The Love of a Father

I recently began planning a trip to see a good friend of mine in Atlanta. As she and I started to review our schedules, we found a weekend in June we thought might work and began planning the (obviously) amazing trip we would have.

But then, it hit me. Like the oaf that I am, I was starting to schedule the trip for Father’s Day weekend. “It’s fine,” my husband said, “go ahead and book it. It’s really not that big a deal.”

To book it or not to book it? I struggled with the question.

You see, I’m kind of new to this whole Father’s Day thing. Sure, I have a father, but unfortunately, our relationship has been tenuous at its best, and at its worst, it has been – well, pretty damaging.

As the fifth of six children, I could never really tell why my dad seemed so angry and disinterested in us growing up, but whatever the reason, it certainly left me feeling alone and unloved.

Not surprisingly, this detachment from the man who was to be my primary source for how to have a relationship with the opposite sex led me to have a pretty distorted view of relationships. You could pore through the myriad research on the importance of the father-daughter relationship, orrr you could just read through the next couple of paragraphs because I’m basically a case study in “daddy issues.”

Throughout high school and college, I struggled with issues around body image and self-worth and ultimately flung myself into relationship after relationship desperately seeking love by any means necessary.

I gave up my body, I gave up my integrity, I gave up nearly every noble quality all in the name of finding love and hanging on to it for dear life. I needed someone to validate me. I made these choices, and in the process, I hurt so many people in my quest for happiness, but most of all, I hurt myself.

By the time 2011 rolled around, I was a mess. Down about 20 pounds and up about 10 drinks a weekend after my most recent breakup, my life continued to spiral. I became lonely, self-destructive, manipulative, and frankly, hurtful to just about everyone around me.

It was in this desperate and lonely place that I really met Jesus. I hadn’t given God a serious look in my entire 25 years, just passing glances here and there. The occasional youth group visit, the “Hail Mary” prayer when I was really in trouble (and I don’t mean, like, the actual prayer… just the “God- if you get me out of this, I won’t eat French fries for a week” kind of prayer), and even a semi-regular stint in my sister’s church choir. At no point prior to 2011, did I think very seriously about who God was or even that He was someone I could meet and have a relationship with.

The story of how I met Him exactly is a longer one for another day, but suffice it to say, when I met Jesus, it was the first time in my life that I was chasing a relationship for the right reasons. I was ready to heal the catastrophic damage that had been left in the wake of years of searching for someone to love me and find me worthy.

That healing has not been easy. I should stop here to note that my dad and I continue to mend our relationship. It isn’t a linear progression; it doesn’t wrap up perfectly and you certainly can’t tie a bow on it. I’ve found that while we often want forgiveness to be the end of our heartache, it often is only the beginning of a long and windy road.

Finding Jesus didn’t fix me. It wasn’t a magic pill. I’m certainly not living some perfectly stain-free and worry-free life as a result of choosing to follow Him. I stumble often… for a lot of reasons. In part, I stumble because it’s hard to walk and live in the love of a perfect Heavenly father when your experience with your earthly one has been less than ideal.

But. God. Shows. Up.

In my life, God shows up in the moments when I hear my husband carefully tiptoe into my daughter’s room in the morning to give her a kiss before he heads off to work. He’s in the moments when I watch Benny whisk her up to bath time, excited to spend some quality “Papa” time with her after a long day away. God’s in the moments when she gets a diagnosis, and my husband scours the internet to make sure he is as informed as he can possibly be about her care. God is in the moments when I hear my husband sing his daughter’s favorite songs to comfort her even though they happen to be his least favorite songs in the history of ever. And God is there each time that I see my husband squeeze our girl tightly and whisper “Hey. I love you madly.”

It is in these moments that I am reminded that God’s love is so much bigger than I can wrap my tiny little brain around. It’s bigger than my experience with my own dad, it’s bigger than what I deserve, and it’s bigger than all my doubts about His perfect, grace-filled love.

So, yea, I’m new to the Father’s Day thing. While I don’t know exactly how this thing is supposed to play out, there is one thing I can say with certainty.

I’m not taking the trip this weekend.
I’m staying home with my husband and daughter.

I’m choosing my family on Father’s Day weekend because fatherhood is worth celebrating. It is a reminder to me that God showed up in my life. More than that, it is a reminder that He keeps showing up to redeem my story. And yours too. And every single story out there.

Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads out there who remind us that the love of a father can change everything.

