2019 was such a mellow and yet eventful year for us. Not gonna lie, it felt incredibly segmented, which has made it feel like one of the longest years I’ve ever experienced.
But it was so good and so sweet.
2019 saw a lot of reflecting, a lot of slowing, a lot of prayer, and a lot of building.
Emmarie joined us in June, Brady and I started realizing some core goals (though we’re still processing how in the world to even make those a reality… stay tuned during this year) and I launched my photo business into full fledged legality.
Like I said, it was a good year.
Instead of posting a thousand photos in a row to Instastories, I’m putting them here because a). way less obnoxious and b). journal-esque purposes.
The sweet little fairy ninja baby that snuck into our lives and launched us into a new season of growth.
Here is her story so far:
First things first, for those who weren’t aware, Jesus laughed at our plans of waiting a few years after Logan to have our next little one.
And by laugh, I mean knee slapping, tears rolling down His cheeks kind of hysteria.
When I held those two positive pregnancy tests in my hands while trembling in shock and panic, Logan Girl was just barely seven months old.
SEVEN MONTHS OLD.
All sex ed joking aside, this little soul was obviously meant to exist, regardless of our feeble attempts to control our procreating.
And with tears in my eyes and two positive pregnancy tests in my hand, I almost audibly heard Jesus say, “Babe, I need this heart to be part of this world.”
Nine months later, she didn’t tip toe into the world so quietly as she seemed to do in September.
No, our sweet, mellow lady kept me in labor for almost 2 weeks straight.
Very real contractions almost daily.
It was exhausting both mentally and physically.
I heard that the third baby is, for whatever reason, a bit of a wildcard… but this was not what I had expected.
There have been many things that Emmarie has taught us already, but the main theme is this: Jesus does not follow your expectations.
He cares about them, sure.
But He cares about what’s BEST for you more than making sure you get what you’re expecting.
I expected this girl to come early. Statistically, based on how quickly I got pregnant after having Lo, and my track record with the other two, it was expected that she would be here a week or two ahead of “schedule”.
With a week of contractions under my belt, I walked into my doctor appointment at 38 weeks believing with certainty that I would be on the verge of labor.
I left in a huff of frustration as I was told I wasn’t even close. Barely dilated. Barely effaced. And warned that medical induction was on the table at 41 weeks (HELL NO. Been there. Done that. Done more research on that. Absolutely not no thank you go away. Bye Felicia.)
This was not what I was expecting.
My water broke with my other two.
With Memphis, my labor didn’t start until 14 hours later (so fun…just literally sitting there being a broken water bottle of a person).
With Logan, labor started almost immediately.
And with Emmarie? No water breaking until a half an hour before we met her
So here I was, having on-again-off-again show stopping contractions, and I was slightly convinced that my body didn’t know how to labor without my water breaking.
And I think I was partially right. Partially.
Another week of intensifying contractions and the looming possibility of being medically induced, I did everything in my power to shift things.
But the reality is, if your body isn’t ready, nothing short of a c-section will get that baby out.
Tuesday morning, June 11th, I woke up early in the morning in pain.
The good kind.
The kind you want when you’re wanting a baby to remove themselves from your belly.
I walked a mile to prove it was real… and the contractions stayed patterned.
By the afternoon, Brady and I got our bags packed, kissed our kiddos and headed down to Murrieta to be close to the hospital.
But, yet again, for the fifth or sixth time in two weeks, everything halted.
A few hours later, we walked back into our own home. I crawled into bed furious, frustrated and confused. At this point, I had tried it all to keep labor moving… castor oil, fresh basil, 4-5 glasses of raspberry leaf tea a day, getting frisky, bouncing on a birthing ball like I was in a jolly jump for the first time, and walking miles in a day. It didn’t make sense and it felt hopeless, and I officially threw up my hands in defeat.
She’ll come when she comes. And I fell asleep.
3:35am, June 12th.
I tossed and turned, trying to stay relaxed through them, but generally assuming they would stop.
4:15. Annoyed, I got up, sighed and headed to the bathroom.
If they’re real, relaxing in a bath won’t slow them down…but they would stop, surely.
Though, things were different that morning.
Not the feel of the contractions or even my attitude, but a new sign of labor that meant it was closer than before.
And I cried.
Out of exhaustion and total joy. It would be soon.
5:30. We jumped into the car and headed to the hospital. Contractions every 2-3 minutes apart, 90 seconds each, and BRUTAL.
Surely this was it. Surely we’d be holding our baby girl shortly.
We pulled into the hospital parking lot, and they slowed to a stop. Again.
Internally, I frikin lost my mind. Mentally throwing tables and screaming like a toddler.
Brady and I walked around a park right up the street from the hospital, in hopes of jumpstarting things again, but to no avail.
It was almost 8am. And I looked at my patient husband through angry tears and said, “Let’s go home. This is ridiculous and so stupid. I’m done.”
But he, being smarter than my exhausted and furious pregnant self, suggested we go into the hospital and have them at least make sure the baby and I were okay.
