Personal Writing

The first man I ever loved

“Jessica!” I hear his voice echo through the empty church. “Come on, it’s time to go!”

I peek my head over the smooth edge of the wooden pew and see my dad heading towards me. Running my hand along the back of the pew as I move easily through the tiny aisle, I skip over to meet him. His big, warm hand envelopes my small one and together we walk through the doors.

This is my first memory of my dad. I was probably two or three years old at the time, and I don’t have a clue as to the context of the memory. I couldn’t tell you which church it was, what city we were in, or even why we were there. But I can still remember the feeling, even after all these years, of hearing my dad’s comforting voice and not really caring about anything else. It didn’t matter what came next – lunch, maybe, or home to see my mom; we were together so I was happy.

1011857_10152246234597474_1089348598_nFast-forward a few years. I’m seven or eight now, watching my dad as his fingers skip quickly and effortlessly across the ivory keys of our old piano. The melodies blend beautifully with his voice and the sound floats through the high arches of our piano room, amplified by the wooden floors below. He sings words he wrote to the tunes he created and I watch with fascination as I try to sing along. My dad never had a lesson in his life, I think. Will I be able to create music this good when I grow up? His eyes catch mine and he beckons me to come sit with him. I climb up on the thin cushion of the piano seat and together we sing his songs… “I believe that God made the ocean, then He came and was baptized in the sea. I believe that God made the mountains and led up there to be tempted by the enemy. I believe that God made the forest, then was crucified upon a tree. And I believe that God will return, in Jesus Christ, to glorify His redeemed.”

1530421_10152246234642474_1790361373_nNow I’m ten or eleven. New York is experiencing some of the worst thunderstorms I’ve ever seen in my short life. My sister and I lay shivering in our shared room, hiding under the covers as lightening slices through the night sky and thunder cracks deafeningly overhead. “Do you think the roof is going to crash in on us?” I ask my sister, whose bed is pushed against mine. The door creaks open a bit, shedding a sliver of light that breaks up some of the darkness. I see my dad’s silhouette tiptoeing in and breathe a sigh of relief as he climbs to the middle of our beds and lies between my sister and I, putting a big strong arm around each of us. He starts to sing “I Love You, Lord” and a sense of calm relaxes my body. My eyes droop shut and I fall asleep against his chest, listening to the echoing vibrations of his softly singing voice.

My dad is the very best person I know. His heart for Jesus and for people is truly unmatched by anyone I’ve ever met. He was the first one to share the Gospel with me and he is the one who has helped me and guided me in my personal walk with Jesus all these years. I can remember dancing around the living room with him, making up songs to help me remember Bible verses…and then reciting those same verses in my head whenever I was feeling lost. I can remember running through mock evangelism conversations with him while we sat side by side on the front step of our house in New York…and then using some of the ideas I learned from him to talk to my friends about Jesus. I can remember family Bible studies, reading through missionary books together, and one-on-one prayer times. My childhood was more blessed than I ever could have realized at the time, and my dad is most of the reason why.


Growing up, we never had the biggest house on the block, we never had the fanciest new car, and my parents were always trying to find creative ways to save money (e.g., getting Internet through the Comsewogue Library?? I still don’t know how that worked). But we had more than most and more than we needed. My dad gave up his dreams of stardom and musical fame to make a living for my mom, my sisters, and me. I’ve watched him graciously suffer through jobs he hated, awful bosses, and terribly long hours – all with a smile on his face and the love of Jesus in his heart. He has sacrificed everything – so much more than I deserve – to give me the beautiful life I’ve had so far.

I have very few memories of my dad where he isn’t smiling or laughing or making up very silly songs or playing funny1005559_10151772575327474_1475014998_n jokes on people. He instantly becomes friends with everyone he meets and genuinely invests in their thoughts, ideas, and even worries. When you talk to my dad, he honestly makes you feel as though you are the single most important thing in the world to him. Like absolutely nothing but your immediate conversation is of any significance. Like maybe whatever you’ve been struggling with isn’t so hard, after all. Maybe, because he believes you can take on anything, you should believe that you can too. And if it doesn’t work out? That’s okay. God has a better plan for you anyway.

He has a way seeing through people’s facades, knowing what they need, and bringing Jesus’ pure light into even the evilest darkness. There have been countless times where I thought I was putting on a good show and had everyone fooled by my fake smiles and empty laughter. And maybe I really did have most people fooled, but not my dad. He would just march straight into my room and sit with me while I cried, helping me fix my broken heart and reminding me again to fall on my Savior.

Sometimes, late at night when everyone else is asleep, I walk down the silent hallway to fill my glass with water, and through the cracked back door I see my dad wrapped in his soft brown blanket, looking up in wonder at the stars that dot the sweeping Arizona night sky. I never know what he’s thinking and I never want to intrude and ask. But I imagine that maybe he’s thinking about Abraham from the Bible as he gazes up at the same stars and prays to the same loving Savior. I bet sometimes he’s praying for me, because that is just how he is.

Today on your birthday, Daddy…I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for everything you are and everything you’ve been for me. I’m sure I don’t even realize all that you’ve done for me yet, but the older I get the more immeasurably thankful I become for every bit of what you’ve given me. Thank you for your advice, your wisdom, your jokes, your honesty, your sacrifices, and your love. You are one of the greatest blessings I’ll ever have and I couldn’t be more grateful to God for letting me be your daughter. This letter to you doesn’t come close to saying everything in my heart, but I hope it shows you just a little bit of how much you mean to me. No matter where I go or who I become, you will always be the first man I ever loved.