I Just Quit My Job, and I Don’t Know What I’m Doing

Yep. Thought I’d just go straight for the throat on this title. There’s no way to come up with a cutesy title when your brain’s running nonstop and your heart could spontaneously combust with emotion at any moment.

See what I mean? Joy.

Five short months ago, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. She is 13 pounds of joy and cuddles and baby drool.

About two even shorter months ago, I quit my job. In my head. As in – I didn’t actually tell anyone, but I had already quit in my heart.

It was a Saturday. My husband’s work had been busy, busy, busy. On top of the usual we’re-approaching-the-final-quarter madness, state testing time was rolling around for him. At the same time, he was working on applying to a doctoral program and training for a half-marathon. It seemed that despite my taking off for the rest of the school year after having our little girl, our life was still moving at lightspeed. There were work obligations for him, home obligations for both of us, doctor’s appointments, family, friends, church, and – at some point – we hoped to fit in a little time for ourselves. You know, the frantic chaos of living. That’s kind of how we’ve always been. I joke about it, but our life mantra has basically been “The Canans: Doing 15948365 things at once or nothing at all since 2014.”

Anyway, my husband was planning on heading to the gym later that afternoon but popped into the kitchen to ask me if I minded if he went to the office first and worked on a few things.

“I just can’t seem to focus here at home today.”

“Sure,” I said. “No problem.” And it really was NO problem.

When the door shut, suddenly I was standing at the sink and tears were streaming down my face. I started doing the ugly cry that you do when no one is watching. You know, the one where you just let the snot run down your face and into the sink. It’s pretty cute.

 When my husband got home that evening, I waited for us to put the baby to bed and asked my husband to turn off the TV.

Then, I began my explanation.

Afterward, he said that though he was sure he didn’t cheat on me, as I began my monologue that evening, he was sure he was on an episode of Cheaters. In hindsight, I probably could’ve told him in a less dramatic fashion, but… FEELINGS.

“I just realized that you care so much about your job and doing it well and advancing your career and I just don’t care about any of that anymore. I just want to come home,” I blurted out through tears, taking long heavy breaths between words to try to collect myself (which I’m sure he loved).

My husband, ever the calm and steady type, replied “Is that all? Well, that’s great. I’m in!”

Alright, it’s done then. I’d quit my job. That was that.

As the weeks went on, I pretended that I had actually made this life-changing decision. I even started telling a few close family members that I planned on resigning at the end of the school year. Each time I said it though, I almost always managed to say “I’m thinking of leaving…” or “Yea, I’m pretty sure I’m done.” Though I was sure in my heart, I couldn’t make the words come out.

Here’s the thing. I’ve been working as a teacher for the last ten years. I have loved the students. I have loved the work.

If you’d have asked me ten years ago, five years ago, two years ago, if I would leave my job outside of the house for a job inside of the house, I would’ve promptly replied with one or more of the following:

“No way. I’m not really the type of person who could just be at home.”

“I can’t even imagine what I’d do all day?”

“I need to have my brain stimulated. I couldn’t just do ABCs all day.”

“That seems like my own personal hell.”

Basically, every stupid thing you could possibly say to a SAHM or about a SAHM, I said it (my sincerest apologies to all of the people I said these kinds of things to; I was obviously blissfully ignorant).

Without even realizing it, I have spent the last ten years making my career my identity. For ten years, I have found my worth and value primarily as a teacher. It’s been easy too… because not only did I believe that my teaching job was noble and worthy, but in general, most people find public servants to be especially worth admiring. My job was filling my bucket, y’all. It took over who I was, and I didn’t even notice until… I gave birth to this sweet little girl.

So, a few days ago, I found myself face to face with my boss for the first time since my daughter was born. I realized that it was finally time to leave that old life behind (for now?) and make it officially official.

My last Top Ten dinner. Ugh. The feels.

It was after a senior recognition event I’d been invited to by one of my students.

“If I end up in conversation with him, I’ll tell him.” I thought to myself. Of course, I was absolutely leaving myself room to not have to speak the words into existence.

Of course, as things go, the dinner wrapped up, people cleared the room, and there he was, waiting to talk to me about next year’s schedule.

He began to discuss potential scenarios and apologized for mixing business with pleasure. What he was saying exactly is honestly kind of a blur because I wasn’t really hearing him; I was too lost in what I knew was coming. When an opening finally appeared in his thought process, the words spilled out.

