Discover Daily 

I’ve been working through Becky Thompsons marriage devotional “Love Unending.” I’ve been sharing my journey through her wonderful book on my personal Instagram (honorableliving) and Facebook page. But they have been so lengthy I thought, why not come dust off the blog. 

Discover Daily: Almost 6 years ago, Sebastian and I were a few months away from our wedding. At 19 years old, everyone wanted to share the statistics and opinions on young marriage. I think I heard the negative predictions twice as often as I heard “congratulations.” The statistic that was shared the most often to try and convince us to wait and reconsider was,  “you know, people change the most between the ages of 18-25. You don’t even know who the other is really going to be. Don’t you think you should wait before making a decision so permanent?” This week I turn 25. Sebastian has been 25 since April. We absolutely changed a LOT in our 6 years of marriage.

“But at some point the newness wears off. It just does. It’s not anyone’s fault. We just know most of what there is to know. That’s not falling in love. That’s being in love…but when we think we know all there is to know about one another, we essentially declare that that person will always be the same way. It’s easy to forget that the other person changes a little each day.”

I’ve heard many quotes that say “love is choosing that person every day” and continuing on to explain that you have to make a commitment to them, every morning, to love who they are today because they will never be who they were yesterday.

In a sense, that’s exactly the right idea. But it’s just the start. Not only do we have to keep working on that relationship, never getting complacent, we have to nourish and encourage growth. 

We have had 4 children and another on the way in our 6 years of marriage. We had no choice but to drastically change and grow as people. Individuals and a pair. Sebastian has been such an incredible person to work beside. My dad told me once when I was little that, “deciding who you marry is very important, but it’s not the most important. The most important decision a person can make is who to become a parent with. Divorces happen. But when there’s a child or children involved, that individual will always be in your life as a co parent. Even if you’re no longer married.”

He didn’t share that with me to lessen the beauty and sanctity of marriage. My parents have been married for over 40 years. They are my first inspiration. He shared that thought with me because he recognized that when you add parenting into a marriage, everything gets a lot more complicated and while having a family is exactly right for many who are married, it’s a really important step when deciding WHO to marry. 

In most premarital counseling sessions, finances and children are major topics. That’s for good reason. Those two reasons cause a lot of added stress in marriages. 

When someone asks a 19 year old Christian couple if they plan to have children, how do you think those 19 year olds react? With blushing and hesitant nods. 

He continued on to ask us if we planned to have one, a certain number, or play it by ear. Sebastian said one, maybe two, if any, and not for awhile. I said 3-5. His eyes about popped out of his head. We agreed to go one kid at a time. Salem was born 40 weeks after our wedding day. We are having our 5th child next year. 
Looking at those hard facts, adding in the military lifestyle and moves, and then stacking our “married too young” statistics against us, how did we ever make it?

Communication and discovering each other daily. Parenting matured us quickly. The military matured us quickly (and had quite a few negative effects, also). But every day we knew the person next to us was a different person than the day before. Sometimes we had growing pains. One of us grew faster or slower than the other. But we never said the words “you’re just not who I married” because that wasn’t true of either party. 

It’s important to ask yourself, “how have I changed? How have I asked the person I’m married to to accept me in new and different ways, every day?”

When you see how many ways they’ve adapted to you, you can start to open up more to the ways they’re asking you to love their changes. 

People never stop changing. Nor should they. 

“We don’t refuse to let our husbands change, but rarely do we treat them as though there might be something about them we have yet to learn.” 

The first part is realizing that they are going to be growing as peopleevery moment, the next part, is to ask them how far they want to grow.

Do you encourage your husband to dream? Do you know what he dreams of doing one day? 

Everyone has goals. And every goal looks different. 

What are your goals? Does your husband know them? What are his? 

Someday, we want to have a homestead. We want a big garden that feeds our family. Chickens, ducks, goats, a dairy cow. A compost bin. A basement full of canned goods we grew and canned ourselves. A compost bin. You get the picture. 

Sebastian is coming to a point is his life where he has big decisions to make for our family, and himself. In about 3 years, his career with the navy will be coming to an end (or moving on. Not likely). I spent most of our time in Hawaii believing that he wanted to just operate a power plant. I often asked if he thought he’d enjoy that forever. A few years later, he mentioned he loves brewing beer. He wants to discover quality control on making the perfect brew every time. Maybe he’ll get his masters in that. Maybe he wants to own a brewery. 

Okay. That definitely sounds like something you’ll love. 

Since living in New York, I asked again if that’s where he wanted to pursue his masters degree. Maybe. He said. But, you know candace, I really love teaching. And more than that, I really love learning about and teaching the Bible. Maybe I’ll get a theology masters. Maybe I’ll teach theology to college students. 

Okay. That definitely sounds like something you’ll love. 

You see, he’s changed his mind a few times on me. But it’s never a crisis. He’s just growing as a person, and I’m just loving the person he’s becoming more every day. 

Change is new and scary and sometimes hard. But it’s also beautiful, healthy, and normal. 

Discover who your husband is today, not who you think he’s always been. Ask him where he’s going tomorrow so the surprises are fewer. Dare to dream together and apart. Most of all, remember to pray for who he was, who he is, and who he thinks the Lord wants him to be.

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Excuse Monster + Chaos Creater

Photo Credit: Kasey Erin

I’ve done a lot of self searching this last week. I’ve spent a lot of time reading Christian literature (pick up Hope Unfolding by Becky Thompson and Pressing Pause if you haven’t.)  

