Book Review: Unbound

Not so sure why I haven’t before done any book reviews, considering I both love books and am also a former librarian. I’m going to make an attempt to do them more often, but I make no promises on regularity 🙂

Book Title: Unbound: Finding Freedom from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood

Author: Jamie Sumner

What Caught My Eye: I spied this on the “New Book” shelf at my local library. Reading the subtitle I didn’t really think it was a book for me, as I’m not yet a mother, but I read the back anyway. And this is the sentence that caught me; “With honesty and vulnerability, Jamie Sumner walks readers through each stage of her own journey to motherhood through infertility and special needs parenting.” So, maybe, at least a part of this book would be relevant to me now…I added it to my armload to check out and headed home.

The Reading: I’d like to say I picked it right up when I got home from the library, but that was not the case. I actually had to renew it once before I started reading it. When I did dive in, though, it took me less than a week to finish it. The style of Jamie’s writing is like she’s chatting with a friend and it flowed fairly well. There are questions at the end of each chapter for reflection and Scripture readings that she references, but, to be honest, I’m going to have to read it again and do all of those. The first time through I just wanted to know her story and where it was going. As much as I do appreciate those added details, I just didn’t want to be interrupted by them.

My Thoughts: I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Going into it I imagined maybe just the first bit would deal with her journey through infertility, but there was so much more than I bargained for. I imagined that the “unrealistic expectations of motherhood” were how some people think it’s all going to be rainbows and sunshine. Or how some people think “I’d never do that as a mom.” That’s not what she was addressing at all. What she spoke of was how the road to motherhood often does not go as expected. It often doesn’t go as we plan. It sometimes doesn’t even go as we hope.

There were times when it felt like Jamie wasn’t telling her story, she was telling mine. I cried numerous times as she wrote of experiences I have also had, thoughts that have also crossed my mind (or just plain have gotten stuck in there), and prayers I, too, have prayed. The beginning of her story is so like mine: I read about how she found out her sister-in-law was pregnant, the joy and sadness felt, only a couple days before finding out that my sweet sister-in-law, whose road to pregnancy was also more difficult than expected, is expecting her first child. The comfort in knowing reading someone’s story that feels so similar to mine is really indescribable. I’m touched every time someone shares their story with me to let me know that I’m not alone and I’m thankful to Jamie for putting her story out there where so many women who may be facing similar circumstances can read it an know that they, too, are not alone.

I would be remiss not to mention more of the set-up of the book. Jamie writes each chapter in such a way so that it brings in a story of a different woman from the Bible. There are the expected ones about Hannah and Sarah, but the one that stood out to me the most was the one about the woman with the issue of blood. We never know her name, only that she has been bleeding for 12 years. Twelve years! She hears that Jesus is coming through town and knows she must see Him. Her faith is strong and she knows that if she just so much as touches His robes she’ll be healed. And that’s exactly what happens.

What I love about Jamie’s writing is her honesty throughout. She speaks of the woman with the issue of blood during the time she finds out her sister-in-law is pregnant. She doesn’t identify with this woman, but she does identify with someone else in the story; Jairus. Jairus was leading Jesus to his daughter who was ill when the woman stopped Him. In the delay a messenger comes to tell Jairus that his daughter has died. He feels like his opportunity for a miracle has passed. Who ever wants to admit that they doubt the might and power of our Lord? It’s not something anyone does with pride (and if they do, they have even more issues). I have great respect for Jamie and her honesty throughout this book. She reminds us what I try to remind myself of often; that God uses unexpected means to accomplish His will. Some of her final thoughts wrap it all up rather nicely:

Life is a continual etching and erasing. We form expectations, and God forms reality. Sometimes they line up nicely, like tracings at right angles. And sometimes God plays Jackson Pollock and we’re all over the place. But the point of it all is that a masterpiece is being made.

