My big sister: Mommy & Me photo session

Love. My sister, Rhonalyn, loves loves her family. When we were little, we used to race off the school bus to see who could get to the house the fastest to hold our new baby brother (I was 6 and she was 9 when he was born). We’d say, “I get to hold him first!” She always won. 😉

She is the kind of sister who worries about you when you’re away. Brings a gift for you when she sees you. Is extremely compassionate and very hard working. She has two teenage step-sons who were at school when we did this shoot, but they are like her own. And we love that they are a part of our family now too! But these girls. Lily and Ellie. They light up my sister’s world. These are a few photos we snapped when Elizabeth and I recently visited!

You hear my sister often before you see her. Her laugh precedes her.

She is the motorbike sister, I am the moped.

She is the spice, I am the sugar.

She says hot, I’d say cold. We couldn’t be more different, yet we love each other to bits, and are thrilled to be new mammas at the same time!

Sister, I love you. I know these aren’t the kind of photos you frame. They are the kind you keep tucked away in a book. And 20 years from now, when these girls are grown up and off to university or wherever… these are the kinds of photos you will look back on and think, “Those were our days that no one else saw. Just us. They were often hard. Joyful. Frustrating and noisy. Full of kisses and dirty diapers and talking to Jesus. But those days were worth it. Oh so worth it.”

Here’s to motherhood and the gifts from heaven our littles ones are xo

And then there’s real life… 😉

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When desolate means beauty is on its way

He’s met me in dark places; places that were unplanned, but necessary. His hand reached out to comfort, bring hope. And breathe life through His grip. I’ve had dark places in life – my early 20’s when I didn’t know what path to take, but my emotions ruled me. After heartache, when everything felt unbearable. Upon great change in life when newness was everywhere, and my emotions felt raw. And as a new mamma, desolate places can be as simple (and as deceiving) as the distraction of the things we feel we must do to keep up, portray an image, but no one has actually asked us to do. No matter how hard I try, I am desolate without Jesus. I am not enough. I am not perfect. But. He is.

I’ll be honest, I have this tick-tock dilemma where I want to make everything have a purpose. At our mom’s group at church last week we were talking about personalities. Our table laughed so hard I nearly peed my pants, no joke. I went home with sore cheeks and a full soul! (TMI, but I just don’t care!) I went online after the fact to try this quiz, and lo-and-behold, I’m the rarest personality, 1% of the population. Funny enough, that didn’t surprise my husband. 😉  And in this frame of a personality, I want everything to be romantic and have a purpose, and sometimes, well, that’s just exhausting. And I try so hard to keep up, to a lot of expectations I set up, that at the end of the day I wonder sometimes what I really accomplished that had eternal value.

As we approach Easter, I felt the pressure to add my voice to the myriad of blogs and worthy posts by fellow writers of how much we love Jesus. I wanted to write something New York Times worthy. I want so desperately to tell you how Jesus has changed my life, and continues to redeem me. But this week, I just can’t find the words. I laid on myself the expectation to have something beautifully written… and I’m speechless. Sometimes, even making a difference can become an idol.

I read this morning in some prayers of Jesus where the word “desolate” was a common theme. Desolate means barren or laid waste, deprived or destitute of inhabitants, solitary, lonely. Sounds awful! But Jesus pursued those places.

Mark 1:35 and Luke 5:16 are two of the verses, among many, where it says that Jesus went or withdrew to a desolate place. He seemed to do that a lot. Go to places where no one else would go, and He would change them. Bring life. Have you ever noticed that He never left a place, or person, the same after meeting them? Whether He taught them a truth, healed them, restored sight or brought children back to life – people were changed after Jesus met them in desolation.

So in this self-induced dance of expectations and trying to make everything purposeful, I choose to let the King I love meet me in that place, that desolate place of expectations, disappointment, exhaustion of perfection… and bring His life. I choose to let His life be enough, and know that I don’t have to prove anything here, but share my heart, and hope that it rings true for someone else. That is my desire.

As we celebrate Jesus this weekend, I hope that you let Him pursue you in your desolate place, whatever it may look like. That you quiet your heart, and mind, long enough to hear Him running to You, full of life and newness. Whatever that looks like for you, in what season you are in. Throw open the door of your desolation, and let Him pursue it.

And wait and see what He does. Because in my mind, desolate places also mean something is about to happen. They are quietly waiting for beauty to be restored.

