January 25, 2016

Lifestyle Photo Session with Baby Eden (and a new ministry)

It's been so encouraging to get your feedback through messages and texts and comments and conversations about the fear posts (here and here). It seems to have really struck a chord and is something we can all relate with. May the Lord set us free and may we walk in the freedom he's given us, Amen.

This summer, Reese, a dear friend of mine, and I started getting together in the early morning to talk about how we could reach the women at our church who feel like outsiders and fringers. The ones (and let's be honest, sometimes it was us ourselves) who feel like they show up week after week and then return home unnoticed, unacknowledged, disconnected, alone. This led to us being connected with Rebecca (from Bea Hufman Photography), who had the same heart and passion. One early morning coffee sesh with Rebecca and I wanted to invite her to be my best friend forever and ever and maybe we can even wear half-heart necklaces, yes?

This was the beginning of Walk Worthy at our church. A once-a-month evening get-together for women of all ages to attend. There's a different speaker talking about a different relevant topic every month and then we have discussion groups, which is where I think the real gold happens.

(And just an eff-why-eye, the next one is February 4th at 7pm - see link above for details!)

It has become one of the most worthwhile and meaningful things I've been a part of. I love, love, love getting to be a tiny part of what God wants to do in our lives. And I love the reward that comes with taking risks.

And one of the greatest treasures has been getting to know Rebecca better and better. I love her heart for the Lord and for people.

Anyways, a couple of weeks ago Rebecca offered to do a session for us after Eden was born. I'm never too keen to have my picture taken immediately after birth because Hi, my name is Postpartum Baby Weight, but these days are just so fleeting and I don't want to forget them. And really, nobody is ever looking as closely at ourselves as ourselves.

So after thinking about it for seven seconds, I agreed. And I am so glad we did.

Seriously. That handsome bearded man. 

Agh, my heart.

The boys were a little (MAJORLY) crazy the day she came over (I blame the snow) so we didn't get a ton of great ones with all of us without them including a) Luke screaming or running away, or b) me sweating while whisper-yelling at them to smile, or c) all of the above.

You totally can't tell Luke is trying to escape, can you?

But I love, love, love the essence of family life in this season that she captured. It's my favorite thing about lifestyle photography. The stylized shoots are fun, but these are the days I want to remember.

The photo in the background is when Baby Grace was in my belly. I love that this picture shows how far redemption can reach. One precious daughter in my heart until Eternity and the other in my arms.
TOTAL. Chaos.  

Attempting to use gummy bears as a bribe for ONE GOOD PHOTO. (It didn't work.)

That's it for today, hope you guys are having a great start to the week!

January 21, 2016

When Fear Crushed Me

A few months ago I was getting my hair did and catching up on world news (People) when I came across an article about a well-known man and the accusations against him of child pornography and abuse. (I hate, hate, hate even having that phrase on my blog). I was totally shocked to see it about this person, though really it shouldn't shock us about anybody. Depravity extends to us all.

(I am also refusing to post this person's name because I don't want anyone Googling information about him and becoming scarred the way I was. Just because it's been made public doesn't mean we need to know the details. That's called voyeurism and it's anti-Biblical.)

Anyways. I know myself well enough to know I am tormented by details about things like this but I wanted to see if he had been convicted and if he would be going to prison. Every single news article included WAY too many details of what he had done and said (which, HOT BURNING RAGE, what is wrong with our culture that this is acceptable??).

Immediately my heart was seared with grief and terror and rage.

Deep, deep fear overcame me. I can't explain it except to say it felt like a physical, crushing weight had been laid on me. (Another reason that we are not meant to know these things and have them in our minds.)

(Sorry for all the parenthetical statements.)

(I'll try to rein it in.)

(But no promises.)

Anyways. It ruined the rest of my hair experience. All I could think about were my kids and somebody harming them. I could hardly contain my grief. When I finally got in the car a tidal wave of images and terror overtook me and I literally burst into tears and felt like I could hardly catch a break from wave after wave of oppressive fear.

