Not What I Expected

I’ve been wanting to write for a while, but haven’t been able to really organize my thoughts. Okay, that’s not entirely true. I haven’t really wanted to organize my thoughts. My typical defense mechanism is to ignore what’s going on, shove it aside, and live in survival mode until I finally deal with it or it blows up in my face. And while there have been bursts here and there along the way, there hasn’t been a huge explosion yet. I hope, by addressing this now, there won’t be. Perhaps I actually am learning something.

This last week leading up to Mother’s Day was very different from the one two years ago. Then, I was starting on a cycle of fertility drugs, going a little crazy, stressed, anxious, and sad, though still hopeful. Now, I’m celebrating my first as a mom, with less than 6 months to go before we welcome a second into our family. Oh, yeah, and there’s a pandemic going on.

This time last year I thought there was still over a month to go before we’d get to meet Evelyn (there was really only a couple weeks as she came over 3 weeks early). I don’t remember being incredibly stressed. I just remember having huge feet, not being able to put on shoes and socks without feeling winded, and feeling the kicks and hiccups from the little one inside, reminding me she was there. I was amazed at what was going on inside me. Amazed at a Creator who designed this process so flawlessly. And yet…

I don’t know exactly when it happened. Probably a little bit as we struggled with infertility. And a little more as we saw a specialist with no results. I had begun to withdraw from the God I loved.

I was thankful, am completely thankful, for the precious gift He’s given us in Evie. But throughout that pregnancy I was still skeptical of the outcome. Worried she’d be taken from us too soon. Not letting myself get attached in preparation in case that happened. And then she was here. And what started out happy enough with this sweet little girl turned into two weeks of hell. We were scared DCPP was going to take her from us (all because I ate a poppyseed bagel 4 hours before I went into labor and tested positive for opioids on a drug test I took when I was admitted to the hospital). That complete ordeal lasted two plus months, but there was nothing that shook us both as much as those first couple days. Days we should have been rejoicing in the new life we’d been blessed with, not fearing that she’d be snatched away, this blessing we longed for so much.

Then there was the figuring out how to be a mom. How often should she eat? Sleep? What if she seems like she’s hungry but she just finished nursing? Is she crying because she’s hungry or because she just wants to be held? Along with the seemingly innocent questions and comments, “You’re feeding her again?” “She sure does eat a lot.” (Please do not ever say these things to a new mom. While you may think they are just observational and offhand, they can be taken very much as judgement of what she is doing…as if she isn’t already questioning herself & her competency enough.)

Just about the time the whole poppyseed ordeal was clearing up I found out that Evie wasn’t getting enough to eat (despite me feeling like I fed her all the time). For not the first time and not the last I felt I had failed her.

Insecure about my “motherness”, my body, my choice to stay home, I looked to distract myself from all of that (I’m really not so good at facing things head on). I turned to entertainment, social media, ridiculous time consuming games on my phone. All from which I gained absolutely nothing, besides what I wanted. Distraction. And during this all I distanced myself from my God. And I distanced myself from my daughter. I learned how selfish I can be; not wanting to relinquish my time to care for her. I thought this was all what I wanted. Be a stay at home mom. Take care of my baby. Teach her and watch her grow. Take care or our home. Cook delicious meals. Host dinner for our friends. Why was I not finding joy in this?

I had forgotten where my joy was found. More likely, I didn’t want to look for it there. There, in the place it always was and always has been. There, in my Lord & Savior, Jesus Christ. I had fallen into, I don’t know, a hole, a rut, a pattern of behavior? And while I didn’t want to be there, while I desired to draw close to the Lord, I had settled into where I was. I was comfortable.

Oh, there were times I had been rather distraught. Times of breakdowns and ugly crying. Times of knowing I wasn’t doing what I should. And maybe I’d change for a day or two. I’d rally myself and try to do better. But you know what? I’m not so strong on my own. I look back at all the things I have done/gone through in the past; moving to Alaska, major surgery, finding a husband, finishing a half marathon. They all have one thing in common. I did not rely on my own strength. So why am I trying to do that now?

Maybe in this season of feeling so out of control I want to feel like I can control something (though this started long before the current pandemic crisis). Maybe I want to prove something. To the world. To myself. To those around me. And yet I think about that and it seems so silly. I have the knowledge of where true strength comes from. I have knowledge of where true joy comes from. And yet I lack wisdom to put that knowledge to use.

