December 25, 2012

Glory be to God in the Highest.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were much afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord has made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.  -Luke 2:8-20

Merry Christmas,
xo- Chance, Sarah and Olivia Bendel 

December 15, 2012

she sees...

Those beautiful eyes. 
She sees the laundry pile up. She sees the come and go as Momma and Daddy go to work.
She sees her friends when they get hurt at school, and quickly rushes to their side. She sees someone crying on tv and when I look at her I see a single tear running down her cheek. She sees things I miss, things I'm too hurried to see.
She sees so much.

What she doesn't see is the ugly in the world.  Thank God.
She has no idea that there are people who are so lost that they commit horrendous crimes. She is oblivious to the pain and suffering that goes on around the world every day.

I pray that I can keep it that way a while longer. That we can hold onto that innocence. That she can cling to her "child-like" faith, and see the good before the bad.

stream of thought...

I sat down tonight to write a post about Olivia; filled to the brim with precious new pictures, and sweet sentiments. But that's just not what God had planned for me tonight. 

Y'all, my heart is heavy. I'm sure your's is too. 
I spent the afternoon at a photo shoot with Olivia, so I didn't hear the new until much later in the afternoon. I sat in the dance studio lobby, watching Olivia on the viewing monitor & listening to my mother-in-law reading the articles. 

With every sad detail the pit in my stomach got heavier. When she said "kindergarteners," I honestly thought I might be sick. Any act of violence is a tragedy- but these were babies. Each one a precious gift from God.  

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
(Psalms 127:3-5)

The entire nation is grieving the loss of those victims. And there's one question we're all asking.


Why children? Why was this young man so troubled? Why didn't someone see the signs?
So many why's. Questions we'll likely never find a suitable answer for this side of heaven. 


As a mom, I struggle with mommy-fear a lot. You know that paralyzing, wake up in the middle of the night-sweating-crying-can't breathe kind of fear. 
Days like today magnify those fears. I've talked before about letting go, and keeping open hands. 
I am constantly reminding myself to keep open hands. That Olivia is not mine, but rather His. Trusting that He has is all in control where she is concerned has been one of the most difficult obstacles in my walk with Him. I'm pretty good at letting go of most things and leaving them at the cross. But the whole mommy-control thing is something I'm pretty tight-fisted on. Thank goodness His mercies are new every morning- because so are my fears. 

When I hear of senseless tragedies like the one that took place today in Connecticut, I praise Him for the blessings, and pray that He comes quickly. 
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Revelation 21:3-4

So lets cling to the hope we have in Heaven, and hug our babies extra tight tonight.

October 8, 2012

Get to know you ABC's

Y'all I  am so stinkin' excited! I pretty much have the sweetest roomies/travel buddies. I seriously can't wait to hug all of you. Please feel free to seek me out and hug me.

A- Accent you wish you had - I really love my southern accent. But I guess if I had to choose I'd pick the obvious and go British.
B- Baking or Cooking? - I enjoy both, but get excited about baking. So baking.
C- Can't Get Enough..... - Sunset roll. (a sushi roll from a locally owned Thai restaurant.) If you ever come to western Kentucky, let me know and we'll do lunch. You won't regret it.
D- Drink you can't go without - Coffee, but sweet tea is a very close second.
E-Emotion you get when those Hallmark commercials come on - Happy tears, and sometimes an ugly cry.
F-Fictional Character you relate to - I haven't read a fictional book since Twilight. And since I'm not a vampire, I don't really relate to any of those characters. So let's go TV- I'd say Christina Braverman from Parenthood. Not so much in the 3 kids/breast cancer way. Rather in the crazy hectic life, love my husband like mad .. way.
G-Guilty Pleasure - Days of Our Lives. Don't judge me.
H- Hometown - Paducah, KY. Quilt City, USA.
I- Ice Cream Flavor - Double fudge moose tracks.
J- Jumpstart Go To (aka how you get your day started)
- Hug from Chance and Olivia, Coffee, Social Media.
K- Keepsake Item - The letter my PawPaw write me on the day I graduated high school. I carry it with me in my wallet and read it when I'm feeling down. Never fails to remind me how much he loved me.
L- Life Verse(s) - "This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118:24
M-Memory that makes you smile - Gracious, there's so many. One of my favorites is the first time Olivia really belly laughed.
N- Non-fiction writer you want to have dinner with - Ann Voskamp and Angie Smith
O- Opulent Item You Want (something that is way out of your price range) - Trip to Italy.
P-Pattern You Love - Polka dots, chevron, paisley.
Q- Quirk You Have - I talk with my hands, a lot.
R- Relaxing Spot - The rocking chair in Olivia's room.
S- Snow or Sun? - Snow. Because when you're cold you can just keep adding layers. But when your hot- well, once you're naked your naked. And hot.
T- TV show you miss - Law and Order SVU. Yes, I know it's still on the air, but Elliot is gone and it's just not the same.
U- Unique Fact About You - I was stabbed in the nose with a pencil in 1st grade. If you look closely, you can still see the dot on my nose.
V- Valentine's Day ...big deal or not? - So not a big deal.
W- What's Your Love Language? Physical touch, words of affirmation and office supplies.
X- X-Factor Song You Would Sing (sidenote: I don't watch the show...) - Honestly, I've never seen the show. But my favorite song is Reedemer, by Nicole C. Mullen.
Y- Yoga or Not? -
I don't really do exercise.
Z- Zealous Dream You Have
- to own a children's clothing boutique. There, I said it.

October 6, 2012

Influence Conference Get to Know You Questions... part 2

What was your favorite food when you were a child?
Spaghetti. Maybe because it was good.. maybe because we ate it at least once a week. 3 small girls, one income= momma cooked on a budget!

When you have 30 minutes of free-time, how do you pass the time?

Usually I check twitter, facebook, instagram, and pinterest. In that order. And repeat. 

Have you ever had something happen to you that you thought was bad but it turned out to be for the best?

