Clara's Birth Story

From the very beginning, my due date was a thing of mystery. At my first OB appointment, I went in thinking that I should be due January 9th. But they took one look at my ultrasound and said, “Nope, you’re due the 18th.” I was pretty confused at how I could be so off, and I immediately told myself they were wrong (because I’m just a know it all like that).

As the months continued though, they consistently said she was measuring right on track for the date they had first given me. Maybe a few days ahead of their schedule, but they dismissed that and stuck to their date.

I could just tell that she wasn’t going to wait til the 18th. So as January approached, I made sure that I would be ready whether she came two weeks late at the end of the month, or two weeks early at the beginning of the month.

On Sunday the 7th we had been invited to my parents’ house for dinner because my Texan Uncle and his new bride were in town to celebrate my Grandma’s birthday. As we started the short drive towards their house, we stopped at the newest reno home Christian’s parents had just purchased. I walked around the dark, musty dump-of-a-house having flashbacks to being super pregnant with Peter while first walking through our own fixer upper. I can’t tell you how grateful I was that we were going to be able to take our baby girl home to that same house - now completed - and be a family in our own place. I can’t tell you how glad I was that we wouldn’t have the stress of a year’s worth of work hanging over our heads this time. I can’t tell you how moving it was to me that Christian would actually get to be there in the early months of this little girl’s life.

With those thoughts still swimming around my head, we loaded back into our car and continued towards my parents’ house.

I felt a contraction. Before we could reach the next major intersection, I felt another. And then another. I glanced at Christian, “This could be it.”

It was only 4 o’ clock in the afternoon, and after saying our hello’s, I told my mom about the contractions that were still coming.

“We better order that pizza!” my Grandma said nervously, “You might have to go have a baby tonight!”

This amused me because the night I went into labor with Peter, Christian’s Grammy had told me to hurry up and finish making the pizza I was cooking for dinner because she didn’t want me to “have a baby in the kitchen!” Pizza and babies were becoming a thing.

“No,” I laughed as I returned to the present, “I want to have her tomorrow! Then her birthday would be one eight one eight! (1-8-18).”

But the contractions didn’t let up, and my mom handed me a piece of paper and a pen. “So you can keep track,” she explained.

Every four minutes they came. The pizza was ordered and while my dad was off getting it, I bounced on my mom’s exercise ball. Or at least, I attempted to. I ended up having to take turns with my four-year-old sister and Peter.

We ate and celebrated my Grandma’s birthday, and all the while my mom and Christian were studying my face. Finally, I looked at them; “STOP TRYING TO READ ME.” I knew that out of all the people in the world, they were the ones who would be able to see my pain the easiest, and I just wasn’t ready to have this baby yet. They laughed with guilty faces, but continued monitoring me and communicating with each other with silent nods and pointing at invisible watches… at least, that’s how it seemed to me in my state of paranoia.

By the time we got home from the celebration, it was about 8pm and I told Christian we should probably finish packing. “JUST in case,” I said. I hurried around the house throwing last minute things into our bags and packing Peter’s backpack and making sure I hadn’t forgot anything.Christian hurried around the house doing nothing and looking concerned. Suddenly, a contraction came that I couldn’t talk through. I was doubled over and breathing hard. Another one followed. And another one.

“Call… your… mom!” I panted.

Peter was still up, and I wanted to get him in bed before my mother-in-law got here or he would be too excited to go to sleep. 

I carried him into his room and paused at the side of the crib. The tears were coming in hot as I held him close to me. The last time he would be my only baby. The last time it would be just him and I. His world was about to change. I worried that it would be hard for him. I worried about him missing me while I was at the hospital. But I kissed him and blessed him and cried a little bit more and laid him down to sleep.

Christian’s mom was in the kitchen when I finally came out. I stood at the kitchen island doing squats between contractions and explained to her how I was hesitant to go in right away. I knew what heavy labor felt like, and I just didn’t think I was there QUITE yet. Basically, I was second guessing myself.

“Why don’t we try to get a little sleep?” I said to Christian. I made sure his mom was set up for the night before crawling into bed myself. I was still fully dressed because I doubted we would make it the whole night. As I started to get comfortable, the contractions that had lasted for six hours now ceased. Stopped. They were gone.

I moaned and tears filled my eyes. Christian had already told his boss he wouldn’t be able to go work in Indiana the next day because I was going into labor. My mother-in-law was already here on our couch. I had said my goodbyes to Peter boy. And ta-da, the contractions were vanished. I told Christian and said that he might as well tell his mom to go home and sleep in her bed.

I cried myself to sleep that night, woke with a contraction or two, and cried myself awake the next morning.

“Don’t cry,” my practical and kind husband encouraged, “They’ll probably start again the moment you get up.”

And they did. Every few minutes they came. The whole morning. I kept bouncing on the exercise ball and doing squats and walking up and down the stairs. If today was the day, I was going to make my body as ready as it could be.

Christian had stayed home from work because he was convinced our little girl was coming soon, and he busied himself with last minute projects and playing with Peter and keeping a suspicious eye on me.

My weekly appointment was scheduled for 4:45 that afternoon and my goal was to keep walking and exercising until that point, and then see what my OB thought about the continual contractions. By 3 in the afternoon, they were getting more intense and I could feel myself bending over, out of breath with each one. At 3:30 we decided I should call the office and see if they wanted me to come in sooner or wait until 4:45.

“You’ve been having contractions for about 24 hours now?”

“Well, yes.”

“You should come in.”

I arrived at the office at 4, signed my name in, and sat down for a moment. The contractions were strong. I heard whispers behind the secretary’s window. They were whispering about me in disbelief that I waited so long to call.

I got called back to the room and the nurse looked at me like I had lost my mind. “When exactly were you planning on coming in?!” she asked. I shrugged sheepishly. “I knew I had an appointment today so I figured I might as well wait until then.”

My OB came in, took one look at me, and told me this baby was coming soon. He was also practically rolling his eyes out of his head at me, but he knew from Peter’s birth that I have a pretty high pain tolerance linked with a stubborn desire to wait til the last second before admitting I’m in labor.

“Go to the hospital. Don’t go home and hang out for four hours. Go to the hospital. I’m telling them you’ll be there in 30 minutes.

“Can you make it an hour?” I asked and laughed at the sour look on his face. “No, I know what you’re thinking, but we have to get our stuff and take our son to my in-laws.”

“Fine, but then go to the hospital! I’ll see you soon!

I was dilated to a 4 and 70% effaced and super ecstatic about it. This was it. This was the moment I knew I was really in labor.

I called Christian and then called my mom on speakerphone as I drove the short drive back to our house. We gathered up the things we had packed the night before, I insisted on bouncing on the yoga ball a little longer, and then we paused to take a selfie on our back steps – the last picture we have as a family of three.

We got to the hospital around 6 I think, spent the first two hours getting admitted and monitored, and finally were wheeled to the same room I had had Peter in two years before.

I had an IV put in, but immediately asked if I could not be hooked up to any fluids or anything at the moment. The nurse looked surprised and I explained that I wanted to walk the halls. I had had an epidural with Peter, but it had been a failed epidural and this time I planned to do it without one. I knew that moving would help me through the contractions and prepare my body for pushing. She said they’d have to check with my OB.

I sat there bouncing on the yoga ball still hooked up to a bag of fluids when my mom walked in with the now traditional Oberweis shake Christian loved. She had brought him one at Peter’s birth too.

