Emmeline’s Birth Story | Part 2


Your promise still stands
Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness
I’m still in Your hands
This is my confidence, You never failed me yet

I’ve seen You move, You move the mountains
And I believe, I’ll see You do it again
You made a way, where there was no way
And I believe, I’ll see You do it again

Once we got home things seemed to pick up pretty quick and the timing of everything really fell into place so perfectly. Miracle of all miracles, when we got home Lincoln told Marshall he wanted to “take a nap” and fell asleep almost immediately. We were sure he would be up for the day, but this was such a little miracle. Because he slept, Marshall was able to help me labor which was super duper necessary. He was my lifeline. Him just being beside me was essential. I always kind of felt like the whole “husband coached birth” thing was just something invented to help the dad feel like part of the process, but really he carried me and afterwards it really felt like something we did together. After being together for as long as we have (11 years almost!) sometimes there don’t feel like a lot of “firsts” left, but this was definitely a first and it was so special! 

After Lincoln went to sleep things really picked up. My contractions were super painful, I couldn’t really get comfortable anywhere and they felt really back to back. I heard myself saying that I wasn’t getting a break (which is a sign of transition! But totally wasn’t in transition at this point). In retrospect pretty sure my water had broken, but I didn’t realize it despite the fact that, um, things were falling out of me. (…aaannnnd, leaving it at that!) 

I tried to labor in the tub but hated it and had a really hard time coping with contractions in there. I wasn’t comfortable sitting at all, so I tried the shower again for a little bit but after a while I got hot and I was nervous about my skin being in the hot water for that long. I paced around our bedroom and bathroom and tried over and over to find positions that were comfortable but the most comfortable I was standing, holding onto Marshall and squeezing for dear life when a contraction came. I remember telling him a few times that if we went back to the birth center and I was still 3cm I would walk myself across the parking lot to the hospital for an epidural. 

At some point while we were at home my water had definitely broken, which I didn’t realize until I was examined at the birth center. I legitimately thought I was peeing during every contraction. This totally explained the intensity of everything, in hindsight. I remember telling Marshall there was no way I was going to be able to do this for hours, but he kept reminding me to breathe and turned on some music at some point. Do It Again was on my playlist and I remember hearing myself saying “there’s no way I can do this” over and over and over and then hearing “you made a way, when there was no way” almost in direct response. 

After that the atmosphere completely shifted. I got a hold on my breathing, I was significantly more calm and relaxed. Something just clicked. Marshall told me we could go to the birth center anytime I was ready. My brother in law had come to pick up Lincoln on his way to work, miraculously right when he woke up from his “nap”. I was dreading the drive to the birth center, and it was 8am so I knew it was going to take longer than normal with traffic but I knew we should go sooner than later. Now that things were clearly progressing, I wasn’t sure how fast it would be and Marshall was for sure not excited at the prospect of delivering a baby in our bedroom. 

The drive there was incredible. I was so relaxed at this point I literally fell asleep. I’d have a contraction, breathe through it and doze off by the end of it. I have no idea how. It took us about 45 minutes to get there, traffic was completely stopped on the highway so we went back roads. Marshall did an exceptional job of driving. He said that we got stuck at every stoplight but I didn’t even notice, I had my eyes closed and I was sleeping or breathing. Later when I was in the tub I told our midwife that I kept falling asleep at the end of contractions and she explained it was my body conserving energy for pushing later on– means you’re close! 

We got there around 9am, Mandesa, the other midwife I had wanted to meet,  met us at the door smiling so big and said “I don’t think we’ve met!”. I happened to look at Marshall’s face and he was smiling so big too, and a little teary. I think I smiled at him, but I’m honestly not sure what my face looked like.  At this point we were both in complete awe at how everything was piecing together so perfectly after waiting for her for so long. Having Mandesa there was just like an extra special God hug, just because. He was like “I heard you! I knew you wanted to meet her! You got to meet her on the day it matters most! It was always the plan!” Another little promise fulfilled. 

My hands and legs were shaking and she walked us back to triage me. I was 6cm and she confirmed my water had broken. She helped me through a contraction on the table then listened to Emmeline’s heart and remarked “oh, she’s a happy baby!”, which Alexa literally had said five hours earlier. Everyone that listened to her heart beat always said that she was happy. So appropriate for our Emmeline Joy! She also made a comment about how I was doing great breathing for her and that was so motivating. I am an undeniable “words of affirmation” person so little comments like that really helped me a ton. 

She started the tub for me in our room and I made my way back there, leaving puddles of amniotic fluid along the way. In between contractions I still felt kind of normal. I made a joke in the triage room about leaking a little bit and after every contraction I’d look at Marshall and the puddle, of um, stuff, and remark how gross it was.  

In each of the birthing suites there’s a ladder on the wall and while Marshall went to the car to get our stuff I just held on to the ladder and swayed and breathed. It was like as long as I had something to hold onto, I was totally good. Once the tub was ready I asked Mandesa how I should sit since I was coping well standing and swaying, and she gave me some ideas and I finally settled on sitting on my knees and feet. After a while my feet turned kinda purple and were kinda numb but I totally rationalized that it would be worth it to lose my feet than sit on my butt during a contraction. Once I was in the tub and comfortable I told Mandesa I was scared of transition and she just looked at me and said “why? You might be in it right now.” Which may have been true, I didn’t seem to notice transition whenever it happened. 