It was absolutely an assault from the Enemy (Ephesians 6:16), capitalizing on the foolishness of my reading the details of something that I should never have allowed into my mind.

I began to pray out loud against the Enemy, for my children, against the evil of this age, anything and everything that I could think to smother it with prayer. But all day I felt buried underneath its weight. Finally that night I told Matt that I needed his undivided attention and I told him what had happened and that I felt under full demonic attack and I needed him to pray over me.

He did and for the first time all day I began to feel the darkness dissipate. The light and power of God's truth broke through and I began to feel freedom again. Freedom from the fear and darkness.

I'm sharing this because I don't want my last post to in any way communicate that freedom from walking in fear is easy. It ain't easy. I don't just lah-di-dah decide I'm not afraid and then I'm not afraid.

I have to be so intentional or fear creeps in and overtakes without even trying. I've found that in addition to having faith and living by faith, I need to just plain be wise about what I allow in.

Here are some things that foster fear:

- Excessive watching of the news, or looking up information online, particularly about those things we fear most.

- Creating worst-case scenarios in our mind and/or entertaining all the things that could go wrong. These sorts of thoughts will usually come unbidden to our mind anyways; we don't have to invite them in for crumpets and let them tell us every last sordid, colorful potential what-if of our lives.

- Live in the secrecy of our own thoughts. I'm telling you, secrets have to be the most formidable opponent to walking in freedom and light as anything else in our lives. Nothing makes the darkness stronger in our hearts as much as keeping it a secret does.

Here are some intentional things I've learned I have to do or I fall to fear time after time:

- Get in the Bible every day. Lies and distorted truth (more lies) have a hard time standing up against the living, breathing Word of God.

- Tell someone. Someone that you know will pray for you right then and there. Ephesians 6 makes clear this is a spiritual battle so we have to fight it with spiritual weapons: the Holy Spirit and prayer. Incidentally, the Holy Spirit is called the spirit of truth. Truth sets us free. So tell someone the truth about what's taking place in your life.

- Make the effort and put in the hard work to develop friendships with other people who love Jesus and his Word and prayer.

This summer I was leaving a friend's house and another friend texted to say that she had been praying for Eden Hope and me while she was vacuuming. She reached down to pick up an object and it was a little card that said "Hope" on it. How cool is that? But the even cooler thing is that the night before I'd had a terrible nightmare that Eden had some cord issues and had passed away in my belly, and even though I had been praying all day against the fear squeezing my heart, I just couldn't shake it. God worked through my discerning friend and used her to pray for me. I was immediately encouraged and was finally able to let it go. God reminded me in such an unmistakable way that he sees, he hears, he responds, he's working on my behalf, and more than anything, he loves me.

There are many other things we can do but these are the ones I've found to be the most powerful and effective.

It grieves my heart so much when I see people enslaved to fear, constantly entertaining the what-if thoughts, robbed of the peace and life they could have. I don't ever want to convey that living by faith and walking in freedom in Christ is easy. It just ain't, dang it.

But you can still be free. 

You can. But it takes being intentional, on guard, using wisdom, filling our minds with the Godly wisdom from above, not the earthly wisdom from below (James 3), inviting others into our battle, walking in the light (1st John 1:7), filling our minds with God's Word, and quite frankly, sometimes just getting off the Internet and turning off the news.

How about you? What are ways you've found freedom from living in fear?

And just a few photos from recent days because I can't not post pictures of my lovies. I just can't. I can't not. I can't.

Luke was SUCH a helper while I was taking Eden's pictures. ;)

Aunt Stacy shocked us with a surprise visit! We love Aunt Stacy.

Smooshy-faced selfies with mom.

Micah lost his first tooth!

Montana babywearing.

Right??? :)

Getting dressed for outings with friends.

Good day, my friends, love you lots!

January 18, 2016

Does Fear Control Me After Losing Grace?

