Category Archives: life happenings

{welcoming our baby girl}

Hello to each of you from my little corner of the web. I hope you are well amidst the craziness that seems to be growing with each passing day here lately. <3 We have had so many changes over the last few months, and I can't wait to share about them all soon, but first, I want to introduce our sweet daughter, Miss Esmeralda Mae:

I found out that I was pregnant with her two months after my second early pregnancy loss, and had a hard time at first even comprehending that I was pregnant. I *thought* I might have been because the nausea set in even before getting a strong positive pregnancy test, but I was still somewhat in denial and scared to get attached if I was going to have to say “goodbye” again to a baby before getting to meet him or her on this side of heaven.

(On a side note, pregnancy after loss is a unique journey, and one that doesn’t really get easier. It’s amazing how much love you feel for someone that you’ve not even had the opportunity to meet- each of my 4 children (both the two here with me and the two in heaven I haven’t met yet) are so special to me, and I love them more than words can say. )

When I got a bold test line and a positive digital, Daniel and I texted and surprised my parents with these photos:

The pregnancy started to become more real at this point, now that other people knew about it and the nausea/all-day sickness was steadily worse. The interesting thing is that the first trimester of my pregnancy with Esmeralda was an all-day, all-out nausea and vomiting event, and the rest of the pregnancy, I didn’t have any issues with it at all. With Oliver, I was sick every morning and then good the rest of the day. Each pregnancy is so different!

I was so thankful to get to see baby on the ultrasound with a perfect heartbeat. I remember telling Daniel I felt so much better seeing that the baby was measuring right on target (actually, one day ahead!), and seeing and hearing that sweet heartbeat. <3

We announced to the family on Thanksgiving. I made Oliver a “big brother” shirt to spread the news! ๐Ÿ˜€

It wasn’t too much longer after that, when we went to the anatomy scan, and had confirmed what Daniel and I felt very strongly already- we would be welcoming a baby GIRL to the world this time! The pregnancy with her had been so different than the one with Oliver. We both just knew that it was a girl. I don’t know how, but we did. We went back to my parent’s house to pick up Oliver after the appointment, and did a gender reveal by letting my younger siblings unwrap a sleeper that said “little sister”.ย  Everyone was so surprised and excited!

Now that we knew *who* she was, it was time to let everyone know she was on the way. ๐Ÿ™‚ We posted some photos and video, and formally announced her impending arrival and her name. <3

Things went fairly normally through the pregnancy up until the late second trimester, and then third trimester.

I was keeping a pretty normal schedule, and was enjoying as much time in our pool as I could, because that took away a lot of my joint pain and varicose vein pain.ย 

I began to get this feeling that I wouldn’t be making it to my due date, and the nesting kicked in full-force. We got her nursery put together. Diapers were stockpiled, and baby girl clothes started filling her dresser. I also started collecting ALL THE BOWS. No shame here.ย  ๐Ÿ˜€

One of the most difficult things was trying to round up clothes for her because so many stores were closed with the Covid stuff! I ended up buying most of her things from online sales and consignment groups. I am so thankful for technology and being able to do that, because she would be wearing big brother’s clothes otherwise!

Towards the end of the third trimester, I was really beginning to not feel well at all. My blood pressure was starting to go up, and I was having a lot of sacral nerve pain, in addition to the varicose vein pain, and just general pregnancy soreness from contracting. I also found out around this time that the hospital covid procedures were not going to allow for more than one support person and no visitors, and that there would be testing procedures and so many other complications that I didn’t have to deal with for Oliver’s birth. I could tell my stress levels were going up. Everything about the pregnancy/delivery at that point seemed to be spiraling downhill. I remember praying that the Lord would smooth things out because it seemed like the situation was spinning out of control.

Saturday, June 13th at 37 weeks and 6 days pregnant: Daniel and I dropped Oliver off at my parent’s house, and did a mini-date getaway down to Opelika for a car swap meet. The swap meet was a bust, but we did get to go and have a nice meal at Olive Garden, and all the bumpy back roads made me have lots and lots of contractions. I was hopeful that maybe the trip would jump start things off with labor since that did it with Oliver, but it didn’t that day!

Sunday, June 14th: – 38 weeks pregnant and I pretty much spent all day on my birthing ball in what I now think (and the doctor that delivered Esmeralda said as well) was probably early labor. I was contracting every 10-15 minutes, and losing parts of my mucous plug. We went to bed that night and I honestly thought I would wake up with closer contractions and my water broken, but that didn’t happen. The day seemed very long because I really wasn’t feeling well whatsoever.

Monday, June 15th: I texted my mom and told her I just had this really weird feeling like something was about to happen or I needed to be ready for something, and asked for her to pray that I would have discernment with whatever it was. Daniel had taken some stuff to the recycling center that morning and cut his arm pretty bad, so at first, I thought maybe that’s what it was, but the feeling was still there even after we took care of his arm. Later that afternoon, I told my mom I had to go to the grocery store, but I was almost scared to leave my house because I just had this really weird feeling and to please keep praying that I would have discernment and peace.ย  I wasn’t contracting regularly any more, so it didn’t even cross my mind that the feeling might be related to Esmeralda’s impending birth.

Tuesday, June 16th: I went in that morning for my routine doctor’s appointment. The nurse took my blood pressure three times over the course of my appointment time, and each time, it was coming back very high (the bottom number was over 100). The protein levels in my urine were elevated, and my legs had started to swell. My doctor came in to talk to me and told me that she thought I was beginning to develop pre-eclampsia symptoms, and because the numbers were as high as they were, she wasn’t comfortable with me waiting even one more day on this baby to come. She went ahead and checked me, and told me I was sitting at 2cm dilated with a very soft/thin cervix, and baby was at -2 station. She asked if I had everything ready to go to the hospital, and I started crying. Pre-eclampsia had literally been my biggest fear towards the end of the pregnancy, and knowing that I was potentially facing it scared me so badly. My doctor stopped and prayed with me right then, and called the hospital to let them know that we would be coming in that afternoon for monitoring/possible induction if my numbers were all still high. As I was leaving the office, the nurses and staff were all praying over me and reminding me God already had this under control, and that this would be an exciting day- I would be meeting my daughter!