I left a full-time position because I didn't feel like it was a good fit for me, with no job to go to. Ended up not working for nearly 6 months. It was a much needed break. I had worked full time since I was 16, and had a job since I was 12. Those 6 months were full of uncertainty- but I was able to spend so much time with Olivia. But most importantly- I learned to fully depend on God. We went from 2 incomes to 1, hard for any family, at any time. So many times He was there, and provided in ways we never expected.
What is your favorite body part?

Awkward?  Umm, Chance likes my smile. Let's go with that one.

If you could choose to stay a certain age forever, what age would it be?

So far I'm liking 25 pretty well.   

October 5, 2012

Influence Conference Get to Know You Questions.. pt1

 One of my lovely room-mates for the conference had the great idea to host a "Get to know you series" and because I want to be a good roomie, and because she's really sweet (seriously y'all are going to love her), and because it really is a good idea I wanted to participate.

What’s the #1 most played song on your iPod?
"I'm with you" by Amy Grant and Nichole Nordeman. It reminds me of my incredible best friend. It reminds me of this beautiful online community. It reminds me to truly "be with" the people in my life. It's a beautiful song. #2 is "Stand Up" by the Veggietales. So there's that too.

If you had to work on only one project for the next year, what would it be?

Grace. Grace for myself, for my husband, and for others. Sometimes I get caught up in the doing and my obsessive need for tidiness (both literal and figurative), and forget that we are not all perfect. That we are broken. And in that brokenness He is made whole.

What story does your family always tell about you?

My word, there are tons. But the first one that comes to mind is my 5th birthday. I'll set the scene: I had asked for a pink and purple bicycle. I may or may not have been spoiled by my grandparents. I may or may not have acted like a spoiled brat. Anyway, after eating cake and opening a ton of presents I was told we needed to go to the back patio to see my last present. I wasn't a dim child so I knew what it was. (see also, spoiled brat) When the door opened, it was there. My brand new shiny, pink and green bike. I had a melt down. My uncle quickly swooped in and started asking me what my favorite colors were. As I listed them off one by one it happened. My beloved Uncle Barry had done it. He tricked me. I said green. Once I admitted (to myself as much as everyone else) that green was one of my favorite colors I was fine. And I loved my bike. That bike is still in a family members garage. There's another story about the day my sister Lindsay was born, it's really sweet, but totally not embarrassing. So I'll leave you with the bratty story and hope you still want to be my friend.

The best part of waking up is?

Waking Olivia up. She is always has such a big smile on her face when she wakes up and she's in such a good mood. I'll be holding tightly to those memories when she's 12 I'm sure.

What is your favorite time of day/day of the week/month of the year?

Time of day: bedtime. Hands down. Olivia and I don't listen to lullabies at bedtime, I play praise and worship songs. It's a beautiful combination. One of the things/people I am most thankful for in my life and my Jesus. It almost always amounts to my reduced to a puddle of tears.
Day of the week: Friday. Because I get to take Olivia to dance, and it's adorable.
Month of the year: December. I'm just so happy in December. All the decorating, and baking, and gift giving, and doing for others. It fills my cup.

October 2, 2012

i don't want to be superwoman.


A friend to me one time that she didn't know how I did it all. How I worked full time, maintained our home, took care of our family, nurtured friendships and still made time to sew a pair of ruffle pants for Olivia. She referred to me a "superwoman." I nearly spit my coffee across the room. Seriously? Me, superwoman? I'm a wreck. My planner is so marked, and highlighted that if you tilt it just the right way it looks like a 4 year old scribbled all over it. On any given day I have a list a mile long- that I never seem to get all marked off. I work crazy hours and Chance and my schedules very rarely lead to time off together. Weeks go by with little more than 15 minutes of conversation each day. Orchestrating a family event is very much like an act of congress.

Superwoman I am not. Not even close.

I've felt like I was falling short lately. Way short.
I wasn't being in the moment with Olivia. I was harsh with Chance. Stressing about money, irritable at work, neglectful with friends.  It was really starting to take a toll.

I'm been praying about how overwhelmed I was, and that He would show me where I needed to cut back. What areas of my life needed a little pruning. I kept feeling Him reminding me that none of that matters.
That as long as I was fulfilling His purpose and His plan for me, it didn't matter if Olivia's bow is falling out, or if I had to wash that load of laundry 3 times in a row because I kept forgetting them in there.

He reminded me that I didn't need to "do." I just needed to "be."
That I shouldn't see my worth in my accomplishments, rather through His eyes.
That He is made perfect in my imperfections.
That I should give myself, and others about a hundred times more grace each day.
That Olivia's adorable outfit doesn't matter a hill-of-beans if she doesn't know Jesus died on the cross for her.

I don't want to be seen as a super woman. I want to be seen as a Godly woman. As a light for Him here. I want people to hear Him before they hear me. And I'm never going to stop seeking that.

October 1, 2012

when you don't get the answers + big picture

When Olivia was diagnosed with PFAPA (pronounced "fappa") I wasn't surprised. It wasn't scary. It was actually the diagnosis I prayed for. It sounds silly, but I had a peace about Periodic Fever Syndrome, I was ready for it. I had done the research and talked at length with a woman with a daughter who was diagnosed with PFAPA. But before all of that, when it was just us against the fever, with a seemingly endless cycle of motrin and tylenol, I was scared. It was that shake you to the core, anything is possible, paralyzing fear. Because we didn't know what monsters were lurking in the shadows of that fever.

That's why I'm writing this post.
For the mama out there, who doesn't know what's going on with her baby and will scream if she hears "virus" even one more time. I want you to know that you are not crazy; there is an answer to all of this. And good for you for not taking a doctor's word as gospel, and being your child's advocate.

{the sight that stopped my heart}

If you're new here you can read this, this, and this to catch up. 