Who Should Read This Book: I highly recommend this book to anyone going through infertility, anyone who has suffered the loss of a child through miscarriage, anyone who has found out their baby will have difficulties because of a diagnosis while still in utero, and anyone who has a baby in the NICU for any length of time. I also think this would be a great read for women who have friends, sisters, or daughters in any of these situations. While not all experiences are the same, if someone you love is going through something like this and she seems somewhat unapproachable, this book might give a little insight.

Praying, that no matter where you are in life, you realize the masterpiece is in the making. The journey God has you on is not without purpose.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

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Glimpses

Dark curls catching sunshine as they joyfully bounce on the shoulders of a small girl.

She’s running around a yard, happily yelling as she entreats someone to chase her.

As I tried to fall asleep tonight, this is what greeted me in the almost-not-quite-yet peace of slumber. And now I find sleep an impossibility.

It was a split second. I didn’t see her face, but there were details I did notice. Like she was running in our back yard. And I was the one chasing her.

Never have I had dreams of being pregnant, or giving birth, or having children. I could just chalk it up to a late night and the fact that the thought of having children rarely completely leaves my mind. If it’s not in the forefront, it’s hiding somewhere in the background.

But this was so vivid.

Before I almost drifted off I was praying. Praying to the Lord God Almighty, Maker of heaven & earth. That He would sustain me. That our desire for a child would be realized. But most of all that His will would be done.

And then I saw her.

I’m not saying I had a “vision from God.” To be honest, I don’t know what I think about that idea; besides the fact that He is God and can do darn well whatever He pleases.

Lord, if it please You, I pray for a child. One to add to the joy and chaos of our lives. One who will surely drive us crazy, but will also teach us how to love even more completely. One we will do our best to teach about You and how much You love us and all You have done for us. I know it will not be easy, but I do know it will be good.

Maybe, now that I’ve released her into the atmosphere, I will get some sleep. Or maybe I won’t.

Praying tonight that you’re able to cast your cares upon the One who knows them all already. And that in Him you will find rest.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

Ever Present, Newly Discovered

Yesterday morning was one I was excited to wake up to; which is probably why I was awake at 4:30. I made myself stay in bed and try to get more sleep until 5, when I just couldn’t take it anymore. It was day 29, and for almost a year my period had faithfully come on day 27. There had been an egg in the right spot this time around and I was so hopeful. I found that magical stick that could reveal in just a few minutes if you are growing a baby or not. It sometimes lies, though, so when it told me I wasn’t I thought, “Maybe I just didn’t wait long enough,” and went back to bed.

It didn’t lie, though, as I found out when I woke up again. I didn’t want to believe it. I tried to convince myself that this was different somehow. I even called the doctor’s office to talk to someone about it, to see what I could do. Of course, by the time they called back the truth of reality had already hit me like a brick. It was not to be.

For a little bit I was angry. All I could think was that this was all some sick joke. Then I was just sad, somewhat defeated, and in a whole lot of pain, because with me, menstrual cramps are no joke. I did not want to do anything. I just wanted to curl up in a ball and disappear.

My typical mode of avoidance is to fiddle about on my phone – I did that a lot yesterday. As I was going through my email I spotted one of the few devotionals that I usually just end up deleting. This time though, it had a reference to Psalm 139 in the title. I opened it up and read it. I couldn’t tell you now what it said, but it made me think that reading through that psalm would be good for my soul. So that’s what I did.

Psalm 139 has always been my favorite – probably because it was the first scripture the Lord used to break into my heart some 16 years ago. It speaks of a love that is unfathomable. A God who is unshakable. Whose promises are unchangeable and not retractable. Who sees me even when I want to just hide from Him and be miserable. Oh, He’ll still let me, but really, who is able to hide from our all-knowing, ever-present, and totally sovereign Maker?

 

If you are unfamiliar with this psalm, or would like to read it anew, please take a moment to here.

I always seem to go back to this psalm in great times of sorrow, need, and desperation, but this time around something new was brought to light. I stand in awe each time the Holy Spirit reveals something new in a passage I’ve read more than any other. This is the section that stood out to me:

For you formed my inward parts;

you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wonderful are your works;

my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from you,

when I was being made in secret,

intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;

in your book were written, every one of them,

the days that were formed for me,

when yet there was none of them.