I married a man who trusts his gut, praise Jesus.
We waltzed into the hospital… joking and laughing with each other as we waited to be escorted into the labor and delivery ward.
No contractions. No evidence of labor. Nothing but my huge belly.
Our triage nurse was fabulous… funny, energetic, Canadian, respectful of our birthing plans, and very excited about the Stanley cup being on later that evening.
She ran a few tests, and then checked to see how dilated I was.
I thought certainly I was still at 2-3cm because I wasn’t in constant labor. Because as everyone knows, you’re typically in active labor at 4cm or more… BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT IS NORMAL. #science
Her eyes widened and she said, “You’re really not in pain right now?”
Brady and I shot each other a glance and I answered with a puzzled “No…?”
She laughed and said, “Well girlfriend, you’re almost 7cm dilated.”
Of course I was… because my body obviously doesn’t do things normally.
And because their monitors showed that I was not having a single contraction, we left to go get brunch.
It took all afternoon and nap to finally get my body going again. At 5:30ish, Brady sped our Altima back to the hospital, with me obviously heading into transition (sobbing through each contraction and him coaching me all the way).
They got us into a room quickly, and checked to see how much I progressed. I was at 9cm. Almost there, and so ready to be done.
Expecting to be done quickly.
But instead, I sat in transition at 9cm until about 9pm, when my water finally broke.
4 hours in transition.
For those of you who don’t know… transition is, in my opinion, the hardest stage of labor. It’s intense. It’s excruciating. And its usually the point in labor when the laborer says, “I can’t do this anymore. It’s too much.”
It’s the stage of labor that I had been dreading the most for the last nine months… and again, Jesus laughed at me (much more gently and sympathetically this time)… and I got to sit in the space I was afraid of the most…
For 4 hours.
NOT what I was expecting.
But 38 minutes after my water broke, she was in my arms.
Pink and perfect.
Labor is hard.
It is brutal and excruciating.
But I had an amazing support system with this one…. One that I wasn’t expecting.
I always tell Brady that there is no way I could go through the birthing process without him.
He is my coach in every sense. He is my rock. He is my encourager. He is my voice of reason when my mind begins to turn against the process. And again, he grounded me and loved me so well in all of the labor stages with Emmarie… even though I was a crab for a solid week.
We have an amazing friend who serves as a doula. She came alongside me during the last few days of my labor to help move things along… her advice and her care were what helped to shift my frustration into peace in the last few hours, and her presence in the delivery room helped steady me even more. She was a gift, and I’m so thankful that she stepped in when she did.
Even though we didn’t plan it this way, almost my whole girl tribe was there cheering me on, and helping to turn off unnecessary and incessant monitor beeping (be friends with a nursing student, kids).
And lastly, after months of being on purpose about praying for a nurse who would be a perfect fit for us, we were blessed with the Canadian triage nurse, who then made sure that we were given to someone who fit our natural vibes. And she rocked. This awesome young woman had worked as a nurse in a birthing center up until recently. Even more of a sweet touch, she ended up knowing Brady from a family connection years ago. Small world.
This wasn’t the story I was expecting, but it ended up being so much more than I could have hoped for.
And isn’t that just the way that it goes?
What has lived up to my expectation is this: Emmarie Mae is so loved by so many already.
She is vital to our family, and has brought out the best in all of us.
Emmarie means brave and strong, Mae means pearl or treasure, and Faith means complete trust in the Lord.
If that doesn’t define our interaction with her so far, I’m at a loss.
She is perfectly placed. Perfectly timed. Perfectly perfect.
It’s been quite the year… literally one of the shortest and longest years of my life.
We entered this year with a toddler and a huge pregnant belly… and we ended it with a toddler who talks like a 6 year old, a 10 month old who has a spirit that is enormous and fiery, and a small pregnant belly (yes… we’re expecting again this June).
Our family walked into this year with the word peace being breathed over us. It’s what we wanted to pursue in every area of our lives. And wouldn’t you believe no sooner had we made that commitment, we were challenged in that.
Brady and I (him better than myself), have clung to Romans 12:18,
If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
And it has shaped us tremendously.
Alongside that, it has been a year of huge growth, and I hardly doubt that this year will be much different in that area.
Since I’m a photographer, here are my favorite highlights of this year. Fair warning, there are quite a few… and I wouldn’t be offended if you didn’t look at every single one. But they are treasures to me….so here they will be:
We had our sweet girl home with us for a week… and on day 7, she was admitted back into the hospital with RSV.
It’s no joke, kids.
Wash your damn hands / GET AWAY FROM THE NEWBORN IF YOU’RE SICK.
“You will know the truth. And the truth will set you free.”
When I was in high school, I attended a bi-weekly great books program. It was slated for your final three years, and its focus shifted every year. It began with writers like the Inklings, and concluded with thinkers like Dante, Martin Luther and Athanasias.
At least once a month (probably more, but I can’t even give educated approximates at this point in my life… it has been 10 years, after all) the statement “Seek truth, goodness and beauty” was spoken over us as students.