  






Contractions came and went, and I would doze off, sitting up in the middle of the tub. At some point they got a speaker working and Marshall turned on my labor playlist and I requested “Do It Again” a few times. Soon I asked Mandesa about pushing and she told me contractions would change and breathing wouldn’t be enough to get me through them and she was totally right. Not long after, that things started to shift again and I would push through the end of contractions and it felt awesome. Awesome.  Everyone started getting things ready for a baby and I kept grunting and pushing a little, one big push kinda freaked me out because I felt her drop significantly. Mandesa talked me through some better pushing positions and we got things rolling around 11am! I had been coping and managing contractions pretty well on my own (with Marshall beside me– that was definitely the key) but pushing I super needed her direction on when to breathe, how to breathe and where to push. I couldn’t feel a lot of progress happening which got me kind of frustrated so she had me turn into a different position and she realized that my bag of water hadn’t broken completely and that was holding me back some. She popped it and a few pushes later her head was out! I think it took three contractions with her head pretty much out (have mercy, that was intense!) for her to come all the way out. She felt huge. Then all of a sudden, Emmeline was here, 11:37am! Relief! Almost 12 hours exactly from my first big contraction the night before. Mandesa caught her in the water and handed her right to me and I immediately started crying when I saw she had red hair. Best ever. I knew she would in my heart. I just knew it! She was so wild in my belly! 


She wasn’t crying yet, normal for water birth babies, apparently, so she and Anne (our amazing nurse) helped suction her and warm her up and wasn’t long before she was yelling at us pretty good (and hasn’t really stopped since…). 41 weeks and 2 days means some really developed lungs. She was making her presence in the world known, for sure! 






We sat for a few minutes then they helped me out of the tub and we walked over to the bed and they delivered the placenta and Mandesa stitched me up. I cut the cord (Marshall’s not really into that sort of thing..haha!)  and wasn’t long afterwards Emmeline latched on great and started nursing like a champ with much enthusiasm. We took turns snuggling and soaked it up! After we snuggled for about an hour Mandesa came back to weigh her and do all the newborn stuff, she had us guess her weight and I had no idea. 8 pounds 3 ounces! Mandesa said she guessed it almost exactly just by looking and feeling my belly when I came in. So fun. I could not believe that I pushed out an 8+ pound baby. What a body! Pushing was definitely the hardest part, for sure. Made more sense knowing she was a pound bigger than Lincoln. Totally felt it. Every ounce. She was 21.5 inches long (same as Lincoln). Overall, a big-ish girl– especially for our kind of people (small– ha!). Everyone that has met her since then remarks that she was a big babe to come out of me. I always fight the urge to flex my muscles in response. It’s also worth mentioning that my tailbone still hurts and I can’t really sit down or get up without wincing. 





This whole thing was just an incredible gift. The past two years have been such a refining time for me, and this birth was just a gift after all of that. God was in every single detail, and we knew he would be, despite weeks of trying to prepare and plan for every scenario. He was in the middle of it all with us, and showed off big time. His presence was tangible, especially in those final moments before she was born. 

Personally, I thought I’d leave there feeling super empowered and proud of myself but really I feel like God did most of the work. It was like something took over and told me what to do, how to breathe, how to stand, how to sit… it really was so instinctual. All of it. I mean, there’s not really any way to anticipate or practice how to cope… you just kind of figure it out at each stage.

Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of myself for sure, and this was such an amazing testament to how taking care of my body has changed how I view myself. Pretty much my whole life I’d always seen myself kind of sickly. I always had issues with eczema and asthma and I was just sick a lot, as a kid and as an adult If I didn’t have a cold (turned respiratory/sinus/ear infection) I had a stomach virus. I was never athletic or good at running, I always had a headache or was tired. I never believed my body could do anything. Since overhauling our diet and eating well I’ve been so shocked at how my body operates in general, and how good I feel and I think that was a major part of it. So much of the process was trusting my body and my instincts, and after twenty some years of NOT trusting or believing in my body it was tough, but this was just more affirmation to keep eating well and taking care of myself. My body can do amazing things if I fuel it with the best things! I finally believe that I am strong and capable of great things. This birth was such a gift, on so many levels. There is so much beauty in this life… and birth is not something to be dreaded or feared. It’s so beautiful, and empowering. Also, messy! But so is this life.  

Jualeah told me when we came in, “each baby writes their own story” and I love that my babies have different stories. Both of them were so special, and taught me so much about everything— life, myself, motherhood, our marriage, God. Thankful for them both, and my two happy healthy babes. Can’t imagine my life without them both– it’s always been them! It’s so fun to think about how as a teenager when I saw the name “Emmeline” in a textbook, that God KNEW that I’d have an Emmeline and she’d have red hair and be born in this way. She’d have a big brother, Lincoln, and I’d be married to Marshall (who I met in high school) and this would be our life. That was the plan all along. All along! Why do I ever doubt his goodness or his plan for me? It’s always so much better than anything I have planned for myself. Always. Every single time. And I always question it. And he’s always faithful. Always! 