And then yesterday, Mother’s Day, my first Mother’s Day, we joined our church’s livestream from home. Our pastor spoke of his mom, who went home to be with the Lord only a few weeks ago. He spoke of one of his fondest memories; seeing her enjoying her morning coffee and time in the Word and sharing with him what God had been sharing with her through it. Sharing with his sons the same as they grew. Her strength and joy found in her Lord though her life was far from easy, far from pain-free. The deep impact that has had on his life.

And I remembered why I so desired to be a mom in the first place. I remembered a desire that had lain somewhat dormant for some time. I remembered the desire to share the knowledge and the truth of the Lord I love with the child(ren) I hoped to have. It is to this end that I strive. Not for my own reknown or acknowledgement, but so that in this I  may honor & glorify my Lord.

Is it really that easy? Hearing a sermon and deciding to change? No, I know it won’t be. I know there will be days where my selfishness will take over. Days when I insist on working through my own strength. Days when my confidence in the process will falter because things are constantly changing. Days when schedules and best laid plans fly out the window (especially when her sister enters the mix). But I have been reminded of this great endeavor I have been blessed to have. Evie is almost a year old. Time goes by so quickly and I don’t want to waste it anymore.

If you made it this far, friends, congratulations! Forgive me for the twisting, winding thoughts. I hope they’ve made at least a little sense. This was much more for me to find my way through it all. To make sense of this last year. Thanks for muddling through with me.

If you feel stuck in a place, you’re not alone. This is not an easy road. I’m traveling it, too. More importantly, Christ is here, too. With Him it may not necessarily be easier, but it will be possible. I write this so I may remember it as well.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

Worth the Weight

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Four years ago today I ran a half marathon. It was a huge goal of mine and so amazing to accomplish. I had started running maybe 4 years before that because I knew I needed to do something and be a better steward of all God had given me, my body included. Running made me feel good and I was continually amazed at the ability of my body and the awesome way the Lord created it. I lost weight (probably 40 lbs from my heaviest), found my “style” in cute A line dresses, and was happy with where it had brought me.

Since then, so much has changed and so much life has been lived. I got engaged, moved, got married, bought a house, moved again, and left a job. We went through a season of infertility that was hard and stressful, and if it wasn’t enough that I had already gained 15 or so pounds after marriage (food is so a love language), I ended up right where I began all those years ago before we finally got pregnant.

During pregnancy I put on about 30 pounds, a normal amount in the grand scheme of things. But since giving birth, almost 9 months ago, I haven’t really lost much (besides the weight of the baby and all that fluid). It has been a crazy struggle; more of one in my mind and heart than anywhere else really. My lovely dresses are still packed in the attic with most of my “before” clothes; there just wasn’t room in the closet for them and the clothes that mostly do fit…plus just seeing them would set me longing for that body of four years ago. The one I worked so hard for. The one my husband first fell in love with. The one that just made me feel so good.

This morning I looked through my memories on Facebook, knowing full well what day it was and what would show up. As I saw the photos from 4 years ago I remembered the excitement of it all. The exhilaration of waiting with my group to even just go up the the starting line. The joy of spotting Steve in the cheering crowd. All the people. Pushing through the last mile, knowing I was almost at the end. I saw the photo of Steve & I, after having finished the race, and was saddened by the changes that have happened to my body over the years. CED6BBA2-11C2-48CE-A1B7-FFF2005EA53F_1_105_c.jpeg

But then I looked at my little girl, happily sitting in her highchair after eating breakfast, drinking and playing with her cup before tossing it on the floor. And that is when the realization hit. There is no way I would want that body back if it meant not having her. If that is the physical price to pay for this little one who is such a joy, who rarely stops smiling, who loves to cuddle and dance, who is an amazing miracle from the Good Lord Himself, so be it. This body of today has created life (with a little help from Steve, some doctors, and God). It has nourished life. What is more amazing than that?

Someday, those dresses will come down out of the attic (hopefully so I can wear them and not because it will be time to just give them away). But whatever the reason, that’s ok. That’s not to say that I’m ok with the health implications of this weight gain. I’m not and we are working on changing things to do better with all of this. But, finally, I think I am ok with knowing that this is just the season I’m in. And you know the thing about seasons is that they are always changing. Here’s to the next!

