Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Christmas Chalkboard Printables

Tis the season to be crafty, festive, generous, and excited! I absolutely LOVE the holidays. For me, it is less about the commercialism of the holidays and much more about the feelings of nostalgia, family, love, giving, and warmth that surround the season. With a sweet baby boy in tow who is now old enough to be engaged in the festivities, I am even more excited for Thanksgiving and Christmas this year!

It has been quite some time since I last posted. They say a baby changes everything, and boy, are they right! Eli keeps me so busy. On top of that, Prince Charming and I are expecting Baby M #2 in early April! Yes, you read that right. Elisha will be a big brother come April. He and his sibling will be 18 months apart, and Prince Charming and I are thrilled! Throw on top of all the baby bliss getting back into my work schedule, PC getting the job as head pastor of our church when our former pastor moved back home to North Carolina, and getting ready for the holiday season...it is no wonder that I haven't been able to post lately!

As an apology to you, I wanted to share some cool resources I recently stumbled across on the Pinternet and a few printables that I made with them. I wanted to get some chalkboard Christmas printables to frame around the house this year, and I found some great, premade free ones on Pinterest shared by some wonderful bloggers. I also found some amazingly talented bloggers who have shared free fonts/graphics to create your own, and that is what I have done. I am going to pass the links to those resources on to you AND put the printables I made here for you to use if you wish as well. Nothing like giving things away during the holidays! :)

First awesome resource comes from an amazing Christian military wife and mom blogger over at www.welivedhappilyeverafter.com, Hannah. She is incredibly gifted at creating graphics and backgrounds that are beautiful, chic, and on trend. She has some beautiful premade printables available on her blog as well. Visit her site when you get a chance; it is definitely worth a read!

Here are links to the posts on her blog for the items I used from her site that she so graciously shares for others to use. Click on any of the post titles to go directly to the original post on her blog.
Chalkboard Backgrounds- Light Chalkboard Background and Dark Chalkboard Background
Christmas Chalkboard Graphics- Sketch Me Pretty: 6 Free Christmas Graphics
Circle Graphics- Sketch Me Pretty: 11 Hand Drawn Circle Digital Graphics
Rustic Graphics (deer silhouette and leaves)- Sketch Me Pretty: 12 Stunning Free Rustic Graphics

Click on any of the font names below to go to the site I found them on to download and use them.
Chalk Hand Lettering Shaded by fontscafe.com This site has some AMAZING fonts! Check out all they have to offer because their work is BEAUTIFUL and so versatile!
Contribute by fontscafe.com
One Starry Night by Brittney Murphy Design She makes some beautiful fonts, as well. Check out "a song for jennifer" as another great chalkboard font!
Bergamont Ornaments by Emily Lime Design I am still getting used to working with a font as a graphic, but I love the possibilities it opens up and how many you get in one place. Try it out!

So, that is all of the credit where credit is due for the creation of the components of these simple chalkboard printables. Here are some preview images of each printable:







Click on the link below to go to the Google drive where you can download my four chalkboard printables:

Miss NOLAssippi Christmas Chalkboard Printables

I am no graphic designer, but I hope you will find them as charming as I do. Feel free to share on your own sites, but please link back to this post when you do. Enjoy, and happy holidays to you and yours!!

In Christ Alone,
Brittney



Monday, August 11, 2014

29 Things I Am Thankful For...

This summer, on June 3, I celebrated my 29th birthday, and it was an unbelievably busy day. Between working extended hours (7-4:30), getting my baby boy, feeding him and holding him when he fell asleep for a quick nap (yeah!), helping Prince Charming tidy up the house for our small group meeting, having small group study, and having Dairy Queen ice cream cake with everyone after, I didn't get to sit down and be quiet for myself until about 10:00 that night. So, please, don't feel that I ignored you or didn't answer your phone calls and texts on purpose...I really was just that busy. In addition to being limited in my responses to sweet birthday wishes from friends and family, my business kept me from writing this post that I had been wanting to write all day.

If there is one thing I have learned in my past 29 years on Earth, it is that it is important to slow down, be quiet, and be grateful. In our small group, we were doing a curriculum called Abide right now. The rhythm we discussed on my birthday dealt with just that...getting quiet in a very noisy world. So, without further ado...here are 29 things/people/experiences/etc. that I am incredibly grateful for from my past 29 years of life.

1. My Salvation. Because by it, I view, do, and see all other things in my life. It permeates every single part of my life. From my relationships to my career to my decisions, there is absolutely nothing in my life that is not affected by my relationship with God as my Lord and Savior. It fills me up; it gives me life; it gives me worth and confidence and strength and peace...if you don't know my God, I would be more than happy to share Him and His beautiful gospel story with you. It really makes all of the difference in the world to how life is.

2. My Husband. When I call him Prince Charming, I absolutely mean that he is in every sense of the word Prince Charming. He is a Christ-centered man, and that makes all of the difference in the world to how he husbands. He tells me all of the time that I am beautiful, and even more, he tells me that I am his standard of female beauty. I believe and can believe my husband doesn't even look at other women because he puts me so far above every other woman that to him, none compare. It is amazing because I see so many flaws in myself, and he certainly knows that I am not perfect, yet he looks at me and beholds beauty. He takes care of me and supports me. He encourages me and strengthens me. He is my best friend and my one and only. I will be eternally blown away and grateful to God that such an amazing, wonderful man would see fit to call me his wife.

