Motherhood Monday – Special Edition

Part of our family story is that Sam and I were “long-distance married” for the first 9 months of our marriage and the first 5 months of my pregnancy with Henry. One of my sweet friends from college is going through a similar season of life, and she asked me to answer some questions for her blog!

Here’s a sneak peek of the post:

How did you deal with the stress of being pregnant while Sam was gone? 

When we found out I was pregnant with Henry, we had already been living long-distance for about 4 months. This did not make it any easier though. Sam took the majority of the stress on his back. He served me well by traveling back and forth from Atlanta to Tuscaloosa almost every single weekend. Since I was still in school, it was hard for me to get over to him and get back at reasonable times. Looking back, I did not appreciate all that he did for me and Henry during that time. When he was there, he put cold washcloths on my neck when I would get sick. He would buy me Coke icees or whatever I was craving that day. He would get to Tuscaloosa really late at night Thursday or Friday nights after fighting the traffic, and he would leave really early in the morning on Mondays to make it back in time for work. He sacrificed a lot, so I could finish school well, and that is something that I will always be grateful for. Being long distance also allowed us to be more appreciative and thankful for the time that we had together. I would get so excited about the weekend, not only because it was the weekend but because I knew that Sam would home with me

 I think there were several ways that I dealt with the stress. One of them was just being in an active relationship with Jesus. He frees us, and He loves us. He wants the best for us, and spending time with Him was and still is the best stress reliever. One of them was being in/leading a small group of girls. This created a consistent time to be surrounded by other believers and talk about Jesus. It was a sweet time of rest that I truly came to love and appreciate so much more than I ever had, even though I had been in these small groups before. Another thing that saved my sanity during this time was my friend that I carpooled with to the school we were both interning at. It took about 30 minutes to get to our school, so we spent a lot of time in the car processing, talking about what the Lord was teaching us, and being each other’s sounding board for all of life’s craziness. I am so thankful for the way Rachel loved me in that season. I cannot stress enough the importance of community in all seasons of life.

Click here to read the rest of the post and my answers to all of Hailey’s questions! 




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Motherhood Monday – Jessica V.

Welcome back to Motherhood Monday on the blog!! It has been about a month since I’ve welcomed someone to the blog to talk about their motherhood experience. I’m really excited to welcome Jessica V. to the blog today!! We actually got to visit them last week, and it was so much fun hanging out with them and seeing their son, Nathan, for only the second time. He is the sweetest baby!

Meet Jessica

Jessica and I have husband best friends. Our husbands lived together in college, so we got to become friends too! Edgar, her husband, was in our wedding, and Sam was in theirs. We actually have similar timing when it comes to our stories with our husbands too. They started dating around the same time we started dating, got engaged around the same time we got engaged, and our weddings were two weeks apart. It has been so special to live life alongside each other, even from far away. Jessica is a very sweet, thoughtful, and wise friend. She is very loyal to those around her, has an incredible heart for the Lord, and seems to juggle being a mom and wife very well. I can’t wait for y’all to read her words of wisdom.

The Interview

1. Explain your “motherhood journey.” Including your kid(s) and their age(s)

When I think back over my motherhood journey, I feel such a mix of emotions, from sadness and grief, to absolute joy, to fear and confusion, and also a large measure of gratitude towards God for all that He has taught me through this process. My journey started almost exactly a year ago. One Sunday in mid-March 2016, I found myself in my bathroom holding a positive pregnancy test. My husband and I were definitely in shock, but elated to be expanding our family. On Monday, I miscarried. It was very early in my pregnancy, and my doctor told me it was fairly common and probably would have no bearing on my ability to get pregnant in the future. Even so, I was heartbroken. One moment there had been a little life growing inside of me, and the next it was gone.

I also felt a lot of shame and fear of condemnation. I felt like the world would have me believe that it wasn’t a big deal; that it wasn’t even a baby that I had lost, because it was no bigger than a poppy seed. I was in counseling at the time, and my counselor was so helpful in giving me a framework for thinking about my pain. She reassured me that I was absolutely entitled to grieve my loss (and to me it was a very real loss), no matter what the world wanted me to believe. I think the Lord really used that experience to teach me about allowing myself to feel my emotions, to grieve loss and acknowledge pain rather than just pretending that “I’m fine.”

