Thursday, November 24, 2016

Prepping the Farmhouse for Christmas

Since yesterday I did a little intro to the farmhouse, I thought I would keep the blogging pace and head straight into the next phase of the new home: decorating.

I have the very welcomed, but very daunting task of not only decorating a new home, but getting it ready for the Christmas season as well.  I don't want to skip Christmas just because we are busy getting settled; I'll be working double time to make sure the house feels like Christmas throughout every room.  Since the home is new for not only me, but my littles as well, I want to make sure the home is super cozy and welcoming for them this year.  In doing so, it will be welcome for other family and friends as well .  Oh, I just can’t wait to invite some friends over for some of my shrimp and corn chowder!

Photo Source: By Stephanie Lynn

Since we literally just moved in the farmhouse, I have a completely blank canvas to work with.  It’s a little overwhelming, but I actually have a good vision of what I would love to see.  I painted the entire house white not only because I LOVE that color, but it keeps a fresh "canvas" for me to transition into different seasons and holidays.  I can add pops of red and black this season without worrying if it clashes with wall or cabinet color.  And pops of red and black is just what I envision for this Christmas season.

Photo Source: Little Laura Lou Crafts on Etsy

When I look around my living room, I keep envisioning a tree in the front corner to shine out both windows and draped in buffalo check with a cozy blanket or fir tree skirt waiting to hold those sweet little presents. When we worked on the house plans, I made sure that there was a special spot for the Christmas tree, and outlets to accommodate. That tree will be here sometime next week.  Now I only have to decide if I want to do traditional red and black buffalo check or hunt down some black and white.  Both are equally beautiful so either is a win!

Over on the mantle, I can see beautiful garlands of cypress greenery and lots of white candles or white lights placed along it.  I also made sure there was an outlet hidden around the side of the mantle with Christmas lights in mind. Then of course stocking holders amongst the garlands, and everyone’s stocking waiting to be stuffed with goodies.

Then on the sofa, I can see a mix of fur and buffalo check pillows welcoming visits and long talks with sweet friends, or nights cozying up with my little ones watching a Christmas movie.  And a red plaid blanket draped over the sofa waiting for us.

Photo Source: Four Generations One Roof

Speaking of sofas, I’ll let y’all in on a little secret: I have not bought any new furniture for the house.  Yep! You read right.  We currently don’t have any living room or dining room furniture.  And I’m kinda having commitment issues.  You see we had a sectional in the previous house, but I thought that having just a slipcovered sofa and some nice sitting chairs would be prettier in our new home and would allow me to rearrange seating as needed.  However, I have realized that my family is used to sitting together, and regular sofas aren’t as accommodating as sectionals.  Plus, we built this house with the full intentions of opening the doors to fellowship with our family and friends.  Sectionals offer much more seating.  The drawback: no easy rearranging and the elimination of pretty chairs.  So the conundrum: what to get?  I want pretty and comfy!

I think we may actually be leaning towards sectional because it’s what we’re used to and it’s what we like.  In my quest for a sectional that was pretty too, I have found some pretty ones from Arhaus. (You can see all their pretty sectionals which are on sale by clicking here.) And they have a white slipcovered one as well.  I have been dreaming of a white slipcovered sofa forever, so maybe I’ll have to add a few pieces from Arhaus onto my Christmas wish list.

Photo Source: Arhaus

As for the dining, my heart is set on a salvaged wood dining table with a matching bench on the side and slipcovered end chairs.  (Got to have somewhere to sit when I make that shrimp and corn chowder.) I actually came across Arhaus when I was searching for the perfect table.  They have some beautiful tables that are worth checking out as well.

Photo Source: Glitter Guide

Photo Source: Better Homes and Gardens

I haven't forgotten the rest of the house, I’d love to add touches of Christmas to every room.  Some pops of red in my white kitchen and a pretty wreath on the mantle hood.  In the dining room, I would love to add some greenery to the lanterns.  And just keep going with touches of red, or black buffalo check all throughout the house.  I even plan on putting some cozy red buffalo check flannel sheets on the beds.  And hopefully by mid next week, I’ll have been able to bring all these visions to life.

How are y’all planning on prepping your home for the sweetest season of all?  Let me know!  I’d love to see your homes adorned in all their Christmas goodness.
Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Little Louisiana Farmhouse Intro

Louisiana Farmhouse

I had imagined in years past, that I would blog our entire building process in depth. In fact, I couldn't wait to start blogging about it, but honestly there were many, many nights that the last thing I wanted to think or write about was the new house. Building a custom home is lots of hard work and problem solving.  Regardless, we feel incredibly blessed to have been able to build this home and it's surreal to finally be moving in this week. 

Even though I wasn't very good at blogging the build, I did keep a pretty good account for things on my @louisianafarmhouse Instagram feed. And from there I have received through comments and direct messages lots and lots of questions about the home. So I figured I would take some time and answer a few of the most asked questions. 

