Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Everyone Needs A Little Crazy

Life is beautiful and, at times, messy. Then there's just down right crazy. We have days that feel practically perfect even though they're laced with a few obstacles. We have days that feel horrendous, even though looking back it was only a 30 minute window of agony that seemed to last all day.

Parenthood is a lot like sports. I know I've written about The Momlympics and my hand at The Juggling Act, but this is on a broader scale.

I had the great honor of winning a lot of high caliber competitions during my diving heyday. I also lost a whole lot more than I ever won.

"I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
-Michael Jordan

During training and competitions, sometimes you're "on" and sometimes you're "off." Sometimes you stand at the top of the podium and feel complete. Sometimes you walk off the deck defeated in every way.

But I am so thankful for those heartbreaking losses. I'm thankful for the frustration. I'm thankful for being sidelined with injuries. Because each one of those things taught me something.

After a tough loss, the next time I won, I knew how the person whose head was hanging low felt. I learned how to be humble and gentle to my competitors who became my friends.

When I got frustrated and angry, it spurred me on to work harder and try new things that I may have been too stubborn to try before.

When I had injuries, I was forced to think outside the box and be more focused mentally than ever before.

Parenting really isn't any different, it just feels a little crazier from time to time.

There are tantrums... in public... times three children. There are bloody boo-boos. There are potty accidents at friends' houses. There are days with complete nap failure. There is a two year old that will accidentally drink the baby's bottle. There are emergency root canals for mom. There is no rest for the weary.

But I'm learning to be thankful for our little bit of crazy. It makes me appreciate our good days. It makes me praise the pants off my girls when they are well behaved. It floods my heart with warmth when they think my kisses make everything better. It allows me to be encouraged by sweet friends who share their potty training stories so I know I'm not alone. It makes me giddy when I have an hour to myself because they are all sleeping, and I can write this blog. It teaches me that my kids can roll with the crazy punches of life and shows me that my kids look out for and protect each other. It teaches me that my true rest and peace is in Christ and not in a good night's sleep.
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
- Matthew 11:28
The crazy moments of life are hard, but they are just moments that will soon be memories. Everyone needs a little crazy to appreciate the beautiful mess of life.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Ignorant Parent- Pregnancy

I'm excited to share a new series, The Ignorant Parent, with you!  Some friends and I thought it would be fun to write from our different perspectives on various topics. Our goal is to encourage you when you need to be lifted up, to show you hope in every situation, to let you know that you are never alone and to glorify God with the stories that He has written for our lives. For more background on who we are and how we know each other, click here.

Today's topic is Pregnancy.


I discovered I was expecting Easter of 2006. I was the first of us four.

We were not attempting to get pregnant, and to be honest, I never dreamed of being a mom. I played with dolls growing up but never thought of myself as a capable mother "type." My husband is the one who looked at the test. My husband is the one who told our friends- I just didn't feel comfortable telling people I was going to be a mom. I knew this pregnancy was from God, though, I trusted Him with all my heart and leaned not on my understanding, acknowledged that He was the one leading my path straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6) He knew I needed to be my son's mom at this time.

Weeks went on, and I got bigger. Laura gave me a book for my birthday. She said, "Well, we certainly don't have any guidance, so here's a book." I really didn't have any mom friends to go through this with. It was LONELY. I was worried about my work that I loved so much. All of that would change after a baby. I didn't know how I would adjust, from being able to see God work through me every week in my work at a church to caring for my son. It's an endurance sport and I am used to doing the shorter more instant works of God. Most of all I struggled with a label... MOM.

I was terrified I wasn't strong enough to deliver a baby. I knew others did it every day, but I just prayed, "God I trust you, make my way straight." I wanted to think that I could do a natural birth. We attended the birthing classes trying to get any kind of help we could with parenting. My little boy was breech though, and I tried all kinds of "tricks" to get him to turn. We even have a picture of me doing a handstand in Amy's hot tub!