That was also a season of learning to trust in God’s character, even when I don’t understand His plan. A verse that was really comforting to me during that time was Psalm 139:16, which starts, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance.” I clung to the truth that God could see that little unformed baby just as clearly as He can see you or me. Even if no one else could mourn that tiny life in the same way as me, God could.

Another lesson in trusting God’s character came when I found out I was pregnant the second time. In the interest of being honest, I’ll say we ended up getting pregnant right after my miscarriage because we didn’t realize that a woman could be ovulating immediately after a miscarriage and before her period returned. It turns out she can! That was such an emotional roller coaster. I had just accepted that we were not going to be having a baby and had turned my mind towards what our next year of ministry with the Navigators would look like…and then I found out I was pregnant again. I had been feeling so hopeful and excited about really investing in freshmen women at Vanderbilt, only to then realize that I would not get the amount of time with them that I had expected. I was so excited about this new baby, but at the same time I was sad to be “giving up” my expectations for what the next year of my life would look like. I really had to wrestle with accepting that God’s plan for my life was good and right.

As my pregnancy went on, I did come to feel greater peace about this new season that God was leading us into. I also think that God began to really increase my joy, especially through sweet moments like seeing my little man on the ultrasound and feeling him kick. At times I still felt sad for how my life would be changing and fear for how unknown the whole parenthood thing felt, but it was really helpful for me to be honest about naming those emotions when they came. I am so thankful that I had the Lord, my dear husband, and sweet friends to walk with me through whatever I was feeling and help me to face the coming season with hope and courage.

My healthy baby boy, Nathan Judah Voltz, was born December 13, 2016 (5 days earlier than his due date). He is three months old now, and I absolutely love being his mommy. My life right now looks so different than I had expected, but I am so thankful for it and for the truth that God’s plan is so much better than my own.

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“Nathan was just a few days old when we took this picture. My husband, Edgar, is such a wonderful husband and father!” Picture provided by Jessica

2. What is the biggest lesson (or 2 or 3) that you’ve learned from being a mom?

The biggest lesson that I’ve learned is one that I feel like I learn over and over again through different seasons of my life. I think I could sum it up in two parts: 1) my life is not about me (nor has it ever been) and 2) I’m selfish and often want it to be.

Being a mom means I can no longer choose to do what I want whenever and however I want anymore, because there’s a tiny human who needs me to meet all of his needs and provide stability for his little world. It’s funny, I’ve always thought of moms as just being these inherently selfless superheroes, but I’m learning that selflessness isn’t inherent at all (in fact, I think the Bible tells us that we are instead inherently self-centered).

I think God is building selflessness into me through the daily trial of choosing another over myself. There have been plenty of moments when I am finally about to fall asleep, cozy in my warm bed, when my baby wakes up crying. In those moments, a part of me is really tempted to roll over and hope my son figures it out on his own, but because I love my son, I get up and go to him…time and time again. There was a period of time (after the initial adrenaline rush of parenthood had worn off) when this process of choosing another over myself was really hard for me. Even if I was physically caring for my son, I was constantly thinking about my “needs” and the things I felt like I was missing out on. However, as time has gone on and I’ve adjusted to my new role, it has slowly become easier to put his needs before my own.

I’m slowing becoming a more selfless person, and honestly, I really like the person that motherhood is making me become. I want to look more like Jesus. I was recently reading Philippians 2:3-4, which says, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” When I read those verses, I thought, “Wow, that kind of humility is what I want my life to be marked by.” I really believe that motherhood is a huge part of God’s training plan for me to grow to look more like Christ.

