Our Vacation at Pensacola Beach

This week we went down to Pensacola, Florida to spend a few days at the beach with my husband’s parents and siblings. Since we all live in North Alabama and Southern Tennessee, we don’t go to the ocean very often. It was a several hours drive with a couple stops in between, and I was so pleased that Eden (15 months) did so well with the trip. There and back, she didn’t have a single cry-fest. Thank the Lord. (Her first trip — at 2.5 months — was to the Smoky Mountains, also a several hours trip, and that car ride was absolute terror.)

The last time my husband and I went to the beach was two years ago, and we’d just found out days before that we were expecting. I remember stepping into the ocean with her inside me, wondering when would be her first time to step in with her own two feet and see it for herself. So this was her first time, and she had so much fun in the sand! Being in the ocean was definitely not her thing, and I don’t blame her — it’s much more enjoyable to look at than play in.

My mother-in-law planned for us to all have our pictures taken on our second day there, and I am in love with how they turned out! The light blues and creams turned out to be great colors for sunset pictures on the seashore. Here are a few photos of our little family of three and some of Eden enjoying the sand. These were taken on a day she hadn’t gotten a good nap in, so she was not the happiest camper in the world by the time we were getting our pictures taken, but I think the photographer did a good job hiding the fact that she was squaling and squirming 95% of the time (but there I go, giving that secret away).

During our trip we also toured Fort Pickens, ate at some local restaurants, went go-kart racing and played putt-putt golf, and got to watch the Blue Angels perform and also toured the National Naval Aviation Museum. It was a great vacation and we got to spend it with great family. But no matter where I go, or how much I love the beach, there will never be a better place than home, sweet home.

Have a great day!
~Courtney Faith

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Children are the Most Important Work

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“Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.” – Dr. John Trainer

I was reading the latest issue of the No Greater Joy magazine the other day and came across this quote in one of their articles, and it really stuck out to me. It’s something I need to remind myself of every single day, and a blatant truth I must never let myself forget.

“Our children ARE our ministry. Sometimes I think I want to go OUT and tell people about Jesus. I want to do some kind of big ministry that’s bigger than me and affects the whole world. Maybe we should go to Africa or something. But then I look at my three babies and I realize their young, thirsty souls are my ministry right now. Maybe there’s a future for us in foreign missions… I don’t know. But right now, they are what God gave me to change the world.” -Hannah Stoll

It may be easy at times to look past the daily ordinary and think we could be doing so much more for God, so many bigger things for Him out there in the world that affect so many people. Changing diapers and wiping little faces and cleaning up the living room for the hundredth time in a day can be exhausting, and can feel like we’re not doing anything huge or important. But what we need to remember is that we were given this mom life for a reason, and our kids are the huge and important things of this world.

Sure, there may be people whose calling is to get out there and teach the Gospel to thousands of people, or feed orphans and widows on the other side of the world. That may sound so much better and more world-changing than cleaning the house and soothing a screaming baby and cooking supper every single night with a kid on our hip, but if that’s where we are in this moment, then that’s where God wants us to be right now. Things may change, but right here, right now, these little people are what’s most important, and to God they mean more than anything else. He gave you this job because He knew you could do it beautifully, and He knows you can do it even on the messy days.

Those little souls we’re raising are so very important–eternally important–and we cannot afford to take our God-given responsibility lightly, by any means. They are our ministry, they are the next generation, and raising them to be lights in the world and soldiers for God is the biggest job there is.

You’re doing a great job, momma! Happy Mother’s Day. ❤

I Had an Unplanned Cesarean and I’m Okay with That. (And Why You Should Be Okay with Yours Too!)

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When I was pregnant with my daughter, I could probably count on one hand the women I knew of who had Cesareans. But I didn’t talk to them about their experiences so I could get an idea what it’s like, in case I wound up having one myself, because “I’m having an all-natural, peaceful, whenever-the-baby’s-ready home birth, and there is no need to learn about the surgery or post-op recovery.”

WRONG.

Whether you’re pregnant now or will be sometime in the future, take this bit of advice from me, please: read up on Cesareans so you won’t have that fist-to-the-gut feeling I did when the doctor told me he suggested I have one. Get informed about the how, the why, and especially the recovery. You may never even need to have a C-section, but just in case you do, be prepared and at least know a little bit about it, unlike me.

Anyway. Back to what I’m trying to get at.

If two years ago you’d have told my pregnant self that I’d eventually go twenty-two days over my due date, have a failed induction, and then finally have no choice but to get a C-section, I wouldn’t have believed you. Because none of that was in my plan. Going overdue somewhat, maybe, but not the other stuff. Psh—no way.

