#Motherhood | My Never-Ending Journey of Sanctification

Have you ever prayed something into existence? You focus all your energy into one area, cry a lot, pray a lot, believe with alllll the intensity and emotion. Then it happens so fast you can barely catch up. Fifteen months later and I'm still play catch up with those emotions from the day I became a mom. 

I am a firm believer that the Lord gives an abundance of supernatural grace specific to the season you're in. I've seen it over and over. In fact my current life status is grace upon grace for the amount that has changed in just a few months. I went from zero kids and all kinds of down-time to toddler + newborn = my time is not my own

While we are blessed beyond measure by these gifts, I would be lying if I said it wasn't hard. Cloud nine eventually dissipates, you're left with real life, and miracles don't always feel miraculous when it's largely opinionated little humans you're dealing with. I am blessed with many wise women in my life who have encouraged me in the midst of my chaos. One lesson I always come back to is that motherhood is just plain sanctifying. There is no way around the fact that it breaks you down, and cleanses every selfish part in you. As exhausted as I feel some days, I feel equally purposeful. THIS is what I dreamed of, and I'm living it. I may have pictured a calmer, cleaner, less defiant version...but ideals will get you every time. 

A few of my favorite thoughts & lessons lately:

-I envisioned a very neutral childhood for whoever my future children would be. Along came Cam, and everything changed. I dress him in neutrals and feel like I'm doing him some sort of injustice. The kid is practically a graphic tee model (not the hipster kind) and LOVES the color blue (not the subtle kind). Nothing makes him happier than mismatched pajamas and socks with flip flops. #chooseyourbattles

-I was catapulted into motherhood from a season of long, intense times with the Lord. I would pray, journal and read the Bible for hours on our attic window seat (which has recently been transformed by purple crayon). Only lately have I realized that my relationship with the Lord is not less because my time has shifted. My current mode of worship and my encounters with Him are through investing in the lives of my children. 

-A talking toddler is cute and fun, until they start talking back. Parenting is a whole new territory now that it doesn't just require feeding, playing and snuggles. I've had to become more creative and less lazy very quickly. 

-While Brent and I were praying and believing for children one of my favorite verses was Psalm 27:14, "When I wait, you strengthen my heart." In those years I clung to this as the Lord sustaining me through our struggle with infertility and loss. Now I look back and believe He was also strengthening me for such a time as THIS. 

-Lastly, the words I'm meditating on lately. I've been reading these each morning since a good friend (and amazing mother) shared them with me.

Being a mother who can laugh at the endless work while living in the joy of the Lord does not draw our children’s attention to us and our work, so much as it draws their attention to the source of our joy. Sometimes when I am faced by one of these little petty annoying messes, I find that I need the spiritual exercise of lifting my head. Stop looking at the petty things, and laugh. Wipe the table off and say, “my life for theirs.” Teach the kids to clean up after themselves while saying, “my life for theirs.” Greet your morning full of sticky floors with an attitude of. “my life for theirs.” THIS is Gospel work. Because every time we look through ourselves, past ourselves, to the source of our joy, to God, we are asking our children to look too. Enjoy Him with me. Enjoy Him in the little tasks of normal faithfulness.
— Rachel Jankovic
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Grayson Cole

While everyone else in my home is napping (or pretending to #toddlerlife), I am currently indulging in my most favorite afternoon ritual: Chocolate and the iced version of my morning coffee. This is something I have looked forward to about afternoons long before babies and naptime, but the coffee intake has increased and the chocolate has evolved from a piece to a small bowl...and I'm ok with that. 

I cannot believe that I haven't blogged since JANUARY. Going on six months of silence here, and honestly not a lot of journal writing either. Between anticipating baby Gray's arrival to the adjustment since his birth the first half of 2018 has flown by! I want to work on carving out more time for things like this. Making space for "me-time" and slowing my brain down to write is not my natural tendency. If i'm being totally honest, this actually happens on the days I'm feeling ahead of my to-do list. Maybe I should start adding 'blog' to that list. 

The reason I'm writing is that I ALSO can't believe it's been TWO WHOLE MONTHS since Grayson Cole became a real life miracle. I am not exaggerating when I say again and again what a joy he is to our family. At the risk of sounding gushy/unrealistic, I actually have very fond memories of March 26th (the day he entered this world, two weeks early). I had an amazing experience at Women's & Babies Hospital and, although my labor was not at all glamorous or without pain, I would not change anything about that day. 