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“Here’s my sweet 3 MONTH OLD! Where is the time going?!” Picture provided by Jessica

3. Share one (or 2 or 3) funny or sweet stories that make it all worth it.

Nathan is still so little, so I’m not sure that I can think of any specific story to share. However, I love just spending time with him and seeing his little personality come out more and more. He’s just a sweet, happy, laidback, inquisitive, and thoughtful boy. I am getting so much joy right now from the times we spend together while I’m putting him down to sleep. I typically sit with him in my arms, rock him, and sing worship, Disney, or Needtobreathe songs. Often times, while he’s still fairly awake, he will “sing” along with me by making these elongated cooing sounds (I can’t think of a better way to describe them!). It just makes my heart soar. I love thinking about all of the singing our family will do together in the future, whether in times of worship or just playing around in the car. I also love that I get to sing the Gospel over my son and myself every day; it really ministers to my heart!

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“I’m generally a pretty silly person, and I love sharing that with my little guy!” Picture provided by Jessica

4. What do you think the biggest challenge of being a mom is?

I think that women today, mothers or not, feel a lot of pressure to “have it all together”. We can feel like we have to excel at everything we do, and if we’re not excellent in everything then we must be failing at everything. I think the heat just gets turned up on all that when you become a mother. We can put so much pressure on ourselves to have perfectly-behaved model babies, a successful career, a tiny waistline, a Pinterest-perfect house that is always clean, healthy home-cooked meals on the table every night, deep relationships with friends that we keep up with regularly, and an ever-grateful husband who just gushes about how good we are at loving them. I get exhausted just thinking about it, and yet I often get caught up in trying to figure out how to meet these impossible standards!

Now that I’m a mom, I feel like I’m even less able to meet these standards. Nothing can thwart the best-laid plans quite like a baby, am I right? So, I’ve been trying to challenge myself to really devote the majority of my effort towards nurturing my son and loving my husband. If I have additional capacity in a given week, it usually goes towards my ministry with college students, but I’m trying to practice discipline by putting my family as my first priority. I want to be a woman who is faithful to work where the Lord has called me, not a woman who is chasing after an unrealistic standard of perfection that I will never meet. Granted, I am so far from having this figured out. If I’m being honest, I still spend way too much time comparing myself to the perfect mommies of Instagram. Thankfully, I am often reminded by my sweet husband and good friends that I do not have to have it all together to try to meet some imaginary standard of perfection – and that is so freeing!

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“Snuggly nights in watching Netflix are some of my favorite times with my little family!” Picture provided by Jessica

5. If you could write a “job description” of being a mom, what would it say?

I think it would go something like this:

“This position requires long hours; must be willing to work weekends, holidays, etc. Actually, there really is no off time included with this position. No experience required; plenty of on-the-job training. This position will quickly help one to develop skills such as problem-solving, advanced negotiation tactics, and flexibility. Daily tasks may include but are not limited to: spending large amounts of time making sure your child is eating enough, handling various bodily functions (which can often be found in places they should not be, like on your clothes), practicing the art of stealthily placing a sleeping baby into his crib, experiencing the small wonders of discovering a big world while you watch your child play, and relishing in lots of baby snuggles. This job can be extremely difficult, but more rewarding than words can describe.”

6. What’s something from your family growing up that you think affects your parenting or the way you raise your child(ren)?

I know that my parenting will certainly be influenced by the way my parents raised me, but because Nathan is still so young, I’m not sure I’ve seen much of my parenting style or tendencies come out yet. I’m also realizing it is a lot easier to think about all of the things I would do differently from my parents, but that’s not to say that my parents didn’t do a lot of good things to love and support me and my sister either.

One thing I’ve been thinking about lately is just how much I value traditions. My family was never much for creating traditions that we held onto for years and years. We were generally very flexible in most things that we did. That flexibility had its benefits, but sometimes my heart really longs to have traditions that I can carry on with my own children. Now that I’m planning my own family’s future, I LOVE that I get to be in control of creating sweet moments that my children can look forward to and expect each year. Most of the traditions that I want to start revolve around Christmas, but I also love the idea of birthday traditions and summer vacation traditions. I want my children to feel a special sense of closeness and security from our family structure, and I think traditions are one way to build into that.

7. If you knew someone who just found out they were pregnant with their first baby, what would be your two pieces of advice for them? A practical tip and a piece of wisdom.

