Hope and Revival

For the past several years, I have prayerfully selected a word (or words) to be intentionally about during the course of the upcoming year. Often, it is a word that isn’t something I would necessarily think to focus on—however, it is a word that relentlessly pops into my head and seems to be the point of messages I read or hear over and over. 

I thought I would share the words that have surfaced for me during the past month as I have been in prayer and devotion- Hope. And Revival.

Before I get into what those two words mean to me, I want to talk about the two words that I was intentional about the past two years- yes, two years because God apparently didn’t think I got the hang of it during the first year.  I say this in jest… and also because I know it is true.

The two words I was intentional about were Pause. And Slow Down.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, 2020 caused me to hit pause and slow down.

I am a Type A personality… and that means I am usually SO busy, I don’t know which end is up until I give in and admit that I cannot do everything on my own.

It’s humbling. And I’ve realized it is also prideful.

Once I became a mom in 2018, I also became determined- more so than regular- to continue to do everything I had been doing, plus take care of my growing family.

I’ll never forget one afternoon when my mom came over to watch Lyla, who was only a month old at the time, so I could go for a run.. I spent the entire run repeating self-talk in my head about how I CAN do it all. I WOULD do it all. And I would EXCEL while doing it.

This was a very personal run for me, I felt raw and vulnerable. I didn’t share any of that internal conversation I had during the run with my mom when I returned home. I didn’t tell her how pumped up I felt. How I felt ready to DO it all.  In fact, when she reads this post, she will be learning of this along with all of you.

Well, wouldn’t you know, God was talking to my mom.  Before she left that afternoon, she popped her head back inside my door, after she had already walked out of it and said… Nikki… you WON’T be able to do it all and you need to know that.

I was stunned.  And to be honest, I was mad.  I thought she was being so rude … and of course, I thought I would definitely show her how I could keep up with everything.

The truth is, I need the help and the grace of others.  Most importantly, I need God.  What is terrible is that God is very often the very last one I seek.  My pride and my stubbornness and my sinful nature get in the way.

The truth is, when I rely on myself.  I am hopeless.

And when I seek God and trust in HIM, I am hope- filled.

Our God is a BIG God.  2020 threw some BIG things on us.

Personally, I started the year very sick with GI issues. The pandemic hit. I was completely overwhelmed, juggling caring for my family full-time, with a full-time job. In September, I had an irregular mammogram, followed by a breast MRI.  In November, my family of four came down with COVID-19 and unknowingly spread it to other family members and our nanny.  And to round things out, early December I had a wisdom tooth removed and I am still recovering from a dry socket.

With all of these things that could bring me to my knees in uncertainty and fear, I became closer to God through prayer. Through my relationships with my moms group at church. Though the warm welcome of couples into a new church small group. Through my mentor from church. And through the Armor of God Study that I felt nudged to lead this summer with my moms group.

God has been sending me life-lines throughout this entire year. He has been reminding who is in control—when I definitely am not. And He has been reminding just how BIG He is.

That is why, my word for 2021 is Hope.  And I can start the New Year… even amongst all the uncertainty that is still looming… with the greatest Hope, that I can only find through Him.

On January 1, 2021 – the challenges of 2020 will not magically go away. We will still be wearing masks and there will still be virtual meetings and everyone working from home for a while longer. Health issues will still come up. As well as other issues that are outside of our control.

However… I am hope-filled because I know our God is at work and will use these challenges for bigger and better things beyond our imaginations. It’s his promise to us in Ephesians 3:20:

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”

And there’s more.  Remember how I said the words I am intentional about seem to surface to me through repeated messages and passages I come across.  Hope has been a running theme.

Acts 4:31: “And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. This. This is where hope comes from. The Holy Spirit who helps us.”

And later in Acts 13:52: “And the believers were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.  Believers are marked by joy because of the Holy Spirit working in us.”

Now, this is where I get to my second word for 2021.  Revival.  We have a BIG God. One that can do more than we can ever imagine to ask or dream of.  So, why not go BIG in my asks and my walk with Christ this year.

I love the cross reference from those passages in Acts to this one in 1 Thessalonians 1:6:

“And you became imitators of us and of the Lord when you welcomed the message with the joy of the Holy Spirit, in spite of your great suffering.”

Imitators of the Lord simply means spreading the love of Christ with others, loving others, seeking community and UNITY with others. God can do that. 

Recently, our pastor has been challenging us to think about how to be big and bold this year.  For me, it’s praying for a revival.  I look at the world and I feel sad, helpless and hopeless. 

