Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Acknowledging the small.

'Do not disdain the small. The whole of life - even the hard - is made up of the minute parts, and if I miss the infinitesimal, I miss the whole.' Ann Voskamp (One Thousand Gifts)

The light speckles the ground, falling through the green leaves and triumphant tree branches, leaving beautiful 'sun puddles', as the toddler calls them, scattered throughout the front yard. 

A surprise autumn day has shown up in the middle of summer, and my hair blows gently in the cool, sweet breeze. It's refreshing, and needed. 

I am thankful. My pen scratches the paper as I acknowledge my blessings. I hear the etching sound created as my thoughts tumble from my fingertips. It is beautiful, the sound of thankfulness. And it's eye opening. 

We are outside this morning and my Ellery is singing along with the birds. She's longing to climb a latter and rescue one of them from his perch on the powerline above us. She's wearing rainbow pants that she picked out herself. They're on inside out and backwards, but she did it. And she's proud. 

"You're impressed, mom!" She tells me. 

She has heart. And spunk. And independence. 

I am thankful. 

I watch it all from the rocking chair on our front porch. From the corner of my eye I see the porch swing swaying back and forth as the wind chime, played by the wind, creates a melody for it to dance to. 

The swing is light blue, and it's my favorite thing about our porch. It is not exceedingly comfortable, and I do not use it all of them time - but it is special. 

It has a cut out of a tulip resting in the center of its back. It was created and uniquely designed for me, with love, by the one man who holds my forever in his heart. 

For this, I am thankful, always. Even when I fail to acknowledge it. 

I am thankful for this love. This forever. This one man and his heart. 

I have reminders all over my house of the love that radiates from the center of it all. Reminders of God's love for me. 

This love shines through the light in the eyes of my children. 

In the way my husband adores me. 

And the way nature sings us a beautiful song, with sun puddles and sweet chirping. 

But this love, the irreplaceable, glorious, undeserving love shines the brightest when I take the time to acknowledge it. To acknowledge the big, but maybe more importantly, acknowledge the easily overlooked, the everyday and routine. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Let me tell you a story. 

One day, a few months ago, I was at Ochsner, riding the elevator after one of Elam's many doctor appointments. It was raining and we had just heard some discouraging news. 

Elam was riding in the Ergo, snuggled closely to my chest, I kissed his forehead as the elevator descended downward. 

From over my shoulder an old man asked how old 'the cute little boy' was. And when I answered his first question, he then took the opportunity to ask about the braces Elam had on his feet. 

With 7 more floors to go, I mentioned he had spina bifida, clubbed feet, and lack of movement in his legs. 

I smiled, kissed Elam again, and reassured the stranger, "We couldnt possibly love him any more than we do, and we're learning life doesn't end with Spina bifida."

As I was finishing my story, the elevator came to a stop. 

When it opened, the old man nodded, again mentioning Elam's cuteness as he tipped his hat in farewell. 

After he exited the elevator, I then noticed stares from a women to my right. Stares I did not understand. She was with her teenage daughter. She hurried out, with her hand on the small of her daughter's back, encouraging her to move a little faster. 

She stopped just outside the elevator, making sure to keep me within earshot.  

Then she said,

'See, honey. That is why you take your prenatals, so kids like that don't happen. People like her shouldn't be allowed to have kids if they can't even take their vitamins.'

I'll let you think about that for a second

'...so kids like [Elam] don't happen.'

[ I shouldn't be allowed to have children.]

To this day, my heart hurts when I tell this story. It hurts for Elam, it hurts for me, and it really hurts for people who judge without knowing someone's details. 

This woman judged me on something she knew nothing about. She determined I was unfit for motherhood because of the physical disabilities of my child.  

I challenge you to realize we all have our details that others may not know about. 

It is easy to judge when you think it is something that couldn't happen to you. 

It is easy to judge when you think you take every precaution to 'do everything right'. 

Sometimes, it is just easy to judge. 

But we need to stop.

We need to stop belittling others in this journey that isn't always easy. 