I’ve heard of women having a ton of friends and family at their births and I’ve heard of women only having their husbands at their births, but for me, I just wanted my mom and husband. It had worked out so well with Peter’s labor because my mom was able to act more as a doula while Christian could focus on being my emotional support. Plus, they were able to switch off and get some rest in the small hours of the morning. I was so glad for both of them – the two people who knew me best and loved me best. What more could one ask for?

Despite my doctor telling me to hurry to the hospital, it seemed that baby girl was in no hurry to come. In fact, my contractions were slowing down again. Just then, my OB came in, checked me, and said, “We have a few options. One, I can send you home… but I don’t like that option.” (He knew that if he sent me home, I’d be back soon or that I was hesitate to come back and end up having the baby in the car, haha). “Two, I can break your water and that will really get things going. Or three, you can stay here and just keep doing what you’re doing.” (Meaning walking and bouncing.) I looked at Christian and we both knew what we wanted to do. “Break my water,” I said, “I want to have this baby on one eight one eight.” He thought that was amusing and it became a bit of a joke over the next few hours, each time I would pass by the nurse’s station on my walks, they would say “Running out of time for one eight one eight!”

Just as it had with Peter, my water didn’t break dramatically like it does in the movies. It just kept leaking out. And as it grew later into the evening, the funnier the leaking became. At one point, my mom and I were almost on the floor laughing at Christian’s face in response to my description of the leaking. It was hilarious. And the more I laughed, the more it gushed.

Laughing became a theme throughout the night and early morning. At one point, Christian sat down in a lonely wheelchair and I pushed him down the halls, laughing hysterically as we went. My mom came up with the brilliant idea of doing a different type of walk each time we passed the nurse’s station and said the final walk should be her dragging me down the hall. The nurse’s kept saying that they wished they could laugh their way through their own labors.

But lap after lap, laugh after laugh added up and pretty soon I was only making it a few steps before having to lean against the wall while moaning out a contraction as Christian or my mom pushed on my lower back. They checked me and I was at a 7. By this time it was about 5 or 6 in the morning. I wasn't exactly laughing now. I had been walking or exercising for almost 24 hours now and having contractions for almost 36. And I was beginning to feel it. I decided to sit down for a little bit. I still hadn’t had any medication, was now past the point of epidural, and was surprised that that didn’t scare me more than it did.

At that moment, I was proud of my body and proud of myself for being strong… if I had known I would be stuck at an 8 for two more hours, I probably would have said, “Just you wait, you idiot.”

Being stuck at an 8 for two hours was hell. I can’t put it any nicer than that. I couldn’t lay down because that made the contractions feel worse. I watched the little lines on my chart rise and fall with each contraction and dreaded when the next one would start to rise. Finally I asked if there was something I could take to just take the edge off and help me relax through the contractions. The new 7 am nurse was just getting there and as I asked, I cried through my contraction and wept to my mom and Christian that maybe I wasn’t strong enough after all. I finally opted for a half dose of stadal… basically a very strong Tylenol. And you know what? It was just what I needed for my body to relax and for me to make it past being stuck at an 8.

During this time, I kept looking into Christian’s face, shaking my head, telling him over and over that I couldn’t do it. He stared back into my terrified face with strength and compassion in his eyes telling me that I could. At a point when I was yelling through a contraction, I heard him whispering a prayer in my ear. Tears filling his own eyes. “Please Jesus” filling his breath.

By 9 am, I was at a 9 and I could feel my body bearing down. “Get the doctor!!!” I said at about 9:35. “You’re not ready yet,” the nurse said. “Yes I am!!!” I argued. (I’m such a good patient, can’t you tell? Haha) Fortunately, somebody told him I thought I was ready and he RUSHED in. He knew from my labor with Peter that when I’m ready, I’m ready. Almost before he could get in position, I pushed three times and suddenly my baby girl was here. She was here. They whisked her over to the weighing table and the nurses kept exclaiming over her hair. There was so much of it and it was dark. Just like her daddy’s.

Because I hadn’t had the epidural, I was so much more with it this time. I held her. I nursed her. My Clara. All 7 lbs 4 oz, 21 ½ inches of her.

Christian held her and I melted at the sight of them together, knowing how much I valued my own father-daughter relationship with my daddy, dreaming of what their relationship would be.

My mom came back in and held her first grand-daughter. Her namesake. Her middle name is Jo. Just like your middle name, mom.

Clara Jo. Meaning, “it is clear the Lord is gracious.” And He had been and He was and He is.

My mom had to hurry home, and it was just the three of us. I asked if I could get up and get dressed and get some food. The nurse looked surprised, but honestly, I felt SO good. Almost 40 hours of contractions was finally over. I hadn’t eaten in almost 24 hours.

The cafeteria lady rolled in a tray of food and I sat by the heat lamp Clara was under watching her while eating my quesadilla. Again, the nurse looked surprised followed by almost misty-eyed. “In all my years here, I’ve never seen this,” she said. “I’ve never seen the mother get out of bed and roll her food tray over to be closer to her baby. What a picture.

I ate and stared at my baby. And thought about my other baby. And thought about how much I loved them. And how much I loved their daddy who was head over heels for all of us.

When Peter visited that afternoon, he immediately fell in love with her. And I’m not just saying that to sound romantic or braggy or whimsical. He has loved her so sweetly from the very start.

And now, here we are. The four of us. What a blessing.


A Short Introduction

            (the following is an excerpt from a book I am in the process of writing. this is just the introduction, but so many of you have inspired me, and the chapters are ticking away. if you have any topics you feel are important, but often overlooked, please feel free to share them in the comments! thanks for reading. and thank you to those of you who told me to buck up, buckle down, and write.)

An Introduction to Honesty

           At the moment that I'm writing this, I’m wishing that I wasn’t starting here… here being my couch. My heart is feeling wrung a little too tight because my seventeen month old was just crying uncontrollably for no reason while my husband searched for our missing property tax bill and I desperately tried to clean up dinner while snapping at both of them.


            I’m wishing I was starting this book in a corner cafĂ© with my life perfectly sorted out in the front AND back of my mind, my emotions in check, my relationships sailing smoothly, and with fifty more years of experience under my belt. Oh, and a cup of coffee and a pleasant expression on my face and a general air of satisfaction about who I am.

            But I’m not.

            I’m here. Disgusted at myself for getting worked up over one bad half hour stretch. Thinking that at twenty-three I should know better. But also thinking that at twenty-three I’m just a baby myself.

This is real life. Along with the moments that take my breath away, are the moments that I wish I could hold my breath til I pass out. Along with the feeling like I’ve taken one step ahead, is the feeling that I’ve taken two steps back. Along with the knowing that following God is worth it, that relationships are worth it, that growing up is worth it, that sanctification is worth it, is the “but I’d rather just be comfortable,” feeling. There’s the doubting, the wondering if there is purpose in pain, the wondering if anyone else ever feels the way I do… does everyone else struggle?

If I posted a picture of real life on Instagram right now, not a whole lot of people would be “liking” it if you know what I mean. But would there be a lot of relating? Probably.

We don’t have to all come from the same background to relate. We don’t have to have all the same good and bad experiences to relate. We don’t have to all wonder if everyone is really living the constantly shiny lives they portray at church, in conversation, or online… they’re not.

We’re human.

Humans made in the image of God. Humans born into sin. Humans offered grace. Humans who can have hope in eternity. Humans living all the beautiful, mundane, downright hard, downright glorious in between.

