Friday, September 9, 2016

Yearning to be Home

Tonight I drove home from the volleyball game with my littles in the backseat. The sun glimmered through the leaves in that glorious way that it does. And I was in a place of such peace, such contentment, and yet still such yearning.

If I have learned one thing over the last six months it is this: being where God wants you to be is not always easy, but it is good.

Six months ago we were still dreaming our Central Texas dreams. Days in Waco stretched before me endlessly: parties in our big house, Sundays at Calvary, trips to the Cameron Park Zoo, cheering our Baylor Bears, shopping at my thrift stores, growing closer to that place and to those people that we so dearly loved. Waco was home. And we weren't expecting  that to change.

But God's plan wasn't exactly what we had in mind. And so, the past six months have been some of the hardest of our young lives. The anxiety of neither of us having jobs lined up. The frustration of possibilities falling through again and again. The hope that we would get to stay, then the hope that we would get to leave. Needless to say, it was a veritable roller coaster of emotions. Through it all we prayed that it would just be clear what He wanted for us, when the time came.

And because God is good, he answered that prayer beyond a shadow of a doubt. In June we were both offered jobs at the same school, in a city we were excited to explore, in a way that could only be God's leading. So we packed up everything we had, said goodbye to our beloved home and beloved friends, and moved to Virginia in a matter of two weeks. Every step and every detail was provided for and confirmed. But it was still hard.

And Virginia has been such an adventure! Already we love this beautiful city, and these beautiful people we get to work with, and this beautiful part of the country we get to live in! We have explored so much of the state already, but every weekend we are excited to get out and see something new! Our kids have adjusted seamlessly, and are already making new friends and loving their new home.

As for the work God brought us here to do - what a blessing! Every day I am reminded what a privilege it is to have a Head of School that speaks of our work as ministry. Aaron and I truly feel called to Christian education, and it is such a blessing to be supported, encouraged, and exhorted each day by the wonderful colleagues we have at Grove Christian School. We have been blown away by their ability to care deeply, pray without ceasing, lead by serving, and love us and our kids before we even arrived.

We have found a church with a wonderful Sunday School that reminds us just enough of our dear Calvary Young Adults but is also filled to the brim with parents of toddlers and babies. We have found our favorite park by our house, and I finally know the layout of each grocery store in the West End. I know my way around without looking at a map, but there is still some excitement to exploring new streets. So yeah, Richmond is a good place, and it is the right place. But it still isn't home. And I don't know how long it will be before the Heart of Texas doesn't pull at my heartstrings and reading the Calvary Tower doesn't make me long for home.

So what is it like to move far, far away from everyone you love and everything you know? It is a grand adventure and it can be oh-so-exciting and fun. But it is also lonely, and exhausting, and bittersweet, and surprising. Six months ago I never would have guessed that I would be writing this from RVA, but tonight as I pulled into my driveway and Quin announced "We're home to Virginia!", I reflected on the fellowship of these past weeks, of the joy in the exploration, and of the peace in knowing that we are where God wants us, and I did feel, at least a little bit, like I was finally home to Virginia.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

These baby days...

"Enjoy every minute" they say...
"It goes so fast" they say...

It's been three years now since I got pregnant with Quinner. It has gone fast. I have enjoyed all the minutes.

I am constantly reminded that all too soon these babies of mine will be grown. I know it's going to happen. I know it will be good. When that day comes, please remind me if I wonder: We loved them well. We changed those diapers. We fed them at least a few times a day. We played patty-cake and ring around the rosy ad nauseam. And we laughed a lot. There were early mornings and long days and frustrating moments, but if I ever start to feel regret, please just stop me. Somebody remind me that I did these days well. I held my babies close. I watched their little bodies sleep. I breastfed and breastfed and breastfed. I played and I danced and I tickled. These are good days, these baby days. And to all the old ladies that will stop me: "Yes, I know I am blessed. I am enjoying every minute."

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Becoming Stacy's Mom

Giving birth is often characterized as a marathon, and my first labor and delivery almost two years ago definitely fit that description. We eagerly awaited the starting line and then gleefully breezed through the first few miles before buckling down for over six hours of active and hard unmedicated labor. Well, if Quin's birth was a marathon, Stacy's could better be described as an liesurely morning stroll followed by an all-out sprint, after which I was suddenly handed a shiny medal for finishing the race!

