To My Sweet Katherine:

You have made me a mother. And so on this Mother’s Day, I celebrate you, sweet girl.

You are nearing being 7 months old. And I am constantly amazed at how much you have grown, developed, and learned. You already make us so proud. Katherine Elizabeth Connatser, we are completely in love with you (and your precious baby chunkiness only adds to our love).

You are so active and when you’re lying down you just roll all around. You have always loved standing up and scurrying so fast around the house in your walker. Bath time and reading time you definitely have come to enjoy. You always love hearing music. You especially love being outside and going on walks. You haven’t slept through the night yet; you wake up every couple hours and just don’t know how to get your little self back to sleep. But one day you will learn and we both will thoroughly enjoy the rest that comes from a good night’s sleep. But for now, I will continue to love you through these exhausting nights. But even without solid sleeps, you are still so happy, content, and healthy. You have loved everything I’ve made for you so far and excitedly eaten lots (cereal, bananas, spinach, green beans, mangoes, avocados, carrots, peas, apples, pears, sweet potatoes, smoothies, and I’m probably forgetting something), and you get quite excited about a cup of water too. Your smile is constant; your giggles completely warm our hearts; we can tell that you love being around people. Your daddy and I have already watched your sweet and fun personality start to show. And your personality lights up our life.

Life in this family will most certainly be full of adventures. I cannot be certain of where the adventures will take us or what they will look like.

But the one thing I do know is that you will be so loved on this journey. At times you may not understand our love for you.

When we have to discipline you, know it is because we love you enough to lead you to the Truth.

When we make decisions for you that you don’t understand, know it is because we love you enough to pass our wisdom along to you.

Sweet girl, you have brought us an abundance of joy. Your short life has already strengthened our faith and made us better disciples of our Lord. The past year and a half of you being in our life has been filled with the highest mountains and some of the lowest valleys. We have soared through levels of love and goodness that we hadn’t known before you; we’ve trekked through some harsh valleys. And combined they have enabled us to be better parents for you, dear one.

I will gladly tell you about the valleys someday. I want you to know of God’s faithfulness through them. But I never want you to think that they were your fault. You may have been a surprise to your daddy and I, carrying you was far from easy, your birth was so very hard, and those first weeks with you were quite trying, but you, my dear one, were so worth it all. So very worth it. And I would gladly do it all over again so we could have you in our life. The Lord is faithful to redeem our hardships and pain, not to let us forget them, but to exchange them for the sweetest of joys; I pray that is something you quickly hold fast to.

Your smile melts us; your cries make our hearts ache.

Your abilities astound us; your strength amazes us.

Your past strengthens us; your future excites us.

Your independence is so mature; your attachment to us is so sweet.

My sweet Katherine, the Lord has used your precious life to teach me and grow me. He’s revealed my selfishness so that I may learn to selflessly serve you and your daddy. He’s taught me patience so that I may be more content. He’s forced me to rest and lay aside my striving for perfection so that I may more fully cherish the days we have together. He has reminded me that I can trust Him and His timing. He has taught me to open my eyes to miracles, because pregnancy and birth has shown me how completely miraculous life is. He has directed my heart to pray for those who so desperately want children and for whatever reason it hasn’t happened and those who have had to say goodbye to their precious babies. He has shown me the foolishness of my insecurities, as I look at you and only see beauty.

Sweet girl, the Lord is already using you in so many ways. And your daddy and I pray that you will trust and love Jesus, follow Him all the days of your life, know Him intimately and make Him known.

Dear one, you are our beloved daughter, and we pray you will one day be our sister.

We hope you will always know you are loved and you are prayed for and you are beautiful.

Thank you for making me a momma. But you have not only made me a momma, but a better wife and disciple of Christ. I love you, sweet girl. Thank you for being you. I celebrate you today and always.

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Why it’s ok to be alone on Valentine’s Day

My husband and I are in separate beds tonight.

Don’t worry. It’s probably not what you think.

He is leading a trip to Quebec with some of his students. International borders separate us on this Valentine’s Day. And that’s ok.

Don’t get me wrong, of course I miss him. But not because of the day it is, but because of the man he is.

 

While Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are quickly filling up with sweet, romantic gestures, I have had to remind myself that what happens, or doesn’t happen, on this day does not define me.

