Friday, March 29, 2013

It's EASTER! And what better time to reflect on the sacred cross, our Savior, and all the wonder, confusion, and gratitude it provides each and every day in my life.  If ever there were three emotional days to examine how we grieve, feel lost, and then rejoice in the surprise of our redemption - this is it.  The resurrection means so much more than just one day a year we slap on white patent leather shoes and fill baskets with even means more than providing a way towards our everlasting hope (in which case, is there even anything beyond that?).  It means that while the days might seem long and worrisome, and the years fly by like a blink, I can rest NO MATTER WHAT in the knowledge that my Jesus has already conquered my fears, defeated my guilt, and paved the way for my best life.  That's not just HUGE in the grand scheme of my time here on's sometimes how I make it minute to minute through the mundane, chaotic days of this present time.

Matilda made this in nursery this week.  Seemed fitting.
I'm going to share a story from my past with you today.  I was recently reminded of this story, and I've told it many times over the years as circumstances in others lives (or even my own, again and again) called to the relevance of its lesson.  In hindsight, it is a great crossroads in my life, and the gratitude I have towards learning this lesson early on in my life continues to grow as the years go by.

Allow me to set the scene.  I was 17 and in high school.  To say I hated school was probably an understatement.  I had a hard time grappling with who I was, who others were, and why I felt like a square peg in a round hole all the time.  What I didn't know was that this was called "typical" for my age, and so my completely normal situation continued to feel more and more depressing as my emotionally immature self struggled to make sense of my awkward surroundings.  I wanted out.

Through a difficult process of working hard and wearing my parents down enough to help me, I managed to take on extra homeschool classes along with my regular public school work.  This made me haughty and very unpopular at school, only motivating me beyond belief to work harder and leave sooner.  My parents were sympathetic and probably my only cheerleaders at the time when I decided to take on this extra load in the goal to graduate a full year early from high school.  I say this to let you know that I didn't "skip a grade" as some people who graduated from high school at 17.  Instead, I did the entirely same amount of work - I just did it in three years.  This made me wildly unpopular among my peers, but again, this only fueled my passion for getting the heck outta Dodge.

This isn't to say I wasn't smart.  I'll lay it right out there - in a tiny school (did I mention there were 16 students in my class?) it wasn't difficult to remain at the top of the class.  I managed to keep a perfect GPA, and as I entered my final semester of high school I felt like the world was my oyster as I began to look at my choices for college.  (There's really no way to state that without it sounding like bragging.  So - sorry - but, this is important for you to know as the story moves ahead.)

Choosing a college is certainly a crossroads in many people's lives.  It can steer you in entirely new situations and locations.  It feels daunting and exciting and I was feeling all these things as I began to dream about my new world, far away from my present surroundings.  My parents, however, were more cautious with their recommendations.  My older brother had gone out of state for college, while my sister had stayed closer to home.  As I was the baby of the family, it quickly became evident that my apron strings had a tighter radius than I would have liked, and the battle over college applications began.

Compromise was found at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois.  While it was out of state, it was a drivable distance.  Not only that, but it was my mother's alma mater, and there was a loyal familiarity that came with sending her daughter that far away to a "known" situation.  Great amounts of prayer and thought went into this process, and I proudly applied to Moody in the spring of my Junior/Senior year.  I had the grades, a decent ACT score, a killer essay, family connections (my uncle went to Moody as well) and the passion of a stallion to take on the Windy City.  I was a shoe-in.  I bought a parka, winter boots, and by February I was already telling all my friends and family that I was moving to Chicago over the summer.  I dreamt about meeting my roommate, taking walks by the lake, going to a Cubs game, and hanging out with a new clique around one of those famous pizza parlors.

It was a chilly day in April when I got a letter in the mail from Moody.  My parents were so excited, my dad drove all the way out to my high school to meet me right after class.  I still remember the shock of seeing him as I walked out the doors, seeing him waving that envelope in his hand with a proud smile already spread across his face.  This was it!  This was the letter I'd been waiting for to come and rescue me and take me on the path to my new life!