3. My Son. I am not sure that before the past 18 months I would have ever thought that I would want to be a mom, but The Lord truly changed my heart and then blessed me with a marvelous baby. Eli is more than I could have hoped for and everything I could ever want in a baby. He is so sweet and gentle spirited. He is funny and loving and snuggly. He is a good sleeper (thank you, Jesus) and a terrific eater. He spoils me as a mommy, and I am so grateful for his sweet little life being in mine.

4. My Parents. I am fortunate enough to have parents who are still HAPPILY married, and I strongly attribute that to the fact that they are both Bible believing Christians who have relied through the years not on their own strength, will, or feelings but on their bond through Jesus Christ and His work on the cross as the foundation of their marriage. They showed me throughout my life a strong example of a gospel-centered marriage, and that is something that I will be forever grateful for as I navigate my own marriage. They challenged and supported me in everything I do. They offered guidance and advice and protected me from many stupid decisions that I am sure I would have made if they had not been with me every step of the way through my early life.

5. My Sister. At 22 months old, I was granted the privilege of receiving my incredible baby sister. From the time we were able to play together, we were thick as thieves. We certainly fought as sisters do over the years, but far more often than that, we were just best friends. We shared clothes and secrets. We sought advice, consolation, and support from each other. We went on adventures in the backyard and on road trips. She is the one I call as soon as something new or exciting or scary or overwhelming happens in my life, and she is always there with a bended ear and real advice. She isn't afraid to call me out when I am being ridiculous, and she isn't afraid to stand by me even when she doesn't agree with me. She is an amazing woman whom I love, and I cannot imagine my life without her.

6. My In-Laws. Not everyone can say their extended in-law family is great, but I am one of the fortunate few who can say it full heartedly. Prince Charming's parents have accepted me from day one with open arms into their family and lives. I think they were able to do so because they knew he wouldn't bring home just anyone...with him, it had to be the real deal. They have always been kind and generous, and they treat me like their own. I also hit the in-law lottery with my brothers-in-law and my sister-in-law. My brothers-in-law truly treat me like their sister. They make me laugh; they pick on me; and they listen to me. My sister-in-law and I are very close, and I am so thankful for her! She makes any situation more fun. She is great with people and has such a passion for life. She inspires me to be better in so many ways, and I am so blessed to have her to share part of my life with. I really hit the jackpot here, people!

7. My Friends. I will highlight a few in particular, but let me just say that over the years, I have been so fortunate to have amazing, Christian friends. Some were in my life for a season, some are in my life for good, but they have all been irreplaceable figures in my life who helped me grow and learn. From church friends to school friends to work friends...I have been incredibly blessed to have them all! Specific shoutouts: Krissy- I have known her since I was 5, though we were separated by distance for about a decade from then to high school, and she has been my best friend since I was about 16. I share everything with Krissy- as much as with my sister, really. She is kind and sweet and talented and loving. I am amazed and awed to be able to count her as best friend. Erin- Everyone has that lifelong best friend that they don't meet until college. For me, that is Erin. She is the most unique person I know. She is silly and hilarious and talented and fashionable and beautiful. She is an absolute hot mess, and we had the best time through our college years together. Kalee- Also from Mississippi, our NOLA boys brought us together, and I will be eternally grateful for that. Her hubby and mine have been best friends since pretty much birth, so we were naturally introduced as we were dating them. I would never have thought that I would get another best friend out of it. She is such a joy to know. She is a woman of strength and wisdom. She is an awesome mother and is always open and willing to share her knowledge and experience with me when I need it. She gets me in a way that no one else in NOLA does because she comes from the same place (on many levels) as I do, and I count her among God's greatest blessings in my life. Tara- God put Tara in my life. Period. When Prince Charming got his new job at our current church, Riverside in River Ridge, I wasn't sure what kind of relationships I would find. Tara was a welcome surprise. A godly woman who was in the same place in life as me, in the same field, and who went through pregnancy with me (although a few months behind) for the first time. She shared her life here with me (another NOLA transplant) openly and honestly, and I so greatly enjoy spending time with her. She has in the past few weeks had to move away with her sweet little family as the Lord wills, but I will always treasure her friendship.

8. My Extended Family. In the style of Lilo & Stitch regarding family: it's spread out and busy but still good...yeah...still good. I have aunts, uncles, and cousins from Hawaii to Washington, D.C. and everywhere in between. Our family is large and numerous, and fun. Of course we have the crazies and the dramatics and the black sheep...every family does...but it is still mine, and it is still good.

9. Our Church. I grew up in a wonderful church in Mississippi until I entered college. Then, I went with the college minister when he planted a new church in Jackson. Shortly after that, I went with Prince Charming to a Methodist church where he served as youth minister. We attended Prince Charming's parents' church for a short while after we wed and moved to NOLA. After we purchased our first house, PC got his first ministry job at a local presbyterian church. Then, in December of 2012, God called us back to the church where he grew up to serve as associate pastor. It has been amazing to walk in the will of the Father, and we are so incredibly thankful for the congregation there. The body of believers at Riverside is so kind and so hungry for the Word of God and Will of the Father. It is such a joy to serve and worship there, and I am very grateful for God's grace in sending us there.

10. My Pets. I know it may seem silly to some to be thankful for this category, but I am an animal lover, and I have been fortunate to have some pretty amazing pets in my day. Our childhood dog, a standard dachshund named Max, was SO AWESOME! He was so chill and fun, and everyone who met him loved him! Then, my first pet of my own, Molly Jones came along. She was a gift from Josh and Kalee, and she was an absolute doll. She had the sweetest little spirit, and she loved life. She was an amazing dog, and I didn't get to have as much time with her as I would have liked. With her, and still, was our sweet, unique Desmond. A Christmas gift from Prince Charming's parents, Des is such a cutie pie, and he has proved to be one tough pup. He isn't the most social dog with strangers (especially kids and other dogs), but he is fervently loyal to our family, and those whom he loves, he loves hard. For animal lovers, pets are such a joy, and I have been favored to have good ones.

