Tuesday, December 9, 2014

My Own Personal Zwischen

Today I learned a new word, which at this stage of pregnancy (38 weeks, 3 days) is a special feat in and of itself.  Zwischen.  It's German, and it means "between." 

It is the epitome of where I find myself lately.  In between.

In between being childless and a mommy.
In between my body being my own and belonging to the baby growing inside.
In between the joy of holding my daughter and the fear of what comes next.

Pregnancy limbo.  Zwischen.

I'm a weepy, curled up ball of tears at every Hallmark commercial, and getting through a Good Morning America spotlight of a child who has done/gone through something extraordinary without bawling is almost impossible at this point.  I'm insecure about my roundness and constant waddle, but I'm proud of my body for what it's accomplished in the past 9+ months.  I mourn the idea that these last few days/weeks will be the last times that H and I have that are truly "just us," but I look forward with indescribable joy at the idea of raising this beautiful little girl together. 

In between.

I have 11 days left until our due date.  11 days (more or less) of "in-betweenness."  And I have never felt so torn and conflicted about something so scary and beautiful.  I've been blessed to have had an easy pregnancy: little to no nausea, weight gain has been minimal, baby has been healthy and right on track at every appointment, no extreme symptoms or health problems, and generally comfortable up until the past week or two.  I have genuinely loved be pregnant, with every little milestone along the way, which is why I feel so torn: as excited as I am to hold my daughter and see our family move into this brand new chapter of our lives, I am so sad to say goodbye to pregnancy.  Not because I fear what comes next won't be as good; in fact, I know it will be better! But the joy of feeling my baby move for the first time inside me, the little moments we share in the early morning when Daddy gets up to go to work and I can feel her begin to stretch and wiggle as she wakes up, too - those are the moments that I'm sad to lose.  Those are the moments that catch me in my zwischen, my "in-betweenness."

And yet the idea of finally meeting this little girl who I have spent the past 9+ months bonding with, to finally see her chubby cheeks and tiny nose, to count the fingers and toes that have been wiggling around - that I have zero fear or doubt about.  I can't wait to hold her, skin-to-skin, in those first moments outside of the womb and know that she is mine; to watch her daddy do the same and know that forever there is a piece of his heart that I will never be able to have because in that instant it now belongs to her.  The joy of knowing that our family now has a completeness that we never knew before - that is the moment when my in between ends and my role of mommy begins, something that I look forward to with so much excitement, despite the fears of my in between.

Limbo, torn between two worlds: pregnancy and motherhood, the "now" and the "what's to come."

Ask me again a few weeks after Anastasia has arrived, after we have settled into some semblance of a routine with her, if I miss the in between.  I honestly don't know how I'll answer.  Truthfully, I know there will always be a part of me that misses the stages of pregnancy and the special bond that is formed during this time, but I can't honestly say if I'll miss this in between, this zwischen stage where everything is ending and beginning all at once. 

For now, I will bask in the glow of the final weeks of pregnancy.  Not so much the back and hip pain, the redistribution of my center of gravity, or my inability to put on socks by myself.  But I'll enjoy my quite mornings with a squirmy baby that makes my belly move all on it's own; I'll fall in love with my husband all over again every time he kisses my bump goodnight or reaches over in the middle of church to lay a gentle hand where he can see her moving; I'll cry at the silliest things and not feel guilty about eating a donut at 9pm.  Because this is my in between, my zwischen, and I'll enjoy every moment I have left of it.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Gold vs. Silver

When I was little, I can remember my Grammy sitting me on her lap and singing a song about friendship to me.  She would smile as she sang, and it always made me feel so secure that the message of the song was true to life:

Make new friends
But keep the old;
One is silver
And the other, gold.

 I always thought the words of the song were more about knowing that just because I meet new people doesn't mean that I should throw old friendships away.  But as I grow older, I realize that maybe this isn't the the actual purpose of the song; maybe it's more about the quality of friendships, both old and new.

