3.28.2013

"the gospel in her home" (the family of God)




it is an amazing thing to watch siblings be created. two people, created by God, of the same blood and of the same kin. this is something new for me, as my sister is adopted and though we surprisingly look alike, we don't share any of the same DNA.

today my thought is quick and simple. the gospel is beautiful because it redeems us: body, soul and spirit. it reconciles us to God. it gives us eternal life in fellowship with the Creator.

the gospel is also so beautiful, and so glorious because it redeems our relationships to one another. it gives us brothers and sisters - stronger than blood or law - that will be eternal. it reconciles us to one another in a way no counseling or common interest or national pride could ever do. we have been given eternal life in fellowship with ONE ANOTHER and in that a deeper, holistic fellowship with the Creator.

this is why, as Abraham, we look to a City whose Builder and Maker is God. because there, not only will Christ shine as the Sun and be our light. but also, we will be part of a perfect family - without jealousy or bitterness, not bickering or selfishness. we will know family like never before.

and in watching little Lucia and little Amos interact - part of the same home from the same parents, it's a small picture of the family of God - from every nation, tribe and tongue the Lord is redeeming for Himself even now. Hallelujah!

check out the posts over at After His Smile HERE and Mike + Brit HERE.





3.27.2013

oh how gutsy it is to open your heart, and let another peer in!





you know what i think is really awesome? like so awesome and so incredible and makes me SO EXCITED? when people i love, especially people in the church, become really gutsy and do something they love - especially when that thing benefits other people.

i LOVE creative people actually taking time to use their giftings, and selflessly (and with all the vulnerability that requires) allows others to partake of what they create.

i LOVE when the church gets educated (in whatever form that looks like) and benefits society by stepping into powerful arenas - by making money (a pretty risky calling, if you ask me), creating business ideas, excelling in their career - all while glorifying the Lord.

I JUST LOVE IT.

i love that every morning i can dance to will matthew's music with my toddler and baby - and that our hearts can come alive through his gift and effort.
i love watching my best friend brittany run an innovative jewelry company called the giving keys.
i love seeing creativity flow through our friend blaise as he expresses the message God is forming in his heart.
i love reading blogs, especially blogs with intentionality, like those of my friends allison and britney that i know bless so many mothers and women who get to peek into their lives.
i love how incredibly talented and creative my friend aaron vandenbroucke is.
i love that an old friend, katherine smith, is traveling the world to bless, blog, cook, and encounter culture and is sharing it with everyone.
i love watching another fellow mother create incredible art and sell it on etsy.
i love seeing my friend chelsea and her husband philip create handmade industrial lighting fixtures that have turned into a thriving small business.
i love seeing my bff courtney take unique beads and turn them into earrings that people are buying and wearing.

[if i missed you, let me know and i'll add you!!!]

from personal experience i know sharing your life, your creative work, even your simple thoughts is risky. it opens up doors of criticism, accusation, and hurtful words.

but beyond that, and this is the beautiful part, is that is gives, in a tangible way, a piece of that person, and even more - an insight into the beauty of God - and offers it to the world. to the saved and unsaved. rather it helps support your family, or gives you an outlet, or whatever the motivation behind the work - it's ballsy. pardon me, but it is. and i applaud all those that TRIED. and are TRYING. and keep offering something up. keep singing their little song that was meant to be sung. keep illuminating their little corner of the world, or of the free market :), or of the creative outflow that is humanity.

and i want to encourage everyone to support your local business, your small companies, your handmade stuff (especially the church supporting the church). BUY the music you listen to. connect people - be a networker for the church and the entrepreneurs found within it. pray that God would give you divine business ideas. a new way to teach a concept. a song. a painting. an invention that will make millions and fund the preaching of the gospel to the ends of the earth. write that book you've always talked about. take that class. be daring.

and be your fellow brother or sisters biggest fan. trumpet their talents and cheer them on. pray for them and their endeavors.

and that is my soapbox for the day. :)

and i leave you with this incredible piece by woolflax.




