Free to Choose: {How Everything is Exactly the Same and Completely Different}

I sat across the wooden table with a bright, plastic tablecloth and weighed the words about to come out of my mouth carefully. I wanted to be sure I meant them with my whole heart…that I could say them truthfully. And for the first time in a very long while, perhaps ever, I felt that I could…

“I know its a lot of work, but I don’t have a job right now, I don’t have a lot of commitments. I get to choose what I am busy with. And this is something I want to choose.”

This is something I am going to choose…

….

The past year has been an incredibly challenging year for me in many ways. Lessons I had been learning, or attempting to learn, for years came to a head. It was do or die, and I felt like I was dying.
I couldn’t keep up.
I couldn’t slow down.
I couldn’t change my mindset.

After years of God teaching me about breathing, rest, work, and peace, I felt like a failure. All the things I had learned, I couldn’t seem to do. Life was moving faster than I could keep up with, and I had less responsibilities than I’d ever had.

More than once, I broke down emotionally and mentally.

I felt utterly stuck and completely useless.

All the ways I found my worth, all the things I used to identify myself seemed to no longer be true of me.
I wasn’t disciplined.
I wasn’t healthy.
I wasn’t organized.
I wasn’t a hard worker.
I wasn’t on top of things.
I wasn’t a help to my husband.
I wasn’t a joyful mother.
I wasn’t a planner.
I wasn’t a writer.

I was lost.
I was stuck.
I was done.

And it all came to a head, because, for the first time in my adult life, I wasn’t working anymore. I was staying home with our one-year-old and helping my husband transition into starting a business. I was still volunteering some at our church, but I had been doing that plus more before.

So why was I still stressed?

Why did I still end the day overwhelmed?

Over and over, my husband told me, “You have complete freedom to choose your day, to choose what you will and won’t do. Choose as best you can, so that you aren’t utterly exhausted at the end of each day.”

In my mind, I knew he was right, and I was so grateful for the freedom of this season. But at the same time, I couldn’t tune out the expectations I felt weighing on me.

And so I kept slowly drowning myself under the weight of should and can and want to and good, until even the most life-giving things became burdens that threatened to level me. It wasn’t until I saw myself failing my family over and over, because I could not seem to slow down, that I broke. I hit that point of feeling lost and stuck and useless. I thought I’d never change. I thought I was hopeless.

So I heartbrokenly laid down my self-made reputation, all the things I wanted to be and had thought I was.

I despaired of ever “rebuilding” myself into a good wife and mother and friend and follower of Jesus, and instead just begged God for help.

What I didn’t realize, is that this was exactly where I needed to be; that this was exactly where God wanted me. Once I laid down who I wanted to be and thought I should be, and just asked God to help me get through each day and to glorify Him somehow through it, He could start rebuilding me.

Once I laid down my identity and reputation and pride, He could start making me into the woman He wants me to be.

In the moment, it didn’t feel remotely right or spiritual or redemptive. It just felt like I was failing at life in every way.

I had no choice except to beg God for help, to beg Him to be enough for me today and tomorrow and the next day. To beg Him to be enough through me each moment of the day.

And He was enough.

He is enough each day. And somehow, He is rebuilding me.

Honestly, I look a lot the same as I looked before. But now, it doesn’t matter what I should do or be or look like. At least, it is mattering far less.

Suddenly, I am free to chose to say no to things that felt essential to who I was as a person just a few months ago. I can acknowledge something as good and choose to set it aside for the sake of something better. And when I get overwhelmed, I can choose to change my schedule, adjust my priorities, and reset my focus on the few things I need to have my focus on.

Because in this season, God has primarily called me to be a wife and mother who loves, supports, and takes care of her family well. I cannot do that when I run myself ragged with expectations. I cannot do that when I push my body, mind, and soul to their utter limits every week.

My family needs me well, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. So many of the things I think I need to do to be a good wife and mother and follower of Jesus are not necessary. They are not what God has called me to do in this season.

As I seek God, I can lay those things aside with freedom and joy. My choice to not do them does not make me a failure or less-than or useless. I am not defined by what I do and don’t do as a mother, a wife, a daughter of God.