It is a constant mantra for me, replaying in my mind daily, and it has spilled into my parenting.
It always seemed like common sense… as in, “Why wouldn’t I or anyone else pursue those things?”
But it’s not… And only until recently has that thought process been challenged.
Friends, we have lost our drive to pursue good things.
We have lost sight of our call to pursue truth.
What does Paul encourage?
“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
Why is this so hard for us to do?
Because it’s BORING.
How much more fun is it to whisper about what might be happening?
To talk about what you’ve heard?
Bad news is fun news… and it’s also far more comfortable to sit and not investigate what you hear.
Actually, comfortable is the wrong word.
How boring is it to take personal responsibility for what information you’re choosing to let into your life.
How easy is it to shrug off one side of the story because you have to go looking for it.
Friends, how different would our community look if we cared more about people than about the stories we hear about them?
Answer this: would you be willing to spend time with “heroic bible characters” in light of their everyday struggles… or even their occasional major screw ups?
My heart has been WRECKED lately by God pointing out the what if’s of the Bible.
For example: what if I had heard about Moses from someone in church? Good looking guy, but did you hear that he murdered someone a few years ago? Talk about a potential threat. Also, I heard he’s a bit of a coward when it comes to verbal confrontation. Maybe he shouldn’t be involved in our community.
Did you hear about Peter? Guy cannot shake this sailor mouth deal. I can’t believe he can’t figure it out… you think all that time rubbing shoulders with Jesus would have changed him. He must be doing something wrong. He can’t actually be a real follower of Jesus.
Did you hear about Noah? Dude Man saw God do the craziest things, and yet he still can’t shake being an alcoholic. We should “pray” for him.
Did you hear about David? Lazy idiot didn’t do his job and go to war… and then decided he was entitled enough to pressure a married woman to sleep with him because he was bored and horny… and got her pregnant… and then lied in an attempt to trick to her husband to cover up his mistake… and then MURDERED that husband because he wasn’t following along with the lie and took his widow as his own wife. Definitely can’t associate with him… if we do, we’re condoning what he’s doing.
And I can go on and on and on.
But do you notice a common theme?
These people who would make any good, bible believing, church going, Jesus follower squirm in their seat are the ones that God uses to tell His story.
Last time I checked, the straight A bible scholars who care so much about the rules are the ones that miss out… they’re so busy making sure they earn their salvation instead of being concerned with others.
The pharisees missed out. Last time I checked, they were the ones that were scolded for only seeing one side of the story.
Now, hear me: I am not under any circumstances saying that intentionally making mistakes and living in sin is okay. It’s not.
What I am saying is brokenness is a gift. Weakness is a gift. And the people who God chooses to use over and over and over again are the ones that are broken… that have heavy handed weaknesses… the ones that trip and fall all the time but all the more lift their hands up to be lifted back into the arms of their Father.
The unfortunate reality is that the intentionality in living in truth with one another has vanished because our blouses might get dirty from hugging the prodigal son when he returns.
Our reputation may be tarnished from kneeling down to grab the hand of the prostitute, who has done all she can to get near to the One who might just be able to make her see her true worth instead of those bills tucked into her bra from her last customer.
Our friendships might crumble because we choose to value people over the single sided story.
Our tendency is to shy away from those who seem to be wading through crap because crap stinks and stains.
But look down: you’re in it too.
Our tendency is to wade toward others who have the same sort of limps that we do… not always for the right reasons…. Sometimes it’s because they are much better at validating your hurt feelings over challenging you to walk in truth and love.
Check your hearts, friends.
I’m checking mine.
Speaking the truth in love doesn’t mean sugar coating it so that the truth feels good. Truth is hard and it hurts sometimes. And you can be offended by that truth, sure.
But truth is the only thing that transforms. It is the only thing that shores up your brokenness, and it’s the only way things are healed.
Remember this, God doesn’t hate much… but He hates lies.
“These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren” (Proverbs 6:16-19).
Because He is truth. He is light. He is good.
Lies are literally the exact opposite of those things.
Seek truth, friends. Seek goodness and seek beauty. There, you will find Jesus, and all of the wisdom, peace and joy that help you wade through life well.
Just about anywhere you look on the internet right now, you’ll find someone focusing in on how stupid 2016 was… whether it be how many beloved celebrities died, or what disasters took place (terrorist attacks, natural stuff, the election, etc).
It’s become a bit of a sad joke, it seems… one that you laugh at so as not to cry.
2016 hasn’t been terribly sweet to me either on a personal level…. most of it, I’ve wanted to punch in the face.
It’s been the most challenging year that I’ve ever lived through, which some would say gives me room to mope.
Even yesterday, I caught myself in the downward spiral of negativity that the world has taken on, claiming that I really only had two good things happen this whole year, which absolutely isn’t true.
But this morning, Jesus tapped on my forehead and challenged me in my negativity, which was slightly annoying because pity parties are so much easier and enjoyable in a masochistic way, especially at 5:45am.
While this year has been really hard, there is goodness laced in the midst of the dirt, whether you want to see it or not.
