First Things First

My hair is tangled and I’m still in my pajamas. The iced coffee is more like cold water coffee now. I ate a croissant while breastfeeding her, and laughed that she’s been trying to talk to me while she eats. It’s a muffled hum, with the corners of her mouth pulling into sporadic smiles. I’m her Netflix and Hulu and Facebook and Instagram. She scrolls my face with her eyes and is satisfied with what she sees. I want to teach her that she’s enough, too. I want her to know she has my attention.

The awareness of God is thick in my home in this quiet Monday morning. The Holy Spirit is absolutely, positively here. He always is, but when my heart is in this posture, I receive Him. There is no chaos, no stress. Just peace as I hold her. Peace as I fold laundry. Peace in the absolutely mundane things, which can be mislabeled as boring, unfulfilling, inconvenient, unproductive. But God knows I’m on His clock. The work of prayer, the praise songs sung over her when she cries, and building a spirit of humility in my family pays off.

I’ve found myself frustrated only when I built up an expectation outside of God’s mind for me. It’s a waste of time to think thoughts that are not His thoughts about me, my family, my home, my finances, and my little baby.

His word says He’s a Good Shepherd and I lack nothing. I survey my life and see nothing other than abundance. We have more food, space, stuff, and money than we need for this day. And tomorrow. And this week. Actually, we could probably eat what’s in the pantry for a whole month. Yet we strive so hard with a mindset of poverty, and for what? What’s the goal? Fifty thousand? A hundred thousand? A hundred and fifty thousand? When is enough gonna be enough? We have more than enough. We’ve had more than enough for a long, long time. Enough has a name, and it’s Jesus. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

If we didn’t adjust our mindset, we’d never be able to afford a family, financially, emotionally, spiritually, or physically. I know multiple mamas who have 5+ children and they live with a mentality of Enough. Your whole lifestyle has to shift around to make space for this calling. Buddy and I talked about adoption on our very first date. We both want to make space for a bigger family, including adopted children, which means marching to the beat of a very different drum. Cheers to that.

I sold all my things in 2011, before going on a mission trip. I moved to Georgia with only things that could fit in the backseat of my car, five years ago. I have way more clothes than I need, yet just enough for this time of life, nursing a baby and being the recipient of multiple spit-ups a day. My closet is smaller than my husband’s, and I joke that it’s because my clothes are smaller. The reality is that I like the clothes I have and am not constantly looking for more. I guess that means I’m content haha. My car is simple and small, safe and reliable. For now it’s just fine, we fit in it. Our baby has way more than she’ll ever hope to wear, bless her heart. It’s made us generous as a family, and it’s made me fight for simplicity, for quality time over quantity of dime.

Because of these choices, postpartum has not been chaotic. Sleep deprived? Oh God, yes. Trial and error epic fails? Yes! That first week was brutal. I struggled learning how to hold her, soothe her, feed her, clothe her, burp her. I had two sleep-deprived left hands. I spilled breastmilk everywhere, all the time (and still do). Being so tired and wanting to be so very careful with a fragile baby got me extra emotional. If she cried too hard, I cried. I worried if she was in pain, or cold, or uncomfortable in any way, and if I, as her mother, would know how to find the problem and make it better. In all of this, the transcending theme was: God is Sovereign over this baby’s life, the Good Shepherd.

I remember writing a blog about a quiet, lonely night that was tough on me as a single woman. I told myself I’d be even more grateful for the mess and the sticky loud babies when that season of life arrived. It’s true. It’s here.

I spent my twenties getting debt-free, working two jobs, holidays, nights, weekends, overtime. I worked to the point I was nearly sick. I made great money, traveled to sixteen countries, wrote a book, and served women who I felt weren’t getting enough resources for inner healing in the Church. In secular terms, I did my bucket list. I have waited for this baby, and now I see the tension and holy war for my time. The world is quick to sell lies, to declare that busyness is something to be praised, and that apparently God’s plan for me is to be frazzled and constantly running behind. It’s just not.

