Monday, July 11, 2016

7 years of Marriage

July 11th is a day that has collected meaning over the last 11 years for Jonathon and I.  July 11, 2005, Jonathon started his career with CSX.  Unbeknownst to us at the time we picked our wedding date, but July 11, 1931, my Great Grandparents, Ike and Emma Roberts were married.  July 11, 2009, Jonathon and I were married.

When I was growing up, every summer my Great Grandparents, Grandma and Pop Pop Roberts, would always come out to Colorado from Florida for a month. Looking back, I realize how blessed I was to not only get to know them, but to have their example set before me.  They were that cute old couple who were still holding hands and still had the light and adoration in their eyes for each other.  There's a picture somewhere of them standing in their double wide holding hands and their eyes are just twinkling and out pouring with love.  You can tell after all the years they'd been married, they were just as in love with each other that day as they were the day they married.  I remember when Pop Pop Roberts died, January 31, 1999.  I wasn't there for the services in Florida or New Jersey, but my Grandma would tell the story of her mothers reaction to seeing Pop Pop Roberts in the casket in Florida and then his urn in New Jersey.  Grandma Roberts stared him down in both instances.  She had anger in her eyes, because she always thought she'd pass away first.  Grandma Roberts had macular degeneration in her eyes and she'd began to show signs of Alzheimers.  She'd always prepared herself to go before him.  Now here she was without the man whom she served as a help meet for over 3/4 of her life.  In the 2 years between their deaths, Grandma Roberts would always talk about Pop Pop as if he were still alive.  She told my Grandma many times that she'd talked with "Daddy" as she called him.  As a matter of fact, I truly believe in my heart of hearts that Pop Pop Roberts came down and took her home that February day in 2001.  I've always said I wanted a love and marriage just like Grandma and Pop Pop Roberts.  The only problem was, I had absolutely no idea how to achieve such a thing.

Over the last 7 years, there have been many lessons, blessings, and hardships.  Every year on this date I'd write out this perfect declaration of love and affection towards Jonathon.  Highlighting all of the changes our relationship has faced and yet we still made it through.  A few months ago, a friend and fellow blogger posted something that really stuck with me.  It was her wedding anniversary and instead of posting a similar declaration on her facebook page, she chose to write a blog post that was real.  The true struggles of marriage.  This post is somewhat inspired by her post.

A little over a month ago, I was talking with another friend and fellow blogger on the phone.  The purpose of the call quickly changed from business to personal.  I shared some struggles I was having both professionally and personally.  This dear sweet friend gave me advice that has changed my life.  She encouraged me to read "Created to Be His Help Meet" by Debi Pearl.  The book has not only helped me put God's purpose for marriage into perfect perspective for me, but it's also completely transformed my marriage.  There were a couple chapters that were hard to swallow. Some I took completely out of context.  I had to do some research and I had to pray.  God put it before me in a way that I understood not only what the book was saying, but why I read it in the context I did.  If you are a wife seeking direction, I highly reccomend this book.  I was a wife looking for a Christ Centered marriage, but not quite sure how to achieve it.

Since I began reading this book, I have been amazed by the transformation my marriage has taken.  Before I began reading this book, I'll admit I was skeptical about the impact it could have on my marriage.  How could I alone make my marriage better? Isn't a marriage 50/50?  Since reading this book, I've realized that no, I can not change my husband.  He is the way God made him and that is that.  However, I can change my response.  I have control over myself, my thoughts, my actions, and my words.  There used to be many times when Jonathon would make a comment that I took offense to.  My reaction to said offense was to ignore him or say something equally offensive.  Now if he says something I take offense to, I ask myself "Am I taking this the way he meant it?"  "Is being offfended going to have a positive or negative impact on my marriage?"  "Is this something I'm going to remember tomorrow, if for some reason, God forbid, he not live to see another day?"  One of the Bible passages we had read during our wedding ceremony was 1 Corrinthians 13:4-7.  It's one of the most popular and most recognizable passages in the Bible.  "Love is patient, love is kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud; love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs; love is not happy with evil, but happy with the truth.  Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail." Re-reading this passage was such an eye opener for me.  How many times was I selfish, irritable, keeping a track record of wrongs, allowed pride to steal my joy?  Love is not a feeling, love is a choice.  I choose to love my husband and accept him, faults and all, with grace and understanding.  I choose to not let my emotions control my thoughts and my actions.  Those are things I can control.

I will be forever grateful for the people God has placed on my path.  Especially the one He made for me.  If I can continue to be half the help meet Grandma Roberts was, I can only hope that one day there will be a picture of Jonathon and I after 60 something years of marriage.  I pray the light in our eyes never burns out.  I pray our hands hold firm together as we walk this life side by side.  I pray that I never forget all that I have learned and continue to learn about how to be the best help meet I can be to my husband.