I had many revelations, a few I’ve shared on my Personal Instagram and Facebook, and many more I’ve written down into my journal. I spend a lot of my days worried about whether or not I’m doing a good enough job showing my children how much I love Jesus. I’m not. Never mind how badly I fail at it day-to-day with others I encounter. If I’m being honest. 

You see, I spend a lot of time in my life being an “excuse monster.” I heard this term on a team building excercise with my company. Let me tell you what it means. 

It means you make an excuse for everything. 

You probably do it, too. It’s okay. The first step is to own it. 

With my team, it was used to point out the excuses we make with our business. 

  • We don’t have many sales because everyone else has bigger groups
  • We don’t have time to do a live sale every week
  • We just don’t have good enough inventory to pull together outfits 

My life is so full.

Of excuses. 

  • I should really read my Bible, but I’m too tired.
  • I only lost my temper because they have been told a million times not to _____________
  • He’s tired?! I’m the one that had to run this circus today. 
  • I should lead a Bible study with mama’s my age. No one would participate.
  • What if I invited ladies over for fellowship? This house is crazy. Who am I kidding.

I spend a lot of my time praying that God would just deliver me to my reward. 15 years from now. (Don’t burst my bubble. I have so much hope in my children to need less of me).

Pressing Pause pointed out that we should stop saying “God, get me out of here.” And start asking Him, “God, why have you brought me here?” 

Where I am, right now, buried in diapers, potty training, wakeful nights, early mornings, bottles, and no peace and quiet. That’s where He brought me. This is the beautiful mess He has blessed me with, and what would I lose if he plucked me out of this? 

I would lose out on the opportunity to teach my children about the love of Jesus. About His strength and majesty. About His promises to me, and them, and every single soul.

Matthew 5:9 says, “blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God.”

Peacemakers.

What happens to a child when their mama walks in the room? 

Weeping and gnashing of teeth. That’s what.

What does your husband say? “Babe, they were so good the whole time. I don’t understand why they behave like this the moment you get home.” 

I know why. I’m not a peacemaker, friends. 

I’m a chaos creator. 

You know what makes that stressed out, frazzled, crazy woman turn into a kind and gentle soul who lovingly corrects her children? Jesus. 

It’s about time I stop blaming my reactions on my situation. It’s about time I stopped wishing myself out of the circus I live in with all of the monkeys I made. It’s about time I stopped making excuses for why my behavior is everyone else’s fault.

It’s not about how people treat you. It’s not about the words that they say. We are responsible for our own actions and reactions.

When I sit down with my savior every day and remind myself of His unconditional love I am better prepared to hand it out to everyone around me. (It doesn’t have to be in the morning. I’m still filled up from the night before. Or during lunch. Or at the playground. Stop making excuses.) I’m ready to tackle the day because I know I have the ultimate defender on my team. I know that He knows the plans for my day and I know that they are good. Because He is good. 

I know that it’s time for me to stop making excuses and creating chaos around me because of those excuses. I am wild in my love for Christ and I am free to share that love with the world. 

Stop making excuses, mama. 

Say your sorry to your sweet baby you snapped at and remind him that you love him, unconditionally. Tell him about His savior who is perfect and never loses patience. Tell him that you want to be like that savior and ask him to remind you of that. It’s hard, but it’s right.

Stop telling yourself those mama’s at church don’t wanna see your messy house or hear what you have to say about a Christian book you read. They struggle with everything you do and so many different things you haven’t yet. God put them there, next to you. Go find out what beautiful plans He has hidden in them. 

Settle in, for five minutes every day, with a Christian devotional book or, better yet your Bible. And be with Jesus. You found 5 minutes to check Facebook while they watched a movie. Use your time wisely. He is more fulfilling. I know. First hand. 

Are you an excuse monster? Do you create chaos around you? How does this reflect in your relationships with your spouse and children? 

He has already made you new. Let Him work in you. 

Heavenly Father, thank you so much for who you are. You are good and loving and perfect. Let us worry less about how incapable we are to find the energy or the time and remember that you are all we need. Stop our excuses in their tracks. Remind us that everything starts and ends with you. Help us to show others your unconditional love and peace that passes understanding in every moment of our day. Shine your light through us. We want so much to be who you made us to be. Amen.

Photo credit: Whispering Pines (Kayla Powell)

Change with an Unchanging God

It’s been 8 long months since I sat down here to write. I kept telling myself I only had ordinary things to say. Salem started preschool, we sold our home and moved, in preparation for another move. The holidays came and went. I started a business in my home. My husband was gone for 2.5 months, during which I traveled to meet him, and we received the ticket to our next chapter. 

I settled into a day to day rhythm full of ordinary and rhythmic patterns. I spent a lot of time wrestling my children on my own and in A bitter argument with God over how wrong His timing was for our move. Who am I kidding, we’re still arguing. 
And today I’m sitting here sipping coffee, once more, staring down the last stretch of days that I will be handling my home alone, in the face of a giant move. Overwhelmed and overworked with a heap of to do piles still to accomplish, I’m reminded of a few truths.

Isaiah 43:19 “Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.”

I have prayed earnestly for a year for God to pick up my family and take us to a place where we can be “we.” The last four years my husband has spent 85% of his time at work. We signed up for it, and I was begging for it to be our time to rest. 

Here we are, less than 2 months from our move. The Lord has written our new chapter and we’re upon it. It’s on our doorstep and I’m so busy stressing out about the process of how to get there I’m forgetting to live inside the process. 

