A Little Nose and Little Fingers and Toes: Reflections on Becoming a Mother

It’s been a little over a month since our little one made her appearance. How does time pass by so quickly and so slowly at the same time? She’s growing and changing as little babies tend to do. She’s smiling more and trying to coo as we talk to her and make eye contact. How beautiful it is to have a baby.

Although the birth was much more challenging and difficult than George and I had anticipated even with all of our preparation, that moment of finally holding her and looking into her eyes for the first time was one of the most precious moments of my life. She was so alert and looking around like she was trying to take it all in. I felt so relieved to finally be holding her after 33 hours of labor. I had reached a point in labor after hearing a newborn cry down the hall that I began to wonder if my baby would ever come, if the pain would ever end. It was still a while until she finally came, but I’m thankful God gave me strength to endure. I’m also thankful for my wonderful husband who coached me through it all and helped me feel confident that I could do this. He’s continued to care for us both in the weeks which have followed. Our little girl sure does love her daddy and will often stop fussing as soon as he picks her up and starts talking to her.

For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to be a mom. I even dressed up as a mom in kindergarten when we had a “Dress As What You Want to Be When You Grow Up” day. When I did grow up, I struggled with being single as I saw others around me getting married and starting families. I wasn’t sure if it would be God’s will to be a wife and mother, and I had to learn to trust He knew best. All along He was writing a beautiful story and continues to do so while teaching me through it all.

It’s been two years of such big though wonderful changes that sometimes it feels overwhelming. I remember feeling especially overwhelmed at the thought of becoming a mother knowing how important a parent’s role is in shaping a little person’s life as they grow up. I’d just become a wife and now, I was a mother-to-be. How would we know how to raise a little one? The grad student in me wanted to do all the research and read all of the books, but I knew that though I’d find good tips, none of them would tell me what I wanted to know because I need to know who my child is and how best to raise her. God knows best, and He’s given us a sweet little girl to love and raise. If we seek Him, He will show us the way.

There have been some rough times when baby blues have crept in, and I’ve not been sure if I could do this. This especially happens when she’s fussing, and I don’t know what’s wrong. Then, she looks up at me and grins and coos showing her love in her little baby way, and I relax and realize I need to just take it one day at a time. She’s growing and changing and experiencing a lot of firsts, and I know she’ll grow up fast. It’s a sweet though challenging time, and I do cherish her littleness though I often yawn wishing I could also get more sleep.

I can’t say I know much yet about being a mom, but I’ve realized, at the moment, a lot of it just involves love as we care for our little newborn. I began life with George with a new last name to get used to, and now, we have the sweet blessing of getting used to our new names: “Mommy and Daddy”.

Advertisements

Hand in Hand with Jesus

My younger brother and I were recently on a long, fun road trip. We tried to keep a variety of music playing as singing and humming our favorite hymns and songs from musicals usually helps keep us awake and in a cheerful mood (fatigue often plays a big role in our little sibling arguments). As we drove through the mountains of western Pennsylvania, Jesse popped in a CD of hymns recorded at a singing school we have both attended in the past. The hymn “Hand in Hand with Jesus” came on as we went around curves and descended into valleys. I hummed along to the alto as it brought back memories of singing the chorus of this song with friends as a child. How simple life had seemed then.

I sighed thinking of the simple words of the song and realized how often I really do mess up in this area of my life. I’m much like the toddler who will be holding a parent’s hand until she sees something interesting and then wants to let go to run investigate. I have found that sometimes my Heavenly Father does let go long enough for me to learn that He is worth far more than the things of this world no matter how shiny and appealing they seem, while at other times He strongly holds my hand and won’t let go His grasp as I tug and pull wanting to go run see what all the fuss is about. I don’t always understand and in my immature lamb state of mind, I may pout wondering why He won’t let me go look. Sometimes He reveals to me later how He protected me and sometimes He doesn’t reveal why which is all part of the ongoing lesson of learning to place trust in Him above understanding my circumstances.

