Tuesday, July 28, 2015

9 Tips for 9 Months

I'm now in single digit countdown mode when it comes to weeks left of this pregnancy. Kind of crazy to think I'll hit 33 weeks in a matter of days. In some ways it feels like this pregnancy has flown by - this past 8ish months has been so insanely busy and hard and I've been chasing after 2 other little ones - most of it has flown by in a blur.

I'm at the 'so close yet still so far' part so with pregnancy still pretty fresh on my mind, here are my 9 Tips for 9 Months, in no particular order:

9. Move!

This is the hardest one for me because I generally feel so bad my first trimester and I don't get into great habits while pregnant, but even a short walk around your neighborhood will help. Staying active, even in little ways, can actually help with morning sickness, weight gain and labor and delivery. {Then again, I am chasing a couple little boys around all day long and I'm still gaining weight like a champion...}

8. Crackers & Water!

Keep crackers in your bedside table, especially for that first trimester. I have been really fortunate to never suffer extreme morning sickness with any of my children. I am always extremely nauseous and queasy and dry heave constantly for about the first 16-18 weeks, but I never really throw up. However, first thing in the morning I HAVE to have something in my stomach or I'll be dry heaving for hours. Grabbing a couple crackers and having some water before getting out of bed really helped.

7. Advice

You'll get lots of unsolicited advice (like mine!) from all kinds of people when you're pregnant.

Everyone from strangers at the grocery store to Great Aunt Henrietta will want to tell you how their pregnancy and delivery went. Absorb about 25% of it, and let the other 75% roll off your back. Some of what happened to them may very well happen to you, but most of it won't so try not to overthink advice! One that I dread hearing is "Enjoy it now, it'll be over too soon" I have a 14 year old so I think I can say with a little authority - it's ok not to enjoy throwing up or feeling like death or waddling like a penguin. There are many things that you may find enjoyable about pregnancy, but let's be real - a lot of it is NOT enjoyable! Thankfully things like hearing his or her heartbeat for the first time, getting those first glimpses of your precious little on a sonogram screen and holding your child for the first time completely and totally make up for all the months of discomfort.

6. Nutrition

If I'm being completely honest, I find that I'm MORE in tune to healthy eating when I am NOT pregnant than when I am. It takes focus and motivation for me to make sure I stay on top of it when I'm pregnant. I'm usually exhausted and nauseous and will go for whatever is easy, quick and doesn't make me want to gag. If this sounds like you, don't beat yourself up. Do the best you can and try to remember your prenatal daily. On top of that, I really like to incorporate a great green smoothie into my daily diet. It's a fantastic way to get nutrients in all at once and sometimes a smoothie was all that sounded good. Some women can't stomach a lot of greens during pregnancy, so trial and error will help you discover what kinds of healthy things you can use in a smoothie. {This is my favorite green smoothie recipe of all time, and you can follow my Smoothie Love board on Pinterest for more ideas}

5. Pictures

I was pregnant with my first child at 21 years old. I hated my pregnant body, felt ugly, huge and self conscious. I think I have just one picture from that pregnancy - one someone snapped at a baby shower without my knowledge. With my next 2 children, I decided to get over myself and get maternity photographs taken (Helps to have an amazing brother in law who happens to be a professional photographer). I'm really glad I did it - Yes, I always struggle with my self esteem while pregnant but it has been fun to look back and see how my body changed. It's really pretty amazing! 


4. Plan & Un Plan

It's always good to have a birth plan in place. As women, we should feel empowered to decide how our birth story will go. Talk to your doctor, your friends, read about other people's experiences and educate yourself on the birthing process. You have way more ability to make choices than you might realize. At the same time, every single birth is different and some things you won't be able to prepare for so keep an open mind and try not to get too upset if your labor and delivery isn't going according to the plan. Make a plan, but also plan to scrap if it your body decides to do something different. My sister recently had her third child - she'd had two normal vaginal deliveries with her first two children but ended up in a c-section with her third. He was in the brow presentation, and after 18 hours of laboring they needed to do a caesarean to keep him (and her!) safe. Those third babies are supposed to be easy! You just never know...