3.25.2013

our new home + nostalgia (the ache that makes our heart reach for eternity)




it seems likes ages ago, but i want to blog about closing and moving into our new home. house hunting (for first-timers) is the most confusing and intense process ever. it's way more time consuming then i had ever imagined - and like a second job - both in hunting and in escrow (aka the 30 days it takes between them accepting an offer and you moving in.) 

thankfully my husband did most of the logistics, and i did a lot of paper scanning and mindless work. 

but praise the Lord! we closed the day after Valentine's day. almost 3 weeks to date before Lucia made her arrival. here's some play by plays via instagram.



packing up our small apartment was a process we started when we began looking back in the fall. that part didn't seem too intense, even though amos was left to his own while i rummaged through closets and cabinets. this was what my little apartment looked like at the end of each day those final 2 weeks.



ricky had been out of town the two days before we signed our papers. it was pretty crazy, as his flight in New York city got postponed until the next meeting, and immediately after i picked him up from the airport we had to drive straight to the mortgage place to sign.



thankfully my mom flew in the day before we moved out, and here we are waiting to pick her up at the airport. SHE HONESTLY SAVED THE DAY! (as she always does)



this was taken Friday, the 15th when we got the call that the loan was funded and the house was officially ours! (that's how amos use to do thumbs up)



the mighty movers. my brother-in-law michael, my husband's boxer cousin simon, and my awesome husband. we filled up that uhaul TWICE. ridiculous.



the final moments in our apartment... so bittersweet.


our first meal in our new home. our wonderful friends made us ethiopian food. so grateful to the Lord!



my mom and Amos enjoying our front yard and his box fort. a yard has been one of the greatest blessings since moving here (especially with the baby and nursing all the time). Amos has spent hours upon hours exploring.



our first family dinner at the house. diane (on the left) is renting out our front bedroom, and has been such a delight in our house. i just love seeing her come and go and living life with her in this season! Amos loves it SOOOOOO much.



 our new couch and moving/building/cleaning. i still feel like there are random piles of things that still haven't found a place. all the process, i suppose.


leaving our apartment was hard. it symbolizes so much to me now. it came at such a transitional time. it represents my first years as a mother. my alone time with amos. my memories of him as a baby - his babbling, and crawling, and chubby legs. his first bites of food and his first nights in his crib. our hours spent in my nursing chair, and the hundreds of block towers and train track cities we built. our moments as a family of three, sealed up in that little place.

we went back to pick up a package a couple days after we left to find it being torn apart and made anew. i snuck out and cried and asked amos if he wanted to say goodbye (he was missing it too). we went in and he said, "goodbye kitchen. goodbye living room. goodbye bedroom."

my little heart was saying goodbye too. i went into the car and cried. even now i want to cry.

nostalgia you feel towards your years as a child, or times with friends before marriage and work. it is only a small glimpse into the nostalgia you will feel as your children grow and change. it has been a tidal wave for me, as i have never been emotional about amos growing up. suddenly, as i said goodbye to the familiar - as i hold a tiny, fresh infant in my arms day after day, the realization he will continue to grow, continue to embrace independence, continue to distance himself more from the womb his life began in... my heart aches with a nostalgia that only the Lord can reach.

and i am seeing idols in my heart, rooted deeply. they peek up in different moments of my day. i am asking the Lord to come in that place and become my greatest delight. that my heart would look towards Zion, towards His coming, and not behind at the sweet seasons that lay in the dusty footprints that trail... it's a prayer i've had to pray as each season folds into the next. saying goodbye to friends, and comforts, and joys. watching that which my heart found delight in, the good gifts from Jesus, be transformed into new gifts. the old ones can only stay for so long, in His wisdom he draws boundaries to keep our hearts ever reaching for the True Delights, only found at His right hand.







3.22.2013

lucia // 13 days old. o, hello weekend!


lucia mercy at 13 days old. sleeping all the time (is this normal?! i can't remember!). nurses like a champion - i don't think i've ever had to fix her latch. weighed in at 8 lbs 5 oz on Wednesday. she likes to be rocked to sleep, and sometimes will take a pacifier. she heard mariachis for the first time last night at our favorite mexican spot and she gets kisses and hugs from her brother about 150 times a day. she sleeps through the night, except to nurse once or twice. she's in our bed... but hoping to start her out at night in her cosleeper next week. if not, no biggy. amos was in our bed for over a year, and it worked perfectly for us. plus we have a cal king bed now, so it's roomy enough for us all - even when amos crawls in bed after the sun rises.