I felt convicted as I sat there watching the breath-taking scenery fly by and gazed at the winding road before me. I live a busy life, way too busy of a life. I find myself longing for quiet and keep promising myself that one day I’ll be past this and then can sit down and breathe. However, I’m learning how unrealistic that idea is. Quiet and a state of not being busy are not going to be the themes of my life anytime soon. True, I am doing better about making time to just rest and seek sanctuary from it all, but it’s only a small fraction of the time. If I want to truly walk hand in hand with Jesus each day and seek that true peace and quiet only found in Him, I have to make Him my priority now. This is where I struggle because I want Jesus to be my first priority, but looking at my life right now in how I put my schedule together does not necessarily reflect that desire.

Why, oh why am I so often timid about sharing my faith? I started humming the song “Ashamed of Jesus” yesterday and felt convicted knowing that just the day before I had been afraid to say a blessing over my meal in front of others. I struggle in these areas because I am weak. Each sermon I have heard lately and even providentially the Scriptures I frequently see quoted keep pointing me to Christ and convicting me. I am not strong because I’m not properly seeking His nourishment first thing each day and clinging to Him in everyday life.

“Hand in hand we walk each day, Hand in hand along the way; Walking thus, I cannot stray, Hand in hand with Jesus.”

By His grace, I want to do better each day. There is a reason He tells us in the Psalms, particularly in Psalm 46 to “Be still, and know that I am God” since being still is not our natural inclination as dumb sheep who are so easily lured away from the Shepherd. I hear Him whispering to me to be still and trust Him through reading and hearing the preaching of His Word. I need to listen.

A simple chorus of a song that can be easily memorized by a child can so very often make a profound impression when the Spirit brings it back to mind when that child becomes an adult. May we all recommit our lives to Him and walk hand in hand with Him each day.

A Package and a Full Heart

Sometimes things happen in life, and we don’t have an answer. The last couple of months have been quite a time of testing in this area for me. I’m not one who typically enjoys a whole lot of attention, but this whole situation being as it is has opened quite a need for prayer. Nearly two months after the incident that caused my left side to go weak, I’m still dealing with that left side not being back to normal. Tests so far haven’t shown anything. I’ve been left with the advice to avoid stress and to have more tests run. Today I was having another test run. Yet, it was one of those days when things out of my control just went wrong causing me to show up late for the appointment. This didn’t exactly help my stress level.

Thankfully, they still were able to run the test, and it went fine though I don’t know the results yet. There were no needles involved, so that always makes things easier for me. The lady running the test was quite cheerful and chatty too which made things go smoother. She wanted to know all about Texas once I told her that that was where I was from. Heart echos are pretty fascinating, I must say. I’d never actually looked at my heart before and found myself glued to the screen watching it pump. God is so amazing in how He has designed us!

I made it home a little later feeling tired after the stress of the day and still wishing I knew something while at the same time fearing to know something. I have another appointment later this week to go over results from a bunch of other tests that have been run. It’s been quite a road to travel this summer going through all of this and often feeling alone so far away from family though I know I’m definitely not alone.

As mentioned earlier, I’m not one for a while lot of attention since I’m what one might term an introvert. After all of this happened, word about my situation spread very quickly literally across the country. It has been humbling to know so many are praying, are concerned, and are lifting this situation up to the throne of grace. It has been hard being away from family and still quite a drive from my home church as I’ve gone through this. However, I have been absolutely amazed to see how the Lord has worked so far in providing for me when I’ve had a need and in laying it upon the heart of a friend or family member to call me and cheer me up when I’ve reached some low points.

Today, I wasn’t exactly at a low point, but I was wondering in the back of my mind just how long this weakness was going to continue. There was a package waiting for me in the mailbox when I got home from the doctor’s office this afternoon.

When I opened it, I felt so overcome with emotion for this is what I found:

Cards

A very dear friend of mine arranged for a large number of our dear friends (some of whom I know read this blog) to write letters and sign get well cards to send me in one big package. She wanted to do something after I was so discouraged by not knowing what the problem was when I wanted an answer so badly about a month ago. She decided that flooding my mailbox with love was the best thing to do. She was right! Tears came to my eyes as I read the dear notes and the scriptures the various dear ones had written.