We need to love. Love despite mistakes, love because of mistakes, love because none of us are perfect. 

Let's just love. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Is your advice graceful?


I reach for the milk in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. I look down, kiss Elam on the forehead as I turn to place the milk in the cart.

Elam is happy to be riding chest to chest in the Ergo, smiling and babbling at me. He's wearing a jumper, with his legs completely exposed to the air. It is 80 degrees outside and humid here in Mississippi, so he's not wearing socks. 

As I turn the shopping cart towards the produce section, checking my list to see what else I need, I hear, "Isn't your baby cold? He should be wearing socks! Shame on you!" 

Looking over my shoulder, not believing what my ears just heard, I see an older lady still semi-shaking her finger at me. 

My immediate response was to smile and say, "No, He's fine and happy, thanks though."

She scoffs and walks away. 

I stand there for a couple of seconds, looking around to see if anyone else witnessed this. 

I proceeded to get the rest of my things, and head home, but couldn't shake what just happened. 

I am usually pretty good at letting unwanted advice go in one ear and out the other. I am experienced enough as a mother to know that the decisions I make are made to benefit my family in the best way possible. 

But this.

This shame placed on me because someone doesn't know our story, doesn't know my reasoning, really bothered me. 

What this lady doesn't know is: Elam spends most days in braces. He sleeps in braces. Our morning out of the house was a good opportunity to let his feet air out. 

What this lady doesn't know is: we avoid wearing braces to the grocery store to avoid unwanted looks and questions about Elam's feet. 

What this lady doesn't know is: her comment hurt more than she will ever know. It brought up the fear in my heart that I try to suppress about Elam's future. About judgemental eyes, not caring about the whole story and picture. About the stigma that will come along with Elam's handicap. 

This journey with Elam has given me a perspective that I failed to have before him. A perspective that keeps me trying my best to avoid judging others. 

You see, we all have our stories. We all have our problems and reasons. Although our hardships may look different, we are all just trying to make it. 

So, before you judge me because of my sockless child, please try to see my love for him, and how it dictates my every action. 

When you see my son, try not to judge him because he was born with a hole in his back and your body happens to work better than his. Instead, see his smile and the beautiful light that shines from it. 

And when I see you, I will look for the good, too. I will try and look past your bad attitude, giving you the benefit of the doubt, assuming life isn't going quite you expected it to today. 

This is important. 

Not just to me, not just for Elam, but for us all. 

We all need grace to be an action. 

Maybe we need our advice to be rationed to 'when asked for only.' Remembering that we never know when our piece of advice just might dig deeper than we could ever expect it to. 

Let's remember not to stare at someone who looks different from you - and not judge just because someone acts a little different, too. 

Remember there's a story behind it all. God's grace covers us, let our grace cover them. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Ellery says.


"Here, mom, here. I'm bringing you your coffee. I'm being careful. Really careful, mom."

Slosh, slosh, slosh. 

"Uh-oh, mom, I got a ploblem."

This is the synopsis of my morning. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Thankful through Exhaustion


On many occasions, when I am pondering motherhood, I become exhausted. Just thinking about it, I'm exhausted. 

It is not one sole act that leads to exhaustion. It's not the twenty thousand books we read a day, often, each one twice.

It is not the shoes left scattered in the yard. Not one pair, but three, that must be found in a difficult game of hide-and-seek before the coming storm.

And it certainly isn't the helpfulness of the toddler. The way she sweetly 'helps' make pancakes by creating a masterpiece of droplets of batter on the kitchen floor, followed by a proud proclamation of her accomplishments.

You see, it's the combination of everything the two-and-a-half year old darling does, on top of everything the ten month old needs.

Some days, if we're honest, it's just rather difficult.

Most days, if I am not consciously, actively, zealously looking for the good in the trenches of motherhood, I am pretty sure I'd overlook it altogether. But some days, those precious days, when both kids nap at the same time. When laundry has been folded and put away, dishes are clean, and I have approximately 30 minutes of quietness, I see it. I see the beauty as the toys lie motionless. The sound machine hums in the background, while my fingers hold fast to the chai tea steaming between them, and I smile. I smile as what I perceive as hectic, all fades away.