John 17 is a really beautiful chapter of the Bible that I haven’t spent nearly as much time studying as I would like to. This is the chapter where Jesus prays for the disciples and for future believers—you guys- that means US! How incredible is that? As He was on the cross, He was praying for us and for the hardships He knew we would face and that we would have faith big enough to continue to follow Christ.

So… there IS one thing I can do.  I can pray. I can have confidence to ask God for the BIG things. To turn people to Him. To use this pandemic for HIS glory. To turn the division into unity.

And that brings me peace and joy.

And it’s my hope that you can find peace and hope in the new year too.

A heart of thankfulness has reframed everything for me in 2020.

Breathe. Relax. Lean.

This was my mantra during Saturday’s marathon down the beautiful Mt. Charleston just outside of Las Vegas.

It was a gorgeous morning and after a huge setback the morning before when we were actually supposed to run the race, I felt blessed to be given a second chance to run the marathon, I felt strong physically and most importantly, mentally.

Josh and I ran the first mile together and said our goodbyes and good lucks as he felt strong and pulled ahead.

I had turned the pace off of my watch and intended to just run what felt good. I knew I was *flying* down the mountain. And I knew I had trained for this. Literally, we trained for this all of 2020 as race after race got cancelled and we continued to set our sights on later dates to run. Early on my mantra was ‘your race, your pace’. I couldn’t focus on the runners I was passing. I couldn’t focus on feeling like I was running too fast for my capabilities. I just needed to trust the work I put into training for this and go for it.

A few miles later, my mantra changed as my head space changed and I started to feel some physical pain and fatigue.

Breathe. I know when I breathe in deep and exhale it sets my body up for success. Breathing properly keeps my mental and my physical game in check. It calms me.

Relax. With my breathing in check, my whole body relaxes and my tense muscles are able to work like they are supposed to instead of locking and tightening up. I can run smooth.

Lean. When running, if you are in a totally upright position or leaning back, you put the brakes on, mostly unintentionally. For me, running a downhill race for the first time, it was a natural tendency to want to lean back. Pump the brakes and try to control my body. Leaning forward and letting my body just run, one foot after another, was letting my mind let go of control and trust my legs would carry me.

I ended up running my fastest time ever on Saturday. I PR’d by 9 minutes! This is huge! And I partially can’t believe it- still! And Josh smoked it too! You guys, my husband ran a 3:06 marathon and I am definitely going to brag on him! He is incredible! And after he finished, he was standing 400 yards before the finish line to cheer me on.

I won’t lie. The last 3 miles took all I had to finish. To just put one foot in front of the other. It’s humbling to admit and after such a fast and fantastic start, the downhill got to my legs and I had to run/walk it to the finish. I had messages pouring in from my friends offering encouragement and support, pushing me to the finish. It meant the world to have friends and family virtually on the course with me and tracking me through the race app.

But, I did it. After all the cancellations. After pulling out of the race a day prior. After humbly walking and running the last 3 miles. I finished. And dare I say, I finished strong, despite it all.

Breathe. Relax. Lean. It got me through the toughest parts of the marathon.

What if I applied this to my life? In a year when everything (literally everything!) is outside of my control, all I need is to breathe, relax and lean.

Breathe. Stop my need to know what is coming next. What is safe. What isn’t. Just breathe through all the unknowns.

Relax. This has been so very hard for me this year. I’m uptight. I’m worried. I question every decision I make.

Lean. Lean into God. Trust that HE has all of this, all the unknowns, all the circumstances outside of my control in HIS mighty hands. HE is carrying me. All I need to do is lean into Him and trust He is at work.

And just like the marathon, I will need to repeat this mantra over and over. Remind myself to let go and lean on the One who is carrying me through this marathon of life.

Confessions of a quarantined + working mom

Ok guys. Here it all is. The good. The bad. The vulnerable.

I feel overwhelmed.

I feel guilty for feeling overwhelmed.

I feel as though I’m neglecting my kids because I am working while they are home.

I feel guilty for not doing/planning educational activities, crafts and playing outside with our girls.

I feel stressed by the impossible need to balance being a mom 100% of the time and the need to work full-time.

I feel guilty because in reality… that statement above 👆🏻… it’s actually a desire rather than a need to work full-time.

Most of all, I feel absolutely, utterly exhausted.