I want to put my stake in the ground, and say that it’s okay to have peace in motherhood. It’s okay to say “I can’t do everything and I don’t want to do everything” and mean it. It’s okay to choose not to enter the mom pageant competition. I’m going for present over perfect. Simple, minimalist, together. Dry, clean, fed, prayed over. My goal is that she knows who King Jesus is, who provides for her, who heals her tummy aches and takes away the hiccups, who is ready to be her best friend in times of need and plenty. He’s the King Jesus who gives mama strength to get up in the middle of the night, who teaches mama about patient love and kindness, and tells mama that He’s pleased with her so she can live from approval, not for it.

If you feel like you’re failing, who are you listening to? Who says you need to do and be what you’re trying to do and be? If it’s something you came up with, or that society came up with, you may not feel fulfilled even if you arrive. Ask God to show you what makes your heart fill to the brim with love. Love will always guide you to put first things first.

Are you finding that sweet whisper of “peace, be still” in the middle of the daily storms?

Are you seated at His table, having conversations about heavenly things?

If you take a moment to pray and ask Him what He thinks, you might find yourself changing your mind. He has perfect peace for you, and grace to carry you through the toughest seasons. He has a grave prepared for your stress, your burdens, the extra striving, the pride, the idol of love of money, the guilt of mistakes, the regret-fueled decision making, and the critical voice in your thoughts. It’s the grave He used for only three days.

My Birth Story, Part II: Labor and Delivery

If you missed part I, go read it first!

The best way I can describe what a natural birth without pain medications felt like to me is a marathon. If you’ve ever run a marathon, you know what a muscle cramp feels like, and that you can’t think “I can’t do this” or overthink about the numbers. You know what “the wall” is and learn to climb it. You know to rest but not to quit. And you get hooked on the finish line. It means much more to you to cross it than to the person who didn’t run the course and feel the hills themselves.

I had run exactly 3 marathons before pregnancy. I knew my body was strong and healthy. I knew the pain of a cramp and I expected that much, even though I prayed for a pain-free birth.

Contractions to me felt like very very strong cramps. Technically that’s what it is, but if you’ve ever had a running leg cramp, that. Over and over, it’d squeeze and release. After a while, I got used to it. I learned not to flinch and to relax as much as possible, and that helped.

What I didn’t expect was for my labor to start on a Sunday and end on a Wednesday. Yep. That’s one whole day, two whole days, three whole days, and some change.

Prodromal labor is the name of the game. It wasn’t false labor, but it was erratic. Contractions weren’t stronger, longer, closer together. More like 7 minutes then 3 then 5 then 2 then 14 minutes apart. Enough to mess with my head but not to get me to the birth center. Sunday night, I called the midwife line and was very gently told that my contractions didn’t sound strong enough yet, aka I’m breathing through it and still able to talk. That was the first day. I tried to sleep and managed to snooze a bit. Contractions didn’t stop.

On day two, Monday afternoon, my doula came over to work with me. We were hopeful that maybe baby just needed to move a little, and then labor would pick up the pace. By evening, we drove to the birth center to see if I was progressing. It had been almost two full days of stop and go, and I was tired.

We arrived and I was 80% effaced and 3 centimeters. Face palm. They walked me next door to get a chiropractic adjustment, just in case my pelvis was being unsportsmanlike. They decided to give me “therapeutic rest” aka a strong sleeping medicine so I could rest for a little while since my uterus was apparently dancing to jazz and techno. I barely made it to the car before passing out hard for about 4 hours.

Woke up while it was still considered Monday, proceeded to get very little sleep into Tuesday, and that’s when the real deal started.

I was IN LABOR.

I’ll tell you what I remember about laboring at home: Buddy looking shook, calling the doula and the midwife line. I was dropping into squat reps when the contractions hit, because it felt good to move down as they tightened. I started getting vocal. Loud noises and bright lights freaked me out. Buddy couldn’t touch me, but at this point our doula Mary still could. Buddy packing snacks and putting our bags in the car. Buddy trying to get me to eat and nothing sounded good at all. Me drinking at least 2 liters of coconut water, and attempting to eat apple slices. Us walking to the car, me with combs in my hands to squeeze during contractions in the car. Me basically forgetting about my phone and that I hadn’t told my Brazilian family the punchline: oh, it’s happening now.

We arrived at Atlanta Birth Center just after 4pm on Tuesday. We got the Water Room, the one I liked the most. I was the only one there in labor.

Then it all went foggy.

