One month of being a mom

I’ve been a mom for over a month now. It seems so odd since I’m currently sitting in my bedroom alone, the beau at work, pumping to give my daughter breast milk to make her strong. No cries in our home. Nursery still isn’t done. Heck-we haven’t gotten the first bit of furniture. But I’m a mom. 

But what I know-and what I was taught by experience-is how to be a caretaker. To call the hospital to check in every night. To build relationships with the nurses and doctors. To know sometimes sleep and self care is just as important-and necessary-to survive. 

I learned all those things from my mom. She was teaching me about motherhood all along. 

What I also know is that God has given me more than a glimpse of his faithfulness in sweet June. Not only has she been a rockstar growing in the NICU, but she gives me a little glimpse of my mom every day. Countless Friends and acquaintances–some who only knew her through social media pictures- have commented on how June resembles my mom. 

  

Her wide set eyes and the bridge of her nose. Her little delicate eyelids and those sweet little forehead wrinkles all scream my mom. 

What I also hear them saying over and over is that God is real. I’ve always been a believer of God when I look at creation. The trees, wind, mountains and waves of the ocean beckon me to believe that God is real and he is who he says he is. But looking at these pictures,  I have to believe even in those moments when I doubt (and believe me, I still have those moments) because I can’t look at those faces and say God doesn’t exist. God is tenderly carrying me through this season of grief and celebration. Fear and faith. Questioning and belief. I’m clinging to belief and faith and celebration. God has been too good to us not to believe. 

Maybe you’re in a season of grief and fear and questioning. It’s ok. Just know beyond it all God loves you. 

And if you want to dive more into who God is and why we believe,  join me for. Study of the Nicene Creed with the new IF: Gathering app. www.ifgatheringapp.com

  

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7 months

The last seven months have honestly been a blur. I’m sharing this as apart of my own healing, journey and testimony so please don’t think this as a pity post. This is a celebration of what we have overcome with God by our side. 

The Beau and I were walking down the hall to the NICU to see our daughter the other day recollecting all the has happened since late July and it was like each event was a sucker punch to our life that still leaves us reeling at times. But as we’ve stood and caught our breath, we also realize just how fortunate we are to still be standing. Even if we’re walking down this hallway.

   
We decided last spring that it was time to grow our family. A steady nursing job for the Beau had been secured, we were making progress on house renovations so we decided to keep moving forward on those hoping that we would be well finished before a little one would come along.

On a steamy Friday in late July we got the call that Lew’s Granny had a massive stroke with a bleed on her brain. She passed away about 24 hours later.

In August, Lew took me on his dream cross-country road trip. We drove to Seattle and back in 10 days. We got home on August 12th and I took a positive pregnancy test. We could not have been more thrilled.

  
September brought the start of school and the first trimester. I was so fortunate to not be sick, just a lot of weird stomach cramps, food aversions and exhaustion.  But we could not have been happier. We told our parents on Labor Day weekend (fitting right?). Taking his parents to eat at the Smokey Valley Truck Stop before it closed and visiting with my Mom in the nursing home that Sunday afternoon over ice cream. They could not have been more ecstatic!

We shared our news publicly on our 6th wedding anniversary–October 2nd– and were flooded with well wishes from family and friends. It was real. I had made it through the first trimester and had no concerns or complications. We continued to work on the house, start dreaming about our little babe whose gender would be a surprise and move toward the holidays.

  
Late October my Mom went to the ER with some complications in her legs from swelling.  I stayed the night with her as she was admitted and slept in a somewhat comfy chair in what I think are the smallest hospital rooms in the city.  For the next three weeks, we spent nearly every day and several nights by her bedside seeing her health decline, her legs and toes worsen and conversations about amputation of her toes, feet and possibly legs.

  

Three weeks later, on November 13th, the beau and I were headed back in to try and get her moved to UK hospital because we felt there was more going on that we were able to really see. We stopped for a quick breakfast knowing it would likely be a long day and I got the call that her white blood cell count had risen overnight and she was being moved to the Critical Care Unit. We rushed to the hospital and spoke with several doctors, chaplains and a resident from UK that the beau has worked with before. Her body was shutting down. We were able to have clarity on her wishes and I thank God for that daily. She did not want surgery. She did not want to be revived. She did not want to be vented and have a machine breathe for her. Around 4:30 that afternoon, she received complete healing as she went to her eternal home. While we were so sad, there was also a sense of relief that her pain and suffering had ended. The next few weeks were a blur as we traveled to Virginia, made funeral arrangements, coordinated her transport from KY to VA, went through the motions of Thanksgiving and eventually headed back to work. It is still hard some days for me to believe she is gone.