Every week they did an ultrasound, which I loved because seeing him helped me prepare for him emotionally. So on a Thursday visit, the doctor scheduled a c-section for the following Wednesday. I was so nervous. My last day of work was the next day, and my husband and I spent Saturday figuring out what we needed to bring a baby home (diapers, wipes, etc). We walked a lot and I remember thinking I was a bit uncomfortable and my jeans had gotten way too tight. We went home, and I just felt ill. That night my water broke, and I had NO idea that it had. So again I was able to just keep trusting God, not myself, and let Him direct our path. Because anything we try to do on our own is, in my opinion, just not worth it. Also, I could trust that He was with me. And so were these girls, every one of them was there the minute my son was born. Their presence made me feel better about how my life was changing.

 Elizabeth holding Tyler in the hospital.


Pregnancy held so many surprises, some full of the most joy I'd ever experienced and some filled with deep disappointment and loss, but all ultimately causing me to trust God more!

My first surprise was how much I wanted to become pregnant once we started trying. I wasn't sure if I really wanted kids, or if I was ready, or if I'd make a good enough mom (although I still wonder that! Ha!). But once we decided to go for it, the longing that consumed my heart overwhelmed me! Because family is such a beautiful, messy picture of God's love and grace, I think He often gives us a deep desire for motherhood (Psalm 37:4). And I was elated to quite quickly discover that I was expecting!

But almost as quickly as I became a mother, I lost the baby. Technically speaking, I'd experience a "chemical pregnancy" or a very early miscarriage. I was devastated. Although I learned that early miscarriages are rather common, I was surprised I had never heard of them and still so sad over my very real loss. I believe God used this to draw me closer to Him and to help me appreciate even more the desire to be a mother and later, the miracle of life I would experience through my sons.

For me, having another human being formed in my womb and then being able to deliver naturally, without medication, was an indescribable experience! The intricate, intelligent, complex, orderly design of God is undeniable! (Psalm113:13-14) But God had more to teach me about His Sovereignty, His love. Although I had done everything "right," my first son was surprisingly diagnosed as strep B positive (sick with a bacteria common to the mother but dangerous and even deadly to the infant, which is transmitted by the mother in the birth canal, for which the mother is tested in advance- my test was negative). My son spent the first 10 days of his life in the NICU on antibiotics.

 Keller in the NICU in 2010.

God didn't give my "perfect pregnancy" the chance to disillusion me into thinking I was in control or loved my son more than anyone in the world. No, He quickly showed me that He is in control and loves our children more than we ever could! Our children are gifts from Him, and ultimately they are His! "In love, He predestined us for adoption as sons... to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved (Jesus Christ)."


First, let me just say Jason and I never wanted to have kids. We thought children were irritating, generally messy and loud. Now, there were some kiddos (namely our friends') that we tolerated and even started to enjoy. However, that was not why we decided to take the leap into the overwhelming world of parenthood.

After celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary, I came to Jason after much prayer and consideration and mentioned "now" was the time to start our family, IF we desired to have one. You see, I was 32 at the time and would be 33 at delivery. Certainly not a "spring chicken" by any defintion. And that was IF we conceived rather quickly. Jason would be 37 in August and after a whirlwind trip to Europe (gotta get that traveling out of the way...) we decided to take the plunge. And, if we are being totally honest, the decision was made so we would not regret later in life having no children to pass down a legacy. Well, God had his perfect timing and BAM- I conceived the first time around.

The first 12 weeks of my pregnancy were actually fairly enjoyable. I was ravenously hungry, ate anything I could get my hands on and didn't put on much weight at all. I am also one of those hated gals that did not experience morning sickness of any kind. Everything was progressing quite normally. But then it happened. Jason and I attended all the appointments together and never really paid much attention to the blood pressure machine consistently ticking up andup each visit. I always assumed it was because I am an excitable person, talking with my hands, laughing a lot. Well, one particular visit around week 18, Jason was making me laugh (which is not uncommon... he's a regular comedian, that one). My blood pressure was hovering around 130/60, which is still "normal" but approaching concern. Subsequent visits continued the same incline and by the time I reached week 28, my physician had had enough. My blood pressure reached an astonishing 200/100, and she pulled me from work and placed me on full bed rest with no visitors. I could leave my bed to use the restroom and take one shower a day. You would think I would enjoy this time but, trust me, it's anything but relaxing. Bed rest is quite uncomfortable and does a number on your body.

