Making a Difference

Someone took this picture of me, Rob and Bo one Sunday morning during worship last summer. This picture is priceless and is part of the reason I know why God has me here in NY.

Someone took this picture of me, Rob and Bo one Sunday morning during worship last summer. This picture is priceless and is part of the reason I know why God has me here in NY.

I remember first moving here to Long Island, I knew no one. I had Rob’s family which made things a little easier but I didn’t have a church family or anyone aside from my boyfriend (now husband)’s family and the transition to living in New York was a bit rough for me. I felt like a fish out of water. I missed everything about what I always knew home was — the south. I had lived in many places but there was something very different about this new environment and culture that had me feeling pretty claustrophobic and anxious. I was bound and determined not to get comfortable here. I started my new job, met some of Rob’s friends from high school and their wives but I kept a safe distance because I figured, why should I get close to anyone if I don’t plan on staying here?

Rob and I finally found our church after a year and a half of living here and even though I felt a sense of belonging after so long of feeling unsettled, I still kept a safe distance from people. I didn’t want Rob to think I was getting too comfortable and have a crazy thought of us actually staying in New York for good. I kept up with this ridiculous notion for years. I struggled so bad with the torn feelings, so much so that before we got married, I — for the first time in my life — saw a therapist, thinking I didn’t want to ruin a marriage before it started because of the resentment and helplessness I felt about living here on Long Island. That therapy didn’t help because it was a deeper rooted issue that would take me years more to discover. Once we started going to our church, after we were married, I met with my pastor’s wife one day, bellyaching about my woes of missing home. I remember her telling me that I should start praying differently; instead of begging God to get me back home, I should condition myself to accept that I’m going to be in New York forever and ask God how he can use me while I'm here. I didn't like that answer one bit. I continued on my quest to get the heck out of Long Island, New York, of course to no avail.

I'm not sure at what exact point I started to lose momentum of fighting to get off this island, maybe it was after the zillions of possibilities of moving which led to the zillions of letdowns. I was tired of feeling disappointed which turned into resentment, and so on and so forth. It could have been when Bo was born and I decided shortly thereafter that I didn't want to wish my life away when I had an answered prayer physically in my arms. For the last few years, something shifted in me, that I do know for sure. Of course I still miss so many things about what I will always feel is home to me but in the same regard, I think what I begged God for for so many years, I finally received. PEACE. I can't even count how many times I'd have an internal meltdown because I was still here in New York, I'd tell God I was giving everything to Him and that I just wanted His will for my life, and then I'd beg Him to show me what He wanted me to do next. This was a vicious cycle, over and over and over but I think deep down I really wasn't willing to completely let go of the dream of going back south. After many life changes throughout the course of these last 2-3 years, going through a desert season, coming out on the other end and then looking over the course of my life and seeing so much that I hadn't really noticed before, it was like the scales fell off my eyes and heart.

I don't have it all together and shoot, who really ever does anyway?! I do, however, truly feel like in so many ways I'm walking in God's will. I recently felt the nudge to volunteer for our church's youth group. TOTTTTALLLY out of my comfort zone so it must be God, right?! I don't know in what capacity this new venture will be and what it will look like but I answered what I felt was the call. I feel like I sound like a broken record because I've shared this with so many people but I figure if I can help at least one teen girl not go down some of the paths that I went down, that's a win/win. It's a win for the teen girl who doesn't have to feel regret or loss for mistakes that she may avoid and it's a win for God because all of this is about Him anyway.

As of December 6th of this year, it will be 8 years that I've lived here — yes, E I G H T! It's mind boggling to think I packed up all of my earthly possessions and moved, what feels like, a million miles away, 8 years ago. I don't have a clue how much longer God will have us here but I'm finally ready to stop kicking and screaming, and shush and listen to what exactly He has me here to do. Oh I know that He has been working through me and for me since the day I stepped foot on this island but I also know that I spent many years here not waiting well and that has stopped. I want to make a difference in the lives around me. I want to wait well as hard as it is sometimes. It's so easy to just coast as a christian but what fun is that?! We have a crap ton of things to get done on this earth — just look outside your window, there's a hurting world out there no matter what part of the planet you're on! I may have my bad days where I just really want to get a hug from my mama or sit out under the stars out back in my Aunt Mildred and Uncle Bill's yard, listening to the choir of frogs, crickets and cicadas but I know that God knows way beyond today and He has me right where He wants me. Even though I don't understand half of what He does, I know it's for my good and I know it's way better than what I've ever tried to plan.

• My life verse: Jeremiah 29:11-13 •

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

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G. R. A. C. E.

My glimpse of grace.

My glimpse of grace.

Lately I've been seeing this word a lot. GRACE. It's such a nice sounding word and I've heard it my whole life but don't feel that I've ever truly grasped it's meaning. It's also a popular name, in fact, it was almost CC's name until a person I know named her baby Grace.

God's GRACE. What's all the hype about? I didn't have some crazy conversion to my faith--I grew up in church, I accepted Jesus in my heart when I was 7 years old. I knew from a very young age that Jesus was the only way. Yes, I drifted throughout my adolescence, I sinned (and still do) as all people do, but I never went to rehab and/or relapsed on drugs, I never was much of a party girl, I didn't have an earth-shattering realization of God and His grace. It's freaks me out a little if I'm being completely honest because I think to myself sometimes, "oh my goodness, is something bad going to happen--am I going to fall flat on my face and do something awful in order for me to have this crazy grace moment?!" I've expressed this fear in the past to Rob and to other participants in a small group I was in at church and the general concensus was that I was blessed to have not had some crazy story and that I've still had moments in my life that have revealed the grace of God. This is very true but I still find myself peeking around the corner in angst at times. 