I ripped open the letter, my best friend and my dad standing right next to me.  It was so exciting, I was shaking and getting goose bumps all at once.  I read it so quickly I had to read it again.  I read it again.  Again.  And then I stopped.  We regret to inform you... Again.  ...regret...  I kept reading it as if the words would change as I blinked back the tears that inevitably started to form in the corners of my eyes.    And it sunk in, slowly:  Rejection.

I sat in shock as my dad and best friend comforted me.  It was so confusing.  It was so painful.  It didn't make any sense!?  How could this be?  What was I supposed to do now?  I had so many questions and so many emotions, my future suddenly felt like I was being sucked into a giant black hole.  It was the first time in my life I felt entirely helpless.  I had done everything right, God, why is this happening?

Now, I know this might not seem like the end of the world to you.  But, as a 17 year-old, this was my entire world.  And there it was, printed out on a crumpled, tear-stained rejection letter, just as cold as the breeze that hit my damp cheeks that day so long ago.  I felt sick with confusion.

A few days after the shock wore off, I received a call from the Admissions Department of Moody.  [Now, having worked at a Christian college for a few years, and being married to a guy who worked in an admissions department of a Christian college for years...let me just say that what happened next NEVER happens.  I've never heard of it happening before or since, so take that for what it's worth.]  I took the call, nervous that they were going to give me a long list of reasons why I wasn't qualified to attend their school.

"Emily?" the girl admissions counselor sounded nice enough.
"Yes." I tried not to let my voice shake.
"I wanted to call you and talk to you about your rejection letter from Moody Bible Institute.  I wanted to let you know that you are more than qualified to attend our school."
"I am?" I was even more confused now.
"Yes, you are.  But, as our staff reviewed your application, we got the feeling that you might be called somewhere else.  We gathered as a staff and prayed over your application, and we all determined that you need to look elsewhere first, to be sure you're not supposed to go somewhere else.  We'd like to encourage you to keep searching, and if, in another month or so, you feel like you are still supposed to come to Moody, then we'll be happy to accept your application."
"Oh.  Um, okay.  Thank you."  I had no idea how to respond to this.

And that was pretty much it.  I had been rejected out of consideration for my best life.  Now, at the time, it just felt mean.  It seemed like a cruel joke to play on a hopeful teenager.  But, it changed the entire course of my life.  Not only that, but it flipped the hearts of my parents inside out, and they allowed to let me continue my search to find the perfect school God had for me.

Three weeks later, by myself, with a video camera and a backpack, I found myself on a plane to California.  I had never been to California before and it already felt like home.  I spent two days touring Biola's campus, recording as much evidence as possible to convince my parents that this was where I belonged.  As soon as they watched the video upon my return, there was no question about it:  that was the school for me.

Biola has been the setting for multiple milestones in my life since.  I've met incredible influencers of my life there, I worked there, I met my husband there, and we even got married there (yep, at the chapel right on campus!)  But, those times would have never happened if I hadn't opened that harsh, confusing letter on that cold day in April so long ago.  Shortly after I began my time at Biola, I looked back on that bitter day with new appreciation.  I was struck by how God so evidently directed my path.  I was so grateful for the temporary pain He put me through in order to distinctly make me aware of His calling on my life.  I was (and am) so astounded at how God loves me enough to let me throw a fit and hurt and not get my way - only to reserve the ultimate for my better future to come.  What a good Father we serve!

Hindsight is such a lovely, comforting thing.  It's also a reminder that God's faithfulness has times of looking cloudy and unwarranted, undeserved and completely unfair.  Yet, His faithfulness remains, despite our circumstances.

I'm so grateful to serve a God who saves the best for us (even when it doesn't look like we may have thought).  Who teaches us to pray for His will and not our own (don't worry, He already knows what we want anyway).  Who reminds us that second best is not enough for His children or His glory.  He is good, and He can't not extend that goodness to His beloved.

When Jesus' friends and family saw Him on that cross, bloodied and burdened and dripping with the angst of generations yet to come, they must have questioned God's plan.  How could they not?  How could goodness possibly come from that?  What a horrific three days that must have been, mourning for Jesus, seeking and asking God to please, please, please make sense of such utter confusion and injustice.

