Love Erases Lines

My thoughts are scattered this morning; I think a lot of people can relate to this. I share this not for sympathy, but to ask you to bear with me as I try to share what I believe I need to share. It might not be succinct, it might not flow just the way I’d like it to, but I think right now the message matters a little more than the delivery.

First, I need to start by saying that I don’t know who you are. I don’t know where you come from. I don’t know your background or the experiences that have shaped you into who you are today. I don’t know your beliefs. I don’t know what you care about, what you’re passionate about or what drives you.

But, you’re loved. You matter. You’re more than a definition. More than a descriptive phrase or word. More than a statistic. You are a human that was created for a purpose, and that means so much.

Right now, it feels like that basic fact has been forgotten by so many. We’ve begun to identify by those phrases. To measure our value and the value of others by categories, by lines, by division. We’ve lost sight of the fact that these lines and dividing factors have been created by others, by humans, by thoughts, by errors, by bad judgments and by weakness. That they are words that shouldn’t matter.

Today, however, they do.

They’ve driven our country to take sides. Scary sides. Sides that have lead to real action and devastating consequences. To hatred of the “other,” and real hurt and fear. We’ve seen it in action over the past week.

I’ve heard it all. I’ve heard some share that they needed to turn off the television because of the bombardment of stories. I’ve heard others share that they’re heading out to protest, to take action. And, I’ve heard far too many say nothing.

As Christians – it’s hard. I get it. It’s hard to take a side and to be counted. It’s hard to put love into action when we aren’t sure what that action should be. I think I speak for a lot of us when I say that it’s easy to feel compelled to act, then to fail out of fear or a general lack of understanding of what that action should be.

I don’t think it needs to be that hard.

Here’s the thing. We are called to love. To love unequivocally. To love in a way that is clear, obvious and felt by those who need it most.

I think we know that. But, I think what comes next is where the challenge begins.

I’ve seen a lot of churches speaking out, saying it’s time to take a stand…and I agree. I not only agree but I applaud them for breaking the silence that needs to be broken. Bigotry, hatred, racism; these are real words with real-life consequences that change and hurt real lives. They have no place in the church. Change starts with acknowledging the need for it.

It’s time to start erasing those words with love. To put it into action. So many times, we say we love and we mean it.

Then the “but” comes in. We become unsure of how to act while still reflecting Christ. We start to mix up the word “love” and the words “fully support and agree with.” We believe that showing love, the love that we’re called to show means we need to fully jump on board and support something we don’t believe in, so we fall short. I’m just as guilty of this as others.

I think love is meant to be more simple than that. It’s meant to be a reaching across the aisle when no one else will. It means standing when no one else will. Calling someone who’s feeling rightfully angry or scared and saying “I’m here.” Praying for those who are oppressed.  Listening. Lamenting. Crying out for those who need it most and standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.

You can love someone you don’t understand. You can love someone you disagree with (hello; we still love our spouses when they wrong us, don’t we?). Love doesn’t need to mean agreeing 100% of the time or jumping on board something we cannot accept. Sin is still real and must be dealt with, but so is God. Love is so much deeper than that.

We not only “can” love; we are called to do so.

John 13:34 says: A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

There’s no “but…” there’s no “except…” there’s nothing but a very specific command.

When love is put into action, it changes hearts. It breaks stereotypes. It becomes a foundation for a relationship that can become so much more, a relationship that can lead to change and sharing, but only when it’s genuine.

Most importantly, it erases lines. When we drop our preconceived notions and reach out in love, we start to break down the barriers that are so prevalent in our country today on both sides. We start to eliminate the frustration this world feels towards Christians who claim to love as Christ did – without prejudice or preconceived notions – but fail to act differently from the rest of the world. We start to make a difference, one life at a time.

The world needs this type of love, today, right now, right this second.

What would happen if you reached out? If you took the status you shared or the article you “liked” and changed the way you acted in an intentional, real way?

If we could all commit to living out the command that we are called to live, to love without restraint, I think the change would send shock waves across this country that would be tangibly felt and noticed on a wide scale.

Right now, a lot of people and groups of people need that kind of love. They need a refuge, a place without barriers, without lines, without division. The church can be that place without compromising principles, without double standards and without changing values. But, only when love is at the foundation.