God's

Relief

At

Christ's

Expense

I looked up this acronym because I wondered if one existed already. Much like the acronym for FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real) that I learned long ago, this acronym for grace helps me put God's character in a nutshell, as silly and impossible that pretty much is. Have you ever had a thought or a feeling that was so complex that it was so hard to dissect and put into words that made sense? That's grace for me. It's so vast and so complex to me that it's hard to pin point what exactly it means. This acronym simplifies it well for me because I tend to make things more complicated than they are sometimes. God's grace really is a simple concept if you truly think about it. It can be summed up to one word: sacrifice. God's relief at Christ's expense...Jesus, God's only Son was a living sacrifice to atone for all of our screwups, to put it bluntly. While this is a hard concept for me to accept after a lifetime of knowing Jesus, I feel that as I've gotten older and more spiritually mature, and as I'm now a parent myself, I'm slowly but surely beginning to understand grace better. As I've mentioned in a previous post, I have a bad habit of thinking of God as being a dictator, in that if I screw up, if I get frustrated and a not-so-nice word mutters out of my mouth, or if I completely lose it on my unruly 3-year-old, something bad is coming my way. One Hundred percent of the time, I immediately feel guilty and I apologize for my attitude and pray for forgiveness, still with the thought that I'm going to really get it from God. That isn't grace and it surely isn't how God works. I know this but yet I still struggle with truly knowing God's character. I'm a work in progress though. Grace, right?

I picked up a book at Target last week called Grace Not Perfection and whoa buddy was it written for me! You would think that God breathed the author, Emily Ley's, words right into her book because it basically encompasses the majority of my guilts, thoughts and prayers as of late. Even some of her stories are insanely parallel to my own, including a story about her surrendering her will and plan to God and how that happened through the birth of her first child. I too had a supernatural God moment in the birth of my second child, CC. Of course Bo was our miracle baby (as was CC but Bo was a whole different kind of miracle) but my entire pregnancy and then birth of CC did not go as planned at all and resulted in a much-feared, much-dreaded C-section where I literally had nothing to grasp but Jesus. I was laid out on an operating table, not able to move, praying in my head, "I trust you, Lord. Please don't let me die. I trust you, Lord", over and over. April 20, 2017 was a pivotal moment in my walk with God. I had set out on a journey months before, seeking to really know His character and boy did He show it! Even in my doubts and my sin, even in every ugly corner of my being, He showered me with grace.

I still struggle everyday with the concept of grace, I am super duper hard on myself and I drag myself through the mud but when I'm in the middle of giving myself a fat lip and a black eye because of one reason or another, I stop mid-punch and remember that Jesus paid it all already. I remember that God loves me (and you!) so much that He let His Son die a horrible death. He could have easily bypassed the death altogether, He could have plowed over the soldiers nailing His Son to the cross but He didn't. Why? Because He loves us that much. Because of His amazing grace.

Skewed Views

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I woke up this morning singing the Jesus Culture song, "All Consuming Fire" in my head and I'm not sure why other than the fact that maybe this is what the Holy Spirit is singing over me today.

I started this blog as an outlet to jot down everyday musings, whether those musings be a funny story about my kids, something inspirational or challenging for myself or you...whoever you are reading this.

CC woke me up around 5 this morning and I wasn't able to go back to sleep; something kept telling me that I needed to write a post. I sat down on the couch, read a chapter out of Ezekial (because for the past month or so I've been trying to read the book even though at times, I feel as lost as a goose in the woods navigating through it), then came to write a post. Crickets. Not a clue what to write. I resorted to my thoughts of, "well, I don't have anything funny to say and I don't want all of my posts to be serious and deep-in-thought, so I just won't write today." However, the lyrics of that song kept playing in my mind so here I am, back in the post.

Reading the lyrics of this song, I'm drawn to one word, love. I think my view of God has been so skewed my entire life, and still today at times. I've been a christian for as long as I can remember, though I did some major backsliding in my late teens and college years; I've always known and acknowledged God but I think subconsciously I've seen Him as being unreachable and judgmental. Though I've seen miracle after miracle and have experienced blessing after blessing through and by Him, if there's ever been a bad thought in my mind or something bad that has happened in my life, I immediately think, "what did I do wrong?" or "is this God punishing me", or even, "this is too good to be true, something bad is going to happen." How jacked up is my way of thinking?! And this is coming from someone who has always known and loved God! In the past few years I've really tried to tackle this view I've had of God. A friend of mine has mentioned numerous times about the character of God and one of the last times I heard her say those words, I really thought about that statement and evaluated my assessment of the character of God. That is when I realized that I've had a pretty messed up view of His character. Yes, when we sin, there are consequences but that's not God condemning us. He's not some dictator sitting on a throne, ready to throw flames at us for the things we do wrong. He's not out to get us. I've always been a worrier; I remember my mom calling me the "worry wart of the family" as a child and I think because I've always been a worrier, I have had the mentality that something bad is just around the corner. I remember when I was in my early twenties, I would pray that God would let me be a wife and mom, and to please not let the world end until I could experience motherhood. So fast forward to after the miracle of Bo being conceived and born, I remember one day having a mini internal anxiety attack thinking, "oh gosh, my prayer was answered and I'm now a wife and mom...am I going to die now?!" or "is the end of the world coming now??" I know, jacked up. I sit here and shake my head at myself thinking of how ridiculous those thoughts are. I still find myself having fleeting thoughts much like these at times, especially when something good happens in my life but now I stop and often have an internal comin'-to-Jesus meeting with myself. The God I serve is the God of love. I often hear He is love--that's His pure nature and character. I'm 31 years old and still trying to fully grasp that. I know I can only absorb and understand but so much because I'm human and it's very difficult to see God for Who He truly is but as much as my minuscule mind can grasp it, I will continue to strive to see Him for Who and What He truly is. Love.

All consuming fire
You're our hearts desire
Living flame of love
Come baptize us
Come baptize us

All consuming fire
You're our hearts desire
Living flame of love
Come baptize us
Come baptize us

All consuming fire
You're our hearts desire
Living flame of love
Come baptize us
Come baptize us

All consuming fire
You're our hearts desire
Living flame of love
Come baptize us
Come baptize us

Let us fall more in love with you

We wanna know
How high, how deep, how wide is
love, love love

*All Consuming Fire by Jesus Culture | Songwriters: Cassie Campbell / David Brymer / Misty Edwards

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Waiting Well

It's funny how as long as I've been in NY, I've always had a magnolia tree somewhere near me. This shot was from our yard in the cottage we lived in before buying our house 5 and a half years ago.

It's funny how as long as I've been in NY, I've always had a magnolia tree somewhere near me. This shot was from our yard in the cottage we lived in before buying our house 5 and a half years ago.