I’m not ready. I am a type A and I want everything to be where it belongs and clean to send off and greet us. But my, how He has provided for us. 

We have a home awaiting our weary heads. We have loving arms to hug us here, and there, and on the way. We have hands to carry babies when our hands are full of babies (I have 4 babies. Ha!) 

We have friends to laugh and break bread with all along the journey, and friends that pray for us even when we have settled in. 

You see, there was always a “way in the wilderness” and “rivers in the desert.” 

I’ve been too busy arguing and being ungrateful to see the ways He’s arranged and planed FOR me. Tapping my foot about timing and how long it’s taking. This entire process has been blessed by a God who is the Great I AM. He is not surprised and He has handled each tiny detail.

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

‭‭2 Peter‬ ‭3:9‬ ‭NIV‬‬

How blessed am I that He is patient with me? I am not worthy of such love and devotion and still He covers me in it. He is faithful and true. He kept His promise to me, to deliver me not only from sin but also from this difficult chapter for our family. He sent us so much help and love, which we were not at all worthy, But still, He did. He cared for us all the while. 

I have a plaque on our wall that lists the places we’ve been stationed. The top reads, “home is where the navy sends us” 

Sebastian and I have joked about it, because, to us, the Navy works for the Lord. He knows where we will go before they do. Truly, it should read, “home is where the Lord sends us.” 

Even still, this world is not truly our home. My hope and prayer during this time of transition for my family is that we can remember to focus on the bigger picture. We can remember who we work for and how much more important that work is. That our next chapter is full of much more devoted work for the kingdom (because we slacked here..). 

I hope during the next few months you can keep my family in your prayers. The friends and loved ones we leave behind us, as well. And that with all the transition and adjustments, because there will be so much of that, that God will shape us and work us into the beautiful goblets He had in mind, with minimal resistance from our stubborn selves. 

Stay tuned for more adventures.

Xoxo

Candace

Ralph

Birth should empower you. No matter how it happens, you should walk away confidently. You should feel proud of your body, soul, and mind. You should look at your sweet baby’s face and remember how strong you were and how hard you worked to meet him. 

Why wasn’t I feeling that way this time around? I certainly love this baby with my whole heart. But every time I think back to how he got here I get uncomfortable. 

….

June 2nd, 2016 

Around 9 am, I started feeling anxious. Like I was late for an appointment and stuck in traffic. Or trying to find a parking spot at tripler. 

I busied myself with laundry. Washing, hanging, folding. Then I realized I kept needing to sit down every 5 minutes or so. I was having contractions! 

Oh. No. Today is not the day. Sebastian gets frocked tomorrow, mom and dad just signed their lease and want to move! I mean, no. Just a fluke.

Like all the other times.

As the morning went on, I neared my appointment with captain swift (the very same from Maebel and Marvins birth stories. My very favorite). I texted Sebastian to call as soon as he could and drove myself to my appointment. 

I walked in and the contractions were now 4 minutes apart. Easy though. They’re not making me hold my breath. They’re easy. 

She asked if I wanted her to move things along, but I declined. For said reasons above, I didn’t want to have this baby today. 

I left the hospital and Sebastian called, “so I have training this afternoon. Are we having a baby?” 

“No. Kristen thinks I won’t make it through the day let alone the weekend, but I’m going to lay down and chill out and cross my legs.”

He went back to training, I went home and laid down. Trying to nap I watched as Kayla fed the kids lunch and got them in bed for naps. 

Around 2:15, I felt a little squish. Shoot, I must really have to pee. A little more. Not pee.

I rushed to the bathroom, a little excited and a little disappointed at the timing. But at least it wasn’t 2 AM! And at least there’s no traffic to tripler!!

I sat down to let the remaining water go and laughed at my movie-like start. It’s never happened like this before! 

Then I saw it. Green water. 

Oh. No. He pooped. The baby pooped. He’s in distress and I’m 30 minutes from the hospital and I won’t be able to live if I lose him! 

I texted my family and close friends, asking them to pray. Then I called the boat. I remember someone saying something (turns out I knew the guy who answered! I must have been very out of it because that didn’t register one bit).

“Is petty officer W there? He’s in the Chiefs quarters for training. My water just broke.” 

In no time he was one the phone. “Hey! Is it baby time?”

I confirmed and then waited until he called on his cell phone to tell him that my water had been dark. After some quick googling, he assured me that he’s probably fine, late babies poop, and it’s most likely not a big deal. 

Most likely < — that’s what I heard

We got to the hospital and told them the circumstances of my water. They sat us in the waiting room.

“Well it must not be a huge deal, babe. No ones rushing you in!”

After about 5-10 minutes, a nurse came in to start our check in. She checked his heart rate. “He’s fine. Just pooped. No worries as long as his heart rate stays up!” 

Big fat sigh of relief from all parties in the room. At this point my mom had joined Seb, Kayla, and me. She brought her own “don’t mess with me” attitude which definitely helped me settle in and not be too concerned about interventions being pushed. 

We met with the on call midwife. She had me sign the paperwork and excitedly discussed my plan to continue with this labor with no pain medication. She was hopeful, what with this being my 4th, that she’d get to see it happen, but assured me that I could relax and she’d do her best to get me what I needed. 

We got to the room and waited. I started to get a bit concerned, cuz nothing’s worse than being a 4 and waiting for the contractions to hit you like a freight train. But they didn’t. They were easy. I slipped into a nice trance like state and waited for my baby to kick things into gear. 