“Do you remember when we had our first meeting and we were casting vision? We said we were both committed to this place for the long term? And I told you that the only way I’d ever leave this place is if the next opportunity was a perfect fit for me? Well, I found that opportunity, and her name is Eliot.”

Nothing prepared me for the avalanche of feelings I would experience once I let the words escape my lips. On the way home, I cried. Nay. I lost it. I picked up my daughter at my mom’s, and still, I cried. I told my co-workers the next day, and still, I cried.

For me, this decision feels so right. I am ready to shed the life I used to lead in favor of the one I am building with my family. Still, having always identified as teacher, it also feels like a death. A death of who I am? Was? Will always be? I’m not sure.

I’m sure there are moms out there who make this transition with ease. There are moms out there who say yes to staying at home and are ready to leave their jobs and make the transition as soon as they see those two pink lines on a First Response test. To those moms, I envy you.

Still, I know there are other moms like me out there. The ones who don’t know what the hell we are doing leaving a career we love, a career we worked so hard for and so hard in, a career that is fueled by passion, a career that we never really envisioned leaving so that we can stay at home with these tiny little humans we love so much. And to those moms, I see you, I feel you, and we’re going to figure this out together.

Will I continue to miss my career during this season in which I am not working? Sure. Will I cringe as my husband and I look at the budget each month knowing that I am capable of earning an income? Most definitely. Will I wonder if I can adequately demonstrate to my daughter the importance of independently pursuing your passion knowing full well that I’ve put one of mine on the shelf? Absolutely. Will I ever be able to have it all? Nope.

But I’m finding that I just don’t want it all anymore. What is this “all” anyway? All I really want is to be the one who has the chance to catch as many of my daughter’s firsts as I can, the one who is at home to cuddle her when she’s sick, the one who watches her grow and learn every single day at least until she waves goodbye and steps on to that big, yellow school bus. And yes, to be clear, I want the tantrums, I want the meltdowns, and I want the refusals to share. I want to breathe my little girl’s early years in deeply and exhale them slowly knowing that, in this season of life, I pursued the only passion I really wanted to: her.

Had I gone back to work, I don’t know if I would’ve regretted that decision. But for some reason, I know I won’t regret this one. Identity be damned; I’m taking the leap.

So, as I end this garbled diatribe on my decision to stay home, I am reminded that while I have no idea who I am now, while it all feels like equal parts happiness and equal parts sadness, while I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING… in all of this mess, there is love.

Love for a career I was blessed to have, love for my precious gift of a daughter, and love for this little family my husband and I are building together.

Clearly, she is thrilled by my decision.

Turning From “Nope” to Hope

I have hesitated to type these words on so many occasions. A hundred “what ifs” have kept me from sharing our story.

What if people struggling with infertility don’t want to read  another “happy ending?”

What if I can’t articulate this well?

What if people think I’m just offering a polite platitude?

However, one big “what if” compels me to write today.

As I laid in bed this morning and watched the look on my husband’s face as he felt our baby move for the first time, I couldn’t help but think- what if sharing our story brings hope to others?

Then, my friends, no matter what… it will have been worth it.

I know that there is someone out there right now, searching every hashtag on social media and combing through every tag on every blog out there. They’re searching for some hope.

Fertility.

Infertility.

5dp5dt.

10dp5dt.

OHSS.

I know because I was one of them. I spent so many nights searching for someone who was experiencing what I was experiencing. While I never found a situation just like ours, I did find hope in hearing from others who were walking this road too.

So, if you’re trying to get your mind and heart around this hot mess of infertility or if you’re just up against some serious odds in life, I humbly submit to you our little story of IVF.

If you’re a newbie to what in-vitro fertilization is, allow me a brief explanation.

You get on a bunch of drugs to stimulate the ovaries to produce eggs.

Amazing doctor surgically removes eggs (called retrieval).

Amazing embryologists and super cool petri dishes allow for sperm and eggs to meet.

Embryos are made.

Embryo(s) go back inside your body (called transfer).

Hopefully, you get knocked up.

That’s the deal more or less.

Of course, if only things could be so simple. Soon after we decided to commit to IVF and hopefully tell my barren womb to get over itself, we found out that there were some complications for me regarding one of the hormones essential for successful egg growing, the Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH).

At our planning appointment, our doctor clued us in.

“Well, I do remember there being some issues with your AMH levels, so let’s talk about that.”

(calmly thumbs through my file)

(eyebrows go up, throws head back)

“Oh, wow. So, that is probably one of the highest AMH levels I’ve seen in 20 plus years.”