I went to another planet with God. I had coherent thoughts but I didn’t verbalize. I lost track of time and what day it was. I had to ask for the birth details because my eyes were shut almost the whole time.

I remember walking the halls through contractions, and it hurt. I remember telling my midwife that I felt like I was peeing but I knew I wasn’t peeing, so that was my water breaking, clear, thank God. I remember the rests between contractions were peaceful for me, there was no pain between contractions.

I remember at one point nobody could touch me. I was offered to labor in a tub but I said no (I wish I had at least tried it). I felt like this primal beast, spooked but in charge somehow. In my mind, I was praying, no longer for no pain, but for God to help me make space for this baby.

At one point, the midwives switched shifts. With this switch came a fresh energy and determination to get this baby out. Also, I’m sure I looked beyond exhausted and they knew the baby needed to come sooner than later so I could push. I was asked to crawl (yep) on all fours and when a contraction hit, to get into child’s pose. So I crawled, and this really was a turning point. I felt like the baby was really moving down. I don’t remember much in between this and starting to push, but pushing was amazing. I don’t know why movies paint it to be the worst part, it was so exciting for me!

One thing to mention before we get to the grand finale is that mentally I did not break. I didn’t say “I can’t do this” or ask for meds. I didn’t cuss out my husband. I said I was tired, and usually that meant to take a break from whatever inversion or crawl I was doing at the time haha. I did not question whether or not it would be possible, nor whether the baby was okay. This whole time her heart rate was perfect. No distress for her, no doubt for me. This, I believe, was not my mental strength but God’s kindness to help guard my thoughts. I firmly believe it was the Holy Spirit filling my mind with scriptures and positive words, like only He could do.

Pushing phase: I did some pushing on the bed, dangling off (innovative haha) and some squatting. My midwife spoke up about tearing being likely in squat position, and I decided I wanted to have the baby in a side-lying position on the bed. My doula and I had talked about this before, and it was the moment of truth: I had the choice of what position I wanted to have my baby. This should be every mother’s choice, and thankfully I chose a birth center that let this be my choice!

I was super tired and could only do about 3 pushes at a time. But I could feel her moving down! Buddy was behind me on the bed, seeing it all. I had my eyes firmly shut.

I pushed for about 2 hours, and with ever increasing cheering by the birth center staff and my doula, the baby’s head came out and… drumroll… her hand came out on her cheek!

Compound presentation baby, no wonder my labor was intense!

To top it off, her cord was around the back of her neck, so her hand kept the cord from squeezing all around. Talk about a blessing in disguise!

In a flash, the whole baby was placed on me, wet and big and mine. 10:40am on the first day of Spring.

The pain ended. There was no tearing, even with her hand making its surprising appearance. I did pray for that during the pushing haha.

The first thing my sweet angel child did was take the hugest dump on me, right on my belly. Nice to meet you too, baby girl.

They showed me my placenta and it was nasty. I could have probably gone without seeing it. My bleeding was normal, baby’s apgar was 9. She weighed 7lbs 10oz and was 20.5 inches long.

After birth, I was able to walk to the bathroom, deal with the hot mess that was all over me, and put on my pretty robe. I had a strong waddle walk and wobbly legs, and I got really wired. It lasted a few days before I could actually come off of the hormonal high that was birth.

I did feel pain but I didn’t feel abandoned by God. I knew He did what was best for me and Em√≠lia Grace, every minute of that experience. I felt like many, many parts of this labor and birth were supernatural, especially the way He guarded my mind (I did not have negative thoughts!), kept baby steady throughout the long labor, and then made recovery simple with no stitches. God is faithful!

I am so grateful to the Lord for the safe arrival of our little girl, and for entrusting Buddy and I to be her parents.

There will be a part 3, about postpartum!

—————–

Recommendations:

Doula: Mary Hanks (the best best best) if you want a peaceful, motherly, Godly, knowledgeable doula, she’s it. Best decision we made, she took care of Buddy as well, making sure he ate and didn’t end up too traumatized haha!

Birth Place: Atlanta Birth Center I’m confident I would have had interventions at a hospital. The way the staff at ABC had faith in me and in birth was outstanding. They never gave up on me. I’d have 1000 babies there if I had to have 1000 babies.

Book: Supernatural Childbirth by Jackie Mize- This book changed the way I saw birth altogether.