So here I am, guys. I’m just like you, even if you’re not sitting on a couch with unwashed hair and tired eyes. Even if you’re not in the exact same place, in the exact same season, with the exact same personality.

I’m a sinner like you.

I’m living in this world of pain, hardship, dreams, and miracles like you.

I’ve been given the same outstretched Heavenly arms just like you.

And if you “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead,” (Romans 10:9 ESV) then you and I have been given the same end goal. We’ve been given the same guidelines. We’ve been given the same Holy Scripture. We’re following the Leader.

You may be wondering why I’m trying to draw a line from you to me, so let me tell you. It’s because honesty is a lost art. And without honesty, there cannot be real connection or real relationships. We’ve all seen that movie or tv show where the main character separates him or herself further and further from the person they care about, simply because they won’t just tell them whatever is going on in their life. And what do we (I) do? Yell at them through the screen, of course! “If you would just explain!” “If you would just tell the truth!” “If you wouldn’t care about your ego so much!”

Well real relationships are like that too. The more we hide, the more we pretend we’re fine, the more we act like we’ve got it altogether while keeping our heel pressed against the closet door full of embarrassing or painful skeletons behind us, the further we draw away from others and the further they draw away from us.

I feel like that is what is happening to our generation. Even in the Christian circles. Maybe even especially in the Christian circles. We fight in the car all the way to church, get out of the mini-van, put on our game faces, and go judge the person in the aisle over for wearing such a tight skirt. Then we make pleasantries afterwards and when asked, “How are you doing?” we say “Good,” so sincerely we almost fool ourselves. Almost.

I’m not saying we need to go to church with mascara streaming down our faces, but if we never open up, or worse, if we trick ourselves into truly believing we’re fine and above all those people who aren’t fine… what good does that do?

It’s so easy these days to get lost in social media, in what others are accomplishing, in how everyone else seems to have it together while behind the scenes, we’re struggling. We’re wrestling with relationships, with judgment, with our dreams, with God’s plan, with school, with anxiety, with weight, with children, with infertility, with keeping up with busyness and house-work and bills. We wrestle with what mercy and forgiveness and healing look like. With what having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ looks like.

Growing up is tough. And I’m realizing it doesn’t magically stop at a certain age. 

So find someone. Make a real connection. Find out how you can really pray for them. Tell them how they can really pray for you.

And be honest.

That’s what I want to be with you in this book. Honest. Not because I’ve learned everything I need to learn and not because I have all the life experience to qualify me for something like this. Those two things have kept me from writing for the longest time, but I think it finally hit me a few days ago that not having it altogether is the point. We don’t have to have it all figured out to share with one another and grow.

So here are some topics that are close to my heart, some things that I’ve failed and grown in, some lessons I’ve been learning over and over, and just some of my story… because no matter how different it is from yours, my life has the same heading as yours: “SINNER SAVED BY GRACE.”

I hope you relate. I hope you no longer have to feel alone.


Peter David; his birth story

Friday, March 11th, 2016.

If you had told me when I woke up that morning that I would be holding my son less than twenty-four hours later, I wouldn’t have believed it, though I probably would have hugged you for thinking such a lovely thought.

He wasn’t going to come early, he just wasn’t. Being a first-time mom & having my own mama go past her due date with her children more than once (and only having her “early” babies one or two days ahead of schedule), I didn’t see it happening. I still had five days to go, and I fully expected to go even longer.

But that didn’t prevent me from doing everything in my power to speed the process along. As I curled my hair for the day, I did squats. As I walked up and down the stairs, I did lunges. The day before, my dad and I had gone for Thai food, and I had ordered one of the spiciest things on the menu. “The last pregnant lady who came in to our restaurant and ate our food went into labor that very night,” the server had told me. “I wish that would happen to me,” I had laughed.

I walked as much as I could, and earlier in the week, I had gone to the park and walked with my mom and sisters up and down the sledding hill. When they started to get tired, I just said, “Come on! I’m pregnant and I’m still going!”

I knew that doing all of this didn’t necessarily mean labor would come sooner, but I hoped that it would mean an easier labor. I had heard walking and stretching helped prepare your body & at my last doctor’s appointment, I had been dilated to a 2 and 50% effaced with my cervix softening. “Maybe the next time I see you will be in the hospital?” I had asked my OB hopefully. Him and I had a comical relationship… he looked like Joe from Princess Diaries and had the funniest sense of humor that paired nicely with my own dry humor. Maybe it’s odd to be joking and laughing with your OB, but as someone who doesn’t like doctors and hospitals (aka, is terrified of them), it was refreshing to not be scared of him and to actually enjoy our conversations. I saw his eyes sparkle at the poorly masked desperation in my voice, but his response wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for. Another, “We’ll see.”

So with all of this in the back of my mind, I got out of bed and got ready for the day. Brush my teeth, squat, brush some more. Pull up the covers on our bed, lunge around the room, toss on the rest of the pillows. Glance at my hospital bag, sigh because I’m hoping for the impossible, throw another item in the bag anyways.

But breaking up my waiting game was the fact that Kristen was coming over that day. The fact that she is one of my best friends and the fact that she would distract me made me feel like I could make it through another day. :P

She came over and around lunch time, I texted my sister, Lauren, to see if she wanted to go out to eat with us too. We picked her up from a nearby church where she had been doing make-up for the dress rehearsal of a play my seven-year-old sister was a part of. They would be performing the next day, and my mom’s parents were in town so that they could see it as well.

Mom had told me this would be a good time to have the baby so that her parents could meet him, but I had laughed the same joy-killing, but well-meaning laugh my OB had laughed at me. “We’ll see.”

After we picked Lauren up, we decided to eat at Potbelly’s (har har har… a nine month pregnant woman eating at Potbelly’s…get it? Get it? Yeah, but really, we did.)

As I drove, I found myself putting my hand on my stomach every couple minutes. I didn’t know why I was doing it, and I didn’t even remember doing it until later. We went in to eat, and suddenly I was STARVING. I ate my sandwich & then stared at Lauren’s chips until Kristen bought me a bag of my own. As we got back in the car, I put my hand on my stomach again and something felt tight… probably just my seat-belt. I tried to adjust it so that it wasn’t rubbing up against my bulging belly, but now matter how I adjusted it, every few minutes, it would feel tight again. Maybe I had just eaten too much.

Finally it dawned on me. “Guys! I think I’m having Braxton Hicks! I know that doesn’t mean much, but at least my body is practicing!” Kristen and Lauren were excited for me, but we all knew it didn’t mean anything.

We dropped Lauren back off at the church, Kristen went home, and I went for a walk. There’s a park at the end of our street (like three blocks down) and round-trip it’s probably half a mile. I walked down there and sat on the swings and thought it was funny that I was still feeling my stomach get all hard every few minutes. “But there’s no pain,” I told myself. “Surely, this CANNOT be it.”

As I started the walk back home, something different began to happen. It was hard to breathe when the contractions would come. No pain, but I had to stop each time and really breathe. And it felt like I was stopping a lot.

I still didn’t even remotely consider that this was labor. And when I got back, I saw that it was about 5:30 and I should probably make dinner. So I started dumping ingredients into the mixer and pulled out my pizza dough to knead it. Grammy was also in the kitchen and she was watching me closely. Every two or three minutes, I would stop what I was doing and breathe. She watched me and watched the clock and watched me some more until finally she said, “Your contractions are almost every two minutes!! You should get ready to go to the hospital!!” “I’m fine,” I laughed. “These are probably just Braxton Hicks!”

