Leaving and Letting Go

Derek and I decided long before we had kids that missions and service and ministry would be a part of our lives. We actually decided that even before we met each other. We both feel called to work with teenagers. We fell in love because as teachers, we were both the last ones on our hallway each day with students in our room, and we would encourage each other and learn from each other as we just naturally started our ministries. Then, once we got married it just made that ministry even greater. Getting to go on mission trips together and pour into teenagers and people around the world as a team has just always been a life giving calling for us both. 

Now that we not only have a child, but THREE children at once, I feared that this special part of us might have to be put on hold or change for a while. And in a lot of ways it has changed. I stay at home with our 3 kids instead of teaching. Students and former students come over to our house now to play with our kids instead of me having lunch or breakfast with them. In addition, we now get the privilege of pouring into 3 small humans together as a team and as ministry. I recognize that our family alone is a huge and wonderful and life giving ministry. BUT I still feel called to go. I love that even though so many pieces of our ministry look different right now, so far we have been able to be leaders on mission trips the last 2 years while raising our triplets. Both my parents and my in-laws have been champs and are willing to watch our kids while we follow this call on our hearts to go. 

That said. I’m really terrified this year. Last year when we went to China, I was so exhausted from taking care of 3 newborns. I hadn’t been out of the house much and the trip just felt so freeing. I felt like I got to remember who I was and how to slow down again. That trip began a journey of self-discovery in me. It reminded me to not get lost in this craziness of motherhood but to listen to the Spirit. It began a season of healing for me. Plus I just loved pouring into the high schoolers on our trip. We were going to a place that is so close to my heart. Shepherd’s Field feels like another home. I felt so confident leaving for that trip, and then coming back I had this image of the kids running to me and jumping in my arms…

Well, for one thing the kids weren’t really running yet, but when we got back, it was hard. Lucy and Oliver were fine and honestly ignored us when we walked up the stairs for the first time after being gone for 10 days. They just kept playing. Shepherd on the other hand was ticked. He was mad that we had left him and wouldn’t let me touch him or hold him or talk to him. He was back to normal by that evening and even more so by the next morning, but it was still hard.

Now here we are several months later, and we are leaving for Honduras tomorrow. I really feel like the Spirit was at work the way this trip just happened to have an open spot the exact year that we aren’t able to go to China. While Derek and I were praying about how we could still be involved together in missions this year, this trip was instantly on our hearts. Derek has been on this trip around 10 times and he has always wanted us to go together. I know that this is where God is calling me. I know that I will find purpose and that God can and will use me if I let him. I know that this group of high school students is fantastic, and I can’t wait to get to know them better. 

But I’m scared. This time, I’m really really scared. My kids spent several days in the hospital just 3 months ago. It’s still winter, so there is a chance that they could get sick again and have to go back while we are gone. More than that, I’m afraid to leave Shepherd. I know that Lucy and Oliver will barely miss me (haha), but my sensitive Shepherd will be mad again. I’m afraid that it will mess him up. I’m afraid that he will be so mad at me that it will forever change our relationship. I’m afraid that he won’t love me the same. Last year he couldn’t talk. This year, he can tell me how mad he is that I was gone.

The truth is, those things might happen. They probably won’t, but they might. They might get sick. Shepherd might be mad at me for days or weeks this time. It might make his anxiety worse. He might cry for me everyday that I am gone. But that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t go. 

If I don’t go, then God will still do amazing things on that trip. He doesn’t need me to make that trip great. I’m not going because I am this wonderful Christian and the best mentor and the only one that can pour into those high schoolers. That’s not it at all. I am not invaluable. But I do feel called to go. 

I’m going because I need my kids to know that even though they have forever changed my life and my ministry, my life is bigger than just the 3 of them. My ministry is bigger than the 3 of them. I feel guilty typing that. I feel scared typing that. But I want to raise kids that become adults that depend on Jesus and have coping skills to bravely take on the world. AND I am the best me when I have purpose outside of just them. I am a better version of myself when I am both loving them and others. I need both and that’s ok.

My theme for the year continues to be BOTH/AND. I am both a mom and a minister to teenagers. God has called me to both. And so even though I am scared…I will go.

A New Year

As I look back on 2018, I am filled with a dichotomy of emotions that exist simultaneously. I am both exhausted and content. I have both wonderful memories from the year and some that are really painful. My heart is heavy and filled at the same time. It feels like I spent just as much time at the doctor, hospital, and emergency room, as I did just enjoying my precious babies this year, BUT at the same time in all of the sickness, our family was bombarded with love and support from our friends and family which brings me so much joy. I think that this is the way that life is meant to be lived – in the world of the “both/and.” With every hardship and negative, there is a positive and shining light to be found. Sometimes it takes a while, and sometimes I just don’t have the energy or time or desire to see it, but it’s still there. In fact, the positive may just be that we survived. I sure am thankful that “His mercies are new every morning.” I’m thankful for grace. I’m thankful for the ability to be both full of love and full of anxiety at the same time. I’m thankful that my babies are both messy and beautiful. I’m thankful that my marriage has both been challenged and strengthened this year. I’m thankful that even though my ministry seems smaller, it also seems deeper. I’m thankful that even though my kids have had around 13 ear infections, a few sinus infections, several stomach bugs, Hand Foot & Mouth, ear tubes, RSV, pneumonia, more runny noses, coughs and colds than I can count, stitches, bumps, bruises, busted lips all in 2018…today they are happy and healthy. I’m thankful that even though 2018 brought my most challenging mental and emotional year as I struggled through anxiety and panic attacks, it also brought me Brene Brown, the Enneagram, a good counselor, and more soul searching and self-discovery than I ever thought possible. 2018 brought both many tears, and also so many belly laughs that kept me rolling for days. 