I get asked the most questions regarding floor plans, so let's start there:
When Lane and I first started dreaming of building our own home over four years ago, we started just driving around our favorite neighborhoods. We quickly realized that our style was not the common taste in our Louisiana area. Those French Acadian homes were gorgeous, but instead we were drawn to garden homes and off the ground farmhouses. So I started combing Southern Living house plans. We even went to South Carolina one summer to see some of our favorite homes in real life. We found several plans that we loved, but none actually worked for our family. After talking with one architect, we quickly realized that it would cost more to modify a house plan than it would to just have custom plans drawn. So we met with a local firm and brought with us the elements that we loved: shed dormers, gabled roof lines, and porches. After 10 long months, we had the plans to our dream home. And since a Carolina coastal cottage in the middle of a Louisiana cow pasture didn't quite make sense, farmhouse it is.  
**Due to legal and personal reasons, we cannot share our floor plans. Thanks for understanding. 

Next up, floors:
We used wide planked antique dirty top pine for our floors downstairs.  We installed them across a subfloor made of 1x4s on 10 inch centers to give them the feel and sound they would have if the house was off the ground.  We buffed them and applied four coats of floor polyurethane in satin. No stain. The polyurethane alone brought out that rich dark color of the antique pine which contrasted with our all white walls very well. They are already scarred with nail holes and scratches from their previous location so they are the perfect bit of rustic for our farmhouse. And doing life on them will be easy because scratches will just add to the charm.  When we got to the upstairs floors, our budget was too tight to do the same floor upstairs.  Due to allergy and eczema, we knew we didn't want carpet, but the cost of laminate and installation seemed high to me. If I picked a laminate I loved, it was about the same as wood floors. My friend Beth suggested painted plywood floors and after some research we went for it. We cut birch plywood into strips and then painted them the same color white as the rest of the house with the exception of Aubrey Lane's room which we painted light pink. It's not a permanent floor, but we saved a ton of money and it will last a handful of years. And we love it!

And counters:
Against all advice and recommendations, we chose honed White Carrara marble for counters. Yes, they scratch, stain, and etch, but I feel like that's part of the beauty of them. We could have gone with a Quartz for more durability, but the cost was nearly double. In my opinion, the beauty of the marble is unmatched, and beauty is worth a little babying and the scratches are part of the patina. 

I have plenty other questions to answer regarding design. Design was a tricky part of the process for me. I love so many styles, but didn't feel that I fit into one category. And honestly, I didn't want to. But that made design challenging. I didn't want a completely shabby, Scandinavian, eclectic, or coastal styled home. Quickly realizing that there are no such things as design "rules", I stopped stressing about fitting into one category. Instead I concentrated on things I loved: polished chrome, matte black, exposed brick, and white paint. I wanted to create a home that could be "dressed up" and feel elegant for gatherings, but comfortable and cozy for our family. Once I concentrated on fixtures and colors that I liked instead of trying to conform to one style, the process got easier. And I would encourage anyone else building or decorating to do the same. Let Pinterest and Houzz inspire you, not conform you. 

If y'all have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. I reached out to even strangers for advice sometimes, and would be glad to pass along all the help I received. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Oh, Kindergarten...

Life post flood has been pretty chaotic... Moving from our home to our parents' home back to our home, church programs postponed, schools closed "until further notice"... all made it impossible to obtain any regular routine or sense of control.  If anything, this flood has made us ALL realize that we really have no control in any situation.  Properties bought in NO FLOOD zones, houses built on hills off the ground, well made and thought through plans for the last half of 2016 and the new school year... it was ALL an illusion...  It hit hard for everyone!  No one soul remained untouched or unaffected by the events that unfolded in our community mid August.  Not even our sweet babies.  I personally threw away soggy notebooks and new school supplies, watched my little niece process the fact that she was now homeless, witnessed my friends' sweet kiddos recognize their belongings in the debris piles on the roadside, even consoled my own daughter as she sobbed while we burned all her flooded books and tossed moldy Cabbage Patch Dolls. 

Y'all, it was hard and it will be hard for a while.

But last week the clouds parted, and we got a little bit of our normal back when our community schools resumed classes.  We had only been to school ONE WHOLE day when the rains started, so it was literally the first day of school, take two.

Unfortunately BOTH Jude and Aubrey Lane's schools received significant flood damage.  So when school resumed last week they were at new temporary locations.  But, hey- we'll take it. 

Jude is pretty easy going and went back to a school he used to attend so re-entry was a breeze.  It was Aubrey Lane I was a little bit worried about.  Not only was she going to a new school, but she's in kindergarten.  She had only been to school ONE DAY so she didn't really have time to make any friends or get a feel for school itself.  And she wasn't very interested in going back.  But I tell you what, kindergarten has been FUN!

First, I just ADORE her teacher and the staff at the entire school.  When we pull into carpool in the morning, they are there and ready for their babies.  If there are tears, and there have been, the carpool teacher will call Aubrey Lane's teacher to the car, and she is so tender and encouraging to her.  They all are like that with their students.  If a bow has been forgotten, and it has been, the teachers are so quick to help us find it like it was their own daughter or granddaughter's bow they are looking for.  It really does feel like a big family.