Suddenly, I had to pee (and there is no better use for the word “suddenly” than when a pregnant woman suddenly realized she NEEDS to pee.). So I went to the bathroom. Something felt different, and so, before I flushed, I looked into the toilet and saw blood (part of my mucous plug). Interesting. And as someone, who doesn’t like bodily functions/medical things, may I just say, disgusting. I'm sorry you even had to read that.

Well, now, things were looking a little more serious. But I washed my hands (just thought I should clarify that, haha) and went back to making pizza. Christian was going to be working late at our house and I wondered if I should text him or not.

When I timed the contractions, I noticed that they weren’t even two minutes apart anymore. Grammy looked grim. “Don’t have that baby in my kitchen!!” she half-joked.

I got the pizza in the oven and went to the bathroom again. More blood.

Okay, maybe I should text Christian. “You might want to come home now,” I texted semi-nonchalantly. Afterwards, I texted my mom. She asked a bunch of questions and advised I call the doctor right away. But I continued to hesitate. “I don’t know, mom. These are probably just practice contractions.” She continued to urge me to call.

Christian got home and I told him what had been happening. He was grinning, but just as cautious as I was.

“My only concern is that I haven’t felt him move in a long time,” I said worriedly. “I don’t know if I’ve felt him move in several hours.” We tried and tried to get him to move, but he wouldn’t. At the time, I didn’t realize that THAT is also a sign that you are in labor. Whoops.

With concern for his safety, and not really because I thought I was in labor, I called the doctor. By this time, it was after office hours, and we got a nurse. She listened to my concern about movement and then I told her about these mild contractions I was having. “How far apart are they?” “I don’t know,” I said, “It seems like they are every one to two minutes, but that can’t be right.” “How long do they last?” she asked. “Only like fifteen seconds,” I answered. “Hmmm, well you should probably come in since he’s not moving,” she told me, and said I MIGHT be in labor, but MIGHT not be as well.

I told Christian and we slowly got our stuff together. He ate the entire pizza, because if I WAS in labor, I didn’t feel like eating pizza only to possibly throw it up. I told my mom we were going, and that I would let her know if we were in labor and got admitted.

As we drove the six blocks to the hospital, we passed a familiar street… Peter Road. “It’s a sign,” Christian joked and I couldn’t help laughing. “We better not come past this road again without our own little Peter,” I hoped. As our headlights shone on street sign after street sign, I felt each contraction come, practiced breathing, and thought “This is probably the last contraction. Just watch. They'll stop altogether once we reach the hospital. That would be just my luck.”

But they didn’t stop. And by the time we pulled up to the Labor and Delivery portion of the hospital, I finally realized that the next time I walked outside, it would most likely be with our baby in my arms. Our very own baby!

Christian and I got out and the valet parked our car. We walked in and the person at the front desk looked up curiously. The hospital was very quiet. “I’m here to have a baby,” I said and she looked surprised. Even at 39 weeks, I wasn’t particularly huge, and under my loose-fitting dress and winter jacket, I doubt those were the words she expected to hear. She jumped into action and offered me a wheel-chair. “Nah, I’m good,” I said.

Christian and I walked to the elevator she pointed out and as the two of us got inside, I couldn’t help looking at his face and feeling like I had felt the first moment we had alone after getting married. The “did we really just get married?!” feeling was instead turned into the “are we really about to have a baby?!” feeling, but it felt just as happy and surreal as ever.

I was surprisingly calm. The surprisingly part being my own surprise. I don’t think I expected myself to panic in labor, but I also didn’t expect to be so matter-of-fact “let’s do this thing” carefree about it all. This was the moment I had been waiting for. And unlike that panicky, sick feeling I used to get before a basketball game or before a debate tournament or before a swim meet, I was ready. And even if I wasn’t, it was going to happen, with or without me… well, with me but... you know what I mean.

We got out of the elevator and walked over to the nurses’ station and I again explained how I was here to have a baby. Since I had called ahead, they were ready for me, and they immediately hooked me up to a fetal heart monitor and a contraction monitor. I heard the steady beating of my sweet baby’s heart and felt relief that he was okay. And then I started to laugh as he kicked incessantly at the strap around my belly. “Well, THERE you are, you little stinker.”

The nurse had left for a moment and Christian and I listened to our child’s heartbeat and tried to interpret the lines going up and down with each contraction.

“Your contractions are every one to two minutes!” the nurse told me after she had re-entered the room, “and they are lasting a full minute, not fifteen seconds!” “Oh,” I said sheepishly. I was dilated to a 3, I believe, and more effaced than I had been at my last appointment. I told them about the blood, and sure enough, I was losing my mucous plug. “Let me talk to your OB,” the nurse said, “but it looks like you are here to stay!”

I filled out paper-work slowly as I had to pause with each contraction. They were just starting to become slightly painful, but definitely still manageable.

Christian texted our parents and we snapped a quick selfie while we waited to be moved to the delivery room. Mom was going to come and help labor with me. That way her and Christian could take turns resting. Plus, I don’t know if you’ve ever met my mom, but she’s like the best kick-butt coach while simultaneously being a gentle encourager, so naturally, I wanted both her and Christian by my side.

10 PM.

We were finally upstairs in the labor and delivery room, and I was bouncing methodically on the birthing ball, watching tv. Christian was talking to my mom on the phone and she was picking up milkshakes. “Do you want one?” he asked. My face must’ve spoken for itself and he told her I would pass, but that he would take a chocolate one. I rolled my eyes. Leave it to my mom and Christian to turn this into a party. ;)

At this point I was relatively uncomfortable and dilated to a 4, I believe (I honestly didn’t keep super good track, but I know every time they checked me, I had progressed), but still hadn’t taken pain meds. I wasn’t sure if I would need to or not, and in my mind, I had left that open to whether or not the pain was tolerable. I would definitely prefer to do it naturally, but I didn’t want to hold that up on a pedestal and then feel like a failure if I needed them. Right now, the pain was tolerable, so I kept bouncing and breathing, bouncing and breathing, bouncing and breathing.

Mom walked in around 10:30 and her face glowed with anticipation and excitement. Christian’s face glowed at the sight of the milkshake. My face… well, I don’t know if it was glowing, but I really had to pee.

I got up and went to the bathroom, walked out, and noticed there was a puddle at my feet. “Did you just pee yourself?” Christian laughed. “NO!” I said defensively, “Well, I don’t know, I guess.” I watched more liquid trickle down my leg and shuffled pensively forward. Another stream of liquid. “This can’t be pee,” I laughed.

Our labor and delivery nurse (ahhh, can’t rememeber her name!) was herself 38 weeks pregnant, and oh my goodness, we won the lottery by getting her. She was the sweetest, most supportive nurse and I couldn’t have hoped for anyone more perfect for me and my mom and Christian to have there with us, answering our questions and encouraging me to do labor however I wanted.

Anyways, she was called in & we explained the “is it pee?” situation. She thought that it probably was, but when she swabbed it, the stick immediately showed that it was amniotic fluid.

“Your water broke!” she exclaimed.

And it just. kept. breaking.

Fluid continued to eep out for the rest of labor and I feel like I spent the next few hours in a sopping wet puddle.

12 AM (Saturday, March 12th)

At this point I was dilated to a 5 or 6, and after my water broke, the contractions became increasingly painful. I started to feel my first wave of panic as I knew I still had several centimeters to go and that things would continue to get more painful.

