Monday, July 31, 2017

The Balance of All or Nothing

I thought that when I became a mother, my "hard-and-fast," "black-and-white," "all-or-nothing" personality will mellow out a little bit.

Perhaps there is still time, but so far, it seems to only have become more extreme.

Jason recently summarized it this way, "When we got married, you wanted to be the best wife you could be, and have the best marriage. That is a good thing, but your desire to have everything perfect was stealing your joy.  Eventually, you relaxed a little bit.  Now that you're a mom, you want to be the best mom you can be, and try to do everything right. That's a good thing.  But it is also stealing your joy in the moment. Eventually, you will settle down again."

I have a fear of failure, a fear of doing something wrong, a fear of imperfection.

Thus, I want to do all I can to prevent the inevitable.

I have failed, and will fail again.
I have done things wrong, and will do things wrong again.
I have never been perfect, and never will be, this side of Heaven.

Yet, I try to control. I try to manage. I try to organize.

So that things work out. So that things go right. So that things are perfect - that is, from my perspective.

But I am an imperfect human being - so everything I do has at least an ounce of imperfection in it.

Accepting and embracing my fallen state is humbling for me, and not something I do very well.  But it is something that marriage and now motherhood is slowly and painfully helping me figure out.

God is daily stripping down my stubborn, sinful, strong-willed attitude.

But He is doing it in such a gracious way.  He has given me a joyful little girl and an incredibly patient and happy husband.

I can't help but thank the Lord for his goodness to me.

So, while part of me often discontentedly wishes for more or less or something, the other part of me realizes I have exactly what I need, and am growing into exactly who God wants me to be.

"As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 18:30).

Thursday, April 20, 2017

In the waiting

As I wait for our daughter to enter the world, I have to say it is the most surreal time of my life.

And the fact that we are now going on 41 weeks and 4 days (i.e. 11 days overdue so far), the waiting and unsteady emotions intensify the limbo feeling that I've been in for a while now.

All of the following thoughts have run through my mind the past week, most of them in the same day, within minutes of each other.  Then they repeat.

We are going to have a baby!!! - Said with nothing but pure joy and excitement.
We are going to have a baby! - Thought with fear and trepidation.
She's going to come at any minute.
She's never going to come.
At the same time, it is inevitable.  Unlike a final exam which you could just skip.  Or unlike a party or event, which you could walk out of, at this point, the labor and delivery of a baby is inevitable, unless, of course, Jesus comes back before then.
We shouldn't make any plans in case labor does start.
We should go ahead and make lots of plans so we have something to do while we wait!
But, still get lots of rest and sleep cause that's what everyone says we should do.
I might as well try castor oil.
I should definitely never try castor oil.
I should get done all the things I wanted to get done before she is born. - Somehow, there are still things to do, pretty sure there always will be.
I don't want to do anything.
I want to do everything.

2 weeks ago, I thought the big event in my life was labor.  Now, I feel like the big accomplishment in my life will be having survived waiting for 2 weeks.

But in reality, the 'bigger' event is still yet to come.  Labor, in whatever form it happens, is literally just around the corner.

I have two doctor's appointments today - a Non Stress Test to check everything with Baby Eno, and a check for me.

If anything is wrong, we'll do the induction right away, today.

Assuming everything is fine, a medical induction is scheduled for Saturday, which will be 41 weeks, 6 days.

At the end of the day, I will only sleep in my bed 2 more nights (max) before going to the hospital and Lord willing, coming home a few days later with our daughter.

At the end of the day, a week from now, by God's grace, we will have had our daughter already for a few days.

Even though I thought we would already be in that place by now, and even though we've had more than 9 months to think about it, it's still an insanely crazy and thrilling thought!

And the end of the day, the waiting is almost over.

She is almost here.

Could anything be more exciting!?

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things.  Wealth and honor come from you alone, for you rule over everything. Power and might are in your hand, and at your discretion people are made great and given strength.

“O our God, we thank you and praise your glorious name!  But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us! We are here for only a moment, visitors and strangers in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon without a trace.1 Chronicles 29:11-15

Thursday, March 2, 2017

One year ago, we started the next phase...

