Love Only Multiplies…

Today is February 14th. I can’t say I’ve had a great track record with this greeting card-driven holiday, but I’ve always had love, and for the past 7 years, I’ve enjoyed spending simple and sweet Valentine’s Days with Chris Topher.

Today is also our first baby’s due date, and I am exactly 32 weeks pregnant with our second.

I have many mixed feelings, but as much as I love the baby in my womb and the one who only spent a few days with me, I am convinced that love doesn’t diminish; it only multiplies.

Love is beautiful and rugged and difficult and glorious. Love exists, even when we can’t see it. I am so grateful that God’s love is not dependent on my ability to see it or understand it; it is perfect and unchanging.

On Monday, I went to the high risk doctor again. Despite the weight I lost in the hospital, baby looked great, was head down, and instead of measuring 2 weeks ahead, went back to measuring on schedule. What surprised everyone at the office was that my large fibroid, the 9x9x8 cm growth that has been present since before I conceived and obstructive to birth since its first viewing… has completely moved up and away so that it is no longer in the way! It was in such a different place that the ultrasound tech had to go back and look at the last ultrasound just to see what she was looking for!

Part of me wonders if that big move triggered the contractions/bleeding in January (because the fibroid had been low at my January 15th appointment and in a different place on January 19th when I was hospitalized). I’m going to ask my OB next week, but regardless, this shift, after 28 weeks of no change, was a huge answer to prayer. Family, friends, and I all prayed for this to happen, even when it looked like it wasn’t going to happen.

What I also find noteworthy is that this didn’t happen until I stopped just praying for it to move; I began to pray that my baby would arrive when and how God chose for it to arrive, even if it wasn’t what I thought I wanted (although I did still tell Him exactly what I wanted, just in case).

And don’t worry, I still have plenty to pray for! The placenta is still in the way, but it has been downgraded from a complete previa to a marginal posterior previa. It’s still too close for a safe vaginal birth, and I may still have trouble with it, but even this still holds hope. My high risk doctor thinks it has the potential move in the next few weeks.

I am praying that it does (because it would help for a safer delivery and I would like to avoid a c-section if possible), but I am also very much at peace if it doesn’t or if my wiggly child decides to flip again right before birth. God is sovereign, He has a plan, and all of the things we worry about are on purpose, even if we never get to see that purpose.

This pregnancy has already grown me in so many ways, and although it is scary sometimes and tests my patience and my trust, I am excited to continue to see His story unfold in my life.

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Faith

July 17th, 2017

As I turn my thoughts toward motherhood, I am struck by the impermanence of this world. I am reminded, day by day, just how little control we have over life. It is shocking to me then, that people could see how delicate the threads of life are, and not search for the One who holds us together.

Have you ever searched obituaries for people with the same birth date and year as yourself? This was on a Reddit thread, and I couldn’t help but try it myself. Many people my age passed away in their early twenties, while I, for some unfathomable reason, am advancing in age.

There’s so much that can go wrong; you have to be the winning sperm to be yourself, free from chromosomal abnormalities in order to thrive. You have to perilously attach when you are so small, and then, even if you do manage to grow, you could be stillborn, contract a disease, die in your sleep, have failing organs… and this is just the first year after birth. Additionally, that birth could kill your mother. And if you both survive, you could be smothered or contract cancer. You could die by accidental self-strangulation, suffocation, drowning, traumatic injury… the list goes on and on. You could be perfectly healthy, have all of your affairs in order, eat right, live well, and still be struck by a drunk driver or an errant bullet in your own front yard.

Life is not guaranteed.

In this modern world of medical interventions, endless conveniences, and ceaseless strivings, it is easy to forget about survival, love, and what family and propagation means.

Right now, they’re saying that if you really care about the environment, you won’t have kids.

But I think what is difficult to accept is the perspective of eternity. I pray every day for my husband’s well-being and that I might have more time with him because I know that not even another day is guaranteed. I pray that if I die, I won’t traumatize hundreds of students by my passing. I pray that if I have another miscarriage, it won’t negatively impact those around me. Nothing in life is guaranteed… and yet, nothing worth having in life is possible without risk.

Each day we make choices, hoping that they are the right ones, making peace with the ones that are not.