A few highlights of baby Gray's birth:

-It sounds trivial but I was so thankful to have him during the day. My first contraction was around 6:30 AM and I went into labor with a full night's sleep AND a shower behind me. I could explain to Cam what was going on (between contractions as he repeatedly hit me with a sword). Even something about seeing daylight through the windows of the labor & delivery room was comforting.

-My nurse was an angel. I cannot even explain how thankful I was to have her. She guided Brent & I through the process, calmed my nerves, and even stayed well past her shift had ended to be with us for Gray's birth. 

-The doctor who delivered Gray was the doctor who one year ago, almost to the day, had operated on me after our third loss. When he held Gray up in front of me I just cried. It was like my life had come full circle, and he had been with us through intense pain and even greater joy. 

-Two of my best friends were part of Gray's birth documenting with photo and video. I am not only blessed by their talent, but also had no idea how special that would be. An added bonus was that I assigned Amber to the essential oil diffusing and Vanessa to the labor playlist. Not that I was paying attention to either one of those things closely but you know, *i'm all about the atmosphere.*

Things to note for the future:

-I spent an absurd amount of time searching for "the perfect robe" to wear after Gray was born, only to end up at Target a few days before his birth. There were probably better things I could've been doing with all that time, because the last thing on my mind post-delivery was silk and floral prints.

-Don't tell your husband that "he'd better" bring the lunch you packed for him that morning, UNLESS you want to smell chips and salsa in the middle of your contractions.

-At the end of the day, I am the mom. I think I asked permission for pretty much every move I made the first 24 hours until finally a nurse told me, "That's up to you sweetie, he's your baby." And then it hit me- HE'S MY BABY. I GET TO KEEP HIM FOREVER AND TAKE HIM HOME AND MAKE ALL THE ADULT DECISIONS ABOUT HIM. I guarantee I started crying at that point. 

The past few months:

-Gray has been a very consistent, predictable and relaxed baby so far. Since day one he has maintained somewhat of a schedule which I am so thankful for. He wakes up once a night, and rarely cries unless he's hungry, tired or needs a diaper change. I definitely don't want to take that for granted.

-Although the overall adjustment has gone way better than I could've imagined, having a toddler + newborn is definitely not for the faint of heart. I would say that the hardest part of the past few months has been helping Cam understand that Gray is one more piece of our family, and that he's not a replacement. I cannot wait until they are both a little older and their relationship as brothers can really grow. But for now, I'm relying on a rewards system involving lots of gummy vitamins and velcro stars and reasoning with toddler logic. 

To me, holding Gray in my arms is tangibly holding God's promise to us. He is a picture of redemption in our lives, and I even underestimated how wonderful he would be. My days are filled with imperfection and motherhood has many challenging moments, but Brent and I talk often about how much sweeter our life is as our family grows. Cam & Gray are not only the answer to our prayers, but also so many of yours. We have felt surrounded by love, support and genuine excitement for the lives of our boys, and we are thankful.

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Expectant Hope

"But God remembered Noah." | Genesis 8:1

And even on the most difficult days, God remembered me.

If I knew three years ago what those next years would hold, I can guarantee you I would have said "No thanks." The Lord is carrying me through a story I never would have chosen for myself. One that has shaped me, one that has strengthened my love for Brent and become a foundation for our marriage.

This story that I would not have written includes gems like foster care and the fact that we have the most special little boy we've ever met. It includes spontaneous weekend adventures and trips abroad, precious time spent with my husband and foundational friendships. It includes building a business, and getting to watch it succeed.

It also includes chapters of tears and of mourning. The silence of barenness and the loss of three babies. Dreams that felt unreachable and a broken heart.

By my third pregnancy, Brent and I had decided that foster care was our next step (something I have shared about in the past). I felt settled and secure in our decision, even in the midst of unknown. I was fully throwing my heart into this new thing, and then one morning my world changed. "You're pregnant" quickly turned to "Something is not right," and so the story began all over again. We prayed for healing and for life. I said I literally cannot do this again. And then we grieved the loss of the child in my womb. The week of our third baby's shared burial, we welcomed a precious boy into our home.

God, your God, will restore everything you lost; he’ll have compassion on you; he’ll come back and pick up the pieces from all the places where you were scattered.
— Deuteronomy 30:3 [The Message]

And so our adventure began. Becoming a father and mother, loving sacrificially and all that comes with it. Two months later, with a one year old grabbing at my ankles, I stared at two very bright blue lines I thought I would never see. Isn't that how life goes? In the most unassuming moments, sacred things take place.