Each year I pick a verse that defines what I want to focus on and meditate over for the year. I learn the context of that verse and memorize it. I put it on my heart and mind and soul. When I look back and read my verses from the years past, the feelings and emotions of that year come flooding back. I can feel where my heart was at that time and how that verse spoke to me. I have written a few times about my verse for 2018 – Exodus 14:13-14. I have needed this verse so many times this year. As I am sitting here praying and trying to decide my verse for 2019, the “both/and” feels very important. I want the freedom to feel seemingly opposite emotions at the exact same time. This year I want to embrace the fact that I am both weak and strong. I want to feel confident that even though my anxiety might not leave, the Lord’s grace will continue to be even more abundant. I want to focus less on where I fall short and rather on where Christ is more than enough. In fact, I want to acknowledge that without my insufficiencies, the fullness of Christ’s strength may not be seen. So today, here’s to me not being enough but enough all at the same time. 2019, I’m ready for you. 

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Who am I?

I have been wrestling a lot lately with this very simple question: “Who am I?” 

For the past year and a half with newborn/baby triplets, I have been a survivor and just making it to the next day with healthy, happy babies. Staying sane was my goal and sometimes seemed like an unattainable goal. Now that Shepherd, Lucy, and Oliver are toddlers and especially now that they go to 3 half days of pre-school each week, I have time to really figure out my goals and identity beyond just survival. Do I want to be a teacher again? Do I want to solely focus on being a great stay at home mom? Do I want to be a writer? Do I want to run a marathon? Do I want to focus on ministry and missions? Who am I? 

Everyday recently I get asked 2 questions by friends, family, and strangers. I’m not talking once or twice… I have been asked these at least once a day for 5 weeks.

  1. Are you supermom taking care of triplets!?
  2. What are you doing with all of your free time now that the babies go to school?

For some reason, both of these questions make me feel super defensive. I have laid awake in the middle of the night several times over the last few weeks trying to come up with good answers to these questions. First of all, let’s clear the air, I am NOT a supermom. I am a very tired mom. I struggle with anxiety. I struggle with patience. I struggle with balance and often feel like a failure. All of us are just doing our best one day at a time. If you had triplets, you would figure it out one day at a time too. If you have one baby, and it’s crazy hard, it doesn’t mean that you couldn’t handle 3 babies, it would just be different. I do this whole motherhood of triplets thing with a WHOLE lot of help and a WHOLE lot of mistakes. But as soon as I can explain that I’m a mess and not a superhero, I get that 2nd question… “So, what are you doing with all of your free time now that the babies go to school?”

I’ve been on a journey since May to learn how to take care of myself and to find peace and presence in the chaos. Part of that journey was creating space and time in my life to practice self-care. I’m learning how to say no and how to be still. Those 12 hours each week with the kids at pre-school allow me to eat. They allow me to sit and think and breathe. They allow me to do laundry and go to the grocery store. They allow me space to deal with all the hiccups that come with having three toddlers like going to the doctor, cleaning up our dog peeing everywhere, or just organizing the house. They allow me time to not just survive. I feel so much guilt and so much shame in the fact that this time is free time. I can choose what I do with it, and I feel like I need to itemize every single minute of it to anyone that asks. I go into detail of how I tutor at night and that time allows me to prep for tutoring. It allows me to prep for dinner and to create an online class. I feel this deep need to make sure that people know I’m using my time wisely. I might need to go apologize to some strangers that were just trying to politely make small talk in asking me this question, and I instead went into this monologue about every detail of my Monday, Thursday, and Friday mornings. I feel like if I’ve been given this gift of time, but I have sadly attached strings to that time. Since I do not work a full time job, and since I pay money for my kids to go to pre-school, I better be able prove that I’m using my time wisely. Prove that it’s worth it. Prove that I’m worth it. 

So I am simultaneously trying to convince people that I am far from perfect, but using my time perfectly all at the same time. I’m emotionally exhausted. 

When you meet someone for the first time, one of the first questions they ask is “What do you do?” “Tell me about yourself.” My answer has always been, “I’m a teacher!” For the past year and a half, that answer has been, “I have triplets!” But now I have time to be more than just a mom of triplets. I have time to do things and find myself again. So back to the question…who am I? Who do I want to be?

My revelation is slowly coming from 2 places – first from my husband Derek (the birthplace of most of my revelations) and also from Lauren Daigle. 

First, Derek preached a sermon at our church a few weeks ago about the Holy Spirit and led everyone in an exercise of breath prayer. Click here to check it out.

At the end of the exercise you are standing with Jesus and he is looking you in the eyes and calmly and gently asks, What can I do for you? And I immediately wanted to yell – WHO AM I? Who am I, Jesus? What am I supposed to do with my life? I knew the answer was that I am His. I knew that. But even then I didn’t feel like it was enough. I didn’t feel like I was enough. I felt like well sure, of course I’m yours, but I still need to earn your love and Derek’s love and my kids’ love and my friends’ and parents’ love. I know I’m yours, but what do I need to DO?? Who am I was so intimately tied to what I do. It has always been tied to my grades, my thoughtfulness, my church attendance, my athletic ability, my relationship status, the size of my ministry, the way I care for others…

Then, a couple weeks Lauren Daigle released a new album called “Look Up Child.” The entire album has been on repeat at my house but one song in particular has been really speaking truth over me. In it, she asks the same question: “Remind me who I am!?” And the answer has nothing to do with WHAT she does but WHOSE she is. “You say I am loved…You say I am strong…You say I am held…You say that I am Yours.” That has to be enough. And all I need to do is believe.

Believe that I am loved. Believe that I don’t have to earn love. Believe that my goals and my identity and the answer to the question about my “free” time and all of the million things that need to get done everyday…they aren’t what makes me, ME. I still need to dream big dreams and create and aspire to do and listen to what God calls me, BUT that has nothing to do with who I am. I was so convinced that those things were all tied together. If all I get done in the 4 hours that the kids are at school is to refocus my brain and remind myself that I am loved, it was a successful morning. I don’t have to prove myself. I am enough.

Let me just leave these song lyrics with you and the link to the youtube video:

I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough

Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up

Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low?