I'm internally snickering at the subject of this post. "Why?", you may ask. My answer is because my entire life, I've been the one with the least amount of patience. For real. I don't know what it is about waiting but I can't stand it--if something isn't happening in the amount of time I'd like for it to be, I just grab it and do it myself.

But God.

A few days ago I received an e-vite from my pastor's wife to attend the Kingdom Hearts women's conference this year. I attended for the first time two years ago and was completely in awe of the presence and details of God that entire day. I remember the excitement of having a girls day with a small group of ladies from my church and being a bit envious, yet hopeful when I walked into the building and saw a whole slew of vendors set up, wishing I had known about the fact that one could set up shop there. Looking back at my journal from that year, I found my notes from the day of that conference--it was held on April 23, 2016; the day before, I had written an entry describing myself sitting out back here at our house, under our pink magnolia tree watching Bo play with trucks. I wrote about how I had been so excited for that tree to blossom but was disappointed because we had gotten a cold snap (including a late snow) that killed the blooms that were to unfold, but that after sitting there under the tree and studying it a bit, amongst the dead blooms, I could see green shoots and a few traces of pink. "Even in the ugly, there were traces of beauty", I penned. I went on to say that the magnolia, in some ways, was me--that even though I had allowed the enemy or circumstances to take hold of me at times and my trust wavered, I would wither and appear to be drained of life, but when I surrendered to God and put my full faith and trust in Him, I'd begin to be and experience the beauty of what He had designed for me to be.

Back to the day of the KH conference, I walked into the main hall and there, set up as a prop were two wooden pallets that had been handpainted on with the scripture: Jeremiah 17:7-8, which reads, "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is in the Lord. For he shall be a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes, but its leaves will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought nor cease from yielding fruit." The keynote speaker that day was Francie Winslow who spoke on trusting God as well as the condition of our hearts. This morning I sat down with that old journal and looked up the scriptures from that day. I also looked at the sermon notes from the next day at church--my good friend's (now) late mother had given that sermon on Elijah and how God will always provide when he sends us on a mission, how He takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary, how He answers prayers even when we're still speaking, how we are to believe that He will provide and answer prayers, that God orchestrates everything according to His plan, how if we're faithful in little things, He'll give us bigger things, and that He's able to do anything, even what seems to be impossible. Then, I continued to read journal entries from that week which led to sermon notes of the following Sunday which was a sermon by mine and Rob's good friend, Mike who spoke on the subject of "seasons". Something that he said that stood out most to me was, "We need some seasons in our lives where we are drawn to our knees so we reach out to Him, and what follows a desperate season is a season of fruitfulness." WOW. Mind blown. I had no idea that the season that I was stepping into was a dry, drought-filled, wandering, silent, at-times-dark season. I thought I had God figured out, and that Rob, Bo and I were to purchase that old farm house on 34 acres and relocate to Alabama (if you missed it, that story is here) that following year only to have the wind knocked out of my sails just four months later when the deal fell through. I also had no idea that almost a year to the day of that conference, even in my dry season where, though I knew God and was trusting Him on blind faith but not waiting very well, I would be blessed with a daughter, even though I was so apathetic and complacent. 

But God.

So now here I am nearly two years after that conference, with an invitation to attend this year's conference. Upon receipt of the invitation to attend this year, I did some thinking and research, and found myself on the phone with the very sweet vendor coordinator for Kingdom Hearts. Guess who's going to be a vendor at this year's conference? Yep, you guessed it. MAGNOLIA+PINE. I wanted to get a feel for the keynote speaker and her message topic so I looked her up yesterday; her name is Chrystal Evans Hurst and if you're familiar with well-known pastors and Christian speakers, her dad is Tony Evans and her sister is Priscilla Shirer. Anyway, I came across Chrystal's blog and she recently did a podcast with contemporary Christian artist, Meredith Andrews (listen here). Y'all! I started listening to that interview and was glued. They spoke on what it means to be faithful in every season, making room for your gifts (i.e.: how to juggle home life/mommin' and using your God-given gifts and passions), and finding time to rest for it is when you {wait and} rest that you often hear God. It's hard for me to get out of my rut and focus on a sermon at home sometimes but I could listen to that podcast over and over. As we started this new year, I wanted so bad to turn over a new leaf and really get a groove with MAGNOLIA+PINE but of course to still be present at home with Rob and the kids, I just didn't know how in the world I would be able to maintain brain space and momentum. But God, right? This podcast came at just the right time. Chrystal and Meredith spoke about snippets and how so many women feel like it's all or nothing with getting something done. That is totally me! I feel like whether it's a devotional or design, blog post or creative vision, if I sit down to finally get something accomplished--either Bo needs his truck fixed or hiney wiped, or CC is screaming and wants the boob--I lose all concentration and say, "forget it, hopefully I can finally start on _____ tomorrow during their nap". These ladies spoke about how, even if you have a thought, word, vision, whatever it is, and you can speak it into your phone notes, do it! Grab whatever snippet you can and then go back and fit the pieces together. It's so hard for me to imagine myself doing this because I've always been a perfectionist and at times, a bit OCD, but when I sit and really think about it, getting things done in the manner of which they're suggesting is almost like a mosaic. You may be putting tiny pieces of random gibberish together but when it's all finished, it's a beautiful work of art. Such is my life.

I didn't know seven years ago that I'd still be living in New York. I didn't know two years ago that I'd be about to step into a desert season. I didn't know last week that I'd be starting a new year this week and having the sand wiped from my eyes, looking back at an old journal and literally reading the promises of God in my hand writing, in black and white. I say it all the time but when I'm caught up in a lesson He's teaching me, it just absolutely blows my mind. I can't help but feel a little guilty and want to kick myself for the times I haven't waited well, especially during the last seven years. But God. He has been teaching me firsthand His character, His lovingkindness and His grace. I've always had faith and held on to hope but as my dear friend, Shell recently shared, "let us be more aware of Him"; I know He's always working and orchestrating in my life but sometimes I go days on autopilot and not really seeing what He's doing. However, if I just sit for a second and wait...listen instead of speaking...I realize that He's always always always at work, even in the mundane. Even in the desert.

 

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PART IV: Caught Between Two Worlds

Many times Bo will randomly ask me to take a picture of whatever toy he has in his hand. This was one of them. I know I'll look back someday and wish my babies could be babies again.  In a million worlds, I'd choose you.

