Thursday, March 26, 2015

They are worth it, and I am able because He is faithful

5 years ago, I anticipated, that by this point in our lives we'd be on the brink of returning from a 4 year term in Kenya. Our lives would be revolving around taking the gospel to the nations, building relationships with nationals, living among the people and serving them with open arms and glad hearts so that they experience Jesus in me.

Back then, I would have never imagined our life would look like it does today. After all, we were chasing hard after God, He was guiding us to this foreign land. It was bound to transpire just as my perfect, little brain could propose it to be.

And then, loss.



Financial setbacks.

Broken family relationships.



I have doubted my God on every level. I've begged to walk away, tried even. I've searched the scriptures for evidence that this God I devoted myself to is on a power trip and decided to wreck my life just for fun.

I've watched my children grow, as a shell of their mother attempts to shepherd them toward a God that she's uncertain of herself. I've cussed Him out, shut Him out, turned and refused to talk or listen. I've been at a place where I wondered if I was seriously delusional and if I dreamed up this whole missions thing because it was trendy, sounded fun and looked like it made us a better version of ourselves.

In every aspect of our lives over the last 3 years we've been broken. I've spilled tears over the simplest of things and shook my fist at God from the darkest parts of my heart. I've turned bitter, angry and spiteful.

Who needs God anyway? I mean, really. What kind of a God loads your whole family onto a rug called obedience then jerks the damn thing right out from under you? Not any God I want to follow, that's for sure.

The arrogance in my heart and the trust I had in my "strong faith" disappeared. In an instant, the person I thought I was and the things I thought I believed seem to lay before me on the ground like the contents of a beautifully potted orchid that had been thrown from the 10th floor window.

I couldn't read blogs, attend missions events, listen to songs or fake my way through a missions Sunday at church. I would get up and leave, telling God to screw himself as I walked out the door and down the hall.

Was this some kind of a sick joke? Who does that?

I've asked, desperately, what we should do now and the only thing I have gotten in return is silence. No whispers of His voice, no profound truths from scripture, no words from the teaching of the men and women that had so clearly been instruments of His words anymore.

The anger continued to well and finally pour out. I've been angry at everyone and everything for a very long time.

Anger does crazy things to you. It makes you blind, deaf and cold. I would interact with my children and I could see myself, almost in the 3rd person, reacting in ways that I would not typically react. It was surreal and almost as if I was living a life that I was simply watching, not a participant.

Finally, after a long silence with the Lord, I begged Him to reveal to me why we are in this place when it's not at all where my heart desires. I got no profound answers. I didn't see a hand writing on the wall or hear the voice of God audibly.

Instead, a dirty faced, chubby cheeked almost 15 month old toddler came toward me with her half drunk saunter. She grinned and juicy animal crackers dripped from her chin as she struggled her way into my lap and wrapped her arms around my neck.

A clingy 3 year old rounded the corner and squealed with the delight at the sight of me. I delight her every time I she sees me.

A fresh, new 5 year old crawls into bed with me on the morning of her birthday. Soft, blond, wild curls cover my face as she nuzzles her head under my chin. "You smell nice Momma. I think my nose is better when I'm five," she giggles.

Two six year olds sit poised with pencils in hand and scribble out shaky letters. One of them reads every word his eyes see and he beams with joy, the other beams with pride over words of praise and affirmation.

An eight year old boy finds a love for baseball. He carries his glove with him everywhere he goes and he wears his Daddy's number from college on his back. He's the scrawniest player on the team but he hustles and works hard and he's determined to prove himself.

Eight and ten year old sisters find a love for horses and cultivate a friendship unlike anything I've ever seen. They giggle and talk about horses and boys and how to decorate their room until long past their bed time.

When the anger subsides, this is what I see. I see the nations. I see my life revolving around these people who desperately need the gospel. I see me serving them with open arms and a glad heart so that they experience Jesus in me.

I see the one job my arrogant self assumed was not good enough now being the most important, the most challenging, the most necessary.

I see the nations before me. I see them in dirty socks left on the kitchen counter, unending loads of laundry and middle of the night nursing sessions. I see them in gentle corrections, hugs after a hard consequence and love despite their flaws. I see them in endless snacks and cup refills, in spills and messes, in cherrios crushed under my shoe.

I see the stage being set for world changers who grew up sitting right around my very own dinner table.

I see that in order for me to live within the full glory of God's desire for my life, and in turn to create these people who will no doubt love others beyond themselves, it begins by serving my children joyfully and with a heart devoted only to their very best.

I have spent much time wondering why the pain of the last few years has been heaped upon our family. I've wondered why the anger and resentment has been rooted deep inside my heart, seemingly planted there by the One who is suppose to take away doubt, fear, shame and bitterness. I wondered why He set us up for failure, for grief, for brokenness.

And then I looked up and I was overcome by exactly what I was suppose to see all along. They are it. We were not set up for brokenness. We were set up for this. This perfectly chaotic, unkept, totally filled-to-the-brim life. The scales tip whichever way I give them weight. I can choose anger and grief or joy and grace.

As the anger is slowly being washed away, joy is filtering through. Joy in the lives of these 8 people that are forever connected to me so deeply that there is no grief, no disappointment, no financial loss, no brokenness nor pain that could ever sever me from them.

They are my mission. And finally I can say with fullness that if they are my sole purpose in this life, it is enough. They are enough. Just as they are, just as I am, just as He has always been, I will fully pour myself into them, not reserving even one drop for what could have been or what I could hope will one day be.

I will share with them the good news of a Savior who never quits on them, even when they try with their whole self to give up on Him.

With love, I will serve them with joy and gladness, just as I would have the most honored guest at our Kenyan dinner table. Because they are worth it, and I am able because He is faithful, forever.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

When the struggling ceases

I scoop her up off the floor, plop down into my favorite nursing chair, raise my shirt and offer her some milk. She latches, but as she does she extends her arm until her pudgy, dimpled, dainty elbow reaches a locked position.

This is how we nurse. We've nursed this way all 12.5 months of her life. I cradle her, smooth her hair, gaze at her eyelashes and smile. She looks at the ceiling then rolls her eyes as far as possible to see what is behind her, without unlatching.

She tolerates me. With my other babies there were tender nursing moments. Times when they would nurse, grin while milk streamed from the corners of their mouthes, unlatch and offer me a huge grin, only to spray milk all over the both of us.

But Evelyn is not that baby. She loves me, and wants me sometimes, but mostly I'm a source of nourishment for her. It's her Daddy who is her ultimate soother. She adores him more than any of our other children have at this young age. Normally it's Mommy and Mommy alone while they're breastfeeding. But not her.

She drinks until she's had her fill, then she unlatches with a smack, rolls away from me, requesting with her whole body to be released from my arms. She's done with me and I've come to terms with the fact that I am the one who is fond of the nursing, not her. I've finally realized it's not personal. She grins and me and smiles when we play together. She giggles at my over-exaggerated laughs. But if the choice is me or Daddy, Daddy wins every time.

