My Belly Buddy

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At 39 weeks pregnant, I felt the urgency to capture a few shots of me and my belly buddy. ‘He might not be in there for much longer!’ I exclaimed.

A few Braxton Hicks contractions had sent me into false hope, but also gave me the bittersweet realization that the pregnancy was almost over. Carrying and growing this babe inside me has truly been one of life’s deepest joys.

From when I saw those two pink lines appear, I went from absolutely amazed to completely in love at our first ultrasound appointment when we saw his bean-sized little body.

The beauty of our miracle merely expounded upon every milestone reached.

I rejoiced at all the firsts: hearing his heartbeat, learning his gender, and feeling him flutter —to which I often wondered, was that actually my baby, or just my lunch?

Up until feeling him kick, I must admit to the anxious spirit of a new mother… ‘How is he? Is he still okay in there?’

I would constantly question every day of growth, holding my breath as I counted down to the next doctor appointment where I would then exhale at seeing images of our baby on the black and white screen.

Although I knew these were normal fears to be having, I was ashamed of my desperate need to see proof as I let my thoughts get the best of me. Fear can be an ugly thing. I didn’t want the incredible mystery of life inside me to become any less God-glorifying, meaning, the gloomy cloud of doubt had to go.

Expressing my fears to my husband helped. But only by way of continual surrender to the Creator of all living things did I begin to feel freedom and joy in his beginning months of development.

Oh, and then when he started kicking me on a regular basis… how those jabs also served to calm my questioning mind.

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Watching my belly get bigger and bigger gave me such pride, and as we got closer to the last trimester, such discomfort! Sitting in one position for too long would make my legs go numb. Sleeping became a ritual of tossing and turning and getting up to pee all night long. I almost think I’ll be able to get more sleep once he’s here! Who am I kidding…

There are definitely aspects about pregnancy I won’t miss, but among many other wonderful experiences during the past 9 months, I will indeed miss the close intimacy and constant rubbing of my belly buddy. 🙂

However, I am very much looking forward to what’s around the corner! Going into labor, holding our son to my chest, giving him a name, kissing his sweet face, changing his poopy diapers… So far, it’s all just been talk talk talk. Not for long!

Baby boy, how you’re about to dramatically change our lives for the better!

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Soon to be a family of THREE!

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As we anticipate the arrival of the newest family member, I can hardly believe that we’re going to meet our SON so soon!

Looking back on the past nine months, I’d say it went fairly well.

Although, having nothing to compare pregnancy too, I’m not sure what my expectations were.

I knew my belly was going to get huge, but it actually didn’t get as big as I’d imagined. I knew morning sickness could be hit-or-miss, and for me, it was exactly that. Mornings were difficult, however I was still able to cope and function my way to lunchtime.

Did I have cravings? More like aversions! If my husband would simply say “broccoli” out-loud it would make me gag. The same gag that happened every day while trying to swallow my pre-natal vitamins… Who knew, the supplement queen and veggie-lover would struggle with these two very things? As it goes, these are the things women are told to increase in their diets during pregnancy, both of which I found problematic and near to impossible!

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Despite eating meat and potatoes (usually in the form of french fries) for the majority of my meals, when blood test results came back, my iron level was an 8! While this explained the low energy and dizziness I felt throughout the day, it stressed me out since I thought I was eating enough red meat as it was.

So my sweet husband went out and purchased a cheap coal grill, and I feasted on delicious home-made burgers and kebabs. We also splurged and made special trips to Shake Shack as well as frequented a mini burger eatery a few Sundays in a row…

I added an extra iron supplement, and after a month finally began to feel its effects. Unfortunately I ran out a week before the due date and have to wait for my parents to bring more with them when they visit after the baby is born.

 

Pregnancy, aside from the general aches and pains, was quite an enjoyable first-time experience. It helps that I have the most incredible, loving husband who is just as excited as I am about the bundle growing inside me. It’s clear, I picked a good one:)

And he’s going to be the best dad. 🙂

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Yes, I realize I’m wearing the same outfit for these pictures as I did for the pictures we took in Spain… I guess I didn’t feel the need to buy more than one “picture-taking” maternity dress!

Babymoon

It came about this summer, through a stressful transition with decisions having to be made about our future, when one day my sweet husband turned the focus off of the unknowns and unto a known fact: I had always dreamed of traveling to Spain together.

So, why not go this fall? He suggested out-of-the-blue. He’d been thinking about it for awhile, even flirted with the idea of making it a surprise. But seeing my emotional state and knowing how I love planning trips, he dropped it on me like the life raft I’d been needing.