It starts with us. It starts with acknowledging that there is a problem and committing to act accordingly.

Let’s shine a light during this dark, dark time. Let’s start to erase the lines that have become so prevalent in our world. Let’s love in tangible ways that will lead to softened hearts, changed minds and unity in a time of crisis.

 

 

 

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The World Needs Real Christianity…Today.

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The past week – or rather, the past year culminating in the past week – has felt like a whirlwind…sometimes more like a downward spiral where it feels harder and harder to catch my breath.

I’ve been watching the news, reading updates, taking in what my friends and those close to me have to say and trying to absorb it all…trying  to take it in and to figure out what exactly I should do with everything I’m taking in. I’ve tried to hold off on getting “too” political, or upsetting the wrong group and have honestly just struggled with keeping my head on straight.

I’m guessing this sounds pretty familiar to you. In fact, I’m guessing you’re feeling the same way.

I’ve seen hurtful things on both sides of the political spectrum. I’ve read mistruths coming from all sides concerning the “others.” I’ve seen insults hailed and lines firmly drawn in the sand.

I’ve watched Christians be accused – sometimes, unfortunately more often than not –  of being hypocrites. Of showing love only when it’s convenient for them. I’ve seen friends who grew up in the church do 180’s and turn away because of it. I’ve had friends told me they can’t pray anymore because what they’re seeing in action doesn’t match what they feel the church is supposed to be. I’ve seen people outside of Christianity share that it’s those of us who claim to be Christ-followers that are doing the most damage.

I’ve seen hurt. I’ve seen pain. I’ve seen terror…and it doesn’t really feel like there’s an end in sight right now.

I’ve also taken things personally. I’ve cried. I’ve held my family a little closer than normal and I’ve prayed for direction. I’ve prayed for a way to be a healer, someone who can listen to those who are hurting…those who are scared…those who feel lost or abandoned, and to be someone who makes a difference.

To stop the spinning…I’ve spent a lot of time in scripture and in prayer, begging for discernment and a path to move forward.

Then it started coming together.

It’s not an answer. It doesn’t replace the need for reaching out to politicians and making our voices heard. It doesn’t fix the very real pain and fear those around us are feeling. But…it’s a start.

Here’s the thing. The world back in Roman times was a pretty tumultuous place to live in. Laws changed daily, Christians were given power and respected then persecuted and nailed to crosses. No one knew who to trust, where to turn. It was easy to let fear being a controlling factor.

But…the church grew even during the worst times of persecution. Right now, it feels like the outrage, the fear is just as real…but so many are turning away.

What’s the difference?

The difference is authenticity. I’m not here to accuse anyone of being “fake,” but, I think it’s time that we all work together to try to right our path before it’s too late. It’s time we go back to New Testament-style Christianity.

It’s time to pull off the labels that turn people away, to stop using our words altogether…because right now, they’re just causing more hurt.

It’s time to stop saying we should “love” everyone while batting people away and keeping those who are “different” at arms length.

It’s time to practice being “pro-all-life,” not just “pro-birth.” To come alongside those who feel like they’re out of options, or who have made decisions they very well might be hurting from. To think before we slew hurt and to pray before we act.

It’s time to open our homes, our arms and our hearts. To listen to those who seem to be on the other side of whatever political spectrum we can claim to fall on. To support those who are afraid, who don’t know what their future looks like because of the craze that has seemed to overtake our country and our world.

It’s time to show our support. To show in real-life-ways that we believe in helping the less fortunate, the refugees, those who can’t stand for themselves.

It’s time to reach out to our lawmakers, to show our support and be a loud and booming voice. To donate to causes that HELP others. To become a political force that leads to action.

It’s time to pray for those in power instead of fixating on the helpless feeling we might have at the pit of our stomachs.

I’m not here to lecture you on the time you spend in prayer, the choices you’ve made in life or what path you may be walking. I am here to say it’s time to turn around…to stop speaking words without action. To stop being the reason that those who need Christ’s love the most are turned off and ready to jump on our words (sometimes because they deserve being jumped on).

If you are a Christian…you have to believe the whole story. You can’t pick and choose the applications that seem easiest for you, or easiest to swallow. I believe authentic Christianity is black and white…right now too many are falling into “gray” areas that do nothing but turn people off.

