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!!

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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.

 

 

 

 

Fearless

Years ago, when I ran a marathon PR that qualified for me to run the Boston Marathon, a good friend gave me a bracelet with one word on it- Fearless. She explained it was because I was fearless, as evidenced by the grind I ran through to finish the 26.2 miles in 3 hours and 39 minutes.

I couldn’t see what she saw in me. I felt undeserving of the gift.

Instead, I could only see the setbacks I experienced on the course that day. How I struggled to breathe through anxiety attacks as my brain told my body that I was running too fast and I couldn’t sustain the pace until the finish. How I threw up my gels that were supposed to keep my body fueled so I could sustain the pace. How I fell behind Josh, who was graciously pacing me so I could achieve this goal. How I actually gave up mentally around miles 18-20. How I only squeaked across the finish line 21 seconds before my qualifying window closed.

I couldn’t see how running such an imperfect race could ever define me as fearless.

It’s funny to me now, looking back. It’s so plain to see. The imperfect experiences of that race and grinding through the entire marathon until the end- that is exactly what makes me as fearless.

As I think about our adoption journey, I’ve often thought about how I now- finally– feel like I deserve that bracelet. That I now know what it feels like to be fearless. That I now have what it takes to endure the hard and to keep on grinding until we get to the finish.

The truth is, I’ve been fearless all along.

Trusting God and working (so hard!) to let go of the imperfect and the things I cannot control and follow Him through this journey.

This is what makes me fearless.

Raw and Real

Today marks the first birthday of the baby girl we were originally matched with.

It’s been an emotional roller coaster of a morning. I’m letting myself- actually giving myself permission- to feel all the feels. The rawness and the realness of it all is actually quite surprising to me. The rawness of the hurt and the pain that still exists. The realness of these emotions overcoming me.

And yet, through the tears -and the smiles -when I remember what it felt like to hold her and love on her, I am reminded of how faithful our God is.

Friends, I want to first thank you for your prayers throughout our adoption journey. Your support has lifted both Josh and I up during the most difficult time of our lives.

I have just recently realized how very depressed I have been this past year. To most of you who see me often, I’m sure you’ve witnessed it. Myself, however, I have been in denial. It has taken me a full year to process the loss we experienced last summer and I continue to heal from the trauma of it all.

I pray for that baby girl weekly. She is always at the back of my mind. She will always be in my heart. She is a part of our journey. Looking back now, I wouldn’t change a thing. As hard as it has been… I wouldn’t change it.

This experience has changed me. It has taught me to be fearless. It has taught me to be fierce. And to love my family both fearlessly and fiercely. And it has shown me, once again, that we do serve and love a faithful God.

As traumatic as the loss was for Josh and I, I know it was equally traumatic for the birth parents of that baby girl. I know because I watched them struggle with the decision to parent her from inside the same hospital room. I can’t help but wonder what emotions they are feeling today.

Yet, I have peace. That peace comes from the fact that I know she is so very loved. Her parents love her so much that they couldn’t place her with us.

I thought I would be bitter. I thought I would be angry.

Instead, I have so much compassion towards them and the decision they ultimately made– to love her.

And I can see now– God is and always has been in control.

So, I continue to pray. I prayed for her before she was born and I pray for her still. My prayer for the baby girl is that she is loved, that she will grow to know God and that God will watch over her. My prayer for her parents is that they will know God’s love, that they will raise their children to know God and that God will guide them.

When I wrote about the failed placement last summer, I wrote that I knew the best was yet to come. And I was right. This journey has brought us to our daughter- who so perfectly fits into our family, it’s crazy amazing. Like a missing piece from a jigsaw puzzle- she has filled the gaping hole in our hearts. I still stare at her in awe. I still have a hard time believing that she is really ours to love. But she is… because God is so so good.

Beauty from the Ashes

I feel as though I am finally coming up for air post- placement.