Fast forward 2 months– although we had just moved overseas and into a new apartment, 23 weeks pregnant seemed to be the perfect time for a quick get away before our work responsibilities (and my belly) became too heavy. It also happened to be right around our 2 year anniversary. Another great excuse for a romantic excursion!

We started in Barcelona: I’d never been yet had always longed to see Gaudi’s famous Sagrada Familia. But first things first, in order to start the trip off right we dined downtown for a traditional Spanish paella! I had to pass on the sangria for now…

 

There were sites in Barcelona I hadn’t even known we needed to see– the Bunkers was one of them. We climbed towards the heavens, arriving at an overlook of beautiful sea and city. The wind whistling all around us made photo opps and conversion difficult, and as it was all we could do to try and not fly away, I bet our laughter roared louder than the wind!

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Another comical account of our trip were the traffic lights. Not exaggerating- there were intersections every 100 meters, fully outfitted with stoplights. LOOOONG stoplights. If/when we took a wrong turn, we had to drive an hour on one-way streets to get to where we had started. Word of wisdom for all who travel to Barcelona: don’t rent a car.

Eventually we got to where we intended to go, including the Guell Palace where we simply gawked at Gaudi’s architectural genius for hours.

Once outside the city, however, we drove freely without stoplights, worrying only about stopping to pay tolls and savoring bites of gluten free goodies from Pastisserie Jansana.

Our GPS led us straight to the sea. We turned unto cobblestone and into a harbor of twinkle lights reflecting off the glassy water. It was even better than I had imagined.

In the morning, the sun rose over the mountains to reveal the quaintest of towns. Oh Cadaques, you were a dream.

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White-washed buildings. Blue doors. Cappuccinos by the sea.

Cliffside pathways winding their way to the lighthouse. Sunsets and star gazing on rooftops.

I can close my eyes and still smell the salty air…

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But our trip didn’t end there.

We made our way back down Costa Brava and went back in time to a quiet medieval village in Pals where we may have been the only tourists. We ate where the locals ate and frolicked through a maze of stone walls, caring only to be silly and free.

 

Continuing our journey through Girona, we spent our last couple nights in Begur. We wasted time exploring narrow streets and watching waves crash against the coast, idling however we pleased. We befriended spontaneity as this was our last foreseeable chance before the new babe changes our lives forever…

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Captured one final sunset from the castle heights, we held our breaths as bowing rays reflected gold across the countryside. We said hello and goodnight to the rising moon, reluctant to acknowledge the end of our Catalan respite.

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After a summer of crazy and a month of settling into a new life, by taking this time in Spain to pause, love each other, and let life slow down a bit, we finally felt like us again.

The us that I am so thankful for.

The us that is ready to soon grow from two to three!

Gender Reveal

A few days before journeying back overseas, we had a small party with family and close friends to reveal our baby’s gender…

Pink or Blue??

The guesses were pretty evenly split… though I’d say a few more leaned towards boy.

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My mom and grandma decorated everything so cute and festive!

Jesse and I found out the gender at the doctor’s appointment, so the reveal was to announce it to our loved ones. While it was fun having a secret to ourselves, I think for Baby #2 I want someone to reveal it to us…

For the Big Reveal, we had a party store fill a balloon with the appropriate color confetti, and…

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POP!

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It’s a BOY!!!!!!!!!

 

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And a wiggly boy at that!!!

We were so grateful to be surrounded by loved ones as we celebrated our Baby Boy before packing our bags for this next season.

It is clearly evident that our Little One is already loved by so many…

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Thank you everyone for your prayers as we prepare for his arrival!!!!

Now to think of a name….

First comes love, then comes marriage…

… then comes the baby in the baby carriage!

613 days after saying “I do”, two pink lines appeared on a stick.

July 7th, 2016 could easily be the 2nd happiest day of my life.

 

We’re pregnant!

 

Waiting to share our news was one of the toughest secrets I’ve ever had to keep, especially when morning sickness started to make itself present around week 6…

We told our immediate family at 8 weeks, right after we’d had our first check-up and ultrasound.

Now at 15 weeks, we’re telling the world!!!

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The announcement called for a photo shoot with none other than the shoes we started our adventure with… Chacos! Unfortunately, while I was searching online, I realized their smallest size sandal would be too big for our needs. So, the $5 sandals from Old Navy would just have to do. We’ll buy our baby Chacos when they can actually walk…

Photo Credit goes to my friend Lindsay, who being 8 months pregnant at the time, squatted down to get the perfect angle of our feet. And although our faces were not in the photo, I was indeed smiling the whole time…

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The photoshoot took place over Labor Day weekend while camping with friends down by the CDA River at Little North Fork, Post Falls, Idaho. For our nature loving selves, we couldn’t pick a better place to announce the addition to our growing family.

Can’t wait to bring our Little here in the future!

