the (good) details

I’ve written so little about our birth experience because frankly, I needed time and space to process it all. Not only physically–but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I am different because of my childbirth experience, and I knew I was different when I woke up the next morning. So, here is our story, from what I have gathered so far.

We went in on Sunday, February 3rd at 8pm to start the induction. I will spare you the grimy details of everything involved, but by 5am the next morning, contractions started and were coming on strong, so we moved to the next step in the induction process. At around 3pm on Monday, I had hardly progressed and Keegan’s heart rate was all over the place, so my doctor talked to us about the possibility of a C-Section. Around 4pm, she broke my water and within two hours, I had fully progressed and was ready to push. Once again, I will not make you endure the details, but three hours later, Keegan had not budged, and a C-Section was no longer a hypothetical but a necessity, and we prepared ourselves for surgery.

There are a lot of details about that day that I will never forget, but there are two that stand out so crystal-clear in my memory that have forever changed me. One has to do with a little green line, and the other my husband’s right hand.

From the time we started the induction, our nurse pointed us to the monitor which showed Keegan’s heart rate, my heart rate, and my contractions. Keegan’s heart rate was bright green, and mine was a vague taupe color, directly below his. All evening long, and all day Monday, it was all I could do to not watch that little green line. I knew in my mind that nurses were keeping track, and that alarms would go off if anything went wrong, but I could not–for more than a few minutes at the longest–keep my eyes and mind off that little green line. I needed to watch him, to see him as I prayed for his little body to be healthy and whole. In a time where I felt absolutely out of control, the only thing I could manage was watching that green line.

And the second? My husband’s right hand. Throughout the entire process, he sat to my left and held my left hand with his right,  coached me through it, encouraged me, and prayed over us.

I became a mother while watching that little green line. Over 9 and 1/2 months of pregnancy, my heart slowly began the process of nurturing and protecting this little one. But in watching that green line, my heart became consumed by it. And I have never been more in love with my husband than on that day, and will never forget when we heard his first cry in the OR. It was the sweetest moment of relief that I will forever cherish, and he is the only one that can replay it with me.

When I look back on days of my life, I hope to remember the small details that affected me greatly. And on this day? It was a little green line that became my son, and my husband’s right hand that became my strength.


longing and begging

It’s December 17th, we are right in the season of Advent, and I can’t recall a time I have longed for Jesus so badly.
This week has been nothing short of longing.
Longing for hope, peace, and anything that remotely resembles joy.

And this is just my little life.

One of my friends had her heart ripped out of her chest on Tuesday morning, discovering that the little boy she thought was going to be hers was in fact not anymore. They call it adoption reversal, which sounds like a cold way of saying, “You can’t have your baby anymore.” Her and her husband are now grieving parents, with nothing to show for it except empty hearts, pockets, and bedrooms.

That same morning, my other dear friend told me she and her husband went into hear the heartbeat for the first time of her precious 12-week-old, and the nurses “found nothing.” And used the cold, non-empathetic words, “this is not a viable pregnancy.” I don’t know who invented that phrase, but they should probably redo that year of their life. I can’t imagine a more lifeless phrase when telling a woman who dreams of being a mother that she is, in fact, not.

On Tuesday afternoon, one of my family members suffered from a mild stroke, which leads to lots of challenging conversations and rearrangements as they navigate what to do in this next very unknown phase of life.

Again, this is my little life.
I know suffering is everywhere.
I’m not blind to it.

I read the prayer requests every Tuesday afternoon in our staff meeting . . . heartbreak after heartbreak, loss after loss, and sometimes my heart gets so swollen I cry right there, in a conference room with gray walls and business suits.

And again, this is only my little corner, with the faces I know and love.
I know it’s everywhere.

On Friday afternoon, I got a text from my husband that said, “Try not to saturate yourself with the media coverage of this.” Of what!? I immediately turned on the news, ignoring his caring request, to find the horror that the rest of you saw and for a minute I said right out loud, in the stillness of my living room, “What in the world is going on?”