  
During this time, I had some increased blood pressures at my OB visits.  I went on medication and we monitored it, but knowing the stress I had been under, it wasn’t much of a surprise.

As I processed grieving, Christmas approached.  My family in Virginia had planned a shower for us so we headed to the Beau’s parents Christmas Day and were planning on leaving early on the 26th for Virginia, Baby Shower on the 27th and then back to the grind the following week. Our Gracie pup was going to make the trip with us.

10 minutes away from their house, we were hit head on as we went through an intersection.

 

I was 24 weeks pregnant at the time. All I remember was screaming “Oh, God! Oh, God! Oh, God!” After an ER visit, lots of time laying on the couch, a vet visit for Gracie, lots of bruising from the seat belt, a visit to UK’s OB Triage, a 4 hour heart rate monitor on the Bebe, some panicked moments, and an additional ultrasound, we were SO fortunate to find out that the babe was fine.  And certainly a fighter.

  
The new year came with lots of insurance paperwork and phone calls, car shopping for a new ride, and navigating back to work.

Before we knew it, we were in the third trimester came and we realized that with all that happened with Mom and the car accident, all our renovations had been put on hold and we had 12 weeks before Bebe would arrive! We got to work and in the midst of all this I was prompted to host a small IF: Gathering in my home the first weekend in February.  At first, I had signed up to host this back in October but only 2 gals had registered so I contemplated cancelling.  However, the day I was going to do so, another 3 gals registered. So we went forward with the plan to host in our imperfect home and 10 of us crowded around our TV to hear amazing truths.  Presence over perfection. My takeaway –who will my domino fall into to impact for the Kingdom?–was threefold.  My word for the year is SAVOR and this ties directly in–I need to STOP doing things.  I need to focus on JESUS and his word and truth, not a million other (all the while GOOD) voices out there clamoring for my attention.  And I need to focus on my little FAMILY and discipling them well–investing in my marriage and our little babe.

  

On February 1st, my OB appointment landed me a really high BP reading so my OB sent me to UK triage to be checked out. After 2 hours, my BP was in the normal range, all my levels came back clear as a whistle. We did some additional testing over the next 24 hours and had a follow up on February 11th with my OB.

On the 11th my pressure was up again and my OB sent me back to triage and wanted a 24 hour overnight observation of me to figure out what was going on.  As I left her office, I asked, “So what happens if my Blood Pressure doesn’t decrease?”

“Well, you’ll be having a baby sooner than you thought.”

I walked back in to the room where Lew was and immediately burst into tears. We had 9 more weeks before her due date. Our nursery was nowhere near complete. I hadn’t had my baby shower. There was still so much to do.

At 1:39 am on Saturday, February 13th, our little June Parker Cracraft was brought into this world by an urgent C-section delivery.  I’ll share more about her entrance into this world here in the days/weeks/months to come when I’m ready to process and share more publicly.

She was 2.2 lbs and 14.3 inches long. She was immediately rushed to the NICU at UK where she’s been hanging out and growing for the past 10 days. She is amazing. Our brave little fighter.  

And her name. We were able to get away for a little baby moon 2 weeks before she arrived and the main agenda was to come up with a name. We had a boy pool and a girl pool and wanted to see how the little nugget turned out (gender and personality wise) before attaching a name to it. June Parker was at the top of our girl list.  After her birth and knowing all she had come through the 7 months in utero–and all that we had come through in that time as well–June Parker was the perfect name.  June after my Mom who was born in June and Parker after the Beau’s best friend Michael Parker who was paralyzed in a kayaking accident in 2007. Two of the strongest people we know. And she’s certainly living up to her namesakes. And my takeaway from the IF: Gathering is coming to fruition a lot sooner than we had anticipated. I get to pray and sing and love on my daughter the way our heavenly father does with us. And it is amazing. Heartwrentching. All-consuming.  Just the way our Father must feel about us.