Aubrey is learning so much! And I can see that she is being pushed at just the right pace.  Her teacher has been teaching for FORTY-TWO YEARS so she knows children so well.  They have so many extras to make sure the students are getting the most of this season in life- there are so many fun events and days like Spirit Day where kiddos get to wear spirit shirts and bitty cheerleader uniforms.  It really feels picture perfect.  My only one regret is that we didn't start there earlier!

Over the weekend, Saturday to be exact, we celebrated the return of another normal routine- dance class!  We went to Open House where there was face painting, photo props, and of course AL's sweet teachers.  Other dance companies had sent tons of dance shoes, dance wear, and even costumes to help out the flood victims.  It was awesome to see.

On the way to the Open House, I don't know what came over me, but after realizing that Aubrey Lane was now in kindergarten and did not know how to tie her shoes, I decided to give her first lesson.  I figured this was something that would take 15 minute sessions everyday for the next week or two before she got it.  I guess she wanted to prove me wrong, because after only 10 minutes she got it!  And now I have a shoe tier...

The second week of kindergarten came around along with a double ear infection for Aubrey Lane.  But no worries, she got to bring Corduroy to the doctor with her.  Every kindergartner gets to bring Corduroy home with them to spend the night when they are good, and apparently it's a BIG deal!  She was so proud packing him out of the classroom, and she brought him home and had a tea party so he could meet all her other "friends".  Oh, kindergarten, you are so fun.  Well at least for now.  We will have to give another update in a month or two.

Stay tuned for Jude's second grade take two post.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Happy First Day of School

Wow!  It's so hard to believe that I'm writing this post, but today was the first day of school for both of my sweet babies.  Jude started Second Grade again, and Aubrey Lane started Kindergarten.  And YES, I cried.  I've had a baby at home with me for 9 years, and now all of a sudden I don't.  Of course it was and will be hard for me to adjust to this season of life.

Since blogging is my virtual scrapbook, I want to remember what each of my sweet babies is like at this age.


Jude, you are eight years old and about to start second grade for the second time.  Your daddy and I made that decision last year to hold you back one more year in elementary school with your amazing teacher and precious paraprofessionals.

We decided on this not because you weren't doing well, quite the opposite.  You have THRIVED the past 2 years at this school with this same team of educators.  You have learned to walk, started enjoy working hard at school work, and have maintained an A/B Honor Roll.  We are soooo proud of you!  We knew that staying in this same environment for an extra year would better prepare you physically and mentally for Intermediate School.  A couple of days ago when we attended open house at your school, the minute we pulled into the neighborhood, you squealed and clapped with excitement.  Then we followed you down the hallways as you lead us right to your classroom.  You remembered where you needed to go and knew exactly who would be waiting behind the door for you when you arrived; a group of the sweetest ladies who missed you and are ready to love on you.  I think they were emotionally thankful (almost as much as I am) to see you return.

Jude, at this age you are walking.... Rarely do children learn to walk this late in life.  If they haven't acquired the skill by a certain age, it is unlikely children ever walk.  However, you are in the business of defying odds, sweet boy.  I'm sure now more than ever you have a lot of tricks up your sleeve we have yet to see.

Your personality is still super funny.  You love to giggle at your little sister when she whines and cries, and you race in front of me to pull her hair when we are all walking together.  You have fully assumed the role of the antagonizing big brother, and you love it.  Her whelps of frustration with you are music to your ears. You can't get enough and don't mind getting in trouble for your reward.  However, I have witnessed some tender moments between the two of you.  You like to snuggle with Aubrey Lane and love to let her play with your curly hair.

You still don't like to eat (praying that's our next big hurdle to conquer), and you detest your glasses and hearing aids.  I don't even bother that much anymore with them because you respond to simple commands and I have yet to notice you struggle to see anything... especially your sister's hair to pull out of the corner of your eye.  I still try to make you wear them during activity times, but these days I'm all about quality of life and picking up and replacing glasses and hearing aids off the floor 274 times an hour is not my idea of a good life of quality for either of us.

You love to be read to and you love music.  Nothing brings more joy to your face than when you see someone open up a book to read to you.  And when we get in situations that make you feel a little antsy like restaurants or crowded places, headphones and nursery rhymes make you cool and calm.  And you LOVE LOVE LOVE to watch baseball games on television.  So much that your grandparents have saved games on their DVR for you.  You can't answer the question, but I bet you would want to be a baseball player when you grow up.

Jude, you are the best snuggler and you still let me rock and hold you.  And you give hugs and kisses!  When I pick you up, you wrap your arms around me and squeeze me so tight and press your face to my cheek as hard as you can.  It's kinda painful because you are sooo strong but my heart explodes every time you do it.

You are soooo social.  You give high fives and grins to everyone.  BUT, you are a grudge holder.  If I fuss at you for something, you are mad at me for the WHOLE DAY!  I kind of find pleasure in that fact because it's another concept you understand.  We find out new things about your awareness and cognition everyday lately and it's so exciting to watch you thrive.