I am defined by who I already am in Jesus.

My challenge in this season is to stay in this place, to live each day in the freedom I’ve been given. The things I do, the ways I spend my time, look very much the same as they did before. My life is almost imperceptibly different. But my heart is different…

I am more often living in the freedom I always had, and that makes all the difference.

I can now choose joy over stress, peace over busy, best over good. I can make these choices because I no longer believe that these choices make me good or right or worthy or valuable.

I am free to choose, because I am free from my own expectations. I am free.

Be blessed

Prepared In Advance: {A Story of Repetition}

I stood on the threshold of her kitchen and said again how I feel like the trial of this year is the same one we’ve gone through five times before. And it’s getting exhausting.

A few days later, I was standing, hands all sudsy in my own kitchen sink, glancing over a text from her, completely unrelated, but it pointed my mind back toward that night.

“How many times have we gone through this, really?” I wondered to myself.

And I began to count backward.

…right now, new business still too new to fully support our family which is growing by one…

…this past summer, starting a new business…

…two summers ago, quitting my husbands part time job two weeks before our son was born…

…the year before that, starting a different business one month before we found out I was pregnant…

…and the year before that, moving across the country with no jobs and no home and only the knowledge that this was where God wanted us…

…and again, the year before that, getting married one week out of college and trying to get a job and a home before graduation…

…finally, ten months prior to our wedding day…the frustration and fear…kneeling on the floor of my parents living room…the phone call…that overwhelming awe at God’s answer, His provision…

And as I counted back, I hesitated to count those earliest two memories. They seemed so simple, so small compared to where we are today. Even the move to Florida seemed almost too small for the list. But that thought, from a reasonable perspective is laughable. Of course they count! They just feel small now, compared to the depths God has brought us to.

….

That first memory, the memory of that day Travis called from college, down to just a few dollars in his bank account due to a shiny new ring on my finger, to tell me that none of his references were returning her call and she never hires without references, was burning into my mind. I remember so plainly the fear and frustration I felt. Even more plainly, I remember kneeling down in front of my parents brown leather couch to pray, pouring out my heart and frustration, begging God to work.

I hadn’t yet finished when my phone rang again. While I was still on my knees, she had called him back and hired him, against her own policy, without any references.

I was shocked. I was awed.

That God would answer so quickly and completely, amazed me. I was ecstatic.

….

And the memory of that day burned strong as my hand swirled a soapy dishcloth across sticky plates and silverware. But something else burned strong in my mind along with the memory: awe and gratitude.

Because there is a pattern to our lives that we would be foolish to overlook. There is a theme to the how and what and where God is taking us. And as that memory from six years ago played again and again in my mind, I realized how deeply kind God is.

The stakes were so small back then. The real risk we were facing was so little, but in that moment it felt like our whole world.

Now, over six years, one move, and one child and one-on-the-way later, the stakes seem so much higher. The risks of following God, the risks of obeying, feel so much greater.

But the truth is, God power is the same today as it was six years ago.

His grace and provision is just much at work on our behalf today as it was that day kneeling in front of the brown couch.

And the often repeated saying echos in my mind.

“God will not guide where He will not provide.”

He will not take us somewhere that He will not take us through.

He will not call us to a task that He will not provide the ability for us to accomplish.

He will not direct us to a place where He will not be with us.

He will not call us to a mission that He will not empower us for.

He is not going to leave us alone or stranded or hopeless. He is not going to forget us or abandon us or fail us.

Even when it feels like we are running in circles or spinning our wheels or hopelessly stuck, He knows. He is with us. He will provide.

He knows. He is with us. He will provide.

And yet, in all this I must remember…

He cares as much about the process as He does the destination.

To get me from A to C, He might not go through B. He might take me up and around and off to the side and what feels like backward for a long while, because what He desires to accomplish in and through me along the way is just as important to Him as the final destination.

Let me say that again. Because, oh! My own heart needs this reminder so often.

What He desires to accomplish in and through me along the way is just as important to Him as the final destination.