To put it simply. Olivia gets fevers, regularly. For no reason. There's never any specific virus, or bug that the doctors can identify. Just the fever. PFAPA is characterized by a recurring fever of unknown origin. It took the doctors at Vanderbilt about 20 minutes to diagnose her. If you are going through something similar with your little one, and you don't feel like you are getting the answers you need- I would encourage you to seek another opinion. We were very lucky to have a doctor who doesn't have a God-complex, and knows she doesn't always have the answers. I know not everyone is as lucky. Remember, the doctors work for you. If you don't feel like you are getting the best possible care your (& your baby) deserve better. {stepping off my soapbox now}

Next, I would tell you to seek community. As with most things- walking through the unknown of childhood illnesses is easier when you are surrounded by your people. It is important for you and your child to have a support system. There were many instances where I had been sitting at Olivia's bedside for days with no break, and a friend or family member would all but push me to the bathroom so that I could take a shower, or brought dinner by. Those acts of service were exactly what we needed in that moment.

That brings me to the next point; take care of yourself. I'm sure you've been told before, "if you don't take care of yourself, you're no good to anyone else." Y'all, it's so true. You have to make time to shower, eat and rest. Let the people in your life help. Yes, I agree no one can take care of that baby better than you. But I doubt anything horrible will happen because you take a 5 minutes shower. And you'll feel like a different person after those 5 minutes.

My final piece of advice is to pray. There were many days (and still are) that I would lay in bed with Olivia, her body so hot I could barely stand to hold her- but couldn't let go. In those moments I prayed. I prayed about the temperature of her body, I prayed about the terrifying thoughts in my mind, I prayed He would give the doctors wisdom. This is your baby, the most special tangible thing in your life. You can't just leave it to the doctors- you've got to hand it over to the Great Physician too. These precious babies that He has placed in our care, are after all not our own. They are His.

September 30, 2012

things you should know.

I had thought about writing a post like this before. And then decided against it.
But after some thought I feel like my new friends that I'm going to be meeting at the upcoming Influence Conference deserve some warning. Y'all I'm a mess. Really. Consider this my public service announcement.

I'm Sarah, nicetomeetyou. If we were sitting on the sofa drinking coffee I'd probably hug you right about now. That brings me to my first bullet point:
  • I'm a hugger. I hug. A lot. For those of you who have personal space issues- I'm sorry. If you're a fellow hugger- please seek me out and we will hug. 
  • I'm southern. And it goes to the core. I'm loud, I say "y'all" a lot, and I call everyone sweetie, darlin', honey, or love. I'm also a very expressive person, and I talk with my hands.
  • Like any good southern woman, I have big hair. I tease, and hairspray, and then tease it a little more.

  •  I died laughing when Jessi talked about "the way we really look" during the simulcast. So let's get real here. I'm short. Like 5'2". And I'm hip-y. (see photo evidence above) Sister's got back. I wear high heels almost daily. They make me taller, and seem to balance the "proportions" a little bit better.
  • I like to eat, and get cranky if I stay hungry too long. If I'm crabby- just shove a dough nut in my mouth and tell me to get over it. I'll be fine.
  • I love, hard. I'm not one of those people who makes "surface" friendships. I just can't. I love, fiercely. And I'm loyal to a fault. Like a saint bernard- but worse. Not bad qualities to have in my book. 

  • I feel my emotions whole-heartedly, and it shows. I'm not a person who can hide their emotions. Not even a little bit. Fair warning: I will cry through the vast majority of the worship service. I won't even pretend to be able to control it. I've already bought my tissues.
  • This will be my first time to leave Olivia for any real length of time. I'm going to be a hot mess. Just keeping it real. I'm getting a little panic-y just thinking about it. 
  • I'm a nerd. I have an odd obsession with office supplies. Pens, highlighters & planners are my love language. 
  • I'm actually very shy. If you see me standing around, please feel free to come and chat. Odds are- I'd give anything to have the courage to just walk up and start a conversation. I just can't initiate it. But once we get past "Hey!" I'll be fine, and we'll be friends. 
I'm so looking forward to meeting each and every one of you. I just wish there was time for me to sit down and have a cup of coffee with all 200+ of you. See you in 11 days!!!!

September 23, 2012

my journey to influence.

So, I'm going to the Influence Conference in Indianapolis. I could not be more excited, or feel more blessed. This has been something the Lord put on my heart in the spring, but never really looked like a possibility- until Thursday. That's when the Lord moved, and moved fast. 

Spring 2012: I was reading Casey's blog and first read about the conference. I was immediately interested and wished I could go. I prayed about it a few times and told myself & the Lord that if I was supposed to be there, I'd be there. All the while having absolutely no idea how it would all happen, given the cost involved.
April 28, 2012: Attended a in(RL) meet up hosted by Angie, Jessica and Annie. It was a huge step out of my comfort zone, so I dragged my best friend Maria along. We both left happy. I left with a feeling that maybe, just maybe I could do this whole 'community' thing after all.
May 2012: I created a twitter account, and though it felt very creeper-ish at first- I began to seek community. Also in May I started the Soul Detox bible study and followed along with the She Reads Truth community.
Summer 2012: Life caught up with us, Olivia kept having the fevers, my best friend was going through a really tough time. Life was busy. But I still felt that push, the gentle nudge to continue to be intentional in my online friendships. I was blessed to be able participate in the She Reads Truth community in a more involved manner, and began maintaining the instagram feed. Olivia was diagnosed, she started school, and dance. Life was busy still. Yet, these connections kept popping up. I continued to pray that if the Lord wanted me to attend this conference that He would show me a way.
Early September 2012: Two girls that I had "met" had been very faithful in checking in with me about the conference. We all felt like I was supposed to be there. They had been holding the 4th spot in their room for me, so sweetly. Eventually, we had to face the reality that the money simply was not there. I had attempted to raise the money for the costs several times. And even almost had my ticket paid for once, but something always came up. at one point I said I would "need a miracle." I told the girls to let someone else take my spot that "2012 was just not the year, but that I'd be there in 2013!" To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.

That brings us to last Wednesday night. On my way home from work I couldn't stop thinking about the conference and this community. I cried as I drove. And as I walked into the garage, I prayed to the Lord- "Father, I don't know why my heart wont let this go. I feel like I'm supposed to be there. Lord, if it is your will for me to go- you're going to have to make it happen. I can't. If this isn't the year, please just take the desire from my heart." And that was it. I went upstairs, put Olivia to bed and then went to sleep myself. He started moving, and He moved big!