Love & Blessings,

KJ

November 14, 2018

I was waiting to post this in order of our story, chronologically, but that has just gone out the window – I suppose I’ll try to catch up one day, but more important things have come along 😊

Today it became real to me. There is a new life growing inside of me. One, Lord willing, I will get to care for, nurture, teach, and love. I’m going to be a mom.

Up until now I don’t think I let myself truly believe it. I feared miscarriage (though that’s still possible). I feared getting attached to someone that I might never meet this side of heaven. I’ve spent the past year and a half trying not to get my hopes up and I think that mentality stuck around, even after I found out I was pregnant.

Today was our last appointment with the fertility specialist. He’s been keeping a close watch on things and I had my fourth ultrasound today. And today that little tiny life looked much less like a tiny blob and much more like a baby. My baby. Our baby. They put one of the ultrasound photos in a cute frame for us and happily sent us on our way into the hands of a regular OB. Their work was done. I tried to hold it together as I went back into the waiting room where other women sat, where I had so many times before. I would not be coming back.

We got into the parking lot and I lost it. I sobbed into Steve’s shoulder for a good minute or so. I remember him asking if they were happy tears and I nodded. They were really more of amazement and gratitude. “This is really real, isn’t it?” It had finally sunk in.

I’m not at all sure what we’re in for, besides a kid that’s got to be at least a little crazy. I still can’t think much more past today, and that is ok by me.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

Idols Unveiled

We have just about a month (hopefully) before the arrival of our little girl and I’ve been horrible at keeping up with this – I haven’t even gotten to the part when we actually found out we were pregnant 🙂 That will be the next one; I promise (most likely).

One of the most difficult times in all of our fertility treatment was when we went in for a second consult with the doctor to talk about what to do next. It was the week after our third IUI and I was at the point where I didn’t know if I wanted to bother with it anymore. We were veering away from IVF, but still wanted to know what other options we had.

Our doctor was very well spoken and had a great way of explaining things with clarity. He told us more about IVF and the more he said, the more it made sense to me. If they limited the embryos and we used them all, surely there could be no wrong in that. As my mind was being changed I looked at Steve and couldn’t really read him. We had talked about it before and how we weren’t that comfortable with it. Amidst all the emotions I couldn’t help but cry, then and there, my heart and mind at odds with each other. The doctor was compassionate and apologized for going anywhere we didn’t want to, but said he was just giving us the facts (which he was; he was not at all pushy or manipulative). He moved on to talk to us about injectable medication and how all of that would work. It seemed way involved; lots of monitoring to make sure there weren’t too many eggs maturing (quadruplets were not the goal) and how if multiples occurred they could do selective reduction. That part was a hard pass and we told him so. Still, it seemed that injectables might be worth a shot (haha), though the thought of giving myself one was not my favorite. The only thing was we would have to order them soon because all of that starts earlier in the cycle than Clomid had and we would need them on hand. And then there was the thought of what would we do with the meds if we got them and then didn’t need them. We did not make any decisions right then; there was too much to talk about.

As we left, my fear was confirmed. Steve told me how he was still against IVF as I told him that I might be ok with it.

Before I go further, please hear this: I do not and will not judge anyone for going the IVF route. God uses what means He will; and that is totally a decision made between you, your spouse, and the Good Lord. If IVF worked for you, I praise God for the precious life He brought into your family through it!

We had sought insight from our pastor before we had this meeting. Probably even before we started down much of this road. We just wanted to make sure our perspective wasn’t skewed or we weren’t blinded by what we longed for. His suggestion (that stuck with me) was that because IVF could be really expensive, we should consider putting the money we would use for that toward adoption instead. At that time, this made sense to me. But as we came out of the consult, totally not on the same page, all I could think of was the fact that our insurance would pay for IVF while funds for adoption would have to be raised on our own.

To be completely honest, I was bitter on that drive home. Steve and I talked it over, he expressing why he didn’t want to do it, and me trying to convince him it would be ok. In the end (or maybe even at the beginning of it all) I knew it wasn’t going to be an option. I knew I would submit to my husband’s decision, because that is what I promised to do, but it torn me up inside. We all know it takes two people to make a baby; we both needed to be on board. I couldn’t do it without him and I knew arguing about it wasn’t going to do any good. Plus I knew, above all, the covenant I made, to love and respect him as the head of our home, was not made lightly. It is something I believe wholeheartedly in.