I spent a lot of time reading the Word and praying I would be able to carry our baby girl to her due date, May 5. Anxiety was a constant companion, along with her friends, boredom and excessive swelling. During this time, you could press your fingers on my spine and still be able to see the imprints 10 minutes later. Jason started calling my feet "little rhinoceros feet." To say I didn't feel pretty is an understatement. But, God had His timing, once again. I was in bed for four weeks. Then, during a routine appointment, the lab results came back completely out of whack and my physician wouldn't even let me get off the examination table. She put me in a wheelchair and wheeled me directly to the adjoining hospital to be admitted. Preeclampsia was the diagnosis. The following day, I gave birth via cesarean section to a tiny little blessing. Adelyn Belle was born at 32 weeks and a day. She was merely 3 lbs. 9 oz. But God's hand was present and never wavered. Addie Belle was completely healthy, just tiny. She spent seven weeks in the NICU and was taken care of by a group of God-sent angels.

Amy holding Adelyn the day they left the hospital.

Even though my pregnancy was anything but normal, God always knew this would be my experience. And He knew exactly how to take care of me and my little one. Adelyn is home now. She is almost 6 lbs. and progressing normally, thank the good Lord. He carried us both. Through the stress of pregnancy and the endless nights at the NICU, He never left us.


After I retired from diving, I wanted to start a family, like yesterday. But month after endless month, well, there was no baby on the horizon. The end of every month was so depressing and heart wrenching. I got to a point where I would take a pregnancy test just to see the negative result so I wouldn't get excited and hopeful just to have my heart break again.

Eriek was not ready to adopt yet, and neither one of us wanted to endure infertility treatments. I was angry and confused. I yelled at God, a lot. People said horribly insensitive things, and I was so caught up in my own despair of not getting what I wanted, that I struggled to attend showers and be happy for all of my friends who were popping out babies right and left.

One day it dawned on me that maybe God's plan wasn't for me to have kids.
I was NOT okay with that. Then He gave me this whammy:
"Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
-2 Corinthians 12:8-10
I realized that I didn't think Jesus was sufficient. He wasn't enough for me. I wanted kids more than I wanted to trust Christ with my life. I didn't trust His plan. I had my own plan that I wanted.

This knocked me to my knees. Over several months I grieved that maybe I'm not meant to have kids, but during that time I began to ask God to help me trust Him more, to know that He is sufficient for my life and that He alone is enough for me.

As I began to come out of my grieving period, Eriek felt the call to adopt. And I was THROUGH THE MOON! We celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary by filling out adoption paperwork for Zoe. On our 8th anniversary, we found out we were pregnant with Arella.

I learned Jesus is enough, then He chose to give me the desires of my heart. Through that process He began to show me the desires of His heart which are becoming mine. I've learned that His ways better than mine. He's also shown me, as He's knitting my family together in a unique way- one far more beautiful than I would have dreamed possible.

For more pregnancy fun:

Here's a post where I compare pregnancy and adoption.

Check out my "bumpy road" where I posted weekly bump pictures with the girls.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Mission: Impossible Baby

When we became parents, Eriek and I had no idea we would suddenly have the alter egos of Impossible Missions Force (IMF) Agents. However our missions are not against evil organizations and crime lords. We are up against the toughest of the tough:

The Baby

At first I thought we were crazy people. The things we would do because of this tiny little human in our home were absurd, ridiculous, and borderline insane. But as we embarrassingly admitted a few stories to our friends, we realized that, in fact, upon the very instant you become a parent, you also don this wacky IMF persona.