I was also getting tired. If you know Christian and I, you know that sleep is incredibly important to us and our ability to function. :P I glanced over at my husband and saw his eyes looking heavy with sleep. Maybe I could just take something to ease the contraction pain enough for me to get an hour or two of sleep?

The nurse gave me a dose of something slightly stronger than Tylenol and I immediately felt better. “I feel loopy,” I said to my mom and Christian, and they both started to laugh. I knew better than to keep talking and saying things they could use as blackmail, so I closed my eyes and tried to doze off.

1-1:30 AM

I must have dozed off because when I opened my eyes, Christian was sleeping on the couch and my mom was sleeping in a chair next to my bed. But I swear, 0.8 seconds after I opened my eyes, she opened hers and asked if I was okay and if I needed anything.

The pain medicine had worn off and I was feeling the intensity of each contraction. I knew I was getting closer and closer to the point where an epidural wouldn’t be allowed anymore and I made my decision. I wanted one.

So our friendly pregnant nurse came in and explained how it would work. I had had a spinal tap before, so I was familiar with the idea of a large needle being inserted into my back. The anesthesiologist was called & I told my mom to wake Christian up. I wanted him by my side for this.

The procedure went off without a hitch and the anesthesiologist waited around to make sure it worked. He kept pressing on my legs and asking if I felt anything. “Yes.” “How about now?” “Yes, I feel that.” “How about now?” “Yes, I feel all of that.”

For some reason, even though I still felt everything, he left. Only my butt was numb (suuuuuuper helpful, right?). My legs were barely tingling & I still felt pain with each contraction. It hadn’t worked.

2:30 AM

I told our nurse how I was feeling. “Are you feeling pressure still or pain? Because pressure is normal, but you shouldn’t be feeling pain.” “I’m feeling pain,” I said.

Another nurse wanted me to roll to my side and she was about to help me when I did it myself. “You can move your legs that easily?!” she asked surprised. “Yes!”

So they called the anesthesiologist back in and he upped my dosage and said something about not taking my height into consideration. But once again, it didn’t work, and I was still feeling everything with maybe only the tiniest tingling/numbing sensation.

Meanwhile I was dilated to a 6 or 7 now and I could feel how LOW this baby was. My mind was still calm, though it finally started to dawn on me that sometime, soon, this baby would have to come out. That there was no pause button and no “can we do this another time?” option. The part of me that hates feeling trapped started to panic a little bit, but overall, I was still on the “let’s do this” train.

My body, however, started to go into shock. Whether it was the medication or just the pain from the contractions, I started shaking violently.

In the past, I have had panic attacks where my body shakes violently, but in each of those situations, I’ve also been panicking in my mind. Watching myself shake uncontrollably felt like an out of body experience. As if I was calmly assessing the bizarre shaking of some other pregnant woman. The nurse asked if I was cold and I assured her I wasn’t. My mom asked if I was scared and I shook my head no. But my body wouldn’t stop shaking. It was weird. And it started to unnerve me.

The next two or three hours felt like a blur. At one point, I started to drift off to sleep again, only to have someone wake me and tell me that the epidural had caused my contractions to slow a little and that they wanted to give me pitocin and that once they did, things would speed along quickly. I nodded my approval.

5 AM

I was dilated to an eight and the pitocin was definitely doing its job. The contractions were happening every other second it felt like and they were strong. I was starting to get a little bit panicky now. I called Christian to my side and he and my mom reassured me over and over that it was going to be okay and that I could do this. At this point I wasn’t contradicting them, but I was starting to wonder if it was true. Could I do this? Could I get a quick break? Could someone else take a few of these contractions? Just a few?

I could feel baby dropping and when they checked me again a few minutes later I was at a 9. “I’ll come back and check you again in fifteen minutes,” she said. Her shift was ending in an hour or two and I was really hoping to have the baby before she left.

The moment she walked out the door something changed. I felt him drop even lower and there was this intense urge in my body to push. I looked at Christian with fear. “I can’t do this,” I whispered. “That must mean you are ready to,” he said gently. My mom ran back out after the nurse as I frantically shouted that I NEEDED to push. I almost screamed with the next contraction and tried to keep myself from pushing before the doctor got there.

The nurse ran back in and looked a little alarmed and quickly ran over to check me. “You’re at a 10!” she exclaimed. “Let’s do a few practice pushes and then I’ll go get the doctor! Most first time moms push for at least thirty minutes.” I pushed for the length of one contraction and could tell by the look on her face that she was surprised and worried. “DON’T PUSH anymore! I’m going to get the doctor!!!” She hurried out of the room and a moment later, my OB was flying into action. He quickly washed up as I shouted “I NEED TO PUSH.” “DON’T PUSH!” he yelled right back at me. I almost laughed for a moment because I felt like we were having a parent/child fight, but at the same time I wanted to slap him. Don’t push?! I can’t help it!! He rushed over and explained to me exactly how he wanted me to do it. I was exhausted at this point, but suddenly, a wave of strength washed over me. “Do you want a mirror so you can watch?” he asked. “uh, NO!” I said and he laughed.

Mom had left the room with prayers and encouragement, because I had asked that it just be Christian and I for the delivery. He stood at my side and as I looked at him, I could see the tears in his eyes as he held my hand and reminded me not to clench my teeth with the contractions but to breathe and bear down (yeah, he’s a really good birth coach you guys). “I’m so proud of you, I'm SO proud of you,” he kept saying between reminders. “You are doing SO well.”

Meanwhile my doctor shouted “NOW! PUSH!” and I gave every single ounce of strength I had into that push. Some women talk about how birth makes them feel like they can do anything, how it makes them proud of their bodies… and in that moment, I felt it. “I am woman. Hear me roar,” I had read that in the past and chuckled. But now I was roaring and I was going to get this baby out of me or die trying. The doctor and nurses were surprised at my intensity and I saw pride on my husband’s face. "You were made for this!" my OB said proudly, but then not even a second later, the doctor yelled “AGAIN! PUSH PUSH PUSH!” and again I wanted to slap him, but instead I pushed, and Christian shouted, “I SEE HIS HEAD.” I pushed again and *I* saw his head. Just a few more pushes and he was out, but I didn’t realize he was out at first. I was about to push again when my doctor was like, “He’s out!” And I was inwardly like, "Oh. OH!!!"

I didn’t hear him cry at first, but they sucked the fluid from his lungs and he was fine, though he still didn’t cry. He was happy to be born. Happy to be here. Christian cut his cord and they put this warm, wet, perfect little bundle of skin and arms and legs and his daddy's eyes and my cheeks and wavy brown hair and a perfect button nosed baby on my chest, but only for a minute before whisking him away to be checked and weighed. Christian rushed to be with him, but not before coming to my side with wet eyes and saying, “I can’t believe you just did that!!! You were amazing. I can't believe he came out of you!! I can't believe you did that!!”

My placenta came out without any problems, and as I watched my husband adore our baby nearby, the doctor turned to me. “You have two tears. They’re not too bad, but I’ll need to stitch them up.” I inwardly grimaced, but was too distracted by my baby who was OUTSIDE OF ME to care very much. “You’ll need to hold still so I don’t poke myself with the needle.” I looked at him and said, “That’s the least of my concerns.” He laughed outright along with the nurses and teased me back, but my attention was already back on baby.

He weighed 7lbs. 7oz. and was 21 ½ inches long. He still wasn’t crying, but he was alert. Christian finally carried him back over to me and our little one looked so tiny in his arms. He laid baby boy on my chest and all I could do was stare. I was feeling so many feelings at once that I couldn’t focus on one at a time.