I got in the car and called my mom to let her know what was going on, and to make sure they would be able to get Oliver that afternoon. I sobbed to her on the phone on my entire drive home, and then proceeded to walk into my house and sob in my husband’s arms as I explained to him what was going on. Looking back, I now know that the feeling of “something was going to happen” was God was preparing me for the birth! He was so gracious to allow me to prepare mentally and emotionally in advance by prompting me to pray about it.

Daniel and I discussed some options, and both agreed that we were going to go ahead and request the induction be started when we got to the hospital rather than having to stay overnight for monitoring first. He called his work and let them know that it was baby time, and I got the last few things packed and a last load of laundry washed. I put on this Michael Card CD while we were getting things finished and loaded into the car, and it was so calming and peaceful.

“God shapes every second of our little lives, and minds every minute as the universe waits by; the pain and the longing, the joy and the moments of light, are the rhythm and rhyme, the free verse of the poem of life…”

I also realized that I was contracting again….painful contractions, right at 8-10 minutes apart. I told Daniel that I was actually looking forward to being hooked up to the contraction monitor to see if they would be picked up as real contractions because they certainly felt like it!

When the car was packed and we were loaded and ready, we went and met my parents to drop Oliver off with them. My mom grabbed this last photo of Daniel and I together while I was pregnant:

and then we were off to the hospital! I was noticing that my contractions were getting more and more painful, and that I was feeling much more emotional again.

We got to the hospital, and they checked our temperatures, issued us masks, and let us know that they knew we were coming and they had my room ready! I did have to redo my hospital registration because the pre-registration didn’t make it to them. Oh well. While I was standing there filling out the paperwork, I was contracting so much and in enough pain with those that it was actual difficult to stand there. The reception ladies asked me I needed a wheelchair, but I told them I was really hoping the contractions were helping me move things along a bit before being induced.

As soon as I finished the paperwork, we sat in the waiting area for a few minutes. I remember thinking that I couldn’t believe we were actually there to have the baby- it still felt so surreal!

They took us right back to a room, and I got changed into the lovely hospital gown. The first order of business was running labs- a urine catheter to check for the most accurate protein levels, blood pressure checks over a certain amount of time, and a blood draw to see what all of those levels looked like. The doctor on call from my practice (who actually delivered Oliver) popped in and asked how I was feeling, and let me know they were getting ready to start the monitoring, and that if things looked the same, they would be starting the induction the next morning. I asked him if we could go ahead and get things going right then, and he said if we wanted to go ahead, he was comfortable getting the process started. He went ahead and broke my water, and asked if I wanted an epidural for pain management along with the pitocin drip to get the induction going. I said “yes sir!”, and that I wasn’t planning on trying to deliver naturally this time. With Oliver, it was a traumatic birth with him getting stuck and me laboring at 9.5cm for hours, and I just didn’t want to do that again. I am so thankful I went ahead and got that epidural because it made such a huge difference in how I felt and my recovery afterwards!

At 4:00pm, they checked me and I was at 4cm dilated, and they began prepping for the pitocin and the epidural. I got the epidural around 5pm, and then the pitocin drip was started at 5:30pm. My contractions at this point were 2 minutes apart, but because the epidural was on board, I was able to easily breathe through them. I was still able to chat with Daniel and the nurse who was watching over everything, I was texting my mom to give her updates on what was going on and find out how my big baby (Oliver) was doing, and was able to just rest a bit.

Around 6:30pm, I began feeling so nauseas. The nurse brought me a sprite, but it wasn’t helping at all. The nurse gave me some anti-nausea meds, and then she went ahead and checked me again. It took her a minute, and then she said she would be right back because she wanted someone to check after her (she had only been a labor and delivery nurse for 4 months). While she was gone, Daniel asked what we were waiting on, and I told him basically for my body to open up now that the pitocin was doing it’s thing. Honestly, I was going to be really happy if I found out I had made it to 6cm, because my goal at that point was just to have the baby by midnight….but God had other plans.

Our nurse came back with another nurse who checked me, and said “yep! She’s definitely complete and ready!”. I was so shocked that I just started crying again. I remember looking up at Daniel and saying “we’re about to meet our daughter!”. I was so completely surprised that I had dilated that much in so little time.

It was 6:45pm. They began to gather the birth team and supplies, and paged the doctor. I watched as they flipped the baby warmer on, rolled in the surgical supplies table, and got everything ready, just in awe that things were moving so quickly. The nurse told me that since I was complete and contracting regularly, I could try a few practice pushes to see how things were going while we were waiting on the doctor.

My epidural had worn off just enough to where I wasn’t feeling pain, but I could feel the pressure of where exactly I needed to push. I pushed 3 times with just the nurse, and the last push was so effective that I had started to actually push Esmeralda out. The nurse told me that the baby had a head full of dark hair, to which Daniel and I were like “what??”. We were both born bald, so neither of us were expecting Miss E to have hair at all. I guess all the heartburn I had during the pregnancy really was because she had hair. ๐Ÿ˜€

Since it was clear that baby was definitely about to be pushed out, the nurse asked me to wait if I could before pushing the baby out any further while we were waiting on the dr. I asked if I would be able to feel baby’s head, and the nurse said they could actually bring a mirror in so that I could watch if I wanted to. I asked for them to do that and had the opportunity to see my baby crown. Words simply can not describe what it’s like seeing your child actually coming into the world. I am so thankful I was able to experience that with this birth!

The doctor came in about that time, and 4 pushes later, at 7:25pm (yes, just two hours after the induction/pitocin drip was started!) Miss Esmeralda Mae officially entered the world, weighing 7lbs and 4oz, and measuring 20″ long- just a bit smaller than her big brother was, even though she was born a week and a half earlier! They laid her up on my chest and I just could not stop looking at her. She was so beautiful and chunky…I was in love at first sight.

I literally could not have asked for a better birth. I was able to push effectively, I only had a tiny tear, and I wasn’t in labor for hours on end. The atmosphere was so calm, and because I wasn’t in excruciating pain this time, I felt like I was clearly able to articulate what I wanted and did not want done during the labor and delivery process. I didn’t have to wear a mask while I was laboring. My baby was perfectly healthy and latched to nurse immediately after birth….God was so good in allowing for things to be so very smooth.