Evelyn, 9.5 months, tolerating my affection.

Tonight, as the house was still, and I rocked her while she nursed, He washed Himself over me in a way that used to be familiar and regular.

"This is us," he whispered. "You use me solely for life-sustaining nourishment right now. There is no intimacy between us. You wait until you cannot wait any longer, have your fill of me, then you make it clear you're ready to have your space."

I recoiled in the truth that He showed me.

I've been angry. Hurt. I've felt neglected and robbed. I've wanted to walk away, and I probably would have, for not the consistent and fervent prayers of my husband and dearest friends. And now, I'm in a place where I'm no longer wanting or struggling to break free from this faith that has gripped me so tightly. I'm fine with it. It's here, it's who I am. It's a part of me.

I wait until I can wait no more, fling myself before the cross, fill myself with just enough to get me through the next trial, the next thing and then I'm done with him for a while.

In the simile that is my nursing relationship, I am Evelyn and He is me.

He longs for the intimacy that should exist, the affection and the joy upon my face as we embrace and delight in one another. And oh how He has never stopped delighting in me. He makes that clear when I draw near. He loves me as much as He ever has, increasingly as the days pass. As my love grows for my almost-walking babe, does His love for me.

My embraces with him have been distant. My (not as cute as Evelyn's) pudgy, dimpled elbows lock into place when He comes near because keeping Him at arms length is just easier. At arms length it can't hurt as much. At arms length I cannot hear His whispers clearly. At arms length, my perception is that if He should forget me again, then I can catch myself before I fall.

But the truth is, I was never forgotten. As much as my heart, and my enemy, wants be to believe the lie that I have been cast aside, He could not forget me. I know this is true because I could not forget my precious, independent, ever looking-for-a-distraction-while nursing, baby girl.

"Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.

Isaiah 49:15

Oh this love He has for me is relentless. He is showing me, as I pursue all but Him, that He is here. Offering the nourishment and sustenance I need for life, a rich life, right in his very arms. He hasn't quit offering it, though I have pushed it away, kept it at arms length and, sometimes, refused it all together even though it was exactly what I needed at that very moment.

This Jesus of mine, He cares for me. He keeps me in his tender grasp, and even lowers me gently as I thrash to get on my own two feet. How could I ever believe He would forsake me?

My girl, she's rewriting my knowledge as a mother, expanding on it day by day. Eight kids into this gig and He's still using these tiny (and not-so-tiny) people to show me that He sees me as I see them. Full of life, hope, love, joy and rich in mercy. This love He has that I am so thankful never ceases. Just like my love for the most independent 12 month old I've ever met. He takes me, defiance and all, embraces me, welcomes me back time and time and time again until one day, the arms relax, the eyes lift and meet his and a smile creeps across my face. And joy is found when the struggling ceases.

A rare, tender, arm-not-locked moment.
Perhaps my most favorite photo of all time.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

My Acceptance Speech, the final draft

I would like to thank you all for coming today. Honestly, I'd say that I'm shocked and in awe that you'd come all this way to award me with such a title, but I'm not surprised.

I mean, it's not every day that you happen upon a woman like me. The things you say about me are, indeed, true. I am so deserving of this title that when the awards committee called me, I laughed a little and then wondered what had taken so long.

Yes, it would be me who had to tell her 2 year old, again, not to lick the toilet. Ever. Even if you think it's chocolate.

It would also be me who allowed her almost 9 month old baby to play with an electrical adapter. It was unplugged. But you know, the principle of the matter is that I would have never let my first born baby play with cords of that nature. But alas, I just looked at her content self and continued texting my BFF.

I have earned this award on so many levels, but the thing that is the clincher for me, I think, is my attention to detail sarcasm. When my pre-teen stormed out of the room in an emotional rage it may or may not have been me who mumbled under my breath, "If you'd have stayed 8 years old like I told you this wouldn't be an issue." I may have also told her she is, in fact, bossy and to stop acting surprised when people assign her that title.

I am also going to confess that I earned this title fully when I went to turn on the sound machine in my 4 year old's room and, upon discovering her used pull up laying on her dresser, pinched it by the edge, carried it across the house and slung it in her general direction. I believe that life is best learned in a state of surprise, so I also felt it necessary to call her name as the urine laden disposable underpants were hurling at her head.

Think fast and stop peeing the bed. It's like my catch phrase. And by catch phrase I mean, seriously, catch!

You also should know that this isn't an award I will take flippantly. Oh no. I will wear this title as a crown upon my head and, in honor of it, I will continue to tell my children who are STARRRRRVVVIIIIINGGGGG and asking every food related question in their vocabulary at 5:45pm as I am frantically finishing up dinner that our meal will consist of "food and food with a side of food." Delicious sounding, isn't it? I know it's important to encourage proper nutrition and because of that when they ask what kind of food, I will reply with a bright, warm smile, "the kind you eat."

Modeling behaviors you wish to see in your children is oh-so-very important and I take this title you have given me so seriously, that I will always endeavor to show my children that YELLING AT THE TOP OF YOUR LUNGS FROM 24 INCHES FROM MY FACE IS ALWAYS A DELIGHT EVEN IF YOU'RE TELLING ME THAT YOU'VE FINISHED ALL YOUR SCHOOL WORK AND CLEANED YOUR ROOM AND NOW YOU'D LIKE TO HELP ME WASH ALL THE DISHES AND FOLD THE CLOTHES.

Hard work ethic and ear buds have helped me push through those training sessions.

I know that many of you wonder how I juggle it all, especially the baby and the 2 year old. Naturally, the 2 year old is eager for my attention and I try so very hard to show her that she is just as special and loved as her baby sister, even though the baby needs my attention more frequently for nursing sessions.

Of course, since this seemed to be a battle ground, I offered for my darling two year old to have a taste of Mommy's milk and told her that she too, when she was younger, drank my milk. She seemed eager at the idea and so I gently unlatched the baby as my elated 2 year old leaned in. I prepared myself that it might not end well since the 2 year old now has a mouth full of teeth and hasn't suckled in a very long time. As she neared me I squeezed once, quite firmly, and 2 steady streams of milk shot forth. One landed directly into her mouth and the other into her eye.

As she shrieked and thrashed on the floor I excused myself to empty my bladder in a more suitable place than the glider rocker in the nursery.

Since I believe that every moment has potential to be a teachable one, I also reminded her that there's no use crying over spilled, or mis-directed milk.

So you see, it is with grace and meekness and a quiet, humble spirit that I accept this awarded title that the committee has chosen me for this year. I've never been one to boast in an award in such a way and I hope my acceptance speech has demonstrated exactly why I feel that I am 110% the obvious candidate for the title of

Okayest Mom of the Year.

