August 4, 2013

God Gave Me What I Didn't Want

I started writing this post a few months ago, but it gets pretty deep. It exposes some major openness and sin in our hearts. I was hesitant to post this when I initially started, so I saved it for Mikey's birthday. I feel much more vulnerable and comfortable with my audience now and so I pray that you recieve all of this as the Lord would have you, knowing that my desire is to share what He puts on my heart.

In His awesomeness, God has taught me a different lesson through each one of my boys. When Michael and I were married in April of 2005, we were pretty set on not having any children for 5 years. We had both started jobs fresh out of college and we thought we wanted to build our marriage before introducing any children into it.

The first weekend of December, 2005, we found out that He had detoured our plan. Out to a late dinner, giggling over a shared plate of pasta and a bottle of wine, I jokingly said "Um, I'm late."
"Like, late late?",  Michael asked. "There's no way.  How late?"
"2 weeks." I replied sheepishly.
As soon as we finished dinner, we headed out and stumbled into the CVS on our way home. We bought the most expensive test they had, because we figured that's the one that would have the most accurate reading. We didn't want to take any chances. It's 11:30 by the time we stumble home. I take the test to the bathroom while he lays in the floor outside the door. We wait. Two minutes finally pass. I pick up the stick. We bought the one that actually gives you the word PREGNANT or NOT PREGNANT so there would be no mistakes in interpreting little blue lines. There it was. That word.
"No. It can't be." I thought. I kept glancing at it, hoping it would change. But that word just kept being there.
I opened the door and handed Michael that awful stick.

Fright and shame consumed me. Michael was freaking out, glowing as if the baby were already here. I started sobbing. I did not want this now. I was NOT ready for this now. I wanted to take that stick, throw it in the trash, and pretend it never happened. It could not be. It was almost as if I was a teenager who got knocked-up and had no idea where to turn. Happy daddy over there is ready to start calling our family (it's 11:30 pm, remember?), and I'm just begging and pleading for this awful stick to say something different. So we proceeded to 'drunk dial' our families and let them in on the news. I remember saying to my mom, "Mom, I can't do this. Mom, I don't know what to do. I don't know what to do."

This would be the first grandchild in the family on both sides so everyone was beyond elated. This would be the first grandchild for both sides of the family. A little prince or princess, no doubt. But why couldn't I be happy? Why did I not want this?

So let's rewind just a little. One month prior to all this excitement, Michael's grandfather, Lou Caney, aka Grampy, was diagnosed with cancer of EVERYTHING. The best way you could describe him was the Godfather of the family. He was a 70 year old retired, Yankee beusiness man with a chip the size of Texas on his shoulder. But you could not help but love him. He cussed like a sailor and smoked like a chimney, but there was just something about him that made you want to work for his affections. He helped to raise my husband after Michael's own dad died and I even considered him my own grandfather. So when he was diagnosed with horrible cancer, the family seemed to fall apart and go into panic mode. He was a cranky and stubborn old man who had lived a very full life. He made the decision to forego any type of tretment and live out his last few days or weeks to the fullest. We received his diagnosis late October. The doctors told us it would be the last holiday season with him. "He should make it to Thanksgiving but more than likely won't make it to Christmas," they informed us.

Thanksgiving was okay. He was not great. You could tell the cancer was starting to consume his body as he would pick himself up off the couch to go outside to smoke by the turkey fryer.  He didn't eat as much pie as normal. And the man loved pie. It was ominous us all knowing that he probably would be gone in just a couple of weeks.

Well one week after Thanksgiving was when I peed on that awful stick. He was first on Michael's list of drunk dials and he was just over the moon!!! Within two days he decided that he WOULD do the cancer treatment!! He decided he would do anything and everything he could to see the face of his great-grandchild.

So here we are. I am approx 6 week preggo. Michael and I have been married 6 months. Grampy has terminal cancer of everything. I've been at my job teaching 5th grade science for only half a year. None of my close friends have had kids yet and only one is even married. Oh and to add to that my marriage sucks. Like really. It is nothing like how I expected it to be, he is still partying it up every weekend while I sit and wait for him to suck it up and be the perfect Bed Bath and Beyond frequenting husband I expected him to be. His top priorites were climing the career ladder at work and still making it home alive from happy hour. Oh and fitting in time with his cancer ridden angry Grampy. I had a picture in my head of how I thought the picture perfect marriage should look and this was not it.

I was beyond miserable. I felt completely alone. When you were the first of your friends to get preggo, the others are happy, but nobody really 'gets it', you know? There was nobody else in that secret mommy club that I could talk to about hormones and Taco Bell cravings. My job was good and they were supportive that I would be leaving at the end of the year to stay at home. But there was a girl who I worked closely with and she'd been struggling with infertility. A close friend of hers asked me *nicely* if I could not talk too much about being pregnant since it was a touchy issue with the other girl. So I had nobody. I couldn't be happy at work. My friends had no clue. My husband was spreading his wings a far as he could in response to growing up that he felt was placed upon him without his consent. When I was around his family, I felt like an incubator-- like my soul purpose was just to carry this blessed baby. None of them asked or cared about me. It was all about the baby. My parents were great, but my sweet mom was working full time at night, and so my time with her was limited. And I surely didn't feel like I could talk to Jesus about all this. In my mind and in my wrong theology at that point in life, I had clearly done something wrong to get myself into this situation.