Then came shift change. 

A midwife has the ability to set the tone of the entire delivery. Her role is an important one. It comes with power. 

This midwife knew that. 

I was about 6 hours into my labor. Because my water had broken, she didn’t want to perform any exams for risk of infections (for which I was thankful) but then. Then the intervention words came. 

“You know, if it doesn’t seem like you’re moving along, we will have to address some other options. Pitocin could be really helpful at this point to speed things up.” 

I shook my head no. 

“Well, you know we can’t be doing a whole lot of exams, but it’s important that your body start to show some signs that you’re hitting transition. You’re a multip, so it’s not like it’ll be long. But we’re on a timer with your water being broken. We could ultimately end up with a cesarean.” 

Timer. Pitocin. Why aren’t you progressing faster? Cesarean. 

All of a sudden I felt rather small. You see, I know how my body labors. I hang out at 4-6. Whether it’s my 1st or my 4th, it didn’t seem to matter really. 

But now I started to doubt myself. Every labor is different. What if somethings not working this time? All the while my mom is asking about other options, less painful and invasive than pitocin. All of which she’s not considering at all.

She left the room, and my husband made light of the situation. My mom assured me no one was coming near me without getting through her. 

At this point my contractions were weak. Like, calling them a contraction demeans the word contraction. I was alert and awake and very hungry. 

Kayla went for coffee for all of them and a sandwich for me. No one said I couldn’t eat, but I didn’t want to chance it. So I comically ate my subway with an ear toward the door. 

With a full tummy and an empty bladder, I laid back down. Murmurs of “you should walk” were heard as I zoned out. I walked last time. It wore me out. I wasn’t interested in being utterly exhausted at the end. Chances were I’d be tired enough. Every time she came back into the room I left my eyes closed. 
This is backwards. I’m never timid. But every time I talk she explains why my experience probably isn’t what’s happening. She explains her knowledge about it. She makes my experiences feel like opinions. 

Around 10 (I think) I told my husband I felt pressure. And nauseous. He asked for them to come in and she performed the first exam since she’s been there. 

“Only a 6. And 85%. Certainly not time to push.” 

Sebastian said “okay. Well she always vomits during transition, and she’s feeing nauseous. This part is pretty fast too. You’ll need to be close when she does have to push the babies come fast.”

“How fast?” The nurse asked, “no worries, I have caught babies before!”

One push and the last two flew out — i said. 

“Oh I pushed for over 2 hours with mine!” Chimed the midwife “well be close. But she has awhile. And there’s never a guarantee that this one will come that quickly too.”

She doesn’t believe me. This is literally my worst nightmare. She’s not going to be here. I need her to be here. 

Insert panic mode. I’ve now lost all relaxing labor techniques. I have zero trust in the team I’m going to have catching my baby. 

My contractions are worse. I have to breathe through them. 

Around 1 AM I can’t get comfortable. I’m exhausted. I’m telling my team that I’m hot and cold. I have puked 2 times (subway was not ideal). 

She does another exam “you’re still only an 8. I’m going to step out and check on another mom”

I’m not sure what happened at this point. I just remember feeling very overwhelmed. I wanted to cry a lot. I felt very abandoned and not safe at all. I was mad, too. How dare she not believe me? I know how I work. I know this baby is in my pelvis. I can go from 8-10 in a flash. 

I got up to go pee for the 400th time. This time there was no more green. The first clear use of the toilet. I got back to the bed and could no longer fathom laying down. The nurse took a hair too long to help me up into the bed and the contraction that came was unbearable. I leaned on the back of the bed with my back to the room. I remember fighting through 3-4 contractions here. I remember wanting to lay down and sleep and be comfortable but having the worst restless leg syndrome. I remember not being able to find an angle to get my head comfortable. 

Then, I felt him turtle. 

I need to push. 

I’m pushing – I said. 

According to my husband, I was very matter-of-fact. Eerily lucid. And she looked unbelieving. 

My mom urged her to look. 

Sure enough, when she lifted my gown he was starting to crown. 

She rushed to get gloves on. For the first time since Salem a baby sat and waited for another contraction. I pushed again, his head came and the rest of him followed, albeit, more painfully than the head. I have yet to know why that was the case.

At 1:58 AM on June 3, 2016 Ralph Alistaire Warren was born, weighing 8 pounds 4.3 oz and measuring 21 inches. 

They tried to hand him to me through my legs, which overwhelmed me a lot, I wanted to turn over, but I was having trouble communicating that. 

There was a lot of chaos. A lot of pulling at IV cords and detatching monitors. Then I felt her tug my cord. 

“Wait until it’s done pulsing to cut it.” 

“It’s about there” she handed Sebastian the scissors. 

He cut the cord and then handed it back. I felt a tug again.

“No I want it to detatch on its own” 

She agreed, but not joyously. I was trying to focus on my baby, who was crying very loudly. But I felt like I needed to make sure she wasn’t pulling. 

A few minutes later she said its right here. Give a little push.

So I did. 

Then. Then the most unimaginable pain I’ve ever experienced. 

She told me she needed to remove my clots. She reached up, you know, where an 8 pound baby just traveled in tight quarters, and proceeds to drag her fingers across my uterus while pushing on my stomach. 

This happened 4 times. I cried out. I asked her to stop. I felt like I was begging her. Somewhere in between 2-4 she mumbled a reason as to why she had to do this while I was holding my minutes old baby. Something about milk supply and infection. They sounded like puny threats.