Each day we can hope for what the future holds, strive for it even, but revel in the peace that is trusting that God has already seen the end of the story, and regardless of outcome, He was there.

He is here. He promises to get me through all of it.

It is with this benediction that I can move forward. It is with this promise I am offered a lifeline for when I find it impossible to keep kicking my legs.

It is with this notion, I realize that I must finally be still and trust more than I ever have with what little I have.  This is faith.

A Week Ago Today…

I woke up at 5 AM, same as usual. We were going to go to the gym. It had been a typical stressful week for me; I failed both my gestational diabetes tests by a little bit on Monday and Tuesday and had just figured out how to use a glucometer.

Then there was the voting fiasco for Colors Day at school. I was tired, but not exhausted, but all of that changed when I got up to go to the bathroom. There was some old blood in my underwear. I called for Chris and we decided to call and ask someone. He couldn’t get ahold of my doctor’s office, so I called my insurance nurse line, and as I was on the phone, there was more blood, fresh blood.

We had to go in.

We had known with my low-lying placenta that this could be a thing; that I could wake up to 1-2 cups (!!) of blood and things might not be lost. Luckily, it wasn’t that much, but it was enough to be concerning. I was 28 weeks and 2 days pregnant.

In the ER, they changed my clothes, took my vitals, and hooked me up to monitors while they waited on ultrasound to arrive. Apparently I was having contractions 1-2 minutes apart and had no idea. Eventually ultrasound arrived, and although the baby looked great, the fibroid had migrated upward, and my cervix was still nice and long and unchanged, my placenta previa was complete; the placenta was over the cervix entirely. I heard varying opinions on why I had started bleeding; the bleeding caused contractions or the contractions caused bleeding (clearly a chicken and egg scenario), but what was clear was that I was going to be admitted for 48 hours to try and stop the contractions.

They admitted me, gave me a steroid shot for baby’s lungs just in case, and immediately started the high doses of intravenous magnesium. It was awful. The catheter was awful. Just as they suggested, it felt like I was getting the flu. I wasn’t comfortable enough to sleep, I felt hot, loopy, and gross. The only encouragement was that slowly over the course of the day, the contractions slowed down.

My friends from school sent me flowers. Chris was there most of the day, and friends stopped in around dinner to check in on me. I wasn’t allowed to eat while having contractions, so I subsisted on ice chips and popsicles, watching TV because my eyes couldn’t focus well enough to read.

Chris stayed with me that night and suffered through the repeated vitals checks and all the beeping when the machines malfunctioned from my attempts to sleep and I had to call the nurse to reset them. He was supposed to have left Friday at noon to go see his brother before speaking at a conference. He canceled his flights and opted to drive out to Atlanta on Monday so he’d have the flexibility of being able to drive back whenever needed. I felt so awful about it, but he told me to stop apologizing.

I slept fitfully Friday night. The night nurse was awesome and even switched my IV when it was hurting me at 3 AM. Apparently it was the magnesium and my bony arms. I slept a little more after that.

Early in the morning on Saturday, I felt particularly crummy. I was having a hard time catching my breath, feeling dizzy and nauseous and drugged. I couldn’t sleep because it felt like my muscles were crushing themselves, and I had pain in the middle of my upper back. I only felt comfortable sitting up, so I tried to wait it out for about 45 minutes. Chris was still sleeping, and I knew shift change was soon, so I thought they’d be there soon.

I finally called the nurse. She was amazing. My friend who works as a nurse in the same unit came to visit me at the end of my shift about that time too. Apparently she was worried because I didn’t seem like myself and wasn’t making sense to her. They temporarily stopped my magnesium and went to get ahold of the doctor. My vitals still looked great, but it was clear that I was struggling, so they suspected magnesium toxicity and decided to be proactive and do my bloodwork before the doctor arrived. My friend was hesitant about leaving, but I told her to go home to her kid and some rest and that Chris would stay. They also gave me the second steroid shot at that point.