Many times Bo will randomly ask me to take a picture of whatever toy he has in his hand. This was one of them. I know I'll look back someday and wish my babies could be babies again. In a million worlds, I'd choose you.

I've always loved the poem by Robert Frost entitled, "The Road Not Taken". I'm a visual person so every time I've ever read it or thought of the words, I envisioned a fork in the road--one veering left and the other, right. Seven years ago today, I took one of those roads with not a clue where it was going to lead, but me being me, I was willing to take the chance. I chose to pack up all of my earthly belongings to follow love. I was living in sin and I knew it was wrong but I did it anyway. Thank God for mercy and grace though! Rob and I started off just wingin' it but together, we got right with God and He has blessed us beyond measure.

Life is about choices--there's no way around them. Good and bad, right and wrong, "do I take this job or that one?", "do I spend little or much?". Our life is consumed with choices. As I mentioned in my first post of this little series (that, by the way, I didn't know what going to be a series until I realized after a while, I probably should cut off my story at some point before I lose and/or bore y'all to tears), the only thing I ever was sure about in life was that I wanted to be a mom and a wife; however, I eventually found my passion in art and design...creating things...and it was then that I really found myself caught between two worlds. Everyday I find myself standing in a wide open field--or in my case, my house with toys, diapers, big boy underwear, two babies I've always wanted, dishes in the sink needing washed, mounds of laundry needing folded, toilet bowls needing scrubbed, a desk of open projects and orders, and an Instagram account that keeps nagging at me to stay on top of posts in order to draw attention to little 'ole me and my business I'm trying to build up--with two paths that I have to choose which to go down. Usually I'm just a hot mess express attempting to barrel down both paths--one foot on each until the paths start to curve a little and I'm almost doing the splits--but that only leads me to being stressed to the max, discombobulated, and unorganized (as a lifetime perfectionist who has really gotten better with having to have eeeeeverything just so, being unorganized really sends me in a tizzy). I always tell myself when I try to do too much that my faith and my family come first but sometimes I just feel like throwing in the towel and giving up on everything that isn't family-related because I feel so mentally overwhelmed. I can't even tell you how many times I've thought about Joanna Gaines, and her and Chip's decision to shut down their shop to raise their kids after she felt God leading her to do so (the story can be found here). I haven't felt the prompting to quit altogether but as Bo gets older and closer to school age, and now that CC is mobile, I wonder what God wants for our family next. Rob and I have had many discussions on homeschooling but is that for us? Do I have the patience? How will I find time to do homeschooling and run a business and keep up with house chores and make quality time with God and make sure my husband's needs are met. Talk about a Proverbs 31 woman! Gracious day!--those few things would make any person's head spin I'm sure. I know as long as I keep giving it all to God, He will direct my steps and lead me down the paths I'm supposed to go but Lord have mercy is He teaching me some mega patience! I'm a "ok, let's do this right now" kind of person but God is a "hold up, wait a second, I need you to learn A, B and C first" kind of God. We butt heads...a lot...that's life though, right? Making the choice whether I'm going to fly by the seat of my own pants or wait for God to lead me. It sure isn't easy but I know it's a lot less bumpy of a ride. I know He didn't bring me to where I am, having blessed me the way He has and shown me visions of possibilities for using my talent and passions, just to leave me stranded. Life is always going to be filled with juggling acts and choices but at the end of the day, I know that as long as He's my Pilot, everything else will just sort of fall into place. 

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PART III: Caught Between Two Worlds

Me holding CC at 3 weeks old.

Me holding CC at 3 weeks old.

My 30th birthday came and went—summer of 2016 I was on Cloud 9 thinking that a new change was coming. Rob and I had been in the midst of preparing to make a huge move to Alabama where my mom’s family is. I lived there for a while when I was a kid and spent time there during the summers before moving there. When I moved away at the age of 13, I never saw myself going back but as I got older and started visiting again more, I felt myself being drawn back to my family roots. I’ve always been the sentimental one and interested in my heritage, the stories and memories of my family.

In July of 2016, Rob and I flew down with Bo to visit my family and also looked at a beautiful old farmhouse that belonged to a family member. She was looking to sell and we were seeing hearts and dreams. That old farmhouse was built in 1912, was white with black shutters, a wraparound porch and sat on 34 acres. In my mind’s eye, it’d be on the cover of Southern Living. It needed a whole lot of work but man did I have visions for that place! Rob and I were spitting out the dreams and plans for that old place—a farm-to-table restaurant, an event venue, a family friendly place where we would have craft fairs with food and live music. The thoughts and visions were endless. The last day we were there, Rob and I went down to the house and literally laid hands on it—we stood outside on the porch, just the two of us, and put our hands on the house, praying out loud and asking God if it was His Will, to make a way for us to get that house. It was a big deal, a big undertaking, but we were ready and willing to take it on together and we were so excited about it. However, the following month the whole deal fell through. We were so devastated. It was as if someone had taken a thumb tack and poked it in my happy balloon. I wasn’t mad at God or the family member. I was just so disappointed and my feelings were crushed. At the moment that Rob got the call that the deal was off, I went into a recluse place spiritually. I didn’t understand what God was doing. I didn’t even have Alabama on my radar to move to and then out of nowhere we were set to move there and I was surprisingly ok with it—I felt that surely it was God orchestrating the whole thing—only to be left feeling completely clueless and empty. I had prayed for almost 6 years to get back “home” to the south and I thought this was it. It was finally happening! I had officially entered into the Mohave Desert inside. I didn’t know how to pray anymore. I didn’t know what scriptures to read, what devotional to study. I was just dry as a bone.

Another month went by, I was still walking around the desert and found a cactus rose. I was pregnant with baby #4. Rob and I didn’t tell anyone at first because of the last two miscarriages, and because at my first sonogram, they discovered that I had a subchorinoc hematoma which is what they had discovered during pregnancy #3. They weren’t sure if that was why I lost the last baby but said it was a possibility and that this pregnancy was a 50/50 chance of miscarriage since I had had two consecutive ones previously. Something felt different for me internally with this pregnancy—I had a peace that everything was going to be ok even though from the very beginning, it was one issue after another. I lost count of the sonograms I went to—between checking the hematoma, checking the placenta and so on—I was in somewhat denial that I was pregnant again but was also trying to embrace it and all but begging God to speak to me and help me out of the desert I was in. I didn’t know what He was trying to show me or leading me to but I had a complacent feeling and decided to just roll with it.