As I look back on the past six and some years, I realize how very tenderly gracious He has been.

He has taken me through the same set of fears, the same struggle to trust, the same hard spot in life, over and over again, not to prepare me for some ultimate test, but rather to draw me closer and closer to Him.

He keeps allowing the stakes to rise, the situations to feel more desperate, so that each time, my faith is stretched a little further and I learn to rest my hope on Him a little more fully.

Be blessed

Prepared In Advance: {A Story of Repetition}

I stood on the threshold of her kitchen and said again how I feel like the trial of this year is the same one we’ve gone through five times before. And it’s getting exhausting.

A few days later, I was standing, hands all sudsy in my own kitchen sink, glancing over a text from her, completely unrelated, but it pointed my mind back toward that night.

“How many times have we gone through this, really?” I wondered to myself.

And I began to count backward.

…right now, new business still too new to fully support our family which is growing by one…

…this past summer, starting a new business…

…two summers ago, quitting my husbands part time job two weeks before our son was born…

…the year before that, starting a different business one month before we found out I was pregnant…

…and the year before that, moving across the country with no jobs and no home and only the knowledge that this was where God wanted us…

…and again, the year before that, getting married one week out of college and trying to get a job and a home before graduation…

…finally, ten months prior to our wedding day…the frustration and fear…kneeling on the floor of my parents living room…the phone call…that overwhelming awe at God’s answer, His provision…

And as I counted back, I hesitated to count those earliest two memories. They seemed so simple, so small compared to where we are today. Even the move to Florida seemed almost too small for the list. But that thought, from a reasonable perspective is laughable. Of course they count! They just feel small now, compared to the depths God has brought us to.

….

That first memory, the memory of that day Travis called from college, down to just a few dollars in his bank account due to a shiny new ring on my finger, to tell me that none of his references were returning her call and she never hires without references, was burning into my mind. I remember so plainly the fear and frustration I felt. Even more plainly, I remember kneeling down in front of my parents brown leather couch to pray, pouring out my heart and frustration, begging God to work.

I hadn’t yet finished when my phone rang again. While I was still on my knees, she had called him back and hired him, against her own policy, without any references.

I was shocked. I was awed.

That God would answer so quickly and completely, amazed me. I was ecstatic.

….

And the memory of that day burned strong as my hand swirled a soapy dishcloth across sticky plates and silverware. But something else burned strong in my mind along with the memory: awe and gratitude.

Because there is a pattern to our lives that we would be foolish to overlook. There is a theme to the how and what and where God is taking us. And as that memory from six years ago played again and again in my mind, I realized how deeply kind God is.

The stakes were so small back then. The real risk we were facing was so little, but in that moment it felt like our whole world.

Now, over six years, one move, and one child and one-on-the-way later, the stakes seem so much higher. The risks of following God, the risks of obeying, feel so much greater.

But the truth is, God power is the same today as it was six years ago.

His grace and provision is just much at work on our behalf today as it was that day kneeling in front of the brown couch.

And the often repeated saying echos in my mind.

“God will not guide where He will not provide.”

He will not take us somewhere that He will not take us through.

He will not call us to a task that He will not provide the ability for us to accomplish.

He will not direct us to a place where He will not be with us.

He will not call us to a mission that He will not empower us for.

He is not going to leave us alone or stranded or hopeless. He is not going to forget us or abandon us or fail us.

Even when it feels like we are running in circles or spinning our wheels or hopelessly stuck, He knows. He is with us. He will provide.

He knows. He is with us. He will provide.

And yet, in all this I must remember…

He cares as much about the process as He does the destination.

To get me from A to C, He might not go through B. He might take me up and around and off to the side and what feels like backward for a long while, because what He desires to accomplish in and through me along the way is just as important to Him as the final destination.

Let me say that again. Because, oh! My own heart needs this reminder so often.

What He desires to accomplish in and through me along the way is just as important to Him as the final destination.

As I look back on the past six and some years, I realize how very tenderly gracious He has been.

He has taken me through the same set of fears, the same struggle to trust, the same hard spot in life, over and over again, not to prepare me for some ultimate test, but rather to draw me closer and closer to Him.