So here are some good things about my 2016:
I was given a temporary full time job that I adored, with students that added a whole new wing to my hall of favorites.
I grew in my adaptability, flexibility and humility.
I gained a ton of knowledge, and read more than I have in a long time.
I got to experience being pregnant, which was wonderful about 95% of the time.
Brady and I celebrated a year of being married.
I have sweet new friendships that are so life giving, even if I don’t get the chance to spend much time with those individuals.
We met our beautiful son, who has absolutely taken the cake for being the best kid in the world.
I’ve grown sturdier in my beliefs and personal convictions, specifically in what it means to follow Jesus, how He views marriage, how He views me, and my callings.
I’ve grown in my endeavors with photo… shooting more this year than I ever have before, and praying for continued blessing in that realm in this next.
I learned that I love asparagus.
I flew 4 hours with my 6 week old so that he could surprise and meet his great grandparents.
My sister and I drove through Ohio, Pennsylvania and part of New York just because we could.
I went racing for the first time, and discovered I’m not horrendous at it.
I found out I can hit a baseball traveling at 60 mph.
I went to multiple Angels games, which is always a good thing.
I took Memphis to Disneyland, and it was as awesome as I thought it would be (it’ll be even more amazing when he can actually process whats going on… but it was still amazing).
I learned that home isn’t a structure.
Jesus has had my forehead against His for the last 7 months… and I know Him better now than I ever have before.
The most crucial thing I think we can all take away from this whirlwind of a year is that you can sit and mope in the sorrowful moments (and there is absolutely a time and place for that), you can let yourself be totally defined by your life’s circumstances, and you can let really awful situations dictate the way you will live.
Or you can choose to shift your head and allow your life to be bigger than the negative, because letting yourself be defined by the negative only holds you back, and that’s not the life that Jesus has for you.
Yes, 2016 was the fat, mean bully kid who threw up in your hair and then laughed.
But for me, it was the year that I grew up more than ever … it’s the year that I am able to look back on and absolutely say without a shadow of doubt that I became more like Christ… and the year where I sowed in more than I reaped.
The beauty of sowing in means that come harvest time, God honors that work.
So back to this morning. At 5:45, I got to wake up from an utterly restless night of sleep with a pounding headache. Annoyed and frustrated I mumbled “Figures that this would be the way the last day of this stupid year would start.”
And instead of just leaving me alone in my pity party, Jesus scooched into my world and said, “Honey, remember this:
‘Why would you ever complain, O Jacob,
or, whine, Israel, saying,
“God has lost track of me.
He doesn’t care what happens to me”?
Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening?
God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
they walk and don’t lag behind.’
Seek the good, Ali. I gave you good things this year… and I give good gifts, even if they weren’t what you were expecting or asking for. I will sustain you.”
So with all that, I’m refusing to live in a world where my life is defined by the difficulty and the struggle. Instead, I’m practicing hunting for the lace in the midst of the dirt… of letting the hard times shake off the dust that covers the beauty… of choosing goodness, truth and beauty over evil, lies and destruction.
Just like Lucy and Susan sat in the shrubs and cried as their Aslan was killed… just like the disciples sat in hidden mourning for a day before resurrection happened… and just like the villains of those stories (both fictional and fact) celebrated their temporary victory… so it is with this year.
2016 is the Holy Saturday of the Redemption weekend… where all hope seems lost and the world is at its darkest.
It would be so easy to let the enemy steal my joy, my purpose, and my grace. It would be easy to let him destroy my life and my heart, and to give him the space to kill the goodness, kill the lessons and kill the potential.
But he can only do that if I give him room to do so, and I say to hell with him.
Because when it comes down to it, I’m called to be a warrior, not a victim. Hell fears me… not the other way around.
I’d rather be defined by my pursuit of goodness, truth and beauty than by the crap that happens to me. I think my little one deserves an example of a relationship with Christ that is vibrant and boundless. He deserves a mom that lives in graceful strength and boldness. He deserves to see someone who chooses to hunt for the good and not settle for being a victim of bad circumstances. And my goodness, the world needs people like that more than whiners and pity party hosts.
So, dear reader, I challenge you to hunt for the pearls in this past year. Seek out the good. Find the lessons and learn.
And in the times when your strength wanes, remember the promises in Isaiah. Speak them out, and trust in a God that takes ashes and makes something beautiful.
Up until just a few years ago, my grandpa would annually travel to Page, Arizona sometime in the month of November to bring gifts and clothing to the Navajo Indians.
This was a ministry that he had been a part of since my mom was in high school, and it was one that he would include his whole family in as often as he could.
When I was about 7 years old, we stuffed my grandpa’s motorhome full of our family and made the journey. On our way back, we stopped by the Grand Canyon so that all of us small ones could experience its grandeur for the first time. It was sometime in late November, so the landscape was splotched with leftover snow, and the bitter cold wind ripped through the canyon like it was trying to widen its edges.
