Saturday, October 15, 2016

October 15

When the tears won't stop flowing,
And your mind won't stop reeling,
And no words will ever be sufficient...
When your own emotional state feels unfamiliar,
And depression settles in nearly undetected,
And you want to scream and rant and never talk again all in the same minute...

...you blog.

You go back to the blog you started for exactly these reasons.  To get out the thoughts that won't come out unless you pull them out painful word after painful word.  To make it real, even though you wish it weren't.  To reach out to friends and strangers and hope that you can make their trauma somehow less lonely.  It's like agonizing therapy:  it feels like you are slowly ringing the air out of your own lungs, and yet it feels like you are breathing deeply for the first time in months.

So, here we go.  Here is the nightmare of how we lost our second baby.

Let's start happy, shall we?  Because typing the word "lost" already wrenched me to sobs.  *Takes deep breath.*

On May 14, 2016 Naya barged into the bathroom as I peeked at the test a little early:  We're pregnant!
We suspected for about a week that we might be pregnant, and I committed to hold out taking a test until my birthday (May 15).  But I caved.  And we were right!  Baby #2 would be coming sometime late in January and would make Naya a big sister! She even learned how to say "Beebee" as I cried and giggled and took a quick video to remember the craziness of these emotions.

I wanted to come up with a creative way to tell Hubs, but that afternoon he randomly picked Naya up and said, "You are my favorite-est baby in the whole wide world!" and I just couldn't contain it.
I hollered from the next room, "Naya, tell Daddy he can't say that anymore."
Hubs replied with confusion, "Hun, I won't say that when we have another baby..."
I casually said, "Well, we do. So..."
" WE DO?!?!"

*Commence celebration*

My parents came to town the following day and we celebrated my birthday.  We decided to keep our other source of celebration (BABYYYY) to ourselves at this point, partially because of how new the concept was to us, and partially because my family already had big news coming the next day:  the gender reveal of my sister's baby due in October!  I thought it best to give their news time for a proper celebration of its own, first.  So, we secretly winked at each other across the room and squeezed each other's hands in church and kept our mouths shut. I thought I might explode.

Quickly our bean-spilling plans, and our entire lives, were derailed with the news my sweet sister received at her doctor's appointment on May 16.  We were stunned.  We were shaken.  We waited to hear about a second opinion for Naya's tiny cousin early the next week.  The news did not get better. And the entire focus of our lives for the past weekend changed dramatically.  I drove to be with my sister and called my other sister on the drive.  We cried together and tried to process what we learned.  And then, I exploded.  I spilled the beans. On the phone.  Baby #2 was no longer a secret.  Oopsie.

The following weeks were a whirlwind of secret keeping, hesitant joy, deep grief, confusion and planning.  My sister and her husband looked into experimental treatment for their child and found out they weren't good candidates. I bought a journal and started writing notes to Baby, the same way I had written (and continue to write) to Naya. We started thinking that our house hunt would need to speed up (or stop altogether).  My 4-week-long newfound fitness routine came into question.  Prenatal vitamins:  re-stalked. OBGYN appointment:  confirmed.  Clothes:  getting tight?!  Necessary looser clothes:  purchased.

And then came Thursday, June 2.  The details aren't clear to me anymore, but I know the bleeding started that evening on the couch.  It's an unmistakable feeling for any woman, but it truly confused me.  I got up, put on a pad, and tried to come up with every reason why this could be normal.  My pregnant sister had called me early in her pregnancy with something similar, and it had been nothing, right?  A fellow blogging mom had a scare worse than this and her baby was healthy.  I rationalized.  I told Hubs what was going on.  I tried not to think about it.  I failed.

But, as only my precious toddler could, Naya took my mind off of myself and Baby by waking up in the middle of the night...sick.  She was inconsolable all morning.  She barely ate breakfast.  And then she puked it up.  Twice. With a fever.  You know, the works.

I called mom trying to cancel our weekend plans with our extended family because "Naya is sick (AND I'M FREAKING OUT)" but mom encouraged me to give her Tylenol and see how she was later.  And of course she was fine.  I called my OBGYN to see if I could be seen right away, but a dismissive nurse said "If you aren't experiencing cramping, it might not be what you think it is.  This can be normal.  Plus, if you are miscarrying, there is really nothing we can do.  So, just see how you feel this weekend and call in Monday."  Thanks for nothing. I lost it.