Rob and I eventually decided to tell our worship team one Thursday night at band rehearsal—I didn’t want to be congratulated because I still felt so blah and empty—but I also didn’t want to go through a miscarriage again, and at the end of the day, I was grateful that God saw fit for us to have another baby because I remembered my state of desperation in wanting to get pregnant with Bo. Our team laid hands on us and started praying “African Style” as we call it—I just sobbed as they prayed over us and our unborn baby. It brings me to tears even writing and remembering that moment. My friend, Alex was standing closest to me with her hand on my belly and said she just saw light radiating from my stomach and that she could see a dancer. I knew from the beginning of that pregnancy too that it’d be a girl. It was just a strong feeling I had. That Christmas we announced that we were expecting a girl. Before we found out she was a girl though, I randomly had a thought one day that if the baby was in fact a girl, I wanted to call her CC for short. Don't ask me why because I really don’t know where the thought came from. I knew her name would be Callie but I still thought of my cousin when I said the name outloud—I guess I hadn’t full grasped the fact she was gone and every time I uttered her name, her face would still come to my mind. I thought of the classic movie Beaches and Mayim Bialik/Bette Midler’s Character, C.C., when the idea came to me but that was the extent of my reasoning. That movie always makes me think of my best friend from high school, Jenn, so maybe that was another factor? Who knows. I just knew CC would be her nickname. I tried to think of a middle name that started with a “C” so that the nickname would make sense but either Rob didn’t like it or the name didn’t fit. A week or two before Christmas though, we decided on the name Callie Jude. Callie, of course, after my late cousin (she had been named after my maternal great-grandmother so it was extra special to pass down this family name) and Jude after Rob’s paternal grandmother. It was set—we were having a girl, her legal name would be Callie Jude but we would call her CC. She was due May 9, 2017 but in true fashion of my entire pregnancy, I had a distinct feeling she would come early. Bo had been born at exactly 39 weeks but I had this eery feeling she’d come even earlier. Throughout the majority of my pregnancies, I was in excruciating physical pain—my sciatica back pain was through the roof—but with CC it got to the point that I’d be in tears by the end of the day. On top of that, we found out fairly early on that she was breech. Of course ! I ended up going to a chiropractor to try and aliviate the back pain but also try and coax her to flip on her own. I also tried moxa acupuncture therapy. I was so petrified at the idea of a C-section, especially since I had birthed Bo totally natural with no meds. However, deep down in my gut, I also didn’t want to go through the traumatic natural birth and losing way too much blood experience that I had with Bo. Essentially I just wanted her to be born miraculously and not have to do all the medical stuff (haha!).

On Good Friday of this year I went in for my last sonogram to confirm that CC was still breech (I already knew she was because I could feel her head in the same spot it had been for months). I had Bo with me, thinking I’d be going to my chiropractor appointment afterward and then dropping him off with my in-laws so Rob and I could make it to the city for our 8 P.M. Billy Joel concert at Madison Square Garden. Yes, it was our final hoorah/babymoon/datenight/Valentine’s Day/early 5th wedding anniversary gift to each other and I was so looking forward to it. I was not letting anything stop me from getting to that concert that cost a small fortune and was worth every penny for the look on my dear sweet husband’s face when he found out we were going. Anyway, I walked into the sonography room simply thinking they were going to tell me the baby was breech and we’d go ahead and schedule a C-section, however after a few minutes, the sonographer called in the doctor and a midwife to explain that the baby essentially failed the test they conduct when a pregnant mother is that far along. CC scored a 4 out of 8. She wasn’t moving like she should—actually not at all—she was in a loose position rather than a tight fetal position and there was one other thing but the next several hours and months have caused me to forget. I had previously been told that CC’s cord was wrapped loosely around her neck so I figured that was a factor too. The doctor and midwife told me that they wanted to hook me up to a fetal monitor in order to monitor the baby’s heart rate. I was confused because I saw and heard her heartbeat on the sonogram but they explained to me that the sonogram is only a snippet of what the baby’s heart rate would be and that they needed to monitor me for a longer period of time. They told me that they would monitor me for 5-10 minutes and if the heart rate was ok, they’d let me go to the hospital by myself for further monitoring rather than be taken by ambulance but that either way, I’d need to go to the hospital for extended monitoring. I tried to remain calm because Bo was with me but when I had to start making phone calls—to Rob to inform him of what was going on and that he needed to get to the midwife’s office, and my mother-in-law to come get Bo—the tears started flowing. I laugh now thinking back at that moment because I was sweating so bad because of nerves, I was crying because I was scared but I was smiling because I was trying not to freak Bo out or make him feeling worried because Mommy was upset. I was a hot mess. Rob and my mother-in-law arrived. She took Bo while Rob and I headed for the hospital. The person at the registration desk in triage took my information, and I made sure to stress the fact that my husband and I had Billy Joel tickets for 8 P.M. show that night, and it’d be great to get in and out of there so we could make the train in time to get to that show at MSG. She laughed and said they’d see what they could do. Thankfully after a few hours of being monitored, they released me with papers that said to keep track of the baby’s movements and call the midwife if I had any concerns.

