Breathe

If you read this and think… those sentences are short. She sounds kind of done… you’d be right.

The past week has been a little tiring. We were on vacation with family at the beach for part of the week and then the second half of the week, Taylor and I went to the beach. Just me, him, and Selah. All of it was fun and it was so so nice to be around family. Taking Selah to the beach is exciting, even though she can’t last very long in the sun and water. Just seeing her stick her fingers in the sand and squeeze as a smile spreads across her face. It’s something simple, but it’s sweet and rewarding watching her experience something so small like that for the very first time.

Before we left for the beach, I worked super hard to get the house put together so that we could come back to a clean house. We’ve been trying to do this ever since we were married. I don’t know why it’s so difficult, but it’s like… there’s always something that stops us from reaching the unachievable goal. There’s a load of laundry needing to be washed, or there are dirty dishes, or …SOMETHING. So, this time I was determined. I ran around the house like a crazy person, throwing clothes all over the place, making lists, sweeping, taking out the trash. Selah just sat in the floor staring at me and chasing after my feet and giggling. I’m sure she thought I was playing a game with her.

Traveling in the car with Selah is, at best, tolerable. She’s not a car baby. Never has been. It’s chance. Some days she’s okay, other days she screams until you pull the car over and get her out of the car seat. Mostly, I just want to pull my hair out. She’s been slightly better lately, but she still has her moments. When we do get her to go to sleep, we end up sitting in silence or with her sound machine on or whispering with the music down really low. This is a little frustrating for me since, ever since we were friends, one of the things Taylor and I do best and really enjoy doing is having great conversations in the car. That has been put on hold recently because of the monster in the back seat.

Getting Selah from the beach house to the beach is not really difficult… just a handful. She also had (and still does a little bit) a horrible diaper rash while we were there and keeping a wet diaper on does not help that at all. She was only happy for as long as she was in the water. It was cool and relieving I think. She crawls and gets the sand everywhere. She just wants to feel it. She looks at it with such wonder and it makes the trips worth it. Taylor and I are not really beach people. I like sitting in a chair with water at my feet, but that is where my love for the beach stops. The heat is crazy. The sand is of the devil. I’ve always hated the ocean. It scares me. I can’t see what’s at my feet and I also can’t control its ebb and flow. I have a need to control things so… there’s that. A great thing about the beach is that Selah would take super long afternoon naps. It was wonderful to be able to lay on the couch, fall asleep, and actually not wake up 30 minutes later.

We are back home now and struggling still a bit with the diaper rash, although Selah doesn’t seem bothered by it. On our way back on Saturday, she cried for basically the last hour in the car. There’s nothing you can do about it either. We tried giving her a bottle, feeding her, putting on her favorite song (yes, she has a favorite song), but she was just DONE. She wanted out and she wanted out YESTERDAY. Little did we know, that was just the start. We got home, Taylor went out to run an errand, and I laid Selah down for a nap since she hadn’t slept in the car. She slept for about 10 minutes and woke back up and refused to lay back down. I did everything we usually do. I let her cry it out, I rocked her, I sang her song… nothing. She was sobbing and I began to feel guilty, of course. I brought her back upstairs, tried to start playing with her, but she kept crying. I texted Taylor and said, “please tell me you’re almost home.” Taylor got home and helped to keep her happy until bedtime. We gave her a bath to calm her down, fed her, did the whole normal bedtime routine with a little bit more love and compassion. By this point, we realized something was wrong. She was just not herself. Our baby is happy and giggly and rarely ever ACTUALLY gets upset at something. She has always been consolable, but not yesterday. I volunteered to get comfy in the recliner in the nursery so that if she woke up I wouldn’t have to keep going up and down the stairs. She woke up once, maybe twice, between 8pm-10pm.


Taylor came down at 10 and we went to bed. For those of you who don’t know, our room is right next to the nursery. Like… 3 steps close. Since Taylor has to work on Sundays, I said I would get up if she woke up again. And she did. The first time I remember is 12:15am. After that it’s blurry. 3am, 4:30am, 5am, 6:15am and a few more in there that I don’t remember. This may be normal for a lot of people with 9 month olds, but I’ll tell you something…we have been incredibly blessed with a good sleeper. Since about… 8-10 weeks she was sleeping a full 12 hours through the night so anytime she wakes up, we know something isn’t right. At 6:45am, I decided to just get up so I got her a bottle and we went upstairs to start the day. I won’t bore you with all the details, but know that the rest of the day was basically the same. Random crying in the middle of playing, crawling towards me and clinging to my clothes, crying if I wasn’t within reach, crying if I fed her, crying if I didn’t, etc… She took a good morning nap (thank you Lord) but completely skipped the afternoon nap, again. She’s drooling, has a runny nose, won’t let me anywhere near her mouth, can’t breathe when you lay her down because her nose is congested… She doesn’t have a fever so I’m almost positive she’s teething. Taylor got home from church and helped to try to lay her down, but she screamed and screamed. We both are feeling bad that she feels bad, but we’re also both at our limit. Then…

I feel it. The tick on my wrist that, lately, has snapped me back into reality. I’m going to lose some of you at this point, but just… stay with me. Throughout the school year last year whenever a kid was getting on my nerves, my watch would buzz my wrist. When I feel like I’m about to pull my hair out with Selah, my watch buzzes. When I’m done with the car, when the house is messy, when I’m overwhelmed with my lists, when I’m about to wash the sand out of Selah’s pants for the 100th time that day… my watch buzzes. For those of you that don’t know, the Apple Watch has this thing that reminds you to breathe. It’s supposed to promote intentional breathing or something, idk. It’s probably on a timer and just goes off every 2 hours, but I promise you… my watch has evolved. It reads my heart rate or just knows by the temperature of my skin or the grumbling sound I’m making that it’s time to remind me. It buzzes my wrist, I look down at it and it says… “Breathe.” I know what it’s there for, but for me it’s become a way of putting my life into perspective. It reminds me to chill out and focus on what’s happening. It tells me to take a few seconds, regroup and try again with more patience. I can tell on the days when I really need that reminder because the watch will buzz, I’ll look down, take a deep breath and tears will get caught in my throat.

All of these moments I’ve talked about have happened in the past 2 weeks. I was running around the house getting it cleaned and there is nothing wrong with that. However, there was a beautiful child at my feet giggling at mommy running around and maybe I should have actually played a game with her while I cleaned or just given up on the cleaning until she was asleep (or have foregone the cleaning all together). I needed to take a breath in the car and be thankful that I have a healthy child who likes to move… that I have a husband that I love to talk to about anything… that, hey… you know what? She’s a baby and she can’t help it. Keep talking to her. Keep singing to her. It won’t be so simple later on. Take a breath and enjoy the time you’ve got with family on vacation, because family won’t always be there when you need them or want them. Breathe in and look at this crying, helpless child and realize that she just needs to be snuggled a little harder, kissed a little more, sung to a little louder, to go outside and take a breather herself. She’s more tired, more sick, more frustrated than you are. (Sorry, talking to myself now.)

