Family

Unprecedented Joy

Unprecedented. Hard. Disappointment. Tired. Lament. All words that I have heard repeatedly associated with the year 2020.

Just in our family, the COVID-19 pandemic has marred weddings, vacations, baby showers, and more; and I know that other families have experienced even more difficult circumstances. So while October is my birthday month, I kept my expectations low: a dinner out alone with my husband (seated outside and wearing masks of course), carefully timed to work around the demanding newborn nursing schedule. That would be enough. It’s not that I wasn’t excited for my birthday, I didn’t want to be let down by 2020 one more time. My birthday would look different this year since I wouldn’t be able to celebrate with all the people I love.

In many ways it feels like we’re farther away from our loved ones during this season. I’ve missed two out of my three cousins’ weddings. We have family and friends who still haven’t met or held our newborn son. We haven’t worshipped with our church family since February. My daughter gawked at everyone on the playground the first time we visited after it reopened—almost like she had forgotten other toddlers exist! Even she has noticed the limited interactions we’ve been able to have with other people.

But in other ways, I’ve found unexpected joy in the interactions we have been able to have with friends and family. While the quantity has definitely been reduced, the few moments we have with people seem to be even more precious.

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Spiritual Growth

The God of All Comfort

On this day last year, I sat on my couch anxiously scrolling through Instagram posts filled with sonogram photos and vulnerable captions. It was the first time I was truly aware of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day (October 15), and as I read each woman’s experience, I wondered about the tiny baby in my own belly.

Only five weeks pregnant, I had begun to have symptoms of a miscarriage. Yet because of an unclear sonogram, my doctor wanted to wait a week to do another ultrasound to see if the pregnancy was viable. So for a week, I continued experiencing miscarriage symptoms. For a week, I studied the single sonogram image the ultrasound tech had given me. For a week, I read every Facebook post and blog shared about miscarriage. For a week, I oscillated between celebrating the new life in me and grieving the loss of that life. For a week, I prayed miscarriage wouldn’t be a part of my family’s story, but at the same time I saw hope and strength in the mothers who were sharing their stories online.

Three days later, I would get the call that my hCG level was negligible, and I was no longer pregnant. I was shocked. I had sobbed when I first started bleeding a week earlier, but now I didn’t know what to feel. The words of all those women came back to me, especially those who had found hope in God throughout their loss. Even though I had not talked to a single one of those women in person, their stories reminded me that I was not alone. Not only was God with me, but those who have also experienced miscarriage were with me as well.

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Resources

Top 5 Posts from the Last Year

We are less than a week away from meeting our new baby boy, and I’ll be taking a break from publishing on my blog for a month or so. I’ve so enjoyed getting to share what God has been teaching me this past year, and I pray that it has been encouraging and challenging to you. I heard this quote recently from Jen Wilkin, and it reminded me the purpose of my writing, “Everything you write is either going to obscure or illuminate the character of God.” It’s always my goal when I sit down to write on my laptop (or even type on my phone) that I will love God and serve others with my words. Thanks for reading, commenting, and sharing my blog posts this year, and I can’t wait to write more about what God teaches me as we transition to a family of four. In the meantime, enjoy these five most-read posts from the last 365 days on my blog!

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Resources

#ThursdayThings: Books by my Favorite Female Authors

With our due date for baby #2 just around the corner, I have savored my reading time lately, knowing that time alone to relax and read will be harder to come by for the next several months. I have worked my way through the pile of books on my nightstand—from Christmas presents to impulse Amazon purchases. As I finished these books over the last few months, I realized how these female authors have profoundly impacted my faith journey through their writing. While some of these authors I have only recently come to know and others I own their entire collection of writings, I am thankful for how God has used each of these women and their books to speak into my spiritual journey. (Note: While these books have female authors and beautiful covers, they are just as applicable and important for men to read as women.)

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Spiritual Growth

This Is Just a Season

She sat across from me in the food court as I scarfed down a Chick-fil-A breakfast biscuit and squeezed in words of anxiety between bites. I was a college freshman stressing about my spring final exams and wishing the week was already over. My college mentor offered to meet me for breakfast before an exam since it was the only free time I had in my busy study schedule before I left for the summer. She kindly listened as I explained the woes of each one of my classes and worried that I wouldn’t make it through till next week. Then she asked me the strangest question, “Did you survive your fall final exams?”

I thought back to that week five months ago and honestly couldn’t remember much. I knew I had been stressed, especially since it was my first finals week as a college student. Yet I had turned in every paper and passed every test (with only one all-nighter under my belt). “Yes, I made it through, and I even got the GPA I was hoping for,” I replied.

“Finals week is just a season of your life,” she wisely admonished me. “The pressure you’re feeling right now will not last forever. In fact, you probably won’t remember how you feel five years from now, and maybe not even by next semester’s finals.”

