Thursday, January 24, 2013

New year, new goals.

I absolutely love the potential that turning over a new year brings! There’s something so refreshing about forgetting what’s behind and focusing on what’s ahead. While I love looking at our glittery Christmas decorations throughout December, I always look forward to packing them up and starting a new year with a clean house.

Last year was monumental for us. We bought our first home, joined a church, celebrated our son’s first birthday, lost friends and gained new ones, lost a grandparent to cancer, found out we were pregnant again, and Kelley started a new career after losing his job.

This year is especially important to me for several reasons, one of which being that it’s the last year of my 20s. There are so many things I want to do before I turn 30, and the clock is ticking! Also, this year we’ll welcome our second child into the world, which will bring its share of overwhelming joy and unexpected challenges. Our family dynamic will change, and I’m looking forward to learning how to live life with a 2-year-old and a newborn.

Here are a few of my goals for the year: 

1. Master my new DSLR camera. Well, it’s not exactly new. I purchased it last year with part of our income tax refund, and I still have barely gotten past the automatic and aperture-priority settings. When my husband and I were considering getting professional labor/delivery and newborn shots of our first son, I discovered that for the price, I could buy a nice camera and learn how to take good photos of our children myself. I’m a graphic designer, have had a photography class, and have always had an interest in photography, so this year is the year that I will develop that skill. 

2. Improve my ability as a musician. Did I mention I am a bass player? I started playing in the eighth grade and became rather good by the time I started college, when I picked up acoustic guitar. I was a worship leader for a few years before starting my career, and at that point music became an afterthought. Since we joined our new church, I’ve been getting involved in worship ministry again as a bass player, and I’m a little rusty! It’s time to get serious about practicing again. 

3. Have a healthy pregnancy, labor and delivery. I realize that I don’t have total control over the labor and delivery of our baby, but I know from experiencing it the first time that I can make healthy decisions that will pay off for myself and for our son. Now that I’m no longer battling aggressive nausea, I can make healthier choices about my diet and follow a good exercise/strength training/stretching regime to prepare my body for labor. I followed the Hypnobirthing method for labor and delivery the first go-round and plan to do it again this time. (Read about my experience here and here!) 

4. Breastfeed for at least six months. A friend of mine and I recently discussed how ironic it is to really struggle to find joy in a process that we feel so strongly about: breastfeeding. I was able to nurse my son for four months before it became apparent to me that something just wasn’t working. After beating myself up about it for several weeks, I decided to start pumping exclusively and bottle-feeding him. Liam had breastmilk for 10 months before starting whole milk at the recommendaton of his pediatrician, only a couple of months shorter than what I’d intended. He lived. I lived. The world did not end. And I was much more at peace than if I had continued to struggle through it. With Riley, my goal is to nurse or pump for the first six months, which will be through the end of this year. If it’s working great, we’ll continue. If not we’ll move on with a clear conscience. But I’m focusing on a more manageable goal this time around. 

5. Read my Bible every day. Why is this one so hard? Thankfully, our church has developed a smartphone app that includes the One-Year Bible, with daily readings that are actually manageable and can be broken up throughout the day. My goal is to follow this plan every day. So far, so good!

What goals did you make for this year?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

So, THIS happened!

Happy New Year, friends!

I just read over my last blog post from, when…August? So much has happened since this summer! Only some of our closest friends and family truly know what we’ve walked through the past four and a half months, but it’s been such a testament of God’s grace, goodness, and provision that I want to be vulnerable enough to share our story with you. So, here’s the update:

The day after I wrote my last post, the unthinkable happened: my husband lost his job. Not only did he lose it, he was terminated for something he was falsely accused of doing by some disgruntled former employees. One of these employees even had the nerve to threaten my husband, me, and our son. My husband has had an impeccable record with this company, had even doubled sales within those nine months he’d worked in his current location, and had completed every project he was given. Since he’d just received an excellent performance review and a pay raise, we trusted the company to listen to the truth, and we were certain that once they discovered Kelley wasn’t at fault, they would repeal their decision. Unfortunately, our trust was misplaced, and this was a decision we had to live with and move forward from.

As a wife, it’s gut-wrenching to sit as a helpless spectator while your husband endures such an undeserved blow. Little did I know, this wasn’t the end of it. A few weeks later, we stumbled over another huge shockwave: I learned that I was pregnant with our second child! I went into pure shock and almost passed out as I handed my husband the positive test. It had taken two years to get pregnant with Liam; I figured we’d at least have to try to get pregnant the second time (we were trying NOT to get pregnant!). Children are ALWAYS a blessing and a reward; I fully believe that. But I am a stay-at-home mom, my husband was unemployed, and we’d lost our insurance. Not to mention we’d just bought a house, and the expenses that come with home ownership had depleted our savings. It was almost too much to bear.