So I prayed. I started praying that God would take this baby back. I prayed that God would end this baby's life then I could have my own life back. I could leave my husband who was so consumed with everything else in his life. I could do whatever I wanted that didn't involve this baby. I prayed daily for that almost every single day of my first trimester. Once that first trimester was over, I knew my chances of miscarriage were pretty slim. So I did what I always do-- I figured it out. I made choice in my heart that if I had to have this baby I was going to do it right and figure out how to make it easy on myself. I was already planning my 'pump & dump' method and weekends with grandparents so I could back to my own social life ASAP.

I figured out a way to tell people at work I wouldn't be returning. I figured out a way to deal with my husband who was scared of growing up and scared of losing his grandfather. I figured out a way to try to still be the same girl with my friends. I figured out a way to not show any excitement at work. I figured out a way to grow this baby that our families wanted and I didn't. I figured out I would just figure it out once he got here.

Why oh why would Jesus do this me???? Why would he do something that would leave me feeling so completely alone?  I just put my nose in the wind and figured out how to be pregnant and look happy about it and that seemed to satisfy everyone.

The pregnancy came and went. It was pretty uneventful. Nothing crazy. Oh I did have a couple baby showers. Both were alcohol infused parties with nothing really special for this baby I was growing. I am not dogging my friends in any shape or way. This was all we fresh college kids knew as means to celebrate.

Grampy hung on and faught for his life. Mikey was due August 8. Grampy was pretty much healed as of late May. But something happened a few days later and he took a turn for the worse. We had the "there's nothing more we can do" conversation. He came home early June and died just after Father's Day. My last memory of him was sitting on the side of his bed, him unable to speak, but placing his hand on my belly to feel his greatgrandchild kick. This was the reason he had faught to stay alive and had chosen to allow treatment that would make him sick, skinny, and bald. He had to make it to see this baby boy.  No.
All this fighting for the past 7 months was for nothing.

So now my pseudo-grandfather is gone. My husband has to deal with losing a father figure. And now, 6 weeks prior to my due date, I am feeling even more alone with this thing in my body.

With some ups and downs, mostly downs, we made it thourgh the rest of the pregnancy. We agreed on an induction date of July 31. I wanted this thing of me as soon as possible so I could figure out the next step.

I won't retell my birth story. Long story short it was just a long long induction and I refused to give up and have a C-section. Part of that was to spite Grampy. He kept telling me I should elect a C-section because it was easier on the baby. I flat out refused one just to spite him. This was about me. Me and this thing inside me. Finally, 22 hours after induction at about 5 am, I had myself a baby. I handed him off ASAP so I could sleep. Just as I got comfortable, around 7 am a pediatrician and a nurse came in with my baby. "What the heck? What more do yall want" I thought. I just had this thing now take him away so I can sleep.

That first day was a whirlwind. Nurses in and out trying to teach me to breastfeed. I wouldn't say that I had a desire to breastfeed. I just had a desire to figure things out and do them the "right" way. That's what women did and so that's what I was going to do. Lots of visitors in and out. All the fam and all the kidless friends wanting to see my new puppy. I was scared to hold him anyway so I was fine having everyone else take their turn. They were keeping my mind off of what was really going on.

Nightime came and I sent my husband home to sleep in an actual bed...

On a sidenote, I always get a lot of slack for this from my girlfriends for this. I've done that with all three kids. We live approx 5 miles from the hospital. To me, there is no sense in both of us being stuck at the hospital and tired. I would much rather him be rested and fresh so that he can be referee during the day. I also don't keep the baby in the room with me during bed time. I need some sleep before I get home to sleepness nights.

I drifted off to sleep to be awakened at 2am by the night nurse telling me my baby was hungry. Grrrrrr. So I roused up, took over the little bundle from her and proceeded to feed my baby. Wow. "MY BABY". For the first time in the almost twenty four hours that he had been alive, it was my first time to be 100% completely alone with him and the first time that I aknowledged that he was mine. All mine. THIS was my baby. This was my destiny. This was what I created for.

I looked down at the precious face and the tears just started flowing, ugly cry style. I spoke out loud to my precious boy telling him how perfect and precious he was.  Sobbing and stroking his tiny face, I told him I was so very sorry that I had not wanted him. I told him I was so sorry I had ever imagined a world without him. I completely fell apart and humbled myself before my baby and before the Lord. I repented to God for all the feelings of discontent I had felt over Him choosing the time to give me my first child. I repented for selfishly wishing away my pregnancy so that I could go on about my life. I knew after that special 2am feeding that I could do this. God had chosen this. God created this all in His perfect timing and He would not give me anything I couldn't handle. My life was not MY life. It was God's that he was allowing me to have.

Michael and I look back on that time in our lives and we know now that God was at work behind every single second of it. We know that the promise and hope of a great grandchild gave Grampy a new lease on life and it gave everyone here on earth just a few more months to be with him. It gave him the chance to go out with a fight, which is really the only way he would've settled for anyway.

And Michael Jr.'s birth gave Michael and I a reason to stay together. Yes, it is terrible for us to say that. But we both know it's true. We had some major difficulties early in our marriage and we had both brought up the "D" word several times. With a kid, there was no turning back. We had no choice but to figure it out. We both, in our hearts, desired to live out God's plan for our lives. God just decided to step in and make some decisions for us because clearly the ones we were making were just getting us into trouble. We have shared before in our Marriage Series post that we have had our ups and downs, especially at the beginning. And as I edit this post one last time before publishing, I realize that I make my husband out to be a big, mean, angry, drunk. That is not the whole story-- only the part that my self absorbed pregnant self remembered. In the seven years that have gone by since then, we continue to grow with each other and more importantly in Christ. We were young, immature parents who were both scared out of our minds. God gave us this special little boy to start the path of where we are headed as a family serving God first.