It wasn’t until my mom came back in after the stitching and I saw her holding him that I fell apart and cried. My body had stopped shaking the moment our baby boy emerged. It knew that it had done it’s job and could rest now. Rest after nine months of carrying precious cargo. And now my mind was catching up and realizing that my mama was holding her daughter's son. Her daughter, now a mama too.

“Do you still want to name him Peter?” I asked Christian. He nodded. “Me too.”

A nurse pressed on my belly and looked shocked. “In all my time working here, I’ve NEVER seen a belly vanish the way yours has.” I looked down with just as much surprise. There was no more baby bump. My stomach was gone and there was a very flat, though very squishy, belly in it’s place. I felt empty and full all at once. “He’s here,” I thought, “I don’t have to feel his kicks from the inside anymore. I can kiss his toes from the outside.”

The rest of the day was beautiful and exhausting and emotional. The calmness I had felt mentally during labor started to backfire and I felt a little bit like weeping, a little bit like laughing, a little bit panicky over everything that had just happened, and a little bit like curling up in a ball with just my husband and Peter baby and sleeping for the next three weeks.

He passed all his tests and he continued not to cry, but just to be happy and content. He nursed almost immediately & was HUNGRY (some things never change, haha). Both his brand new grandpas and brand new grandmas and brand new aunts and uncles met him, and seeing my baby sister hold my baby son just about killed me. Getting to see my dad (of four girls) hold his firstborn grandson still makes me get all teary.

On the day I found out I was pregnant with Peter, before I took the test, I had stood in the shower and scrawled the words, “My heart will choose to say, blessed be Your name,” into the foggy glass. I wanted those words to be my rock no matter whether God gave me a beloved child or not. I wanted to choose to bless His name.

Peter (meaning: Rock) David (meaning: Beloved) Higgins...
I am so glad that God chose to give us you.


The Silent Siege

you wake up, stretch your toes out as far as you can, and give an over dramatic yawn. checking the clock, you see that it’s eight. “not too shabby,” you think. “it’s still pretty early.”


you reach over the side of your bed, find your phone, and scroll through facebook like it’s your own little local newspaper.


aw, Jenny got engaged! Winston is finally going on the trip he always wanted. Judy has the cutest kids.


wait. what is this?


Ten Reasons Getting up Before Six Will Change Your Life.


click. open. read.


you slowly begin to realize just how wrong you have been looking at this your whole life. you’ve been wasting so much time and you didn’t even know it. you are lazy. unmotivated. and did you know that people who get up earlier live a longer life?


you jump out of bed as quick as you can and rush into your morning routine. after getting out of the shower, making the bed, and folding a load of laundry you head to the kitchen and make yourself a cup of coffee while pouring a bowl of cereal.


as you sit down, your phone lights up with a notification, so you open facebook again, laugh at Tony’s comment, and do another quick scroll through your newsfeed.


Fifteen Things Your Breakfast Says About You.


wow. you never realized your breakfast said so much. you glance down at your fruit loops suddenly repelled and wish to goodness you had an avocado, whole wheat bread, free range chicken eggs, and sea salt. oh and maybe some mangos, spinach, and chia seeds for a smoothie. this kind of eating will lead to depression, obesity, probably death. this kind of eating points to immaturity and lack of willpower. another thing you need to change asap.


you run out to the store and buy some of the more exotic sounding foods that will change your life. these things aren’t cheap, but you certainly feel more mature and empowered. you check-out and a little while later, your husband shoots you a text.


“what on earth did you buy today? I went online to pay a bill and saw you spent over two hundred dollars at the store!”


you explain all the healthy things you plan on making with the rare items you found, but your husband is not impressed. in fact, he jokingly says he’ll be eating at his parents the next few days.


you fume angrily as you unload your expensive groceries. there are less bags than you thought. as you shove items into the back of your fridge, you collapse on the kitchen floor, you lean back against the cabinets, cross your legs, and see if there’s anything new online to take your mind off your ungrateful husband.


Twenty-One Ways You Know You have Found Mr. Right.


you scroll through the ways furiously.


“he respects your ideas.” hmpf! your husband didn’t seem so respectful of your ideas today! “he’s willing to try new things.” ha! you laugh bitterly. he would be fine staying the same forever, that old grump.


you get up off the kitchen floor feeling like you’ve been cheated out of Mr. Right and storm to the bathroom to fix your hair.


you carry on with your day in a mood. it seems like you can’t do anything right, and you’re feeling like it’s somebody’s fault. probably Mr. Not-Right’s.


a few hours later a Pinterest notification pops up. your sister sent you a picture of her dream outfit. you look at it for a moment and then glance at the suggested pictures and posts under it. there is a picture of a larger looking woman with the heading “Forget the Thigh Gap! Eleven Reasons Why I Want My Thighs Thick.”


almost automatically you click it. you read through it slowly and despairingly and learn that if only you had thicker thighs, you would be that much better and have so much more fun. you don’t even realize how absurd your feelings are or how absurd this article is. you simply think about the way that you have self-consciously been a tooth-pick your whole life with barely any figure at all.


by the evening, you feel completely worthless.  between instagram users with perfect pictures and links to their perfect lives, facebook articles telling you how to make your life or image better, pinterest to make you feel like your house and wardrobe should belong in a Goodwill ad, and the other countless internet plugs subtly showing you all that you’re not and all that you don’t have, you feel you will never be enough or have enough.


whether you relate to these particular examples or not, most of us have struggled with something on the internet before. if you just gave birth to your fourth child, you may be unconsciously envious when Sue posts a casual picture of her slim figure. if you’re a guy, you may wish you could buy a motorcycle as nice as the one Tim just bought or see as many amazing places as Jon or be tempted to stare at pictures of girls you wish were yours.


if you’re on a budget (and most people are) you will find yourself wishing you had just a little bit more to spend on furniture or clothes or your dream car or dieting pills or a gym membership or travel or food or a house.


and you’ll find yourself comparing even the internal struggles. so and so looks so happy all the time... I wish I was always so cheerful. so and so’s husband bought them expensive jewelry… again… I wish my husband would buy me something nice every now and then. so and so’s wife always makes homemaking look so easy… I wish my wife would pay more attention to cleaning. so and so has a more fulfilling career… I’m just doing this to pay the bills but I wish it was fulfilling. so and so always gushes about how blessed they are… why doesn’t God send us so many blessings. so and so is so popular and outgoing… I wish I was somebody’s role model.


we are living in an age that hands us all sorts of ideals and opinions on the silver tray of television and magazines and radio and pictures and articles and internet and billboards and movies and advertisements.


we are surrounded and unless we come out with our hands up and stare this oppressor in the face, we will simply continue to sit in our homes unaware of the siege that is quietly starving us of true joy and thankfulness.


so how do we face comparison? we are surrounded by everybody’s lives and thoughts and agendas and propaganda. how are we not to be overcome by it?


some would say that we simply avoid it altogether. unplug the television. delete all the apps. no more movies. don’t pick up that magazine. shut out the world, both the good and the bad.