And then came Easter morning.  Bursting forth with hope and joy...and clarity.  Instant hindsight of God's perfect plan rose that day.  Hallelujah!

We all have some kind of crossroads story in our life.  Most of us can remember a distinct time when one path would have altered our future significantly, for better or for worse.  But no matter which road I take in life, no matter how rocky or confusing, there is no path I'd rather choose than the road to the cross.  Laying my burdens and sin and guilt and shame and worries all at the perfect feet of Jesus.

No matter what chaos surrounds us.  No matter what status updates or twitters come.  No matter what storms we endure.  No matter what laundry mountain I climb.  No matter what devastating news I receive.  No matter how small, how massive, how heavy or light...the cross is my compass, and Christ my guide.  It's already all been considered, it's been conquered, it's been consistent.  And when we serve a God who already knows what's best for us, we can rest assured that the road ahead will bring new stories of hope, of goodness, and gratitude.

Praise be!  Jesus is Alive!  Happy Easter.

At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light
And the burden of my heart rolled away
It was there by faith I received my sight
And now I am happy all the day 
-Isaac Watts (1707)

Breastfeeding: part 2

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Read PART ONE and catch up!  :)

Two days after Matilda turned one, I found out I was expecting our second child.  This came as a sudden whirlwind of joy, as we were certainly trying for another pregnancy but not expecting such swift results (it took nearly a year to conceive our first!)  I was still breastfeeding Matilda, and my explosion of new pregnancy hormones started to wreak havoc on my milk.  Some may argue this point, and even my Pediatrician didn't quite believe me, but within weeks, my sweet and jolly Matilda turned into a PMSing-rage-a-holic-tantrum-ridden-Jekyll-and-Hyde that seemed so irrational I could not put my finger on anything other than my hormone-rich breastmilk to blame.  Sure enough, within 48 hours of stopping breastfeeding cold turkey, Matilda was her chipper self again.  (You can't convince me that's a coincidence.)

Just like that, my baby was a toddler and my new baby was growing inside of me...ready to nurse in a mere 8 more months.  Anticipating Daphne's arrival, I eased into my new found freedoms:  no more leaking in public, no more objection to caffeine or the occasional wine, no more homeopathic remedies to take the place of good old fashioned Nyquil when an horrific cold would set in, and no more nursing bras with those annoying clasps that only Houdini could have done one-handed (I never did master that).  My boobs were back!  Bring on the underwires!  Bring on the Merlot!  And I cuddled my rambunctious Matilda in great anticipation that a new infant would soon be in my arms again, sure to double my joy.

Daphne's birth brought with it the same, difficult scenario of a long labor followed by a c-section.  And, as if played out like a syndicated rerun of my life, I found myself immersed in the world of breastfeeding.  I felt like I had just cliff dived into the ocean.  It was beautiful, it was pretty much what I expected, and it was more exhilarating than anyone could have prepared me for.  Same song, different verse, this new baby brought familiar situations to the surface while uncovering deep emotions I hadn't foreseen the first time around.

Nursing a new baby is a challenge.  Nursing a new baby while your twenty-month old toddler is screaming at you to pick her up is entirely another.  Somehow this hadn't registered in my planning-ahead when I looked forward to this secondary season of breastfeeding.  I longed for the quiet days of being able to stare into my child's content eyes, feeling her comfort expand, sensing the relief we were both experiencing, and truly encountering that mystical "bond" that the act of breastfeeding promised.  Not so, when a young, needy, irrational, and LOUD toddler is nipping at your heels for attention (and rightly so!)  I would have given anything to unhook my breast, hand it to my husband and somehow attend to everyone's need at once (such is the life of a mother, right?)

Nevertheless, beyond the convenience, the health, the nutrition of what breastfeeding supplies, it soon became clear to me that God designed this time as a purposefully still time that demanded the mother SIT.  I began to joke that if it weren't for breastfeeding, I would only sit down when I had to pee and that would be it.  What I had sensed as burdensome the first time around took on a new definition with the new baby, and breastfeeding turned into moments of luxury for me to hold dear.  A chance to sneak into the other room.  A time to rightfully say "No, wait." to my toddler without resentment or guilt.  A moment to depart into a glimmer of peace that calmly hosted my baby and my weary mind.