I love you more than words, Daddy…and I’ll always be thankful that you loved me first, too. Happy birthday. ❤

Love always,

Jessica Joy (I’m a girl, not a boy)

P.S. Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet, and you are my dad. They call me The Rhymer. I make good rhymes.

my dad, dressed in his best to impress his neighborhood crush.

Originally posted on Becoming Mrs. Iwanski (February 25th, 2014)

Life with Jameson, Personal Writing

Our breastfeeding journey

i-192If you haven’t guessed from the title, surprise! I want to spend a little time talking about the experience I had breastfeeding my first baby. 🙂 This will probably be a longer post so skip it if you like. It’s really mostly for myself, to reflect on so many things that have been tumbling around in my brain and to write them all out so I don’t forget.

Jameson is almost 23 months now and I can finally say that he’s officially weaned. This might seem – to some people – like a really long time to nurse a baby, but I hope as I dive a little bit deeper into our story that it’ll encourage and inspire you to find what works best for you and your baby, and to do that thing confidently no matter what sort of pressure is telling you to change.

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 presetLet me just start by saying that I went into breastfeeding without many expectations. I had done my research prior to giving birth and I knew (for many reasons) that breastfeeding was what I wanted above all else. But I wasn’t dead-set on any aspect of it. I figured we’d try it out, see what was working, and change things up as we went along. Sort of just learn on the job. I wasn’t opposed to pumping or supplementing with formula (although I was hoping to avoid that) or even giving it up if it wasn’t working for whatever reason. But I really, really wanted it to work and I think that was the most important thing.

When Jameson was first born, breastfeeding was by far the most difficult part about motherhood for me. The sleepless nights, the postpartum recovery, the total shift in all of your priorities…I could handle all that just fine (haha, okay not completely fine). But breastfeeding was hard. It’s a huge new skill that you and your baby both have to learn, and I unfortunately didn’t get a whole lot of direction while in the hospital. The nurses showed me a few different positions and made sure I was staying on schedule but beyond that I had to figure it out on my own.IMG_3886The first night home was incredibly stressful for me. I remember sitting in the rocking chair in Jameson’s nursery, both of us crying, because he wouldn’t latch on and when he did…it hurt so terribly. I called a few different breastfeeding help lines that week (Le Leche League was the most helpful) and had my mom come over to try and show me what I was doing wrong. But honestly it was a lot of trial and error, and mostly error.

When Jameson was about a week old I broke down and admitted I needed more help than just looking up YouTube videos and trying to explain things over the phone. I was cracked, sore, and engorged on top of everything. I cried every time it was time to nurse, and with Jameson being so young that was every 2-3 hours. There was no time in between feedings for me to heal so I just kept getting worse and worse. I so badly wanted to feel that sweet connection with him and to bond over something just the two of us would share, but instead I was dreading each painful session.

That week I found a breastfeeding support group through the hospital I had given birth at and saw that it was led by a certified lactation consultant. Alex was still off from work so he came with us (bless him) and we stayed after the meeting to talk with the consultant. She immediately saw what I was doing wrong and helped me switch up the position until I felt absolutely no pain. I was shocked! Even though I was so sore and definitely not healed yet, it didn’t hurt to feed my son. I wanted to make that consultant my best friend. She singlehandedly saved our breastfeeding journey.

IMG_4682Instead of dreading every feeding, I started getting so excited when Jameson would get hungry. I was so eager to practice the new position and bond with him in a way I hadn’t been able to before. The more we practiced the better we both got and soon I was all the way healed and Jameson was nursing like a pro. Oh such sweet relief! Before long I was even comfortable nursing in public.

I think what I loved most about our new-found skill was the fact that I was the only one who could provide this for Jameson. I never pumped our entire journey because I loved having it just for ourselves. Sometimes it was draining (literally, ha!) but it was also the best decision I made for us. Besides being so so good for him nutritionally, I could use breastfeeding as an excuse to get some alone time with my him, or use it to comfort him, or use it to help him get to sleep. I used it for all these things and more, and I loved every minute of it. I can’t remember a single moment where I felt annoyed when he wanted to nurse. I really, truly loved it.


Months went by and we got into a routine. I started him on solids just for fun around 7 months but breastfeeding was his primary source of nutrition until he was at least one. I nursed him to sleep for pretty much every nap and every bedtime, something I was warned again and again not to do because he would he would “become dependent on it.” I didn’t listen and did it anyway. He preferred it that way, I preferred it that way, and it was just working well for us. And looking back now, I don’t regret it one single bit. Those quiet moments in Jameson’s dark nursery, me nursing him in the rocking chair as he drifted off to sleep every night, I will treasure those moments forever. They’re some of my very favorites.

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Once he turned one I started feeling the pressure to wean him. People look at you funny when you’re nursing a toddler and I was being asked a lot, “Are you still breastfeeding?” I began questioning myself, too. I had always wanted to make it to the year mark but it had come and gone and we were still trucking along. The more I thought about weaning the more panicked I got and that’s how I knew my answer. We weren’t ready to quit. I still loved nursing and Jameson loved it too so there really wasn’t a reason to stop.