He keeps allowing the stakes to rise, the situations to feel more desperate, so that each time, my faith is stretched a little further and I learn to rest my hope on Him a little more fully.

Be blessed

Yes and No: The Main Reason We Don’t Attain Our Goals

{Hello friends. A few days ago my husband, Travis, and I were talking. I was sharing my frustration with myself and my failure to follow through on some goals. The result of this conversation was this post. He wanted me to write it, but he said it so well that I told him to instead. I think you will be truly challenged, encouraged, and blessed by it.}

It’s the end of Feburary. Many of us have quit our new year resolutions, while others of us have drastically cut back on our ambitious goals. What is it that keeps us from fultfilling our well-intentioned plans?

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I’ve heard many good reasons in the past:

We don’t write them down…


We don’t create action steps…


We don’t have accountability…


We don’t set time to review…



And the list goes on.

But is there one thing we can do differently that would drastically increase our success rate? I believe there is.

Recently, Alesha and I were talking about the goals we set earlier in the year. Some of them are so far successful, while others are not. As we talked, Alesha said something very interesting:

“I know what I have to do. I need to stop going on social media in the morning before I do my morning routine. If I did that then most of my goals would be going great.”

When she said that, it made me think of a post I’d written last October on waking up earlier. In the post I talked about how I think that if you want to wake up earlier, the discipline you need isn’t so much in waking up at a specific time, but in choosing to go to bed earlier.

I think the same is true for goal-setting.

When we set goals, we tend to focus on what we need to do to fulfill them. I think…

We should spend just as much time choosing what not to do as we do choosing what to do.

Think about it this way:

You have 24 hours in a day. Currently, you are spending those 24 hours whichever way you want. Then comes a goal you want to achieve. You focus on adding a new habit, or rhythm into your life, but you never once think about the fact that you day is already full of 24 hours worth of activity.

In order for us to do anything new, we have to remove something else. It is literally impossible for us to add any new habit or goal into our lives without subtracting something else first.

Today is already filled with 24 hours of activity. For many of us, these activities will include things such as:

Sleep


Meal prep


Eating


Meal clean-up


Work


Driving


Parenting


TV


Social Media


Hobbies


Reading a blog (at least this one)


And much much more!

But not all these things are worthwhile. Some of them add value. But maybe even the ones that ”add value” don’t drive us in the direction we want our lives to go. We can’t fix that by simply setting new goals.

We need to choose what we will remove from our busy lives just as much as we need to choose what habits and goals we wish to add.

Otherwise, we’ll continue to fail.


We’ll continue to have unmet goals and ambitions.

So what goals have you set recently? Have you thought about what habits and things in your life have to be removed in order to add these new things in?

What will you quit doing, in order to start doing something else better?

And as the saying goes:

“Say NO to good things, so you can say YES to great things.”

May we all learn how to say “no”, so that we can begin to say “yes” more frequently.

{be blessed}

James Neal: The Birth Story

Tomorrow my sweet baby boy is three months old. I cried to Travis in the hospital when he was two days old, because time was going too fast already. So I’m desperately trying to rejoice in each moment as it comes and not allow myself to melt down daily over how big he already is.

The moment I met our precious boy will forever be etched in my memory.
So surreal.
So joyful.
So wonderful.

  <img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/55c38a57e4b00989028332c9/1447159892603-JSG7JCZNT37EKFEMJH55/ke17ZwdGBToddI8pDm48kB80eW4KK5wgMfkTp6SjTNtZw-zPPgdn4jUwVcJE1ZvWQUxwkmyExglNqGp0IvTJZUJFbgE-7XRK3dMEBRBhUpxkEDnlqEYEiGVDb0kl5jpOJsm5iyfgdjNZyk67t96-U_4JMfIDDY8RGcVnRlrKExA/image-asset.jpeg?format=original" alt=""/>

I remember frantically observing every little part of his tiny body…doing my best to etch that memory into my exhausted brain.

I remember feeling so calm and so scared at the same time…it seemed so natural and yet I wondered what to do.

