Valentine Baby

On this day ten years ago I was in the hospital anticipating the arrival of my first child. My baby was already revealing his stubborn nature by staying put until I had to be induced at ten days overdue! Because we’d kept his official name secret until he was born and with a February 14th birthday, the family jokes started flowing as to whether he’d be named Valentino.

Labor was intense in the morning due to the induction process, so an epidural was ordered and administered much to my delight. Minor struggles occurred through the afternoon as they tweaked the dosage and we endured a rather intense pushing window, but by 5:15pm, my chunky 9-pound baby had arrived.




Here was this little human being that my husband and I were now completely responsible for and although we’d taken the classes and read the books, it was a little (lot) scary. The unknown was looming. My little brain wanted so badly to be well and handle the stress of a newborn and the challenges that awaited us when we went home. Long nights and the zombie phase came and went, my anxiety disorder intensified in his first year of life and I experienced an arduous battle over the first several years of his life. But, as I look back at the last decade and see the challenges that have been allowed through the providence of God, I also see tenderness and love. This little boy carries several habits and traits of mine and that allows for locking of horns at times, but like I’ve begun to tell him so often that I get eye rolls, I LOVE being his mother. He is bright, funny,  and clever. We both love to read and often share read-aloud time at night. Like his Daddy, he is so wonderful with younger kids and often plays so well with his little sister. It brings me immense joy to think that she has him for the rest of her life; a caring, protective big brother. He has been especially brave this past year by starting a new sport and will be heading away for a real summer camp in a few months.

As an older friend of mine said, it can be sad when all of the sweet little kid seasons pass and you mourn the gentle baby you can hold in your arms, BUT what fun it is to see them grow up! There are numerous seasons to come that I get to be a part of and I’m honored. My little boy is ten years old today; my Valentine Baby. I love him and as I prayed when he was tiny, I pray that he will lead others to Christ, learn and develop a servant’s heart, and most importantly, I hope he will always know that he is loved, NO MATTER WHAT. Happy 10th Birthday, Sweet Boy! I love you!

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It’s (“Supposed to be”) the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

We just made Christmas cookies that looked like sprinkled blobs and then threw a dozen burnt ones in the trash. I barked at my daughter for eating the flour. 3/4 of our Christmas tree lights went out last week and it’s likely to stay that way until the tree gets dragged to the street with a needle or two still intact. The Christmas season sometimes just ain’t what it’s cracked up be.

I read an article recently that discussed why our culture is so ate up with the Hallmark movie genre. Believe me, I’ve become one of the first suckers to the DVR to record The Mistletoe Promise or Christmas Bride. It’s because we love the happy ending and the cozy world it allows us to visit. The real world can be harsh and scary, so the escape is lovely at times. I see nothing wrong with it, but I hate to think about the rat race that we can enter that has us desperately trying to recreate that image in our own reality.

In the midst of our “joyous” cookie time tonight, I was proud of myself for recognizing that I wasn’t feeling sad and disappointed like I have so many other times when it wasn’t Hallmark quality. I was rolling with it and just didn’t give a hoot that I’d added too much butter to the dough and that my kids were pouring sprinkles down the hatch straight from the jar! It felt great! Maybe that new anti-depressant of mine is kicking in or maybe, just maybe, I’m just getting to be more aware of how imperfect life really is and that it’s really OK.

Hear this, dear reader, everyone really does have something that stinks in their life. Looks are incredibly deceiving. Just last week I learned about something really lousy about someone that I truly thought had it all together. I would have NEVER guessed they had such struggles, but it ended up allowing me to further respect them and empathize with their pain.

Christmas can be complete and utter joy with twinkle lights, beautifully iced cookies, and the most amazing gifts under the tree. It can also be emptiness, grief and stress; maybe even a bit of both. I write tonight to encourage you to remember that. You never know what someone is feeling, despite the beautiful family photo they post on social media. Look for the little bits of joy and soak up that full feeling you get when it’s beautiful. But also be ok when it falls below your expectations. Heck, the movie It’s a Wonderful Life hits the nail on the head with this lesson! It can be a wonderful life, heartache and all. We have to look for the good.

Merry Christmas!

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Cheers to Twenty Years!

