Friday, February 19, 2016

The Sorcery Code - Review

I recently finished reading The Sorcery Code, by Dima Zales. This doesn’t really fit into my reading challenge list, but I was given the opportunity to review it so I thought I’d give it a shot.

This is a fantasy book about the land of Koldun where those who can practice magic are the upper crust of society and (almost) everyone else is basically a serf beneath them. The protagonist, Blaise, is a sorcerer who would like to change the status quo and see everyone with the ability to do magic. He tries to create an object that will do just that, however, his creation doesn’t turn out as planned, it’s a woman. Gala is born in the Spell Realm and finds everything in the Physical Realm fascinating. She manages to get herself into a lot of trouble as she wanders around, discovering her new world and her seemingly infinite new powers. In the meantime, Blaise works hard to try to keep Gala a secret from the Sorcerer Council, his ex-fiancĂ©e Augusta and her new love-interest Barson, a member of the Sorcerer Guard.

This book had many aspects of a typical fantasy novel with the presence of magic, but the way the magic is wielded is new. It’s only available to the mathematically minded and is sorcerers use spell cards and an Interpreter Stone to connect to the Spell Realm. While I thought the plot was pretty good, I unfortunately didn’t enjoy the characters very much. They weren’t given much depth and Gala was downright annoying. I get that she is literally a few days old but jeez, use that supposedly big brain and make some smart decisions. The overall story was interesting, but it was a little slow paced. I found myself skipping over some parts, mostly because I just didn’t care about the characters enough.

This is a clean read, although much is implied. If the price is right (which the eBook is free right now) it would be worth it. And perhaps the second book digs into these characters more. I’m not sure I’m going to try to find out.

I received this product for free in exchange for my review, but all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Cold Shot Review (Dani Pettrey)

I’ve finished another book as a part of my 2016 reading challenge. It’s another fiction book titled Cold Shot and is by Dani Pettrey. I really enjoyed Dani’s Alaskan Courage series so I was interested to check this one out. This is my “book published in 2016” from the challenge.

The book follows Chief Ranger Griffin McCray of the Gettysburg National Military Park after recent remains are discovered in the park. As a former cop and sniper, Griffin reluctantly uses his skills as well as those of two old friends and forensic anthropologist Finley Scott to try to find the killer. Both Griffin and Finley have to work through debilitating issues from their pasts to work together before a member of the team makes it to the killer’s hit list.

This book is fast paced and enjoyable, but I didn’t like it at much as the Alaskan Courage series. I needed better descriptions of the characters, and I felt like I was missing parts of the story. Griffin and his two former friends have a lot of history and a couple of big reasons as to why they aren’t close anymore. This history is slowly revealed, but I wish these relationships had been fleshed out more. I liked Finley as a character. She was smart, and strong and slowly overcoming past trauma, but I wish she’d had more opportunity to shine. The story was interesting and full of the twists and turns that I had hoped for. I could have just used a bit more detail.

I would recommend this book if you like Christian suspense books. I will most definitely read the next book when it comes out. This one ends with some lingering questions (although the main story ties up neatly). And hey, there's a chance to win a signed copy of the book and other prizes here.

Coming up this month is another fiction book and a book by Beth Moore. Also, I’ll probably be doing some audio books since I bought this 3 month Audible subscription for my long drives to and from work. What are you reading now?

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for providing me with a copy of this book to review. All opinions, however, are my own.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Life in the Ministry

As part of the reading challenge I’m doing this year I just recently finished 10 Things Every Minister’s Wife Needs to Know (which I’m counting as my “book about Christian living”). But to be honest, I sometimes have a hard time seeing myself as a “minister’s wife.” I technically am one since Lee is the campus minister at the BCM here in Fort Smith. Maybe it’s because he’s not at a church (although strangely enough that doesn’t make me see him as not a minister, just me as not a minister’s wife). Maybe it’s because I don’t fit the stereotypical minister’s wife mold (but that’s silly because is there really such a thing). Whatever the reason, I thought that since I’d had this book on my Amazon wishlist for almost 6 years, regardless of if I felt like one or not, it was time to find out exactly what it is I should know.