Remind me once again just who I am, because I need to know (ooh oh)

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing

You say I am strong when I think I am weak

You say I am held when I am falling short

When I don’t belong, oh You say that I am Yours

And I believe (I), oh I believe (I)

What You say of me (I)

I believe

The only thing that matters now is everything You think of me

In You I find my worth, in You I find my identity.

You are not the sum of what you DO. You are loved. You are strong. You are a child of the King. You are enough.

Meditation and Imperfection

If you have not read Brene Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection then do everyone and yourself a favor and go to Amazon right now and order it. In fact, let me give you the link: click this!  I’m not kidding. Forget reading this post, go now. It has changed what I believe about myself and my lifelong battle with perfectionism and anxiety. Well, this book along with a very helpful therapist and learning about the Enneagram have helped me start to find the root of my anxiety and panic attacks. I hope you read that correctly that this is just the beginning. I still have a long way to go and will always probably struggle with both perfectionism and anxiety. But I have felt so much freedom in several things that I want to share. 

First of all, the highlight of this book and the main thing that I learned from my counselor was simple but huge – I need to love myself more. I need to be kind to myself. The root of my panic attacks is my anger. Anger at myself. It’s not the root of my anxiety. I’ll talk about that more later, but it is the difference between feeling overwhelmed and entering into a full blown panic attack. I just get so mad! I’m talking hysterical ANGER. I scream and want to hit things and just hate who I am in that moment. I cannot logically pull myself together. I feel like a burden and like I’m letting everyone down around me. I feel like I’m wasting time that could be spent sleeping or resting or pouring into all of these people that love me daily. I start to spiral into pure shame and guilt. Shame that I am not strong enough. Guilt that I again have failed. Brene is an expert in shame research. It’s amazing the way shame and perfectionism are tied together. I feel so ashamed that I can’t be the person that I want to be. Which causes me to be so angry. It’s also amazing how I think it’s ok to call myself an idiot (and much harsher words). I would be so upset if my kids ever spoke those words about themselves, or if they ever heard me speak those words out loud. In her book Brene says, “I don’t want my level of self-love to limit how much I can love my children or my husband…loving them and accepting their imperfections is much easier than turning that light of loving-kindness on myself…I know that I can talk to myself in ways that I would never consider talking to another person.” Why is it so much easier to beat myself up? 

In an effort to train my brain in self compassion and to lavish grace on myself and others, I have started meditating in the morning. I always thought that just sitting and breathing was weird and a waste of time. (I don’t know if you can tell, but I really hate wasting time.) I started though with an app that my counselor told me about called Meditation Studio. I have also tried the app Headpsace. Meditation studio uses mindfulness meditation which I like a little better. Both of these talk you through how to be gracious even in the quiet. It reminds me to not be angry when my mind inevitably drifts or when I spend 5/10 minutes daydreaming or nodding off.

The main focus of meditation is breathing and giving grace in those moments of quiet. Following along with an app when you first get started is so helpful. It’s like having a personal trainer when you are trying to get in shape for the first time. It helps keep me accountable and really instills the grace over myself that I desperately need. And most importantly it is teaching me how to breathe. I know that sounds weird, but breathing in meditation is an artform. I have always been an athlete. In sports, especially in running, I was taught different ways to breathe to best enhance my performance. Meditation breathing is similar. If you focus on how your body reacts to the breaths and on how your mouth and stomach and nose respond to each breath, it helps your muscles to slowly relax and your mind to focus. I have to be intentional about relaxing my legs and toes, my arms and shoulders and fingers, my jaw and head. With each breath, I release a little more guilt and pent up pressure and relax a little bit more. 

It was really hard at first for me to sit still and just breathe for 10 minutes. Now though, I can’t picture starting my day any other way.  That small amount of quiet breathing changes and shapes my mind the rest of the day. I often still get overwhelmed because I still have triplets and life is still messy, but I subconsciously start taking deep breaths and am more apt to give myself grace. The breaths bring me back to those 5-10 minutes of peace that morning. I am reminded of what calm looks like. I have a reference point of how to relax. I remind myself that it’s normal to get overwhelmed. Brene talks in her book about how to identify an issue or problem without over identifying it. I tend to do that a lot. I am really good at over identifying my weaknesses instead of just naming them, owning them, and moving forward. Meditation gives me the space to practice identifying a weakness and moving on. Even if that weakness is not being able to focus that morning. I simply say “wandering” and refocus without beating myself up. Learning to let go of most of that anger has been so freeing. 

To make this my own, I often combine meditation with breath prayer and lectio devina. I read a psalm and pick out one word or phrase that really sticks out to me. Then I set my timer to 5-10 minutes or I start my app, and I just sit. I sit up straight, keep the lights off, lay my hands out, close my eyes, and I breathe. I slowly breathe in and out (4 seconds in, 4 seconds out). And I focus on that word or phrase and focus on my breathing. If my mind wanders, I just gently say wandering, and gracefully move back into breathing in and out – in through my nose, out through my mouth. As I breathe in I picture that word or phrase. As I breathe out, I release everything else so that in time just that word remains. It remains on my heart and in my mind the rest of the day.

Sometimes, if I have a certain person pressing on my heart as I enter into my meditation time, I can spend that time focusing on breath prayer for them. It’s best to stick with just one person so you don’t spend the whole time jumping around. With each breath, I breathe in calm and breathe out a word that I want to pray over them. I breathe in peace or grace and breathe out strength or confidence to cover them for today.

I have also used meditation breaths at night if I can’t sleep. I have woken up several times in the middle of the night with my brain spinning about all the things that need to happen or a crazy dream. Once I start meditation breathing, my body is reminded to calm down, think logically, and to relax.

Other times I use my mantra or theme verse for this season in my life as I meditate. I spend the entire 10 minutes really placing the words on my heart and in my mind. I have it memorized, so I close my eyes and say one word with each deep breath. I slowly in the morning ingrain it in my mind, so that when I start to get overwhelmed in the day, I start breathing and that verse is on the tip of my tongue and in my head. It’s amazing what memorizing scripture and simply breathing will do.