This day doesn’t define how loved you are.

Your value is not measured by the flowers you get, fancy dinner you eat, or sweet cards you receive.

 

If you went through today without an instagrammable moment, it is more than ok; you are not alone!  (If you happened to have beautiful moments captured on your iPhone…that’s wonderful!  Continue to share them and let people celebrate the lovely times with you!  But the rest of us that didn’t might need a little reminder that we aren’t the only ones.)

My day consisted of:
-sending my husband off to the airport at 1:00 am
-being awake with a little girl who didn’t want to sleep from 2:30 to 4:00 this morning
-a drive to Nashville with a crying baby and overly excited dog to stay with my parents while Spencer is away
-wearing sweats all day and having spit up on me for the majority of it
-chasing the dogs down the street in the rain after they got out of the fence
-spending a few minutes here and there trying to help unpack boxes (my parents moved last weekend)
-being alone with Katherine and 3 dogs while everyone works tonight
-a dog peeing on the couch beside me
-a dinner of an apple, Special K bar, and some thin mints (because I couldn’t put a certain fussy little girl down long enough to make something)
-and ending the day sleeping alone on a futon

I’m not complaining. Just being honest, being real. Not so romantic, eh? Social media has a way of isolating people by its masquerade. It has a way of making you feel like you’re not good enough, like you’re missing out, or like you must be doing something wrong.

 

But it is not what happens on this one, certain, overly commercialized day, it’s what happens on the ordinary days that matter.

It’s what happens in the ordinary that lasts, thats truly significant.  

Because it’s on those days when things aren’t going perfectly and you receive an encouraging word from a friend that makes all the difference.  It’s on those days when you feel overwhelmed by the laundry, meals to cook, and house to clean and the Lord speaks His truth through the Scriptures directly to your tired heart that lets you know that you are enough.  It’s on those days that you feel like you are looking like a hot mess and your husband comes home from work and tells you that you’re beautiful and your heart melts and tears form in your eyes and you know you are treasured and loved.

It’s the little acts of kindness, the simple encouraging word, the pieces of Daily Bread you take in, the lovely smiles and sweet hugs, the tender moments found amongst the chaos of mundane routine that are scattered throughout the year that add up to so very much.

 

So, if you feel tempted to go to bed discouraged, sad, or forgotten, dwell on those slices of sweet love given to you throughout the year, on the ordinary days. Dive into the Word and be reminded of where your identity truly lies. Be encouraged and uplifted by the love shown to you throughout the year from your family and friends and God.

And just know that you are loved.  You are valued.  You are enough.

Confessions of a New Mom

Two nights before Katherine was born I wept.  I sat in bed and just cried.

I will always remember the conversation that Spencer and I had.  It was the last night just the two of us would spend in our home.  The next day family would arrive and the following day we would have a child.

Life would never be the same.

I knew it was coming.  I had almost ten months to prepare.  But no preparation takes away that top of roller coaster feeling.  Preparing doesn’t make that final moment before the leap any easier to handle.

I mourned for the things Spencer and I dreamed of doing and would no longer be able to actualize.  I mourned for the quiet Saturday mornings we spent together and the sweet Sunday afternoons.  I mourned for the adventures we couldn’t embark upon and the risks we couldn’t take.  I mourned for the life we pictured we’d have before having kids.

I simply wept and mourned in the arms of my husband.  We shared such intimate conversation and prayed such raw prayers.

When constant excitement from others bombards you, how can you share your sadness and questioning of God’s timing with them?What do you do when your authenticity would disappoint or hurt or confuse others?

I learned I don’t have to be vulnerable with everyone.  But when I chose to be vulnerable with the Lord and with my husband, fears are eliminated, worries are destroyed, questions are answered, joys are delivered.

I walked into labor on October 16th already exhausted from a hard pregnancy and already emotional from crazy hormones and dwelling on a changing life.  (Read more about that here:  https://spencerandsarahc.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/katherines-birth-story/)  When 11:19 pm came and Katherine finally arrived, I expected some sort of physical relief.  But the pain continued and I was completely wiped out from everything.  I’m sure being induced and giving birth naturally had something to do with it, but I’m not always easy on myself.