My brain never gets a rest. I have one thousand zillion ‘mom’ things running through it at the same time I am strategizing for work, responding promptly to messages and keeping up the appearance of keeping it all together.

This is hard.

I am one of the guilty, posting the highlights of my week on social media to give the appearance that I’m keeping my shit all together.

But I’m not. This is me being real. It’s a struggle.

On any given day, I no longer have alone time. I can’t even go to the bathroom by myself because our two year old has discovered how to open doors and needs to ‘find’ you at ALL times. (I told you- here is the real.

I am finding that I cannot turn my brain off except for when I go into a melatonin induced sleep after putting our girls to bed. And even then, it’s not restful.

I have a chronic headache. My body hurts from anxiety and stress that I am holding inside. I can’t see my chiropractor to help get my body back into proper alignment. Which means, I grunt every time I bend down and my daughter asks me what is wrong (please, laugh with me over this or else I just might cry)!

Another sign of the times? Our two year old is starting to tell me she has to ‘go to work’ every morning. Yes, it’s cute and endearing and I want to see this as a female empowerment moment… but what if it’s not? What if she thinks I am working too much and neglecting her?

Another new game for her? Pretending to wash her hands over and over in her play kitchen. Great she is noticing the increased attention to sanitization, but will this affect her long term? Is it ‘normal’ to play ‘washing hands?!?’

And at the end of an especially long day, when I told her I was too tired to play, she made up a game of ‘night night’. Because mommy is tired. Is this the type of role model I seek to be for my girls? Is the type of woman who raises strong women?

And then… just when these thoughts are taking me captive, her little voice shouts out ‘Mommy, I’m so happy’!

Isn’t that just like God? To send us a lifeline just when we need it? I know there are no coincidences. My walk with God has demonstrated that again and again and again… He shows up BIG just when I need Him most. And man, how I need Him now.

We will persevere. Because He will sustain us.

To all the other moms out there, hold steadfast to the grace that God provides. We can love because HE first loved us.

Finding Value Among Uncertainty

Yesterday morning I was blessed to share a devotion with my moms group at church.  I spoke to them about value and worth. More specifically– what does it mean to be valued and worthy?

This is a topic that has been heavy on my heart for a while… and has returned recently with the adjustment to a new normal in the past month as things seem out of my control and outside of my normal routine. While working from home is my normal, my husband has now set up a home office and just this week, we made the decision to keep our daughters home too, following the guidance of the state. These abrupt changes are causing me to adjust and stretch myself in new ways.

With work- if I am not pressed with many deadlines and I don’t have a crazy—probably unattainable- schedule to adhere to, who am I as an employee? What is my value to my organization?

At home- as I shift to working full time AND caring for my kids all day, how am I feeling valued by my husband?

Personally- with all these changes going on right now and my normal routine disrupted, what is it that defines me? Where do I find my value? Where do I find my worth?

This isn’t the first time I have experienced these insecurities about who I am.  It has been life-long struggle for me—and one that I am obviously still working on.

When my husband and I decided to expand our family, we sought out adoption. It was a journey- to say the least- and one that I fought for.  When we were blessed to become the parents of our daughter, I developed an unhealthy focus to be a GREAT mom. To do everything RIGHT. My value came in what I thought was best for my kids and I suffered anxiety and guilt, shame and frustration from comparing myself to other moms who parent differently than I do.  Eventually, all those feelings came crashing down on me, leaving me feeling like a failure. I became depressed, despite having healthy, beautiful kids. Despite knowing that I was doing everything I knew and believed to be good for my daughters.

I will not forget the afternoon last summer, I sat in our dining room with tears streaming down my face, explaining to my husband that I wasn’t OK. Things weren’t OK. I wasn’t doing anything well.  He looked at me absolutely dumbfounded and told me from the outside, I am rocking it! I had the appearance of someone who had it all together. I was exceeding at my job. I was managing our house. I was the best mother he had ever hoped for our daughters. Then, he asked me a question—with all of those things right, what is it that is wrong?

I couldn’t answer him that day. I told him I didn’t know, but something was definitely very wrong.

Wouldn’t you know it… as I started to take more time for myself—including spending more time in the word… God laid the answer down for me.

My value, my worth. It comes from HIM and nothing else.  As I was looking to the world for validation of being a great mom, I was never finding it and I was in an ugly cycle that I couldn’t keep up with.

What does the Bible say about our worth?