We were as prepared as we could be to welcome Lyla into our family. But those of you who are parents and have been following our journey, well, you knew before we did that one can never be fully prepared for what parenthood is.

I am still in awe that this sweet baby girl is ours. This is the most precious gifts that God could ever give us. And she is ours!

It feels like it has been a whirlwind the past 5 months. Everyone said that it goes so fast. Already, I feel like the moments I have to hold her close as I rock her and just grow the bond between us is flashing by.

I feel as though I’ve been on auto pilot the past few months as we have transitioned into parenthood. Really, not thinking about anything, just acting on instinct and hoping to get through the days one by one.

I’ve been terribly afraid to write about this part of the transition since we haven’t finalized yet and I have so many unfounded fears and anxieties until that day has come and gone.

The reality is that this is part of the journey. And I’ve come to accept that it is so perfectly normal that to withhold from admitting it is actually abnormal.

Both Josh and I have been trying our best to keep ‘life as we know it’ and yet, life is everything but.

I have made some decisions in the last week that will allow me to slow down and enjoy just being still with my daughter.

She is, after all, truly our beauty from the ashes.

When we chose her name, because of the woman she is named after, we also loved that Lyla means dark beauty in its Arabic roots.

When we first saw that, we thought it was so fitting because we knew we would adopt a daughter who would look different than us- our dark beauty.

As I’ve come to know her, come to know the joy that it is to be her mother and am beginning to learn the art of being still, I know the real meaning of her name to us- she is the light at the end of a very long journey to grow our family. She is our beauty from the ashes.

It’s funny to see things come full circle. To not understand the why in the moment. And, to come to appreciate the hard, the long and the frustration later.

And just as I feel like a completely new season has entered our house, this beautiful orchid, given to us by dear friends after our failed adoption last summer, is beginning to bloom again. Coincidence? I choose to think not. I love how God finds even the smallest ways to show us that there is still life, even when you thought it had gone. Like beauty rising from the ashes.

It is Well with my Soul

We are coming up on Mother’s Day and I cannot help but think about where we were a year ago at this time.

We had just found out we were pregnant. I was in shock, as it was not planned. I was terrified it would impact my ability to bond with the baby we were so desperately working to adopt. And I was crazy excited at the same time.

We found out we were matched with the first baby girl who would be due in August the day before Mother’s Day. We couldn’t believe how blessed we were to be going from a family of 2 to a family of 4 in less than 9 months. For us, it was our perfect scenario. We were ecstatic the babies would be born so close together and go through life together.

We went through a lot of tragedy and heartache in the three months that followed as we lost both babies.

As I look back on the events now, I can honestly say- It is Well with my Soul.

You see- it’s as if God was leaving me little breadcrumbs during this journey. Glimpses of hope to keep me faithful and know that His perfect plan was coming together.

I don’t think that it is a coincidence that Lyla was conceived the weekend we were matched with the first baby girl.

I also don’t find it to be a coincidence that since Lyla was born early, she was born within a few days of when the baby we had conceived would have been due.

Little did I know at this time last year that our lives would, in fact, change in the most blessed way in just 9 months- it would just be blessed differently than we expected at that time.

I can also see God was at work when we first met the baby girl who was due in August. Josh and I had settled on the name Lyla Estalene. That was the name for our daughter.But when we got to the hospital in Kansas City, something didn’t sit well with my soul. As we talked about names with the birth parents, I blurted out that we would love to incorporate a name that was meaningful to them as that baby’s middle name. I hadn’t talked to Josh about this change but naming that baby our name- just didn’t feel right.

We named that baby Lyla Rene. Rene in memory of her birth mother’s cousin.

I have no idea if her birth parents kept the name that was on her birth certificate after we left. But I know, that for us, there is only one Lyla Estalene. And she is our daughter.

She is the one who God had planned for our family all along.

And knowing- rather seeing that reassurance- that God was indeed with us throughout the entire journey- and remains with us- well, it is all well with my soul.

For the first time in a year, I have peace.