A Marriage on the Rock

62701_428788110875_908313_nToday, I have been married to my best friend for 13 years.

And as you read that sentence, I’ll bet that you were thinking this would be a post on us. Our wedding day, a tribute to him and all that we’ve been through in those 13 years. Well, you’d be wrong. Sort of.

This post is about the people that showed me what a marriage should look like, and how I want mine to look in 50 or so years – my grandparents. I know it seems strange, to write a post about someone else on my own wedding anniversary. But believe me, the person that I’m celebrating my love for today….he understands.

I vaguely remember my grandmother telling me once about when they were married. She was 17 years old. He was 13 years older. She sat on the fence post, waiting on him to pick her up. He picked her up on the back of his horse, and they went off to get married. On December 12, 2005, the day he died, they’d been married 58 years.

I don’t know the specifics about their wedding day, their early years of marriage, their parenting styles and trials, or even the specific struggles that they encountered in married life. I’m sure they had arguments, differences of opinion, problems of their own. I don’t know about these things, because they never let us see them. I could be totally wrong & off-base with my description of them….but I don’t think so. Because what I do know is what I saw in their marriage, over the 23 years I witnessed them together before he passed away.  What I do know is the lasting example that they left for my own marriage.

62032_428907965875_3196156_nIn Proverbs 31, there is a description of the Virtuous Wife. The scripture says that the heart of her husband safely trusts her. She does her husband good and not evil all the days of her life. She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. As I read these descriptors (these are just a few), I couldn’t help but think of her.

She loved my grandfather like no one else. A kind of love that’s rare nowdays. She loved us all, and would have done anything on earth for us…as I’m sure most grandmothers would. But her! My grandmother served her husband like no other woman I’ve ever known. I hadn’t really thought about this until recently. The things…little things…that so many of us women grumble & complain about doing for our familes, our husbands, she did so willingly.

She rose early every single day to make sure he had all that he needed for his day. She made sure he had breakfast on the table. And lunch. And dinner. Every day. Clean, ironed clothes to wear. She managed the household, paid the bills, ran the errands. She measured out his two scoops of vanilla ice cream, and split his Coca-Cola with him because a whole can was too much. She watched wrestling, and baseball…oh, the baseball…every.single.day. Not because she liked it – she didn’t – but because he did. I never even realized how much she really didn’t care for it until after he was gone. She never complained. If you happened to be over while he was taking his bath in the afternoon time, you’d probably even hear him call for her to come rinse out his hair. Now, I know that may seem a little over-the-top to some people. But really, isn’t that what God calls us to do? Love, and serve, and help, without the grumbling, or complaining, or self-seeking. As I’m writing this even, I’m thinking of just how much I pale in comparison to the wife she was.

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is the head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.”  -Ephesians 5:22-24

She epitomized this. She submitted to him. I know, I know. This is such a controversial topic these days. But I just feel that if you could’ve seen her submit to him, you’d understand how God meant for this to be done.

He was never overbearing, or harsh, or mean. He was never loud or demanding. My grandfather was such a gentle man when it came to her. For the most part, at least from what I always saw, she did as he asked. He made it easy, I’m sure, for her to submit to him. For her to follow his lead, want to be with him and around him, move and conform to his ways. Because his ways always had her in mind.

They had such a love for each other. If she occasionally did go into the “back room” to watch her TV shows, it wouldn’t be long before one of them was asking the other to join. She watched him carefully from the kitchen window as he fished on the pond. They rode to job sites listening to Kenny Rogers, just to pass time and be with each other. They just truly enjoyed each other. You could see their love in each others’ eyes. He called her Mama, she called him Daddy. Neither one of them measured over 5 feet tall, but their love could’ve consumed the biggest person you know.

“So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” -Ephesians 5:28-31

And he loved her. Completely, and perfectly, and effortlessly. Actually, I can’t even describe the love he showed toward her as effortless, because it was even more than that. I don’t even know a word for it. It was natural, an after-thought. He just loved her, plain and simply. It was so obvious. He gave of himself freely to her. What was his, was hers. They shared everything. They did everything with the other in mind. They were one.

When people talk about marriage these days, these verses are used almost as if they are ugly words. But if y’all could’ve seen this lived in person….oh, how I wish you could’ve seen this lived in person….you’d “get it”.

Now, I don’t know how much my grandfather actually based his marriage on these verses specifically. My grandfather quit school when he was very, very young to help support his large family, and thus couldn’t read much. But regardless of whether or not he actually knew these verses…he lived them.

527995_10150645110285876_1428526438_nA few days ago, the Lord gave me a sentence that I felt was specifically intended for this post. I didn’t really understand how it was supposed to fit in until today. Wives, the Lord calls us to love our husbands like this because that’s how He first loved us!

And then, today, our pastor preached briefly on submission during his sermon. He explained that the word sub- means beneath, and mission- means assignment. So, if we as husbands and wives…and even simply as people…are practicing submission, we are surrendered to His assignment. Husbands are called to be submitted to Gods’ assignment, and wives to their husbands. It is the foundation of marriage.

In fact, we were saved by submission. Saved from our sin! Not MY will, THY will be done. Jesus prayed this as He was dying on the cross. Our Heavenly Father loved us enough to send His Son to die for us — the same Son who loved us enough to submit to His Father’s will, even to the point of death! He rested in His foundation and the power of His Father. And that same God that He rested in, raised Him from the dead!