~Psalm 139: 13-16

As I read that section, I saw it in light of all creation. All people. Not just David who wrote it. Not just myself as I read it. But as all people who have ever populated this earth, those who are here now, and those who will be in the future; all who are made in the image of God. For the first time I realized that not only does my glorious God know all there is to know about me, but He also knows all there is to know about any children who will join our family, regardless if I give birth to them or someone else does.

This might sound silly to you. I mean, really, knowing that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent is a pretty basic thing to learn. I have known this for almost all of the past 16 or so years…but to really understand it? I don’t think I will ever reach the height and breadth and depth of comprehending it this side of heaven.

All of this brought me great comfort, eventhough there were still tears shed and a feeling of brokenness inside. The Lord used His Word to restore my soul. To bring deeper understanding of Himself and His sovereignty. To bring peace beyond understanding.

There will be many more tears along this road, of that I have no doubt. But I need not fear being alone in it all, and neither do you.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

Just Like a Roller Coaster

Up, down, around, and back again…

Sometime last week I realized Mother’s Day was coming up soon. I was worried about what it might bring with it this year: heartache, sorrow, bitterness, a few tears (or many), maybe, just possibly, a little joy? We’re in the middle of a lot. Ok, that’s not so very true, but with the extra hormones I’m on, this week has seemed about 20 days longs with all of the ups and downs and very far downs. I typically have some pretty awful mood swings a couple days a month and wasn’t too thrilled when I found out that the effects of the drug could be worse than that. But first, let me back up a little.

We first saw a fertility specialist a couple months ago. It had been almost a year since we’ve been trying and with my only having one intact fallopian tube (the result of surgery a few years ago), we decided it was time to see if there was anything else preventing this all from happening. After a month of collecting info from blood work and other tests the doc found nothing out of the ordinary and ruled it as “unexplained infertility.” Not something really encouraging, but it also means it’s not impossible for us to get pregnant.

When we met with him again, one of his first suggestions was that I take Clomid. It stimulates ovulation so that there’s a better chance that I’ll actually ovulate from the ovary that has a tube intact to carry it down. And before you think I’m crazy and could end up with septuplets, let me tell you that I’m taking a low dose and it has only 10% chance of twins and less than 1% change of triplets. I will admit I’m at the point where I think I’d be ok with twins and wouldn’t have to think about all this any more 🙂

Along the way & through all of this we have been praying and have been prayed for. For a child to be conceived. For strength from and trust in a God who knows what He’s doing. For His will to be done. There have been ups and downs and I’ll probably write about those later, but back to where I started.

Mother’s Day has been hard in the past when I was single and not knowing if I’d ever be married so that I could have a chance to be a mom. Last year it was hopeful and I don’t remember being at all sad. This year I was uncertain.

Yesterday marked day 3 of 5 that I have be taking Clomid and I felt it. I’ve been watching two sweet kiddos since we moved into our house and I left the library. Yesterday we went out for a stroll at Walmart. I needed just one thing but we wandered around and after a little bit I felt like I was slogging through mud. My brain was foggy and unfocused and I just couldn’t get my thoughts together. That, itself, made me start to freak out a little. Anxiety rose as thoughts wracked my brain, reasonable and irrational alike. I made it to the check out and as we left (me pushing the kiddos in the cart) the greeter called out, “Happy Mother’s Day!” I took my sunglasses from atop my head so I could cover my eyes before the tears started to fall.

I knew this reaction was not my typical one. I’ve been watching the kiddos for over 6 months now and have gone on many a shopping trip where I get complemented on how cute they are or asked if I think one will have curly hair like me (ummm, no, I don’t think so :)). It has never bothered me; sometimes I correct them and let them know I’m the “aunt” and sometimes I thank them, smile, and go on my merry way. This time, though, it tipped me over the edge. I knew the hormones were mostly to blame, but I still didn’t know what to do about it. We grabbed a snack and went to the park as I tried to regain myself.