Once my epidural had worn off and Esmeralda had been weighed and measured, we got things packed up in the labor and delivery room and were transferred up to our postpartum recovery room. Our postpartum nurse gave Esmeralda her first bath, and we worked on getting folks updated who had been praying over us and the birth throughout the day. The hospital staff also brought us up some box dinners, which was awesome because neither Daniel nor I had eaten much that day, and we were starving!

The next day and a half were just spent getting the typical post-birth monitoring and tests done.

I also tried to grab some “in the hospital” pics since we weren’t allowed to have anyone else there.

We also were brought a special “birth day” cake by the hospital to celebrate her birth. ๐Ÿ™‚

And then we got to go home!

We asked my parents to keep Oliver one extra night so that we could have a night to get settled in with baby, and then they brought him home to us the next day.

He was less than impressed with the baby at first, but he is growing to love her now. He has been a big help taking her dirty diapers to the trash, and helping me wash laundry too. I am confident that they will become great friends as she gets to be bigger and actually wanting to play.

It’s now been about two weeks since she was born.

We are getting settled back into our routines and learning how to juggle two kids under two, which has been an adventure all by itself. Once again, the Lord has been so gracious and the adjustment period hasn’t been bad, and my actual postpartum recovery has been fabulous. I am still in awe that these two perfect little people have been given to me. They are both so cute and sweet, and fill my days with love and laughter.

The Lord is so good to me. <3

{choosing joy amidst Covid-19}

The Lord has provided a rather unique opportunity lately in learning to bloom where you are planted, and to choose joy even in the middle of dire circumstances.

 

Around the globe, there are folks everywhere who have come down with Covid-19; not only causing a massive death rate, but a sense of global panic as store shelves empty and the economy is swirled with uncertainty.

As someone now categorized as “high risk” myself for actually catching said virus, it has definitely caused a time to stop and think about how things are going, and what it could possible mean for my family and those who are dear to me. We are practicing self-isolation as best as we can at the minute. No tuning or teaching piano, or photography shoots for me, and Daniel is going out only to pick up necessities and to go to work.

It has been interesting realizing that staying away from others during this time is a way to very purposefully love your neighbor. Because so many of the folks carrying Covid-19 are a-symptomatic, it is being spread to those most at risk without it even being realized. My heart is burdened for the many, many elderly, immuno-compromised, COPD, high blood pressure, etc. folks both in my life and that I do not know, that will likely be affected by this in some way or another. I am praying God is the Lord of their life and that those who do not know Him will be drawn to Him through this crisis.

My heart hurts for all of those who have lost their jobs, or work, and have no idea how they are going to provide for their family. With so many people working what is deemed as “non-essential” work or services, I know they are grasping at straws to figure out how to pay their mortgage, or even just to get enough groceries for the next few days. I am praying we all keep our hearts and eyes open to see how we can minister to these people as we navigate through this crisis, and that when we recognize a need, we are willing and able to (safely) help fill it.

One of the things that is particularly important is making sure we keep our eyes on the things above, even as things are in mass chaos here on earth. Our God is a God of order, and we will be able to best maintain peace and joy when we stay focused on Him and on the truths found in His word- not being swayed by the circumstances that flow in and out of our lives. We must not live in fear- no matter what happens, the Lord has planned all of it, and He knows already the outcome. In that, we can rest secure. <3

Around New Year’s, I posted on instagram that my big goal of the year was to really focus on making my home a safe haven for my little family and our guests who visit. I want the love of the Lord to exude abundantly, and I want it to be a calm, peaceful place for us to live. It is very important to me to be a homemaker with intention. This season has been a good test in choosing to not drag the extra drama from the outside world into our home, and to continue to focus on making it a place of peace, growth, and safety for my family.

Now that all of my time for the foreseeable future will be spent at home, one of the ways I am “choosing joy” is making time for things that I didn’t make time for before while balancing a schedule of being home AND away from home. I am determined to not only make time for some fun things I don’t normally have time for, but I also want to be able to look back at this time as a time when there was much accomplished around my home and farmstead.

If you are looking for some ideas of how you can fill extra time, here are some of the things I have been working on or will be working on soon:

 

-Today, I pulled out my dusty fiddle case and was able to squeeze in practice time for one of the first times since we moved here almost a year ago. I forgot how much I loved to play fiddle!

 

-I am continuing on with finishing up some web projects I have going for my web clients, and I have a few custom jewelry and vinyl orders that I will be shipping out in the next couple of days. I’m also looking forward to making some new things and getting them actually listed in my etsy shop as well.

-Daniel and I have been busy outside on the farmstead and our orchard is planted, seeds are started to go in the veggie beds that Daniel is finishing building this week, our bees are here and happy, and I’ve gotten quite a bit of weeding done in our flower beds. (Details on all of these projects to follow soon on our farm website.) Seeing how empty the grocery store shelves have been, it has been an important reminder and incentive for us to focus andย  get our farmstead going so that we have our own sustainable source of food that is not dependent on the grocery store each week. A larger chicken coop is in the works in a few weeks so that our ladies have a bit more room to run around.

 

-We’re still working on the inside of the house too. Thresholds for the guest bathroom floor transitions are coming soon, as is our faux fireplace! I can’t wait to share pictures when we start that project.

-I’m getting freezer meals put away for when baby gets here, or for us to eat sooner if needed with the potential for food shortages. It is so nice to see those meals starting to stack up on the freezer shelves!

-I recently finished up a whole-house decluttering challenge with some friends of mine, and it was really eye-opening as to where we were wasting space, and how much extra junk we had that we didn’t use! I am so glad we were able to get that stuff cleaned out and had room to put away some extra diapers and such.

 

-Some of the extra time has been spent really thinking through what Oliver’s daily routine looks like now. At 14 months, he is very busy and needs different activities to keep him busy and out of trouble through the day. I am thankful to have been able to spend some uninterrupted time on that without needing to be distracted running errands and with other out-of-the-house activities.

