"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heavens." Ecclesiastes 3:1

Sunday, August 21, 2016

I am Not a Badass, but I am Catholic

In an ironic turn of events, Buddy and I celebrated Natural Family Planning Awareness Week with a positive pregnancy test.

When I ripped open the test that Tuesday (which also happened to be the feast day of Mary's parents, Saints Joachim and Anne), I was simply looking for reassurance. I was so sure that stress had once again messed with my cycle, I assumed we were trading that $3 test for peace of mind.  I honestly never expected that blue line to appear, but it did. Two seconds into the waiting period and it was boldly staring right back at me.

We were both in shock, but Buddy quickly jumped on the happy train. I, on the other hand, was left crying at the station. I feel horrible admitting that, but pregnancy and I do not play well together. If my past repeated itself, I knew I only had a few days before morning all day sickness would hit, and it always hits me hard. Even with medication, the first trimester of each pregnancy has left me lying on the cold bathroom floor, spent and depressed. These memories are burned into my mind along with the echo of my desperate pleas that Buddy never ask me to do this again.

Don't get me wrong; our hearts still ached for another child. Neither one of us felt like our family was complete.  But we did have a few things we needed wanted to get settled before I got pregnant again.  Even though we are constantly discussing and reevaluating, we were both hoping we'd be ready for another baby before the end of this year. I was just counting on these next few months to mentally prepare myself for my next pregnancy!

As I was fighting my way through a lot of mixed emotions, I started mindlessly scrolling on Facebook and saw this:

I laughed at the thought. I am definitely not a badass! I'm His child, and He is simply doing what a father does. He is pushing me because He knows the desires of my heart, and as my father, He refuses to let me settle for anything less than my potential. God saw our desire for more children was being smothered in fear--fear of judgement from a world that thinks two children is more than enough, fear that our finances will be tighter than they already are, and fear of going through the trial of another pregnancy.

At first, this pregnancy felt like God had shoved me into the deep end of the pool. He knew that I could swim, even if I didn't feel ready. At first, I had all kinds of feelings about that unexpected push, and some of those feelings still creep back up when I'm crying in the bathroom praying that my dinner stays down. But no matter what emotion I'm experiencing, this baby is absolutely wanted.

The thing is, God sees the big picture. He knows when the timing is right, even when the rest of us are left wondering what the heck He could be thinking. So even when I've struggled with the fear of not being ready, I've found peace in knowing that God knows what He is doing. He has a plan, and His plan is always our plan, even when it's unknown and scary.

Ironically, I wrote this post on August 4th of last year, which was almost exactly a year before we found out about this baby. It was such a blessing to read my words again when it popped up in my Time Hop. We have been very blessed to have this kind of supportive family nearby, and I continue to pray that God will help me to be that same kind of blessing to my own children.

It's been a rough few weeks, but it looks like I finally found a new medicine that is helping me feel human again, so praise God for that! We also went for my first ultrasound last week, so we got to see our little bean and watch the tiny heartbeat light up on the screen. As I held Buddy's hand, my eyes filled with tears. Praise God for trusting us with this new life!

Once the ultrasound was complete, we were ready to start announcing to more of our family and friends. While most of the responses have been positive, unfortunately, we've heard a few negative comments as well.  The most popular so far seem to be that we are crazy and that we need to learn how to control ourselves. Much to my surprise, someone even felt the need to shame me for getting pregnant again. (I'm still unsure if this person was trying to make that comment as a joke, but it sure didn't come across that way when it was said.)

I somehow always forget about this part of pregnancy. My brain never forgets the misery of first trimester, but it manages to block out the part about everyone losing their filter around pregnant women.

These kinds of comments are what led me to write this post when I was pregnant with #4 and then this one a few years ago. Everything I said then is still true today. Buddy and I are in a healthy, loving, and faithful marriage. While we are crazy in love with one another, I do not think we are crazy. Anyone that knows anything about how Natural Family Planning works, knows better than to say we need to learn how to control ourselves. And as for shame? I'm honestly still trying to dust myself off from that one.  Planned or not, I'm never going to be ashamed of my family. EVER! Each one of our children is a gift from God, and as faithful Catholics, we will always accept every gift that God gives us, even if that gift comes before we feel like we are ready. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Hand in Hand: 11 Years of Marriage

11 years ago today, I married my best friend. We were still babies to most of the outside world, but together, we felt like old souls. Desire for marriage had been in our hearts for years, but we wanted the best for our future together, so we spent a lot of time talking and praying about what that meant.