11. My Job. I am so fortunate to have a job that I can honestly say contributes to the well-being and care of my family. Being a working mom is not an easy life for me...I always hoped and pictured myself as a stay-at-home mom while my children were small. But, clearly, God has other plans. While it isn't always easy for me to accept, I know He has a purpose and reason for my stay-at-home mom desire to not be fulfilled at this point in my life, and I trust that promise. In the meantime, I remind myself daily of the fact that I don't work to be away from my family, I work for my family. My job enable us to have health insurance and some extra financial stability. For that, I can be grateful, and I can find the will to say goodbye to my sweet baby boy in the mornings.

12. Financial Stability. Building on number 11, I am grateful that I have been blessed in my life and in my marriage to have a stable financial life. While my husband and I by no means are wealthy by monetary standards (he is a preacher, and I am a teacher for crying out loud) all of our needs and even many of our wants are met. Not everyone can say that, and I count it as a gracious blessing from The Lord.

13. My Hobbies and Talents. I will never claim to be great at any of the things I do as hobbies, but I will absolutely claim that I love them all! From singing to sewing to cooking to writing...these are the things that have given me a source of joy, peace, comfort, and patience. I am thankful God has blessed me with the abilities and opportunities to get to do all of these things, and I hope to get to do them all for years to come.

14. Living in New Orleans. As hard as it is sometimes, even still, to be so far away from my friends and family I grew up with, I wouldn't trade getting to live in the lively, soulful, awesome city of New Orleans, Louisiana. There is simply no place like it in the world. The food, the events, the people...it digs into your heart and doesn't let go. People who are NOLA people just get it. 

15. Traveling. I am so grateful for every trip I have been privileged to take. Whether national or international, the opportunities I have had to travel in my life have made me a more open-minded, well-rounded person. It has taught me to appreciate people, places, and cultures other than my own. I hope I can give my own children chances to travel.

16. Nursing Experience. This one is a delicate one. I prayed during my pregnancy for God to give me a good nursing relationship with my baby. While it hasn't always been easy, it has been absolutely amazing and wonderful, and God answered my prayer in abundant ways I couldn't have imagined. I will always be grateful for the opportunity to nurse, and I will hope and pray that I will be able to do likewise for any future children I have.

17. Air Conditioning. This one is a must when you live in the south...especially the deep south. I forget how much I appreciate this until I don't have air conditioning. 

18. Memories. I am thankful for the time I have spent with everyone and anyone in my life and the memories those times have made. I may not be in touch with everyone from throughout my whole life anymore, friends come and go and people move or pass away, but the memories of good times, hard times, and exciting times all last. 

19. Freedom. The United States of America, for all of its faults and short-comings, is still one of the greatest countries in the world to live in because we do get freedoms that are often denied to people in other places. I can go to church without fear of persecution. I can choose what career I want to pursue or work and do it. I can go for a walk with my sweet husband and son without fear of bombs exploding around us. This country is not perfect, it is far from it, but it certainly has benefits that other countries do not get to boast. 

20. Snoballs on a Hot Summer Day. Not a snow cone...no...a snoball. It is a NOLA thing, and they are like mana from Heaven on a scorching summer afternoon in New Orleans. They turn your mouth colors and give you brain freeze, and they are decadence in ice form. Not much can beat it.

21. Rainy Days at Home. I absolutely love rainy days that I get to be home, snuggled up with my best boys watching movies, playing games, eating comfort food, and just having fun. Thunderstorms are even better! This only applies to the days I get to be home.

22. FaceTime. This one wasn't such an important thing to me until I had a baby whose grandparent's live 15 hours away. I am absolutely thankful for this technology. It lets my parents interact with Eli daily, so they can see in real time how he grows and changes. He recognizes them when he sees them even if he hasn't seen them in person in months. This is an invaluable tool, and I cannot imagine having to raise my baby so far from family without it. 

23. Our House. While not without things I would love to change...bigger bathroom with a huge tub, more linen storage, etc...I am so grateful to have a home that I can call my own. A home that I helped create. A home that keeps me warm when it is cold and cool when it is hot. A home where I can spend time with my friends and family. A home where I can make a mess or be a neat freak. It is our home, and it is full of love!

24. Health. I am very fortunate to have been blessed with good health throughout my life. Granted, I have terrible allergies and sinus problems, but other than that, I have been fortunate enough to avoid any major health issues thus far in my life. What a blessing!

25. Books. I am an absolute, 100%, self-proclaimed and proven bookworm. I cannot get enough of getting lost in stories. Fiction, nonfiction, fantasy, sci-fi, drama...whatever. I love them all! It is a joy to me to sit with a book and get lost in its pages. It provided me with a means of escape during my middle school years when I was a victim of bullying, and it still gives me an oasis even in my hectic life now. 

26. Kindness of Strangers. As Mr. Roger's always said, in times of trouble, "look for the helpers." As I get older, the kindness of strangers becomes even more elusive and even more precious. From holding a door, to letting me cut in line at the grocery store because of Eli, to helping with bags on an airplane...never underestimate a kind gesture to even those you don't know.