My verse for the year that has spoken truth to me in so many ways is Exodus 14: 13-14. it says: 

“Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and see the LORD’s salvation that he will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you must be quiet.”

“Don’t be afraid” – In the moments of complete exhaustion and when that long list of overwhelming things that has to be done all at one time is almost too much to bear, smile. Remember the way that God has already delivered you. Remember who you are. Remember who HE is. Know that you are enough. Give yourself grace. Don’t be afraid of what is to come. Don’t be afraid to be you. Don’t be afraid to say No. Don’t be afraid to say Yes. Smile.

“Stand firm” – Breathe. Be present. Stand in this current moment. Don’t drift into the past or let your mind wander into all of the things that you need to get done tomorrow. Don’t run or lay down. STAND. Stand FIRM. Be strong. You are strong. God is stronger. Be still. Breathe.

“And see the LORD’s salvation that he will accomplish for you today” – You are not the savior. You are not a martyr. You can’t save everyone or anyone. It’s the LORD who does the saving. He is the savior. He is the deliverer. Take that pressure off. He will keep His promises. You are not alone. He is with you TODAY. He is doing great things today. 

“For the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again.” – The context of this verse comes right before the crossing of the Red Sea. The Israelites were escaping the Egyptians. The plagues had already happened. They had already placed the blood over their doorframe in Egypt as death fell on the firstborn son and animal of the Egyptians, but the Lord passed over the Israelites. They were protected, and then they were delivered. The LORD delivered them and led them with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. All too soon though the Israelites forgot. The Egyptians had changed their minds and began to chase them. They were right on their heals and the Red Sea was trapping them. They felt like there was no way out. Surely this was the end? Surely God can’t protect us this time? But here Moses is proclaiming that this fear is formed from lies. The truth is that these Egyptians – this huge, impossible, demon that is chasing you and trying to devour you – there will come a day when you will never see it again. God will win. The Lord will deliver you. He is big enough. He is strong enough. He is a God of redemption. He is a God of deliverance.

“The LORD will fight for you”  I have been doing a lot of fighting lately… 

Fighting for perfection.

Fighting to not be a burden.

Fighting to help everyone.

Fighting to be seen and known.

Fighting to be a good mom.

Fighting to be a good wife.

Fighting to be a good daughter, sister, friend.

Fighting to remember every detail.

Fighting to find myself.

Fighting myself.

Fighting for control.

Fighting to be worthy of love.

Fighting for forgiveness for my constant shortcomings.

Stop. The LORD will fight FOR you.

“and you must be quiet.” – It doesn’t say that you must fight with Him. It doesn’t say that you must complete a list of tasks before you are worthy of being fought for. It doesn’t say that you must look a certain way or act a certain way or be prepared. You don’t have to be perfect or have it all figured out. You just have to be quiet. 

So today – may you be filled with all the goodness and measure of the Lord’s promise. May you allow Him to fight for you. May you be still and see His deliverance in your life. You are worthy. You are loved.

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Surviving the Sick Season with little kids

January-April has been filled with germs, snot, teething, ear infections, Hand Foot Mouth (Satan’s disease), sinus infections, pollen, eye infections…The list goes on. We have officially been through 5 bottles of tylenol, 5 bottles of motrin, about 8 bottles of nasal sinus rinse, been to the doctor more times then I can count, and we survived! Well as I write this, I just got back from the doctor and 4/6 ears on my triplets are infected again, so kind of survived. haha I will start off by saying that many of you have had it MUCH worse. My babies are overall very healthy babies, and I am beyond grateful so please don’t read this as me complaining. BUT it has been hard. By the end, we gave up on trying to keep the healthy baby (or babies) from getting the sickness and just started trying to infect them from day 1 so that we could have 3 sick babies at one time instead of a sick baby constantly. No matter how hard we tried to quarantine or keep pacifiers, toys, and cups separate, it’s just not possible. Everything goes into their mouths, so it’s just impossible to prevent the spreading of germs.  When Shepherd and Lucy got Hand Foot and Mouth (seriously it was the worst), Oliver was healthy for a day and a half, and we felt bad for a little bit knowing that it was just a matter of time until he succumbed to the terrible sores and fevers that is HFM. There is no way to quarantine him so we just started feeding him after S&L. We pretty much just sped up the inevitable. As sad as that sounds, I would suggest that to any Moms of Multiples out there. When one gets sick, let the others get sick quickly. Make them share spoons or pacifiers. They WILL get each other sick. It is so much easier to have one really hard week, then to have 3 pretty hard weeks. 

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Having sick babies was and is hard in ways that I did not expect. The hardest part of making it through this sick season has been taking care of myself. I started out this blog as a way to process all that God has done in our journey from miscarriage, to infertility, through IVF, and now as we raise our triplets. We have had many unique (or maybe not so unique) experiences, and I hope that we can provide resources to people going through similar circumstances. Throughout this entire journey I have been completely open and honest because Derek and I believe that healing comes through brokenness and that community is truly formed in vulnerability. So in that frame of mind I’m also going to share with you my weakness over the past few months and things that I have been doing to bring peace and healing to those areas.

I have always been a “do it myself” kind of independent person. I love exploring and run everywhere. I rarely do things slowly and am pretty clumsy because I just start moving and end up running into something. I love to be outdoors. I thrive on sunshine, good company, and stretching my muscles. I love to help others and to lead others and talk to others. I am a 2 “The Helper” on the Enneagram Test but tend toward an 8 “The Challenger” in times of stress. Lately, my 8 self has been strong. I have been stressed and anxious. I have had panic attacks. I have been controlling. I have not been eating healthy things. I have not been drinking water. I have been pouring every ounce of me into the kids and some into Derek and friends and mentoring but not much into me. I have spent days and weeks trapped inside on sick weeks with no space to move, fresh air, or people to talk to. The thing about panic attacks is that you stop thinking logically. When I am in a good place, I know that this is a season and that sickness doesn’t last forever. I know deep down that I am doing a good job and that I am not alone. I know logically that the kids will be fine (maybe even better off) if I do an ok job at parenting instead of a “perfect” job. I know that it’s ok to stress. But when I am in the middle of a panic attack, nothing makes sense. I start out by stressing about something that is not a huge deal. Then I get stressed about feeling stressed, and mad at myself for not keeping it together. Then I feel guilty about not keeping it together, which makes me stress more. So I feel guilty about being stressed and then I stress about feeling more guilty. The stress about being stressed is the worst. If the kids are around, then I can pull myself out of the stress cycle quicker, but if I’m alone or just with Derek my mind goes haywire. I get so stressed that I can’t eat, and I forget to drink water, and I just started to snowball. 