And Mikey, my sweet Darling Deuce.  If you have ever spent any time with him, you know that he is so charming. Adults and kids alike love him. They always have. Just this morning, a lady at church who he has only known for a couple of months told me that she had a soft spot for him in her heart. He is so fun to be around. I remember dropping him off for preschool- often late with 2 other kids in tow- and the entire class looking up and cheering that he had arrived. I pick him up from school in the afternoons and all the kids wave and speak to him. Oh, and the girls. Don't get me started on the girls. We already have them giggling at cafeteria tables pointing at him and showing up at our front door in their swimsuits.

He always gets complimented on being handsome.  He is just as beautiful inside as he is out though. He genuinely cares about people's feelings. He has almost a 6th sense for what other's are feeling.  He is THE most amazing big brother. He adores his little brothers and is an excellent teacher and leader to them. I could sit and watch him read them books all day.  And the boy loves him some Jesus!!! WooHoo! To listen to a little boy pray over a meal and tell the Lord "Thank you for loving us, thank you for dying for us so we can be with you forever, thank you for saving us", oh my, that makes my heart gooey almost daily.

My prayer for him is that he would view himself the way God sees him. I pray that he would grow to serve God first and the world last. I pray that he knows how special he is and how that God used him, this tiny little baby, to change the direction of this family and the lives of so many.

So I write this, not knowing exactly how to end except to say that I pray for you. I pray for any hardship, trial, or trench that the Lord may have put you in, Know that the Lord does not create any bad thing. Everything from Him is good. It may not look like it to you at the time. It may not look like it to you next week or next year. But one day, I promise, you will look down at what you thought was a problem and sob and thank Jesus for it. He gives us those 'problems' only so He can show off how awesome He is by carrying us through it. Then we look up at the end and realize He has been there all along. He gave us this. He created us and this to glorify Him. If everything turned out the way we thought we wanted it, we would never have the opportunity to cry out to the Lord for anything. We would never turn our hearts to Him. And that is all He really wants.

The internet is forever. I know this is true. And my sweet boy can read. Michael and I both desire to be completely transparent with our children about our mistakes and our sins. We feel this is the best way to learn. One day, we will have this talk with him. I will tell him my heart and how in my brokenness, I selfishly did not want him. But then I will tell him how God used him and chose him to break me and my selfish ways. I will tell him how his Grampy fought with every fiber to live and meet him. I will tell him how his mommy & daddy are together, so in love, and have learned to lean on each other with God through even the hardest circumstances. Those are the things that he will carry in his heart.

So friends I leave you with this---->

(from The Message version of the Bible)
2-4 Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

16-18 So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.

July 25, 2013

Lincoln/Fuzz/Lincster Happy 4th Birthday

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
Phillipians 2:12-16    

Wow. I started looking through pics to make Lincoln his own special birthday post and it was so hard to narrow them down. So I apologize in advance for the "Lincoln Show".
 9 months
    From the time I got pregnant with my special little ginger, I knew he was something different. I've mentioned before that my pregnancies with both the oldest (Michael) and the youngest (Knox) were both unplanned surprises, but Lincoln was one we really had to work for. We started trying for a second baby in June of 2008. Since my pregnancy with Michael Jr had occurred so spontaneously, we thought for sure that we be the case for this one as well. Nope.
I think this is my fave pic of him ever!! Love this hair. 
   Two months passed. I was not pregnant yet. I was beginning to obsess about it. I thought for sure there was something wrong with me since we had conceived Michael Jr so easily and unknowing.  I started taking my temperature everyday before I got out of bed and going through ovulation tests purchased from eBay like clean underwear. Yes, looking back and talking with friends who deal with true infertinliy I know that I was just being crazy. But I wanted to control this. You know?  With my lack of control of getting preggo with Michael jr, I made it my mission to control every single aspect of his infancy-- his sleep, his eating, his moods, etc. I was determined to keep that control with this next (hopeful) pregnancy. I wanted 2 kids, 2 boys to be exact, and I wanted them exactly 2.5 years apart. So when I didn't get preggo that first month, I was mad. So from August to October, getting pregnant and collecting data to get pregnant consumed me.   Like the above Proverb says-- I was super guilty of leaning on my own understanding. I failed to surrender to the Lord's plan and that did nothing but cause me stress and guilt.  Why do we this to ourselves? It's because we often forget that God has no surprises. He already has it all figured out. Sometimes he's just waiting on us to realize that.
18 months
     Finally, sometime in late October, I had a talk with my dad. He told me that I needed to relax and stop trying to control it and I would get pregnant when I was supposed to. Never mind that he had already told me this several times. But for some reason, this time I listened. I stopped peeing on that expensive paper. I stopped looking at the calendar. I stopped putting pressure on my husband.

    On November 25, 2008, my husband's 27th birthday, I finally got that + sign I had been praying for. And to boot I wrapped up that little magic stick and gave it to him as a gift! So lesson learned #1-- Stop trying to control things that are out of your control. Give it to God and he will come through when He is ready.

     Other than my horror movie worthy varicose veins, my pregnancy this time was pretty uneventful. I had some anxiety about opening my heart to another child and I was nervous about how he would rock my control boat, but other than that, it was pretty blah.