---------

i made it through my first week at home. as always, i am realizing my absolute need to commune with the Holy Spirit. to feast on the Word. to lean into His everlasting arms. i am so grateful the Lord is filling my life with things (and people, and babies) that provoke my heart to call out to Jesus. i am such an empty vessel without Him, and an empty mother.

mothers, or anyone really who seems busy, when do you spend time with the Lord? what does it look like for you? is it whenever you can squeeze it in during your day? is it in your schedule? i am finding it a little difficult as i am rather sleepy in the mornings - i lie in bed with Lucia until the minute ricky walks out the door. and amos has forsaken naps ever since Ricky went back to work. i've implemented an hour of quiet time, where Amos has to watch something or read some books. this would be a great place to start. hoping next week we can plug this into my routine.

well now it's time for the weekend! i have a lot of projects planned for ricky and i... as the house is still in the process of completion (we don't have curtains or blinds yet! ahhh - excited to make these), and we need to do some saturday cleaning as it was hard to keep up this week (i'm guessing that will be the next year of my life).

i'm excited for next week too, as some of my friends are coming to visit. :) i think i have refueled from my introverted week. (alone time is how i get my energy, and it's exactly what i needed to recover.)

also hoping to get back into the swing of some of my weekly posts i was wanting to do.

well, time to sip my triple grande upside down caramel machiatto with half pumps of vanilla (haha sooo annoying) - because obviously i am so happy to drink it again. and to watch amos give his animals a "bath" in our backyard out the back window. life is simple. and life is sweet.



"the gospel in her home" (in our good and bad, the gospel prevails)


though this post could easily be titled: the gospel in the hospital room. :)

with not much free time, my post will be simple. it's in regards to my post yesterday - lucia's birth story. my friend britney, another gospel in her home poster, commented with these words.

Tiff, I just want to cry!! You are so SO right!! Man looks at the outside but Jesus is concerned with our hearts!!!!! Better a big cheese burger with a clean heart than all that "free range chicken broth" from the farmers market with a bad heart!!! Better an epidural and hospital birth with thankfulness than the coolest natural home-birth without it!! (His entire message to the Pharisees!!) Jesus knows what we need and is committed to giving us what is for our good and His glory...and I think sometimes that is an epidural!!! Praise God!!!!!!!

in our mothering (and our birthing) it is so easy to put our confidence in our good works and our great plans. our great mothering skills. our polite and well mannered child. our clean homes. our creative activities. our crafting and cooking. even our pregnancies and labor/deliveries. we can easily, without realizing, go to sleep with a heart of pride that says: "well aren't i doing well today."

there are many problems with this, the first is the obvious. we are not putting our faith in Christ and the gospel He has given us. the other problem is that when we "fail" or don't deliver as we ought our heart falls into despair. when we speak to our child in frustration, or look around at a messy room. when we waste an afternoon or feel lazy and weary. the enemy has such a place of authority, suddenly, to bring us into condemnation.

however, if our hope is in the gospel, in Christ's finished work - our goodness and good works and our wretchedness and sin do not sway us - either into pride or despair quite as easily. in all things we declare, "He is worthy!" and can rest in the cross.



check out both britney and al's post. :)



3.21.2013

relearning, learning, and a heart of gratitude.





things i forgot:

1.) recovery from a birth + stitches is intense. i hate lying around. i hate dishes in my sink. and i hate not being able to DO. thankfully i feel normal again, but - uhhhh. that resting phase seemed long.
         + recovering with a VERY active toddler boy was hard too. mostly because i didn't get to spend much time with him the first week or so. he would only sit with me for a handful of minutes - and then he was off running around. i wanted to run around with him!

2.) newborns go through diapers SOOOOOOO fast. i forget to change poor little lucia.

3.) newborns sleep A LOT.
        + i know they always say it, but i look back at when i first had amos and giggle at how much time i actually had. amos went to my in-laws for the afternoon and i got more done then i probably have in 6 months. lucia slept and i blogged, cleaned, etc. i know breastfeeding for the first time, and transitioning into caring for another life is intense... but it's true you'll always probably get busier than you are currently as your family grows.