One year ago this week (March 2, 2016) Jason and I signed papers for the next phase of our infertility journey.
I might not have remembered this exact day, except that I documented it in my Bible.  I (almost) read through the whole Bible last year, and am doing it again this year with Jason – although we realized it may take us 2 years at the pace we are going.
A week ago, we approached Exodus 13.  God had just freed the Israelites from being slaves in Egypt.  As we read it, I saw a note in the margin and was reminded of how the Lord also lead Jason and me in a round-about way to where we were in that moment.

The Scripture says:
“When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.” But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. – Exodus 13:17-18
The Lord knew that leading the Israelites by the way of the Philistines (the enemy) would be shorter and more direct.  But it would not be the best for the people – their faith was perhaps not as strong and not ready for that experience.  So, God in his mercy lead them by the longer route, around the Enemy.  At first, this seems so gentle and kind of God to care for His people by not giving them more than they could handle.
But what happens next?  The RED SEA!?
Did God think that coming up on the Red Sea would not scare His people?  Would going by the Enemy camp really have been that bad?  Surely the Israelites could have at least fought their way through, whereas the Red Sea meant death.  What was God thinking?
First, the Israelites didn’t even know that God led them away from the Enemy.  God just did that without the people realizing.  They weren’t even aware of His protection of them by leading them around.  I’m so glad that this detail is included here for us to see how God works for us and for His glory in ways we don’t even know about!
Second, I think the best part of this is that God knew all along that He was bringing them to the Red Sea.  It’s almost comical, because the people are so afraid and even angry by their arrival at the impassable water, but God is totally in control and of course was aware from the beginning of time that He would be leading them to this point.
How quickly we forget He lead them there.  Therefore, it’s his ‘problem’ to figure out. Of course, it’s not a problem from God’s perspective, but rather a divine opportunity to show His power.
The text could have easily said, “God did not lead them by the way of the Enemy camp because they were not ready, in their own strength, to figure that out.  And also that would not have brought God as much glory as the second option.  So instead, God lead them to the Red Sea so that they would not even need to fight – instead the Lord would part the waters.  Thus his people would be taken care of far better than they would have if they had to fight an Enemy AND He would receive all the glory.”
He is God after all.
As I read my note from last year, and as I think about all the movements the Lord lead us through getting from there to where we are now, I can’t help but acknowledge His wisdom and His goodness to us.
Yet, the decisions of this past year were not made without struggle.  And I know there will still be reacting and rebelling to different situations ahead of us.  Unfortunately, we are not that different from the Israelites.
To be honest, both Jason and I have questioned God at different times along this journey and with different aspects of it.  We have wondered about God’s plan.  We have thought we knew better.
Thankfully, God is merciful and good and while He is with us in our struggle, he does not leave us there.  Like with the Israelites, He has a plan that is far better for us, and will bring Him greater glory.
He leads us, guides us and ultimately parts the seas for us that we might see Him more clearly and acknowledge that He is God through it all.
As Jason and I are on the edge of becoming parents, my anxiety and worry has increased in anticipation of our future.
Still, even in my deepest fears, I am unable to forget God’s faithfulness to us.
I have documented much of our journey – primarily for those moments of doubt, those days of confusion, those nights of frustration.
To remember His presence has always been, and will always be with us, just like the pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night to guide the Israelites.
And just like he paved the way for the Israelites, even in the midst of their fear and doubt, He won’t stop leading, guiding and drawing us to Himself today.
His plans for us are good, and we can trust Him.
*After writing this post, I heard this song, and it's become a favorite to mark this season in my life*
Red Sea Road - by Ellie Holcomb

Sunday, January 29, 2017

It will get worse before it gets better...

That's essentially what my doctor told me when I asked her about a variety of third trimester struggles.

The past two nights have been yet again challenging in terms of sleeping. Everything I've read, and everyone I talked to says the same thing: "This is normal and just preparation for what is to come."

So much to look forward to!

But I mean this in the most positive way.  While there are hard things about this phase of life, knowing the reason for it is life-giving, even in the midst of feeling sleep deprived. There are many hard things in life we experience that we don't ever know the reasons for, or at least we generally can't understand the reasons prior to experiencing them.
Pregnancy is a constant reminder of what is involved when new-life is created, with labor and delivery as the pinnacle.
But so much of growing and birthing and caring for a baby happens on the side, behind the scenes.