I loved high school. Almost every bit of it. Academics were not my forte, but I sure loved all the fun and the school spirit of being a Palmetto Tiger. Which is why it was so surprising for me to not want to attend my 20-year reunion this past weekend. I’ve been feeling dumpy and even though I’d helped a bit on the reunion organizing committee, I had been undecided as to whether I would attend. Luckily, I decided to go and am so very glad I did!

Maybe this is true about many schools, but there is something incredibly special about the group of folks I graduated with. I know that time makes the heart grow fonder and we’ve all matured a great deal, but even so, my heart is warmed by reflecting on my high school days and our time this weekend. I was almost proud of us last night. We were real grownups loving each other and doing a great deal of silly shenanigans (and I didn’t even make it to the extended late night after party!). I can be a touch sentimental about things like this, but it was such a delightful thing.

My favorite thing about this group is the beautiful diversity. It’s always been one of my favorite parts of both growing up and also teaching in my hometown; the great mix of cultures and community. There didn’t seem to be a lick of racial or political tension as we came together to celebrate and I hope everyone else felt the same. Times are tough in our country and I like to think that in our own small way, we are working to heal and love.

Like my dear friend (and Senior Class President that did an amazing job leading the reunion organization) Nikki said last night, “I wish we could do this every year!” There were so many faces I wished could have made it and several that died too young that would have loved to celebrate with us. We missed you!

Thank you, PHS Class of ‘97! Go Tigers!

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Knock, Knock

Death is one of those things that we generally don’t like to talk about. When it comes to visit, besides being awfully sad and emotional, it also has the power to stop time and give everyone a proper shake in their boots for a bit. Depending on the closeness of the loss, it can be debilitating. Sadly, I think for many of us, the daily grind of life and striving for happiness seeps back in rather quickly and we no longer have death at the forefront of our minds. Not that I think we should be morbidly thinking of the Grim Reaper every morning, but the preciousness of life is something we too easily forget. I was skimming back through Francis Chan’s book, Crazy Love, and found a quote from Frederick Buechner where he writes, 

“Intellectually we all know that we will die, but we do not really know it in the sense that the knowledge becomes a part of us. We do not really know it in the sense of living as though it were true. On the contrary, we tend to live as though our lives would go on forever.”

I just attended a funeral of one of my high school classmates this past weekend; a death of someone far too young. She was delightful and shining in so many ways. I saw the effects of this loss in her family and friends as they were mourning and it was heartbreaking. A couple weeks back, we celebrated the life of my grandmother-in-law and although I knew her fairly well for over the last 15+ years, it was so beautiful to hear the words of her grandchildren as they recalled how impactful she was for the duration of their lives.

As most would agree, I hate death. I hate the uncertainty of when it will come knocking. It’s one of my earliest fears as a child; wanting to have all the people I love in one room with me so I could keep them safe. As I heard the pastor say several times during his message at this most recent funeral, “We just don’t know”. We don’t know the time or place of our deaths and those we love. I’m re-reading The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom and there’s a time when as a young girl, Corrie is exposed to the reality of death.

She cries out to her father, “You can’t die! You can’t!” In reference to their weekly train rides to Amsterdam, he asked her “when do I give you your ticket?” Corrie says, “Why just before we get on the train” and her father replies, “Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need-just in time.”

We have a vet appointment for tomorrow afternoon to put down my dog, Millie. Although I’ve been thinking of it for a while now and I know it’s time, the reality of it makes me sad. I don’t like the finality of it. I’ve been wanting to do all I can to make these last couple of days really comfortable and trying to make sure she knows I love her. Death is hard. Life is hard, too, and we can work at a furious pace trying to keep all of our ducks in a row and strive to be “social media happy”, but I sure hope for a deeper and more grateful style of living. At least for today while it is louder than normal, I will try and recognize who is here and hug them a little tighter. After all, we just don’t know. 

“Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” Psalm 139:16

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It’s Dark in Here.

The mountains and valleys of life are very curious and unpredictable. Just when I think I may be turning the corner or slowing down the ride for a nice view, the roller coaster does a big dip and makes my stomach flop. If you know me at all, you know I greatly dislike roller coasters. I don’t like the unknown, the icky feeling, AKA “thrill” feeling it gives some people.