Rob and I made a mad dash for home to change clothes and then headed to the LIRR to make the train, bound for the city. We had an awesome datenight and got back home super late. The next morning we grabbed breakfast and headed to our Easter band rehearsal. Our church normally has two services but for Easter (and occasionally Christmas), we have one huge service at a local middle school auditorium. My discharge papers had said to monitor the baby’s moments but even after several hours, I hadn’t felt even a flinch from her. I didn’t want to go back to the hospital but I also didn’t want to risk something being wrong so ultimately we decided to call the midwife who, of course, advised to go to the hospital to check things out. As soon as I walked into triage, CC started flipping around and when I was hooked up to the fetal monitor, she started really showing off. While I was at the hospital, the midwife scheduled me for a Version for two days later—Monday, the day after Easter—in order to externally try and flip CC so as to avoid a C-section. An hour later we were headed back to band rehearsal. Easter Sunday came and went, and Monday finally arrived. I was instructed to pack a hospital bag in the event that the Version put me into labor and I had to have an emergency C-section. The Version was not fun...at all...and it was unsuccessful. I felt so defeated. I literally held on to the gurney rails, and Rob and the midwife’s hands for 10-15 minutes, in excruciating pain while two medical residents and a doctor tried to literally turn my baby around from the outside (and at one time, the inside) of my body, only for it not to work. I had my little breakdown moment and then I was done. I knew I had tried everything—chiropractor, acupuncture, Version, nearly standing on my head at home (FORREAL...I really tried this!)—and it was left up to God of how my birth was going to go. I trusted Him. I was scared about dying during childbirth but I trusted Him. There was no other option to me. I had an appointment for the following Monday to schedule my C-section but around 11 p.m. that Wednesday, two days after my Version attempt, I went into labor on my own. I didn’t have a chance to work myself up about an impending C-section date—at 1 A.M. we headed to the hospital and it was confirmed that I was indeed in labor and that before it became an emergent situation, they would perform a C-section once the OR became available. I was literally shaking like a leaf. My chest hurt from shaking. I was so scared but trying so hard to keep it together. I leaned my head back on the exam chair in my triage room, closed my eyes and started praying hard while also rebuking the devil. I know the devil can’t hear your thoughts but I rebuked him in my head anyway. I kept saying outloud to Rob, “I reeeeeally don’t want to do this. This sucks. Can we just go home? I don’t want to do this.” And he finally said to me, “Babe, I know this isn’t what you want. This isn’t the birth you or I wanted for our girl but I can’t help but think maybe this is God’s way of looking out for you. You lost so much blood with Bo—like a lot—so maybe this is His way of protecting you.” Wow. I never thought of it that way. I was still scared but I had a peace and I was just ready to get it over with.

God is so cool with His details. The doctor on call that night/morning was Dr. Brian Hunt. I didn’t know him from Adam’s housecat—he looked a little familiar because I had probably seen him in my midwife’s office at some point during my pregnancy—but I had never met or talked to him. He came in right before I was to be wheeled to the OR and introduced himself. I don’t go many places or speak to many people around here who don’t catch my accent and ask where I’m from, and it was no different that day as I was meeting this random doctor who was about to cut me open. After asking me where I was from, Dr. Hunt informed me that he got his Undergrad at The Citadel. As in the prestigious college in Charleston, South Carolina, two hours from where I had lived for 10+ years of my life and still called home in my heart. Where my mama was. I think I laughed internally and thought, “Ha! God you really are in the details!” After he went through the whole schpill of what was about to go down, the doctor asked if I had any questions for him. I simply requested that he not let me die. He probably thought I was nuts but I was super scared about surgery as it was the first legit, major surgery I’d ever undergone. Shortly after all the logistical talk, I was wheeled back to the OR and at 4:57 a.m. on April 20, 2017, Callie Jude made her grand entrance. She was so tiny—much smaller than Bo had been at 8 lbs., 1 oz. and 21.5” long—she weighed 6 lbs 9 oz and was 19” long. Our tiny dancer.

Life has been crazy and at time overwhelming since she joined our world 7 months ago but, as so many people assured me, I can’t imagine what my life and what our family was like before she was here. I want to squish her every time I see her. She is the most beautiful baby girl—she’s a total mama’s girl which drives me nuts sometimes—but she is such a good, sweet baby and so funny. I never thought of it before I started this little blog post series but she’s my little desert rose. My desert kiss* from God Who has set me on the journey back to Him.

 

*Words inspired by the song lyrics of my dear friend and mentor, Shell McGovern.

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PART II: Caught Between Two Worlds

I started 2016 reading, "the prayer of jabez: breaking through to the blessed life" by bruce wilkinson. the book made my heart skip a beat and put a pep in my step after such a dark several months. this piece was created during that new awakening season.

I started 2016 reading, "the prayer of jabez: breaking through to the blessed life" by bruce wilkinson. the book made my heart skip a beat and put a pep in my step after such a dark several months. this piece was created during that new awakening season.

Here I sit a week after writing my last post feeling the same as I did last week. I must admit I sat down last week and started writing as a way of venting and release but as I got underway with my story, my stress began to lift and my vent became a feeling of gratitude as I went back in my mind’s eye to the tangible blessings He’s given me.

So after a week of toddler throwdown tantrums, infant neediness, running from pillar to post with errands, and tidying the house, to being mentally overwhelmed trying to keep up with M+P social media, filling orders, and so on, I found myself frazzled and mentally spent this morning after church. I thought back to my last post and all that has taken place since Bo was born. All the ups and downs. All the unanswered prayers. All the answered prayers. All the tragedy. All the blessings.

Bo was such a happy baby and I just sort of stuck him to my hip and took him wherever I went (still do except now he can walk, thankfully, because he’s heavy), even to the basement to work on orders. He would play in his exercauser while I would sit on the cold basement floor, painting my signs by hand. I remember Rob’s uncle Frank came over during one of these painting sessions and snapped a picture with his phone. I was looking a hot mess in my paint clothes with Bo hanging out—I remember him telling me something about looking back on that picture someday and seeing where I started. Humble beginnings I guess?