-Finally getting some reading done, haha! I hadn’t really spent any time reading at all since Oliver was born, and realized I needed to be feeding my brain. It has been nice to see my reading challenge list start to actually fill up on Goodreads!

-Along the same lines of increasing knowledge, the man and I are planning on taking some of the free online classes being offered over the next few weeks. I know for sure that we will be doing some beekeeping classes through the extension office, and Daniel found an engineering class he’s considering doing as well.

-This one seems small, but it’s actually quite big. Playing inspiring, uplifting music throughout the day has been a great way to bring some joy and cheerfulness into our home. Even Oliver knows what it means when I say that Mama is about to turn some music on, and he gets the biggest grin!

-I am also trying to make time to touch base with folks I haven’t spoken with in a while, whether through a quick text, or old-fashioned snail mail. If those notes could bring even a little bit of encouragement to someone having a rough day, than that would be wonderful!

My dear friends, wash your hands, maintain social distancing, and choose joy. Prepare wisely, love your neighbor, and don’t live in fear. Enjoy the way the sky lights up as the sun rises and sets. Take in the sights of the bees dancing from flower to flower. Feel the warm spring breezes blow through your yard. Soak up the precious extra time you are getting to spend with your family. Sip that first bit of coffee and enjoy all the little flavors and the gentle aroma coming from your mug. Listen to the birds singing, or a favorite song, or ask for suggestions for new tunes. Write letters to the elderly stuck in nursing homes unable to receive visitors. Learn a new skill. Learn to listen instead of talk. Pray for our leadership as they are having to make hard decisions. Be a servant to others, rest in Jesus, and wash your hands. <3

{a tribute to my grandfather}

My Grandaddy fell unexpectedly ill a few months ago. He bravely fought a horrible infection, until it became clear that he was not to be long on this earth.

When I think about the day he died, I feel a sense of peace, although it is so, so hard. There are so many things I am thankful for. He didn’t have to linger in pain or suffering. The Lord graciously answered a prayer in allowing him to be moved from a horrible hospital into one that did all they possibly could do to save him and help him to heal. Every single person we encountered there were so very gracious and so tender in their care. I saw nurses fight tears themselves as they poured their lives out for others- it was amazing.

I got to watch my parents work as a beautiful team. I’ve always admired the relationship that they have. They are married, but they are best friends too. I saw the tender looks pass between them as they comforted each other while watching my grandfather decline. I watched my dad be such a strong rock as he watched his dad slip away. I am so grateful that God allowed my dad to be home so much over this summer so that he could spend the time with my grandfather. When Daddy couldn’t be at the hospital, my mom was there. She sat there day after day overseeing what was going on and caring for my grandfather as if he was her own father. Watching the love and care radiate from her was so beautiful that it made me cry. My grandfather called her “his assistant” the entire time he was at the hospital. He called her his daughter, not his daughter-in-law, for as long as I can remember. He acted as a father figure in my mom’s life, and loved her as if she was his own. <3

They called the family in on September 9th, and let us know he was slipping away. We were able to go and be with him through that entire day. Once again, I was so impressed with the care of the nursing staff who were tending him. They were so gentle and careful, and were doing everything they could to make sure that he was comfortable.

At one point, a lady came in and played music on her guitar and sang to him. I will never again hear “on the road again” and “walk the line” without remembering this day. The calming presence that settled over the room was such a marvel to me. This particular experience was a realization to me that it is important I use my music as a ministry to others. I am praying about how to put that in place.

As the hours passed, more and more family arrived and surrounded his bedside. I am thankful for technology that allowed us to webcam with extended family who weren’t able to come.

Later on that evening, he slipped away to heaven to join my grandma, my great-grandparents, my precious babies, and so many other dear ones, surrounded by those who loved him most. I can’t imagine a more calm and peaceful homecoming.

I’m at the point in the grieving process where it still seems so surreal, and then when reality kicks in, it hurts so badly that it catches my breath. Thanksgiving and Christmas, and so many other things will not be the same without him here to be with us. I know that it was his time, and that the Lord’s ways are higher than ours, but that doesn’t make it easier for those of us who were left behind.

The most important thing that I want to mention is that we experienced the Lord answering a huge prayer. We have prayed for my grandfather’s salvation for many, many years. We’ve been burdened over his heart and not knowing where he stood on things. As it was becoming apparent that he was slipping away, I shared with some close friends and my church that the thing that was burdening me the most was the fact that we didn’t know if he had a relationship with Christ. My dad was able to discuss it with him over the weeks they spent together at the hospital and he made a profession of faith. I am humbled by the Lord’s mercy and provision.

My dad asked if any of us might like to share at Grandaddy’s funeral. I’m going to conclude this post with a slightly edited version of what I read at his funeral. <3

 

My Granddaddy has always been a special and important part of my life. One of my earliest memories of him was from when I went to visit at his and Grandmaโ€™s house, and he asked me what kind of cereal I might like for breakfast. He gestured up to a shelf in their kitchen where there were at least 10 different varieties of cereal. I can remember just being so impressed as a little girl that anyone would have that many kinds of cereal on hand and ready to go.

As years passed, Grandaddy continued to be a strong and steady, yet gentle and humble man in my life. I am so thankful that God blessed me with him. The care and work that he and Grandma poured into my dad has been something that has blessed me for all of my days.

Grandaddy loved family. When we would have our big family get-togethers, like any good southern family, we always had a lot of food, and to make cleanup a bit easier, we always would use disposable silverware and plates. He would always take whatever silverware he used and put it in his shirt pocket to take home. After several years of him doing this, I finally asked him one day what he did with all the silverware. He told me that he takes it home, puts it in a jar, and that every time he looked at the jar full of spoons and forks, he remembered the happy times of getting together and enjoying good food. My mamaโ€™s mom taught me to make deviled eggs when I was around 9 years old. Her reasoning? She knew Granddaddy and Daddy loved them, and thought it would be a perfect way for me to have a holiday โ€œsignature dishโ€. Even now that I am married, I bring deviled eggs for Grandaddy and Daddy (oh, and the rest of the family too!), to all of our holiday get-togethers.

 

Grandaddy loved chocolate, and he never, ever turned down dessert. My family so loved feeding him when he would come over. Never have you seen someone so excited for a home-cooked meal.

