Monday, September 3, 2018

Huxley's Home Birth Story

At 5:27am on May 11th 2018, I woke up to my water breaking. It was a sensation I'd never experienced with the other two (until pushing). My stomach dropped a bit, both from excitement and nervousness that today would be the day we would meet our mystery baby! I hurried out to the living room where my sweet husband, Sam, was sleeping (I'm a bed-hog at the end of pregnancy) and excitedly woke him to tell him today would be the day and he should call off work.

(My last "bump" picture the night before Huck was born)

We didn't really know how long things would take. Contractions hadn't begun so we both attempted to rest before our other two kiddos woke.

At 9:00am contractions were beginning to come sporadically, maybe every 20 minutes or so. At this point my water had been less leaking out and more gushing out and I was definitely experiencing the pain of not having any water cushion while contracting. Sam took the kids over to a friend's house and we tried to rest and prepare the best we could. Around 2p I was feeling frustrated with the contractions that hurt but weren't seeming to do anything. Tired, I decided to lie down and see if I could nap a bit. I fell asleep but was woken every 10-15 min by contractions. I had heard from a few friends that sometimes 3rd babies throw you for a loop and take a little more effort (my last two labors were fast and furious and unexpected).

At 3p I texted my midwife to see what I could do to speed things along. I was nervous that my water had broken so early and there seemed to be no end in sight. She suggested I walk up and down the stairs for awhile. Wow, did that work! My contractions started rolling in every 2 minutes, so Sam started filling the birth pool! Our kiddos were home napping at this point, and it looked like the timing was going to be just right. We had a sweet family friend over helping boil water for the pool and to watch over our other kids, and our midwife was on her way.
(I had previously asked Sam to document my labor- but as you can tell I was less than thrilled to have my picture taken in active labor)

At 4p I got into the pool just as my midwife was arriving. Her steady presence was a gift. She sat and drank coffee and reminded me to breathe and monitored the baby's heart rate. Our bedroom window was cracked a bit to let in some fresh, early May, Spring air. It was an environment I couldn't have been more thankful for at such an intimate and intense moment. My contractions were feeling relentless and never ending which I knew meant the time was drawing near to push. Our babe had himself in an odd position so pushing was a more difficult than I remember it being with my other two, he got stuck a bit, but at 4:45pm I was holding our brand new baby (boy!) on my chest, in awe, yet again, of this new life in my arms!
(Total bliss. Total relief. Praise the Lord!)

Huck was my littlest babe to date, weighing only 7lbs 10 oz and 19.5 in long. Our midwife (who by the way also goes to our church) Hung around for a bit doing a few checks on Huck, helping clean up, and enjoying some food. Huck and I mostly snuggled for the rest of the evening, getting to know each other and establishing a nursing relationship and fully welcoming being taken care of by loved ones around us. I was smitten and glowing and just so thankful.
(Look at that precious little face!)

What an amazing and beautiful day it was. Happy birth-day sweet boy.

Read Grace's birth story Here
Read Finley's birth story Here

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Adequately Inadequate.


"Oh, how do you pronounce that?? ...Neh-buh-ku-nezz-er ..??" I spoke these words 4 years ago during a women's bible study as I struggled while reading a passage out-loud. It was one of many times I felt a mixture of shame and embarrassment for my lack of knowledge of basic biblical terms, pronunciations, and theology.

It's pretty obvious, in christian circles, that in many ways I am still "catching up". You see, while many of you were off at bible camp, or singing "Jesus loves me" in Sunday school; I was running barefoot and playing kickball with the kids next door. I was ice fishing on lake Erie, with my dad, on a brisk day in February. I was grocery shopping with my mom and begging if I could "puhhleeeaasee push this cart this time!?" I was water skiing with my Papa driving the boat, while my Grandma waited at home with cookies ready for me. While  you were watching Veggie Tales or Little House On The Prarie, I was watching the Simpson's and MTV. While you were reading The Hobbit for the 20th time, I was reading Junie B Jones. I was playing softball in the heat of the summer or running miles to prepare for cross country season. I was biking and skinning knees and elbows -- scars I still have and boasted in many years ago.

When you were waking up for church on Sunday morning, I was waking up for my weekend shift at McDonald's. If I did happen to make it to our local Methodist church, my philosophy was "fake it till you make it", hoping if I was quiet enough or smiled enough no one would notice that I had no idea what the heck they were talking about.