Little seven year old Ali inched forward toward the edge to peak into the enormous expanse, knowing full well that this place was dangerous, but incredible.
My dad was right behind me (though I didn’t know), making sure that I wasn’t too much of an idiot in how close I got to actual danger.
While I slowly scooched forward, a major gust of wind kicked up and hit me hard, making me feel as though I had lost control of the situation, which obviously meant that I was going to be whipped into the Grand Canyon and plummet to my death (even though I was definitely a good 8 feet away from the actual edge).
I shrieked, and my dad caught my arm to steady me. In an instant, my heart went from believing that I would die a tragic November death to instant security that my dad gave me.
Fast forward to present day.
Being appropriately transparent (as there is much that my heart cannot share), the last month of my life has been one of the most difficult I’ve lived through.
In a span of just mere weeks, my world flipped upside down, shifting from a time of awesome blessing and ease to some of the most challenging days I’ve ever experienced.
God is sensational, and sometimes He’ll prepare your heart for the storms that you will face right before you step into them. He absolutely doesn’t have to do this, but in this case of my life, He did.
About six weeks ago, He began reminding me of what following Him looks like. Following Jesus does give you the security of knowing where you’ll go when you die, knowing that He is faithful at all times, and that He loves you recklessly no matter what you do. But following Jesus is not safe. It gives no guarantees for monetary blessing, or constant good health, or that the sun will shine on you every single day of your life.
In fact, let me remind you that Jesus and His disciples didn’t even have the luxury of knowing where they would sleep every night (Luke 9:58). Jesus didn’t have a month long meal plan ready to go; sometimes He would look at the disciples and tell them to handle feeding not only the 13 of them, but also about 10,000 people… and this would happen in the most inconvenient places at the most ridiculous of times.
What am I getting at?
Even Jesus had it “rough” from time to time (as seen by the world)… so why would following Him promise to look substantially different?
So, six weeks ago, He began speaking in about what following Him looks like… how He’s not safe, but He’s good… how there are no guarantees to what the world would deem as happiness in following Him, but there is security in knowing He loves you, that you can trust Him, that He is faithful, and that He’ll be your protector, refuge and strength when the skies begin to get stormy, and that security bring joy.
And my little self, being so blissfully ignorant, sighed contentedly and said “Oh yes Jesus, I know. I trust You. Everything will be fine, I know… because You love me.”
Then He pointed to a little tiny cloud on the horizon of my life and said, “Do you trust Me?”
The tiny cloud is of course not a threat. The tiny cloud can be created into a game… and is by no means something to fret about.
But sometimes, tiny clouds grow. As the storm builds, that small, insignificant cloud that you imagined looked like a turtle or a dog or a butterfly turns into more of a nightmare.
Sometimes, that tiny cloud grows much faster than you expect it to, and within a matter of what seems like seconds, you are staring into the face of hurricane Katrina.
So I nodded, not knowing that the cloud would grow. And He nodded, promising to be faithful if the cloud did grow.
And boy, did it grow.
Within the span of a month, I went into preterm labor at 30 weeks pregnant, I have had to do battle against disgusting and slanderous rumors that have been pointed at my little family, I have learned that we have to move yet again and in a tight span of time (all while 8 months pregnant and on the doctor’s order to try to take it easy and not put myself in stressful situations), and have watched Satan take advantage of a small crevice of unknown weakness in our lives and crash through with total devastation.
The storm turned into a full on raging hurricane, and I was in the boat rowing, trying to make headway, trying to get through, trying trying trying… and crying all the while (because I am pregnant, after all). It was and is certainly more than I can handle. Heartbreak, struggle and hardship crashes into you at the worst of moments, and this moment was no different.
In my sobbing and desperate prayers, Jesus whispered, “Look where you are, dearest heart.”
The boat wasn’t near. In fact, in all of my past singing and praising of “Take me deeper! Teach me to trust You more! Show me Your faithfulness! Give me a bigger picture of who You are!” I had stepped out of the boat, and skipped toward Jesus all while the tiny cloud was tiny… but again, that changed with the snap of a finger.
The waves are huge, the wind a force that I have never seen in all of its boldness and terror inflicting rage, the rain so thick you cannot see three feet in front of you… but I’m out here in the mess of it.
And I hate it.
I would love to say that I am so far into my relationship with Jesus that I paused in the most holy of ways and said, “Ah yes Lord, I see where I am. Ah yes Lord, this will be good. Ah yes Lord, the storm is no thing at all to fear… robble robble robble.”
I wish I could even say that I stood tall and focused fully on Him, doing all that I could to swallow my fear of being swallowed whole by the angry ocean.
Instead, I cried, and I sank. Instead, I wept bitterly and begged to know why… why now, why this, why at all.
Instead, I clawed for Jesus’ hand as I slipped into the raging waves, begging Him to get me out… to get me back to the boat… to make the storm stop.
And while He held on tight, the storm screamed on. Like my dad did that day alongside the Grand Canyon, Jesus has grabbed my arm to reassure me that He is present in this situation out on the water in the middle of the horror.