27. Laughter. Sometimes, only a good belly laugh can help. Even in our deepest despair, one laugh can change our entire perspective. I love laughing until it hurts and I can't catch my breath and I have tears in my eyes. Those laughs are few an fat between. I don't always remember the reason I laugh like that, but I always remember the feeling.

28. Food and Clean Water. This is one we readily take for granted in the US, but I cannot forget how incredibly blessed I am to have these most basic needs met on a daily basis. It is overwhelming how many people struggle to have either or both of these things day to day, and I pray I never take for granted the gift of these necessities.

29. Forgiveness. This sort of goes back to the idea of salvation, as all in my life does, but I am grateful for any and all forgiveness bestowed upon my in my life. Lord know that I need it daily, and it is a gift of grace and mercy. Being forgiven is being set free, and that is an indescribable, priceless gift.

So...there are 29 things I am thankful for. This list is not exhaustive, but it does help me keep things in perspective. Thank You, Lord, for these 29 years. I pray for many more years to come and that each of those years would be spent seeking your kingdom, honor, and glory.

In Christ Alone,
Brittney

Monday, July 21, 2014

Musings of a Heavy Heart

I have debated whether or not I should post this at all. It has been sitting in my drafts section of my blog for almost a month now. I wrote this right after losing my grandmother very suddenly to pancreatic cancer at the end of July. I have decided I will share it because it is honest...it is the thought process I went through as I dealt with the pain and grief of losing someone precious whom I loved so dearly with all my heart. It is unedited, so forgive the typos and stream of thought. While it may not all be clear, I hope that the thoughts that lay on my heart can speak to the heart of those who are hurting for any reason.

In Christ Alone, 
Brittney

Staring at the cursor blink on this blank page through bleary eyes right now leaves me with little confidence that I will be able to make a single coherent thought in this post. But during this time in my life, I have so many thoughts running through my mind that I needed to get down somewhere that I decided my blog would be a good landing spot. This post will be a stream of thought, so forgive me any places that seem disjointed. You see, I am experiencing a difficult loss in my life right now, in the midst of other major life changes, and I am not alone. Close friends and family are also experiencing the loss of those closest to them. It is heartwrenching and difficult during these times to make sense of pain, death, and grief. Some people want to try to comfort you by saying that death is just a part of life. It is a natural event that all experience. Here's the thing that a Christian knows with certaintly: death is the least natural thing on the planet. Man was not made to die. Man was not made to be sick...to break down...to decay...man was made to live and to thrive. Death was a result of man's actions in the beginning telling God we don't love you, don't need you, and don't accept your rule and reign over us (aka sin). As a result of our rebellion, death entered the scene and has remained since. It isn't natural. If it was, it wouldn't be so difficult. It wouldn't be dehumanizing, painful, and ruthless. Those left living wouldn't have to deal with the incredible pain of feeling like a piece of you has been ripped painfully away out of the grasp of your longing-to-hold-onto-life fingers.

When these things happen, our first instinct is to simply ask, "Why?" Why has this person been taken away from me? Why has this person had to suffer? Why can't I stop it? Why couldn't I do more? Why didn't You do more? Why didn't You heal? Why...why...why? The whys keep pouring into my mind like a river down a mountain...and they definitely seem to end in a valley. I can't begin to tell you a specific reason, aside from the one mentioned above, that these things happen. I won't pretend to know the answers, the thinking of God, because how arrogant of me to think that I could grasp, as the Bible calls them, "the secret things that belong to God." God asked Job when he asked why, "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the Earth?" In other words...it isn't for me to know why God does the things he does because whether "good" or "bad" by my own small-minded definitions of those words, they are His things to do...and ultimately...all good. But while I cannot say why it is that these things happen, I do know for a shadow of a doubt what the reasons can't be. It simply and utterly cannot be because God doesn't love us. It absolutely and without a shadow of a doubt cannot be because He doesn't sympathize with us in our loss and suffering. And it cannot be because He doesn't understand our pain. We only need to look to one thing to know these things to be true: the cross of Jesus Christ.

At the cross, God demonstrated a love for us that goes beyond what we could ever hope to imagine to understand. He sent his only Son to die in our place for sins He had not even thought to commit. He spilled His own innocent blood on our behalf and all so that we could be made right with Him even in our sinful state by repentance and belief in Him. That is love incapable of being measured and love incapable of ever being squelched by anything in Heaven or on Earth. It is an unstoppable, imeasurable, unfailing, never-giving-up love. So this loss and hurt can't happen because He doesn't love us. In sending His only Son, he suffered a loss that we can't fathom. He allowed His innocent, perfect, righteous Son to humble himself to a painful, humiliating death on the cross. So he understands, even in ways we don't, our loss and suffering. Not only was this His one and only Son, but He was the One who had been with Him for all eternity. "In the beginning was The Word, and The Word was with God, and The Word was God." I was able to spend 29 amazing years with the life and presence of my grandmother with me, and my hurt is massive. How much more must the hurt of the Father and the Son have been when He had to turn His face away from Him on the cross as He bore the wrath of The Father for our sins and transgressions? My friends, it cannot be that He doesn't understand our pain...oh...it cannot be. 