Affirmations (just have some, read through pregnancy especially!): My Pinterest board

My Birth Story, Part I: Pregnancy and War

You wouldn’t think the two would go together, pregnancy and war, but oh, they do. From the minute I started even thinking my body might be hosting a new life in the near future, I started preparing. I started taking prenatal vitamins 4 months (yes, pretty much right when we got engaged) before the wedding, because I knew we’d talked about babies and I wanted all that folic acid and all the iron and all the goodies because I’m a scientist and a planner.

Each day a tiny reminder that I hoped it would happen, months before trying.

Then the wedding came and those long conversations took place that were so exciting: we were on board for a baby, so help us God.

Even though I’d never tried for a baby before, and never had the experience of something going wrong, a part of me was still afraid. Maybe because so many close to me had struggled with their fertility, waited months or years, I was trying to be logical and excuse any possible delays. But God answered on our first plea with the faintest pink line. I was pregnant!

And then immediately, I was a secret-keeper! Boo!

They forget to tell you this part, it’s the unwritten instruction after “two lines means positive” on the pregnancy test, it goes “tell only the people who will be your support system in case of the M word.”

The M word. Literally the first grenade chunked at a mama who just learned there’s a tiny, tiny human in her womb.

Everything can just end, Helena. Those first weeks. We don’t schedule appointments til you’re 8 to 10 weeks. Oh okay.

Let’s do math: baby count starts at first day of last period aka 2 weeks before conception ish, then you have to wait till about 4 days before the next period is due to get a positive with those overpromising fancy sticks, so that’s “3.5 weeks” when I knew I was pregnant.

You mean to tell me that the next 4.5 to 6.5 weeks are just a blind waiting game? Bring in Google, what can I eat? What shouldn’t I eat? Is it okay to exercise? No rollercoasters. No hot tubs. Just be very careful in general, there’s no recipe for how to keep a baby in there, just know all their organs are forming so be the healthiest you can be, ever. Good God, okay. God help me.

Meanwhile, there are negative symptoms everyone says will happen, like a one-size-fits-all misery poncho I was supposed to wear. But I felt okay. I was extra sleepy but not nauseous. I was picky with what sounded good to eat, but I could eat smaller meals and I felt fine. I was excited in my secret, giggling with family and my best friends. I decided I wasn’t going to believe everything they told me, because I was already experiencing something different, answered prayers for no nausea, no sickness.

I began at this point to stop thinking of the M word and just to pray. I was referred by two Godly mamas to a book called Supernatural Childbirth by Jackie Mize. It’s not for the faint of heart, but if you’ve seen God do miracles in front of your eyes, you can handle this book. Basically if you’re been scuba diving with Jesus and you’ve read the book of Acts and thought “I believe it,” then Supernatural Childbirth won’t sound crazy.

I began to pray for a pain free childbirth with no complications, no tearing, no prematurity, no hemorrhage. I prayed for 100%. Not 90, or 85, but the full birth miracle package. Why not, right?! It’s Jesus, for Christ’s sake. By the time we announced the pregnancy, both Buddy and I were sold out on a supernatural birth. I got really quiet about this, because it sounded crazy banana sandwich. Also, I didn’t want people who didn’t have that experience to feel like I thought I deserved something they didn’t have. I didn’t want to invalidate their trauma, especially if part of their healing was to share their story. Even if it was a terrifying, unique story that would clearly cause fear to a first time mom! I learned to listen with a filter.

Every time I got “advice” about pain or complications, I rebuked it in my head haha, like someone had just spoken death over me. I thought “that’s not my story.” My thoughts stayed the course, believe it or not. I trained my mind for war. Birth was gonna be my victory, my Jericho, my Valley of Berakah. I recited and memorized birth affirmations. I told my body it knew how to birth, and that birth was a normal thing, a common rite of passage designed by God, who is kind. He designed sex and birth. I signed up for both and thanked Him.

We decided that the birth would be very private, and chose a Godly, wonderful doula to be with us (Buddy and I only, aside from birth staff). We chose Atlanta Birth Center as our birth location and prenatal care provider. We chose a midwifery model of care. We did minimal testing, aside from gender DNA (I was way too curious). We only had one ultrasound at 20 weeks, and no cervical checks before labor began. No family in the waiting room, no immediate visits. We safeguarded that space for rest and recovery.