The two of us had big dreams, and our young love required making big sacrifices with those dreams in mind. One reason we put off getting married was because we wanted to make sure we finished college. When we finally made it to the altar, we still had one semester left to complete, but we knew we would finish. It was only one semester, right? 

Hurricane Katrina hit just a few months after we said our vows, which sent our perfectly laid plans out the window for a while.  Our last semester had to be postponed to the spring, which meant our hopes to start a family looked like they were also going have to wait. 

(Again with the waiting!)

We were crushed.

Then, we did something crazy. Despite some pretty convincing reasons why we should avoid getting pregnant at the time, we opened our hearts to whatever God decided for our family. 

It was scary and exciting all at the same time. It felt like Buddy took my hand and helped me climb onto the roller coaster that was officially our new life together. 

At the time, our house was smashed under a tree, Buddy's job status was unknown, and we still had to finish school. And yet, even amid all of that chaos, God decided to send us a child.

It turned out that our original plan to get pregnant at the end of that fall semester would have been disastrous. I got so sick during my first trimester, I could barely hold anything down. I lost a lot of weight and barely made it out of bed most days. 

By the time the spring semester started, I was finally feeling mostly back to normal. I was able to eat again and getting out of bed was no longer impossible. By the time we turned in our final exams, I was officially waddling. We never did make it to our graduation ceremony, though. I was 8 months pregnant and already having contractions strong enough to worry us about braving the crowd, but we did it. We both graduated college.

And exactly one month later, our baby girl was born!

Our first year of marriage was quite the roller coaster ride, and each year that has followed has proven to be its own adventure. We've gone through so much together already--mostly good, but we've also had our fair share of scary dips and turns that have sent my stomach into knots.  But no matter what craziness was going on around us, Buddy was always right there next to me with his calming smile and reassuring presence.  

Hand in hand, we continue to ride through this life together, sharing every feeling--anticipation, excitement, fear, and love--just to name a few. And deep in my heart, I know that the success of our marriage all goes back to how we approached the ride.

Because when Buddy took my hand in his, our life became our prayer.

Friday, June 10, 2016

40 years

Today is my parents' 40th wedding anniversary!
Forty years!
These two people have shown me what it means to love as Christ loves. They taught me that a good marriage involves laughter and sacrifice and strength. They have given me the gift of seeing firsthand what a difference it can make when you take on life as a team with God as your captain. By their example, I have learned how to give of myself even when it hurts and to love even when it's hard. They have instilled in me the desire to love and serve God, and for that, I am forever grateful. 

Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad! We love you!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Five Loaves and Two Fish

Despite a long break from writing and a weary mind that is struggling to find its groove again, I wanted to take a moment to not only thank God for His blessings, but also encourage those of you who might find yourself feeling frustrated and alone, wondering if God is even listening to your cries.

God recently sent my family a reminder that He cares for us even in the little things. Sometimes He takes our desires, even the stuff that we know we can live without, and He moves a mountain just to remind us that He can.

I really shouldn't be surprised by these blessings anymore, but every time God takes our loaves and fishes and multiplies them, it catches me off guard and brings me to tears.

I wish I could say with certainty that things were going to be better for us soon, but I know we still have storms ahead. I try to put on a brave face, but there are times that I find myself staring at the dark clouds in the distance, and I can feel the devil trying to fill me with fear.

If nothing else, this season has toughened me up and taught me greater confidence in my God. I admit that I still struggle with trying to find a quiet moment to spend with Him, but when I do meet Him in prayer, He uses that time to fill my heart with His peace. He reminds me that no matter what is ahead, He is still God, and that means He can stand up at any moment and command the storm to calm. He has proven time and again that no matter what we are facing, He will provide.