If you would like to schedule a mentoring session, please be sure to stop by my house. Our door bell is broken, but please do not hesitate to send in the panty-clad toddler, who is in the driveway, eating an uncooked, frozen pizza, in to look for me.

Thank you all. Have a wonderful evening.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Through smoke

She had tied the drawstring of her robe tight around her waist. Her linen pants hung loosely around her legs and were stuffed into the tops of her laced up boots of peace. Her cloak hung heavily on her shoulders, which was ironic since the armor that protected her vital organs felt remarkably light.

Picture her with me.

Truth sat low on her hips while righteousness covered her chest. Protected by her faithful shield, salvation upon her head, on the defensive with the glimmer of her sword, spirit. She was ready. She had trained, prepared and knew the battle would be intense. In fact, there had been many small battles leading up to this day.

She looked to her left and he stood there with her. Adorned with a matching uniform, he stood just a pace in front of her, prepared to take the worst of the blows, knowing that it was not only his calling but his duty as her protector, provider, prophet and priest. Yes, they would fight together but he was set over her. Not because she was inferior but because the goodness of the One who prepared this battle knew what He was doing.

A smile crept across her lips as she looked back out onto the hills in front of them. Battle is never easy, but after you've prepared for weeks and months and years when it's time to go, you can't help but be a bit eager.

Together, nearly in unison, they step into the war zone, knowing that it could last longer than they both have the energy or resolve to endure. However, they aren't relying on their own strength alone and they know this full and well. Emerging from the sky are cherubim, clothed in no armor at all but brandishing weapons that annihilate the enemy in one, swift stroke.

Rushing forward, metal clinks, blows are landed and they find little successes. Suddenly, the ground shakes, the sky grows dark. Smoke engulfs the battlefield. Disoriented and confused, they become separated in sight. She can hear him but the smoke burns her eyes with such pain that she must choose to close them for fear of losing her sight forever more.

She hears wailing and crying and listens intently to try to discern from which direction it coming, only to realize that it is from her own lips. Her heart is afraid and her voice betrays her by telling every enemy within earshot.

Trembling, she sinks to her knees and opens her eyes, desperately scanning the horizon. The smoke is so thick she cannot possibly see beyond her own arm,  much less into the distance. The stench of burning trash and excrement lingers in her nostrils.

"Help! Where are you? Help me, please."

The roar of battle has ceased but the smoke remains. She can no longer hear him or the One who gives the orders.

"This is it?" she thinks. "This is not the battle for which I trained. No! This wasn't in the plan at all. How did this happen? No! This cannot be it." Her heart pounds in her chest and fear overwhelms her.

The silence is now deafening.

She crawls across the field on her hands and knees hoping to find someone, anyone, who might give a clue as to what has happened. There are no signs of battle, no wayward shields or swords. No members of the enemy camp laying slain on the ground. Nothing but the smoke even suggests there's been a battle.

This. This ground shaking madness, this was not what she had prepared for at all. She hopes staying close to the ground will provide reprieve from the smoke but it is as thick and pungent down low as it is up high.

She crawls across rocks and sticks and through mud but no where does she find remnant or clues to anyone else on this field with her. Finally, FINALLY, she finds a small wall of stone. She believes she remembers this one. It's old, and frail, but she's seen it before. The familiarity of it relieves her, though she knows it will be of little use since once before it was crumbled. Resting her back upon it, she tries to find her bearings.

The enemy. He must be responsible for this. He has to be. He is sneaky and vicious and cares not who he kills. Surely he is on the other side of this short wall, prowling, waiting for her to expose herself so he can finish her off.

Then she realizes that she's not safe. No where is safe. Though the smoke is thick still in most places, it's beginning to rise. He will see her, someone will see her vulnerable, and finish what the enemy has started. With fervor and with trembling hands she grabs the stones around her and begins rebuilding the wall. Higher, higher, stronger, taller it grows. It curves around beside her and yet she continues. Creating her own little provision, she gathers the uneven, worn, battered stones that had previously been ripped down and she rebuilds what was once deemed unnecessary.

Once she has it far reaching enough around her she stops and tucks herself into its sanctuary. Now, behind the wall she built from the ruins, she is safe.  The enemy can't find her and once the smoke clears she can emerge on her own terms, sword drawn, and fight her way back to where she once was.

She waits. It is taking a long time for the smoke to rise. Shouldn't it have risen by now? Where did it come from anyway? This is not what she had trained for. She waits, she thinks, she tries to pray, but in vain.

And then it washes over her. He knew. The One, he knew. He knew this would be the battle all along. "How could you know and not prepare me?!," she cries. He knew and yet he did nothing to stop it, nothing to help her to know what to do in this scenario. She'd rehearsed and prepared for just about anything else but this. What is she to do now?

The One she trusted to train her, the One she trusted her life to, he knew. And somehow, somewhere amid all the preparations, he failed to train her for this. He knew, and he failed. Therefore she would fail, too. And he knew she would fail.

Her jaw set with anger and determination, she looks down at the armor upon her body. It is beaten and broken and flawed now. How is that possible? What battle has she fought? She doesn't remember any enemy blows because before she could really fight, her world was rocked. How can she be so heavily beaten up, for she was merely trying to survive.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

So, are you gonna have any more?

We've been asked at least a thousand times if we wanted a big family from the beginning. In short, the answer to that is no.

For the most part, Luke and I both grew up as only children. When we were doing premarriage counseling, we only skimmed the surface of talking about the size of the family we would have. Maybe 3, I think, was the number we settled on.

But here's the problem. We went from 1 baby to 3 babies in just 2 pregnancies spaced apart by only 22 months. From double coverage to zone coverage. We never played man-to-man coverage. And the biggest problem of all?

Hello, my name is Jessica and I am addicted to newborns.

I just love everything about them. From their too-big skin, to the tiny noises they make to the way they stick their tiny little butts out when they stretch. And the head smell? Intoxicating. I read recently that there was a scientific study that confirmed that there really is a chemical reaction that occurs in women when they smell the head of a newborn. What person on earth didn't already know this was happening?

But you know what else I love? All of it

I love the 6 month old who belly laughs at the ridiculousness of her 8 year old sister. Because, y'all, this right here makes me want to have 8 more. I can't even handle that laugh.

The two year old with the butt cheek hanging out of her panties? I love that. The way she calls EVERY.SINGLE.BUG. a "pink bug!" (stink bug). The way she seems to grow during just one nap time and wakes up speaking in fuller sentences than she did just a couple hours ago, makes my head spin and my heart swell.

The 4 year old who is old enough to understand how to make a joke and is usually the first to laugh at their own hilarity. The 6 year old who begins to read overnight and the almost 10 year old who has her own style. I mean, those boots. That skirt. I couldn't pull that off, ever. I mean, hello, SIDE PONYTAIL.

I love it. All of it. This gig of motherhood and watching these people grow is, by far, the best thing I've ever been allowed to experience. I just knew Ella would be our last biological baby. And then, well, Abigail happened.