  1. We were created in His image (Genesis 1:26-27)

-Have you ever sat and thought about this verse before? It’s one I have read and heard a thousand times… but I never actually thought about it.  How cool is it that God created us in His very image?  God values us—enough to create us in the very image of Him.

  1. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:14)

-God’s works are wonderful. I am a product of His works. He made me- with every quirk, with every flaw, with every talent.

  1. Upon establishing our belief in Christ, we are God’s children and have an inheritance in heaven with Him (Ephesians 1:13-14)

I want to focus on this for a second. We are His children. Think about how much you love your kids. You would do anything for them, right? It’s this crazy love that no one can describe- one that I have a hard time describing anyways.

If you back up just a few verses in earlier in Ephesians– it talks about how we are heirs of God because he has adopted us as his children. As an adoptive parent, that really hits me in the heart… it’s so cool to put this all together…. Because- both my husband and I- we know that we love our adopted children as if they were our very own natural children…we don’t even see the difference.

God loves us crazy like that. My value comes from His love.

My insecurities- my questions about my worth and my value- they all stem from a place inside me that doesn’t feel like I deserve this kind of love from God.

However, one thing I’ve learned recently, is that in order to love others well- to love others as God wants me to love them- I can only do this when I first accept that He loves me. To accept his unconditional love for me.

As I close this post, I’d like to share with you two of my newest favorite bible verses:

  1. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10)
  2. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19)

He values us far more than anyone else, even ourselves, can. We have infinite worth because of Christ Jesus.

For Such a Time As This…

Esther 4:14 calls on Esther, the queen of Persia, to step out and make a bold move in faith. Trusting God completely that He had a plan for her and placed her in the right place at the right time “for such a time as this.”

Before Josh and I even received the call that we were matched (see my last post), he looked at me and said “obviously, if we are chosen, her name will be Esther.” That name has been near the top of our short list of names for a baby girl and it seemed quite fitting that this child should be named Esther.

We had made a BOLD move in saying yes to this baby girl and to her birth mother.  There are a number of reasons we wanted to say no to this profile.  The fact that the due date was in two weeks was the least of them.  The birth mother had been using drugs throughout her pregnancy and the baby was sure to go through withdrawal after birth.  Were we prepared for this? Were we ready for this? Ready for whatever challenges may arise from this? However, we couldn’t think of a valid reason to say no and our yes was very quickly matched with a yes in response.

Fast forward to Monday, September 30th.  I was working when I received a call from our social worker at the adoption agency. Baby girl was going to born the following morning via C-section. If possible, birth mom wanted us there for delivery.

I freaked out, called Josh and told him the news and that he needed to come home. Called my mom and told her I needed her NOW to help me pack.  Miracle of miracles, Josh and I were packed and boarding a plane just 3 hours later.

Esther ‘Este’ Irene Russell was born on Tuesday, October 1, 2019.

She is a very healthy and beautiful (although, I may be biased 😉) baby girl.

As with most adoption cases, things didn’t go exactly according to plan. Instead of signing papers to terminate rights after 48 hours, the birth mother decided she wanted to see Este through withdrawal and would sign papers after that time period.

Given our past experience with a failed placement, this sent worry and anxiety straight to the core of both Josh and I. We felt devastated and defeated. We called on our family and friends to pray for us because we simply couldn’t find it in us to pray on our own behalf.

Strangely, as we were out on a run a few days later, I felt calm and peace. Birth mom still hadn’t signed papers, even though the agency had tried to explain to her that delayed our process to go home by potentially 2-3 weeks, depending on Este’s discharge from the hospital. But all I felt was at peace with where things were. We were doing the right thing. We needed to be there, not only to support Este through this time, but also to support her birth mom. We have spent a tremendous amount of time with her throughout the past week and have come to love and respect her.  I could feel that God had placed us in this situation to be authentic and love on this birth mom as God would love us.

She made the hard decision to trust Josh and I and sign papers prior to Este being discharged. This took a BOLD act of faith on her part. To trust that we would follow through on our promise to her that she could continue to visit Este.

You see, paperwork to process the adoption cannot begin until the birth mother terminates her rights. And the process takes about two weeks. This was huge because it meant that we would be able to go home sooner– and most important– we would be able to be reunited with Lyla sooner.

I’m so happy to report that Este was discharged from the hospital on Saturday and she is doing VERY well.  She spent 11 days in the hospital going through withdrawal. Not one of those days was spent in the NICU. Just like her big sister, Lyla, Este is strong and a fighter.

As I write this, Josh is on a plane with Lyla (!) and we will soon begin the process of adjusting as a family four.