I remember talking to our little James…hoping that my voice would calm his little cries.

The days that followed those first precious moments were a blur of utter exhaustion and insane, joyful wonder at this little gift we had been given.

….

We hosted some friends for dinner, then I stayed up till 11:30 that night, August 10th. I finished the last details of my devotional launch for the next day, before collapsing into bed, praying for a good nights sleep. But three short hours later, I was awaked by my water slightly breaking. I knew I should sleep, but I was too excited.

The contractions started slow, about 20 minutes apart and more uncomfortable than painful. I let Travis sleep, figuring that at least one of us should be well rested.

At 5 am the contractions were about 10 minutes apart.

At 6:30 am I woke Travis and texted my mom and a friend, and the contractions were slowing me down.

At 8 am my water broke again…fully this time.

At 10 am we left for the hospital, with contractions between 5 and 8 minutes apart and becoming very painful.

At 11 am we were admitted and I was dilated to 4 cm.

At 2 pm I was still at 4 cm and the midwife said I had till 6 pm to show significant progress…I was already getting tired.

  <img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/55c38a57e4b00989028332c9/1447159016499-G5IS8PBT3FYLPG1SV8GG/ke17ZwdGBToddI8pDm48kJ1oJoOIxBAgRD2ClXVCmKFZw-zPPgdn4jUwVcJE1ZvWQUxwkmyExglNqGp0IvTJZUJFbgE-7XRK3dMEBRBhUpziSlY8A1LmVReJFCynOXqeaWYLb3HWLzCmFZz9oDHtK-zoXiGli2Az6uRt_tQQ38k/image-asset.jpeg?format=original" alt=""/>

The next 4 hours were long and slow and quiet. The hospital room lights were low and it was just my husband and I for the majority of the time. I tried to walk as much as possible, but ended up bent over the side of the hospital bed for most of the contractions, with my husband massaging my low back, which was in constant pain.

The contractions stayed spaced out every 5-7 minutes, but with the back labor I was having, the breaks were not restful. By the end of the 4 hours, I was so tired I was afraid I would collapse if I continued to walk. I remember telling Travis that I wasn’t sure how much longer I could make it.

At 6:30 pm I was dilated to nearly 8 cm and I was feeling the first urges to push…or throw up.

At 7 pm the midwife let me try to push twice, then rolled me onto my side to help James get into the right position. The back pain had moved to the front and was excruciating in that position. I layed there and cried.

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At 7:20 pm she checked me again and had me sit up instead.
At 7:50 pm she let me start pushing again. Somewhere in the next twenty minutes it went from wanting to push with each contraction, to the overwhelming need to push. But the contractions were still about 6 minutes apart and progress was so slow. The constant pressure was making it hard for me to feel what was a contraction and what wasn’t, so the midwife had to coach me on when to push until I finally got the hang of it.

By 9 pm I was done. I was crying between most contractions and shaking from exhaustion. I asked if they could use the vacuum and the midwife matter-of-factly stated that she didn’t do that. I’m so thankful for my her, as well as my husband and dear friend, Laura (who probably got way closer than she ever wanted when the midwife called her over to hold one of my feet).

  <img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/55c38a57e4b00989028332c9/1447171999421-Z2N08XHGCQ1C3JGV0WIE/ke17ZwdGBToddI8pDm48kJQyhJNCPFaF3z6oMQ5KwFtZw-zPPgdn4jUwVcJE1ZvWQUxwkmyExglNqGp0IvTJZUJFbgE-7XRK3dMEBRBhUpxn9MscIJUH4esFEGk4cC-kwDD88aZZkucN8hiwA1Ci0sD279UUnTBmZAQp9ZHRzLY/image.jpg?format=original" alt=""/>

The midwife was firm and pushed me to hold it together. Laura made sure I drank water between contractions and encouraged me that the pushing was working even though I couldn’t feel it. Travis held my hand between contractions, prayed for me, kissed me, encouraged me, and coached me.

Finally, at 9:53 pm, with two giant contractions and pushing as hard as I possibly could, he was born. I was pushing so hard, I didn’t realize he was out until I heard someone say, “Alesha, he’s out! Put him on her!”