My contractions started coming on regularly at 4:30 am on Sunday morning, but for the first few hours I just slept between contractions. I'd been having strong contractions every little while for a week, so I didn't really take these ones too seriously. At about 7:30 I got up and took a shower, then laid down again and went back to sleep. When Quin woke up an hour later, we all got up for breakfast and to get ready for church. While my contractions were relatively strong, they were still mostly ten to fifteen minutes apart, and I figured I could probably sit through Sunday School and church without being too much of a distraction.

However, Aaron, in his wisdom, suggested that we skip Sunday School, since we had a long day of church activities planned, and take our time to get ready for church. At this point we decided to call Aaron's parents (who were planning to head out of town after our weekend of graduation celebrations) and let them know that they might want to stick around for a few hours just to see what happened. While we waited for them to come down from their hotel, I went and laid down for another little rest time sleeping between contractions.

By 11:00, I was ready to either get on with our day or get this baby moving, so when Aaron's parents arrived, Quin, Aaron and I went out for a walk. We didn't make it very far, since walking down the street my contractions started coming every two minutes or so! At this point, I started to think she might actually be on her way.

So we texted my brothers and called our friend Kimberly to ask her to come by after church and hang out with Quin. I sat him down to explain what was happening, and he looked at me with wide eyes and said "Contractions!" It was amazing to see how much he seemed to be understanding as he waited for his little sister. Kimberly arrived at our house shortly after noon and we took off to the hospital. I kept telling Aaron, "I hope they let us stay this time..." remembering being sent home once with Quin and then being told to walk for hours before actually being admitted for his birth.

When we got to the hospital I told the nurse that I believed I was in labor. My contractions were still quite bearable and coming every five to seven minutes, so imagine our surprise when she told us I was already at a NINE! I guess those contractions all week long had actually been doing something!

We were rushed over to the delivery room, where I had to sign lots of papers, get my hep lock put in, have my blood pressure taken, and get hooked up to monitors. Of course, once I heard how close I was to the finish line, I figured it was time to have this baby! With each contraction I just bore down and willed that last centimeter away.

Our midwife was off on Sunday, so we had a wonderful OB who was to deliver Stacy. Even if Kari had been available, I'm not sure she would have made it in time! Stacy was born about 45 minutes after we arrived at the hospital.

In those 45 minutes, though, I'm pretty sure I experienced all the pain that I went through in the six hours we were at the hospital with Quin, it was just all at once! After a few intense contractions (one of which felt like my back was literally breaking down the middle), I asked my nurse, "When does the doctor come? I'm ready to be done now..." She left to get the doctor, but on the next contraction I told the neonatal nurse, "Ok, I can feel the burning of her head now, I'm ready to push so the doctor better come soon." In a flurry they pulled the bed apart, set up all the stuff needed for the delivery, and the doctor walked in and threw on her gown. My water hadn't broken yet, so the doctor asked my permission to break the bag of waters. I'm pretty sure my response was, "Yes, please, I'm ready to get her out!" Moments later (after five hard pushes) Stacy literally popped out! She was tiny but strong from the beginning, and once she was out I experienced literally no pain or strange shaking like I remember from my first birth! Of course I delivered the afterbirth and had to have one tiny stitch, but even the part where they pushed on my tummy didn't hurt at all!

Aaron was by my side the whole time (although he was also in charge of communicating with everyone - which he hardly had time to do)! I vaguely remember him praying over me in the moments before she was born. He cut the cord and we both got to hold her for the first two hours of "recovery" time in the delivery room. She even nursed a bit in the delivery room, and then had a bath and got her vitals all checked. After two hours I informed the nurses that I felt fully recovered, so they took us over to the neonatal wing where we were when Quin woke up from his nap and came to meet his little sister. She had special family time for most of the afternoon, and it was so incredible for Aaron's parents to get to be here for all of it (although they didn't make it to the actual delivery since it all happened so fast)! We spent one night in the hospital and now we are home enjoying our precious little girl!

It's still hard to believe how beautifully she came into this world, and I have to keep reminding myself that she's not going to be born on June 1st because she's already here! It was so clearly God's timing for her to be born two days after Aaron's graduation while his parents were still in town, but I feel a little like I'm still catching up emotionally with all the events of the past week. Quin, of course, is thrilled, and doesn't seem to be a bit jealous of her yet. Aaron has started his new job, and we are settling in to life with our girl and looking forward to some more excitement with the visits of my parents, other family, and then hopefully buying our house sometime soon! We are excited to see what life brings us with our Stacy Rose, and we are so incredibly thankful for her beautiful, healthy, and  incredibly timely birth!