So, as I sit here and break under the weight of loss and hurt and grief, I look to the cross as my source of comfort and strength. And not just for what the cross has meant for me, but what it meant to my grandmother. As a Christian who proclaimed Jesus as her Lord and Savior, I can be dually comforted by Christ's work on the cross. Not only does it shout at the top of all forms of volume that God loves us and sympathizes with us, but it also radiates the hope that lies within what was accomplished there. Sin has lost its power; death has lost its sting. For those who believe, this life does not end with death. Oh no, by all means...it just begins. As an adopted son or daughter of the Most High God, regardless of what or how death took us from this life, we are awakened to an eternal life renewed. Healing comes in many ways in our lives in many circumstances...and this is His ultimate healing for those who believe. We enter the presence of The Lord and all of the believers who went before us to never have to live under the effects of sin or sickness or death again. To live is Christ and to die is gain...even in the darkness of grief that surrounds me, this flicker of hope, this light of joy, cannot be undone. It is a flame that burns as eternal as the life given by God, and it shines even through the darkest despair this world can muster. It is the reason a Christan can boast a joy even in the tears...it is the assurance of this certain promise of life in Christ that allows a grieving Christian to be flooded with a peace that passes understanding even when we are overcome with the loss of those we love who believed in Christ...it is our very source of life even in death. Does it mean that we don't hurt? That we don't grieve? That the pain of our loss vanishes into thin air? Indeed not because, as we said before, we grieve the unnatural nature of death and the loss it brings. But through it all, we can sing a song of praise in our hearts and give thanks to The Lord for His love that endures forever...through life...past death...and into the ever after life in His presence in glory. 

Amen.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Pregnancy 101: 10 Things I Learned From My First Pregnancy

Photograph by TJMohr Photography

Being a mom is one of the scariest, most overwhelming, most surprising, most challenging, and absolutely one of the most AMAZING things God has ever allowed me to do. Every day I wake up and the first thing I think about is my sweet little baby boy sleeping in his room down the hall. Almost once every minute of each day while I am at work, I think about him and wonder what he is doing and if he is thinking of or missing me while I am gone. At the end of the day, before I shut my eyes, he is the last thought that goes through my head and the last prayer that leaves my heart is for God to keep watch over him through the night. Being a mom is SO MUCH MORE than giving birth to a new human, and I learn that more and more each day.

In the Beginning...


 There were a few years after Prince Charming and I got married that I wondered if I would ever feel the desire to be a mommy. Unlike many of my friends who got married and started having babies within a year of saying "I do," or at least started trying within a year because they had caught baby fever, I found myself just wanting to be selfish. I wanted Prince Charming all to myself. I wanted Friday nights that I could stay up as late as I wanted and Saturday mornings that I could sleep in as late as I wanted. I wanted to be able to plan a trip to the beach on a whim or head to Mississippi to spend a couple of days with my sister if I felt inclined. I knew from the get-go that a baby would change all of those things (boy, was I right), and I didn't know if I would ever want to give up those things.

Everything Changed...


Step in that fateful night in November of 2012...the night that a cotton-mouth water moccasin had made its way into our backyard with our two Jack Russel terriers, Desmond and Molly Jones. Molly was almost four, and Desmond was about to turn three. Molly Jones was my and Prince Charming's first baby; the dog we were freely gifted as a puppy by our Rongey friends. Both dogs were bitten, and while Desmond thankfully pulled through, Molly Jones lost her life within 36 hours of the incident. My heart was broken...into a million pieces...like...couldn't get up off the chair in the den for 48 hours broken. I grieved for her so hard that all I could do was lay in that chair and cry until I fell asleep. Then, I would wake up and cry some more. It was a vicious cycle. Prince Charming just stayed in the chair beside me to grab me every time I woke up and was overtaken by the sorrow again and again. I missed two days of work; I was such a wreck. The sweet little dog who had loved us so faithfully was gone after just four short years together. People were so gracious and kind to us during that time, and many would ask if we would get another dog to replace her. The thought was completely alien to me...replace Molly? Not possible. She had, no less, left a hole in my heart....a hole that I knew no other pet would ever fill...a mommy hole. It was in December of 2012 that I told Prince Charming that I thought it may be time to have a baby. We decided that although we wouldn't actively try, we would stop actively preventing in January.

God's Gift...


Fast-forward to March 2013. Prince Charming and I found ourselves having to go to Mississippi to attend a funeral for a relative. My (only slightly older) cousin had been tragically and unexpectedly killed in a terrible car accident, and we spent a few days in Mississippi grieving with family and friends. While driving home, Prince Charming and I stopped in McComb to grab some dinner. While waiting for our food to arrive, I was watching the sweetest little young family having dinner. Seeing how much the sweet little toddlers loved their mom and dad, I looked at Prince Charming and said, "I think I am ready to be a mommy." When we finally made it back to the house, I felt emotionally and physically drained and had to work the next day. Deeda had left some sleep aid medicine at my house, and I decided it would be a good idea to take some to help me rest. It occurred to me that since we were no longer preventing pregnancy, it would probably be a good idea to take a pregnancy test before I took the medicine just to confirm that I wasn't pregnant. Thank God He lay that precaution on my heart. I have never been more surprised by the appearance of a pink line in my life! And we aren't talking waiting a minute to see if it appeared...we are talking going on the stick and "TA-DA!"...pink line. I was in shock...I wasn't taking this test to see if I was pregnant because I certainly didn't have any inclination that I was...it was supposed to just be a confirmation that I could take the sleep aid and crawl into bed. Instead, I heard God's voice saying to me, "This is why you had that feeling in McComb. You feel ready to be a mommy because I am making you ready." My God is amazing, awesome, personal, and loving. He knew from the foundation of time this moment was coming, and He had given me a glimmer of hope that I was ready for what was to come because He would be with me.

