Judah’s Story: Our Miracle Baby

Judah's Story

Judah Stephen Helm was born on July 14th, 2014, at 11:38pm.  He weighed 8 lbs 3.5 oz and was 20” long.  (Let’s just be perfectly honest here and admit that I had to look all of that up in his baby book that I barely even recognized because I haven’t added to it in so long.  He’s only 2.  But, he’s the 3rd baby.  My brain has to hold other information now.  However, I DO remember the date all by myself.  Win!)

This baby was, and still is, an amazing picture of perfection.  I have never felt so much love flood over me so quickly, as in the moment Judah was born.  I have never felt such peace, honor, and responsibility to protect.  Might I remind you, this was baby number 3.  But I had struggled with mild postpartum depression previously, and a general gradual movement into the hard core momma love thing.  This, though…this was a miracle.  Everything surrounding this little guy’s grand entrance was a miracle.  So let me start over.

In the fall of 2013, I found out I was pregnant.  Yay!  This was planned, and we were excited.  Around 7 weeks, I experienced some bleeding, but it went away.  I googled it to death, and asked a few girls, but decided it was nothing.   One week later, on a Sunday morning, I woke up to bright red blood.  I went into survival mode and quickly and silently got ready, quietly woke my sleeping husband to tell him I was going to the emergency room, and left.  He stayed home with our older kids.  The emergency room visit seemed to take forever, but I wouldn’t allow my mind to think about what was happening.  I knew that once I let go, I wouldn’t be able to gather myself easily, and I didn’t want to be like that there…alone.  After an ultrasound, hormone level testing, and exams, the doctor told me it was an “inevitable miscarriage.”

Once home, I collapsed in the open bedroom doorway, clinging to my son and sobbing.  I couldn’t say anything – I just couldn’t talk – but my husband knew.  That night, I couldn’t sleep.  I went to my kids’ playroom for comfort and just cried and prayed.  I was so thankful for the two children I already had, and couldn’t imagine going through this pain without having them.  So I prayed for other mommas-at-heart.  And I begged God to save my baby’s life.  But I praised him no matter what the outcome.  He is good.  All the time.

The doctors said that bedrest wouldn’t make a difference, but I decided otherwise.  Less moving meant less bleeding, so I put myself on strict bedrest until the appointment with my OB.  Once there, he put me on an oral supplement of progesterone, and the bleeding stopped almost immediately.  I literally believe we were probably hours or minutes away from loosing our baby.  But the progesterone turned things around, and God saved Judah’s life.  The rest of the pregnancy was completely normal and routine.  All tests and ultrasounds came back normal – a healthy baby boy was on the way!

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I had a birth plan in place, as I had with the other two.  My first two births were completely drug-free and I went into labor on my own, 1-2 weeks before my due dates.  I assumed this birth would be similar, but at 41 weeks and 1 day, I was a crazy pregnant lady.  I was SO done.  My sister-in-law, who I’m pretty sure had a due date AFTER mine, had birthed a sweet baby girl 11 days EARLIER.  I had even gone into the hospital that same day in false labor, probably just with sympathy pain.  I had been sitting at 3cm dilated for…oh, I don’t know…FOREVER.  I was done being patient.  I went in for an ultrasound appointment to check up on baby – something routine for mommas who are past their due date.  The appointment was ON the labor and delivery floor.  What a tease.  Last minute, I decided to cancel the appointment and ask my doctor to break my water instead.  This was so not me.  I was going to wait, and I knew that breaking my water would make the strong pain come earlier than normal.  But I was a crazy pregnant lady…and God was writing Judah’s birth story.  Looking back, I am SO thankful we did not have that ultrasound.

At 6cm, I asked for an epidural.  My doctor was totally confused by me at this point.  I mean, nurses make it pretty clear that they don’t expect you to follow your birth plan the first time around (which, I DID, thank you very much), but by baby 3, they figure you know what you’re getting yourself into.  But you don’t argue too much with a crazy pregnant lady, so I got the epidural (OUCH…not the shot…the stinking contractions while sitting in that position).  It.was.AWESOME.  Relief!  Laughter!  Ahhhhh…. I was ready to push in almost no time at all.  My doctor nearly missed it, but he showed up, and I pushed, and Judah was out!  FINALLY!!!