All of our missions vary depending on the targeted drop zone and the Baby's modus operandi that hour. Here are 10 covert ops and challenges an Agent faces:

  1. Agent holds, walks, bounces, and/or swings Baby until Baby falls asleep. This can last anywhere from 5 to 60 minutes.
  2. If Agent attempts to sit with sleeping Baby, as soon as Agent's rear touches chair, Baby's eyes may pop wide open, often combined with an isolated shout of disapproval. Then the first step may be repeated.
  3. When Baby falls asleep in cradle hold, only an experienced Agent can lay Baby in crib and successfully remove his arm from underneath Baby without Baby waking up.
  4. The Pacifier is one of the Agent's most useful field tools, but also one of the trickiest. The Pacifier has been known to knock out Baby in a matter of seconds. But if Pacifier falls out (sometimes repeatedly), it can completely compromise the Mission.
  5. If Baby is in crib, Agent may lay a hand on Baby's chest until Baby appears asleep. Over the course of 10 excruciatingly long minutes, Agent ever so slowly peels hand off. Occasionally Baby thwarts this tactic with an isolated arm swing and ninja like grip on Agent's hand before it can be extracted.
  6. Agent will close eyes, hoping Baby will mimic the stealth action. As Agent peeks ever-so-slightly with one eye, Baby is often found beaming a huge grin directly at Agent. This can result in Agent being sideline for the rest of the Mission.
  7. If Baby falls asleep in crib, the manner in which Agent attempts to leave the room will vary based on the crouched hiding position Agent finds himself in. Usually there is tiptoeing, crawling, scooting, slithering, taking one step every 3 minutes or a combination of these techniques in order to remain undetected.
  8. Agent will successfully get Baby to sleep, only to hear the dreaded noise of a serious blowout as Agent has reached the door. Baby will sleep through blowout but inevitably wake up during the diaper change. Mission will be scrapped and attempted again.
  9. It is not unusual for Agent to make it safely undetected to the door only to be caught once the first foot has entered the hallway.
  10. Agents are often wounded in action. Common injuries are numb arm from hanging over crib rail, back pain from awkward half-bent-side-stance next to crib, a crick in the neck from looking down at Baby in arms, twisted knee from swaying Baby side-to-side, bicep strain from holding Baby for long periods over shoulder, throat soreness from shushing and singing to Baby and general achy muscles from standing completely still in strange positions to avoid detection.

In case you've yet to experience Mission: Impossible Baby, here is a little taste of an IMF dad on a very difficult Mission.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Beauty In My Fall

This week I read so many great articles from different perspectives about Mother's Day. Some reminded me about those that will be hurting today. Some had sweet kid moments that made me cry. Some prompted me to pray for Zoe's biological mom. Some inspired me to reach out to others before myself on this day. One in particular humbled me.

I'm competitive (I bet you never would've guessed). It's not always about being better than someone else though. For me it's usually about doing a thing the absolute very best it can possibly be done. I work hard at everything I attempt. I like working hard. I like it when I can see results from my work. That's fulfilling to me. That's pride.

But this has a hidden danger in it. I often work myself to the bone- all blood, sweat and tears style- to try and see these "fulfilling results" and to feel accomplished. Sometimes I succeed. And sometimes I fall.  Flat.  On.  My.  Face.  Then insecurity comes rushing in to squelch the day, quickly followed by a feeling of complete and utter failure. And I go from putting in my 110% to wanting to give up and quit, or just bang my head against the wall. (I'm kind of an all-or-nothing type personality.)