All of this coupled with joy–visiting with friends late Sunday evening, eating cinnamon popcorn, laughing about nothing and then eating some more. Listening to my sweet baby’s heartbeat today at the doctor’s office, and hearing, “You and the baby are getting along perfectly,” as I breathe relief because let’s face it, this seems like the week people are supposed to get bad news.

I’ve read Brene Brown‘s wise words about not selectively numbing emotion, about how you can’t numb pain without also getting rid of joy . . . and so I have fully embraced the pain that surrounds me, knowing that without it I cannot receive full joy.

But I confess that I long for Christ in a way I never have before. I long for Him to heal my friends, heal these hearts, and to bind up wounds. I long for Him to bring about restoration in the midst of darkness, and then I stop right where I’m sitting because I remember . . .

He came into darkness.

He was not surrounded by a world full of rainbows, unicorns, and butterflies. He was born right into a dark, unknown world, full of uncertainty and hatred, and yet He was called the Prince of Peace.

And this year, I long for Him.

I long for Him to hold my friends that sit with an empty nursery, to hold their hearts tightly and whisper into their pain and hear their angry questions. I long for Him to heal my sweet friend and her husband, whose entire paradigm of life is now something I cannot imagine, fathom, or begin to understand.

I long for Him to usher in peace to the little corners of our worlds, in the brokenhearted places we dare not say aloud. And during this season of Advent, I am not ashamed in my questioning, no–begging.

Christ, I beg of you to come close.

We beg you to be close to us.

halfway there odds & ends

I don’t promise this will be beautiful or life-changing. I do promise you will feel caught up on our life. So if you are here for the former and not the latter, I am going to go ahead and offer my sincerest apologies.

Lots of people have asked some repeated questions, so I figured I’d make some space on our blog to answer them. Not that I mind answering them, or even talking about them! Just if you’ve wondered but haven’t had the opportunity to ask, or forgot what I said, here you go.

How are you feeling?
I hesitate to say this, but I’m feeling great! It must be all that 2nd-Trimester-bliss I kept hearing about in my 1st. Truly, I love being pregnant. When I first found out I was pregnant, my sister-in-law, Sheyenne, gave me some of the best advice that I still remember in the early mornings: cherish every day of your pregnancy, and enjoy every moment God allows you to carry this child. If you know Sheyenne’s story, you know she doesn’t utter these words flippantly. So I have really tried my hardest to do that. I try to dress like a normal human, even when I feel rotten, and say things that express how grateful I am. I am learning about myself that my default is to say the negative first, which has been a little lesson in humility. With our pregnancy, I’ve made an intentional effort to talk about the positive, because I know pregnancy is not something I’m entitled to, and I want to adequately express my gratitude for this baby.

Did you plan on getting pregnant?
I’ll put it this way: we went to an Adoption Conference on May 18th & 19th (that we registered for in February). We found out we were pregnant on May 16th. :) PS-We still plan on adopting, as that has always been the plan. The when, where, and how are still very foggy, however.

Have you chosen his name yet?
We have landed on a name, but we’re keeping it to ourselves! This was a decision we made before we even found out we were pregnant. I hear people criticized for name choices all the time, and I knew before embarking on this journey that’s not something I wanted to add to the height of pregnancy emotion. So, we have our name, we’re not giving any hints, and you will be sure to find out when he’s born! (No, his name is not table, apple, lamp-post, chair, or some other odd object.)

What are you doing about work?
Short answer: we don’t know. For the long answer, click here. Yep, I still have no idea. Just praying and taking it one day at a time. I love what I do, so we’ll just see!

Are you still throwing up?
Nope. Remember the 2nd-Trimester-Bliss I referred to? The days of nausea-all-day-long are over, and I am loving it.

Those are all the repeat-questions I can think of for now. If you have any others, feel free to throw them my way!


things to say (and things to not)

In my short 16 weeks of pregnancy, I have gained a little insight and perspective into the danger and beauty of spoken word. Words can encourage, brighten, make light, and speak truth. Words hold the power to make people laugh, pee their pants, and slap their knees.