The rest of the day I felt like I went from one extreme to the next, mostly between getting annoyed and angry to being desperately sad. We had dinner with friends and that was nice, but I felt pretty quiet and reserved most of the night. Once we got home and were doing family worship I told Steve all about my day. He, of course, let me cry on his shoulder, waited patiently while my thoughts collected themselves into communicable phrases, held me tight, and prayed to our great Creator.

I felt better, getting all of those pent up thoughts out of my head where they swirled relentlessly around. I felt better, being reminded of a God and Savior who will never leave me, forsake me, or stop loving me.

Today I woke up and felt like a new person. I got lunches and breakfast made and even prepped some for dinner while I thought about what I’d do with the kiddos today. When I got to their house, there were some lovely flowers waiting for me, along with a sweet note of support & encouragement. As we headed to Walmart again…we needed things for a secret project, G (who’s 2 1/2) started asking me about the songs on the radio. As I explained to this little boy that people were singing songs about God and how great He is and how they are glad that He’s always with them, in good times and in bad, my heart swelled.

This is one of the reasons I so very badly desire a child of my own; so I can share with them the greatness of God, the awe and wonder and majesty of Him and the amazing things He’s done for us all. And yet, I can do that while I still do not have children of my own. Is it the same? Absolutely not. But seeing knowledge and wonder of God grow within these little kiddos is amazing, and I wouldn’t trade that, either. There’s still an ache in my heart for a child of my own. A dark-eyed, curly-haired misfit who will drive her parents crazy (because there are only ever girls in my family 😉 ). But as I walked out of Walmart today and was, once again, wished, “Happy Mother’s Day” I simply smiled, said “thanks,” and strolled out the door.

I cannot say that tomorrow or Sunday will not bring different emotions. We will cross that bridge when we get there.

If you anticipate Mother’s Day to be difficult this year, because of the ache you have to be one or the sorrow of having lost yours, know that you are not alone. I’ll be praying for you. If you think of it, please send one up for me.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

All the Way, My Savior Leads Me

Ten years ago I left my first job & first career in order to pursue my second. I had spent two amazing (and difficult) years in the Yup’ik village of Tununak, Alaska teaching 2nd & 3rd grade. I’m sure I learned much more than I was able to impart to my students, but that’s another story.

I knew I wasn’t really cut out to be a teacher. I couldn’t do as good of a job as I wanted to; so I thought about what I could possibly do next. I had wanted to be a teacher since the time I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up (except that one time I said I wanted to be a ballerina…). I then remembered that when I was in elementary school I once thought that being a librarian would be an amazing job. I also remembered a time while I was in college when I was telling my fellow soon-to-be teachers about all of the books in the Scholastic book order and what I loved about them. So that’s what I settled on, I would be a librarian.

Close to this time, ten years ago, I started grad school. Nine years ago I graduated with my Master of Library Science degree. Sounds super cool, right? Eight and a half years ago I was offered a job in a place I had never been; a place I had never even thought of. Cape May County, New Jersey. I, of course, accepted it.

I could tell story upon story of all the things that happen in my typical day to day at the library: parents telling their kids they need to leave or they will get locked in and the library monster will get them; getting Storm Troopers to come to a Star Wars program we hosted; moms being surprised that I remembered their child’s name 3 or 4 years after they started going to school and stopped coming to storytime; eating bugs because kids read over 7,000 books one summer. Maybe one day I’ll write about all of those and more. But not today.

What I want to share, and try to process through for myself, is how amazing God has been through all of this.

I came to this strange place called New Jersey knowing only one person in the area. I soon connected with a family that welcomed me with open arms. God used them greatly to guide me, teach me, grow me, comfort me, and support me through these years filled with many ups and downs (and I don’t think He’s done with them yet). Through them I got connected to a church that also welcomed me with open arms. The people there became my family, as mine was so many miles away. They, too, have been used by God to help me grow in my faith, encourage me, love me, and speak truth to me.

The past eight and a half years, as I delighted in my career, as I gained loving, godly relationships, God grew me immensely. I’m not sure I would recognize the 27-year-old who came to a place she had never been all those years ago. For that I am oh so grateful. Words cannot fully describe just how much.