  <img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/55c38a57e4b00989028332c9/1447159039738-7NXZKPQ04LBATL4HKD6Y/ke17ZwdGBToddI8pDm48kDwP6Nnrrzys2CvFABCfXqRZw-zPPgdn4jUwVcJE1ZvWQUxwkmyExglNqGp0IvTJZUJFbgE-7XRK3dMEBRBhUpzboCrm1qufgfceCMx33zaPf4xJxhZG-ujqWlhZCUpA6R1Q9hS3Nbm2rlTpbT_pKeo/image-asset.jpeg?format=original" alt=""/>

And they laid my son on my chest and it was over…and so, so worth it.
….

I remember noticing that he had my husbands ears…shaped just like his daddy’s.

I remember being amazed that his eyes were open so wide….I didn’t know a newborn could be so observant.

I remember Laura saying that it was the longest, skinniest umbilical cord she had ever seen…just like my long, skinny baby.

  <img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/55c38a57e4b00989028332c9/1447173123976-UQWTCHVVP9MQTXXZV0CV/ke17ZwdGBToddI8pDm48kOyctPanBqSdf7WQMpY1FsRZw-zPPgdn4jUwVcJE1ZvWQUxwkmyExglNqGp0IvTJZUJFbgE-7XRK3dMEBRBhUpwwQIrqN0bcqL_6-iJCOAA0qwytzcs0JTq1XS2aqVbyK6GtMIM7F0DGeOwCXa63_4k/image.jpg?format=original" alt=""/>

I remember watching my husband hold our son for the first time…he became a dad so instantly and so naturally in that moment.

….

I waited so long to share because I was a bit disappointed in myself. Disappointed that I nearly gave up. Disappointed that I cried. Disappointed that I didn’t handle the pain better those last 4 or 5 hours. Disappointed that I wasn’t mentally prepared to push for a long time.

But I’m realizing that it’s okay. It’s okay that I’m disappointed. It’s okay that I cried and wanted to give up. It’s okay that I wasn’t prepared to push for 2+ hours. Because our baby was born strong and healthy and definitely cone-headed, but he was born. And even though it wasn’t pretty and brave God granted me the grace to achieve my goal of a natural birth. For that I’m so thankful.

I would love to write that I was strong and brave the entire time, but that’s not how it happened. No one is ever strong and brave always. I needed the people who were helping me through the process and it’s a gift to realize that it’s okay to need to be held up when you can’t keep going.

I needed the reminder that it’s okay to need help.

And no matter what happened in the process, James Neal was born that day.

  <img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/55c38a57e4b00989028332c9/1447159873481-EWTQ96KLRGJJIFLFD6FP/ke17ZwdGBToddI8pDm48kB80eW4KK5wgMfkTp6SjTNtZw-zPPgdn4jUwVcJE1ZvWQUxwkmyExglNqGp0IvTJZUJFbgE-7XRK3dMEBRBhUpxkEDnlqEYEiGVDb0kl5jpOJsm5iyfgdjNZyk67t96-U_4JMfIDDY8RGcVnRlrKExA/image-asset.jpeg?format=original" alt=""/>

That is truly all that really matters.

Be blessed

James Neal: The Birth Story

Tomorrow my sweet baby boy is three months old. I cried to Travis in the hospital when he was two days old, because time was going too fast already. So I’m desperately trying to rejoice in each moment as it comes and not allow myself to melt down daily over how big he already is.

The moment I met our precious boy will forever be etched in my memory.
So surreal.
So joyful.
So wonderful.

  <img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/55c38a57e4b00989028332c9/1447159892603-JSG7JCZNT37EKFEMJH55/ke17ZwdGBToddI8pDm48kB80eW4KK5wgMfkTp6SjTNtZw-zPPgdn4jUwVcJE1ZvWQUxwkmyExglNqGp0IvTJZUJFbgE-7XRK3dMEBRBhUpxkEDnlqEYEiGVDb0kl5jpOJsm5iyfgdjNZyk67t96-U_4JMfIDDY8RGcVnRlrKExA/image-asset.jpeg?format=original" alt=""/>

I remember frantically observing every little part of his tiny body…doing my best to etch that memory into my exhausted brain.