This leads me to my point.

This hectic moment, the days that pass quickly but seem to drag on forever, are supposed to be work, but this work, the work I am doing in my daughter's life, in my son's life, should be glorifying to the One Most Holy. Bringing him glory through the raising of my kids. 

You see, the shoes left strewn about the yard means there must have been playful, happy feet tromping over the grass just moments before. The pancake batter in puddles on the floor means there must have been a little girl wanting to be just like her momma, taking notes, and learning what life is all about, at the heels of the one who loves her most. The books, the thrill of reading, yearning to learn through imagination is what we all hope to inspire in our kids.

But how often do we see it that way? How often do we long for the messes to not happen, the shoes to just be put away, and the books to read themselves?

Perspective. Maybe I need a change in perspective. 

"In everything, give thanks, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:18

This is His will for me

My perspective should be with that focus. 

Motherhood. A fiesty two year old. A sweet son with spina bifida. There's a reason, and every hour, every minute, every moment of chaos, I must choose the perspective of joy. The perspective of thankfulness. The perspective of raising God-loving children by showing them how to love our Lord through every minute of craziness.

This is my prayer. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Elam's Birth Story


Today, I sit down with the cursor flashing before me on this blank page. My blog, I have so desperately deserted you, and for that I am sorry. My heart is still overflowing with words, words that have been quite difficult to make public, to make open for everyone to read, including myself. Sometimes it is easier just to keep the words of your heart so locked away that you don't even recognize them when they finally come.

I keep shifting in my chair. Shifting back and forth, occasionally sipping on the glass of ice water I have before me. Thinking. I'm thinking of the appropriate introduction to a blog that is so intensely ingrained into every part of my being: Elam's birth story.

Elam's story is a little different than Ellery's. Although, the gist of it is the same: labor, delivery, baby. With him, emotionally, there is much more to it. Much more heart behind it. Much more terror. Much more awe laid out before me as God's grace covered me completely in my time of desperation.

June 20, 2013.

It began.

Unprepared and without a bag packed or plans for Ellery, I woke up at 5 am and used the restroom. I crawled back in bed and noticed something a little odd; I was leaking. A little curious, I went back to the restroom, continuing to leak. I was quite certain, although not completely positive, my water had broke.

I woke Justin up calmly, informed him I was going to the hospital to verify that, in fact, this was not a false alarm. I left, and he took charge of packing a bag, finding someone to watch Ellery, and being ready when I got home.

I arrived at the local hospital 5 minutes later, informing them upon arrival I would not be having our baby at their hospital, however I did need to make sure this was 'go time' before I drove to New Orleans. After being checked in and put in a room, I had already determined that this was 'it', but now I was stuck.  I was determined 'the hospital's property' and they did not want me to leave. They wanted me to stay, liability reasons, and have the baby with them - to which I proceeded to set them straight. All of my emotions and every ounce of fear were put aside as I was protecting my right to birth my baby in the best place possible for him. From what I remember, I asked for a release form, relieving them from any liability if anything was to happen to me or the baby upon leaving their hospital, and that was it.

 Longer than it should have taken later, I was home telling Ellery good-bye for an undetermined amount of time, shaking as tears left my eyes. This wasn't supposed to be happening, not yet. My heart hurt as I embraced the mystery that laid before me. The mystery that left me feeling more out of control than anything else has ever come close.  Within ten minute of returning home, Justin and I were loaded in the car and headed to Ochsner. The two hour drive seemed like ten. Prayers for a safe delivery, prayers for strength, prayers for peace and knowledge that God was in control were breathed with every exhalation of my lungs. Tears continued to roll. Nervous tear. Excited tears. Finally, we start the second half of this journey, tears.

The drive was uncomfortable - as liquid continued to leave Elam's side and enter the world where he'd be welcomed soon. My doctor was expecting me, and we were escorted directly to a room upon our arrival.

