You were progressing. I was not. In fact, I was going backwards. I was starting to swell. Confirmation.

Your daddy and I made the difficult decision. With tears in my eyes, I said “yes” to having the c-section. One more time, I had to let go of my expectations for how you were going to enter this world.

Breathe in. Breathe out (God you’ve got this). It is well.

Before I knew it, I was being wheeled down the hall and into the operating room. Your daddy kissed me before I went through the door and waited until he could come into the room. It was the first time we had been apart since the first contraction over 47 1/2 hours ago. He would later tell me that he has never seen me more at peace than I was before I went through the doors, and I was. Even though the story was not going as planned, God was in control. He was in control. He was writing our story.

The doctors and nurses were busy making preparations for the surgery. I was on the operating table, singing our song in my head, and cherishing these last few minutes of carrying you inside of me. Our sweet little girl. Our gift. Our Laney Drew.

Breathe in. Breathe out. It is well.

It was only a matter of minutes after your daddy came into the room and sat next to me that I heard your first cry. . .

Laney's First Picture You were here.
11:05pm.
December 25, 2014.
7lbs. 12oz.
21″ long.

Your daddy got to hold you while they finished my surgery, but he brought you over to me so I could see your full head of dark hair, your gorgeous blue eyes, and your sweet little lips. I had been dreaming of what you would look like for so long and I was finally seeing your sweet face. We didn’t think we could love any more than we already did, but your daddy put it perfectly: “Now I know what the Grinch felt like when his heart grew 3 sizes.” You proved us wrong. We never knew a love like this. You changed our lives in the most beautiful way.

IMG_0339Laney Drew in stockingBreathe in. Breathe out. It is well. It is well with my soul.


Our story didn’t go as I had planned, but that’s something you will soon experience for yourself, sweet girl. Toys will break. Relationships might end. You may not make the team. Your imperfect parents will mess up. My prayer for our story, as it continues, is that we are able to teach you the wonderful freedom and joy found in humbly submitting to God and His plan. It may not always be fun. It may not always be glamorous. It may not always be comfortable. It may not always make sense. But God will always be with you, and that is all you need.

IMG_0219

Laney's first Sunday at church

Take the next step. Breathe in. Breathe out. It is well.

.: Act Justly | Love Mercy | Walk Humbly :.

Lessons at Poppy’s Kitchen Table

PoppyThis past February, I had the beautiful opportunity to visit my grandpa in the hospital prior to his passing and share a last conversation with him. It was a precious time spent recounting all my favorite memories with him and telling him just how much his life meant to me, his youngest grandchild. One of my fondest memories I shared that afternoon was our early morning breakfasts at his kitchen table where I would always ask him if he would make me toast because “no one makes toast as good as my Poppy.”

I’ve often laughed at myself for remembering this simple act of my grandpa so vividly, until recently when I discovered it’s true significance in my life. My grandpa, being the great teacher he was, wasn’t just making his granddaughter toast, he was teaching me how to serve.

We serve with our TIME
Even though my grandpa was retired from a formal job, he was in no way lazy or in need of something to do. He was devoted to his church, his farming land, and his family, yet he didn’t see the request of his spunky and stringy-haired granddaughter as an interruption, but as an opportunity. An opportunity to show me he cared about me-even in the little things. When we hear the word “serve” we often associate it with big acts of sacrifice that require a huge commitment to give of time. And how in this crazy-busy world can we find enough margin in our lives to dedicate that much time to serve others?

While some acts of service we’re called to do can require us to clear space in our lives so we can dedicate a large portion of our time, we often overlook opportunities to serve because they are disguised in the simple things. Serving is not something we do, but rather is a lifestyle and our service can take place in the small bits of time we have in our day. We just have to be willing to see them.

We serve with HUMILITY
My Poppy’s hands were highly skilled. Being a farmer, my grandpa had some of the strongest hands I’ve ever seen. They wrangled cattle, tossed thousands of hay bails, and firmly held the reins to his massive Belgium horses. Making toast was by no means my grandpa’s highest calling. He accomplished many great things in his life and was very wise, yet he still chose to serve me toast with those skilled hands. I can often get caught up in the lie that if I am not constantly achieving more, doing more, and using my talents, I am not truly serving God. Yet, in the life of Jesus, we see a very different image of service:

“[Jesus] Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.”
Philippians 2:6-7

God showed His greatest act of love, not by using power and might, but rather by choosing to take on human form. He showed love through humility. Don’t get me wrong, using our gifts and talents to serve God is a great thing, but we should not overlook the power of service done with humility when we lay our egos and our logos aside.