This book was written by Jeana Floyd, which as many of you know, is the wife of Ronnie Floyd, a pastor in Northwest Arkansas and the current president of the Southern Baptist Convention. I figured she knew a thing or two about being a minister’s wife. Overall I liked the book and thought it gave some good advice. I also felt very convicted a time or two and Lee will hopefully see the fruits of that over the coming months. However, there were a few times that I didn’t really connect with what she said for two reasons. They’re the ones mentioned above.

First of all, Lee isn’t a minister at a church. I don’t have to deal with expectations and judgment (real or perceived) from church ministers or other minister’s wives. All-in-all, college students are a relatively judgment free bunch. As my fellow BCM wife friend Caroline has said before, they don’t really care if there’s toys all over the house and you’re in sweatpants and a ponytail. You can be very real with college students, and in fact, you have to be in order to be effective. And BCM ministry is somewhat isolated, especially at a smaller school like ours. There’s no other staff wives, for better or worse. Some of what Jeana said, however, is very applicable to me as a minister’s wife, and a lot of it is applicable to any wife. Some of the things I learned are:

  • If you’re being criticized, always pray to discern if it might actually be justified
  •   In order for ministry marriages (or all marriages) to work, wives need to love their husband, both as a deliberate choice and as a “I can’t help myself” kind of love
  • Pray that I “never get over the ‘awe’ of God’s call on [Lee’s] life, His work in my life, and His work in our church” or BCM

Another reason I didn’t really connect with everything the book said is because at the moment, I’m not a stay-at-home mom. While I do desire our home to be a place for Lee to come to after work and relax, three days a week I get home later than he does. We are blessed with the fact that sometimes Lee can be flexible in his schedule. This is wonderful because it allows us times to spend together and for him to spend with the kids. We’ve always worked to find a shared responsibility of household duties which we just have to continue to readjust as our situation changes. I don’t know that I’ll always work outside the home, but I trust God to lead Lee and our family as we continually re-evaluate our plan. Even though I’m not a stay-at-home mom, the book has some useful insights for me:

  • “God does not intend for us to sacrifice our families on the altar of ministry. But each ministry family must make decisions that will enable quality time to be experienced and enjoyed. And most of the time, it just takes effort – real effort – to balance time.” All ministers can deal with crazy hours, but college ministers are expected to sometimes keep college hours. I rarely kept college hours as a college student, so Lee and I have to continually work on finding quality time.
  • “When your husband comes home, stop what you’re doing, look at him, and listen to what he has to say – 58 percent of communication is facial expression, 42 percent is body language and voice inflection.”
  • And although it may be unpopular with some, Lee’s job/ministry supersedes mine. I’m adding my own insight here, but this is similar to submission in marriage. It doesn’t often come up, and it doesn’t mean my job isn’t important (or God won’t use it as a ministry). It means that when a situation arises and a compromise can’t be made, I sometimes will have to make sacrifices for the sake of Lee’s ministry. Honestly, we’re still figuring this out, so as hard as it was to read, it was something I needed to hear.

Overall I think this book is wonderful for minister’s wives. I even think wives outside of the ministry can benefit from a lot of her insights. And other than her insistence that men handle challenging situations better than women (I’m not convinced better is the right word, different for sure) it was very useful to me, especially where we are right now as a family. I couldn’t even get close to describing all that she covers in this book so you’d have to read it for yourself. A practical way to implement some of what I learned is this 28 Days of Blessing Your Spouse Challenge for February (I think it was created last year so I guess make the 29th a choose your own blessing day). Being transparent, I kind of forgot the first day (unless homemade chicken strips and fries is Lee’s favorite meal and he didn’t tell me), but I’m hoping to jump in today. Will you join me? [Oh and Lee, don’t look at the website because it will ruin the surprise J].