3. Care

Going along with Tip #4, pick a great care provider that YOU relate to and are comfortable with. It's great to get opinions and recommendations but ultimately it's you and your provider for your entire pregnancy so you want to be with someone you trust to take care of you and respect your plan for the birthing process. That way, if something changes, you'll feel better knowing he or she probably did everything they could to make your wishes happen. Don't worry about hurting feelings either - if you don't click with the first provider you see, ask to see someone else. This is about YOU feeling comfortable enough to entrust yourself and your unborn child to someone else. Do what feels right for you.

2. Un Medicate

You'll want to try to be as medication free as possible throughout your pregnancy. At one of your first appointments, you'll probably be given a list of what you can and can't take. Always talk to your provider if you have any questions or concerns. Taking medications certainly isn't banned, and some of them will be absolutely necessary - just make sure to run them by your provider and call the office if you ever have any questions. And stay up to date on current issues regarding safety for certain medications. The medication Zofran, a popular choice in the past to alleviate severe nausea and vomiting, is currently under scrutiny for some adverse side effects on unborn babies.

1. Slack

Yes. Slack. As in cut yourself some. Pregnancy is HARD. Really hard. It's emotional, it's scary, it's exhausting, exciting, intimidating, amazing and a million other things rolled into a roller coaster 9 months. Make the best choices you can and don't beat yourself up if you do something you didn't know you weren't supposed to, if you can't get out of bed to shower for 4 days or if you gain too much weight. Just make good choices when you can, stay in touch with your provider so they can monitor your health consistently and tell yourself 'this too shall pass' (Sorry, some cheesy cliches ARE true!) It took you 40 weeks to grow that tiny human, it'll take you just as long (and probably more) to get back to feeling like yourself again. Try to remember you have just done something truly amazing and don't freak out if it takes you awhile to feel like you again.


Saturday, July 25, 2015


As human beings, we've become accustomed to the idea that being desperate is weak and pathetic. No one wants to be seen as desperate for a friend or for a partner, for a job, for money, desperate for help or validation. As Shauna Niequist says in one of her promo videos for her book Bread & Wine, "We live in a culture that prides us for not having any needs. I don't need to sleep, I don't need to eat, I'm like a robot. I'm so tough I can keep on going. It's a really soul-less, really damaging way to live."

I'm beginning to see that while yes, there are social disadvantages to being considered 'desperate'... being desperate is actually becoming the quality in which I strive to be in my relationship and walk with Christ.

Last night, I downloaded the Proverbs 31 First 5 app (very cool, by the way) and listened to Lysa Terkeurst's opening remarks at their She Speaks Conference going on this weekend. She was describing how in so many moments in our lives, we present God with a nice, tidy package of suggestions. We grasp them all tightly in our hands and offer them up to Him and we say something like, "Ok God...I was thinking about what's going on in my life and I think I've come up with a plan. So here it is - all of my suggestions, my plan for how to make this work, and I'd really, really like for you to bless this. Don't mess it up!! Just BLESS it"

I was in bed fighting off a terrible migraine after a hard bedtime with the kids, and when I heard her describe it like that, I had to laugh. Because isn't it true? Isn't it true that we still fight and battle to be the God of our own lives? And throughout it all, we present God with a package of suggestions and hope that He'll work those for our good. And when it doesn't happen that way, we feel miffed or disappointed or even downright furious.

It feels like when I fight to be the God of my own life, I often times find myself feeling fearful or discouraged. And I have to remind myself that fear is not of God.

It's in the desperate moments where I know I am far more attuned to Him than I usually am. It's desperation that breaks me open and brings me to my knees over and over and over again. It's the empty places that long to be filled up with Him that open my eyes to His plan for me and reminds me that He knows me intimately. He knows my heart, He knows my desires and He also knows where He needs me to be.