   

 

Day 5-IF God is Real…

Two years ago I heard rumblings of the IF: Gathering a little over two years ago when my discipleship group (which many of us had journeyed together through Jen Hatmaker’s Seven Study) read this article on Jen’s blog.

We were enticed. None of us went to Austin that first year or even attended the IF: Local here in Lexington. But some of us watched from home. On our own. And boy….were we glad we did.

Seeing the passion for discipleship and the leadership of Jennie Allen and others on the leadership team, I was drawn to the humility, focus on Jesus and not on one individual, and the empowerment and challenge given to us to go into our own communities and build disciples.  What was IF about? Loving Jesus more.

measure of success

Jennie wanted to meet the folks planning local events when she was on the road speaking–so two of us went to Cincinnati one cold December day to have coffee with her super early before she spoke at a Christmas brunch. It was evident she was all about the local church, empowering women to be leaders in those churches and in their communities.

February came around and we hosted an IF local with about 50 women at one of the satellite campuses of our church–folks from all ages and different churches came. With much church support, we kept things simple and pure to point things to Jesus. We had a shoe-string budget, but our hearts and minds were full.  And boy, did things happen. People starting talking. Stepping up and leading. Two women developed a great friendship–as in went on vacation together this summer and are doing a bible study with their husbands.

making disciples

My friend Shannon and I had the opportunity to join with other local leaders for a gathering/training in Orlando about 3 weeks ago.  I’m still wrapping my mind around all that I learned.  All I can say is that I’m glad that this gal who was called into ministry in high school and has struggled with that for years now feels like she has a place.

I’m sure I’ll come back and revisit all the change that has happened in my ministry journey as well as what all was learned in Orlando.

From the words of a gal I’ve been following online:

IF is a beautiful thing…challenging each other to lean into Jesus – to dare greatly, follow Him boldly, and learn what means to live as Jesus lived – together. Community is the most beautiful thing.

Registration for IF 2016 opens today at 11am CST. There are tickets for Austin, but look at where you are–Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, the Northeast, out west, even overseas–there are IF Local gatherings near where you are and I hope that you’ll consider joining one–hundreds have already pre-registered. There’s another gathering this year in Georgetown and I may be hosting one in my home with that early morning crew I’ve been hanging out with.

if gathering

Like Jen said in her article over two years ago, I know women are craving something more–something different. Where we don’t just sugar coat our challenges and put on our Sunday best. We show up in yoga pants and no make-up and look one another in the eye when we say, “I’m struggling.”

That’s what I’ve found with IF. I hope you’ll join me and discover it as well.

Check out my other #Write31Days challenge entries here.

IF: Gathering 2015

It’s been almost two weeks since the IF: Gathering 2015 took place.  I’ve been swirling for what to say in this space and hope to do some justice to the work God has been doing in my head and heart since.

IF: Georgetown, KY

My gal Shannon and I weren’t sure what our IF: Local event in Georgetown, KY would look like. Our group of women from our church who journeyed through Jennie Allen’s Restless study were still Restless at the close of the study. Folks seemed too busy and intimadated to open up their homes to their neighbors, co-workers and friends for a local gathering in their own place. The “Her Knight” event was taking place that same weekend which meant a lot of folks would be preoccupied getting their daughters dolled up for a date with dad right smack dab in the middle of the event. I was doubting that we’d made the right call back in September when I quickly decided that we needed to have our own event in our community rather than partner up with IF: Lexington. Even though it was a mere 30 minute drive–the point was to have a conversation with women in your own community–THIS was our community. So why did we feel so Restless ourselves in our planning efforts? We were still asking this question when we decided in early December to drive to Cincinnati to meet up with other IF: Local leaders and hear from Jennie Allen. Our planning seemed in vain. We couldn’t settle on what to do.

It was in that meeting of introducing ourselves and hearing what other folks had done previously or were planning to do that the answer came. We were sitting right next to sweet Robin from Cincinnati who said last year, they simply opened the doors of their church and invited folks to come and go as their schedules allowed.

IF: Local Leader Meeting-Cincinnati (Sweet Robin in the front to the far left beside Jennie Allen)

IF: Local Leader Meeting-Cincinnati (Sweet Robin in the front to the far left beside Jennie Allen)

That was our answer.