And then I temporarily found "it," regathered "it," got "it" back together and we packed our bags and headed out Friday for a little getaway in Shipshewana for my Grandpa's birthday.  It was fun:  a petting zoo (like way cooler than any other petting zoo. More like a petting safari?), antique shopping, delicious food, beautiful accommodations.

Naya feeding a deer.

On the wagon ride you saw/fed camels, zebras, cows, donkeys, ostriches, etc.
 But the cramping did start. And I knew what was happening. And just like we had celebrated in secret, Hubs and I were coming unglued in secret.  The bleeding increased. Heavily.  I was chatting with my cousins, keeping an eye on my toddler, walking around Amish country, and trying not to double over from the menstrual-like pains all throughout my stomach and back.  I was miserable and I was trying not to be.  We would learn later that I pretty much fooled NOBODY.

We were supposed to leave early Saturday morning to head to a wedding in southern Indiana.  By late Friday night we were pretty sure I wasn't going to be able to handle the car ride.  Laying down in the dark and crying uninhibited were about the only things that felt "right" and I couldn't do that while riding shot-gun for 4 hours, nor while surrounded by my entire family.  I didn't sleep all night from the pain and the worry.  And neither did sweet Naya.  She uncharacteristically called out for me in the night and would only sleep on my chest, like when she was a newborn.  It was like a slow-motion scene from a movie with quiet, sad string music playing in the background as I felt my toddler kicking and poking my stomach from the outside and my body churning and cramping from the inside. I thought so much of these two siblings and how this should not be the only time they snuggled together.  I sobbed all night.  On second thought, maybe that's why none of us slept.

So we got up early, left my family, and went back to our apartment.  The car ride was painful in every way possible.  I text two dear friends that had previously been open about their miscarriages.  I was TERRIFIED.  I had no idea what to expect.  I asked them what they did, what they recommended, how long it took, etc.  They were empathetic, kind, and honest.  Based on what they said, I figured I would agonize over this a few more days.

But the second we walked in the door I knew I needed to use the bathroom and change my pad.  And immediately when I sat down on the toilet I heard something hit the water.  The cramping had been intense just minutes before, but it subsided as soon as I sat on the toilet.  I sat there for what seemed like minutes contemplating if I should just get up, flush and walk away or if I should see what just happened.  And in a way I can only describe as some weird, strong, maternal instinct, I knew I had to look.

So, I did.
And I yelled for Hubs to come into the bathroom.  As he opened the door, I stammered, "I think...I think I just had the baby..." and then the most gut-wrenching, foreign sounds started to come from deep inside me.  I absolutely fell apart.  I didn't even recognize my own cries as I sat hysterically at the foot of the toilet with my husband embracing me and our startled toddler trying to see what was going on.

Little did I know what would continue to happen in the next 3-4 days.  The worst was not over, not by a long shot. Turns out, the body takes a while to actually miscarry.  And, if you are anything like me, that process makes the grieving take a while, too.

I decided that I wanted to bury our child as a way to honor his or her precious life.  I was only 7 weeks along, so this might not seem entirely necessary, but to me, then, it was.  So I called Mom (because we rent and I had NO clue where said burial should take place).  And she was gracious, and understanding, and perfectly what I needed her to be in that moment (even though she hadn't even known we were pregnant and she was already grieving with my sister).

So the following day, we placed our sweet Baby and all the notes I had written him or her in a small jewelry-type box.  I wrote on the top "Every good and perfect gift is from above..." -James 1:17.  Dad dug a small whole near a tree that we planted in my late aunt's memory and then Hubs and I had a moment together outside on Sunday, while Naya napped inside with my parents.  We laid the only thing we had of our second child in the ground and we prayed and cried.  Truthfully, it put horrid finality on something that felt so ongoing.  It gave me a tiny bit of closure, as many people say.  I will never forget the words of my father that day: "I don't want to just ignore this and pretend like it didn't happen. We want to talk about it if you want to talk about it.  The way I see it, I'm a Grandpa three times now."