I think when it’s your first baby you just try so hard to “do the right thing.” You research a ton, you listen to your friends’ opinions, you try your best to do everything in the socially acceptable timeframe. Sleep train at this age, start solids at that age, stop nursing at this age. But it’s not so cut and dry. I wish I could go back and tell myself it was going to work out in its own time. That Jameson would be fine if I nursed him to sleep every night or if we started solids later than everyone was telling me to or if we kept breastfeeding until he was almost two. I wish I could tell myself to enjoy his babyhood just a bit more and not worry so darn much.

IMG_8778Over the next year the more regular food Jameson ate, the less we nursed. It was sort of a natural progression. Towards the end he was only nursing twice a day, once before his nap and once before bed. Sometimes he’d want to nurse a third time randomly during the day and I pretty much always let him. I knew this part of our relationship was coming to a close and I wanted to enjoy it as much as possible. By this point I had decided not to let the opinions of others rob me of the joy I had in breastfeeding my baby.

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Then when Jameson was around 17 months old, I got pregnant. This didn’t change much at first and I was fine with the thought of breastfeeding through pregnancy and possibly tandem nursing after the baby was born. But then I started to see things that needed to be changed. I knew once I had a newborn around, I wouldn’t be able to spend 15 minutes nursing Jameson to sleep for every nap and every bedtime. We needed some new habits and we needed them formed before the baby arrived. So I got to work.

I didn’t cut him off completely from breastfeeding, but I did start training him to get to sleep on his own. Honestly this was what I was most afraid of because, like I said, I had been warned so many times that this would be a difficult habit to break. But by this point Jameson was ready. It was maybe three days of him crying to nurse while I rocked him like usual. I stayed strong and within a week I could put him down in his crib after a book and a song and he’d go to sleep on his own without complaint. What had I been so afraid of?! Truth be told, the transition was harder for me than it was for him. I cried a lot, wishing I could still nurse him to sleep like we always had. I missed him so much. But I knew it wouldn’t be practical when the new baby came, and the best thing I could do for my son was to give him the tools he needed to get to sleep on his own.

IMG_0100I let him nurse whenever he wanted during the day while I was sleep training him so that he could recharge and we could reconnect. And a couple of months later he naturally stopped asking to nurse. I could tell my milk supply was going away but he didn’t seem to mind much. I had been preparing myself for this big, emotional end to our breastfeeding journey but it was much simpler than that. We just sort of blended right into a new type of relationship. He would ask to nurse a few times a week, and then once a week, and then not at all.

I’m so happy it went the way it did because I couldn’t stand the thought of choosing to have “one last nursing session” and knowing it was our last time. Jameson weaned himself so I don’t remember our last time nursing. I think it was easier for me that way. I don’t need to remember our last time anyway; I have 22 wonderful months of memories before that.

Processed with Snapseed. Processed with VSCO with s2 presetNow, at almost 23 months, he’s my big boy. There are still some times where he’ll randomly ask for “mommy milk” but it’s usually when he’s tired or grumpy and he gets distracted before I can even say no. I’m interested to see how things go when the new baby is here in a few months, to see if he gets jealous of her nursing or wants to try it again for himself.

I’m really excited to start a whole new breastfeeding journey with my second baby. There are a lot of things I hope are similar, and some I hope are not. I hope I’ve learned enough to let things go and watch them unfold naturally. I hope I’ve learned to stop caring so much about what other people think of the choices I make for my kids. And I really hope I’ve learned to slow down and enjoy my babies while they’re still babies, because they won’t be this little for long.

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Helpful Tidbits, Personal Writing

12 lessons from my first year of parenting


It’s been a hot second since I’ve written something for my blog. I’ve been in sort of a writing slump the past few weeks, honestly. I have all these ideas of things I want to write about but then Jameson goes down for a nap and I have to choose between writing for my blog or doing some necessary housework or just SITTING for a second. Sitting usually wins.

BUT I really want to write about this, my first year of parenting. I want to document what God has taught me and I want it to hopefully be of some help to other new mommies who are currently in the thick of it. It’s been so good for me to meditate on the things I’ve learned in this year…to see what has been useful and to know what I’ll do differently if we’re ever blessed with another baby.

So here we are. Year one is complete. My sweet, snugly, wild, adventurous, wonderful baby boy is officially a toddler and he’s heading bright-eyed and bushy-tailed into his second year of life. This first year has challenged and changed me in ways I didn’t even know I needed. It has been painful at times, exhausting and confusing, stressful and exciting, so much fun, and so fulfilling. There’s nothing I’ve found in this world (apart from the salvation I have in Christ) that I love or cherish as much as motherhood.