I don’t know if you’ve ever seen “The Village” but it tells the story of those who tried taking that approach. set in what would appear to be the sixteen or seventeen hundreds, a small group of people live in a very simple village surrounded by woods, living very simple lives. the parents only teach goodness and kindness in their homes but warn their children of the danger beyond. as the story progresses, you begin to realize that the fathers and mothers of this little village are trying to protect their children by telling them of a monster who lives just outside their town, lurking in the woods. soon enough though, even with being protected from the outside world, even with strong morals, sin creeps in and causes havoc in the hearts of the whole village. in one of the last scenes, a younger girl goes for help from what she thinks is a neighboring village, climbs a wall, and stumbles onto a paved road and a ranger dressed in the garb of modern America.


the point of the movie was obvious. shutting out the whole world will not solve the problem of the heart.


and closing your eyes to everyone and everything that you feel is better than you, will not solve the comparison factor.


that’s not to say that taking those things in moderation or taking breaks from them or not having them at all is a bad thing. it’s just not the answer to solving the heart of the matter. sooner or later you will come into contact with humanity. and there will always be someone you feel is better than you. something that is nicer than what you have.


so how do we stop comparing ourselves to others? how do we not read articles and feel disappointed with ourselves? how do we not look at other’s lives and wish ours was more like theirs?


well one way is to be thankful.


Ann Voskamp, in her book “One Thousand Gifts” writes, “our fall was, has always been, and always will be, that we aren’t satisfied in God and what He gives. we hunger for something more, something other.”


what if we took everything we have, everything we are insecure about and considered it a gift? a gift given to us directly from God.


the messy house you can’t seem to keep up with? who was that mess made by? your kids? are you thankful for them? are they a gift? give thanks.


the clothing that you want but don’t have? do you have any clothing? (I hope so.) didn’t the God who clothes the lilies of the field clothe you with exactly what you need? isn’t that a gift? give thanks.


even the fact that you don’t have the brown hair you always wanted or the chiseled body that you think you need… didn’t God knit you together in your mother’s womb? didn’t He know you before the foundations of the world were laid? aren’t you made in His image? isn’t that a gift? give thanks.


if you are unhappy, it might not be because of the circumstances you hold responsible for your feelings. It might, in truth, be the way you are viewing those circumstances.


let’s face it, it’s not usually our actual circumstances that are the root of the problem. it’s how we feel about those circumstances.


you live in a house. that’s a good circumstance. but you feel like your sister has a bigger, better house and you feel like you need one too.


you have a face. that’s a good circumstance. but you feel like so and so’s is better looking and you feel depressed every time you pass a mirror.


hopefully you have a good spouse or parents or friends. not perfect, but good. that’s a good circumstance. but you feel like they just don’t understand. you feel like they should be better, care more, fit in better with that “Top Ten Ways to Know You have a True Friend” list.


you feel like you should be giving more, doing more, growing more, loving more, working more, relaxing more, saving more, spending more, exercising more, cooking more, communicating more, encouraging more.


and not all of those are bad feelings or things to do.


but they are when you don’t give them to God. and they are when you don’t give thanks.


“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18


“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything through prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6


another way to face the comparison factor is to stop comparing yourself and your life to others, and instead compare it to Christ.


did Christ wear the latest fashion, live in the cutest house, drive the fastest car… er… chariot?


was Christ the most popular person on the planet? did everything He say make everyone love Him? did He care what others thought about Him? did He compare Himself to everyone else?


did He withhold grace from others? did He only heal those who were in a social or political position that could be advantageous to Him? did He only love those who first loved Him? did He only do God’s will because He expected physical blessings here on earth?


doesn’t Christ give thanks and glory to God? doesn’t everything He does and says point back to God? didn’t He sacrifice His life, His comfort, His glory for that of God?

He didn't even have a top-whatever-number of reasons to tell Him to do so.

what if we did the same? what if we gave thanks for this gift called life? what if instead of focusing on what we don’t have, we focus on what we do? what if even what we do have we give back to God with thanksgiving in our hearts?


God doesn’t ask us to be like everyone else. He asks us to be like His Son.  “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” 1 Peter 2:21-25


 God doesn’t promise us we’ll be like everyone else. He promises that “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion…” Philippians 1:6 and  “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” Romans 8:18-21


the temptation to compare and be discouraged is real and in your face twenty-four-seven. and even when we remember to give thanks and set Christ as our example, day to day, minute to minute life has a way of shoving good intentions to the furthest dusty corner of our minds.


so that is why the third way to face the comparison factor is simply to pray. pray that you will be thankful. pray that you will set Christ as your example.


and pray for others. for the one who pops into your mind as you’re reading an article. for the friend you know who is struggling with the same insecurities you are. even for the people behind the seemingly flawless accounts and pictures.


give thanks. look above. pray continually.


these aren’t new struggles. these aren't new ideas.


if facebook was around two thousand years ago, underneath articles like "Ten Life-changing Ways to Make Your Donkey Less Stubborn" and "Five Sandals You Must Have This Season" you might have found an article called “The Top Three Ways to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others.”

 it's an age-old struggle, and it's more accessible than ever. but we serve a God who loves us through His Son right where we are for who we are in Him. messy houses, messy hearts, messy thoughts and all.
now that's something to be thankful for.


The Vulnerability of Being Human

The thought struck me while staring out the window. My hands dipped in soapy, crummy water. Scraping away the remains of an earlier meal consumed and already forgotten. My head slightly ached from thinking, but I breathed in the spring air coming through my open kitchen window and stared at the fence marking the edge of our yard.


We are so vulnerable.


I first remember feeling the weight of vulnerability in second grade. My passion for Jesus and missions was flying high as I approached the desk of my teacher with hand-written salvation tract in hand. If my heart was banging a little faster than normal, I didn’t know why. It wasn’t until she glanced at it and dismissed it with a “that’s nice” that I felt that beating organ drop a little further in my chest. In less than a second, my whole life’s passion had been waved aside by a “that’s nice” I knew she didn’t mean. I felt silly. I felt like a failure. I felt… something that I couldn’t put a name to. We are so vulnerable.


I felt that way while walking through Chicago in the dead of winter, passing thousands of unknown faces, all hunkered down into their jackets, scarves, and hats, staring at the sidewalk, letting the bitter wind whistle over, around, and past their layered clothes. Knowing that deep down they were cold, but still they pressed on. Behind the wind-reddened faces were countless stories I hadn’t and may never hear. We are so vulnerable.


I remember the time I watched my dad outside the living room window. He was doing yardwork, and in a few seconds, the fate of my life would hang in his branch-trimming hands. What would he say about the boy who had told me he liked me? Would he be mad? Would he be okay? Stepping through the front door with hands in my pockets, I told him as awkwardly as possible. And he grinned a silly smile, and I began to grin as well. We are so vulnerable.


I remember how that crush wasn’t only a crush. It was love. And how my parents’ thought we weren’t ready for that yet. How for a season, I didn’t talk with the boy who loved me. How for a season I couldn’t be sure if he even still did. How I spent every other minute wondering what he was doing and how he felt about me. Wondering if it would ever work out. How I felt sick and depressed and angry at God. We are so vulnerable.


I remember how during that time, I got physically sick. How the hospital couldn’t tell us why. How my mom sat near my head, held my hand, and prepared herself for calling the family to say goodbye. How my heart rate soared and my fever worsened and I couldn’t hold my own weight. How my heart rate and fever just as suddenly went back to normal. How a nurse taking me to my MRI told me he would pray for me. How my dad bought me a Snoopy stuffed animal. How I ordered hummus and couldn’t eat it for feeling nauseas. How I told my mom while I lay in a white bed how much I loved the boy I hadn’t spoken to in so long. How the doctor’s told me I couldn’t go on my mission’s trip to Papua New Guinea. And how much I didn’t understand God. We are so vulnerable.