My love for John Phillips Sousa and vinyl records surely comes from him, as does the love of cheesy jokes. He passed his sense of humor on to my father, who passed it down to me. I so loved bantering back and forth with him once I was old enough to know how.

My grandfather was an honest, hard-working man. Life was never given to him on a silver platter, and yet, he never complained. He simply did his day-to-day tasks, and did his best to help others whenever he was given the opportunity. Even on his deathbed, he was saying โ€œthank youโ€ to the folks around him as they tended him. Iโ€™ve met only a handful of people as humble and gracious as he was.

Grandaddy was also a father to the fatherless. Watching the relationship he and my mama shared, and seeing him step in as a father figure in countless other situations, has been absolutely beautiful to observe. Throughout my entire life, he has always helped others.

He loved babies and children. Whenever he found out I was in labor with my firstborn, Oliver, he came up to the hospital fairly quickly and stayed there until we were settled into a room. He was so excited about the generations continuing to go forth in the family. Growing up, I can remember that each time one of my siblings would arrive, he would always come up to the hospital to meet the new little one. Babies were always so calm and collected with him- I think they knew they were well-loved and safe in his arms. Some of my very favorite photos we have of him were taken of him holding his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

I can remember calling him when my husband and I had the date finalized for our wedding, to let him know what time we were holding it and what the dress code would be. We had a casual, backyard wedding, so when I told him the dress would be casual, I remember him saying that he approved greatly- it would be a nice, comfortable wedding! I couldnโ€™t stop giggling when I got off the phone.

He has always come to every event, every milestone, every graduation, every choir performanceโ€ฆif we were on TV, he was watching and recording it. He made it very clear that he was proud of us and loved being a part of our lives.

He always got the softest, sweetest look in his eyes when he would talk about Grandma. You could tell that even many years later, she still had his heart. He remained faithful to her and her memory for all of his days. Their marriage was a beautiful example of lovers and best friends. Looking back through the old pictures of them over this past week has made my heart smile so big. When he talked about passing from this life into the next, he spoke so much of going to be back with his Jeannie again. He loved her so very much. Watching that love play out over the years,has been absolutely beautiful.

As I think back over the years that Iโ€™ve been able to spend getting to know him, I know I am truly blessed. I know that his legacy will continue to live on through his family. I am thankful for all of the memories I have of him- I will treasure them close forever. Iโ€™m so, so very thankful for the extra time I got to spend with him as he passed on from this world into heaven. Even though the circumstances were not what I would have wished, God was so very gracious in giving me the time.

I love you, Grandaddy.

{it’s been a while}

I’ve felt the urge to come and write here once more so many times over the last few weeks, but when I would sit down to actually start, the words would fail to pour from my fingers. Sometimes, it takes a while for me to be able to put into order everything that has happened. In the case of our lives, there have been so many major life changes that I hardly know where to begin.

It has been a year of life, loss, and new beginnings. That is for certain. Rather than try to cram everything into one post, I’m going to slowly start catching things up with several different posts.

{simple joys}

“All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

The clock of life seems to be ticking ever faster these days. One day flows into the next, and I’m never sure of just how life flies by with more expediency as each moment passes.

I’m watching my tiny son grow up. Though he is but a little babe; a man-child now, already I see the stirrings of the grown man he will be one day. The firm set of his brow when he is deep in thought, and the determination he is using to become more independent and mobile. The days are long, but the years are short, and I know it will be but a brief time he will be in my home with me before he flies our nest and builds one of his own.

I’m thankful for this season of rest the Lord has provided for me. Through the hard work of my husband, I am able to stay here and feather our nest and care for our little boy. It has been a welcome reprieve from the craziness of working, and balancing night shift and other life changes. God knows what we need when we need it.

I find myself admiring the beauty in the simplest of things…

The way the silverware looks in the drawer all clean and shiny.

The way the sunshine streams in through the front door in the afternoons.

The fresh smell of Oliver’s laundry all washed and ready to be folded and put away.

The way the banana muffins look as they come out of the oven…hot and gooey with chocolate-y goodness.

I’m thankful for how God continues to reveal Himself as we’ve been praying through some major life decisions. We’ve got our laundry list of things that we are hoping to accomplish and work towards, and at the end of the day, God is faithful. He continually leads us right where we are to go, and firmly shuts doors that we are not meant to walk through.

I’m so thankful for our simple, and joy-filled, quiet life. Life is such a precious gift- may I never take even one minute for granted.

We have some catching up to do…

I’ve sorely neglected my blog over the past few months. Life has just been extra crazy and finding time to write is often-times few and far between. I figure I’ll just start from where I left off, and blog around the pictures as I find them.

December brought lots of health challenges. God is so faithful, and He continued to show His hand at work through the good, and the bad. We are so thankful that each and *every* His mercies are renewed. Great is His faithfulness. <3

December 1st was the Christmas parade in Centreville. This is always a lot of fun for us and a highlight of the Christmas season for my family! This year, Daniel got to join in for the first time, and that was especially wonderful as well. ๐Ÿ˜€

Setting everything up:

Darby was a little Christmas elf! <3

Parade lights through the fog:

One of the things that I love about the Centreville parade is that they always take the parade route up right in front of the nursing home, and they bring the residents outside and bundle them in blankets so that they can see the parade. It brings tears to my eyes every single time. <3

 

Next up was my birthday- my very first since getting married! The first week of December had been a particularly difficult one for me for many reasons. I actually told my mama that I just wanted to forget about my birthday and move on for the year…I’m so glad my mom and husband knew better. ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Mama and I went out for breakfast, and she brought me birthday ice cream! I so enjoyed getting to spend the time with her for a little bit.

Daniel took me out for dinner and then for a fun evening of bowling! My birthday fell on a Tuesday, so that meant $2 bowling games and $2 shoe rental! Perfect timing, that deal was. ๐Ÿ˜€

All in all, I am so thankful that the Lord chose to allow me to see another birthday. He is so merciful and good to me in all ways. <3

Next up was the first snowfall we have experienced together!