I don’t know if I have much sage advice to offer because I’m still such a newbie at this myself, but one thing that comes to mind is just to give yourself so much grace! Adjusting to parenthood is hard all by itself, and when you add on top of that the fact that you are recovering from a major procedure (no matter which way your baby is born) and trying to adjust to chronic sleeplessness, things are just going to be difficult at first! It is totally okay to eat take-out every night, have dirty dishes in the sink, laundry piled up, etc. You will eventually learn to adjust to a new routine for your family, but it doesn’t have to be a week after your baby is born…or even seven weeks for that matter! As an aside to that, when Nathan was first born I made it a practice to never turn down help when it was offered. If people wanted to bless our family by washing our dirty dishes, I totally let them. It made such a difference to have people who were willing to help us!

As far as practical goes, I would say don’t let your guard down when it comes to your baby’s bodily functions. I swear, every time I think that I don’t need to throw a burp cloth over my shoulder because surely my child won’t spit up on me, I end up with the biggest trail of spit up running down my shirt. The same goes for little boys with peeing. The moments when I think I’m safe, that surely my son won’t pee when I open his diaper, are the times that I end up using my hands to block a huge stream of pee from covering the walls of the nursery! But then again, maybe my child is just a prankster!

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“This was my reality when Nathan was first born! I was exhausted all the time and needed so much help.” Picture provided by Jessica

Wrap-Up

Jessica’s answers were all so real and so wise, but one of my favorite things that she talked about was how hard it is to always put someone else’s needs over your own. This is something that I know I really struggled with when Henry was first born, and it is still a struggle now, as I’m sure it will probably always be. We are inherently self-centered, so I know the Lord uses motherhood to teach us selflessness along with about a million other things.

Thanks for answering my questions, Jessica! Your honesty and wisdom is so appreciated, and I loved reading your motherhood journey.

What was your favorite thing that Jessica said? Do you have a question you want the Motherhood Monday moms to answer? Comment on this post or e-mail me at openhandsopenhome@gmail.com. Know a mom that needs some encouragement or that would like the Motherhood Monday posts? Send them a link to this post! The goal of these posts is to reach out, encourage, and empathize with moms all around.

Motherhood Monday – Becca J.

I’m really excited to welcome Becca J. to the blog for today’s Motherhood Monday!

Meet Becca

Becca and I met while I was in college. Her husband, Blake (who officiated mine and Sam’s wedding actually), was one of the associate pastors of the college ministry I was involved in. I looked up to Becca from the time I met her on. She is wise, sweet, and gentle. By her life, you can tell that she loves the people around her well. Becca is the newest mom I asked in rounding up answers for this blog series (so far). As she says below, when she answered these questions, she had just had her Thomas 3 weeks and 2 days prior. Becca’s wisdom and trust in the Lord’s faithfulness is what stands out to me in her answers.

The Interview

1. Explain your “motherhood journey.” Including your kid(s) and their age(s)

I just had my first child, Thomas, exactly three weeks and two days ago. It’s still hard for me to believe I’m a mom! It all happened so quickly, and yet there were points in the journey that seemed to last forever. Blake and I decided to go off of birth control back in late January. Within the first month, we were pregnant. I remember feeling funny one week, so I picked up a pregnancy test on the way home from work. I took it as soon as I got home, and sure enough, I was pregnant. I stood there in disbelief for about five minutes, then in hysterical tears and laughter for about 30 minutes while walking my dog around our neighborhood. (I’m sure our neighbors thought I was crazy.) I tried to think of a creative way to tell Blake, but I couldn’t contain my excitement, so I just called him and told him while he was at work. The following nine months started out blissful and easy, but the last trimester was slow and exhausting. I was tired of moving so slowly and not being able to breathe. Plus, I had just taken a new teaching job, and preparing current and future lesson plans for maternity leave was quite an undertaking. I started maternity leave at 38 weeks, but day after day passed, and still no baby. I probably walked more in those two weeks than I had throughout the entire pregnancy trying to get that baby out. There were nights of Braxton Hicks contractions, but they would fade away eventually. Then Election Day rolled around, and I already had an appointment with my doctor for that morning. We went in, and (surprise!), I was already four centimeters. They sent us over to the hospital at about 10:30am, and Thomas arrived at 5:52pm. They placed him to my chest, and all my fears of being void of maternal instincts or not having a connection with my baby melted away. I cried and laughed, and cried and laughed some more, and fell in love with that little boy instantly. He was and is such a gift.