I jumped from a hard pregnancy to an exhausting labor to the crazy life with a newborn.  And those first six weeks of life with Katherine here was hard.  Very hard.  For both of us.  I was an emotional wreck.  Thankfully, physically I felt good and healed by two weeks.  (If the crazy healing process from my pilonidal cyst and cystectomies a few years ago were good for anything, they were to help me have a high pain tolerance and prepare me to heal from a episiotomy.  Because healing from the episiotomy was nothing compared to the cysts.)

People offered to help us out whenever we needed it, but I didn’t even know what to ask for.  People asked if I was loving motherhood, but all I could do was smile and nod.  People wanted to know if she was a good baby and how she was sleeping, but I had no idea how to answer that without having to fight back tears.  Some people tell you to get out of the house while others tell you to stay home.  Some people tell you to feed your baby on demand while other tell you to stick to a schedule.  Everyone has differing, strong opinions on how to get babies to sleep.  And everyone provides plenty of comments, stories, and advice.

People asked why we didn’t take weekly update pregnancy pictures or maternity pictures or lots of hospital pictures or newborn pictures.  (And social media has a way of making you feel bad about that even if you aren’t asked.)  Through pregnancy it was enough to just do laundry and dishes, keep a clean house, and make dinner.  Once Katherine came it was an accomplishment to just get through the day and stay sane and emotionally stable.  Nursing was anything but easy the first two weeks.  (I kept telling myself what the pediatrician at the hospital said, “Just get through those first two weeks and you’ll be fine,” which turned out to be true.)  I know I didn’t eat nearly enough.  It might sound silly, but I had gotten so used to not being able to eat much during pregnancy, it took awhile for me to adjust to eating and drinking a whole lot more in order to provide food for my baby.  I’m sure not eating enough those first two weeks definitely added to my crazy emotions.

I’ve slowly learned to take everything people say with a grain of salt.  What works for your baby might not work for mine.  What helped you might not help me.  I almost wish I hadn’t read all the books I had.  My head was filled with opposing ideas and differing views.  I’ve learned that you need to have grace with yourself on the journey of parenthood.  And I’ve learned it’s okay to do things differently than others; you just do what’s right for you and your baby.

It’s hard for me to admit to others that the journey has been hard.  I’m a strong person, know perseverance, and live with joy, but those first weeks were exceptionally hard.  I even wondered if I had postpartum depression.  I just wasn’t myself and didn’t know how to get back to it.

Life wasn’t the same.

But once we hit that six week mark, the sun began to shine brightly again.  And with the rising of the sun, all was made well again.  I was no longer an emotional wreck, but a happy, new momma.  As I went in to my doctor’s appointment, I was reminded of the verse he shared with us, Psalm 127:3 which declares that children are a gift from the Lord.  My mind and heart were renewed that day.  I no longer questioned the Lord’s timing.  God entrusted Katherine to us.  He trusted us enough to give us a child when we were just six months into our marriage.  That thought overwhelmed me and allowed my mindset to completely shift.

I’ve learned that what might be a challenge for me, might not be a challenge for others, and that doesn’t mean I’m weak.  Every circumstance and every person is unique and different, especially when it comes to pregnancy and babies.  I’ve learned that the Lord reminds us of such simple truths when we need it most.  He restores and refreshes, redeems and renews.  His grace is truly enough each day.  I’ve never been more certain of that.  I haven’t slept through the night in over eight months.  In my exhaustion, He constantly sustains me.

Life will never be the same.

And I’m so very glad.  My mourning has turned into rejoicing as we build our family.

I rejoice that God has trusted us with Katherine so early on in our marriage.  I rejoice that we have the opportunity to love, nurture, and raise this little girl.  I rejoice that she is so healthy.  I rejoice that I have an incredibly amazing husband to go through this life with.  I rejoice for this life God has granted us and all that awaits us.  I rejoice in the mundane; I rejoice in the chaos; I rejoice in all I’m learning.  I rejoice with every smile, every little giggle, every new discovery my little girl makes.  I rejoice in each new day with my family and cannot wait to see how the Lord grows us.

Those first six weeks were rough.  But we got through them.  I’m so very thankful for the hard times.  They make the good times so much sweeter.

And life is all the more sweet with our little Katherine Elizabeth by our side.

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It’s Time to Do This

It seems I’ve taken a long hiatus from blogging.