May I have the wherewithal, patience, and wisdom to take a breath and really dig my fingers into the sand.

Tomorrow Will Be Kinder

“Stay with us, Lord Jesus, stay with us.  

Stay with us, it soon is evening.

Stay with us, Lord Jesus, stay with us, it soon is evening and night is falling.”

I tend to think in song lyrics sometimes.  I guess it’s part of being a musician.  I have songs from when I was a kid all the way to now stuck somewhere in my head.  When something reminds me of a song, the lyrics pop in my head and are there all day.  Most of the time it’s just simple songs.  Lately, it’s been kids songs since that’s all I sing with Selah.  On certain days, however, my heart takes over and reaches for songs like “E’en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come” or “Nearer, My God, to Thee.”  Recently, the song that’s been in my head has been one that we sang in Sanctuary Choir at church.  The lyrics come from Luke 24:29, “But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.”  Somedays, all I can think over and over again is “stay with me, please stay with me.”  The days when my Dad was really sick and the months after he died, I begged… Please, night is coming and I need You here.  Please, stay.  After Selah was born and I struggled with breastfeeding… please stay with me.  Every time I hear of a new tragedy that has happened around the world, when I think of children who have been separated from their families through war, when I become burdened with the darkness in this world… The list could go on… Please, Lord, stay with us.  

 When I was younger, I did my best to put myself in others’ shoes.  For whatever reason, the older I got the more emotional I became over other people’s burdens.  Part of it is growing up and having my world-view widened, I suppose.  As we grow up we, hopefully, become more aware of what’s going on and in turn, our hearts are opened up to the needs of those around us.  I believe the other part is teaching and motherhood.  Ever since I started teaching, I’ve tried to put myself in the shoes of my students.  Some of these kids have lives and struggles that I’ve never seen or experienced.  Before Selah was born, Taylor and I used to watch crime shows like Criminal Minds.  It was one of my absolute favorites.  The closer I got to the third trimester the less I wanted to watch them.  I would start to cry and feel anxious anytime there was an episode involving children or families.  

Now, the news comes on and there’s another story about some tragedy and my heart just breaks.  I just don’t understand how we can be so cruel to each other… how can there be so much suffering… how can families be separated, children be bullied, people be persecuted for any reason someone else can find?  I often become so overwhelmed with these feelings that all I can do is repeat these song lyrics over and over again.  

Stay with us, Lord Jesus.  I plead over and over again, please, stay with us.  I know we make mistakes.  I know we are cruel to each other.  I know we are not taking care of Your world, of Your children, of our brothers and sisters… but please.  Please, stay with us.

I search for hope in everything.  A song I’ve been singing this week is called “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder” by the Secret Sisters.

“Black clouds are behind me, I now can see ahead
Often I wonder why I try hoping for an end
Sorrow weighs my shoulders down
And trouble haunts my mind
But I know the present will not last
And tomorrow will be kinder
Tomorrow will be kinder
It’s true, I’ve seen it before
A brighter day is coming my way
Yes, tomorrow will be kinder.”

On the days that I’m particularly bogged down, I try to sing this song.  It gives me a hope.  Some people are good at recalling Bible verses and I do wish I was better at it, but I am thankful that songs come to mind first.  Singing these lyrics over and over again assure me that there is hope for tomorrow.  There will always be hope for change in this world, for improvement, for love, and for compassion for others.  

It is too easy to become burdened, weighed down, and saddened in this world.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.  I think allowing ourselves to feel for others makes us better human beings.  It becomes a problem when the sadness takes over and keeps us from action.  I pray that we are able to find something to hold onto each day, whether it’s Scripture, a song, a saying, a picture, a memory, or a simple hope that allows to look forward to the future and to know that even in the nighttime, Jesus stays with us.  

A Letter to Selah About Commitment

Just something I’ve been dealing with and thinking about lately…

Selah,

I know at this point in your life, you haven’t made any commitments, but one day I want you to understand how strongly your Dad and I look at commitments.  The definition of commitment is “the state of being dedicated to a cause; and engagement that restricts freedom of action.”  I assume that when you read this I will still be teaching choir (hopefully in a middle school), but who knows… I could get tired of dealing with commitment issues and choose another career path.  Being a choir teacher gives me a different outlook on commitment.  I feel like I’m constantly begging kids to commit to something.  “Be a part of the choir! Please come to the concert!  Please wear the right clothes!  Please sing out more!  You committed to this class back in August and you signed a contract saying that you would be at this concert! Don’t give up on me now!” If I ever seem a little frustrated after a day at work, it’s most likely not you that I’m irritated with.  I’m most likely tired of trying to win kids over.  I’m tired of trying to get them in my class.  I’m tired of trying to motivate them to do something just for the fun and excitement of it rather than doing it out of the fear of getting a bad grade.  I cannot tell you how many times in a year I hear… “is this for a grade?”  “what happens if I don’t show up to the concert?”  “Do I HAVE to be there? Or is this like… an optional thing?” I want to sit down with them and say… “Look, you’ve been working on this stuff since August.  Does that not make you feel like you’ve wasted all this time if you don’t go to the concert?  What was the point of all that work?”  I’ve even gone so far as to say things like, “If you don’t show up to the concert, that would be like skipping on end-of-year tests or going to all the practices for your sport and then not showing up for the game.  What is the point of class if you’re not going to show up for the concert?  If you abandon your teammate on a football field, the WHOLE team suffers.  It’s the same with choir!  If I’m missing 4 altos on the night of the concert, the choir simply will not sound as good as it could.”

Dearest Selah… to be quite frank.  I am sick and tired of having to compare choir (or any other art for that matter) to a sport in order for it to get the respect it deserves.  I’m going to stop myself there because that’s a different letter for a different day.  Here is the point that I am trying to make… In your life, when you make a commitment to something… HOLD THAT COMMITMENT.  I don’t care what it is that you’ve committed to.  If you’ve promised to meet someone for lunch, do it.  If you’ve said you’ll be there at soccer practice, do it.  If you’ve said you were going to help someone out with homework, do it.  For the first 18 years of your life, my dear, you will not have a choice.  Your Dad and I will be making that decision for you.  You can be mad at that (and I’m sure at some point in your life you will), but I think it is going to teach you a valuable lesson; a lesson that my parents taught me and I am so grateful for that.  

Academics come first.  If you are in a class and there is a test, field trip, choir competition, science fair, etc… you WILL complete it.  I don’t care if the choir concert is the night of your best friend’s 16th birthday.  You are not going to that party until AFTER the concert.  (Also, side note… what are you doing have a best friend who isn’t in choir???) I don’t care if the basketball championship game is the same night of the science fair that you entered in months before you tried out for the basketball team… you WILL compete in the science fair and then I will do my best to rush you over to the game.  I was an athlete in high school.  I get it.  I loved having sports as an outlet, but what my parents taught me was academics came before extracurriculars.  Always.