Saturday, June 4, 2016

Letter to Shiloh in 2013

Dear Shiloh,
In 2 short months your world will be completely turned upside down.  You may not know it now, but that sweet little girl inside your belly has a hole in the bottom of her back.  Don't worry, she's going to be fine and you will make it through the other side a much stronger person.  You're going to be given the option to have a surgery while that sweet girl is still in your belly.  Take it!  You're going to be given a lot of paperwork and a book that explains what Spina Bifida is and all that comes with the diagnosis. Throw it all away!  None of that literature is going to matter when you see that sweet little girl for the first time.  You're not going to thumb through the pages when she bears weight for the first time.  No amount of literature is going to prepare you for that first time she needs a surgery when she's not even 2.  Nothing in those pages will comfort you when you are faced with the reality of her finally needing a shunt.  The time will come, just know it's going to be alright.  Lean on those who have been in your shoes.  They will be your greatest resource of knowledge and support, when no one else truly understands what you and that little girl are going through.

When you decide to do the surgery, know that you're doing what's best for your unborn child.  I know this is harder said than done, but please don't feel like you're having to choose between your children.  Savannah won't even remember being away from you for those 3 1/2 months.  She'll visit and you'll cry when she goes.  Remember this is only temporary and you'll have the rest of forever to spend with her.  When your water finally breaks, don't beat yourself up.  The longer I've lived with what happened, the more I realize God ultimately does things on purpose.  He's got everything mapped out and you are playing your part fearfully and beautifully.

Don't get in such a hurry to get her out of the hospital, that you forget that little girl needs every minute of her time there.  Those nurses know and love her so much.  They will do everything in their power to make sure she leaves when she's ready and not a moment sooner.  Nothing about this is permanent.  Remember, God's timing, not ours.

When they finally do allow her to go home, don't rush her off of the oxygen.  God is going to work some crazy miracles in that first year home.  Don't spoil it by trying to set your own agenda.  When they talk about the shunt, remember, God's got this.  She needs the oxygen until the Doctor says she doesn't!

Just remember to enjoy every minute, no matter the situation.  God has never let you down and He's not going to start.  It might seem silly now, but that little girl is going to teach you so much more about life than you have ever learned before.  Let her do her thing on her terms.  Don't try to hold her back because you're afraid she's going to fall.  Let her try to dance and pray she flies.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Transformation Tuesday

A week and 1 year ago today, I received my final wake up call.  Pictures from Mother's Day were posted on Facebook and I could no longer deny that I needed to do something about my weight.  My clothes were no longer fitting.  I'd actually just gone shopping for clothes for our cruise and it was so unpleasant.  I cried because clothes weren't fitting like they should unless I went up to the next size.  Even then I hated what I saw in the mirror.  I'm so thankful I had someone to help me out of my hole.  Not only has she helped me completely transform on the outside, she's also loved me where I'm at and given me some direction to grow as a person.

On June 6th, it will be 1 year since I started my first 24-day challenge.  During those 24 days, I lost 12 pounds and 13 1/2 inches.  10 of those pounds alone were toxins that processed foods left in my intestines.  Since that first challenge, I've used clean eating as a guide post and continued to use Advocare products.  Every 90 days I complete a 10 day cleanse, just to keep the toxins at bay when I do indulge on cheat meals.  I've gone on to lose 25 pounds and dropped 3 pant sizes.  Was it hard?  Yes!  Did I fall off the wagon several times?  Of course!  Did I always find my way back and move forward?  Absolutely!  Bottom line, anything worth having is going to be hard. There will be struggles, but it's the struggles that make a person, not the rewards. 

I honestly don't know why I overcomplicated losing weight before I found Advocare.  Honestly, starving myself was my primary way of weight management before Advocare.  I saw food as an enemy, not fuel for my body to perform as it should.  Now, I've learned what to look for on food labels.  I don't trust any supplemental products that aren't 3rd party tested for ingredient verification.  

Now that I've been able to pull myself apart and regroup as a stronger, healthier person, I'm excited to have helped other people over the course of the last year.  It's the world's best job to provide hope to someone who had once given up on hope.

Monday, March 28, 2016

What the World Needs Now Is Grace!

Why are we so offendable?  Why are we so quick to excuse our own shortcomings, but condemn the shortcomings of others?  As a rule, almost everyone has a touch of narcissism within them.  Why wouldn't we though?  We are taught to look out for number one, all others be damned.  That's what society teaches us, but what about God?  I ask these questions for myself as much as anyone else.  Like the rest of the world, I struggle the "all about me" mentality.  However, I'm starting to realize that changing my attitude and giving a little grace is worth far more than self satisfaction or having the last word.