To say that this journey has been completely opposite of our first adoption journey is quite the understatement. And yet, it is beautiful. Each of our girls’ adoptions have taught us how to be more faithful, to trust in God, trust that He has a plan and to be bold enough to follow it.

“For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
– Esther 4:14 NKJV

*The process to finalize the adoption will take several months. During this time, we will not publicly post pictures of Este. Thank you for understanding and respecting our decision.

HIS Faithfulness Endures

Endurance. I’ve been thinking a lot about what this word means and what endurance actually takes as we are now one week away from the St. George Marathon in Utah.

This training cycle has been almost flawless for me physically, so I’ve spent more time focusing on mental preparation.

The journey during marathon training is hard. It’s supposed to be. That is how we grow. That is how we get stronger. We are intentional in our training and have faith that the work and prep we put in for months leading up to race day will have us ready to cross both the start and the finish line in good form.

Marathon training also takes perseverance and resilience. You have to keep going through the wind, rain and hilly courses.

During a recent sermon at Valley E Free Church, I was struck by how closely marathon training aligns with our walk with the Lord. It requires us to overcome fear in order to grow. It requires us to get outside of our comfort zone in order to improve. It requires us to be bold.

Earlier this week, Josh and I were approved and went on ‘active’ status to adopt our second child. If you know us, you know the journey to adopt Lyla was a long, bumpy road with many trials.

We went into this process a second time with the mindset of having patience and knowing that God’s timing is so much better than ours- something I struggled with BIG time the first time and feel complete peace about this time.

A few hours after we were active, we received our first profile to review for a baby girl due in just 2 weeks! It felt crazy to even consider saying yes when we were prepared to be in this process for the long haul. NOT necessarily prepared to have a new addition to our family in a short two weeks! On top of that, there were some other factors that we needed to consider and discuss that would impact our decision. We decided to sleep on it.

When we woke up, we both agreed there wasn’t an actual rational reason to say no, other than out of fear. We both felt a nudge- and urging- if you will, that we needed to just trust God and walk in faith.

We said yes. It felt scary because it was now out of my control. At the same time, I kept telling myself there was less than a 1% chance that we would be chosen for the very first profile we reviewed. That just doesn’t happen to us. (Ummmm hello! Remember how long it took to adopt Lyla?!)

Two days later, we got the call. This birth mother loves us and wants us to raise her daughter!

We were in shock, to say the least! (and quite honestly, we may still be!) We were overjoyed! And once again completely amazed by God’s faithfulness. Trusting in Him completely in this decision continues to give me peace that He has got us. He will not give us more than we can handle. He provides for us. He blesses us in ways that are beyond our imaginations.

Today, as I reflect on the word endurance, I am thinking about my walk with the Lord. My walk in faith and trusting Him. He is always beside us.

We don’t know if we will actually be able to run the marathon next weekend or if we will be on a completely different journey to meet our new daughter.

Regardless of what the next week brings, I am ready. I am prepared. I have both the endurance and perseverance required for actually running a marathon or this marathon called parenting.

We are truly blessed. And it is all because HIS faithfulness ensures.

Blessings… in the unlikely spaces

Two years ago – almost to this exact date- I found out that the baby I was carrying stopped growing. The way the doctor put it was “the pregnancy is not viable.” It was nothing I did to cause this. In fact, he told me and Josh that it was quite common. For whatever reason, this baby was not healthy and would not survive. Maybe this baby had a few extra chromosomes. Maybe this child already had a major health defect. Whatever the cause, this baby had stopped growing and the embryo was already detaching.

For some of you reading this, this post might be way too personal for you to want to continue reading. Some of you may question why I am writing about this at all. Especially now, two years down the road.

I’m telling my story because every Memorial Day weekend, I’m thinking about this baby. I’m telling my story because it’s therapeutic. I’m telling my story because maybe it will help me shed some of the shame that I still carry from this very major life event occurring… and being silent about it.

There are many things I wished I would’ve done differently both during the short, few weeks that I actually knew I was pregnant and during the long, few months that followed.

In May of 2017, I was traveling slightly more than usual for work. May is always a busy month for my job and I often have back to back trips. This time I had three trips scheduled. First to D.C., then Scottsdale and lastly Philadelphia.

