What Pregnancy Has Taught Me

Baby #4 at 20 weeks 4 days

Baby #4 at 20 weeks 4 days

I am currently twenty-two weeks pregnant with baby number 4. Yay! I had not posted about it on any social media sites because I had no specifics for a while, and for some reason I wanted to enjoy this special and precious time with my family. I figured that eventually I would post the news. However, nearly a week ago I went into premature labor. This was something I had never experienced before. It was scary and difficult. I wanted to reach out for prayers on social media but felt it would be such an odd way to announce my pregnancy. But as I dug deeper I realized that there was a purpose in not posting anything prior to this incident.

Many pregnant women or women desiring a pregnancy have heard the term, “no two pregnancies are alike.” This is true and I know it but I have certainly gone through each of my pregnancies with a certain expectancy that everything will go well. At first I called it faith and reliance on God’s plan but with this pregnancy I have learned it was not quite that. I was more reliant on my body’s ability to house and nourish each child without any issues. But as I look back on each pregnancy I see it differently. With my first pregnancy I developed pre-eclampsia during my 36th week. I was almost immediately induced and delivered my first child in great pain; amidst a cloud of medications that made the whole situation a giant blur. With my second child I had a terrible time with nausea and vomiting. When I was finally able to eat, all I could keep down was plain bread, crackers, plain rice and mild soups. Ginger tea was my best friend. However, the rest of the pregnancy was easy. No odd aches and pains and labor came on naturally at 37 weeks and 3 days. His birth was a different story but that’s a story for another day. With my third pregnancy I developed pre-eclampsia again at 35 and a half weeks but was able to wait to be induced until I was 37 weeks along. This pregnancy was very tough on my body. Morning sickness lasted more than half of the pregnancy and when it finally let up, pelvic girdle pain rendered me nearly incapable of movement. I could not get up from a seated position without feeling unbearable pain, walking seemed an impossible feat and for once I wanted my pregnancy to just come to a safe end as quickly as possible. The birth, however, was by far the most peaceful and stress-free but the hour following birth proved to be the hardest of my life, again, another story for another time.

With this pregnancy, morning sickness has been my constant companion. I vomit nearly everyday and most days just the thought of food makes me queasy. Drinking water was nearly impossible in the beginning and anything else left a terrible and nausea-inducing after-taste in my mouth. Torture seems an appropriate term (I am only half kidding here). It has been truly debilitating and draining both physically and mentally, pelvic girdle pain has made an early appearance and now pre-term labor. I know that God’s plans are everything and I am usually pretty good about relying on that but for some reason with each pregnancy I focus more on my body’s ability to do what it is, “naturally supposed to do”. Why? I believe that there has been a misguided notion in the motherhood community that every woman should just be able to carry her pregnancy easily and give birth easily and breastfeed easily and fall into a routine easily. How odd is that? We are told from the beginning that every pregnancy and every child and every mother is different; but no one embraces those differences towards the unpredictability of life and the fact that each experience is quite different for every woman; and that’s perfectly fine.

Why is that? Why is it that pregnancy, birth, and motherhood is glamorized and who allowed that? I am not saying it isn’t the most wonderful time in a woman’s life because it is. But it is also the most challenging. None of it is easy for anyone, no matter what they say. It is true that we choose to focus on the beautiful product of all the pain and discomfort we endure for however long our pregnancies last and that is a beautiful thing. But in neglecting to speak out openly about everything we set up newcomers to motherhood with the false idea that it’s all easy-peasy or at least it should be. But is it really? No! Motherhood is not easy by any means but it is a great blessing when we allow God and his Holy Spirit to guide us through it all and because God is all-knowing and He has our lives already mapped out we can be sure no curve balls surprise Him. We can be sure He sees and knows it all. We can fully rely on His grace, wisdom and favor to endure it all. That’s what makes it truly beautiful.

Through this ordeal I understood that my reliance should not be on my own body’s ability to do anything, “as it should” because it will most often fail me. It is not on prayers others can pray for me and my situation (although that is a blessing). It is not on how well doctors can handle and address a situation. It is all about how well I depend on my Father to give me the grace to walk through each situation with His perfect guidance.

