Sunday, May 8, 2016

The journey

Mother's Day seemed like an appropriate time to share more of my journey to motherhood.  This entry ends rather abruptly, because it was a story still being written.  Despite the pain, I'm thankful for the journey we walked and for the Savior Who walked it with us.


It's 4 am, and after crying out of utter exhaustion during Zoe's last feeding a few hours ago, I am now surprisingly awake.  Clearly, having just a few hours of sleep is the perfect time to be reflective.

Everything about my world now looks different than it did last October.  In the midst of the roller coaster of beautiful highs and emotional and physical lows (a girlfriend of mine very accurately referred to new parenthood as the equivalent of hazing), I can't help but return to the words I wrote a year ago.  

Be forewarned; these glimpses into my heart during our (often painful) journey to becoming parents are sometimes messy.  Some of what I wrote during those dark days where I longed to be a mom but God said, "not yet," have resolution and hope.  Other entries lack the pretty bow on top, and just reveal the messy package that was my heart during the 11 months we tried to get pregnant.  Despite the mess, I want to share that roller coaster... Because I believe in being vulnerable, because I think it's too easy to look at someone's exterior and assume it all came easily for them- and because the girlfriends in my world who honestly and bravely shared their difficulties provided so much comfort for me. There is something sacred in knowing you are not alone.

Let's go back to 2014, shall we?


I've shared before that I was supposed to get married at 22. Not that I had been dating anyone; just that there was a certain sequence of events I thought my life should be following, and that was next. High school? Check. College? Check. Fall in love, get engaged, get married? Hmmm... Not quite on schedule for that one.

But instead, I was almost 27, and despite the tears I cried over singleness before that day, I wouldn't change a thing.  I made great friends, learned invaluable life lessons, and met Jesus in sweet ways in that time before Cori.  It was right for me to meet and marry Cori exactly when I did. 

Early in marriage, starting a family was always something we wanted- some day.  We soaked up marriage, reveled in lazy Saturday mornings with just us, and enjoyed the season of life we were in.  

But around our second anniversary, my heart was starting to turn.  I was no longer terrified by the idea of accidentally getting pregnant and could feel God preparing me for motherhood.  At this point, however, we were getting ready to move back to Virginia.  We missed our families, our friends, the greenery.  As Cori prepared to go back to school to become a Physician Assistant, we had intentionally sought out schools that would take us home.  I was thrilled that my alma mater, James Madison University, was the winner, but I also knew that the intensive 2.5 year program would put a delay on my budding desires to start a family.

That first fall in Virginia, I longed to be a mother.  Friends and acquaintances shared pregnancy news and baby pictures, and my heart pinged with jealousy.  Cori, on the other hand, was up to his head with school, and with his practical nature, it seemed like it'd be a couple more years before he was ready to start trying.  So, I prayed.  I prayed for God to open his heart to parenthood, prayed that we would be on the same page. 

And that winter, God surprised me.  Out of the blue, Cori started talking about what it would look like to trust God to expand our family, and a few months later, we started trying.  It was casual at first and became more intentional with time.

But what I hadn't been prepared for was how hard it would be.  For no good reason, I assumed pregnancy would come easily for us. I daydreamed about surprising family and friends, who would make comments about how they didn't know we'd been trying, to which I'd coyly respond, "Well, we just started trying and it happened on our first try!" 

Well.  About that.  It didn't happen on our first try, or our second. Or our third, for that matter. And all of a sudden, I gained a whole new heart for friends who have gone before us and struggled with the process of adding a child to their families.

I wasn't ready for the crushing blow of negative pregnancy tests.  I wasn't ready for the constant wondering, insistent hoping, "could I be pregnant?!" I didn't know my cycle would go crazy and that after four negative tests, I'd finally get my period again after an excruciating 52 days.  I didn't know that each menstrual cramp would make me want to burst into tears because of their insulting reminder that we'd failed once again.  I didn't realize that even if it's just been a few months of trying, every period you have makes you fear that you or your spouse is infertile, that maybe it'll be years before you're a parent.  

I didn't know that I could be fine one day, content with where we were in the process, and then the next day struggle to breathe under the crushing weight of the plague of questions and comparisons.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

During the 11 months we struggled to get pregnant, I processed my thoughts in unpublished blog posts.  Today, as we celebrate the year anniversary of that first positive pregnancy test, I'm being brave.  I'm sharing my heart. Over the next few weeks, I'll be back tracking and posting some of the entries I wrote during that difficult year.  Be forewarned that it isn't always pretty- but it's real.  I wrote this first post the day after we found out we were pregnant.