Friends, we have to make God the foundation of our marriages. HE is the base. Husbands, seek him and rest in Him. He alone will give you the strength and provision you need for your family. Wives, you can then submit to your husbands, knowing that he is planted firmly in a foundation of the Lord. He will love you with completeness, and gentleness, and love…just as Pop loved Memaw…because God will show him how.

It’s been a lot of years now since I’ve seen their love in person. It’s easy to forget. Hard to remember. But, even as I write this, it’s something that I know I have to strive to remind myself regularly. Daily. It is the success of a marriage. It is the key. We are taught that God has given us all the answers in His word. So, why not marriage? Just because they sound old-fashioned & hard to live by? If you could’ve only seen how easy they made it look.

My husband & I got away together this weekend. We were able to talk, reminisce, and think about the future. We talked about what we want for our family. We talked about how we want to raise our boys. And we talked about this set of grandparents, and their marriage…and how, even though they’ve been gone a while now, we still want what they had.

So, today, on my 13th wedding anniversary, I’m not going to write some fluffy piece about how great my marriage is & how much trial we’ve overcome. Although those things are both true, I want to honor the marriage that made us want ours to be better. I honor their marriage today because it was what marriage should be.

Today, I will promise to love more like them. Live more like them. Do marriage more like them. And, in turn, more like God wants me to love, live, and do marriage. Because, honestly, I think they had it pretty darn close to right. Will you join me, friends?

And honey, to the most challenging, yet rewarding, 13 years I could’ve imagined….it’s been real, and tough, and exciting, and fun. But, most of all, it’s been with you. And that’s what makes it best.

Every day…but especially today…I love you more than most.

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Just Be Held

I sat down today during my few minutes of “Mommy” time with the intent to make a grocery list, look up some ideas on eating better, and start organizing some things for back-to-school. And then I got the blogging urge.

To be honest, I haven’t felt very qualified to write a blog post lately. We’ve been struggling around our house. Between the (large) demands of a two- almost “threenager”, an early-stage teething baby, some significant financial stressors, and some pretty big career decisions to make, the stress level in our household has been at an all-time high. I’ll admit, there have been angry words & stressed silences. Marriage…and life in general…has been tough. 11822729_10152833335765876_9107079343337356003_n

As I was reading back over my previous blog posts the other day, I realized that I’ve been telling y’all about all the good & blessings that have come from my trials. But, what about all those times when you have trials, and you pray & pray, and you don’t get a bouncing new baby, or perfect new husband, or long awaited opportunity? What about those times when you have trials and nothing good does seem to come from it? I do have those kind too!

The stress had been high, and a week or so ago I had one of those just-walk-away moments.

I cried out to God that I just felt alone. As I said this to Him, a familiar song came on the radio. I’d heard it many times before, but it had never held the meaning for me that it did this time. It’s a song by a band called Casting Crowns, titled Just Be Held. The whole song really is wonderful & spoke to me immensely, but a particular part really smacked me in the forehead.

“So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away

You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held.

Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place

I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held.”

It was His way of answering me…I’m not alone.

And you’re not alone either, friend.

It’s true, God did answer so many of my prayers with exactly what I prayed for – I prayed many years for a baby, for a family. And I got exactly what I asked of Him. But friends, it’s not going to always work like that! Not for you, and not for me either.

I did have babies. My prayer was answered. But you know what else? I have other prayers that have been answered with a No. I have other prayers that I’m still waiting to be answered. Does it mean that I’m going to lose my faith in God? No! Does it mean that I’ve done something wrong, or that He loves me less? Absolutely not. Does it mean that He’s telling me no because He has something different in store for me? Probably so.

See friends, sometimes we tend to get controlling & pushy when we aren’t getting our way. I know I do. My ugly comes out. If something isn’t going the way I want, I’ll just go all “threenager” on it, and try to make it go my way…. y’all tell me I’m not alone here!

And then, when things don’t just conform to the way I think they should go, I get mad. Or upset. Or both. I may or may not start cranking up my pity party. I feel alone… because surely if God hasn’t given me what I want, He must not be there with me at all!

But friends, when things don’t go your way, it doesn’t mean your alone at all.

Maybe it means God has gone before you, making your pathways straight for the next big thing.

Maybe it means He’s trying to open your eyes to new things, new possibilities that you may not have considered before.

Maybe it means He wants you to wait patiently and just be held.

Sometimes I have to give myself a reality check. We are God’s children. And just like I love to hold my sweet 5 month old baby & listen to him breathe – just like I love to curl in that tiny little toddler bed and get snuggles from my big boy – God loves to hold us too.

He sees us like we see our children.

And if you don’t have children, it doesn’t mean this doesn’t apply to you! Just like the niece or nephew that you stared at, amazed at their perfect little cheeks and lips – just like the sweet little puppy that curled up on your feet & let out that quick little sigh of contentment  – just like the comfort you feel being back at “home” with a parent or grandparent. That feeling of love & peace & perfection – that’s how He sees us.

He loves us. Really & truly & deeply. And He only wants what’s best for us. At all times, all day, every day. So when your prayer isn’t answered and you’re on your knees and everything seems far away – when you feel alone – know He’s there. And just because His answer doesn’t look like what you had in your head, all planned out & perfect, it doesn’t mean He isn’t answering.

Hold me, God. Just hold me.

Your tears are not wasted, friend! Let yourself just be held.

PS- I’ll be reading this to myself later.