Church comes before academics.  I know, I know.  I said academics come first.  My brain was tired, it’s Friday.  If it’s Sunday, we’re at church.  If it’s Wednesday night, we are at church.  Even if your Dad wasn’t a music minister… we would be there.  You would be going to youth choir, Bible study, Sunday school, etc… This isn’t a choice.  It wasn’t a choice for me for 18 years and I loved it.  I loved going to church.  The minute I started struggling with church was the first Sunday I chose not to go in college.  Some parents may not like the fact that I force you to go to these things, but as my parents told me… They’re not your parents.  I am.  If you decide to play sports or be a part of a club or band in school and they have practice/rehearsal/meetings on a Wednesday night or Sunday afternoon, you will just have to miss it.  I won’t apologize for that.

I understand that there are always circumstances beyond your control.  I understand that last minute emergencies happen.  I understand that sometimes people get sick.  I understand that some days… you will just have a poopy day.  You won’t feel like coming home from school and then leaving again to go to church on Wednesday night.  You won’t feel like going to soccer practice when it’s 40 degrees outside and raining.  You won’t feel like spending an hour running around a gym after you’ve been up since 6am in a classroom doing work.  You won’t feel like spending an hour in a choir rehearsal and then coming back that night in a nice dress and standing up in front of people to do it again.  I get it.  Everyone has their days, but as long as you are healthy… you will be there.   You wanna know why?  Because you SAID you would.  If you join WHATEVER club or extracurricular activity, you will do it knowing that if it conflicts with church, you’ll miss it that day.  If it conflicts with an academic event, you’ll miss it that day.  You will join knowing that if your grades start to slip and your performance in school is falling, you will quit.

Your commitment to things is good practice for your commitment to relationships.  Will you always be there for your best friend?  Will you always support your significant other? Or… will you, the moment its tough, back out and say, “Do I have to do this?”  and I hope I will always be there in your head asking, “Did you say you would be?”

Here’s the deal, my girl… I came home tired today.  I drove home thinking about how frustrating it is to listen to students say, “I can’t go to this because I have (insert sports event here) that night.”  I drove home thinking about how I wanted a student to do something simply BECAUSE they committed and they cared… not because they were going to get a bad grade.  I drove home thinking about how I didn’t want my child to be like that to her teachers.  I drove home thinking about how I wanted you to understand how much teachers and other adults who lead students commit to those students’ lives and how disheartening it is to hear students say that they basically don’t care.  I came home thinking about how I wanted you to be a student and eventually an adult who commits to things…who gives their word and people believe them.  I want you to be a person who other people trust when they commit to something.  I want you to be dependable.  I want you to be honest.  I want you to be dedicated.  And if I have to make you mad along the way, I’ll do that for you.  

The Beginning of Selah’s Birth, Pt. 3

Selah was born 4 months ago today so I think it’s only right that I do my best to finish her birth story today.  When we got to baby & co, I basically spent all my time in the shower or the huge tub.  The hot water helped considerably, but I did not like the fact that I was unable to move in the tub.  The shower was wonderful, but at some point it became difficult to stand.  During the last 3-4 hours, the pain increased and it became more difficult to keep my head clear and above water… figuratively and literally.  My mother had arrived at this point and I asked if she would read some notecards that I had written verses or motivational statements on.  There were three that I tried to keep repeating in my head over and over as the pain became too much.

  1. This pain is just a moment and it will pass.
  2. Philippians 1:6 – He who started a good work in you will carry it to completion.
  3. Isaiah 66:9 – In the same way, I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born.

That last one especially stuck with me and I’m pretty sure I began to cry at this point.  Like I said, things got a bit cloudy from here.  So, what I am saying is… here is either the bits and pieces that I do remember or it is second hand information from Taylor or my mom.  At some point, my sister, her husband, and their two kids got there, as well as Taylor’s mom, dad, and sister.  I think he went out to say hello and update them once, but I really did not like being left alone, so he stayed by my side throughout everything.  (more on Taylor’s just sheer amazingness later…) So… there are a few different stages of labor and in my birthing class I remember them saying that the last part of labor is the toughest.  The contractions are very close together and they are the most painful.  I do remember, however, that there are supposed to be breaks between contractions, just not very long.

At this point, my water STILL had not broken and it was around 3-4am?  I was in what they call “transition” and my contractions were the worst they’d been and very close together.  I began to have what I later learned were called “rolling contractions.”  This basically means, before the first one is over, the next one has already started.  So, the first one reaches its peak and as it’s coming back down the hill, the next one picks up.  I would have about 3-4 of these in a row before I’d get about 20-30 seconds of rest.  This was more mentally tiring than physically.  I knew they had to end, but at that point in time, it never felt like they would.  I would begin to feel relief and it would start hurting again.  My sister has told me that she was in a room down the hall feeding her daughter, and she could hear me moaning and whimpering.  (I vaguely remember this because the next morning in the hospital with Selah my throat was soon sore.)  My brain was wearing down, I was leaning over the bed on an exercise ball with Taylor trying to support me.  This is the point where I began saying and believing, “I can’t do this.  I can’t do this.  It’s too hard.  I can’t do this.”  Taylor, being amazing (I’ll get to that later, just kept saying, “yes, you can.  You ARE doing this.  You’re so close.  You can do this.”  I tried to keep telling myself, “This has to end at some point.  Just hold on.  This has to end.”

At some point in this miserable cycle, my water broke.  It was not at all like I expected it to be and I know it surprised Taylor, but it FINALLY broke.  I became a little more excited and energized at this point because I felt like now she could come out and all this pain wasn’t happening in vain.

I’m going to take a quick pause here and talk about Taylor.  He has always been great at being a supportive person when you are in need.  He was wonderful when my dad died and throughout that whole grieving process.  He was just amazing.  There is no other way to put it.  I never doubted how he would handle labor.  He has this way of becoming completely calm and logical during stressful times.  The whole time we were at home and I was dealing with contractions, he was right there rubbing my back and being encouraging.  We got to Baby and Co and he stood in the shower with me, helping hold me up, rubbing my back, handing me a bottle of water and forcing me to drink.  When I was in the tub, he was sitting on the floor next to it, holding my arms, squeezing my neck, reminding me to breathe, and once again, forcing me to drink water.  When I moved to the bed, he was there, rubbing my arm, reminding me to breathe, forcing me to drink water, etc… He was always telling me I could do it, asking questions when I couldn’t, just being present. In the words of my sister, “I remember how amazing Mom said Taylor was.  She bragged on him for days.  Telling how he stayed right with you and didn’t leave your side for anything (even to change his wet clothes).  She said he was always so confident and encouraging.  He was seriously your biggest fan and coach all in one.”  He had not left my side.  So… here we go….