The unspoken things that your body goes through during pregnancy, are just one example of the hidden sacrifices of mommies everywhere.  I'm only just beginning to understand some of them.  And no, I can't say I embrace them fully 24 hours/day.  I need the Lord's help even now to see and embrace His hidden treasures for me in what are truly relatively minor third trimester woes.
In the same way, I will need his help in the middle of the night 3 months from now when I will want to give up on breastfeeding.  I will need his help in the middle of the day when Baby Eno decides to cry uncontrollably and I can't get her to stop.  I will need his help when Jason and I disagree on parenting, or anything else for that matter and lack of sleep makes what might be a minor issue feel like life and death.
It scares me how much I will need the Lord, and how much I already need Him now in ways I didn't even a few months ago.  And yet, it comforts me because He is the only one who can provide the help, the comfort and yes, the discipline I need.
Am I ready to grow, just like this little one is growing inside me right now?  Am I ready to be fed, to be changed, to be held, to be loved in all new ways by my Heavenly Father?
Even though you get 9 months to prepare for it, I am sure I am not ready.  But Jesus is ready, and has been from the beginning of time.  He can't wait :-) He knows it is good for me.
As we have throughout this journey in particular, we will continue to ask the Lord daily for help, and for guidance.  I will ask others to pray the same for me.
I know I will not always receive His care with humility, or happiness. But I will trust Him and what He is doing.  He has already proven himself to me throughout my life, and this is just one more thing He is doing.
And there is no doubt, this will be life-changing.
It's true, here on earth, a variety of things might get worse before they get better, but no matter what, when God gives me a taste of a heavenly perspective, the best is always yet to come!

The night may be filled with tears, but in the morning we can sing for joy!
- Psalm 30:5


Sunday, January 1, 2017

2017 Goals!

It's that time of year.  The beginning!  The time to plan! #besttimeofyear #goals #plans

I'm more of a planner than my husband Jason, but both of us usually begin thinking about goals for the upcoming year around our wedding anniversary which is November 22.  We have a month or so to reflect on our goals from the past year and consider what goals we might want to have for the coming year.

I can't recall exactly what sparked this idea a few years ago, but I am thankful for it.  I think it was a combination of a Dave Ramsey podcast along with the concept of "we never drift toward good things/holiness" that motivated me to be more pro-active in writing out goals.

Looking back on my Goals for 2016 and Goals for 2015, there are definitely ones that I barely touched, and other ones that I very much succeeded at.

However, in my opinion, the goal of having goals is not so much to accomplish everything perfectly, although that would be ideal.  Setting goals and attempting to reach them helps me prioritize my time and energy in the specific ways I feel that God wants me to glorify him.

It's not an exhaustive list.  And it's not a list that is set in stone.  There may be unexpected things that come up that require our goals to be altered in some way - that's okay.  But in general, when things are hard and I feel like giving up, having a list of goals reminds me what my priorities are and what things in life I want to move towards.

Plus I simply love planning stuff, so making goals is extremely life-giving for me! :-)

And I will say Jason and I have gotten better at making goals over the years.  We try to have realistic expectations.  And now we think about goals for specific categories.  We also attempt to have some goals be measurable so we can see actual progress.

So, without further adieu, here are my goals for this next year.  Oh, and if you visit our home, you'll see both my goals and Jason's posted on our refrigerator.  This helps us hold each other accountable and remember what it was we said we wanted to do!

"Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans"- Proverbs 16:3

Elizabeth’s goals for 2017

1. Marriage:  Give affirmation instead of judgement
2. Kids: Have a baby :-) Do exercises and eat well in preparing for labor!

3. Invest in close friends
4. Game night every quarter (4x/year!).

5. Do budget every month
6. Look for other streams of income (online)

7. Write out all tasks on Mon for the week
8.Email or call 2 partners/month to check in
9. Visit all supporting churches this summer!

10. Read through Bible using weekday plan with Jason (morning)
11. Daily prayer time with Jason (evening)
12. Lead T2Dgroup/women ministry at church

13. Walk or Exercise 5x/week.
14. Develop Eno Eating Plan.
15. Beach 1x/month (Emotional health!)

16. Write 1 blog entry/week
17. Read Surprised by Joy with Jason
18. Read for 5+ minutes before sleeping
19. No social media in the morning!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. ~ Proverbs 3:5-6

Sunday, December 25, 2016

One year ago - Merry Christmas!