“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear.” -Isaiah 59:1

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The Answered Prayer

Tonight, I watched as my little boy ran across the street to share his big bag of marshmallows, fresh from the grocery store, with the neighbor he so loves. I listened to my husband tell him about a dozen times not to jump on the couch near his baby brother, as he halfheartedly listened to Dads’ instruction. I sat in my living room & witnessed a marshmallow fight with my coffee table and dining room chair as forts. I laughed as he screamed because my husband & I were snuggling on the couch, and tried emphatically to physically move his Daddy away from me.

When he finally settled down, we joked about how for years we sat quietly & peacefully on the couch, watching our TV shows, wishing we had kids to fill the silence. And now, here we are, wishing for just a couple minutes of silence from the loudness & chaos & screaming….all the while knowing we wouldn’t trade it for the world.

And during this time, it got me to thinking about my sweet little big boy. The one that God gave me to remind me that He still answers prayers.

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He was such a blessing, even from the start. Even before we knew he existed, when the money to fund our adoption seemed to fall out of thin air-  straight from an inheritance that wouldn’t even be duly mine for almost 3 more years. We’d talked about adopting, met with an agency even, but had decided that it just wasn’t in the budget for a couple middle-class twenty-somethings with mediocre savings. Then a family member, unknowing we’d even considered adoption, came along with a fairly substantial sum of money. Not enough to fund an agency adoption, but enough to fund a private adoption. It would be almost a year before we knew why God presented us with that money.

Blessings even from the very first phone call that posed the question, “Leslie, Amy is pregnant. We were wondering if you & JW would consider adopting the baby?”  What she didn’t know is that I’d prayed for this. Specifically for this. In a community of babies that were seeming to appear out of nowhere for well-deserving couples to adopt, I’d so jealously told my husband that I didn’t understand why that couldn’t happen for us- why wouldn’t a baby just fall into our laps, so to speak? It was pure, ugly sin talking. And then, months and months later, came that early-morning, out-of-the-blue phone call that would change our lives.

Blessings even from how the details of how our adoption fell into place. I didn’t have the first clue how to piece together an adoption myself, without locating & receiving placement through an adoption agency. Did we start with an attorney? Could we pass a home study, living paycheck to paycheck in a 2 bedroom apartment? I literally Googled an attorney, which led me straight to someone in the state where he would be born. It only took a few phone calls to have all my “ducks in a row”, and we were miraculously on the right path.

Even from the grace extended to me by his birth mother in the moments of his birth. She labored, felt the pain both physically and emotionally, and gave birth to this perfect baby boy. And in that moment, she let me hold him first – the baby that she would give to me to raise. She was the only other woman in the world that possibly loved him as much as I did at that moment, and even her smallest acts were selfless. Words can’t even describe the admiration I have for her.

What Bryce’s birth story has taught me is that God is good. He does answer prayer. Although not always executed in the way in which we expect, He answers. If you’d told me 8 years ago that I’d be an adoptive parent, I may have laughed at you. Heartily. I would’ve never expected that adoption would be the avenue God would choose to bring me a child. But I can tell you so surely now, that He chose that avenue because Bryce was meant to be a part of our family. Not just any baby. Bryce.

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I had so many questions. So many emotions, in the days leading up to and following our adoption.  What would it be like, when he was born? Seeing him for the first time. Loving him in person. Knowing that no signatures had been signed, no paperwork drawn up. Loving another woman’s baby, waiting for him to become mine. Would be look like her? Would he be attached to her? Would he cry for her?

After he was born, I remember wondering how she could do it. Not in a mean, “How can you give up your baby?” sort of  way. In a “How can one person possibly exude that much courage?” sort of way. She had to be the strongest person I knew. The emotions she must have felt are completely foreign to me, but the sentiment is most definitely not lost on me. I remember wondering what I’d done to ever deserve for her to give me this child.

Friends, as much of a pure blessing as Bryce was, and is, to our lives….so is Amy. She gave us an unimaginable gift. The most generous gift I could ever dream. She entrusted us to raise her child.

See, before he was mine, he was hers. Yes, it hurts a little to think about it. It hurt me so deeply to know that in order for me to have my happy ending, she had to experience so much pain and loss. I cried so many nights, thinking about her impossible situation. It’s such a hard emotion to explain – I could never, ever blame her for wanting to keep him. I truly, truly would have understood. Even though, if she decided to do so, it would have torn my world apart.

How was it fair that Gods’ blessing to my life was such a sacrifice to hers?

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And then, we experienced His blessing and grace again on March 25, 2013, when we nervously stood in a courtroom as a judge declared Bryce officially and legally ours. Our sole responsibility, entitled to everything that we have, and as if he’d been born naturally to us. Naturally. To us! We wept in the courtroom. We felt His answer to our prayers.

He is spunky, and fun. He isn’t scared of much of anything. He is tough, and stubborn. He is tender-hearted, and so caring. He is outgoing, and talks non-stop. He loves Jesus, and wants “everybody to go to heaven”. He is smart, and so wise for his age. He likes tractors and airplanes, and wants to be a dinosaur. He is two-going-on-ten. He is the little love of my life.

As an adoptive mother, I think I will always carry a degree of wonder with me. What would his life be like, if he was with her? What kind of mother would she be? What would my life look like today? Would I have no kids, instead of two? How old will he be, when he asks to see her? What kind of relationship will they have? What about him is most like her?

See friends, adoption is so much more than just a way to parenthood. It is a lifelong commitment to ride an emotional rollercoaster. A lifelong commitment to intertwine your heart with someone else. I will always have a piece of her heart, and she will always have a place in mine. No matter how little or how often we talk, no matter whether we communicate daily or not at all, we are connected by him – and by Him.