My water broke, I asked him to go and get Alice Ann, he did.  He came back and Alice Ann came in after him.  She took one look at the floor where my water had broke and said, “Okay.  So.  This isn’t an emergency, but that’s definitely meconium.  That means that baby has pooped in utero.  We want to make sure that she hasn’t ingested any because if she has, she could be sick.  This is one of our reasons that we transfer moms to the hospital.  This is a non-emergency, but we do need to begin that transfer, okay?  Do you understand?”  Now you see why we really like Alice Ann.  She’s honest, forthright, but she makes sure you understand that everything is okay.  She was very much like Taylor.  I nodded my head (all I could manage at this point) and she left the room.  I started to cry, partially because of exhaustion, partially because of pain, partially because I was afraid that everything was falling apart.  Taylor assured me that everything was alright and that Alice would have said differently if it weren’t an emergency.  My mother cried at this point, I believe.  A few minutes later, Alice Ann came in with a wheelchair and wheeled me out to the parking lot.  Taylor got in the driver seat of our car, I got in the passenger seat, and Alice got in the backseat.  We drove over to the hospital, Alice reminding me to breathe the whole time.  Ya’ll… sitting down while having contractions is the WORST.

We got to the hospital 3 minutes later, they wheeled me into the elevator and took me upstairs.  It was about 5am-5:30am.  They got me into a room, onto a bed, and Alice Ann talked to the doctor about the rest of the delivery.  They immediately let me begin pushing.  Let me just say… they told me that when you started to push everything would change.  It certainly does. The pain of the contractions basically disappear because now you have a job and that’s exactly what I needed.  I desperately need a job, a purpose.  As soon as they let me start doing this, time flew by and I actually felt like we were getting somewhere.  Looking back, it was so exciting.  She was coming and soon.  They told me that they could actually see her.  This wasn’t something I had made up.  There was an actual baby and she was being born within the hour.  It took about an hour of pushing and when she was born there was such a relief.  I have never felt relief like this.  They lifted her up so that I could see her and then they took her to the other side of the room.

Because there was meconium in my water, they wanted to make sure she hadn’t ingested any.  She had to be suctioned and then they washed her off and handed her right back.  It was 1-2 minutes max, but it felt like eternity.  We laid there and she immediately just curled up on my chest.  She was warm and smelled lovely.  Her skin was perfect, her nose was perfect, her adorable little body was just perfect.  They moved us to a different room and as they wheeled us down the hall, the hospital played “Brahms Lullaby” to signal Selah’s birth.  I, of course cried, because that’s what my mother used to hum to me when she would tuck me in at night.  About 30 minutes after we got to the room, Taylor came over to the bed and said, “Are you okay? Do you need me?” and I must have made a confused face because he said, “Can I use the bathroom?”  I burst out laughing.  I hadn’t even noticed that he hadn’t used the bathroom, but I should’ve known.  He had been with me since 6pm the night before and now it was 6:30am.  I told you he was wonderful.  I spent the next day or two just laying in bed with Selah and watching Selah lay on Taylor’s chest.

Baby & Co continued to be supportive in the next day or two and even the next several weeks.  I have called and facetimed several times since she was born for many reasons.  I will always recommend them to anyone who is looking for great women’s care.  I cannot tell you how beautiful this whole process was for me.  I know it’s different for everyone, but despite all the pain and the last minute change of plans… it is so incredibly worth it.  I’ll end with another special memory from my sister: “When I first came into the room, I saw her sweet little angel face and I saw in my mind the first time I met you in the hospital, and I knew how amazing and special this moment was, so instead of going straight to my niece, I hugged you first.  I knew what you had done to bring her into this world, I knew how hard you had worked, how scary moments had been for you, and I knew all the flurry of emotions you were experiencing (and would experience in the next 8 weeks to come).  At the same time, I could see you at that size and I was so proud of you, I thought my heart would burst or overflow.”

The Beginning of Selah’s Birth, pt. 2

There will probably be one more birth post after this.  It’s a long story, so I’ve tried to split it up.  This one is a bit long 🙂

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The week or two before Selah was born, I had already begun to have Braxton Hicks.  I was never confused about whether or not they were real contractions, partially because my brain was like, “hey, she’s not coming yet.  It’s not her due date.  No way.”  and also because, they really didn’t hurt too bad.  They would occasionally make me catch my breath, but it wasn’t painful.  Friday, October 14th was my last day at work.  I came home and collapsed on the couch.  I slept as much as I could that night and on Saturday, we woke up and went for a walk.  I remember sitting in Selah’s nursery, folding baby clothes and organizing her books (AGAIN) thinking about how I wanted her to come first thing Monday morning… like I had a choice.  I was working 4 days before she was born.  I was on my feet for 8 hours, leaning over a piano, trying to get middle school boys to sing on pitch (which is hard enough without being 9 months pregnant).  I think if I had quit working earlier, I would have been miserable.  

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I was ready to not be pregnant, especially by Sunday the 16th.  I knew she had dropped.  I was having what is apparently called “lightning” pains; and no, I don’t mean “lightening” pains.  Two entirely different things.  Lightening (from what I understand), is when the baby drops and is ready to go.  Your heartburn sometimes goes away (mine def did not), your stomach feels lower and heavier (why did they call it lightening you may ask?, idk.)  “Lightning” pain is a shooting, sharp pain that goes downwards after the baby has dropped.  I would be walking and all of a sudden have to stop and kind of bend over for a second.  It happened every once in a while at school and I could see the fear in my students eyes.  The last thing they wanted is for my water to break and for me to go in labor during class.  I, however, didn’t have that fear.  I remember the class we took at Baby & Co. talking about how it NEVER happened the way it does in the movies.  It’s not like, your water breaks and BAM here comes the baby.  Oh man, would that have been nice.  Anyways… Sunday morning, we got up and went to church and everyone asked that question that no pregnant woman ever wants to hear… “So, when is she coming? Is she gonna come yet? Tell that girl to get out here!”  Something about being 9 months pregnant… let’s just say that’s never a good question to ask someone who desperately wants to get the cantaloupe out of their stomach.  

At church, people were asking Taylor, “So, when is she coming?” and he would answer, “well, she’s a Vancil so I’m thinking she’ll be right on time.  On her due date, nice at early in the morning.”  I’m pretty sure Taylor’s spiritual gift is prophecy.  We got Mexican food that afternoon and a part of me was hoping that the old wives tale of spicy food would work for me.  I was way ready, but nope.  It didn’t give me anything except a giant case of heartburn.  I went home that night, feeling slightly better about the fact that I didn’t have to go to work in the morning so I could at least sleep as much as my belly would let me.  Selah, at this point, had slowly stopped kicking and had moved to more of a pushing/stretching motion.  She was running out of room.  Mondays were Taylor’s day off, so we both got up together, double checked to make sure that the house was ready, and then proceeded to be complete bums all day.  I’m sure at some point we went for a walk.  I was doing anything to pass the time.  

Tuesday rolled around, Taylor went back to work, and I woke up, double checked everything in every room (nesting, much?), vacuumed, swept, mopped, went for a walk around 8:30am (yes, all of that happened before 8:30am; I should have known) and took the dog with me.  On the walk, I was having Braxton Hicks, but nothing was consistent or more than what I had felt so I didn’t think anything of it.  I was so deeply lost in thoughts about wondering when she was going to come and what it would feel like and if everything would be okay that I almost didn’t recognize a woman from church who stopped to talk to me.  She was out walking and said something like, “I see you trying to walk that baby out.”  I very incoherently mumbled something and nodded.  She quickly realized that I was confused and let me know that she was from church and said something about her mom doing the same thing and how it worked.  I smiled and nodded again (still a little lost in my thoughts, sorry Lakena.  Promise I wasn’t being rude.) and kept on walking.  