Guys…we are called to love. We are called to share that love with others. Our words…they’re not going to be what brings others together or changes hearts and lives. Our actions…the way we reflect the love that we have been given without deserving it in the least…that’s where it’s got to start.

Who can you reach out to today? How can you use the gifts you’ve been given to make a difference? How can you help someone today?

The early church exploded because God’s love was so real. It wasn’t something the apostles and early believers spoke of then trampled on with the actions. It was real…it was authentic…it brought people together. Can we bring it back?

Take the time to examine your own heart, your own bias’s, your own motivations. I’ve been doing it a lot this week…and the things that have shown up haven’t always been pleasant. But, until we get on our knees and ask for a true soul-searching and revealing…then get up off our knees and take what we find to the world, we aren’t going to make the difference the world needs.

We can’t cower in corners, we can’t spend our time debating in forums that lead to hurt, not change. We have to start from square one…to act.

We’re called to love, to support those who are oppressed and to live according to REAL biblical standards. How are you measuring up? Let’s commit to being real, to taking the stereotypes that are out there and breaking through them, breaking through fear and negativity in the process.

It all starts now…it starts with us.

 

When Locker Room Talk Creates Locker Room Culture

I’ve locker-roomtried to hold off for awhile now. But, after much thought, I can’t anymore. I have to add my voice, or at least a small story to the discussion that’s been taking over our nation.

I’m not going to say who should vote for who, who would be the best candidate, or what the solution is, because honestly, I have no idea. I just know that we can do better.

The time to do better was probably a long time ago. Now we are left with what we have. I get it. I’m just as displeased as the rest of the country. So, I’m not here to admonish anyone, or to place blame. As a country, we’ve become what we’ve become.

I’ve experienced my share of shock about the things that have been said; but, I’ve been most shocked by the way people I know, people I love, have reacted to some of those things. I’ve seen hate brewing between friends that otherwise respected each other. I’ve watched cracks in our society grow into full blown fault lines ripping at the seams.

But what has shocked me most, is the way good people have brushed Donald Trump’s “Locker Room” talk aside. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard it excused as “how men talk,” or “something that was so long ago…if you pulled up what I said that long ago you’d probably be shocked too.”

I won’t go too far into that last one, but I can promise you that the men I respect in my life have never talked about taking advantage or assaulting women in a way that’s “funny,” or “just talk.” It’s not what they do.

The worst part is that it’s “okay” because it’s “just talk.” Yes, it’s talk. Yes, it happens. But people, think about it…talk leads to action. Maybe that action isn’t from the person doing the talking, but when that person is an influencer, it leads to action by others, others that think it’s okay because someone that’s in a place of authority has said it is.

I’ve experienced it. It’s not a life altering story; it’s not something I share frequently, but it happened and it did affect me!

Little background: I started 9th grade a few weeks late, in a wheel chair (trampolines…avoid them at all cost!). But, it wasn’t the most exciting way to start high school! It made me stand out and feel uncomfortable! But, it was fine, I made friends and life went on.

Some of those friends rode the bus with me, many of them were a year older. But, we had fun and we got along fine. Often times, I felt the need to impress them since they were older, so it felt like I was walking a line.

One day, after school, I sat in the back where I always did. One of the sophomores – I’ll keep him nameless – hopped on the bus like he always did. Then, while laughing, and with other students on the bus right there as it happened, he held me down, reached under my shirt and felt around.

I was shocked and embarrassed and he could see that. He told me to lighten up, that it wasn’t a big deal and that he could do it when he felt like it because we were friends. He let me know that it would be a thing that was just “okay.” His friends – including some of the girls on our bus – laughed about it and told me to calm down.

So I did. But, it didn’t sit right.

After a few days, as harassment from his friends continued, I confided in my youth pastor’s wife (I remain thankful to her to this day, because the behavior would have continued if she did not encourage action!). She let me know it was NOT okay, that I was RIGHT to feel like the behavior was wrong and that I needed to make it stop.

I told my parents and a police officer from our church, who let us know the next steps. Before we knew it, I was in the principal’s office with my parents and a police officer. The sophomore fessed up, and he faced charges. We chose an option that let him go through a program that kept his record clean.