I can say now that pregnancy was wonderful. I was healthy. I had a virus that made me achy for 4 days, but that was it. I had to learn how to SLOW DOWN in the end, lest I’d hurt myself trying to get up too fast. I didn’t swell, nor had back pain. I slept well, even with the frequent bathroom trips. I wore my rings until it was the day to have the baby. I gained about 17 pounds, no diabetes. Baby was head down when she needed to be, my placenta was not in the way. All those answered prayers!

I prayed for supernatural birth. God’s answer, though not exactly as I asked, was even better. Here comes part 2!

The Best Year

Chalk it up to God’s perfect timing, love, and kindness, but I have had the best year of my entire life thus far. I thought my best years might have been behind me, but how wrong was I to entertain that thought!

I looked back and thought maybe my junior year of high school was my best year. I was like Mario with a shining star, for you who played Nintendo. The music was faster and I probably glowed. I think I could have ran through walls at 17, and I ran so fast back then. Everything was in front of me, the whole world was my oyster. Everything was fun. Free time was not a thing, because I filled every minute with people and activity. But that wasn’t my best year!

Maybe my freshman year of college was my best, I thought. I was in band in college and that’s one of the most treasured memories. The feeling of belonging and being good at something, all at once. My grades were great, I was figuring out a new city, and I had made some big changes in my life. In all that, my relationship with God had grown. Yet that wasn’t my best year.

I’d have to fast forward quite a bit because my next stab at my best year wouldn’t be til 2012. The World Race. It was the most mind-blowing experience, traveling around the entire globe, literally, we went around the whole world on my route. Preaching, teaching, building, and exploring. I realized that God had that “glory to glory” thing for me to receive, and I did.

The next year was big. Huge. I moved to Georgia and realized it was okay to root down. I kept saying yes to God’s leading and I experienced fulfilled promises over and over. I met wonderful people. I went back to Uganda for a month. I moved like 57 times within the same city. I changed adult diapers until God finally opened a place for me to work in a hospital again. I had cried a lot of tears about my debt and in 2013 I began my journey to be debt free. You’d think that year is hard to beat, but 2014 got even better.

2014… I spent it working really, really hard. I did ministry and juggled my hot mess personal life, and worked night shift. I went back to Thailand, which was one of the most healing and rewarding nods from heaven I’ve ever received. I was able to lead with a broken heart, God’s strength in my weakness, and that propelled me forward to go to ministry school. I moved south, to Atlanta. I applied for a new job, and got it. I was supposed to start in December 2014. Due to delays for HR, I found out that December day that they needed to move my start date to January 5th, 2015. I was deeply relieved. That year ended and I got blindsided with hard news first thing in 2015, but I somehow knew it was gonna be okay.

2015… on that 5th day of January, I met Buddy. It was the coolest, most God-appointed situation. Did I mention I wasn’t supposed to be at orientation that day? I was supposed to start 2 weeks prior, but HR delayed. It was insane, you-have-lost-your-marbles kind of stuff. One chair left. And off we went. That year wasn’t easy, but it was very, very happy. I worked at two different hospitals at night, and I knew debt-free was coming.

Honestly we can probably skip right over 2016 because I did not think that was in the running for my best year yet haha. It was pretty brutal. Aside from getting debt free, 2016 was really, really hard emotionally, physically, and mentally. Let’s just say my body decided it was done with night shift and would no longer sleep during the day for longer than about 4 hours, and yet I worked 8 months of night shift, falling apart, hunting for literally anything in the day shift and finding nothing until August. Bye Felicia.

2017 started and I had no clue, just no clue how much blessing it had in store. That first weekend we had a winter storm named after me come through Atlanta. Two weeks later, Buddy proposed. On June 5th, we got married and it was THE BEST ceremony I could have ever dreamed of. I bawled my face off, and laughed, and it was just insanely beautiful.

We honeymooned in Miami and talked about how we didn’t want to wait at all for babies, and we started praying for God to bless us in this. And boy, did He! I saw those pink lines on July 4th, and it was unreal!!!

