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.


Vacay from a Vacay

Within seconds of us pulling into Uncle Bill and Aunt Mildred's driveway, Bo was begging to ride Uncle Bill's new tractor. His little 3-year-old self was pleased as punch when He finally got what he'd been talking about since the last time we were all in Alabama back in October.

Within seconds of us pulling into Uncle Bill and Aunt Mildred's driveway, Bo was begging to ride Uncle Bill's new tractor. His little 3-year-old self was pleased as punch when He finally got what he'd been talking about since the last time we were all in Alabama back in October.

It's been 2 weeks since I last posted. I had all intentions of maintaining an appearance when we left for vacation because I guess that's what good bloggers do? I internally chuckle at myself as I type this because I surely am not a blogger but rather someone who simply loves to write when inspired. I'm trying this new thing with living for the present so when it was bedtime last Monday night and it dawned on me that I failed to post, I thought to myself, oh well, it's late, I'm on vacation and it can wait until next Monday.

We had a great vacation. We left around 5 a.m. two Fridays ago and drove what ended up being about 14 hours to my dad's house in Oak Ridge, Tennessee (it was supposed to be 12 but when you travel with 2 kids, ages 3 and under, you just roll with it and accept that you'll get there when you get there). It was the weekend before my dad's 60th birthday and he had no clue we were coming so it was fun surprising him. We spent two nights there and then continued our trip down to my family's place in Moulton, Alabama. As I'm sure I've mentioned in previous posts, crossing out of Staten Island and onto the mainland always gives me a sense of release--from stress, busyness and the rat race that I often feel I fall into living here in this fast pace culture--and even more so, pulling up to my great aunt and uncle's place in north Alabama gives me a sense of home. Being in the wide open country, getting my kids out of their carseats and allowing them to just roam is a good feeling.

Rob and I spent the majority of the week helping my great Uncle Bill and Aunt Mildred in the fields of their produce farm. It was still our summer vacation so we made time to relax and do things with the kids as well; Rob had acquired an old .22 and refinished it for Bo so he had his first real lesson in weapon safety and shot his first gun. We celebrated the 4th of July at our family's cabin with many members of my extended family on my mom's side, which was the first one I had been at in 8 years (the last one I attended was also the last time I saw my cousin, Callie, alive). My kids saw an up-close firework show for the first time (it was definitely CC's first and it was Bo's first that I know of), poor CC was exhausted and fell asleep toward the end but Bo was in his glory. Every year everyone sets out chairs on the lawn of the cabin while my cousin's husband puts on a firework show fit for an official municipal event. It doesn't matter that this year it was muggy as the day was long and the mosquitos were out in droves. Everyone ooed and awed at the colors and lights that sprinkled the southern night sky.

While we were away we also celebrated Rob's 36th birthday. My mom had come from South Carolina to stay a few days and see the family so thankfully she watched the kids so Rob and I could go out for his birthday. We went to a restaurant called Cotton Row in Huntsville. Y'all! If you are ever in that neck of the woods, you MUST try it out! The ambiance was beautiful, the service was on point and the food was slap-yo-mama good. We enjoyed our dinner, then walked around the downtown area, and ended the evening by stopping in at Cabela's (or as Rob referred to it, "Disney Land") and Rite Aid because you can't go on vacation without at least one of your kids getting the sickies. I think all-in-all he rang in his new age successfully.

We got back late yesterday afternoon and thankfully, we pretty much have a routine down pat when it comes to going away for an extended period of time, which means returning wasn't complete chaos. It was just a matter of putting everything away. However, just as many others can probably attest to, I feel like I need a vacation to recoup from our vacation. Aside from restocking our groceries and running errands, I have a laundry list of projects and orders that need to be tended to and completed. When I think about what all needs to be done and their deadlines, I get a little panicky but as my mama always says, "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!"

I miss the south and everything that comes with it (except for the reality of poisonous snakes and spiders of course) but I'm ready to get back into my routine and get work done. It's always bittersweet leaving what feels like home to me but I know God has a plan and for once in my 32 years, I'm content with where I am, wherever that may be on the map. I'm ok with whatever He decides because I know that I'm in His perfect plan and in His perfect peace.


If Walls Could Talk

Imagine rounding a bend in the road, looking off a short distance and seeing a long driveway situated between two rows of trees. At the end of the drive, there's an old rustic cabin that looks like it's been there for centuries, nestled just in front of a forest of trees. This description may sound like it comes from a book but it is indeed a real place. My family's place. Jessie and Callie's Cabin to be exact. It's funny--well sad, really--how you can have something in your family for what feels like your whole life, possibly even see it every day, and not truly appreciate it.

