The Time Has Come…..

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

Blah. That’s how I’ve felt this week. It’s not all bad, I’m just worn out. Plain exhausted. Picture me with my hair in a high bun with random hair escaping, oh and add in Houston’s humidity and my normally straight hair has some curl to it…well the random fly-aways do. So annoying. I forgot my hair dryer and really don’t have a reason to dry my hair anyway so it just goes up!

Last Sunday Chaney, Michael and I drove down with our truck loaded full of items for the next few weeks. The next time I see my home we will have Tyler with us. Chaney flew home Wednesday so it has just been me and Michael for a few days. These past several weeks are somewhat a blur with the weekly trips back and forth from Houston and the sense of urgency to accomplish and satisfy my nesting compulsion. Nesting is hard when you aren’t home very often, especially in the weeks and days leading up to delivery. I’ve done my best to prepare our home for Tyler’s arrival and have driven everyone else crazy in the process. The bummer is he won’t come directly “home” from the hospital as we will be 500 miles away! Talk about doing things completely different this time.

However, even with this impending deadline looming I’ve been able to slow down and savor time with my family. This family of mine consisting of us five, for the last time. Over the past few weeks our family has enjoyed pizza and movie nights, manicures & pedicures, fall festival at the school, breakfast dates before school, fun at Fiddlesticks Farm, lunch dates with just me and the girls. We’ve also experienced Julia’s school musical, Katelynn’s eye appointment and her first pair of glasses. We have snuggled on the couch, folded lots of laundry, cleaned rooms and picked up toys. I’ve helped with homework and listened to the girls tell me about books they are reading. Basically the mundane, but as my friend Bailey would say the magnificent mundane. We have been enjoying everyday life with a few special events mixed in, but overall my focus is on the intentionality of each moment and offering myself fully available and engaged to my family. All of the things on my “to-do list” can be tackled later, or not and it won’t be the end of the world. (I tell myself this as my OCD kicks in mid-conversation).

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Breakfast before school. Mom really needed to go to the store, buuuut the girls LOVED it!

I’m not sure why I become so sappy, aside from the obvious pregnancy hormones, but with the birth of each of our children I go through an emotional process. I am fully anticipating the joyful addition of new life, yet grieving what phase of life we are leaving behind. When Katelynn was born I had no idea what we were getting into with parenthood and was basically scared out of my mind. I was grieving the loss of independence but had no idea the joy that would come when she made me “Mommy”. With Julia’s arrival I was unsure how our family dynamic would change. I already felt I was lacking as a mother to Katelynn and didn’t see how I could love both children without taking away from the other. When Michael’s due date approached I FREAKED out because we were about to do this baby thing again, but this time with two school age children. Thoughts that cycled included….“Am I too old for this? Will this take away from my availability to my girls?” Yet without fail, the arrival of each of my children quenched any anxiety and I forgot my initial fears. We made it work, because of the overwhelming love we had for our children. For all of our children. There has never been a shortage of love but abundance. Love grows.

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Fun at Fiddlesticks Farms

With this pregnancy I haven’t gone through this process because most of my focus is directed on appointments and tasks. I haven’t thought much about what everyday life will look like with another sweet baby boy at the Vines house. Partially because I have no idea when we will actually bring him home so it just seems like an idea, but also because I haven’t taken the time to slow down and contemplate the season of life we are embarking on. Yeah, I know I’ve had months to prepare myself. Chaney laughs at me to no end because he thinks I’m a space cadet. I voice my thoughts and concerns often inquiring his opinion and am usually surprised how he has processed the same thoughts weeks prior. It takes me longer to work through the entire process in “thought-land” and I spend much of my time there. Just call me an idealist or a dreamer, but I really find this form of processing very productive and healing. I’m currently in the midst of this process. I don’t really know how I feel. I’m still working through it all, so it has been difficult writing a blog update. I’ve tried to write this for the past 5 days and I don’t want it to be solely information. I’d like to be transparent and real, but I can’t be vulnerable when I’m unsure where to go with it. That’s about as real as I’m able to be right now. I’m overwhelmed and the words aren’t coming as easily as I am used to.

We went to my appointment on Monday and based on the results of the ultrasounds, the doctors have decided to deliver sooner than we originally had planned. Basically my MCA scans were elevated and I am past 35 weeks so an IUT was not an option. Dr. Moise is confident that Tyler will be okay until delivery as there are no other signs of anemia, but he doesn’t want to keep him in the womb for the original goal of 37-38 weeks. We set the date for induction for next Wednesday and that has given us time to take several steps furthering Tyler’s development. I received 2 steroid shots aiding his lung development and a medication that will help develop his liver. Specifically this medication helps his liver have the ability to process bilirubin and lessens the likelihood of major jaundice issues. The doctors also increased monitoring of Tyler as anemia can set in extremely fast. They don’t believe this will occur, but it helped put me at ease. We found out Tyler is measuring 2 weeks ahead of his age and already weighs around 7lbs 12 oz (at 36 weeks). Although he won’t have the opportunity to grow to full term and be a monster baby like his big brother Michael, it looks like Tyler will also be a healthy size.

Tyler will have a mandatory observation in NICU when he is born and several blood tests to measure how affected he is by my antibodies. Several of these tests will continue for weeks after he is born. We don’t have any idea how long his stay will be in NICU and won’t know until he is here. There is a possibility of Tyler needing blood transfusion(s) after he is born, either immediately or over the next few months. All of these procedures are much less dangerous and intrusive once he is out in the world rather than in the womb. We are leaving these decisions to the medical team who see babies affected by antibodies on a regular basis. The problem continues after his birth if my anti-kell antibodies have attached themselves to Tyler’s red blood cells. This can cause late onset anemia and other health issues until the antibodies are cleared out and Tyler is successfully creating his own red blood cells. This is the reason for continued blood draws and monitoring for up to 12 weeks after birth. We have contacted Cook’s Children’s Hospital to be assigned a pediatric hematologist. Our local pediatrician will partner with Cook’s by writing weekly blood orders so we can have these done at home. Our hope is to prevent travel as much as possible while not sacrificing quality of care. If these tests and results are not monitored closely life long health issues can be the result. As long as we stay on top of these tests, Tyler will not have any long term health issues.