I remember feeling so calm and so scared at the same time…it seemed so natural and yet I wondered what to do.

I remember talking to our little James…hoping that my voice would calm his little cries.

The days that followed those first precious moments were a blur of utter exhaustion and insane, joyful wonder at this little gift we had been given.

….

We hosted some friends for dinner, then I stayed up till 11:30 that night, August 10th. I finished the last details of my devotional launch for the next day, before collapsing into bed, praying for a good nights sleep. But three short hours later, I was awaked by my water slightly breaking. I knew I should sleep, but I was too excited.

The contractions started slow, about 20 minutes apart and more uncomfortable than painful. I let Travis sleep, figuring that at least one of us should be well rested.

At 5 am the contractions were about 10 minutes apart.

At 6:30 am I woke Travis and texted my mom and a friend, and the contractions were slowing me down.

At 8 am my water broke again…fully this time.

At 10 am we left for the hospital, with contractions between 5 and 8 minutes apart and becoming very painful.

At 11 am we were admitted and I was dilated to 4 cm.

At 2 pm I was still at 4 cm and the midwife said I had till 6 pm to show significant progress…I was already getting tired.

  <img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/55c38a57e4b00989028332c9/1447159016499-G5IS8PBT3FYLPG1SV8GG/ke17ZwdGBToddI8pDm48kJ1oJoOIxBAgRD2ClXVCmKFZw-zPPgdn4jUwVcJE1ZvWQUxwkmyExglNqGp0IvTJZUJFbgE-7XRK3dMEBRBhUpziSlY8A1LmVReJFCynOXqeaWYLb3HWLzCmFZz9oDHtK-zoXiGli2Az6uRt_tQQ38k/image-asset.jpeg?format=original" alt=""/>

The next 4 hours were long and slow and quiet. The hospital room lights were low and it was just my husband and I for the majority of the time. I tried to walk as much as possible, but ended up bent over the side of the hospital bed for most of the contractions, with my husband massaging my low back, which was in constant pain.

The contractions stayed spaced out every 5-7 minutes, but with the back labor I was having, the breaks were not restful. By the end of the 4 hours, I was so tired I was afraid I would collapse if I continued to walk. I remember telling Travis that I wasn’t sure how much longer I could make it.

At 6:30 pm I was dilated to nearly 8 cm and I was feeling the first urges to push…or throw up.

At 7 pm the midwife let me try to push twice, then rolled me onto my side to help James get into the right position. The back pain had moved to the front and was excruciating in that position. I layed there and cried.

  <img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/55c38a57e4b00989028332c9/1447171849249-0NFASYO2O21GNCCATFAW/ke17ZwdGBToddI8pDm48kJQyhJNCPFaF3z6oMQ5KwFtZw-zPPgdn4jUwVcJE1ZvWQUxwkmyExglNqGp0IvTJZUJFbgE-7XRK3dMEBRBhUpxn9MscIJUH4esFEGk4cC-kwDD88aZZkucN8hiwA1Ci0sD279UUnTBmZAQp9ZHRzLY/image.jpg?format=original" alt=""/>

At 7:20 pm she checked me again and had me sit up instead.
At 7:50 pm she let me start pushing again. Somewhere in the next twenty minutes it went from wanting to push with each contraction, to the overwhelming need to push. But the contractions were still about 6 minutes apart and progress was so slow. The constant pressure was making it hard for me to feel what was a contraction and what wasn’t, so the midwife had to coach me on when to push until I finally got the hang of it.

By 9 pm I was done. I was crying between most contractions and shaking from exhaustion. I asked if they could use the vacuum and the midwife matter-of-factly stated that she didn’t do that. I’m so thankful for my her, as well as my husband and dear friend, Laura (who probably got way closer than she ever wanted when the midwife called her over to hold one of my feet).