My heart feels so full at the moment. I wish I could hug each of you who sent a note or signed a card. This really did lift me up, and I feel overwhelmed by love.

Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. Eph. 3:13-21

Thank you for showing me His love, my dear family in Christ!

When It Rains

What seemed like never-ending snow has now turned into drenching April showers. It is indeed nice to get a break from the insanely cold weather. Looks like spring just might be on its way. I must say, Indiana weather has really thrown me for a loop.

When I was little, I used to love to jump in puddles and get wet and see the splashing water. Yet, this morning I was dodging puddles trying to get to the bus stop sign as the rain poured, the wind howled, and the thunder and lightening kept breaking above me. My umbrella was fairly useless, and despite my efforts, I was drenched by the time I got to the bus stop. I then realized that I was standing next to a sign that was the tallest thing in the closest vicinity. I took one step away from it instinctively while realizing that it would probably do very little good if it was actually struck by lightning, so I just started praying that I’d be spared and that the bus would hurry up and arrive. A few other drenched students joined me as we waited shivering hoping the bus would come. Finally, it came and we all scrambled in squeaking and slipping about as we did to begin quite a wet day at school.

singin-in-the-rain-1It didn’t seem like morning. It seemed more like evening, the clouds were so dark. The rain poured and poured and poured. I wondered how anyone would ever want to dance and sing in this stuff. Gene Kelley’s image went across my mind as I scrambled to try to get to my building on campus after getting off the bus. I decided that I wasn’t quite that awake yet or really that excited about the rain to start tap dancing and singing. Most of the students I saw were as equally drenched as myself and looked as equally excited about it. It made for a sleepy sort of day when you wish you didn’t have so many classes and could just go home and drink coffee while staring out the window. But, I suppose, it was one of those character building experiences that makes for a story one can tell later.

I later heard from my friends and family in Texas how a lack of rain is causing such a  havoc with the drought and the frequent dust storms. Well do I remember what that was like! How truly strange it is. One area of the country is flooding, yet another region is shriveling up because of drought. How and why does that happen? Sure, there’s all sorts of scientific reasons why, but sometimes it’s hard to explain why it continues as it does. Someone in a flooded region surely wishes for drier weather as much as a person in a drought-ravaged region wishes for rain. It can’t be helped.

Is that not how life is though? We feel that we need something so badly, and it is obvious how badly we need it. However, instead of Sgetting what we need, we receive more of what we definitely do not need. It’s frustrating and depressing! We wonder if our prayers are going unanswered or are even being heard. The rain keeps pouring without a hope of letting up or the wind keeps blowing with no hope of rain. We feel despair as if maybe we should just throw up our hands and give up, but we musn’t give in to that temptation.

Isn’t that why we have fear? We’ve found ourselves in situations and circumstances that we have no control over. Maybe it’s news that has turned our world upside down. We may find ourselves jobless or financially unstable. A loved one may be suffering through a terrible disease or we may find ourselves facing the uncertainty of an unexpected serious health problem. Whatever we face, we no longer feel in control and we don’t know how to weather the storm.

On the bus ride home today, I sat there thinking through all of the names of people I know who are in such storms. I then wondered why. Why is it that when that first horrible piece of news or event hits, that God doesn’t just take it away immediately and make it all better? Why doesn’t He just resolve it right then? Why does He allow the storm to continue to roar and thunder and the rain to pour down when I already feel cold and shaken? ‘Why do the clouds hang low and yet bring no rain?’ the farmer in TX wonders. ‘Is there no end of suffering?’ a tired mother of a sick child in a hospital wonders.

These are not easy questions to answer and neither is it necessarily wrong to ask them. How can we be able to reach that place where we see everything crashing down and yet say as Job did “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: ” (Job 13:15)?  Job was able to endure because he knew as he said in the next verse “He [the Lord] also shall be my salvation” (Job 13:16). He held onto this truth even when he couldn’t feel God’s presence and even as circumstances worsened.