God had a plan for Amy’s life, just like He had a plan for Bryce’s life. And for mine. And for JW’s. And even for Sam’s. Bryce & Sam were meant to be brothers. JW & I were meant to raise him. Not because we are special, or better, or more “fit” parents. That’s not it at all.

11698540_10152781266185876_220896220121655618_nBryce needed to be with us, in order to be in the place that God needed him… in order to be used for God’s glory. He was meant to be a part of our family.

For Bryce to be who God meant him to be, he needed a part of Amy. Maybe it was her fun charm. Maybe it was her outgoing personality. Maybe it was her DNA.

For Amy to get to the place that she needed to be, she needed his story to be part of her life. I don’t know the specifics of her story. I do know that many people, myself included, had prayed for her to experience a breakthrough moment in her life and situation – even before Bryce existed. Maybe God answered those prayers inadvertently through the birth, and giving up, of her baby boy. Maybe…. What I do know is that today, she is in a good place. And I believe wholeheartedly that it’s a place that she may not have made it, had things been different.

For us to learn of God’s complete grace and glory, to be reminded of His goodness, we needed to be given this child. We needed to see prayer answered tangibly. We needed to feel a certain obligation to raise him with the Lord. We needed him to complete us.

We all needed each other, in order for God to work all things together for His good. He answered many prayers, prayed over many years, in one big way on September 23rd.

Friends, it’s not about how badly you want a baby. It’s not even about what a wonderful mother you’d be. Sure, this is true. God did create us to be mothers. To love & nurture. To have olive plants around our table. To have our quiver full of arrows. But ladies, He created us to be Mommy in HIS time. untitled

If you’re considering adopting, there’s an Amy out there that needs to learn something from Him, as much as you need to learn something from her and her unborn child. There are many unanswered prayers waiting to be answered intricately in your one situation. In.due.time.

“If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.” Habakkuk 2:3 (NLT)

Sams’ Story

3 am. That’s what time my phone rang on January 14, 2014.

In my experience, it’s never really a good thing when your phone rings in the wee hours of the morning. This was no exception. “Leslie, you need to get to the hospital. I’m on my way.” The feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach is one that I probably will never forget. And the hours that followed are some that I know I will never forget.

I threw on the first clothes I saw. Half of my outfit was from the dirty clothes basket, un-freshened, un-ironed. I threw a couple quick essentials, like mascara and a toothbrush, in a little cosmetic bag. Middle of the night phone calls never lend well to coming right back home to get freshened up and ready for the day. My lips barely even brushed my husbands’ as I hurriedly kissed him goodbye. My sweet, perfect baby boy was sleeping peacefully down the hall, without a care in the world, unaware that my entire world was about to fall apart.

I’m not a law-breaker. I’m not even a rule-breaker. But I ran 2 red lights that morning. I cried angrily at other drivers that got in my way- why were they out at 3am anyways? And still, I didn’t make it in time to tell her goodbye. I remember my words to God as I frantically dodged around cars & sped through traffic lights. “God, don’t do this to me now. I can’t take this right now. I can’t take any more.” Honestly, I’m crying right now as I write those words again because they still hold so much weight for me. I was broken. Completely, utterly, unimaginably broken.

Margaret Garcia went home to be with her Savior at 3:26 am on January 14, 2014. It was one of those moments in time that would change my life forever.10400522_105169050875_7956877_n

You see friend, before I even received that phone call, my heart was already broken. About 14 hours prior to that call, I had been anxiously waiting, lying on an ultrasound table. My husband sat expectantly behind my left shoulder, and we were so hesitantly excited. The heartbeat was perfect. The amniotic sac was perfectly shaped. Arms & legs were forming. The baby had grown just on track for the last 10 weeks, and we were ready to hear how close we were to being out of the first trimester. And then the little black & white image appeared on the screen, and we knew. We’d been around this block a time or two….or eight times, to be exact. If given the opportunity & free-range of the ultrasound room, we probably could’ve performed the test ourselves. We knew what the little flicker of a heartbeat looked like on that big, black & white screen. And that day, on January 13, 2014, for the 8th time, the flicker was gone.

In less than 15 hours time, I had lost the newest & oldest person in my life.

You see, my husband & I were extremely close to my grandparents. They were parental figures to us. We’d lost my grandfather several years before, and the loss of her rocked us to our core. The timing couldn’t have been worse. The pain couldn’t have been deeper. We were just broken.

Still, it was just a first-trimester pregnancy, you’ll say. And, technically you’d be right. But friends, let me tell you something about pregnancy loss. Specifically recurrent pregnancy loss. It changes you. It breaks you. It makes you a new person, a different person.

Let me pause for a moment here…

Are you a parent? If so, I’m going to ask you to go on a little journey with me now down memory lane. Do you remember when you first saw those two little pink lines? Do you remember how anxious & scared & excited you were when you told your husband that you were going to be parents? Do you remember planning a cute, creative way to tell him? Do you remember the thrill, after the shock wore off? Do you remember dreaming of how you’d tell your parents? Your friends? Do you remember dreaming about the little person starting to form inside you? We know those feelings too.

Then, do you remember how anxious you were, waiting on your first doctor appointment? The unexplainable feeling of sheer, unmatched joy you had when you heard that little thump-thump of a heartbeat? The love you felt when you looked at your husband & saw his face as he watched his little dot of a baby up on that screen? Is that when it sunk in for you, like for me, that there’s a person growing inside of you now? We know those feelings too.