See, Jesus doesn’t stop the storm when it would make you feel better. It would have been much easier to have a conversation with Jesus about all of this if He had just quieted everything down. It would have felt better if He had just been a little more sympathetic to my fears of the storm.
But Jesus has more in mind than my dependence on security, and He certainly has a bigger story planned out than making me feel better.
He’s out to show me that He is God.
He’s out to stretch me in my trusting of Him… do I trust Him? Do I believe that He has my best interest in mind?
He’s in this not to make me see that I have faith to walk on water, but to prove that He is faithful when everything becomes so overwhelming that I can’t even row my boat to where He’s asked me to go, let alone walk to Him completely on the waves.
He’s in this to walk me back to the boat in the midst of the rage and the uncertainty, to care for my heart, to show how much He loves me and cares for me when it feels like no one else can.
He leads me tenderly and gently, even when the water is still picking a fight with my feet.
He hears my crying and answers me, even if the wind still sounds like the screeches of a demon.
He is the warrior that the storm cannot inflict fear into, for He is the might, the rage and the intensity of the storm. Just look at Psalm 18… The Lord is the storm.
I don’t know what He’s doing. All I know is I’ve seen Him… I’m feeling Him move. All I know is that we’re in a war, and the opposing side will do anything to destroy what it can for harm and fear’s sake. All I know is that these sorts of battles are won in worship, in prayer, and in faithfulness (2 Chron 20:14-23). All I know is that there is no promise that this is over, or that it won’t get worse, but that God is good and He loves me all the time.
The storm? Yeah I’m still very much in it.
Yeah, it’s still scary.
Yeah, I still have no answers to any of the unknowns.
But I’m coming to terms with the fact that Jesus has no intentions of letting me be swallowed up by the storm… only the fullest and purest intention of showing me just how awesome He is and how much He loves me… because it was only after Jesus and Peter climbed back into the boat that the disciples fully understood who they were following, and I expect the same thing will happen to me.
May 27th has proven to be an important/significant/meaningful day in my life, especially over the last 3 years.
3 years ago on this date, Brady asked me about 17 times if I would be his girlfriend. He then approached my dad later that night to ask if he could start dating me (super old fashioned and respectful, which I love), and we officially dove into this adventure that has been our relationship.
2 years ago, he asked me to be his bride, changing everything we had ever known about relationships since it was a stage neither of us had ever reached before.
And yesterday, May 27th, our little one decided they wanted to give their daddy and momma a scare by putting me into premature labor.
*Before we totally dive in, I need to disclaim that everything is fine. The baby is still kicking me hard and constantly from the inside of my belly, and they are happy and healthy. I’m doing fine as well, just a little discomfort still here and there, but apparently that’s to be expected from this point on (no one told me that it’s “normal” to experience 6-8 contractions in an hour when you’re 30 weeks preggers).*
I’ve been running into this idea in my walk with the Lord that has begun to challenge me deeply. Following Jesus is the best decision I’ve ever made… but it’s definitely not safe. Jesus promises me the security of being with Him forever, and of being forgiven of my mistakes… but He certainly doesn’t promise that everything will go smoothly in following Him. In fact, it’s usually in the times when you’re most uncomfortable, most unsure, most afraid when you’re probably headed in the direction that Jesus is leading your life.
Abraham didn’t know where he was supposed to go… yet God continued to tell him to go…. go go go.
Peter and the rest of the disciples didn’t really know what they were getting themselves into by dropping their whole lives (careers, families, social expectations, etc) and choosing to day in day out literally follow Jesus… and it brought them into some really uncomfortable situations. Yet Jesus continually told them, “Follow Me.”
Those are the situations where growth takes place.
You need to be uncomfortable to grow.
Remember growing pains as a kid? If you had been able to opt out of those, you’d still be a tiny human that would have a really difficult time seeing over those who did go through those intense growth spurts in their lives.
Just think, concerts would suck so much without those pains…getting things down from cupboards would require ladders… and people would always mistake you for a child.
Pain is sometimes absolutely necessary to get you to where you need to be, both physically and spiritually.
So back to yesterday (because this does indeed have a flow, I promise).
It’s really a horrifying moment when those practice contractions turn into the real deal when they’re not supposed to.
It’s also super inconvenient to have that happen halfway through your last day of teaching (you know, finals prep day… super good).
But the moment I got off the phone with my doctor, right after hearing the words “I need to you to go to labor and delivery immediately to be monitored… I’m concerned,” I felt about the size of an elementary school student.
I’ve been really fortunate to be one of those pregnant ladies who have barely experienced anything negative with being pregnant.
Sure I’ve had uncomfortable days, but I had no morning sickness, only a few headaches, I’ve been sleeping well (about 90% of the time), I’ve been able to work all the way through, and much much more.
But yesterday was a scare… a place where “what ifs” flooded incredibly fast… a place where I was met face to face with this idea: do I trust Jesus with where He is leading this? Do I believe that He works everything out for the good of those who love Him i.e. me? Will I trust Him if things begin to go horribly wrong? Will I still praise Him in my fear, in my discomfort, and in my unknown?