The way the story was told to me was that for years my family would gather for dinner once a month and on holidays, usually at my Great Aunt Millie's (one of my grandma Thelma's 6 sisters) house. Over the years as the family grew, space began to shrink so in 1991 a few of my great aunts and uncles found an old, 100-year-old cabin in Tennessee. They purchased it, took it apart piece-by-piece and traveled back to Alabama where they re-constructed the old structure on a lot of land owned by Aunt Millie's sister, Mildred and her husband, uncle Bill. Over the years additions have been made to the original structure of the cabin. When I lived there (or possibly shortly before I moved there), a long dining room/fellowship hall was added and a gorgeous fireplace was built by my uncle Bill. After moving away, another wing was added and a beautiful wrap around porch that spans the back of the cabin was also constructed.

If walls could talk, the cabin's walls would tell stories of family weddings, baby showers, holiday celebrations, times of mourning, welcome home parties, lots of laughter and fun, tears and hugs. The family has a potluck dinner the first Saturday of every month and that has been a tradition that goes back as far as I can remember. The 4th of July is a big bash that used to involve a several-day-prepping pig roast finished off with homemade ice-cream and an evening of fireworks over the pond behind the cabin. Christmas was always special and so absolutely beautiful with wreaths made from real fruit and strands of popcorn garland decorating the tree. When I lived there, my brother and I would spend summers playing in the creek that runs behind that old place. We would fish with cane poles in the pond and spend the night upstairs in the cabin. When it would rain, I'd never get sleep because of how loud it was beating against the metal roof. But oh the memories! My brother and I would run around in the yard with our cousins, and I remember at least one fall (autumn), we had a blast jumping from one bale of hay to another that had been neatly bound. And that's just our family memories.

Since I moved away so many years ago, the cabin has been a staple in the Kitchens Mill community of Lawrence County, Alabama. People rent it out for their family gatherings, church Christmas parties, and the list goes on and on. I can't help but get misty-eyed thinking of how ridiculously proud I am to say that that old cabin is part of me and how I was brought up. Unfortunately, I moved away when I was 13 and don't have near the memories that my cousins have who were born and raised there but now that I'm an adult, I'm making every effort possible to be part of at least some of the family traditions again.

One of my favorites is the annual stew. This Brunswick Stew tradition started back with my great grandparents, Jessie and Callie Russell and for as long as I can remember, it's always been the last Saturday of October, every single year. The night before the stew, a bunch of the lady cousins get together, bowl and peeler in hand, and they peel pounds upon pounds of potatoes. I remember growing up, I wanted to help so bad and I finally got my chance last year but that was a total fail. I was wearing CC, it was her bedtime, and she was not cooperating so I gave up after a while and walked away, trying to hold back tears and failing at that too, miserably (lol! I know, I can be sensitive sometimes but I try not to show it). It may sound silly but for me it was a special moment that I had looked forward to for so long, being one of the long lost cousins who finally found her way back to the fold but at the same time, feeling so beyond out of my element and like I didn't fit into my own family. It was a very sad feeling but I brushed it off.

The next day, Saturday, is an all day affair with cooking the Brunswick Stew. The day starts early in the morning with three huge, black, cast iron stew pots. Lord knows how long those things have been in our family! The fires are started under each one and the aunts get all of the ingredients together in them. I've never actually witnessed this being done but I just know that it's the same thing every year. Last year was Rob's first stew so him being him, he fit right in, he even got to stir the stew with the huge wooden paddle (again, Heaven only know how long that thing has been around in the Russell family). I guess he's a keeper since he jumped head first, right into one of my most favorite family traditions and was able to be a stirrer, whereas I've been in the family 30+ years and that's never happened. :) 

As a kid, I remember a senator coming one year to the stew--there's really no telling who will show up to any of the family functions. My great aunts have been the backbone to our family and have also always been so giving of the community. For the stew, anyone is welcome to come and enjoy as many bowls as they'd like and then at the end of the afternoon, they pour whatever is remaining into huge pickle jars and sell them. They also give jars to the elderly neighbors and friends who may be homebound. They do this with every event I've ever remembered having at the cabin.

I've always been a deep thinker and have had a sensitive heart, thinking of others and trying to see the good in people but unfortunately I've also taken people for granted and my great aunts are some of those dear people that I've missed over the years. They are in a way, my grandma Thelma, whom I've never met because she passed away before I was born. One of the sisters, Aunt Jean, passed away a week after Bo was born and it was such a heartbreak not being able to travel down to be with the family during that first big loss since I've been alive. I know it killed my mom not to be able to be there too since she was here in New York with me.

My great aunts have created something amazing with that old cabin; it's not just a structure, it is a rare gem that not many (if any) families have today. A common dwelling to be part of, to experience the ups and downs of life in. I guess if I really think about it, a safe haven. It's so much more than a venue to me, it's almost like a member of the family, as if it had arms and legs and could talk. It has changed so much but one thing remains the same and that's the sense of belonging when I walk into that old place and breathe in the smell that floods my mind with so many memories. Whether I'm a million miles away or a mile up the road, Jessie and Callie's Cabin will always hold a special place in my heart.