In the meantime, his friends became aggressive. They threatened me, they told me I needed to tell everyone that I was lying. I had to get off the bus at one of the first stops, at a friend’s house, because I was scared to ride with them. To this day, I still get uncomfortable when I am forced to interact with this individual, who works at a local place I frequent.

Life moved on, outside of our group, the story stayed fairly quiet. He was able to continue in his life, where I hope he learned a little bit from what happened.

I got to remain cautious. To second guess even well-meaning men. To find myself in situations where I even still excused certain behaviors because I didn’t want the fuss that happened the first time. It was small, many women have experienced SO much worse, but it changed a lot.

You see, he was young; his actions were the result of a culture that lets men know that certain things are “okay,” because they joke about them in locker rooms. My hesitancy to react to them was because of that same culture, that informs women that this behavior is excusable because that’s our place.

I’m far from a feminist. In fact, most would call me the complete opposite. I believe in the biblical norms that were established thousands of years ago and do believe that women have a place in our society.

However, I believe that place is one of respect (just as men receive!). I believe that we are to be valued and I believe that we are to be taught from a young age that we have WORTH.

That message should be supported by men, by their words, by their actions, especially when they are in a place of authority, not laughed about, not brushed aside, not excused. Not in this case, not ever. However, until society as a whole starts believing this, and holding men who talk and act this way accountable, the cycle will continue.

I’m  not going to tell you how to vote. I’m not going to declare what’s right, what’s wrong or anything else.

But, I am going to ask a serious question. In what world is that talk “okay?” In what world should it be brushed aside as “just talk?” Does it sit right with you to excuse it, regardless of when it happened? I know it doesn’t for me. I know it doesn’t for those I respect in my life.

I want a world where my daughter doesn’t have to fear the men that surround her. Until the talk changes, until good people stand up against it, that world won’t exist.

 

Stepping on Eggshells

Eggshells

I don’t know where to start….except to say that, like most Americans, today, I woke with a heavy heart.

Before going on, I want to be clear…this is not a result of last night’s shooting in Dallas, or the live-streamed shooting that went public preceeding it. That was not my tipping point. Although it did cause me to write…for that, I’m sorry…I’m sorry it took so long.

Instead, it’s the culminating effect of what’s been happening for the past few years in our country.

Emotions are running high. Words that feel like they should be encouraging are perceived (maybe rightfully so) as insulting. Friends are taking sides against friends. Feelings that are real are being trampled and broken. The question “why?” Is being asked around dinner tables out loud and inside the hearts and heads of parents as we lay in bed at night. It’s easy to feel like we are walking on eggshells.

The past few years have been a time of great change. We have moved forward in so many ways as a nation. But it seems as though every forward motion has ripped a bandage off an unsealed wound, bringing to light issues that we so often don’t want to deal with. Issues that are real, and raw and hard.

These unhealed wounds are leading to fear…to doubt…and to hate.

I don’t have the answer. But I can say I feel. That’s all, I feel.

I feel for my black friends, for my friends who are parents who have to teach their sons to “comply, comply, comply” and still worry that they might not come home at night.

I feel for my police friends and their families who are in their profession to make a difference, but could be targeted for their uniforms.

I feel for my gay friends, who feel hatred from those who should be reaching out a loving hand, who now have even more reason to fear.

I feel for my Muslim friends, who are questioned, doubted and feared every time they leave their homes.

I feel for my white friends, who cannot understand the emotions of our black counterparts, who feel the divide that’s growing but don’t know how to make a tangible difference without coming across as privileged, or, worse, racist.

I don’t have the answers. But, I know that we need to make an effort to understand one another. Not to be quick with the #alllivesmatter hash tag that minimilizes hurt. Not to jump on a social media campaign. Not to claim to “be there” when we are not.

Instead, we need to reach across these borders and fault lines. To be clear that we may not understand, but that we love those on the “other” side, and that we want to bridge the gap. We need to stop seeing “other” as a thing…period.

We need to be a nation on our knees, willing to get in the trenches for and with our neighbors.

Until we put aside our own “knowledge” and seek to understand those around us, healing won’t begin.

And our country desperately needs to heal. To hear and feel and act in love. To grow closer to those around us rather than farther away.

Who is willing to bridge the gap? Who is willing to reach out in love and say “I’m here. I don’t understand, but I want to. I want to stand with you.”? Who is willing to admit that maybe we have been calloused in the past, but we are willing to grow forward together?