There are some changes happening in my life right now - things I'll be sharing soon enough - but I've found myself feeling almost backed into a corner. Desperate. Out of ideas, out of options, out of plans. I've been through my Plan A, my Plan B, my Plan C. And each time God has taken those plans gently out of my tight grasp and reassured me that He's working all things for my good.

And so here I stand, desperate for Him. Needy. Broken. Empty. With nothing else to offer but a whole lot of nothingness. Just myself and my faith that He is still sovereign and that He is still good.

And it feels pretty great.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

When personal growth threatens...

Picture this:

You're out alone at sea in a flimsy little rowboat. It's dark and stormy. You're grossly unprepared and without a life jacket. As the storm worsens, you cling to the side of the boat, afraid and certain you'll be thrown overboard where you will surely drown. You try to wait the storm out, but it seems to go on and on. You start to feel like your only chance at survival is to jump over and swim.

So you jump. You swim like hell to the shore, where you see a congregation of people. You feel one last surge of adrenaline, knowing they are all there waiting for you. They're holding signs, and you just know those are signs of praise and encouragement.

But as you climb onto the sand, a little broken, a little battered, soaked and cold you realize that some of the signs are encouragement but others say things like, "You jumped out too soon" or "You waited too long before you tried to save yourself". One says, "You should've used a different stroke to get to shore faster" and one criticized you for swimming too fast.

You feel confused. Didn't they see what you just accomplished? Can't they understand why you did what you did, when you did it?

I have a friend who used to be severely overweight. After years of feeling uncomfortable and unhappy with herself, she started taking the first steps towards health and wellness. Some of her friends responded with well wishes and excitement over her progress, others started to act a little critical or distant. And over a year later, when she was 100 lbs smaller, some of those friends were nowhere to be found at all.

As I've gotten older (ahem, let's say wiser) I have begun noticing that personal growth in someone else makes a lot of us uncomfortable.

Maybe it's the idea that they'll leave us behind or determine we aren't good enough. Maybe it's that we are envious of their ability to survive the storm triumphant while we seem to barely keep our heads above what most might consider calm waters. Maybe we feel a twinge of jealousy or insecurity as we watch others accomplish what we secretly wish we could.

I notice this a lot in female friendships especially. And none of us are immune to it, we've all been there, in that place of jealousy, envy or comparison. Haven't most of us, at one time or another, poked or criticized another person in an area we know will sting because we don't want to feel alone in our insecurities and uncertainty?

I used to really, really love to sing. I've done it my whole life in churches, in school, got some scholarship money for it in college and was even in the elite college choir on campus. I've done some vocal stuff as I've gotten older and if I'm honest, oh there is a part of me that wishes it was an easy, natural talent of mine. That I could just open my mouth and a little songbird would fly out. But it isn't like that for me. I have to work on vocals. My voice is melodic but simple and I'll never be a powerhouse or a vocalist with that unique indie style that leaves people wanting more.

As I sit here though, in my mid 30's, I can say that I'm coming to terms with the knowledge that it's not where I'm supposed to focus my time and energy. That God has placed other passions and talents inside of me and while I love to sing, it isn't where He wants me. I'm 90% ok with that. I feel fine about it, and then occasionally a little envy or jealousy rears its head and I find myself wistfully daydreaming about being able to sing and give people goosebumps with my powerful voice.

But the more I focus on where God wants me in my life, the less envy I feel of other people. And let me tell you, there's a confidence that comes with encouraging others. Steering clear of back biting, criticism of how other people live their lives, not trying to jump on every bandwagon out there because someone else is doing it - there is such a freedom in that.

If you find yourself feeling critical, envious or even angry about what someone else is doing in their life, I want to give you a little nudge. First: knock it off. Let's all stop thinking we know how someone else should be living their lives and focus on how we should be living ours.