But words can also be… not-so-good. Most are well-intentioned, just not thought through. Allow me to give you a short, compiled list of things that have either been said to me (or a woman I know) during pregnancy, and we’re all thinking, “Hmm. I could’ve gone without hearing that.” 

So here is my brief list of things to say, and things to not, to a pregnant woman. I don’t care what “kind” of pregnant woman she is–the “all belly” kind, or the one who gains it everywhere BUT her belly, here is my short list.

Things NOT to say . . .
“I knew you were pregnant because normally you’re pretty skinny, and I noticed you’re a little thick.”

“I know this friend who has this friend who (insert incredibly traumatic pregnancy/miscarriage story here).” (Sidenote on this one: pregnant women know about these stories. We’ve read about them, know friends with them, some experienced them personally, had nightmares about them, and pray against them. So please, unless we bring it up, or ask about it ourselves, spare us the awful story.)

“You just look swollen, not fat.”

“I can tell you’re pregnant because you look really, really tired.” (We know this, too.)

“You don’t even look pregnant! Are you sure you’re that far along?”

“Are you sure you aren’t having twins? You’re huge!”

(While passing butter at dinner), “Here’s the tub, you’re gonna be a tub in about five months!” YES, THIS HAPPENED.

Any use of the word F-A-T, no matter the context, or intention. Just avoid that word (and others like it) all together. It’s a four-letter-word.

Things TO say . . .
“You’re the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen in the history of this planet, to ever walk, drive, or run. In fact, I can’t recall a time I’ve ever seen someone so beautiful, glowing, and magnificent.” (Magnificent is the key word. Emphasize it greatly.)

“You look extremely alert and ready to take on the day. Do you even need caffeine? I mean seriously, I can’t get over how on top of life you are now!”

“WOW! You’re amazing! Incredible! Stupendous! Unbelievable! You are going to have the best labor anyone has ever heard of! I’m not going to tell you some insane story that will give you nightmares!”

But seriously . . . 

“How can I help you?” is always good.

“How can I pray for you?” also… good.

There you have it. If I hear any more absurdly awkward or offensively funny things, you will be the first to hear (and laugh) about it.

because i can’t count on my hands

I knew once we announced our pregnancy, the questions would come like raging rabbits in search of a garden.

“How long are you going to breastfeed?”

“Are you going to get an epidural?”

“Have you started shopping for maternity clothes yet?”

“Are you going to find out the gender of the baby?”

Contrary to what the tone may imply, I enjoy questions because questions urge dialogue. I get to hear people’s stories, what their personal experience has been, and what they wish they would’ve known or done differently. So in this way, questions are good for me, because they force and encourage me to think and listen.

On the other hand, the questions can also be intimidating and anxiety-ridden. And the one that has ignited the most anxiety has been:

“What are you going to do about work? And daycare?” 

This question implies, of course, that I am going to continue working full-time, and that my child will inevitably be in daycare. This is a fair question, as I have never really spoken about dreams of being a stay-at-home mother. I read an article recently about Yahoo!’s CEO who planned on going back to work within weeks of labor and delivery. Then I read another one about a woman dealing with similar questions and issues, taking a less-demanding job so she can be with her family more. It’s a discussion that isn’t short of opinion or experience, and for me, it’s one I don’t take lightly, and feel too conflicted about to jot off a simple, “a + b = c.”

But our short answer is: we really don’t know. 

In our short 14 weeks of pregnancy, we have talked about every option, envisioned (and budgeted) each scenario. We’ve asked people we respect and admire the decisions they made, why they made them, and what they would do differently if they could. All had different answers, but very similar theme: do what fits your family.

This conversation is loaded with theory, identity, family, sacrifice, etc. No decision comes without significant loss and gain. So I ask, in the midst of our wandering, that you be gracious to us. We are trying to figure it out. We don’t know. We are full of lots of questions and very few answers. And we are settling in being okay with that for the next six (or so) months. I find myself saying more times than I can count on my hands, much like Jehosophat in 2 Chronicles 20, “God, I don’t know what to do. But my eyes are on You.” And something tells me that’s kind of the theme in parenting.