This season hasn't been easy on our family, but we will continue to move forward with hope in our hearts. We do grow weary at times, but God always knows when to send us a reminder that He is in control. We trust that He will guide our path if we choose to follow Him, even though that occasionally requires us to take a road that we never expected to take! (He definitely loves to bring us along on His adventures!)

I wish I could post more details of our most recent blessing, but sometimes, despite our desires to shout God's miracles from the rooftops, He asks for us to quietly rejoice.

But just in case any of you have also experienced that same weary feeling, wondering if you will always be operating on five loaves and two fish, let me be the one to remind you:

It's not how much you have to offer that matters. What matters is how you are taking the blessings that God has provided and putting them to good use.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A Change in Season

A couple of weeks ago, we were coming home from dinner at my mother-in-law's house, and as usual, we had stayed too late visiting and playing games. Whenever this happens, we say our bedtime prayers in the van on our way home. The kids usually say things like they are thankful that we got to go visit Mi-Maw and eat a yummy dinner, but that night, our seven year old got unexpectedly choked up as he said his prayers. When it was his turn, he prayed, "I am thankful for Daddy and all of the hard work he does to provide for us. I'm thankful that he goes to work even when he's tired, and he even stops at the store on his way home and buys us cereal when we need it."

He barely got out the words before he broke down in sobs. I don't know what came over him that night that made him feel this so deeply, but as soon as he said it, his feelings rushed over us all like a wave. Buddy actually had to pull off to the side of the road just to give him a hug.

That moment quickly became one of those moments that will stay with me forever as a parent.  His words were like a healing balm on our broken spirits. We've had some rough times these past few years, and hearing him pray and thank God for his daddy was so incredibly beautiful.

After everyone calmed down, Buddy decided that this was the perfect time to make a big announcement to the family. Next week was Daddy's last week at his second job.

The atmosphere in the van went from tears to cheers within seconds. They quickly begged for all of the details, wanting to know just how many days we had to endure before Daddy was back with us for good. To say it was an awesome way to end the night would be an understatement.

Tonight's celebratory pizza and game night. Daddy's first Tuesday off in a long time!

Now I'm sure some of you are wondering how we are able to pull this off. Well, we've actually been praying and planning for this for quite some time. Buddy has some commission coming in that will help replace that second income, and after going into YNAB (You Need a Budget--awesome budgeting software that has given us a ton of peace as we've navigated through the scary waters of low income) and doing some number crunching, we were able to have a serious conversation about if we could make this work.

As thrilled as I was to have him home with us again, I was still scared. Was it really possible? Had we finally reached the point that he could put in his two week notice and be home with us for dinner again every night? Can we really pay bills without his second job?

We prayed about it and decided that it was time to take the leap. I haven't seen him that excited in a long time. His second job wasn't terrible (in fact, he actually made some good friends there), but those long days have really been taking their toll on him and on all of us.

As nervous as I was to remove our safety net, God had plans for us that I didn't even know about, and He set those plans into action for me at precisely the same time we decided that Buddy could quit.

It all started when I posted this picture to my Instagram:

I woke up this morning and spent the first hour of my day sneezing. When I finally realized that it rained yesterday, I set up my diffuser and within 15 minutes, I had stopped sneezing. #Ilovemyoils #youngliving

My post wasn't out of the ordinary. I love using my oils, and I also love sharing that info with my friends and family. I learned everything I know about oils from my friends. If it weren't for the awesome people in my life that shared their knowledge and love for oils with me, I may have never tried them. Because of that, anytime I use them and have a second to snap a picture, I try to share it online just in case it might help someone else.

So that day I did like I always do and posted on IG and Facebook. By the end of the day, I had a few comments, which led to private messages, and all of a sudden, I'm sending a message to my friend who enrolled me with Young Living and asking her how I could get my friends hooked up with a kit.

Within a week, I had 3 friends buy Premium Starter Kits from me.