With good reason.  (She’s an eleven week old named Katherine.)

But I’m back.

I need to write.

It’s therapeutic for me.  It’s how I best communicate.  It’s a step towards my dream.

But it’s easy for me to sit back and say to myself, “There are millions of bloggers already.  I don’t need to be another one.  I’m sure it has all been said.”

I have to push those thoughts aside and remember two things:  My words haven’t been said.  And someone just might need to read them.

So it’s time to do this.

It’s time to dream big and work towards it.

It’s time to write.

Katherine’s Birth Story

October 16th, 2013 is a day Spencer and I will always remember and always praise God for getting us through.

I’ve been meaning to write this for awhile now…two months to be exact.  But as you can imagine, life has been a bit hectic.  I don’t think there is a way to put into words everything that has happened, especially emotionally, but I wanted to share at least a little bit of Katherine’s arrival for those who want to read about it.

K’s due date was October 7th.  But that day came and went.  Days and nights went by and labor didn’t start.  Everyone loved to tell me ways I can induce labor, but I was definitely already doing all of them and they clearly didn’t work.  As we got further away from the due date, my doctor said we needed to induce.  So we scheduled the induction for Wednesday, October 16th.  We had an appointment on the 15th and K wasn’t here yet.  The doctor went over all that would happen the next day.  We were so thankful for that time because the Lord used it to fill us with such peace about everything.  Being induced definitely wasn’t something we were wanting, but we knew the Lord was in control and blessed us with a doctor we trusted.

Spencer’s parents and brother came on Tuesday as well as my mom and sister, Amy, and their two dogs.  So we went to sleep that night with a full house overflowing with excitement and anticipation.

Wednesday morning started early.  It felt especially early because I couldn’t eat or drink anything after midnight.  We got up about 5:45.  It was a pretty strange morning as we just did things as normal.  My mom even texted me later on saying, “I want to know who says, ‘We’re going to have a baby today; I better make my bed.'”  Driving to the hospital was extra weird because it was so different than we had anticipated for nine months.  We just always thought we would labor at home for awhile and then head to the hospital when it was unbearable.  But it was just a normal early morning drive, and we were at the hospital at 7:00.

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Check-in was quick, and we were led to our room where we got all settled in for a long day, and I got all hooked up.  The nurses were so great and friendly.  We appreciated their support when we told them we wanted things to be as natural as possible and try to go without an epidural.  They were so kind and helpful.

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Our doctor came in shortly after he arrived at the hospital at 8:00 and started the Pitocin (inducing drug).  He checked me and I was only dilated just under 2cm.  At my doctors appointments the day before and week before I had NST’s which showed I was having mild contractions and was only 1.5 cm.  And those mild contractions just continued for a couple hours.  I often watched the monitor to see how high the contractions were getting so I knew what to compare them to as the day went on.

My mom and Amy stopped by around 10:00 (before they headed to Union for Amy to have a tour which had been scheduled for awhile).  We were full of smiles still, just chilling out, watching a season of Community we brought on dvd.  After we got tired of Community, we watched American Pickers and Property Brothers throughout the day.  It helped pass the time.  It was good to have something to keep our minds off the fact that I was still at just 2 cm.

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A little while later Spencer’s family stopped by.  The contractions were growing, but they were still just small and steady.  I was just so thirsty and hungry.  Ice chips definitely weren’t cutting it.  I understand that you can’t eat or drink in order to be prepared in case you have to get a c-section, but it’s crazy to go into the most intense workout and pain of your life with absolutely nothing in you.

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Our doctor came back in about noon and I was still at 2 cm.  So he decided to get things moving and broke my water.  And that definitely got things going.  Soon after that the contractions were just awful and right on top of each other.  The nurse offered to give me 1/2 a dose of Stadol (pain meds in the iv), and Spencer and I decided to accept it.  I was in constant, awful pain.  From that point on I was pretty out of it.  I rarely opened my eyes throughout the rest of the day.  My sweet friend Hannah stopped by at one point.  I remember just sitting there with my eyes closed and saying Spencer would have to do all the talking because even talking wore me out.

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A little while later around 2:00 Spencer’s family came back by.  And in one of the times Spencer was bringing people to and from the waiting room, I threw up everywhere.  It was awful. But I was so thankful no one had to witness it.  I was still at about 2 cm, but the contractions were so bad and there was rarely a break between them.