This being my innate way of functioning, I approached motherhood in the same manner. But there are a few reasons this doesn't work AT ALL:

  • The job of mom is 24/7. You can't be at 110% for 24/7. I tried. I made it maybe the first 36 hours.
  • You can't give up or quit. The kids are still there. They are still staring or crying at you, waiting.
  • You likely won't see results until you pay off your 30 year mortgage.
  • When you fall flat on your face, you will get stepped on, jumped on, climbed on, pulled on, drooled on, spit on, pinched, poked, scratched........
  • The little people you are trying so hard to impress and get results from may not ever acknowledge your efforts.
  • The amount of time, energy, hard work and passion you put into your kids will not always be reflected back through their actions.
  • You can work amazingly hard at getting everyone all put together but your 2 year old will spill the morning's embarrassing secrets to the grocery store checkout clerk.
  • If you have more than one kid, you are outnumbered. There is crazy strength in numbers.
  • A 2 year old throwing a tantrum does more brain damage to a parent than nails down a chalkboard.
  • At some point, you can't hold their hand or tell them what to do any more. They have to do it on their own.
But I'm discovering the beauty in my fall from pride. I'm learning that it's okay to not have it all figured out. It's not the end of the world if I screw up; it's the beginning of God. If I could do it all perfectly on my own, I wouldn't call out to God. If I didn't call out to God, I would never know the power of His unending, merciful, loving grace. His grace that I can't earn but He just wants to give me because He. Is. Enough.

"So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

- 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Today I tried to make Mother's Day about more than me. I attempted to make it about others, but I failed again. My pride took over- inside I wanted to be acknowledged and pampered. My insecurity nearly drowned me, telling me I wasn't good enough because I didn't receive these things the way I wanted. I moped. I had my own little pity party. Then grace showed up.

Downloading my pictures from Zadok's baby dedication this morning, it hit hard. On my own I will continue to fail. I will always fall short because I'm human. But when I allow God to reign in my life, when I trust that He is enough, I'm showered in contentment and peace. 

 It's Arella's birthday so, yes, she was Cinderella at church today.

We dedicated Zadok this morning (as we did Zoe in 2013 & Arella in 2012), to commit before friends, family and God to raise our child up to love and follow Jesus. The big question we always ask is, "How in the world do I do that?"

"Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ."
-1 Corinthians 11:1

 Christ came to serve, not to be served. He said to love as He loved. 

"Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." -John 15:13

When we begin to understand that depth of love He has for us, when we begin to learn how to accept that kind of love from Him, it should overflow to others around us, including our kids.

So how do we raise up our kids to love and follow Jesus? WE imitate Jesus. Kids learn from example, right? So...

We love. Jesus said to love God with all our heart, soul and mind. And to love others, even our enemies. (Matthew 22:37-39 & Matthew 5:43-47)

We read His Word. Jesus taught the scriptures and fulfilled them. (Luke 22:37)

We pray. Jesus prayed often and even told us how to pray. (Matthew 6:5-15)

We discipline. The Lord disciplines the one He loves. (Hebrews 12:6)

We offer grace. By grace we have been saved. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

We have new mercies every morning. His steadfast love never ceases. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

We love them right in the middle of desperate places. While we were still His enemies, God sent His Son to pay our ransom. (John 3:16-17)

Pastors prayed over the families dedicating children.

As we imitate Christ, contentment comes while pride and insecurity are washed away.

A messy, beautiful, chaotic, miraculous, unexhangeable and irreplaceable gift. - See more at:
A messy, beautiful, chaotic, miraculous, unexhangeable and irreplaceable gift. - See more at:
A messy, beautiful, chaotic, miraculous, unexhangeable and irreplaceable gift. - See more at:
A messy, beautiful, chaotic, miraculous, unexhangeable and irreplaceable gift. - See more at:
A messy, beautiful, chaotic, miraculous, unexhangeable and irreplaceable gift. - See more at:
A messy, beautiful, chaotic, miraculous, unexhangeable and irreplaceable gift. - See more at:

Friday, May 9, 2014

Dear Mother's Day

Dear Mother's Day,

You are such a complicated day. I'm not sure whether to give you a warm embrace or throw you out the window.

When I was young, you were fun, full of crafts and yummy things to eat. As I grew up, you became more of a Hallmark and FTD requirement. Eventually you lightened up and felt more like a trip down memory lane. Then a time came when I hated you- I wanted to hide and cry every time you came around. Just a few years ago, I softened to you, feeling closer to you, that we belonged together.  But now, I'm a little concerned that you are not who I thought you were.