Since that happened, I've lost track of all of the moments that made me realize that God totally had His hand in this. Sharing my love for oils was something I was already doing, but it was like He was speaking to me with neon flashing lights (the ones I always pray for and never seem to get--I got those!) and telling me that it was time for Him to bless me with this. I truly felt this overwhelming peace, like He wanted me to trust Him and continue sharing my love for oils, and He will send me the people that He needs me to help.

I know I might sound a little crazy, but I'm so excited! Each time one of my friends received their kit, it was like Christmas morning for me. I was so eager for them to experience the oils for themselves! I absolutely LOVE talking about oils and sharing tips with my family and friends and then hearing about how they have helped the people that I care about.

Now, I'd be lying if I said that earning some commission from Young Living isn't exciting. It's been a while since I've been able to contribute to our finances, and it really is a blessing to know that pretty soon I am going to have a little bit of income to add in and help our family. But the truth is, I am even more grateful that I can do that by helping other people. Every moment that I've spent chatting about oils and helping my friends get started with Young Living has been a blessing to me, and that really has very little to do with my new income.

So here we are--finally, a change in season! Things aren't drastically different yet, but remember, we are used to Louisiana seasons where you can't ever swap out your summer clothes for winter just because fall begins. We are are used to carefully moving forward with hope for the future. We never expected this season to change for us overnight, but we are feeling that cool, refreshing breeze in the air, and just like any other true Southerner, we are going to take a deep breath and enjoy it, because we know that God has wonderful plans for our future.

And when He commands it, this season will change. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

My Little Ballerina

It's been 2 weeks since my last post, and every time I sit down to write, someone ends up needing me and I have to step away from the computer yet again. It's frustrating, not having a quiet, uninterrupted minute to collect my thoughts and write, but that's typical of motherhood, isn't it?

Even though I still can't say everything that I'd like to say in this post, I do want to at least share a few pictures for those of you who prayed for us.


God provided in a big way to make this happen, and I have cried many, many tears of gratefulness because of it. My little ballerina has already been to two classes, and she has loved every second! Thank you so much for your prayers!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Christmas Money

I need a place to pour out my heart, so here I am again, typing away on my computer, desperately hoping that putting words on the screen will prove to be therapeutic enough that I can get some much needed sleep.

Last Christmas, instead of a bunch of new toys, we asked our families to consider gifting our kids with money so that we could afford to sign them up for a fun, extra-curricular activity. My daughter had dreams of learning ballet, and the boys had hopes of joining a soccer team. We had a pretty good response to this idea, and the three big kids got about $250 in Christmas money combined.

Because it was in the middle of the year and we had one kid in First Communion prep class (meaning he had at least 3 big Saturdays coming up in the near future), we decided to wait until the Fall before signing the kids up so we wouldn't be paying for and missing out on some of their fun classes.

Now fast forward to the past few weeks.

I've been researching and crunching numbers. Even though I had a good idea of what it was all going to cost, seeing it all on paper has picked at the wound of our financial situation once again. Soccer, even at the YMCA, is $90 per kid after the registration fee (because we can't afford to be members) plus the cost of shoes and cleats. The ballet class we were hoping to attend is $45/month, plus a $25 registration fee, plus the cost of her outfit (uniform?) so they can all match at class.

After realizing just how expensive it was going to be for my daughter to step foot in her first month of classes, I got concerned. We really don't have the extra money to continue paying $45/month, and after we sign up all of the kids for each thing and get the required clothes for my daughter to take the class, their Christmas money will have run out.

It was a painful conversation to have, but I sat down and explained the problem to my daughter. I told her that it didn't seem like the smart thing to do, spending all of her share of the money so that she could attend 4 classes and then have to quit. I tried to convince her to look into another option, maybe find something that was a one time fee like soccer, and that way she'd at least get 8 fun classes out of it.

She didn't even try to hide it. She was heartbroken.

Since soccer registration was coming up this week, I decided to try one more option. A friend told me that we would probably qualify for financial assistance at the YMCA, and we could probably get a discounted membership. She told me the name of who I needed to contact, so I got online and sent an email explaining a little bit about our family and asking about any financial assistance that might be available.

Shortly after I sent the email, I received one back from someone different than the original person I wrote to, and this woman told me there was a homeschooling discount of 10% off of the monthly fee.