But in addition to that: Pray for them. Invite God to do amazing things in their life, on their journey and ask Him to bless their endeavor. It's impossible to feel threatened with someone else's growth if you are able to encourage them. And over the past year, I have realized that the more I'm able to pour into others, the less envious I feel. Walking the path of trying to be more like Jesus involves way less of my mouth and way more of my life.

Whoever you are, wherever you are at, I want to encourage you today in that. You're probably walking this path the best way you know how, and that is good enough.

Be you, bravely.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

When Sadness Comes

Dang y'all.

Motherhood guilt is REAL, isn't it?

I was asked to write a blog post for another website featuring my Top 9 tips for 9 months of pregnancy. (I guess I'm now bordering on expert...hehe) and I was going back over some pictures from my pregnancies and just like that I'm sobbing like a baby.

Not with the sheer joy that comes from creating life. No, it was like each picture told a story, held a memory of what my life was like in that exact moment. As I was scrolling through my Instagram feed, looking at pictures of the last several years of my life, feelings and emotions just came flooding back.

I have a LOT of guilt over the first 10 months or so of Declan's life. We had gone through some really hard stuff as a family, and he came to this world with troubles that I just couldn't get a handle on. It wasn't for lack of trying, you all KNOW how much I tried to figure out what was going on with his little self. And I look back and know in my heart I did everything I could to fight for him, and to be an advocate for what we were going through and I pestered doctor after doctor after doctor until somehow the planets aligned and we started to piece together what he needed.

But I look at pictures of those early days - his tiny, scrawny self that hovered right above the failure to thrive line on the doctor's charts and I feel wracked with terrible, awful, sorrowful guilt. I can't shake the memories of those dark days of endless crying, no sleep, constant worry. I can't help but feel so sad and so sorry that I didn't figure it out sooner. That I couldn't help him feel better when he was so little, so helpless, so dependent on me to protect him.

Of course in the grand scheme of things, compared to real trauma, what we went through was nothing. But this mama's heart still shatters a little when I remember. When I see pictures of him crying and inconsolable.

Sadness and grief are an interesting thing to me. I suppose I'm becoming a little bit of an expert on those topics as well.

When I express my feelings about those dark days to people, I usually hear things like "You did the best you could!" or "It wasn't your fault!" or "But look how happy he is now!" All things that are - truly - accurate. They are all true statements. It wasn't my fault. I did do the best I could. He is happy now (well, most of the time!)

But you know what else I think is helpful?

You have to sit in that.

In the sadness. In the pain. In the darkness. It's ok to acknowledge those are real feelings. I feel guilty about the fact that Declan was born with a lip and tongue tie that basically kept him from consuming any calories the first 9 months of life and probably spent his days and nights hungry and miserable. Y'all. I. Feel. So. Guilty.

Whether it's my fault or not, the feelings are there and they are real.

I saw this today and it just resonated with me.

Yes. Just sit there. And then? Get up and walk away.

My kids have been through a lot in their little lives. All of them. And sometimes, that reality takes my breath away. Even though so many things have been out of my control and let's be honest, life is just HARD for all of us - oh, the guilt and sadness are so very real.

So I've been forcing myself to sit down when those feelings start. Just sit and think. Pray. Cry. And then I get up and walk away. And it's helped me relate to my kids as well when they start acting out or crying over things I don't understand. Isn't it easy to say "stop crying!" "you're fine!" "it's not that big of a deal!" - but oh, the acknowledgment of feelings is such a valuable thing. I'm giving myself permission to feel and those little guys? They need permission to feel too.

And so do you.

Thankful for redemptive and happy moments. If we don't sit in the sad, we'll never truly feel the happy.

(And because a year makes a whole lot of difference! He almost has little baby rolls!)

Monday, July 6, 2015

What's up with She's Brave?

14 years, 7 months and 5 days ago I became an unwed mother.

It's been a winding road since then, full of self discovery, mistakes, heartache and pain but there has been plenty of sunshine, happiness, joy and celebration as well.