  <img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/55c38a57e4b00989028332c9/1447171999421-Z2N08XHGCQ1C3JGV0WIE/ke17ZwdGBToddI8pDm48kJQyhJNCPFaF3z6oMQ5KwFtZw-zPPgdn4jUwVcJE1ZvWQUxwkmyExglNqGp0IvTJZUJFbgE-7XRK3dMEBRBhUpxn9MscIJUH4esFEGk4cC-kwDD88aZZkucN8hiwA1Ci0sD279UUnTBmZAQp9ZHRzLY/image.jpg?format=original" alt=""/>

The midwife was firm and pushed me to hold it together. Laura made sure I drank water between contractions and encouraged me that the pushing was working even though I couldn’t feel it. Travis held my hand between contractions, prayed for me, kissed me, encouraged me, and coached me.

Finally, at 9:53 pm, with two giant contractions and pushing as hard as I possibly could, he was born. I was pushing so hard, I didn’t realize he was out until I heard someone say, “Alesha, he’s out! Put him on her!”

  <img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/55c38a57e4b00989028332c9/1447159039738-7NXZKPQ04LBATL4HKD6Y/ke17ZwdGBToddI8pDm48kDwP6Nnrrzys2CvFABCfXqRZw-zPPgdn4jUwVcJE1ZvWQUxwkmyExglNqGp0IvTJZUJFbgE-7XRK3dMEBRBhUpzboCrm1qufgfceCMx33zaPf4xJxhZG-ujqWlhZCUpA6R1Q9hS3Nbm2rlTpbT_pKeo/image-asset.jpeg?format=original" alt=""/>

And they laid my son on my chest and it was over…and so, so worth it.
….

I remember noticing that he had my husbands ears…shaped just like his daddy’s.

I remember being amazed that his eyes were open so wide….I didn’t know a newborn could be so observant.

I remember Laura saying that it was the longest, skinniest umbilical cord she had ever seen…just like my long, skinny baby.

  <img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/55c38a57e4b00989028332c9/1447173123976-UQWTCHVVP9MQTXXZV0CV/ke17ZwdGBToddI8pDm48kOyctPanBqSdf7WQMpY1FsRZw-zPPgdn4jUwVcJE1ZvWQUxwkmyExglNqGp0IvTJZUJFbgE-7XRK3dMEBRBhUpwwQIrqN0bcqL_6-iJCOAA0qwytzcs0JTq1XS2aqVbyK6GtMIM7F0DGeOwCXa63_4k/image.jpg?format=original" alt=""/>

I remember watching my husband hold our son for the first time…he became a dad so instantly and so naturally in that moment.

….

I waited so long to share because I was a bit disappointed in myself. Disappointed that I nearly gave up. Disappointed that I cried. Disappointed that I didn’t handle the pain better those last 4 or 5 hours. Disappointed that I wasn’t mentally prepared to push for a long time.

But I’m realizing that it’s okay. It’s okay that I’m disappointed. It’s okay that I cried and wanted to give up. It’s okay that I wasn’t prepared to push for 2+ hours. Because our baby was born strong and healthy and definitely cone-headed, but he was born. And even though it wasn’t pretty and brave God granted me the grace to achieve my goal of a natural birth. For that I’m so thankful.

I would love to write that I was strong and brave the entire time, but that’s not how it happened. No one is ever strong and brave always. I needed the people who were helping me through the process and it’s a gift to realize that it’s okay to need to be held up when you can’t keep going.

I needed the reminder that it’s okay to need help.

And no matter what happened in the process, James Neal was born that day.

  <img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/55c38a57e4b00989028332c9/1447159873481-EWTQ96KLRGJJIFLFD6FP/ke17ZwdGBToddI8pDm48kB80eW4KK5wgMfkTp6SjTNtZw-zPPgdn4jUwVcJE1ZvWQUxwkmyExglNqGp0IvTJZUJFbgE-7XRK3dMEBRBhUpxkEDnlqEYEiGVDb0kl5jpOJsm5iyfgdjNZyk67t96-U_4JMfIDDY8RGcVnRlrKExA/image-asset.jpeg?format=original" alt=""/>

That is truly all that really matters.

Be blessed

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