I did not have magnesium toxicity, but the doctor said that if I wasn’t contracting, I didn’t need to be on the magnesium (apparently 48 hours is standard treatment, but I was taken off of it before the 24 hour mark). They kept monitoring me, and I felt so much better in a couple of hours. I was still having random contractions, maybe one per hour, but nothing to even notify the doctor about. They started letting me eat, so I had meals to look forward to. I passed quite a bit of old blood which freaked me out, but I was assured that it was okay because it was old and was to be expected. I was again glad I had gone in.

I sent Chris home that night because I was feeling better and I wanted him to get some sleep. Sunday was pretty uneventful. They took off more of my monitors and the catheter so I could shower. I was told we’d go to monitoring once per shift. Baby was a champ every time, usually finding the monitor so he could kick it before running away. His other favorite move was using the monitors as a hiccup microphone. It was comforting to hear him all the time and feel good that he was still there and still active.

I wondered what would happen when they did let me go home, although no one had a clear answer of what or when: just wait and see.

Monday morning Chris stopped by before picking up the rental and leaving for Atlanta. We still didn’t know what was going to happen with me, but I had a ride lined up to take me home and another friend to stay the night just in case I’d be by myself while Chris was gone.

My OB stopped in and finally gave me some answers: No more gym. No more work. No more being alone overnight in case of emergency. I was being placed on modified bed rest until delivery. I told her we weren’t sure about Chris’s planned research trip out of the country, but that we had friends and family lined up to stay with me. She said that was okay. She wanted to talk to the high risk doctor about putting me on medication prophylactically to prevent contractions. I said okay.

A couple of hours later, they decided no medication for now, and discharged me.

 

I have been scared, frustrated, overwhelmed, and optimistic in turns since then. I know all the positives: each day he stays in saves 3 in the NICU, I’m lucky it was caught early, it’s better to be home than in the hospital, everything else looks great, he’s measuring ahead, so that is on our side….

But I’m also trying to see what God wants to reveal through these disappointments. Are we being saved from greater heartache? Is Chris putting off his research trip saving us somehow? Will better opportunities be presented for him? Why is it better that I will be on unpaid leave longer than I wanted? Maybe I’ll avoid the flu?

It’s impossible to really speculate. I’m so worried that this will hurt us, but I don’t know why God would bring us this far only to fail. I’m trusting that the answer is there, regardless of my knowledge or ability to see it. Trust. Trust. Trust. That is all I’m hearing.

We picked out a life verse for our boy:

Psalm 1:1-3

1Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

We have been praying that he would have a long and beautiful life, that he would find favor with God and man, and that he would use this favor to positively advocate for the marginalized. We pray that just like his physical heart has always been strong, he would be strong in spirit, a protector to many.

I hope he’s all those things and handsome for all the trouble so far! Maybe he’ll be an incredibly wonderful child because he’s getting the rough part over with now.

When I’m Scared

I feel like a ticking time bomb.

It’s too late to change anything. This baby is growing which means things could change.

I am attempting to do what I do with everything: get all the information and rationalize.

I am trying to reconcile why God made the first miscarriage so early and complete that we couldn’t see this mass because I never got an ultrasound.

I am wondering how long it will be before something terrible happens: I lose the baby, it is born too early, its growth and development are restricted, I bleed out in labor or c-section.

In the grand scheme of things, I know none of this matters, but the pain in between now and eternity seems unfathomable.

And yet, even knowing all these things, I find myself at the feet of my Creator, begging Him to love me and spare my child if it is at all possible. What terrifies me is that I know I don’t deserve any favor; I deserve pain and separation. But God has promised forgiveness, redemption, and a right relationship with Him.

I have nothing else.

Onward and… Outward!

Tomorrow I will be 20 weeks pregnant; the halfway point.

I had my anatomy scan last week and loved watching our baby on screen and seeing how Chris marveled at it all. The good news is that the baby is strong, super active, measuring normally, and has nothing out of the ordinary about… HIM! It’s a little boy!

The news that was a little harder to swallow was that my fibroid has grown about a centimeter and is obstructing the birth canal, and I have a low-lying placenta currently covering my cervix (placenta previa). Because of both these reasons, I am preparing for what will likely be a c-section.

This is not what I wanted at all, but I am comforted by the fact that God knows my anxieties and has allowed months for me to get used to the idea so I don’t panic in the moment. It could still change (placentas shift and the fibroid could shrink or shift), but I am confident that how/where everything is in this pregnancy is on purpose, so I have faith that God will see me through.