As the months wafted by like steam dissipating from a freshly baked pie, the sweet aroma of these new-baby memories accumulated into a very specific treasure chest in my heart.  Breastfeeding my baby was coming to an end.  At the turn of the year, Daphne approached her 18-month milestone and I started to feel the tug of time clenching the end of this phase for us.  She had already benefitted 6 months longer than Matilda, so this was new territory for my breastfeeding self.  I had not been working outside the home on a regular basis, so I did not have the breastpump to diminish my supply, keeping me more than amply prepared to nourish her upon demand.

All this to say, a couple more months went by where I started questioning friends and family how and when they thought it might be time for me to stop.  Was it getting weird?  Was she too old?  Was I perpetuating her desire for it?  Was I ready to stop?  This led up to the final few weeks, less than a month ago, where I finally came to a very important conclusion that only I could decide:  WHO CARES?  It simply couldn't matter what anyone else thought in this particular scenario.  It's a very wide gray area, and extremely individual, and I just had to come to terms with what I wanted to do.

I think it's really important when it comes to breastfeeding that we, especially as fellow moms, shut our traps and give full support.  The more people who smiled and encouraged me to just feel it out for myself and trust my motherly instinct were vital to my feeling secure it was time to stop.  I found myself insecure and worried that if I mentioned I was still nursing my 20-month-old it would be met with cringing snubs or unimpressed shrugs, neither of which I was very keen on.  I finally had to trust that God had gifted me to be Daphne's mother, therefore I was somehow (thank you, Jesus) empowered with the ability (no matter how flawed) to determine what I found best for myself and my child.

A natural "out" surfaced just a couple weeks ago.  Daphne came down with a fever and I didn't hesitate to nurse her when her little body lacked hydration.  A couple days later, when she was well again, she started to get greedy in her anticipation of my response and tested the waters (so to speak) demanding to be fed throughout the night.  I found no reason to A) take a step backwards, and B) prolong the inevitable.  So, without further adieu, I declared halfway through the day that the last round at her waking had, indeed, been the very last.  I found it much easier, emotionally, to look back upon the last feeding without much memory or significance rather than build up to an emotional farewell at the bedtime feeding.  Done meant done, and I didn't want to go through the torment of dragging it out or anticipating the end of this breastfeeding era.  I had spent weeks dwelling over the finality of it, and by the time the door swung open with opportunity for quitting, I was ready to lock it shut for good.

Thirty-six hours later, I was miserably engorged, laden with ice packs and feverishly fighting off signs of mastitis among other emotional havoc.  What have I done?  Can someone remind me why I'm not letting my baby relieve me of this pain?  But, morning brought a smidge of relief, and a new dose of ibuprofen along with the reality that the worst was surely over.

No one ever told me that giving up breastfeeding might be just as challenging as taking it on.  This journey of love and bonding and burdensome comfort are end capped with crucial phases of pain and doubt.  My physical engorgement seemed to mimic the overwhelming swell that my heart had been experiencing all along, that this truly was a short-lived time in my life to be cherished and never forgotten.  Someday this baby who I just held at my breast so tenderly and vulnerably, will be a grown person making decisions for herself, who I will trust to put her dependency on God and have her needs met nearly exclusively not by me.  This little creature who found comfort and nourishment, who I was so willing to STOP and be still with, will (I pray) grow to learn and be still...apart from me.  And that's heart-wrenching.

She needs me less today than she needed me then.  (Brutal truth that can be hard to swallow as a mother.)  And breastfeeding painstakingly taught me to cut the first of the apron cords, with many more to follow.  Her needs will be met, but not always by me.  This is wonderful!  This is freeing!  This is scary as scary can be.  And the frightening reality of what our breastfeeding era represented struck me to my core when I realized now that it is irretrievable.  But, then, isn't this the goal of growth through motherhood?  Allowing our little nestlings to step out a bit further into the great unknown and forcing (both) our dependencies on God to extend to new heights (with limits only set by our own doubts).