Chaney and I toured the NICU at Children’s Memorial Hermann (where we are delivering). I didn’t expect to be so emotional, but I LOST it. I’ve never been to NICU before and I realized not only how hard this will be, but also how blessed we are. This journey we are on is full of amazing medical staff and resources available to us and is something I don’t ever want to be ungrateful for. Although I have anxiety, it’s not about the care we will receive. This is just a brand new experience for us with a lot of “unknowns”. We are in great hands. On top of this, the Ronald McDonald House in NICU will be available to us if we need it. It is separate from the house we weren’t approved for.  If I’m released from the hospital before Tyler, this will be very useful in remaining close to him to nurse and getting rest myself. The RMH is on the same floor and the same wing as NICU with day rooms available for naps & showers and a separate waiting list for evening stays. Our apartment is only 1 mile away from the hospital (another blessing) but I’d rather not be that far away if not absolutely  necessary.

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Fun at the Houston Zoo

The girls will be here next weekend to meet their new baby brother. We had already planned for them to come down and celebrate Katelynn’s birthday next weekend so we are sticking with the original plan. I’m bummed that I will be unable to go around town with them, but I’m overjoyed and full of anticipation to hug their sweet necks. Who am I kidding I’ll bawl my eyes out when I get to hug and kiss them! They will just have to deal.  Michael and I were able to visit the Houston zoo with friends this week and had a blast. I know the zoo is on Katelynn’s short list along with the aquarium. More than anything, I’m so thankful we will all be together for her birthday. I can’t wait for our family to be together…all SIX of us. What?! It will take us awhile to settle in to our normal as the next weeks and months are unknown, but it will be wonderful. It will be our wonderful. It may take a while for the word mundane to apply, but soon enough the days and weeks will turn into years and it will seem like it has always been.

I’m relying on my Jesus so much through this all. I allow myself to remember all the situations in my life that have been difficult. I remember how my relationship with Him has grown stronger. When I have fears I voice them, I don’t try to hide them. I have no idea what the future holds, yet when I trust Him it all works out. When the next doubtful situation arises I remember what the Lord has walked me through. Trust has been formed. Hope is a real experience, not something merely spoken about. I still have new doubts and questions, but in my Spirit I trust my Comforter and Counselor. I just have to hold onto Him and trust the outcome to His plan.

Thank you for experiencing this pregnancy with us. I pray the Lord has blessed you abundantly as you’ve taken the time to pray for us. I don’t know how often I’ll be able to update our progress over the next few months, but know that I will do my best. It helps me to be vulnerable in the midst of it all and I’m so grateful for your support, comments and messages. I pray Tyler’s life be one the Lord continues to use to bring others to Him. I know Tyler has brought me closer to my King and I haven’t even seen his sweet face yet. We all have purpose to be used for His glory, may we not forget this highest calling.

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”  Proverbs 19:21

Waiting to Exhale

My heart is confident in you, O God; no wonder I can sing your praises with all my heart!”         Psalm 108:1

Chaney and I are on our way back from Houston, a trip we have become familiar with. We’ve made the drive 4 times in the past 5 weeks. Depending on which route we take, it is a nice leisurely round-trip drive ranging between 950-1050 miles. We have tried them all to keep things interesting and see different parts of Texas. The drive is no big thing; when you’re in the third trimester of pregnancy, have ankles and feet that swell into painful puffy appendages and have to use the little girl’s room every few hours, the drive is a cake walk. Ha. One fact proves true whatever route we take…the further away we get from Midland the prettier and greener our surroundings become. We do love our hometown, but it sure is nice to get away and see trees, hills and life outside of West Texas even if it is for a doctor appointment.

Last time I wrote an update I was seeing my local doctor for ultrasounds each week. In fact, my last update was after a trip to Houston to check on Tyler. Since then we’ve had a few scares with high MCAs. One instance resulted in us making the trip to Houston fully convinced we would need a transfusion. The doctors even had us on the surgery schedule for the following day. I was a mess the 3 days leading up to my Monday appointment in Houston. Setting out on an 8 hour drive after getting less than favorable results was extremely unnerving. Leaving our kids not knowing exactly when we would be home or being able to answer their questions about Tyler added to the emotions. It was also the first time I’ve left Michael with someone other than his daddy and I was a teary-eyed, snot-nose, anxiety ridden mess. By God’s grace, Tyler was ok and not severely anemic however my stress levels had skyrocketed. Because of the added stress, time and miles between Midland and Houston, Chaney suggested that we begin having our appointments in Houston each week. Transferring our care provides us the expertise of The Fetal Center and Dr. Moise on a weekly basis. Also, if Tyler has become severely anemic requiring a blood transfusion, we will already be in Houston able to have the procedure done the next day. We won’t have to make preparations to go out of town, get the kids packed to go to Charlotte’s, pack ourselves and make the long drive strained with concerns of Tyler’s health. This provides ease of mind for us both and I’m so thankful to my man for discerning how to help ease the burden of stress that was suffocating me.

 

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Chaney patiently walking the Magnolia grounds with me. My man. My love.

As a result, the last 3 weeks we’ve driven down to Houston on Sunday for our Monday morning appointment. Each week we rely on MCA’s, scans specifically checking for anemia measuring the rate of blood flow through the middle cerebral artery, to let us know how anemic Tyler is. He is anemic, but not severely affected warranting the risk for an intrauterine fetal blood transfusion. The scores are given based on MoMs (multiples of median) with 1 MoM being normal and 1.5 MoM equating severe anemia. Fluid around the organs, termed ascites, is another identifying factor of fetal anemia, but we don’t want it to get to that point. Last week Tyler gave us another scare with a wide range of MCAs measuring 1.3-1.7 MoM. All of the wave patterns were legit. Normally they narrow down scans and give us a score of the best quality scan but it was more difficult last week. After the tech did her scans, Dr. Snowise came in and performed several of his own. He began to check Tyler’s positioning and the umbilical cord placement, all important details when a transfusion is needed. The high numbers were perplexing because there were no other visible effects on his organs. The scans are formulated based on a precise angle of the middle cerebral artery and not an exact science. The only precise measurement of anemia is through taking a sample of blood from the umbilical cord. This method has several risks and isn’t used unless a blood transfusion is required. Several factors can cause the MCAs to be inaccurate and give false highs. This day Tyler happened to be positioned head down, was practicing breathing and was fairly active, all factors making the scan more difficult. I was so thankful we were already at The Fetal Center and fully trust their judgment, because this 2 hour appointment was stressful enough while sitting in a room of world renowned experts. Dr. Moise was called in to help figure out what was going on. He looked at Tyler and said he was fine. We were given the green light for another week and made the trip home.