I am incredibly grateful He has answered my prayers for a healthy baby that has not been affected by the fibroid so far; he has a great blood supply and no growth restriction.  I am grateful that He has answered my prayers and I have not had any bleeding or pain from the fibroid or placenta previa (both very common) and that I have been able to work. I am grateful that although it is not my preferred mode of arrival, knowing in advance will prevent me from a possibly painful, fruitless, traumatic, and possibly life-threatening labor. I am grateful that there IS an intervention available to take care of both obstacles making an exit difficult, whereas there are not interventions for developmental issues. There is still a chance of pre-term labor, but I am only a month away from viability, and although of course I want him to keep growing and developing inside me for as long as possible, I am grateful. Again, I see God’s provision in giving me the information early; if something rough happens, I will know why, where many people never get those answers. I see God’s provision in giving me the opportunity to have this knowledge and still choose faith over fear. He is truly preparing me for parenthood!

Although I still haven’t announced to my students, I did announce to my student council students on Friday and fielded several questions about my undeniable bump. The time has come to go public out of necessity! I’m still not announcing on social media, but I am more comfortable discussing in person and have even allowed myself to enjoy feeling little kicks and movement off and on during the day.

God is good, and will be good regardless of the outcome of this pregnancy. I am fervently praying for my son’s life and health, but I trust that God will hold him fast in my womb until it is time for his arrival.

2nd Trimester Has Begun

Since last I wrote, I’ve undergone quite a few changes. The waves of nausea, causing me to feel like I was catching the flu for about a month straight have eased up mostly, although I still struggle to have enough protein because meat is gross.

At 11.5 weeks, I had some pain radiating in my hips to the point that I was irritated and distracted, so I went to urgent care, only to be referred to the ER because urgent care didn’t even have a doppler. Everything was fine, and although it was a pricey trip to hear that, it was worth the peace of mind. My OB had said come in with ANY pain, so I was a little nervous. The ultrasound tech was really kind, and she enjoyed seeing my fibroid and pointing out all sorts of cool things with my wiggly healthy baby; she counted fingers for me and showed me the blood flow from me to my baby and back again. Apparently there is another little fibroid in there, but it’s only 1cm so it’s not a big deal. I was grateful everyone was so kind.

That episode ended up being the harbinger of a rough week of round ligament pain and everything stretching. I managed with Tylenol and sleep and have been fortunate to feel more comfortable after that week. My very brief 14 week appointment (I wasn’t seen for over an hour past my appointment time) went well and baby sounds great! We won’t get another look until November 15th.

I have had a host of other little symptoms, but I am physically managing quite well. What I didn’t anticipate was how much this process would change me: physically, emotionally, spiritually.

I’ve struggled with feeling disappointed that I was showing so early, that it’s almost impossible to keep this little secret to myself. It’s very much unlike me; part of this feeling I’m sure is anxiety, but another part is just wanting to keep this to myself, to protect my baby from prying eyes and the public opinion of others. This feeling extends to wanting a stealth pregnancy on social media.

There is nothing in me that wants to share or overshare about my pregnancy; no bump photos for the public, no cheesy announcement, no dumb statuses complaining about symptoms. I just want to live in the now and enjoy the infinite universe growing in my womb.

It’s also a little strange because I am both pregnant and sometimes still grieving the baby I lost on June 2nd. I keep seeing people I know expecting in February and feeling the loss. Part of me is sad that I won’t know that child, even though I’m extremely grateful to be expecting again so soon, and I feel confident this child was meant to be because it wouldn’t otherwise exist. The other part of me says I never liked Valentine’s Day anyway, which is when my first due date was. I know that everything is happening how it is supposed to, but I also think it’s healthy to accept those moments and let them wash over me like a rogue wave and pass.

Occasionally, I still struggle with bouts of anxiety over my increased risk of miscarriage, pre-term labor, episodes of extreme pain, and other complications. It is daunting to think about, but not a death sentence. I feel inextricably drawn to the idea that I am supposed to be more trusting through this experience, to live more calmly in the present and do what I can without freaking out about the rest.

This is one of the first times in my life where I can literally do nothing, but trust unseen.