*Cue grateful tears*



For the record, I do want to talk about my Baby.  I still, 4 months later, don't know 100% how to process what has happened and honor the life that we knew for such a short time without being consumed by our loss. About a month and a half after we miscarried, my sister had my precious niece, Charlotte, and the pain of loss was magnified in a whole new, yet similar, way.  My 2-year-old is still obsessed with babies, well-meaning friends continue to ask when we will have another child (and yes, two people have even asked me if I AM pregnant so that's fun and not emotionally undoing at all) and everything just feels OFF.  I still struggle with the guilt of having felt like we weren't ready for a second child and the endless mental questioning of every exercise I tried or thing I ate that could have caused this.  I have faltered in my understanding of "basic Christian theology" (for the record, this article  and its sequel brought me back to sweet, gracious, reality).  And I have had this (and two more) posts written since early August and have deleted and re-started and re-thought and freaked out multiple times. I'm a mess, guys. Let's be real.

But. GOD. has not changed.  But. GOD. is still answering my prayers.  But. GOD. is drawing my heart back to His Truth.  But. GOD. has recently reminded me that true encouragement comes when you let people into your life mid-messy-process, instead of waiting until you've got it all organized and worded perfectly.

So, this enormous post is here to say that October 15 (Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day) is a big deal to me.  And to my family.  And to my God. I hope that if you have gone through the loss of a child during pregnancy or birth or at any point thereafter, you know that I am here and willing to listen to what you have gone through and answer any questions you would ever want to ask me about my experience. Because all life is precious. And all loss is loss.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

Ladies' Retreat 2016: Anchored

Every year my church dedicates a weekend in September to our annual Ladies' Retreat.  I have gone twice and had to skip once when my daughter was due to make her arrival.  This fall, I had already committed to going to Cry Out, so I was considering passing up this opportunity.  But my husband looked at me and said, "You should go. Seriously."  But, money. But, time.  But...

Sometimes you just gotta kick your own "buts" out, ya know?

And in the first mixer activity (aaahhh) when I stammered out "I ate a brownie...?" to the question "What have you done for yourself this week?" I knew two retreats in the same month was JUST what the doctor ordered God ordained.  Hallelujah.


This year celebrates 20 consecutive Ladies' Retreats.  So we couldn't NOT go big.  We stayed at the most quiet, beautiful marina right on the coast of Lake Michigan surrounded by cute shops, yummy restaurants and everything a girl's weekend needs. The rain even halted for a little bit and the breeze and sun and quiet splashing of the water on all the docked boats was serenity itself.  *Deep sigh*

We arrived Friday evening, checked in, and had our first session complete with snacks, games, songs and...more games.  I always appreciate getting to know women I have never talked one-on-one with before.  Retreat bonds women.

Saturday morning we enjoyed a light breakfast and gathered back together for our second session.  This time we heard a moving testimony from one woman and then had a second woman share thoughts from Proverbs 2 about being anchored to God in our decision making.  Having women boldly share from their own lives, not to strangers, but to women they see every week... is powerful.  Encouraging.  Next, we enjoyed nearly 6 hours of glorious free time:  we ate at the Stray Dog (um, delicious) walked around to lovely local home decor shops and then I soaked up every minute of time on our balcony overlooking the docks.  We later took a walk down towards the coast, climbed up the dune walk (a boardwalk like path all along the coast with an incredible view), and even got to bike around the town on the hotel's free bikes!

Around 6 we came back together for an Italian buffet catered in by the hotel.  SO. YUMMY. And an hour later we settled in for our second Saturday session.  A young lady from my table stood up and shared what God had been teaching her this summer, and then a youth leader from our church shared with us how we can be anchored in our identity in Christ.  There probably was not a dry eye in the room as she shared the struggles and pains of her own childhood and journey.  She even shared some of the biggest blessings in her life.  And her summary lumped the junk and the joy in the same category:  it doesn't define her.  Christ Jesus defines her. Nothing else.  Even if many ladies couldn't relate to the hard times she had gone through, we were ALL touched by those truths.