Do you remember how strange you felt, as your body started changing? Your sore breasts? Your weird cravings? The crying because someone looked at you wrong? The tiredness that only a pregnant woman will ever understand? I know those feelings too.

But let me tell you about some feelings that you may not know about. Here’s where our journey down memory lane ends. For you, at least. These are feelings that you can’t know, can’t understand, unless you’ve been down the road of pregnancy loss.

Do you know the feeling of hesitancy when you see those 2 little pink lines – fear where there should be excitement? Do you know what it feels like to question yourself, whether or not you should tell anyone that you’re pregnant – just in case this time isn’t any different than the last? Do you know what it’s like to keep yourself up at night worrying over whether or not you took your medicines at the exact same times as yesterday? Do you know what it’s like to agonize over a decision of whether or not to take medications that doctors say will help your baby, but that you feel in your heart will not?  Do you know what it’s like to hold your breath as they prep the ultrasound machine, not knowing what to expect this time? Do you know what it’s like to breathe a sigh of relief when you see that tiny little flicker on the screen, and let yourself for a quick little minute get excited about this person inside of you? Do you know what it’s like to feel complete emptiness when that flicker just disappears the next week? Do you know what it’s like to see the disappointment in your husbands eyes when they say there’s no longer a heartbeat? Do you know what it feels like to think you’ve failed him completely? I do.

We buried my grandmother on a Thursday. On Friday, I had a procedure to “remove” my pregnancy, to remove my baby from my body. By Saturday, I was physically, emotionally, and spiritually drained. Sunday came & went. We sat in bed that Sunday night, and we were lost. We talked about my grandmother. We talked about our babies, all 8 of them. We imagined her up there in heaven, playing with each of them. We even envied her a little. We cried. We talked about our future, and whether or not we would try again. And then my husband said possibly the most pivotal words of our marriage thus far.

“Leslie, we need to find a church. I’m starting to question things that I shouldn’t be questioning. I’m starting to doubt God. I don’t want to, but I don’t know what to do.”

I’d been telling him for months that we needed to find a church home. I felt guilty. God had undoubtedly given us a gift in the adoption of our Bryce, and we weren’t even raising him to know God! But we’d been lazy. We’d lived in this city for about 3 years, and we’d tried out many churches around town. But none had felt like home. Sadly, none had kept us coming back for more.  We decided right then and there that we would try out a church the following weekend. And that, my friends, changed our entire world.

I’ll try to keep this simple, since my post is already getting long. But when we walked through the doors of our now church home, we knew. Just like we knew that there was no heartbeat on that ultrasound screen, we knew this was where we were supposed to be. And through this church, we learned about God in a way that we’d never known before. We learned to talk to God like we never had before. We learned to claim His promises, His word, over our life. We learned to have a relationship with Him.

We’d attended church. I’d attended church my entire life. I’d done youth groups, and VBS, and church camp. We even taught Sunday School at one point.  I’d felt God move in a room before. I knew His presence. But our relationship with God had never been anything compared to what it became after God found us, and drew us back to Him, at Word of God Ministries.

Now flash-back to that last pregnancy, our eighth loss. When I’m pregnant, it’s a big deal. There are weekly doctor visits, weekly ultrasounds, many medications, blood tests, daily self-administered injections. The whole nine yards. I see my regular Ob-Gyn, as well as maternal-fetal medicine specialists for my high-risk pregnancies. During one of these visits, the specialist had mentioned that he intended to request my medical records from the fertility specialist that we had consulted with several years ago. That had been a whole other ballgame, back after my 3rd miscarriage. They’d run every test under the sun to try to find out why I couldn’t carry a baby to term. They’d done blood-work to make sure we were a chromosomal match, checked my husband’s sperm count, checked my fallopian tubes for blockages. The list goes on. The only thing they’d found was a borderline positive for a condition called Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome, which basically means that my blood clots too much. Our high-risk doctor wanted to review all of these test results, just to be sure nothing had been overlooked. Otherwise, my losses were basically unexplainable.

Fast-forward to present again. The more we came into our relationship with God, the more we started thinking about those test results. Did the doctor ever review them? What did he find? We’d miscarried before we ever got the chance to go back and discuss his findings with him. So I made an appointment.

His findings? Nothing. I did have the blood clotting condition, and that was the only thing, after scouring my records, that he could find wrong with me. He agreed with every other doctor that the only thing that was going to give me a successful pregnancy was to continue injecting a blood thinner every day in any future pregnancies. And, even then, the reality was that our chances were slim to none.

I was prepared for the news. Albeit disappointed, but prepared. I’d done my homework, y’all. After 8 miscarriages, the chances of me ever having a successful pregnancy were somewhere in the neighborhood of less than 5%.

So, we asked the dreaded question. We explained to him that we’d come into a new relationship with our Lord. We had a fresh perspective. And we thought we had one more good, valiant effort in us. Then, we were done. Drained. DONE.

Should we try again, and can we do it with out the medicine this time?

His response was nothing short of the Lord speaking to us through him. “You can definitely try. Medically speaking, it will never work without the blood thinner. You have this condition, and all the medical evidence shows that you need it. But, I’m a Christian. And I do believe that God can do things that we can’t explain.”

Our decision was made. Two months later, I was pregnant.

There was no excitement, or sweet surprise reveal of a positive pregnancy test to my loving husband. I walked into the bathroom, sat (or maybe slammed) it down on the counter in front of him, and we exchanged a look of fear. Then I called the doctor.