The Domino Effect

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We’ve all done it, lined-up dominoes centimeters apart to form a giant spiral atop the dining room table or kitchen floor. We held our breath until the last domino was positioned, then with the slightest flick of our finger, we sent the domino tumbling backwards.

Each corresponding domino collided with the one behind it, whirling around the table until what once was a meticulously planned design ended in a flattened mess.

Depending on how many dominoes you used, it may have taken over an hour to set-up, yet when set into motion you watched the whole thing fall on its face within seconds.

Maybe you hadn’t even finished constructing it when your hip bumped against the table, accidentally catalyzing the twirl all too soon.

You may already get where I’m going with this- you’re smart people.

For those of you who still need an ‘ah-ha’…

We make plans, we work hard, we dedicate precious time to things that matter much more than dominoes, but sometimes all it takes is the tiniest shove and you feel like you backslid back to the very beginning of a world you thought you had under control.

When this happens, there’s a tendency for everything you learned along the way to suddenly lose the value it once had. In that moment we focus on the failure and mistakes more than the journey itself.

Maybe you pick up the pieces right away and re-set the dominoes exactly the way they were before- only to have them fall down again.

Maybe you give up entirely, and with one long swoop across the table you shove the pieces back into the box and march it back to the game closet, grumbling about trying to make it work in the first place.

Maybe you put it on pause and distract yourself with other chores, only to find yourself back in that kitchen chair staring at the messy table of flattened dominoes before you.

This past year, my husband and I set off on an adventure, one we thought for sure would stick. We started settling in for the long-run: planting our roots, laying a foundation. We invested in relationships, spent time sharpening our skills in correlating areas of need, and put great effort into stepping out of our comfort zones.

Then with just one bump, somewhere in the middle of our spiral, one of our domino pieces tottered over. The results were messy, but not completely ruined, and from our side it looked we could line them up again.

So we tried. And tried. And tried again.

But each and every time, the dominos kept getting bumped. Not only forwards, but backwards as well. Causing us to ask the question: “How long should we keep trying?”

We finally put the dominoes away and looked at the clean table. I guess it was time to start something new…

Refinement.

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A trusted mentor shared with me a story someone once shared with her. I’ll do my best to share it with you as beautifully as she did me…

Once there was a woman who wanted to understand what the Bible meant when it talks about refinement, so she went to a goldsmith to learn firsthand about the process.

As he answered all her questions, she asked him if he sat and watched the gold the entire time. Of course! He replied. For if the flames become a degree too hot, or if I keep it in for a second too long, the gold would be destroyed!

The woman thought about his words, and compared them back to the specific passage she had studied earlier.

“He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.” -Malachi 3:3

Our Refiner sits.

Whenever we feel like we’re in the fire, we can find comfort in the fact that not once does God take His eyes off of us. Nor does He let the flames get too hot nor does He keep us in for longer than we can endure, for His sole intent is our purification. He sits and steadily holds us in His hands, in His perfect wisdom, and in His perfect timing. 

How do you know when the gold has been refined? She asked the smith one last question.

He smiled and answered her. When I pull it out of the fire and I’m able to see my own image reflecting back at me, that’s when I know the process has been completed.

Although God uses every trial we face to purify and refine us, it’s easy to feel like we’ve fallen victim to an unjust world. OR we may dismiss suffering as spiritual attack, argue that no good could come from it, and immediately pray against it.

I’ll raise my hand for both those feelings.

But as true as both quite possibly may be, how we respond and grow through such seasons of life is up to us.

As I’ve been praying and seeking the Lord on this area in my own life, He’s reassured me that refinement is a necessary process. All His beloved children will go through it.

Even though it’s not always fun and may seem like God is nowhere to be found, the truth is He’s in full control of the entire process. Once it’s complete, His image will be reflected in us for the world to see.

I mulled over some recent scenarios that have specifically been targeting my character and spirit, AKA God is probably using them to refine me. I jotted down a few…

I can know I’m being refined when                                                                      .

…I’m feeling the heat. (punnnnnny, sorry)

…I’m constantly battling to deny my flesh.

…I’m facing painstakingly difficult situations that give me an opportunity to become more like Jesus.

…I want to run away in anger, but I stay and attempt peace.

…bitterness and offense are eager to spring up, but the Holy Spirit extinguishes them.

…forgiveness is the last thing I want to do, but by God’s grace alone, I do it.

…I feel stuck.

…I’m waiting for healing.

…I’m waiting for answers.

…I’m questioning my purpose.

As hard as these may seem in the moment, the Lord is using all of these scenarios to turn me towards Himself. To seek His Will. To know His ways.

To reflect His Image

To be molded as He chooses.

That I may bring offerings in righteousness before Him.