I expected to scream, or cry, or at the very least have a mini dance party. 

But instead, I was in shock. After 11 months of trying and praying, 11 months of crazy periods and 2 month long cycles, 11 months of worsening anxiety and wondering where this story would take us, 11 months of negative tests... There it was. A positive.  I had wondered for two days, and then, just minutes before, my daily temperature had dropped and I mentally attributed the two day late period to my anxiety and some sickness. 

Cori had just come and stood next to me, chatting with me for a moment while I busied myself in the bathroom, doing anything but look at the test as the timer counted down.  

And then the timer went off and I looked at the test... And it was positive.  I told Cori in disbelief, confusion.  Neither of us could believe it was true.  Cori, true to form, took the practical route, and I left for work, armed with the game plan that I'd take another test that evening and the next morning.  Maybe then we'd believe it was true.

And we are. Slowly. There are three positive tests sitting next to my bathroom sink right now, because what do you do with a peed on stick that tells you that what you've been longing for over a year is coming true?

Saturday, August 29, 2015

I remember.

I remember the beginning of my senior year of college in 2005.  I remember the house I lived in with 7 girlfriends, and I remember feeling tremendously inconvenienced when 2 of our 3 showers broke and our landlord was slow to fix them.  I remember a neighbor asking if I’d heard about Hurricane Katrina and what was happening on the Gulf Coast, and I remember realizing that maybe having to share one shower wasn’t the biggest tragedy out there.

I remember hearing about the relief trip JMU’s Cru, the Christian ministry I was part of, was taking over Christmas break, and feeling intrigued… but also thinking it’d be more comfortable to just go to their annual conference in D.C. with my best friend instead.  I remember God changing my heart overnight, and I remember driving down to Pass Christian, Mississippi, with 6 other students.  I remember seeing a city stripped bare.  I remember seeing ruins where there had once clearly been life.  I remember sleeping on cots in what used to be a library, surrounded by other college students.  I remember spending exhausting days doing physical labor, and I remember eating meals at God’s Katrina Kitchen.  I remember the satisfaction in the simplicity, and I remember returning home to a world untouched by Katrina.  I remember watching the luxuriousness of Christmastime, and thinking that, despite my attitudes of greed in Christmases past, I actually didn’t need anything at all… except maybe a power drill.

I remember how my heart was changed after spending time being the hands and feet of Jesus, of providing for people’s physical needs, and I remember longing to find a way to be a part of that after graduation.  I remember listening to the voicemail I received from a human resources director in Cru, saying, “I think I know what God has for you next year,” and I remember hearing for the first time about the opportunity to move to New Orleans to do and coordinate relief work.  I remember asking for 24 hours to pray about it, even though there’d never been a clearer decision in my life.
I remember raising financial support, and I remember the way my heart pinged with a sense of belonging as I shared with potential supporters about the opportunity to rebuild a city.  I remember having a sense, even then, that God was using that time to rebuild me. 

I remember my first time in New Orleans- the day I moved there, 11 months after the storm.  I remember the house that the 8 girls on our team lived in, and I remember the watermark line on the side of the house, showing how high it had flooded.  I remember walking around the Lower Ninth Ward for the first time, and how surreal it was to stand on the foundation of someone’s house, someone’s home, and realize that concrete slab was all that was left.  I remember seeing buses and cars inside houses, and I remember feeling like no news coverage could ever fully convey the impact of what had happened to this city.

I remember sitting on my porch of our house in Gentilly.  I remember looking around our street and feeling the oppressiveness of it, of a neighborhood that was still largely abandoned, of houses spray painted with the X that shared when the house had been searched and whether or not any bodies had been found. 

I remember the first time we went to Audubon Park, and the way our whole team freaked out because it was the first time in weeks we’d actually seen live trees and green grass.  I remember long, sweaty days of gutting houses, and the ways the physical satisfaction of hard work mingled with the pain of tearing down someone’s home, someone’s life.  I remember, Aldo, the neighbor of a homeowner we were working with, who described looking down the street and seeing what looked like the Colorado river rushing towards him.  I remember him telling us about the people he rescued in his boat, and I remember that he found his own mother, lying on top of a heating unit, dead from a heart attack.  I remember Augustine, the homeowner who lost her home and her husband in the storm, and I remember her faith in God blowing me away.