I’m here. I want to learn. I want to understand. I want to put away my own fear of stepping on eggshells. To get dirty, to feel the hurt and to show love in a way that makes a difference…are you?

Sometimes the World Spins

Remember all of that positivity I’d stored up and shared, about how it was so exciting to be a part of something new, something bigger…to start over? Before I address it, I want to start by saying that all of that still holds true. I’m thankful for the opportunities our family has been given. I’m excited for what we’ve accomplished here so far, I can’t wait to see what’s still in store. But boy oh boy, lately there have been challenges!

We thought we could work on those challenges by spending some much needed time back home and on vacation – this was great, a time to reconnect with those we’ve known our whole lives and some of our most cherished friends! But it was also hard, a look at what we sometimes feel that we’re missing out on and, a whole new level of homesickness when we left.

During our time home…and on our first night back, we made two trips that we didn’t expect…one to urgent care for Colin, then a second to the emergency room for a second, completely unrelated incident. He’s fine, but, there’s nothing that makes you feel like you have less control over a situation than feeling completely helpless to help your child when they need help. Again, I’ll reiterate, he is fine and by the time we left the ER last night he was running around, complaining about being hungry, making jokes with doctors and blowing bubbles all over the unit.

This pregnancy has been different than my others – thank goodness! I can eat! But, it’s also been plagued with uncertainty, pain and straight-up fear over what’s to come. Being a planner who feels most secure when life is going according to that plan, this has been a hard thought to swallow. When you go into your third pregnancy, whether you’re high risk or not, you are pretty sure you have it together. You’ve been through the ringer, you know your body and you feel competent to face the 9 months (and lifetime!) that lie ahead…it’s exciting! However…it just took one ultrasound and one tiny (beautiful!) little extra heartbeat to send things spiraling in an unexpected direction. This was compounded by the fact that we’re so far from so many loved ones!

This probably sounds like life to most people! And, I’m the first to admit that it really is. Life is full of uncertainties, of adventures and of unexpected events…that’s what makes it exciting and thrilling. But it’s also what gives that feeling of spinning, which I know is not unique to me or to my family. Sometimes, the world just spins a little faster than normal, or than what we anticipated!

I guess I’m just throwing this out there to be honest. I blog to share what’s happening, to give others something to relate to and to be honest. And honestly, that’s where we are right now.

When life gets here, I try – and am trying still! – to focus forward. To think about all the amazing blessings that have been literally poured into our lives. To look past the chaos to what’s ahead and to trust in the fact that this is all going somewhere amazing, somewhere I cannot fathom or imagine on my own. I remind myself that having control over everything is no way to live, you’ve got to leave room for some spinning, for some surprises! If it weren’t for that, how boring would this journey be?

Where are you at today? What’s spinning in your world? What can you grab onto to remind yourself that something beautiful is in the works?

Beach Family Photo

This is something I hold onto…the amazing family I’ve been blessed with and the adventures we get to share!

 

Fit Pregnancy: A Call for a New Perspective

Guys. I have to tell you, I am so so very excited to share this post with you all. While many of you know that I’m on my own pregnancy journey, and some of my posts will likely reflect that once I’m back up and going, long before I knew I was pregnant, I knew what I wanted this time around: a fit pregnancy.

While my new goal is simply a healthy one, someone very close to me, my sister-in-law, got to accomplish just that. I’d done tons of research on the perks of exercising, even strenuously, during pregnancy, and had read tons of success stories. However, I hadn’t been close to anyone who’d made it happen. So, I was excited to hear her take and to encourage her through her exciting journey!

What I didn’t expect, is what she encountered during that time. I think that what she put together here is an interesting read that we should all take to heart, whether we’re going for it or not. I’m not going to divulge more…she does it perfectly…but I did want to share a picture of my new niece for everyone to enjoy before jumping in!

Read what Jen has to share, think about how you can relate – from the inside or outside – and share your thoughts!

Madeline

“You’re still teaching at the gym?! I stopped doing cardio when I found out I was pregnant because I wanted to keep my baby”.  This isn’t something I expected to hear at 20 weeks pregnant.