In a few short months, I will be moving on again. But this time I won’t be on my own. And this won’t be a big move where I know few to no people. My husband and I have bought a house and are moving closer to where he works. This has always been the plan and we are both excited for it. Excited to be living near our church family & community. Excited to have a place of our very own, to paint and decorate as we please (I may be more excited about the decorating part than he is). Excited to be close enough to friends to have them drop by just because. Excited to be more active in our community.

But this time, I will have no official job title. We will be moving outside of the county so I will no long be able to work there. I am not searching for a new job as a librarian. It has been our hope to start a family. I have been looking forward to the end of my job title as “Head Children’s Librarian” in the hopes that I could replace it with one I desire even more “Mother”. That is not the case…yet. And even in this, especially in this, God is growing me.

Why do we constantly look to titles, people and other things to fill that place that only God can? Above all else, I struggle with this. I don’t know how many times I’ve talked with others about where our true identity lies. Or even how many times I’ve written about it. Do you know why that is? Because it’s the one thing I most need to be reminded of.

In the midst of this world, I get stuck.

I get stuck thinking that my career is the most precious thing.

I get stuck thinking that if I find out one more friend is pregnant I’m going to lose it.

I get stuck thinking that if I can’t have what I want the world is going to end.

Lies. Plain and simple. Lies.

Truth:

My career has been an amazing blessing. I’ve met so many precious souls and got to work in a place & with people I thoroughly enjoyed.

I rejoice with all of my friends expecting children. They, too, are a great blessing. I preemptively ask forgiveness if I ever act strange/rude/distant around you. Some days are just harder than others.

Who is here who knows what’s best better than the Creator of it all? Don’t I remember the times when I wanted something so badly (marriage) and God said, “Not yet. He’s not who I have for you.”? Don’t I remember all of the amazing things He’s done in the past? How do I forget those so easily? Why do I get so wrapped up in this world and forget about my God?

Thankfully, He always finds a way to draw me back. Sometimes it’s a sermon that sends me running to His open arms. Sometimes it’s a verse that causes me to cry out to Him. Sometimes it’s a song that reminds me of things so easily forgotten.

“All the way, my Savior leads me,
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His faithful mercies?
Who through life has been my guide
Heavenly peace, divinest comfort
Ere by faith in Him to dwell
For I know whate’er befall me
Jesus doeth all things well”

Forgive my winding trail this time around; one idea lead to the next. I’m sure you know how that goes. If not, you’ve just got an insight to my thought process 🙂

What I hope to convey to you (and to remind myself) is that if you find yourself struggling in this world; stuck in the mire and weighed down by worries, turn to the one Whose yoke is easy and burden is light. Let Him direct your path. Delight in where He leads you.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

Dear Baba,

Two years ago today…

I didn’t write much about it because I didn’t know where to start. I had been through a lot already that month and was recovering from major surgery. I was both in shock and not surprised, if such a thing is possible. Most of my childhood memories included Baba as she lived with us since I was 4. I couldn’t write about it then, but feel drawn to write now.

Dear Baba,

Thank you for all the memories shared. For telling me about when you were a kid and how you almost broke the principal’s arm (though I’m still not sure if that’s true or not). For letting me keep you company when you were watching your “stories” and I was playing with my paper dolls. For being honest with me when I tried to make you promise that you would never die after I experienced loss for the first time; “No one lives forever, Kellie.” For looking out for me (like that time you yelled at Teresa and Kimmy for locking me outside in the pouring rain). For being generous and helping me out in college when I felt things were falling apart. For eagerly listening to me read Harry Potter to you and telling me that listening to Jim Dale read the last one couldn’t compare to me. For the money you gave me at least 7 years ago, that was to be for my wedding “or whatever you might need.” I did use it for my wedding, Baba; I found the most lovely dress. Thank you for your contribution to that day. It was more than just the dress.