A question I've been asked from time to time is, after we lost Grace, how afraid was I with my subsequent pregnancies that something would go wrong again. Meaning, was I terrified the entire time I was pregnant with both Luke and Eden that something would happen to them too.

18 weeks pregnant with Luke. 

Lukey! Oh this boy and his chubby sweetness.

Surprisingly, the answer is no. I wasn't. I don't mean that I never had times of fear that something would happen, but I can honestly say that in no way did fear control my pregnancies.

I never wrote about this publicly, but when I was 13 weeks pregnant with Eden I woke up in a puddle of blood, similar to when I hemorrhaged with Luke. We were completely devastated, thinking for sure we had lost the baby in my belly. We went to the ER where the (unsympathetic) doctor used an ultrasound machine from what looked like the 1830s to find that there was, shockingly, still a steady heartbeat.

38 weeks pregnant with Eden.

I was eventually diagnosed with a complete placenta previa and put on very strict orders to do nothing. Which is so totally doable when you have 3 kids under 5 at home.

I'll have to tell the full story some day but the Lord miraculously healed me of that and I went on to have a healthy pregnancy.

But even with that, fear did not control me. And this may sound strange, but in large part, it was because of losing Grace that fear didn't control me.

Sweet Eden.

Today marks 3 years since our world turned upside down. On January 18th, 2013 we went in for what we thought would be a routine appointment where all our concerns would be laid to rest with her irregular heartbeat, only to find that things were much, much worse than we could have ever imagined.

For me my life will always be divided into before and after this day.

But when people ask me about fear, I tell them the same thing. If there's one thing I learned from losing Grace, it's that I can trust God's character. I can, and do, trust and believe that he's kind and good and faithful and if he allows something painful, he'll give me everything I need to walk through the fire, with him steadfastly at my side, on my side, for me, with me.

I learned that I have no control over life and death, and all the worrying in the world didn't add a single hour to her life.

Fear didn't change anything, except me. Fear made me angry. Fear stole my peace. Fear kept me up at night. Fear made me scramble for control.

When I was pregnant with Luke and Eden, sure, I had moments of what if? but I refused to let them stay for long. When those thoughts came, I would pray as specifically as possible for them, for their growth and their health and their life and their character, but ultimately I let God carry the burden.

Life and death are in his hands, and I couldn't know the future but I could know him.

So today on this day that marks a sad anniversary for us, I hope you're encouraged to know you don't have to live in fear. You don't have to let fear make you angry, steal your peace and your joy, keep you awake at night, tormented by thoughts of what if.

You can trust the God who holds your life in his hands. Is this a guarantee that you'll be kept from all suffering? Nope. Nobody is immune to suffering and it will visit us all at some point.

But true peace doesn't come from immunity, it comes from knowing the One who knows all things.

January 15, 2016

Baby Eden at (almost) 3 Weeks

We've been settling into being a family of 6 the last almost 3 weeks. I know everyone says it but I can't believe how quickly time is flying, and before we know it, she'll be a month, then a year, then moving out and getting married. All in that order.

I plan to blog her birth story soon (it's a fun one) but in the meantime I wanted to document some of these precious first days photos. The following photos are by my ridiculously talented friend, Rebecca, from Bea Hufman Photography. And if you follow me on Instagram (which you totally should because it's such a fun community!), then you've seen a couple of these.

Eden is a dream baby. She really is. She is all sweetness and beauty and delight to our family. I have at least one moment a day of staring deeply at her, completely unable to grasp that she's my daughter. I love her so.

The dress that she's wearing in the photos below is so special to me because it was one of the few I dared to buy for Grace, so hopeful for life for her. I love that her sister gets to wear it.

(The photos below were taken by me.)

Lukey, with his yogurt hands, being such a big helper. :)

I know. I know. I said I wouldn't be a big-bow mama but that's before I had her in my arms. I can't help it, it's beyond my self-control. Look at the cuteness

I thought I wouldn't be a big-flower mama either but...see: above.

We love you so much, sweet girl, and can't wait to see you grow up into the beautiful girl we know you'll be.