New freedoms, new phases, and new eras will surely march in with exceedingly wonderful blessings I have yet to understand.  As my girls grow, as they take on their own strengths, gifts, tendencies and somehow miraculously absorb the bit of wisdom God allows me to bestow into their lives, the harder it gets for me to step back.  Breastfeeding my girls was more than just a time to cheaply feed them or shed pregnancy pounds or even provide a bond between mother and baby.  It was a specific duration gifted to me in my life (twice!) that allowed me the opportunity to experience a new range of emotions (we're talking about entirely, whole new feelings) and new lessons in motherhood and life that I otherwise might have missed.

READERS: How did breastfeeding change you?  What did you experience after that phase ended?  What advice might you offer a new mother regarding breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding: part 1

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Breastfeeding.  Yup.  We're going there.  So, if you're male and cringing already - you are free to leave at any time.  If you are female and wincing at the idea of learning TMI about me - feel free to click away.  But, if you have ever, will ever, or might know someone who has ever breastfed...I invite you to stick around today and tomorrow as I openly explore the topic near and dear (literally) to my heart.

Before the birth of my first daughter, Matilda, a few years ago, I remember being enormously pregnant and reading up on the "womanly art of breastfeeding" as it's so endearingly referred to.  I read and read and even took a private lactation class to try and absorb as much info as I could before actually jumping into the act myself.  I had studied so long and hard about labor and birth that it wasn't until the last few weeks of my pregnancy that I started to realize I was about to encounter a whole new world that would disrupt my life and my body:  breastfeeding.

I'll tell you right up front that, while this post is certainly "pro-breast" I'm going to go ahead and already assume you are "for breastfeeding".  There's just about a bazillion reasons (most of which you probably know already) for breastfeeding babies, and certainly there are valid and legitimate reasons that mothers can't or choose not too.  But, there's no denying that in an ideal setting for a typical baby and a healthy mother, breastfeeding is best - and so, we'll leave it at that.

That being said, I had always assumed I would breastfeed.  It seemed cheap and logical and convenient, above all the other health reasons that just seemed to make sense.  But, I had NO IDEA how to do it.  It's not exactly something one can practice beforehand (and trust me, it's already awkward enough to football hold a doll and pretend-put-it-up-to your boob) and so it remained an enormous mystery to me right up until it actually happened.

I'll say this - it all just seemed so awkward.  When I tried to imagine it or conceptualize what it might be like, I couldn't imagine it being anything but awkward.  How could it not hurt?  How could it ever become "normal"?  How will the baby know what to do?  What does "let down" mean and will it hurt?  How will it affect my marriage?  How long should I do it?  How hard will it be?

Can you believe this was for real?
These questions and more plagued my over-information-burdened mind in the days leading up to my daughter's birth.  It was a giant enigma that I kept chalking up to:  Well, I don't know.  But, I'll just do it.  I will.  That's that.  And really, that was that.

And then I had a baby.  I held my baby for the first time.  I saw her and I wept with what could only be described as indescribable joy.  My heart suddenly caved in and my breath was stopped short by the sheer awe and wonder of how part of me could be existing on the outside of my body, and suddenly I felt and overwhelming urge to unite myself back to this creature whom I had held inside for so long.  I physiologically needed to nourish her, comfort her, provide for her...and my body impulsively longed to do so.  She latched on, right there in the recovery room (after a 20 hour labor and sudden c-section) and suddenly there I was, breastfeeding my infant as if I had always known how.

The following weeks were less magical.  I was, however,  blessed with a record-breaking milk supply and a chunky baby who required much attention.  I am eternally grateful for the gift of an easily-nursed baby. I know that many mothers out there have had brutal experiences coping with latching technique and sore nipples and milk that took weeks to come in...but, I was one of the lucky ones  (feel free to punch me in the face now if you weren't...I'm so sorry).  However, no matter how "easy" it was NOT easy.