Does that mean I had no trouble putting IVF out of my mind? Absolutely not. The answer just seemed so easy, so right there in front of us…

Of course, nothing is ever really that easy.

Over the next few days I talked it over with a friend. My broken-heartedness over not being able to try something that could result in us having a child was raw and real. But as I spoke about the process, as I heard myself saying the words the doctor had spoken to us, I began to understand why it wasn’t right for us. I had done some research myself, months earlier, but just didn’t want to think about the possible disappointment in it all. Sure chances of getting pregnant with IVF are higher, but they are not guaranteed. I was already a basket case at least twice every 28 days, could I really handle going through with that IVF entailed; mentally & spiritually? And I knew my husband was right.

I wanted a child so badly, and IVF seemed like such an easy answer; we wouldn’t have to pay for it and it had a higher success rate than what we had been trying.  I wanted it so bad I was blind to reason. I was blind to the effect it would have on my well-being. I was blind to my husband’s conviction that it wasn’t right for us. I was blind to the Holy Spirit’s conviction within myself. This desire had become an idol (and not for the first time) and I was willing to look past the means as long as they met the end I wanted.

Laying down an idol is not easy. Nor is accepting truth you don’t want to believe. Admitting you were wrong, not only to the Lord but also to your spouse, is painful. Repentance and asking for forgiveness is difficult. Going through this whole process was the hardest thing I have ever done. The Lord reminded me through it all that He is in control, not I. He can see the whole picture, not I. He knows what is best, definitely not I.

I am ever so thankful to my husband for not caving in and standing firm in his convictions. Even more so for the gentleness and love with which he expressed them to me when I may or may not have been completely rational. In the end we decided to stick with Clomid and try one more IUI before moving on to injectables. Though we didn’t know it at the time, we wouldn’t be dealing with any of that. The easy part was done and our lives would never be the same.

If you have ever been in a spot when an idol has taken over the Lord rightful place in your heart, you know how difficult it can be to dethrone it. If you haven’t, you might want to examine your heart… Oh so often the things we place as idols in our lives are not bad things; a child, a relationship, a career. It is when these become ruling things that there is a problem. Seek the Lord; all of the children, spouses, and money in the world cannot fulfill you like He can.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.

Love & Blessings, dear friends,

KJ

365 Days

This post came up in my Facebook memories today. Of Sorrow & Shame

It has been one year since I wrote these words. One year since I was brought to such a place of brokenness that I could only share with others in the hope that it could be used for good somewhere.

I read those words I wrote 365 days ago with tears in my eyes. Maybe a little from sadness in remembering the pain, but mostly from joy in knowing that the Lord used those words to connect me with so many others. In knowing that He grew me in these past 365 days; to rely upon Him, trust Him, rest in Him, draw near to Him.

Of course, the joy also came from feeling some rather powerful kicks as I read those words. As if my little girl wanted to remind me that she’s here. This blessing I have longed for is here. And, Lord willing, I will get to hold her in my arms in a few short months.

This journey is far from over. It’s changing once again and I feel as if I’m at the beginning of it all. I realize I never finished my remembrances up to the point of finding out we were pregnant – there are just a few more things I’d like to write about in that process and I hope to get to them in the next week.

I know I’ve said it many times before, but, dear friends, nothing is ever wasted. Know that whatever circumstance you find yourself in, the Lord is using it, for your good and His glory.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

When Worship is Difficult

It all started with a song. One inspired by Psalm 118. One Sunday morning in church, probably in late August when I had all but given up. Somewhere in the middle of singing praises to the Lord, this song started. I know it was in the middle because I was already standing and then the weight of it all hit me, and I just couldn’t any more.

🎶Oh, give thanks to the Lord

Oh give thanks to the Lord

For He is good

He is good

For He is good

He is good, oh

His steadfast love endures

Forever, forever He endures 🎶

You can listen to the song here : Psalm 118 (Your Steadfast Love)

The truth of this washed over me as tears fell to the ground. I didn’t want to believe it in my heart, because I had felt that He was everything but good at that moment. But my head knew it was true. His Spirit inside nudged me along. And I sang, though I was angry and hurt and broken. And when I couldn’t manage that for the tears, I mouthed the words. No one could hear them, but I was declaring the truth to the One who is Truth itself. It was my sacrifice of praise. While I didn’t want to acknowledge Him at all, it was really the only thing I could do.