We call this our "Jean Model Photo Shoot"

    He was due August 3, 2009. Awesome (insert sarcastic face), Mikey's birthday was August 1. I didn't want the chance of them having the same birthday, so I agreed to an induction on July 28. I've posted my labor thoughs and issues here  in case you want to read those. Around 6:30-- right before shift change, Linc decided to make his appearance. I slept through most of the labor (highly drugged) and after 2 pushes, out came this tiny hairy guy. The first thing out of my mouth was "How big is he?" After gaining around 30 lbs all of us mommas pride ourselves in producing a big baby!
   They said, "Six pounds, twelve ounces."
   My response was, "That's all?!?!?!"
About 1 hour old
     I could smack myself still to this day for those being the first words out of my mouth about my new baby boy. Really??? As if he wasn't good enough right from the start. I have repented over and over again for those harsh words about my new baby.

   I'm weird, I don't like to hold my babies until they are clean from all the blood and guts. So once he was clean, they handed him over. Oh my heavens. THE most beautiful thing I had ever seen. He had this precious little tiny man face and head full of dark maroon hair. Us mommas also pride ourselves in having hairy babies! Michael and I could tell in those first few hours of his life, that our little Linc was different from his brother and so very special

1 Day Old. How much do you love that hair and those tiny hands?
   I've shared in this post about my struggles with PPD after having a second baby. I've also shared that it was Linc who really began to break that idol I have called control. From feeding to sleeping to everything in between, Lincoln was, well, he was difficult. He didn't want to be held, he didn't want to sleep more than 2 hours, he didn't want to nurse long, he didn't want to do anything that all the perfect babies should do. Finally, around six weeks, I quit trying to mold him the way I molded his older brother and I started tuning in to him and noticing his cues as a baby, not just making him do what I thought he should. I finally started to peel off my clenched on layers of control and figuring it all out and giving it to God. I stated Phillipians at the beginning of this post. We are to obey, even when we feel a lack of His presence.  We are to do everything without grumbling and complaining. Even if that means getting up every 1.5 hours at night and holding a crying baby during the colicky witching hour for days upon days.  When we want to hang our head and give up, that is when He really is carrying us the most. I saw this quote one time that said "Even when we are face down on our knees, we can look up and there is the face of Jesus". So true. He was working in me. Preparing me and softening me.

Those lips!

this is still THE blankie

    It was almost daily with Lincoln, the Lord revealed just a little more of himself to me by peeling back another layer of my hard exterior. Michael and I are big fans of the early writings of Martin Luther. He is hilarious if you are into that old English sort of thing. He writes about how the purpose of our children is to sanctify us (i.e. grow us closer to God). God gives us these children to test us and teach us lessons. And my sweet lil firecracker has never stopped doing just that. I wrote a post about him just the other day.  He continues to challenge us daily. He is almost too smart for his own good.

1st brother photo

1st Birthday. His big cake had a Paul Frank monkey with red hair!
     But we adore him. He is so stinking funny! He has this crazy imagination. He is so smart! Yes, all parents say this about their kids, I know. But Linc was one of those kids who was talking in full sentences by his 1st birthday and knew all his colors, animals, and body parts by 18 mos. Poor Knox is 17 mos and still has no clue where his nose is. Lincoln is that true 'spirited' child in every sense of the word.  He is always on fire! And not in the hyperactive sense of the word, he is just always busy in his head.
3 months

   His teachers and peers either love him to death or really dislike him. There isn't really an in between. If you love him, it's because you get his quirks and individuality. It's because you get that he walks to his own beat. It's because you too understand that God is totally in control and so he makes us all in his image. As far as affection goes, Linc is more like a cat. You really have to work for it.  Just like how we had to work so hard to conceive him and how I had to work so hard to figure him out as a baby. The other two are pretty free with their love and hugs. Not Linc, he makes you work for it. Oh, but when he gives is and deems you worthy of his affection, how sweet it is. A hug and "I Wuv You" from Linc would make a statue crumble. Almost daily he looks up at me and softly says "I wuv you mommy. You are the prettiest princess". Tear!!!!

First and only Caney boy so far to go to ER with head wound and blood gushing!

    I am just madly in love with this little gingersnap of my own. Happy 4th Birthday to my awesome Lincoln!!!

3rd birthday
   It was Linc that God gave me in His own time to teach me that nothing is about me, it is all about Him. He gives us everything in his own timely manner.

Turtle Power

4th Birthday Pancakes

July 23, 2013

Oh, Did I Forget To Tell You He Quit???

Darling Deuce & Hot Husband. Love him entirely. (and P.S. my hair looks awesome here)

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
Matthew 6:26    

    So it occurred to me today while writing my last post, that there is in fact something big going on with my family that I haven't made public in this venue yet. And my true heart of this blog is to share everything on my heart with you, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Here goes.
   So awesome hot husband quit his job! Yep! It's been 6 weeks now. We didn't like make a public announcement or anything, but I did realize today that I am still shocking people with this news that I accept now as common knowledge.

Deuceman & Daddy

The Story
   If you have ever spent any time with Michael, you know that he is so very gifted in many ways. He is the most business and people savvy person I have ever met. He just has this sixth sense almost in regards to people. Two months before he graduated from college, way back on 2004, he was recruited by a transportation brokerage to come and work in sales. He went straight to work.  He always knew he had a future in sales, but I don't think he knew he would rise to the top so quickly and I'm pretty sure he wasn't aware it would involve trucks and flatbeds.

He's what I like to call a "figure it out" kinda guy. They threw him in making calls and he immediately starting breaking records and growing his business. Within 6 years they made him the youngest sales manager in company history at the age of 28. So long story short, after that, he started suffering from some burnout. He was spending all his heart, time, and effort at work. He was making great money, but one thing I love about my husband, is that it's not all about the money for him.