And my husband. My sweet husband. I could not have done it without him. He knew my thoughts before I could say it, he knew what to say in the moment I needed it, he knew when not to say anything when I didn’t need it… it was truly one of the most special days in our marriage. Thanks for letting me squeeze your hand over and over. You are my lobster. Forever and ever. 

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If you’re on the fence about a med free birth or midwife care or a birth center– consider it! Trust yourself and your body, you are equipped and you can totally do it. The midwives at Baby & Company are incredible. They are incredibly thorough with their healthcare and I always left my appointments feeling so cared for and loved. Everything is so family oriented, patient centered, and the birth itself was so joyful and FUN! Not scary or clinical feeling. We are certain we are done with two kids (Marshall is certain, but I’m still enamored with E’s birth which is clouding my judgement… before her birth I was done with two, but now I don’t know!), but I wish we had plans for many more so I could deliver there again and again. Such a special place! I guess I’ll just have to go to every event they have there forever and ever. 

In all seriousness, the midwives there are amazing. Mandesa, especially, she is truly living out her calling. She was so supportive, and hands off when I didn’t need her, but as soon as I did she was right there, to hold my hand, or to tell me to relax, or with a barf bag (which thankfully I didn’t need!), or with words of encouragement. She was just the very best– we are so thankful for you and that you were the one for our girl’s story! 

And this is just the beginning, the best is yet to come. Let the good times roll! 

Special shoutout to my dear friend Amber Langhoff for being “on call” for like the entire month of April and May for us  and having a plan B, C, D and E for every day to be there for our birth! It was such a special day and we are so thankful we got to share it with you and that you were able to take photos. We will treasure them forever! 

I’m a tulip bulb.

This spring our tulips bloomed for the first time. I planted at least twenty bulbs and only three of them grew to completion, but they were so gorgeous. They were also surprisingly short lived, which is good to know for future gardening. Watching them grow and bloom though was really exciting for me, I’m just amazed by nature and the process of it all. 
When we first started going to Elevation I was coming out of a really challenging and refining season of postpartum anxiety and severe postpartum eczema, and one week pastor Steven preached a sermon called the seed is on schedule. It was during this sermon that I finally understood why people would get up and clap and shout things during his teaching because like everything he said, I was like YES! THIS IS ME! THIS IS LIFE! THIS IS EVERYTHING! AMEN! SO GOOD! Watching the bulbs grow into these beautiful flowers, having had planted them in the ground in the fall unsure if they’d do anything at all, was a miracle in itself. They grew so strong, so tall, so certain of their fate after sitting in the darkness of the dirt for literally months of winter coldness. So remarkable. If I were a tulip bulb, I’d surely wonder at some point if I had been forgotten, if maybe a mistake had been made because surely I was meant to be a tall, beautiful flower, not to spend most of my life sitting in the cold, dark earth. Which is totally how I felt in those first months of Lincoln’s life. I was meant to be more, not trapped in the dark.
I see so many parallels in my pregnancies and nature and seasons, I’m so thankful for the way God has designed it all. We welcomed Lincoln in the winter, and I literally felt like a tulip bulb. Trapped in the cold, dark, earth– unsure of my new territory, unsure of everything to come, unsure of why I was there. It was necessary for me to be there, though. I had to grow, I had to develop, I had to mature so that I could bloom and grow strong and tall as a mom, wife and woman. Although it was dark and scary at times, it was there that I became what I was intended to be, just like a tulip. 
I’m prepared for some more dark earth time, and some of this pregnancy has been that for sure. There have been moments, some days, some weeks even of darkness wondering what it will look like for me when this baby comes and what our new normal will be like. Preparing emotionally, and logistically to grow my heart with room for two has been a process that is only just beginning. I’m excited, open, expectant, and ready to bloom. 

Sarah | Just Because

I could go on and on and on and on and on and on about how much I adore this woman. She is one of the greatest blessings in my life and has been for over ten years now (and seriously she hasn’t aged even slightly in that time. How, Sarah? How?!?
When I graduated from high school and was planning to attend Meredith College in the fall of 2006, I prayed fervently like I had never prayed before for a family to babysit for. Long story short, my bible study leader in the fall of 2006 sent an email to our group and said “First one to reply gets the babysitting gig!” and I was the first! I interviewed with them later that week, got the babysitting gig and could not have even imagined the role that this lady and her family would have in my life. She has been there for everything–  they literally let me live with them after I graduated in between apartments, helped me plan our wedding and celebrated with us constantly through our engagement, gave me many pre-wedding/marriage pep-talks, visited me in the hospital when I had Lincoln (and came over on Fridays for several weeks after his birth for a few hours– LIFE GIVING THOSE FRIDAYS) and now they have the best relationship, he is seriously so in love with his Say-Say (and her husband “Matt Damon”). And those are just a few of those things. We’ve spent hours just chatting, texting each other until I am crying laughing…. I cannot imagine what my life would be now if this woman had not entrusted the care of her sweet babies to me all those years ago. Her friendship has been one of the greatest things about this life, that is unmistakeable. Such a gift! 
A few weeks ago I invited myself over to take pictures of her and Stanley while “Damon” (dying) and the kids were out of town. She and Stanley both are too gorgeous for more words… enjoy! 