Being a baby christian in an adult body can be intimidating to say the least, the fear of saying the wrong thing used to paralyze me. It doesn't anymore. The Lord graciously softened my heart at the age of 19, saving me, and He has been so faithful to pull me closer to Him ever since. At 25, I am still behind, yes, but it doesn't matter to me like it used to. As the Lord chips away at my pride it becomes clear to me that when I allow my fear of what others may think overpower me, I am literally letting satan get his way. Satan wants me to remain quiet. He wants me to never ask clarifying questions. He wants to keep me in that place of "faking it till I make it". He wants me to be so fearful of people that I never open my mouth or type a single God glorifying word.

And so I push back. I write anyways. I speak anyways.

In that fearful place, 4 years ago, when I was among some of the most intelligent women I've ever met, my knee jerk was to try harder, to study more, to memorize more. I wanted to catch up so I could keep up, but this always ended in tears and frustration. In my self dependency, I was pushing away my kind Father who truly and simply wanted me to call Him "Abba". He had already claimed me as His child, my only job was to allow Him to parent me and walk obediently to His commands.

The Lord is gentle and patient and oh so kind and He didn't give up on me, He heard my cries, He wept with me as I waded through shame and feelings of inadequacy. He has been with me and He has been shepherding me and He has been teaching me in the moments when I'm not trying to "be something". He teaches me in the gospels, He teaches me about His character and his purposes and his promises. He teaches me as I discipline my own kids, in love. He teaches me when I am fully dependent on Him, when I am crying out "Abba (daddy!) please help me! I cannot do this. My heart is hard and often filled with unbelief. I need your help." 

God isn't interested in our brains. He isn't interested in how many bible verses we can emotionlessly rattle off. Heck, without a deep and personal relationship with Jesus, it doesn't really matter how many times you've read the bible or how much theology you know. You can say and know all the right things and still have a dead heart to Jesus. He is interested only in our dependence on Him when we go to his word. He is interested in our rehearsing His promises to ourselves while clinging to His teachings because we know He is the only way. 

Being adequately inadequate is quite alright, friends, embrace it as you soak in Jesus' truths like glass of ice water on a hot day. It's when we aren't trying to prove something when God uses us the most. Trust Him, He loves you and He made you and equipped you to glorify Him. If we are so caught up in our own self glorification or pursuit of respect we aren't serving God, we are serving ourselves.





Tuesday, April 24, 2018

He Is A God Who Answers Prayers


 One of my most persistent prayers is that God would change me. That He would take all the selfishness and pride and anxiety and replace it with gratitude, humility, and complete faith in Him. I have walked the road of severe brokenness and seen severe brokenness and it terrifies me, and gives me a deep longing for the One who takes me and gives me a new name, a new identity. 

The ironic part about this is that when God answers my prayers, I am so prone to grumble and reject His plans for how He needs to prune me. When I prayed for a heart of gratitude He answered my prayers by allowing my husband to be severely ill for several months, opening my eyes to just how thankful I am for a normally healthy husband. To this day, when I remember those long months of illness, I am quick to thank the Lord for a husband who can now get up and go to work, play with the kids, and who is no longer confined to the cold dark walls of the hospital. I am thankful that I don't need to leave my children 3 times a day anymore and live a double life with no normality or consistency. God answered my prayer, but I have to be willing to not forget what He was teaching me because in my imperfect belief and in my flesh, I so quickly lose sight of what He is doing. 

More recently (after 2 years of not knowing why I felt so terrible) I found out that I have gallbladder disease, which has progressively worsened with time. I am in a position where I can't get surgery to remove my gallbladder until after I give birth to our third child. As my pregnancy has progressed, my gallbladder problems have worsened, and at almost 38 weeks pregnant I am feeling sick more often than I am feeling well. I wake up nervously wondering if it's going to be a "good" or a "bad" morning. I wonder if I'm I going to spend the day in pain and nausea or if I am even going to be able to eat at all for a day. I fear each thing I eat because there's no pattern to my gallbladder attacks at this point - they are totally random and out of my control. In addition, I am desperately trying to care my two kids and for this baby in my womb who depends on me for nutrients and who demands a lot of my physically energy. 

I can't say I have handled this suffering well - It is only recently that I have accepted that God really is teaching me and pruning me through this trial. I prayed for humility and He has delivered by making me an unreliable person who frequently needs to cancel plans. I have no choice but to trust Him with my reputation, and accept that my circumstances make being a friend to me a bit different. I have had to humble myself to my limitations, because I am easily tired and not as able to help others like I would like to. In my prayer for gratitude He has opened my eyes to just how incredible it is to feel well. It is a gift  and a joy on the days that I have enough energy to take the kids to the playground or be present with them instead of being stuck on the couch in pain. It is a joy to take a walk with my family as spring rolls around. It is a joy to feel the sun on my face while outside reading a book. It is a joy to be able to eat a meal and not suffer from it.