It’s a funny thing, really, when you’ve had multiple pregnancy losses. Normally, when a woman finds out she’s pregnant, there’s a couple weeks time before the doctor wants to see her in the office. They want to wait until around 6-7 weeks, to be sure everything is going smoothly & there will be a heartbeat for your first scan. Me? I’m the exception. They can’t get me to that ultrasound table fast enough. So, when I call the doctors office to tell them I’m newly pregnant & need to make an appointment, there’s always a moment of explaining that has to take place.

“Yes, I’m Leslie Brookshire. I just had a positive pregnancy test & need to make an appointment please.”

“Ok, how far along are you?”

“Probably about 4 weeks.”

“Oh ok, we don’t schedule your first visit until you’re at least 6 to 7 weeks.”

“Yes ma’am, I know. But I’ve had 8 miscarriages, and she normally wants to see me right away. Could you just check with her, please?”

Y’all, the doctors all said the same thing. There’s no way this pregnancy would survive without blood thinners. They offered to alter my dosage, but strongly discouraged me to forego those injections altogether. They explained to me again, in depth, the reason why I needed them. A small blood clot can pass through my body, my veins, and never really affect anything. People live with this condition all the time and never know it. But, when a baby is forming in the womb, their veins and arteries are so small, even the tiniest clot can cause a blockage. Brain damage. A heart to stop beating. And yet, we still felt that small voice telling us not to do it.

It’s hard to go against doctors wishes. Especially when that doctor has been to hell and back with you. Especially when that doctor has celebrated with you through every successful ultrasound, and cried with you through every loss. You know she cares, and you truly feel like she knows what’s best.

But guess what, friends? God always knows what’s best.

I went back & forth on my decision for 2 weeks. The doctors couldn’t be wrong, could they? The studies don’t lie. No one I’d seen on the Facebook chat groups or APS message boards had ever gone injection-less. How could I, as that baby’s mother, withhold a medication that could save its’ life? HOW COULD I DO THAT?! And then, as I was randomly reading a book one night that I’d started months before, I came across two verses. They were on the same page, one after another. Written perfectly for my understanding. They were in translations of the Bible that I do not typically read, and thus worded in a way that I may not have otherwise understood….but that I now couldn’t ignore.

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will set aside the understanding of the experts.” -1 Corinthians 1:19 (HCSB)

“This is why the fulfillment of God’s promise depends entirely on trusting God and His way, and then simply embracing Him and what He does. God’s promise arrives as a pure gift.” Romans 4:16 (The Message)

Just like that. Powerful and spoken straight to my heart from God’s mouth. Set aside the understanding of the experts – the doctors. The fulfillment of His promise depends on my trusting Him, embracing Him. This baby would be His pure gift to me. I could not ignore it. I couldn’t take that medicine. God was telling me as clearly as He knew how that I needed to trust Him, and HIM alone.

So we prayed. Every morning. Every night. Every time we breathed, it seemed. We prayed for fullness, and wholeness, and blood that would flow freely & smoothly from my body to his.

And one morning, as I was getting ready to go to a moms’ breakfast at my toddlers pre-k, I got the shock that I’d been dreading. I knew there would be blood before I even made it to the restroom. I cried uncontrollably. I called my husband, told him to come home. Then I called the doctor & made my appointment. I was lost again, and I didn’t know where else to turn. Hadn’t God been hearing my prayers? If I speak it over my life, He’s supposed to listen. Right?

So my little boy & I sat down, cross-legged, right in the middle of the living room floor, and we did the only thing I could imagine to do – we prayed. We prayed for the bleeding to stop. We prayed for the blood in my body to continue to flow freely & smoothly to his. We prayed for him to be born healthy and at term.. We claimed Malachi 3:11 over my body, over that baby.

“And I will rebuke the devourer for your sake, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts.” Malachi 3:11

And friends, the ultrasound that day showed a perfect little baby with a heart happily pumping away.10933883_10152443186045876_5853890963099997158_n

I will not go into depth or detail of my pregnancy, but I will tell you that it was uneventful and successful. My fruit did not cast from my body before it’s time, because my God promised me it wouldn’t!

Samuel Amos Brookshire was born on March 10, 2015 at 7:45 am, healthy, perfect, and only 3 weeks premature. Every test performed on him was passed with flying colors. He spent only 3 days in the hospital, and never saw the inside of a NICU.

He was named after Hannah’s son, Samuel, in the Bible – the son she’d prayed for & promised to God. He was also named after my grandmother, who changed our life even after her death. And as our dear friend and associate pastor pointed out, even in the most meticulous little detail of his birth date (3/10), God made us a promise for Sams’ life.

“Now the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel answered, “Speak, for Your servant hears.”   -1 Samuel 3:10

Friends, I know this post has been long. And I will tell you that I could’ve gone into so much more detail about Sams’ story and the Lords’ handiwork in it. But I tell you this as a story of hope.

Nothing we could’ve done would have brought that baby into this world. God did it. He had a plan for my life, for Sams’ birth and life, to bring Him the ultimate glory. Ultimate glory.

If the road hadn’t been so rocky, we wouldn’t have given Him all the glory when He made it smooth!!

Tonight, as I sat in our Wednesday evening church service and listened to our associate pastor speak on being emptied of self and filled with the Spirit of Jesus Christ, I heard God tell me this.

Leslie, there’s someone out there that’s angry. And they need to hear what you have to say – What I have to say through you.