4.) i love breastfeeding because you can eat for days and days and DAYYYSSSSS



things i'm learning:

1.) lucia isn't like amos. amos would fall asleep nursing. when lucia is done, she is DONE and wants to be rocked to sleep. this is just one of the millions of differences i'm sure will start to appear.



2.) amos yearns to have misbehavior addressed immediately. i think he feels much more comfortable and safe when i do more than say "no," but actually set the baby down (even if she is fussing) and address disobedience. afterwards there is a peace and calm - as if he feels, "yes, yes - she is still there."

3.) to let ricky do much more with lucia than with amos. for the first couple months amos was at my chest a majority of the time - and it did fit his little personality. but with lucia, i just can't do it - and so she is learning quickly to be comforted by both of us. i love it. ricky loves it. he rocked her to sleep last night.



4.) sometimes skipping the nap, and putting amos down around 7 (where he goes out fast and hard) is worth it - even if it breaks routine (something i'm not too fond of). he's not napping very easily, as he is wanting to cuddle and i generally can't if lucia isn't sleeping. it's not worth the fight. an hour of quiet time, and then back to playing.

trying to nap.
STILL trying to nap...
finally surrendered the other day, but it was already 4:30 PM. eeek!
5.) no one told me how hard it would be for ME to transition from one to two. i did all i could to prepare amos for the change, i didn't think i would be the emotional basket case i was. i have spent almost every day of my life for the past 2.5 years hanging out and cuddling with my little boy. to not see him for 2 days while in labor, and then not really getting to spend time with him while i recovered was the most emotionally intense thing i've experienced in years. it was good. the Lord ministered to me through it immensely. but oh boy, what will i do when he goes to college?! Father, give me grace!




things i'm grateful for:

1.) meals. i have had meals delivered to me by the kindest of friends and community for the past 4-5 days, and have meals signed up for another week or so. when busy moms go out of their way to prepare an extra meal and deliver it - you understand the sacrifice that time took. i am sooooo grateful (and so is ricky!).

2.) family. venting to my sister and her reassurance. mom checking in and coming oh so soon! the sweet sweet letter my dad wrote to amos about his entrance into "big brotherhood" - makes me cry thinking about it. my sister-in-laws who take amos to the park and out and about so he doesn't go crazy. my mother and father in law who dropped everything the day i went into labor until we got home to make our transition smooth (especially amos'). and my incredible husband, who balanced a crazy work deadline the week lucia was born, school projects, and being an awesome daddy - all while listening to my hormones go insane while i cried and cried about missing amos.

ricky's sister alissa holding lucia.

3.) slings/ergos/moby. i think this will be my survival.


4.) the Lord's kindness and gentleness is leading me in my mothering.

       AMEN AND AMEN.



3.19.2013

birth story of ms. lucia mercy // He is the author of Life.


here we are again, typing out the details of the blur that is a labor and delivery of a baby. i was certain this time around would be so vastly different than amos' story. less drama, more simplicity, rawness, and a peaceful calm.

and this is how it goes. i love control. that is how i deal with fear, deal with pain, and deal with confusion. if i don't understand something - it is scary to me. therefore, i research an idea or a situation until i feel fully educated and aware. i did this with birth - especially the first time with amos. learning from my past situation i did even more to prepare ourselves for the arrival of this baby. all our natural preparations - teas, and supplements, and exercises. having done bradley method birth classes with amos (which i loved, but felt was not adequate in helping one deal with pain properly - especially pitocin pain) and so with lucia i did the other natural labor method: hypnobabies. we were going to have her in a birth center rather than a hospital, as i honestly didn't want to have anything within this story that would echo my last labor and delivery - except for the beautiful ending: a healthy little baby in our arms.

though i ate well with my first pregnancy, i was much more strict and aware this one. i was active and honestly felt great at the end. i had midwives tell me, because amos' positioning and delivery (posterier, aka face up. a much harder way to push out) that i would most likely have a very quick labor and pushing stage.

i was so excited to have her in the birth center. i wanted to deliver in water. i was excited to go home quickly afterwards.

this is to give some understanding of how we were going into week 40. everything was in order and in place.

of course, the story doesn't go as i planned. as is life. my hope could not lie in my preparation, nor in my body that "knows how to birth." i could not rest in the beauty of a natural birth story, yet again. i had to just declare God is sovereign. He really is in control.

this is me the day before my water broke. :)

my water broke around 7:30 PM on Friday night, March 8th. This was the night before my due date. amos, ricky and i had went to a kim walker/jesus culture concert. amos was dancing at our feet, and i was trying to really set my heart on Jesus. then it happened. i spent the next hour trying to figure out if my water really had broken - to realize, why yes, yes it had. we were going to have this baby, most likely on her due date!

