February 5th

February 5th will forever be a celebration of life for me.

 

It was on this day last year that we found out there was a life growing inside of me.

And it was on this day six years ago that God spared the lives of my best friends when an EF-4 tornado ripped through their dorm rooms.

 

When I told Spencer on the evening of February 5th that we were pregnant, I couldn’t speak before I started bawling.  (Not tears of joy I might add.)

When that awful tornado came through Union, it left behind complete devastation and destruction.

 

But in times of dark uncertainty, God provides hope.  He provides His Word.  He even provides miracles.

In the times when chaos encircles us, God allows us to rest in His unchanging character and in the love of the Church community.

 

The theme of my life has always been that God is good and faithful.

And He is always good and faithful.

In every circumstance.  Expected and unexpected.

No matter what happens between sunrise and sunset or between sunset and sunrise.

He is good.  He is faithful.

And He is God.

 

If Katherine wasn’t healthy, and if the students and staff at Union University weren’t protected He would still be good and faithful.

But K is healthy.  And every life on that campus was spared.  Miracles?  Indeed.

 

Was there any reason to think K might not have been healthy?  No.  But after experiencing pregnancy and childbirth, there is no doubt in my mind that every child is simply a miracle.

Was there any reason to think that there were lifeless bodies among the rubble after an EF-4 tornado stormed through Union’s campus?  Absolutely.  But God had His hands around each person there.

 

I fully know that God gives and He takes away.  He doesn’t always spare lives.  There are times to rejoice and times to mourn.  But in everything we are called to give thanks.  And in everything we can rest in the truth that God is good and faithful.

 

So today, I choose to celebrate life.

I choose to celebrate the brightest of mornings that comes after the darkest of nights.

 

February 5th will forever be a reminder to hold my little one a little closer, kiss my husband a few times more, say “I love you” every time I think it, and fully trust in my good God.

 

 

 

(You can read the first hand stories from the February 5th tornado in Tim Ellsworth’s book God in the Whirlwindhttp://www.amazon.com/God-Whirlwind-Stories-Tornado-University-ebook/dp/B004OA6LT6/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top or watch more about that night on youtube with videos like this:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3O-IiHCrsK8)

 

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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Amy to Africa

Amy is eight years younger than me.

Amy is a high school senior and was voted “Best All-Around Girl.”

Amy is athletic and smart and beautiful.

Amy has a tender and gentle, compassionate and loving heart.

Amy is shy but hilarious, quiet but confident.

 

This is a post about my youngest sister.

This is a post about Amy.

 

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I have loved watching my youngest sister’s heart grow more and more fond of Jesus.  She has fallen in love with the Gospel and with our Savior; it has been a beautiful thing to watch over the years.  These have been things she’s made for me as Christmas, birthday, and wedding gifts:

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I love looking at this wall because it reminds me of how her heart has grown towards the Lord over the years.  She’s been making the burlap wall art with custom verses to raise money for our future adoption.  You can check out more about that here:  http://amy4orphans.webs.com

More recently the dream of spreading the Gospel in Africa has grown in her heart.  And the more the Word has nourished that dream, the more she has talked about it and looked into how to make it a reality.  She’s reached out for help and advice, and she’s anticipated the day when she could tell everyone she would get to go overseas.

Well, last week she contacted our old church back in Orlando.  Turns out they are going to Burundi, Africa (a nation they have been connected with for several years now) in March.  Amy excitedly asked if she could join them on the trip and after sweet conversation that can only be arranged by God, she will be headed to Burundi in less than two months!

She cannot contain her excitement to live out this dream, experience the Church abroad, and share the Gospel.  Her heart is overflowing.  I am so proud of her and am excited to see what the Lord has in store for her.  I know He will use her, but I also know He will teach her more than she can imagine while she is there.

She would be so honored and grateful if you would join her in this journey.  Prayers are essential, especially as she travels on a trip like this for the first time.  And she is in need of financial support.  If you have something to give, it would bless her abundantly.  To hear from Amy and donate, go to: http://www.gofundme.com/sendamytoAFRICA  She would appreciate any amount.  And she most definitely appreciates your prayers.  Thank you for considering supporting her!

I am beyond proud of my little sis.  It will be a joy to see where to Lord takes her (spiritually and physically) over the coming months and years.  May the Kingdom grow because of Amy’s faithfulness to the great commission!

Finding the Good in the Migraine

Thursday, that horrible monster, the Migraine, came lurking around the corner and quickly pounced.  I’m helpless when it comes.  Nothing can interfere with its awful stare.  Nothing cures its awful bite.  I’ve dealt with it for about ten years and it’s never fun.

The Migraine is especially hard to deal with now.  I have a little eleven week old that needs me.  I just can’t function when it comes.

So when I quickly realized I couldn’t do the errands I had planned, I let the people know that I was supposed to meet up with.  And one dear friend offered to watch Katherine for several hours.  I knew I needed to take her up on it.  I needed help.

It’s always been hard for me to ask for help.  I’ve always been a very independent person, and I tend to think I will burden or inconvenience people.

But Thursday reminded me that I need to ask for help.  I need to accept help.

I’m not supposed to do everything on my own.

In the midst of awful pain on Thursday, I could sit and be filled with gratitude.  I was thankful for the time I was forced to rest.  I was thankful for the reminder that I can’t do it all on my own.  I was thankful that someone offered to help.

And at the end of it all, I was reminded that allowing someone to help you can actually minister to them.  I wasn’t a burden, but a blessing.  And I needed that reminder.

And today I had another migraine.  I always look forward to the weekends because we get to spend time together as a family.  But today wasn’t fun.  All I could do was lie in bed and pray the pain would end soon.

And once again, in the midst of the pain, the Lord ministered to my heart.

My dear husband spent the day with our little girl.  I could hear them together and it made my heart so glad.  He allowed me to rest and it meant the world to me.  Seeing Spencer love Katherine makes my heart grow so much fonder for him.  My love for him grows as he loves and serves us both.

So I’ve been reminded that there are blessings beyond the pain and wonderful lessons to be learned.  No matter what may come, there is always something to be thankful for.

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.