Aria’s Arrival

This is the post I’ve been waiting to write for the past nine months. I’ve written different versions of this story with my niece and nephew, but this birth story is my own. Waiting for the arrival of your first child is one of those things you anticipate, plan, and over-analyze yet, when it finally begins, it hits you that it is actually happening. All the planning culminates into the Real birth of your Actual child.

The week and a half leading up to labor I was experiencing every. single. symptom. of imminent labor: the plug, the show, cramps, dilation, effacement- you name it, I had it. I was putting my friends and family on high alert. From everything I read, I was bound to go into labor at any moment! This lasted for two weeks until my blood pressure started creeping up, and my doctor scheduled me to be induced on October 11th. The funny thing about October 11th is that it’s my husband’s birthday, and he had been claiming that our daughter would be born on his birthday throughout the entire pregnancy. He was now confident in his prediction with the induction scheduled. At this point, I gave up waiting for labor to begin and accepted I would show up on a predetermined date to have my baby.

On Saturday night October 8th, I gathered up the last of my 39 week energy reservoir and went to watch the Florida State vs. Miami football game at a local sports bar. As most know, I am a diehard FSU football fan, and I did my best to stay calm, cool, and collected as I watched my team battle in a close game against our long time nemesis, Miami. FSU ended up winning the game by blocking an extra point as the clock dwindled in the fourth quarter.

It was only a couple of hours later that my personal overtime of excitement began. I felt the first contraction and thought, “hey, that one was strong…” but again I shrugged it off as just another tease of labor. Then another contraction came and then another. By the third contraction they were occurring five minutes apart, and I was quickly coming to know the intensity of labor pains. I was determined to be a “good” patient and waited the full 45 minutes before dialing the on-call physician who gave her blessing to come into the hospital.

Once admitted I quickly dilated to 6 cm and experienced the shock of my water, not breaking, but BURSTING. That was startling. I  then received the beautiful, wonderful, gracious invention of an epidural and took a NAP. I woke up a little while later to feeling contractions on my left side to which I received more drugs through my marvelous epidural. About 30 seconds later, it was time to push- I was going to meet my baby!

I like when my husband tells the story of me pushing for 30 minutes because he chuckles the whole time. I was so thrilled that I kept laughing and repeatedly saying, “I’m so excited to see her!” between each pushing session. I think the nurses and doctor thought that I was amusing and probably a little crazy.

I remember every detail of that last push and knowing my daughter was entering this world and my life in that moment. The second the doctor placed her on my chest, I became a blubbering hysterical sobbing mother. I was overwhelmed with seeing that little life in front of me. It was like staring at the most beautiful forms of creation: the mountains, rivers, islands and seas all at once, and knowing, this most precious form of creation is personally given to you. The feeling is incredible.

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My husband and I were then able to spend time loving our beautiful daughter while sharing what is surely the most memorable moment of our lives.  Our baby’s tribe of supporters soon followed with all the love they could pour out onto such a precious, new baby.

I’m sure my birth story is familiar to innumerable women and many of the sentiments I write have been storied from the beginning of time. But it’s an experience that deserves to be told over and over again because it spreads Love and Gratefulness for an Amazing Creator who gives us the most breathtaking gifts. I am so thankful to have been blessed with the experience of  growing a new life in my body and then having every moment ahead of me to gaze at her perfectly formed face and dark hair and gentle hands. Just as God intended, I am in awe.

Welcome to The World and my world Aria Ray. You are so very loved.

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October 9, 2016 at 11:08am

6 pounds 13 ounces, 20 inches long

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Book Review: Bittersweet

I may be late to the game, but I recently read Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist. Shauna is a Christian author who would undoubtedly be my friend if our real life paths ever crossed. Her book is a series of stories, life experiences and encouragements written within the common themes of change, pain and grace. Shauna’s writing style incorporates humility, humor and faith through the perspective of personal hardship. Shauna touches on everything from marriage, deep lasting friendships, miscarriage, death, travel, writing, and personal failures and accomplishments. This book is a compilation of reflections during a life “season” which proves entirely relatable to this female, Christian, blogger, and thus the basis of our hypothetical friendship. My future book (which may never actually exist) would read similar to Shauna’s, largely due to our shared interests, with the exception of her great love for feeding others and entertaining. You can come over, but I’ll probably just have chips and salsa. As I read Bittersweet, I found myself in her crowd of company and in her deepest sentiments and in the pursuit of her goals. I believe Shauna’s own words will give the best glance into the authentic storyline of a Christian writer living an ordinary life with an extraordinary God:

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“This is what I’ve come to believe about change: it’s good in the way that childbirth is good, and heartbreak is good, and failure is good. By that I mean it’s incredibly painful, exponentially more so if you fight it, and also that it has the potential to open you up, to open life up, to deliver you right into the palm of God’s hand, which is where you wanted to be all along, except that you were too busy pushing and pulling your life into exactly what you thought it should be.”

“When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. When life is bitter, say thank you and grow.”

“Writing wakes me up, lights me on fire, opens my eyes to the things I can never see and feel when I’m hiding under the covers, cowering and consumed with my own failures and fears.”

“I didn’t think either of us were going to cheat or leave, but I was, in my most private, fearful moments, afraid that the damage would be irreparable, and that we would slide into being one of those couples who closed their hearts to one another in the deepest way.”

“Full life is lived when the whole system works together, when rest and home and peace live hand in hand with taste and sparkle and go.”

And I would quote the entire last chapter because it is power, but you’ll just have to read it yourself.

Shauna, thank you for being real and inspiring me to tell my stories, no matter the cost. Thank you for telling your readers, “If you have been transformed by the grace of God, then you have within you all you need to write your manifesto, your poem, your song, your battle cry, your love letter to a beautiful and broken world. Your story must be told.”

A Loud Mind

My mind whispers thoughts endlessly, thoughts of criticism, insecurity, routine and obligation. An incoming train of words and admonishments- memories of joy and the pitfalls of mistakes. Only the deepest sleep allowing the switch to be turned and blackness to drain out the constant holler of my mind.

A peaceful state is a distant dream. This is an affliction of the mind, an unending form of anxiety attacking the core of functioning. Failures, missteps and embarrassments play their picture show without the viewer’s consent. A compulsion of counting through clenched teeth pushes me through the scene.

How do I turn it off? How do I halt the thoughts?

I’m frozen at a railroad crossing with no end of this eternal train in sight.  I pray these words out loud to drown the internal drum:

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!

You know when I sit down and when I rise up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

You search out my path and my lying down

and are acquainted with all my ways.

Even before a word is on my tongue,

behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.

You hem me in, behind and before,

and lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is high; I cannot attain it. (Psalm 139:1-6)

I repeat the praises until I find rest; until my mind finds solace in the hands of God. I am hemmed into the fabric of grace, and I am completely covered: A blanket of peace that shrouds even the most boisterous of fears.

Financial Peace

My small group recently finished The Dave Ramsey series of Financial Peace University. We didn’t really do the whole thing, but we definitely hit the major topics.

Like usual, I didn’t agree with everything the Christian money guru was teaching. I will argue for the sake of arguing, y’all. Honestly, I think his financial plan works and I have no qualms about it being just that– a financial plan.

But as we know, a whole lot of things don’t go according to plan.

Am I all about the emergency fund, the debt snowball and 15% into retirement (ouch, that’s a toughie)… Yes! I would love to manage my money this well.

I want to be financially responsible and I will try my hardest to follow Dave Ramsey’s rules!
I just want to say that I’m okay if it doesn’t happen too; because I’m okay with God being in control of my finances.

Bottom line… I want to give control of money to the Lord.

If that means giving a whole lot a spending far less, wonderful.
If I go through financial suffering as a means to glorify The One who provides, I pray I find joy in it.
If I make money mistakes and poor purchases, I hope to learn and move on so my heart does not remain focused on money.

All in all, Dave Ramsey has taught me valuable lessons in providing for my family and identifying areas I lack in self-discipline.
But let’s get real, my husband and I are never going to make enough money to the point our FICO score doesn’t matter. So, I’ll be keeping my credit card 🙂 #justified

In sum,

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” – Matthew 6:24

I pray to not serve money either by want or gain. My priority is relationship with The Lord, and I think Dave Ramsey would agree.