Thus began my education in pregnancy and mommy-hood. These posts will feature some of the important things that I have learned and experienced, and am still learning and experiencing, as I go and Eli grows. Feel free to post questions or comments but know that nothing negative will stay on my blog. Everyone's experience with pregnancy and motherhood is different and unique because every mommy and baby is different and unique. I would never even slightly claim to know everything by any means. I only pray that some of these things will help ease the mind of a new mom by showing her that she isn't alone. So without further ado, let's get started:

Photograph by TJMohr Photography

Things I Learned (Or Experienced) While Pregnant with My First Baby


The Experiences and Insight from My First Pregnancy

1. Thoughts and Feelings Change Often


We are talking change as in many times a day...an hour...ok maybe a minute. But seriously, so many thoughts started running through my head from the moment I found out I was pregnant. Fear was one of the first things that would pop in now and then. I had known a few moms who had experienced miscarriages or still births, and I was afraid of going through this myself. Thankfully, I was constantly reminded by my husband, my small group, and my family that God is Sovereign and in control and that no matter what happened, He would provide for me. That is the greatest comfort I could ask for, and it helped combat the fear when it would creep in. But fear isn't the only thing that started cycling through my mind. There was joy, worry, excitement, wonder, insecurity, urgency, curiosity...there were checklists and to-do lists and planning...no two days were exactly the same, and that is ok. One day I would completely doubt my ability to be ready for the changes that were bound to come by becoming a mommy, and the next day, I would be overjoyed at the thought of becoming a mommy. Let yourself feel it all because once that baby gets here, this emotional roller coaster will kick into high gear, so let your body and mind prepare themselves for it by experiencing each feeling as it comes. Some things that are helpful are having a strong support system to lean on. For me, that was Prince Charming, my family, and the women in my church. Also, don't let yourself get stuck on dwelling on the negative feelings that WILL occur. Fears, doubts, anxiousness, frustration...all of these things are bound to happen but don't let them overtake you. While it is good to let them happen, it is best to work through them. Staying stressed out or upset isn't good for you or your incubating little one. Talk to someone, go for a  walk, call your doctor (they are usually more than happy to help assuage your fears and give you peace), pray, relax, and/or have a good cry. Your body is doing something amazing and miraculous...its ok to ask for help or take some you time.

2. Your Body is Not Yours Alone Anymore


One of the most amazing, confusing, wonderful, scary, and awesome things about being pregnant is experiencing your body become the life support system of another human being. From the moment of conception, your body starts working to do all it can to provide for and sustain the life growing inside of it. This can be uncomfortable at times, but it is so worth it! No one told me ahead of time that it can be painful to feel your muscles stretch out to accommodate the baby growing in your belly, but when I would say I had felt a "sharp pain in my groin area" other moms would say, "Oh, yeah, that is normal." Why doesn't anyone mention that there can be normal pain associated with carrying a baby? I don't know...some pain is normal. Don't get me wrong, if you experience any pain at all that you can't explain or that makes you worry...talk to your doctor. Again, they want to help you be as comfortable and peaceful as possible during your pregnancy. But do know that if you have aches and pains associated with your changing body, you aren't alone. Discomfort isn't the only reminder that your body is not your own. You will most likely get a dark line from your belly button to your pelvic bone...maybe even longer...as your hormones change. You may grow hair in places you haven't grown hair before...(don't worry...it will most likely also eventually go back to normal when your hormones balance back out), and your skin may be gloriously clear and glowing or red and broken out. Your hair may change, your nails will grow, and you may or may not feel like you have a terrible stomach bug 24/7. But all of this is totally worth the work being done inside of you, and it pales in comparison to the astounding, marvelous joy of seeing your baby born. These moments of discomfort will be nothing more than a distant memory before you know it, so hang in there momma. Your baby depends on you and your body for safety, health, and comfort.

3. Your Growing Body Will Probably Receive Unsolicited Comments


I wish I could tell you why it is so, but it seems your growing body will receive comments from people that they wouldn't under normal circumstances feel are appropriate to say. One night, while walking up to church for dinner, one of the elderly ladies in our church said, "Look at that fat belly. You are just getting fat, fat, fat!" This was not, by any stretch of the imagination, the only comment like this I received. People seemed to find it perfectly normal and logical to say things like, "You are getting huge!" or "Wow! That is a big belly!" or some other variation. I wish I could say that people mean well when they make comments like this, but I really cannot begin to wrap my mind around what makes a person feel it is ok to make comments like this to a woman who is doing one of the most remarkable, exceptional things that a female human is capable of doing. My typical response would be just to smile and say something along the lines of, "Thank goodness I am growing because that means the baby in me is growing well, too." I mean, come on people...I am growing an entire human being. It is perfectly normal for your belly to grow, and grow, and grow...it would be worrisome if it didn't. Don't let these comments get you down or affect how you feel about your pregnant self. A pregnant woman is one of the most beautiful sights on the planet. It is life bearing life, and it is a miraculous, wonderful thing. Don't let the absent-minded, poorly conceived comments of others dissuade you from believing just that.

4. Listen to Your Body and Rest as Needed


I realize that this one sounds completely cliche, but trust me on this...rest is important and only you truly know how much rest you feel you need. In our society, we are taught that not doing something equates to laziness so our schedule should be full of work, personal, and social activities and moments not spent doing something with others should be spent doing something for ourselves...and moments not spent doing either of those things should be spent on social media catching up on and sharing all of our daily events with others. Don't be fooled into believing the lie of distraction; it is perfectly ok to be quiet and still...pregnant or not...but especially when you are pregnant. There were plenty of afternoons that I came home from my job that requires me to be on my feet a majority of most days, and all I had the energy to do was make it to the living room sofa to plop down for a nap or just to veg out. My husband let me know early on that it was ok for me to do whatever I needed to do to take the best care of myself and our baby as I could, so that is what I did. My only regrets are the times that I should have stopped and skipped out on something because I needed to rest and didn't. These moments aren't so easy to come by after baby arrives, so take advantage of the time you can find to rest and relax.