For 26 years, I lived within a 150-mile radius of my hometown.  And for the first 21 of those years, I lived at my parents' house in my hometown.  Same family, same friends, same scenery for 21 years.  Yes, within those years friendships changed; the girl who was my best friend in kindergarten was not necessarily my best friend come senior year.  But the girl who was my best friend all the way through elementary school and middle school was still a dear friend to me by the time graduation rolled around (probably based on our deep-rooted love of Barbies, Lisa Frank stickers, and boys who played the drums).  Once I went away to college, I made new friends but still kept in touch (and to an extent, still continue to) with many of my closest friends from high school.

They say that the friends you make in college are the friends who stick around for life.  I hope that's true.  My sorority sisters, my classmates through my undergrad program - those are the ones that I hope stick around for the long haul.  They know me, not as the little girl who played on the swingset and constantly changed my mind between loving Spice Girls or Mariah Carey more, but as the woman who took on leadership roles, who has a passion for teaching, and who gets a little silly when cranberry-vodka's are involved.

Two years ago, we moved 450 miles away from our hometowns and 600 miles away from the college town we'd called home for 6 years.  No college friends, no high school friends.  No one that I knew at all.  And so the adventure of making new friends began while somehow trying to balance keeping the old from so far away.

Unfortunately, as I'm finding, making new friends who are as good as the silver from the song is tougher than expected.  Being an Army wife, I find that the circles of people that I'm associating with are typically the wives of H's soldier buddies.  They aren't necessarily people that I "click" with as easily or automatically as I would outside of the "forced" friendships that the Army lifestyle sets up, but that doesn't make them bad people or bad friendships.  They are the silver the song speaks of, friendships that are good to have even if they aren't the same depth or strength as those gold ones created during high school and college.  (Disclaimer: I have made some absolutely "golden" friendships up here, as well, and I don't want any of this post to make those wonderful ladies feel anything less than the gold that they are.  They know who they are, especially my #2)

 Without these silver friendships, the ones that are important but aren't necessarily the long-lasting ones that will pass the test of time, would I be able to value the gold friendships as much?

The friendships that started when we were just infants, grown through the deep and lasting golden friendships of our parents.

The friendships of those started in middle and high school, who I know care despite the fact that we may only chat once every few months.

The friendships of my sorority sisters, who know me better than most people, and who appreciates a random text message knowing exactly what I need, even if all it says "if you're a bird..."

The friendships made in college thanks to mutual friends, who normally may not have started for one reason or another, but who I cherish more than anything because of how they have grown and deepened thanks to God, shared life experiences, and/or the military lifestyle.

Those are the golden friendships, the ones who have depth and meaning that I can appreciate so much more thanks to the silver friendships.  And the silver friendships I can appreciate and cherish because those are the friendships that are current and what I need right now, and have the potential to turn into golden friendships as our lives mature and change.

Is one better than the other?  I wouldn't say "better" but from my experiences the golden friendships tend to have more meaning at this stage of my life; however, both the gold and silver, new and old friendships are equally important to me, and each friendship individually has its own meaning and importance in my life.

To my golden friendships, I could never fully put into words what your friendship and impact in my life has been and continues to mean to me.  I cherish our friendship, even if it's just a text or chat message once in a while to check in, a "thinking of you" card in the mail, or a coffee date over the phone.  You mean the world to me, and I hope that our friendships continue to last a lifetime!

And to my silver friendships, I am so thankful for God bringing you into my life recently.  Your friendship means so much to me, even if it's not as old or as time-tested as the golden friendships from earlier in my life, and I love the memories we've made and continue to make together.  Even something as simple as coffee on the porch, a day at the beach, or girls night with munchies and movies means so much to me to know that I have you as part of my "Army family" away from home.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Lent Lessons

I've spent the past 40 days off of Facebook for personal use as my sacrifice for Lent.
Disclaimer: I totally used it for Tastefully Simple stuff and PWOC Bible study stuff.  God and I worked it out.  No biggie.

The idea was that I was giving up something that I rely on and waste a lot of time on to show God that I don't need it because He is all I need.  Because, really, do I need Facebook in my life?  Not really.  I mean, sure there are times where it's convenient to have, especially now that we've become a society where everything is shared, announced, and updated in milliseconds on the social network.  But by giving up Facebook and worshiping God by showing Him that He is more important than Facebook, He showed me a lot of things and opened a lot of new doors.