Though college finals week seems like a trivial example now, my mentor was teaching me an important lesson in spiritual maturity. Just as the weather changes from summer to fall to winter to spring, we will walk through various seasons in life. Finals week seemed overwhelming to 19-year-old me, but I have faced much harder seasons in newlywed life, newborn days, family illness, job transitions, and more. However, that lesson from my college mentor has stayed with me: this is just a season.

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Spiritual Growth

Lessons from a Recliner

It made its home in our apartment months before I did since my husband lived there with a roommate the semester before we got married. The center piece of his roommate’s bedroom was a tattered once-beige recliner. Its suede fabric had been rubbed raw on the seat and arms, and the handle to recline had been broken off, making it nearly impossible to open or close the footrest.

It was much to my chagrin then, when my husband carried me over the threshold into what was now our apartment, I found the remnants of his roommate’s furniture, namely, the hideous recliner. Evidently, he didn’t need furniture where he was moving next, so he left it to us as a “gift.” My husband sat down in the recliner, claimed it as the most comfortable chair in the world, and begged that we keep it. Knowing that we couldn’t afford a new living room set, I decided it could stay if I could get a slipcover to cover its threadbare appearance. He agreed, and I covered the recliner with an ill-fitting blue slipcover I purchased with Target gift cards from our wedding. My husband was happy, and I was already dreaming of the day we had enough money to afford new living room furniture.

That would continue to be my husband’s favorite place to sit in our home for the first five years of our marriage. It became known as his “exciting chair” after he had his wisdom teeth removed, and the anesthesia caused him to wax poetic about how much he loved to sit in his “exciting chair.”

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Spiritual Growth

Trusting the Unknown to An All-Knowing God

I just want to know. It was so much easier when the coronavirus quarantine orders were black and white. I didn’t go into a store for ten weeks; groceries were delivered. I went by myself to my OB appointments—face covered in a mask and hands covered in sanitizer. We declined weddings, parties, and dinners with friends. Sunday worship service, Bible study, and small group was relegated to a thirteen-inch screen sitting on our ottoman. My daughter still doesn’t understand why she hasn’t touched a swing set in more than three months.  

Now, as our communities are beginning to reopen and people are bursting to get out of their homes, I feel uncertain about our family’s path forward. At first, I felt alone in this—everyone but me seemed to know what the right thing was for their family. But as I shared my insecurity, I saw that we were all in the same boat. My friend wasn’t judging me for my family taking a socially distanced picnic; she was wondering if she should have done the same. I wasn’t being looked down upon for cancelling a girls’ trip; the other girls were wondering if they should go in the first place. We all are being tossed about by constantly changing recommendations by medical professionals, politicians, and Facebook know-it-alls. Who do we listen to? What are the right answers?

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Family

Thanking God for Hamburger Helper

My mom is not a “good” cook in the traditional sense of the way. She doesn’t have a famous pie or cornbread or salad recipe that is always raved about at Southern Baptist church potlucks. I don’t have an old tin recipe box filled with family heirloom recipes. Most of her meals are inspired by Pinterest, not Julia Child.

While I don’t remember homemade biscuits or gourmet meals, I do remember eating together as a family every night. My mom and dad both were teachers at my school and supplemented their teacher salaries with after school activities. My dad would coach teams year-round while my mom tutored for hours after the final bell rung. No matter how late they worked, we would always travel home together and eat dinner at our kitchen table. Some nights we ate spaghetti, other nights we had chicken with boxed mashed potatoes. Most nights, we ate a form of Hamburger Helper and canned green beans. We all pitched in to get dinner on the table at a reasonable hour; my mom and dad both cooked while my younger sisters put out the condiments and I set the table.

Our family dinners weren’t elaborate. There was no homemade bread or “secret ingredient” chicken dish. My mom would pull out cans and boxes instead of seasonings and sauces. Yet even into my teenage years, I loved those dinners no matter how basic they were. I knew that at the end of every day, my family would share a meal together—share our daily life together.

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Spiritual Growth

Busy is Not Bad

It had been a long day. My pregnant body ached from preparing three square meals, getting up and down to play with my toddler, and any movement in general. I was mentally exhausted from the hour of work I was able to squeeze in during naptime, and now, at 4:00pm, I was done.

So when my daughter asked me to build and get under a “fork” (a blanket fort, for those of you who don’t speak toddler), I was hesitant to oblige. But she kept persisting, so I laid the blanket over the couch and ottoman and squeezed my pregnant belly into the space in between. For some reason, she didn’t want to join me, so she continued to play with her Little People on the coffee table while I sat on the ground under a pink fluffy blanket.

To be honest, I didn’t mind. It was the first time that day I had slowed down. I didn’t have anything I needed to do, and there was nowhere I needed to be. I just sat there and let my body, mind, and (most importantly) my spirit un-wind. I breathed in the stale fort air and enjoyed the quiet.

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