5. Working Out Incessantly is NOT a Necessity


Don't get me wrong here; it is important for you to do some sort of physical activity, as your body and pregnancy will allow, each day. For me, that simply meant taking a walk a few nights a week (weather permitting) with Prince Charming around the neighborhood. And we aren't talking power-walking or speed walking...just a normal paced walk around a few blocks. I have heard stories of women who participate in all sorts of strenuous workout regimes up until the day they go into labor...and more power to you if that is what your body is telling you to do...but don't feel like you need to do this so you can quickly bounce back to your pre-pregnancy shape and size. Our culture, thanks largely in part to the ever unrealistic ideals of Hollywood, seems to now expect women to be fully recovered and back to normal within a week or two of birth. Are you kidding me?!?! Your body has just done one of the most amazing, challenging, and taxing things on Earth, not to mention that you are now adjusting to being the caregiver of a brand new baby 24/7. It is ok to give yourself permission to take things slowly. I remember at my two week check up post birth, my doctor asking how I was doing. I made mention of how my stomach felt squishy, and he kindly said, "Yes. You can probably expect to have that feminine pooch from now on. It will get smaller, but it will always be there. Unless you are a mom in Hollywood...I don't know what the crap they do." Haha! I love my doctor. All that to say, there was a reason that old statues of women had that beautiful curve across their lower abdomen. This wasn't a characteristic of shame or embarrassment. It was a rite of passage; a symbol of glory; a trait of womanhood. Do NOT succumb to the lies that you are less than beautiful, and do not push your body past its limits for the sake of fitting into the world's dumb definition of what is beautiful.

6. Baby Advice Comes a Dime a Dozen


You will have a barrage of pregnancy advice, parenting advice, baby advice, marriage as parents advice, etc. both solicited and unsolicited from this point forward. Take it all in with a grain of salt. No two pregnancies are just alike, so you may experience things in a completely different way than even the people you are closest to. So many times when speaking to my closest friends and family who had been through pregnancy before, they would say, "That isn't how I remember it," or "That didn't happen to me." You know what? It is ok if what you experience hasn't happened to someone you know. You may have trouble sleeping while your best friend was able to sleep like a rock. You might experience morning sickness 24/7 while your mom never felt ill at all. You may crave corn dogs dipped in apple sauce while your sister craved pizza topped with feta cheese, gyro meat, and tzatziki sauce. One blog will say this while another says that...don't drive yourself crazy searching for your pregnancy doppelganger. Send all of the advice you receive and every answer to your inquiries through your own developing mommy filter. Keep what you like and toss out the rest. Everything will fall into place!

7. Make Plans but Be Flexible


Even our best laid plans sometimes work out very differently than we expected. Go ahead and make your plans as best you can: when I will pack the bag, about when the baby will come, who you want at the hospital, the timeline for the nursery, a birthing plan (I never wrote one), etc. Then, be ok with the notion that these things may not go exactly as you planned because the baby in your womb has no idea what you are planning. You may be firm in the desire to have a vaginal delivery, but circumstances may suddenly require you to have a C-section. You might be certain you are having a boy, and you find out you are having a girl. God works in us and through us, and His plans are better than ours. Take heart in the knowledge that even if things don't quite work out the way you would have planned or expected, they are working out exactly the way they are supposed to. In the same way, know that you cannot predict how your checkups will go. I am not the poster child for gestational diabetes, but I sure was diagnosed with it after my first blood glucose test. I went through the entire second half of my pregnancy on a strict diabetic diet to control my glucose levels. I had planned on a pregnancy full of late-night cravings and big plates of awesome shower food, but I had to follow a completely different path for the health of me and my baby. But in hindsight, it was a gift in so many ways. 

8. Surround Yourself with Godly Mothers


The advice and encouragement I received from the women in my church was priceless. It is one thing to go online and read a million different opinions from a million different people about what is best for you and your baby, but it is another thing entirely to have someone who knows you and your faith well to encourage and support you. You see, when someone you know well who is also striving after God's heart gives you advice, it is not with condescension or judgement. It isn't loaded with hidden meanings and subtext or an "I have it all together" attitude because they offer it from a place of grace and love. I never felt pressure from the women I sought advice from one way or another. They would simply and openly share their own experiences, for better or for worse, with me and always follow it up by saying that every baby and pregnancy and parenting experience is different. They encouraged me to listen to my heart and follow my instincts while also sharing with me the path they had taken with their own families. It was invaluable to have this kind of counsel, and I would encourage anyone to seek this type of support system.

9. Take pictures of yourself pregnant...no matter what.


I know this one seems so simple, but I truly am grateful for any pictures I had taken during my pregnancy. Pregnancy is like any other change that happens over time: I saw myself changing each day, but because of the gradual nature of the growth, I didn't truly grasp just how much my body changed during that time. Don't get me wrong...there were definitely days that I noticed my belly sticking out suddenly or how much larger it felt, but I didn't appreciate the amazing gravity of what my body was doing until I went back and looked at photographs of my pregnant self. When I see the images my husband snapped of me before I went to the hospital the night Eli was born, I am blown away at the size of my belly and the fact that it contained the tiny human I was holding just hours later in my arms. It truly is remarkable and awe-inspiring what the female body can and does do to bring new life into the world. Document it...swollen ankles and all! Speaking of swollen ankles...