And this is what I have learned…

  1. Nothing lasts forever. This is good news and bad news. The good news is that every hard thing you face in the first year (and beyond) is just a phase. Your baby will grow out of all those things that seem endless right now. But that also means that your baby will also grow out of your favorite things, too. Like those sleepy newborn yawns and stretches, the inchworm crawling, even the toddling around like a drunk sailor. All of it will pass you by eventually. Each new stage brings with it some hard things, but many many more wonderful things. Have fun with the good, wait out the bad.
  2. You know your baby best. Take all advice you get with a grain of salt. Some of it will be extremely wise and useful, some of it will be total crap (well-meaning crap, but crap all the same). Sift through it with your husband, on your own, with your Biblical lens on. You know what will work for you and for your child and it doesn’t have to match exactly what anyone else recommends.
  3. Don’t stress the scheduling thing.  “Get on a schedule, get on a schedule, get on a schedule…if you want to live.” I actually heard this advice when I was pregnant! Yes, scheduling will save your sanity down the road…but you don’t have to force it. I tried sleep training Jameson WAY too early and he just wasn’t ready. All it did was stress me out and make me feel like a failure because I couldn’t figure out how to get my baby to sleep at regular intervals throughout the day. I was angry all the time because I felt like Jameson wasn’t doing what he was “supposed to be doing” until one day I said ENOUGH! And let him sleep how and when he wanted to. Eventually we got into a routine and now he’s very scheduled, but I could have saved us both a whole lot of anxiety in those early days if I had taken a breath and focused on enjoying our time together, rather than how I was going to get him to take a “good” nap at the “right time.”
  4. Take a shower every day. Really, just do it. Even if you think you don’t have time. Even if you don’t trust anyone (not even your husband, lol sorry Alex) to take care of your infant. Hand someone that baby and take a shower. It’ll make you feel human again. Sometimes ten minutes (all by yourself!) is all you need to recharge.
  5. Don’t feel guilty about not enjoying everything. One of the most common pieces of advice I’ve received this year is the ever so well-meaning, “Enjoy every moment! Even the hard ones!” Well, I’m telling you right now…no mother enjoys every single moment. I certainly didn’t enjoy spending the night trying to get my three month old to stay asleep for more than 40 minutes straight at a time (YEAH, GOOD TIMES!!!). It can be so hard when people tell you that it “goes by so fast” and to “soak it all in” when it’s all you can do to not drown in a sea of spit up and restless sleep. Feeling frustrated or overwhelmed does not mean you aren’t thankful for motherhood or that you don’t love your child. It means that you’re feeling very real things that every mother feels. God can (and does) fortify you in your weakness. He is your refuge and your strength, and he is a very present help in your times of trouble. (Psalm 46:1)
  6. Find reasons to get out of the house a few times a week. For me, actually, more like at least once a day haha. I go a little nuts if I don’t. And it doesn’t have to cost money! Jameson and I have been known to hit up the garden center of Home Depot just to look at the flowers from time to time. The library is always a hit, too. Go on a walk or to the park or have a play date with some friends. It doesn’t matter, just get your booties out of the house. It can be hard at first, especially if your baby hates his car seat as much as Jameson used to hate his. But once you feel more comfortable, even just a half hour outside can change your whole day. I promise it’s worth it! It breaks up the monotony of your day and keeps you both from going stir crazy.
  7. Join a playgroup. This is along the same lines as number 6, but I feel it’s important. I only recently learned this but I wish I had sooner! Playgroups are an awesome opportunity for you to connect with other moms going through the same things, get advice, share stories, teach your kids about sharing and playing nice, and basically just get the chance to see that you’re not alone. Your library will probably have playgroups already scheduled for your child’s age range, which can be a great jumping off point. Or just start your own! My sister and I started meeting up with a few moms from our church and it’s already been such a blessing. Find your people. Join a playgroup.
  8. Put the camera down every so often. This is something I’m still learning and still working on. Taking pictures is so easy these days. Our phones come programmed with really nice cameras and they’re pretty much always with us. I’m tempted every day to try and document as much as I can. Jameson will do something cute and my very first instinct is to grab my phone and take a picture or video. But I don’t want it to be that way! I don’t want my teenage kids to someday come up to me asking for stories of their childhoods and me being like, “Hold on let me pull up my dusty old Instagram account.” No! I want real stories that I remember because I was fully present, no camera between my child and me. So even though I feel this pressure to capture every single adorable thing my baby does, sometimes I force myself not to. Sometimes it’s better to make a memory and keep it just for yourself.
  9. Make your marriage a priority. I’m writing this mostly as a reminder to myself. When all is said and done, when the kids are grown up and leading their own lives, it’ll be you and your spouse. It will always be you and your spouse. Your marriage should come even before your relationship with your kids. I know that sounds weird to say, especially in our culture, but it’s a lesson we need to learn if we want to be a good example for our children. I don’t mean neglect your kids and run off to spend tons of alone time with your husband, but carving out intentional time to be together (however that looks for you two) must be a priority. Your marriage should be “the foundation upon which all other aspects of family life [are] built” (Voddie Baucham Jr., Family Driven Faith). Discipline, discipleship, counseling, advice, every choice you make for your kids…it should all stem from the two of you working together as one for your family.
  10. Spend time praying over your child. I don’t just mean those moments throughout the day where you’re like, “Lord, give me strength right now because I’m about to LOSE MY MIND.” (Although that’s good, too.) I mean setting aside some time each day to pray thoughtfully and specifically for your child. I started making this more of a priority a few months ago and it has changed how I deal with difficulties in parenting so much. I chose a specific time of day (happens to be right after I put Jameson down for bed) and I just spend a few minutes every night in prayer over him. Sometimes I just thank God for a wonderful day with Jameson. Sometimes I pray for his future wife. Sometimes I’m on my knees next to his crib begging for forgiveness for all my shortcomings of the day, asking God to show me how to parent him better and lead him to Christ. Ever since I started doing this, I’ve found that I’m much more likely to turn to prayer during the day when we hit rough patches and it has been so good for both of us.
  11. Change your attitudes and actions first. This is probably one of the most important things God has taught me this year. You cannot parent well (at least not in the Biblical sense) if you’re too busy dealing with anger and frustration inside yourself. When Jameson is going crazy and I start feeling sorry for myself for having to deal with this (or worse, start feeling angry at Jameson for not doing what I want him to do)…I lose all hope of responding to the situation in a Godly, productive way. If, however, I turn to the Lord for help and begin trying to change my areas of sin, it suddenly becomes immensely easier to address the problem with gentleness.
  12. Give more grace. Every breath we take, every time our hearts beat, every moment of every day, we are experiencing God’s grace. He never tires of us even in our darkest, most sinful hour. We should be the same with our children. When they cry through the night, give them grace. When they spill their yogurt on your nice clean floor, give them grace. When they come to you whining and crying with a snotty nose for the 100th time that morning, give them grace.