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They put him on my chest, covered him with a blanket “to keep him from being cold,” and we nursed.  (Can I just say the epidural was worth it, if only to not have to feel them pushing on my belly after baby was out!!!!)  I played with his left foot and counted his toes.  I literally remember thinking, “Everybody says they count their baby’s toes, so okay…1,2, 3, 4, 5…this is dumb.  Of course he has 10 fingers and 10 toes.”  And I stopped counting.  My doula told me later that she saw me do that and her heart sank.

See, what I didn’t realize is that he didn’t have 10 toes.  My baby was born with one normal leg, foot, and toes, and one short leg with a tiny foot and 2 toes.  My doctor, nurses, and doula saw it right when he was born, but I didn’t.  I had even leaned up, touched his head, and basically watched myself push him out, and hadn’t noticed what was wrong.  My husband was video taping, and didn’t see it either!  My doctor later told me that immediately when he saw Judah’s leg, he started praying.  “God, give me wisdom.  God, give me the words to say.  Lord, help.”  He knew we needed to nurse and bond.  So he gave that he-might-get-cold excuse to have nurses keep him well-covered.  We nursed on both sides, as my doula took cues and strategically helped the blanket placement as well.  I did not even realize something was wrong until nurses had taken him to weigh and measure across the room, and my doctor asked me if I had seen Judah’s leg.

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In that moment, God held me.  He held my heart.  He held my emotions.  He held my reactions.  He held my mind.  I had peace that passed ALL understanding.  People were waiting for me to loose it.  And I just wasn’t.  God gave me strength, courage, and love that were all His.  I immediately said that this was our baby boy, and God had entrusted him to us, and that I was so thankful and humbled to see what God had in store for him.  I would not have been able to focus during this time if I had been battling with physical pain.  Praise the Lord for knowing I needed that epidural – for the aftermath.

God put the exact people in that room that needed to be there.  He led them.  And they carried me.  My doula (who is a good friend) and I lovingly joke that my doctor is our Birth Pastor.  He has prayed with my husband and I through this journey.  We can rejoice in the Lord together in complete trust in Him, even when we don’t understand.

God also designed my labor and delivery music playlist.  I chose some Christian songs to help me through the time, and listened to them a lot leading up to that moment.  The lyrics and truths in those songs were so relevant to that situation, it still gives me chills.

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Throughout my pregnancy, God was obviously strengthening my faith, a “gift” which I had never felt super strong in before.  He really and truly prepared me for this moment, and I didn’t even realize it.  Until that moment came.  And I am overwhelmed with awe and wonder of our loving Father God.

We eventually learned that Judah has PFFD, or Proximal Focal Femoral Deficiency.  We have been told by doctors, specialists, geneticists, and google that we will never know the reason why he has this.  It is pretty rare, and the causes are unknown.  The medical world does have a few “best guesses,” however, and I have my guess as well.  See, I’ve learned that limbs begin to form in utero around week 7.  (First of all, how amazing is that?!)  Week 7 is when I started having bleeding.  Something happened.  My body was letting go.  But God answered my prayer and saved his life.  My miracle baby.  Leg, shmleg.  He’s alive.  And for that, I am forever thankful.

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God has big plans for this little guy.  And I am so grateful that I get to be his momma, and that I get to be along for the ride.

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Homeschooling: Kindergarten Math

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Today was a big math day for us.  I love math days.  Math is awesome.  I want my kids to love math too, so I try to make it fun.  When I am choosing a curriculum, unit, worksheet, or activity, regardless of the subject matter, I try to make sure it’s going to be fun.  Sometimes, when I pick up a curriculum book or see a worksheet online, I feel like I would be bored to tears if I had to do it.  I’m not going to torture myself by trying to make my kids drudge through something boring and monotonous.

We did a lot of math today, and NONE of it felt boring or monotonous.  We even did two worksheets.  Some of you need to change your attitude about math – at least around your kids.  If you show interest and enjoyment in what your kiddo is learning, chances are they will show interest and enjoyment as well.  This is going to vary some, especially as kids get older, but I definitely see that my kids take their attitude cues from me.  On the other side, if you talk about how much you hate something, your kids are generally going to hate it too.  If you tell them math is boring and hard and terrible, they will believe you.  So stop it!  Learning about numbers is FUN.  We are skip counting, adding, learning about money, and even solving story problems.  STOP right there with those mental eye rolls – story problems are awesome!  “Jan needs 10 dollars.  She has 5 dollars.  How many more dollars does Jan need?”  The answer is not that Jan needs to get a credit card.  Maybe this is why so many people are bad with money.  Somebody needed to tell them in Kindergarten that math and numbers and story problems are awesome.  I’m not here to have an argument about algebra or calculus with you (although, I love them too).  But I do wish more parents fostered a love for numbers in their small children, rather than training them, by example, that math is just a dumb chore.