I did the typical change from my everyday clothes to my laboring gown and positioned myself in bed. It was a little after nine in the morning at this time and I was 3 cm dilated. Since this was an unusual case and several people were to be in the operating room upon Elam's descent and entering, I was hooked up to Pitocin to help induce contractions.

At this point, I made my decision public that I did not want an epidural. This was my journey, a rollercoaster ride with my son, one where much joy and much pain had already been encountered, and this was the end of our time as one. I wanted to feel it. I wanted to experience every bit of our transition to something deeper, to something more beautiful - to life.

Looking out the window, I saw clouds rolling in over the Mississippi River. The clouds came, the sky grew dark, and it began to rain. Cars crossed the bridge that connected the shores. My heart was made full in the distraction God had placed before me. It was ominous, yet it was so very beautiful.

At this point, contractions were coming on strong and I was progressing pretty quickly. Justin never left my side once labor had truly started. He began to support me like he had during Ellery's birth by rocking me through the tightening, but this time around, I just needed to do it alone. I found a way to breathe through the intense moments, eyes closed and humming softly. When relief would come, my eyes would find Justin with his nose buried in the bible his grandparents gave him a long time ago. He'd read a verse aloud and God's presence would fill the room.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us. Ephesians 3:20

How those words sound so sweet.

A resident would occasionally come to monitor progression, but for the most part, we were left to peaceful laboring on our own. This continued until around 3 o' clock in the afternoon when Elam must have moved. Suddenly his heartbeat was being detected at an alarmingly slow rate, and all of the fiddling and adjusting of the external heartbeat monitor would not indicate that it was a false alarm. We tried changing positions and walking around, all of which was unsuccessful. The resident made the decision to place an internal monitor on the top of his head for a more accurate heart rate read.

That was the end of my peaceful labor.

The scare of something happening to Elam, after our already long journey, was unbearable. The heart rate was now within the normal range and all proved to be a false alarm, however, I couldn't get settled back down.

All of my nervousness came rushing back. Every thing I had put aside in order to enjoy the last moments being intimately one with my little boy invaded my every thought and breath. The devil was attacking me where I was weakest, and he was winning.

My progression stalled at 9 cm for two hours. Back labor controlled me. Swaying, humming, and dancing only brought tears of frustration, when finally Elam began to descend.

He was coming down face first, so the doctor decided it was best to manually manipulate and rotate him before we were wheeled down to the operating room to start pushing. This was 5:35 pm.

As we entered a room of solid white, medical professionals all around, needles and gauze, scrub hats and sterile everything, I was once again at peace. I wasn't thinking of his future surgeries. I wasn't thinking of everything we had to be afraid of. I was thinking about him. My son. The one I'd always fight for, always love, and always give everything I had to make this world a better place for him to live.

I began pushing at 5:40pm. I took a deep breath, I let my body control my movements. Three breaths later, Elam's little lungs filled air and our hearts transcended to a place of perfect love.

He was quickly taken away from us to a side operating room. They wrapped his back in temporary gauze, swaddled him tightly, and brought him back to me.

Chills ran through me, as tears filled my eyes. My face suddenly drenched with tears, the nurse asked if I wanted to hold him. Shaking with joy, I held him close as I  whispered, over and over, "I love you. I love you. You're perfect!"

He was everything we'd hoped for. He was our son; breathing, crying, beautiful.

Our time together lasted close to ten minutes. They eventually wheeled him up to the NICU and told us they'd call us when he was ready for us to visit. I headed back to my room.

We made the "He's here!" phone calls and announced his name. We loved, we ate, we were so happy.

Our 5 month journey of curiosity and uncertainty had just turned into a lifetime of it. A lifetime of 'I don't knows', medical interventions, and a million reasons to hit our knees daily in search of our loving Lord's grace and wisdom.

We went five days only being able to look at him.
We spent nine days in the NICU.
We made countless trips up and down the elevator and back and forth from the parking garage.

Every minute, every stress, every tear was worth it.