It’s time for me to get real with ya’ll. When I was looking at the screen watching the high readings I panicked a bit. I was hit with a wave of emotions. I hate that my baby has to fight to be healthy. I’m thankful that we are doing so well with such an aggressive antibody and I realize it could be a lot worse. I realize many lose their babies and this has been in the forefront of my mind since learning of my isoimmunization. I fight my emotions constantly not wanting to be over-dramatic because things are going great with all things considered, yet challenging myself to be honest with the internal struggle. Our baby boy is sick and I struggle with the reality of my body causing his anemia. My view of the womb as a place of growth and safety for my children before they have the strength to enter this world has been challenged this pregnancy. Chaney and I have spoken several times how we took for granted the ease in which our other children were brought into this world. It’s like I’ve taken credit for the life of my children. Now I’m realizing how naïve I have been. The props and praise for all life belong to God alone. He has ordained the life of each of my children for a plan and purpose and I’m blessed to be included in this plan as their mother. My children are ultimately His and through this experience I’m beginning to accept this reality, one that I’ve fought since becoming a mother. The one thing I couldn’t ever honestly pray, “God I release my children to you. I know they are yours not mine. I know you love them more than I ever could.” That prayer scares me. It still scares me, but I see the validity in it. I see the desperate need to release this illusion of control that continues to confront me as a glaring defect of character. I waste so much time and energy fighting the wrong battles. One thing I’ve begun to practice is fighting in prayer for my children. I cannot always protect them from this world and the sickness, hurts and sin that exist, but I can pray for them to know our Father whose name alone offers hope. I pray that their lives have a lasting impact on the kingdom. I pray for God to comfort them in their hurts and that they will have a love for Scripture from an early age. I pray that they will passionately pursue God’s will and plan instead of living in sheltered “safety”. I recognize these things offer them more than a mother who tries to shield them. As their mother I’ve been entrusted to equip them and point them towards my Jesus. This morning during my quiet time I ran across a verse that knocked the wind out of me. Talk about perspective.

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.”  Job 38:4

I fully know and accept this is our last pregnancy. We decided this before we had any inclination of the anti-kell antibodies we would combat during this pregnancy. I promised myself not to complain but cherish every moment of the aches and pains and to enjoy each movement of the precious life within me. I haven’t complained and I do enjoy Tyler’s kicks and turns, but it hasn’t been with the “normal” care-free bliss that I yearned for this final pregnancy. I count his movements to make sure he is healthy and not getting sick between scans. I don’t complain about aches and pains because I’m so happy my baby is still alive. I wake up in the middle of the night from nightmares of losing my boy. Up until my appointment yesterday, I haven’t bought anything for him because I didn’t want to get too attached in case something happened. I hate to even admit that or put those thoughts into words but it’s my truth. I must confess that I fell into a trap of hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. I tend to take that stance to protect myself from being hurt, but it’s a façade. Loss hurts no matter what. I didn’t even realize all the walls I have constructed until my appointment Monday.

Tyler is doing great and at 32 weeks 3 days he is already weighing 5lb 13 oz. We will deliver anywhere between the next 3-6 weeks. If he requires a transfusion after 35 weeks the risk of an IUT is greater than delivering early, so labor would be induced. We will not go past 38 weeks, so 6 weeks is the maximum time-frame. When Chaney and I spoke about this time table the relief was palpable and I think I exhaled for the first time in months. An enormous weight was lifted and I could breathe. For the first time I allowed myself to fully believe that Tyler is going to be ok…so I bought him a diaper bag, because he will need one. We gave ourselves a chance to relax, enjoy one another and permission to celebrate our pregnancy by breaking up the return drive home into two days. We stopped in Waco and went on a date. We had dinner, went to Common Grounds for coffee and caught a movie. This morning on our way out of town we stopped by Magnolia Market and grabbed pastries at the bakery, walked around the grounds and of course shopped. Chaney was a trooper and didn’t complain at all. We needed some time to just enjoy one another and I feel rejuvenated. I guess holding your breath for several months isn’t the best approach to life. My soul is so thankful for the fresh air.

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The diaper bag I ordered for Tyler (:

Something Dr. Moise said got my attention. We keep making it one more week, even though Kell is the most aggressive antibody and I have a critical titer. My Kell antibodies attack Tyler’s existing red blood cells, causing anemia, and suppresses the bone marrow from producing new red blood cells accelerating the rate at which a baby becomes anemic. Yet we are ok. Still. Praise the Lord. I don’t get it and I’m so grateful. Several have commented at how strong we are in walking through this season and I know we are clinging tightly to the Lord, but something else is going on. Ya’ll are lifting us and covering us in prayer. Thank you. Please know that we are aware and humbled by your love for us. I don’t feel strong but God enables me to walk through each day with grace. I’m frustrated that I don’t trust Him. After everything He has walked me through I’ve continued to try and shield myself by expecting the worst. I still have so much room to grow. I’m grateful that God isn’t finished with me yet and covet your continued prayers over this season we are in. Please continue to pray for Tyler’s health, specifically to make it to the 38 week mark which decreases many health obstacles he could face if born early. Chapter 46 of Isaiah has been meaningful throughout my pregnancy. Just in case I didn’t get the hint, Kaylea Gaines also text me verses from the chapter several months ago. I believe this is true for us all, even when we have doubts, God is faithful and his truth doesn’t waiver.

“Listen to me, descendants of Jacob,

All you who remain in Israel,

I have cared for you since you were born.

Yes, I carried you before you were born.

I will be your God throughout your lifetime-

until your hair is white with age.

I made you, and I will care for you.

I will carry you along and save you.”

Isaiah 46:3-4

Faith in the midst of Fear

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
Romans 8:15

I’m thankful for seasons of life that are tied together. Maybe it’s by a specific emotion, a scent or even a song. This morning while bawling my eyes out (one of those ugly cries where I really shouldn’t have been driving) I’m reminded of God’s faithfulness in the midst of a year consisting of a strange mix of loss and new beginnings. I’m wrecked with fear because of current happenings that I have no control over and overwhelmed with grief from past events that I also have no control over.

Today marks one year. One year since Greg passed away. Around here he was mostly called Grandad or Dad. He was a hard working man, tough and determined (bull-headed really). Yet at the same time gentle, caring and soft. He was a friend, not just my father-in-law. We played cards into all hours of the night and the next morning. We went hunting and watched the races together. Well he watched the races, I usually fell asleep. He was our neighbor & we had this amazing agreement when we’d do take out for dinner, it was called, “You fly, I’ll buy.” I did the flying part.