Perhaps the most moving time of all came Sunday morning as we gathered for our last group session.  We pushed all the tables out of the way and then gathered the chairs in one huge circle.  We had two ladies from our Body share their testimonies:  one of losing her husband and how God has brought her through the toughest time in her life, and the other of how God led her to forgive her abusive and neglecting parents and her unfaithful ex-husband.  They beautifully set the stage for bold, transparent, real talk.  Then, we were each handed a note card and asked to write our deepest fear on it.  After some time, many ladies stood up, shared their fear with the group and then symbolically walked to the center of the room and tossed, crumbled, shredded, stomped on their note card as they turned it over to God.  The things shared in that room were deep.  Personal.  Raw.  But more than any of those things, they were obedient.  The women in that room listened attentively to the Holy Spirit and shared what He was asking them to share.  And it united our group.  Isn't that what Christ has always wanted for His Church?

As we dismissed, women who had shared (and cried, let's be real) were surrounded by other women who thanked them, embraced them, (cried with them, let's be real) and bathed them in prayer.  We felt connected.  We empathized.  And then we each got our belongings, went to our cars and headed back to our normal lives.

But, by the grace of God alone, our lives will never be the normal we knew before this retreat.  Because, thanks to the time and effort of our wonderful committee and thanks to the faithfulness of our Heavenly Father, we have been changed.  We have been taught.  We have been broken.  And we have been re-anchored to our True Hope.

What is your anchor?


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Children in Church

Over the past few months, I have personally read and thought a lot about this topic:  Why do some churches expect children to be part of the worship service and other churches have a wide variety of other places children should be during that time?

A little bit of background might be helpful.  I grew up in a Lutheran church where we sat through the service alongside our parents.  My earliest memories are of asking my dad "how much longer do we have?" in a hushed tone as he pulled out the worship bulletin and pointed to where we were in the order of service.  I remember being proud of myself for keeping my eyes closed for the entire prayer time.  Let's be honest, it was pretty long for child's attention span.  But we did it. We moved churches after my 5th grade year, and ended up at a small Baptist church.  It was pretty much opposite in every way.  There was a nursery for young children and then a "children's church" time for older kids.  They would stay for songs, greeting time and announcements and then go to their own, age appropriate sermon message.

Fast forward to today, and I am a member of a Grace Brethren Church that is in between the Lutheran and Baptist church in size.  I never paid much attention to what the children did during the worship service, until my daughter was born.  Now, almost 2, she is dropped off in the nursery from the moment we walk in the building until the completion of the service.  There are classes for students up through 5th grade, in fact.  Very rarely are children brought into special services, sermons, songs, or any time with the rest of the congregation.   And, truthfully, it rubbed me wrong as soon as I had to drop my young baby off in the nursery.  I wanted her with me.  That feeling was magnified when I went back to work.  I thought, I send my daughter to a babysitter five days out of the week, and now I have to send her off again on Sunday?!  Whether it was intentional or not, I felt an unspoken expectation that I maintain the quiet, professional atmosphere in the sanctuary by sending my infant into the nursery.  Everyone was doing it.  Literally, everyone.

So, as I have spent the better part of 2 years thinking through what I believe and prefer in regards to children in the church service, I wanted to share some of the articles I have found to be particularly helpful and challenging.  Many reinforce what I have subconsciously thought for a while:  First, children should have the ability to sit quietly through a church service.  Secondly, it is good for children to see adults worshiping God.  And lastly, children can learn so many things from a worship service.

I welcome any other resources you have found as you are considering how to children can or should be involved in the service.  I, of course, understand that there are conflicting opinions and preferences on this topic and that ultimately, each family has to decide what is best in their case.



1. This quick article, "5 Reasons Children Should be Part of the Main Service Regularly" first sparked my serious consideration about the possible negative affects of removing children from corporate worship.

2. Desiring God posted this article, "Should Children Sit Through 'Big Church'?" that referenced this paper, "The Family:  Together in God's Presence."  They are both my two main pieces of reflection and interest at this point.  I really appreciate the emphasis on parenting, and at the same time it is very sobering for me.