Hopefully all of you are finding great books to read this year too. If so, let me know what you’re reading. I could use some suggestions.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them : Review

One of the things I hope to do this year is work through this 2016 Reading Challenge. I already read a lot, but I’m hoping this will get me to be more focused and to read a larger variety of books. I wanted to read more non-fiction last year, but that just didn’t happen. I hope this will help me with that. And I plan on blogging about the books I read as sort of an accountability. I hope to read at least one book every two weeks, which means 26 books total (I haven’t lost my math skills have I). My goal is for half of the books to be non-fiction. At first that sounded extremely easy, but with two kids in the house now it’s a bit more daunting. With the help of my trusty Kindle app during lunch breaks and night feedings I think I can make it through. I’m sure I’ll read more than 26 books, but from past experience the free ones I get on my Kindle app aren’t worth mentioning. As Tim Challies mentions on the website, I’m going with the “discard all the rules and choose books from any plan in any order” option. I know, strange for a rule-follower like me. So here we go.

The first book I read is “a book for children” in the light reader plan. I doubt it’s what he had in mind, but I went with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamandar (aka J.K. Rowling). I got it as a part of The Hogwarts Library boxed set which I received for Christmas. I know it makes me a terrible Baptist, but I LOVE Harry Potter so I thought it would be fun to add these to my collection. They’re also making a movie (trilogy I believe) based on this book. The first movie comes out this November. I thought the book would follow along in story format like a movie would, but I was wrong. I guess that’s what I get for not doing my research.

The book is basically like a textbook that Harry would use at Hogwarts. One of the selling points is that it has his and Ron’s notes. Well, the book ended up being more like I textbook than I had anticipated, and it had less “notes” than I had hoped. It goes through a history of classification of magical beasts and then a description of beasts in A-Z order. Occasionally there would be a few words “hand-written” by Ron or Harry about beasts they’ve encountered. I think instead of reading this like a regular book it would be fun to use it almost like a reference when reading the other books or watching the movies. The descriptions were enjoyable, but not something you’d sit down and get immersed in. It took me longer to read than a basic 128 page book normally would. If you have kids it might be fun to use it as a tool for make-believe play. Get them to draw, act out or write a story on the creatures. Not really a bedtime story type of book though.

All in all, even though it’s not what I expected I am glad that I have it in my collection. It’s fun to be able to take a quick visit to the world of Harry Potter (much quicker and cheaper than the trip to Universal Studios I’ve been bugging Lee about for years). I’m also looking forward to the first movie. Another selling point for this book is that its proceeds go to Comic Relief, a charity that strives to end poverty for children. They also do Red Nose Day (remember that celebrity telethon from last year). So if you’re a Harry Potter fanatic then consider adding this book to your collection. Or get the three book set like I did. I plan on reading the other two books, and then maybe I’ll update here.

I plan on reviewing 10 Things Every Minister’s Wife Needs to Know by Jeana Floyd next time. I’m about 40% of the way through (according to my app) and I hope to have it finished and reviewed by the end of the end of the week. Wish me luck. Are you doing the reading challenge? What have you done so far? Also, is there a book that changed your life? This is one of the book ideas from the challenge and I’m needing some suggestions. Happy reading everyone!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

12 Things I've Learned In The Last Month

The last time I updated we were preparing to open our home for foster care. Well, 2 months later we are in the thick of things.
Our home opened on December 14, and we took in two sisters on the 15th. The two year old and 6 week old had been in care for about a month, but they were in separate homes. They were finally going to be together in our home. I know their previous foster families were sad to see them go, but we know it’s the right thing for them to be together. Here’s some things I’ve learned over the past month.

