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 Emília 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!

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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!

A Stranger’s Party

Last month, I was invited to a party for a stranger. I was in the middle of doing something else, and the invitation surprised me. I accepted. I found myself sitting at a table, surrounded by people I didn’t know. We laughed. I was offered food, and I realized I was really hungry. I ate, and then they offered me cake, but not just cake: ice-cream cake. Yah. At this point, I started talking to God in my head, of course.

Okay, what are You up to? This is too crazy to be random.

I sat and learned a bit about each person, and we laughed, and it NEVER GOT WEIRD.  You’d think it would, being surrounded by strangers, that awkward lull that comes the second a string of conversation ends, but no! We flowed along like old friends do.

You see, it’s not very hard to celebrate someone. Maybe it’s hard to grieve, or forgive, or disagree with a stranger, but celebrating? Nah. It’s cake. It’s not very hard to receive, and to smile along. Maybe it’s hard to give, and to hold down that lump in your throat when you’re about to burst into tears but you don’t want to cry in front of strangers. That’s tough. Birthdays? Not that tough. The thing that threw me off was that many people passed by and were not invited. All I did was greet someone I recognized, and turns out that person had helped set up the whole thing, and instantly included me. How many times do I walk by cliques and overhear plans and never for a minute expect to be brought into that group? We assume we’re excluded.

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God showed me a little more of what it looks like to have access and acceptance, and through strangers nonetheless. I was a little stunned afterwards, and couldn’t help but smile and shake my head as I walked back to where I was originally going. All I could think of? Grace.

God reminded me that I am included. I am seen, and I am invited. I am part. I belong. It’s funny how cliché these things sound, until they really land in the heart. It’s easy and normal to feel like the outsider, but God says that’s not who I am, and that’s not who you are, either. I pray and hope you get something from this party, because I know it wasn’t just for me. It was like a picture-story-example-parable situation, for especially you. Yes, you. You, who have been feeling left out and lonely and unseen. You, who have been feeling like you don’t belong somehow. God sees you and He calls you seen and wanted. God loves you just as you are, and He is always inviting you, welcoming you, and ready to listen. I pray for that truth to sink into your heart like it did in mine in that moment.

I Accept

The love of God.

The forgiveness of Jesus.

The counsel of the Holy Spirit.

I took the quickest moment, in the midst of the anxiety I felt in my stomach, and I whispered a prayer that messed me up. I’m talking snot and tears everywhere.

I said “I accept Your forgiveness, Jesus.”

Apparently that’s all it takes for the chills to hit, and the tears to pour, and the hands to shake, and the fear to flee. A small acceptance, that meant I admitted I needed to yield my burden over. How often do we try to carry it all ourselves, when none of it is our load? The littlest headache and my reaction is to take a small little pill, instead of asking Him to wipe it. The twist in the stomach, the furrow in the brow. And I keep it? Oh, I keep it. I hide it, and keep it, and name it “my problem” and I own it and feed it. I’m a mother to my burdens, a depleted, defeated, diligent mother. All my little fears are ducklings, following me. The lies about my worth, my future, my redemption story, just quack quack quack. The noise is obnoxious, but what do ya do? Well, I’ve been keeping it at home with me. Yes, the same home I share with Holy Spirit, the mind and the heart.

Yet that little prayer… it shook my body. It vacated my being. I felt waves over me, like when you’re standing on a windy beach and you feel the wind rolling over you. His wind blew, and I bet it was just a small breath of heaven. I was freed by the tiniest breeze of holy.

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In the last few months, I struggled with my health and my sleep. I started to hope for different hours, but met a lot of slammed doors. Almost doesn’t quite count in the real world. Four almost jobs, no joke. That’s a lot of time and effort, and I was getting bitter. Then that fifth opportunity popped up, and by grace, it’s mine. I’m going to day hours in August. I will be sleeping at night like other humans, and for the first time in years I won’t feel like a zombie anymore.

I got the call, and I should have jumped out of my skin, like old me. You know, all “yay” and 15 exclamation points. I would have posted some kind of selfie with a maniacal giant grin and told the planet about my “finally” and my “breakthrough” and gotten a stupid amount of likes on said post about God’s goodness and timing. But nah. There was a part of me, the defeated mother of my burdens, surely, that felt hurt by God. I refused to yield my pain, then I blamed Him for keeping me under for too long. I felt drowned. I remember thinking “sorry I can’t get excited, I’m still coughing up water” and that… is how bad it got.

I finally broke. I had to choose. Hard heart or tender? Stone or flesh? Did I remember what it was like to sheepishly tiptoe into His presence like a child? I needed to do that. In my head I knew Christ’s forgiveness, but I had to say it. And it wasn’t a matter of asking for it, because I knew it was mine to have.