We serve with LOVE
My grandpa carried a lot on his shoulders as the patriarch of our family. Yet, he still maintained a spirit full of love when I would interrupt his conversation with my requests. What might have seemed like an inconvenience to break away from what he was doing, he saw as an opportunity to extend love to his youngest grandchild.

It wasn’t an obligation or sense of guilt that drove my grandpa to serve me. If his spirit was unhappy each time he made me toast, those memories would not be pleasant; quite the opposite, actually. When we serve others without a loving heart, even if our acts meet their exact needs, our efforts are meaningless. As 1 Corinthians 13:3 puts it, “ . . . I’m bankrupt without love.” (The Message)

No act of service is too short, too small, or too insignificant for God. While there are times where service does mean a radical charge from God to go out and do something which seems impossible, that’s not always the case. God gives us all opportunities to serve each and every day, which often parade around as seemingly insignificant moments; monotonous even.

I’m forever grateful for the powerful lesson my grandpa taught me each morning he made me toast: to serve, all you need is a little bit of time, a humble heart, and a loving spirit.

Email Organization That Works

Over the years, I have learned that the key to success in life is discipline & organization (yes, both. . . they often go together). While it is true that being smart is important and can really fuel where you go in life, if you don’t pair your knowledge with discipline, that knowledge gets underutilized.

I was always decent in school. I would make good grades and complete what was required of me, but early on in life it wasn’t easy. As I grew older, however, I started to add more structure to my life. Maybe I was maturing, or maybe it had something to do with the fact I played volleyball for a Navy officer’s wife. . . Regardless of what caused my change in behavior, as I became more disciplined with my school work (you know, color-coded binders for each class with the neatly labeled dividers) it became easier for me to receive those good grades.

Now, I am a firm believer in organizing. I might even go so far as to say I love organizing. Why? Because it works. It allows me to juggle everything thrown my way and event helps me to see when I need to say “no” to requests.

One of the most beneficial things I’ve done for my personal & work life has been organizing and creating a good system for my email inbox. Communication today is heavily rooted in email correspondence. This can make your inbox turn into a monster in a matter of seconds. There have been days I’ve walked away from my desk for 5 minutes and have come back to see upwards of 20 emails waiting for me. Really? 4 emails per minute? (I work at a church, so that means God is on the move & doing somethings great, right?)

Over the past few months, I’ve been tweaking how I organize my emails so that I can not run into panic mode every time I turn on my computer. Our office email is hosted through Gmail. It’s awesome. I love it. If you’re not using Gmail, you might have similar settings to allow you to mimic this system. Here’s the system that I came up with that works for me:

Labels:

The foundation to my email account are the different labels I use. I have labels (with sub-labels) for all of the different types of emails that I get. These can be set up in your settings by going to the gear icon at the top right of the scree > click on “settings” in the drop down menu > go to the label tab > click on the “create new label” button. You can create color-coded labels and “nest” other labels in that main category. This comes in handy if you need to pull up emails from the past to retrieve information or exact correspondence from the past. I schedule various events and have a lot of emails about set up details, meetings, contracts, etc. I have set up a main label for “2013 Events” that house several different sub-labels for the different events I schedule for the year.

The key to using labels is to actually USE them. I spent time setting up my labels (and I add new ones on the fly as new things come up). Any time I receive an email about something, I will immediately label it where it belongs and move it from my inbox to the label once the correspondence is finished. This may take a little time to get into the habit of doing, but once it becomes part of your routine, it’s a breeze & VERY helpful!

Priority Inbox:

Here’s a look at my inbox. I currently use their priority inbox setting, which you can find by going to the gear icon at the top right of the screen > click on “settings” in the drop down menu > go to the inbox tab > select “priority inbox” on the inbox type option at the top. From here, you can customize the different tiers of your priority inbox. Below, I’ve shown an example of each inbox I have.

Email Organization

The first that appears inbox that appears are all of your most recent, unread emails. This is good to have at the top because you can filter through those emails and organize them by priority. I go ahead and label the emails as I read them so I can easily locate it when I’m viewing my email screen.