I got back to the house, ate lunch, walked around the house again.  I thought about painting my nails and I’m not sure why I didn’t.  That would’ve been a good moment.  I slept a bit, watched TV a bit, and waited for Taylor to get home.  Taylor got back around 4pm and I was really feeling antsy at this point.  I asked him to go on a walk (again; come on Sarah, get a clue) and he agreed.  That was around 5ish?  We went for a walk and on this walk, the Braxton Hicks (silly me) really picked up.  They were really starting to hurt on the way back up the hill to our house.  We got back, I got a glass of water (I was listening in my birthing class!) and sat down in my chair in the living room.  I kept having what I thought were Braxton Hicks, but then all of a sudden, something changed.  It was like … she dropped even more than what I thought and the contractions I was feeling, left my lower abdomen and dropped even lower.  I waited for about 20 minutes before I said anything to Taylor.  After it had happened a few times, I told him that something had changed and that the feelings I was having were not the same.  I decided to get up and get a shower.  I had a few more of these feelings (what I now know were contractions) while in the shower.  I got out, sat back down in my chair and Taylor tried to get me to play a video game while I sat there. While it took my mind off of it for a second, I very quickly became irritated at sitting still.  I remembered the midwife saying something about “sleep while you can” so I went downstairs to lay down.  It was probably around 7pm at this point.  I went downstairs, turned on season 1 of Friends (my fav season) and downloaded a timer for contractions.  I started using it and while the contractions weren’t super painful yet, I felt like they were too close together to still be in the first stage of labor.  They didn’t feel like active labor, but they were close together.  

When they started hurting bad enough where I realized that I wasn’t going to sleep, I texted my mom (always).  I was worried that maybe my pain tolerance was better than I was hoping and that maybe I was already in active labor.  She told me the wise thing… call baby & co and ask.  I called for Taylor to come downstairs.  He said the same thing.  I called Baby & Co and one of my favorite midwives, Alice, picked up.   She was calm and kind and asked me if I was having a contraction over the phone and I said yes.  She told me to call back when I couldn’t talk through one.  I hung up, french braided my hair and Taylor and I both went back upstairs.  My go-bag was by the door, I had my labor gown on and was, by this point, bending over the kitchen counter during a contraction.  Taylor was giving me “friends” trivia from an app on the iphone.  It was keeping me occupied; that and him rubbing my back.  In between contractions, I was having time to recover and felt fine.  The contractions were about 30 seconds long and a few minutes apart.  When it came to the point where I couldn’t talk through one, Taylor called Alice and she said to come on in to Baby & Co.  We live about 20 minutes from Baby & Co so I wasn’t too worried about the drive.  (once again, silly me) We grabbed the go-bag (and by we, I mean Taylor) and I hobbled to the car. (10pmish?)  Our neighbors were out on their front porch and yelled over, “IS IT TIME???”  Taylor said something like, “I sure hope so.” and we got in the car.  I kept the seatbelt as loose as possible the whole way there and squirmed and rode backwards and laid on my side… I’m pretty sure if a police officer saw us, we definitely would have been pulled over.  I’m also pretty sure that if one HAD pulled us over, he would’ve given us an escort to Baby & Co, either because of Taylor begging him or because of me giving him a death glare for making Taylor stop the car.  

We got to Baby & Co, pulled in the parking lot, I finished having the contraction I was right in the middle of, rolled myself out of the car and just left Taylor behind.  He, being the wonderful person he is, got the bags from the car and followed in after me.  From the walk from the car to the door which is all but 20 feet, I started having another contraction, pushed the doorbell and leaned up against the wall.  Alice Ann came to the door and said “No shoes, huh?  Well, that’s a good sign!”  I looked down at my feet, like… what’s she talking about??  I had apparently walked out of the house in my socks and didn’t even notice.  Alice walked us back to the room that we would be in for the night and said she’d be right back.  There was apparently another girl in labor that same night and her baby was about 2 hours from being born.  Taylor said that was fine.  I asked permission to get in the shower and turn on the tub.  She laughed at me and said, “Please, do whatever you want to get comfortable.”  

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(This picture is from their website HERE… they are so wonderful.  This was my room, but they have a few different rooms.  We, somehow, took NO pictures whatsoever until after Selah was born.  I am 100% okay with that because I’m sure I looked miserable.)

Another reason that we chose Baby & Co is because of all the options you have while in labor.  The 20 minutes I was sitting in the car on the way there were HORRIBLE.  I couldn’t get up and walk around or use heat or stretch or anything.  I am not one to judge anyone’s birthing choices, but I don’t know how anyone copes with the pain in the hospital, unable to move around or eat or drink.  Baby and co has a huge shower that has detachable shower heads, a huge tub, a queen sized bed, an exercise ball, an exercise ball that’s in the shape of a peanut, bars on the wall that you can hold on to… all sorts of things that are helpful.  I immediately got into the shower and used one of the shower heads to put hot water on the place where I felt the most pain.  The immediate relief was amazing.  The pain (obviously) didn’t go away, but the hot water helped me get my brain out of the cloudiness and fear.  I got back on top of what was happening and was able to cope.  After this point, things got a bit fuzzy, but I’ll try to remember what I can (with the help of Taylor).

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This is all for tonight.  I’ll post the 3rd (and hopefully last part) later this week.  Enjoy!

 

The Beginning of Selah’s Birth

My next few posts will be about Selah, pregnancy, and her birth.  I’ll try not to be too graphic and I’ll give you a warning ahead of time if something is going to be TMI.  This one’s pretty safe 🙂

When I found out I was pregnant, I honestly had no idea what I was getting into.  I would like to say that I kept it to myself and came up with a great way to surprise Taylor with the news.  I would like to say that I started journaling from Day 1 and kept record of every tiny little feeling, thought and emotion.  I would LOVE to say that I was 100% prepared for the changes about to happen.  However… as soon as I found out, I walked into the other room where Taylor sat and said something like… “I think I’m pregnant.”  Instead of journaling, I had a baby notebook that I went back to a month after each pregnancy milestone was hit and did my best to remember what had happened.  Instead of being prepared, I probably read 50% of Mayo Clinic’s What to Expect.  I didn’t even buy that book.  My insurance company sent it to me for free.  My best friend will tell you that I read one chapter ahead of what I needed to know for that week of pregnancy.  I was too afraid to read too far ahead.    

I am usually a very prepared person.  I like planning ahead.  No… I love planning ahead.  I like making plans even more than I like doing the actual thing I’ve planned for. (Nesting was a serious problem for me.) With pregnancy, I think ignorance was bliss.  Not knowing what was going to happen in the months ahead actually made me a) enjoy it while it was actually happening b) not stress out about it or think about it too much ahead of time.  