I remember the way the Lord whispered to me that He was rebuilding New Orleans, and that He was rebuilding me, too.

I remember driving home on the interstate one night, in the midst of trying to decide if I should commit to another year in NOLA.  I remember looking out at the city lights and realizing that New Orleans was my home, and I wasn’t going anywhere.  Years later, that view of the city from the height of the interstate will always be one of my favorites.

I remember falling in love with New Orleans.  I remember realizing that she held a strength, a resiliency, that allowed her to come back, although other cities in her position might just have abandoned it all.  I remember laughter and nights playing cards and speed Scrabble with my teammates.  I remember the first time I decided I was missing out on New Orleans by staying in my extraordinarily picky eating bubble, and I remember a whole world opening up to me as I discovered shrimp and grits, crawfish, chicken schwarmas, beignets, snowballs, and more.  I remember falling in love with running as I trained for the Mardi Gras Half Marathon, and a year later, the full marathon.  I remember running by Lake Ponchartrain, up and down St. Charles, around Audubon, and of course, to the bull and back.

I remember those excruciating years of teaching, of loving those kids so much I couldn’t breathe.  I remember feeling overwhelmed by the responsibility of it all.  I remember the friends who walked with me and held me up when I had anxiety attacks, and I remember delighting in my students on field trip week when they could run through the park and be free.  I remember meeting Cori.  I remember nights spent with him and friends at the Bulldog, and I remember discovering the charm of Mid City.  I remember our first kiss, the night the Saints won the NFC championship game, and I remember the sheer joy and celebration of driving and walking around the French Quarter the night we won the Super Bowl.  I remember walks around City Park, and how Cori proposed there.

I remember the weeks before we moved.  I remember crying and crying, my brand new husband at a loss for what to do with me.  I remember lasts: last times with friends, last time eating a snoball, last authentic Cajun meal.  I remember walking home from the store and hearing jazz music playing on the corner, and knowing with a deep certainty that there was no place in the whole world like New Orleans.

I remember how Hurricane Katrina changed everything, everything, for thousands and thousands of people, and I remember that in the good, the bad, the pain, the loss, the celebration, the life, it will always be part of my story, too.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

spring always comes.

Disclaimer: There are actually a lot of things I enjoy about the cold weather- the crispness of the air, playing in the snow, and bundling up in soft scarves and cute boots.  And I do realize that winter in Virginia is far from the harshest weather.  So keep that in mind as you read my ramblings below.

It's been a rough winter.

After spending 5 years in New Orleans (where I distinctly remember teasing my best friend as she walked through snow in Harrisonburg & I enjoyed sitting on my front porch in flip flops- yep, eating my words now!) and 2 in Tampa (where anything below 65 degrees is considered freezing) I've experienced a rather rude awakening during my first year back in Virginia.  

Public schools have been delayed and canceled so much for snow and freezing temperatures that they haven't had a single normal week since before Christmas.  My school generally stays open- we're a daycare and we want to be a stable place for working parents- but even we had to close one day last week as roads were impassable.  We've had record low temperatures that have caused everyone here to change their definition of cold- for example, I had a day where I stepped outside and thought, "Wow, it feels nice out here!" only to check my phone and discover it was 28 degrees outside.

But today- today, the winter is thawing.  The high was 59 today, and the 12+ inches of snow we got lost week are steadily melting.  As it turns out, people DO have grass in their yards, and there actually are side walks along the main roads- I was starting to forget what Harrisonburg looked like without snow covering most of it.  And don't get me wrong- I'm fully aware that this is Virginia and that we will likely get several more snows in the next couple months.  But all the same, I was reminded- spring is coming.  Winter never lasts forever.  And it reminded me that the same is true in life.

Obviously, per the blog name, I'm a fan of the 'seasons of life' metaphor.  I just can't help but feel that it is so applicable.  Life can be hard.  Really hard, actually.  I have had my own seasons of winter, of anxiety, despair, and hardship.  And sometimes, when you're in the midst of them, it just seems like it's never going to end- it will always be freezing outside and things are never going to change.  But I was reminded today that spring always comes. Year after year, winter comes and all the leaves on the tree die.  But in that same rhythm, year after year, spring comes and brings new, glorious life.  In my own life, I have seen the Lord, time after time, bring life to where there had once been death.  I have found, in the darkest of nights, that Jesus brings beauty, sanctification, and refinement through the very things that hurt the most.  And the thing I cling to- especially amid those struggles that I have had for many winters- is that one day, there will be a Spring that never ends.  