Friends, I know how easy it is to be angry at the Lord. We were there! I’ve walked in the shoes of confusion. I’ve questioned how this could ever be a part of God’s plan. I’ve questioned whether God even really had a plan for me at all. I’ve been SO angry at God for taking away what seemed like everything from me. With every pitying look from friends, with every hurt look in my husband’s eyes, I blamed God.

But you know what?

He forgave me for all that anger, and hurt, and doubt. He forgave me before I even knew I felt it. And then He showed me just how perfect His plan for me could be.

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You see, after we finalized the adoption of my oldest son, I thought that this was God’s plan for me. He wanted me to be Bryce’s mommy, and that was why He’d had us wait all those years for a baby. Because He had the perfect baby for us in Bryce! And I know that this is 100% true.

However, after Sam was born, it became crystal-clear to me. Bryce was a gift! He was God saying “You waited patiently my child, here is the one you’ve longed for”. He’s the icing….little did we know, our cake was still coming. But Sam? He’s the one to teach me something. He’s the one that couldn’t be. He’s the one to bring glory to God’s name through this story.

God’s plan never really looks like the plan we have in our head.  But He does have a plan. He had one for me, and He has one for you. I say that to you as surely as there are stars in the sky.

God had taken so much away from us, not to punish us, but to show us how much we really needed Him!

You can’t rush His timing…Because it’s perfect! Perfect for you, perfect for your place in life, perfect for giving Him the ultimate glory. Give Him time, and He’ll show you just how perfect.

“And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

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For Better and Worse

It was almost a year ago that he was conceived. The “miracle baby”. The one that “stuck”, as people often say in the world of fertility. Even at his conception, he was met with anxiousness and excitement and hesitation, all bundled up into one emotion.

And the stories of my two boys….the losses, the hopes, the prayers, and the tears…is a story that I do plan to tell you one day.

But today, friends, as I think about Father’s Day coming up and what a downright amazing father my husband has become, I want to tell you about our road to get there. The  bumpy, winding, seemingly never-ending road of want. Of longing. Of a marriage put through the wringer. Of a marriage now stronger than I ever could have imagined. Of a father who deserves his honor this Father’s Day.

We married young. I was 19, and he was 20. We were babies, looking back now. But back then, we thought we had it all figured out. College, jobs, house, cars, babies…life. We had a plan and we thought nothing would stand in our way. He got a job, and I finished college. We bought a house. We traveled, and experienced new things together, and we lived life.

I remember, even back then, knowing what a great Daddy he’d be one day. He loved kids, and they loved him. He wanted babies from the minute we said, “I do.” I was always the cautious one, the planner. I wanted to wait until we had it all worked out – until we had more time, more money, more life under our belts. 298216_10150311189240876_931050993_n Then, good ‘ol life started the journey without us, and strapped us in along for the ride.

I can remember the first time like it was yesterday. I’d had a minor surgical procedure the month before, and had taken a test as standard precaution prior to the procedure. It was negative, of course. You don’t get pregnant when you’re not trying, right? That’s what my naïve, barely 24-year-old self thought anyways.

I remember the phone call, the nurse asking me those six little words that would pretty much change my life.

“Have you taken a pregnancy test?”

I remember his words to me, “A pregnancy test?!”. I remember how scared we were. I’d been bleeding for weeks, and little did I know, I had already lost our first baby earlier that day.

I remember driving to the hospital. We had so many emotions running through us that we were both shaking. I remember knowing how hard he was trying to be strong for me. Were we excited? Sad? Scared? Nervous? What were we supposed to be?

I remember the exam in that cold, drab Emergency Room. The doctor who wasn’t my own examining me with rough, cold hands, and telling me that our baby was already gone.

I remember the look on my sweet husband’s face. The sadness, the disappointment. The Loss. I even remember the hope we felt, as we explained to our families of our loss, and that we planned to try again right away. It wasn’t what we’d planned, but it had stirred a want inside of us. And now, we were ready to be parents.

Except, God had a different plan.

130904025408-dnt-ks-selling-pregnancy-tests-00005517-story-top The second time I remember even more clearly than the first. We had no trouble becoming pregnant, and anxiously waited those few weeks for our first doctor appointment.

I remember the look on his face when we heard that sweet, innocent little heartbeat for the first time. Y’all! I remember the tears of joy. I didn’t think I’d ever seen him so happy. If anybody in the world could’ve been happier than I was in that moment, it was him. And in that moment, my life felt perfect. I knew what pure joy felt like. We told everyone we knew. Cloud Nine was about 50 feet below us.

I remember the look on her face, the ultrasound tech that performed our next baby check. I remember the silence, and the confusion my husband & I exchanged between glances when she told us that she’d have to get the doctor to step in on this scan. I remember the raw, pure empathy in the doctor’s voice when she told us that the heartbeat was gone. And I remember, again, knowing how hard he was trying to be strong for me.

I remember the look on his face this second time…the sadness, the disappointment. The Ache.

It makes me cry even now, even though now I know how our story will end.

Y’all, he wanted kids so badly. SO BADLY. I wanted them too, but he truly longed for them. He ached for a baby of his own, a little buddy to play ball and take fishing. You could see it in his face, in his eyes every time he saw our friends with their kids.

I hurt because he’d chosen me…the one girl who couldn’t give him what he truly wanted.