In that insane period of about 6 weeks when I didn’t know what day it was or what time of day at any given moment, I had to give up my desire for independence and embrace the beauty community. Derek and I are incredibly blessed with a village that would bring us food or come hold sick babies even if it meant they might get sick. My mom came for an unplanned visit to help clean and let me eat and do laundry. We had people send texts and grubhub (it’s one of our new favorite ways to bless people – food delivered right to your door – There are so many options to choose from!). When you aren’t sure how to help someone struggling regardless of the thing causing the stress, food always helps! Even now that the kids have been healthy for a little while and life has calmed down, I have people offering to bring food, and it is always a huge blessing! We also had people providing wisdom left and right and seriously, even though I felt isolated and trapped, I never was. So many people loved us well. But, I still felt like I was just surviving. 

Finally during Spring Break (first week of April), Derek was home all week and the kids were healthy for an entire week which hadn’t happened since the beginning of January. Together we started brainstorming ways to get me back to my – just stressing a normal amount – self. I needed margin. I needed the kids to start napping. I needed to dream about possibilities of using my brain again. I needed to reach out to all of the women that mentor me and help me process. I needed to have time that was just for me regularly. I needed time to eat and drink water. So, I joined a gym. Not just a gym, but a gym with childcare! Some days, I barely work out and enjoy just sitting in the sauna or in a comfy chair or at the cafe. Some seasons are just seasons of survival. It’s part of life. Sometimes life is just hard and exhausting. When you can take a breath or even before you get there, make sure that you find ways to really take care of yourself. Taking care of yourself looks different for everyone! Some people need to work in the yard, plant flowers, get their hands dirty. Some people need to carve out time each day to sit in the quiet and read a book or listen to a podcast. For me, I needed to use my brain and get some exercise.  In addition to joining the gym, I started tutoring more. It sounds crazy that adding something to my plate made me stress less, but I have loved getting to use my math brain!!

Another thing that Derek and I have both always done is to spend quiet time in the morning. We are both morning people so we also usually get up early everyday. I give myself about an hour before the kids get up to eat, pray, stretch, get dressed and fix my hair. That simple act of getting ready calmly and without rushing actually does help. A lot! It’s often the only meal I eat in peace, and it’s the only meal that I get to eat all of. I usually have to share half of my meals with my 3 beautiful vultures. 

Another thing that I love doing to bring peace and wisdom into my life is that I ask a few women that I admire and love (some my age, some older and full of wisdom) to come hang out with me. I ask them questions about how they handled parenting situations. I listen to their stories and find camaraderie in knowing that I am not crazy or “the only one.” Mostly though I just hang out with them. Having people to mentor you is clutch! Shout out to all of you wonderful women that I admire and cherish (you know who you are!). Thanks for bringing joy and wisdom to my crazy swirly mind 🙂

I have also learned that when someone asks what they can do for me, I actually give them something tangible that they can do. I ask them to bring me food or to come play with kids or to come hold a screaming sick child for me. I have learned that most people who ask if they can do something genuinely want to help. Letting them isn’t easy. I am very independent. I hate not being able to do everything on my own. It physically pains me some days. But in letting others love me and love my kids I have gained so much more. I have also realized that it brings other people joy to help. For starters my babies are seriously cute, so who wouldn’t want to help. haha But for real, when you refuse to let people help, it takes away their ability to bless which isn’t good for you or for them. Letting others serve you is so hard sometimes. We always want to be the ones washing the feet, but sometimes my feet are just too tired, and I need to sit down and let other people in.

What works for me though, may not work for you. The bottom line, take time to figure out what brings you life and find a way to get that into your regular routine. If you don’t know what brings you life, then start searching. Taking care of yourself takes work. It takes time. It takes courage. Asking people to come into your life, your messy life or messy home, is hard. Sometimes it’s plain embarrassing, but it’s what brings life. Im learning to embrace my dependence. 

NICU week 1

The month of September was NICU awareness month. Seeing so many brave people share their NICU stories is what spurred me to start writing down our story and sharing our unique journey. Our babies spent 5 weeks in the Northside Hospital NICU (Lucy 34 days, Shepherd 35 days, and Oliver 36 days).  This is a significantly shorter time than many of my triplet mom friends, but even so it was crazy hard. Having 3 babies in the intensive care at the same time is exhausting. It is a roller coaster of emotion. The babies always took a couple steps forward and one step back. Even though Lucy started out on room air, she (along with both boys) were on a bubble CPAP breathing machine when they went into the NICU. Lungs are the last to develop so most preemies have trouble breathing. The first night in the hospital for me was spent resting and healing enough to be able to go see the babies. The first morning, they wheeled me up there, and I was so excited to finally get to see them. They let us go up their fairly early, but I was only able to hold Lucy and Oliver that day and only for a short period of time (less than 5 minutes). Derek was not able to hold any of them on the first day. They were all stable and doing well, but preemies need to spend most of the day growing and sleeping which means that we had to just let them stay in their isolettes and listen to what seemed like the hundreds of alarms beeping on their monitors. Since the babies were technically supposed to still be in the womb, the goal is for them to be in a womblike atmosphere – little holding and lots of growing.