Jonelle | Just Because + My Elevation Story

I’ve written some here and on social media about my kind of wacky and unique postpartum experience. It was rough times, and it was late September of 2015, that things started to calm down a bit and I started to reemerge from that season. My eczema had cleared up significantly, our marriage was strengthening, my anxiety and depression were improving and we were on the up and up. We had been attending a local church for several years and had a solid small group of other couples, but we had undeniably been feeling God pulling at us to move to a different church. Some seasons were ending in areas that we had served in, we were new parents and the time felt right for a change. Our small group was gearing up to start a new year and we felt like it was good to pull out of the group before starting a new year even before knowing where we were headed church-wise. It was kind of a fast decision, but one we both strongly felt God was guiding us to make. So, we made a list of churches in the area to visit put them in iCal for the next few Sundays and started the vetting process over again. We both had visited Elevation Church in Charlotte a few times and were longtime followers of their worship music and sermons from Pastor Steven Furtick (I actually blogged about this sermon a few months before Lincoln was born, and this sermon about fear and being brave changed my life a few months later) but having just come from a big multi-site church with many locations, I was pretty skeptical. I felt I wanted less flashy lights, big production on Sundays and just a quieter experience overall. Honestly, I was pretty not excited about finding a church. I felt like no matter what church we went to I was always disappointed in the people, and I think on some level I was just going along for the ride because I felt like I should, not because I felt like I was going to get anything from God. 
During my postpartum season, I had listened to almost every single podcast that Elevation Church put out, so I am not sure why I was so hesitant to visit in real life. We weren’t even first time visitors, we had been to the Raleigh location a few times when we were off from serving at our old church, and we even left Lincoln in the nursery there for the first time ever when he was just a few months old (also, we were there on Christmas Eve a few days before he was born when my labor started). Looking back it was so clear that this is where God was sending us to be a part, I don’t know why I didn’t see it sooner. 
I think we visited on September 19th, on the way out of the worship experience Marshall was like “I want to go here for a while” and I agreed (again, not totally on board but he seemed convinced so I went with it). We signed up for E101 the next week to learn more about the church (except thats where you sign up to serve– we had no idea) and then I found an eGroup that met on Friday mornings at Jubala (hellooooo my favorite coffee place!) and that’s where I met Jonelle. 
I thought her eGroup had been meeting forever, but it turns out I invited myself to the first meeting ever. My first impression was what an answer to something that I had really been longing for but not really said anything about to God, or anyone else. I had an overwhelmingly large and supportive community of moms already. Our previous small group, local friends, my sister… I had a ton and I was kind of mommed out. I was growing tired of spending time with other moms, conversations completely dominated by nap schedules, breastfeeding woes and nighttime baby sleep. I was craving real conversation, about what was going on in my life and in theirs, things they really struggled with (not related to baby sleep) and coming out of one of the hardest seasons of my life, I was just really lonely. Sitting around the table was women in a variety of life stages and it was glorious. Jonelle is a mom of girls that are teenagers (and now with one in college) and of the other women some were moms of elementary, middle or high school kids, some were single, some were college girls themselves and it was just as my heart had desired. 
Another thing that literally took my breath away for a second, was the fact that out of a group of maybe 10 ladies, I was one of I think three that were white. After the UMC shooting in Charleston, Pastor Steven preached an unforgettable message titled “It’s In Your Hands” about racism that changed everything for me. I’ve had black friends, Hispanic friends, Asian friends, Muslim friends throughout my lifetime, but at that current season in my life literally everyone I knew and interacted with on a regular basis was white– just like me, and just like Lincoln. My heart was not comfortable when I realized that. In the sermon he talked about that it is OUR JOB to raise the next generation without the racism of our previous generations. It ends with us. It changed everything for me. Our neighbors were black and we didn’t even know their names and had lived beside them for years. Our church was majority white, our small group was 100% white. Every kid that we were friends with at the time was white. How could I teach my child that other people maybe different colors but are the same as us– loved, chosen, wanted, and valued by God– if we literally never interacted with anyone that looked different from us? I couldn’t imagine waiting until he was in kindergarten for him to meet a diverse group of people. Diverse immediately skyrocketed to the top of my list when we decided to look for a new church. So, when I got to eGroup and I looked around the table I knew that God was with me there, and this is where the future was for us. Our big mighty God that created all the things shows up in the tiniest of details in our prayers, hearts and thoughts and it is the greatest. He wants great things for us, for us to do great things and it is never too late to get started. 
So, back to Jonelle. We hit it off immediately, and after talking to her some the following Sunday at church we discovered that we both had been dabbling in the paleo and autoimmune paleo diet (literally I had not met any actual person in real life at that point that had either heard of it, or wasn’t a total skeptical about the whole “gluten free craze”) for a variety of conditions, one of which was eyelid eczema that I really thought I was the only one in the world that had that! Talk about a me too! moment. The more we got to know each other, the more it became clear that we were family through and through. This woman is so special to me! And being in her eGroup was such a gift and the doorway to what would become a seemingly endless stream of blessings flowing from this church into our lives as sermons, people, serving opportunities, the stories we get to witness and be part of.. it’s unreal how we see God moving literally on a daily basis through connections we’ve made at this church. As Lincoln got older it got more difficult to get to eGroup (and to stay the entirety of the time) but I still consider myself to be a part and I honestly doubt I’ll ever leave… 
This woman’s beauty is breathtaking inside and out, I am beyond grateful that we get to share in this season together! We met one chilly day at Sola in Raleigh for some fun headshots for blog things to come for her (she’s an avid and talented writer, in addition to all the other things that she rocks at….) and it was a total blast standing on stuff and climbing around the tables like we were the only people in there (we weren’t). Thankful barely covers it. So thankful for this family. 