I spent the beginning of Lent hanging out with my sister and her fiance who came up to visit.  Instead of sitting on the couch on my phone/laptop checking Facebook, I actually interacted with Mindy and Clay and enjoyed all of our time together, present in the moment.  We cooked dinner together, had sister time, game night, and just truly enjoyed being together for the long weekend.  For the first time in a while, I actually felt like I was present in the moment instead of distracted by my phone.

I also got to spend a weekend with my beautiful sisters in Christ in Washington DC at the Global Prayer Gathering for the International Justice Mission.  I spent 3 days deep in God' presence as He opened my eyes and my heart to injustice going on all over the world.  From forced labor to sex slavery, so many of God's children are stuck in the dark, and it was incredible to be surrounded by 1200 other believers lifting up these mission workers and enslaved people together in His name.  God called me to get out of my comfort zone and showed me some areas of my life He's calling to, but that's for another blog post.  He also answered a long-standing prayer for more Godly women to build friendships with, which was amazing.

I had the opportunity to reunite with two of my absolute best friends from Ohio during this 40 days, and to just enjoy being together for the first time in almost 2 years!  We laughed, we reminisced, we ate junk food, and we enjoyed every minute of our time together.  It gave me a chance to show them around Drum and Syracuse, to introduce them to some of my Army family up here, and to finally share this chapter of my life with them.  I absolutely loved having them here, and was so sad when they had to leave, but it was such a blessing that God worked out that they could be up here for almost 5 whole days with me!

God also opened a new door in terms of a job for the summer.  I've been praying and very worried about what I would do when the school year ended and I couldn't sub anymore.  With graduation coming in August and my loans coming out of deferment, I knew I needed something and I just kept praying that God would provide.  Boy did He ever!  A friend in PWOC introduced me to one of her wonderful neighbors and her 4-year-old son.  She was in desperate need of full-time childcare for her son in their house, and after a 2-hour interview we realized that so many of our thoughts on children and development are on the same page.  I start at the end of this month spending Monday through Friday with this sweet little boy who just needs some boundaries and love, and God has truly come through more than I could have ever hoped in terms of providing for our finances. 

Lent also saw the end of another grad school semester, the completion (and passing) of my Master's thesis paper, and some more weight loss - woo hoo!

But the best part about Lent this year?   That I have developed a deeper and strengthened relationship with God.  As we're into Easter weekend at this point, the sacrifice and love that Christ showed to all of us has never been more apparent to me, and I'm so thankful for His grace and mercies, which I don't deserve but which are always enough!

So happy Easter to you and your family.  May you spend tomorrow surrounded with people you love, celebrating God's love however you see fit.  No matter what you do, though, don't forget to take a moment to sit in peace, surrounded by His presence, and thank Him for His undeserved but immeasurable love.

He is risen!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Paul's Letter, Perspecitve, and Pity Parties

I want to be a grouch right now.
Yes, I realize that no one typically wants to be a grouch.
I do.  Right now.

I want to pout, to grump, to think of every little bad thing that could possible go wrong.  I want to throw a great big pity party, with only myself on the guest list - no one else is allowed.  I want to be a grouch all by myself.  This misery doesn't need company, I'm doing a fine job of grouching on my own.

I want to be a grouch.
But I can't.

Seriously.  I've been trying to sit here and put myself into a bad mood about all the things on my to do list, the things that have randomly popped into my mind today, the miscellaneous worries and "what if's".  But no matter how hard I try, God won't let me.

He challenges my "what-ifs" with "I've got this."
He rebuttals my "to-do's" with "but look at how I've blessed you and provided for you so far."
He squashes my "why not me yet?" with "My timing is perfect."