(And give yourself grace, too. You are doing better than you think you are, and God is on your side.)



Life with Jameson, Personal Writing

The call to motherhood

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In the Spring of 2014 I held my breath and opened an email from Arizona State University. This was it, everything I had been working towards since my freshman year of high school when I decided, quite definitively for a fourteen year old, to pursue a career in Speech Pathology. It all came down to this one email. Heart racing, hands shaking, my eyes skimmed quickly through the salutation and anchored breathlessly on one word: “Congratulations!” Air whooshed out of my lungs. I was in. I was accepted into the Masters Program at my alma mater, one of the best schools in the nation for Speech Pathology.

I’m a Type-A planner and at that point in my life, things were chugging very merrily along on my plan for, well, everything. I was graduating in several months, getting married to the love of my life several weeks later, spending the summer doing this and that while trying my hand at being a stay-at-home wifey, and then diving headfirst that Fall into a phenomenal graduate program in the field I loved. I felt sure of myself, of my path, of where I was heading. Grad school. Then my Clinical Fellowship year. Then I’d work full-time for two years and pay off some loans. Wouldn’t even think about kids until I was at least 27. Focus, focus.

Then a funny thing happened that summer. Without school or work to distract me, I slowed down for the first time in my life and really thought about what I wanted, about what I was feeling called to do for the Lord. And I was pretty sure it wasn’t Speech Pathology.

You see, I had bought into the tragic idea of our culture that parenthood (particularly stay-at-home motherhood) is not as honorable a profession as a high-income, prestigious career. And I’ll admit it, I wanted that prestige. Of course this is not to say that there aren’t honorable, God-glorifying professions apart from parenthood; I just mean that in my life, I wanted the honor and the glory for all the wrong reasons. I wanted it for myself.

I spent that summer in turmoil, desperate to cling to my educational and professional plans but painfully aware that my heart was (seemingly out of nowhere) longing for a ministry in motherhood. I flipped and flopped and wrestled with my pride. I was afraid; afraid of being seen as a “quitter,” afraid of throwing away everything I’d worked so hard for, afraid of making a colossal mistake. But then again, I was also afraid of sinking $50,000+ in loans for a degree I wouldn’t even want to use for many, many years to come (if ever).

I ended up going to grad school for one semester and it drained me in every sense of the word…emotionally, mentally, physically, even spiritually. I gave it my all that whole semester; just ask my husband – we barely saw each other during that time, the first months of our marriage that we’ll never get back. But no matter how hard I tried to love this so-called passion of mine, it all began to feel pointless to me (someone who, up until that point, had placed almost all of my value in my educational and career goals). Such a drastic change could only be because God was changing my heart and softening me for something else.

By the end of the semester, I knew I couldn’t go back. I knew the desire of my heart was not Speech Pathology but to serve the Lord in motherhood, to care for the souls He might place in my protection and to do my best to faithfully raise them up in His name. It was a huge step of faith for me (and I didn’t handle it as gracefully as I wish I had), but Jesus was so gracious to me and so tender with my heart. The day before I would have had to go back to school I took a pregnancy test…and it was positive. I gave up my spot in the graduate program that afternoon and never looked back.

My life is much different today than I ever planned for it to be. But that’s just how God works (“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9). Recently I started reading Family Driven Faith by Voddie Baucham Jr. (highly recommended!) and he so perfectly and eloquently described what has been on my heart since I first started feeling my priorities shift to motherhood two years ago…

“God has a purpose that is larger than you – God has a plan that includes you – God has a place that suits you … The point, of course, is that not every person is called to the same type or place of ministry … Each of [us] has a place of ministry that suits [us] to a T and finding that place should be the passionate pursuit of [our] lives.”

That passionate pursuit for me is, and always will be, my children and my role in God’s kingdom as their mother. It took a lot of frustrating confusion, a lot of fear, a lot of stripping away my pride. But God knew where I would fit perfectly for ministry and He made sure I dedicated my life to the right pursuit. It might not be as glamorous or prestigious as a high-income career… but the work I do matters because it matters to the Lord.






Life with Jameson, Personal Writing

A last time for everything

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A few weeks ago, we started transitioning Jameson into his own room at night. We’ve been co-sleeping up until this point and I’m honestly so thankful for the time we got to spend together each night, snuggled up with his sweet, sleepy body between the two of us. But his four month sleep regression is hitting hard and we knew it was time to start adjusting him to sleeping in his crib.

I sobbed the first night he wasn’t with us. Of course, Jameson was absolutely fine sleeping by himself…but I wasn’t fine sleeping without him. My whole heart ached not having him within arm’s reach, not being close enough to swoop up and hold close at a moment’s notice. In reality, he was just down the hall and we could watch him comfortably on the video monitor but I still felt this odd, tremendous loss that night.