So around 3:00 the doctor came back in and they decided to use an internal monitor and pump fluids back into me to try to get the contractions to spread out.

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Around 5:00 my mom and Amy came back to see us.  They quickly saw the intense difference between then and when they saw us that morning.  My mom pretty much stuck around the hospital the rest of the night along with the Connatsers.  My sister and brother, Alli and Chip, arrived from Knoxville around that time.  And my dad flew into Memphis, getting in about 6:30, and Amy drove to pick him up.  At some point I remember opening my eyes and seeing each of them at various times, but I was completely out of it.  I was overjoyed that all the family was there, even if I couldn’t express it at the time.

Around 7:00 I was at about 4cm.  We were so glad to have some progression happen, but also disappointed that it was taking so long and was so excruciating.  Spencer was amazing throughout the day.  He was the perfect encourager and partner in it all.  I know it was so very hard for him to see me in so much pain.  But he was such a trooper.

Around 8:00 I was at 5.5 cm.  They told us that it would be at least an hour per centimeter from there on out.  They offered us an epidural and we decided to take it.  I had nothing in me to give and didn’t know how I could keep going for another minute, let alone five or more hours.  So I signed for one, reluctantly but also ready for any sort of relief.  The nurse told us it would be a little bit before the anesthesiologist made it to us.

The nurse checked me about an hour later at 9:00 and I was at 7 cm.  And we hadn’t seen the anesthesiologist yet.

At 9:30 I don’t know how I was still breathing I was in so much constant pain, but I was checked and was at 9.5 cm.  (Later on I found out Spencer was texting the family in the waiting room and they erupted in cheers with each text saying there was progression, especially since it was happening so much quicker than expected.)  But still no anesthesiologist had come.  Originally we wanted it to be just Spencer and I in the room at the end, but my mom was still in there because everything had happened so quickly at the end.  And at that point I didn’t even care.  I just wanted that baby to come.  And in the end I’m thankful she was there.

And then just a few moments later I told the nurse, “I have to push!”  She checked me and I was at 10 cm and ready to start to pushing.  Having absolutely no energy in me, I begin the final stage of it all, still without an epidural.  I always heard that the doctor comes in at the last second, when the baby is about to be born.  So every time I would open my eyes and not see the doctor in the room, I was so discouraged.  I knew I had to somehow keep pushing, but she wasn’t going to come yet.  Our nurse was awesome during this time.  At one point another nurse came in, who happened to be her sister, and started counting while I pushed.  I wanted to slap her and say, “That doesn’t help!”  Thankfully she was there for just a minute.  🙂  And then about 11:15 the doctor came in the room.  And after an episiotomy and help from a vacuum, Katherine was born at 11:19.

Those first few moments were terrifying.  As I laid there in such pain, I never heard a cry.  The doctor couldn’t get her to cry and said she was stunned from it all and being in there so long.  They called other nurses in to help.  And a few minutes later a cry finally came.  We were so very thankful that Katherine was okay and healthy.  She weighed 7 pounds 13 ounces and was 20 inches long.

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I was completely out of it.  The pain didn’t cease and my entire being was beyond exhaustion.  I don’t even remember holding Katherine for the first time or trying to feed her.  I do remember the doctor praying over us and Katherine once she was alright and in Spencer’s arms.  That will always be a sweet memory from that night.  Then we spent the first 30 minutes together in the room, just Spencer and Katherine and I.  And then the family came in.  I vaguely remember them all being so excited and taking pictures with K.  I just sat up in bed quietly trying to smile.  And although there was such awful, horrible pain, we were still glad the epidural never happened.  God’s grace was definitely evident in getting us through it all.

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We were at the hospital for two more days.  Those days are a blur.  A few friends stopped by.  And thankfully some family stuck around and helped and brought food often.  Spencer was such a champ through it all and even had to leave Friday afternoon to go take a Praxis test.  He’s simply amazing.  We were discharged that night at 11:20 and told we could either stay the night or head home.  We definitely wanted to just be home.  So we arrived home about midnight and ushered in our crazy, new life.