When Bo was about 9 months old, Rob and I found out I was pregnant with baby #2. I wasn’t happy about it at all. I was so enraptured by Bo that I couldn’t fathom loving another baby like I did him and I swore he’d be the only child even though I always said I wanted 3 kids someday. It took me a while but I started to warm up to the idea of another child and as soon as I was really beginning to accept and embrace my second pregnancy, my world got rocked. I got a call from my cousin, Brittney, around 7 a.m. on July 15, 2015 that her little sister, Callie, had died at the age of 25. The circumstances around her death were so tragic, and too much to fully grasp and understand. I wanted to throw up when I hung up with Britt. Instead, I called my mom and my brother in tears to relay the message, then began to arrange for me and Bo to fly to Alabama to be with my family for the funeral arrangements. Rob stayed behind to work. Up until the day I found out about Callie’s death, I had started to think of baby names but nothing completely stuck, however as I reflected on all the times I had with her and the memories from my childhood, I shared with Rob that I thought it’d be nice to name the baby Callie if it was a girl. Unfortunately though, the day I got the call about my cousin was the day I started to miscarry that baby. That was a Wednesday—I had started to spot a little so I called my midwife’s office—they said to try and take it easy and not to lift anything heavy which was easier said that done since I would be traveling from New York to Alabama with an 11 month old and two layovers. The entire time I was in Alabama, the spotting continued and about two hours after I landed back in New York that Sunday, I was having a full-on miscarriage. It was not a fun process and I think the emotions of the previous days with my cousin’s funeral and traveling compacted the situation. I was sad and emotionally overwhelmed but more than anything, I felt guilty. I thought because I didn’t think I wanted more kids and because I didn’t embrace my pregnancy at first, that the miscarriage was my punishment and that God took the baby away because I didn’t want it bad enough. Of course I know God doesn’t work that way but at the time, I was really beating myself up about it. Eventually I healed from my miscarriage—physically and emotionally—it gave me a different outlook on some things and it opened my eyes to the potential of what God had in store for me. Bo turned a year old the following month, then we turned around and flew to South Carolina for my other cousin’s wedding that I helped decorate and coordinate. Life continued and I trucked along, juggling life and trying to really live and love each day even though I missed home. Shortly after Bo’s birthday, we found out I was pregnant again. This time I was still reluctant but really tried to push aside the thoughts I previously had when I was pregnant with baby #2. My brother and I had always been close and I wanted that for Bo, so I tried to keep that thought in the forefront of my mind. I was actually getting excited of the thought of Bo being a big brother because I could totally picture it and I knew he’d be the best big brother, especially to a sister—I don’t know why but I kept picturing him having a sister. From early on in my third pregnancy, I felt like I’d have a girl so again, I told Rob I wanted to use the name Callie if it was a girl. That November we made the trek from New York to Alabama for Thanksgiving and for my brother’s wedding. Before Thanksgiving dinner, I pulled my cousin Callie’s Mom, Sam, aside (Sam is my mom’s first cousin—their moms were sisters) and asked for her blessing to call our baby Callie if it were a girl and she tearfully said yes. The following Friday, December 4, 2015, I went to my midwife’s office for my 12 week sonogram. I went in thinking all was right with the world only to be sucker punched by the sonographer—she informed me that there was no heartbeat and that it appeared that the “fetus” had stopped growing at 9 weeks. Talk about a punch in the gut! I had Bo with me so I tried not to show much emotion because I didn’t want to upset him but inside, I could feel my heart aching. The doctor came in and explained what the next sequence of events would be as far as passing the baby because my body hadn’t naturally started the process. Two days later was the 5 year mark of me living in New York, the day that would have been my cousin, Callie’s 26th birthday, and the day that I was scheduled to attend my good friend Alex’s baby shower that I had helped decorate and organize. I left the shower and went home to start the medication that would make my body start miscarrying. I didn’t want to do it. My midwife said that I could take some time and see if maybe my body would start the process but that I didn’t need to be at home by myself when I did it which is why I had decided to do it when I did because Rob would be going to work the next morning. When the medication kicked in, the next several hours were filled with calls to the midwife, standing in the shower, towels, and praying for it to be over. I went back for another sonogram a few days later only to find out that I didn’t pass everything so I had to do another round of medication which left me in excruciating pain physically and emotionally. It took me 3 months to pass everything—I refused a D&C but that would have been the next step. Thank the Lord I didn’t have to go to that step because to me, they would have been even more emotionally trying. That February Alex had her baby at home—I remember that day like it was yesterday—I was so beyond excited for her but I kept having little breakdown moments where I’d be so happy but sobbing my eyeballs out. I finally got to her house to meet her baby boy, RayJ, and I had to leave before I could even hold him—I could barely get two words out before I’d be sobbing. I realized that day that I was finally truly mourning the losses I had. I knew that the first miscarriage I had, if the baby had survived, would be born within a few weeks of baby RayJ. That realization hit me like a ton of bricks that I wasn’t expecting. I held on to Bo tight and thanked God for him more than ever.

In June of 2016 I turned 30 and was ready to take on what God had for me next. I was ready for a new start and a breath of fresh air but had no idea I was about to enter a dry desert—wow the cactus flowers that popped up though!—it’s amazing the beauty you can find in a desert place when you’re clinging to Jesus. 

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PART I: Caught Between Two Worlds

Me holding Bo at 4 days old.

Me holding Bo at 4 days old.

For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to be a mom. I remember having a baby doll glued to my hip from about the age of 5. My favorite doll was one of those shiver newborn babies from the early 90’s—it never shivered but I didn’t want my mom to return it to the store because I loved it so much—it was perfect to me. She was perfect to me. I named her Christy and Christy went wherever I went. Through my schools years and onto college I still dreamed of the cookie cutter life: husband, kids, nice house, nice things. I never had a specific passion or drive aside from being a mom and wife someday, but I developed a love for art in high school and never felt I was overly great at it but it was fun to me. I majored in Fine Arts right out of high school just because I knew I wanted to do something creative...just didn’t know what exactly. I spent my spring freshman semester abroad, studying in Caen, France; I was the first freshman from my university who had ever participated in the study abroad program. Upon my return from Europe, I transferred to art school in Charlotte, North Carolina to study Fashion Marketing and Management, thinking it’d be cool to work in the fashion industry because I always loved fashion. That lasted all of 7 months and I’m still paying for those short 7 months today, 12 years later. Lesson earned, right? When I dropped out of art school, I went and got my Associates in Paralegal Studies. Where that big career field jump came from is still a mystery to me but I was determined to finish school, albeit an associates degree, when I had spent enough time in school that I could have received a Bachelors, but whatever. I earned many degrees in the school of Lesson Learning and Life Living. Those "degrees" weren't always fun earning but they were experiences that were added into my book of life and have added to what made me who I am today. I made a lot of bad mistakes, I got caught up in an unhealthy relationship and so on, but by golly I worked while in college, lived on my own, and did was I set out to do—get a degree. I moved back to my hometown in South Carolina after I graduated and landed my first job at a law firm, and that is what I did for about 4 years, even after I moved here to New York. I had put art on the back burner and didn’t pick up a paint brush again until I moved back to South Carolina. It’s crazy how God works. I remember being in a season of loneliness and emptiness and I don’t know what prompted me to go and purchase some canvases but I did. I used the same brushes and paint that I had leftover from one of my college art classes and I just painted some random stuff. Nothing earth shatteringly amazing but it was just what was coming out of my head.