Over the next few months we faced the biggest challenge and test of our faith that we’ve had in our eight years of marriage, and possibly in my entire life. We were angry at the injustice surrounding Kelley’s termination, frightened at the reality of another mouth to feed, unsettled about being uninsured with prenatal care around the bend, and had no idea where our next mortgage payment would come from.

Since pregnancy is a pre-existing condition, my only option for insurance was applying for Medicaid, and I applied for WIC as well. I’ll be honest; this was a huge blow to my ego (it’s even a little embarrassing for me to mention now). My husband and I have three college degrees between the two of us; we’ve always worked and always had excellent insurance. We’ve been self-sufficient for a long time, so to be thrown into a situation where we had no other option but to seek government assistance was not only new territory for us, it offended my senses. I suddenly understood what it was like to stand in a grocery store line with WIC coupons. How did we get here? I had my moments of wallowing in self-pity, I’ll admit.

One morning, Kelley and I were sitting at the breakfast table listening to one of my favorite worship songs, and the lyrics completely broke my heart:

I believe that You’re my healer. I believe You are all I need.
I believe You’re my portion. I believe You’re more than enough for me.
Jesus, You’re all I need.
Nothing is impossible for You. You hold my world in Your hands.

Those words had always been beautiful to me, but the weight of them crushed the burden of our circumstances. With tears streaming down my face, I turned to my husband and said, “We either believe that, or we don’t. And if we do, then that settles things.” At that moment, we decided to rest in the peace that passes all understanding and watch God work a miracle.

We started getting checks in the mail. Some from friends and family; a couple from Kelley’s former company, including a bonus he’d earned the past quarter. One dear friend who visited randomly left enough money on our bathroom counter to cover the cost of the new carseat Liam needed. My mom stocked our pantry, fridge and freezer. My in-laws paid our mortgage and some other bills. I was able to find part-time employment in the meantime. Kelley,however, was struggling to find new employment, and I didn’t understand why things weren’t working out for him. I believe You're my portion. I believe You’re more than enough for me.

But God was working in ways we couldn’t yet see, including within our hearts.

During the first three months of my pregnancy, I suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum (which I’d had the full nine months of my first pregnancy). I was even hospitalized and needed IV medications and fluids due to dehydration, and I got so weak I could barely walk to the bathroom to throw up. I couldn't change Liam’s diapers or prepare his meals without getting violently ill. HG was debilitating, and I spent much of those three months lying in bed. God knew all of this.

Ever since we’d moved to Birmingham, I’d been praying for Kelley to get a new job, one that would be a promotion, that would befulfilling, and that would move him out of the retail industry with its nonsensical hours and unreasonable stress level. But Kelley is not a quitter, and he wouldn’t have left that hostile work environment on his own. So God removed Him from what we learned was a dangerous situation, and since He was blessing us with another child, He not only gave Kelley three months of rest, but also allowed him to be home to take care of Liam when I couldn’t. I honestly have no idea what I would have done if Kelley had been working during the time I was sick. Nothing is impossible for You. You hold my world in Your hands.

Kelley started his new job as an insurance agent with State Farm December 10. He loves his new job and is in a much more peaceful and productive environment where he is appreciated for the work he does. That same week, I stopped getting so sick every day, and now I only occasionally get nauseous if I don’t get enough rest. I believe that You’re my healer. I believe You are all I need.

God doesn’t allow things to be taken out of our lives unless He wants to replace them with something better for us. He removed us from the things we’d found security in apart from Him, and I realized that our lives did not reflect the picture He had in His mind. I knew that He was rebuilding from scratch a life that would look completely different from what it did in August, andI looked forward to the change: for a heart that was completely at peace, for eyes that look to only Him, for a mouth that speaks life and healing, for ears that hear His whispers, and for feet that move, not out of fear or self-ambition, but in response to the direction of the Holy Spirit.

Another blessing? The only thing I’d really wanted for Christmas this year was to find out if we were having a boy or a girl. My doctor's office offers gender ultrasounds starting at 16 weeks gestation foronly $50, but we had decided that since we’re now playing catch-up financially, it’d be more practical to use that money somewhere else. I secretly kept praying and hoping. Earlier in December, my aunt unexpectedly sent me Christmas money that was more than enough to pay for the ultrasound. So, the day I hit the 16-week mark (on our eighth anniversary), I scheduled the ultrasound and was able to give my husband the best anniversary present ever: another boy!

What challenges did you face in 2012, and what are you most looking forward to about 2013? I’d love to hear your stories!