I prayed for patience and He gave me children who don't sleep well. I have to rely on the Lord daily to meet me where I am depending on what my circumstances are. My patience has expanded immensely and I'm able to handle a great deal more than I ever thought I could, and that glory goes all to God, not me. When I don't get a break in the afternoon or when I am surviving off of 5 hours of sleep, I have to trust that He is sustaining me. When I "lose my cool" I have to trust that He is changing me and teaching me and most importantly forgiving and loving me through it. 

When you pray, He will answer. He only asks that we trust him with how He answers those prayers and that we accept that how He changes us at a heart level could be painful for a time, perhaps both mentally and physically. My physical and mental deprivation has only ever driven me to seek Him more fervently, and that's the point. He gives His love, as our perfect Father, abundantly, but it's up to us if we are willing to receive it. 

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."
Matthew 7:7

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Salve For The Deepest Wounds


The Lord has been putting on my heart to share what He has done to redeem me from 6 years of bulimia. As the years go by, I am so very tempted to hide this part of my story out of deep shame. My bulimia was a complex cry for help and my way of demanding to be noticed and loved, while also filling an ache that couldn't be healed apart from God's love. And while it's not a time in my life I am proud of, God has done so much to deliver me from the mindset that led me to bulimic behaviors. 
For that I am brought to my knees reminded of all He has done for me and the chains of slavery I'm no longer enslaved to. I don't want anything about bulimia to sound glamorous (as I falsely believed as a teen) so I am not going to paint a pretty picture of what my eating disorder was.

From ages 14-19 I saw the bottom of a toilet more frequently than my closest friends. It crept up slowly, the bulimia, at first it was difficult. My body fought against something that was so unnatural- so I did research, asking skilled bulimics online how they managed to be so good at what they did. Within a year I was a skilled bulimic and within 2 years I was a pro. By the end of my fight with bulimia, purging simply meant bending over the toilet and thinking about throwing up. After graduating high school and entering into a highly stressful nursing program, my idea of a fun Saturday became driving to the local Walmart, buying the foods I liked to binge on then sitting in my my car eating only to go back into the store and rid myself of all of it. By 18 I hated my bulimia. I felt trapped in a cycle that left me feeling half-dead, irritable, and always distracted. 

I hated it. But I loved it. 

Being a highly controlling person had led me into a  pit of despair that I couldn't climb out of, unless I was willing to surrender the control that comforted me more than anything. Attempting to fully recover from my bulimia not only meant breaking an addiction that had weaved itself into my DNA, it also meant letting go of the one tool I had to force those around me to care for me. I wanted to be fragile and broken, because who is going to hurt someone who is already fragile and broken. Giving up my bulimia and not allowing it to be my identity meant facing the darkest corners of my personality.

I was 19, engaged to be married in just a few months, and a total wreak. During one of my million fight/talks about my bulimia with my now husband, Sam, I broke down. I was done, I was out, I needed rescued from myself and I knew only Jesus could be that rescue. So in the same breath of swearing off bulimia forever, I devoted my life to a Father I could put my trust in. I put my trust in Him to control my life in a way I never could, and I put my trust in Him to love me in a way no one else could. He was my healing salve to a wound so ugly I could hardly look at myself. I needed His forgiveness to move forward as much as I need His love. 

It wasn't easy. It is still not easy.  

Being a highly controlling person didn't just lead me to years of bulimia. Looking to myself and trusting only in myself has led me to despair and anxiety again and again. I continue to cry out for His help to change the parts of me that if left unchallenged and unchanged would lead me away from God and towards a life of self trust and self destruction. But even though He has led me through such scary roads of mental turmoil, it is so clear to me how He has revealed Himself through my sinfulness. He has used my anxiety and personality quirks and my past wounds to draw me closer to Him, because He is the only one who can comfort me while also changing me for my good and His glory.