Though I recently went through a really rough batch and felt forgotten and lonely, I ultimately know that I am not. It’s so easy to forget when it’s dark though. I imagine you can relate. I heard this message in a few different ways as I was working through the dark spot: look for the little ways that God is providing, nudging me, or reminding me that He’s there. In one of the sermons at church I heard, “the way God often works is through committed kindness, little by little”. That can come in many ways and I found it a timely and helpful reminder to keep me from wallowing too much in my self-pity.  A kind encourager told me that God reveals Himself way more than I likely realize. As I have come to recognize and gratefully so: just because God doesn’t fix me or my circumstances doesn’t mean He’s not present. I have spent a lot of time getting caught up in that frustrating web, which really ends up just entangling me more tightly. Tim Keller says, “If we are in a storm and we pray to him, he may still the storm (Mark 4:39), or he may instead help us, as he did Peter, to walk through the storm without sinking (Matthew 14:27-31).”

I hope you, dear reader, can begin to look up and out more often at the ways your Creator may be providing for and encouraging you. Ask Him to direct ways that you could be used by Him to encourage someone else. He is good. No matter what it looks like outside or feels like inside, He is good. 

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Who The Heck Do You Think You Are?

First of all, this blog entry is my husband’s nightmare and makes him shudder. He is not a fan of reflecting or rehashing his feelings. He’s not an insensitive rock, but let’s just say we are a good balance! Now to my dramatic point: Anyone else ever sit back sometimes and wonder who you really are? You are likely not as introspective or slightly obsessive in your thinking as I am and you can thank God for that! However, I’ve heard the phrase “mid-life crisis” in many a movie scene and it may be more common than we recognize; maybe just not as dramatic.

As a teenager, I was as confident as they come. Don’t get me wrong, I made plenty of poor choices based on the desire to be liked or funny, but overall, I felt like the world was my oyster. Then, as I hit the end of college my anxiety crawled into my life and left me crippled internally by the age of 25. If there’s anything that can shake up your confidence, it’s an anxiety disorder. I’ve made my way through life since then and now at almost 38 years old, I can see my Little Blue Confidence Engine saying, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…” I was down in the valley for some time, but hope to keep chugging up hill.

All the time in the valley has recently made me evaluate who Emily really is. The real one. The one that’s been stripped of prideful confidence and wants to be humbly confident in my skin, cellulite and all! ha! Have you spent any time on this? If you’re not an over-thinker, you may just be living and not worried about it (like my man)! I envy you! I have some older women in my life who have described what happened when they hit 40 or 50 and they began to care a lot less about what other people think and are overall more confident in their skin. That sounds great, doesn’t it?

Well, either way I hope you will stop and consider what makes you, YOU. What makes you genuinely smile? What do you love to wear that makes you feel confident? What would you most want your children or family and friends to say about you once you’re long gone? What colors, scents, or art make you feel vibrant? What music makes you feel good all the way down to your toes? How do you want to be treated? Is there anything you want to do that would improve your well-being, sleep, or stress level? How does God see you? What makes your shoulders release and fall and gives you a sense of peace? Do you love your work or do you feel purposeful in your work? What is your purpose?

I’ll go first: I love the word cozy and everything it entails. Rain makes me less anxious and gives me a feeling of calm. I want to wear comfortable clothing (with the exception of a fancy dress every now and then) that is stylish and modest, but not frumpy and certainly does not involve tight jeans that reveal my butt crack or muffin top! I want to clear out my closet to only make way for things that make me feel good. I don’t want to care what the scale says, but still want to balance good self-care with good chocolate desserts. Being a mother is something I am deeply honored to be and I love it. I wish that I were born in the early 1900s and could live at Green Gables on Prince Edward Island and walk magically under the poplar trees. I love the beauty of mountains, rambling creeks, and stretches of green. I love reading books that help me grow and grin and giggle. I absolutely love teaching and encouraging kids to know they are special and valued. I wish that I had a deeper relationship with my parents and hope that my children and grandchildren will feel safe to share life with me as long as I’m alive. I crave balance; solid sleep, quiet time with God, a tidy home, and check marks on my to-do list. I am still working diligently on healing and freedom from my anxiety and depression and believe that someday soon I will be free of unnecessary guilt and yuck. Although I don’t often believe it enough, the Creator of the Universe knows me and adores me and I want to love Him back. I want to glorify Him with everything I do; not out of guilt, but because He is so wonderful and powerful and yet so intimately aware of us. I want to be respected. I want to be someone that people feel comfortable sharing their struggles and to encourage them with honest hope. I want to be Emily.