2011 Reflection & Wrap-Up

1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?
I flew solo in youth ministry for 3 months as my co-worker took a sabbatical. I officiated a wedding. And… I dove into the joys of home ownership. :)

2.Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I did. I failed. Hah! My resolution was to run the mini-marathon, but that didn’t work out. HOWEVER, I did join the YMCA and am working out routinely, so although I didn’t complete my resolution, I got creative.

This year, my goal is to have balance in my financial life. I want balance everywhere (who doesn’t?), but financially, we are making some adjustments. We want to give more. Save more. Spend less.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes, yes. I am in a season of babies & weddings, and I love every minute of it.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Yes. Kyle’s grandfather passed away this fall. One of my former students, Tessa, died this past Spring in a car accident.

5. What countries did you visit?
Zilch. As in none.

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
Time and space.

7. What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
March 1-First day of Nick’s Sabbatical
March 5-Tessa died
April 30-First GO LOVE INDY. Loved watching our community that day. Rumor has it that I drove around from site to site with some tears.
September 24-Officiated Emily & Brince’s wedding in Eatonton, Georgia
October 23-Celebrated my mom’s 60th birthday in Chicago.
November 12-Stood beside my friend, Katelyn, on her wedding day
December 7-Kyle’s grandfather passed

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
There are lots of little things. I grew a lot this year–in personal maturity, my job, as a wife, sister, daughter, and friend. I just stinkin’ grew!

9. What was your biggest failure?
Taking out anger and frustration from work on my husband. I truly regret that.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Well, yes.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Definitely my iPhone. Life changer!

12. Where did most of your money go?
Bills, student loans, bills, student loans, bills… welcome to adulthood!

13. What did you get really excited about?
Durham Family Vacation in Florida, haven’t seen most of them since our wedding!

14. What song will always remind you of 2011?
Sigh No More by Mumford & Sons, I’ve Got This Friend by The Civil Wars

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:
– happier or sadder? Happier.
– thinner or fatter? Same. 
– richer or poorer? Same.

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Time and energy in the Word.

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Checking email and being on the internet.

18. How did you spend Christmas?
Drove all over the place visiting family, led worship at Chapel Rock, and then drove all over the place again. :) Hoping for a more relaxing year in 2012.

19. What was your favorite TV program?
Mad Men, Parenthood, Parks & Recreation

20. What were your favorite books of the year?
Cold Tangerines (Shauna Niequist), Blue Parakeet (Scot McKnight), Making a Mess and Meeting God (Mandy Smith), Radical (David Platt)

21. What was your favorite music from this year?
Mumford & Sons, Adele, The Civil Wars, Over the Rhine, Brooke Fraser

22. What were your favorite films of the year?
The Help

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 24, and I had a relaxing day with my husband and then went over to a friend’s house for dinner. Low key and perfect.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Deciding early on that I cannot control other people’s choices and decisions. That would’ve saved me a lot of anxiety and stress.

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?

26. What kept you sane?
Laughing with my husband. Cooking. Funfetti Vacation with my closest friends.

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011.
People are capable of tremendous amounts of good, and tremendous amounts of evil. We desperately need a Savior. Also, chocolate really does help. :)

what I learned from my family


1. It’s okay to cry once a day, even if it’s over a good song. Durhams have loose tear-ducts, it’s just the way it goes.

2. “Oh, Heck” is the best card game ever invented.

3. It’s perfectly acceptable to get emotionally wrapped up in trashy shows like The Bachelorette.

4. Everything is more fun when everyone decides to be low-maintenance.

5. Barking out commands isn’t really that bossy… some of us just struggle saying “please.”

6. You’re as happy as you make your mind up to be.

7. The beach, cold drinks, umbrellas & chairs are the perfect recipe for an afternoon of reminiscing.

8. Durham women… we get it from our Gram.

Thanks, Durhams, for always making family so much fun.