Shannon and I began to work on creating this environment. We invited folks in our own church community and beyond. I shared on social media the beautiful graphics the folks at IF provided. I sent emails to and had conversations with friends whom I felt God was tugging for me to invite. We had an incredibly supportive church staff and community that showed up–from printing programs, allowing for space in the service to announce, men showing up to move chairs and make coffee–they showed up. We created a community on Facebook of registered folks to get to know one another prior to the gathering and share about the speakers and IF leaders as many were unfamiliar all-together with IF. We set up a soup potluck for Friday night so folks who had to work or wouldn’t have time to feed themselves as well as their families could eat (another idea from Robin). I have a supportive spouse who cheered me on and bought me beautiful flowers that reminded him of all the IF graphics he’d been seeing.

flowers from the beau

Thursday night we decorated and tested the live-stream.

Friday I left work early, Shannon’s husband made it home early and we met at the church to finish our prep. It’s come and go so we have no idea how many will come. Around 50 had registered. We were starting at 6pm on the dot. At 5:30, not a soul was there to share a meal.

Shannon and I stepped into the parking lot to clear our heads and pray. We closed our eyes and spoke out-loud prayers of faith–pushing away the doubt that had entered in months before and for me were still present. We believed that God was up to something and had invited us not to be spectators but participants. We opened our eyes to see cars rolling in. My co-worker whom I had invited. Women from our church community. A mentor of mine who showed up with her teenage daughters. More crock-pots of soup and bread and veggies than our tables could handle.

All these seats were filled and then some.

There were barely any seats remaining. We had a few glitches with the Livestream as Austin ended and we had to readjust our feed. It took some time to warm up to worship not being live, but we got there. I stalked the IF: Local tumblr page where the time-stamp lived like a hawk. Conversation breaks were rich and loud. This was our call to believe. I was encouraged when we closed the night at the end of the first session to hear Shauna speak about their meal break and Susie speak so passionately about IF: Table which is right near this hospitality gal’s heart. We left after 9 that night hopeful that folks would return but knowing that Saturday was a such busy day for so many folks, I have to admit that doubt crept back in. I just wasn’t sure how many would make it back.

That night, I stayed at Shannon’s and her girls let me have their room as they slept on an air-mattress in the next room. Saturday morning I cuddled up watching cartoons next to her middle daughter (I’d slept in the eldest’s bed, so I knew that EJ deserved some extra attention–I might be an only child, but I do know a thing or two). We scarfed down eggs, threw on some mascara and ran through Starbucks to arrive only 30 minutes or so before the gathering was to begin. We had barely gotten the technology up and in walked a couple men from our church to assist with coffee and whatever else we needed. A box of donuts from a favored donut shop arrived. Fruit.Trail Mix. More boxes of Kashi granola bars that I’d ever seen (Thank you Kroger for putting them on sale!). And bearing all these treats? Women. Women who said they’d be there the entire weekend. Women who said they’d only be there Friday night. Women who had JUST registered on Thursday. My doubting was in vain. Why don’t we believe?

2015-02-07 12.10.22

Saturday was beautiful. Women came and went. I saw more and more faces of women who said they would only be there Friday and stayed for most of or in some cases the entire day. They left to do little girls hair and were back ASAP. They went home for a bit and ended up watching the Livestream while and home and came back sooner than expected. They jetted off to a little league game and came rushing back. We sang loudly even when there was another glitch with the Livestream. They heard some of their favorite speakers and soaked up truth from women new to them.

For our dinner break, around 15 of us gathered around the table at a local Mexican restaurant and had great conversation. It was an IF: Table. There were no cards present but we talked about the topics that had stirred our hearts. Racial Reconciliation. Why it can be so hard to connect with other women. Breaking down generational walls regarding these topics. What are our thoughts about the uproar regarding yoga pants these days. How do we model our faith to our own daughters? How to we be a light in our workplace that can be quite dark? What is next? How do we believe?

Our "impromptu" IF: Table over Mexican

The last session brought us to our knees and allowed us to think about our next step of faith. Shannon had rocks in glass jars at the front of our space and we each took one and thought about how we would mark this day. What would be our statement of faith? What could happen if we believe?