Isn’t he just the cutest thing ever? I love him so much. <3

I absolutely loved seeing everything bathed in white…we don’t get snow very often in Alabama, but when we do, we sure do love seeing how beautiful everything is covered in snow.

We began attending a new church a few weeks after getting married. It just became very obvious that the Lord was moving us on from the church we had been attending. So, we visited a couple of different places, but ended up settling down in the sweetest little church that is quite close to us. One of the things we love about this church is their heart for reaching the community for Christ. A week or so before Christmas found us passing out candy and tracts to the local community at another Christmas parade.

Afterwards, we went and looked at the Christmas trees on the Tinsel Trail at the West Blocton Coke Ovens park. Everyone did such a great job with their trees!

It was also high-time for us to get our Christmas decorations up. Daniel had the coolest idea for the Christmas tree….

We are STILL having folks come and make comments about how cool that tree was! I’m so thankful for my imaginative guy…he makes life so much fun. ๐Ÿ™‚

Some shots of the inside:

The sibling gifts were my idea…these were just too good not to do. ๐Ÿ˜€

And Daniel made this Christmas card holder for me!

These Christmas cards have a really special meaning to me. It’s a very tangible display of how the Lord shows us love in amazing ways… I had told Daniel I didn’t think we would get very many Christmas cards this year, because we were newly married and most folks don’t have our address. Christmas cards have always been one of my favorite things to look at and send around the holidays. The next day, I found out from a friend at church that we had been added to the Christmas card list at church, and she brought me a huge stack of cards from the Christmas card mailbox there addressed to us! I am continually amazed at how the Lord works in our lives, in both big and small ways. <3

We had our big family Christmas get-together on Christmas Eve…we ate entirely too much and laughed and cut up and exchanged gifts and just enjoyed the time together. This year was super-special- Daniel’s first Christmas with us! ๐Ÿ™‚

On Christmas Day, Daniel said that we ought to go and drive somewhere and do something…so we did. ๐Ÿ™‚

Mobile was absolutely beautiful, and COLD!! ๐Ÿ™‚

That about does it for our 2017 adventures…. stay tuned for how we started 2018 with our trip across the country to see Route 66, the Pacific ocean, and to find some sunshine!! ๐Ÿ™‚

{on my heart lately}

 

God has been taking us on quite the wild ride of life around the Shevchenko house lately! We’ve been having to work through so many different situations across all areas of our lives- I am so thankful that the Lord already has everything worked out, and we need only to trust Him.

My husband reminds me every few days that we need to trust in the Lord. Trust in His provision, trust in His mercies, trust that He will lead us through every possible situation that comes up. There are so many things that have happened over the past few months, many of which I cannot fathom nor understand. There have been roads we have had to walk that I never would have pictured myself needing to go on. There have been changes in relationships, changes in situations, deaths of people who were dear to me, extreme sickness, and so many other things. I found myself trying to pray over one of the situations a few days ago, and realized that I didn’t even have the words. As I was sitting and contemplating over it, I remembered the scripture verse about the Spirit interceding for us in groans too deep for words…

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose…” (Romans 8:26-28)

I started sobbing thinking about that verse and the fact God already knows what I need. He knows the sorrows and cares of my heart better than I.ย He has been working all things (yes, EVERY SINGLE LITTLE THING!) together for the good of His saints since before time even began. As my husband continually reminds me, I just need to trust Him.

The sermon at church this past Sunday evening was from James chapter 1. More specifically, the sermon was about “counting it all joy”. We are supposed to “count it all joy”. It doesn’t matter how bad a trial seems- we are to consider it to be a time of great joy because the Lord is working in our lives! No trial is ever greater than the grace the Lord provides to us as we are in the midst of it. The passage goes on to say that trials, or the testing of our faith, is what produces steadfastness and patience in us. James elaborates that when patience completes it’s work, we will be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. Patience is one of the things God grows in us through the process of our sanctification. As our pastor pointed out on Sunday, the very best way to grow in patience is to go through a trial. You’re going to realize very quickly if you have any or not. ๐Ÿ™‚

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness (patience). And let steadfastness (patience) have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

Further down in James 1, we come upon verse 12:

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”

The prayer of my heart over the last few days is for the Lord to mold and shape me into the woman who remains steadfast under trial. The woman who says, no matter what, “I fully and completely trust in and on Christ Jesus”.ย 

“Behold, we consider those blessed who have remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the LORD, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” (James 5:11)

May we all seek to be steadfast and earnestly seeking to trust Him more. <3

The Day We Wed

September 8th of 2017 dawned bright and early. It was our wedding day, finally. ๐Ÿ™‚

We had a few unexpected situations happen that morning- car issues, clothing issues- if you can name it, it probably happened! I am thankful that the Lord carried us through, and that all of the last minute details started falling right into place. ๐Ÿ™‚

Thank *you* to all of our family members and sweet friends who pitched in and helped get everything set up and ready to go! My family and several close friends helped finish getting the food together, cleaned up the last couple of things inside, got the decorations finished outside, made sure the littles stayed seated until it was time, directed people down to the eating area, got the cake layers stacked up and that sucker decorated in record time- I will never fully be able to thank everyone as much as they deserve for the incredible feats that were accomplished to pull everything together. ๐Ÿ™‚

2:00 arrived and with it, several of the helpers and the photographers. While I was finishing hair, makeup and such, they went ahead and started taking photos of the area, of my dress, and other pretty little details. ๐Ÿ™‚

 

The wedding programs
 

The dress and the old goat shed
 

The dress hung up from the arbor
 

My bouquet, the boots Daniel sent me from Australia, and my engagement ring
 

My dress, the boots, and the bouquet, artfully arranged in front of the arbor
Once the photographers had finished taking photos of some of the ceremony elements, it was time for me to retrieve my dress back and finish getting ready.

My dear Mama handmade my veil. <3

 

Veil arranging
 

More veil arranging
 

Quiet reflection
After getting the veil arranged and ready, it was time to go ahead and knock out some of the photos that could be taken before the ceremony. I made my way to the back yard to get started….I never realized how heavy my dress actually was until then! ๐Ÿ™‚

 

My girls and I….the photographers told them all to look at me, :p!!
 