I just knew Abigail would be the last birth, nursing experience and toddler that would come from my womb. And, you know, EVELYN.

I'm so glad we didn't stop having babies at our predetermined number of 3. I can't imagine all the life, laughter and joy we'd have missed out on.* Yes, it's hard. It's hard a lot lately. Luke and I haven't had a date in WAY TOO LONG. Every night, I fall into bed for a couple hours before I begin the up and down that is my nighttime. I'm exhausted and tired and I would love to have a couple of hours to myself every day just to sit in silence. I think about a few years from now if we don't have any more babies and all the ways our lives would seemingly be easier. But I know that easy is a lie that Moms buy all the time. No matter how many kids you have your life as a mom is never easy.

Is Evelyn our last baby? Who knows. We've always kept the option of adoption open. I don't plan on being pregnant again. Ever. Ever.

But I've said that before. And each of those time I really meant it.

And if I watch that video of Evelyn belly laughing enough, I'll toss that idea right out the window. Or maybe not. Maybe we will stick to it and not birth anymore babies and adopt a few kids who need a large, crazy family and live out our days.

So to answer the question of all of you nosey people who ask me while standing in the grocery store people want to know, I'm sure:

Are you going to have any more babies?

Short answer. Probably not. But who knows. Because all of this, this life. It's hard. But then my almost 6 month old belly laughs and my ovaries kick into high gear and I question every oath I took during her pregnancy that I would never, ever, ever again do this. And I maybe send my husband a text about wanting a homebirth next time. So, you know, there's THAT.

I'm off to watch that video of my baby belly laughing while simultaneously taking whiffs of hot trash in our garbage dumpster so I can remember what morning sickness feels like.


* By no means do I think that having 3 kids or less means you're missing out or that everyone should have a big, crazy, colony of kids. I'm just saying that for us, stopping at 3 wouldn't have been right.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Side Braid: Fail

When we were in college, Luke dated an athlete. She was a college volleyball player who spent around 4 hours in the gym on any given day. When she wasn't in the gym she was usually wearing workout clothes. And even if she wasn't wearing work out clothes, she was probably wearing jeans and a tshirt because she grew up in the country and she liked to go barefoot. And fancy clothes and bare feet don't exactly go well together in public.

Rumor has it that at their wedding she took off her shoes and went barefoot at their reception. At the country club. Classy.

Point being, I've never been a trendy person. Fashion was always something I sort of noticed but never really practiced myself. Partly because being fashionable seems to me to take a lot of work. And let's face it, my daily life is enough work. Amen.

I have a small box of jewelry but it literally never crosses my mind to wear any of it. I have a pair of earrings that I've been wearing basically non-stop for the last 3 years. I put them in one night for date night and they were so comfortable I just forgot to take them out. 3 years later. Yes. It's true.

But aside from those and my wedding rings, it is a rarity that I wear jewelry.

Sort of like my showering schedule. Rare-i-ty.

I have long, curly-ish hair. Which means, if I'd rather not look like I rolled directly out of bed and into the car, I have 2 hair options. Wash, condition it LOTS, and load it down with mousse and gel and prayer.

Or wear it pulled up in a ball of mess on my head just like I did in college for all of my days.

In the summer in the south it's up a lot. Because: HUMIDITY.

Like I said, I notice trends and styles for the most part. Mostly because I have an almost 10 year old and she keeps me informed. So yesterday was not shower day hair washing day and I knew this. So on Monday night I found myself in front of the mirror attempting a super cute side ponytail braid.

In my head I aspired to something like this:

(Just a side note: as I searched images to put on this post of "side ponytail braid curly hair" I basically saw all the ones I thought were messy, yet attainable, were on famous people. Which means, they are probably anything but easy and attainable.)

At any rate, I braided my hair, turned to my husband and said, "What do you think? Do you like it?"

He looked at me, and since our relationship is built on trust and honesty and love he said, "You look like a homeschool mom." And he may have mumbled something about a denim jumper.

I rolled my eyes, because, you know I am a homeschool mom.

So the next morning I got up and thought I'd try this side braid again, sans Homeschool Dad. But, I lack confidence in anything trendy because I know that I'm trying and likely failing. Because, isn't the point of being trendy is not trying to look trendy and like you tried too hard?

Yes, yes it is.

So, I braided my hair and promptly sent a picture to Amanda and asked her what she thought. Here's that pic.

It is also basically impossible for me to take a selfie. I just can't. At least not one with any normalcy or a shred of seriousness.

Amanda gave her vote of approval (several times), told me homeschool moms wear buns and denim (BOOYAH Homeschool Dad!) and so off I went with all 8 kids for a day of chaos errands. It occurred to me after I was 20 minutes down the road that I forgot my back up hair tie around my wrist. It's sort of my security blanket because if hair tie A breaks or if I decide to ditch freshly washed and prayed over hair, I always have one on my wrist and I know that I can throw the hair up and call it a day.

I panicked. Then I breathed through it and remembered that I'm trendy. And I've delivered 6 babies out of my lady parts so I'm tough. Plus, I'm recently fashionable.

It's FINE.

We went to the orthodontist and then, for good behavior had a brunch of Chickfila. All was sailing smoothly until it was time to exit Chickfila. Aaron called a kid on the playground fat, Abigail is a regressing potty trainer and Evelyn was sleepy. It was the perfect storm.

We loaded into our 15 passenger van, (that doesn't scream trendy but more so HOMESCHOOLERS), which I had parked by the door, in a spot that was sandwiched between the building and the drive thru line. When I parked there I thought to myself, "Self. This is a bad idea. Large vehicles and ridiculous drive through lines don't mix." But then I thought about my exit strategy and how wrangling all those kids across a busy parking lot would make me stroke out and I pulled that beast into that compact car spot and told myself we'd leave before the lunch crowd came.

We did not.

I went to leave, I shifted into reverse, took my foot off the brake and we love tapped our bumper against a sweet, little old lady's 2014 Altima. The beast was fine. The Altima was not.

After police were called, Abigail peed in her car seat, I HAD TO PEE, it was hotter than anywhere else on the planet.

We FINALLY made it home. Abigail pooped her pants. It was naptime. We needed to leave in 2 hours for ballet.

Basically, it was a totally normal day other than the literal fender bender. I got Abigail bathed and in the bed and looked in the mirror.

Let's just say, there's a reason why I'm not trendy.

We went to ballet. Then baseball practice. And Luke came home to his wife looking basically like that college athlete he married plus 50 pounds.

And I learned a lesson. Stay with what you know. And don't forget the backup hair tie. Ever.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Easter nostalgia

Some Moms do the Christmas Eve photo in front of the Christmas tree with all the kids in their Christmas pajamas. I'm not one of those Moms. In fact, despite that I really enjoy taking photos, it's rare that ask my own children to sit and take a photo all together. And getting myself in the picture is even more rare.