When God decides to answer your prayers, it is not always in the way you think. But I believe I will be better for this, however it ends. Of course, I want this to be the beginning of a long life for Chris’s and my first child this side of heaven, but God will still be good regardless.

I want so badly to be that medical miracle where a huge fibroid shrinks or even just disappears by the next scan; I want people to marvel at it and be pointed to God (and trust me, if anything deserves a big Facebook announcement, it would be that; I would post it everywhere and have a conversation with every nurse, doctor, and person who asks me about my newborn).

I am praying big prayers and simple prayers: Lord, please please shrink the fibroid or remove it completely. Help my baby to grow strong and separate from the fibroid, that it wouldn’t cause any harm or episodes of extreme pain. Please don’t let whatever happens to me traumatize me or my students or my family. Please keep my husband safe and return him from his travels to me.

I pray this over and over and over, because if nothing else, God says to trust Him and to be persistent in prayer. Please make me into the mom you want me to be. PleasePlease help my child to be calm and strong and willing to take action for the needs of the marginalized. Please let him see the bigger picture and be moved by Your compassion to love others and find big ways to love the world for You.

So in a way, I’m grateful; God has made it impossible for me to focus on anything about this other than what matters. I have a front row seat to the next big thing He will show me, and I have a feeling it will be physical and spiritual changes inside and out.

Growth and a Growth

Since my last post, I have learned a lot. My second HCG draw was 120, more than tripled in 48 hours. I went to an initial appointment at six weeks, where they took a lot of blood, talked to me, and sent me on my way.

I waited and waited three more weeks until my appointment at 9 weeks. At the appointment, I waited over an hour to be seen because my OB had an emergency c-section she had to deliver. I was excited and scared to see what was going on, and I thought it hilarious that God was making me wait yet again.

When my OB finally had a chance, the trans-vaginal ultrasound wand didn’t work well, so she switched to a trans-abdominal. She looked more closely at the screen and scanned around. “Is there anything in there?” I asked, still skeptical that I was pregnant.

She said yes, there was a baby, and she found a strong heartbeat (178) and it was measuring at exactly 9+1 weeks based on my LMP. But there was also something else in there, something very large. It was a fibroid. She had a student doctor with her, and I’ll never forget the look on that student’s face as she watched my reaction to hearing the news: I had one very large fibroid, maybe another, and because it was so large, I am deemed a high risk pregnancy. It could cause pain, pre-term labor, or cause complications if it were to interfere with the baby’s blood supply… or it could remain asymptomatic. I had had zero spotting or any other symptoms, and there was no way I could have known. My only known risk factors are anxiety and hormonal birth control. I asked her if it was near the baby, and she said no. She couldn’t tell any more because the machine wasn’t great, so I was to have another ultrasound to find out more. I repeated the information back to her and took her advice to keep an eye on bowel movements (because apparently it’s sitting in the back of my womb and might interfere).

I waited again for the ultrasound on the following Monday. With a full bladder, I waited a good 30 minutes past my appointment time to be seen. That was terrible. The male ultrasound tech, however, was very kind and had excellent bedside manner. He told me I was to have my uterus and ovaries mapped out for my doctor to examine. He completed the trans-abdominal ultrasound, allowed me to empty my bladder, and then brought in a woman to sit with us as he completed the trans-vaginal ultrasound. I was very cautious but glad to have some clarity. That poor office woman probably has to sit through a lot of ultrasounds, but she was friendly, and as I asked questions, she was interested in hearing the answers too.

I found out:

  • my fibroid appeared to be about 8 cm (classified as “large” because it’s over 5 cm),
  • the baby was still measuring right on track with a good heartbeat (169; I wondered if it fluctuated because of the time of day or what, but he reassured me it was still in the correct range).
  • Apparently I ovulated from my left ovary the month of conception. Although most people don’t have their ovaries scanned during pregnancy, it is possible to tell which one ovulated because it initially sustains the pregnancy.
  • It has little stubby arms and legs (which in my opinion look like thick Meyer legs) and wiggled on screen for me.