I was so excited, so Ricky took us home and we put Amos to bed. Within the next couple hours my excitement suddenly turned to frustration. I realized i was having little to no contractions, my water had broke, and I was suddenly on the dreaded timeline. i had 24 hours to go into active labor (painful contractions, 4 cm) to have her at the birth center, and if not - 36 hours to deliver the baby without fighting a c-section.

though i know i should rest, i spent the night in and out of sleep. i'd wake up to use the restroom, realizing nothing was happening. USUALLY contractions pick up within 4-6 hours after your water breaks. 4 hours passed, then 6, and by morning it had been 12 hours with little to no contractions. i had to go into the birth center by this time to confirm my water had broken.

by this point i was pretty emotional. yet again i was fighting my body to do something it wasn't ready to do.

we went into birth center and they confirmed my water had broken. the minute the midwife told me i started hysterically weeping. though i had 12 more hours to get labor going, deep down i knew induction was coming. ricky kept assuring me it was okay, and once we tried some natural induction methods my body would probably kick into gear.

we spent the entire day trying all we could. we found an herbal shop by the beach to take blue/black cohosh. we came back to the house and walked... and walked... and walked. i did exercises. we went to acupuncturist. i quoted and prayed through scriptures, and asked God to give me peace as I was honestly SO DISCOURAGED. and so frustrated. i wish we had taken more pictures through this process, but in the moment i was just mad. i didn't want to talk to anyone or anything. i just wanted to do everything i knew to do to get into labor.

we then went back to the birth center and they swiped my membrames, and broke my water (it had tore high up and so was only slightly leaking). my midwife suggested we walk to a restaraunt and go to dinner. and so we did, and this was one of the only great experiences of that day. we met a couple who were in town for a church conference and prayed with us. my contractions had picked up but were very inconsistent and only slightly painful. they were between 5-10 minutes a part - but by the time we walked back to the birth center it was at 24 hours I was only at 3 cm, with my contractions almost entirely stopping.

we sat in our birth center room (i had laid down and rested the last hour or so) and i just cried and cried as my midwife called the hospital to forward my information and let them know we were coming.

i cried mostly because i didn't want to do pitocin. that was the main source of my tears by this point. pitocin, honestly, is terrifying. it's mean and ugly and unfair. ricky and i can honestly say, my first labor and delivery was almost traumatizing because of pitocin - and not just that, but fighting with the doctor's to not surrender to a c-section.

as i was crying, ricky said something that pretty much shifted my entire experience. he said, "tiffany, this really isn't that big of a deal. we've done it before. we'll do it again. if you have to get an epidural, we know that it's okay. and some people can't even make a baby. they can't even carry them to full term. our biggest struggle, that you aren't going into labor naturally, seems so little in comparison to what other people are facing."

and it was honestly as if the Holy Spirit came into that little room and shifted everything for me. it was true, i knew how to do a hospital birth and induction. it wasn't the preferred method, but at least i knew what to expect. and the baby was fine and kicking. she was healthy and ready to come, and she didn't really care what brought her here. I was the one who cared. and it didn't really matter. Jesus had decided this was what was going to happen, and joy was mine for the taking.

we drove to the hospital, and i put my game face on. i told ricky i would do 4-6 hours of pitocin without pain medication, and re-evaluate at the end of that time what we were to do. i prayed my body would progress fast, and by that point i would be at 7 cm. that was sort of my limit. then i'd be in transition and could at least see some end in sight.

what's crazy is that as soon as we walked into that hospital, it was like the peace of Jesus so supernaturally flooded my heart and the room i was in. it's like i just surrendered to the Lord's plan. i laid down my desire for the birth story i had wanted and worked for - and said, "okay jesus, let's do this Your way."

right before the meds kicked in.
they hooked me up, and started the pitocin. i had spent most of my day listening to my hypnobabies tracks and laid down and listened to them as my contractions picked up.