For whatever reason, Easter is the one time a year I hand off the camera and force beg coerce bribe my kids (and husband) into taking a yearly family photo. It rarely ends well (and by well, I mean that we are all perfectly posed and I've not issued threats or made unreasonable promises), but it always makes me laugh. At least, afterwards. Many years afterwards.

It also appears to be the one thing that Lucas hates most on the earth. Olivia, on the other hand, has always rocked the Easter photo. I'm guessing it's her favorite holiday, ever. Besides her birthday and Christmas and whatever holiday is exactly next.

Easter 2010 can be found here on my blog. It's hilarious. But for comparisons purposes, here's a quick picture.
That would be itty bitty Ella on my lap next to Olivia. Goodness
Easter 2011 was apparently not blogged about and this is probably why:

The best one we got that year features our dog's back. Again, LUCAS. He's probably mad because he's wearing the exact same sweater vest that he wore the previous year. Fashion is clearly his thing. Or not. Seeing as how he's worn the same pair of jorts for the last week.

Easter 2012 things seemed to go a big more smoothly.

That's teeny, tiny Abigail on my lap.

You know, except for Lucas. At least Olivia is rocking it out. And Aaron. Clearly they were being bribed with excessive amounts of candy. Momma had a newborn. Momma was tired.

Easter 2013 apparently did not exist because I have no photographic documentation of it. Not even looking back through all the pics from my phone. So weird.

Which brings us to this year. Easter 2014. I knew I wanted a pic of all of us. My parents, my two grandmas and all the kids. Please note Lucas' over sarcastic smile because it took several photos of him not doing pointy, happy fingers at the camera, or throwing up some sort of gang symbol or staring off into the yard in the opposite direction.

23 photos later, grandparent photo: check. I mean, one kid out of 8 isn't looking but LOOK AT ABIGAIL. The cute. I can't even handle it.

And then, I politely asked Abigail to remove herself from my Mom's lap and sit with me for a nice family photo. She also loved that idea. Or not.

Okay, Abs, please just stop before you upset your baby sister.

Well, at least Lucas is happy for once.

I hope your Easter was a scream.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hold fast

Those were the words she said the Lord revealed to her as she prayed over what to share with us for the weekend. Hold fast.

And tonight, almost 3 years later, that weekend and those words were the ones that came immediately to mind when a dear friend told me to keep holding on.

It’s been a hard 2 years. Death, loss, grief, dreams that have seemed to dissipate, financial stress, adding a baby to our already crazy house, moving, it’s been an exhausting 2 years. Emotionally, physically, spiritually, mentally it has consumed me in all of those areas. There are days where there is very little left of the old me at all.

But I clung to the side of the mountain. The mountain that seemed to shake beneath me as the world I knew came crumbling down. Yes, over the loss of a girl but also the loss of our dreams. The loss of what we envisioned for our family and for our children. But I clung, though not well at times, because I knew of nothing else to do. My fingernails were bloody and hurting. My feet ever feeling for a ledge to find my footing. Somehow, over time, a ledge appeared. I’m not sure if it was provided for me or if my constant slipping made a rut so that a ledge had been formed. But I found one, either way. I gathered myself, decided it was time to begin climbing again, and I looked up just in time to see the mountain above me begin to crumble again.

Deceit. Deceit that has shaken me to my core. By people I’ve trusted, admired and held in high esteem my entire life. The breath of the enemy is hot on my neck and I cling, once again to the side of the cliff.

And tonight as I sat and shared with a dear friend the depths of the pain, she told me, “just hold on.”

“You shall fear the Lord your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him and by his name you shall swear.” Deuteronomy 10:20 [emphasis mine]

Oh, I’ll swear all right. Don’t you worry.

Random dropping of swear words because, it just feels good dammit. Check. Check. Checkity, effing check.

“I almost fell off, you know?” I told her. “I was so close.”

“I know. But you didn’t. You held on. Just keep holding on." HOLD ON.

Beth Moore said that same thing to an arena full of women, eager to hear her speak. Some of the girls from my Bible study attended with me and that was her message, the one she said God gave her to speak over our specific group 3 years ago. Hold fast.

I’ll be honest. At the time it didn’t mean a lot to me, I mean, other than the obvious.

Heh. Sure. I can hold fast. Hold fast for what?

But on the drive home tonight it was those words that came screaming back into my brain. HOLD FAST JESSICA. Just hold fast. Help is on the way.

Help? What help? What’s taking so freaking long, anyway?

That weekend with Beth Moore I underlined another ‘hold fast’ in my Bible.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23 [emphasis mine]

Oh, I sure hope he who promised proves to be faithful. I sure hope so.

Those verses, that weekend.

Another friend helped me remember the date of that event. July 23-24, 2011. Exactly one year prior, to the day, that Paige died. I don’t believe in coincidences.

I’m weary. I’m afraid. I’m uncertain. But, with all that I have left, I hold fast.


Side note: For those of you who know me in real life, this is a vulnerable place for me to be, out here on my blog. But after several people encouraged me to just write, I’m putting it out there. NOT because I desire to have you tell me how much you’re praying for me (though, thanks) or because I want to have a stop-and-chat in the hall at church on Sunday (please, just, no).

But, because there is no possible way that I’m the only one. There’s no way that I’m the only person going through this season. Someone else is clinging, with all they have. And you, dear one, are not alone. Let’s hold fast together, shall we? We don’t have to talk about it. We don’t have to hug or make it weird. Let’s just hold on together. Because, I’m certain, even though I’m scared as hell and I’m certainly confused beyond what I can understand, I’m certain that help really is on the way. It has to be. Hold fast with me, okay?

Friday, April 4, 2014

You are able. You are enough.

*I started this post a week and a half ago. Today, I sit back on my own couch, surrounded by 8 clingy kids again.**

I sit here on the couch in California, Evelyn napping beside me and Ashlee locked onto a movie, a whole country away from 6 of our kids and my amazing husband. Ash, Evelyn and I flew here to be with Amanda as she gives birth to her second child. She was due on Sunday should be having her baby any day now is eager to deliver her second daughter and is hoping baby girl will make her appearance very soon. They already have a beautiful baby girl who is 16 months old. So, in a few days, their house will be very, very busy. And exhausting.

A very pregnant Amanda with Harper and Nick, about a week before McKinley arrived
I keep flashing back to a conversation I had with another friend a few months ago. She was lamenting how dirty her house was, how she never had any time to complete anything and she feels so frustrated at accomplishing anything productive during her days home, aside from caring for her two boys aged 2 years and 10 months. And in that conversation, I remembered. I remembered the days of us having a 2 year old and 2 newborn babies. I remembered the days of having a 4 year old, two 2 year olds and a newborn. And I thought about it in comparison to my day to day life (when I'm not living up the relaxing life in California) now. Something leapt out at me and I knew, especially as we anticipate this sweet bundle that should come right this very second any day now, that it was worth sharing. These thoughts have been swirling in anticipation of the life Amanda and Nick are about to step into. So if you have young babies, all under 3 or 4 years old. This is for you, too, friend. I hope it encourages you.