At the same time, we had just become an ‘active’ family with FAC and I was stressed trying to respond to different situations we were presented with while attending meetings. I distinctly remember one case where the birth mother wanted to receive letters from each family presenting to her. I worked on editing the letter that Josh wrote on the Metro going back to my hotel at 9pm— with my uneaten dinner sitting on my lap. The days were so crazed that I wasn’t eating well- skimpy calories and many hours between meals.

I was also training to run the Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, MN in June, so I was sacrificing sleep in order to get my training runs in while traveling.

Around this same time, we found out my sister-in-law was expecting. I was upset. I know it’s awkward and painful to admit this here- feelings that up to this point had only been shared with my husband, but it’s true. It was a Sunday when we found out. I remember because I proceeded to sit on the couch all afternoon watching sappy rom-coms and drinking an entire bottle of wine. By myself.

We had tried for a while to get pregnant ourselves. We began our journey to expand our family with the mindset that whatever happened first- pregnancy or adoption- we’d be happy and cool and roll with it. The problem with that outlook- that I didn’t know at the time- is how easy it is to get sucked into “trying to get pregnant.” The timing, the waiting… and the disappointment when it didn’t happen.

I was genuinely happy for my sister-in-law… and at the same time throwing a pity party for myself. It didn’t help that at that point, we had been waiting for a match through another adoption agency for over a year with little interaction and feeling quite hopeless.

It dawned on me on a Tuesday after my trip to D.C. that I didn’t start my period. Now- this wasn’t alarming or unusual since I was training for a marathon and knew that my sleep schedule and diet was off. Regardless, Josh and I decided to pick up a pregnancy test on the way home from bible study. I mean- I had just recently drank a whole bottle of wine. And with more work trips scheduled, happy hours and networking events would be plenty.

I was teaching a 5:05am class at the fitness club I coach at the next morning when I took the pregnancy test. And then proceeded to take another because I didn’t believe the results of the first one. I woke Josh up at 4:30am calling out from the bathroom “We’re pregnant!”

To say that I didn’t receive the cheerful response one would expect is an understatement. And to be fair, how would you react to news that seems incredulous at an insanely early hour and when woken from a sound sleep. We were both in a state of shock. I remember teaching class that morning and thinking the entire time that I have this huge secret and I can’t share it with anyone! How weird it was!

You would think that I would have been over the moon with this new secret. But I wasn’t. If you don’t know this by now- you guys, I am a tad bit of a control freak. I was freaked out by the changes that would happen to my body that I had no control over and that I didn’t entirely understand. I was upset at the timing. We had just signed on with a new adoption consulting firm and I didn’t want to mess up our plans to adopt a baby. Most of all, I was scared out of my mind.

I left a few days later for the next work trip. All the while, we continued to receive situations to present to different birth mothers and we were putting our ‘yes’ on the table as much as we could.

I returned from my work trip just before Mother’s Day weekend. By this time, we had told our parents that we were pregnant because we wanted them to begin praying over us and this baby. The Friday before Mother’s Day, our dinner was interrupted with a call from FAC. We had been chosen by a birth mother who was expecting a baby girl in August. I couldn’t believe it. We were blessed! Two babies who would be born just 4 months apart from each other. We were ecstatic at the thought of this and it seemed perfect.

I was home for a week before leaving on my next and last work trip. The day before I left, Josh and I were laying in bed watching the movie What to Expect When You’re Expecting (how cliche, I know) when I felt this weird tug behind my belly button. It was somewhat painful and definitely something I had never felt before. I also had some weird discharge that caused enough concern that we called the emergency nurse listed on my health insurance card. After talking to her, she thought I could still travel and that there didn’t seem to be anything too concerning. But the truth is- I knew. I knew something was off. Call it intuition, call it instinct, call it whatever. But I knew I shouldn’t get on the plane the next morning and I did anyways.

When I returned home, we had our first scheduled ultra sound. It was the Friday before Memorial Day. It’s the day we learned that the baby had a 99% chance of surviving and that the baby had already begun to separate from my uterine wall.

Immediately, I felt guilt over my selfishness in not being excited about the pregnancy from day one. Guilt over my selfishness in not wanting my body to change. Not having control over what would happen to me over the next 9 months. Not being able to run as much as I would like. Not being able to eat or drink what I wanted. Guilt for being such a horrible person for having these thoughts.

What’s more is I passed this event off as if it didn’t matter. No big deal. I was one of the statistics- you know, 1 in every 4 pregnancies ends in a miscarriage. In fact, I was one of four women who I knew were pregnant at the same time. We all miscarried within two weeks of each other. While I wasn’t alone in this per se, I was still very alone with my feelings. It’s not a subject you are told by society you should talk about. It’s not a subject society embraces.