He's got the whole Jerry McGuire thing going on. He is more worried about the heartbeat and pulse of the organization and its members. His passion lies within training, teaching, and mentoring. And because he possesses such fabulous communication skills, he is excellent at this.

About two years ago, we prayed and prayed and prayed some more and we both had confirmation that he was to go to his boss and resign the company. The way his company was designed, there was no room to grow vertically from where he was. There was nothing he could do besides just make more money. So in December in 2011, he walked in to his office, shared his desires with his boss and CEO and quit. Much to our surprise, his boss basically counter offered him and told him he could create the position he wished to have as long as he would stay.

That was 18 months ago. In that 18 months, Michael trained, recruited, mentored, coached, and tried his hardest to change the heart and core values of his company. After 18 months of faithfully being obedient, we prayed and both agreed that it was time to go.  We have been praying about this off and on over those 18 months. It was not out of the blue (for us) and it's something we felt completely at peace about.  So just like that, on June 17th, he sent in a letter of final resignation, had a meeting with his owners the next morning, then was home by lunch, missing a heavy weight from his chest and ready to start the next chapter of our lives.

Lincster & Daddy
    So why did he go, you ask? The easiest and best way to describe it was that he had done all he could do and put in everything he could. At the young age of 31, he had topped out as high as he could climb at that organization. At 31 he is in his working prime still and so capable of so much more on the horizon. And at 31, he was facing what looked like a way-too-early mid life crisis. Way too early for burnout, we decided. It was time for rest.
    It's funny. As the wife, I didn't expect the jaw dropping reactions to this when I have shared the news with girlfriends, acquaintances, etc.  They all get wide eyed and the first thing they ask is "What is he gonna do?" and the next thing is "Are you guys okay?" And by okay, they are asking it one of two ways. 1. Are you going to be financially okay? 2. Are you okay in your marriage about this. And my answer to both of those questions is Yes and Yes.

Call me crazy and call me naive, but I do believe God will be faithful to his promises in all areas.  We have been faithful to tithe our earnings and faithful to save a stash for if they this day came. As for our marriage, it's been a learning experience for all of us. For me, it's been learning how to go on about my business as his wife and the mommy of these boys, regardless of what is thrown in our path of sanctification. For him, it's learning actually how and what rest looks like and how to have time to take care of his own spiritual and emotional needs so he can better lead our family to love and serve God first.
Knoximus & Daddy

    I referenced Matthew 6:26 above. Separately, the Lord gave us each this verse in regards to praying to about Michael leaving his job. Over and over again in the Bible, our God promises rest, provision, and hope. We know that God is so much bigger than his job, our family, and anything else here that is temporary. We are here for more. There is a bigger kingdom we serve and it has no end. It is because of Jesus work on the cross that we do not have to live suffering to keep up with stuff, titles, and egos. Rather we live here on mission glorifying God to be a part of the restoration of all things, and to steward our time, talent and treasure well. And that promise is worth more than any paycheck, title, or status. We are not to worry. We are to believe and trust in Him. Nothing is a surprise for our big God.

   As for the "What's he going to do" question, we are still not exactly sure the next vocational path for our family. Like I mentioned earlier, Michael is extremely gifted at what he does, and so he already has potential things in the kindling fire. Who knows where God will take us. It's actually kind of fun not knowing and not having it all figured out.
    So that was 6 weeks ago that he quit. We are still learning everyday. We are learning about faith and what it truly looks like to 'live on faith'. It's amazing to feel so protected and blessed by our Father above.  Whatever you may be going through, whatever you need release from, know that God has it. Know that He knew it all before it ever started and He will never fail to show up.
A few more verses we are living by....

Hebrews 13:5-- Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Jeremiah 29:11-- For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Matthew 11:28-- Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

2 Cor 9:8-11-- And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.

Romans 11:29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

Dj Lance, Jace from Duck Dynasty, & The Mad Hatter

July 21, 2013

Sibling Rivalry HELP?!?!?!?!

     So I've pretty silent on the blog for a couple weeks. Nothing crazy is going on right now. Just summer, boys, curing boredom.... you know, the norm. But there is something going on in our family and in our hearts that has been hurting and straining the family almost for 2 years now.  In my obedience and desire to be transparent with all that is going on with us, I wanted to share this burden in our hearts.
   We have a major issue of sibling rivalry in our home.  Lincoln despises Knox. It started pretty much as soon as I found out I was pregnant with Knox. I'm not talking sibling rivalry like they will play together then fuss then hug it out, like most. I mean that Lincoln cannot stand to look at, hear, or even be in the same room as Knox.

Lincoln- Spring 2013
    We started talking about having a baby to the kids as soon as we found out we were pregnant with Knox, now 2 years ago. Mikey, age 5 then, was over the moon excited to be a big brother again. Lincoln, age 2 then, wanted no part of any discussion about the baby. Everyone around him would ask, "Are you getting a baby brother?" He would reply, "NO baby. No baby!" We all kind of laughed it off and just hoped he would get better closer to Knox's arrival.
    Then once sweet Knox arrived, even right in the hospital, Lincoln wanted nothing to do with him. You can see in this photo below that Lincoln would not even stand close enough in the hospital to take a picture. That redhead in the far left corner is him looking away from the baby.