You are beautiful and sweet on the outside, but there is a darkness inside. You give us the chance to celebrate and love on moms we care deeply about. You allow us a special moment to lift them up and serve them. But you also cast a shadow on the children who have lost parents, on the moms who have lost children, on the moms that desperately want to be but aren't, on stepmoms that get overlooked, on single moms that have no support, on the young pregnant girl that is terrified to be a mom, on the girl who gave her child up for adoption, on the one who mourns her abortion.

Mother's Day, I'm just not sure what to do with you. For so long I wanted you to celebrate me; I wanted you to be MY day. But now that I've tasted the heartache and I've seen the pain in others, I want so much more from you. I still want you to celebrate moms, but I also want you to swoop up and comfort the broken and hurting.

I guess I can't expect you to do that all by yourself. After all, you are just a day.

But you are a day that gives ME the opportunity to do something for someone else.

"If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him."  John 13:14-16

Oh Mother's Day, can we can team up?  Will you help me bring light into some hidden dark places? Will you help me remind people that you're about celebrating those moms we love, but you're also about extending that love outside of our family to our neighbors that aren't celebrating? Maybe then we can become the best of friends.


A Mom

Ps- Here are some great ways we can help Mother's Day out:

Mercy House Kenya

Stepping Up- Helping Others On Mother's Day

How Not To Be Disappointed This Mother's Day

Please Pick One

Thursday, May 1, 2014

"When Sparkly, Safe Faith Is No Longer Enough"

Back in November at a ladies' retreat, my friend, Danielle, introduced me to her friend, Kristen, as we all sat down for lunch on the last day. Kristen seemed friendly and was soft spoken. We all talked a bit about the weekend, then Danielle mentioned Kristen started Mercy House. My fork stopped halfway to my mouth. I'd heard about this Mercy House through the grapevine and at an adoption conference. I had looked it up on the internet and knew it was about helping single young moms in Kenya, but that's about all I knew. (It's actually a non-profit maternity home for homeless and impoverished women in Kenya.)

Being all head over heels for helping and serving orphans, I immediately asked the BIGGEST question possible. You know, the one that to answer fully would require MUCH more time than we had before the final session of the retreat began. But I just had to know, so out it came: "How did you start Mercy House?"

Her passion and desire to tell her story was greater than the clock. So she started talking fast and to the point from the beginning. By the time we got to the cheesecake, tears were falling all around the table.

We'd known each other all of 30 minutes, but I was already inspired, encouraged, and ready to embark on a crazy adventure. Seriously, my life was just impacted by her story, like God rammed me with a big rig to wake me from my stupor.

Following the retreat we kept in touch, and I've really enjoyed her blog, We Are THAT Family. So when Kristen announced she had written and was releasing a book, of course I jumped at the opportunity to snatch it up!

When I started reading Rhinestone Jesus, I thought I would just be getting the rest of the story, the details that maybe I missed in our hurried conversation back at the retreat. But as I kept reading, I was pulled into so. much. more.

As I poured through the pages, I felt like I was sitting with her at lunch again, hanging on every last word. Her heart oozes off the page, and I'm convicted, encouraged, inspired, and motivated. She shows us that a small "yes" from an ordinary person trusting an extraordinary God will, in fact, turn the world upside down.

She lays it all out there- infertility, broken marriage, the day she went to hell. It's raw and honest. It's you. It's me.

It's saying "yes" to God regardless of what He's asking- big or small. Kristen doesn't just tell us her story, she tells us how to live out His story. 

You will be challenged. You will be changed. You will desperately want to say "YES!" today, right now, even in the middle of the mess of life. 

Learn how to make your "yes" matter by ordering Rhinestone Jesus here. Even your very first little "yes" of ordering the book will be making a difference around the world, as part of the proceeds directly benefit The Mercy House.

#rhinestonejesus  #yesinmymess