Let me preface this little rant by saying that I have always been athletic.  I grew up playing field hockey, basketball, and swimming.  I continued playing field hockey throughout college, and afterwards I picked up running to clear my head and keep me in shape. I have two half marathons and a full under my belt.  I’ve conquered a few “Tough Mudders”, and in the last 2 years I started teaching INSANITY at my local gyms.  The point is, I’ve never been what you would call a “couch potato” and I have been blessed with good health thus far in my life.

Before trying to get pregnant, my fitness routine mostly consisted of weight lifting 5 days a week and teaching 2-5  INSANITY classes. I have always loved fitness because it makes me happy. It clears my mind.  After my husband and I decided to try to get pregnant, we discussed that having a healthy baby was our top priority. My first stop was the OBGYN to have a check-up and ask if it was safe to continue this lifestyle while trying to conceive, and throughout pregnancy.  His answer?  “Keep doing what you’ve been doing and listen to your body”.  Awesome. A healthy baby and healthy mom were two goals that seemed to go hand-in-hand.  And so, the day I found out I was pregnant I resolved to continue to work out as best I could.   I would not push myself farther than my body wanted to go, and I would always listen to the little one growing inside of me.  I promised myself I would stop immediately if anything felt “off”. Nothing was worth sacrificing the well-being of my child.

The first time I really began to understand the dynamic of a “fit pregnancy” was at 6 weeks pregnant.  Months before this, I had signed up to complete a 3-day, 60-mile walk for the Susan G. Komen Foundation.  After months of fundraising and training, this was something I felt very strongly about completing. This was going to be an enormous challenge for me but I vowed to take it step by step, both literally and figuratively. I completed all 60 miles of the walk, and while I felt a huge sense of accomplishment physically, what I learned during those 3 days was far more important.  I began to understand that it was okay to take things slowly. I never for one second felt unwell during those 3 days (ya know, besides my knees and feet feeling like they were going to fall off but that’s pretty typical from what I’ve gathered).    Even at 6 weeks, the baby needed me to rest a little more often and to always have snacks and water on hand.  After the walk, my husband and I thought that learning to make these small changes would be one of the toughest challenges I would have to face in pregnancy.  But then I told people I was pregnant.

Sharing the best news of our lives with loved ones was full of congratulatory excitement, but it wasn’t long before the criticism began to take shape.  We announced our pregnancy at about 12 weeks.  The first comment I seemed to get after telling someone the news was disbelief that I was going to continue teaching INSANITY.  It was funny to me that people with no medical background would argue that it wasn’t safe, despite the fact that I had cleared it with my Doctor and that I myself have significant medical knowledge. As I continued to safely maintain my fitness routine throughout my pregnancy, the criticism seemed to gain momentum.

My response to all comments was simply a smile. But inside I was fuming.

As I ate my usual salad for lunch, “Salad again huh? Don’t you know you’re supposed to enjoy your pregnancy?”. Actually, I was enjoying it, until you opened your mouth.

After someone asked me if I was wearing maternity pants at 5 months pregnant and I said no; “You’re working out too much. That poor baby has no room to grow”.  My Doctor says I’m measuring right on track, thanks.

At 6 months pregnant a student of mine at the gym asked how far along I was.  Once I told her, she answered with a long stare and asked “Do you even eat?!”  I didn’t even have a response for that.

Sometimes the critiques were mildly veiled with concern.  “What does the Doctor say about your weight gain? Is the baby getting enough food?” Again, measuring right on track.

The comment with which I began this article was perhaps the most hurtful I heard during my pregnancy.  The implication that I cared more about fitness than the possibility of a miscarriage was beyond insulting.  I can remember staring at this person with my mouth open wide, and promptly going to the bathroom to cry.

It may be important to note that 99% of the negative comments were made by other women – many of whom were already mothers or were pregnant at the time.  I’m guessing that for most of you reading this, that doesn’t come as much of a surprise.  My experience as a pregnant fitness instructor may seem somewhat unique, but I am positive that the underlying tone of these criticisms is something that every pregnant woman experiences in one way or another.  If it’s not about being “too fit”, it’s about gaining too much weight (“are you sure it isn’t twins?!”). We critique the pregnant woman who enjoys an occasional glass of wine, or her daily cup of coffee.  There are opinions about how long we are planning to take off from work, what our “birth plan” consists of, or whether or not we were “trying” to get pregnant.