I survived what could have been a deadly battle. I am here to tell you that you are not condemned to your past wounds and mistakes. You should not cower in shame and self doubt, but rather share and exalt the one who has parted your red sea. As psalm 139 says; "He knitted you together in your mother's womb" he has searched your heart and will continue to do so. He will use you even if you feel like there's nothing about you He could make useful. My friends, be humble and be thankful for how God has met you in your neediness and how sweet it is to be be forgiven, recreated, and forever perfected through Jesus' blood.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

"I'll Be Home Late Tonight"

The "I'll be home late" text, oh how I dread it. Last week, I received that text everyday, and it left me reflecting on how I should honor my husband through a season of late nights. There was a time not too long ago, that I would respond to these late nights with anger and bitterness. My selfishness and entitlement would take over, and I would not receive my husband well when he finally walked through the door. The Holy Spirit has done work in my heart, and I've learned a few things over the past couple years that Sam has been at a demanding job. As I reflected and reminded myself of these truths this week, I wanted to share what God has taught me. 

Making him feel guilty isn't helpful.

Chances are, your hubby is just a bummed as you are to be spending most of his time at work. He very likely feels torn between spending time with family and being a reliable employee. When I'm tempted to guilt Sam about being away so much, I practice the good ol' "if I were in his shoes" trick and it helps bring me back to reality -- that this is difficult for both of us. 

He's not someone to throw the kids at

Too often I count down the hours until I can throw the kids at Sam and "check out" of the family. I don't physically go anywhere, but I am not present or available to my husband and kids. By all means, parents are a team, but that doesn't mean you should greet your husband at the door with "here's  the kids, see ya". Give him a hug, tell him you love him and you've missed him, tell him you appreciate him, and then ask for help where it's needed. I totally understand that different seasons call for different lifestyles, but it is absolutely vital in a marriage to remember that you are a team, not enemies. 

Check your own heart 

Ask yourself and pray to God to reveal to you why you may be feeling angry or bitter towards your husband. I have evaluated my own heart and have noticed common themes which I'll list here:
  • Unrealistic expectations: I am far more content when I don't expect Sam home at a specific time. When I see the day as an opportunity rather than a burden, I feel more prepared to "mom" for as long as the kids need me, and then I'm not so prone to counting down the hours until Sam gets home. 
  •  Entitlement: Sometimes I feel a great sense of entitlement that I deserve a break, which is really an issue of not having faith in God's promises. He promises to us that he will be with us and for us, and He will supply us with what we need. When I feel afraid that I won't get a break or feel entitled that I deserve a break, it is helpful to remember that our Savior is for me, not against me, and that He promises to care for me (Ps. 55:22, 1 Peter 5:7, Matt 11:28-30).
  • Idolizing my husband: I have time and time again fallen into the lie that my husband is my everything. This is damaging, not only to our marriage, but also in my relationship with God. When I expect Sam to meet all of my needs and "save" me when life is tough, I am inevitably disappointed because I am looking in the wrong direction for sustainability. My role as Sam's wife is to love him selflessly, serve him selflessly, and pray for him fervently. 

Take care of your own basic needs

I so feel all of you reading who just feel "burnt out" and you're thinking that everything I am typing is easier said than done, and you're right. In our weak human state, we have basic human needs that need to be met and we absolutely need humility to know our own limitations. I make my time with God a priority every day, which is vital for surviving this season of little kids who demand my constant attention. It isn't at all a "duty" type of thing, but rather a necessity that I spend time before God being refueled with His truth and his love for me. I also notice a huge difference in how I feel by how I am caring for my body and how I am spending my few moments in the day without the kids. It is so important to prioritize what is "life-giving" and "life-taking" in order to not drown in the sea of your children's needs. This also means being intentional with commitments, because sometimes it's not your kids who are draining you, it's actually all the other stuff that is demanding your time and energy. Be practical and be humble. 


To all you beautiful daughters of Christ-- you are precious, you are loved, and you are seen by our Creator. He will sustain you and He will equip you if you find your rest in Him. Hang in there mama.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Why I'm Ditching my Smartphone.


Last week we embarked on a trip to PA, where both of our families live. We were blessed with delicious food, wonderful conversation, and even some space so Sam and I could have a date in the same town we met. We stayed with Sam's parents, and I was so happy and content to spend an afternoon sitting in a cozy chair by the fireplace, and reading a book by John Piper that Sam and I have been working through. God is so perfect and gentle in His timing, and He chose this moment to test my faith and convict my heart.

I have an addiction to my smartphone, and God knows.

I could sugar coat this confession, however there really isn't any reason to. The truth is, I struggle to stay present with my kids during the day and find myself wasting too much time scrolling through social media rather than living presently in the very moment God has blessed me with. My smartphone addiction is robbing me of my children's little years. This isn't a new conviction for me, it's something I became immediately aware of when we dived into the world of smartphones, 3 years ago. Sure, it didn't help that I had a newborn who would only sleep on me for the first year of her life, or that I spent countless hours nursing that colicky babe, but the heart issue has always been there, which is that I prefer to mindlessly live in a different world aside from the one I am physically in. My heart craves the interaction that facebook offers and the potential self-glory my own life might portray on social media.