  1.  Toddler crying memes are a lot funnier when you don’t have a toddler. Although laughing about it is sometimes the only way to survive.
  2. Having a sick baby is the saddest and scariest thing in the world (and I’m a stereotypical paranoid first time mom).
  3.  Kids do indeed want to read the same book over and over and over again (but them wanting to read books is AWESOME).
  4. You can in fact drink 100 cups of fake tea in a day.
  5. Good intentions on perfect parenting go out the window when kids are sick and cranky.
  6. Stay-at-home moms are angels (and possibly a tad bit insane).
  7. God bless daycare workers!
  8.  Leaving the house with the possibility of another human’s bodily fluids on my clothing is infinitely more likely now (I wouldn’t even leave the house in sweatpants before unless it was to go for a walk…hahahaha).
  9. Seeing kids grow and learn is one of the most beautiful blessings in the world.
  10. My husband is super fantastic (I already knew this, but when he takes midnight feedings, learns how to do ponytails, takes kids to the doctor, and lets me escape for a few hours by myself it is reiterated over again).
  11. We have the most amazing family and friends in our support system. Really, you guys have gone above and beyond in helping us with this transition and we are forever grateful.
  12. God has blessed us beyond belief over this past month. We love these little girls. We love them through poopy diapers, tantrums, and very little sleep. That love only comes from the Lord. There have been several times I’ve been frustrated and/or angry. I’ve made mistakes already, but God has given me the strength and love I need for these two beauties and for Lee. I thank God every day for Christ’s loving sacrifice and we pray daily for the salvation of these girls and their parents. Thanks to everyone who has prayed with us.
Many of you have said that you don’t understand how we can do it (sometimes we don’t either). There have been two posts that friends have shared this past week that have really resonated with me. We do it because God has called us to. We have to let go of our fears and trust that God knows what he’s doing. Read this and this to get some insight into the world of fostering. They say things better than I can.

As I mentioned earlier, so many of you have helped us incredibly over the last month. We continue to ask for your prayers (and wouldn’t turn away an offer to babysit) as we continue this journey. As believers we’ve all been called to help the helpless. Not everyone is called to foster/adopt, but if you’d like to help those in the foster system check in with local organizations that help foster families. If you’re in Arkansas look into The Call (an organization that has helped us tremendously). They have all kinds of opportunities for you to be a part of the fostering community including buying a rack of ribs, donating clothes and diapers, and attending a conference on how the church can support the foster system. And if you need some more suggestions, just ask!

Friday, November 20, 2015

It Takes a Village

Wow! A lot has happened for the Woodmansees since I last updated. First of all I want to thank all of you who posted or messaged encouraging words to me after the last post in May. I can't even begin to tell you how much that meant to me. So now for the updates!

Let's start with the fact that we're no longer in Kentucky. Lee got a job as the Campus Minister at the BCM (Baptist Collegiate Ministry) at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith. He had interviews in May and June and we moved to Fort Smith at the beginning of July. We knew this was a possibility, but everything still happened pretty quickly. After much stressing (on my part) and prayer (much more effective) we found a place to live (without me seeing it first), got packed up, moved, and settled in. We're closer to family and of course our beloved Fayetteville. It's definitely different from Louisville, but we're finding our way here. We miss our church and college group in Louisville terribly, but we've found a great church here and we're looking forward to see how we can get plugged in. Lee still has a few more classes before he graduates, but he can do them from here. I'll have to do a separate post on this new ministry because this one is already going to be crazy long.

Next I needed to find a job. With the late notice of the move some issues came up with getting a teaching license in Arkansas and finding a job (there's a lot fewer high schools in the area than there were in Louisville). I looked into substitute teaching (a last resort) and teaching as an adjunct at UAFS. I also contacted my research professor from grad school to see if he knew of any engineering positions in the area. God provided once again when a position opened to work in the lab where I did my graduate research. It is similar to what I did before we moved to Louisville. I get to work with college students and help manage a lab (without much of the stress of actual circuit design). I'm still re-learning a lot about IC design and learning about the new advances in the field over the last few years, but I'll get there. I have to drive to Fayetteville to get to work (about 50 minutes) but I only work three days a week (which is beyond fantastic). I do miss teaching, and I may go back to it at some point, possibly on a collegiate level, but I'm really enjoying where I'm at right now.

The next part is not so good. If you're dealing with a recent loss feel free to skip this part, since it may bring up some painful emotions for you.