I had hoped and planned for a home birth in Tennessee with my midwives, but as I kept going days and days over my due date, our time for my wonderful, ideal, dreamed-about-ever-since-I-can-remember birth was running out. Three weeks past due was the cut-off date, and so on the day I reached 43 weeks with no signs of labor starting anytime soon, we planned an induction at a hospital with a doctor for the next morning—already three things I never, ever imagined myself doing.

Long story short (you can read the full version HERE), the induction didn’t work because apparently my body and my baby STILL weren’t ready yet, and then my blood pressure was high enough to be concerned about, and the baby was assumed to be facing the wrong way (turns out she was), which could cause a problem later on if I delivered vaginally, SO we chose that last resort we’d never dreamed of: a Cesarean section. A full-on MAJOR SURGERY. (Okay, so I admit that part didn’t hit me till later on, but y’all—this surgery is NO JOKE and my heart and so much respect go out to each and every woman who has had this operation.)

Once I started coming off my newborn baby high (AHHH—the best thing in this world!) and I realized there was still a whole world out there with (gasp!) other people, and I was finally over the infection in my incision (O-U-C-H), I realized how very disappointed I actually was that I did not have the birth I’d always dreamed of, the one I’d been planning for nearly ten months, even rented the birthing house for. And I started hating myself for not being able to give birth like a “normal person.” I told myself I must have done something wrong, or not enough things right, to cause everything opposite of my plan to come about. What if I’d exercised more? I wondered. Or, What if I hadn’t eaten some of the things I did? How come So-and-So was able to do it but not me? A friend of mine from church had told me right after Eden was born to never let myself think these things, because I didn’t fail, and I did still carry and give birth to my child, and I was still just as woman as the one who delivered naturally. It was weeks later when I started actually thinking those awful things that I would have to remind myself what she told me. What she said was exactly true, but while I certainly felt that other women who gave birth by Cesarean were amazing mothers and women who had done only what was best for their children, in my heart I couldn’t believe it about myself.

I didn’t ever get depressed about the whole thing, but I did put myself down a lot whenever I thought about how my body couldn’t go into labor on its own, my body couldn’t get into real, good labor even with the help of Pitocin, my body “couldn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t. It was also hard reading or hearing other people’s labor and birth stories, knowing I didn’t get to experience the real thing, wondering if I ever would.

A few months ago I spoke with a new friend of mine who had also within the past year given birth via unplanned Cesarean. We swapped our stories and they were almost identical! We chatted about the disappointment we felt when our bodies just wouldn’t do what we wanted them to, the physical and emotional sides of recovering, and our fears of ever having another baby and the same thing happening all over again. Beyond all, though, we are both thankful that we had the option of Cesarean for the sake of our babies, and for their well-being we would not have had it any way but the best way for them—which just so happened to be C-sections. By the time she and I met I can say I was very close to having accepted my daughter’s birth as a whole, but I think being able to talk about it (for the first time!) with someone who totally, absolutely understood exactly what I felt, was a huge weight off my shoulders and I think a big part of fully accepting.

To someone who hasn’t had a Cesarean, I probably sound like a big sissy for having worried so much for so long about how my baby got here, as long as she’s here, safe and perfectly sound—and maybe it is silly—but it’s something a lot of women have to work through emotionally, and I think there are a few big things that can help them get past the disappointment and embrace the truth that this did happen, that their plans can change in a minute, and that they are still every bit of a woman as the one who delivers naturally, or vaginally with an epidural. I may never have that “normal” birth, but that is something I’ll come to grips with if and when the time comes, and since I’ve done this before, I think it will be much easier if I go through it again.

Four things that I believe can help a lot are:

  1. Just be grateful, first and foremost, that your baby is safe and in this world, and that there are doctors out there who know what they’re doing when it does come down to major surgery in favor of the baby’s (and your) health.
  2. Write out your birth story, or record yourself telling it. Just simply getting it all out and off your chest (and reliving the glorious moments!) can sometimes be the best medicine.
  3. Talk to someone who understands, who’s been there. After having my daughter I was surprised at how many friends have had Cesareans, and I didn’t even know it before, but talking to them about it can be so helpful. Talk to someone who will let you spill out your frustrations, but who will also tell you it’s okay, you did amazing, and now you need to suck it up, buttercup. (Because friends don’t let friends throw pity parties.)
  4. Encourage other people. When you talk to a mom who is down about her C-section experience, you can thank God you also went through it, because now you can let her cry on your shoulder, you can tell her it’s gonna be all right (because you know it is), and you can show her what it looks like to pick yourself back up and smile, because you’ve been there, you’re strong, and she is too. I think this was the biggest thing for me to being able to actually be thankful for my C-section (besides the obvious fact that my baby is safely here). I can be thankful I went through something hard like this because when someone else has gone through it and needs encouragement, I can now be a help to that person.