Then, suddenly, I knew exactly what it was. What was truly breaking my heart was the realization that there is a last time for everything with your babies, and most of the time you have no idea when it will come. At four months old, Jameson has already had plenty of “last times” for plenty of things…there was a last time that we swaddled him, a last time his cry sounded like a newborn’s, a last time he stretched in my favorite way. The change is gradual and you don’t always realize it’s happened until you stop and think, “When was the last time he needed my help for sitting up?”

Of course, all these changes aren’t complete losses. Things fade away to make way for other exciting things, like Jameson learning to roll or how to grab toys he wants or how to make fun new sounds. Suddenly you have twenty more things to be proud of your baby for. But still, deep down, you long for those things that faded away and wish you could have just one more chance to enjoy them.

Someday (hopefully a long time from now) there will be a last time that I get to hold Jameson. There will be a last time he comes to me asking to play. There will be a last time I help him with school work, a last time for kissing his scraped knees, a last time he’ll want me to hug his tears away. Someday all my favorite parts of his childhood will be only memories and it’s impossible to say exactly when it will happen.

I guess that’s what makes parenthood so special and compelling and beautiful, though. You just never know if this is the last time your sweet, sleepy baby will want to snuggle in your arms. Each moment is precious and each moment is fleeting.

So today I’m going to scoop my son up a few extra times. I’m going to kiss his little fuzzy head a bit more often and try a little harder to make him giggle. I’m going to rock him until my bones ache, sing to him until I have no more voice, fill up my lungs with his ever-fading baby scent, and…when he finally falls asleep in my arms and breathes a deep sigh of contentment, my soul will do the same.

Someday there will be a last time for all these sweet and simple moments. But today he is still small, and I still have just a bit more time to revel in the very precious blessing of being a mother.



Life with Jameson, Personal Writing

Alex Appreciation Post


Dear Alex,

You inspire me. I often wonder how I came to be so blessed as to have you all to myself. You make everything look so easy, so effortless. But I know it’s not.

You’re a full-time employee, a full-time student, a full-time husband, and now a full-time father. Everyone always needs something from you and you give your help so freely, all the time. At work, you fix your coworkers’ problems. For school, you fix your professors’ problems. At home you fix my problems, Jameson’s problems, and sometimes you even fix Charlie’s problems (like when he poops out a shoelace he ate or whatever). I can’t imagine being needed by so many people for so many different reasons, but you never complain.

I don’t think I’ve ever told you this, but there was a time near the beginning of our relationship where I distinctly remember thinking, “This is the man God made for me.” I was stressed and anxious that day and I started having a panic attack over something I can’t even remember now. You found me curled up on the floor of the walk-in closet in your old room, trying to hide from problems I needed to face. I expected you to laugh or maybe roll your eyes or even get mad at me, but of course you didn’t do any of those things. Without saying a single word, you immediately laid down right next to me on that closet floor, as if it was the most natural thing we could have been doing.

I think that’s when I started crying…not because of the stress, but because I was so overwhelmed by your gentle compassion for me. I didn’t deserve it then and I still don’t deserve it now, but you always choose to meet me where I am and quietly care for me in exactly the way I need. You have never once, since the day we met, let me carry my burdens on my own and for that I am continually and immeasurable thankful. You are remarkable, my sweet husband.

Our love looks different now that we have our son, but you still care for me in exactly the ways I need. What used to be sappy love letters, late night phone calls, donut surprises, and extravagant Valentine’s gifts are now quiet moments together watching Jameson play, whispers over his sleepy little body “Oh he’s just so cute!”, surprises here and there of household chores completed, and you gently lifting our baby from my tired hands and saying, “Don’t worry, I can take him.” Yes, our love looks different now…but in all the best ways.

I want you to know how much I appreciate you and love you. I love your sweetness and silliness towards our son. I love your steadiness in my weaknesses. I love that you’re not afraid of hard work and that you welcome challenges. I love your mind and your curiosity and your unquenchable desire for more of Jesus. In fact, right now on the little table next to your side of the bed there are about six books of theology you’re consistently working through, on top of your usual Bible reading. You want to know Jesus more and I’ve seen so many ways He’s honored and used that for His glory over our years together.

Today, and every day, I hope you know how privileged I feel to be your wife. You’ve given me the very best life (and a super cute son). We love you so so much. Thank you for all you do for us.




Life with Jameson, Personal Writing

Friendships after baby

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I’ve been meaning to write something about this for awhile but (in keeping with the theme of this post, ironically) it’s been hard to find the time. Somehow, I didn’t really think or worry too much during my pregnancy about how my friendships would be affected by the birth of my son. I guess I just naively assumed that things would stay relatively the same or maybe wouldn’t change at all. Not really the case.

Some things stay the same, some things get better…and some things get much harder. At least when your baby is as young as Jameson is right now. Making plans can be stressful…so much is just up in the air when you have an itty bitty infant. For those of you with kids, you know exactly what I mean. But for those who don’t just yet, imagine for a moment….

Your friend asks you to hang out. The answer used to be simple and based on one question…are you busy or free? But now a million considerations suddenly jump into your head, considerations that didn’t used to be factors at all. Is he going to need a nap at that time of day? Will he be in a good mood? If you’re meeting up somewhere…is there somewhere you can take him if he needs a break from stimulation? Can you feed him easily when he’s hungry?