He was the patriarch of our family unit. Dad was a provider and didn’t want any of his kids or grandkids to go without. He took pride in being available if we needed anything. He may have been loud, stubborn and blow his top off every now and then, however this was juxtaposed by his quiet and still spirit in the midst of crisis. So many times he would pause, not react and turn the conversation to spiritual realities reminding me of WHO really was in control even if the situation seemed chaotic. Although sometimes this was highly agitating because I really just wanted to complain, it would jump start my heart to focus on faith in the midst of fear.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Hebrews 11:1

Grandad was a pro at playing “patty-cake”. He used his knees for some crazy “giddy-up” horse rides. I have videos of piggy back rides around the house and also educational rhymes….”Eye-winker, tom-tinker, nose-dropper, mouth-eater, chin-chopper…” followed by mandatory tickles. All this after getting home from a long day at work in Pyote, Texas. He made the 180 mile round-trip drive for over 25 years running the aggregate mine for the family concrete company started by his father. Grandad also had his cup of sweet tea mysteriously go empty on many occasions and it is no wonder why all the granddaughters have a particular affinity for sweet tea. This year has been really tough without him and to say his presence is missed is quite an understatement.

It’s difficult to describe someone using only memories, not that they have faded, but because I’d much rather him still be here with us so we could create new ones. I wish he was here to see and enjoy his grandsons, like he was able to with his granddaughters. He would be so proud to watch his kids working together and communicating & get a real kick out of them arguing and trying to figure things out. He would swell with pride at the continued transformation of his son…. to see the godly man, father, husband & leader Chaney is.

After Greg’s short battle with cancer, there was a sense of relief that he was no longer in pain and gratitude he is with his Jesus, eternally healed. But…..also the sadness, emptiness, the fear of what life would look like without him and the heartache that doesn’t go away. As with any death where the assurance of Christ’s salvation exists there is a thread of faith that holds the heartache. Faith strings the many pieces together offering peace in the depths of despair. Faith offers hope when fear is paralyzing. The morning after he passed away, our family unit and Charlotte’s  family were all at his house. None of us had gotten much sleep the night before. We had breakfast and were listening to worship music, Tyler and Bailey Dodds albums mostly with “The Way I Feel” on repeat. We all looked a HOT mess as you can imagine. Suddenly Chaney decided we all needed to go to church so we did. All 9 of us, including 3 children, were dressed and ready within 30 minutes and we made the 20 minute drive into town.

There have been many poignant times of worship in my life, many occurring outside of a church service. However this particular Sunday stands out & was a very encouraging time of corporate worship with my family, surrounded by our family of believers. There were many pivotal and life changing circumstances that were enveloping our existence last September aside from Greg’s cancer. I couldn’t tell you what the message was, or who preached, but there was this moment when all the emotions, fear and uncertainties were overcome with assurance of God’s sovereign faithfulness.

I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

I am surrounded
By the arms of the father
I am surrounded
By songs of deliverance

We’ve been liberated
From our bondage
We’re the sons and the daughters
Let us sing our freedom

You split the sea
So I could walk right through it
My fears were drowned in perfect love
You rescued me
And I could stand and sing
I am a child of God…

When our praise team began singing “No Longer Slaves” over our church, Chaney grabbed my hand and we stood up. Ya’ll if you know us at all, I tend to be the more outgoing one. I love to sing and get lost in worship. Chaney tends to be more reserved. Not this day. Nope. My man led me & encouraged me to worship my King. He showed me how to not be paralyzed by fear. In the midst of all the situations staring us in the face taunting us to give into FEAR, Chaney stood up and proclaimed he chose FAITH. With tears streaming down my face I proclaimed I chose faith too. I began to recall the vastness of God’s character and remember the milestones of faith in my past where He took painful and seemingly impossible situations and healed my soul. My Abba Father whispered there was no need to fear. My child, I’ve got this. Too bad those moments of assurance don’t wipe away the existence of fear, forever.

This short word (fear) somehow touches about every aspect of our lives. It was an evil and corroding thread; the fabric of our existence was shot through with it. It set in motion trains of circumstances which brought us misfortune we felt we didn’t deserve.

Lately I’ve been unraveling. Like a sweater that has one loose thread you can’t tug on it, you have to cut it off, if you want anything left of your clothing. I’m run through with fear & have been pulling the thread. The above quote has been running through my mind. It comes from 12 step literature (pg. 67 in Alcoholics Anonymous) and paints such a vivid mental picture. Fear is something I’ve struggled with my whole life. Not just fear, but how I react to it. When I’m shot through with fear, I act based on emotion. This is NEVER a good thing. To live a life characterized by emotional decisions you’ll end up with a track record like mine. My past is a tumultuous one and I’m so grateful for a life where I now aim to live guided by a foundation of faith. I’m not saying emotion is bad, after all it’s part of the beauty of being human. But emotions vary and don’t supply a consistent and standard guide to live life. Although fear still comes up, it no longer controls and defines me. However, there are still situations that trigger my fears and an internal battle ensues.

Uncertainty tends to be one of these triggers and instead of admitting I’m afraid, I have this unhealthy need to be in control. When I can’t control circumstances that are affecting my life, I decide it’s much easier to try and control YOURS. Lovely isn’t it? Let’s be friends, ok? Ok. Then I can fix your life while ignoring my own problems. I’ll even act like I have it all together. Yes, I’m one of those people. Well, fear can quickly turn me into that person. So, here I am admitting I’m afraid and giving you a heads up that I may try to fix you instead of me….don’t fall for it, if I can’t let go and trust God how am I to help you?

Currently I’ve had the realization that I can’t even pretend to hold it all together. I don’t have the energy anymore. Reality has set in and although Tyler is doing ok right now the scans are continuing to rise getting closer to that magic number we want to stay below. The logistics of relocating to Houston for his birth have me paralyzed with fear. Our application wasn’t approved for the Ronald McDonald House so we are looking into other housing options. I’ll be down there for a minimum of 3 weeks before his birth without my family. This past week while Chaney and I were in Houston with Michael, I missed our girls so much. I can’t imagine what it’ll be like to be away from home for a month. How long will we be there after his birth? The weekly appointments are wearing me out, each week wondering if his MCA scans  will show signs of anemia requiring a trip to Houston for a blood transfusion. AND cue the SNOWBALL of emotion…..basically any thought I have after this point is emotionally based and out of the context of logic. Pregnancy hormones are really helping me out at this point. FOR REAL.