I had a relatively easy pregnancy.  (I know, I know.  You’re never supposed to say that.  But, hey.  I’m being honest here, right?)  During the first trimester, I had very slight nausea.  I hadn’t figured out what to do about it until one day at work, we had a hot chocolate bar.  There was a little bowl filled with red hots and I grabbed a handful.  I ate the red hots and sipped on a ginger ale and BAM! Immediately, the nausea was gone.  My students noticed I was eating a lot of red hots and started bringing them to me at school.  Once I got to the second trimester, the nausea went away and heartburn took its place.  I couldn’t even look at a red hot without getting horrible indigestion.  Today, I have two huge jars full of red hots because I’m too afraid to eat them.  

Around 8 weeks, I couldn’t keep the secret anymore so Taylor told our parents and a few close friends and family.  Then we naturally let the word spread. I posted a picture of Selah’s ultrasound that had her footprint.  For whatever reason, that picture of her little foot stuck with me throughout the rest of the pregnancy.  

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As she began to grow inside me, there were many thoughts that touched me.  I took communion every Sunday at the Lutheran church I attended in Dallas.  For whatever reason, taking communion with this child growing inside of me made me super emotional.  It was a very intimate, spiritual moment every single Sunday and I will never forget how special that way.  

We also decided along the way that I didn’t want to deliver in a hospital, but a birthing center.  If you had asked me 5 years ago what I would choose, I would say, um… hospital with all the drugs please! Then a few years ago, my best friend recommended I watch this documentary on Netflix.  It was about birthing centers.  It was extremely biased and that was evident, BUT… it started me thinking.  I was still pretty set on hospital and all the drugs, but I thought home births or birthing centers were pretty beautiful.  Then I read a blog written by a friend of mine who chose to have her baby at a birthing center called “Baby & Co.”  The idea of birthing in a hospital became less and less appealing.  Not being able to move or eat or go home when I wanted, not being able to feel when I should push or not, not being able to feel how far along I was just made me feel NOT in control… and I HATE not feeling in control.  I started doing some research and found two Baby & Co’s in NC.  The great thing about Baby & Co… let me change that… one of the many great things about Baby & Co is the fact that everything is so relaxed.  The baby’s health is paramount, you have choices, they don’t treat you like a patient.  They treat you like you’re an actual person.  I never had to get there 30 minutes before my doctor’s appointment.  They ALWAYS scheduled me after work so I wouldn’t have to take off work to be there.  They were so kind and friendly.  At the time, I was unsure where we would be living, but I was hoping it was within 30 minutes of Baby & Co.  

By the time we moved back to NC, I was feeling Selah move and kick and stretch.  I could feel her move when I was singing or when there was a loud noise.  The heartburn was in full gear and I, often, couldn’t tell the difference between not being hungry and fear of eating because of heartburn.  After we got back to NC, time flew by.  I started working at Stanley so I had something to keep me occupied during the day.  After work, I’d be on my feet for HOURS, just nesting.  I was unpacking things, washing clothes, vacuuming the nursery for the 10th time that week.  It was 10:30pm and I wanted so badly to go to sleep, but I seriously could not.  There were clothes to be folded and I wanted to put the car seat in, and fold blankets, and sterilize bottles, and do everything I could.  

I packed my birthing “go-bag” at like… 32 weeks.  I packed the diaper bag that same week.  I was soooo ready for Selah to get here.  I had originally planned on working until I went into labor.  Then I got to 38 weeks and started to doubt my perseverance.  

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Can you see it in my face?  Kill me now, please.  I’m so done with this.  At 39 weeks, I said, “That’s it.  Friday is my last day.  I can’t do this anymore.  My feet hurt, I’m tired all the time.  All I want to do is clean the house and make sure everything is ready.”  So, I took off on Friday, October 14th.  I slept as much as I could on Saturday & Sunday and that’s when the fun started.  

Part 2 coming soon!

Who I Am (pt. 2)

Oh man.  TGIF.  I love teaching, but man is it exhausting sometimes.  Today was rough around the edges, but that’s a post for another day.  If you haven’t read pt. 1 you’re gonna want to.

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After Christmas of 2013, my mom, dad, sister, brother-in-law, and their dog came to our apartment in January for my mother’s birthday.  We went to bed the night they got there expecting to wake up the next morning and spend the day together.  

I was woken up in the middle of the night by mom asking for our address.  Thank goodness Taylor had a clear mind at 1am.  He spit out our address and quickly followed up with, “what’s wrong?”  Dad was having a seizure and it was not his usual quick, short-lasting seizures that he only had to let his doctor know about the next day.  This one had been going on long enough for mom to wonder and to worry and then decide to call 911, come to our room and ask for our address.  We all put clothes on, the ambulance got there, came up, got Dad, and we all followed them to the hospital in our own car.  When we got to the hospital, they began all the tests and procedures.  It lasted all night.  They eventually transferred him to a bigger, better equipped hospital in Charlotte.  We all followed the ambulance and settled down there for the day.  We each took turns going back home, letting the dogs out, and going back to the hospital.  At this point, we were each running on about 3 hours of sleep.  Looking back and thinking about my sister who was 8-9 months pregnant at the time… good heavens.  I’m not sure how she stayed on her feet that day.  God bless you Lauren.  

Eventually, after some scary moments, humorous moments thanks to Dad being able to use sign language, and some lovely supporting people… the doctors decided Dad was stable enough to be transferred back home to Duke hospital.  Mom followed the ambulance and Taylor and I went back home and said we’d wait until Mom had heard more from Dad’s doctor.  This last seizure had messed with Dad’s speech as well as the mobility on one side of his body.  His doctor said he would need lots of speech therapy as well as therapy to be able to walk, but that it seemed highly unlikely that he’d gain back full mobility.  At this point, my idea of church and faith was gone.  I mean, what was the point?  I went to church consistently for the first 20 years of my life.  I loved church.  I loved the Bible.  I loved God.  I loved sharing all of those things with other people.  My own father had taught Sunday School for years, hosted Bible Study in his home for years, been on countless mission trips, spent so much time studying the Bible and furthering his relationship with God, dedicated his life to helping others and look where it got him.  I did not understand how someone so dedicated to serving Christ could end up with such a bad deal.  

Now, looking back, I see so many things that had gone in our favor.  We were told in 2011 that he had brain cancer.  He knew, although he did not tell us, that it could be months.  We were given 3 more years.  For this last seizure, we were all there together.  All of us, in the same house, so we could all deal with it together and support each other.  Our apartment was literally half a block from the hospital.  It took the ambulance 2 minutes to get there and 2 more minutes to get Dad to the hospital where they stopped the seizure.  They saved his life and gave us a few more months.  There were so many times I thought… what if this had happened at his home?  How would they have gotten him to the hospital on time?  