Why do women feel the need to tear each other down especially during pregnancy?  I can’t say that I have an answer to that.  Has society created a cookie-cutter image of what pregnancy should be for every woman?  That image being we should gain a lot of weight, become highly emotional/irrational, send our partners out for pickles and ice cream at 3 am, and will happily accept the fact that our bodies will never be the same.  Lost in those stereotypes is the fact that we are taking 10 months to grow a human life.   In truth, pregnancy is one of the greatest responsibilities that some women will ever take on. What’s sad is that society seems to ignore this point, and only focus on some of the superficial aspects of the process.

Every woman is very different in how they experience and handle their respective pregnancies.  Yet what is common among women is that almost all of us have difficulty with pregnancy at times, and we feel very alone in these struggles.  Society’s image of pregnancy tells us that it isn’t normal to experience this type of struggle – and this feeling of isolation can easily breed insecurity in mothers.  I think that when we see a woman whose pregnancy is/was different than ours, some of these insecurities surface as snide remarks and criticism.

I believe the key to overcoming this problem is for women to be more honest and open with each other about both the joys and insecurities of this experience.   By moving past the typical baby-bump questions (“How much weight have you gained?”, “What foods are you craving?”, “Don’t you feel like a beached whale sometimes?”), we can create a more honest and supportive community.  Women can ask each other how they are really feeling, praise them for the incredible sacrifice they’re making, and comfort them when they face difficult problems.

I know this is all easier said than done, and that change won’t come overnight.  Society will still give us its version of the rom-com pregnancy.  Princess Kate will still be paraded out in front of cameras in high heels, a face full of professional makeup, and a designer dress, just “10 short hours after giving birth”.  (Mothers, am I the only one who wondered what was happening in her underwear at that moment)?  Pregnant women will continue to ask themselves “Why is this so much harder for me?”  But over time, we can work towards an honest and transparent community where mothers can feel more secure.  My time as a pregnant woman allowed me to appreciate the experience that every mother goes through and understand the fact that each woman is unique in their own way.  When my daughter Madeline finally came after 41 long weeks, I was ecstatic to hold all nine and a half pounds of her in my arms (hey critics, guess there was enough room for her to grow)!  That moment made the past 10 months of a sometimes difficult journey completely worth it.  There’s great comfort in knowing all new moms will eventually get to that point.  It’s up to us all to make it a little bit easier for them to get there.

41WeeksPregnant

Here’s Jen looking fabulous at 41 weeks!

 

 

Way Beyond Me

I’m back!! As many of you have taken notice to (thank you for the messages!), I’ve been a bit…absent…for the past month. That’s because – for those who follow me on Facebook – I had some news that was taking up a whole lot of my thoughts and time that would otherwise be devoted to trying to find new ways to be fit and that was hard to keep under wraps. But, now that it’s gone public, I can get back to doing what I love and sharing some of that with you!

For those that missed it, John and I shared some exciting news yesterday:

announcement

To make it just a little bit clearer:

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We are doubling our family by adding a set of twins to the mix! This is exciting and we feel beyond blessed by all of the support we have received from those close to us and those who we haven’t had a chance to be with for a long time.

But, before the excitement, and under a lot of it, we’ve had our own process that has had ups, downs, moments of shock, fear and excitement all thrown in together. I want to share with you how we got to yesterday’s big announcement, and what’s helped us focus on the (very exciting!) big picture.

Rewind a bit. Many of you know that in general, I’m not great at being pregnant. My first two pregnancies were challenges that never went quite according to plan until the moments that our two little guys made their perfect appearances. For awhile, we decided we were happy with our two, blessed that everything turned out and ready to move on.

But, the desire to have more never quite went away. I truly believe that God puts specific desires on our hearts for a reason; mine has always been to have a family full of children. After my second pregnancy, I focused on myself for awhile, put effort into fitness and getting into shape and leaving our plans in the hands of the one that knows and guides our steps before we take them.

A whole lot of life changes happened all at once: health struggles that resulted in surgery last October, a move across country to North Carolina, away from everyone that we know and love, a new job for John, a new life as a stay at home Mom for me and a lot of other things that we never could have dreamed up on our own. It was a crazy year!