He was such a saint, in a saint-less kind-of way. I told him (on more than one occasion) that I would understand…I wouldn’t blame him…if he wanted to find someone else. Someone who could carry a baby. Someone who wasn’t a failure. He assured me every single time that I was his girl. I was the only one he wanted, and that if we couldn’t have kids together, we wouldn’t have kids at all. He told me how much he loved me, and how sure he was that he’d picked the right girl back in 11th grade. But how could that be? I just could not wrap my brain around that.

But, his emotions often told a different story. He was angry. His temper would get the best of him sometimes. He said things to hurt my heart, just because he could. So did I.  I was selfish and inconsiderate. I thought only of myself.  I thought he should feel more, hurt more. And in reality, he was hurting. We hurt in different ways.

And with every baby, with every loss, it got harder. The pain got deeper. The communication got tougher. But we got stronger. 40937_418395300875_797226_n Infertility, miscarriage and pregnancy loss have a way of doing that to a marriage. They will pick up a perfectly healthy marriage, twist it until every ounce of good is dripping out of it, and throw it away like yesterday’s news. Oh, how HARD it was back then! We didn’t know how to recognize each other’s pain. We didn’t know how to support each other in our search for patience. We didn’t know how to communicate our needs, and his anger and my self-pity created a trench in our marriage the size of the Grand Canyon.

But you know what, friends? He didn’t give up on me. We didn’t give up on each other.

“So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”  -Matthew19:6

We will be the first to tell you that our marriage has not always been the most Godly example. We are far, far from perfect.  And I’m not saying that we have it all together now. But we know the One who was perfection. We’ve heard His word. We said our vows before Him.

And I will venture to speak for my husband as well when I say that we have kept this verse, or at least the premise of it, at the heart of our marriage all these years.

We didn’t give up on what God joined together. We JUST didn’t see that as an option.

And this Sunday, we will celebrate so much more than his first Father’s Day as a father of two. Or at least I will. I’ll be celebrating him. The man who loved me when I felt unlovable. The man who longed for these babies. The man who stood in that court room and cried like a baby as he promised to take “B” as his very own flesh and blood. The man with the pride of the world in his eyes when he showed me “S” for the very first time, so thankful for the life that we created. The man who promised me, all those years ago, that I was his girl.  The man who stuck by me through thick and thin. Better and worse.

Isn’t that what our vows say, guys? For better or for worse.  Even when worse means painful words, or longing hearts, or babies being loved on by Jesus today.

Happy Father’s Day to my baby’s daddy. You deserve every last dirty-handed hug & sloppy wet kiss.

Happy Father’s Day to all the father’s out there. Even the ones right smack-dab in the midst of “worse”.Brookeshire-10

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” -Proverbs 3:5-6

Seek Your Peace

image2Life is hectic and crazy sometimes. Ok, let’s just be honest….life is mass chaos.

There are those moments (lately they come more often than not) when you just want to curl up in the very far corner of your closet and hide. In fact, I had one of those moments yesterday. There I was, hiding on the other side of the bed. On the floor. Crouched and avoiding eye contact with the toddler.

The baby, mid-growth spurt and hungry, had been crying uncontrollably for what seemed like the entire day. And then, right in the middle of my frantic search for the 2 year olds’ juice cup (which was conveniently irreplaceable by any other juice cup on the planet), I discovered the poop in the closet.

My body slumped to the floor and tears stung my eyes. Not because we were experiencing a potty-training relapse…although that didn’t help my condition. And not even because I knew I had to clean it up. I cried because I was tired.   T.I.R.E.D.   The kind of tired that no “Honey, I’ll do the dishes tonight” would help. Tired as in sheer mental exhaustion.

I needed to quiet my mind. I needed a Mommy Time-Out. Except when you’re the Mommy-On-Duty, there is no time-out. Just about the time you’re pretty sure you’ve solved all the toddler-drama in the world, the baby is hungry. Or dirty. Or just plain mad because he woke up without a pacifier. And so it begins again.

And in this moment, hiding behind my bed, it comes to my mind — didn’t God tell us in Matthew to come to Him when we are weary and heavy-laden, and He will give us rest? I know He did.

And God…I do come to You. I come every morning, emptying to You my transgressions, sharing with You my thankfulness, asking of You requests for health or guidance or peace.

Where is my rest, God?

But just as His word instructs us to come to Him in Matthew 11:28, it also instructs us that we must actively seek our peace.

“Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it.” -Psalm 34:14

Have I been seeking peace? Or have I just been stringing my words & hopes together in my conversation with the Lord, and waiting for Him to hand me my peace all wrapped up in paper with a big, pretty bow? Friends, we cannot expect from God if we aren’t willing to give to Him.

Seek peace. Pursue it.

Just sit on those thoughts for a minute. Sure, He’s our heavenly Father. Sure, He loves us beyond imagination. But, He also wants us to seek Him. To fellowship with Him. To trust Him. To pursue Him.

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”  -Isaiah 26:3

Today, I came to the park on my lunch break. I spread out my sandwich alongside my Bible and my notebook, and I trusted that God would show me the peace that I so longed for. I took a step.

I actively pursued it, and Him.

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I sought my peace, and I found it. The dogs stopped barking, a cool breeze blew through, and I felt God showing me how much He loves me. “Come to Me, my child” . . .

And I prayed. I prayed that God would show me how to find my peace – THIS peace – in my home life, in the every day and the mundane. And now, I will pursue it, and trust that He will provide. I know He will, because His word tells me so.

“The peace of Christ must control your hearts – a peace into which you were called in one body. And be thankful people.”  -Colossians 3:15