Babies are demanding.  Babies are needy.  Babies are also irrational and uncommunicative apart from wailing and screaming.  Meanwhile, as I was trying to get used to my recovering-from-birth body, and waiting on my milk supply to regulate, my breasts seemed to take on a life of their own - being called upon every couple hours for who-knows-how-long and all in private sessions that kept me away from all other people or priorities.  Sometimes this was glorious.  I loved to stare into my baby's eyes and see her so happily nurse and feel comfort and love and nourishment all at the same time.  Sometimes, however, this was burdensome.  I would hear my husband and friends laughing in the living room as the movie continued on without me so I could nurse the baby back to sleep...I would let dinner burn on the stove as I forgot to turn down the heat as I held my child...I would drift off in the middle of the night as my exhaustion got the better of me.  And still, I did my best to remain grateful for the experience, even in the loneliest of moments.

Rarely do mothers talk about the lonely side of breastfeeding.  Rarely do you hear advice to new mothers about how it will be challenging and sad at times (though, yes, oh-so-worthwhile).  It's hard to feel like you are missing out because your baby needs you - and THAT'S OKAY to admit...but, it's also an enormous step towards the selflessness that parenthood demands you engage in - and that's a remarkably beautiful gift that I could never have anticipated.  Breastfeeding helped teach me that.

Above all, no one ever told me how many times I might find myself perched in the back seat of my car with a blanket clumsily laid across my shoulder as I urgently nurse my child and haphazardly spray breastmilk across the floorboard...because, when baby's hungry, everything else waits.  Friends wait, dinners wait, movies wait, shopping waits...and so do you.  And waiting is hard.  And while I waited I couldn't help but ask myself again and again "Is THIS what mothers DO?  Is this what moms have been doing all along and never said - this is what I do - I sit in the back of my car and try not to spray milk all over my backseat windows before spending too much money at Target a mere fifteen minutes later.  Wow."  True story.

While I didn't experience the hardship of latching or milk production, I did experience challenge in another area of breastfeeding:  work.  With Matilda, I went back to work three months after her birth.  This came with a host of emotional challenges, but very near the top of the list was my new responsibility in becoming an expert breast-pumper...something I'd never considered being excellent at. It was a scary contraption that looked like something out of a Men In Black movie, and I was pretty sure that I would be the first woman in history to somehow make the evening news headlines due to some battle I would encounter with this particular device.  Nevertheless, it was me against the breastpump and I rose to the challenge.

How long will it take to pump?  How often do I need to?  Where do I go?  Will people notice?  Again, a new string of questions rattled my brain with fears as I walked back into my cubicle.  I worked almost exclusively with men on a daily basis, and so it felt like a foreign land where no one would sympathize with my amount of baggage I had to travel with.  But, after a few awkward conversations and a few days of carrying an extra sweater around in my purse "just in case" my breasts exploded at my desk...I began to get into a rhythm that accomplished what my baby and I both needed.

A few weeks into this new routine, and I had become a super-spy on a mission for milk.  With only 30 minutes for lunch, I had gotten the womanly art down to a science, and felt like a CIA agent - sneaking into the code-locked "nursing closet", quickly changing out of my attire and hooking up my pump, acquiring the assets, slipping back into my garments, and back out on the street in a flash as if nothing had ever occurred.  My sleek, black, messenger bag pump left no one the wiser to my whereabouts, and that's pretty much how I liked it.

A full year of this routine took place.  My dedication to breastfeeding impressed even myself, and I still look back on that time as one of privilege more than sacrifice.  Besides, it gave me some of the quietest moment of my entire life...just me, my peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, and the lulling whir of my breast can I not be grateful for that kind of simplistic moment?  But, it wasn't easy.  So - for all those mothers making it work at work...kudos, bravo, and keep it up!  Do your best to savor those quiet moments, they surely don't last forever.

And neither did breastfeeding.  That first year of Matilda flew by in a flash, even with each glorious and burdensome feeding.  My breastfeeding Matilda came to a sudden halt (for a variety of reasons) when I became pregnant with my second daughter.  And new questions arose as I approached a new phase of life (literally) as I instantly grieved the loss of breastfeeding while excitedly anticipated the coming of a new baby.

Come back tomorrow to find out what challenges breastfeeding brought the second time around...and how I dealt with saying goodbye to this wonderful phase of motherhood...