The entire time I was monitored in the hospital I was alone. My husband was watching the kids and I had not wanted to alert anyone at such a late time of night with something that I was hoping was nothing. But as baby’s heart rate dropped dangerously low with each contraction, it was just me and Jesus in that room and I could not sing, I could not think, I could not cry, I could not do anything other than pray. I spoke truth and life over my child and myself. I rejected death and anything harmful over its life and mine, and I called out to Jesus. He washed over me with peace and a calm reassurance that He had his hand in my pregnancy. He reassured me that my dependence was on Him and Him alone and that He was in control. Everything was under His control and all I needed was some intense hydration and a little help to make my uterus relax and we were able to go home.

This body is frail and worthless without His breath of life. I refuse to continue to believe the lie that it is all easy and that nothing bad can happen if my body does what it should. I do not know the exact plans God has for my child and myself, but I know they are for good and they are perfect and that no matter what I have to endure I will be able to do it with His guidance, wisdom and grace. I do not walk alone, EVER! What a glorious place to keep my heart and mind.

My intention is not to scare any future mothers or to make them paranoid. I just simply want to point out that however difficult any part of your journey to motherhood feels, God knows, and God sees it all. Rely on Him alone to guide and provide for you and let Him, the one who created your body, take control. Let me encourage you today, do not walk in fear and do not walk alone. Step out in faith and obedience and watch how good He is. Reach out to others who will encourage your reliance on God and surround yourself with community to be affirmed constantly through this beautifully challenging journey of motherhood.

Psalm 34:8 NIV

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who take refuge in Him.

Taking up the cause of the fatherless

“Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”  Isaiah 1:17

Adoption. What does that word evoke? Is it images of hundreds of orphaned children fading away in an old building, mistreated and unloved? Is it an image of a newborn abandoned by an underage and/or underprivileged mother? Is it a foster care child that becomes an integral part of your family? Is it children in other countries barely surviving in extreme poverty? Well, it is not so much about what you picture in your mind’s eye when you think of adoption. Adoption is essentially one of the purest forms of love. God sent his only son to die an unimaginable death so that he could adopt us as his children. What could be more pure? More precious? More in line with God’s heart?

When I met my husband, Franklin, we found ourselves very often talking about the future. How we’d like to have a few children and then adopt a few as well. However, those dreams of adopting children and growing a large family had to be pushed aside for a while due to legal and financial matters. Honestly, I never thought I’d see the day we’d even begin to map out a plan for those dreams. Last year, our family underwent many changes and with those changes came a new home church. Our second weekend there we stayed up late on Saturday night reminiscing about our dreams of adopting a few children. We talked about how it suddenly seemed like a possibility but agreed we would just keep praying about it. Well, as Jesus would have it, that Sunday at church there was a talk about adoption and foster care adoption. I could not believe it! Here, was my Papa telling me it was on His heart too! We left church having made a few connections with others who had adopted or were in the process of adopting. We felt so encouraged to continue planning and most importantly, praying. The following Sunday was Orphan Sunday and we were so excited to be a part of it. We truly felt confirmation that we would one day adopt. That evening we talked to our children about how God had adopted us and how we would like to share that love by adopting children and making them a part of our family. They loved the idea! They were so excited and they shared in our joy. It was such a special moment for us. That evening we added “adoption plans” to our prayer petitions jar and we have had the joy of praying about those plans for many months now.

Where does our desire for adoption come from? My husband was adopted by his step-father as a child. He was taken in and adopted by a man who wasn’t his biological father. Although, it took a long time and a deep understanding of his heavenly Father’s love for him to finally accept what his adopted father had done for him, he did. He feels that the best way to show the love of Christ for other children that so desperately need love and affection is to adopt them or even to foster them for as long as they need it. Thankfully, my heart has always longed to rescue an abandoned or unwanted child. I know for sure it had always been God’s plan for my life because for a reason I could not explain before, I have always felt drawn to their cause.

But so much has changed in our perspective in the last few months. We now know that so many foster children never get adopted because most people want a newborn or an infant to adopt. So many siblings are separated because only one is wanted because of age or gender. Not to mention, sick, disabled, or emotionally wrecked children that very few people want to even consider adopting. We know that sometimes it is harder for the biological parent to give up a child because their circumstances are just not appropriate for raising a child. We know that more grace is needed to be given than condemnation and judgement. Our hearts swell with excitement at the thought that one day, not too far away, we will finally and by the grace of God live out that dream. We want to open our hearts and home to any child that we are such God already has picked out for us. We don’t intend to reject anyone for any reason at all. But most importantly, we do not want to just sit on the sidelines and wait for our moment. We intend to dive in and join movements, fundraisers, programs, and just about anything we can to raise awareness to this desperate need and to get involved as much as possible from all angles to better understand the entire process.