After Dad went home, they moved his bedroom downstairs.  My mom promised to call me if something happened or if I needed to come home.  At some point a few weeks later, I got that call.  I left work, packed my bag, and came home.  One of my best friends that laid in the nursery with me was getting married while I was home.  I was a bridesmaid in her wedding.  I was there for a couple more days when my sister went into labor.  My precious nephew was born at the perfect time.   He brought such joy and excitement into our house.  Dad was continuing to try to talk with us and make jokes like always.  His hospice nurses would let us know a general time frame, as well as let us know they were praying for us.  Dad always charmed his nurses.  He was kind and sincere and I think people were drawn to that.  He wasn’t two-faced at all.  He was an honest and giving person.  One day, it was time to call Taylor and he came to my parents house as soon as he could get there.  We had another day or two and that was it.  Dad was gone.  I remember sitting there, holding his hand, not wanting to be anywhere else and simultaneously wishing to be anywhere else, but here.  After a few minutes of his light breathing it slowed and eventually got so light that I couldn’t hear it.  Mom signaled for the nurse to come in, she checked his pulse and shook her head.  As much as I loved my Dad, I immediately felt disconnected from that room.  He wasn’t there.  He was where he wanted to be.  He was where he could speak clearly and move freely.  He was where he had always wanted to be.  “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” became a motto in our house.  They sang “This is My Father’s World” at his funeral and I still can’t hear that hymn without crying.   

Taylor and I, at this point, had returned to the church we went to together in college.  I was struggling emotionally.  I would hear a song on the radio and cry.  I would listen to my students sing and cry.  I would look at my dog and cry.  I had never been an emotional person.  I didn’t cry a whole lot growing up, but I knew something was wrong.  I wasn’t allowing myself to grieve.  I sat down and had a talk with our pastor and through this conversation I realized a few things.  The most important one was this… If I don’t allow myself to feel the things that I need to, I cannot be honest with myself. I grew up with this mentality of “it’s no use to cry over spilt milk.”  When I said this to the pastor, he responded with something I will never forget.  “Well, okay.  Let’s take that analogy and use it.  Sarah, you’ve spilled milk on the table and not only are you not crying over it, but you’re not even acknowledging that it happened.  When you spill milk on the table and choose not only to not cry over it, but to even acknowledge that it’s been spilled… it ends up just sitting there.  It drips on the floor and possibly on you.  Then after a while, that milk begins to dry and sour.  You can ignore it if you want to, but at some point that milk is going to stink and you won’t be able to do anything without being bothered by the smell of that milk.  Now, would it be better to completely ignore the milk or to acknowledge that milk has been spilled, cry if you must, and then clean it up and take care of the problem before it becomes worse?”  I remember sitting on his couch and just sobbing.  I finally understood.  I had spilled milk.  It was everywhere and my heart was starting to sour.  I had chosen to ignore the problem completely.  I was jaded with church, I was distrusting of religion, I was bitter about what had happened to my Dad.  Rather than dealing with these emotions, I ignored them.  That was a turning point for me.  I began to try and let myself cry whenever it came up.  I tried to actually feel the feelings that I had pushed down for so long.  It was like I had opened floodgates.  Everything was heightened.  If I was happy, I was ecstatic.  If I was sad, I was inconsolable.  It has been a slow change and it is something I still struggle with today.  

Talking with Taylor helps tremendously, but I am hoping that this blog will also give me an outlet to let go of those emotions.  I can feel myself healing slowly.  Every once in awhile I have a day where I just want to forget about everything and harden myself up again.  Then I glance at Selah while she’s sleeping and my heart just melts.  In some ways, not acknowledging my feelings was so much easier, but I recognize that that’s not healthy.  My time at my school in Texas was perfect healing.  The teachers there were just amazing.  They were so friendly and accepting.  They made me laugh every day and made me fall in love with teaching again.  I went to Christ Lutheran Church while in Dallas and I from the moment I walked into the church, it felt warm and inviting.  Their choir became like family for me and I will always be grateful for them.  I am grateful to be in a church now and in a job where I am supported.  Every time I open myself up to someone, I can feel healing take place.  Anyways, I could go on for a while… like I said, floodgates.  For now, I rest knowing that I can find family anywhere as long as I am willing to open my heart.  For now, I know that healing comes in building relationships with others.  For now, I rest knowing that God can heal physical pain, emotional pain, and spiritual pain.  For now, I rest on the promise that GOD provides.  

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Who I Am (pt. 1)

While I sit here eating my post-run bag of popcorn and drinking some cranberry juice, I figure it’s about time to post something on here rather than reading over and over again what I’ve already written.  To start this blog off I’d like to say… I am NO writer.  I am horrible with grammar.  I will not be super perfect with punctuation.  Spelling…yeah, I’ll be pretty good with that, but everything else… out the window.  So, if you’re expecting to come here and read something written as beautifully as C.S. Lewis … I apologize ahead of time.

I decided to start this blog as a way to record some thoughts that I have throughout the day.  I want to be able to look back and see where I’ve been.  I also want some kind of record of these early days with Selah.  Things happen so fast these days and I don’t want to forget anything.

I guess I should start out by giving a little bit of background for those of you who don’t know me.  I hope this post also helps you understand who I am a bit better.  This first post will be in parts since it’s a bit long… but well… here we go.

Anyone who really knows me knows that I don’t like sharing a whole lot.  If I share something with you, it means I trust you (or that I’m desperate for help), but I am trying to push myself out of my comfort zone this year and this seems like a good way to do it.  I was born on September 6, 1988.  I was born around 1:30pm.  I was 3 weeks early.  My parents used to joke… “She was early.  It was the first and last time she was early to anything.”  Everyone always laughed although I never found it very funny.  

(my sister on the left, me on the right)

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I grew up in a house where we attended church every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night.  On Monday nights, my parents hosted a youth Bible study at their house.  I grew up sitting at the top of the stairs listening to high schoolers read the Bible and having discussions about what it meant for them.  I loved listening to my dad’s voice explain something about the verse they were reading.  He would use the Hebrew or Greek translation of a word and all of a sudden that verse would take on a whole new meaning.  His voice was passionate and his passion was the seed that was planted in my heart.  I never told him that, partially because I never realized it until right now, but also because I’m a private person.  Like I said, I’m not one that easily shares my feelings or thoughts.  

My mother has an incredible reading voice.  She used to do radio commercials for the continuing care community she worked at.  Hearing her read from the Bible was a soothing experience.  The room would always get quiet when she read.  She never taught the room like my dad did, but when she opened her mouth, people listened.  

As I grew up, I was steeped in the Bible and church culture.  Not only did my Dad lead a Monday night Bible study, but he also taught Sunday School to the youth on Sunday mornings.  We had to be at church 30 minutes early so that he could set up.  Sunday mornings in our house were always fun.  My sister and I would wake up, go to our parents room and crawl in bed with them.  Mom had gotten up before everyone else and made breakfast.  She would bring it upstairs and wake us up.  We’d sit on the end of their bed and eat groggily while Dad would tell us once again how we needed to leave on time this Sunday… like this Sunday would be different from every other Sunday we were late.  We’d then go through the process of taking the socks out of our hair that we used to curl it overnight.  Forty-five minutes later, I’d be running out the door with makeup, shoes, and a Bible in my hands while I listened to Dad get onto us about leaving the lights on, leaving the hair dryer plugged in, and leaving our shoes everywhere.  Nevertheless, we always made it to church on time. (This is probably not true.)