Josh went to work that afternoon. He came home that evening and shared that he found it incredible that when our dog died, he told coworkers who empathized with him and comforted him. We just learned that we were losing our baby and we felt as though we couldn’t share this with anyone. And this hurt so much worse.

So, I’m choosing to speak out. In remembrance of our baby. A baby we never met but who has changed me forever.

And I know now that we were never alone. God knows what it’s like to lose a child. He sent His son into the world. And He eventually sacrificed Himself for us. Talk about love.

Because I have experienced this loss, I can better understand the sacrifice that Lyla’s birth mother made. Losing a child hurts. It’s a hurt that you never recover from. And I am forever grateful for the choice that Lyla’s birth mother made to carry through with the pregnancy, not to terminate, and to make a sacrifice so unselfishly so that Lyla can have a life she didn’t think she could provide for her.

Because of this loss that I experienced, I have so much love and appreciation for the birth mother of the baby girl who was born in August 2017 and who decided, with the birth father, they loved that baby so much they wanted to parent her.

It’s taken me two years to fully appreciate and understand what I have gained through this loss. And I have gained so much.

Because, even in the ‘no’… God is blessing us.

A New Decade Is Worth A Celebration

Guess what!?!  It is officially my birthday week! AND it’s also officially marathon week!  For me, that’s like birthdays and Christmas and vacation and all the good things smushed into one!

You guys, I have to share that I am actually super excited for my birthday this year.  And it’s a big one! I’m turning 40! I don’t even know how that is possible. I mean, when I was in elementary school… and ok… when I was in college too… I totally judged forty year olds! I mean– that was old!  But now, forty is like the new thirty, so I’m cool with it 😊.

In all seriousness though, I am super excited to turn forty because I just know this is going to be the best decade for me yet!

Since the beginning of this year- 2019- I have been thinking and reflecting back at the past few decades of my life.  My 20’s were traumatic. I was married to an abusive husband who tore me down. In the end, I didn’t value myself because I didn’t have a shred of self-worth and I completely lacked self-confidence.  Man- it has been a long journey to get all that back.  So, my 30’s were about finding myself again.  As I enter my 40’s, I am finally at peace with myself. I know who I am and I comfortable and confident in that.

I can’t even tell you how much joy it brings that I am able to say that. After nearly two decades. I am at peace with myself. I am comfortable with who I am. And I have confidence in who I am.

And it’s about time! As a mom, it is more important to me than ever to possess these qualities. To raise a daughter who is comfortable with who God made her to be and to be confident in that truth. To raise a daughter who exudes the love and the grace of God onto others because it has been modeled for her in her home.

I was recently encouraged to map out a timeline of the big things that have occurred in my life. After I created the timeline, the next step was to identify where I was at in my walk with God and how I weathered those big things.  It’s crazy clear to see, on that timeline, when I was actively walking with God and when I wasn’t. It’s crazy clear to see how decisions I made when I was trusting myself- and even worse- shutting God out- led me to some even tougher situations. It’s also crazy clear to see that God shows up BIG.

He has blessed me richly during these past few decades. I met a God-fearing man who seems so perfectly matched for me and I get to spend the rest of my life with him. I have the most precious daughter (completely unbiased here… 😂!). I have a tremendous support system made of family and friends that I have the ability and freedom to be 100% authentic with. That is a rare gift you guys.

Yes, I know that my forties will bring new challenges and unseen turns in the road. I mean come on- at some point I’m going to get my first wrinkle- ammiright?!? 😂😂Totally kidding. I’m not going to get wrinkles. Ever. 🤣🤣🤣

In all seriousness though- I know this is the best decade yet because I’m wiser. I know that if I stay anchored to God, no matter what comes my way, I’ll be ok. Because He provides. He always does. And He shows up BIG.

So, cheers! To — a new decade– to forty!!

Lead Me

I struggle with turning my mind off. Anyone else just really struggle with that? From thinking through all the things that need to be done, worrying about things or problems I don’t know how to solve or don’t have the answers to right now, to wondering how I can be enough in this crazy busy life.

That’s a lot! And as a result, my mind has been turning over and over lately. Keeping me from restful sleep. A restless mind means less physical rest and I am already beginning to feel the impact on my body.