then the blur started. i'm not sure how long i was on - maybe 4 hours? my contractions picked up to a real good point, the natural breaks, the ebb and flow - but then they started being what they were: pitocin contractions. they were doubling, tripling up with no breaks in between. they were coming in at a peak, and then staying there. i wasn't getting any breaks. i was on the birth ball, same position as last time - facing ricky and screaming my head off.

we asked for them to lessen the dose, which they did and my contractions started normalizing a little. i'm not sure when it happened, but by this point i had enough time in between to asked to be checked. from what i remember i was checked twice - one time at 6 and then the next doctor said 5 1/2 about 2 hours later. (i think?) by that point i said i was done. all i could think was that at this time with amos i still had another 20+ hours to go. i think that was the clincher. i didn't know how long it would be.. i had almost entirely lost my voice at this point and it just didn't seem worth it.

i got the epidural, and this crazy thing happened. as they were giving it to me i seriously felt the Lord tell me that the rest was from Him. it's weird, you know? i think we spiritualize natural births. i know i do. almost as if the holier route is the natural one. not just with birth - but with everything. it's the craze right now. and it's as if God made our bodies to do it, and so when they do - it's like this perfect, ecstatic alignment. but that really isn't truth. God really can be found in it all. He can be glorified in it all. if i'm massively enjoying my double cheeseburger from wherever in all it's fakeness - that moment is as much given over to Jesus as my all natural, free range chicken broth goodness. and so it was with this massive needle in my back. there was this part of me that really knew this epidural was from Jesus. maybe that's so crazy. i don't know. last time my heart was so fearful by this point. but this time my heart breathed a sigh of relief and said, "thank You Jesus. You are good."

i don't know what that means theologically. i don't know what i'm even saying. i just know that the Lord was with me - and where i had no control, He was felt near.

i guess it's just humbling. the whole thing. like ringing out of ESOAL (only some will know what this is), or being so exhausted you turn on netflix for your toddler. moments you really can't do something the way you wanted. it's in these moments, His grace is evident. it's not by our own works. our own efforts. our own labors. a baby comes because Jesus is supreme. by Him and through Him all things exist.

after this i slept, they amped by pitocin, and i progressed (slowly) until i was ready to push around 8:00 AM (really 9:00 AM b/c of the time change that happened that night). the epidural was honestly this miraculous epidural that even baffled my nurses. i was numb all around my belly and back but could feel the contractions entirely in my bum and cervix. at some points i even had to stop talking and breath through them. i liked this because i felt much more engaged with my labor and especially my pushing, and not just a bystander. i could move around and move my legs. i felt when i had to push, and pushed in 3 different positions (i don't even know how it was possible, because i even got on my hands and knees and walked immediately after she was born). she came into the world rather easily while we listened to will reagan sing. i'm not sure what song was playing when she made her debut, but i'd like to think he was singing these words:

all my walls and my defenses fall to the ground
when the warmth of your light shines all around
Your love is better than all the world can give...

and little lucia came, as she was destined to come, in a hospital room and into the hands of a doctor. the stark lights faded as the morning sun shone through our little window. i cried as they placed her little body on my chest. because how she came didn't matter, it was that she was here. and her birth brought healing, and joy, and even redeemed my last experience. it really ended up being so very beautiful.




 my family grew because God is good. He is worthy of praise and adoration! He is the Giver of Life - the Sustainer. He fills the womb and builds a family. i am so thankful He has let partner with Him again in watching a life develop.

3.18.2013

and then there were four...


she is here. beautiful lucia mercy valdez. born march 10th, 2013. weighing 7 lbs 12 oz and 21 inches long. it always feels like a dream, when a little life that was inside your tummy is out, cradled in your arms, staring at you. it's been a week, and it is still surreal. another life. a bigger family. miracles are real.

i'll be writing about my birth story soon enough - another great example of God breaking through my heart that LOVES control. it's good for me - to rest in His providence. she's good for me.

and here we are today, journeying into our first day together alone. her, amos, and i. this is my story for now, and it really does cause my heart to rejoice. what a fulfilling job i get to undertake - even if we are all still in our pajamas and i've downed 3 cups of coffee.

we are happy. He is good. and so a new chapter in this book begins...