Now I sit here, with this baby bump, getting my heart ready for Christmas, and I can’t help but think… God did it again. He gave me the best year. This one will be hard to beat, but something tells me meeting my daughter in 2018 and seeing Buddy be her daddy will just be the best, yet again. I get to read the Word to her and sing praises while she’s trapped in here ūüėČ and it’s such an honor to impart what I can and be entrusted with this precious gift. I couldn’t dream of complaining about any little thing, and I am looking forward to the love and sacrifice this next year will require, because I know Someone who modeled it perfectly. He’s guiding us on, from glory to glory.

The Disease of Hatred

I’ve been silent for months, just being “in my life” and enjoying being engaged and getting married and being a newlywed.

My day-to-day home life has been overall very, very positive. I have been overwhelmed with thanksgiving, peace, and love.

Then I log on to Facebook and I am bombarded by hatred.

I glimpse the news, and again, hatred.

And it’s not just one source and one hashtag, you guys.

I see threats of nuclear bombs, and active war zones. I see people being murdered because of their beliefs, or because they just happen to live somewhere that is overrun by hatred. Teenagers being bullied and told to kill themselves. For goodness sake, today I saw a news headline about an autistic child that had a board nailed to the back of his little head, by hateful bullies.

And I just can’t. I cannot.

WHAT. IS. WRONG. WITH. OUR. WORLD.

So of course I am not surprised to see racist people doing racist things, either. It is SICK. I watched a video interview of one of the leaders of one of these hate groups, and my stomach did a flip.

 

Then I felt it… I felt what I think a lot of people are starting to feel… I felt hatred.

My first thought was “oh God, not me, too, please” and I went into prayer. I asked God to please, please shield my heart from hating others. Yes, even when they are doing the most evil things imaginable. I asked Him to help me remember the verses in His Word about loving my enemies, the verses that are the hardest to swallow as a regular human person, but the words that, if applied, make us look and act like HIM.

I thought of what must have gone through Jesus’ mind when He was mocked and tortured, and what lengths He must have pursued in order to protect His human heart from hatred. He knew we would need to do the same, that we would be faced with unimaginable, heinous evil, and that we, too, would be tempted to join in hatred or lose hope.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. [Ephesians 6:12]

Do you want to know how to tell if you’re tempted to hate? If you feel that consuming, non-productive fire inside, that tells you that you hate a person instead of an evil ideology, you’re hating. You find yourself seething and directing your rage toward a person or group, and you find yourself persuaded to then curse them instead of doing what you know you ought to do, which is pray for the obvious need you see.

What you may also feel tempted to do is join a screaming match, or post a rant on social media, but just take a moment to think about what results your rant or your screams will actually have.

What you could do, that in my opinion would have a more productive impact, is look for ways to support and encourage those who are suffering or persecuted, in more ways than 140 character posts. I’m talking about taking a family to dinner who may be struggling. I’m talking about reaching out to refugees in your city, or hosting dinner for a group of people who are currently oppressed, whose plight breaks your heart.

After prayer, God filled me up with the desire to act in kindness toward others, which was truly the opposite of what I was feeling when I was raging on the social media feed frenzy.

If you think about it, down to the root causes, we all believe a certain way because it is what we were taught and it is what we accepted to be truth. Regardless of how evil or illogical certain beliefs are, we have wars over our disagreements. The gospel of Jesus has a simple (not so simple, though!) solution to the problem of hatred, and it starts with our own hearts getting a firm check.

Ask yourself tonight if you’re struggling with hatred. Don’t push it on anyone else, don’t give anyone else control over your heart, don’t say “they make me hate them” because that’s now how this stuff works. You own your heart, your brain, and your mouth. You own your emotions. You get to decide what triggers you, and you get to take those triggers to the Lord and get His input on every single one of them.

Jesus, why did that affect me unto fear/bitterness?

Jesus, what can I do about injustice and hatred without catching the disease of hatred?

Jesus, how can I remain loving, tender, and hope-filled in this broken and fear-filled world?

Jesus, what are You doing in this situation?

Help me see You moving, so I can pray and join You in action. Help me be part of Your kingdom solution, not just another hard heart in the crowd.

The Last Blog of My Twenties

It’s comical how I used to think 30 was the ultimate “grown” age.