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As hard as it was, we knew that we had it far better than many triplet parents and better than a lot of other preemie families. Our babies were little miracles and doing fantastic, so we were filled with peace knowing that they were safe. Every 3 hours we could go up and help with their diaper change and watch the feed take place and maybe give a hand hug (literally a hug with just your hand), but I mostly had to spend time during the day learning how to pump, taking my meds, and healing so that I could take care of these babies when they needed me. We didn’t get to hold our sweet Shepherd on the first day because the other babies in his room (all 3 started out in different NICU pods) were in very bad shape and the doctors were focused on them. We decided to rejoice in knowing that he was healthy, and we got to speak words of love over him. The next morning, we finally got to hold Shepherd, and Derek got a turn with Lucy and Oliver.

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Holding them entails a short 5-10 minute skin to skin kangaroo hold. It’s always an ordeal to hold them because there are seriously so many cords attached to them. Their little nervous systems hadn’t fully developed so you can’t stroke them at all. You can just gently hold them against you or hold your hand on their body (hand hugs). It’s a very surreal feeling to know that these tiny humans are yours, but you barely get to see them or hold them. Again though we knew that the best thing for them was for the doctors and nurses to take care of them while we got a few short moments each day. In between those quick 5-10 minute interactions, we would rest. All 3 babies switched to smaller CPAP tubing on day 2 which was a good sign. By day 3, we understood a little more of what was going on. We knew that our babies were healthy, but also needed time to grow. We knew that their lungs needed to grow, and their bodies needed to grow. This process is not easy and can often be very complicated. We knew that we would be going home without them. We knew that we needed to wrap our minds around this hospital being our second home for a while. We knew that the doctors and nurses were extremely capable and that we had to trust them. We knew that each moment we spent with these little ones was precious and that we couldn’t take them for granted. We knew that this would be a season and that it would pass, but at the same time it would seem like forever. Looking around in the NICU, we really did feel grateful that our babies were overall healthy. Again, this is often not the case with triplets (or preemies in general). On day 4, all 3 switched to a high flow nasal cannula for breathing which was fantastic. Our respiratory therapist was so special to us and made us feel so encouraged.

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On day 5, Lucy jumped straight to room air and the boys to level 2 high flow nasal cannulas. Lucy and Shepherd both got jaundice and had to be under the bilirubin lights which meant we got even less time to hold them, but Oliver pulled out his nasal cannula and we got to see his face for the first time and that was amazing. The oxygen tubes and cords had covered the majority of all of their faces which made it hard to really see what they looked like, which is very weird in itself to not know what your babies’ faces look like after almost a week of life.

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Going home without our babies was incredibly hard. I felt empty. After carrying them for 7 months and then having a scary birth, we had to be separated from them. We had tried to prepare ourselves for this moment and had known that it would most likely happen for most of our pregnancy, but it was still very hard. Our sweet friends had printed out pictures of the kids that are still sitting on our kitchen table today. We got to come home to beautiful pictures of our babies since the car seats were empty. It’s hard to explain the range of emotions in that one short week. I went from terrified about them being born too early, filled with joy knowing that they were ok, anxious to see them and hold them, questions upon questions about all the wires and lung development and possibilities of things that could go wrong, encouraging news, lonely nights without them, and then sadness about coming home even though we knew they were being well taken care of. Waking up the first morning at home without them was very strange, but I was thankful that it was a Saturday and that Derek could come with me to the hospital that day. When we got there, Lucy and Shepherd were off the jaundice lights which was exciting. Oliver was able to move to room air and Shepherd wouldn’t be too far behind. We got to change diapers and spend a couple minutes with each one. In 3 hours, we got to spend about 5 minutes holding each child. We stayed for a few minutes longer, but by then I was exhausted and needed to rest. Going home was always hard, but at the same time, I knew that it was what they needed and that this wasn’t about what I wanted or what I needed but about what was best for them.

Just as being a parent is not about me, I’m still slowly processing what a selfless prayer life looks like. Sometimes the best thing for my kids is for me to take care of myself. In prayer, I think that means that even though prayer isn’t about me, it’s ok to tell God about my problems and want him to be a part of them. The selfless part comes into play though when I stay in that place of only wanting what’s best for me. It’s good for me to to take care of myself and do things that bring me life. It’s good to talk to God about the things that break and burden my heart and the things that bring me joy. BUT if that is my focus in motherhood or my focus in my prayer life then neither will be very fulfilling or very fun honestly. As a recovering people pleaser and perfectionist, life is all about balance. Finding the right balance is often really really hard! The first step in both of these is changing my language and focus. After praying with prayer beads for a while, I have been reminded that the beginning and end of prayer is thankfulness and praise. As I lay in bed at night or just as I’m praying in my head throughout the day, I am intentional with the things that I am grateful for. This is especially important on the hard days. Lately I have been mindful as I read Facebook posts of the language that is used when people (sometimes including myself) want to convey that God is doing great things in their lives. The most common is “God answered my prayers” or “I am blessed.” These are both true statements, so it’s not a bad thing to say BUT we rarely use them in hard times. What is subtly implied as one writes about God answering a prayer when a healing or positive change takes place, is that if those things hadn’t taken place then God didn’t answer the prayer. Or that I am not blessed if God doesn’t respond with that YES I mentioned in my post a few weeks ago. Some new language that both Derek and I try to focus on in prayer and just in life is that we are grateful in the good and the bad. And instead of saying that God answered our prayer, we just simply say that God is good. All the time. God is good. It is true that we are very blessed, but even if we didn’t feel blessed, we will always be able to say that we are grateful and that God is good. Finding language that fits the good and the bad has really helped my prayer life. I got so tired during infertility of not being able to say, “God answered my prayer” that I just stopped praying. If today you are in that place of longing and waiting, know that even now, God is good. There is hope and life in Jesus in that balance of taking care of self and taking care of others.

Our Triplet Birth Story

The week leading up to the babies being born was physically painful. I could barely move. One night I had pretty bad contractions but they were irregular and eventually stopped so we ended up not going in to the hospital, although we probably should have. Then, a couple of days later, I barely moved to the left while sitting down to make room for Turbo, and I pulled a muscle and it hurt really bad. Turbo (our dog) sat with me everyday and some nights when I was sick and hurting.