Yet, this morning has been healing. So wrought with emotion and the release of fresh tears from the pain of Greg’s absence, I’m again assured of the peace in God’s presence. I’m so thankful for his mercies that are new every morning. He doesn’t ask me to handle it on my own. He doesn’t expect me to hold it together. Faith working in the midst of fear is a battle. Faith is the Son shining his light to melt my snowball of emotion before it wrecks havoc causing explosive damage. Faith doesn’t mean fears aren’t pressing in, it means there is an ability to see things through a different perspective. My fears are real emotions and I have to face them, but I choose to view them through the lens of faith that scripture offers. Faith allows me to see God’s hand in each situation. I have family familiar with Houston neighborhoods & they are helping to identify the more favorable areas to stay in. There is an amazing Doctor able to help Tyler if he needs transfusions. Chaney & Charlotte will both be able to spend some time in Houston so I won’t be alone the entire time. I also have several friends and family I can spend time with. The girls will be taken care of here with a wonderful support system of family, friends & teachers. They will even get to come visit so we can celebrate Katelynn’s bday together. Aside from what I’m able to see with my physical eyes I know there is so much more in the unseen.

My assurance is in my Father’s steadfast love chasing after me in my fear and meeting me where I am in my grief. My hope is in His faithfulness and my rest is in His arms. The Lord has our baby boy, our family and our future. He wants me to stay in today, in this moment. He is my portion. He is enough. Let it be so Lord, please comfort my soul.

But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”

Lamentations 3:21-24

 

Preparation is Key

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

James 1:2-4

When I met Chaney over 10 years ago I had a couple birds. Well, several would be more accurate. He gives me a hard time saying I was one bird short of being the “Crazy Bird Lady”.  How many birds you ask? Eight. Eight of my feathered friends consisting of a parrot, cockatiel, two doves, and four parakeets. I’d tell you all of their names, but I don’t want to bore you. (I’m sure you’d rather know the name we have decided on for our baby boy…but I’ll get to that here in a few paragraphs. Just stay with me I promise this all has a purpose). I had a two bedroom apartment…one bedroom for me and one for my birds. They needed plenty of room to fly and exercise their wings. Needless to say when Chaney and I started a family, several of the birds had to go. It was really tough, but a new baby  trumps pets every time. Three were particularly close to my heart so we made it work & Chaney put up with my bird loving self. Ahem…. I’d like to add here —> I’ve also put up with Chaney’s reptile loving self. We have had several snakes & lizards over the years and to say I’m not a fan of the slithery kind is a drastic understatement.

 

One of these three was my parrot Kiwi, who flew away several years ago. That was rough, but is a separate story and a rabbit I won’t chase. The other two were my doves, Bebe and Coco. I found Bebe at a carwash 12 years ago, when she was a baby. She didn’t have any feathers and I had no idea what kind of bird she was. I went to Pet Mystique, my local pet store, and my friend Cindy guided me in the process of hand-feeding a baby bird. She had another customer who found an identical baby bird but had no desire to raise it, so I had two baby birds to take care of. Raising baby birds is no easy feat. I fed them every couple of hours, kept them warm, kept them clean…all while continuing to work and go to school. Luckily I worked for my Papa at Johnson Bros. Oil Co. and he and Barb (the real boss) let me bring the doves with me. I was able to stick to their feeding schedule during the day and at night.

 

At the age of 19 I learned a little bit about commitment and nurturing and how hard it really could be. In a way it was a crash course for motherhood. They thought I was their mom and would fly to me wherever I was in the house. They basically acted like a dog would, except not…they acted like two little doves. There is just something about doves that is very calming and peaceful to me. If you can’t relate, just think about your favorite pet of all time and pretend I’m talking about him/her. (Channel those emotions so you can experience this story and not miss out.) I bonded with these little doves and they have been with me ever since. They met my three kids. Moved to each new home with us. The girls enjoyed letting them fly around and see who they would fly to. The last 12 years of my life have included them. When we came home from my Papa’s 90th bday celebration in Austin this past weekend, I found out they were gone. I was in no way prepared to lose them anytime soon. However the way it happened made it devastating. Chaney met me on the way into the house and told me I didn’t want to go inside. The bull snake we’ve had for 9 years got out of his cage and into my doves’ cage. He killed them and ate them. I am a total mess. I could not get ahold of myself and Chaney picked me up off the ground and held me while I bawled. I didn’t have to see any of the aftermath as he cleaned everything before I came inside, but I’m still finding evidence of the attack, think of my sweet little doves and then I lose it all over again. This whole event came out of NO WHERE. I couldn’t have made the scenario up if I tried. Seriously after 9 years of having them both…..no problems…and then…. Ugh. I can’t even explain how torn up I am. Yes, I know snakes are a natural predator of doves, but I’m still baffled. I was not prepared for this. I’m heartbroken.

“For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven”

Ecclesiastes 3:1

Life is so much that way. Circumstances happen that absolutely wreck me because I am not prepared. I don’t see them coming. I am blindsided. These events can be life altering situations or smaller upsets, but truly don’t most situations that catch us off guard seem huge? Accidents, loss of job, sickness, just change in general…anytime these events hit it knocks the breath out of me. I’m learning more and more as I go through life how important it is to be prepared. I can’t be prepared for everything, and I get that, but I can continually gain my courage and strength from the One who isn’t surprised by anything. It’s almost paradoxical because the more I let go and trust God, the more prepared I am for what life has in store. Yet if I try to hold on and control every detail of my life, I find myself completely unprepared and my resources inadequate to face the uncertainties that inevitably come my way.

This week one of those uncertainties has shown up in our pregnancy as we had an elevated MCA scan on Tuesday. They were all over the place, with some very low, but we did have a couple at 1.5 MoM or over. Obviously that is not what we are wanting, but we are grateful for technology to let us know if our baby boy is becoming anemic. I emailed Dr. Moise’s office in Houston and they would like to see me on Monday. Chaney, Michael & I will head down on Sunday and be there for a couple days or the week. They will perform their own MCA scans and if our boy truly has become anemic due to my antibodies attacking him he will have an IUT performed to keep him from having a chain reaction of health issues. (If all these terms are completely foreign, I did my best to explain our anti-kell journey & terms in this previous blog.) The good news is we will already be in Houston for the IUT if it is in fact needed. If it is not, we will get to come home grateful for The Fetal Center and their expertise closely monitoring our boy. We will also have an opportunity to find out what we can expect in the weeks going forward pertaining to a tentative time frame for my temporary relocation and induction date.

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

2 Peter 1:3

 

If you’d like to pray for our boy by name, we have decided on Chaney Tyler Vines. Most likely we will call him “Tyler” as having more than one “Chaney” in the house could get somewhat confusing. This name thing was a really interesting process and I’m so relieved to finally be able to talk to this man child and pray for him by name. We have talked to the girls and explained, as best we can, why we are seeing a doctor in Houston and why Tyler is going to be born there. I don’t want them to be worried, but I do want them to be involved and aware of what is going on. We are so thankful for the prayers and support from all our family and friends. I know we will continue to need your prayers and support in very practical ways especially in these coming weeks as our family’s lives will be out of routine and spread out across the state.