We're thankful for the way God shows up in the most beautiful of ways, in the exact moments you need His warmth the most.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Because he's here, we celebrate!

'I wait for The Lord, my whole being waits, and in His word I put my hope.' Psalms 130:5

We hope, we wait, and we only find pleasure and contentment when we place our whole being in Christ our Savior and His blessed will.

It is incredible the difference a year can make. This time last year we were blissfully ignorant of the journey our God was about to reveal to us. A journey that initially left us winded and full of heartache, but has since brought more joy than one can imagine. 

In case you missed it, our journey with Elam started with this.

Then four days later, it turned into this. Praise God, it turned into this! 

This day, one year ago, I was unaware of what was to come. Unfamiliar with the details of spina bifida, never dreaming the child growing inside me would have it. 

We spent five months traveling from specialist to specialist. From Nashville to New Orleans. Month after month still uncertain what the diagnosis meant for our child. We knew a lot, but at the same time, we knew very little. 

With all that we knew, and all the more we didn't, we loved. We loved every little piece of our precious boy, and were thankful. 

Thankful for life. Thankful for hope. Thankful for spina bifida. 

You see, spina bifida doesn't just affect Elam. It is affecting me. My heart. My walk with God. And my drive to do something more. Something more than the selfish desires I get lost in. 

And I know, also, it is affecting others. Elam's life, Elam's story has reached beyond our living room, beyond our town, state and country. Lives all over have heard and prayed and have seen God move in ways only he can. And we are thankful. Thankful for the opportunity to be used as an instrument in God's perfect plan. 

This year, and every year from now on, our plan is to celebrate January 28. It's not Elam's birthday, but it is something equally as special.

It is the day we celebrate life and celebrate spina bifida. We celebrate the dark hole we were graciously pulled out of, and embrace the journey in which we were blessed. 

'For I know the plans I have for you, Elam, declares The Lord!' Jeremiah 29:11

Because he's here, we celebrate.

 Praise God, we celebrate!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

In lieu of a Christmas tree...


As the Christmas season begins, our hearts are overflowing with the blessings this past year has brought us.

This evening when Justin got home from work, we loaded the kids in the car and headed to the Christmas tree farm. One kid was throwing a hyperventilating fit because he's probably teething, and the other one was screaming because she was out of crackers - and because she's two. Apparently they have a saying about two year olds.

Everyone was in, buckled, and semi-contained when, about a mile down the road, we realized the Christmas Tree farm closed at 5. It was 5:15. We turned around and Ellery asked, "What you doing, mommy?"

"We're going back home," I said sorrowfully. 

Insert another tantrum here

All day we had talked about Christmas trees and how much fun we were going to have cutting one down when daddy got home. Now I tell her we aren't getting one today. 

When we got home with a very disappointed toddler asking for a Christmas tree, Justin went to the backyard and cut down something resembling a very large twig. He brought it inside and called it a Christmas tree. She didn't know the difference. To her, it was a Christmas tree.

He hurredly draped some colored lights on it and plugged it in. Ellery's face lit up with pure delight, and my heart melted. 

Innocence. I was reminded of innocence.

Each year, we usually spend about $50 on a Christmas tree. We spend money on decorations and festivities and unnecessary gifts. We find great joy in all of these things, yet we sometimes fail to let the true reason for the season envelope our hearts, inspiring us to think more about others than we do ourselves. 

As we stood in awe of how such a simple  branch could be transformed into something so incredible, we had an idea. 

An idea that I really love. 

We aren't going to buy a Christmas tree this year. Instead of spending that money on something that will pass away as quickly as it came, we want to donate it to a good cause. 

Our hearts have not been led in any particular way yet, as far as where our donation will be going, but we are prayerful that the right opportunity will be opened to us. 

Though it is no great sum of money that we are planning to give, we are excited about this opportunity the Lord has laid upon our hearts, an opportunity born of a very hectic afternoon. Perhaps in the simple act of comforting a disappointed toddler, the seeds have been sown for a new family tradition. Isn't our God good?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Thankful.