Sometimes that’s all one can do is hang on as the storm howls above. He has promised to be our refuge in time of trouble (Psalm 46:1). We can’t and will not always know the answer to the questions of why we go through things. But, God does. I wish I could reach out and hug the ones I know who are suffering right now, but all I can do for now is leave you with a song that has so often come to mind in times of difficulty “‘Til the Storm Passes By,” by Mosie Lister:

In the dark of the midnight have I oft hid my face,
While the storm howls above me, and there’s no hiding place.
‘Mid the crash of the thunder, precious Lord hear my cry;
Keep me safe ’til the storm passes by.
 
Many times Satan whispered, “There is no need to try,
For there’s no end of sorrow, there’s no hope by and by.”
But I know thou art with me and tomorrow I’ll rise
Where the storms never darken the skies.
 
When the long night is ended and the storms come no more, 
Let me stand in the presence on that bright peaceful shore.
In that land where the tempest never comes, Lord, may I
Dwell with Thee when the storm passes by.
 
Chorus:
‘Til the storm passes over, ’til the thunder sounds no more,
‘Til the clouds roll forever from the sky,
Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy Hand.
Keep me safe ’til the storm passes by.
 

God be with you!

What time I am afraid…

…I will trust in thee.

Photo Courtesy of "The Exponent" (Purdue's Newspaper)

Photo Courtesy of “The Exponent” (Purdue’s Newspaper)

The events of yesterday definitely sparked some fear in everyone at the Purdue campus. No one ever desires to get a text from the university warning students, staff, and faculty to “shelter in place” because there has been a shooting reported on campus. When something like this happens, there are facts you do not know and questions begin running through your mind as to what is going on. All you know is what has happened before.

I was in the middle of a grad class when we heard the tornado sirens go off and received the text warning of the shooting. Everyone including my professor immediately thought of Virginia Tech as we decided to add another table on top of the table already blocking the door to our classroom. As one of the students and the professor finished stacking the table, someone tried to open our door (most likely someone just trying to get out of the hallway), but it scared all of us grad students enough that the prof decided that it would be a good idea to just sit on the floor until given the all clear.

We were all calm as we sat on the cold floor talking about the situation. The professor tried to distract us by talking about what we did this weekend or interesting things that have been happening in daily life. Most of us were on cell phones or laptops letting everyone know we were okay as well as finding out updates as they came in. There was some levity too as we tried to stay upbeat. We weren’t scared so much as just hoping it would end soon and wondering about the chances of a shooter entering our building.

We all breathed a sigh of relief as the text and email came out that all was clear and that the university could continue normal operations. Though continuing “normal operations” would be hard to do after such a threat to campus safety. Walking outside of the classroom and the building, I noticed that the campus was eerily quiet. There was a giant crowd of students walking around, but you could see the shaken up look on everyone’s face. Everyone was still whispering while asking classmates if so-and-so was all right or if they’d heard from so-and-so. Obviously returning to “normal operations” wasn’t going to be easy. Even though, as we found out later, it wasn’t an active shooter, fear of what could have happened was taking its toll. No one was thinking about their next class, everyone was thinking about loved ones and safety.

Campus may have been cleared as “safe,” but no one felt “safe”.

Personally, I was experiencing a similar feeling of being rather shaken up and just wanting to go home. I had already cancelled one of the classes I teach in the afternoon and thankfully, got permission to also cancel my other class. I didn’t feel like teaching although I would’ve if I had been asked to, I just wanted to go home. Thus, I was glad to be on the bus homeward bound within about 30 minutes of the all clear message.

What has been the most amazing to me through the whole thing was the outpouring of love and concern. I posted on Facebook as updates came in. My Facebook pretty much exploded with so many assuring me they were praying, they loved me, and later, that they were thankful that my classmates and I were all safe. My phone also rang most of the afternoon as friends and family called and texted making sure I was okay and offering to listen if I needed to talk it through.