Anastasia Rose Woodard
May 17, 2015 1:11 pm
6 lbs 7.6 oz, 19.5 in

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The day after day...

"What's the hardest part?"

Three of my dear and thoughtful friends questioned me this afternoon. All three single. All three childless. All three sharing some but not all of the daily realities of my life. They sat and listened and asked insightful questions. Encouraging me. Supporting me. Questioning me. Inspiring me. Here is sort of what I told them:
If anyone told you how hard it was going to be, you wouldn't do it.

Life is this way. Being an adult. Marriage. Having a baby. Grad school. Teaching. Jobs. Money.

If anyone told you the extreme lows you would go to in this life, most of us would probably choose to sit on the couch and avoid the entire endeavor. If you knew the intensity of the arguments, the sleepless nights, the long hours, the endless and meaningless chores - would you really sign up for anything you've done recently?

All the important things in life are hard, though. And they aren't hard just once. Life doesn't come down to big moments of difficulty. Tests are not passed in a moment. Winning doesn't start on game day. Life is about the day after day of living through the harsh realities... and overcoming.

Life right now is definitely hard... what is the hardest part? It's not any one thing; it's all the things. It's the endless diapers. It's the six times my baby woke me up last night. It's that my husband always needs me to love him more (as he should). My house always needs me to clean it. My fridge always needs to be filled. My baby always needs me... well, for everything... It's also the pile of grading that is handed back only to assign more. It's the lessons that can always be made better. The emails that must always be answered. It's the fact that when your work is so life-giving, your life fills gladly with work. And when your life as a mother and as a wife is also your work, soon your work never ends. When the only option for rest isn't really an option at all, and when that option is actually the last thing you would want, that is the hardest part. But that's what makes it all worth it.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Too soon to the party... once again!

Aaron and I met for the first time during orientation week of my freshman year in college. We started dating that February and knew within a few weeks that we wanted to spend our lives together. Of course, six years later I probably would laugh if a barely eighteen-year-old informed me that she was ready to marry her boyfriend of three weeks, but thankfully my parents didn't go into hysterics when I made that claim. Instead, they wisely guided us to make it through the two long years until I was able to graduate and marry my sweet Aaron at the baby-faced age of twenty and three months!

Aaron still had another semester left when we said our vows, so we returned to Wheaton as newlyweds, only to realize that we were too soon to the party. All of our friends were still living in the dorms, attending class, and eating in the cafeteria. It was awkward for them to be around a married couple. And so it was that with little money, few job prospects, and basically no life experience, we were set adrift to find our way without any peers to walk alongside us in our newlyweddedness...

Throughout the following years, we watched most of our friends from college get married, we moved several times, and we made new friends who were at various stages in the journey of finding a life mate. Soon we had seen many couples through the whole process and had a solid base of married friends. We could hang out without it being awkward, we could talk about married life problems, and we could refer to our spouses without everyone in the room blushing or giggling. Our days of lonely married life fading into ancient history, we decided the best choice would be to move along to the next life stage - parenthood! For some reason, it didn't dawn on us that again we would be the first to show up...

So here we are again, the first of all our friends our age who have made the leap to being parents, and it can be a lonely place to be. Now, don't get me wrong, we have many loving and faithful friends in every stage of life who share their hearts and time with us. But there is something different about your commitments and priorities when you are solely responsible for the care of a tiny person. Bafflingly, we have lots of friends in other places who are happily breeding. Our loneliness in parenthood doesn't extend to facebook or the blogging world. But right here, right now, we are the only parents in our close friend group.

It seems like it cannot actually be so... After all, we live in a pretty large city and come in contact with lots of people over the course of a week. I mean, we know other people with babies, just none that are at the same stage of life as we are... At church, there are lots of people in their thirties with kids around Quin's age; in Waco, there are plenty of pregnant teens; and somewhere (I'm sure) there are couples our age with kids. The problem is, I'm not entirely sure how to find them. Aaron and I are pretty well educated, we've been married for almost four years, we attend church regularly, and we're in our early twenties... oh yeah, and we have a baby! Somehow again we've made it to the party too soon.

I'm sure in a few years we will have plenty of friends with toddlers and babies. Life has a way of working these issues out. Someday we will look back and remember fondly the days of being invited to events at which we would spend most of the party trying to hush a hungry newborn. We will laugh when we think back on all the crazy things we did with our childless friends (with a baby strapped on our backs). It will seem ridiculous how uncomfortable some friends were with being in the same room while Quin ate, and everyone we know will travel religiously with a diaper bag. Questions like, "Wait, you can't drink when you're breastfeeding?!" will fade from memory as we surround ourselves with people like us.