For the first 18 years of my life, church was a haven.  I absolutely loved going.  Part of that is because my parents never made it a choice.  We went to church as a family and that was that.  If the doors were open, we were there.  I learned to love it and eventually, truly did love it.  Youth group was exciting and fun.  I was always able to be myself.  I had a love for life and was excited about everything.  Reading the Bible brought such joy and discussing it with friends was a natural high.  I felt safe, passionate about life, untouchable as if nothing bad could happen.  Then I went off to college and things started to change.  Dad had always talked about how college seemed to shake people’s beliefs.  It’s the first time you’re on your own.  It’s the first time you’ve got to figure out why you believe what you believe.  It’s the first time your parents won’t wake you up and force you out the door with curlers in your hair.    

I got to college and visited 2-3 different churches my freshman year.  I still went to church semi-regularly, but I never found a church that felt right.  They were too big, or didn’t try to connect with the congregation, or tried to connect but simply couldn’t because there was no way of keeping track of all the visitors on any given Sunday.  I had a few different roommates my first year or two of college.  The first semester my roommate wanted me to switch with the girl across the hall because they got along better.  The other girl’s roommate was quiet and kept to herself so I didn’t see any problem with that.  Then, during my sophomore year, a senior wanted to live in the apartments on campus and wanted me to be one of the 4 girls in the apartment.  So, I moved in.  That girl graduated early in December, so we had another girl move in.  All in all, I had 7 different roommates my first 2 years.  Towards the end of my second year, a girl I had become good friends with told me about a baptist church in the area that she thought I would like.  I visited the church with her on a Wednesday night and immediately fell in love.  The people were kind and outgoing.  It felt warm and lively and like home.  That was the last Wednesday night before I went home for the summer.  I went home promising myself that when I got back in August, I would attend that church.  I did and for a while, I fell back in love with church and found that passion again.  

Things started to change.  At this point, I was working as an intern at the church.  For the first time in my life, I saw the politics that can sometimes happen in church and it really confused me.  It was a new side of church I had never seen.  While other people saw this as part of everyday “church business” I was confused.  I felt disappointed and hurt.  After a few more negative events at church and a lot of change, my attendance slowly lessened to 2-3 times a month.  Maybe.  

At this point, I had graduated college and begun to work at my first school.  I was living in a rented house with my best friend.  In February of 2011, the numbers at church had dwindled.  It didn’t feel as lively or as welcoming as it once had.  The church was trying to mend, but it had taken a toll on me.  I was slightly jaded.  While grappling with my inner turmoil about faith and the church, I got a phone call from my Dad.  I will never forget this.  I was standing in the kitchen, making quesadillas with Taylor (T-money to Dad).  He had come over since it was Valentine’s Day.  Dad called and the conversation went a little something like this…

Dad: Hey, sweetheart.  How was school today?

Me: Eh, you know.  Middle schoolers will be middle schoolers.  It was fine, I’m just tired.  

Dad:  Okay, well… is Taylor there? Are you by yourself?  

Me: Yup!  We’re making dinner.

Dad: Good.  Well, look.  I went to the doctor this week because I’ve been sick and just haven’t been able to get over this cold.  

Me: yeah…

Dad:  I’ve had a headache, so they did a few scans.  Turns out, I’ve got a brain tumor… It is malignant, but we’re talking about my options.  Possibly surgery, chemo, treatment… we’re not really sure yet, but I wanted to let you know.  We’ll keep you updated after we’ve met back with the doctor.  

Me: Okay.

Dad:  Okay?  Well, I’ll let you get back to dinner with Taylor.  Tell T-money I said hey.  

Me: yeah, I will.  

Dad: Okay.  love you.  Bye.

Me: Bye.

That was probably the shortest phone call I’ve ever had with my Dad.  We always talked a ton on the phone, but I could not get off that phone call fast enough.  I hung up the phone and just stared at the floor for a few seconds.  Taylor looked at me and asked what was wrong.  I simply said, “Dad has a brain tumor,” went into my room and sat down on the bed.  I don’t remember much after that night.  Dad called back at some point to say that they were going to do surgery and treatment.  I went home for his surgery.  It went smoothly and he recovered relatively quickly.  I vaguely remember it because my brain and emotions kind of shut down during those few months.  Everything was fine.  Dad was fine.  The surgery went fine.  Treatment was fine.  I was fine.  It would be fine.  I became unfeeling towards any of it, unfeeling towards church, towards Dad having a brain tumor, and towards my own struggle.  I focused on my students and I focused on work.  Later that year, I became engaged and focused on a wedding and moving in with Taylor.  Dad seemed to be doing fine from a distance, but now looking back he was slowing down a bit.  

One thing that I didn’t know until much later was the seriousness of his brain tumor.  At some point in the fall after I was engaged, Dad and I were driving in a car together, just us two, and he let me know how serious it was.  His doctor had told him that every person who had this particular kind of cancer, always dies from the cancer.  It could be 5 months or it could be 15 years, but that it was always the cancer that got them.  He could continue to do treatment as long as it worked, but that he didn’t have to.  Looking back, I know Dad told me this while I was driving the car for a reason.  He knew that I wouldn’t want to look him in the eye anyways.  He knew that it would give me something else to do to keep my mind occupied.  My hands were on the wheel and my eyes were on the road and that gave me an “out” to not be emotional.  I could nod and say okay without having to face anything until I was ready.  I will always be grateful for this moment and I will always be grateful that I had a father who knew me that well.  

After this, Dad slowed down a lot.  Over the next couple of years, he would begin to have small seizures, use a cane, use a walker, be in a wheelchair, etc… The treatment wasn’t working fast enough.  In Christmas of 2013, Taylor and I went home to visit my parents and I specifically remember sitting on the couch watching everyone open presents and hearing a small voice whisper, “This is your last Christmas together.  Enjoy this.  Look around the room.”  It startled me.  I physically jumped on the couch and looked around for a second wondering if anyone else had heard what I did.  Obviously, no one did.  I don’t know what exactly I believe about audibly hearing God or the Holy Spirit, but I can tell you this: I have never heard a voice like that as clearly as I did that day.  Dad gave my sister and I necklaces with our childhood nicknames on them that year.  I put it on that day and didn’t take it off for over a year.  

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That same Christmas, my whole family decided to come to mine and Taylor’s apartment for the first few days of the New Year.  My pregnant sister, her husband, their dog, mom, and dad all came to visit.  They got there in the evening and we all hung out for a bit and soon after decided to go to bed saying that we would walk around downtown the next day and go out to eat.  I went to bed excited and feeling at peace that we were all there together.

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This seems like an okay place to stop for tonight.  I’ll try to post part 2 tomorrow as long as precious Selah decides to sleep 🙂 Feel free to leave a comment or share this.  Don’t hesitate to reach out or contact me in any way.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this much and I hope you’ll come back tomorrow for part 2!