The next inbox shows the starred emails. I usually star conversations and emails that are not yet closed and still have items that require action from me or hold important information I would need for the day. Once the conversation is closed, I immediately move the email thread to the appropriate label.

The third inbox holds the emails I’ve marked with the “pending” label. I use this label for the events I am in the process of scheduling so I can keep it separate from other correspondence. Once I close the details from each email, I remove the pending label and move it to the appropriate event label.

The last inbox houses all of the other emails I have read, but aren’t starred or pending. This is normally what I filter through at the end of the day to either star, label as pending, or move to its appropriate label.

Remember, you can customize these labels, so there are many ways you can configure the emails that appear in this view and the flow you’d like your correspondence to go through. I have found this system beneficial to my follow-up and helps reduce the amount of things that fall through the cracks. If you find yourself overwhelmed by your emails on a consistent basis, schedule 30 minutes in your day to sit down and create a basic start to your email organization. Once you get the skeleton completed, you can add and alter things as you go.

Happy Organizing!

Justice. Mercy. Humility.

mc

Table Topics Tuesday: Happiness In The Present

Table Topic Tuesday 1.22.13

I recently purchased a set of “Table Topics: Happiness” from Target the other week and I love them! (Did I mention they were 90% off?!) They are great conversation starters and fun to flip through. Last week, I came across this card as I was getting ready and  it’s been my head constantly ever since.

Each year, it’s evident everyone is at least somewhat discontent with where they are currently. Why else would there be New Year’s Resolutions? I know I’ve spent most of my time these first few weeks of 2013 imagining what life will be like in 5-10 years. I’ve already written out a few practical action steps to make those dreams come true- blogging is one of them!

I firmly believe vision and personal growth are a good thing (I am actually very passionate about them), but I feel when we focus too much on the future we miss out on a great opportunity to truly enjoy the moment and the place we’re at in life RIGHT NOW. There’s always something that the present teaches us: contentment.

Take a moment today and think your life in its current state. Even if you’re not where you imagine yourself in 5-10 years, identify the things in your life that you can celebrate. Dwell on it. Thank God for it. Choose to have an attitude of joy because of it. Be content with yourself.

As you continue your week, be intentional about taking a moment each day to find the good in life. If you think hard enough, you’ll find one. . . and some days it might only be just one. If it is, cling tightly to it and don’t let busyness and stress steal it away from you.

Oh, and don’t worry, you’re not alone. I’m going to re-read this post tomorrow as well.

Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly.

mc

In the Wrong

Women RR signI spent my morning on Friday sitting in the local Panera planning and processing a few ideas for my job. Throughout college, I spent most of my time studying and preparing for presentations or exams there while devouring my body weight in their scrumptious blueberry bagels and hazelnut coffee. When given the opportunity to have an off-site work day once a month, I knew exactly where I wanted to go.

There’s something inspiring to be among people as I work, watching and observing from All-Sons-And-Daughters-blaring-through-my-earbuds-while-feverishly-typing-away corner of the room. It’s as if I’m seeing a improv dance routine take place. Everyone moving at their own pace. Ordering, talking, laughing, eating. . . it’s simply beautiful. While the my recent change in diet has forced me to sacrifice on the blueberry bagel (still working on finding a good gluten-free recipe), I still was able to order a large cup of coffee, which I refilled more than I’d like to admit.

It was about the time I was wrapping up my brainstorming session that those ______ cups of coffee refocused my attention to another part of the restaurant. The restroom. Seeing as it was approaching the lunch hour and business was picking up, I decided to open up some real estate for someone else to enjoy, took my things to my car and hurriedly made my way back into the building.

Rushing past the crowds, I burst through the door without breaking stride and was just about to open the stall door when something out of the corner of my eye caught my attention. I turned my head to see a urinal on the side of the bathroom. Now, most of you would have immediately realized you were in the wrong  bathroom, but I can’t lie. My first thought was, “That’s weird. Why did they install a urinal in the women’s restroom?” Luckily, another thought immediately interjected my mind and caused me to realize I was indeed in the wrong restroom. As swiftly as I darted through the wrong door I made my way out and into the proper room, hoping (no, praying) no one would catch me correcting my mistake.