 

With my pregnancy, my prayer and focus has been to trust the Lord. My tendencies to control and get stuck in the details are constant and an area I must surrender repeatedly. Sometimes I struggle through the emotions and anger before I realize that I’m attempting to run the show. I’ve had many days where I scream in frustration and finally voice, “Man, I really need your help today Lord!” Then I start crying, because trying to do it by myself is really exhausting. Part of the joy of being human is experiencing emotion. It helps us have empathy for one another through the highs and the lows. Another part of being human is struggling through emotion. I think I’m getting better at “feeling my feelings” vs. “thinking about my feelings”. If you understand what I’m talking about we may have similar personalities/mind-styles. Typically I deal with life by logically approaching situations, including my emotions. Sometimes this can be really useful, but other times “feeling feelings” can be so vital to healing. Crying isn’t something I do very often, but I’ve done it quite often these past several months. I’m taking the time to slow down and be honest with myself about how I’m feeling and then allowing time to deal with it.

 

Not knowing how everything will happen logistically is driving me a little crazy, but this is where I’m doing my best to focus on faith in action. The foundation of scripture in my life is the most valuable gift my parents and spiritual mentors have passed to me. Without scripture I don’t know how I would have made it through difficult times with grace and dignity. There are so many verses that remind me of specific seasons of life. They remind me of moments in time when God revealed more of His character to me through his Word. I couldn’t really say “This is my FAVORITE verse” because there are countless verses that are meaningful. However right now, this verse is one that sticks out above the rest. It is one of comfort because it doesn’t focus on the variables of life but the certainty of God. This assurance is what I need remember every day, in every moment. This truth is what I cling to so I can be prepared for whatever happens. This verse to me signifies the intentionality of being prepared. Preparation is all about where my FOCUS is directed. He’s got my back.

“ I know the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.”

Psalm 16:8

dove-peace-micah-5

Our Beautiful Chaos called Life

Life has been chaotic and wonderful for us as summer wraps up and school has begun. The girls have had a great ending to summer and were busy travelers these last several weeks. My mom took them to East Texas to visit her parents for a week and they had a blast visiting family and spending some extended time with Mimi. Michael had been sick and I had a doctor appointment so we stayed here. Several days after the girls arrived home, Chaney took them on a camping trip to Colorado. (We also managed to squeeze in some photos with the talented and ever so sarcastic Kaylea Gaines some of which you’ll see featured in this blog.) The weather wasn’t ideal for their first major backroad off-the-grid camping trip, but they still had a wonderful time bonding with their daddy. Michael and I stayed in town, as I had a doctor appointment and Aflac appointments, but we enjoyed the low-key, quiet time just the two of us. Well, it wasn’t completely low-key as my sweet 17 month old boy chose the week of the camping trip to begin climbing out of his crib. The days of safety in the crib are over and I’m mourning the loss of sleep. Although we will need the crib in a few months for “still un-named” little man, I wasn’t quite ready for Michael to make the transition into a toddler bed. This transition period of Michael discovering his independence has been rough. He is discovering all these new physical & cognitive abilities but not appreciating the boundaries we have put in place for his well-being. It is safe to say that this man child of ours is just as stubborn, strong-willed and determined as the rest of his family members. Katelynn & Julia started at a new school this past Monday and absolutely love it. There was some anxiety leading up to the first day but it has been beautiful to watch the Lord love on my daughters bringing wonderful teachers & new friends into their lives.

Basically all of this to say, life goes on and doesn’t stand still. Even with the complications and additional monitoring of our pregnancy (read here if you missed the previous blog & anti-kell explanation) life continues moving. Life is beautiful, chaotic sometimes mundane yet it consistently is moving forward. Life doesn’t stop, although if I’m honest sometimes I wish it would. When tragedy occurs or some life event shakes up my norm, I wish time would just pause for a moment and allow me the courtesy to adjust, to re-calibrate before continuing on. Alas, the world doesn’t revolve around me and my emotional state. If you ask my husband, I miiiight throw fits acting like it does every now and then. But don’t worry, Chaney does a wonderful job of firmly keeping me in reality and not putting up with my tantrums, which I’m thankful for. (Don’t tell him I said that though. I’ll say you’re making it up.) Truly, how thankful I am for a godly husband whose faith is deeper than the circumstance. My man challenges me to look back to Christ and not “go sideways” by getting hung up in the details of trying to understand it all.

 

 

That can be hard. I’m all about the details. It is easy for me to pray with the intention of wanting the answers. It is something I struggle with constantly when I dig into God’s Word. Instead of soaking in His presence and allowing Him access to my heart, I tend to seek to understand. I do believe that God gives us great discernment and wisdom (Jas. 1:5, Phil 1:9) into situations; however in my experience He first wants my heart. The answer always begins with surrendering my need to understand in exchange for trusting Him. Trusting Him with my life…..my heart…..my burdens…..my fears. When I get off the throne of control and allow Him back in the His rightful position of authority, everything else falls into place.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

 I think the major stress factor comes into play as each week I visit the doctor knowing I may have to go to Houston that afternoon. I make plans each week but also have it in the back of my mind that it may all change. Anti-kell tends to become very aggressive after the 24 week mark and we are now there. I don’t want anyone to get the idea that things aren’t going well. I’m 25 weeks pregnant and so far all of my weekly MCA scans have been great. They have consistently been under the 1.5 MoM that we want to avoid. (Again, read my previous blog here to get up to speed on what the heck I’m talking about.) If at any point the scans do become elevated, which mean our boy has become anemic, I will travel to Houston for an intrauterine transfusion (IUT) to be performed so baby boy will not develop further complications including fetal hydrops. If we begin IUT’s these will continue until delivery at an interval of every 2-3 weeks. The goal is for our boy to remain in the womb as long as possible. If my antibodies become too aggressive the IUT’s give him this opportunity. However regardless of the need for transfusion, the longest I will be allowed to carry him is somewhere between 37-38 weeks. The cause for this is the available data is not super accurate past 35 weeks to measure anemia. There is still quite a bit that I don’t understand, especially some of the effects anemia can cause after birth, but we are praying for a healthy full term baby boy.

With all of these additional possibilities and need for medical procedures outside the norm we have decided to deliver in Houston with Dr. Moise and his team. We feel this gives us the best possible NICU, blood bank and medical staff with familiarity of our specific situation. I’m hoping and praying that the delivery and postpartum care required is no big thing, but want to have the resources around us if necessary. We don’t have all the details figured out yet, but are at peace with this decision. Of course, it’s not that simple but again I’m doing my best to take it one day at a time and not get overwhelmed with what it will look like.