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Such a sweet moment. Picture provided by Becca

2. What is the biggest lesson (or 2 or 3) that you’ve learned from being a mom?

I’ve learned about another layer of God’s love for me. It can be trying to have to be there constantly for this little human who is so needy and dependent, and to not always even know what he needs … and to do it with a patient and gentle spirit. But to remember that my Father has loved me with such inexhaustible patience and gentleness gives me the desire to do the same for Thomas. And it’s not just a past tense, God has loved me this way, type of love. God is continually ministering to my needy, dependent spirit even now, in the middle of the night when I’m incredibly tired and stressed and wondering how I’m going to keep this mothering thing up. That everlasting, continual, round-the-clock faithfulness is still extended to me, and so I can continually lovingly bear with this little one in the same way, even when he is fussy and demanding.

3. Share one (or 2 or 3) funny or sweet stories that make it all worth it.

Along with my answer to number 2, my answer to number 3 also involves God’s love for us. When Thomas was born and they handed him to me, I was just on cloud nine, not paying attention to much of anything besides his face. When they took him from me, I looked down, and there was poop everywhere. EVERYWHERE, people. I didn’t even realize that he had left that little surprise for me while I was holding him. Normally, I would have been grossed out, but I seriously did not care one bit. Blake and I just laughed and then cried some more. When it comes to your child, you don’t mind getting involved with their mess. Even though I’ve been told countless times that God loves me, there is always that lingering thought of His reluctance to get involved with a mess like me. While yes, our sin does sadden God, His grace abounds all the more.

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That face, y’all. Picture provided by Becca

4.What do you think the biggest challenge of being a mom is?

I’m sure I’ll experience much greater challenges in the future, but so far, for me, the toughest challenge has simply been trusting that God will make a way for us as parents. He will give me the physical energy and stamina that I need. He will provide for all of our physical needs. He will help us to balance work and family. He will give me the words I need to raise this child in truth and love. Yes, we will make mistakes along the way, but there is no need to be anxious. When I submit everything to the Lord and remember His sovereignty, I can trust that He is good and will make a way.

5. If you could write a “job description” of being a mom, what would it say?

If I had to write a job description for a mom, I would say that the type of person required is someone who abides in Jesus. She doesn’t have to be perfect; she doesn’t have to know babies like the back of her hand; she doesn’t have to have it all figured out. When I go to Jesus, He provides the patience, He provides the wisdom, He provides the perseverance, and He provides the grace. When you look to Him, He equips you to be a mother. He is the ultimate source of all of those nurturing, motherly traits that we moms want to portray the most. So don’t look to yourself in order to be a good mother; and don’t beat yourself up when you make mistakes. You’re wasting your energy. Instead, go to Him. Don’t try to draw water from dried up lands; go straight to the source, Jesus Himself.

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Doesn’t motherhood look good on her?? Picture provided by Becca

6. What’s something from your family growing up that you think affects your parenting or the way you raise your child(ren)?

Something that was a big part of my family during my childhood was a love for God’s Word. Our family devotions looked different during each phase of my childhood, but my parents always valued time spent together reading and discussing the Bible. Obviously, that’s hard to do with an almost four-week-old, but I’ve already started listening to the Bible aloud each morning, and as I’m working around the house, I’ll put on sermons and listen with Thomas as he hangs out in the Baby Bjorn. While I didn’t always fully absorb or appreciate what I was hearing at the time, I’m so thankful my parents instilled within me a respect for the Bible. The seeds that they planted have grown into beautiful fruits in time, and I hope the same happens for Thomas.

 7. If you knew someone who just found out they were pregnant with their first baby, what would be your two pieces of advice for them? A practical tip and a piece of wisdom.