And y'all- after this cold winter, spring is going to be amazingly sweet.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

my husband, the wild man.

It doesn't take a genius to observe that Cori and I are different.  Very different.  That's been obvious from the night we met- I loudly sang JMU's fight song at the bar I was gathered at with friends, while Cori, new to the city, kept his volume to a reasonable decibel as he got to know the different people in our group.

But one of the funniest differences between us becomes apparent at Christmas and birthdays.  When someone asks me what I'd like for my birthday, my requests stem from things I'd like, but wouldn't necessarily buy for myself.  Jewelery.  Fun shoes.  A book that I could wait to get at the library, but would love to own and read now. Cori's brain, however, runs on a completely different track.  When his parents asked what to get me for Christmas, he told them I wanted a microwave cover (like, to keep things from splattering inside).  A MICROWAVE COVER.  For CHRISTMAS.  I mean, that's definitely one of Santa's top sellers, right?  (To their credit, my in-laws got me an AMAZING blender and a gift card to Kohls, among other things.)  

But for Cori, that was right on track.  Two of his favorite Christmas gifts this year were a snow shovel from my parents and long underwear from me (because after 2.5 years of marriage, I've finally learned to love him for who he is).  I endlessly tease him about this sense of uber-practicality, because in my book, it's okay to put a microwave cover or socks on the 'things we need' list and pick it up next time you're at the store- you don't have to put it on your wish list.

Cori's birthday is in a week and a half, and I've been pestering him about what he wants.  He's mentioned a few things, and tonight, he added something new to the list. I knew it was going to be good when he started out by saying, "You're going to hate me for this."

Would you like to know what my husband would like for his 29th birthday, his very last birthday of his 20s?

BATTERIES.  All kinds of batteries.  Specifically double A and triple A, but just in general, he wants a good stash of batteries.  Because really, what else says "It's my special day, let's celebrate ME!" like batteries?

But you know, I guess that's one of the reasons I fell in love with this guy 4 years ago, and why I continue to fall in love with him more and more every day.  Because Cori (unlike his wife), doesn't think the world revolves around him.  He enjoys being celebrated and receiving gifts, but he doesn't need it or expect it.  He's selfless.  And practical.  And generous.  And I love him for those things (as does our budget!).

Mark my words, you won't ever find me putting batteries on my gift list.  But the more I live life with Cori, the more I cherish our differences and the ways we refine and soften each other.  I've learned to love the challenge of embracing our differences.  With that said, I guess I'd better go grab a cart at Costco- because I've got batteries to buy in bulk!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

home for the holidays

The holiday season has been particularly sweet for us because after a semester of non-stop studying, Cori has had four glorious weeks off of school.  I have been soaking up the extra time and have loved just seeing my hubby relax.

We spent most of Christmas with Cori's family (we alternate years) but started and ended our travels in Richmond.  The Friday before Chrismas was one of my most favorite traditions- our annual girls dinner.  These ladies have been in my life for decades, and I love this intentional time together to laugh, talk, and make our yearly predictions for each other's lives.  It's been so neat to see our group evolve over the years as we've grown and changed, adding husbands, babies, boyfriends, etc into our lives.  I so hope we will continue this tradition for years and years to come!

On Saturday, Cori and I met up in Short Pump- he'd spent the night at a bachelor's party in Blacksburg- and headed out to the boondocks where my parents live.  We had a great time with them and enjoyed Christmas part 1 as we ate dinner, exchanged gifts, and hung out.

Sunday morning we went to church with my family, caught up with friends, ate a quick lunch with my parents, and then headed out to Lancaster, where Cori grew up.  We spent a wonderful few days with them- relaxing, eating various sweets, playing Cori's old Super Nintendo, lounging by the fire, and playing Settler's of Catan.  We enjoyed Christmas part 2 with them and in general, were so blessed by the generosity of both of our families.  Also- my mother-in-law is a wonderful cook, so we enjoyed a fabulous Christmas feast with Cori's parents, his brother, and his brother's girlfriend.

so... I had a winning streak with Settler's and my competitive hubby was maybe not so keen to take a picture to celebrate my win ;)

my sweet mother-in-law

Christmas morning!
goofy hubby



so thankful for another Christmas with this guy

Tara & Bruce!