READERS:  Share your breastfeeding stories!  What has your experience been?  How did you feel supported in your journey in breastfeeding?


Friday, March 8, 2013

It's been a weird week.  I've pretty much swapped, juggled, postponed, or cancelled all scheduled events of the week due to my daughters both fighting some weird bug.  They seem fine one minute, the next they are fighting fever, and they have been consistently clingy and whiney beyond all measure of sanity.  Still, they are going to be fine and as long as we can survive a few more viewings of Cinderella without losing our minds, we'll all come out of it soon enough, I'm sure.  Nevertheless, it has been a challenging several days and always rough to see a little one looking pitiful instead of her sprite-young-self.  There's been much opportunity for complaining, and even greater opportunity for prayer - both of which I have been compelled to partake (hopefully the latter outweighing the former).

Indeed, not feeling well has given Matilda (3) new perspective and insight for what all she can turn to God for, and it has opened up the chance for her to witness me asking (again and again) for God to heal her and help her feel better and sleep well.  I keep it simple, of course, but often.  This seemed practical and logical to me more than anything, but it struck me how it was having an impact on her when she started asking for me to pray for her and Daphne to feel better.  Better yet, after a couple days, she turned to me and said "I think I feel a little bit better, mommy.  A little bit.  Cause God is in my belly and He healing me."  Oh my!  Close enough - I'll take it!  Attributing her good health to our Creator, YES! that is awesome, true, and a powerful little reminder to myself!

Amazing what simple little prayers can do.  Amazing how they impact little hearts.  Amazing how they reveal new things about yourself you never even intended on learning.  Prayer itself doesn't just change things...praying does as well.  That is, the actual action, the routine of it, the habit-building-act of turning to Jesus first and depending on Him to changes me.

This week, as I've sat at home and indulged in far too many children's movies than I'd like to admit (before you judge me, we did take walks when we could and read stories and did play-doh, okay?) I found myself scoping out social media more than usual (okay, now you can judge me).  Don't get me wrong, I'm an avid social media groupie, no doubt, but this week it seemed to be just about my only touch to the outside world, so I checked it often just to get a glimpse of what was going on "out there".

There were lots of usual updates - so-n-so is traveling, what's-her-name ate a great cinnamon roll, that-one-guy posted another political cartoon that wasn't very funny, and so on.  Whatever.  But, some other stories really struck me.  True stories happening to real people, just a hop-skip-and-a-jump from people I am actual friends with.  I'm compelled to share a few that captivated my attention this week.

One guy, named Saeed, is in prison in Iran because he will not deny Christ.  He went there about 9 months ago to help set up an orphanage, and now is in IRAN...for his belief in Christ.  And his wife and children are separated from him and clinging to the promise of God's protection, strength, and goodness.  Saeed is a real dad, a guy not all that different from our own husbands, brothers, or dads.  But he doesn't get to tuck his kids in bed tonight because he is standing strong in his faith and choosing Jesus over everything.  (You can make a difference by signing the petition on the link here!)

Another story is for baby Wyatt. He was born with a very rare neurological disorder called Ohtahara Syndrome. It's very serious and causes seizures.  He ultimately needs prayers for a miracle.  He's someone's real, tiny little baby, fighting for his life.  A baby that other people bought onesies for.  Who's parents were nervous and excited, and who were probably still picking out his name only a few months ago.  He's not just a status update - he's a little, squishy, cutie-faced fella who is unfairly battling uphill for normalcy.  You can see his Facebook page here if you are interested in updates or just want to encourage the family.

**Finally, I saw an update just the other day, about a mom named Kristina.  Kristina gave birth to her 5th daughter (can we just give her a standing ovation right there?  wow.) and during delivery she suffered a heart attack and brain aneurism.  She is fighting for her life, and her little girls need her.  She doesn't have a webpage that I know of, so I'm just telling you here - please pray for her, her husband Jeremy, and their 5 daughters (the baby, also named Kristina, got to go home from the hospital, praise God).  I can't fathom this kind of trauma happening in real life, but it feels like such a privilege to get to pray for someone I don't even know at such an incredibly intimate time for their family.  Please join me.