3. This article includes both sides of this debate.  Here is the "Pro Family Worship" side, and here you can find "Real Kids Worship" points as well.  It's worth noting that ChildrensMinistry.com found that 48% of the people polled agreed with family worship time and 52% preferred age-specific worship.  Clearly, it's a pretty even split.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Old Window, New Statement

Hello, Blog Readers!  I'm back after quite the break.  Why was I gone in the first place, you ask?  Read the many reasons I stayed off social media for a month here.  Now, I'm slowly getting back into my "routine" of checking in while fighting the urge to check out too much.  I'd love to hear how all of you manage that within your families.

But, today I wanted to share a new hobby of mine!  I have always loved crafting and creating, but my funds (and storage) are super limited.  When my mom came across an old church that was getting new windows (and tossing their old ones in the trash) we decided there had to be something we could do to re-purpose them.

And they turned out looking like this:

1. First window for my sister's bridal shower gift:


2. Second window for a friend's wedding gift:




3.  Third window for my sister's house warming gift:



4. Fourth window for a friend's house warming gift:

(Picture coming soon!)



As long as our window supply lasts (I think we have like 10-15 more sitting in the shed!) I will keep trying to come up with different people to give them to/sell them to (more on that later!) and different ways to use them.  They really are very easy to do...so if you ever want to try, here is the process I used:

Materials:


Chalk Paint (I recommend Dutch Boy brand, found at Menards)
Paint Marker
Wax Finish
Windex/Water
Sanding/Stripping Supplies
Cheap, Coarse Paintbrush
Heavy Picture Hanging Kit (I recommend Ook brand, up to 30 lbs)
Old Window
Tarp or Garbage Bags
Painter's Tape or Razor Blades
Cheesecloth

Procedure:

1. Clean glass on both sides before you start. Old windows can be quite...filthy.






 2. Lightly sand edges of window to remove any loose chunks of old paint and large splinters.  On the first window, I tried to remove the old fixtures of the window, but since then I found it easier to just paint over them and go with it!



3. Lay window on tarp/garbage bag to paint.  Heavily coat one side of window with paint.  Be sure to get all the small cracks, metal fixtures, and even the beveled edge that attaches to the glass. If you choose to use painter's tape, make sure it is laid on the glass and pressed right up against the wood.  I have found that it's easier to messily paint first and use a razor blade to tidy up the glass afterwards.

Sometimes you just gotta catch up on The Voice re-runs as you craft.





4. After that side is dry (usually close to 1 hour of wait time), flip the window and repeat step 3.  It is worth noting that from the opposite side you should again pay careful attention to the deep cracks in the sides of the window.  Even when I thought I painted everything, I would notice bare spots once I flipped the window over.

5. Even though most chalk paints claim a one coat coverage, I always do two.

6. Using a flat razor blade, carefully scrape off all the excess paint that landed on the glass, if you did not use painter's tape.  This also comes in handy when you make multiple mistakes on step 9!




7. Using your sanding materials, distress the places on the window that would naturally wear away:  corners, around fixtures, and edges. I have noticed this sometimes alters the color of the paint you have used to a lighter shade.





8. I recommend using Windex/water to re-clean both sides of the window at this point.  It's probably quite dusty again!

9. Using a paint marker, write the word/drawing that you desire to be the focus of the window.  I always sketch my idea first with a pencil on a piece of paper and then look at that to help me draw it on the window.  You could also trace something easily through the glass, if that's easier for you. When I know what I want to write but don't know how to format it, I often look online for different fonts or styles to use.  These pictures show how I go in stages to get the look I want:  Write it quickly for spacing/size, then scrape off any mistakes and slowly bold the letters I want to emphasize.







10. Place a quarter sized piece of wax between the folds of the cheesecloth and rub it everywhere you have used the chalk paint.  You will notice it shows up darker initially but dries quickly. Using a cheesecloth is the only way I have found of making the wax disperse evenly, otherwise it will streak...but sometimes that adds to the vintage distressed look.  Wax will help the chalky finish not to get on people's hands or walls as they handle the window.




11.  Follow the directions for how to install the hanging kit.  The one I use comes with two D-hooks (one on each side of the window).  If you install them lower, you won't see the wire above the window, but the window may hang away from the wall a little more and the wire will show through the glass.  If you install the hooks higher on the window it will hang flesh with the wall but the wire will be visible.