Dear Momma (and Daddy) of many littles,

Your life is hard, most days. Diapers flow freely, your boobs see more fresh air than a topless mannequin in Abercrombie, your head rarely rests on your pillow for longer than hour and a half increments. Somewhere, deep inside you, you may wonder in the exhausting hours of the wee morning, when you've been on your feet longer than you've been horizontal, if you made a mistake with all these little people you longed for, prayed for and ached to hold. That's okay. I did that, too.

Lucas (as a newly turned 2 years old) holding Aaron (the itty, bitty newborn).
Lucas' shirt was SO CORRECT.
In so many ways, your life with your 2 or 3 kids all ages 4 years (or 2 years) and under is SO MUCH harder than mine, with 8 children ages 9 years and younger. I promise, it really is. The thought of 8 kids overwhelms you, most likely. But I can assure you, my day to day life is a lot easier today than it was 6 years ago when we had a 2 year old and two newborns. Do you want to know why?

Because you are responsible for it all. I have at least two tremendous helpers named Elizabeth and Ashlee. But, not you. You, mom and dad to your two little bitties, you are all there is to keep the peace. Every pat, every feeding, every reinserting of the pacci, every diaper, every butt wipe, every snack, every meal, every drink, every boo boo that needs kissed, every cuddle and burp, all of it. YOU ARE THE ONE who has to do that. You and your husband is all there is unless he's at work, or deployed or just at the store for another round of diapers, and then you're it. You alone.

And I don't say that to overwhelm you or to make it feel even more exhausting, but to give you hope. Because, I can promise you, that one day you will blink and those sweet babies that are 16 months apart will be 9 years old and 8 years old and the very best of friends. You'll hear them arguing over who gets to sleep on the top bunk tonight, or who wore the stonewashed jeans last or who took all the marshmallow cereal and you'll have to think really, really hard to remember how exhausting today was for you. You'll hear them tell each other secrets that they only reserve for each other and your heart will feel so overwhelmed with joy and love it just might explode.

Elizabeth - 3 years (almost 4), Lucas and Ashlee - 2 years, and newborn
Aaron in my arms, about to take his first "real" bath.
When you have a rockstar mom day, and both babies sleep like they've been sprinkled with sleeping dust from heaven, high five yourself and enjoy it. But when it's been a cry fest day, all you've accomplished all day long is holding babies and the smell of your own person makes you cringe, remember that this won't last forever. Also remember that this is the hardest part. Yes, there will be days when your first born begins to grow breasts and has her first period, her first crush and is sassier than a Kardashian with PMS and you'll wish so hard she was still 4 months old and you could baby wear her and smell her baby head. Those days will be hard, too. Trust me.

But today, the day that you are everything and everyone and the most important person on the face of the planet to everyone in your home, these days are hard. Emotionally, physically, spiritually all of it. You'll fall into the bed at the end of every day and, if you don't crash immediately, you'll replay the day in your head, highlighting all the ways you feel you failed. And you'll probably cry when you think about how you've probably bruised their fragile, little hearts with your harsh, exhausted tone of voice at nap time because OH MY GAH PLEASE GO TO SLEEP IN THE NEXT 5 MINUTES OR I WILL SNAP. Believe me when I tell you that you did not do permanent damage. It will be overridden by the hours you will spend rocking and holding and cuddling and kissing boo-boos and everything in between. Your babies will grow up, too quickly I can assure you, and you will long for the days when you had to hold your sweet newborn just so you could both nap while the toddler naps.

Luke and I with Luke's Dad and step-Mom.
Elizabeth is not quite two years old, the twins are newbies.
 The best advice I have for you right now, exhausted Momma, is to cut yourself some slack. And take lots and lots and lots of pictures. Journal if your arms are able to move at the end of a long day. Because you will forget. You'll forget the details you swore to yourself you'd remember. When I had my first 3 babies, facebook was relatively new and Instagram wasn't even a thought. Thankfully, with those two things, the picture part will be easier for you now. But journal, journal, journal. Even if you're a bad writer. Even if you can't write out complete sentences. Write it down. I wish, so much, I'd have blogged back then.

I *think* this is the morning of Elizabeth's 2nd birthday. If not, it's close to then.
Look at my tiny twins! Oh goodness I miss those baby cheeks.

Finally, my sweet friend, savor as many moments as you can. I know it's hard. I do. And sometimes it's all you can do to get through the day. But at least once a day, even if it's when everyone is screaming at fever pitch, stop, breathe, fake a smile and savor it. I heard someone say at a homeschool conference when Ella was just an itty, bitty baby (she's 4 now by the way) that, "The days are long but the years are short." It's so true. 

Savoring isn't the easiest thing in the world, either. So I don't say that flippantly. I love, love, love having newborns. But I know not all mothers are that way. And that is okay. It's okay if you don't love the newborn phase. Just like it's okay that 4 year olds aren't exactly my favorite age on the planet.

My point is, motherhood is hard. Mothering small armies of babies and toddlers without the help of an older sibling is exhausting. Cut yourself some slack. Take a long nap when you can and remember to date your husband as often as possible. You can do this. You were made to do this. I promise you were. God set those tiny people in your family with a specific purpose, at this specific time, for this specific season. When the days feel like you're drowning, remember that this time was ordained by The One who walked on drowning waters.

I promise you, you are able. You are enough. Now, sniff that newborn head for me and kiss those pudgy toddler hands (but check for boogers and mystery smells first). And if you forget that you are enough, just ask me. I'll be sure to remind you every, single time.



Almost 4 month old Evelyn with less than 24 hour old McKinley

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Evelyn at 1 month

My baby is a month old already. How in the world did that happen?!

I really wanted to take some of those cute photos of her every month, like you see on Pinterest and stuff. Pinterest is a joke. Clearly anyone who posts photos and crafty recipes there has nothing else to do with their life.

I've decided that taking photos of your own baby (as a photographer) is MUCH harder than taking photos of someone else's baby. This girl gives me a run for my money any time the camera comes out. (I just remembered I didn't share any newborn photos I took of her. I'll do that next post. She was by far the HARDEST newborn session I've ever had.)

At one month old here statistics are; 10 pounds, 2 ounces and 22.5 inches. Yes, she gained nearly 2 pounds and grew an inch and a half in a month. Holy moly, right? I'm not surprised since she likes to eat. A lot. Last night she gave me the longest stretch of sleep yet, 4 hours and 15 minutes! Yipee!

I gave up having her pose with Raggedy Ann after she insisted on being swaddled and having her pacci in her mouth. Oh well, there's always her 2 month photos, right?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Domestic Domestic

Way back when, before the days of children and when I actually wore single digit pant sizes, I played Junior Olympic Volleyball. It's not as hoity toity as it sounds. I sat the bench. A lot.