   Knox is now 17 months and Lincoln is almost 4. And as these 17 months have quickly passed, Lincoln's hostility towards Knox continues to grow.  He can't stand for Knox to be in the same room as him. He gets angry if he has to sit within view of Knox at dinner.  At least three times a day Lincoln is physically violent with Knox- either hitting, pushing, shoving, etc. Knox wants so badly to play with him.  So he continues to try and Lincoln continues to resist. Because Michael went to Kinder this year, there were many times when Lincoln and Knox were both home with me all day.  It made for such a difficult environment at home. Lincoln tells everyone that Knox is not his brother and he doesn't want him in the family. Anytime we are all trying to get ready to go somewhere, we have to keep them separated to avoid problems.  Just this morning, for example, we were all trying to get ready for church when Knox wanted to play with Lincoln and Lincoln just kept being mean and pushing him away. To avoid drama, my husband took the big boys and went to Starbucks so I could get ready in peace. This is not how we want to deal with things. We don't think we should have to separate. It's our desire that all our boys would love each other with the binding love of Christ.  In 17 months, there has never been one time when Lincoln actually acknowledged Knox as his brother or showed any kindness to him without being told to and this breaks Michael and I daily. 
    Yes, I know all siblings fight. But this is not your normal sibling argument. You can see the deep hatred and animosity in Lincoln towards Knox. You can feel the tension when they are in the same place. This is not normal stuff. There is for sure a spirit of oppression on my precious boy's heart. 

Seriously??? How could you hate this face??
    This. is. heartbreaking. At this point, we feel like we have tried everything. Over the last few months we've buckled down on our discipline and follow a pretty strict first time obedience plan as described in books like Shepherding a Child's Heart and Growing Kids God's Way. And poor Linc gets disciplined so much. We have tried talking to him. We are going after his heart. We have tried giving him frequent one on one time with both me and Michael as well as Michael, Jr in effort to help him feel important and loved by all of us. We have prayed and prayed. We have prayed for chains of anger in Lincoln to be loosed. We have prayed that the Spirit would move in him and help him to love his brother.  We have prayed that the hardness and anger in his heart would be softened. We have repented of our own generational iniquities with our siblings. Michael has a rocky, up and down relationship with his younger brother. I have not been on speaking terms with mine for almost 4 years. So I feel Knox's pain and discontent of trying so hard to reach out only to be pushed away. 

  So bloggie family-- this is us, putting up our hands. We have no idea what to do. We continue to give this to God but we would love to hear guidance, suggestions, and stuff that worked in your families??? If nothing else, just you saying you will agree with us in prayer for our precious boys.  Help!!! 

Knox is strategically placed where Lincoln can't see him. 

Leave us some advice, comments, etc in the comments below!

July 11, 2013

Book Review: The Organized Heart by Staci Eastin

I seriously have read more books over the past six months than I have in my entire adult post-college life. I'm totally not toot-tooting my horn, just something in my spirit has been yearning for truth and growth. Also, the beauty of being in a weekly Bible Study or something like it, is that it keeps you accountable to reading it so that you don't end up being the girl who didn't do her homework. I thank my AP English teacher for instilling that in me.

I recently read Staci Eastin's The Organized Heart. It's put out my a publishing company called Cruciform Press. I did a little googling and found out that Cruciform Press releases one book every month that is concise, yet so very gospel and Cross centered. So many books out there are 250+ pages. Ain't nobody got time for that! And most of those pages are fluff that only mention God once every other page. Not these books by Cruciform Press. They are straightforward and to the point about Christ.

Organized Heart: A Woman's Guide to Conquering Chaos. Just the title sends the listmaker in me into a tizzy! What is it about women and organization? If we have it, we are stellar at it and even offer it out to people. Or if you are like me and don't have it, you read and Pin and re-Pin everything you can about it. I keep thinking that every time I pin one of these "Organize Your Life in 31 Days" articles that something magic is going to occur and I will all of a sudden be organized and carefree. Wrong. I just keep trying and doing and going nowhere. I have planners and lists and schedule templates galore, but still at the end of the day I feel like my day didn't run as smoothly as I would have liked, or I spent too much time on one thing and too little on another. Know the feeling?

If you've been reading me for awhile, you know that we recently switched churches. We went from a large mega-church to a tiny 50 member church plant. In the short two months that we've been attending, we have already met some awesome folks. One of them gave me this book. She said her husband gave it to her for Mother's Day and it was so good that she ordered a bunch and just started handing them out to ladies at church. After reading it, I know why.

She gave it to me on the Sunday just after school had gotten out and I was about to start summer with my three boys at home. I thought, "Oh just what I need, another magic book on organization." **insert eye roll**The next day was our first swim lesson. I tossed the book into the swim bag thinking I would possibly take a look at it while the kids were swimming. I'm not sure if my intentions were sincere because in His awesome sovereignty, during breaktime from lessons, one of my little darlings spilled an entire red sports drink on the untouched 'organization and conquering chaos' book. Yes, God does have a sense of humor.

Well thanks for that God. Now I have to read it. So once it was dry, three days later, I started reading it. and I couldn't. Put. It. Down. I love a book that exposes my own sin and idolatry. And this one does just that. There are chapters addressing the following:

Wow!! Ladies--- this is not a checklist, or a daily task list to get things in order in your home. This book goes after the root of your chaos-- your heart. It identifies idols, exposes fears and sin, and brings it all back to Jesus. We create chaos and clutter by trying too hard and over-filling our calendar. We are gluttons for acquiring 'things' and have no way to decipher the difference between spiritual rest and leisure.

My sweet friend could not have given me this book at a better time. With summer and three boys on the horizon, I was feeling a little overwhelemd. But reading this gave me some insight and some persective. It gave me a chance to repent of some things like my desire to please others and my love of having things. If you read my last post, it really helped hone in my desire to serve a friend rather than trying to please.
This is a must-read for all. Even men!
I love feedback! Have you ever read this book? Or any others similar?