Today I want to revisit thankfulness.

Thankfulness in the sense that, even when things are going wrong (for what seems like constantly), we remember how much we have already been given. 

I am human, I am just like you. I sometimes ask the question, "why" and maybe feel a little sorry for myself. My husband has even seen me throw a hyperventilating fit from time to time. 

That's me.

It's crazy how we can so easily get sucked into the "but that's not what I had planned" phenomenon and use that as an excuse to just sit and wallow in our own self pity. 

But you know what? That's the easy way out. That's the way for the cowardly!

And I choose not to be a coward. 

I choose to trust that my plans aren't the best for me anyway, and whatever God has in store for our family will be far more fulfilling than the uneventful, perfectly polished picture I once had of our future. 

Thankful. Today I am thankful.

I am thankful for my husband who lets me hyperventilate. 

I am thankful for my (very close to) two year old, and her spunky, independent personality. 

And I am thankful for Elam and how he continuously shows me how to see past imperfection, and teaches me to embrace it. 

Things haven't been necessarily easy for us lately, in regards to Elam's health. A few weeks ago tests showed we needed to start cathing him four times a day. We half expected this, but it still stung our hearts a little. 

Since then, he has had several reactions to several things, a UTI, and a strabismus diagnosis. All of which, in the big scheme of things, and a few years down the road, don't mean much, but in the here and now, it is a little stressful. 

Although life is chaotic, we've got it pretty good. I choose to remember that today, and not take this time for granted. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Ellery says...


Ellery and I like to make the time for daily dance sessions in our living room. I am not sure if you can really call it dancing, since we just jump up and down with our hands above our head. But nevertheless, we dance and have fun.

Today, while Elam had some tummy time, and Ellery and I were giving him entertainment, Ellery loudly proclaims, "S-op! Kiss Eyum bwake (break)!" And runs over to him to kiss him on the head. And then returns to dancing. 

She is only slightly obsessed with her little brother. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Grace and second chances.

Last night, as I reached for the light switch to end the day, the anxious calling of Elam's wakefulness paused my intentions and guided me to his room.

As I stood over him, pondering the best course of action to help ease him back into sleep, a sense came over me urging me to cherish it - cherishing his need for me. 

So, in the soft glow of the nursery night light, my feet shuffled to keep rhythm with the sound machine and I let myself cherish our dance. The dance, as mothers, we are only given for a moment in time. 

As we swayed in the peacefulness, I was suddenly thankful for sleepless nights. Thankful for baby cries and their need for their mothers. 

My role as a mom is one I could never fully understand until I became one. The love and exhaustion that radiates from your every being is powerful. 

Powerful - and terrifying. Terrifying in a sense that this job of mothering is all about example. 

It is easy when toddlers are being angelic and infants are smiling - but when patience is all used up and grace ran out thirty minutes ago, my role becomes vital as little eyes are watching and copying every move. 

As time slips by, I am slowly learning to catch each moment that I can and enjoy the neediness. For in their need lies the opportunity to teach and to lead by example. 

As I teach Life to these sweet children, and strive to give grace and forgiveness, I am humbled by the example our Father set before us. Grace sufficient has been given to me, although I am far undeserving. Knowing that, shouldn't  I be able to see my own children's need for free and unmerited favor and fulfill it with patience and second chances?

It isn't always easy, but I believe it is something that is more important than my human brain can fully comprehend. Being able to lead my children with the example of gentleness and patience, giving them grace when there seems to be none left, is my prayer and the aching of my heart. 





Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Potty time!


We have clapped and praised and fully supported the dinosaur sticker manufacturer this week.

And I think our big girl has officially outgrown her title of 'Little'. 

Since Sunday evening, Ellery has been using the potty all on her own, and has only used diapers for nighttime! 

To give credit where it is due, she pretty much potty trained herself. For when I took her diaper off on Sunday, she just started using the potty, and hasn't stopped. 

She likes to show me what she's done.  She likes to cheer, "Yay! Eh-rey did it!". And she likes Dinosaur stickers!
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