“I accept Your forgiveness, Jesus.”

Done. I asked for His help. Done. I asked to feel His love. Done. I asked to be covered by His name. Done. I asked for the Holy Spirit’s counsel, even when life feels out of my control. Done. The knot in my stomach is gone. Instead, there’s a calm, like when you hold a sleeping child. I feel like I’m that child, so cherished.

We are all prone to wonder, yes, even the believers that “know better.” The “you know better” guilt and shame can rot a person’s faith. The “if you trusted Him, you wouldn’t be so scared” shame and the “if you were closer to Him, you’d know prophetically” shame and the “a believer doesn’t do this or that so you must not be a believer” shame. Thomas had to touch Christ to believe He rose again. Peter sank in the waves and denied Him three times. Believers have the capacity to royally suck. Don’t let that be the end of the story, if you find yourself sinking in waves. Don’t let it replay wrong in your thoughts. Accept His forgiveness, and try to move forward. If you know the storm is coming again tomorrow, and you know you’re going under again, well… accept His forgiveness and try to move forward.

The worst thing isn’t to be unfit, it’s to purposefully hide from the Lord out of shame and to mother the pain and keep it. If it hurts every single day, cry out. Wear Him out with your repetitive prayers. He will move on your behalf. He will move on my behalf. He will continue to soften my heart. He will restore and revive. He will restore my voice. He will remove the shame, every little bit, real or perceived. He’s already done it, but for our sake, He will do it again and again, as we accept His love, forgiveness, and counsel.

Jesus, we accept Your help.

Trolls and My Vain Book Cover Story

Did you know that I put my face on the cover of my first book? There’s a story behind that picture, and I’ll get to that, but first, let’s talk about trolling.

I got some hate mail today.

The sad part is this person doesn’t know me at all. And for that exact reason, I had restricted access to most of my posts on facebook, like I did with a LOT of people. Like I’ve said in the last few blogs, I’m taking big steps to reel back my privacy. My instagram and twitter are now private. My WR blogs are password locked. Facebook is slowly but surely getting cleaned up. Nonetheless, this individual took it very personally when they found their access had been restricted. And then she trolled me.

Truth is, I have a lot of “facebook friends” which really translates anywhere from family members to people I literally met once, eons ago. Facebook gives you a personal profile, which gives curating abilities to each individual user. Coming from a social media management background, I’m very used to deleting comments and even having to restrict users for various reasons, big and small. When facebook originally started, there was no home feed. You didn’t scroll through everybody’s posts like a log or newspaper. You had to type your friend’s name and go to their “page” and write on their wall. Back then, there was a whole lot less trolling.

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There are people on facebook who love to troll. Trolls let their true colors shine through, and write things like this to people who restrict them:

Trollcity

Yeah. SALTY. Cue Taylor Swift, man… THIS is called TROLLING. I just wanted to bring AWARENESS of the reality of trolling and tell you that there are people who should not have access to you online. Period. There’s nothing in the Bible about loving your neighbor by tolerating these kinds of hurtful digs. It’s not healthy. If someone is being deliberately offensive and trying to provoke others unto anger, it’s okay to remove them from your network ONLINE and reduce communication.

If this person had reached out to me and said “Hey Helena, I noticed that I can’t see your posts anymore and it upset me. I know we barely know each other, but could you tell me why I’m now restricted?” Then I would have said “Hey so and so, I’m sorry to hear that hurt your feelings. That wasn’t my intention. I have been trying to limit posts on facebook to close family and friends (it’s a long process) and I’ve been putting a lot of people on the restricted list, so please don’t take it personal. Thanks for reaching out to me, and it means a lot that you’d want to keep up with my more personal posts. I’ll take you off of the restricted list, okay? Keep in touch! I hope you’re doing well. <3” And golly, I would have meant 100% of that if I had received a heartfelt message. But no… they got salty about my book cover!!!!!!!!!!!!

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SO NOW LET’S TALK ABOUT MY VAIN BOOK COVER.

I wrote a book last year. My first one. It’s a devotional. My heart was to give people fresh ideas on spending time with God. This is what the cover looked like.

book

As you can clearly see, my face is in the picture, outlined. It’s pretty dark. You can see my hair is a hot mess and you might be able to tell I had just hiked up a mountain to see the sunset. I was scouring through all the pictures I’ve ever taken in my life to try to find one that would look cool on the cover. I almost bought a picture, but then I thought “no, Helena, you have had cool Jesus moments and sunrises and sunsets, you have got to find one that’s yours, maybe one you’ve written about” and it was between a sunrise picture from Savannah, GA or this sunset one. The problem with the sunrise picture was that it was a lot of sky and a tiny sun and then water, and the title would have been on the top, and the tiny dot and line of color, then the name on the bottom. It didn’t look pop. This one had the texture of the outline and you can see the faint teeny tiny dots of the Atlanta skyline on the horizon.