I am constantly reminded that I cannot do this alone. I am forever grateful that I don’t have to. Because HE carries me forward. God is in control. Always. And HE will lead me to still waters, where I can find rest.

I cling to that this year in my quest to pause and slow down.

The harder I try to do these things on my own- to pause, slow down and live in the moment- the harder it seems to accomplish. That’s when my mind starts whirling- overwhelmed with all the to-do’s, the little surprises that life throws at you, the deviations from my plan. (Spoiler alert- I am still not in control of anything!)

Last week, my yoga instructor coached us through class last on the first day of Spring. Spring brings renewal and growth. She suggested that Spring is a time for new opportunities or to start fresh. She asked us to focus on what we want to be aligned with.

Immediately, my answer came to me.

The Cross.

I want to be aligned with the Cross.

I want to receive God’s forgiveness, His grace and His love.

I want to extend that towards others.

When I am focused on the Cross, the overwhelming uncertainties that overcome me fall into the shadows.

That is my peace. That is my comfort.

That is where I can find my calm and hit pause. Knowing that HE will provide for my every need. I don’t have to be all the things, because HE is everything.

Be Still & Know

In some ways it feels like it has been a New York minute since I last posted!

So much life has happened in a short amount of time. Lyla turned ONE, if you can believe that! I certainly can’t!

We had so much to celebrate with all the love and light she has brought into our lives this past year.

We also said good-bye to one of my best friends- Bisou.

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In the midst of all the chaos that filled the end of 2018, I felt a stirring and heard a voice telling me to just be still. To pause. As I was processing this, my physical therapist said something that really struck me. She was teaching me how to breathe properly in order to relax my hips- which are notoriously tight due to running and strength training. She said “all the good things happen during the pause.” Of course, she was talking about breathing technique but it hit me hard. Think about it– all the good things happen during the pause.  I had been feeling an increasing urgency to be still and pause. I know that with God, there are no coincidences and He was just putting one more reminder, a gentle push if you will, in my path to listen to that voice. If I would just hit the pause button, breathe, and make room for Him– He would meet me there.

Me being me, I thought about all the reasons why I couldn’t just hit the pause button. People depend on me. I have classes to teach. I’m part of a team at the fitness boutique I coach at. I have a full-time job on top of that. I’m a new mom(!). I can barely meet the expectations of others as it is. And now, I was supposed to find time to slow down and be still?

The more I put off listening to that voice and taking action to slow down, the more overwhelmed I became. I felt as though I could barely function. I was on auto pilot and I wasn’t meeting anyone’s needs, least of those mine. And that pesky voice in my head? It was still there. A constant. Telling me to be still. Pause. Breathe. Slow down already!!

So, I thought about it more. Why was I really doing everything that I was doing? The answer came pretty quickly and clearly. I did a good job of filling up my life in the course of the last two years– all the quiet hours– with activities so that I wouldn’t have to feel all the weight that I was carrying from the adoption process. And when I dug a little deeper, I could finally admit that I did it so I could continue to feel numb from all the losses we experienced during the adoption journey. It served a purpose. But that purpose was no longer valid. And it is definitely time that I slow down.

Part of the reason that I struggled to slow down is that I felt guilty for still processing the grief of losing our two babies after we brought Lyla home. I mean, here was the answer to our prayers– right in my arms!! I should have felt nothing but happiness. So, I shoved the other feelings aside and made sure that I stayed busy enough so that they didn’t surface.

I was also on a mission during my first year as a mom to prove to the world that I can do all the things. Even as a mom! I have all my shit together. I told you I would and look at me now– I’m doing it! What a bold face lie! Holy crap you guys! What the heck was I thinking?

The more I thought about how I created busyness for myself- thinking that I was meeting other people’s expectations of me– the more I realized that no one expected anything from me. Another bold face lie I told myself. I was creating these expectations. And for what? So that I would feel accepted by others? So that I wouldn’t feel like a failure? So that I wouldn’t feel like I was being judged? If you’re noticing a lot of I statements… your right… it seems all of my motives have been purely self-serving and driven by an insane insecurity that came with being a new mom. And all it resulted in was a mess of feelings of being overwhelmed.

So, here I am. A new year has started and I have slowed down. I am taking a break from coaching fitness classes. I have started a new bible study at church. I am asking for help because our gracious and loving God has helped me see that there is no way on this earth that I can possibly do all of the things and not have help to do them!

I’m seeking a new journey this year- a new leap of faith. To slow down. Pause. Breathe. Be still. I’m so excited to see what comes next.