This morning when we dropped you off, you were thrilled to be at school.  And when we picked you up, your sweet para stood in the rain to hug you one last time and tell you she loved you.  

Aubrey Lane

Oh Aubrey girl, you are five going to kindergarten and just a handful.  A good handful that I'm thankful for.  We enrolled you in a private faith based academy and I just have a confidence that you are going to bloom there.  We have already met with your teacher and I want to go to kindergarten with you because it sounds soooo fun.  I can't wait to see all the stuff you will make and learn this year.

Aubrey Lane, you are super tiny, 11th percentile in weight and 14th in height (finding uniforms to fit was quite the job), but because Jude is tiny too, you have almost caught up with him in size and I get asked if y'all are twins all the time.  Despite your size, you are a pretty good eater with a huge list of foods you willingly eat.  

At this stage in life, you are sooo funny.  You always have been though.  When you tell us an idea you have, you ask if it was a "good apple" because your daddy often ask you "how do you like them apples" and you interpreted apples as ideas.  And you tell us "let's blow up this popsicle stand" when we leave places.  You have a great imagination and you always want to "pretend" to do something.  I'm amazed at the stuff you come up with.  And you sing constantly... like always... like ALL DAY!  But you know what, it's so enjoyable because you have the prettiest little voice and you actually sing very well for your age.  Lane, who you still call Daddy Punkin,  and I will ride in silence in the car just to hear you sing along with the radio.  You still LOVE to dance and you say you want to be a gymnast when you grow up, but you have never taken one gymnastics class in your life.  That doesn't matter to you; you have been in love with the sport since we took you to the LSU gymnastics meet earlier this year.

Aubrey Lane, your personality is so impressive.  We often call you a miniature 30 year old because the way you act and talk, especially when you talk with your hands. You take a minute to warm up to new places and ideas, but once you come out of your shell, there is no putting you back in it.  You take charge and go from there.  I was so worried when I dropped you off today that you might clam up for the first couple of days and not like school from the stress of that action, but before I left the school this morning, you had called on the teacher twice with questions about your desk work.  I felt much better leaving you after that.

Dropping you off this morning was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.  I have had you or Jude as a steady day date for the past nine years.  I'm going to miss you terribly.  But you seemed to be doing fine when I left and I stayed strong to not cry a tear in front of you then LOST IT in the parking lot.  When we picked you up this afternoon you had already made friends that were jumping out of line to hug you bye.  And when we asked you how your first day of kindergarten was, you answered "PERFECT!"

Happy first day of school, little ones.
Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Trusting Without Borders // Part 4

So I know I've kept you waiting long enough on the wrap up of this little series; actually, I hate to call it a "wrap up" because I feel like I will never ever be quite finished with dealing with all of this.

Ok. So I started fertility treatment, and this was last August, by the way.  So into my first round, I constantly walked in prayer.  I prayed so hard for a healthy baby, but honestly, I prayed harder for God to just keep guiding me in the right direction.  I knew it was His desire to see me step out in faith and try for a sweet baby because He made it sooooo clear in His word.  But STILL... still I would get overwhelmed by numbers, probabilities, and past experience.  I'm in a couple of support groups for families affected by balanced translocation.  And even though it has been a great source of information for me, I could feel myself getting lost in everyone's personal experience.  Reading about someone who had 3 healthy children would leave me so encouraged one day.  However, the next day I would read about how someone's test results revealed the baby they were carrying was unbalanced, and it would leave me in gut wrenching fear and heartache for them and increased worry for myself.  

In those moments of incredible distress, I would turn to God and beg Him for assurance that it would be okay.  In my quiet time one day, God did speak to my heart and gently reminded me to not look to the left or the right, but keep my eyes straight on Him.

"Let your eyes look forward, fix your gaze straight ahead."
Proverbs 4:25

Now I was always taught to hold everything up to God's word to check it's truth and it's value.  So anytime I hear from God in that manner, I always like to find the biblical reference of His message.  Y'all!  Just go google scripture about turning to the right or left...
SO MANY REFERENCES!  Especially in the Old Testament when travelers are going through a foreign land or wilderness, they are instructed or they promise to stay on the King's highway and not to turn to the right or to the left.

Here I am, in a wilderness, and I need to stay on the King's Highway!  I don't need to seek my source of comfort and encouragement from anywhere else. 

So once again, I called on the Lord and He showed up in a big way.

Back to fertility treatment...  and this is where things will get a little clinical.

The doctor recommended a simple round of Clomid to get things started. So first round started... and so did the doctor appointments and tests.  The doctor warned me that the hormone therapy may make me feel crazy and hormonal, but I felt the opposite.  I could tell my body was loving what it was getting.  I had more energy, I slept better at night, my skin glowed, my hair quit falling out in handfuls, and my overall mood seemed to improve.  

My doctor also decided to help out the therapy by prescribing an injectable trigger drug that will force ovulation when needed.  I remember the FedEx packing arriving... It felt soo surreal.  