I get that some of you just don’t love math.  For me, it’s history.  I never enjoyed history in school.  But rather than avoid it and have a bad attitude, I’m so excited to learn alongside my kids.  I’m trying even harder in this subject area to make it come alive, because the traditional way of doing things just did NOT work for me.  This is one of the BEST things about homeschooling!  I can change it up and do what works best for US!

Math is probably the subject we change things up in the most.  I love that I am able to see my daughter’s strengths and weaknesses so quickly and change the plans as needed.  We can advance in certain areas beyond her “grade level,” and go back in other areas to pick up something she has missed.  Today’s math lessons are a great example of this, so I wanted to share with you an example of what we use and how we adjust.

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Our main math curriculum is called Math U See.  I started her in the Alpha level in the spring, and after a few lessons, realized we needed to go back and start with Primer instead.  We skipped at least 10 lessons and then got going.  It is BEAUTIFUL to be able to tailor your child’s schooling to what THEY need.  I did my research before picking our math curriculum, and I hated the more traditional school books.  I am very impressed by the simplicity and reasoning behind Math U See, and I believe it is challenging, yet still fun and flexible.  It comes with a teaching DVD so that another teacher is teaching your kids the lesson, which takes a lot of pressure off as well.  Sometimes your kids (and you) just need someone else to explain it.  As of now, we have covered (and enjoyed) subjects such as place value, skip counting, certain addition facts, and solving for an unknown.  (Excuse me while my heart skips a beat…solving for an unknown in Kindergarten…I love it!)

This week, we have added in some other math items to supplement, though.  Through going over our daily calendar time (this particular day it was in the car), I realized Tenley was struggling with the teen numbers.  She will often transpose the numbers (calling 13, 31).  To be fair, that set of numbers is weird.  We should pronounce them “ten-three, ten-four, etc,” but we don’t.  Since she’s not retaining it with me just explaining it (over, and over, and over….), enter Pinterest.  I found these awesome number reinforcement worksheets, and since she can read, they are perfect.  Plus, we’re getting in some handwriting at the same time, which she can be hesitant to do.  Sneaky learning is the best.  I printed off 11-19 and we will do one each school day.

I also found some awesome resources for learning about money.  We have talked about this a little bit on our own, and she knows what money is.  She knows that you earn money by working for it, and we have taught her to break up her money into 3 categories: save, give, and spend.  But it is obvious she doesn’t understand the values of each piece clearly.  I understand this will be a process, but we are starting now!

While she was working on the money puzzles, she grabbed her Money Mini Book as a reference.  (Great way to problem solve, girly!  Use the resources around you!)  I also printed, laminated, and cut out these money clip cards, for her to use with clothespins.  Pinterest can be so helpful, and I am SO thankful for these fellow homeschooling mamas who have made these resources available FREE!

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As you can see, we are kind of all over the board here.  We have gone backwards to pick up some skills she maybe “should have” known already.  We have moved forward into some advanced skills.  And we have grabbed some practical items to learn about on the fly as well.  I absolutely love having the ability to control what she is learning, depending on what she needs.  I also love having the ability to go with the flow and not plan so much.  We have a loose plan, but we are able to be flexible, and adjust based on needs and desires.  I still have a lot to learn, but I am so thankful God has us on this journey for this season.  It has already been more of a blessing than I ever had imagined.

How did YOU feel about math in school?

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How we paid off $80,000 of debt in 2 ½ years

How we paid off $80,000 of debt

I think we can all agree: Debt sucks.  No one wants to be drowning in debt or stressed out about money, but somehow, almost all of us end up there.  Students loans, credit cards, vehicles, mortgages, etc… It’s easy to get into debt, and it is so hard to see the way out once we’re there.  Debt becomes our new normal.  We work more hours, get more jobs, and then buy more stuff.  It’s an awful cycle.  Many people start to think of the price of new items in terms of monthly payments, rather than how much the total item costs.

Just talking about it makes my chest feel heavy.  We all prize freedom, yet where is the freedom in debt?  Proverbs 22:7 says, “the borrower is servant to the lender.”  Some translations use the word “slave.”  Doesn’t it feel that way?  We are slaves to our lenders – and if they don’t get their payments each month, we have even bigger prices to pay as a consequence.

But why are we even talking about this?  Isn’t everyone up to their neck in debt?  Isn’t that just the norm?  What’s the point of getting out?  I mean, all this stuff I’m in debt for is supposed to make me happy, so I’ll just keep buying it.