My 33rd birthday was just 10 days after you left us. On that day I finally decided to set up an online dating account. Don’t worry, I was safe and didn’t let any of them come to my house on the first date and I always drove myself to meet them. I thought it would be a good use of the money I had just received, and I’m happy to say, Baba, that it was indeed. I went out with a couple of what you might call duds. They were nice and all, but not for me. And then I met him, Baba, 6 months after you had gone, I met the man who’s now my husband. Thank you, again.

I regret that you were not at our wedding and that you never got to meet Steve. You would like him, of that I have no doubt. He has a great sense of humor and he would make you laugh. And, yes, Baba, he loves me and treats me well. I’m sad that my children (when we have them, Lord willing) won’t get to grow up with you in their lives. I admit I’m a little jealous that you were at both Teresa’s & Kimmy’s weddings & that you got to meet their firstborns. Don’t worry, though, my husband and my children may not meet you, but they will know your stories. They will taste your peanut butter pie and pierogies. They will gaze upon a Christmas tree with ornaments you made hanging from it. You are not gone as long as your memories are passed along.

Thank you, Baba, for the memories.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

Christmas, in Retrospect

I hope you all have enjoyed a wonder-filled Christmas season! For me, it was the first time I was not traveling at Christmastime since I as living at home with my folks some 13 years ago. I had spent most of my vacation time with family earlier in the year and I was a little relieved that I wouldn’t have to fight the holiday traffic & craziness at the airports. I love my family, don’t get me wrong (you hear that, Ma – I love you!), but have also been blessed immensely with friends here who might as well be family too.

Christmas Eve at work included a surprise visit from Santa (who was supposed to visit the local hospital but there were no kids there; a Christmas blessing, indeed), lunch with friends, and me playing various Christmas CDs on my computer (including the soundtrack to The Muppets’ Christmas Carol). After work I got home in time to pack my overnight bag, gather some goodies for the evening, make a couple last minute gifts (more info on those Friday), throw everything in the car, and head to church for music practice before the service started. After service my friends, Michael & Robin, hosted an open house. This time was full of friends, food, & fun. I spent the night there so I could celebrate Christmas morning with them and their family. It was a nice, quiet, and relaxing day that ended with some more friends coming over to have a lovely Christmas dinner of Chinese take-out. It was a wonderful couple of days; I was able to talk with my family & even video chat with some. There was much to enjoy, but I feel as if I’ve left something out. Let’s rewind (you do know what that means, right?) a bit; back to church on Christmas Eve.

This was also very special to me – being able to be a part of our Christmas Eve service. Always traveling, I had never been able to attend. Words cannot adequately express what it is like to be in a darkened chapel with 60-75 people all holding candles, singing, “Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright.” It is beautiful, awesome, and powerful; realizing some 2,000 years ago the Son of God, the One who was with God in the beginning, the One who is God, humbled Himself & put aside His glory, to be born, of a virgin, as a human. He was born, as all babies are, completely vulnerable and dependent upon His earthly parents. The Lord of all creation came to us, a mere baby, because He loved us so and wanted to make things right between us and our Father again, once for all. He did not stay a baby, of course not. All babies grow up into children, and those children into men and women. This baby, this Jesus, grew into a man; a man who worked many miracles, taught many truths, and saved many lives. In fact, He’s still doing that today. This humble babe, born in a manger, grew to a man, knowing one day He would die for many; for as many as would believe in Him and call upon His name. He lived a sinless life, and when the time came, He gave up that life; no one took it from Him; He gave it up freely as a perfect sacrifice, the only sacrifice that could ever reconcile the sinful heart of man with the God who created him. Of course, we know, it doesn’t stop there. Jesus’ death was followed by His resurrection, proof that He has overcome death and the grave. And that, my friends, is what gives us hope. If He is indeed our Lord & Savior, we have the greatest hope; that we will, one day, be reunited with Him. And that, truly, is the best Christmas Gift.

I pray your Christmas was not only merry and bright, but also that you had time to reflect on what it really means and the great Gift we were all given, those many years ago, as a star shone brightly over a baby asleep on the hay.

Love & Blessings,

KJ