They call it the golden hour. I truly only remember the gold fluorescent lights I stared at while someone dug around inside me. 

I remember after. When I saw 8 pounds on the scale and stared in disbelief. I remember after they wrapped him back up and gave him to me again, I thought, he has a big nose. 

But that first hour I remember feeling panicked. I remember feeling rushed. 

Because of those memories, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to bring myself to a hospital to have a baby again. 

No, that doesn’t mean we won’t have more children. It does mean, that I will choose 1 maybe 2 people to be my midwife. It means I’m not interested in the luck of the draw anymore. I want to know the person at my birth and I want to know I can trust them to ask me before performing something and explain to me it’s necessity. 

I don’t want to be doubted. I want my provider to trust me. I want to be able to trust me. I don’t want to be put on the back burner because I’m not going fast enough. I want to feel important and prioritized, no matter how slowly my children choose to come. 

Most importantly, I never want to leave a birth feeling disappointed ever again. I want to only focus on my new baby, not get distracted by all of the ways my hospital stay didn’t sit right. I don’t want to keep remembering all of the ways I was wronged. 

My sweet little ralphie is perfect. Even though my labor wasn’t what I dreamed about, my baby boy is. Yes, we’re both healthy and yes, I am thankful. But I expected more from the team that was there. And I should be able to expect more. Birth should always leave you feeling empowered.

It’s Not the Home I Love

Since March 17 we have been fortunate to take a trip home. We are “small town” Midwesterners. That’s in quotes because everyone’s definition is different. 

It’s not so small that we literally know everyone. But we know a lot of people. 

It’s small enough that your high school teachers keep in touch. Small enough that baristas remember you from a sibling. Small enough that it only takes 5 minutes to get from one side of town to the other. 
Small enough that church members and friends friends help pay for an airline ticket to get your family there. 
I’m talking heart of Illinois. Geographically and in terms of the sweetest love and welcome we’ve ever experienced. 

Midwesterners fill your heart and your tummy. And they hug you even if they’ve only heard of you and never met you. 

This place will always be our home. It’s where our deepest roots feed our souls. It’s where we will always go to be refreshed, mind, heart, body, and soul. 

This trip was very special, besides all that. 

My parents closed the door to my childhood home. 

I have 8 siblings and each one took the sale in their own way, as we all do with every life event. 

Me? 

My parents have begun the next chapter. They are together, quietly existing with each other in paradise. Hard earned and more than welcome. 

As far as the house goes?

 “It’s not the home that I loved, but the life that I lived there.”

I will probably always punch in the address when we visit and need directions back to town, because some habits you just can’t break. 

But I’m so happy for the new family who lives there. The small children filling that house with noise. Squabbles and laughter.

I’m so happy that the house my great grampa Ralph built will see yet another families memories. 

We named this baby before we knew about this trip. We knew who he was before the events that led to the sale of my parents home occurred. But in light of it all, how fitting that he will represent this period of our lives by his name.

 Photo credit: Megan W. 
We look forward to welcoming you

Ralph Alistaire Warren

On the Steps of Calvary

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.
C.S. Lewis – Mere Christianity 

I grew up “in the church” as many modern day Christians like to say. My dad was a pastor before I was born, and into my early years of childhood. We moved to Illinois where “he got a real job,” as most of my school peers said. He never stopped sharing his faith with me, and I never stopped asking. My aunt continued to share her testimony with me by bringing me to pioneer girl camp. I sang worship songs. I “accepted Jesus into my heart” at a young age. 

I always knew God was there. I didn’t always know God. I learned the difference  at Calvary. 

I always struggled with my testimony. There was no a-ha! I had no radical conversion. My story seemed less interesting, and what little I had I struggled with whom to credit for my conversion. 

You see, many helped me get here. 

In reality, God changed my heart and I welcomed the change. 

I never thought much about my testimony until I came back to Illinois after 3 years of being away from our home base. 

I was pretty hardened by our sea tour in Hawaii. Deployment caused depression. My body kicked into survival mode with as busy as my husband’s work schedule was and how difficult a time I had juggling our home and family without him (thankfully I have my parents at my side). But the softening came. It didn’t happen at first for me. I got here and I mostly slept a lot. Then I went to the blend and the smell warmed up my insides. Like when you light a fire in a fireplace of a dusty cold room that’s been empty. Funny how smells can bring back old parts of you. Then I went to calvary on sunday, and I stood there looking up at the cross and thought about how much had happened to me and how different I was. Then I got this horrible feeling, like maybe I didn’t belong there anymore. Then Clayton started praying and I felt a little whisper telling me that I’m so very much the same. That I was different, but I hadn’t been spending quite enough time being the same old me. I had been a bit preoccupied with being the mom of 3 kids me.

And there she was, wiggling to be out of the Saran Wrap i had wrapped her in. Trying so desparately to let the feelings happen. This was a place where it was okay to be weak and weary. 

When I was in high school, most of my struggles centered on trying to make Sebastian understand how compatible we are. Of course, it’s a bit more complicated, but that’s the base line introduction. I was in love and he wasn’t and the struggle was so very real to 14-18 year old me. 

Deep inside it was a self love issue. If he couldn’t love me, maybe I shouldn’t. 

That’s where sin creeps in. It wasn’t Sebastian intentionally making me feel that way. I’ve said it before, our feelings are our own. The sooner we take responsibility for them, the sooner we can work with God to change our hearts. 