Jessica + Kevin | maternity

In preparation for a sweet little newborn session this weekend, I realized I haven’t shared these beauties here just yet. This girl is one of the sweetest in the world. She was the Spanish and Technology teacher at the elementary school where I worked for two years before/while Lincoln was born before I had the honor of having that sweet job. I love looking at the giant web of how all that came to be.
I was teaching high school and I was burning out– fast. I was teaching three levels, coaching cheerleading (and driving an activity bus, y’all…), in charge of a couple clubs, doing course development online nights and weekends… I was ready to get outta there. I needed to sleep.  I wanted a change of pace in lower grades and had interviewed a few places, but none close enough to our house for me, so I premeditatedly called in sick to work one day to drive around and pass out résumés. I stopped by Meredith College to see one of my professors and she happened to mention in passing that an almost graduate had been offered a Spanish K-2 position but didn’t want it— WHAT?! –and it was at the school where my husband worked– WHAT?!? I promptly left that conversation, called my husband, who called the HR lady, who got my résumé moments later, and then I had an interview by Friday and was offered the job on the following Monday. Holy whirlwind.
Meanwhile, a recent Campbell grad was interviewing for HER dream job (my job, that I had resigned from without having another one lined up…). She is now teaching all the Spanish, coaching cheerleading and engaged to the basketball coach. Adorable and so happy.
Meanwhile, the Meredith grad that didn’t want the K-2 job  had also interviewed for a high school position that she wanted elsewhere and was waiting to hear back from there before she said “no” to the K-2 position. Spoiler alert: she got the high school job, worked it for several years and now lives  in Colombia happily ever after.
Meanwhile, Jessica had been trying to leave the Spanish K-2 position to go to a regular classroom position but the administrator wouldn’t let her until they found a replacement (me, excitedly since the Meredith Grad had recently turned it down).
What a crazy web of Spanish teachers and classroom dreams, huh? I had the joy of getting to know each of these girls individually during that season, and it was the coolest to see how it all unfolded and how we all ended up where we wanted and needed to be in that season. Ultimately, K-2 was a good job for me at that time, but really my heart of hearts is in momming my kids and the high school crowd. My sarcasm and wit was wasted on the K-2 demographic, although teaching them how to use iPads was and will continue to be a top five in my list of favorite life experiences. Those kids were amazing.
All that to say, I just love stories like this where it’s so clear. So, so, so clear that God’s hand is in this with us. He’s orchestrating and moving and introducing us to people that may change our lives forever, and in the midst of all that he really does have our interests, hopes and desires close to his heart, just like they are close to our own. It was a good lesson for me to never ignore the nudge of the Holy Spirit, and to go out on a limb because you never know what crazy awesome plans require that first step– in my own life and potentially in someone else’s.
Jessica, it is an honor to know you and to have been your successor in the K-2 Spanish/Technology classroom! Your students, Kevin, and sweet Lyla Kate are so blessed to have you as their Mrs. Gray, wife and mama. So excited to photograph little LK this weekend!
These pictures are some of my all time favorites. It was a wintery, wintery cold gray day but we braved the birdwatchers at Yates Mill and I could not love these memories more. What a sweet time, preparing for the first baby! So thankful to be a part of their story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Because | Steph + Ben

So, being a mom is tough.  Figuring out what your place in the world is is tough. Finding balance in the tension of being a mother and having a career is tough.

Lincoln was a newborn when I resigned from my teaching job for the coming school year. I was supposed to be excited to have the opportunity to work from home and be with my baby all the time, but it was such an unfamiliar thing I was really not as thrilled as I thought I would be when I signed my resignation letter. There was so much unknown and comments made by co-workers and friends (“oh it must be so nice to be able to stay at home….”) that made me think I was surrendering a hardworking life for a glorified maternity leave– except permanent. 