 “We walk by faith not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

Throughout this entire situation I have to lean on Jesus to take care of it all. I don’t have a choice unless I want to be a complete cuckoo bird. Katelynn’s birthday is in November and of course I want to be here for that. She’s even voiced her concern about the baby interfering with her birthday. The girls have chapel programs at school and one of Julia’s may fall during the time I’m still in Houston. I guess we all have to learn lessons the uncomfortable way that the world doesn’t revolve around us. My tendency is to protect and shield my kids from these uncomfortable growth opportunities but I’m not doing them any favors if I continually interfere with life lessons having potential to mature them. In this circumstance I may have no choice but to watch them grow. Chaney has his plate full with business obligations as it is, without adding in the extra responsibilities that I normally take care of. Michael is a hot mess already exhibiting some of the wonderful characteristics of the terrible two’s and believe it or not, I don’t want to miss a moment. I don’t want to miss a minute of our crazy normal “everydays”.

 

But life doesn’t pause when I need a moment. So I seize my own moments in the middle of it all to just cry, laugh or most importantly…. just lay it all down at the feet of my King. I cannot do this on my own. Praise Him that I was never meant to! HE will comfort my children if I am unable to attend an event or special moment. HE will give my husband strength to carry the extra load. HE will provide community to wrap us in prayer and support. HE will meet us right where we are…..EVERY time, without fail, because that is who HE is. HE is our loving Abba Father, El Roi. I just have to focus on Him each day and He will get us through. El Roi is the One who sees ALL, so I don’t have to try. He is the One who sees me exactly where I am and meets me on my knees.

 “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  Hebrews 11:1

 

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Blessings & Complications

“Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭25:1‬ ‭NIV
I don’t know what to title this, no inspiration has hit for a cute name. I’ve used the delete button more times in these first two sentences than I normally do in several paragraphs. This is my attempt to share what our last several weeks have looked like and what I’m going through emotionally, physically & spiritually. I was told by a wise mentor and friend that there is a big difference between transparency and vulnerability. I can be transparent while sharing the healing and restoration God has already accomplished in my marriage and my family. We’ve walked through that chaos and although it’s an ongoing & intentional focus to keep Christ at the center of our lives & home, this is part of our story of REDEMPTION we are honored to share. I realized it’s so much easier to share what God has DONE because I know what the “other side” looks like. It’s hard to be vulnerable in the midst of the struggle. It’s difficult putting myself out there when my emotions are raw. However I’ve been so blessed and personally encouraged by others who aren’t afraid to share their struggle while IN the struggle, I’m challenged to do the same. 
We have some really great news to share as we are expecting a sweet baby BOY in December. We are thrilled to grow our family and with my OCD I’m satisfied with the even numbers. Now we have unit #1 with our girls and unit #2 with our boys. Needless to say Chaney has been grateful for the addition of some more males in our household! We still haven’t settled on a name and that process has basically been put on hold since we aren’t agreeing on any names at this point. It is so funny how the “last” baby seems to have such finality with it. I’ve been determined to enjoy this pregnancy and not complain no matter how uncomfortable I may be. I’m so grateful to be blessed with another pregnancy. I don’t want to take a minute for granted. There are also many things are different “this time around”….Chaney’s dad passed away last year and we really miss him. It is difficult not being able to share the news of another grandson with him. He would be so stinkin’ excited. I’m sad Chaney isn’t able to share this with him & our boys won’t know their Grandad. Also the doctor who I’ve seen the last 9 years & delivered our 3 kids MOVED. Finding a new doctor is a big deal, and I’m very thankful for friends who made great recommendations. 
 
The biggest difference is I’m considered high risk this pregnancy. 5 weeks ago, my doctor came in and shared the news that I have an antibody present that can cause extreme complications. He referred to it as a kell antibody. Huh? Well googling it doesn’t help much, other than instill fear and crying. Lots of crying. I was a total mess immediately going to worse case scenario. Sheri Mayo is fabulous and although she is in the medical field and a genius, she was aware of a blog she’d read in the past that explained anti-kell antibodies in layman’s terms (read it here ). Bethanys story and the story of her girls Lucy & Nora has been such an encouragement to me. If it wasnt for her willingness to share her experience I wouldnt know what to expect or know what to ask my doctors for.
Nothing is wrong with me & nothing is wrong with my baby. The complications arise with the combination of me & my baby. Kell is an antigen that roughly 91% of the Caucasian population do not have. In most cases, the anti-kell antibodies are formed after a blood transfusion. If the body is introduced to a foreign substance it forms an antibody to fight off the foreign substance. In my case, I’ve never had a transfusion so the likely explanation was exposure through pregnancy. After blood tests we’ve determined that Chaney is indeed one of the 9% who carries the kell antigen. He is heterozygous which means with each child there is a 50/50 chance of them also being -/+. (Confused yet? I’m telling you, Bethany explains it so much better and has many useful studies linked in on her page.) Again, NOTHING is wrong with being either kell positive or kell negative. We all have very specific antigens in our blood. A more common way to relate this is Rh incompatibility. The rhoGHAM shot was developed to prevent mothers with negative blood types from sensitization through pregnancy of a child with positive antigens from developing anti-D antibodies. Unfortunately, anti-kell is so rare a shot is not available to prevent, reverse or suppress the anti-bodies. Most likely the girls were both kell negative (like me) and Michael is positive like his daddy. Sometime during my pregnancy or delivery of Michael, my body was introduced to the kell antigen and formed the anti-kell antibodies to fight off the foreign substance. This is when I became “sensitized”. So what’s the big deal right? My body is doing exactly what it was designed to do! Well…..in subsequent pregnancies it becomes a big deal if the baby is kell positive and can cause anemia by attacking the baby’s red blood cells & preventing the production of new red blood cells. This must be closely monitored as extreme anemia leads to fetal hydrops and death.
 
My body is supposed to protect, nurture and grow our child until he is ready and able to enter the world, but it has the potential to do the opposite. Mentally I’ve had a hard time with this part. I did have a miscarriage in the past & it was hard enough. I think I took for granted the ability to carry children without complications. I took it on myself, like something was wrong with me. Maybe I did something wrong? (I know I didn’t, I’m just sharing emotions I had). I worked through this pain because of support of other women who’ve gone through the same thing. It is more common than people talk about. I mean it’s hard to talk about. It’s really not something that is easy to share, but I was blessed by those who chose to open up to me. Our pregnancy with Michael was after the miscarriage and I was fearful for several months that we may lose him too. I wrestled through the fear and received more healing after his birth when I was truly able to grieve the loss of a baby but rejoice in the birth of our son. So much of life is that way. The depths of grief balanced by the heights of joy. 
 