12.  To "gift wrap" this I suggest getting a large gift bow to stick on the corner, or buying large gift tags that you can tie with twine or ribbon diagonally across the top.  I also save the hanging kit original packaging with the wire and instructions and hang it from the back of the window so the recipient can know how to finish the hanging process.







These normally take me one whole afternoon/evening because of painting, waiting an hour, flipping, drying, etc.  Sometimes the following day I go back over the paint marker spots again to make them thicker.

What do you think?  Have you re-purposed old windows before?  Please share any tips or thoughts you have on the process!

Also, if you would like to buy one of these windows from me, I'd love to make one for your home.  If you can pick them up in Warsaw or Huntington, I'd be happy to work with you to come up with a design and color scheme you like.  Depending on what color paint/how much writing you select, the price would vary.  Comment below if you are interested!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Happy Birthday to Me

Two years ago, I took a few months off of Facebook to prepare for the arrival of our first daughter.

This past winter, I stopped my endless streaming of episodes for 6 weeks to make better use of my time during the day.

And, starting tomorrow morning, I will be spending 30 days unplugged.  No more logging in to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.  No more mindlessly scrolling through my phone while not entirely engaging with the conversation around me.  No more "multi-tasking" while my daughter finishes lunch or guilting myself into writing a blogpost that is well past due.  From May 4-June 4 I will be offline. I'm deleting apps from my phone and putting my phone in a separate room when I'm at home.  The only exception due to necessity (unfortunately) is my email.  I am going to check it once or twice a day from my laptop.  Other than that, toodles!

Why now?  The weather is getting nicer.  Then worse again. But mainly nicer. I'm starting to become more disciplined in my strength training and cardio.  My daughter is so fun to play with and I hate not giving her the attention she deserves.  We have many upcoming travel plans both within the state and outside of the country.  God has given me a greater hunger for Scripture than ever before in my life.  I even think I want to try to memorize a whole book of the Bible!  I'll let you know how that works out. We have major life decisions coming up as a family.  I want to implement some form of fasting (maybe a version of this plan?) periodically.  I have an ever growing list of prayer requests and seemingly fewer minutes in my day to pray over them.  It's my birthday month.  So, really, why NOT now?  When I write all those goals out, I can't help but feel like 30 days won't even be enough!


As I struggle with how to make these big changes and huge decisions, Romans 12:2 really convicted my heart:

"...let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect."

So, I'm going to give God a little more peace and quiet to work in my heart and mind.  To transform me into a new person who can learn His perfect will for my life by changing the way I think.  I'm not saying a break from the internet is the answer to everything, but for me it is necessary from time to time.  And as Romans 14:22-23 reminds us, "Blessed are those who don't feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right. But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it.  For you are not following your convictions.  If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning."

If you like seeing pictures of my daughter, or you enjoy articles that I read or crafts that I have tried, I look forward to seeing you back here in June!

Toodles :)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Easter Bunny Lessons

As I researched more for Easter and how to teach a toddler some of the significance behind this holiday, I came across this post thanks to Focus on the Family.  I especially loved the suggestions for incorporating how the world views Easter (fuzzy, adorable, Easter bunnies!) and using them as an object lesson for how Christ wants to help us act.  So, I came up with some visuals because I like to waste a nap-time and not do dishes...  Feel free to download these, print them off and use them to remind yourself and your children of how to act like "Easter bunnies."


You could attach these to a bag of chocolate bunnies, marshmallow bunnies or place them next to a REAL bunny (!!).  You could also have older children look up and read the Bible verses mentioned or have younger kids look for books and stuffed animals that have bunnies in them to further the illustration.



In looking for cute ways of incorporating God's wisdom into the world's foolishness, I came across THIS BLOG which has dozens of adorable printables.  I'm in love.  I especially liked her cute suggestions for how to redo an entire Easter basket with Scripture references.





I had a little too much fun playing on Canva, as always.  Have you tried to make visuals on here?!



The carrot.