Awesome. Normally, doctors consider high AMH levels to be in the teens.

My level was in the thirties.

What this meant for us was a “long and slow” stimulation cycle. Because of that AMH level, we had to be super careful not to stimulate egg production too quickly or I was very likely to hyperstimulate (imagine your entire abdomen filling with fluid) and the whole thing would be a lost cause. This meant 16 long days of stimulant drugs.

It also meant 16 long days of me scouring the internet to see if this had ever worked for someone with such a high AMH level. I didn’t find too much encouragement. Instead, what I saw was lots of “normal” IVF patients whose meds had them producing double-digit follicle (the thing that holds the egg) numbers.

“It’s Day 7… we have 24 follicles!”

“It’s trigger day… we have 14 follicles!”

Two days before the surgery, I only had 9. I was happy for them, but I was a little sad for me. I doubted that our story could have the ending I wanted.

Then, on the day of retrieval, I awoke after surgery to my husband’s smiling and ever patient face. The doctor came in to tell us that they were only able to get 4 eggs.

“That’s it?” I said to my husband once the doctor left the room. Again, I doubted.

Here’s what you need to know about why I was so disappointed.

Once those eggs hit the petri dish, only about 60% of eggs will fertilize. So, in our case, that would mean that only 2.4 embryos would be created. After that, the doctors need your embryos to make it to 5 days old so that they can be frozen and transferred at a later date. I was not a candidate for what they call “fresh transfer” (aka when they put an embryo back into your body at the end of five days) because of that stupid AMH level. Well, only about 40% of embryos make it the five day mark (Oh, and then you have to hope that the embryo will “stick” once it’s transferred so that it can grow into a baby). So, for us, that meant statistically speaking, we had gone through all of this for .96 of an embryo… aka NONE embryos.

It was so difficult in the hours immediately after surgery to believe that this could happen. My heart was breaking, and of course, when my normally Patty Positive husband started saying things like “Well, let’s not count ourselves out yet. And maybe if it doesn’t work, we can try this again,” it felt like maybe I was foolish to have ever hoped that this would work.

They called the next day.

“We don’t usually see this, but all four eggs fertilized.”

Whaaaaat. We couldn’t keep ourselves from the emotions that overcame us at that moment, and somehow, it was then that I realized that literally ANYTHING can happen.

That thought both terrified me and excited me. It was still very possible that no babies could come from all this, but it was also very possible that it just might work. To this day, I can’t explain it, but something swept over me in that moment and I could just feel God winking at me and being all “Stay cool, girl. I got you either way.”

I decided that day to live from that promise. I decided then that no matter the outcome, I was going to be full of hope.

Five days later, we got another call.

“Three embryos made it to the freeze. We can’t believe it.”

Shut. The. Front. Door.

And now, here I am, 23 weeks pregnant with the first little one that made it to the freeze.

And let me tell you, I’ve still been worried. I’ve still stressed over the baby and whether or not we’d hear a heartbeat, see a heartbeat, make it through the first trimester, make it through the second, and so on and so on.

What I lean on in those times is this: from a strictly scientific statistical perspective, this shouldn’t have worked.

It did anyway.

That gives me hope for more than just this pregnancy, for more than just this baby, for more than just my family. It is a powerful reminder that there can be hope in each and every person’s story.

In so many aspects of my life, I’m so often tempted to think about the odds in front of me. I look at what is stacked against me and think “nope.” But when I look back at all of the things in my life that should have piled up to a great big NOPE and ultimately didn’t, that’s where I see hope jumping up and down, waving its arms wildly back and forth at me.

So, if you’re out there and you’re in the midst of this ugly, messy walk called infertility or any other ugly, messy walk, I can’t promise you anything in terms of outcomes. You already knew that. What I can promise you is that life looks better when fear and doubt are behind us and hope is leading the way.

Being full of hope isn’t the solution to every hard situation we face, y’all… but I’m learning that it is always, always the solution for our hurting and wandering hearts.

 

 

In Defense of Infertility (And Other Hard Things)

When I started this, I never thought I’d be blogging about infertility, but I’ve decided, in the words of Frances McDormand when she gave her Oscar speech: “I’ve got some things to say.”

Infertility gets a real bad rap.