July 5, 2013

Sweet Southern Baby Shower

  A Sweet Southern Baby Shower for a Sweet Southern Momma

 I haven't had a chance to blog and write lately with the hustle and bustle of 3 kids and a husband at home this summer. Last weekend, I hosted a baby shower for one of my most dear and precious friends.

It's no secret that I love crafting and fabric and making pretty things. And like any other girl, when I am given the task of planning a party my thoughts immediately start colliding and I begin seeing chevrons, printables, and color coordinated foods in my sleep.  This  whole things can be time-consuming and messy. Dinner is delayed because there are piles of punched scalloped circles all over the table. My kids know first hand what it feels like to have a hot-glue gun burn.  My husband can tell you the difference between a bunting and a tissue pom pom. Ya'll know what I'm talking about. Ladies we LOVE this stuff. Why? Because, ultimately we love ourselves and our own glory. OUCH!  Yes, that's right. Why on earth would we put ourselves and our families for this? It's so that we can put all these awesome pics up on Facebook and Instagram and pray for a billion re-Pins. It's so everyone at the event and those who weren't can say "Oh wow, you did awesome."  It's so other moms can think "Gosh, I wish I had time/creativity/energy to do that kind of thing." So we take on a task, look at how others have done it, and try our hardest to do it better. And where does that get us? Further away from Jesus and more in love with the idol of ourselves.

I've been reading this book a sweet friend gave me called The Organized Heart- A Woman's Guide to Conquering Chaos by Staci Eastin. Wow, it has given me such a new perspective on the tasks I choose (and don't choose) to undertake. She has a whole chapter on busyness. Women take on so many tasks and activities, often completing them feeling drained and exhausted. Our families and God get our leftovers because we have said "yes" to so many things. And while we may say that we find joy in making people happy, we ultimately seek praise and a good reputation from others. This is called the Fear of Man. When the intentions of the heart care more about pleasing others rather than pleasing God, this is the fear of man. And it is exhausting. Ladies, we all do it at some point. We even do it with church activities. We think that because it involves God, it's okay to say "yes". And really we are just saying "yes" because we are afraid to say "no". Sound familiar? On pg 41 of The Organized Heart she says, "God is not glorified in the amount of things we get done, the number of spaces we fill on our calendars, or the length of our to-do lists. God is pleased when we serve him with a sincere heart." In your tasks and business and all the awesomeness you post of Facebook--- is it to fulfill the chief end of man, which is to glorify God?

So I preface this post about a baby shower with that for this reason-----> I am just as guilty as the next, except for in this specific situation. I have said before that God has really been working on teaching me to serve over the past few years. A year or two ago I would have spent time, money, and effort pouring into a party or baby shower just hoping and praying that everyone will think it looks great. I would have turned on the TV too much for my kids during the day and left my husband alone on the couch at night all so I could work work work on baby shower stuff. And at the end of the day-- who suffered? All of us. At the end of the day, did any of it glorify the Lord? That is one reason I had to quit my Darling Deuce business. My family was suffering and so was I. What had started as a small business where I had time to pray over each piece of clothing as I made it for a special child turned into a stressful, life-consuming mess.  When I found out my precious friend Mandy was having a second baby, I immediately started planning the perfect baby shower for her in my head. She is a friend so close to my heart. We are both from the blessed state of Alabama! And she is a sister in Christ for sure. She understand the true meaning of faith and waiting on the Lord. She loves Jesus and prays like nobody's business.  This girl is like your favorite quilt your grandma made, she just makes anybody feel comfortable.

Going into it I prayed that the Lord would use me and my talents to be serving. I prayed that I would not get stressed or in a frenzy. I prayed that I would not neglect God and my family for projects.  The Lord has been showing me that there is true joy in genuine service and I wanted to pursue that true service so that it would glorify Him. Mandy is a detail queen. I am not. But she is, and so I knew that taking extra attention to tiny details would serve and show love to her. So my prayer throughout the process was "God, help me to love and serve my so deserving friend. Not for my own glory and not even for hers. But so that she would feel loved and served and that glorifies you Father." And I am happy to say that I kept my eyes on Him thought everything and never once did I feel exhausted,  stressed, crunched for time, etc. Because I knew that in the end, it was to serve God, and he is happy with us just as we are.

So enjoy the pics! Yes, I would be lying if I said I didn't love the compliments we received on how nice everything was, but what meant the most was seeing my precious friend feel surrounded by love. That is the true gospel folks, loving others more than yourself. And with eyes focused on the Lord, that selfless love glorifies Him.

For those of you who in to this sort of thing, here are the shower details. 

Theme: Sweet Southern
The mom-to-be is from the blessed state of Alabama. She embodies everything that is Southern-- and when I say Southern, I mean truly Southern like Alabama, Georgia, & Mississsippi (sorry Texas). She adores all things shabby chic, classic, and monogram. So I did my best to include all of those things in the details and decor. 
We had the privelege of borrowing space from a precious friend whose in-laws have a 10 acre estate with a gorgeous outdoor pavillion. The rustic setting served as the perfect canvas for the shower. Upon entrance, guests were greeted by a cheery Welcome chalkboard trimmed with a shabby torn fabric banner. Guests were asked to pick a sticker badge that adorned a classic southern saying such as "Lord have mercy" or "Goodness gracious". I think this little detail was one my favorite of the whole party. The mom-to-be probably uses all of these sayings on a daily basis. Stephanie Creekmur is a great paper & print designer/blogger. She has the most adorable southern prints and notecards and all sorts of other fun stuff.  She normally sells these sayings as full page prints, but I told her what I was using them for and she kindly fit them to meet my needs. I think I may need some for my house now. 