And yet, I spent so many years feeling like an outsider, an oddball, less than...

About 6 years ago I felt God nudging me to reach out to women because most of them felt the same way. Perhaps for different reasons, but what I came to know was that there are a lot of women struggling in silence. Avoiding sharing their true selves because of guilt or shame or feeling like they were the 'only one' who felt the way they do.

Eating Disorders.
Broken marriages.
Single parenthood.

Have I named something you, personally, have struggled with? I personally have been affected in some way by addiction, infidelity, single parenthood, a broken marriage, feelings of hopelessness and being overwhelmed, heartache and exhaustion to name a few.

Is that embarrassing to put out there? A little. But I know that there are many of you who are dealing with the exact same issues I am because you've told me. And there are others who are struggling with things I'm not, but I also know you're not alone.

Something that has become very clear to me is that women who are united for Christ are a dangerous force. The enemy knows this, and he desires so much to drive a wedge in between the meaningful relationships that we can have with one another. Not only does he try to attack our families and marriages, he wants nothing more than to drive a wedge in between our friendships by making us feel as though we can't share ourselves with other people. When we feel like no one else could possibly understand WHO we are, we begin to isolate ourselves from the very people who could help lift us up and help to heal our pain.

It began as a nagging thought in the back of my mind as I noticed the women's conferences going on around me. There are some amazing ones that address finding your purpose and how to be a great mother. There are conferences about how to be successful professionally and conferences about being a Christian.

What we felt was lacking - or at least not as easy to find - was a conference that said HEY. HEY YOU. YOU AND I ARE ACTUALLY THE SAME!

 I'm depressed and I feel hopeless or I can't take my children for one more second today and I feel guilty. I'm sick of being single and I'm so lonely. I had an abortion and I feel shame. I've been betrayed in my marriage and I feel heartbroken. I was abused and I feel so much fear.

It started as a daydream, a fleeting thought, a hope, a yearning to provide a safe place for women to talk about the hard stuff without dwelling on it - a place to be vulnerable and hear other women share their painful stories and walk away feeling hopeful because suddenly they realize they aren't alone.

When Shaunna and I started Nourish - we hoped on a small scale our monthly dinner groups would become a safe place for women to discuss tough stuff alongside celebrating the joy to be found in day to day life. And that has happened in so many ways. But we also daydreamed about a culmination of all those dinner parties happening in the form of a conference. For women involved in Nourish and women who aren't - to come together in one place and look around the room and feel brave.

The She's Brave Conference is the very heart of what Nourish is about. It is about being vulnerable and showing up to a place with a lot of other people you probably don't know. It's about looking around the room and saying to one another "You're not alone and you matter". It's about safety in numbers as we begin to peel away the layers of armor we have put on to protect our hearts.

It's about finding the joy that can come with releasing the shame and the guilt you feel. It's about acknowledging that none of us are alone and that together we can become an amazing, beautiful, powerful force for good. It's about standing up to the mean girls stereotype and refusing to buy into it. It's about forgiving the friends you've had that have hurt you and betrayed you and finding hope in community again.

It is, at the very heart, about encouraging each other.

Tickets are on sale now! Early Bird ticket purchasers will get a discount, but those are limited availability so don't wait!

We know it's expensive. We know it's an investment. We promise we aren't making a dime off this conference. Truth be told, Shaunna and I will end up footing the bill for some of it ourselves. That's how passionately we feel about what we are doing.

We hope you'll join us. You'll hear from some amazing women including a Q&A and meet and greet with Momastery's Glennon Doyle Melton, and from author and blogger Sarah Mae.  You'll hear from other talented local speakers that are women just like you and me. We truly want this to be a conference that sets you free.

For more specific info about what is included in your ticket price, please visit us on our website. You don't have to be a current Nourish attendee to come but email us at nourishclt@gmail.com if you'd like to get involved with one of our monthly dinner parties.

Come, be brave, be filled up, and rest in the knowledge that you are seen, known and loved...just as you are.