I know. I know. I get it. Of course, it does. You have this thing that steals away your womanhood (or manhood as the case may be) and rides off with it into the sunset. This thing that hovers about you like a biting insect on a summer’s night, buzzing ceaselessly around your brain. This thing that feels like it has wrapped its chain around your dreams and is holding them hostage until you pay it all the money (and even then… it might not let those dreams go).

I know. I’ve walked this road with you. I’ve felt that heartache. I’ve submerged myself in those feelings and slipped slowly into that lonely place on more than one occasion.

Recently though, I was challenged by a devotional I read. Now, please do not mistake me. I’m not one of those Christians that reads their Bible and does their devotional every morning at 4:00am. God didn’t make me that way. But I feel like He knows when He needs to reach me, and He often uses my (irregular) devotional time to do it.

The challenge was this: “Instead of approaching the day as a blank page you need to fill up, be on the lookout for all I am doing.”

It got me thinking… what is God doing through this journey that I haven’t been on the lookout for?

I share my list with you today, friend, not because I have figured it all out and completely understand the reasons for the struggle. Quite the opposite actually. I’m realizing more and more that I have no freaking clue what God is up to 99% of the time and that other 1% is probably just wishful thinking anyway. No, I share the list with you because these are things I hold on to. These are things that keep me from the lonely place, the sad place, the angry place, the jealous place… at least most of the time.

What infertility has done for my marriage

Golly. I won’t share everything I’ve learned in this category because I do believe that some things in marriage are meant to be just preciously held between two people, but I can say a few things with certainty.

Before this journey, there were walls of vulnerability that I didn’t even know existed in my marriage. And why would I? We’d never explored the whole “stabbing your wife with a needle” bit before. What I learned is that I had to be vulnerable and I had to trust. There was no option to not do so. As a natural control freak, this is/was tough for me, but the hormone medications left my vulnerable emotions all out there naked on the table every single day. What’s more is that I had to trust that Benny could ready the injections when I was just too tired to do it.

benny

Treating my husband to some incredible French toast because he’s basically a saint for putting up with me most days. 

AND HE DID GREAT. We even hit a blood vessel one time, and when blood spurted like a puncture pipe, Benny calmly applied pressure. He even felt bad about it. (We had a good laugh about it later because if having targets drawn on your body so your husband can basically throw darts at it and then leave you covered in your own blood isn’t funny, then really… what is?) That’s a good one, ladies. A good one, indeed.

But it wasn’t just the physical stuff we had to get vulnerable and trusting about. We also had to peel away the layers of our marriage that had protected us from the “what if this never happens” question and tease out what we feared if God’s answer is no. We had to daily deconstruct our idea of what our future family looks like and surrender it to a plan not our own. And guess what? That’s what we have to keep doing every single day, and every day, we’re just trying to figure out the next faithful step.

Isn’t that just beautiful though? What if I could do that with all the pieces of my life? Daily surrender my vision of “perfect” and just allow God to rearrange, add, and remove everything to His liking? It’d be hard as hell and I’ve failed more often than I’ve succeeded, but it sure would be glorious.

What infertility has done for my heart

Ugh. Feelings. I used to be a real hard ass… or at least I played the part in public. Infertility, however, has left me crying in the grocery store and raging out at the movie theatre. It’s left me sobbing over happy endings and fuming at the sad ones (in case you haven’t noticed, I have about three primary emotions: happiness, sadness, and maddening rage).

What’s crazy though is that I’ve ended up in so many conversations over the last 21 months about hard things. Infertility, of course, but other stuff too. Moms who can’t take care of themselves, parents who have passed away unexpectedly, messy divorces, job searches that seem endless, unexpected pregnancies, mental health struggles, and the list goes on. In each of these cases, I ended up in conversations with people who I thought had it all together, and yet the whole time, these people were fighting wars and putting out fires I knew nothing about.

This is the human condition, yes? We want everyone to think we have it together, but inside, we are dying a thousand little deaths and crying out for connection. Infertility has taught me that while we don’t often wear these wounds on our bodies, they are etched into our hearts. It has taught me that grace is needed by the cheery checkout clerk and the guy in front of you in line screaming at that cheery checkout clerk. It’s needed by those whose lives are coming apart on the outside and the ones whose tumult swirls inside. At any given moment, grace is needed by you and it’s needed by me… and we should be giving a lot more of it to each other.

So, that’s it y’all. That’s my (current) list in defense of infertility. Sure, the brokenness of it is real. No one can pretend it isn’t, but be on the lookout. There’s some things being beautifully built from the brokenness too. These things won’t fix everything, I know, but they can change a lot.