Let me tell you what this picture means to me and why I chose it. I had just moved to Atlanta (big city) from Gainesville (small town). I was officially living in a rough neighborhood. I hadn’t made very many friends at this point. I had been invited to a game night that night, but I was already halfway to hike Stone Mountain for the first time, and I really needed to spend time with God. I turned my “new friends” down and said I needed to hike with Jesus. So I did. The whole way up the mountain, God encouraged me. I heard His truth about me. I was affirmed in my identity as His daughter.  I wrote this blog about it. This happened 9/23/14.

Almost exactly one year later, I was editing the book and released in on 9/22/15. I re-released it later due to some printing issues, but it felt like a hike anniversary. If that cover picture had not happened, the book would NOT have been published the way it was. I had to know who I was in order to be able to write about different ways to spend time with God. God reminded me of my identity in a hike, and my prayer was that God would remind anyone who cared to read the devo about HIS heart and THEIR identity. I’m a vessel and I’m not anonymous. I’m a daughter of God. I won’t hide that I know He loves me, and I chose a seemingly vain book cover, designed it in the wee hours of the morning, and decided that it was only fitting that one of my breakthrough moments with God could illustrate the contents of the devotional.

I’ll leave you with a quote from the intro of the devo…

“Spending time with God doesn’t have to be an hour-long reading time. It doesn’t have to be silent. It doesn’t have to be anything like it’s ever been. You can go have a hike with Jesus, or prayer walk the dog, or sing your heart out in the car all the way to work. You can ask God questions, or doodle, or make up your own psalms. We’re gonna try some of these things, but I want you to be empowered to try anything. God is pretty creative. He thought the platypus was a good idea, for crying out loud. You don’t have to sit for an hour every day, or feel like a bad Christian when you miss a day. God is awesome and He is crazy about you, and there are never-ending ideas of how to get to know Him more.”

That’s the thing I wanted to say, in 138 pages or so, in my very first book. I put in a lot of time and prayer into it, and the last thing I’d want is for someone to think I was shallow in choosing a cover? It was intentional, but definitely about spending time with God and being affirmed in one’s own identity.

I hope and pray that you’re keeping a healthy check of who is allowed to speak into your life, and that you know that God sees your heart. I challenge you to be careful with the internet, because people can blast you and embarrass you, and attack the very things you work so hard to maintain pure. Like my little brother said to me yesterday, “You know you’re doing something right if there is resistance” and it’s true. I have incredible friends and family, and my God is faithful and kind beyond measure. In the end, He’s the One we each have to face, and I look forward to that glorious day, because by His grace we have clean hands and pure hearts.

Fighting For Peace

There’s a fine, dotted line between letting something go and standing up for oneself. It feels like a seesaw, where it’s not any fun when you’re always letting things go and becoming a bitter pushover, and it’s no fun at all to make a fuss over every bump on the road. A wise man once told me to pick my battles, and that’s still a challenge for me. In poker, it’s the difference between knowing when to fold versus staying in the game to win with the bluff. It’s a skill I haven’t acquired yet, but I’m learning. I’m learning how to fight for peace.

If it sounds like an oxymoron, that’s because it is. Jesus sometimes turned the other cheek and preached on forgiving 70 times 7, but He’s the same guy who walked into the temple and turned tables over with a whip. He’s the same guy who wasn’t afraid to ruffle the feathers of the religious leaders and call them white-washed tombs, and goats, and all these pretty harsh terms. He defended the adulterous woman from the stoners (haha see what I did there). He fought for our peace by laying down His life on the cross, and then rising again. That’s pretty tough and bloody.

I used to think the higher road was the quiet road. I used to think that the stronger person was the one who was able to bottle up their feelings and donate them to Ariel’s thingamabob shelves in the bottom of the ocean, never to be brought up again. I thought that people who stood up for themselves picked fights, and were labeled emotional and ill-tempered. And who would want to do life with those people?

Thinking like that, unfortunately, caused me a lot of harm. I tried to control situations that were never mine to control. I internalized frustrations, which grew to hurt me over years and years. I made up rules in my head of what to say and what not to say, and I believed lies about myself and others. I judged people on the inside and tried to do life with them on the outside. I began to expect failure out of several friendships and relationships, and by golly, I was right. Failures galore. All because I didn’t speak up when I should have. I let problems grow.

When I didn’t have health insurance, I only went to the doctor when I really needed to. Now that I have insurance, there’s this lovely thing called a well visit. I can go to the doctor on a sunshiny day, on a somewhat regular basis, and see just how well I am. It’s maintenance, not repair. Speaking up is a lot like maintenance. Good communication shouldn’t be procrastinated for the crises. It may feel like a confrontation, but it’s normal. Conflict is actually normal, but how we view it is what makes it grow exponentially into a negative experience.