9:38am- I was sitting in the drop off line at Olivia's school. Something made me pick up my phone and look at twitter. I saw Jessi's tweet about some scholarships that were available. I had instant hope. Maybe this would happen after all. I sat in the parking lot, hands shaking as I typed "Oh Jessi, this is truly an answer to prayer! I've been dying to come to influence but there's simply no way we can afford it."
Again I prayed that the Lord would show me if this was truly what He wanted for me.
10:04am- DM'd Ashley on twitter to tell her I was coming. Joined the Influence facebook page. Posted that I was looking for room-mates. I tried very hard not to let the logistics and cost of hotel/travel get me down. Still praying.
Noon- Started posting Olivia's old clothes and toys on a local classifieds page. Things start selling.
1:13pm- Ashley texts me saying that she and Brittany would like for me to be their 5th roomie. The cost of my hotel stay was cut to a fraction of the original price.
2:25pm- I'd sold $45 of Olivia's old things. In 2 hours my ticket was almost halfway paid for. Truly a miracle. I talked to my mom about borrowing her van so that I could drive to Indy, as airfare was looking like it might cost about $500.00. She said it was obvious that the Lord wanted me at this conference and that we'd figure it out.
3:00pm- I left for work and literally cried the whole way there. I was completely overwhelmed by God's grace and goodness.
9:30pm- Got home from work, still trying to figure out the money aspect. But certain that the Lord had made His intent clear. Checked facebook, $40.00 more had sold. All but $15 of my ticket= paid. Went to bed praising Him!
8:15am- Woke up to a tweet from Lena, inviting me to carpool with her and 2 other lovelies from Nashville. Instant tears. Rebecca responds that she lives in Murray (30 min. away), and that I can ride with her to meet the others in Nashville. Uncontrollable sobs. Y'all He is good, so so very good.
around 9:00am- Checked facebook. Ticket, travel and hotel are all paid for.

In 24 hours. Less than that really. I was speechless, smiling uncontrollably- but speechless.

I had sold a pair of pajama's and 2 shirts to a girl for $4, we'll call her Jane. I arranged to deliver various items to people throughout the day Friday. I delivered her items, and thanked her for her part in getting me to this conference. After a long day of deliveries, Olivia and I went home to get ready for dance. A quick phone call to Ashley about all this awesomeness. Still in complete shock. One more check of facebook. Jane had requested 2 more items. Again, her total was $4. We arranged a time that worked for both of us to make the transaction. Then Olivia and I left for dance. We got home around 7:30 and I did another quick check of facebook. Jane had sent me a private message saying that she had miscounted her money and that she didn't have to money to buy the items because she still had to buy diapers for her daughter. My heart broke for her. She said she really wanted those pj's; I told her that I would be happy to hold the items for her until she could get them. Instantly the Lord spoke to me. He told me I should give her the items. I went to sleep that night thinking of her. And remembering times when we struggled and were blessed beyond measure by someone else. I knew what I had to do. I woke up early on Saturday morning and got ready for work. I thought about Jane all day long. My heart was just so heavy for her. When I was driving home I prayed for her and her circumstances. As I rocked Olivia to sleep the Lord told me that I wasn't done with her just yet. I needed to buy those diapers for her. There was no doubt. I had to do it. I went to sleep again, thinking of her, the conference & His goodness. I woke up around midnight and could not go back to sleep. Finally, around 3am I got out of bed. I had to get the thoughts out of my head. I sat down to write a little note to accompany the little care package. I can't remember exactly what I set out to write. All I know is that as soon as I sat down to write all I could think about was purpose behind Influence. Making much of Him. This was what it was all about. MY influence. I had the opportunity to be a light for Him in this moment. This was my chance to use my influence in life to show someone Christ's love. Amazing. I bought the diapers ($9.97) and delivered the diapers, pj's, toy, a pack of wipes and my heart for her in that note. I had told one of the girls at work about this situation and how my heart was broken for her, then I told her about my morning delivery and that I hoped it gave Jane some encouragement. Not 10 minutes later a customer walked in and bought a preservation kit from me. An automatic $10.00 spiff onto my paycheck. See what He did there. Chance and I didn't really have the money to buy someone else's child diapers, but I did it anyway. And He provided, as He always does.

So it all came full circle. A dream turned to reality, a need turned to a blessing, all for His glory.

Two and a Half

Hold her a little longer
Rock her a little more
Tell her another story
(You've only told her four)
Let her sleep on your shoulder
Rejoice in her happy smile
She's only two and a half
For such a little while!

Happy Half Birthday, sweet girl. I love you more than words could ever express. You complete my world and make me a better person. Thank you for being you.   Love always, Mommy.

September 18, 2012

so much...

So, so much has happened.
I hadn't intended to take a summer sabbatical of sorts; but life got hectic- and it just kind of happened.
It's been busy busy busy at our house. 

Since Olivia's diagnosis we have really been focusing on our little family. It has been an adjustment to say the least. Though we are eternally grateful that her condition is not serious and completely manageable, it is still tough to watch your child go through something like this. Thank you for continuing to keep our family in your prayers. We will forever be thankful for all of them.

Olivia started preschool and ballet. My heart has nearly exploded many times.
My best friend threw me a surprise birthday party.
Chance and I celebrated our 5 year anniversary.
And about a thousand other little things.

Writing posts on all those things today, and planning future posts. Lots of exciting things going on and coming up!!

August 6, 2012

Blessings Abound.

Last Thursday we took a day trip to Nashville, TN.
As soon as we got to Nashville we headed to Joe Naturals and had lunch with new friends..

Y'all I got to have lunch with Raechel and her sweet babes! Let me tell you, as delightful as she seems on her blog- multiply that by about a million and that's what you have in person. She's amazing, and I pretty much love her heart!

Olivia and Hazel were born only a week apart and had a blast playing together- they were so cute!