Now, I am not going to say that everyone should always avoid all debt at all times. I believe that when you weigh the options, some things may actually be worth getting into debt over – like education, or your home.  Different people are in different circumstances and have different desires.  So I’m not going to sit over here on my high horse and pretend like I have the answers for what everyone should do.  It’s totally your money, and it’s not my place to judge what you do with it.  Really.

But for those of you who WANT to get out of debt, know that it IS possible.  And you may be able to become completely debt-free faster than you think.  So I’m going to tell you how we paid off $80,000 of debt in 2 ½ years.  For real!  And it’s not because we have big paying jobs.  My husband is a teacher, and I am a stay-at-home mom.  We are NOT swimming in cash over here.

2 ½ years ago, we built a house.  Our new mortgage ended up being about $133,000.  2 ½ years later, we are down to $53,000.  Here are 9 things that helped us get here:

  1. Create a Budget

If you don’t have a budget written out, do it now.  Do.It.Now.  You may think you are doing an OK job of keeping your spending under control without one.  I can almost guarantee you’re not doing as good a job as you think.  Track your spending – EVERY penny – and see how much you need for each category.  Then cut it down (please don’t cut down your tithing, if that is something important to you) and set goals.  Continue keeping track of everything, and adjust as needed.  It may take a few months for you to get a handle on exactly what your numbers need to be, but start the process now.  It is AMAZING how much little things like fast food can add up to.  Take your lunch to work and save $150/month.

There are a ton of free budget templates online.  Here is a simple worksheet I found: Budget Worksheet Form

If you’re a spreadsheet person, like me, you can make your own, or maybe use one of these: 10 Free Household Budget Spreadsheets

  1. Make it a Game

Have fun with this!  Challenge yourself!  Saving money and cutting back does not have to be dreadful.  I feel like it’s a fun contest to see if I can beat myself by spending less in certain budget categories each month.  Make goals and visualize your “why” for getting out of debt.  What would you do with all that extra money, if you didn’t have those monthly payments??  Go on vacation?  Retire early?  Give more? Spend more on your hobbies?  If you are a super visual person, you can even create a “vision board”  with pictures of your goals to remind you of why you are tightening up now.  As Dave Ramsey says, “Live like no one else now so later you can live like no one else.”

  1. Stop Spending Money on Stuff You Don’t Need

Do you really need cable TV?  No.  It’s really expensive and it rots your brain.  (Okay, to be fair, I am no stranger to binging on Netflix.  But at least it’s WAY cheaper!)  Get a cheaper cell phone and plan.  We use Cricket Wireless.  We have awesome service, decent smart phones, and pretty cheap plans – with no contracts or extra fees.  If you have cell phones, ditch the landline.  Do you have magazine subscriptions you don’t read?  Waste of money.  Don’t eat out so much.  We maybe go out once a month, including fast food.  If we go out more, it’s because we somehow got it free.  It’s healthier to eat at home, it’s way cheaper, and facilitates family time better.  When you do go out, use a coupon!

  1. Spend Less Money on Stuff You Do Need

When was the last time you shopped around for car/home insurance?  Or internet service?  Sometimes you can save a lot by switching, and it’s so worth the time on the phone to find out.  Buy less clothing, and when you do need it, buy used.  Resale shops can have awesome stuff for WAY cheaper than retail.  Even when you combine sales and coupons, new clothes are usually way too expensive for my taste.  This goes for adult and kids clothes, including shoes and accessories.  Most people have way too many clothes in their closets anyway, so just stop buying stuff (even cheap stuff) unless you need it.

  1. Sell Your Stuff

Go through your house and get rid of stuff.  Be brutal.  Believe me, you won’t miss it, and you’ll love having the extra cash.  Do your kids really need THAT many pairs of shoes, when they refuse to wear anything but their favorite pair anyway?  Do YOU need that many pairs of shoes?  No.  Declutter every room from top to bottom and you’ll have a cleaner house and more money.  Win, win!