The first time I heard the phrase "What the world needs now is grace", I didn't know what that meant.  I was 18 and thought grace was just something you said before dinner.  16 years later, I've started to realize grace is a wonderful gift God gives us every day.  It's also a wonderful gift He gives us so we may pass it on to others.

In times when I've been hurt or offended, the only times I've not later regretted my reaction was when I showed grace and responded with love and understanding instead of anger.  Responding with grace not only prevented feelings of guilt, but it also provided peace in my heart.  There's a saying I often have to tell myself when I am angry and want to react to my anger.  You attract more bees with honey than you do with vinegar.  We can't control how others treat us.  There's always going to be people who hurt our feelings, either intentionally or unintentionally.  What we can control is our reaction to the offense.  Think of anger as fuel and grace as an extinguisher.  Responding in anger will often fuel the fire.  Responding in grace not only extinguishes the fire, but it also gives you peace about how you responded to the fire.

One of my favorite songs is "Man in the Mirror" by Michael Jackson.  The song basically talks about the problems in the world, yet acknowledges that the only way to change those problems is to start with the person in the mirror.  Think of how many lives would be changed if we started showing grace and compassion to one another, instead of bitterness and hatred.  How many lives could be changed, our own included, if we passed along the same grace and mercy He gives us?

Again, I'm not saying I'm perfect.  I struggle with extending grace as much as the next person.  The goal of this post is to share some wisdom I have found helpful, in hopes it might help someone else.  A couple weeks ago, I had 2 friends post this image on facebook.  Hopefully you will find it helpful too.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

1st Clinic of The Year

Yesterday Kennedy and I were up in Cincinnati again.  We started the day off with a renal ultrasound, followed by a VCUG and Spina Bifida Clinic.  The main purpose of the VCUG was to see if Kennedy's bladder is refluxing urine into her kidney's when her bladder is full.

This was our first clinic since Kennedy's cord dethering/cyst removal and shunt surgeries.  One of the highlights was getting to see our Fetal Care Center Case Worker, Erin.  She was shadowing our Social Worker for the afternoon.  This was the first time she'd seen Kennedy with her walker.  I know I've said this before, but every single person who helped us through the decision to have fetal surgery will forever have a special place in our hearts.

The urodynamics test from 2 weeks ago and the VCUG showed that Kennedy is still not completely voiding her bladder on her own.  The Urologist did say that her bladder does look much better than it did during the renal ultrasound in August and she's not refluxing into her kidneys.  However, we will continue to cath her during the day and she will remain on the medication that keeps her bladder from having uncontrollable spasms.  The VCUG also showed a lot of back up in Kennedy's bowels.  She's being placed on an additional medication to help clear her bowel tract and prevent constipation.

The biggest concern of the day was how much Kennedy is drinking during the day.  Her catheter outputs are lower than the Urologist would like them to be.  We've added "cup holder" baskets to Kennedy's walker.  Our plan is to keep a cup of water in a cup holder at all times and offer her milk with her meals and snacks.  The doctors also feel this will help relieve some of Kennedy's bowel issues as well.

The Physical Therapist Doctor ordered another Manual Muscle Test now that we are so far out from surgery.  This will allow them to see what function has improved since her surgeries and provide a baseline, should something go array in the future.  She was very impressed with how well Kennedy uses her walker.  Poor Kennedy thought she was getting to leave when they lured her into the hallway to watch her walk, only to make her come back into the exam room.

We discussed preschool transition with the Developmental Department.  My head is spinning because I have no clue where all of this time went.  I'd always assumed Kennedy would be going to preschool later because of where her birthday fell.  Unfortunately, the Early Intervention Program we receive her therapy services through ends the day she turns 3.  We are so thankful that our local school district has multiple preschools for children with special needs.  Tomorrow we meet with our Early Intervention Coordinator for our quarterly meeting.  We will be scheduling meetings with the school system to begin this process.  It's also bittersweet because we will be losing our two therapists who have been nothing short of amazing.  They both deserve so much credit for guiding and pushing Kennedy to do the things she's doing right now.

On a personal note, while in clinic I received texts and calls from family that my Great-Aunt Ike (pronounced I-key) passed away yesterday morning unexpectedly of a heart attack.  I don't have a lot of memories of Aunt Ike, but I will never forget the last time I saw her.  She was such a special person to so many people.  Anyone who knew her will surely never forget her.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

First Trip of the Year

We've been fortunate not to have to head up to Cincinnati for anything yet this year.  However, this trip yesterday was the first of 3 that will be made in the next month.  Yesterday morning Kennedy had a sedated MRI.  After the MRI she had a urodynamics test done and a follow-up with Dr. Stevenson, her Neurosurgeon.