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I remember tearfully telling Marshall… ”—but I don’t want to be just a mom! I thought there was more for me!”  I felt like I needed to start a business, write a book, do something big. Little did I realize at the time, that raising that tiny person into a  full grown human being is one of the biggest things I’ll ever do. It’s not glamorous. It doesn’t gain a lot of followers. There’s a lot of poop, boogers, squashed bananas in places there shouldn’t be squashed bananas, and lately, singing the songs to Frozen more times than I’ve ever wanted to (that’s my own fault– who showed him Frozen? Me. I did.). It’s taken time, almost two years, and I can’t say I don’t wonder what it would be like to still be working in a school (versus a virtual one) or running a business or writing a book, or going “viral” or whatever, but more days than not I find my heart and soul to be very content doing what I was designed best to do: be Lincoln’s mom. Most days, I kinda rock at it. Not in a perfect, make-all-the-right-decisions way, but in that I recognize the weight of what I’m doing. It’s big. I don’t love it twenty four/ seven, but there are moments– many of them– when the joy just catches me by surprise and I thank God that this is where he put me, even though I was reluctant. There are some freaking hard days, but there are really great days too. And those hard days aren’t all bad, just hard. Getting to this place hasn’t been easy (actually, it was the worst summer and subsequent six months of my life adjusting) but it’s been so worth it, and my perspective on everything is so different. I could not be more grateful. (If you aren’t familiar with my postpartum depression/anxiety/eczema explosion story you can read it here and my thoughts on being “just a mom” here). 
Okay, enough about my experience and exploiting a friend’s beautiful photos to share my thoughts on the complexity of mommy societal expectations. Another day, another post… 

Not to quote the title of my blog but this girl and I? We are handpicked. Like, from day one God had us in mind to be friends. We met in 2013 when Marshall and I visited our first small group at The Summit. We bonded over photography, our love for chocolate pastries and Paris, coffee and kitchen aid mixers, like all in the first 10 minutes of meeting each other. The rest is history. We didn’t know it at the time, but we had lived in the same neighborhood, literally down the street from each other, and then they moved out to the country but were still within a reasonable driving distance from our house. This lady loves so selflessly. The way she serves her husband and family is admirable. She’s like me, into a little bit of everything. We love music, crafting, Jesus, leggings, coffee, photography, etc. Samesies. 
She and her husband worked their booties off the first year and some of Ben’s life to pay off their debt so she could be at home with him and pour all her time into her photography business. In December she celebrated her last day of her day job and is officially a full time mama and small business owner and I asked her if I could come over and document this sweet time and transition. It’s hard when you’re in it to see how sweet it is. These photos are just so special and remind me so much of me and my own sweet boy. There is something so magical, just so so so magical about those everyday things. Making coffee. Playing trains. Eating breakfast together. Reading books. Getting dressed. Diaper changes. Some days its so monotonous, but before you know it they’re reading their own books, feeding themselves and NOT throwing it on the floor (right? RIGHT?!), and using the potty (or so I’ve heard). It’s hard adjusting to the slow life and being on toddler time, especially when you’ve been going 1,000 miles an hour and accomplishing more things before the sun is up than some people do all day…. for most of your life. 
But this girl? She rocks it. She rocks being Ben’s mama. He’s the sweetest little kid in the whole world (even compared to my own) and loves to snuggle and show affection, and I just love it. Even to me. Gives me hugs every time he sees me. Every time! I just love him and could eat him up! Now that she’s more flexible during the day we get to see each other a lot (like once a week!) and it makes me so happy. It’s like a promise fulfilled on so many fronts. I was so lonely and lost and confused in those early baby days, and begged God for community. Every time we see each other is just such a big reminder of God’s faithfulness in his timing in the big things and in the small. Thank you for having me over (ahem– letting me invite myself over) Steph and Ben! It was such a joy to be part of your morning. 