  1. Search for Deals

My husband is awesome at this.  Just yesterday, he came in and asked, “Do you want pizza for dinner?  It’s free.”  Combining coupons and his awesome deal-finding skills, we fed our family of 5 with carryout pizza for 58 cents, and had leftovers, and I didn’t have to cook or clean.  *swoon*  He speaks my love language.  His favorite go-to site for finding deals is Slick Deals.  He also checks out all the grocery ads and we stock up on sales – like meat, cheese, and blueberries – all which you can freeze for later.  I don’t coupon a lot because I think it turns out being a waste of time and money a lot.  But I do use coupons for diapers.  I use Amazon Prime to get deals on toiletries and vitamins.  We almost exclusively go to Aldi for our groceries, because it is cheap and quick and awesome.  I am in love with Aldi.  We participate in kid’s clubs and birthday clubs at local libraries, restaurants, bookstores, etc.  These can get you coupons for lots of different free activities and foods.  Searching for deals can take extra time, but it can save you lots of money, and give you the ability to do things free, like eating out, that you may be cutting out of your budget.

  1. Do Free Stuff

You can still have fun and experience lots of things without spending lots of money.  Go to community playgrounds.  There are lots of free places to hike and picnic too.  Places like Home Depot and Lowe’s have free workshops for kids and adults.  Museums have free days.  Libraries have tons of free programs for all ages.  Go for a walk or a bike ride around your city, neighborhood, or riverfront.  Some communities have free splash parks, or pools for summertime fun.  Communities and businesses offer free events all the time, so just get out there and search for them.  You’ll gain new experiences and have lots of fun – for no money at all!  Remember to pack your own lunches and snacks!  😉

  1. Get a Side Hustle

There are always side jobs you can take on to make extra cash.  Your time is valuable, so you don’t want to take on ALL the jobs, but it can be super helpful to earn even $20 a week extra.  Tutor.  Clean a house.  Mow a lawn.  Babysit.  During the time we have paid down so much debt, I started growing a direct sales business, which helped a lot.  Just make sure you don’t waste your hard earned money; instead…

  1. Take Your Newfound Loads of Cash and PAY DOWN THAT DEBT

It is SO much fun to see the principle balance on your loans decrease.  It’s like a party every month.  Many wise financial advisors say to work hard to pay off your lowest debt first.  Then take all you were paying on that loan (the payment amount + whatever extra you were paying) and put that as extra on the next lowest until it’s paid off.  Then take all that money and put it on the next, and so on.  Your debt will fall off faster this way, kind of like a snowball!

Then CELEBRATE because you are DEBT-FREE!!!!!!  You CAN do this!!!!

What are some of YOUR favorite money-saving tips?

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Letting Go When You Don’t Want To

Letting Go

Many of you know that our son, Judah, has PFFD, which accounts for his leg length discrepancy.  Explanation of that is for another post at another time.  But for now, I just want to share part of my momma heart on it.

Most of the time, I think nothing of his differences.  It’s just normal life.  People often tell me how amazed they are by him.  Don’t get me wrong – I appreciate those comments, and I am incredibly thankful that he can be an inspiration.  What an amazing gift, and a way he is already impacting the world, before he even means to.  But internally, I am always kind of surprised when people say things like that.  I mean, he totally doesn’t know any different.  He learned to walk.  Just like other kids.  Sure, he learned differently.  Believe me – I get it.  But really, he doesn’t get it.  He just learned to walk.  None of us treat him any differently.  I work with him on teaching him how to go down a slide…just like I worked with my other kids to teach them how to go down a slide without slipping or falling.  I absolutely love that Judah is growing up with this, rather than having gone through a traumatic experience and having his leg taken away that way.

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I don’t bring that up to deter people or say that I think their comments are weird.  I bring it up to say that I don’t get super emotional about his leg and situation a lot.  Honestly, you wouldn’t either if you lived with it day to day.  It’s just how things are!  BUT, there are times I do get emotional. Like right now.

I’m writing about this for a few reasons.  One, it helps my heart to spill.  Two, I want you to recognize that when life gets to be a lot and you feel emotional, it’s okay to feel those things.  Let it out, and then hand it over – completely – to our Good Father God.  Three, if there are any other PFFD (or similar) families out there who read this blog, you are not alone.  The online community I have found has helped me, and I hope this post encourages you too.

So, here it goes.  Currently, there is something that is making me feel hot tears well up behind my eyes, just ready to spill out at any moment.  It’s that toe.  Oh, that sweet baby toe.