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Wherefore Art Thou, Holy Spirit?

I think if I looked back at my journals over the last year or so, I’d see a lot of frustration being pointed to my inability to hear or sense God when I wanted Him to tell me what to do or provide relief. I was reminded numerous times of Mother Teresa, when after she passed away, they found her own writings that showed her often experiencing a stale faith and a quiet God. She still obeyed and practiced such self-discipline and trust in the way that she kept on serving and loving others, but I can imagine that would be very challenging. So many well-respected Christians from our history have experienced their own bouts of depression or lethargy when it came to their faith. God is quiet sometimes. However, other times He speaks so clearly through miracles, circumstances one could never be convinced are “coincidences”, dreams, hearts and lives changed, etc. I know it is wise to learn to expect an ebb and flow in faith patterns and that it is very normal. He is always with us, regardless of feelings, but it is also wise to know His promises so we can lean on them in the dry seasons.
I have wanted the touchy-feely faith that some people seem to have and I’ve wanted it to comply with my idol of comfort. I like happy thoughts and smooth days. I like feeling organized and in control. I don’t think that’s crazy or abnormal, but it can make emotions that are different than that bring me down and feel frustrated with God. With my prayers, as I addressed in a previous post, I’ve spent a lot of effort trying so hard to hear from Him; maybe hoping for an encouraging phrase or clear direction of some sort. I have had an experience like that a couple of times in my life, but it is not a regular occurrence. So often I forget that God can “speak” through other people, things we experience or learn, but most importantly (but often times the most challenging) through His Word.
Within just the last month or so, I have come across repetition on this issue. My brain needs repetition. Just last week I heard myself saying something like, “I read this last week, and then the sermon on Sunday had the same message, and then wait! this was in my stinking notes from bible study!” I like it when He does that. He gets me. God knows my skeptical, stubborn nature.
Some of the rich information I have learned recently addressed how the Holy Spirit works in our lives. The Trinity is by far one of the more challenging concepts to attempt to understand, but the mystery of it is becoming almost beautiful to me. I love to see Jesus as the physical human example of God; God with skin on. Jesus is a way for us to hear His words and see the way he treated others, so we will also know how to attempt to love. He is the “only mediator between God and mankind” (1 Timothy 2:5). The Holy Spirit, or sometimes called Advocate, Counselor, Comforter, or Helper (my favorite) is the connection to Christ for us humans. One of the most significant ways I learned the Holy Spirit works is to bring to mind what Jesus has already said. This was a huge revelation for me! This may sound silly to a mature believer, but I have spent so much time trying to “get” God to talk to me, when that is exactly what the Word of God is meant to do. I’ve always known I’m supposed to read the Bible, but it ain’t easy. It can be intimidating. I read the Word when I do bible studies or devotionals pretty regularly, but I am yet to be really IN the Word; where I am genuinely feeding on it, reading it as true daily instruction or the ultimate way to hear from the God of the whole universe! As a friend shared with me today, to be “in Christ” is to be in the Word. John 15:15 has Jesus saying, “all that I have heard from my Father, I have made known to you”. How cool is that?
I feel as though a page has turned and I’m able to see a bit more on how I am able to know more of God. I guess it seems obvious that the way to know God better is to read the Bible, but I think I have just avoided the self-discipline needed to really do so and preferred He just give me the Cliffs Notes version or a one-liner; bada-bing! A struggle I’ve come to recently realize in the last couple of years is that I know about Jesus, but don’t know Jesus. I began to pray that I would learn to know Him and I imagine this process that’s unfolding is just a sliver of the answer to that prayer. How do you hear from the Holy Spirit? Has the Word of God come alive to you and reminded you of His promises?

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