"Let's be cautiously optimistic," my doctor said at our first, very early ultrasound. And we agreed. Optimism seemed like a hard choice in the opposite direction of all the very familiar feelings that were stored away in my heart. So we proceeded with cautious optimism, week by week, seeing our baby in the correct location, growing and developing. The flicker of a heartbeat turned to an audible sound and with every stage I felt like pinching myself because, is this even real? First trimester has come and gone, and with it left my high risk diagnosis.

This may sound silly, but after all we have fought through I still struggled to embrace and share this pregnancy. I think that fear played a huge part in this hesitation, but I also felt weirdly insecure being "on the other side" of a feeling that was familiar to me for so long. Our journey of growing a family has given me such a sensitivity toward families experiencing similar circumstances. I don't understand the Lord's timing in all of it, why some women wait years to get pregnant, some forever and some don't wait at all. I don't understand loss and miscarriage, beyond the fact that in these deeply broken places there is an opportunity for full surrender and then resilience. I was talking through my thoughts with a friend, and with the following words she encouraged me to share.

Thinking of all the heartache in the world. If the people who were experiencing the Lord’s grace in their lives didn’t celebrate and rejoice for the good things just because others were still suffering, that would be discouraging. There would be no visible hope for those in heartache...Holding back never spares you from hurt. It just spares you from a full life.

So we are celebrating the life of our sweet miracle babe with expectant hope. Beyond thankful and amazed at our story, and counting down the days until April 3, 2018!!!!

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Month One

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My first experiences of motherhood and foster care all rolled into one...Maybe I should alternately title this, "The Road Less Traveled."

I seriously laugh at all the things I thought I was prepared for, (although deep down I know you are really never fully prepared).

Take for instance months of mental preparation for a docile, little baby sleeping in the corner of my attic/office space while I answer e-mails, read books and drink coffee all day. Now replace "docile, little baby" with "active, sneaky, big, strong-willed, toddler who hates to nap" and you can see how very little e-mailing, book reading, or even drinking my own coffee without hiding where he cannot find me, is going on in this place.

This is motherhood, and being inserted into the role of a mother at this age, in this stage, that is no joke. Add in the learning curve of my role as a foster parent, and completely uncharted territory is the perfect phrase to sum up this season.

That night we brought him home I sat in the dark of our little nursery, trying to rock him, trying to love him, trying to be a safe place. He kicked and screamed and flailed, and I cried so hard. This is not my baby. This is a big, strange boy who doesn't know me or like me. Finally, he fell asleep. I laid him down, left the room, and cried some more.

Foster care is a complex thing. This little boy came to us with 16 months of unknowns behind him. Hurts from the past, emotional disconnect, struggles with attachment. My first taste of motherhood involves some things I didn't account for. Our relationship still feels fragile, and we spend as much time as we can together to strengthen attachment, and heal the fear of abandonment. All this while living in my own fragile state, wondering what the future holds. 

My first encounter with his birth mom, two weeks into placement, wrecked me again. Just when "normalcy" is sort of sinking in, a wild and new wave of emotion comes. When I met her, I just wanted to hug her and tell her I believe in her. One of the things that drew me to foster care was advocacy, championing of. Because who I am right now is a mother, but I am also a support system. I am blessing, and teaching, and pouring into the sweetest little boy because I get to be that in his life. Do I hope that it's forever? Yes, I do. But strangely, and equally, I don't want to see her fail. I want to see her succeed, and if she can succeed in ways that allow for her to care for him, then I have been an advocate for their success. This is what foster care means. At the end of the day, he may be with us forever, but at the end of the day, he may not.

It's just not easy. But we didn't choose this because we wanted easy. We had a strong sense that loving him [and any other babies we say yes to] would be worth it, and I can honestly say that I end each day feeling fulfilled in a way that trumps anything else.

Thankful for the Unexpected: A Little Life Update

It’s been a while, and a lot has happened in that while.

In January Brent and I hosted a Chinese high school boy for 10 days as part of a student immersion program through LMH. Oh the stories we could tell from that adventure...Day one I was convinced we had been paired with the sweetest, most helpful and genuine 16-year old male human on this planet. By day four he was mad that I misinformed him on the weather therefore ruining one of six new pairs of Nikes he had purchased since Day One. Nothing like living it up when you find yourself on a different continent with house parents that could be mistaken for your classmates.

 


In all seriousness, we are so thankful for that adventure, and the impact (I really hope) that we got to make on his life. WE MISS GRIFFIN. (Although I’m not ready to parent a 16-year-old quite yet.)