How can I possibly be grumpy and grouchy when my God is so powerful, so wonderful, so loving?  I can complain about the work that needs to be done to the Jeep or I can be thankful that He provided us with a 4-wheel drive vehicle right before moving to the North Country.  I can be bitter about all the pregnancy announcements on my newsfeed or I can be thankful that these amazing women are going to be even more amazing moms and know that I will get that chance in God's perfect timing.  I can stress about the growing to-do list on my fridge or I can be thankful that I have a house to take care of, a husband to cook dinner for, and that I don't have any physical problems keeping me from being able to take my puppy for a walk (and be thankful for God's promise of spring despite the bitter cold!)

It's all about perspective, something that I so quickly forget when I feel overwhelmed with life.  I can sit and complain about everything and throw myself a pity party, but really what does that get me?
A bad attitude.
A good radius away from everyone else in my life (because who wants to be around me like that?).
And the kind of perspective on life that takes for granted all the blessings that God has already given me and all that He's done to take care of me so far.  With a perspective and attitude like that, how in the world am I truly witnessing to others around me?  Am I representing Christ at that point, or am I just representing another person so wrapped up in themselves that there's no room for Christ's light to shine?

God's doing a lot lately to give me an attitude check and challenging me to look at my situation from a new perspective, with an attitude of gratitude through Christ-tinted glasses.  We've been studying Paul's letter to the church in Ephesus in PWOC (women's Bible study here on post), and the first chapter of Ephesians really hit me hard.  Paul spends the majority of the chapter reminding the Christians in Ephesus of all the blessings that God has already given them - they are children of God, adopted by Him into the kingdom of Heaven through the gifts of grace and mercy!  They have been redeemed by His blood, forgiven of their sins (no matter how bad), and chosen for the praise of His glory!  He has given them grace with wisdom and understanding of His Spirit!  God has blessed them with so much, and no matter what else happens, the Christians in Ephesus need to be reminded of that perspective to truly appreciate the plan that He has for their life.

Ya know what the best part about that is?

Wait for it.
It's gonna knock your socks off.

God gave us those exact same spiritual blessings!!

Okay, I know we aren't the church in Ephesus around 60 A.D., and Paul isn't writing to us from prison.  But these are the same blessings that God has given to all of His children, including you and me.  How awesome is that?!

And with all these spiritual blessings (not to mention all the non-spiritual blessings!), how in the world can I possibly look at a pile of laundry on the closet floor, a few dust bunnies under the coffee table, or the receipt for the car parts (which could have been A LOT more, thank you Jesus) and still feel like I need a pity party?

So instead, I'll put the party hats away for a birthday, suck my bottom lip in, and put a smile on my face.  Life could be a lot worse, but I don't have to focus on that - I can turn those sour moments into a chance to remember what God has already blessed me with.

It's all about perspective...

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Life Verse

I recently heard someone use the term "life verse" about a particular scripture.  It's a term I'd never heard before, but after hearing it I had that "what did I ever do before finding _____" moment; what did I do without this term before?!

That got me thinking: What is my life verse?  Wait, do I even have a life verse?!
 Turns out, I do!  

To me, a life verse is more than just a go-to verse that I can quote forwards, backwards, and in Pig Latin that is my "go-to" verse to comfort people or make myself feel better.  I needed a verse that I could do all of the above with, but that also has a very specific meaning in my life and my walk with God, a verse that my relationship with God is founded upon and that God has used to strengthen my connection with Him.

Only one verse came to mind, and it's one that God has used so much in my life over the past.

The card in that picture is a Stop and Pray card (S.A.P, or sap, which is defined as something that gives life and energy, exactly what this verse does for me!) that a coworker and friend from the Montessori School of Bowling Green gave to me a few years back.    It spent some time tucked into the gauges console of my car where it was a constant reminder of God's peace, and it eventually made it into my Bible.  I read it every day as I do my devotionals, and as you can tell by the crinkles and folds in the card, it's been put to good use!

So why is this particular verse so special that I chose it above the other 31,000+ verses in the Bible?  First of all, it's a promise to me that God has not left me alone or forgotten about me.  This verse shows me that God has given me His Spirit to strengthen my own spirit.  He wants me to remember that the spirit He has given me is one that gives me His fruits of the Spirit, and that it is His promise and gift to me.