You all know stories like these.  You all have either posted or reposted or know someone who has posted some kind of story when they didn't know what else to do but to ask others to drop to their knees on their behalf and place it at the feet of God.  Sometimes, I'll admit, I see these kinds of updates and scroll right past them.  Sometimes I let them get lost in the shuffle of cute-kid-pics, Instagrams, foodie photos, and sarcastic comments that so often fill up the white screen on my iPhone.  

But, sometimes, I stop and notice that there are people (just like ME) who need real, legit prayers...not "prayers" but PRAY-ERS (as in, you and me pray-ing) asking God to answer our pleas and have mercy day by day.  These are modern day miracles happening in our midst.  They might be sliding past ads for Warby Parker glasses on the sideline.  They might be right under an update from your aunt about how fat her dog is.  They might be next to your friend's millionth spotify update of the day.  But, they are there.

Prayer is crazy.  As pray-ers...we can get a little crazy too.  It's okay.  God loves crazy (if you don't believe me, just start reading the New Testament and stop when you think the Pharisees no longer thought Jesus was a crazy person...Spoiler alert: You'll read the whole thing.)  So, get crazy for a minute and pray for some unknown people who need it!  Throw it out there, you never know what difference it might truly make, but I guarantee you will feel change within yourself just simply within the act of praying.

I could go on and on about prayer.  I love it.  I need it.  I don't know how people get through the day without it.  I think I could never do it enough because frankly, I think we ALL think none of us do it enough, and to take it one step further - I think we're all pretty much right about that.  I also think most people don't consider themselves "good" at prayer.  Which is silly and sad, and a total lie.  Maybe we grew up in a generation where prayer was withheld exclusively for times of formality, with reverence and practical regard, or perhaps only left for occasions that required you dress up (church, weddings, funerals, etc.)  But, the truth is, if I have learned anything from hearing my weak, naughty, whiney, sick little child pray in all honesty, it's that when she prays it sounds like the sweetest, loveliest thing I could ever imagine.  How much more beautiful must it sound to Jesus?  

Jesus takes us right where we are, anyway He can get us.  Broken and ugly, arrogant and beautiful, well-intentioned or completely confused.  We don't have to have it all together.  We don't have to know what we're talking about.  We don't even have to know who we're praying for.

As I sat tonight and rocked my feverish child, I found myself praying over her yet again.  Not only was I praying for her to feel better, as usual, but I was/am so grateful that I'm dealing with mundane problems like fevers and whininess.  Though these seem to pale in comparison to those heart-wrenching stories I saw online, I am reminded that God cares JUST AS MUCH about hearing about them.  I'm not "bothering Him" or "annoying Him" or "taking up His time" in any way.  I'm humbled to worship a God who can care just as much about me and my prayers for sleep and patience, and equally extend His attention when in my next breath I'm asking for the life of Kristina to be spared, for baby Wyatt to be healed, and for Saeed to see his family soon.

We worship a God of miracles.  Sometimes that comes in the form of extra grace as I watch yet-another-Disney-movie with my sick kids (see how pathetic that sounds as a "problem" now?) and sometimes that comes in grand and marvelous occurrences that alter the lives of the people around us forever.  Sometimes the miracle comes later, possibly unseen or unknown by us, and we trust in the goodness of God being revealed in another way.  Sometimes we just don't know.

And until we know...we pray.

Kristina passed away last night.  Please read this update (via a friend of my on Facebook directly from Jeremy, Kristina's husband.)

As many of you know my best friend passed late last night. While this has been the most difficult time in my life, I am thankful for the presence of the Lord and your thoughts and prayers that have carried me through this valley. My brother has established "Kristina's Girls Fund" where all funds raised will go directly to the girls and their education. Please take a moment and read his beautiful tribute to her and if you feel led, please give. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to those who have already given.
This story is far from over. I see God's hand at work in a mighty way. I pray that he continutes to use our story to reach those who do not know Him. I will continue to post, as it in many ways helps me cope during this difficult time. Please remain friends and continue to send your posts, they are an encouragement to my heart.
In Christ,

Jeremy Adkins
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