I definitely didn’t handle it with an enormous amount of grace… I was more of a blubbering mess initially and then constant ball of frustration over the last 24 hours.
But this baby has already begun to teach me so much, reinforcing beliefs I’ve had for a long time, as well as showing me ways where God is growing me and teaching me about His love.
Here are just a few things:
1). Becoming a mom means giving it all, even when you don’t feel you can. I obviously haven’t experienced this face to face with my nugget yet, but I have experienced it physically in pregnancy (through being exhausted, making sure you’re eating right, drinking more water than you possibly think you can, and taking the bench even when you have things that “need to get done” for the sake of the baby’s health and development).
2). Becoming a mom has shown me just how valuable life is… and how early that value begins. Before we even knew I was pregnant, this little one had a heart beat. Shortly after we found out, it already was showing signs of brainwave activity. I never knew that I could love something so tiny and so quickly, as well as become so defensive over a little thing I couldn’t even feel yet. Over this entire process, it’s been awesome to read and see how God knits things together in the womb, and I get to be a part of that story. It’s fabulous.
3). Becoming a mom has reinforced to me that God’s plans are so much bigger than mine. Yes, Brady and I wanted kids, but we definitely were trying to manage that responsibly. Yes, some people thought and probably still think that we got into this situation much too soon… and that’s all well and good. But that’s not what God planned for us… and now here we are, 9.5 weeks away (hopefully) from meeting the person that will totally change our world. Besides giving my life to Christ, meeting Brady, and choosing to spend the rest of my life with him, this is the biggest adventure I’ve ever embarked on. It’s horrifying and thrilling all at the same time.
Yesterday really really reinforced this to me… because going into labor on the last full day of school and when I still have several weeks to make it through before I can hold this little one in my arms was certainly not in my plans at all. But for whatever reason, it was in God’s… and it’ll be really interesting to see why, whether its a big reason or a small reason… whether we ever find out or not.
4). This experience has caused me to already be on my knees in the Lord’s presence, begging for strength, wisdom, and direction on where He is going… it has challenged me to trust deeply… as well as to begin leading well in relying on Him. I want my kid to know that they have a God that is big enough to handle the most difficult, misunderstood situations. I want them to know that they have a Jesus that is trustworthy… that His faithfulness is a refuge. But I can’t teach those things if I don’t first live them out myself.
5). This whole being pregnant thing has only confirmed over and over that God blessed me with my best counterpart. When Brady and I first started dating, he said to me that I intimidated him because I didn’t need him. But marriage changes you… and I don’t know how I would do life without his love. I find myself needing him more and more every day in every way (in healthy terms, of course). He is my rock, my protector, my comedian, my encourager, and he has quickly become one of my heroes. They say you fall more in love with the man you married as time progresses, but one of those moments when it swells up to new levels is when you see them hold your child for the first time. I’m sure that’s true… but I can confidently say that I have grown more crazy in love with Brady as I’ve experienced how he has cared for me during this season.
Even though May 27th is a great day, I’m really glad that Little Redick didn’t make their debut then. I’m also really glad to begin walking into this new season being reminded that I have a God who wants me to trust Him with every little thing. I’m also really glad I have a God who loves me, Brady and this baby radically and will lead us to places we never dreamed possible… they might be scary places, but they will be good, and we will trust Him through every step.
In case you were curious, one of my favorite drinks at Starbucks is a Passion Tea Lemonade, no classic, sub Raspberry.
It’s refreshing, it’s just tart enough to hit my love of sour things while not being too overbearing, and it’s reasonably priced for a Starbucks drink.
A few days ago, I was browsing through my Instrgram, looking at old posts and enjoying reminiscing over times past… simple things, normal everyday things, and important/life changing things (like getting engaged, getting married, etc).
Some of these photos look insignificant, such as the one below… but a few of these moments are some of the most important moments of my life… such as the one below.
This post looks an awful lot like a simple, silly, meaningless post including my favorite drink, a rep of my favorite baseball team, and small thoughts… but this moment was huge for me.
Catch the scene:
It’s 90-something degrees.
I’m sipping on my tall Bucks drink, enjoying it as much as the 4 gulps of it will let me.
My leg is bouncing subconsciously due to an enormous amount of misunderstood nerves.
Instagram is my final outlet… my last resort at killing time and calming my butterflies.
You see, this picture was taken about 30 minutes before I was hugged tightly for the first time by my future husband… who, at that point, was absolutely and only a friend (in my book).
I had very clearly stated that us spending time together that evening was not a date. We had been friends a little while before this, we hadn’t seen each other in about 2 years, and my broken and cautious heart demanded wise and slow movement, even though I was incredibly interested in him.
But as I sat and sipped my tea, I had a moment.
This moment had come after I had exhausted all of my options of “killing time”, which was actually more of diverting my attention away from how nervous I was.
I had wandered through Target three times, washed/vacuumed/detailed my car, tested out my engine power on the empty-ish straightaways in Menifee, and more.