A few months after the miscarriage I had in April we starting trying again. I found out I was pregnant in September, but this one was not to be either. I was incredibly fearful when we first found out. I couldn't sleep. I felt sick to my stomach all the time (and it wasn't morning sickness). It was terrible. I just knew I was going to miscarry again. After several days I knew I couldn't carry on that way. I broke down crying and begged God to take away my fear and anxiety. I knew I wasn't trusting the Lord. He reminded me that He was in control, and as Lee told me over and over last time, He loved me no matter what. He also reminded me that He brought me through the pain last time, and if it happened again He would still be there. I did much better after that day. I was still a little worried, but I was able to live my life. We started getting cautiously excited, and started planning things out. When I was at what was supposed to about 5-1/2 weeks I started bleeding. I went to the doctor and they did an ultrasound but didn't see anything. They drew blood, but I wasn't expecting much. I met the doctor for the first time that day (since I had to find a new one when we moved) and her compassion has helped me through this turmoil. After drawing blood a few more times we saw my hormone levels were really low and increasing but not doubling like they should have been. I went in for another ultrasound about 3 weeks after the first one and when the tech went to get the doctor I knew something was wrong. The doctor came in and looked and a while later I met with her in her office. She was pretty sure I had a tubal (ectopic) pregnancy. There was nothing in the uterus but she could see something in my right Fallopian tube. She gave me my options and after another blood draw (which almost all but confirmed her suspicions). I was given an injection of methotrexate to medically treat the ectopic pregnancy. I pretty much knew before that day that things weren't right, but all of this was unexpected.

We were devastated...again. Honestly there was a point where I was convinced I never wanted to try to conceive again. It hurt too much. I've since then healed from some of the pain, but I pray constantly that if I do get pregnant that I don't experience the same crippling fear as before. I am very thankful that we caught this tubal pregnancy before my tube ruptured or I needed surgery. I had to get another injection a week later and I'm still going in to get blood work every week until my hormones go back to zero, but as my body heals so does my heart. We get closer to my original due date from earlier this year, and sometimes I can hardly stand to sit in the doctor's office every week with some obviously very pregnant women. However I'm continuously reminded about God's grace and mercy by Lee and the friends and family I have surrounding me. The sadness (and sometimes anger) is still there, but I am healing. We don't know why this happened, and we know that my chances of having another ectopic pregnancy have increased, but God is helping me see I don't necessarily need to know why, and no matter what happens He is in control. We look to the future and look for His strength no matter what happens.

And now back to some good news.

Before this last pregnancy, God had placed something on both mine and Lee's hearts: fostering. We have talked about adoption since we got married. It was something we always wanted to do eventually. We have had some amazing examples in our lives of people who have fostered and/or adopted (congrats to Chris and Kristin who finalized the adoption of their son Roman recently!). Lee and I both see adoption as a representation of our adoption by God as Christians. The New Testament is filled with scripture that talks about how God adopted us through the blood of His son, Jesus (Ephesians 1:5; Galatians 4:5-7; Romans 8, etc). While this is not talking about earthly adoption God's heart for children is also made clear in scripture and James 1:27 says "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." We are called to help the helpless and for Lee and I we believe we are called to do this through adoption. Fostering, however, didn't really come into consideration for me until we were in Fort Smith. I had seen someone post something on Facebook about fostering and didn't think much of it. But God wouldn't let the thought leave my mind. I asked Lee if he had thought of it, and he said he had a bit, but it wasn't something we had seriously considered. We decided to start praying about it and left it at that. 