One practical tip I would give to a first time mom is to choose things you really like, even if they are a little more expensive, when you’re making your registry. Who knows? Someone may be really generous and purchase it for you, or a group of people may go in together to give you that item. I was blown away by the generosity of our family and friends! If you don’t end up getting something that you need, you can just purchase that item at whatever price works for your budget later. A piece of wisdom I would give is to be confident in your story. Whether you choose to breastfeed or not, labor naturally or with the help of medicine, take all of the offered birthing classes or not, own it. Do what is wise for you and your baby. Also, keep an open mind. Labor often does not happen like mothers expect it to; whether you have to be induced, wind up getting an epidural, or labor for hours on end, each story is beautiful. Don’t expect to be completely in control; trust the Lord and take it one step at a time. Just like your baby is ultimately God’s, so are you. Trust Him.

Wrap-Up

It is so evident that Becca (and her husband, Blake) trust the Lord and continue to lean on Him and learn from Him through their parenthood journey. I also love Becca’s job description for a mom when she says, “She doesn’t have to be perfect; she doesn’t have to know babies like the back of her hand; she doesn’t have to have it all figured out.” I told y’all she is wise!! What encouraging words to read. It is such a gift to release ourselves from the standard of perfection when it comes to motherhood.

Thank you so much, Becca!! You encouraged me and challenged me in the best way. I’m infinitely grateful for the times you have spoken into my life, including this interview.

What was your favorite thing that Becca said? Do you have a question you want the Motherhood Monday moms to answer? Comment on this post or e-mail me at openhandsopenhome@gmail.com. Know a mom that needs some encouragement or someone who is expecting? Send them a link to this post! The goal of these posts is to reach out, encourage, and empathize with moms all around.

A Picture of the Gospel

Adoption is such a picture of the gospel. I cannot separate the two in my mind, honestly. Jesus chose the cross and crucifixion, so that we could be adopted into the family of God, the family that our sin had separated us from. Jesus became sin, so that our sin could no longer keep us from having a place at the table and a place in the family. And when He defeated death by rising again, He sealed our place there forever into eternity, so that one day, we can all sit around said table at a family dinner and praise the Lord for the plan He always knew He would carry out to rescue and rebuild His family.

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” – Galatians 4:4-7, emphasis mine

This is the good news. This is what we can celebrate. This is what we can be thankful for, but more than anything, this is something that we have to share and carry out in our own lives. Now, I know that not everyone is called to adopt. There are people that carry this out in the most incredible ways that I could never even imagine, but I know that the Lord has called me to share this good news by modeling it in my home, in my family.

Sam and I have always wanted to adopt. Even before we were engaged, we talked about it and knew it was something we both wanted and felt called to do. We have since talked about the family that we want someday. Maybe 4 kids total, definitely one adopted, maybe two, maybe the third one, or the last one, but as Sam says, “we’re free-spirited”.

I always thought having kids was a long way away, but then about a year ago, I found out that I was pregnant with Henry. “A long way away” came much faster than I ever thought, but like I said, we’re free-spirited, right??

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Since moving to Georgia and starting to attend our church, we have seen many families that foster children and have adopted children, and it makes my heart so, so happy. Every time the subject of adoption comes up, my heart does a little flutter. I know it is something that I am passionate about and called to. The Lord has deepened this passion over time, but it, too, has always felt a long way away.

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Henry’s dedication at church!

Now, I’m not saying that it’s not still a long way away, but the Lord has been stirring my heart more than ever before. A couple weeks ago, Sam and I sat in a presentation about a ministry that a couple in our church heads up that sponsors orphanages in another country among other things. During the prayer time after the presentation, I started tearing up thinking about the children without parents, without a family, without a true home. Then as I was scrolling through Facebook today, I came across an article about a family that ended up adopting twins. While reading the article and watching the video included, I found myself crying before I even realized what the premise of it all was. Adoption has gripped me. The Lord has softened my heart to a place of wondering and questioning if maybe its closer than “a long way away.”

So, this is what is on my heart today and in this season. Will we be adopting in the near future? I have no idea, but I do know that the Lord will carry out His plan however He sees fit and in whatever timing He sees fit, and I am so excited about seeing it unfold.