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PART I: It's Never Too Late


I'm embarrassed to see the last time I wrote a blog entry. I have the best of intentions but let's face it, life happens and then you look back and see that it's been exactly 3 months since you picked up something that you thought you were going to be intentional about.

I digress.

Lots has happened since my last post. Bo started school (3K), CC celebrated her first birthday, my mom graduated college with her Associates Degree at the age of 55, and so many other things sprinkled in between. I'll delve into details in future posts (I guess that means I have more to write about than I thought...?) but I wanted to share something monumental today. It may be minuscule to some but for me, it's in a way turning over a new leaf.

I was visiting family in South Carolina and Alabama this past week for a few special occasions (my mom's graduation in SC and my cousin's wedding in AL) which was a great trip even though it was just me and CC, and I missed my boys. The second half of my trip was spent at my family's place in Alabama; my great aunt Mildred and uncle Bill who are in their 70's have a produce farm where they grow, maintain and harvest an array of vegetables, fruits and herbs. Aunt Mildred is also a pro at growing (and keeping alive) gorgeous plants and flowers, including a few peony bushes that belonged to her mother, my great grandma Callie. Our trips to Alabama are never long enough for me to really soak up lessons on growing and maintaining plant life but every trip we take, even with my two brown thumbs, I leave feeling inspired to keep trying with this whole growing food/flowers thing. After all, it's in my blood. My great grandaddy Russell (his first name was Jessie and he was Grandma Callie's husband) was, as my mom described it, a "truck farmer" where he had a produce farm much like Aunt Mildred and Uncle Bill but he drove around selling it out of his truck. I've never been one to keep things alive -- aside from my children of course so I must have something right -- but seriously, try as I may I either overwater, underwater or just flat out neglect what I plant. The thought of growing things has always been fascinating to me, to be able to be self-sustaining, live off the land like the natives did, and just know what's in your food. It's just super cool in my mind. A lot of hard work, yes, but you reap what you sow (ha, pun intended!) and to be able to literally go from farm-to-table is so much more than the latest trend to me; it was my family's way of life back in the day and it's very admirable in my book.

So anyway, this monumental moment for me today! Rob made me a huge (to me, anyway!) raised gardening bed for Mother's Day. He's very practical with his gift giving but I love him for it because if he didn't support half of my outlandish dreams and random thoughts, I'd probably still be sitting on the couch binging on Netflix. Not really but for real, he's the fire-slash-confidence I need to jumpstart most of the things I come up with, including this whole urban farm wannabe thing. I figure, hey, what if God is setting us up for our next adventure?! Who knows? You won't know jack until you leap out there and try it. If I kill all the plants, so be it but at least I know I tried with my two brown thumbs.

This morning I took those same thumbs and went to work with Rob filling up that ginormous raised bed with compost. He borrowed a Bobcat machine digger thing (yes, I referred to it as a thing) to move the compost and I raked it out in the bed. There was a constant drizzle/pouring rain but the kids were still asleep and it was kind of fun being out there in the rain and muck setting up our little garden before most of the neighbors were even awake. It gave me a sense of nostalgia, thinking of Aunt Mildred and Uncle Bill, how they were probably already out in the fields on their north Alabama produce farm. It also gave me a sense of pride that Rob and I were tackling this new thing head on together and knowing that as long as we really stick to it and stay on top of it, we will be growing our own produce. Peace out grocery stores! Not only will we be able to enjoy fresh veggies this summer but I get excited thinking of learning to can tomatoes and [hopefully] okra for sauces, soups and chilis in the fall and winter.

One of the last times we were in Alabama together as a family with the 4 of us, Rob and I decided we wanted to make everyone an authentic Italian meal with as many ingredients from the farm as possible. We planned the whole thing out and decided, based on what was still in season, we would make chicken cutlet parmesan, eggplant parmesan and penne alla vodka. Aside from the basil, all other veggies and herbs came from the farm. Even the tomatoes were canned from the farm. We fed close to 20 of my relatives, including Rob and I, and everything was a hit. That was the first and only time we've almost literally had a farm-to-table gathering. It was truly special to us.

So here we are with a box filled with dirt and by the weekend, we'll be planting. I've planted in years past, only tomatoes and zucchini, some turned out pretty decent while other attempts were a complete flop. However, this year we're going to try our hand at adding squash, okra, a variety of herbs, maybe peppers, spinach and I'm thinking possibly a fruit but I'm not sure what just yet. Fingers crossed, y'all! It's never too late to learn new things!

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Rob operating the Bobcat thing.


Ummm hellooooo how gorgeous are these tulips?! I'll be 32 next month and this morning, for the first time ever, I cut my own bouquet that I grew myself (with the help of God of course!). Before I started helping Rob level out the compost, I cut several of the tulips I planted as bulbs back in the fall and made this arrangement, as well as a tiny, 3-flower arrangement. I was pleased as punch at how beautiful they came out!

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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 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.