... but for now, we are alone among our friends in this journey, and actually, in all its loneliness it can be a lot of fun! Just like it was fun to be married when our friends still lived in the dorms and worried about dates and flirting and nights of heartache, carrying a baby around when you're the only one who's got one can be quite a hoot! Everyone adores our boy and he is spoiled in all the attention he gets! Even if we have to turn down invitations and have people over here instead of going out, we have found ways to do so many fun things with the little guy along for the ride! He's been to football games, youth events, parades, game nights, movie-watching parties, and so much more. Nobody blinks an eye if he stays out after seven or doesn't get his diaper changed when he needs it because they don't know any better.
Experienced parents inform me, "Well, obviously we won't be there because that's after __________'s bedtime" but we can count on all our childless friends to be clueless about bedtimes, never too busy to hold our child, and always excited to see a little smile or an unexpected roll or even some sloppy drool. Everything baby-related is more thrilling to those who haven't experienced it all themselves.

So here we are now: lonely, grateful, and not a bit remorseful. I wouldn't change a thing, even though deep down I am looking forward to the days of playdates with all my heart! For now I can just hope that in time, they will come...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

We Three Woodards

On August 1, 2013 We Woodards grew from two to three, and the past three weeks as a family have been special and exhausting. Aquinas Martin Woodard was born right on schedule, in the middle of the night on his due date, and he has proved to be a very cooperative and sweet little boy ever since. Besides still being a little confused about the difference between daytime and nighttime (but really what can we expect from a child produced by Aaron and me) he is really a perfect little baby.

He was born at 7 lbs 10.5 oz, but he's proved to be quite the eater since then, which has taken him to 9.5 lbs only three weeks later. Maybe we're going to have a chubby little guy, which is fine by me, or maybe he just heard his daddy say that he was supposed to get big and strong so he's really working on that as fast as he can! Of course this means that he spends the majority of his waking hours eating, which is fun for his mama, and the time he's awake and not eating he gets to spend doing his "workouts" (AKA tummy time) with his daddy. He's getting really strong; he can already lift his head pretty well and, just like in utero, he has a very decisive kick!

He's a very busy little guy for someone his age. Already he has done lots of shopping, frequented various parties, attended church and our quarterly business meeting, gone to a softball game (and watched many a throwback football game in preparation for the new season), visited campus several times, and pretty much been strapped onto his mama anytime she wants to go anywhere, which is pretty much every day. He loves the little outings, and he rarely fusses in his car seat or in his Moby. He really is a dream child... except at night.

Since he doesn't sleep much at nights, we've taken to taking turns staying up with him. Usually he spends the first part of the night with his daddy and then mama wakes up early in the morning to trade off duties and let daddy get some sleep.  It's good practice for next week when we will be trading him back and forth during the day for the duration of the semester. 

Other than eating and sleeping (and pooping of course), there's not much to say about our adorable three week old. He's really not that entertaining, although the two of us can happily spend hours holding him, cuddling him, and laughing over the silly faces he makes or his precious little sneeze. We are so blessed with this little guy, and we're trying to enjoy every part of this new, challenging, exhausting experience that is parenthood!

And now for some pictures of our first few weeks as three:

Cuddles with Mama
Proud Daddy
Handfuls of love

Oh the many things we've learned - like how to use an infant carseat
Giving Quin his first bath at home - he's not fond of the experience
Watching football with Daddy
Sleepytime with Mama
Our happy family

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Story of Our Trip to Mexico (In Pictures)

Aaron and I got to go to Mexico this June!

In Oaxaca, we spent the first part of the week seeing lots of dear friends...

...and doing some fun sight-seeing 
(like returning to the spot where we got engaged four-and-a-half years ago)!

On Thursday we made the trip through the fog to the Mazatec highlands.

We celebrated first in San Jose with the believers at the town square,

where Aaron "grande" and "Aaroncito" were reunited!

On Friday the New Testaments were dedicated in Eloxochitlan with a festival of the Mazatec language.

On Saturday we joined Tsini and San Jeronimo to dedicate the New Testament there.

We saw lots of beautiful dancing (this is traditional Mazatec outfits and baskets)...

...and enjoyed presentations by people of all ages.

It was so special to see old friends,

and spend time with our dear family!