Lunch was amazing- and reason enough to drive 2.5 hours; but the main reason we went to Nashville was to take Olivia to see the specialists at the Infectious Disease Clinic at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital.

{If you are not familiar with Olivia's medical condition you may want to read this, this or this first.}

After about 2 hours, and a ton of questions- we finally got the answers we've waited since November to get. She has been diagnosed with periodic fever aphthous pharyngitis and cervical adenopathy (PFAPA.) Commonly referred to as periodic fever syndrome. She will require medication at the onset of each episode, and will grow out of it between the ages of 7 & 8. This is definitely the diagnosis we were praying for, and it eliminated a lot of very scary alternatives.

The staff at Vanderbilt was truly a blessing. They were so thoughtful and thorough. It was such a relief to finally feel heard. The Lord has shown His grace and love to us through the people we have met during this season and those who've prayed with us for healing and answers. We thank each and every one of you! God is good friends, and His blessings abound.

July 25, 2012

the one where I pour our my heart in thanks... for social media.

During Olivia's last fever episode I posted this picture on instagram:

Several women commented on the picture, and prayed with us for Olivia. {Thank You.}
As I've said before, the twitter and instagram communities have been good to me. They have loved me well.
One particular commenter was Becky. Such a sweet lady, with a sweeter heart. She left this: "They went to Vanderbilt and she was diagnosed." Hold the phone. There was a momma out there, with a baby with similar conditions, that went to the same hospital we're going to, that.was.diagnosed. A spark of hope. Hope that we won't hear the V-word, virus. That was a huge blessing in and of itself.

As you can see- Becky so sweetly texted her friend, Marisha, to find out what the diagnosis was.
This girl was seriously blessing my heart.
We emailed back and forth a bit, and then she gave me Marisha's email address. My hearts almost burst with gratitude.
I emailed Marisha, her response was simple- she thought it would be easier to explain over the phone. We were finally able to connect last night. Y'all, she is amazing!
She explained her daughter's history, her diagnosis/treatment and a little bit about their experience at Vanderbilt. Hearing her description of her daughter's episodes was like listening to a recording of myself. So surreal. But wonderful to know that I'm not the only mother watching her child go through this. She calmed any anxieties I had, and all but confirmed my suspicion that Olivia does, indeed, have Periodic Fever Syndrome. She told me how wonderful the staff at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital is and how they had (and continue to have) a great experience. Seriously in that 30 minute conversation, she blessed my socks off.

My point in all of this is two-fold:
1. Praise God for this phone call. That has completely re-shaped my outlook on next Thursday. Praise God for Becky, and for Marisha. Two incredibly sweet ladies, who've shown me the love of Jesus in this season.
2. The internet/blogs/twitter/instagram, social media in general, is not just a place to go and chat it up. It's not a time killer, and it's certainly not pointless. God is using these avenues to reach people, and we should be too. Goodness knows that the enemy is. The garbage that's out there is dizzying. It's coming at us from every angle. But that doesn't mean that social media is bad. We can choose how we use this outlet. Because of twitter, instagram, and more specifically- the She Reads Truth devotionals I was brought to these 2 women and through a series of small actions I was given a sense of peace about Olivia's health that I haven't known since last fall. So next time you see a tweet about someone not feeling well, or going through a trial- take time to respond with encouraging words. And when you see someone on the mountain top- praise God with them for His blessings. He is the same God in the valley that He is on the mountain top.

*** HUGE thanks to Becky and Marisha- you two have blessed my heart beyond words, and I love both of you for it.

July 23, 2012

Olivia vs. Milk

... or maybe it should be titled Milk vs. Olivia.

*** Disclaimer: This post contains talk about bodily functions of toddlers. If you have a squeamish stomach or aren't a Momma- you may want to stop reading. There, you've been warned. ***

Olivia is the thirstiest child I've ever known. She always has a cup within reach.
Her drink of choice? Milk. Chocolate milk, strawberry milk, regular milk- she loves them all. Problem being, milk in excess causes tummy troubles for our girl.

At her 2 year well visit our pediatrician was a little concerned about Olivia's potty habits. She often has a tough time going #2, and our pedi was worried that if it continued we would see problems when we potty trained Olivia. (she'd associate pain with going to the big girl potty, thus making it a kicking screaming fight to get her to go) Luckily, I was blessed with a child who virtually potty trained herself. Praise the Lord. But we did experience some difficult days where she would go to the toilet and sit, try to go, have no success, and get up. Repeat 50 times. She was so constipated.

A couple of weeks ago I started to be concerned about how much pain she was in and how the difficulty she was having. I didn't want these tummy troubles to interfere with her potty progress. So I called the doctor's office and talked with our P.A. she said that what we feared was coming to fruition and that if we didn't act fast, Olivia might sustain some real damage to her bowel.  She recommended that we put Olivia on Miralax, limit her dairy intake and remove milk from her diet all together. She has to take the Miralax once a day for 6 months, to give her bowel time to repair itself. We also have to give her calcium fortified vitamins and push calcium-rich foods. Once she is going regularly again we can try to introduce a soy, coconut, or almond milk.

So, my question to you Momma's with lactose-intolerant kids, or kids who just won't drink milk-

What foods do you have success with that are high in calcium?
Which alternate milk do your kids love? Soy, almond or coconut?
Any tried and true ways to make 'em go?

July 20, 2012

That time I did a devotional online...

64 days ago I joined a group of lovely ladies who were doing a devotional together using the YouVersion Bible Application.