Second, it reminds me that fear and doubt do not come from God.  Unless you're new here, you probably already know that I could get an Olympic gold medal in worry and fear.  In 2 Corinthians 6, it says that darkness can not dwell in the Light; where the Lord dwells there can be nothing that is not of His Spirit, including fear and worry.  There are a million and one (Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating.  But there are A LOT!) verses in the Bible about not needing to worry our doubt because God is in control, and my life verse is a great example of why I don't have to worry - God hasn't given me a spirit of worry and fear, because He's got it in control.
Finally, it reminds me that God's peace transcends all Earthly reasoning and understanding.  Especially in the past year with the miscarriage, the stress the Army has put on our family, money worries, car trouble, and everything else, there is absolutely no reason I should feel peace in the face of all of this stress.  And yet, while I may not have always been the picture of peace and nonchalance, I know that I had a lot more peace about these situations than most people would normally experience.  I'm not saying this to toot my own horn or to imply that I'm better at handling stress than anyone else, because that is by far the furthest thing from the truth!  In reality, I'm the definition of a stress case and can find ways to worry about even the smallest things.  I ride the struggle bus, and the struggle is real, people!  But this verse is a constant reminder of the peace, the "sound mind" that God has given me.  I've had people ask me how I can remain so calm, have so much faith, or how I handle it all.  It's not me at all.  Not one bit of it.  It's completely and totally a God thing, and one of the best things He has ever given me (ya know, beyond grace, forgiveness, grace, and salvation).  
I would be a mess without Him and without the spirit of power, love, and peace that He has given me.  This verse embodies everything that God has graced me with and is a daily reminder of why I don't have to worry about things - He has it in control!

So, what's your life verse?

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Highlights Reel

As usual, I'll end my year with a reflection.  I know it seems cliche, but as I'm going on my fourth year of writing this blog in January, it seems only right to finish up the calendar year and the blogging year all at once.  Also, the OCD in me requires things to be tied up with a nice little bow before I can close one chapter and start the next...

2013 was a year with a lot of ups and downs for us, and I think even that is an understatement.

Let's go to the highlights reel, shall we?
  •  We survived our first North Country Winter this year, which involved more snow and colder temperatures than I had ever expected!
  • We spent the year getting to know some of our new best friends at Fort Drum, who have now become our Army family.
  • H reintroduced himself to fishing and filled our freezer with Pickerel and Northern Pike (which we still haven't eaten our way through - any one up for a New Year's fish fry?!)
  • I started grad school and successfully completed my first semester with a 4.0 and all of my brain cells.
  • We celebrated our second wedding anniversary!
  • Even from far away, we got to watch our nephew grow from a rambunctious two year old who only spoke a few words here and there, to an even more rambunctious three year old who is so smart and handsome with a great sense of humor.  Watch out ladies!
  • We celebrated both H's sister's engagement and my sister's engagement to some awesome guys.
  • I became more involved in both PWOC and the FRG, which has opened some doors of opportunity for me and taught me a lot about who I am
  • We finally had our first family camping trip, which we've been talking about doing for over 6 years now!
  • We got our first dog (and then gave him back when his owner returned from deployment)
  • H taught me how to change the oil in our Jeep (not sure if that's more of an accomplishment for me or him haha!)
  • I know there's a ton more awesome things that we did, celebrated, learned, and experienced in 2013 that I'm missing, but bear with me since I still haven't had my morning coffee yet ;)
I wish that I could end my list of things we encountered in 2013 there, but life isn't always sunny that way.  This past year also brought some sadness and not-so-awesome experiences to us.  Thankfully, God is awesome when life isn't, and He has used (and continues to use) our circumstances for His purpose.  We experienced the joy and loss of our first baby, but in that He taught us patience, trust, and strengthened my faith beyond measure.  We watched one of our dearest friends get diagnosed with stage four cancer, but He's allowed that to help us support and strengthen their faith and relationship with God.  H went through multiple moves to different units and companies that has not helped his plan for early promotion or getting into the schools he wants in the timeliness that he wants, but God continues to give us what we need when we need it and we're trusting His plan above our own.