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Excuse the bad photography and old pictures (he is almost 2 now!)  But he’s asleep and I’m not about to wake him for a picture.  🙂

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This is my baby’s foot.  He has two toes.  One of these toes has bones, but the other one doesn’t.  It just hangs there.  It does have feeling, it does have blood flow, and I do have to trim that sweet toe nail.  Various people – medical and otherwise – have flippantly suggested we get rid of it.  I shut that down quickly.  I’m not sure why.  But I love that toe.  So much.  Maybe it’s because I feel he has been deprived of so much, that I can’t fathom taking away one more thing.  I kiss that toe.  It is part of my baby.  I feel momma-bear-ish about that toe.  I get that that makes no sense.  I get that the toe doesn’t help him.  But I don’t care.  And I’ve decided that I’m allowed this illogical request, to keep the toe.  The interesting thing was, when we finally got to talk to Judah’s orthopedic specialist about the future, at around 10 months old, he didn’t even ask to get rid of the toe.  He said we would leave everything as-is unless a problem arose.  I know he was talking about joint surgeries and such, but the toe thing was in there too.  Understood.  He’s seen enough momma hearts, and didn’t dare take this away from me.  I couldn’t handle it then.

But a problem has arisen.  No, he hasn’t pulled it off.  No, it isn’t getting caught on things.  You would be surprised how strong that little thing is.  However, last week when I removed his prosthesis and sock, his little tiny toe was swollen and almost purple.  I always pull that little toe out to be even with the other one while he is wearing his leg, but for some reason, this time his toe had been stuck backwards.  His foot and the prosthesis were allowed to put pressure on it this way, and basically cut off some circulation.  It kind of freaked me out, but I decided it was a fluke.  Well, today the same thing happened again.  I’m not sure if the toe was twisted weird, or turned the wrong direction, but it was swollen and almost purple, and Judah was grabbing it and saying, “Ouch” as it started to regain its color – you know that feeling when some part of you was “asleep” and you didn’t realize it until you moved and it started to wake up.  My heart sank.  It’s time to get rid of the toe.

Thankfully, I’ve had time to get used to his reality.  Taking away his toe is not going to be a big deal in the long run.  He will never remember he even had it.  But even typing that makes the tears well up in my eyes.  See, he loves that toe too.  He plays with it, as if for security, when I hold and rock him.  But it’s time to let go of this thing.  This thing that is unnecessary.  This thing that once was security for both of us, but has now become a problem.  The thing that once was harmless, but now sometimes causes harm.  It’s time to let go, and move on, and trust God to take care of my baby and my heart.

This all may sound a little silly to you.  But I think in some way, at some time, we have all been able to relate.  We have all had things in life that seemed harmless – maybe they were even gifts from God, good things.  But then they started causing problems.  Maybe we put too much attention on the gift, and not enough on the Giver.  Maybe we have found our security in the wrong place.  Maybe God is asking us to let go, move on, and trust Him to take care of us, and our hearts.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:18

Much love to you as you search your heart, checking to see if anything needs to be modified.  We’re all in this together.

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Saying “No” to One of My Greatest Passions

Saying _ _ to one of my greatest passions

Many of you may not know this, but I love to sing.  I love to get lost in music, to hear a perfect harmony and belt it out.  Singing with people who get the same joy out of the music is even better.  But it’s more than singing – where my real passion lies is in leading people into worshipping Jesus.  It gets my heart pounding.  To be in a group of talented musicians, creatively putting together a set that we have all worked hard on, and then letting go and helping a room full of people forget their surroundings and just worship God together – that is one of the most incredible things I’ve ever experienced.

Growing up, my Mom always sang in the choir at church.  I remember her putting on cassette tapes of Christmas music and practicing her alto harmonies over, and over, and over… I hated it.  It was so irritating to me to hear the same thing over and over again!  But it served me well.  Because of her, my brain could pick out those harmonies so naturally as I began my own vocal journey in high school.  I helped start a student-led high school band in my youth group at church.  We played sets every week, and even played at a couple local community events.  It was there I learned to lead, recover from mistakes, and think on my feet.  I messed up a lot, but it was a safe place to grow.  I learned new instruments and began writing my own music.

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As I got older, I found my spot on a regular team at our church.  I loved being a part of that group.  I’m sure I was totally unqualified.  The talent around me was amazing.  It was so cool to watch them, and so neat to be a part of growing together with them.

Then at one point, though, I felt my attitudes and desires shifting.  There were some changes going on in our church, so that was definitely part of it.  During that time, I also got pregnant with our first baby.  I knew I shouldn’t have a bad attitude while on stage, and babies are a good excuse out of anything, so I stepped down.  That was 6 years ago, and I basically haven’t stepped back up since then.