I detoxed, then I surrendered, and now I'm praying.
These devotionals have been such a blessing to me. Just like I knew they would be. They have held me accountable for reading His word everyday. Something I've never been consistent in. They have revealed many truths about myself and my life, and taught me some invaluable lessons. I'm so grateful for these things.
But I'm most grateful for the not so obvious way it is changing me. The way He is changing me.
I've said before that I struggle with community. The whole letting people in, and reaching out thing is hard for me. Like crazy hard. I want to make friends, but I'm paralyzed by fear of rejection and judgment.
This community is helping me to work through that. It's easier to comment on a picture, tweet, or a blog post from behind a computer screen. A lot easier. That fear is lessened a bit by the anonymity of the internet. I've 'chatted' more openly with women in the last 64 days than I ever have. These women have become a huge support system. When I was having a tough day, Kayse sent me words of encouragement. When Olivia was sick, countless women prayed. {Thank You from the bottom of my heart- we are due for another episode next week, so let's keep praying for health} When Olivia went to day care for the first time, Amanda blessed my heart and nearly brought me to tears.
And in returning His goodness, I selflessly have prayed with and for people I only know through my computer screen. It has been one of the greatest blessings in my life. There is no greater way to say 'I love you' than to pray for someone.

The Lord has opened my eyes to so many women. Women that have amazing hearts for God, women who are hurting, women who are on the mountain top. They are all bringing Him glory and I want to hug them all around the neck and hold their hand as we pray and praise together. Seriously y'all, I wish we could sit down with each other with our hearts and coffee cups full.
If you have reached out to me I want to thank you. You have no idea how much easier that has made all of this for me; truly, you were Jesus to me and I praise Him for you. Thank you, friend.

**if you have no idea what I'm talking about hop over to the She Reads Truth website and click the "What?" link under the header. It explains how this all got started and how to jump in to the studies.
Seriously, do it- I promise you won't regret it.

July 19, 2012

July 18, 2012

a letter..

A letter to the child at the store...
From my heart to yours...

Dear Little One,

I want you to know that I see you.
I see your sweet, compassionate nature- underneath the mask of frustration.
It must have been really embarrassing when your mom was yelling at you. I wish she had just taken a moment to listen. My heart was breaking for you.
I heard it too; when your mom said you were 'so annoying' and told you to 'just shut up.' I hope you know that you are so special. And that you have many gifts to give this world. You have worth, you matter.
You are not stupid, annoying or any of the other untruths your mother spewed upon you.
Hearing her speak to you literally caused me pain. Sweet baby, my heart aches for you. It aches for the pain and fear you must live with. I pray for you every night. I pray that you stay strong and sweet through your trials, I pray that you are delivered from them, I pray that if I ever hear something like this again- I stand up and say something, I pray for your momma too. But mostly, I pray that someday you come to know Jesus. Because- He loves you far more and far better than anyone here on Earth could ever hope to. For, all the days were ordained for you were written in His book before one of them came to be. He knows you. He loves you. He has a plan for you. 

I love you,
He loves you more,

The lady that smiled at you, and then cried.

July 12, 2012

letting go.

Y'all. I'm a hot mess.
This post may be a bit of a ramble, and if it is - I'm sorry; I've just got to get all these words out of my head.

Olivia starts day care on Friday.
No big deal right? Wrong.
Olivia has never been cared for by any one but me, her daddy, a grandparent or the church nursery.
My palms are getting sweaty.

Here are my worries. In list form because lists make type A people happy, and I can't form coherent thoughts, much less sentences.
  • My Olivia, she's a delicate thing with a sensitive heart. How can I be sure that her teachers and class-mates will be sweet to her?
  • Weighing in at a whopping 24lbs. at 28 months- she's TINY. Like, can still wear dresses that are size 9 months, tiny. She barely weighs enough to sit in a front-facing car seat. These 'normal' kids are going to trample her. 
  • She's an only child. What if she's the bully?
  • Olivia has recurring fevers, that require close monitoring of her body temperature and swift action in the event of a fever. Will they monitor her fevers the way we do?
  • We just learned that she has a milk intolerance; and the child seriously loves milk. Will they make sure she doesn't drink milk? (a post on that soon)
  • Is she ready for this? Am I?
 I should add that this facility came with a glowing recommendation from a good friend who I trust completely. Also, during our visit to the facility Olivia played well and seemed to have a perfectly lovely time; she loved the teachers. I'm clearly not sending my child to the wolves. I know that. But in her 2 years, she's had some hard times. And I've held very close because of that. I've been what one might call over-protective. I'm not ashamed of that fact, and I never will be. Olivia is an articulate, funny and compassionate child. But my momma-heart can't help but worry.
My stomach is in knots. I keep praying and trying to give it over to God. I keep reminding myself to have open hands. After all she's not mine, she's His. And He loves her far more and far better than I could ever hope to. But, goodness is that ever hard to do. I just finished my second devotional study with the She Reads Truth ladies. This study was called Living the Surrendered Life. I'm trying so hard to surrender my fears for Olivia's safety and health.

July 6, 2012

She calls me Momma


I play many roles in my life.
I wear a lot of hats, and it's easy to get caught up in it all.
I'm a believer, wife, daughter, sister, cousin, aunt, niece, grand-daughter, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, friend, co-worker... I'm sure I'm leaving some out.

But to this girl, I'm simply 'Momma.'
To this girl, it doesn't matter what happened during my day or how long my to do list is.  It doesn't matter what the weather is like, or what side of the bed I got up on.

She's quick to flash a smile. And even quicker to give a hug. She is the kind of person I dreamed she would be. Compassionate, sweet of spirit, loving, joyful, and full of life. When I was pregnant I prayed that the Lord would use her to bring Him glory. And let me tell you, if her little personality is any indication- He's going to use her in big ways. There's something special about that girl, almost electric.

She reminds us to slow down. To take a moment to enjoy the moments we are blessed with, to savor them. It's easy to get caught up in the hustle of everyday life- the grown up stuff and yet, somehow, her tiny hands manage to wrangle our hearts. 

Daily, I am reminded by her how preciously fleeting life is. I swear it was just yesterday I snapped this picture on our front lawn. She was only a couple of weeks old, the picture above {where she's sitting on the blanket} was taken in the exact same spot. Somehow almost 28 months have slipped by. My heart can barely believe it's true. But as I check and re-check my calendar I can see that it's true. In the checking off of lists, we have missed out on moments. Not anymore. I want her to be as inspired by my life as I am by hers; and I pray that she continues to reminds us to stop. To hold her hand as she walks, instead of picking her up and walking- even if it takes so much longer. Because the hand holding only last so long, and the sweet moments on the front lawn will turn to preschool graduation photos and {Lord help me} someday I'll be taking pictures at her high school graduation. I pray we don't loose a moment.