I feel for the victim’s family and have been praying for them. I also feel for the entire Purdue community as it will take time to feel safe again on campus. What I am thankful for though is that I have seen the providence and protection of God. I’m thankful for the police who arrived within a couple of minutes of gun shots being fired. I’m thankful that the shooter surrendered to police almost immediately, and that there wasn’t another shooter as many had feared. I’m thankful that an alert was sent out so quickly and that pretty much everyone knew what to do. I’m thankful for the understanding and concern from the university for the mental well-being of its staff, faculty, and students in the aftermath of this in letting us have a day off before continuing classes. I’m thankful as well because this tragedy could have been so much worse than how horrible it already is.

I’m thankful for the comfort and peace the Lord has given. So many hymns and scriptures have so much more meaning now. This hymn came to mind almost immediately afterwards, and I quietly sang it to myself on the way home:

God’s angels encampeth ‘Round them that fear Him.
We may not behold them, Our vision is dim.
Oh, bear me up, angels, Across life’s shifting sand,
Lest I should stumble, Bear me up in your hands.

That hymn and the hymn “Walk beside Me” and so many others have been going through my mind. Then, as I was catching up on my Bible reading last night, I read Isaiah 12 and felt comforted as well. God has become even more real to me after this experience because I have seen His hand and His protection. Thus…

whenever we are afraid because of any circumstance in life, we can truly trust in Him!

God has been my refuge daily, God has been my hiding place…

Dear 14-year-old Stacey,…

Due to the last month of crazy paper writing and lots of grading and insane coffee drinking, this poor blog has been neglected. I thought of many ideas for things I wanted to write in a post but had deadlines staring me in the face! So, here’s to a happy return after finally finishing yet another semester of grad school! 🙂 Not surprisingly, this post has something to do with one of my papers…

In an effort to work on a project for Arabic, I decided to write out some ideas to help me plan it. My project was to write a letter in Arabic to my 14-year-old self. The result is this blog post…in English. I assure you, my project didn’t turn out quite this deep or humorous, but it is a nice reprieve from all the craziness to be able to write all this. 

This letter is written to the Stacey who’s greatest worry in life was passing Algebra 1…

Dearest 14-year -old Stacey,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI know the book you’re reading right now is probably of more fascination to you than this letter, but I thought you might enjoy an update from the future Stacey. Yes, I see you putting down that book and looking up with interest. Before you ask it, no you’re not married, and yes, you’re still in school. Before you slump your shoulders with disappointment, let me explain.

In one year, you will begin studying this fascinating language called French. Study it well because it is about to become the main focus of your studies and will basically shape your life and provide you with amazing opportunities. However, it will also annoy you, follow you everywhere, take away your time and sleep, confuse you with its crazy grammar and verb tenses, and yet, you’ll keep coming back to it to learn more and improve. Crazy? I think not!

Yes, you’re probably thinking “What?” (really you should say “Comment?” or perhaps sparingly even “Quoi?”)

How did this happen? you may ask.

Simple: You fell in love….

with a language. Not quite what you were expecting, right? 🙂

Then, at age 16 you will find out that you can actually major in that language and you will know what you want to do. I won’t give away everything much like you hate it when Justin (older bro) or Jesse (younger bro) give away the ending of a movie. However, you do get accepted to Texas Tech with a major in French. Don’t look so surprised. You do survive math all the way through Calculus, so no worries on that end and you will love French. You even go off to France for a while at one point.

Why am I writing?

Because I know you! You’re a dreamer! You do build castles in the sky despite how much you claim you don’t. My point in writing is not to discourage you from dreaming. My counsel is that you need to realize that not every dream will come true. However, from the pieces of those broken dreams, you will build and discover new ones that will often exceed the ones you had before.

For example, this is a pic of you just two days before you will leave for France for the first time! Exciting, or what!?

05-26-2010 10;40;17AM_edited-copy

You see, dreams are important. But, you have to learn how to control them and realize that God is the one who ultimately guides your life. When you recognize His hand in your life, it becomes less of a crushing experience when things don’t work out like you wanted them to. Then, He takes your dreams and your hopes and will show you something even better than you imagined even if you don’t see how it is something better at the time.