My attitudes healed and so did our church, although neither one is ever an easy or short road.  I’ve been on stage a couple times since then, but even when I’m asked to stay, I’ve always pulled away.  It’s just not time yet.  For awhile, I couldn’t wait to get back up there.  But I’ve found a little more patience and contentment in my old(er) age.  I have so many important roles to play right now.  I am Mommy to 3 awesome kiddos.  What I thought was just an “excuse,” in the beginning, actually was a real turning point!  I would never change that for the world, but it’s true that I can’t commit to anything unless that thing lets me have 3 kids trailing along at all times.  That gets me in to a lot of library storytimes, but not a lot of worship teams.

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But you know what?  I am TOTALLY okay with that.  If it was the right thing, I know I could make it work.  I have a great husband, and a great family in town, who would help make it work.  But right now, I’m confident that my role is not to lead worship on stage.  Maybe it’s just to lead worship in the crowd.  That really is a thing.  To see people you know and love let go a little and fully engage with singing truth to and about our Savior?  That is something that has helped and encouraged me many times over the years.  So I’m okay if that is my worship leading role right now.  Truly, I’m okay if that is my worship leading role forever.

You just CAN’T do it all.  There are different seasons for everything, and you just cannot do them all at one time.  And you shouldn’t exhaust yourself trying to make them all happen at the same time, because then you won’t enjoy any of them!!  So instead of wishing things were like “the good ole days” or wishing time would just move faster so you can get to the next step, slow down.  Take a moment to list out all the GOOD things about where you are right.now.  Enjoy this time.  Be thankful for the past, and be hopeful about the future.  But always remember to Be where you are.  And know that sometimes, it’s OK (and even better) to say “No” to one of your greatest passions.  Because it doesn’t have to be your only one!

Here’s to modifying life, and loving it.

What is something YOU love about your life right now?

 

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Postpartum Depression & Loving Your Kids Intentionally

Postpartum Depression

When I was pregnant with my first child, I did everything I could to learn about how to have a healthy pregnancy, create an awesome birth experience, and take care of a newborn like a boss.  I was going to ROCK at this motherhood thing.  And for the most part, everything turned out well!  God gave me a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.  I had a beautiful, drug-free birth experience.  My daughter started sleeping through the night at 8 weeks old.

Of course, none of this could have happened without my mommy-tribe.  I knew then and I know now that mommy’s need to stick together and help each other through this journey called motherhood.  None of us know what we’re doing completely, but when we all help each other out, everything seems so much more doable.

One of the things I learned from my mommy-tribe (and partly from movies and TV) is that I would feel this unexplainable bond and rush of love as soon as I held my baby.  It was purely biological – I didn’t need to do anything!  Just sit back, and let the hormones do their job.  Skin to skin helps, so I was sure that was in my birth plan.  My doula was all over it.  I told you I was prepared!

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When baby girl was born, she was placed on my chest and I literally remember thinking, very matter-of-factly, “Okay, hormones.  Go!”  Nothing.  Actually, something happened – I started shaking all over uncontrollably.  I was terrified I would drop her, and wondered why no one was helping me hold her.  Then the nurses started pressing on my belly and I screamed for the first time of the whole experience!  Nobody tells you about the pain that happens AFTER the baby is out!  This was not the magical experience I had hoped for.  But we nursed, and eventually bonded fairly easily.  She was my world, but I will say it was not because of some magical rush I felt.  We just gradually loved each other more and more each passing hour.

15 months later, it was time for baby boy to be born!  I assumed everything would be the same – I mean, I was a pro by this time, right?  I skimmed a book once or twice, and moved on to the birth.  Rather than being a silent, worshipful experience like my first, I screamed in pain the whole time and little man came out FAST, with a swollen and purple face from shooting out like a rocket.  Cue the shaking and pushing on my belly.  UGH.

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But no worries, we would love each other just as deeply as I loved my first baby.  Sure, I wondered how my love could stretch that far, but my mommy-tribe ASSURED me that love multiplies – it doesn’t divide.  More hormonal magic.  So, my baby was here and again I waited.  “Okay, hormones.  Go!”  I waited.  And waited.  Sure, I would protect this baby with my life – he was my son!  But what a really felt?  He was stealing time from my baby girl.  Her babyhood was cut short by this surprise baby.  I mourned the time lost with my “perfect” daughter.  No magic, no hormonal fireworks.  I was just mad that this one didn’t sleep as well as the first.  He must be broken, because I am a pro.  Then, there was the guilt.  My love had divided – not multiplied.  Maybe I am broken too.  What was I thinking, desiring to have two children so close together?  I can’t do this!