July 5, 2012

Fourth of July... The Recap.

Our 4th was spent in the pool with wonderful friends.
My best friend from high school was able to come home for the holiday and we got to spend a lot of quality time with her. Such a blessing.

In the afternoon, we swam and I grilled hot dogs.
I failed horribly at taking pictures- I got 3. I had good intentions. Really.

Olivia and her "Amia"


A girl and her daddy.

I hope your 4th was as blessed as our's was. We are so proud to be American's and to get to live in this great nation!!!

July 4, 2012

Fourth of July

... and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Happy Fourth Y'all!

July 3, 2012

10 ways to really love a momma...

Recently a dispute began between a close relative and myself.
I'm not happy about my part in it, but in my heart I know that I did what was in the best interest of my baby girl, and my family.  Nonetheless, the whole thing got me thinking of the ways someone (who does or doesn't have children themselves) can love a momma of small children. I think this should be in memo form, handed out to all who visit a friend or loved one in the postpartum wing. It should also be in made into a brochure and put in those little acrylic stands in the waiting room.

10 Ways to Really Love a Momma:
  1. If you think about her text, tweet or instagram her. It might be just the encouragement she needs in the middle of a particularly difficult day. The other day when Olivia was sick, I was blessed beyond words by some women I'd never even met through their words of encouragement on instagram. They truly touched my heart.
  2. Show her grace. If she can't meet you for lunch, cut her some slack. It's probably not because you aren't important to her- her babies are just more important. As a mom and wife, I dedicate my energy to my girl and my husband. If, after I have met all their needs, there is some Sarah left over- then and only then can I take time and energy from them. Sorry if that makes you mad some day. 
  3. Make her a casserole; show up with coffee. This one's pretty simple. Sometimes a Momma is tired, and the last thing we want to do is cook.
  4. Lend an ear.  Mommas are not immune to needing to talk; if anything we may need to do it more often. Letting your momma-friend talk to you and showing genuine care and concern for her will mean more than you can imagine.
  5. Be kind. She's probably not feeling great about herself after having that baby. she may even have vomit in her hair with that sick toddler. (Heaven knows, I was a wreck this past week.) Compliment her anyway.
  6. Offer to babysit. Again, pretty simple. Mommas a time out too.
  7. Make an effort. If you want to see her, call her up and see if she's available. As a mom I find it hard to carve out time for myself to spend out of the house. 
  8. Tell her you love her. When you become a mom your reality shifts. How you relate to people changes. It's important for her to know that you still love her.
  9. Love her babies. Notice the little things, talk to them too, hug them. The quickest way to warm a Momma-heart is through her babies.
  10. Pray for her and with her. That's all.

July 2, 2012

The time I decided I hate a picture of my girl...

As a mom, I take a lot of pictures.
My poor iPhone; it's a good sport. At one point it had over 3,000 pictures. Thank you, Steve Jobs, thank you.
In 2 years I'd wager to say that I've snapped 30,000+ pictures. Oh my.
And I've loved them all. Until yesterday.

Enter this snapshot.

At first, I found it funny. Sent it to no less than 3 people, posted it to facebook, and had a good laugh at how we "had our hands full." It is, however a perfect depiction of our Olivia. The girl will not ride in the car without a 'maz-gine.' She loves magazines. She loves words, something I pray continues into her adolescence and teen years.

Then, while showing the picture to my mother-in-law, something in me shifted. The Lord used this picture to speak to my heart.

At 2, we don't talk a lot about the world's expectations. Sure we tell her she's pretty, smart, sweet, compassionate, precious.... the list could go on for days. But we don't dive into the tough stuff. Thank goodness, because I've got a few things to learn myself before I go imparting any knowledge. But the words on this cover scare me.

Please Lord, keep this garbage out of my sweet girl's heart. I need her to know that she is more than the headlines. More than the homecoming court. More than the head cheerleader. It doesn't matter how 'bikini ready' her belly is, what the labels in her clothes say or how much money she has. I pray that as her mother, my example glorifies Him. That, at a very young age, she understands that she is the daughter of a great King who loves her just the way she is. A Father that created every wonderful thing about her, and loves her to the width and depth of the universe.

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139:14

"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight." 1 Peter 3:3-4

Mama's hug your girls tight.

June 28, 2012

what a playdate taught me about life...

{Olivia and her best-friend}

It's funny isn't it? How we're supposed to be the one's teaching them; yet more often than not- God uses them to teach us invaluable truths??

That's exactly what happened to me a couple of weeks ago.  It was a low-key day. I think it was a Thursday. We had a morning play date planned with 2 of our besties. Normally I'm that mom. You know the one. The mom who always has her hair fixed and face on. The mom that insists on my and Olivia's outfits being Only a handful of people have ever seen me without make up.

Photo proof: This picture is from March 23, 2010- and I just happen to be delivering a baby at this exact moment. 

I don't mean to sound braggy- do I sound braggy? I have a point I promise. Stick with me.

Anyway, back to the play date...
Make up and hair don't hold up so well on a 90 degree day in June spent pool side. So, I didn't do my make up. Not even the eyeliner.  And I sloppily threw my and Olivia's hair up in a "bun." And you know what? It didn't make a bit of difference. Olivia still had a blast and I still got to spend some QT with a dear dear friend. And no one cared that my complexion isn't flawless, and that I had a few hairs out of place. 
The important thing was that I was there. Living my life, right where I was. Because as James 4:14 says:  

"How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog- it's here for a little while, then it's gone."

I'm learning that things don't have to be perfect to glorify Him. The Lord does not call me to be the best dressed mommy {thank goodness.} He does not call me to spend time in the bathroom, fretting over those "baby bangs." However, He does call me to be present in my life. And to be the kind momma, wife and friend that shows His love to those around me. 