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I’ll write about these last crazy two months soon.  For now I’ll just say, we are so thankful that God blessed us with the doctor we had over those nine months, that He got us through that day, and that He trusted us with this child.  There have been hard days and long nights, but in the midst of it all little joys have triumphed.  It hasn’t been easy, but we are filled with gratitude.  God is good and faithful.  Always.  And we will rejoice through it all.

Another Weekend Gone By: 41 Weeks Pregnant

Since we hit full term in this pregnancy, a bit of sadness comes with Monday’s appearance.

I know babies don’t come when it’s convenient.  But if Katherine came over a weekend it just would have been so great.

My dad works out of state now and commutes home on the weekends.  It is something my family has dealt with before, and although very hard they’ve always persevered.

So whenever a weekend approached, we hoped Katherine would come for several reasons.  I think this past weekend was the hardest to watch come and go.  Spencer had Friday and yesterday off from work.  The weekend would have allowed siblings to not miss school.  My dad was home and would have been able to come to Jackson when she arrived.

Family has always been something so very important to me.  And especially growing up where we moved quite a bit and didn’t have our extended family around, our immediate family was everything.  We always had each other no matter how circumstances changed or trials we encountered.  So having family here for Katherine’s arrival is a big deal for me.  My parents never lived close to their families as we were all born, so they had to fly in for births.  And somehow it always worked out.  I’m sure at some point we will live somewhere where we aren’t just a several hours drive from family.  But for now, we are so family will be able to come and welcome our little girl into the world.  Her arriving in the middle of the week might not be convenient and might mean some family members can’t be here, but we know we are blessed to live as close as we do to them so that at least some of them can come.

Yesterday marked a week overdue for us, and at our last appointment on Friday, the doctor said we would need to be induced on Wednesday if she hasn’t come yet.  She isn’t here, so the plan is to be at the hospital tomorrow morning to get this process started.  We have an appointment later today, so we’ll be updated a bit on how K is doing.  And we know she could still come today, but it looks like we will be getting induced tomorrow.  I’ve had a couple people ask why we didn’t want to be induced, and so here are a few short reasons:  We are just more comfortable with the natural process; I can’t eat or drink after midnight tonight; I won’t be able to get out of bed much because of having to be monitored more; There is a higher chance of needing an epidural because of possible harder contractions; There is a higher chance for needing a c-section.  We’ll see what happens!

We would have loved to have been able to go into labor naturally and spend as much time at home as possible before heading to the hospital.  That way we could go to the hospital for the end of it and need less intervention.  But we’ve said all along that we know things could go differently, and we will face whatever comes with joy.  We know the Lord has heard the desires of our heart; He has listened to our prayers; He is trustworthy and faithful.  He will walk with us through this journey, and we know He will bring Katherine into the world in the way that will bring Him the most glory.  And we are blessed to have the doctors we do.  We really do trust them.

So in the midst of many uncertainties and transitions, we live in gratitude.  We have wonderful, God-fearing doctors.  We live close to family that can come celebrate with us.  We serve a faithful and good God.  Life is about to change, but our God is constant.  Life’s about to get a lot better; children are a gift from the Lord.  And we already praise Him for ours.

Manic Mondays

This fall semester ushered in a crazy season of life for us.

We’ve prepared for our little one, who will make her appearance any day now.

Spencer started year #2 of teaching, as well as driving the bus at times, working a part-time job at a photography studio, and to top it off started his master’s program.

Life is a bit crazy right now (but really, when is it not in one way or another?)!  For the next couple years it will be like this.  We know this is just a season.  Spencer won’t have to work these crazy hours forever.  We definitely have to view it as an investment in the future of our family.  And we are learning how to treasure the time we have together.  Most days that time together is just not very much.  It is so important for us to appreciate the time we do get and make the most of it.

Mondays definitely top  the list.  Spencer teaches all day and then has his master’s class until 9:00.  Sometimes I get to bring him dinner on his quick 15 minute break in the middle of class.  We take time together whenever we can get it!

I am incredibly grateful for how hard Spencer is working to provide for our family.  My love and respect for him continually grows.  All the long hours will pay off.  And I will get to tell our children how their daddy thought of them and provided for them before they were even part of our family.

In the midst of all that is going on, we constantly see the Lord’s provision and faithfulness.  He is growing us and maturing us and teaching us in all of this.  What more could we ask for?