Fast forward through a few details and I am red-faced and giggling at myself in the car over what just took place. Did that seriously just happen to me? I obviously was so focused on myself and my needs that I failed to follow the signs marking the answer to my problem.

As funny as Friday’s experience was, it’s amazing how many times I’ve found myself in other similar situations. When facing a problem, I ignore the signs for help and direction God has placed in my path and I end up standing in the middle of a terrible, embarrassing or just plain sinful situation. What’s even worse is I don’t always immediately realize where I am. The longer we refuse to spend time with God and humbly seek Him, the harder it is to hear His voice and notice His direction. Any situation of pain or struggle, whether physical, emotional or relational is terrible and we must acknowledge it, but when we begin to idolize the pain and allow it to control us, we drift further and further away from God’s direction, healing and restoration. Over time, the problem becomes the only thing we can see and builds a barrier over our heart and eyes, inhibiting us from seeing or accepting truths God is trying to share with us.

The good news? In each problem I’ve been in, I eventually realized where I was (thank you, God!). Sometimes I was standing outside the door. Other times I was in the middle of the room, staring at the urinal and wondering why it was in the wrong restroom. No matter how deep I was in a wrong situation or how unlike Jesus I was behaving, I still got the opportunity to turn around and walk in the right direction. There’s a bit of shame and embarrassment, a bit of giggles at foolish decisions, but a whole lot of thankfulness for God providing a way out.

I love the way God uses embarrassing situations in our life to reveal truths to us. You better believe the next time I am faced with a problem, I will pause and look around to see if my surroundings are what they should be. Until then, I am simply going to try and make sure I avoid being in the wrong room. . .  because I probably won’t be lucky enough to walk into an unoccupied room the next time. 🙂

Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly.

mc

Balance

If there’s one thing in my life that I struggle with, its balance. I am one of those rare individuals that likes to get a lot accomplished because I get to knock out a long to-do list, but also loves getting lost in conversation with others or creativity sessions. I have a hard time feeling content while participating in either because I end up feeling deprived of the other.

Most days, my default option is to focus on the tasks that lie ahead of me. I get stuck on the “stuff” of life. It’s easy to see why– no one wants to be the irresponsible one. So, I do my work, clean the house, run the errands… all so I can check it off of my list. But what about the people I am around every day? Do I stop and smile at the woman I pass as I reach for the cereal that’s on sale this week, or do I even notice that there’s a human being next to me as I continue checking items off my list?

My desires are playing tug-of-war with my heart. Every day a different one will win. Does it have to be like this, or is there a key to living a balanced life of both doing and being? Will this only get worse when I have children?

Lord, reveal to me the areas of my life that need to be put back into balance. Remind me of my purpose and how my friendships, my job, my responsibilities, my finances, and marriage should fit together.

Heart of Oklahoma to the Heart of Florida

I promise that I wasn’t avoiding my blog because I didn’t want to write…

The truth is, November 2010- March 2011 would have been filled with posts that could have read like novels. During those 4 months, Tomy and I had our world turned around. There are things I will never understand, and one of them is God. Through these past few months, I have seen God call us to do some scary things and now looking back on it all, the only thing I can do is lift my hands praise the One who gave us the strength to say yes to Him.

Tomy and I had only been married for 8 1/2 months, we just purchased a house in November, we had both just started new jobs that we loved, we were connected to our church and had lots of close friends still in the area… but God stirred our hearts while we prayed for 3 months about moving to FL.

Where are we going to live? What are we going to do with our house we just bought? How are we going to tell our bosses this news? Florida is further away from our familes- how will this effect our relationship with them? Will we make new friends? I know Tomy will have a job, but what will I do?

You know what happens when you bring your questions and your concerns to God? He comforts you with peace beyond all understanding and sometimes even answers them in might ways.

It’s now April. Tomy and I are now in Lakeland, FL. I have a job working at church with Tomy as the Life Groups Assistant. I love the people I work with. We found a beautiful condo to live in a mile away from the church. We are making new friends. We have FaceTime dates with our Family. We’ve already had friends stay over at our place (open offer to anyone who needs a FL vaca).

There are too many blessings to count. Never has my God failed me. There have been frustrations, pain, tears, and things not going how I wanted them to, but God is God and we are in His hands.

I miss Oklahoma, but I love Florida.