 

Then I waited some more to hear back from my OB. Her nurse called on Thursday of last week. Apparently, there is only one fibroid, just a very large one at 8x7x6 cm, and my OB has deemed my pregnancy to appear normal (whatever that really means; it’s very strange to be considered both “normal” and “high risk”).

I do have moments of fear and panic, especially when I consider the possibility of extreme pain, pre-term labor, a required c-section, and compromised blood flow to the baby, but I am choosing to tell myself over and over again that God is inviting me into a greater intimacy with him through this uncertainty. I am ever reminded of just how little control I actually have and how much I appreciate common grace. I am much better about praying and praying and praying, and I’m taking to heart that God hears my every prayer and values persistence. I will be ridiculously persistent for the next few months.

 

On the first of August, I find our first

August 1st, 2017

Today, only 10 days after ovulation, I find out I am expecting again. This is the second time I’ve been pregnant this year, this summer even. Plagued with doubt, I asked for a second opinion on my expanding sampling of home pregnancy tests.

Positive. Time to call the doctor.

I don’t know why, but I feel crazy. I’m reminded of the last time I was convinced I was pregnant, but the tests were negative, negative, negative, until 18 days past ovulation, and half a week after my missed period. I was uncertain then, too, but that pregnancy ended two days after I found out.

Mourning that loss, I was troubled by the thought that I had been too stressed, too run down, had drank too much, perhaps had a vitamin or progesterone deficiency. But looking at it in retrospect, I know there must have been something seriously wrong because I was very dizzy and had a lot of pain that I rationalized as normal, but probably wasn’t.

Looking back, I think it was God’s grace I didn’t get a positive sooner. I would have gone in, done two tests 48 hours apart, and been told my levels weren’t rising. Instead, the morning I miscarried, it was a beautiful day. I went to the gym and stopped by the lake on the way home to watch the sunrise. I took video of the mist rising off the water and the birds singing. I was calm. God gave me a sense of peace that day. I called my brother later and spoke with him for an hour or so. It was so good to hear from him, and I almost told him right then I was pregnant, but hadn’t even told Chris yet because he was out of town, so I kept it to myself.

Shortly after the call, I noticed the cramps that had been almost constant, the pains I had counted as uncomfortable but normal, stopped. I actually realized that I had been in more pain than I had thought to notice a calm moment. But then the waves of pain returned stronger, and I spotted, and then quickly began to miscarry.

I knew in my heart I was losing this brand new pregnancy. I cried and bled for two or three hours until I thought to call anyone. My gynecologist’s office was closed after noon on Friday, and their answering service was malfunctioning; I couldn’t reach anyone or even leave a message. The urgent care near my house was also closed because it was a late Friday afternoon. In desperation, I called my insurance’s nurse line, and the poor woman, listening to me sobbing while trying to answer her questions, recommended I go to the hospital in the next three hours. I told her I’d try, but I desperately didn’t want to go to the ER.

I didn’t want to call anyone else, but I felt I had to. I called a friend from my small group who is a nurse and has had two miscarriages. I was absolutely bawling. I told her everything. She helped me decide to stay home and to call Chris and warn him before he got home later in the evening. She offered food and then told me she was coming over when I wasn’t in a decisive state. She brought a redbox movie, dinner, and ice cream. I felt so raw and numb and was physically in pain with the worst cramps I’ve ever felt. I felt utterly empty and drained. It was the worst.

From this experience, I re-learned the importance of community and honesty. I thankfully fell into God’s arms and clung to the Word when I felt like I was drowning. I started a Bible study to help me recoup by focusing on Romans and the truth of the gospel.

Almost exactly two months later, I find myself pregnant again. This time already feels different, better even, but when Chris asked me how I was feeling, I answered honestly, “scared.” Part of me doesn’t want to be vulnerable and open myself to the possibility of loss again, but the other part of me, a small voice in my heart says, “or everything could be perfectly fine.” Last time I had blood drawn, I only had 3 HCG, the remnants of my first pregnancy; today, 8 days earlier than my first positive test last time, I had 33. I don’t know what the count will be on Thursday, but for today, it’s enough that they miraculously exist. There are no guarantees with having babies, but I have to remember that regardless of the journey or outcome, God will be there, and I’m going to make it.

5 Years and Counting…

There are many aphorisms about marriage. It is an ancient custom, and yet still people debate its meaning, its value, its purpose.