In the end of March and beginning of February, I started feeling off. Eventually, I broke down and took a pregnancy test. To our surprise, it was positive. We were apprehensive because of the journey of the past year, but excited! I had an early ultrasound around 5 weeks to date the pregnancy and we saw a single microscopic little one in there.

The strangest part about all of this, is that during this time, I started having dreams about twins. This is something I only shared with John. We thought it was strange because we’d clearly seen one baby, but in my heart it just felt like something else was going on. We had the ultrasound…there was one! I felt silly that I couldn’t shake the feeling. Certain blood levels were a little high, but we saw one. I let it go.

A few weeks later I went back in for another appointment. As the doctor did the ultrasound, the words “yep, there’s two,” came out of his mouth…”two…babies?” I asked? “Yep, look…one…two,” he said matter-of-factly (he’s a play it straight sort of guy hah). Even with the dreams I had, I was completely shocked.

Stepping back from that moment, I wonder if I should have been less shocked. How many times has something been made clear to us, something that we chalk up to impossible? During these times, at least for me, I tend to cling to the rational knowledge that “I” have on my own, ignoring something that maybe I’m supposed to listen to and trust. This has happened many times in my life: the day I felt led to search for my own name online, leading to finding my birth family, the day it was clear that moving to Asheville, something I saw as completely beyond me, was the right thing for our family and so on.

After that big “surprise” we started to tell those closest to us, with apprehension. Twin pregnancies are inherently high risk…from vanishing twin syndrome (yea, I never should have looked this up) in the early weeks to complications later on like pre-term delivery, growth restriction and risks to the mom, we were filled with excitement, but also with the feeling that this is something much bigger than us. We are here on our own. We are still figuring out how to live as a family of four on our own. We have the gear and energy for one baby…but two?

Doubts have run rampant. But, through it all, there’s been this still, calm voice saying “trust me.” We don’t know what the future has in store…we don’t know how we’re going to do this on our own, but those fears and doubts are being answered with truth and realistic applications. We’ve grown closer to new friends in our new home. We’ve found a medical practice that understands my situation and is ready to meet each surprise with experience. The trials of my last pregnancy have not been as severe this time around. Each need has been met and we are going to trust that it will continue.

This past weekend, we were given the opportunity to travel to Nashville for the Country Music and St. Jude Half Marathon and Full Marathon as part of Team Toby Mac and Run for Hope, thanks to SO many of you for your amazing generosity. While I was unable to complete the half marathon, I jogged and walked the 5k. I did it for the kids at New Hope Academy and for those supported by the efforts of St. Jude.

But, I also was able to take something away for myself. You see, two Toby Mac songs have really spoken to us over the past few months. The first is “Beyond Me.”

“It’s way beyond
Anything that I got the strength to do
In over my head keeps me countin’ on You
I’m leaving the sweet spot, sure shot
Tradin’ it all for the plans You got
Is it so crazy to believe

That You gave me the stars, put them out of my reach
Called me to waters a little too deep
Oh, I’ve never been so aware of my need
Yeah, you keep on making me see
It’s way beyond me
Yeah, it’s out of my league
It’s way beyond me

You take me to the place where I know I need You
Straight to the depths that I can’t handle on my own
And Lord I know, I know I need You
So take me to Your great
Take me to Your great unknown.”

Right now, we are in our own great unknown. We are optimistic and excited for what’s ahead, but once again we’ve found ourselves in that place that what we thought, dreamed and planned has become something much bigger than we could have come up with or devised on our own…something beyond us. But, as we found with our move…it’s a pretty amazing place to be.

The second is “Steal My Show.”

“If You wanna steal my show, I’ll sit back and watch You go
If You got somethin’ to say, go on and take it away
Need You to steal my show, can’t wait to watch You go
So take it away”

Sometimes we have great plans. We know what we want for tomorrow, the next day, next year and beyond. But, sometimes, we’ve gotta sit back, let go and watch what happens.

We got to see Toby perform both of these songs and I was filled with this amazing calm…”see, I’ve got you covered. You may not have this on your own, but you’re not on your own,” is what I felt. How amazing is it when we think we’re doing something for others, that it turns out to be just as big for us?

Thank you all for following along during all this, I’m sure I will have excitement to share as this journey progresses! Thank you for your kind thoughts, prayers and just for surrounding us with love during everything. We’ve never really felt so blessed and are excited about what’s to come!

10 weeks