I thought 30-year-olds were parents, they owned houses, and they had their careers figured out. I  thought worldly stability arrived just like that, as the clock hands turned and the calendars changed.

It’s funny now, honestly. The people who managed to get all those things jammed into their 20’s were pretty much winging it half the time. Heck, we’re all still winging it.¬†I find myself thankful for the¬†experiences I gained while I didn’t have all my roots in place, and while my world was in my own brand of chaos. Don’t we all have our own chaos? Yeah, pretty much.

I turned 20 with a very broken heart, and my 20’s started on a downhill tumble/vortex of poor decisions. I felt lonely, even with good friends, and I felt a void that God would later show me was for Him.

I turned 21 in downtown Denton, and I had an orange spray tan and a dress I’d never, ever wear out now. My hair was super blonde and if I named the places I went¬†I’d give my age away (ha) because they don’t even exist anymore. Everything changed. If you can remember the way high school shut its doors and booted you out, it’s the same with college. I was about to figure that out, and I was about to make decisions from that pain. Goodness, if I could teleport to this birthday, I’d change history, but they say ‘no pain, no gain’ right? God, I lived that.

I turned 22 in downtown Austin, and my goodness, was I sad! I was pretty devastated. I had way too much to drink, and there were parts of that night that I do not remember. The scary part: I think there was something put in my first drink. I can’t go back and warn myself and spare myself the confusion and the awful sickness I felt, but let it be a lesson someone might learn in this blog. Be careful. There are people in these places who will try to take advantage of someone, and it doesn’t even matter that it’s their birthday.

I turned 23 in Temple, Texas. I was trying to be happy but my nightmares were bad, and I needed counseling! I was bottling up my feelings, and I felt like a failure. Little did I know that 23 would be a huge year of breakthrough! God was about to start working in my life in supernatural ways, or rather,¬†I started to notice Him. He’s done it all along, I just didn’t have the eyes to see. Heads up: if you’re struggling emotionally, GO TO COUNSELING. There is zero shame in that. Life gets complicated sometimes. Mistakes build up. You gotta do what you gotta do, and you know what you gotta do? You gotta be free, and you gotta grieve your grief, and you must not let anything or anyone mute you in your pain. For me, that meant weeping in my car in the public library parking lot, and writing down my sad prayers. God moved in a way I didn’t expect, and changed everything.

I turned 24 also in Temple, Texas, but oh honey… I knew. I knew it’d be my last birthday there. I was still figuring out how to be brave and walk in my story.¬†I was discerning where God wanted me to go. I was still trying to hold on to things I knew would never work. I should have been single this ENTIRE year but hahaha good luck telling me that.¬†Needless to say,¬†I didn’t know what I wanted. I should have also been more careful with my finances this year, and not trusted people quite so easily. I let people take advantage of my finances, and I paid for it, literally, for the rest of my 20’s! Up until 29, actually. The minute you feel like you’re financially secure, you have this tendency to purchase things for yourself or for people that you couldn’t and wouldn’t ever before. DUMB. Don’t do that. Learn from 24-year-old me, for Pete’s sake. Save your money. Pay your debts while they’re itty bitty baby school debts, if you can help it. I could have done that but I didn’t have the discipline or the wisdom. Something good about 24 is that I was super brave. I was brave enough to sell all my things and give up my lifestyle and go on a trip around the world for Jesus. Talk about a comeback story.

I turned 25 in Thailand, and it was glorious. My first truly happy birthday of my 20’s took 5 years to arrive. I was surrounded and loved. I was deep in the Word. I was a little bit confused already and 25 confused me quite a bit. My heart was a hot mess, trying to discern between what my peers were saying and what God was saying. Turns out they were not in unison, surprise! It took years to unwind all the soul ties¬†I made that year. It was by far the most spiritual growth I ever had, and God taught me that I had a story to tell for His Kingdom. I came home and realized I was gonna move to Georgia, and that’s where I turned all my next years.

My 26th birthday¬†was kind of sad. I felt like people didn’t love me, and I felt rejected. It took a sweet friend’s gesture to calm me down and give me space to process. I wasn’t used to feeling rejected with 25 roommates but I somehow managed. God made it rain and we had a dance party, and all of a sudden everything was okay. 26 was a good year of growth.¬† I made roots and then I unmade them. I started working in healthcare again and paying off debt. 26 was hard work.