February Goal Type Things 2017


  • set up and start bullet journaling 
    • I have the most wonderful undated monthly/weekly/daily planner from Target that I discovered was a one time collaboration and it sent me spiraling into the depths of the internet to find a new one. I’m super duper not interested in paying more than $20 (even that’s more than I’d want to pay…) for something I will scribble on, spill coffee on and that potentially has features I do not need, care about or plan to use. Per the recommendation of my sweet friend Marie, I finally Googled some bullet journaling tutorials and that is TOTALLY how I already run my work flow/schedule– except I was using a pre-made undated planner. Amazing. I’m excited to try it, and am looking forward to having a central location for lists too. I have a running tab of lists in my phone and legal pads about and the idea of having them all in one place gets me so excited. I found a cheap-ish one on Amazon that will arrive tomorrow and now I just need a good black pen. Hit me with your favorites. 
  • start teaching round 2 of Financial Peace University
    • It’s starting February 19th! We’ve partnered with Elevation Raleigh to offer this course AGAIN with free childcare, coffee and no rush hour traffic. We will meet at Millbrook High School on Sundays during the 9:30 worship experience. The course runs for 9 weeks and you are free to come check it out without investing in the kit– it WILL change your life! Register here: https://fpu.com/1036068
  • go to Ikea (FINALLY YOU GUYS) 
    • I get paid on February 10th and we have quite an Ikea list. Several house projects are in the works and we are borrowing a mini-van and plan to fill ‘er up! Yippee! 
  • assemble king bed + move queen bed to the Big Boy Room + move crib into the Baby Girl Room! 
    • We’re playing musical beds! We’re getting a memory foam king bed (adulting, so much adulting) and our queen mattress is going in Lincoln’s room and his crib (now toddler bed) is getting moved into baby girl’s room. 
  • make a nesting to-do list and clean out, organize and start preparations for Baby Girl’s Room!
    • We’ve already gone through the clothes, downsized tremendously and have a ton of NB through 3mo stuff washed and ready, just need to get it in the room, put it all away and hang stuff on the walls. Post coming soon with inspiration for her room. EEEEEEP. 
  • complete Foto February Challenge
    • I came up with this photo challenge for the month just for funsies. I’ve only done one so far, and it’s really fun! And really challenging to let go of the pretty image ideal… jump in! There are no rules! 
  • finish reading Respect Dare
    • This book has been pivotal in this season of transition. We’re not quite newlyweds, we’re preparing to transition to two kids, we’ve been in our house for five years.. it’s an interesting place to be and this book has provided such a shift in perspective for me. It is cheesy at times and the lil’ feminist in me sometimes screams and wants to stop reading it, but I’m finding it important that I challenge my thinking on all front and see things from other perspectives.  I’m slated to finish it in the next two weeks (I’m a bit behind) and there are already quite a few “dares” that I haven’t really done full out and I’d like to do again. Perhaps this fall will be a good time to do that, I think! Regardless, I totally recommend it if you’re looking for some guidance in approaching marriage biblically. Men speak respect, women speak love and it’s a really great combination of these ideas with some practical tips, “dares” and reflections. A great “quiet time” piece and has sparked some wonderful conversations between Marshall and I. Highly recommend! 
  • maintain existing + continue developing good habits
    • I’ve upgraded my water bottle to a 1L and am drinking 2-3 liters a day. Want to keep that up! 
    • I’ve been getting up early to work in the mornings and it has been a game changer for my stress level! Finding such peace and joy working in the wee hours of 5 and 6am. I don’t even know who I am anymore…
    • I lowered my step goal to 6k a day, and some days it’s easy to hit and surpass, others not so much. Get back to walking every day and yoga 1x a week once I hit 30 weeks. 
  • enjoy at least one Lincoln + Mama day each week
    • I’m getting all nostalgic about only having ~13ish weeks left of this pregnancy, and the transition to 2 YEARS OLD hasn’t been too bad, but there are definitely a few more tantrums than there used to be. It’s getting more difficult to wrangle him in public when he decides to not obey, BUT– it’s worth it. We’ve been going to Marbles a lot, would like to maybe go to Pullen Park and ride the train one day, go get special donuts at Levant… and also, would like to document one of these with my big camera. 

2017 GOALS | part one

I’m still working on the action steps, but I have my “whats” and “whys”. Realistically, I know a good chunk of this year is going to be about surviving. A new baby means sleep will be lacking, as will time to myself and my ability to have clear coherent thoughts most of the time. My goals this year are really “big picture”, I’ve have had some ‘action steps’ written down and just haven’t really gotten them rolling yet. I have a lot of little things to do to get ready for baby (including quite a bit of work to prepare considering I’ll have a newborn the last month or so of my spring and yearlong courses and no maternity leave).  The idea of coming up with strict goals for this year with strict action steps I would likely not follow through with was really stressful and overwhelming so instead, I’m just focusing on the big picture.

Our pastor encourages us to come up with a word for the year of what we want to define or describe what God will do in our life. Nothing really came to mind for me so I asked Marshall what his was. He chose abide from one of our new songs we sing at church Hallelujah, Here Below. It’s one of my favorites. I love the message and perspective. So much.

We are an altar of broken stones
But you delight in the offering
You have the heavens to call your home
But you abide in the song we sing
Ten thousand angels surround your throne
To bring you praise that will never cease
But hallelujah from here below
Is still your favorite melody
And should the fire that once burned bright
Become an ember my eyes can’t see
I will remember your sacrifice
I will abide in your love for me

Jesus Christ our king enthroned
all the praise is yours forevermore
Hallelujah, Here below
All the praise is yours, forevermore

Let this be me this year! In the hours of pain, labor and delivery, where time stands still.  In the fog and cloudiness of early postpartum days. In the  eternal, seemingly never ending weeks and months of sleep deprivation and healing in my body. In the moments of toddler tantrums and crying babies. In the heaps of laundry, piles of dishes, accumulating dirt and dog hair. In the unanswered emails, text messages and assignments ungraded. In the reality of something always left neglected, unfinished, incomplete and undone. Let me abide in your love for me, survive on your word, rely on your truths and believe the promises for my future. This is my big picture for 2017. 


2017: Abide 
2016: Thrive
2015: Simplify
2014: Goals
So here’s my big picture. I wasn’t sure how to categorize them this year. It’s a combo of what worked, what didn’t work, what I want to make time for and actions I guess for abiding.