Then you make the plans and the day comes and you’re running late. He’s in his third outfit of the day (poop fiasco in the first outfit, spit up on the next two) and you’re in your second (poop fiasco nailed you too). You strap him in his car seat while he’s crying big fat tears because he doesn’t like the feeling of being confined and you lug him out the door into the car, praying the whole time that he doesn’t scream for the entire drive…but he does and you feel like a terrible mom for forcing him into this and not being able to comfort him.

You arrive at the restaurant or wherever it was you decided on, which you chose so that your friend wouldn’t have to drive too far or feel weird about the fact that you have a baby now…you used to eat out together all the time so you’re trying to keep things as normal as they can be.

You meet your friend and for awhile it’s better than old times. You chat and laugh and your baby is happy to be out of his jail cell (aka the car seat) and he flashes her that grin you love so much. But then he gets tired and it’s too loud and bright and he can’t sleep. You know all he wants is to lay down and nap but there’s nowhere to go and he still hates that car seat. It’s only been 30 minutes, though, hardly a reasonable length of time to catch up with your friend so you bounce your baby around and distract him as much as possible while trying to listen as intently as you can to your friend. It works until it doesn’t and after another stressful 30 minutes you admit defeat and apologetically say you have to get home.

Back in the car seat he goes, anxiously crying for you to just please hold him and you guiltily strap him in for the ride back.

It’s not always like this. It really isn’t. But like I said, three-month-olds have their own (often unpredictable) schedules and you can’t expect too much from them. So sometimes it is like that and sometimes you don’t make plans with friends just so you can avoid those situations. You regret all the moments you’re missing but your baby comes first, always, and you do what you can to make sure his life is consistent and happy and safe.

It won’t always be this way…someday he’ll be five and then six and then fifteen and I won’t always be worried about how to make time for my friends when life is so unpredictable.

And it’s not so bad. I’ve come to be extra thankful for the friends I have who don’t mind when my son is cranky and don’t mind driving all the way to my house so that Jameson’s schedule isn’t messed up. I’m extra thankful for those who love me and love my son and understand that he is my whole entire world now. Those who are okay with infrequent meet ups and occasional texts while I figure out this whole motherhood thing (actually I may never figure it out all the way, but I’m trying). Those who are willing to still be my friend even though many things are different and to get to know the boy I love with everything in me, on his good days and bad days and everything in between.


Helpful Tidbits, Life with Jameson, Personal Writing

Things I wish I had known when I was pregnant

There’s a pretty good amount of fear that comes along with a first pregnancy, no matter who you are or how calm you usually are about major life changes. For a Grade-A Worrier such as myself, that fear (of the unknown, of the what-if’s, of the crap that people scared me about) was something I wrestled with at times throughout my pregnancy. Now that I’m here and have almost two months of parenting under my belt I can see exactly what a colossal waste of time all that worrying was. (Hindsight, yo.) But in my defense, I just really didn’t know at the time. And when you have so many sources telling you to basically just brace yourself for the storm that is childbirth and newborn parenting, it’s easy to get scared. That’s why I decided to write this…for anyone who might be scared right now and anyone who might be scared in the future. My main theme: whatever you’re worrying about will probably not be anywhere near as bad as you’re imagining it to be, and – in fact – will probably pleasantly surprise you. So here we go. Things I wish I had known when I was pregnant…

#1. Giving birth to your first baby won’t necessarily be a long and terribly painful experience. I was all ready to be in blinding, horrifying pain for like 30 hours straight and fully expected to be begging for the epidural the second we reached the hospital. This was because of the countless horrible, scary things I had heard/seen/read about childbirth (especially concerning your first time with labor). Well guess what. You are stronger than you think and God can totally surprise you. Your body is capable of so much more than you realize and it’s actually (*gasp!*) designed to do this. Yes it hurts and yes it might take longer than you want it to, but it’s nothing you can’t handle. Your mindset is your biggest tool with which to battle the pain. If you go in determined to have the kind of birth you want (particularly those who want to do it completely naturally like I did), the pain won’t be the thing to stop you (obviously some things are outside your control, but pain is totally manageable). Plus, labor is just exciting! You get to meet your baby at the end and you know the end is coming soon. No one told me how excited I’d feel, even during the hardest parts.

#2. Your body will be different after giving birth but you won’t care nearly as much about it as you thought you would. Seriously. You won’t. I spent so much time freaking out about what I would do to lose the baby weight, get rid of stretch marks, fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes, etc. etc. And yeah, some things about your body will be different but you’ll be so surprised by how much you literally don’t even care once you have your baby. You know what I care about now? Making sure my son is healthy and safe and taken care of. The amount of time I spend thinking about my appearance is drastically less than it ever has been in my life (which is actually an enormous blessing that I’m so thankful to God for). And actually, you’ll be surprised by how resilient your body is. Most things really do go right back to normal within a matter of weeks.

#3. Your relationship with your husband will change, but it’ll be better. Whaaaat?? Are you kidding me? No, it’s true. I can’t even tell you how many times I was warned (while I was pregnant) to enjoy the time I had with my husband while I still could because we’d never have time for each other after the baby. That, my friends, is a load of garbage. Alex works full-time and goes to school online full-time and we still have no problem making time for each other. Yes, Jameson is always with us too but that makes it better, not worse like so many people make it seem. No one told me that we’d have all these inside jokes about our son and crack ourselves up about them all the time. No one told me that I’d fall more in love with my husband as I watched him fall in love with my baby and that this new love would be so much deeper and richer than the way it was before. No one told me that I wouldn’t want to be apart from Jameson and that Alex wouldn’t either…that we’d be happiest when we were all together. If you don’t have a baby yet, absolutely enjoy this season of your lives together. But don’t be afraid that you’ll have to “give it up” because really, it feels like you’re gaining so much more. (You are.)