Elizabeth Grace: her birth story

I had written this out shortly after our daughter was born, and wanted to share with you how the day our sweet Elizabeth was born unfolded.  This is our story, read at your leisure, and if you’re pregnant for the first time, just keep in mind that EVERYONE’s story is different and your body was created BEAUTIFULLY by our amazing Father to give life. You’ve got this 😉

***

It was a Wednesday morning, three days after our due date. I went to bed the night before thinking, “I should make sure I have labour and delivery’s number!” I’d hardly dilated the day before at my doctor’s appointment, and didn’t feel anything, so I really thought we potentially had another few days or even a week!

But this is how our precious daughter came in to our world…All labour photos were taken by a student nurse who had my iPhone during delivery 🙂

At about 5:30am I woke up, feeling menstrual cramp-like pain. There was a bit of pinkish blood when I went to the washroom, so to me that signaled something was starting! For the next almost two hours, I was in and out of bed every half hour, feeling like I was getting my period. By 7:30, I stirred Troy and said, “I think we’re having our baby!” We googled early labour signs, and what I was feeling was definitely on the list.

Troy got up and made breakfast while I showered; the pain increasingly feeling like a strong period. By 9:00am I was trying to get ahold of my doctor’s office, to see what they thought I should do. They said to labour at home until contractions were 5-7 minutes apart. She said, “It’s much more enjoyable at home.”

Not long after eating breakfast, I threw up, and another three times after that. I couldn’t keep anything down. Which was disappointing, as I knew I needed energy for the hours ahead! Pain was consistently getting stronger, and mostly in my lower back and abdomen. When it would intensify, I’d grab our stair railing and lean over it, as Troy rubbed my back. The pain felt so constant to me that it was hard to time contractions! I honestly couldn’t of done it without Troy to lean on or rub my back. I needed his touch throughout the day! (Babe, you were amazing this day!)

We got our hospital bags to the door (which were packed, other than last-minute toiletries). I couldn’t sit or lay down with all the back pain, so I just kept pacing. And pacing. And pacing. Our dog, Pippa, seemed very concerned the whole morning. Sitting at my feet and following me all around.

My sister and I had the joy of sharing this baby journey, her second, my first. She wasn’t due for a few more days, but as we talked on the phone that morning, in between my contractions, she said they were going to the hospital and maybe getting induced! As I breathed heavily on the phone, bearing the weight of a contraction, she said, “Ah Lani, I wish I was with you!” It was a nice sister moment, knowing we were about to meet our daughters (Ok, typing that made me tear up!)

Finally around 11:30am, six hours after I woke up to the start of labour, we got ahold of the hospital and they said to come in. We live a half hour away, so I was nervous about the drive, since I couldn’t sit down at home. Troy drove very fast 😉 It’s a crazy feeling when you walk out the door and know that when you come home you will be parents and have a baby to take care of!

They admitted us right away, and we got to our sunny west-facing room by about 1:30pm. I loved that I got to labour in such a bright room! My doctor was there and he checked me right away, and said I was only about 2-3cm dilated and the baby’s head was sideways. They suggested I get in the shower for comfort and to go on my hands and knees to try and help get her in a better position. And that’s where I stayed for two hours! The hot water helped, as did Troy’s constant voice and hands of comfort.

When people would ask me what my birth plan was, all I’d respond was, “Push and pray!” I had no idea what position or comforts I’d prefer. We had a whole playlist of worship and music ready that we barely used. I had my eyes closed and felt in a daze a lot of the time in the shower. Trying to breathe the best I could.

Around 2:30 my sister (or her husband) texted Troy, “We’re done!” and a photo of their baby girl, Ellie Rae. She had two hours of hard labour and delivered her baby girl in another city, about 1.5 hours away. My first feeling was relief that my sister and her baby were all okay, and then I was like, “What the heck! I’m hardly dilated over here!”

Up and down I went in the shower from standing to all fours. The nurses kept checking one me intermittently. I’m pretty sure by the time the day was done I had about 15 nurses in my room, what with shift changes, student nurses, and NICU! I felt very taken care of though, and in good hands.

At 3:30 I wanted to know if I was at all dilated and if her head had straightened up at all. As soon as I got out of the shower, the pain intensified and I realized how great the hot water felt. As I crawled up on the bed, I near started to panic. Feeling fuzzy, I was grabbing for Troy’s hands, wanting to crawl out of my own skin! Baby’s heart started to decelerate and before we knew it, five more nurses were in the room and they were turning me on my side and giving me an oxygen mask. That position helped get her heart rate back to normal. And then I asked for drugs. Enough of this! I was only half way dilated and I wanted some relief.