We’re technically supposed to consider conflict a joyous thing, if you want to get Biblical about it. Conflict comes into the picture carrying a little silver tray, to serve you with maturity and depth of character. Your character shows. Do you get scared? Do you yell and say horrible things? Do you hide? Do you get defensive? Do you listen? Do you speak with kindness? Do you look for exits of grace, ways to move forward? Conflict reveals what’s in your heart, because it usually flies out of your mouth and circles your thoughts. It can turn into a well visit with God, or a surgery down the road, if we keep ignoring the problem.

dac738fc0d99f3fd891635167f44f0cdMy latest heart check revealed that I am a scaredy-cat. I have also grown a bit into a pessimist. Maybe I’ve been watching the news more than letting my mind dwell on what heaven is doing? With every layer, I find myself having to forgive people from my past, over and over. I never realized how much of an influence their actions and those events still have over me. The fear of those things happening again? Ridiculous. Wanna know what I learned from it, though? Every time we increase in trust, we also have to increase in courage.

Courage and trust are besties, inseparable. When we get moved up a notch with the Lord, and He asks us to surrender bigger pieces of our hearts and dreams, we have to ante up with courage. Match the bet. Cough up those chips to play the round. We have to remind ourselves that we have been given a Spirit of courage, not of timidity. We weren’t made shy, but confident. It’s not a bluff play. If you’re suddenly feeling more fearful, you might be swimming in a deeper pool. It might be a good thing. You might have gotten upgraded in faith, and you may have to accept the fact that yes, you will need to grow, and yes, you will need to get braver.

The Lord is within her, she will not fall. He is with you wherever you go. He has your right hand. He doesn’t let your ankles turn. He hears your voice. He speaks to guide you. He strengthens you. He gives you rest. He takes those heavy burdens from you and carries it like a total pro. It’s easy to Him. He can reach it. He overcomes it.

I pray you know how and when to speak up, that you don’t let yourself wilt inside. I pray you don’t let problems grow because you’re scared to rock the boat. I pray you know that God is not trying to torture you or hurt you in any way, because He delights in you. If anything is trying to steal, kill, and destroy you, it’s not Jesus. He’s the fullness of life Guy. He’s the complete joy Guy.

That’s all I have for now… I pray God multiplies it and applies it where you need it.

Ebb and Flow

Life has been vibrant and wonderful. I’ve been trying to understand what Jesus meant by “fullness of life” and not get it twisted with “obligation of life” or “busyness of life” or any other kind of misconception of the meaning of FULLNESS.

My walk with God has gone through natural periods of ebbing and flowing, increase and decrease, like breathing. Times when I feel very full indeed, and times when the only normal thing to do is empty out. Open-handed. Clean slate. Reset, please.

God has been stirring my heart to increase praise capacity. It’s the praising “more and more” like scripture calls it. The praise from yesterday is no longer a measure for today. Just like His mercies are new, so are praises and thankful expressions of my heart. I get excited when I hear a new song that resonates with where I am in Him, a lyric that “reads my mail” if you know what I mean. And sometimes the only way you can understand how you feel is when you hear it in a song, and go “THAT is exactly what’s going on” and you find on the outside what you couldn’t identify on the inside, just by the way your heart jumped out toward it.

compassI started the year fired up to empty out, and I did. Then I felt the need to press pause and just watch for a minute. It’s pointless to operate on old orders, by the way. God is doing new things all the time, and there are some of us that are so obedient that we get busy “obeying” and forget to TALK to Him. We’ve got our heads down obeying what He told us years ago, when He may have something new to say today. He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever, but you better believe He is a God of restoration, redemption, and redirection. He’s a rebuilder. Obedience is a lovely thing, but it’s like a liquid. It needs to flow and conform to His leading, and not be so obstinate as to miss the turn on the road and keep going the wrong way for miles or years.

My new orders are to fill up. I ordered 10 books today. No joke. I got 2 textbooks for my birthday, and 4 books for Christmas. My brain and my heart just want to learn. I’m learning about the ways of God, and also about transfusion medicine and genetics, which in my opinion are altogether hilariously laced with gospel paradigms. I’ve been studying for a certification exam, and praying for God to open doors. I am hoping that after this season of filling up, a brand new outpouring will follow.

Just wanted to give you an update of what I’ve been doing now that I’ve been off the grid a bit more. I’m extremely happy. I’m increasing in praise. I’m filling up, focusing on the fullness of life. I am pressing pause on a few things I’ve been doing, so that I can adjust to God’s leading in my life, and in all things, He is good.