If 26 was hard work, 27 was like a steamroller. I put in a lot of hours, I did ministry school, and I moved to Atlanta. And God blessed me oh so much that year, with bravery to make bold decisions. There was blessing, and forgiveness, and grace. There was rage, also, mad rage. The kind of rage where your tears are so hot they scald your cheeks on the way down, rage. From that rage, I went¬† back to my happy place,¬†Thailand, and then I went red. I dyed my hair red, and I did not look back. I’d like to think that from then on, when¬†I worship, I look like a flame in the wind.

28 was grand. I  turned this age serving in a prophetic team for Leif Hetland. It was a sweet surprise and honor to have my birthday weekend collide with the mission trip to Alabama. I met people there that I still keep up with and greatly love. Oh and Buddy made cookies that spelled out happy birthday, and got me the hugest monkey card and a Braves shirt, along with all kinds of sweet little gifts. His family celebrated me, and gave me cards and food. It was the first birthday in a long time where I felt surrounded again. 28 was a powerful year.

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29 didn’t disappoint me haha. It’s been a year of quietly growing in wisdom and trying to believe my eyes. I got debt-free! God’s harvest is right in front of me, and I can see the fruit for the first time. Not as much faith required when you can see everything, but so much praise is due. I bring that today. Praise on praise on praise.

May 30 be a year that ushers in a decade of JOY. A decade of promise fulfilled. I pray I continue to lift UP my soon-to-be husband, and fill my home with prayer and praise. I pray as our family grows in this decade, that I remember to be thankful and to put the Prince of Peace on His throne in my heart.

God is good and kind, and He remembers my sin no more. Forward is a good direction with Him. Forward sounds good.

Early Spring

Hello, old friend.

Here I am, thinking of all the clich√©s applicable to this comeback moment. I might as well skip trying to state the obvious and move on to what’s churning in my soul.

I’m sitting at a banquet table, and the Host will not stop putting delicious, much-too-large portions before me. Just when I feel like I couldn’t have another bite, my being somehow makes space to accept another serving. It’s overwhelming in the best way.

I always thought my happiest times, my dreams-come-true seasons would be my loudest. I thought I’d be shouting from every mountaintop, while simultaneously breaking my keyboard with voracious, overjoyed typing. Funny thing that happens when these hopeful planes actually landed: utter, awe-stricken silence.

Here’s a truth that silences the soul: prophecies come true.

I had a dream in 2012 and I told people and even asked them to attempt interpretation of it. I was arriving at a very specific-looking house. In 2015, I arrived at that exact house, which happened to belong to my (now) fiance’s grandparents’. I tried not to freak out, but my spirit was in awe. God’s promises are laid out ahead of time, they just are. You shouldn’t lay awake worrying you’ll mess it all up, because God is so kind. He hides things for us to find. He does it so far in advance to prove a point. He really is God, and He really does reign.

The prophetic hasn’t been a crutch for a weak faith, not for me. I’ve been getting to know a real Person, who is very much alive. He’s more than thin pages, He’s not bound in any way. He loves to communicate and teach. He’s a giddy gift-giver. I get that from Him.

I’m learning to receive in joy the different ways He delivers His goodness. Some of His kindest gifts to me were during tough times. Looking back, my attitude could have been better, since He was right there with me. I could have trusted better, and cruised it with more peace. I could have been easier on myself, and given people less power to rattle me. I could have actually listened when I heard that “it’s gonna be okay” whisper in my heart.

Alas, imperfect reactions and all, here I am. Happy as a freaking clam. Best time of my life thus far, and it’s easy to dwell in the present for the first time in a long time. Hallelujah.

I’m slowly edging back into teaching/writing/pastoral things.

S L O W L Y.

I don’t want to rush this.

I’ve been watching trees half-bloom this spring. They thought it was time, since we had such a warm winter. Then the frost came and they lost their blooms. The cautious ones waited, though it must have been difficult.

I’m gonna edge back in. I’m gonna worship and ponder. I’m gonna finish writing book 2. I’m gonna host groups in my home and make it a place that is safe to worship, to weep, to laugh, to bloom in the heart.

If you’re waiting with me, you’re not alone. The time will surely come.

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. [Psalm 27:14]