A blessing and cause for great relief is one of the world renown and leading doctors dealing with isoimmunization cases like mine is located in Houston, Texas. Ya’ll, people come see him from all over the world and he is just an 8 hour drive or quick plane ride away! Dr. Kenneth Moise comes highly recommended so we decided to make an appointment & have an amniocentesis performed which would give us a definitive answer whether our baby boy is kell negative or positive. I had this done last Friday and felt completely at ease with Dr. Moise and his staff. (It was also reassuring to meet another gal who is going through the same thing as I am. We have a closed group online that allows us to offer one another support & share information and it was an added bonus to see one of these ladies in real life.) The results came back and our boy is kell positive, like his brother and his daddy. Not exactly the news I was hoping for but it is what it is. It’s so much easier to talk about the scientific side of this & stick to the facts when sharing with others. However when I really start to think about the details, or when someone asks me “how are YOU doing with all of this?”….I lose it for a minute. I think that is a good thing though, to be honest with myself and others and release the emotions. I used to keep everything inside to be “strong” and that will wear you out real fast. I’m learning to lean on God in my weakness to receive His strength and steadfast loving-kindness.

“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭54:10‬ ‭ESV
 

I’ve had weekly ultrasounds for the past 4 weeks and will continue having these throughout the pregnancy. These scans specifically measure the rate of blood flow through the middle cerebral artery. The MCAs provide a measurement letting us know if our boy is anemic. The rate of flow is measured in multiples of median (MoM) and 1 is normal 1.5 is considered very anemic. I am seeing a local maternal fetal medicine specialist (MFM) but I am only 1 of 2 women in the past FIVE years who he has seen with anti-kell antibodies. In Houston they see multiple women daily as this is their specialty. Dr. Moise recommends that I continue seeing the local MFM for weekly monitoring but plan to travel to Houston if the baby becomes anemic. We have no problem with this plan whatsoever.
 
I’m not sharing this so everyone will worry. I truly believe we are in the best earthly hands with Dr. Moise and his team. If baby boy becomes anemic, a procedure called an intrauterine transfusion (IUT) will be done. This allows the baby to receive blood in the umbilical cord (for immediate use) and his belly (for use over the next few weeks). I won’t go into details about this because we aren’t here yet. Hopefully we won’t need IUTs, however they are available if baby boy requires them and there is a high possibility that we will. I’m doing my best to take it a day at a time & not get too far ahead of myself, while at the same time making wise preparations. If you know me well, you know how hard this is as I’m a major planner and detail oriented. We are choosing to share through written word as it will be much easier to update family & friends as we go through the next several months. We covet your prayers, welcome your questions & need your support. 


I don’t want to try and have all the right answers and make it look good. I want to be real and share how great my God is in the midst of the storm….in the middle of the chapter not knowing exactly what will be written. I feel it’s so common to put off an air that Christians have it all put together and I admit I am guilty of wanting everything to look good. But, if I’m really being vulnerable here, I feel like a hot mess right now. I don’t have all the answers, but I know the ONE who does. The answer isn’t in the outcome of my circumstance, but of course I constantly pray over the circumstance. There is nothing wrong with this, yet I know the solution isn’t merely external. My strength is in the LORD and His character. I know regardless of what happens in this world, regardless of what shakes me to my core, regardless of the heart-wrenching tragedies all around and the pain I may feel inside, God is GOOD. He is my JOY. He is SOVEREIGN. I find it easy to say God is good when my life is going the way I think it should. I find it absolutely essential believe God is good and praise His name when life is frustrating & I just want to cry. 
 
Bethel Music- Ever Be
 

Your love is devoted
like a ring of solid gold
Like a vow that is tested
like a covenant of old
Your love is enduring
through the winter rain
And beyond the horizon
with mercy for today

Faithful You have been
and faithful you will be
You pledge yourself to me
and it’s why I sing

Your praise will ever be on my lips,
ever be on my lips
Your praise will ever be on my lips,
ever be on my lips 

 I love this song. It’s been on repeat in my car and on my lips. These are just the lyrics to the first part of the song, but check it out if you haven’t heard it.

“For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord!”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭117:2‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Paradox of Peace

During crisis and times where pain can seem unbearable the way you see things can drastically change. Sometimes for the worse or others for the better. 

 

In the midst of the holiday season, busyness, financial stress, family struggles or loss of loved ones can really mess with the normal traditions and joys that the holidays so often symbolize. The focus shifts to the immediate circumstance and all that is not right, everything that’s just plain out of whack. 

 

The Christmas Eve service at our church this year grabbed my attention as the message was not just the birth of Christ, but WHY Jesus came. He came to bring Peace. He is the Prince of Peace, from the beginning of time, now & forevermore. 

 

For most of my life the holidays have been a really special time for family gatherings, eating lots of (maybe too much) amazing food, laughing and just enjoying each other’s company. Yes, Christmas is all about Jesus’s birth, but my main focus has always been the tradition and comfort of a special time spent with family. 

 

This year things have been different & in the middle of my struggle, God so sweetly grabbed my attention and showed me His Peace & Joy is the center of the season. Maybe I’m just a slow learner, but it literally just hit me what Christmas is all about.

 

Traditions were out the window and the holidays have looked much different. However looking around at the fellowship, friends & family God has blessed me with I was overwhelmed with His Peace. The Peace He came to bring to earth. The Peace God gifted us- through a baby. The Peace that for so many years my attention has drifted from and almost looked over as I was enjoying the blessings & comfort of tradition. Not to say that tradition & family isn’t a huge blessing, but when it really boils down to it, how can I truly enjoy those blessings without His Peace. 

 

So this holiday season I’m overwhelmed with gratitude at the true gift & meaning of Christmas. The reality of a Son sent to lavish mercy & grace on us. The gift of perfect love possible because of perfect peace, sacrificed and resurrected on a cross for my dire and grievous sin. A gift that I will never deserve or be able to pay back. A gift that is a living reality every moment, that no circumstance, suffering, pain, or death can steal from us….Peace. 

 

Peace isn’t the absence of difficulty. No, it’s the presence of God’s Peace that surpasses all understanding in the middle of affliction that no one can understand. So desperately I cherish & guard this Peace, because life has it’s share of joys & pain, but The Lord offers a steadfast & consistent love that showers Peace and washes the burden and tears away. And though some seasons tears may run a steady stream, His love never fails. His Peace is like a river, roaring through my soul. 

 

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. (Isaiah 26:3 ESV)