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I had to go in every other day that week to get heartbeats checked with this crazy machine. I had to sit super still and they had to place monitors on each baby and get consistent heartbeats from each one for 20 min. It was almost impossible. If I moved a muscle or breathed too hard, or if the baby moved at all, the monitor would get off and we would have to start over. I was so uncomfortable and sweaty. Haha It was a mess.

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But they still thought everything looked good, and that I was on track to make it to 35 weeks (full term for triplets). The babies had other ideas though. The night before the babies came, I couldn’t sleep again (I got very little sleep those last couple weeks), so I went downstairs to lay on the couch and tried to read or get comfortable. Contractions started again but they were still irregular. Throughout the night, they got worse and closer together. Finally in the middle of the night, I went to wake up Derek. We decided to call the on-call doctor this time and have it checked out. We drove to the hospital with our bags packed but hoping that we still had a couple of weeks to wait. We called our parents and told them not to come yet, and that it was probably false contractions again. We got to the hospital around 4am. They got us settled and put me on magnesium to slow the contractions. They also went ahead and gave me a steroid shot which helps with the babies’ lung development. Ideally you get this shot 48 hours to a week before giving birth. Derek called school around 5am and told them that he would be coming in late, but would probably still be there. And we waited. The contractions never stopped. They just kept progressing. They wheeled me down to my MFM and she confirmed that it was probably time to take them out. I had started to dilate so we couldn’t wait much longer. I was so scared because I wanted the steroid shot to be in my system longer, but if we waited, then Oliver would have tried to come out on his own and it is extremely dangerous to have a vaginal birth with triplets. Plus, the other 2 babies were breached. I was also scared of them being so small and just not ready to be in the outside world yet. I had no idea if they were ready. Ready or not, they gave me an epidural and got me all good and numb. I remember minutes before they wheeled me into the operating room, Derek stood me up and said, “We will not bring these babies into the world in fear. We are rejoicing, and we are happy. This is a moment that we have been waiting for, there is no room for fear.” I love that man. He was so right, and he helped me stay calm throughout the whole process. First they pulled out Oliver at 2:01pm. He weighed 4 pounds and 1 ounce. I was awake, but I had a sheet between me and the doctors working. Derek later told me that Oliver came out with the cord wrapped twice around his neck. His Apgar score was much lower than they wanted. Derek saw Oliver grey and not breathing but thankfully didn’t tell me until much later. His Apgar score started out at a 5 (this is not good). After about 5 minutes he was only a 6 (which is still not good), but by 10 minutes he was up to a 9 (this is much better). Then they yanked Shepherd out so hard by his feet that he had this dark black bruise on his whole foot for the next week. He also came out at 2:01pm, and he weighed 3 pounds and 15 ounces. The doctor said later that it was the worst bruise that he had ever seen on a baby. Shepherd’s Apgar started out as a 4 but quickly jumped to a 9 after 5 minutes. Then came Lucy, last but not least. She was born at 2:02pm and weighed 4 pounds and 1/2 an ounce. She was on room air from the start and had an Apgar of an 8 to begin with and was up to a 9 after 5 minutes. Lucy was the first to cry, and only one to cry in the delivery room. Thankfully, I couldn’t see much, but Derek was terrified the whole time. The boys were grey and not crying. After 10 minutes though, they were able to wrap all 3 up real tight with oxygen and bring them over for a picture one at a time. Then began the longest hour of my life. Derek got to go up to the NICU with the babies, and I was wheeled to a recovery room where I sat by myself not knowing how the babies were doing. No one could come back there except Derek, and I wanted him to be with the babies. So I sat. I sat and I prayed. Each year I pick a theme verse to memorize and repeat throughout the year. And this year my string of verses is Mary’s song. I sat in that recovery room and repeated over and over to myself:

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Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her! 

And Mary said:

“My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.

These verses got me through that hour. I found comfort in knowing that God was watching over me and my babies. I rejoiced in God in that moment and chose not to fear, but oh how I rejoiced even more when Derek came back to report that all 3 were doing well up in the NICU. I could not go see them until I was able to sit in a wheel chair. So together we went to another recovery room where family could join us and we rested and slept until we could see our babies again and hold them for the first time. It’s a weird feeling knowing that these extensions of yourself are no longer inside you but you can’t see them or hold them. You just have to wait and take care of yourself and be thankful for the amazing doctors and nurses that are helping them breathe. We had to learn quickly to really trust and be thankful for people helping us with our babies from the very beginning. It has never been just us. It really takes a village, and the nurses and doctors in the NICU were a part of our village. By God’s spirit alone we had so much peace. Next week I’ll start sharing about our NICU experiences. I still can’t believe how healthy our babies are. We are truly lucky and never take for granted the fact that SLO are here and well. That was a big prayer that God answered YES to.

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Triplet Pregnancy reflections

Looking back I wish that I had taken more pictures of me, massive me, pregnant. I was trying to find a picture the other day that showed just how massive I was, but honestly I didn’t take many. Infertility took such a toll on me emotionally that I didn’t really want pictures of me pregnant. I had spent the last couple of years aching every time I saw a picture of a pregnant woman. I was really mindful about posting pregnant pictures because it hurt knowing that I was pregnant but so many others still weren’t. I also don’t know how to fully explain the dangers and risks involved while carrying 3 babies. Each week was hard, and each week brought new risks and questions. Derek especially carried a lot of this uncertainty. I tried not to think about what could go wrong and to stay as calm as possible. I stayed off of google and refused to look up “what if” stories. The TV show “This is Us” became a big hit, but we had to stay far away from it because the reality of something going wrong with 1 or all 3 of our babies was so real. I had dreams about something happening to them and even dreamt about the 3rd blastocyst splitting into a 4th.