Well first ultrasound to check my response was concerning.  I was right.  My body loved the treatment, so much that I over responded to it.  So much that my doctor decided against the trigger shot and called off that month.  We just couldn't run the risk of me conceiving multiple babies, and by multiples, I'm talking 5 to 8... WOW!  Blood work later that month confirmed a crazy high progesterone number which did indeed mean multiple ovulations.

The time for the next round finally arrived.  And this time, I was instructed to take half a pill of the lowest possible dose.  Ultrasound came and my response was a tiny high, but in the normal range so we pushed forward.  I had my injection, my progesterone looked good, and into the longest two week wait ever.  

I was sure it would work this time...

But it didn't... 

I cried for a week.  I couldn't understand why it just didn't work.  I couldn't understand why God would bring me down this path to not let it work....

Lane hung me a pretty porch swing in our big oak tree to cheer me up.  I sat in that swing with my little girl one day and decided that it was not the right time in our family to pursue more rounds of treatment.  She was in a part time prek program and this was my last year to be with her all the time, Jude was learning to walk and would need a lot of help to get there, and the construction of our home was finally starting after more than a year of sitting on plans.  I didn't want to be so consumed with fertility treatment and the emotions that came with it that I couldn't feel present in these important moments.  

And I had such a peace.

A couple of months ago, right in the middle of our DIY floor installation on the new house, I was praying for God to continue to bless our endeavor.  I prayed for Him to bless our time and finances to go further than we imagined.... But then I realized how crazy I would feel with a newborn in that moment.  I either wouldn't be able to help or someone would have to be watching my new baby for me, and honestly that would break this attachment parenting momma's heart.  So once again, I realized God was being practical with His prayer answering skills....

In July, I returned for another visit with my doctor.  We talked and hope to start more rounds in the fall...  Please pray as I'm not sure of our direction yet, but I'm sure He will guide us.

Okay so I know sooooo many of you were hoping for some surprise ending, and OH how I wish that was the case.  But it just wasn't His plan for me.  And I'm okay with that.  I committed a long time ago to love the Lord because of who He is, not because of what He can do for me.

So why so many posts and cliffhangers? 

Well some of the posts were written over a year ago.  And each posts was a distinct portion of my life that I feel God showed me something very specific.  To trust, to have faith, to honor, to trust some more...  

And why did I write this?  Something in me just knew that writing this would help me, and I have received so many sweet messages from women facing fertility obstacles.  It's amazing how many women feel like they need to be hush hush about this particular struggle.  

Another reason for writing this is to encourage you to constantly seek God and His plan for you in and out of the wilderness.  So many times God was completely transparent on which path He wanted me on.  There was no guess work and no questioning how clear His word was during these times.  

Stay on the King's Road in life!  Keep your eyes on Jesus!  There are going to be many situations in which you are given so much advice.  Pray for discernment and God's direction, then head that way.  Don't let the what's going on to your right or your left distract you from your destination!

Now to the hard and honest part.  Not only do I encourage anyone to get in the word and seek God's guidance in their life, but I beg you to be obedient as well.  This is hard for me to write, but one of my biggest struggles throughout this process was stepping out in faith and being obedient.  So many times the Lord prompted me to step out in faith and I let fear hold me down.  Delayed obedience is disobedience... Now I'm not saying that not being able to have a baby is a punishment from God, but it could be a consequence of my disobedience.  And if I never get to have another baby, I will always wonder "what if". What if I would have never stalled in fear from the beginning?  What if I never wasted time waiting for the genetics counseling and just stepped out in faith?  What if I missed my opportunities to have babies without medical intervention and I'm to blame?  That's a lot of what ifs; too many!

So I encourage you, please don't stall out in fear!  Don't question or doubt God's direction.  Confirm it and follow.  You might just miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime if you hesitate.  


So where are we now?  We are just doing life.  It's busy and I am determined to enjoy every minute of it.  I tuck my babies in bed and look at the miracle of Jude's thriving life and at the blessing of my sweet Aubrey Lane, and I am happy.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Trusting Without Borders // Part 3

So there we were, heading straight out into the wilderness to try for a sweet baby.  And since we conceived both our first sweet babies quick and easy, we only prayed that God would give us a healthy baby and a joyful pregnancy without fear.

In the late winter, I was serving on a prayer team for a ladies' ministry and we had been out in the wilderness a few months now.  I remember attending the first few meetings with excitement thinking that in a few weeks I would have an exciting pregnancy announcement for my sisters.  And what better timing?  My pregnancy and baby would get bathed in prayer and all would be wonderful.    

But month after month, I never got to make that sweet announcement.  And month after month, frustration started to grow.  I remember being in the prayer room during that ministry weekend, and hearing from God that I still didn't fully trust him with my future babies.  It was a punch in the gut, but I knew it was true.  However, I was walking in a direction towards Him, and I was trusting that He would give me the faith I was lacking.  My sweetest friend once encouraged me that I should start walking in the direction I knew was right even if done in fear, and that God would meet me where I was and provide the faith I needed to keep going.  