Yes, disappointing things will happen and your heart will be broken. People will hurt you and let you down because, well, we’re all human. But, even when family or friends hurt you, you must never stop loving them. Yes, it will hurt and life will seem unfair and cruel. However, no matter how much you’re hurt, you cannot let that hurt determine your life. Just as Christian in The Pilgrim’s Progress, you have to keep moving forward ever onward towards the Celestial City. Let the trials and hurts you face help make you a stronger and wiser person! Don’t let the hurt and the disappointment make you into a bitter and unforgiving person.

By the way, these people become some of your greatest friends and allies in life.

IMG_8474IMG_8443

577321_3503884110563_511704532_n

11540_198715852501_5689400_n396248_623374052010_634838792_nI actually can’t even post pictures of everyone who will have an effect on your life because it would take up so much space. That’s the other thing, I wanted you to know. Life is not all about you. If you think that, you need to take a step back and rethink things. When you realize that life is not all about finding out what makes you happy and what you want to do, but instead how you can help make others happy and help others, that is where you will find true happiness. You will find that a lot your success in life is actually due to others setting aside time and energy to help you.

Just a couple more remarks:

“Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth…” Ecclesiastes 12:1

“Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12

Now, is the time to serve the Lord. Not later! Yes, I may be few years older now, but I still know this to be true. When you ask God to lead you, He will. His answers may seem late or not what you were looking for, but that’s not the point. The point is that you follow where He leads. This is the answer to life’s questions. I am also writing this to myself presently because I am facing some very important decisions that will have an effect on the rest of my life. Who knows? Maybe 10 years from now the older “wiser” Stacey will write a letter to the present me with similar or better advice.

Enjoy growing up though realize that even being a grown up isn’t all you think it is. 😉 There’s that little thing called bills and then responsibility, but I won’t get into that. Enjoy life and the journey!

When Life is a Pinball Machine

Finding the right path to take in life is never really easy.

I’m hitting a crossroads right now. I am considering many options and trying to find the right way to go.

I can’t say that I have the answer even now. Sometimes life seems like one of those pinball machines I used to play with as a kid. The ball is heading a certain direction until either being hit with one of the paddles or colliding with one of the many obstacles in the machine causing it to completely change its course. Maybe that’s not the best analogy, but I feel like sometimes we think we’re heading in the right direction until we’re hit with an obstacle or a “paddle” that forces us in another direction entirely. I don’t think it’s all left up to fate either.

There’s a reason for each obstacle, paddling, and brick wall we meet with. I try to keep this optimistic view, but I’m not unrealistically optimistic. I believe that even when events in life don’t go as planned, it’s for a reason. How boring would a planned life be with no surprises?

I know sometimes the things we don’t expect to happen are unpleasant, but sometimes they can also be some of the most wonderful experiences. Someday I’ll look back and perhaps see that there were reasons why some things didn’t work out.

On top of these life decisions I need to make, I’ve been lately trapped underneath papers, grading, and stress, and it’s about to get worse, a lot worse. People ask me fairly often when the end of the semester is, I tell them, and their response is along the lines of “Oh, you’re almost through! Just a few more weeks!” I usually give a half a smile in the midst of my caffeine high euphoria and think “That’s precisely the problem”. Just about three weeks to figure out how in the world I’m going to spit out all these papers and projects.

In the midst of this there are all the due dates for the applications I’m filling out and a list of things to do before the semester ends. Sometimes it feels like more than I can handle, like I’m getting hit by too many obstacles at once. When I begin to feel this way, it usually means that I need to take a step back and breathe.

Somehow I’ll make it through this. Besides, there’s always an adventure or something to laugh about along the way. Yes, I may feel like I’m trapped in a pinball machine, but this is only temporary. Those hits with the paddle and brick walls do typically smart, but it’s for a good reason. I can trust that God has promised to light my path and show me the way to go if I diligently seek him.

*deep breath*

Here we go!