Maintain. 
  • Diet. 
  • Routines.
  • Personal photo taking and organization. Digital workflow with Lightroom and uploading to personal Smugmug. 
Improve.
  • Time management at home. 
  • Adhere to chore/housework rotation to do a little bit daily, so I don’t feel overwhelmed when it all starts to pile up. 
  • Finish work during the day. / Improve workflow to be more efficient. 
  • Online storage of RAW files.
  • iPhone photos. Take less, delete more, keep fewer. 
Enjoy.
  • Family time! 2+ a week, finish work before Marshall gets home so we can unwind, cook dinner, and play with Lincoln before bedtime and have QT after bedtime (aka play Monopoly Deal) 
  • Baby books! Yes, plural. I still haven’t finished Lincoln’s. Finish Lincoln’s, prepare baby girl’s so once she’s here all I have to do is write stuff down and print photos. 
  • Print pictures for our photo wall from 2016 and 2017. 
  • Order/finish my 2016 Chatbook (I currently have a ticket open with them, I have three stubborn photos that won’t go into my book….).  
  • Read for fun (post forthcoming with books for the year!) 
  • Take care of myself. 6k step goal daily, water daily, vegetables + vitamins daily. Smoothies 2x a week, broth 2x a week. relaxing baths 2x a week. 
  • Enjoy newborn days. No visitors first two weeks (sorry, but also not sorry!). Sleep, recover, nurse and savor! 
  • Make seasonal goals/bucket lists for quality family time. 
Abide. 
  • Read and study the Bible frequently. 
  • Listen to uplifting, encouraging podcasts.
  • Pray frequently.
Happy New Year! 

I Am Handpicked

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As a mom especially, it’s hard for me to not have regrets or to wish I had done some things differently. I’m positive this will be a reoccurring theme for the rest of forever. Sometimes I find myself wishing I’d made different decisions or for a “do over”, for some reason these wishes come to me in the final moments of each day while trying to fall asleep. Every single mistake I’ve made or dumb thing I’ve said. Sometimes, just from that day, or sometimes from years ago. I am not totally sure why my subconscious hates me and tries to sabotage good sleep.

Occasionally, like right now, I have these lucid moments where I’m grateful for the mistakes and the imperfect way things go. My perspective wouldn’t be what it is now had things not been the way they were. And I’m thankful for that. Thankful for growth, and for a God that never leaves me and never stops teaching me. Thankful that I was designed for and handpicked for this job of ‘mama’. It’s freaking hard some days, some days it’s easy easier than the hard days, and some days I walk with an energy in my step that I can only define as joy

There may be others better at teaching, parenting, disciplining, funning, or you name it–
there is a not, never was and never will be, another person on the planet that could replace me. I was made to be Lincoln’s mom. Designed for it, in fact. Handpicked for it. And I’m rocking it.

Thank you, Jesus. Your ways are perfect. 

Martha | portraits

One day I was wandering around church taking pictures and I, quite literally, ran into Martha who was pushing a little kid in a stroller during the worship experience. We introduced ourselves to each other and she realized I was Lincoln’s mom and I realized she volunteered with him in eKids. We made the usual small talk where I found out she was originally from Kenya (so, I have a lifelong obsession with Kenya and tried really hard to study abroad there but couldn’t make it work with my Spanish major) and that she loved to babysit and didn’t have classes on Mondays. I told her to write her phone number down (neither of us had our phones on us at the moment) on Lincoln’s sheet for the day and I’d get in touch with her about Monday babysits. She forgot to that day, but the next week wrote her info down and I texted her and we set it up. She would be our Monday morning babysitter so I could work for a couple of hours. And I was SO excited because it wasn’t long after that I found out I was pregnant and all I wanted to do was sleep. 
Finding a consistent babysitter has been really hard for us. Why? I have no idea. Our kid is cute! We’re super fun people! But basically they either turned out to be a little crazy, not dependable, or were SO AMAZING they got better gigs than one morning a week.  
Enter, Martha. A literal answer to prayer.
Basically, she is the best. She and Lincoln hit it off immediately. Not long after she started babysitting we got baptized on the same night at Code Orange Revival and I got to hear a little bit of her story– she is the best! Not long after Code Orange, she decided to shave her head, and wrote on Facebook about how she wanted her beauty to come from within and not be dependent upon what she looks like, or having long hair. And she is truly beautiful, inside and out! 
I’ve been feeling a little burnt out with photography lately. I love it. It’s so much fun, and I really enjoy it but just so many things have a higher priority over it these days. When I do book sessions or weddings there’s so much emphasis on “the biz”, contracts and legal agreements and re-creating images from Pinterest and it really just bogged it all down for me. I told Martha I wanted to document her current season and her celebration of all that Jesus has done in her life. I was all– “I hope this isn’t weird… but can I take pictures of you one day!?!” and apparently, it wasn’t weird at all. And it really wasn’t! She, Lincoln, Marshall and I went downtown and took some photos and enjoyed an awesome dinner at Remedy Diner and it was such a wonderful day! The weather was perfect. The sun was perfect and she is gorgeous. Perfect day.
Today, pastor preached about getting your passion back. I have many passions in life, photography is definitely one of them. When I got home today, instead of napping or playing on my phone and watching TV while Lincoln napped I decided to finally go through these images and pick a few to share. This day was so good for my heart. Thank you, Jesus! For Martha. For Elevation Raleigh. For my camera. For our photography team. For my eyeballs. For the sunshine. For this season. 
PS: Martha wants to go to school in Charlotte next year, but LOOK AT THAT RALEIGH SKYLINE!