Despite months and months without any sign of pregnancy, I refused to think anything was wrong other than my genetic disposition- I mean my body was telling me that everything was fine.  The genetics doctor had warned me that my affected embryos may not even implant and I was sure that was the culprit. It was referred to as genetic infertility.  Even so at my annual during the summer, I casually mentioned to my doctor that we had been trying for a while without any results other than a chemical pregnancy in December. Being on the border of advanced maternal age, she decided that it would be best for me to go ahead and do some testing.  Thinking that nothing would be wrong and without a worry in the world, I agreed.  

First round of blood work went fine.  Nothing to worry about.  Nothing looked out of place.  Second round was a different story... a nurse called me one day in August to give me my results and inform me that we were genuinely suffering from secondary infertility on top of our genetic infertility.  My body had deceived me and had not been doing what it was supposed to be all along, and it wouldn't without the help of fertility drugs.  I was DEVASTATED!!!  I hated my body for failing me AGAIN and I felt completely out of control!  How could this be?  Not only did I have to step out in faith to conceive, but now I would have to do it on fertility drugs and run the risk of having twins... twins that could suffer from a genetic abnormality and life threatening medical issues and severe development delays... I wanted to throw up!  I think I actually did. 

How could God do this to me?  I stepped out in faith!  I sought Him on every move!  I stayed in the Word!  I stayed away from methods that I thought would dishonor Him and my witness! Why didn't He reward all that with a quick healthy pregnancy?!  That was the plan, right?!

I remember putting my kiddos favorite cartoon on the television, and then hiding in our closet on the phone with my best friend.  All I could do was cry.  And all she did was listen, tell me that her heart hurt for me, and remind me that she loved me.  And that was the best thing she could do for me.  You see God was using my pain and grief to draw me in closer to Him.  He was present in my pain.  And I encourage you, when you are comforting a friend in the midst of great emotional grief, just be there for them because God is using their pain you are in the presence of holiness so you don't have to say a thing.

Lane came home from work early and decided to take me and the kids to Houston for some home shopping I had been wanting to do and to get away and think.  I couldn't decide if fertility drugs were right for us, and I felt back to square one; terrified again.  The nurse had given me the option to start fertility treatment that very same day or to take a month or two to think about it.  After praying, Lane said that we shouldn't wait; that our circumstances will not have changed in a month and we didn't want to stall out in fear again. 

So the nurse called in my prescription, and we picked it up on our way out of town.  

That same best friend and I had been to the Outcry Tour in New Orleans just a week before that.  It was an amazing night of worship with Crowder, Lauren Daigle, Kari Jobe, Bethel, and Hillsong.  So all the way to Houston, I sang "Oceans" by Hillsong.  And I knew God wanted me to trust Him without borders.  He wanted me to go where I had no choice but to trust in Him and only Him.  It was clear to me that I had to go where I was the most fearful and vulnerable in order to get freedom from this fear and experience His presence like never before.  And so I followed and started my first round of fertility treatment that night.

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where my feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever you would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior.

You can hear the song and see the video here.

to be continued...

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Trusting Without Borders // Part 2

Well... so here we are.  Almost a year later and I am finally ready to pick up where I left off...

So I knew it was time to make a decision on whether or not to expand our family.  The question was NEVER did we want another baby; that was a given.  However, more like should we have another baby.  Would it be fair to Jude and Aubrey Lane to take a chance on having another baby with severe medical issues? 

I prayed constantly over the issue determined not to let this circumstance get bigger than God again.  One night I remember thanking God for the scripture He had given me from Ecclesiastes to stand on.  But I complained that the scripture was for Jude and Aubrey Lane and that I needed a new one for more babies.  Almost instantly, He reminded me that His word is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow; that the verse stands for all pregnancies past and future.  God had given me so much precious affirmation; affirmation I wasn't owed and didnt' deserve.  

Even with that renewed assurance, I let my fear dictate my choices, not trust. I let feelings determine my decisions instead of the knowledge that God is in control and always good.  I waited.  I didn't step out in faith for that sweet baby despite the divine green light I was given.

Even though I knew that no one could give me clear answers or guarantees, I sought genetics counseling to get a better idea of the "numbers" that we were looking at.

At counseling numbers and probabilities were once again figured out on a piece of paper and we were told their best guesses.  IVF with preimplantation genetic diagnosis was put on the table before us.  That would mean sifting through embryos and only selecting those unaffected by genetic abnormality to be implanted.  Feeling uneasy with selecting choice embryos, I went to God with prayer over it.  I knew that no one could really make this decision for us.

So one day I was reading in Numbers and I came to the place where God told Moses to speak to the rock and it would bring forth water.  However, frustrated with his situation of groaning Israelites and knowing from his past experience it was a sure bet, Moses struck the rock and brought forth the water.  And God was so out done with Moses over this that He denied his entry into the Promise Land.  Moses didn't trust God to let Him bring water His way, and Moses stole honor and glory from God...  I knew God was speaking to me through His Word.  I knew that doing IVF with PGD would be striking the rock.  I knew that the outcome would be the same- a healthy baby or two, but I would be stealing the honor from God that way.  He didn't want me to strike the rock; He wants me to trust in Him.  He wants me to do things His way. 