To My (More) Fertile Friends: You Don’t Have to Feel Guilty

Throughout my own struggle with infertility, I’ve noticed some things. I’ve noticed that it sometimes feels like everyone is getting pregnant. I’ve noticed that every Tom, Dick, and Harry has some piece of advice to offer about infertility (usually well-intentioned, but ultimately, trite). I’ve noticed that the tick-tock of the biological clock gets louder with every passing month.

These are things I expected. I figured they just come with the territory. However, there’s one thing that I’ve noticed that I never really expected.

I’ve noticed that many of you, my (more) fertile friends, have an uneasiness about how to talk to me about the fruits of your fertility.

IMG_0108

This is Crabby.  My husband got this for me so that while we do IVF, I can let him know if I’m feeling crabby without saying words. Real life, people.

*me- opens email*

“Hey, I wanted to give you some time and space to digest this news…”

*me- sees pregnancy announcement on social media and sends a congratulatory note*

“I’m so sorry for not telling you, but I didn’t know what to say…”

*me- walks in on conversation about a baby shower*

“Well, anyway, I’m not even sure I want to go…”

And, I get it, friends. You don’t want me to feel bad. I absolutely love and appreciate the heart behind why you do these things. I guess I just never expected this side effect of having an empty womb.

I recently had a conversation with a newly pregnant friend who said she didn’t tell me she was pregnant because she was feeling so guilty that she just couldn’t find the heart to spill the beans.

Why?! I wondered. How could you possibly feel guilty about sharing such incredible news?!

Then, it hit me.

We infertile folks have been sucked into this culture that often endorses bitterness and anger and jealousy towards our friends (and strangers) who have what we so desperately desire. This culture expects us to roll our eyes when someone who wasn’t even trying to get pregnant shares their news. This culture pushes us to check out (physically or mentally) from conversations about other people’s kids. This culture even encourages us to cancel plans with our other formerly infertile friends who have finally been blessed with their miracle.

Now, listen. I’m certainly not saying that the feelings behind these kinds of actions aren’t valid. They’re perfectly natural feelings to have when we’re not getting something we want so badly, through no fault of our own.

What I’m saying is that for me, friend, I’ve found that these feelings do more harm than good. They take over the parts of my heart that want to celebrate your joy, the parts that want to support your growing families, the parts that want to help you raise up the next generation in meaningful ways.

Struggling with infertility is hard. NO DOUBT. I spend at least a few days a month wallowing in a swirl of sadness and at least a few more being a little agitated that something every woman was LITERALLY born to do is more like climbing effing Everest for me (and yea… I get a little sweary on those days, cause… HORMONES).

BUT…

The thing I want to let you in on, my friends, is this. In spite of the days of suck…

I want you to ask me how it’s going.

I want you to ask me to baby sit.

I want you to share your big freaking news and invite me to the baby shower.

I want you to talk about how you’re worried that your kid will be anti-social because he hits other kids with blocks at day care.

I want you to ask me if I mind holding your little bundle for just a minute (FYI: just understand that that “minute” is about to become like hours).

I want you to complain to me about how it straight up sounds like a cow is being milked when your breast pump is running.

Why?

Well, a little selfishly, it makes me feel normal. But more than that, it gives me hope.

I absolutely understand that I may be in a small minority of women who feel this way about your sharing, and that is TOTALLY okay— our hearts are made and broken in all kinds of different ways.

But for me, sharing with you is precious gift because it reminds me that despite all the scientific advancement in the world of fertility, there was still less than a 25% chance that that kid of yours was going to happen, but by the grace of God, there he is.

So, stop feeling guilty people. Share with me.

Your babies remind me that we are chosen. That we are loved. That there is always hope to be found even when the odds are stacked against you.

The Worst Kind of Burnout

I’m sure this a topic that no one else can relate to, but you know when you’ve run on all cylinders for so long that you barely even notice it anymore? I mean, when your calendar glass is full to the brim, but since it isn’t yet running down the sides and making a mess all over the counter, you think, “I bet I could pour just a little more in there.” So, you do—of course—and you go on about your way.

Sure, you say. You know that feeling… and then it all comes crashing down around you.

Nope. Actually, what I’m talking about today is when the crash doesn’t start. I’m talking about when you’re so used to going at cheetah pace that “one more thing” doesn’t even make you pause, let alone have time for a nervous breakdown. In fact, you feel like you’re juggling it all super well. A dozen or more delicate plates balanced and spinning perfectly on the axis of your life. Well, maybe not perfectly, but pretty darn well.