The anesthesiologist arrived around 4:30 and by the time the epidural set in I was still only 4-5cm dilated but had found some peace. As I laid on the hospital bed with Troy and my mother-in-law in our bright room, I said, “Oh my goodness! Why would you NOT get an epidural!?” For me, it helped and was amazing, though to each their own! I just finally felt coherent and like I could put thoughts and words together again. Thank You Lord for modern medicine!

I would like to say I prayed more through it all, but I didn’t. Not that I remember anyway! Beforehand I kept telling myself that millions of women before have done this, and that God has created my body beautifully to handle this.

By 5pm, the intern doctor came and checked me and I was still only 5cm dilated, and my water hadn’t even broke yet! When he broke it, meconium came out, so that meant the baby had pooped in the womb.

Baby’s head was still sideways, so they had me, with help, get on my hands and knees on the bed. And that’s where I stayed for another 1.5 hours or so!

Troy got to sit down and have a snack, and then we called his sister and brother-in-law in the States. My brother-in-law said, “I can’t believe you’re in labour right now!” I said, “I know, epidural is amazing!”

After that time, the gravity of my position started to make the epidural wear off, and my butt began to feel the pain of the contractions. They had me lay down and checked me and that finally got her head straightened out!

Somewhere in the time after that (now after 7:30pm), I had fully dilated so they began to prep the room for pushing. I’ve lost two hours in there, because that didn’t actually happen until 9:30pm. It’s all a bit of a blur of people coming and going checking on me and baby.

When 9:30pm rolled around, my doctor, his intern and about four nurses were in the room, as we geared down to start to push. Honestly it was such a peaceful time leading into pushing. They had topped up the epidural before pushing and then reduced it near the end, so I could feel the sensation to push better.

She crowned quite quickly, and the doctor said, “She has brown hair!” I was so excited. I wanted my baby to have hair 🙂 To me, pushing with an epidural was easier than contractions without it, by FAR! They said I was doing great, was a great pusher. Hearing their affirming words as I did my only job, push, was so encouraging.

Even though she crowned, it took a lot of pushing to get her through. Near the end, one of the nurses said, “Get mad!” So I pictured the devil and how he has stolen from me in life (no joke), and got mad! I suddenly had a second wind to get this baby out! Knowing I was minutes away from meeting our baby was such a surreal feeling.

And at 10:50pm, our baby girl was born. She had the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, but even though that and the meconium was a potential issue, she cried right away and they laid her on my chest.

She was perfect. Round cheeks. Great lungs. Brown hair and dark intense eyes. I just kept whispering to her, “You’re safe now honey, you’re safe.” Troy and I cried and kissed, in awe of how perfectly formed she was. I don’t think there’s any such relief like that as when your baby is born healthy and strong! She was 8lb 3oz and 20.5in.

They asked her name, and Troy proudly shouted, “Elizabeth Grace”. They stitched me up, and weighed her. They showed me the placenta and I was in awe of it. This blob of tissue that had sustained her inside of me all those months!

I will end our birth story there. It was a long night that followed, but we had amazing staff and felt so peaceful. LIFE is a miracle! Wow. God, You are amazing in how You have created us to enter this world. I said afterwards, “If I can do that, I can do anything!” It seriously is the most amazing experience ever.

Now, Elizabeth almost five months old! I finally understand all the mamma emotions – guilt, love, hormones, and all. Troy said the other day, “She brings us so much joy.” And she does. She’s still as bright-eyed and alert as she was the day she was born.

I feel honoured to be her mommy and can’t wait to discover who she is and nurture that!

 

Honey Do vs. Haven (an excerpt from the book, After I Do)

For someone who has worked in marketing and communications pretty much her whole adult career, it doesn’t come natural to promote my own work! Buuuuut….In case you haven’t yet ordered a copy of my book, After I Do, that was published this spring (sheepish tooting of my own horn), I would love to share an excerpt from the chapter, Creating Home. In this chapter I talk about how Troy and I navigated setting up a home together in our first year of marriage. If you or someone you know is about to, or wants to, get married, it may be a book that would inspire you to pursue a God-given marriage, and that when conflict arises, it’s normal and able to be navigated!

You can order a print or eBook version here, or order it for Kindle here on Amazon.

***

I clean while I cook. He leaves a storm of butter, spices, and unplugged appliances in his wake.

I cook with a recipe. He cooks by taste.

He wakes up making funny noises and accents. I wake up, well, I wake up.

You get my drift. We’re different. Thus the reason we actually work so well together as a team, but have also had to adjust to each other!