Speak Love: A Review and Application

I just finished up an Annie F. Downs book, Speak Love, and I just have one thing to say: Why did my fourteen year old self not read this book!? Probably because it wasn’t written yet, but nonetheless, it would have saved me from so much heartache and drama.

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In Speak Love, Annie promotes the idea (via The Bible) that we as women, young girls, and people in general have the power to create life or inflict death with our words. Annie touches upon the way we use words toward others, towards celebrities, in our social media, and even how we speak to ourselves.

Annie talks about the “mean girl” so often idolized in teenage girl culture. I have been there. I’ve been victim and the perpetrator of words that tear down instead of build up. As a teen, I absorbed hurtful words about my appearance and character and hoarded them up inside. In turn, I became the mean girl to myself. I was so critical, judgmental, and negative of my own appearance or behaviors that I became hypercritical of others. That’s called insecurity and no matter how you cut it it’s still pride- Not the best way to show love.

For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks- Matthew 12:34

As I’ve grown older I have struggled and matured step by step by the grace of God to bloom into a confident woman (work in progress). But I’m telling you, if I would have read this book when I was young, I could have gotten there a whole lot faster.

So, thank you Annie for writing this book for all young girls in an effort to prevent the struggle to know they are loved and to know they have the power to create life in others! AKA The Truth.

Speak Love impacted me in another way as an adult. Annie wrote a chapter on using words in your craft, and it just so happens I love to write (e.g. this blog). I stopped and grabbed a pencil and paper when I read these words:

Work hard to honor God with your words and your creations because once you make them, they’re out there, ready to glorify God in the lives of many people.

 

Wow. I have the power to glorify God with my words. Shouldn’t I do something with that?

Yes, says Annie:

You will never know. I will never know. We will never know the full impact of our words or our lives. So we just live, wide open, encouraging others, sharing whenever we can, speaking up for those who don’t have a voice, and creating art that points to who God is and how he loves.

 

That may require some vulnerability.

Thankfully, this isn’t about me anyway; it’s about the potential to show others God.  Speak Love was a fantastic reminder of the power of words and how we can affect the lives of others with simple sentences of love. This book should be mandatory for all girls going into middle school- the whole world would change if young women would encourage each other in love (this goes for grown ladies too)!

 

IF:Equip

Today I stumbled upon (in the literal internet surfing sense not the app) a website offering Monday through Friday devotionals for women. The post includes Scripture, Journal questions, and a video response to the daily reading. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time finding/sticking to reading plans which are often too hefty to keep up on a day to day basis. Ironically, I’m constantly on the internet with millions of resources at my disposal, yet my attention falls elsewhere (usually in the secular realm, namely Pinterest). Since reading blogs is something on my daily “computer to-do list” (that should not even exist), this devotional site has a definite appeal to my interests.

The website is produced by a non-profit group (IF:) who proclaims in their vision statement:

“We exist to gather, equip and unleash the next generation of women to live out their purpose.”

Their Vision includes three tenets:

IF: GATHER

A fresh, deep, honest space for a new generation of women to wrestle with the essential question: IF God is real… THEN what? This 2-day gathering brings women together and wrestles out how to live out the calling God has placed on our lives.

IF: EQUIP

We are creating an equipping tool that is holistic, strategic and deep. By providing easy online access to a like-hearted community and relevant resources, we hope IF: Equip will prepare women around the world to know God more deeply and to live out their purposes.

IF: UNLEASH

We believe in women uniting for healing and reconciliation in neighborhoods and homes and local churches and around the world. By partnering with organizations like Food for the Hungry, coming specifically alongside women around the world, fostering relationships and utilizing our God-given gifts, we believe this movement not only transforms hearts but leaves a tangible impact on the entire world.

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The “IF:EQUIP” is the online devotional site. I will be joining the IF:EQUIP community by reading (and commenting) on the daily posts. Let me know if you join too!

Avail

I grew up with Hunter Davis. He is the son of my pastor from back home in Polk.

Look how God is using him now (he is the blonde one).

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