Lee was able to go to Collegiate Week in Glorieta, NM before school started. He called me one night that week and told me to start looking into it more seriously because he felt convicted after one of the speakers talked about his own adoption experience with his children. I researched it and saw that there is a huge need in Fort Smith (and all of Sebastian County). Our area has a hugely disproportionate number of children in foster care and not enough open foster homes to care for them. Feeling this call in our lives we jumped in the process quickly and are very close to being done. We are so thankful for the folks at The Call, a Christian organization that helps train and support foster families and those wanting to adopt from the foster system. We've learned a lot and made some wonderful relationships through this process. We just got notification that our full packet has been turned in and we should hear about setting up a final walk-through in the next three weeks (about 6 weeks at the most). After that we'll be open for accepting children. Which is crazy! We are so excited, and nervous! Yet excited! We know we have no idea what we're doing (as is the case with all 1st time parents). We also recognize that there are special circumstances with fostering. But we know (and have experienced abundantly over the last year) that God is in control and we can trust Him. We are very much looking forward to this new adventure He has planned for us. We still hope to adopt in the future (and will be open to adopt children we have fostered if that becomes an option), but we know this is the season God has us in right now.

(Lee here) I think that through the last five or six months the theme for me and Kacie has been provision. We have been asked to step out of what was comfortable for us and alter our plans that have stood for the last 4 years in order to be obedient to God’s calling. Through it all, God has amply provided for us in several ways. From the beginning of the crazy week of our moving from Louisville to the Fort, to the way that I came across our home out of the blue, God has been very gracious towards us. Physical provision is not the only element at play here though.

Especially during this second miscarriage, Kacie and I have been confronted with situations that we are not naturally adept at. We have been provided an opportunity to love each other during a time that is stressful to say the least. But what stands above this situation is our firm resolution that we know that God has not just left us to our own devices (Kacie’s anxiety and my pragmatism). This situation is like the saying “when you pray for patience, God doesn’t give you patience, he gives you opportunities to be patient.” God has given us a situation entirely out of our control, and has put us in a place where we could either trust in him, or we could be eroded by doubt, anger, and sadness.

What has become clear then is that Kacie and I are not left on our own. Through the provision of a church family here, new friends, and the reuniting of old mentors, God has amply provided for not only our physical needs, but also our emotional necessities. We have been confronted with the reality that we too often trust in our own planning or abilities. Miscarriages have a way of stripping any sense of control away from you. And once more, God’s provision has led us to a place of deeper trust in what he has for our lives. We both can confidently say that we have no idea exactly where that will take us, but that we have trust that God loves us more than anyone on the face of the earth does. This was so abundantly demonstrated on the cross… and that is why we trust God supremely. If we can trust God with our salvation, then moving, ministry struggles, employment changes, finances, relational strains, and all of these other earthly things are easily entrusted to our loving God. 

(Back to Kacie) Finally, many of you have asked how you can help. First and foremost you can pray. Pray for continued healing physically and emotionally for us. We still plan on trying again for biological children and we pray God will bless us with that in the future, but if He doesn't, pray we're okay no matter the outcome. Pray for us as we prepare our hearts for future children in our home through the foster system. Pray for those children that they see God's love through us and pray for their biological families as they do what needs to be done to be with their children again (and pray for us if/when that happens). It's going to be one crazy journey. If you are interested in helping us prepare physically for fostering we'd love that as well. Not having any other children we don't really have much to take care of those children yet. And we've learned small children "need" a crazy amount of stuff. We're looking at accepting children age two and under (possibly a bit older if they're part of a sibling pair). Not knowing anything about the child/children makes it difficult to prepare much, but there are some things we could use now (convertible crib, car seat, et). We will obviously also need specific items once we get a placement. We've done some shopping already, but if you'd like to help us (used or new items) feel free to let me know. I'll tell you what we need, and we'd be appreciative of anything you have. If you'd rather wait until we get a placement to help with more specific needs that's great as well. We can't post many details, but we can get you the basics. As the post of this title says, it takes a village to raise children. We are blessed with friends, family and a church who support us in this. We know we'd never be able to do it without you.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day is Sometimes Hard

Just as warning, this is going to be a very personal post. I haven't posted in well over a year, but I really wanted to write this down. If you aren't interested then just ignore this.

Today is Mother's Day so Happy Mother's Day to my wonderful mom! Also, happy Mother's Day to my mother-in-law, grandma, aunts, mentors, etc. who have mothered me in some way over the last nearly 29 years. While Lee and I know that we're doing what we've been called to do, it is sometimes very hard to be over 500 miles away from loved ones.