In the meantime, as we take a few necessary steps to ensure we have everything is in order to begin our journey to adoption, won’t you please pray for us?

  • Pray that all legal issues are resolved smoothly and quickly.
  • Pray that our faith in God’s process remains despite the certain heartaches and downfalls associated with the adoption process.
  • Pray that financially all things will be in order when the time comes.
  • Pray for open doors and divine favor for our process.
  • Pray that our marriage will remain strengthened and firmly planted in Jesus.
  • Pray that we will be surrounded by a community of family and friends that encourage us and champion our cause.
  • Finally, pray that God will be glorified through this process and that we can openly share our journey.

We firmly believe that as the body of Christ we are better able to accomplish our kingdom agenda together than as individuals. It is our desire that we not only inspire others to prayerfully consider adoption but also that we can gather an online community where we can all be encouraged, championed, taught and blessed as one and for the glory of God. We will also periodically update you on our journey through this blog and we thank you in advanced for every prayer you pray for our journey. Watch this space!

The things I learn in my kitchen…from the mouths of babes

My precious son, you have made life turn full circle for me this week.

Pupusas. In case you don’t know, pupusas are the staple dish of El Salvador. They are, in their most basic form, a handmade corn tortilla overflowing with cheesy goodness. My husband is from El Salvador and he and our kids love eating them. However, making pupusas is no easy task, and for someone as inexperienced in the art of tortilla making as myself, I was always at a loss.

When I was newly married I attempted to make them, many times, only to be deeply discouraged by my feeble attempts. Not even my mother-in-law, whom truth be told was exceedingly patient in teaching me, was successful at it. Every attempt ended in utter disappointment for both my husband and I, though he never voiced it (thank you for that).

A little over a month ago I was not feeling well and after spending the night in the ER my wonderful husband made me pupusas for breakfast when we got home. They were delicious! But it got me thinking and I said to myself, “you can totally do this, Stephany!” I knew it was about time I gave it a legitimate try without setting myself up for failure with my own words, beforehand. I asked my husband to help me make some pupusas a few days later. Food is definitely one of my husbands love languages. So to him this was a huge deal. He agreed to teach me and we got to work.

I said a quick prayer: “Lord, please make my hands do what they need to do and remove any pride that has hindered me from learning in the past. Please give me the grace to make pupusas. In Jesus’ name, amen!” Now, you can laugh if you want, but boy did that small prayer work! As I started to a make them I found myself more adept at getting the technique down. About halfway, they were actually looking pretty close to a real-deal pupusa. When we finished, I was quite proud of myself for not giving up but mostly thankful to God who answers even our smallest prayers.

Tuesday night as I was preparing everything to make pupusas… again, Franklin, walked into the kitchen and asked if he could help me make them. Now, I have a hard time overcoming my perfectionism in the kitchen. I love to cook and I like to keep messes minimal, even more. I am sure you can see where my mind was going with this. A 6-year-old. In my domain. One, who will surely make an insane mess, wants to help me?! What happened next, I can only explain through the power of the Holy Spirit because out of my mouth the words “Yes” and “Please do” came out. My son was stunned! I very rarely say yes to help in the kitchen and he knows it. “Really?”, he asked. “Yes!” I said. Why? I did not know at the time, because every part of me wanted to say “No, go play.” , but God’s plans are perfect and sometimes even a little sneaky.

As it turns out this amazing kid only needed me to explain the method one time. After that, he was a mini pupusa making machine. I was impressed!…and then I was stunned!

When I cook, I sing worship songs or I play worship music in the background, as a way to remind myself that cooking for my family is not a duty but an opportunity to bless them. As we sang together, I noticed he started to get silly and was slapping the dough and splattering it everywhere. I said, “Hey, take it easy! The point isn’t to make a mess!” He turned to look at me with a disappointed look on his face and said “Hey, I’m into having fun! And he continued singing and working. I could not help but laugh. Duh Stephany! Isn’t this why you sing worship music? Jesus is into fun too! It takes a child-like spirit to have fun with Jesus and this amazing kid taught me that in that moment. Not that I did not know it but knowing and knowing are two very different things.