You want to know what the monthly fee is for our YMCA?


Anyone good at math?

Just in case you are as tired as I am right now, 10% of $79 is EIGHT BUCKS.

Not even $8.

Now, I'm not trying to sound ungrateful. It is nice that they offer a discount to homeschooling families. It really is. But my problem is, I reached out to them because we are struggling. I mentioned that we needed help. And it clearly states on their website that they are a nonprofit that offers help to families that would otherwise not be able to afford a membership.

Um, didn't I just tell them that we can't afford the membership rates?  Maybe I wasn't clear enough.

After reading their response, I walked away from the computer feeling hopeless. I guess we have to go down there and beg for help--maybe even show them our bank statements and check stubs. Apparently sending an email requesting information isn't good enough. There must be many more hoops to jump through if you want to find out about the TOP SECRET INFORMATION regarding any type of assistance from the YMCA.

Anyone who has struggled financially knows that it is a constant lesson in humbling experiences. There is no room for pride when you are always needing help. Over and over again, you must relieve the numbers and quietly tell yourself that this help is only temporary; we will be out of this season soon.

I honestly do not know if we will even bother to make the trip down to the YMCA to ask anyone else about assistance. That was the second time I've requested information, and both times I was told the same number: 10%. I'm just not sure it's worth the heartache of having to spell out our finances to another stranger. Each of the boys have almost enough money to buy their cleats and sign up for one season, and I think they will enjoy what they get out of it. No use beating a dead horse.

Instead of continuing down that path, I've been searching for something for my daughter to try that would make more sense with what she has to spend. I even considered asking a seasoned ballerina in our homeschool group if she would consider teaching a more informal class to a few kids out of her home for a small fee, but I don't know if that would even work. I'm guessing they would still need the special room for dancing. (Obviously, I know very little about ballet!) I've been grasping at straws, trying to figure out a solution that would work with what we have and also make my girl happy.

And then tonight, after another long day of schooling and mothering and pouring over the numbers, I leaned over to hug and kiss my girl and tell her goodnight. I traced a cross on her forehead and whispered that I love her like I always do, and she wrapped her arms around my neck and gave me a tight hug like she always does. But tonight, as she released her arms from around my neck, she looked at me with these big, blue, disappointed eyes and said, "Mama, I know you said I only have enough money for 4 ballet classes, but I really want to spend my money on that. I want to take the 4 classes. I really want to do ballet."

My heart sank. I could barely get out the words, "We will talk about it more tomorrow."

I had to quickly escape her room. I hurried to the kitchen sink that was waiting for me with dirty dishes, and I stood there and sobbed.

I just don't know how people do it. I don't know how people can afford so many extra activities for their kids. I know lots of people these days stop after having one or two kids for this very reason, but even our Catholic friends with big families have their kids in lots of things. We just can't do it. Even with how hard Buddy works holding down two jobs, there's just not enough left in the budget.

Man, that's a hard pill to swallow.

I left the dishes and had a big, ugly cry on the sofa. If my only my tears could turn into money, we'd be rich by now.

After wiping my face, I immediately knew that I needed to write. I know that putting these words out there on my blog might seem crazy considering everything I just said about how humiliating it can be to relive our financial situation with other people, but for some reason, my blog is different. I guess it's mostly because I have so few people who actually read what I write, but it's also because sometimes I just need to get it out. I need to write it down in a place that I know I can come back to one day and remember our journey. I write in hopes that sometime in the future I will be able to look back and say to myself, "I remember the pain of that day. I remember that feeling of hopelessness. But look at us now. Look at how God provided."

I know that day will come. I've said those words already so many times. Even where we stand today, my face still sticky from tears, I can look back and say, "God has always provided," and I can say with confidence that He will continue to provide for our needs. We might not get everything we want, but I know He will give us what we need.

I trust that He knows each and every one of my days, and He will be with me through them all.

*I feel like I need to end this post with a note saying that I did not write this so that anyone would try and fix my problems. Writing is my therapy, and knowing that you care enough to read my words, possibly share a kind comment, and/or say a few prayers for us means the world to me!