By the grace of God, I didn’t spiral into the worst that postpartum depression can offer.  But I can see how it easily happens to so many AMAZING mommas.  I never admitted to any of the feelings I had, to anyone.  I was afraid I would get labeled a “bad mom” and be treated like a crazy person, with people giving me weird sympathetic looks.  Let me tell you something I have learned:  You CAN and SHOULD talk to someone if you are experiencing postpartum depression symptoms.  No, not everyone needs to know.  But there are people you can trust, people who will support you and lift you up, people who won’t look at you like you’re crazy.  They have been there.  And they will walk through it with you.

Four years later, I love my boy deeply.  I fought for it.  I knew skin to skin would help, so we did that when he was a baby.  I prayed.  I cried.  I never gave up.  Even though I didn’t spill my guts, I refused to cut myself off from friends and family.  Even now, I still hold and cuddle him INTENTIONALLY to feel my love hormones kick in.  I take him out on dates.  I listen to his never-ending rants about whatever pops up in his mind, because I want to learn what is in there, and I want him to never stop telling me what is in there.  It isn’t easy.  If I’m being truly honest, he’s still probably the one I have to love most intentionally.  Although, I think that has more to do with the craziness of a 4 year old boy than having anything to do with hormones anymore – he has ALL my love (all my kids do…it eventually DID multiply!).

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The moral of the story – things might not always turn out like you assumed they would.  That again proved to be true when baby #3 came along, but in a completely different way.  You might have to modify.  You might have to throw your plans out the window and stop trusting your own “wisdom” so much.  But praise be to God, we have a Savior to hold us and carry us through.  “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:7

What is one way YOU intentionally love your kids?

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Who is the Modified Mommy? …And why you should be one too

Hi, I’m Angie!  I am the modified mommy, and this is my blog.  Together, you and I will explore marriage, parenting, budgets, fitness, and homemaking.  Life has taught me that things don’t always turn out the way you thought they would.  Sometimes life throws you curveballs, and you have to learn to roll with it. But through it all, the most important lesson I’ve learned is that God’s plan is better than mine.  Every day is a blessing, and I’m learning to adapt and find joy in every part of life!

Before I got married, I pictured my future life as a stay-at-home mom, completely relying on my husband’s income to support our family.  I would happily follow a color-coded cleaning schedule, joyfully prepare home-cooked meals every night, and have a steaming hot love life to boot.  I was going to submit to my husband’s authority without question, lead a couple’s Bible Study with my leadership-gifted hubby, and DIY the heck out of every part of my life.  I told myself I would read lots of books, wake up early every day, and produce obedient, genius children who would never dream of throwing a fit at the grocery store.  *I’ll pause here so you can get a good laugh in.*

Boy, has my life been flipped upside down.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I’ve learned that it’s okay not to fit into some stereotypical mold.  It’s freeing when you stop trying to be somebody else.  And I’ve learned a secret that I’ll let you in on…NOBODY fits that mold.  I’m not even sure who that “somebody” was that I was trying to be.  But I have a feeling we all have tried to be a certain “somebody” at one time or another.  God has beautifully created each one of us uniquely, and the diversity is extraordinary.  It’s beautiful.  So let’s celebrate it!

Does that mean I don’t clean, cook, or work hard in my family life?  Of course not!!  But I modify.  I am learning about my unique gifts from God, and modifying my original expectations to fit my natural leanings, desires, and callings from Him.  Over and over throughout different areas of my life, I hear my fitness instructor (and friend), Jessica, in my head: “You can modify, but you can’t quit!!!!”

For example, I always dreamed of the day I would send my kids off to the private school I attended, and then felt the calling to homeschool.  WHAT?!  I don’t like crafting or routines, and I’m terrible at follow-through.  “You can modify, but you can’t quit!!!”

Or when my third child was born and surprised us all by having one normal leg & one extremely short leg with a tiny two-toed foot.  We wondered if and how he could ever walk, run, and do the physical things our other kids enjoyed so much.  He has taught us over and over, “You can modify, but you can’t quit!!!”

So, here we are.  Adjusting when we need to, but not giving up.  There is so much freedom in this, and I can’t wait to share what I’ve learned as I’ve “broken the rules” over and over again!

Need to provide budget-friendly and healthy meals for your family, but hate to cook?  …Modify; don’t quit.

Love fresh food and flowers, but have a brown thumb?  …Modify; don’t quit.

Have early-rising kids, but function better as a night owl yourself?  …Modify; don’t give up!

 

God bless you, and I appreciate you following along through this journey!  I hope you will be blessed beyond measure!

What is something YOU would like to modify in your life?

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