Eventually I moved here to New York where I continued to work in law and then the year after Rob and I got married, a job opportunity presented itself for me to be the assistant for a CEO of an internet startup company. The job was nothing like I had been led to believe but the company was, in a sense, graphic art-related and it helped pay the bills so I tried to ride it out as long as I could. I was pretty miserable there and extremely bored but I truly feel God had me there for a season to learn specific things and I don’t regret leaving law to go there. Being there got my creative juices flowing again and I started dreaming again—dreaming of much more than I could picture for myself but the dreams felt so real and there was a point that they were nagging at me. I felt trapped inside four walls, sitting at a desk, staring at a computer with my own dreams in my head and heart but having to do busy work for someone who I felt was unappreciative and wasn't using me to my potential.

However, in November of 2013 I went to a women’s retreat with my church and everything changed. It was the next-to-last day of the retreat and our guest speaker, Rita Springer, gave us homework for the day. I can’t remember what exactly the homework was but when we returned that evening after dinner, one of the women in our group, April, said she had heard a Word from God during her quiet time—it was a song that came to her and she didn’t quiet believe it was God speaking to her so she told God that if it was, to let her hear that song again. As she was walking up the back steps to the room our evening service was being held in, there was another church group having worship and they were playing the song she had had in her heart before. She shared this revelation with us and Rita led us into powerful worship. During worship, I remember screaming internally at God to speak to me. I wanted a revelation like he had given to April. I wanted to hear Him audibly. I wanted to know He was speaking to me. There were 3 areas in my life I was pleading with God about—I had been begging Him to get me back home to the South for 3 years by then and nothing was panning out to allow us to move, Rob and I had been trying to get pregnant for more than a year before that retreat and it had come down to me having to decide to start taking medication in order to conceive, and the last thing was that I hated my job and was feeling the pull to quit and pursue my passion of art and creating things. I continued to scream and beg God inside to speak to me during worship that night, “God please, I’m begging you to speak to me! Talk to me!! Give me a sign, SOMETHING!” During my begging session with God, I began to sing the song “Great is thy faithfulness” and I remember asking Him to let me hear it if I was to quit my job. I know, sounds silly, but I was so desperate to hear from Him and know that it was Him, not myself in my mind. I also prayed about getting me out of New York and getting pregnant; when I prayed about the latter, I remember an audible male's voice inside saying, "just a little longer...just wait a little longer." Rita never played the song that night but at some point she started calling out things and speaking over people. She specifically prayed for barren wombs and I lost it. My knees hit the floor quicker than I could realize what was happening and my sister-in-law, Bree was beside me, consoling me because she knew what was happening. I felt heartbroken but also victorious because I think that was the first time in my life that I felt like I had a true; divine appointment with God—that He had a Word specifically for me. I went back to my room that night and got Rob on the phone and told him that I wasn’t going to start the meds that the doctor had recommended I go on to try and conceive. He supported my decision and said, "if God said not to, then I'm not going against that." The next morning was our last morning of the conference and I was still on fire from the night before. Rita had brought a friend, Lisa Corley, who spoke that final morning at the retreat on fear and being catalyzed with fear. She delivered a powerful Word and I left that conference room feeling uplifted and ready for battle. Bree and I had driven together that weekend so after we packed up all of our things and got ready to head back to New York, we decided to pop in to the bookstore they had on the grounds of the place where the retreat was held at. It was a Christian retreat place so we thought we’d be able to find a little momento to bring home from our weekend away. I brought home a lot more than that. We walked in to the little bookstore and the first little trinket I walked into said, “Great is thy faithfulness”. My jaw dropped, my eyes probably bugged out of my head and I stood speechless for a second before brushing the thought away about my begging session with God the night before, I continued to browse the merchandise only to see, “Great is Thy faithfulness” over and over again on more signs and items. I had shared with Bree all that happened the night before so she knew about me asking God to let me hear, “Great is Thy faithfulness”—she was tripped out as much as I was when I grabbed her and reminded her of the song. I purchased a few things and left that little bookstore in Po-Dunk Pennsylvania, feeling on Cloud 9. That was November 17, 2013.

I got home and told Rob all about the retreat and my revelations God had showed me, including the fact that I felt He was telling me to quit my job. Rob was skeptical but supportive and we sat down to go over finances that week—he said that if it was truly God’s Will, we would be ok and he requested that I wait until the new year to put in my notice at work.

On the night before Thanksgiving, almost two weeks after I returned from the retreat, we were heading off the island to North Carolina to be with my family for the holiday and we totaled our truck. Like BAD totaled. As in got clipped by an 18-wheeler on the LIE (I-495) in the pouring rain, spun around, hit a guardrail and bouncing back into oncoming traffic. God was all over us that night. My father-in-law came and got us, took us to LaGuardia airport, we got a rental car and still made it to North Carolina in time for Thanksgiving turkey. About 3 weeks later, we found out I was pregnant with our first child, not knowing that I was likely very very early pregnant when we totaled the truck that night. Not knowing that as Rita Springer sang and spoke on barren wombs to be opened, that she truly was speaking over me. A few weeks after we found out I was pregnant, I quit my job and within two weeks of quitting my job, Rob essentially was laid off of work. I went from Cloud 9 to, “ummmm what just happened?!” I knew God was the One orchestrating the miracles and the calling, but I didn’t know what in the world was going on when Rob came home and said, “there’s no work for a few months”. Any other time I would be in straight panic mode, feeling like I had to fix the issue but I had an overwhelming peace. We were strapped tight financially and for about a month or two, resorted to Food Stamps and WIC. Talk about a humbling reality check! I remember Rob handing me a $100 bill one day and saying, “this is for groceries, make it stretch. It's all we've got.” He was able to find work with a local mechanic, getting paid cash under the table so we could pay the bills and I was steady creating stuff for my little Etsy store. God was so FAITHFUL during that time. By March of that year Rob was back working construction and I continued to do custom orders for people I knew as well as sales here and there on Etsy. We no longer needed assistance and we began to get ready for the arrival of our first child. On August 20, 2014, our son, Bo was born. He was and still is one of the greatest blessings in our life and is truly an answered prayer. 

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