There may still be days here and there when I’ll look down and see my constant reminder, that 6-inch battle scar on my abdomen that may fade but will never completely go away, and I start to think, What if—? but I’m going to stop myself right there, because it’s just a scar, that was just a C-section, it was just a thing I had to do, and I’m okay with it now. I am grateful.

And you can be, too.

Be There

   

   

This day and age we all have smart phones, or some type of cool camera that we’ve got on hand 24/7. We’re practically attached to our electronic devices, virtually glued to a screen.

I go to the park, to the library, to the grocery store, even, and see moms on their phones while their kids are playing, talking, laughing. A lot of times the mom is on her phone because she’s taking a picture or video of her lovely kids.

I get it. I’ve been there. I’m there a lot. Now that I’m a mom myself I love snapping photos of every little milestone or cute face or fun activity I don’t want to ever forget. I find myself taking a dozen or more pictures a day sometimes, and several videos frequently.

But as I watch others doing it too, it strikes me– are my efforts to capture precious moments on my camera actually robbing me from truly soaking up the moment to treasure in my heart forever? Am I really spending those wonderful moments with my daughter, or am I simply her paparazzi and videographer?

Even if I remember every moment I snap a picture of, will she remember? Or will she only remember her childhood filled with Mommy’s face hidden behind an electronic device?

  
I’m not trying to say that we should quit taking pictures or videos. No, I’m all for saving those sweet moments of our growing children. I’m just saying (to myself!) that maybe I should make less pictures and more memories. Maybe I should put down the phone and camera and pick up my baby. Maybe I should use my fingers more for tickling and playing than for typing about all my kid’s sweet and silly antics to post on Facebook or Instgram.

None of these things is wrong, but I want to try to use my screens in moderation, and love and play and make memories with my daughter in liberation. You’ll still see me holding my camera, not able to resist the urge to capture a memory with film (or whatever it’s technically called these days), but I want to take more of those chances to witness the whole scene with my own eyes, uninterrupted by an electronic device.

  
I don’t want to just witness and record my baby’s growing up– I want to be there when she does.

~Courtney Faith

My Morning Routine As a SAHM

Hello, friends!

Today I want to share with you a little bit of what a typical morning for me looks like. I think it’s good to have a comfortable rhythm to start your day off well, and while I’m definitely not the schedule-loving, everything-is-planned-ahead type of person, I do like to at least start each of my days off pretty similar to all my others.

With my husband currently working and going to school, our days don’t always look the same and they change each semester when his classes do, AND we have an almost 9 month-old, so my routine looks pretty different even from what it was just four or five months ago, when she was way more predictable and would sleep 2-3 hours in the mornings and I could get alllll the housework done in one stretch. BUT, although each day has some differences of its own (for example, one day a week we have story time at the library, and another day we go grocery shopping), I do try to keep things pretty steady here at home, at least in the mornings, as the day is getting set into motion.

So. Here’s a general glimpse of what a typical weekday morning for us looks like (as long as Miss E wasn’t up half the night with teething troubles).

1) Get up, fix coffee/breakfast/lunch for hubby.
On hubby’s work days I’m up at about 5:30, and a bit later on his school days, but this part of the day starts off the same way, no matter what time it is when I begin the morning: I get up, start the coffee maker, pop a bagel in the toaster, and then pack his lunch for the day.

2) Rest, nurse, play.
If it’s still early and baby’s not up yet, I sometimes go back to bed for a few minutes of precious shut-eye or just browse my phone (but that extra sleep normally doesn’t happen, because baby’s usually up by 6:00-6:30). Otherwise– get baby up, nurse, and talk/play with her (she is–usually–in her happiest, sweetest state at this time and I LOVE these moments with just the two of us!).

3) Coffee/breakfast for me.
This is usually the time I fix myself a nice, big, hot cup of fresh coffee and eat a small breakfast (cream cheese bagel or cereal– I’m not a huge breakfast eater), and do a bit of reading (I’m working on being more diligent in my Bible reading). Sometimes Eden will want to join me and eat whatever it is I have on my plate, but I usually fix her a bowl of applesauce or yogurt, or give her some dry cereal to munch on.

4) Play, clean, read.
Play with Eden (read books, play with toys, etc.), clean up a little around the house (usually kitchen + dishes) while she either plays on the floor next to me, eats a snack in her highchair, or watches a VeggieTales movie. I also use her quiet play/snack/movie time to read some more, if I’m not busy doing something else.