Olivia just turned 27 mo. last Saturday. Friends, I have blinked and my 6lb 14oz baby girl is a laughing, running, talking, potty-trained toddler. Her first year I worked way too much, and missed even more. I can't bare to let even another moment go without praise. He has blessed me more than I could ever deserve. And that morning fog? I can feel it fading a little bit every day.

June 27, 2012

if you came over...

If you came over to my house today you'd see a sick little girl...

if you came over today you'd see a Momma-heart that's breaking...

if you came over today you'd see me camped out at Olivia's bedside...

if you came over today you'd see a family that is imparting more grace on me than I deserve...

if you came over today you'd see me getting caught up on my #shereadstruth bible study after a busy work week put me a little behind...

if you came over today you'd see a house that may or may not get cleaned before our big family get-together this weekend...

if you came over today you'd see that I'm in desperate need of a shower...

if you came over today you'd see that friends of the stuffed variety provide sweet comfort to a little girl...

if you came over today you'd see that I compulsively check Olivia's temperature, just to see if it's moved in the last 10 minutes...

and you'd have seen the 4 degree jump it made within a 15 minute period...

if you came over today you'd definitely see the pile of laundry that is causing me much embarrassment...

but mostly, if you came over today you'd see a Momma who is desperately praying for answers...
 and that her little girl would feel better...
and that He would cover her family with protection and peace...
and that that laundry pile would find a way to wash itself...

June 1, 2012

The Fever Continued...

We had big plans for our Memorial Day weekend. We spent Thursday and Friday prior preparing the yard, and grocery shopping. We planned to grill out with friends and family, swim and maybe even set off some fireworks. 

Yeah, not so much.

Sunday morning greeted us with a particularly grouchy Olivia. She is usually very good during church, but she had a hard time this day. That should have been my first clue for what we had coming. We survived though, with minimal embarrassment for Momma. We went to family's for Sunday dinner. Olivia fell asleep on the way over there, which is typical because we go over right at nap time, but she always wakes up happy when we get there. This time she kept on sleeping. Again, another clue. When it came time to eat we laid her on her nap mat and I noticed she was kind of warm- but just attributed it to the fact that the kid's a furnace when she sleeps. A few minutes later, I felt of her again and she was on fire. I didn't have a thermometer with us at the time (a mistake I won't make again) but I would wager that her fever was upwards of 103. 
We called the nurse line when we got home, because we still had not been able to break her fever and there was an ominous bug bite on her upper arm. Given her history and the current conditions they advised that we bring her to the ER. They did more blood work, a urinalysis, and a chest x-ray. The ER doctor said he saw some inflammation on the chest x-ray and that her blood count was elevated. And Momma and Daddy breathed a sigh of relief that we finally had an answer and not another "virus brush-off." {Side note: if hear the word virus come out of another doctor's mouth I will scream.} 

The fever continued through Monday with a little coughing and vomiting sprinkled in. We had been told to follow up with our regular doctor so I called Tuesday morning to make her appointment. She was just miserable all morning. Luckily her fever broke a little while before we had to leave for the doctor and she was saying she wanted chicken- so we went for chicken. After lunch we headed to the doctor, they took us back quickly. So thankful for our pediatrician's office. They are so wonderful. We always see Miss April, the PA, she is amazing with Olivia.
And that makes me pretty much love her. She had been copied in on all the tests that the ER had run and to my dismay, she disagreed with the ER doc. She saw no elevation in her blood count and nothing remarkable on the chest x-ray. So here we are with another unexplained fever. Ugh. We agreed that we would reschedule an appointment with the Infectious Disease Clinic at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital.

After her appointment (and lots of stickers and suckers from Ms. Doris at the front desk) Olivia was still in high spirits so we decided to run a couple of quick errands. By the time we got home her fever had come back and it wasn't here to stay for a while. She just laid at the end of our bed and looked blankly at the TV until she fell asleep. She woke up every hour on the hour, crying inconsolably. Heartbreaking.

I ended up staying home from work on Wednesday. She continued to fight the fevers, and we waited on the phone call from the doctor's office about our referral to Vanderbilt. I prayed that they could get us in, prayed that the fever would break, prayed for guidance and wisdom, prayed for rest for her- and me, but mostly I thanked God that we are surrounded by group of people who love us so well. 

Yesterday, I went ahead and went to work. Olivia had been fever free for 10 hours so I decided to give it a shot. We made it to 1 o'clock before I got a phone call. The fever was back, and it was back in a big way. She was having trouble swallowing and was dehydrated. There was a fury of phone calls. One grandmother driving across town to pick up a thermometer from another grandmother, then taking it to another grandmother. (did you get all that?) And then more phone calls. One to Daddy, one to the doctor. We talked with the nurse for about 20 minutes and at the end of the conversation we all agreed that Olivia needed some fluids for hydration. She had only had 1 wet diaper in 48 hours. So I left work, picked her up, and headed straight for the ER. We must have sat in that waiting room for 2 hours before a friend who works there happened to walk through. She said that she would get us back as soon as she could. We were in a room 15 minutes later. Thanks Jess!

No one wanted to give Olivia an IV unless we had to, so we waited for about 2 hours while I tried fruitlessly to get Olivia to drink something. Let me tell you, if a 2yr. old doesn't want to drink- they're not gonna.  In all that time she maybe drank the equivalent of about 2 tablespoons. So it was decided that an IV was necessary. Rip my heart out now. Three very sweet nurses came in and talked with Olivia before the procedure, then another came in for the actual stick. She was less than patient with our little one. :( It's sad that it only took that one nurse to make our visit to the ER so unpleasant. She scared the pants off Olivia, and every time the IV monitor would beep Olivia would start to cry again because she knew the mean nurse was coming back.

They also did a throat culture since she was having difficulty swallowing- it of course, came back negative.  Thankfully, the IV process went pretty quickly (30 minutes maybe) and we got to go home soon there after. I'm so thankful to those of you who have been praying for Olivia and our family during this time.

Today, Olivia had been fever free so far and seems to be in good spirits. Praying it stays that way. We go to Vanderbilt on the 14th. I'll update everyone after that.