I remember the time I watched a young man sing his heart and soul out for God at a little talent show in a small wooden tabernacle on a hill beside Lake Michigan. The young man had a disability and didn’t hit a single note, but I cried my heart out and realized that even in the brokenness, God is good. A little girl who had been through more than I ever had sat on my lap and wiped away my tears and we talked about heaven and how nice it would be to see each other there one day. A man who could barely use his arms or legs made an effort to reach out his hand to me, squeeze my own ever so faintly, and smile a smile that only angels could fully appreciate. We are so vulnerable.


I remember loving a boy. A boy who had turned into a man, not by accident, but by choice. And how this kind of love was new and how it was thrilling and how it was scary all at once. We talked about the future and what that could look like and how we wanted it to be with each other no matter what else may come. I waited for a ring. And I said to myself, “What will next year at this time look like? Will we be married? Will we have kids? Or does God have something completely unexpected planned? Something that I won’t like at all?” And I cried at the thought of not being able to control the future. But I also remembered how God had controlled the past. We are so vulnerable.


A ring came. And with it joy. And with joy, work. And with joy and work, change. I held my baby sister longer and my five year old sister and I had picnics in the play-fort and I gave my sixteen year old sister my special ring and we both cried. My mom and I sat on the kitchen floor often, and dad would look at me with a mixture of sadness and pride, and I felt like my heart would burst from the change. I took more pictures. I wrote more words. I absorbed more memories and looks and dialogue than I knew how to process, and so the excess often came out in tears or laying in my grandpa’s fields. I was happy. I was sad. We are so vulnerable.


A wedding day came and for the first time ever, I got to play the bride. At five a.m. I sat in the bathroom and my sister did my make-up. At eight, as I got ready to walk out the door, my mom reminded me that this was my last time being a Smock at the house I had spent the majority of my life living and growing and breathing and maturing in. At the church, I got into my dress and my best friend buttoned it up. I stood for portraits. I smiled til my cheeks ached. I didn’t know how I could bear so many last moments and so many firsts all at once. But then I saw him through the window. Standing with his hands shoved deep in his pockets. His dark head slightly bowed and his dark eyes looking steadily, evenly forward. My head pounded and my eyes were wet. I loved him so much. I would give up all I had known if only I could be with him. We are so vulnerable.


A year of marriage went by in a flash. Every season and what it brought. Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall, and back to Winter again. “Here we go round the mulberry bush…”  We put our whole selves out there for the other to see, and our love became deeper. Not without misunderstandings. Not without embarrassment. Not without humbling ourselves and saying sorry. But with much grace, understanding, and a love deeper than good days only. I wasn’t only in love with him, I was proud of him. Beyond what I could have imagined. And knowing that he felt the same about me… how could I feel so much joy? How could God be so good? We are so vulnerable.


But there were other changes that were harder. And most of those involved the changes happening inside of me. Those involved the day to day grind that every human is faced with; feeling alone in your friends, feeling not good enough, hearing unkind things said and taking them to heart. Messy house, messy thoughts. Rushing here, rushing there. Always wondering about the future. Always wanting to be better. We are so vulnerable.


These were the thoughts that I found myself thinking while staring out the window with soap on my hands and vulnerability in my heart and in the hearts of every human on the planet. Sometimes, life is just a lot to handle. The good, the bad. The emotions, the facts. We are human. We are affected by our surroundings, by other’s opinions, by the cold, by the rain, by the amount of dishes stacked up in our sinks, by politics, by our hopes for the future, by our haunts of the past, by our possessions and our peers and our friends.


There are so many “Top Ten Ways to Get the Man of Your Dreams” articles out there. Along with “How You Know You’ve Found the One” opinions. There are suggestions for healthy diets. Warnings against vaccines. Thoughts on parenting. Pinterest solutions for a messy house, capsule wardrobes, and do-it-yourself’s.


There are so many people out there to please and with opinions on how to do that. So many people with opinions of you. Some that may think better of you than you think you deserve. And some that, no matter how hard you may bend over backwards, just don’t like you at all. There are situations to handle that feel impossible. People, circumstances, and things that will drag you down.


There is so much pressure to fit in with the system. To have your college education, a career, the home of your dreams, the distinguished business husband, the two Gap kids model children.


We are so vulnerable, but we try so hard to hide it.


How often do you find Instagram accounts where every post is a picture of cobwebs in the corners, several-day-old pancake batter splattered on the counter, children screaming their heads off? When do you find captions like "I thought I was content until Becky posted about her new house," or "I can't seem to get on top of things and really don't know what to do?" How often do you find the really vulnerable moments that can make or break your character?


How often do you ask someone “how are you doing?” and they say, “honestly, I feel so fat compared to the girls I see on tv and I’ve been skipping meals just to try to be something I’m not.”


You don’t find articles listing the “Top Twenty Ways to be Vulnerable.” Vulnerability is what we do best. But it’s something we don’t usually acknowledge.


What is my point? My point is only this. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Don’t beat yourself up when you don’t feel you add up to the perfect blogger mom who has a recipe and hair product and child-rearing answer for everything. Don’t beat yourself up when a circumstance leaves you feeling hurt and unworthy. Don’t beat yourself up when you feel strongly or care deeply or love unconditionally. We are all so vulnerable.


The world, and even Christians, portray their standard as perfection, but God portrays Himself as perfection, and the only perfect one out there is Jesus Christ.


So be vulnerable. But be vulnerable in Jesus.


What does that look like? It looks like praying. Giving Him your cares and concerns. Your insecurities and your failures. Your joys and your strengths. Your future and your past and your present. It means telling Him, “I know I am not enough, but I also know that you are. I know I am like the flower of the grass which today is alive and confident and happy, but tomorrow will be blown by a fowl wind and begin to doubt and shrink and wither. But I also know you are the gentle rain that gives me life and sustains me through every season. I know I may feel countless feelings, but I also know that you are always with me through each and every one. I know I am vulnerable, but I also know that you are more than enough for my emotions and my beating, trembling heart.”


We live in a time when vulnerability is weakness. But it doesn’t have to be weakness. It can also be strength. Strength to reach out to the one in a similar circumstance as us. Strength to love even when it hurts. Strength to come along side another and work through trials and tribulations together. Strength to say “not anything that I have done, but only you Jesus.” Strength to admit fault or love firmly or discipline the rascal child. Strength to be humble and wash the feet of those around you.


“Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow…”


If I had waited twenty years to write this, who knows what I could have added to my list of vulnerabilities. Only God knows what my life and heart and soul will hold.


But for now, I will wash dishes. I will use the rawness and reality of life not as something to place behind a wall and put a flowery wallpaper over, nor to shout it obscenely from the mountain top. It isn’t something that has to be covered, but it also isn’t something that needs to be a showcase. It is something that needs to be recognized and utilized for the glory of God. Use it to bless those around you. To say “I have been there too, brother. You are not alone. You are never alone.” Use it as an encouragement even to your own heart. We are all in this together.


We are all so vulnerable. And those who believe are all so forgiven, known, loved by the God who made Himself vulnerable for us by becoming a vulnerable man, having vulnerable words spoken about and against Him, dying a vulnerable death, and rising again in a tangible way in which the vulnerable holes in his hands and feet could still be felt and touched.

Vulnerability is not weakness. It is finding strength in the Lord.
"For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption so that, as it is written, 'Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."

1 Corinthians 1: 26-31