Hope you enjoyed this creative concept from Focus on the Family as much as I did.  Make sure to check out their ideas for more object lessons!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Staying Focused on Easter in a World of Bunnies.

First of all, I blogged every day last week two weeks ago on my teacher blog.  That's unheard of from this blogger-wannabe.  I'd like to say that's the explanation for why I haven't blogged on here all week for a while, but I have not yet fully committed to a set schedule in blogging, so that can also be blamed.  Thanks for hanging around, even when I'm inconsistent, y'all :)

As we get closer and closer to Easter this year, I'm increasingly convicted by how much I just let it creep up on me.  I anticipate Christmas and plan out a whole week of celebrations for birthdays at times, but when it comes to the celebration of my Savior rising from the dead, I just do my normal thing and try to be more grateful?!  How utterly lazy and ridiculous. 

For the past couple of weeks, I have been trying to intentionally plan out ways of reflecting and celebrating Christ's life, death and resurrection.  Last week I really began to (try to) put the plans into action!  My list includes some things for me personally, some activities I want to try to do with Naya, and some things that we will do as a whole family.  Here is what I am shooting for:

1. John Piper's 50 Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die:  My goal is to read 3-4 of these short chapters each night before bed to help me slowly process the multifaceted purpose of Christ dying.  My husband read this aloud to me two years ago, but this year I am hoping to really spend more time in it.  Piper's readings can be pretty deep for some people, but I have really enjoyed reading more of his articles and this particular book includes a lot of direct Scripture quotations (which I really appreciate).

2. Easter Breakfast/Sunday Service: Our home church has a free breakfast before the church service on Easter.  The food is great, the conversations are genuine and enthusiastic and I love seeing Naya interact with our church family.

3. Hidden In My Heart: Volume III A Lullaby Journey Through the Life of Jesus:  This set of CD's was first brought to my attention on Revive Our Hearts when I was listening to a podcast.  With Naya's obsession with music, and our playlists getting annoyingly short and repetitive, I thought this would be a great "Easter gift" for her.  I know I will enjoy listening to it, too!  My favorite part is that this volume is explicitly the words of our Savior set to music.  How lovely.

4. The Gospel of John: My husband reminded me, when I was trying to select a passage to read, that the Gospel of John has the most amount of chapters dedicated to the time between the Last Supper and the Ascension.  That, in addition to the fact that we are in a long series on Mark in church and I am very familiar with Matthew, led me to believe John might guide my mind and heart well in this time. Side note: I'm reading it aloud, and in Spanish.  It's SO CHALLENGING for me this way, and I think it really makes me stop and focus on each word and phrase.  I feel like I'm reading John for the first or second time.
" 'If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.' By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive." -John 7:38-39
  5. Focus on the Family's Free Resources for Holy Week: This was a direct answer to prayer! I received this email on the exact day that I was asking God how I could start teaching Naya about the meaning behind Easter.  I am hoping this year we will start by making the palm branches, baking bread, foot washing.  I know that the conversations will be pretty much by myself at this point, but I also want to get into the habits (for me AND her) of being intentional. Celebrating things worth celebrating.  Learning by doing.  Experiencing.

6. Extended Family Luncheon: After church we will drive to my parent's house where my mom's family will celebrate by eating together.  I always enjoy being around my cousins, aunts and uncles and other family members.  Now that there are 3 great-grandchildren in the bunch, it is really fun to see them all around each other.

7. "O the Blood" by Kari Jobe: Last Sunday, Marc Eckel did his Splat Experience display during our church service and used this song as his background music.  The words combined with the incredible image brought tears almost instantly.  I have listened to it many times since, and will continue to listen to it throughout the week.
" O what love, no greater love.  Grace, how can it be that in my sin, yes even then He shed His blood for me?!"
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When Naya is a bit older, I hope to spend more time diving into resources such as these: 

And if you are reading this post thinking "What IS the Spiritual Truth behind Easter?  Why don't we just go on Easter egg hunts and eat chocolate bunnies like everyone else and call it good enough?  What is so special about Easter?"...oh, dear friend, let me show you.  Read this for a good starting point. Then, comment here or reach out to me with questions.  Because the reason behind Easter is the reason for life.  It's everything.