The day after Christmas, we got breakfast with a few of Cori's high school friends, and then started the 4-hour trek back to Harrisonburg- with a stop in Richmond.  We spent a quality afternoon with a bit more of my family- my parents, my aunt & uncle who were visiting, and my brother.  My brother got ENGAGED the Sunday before Christmas, so even though his fiance was with her family in Missouri, it was so fun to get to see him and give him congratulations in person.  The only picture I took was this one...

some much-needed relaxation for this PA student!
Then, it was back to Harrisonburg and back to work.  We were so thankful for time to spend with our precious family and friends!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


Five months ago, we became Virginians again.  Or at least I did.  According to Cori's license plate, he never left.  

It had been seven years away for me and four for Cori.  I left Virginia within months of graduating, assuming I'd spend a year away and then return to 'normal' life.  Instead, I fell in love with the life I carved for myself in New Orleans, finding sweetness in growing up and being independent.  As much as I missed Virginia (namely: the change of seasons, my family & friends, and roads without potholes), I was supremely content with my life and sometimes wondered if I'd ever return to Virginia.  I loved the culture, the friend-family I had, and didn't contemplate moving even in those painful moments where the weight of teaching in the inner city sometimes seemed too much to bear.  Then, three years since I'd bid farewell to the Commonwealth, Cori came into the picture.  We met within days of his moving to New Orleans, he asked me out four months later, and then he proposed exactly one year after our first date.  

I realized early on in my dating relationship with Cori that if we got married, we'd likely end up back in Virginia... At some point.  But as Cori's graduation and our wedding approached and we were faced with the reality of likely leaving New Orleans for a job for Cori, we decided that 'some point' had not arrived quite yet.  Instead, we were married in June, and in the blink of an eye we'd moved to Tampa, where we learned about marriage, met Mickey Mouse and his crew, and made some very sweet friendships.  

But something about this move was different.  We truly enjoyed our time in Tampa, but I couldn't help but feel exhausted by the strain of living so far from so many friends and family.  As time progressed, it became obvious: we were ready to return to Virginia.  So when Cori decided to move towards his dream of becoming a Physician's Assistant, we pretty much exclusively looked at schools in Virginia.

We prayed, we made plans, we tried to hold them loosely, and we waited.  After Cori interviewed  with JMU in January, we spent the next few weeks holding our breath for their phone call with news of an acceptance or a rejection.  When I found a manila envelope from JMU in the mailbox after work one day, my stomach froze and I could hardly breathe as I called Cori and suggested he get himself home as soon as he could.  We danced and shrieked (okay, so maybe I was the only one who shrieked- my husband tends to respond to good news just a little bit more calmly than I do) and celebrated as he opened the envelope and we realized he was accepted.  This.  Was.  Happening.

So it was all these events that lead us to The Longest Day Ever, where we spent 19 hours driving our separate cars and transporting our belongings (including our cat, who survived the long trip in a drug-induced haze) as we returned to Virginia.  And for the first time in years, it wasn't a quick weekend trip for a wedding or a week for the holidays or even the month we spent finalizing wedding details.  It was for good.

And y’all- it’s been glorious.  There will be other opportunities for me to gush about our townhouse (hello, wood beam ceilings!) and my job (which I love in a way I've never loved a job before) and the community we are slowly but surely forming within our church (aletheia for the win!) and how difficult but worthwhile Cori’s first semester was (he spends every spare moment studying but it clearly is paying off because he got STRAIGHT As!).  And maybe I will write another post about how much we enjoy Harrisonburg and I could just go on and on and on about how wonderful it has been to be so much closer to friends and family.

Don’t get me wrong… there is a part of my heart that will forever live in New Orleans and Tampa.  It’s the most random things- an Instagram picture of an old co-worker taken in her classroom at my school in Florida, a Facebook picture of our neighbors’ growing boys, a cd from the worship team of my church in New Orleans that I used to listen to in my classroom while I prepared for the school day, someone mentioning that they’re taking a trip to NOLA- and I get hit with a wave of homesickness and realize that these places I lived will always, ALWAYS be a part of me, and as hard as it has been to fall in love with a place and then leave it, I will never regret the experiences I’ve had.

But despite it all- or maybe because of it- I could not be happier to be home.  Because in all honesty, I might have officially become a Virginian again at the DMV this past August, but my heart knows the truth- I never truly left.