#4. You won’t be anywhere near as sleep-deprived as everyone seems to think you will be. This was something I was dreading about the newborn phase because, once again, I was warned countless times to “enjoy sleep while I can” since those late night wake-up calls were apparently going to ruin everything good about sleep. Not true. Not every newborn is a crappy sleeper. Jameson was giving us three hour stretches from the very beginning and would wake up 2-3 times a night to eat for ten minutes and go right back to sleep on his own. Totally manageable. I understand that it’s not that way for everyone but I was made to believe that I would basically be a zombie during the day because my baby would be keeping me up for hours and hours at night. It just wasn’t true and I was worried for nothing. Plus, I’ve never minded waking up to care for him. Even his little cries don’t bother me at all. I actually love that he still needs me so much…someday he won’t. And for the days where it is harder than usual (because sometimes it is)… coffee. Problem solved.

#5. Breastfeeding is probably going to be hard (and quite possibly painful) at first and then it’s going to get ten million times better. Just hang in there. I knew that it might be tricky at first (after all, it’s a brand new skill that you and your baby both have to learn) but I think I was kind of hoping I’d be the exception. Well I wasn’t. It hurt really bad at the beginning because I didn’t know how to position Jameson very well and he didn’t know how to latch on very well. But then all of the sudden, it was SO MUCH BETTER and I felt like a new woman! I was so excited every time he wanted to eat because I was just so proud of us for figuring it out. The bonding is amazing and then when you go to the pediatrician for that first check-up and you see all the weight your baby has gained entirely because of you, there is no greater pride. Seriously, if you just go in expecting that it’s going to take practice but determined to stick it out, it’s really one of the best parts about motherhood.

#6. You will know what to do. Maybe not at first, though, and that can be so frustrating. Having a baby flips everything about your world upside down. Suddenly you meet this new person who is completely dependent on you and you really have no idea how to help them at first because you literally just met them. There’s a lot of trial and error at the beginning and you’re probably going to guess wrong a few times before you figure out your baby’s cues (example: the first night we had Jameson home he was crying and crying and I kept trying to feed him when all he really wanted was to be snuggled up to sleep. I could have saved us both a whole lot of tears if I had just been calm and patiently tried other things. But, like I said, I had barely met him and I just didn’t know). You’ll quickly pick up on things (you probably won’t even realize how much you’re learning so fast) and then it’s really easy.

#7. You won’t miss the way it was before. This is something I think every parent-to-be worries about at times (I definitely did). Having a baby absolutely changes every last thing about your life…physically, mentally, emotionally, everything. But you won’t ever wish it could go back to how it was before. I think back to what things were like before I had Jameson and I don’t even remember who I was. Now I know that God designed me to be Jameson’s mommy all along and that this is who I’m supposed to be. I am exactly the kind of mother he needs, and the things I thought were important before seem so insignificant now. I actually feel sorry for the old me because I didn’t know him yet. You won’t miss your “old life” one little bit because your new life will be filled with more love and surprises and reward than you can even imagine.



Personal Writing, Pregnancy

Decisions, decisions.

Oh yeah, and more decisions. I shouldn’t be surprised that becoming a first time parent calls for about six billion decisions to be made before your child is even born. But here I am, still surprised. Actually I think I’m mostly surprised by how much I don’t know. It’s kind of terrifying! I mean some stuff, in the grand scheme of things, is pretty arbitrary…like which baby carrier to purchase. But even though it’s technically not going to matter all that much in the long run, I still find myself researching for HOURS because, well… this is for my baby. I want it to be the best and the safest and oh yeah, I don’t want it to completely bankrupt me and my husband. So I sit and research baby wraps versus soft structure carriers (with or without sun hoods, with or without infant inserts, with or without outward facing options, etc. etc. etc.) until my head is ready to explode.

I’m sure it’s a thousand times easier with the second kid, but right now I’m in a sea of parenting crap I know next to nothing about. Everyone has their own opinion about what they think is the best way to go on everything, from the big scary stuff like vaccinations to silly things like diaper bags. And they’re not afraid to let you know. Have you ever heard of the Mommy Wars? It’s actually crazy to see how some of these moms treat each other on social media…women jumping down each others’ throats because one mom decided to formula-feed instead of breastfeed or because a first time mom is scared about miscarriage and the veteran moms are annoyed by her questions. Moms posting super braggy (I know that’s not a word) pictures and posts about their creative craft times with their kids and asserting that if you don’t opt for a completely natural childbirth, you are putting your child in grave danger. Seriously. It gets bad on the mommy boards.

I saw this super short video posted a few weeks ago and really liked the message of it. Check it out here if you want. 🙂

No matter what our beliefs, we are parents first.

All I can say is…thank goodness I’m only in the third month because at least I still have awhile to make choices on certain things. And also thank goodness for my husband because he’s the kind of guy who actually cares about all this stuff…even right down to the silly diaper bags. In the end, we have to do what’s best for us and what we think will be best for our baby. I’m so thankful to have Alex with me on this wonderful (and extremely nutty) parenting journey. I think it’s always best to have a partner when you’re headed straight into the unknown. 😉