The brain scan on the MRI showed her shunt is draining too much fluid and her ventricles went from being too big to too small.  After the MRI we went up to the Neurosugery Department to have Kennedy's shunt reset(the magnets in the MRI machine automatically shut it off).  The Resident programmed the shunt to a lower setting in hopes that it would correct the issue with Kennedy's ventricle sizes.

We won't get any of the results from the Urodynamics test until March 14th, when we go back to Cincinnati for Spina Bifida clinic.

Dr. Stevenson was very pleased with the images of Kennedy's spine.  This was her first MRI since she had her cord detethering and shunt placement surgeries.  He showed us a side by side of this MRI compared to her last MRI.  The images were like night and day.  Thankfully it doesn't look like the cysts have started to grow back and her spinal cord is free flowing in her spinal column as it should.  Of course he was a little concerned about her shunt over draining.  He would like us to come back in a month for a rapid MRI of the brain to make sure the new setting on the shunt has increased the ventricle sizes.

Monday, January 4, 2016

For My Dad

Normally I don't talk a lot about my dad.  It will be 4 years on the 25th of this month since he passed away unexpectedly.  I still remember that day very vividly.  My husband had just been transferred from Chattanooga, TN to Danville, WV.  I was still in Tennessee and was spending the evening with my friend Star, her husband, and her mom.  I first got a phone call from my Aunt, my dad's sister.  She told me my Grandma, my dad's mom, had received a phone call from my little sister saying my dad was in emergency surgery at a hospital in Pueblo, CO.  My sister had received a call from our stepsister who was a surgical nurse at the hospital.  She had instructed my sister not to call anyone, but she called my Grandma anyway.  My Aunt said she'd called the hospital and all they would tell her was that he was there.  HIPPAA laws prevented them from telling her anything else.  While I was on the phone with my Aunt, my little sister called in.  The minute I saw her name come up on my screen, I knew what had happened.  I went into another room, so I wouldn't upset Savannah, who was with me that night.  My little sister was hysterically crying on the phone and just said "Dad's dead.  He's gone."

A million times before this moment, I always expected a moment of relief to wash over me when I would learn of my father's passing.  I was surprised to feel the grief that actually washed over me once it sank in.  My friend Star was such a tremendous help to me.  My In-Laws were gracious enough to keep Savannah (who actually turned 5 months old on the day of my father's death) so I could go to West Virginia to be with Jonathon for a few days.  For days after his death I found myself breaking down.  I'd always known I would never go to my dad's funeral.  I was ok with it, because I'd cut him out of my life long before his death.  For the first time in my entire life though, I felt like he finally understood why I had to break contact with him.

The details don't matter so much anymore, but the man who was my father was a very sick man, mentally.  He used to boast that he was crazy and had the papers to prove it.  Unfortunately, when you don't know how to love your kids in a healthy way, there comes a time when they have to look out for their own mental health and wellness.  That's exactly what I felt like I had to do.  Before I cut him out though, I had to make sure that decision was something I wouldn't have to answer for with the Lord.  I went to my pastor and explained the way I felt.  I felt guilty for feeling the way that I felt.   Who dread's Father's Day every year?  Who looks at all of those ad's in the newspaper and says "I wish I had a relationship like that with my Dad"?  I did.  I will never forget my pastor's response to me.  She said (knowing my father personally) "Yes, God tells us to honor our mother and father.  However, honoring doesn't always mean having a relationship with them.  Sometimes we can honor them by becoming a better person in spite of them."  She then told me about a pastoral counselor who used our church during the week to see clients.  She said the church had a fund set up to help congregation members receive services from this counselor and offered to let the church pay for counseling for me.  I jumped at the chance and spent the summer of 2004 going to counseling every week.  I honestly believe that this was the start of the healing process.

Life isn't always beautiful, but it's a beautiful ride.  I wouldn't change a thing about my life; the decisions I've made or didn't make.  For a few months after my dad's death I wondered if I had known he'd pass away when he did, would I have held on for those last 7 1/2 years?  For awhile I thought, yes, I would have.  Then I realized if I had held on I wouldn't have started the healing process until 7 1/2 years after I originally did.  I can't say that I would have been the person my husband fell in love with, the mother I'd been for those 5 months.  

I no longer have any ill feelings towards my father.  If anything I feel love for him, because I know that he is now ok with the decision I made.  He understands and doesn't hate me for it.  I've had very pleasant dreams of him since his death.  I couldn't say that before his death.  I forgive him for things I had a hard time forgiving him for before his death.  There is such an inner peace in my heart and soul that wasn't there before his death.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a very musical person.  Music speaks to me and it speaks for me when I can't find the words.  I have a playlist on spotify dedicated to my dad.  Any time I'm thinking of him or I just want to be reminded of him, I listen to it.  There are songs I've selected that represent every part of my life that he touched, including the parts after his death.  I've grieved for the man I wished he could have been before his death and I've accepted the man he was before he died.