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.

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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