If we praise God only when we’re getting what we want, how is He different from a genie in a magic lamp? His love for us is unconditional, and what’s more, He is God. That fact alone deems Him worthy of worship. Always.

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;

    bring an offering and come before him!

Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;

tremble before him, all the earth;

    yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice,

    and let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!”

~1 Chronicles 16:29-31

This is not easy. It’s not easy to worship God when you feel unseen by Him. Or when you can’t help but think He’s holding out on you. We all have ups and downs. Times when we feel super close with our Lord and times when we distance ourselves. But He stays the same. He doesn’t change. He sees our struggles and heartache. He sees our success and joy. None of our circumstances can change who God is and so our worship of Him should remain steady through it all.

A few months later, probably some time in November (after we knew I was pregnant), we sang the same song again. As the words began I couldn’t help but cry. Not out of brokenness this time, but because I knew, with all my being, the truth and grace in the words. He was good to me and His love endured. Through all my craziness. Through all my doubts. And sorrow. And questioning. How could I have ever thought differently? I praised Him for His providence in it all; not knowing the reasoning behind it, but grateful that He did.

I don’t know where you are, dear friend. You may be high on a mountain or low in a valley. Know this truth, wherever you find yourself; God is God and He is good. Always.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

September 15-18

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”
These things I remember,
    as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
    and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
    a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

You can read Psalm 42 in its entirety here.

I knew at the beginning of the month that I would find out if I was pregnant while away on a girls’ weekend with my mom and sisters. I dreaded the thought of getting my period and my reaction to the let down. The emotions, the sorrow and the disappointment, had started to grip me with such intensity that I worried about it happening around them. Not that they would see it, but that they would see it and question, “Where is your God?”

And the morning came. I woke up and there was blood. I had since stopped being hopeful that it could be implantation bleeding. I couldn’t raise my hopes like that just to have them dashed. Self preservation mode was what I was running on. I went back to bed trying to control the flood of tears. Sobbed into my pillow in hopes that no one would notice. Tried to gather myself as everyone else started waking up much earlier than I had hoped. I just wanted to stay in bed, but we had a full day ahead of us and adventures planned. I hadn’t flown to Minneapolis to stay cooped up in a hotel room. I prayed for strength. For grace for one more day. For contentment in Christ and not to obsess with what was or wasn’t happening within my body. He brought me through to the other side of the day. I dealt with it as well as I could. I don’t remember any other melt downs that day. It wasn’t the best day ever, but I remember being able to enjoy the time with my mom and sisters and I was grateful for that.

Despite not wanting to get my hopes up, they were slightly. That or I was in denial. I spotted through the next couple days and still went in for the blood test because this period just didn’t seem normal for me. I went to watch the kiddos and tried to forget about the phone call that would be coming in a few hours. We went to the grocery store and as I was just getting them back in their car seats when my phone rang. I knew what was coming, but had to hear it to be sure. “I’m so sorry, but it’s negative.” I tried to coherently speak with her about details and cycle days and setting up the next appointment. I’m sure she heard my voice crack and the extra moment of silence it took me to gather myself. As soon as I hit the red icon, the tears came freely. Another disappointment. Each got harder and harder as I wondered why. And I wondered how much more of this I could take.

I honestly don’t remember much more of that day with the kids. I went to help a friend with wedding plans that night and quietly skipped over a telling of highs and lows for the day. I just couldn’t muster bearing all to them, though a little later that evening it did come up as one of them asked me how it was all going.

What I remember most is lying on our bed with Steve. Not being able to look him in the eyes as I voiced my fears. Fears that I knew to be untrue but had such a tight grip on my heart.

“Am I doing something wrong?”

“Am I not good enough?”

“Is God holding out on me?”

He answered a firm and confident “No.” The answer applied to all the questions swirling in my head and he continued to remind me of the Lord’s great truths and promises, something I needed so very much.

Dear friends, have you had such moments? Ones when circumstances seem dire and there’s nothing but sorrow and fear and oh so many tears? I believe those times fall upon us all. And while we may not see how we could possibly praise God in that moment, take hope in knowing, like the psalmist, that you shall yet praise Him again. He is our only salvation and God.

Love & Blessings,

KJ