That’s better. ๐Ÿ˜€
 

My Mama and I. <3
 

“Joyful Noise”and I- these girls were such troopers and had been practicing the music for our wedding for very nearly a year!!<3
 

Instruments close-up
Once some of those were knocked out, it was time to get the bridal portraits done. ๐Ÿ™‚

It was nearly time for the ceremony to start, so the very last last-minute details were taken care of, and I went back up into the house to wait. At this point, I was fighting tears- there were so many emotions swirling in my heart. I was so thankful to finally be marrying this wonderful man whom I love more than I ever thought possible to love anyone- the one that God had chosen and made *so* very perfectly for us to compliment each other as we traverse the path of life together- better together than apart. <3 On the other hand, I was melancholy at the thought of leaving my family home; of not living day-in and day-out with those folks whom I had been with my entire life. I knew it would be an exciting change, but it was still bittersweet.

Folks were beginning to arrive….

And then it was 4:00, and time for the processional to start. ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Videographers ready to go!
 

Grandaddy and our honorary Grandma, Ms. Ruth
 

Josh, Kylie, Gabriel and baby Derek
 

Meredith and Darby
Now, Jackson had a special mission to deliver a very special note…

 

On the way….
 

Some minor confusion on Daniel’s part because we didn’t rehearse this…he didn’t know it was coming! ๐Ÿ™‚
 

But I think the note made him happy. ๐Ÿ˜€
 

The rest of the family coming down…
 

The guys getting the runner ready!
 

And waiting! ๐Ÿ™‚
The next several photos are of my Daddy leading me down to the arbor. <3

Once I saw Daniel in the distance, the tears ceased to flow. I was walking towards the man of my dreams…my husband-to-be, and we would be getting married in just a few short minutes! No more days of a 10,000 mile separation….<3

And it was time to get started. My former employer and an elder at our church kindly did the opening portion of our ceremony. He and his wife have been very special to me over the past several years, and it made perfect sense that he open the ceremony. This worked out perfectly, as I wanted my dad to give me away and perform the marriage ceremony. ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Please be seated
 

Let’s open with prayer
 

Who gives this woman?
And so, my Daddy proceeded to marry us. <3

And then we shared our very first kiss.

We were finally married!! God is so good.

Now it was time to go to the reception and take the remainder of the pictures that couldn’t be taken before the ceremony. ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Mama, myself, Daniel, and Daddy
 

Grandaddy, myself, and Daniel
 

C and D and Ms Ruth!
 

The couples <3
 

The guys!
 

Family picture try #1
 

Family picture try #2
 

Family picture try #3
 

All the siblings!
Next, it was time to go and cut the cake. ๐Ÿ™‚ As mentioned earlier, Mama and Jess did the cake, and it was so beautiful!

After cake, we slipped away with the photographers to do the couple pictures. <3

Now it was time for the send-off! I had spent hours making bubble wands to use for our reception. They turned out much better than I expected! ๐Ÿ™‚

And we were off!

 

All in all, it was perfect. <3 All of the family was able to be there, the weather was absolutely perfect, the little decorative details made me smile each time I saw them, I was FINALLY marrying my very best friend….it was all so beautiful. I am so thankful for how the Lord made each thing fall into place. <3

My friend, Lydia, did a special highlights video of the wedding that you can watch here:

 

My friends, Sydney and Denalyn, did the photos which were so beautiful!! A big thank-you to them and anyone else I’ve forgotten to mention over the past few posts….we couldn’t have done it without y’all! <3

More about our “honeymoon” adventuring to come soon! ๐Ÿ˜€

~Mrs SuperShevy

Counting Down

Now that Daniel was officially in the country, our 90-day countdown had begun! We had a number of different things to take care of now that he was here, but before we got married.

One fun thing we got to experience together was attempting to view the solar eclipse. Daniel had sent me a special coffee calendar for my birthday last year, and one of the dates I had penciled in was watching the solar eclipse with him. At the rate the visa stuff was processing, we weren’t sure if that was a reality, but were absolutely giddy when we realized he would actually be here!


Solar eclipse day fun….<3

One of the first orders of business was to find somewhere to live. We had been praying that the Lord would open up the perfect door and we would know exactly where it was we were to go. We both wanted to stay in my home county, if possible, so that we could live close to my family and close to the church folks, and that we could stay close to my music students and just be able to continue to participate in the community in general. I posted in some of the local Facebook groups asking about the possibility of places to rent, and received an unexpected message from some friends of ours. They were letting us know about one of their houses they would be willing to rent to us, if we were interested. Daniel spoke with them the following Wednesday evening, and then we went and looked at it a little later that week. It was a perfect little house for our needs, and in the perfect place as well! We spent some time praying, thinking, and discussing it, then Daniel called to let them know we were very much interested in moving forward. After the rental agreement was drawn up and signed, we got our utilities hooked up, and we were given the keys to our first home.

Now that the house hunting was knocked out, it was on to other important projects. But, of course, in typical Lambert fashion, we took some time for goofines amongst all the planning and preparation….


Guess who everyone is!

And this was taken shortly after chicken wrangling with the 4H crew!

But, it was time to get back to business. We started looking at possible wedding dates that would fall before our 90 days were up. Between my dad’s schedule, my brother and sister-in-law’s vacation, and my younger brother’s participation in a national 4H competition, we realized we had two possible days available for a wedding. One was 13 days from when we started trying to pick a date, and the other was at the very end of our 90 day deadline, not leaving much time to file the next set of paperwork.

Could we pull together a wedding in time to try for the earlier date? It was time to find out! ๐Ÿ™‚ Neither of us wanted a big wedding, nor a super-complicated one. My mama had also been very diligent to be working on different things that would be needed for some months in advance, so we already had a lot on hand that would be necessary. My dress had been found and altered last year, we had already gotten many of the flowers, a cake design was in mind, the layout for where things would go in the backyard had been decided, and I had my little music group practicing for many months in preparation for the wedding that would happen “at some point”. ๐Ÿ™‚ There were, however, still a lot of logistical things that needed to be done, so it was time to get to it!