I’m a recovering busy addict, and I know this feeling all too well. My husband and I have spent the better part of our married lives trying to figure out how to be the involved, activity driven folks we love to be without burning out.

Here’s the thing though. The kind of burn out I’ve described here is the worst kind of burn out. It’s the one you don’t even realize is happening, the one that doesn’t even look like it’s out of control, the one that—for all intents and purposes—is your “normal.”

My husband and I have spent the last several months cultivating a new normal. He took a new job over the summer, and between that, our in-our-thirties-trying-to-have-a-baby-and-move-out-the-starter-home life, and my own deep dive into my passions and gifts, it’s been a process.

Alas, Benny and I are doers. We just get stuff done. It’s how we’re wired. So, we each got to work taking on the new responsibilities that this life we created demanded of us.

Then, one day earlier this week, while I was in the middle of making dinner, Benny put his arms around me and said “Hey. I think we should talk about our schedule. I think maybe it needs some adjustments.”

I know those words all too well. It was actually no surprise to hear them because the “schedule conversation” is a conversation we have often.

He kissed me on the cheek and what he said next almost made me forget to turn down the flame on the pan.

“You’ve been making dinner a lot lately. I think we should get into a habit where I can take a couple of days during the week so that you’re not doing this all the time.”

Honestly, until that moment, I hadn’t even given this a thought before. When Benny took his new job and started getting home later, I just assumed the role of all time meal prepper (for the record, this was a bum deal for him because he is definitely the better cook). I didn’t resent it, he didn’t ask me to do it, and I certainly didn’t think of it as a big deal. Besides, I love to cook. It fills me, and it’s one of the ways I love to love others.

This, my friends, is the danger. As we talked through what splitting things up might look like, I started to realize that he was creating a space for me that I didn’t even realize I needed.

For months, I was going to work, coming home after my hour-long commute, maybe squeezing in a work out or jetting the dog out to the bathroom, a

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My first “off-day” dinner… which then turned into a lunch that he packaged up for me. Get you a man like this, ladies.

nd then commencing the business of prepping dinner. Afterwards—if we weren’t heading out to any one of our weekly events—, we’d do our usual: pray, clean up, and sit down and breathe a giant, soul cleansing sigh as we settled in on the couch for a TV show that we would inevitably fall asleep to.

The thing about this kind of burnout is that it tricks you into thinking this is normal. It tricks you into thinking everything is fine. It tricks you into thinking that accomplishing the tasks of normal is the meat on the bone of life. So, you do it. You make it happen, and you don’t complain because—I mean, really—you’ve certainly been busier, had more on your plate, and been more stressed out than this before.

I think, if we’re not careful, we forget that the hum drum of every day life is our biggest captor. It captures our time, our attention, and our space.

But it’s necessary, Keira. You have to do this stuff.

Yep. That’s where it gets you. This hum drum lulls you into a full-on slumber-by-obligation.

I’m not saying to quit doing all of the things all of the time. I know there are times when certain things just have to get done. What I’m saying is create some space. Create some space in your schedule. Don’t let that hum drum sing you to sleep.

If you’re like me, the thought is a little terrifying: Alright, so what am I supposed to do with this “space?”

To be honest, I don’t know. It’s only been a couple of days for me, people. Relax.

HA!

But seriously, I think that’s what’s glorious about it. Maybe that space can be used for a short walk, a good book, a quick purge of your closet, who knows? In truth, on one of my “off” days, I used that time to take care of some work-related items so that I could have more time to really be connected to Benny after dinner without distraction. Go ahead, judge me, but it felt good.

I don’t know what that time will like for you, but I do know that you’ll never know if you don’t make space for some space.

We can’t keep thinking that our Flash-like pace is an acceptable normal, and if this little space is the first baby step in sowing a deeper level of living, then I’m in. I’m so frickin’ in.

A Couple’s Year-End Review

It’s New Year’s Eve, y’all! It’s that magical night of the year when it seems like we are all on the precipice of something absolutely incredible. Maybe it’s the romance of the evening, maybe it’s the post-Christmas high we’re still riding, or maybe it’s just the champagne bubbles, but there is this overwhelming sense that everything we could ever want is ahead of us.

And so, bring on the New Year’s resolutions, champs. Bring on the life change. Bring on the bright, shiny frickin’ newness.