As much as I love the recognition of the hard work and sacrifice on Mother's Day I also recognize that it can be very hard for many people. I think of my mom, who lost her mother 20 years ago. I was blessed to know Nana for 9 years, and I miss her deeply, but I can't even begin to imagine how my mom feels. My mother-in-law has experienced the same loss so I pray a special blessing on all those who have lost their moms, at any point in their life.

Mother's Day can also be hard on those who have lost a child or experienced the inability/difficulty of having a child. This is where my story begins. I was supposed to have my first ultrasound this past Friday. Instead, early this past week I took another home pregnancy test somewhat hoping, for yet dreading, the negative sign. Two weeks ago I was pregnant. Now I'm not. Some might say I was "barely" pregnant, whatever that means. Something they call chemical pregnancy. It was also described to me as the pregnancy not being "viable." They wouldn't say the word, but it was an early miscarriage (about 5-6 weeks). I never got to see the baby on an ultrasound. I never got to hear the heartbeat. What I did get to experience was the joy in having the pregnancy test be positive and in telling my husband. I also experienced the heartbreak when everything started going wrong, and then almost two weeks later when I got the phone-call telling me it was over. I experienced days and days of heavy bleeding. I experienced pain from intense cramps and being stuck with a needle 5 times as they drew blood for tests. I experienced sadness when my hCG levels barely increased, then timid excitement when they doubled, then doubled again, and finally devastation when they dropped dramatically. Life has been a roller coaster for the last 4 weeks for sure.

I've learned more over the last few weeks about miscarriages. I learned things like chemical pregnancies are actually pretty common (most happen before a missed period so without an early pregnancy test you might never know). I learned that miscarriages themselves are more common than most people think. Most of all I learned that it hurts so very deeply. There is a hole in your heart. And because it hurts and because it is so very personal people don't want to talk about it. A friend linked this article on Facebook. She just went through a miscarriage and was much further along than me and has had more complications (she's back in the hospital after emergency surgery). I don't agree with everything the article says but it does present some common misconceptions about miscarriage and the struggle of going through it while trying to suffer silently. Well I don't suffer silently very well so I'm super thankful for those who have encouraged and prayed for Lee and I over the last month.

I knew today would be hard. We had hoped to celebrate impending parenthood, but instead I'm left crying in church as mothers are recognized and I'm left sitting. I don't say all of this to make anyone feel bad. I don't think we shouldn't recognize mothers because I'm not one yet. I think it's just as important to rejoice as friends and family rejoice in the exciting role of motherhood in the same way that they feel sorrow as I do for my dream to be delayed. Lee has been amazing through this difficult journey. The first day I started bleeding I came home in tears. Lee prayed for me (because the only thing I had been able to pray for myself was "please no" over and over again). The thing he consistently told me, and which I desperately needed to hear was that he loved me, and that God loved me even more. When I couldn't understand why this was happening he told me he didn't either but God loved us. When I asked him some very tough questions he told me God loved us and He loved our baby. And I know it to be true. Not because I always feel it, but because He says He does and because He has shown it over and over again. He has shown me through the love of friends and family. He has shown me through His provision in so many areas of my life. He has shown me through His discipline. And most of all He has shown me by sending His son to die a horrific death on the cross to save me from my sin.

So if possible, call your mom and tell her how much you love her. If your mom is gone, thank God for the time you had with her. If you're estranged from your mom, ask God to fix your relationship, and thank Him for the mother-figures He's blessed you with. If you have children, tell them what a blessing they are. If you've lost children (from conception to adulthood) accept God's healing and thank Him for those you can mentor. If you've struggled with the inability to have children understand that God sees your pain. If you know anyone with any of these struggles, give them a big hug! Above all, know that God loves you and desires a relationship with you.

Thank you for letting me get this out there. With God's grace and the love of friends and family Lee and I are healing. We look forward to trying again soon, and we trust in God the whole way. We sang the following song in church this morning and it was just what I needed to hear/sing. Happy Mother's Day!