Anyway, during my 5 years of JO Volleyball and traveling to weekend tournaments, I spent countless nights in hotel rooms packed with my teenage teammates. These were the days before smart phones and laptops so we literally had no choice but to build relationships and act like teenage girls. That included swimming in clearly closed hotel pools after business hours, spitting over balcony railings, guzzling caffeine laden drinks until the wee hours of the morning, winning some tough matches, losing some that we should have won, making huge plays, missing crucial serves and just growing into adulthood together. You will never hear me say that I miss high school, because I do not. But those days of JO Volleyball, I miss those. A lot.

I miss the sport and I miss the people.

JOVB Summer of 1997 (?)
I'm the 3rd from the left. My friend Heather is last on the right.
Our hair. I blame humidity. And the 90's.
In a day where facebook reeks of political agendas and controversy, especially following the Grammy Awards, State of the Union addresses and the latest celebrity soapbox, I'm often annoyed by what I find on there. Several times I've wanted to just shut down my entire account because I am so over people talking about who said what and what they did and how it was so outside of what they should have done and blah blah blah. But, I don't. And the reason I don't just shut it down and walk away is because:

1) I like showing off my kids. And today was the first shower I've had since Sunday so leaving the house to show them off isn't really an option every day because their adorableness would be overshadowed by my smell and the length of my armpit hair.

2) I get to keep in touch with some people that I treasure deeply, even though I've not seen them in, say, 13 years. Some of those my former teammates from my JO Volleyball days. Heather is one of those people.

Heather drove her tan, chrysler mini-van to practices. Practices that she attended wearing argyle socks and cut off khaki shorts, and sometimes, a polo shirt. I remember being slightly enamored with her because she is one of those people that you just truly enjoy being around. Thoughtful, honest, genuine.

I graduated high school and kissed my semi-small town goodbye, loaded up my car and moved to an even smaller town to play college volleyball. I knew most of the players on my college team from my JO Volleyball days. Heather played volleyball with me in college for a year (maybe 2?). When she hung up the argyle socks and khakis (wait, no, that never happened), she stuck around our small, liberal arts college and for the next 3 years we shared our college campus and a few friends. She was forever making stuff. I remember her making a table top entirely from bottle caps for her apartment. From scratch. The only thing I'd ever made from scratch was Ramen.

Some people have a gift to see beyond the immediate potential of an object (or business) and cast forth a vision of their own. To see beyond what something is in the present and create with it something outside it's normal function. I mean, do you know how long she had to save bottle caps? I'd have quit after buying my first 6-pack of bottled fanta. But that's not Heather.

Through the miracle of the internet (yes, miracle) I've watched her grow into an entrepreneur who sees what is lacking in a community and fills that void in local commerce with tenacity. All while maintaining those same qualities I admired so many, many, many, many years ago while we wore unsightly spandex (you can't play in a game in argyle and khakis) and knee socks. Honestly, integrity, authenticity.

Her latest endeavor is a company called Domestic Domestic. While most Americans disagree on everything from breastfeeding and cosleeping to more serious social issues, I'm sure there's one thing we can all agree on: Buying American made products. Buying WELL MADE American made products, at that.

That's what Domestic Domestic is all about. I asked Heather why she started the company. Here's what she said,

"So many friends do amazing things. Adopt babies, save lives, drs, lawyers, missionaries. I sell things. I just wanted to sell things with a purpose. Make my own difference. The selection of Domestic Domestic is carefully curated. Each item comes from a great company that depends on consumers to be aware of the quality. I love being the connection between these companies and craftsmen and a consumer who gives a damn."

I think that is amazing. Knowing your natural bent in life and pursuing it with a passion to make this crazy world a better place.

Domestic Domestic sells everything from whiffle balls to taco plates (which would make taco night at our house immeasurably easier. Dear God, SPILLED SHREDDED CHEESE. *shudder*) to this little gem that would surely make me smile more when I'm in my kitchen.

Head over to Domestic Domestic yourself and check it out. Because they have stuff I don't even know what you do with it. And a murse that I'm pretty sure Luke is gonna pee his pants over when I show it to him. (He's been looking for one for months. Just pick one already, right?)

Point is, there's variety. American made variety. And some pretty fun stuff that if I'd known about in college, would have made me feel better about making my ramen from scratch.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Evelyn's birth story

My Evelyn's birth was, by far, the most dramatic of all our children's births. 

I was 40 weeks and 5 days pregnant at my Friday afternoon appointment. Earlier that day I posted a semi-snarky status on facebook about people NOT asking me if I have "had that baby yet" because clearly, I was still pregnant and there wasn't photos of a cute, newborn baby blowing up their newsfeeds.

My OB had told me the week before that, unlike Ella (who I carried 42 weeks 2 (3?) days), he wouldn't be in favor of letting me go much past 41 weeks gestation because of my gestational diabetes. I blew his comment off at my 39 week appointment because my OB is very laid back about due dates and birth and very much in favor of letting a woman's body gestate for as long as is healthy for the mother and baby.

However, when my blood pressure showed to be up just a little bit, he began talking inductions. Abigail is the ONLY baby I have not be induced with. And she came 5 days before her due date in a glorious, pitocin free labor and birth. Remember?

Anyway, my OB, who is a pretty laid back kind of guy started strongly suggesting that I get induced THAT AFTERNOON. I just sat and looked at him, stone faced. Certain that if I said nothing he'd send me on my merry way and I'd have another natural labor and birth. Right? He wasn't catching my drift. "I get the feeling you aren't a fan of being induced," he said. I explained to him my loathing of pitocin and how I'm sure it's extracted from the veins of the devil before it's placed into the IV's of large, desperate, pregnant women who just want to meet their babies already. Ahem.

My OB typed some things onto his computer and said, "Well, let's check your cervix and see what our options are." I was 3cm dilated.

I tried to coax my OB into letting me wait a little longer but at the end of our appointment he had convinced me that inducing was our best option with the elevated blood pressure and all. He is really very kind and very much takes into account the desires of his patients. So when he didn't back down about the induction, I knew he was serious.

I immediately began feeling anxiety well up within me. This would be my 4th induction. I knew what pitocin did to my body and I really wanted to try to avoid an epidural again. I texted a few friends asking them to pray for my anxious heart and I drove myself to the chiropractor for one more adjustment before calling labor and delivery to see what time they wanted me to show up.

I'd been having contractions on and off for about a week but they were never consistent and they weren't terribly painful. More of a nuisance, really. Especially when I was trying to sleep or lay down. I called L&D and they told me to show up about 4:00-4:30pm. I called Luke to come home from work and went home to tell the kids.