Derek felt really isolated because he didn’t want to stress me out, and he couldn’t talk about the real possibilities of losing one baby (or all) to many people. While for most couples doctors’ visits are fun and exciting, for us each time we went we were sick to our stomachs wondering what might possibly happen. Now don’t get me wrong, we rejoiced and were thankful everyday for our blessing of 3 babies, but we were also all to familiar with the pain of knowing that sometimes things don’t go the way you want them to go. Infertility and my ectopic pregnancy and a failed IVF created this predisposition that something could and probably would go wrong at any moment. For this same reason, we decided not to do a maternity photo shoot. We didn’t do a gender reveal. We didn’t post monthly bump pictures. When we did post our birth announcement, it was with carefully chosen words that spoke about the pain of infertility. We were just so nervous and broken. Thankfully we had a wonderful community and support through this experience. We had so many people speaking and praying truth and hope when we were unable to. I really think though that Derek was skipped over a lot with how much of a weight he had to carry. I got asked how I was doing regularly, but Derek rarely got asked. I got to feel the reassurance of the babies moving because I was carrying them, so I felt confident that we were doing everything we could physically do to take care of them. Derek just had to watch. He watched and worried and encouraged. He fed me so much food!! But it was really hard on him to watch me in pain and know that there was little to nothing that he could do. Thankfully, everything that could have gone right did. We are very lucky. Yes, God had his hand all over this pregnancy, but He also has his hand on the many babies that are born too early and in the lives of those that lose their little ones.

Now looking back, I’m realizing that in those months of scary pregnancy, in those months of so many unknowns, in the months of feeling alone, I was still very angry at God for our infertility (even though I was pregnant). Ok, real truth, Im still angry at God sometimes. I am angry at God for what we went through with infertility and also angry that even when we did get pregnant it was different and hard and terrifying the whole time. I was and am afraid to pray because I didn’t see how it would help. I figured whatever was going to happen, was just going to happen, so why ask God to fix it.

After processing, I have realized that it’s not prayer in general that I’m struggling with. I still love thanksgiving and praise in prayer. Even in the darkest days, I did have things to prayerfully be thankful for. I understand and find purpose in meditative prayer and centering prayer. I think prayer is good when seeking forgiveness and confession. I even see the beauty in praying for gifts of the spirit to come more fully (give me peace and kindness, etc). The place that I am struggling is in intercessory prayer. Intercessory prayer is when I ask God to heal, fix, save, change, take away, etc. Often when asking people for prayer requests, this is the type of prayer that is being used. Heal my sick Grandma. Help me to get this job. Take away this pain that I am suffering through. Heal a relationship. These are all forms of intercessory prayer. I know now that I had believed the purpose of this type of prayer to be straightforward – God do these things for me. I wanted Him to take away my pain. That was the point. But if that is the point of intercessory prayer then at some point in your life, if it hasn’t happened already, God will say No and the pain will remain. The person will die or you will still lose the job. So if the point of intercessory prayer is for God to fix things, then He isn’t doing a very good job. I know that God is good and keeps His promises so He must not promise to do what we ask. There must be a different and better purpose. These verses messed me up. Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Mark 11:24 “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Philippians 4:19 “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,for those who are called according to his purpose.” Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

But here’s the deal…I was not getting the desires of my heart met. Whatever I was asking for in prayer, wasn’t mine. Things did not look like they were being worked for good. And yes there is an argument to be made for the fact that my beautiful triplets are here and amazing and healthy, and I love them so much, BUT what about the thousands of children dying in Africa from diarrhea because they don’t have clean water? What about the family that is homeless after countless efforts to find shelter and a job? What about the refugees that are dying every day as they are doing everything in their power to find safety? What about the triplets that I see everyday on my Facebook group that lose one or all of them or even just have major complications? I could go on and on. As a white American these verses seem to mean, pray and you will get what you want because most of the time, we get what we want. But if you look beyond yourself and look into the pain of someone that is suffering, someone that is doing everything “right” but the situation is not working for good, you have to question. Is there more to intercessory prayer than a genie granting wishes? What do these verses really mean?

Now don’t get me wrong, I do think that sometimes God says YES and he does fix, heal, save, and change. God is so powerful and we should rejoice when healing comes! But if that is our only goal in intercessory prayer than we are missing something HUGE. We are missing the main point. The point is not for God to give us what we want, but for him to know our hearts and for us to know his. As Shepherd, Lucy, and Oliver grow up, I hope that they tell me about the bully at school. I hope that they tell me about the huge chemistry test that they are scared about and the teacher that makes them nervous. I hope that they share their fears. I hope that they tell me when they struggle with lust or with self worth. I hope that they ask me to take care of them when they get hurt. I hope that they call me when they are in uncomfortable situations. I hope that they ask me to be a part of their problems. BUT I won’t be able to fix or heal or change everything, and I don’t want to. I hope that they learn that my job is not to bulldoze away their problems. My job is not to make all of their pain disappear. But I still want them to tell me. I still want them to lay their head on my shoulder, to cry, and to share their deepest fears, even if I can’t make them go away. Because in sharing, in voicing the pain and the fear, there is comfort. I know that there is a difference between me as a mom and God the Father. God has the power to fix anything while I do not, but the question still remains, should He? A lot of this falls into the topic of theodicy which is a whole other post that either Derek or I will write sometime. My conclusion today though is that the beauty of prayer is not in the answer but in the conversation. Sometimes I will jump up in action when my kids ask me to do something, but other times I will just sit and listen and talk with them and hold them. One of those is not greater than the other. The desire of my heart cannot be for God to take away my pain. The desire of my heart should be for God to sit with me in the highs and lows and let me rest on his shoulder. My burden is heavy, and I’m ready to find rest for my soul.

I strongly believe that my babies are not healthy because I deserve it or did something right, but it is a beautiful part of this crazy wonderful story. I am very thankful for all the people that carried Derek and I through those 32 weeks and 5 days. I am the most thankful for Derek who went above and beyond to help me feel comfortable and loved and at peace every step of the way. God is good. All the time.

sidenote: I did take a few pictures of my belly because both my mom and Derek’s mom begged us for them which I am now thankful for.