The mom-to-be is one of those southern gals that truly believes everything should be monogrammed. I had it in my head that I wanted to make one of those awesome wooden monograms like I've seen on etsy, but after several attempts, every dremel bit imaginable, and a broken scroll saw blade (thanks, mom), I gave up. I may post an actual tutorial on this one that you can see in the photo. It really was super easy and perfect for one time use. It's really just made out of $0.32 posterboard and spray paint.  
I have a friend/sorority sister, Mariah at Giggles Galore,  who does all this party styling prettifying stuff for a living. She has helped me with parties in the past. She was going to style this one for me, but with summer travels it ended up not working out. But I am SO grateful that before leaving town, she did give me a great party plan with some awesome ideas. If you in the need of party planning/styling. She is your girl!! I love the fun things & ideas she comes up with.  In her plan she had suggested using as many reclaimed windows as I could get my hands on. Well, thanks to Pinterest, these things are not as cheap as you'd think. I scoured Craigs List, and most people were asking $30-50 per window. I finally found a lady selling a stash of really junky ones for dirt cheap. Score!!! 
For this cute and simple mantle scene, I adhered the $0.32 posterboard monogram to one of the windows with hot glue. Then trimmed the mantle with another torn fabric banner as well as a super cute & simple carboard bunting. My sweet friend and co-host picked up the pre-cut triangles from Hobby Lobby, stenciled them with a paint pen for baby's name, and strung them together on twine. Ta-da. Cute, cheap, and simple!

All good southern girls love them some biscuits. I had seen some biscuit bar ideas on some wedding sites, but thought it would be great for our shower too. We did the shower mid-morning so the breakfast  part worked perfect. Below is the menu. This is my version of a chalkboard printable. Let me tell you how easy it was to make this cute sign. I designed it using my Silhouette software. I love using the software for designing. It is WAY easier than PSE. I downloaded some cute fonts from I used the following fonts in this order--- JF Ringmaster, Makes You Stronger, Dainty (from Silhouette store) and Ten Thousand Reasons. I had this frame sitting in my office closet that held an 18 x 24. I spray painted using Valspar's La Fonda Mirage from Lowe's. Isn't that a fabulous name for a paint? It's so Napoleon Dynamine. When I designed the poster, I had made the fonts some cute coordinating colors, but when I called Staples to pring it and they wanted $20 for a color print that size vs. $1.99 for a BW, I opted for the BW. Deuceman and I got out the crayons and colored it in to look like chalk. 
This is the spread. In the pavillion there is a 12+ foot buffet counter. We suspended 3 of the vintage windows hanging from a pot rack above the buffet. If there is one thing I have learned from Mariah, it's that a backdrop for your table speak volumes. The windows with torn fabric banners and simple doily buntings made the perfect tablescape for the Biscuit Bar. For height and interest, we used old suitcases and some fun cake plates. My mother, also from Alabama, has a great collection of milk glass. Nothing says "southern" like milk glass! So I used several of her pieces to serve and accent the table. Another co-host, also happened to be from Alabama and had her mother's milk glass bowl. I'm telling ya ladies, Alabama is where it's at! For softness we added crepe myrtles (free!) in mason jars. Biscuit toppings included butter, jams, and Martha Stewart's strawberry butter. It will change your life! 
As for cake, a good southern girl loves a good bundt cake. We are so fortunate to have a Nothing Bundt Cakes store close. Their cakes are SOOOO divine. We chose to serve red velvet and lemon raspberry.  You really haven't lived until you've tried a Nothing Bundt cake. And if cake was not enough, we also served Moon Pies, in mini versions. How cute are they?? Classic mason jars in clear and aqua served as drinking glasses for sweet tea. Paper straws with the baby monogram were a fun touch! Glass bottle coke and Dr. Pepper was also available. On the tables, I was so honored to use my mom's collection of doilies, scarves, and other handmade goodies passed down to her from her mother and aunts. I love the sweet touch those pieces added. 

 The charming rustic wood table didn't need much to make it perfect. We topped it with a simple burlap runner and a crocheted dressed scarf from my mom's collection. For centerpieces we used more (free) crepe myrtle stems in glass vases.  Varied patterns of scrapbook paper served as placemats for each setting. And plates- lets talk about plates. Did you know it cost $1.60 to rent one plate? I knew I wanted a hodge podge, sort of like what you might get at grandma's house. So I went to Frisco Resale, and they had them normally $0.79 each but buy one, get one free. So I think I got 16 plates for less then $8. Score!!! 
We did purchase real fabric napkins. I wasn't in love with them, but they were cheap. I'm not going to link them b/c they were not that great or cute, but they did meet our needs fine. 

Perhaps the most special thing to the mom-to-be was the little place setting card I typed up to honor baby P. I was really pleased with it. I think she is going to have it printed on vinyl for baby's nursery! Soo cute!

We had seen the idea of having a headband decorating craft. Mom-to-be loves bows and headbands for her girls. WE knew she would love having one from every guest at the shower. My sweet friend and co-host took this task on herself, and despite being sick, she got it together and it was perfect! I think the guest and the momma really loved creating a one of a kind piece for baby. 
For favors, the guests all received a bag of biscuit mix. The muslin bags were super cheap and I just used iron on transfer paper to make them look cute. We strung them using clothespins to an old spray painted frame. 

And this is the invitation that inspired it all! A huge shout out to She's Kinda Crafty. I LOVE the way it turned out. It really set the stage for the shower.