He did stop slapping the dough and a huge smile flashed on his face when he noticed me laughing. He knew I got it. God, never ceases to amaze me, and teach me, and love me through my kids. This is why it is so important to take it easy with our kids and why I, now know, God allows motherhood to be so challenging. Notice, I didn’t say tiring or difficult but rather, challenging. According to dictionary.com, the word, challenging means: testing one’s ability, endurance, stimulating, interesting, thought-provoking, provocative, intriguing, etc.

You see, motherhood, is a precious time in which our ability to rely on and have fun with Jesus is tested. Our endurance for the endless demands on our time, attention, and love is measured. Where we are stimulated, through our children’s different temperaments, to seek a deeper relationship with Christ. Where our thoughts are provoked to a wisdom that is deeply rooted in God. We are provoked by every action and word that come from our children to show the love, mercy, and compassion Jesus gives us so freely. And we are intrigued to search our hearts and question our dependence on the only One who understands motherhood in its purest form.

Oh that we would allow ourselves to have the sensitivity, of a child, to God’s ways! What a difference it would make in our lives and the lives of our children.

You know, in the end, we cranked out some pretty delicious, daddy approved, pupusas. I am so incredibly proud of him. I am honored and blessed by his servant heart and sensitivity to God.

I pray that we become more child-like in spirit and therefore, more sensitive, to the words of our Father. That we might embrace and be strengthened by the challenges of motherhood to bring Him glory in the process. Amen!

Psalm 8:2 NIV

Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.

 

Writing for His glory

Years in the making. That’s what comes to mind as I write this first blog post. For many years I had longed for a platform to share my thoughts, my heart, my life. Not for myself or to paint a picture of perfection but rather to inspire someone else to be brave enough to speak up. But for a long time, I had no voice. I was just a messy mixture of everyone I had ever encountered in my life.
A few years back, 6, to be exact everything changed. I found myself pregnant at 19. Feeling the loneliest and the most angry I had ever felt and not knowing where to turn or what to do. Fast forward 2 1/2 months and I was a new mother to a baby boy.
Now comes the hard part. When he was born I didn’t feel any immediate connection or love towards him. Sure he was beautiful and perfect and oh so tiny. But love? No, I did not feel anything for him. Nonetheless,  I wanted so desperately to be the perfect mother to him but I found myself frustrated with his crying and the lack of sleep and having my mom take him was just so much easier.
So what makes me an “expert” on motherhood? What makes me think I can positively impact modern day motherhood in any way? Let’s face it. Those aren’t exactly excellence in motherhood awards I am sharing with you. But it is Jesus and by His grace that I dare to start this journey.
I found Jesus!
2 weeks after my son was born I was reluctantly introduced to ministration or inner healing. The process of allowing the Holy Spirit to transport you to the moment or moments where hurt, pain, and lies were introduced into your life and where you invite Jesus to come to bring truth, light, and peace. It’s incredible really!
Being born into a “Christian” home, I thought, was enough to make me the most devout Christian to ever walk the planet. I mean, after all my grandfather was the senior pastor and my father the associate pastor. Clearly, this more than qualified me. Right?… WRONG!
I was not a Christian! Not by any definition. I was more or less a groupie or poser. I had superficial knowledge of God and what He did but I had never truly encountered Him. I met Jesus in a puddle of tears and snot as I allowed Him for the first time to meet me and speak truth and life into my heart a month or so later.
The turnaround came when I introduced Jesus to the little girl that was so lost, lonely, and covered in lies. After that session of ministration I felt different. I saw my son and I knew in my heart that what satan had devised for destruction, God was working for our good. That evening, for the first time, I held my son with tenderness. And love finally started to blossom in my heart. Soon I could handle his incessant crying more patiently and I could be the mother he needed me to be….not the one I wanted to be.
During that time God was already impressing on my heart to share my story. But how? Who would care? I was still so damaged by a non existent childhood and lies, upon lies, upon lies that still hovered over me and made me believe I could not do it.
So I put it off. I have continued to put it off through becoming a wife and mother to 2 more children, even though I have healed much of that mess. But enough is enough! Today I say, here I am Lord, use me! Send me! Enable me! If He is calling me to this, it is for a reason. I have a voice now, I have been set free to live freely and declare the goodness of my Lord. After all, this is for His glory.