10. Pregnancy is fleeting...enjoy every moment! (even the not so comfortable ones)


I loved being pregnant. I mean...I LOVED it! It was, by far, one of the most challenging, joyful, overwhelming, phenomenal things I have ever done. Not all of it was easy: having gestational diabetes that caused me to maintain a strictly regimented diet, all of the blood tests I had to go through because of the diabetes, getting really bad swollen ankles the last couple of weeks...not all of it is comfortable: my body was growing and stretching so there were aches and itchiness, I had some "morning" (yeah right) sickness for a few weeks at the end of my first trimester, pregnant women often get gassy (ahem...yep), the last few weeks find it difficult to empty your bladder completely or sleep well, the exams to see if you are dialated (no one warns you just how much it hurts to have that exam...well...it flippin' does!!)...but in all of that, I enjoyed being pregnant. I was able to find joy in my pregnancy even in the hard parts because of the reassurance of God doing a miraculous work inside of me. I was able to smile and feel beautiful despite the swelling and bloating because I had a husband who reminded me every day that I was. And I reminded myself of just how temporary pregnancy is. Even in the moments when it felt hard or uncomfortable...I reminded myself that it was only a matter of months, days, weeks before the pregnancy would be done and (Lord willing) a sweet baby would be in this world because of what my body was doing. I remember late in my pregnancy going to the grocery store and the check out girl asking when I was due. I told her a few weeks, and she said, "You are one of the most beautiful pregnant ladies I have ever seen because you look so happy. Most women who are pregnant just look miserable." I am not saying at all that every moment of a pregnancy is easy or comfortable...and I know that for many women they are anything but...however a pregnancy goes, it is a miracle and you are part of a marvelous, miraculous story that is growing right inside your belly. You are joining the ranks of billions of women who have walked this journey before you. You are blessed to get to do something that some women want with all of their hearts to be able to do but cannot. You are doing something that literally keeps the human race going. You are a walking wonder! Let that be the fire that ignites your joy even when it is hard. Do not take a single second for granted because it is a precious and awesome event.

So...there it is...ten things I learned and/or experienced during my first pregnancy. It is certainly not the extent of all I learned, but it is a start; and I hope it will be a source of hope, inspiration, comfort, or reassurance for someone out there who just wants to know they aren't alone in what they think or feel. Happy Easter, my friends!

In Christ Alone,
Brittney



Sunday, May 11, 2014

Letters to Eli #5

Hello, puddle duck!

Wow! Really? It has been a whole half of a year already since you were born. Time truly is flying at a crazy fast pace. I am doing my best to soak in every single possible moment I can with you in all of your baby glory. And what a sweet, wonderful baby you are! I am amazed every day at how you are growing and learning. You are so good, and you have such a sweet little spirit about you. You only fuss if you don't feel good or are tired and/or hungry. Otherwise, for the most part, you are all smiles and giggles. You make the most precious little faces, and you steal my heart every minute.



Here are some things you do now: sit up on your own, you scoot around on the floor in circles or backwards, and you are getting very close to crawling. You get up on all fours and rock back and forth by yourself. You have even plopped forward a few times. It is bittersweet knowing you are about to achieve this milestone. On the one hand, it is wonderful watching you develop and grow. I love the idea of you being able to go to what you want and make your way around to explore. At the same time, it opens up a whole new realm of possibilities for you to get into something you shouldn't or to get hurt. I guess this is just the first of many endeavors you will dabble in that will cause me this type of worry. You also love to babble now, and you really look like you are trying to talk when you do it. You love to splash and play in your bath, and the running water in the tub fascinates you. You bounce up and down, you give tiny, gentle high fives, and you shake your head no a lot. You are getting close to learning to wave, and I think you are the most precious little thing I have ever laid eyes on. Truly, you bring my heart such joy and wonder...I am one blessed mommy!

Photograph by TJMohr Photography

Yesterday, we went to your 6 month check up, and the doctor says you are doing great! You weighed 19 lbs 3 oz and were 27.5 inches long. You are a big boy! We get to start working towards getting you even more into baby food. So far, you like sweet potatoes, squash, and hummus. You don't like green beans, apples, or pears. Your Nonnie says you don't like fruit because mommy had gestational diabetes, so you weren't used to sweets. I have a feeling you will come around! :)

Photograph by TJMohr Photography

You are still a very good sleeper, although you still tend to wake up once in the night, either early on (around 11) or in the early morning (around 4:30) to get a dry diaper and eat. I am thinking that once we start giving you more solid foods, that nightly feeding will be cut out. The idea of no longer nursing is also bittersweet. While I look forward to the freedoms that not nursing brings, I am certainly going to miss the bonding that it facilitates. I feel like it is such a part of our relationship, and it even feels like part of my identity now. No matter...we will strive on. I hope that you adjust ok to it as I am sure it will be a bit hard on my heart. No phase in your life, no matter how sweet it may seem, is meant to last forever. These years, days, even moments are all so fleeting. I try to enjoy them while I can, and I try to avoid questioning and beating myself up over every little thing I could be doing differently. You are a wonderful baby, and I couldn't ask for anything more.

Photograph by TJMohr Photography

I love you so, son, and my prayers for you continue to be the same. The greatest of them all is that you are one day, sooner rather than later in life, called on by God to belong to Him. I cherish you; I treasure you; and I adore you with every fiber of my being.

Photograph by TJMohr Photography
In Christ Alone,
Mommy