One day, when we were on good terms, Sebastian brought me to a youth group he had been attending. I met Clayton.

Clayton introduced me to having a relationship with God. Knowing Him instead of knowing of Him. He helped me hatch from my egg, as C.S. Lewis said.

Other people had told me this before, but God spoke to me there, at that moment. 

There I learned that being a Christian was having a relationship. Just like all relationships, you have to invest time and energy and love into them. 

I figured out how to pray, I struggled through devotions and making time for God. 

It’s been about 7 years and I still can’t get a rhythm. Praying in public feels wrong to me, it’s a privacy thing that I can’t seem to shake. Making time for devotionals with 3 kids doesn’t happen daily. If I told you it did it would be a big fat lie. 

Most importantly, I still struggle with the thought that God could ever have the time and energy to love little old me. To hear me when I struggle. I doubt him. And that doubt bleeds into my parenting. I see it. I watch it happen. I know it has to stop and I need to change again.

But if I told you my testimony as the happy story of always knowing of and eventually knowing him, but I failed to include my relationship with him now, well, it wouldn’t be real. 

My relationship with God is real. It’s raw. And I’m working on it. And a testimony isn’t just past tense. It’s present. And future. When you recognize that He is with you, and was and always will be, that’s where it all makes sense. You’ve been writing your testimony all this time, and you’re writing it every day, still.

What is important to me is sharing this story. Letting others know that there doesn’t have to be a firework display and a big emotional finding of God. There can be. But your story, your relationship with God isn’t any less real because it was gradual. 

On the steps of Calvary God made me whole. I walked up and down them many times and before I knew it, my soul was changed and my heart hungry for him always. 

  

No Such Thing as Normal

Today, I went to see my lovely midwife. She checked on our 4th baby before I fly home on Wednesday. While I was there, I decided it was the perfect day to take my Gestational Diabetes test.

For those that are unfamiliar with this test, it takes about an hour of your life. You drink a nasty drink, then wait around for an hour so they can take your blood.

Well, during this hour I walked about the hospital grounds some. In a secluded little walk path hidden by some bushes I heard a baby crying. A new baby. You can always tell because their cries are so soft and small.

Nosy me, with three kids three and under and a fourth due in May, it’s clear I love babies, I walked toward the sound. The bushes cleared a bit and there I saw a new mom, holding a screaming baby. She was sobbing. Big shoulder shifting tears.

I suppose some people would have turned around and given her privacy. But if I was her, I would only hope that someone would come to me.

“Do you want me to try and hold the baby for you?”

She looked up at me, a bit shocked as she didn’t hear me coming I assume.

“She won’t stop crying. I can’t get her to eat and her diaper is dry and she won’t stop crying.”

“That’s okay, I have 3 at home. I don’t mind a fussy baby. I’ll sit right next to you and when you feel up to trying with her again I’ll see if I can help?”

She nodded with her lip a little quivering.

We got to talking. The baby, Kate, was born ten days ago. The mom had delivered her here at this hospital. I asked how her delivery was, to which she replied, “complicated.”

Not wanting to press the issue, I swayed a bit with little Kate who was starting to quiet down.

“She hasn’t met her dad.”

I met the mother’s eyes and never have I ever seen that sadness. You see, at a civilian hospital, you would assume this to be a single mother, a dad not in the picture. Because I go to an Army hospital, the reason the father would not be here, well, the possibilities are endless.

“He’s at sea. They were supposed to be back. She came early. He’s coming late.”

I sat down next to her. “I’m so sorry. I cannot imagine what you’re going through right now.”

“It’s normal, right? That’s what everyone keeps telling me.”

I sat for a minute and looked at this poor young mother. Completely alone. Here, on an island, far away from any family, if she has any. And others’ advice to her is to tell her what she is going through is normal.

“No. No it’s not normal. How is that supposed to make you feel when you see other new babies with both parents? When other mothers tell you their husbands were at all of their children’s births. Why you? I don’t think it’s fair to say that anything about our lives is normal. How you’re feeling right now is how you should be feeling. What you’ve been through isn’t right and wasn’t expected. Life doesn’t go as planned for anyone, but telling you your circumstance is normal is never going to help you cope with the traumatic situation you’ve been through.”

When you see someone struggling, hear them. Don’t tell them to suck it up and get used to it. This lifestyle is hard. We don’t get to make plans and have them work out very often, but we try our hardest to get whole families at births of babies.

She started to cry again, and I squeezed her hand while I bounced her baby with the other arm.

She doesn’t know me. We didn’t exchange names. When she calmed down, I helped her settle the baby and make sure she got her latched.

I stood up to leave and she thanked me. I replied, “thank you. I love holding new babies. I’m sure your husband can’t wait to see her. Just remember when you’re feeling overwhelmed that babies can feel these feelings in us and it overwhelms them too. Try to calm your nerves when you’re trying to get her to sleep or eat. I know that sounds impossible, but if you ever need help, I know there are a lot of people in this world who can help you. They’ll find you.”

I told her about a Facebook group we have on island, Breastfeeders of Oahu. She smiled and said she’d look for it today. So hopefully I see her again, although I don’t have to.

She taught me a lot about carefully choosing words today. Truly listening to someone’s struggles. Not comparing or writing them off.

You can’t always see a person’s battle. All the more reason to assume it is far more dire than they make it out to be.