Honey-Do vs Haven

Since I am a more of an instant satisfaction person, my list of things I want Troy to build or complete around the house is ongoing. Especially with a baby on the way. He works so hard during the day, that I have had to learn (and let’s be honest, I am still working on this), that he needs home to be a haven, not a constant project. Our home needs to be a safe and cozy place that depicts us. I want it to be a place that Troy loves coming home to, not one where he is met with more demands or complaints.

How do I navigate this? Not so successfully many days. I tend to process and talk things out loud so that I’m not the only one thinking about something. Isn’t that kind? (note the sarcasm) On my more successful days, I try to gauge if Troy is out of work mode, or ask to set aside a time where we can talk budget or house projects. That way he knows it’s a ‘talk’ that’s coming and can give devoted time to it. I can then anticipate that the conversation will happen at some point, rather than in bits and pieces.

There was one night recently, where I was feeling hormonal and a bit bored of being at home, and Troy said, “Do you want to go room by room and talk about what we’d like to do before baby?”

Well, he spoke my love language! He knows having as much of home settled before our baby arrives is really important to me, and in a moment where I needed cheering up, he was intentional. Husband for the win! And as we speak, he is in the garage building laundry room shelving.

How has Troy navigated our home-life? Well, just like I said above, he’s had to learn to pick up on my cues as well. When I need his help or something is really a priority for me, he has learned to make it a priority as well. When he comes in and I’m still working on supper, he will ask if he can help with something. All things which we have learned to ask for and communicate.

Recently, he left me a little note in my journal that I found one morning. It said, “Good morning Beautiful! I love you so much! Thank you for all you do to make our home so beautiful and peaceful. Xoxo!” That note made my day, and was a reminder that my efforts in the home are for him as well as myself.

When we were both working full-time at the beginning of our marriage, we shared house cleaning duties and cooking. Rather sporadically, but we shared the duties. But now, since I am freelancing and have a lot more home time, I have carried the bulk of the cleaning and cooking. Troy is excellent at both and helps when I ask or need him to. I see that as a way I can serve him in this season, though I ask for his help with certain tasks (like cleaning our shower because the smell is too strong for this pregnant mamma!) With a baby on the way, we know that will change yet again, and we’ll navigate that together when the time comes.

As a woman who spent the first 33 years of her life on her own, I wondered how I’d navigate creating a home with and for someone else. I wondered if it’d be stressful, if I could handle it or would even enjoy it. In my mind, the expectations of my future husband were so lofty that I didn’t know if I could ever live up to them. But it has become one of my greatest pleasures in our marriage and a way I love serving Troy. Like I said before, I love hosting and having people in our home. I love creating a home together. And though there are things that ebb and flow and we can learn from or change, it is yet another reminder to me; that God often brings pleasure to those very things we were once hesitant about. Like a gentle reminder of the foolishness of fear, God gathers you up with a satisfying sweetness that is almost palpable.

I believe that you’ll learn to read your husband, as time goes by. You’ll learn to see when he needs downtime and appreciation, not another request. Likewise, as you express your desires, he can learn what is important to you. If you keep your communication open, you’ll learn how best to create the home that you and your husband love.

***

After I Do Book Cover

 

Mr. and Mrs.

A brief hello to say – HI as Mrs Lupul!

I don’t know at what point newlyweds get used to saying ‘my wife’ and ‘my husband’, but I’m loving saying it! I am in a new city, with a new church, working from home and settling into married life.  It’s a lot of new, but I feel so blessed and daily lean on the Lord and my hubby to embrace all the change together 😉

We are living on an acreage in a suite above a friend’s garage for the next couple of months until our house (or duplex) is finished. The suite is tiny, but works for us and Pippa (the doggy that graces this blog every so often)!

Looking back to six weeks ago… our wedding day was perfect, at least for us, and that’s what matters! When Troy and I left the reception that night I had a tear in my eye as I looked at him, sighed and said, “That was perfect.” We cried. We laughed. We danced. We kissed. We hugged. A lot.  Three months to plan a wedding and move IS doable! Here here.

We haven’t got our wedding photos back yet, but we did get a sneak peek of the album, so here’s a few low res sneak peeks, thanks to Danielle from This Beloved Life Photography
(I am so so glad she caught Troy’s look as I came down the aisle, it was exactly what I’d hoped for my whole life!!)

wedding collage

And a few of life thus far… road trips, my hubby playing guitar after dinner, a coffee table we scored that I aim to paint, roses from my love, a country sunrise, my adorable niece Lily, some amazing doors at a local Starbucks, and of course Pippa smiling 😉  Yes, these are the things that make me smile!

Beauty 1 Beauty2