Since God has actually been pricking my heart to ditch the smartphone for years, this is hardly an admirable act of obedience. It took that afternoon by the fireplace for me to finally accept that I need to take this step in obedience and that I need to trust God with the fears I have related to giving up something that seems so vital in our world, today.

Matthew 5:29 says; "If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell." 

This is the verse God used to speak to me. It's a verse I have read and known for years, but in this particular case of sin I am dealing with, it became clear that I need to take this issue very seriously as an issue that is ultimately coming between my relationship with God. God doesn't literally mean for us to tear our eyes out if they "cause us to sin" but He is rather using this extreme example to show us how deadly sin is. I have tried self disciplining myself with smartphone restrictions of app blockers, but the temptation is always there, and I eventually fall short of my efforts. 

I doubt I'll be smartphone-less forever but for now, it's what I need to do and I am trusting God to bring me joy through this choice. I am looking forward to a simpler life and I'm thankful that I have the freedom to not have a smartphone (I know this isn't possible for everyone because of work situations). I am praying that God will use these years to cultivate a strong desire to serve Him, without needing other's approval and applaud.

Until next time, 
Annette. 

P.S. I still plan on blogging and look forward to sharing how life is without a smartphone ;)

Monday, December 18, 2017

When The Person You Love Most Becomes Fragile


It was Friday, October 13th when our lives were thrown majorly off balance, the day before was like any other - we had no idea what was to come for the next month.

Sam came home from work that Friday and went straight to the bedroom to lie down. He was having stomach pain he said, and I braced myself for a potential weekend of the stomach flu. Around 7pm he started vomiting, and the vomiting continued all. night. long. In desperation for him to feel some relief I urged him to go to the ER in the morning, where he was given pain medication and anti-nausea medication and sent on his way. Still very sick on Sunday, he went to urgent care and was told that he was just unlucky and having a hard time with a stomach bug. Still very sick on Monday, he went to urgent care and was finally diagnosed with a ruptured appendix. 

Again, we were naive to what sort of suffering God had in store for us, I drove Sam to the hospital and we both figured he'd have his appendix out and be home the next day. This was not true at all. In fact, Sam was just beginning a 3 week hospital stay where he would face physical and mental suffering like he'd never known before, and I was just beginning 3 weeks of emotional suffering I'd never known before.  

Antibiotics
IV fluids
He can't eat? 
He doesn't want to eat
Surgery
Home
Hospital
Home 
Kids
Husband
Need, need, need
Surgery
He's really sick
Sepsis
He's not eating. He's not drinking
I'm not sleeping. I'm not eating
Pregnant? I forgot
Antibiotics 
Cry
Pray
Surgery
Please God, make him better.  

This was the summation of my fleshly thoughts while Sam was sick. I could hardly take the roller coaster of what our life had turned into, and was constantly obsessing with how Sam was doing. Most days I woke up, went to the hospital, came home, put the kids to sleep, went back to the hospital, came home to put the kids to bed, and then went back to the hospital. But God. He was teaching, and He was stretching, and He was and still is using this to grow me and to grow Sam. Once I surrendered to this, I was at peace knowing that when God felt like this should end, He would make it end. the bitterness and anger slowly melted towards the multiple misdiagnoses that led Sam into this medical crisis. And so I prayed as my husband went in and out of surgery and I prayed when he was too weak to say hello to me. I prayed when looking at him was difficult, because I hardly recognized the 15 pounds thinner husband of mine. I prayed when the kids wanted Daddy. I prayed and I prayed and God was with me and I am thankful. 

One day I was driving to the hospital and talking to God and I felt Him ask me; "Am I enough? Would you be ok without your husband?" And somehow, God gave me the strength in my heart to answer yes, I would be ok. I would be deeply, deeply grieved, but I trusted God enough to let Him know that I would be ok. The kids would be ok, I know That HE would be taking care of us and leading us through it all. This was, perhaps, the biggest growth in my faith through this trial, and praise God that He has chosen to bring Sam back into our home and praise God that Sam is now healthy. Praise God, too, that I have the strength in my faith to know that whatever trial God puts us/me through, I can trust Him and I can be unafraid of whatever outcome, because my hope is not of the things in this world, but in the heavenly places. 

When the person you love most becomes fragile, it is hard and it is heartbreaking and it is confusing. But it is not the end, it is mearly a blip in God's massively beautiful plan.