Military spouses have a hard cut in particular. Have compassion on them and realize the sacrifices they have to go through. We don’t always “know what we signed up for” so don’t try using that line to make it better. Just like you can have bad days, so can we. I know it’s a hard life for those who haven’t experienced it to comprehend, but I don’t know that I’ve ever really *needed* someone to understand how hard it is. I just don’t want to hear that it’s normal.

 

There is no such thing as normal.

 

Kitchen Remodel

So last year we started remodeling our home we bought in August of 2014! We got a lot done, but I think the biggest (and my favorite) achievement was the kitchen. 

My dad cut these cabinet doors for me from bamboo.

The counter is Quartz. 

The original floor we kept, which is beautiful marble tile. 

The stove has since been replaced to match the dishwasher, the fridge will follow. And the skylights are done, yet. But what project is ever really finished? 
   
    
    
    
   

 

 

Why Our Mini-Van Wasn’t Working

Let me start by saying that my family is a big collection of exceptions to the rules.

My husband is 6’5″ and does not easily fit into every vehicle. Besides that, even if he fits, he can’t drive with a car seat behind him or he no longer fits!

We chose to extend rear face our children and we have them close together. This means we have three, three and under all rear facing. (and will soon have four under four, ideally rear facing). Making loading and unloading an errand in and of itself!

With that, you can understand a little bit about how we decided to get rid of our van.

It all started the day we realized we had to replace the breaks and tires before our safety inspection expired. It was going to cost a day in labor and about $1000 if we did it ourselves. I asked my husband, “do we plan to move the van off island?” to which he replied, “Does it meet all of our needs as a family?”

We drove a 2009 Volkswagen Routan SEL. It had all the bells and whistles, that is for sure. However, when we purchased it, we had one child and our second on the way. I knew very little in the way of car seats, and had I known what I do now, I would not have purchased this van.

In terms of safety, this van has 3 seats with both anchors and tethers. I prefer seat belts to anchors when installing my car seats, however, the lack of front facing tethers was a problem. If we were to keep this car forever, knowing that I am now expecting a fourth car seat, I would have to move Salem into a potentially less safe seat for his age and size to accommodate our younger children in front facing seats.

Our van also had Front Wheel Drive. We know that living somewhere with snow is likely, and living on a farm is a dream. All Wheel Drive is better suited to us in terms of safety and amenities.

Other issues that the van presented regularly came in the form of automatic sliding doors. As my dad says, “the more things that have automation, electric, and buttons, the more that can break and the more it costs to fix.” These doors not only broke, they would NOT stop CLOSING for anything! This is not the case with every minivan, I know this to be true because many of my friends have wonderful vans! Mine almost caught my two year olds leg, though, so I may have been holding a grudge.

Another inconvenience was having to buckle (and during tantrums, load) our rear facing toddlers through the trunk of the vehicle.

Lastly, the minivan did not match my energy efficient goals in life. It averaged 9-12 mpg. I got 17 once. With a fresh oil change and a clear H1…we all know how likely that was to happen again. We paid about $150/monthly in gas. That’s like adding a third car payment to it.

So now what?

I looked at other minivans. I knew how to drive them, how to park them, and how easy it was to let little people climb up into them.

The Toyota Sienna has AWD. The Honda Odyssey has 8 seats all with tethers. Rumor has it 2017 Odysseys come with AWD, but we were looking to not invest money into a vehicle we were not keeping and certainly were not gonna get returned.

If I get an Odyssey that meets my seat requirements, will I kick myself every time we get stuck in snow?

Let me tell you a story. When Sebastian and I were expecting our first child, we bought our first, second vehicle. We wanted something safe and fuel efficient. We determined the Ford Focus met our needs, but the big questions was, “do you want the hatchback?”

Nah…who needs a hatchback?

Our stroller never fit easily into the Focus. We should have gotten the hatchback.

Was AWD going to be my hatchback? Did I want to chance it?

I was scared of SUVs. I convinced myself they got the worst gas mileage. But gas mileage was an amenity, and AWD and tethers were my safety concerns. I could sacrifice gas mileage.

Well, Sebastian’s dad works for Ford, so off we went to the Ford dealer to look at Explorers. 7 seats, but 6 had tethers, AWD was an option, and the mileage was great in the ecoboost engines!

We have to wait 4 months for our car to get in and our car seats don’t fit..

This means, sure, I’ll pay less in car payments, but I have to purchase new rear facing car seats that fit. I’m not ready to deal with that hassle. I really love our Cleks and I love how safe and comfortable they are for our kids. And, we’ll have to do the work on the van because we’ll need it until the Explorer arrives.

Sebastian looked up reviews on the best SUVs. Number 2 was the Honda Pilot. So, I did some digging…

Here is where the Car Seat Lady gives a nice layout of seats with anchors, tethers, anchors and tethers, and neither.

Here is where the Car Seat Lady talks about what features to consider when looking to buy a vehicle that safely holds car seats and their precious cargo.

Which brings me to why we chose the 2016 Honda Pilot.

We have an AWD version.  We can load our toddlers comfortably standing at one door or sitting beside our daughter on the other side. Our Cleks fit in the front row, behind the driver, and my very tall husband is still able to drive! (Cleks could not be in the captain’s chairs in the van if my husband was to be comfortable driving). The front seats slide forward instead of having back row passengers climbing onto seats. ALL 6 rear seats have tethers! There is not buckle/seat overlap. All head rests are removable, meaning they won’t interfere with front facing tethers. Our gas mileage is 20-27! (Remember, my van did not even get that on its best day..)