But I finally had to sit still and be present with my thoughts:
“Why am I so nervous?”
“He’s just a friend… this is not a big deal.”
“You need to control yourself… put up all of the walls… put up all of the defenses… put up everything to keep this kid out.”
This not-first-date came much quicker than I had expected after being only recently single.
It was only two months before this moment that I was in a long term relationship with someone else… someone who had admitted they saw a future with me, and someone I had invested time in.
So in this new season of my life, I believed intensely that the Lord wanted me single. I would do YWAM. I would dive head first into youth ministry. I would be free to be me, and to come and go as I pleased.
As you might guess, these raging butterflies were a problem because they threatened the plan.
Brady was a threat to me at that point, because he could mess up what I was so sure was God’s plan for me.
This not-date HAD to be a not-date (in my opinion) because I was still broken and unwilling to let another guy into my life in a romantic capacity.
So I’m sitting stalemate with my thoughts and butterflies, waiting for the not-date to begin, and I finally decided to include Jesus in my inner dialog.
I sipped my red drink, and said “Dude, these feelings? They’re not okay. Help me calm down, would You? You know the plan… YWAM… Traveling… Ministry… God, you know it. I know You want me single… so please, for the love of You, shoot the butterflies in the head and help keep me platonic.”
And He laughed at me.
He whispered gently, “Won’t you just let me give you something awesome? Won’t you just calm down and realize that I’m trying to bless you?”
I sat and stared at my half empty cup for a long time. God’s plans weren’t shaping up to look like my plans in this situation.
The plans I was sure were His may not actually be His, which threatened my heart.
So what if this turns into something?
What if he tells me he likes me… what do I say? I can’t say I like him back!
What if we start dating?
What if this crashes into millions of pieces?
What if… what if… what if.
And then Jesus, being so good and somewhat annoying, whispered again, “And what if it’s wonderful?”
A few minutes later, I had a James Dean look-a-like wandering towards me with an enormous smile and arms wide open for huge hug (probably the best hug I’ve ever been given).
This picture reminded me starkly that God’s plans for things don’t always line up with our expectations… and thankfully, they usually blow them out of the water.
I’ve learned over the past three years of life that my plans don’t always come close to God’s… and I have a choice to either force my plans and be left wanting OR let God know my heart and my hopes while also letting Him have His way.
Usually, He takes something that I want and makes it so far beyond what I ever imagined I could want.
My life story proves to me that God’s plans are always better than my own.
Now, I’m married to that man who took me on a not-date.
Now, we’re expecting a little one in August (to the surprise of many), and are so over the moon in love with this little wiggling being.
Now, we’re seeing God’s plans totally unfold in all of our circumstances… and it’s beautiful.
I’m so glad I stumbled upon that old picture… because it reminded me vividly that my plans aren’t always the best for me… and if I push for my plans, I might just cheat myself out of something wonderful.
Like an espresso shot for the heart and soul that hits you right in the feelings and knowledge?
I do regularly, and I’ve recently been regularly blessed with truths that are beautiful… some tough, others as sweet as ice cream.
Here are just a few:
Chocolate on rainy days is perfection.
Repentance doesn’t completely involve me… in fact it almost barely involves me. My role? “Yes, Lord, I want you.” Boom. Jesus gets the rest and handles it with glory and epic style.
Selfishness cheats you out of a worry-free existence.
Pride steals true joy and opportunity from you.
I don’t need riches or even the tiniest of homes… I am in desperate need of Christ… and I trust that all of these things will be added to my life as I pursue Jesus first.
God is a good Father and He gives good gifts to His kids.
You don’t marry your soul mate… your spouse BECOMES your soul mate.
Marriage gets sweeter, which is the wildest reward for pursuing, pressing on, and remaining vulnerable.
God answers prayers. Maybe not always in the way you want or expect (because He’s not a genie) but in the best ways.
Where you invest your love, you invest your life.
God calls us to reveal His relentless grace to the world, but our comfort zones often get in the way of that.
Being a servant of God does not depend on your “readiness” or “ability” but really depends on your willingness and humility.
If you don’t have peace, you are not going to stay put when the enemy advances. Peace gives you stability to stand your ground.
Be anxious and tied up with worry for no thing… but bring every little thing to the Lord, giving thanks and letting Him know the requests of your heart. This is the cure for the anxiety the world is plagued with.
Do what you can, and trust God with what you can’t.
Laughter is essential.
Goodness is where love and truth reside.
Marriage is tremendously more than feelings… if it were based on mere feelings, most marriages would end in either divorce or murder.
Greater is the One living inside of me than he who is living in the world.
Be still and know.
“Did God call me on account of my holy life? On account of my Pharisaical religion? On account of my prayers, fastings and works? Never. God did not call me on my blasphemies, persecutions or oppression. What prompted Him to call me? His grace alone.” – Martin Luther
God honors and meets the needs of those who honor Him with what they’ve been given.
I hope these impact you the same way they’ve struck me.
And if not, dwell on this: You are ferociously loved.