But…

There’s this nagging feeling I get every December… this nagging feeling I get every time I turn the crisp pages of my planner to January 1. I’m not ready to write in it yet. I’m not ready to leapfrog into the new year, not just yet anyway. If you’re like me, you know this feeling, and you know the reason you’re not ready to get on with banging of pots and pans at midnight (Anyone else do this as a kid? Just me?) is because you haven’t fully digested 2017 yet.

This year, I decided that before we ever even eat the pork and sauerkraut (Notice the theme of weird holiday traditions I’ve got going here), I’m going to be fully digested.

So, like all good wives, I forced my husband to participate in my madness. At the beginning of December, my husband spoke at a youth camp and I had the honor of tagging along. This was a weekend about Jesus and reflection and—especially for us—time away from the busyness of life.

During our time at camp, we took some quiet time to explore, what I think, are some really important questions for couples. I’m sharing it here with you, sweet friend, because somewhere between the Christmas hangover and the New Year’s one (literal or figurative… you decide), I think God calls us to pause and be grateful. It is then that we do not just plan for the year ahead with His Spirit, but from His Spirit… and consequently, we do not just hope with Him but find hope in Him for whatever 2018 has in store.

Here’s how we looked back in order to look forward. I encourage you and your spouse to write these answers down and visit them again next year. A lot can change in a year, you know.

  1. What has been the hardest thing about this year?

It ain’t always peaches and roses, kids. It’s important to talk about the yucks. The love is in the mess, right? For me, it was surprising to learn that my continued struggle with infertility was one I was not alone in—despite the fact that I often felt lonely (Sounds stupid, I know, but if you’ve been there… you feel me). Bearing one another’s burdens all up in this house this year.

  1. What has been my biggest joy this year?

The difference between my husband’s personality and mine was never more obvious than in our responses to this question. He picked a single event, and I picked a meaningful, thematic answer. The glory is—that’s what these questions are all about!

  1. What has been my biggest professional achievement this year?

Professional, y’all.

  1. What has been my biggest personal achievement this year?

No cop outs. You can’t have the same answer for #3 and #4. Seriously. Draw in closer.

  1. What do we want most out of the next year? How will our schedule reflect that?

Yikes. I don’t know about you, but scheduling our time is about the most difficult part of our marriage. There’s so much to do, but we’re realizing slowly that we do our best work, have our best quality time, and cultivate our friendships best when we budget our time to reflect what’s most important in each season.

  1. How do we want to help serve people in the next year?

I can’t talk too much about this one because I get all the feelings, but if you can’t think of something in the moment… pray about it together. It will be revealed to you in time.

—PAGE BREAK! These next questions get heavy, and you might think “But these aren’t just “year” questions, Keira!” You’re right… or maybe you’re not…—

  1. What is scary about being my wife/husband? Where do you worry you’ll fail? What do you want to do better?

Maybe this was just my covert way of letting Benny know that I want to be a better listener for him… or that I’m still secretly (or not so secretly now… thanks, Internet) afraid I will blow this whole beautiful marriage thing we’ve got going on. Still, if we can’t talk “biggest fears” with our spouses, then who can we talk about them with? You’d be amazed how the vulnerability of this one question can change the way you relate to one another.

  1. What is the best thing about being my wife/husband?

We certainly needed a pick-me-up after #7, and this was just the ticket. I was surprised to find that Benny’s answer had very little to do with the amount of delicious cheeses I’ve brought into his life, but I was happy with his answer nonetheless.

  1. What do we want our family to known for?

Phew. I told you it would get heavy. But every family has a story, right? What do you want your family’s story to be? ‘Cause guess what? You get to write it.

  1. What traditions are/will be important to our family?

If you read my last post, then you know a lot of our responses were Christmas themed. However, the “will be” part really got us thinking. I hope it does the same for you.

  1. What do I think God likes best about me? What’s He most proud of?

If you’re stuck on coming up for an answer on this one, ask your spouse what they think. I bet their answer will surprise you and encourage you all at once.

christmas 2017

That’s it, folks. A couple’s year-end review. For us, it was a fun opportunity to grow deeper in our relationship and process all that 2017 has thrown our way. What was even more fascinating was that after we talked through all of the questions, we realized that the things we “thought” were important or would be important in the coming year didn’t even make the list! Surprising to me especially because I was quite sure I knew everything. Ha!

Anyway, I hope you have a fabulous start to the new year and find love in all of the biggest messes! I know we will.