(Now I want to be clear that I hold no judgment on those who choose that method; I'm only sharing what God showed me personally. And sweet readers, please don't judge either.  IVF is a wonderful technology given to couples that could not have babies otherwise and PGD is not the standard so embryos aren't just "discarded".  And I have many friends who have chosen PGD, but mainly because their affected embryos are not compatible with life and the pain of multiple miscarriages is excruciating.)

So all in all the genetic counseling only left me feeling more unstable than before I walked through the door.  I became emotionally distraught and struggled with depression throughout the next few weeks.  And God put a man whom I greatly admire in front of me and Lane during this season.  This man asked me if I felt like I was in the Will of God.  I answered YES!  I had to be!  I wasn't getting the answers from God that I wanted but I couldn't argue that I wasn't getting clear direction from Him.  This Godly man told me that he also believed that I was in the Will of God and that as long as I stayed there, any decision I made regarding children would be the right one. 

"Those who trust in themselves are fools, 
but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe."
Proverbs 28:26

You see, the genetics counseling wasn't going to assure me or give me a peace.  I had affirmation from God, but foolishly it wasn't enough for me.  So looking back now, the decline in my emotional and mental well being is no surprise.  I was going by what our geneticist, who is just a man, told me.  He is a Christian amazingly, but he's not God.  We have to be so careful with the discernment that God graciously gives us, and take captive our thoughts and feelings so that we don't let them squander it.

So a couple nights later, Lane and I prayed and talked and decided that the desire for more children was definitely not ungodly, and that pain of not having anymore children far outweighed the fear of having another one with special needs.  And that what kind of testimony and faith would we lack had we knew about my genetic dispostition before children and never had Jude or Aubrey Lane.  They are both, with and without disability, such gifts to us and others.  So after years of being bound up by fear, we stepped out in faith.  We were going to try for another baby.

to be continued...

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Trusting Without Borders // Part 1

I was so torn about sharing this or not, but I fully believe in the POWER of prayer and writing it all down is part of the dealing and healing process for me.  Maybe I'm writing it more for me because I don't even know when or if I will push the "publish" button.  

*For later reference, it is currently early August, 2015.

There is a ton going on in our lives behind the scenes.  But before I get there, I need to go back to when it all started.

When Jude was just about 10ish days old in the NICU, I sat at his bassinet desperately trying to cope with his recent chromosome abnormality diagnosis.  Y'all- this was seriously the hardest days of my entire life.  Not only was my world ROCKED by Jude's diagnosis, but a fear gripped me so hard I could hardly breathe: what if all my babies will be born like this? The doctors were pushing for genetics testing with Lane and I, but I just couldn't bring myself to go through with it.  What if the news was devastating?  All I wanted in this life was to raise a bunch of babies with the man I loved.  I had dreamt of a big family my entire life.

Desperate and knowing where my hope is, I picked up the bible I brought to the NICU everyday and begin to search for Ecclesiastes.  I don't know why, I just knew I had to read there.  I know now that was God.  Well I started from the beginning.  
Yes, God, I know there is a time for this and a time for that, but I need more.  I know there is something else you have for me in this!

That's when I came to Ecclesiastes 11:4

He who observes the wind will not sow,
And he who regards the clouds will not reap.
As you do not know what is the way of the wind,
Or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child,
So you do not know the works of God who makes everything.
In the morning sow your seed, 
And in the evening do not withhold your hand;
For you do not know which will prosper,
Either this or that,
Or whether both alike will be good.

I knew without a doubt that God had given that scripture to me at that time.  I clung to it over the next three years as my heart cried out for another child. You see a couple months after I read this, my worst fears were confirmed.  Jude's genetic disposition was the result of an unbalanced translocation in which I unknowingly passed to him because I have a balanced translocation.  And it could happen again with more children.  Oh the grief... it was unbearable. It was greater than having a child with multiple disabilities; it was and is my deepest grief to date.  I'm so thankful I could and did run to Jesus in the midst of my heartache.  There were so many times over the next three years that I had to remind myself that Jesus is greater than any circumstance.  I have a specific memory of one spring season being so heartbroken, I could not even find my voice to sing during worship service at church.  Instead I just cried out for God to help me through this pain.

I still had the scripture, and knew God wanted me to step out in faith in Him and try for another baby.  However, I did not let faith order my steps, but fear.  I never really tried for another baby.

Then came the fall and with it the unbelievable surprise of a positive pregnancy test.  Lane and I hadn't been trying at all.  I wish I could say that my heart sang with joy at the sight of that digital test that read "pregnant" across it, but fear flooded my heart and I cried for about a week.  Gradually my fear gave way to joy and I begin to be hopeful about this pregnancy and future baby.  We decided we would tell the world about our expected bundle of joy early at six weeks.  We thought about waiting until 12 weeks because the risk of miscarriage for us is SOOO high, but together we decided that the more people praying for our sweet baby, the better.