I recently found notes in my Bible from December one year ago.  On December 25, 2015, I asked that God might be creating life inside me.  Instead He was creating in both Jason and me a dependence on Him as only He knew exactly how and when He had planned for us to have a baby, which was much different than we would have thought.
At this time last year, Jason and I had just finished several infertility treatments and were in the midst of considering what to do next.  We weren't exactly on the same page and neither one of us had any idea what was ahead.
It was an emotionally trying time as we waited on the Lord to know how to proceed in the journey towards becoming parents.
Looking back, it is amazing to think of all the decisions, all the questions, all the heartache, all the hard conversations, all the prayers, and all the love and support from family and friends that has brought us to where we are now.
By God's grace, here we are - anxiously awaiting the birth of Baby Eno in just over 3 months -- 105 days to be exact...well, you know whenever the precise day is that God has planned for Baby Eno to come into the world!
This Christmas has been the first in several years that I haven't been in the midst of a depression.  It's true.  The past few Christmas seasons have had incredible highs and devastating lows that have wrecked my emotions.  From experiencing the thrill of being newly married to crying never-ending tears while watching my Grandfather pass away, to realizing the quiet absence of extended family at a time when everyone in the world (or so I thought) was with their families, to wondering if we would ever have children.
In the past (and still sometimes today), I have let my emotions control me, telling me that the only good Christmas' were the ones that used to be.  The ones that were in the past.  The ones that looked and sounded and smelled and felt a certain way -- a way that was different than the present moment I was in.  These thoughts clenched joy and stifled smiles that could have relaxed my stressed being, as well as been a blessing to someone else.
There have been moments this year too where memories from Christmas' past come flooding in and initiate an intense longing for what once was.
But, instead of stealing the joy from the good things God has for me in this moment, these memories have brought a peaceful reflection and thankfulness for the precious times that God has given me in the past.
December 2016 - A picture with my parents and sister who visited in mid December.  No, it's not a picture of what Christmas used to be (except for the pretzel salad!), and it's not December 25th. But this moment is still a gift from the Lord.
There are joys to be experienced this Christmas and in future Christmas's regardless of my state of being, my location, or who is around me.  It is not always easy or natural to take hold of the joy that is already mine, but it is there all the same. 
Because of Jesus.
Jesus brings deep joy that is offered to us in the midst of tragedy, loneliness, sickness, and heartache.  It is offered to us in the midst of busy lives.  It is offered now, at Christmastime, especially.
As we await the birth of Baby Eno, I realize even more how God's people anxiously waited for the birth of Jesus!  Even after the angel's proclamation to Mary and Joseph about the birth of their son, they still had to wait 9 months to meet him!
The announcement, the birth, the life, the death, the resurrection and the second coming of Jesus bring the greatest peace and joy the world has ever known.  It is something that never gets old, never disappoints, and never fails.
What a gift Baby Eno has been to us already!
Truly more than we can imagine.
And how much greater is the gift of Jesus, who has already come, already died for our sins, and is reigning on high, inviting us to trust Him and live life for him?!

We have much to be thankful for...not just this Christmas, and not even every Christmas, but every single day of our lives.

Christmas Eve, 2016

Friday, September 23, 2016

Annoyances can destroy, if we let them.

This blog post is a reflection on 2 Samuel 18-19 and includes a confession.

This story, from 2 Samuel 18-19 is about King David's overwhelming idolization of his son, Absalom, even at the cost of his people and kingdom.

Even before David's army went to battle, King David gave instructions to his leaders, "Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom."

But the big wake-up call comes after King David finds out about his son's death.  King David allows that event to cloud the reality that his army just won a victory! Sadly, King David can't even hear the news about the victory, but is only concerned about his son, Absalom.

Chapter 18, Verse 31: " Then the Cushite arrived and said, “My lord the king, hear the good news! The Lord has vindicated you today by delivering you from the hand of all who rose up against you.”
The king asked the Cushite, “Is the young man Absalom safe?”

Notice King David doesn't even acknowledge the victory.  His only concern is for his son. 

The Cushite replied, “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rise up to harm you be like that young man.”
The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!”

After this, one of King David's commanders, Joab hears about David's mourning. 

Chapter 19 verse 1 says: Joab was told, “The king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.” And for the whole army the victory that day was turned into mourning, because on that day the troops heard it said, “The king is grieving for his son.”

Joab, removed from the emotional reaction of Absalom's death, is able to see the bigger picture and how David's grief must come to an end for the sake of the kingdom.