In February we jetted off on my first tropical vacation with some of our best friends. To be honest, it was difficult for me to keep our trip from being clouded with fear over this whole zika virus thing that is on every news outlet in the US. I am so glad I pushed through it, and we traveled to St. Croix. We had the most wonderful week, I legitimately DID NOT want to leave AT ALL, and a month later I am in the zika clear. (Which really was not a big deal on this island at all). Highlights of this trip included all the delicious food we ate, literally every meal was good, all the beaches we visited, traveling with dear friends, and of course experiencing sunshine and warm weather during the month of February.


In March (Ok so this technically happened in February, but really took off in March, and I needed something for March) I launched A BUSINESS with my good friend Heidi! I still can hardly believe that this happened...and really it was such a whirlwind. Moss + Vine is a floral and event styling business, and our ultimate goal is to help people throw really great parties. Heidi has years of experience with florals, and I just love decor/design/style. Working together has been so much fun, and I am really excited for the things that I know we will create! There has been SO much momentum with our business already, and more exciting opportunities than I would have expected this early in it all.

 

This spring feels so full it's already gone. Countdown till our first beach vacation (June 1) has officially commenced. Four events for Moss + Vine in the month of April alone. And channeling my inner Joanna Gains as I get to design and decorate the 2016 parade home for Brentwood Builders (Brent’s family business). I am loving this even more ever since I jumped on the Fixer Upper bandwagon and decided I want us to be them.


I am so thankful for where the unexpected has brought me. I have cried numerous times as I replay the past year in my head. It is just so crazy tracing where I was last year to where I am now. The opportunities I have worked toward, and the ones that have landed in my lap. I can actually say that while certain life circumstances haven’t necessarily gotten easier, and my prayers haven’t always been answered the way I planned, I have grown. The moments I’ve so deeply struggled with who God is, and the times I have spiraled in a lack of control, are countered by those when I have experienced grace I didn’t know was possible, and peace that definitely is not my own.

There is a sweet sense of anticipation in the realization that I can trust whatever is coming, even though I’m not in control.

 

xoxo Katie

 

home.

No other word describes quite so perfectly how I feel so often. I love our physical home, our house. I love to decorate our home, and keep a home, and create a home for my family. I love when people feel like home, memories feel like home, sights and smells feel like home.

home. it is the nicest word there is.
— Laura Ingalls Wilder

There is a sense of comfort in the word "home." It brings up the nostalgia of growing up in my parents' home with my sisters, learning what home means to them. It is new traditions and trademarks that Brent and I create as we build our home and family. It is the reason that my dream job, to be a "homemaker," is even possible.

I feel privileged to have the responsibility of setting the tone for those who enter our home, and setting the table for those to stay. It really is, in a way, like a life-size dollhouse, and although there is responsibility beyond the "fun stuff" like painting and decorating, each task complements another. So today I wanted to share a few of my favorite things that help make our home. Books and products and shops that I love!

Highlights of our Home:

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1. the chalkboard in my kitchen is forever changing, 2. this little vignette of my joy cookbook and dried wheat from a field, 3. a tin feather I purchased in Philadelphia this weekend, and the PSL card my sister got me at Anthropologie, 4. Our mantle is the perfect backdrop for all kinds of arrangements. (Bottom, L-R) 5. My two favorite fall catalogs so far, 6. the hanging shelf Brent helped me make, 7. the glass globe & air plant hanging in our room, 8. This little thrifted plate with a sweet quote.

Favorite Books about Home:

The Nesting Place, by Myquillin Smith

Bread & Wine, by Shauna Niequist

Happy Handmade Home, by Emma Chapman & Elsie Larson

Design Bloggers at Home, by Ellie Tennant

Favorite "Helpful" Household Products:

Glade Jar Candles (They are cheap and they make the house smell so good! Fall and winter scents are my favorite)

Mrs. Myers Multi-Surface Cleaner, Basil (I use this for everything. Bathroom, kitchen, coffee table, everything.)


Lavender Essential Oil (I diffuse this for the scent and to help us sleep, but also apply it topically for burns and for cramps.)

Norwex Dusting Mitt (One of the best bridal shower gifts. It works so well, and is extremely convenient.)

Horsehair Dust Brush (I never realized the importance of a good dust pan and brush until I bought one for .99 cents at Ikea. We got a horsehair brush at a local Amish store and the difference is amazing.)

Favorite Home Decor Shops:

Pottery Barn, Rockvale Outlets (look for good sales!)

West Elm, Rockvale Outlets

Goodwill

Michael's Craft Store

Cost Plus World Market

HomeGoods

Marshalls

Terrain

and of course, Target.