After a bumpy road in faith, our sweet Aubrey Lane was born the next summer.  Once again, I fell madly in love with a baby.  She was PERFECT in every way.   A complete miracle and gift from the Lord.  My heart swells with joy and tears flood my eyes right now just writing about it. 

My prayers were answered and I had a healthy baby.  However, I felt deep down inside that I didn't deserve my sweet miracle.  I had never stepped out in faith and actually tried for her like I knew God wanted me to.  I took the scripture and held it at it's word, but I didn't act on my faith; just my fear. 

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
James 2:17 NIV

Even though, I felt like God fulfilled His promises (let me be clear- I don't feel like God owes me ANYTHING.  He has already given me His Son), I didn't feel like I held up my end of the deal.  I also knew that I would want another baby and that the road to that would be a difficult one emotionally, but I focused all my energy on my new little miracle and the joy she and her big brother brought me.  I stuffed the nagging worry over the path to future children way down deep and hid it there until the day it refused to be ignored any longer....

to be continued

Monday, July 25, 2016

Low Key Summer Days

This summer Lane’s work schedule has been overly demanding.  Well actually his schedule has been demanding the WHOLE year.  He works at a nuclear power plant in a little town just north of us.  And the plant was on an outage for a month right in the middle of summer which meant Lane worked every day of the week with one day off.  This outage was unplanned for the company AND for our family.  We had actually been hoarding Lane’s vacation because we knew the time for the floor DIY was heading our way. Unfortunately, the outage came at THE SAME TIME that we were ready to start our floor DIY so it has thrown a BIG hold up on house progress.  Which equals no time for those beaches we dream of playing on with our littles.

The first week of summer vacation, Lane and I were both racked with guilt as all our friends were packing for the Alabama and Florida beaches.  We wanted to make sure our kids had a great summer too.  But as our summer days have unfolded, I can look back and see that while our summer has been low key, the kiddos have been making fun memories.

The second full week of summer, Aubrey Lane went to dance camp which she absolutely loves.  They dance, swim, eat, craft, dance, eat, and watch movies...  HELLO?!  Where is the dance camp for adults??  Seriously, though, she came home everyday exhausted but excited to show me her new hip hop moves and tell me about swimming in her dance teacher’s Mickey Mouse shaped pool.  And AL is far from a morning person.  We have never complained of kiddos getting up at 7am every morning; our's sleep late everyday and getting them up before 8am is a chore in itself, but that was not the case that week.  All I had to do was remind AL about dance camp and she was out of bed in seconds.  It was a good, good week.

Since then we have just being laid back. We mosey over to the new splash pad at the park a couple times a week in the mornings before the smoldering Louisiana heat gets to be unbearable.  And this year, the splash pad along with EVERYTHING else we do as a family has been so different this year now that Jude is walking.  I didn’t have to carry him- he can walk! 

Didn’t I mention that the pictures are cuter two now that Jude can stand next to Aubrey Lane.  She won’t get much closer because Jude likes to pull her hair, and she knows it.  Oh yeah, and I get asked if they are twins ALL THE TIME now!  You should see the look on faces when i say they are four years apart.

Some days when my father in law was off, he and I were able to work on the floors some.  During most of the other afternoons, it’s really too hot to do anything outside so we have been going by the library.  Besides watching baseball, being read to is Jude’s favorite activity.  And with Aubrey Lane learning to read, I decided to go ahead and let them get their first library cards.  They were sooooo excited!

With longer days, we have been mostly working in the new house in the evenings.  When Lane gets home, we bring the kids to his mom, and then we work on the floors until dark.  We clean up, head to Lane’s parent’s house where his mom usually feeds us and has bathed kids waiting on us.  So thankful for all my in-laws’ help. 

A couple evenings, we let the floors wait and have taken the kids to do fun stuff out in the world or around the house.  We’ve played a couple of rounds of miniature golf or “Hutt Putt” as Aubrey Lane calls it.  And thankful our sweet friends who live near by extend an open invite to use their pool.  AL is a fish and swims everywhere, and even Jude has gained confidence in the water and kicks around in his puddle jumper.  So the pool is also a little therapy for him.  It’s great for giving so much sensory input he seeks, and really works on his balance and core strength.  All pretty important for him.

Last week we all participated in our church's vacation bible school.  Once again, with Jude walking this year, it seemed like a new experience.  Everthing we do seems like a new experience.  Until this year, Jude completely depended on the use of a medical stroller or us carrying him anywhere and everywhere he went.  Now that he is walking everywhere, he is not nearly as dependent, and our arms are free.  It feels so liberating to watch him explore instead of carry him everywhere.  In fact, Jude feels soooo independent that he will often swat away hands that are offered for him to hold... little stinker.

But that’s it... Really that’s all it can be.  It’s far too hot for the zoo or playground here.  We hope to get over to the beach before the new school year starts which is in TWO WEEKS!! Can anyone else believe that?  

Hope your summer has been great.