5) Make a to-do list for the day.
Maybe this should be the first thing I do each day, because that would only make sense, but, personally, I need a little time to wake up and clear my head (AKA coffee up!) before I can start thinking of what all needs to be done that day. This is usually the time I write everything down– even the things I’ve already done that morning–so I can highlight or check each chore off as I go. (This is about as far as the scheduling side of me gets, and I’m perfectly okay with that.) Typically my list looks a little something like this:

6) Nap, clean, shower.
By 10 AM Eden starts to get fussy and is ready for her morning nap, and she’ll normally sleep about an hour, sometimes more. This is the time I take to get the other cleaning done (e.g. put away laundry, sweep kitchen, pick up toys in living room, make bed, straighten bedroom, etc.) while she’s not up to get into things and I don’t have to keep a sharp eye on her. This is also the time I can take a quick shower, with the baby monitor close by. And if all that gets done before the baby wakes up, I get a little more quiet time to myself to read, drink my second cup of coffee, or work on a project.

And that’s what a typical morning looks like for me! Do you have a general routine you like to stick to, or do you prefer to stick to a schedule? What are some things you like to do in your quiet time? Do you have any tips for personal devo time and how to stick to it and stay focused? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Take care!
~Courtney

This Is My Joy

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As a Child Photography

In honor of Mother’s Day this weekend, I’m writing a little something to all the mothers out there. Though I’ve only been a “practicing mom” for three months come Sunday, there are a few things I have learned already that nothing a book or fellow mother could have taught me. Some things just have to be learned through experience.

And during my short time (almost three months) of experience, I have learned mainly one thing: that this mothering thing is by no means an easy job. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but beyond the shadow of a doubt the most rewarding. (I mean, what other job can keep you up most hours of the night some nights and you wake up the next morning utterly exhausted, but then you see that sweet face flash a gummy smile just for you, and then all the sleeplessness is forgotten? That right there is priceless.)

Some days are harder than others, and sometimes those hard days turn into a hard week. Last week was one of those weeks for me…

This past Sunday I was feeling like a bonafied failure as a mom and wife and all-around person. The whole week before had been a mess; the baby wasn’t feeling well, I wasn’t feeling well, and the whole family wasn’t getting much sleep as a result. That makes for a cranky baby and a cranky momma and a tired (and probably very confused) daddy.

So when Sunday rolled around and I’d had maybe 4 hours of sleep (not in a row, of course; you don’t do that once you become a mom!) on top of little sleep the week prior, you could say I was pretty worn out.

We made it to Sunday school that morning–a little late, but we made it. I could hardly keep my eyes open, and the baby was already getting fussy, so I eventually went with her to the nursery to calm her down. At least three times during services we wound up in the nursery. So at one point I walked in there just on the brink of tears. I wished I could pause life for a few hours and cry myself to sleep, forgetting all my responsibilities.

But as I walked through the door feeling guilty for feeling that way, a little voice in my head whispered, “This is my joy.” I’m standing there holding a crying baby, about to cry myself, and no one can feed her or soothe her or rock her at this moment but me, there is so much responsibility is on me right now, and I think “this is my JOY”?

What?

But for some reason, I repeated that phrase to myself and it was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders immediately. My baby was still crying, but because I changed my attitude to the situation, I was able to see a purpose for the hard moments and do it with a better heart.

This job mothers have to do is by no means easy, nor is it ever supposed to be. But it is a job given to us by the Lord, and whatever our hands finds to do we are to do it heartily for Him. And whatever we do for Him, we are to do with great joy.

Does that mean even when the baby won’t sleep, won’t let you put her down, won’t get happy … just WON’T … that you’ve gotta be HAPPY about it?!

Noooot exactly.

Having joy doesn’t mean you’re happy 24/7. No, there will be days the babies will cry, you will cry, and nothing productive seems to get done. But being joyful means having a sort of peaceful hope– a peaceful hope in God that no matter how tough things get, He’s there with you, holding your hand, and you can do this. And if you have that joyful mindset, you’ll remember that this job was given to you by God to do, and He never gives anyone anything they can’t handle. That right there means you can handle it, and He’s got you. And if this is your job, then aim high and do it as well as you are able, and thankfully He never expects perfectionist mothering.

A friend of mine gave me a little card recently that had a quote written on it. It was such an encouragement to me that I taped it above my kitchen sink and now read it every time I stand there doing dishes. It says, “Motherhood may be messy, but it is not mundane. You are raising kingdom warriors, and you do it beautifully.” I’ve quickly learned that there is nothing “mundane” about motherhood, and it definitely is very “messy.” But because we as mothers are “raising kingdom warriors,” little future help meets and soldiers for God, then it is our responsibility, but even more so our privilege, to take joy in this honorable job He has given to each of us.

So next time you’re in tears or nearly in tears from all the overwhelming-ness motherhood throws at you–and I’ll remember this too–just stop, take a breath, and whisper to yourself, “This is my joy.” And then thank God for His believing that you can do this, and hold that little babe a bit closer, because these days won’t last forever.

“‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, …in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

Have a joyful Mother’s Day, mommas.