The wedding was to be in my family’s back yard. I wanted an arbor and enough seating back there for our guests to be able to sit during the ceremony. Some friends of ours at a local lumber company blessed me immensely with a deal we could not pass up for the wood elements. The stumps of the benches were from trees on our property, but all of the rest of the wood for the benches and the arbor were from the sweet folks at the lumber company.

My family, Daniel, and another sweet family who attends our church got the back yard all cleaned up and ready for the wedding. Grass was cut, weeds were trimmed, trees were cut down and cleared out, immense clearing was done in preparation for the ceremony and reception areas- it was amazing to see what many hands could accomplish! Here are a few snapshots from getting the area prepped and ready!

In the meantime, I found the most perfect wedding announcements online, and had them personalized and sent. They would arrive with just 5 days to spare until the wedding date! ๐Ÿ˜€

I also designed fans for our guests to use during the ceremony that had the lyrics for “Come Thou Fount” on the back, and spent a few hours fighting with the printer to get them printed. A wonderful lady at our church (an adopted grandmother for Daniel and I), and my friend, Lydia, worked on the finishing touches for the fans, tying the ribbons and getting them glued down and ready.

My mom and sister made the cake- they experimented with the recipe and were baking and tweaking and baking and tweaking for days…it was THE BEST wedding cake I have ever tasted, and I’m not even biased!! ๐Ÿ˜€

Daniel and I went and applied for/received Daniel’s social security number- we were both so thankful that the application process went so smoothly, and we weren’t given any issues whatsoever. I had read horror stories where the process doesn’t always go quite as smoothly, so I was VERY thankful! ๐Ÿ™‚

We also went and applied for our marriage license. It was almost surreal- he was finally here and we were actually doing this and WE WERE GETTING MARRIED SOON!! ๐Ÿ˜€



License in hand!

It wasn’t too many more days after getting our marriage license that Daniel dropped down on one knee and asked me to marry him. <3 <3 <3 He then slipped the most beautiful and perfect engagement ring unto my finger- it was a surreal moment, and one that I will treasure for all of my days. Once again, it was getting very real....WE WERE GETTING MARRIED!! We also went ahead and announced our ring engagement at this time on Facebook.

We were nearing the end of the backyard preparation when it was time for the rehearsal dinner! ๐Ÿ˜€

Everything was so pretty. It was Mama’s idea to do grilled, loaded hamburgers fitting with the more country and laid-back theme of our wedding, and goodness…..it was so so so good!! I don’t have a whole lot of pictures because I was a little busy. ๐Ÿ™‚ My daddy also put together a really sweet look-back video for Daniel and I with photos from childhood on up to then- when we were preparing to get married! We were both crying- it was so sweet. <3 The other funny thing that happened was as we were walking down to the ceremony site to practice the walk, it started pouring rain with lots of thunder! We simply proceeded to practice anyway… memories!! <3 Next up- our wedding day!

New Beginnings

Just thought I would take a minute to say “hi!” while stock is simmering away on my stove in preparation for cooking dinner.

I’m not entirely sure where to begin….my last post stopped where my Daniel and I had both agreed that a formal courtship was where we were headed. We had been seeking the Lord as to where He would lead, and were very comfortable continuing to get to know each other.

His visa waiver expired last September, and he had to fly home to Australia. We planned for him to come back in October, but when he arrived at LAX, they sent him back to Australia. According to the U.S. government, it was too likely that we would get married on the visa waiver, which is not allowed.

With his visa waiver rights revoked, we began a series of discussions with my dad, with our now-lawyer, with other folks who had done international visa processes, and prayed a whole lot! With new information in hand, it was decided that we would pursue a fiancรฉ visa. ๐Ÿ™‚ We became engaged on October 21st, 2016. This caused a bit of confusion for folks who didn’t know what we were doing, because the first question was always “where’s the ring?”, haha! The response I would typically use most of the time is that the country didn’t allow my fiancรฉ in the country to put it on me yet! ;D

Fiancรฉ visas are a bit tricky- they require a LOT of paperwork. Like, a LOT of paperwork. The stack of paper I mailed to Daniel for the interview at the consulate was easily 6″ tall! After you fill out the necessary documentation, you also have to prove that you have a bona fide relationship with the foreign fiancรฉ. This meant that we had to send them copies of all of our emails, texts, phone records, etc., and include photos of us together, letters stating our intent to marry, letters from friends who observed our relationship and knew that we were wanting to get married, etc. It was a LOT of work! We got everything filed in December of last year, and then began the long wait on the government to get their act together.

On April 12th, 2017, we received the news that our petition had been approved!

How we told Daniel that the petition had been approved

It was time to wait on an interview date, which ended up being July 25th, 2017. Daniel was nervous, I was nervous…everyone was nervous. It was the moment of truth….and up to the Australian consulate as to if we would have an approval or not!

After hours of waiting, I got a very happy text from Daniel….APPROVED!! It was time to make travel plans. ๐Ÿ™‚ The only thing I could think over and over again is about how good God is. I will never understand all the reasons why we had to wait on the visa as long as we did, why Daniel was denied entry in the first place, etc. I’m sure there are countless other reasons we won’t know on this side of heaven, but one thing is for sure and certain: God’s timing is best. God leading us together in the first place, God having us both wait to bring us to the point of marriage, God putting together each and every detail before we were ever even born…His timing is perfect. <3

On August 16th, 2016, my baby came back home to me.

There are no words to describe what it was like just to *see* him again, much less to be able to interact in person once more. <3

First photo after being reunited!

We spent the next week or so just enjoying the time together. It was so indescribably good to be back with my darling again. Long-distance relationships are hard. They test every ounce of patience in you. I am thankful for my Lord, who listened to the many late-night prayers and tears shed while praying over the process…I’m thankful for my parents, who would listen to my ramblings and hold me while I cried. I’m thankful for the friends who would text just to make sure I was doing okay, and ask how they could be praying- y’all know who you are, and your friendships are an immense blessing to me.

Now, the fiancรฉ visa had one particular requirement….the U.S. petitioning citizen must marry the fiancรฉ visa beneficiary within 90 days of them entering the country! ๐Ÿ™‚

The next post will be about our marriage ceremony preparation and some of the special things that happened as we were counting down to the big day. Stay tuned!