What could happen for our community if we believed?

This was not the question I was to answer.

No Faith–what could happen for YOU if YOU believed.  

journal

I’ve been rolling around some big prayers in my life lately. I’ve allowed a state of busy-ness to mask dealing with my response to these prayers  A “sabbatical” of sorts was my response. I had the answer to my next step of Faith after IF weeks before the gathering actually occurred. For me to be able to respond in obedience, I needed to be quiet. God had been stirring my heart that I needed to listen. I spent the week between the IF: Gathering and when the Hebrews IF: Equip study began reviewing all the notes I’d taken in my journal. I refused to just write a bunch of heart piercing truths in my cute journal and not apply any of it. Here’s what jumped off the page for me from my notes:

Am I going to live by Faith or by sight? –Jennie Allen

Do I stop valuing the gifts God has given me because they don’t look like others? –Angie Smith

He has no intention of letting me go. His hold on me is stronger than my hold on Him. –Jo Saxton

“How about we start with you?’ -God’s question to Rebekah Lyons

Faith is a struggle.  Am I confident in God or my understanding of God? –Jen Hatmaker

What is the next humblest version of me?Bob Goff

We are only looking at a small portion of our life. God is creating it–even in the parts that do not make sense–all apart of the big picture. –Shelley Giglio

He will prune away things that are getting in the way -Debbie Eaton

My freedom is not just for me but for other people.  “Help my Unbelief!”Margaret Feinberg

Convict me for my full plate.  Do I desire a calling bigger than my character? We have fallen into perfectionism instead of Grace.  HE is the holy restorer. –Ann Voskamp

At the threshold of every transition, we (in our human nature) will have a spirit of fear. The believing life is not about us. Service prepares you for the battle. The call of God is inconvenient. Pursue character. Key to a believing life? Faith which comes by hearing the Word of God.–Hang on to the TRUTH of the word of God.  Don’t waste time on a fight that’s not worth fighting. –Christine Caine

Suffering is a channel of grace into the world. –Laura Sobeich

It’s okay to struggle with faith and show it. Reclaim your true self. Some woman is watching me. They need to see me struggle. Nothing is wasted in God’s economy. –Shauna Niequest

I absolutely love Shauna and her mom Lynne.  Her words were soothing ointment to my weary soul.

I absolutely love Shauna and her mom Lynne. Her words were soothing ointment to my weary soul.

Walk it out even though it’s not working out. Just because your progress isn’t obvious doesn’t mean your faith isn’t working. There is no white flag; don’t quit when you are so close to the finish line. You don’t have to feel it or like it to do it. Results are God’s responsibility. Response and obedience are mine. –Bianca Olthoff

God calls us to the scary and uncomfortable. –Esther Havens

Faith without works is dead.  At the end of my life, do I want to see a slideshow of what I missed? Jennie Allen

Grateful for my teammate Shannon who has welcomed me into her life and this woman who so richly invests in her people.

My next step?  I’m heeding to the words of 1 Timothy 6:6-8: “The devout life…is the rich simplicity of being yourself before God.”

God is calling me back to the rich simplicity of being me.  The one He so delicately and carefully created. My “devout life” is cozying up in His word and camping out for a while. I want to be confident in God alone. I don’t want anything of my hands to get in the way of what God is doing in me or in others. Yes, Faith without works is dead. But complete reliance on works is paralyzing.

I want the women who came to our Gathering to walk away astounded and drawn to God for no other reason but that they feel the yearning to believe.

A piece of my gifting of hospitality is grounded in the ability to create environments and spaces that are welcoming and allow for people to be their true selves. I believe that is one reason I was so drawn to what the the IF: Gathering is about. IF: Equip, IF: Table and the gathering itself creates an environment. And while creating these environments might be apart of the work I am to do in my own place and in my own home, no amount of creating can substitute for the tug of the Holy Spirit on one’s heart.

So with that, the day after the gathering ended, my sabbatical commenced. No more creating. No more doing. No more facilitating conversation in the Facebook group. Resting. Believing. Listening. Getting cozy in the word. Responding with scripture rather than frustration or fear or hurt.

My next step…

Trust and Obey that the Lord is Good.

Trust and Obey that the Lord is Good.

I hear the chains falling…