I got to the hospital and checked into L&D by 5:30pm. They did all my paperwork, started a saline lock IV, asked me a bazillion questions. Then, the midwife came in for us to talk about our induction options. (The OB went off-call at 5:00pm and the midwife was on call for the weekend.) I had discussed with the OB having the midwife just break my water and try to start labor that way. But after talking with the midwife, and Luke (who knows my laboring body almost as well as I do) we decided that the lowest, slowest IV of pitocin would be the best approach. So at 7:00pm we began the drip of pitocin. It immediately made my sporadic contractions consistent, even though the intensity and pain of them didn't increase much. We bumped up the pitocin every hour (compared to every half hour for a normal induction).

The nursed checked me at about 1:30am and I was 5-6cm dilated. We bumped up the pitocin one final time and that's when the intense contractions began. I was finally in transition! Luke and I have a "dance" we do when I'm in transition. I simply CANNOT sit or lay down during transition contractions because the pain is just too intense. He knows, once my hands go from low to up around his neck, it's serious.

For about an hour, from 1:45am until 2:45am my contractions were hard, consistent and every 3 or so minutes apart. My disposition changed and I told Amanda, who was in the room with us, along with my Mom and Dad, to text a couple friends and tell them that I was certainly in transition, because I knew they'd know how to pray me through. Luke and I did our "dance" that full hour. The contractions got harder, but I knew that they were bringing forth our daughter. And y'all, Luke is an AMAZING laboring partner. He knows when to hold me up, when to whisper encouragements, when to pray over me, when to get me water and when to be my advocate. I don't know how I'd make it through childbirth without him by my side. He's my prophet, provider, protector and priest in every sense of the word during those hours.

I don't think I'll ever forget opening the door to the bathroom (after changing into that sexy hospital gown and before all the induction business got started) and seeing my husband, kneeling on the labor room floor, his hands outstretched to cover the hospital bed, and him praying over it. That is why it's so easy to submit to him and why it's so easy to be his wife.

Anyway, back to birth. At 2:45am the nurse called the midwife. I labored those last 15 minutes literally hanging from Luke's neck. I'm pretty sure the last 3 contractions I had standing up, he was literally holding me up. The pressure was so intense, I just knew that the midwife would come in and simply catch our baby. I was that close to delivery. Or so I thought.

The midwife came in about 3:00am. She checked me to see how dilated I was. I was 6 cm. SIX CENTIMETERS. I felt defeated. And confused. I looked at Luke and the look on his face was exactly how I felt. It simply wasn't possible I was only 6cm because we'd just done our transition dance for the last hour. I think we were both completely thrown off our game. I remember telling Luke and the midwife that it was time to call for an epidural because I knew I could not make it another hour (my usual transition from 6-7cm to fully dilated) with the pain I was in. For whatever reason, it was decided that I wouldn't get an epidural but instead they'd give me some stadol and turn off the pitocin. I remember asking the midwife if I could push because I felt so much pressure. She told me I could not and that if I did, I would risk tearing my cervix. She did say that if it helped with the pain, I could bear down.

So here I am, in the bed, laying on my side and the contractions are not getting any easier to manage. It was the most intense, painful thing I've ever felt in my life. It felt nothing like my labor with Abigail, where it just felt like my pelvis would snap in half. It was an all consuming pain. My entire body hurt with each contraction. It was horrible. I began begging and pleading with Luke to find the midwife (who had left the room at that point) and to demand for her to call the anesthesiologist. I begged and pleaded and told him that it was just too painful and I simply could not bear it. It was too much. This went on for I think 3 or so contractions (remember - 3 or so minutes apart - so by now it's 3:09ish). The nurse put on another sterile glove to check me since I was obviously in major pain. Then, the next contraction came. I remembered what the midwife had said about bearing down. I knew I had to do something to help with the pain because, y'all, I HAVE NEVER.

So, I just decided to bear down a teeny, tiny bit. Apparently that was the only cue my body needed. Natural instinct took over and my body began to all out push. I was still laying on my side and I said, out loud, "She's coming now!" The nurse pulled back the cover and apparently got the clue that I was NOT at 6cm any longer. She walked to the door to get the midwife and I remember my Mom saying, "Her head is out!"

The nurse walked back around the foot of the bed just as my body pushed one last time. She caught Evelyn with one hand, the one that had the glove, thankfully. I have photos of her holding Evelyn with one hand trying to pull up my gown for skin to skin while the midwife is still putting on her gloves. I'd post one here but this is a co-ed blog (I think?) and while it doesn't show any "areas" of me (because the bed wasn't broken down and I wasn't even in stirrups!) it is a little, um, special. But if you know me in real life and come over, I'll show you.

At 3:12am our Evelyn Love was born. (At about 3:00am I was still 6cm. It was crazy fast.)

My poor husband y'all. I remember about the time this picture was taken. I was looking at my baby and something was dripping on my arm. IT WAS MY HUSBAND'S TEARS. Later, he told me that he's never seen me in that much pain and it was torture to know that he could do nothing about it.

Look at his hand on my face. I can't even look at these without tearing up. In that top photo, he hasn't even looked at his daughter yet. He was so concerned for me.

I nursed her for that first hour and she latched on like a champ. Also, THE STADOL FINALLY KICKED IN and my husband, my parents and Amanda were laughing at me hysterically. Apparently, I was slurring my speech and totally blitzed, as is evidenced by the photo below. I didn't feel loopy but I do remember thinking that it was really hard to blink.

Once our Love had finished nursing, Luke escorted her to the newborn nursery. And I did what any drunk person who hasn't eaten in 12 hours would do, I sent my dad to IHOP. No longer a diabetic, I wanted the LARGEST stack of pancakes he could carry back to the hospital. With syrup. An IV of syrup, please. And some juice.

Our girl weighed in as the biggest baby we've ever had. A whopping 8 pounds, 4 ounces and 21 inches long. The cheeks. I'm sure there's a pound of baby in each one.

The next morning (read: 5 hours later) our kids came to the hospital to meet their newest sibling.

They were all SO excited. Elizabeth was so thrilled that she couldn't contain her tears of joy. (Take a hard look at that photo above.) I was so worried that she was upset. But when she finally made it over to the bed all she could tell me was, "I'm just so, so happy she's here!"

Elizabeth has been the first to hold every baby in our family, as is expected since she's the oldest. But Ashlee is, in fact, a baby addict. I think she gets high off baby head sniffs. Luke and I decided that this time, Ashlee would be the first to hold the baby. Her face when I put Evelyn in her arms was priceless.

Even Abigail was smitten and totally thrilled with her new sister.

Our first family of TEN photo. Please ignore the face of Lucas. He hadn't held Evelyn yet and wasn't too happy about it.

The entire experience was unlike any other birth I've experienced. Which is true for our precious, baby girl - she's her own person. She's a delight to us all. We all take turns kissing her big, chubby cheeks and doting on her. I have a feeling she will be spoiled by all 9 of us. Just you wait.