I am excited to welcome this vehicle into our family life. I’m thankful it is rated so high in safety and overall gets incredible reviews. I don’t think this car will suit every family, and I think mini vans are wonderful vehicles! Once again, our situation is uncommon, but I’m so glad that Honda made a vehicle that suits our safety standards and our desires for a family vehicle!

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Dealing with Insecurity as a Mom

People today like to blame social media for a lot, but as far as I’m concerned, Satan is going to find a way to make me doubt who I am and what choices I make whether or not any form of media is involved. 

I got a handful of positive feedback on my mommy wars post, and before the negative feedback eats away at my soul I thought I would write this post. 

I have been a mom for 3 years. There have been moms before me who have mothered longer and there will be moms after me who have mothered not quite so long. 

What I had to realize is, we’re all *still* a mom and we’re all still looking for answers. It’s where we find them that matters. 

There are three main avenues that insecurity finds me: 

Family judgement

Friend judgement 

Self judgment

Now, let’s be clear. Judgement is defined as:

the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions.

It’s not always negative! People can use positive judgement as often as they do negative. What I am dealing with today, however, is how to overcome insecurity from negative judgement. 

I listed those three judgements in order of the ease I can overcome them. The first two can very easily be flipped for some. 

Family judgement is easy for me to overcome because I have few people in my family who have been where I am. My mind logically takes their disagreement with a grain of salt. That being said, there are family members who have been where I am! When they disagree, at first, my reaction was pure, fiery anger and shutting people out.

Wrong, Candace. The bible does not tell you to get angry and shut out people who love you. 

So, about the time my daughter arrived, my faith evolved. My husband was at sea for much of her first year of life and I had to figure out something different. So I found God. 

When family disagreed with me and it upset me, I prayed. I found myself asking these questions:

Is their judgement biblically sound? 

What I mean is, are they trying to correct me as a brother or sister in Christ? Did I make a decision that doesn’t reflect God? 

Most often, the answer was no. Their judgement was a matter of preference. 

Okay, next question:

Does their judgement resonate with an insecurity I have? 

Most often the answer was yes. I’ll elaborate on how I work through this later.

Friends, I found,  I could more easily discuss our differences. They took what I said with a grain of salt and vice versa.

On a rare occasion, a disagreement would ignite and explode. So, I asked those questions again.

The first is often no. Rarely have I had a friend utilize biblical judgement with me. However, my very best friend and accountability partner, she most certainly has her work cut out for her. 

In the day to day of parenting choices though, the judgement isn’t biblical. Because, well, the Bible is truly clear on one area of parenting, and that’s to raise your child up in the way of the Lord. 

That means love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Fruits of the spirit: Galatians 5: 22-23)

Not gossip. Not anger. Not fear. Not self-hate. The list goes on.

The rest comes down to preference and safety. 

This next part was important for me. 

Was my friend approaching me on a matter of preference? Or safety?

1/3 times I get safety. I had a biblical reaction once. I had a bad reaction once. 

The first time a friend approached me on a matter of safety, at first I was annoyed and hurt. But after prayer and research, I found she was right. Her choice to address me was done in love for me and my child, and to get angry at her was absolutely bonkers. (See: the day a friend corrected me)

The second time, I blew up, blocked her, and kept it that way for months. Not my greatest moment, but I’m human and weve since made amends. This topic was a matter of safety to her, but I had done my research and found the line to be right down the middle. I had prayed over it, as had she, and we had come to difference of opinion. Can that happen? Absolutely. Something that is right for me doesn’t have to be right for her. And it’s not a biblical truth were arguing over, so we agreed to set it aside and continue on our walk with Christ. 

What I really want to get at, though, is our hearts. My second question was: 

Does their judgement resonate with an insecurity I have? 

This part, this is where the work has to happen. 

The answer here is almost always yes. 

I’m not a good enough mom.

She cleans more.

Her food is always better.

She nurses longer.

Her age gaps are “normal”

She has time to shower and get dressed. 

She spanks more.

She never spanks.

What do those say about me and what I think of myself? 

Well, not good things. 

Then, I sat down, discouraged (and at this time alone, as hubby was deployed) and I journaled. Why did God give me three children close together. Why can’t I nurse them longer, because I want to but pregnancy makes it impossible. Why can’t I find the energy to shower, let alone get dressed. 

And then, there’s the quiet that comes after the tears and infuriated writing. 

I had to ask myself: how does God see me?

I am renewed in Him. 

2 Cor. 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

I am created in His image, clothed in righteousness and holiness.

Col. 3:10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

I am saved by grace alone.

Titus 3:5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,

I have a heavenly calling.

Hebrews 3:1 therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.

I radiate God’s light and joy.

Psalm 19:8 The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.

I am chosen by the Creator of the world.

John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit–fruit that will last–and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.

He knows my needs before I ask them.

Matthew 6:8  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

He knew me before I was formed in the womb.

Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

He knows the number of hairs on my head.

Luke 12:7 indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows

He knows what I will do before I do it. That means he knows me better than I know me.

Psalm 139:4 Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD

Dealing with insecurities is the hardest thing I have to do daily.

It’s made easier when I remember the truths the Bible tells me about me. 

When that judgement sits heavy on your heart, and you know it’s not a biblical judgement, you can discern pretty easily that it’s a heart problem.

You are loved even when you don’t love yourself, but you should love yourself because of all of those reasons up there. 

Serve the Lord with all you have, love Him more than that. He’ll remind you why you’re here, but it gets much easier if you take the time to sit and listen.