In light of the gospel, it is an image of the unconditional and perfect love that God has for us, portrayed by two imperfect souls. It is through marriage that I have found how complicated and deep and painful and wonderful love is.

Love means trusting each other long-term. It is having your partner text someone back while you are driving with no fear of what they might see (a real shocker for my teenage students). It is not freaking out when life gets difficult and you have every reason in the world to freak out except that your partner asked you to trust him.

I see love in the simple things Chris does for me, such as killing spiders or taking out the trash, and in the selfless things that seem big to me, but he makes seem simple. He supported me in getting my allergies and my spine figured out, even when we were on a limited budget. When we got a new car, he insisted that I drive it. When I’m overwhelmed by work and life, he holds me, feeds me, and tells me it’s okay to feel those things. He managed our finances so well that, despite my doubts, we were able to purchase a house, shortening my commute to work and increasing my sense of safety when he has to be away for work.

I see love in the way he recognizes the things I do for us, acknowledging that I chose to follow him to a new state, and supporting me building my career by staying in Arkansas for his doctorate, although we did consider moving again (and it would have been easier for him, had we done so). He is grateful when I help him with car maintenance, shopping, and keeping up with our social engagements. He tolerates my dorky, punny humor, and feels like home when everything else doesn’t.

Yes, we have disagreed, yelled, and cried, but the important thing is, we have always done so knowing that no disagreement could ever separate us permanently. Love is a choice we make each day, to choose each other over everyone else.

I love when people notice we are for real life partners. It makes me smile when others are encouraged because of how we treat each other. We may seem “boring” to some people in the way we live our life together, but that’s because we are setting the marathon pace; true love is not fast, easy, or flashy, but rather steady, strong, and ever-brightening.

These first five years have set the trajectory of our marriage, and I’m delighted to say that we are both pleased with the direction in which we are going.

I love you, Chris Topher! Happy 5th Anniversary!

It is Time to Return

May 9th, 2017

I am scared of being vulnerable.

I have been fairly blessed in my life. God has provided for me over and over again, and I think, in part, I don’t have the right outlook because I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’m waiting to get what I feel like I deserve? What is bound to happen?

I’m not really sure about that part, but I am so scared of opening my heart and changing how things have been going for the past five years. We are thinking about becoming parents, and part of me thinks that we will either have trouble conceiving, or, more heart-wrenching, will lose babies, either by miscarriage or some other tragedy.

What’s crazy is that, would anyone else voice these thoughts, I would reassure them that even if those things happened (and I absolutely hope and pray they won’t), God is sovereign and loving and good, and does not take us apart except to put us back together again in a new, transformed, refined, and holy way.

After finally realizing many shortcomings in my life (let us say through trial by fire), I reached a point where I realized that I deserve nothing. If I got what I literally deserved, it would be terrible. God’s grace is free and full and accepting of repentance. My problem is, I think I’ve swung too far and am now terrified about not deserving anything.

Where I need to be is between the extremes of legalism (“working” for salvation) and grace as a catch-all (let’s do whatever because we are already forgiven). God asks what is difficult for me to do: He asks for my vulnerable heart, open to whatever He has planned, regardless of how “good” or “bad” I perceive it to be. He asks for my willingness to not be in control and to submit to His design for my life.

He has every reason to demand this. From choosing Him, I have found a calling in my career, I have found a life mate, I have found a job, a house, and people who care about me in a new place. I have had my pride extinguished (to make me a more empathetic individual), my spirit raised (to speak up for myself and advocate for others), my heart crushed and restored (to teach me how to better love others and myself), my bitterness dissolved (to help me forgive those who have not apologized) and patience gained (because it is the trial of my life to learn how to wait when my default is “do”).

God is faithful. He is just, even if we do not witness it in this life. He is loving. He desires my good; apart from Him, there is no good thing.

So I guess this is me doing business with God. The business is cracking the hard exterior of my heart once again in order to be softened and receptive to Him.

There may be pain ahead, but I am wrong to dwell on my anxieties. I must entrust each day, each moment to Him and not look for auspicious signs, but cling to the Word.

It is time to return to the Lord. I am thankful that He won’t let me go.