Verse 5 says, "Then Joab went into the house to the king and said, “Today you have humiliated all your men, who have just saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters and the lives of your wives and concubines. You love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that the commanders and their men mean nothing to you. I see that you would be pleased if Absalom were alive today and all of us were dead. Now go out and encourage your men. I swear by the Lord that if you don’t go out, not a man will be left with you by nightfall. This will be worse for you than all the calamities that have come on you from your youth till now.”
So the king got up and took his seat in the gateway. When the men were told, “The king is sitting in the gateway,” they all came before him."

Fortunately, David heeded Joab's advice and the rest of the passage tells of David's reconnecting with the people as well as pardoning various enemies for atrocities they committed against him.  Essentially, his kingdom did not come to ruin because he was able to move beyond his grief for the sake of the world around him.

What did I gain from this passage?

The question that came to mind as I was reading this passage was:

What is the one thing in my life that has become a negative filter through which I view everything else?

What has become a fatalistic grid that distorts even the most joyful of realities?

Our Enemy, Satan is the master of stealing joy. He likes nothing more than for redeemed believers in Jesus to walk around as if we have been destroyed or have no joy in life.

I do have at least one thing in my own life that eats away at me in a similar way that David's attachment to his son nearly ate away at him and his kingdom.  (One disclaimer: In this post, I am in no way saying that the death of a child is similar to the annoyance of a dog - my focus here is on how the controlling factor of these two things can destroy.)

I'm embarrassed to admit it, but since most of you will find it comical, I'll go ahead and share.

One massive joy-stealer in my life is Reagan. Jason's dog.  I've written about Reagan before (1 year ago to be exact).  I wrote about the need for "blinders" to block him out of my line of vision.

Oh, if only I could block him out of my life completely.  Then things would be better.  Or so I think.

Like King David, I have become fixated on something that holds my gaze, when there are much more beautiful things to behold just inches away.

Why do I let a dog dominate my life?

Both King David and I let something temporary become a controlling influence in our life when it has no business holding that kind of power over us.

King David got a wake up call from his commander Joab who reminded him of the bigger picture of his people and his kingdom, and how his distraction of his grief was beginning to have a significantly negative impact on the world around him.  King David responded and was able to move out of his grief for the sake of his people.

I got a wake up call of sorts last night, as Jason and I were watching the Red Sox (Jason's team) and the Orioles (my team, which is doing horribly right now!).  Reagan proceeded to go through his nightly routine of licking.  Licking what, you ask?  Anything around him - Jason's legs, the couch, etc.  For the most part it's his paws.  It can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, with occasional breaks.

And it annoys pretty much everything out of me.

Imagine a pig - not a dirty pig, but more of a consistent licking and grunting background noise type pig.  This goes on for what feels like an eternity.  Every. Single. Night.

I've found that if you nudge him every minute or so, sometimes he will get annoyed, and give up on the licking.  But recently, he's gotten mad and angry that he's being disturbed during his incredibly important licking procedure.

Last night, I reached down from the couch and gave him a nudge in his rear end to try and distract him.  He didn't like that one bit and whipped around to eat me alive. Let's just say he definitely let me know never to do that again.

So, there it is.  I've lost.  To the dog.

I have had my wake-up call. Not only is there absolutely NOTHING I can do to change the situation any more than David could change his, but also it is time to realize that this (relatively minor) annoyance is causing destruction in my life as a whole.  

Does this realization mean that I now love Reagan and will embrace him wholeheartedly?  Absolutely not. That is an impossibility.  But it might mean I stop torturing him while he is attempting to clean his feet for the thousandth time.  It might mean I find ways to distract myself from his pig sounds.  It might mean I try to think of the big picture of the rest of my life and how, in comparison, an annoying dog really should not have much weight on how I view the rest of my life.

Does this mean we should simply ignore all annoyances in our life?  I don't think so.  Many small or large annoyances, especially in marriage should be communicated about and dealt with so they don't build on each other and come out in some other ungodly way.

But I do think that most times, annoyances are a matter of the heart and perhaps should be checked to see if there is an ungratefulness or impatience or jealousy or selfishness or simple ungodliness that is playing any part in the reason why we are so annoyed.

I'm not saying any of those play a role in my situation... but then again...maybe I haven't dug far enough yet...or still refuse to admit it...

As Jason and I have come to say about everything in life...."It's a process."

The Balance of All or Nothing

I thought that when I became a mother, my "hard-and-fast," "black-and-white," "all-or-nothing" personality wi...