We struggled with stress, anger, disappointment, sadness, fear, doubt, and worry this year, but God has been gracious and has seen us through every single circumstance that we've experienced.  He has let us experience the good and the bad, and blessed us for our perseverance through both.  No, it definitely wasn't fun going through the not-so-awesomeness, and there were times where we questioned every part of what was happening and why it was happening.  But you know what?  God is good, and He never once let us struggle without His presence there to guide us and keep us going.

How can we appreciate the good times in our life without experiencing the bad times?

It's something that I've tried to remember when things suck.  If life was always sunny and we never had to experience bad times, then the good times wouldn't matter as much.  I don't know about you, but I find that I appreciate the good things more when they are few and far between (extra money, good hair days, a properly made pumpkin spice latte, you get the idea).  When good times are abundant, yes life is awesome and the stress levels run low, but eventually I stop appreciating the little blessings and good days.

When you throw in a few bad days to mix it up, I can honestly say that those good days are suddenly so much better and mean so much more in the long-run.

What 2013 our "best year ever"?  Not by a long shot!
Did it give us an opportunity to grow, to learn, and to appreciate the good days when they came?  Absolutely!

So what does 2014 hold for us?  I have absolutely no idea but I know that no matter what it is, God's already there.  How awesome is that?!

Wishing you and your family a very blessed (and safe!) New Year's Eve and 2014!

Friday, November 1, 2013


I lost my baby.

It's been almost six weeks since our angel baby went home to be with Christ.  Six weeks of putting away the few baby items we had accumulated since finding out we were pregnant.  Six weeks of learning how to move forward and trust God.  Six weeks of watching friends and family who are pregnant hit milestones, get ultrasounds, and reveal genders that we don't get to experience right now.

And while that feels like six weeks of torture and pain, it's been a very enlightening six weeks for me.

God has spoken to me a lot during my healing time, and has opened my eyes to so much that He wants me to know.  He's shown me just how strong I really am, and how deep my faith in Him runs.  He's taught me what His timing means, and that when His time comes, the blessings will be perfect.  He's given me the opportunity to bless others and to be a witness of His provisions and strength.

One of the biggest things I struggled with through all of this was how I was supposed to praise God through this storm.  It's a song lyric I hear, a Christian sentiment that is passed on so often to remind us to stay strong through the dark times we experience.  But I quickly found it's much easier to say it than to do it.  How am I supposed to raise my hands and thank God for this overwhelming sadness?  What do I say in praise to Him when all I can do is cry and ask why?  How in the world am I supposed to be thankful that I had to fall in love with this little baby that I lost before I even had the chance to hold them?

It's not easy.
I don't even know if I did it right.
And at first, praising Him through all of this was almost as painful as the loss itself, especially when all I wanted to do was yell at Him for letting me experience all of this, only to have it taken away.

So I was honest with Him.  I told Him how I had no idea how I was supposed to praise Him and be thankful through all of this pain and anger.  I asked Him to give me the words of praise because I didn't even know what to say.  I thanked Him for letting me be a mommy to this little baby, even if it was only for 9 weeks.  For days, those few statements were all I could manage.  But that's all it took.  He began to open my eyes to the strength He was giving me, and the trust I was putting in Him to bless us in His perfect timing.  He reminded me that every tear I've cried, He's holding in His hands along with our Nugget.  And He showed me that through it all, He was my rock, my salvation, and my saving grace that knows the desires of my heart as I seek Him.  Eventually, my prayers became less about why this happened, and more about thanking God for His bigger plan, even if I couldn't see it or understand it.

Without a doubt, God has used this loss to not only show me how strong I am through Him, but to allow me to be a light to others who don't understand how I can find peace and strength through all of this sadness.

I lost my baby.
My heart still aches for the little one I will never get to hold during my time on this Earth.
But I know that God has used this loss for His glory and for His bigger plan, and I find so much security and joy in knowing that if even one person in my life had a clearer understanding of where my peace, strength, and comfort comes from, then I know that my loss is His gain.