Monday, April 29, 2013

My prayer life... digging in deeper

I'll be the first one to admit it--- I pray when I need something. I pray when I want something. I pray for me, for myself. Yes, I pray for my family and my friends (key word being my). My prayer life tends to be focused on my immediate world.

I have so much to learn about prayer. When you think about it, as Christians we have been given an amazing opportunity to communicate directly to God--- anytime, anywhere, without pomp and circumstance. Why don't we do it more? Why am I not in constant communication with God if He delights in listening to me share every detail of my day, every worry on my mind, and every excitement I experience? Let's be honest: there are very few people who could sit and listen to me chatter on and on for hours on end; even Chris needs time away from my stream of consciousness!

Further, why am I only communicating with Him when I have a need? What about every other thing that pops into my head? He created me because I bring Him joy. Yes, he knows my thoughts before I speak them, but it doesn't mean He doesn't want the pleasure of hearing it directly from the source---me!

But beyond our needs and a direct line of communication, I feel like there is more to prayer, more than I am seeing or understanding. At certain points in my life, I have felt like I've had an authentic prayer life, when my communication with God was almost a necessity throughout the day. In times past, I've felt intense fulfillment and peace from walking in frequently, daily communion with God.

I long to experience a prayer life where I can't wait to talk to God, where I view a conversation with God as a conversation with a sweet, cherished friend. I have seen glimpses of this type of prayer life, but it hasn't lasted. 

I am committing to study more about prayer, to learn and to experience the riches of what God can share with me in prayer. 

If anyone has any good resources/books/verses that have helped you come to a deeper understanding of the purpose and experience of prayer, shoot me an email; I am starting with a few now, but am open to exploring whatever has been meaningful to you as well.

And for the rest of you, those who might be where I am, or who might be doubting that prayer is even a necessary, effective tool to communicate with God, I encourage (challenge) you to give it some thought, not just a few moments, but a chunk of time. Pick a time to pull yourself away from the craziness of life--- your cell phone, your email inbox, your Facebook newsfeed, the laundry pile, your work schedule etc. for 15 minutes. 15 minutes may not seem like a long time, but when we have no distractions, it can seem like an eternity. Take 15 minutes to think through how or if you're communicating with God at all. It's in theses rare, quiet times when you'll be surprised what He'll reveal...

Friday, April 26, 2013

Breaking it down... on the dance floor, that is

Tonight, Chris and I are headed to a wedding. Anyone who knows me knows I love any excuse to break it down on the dance floor! Chris? He likes to watch---He'll jump in for a few songs, but prefers to smirk/laugh at me from the sidelines. He is also entertained by my extended family members and their "moves".

I am not particularly graceful but I love to dance! I get it honestly. My family as an extended unit (siblings, parents, cousins, aunts, uncles etc.) can be quite a force to reckon with on the dance floor; this is especially true if the band decides to play songs from the 60s, 70s, or early 80s. Watch out! 

SIDE NOTE: I swear to you. Chris just came home from work five minutes ago. His comment to me thirty seconds ago: "Dear blessed. Please don't hurt yourself tonight dancing. I have a bad feeling about this..."

Hmm...a pregnant woman dancing? Seems totally normal to me. I'm sure there will be a few strange looks or laughs as I "work" the electric slide and human train around the floor tonight, pregnant belly, high heels and all, but heck, why not?!

As I look toward my third trimester, I feel awesome. Yes, I'm gaining weight. Yes, my back lets me know it. But otherwise, life is good. I feel especially blessed that my good health has coincided with Spring! Sunshine, fresh cut grass, and budding flowers on the trees also add to my euphoria! 

So, how ridiculous might I look tonight on the dance floor? I am sure Chris will be telling me to hold back all night. The reality is that our kid is going to have to learn dance moves from someone... might as well start in utero! 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Join the Movement...

Join the Movement: Bring Infertility Out of the Shadows
National Infertility Awareness Week

For many couples, Chris and me included, it was a daunting task to step out and acknowledge publicly that we struggled with fertility issues. We didn't do it in one huge jump. We still have been hesitant to share openly with some people because we're just too sensitive about it. But step by step, we have slowly opened up and shared our experience with more and more people. 

Someone from Shady Grove contacted me the other day and asked: What has been the most surprising part of your journey to becoming pregnant?

I don't think I can sum that up in a sentence or two, but realistically, Chris and I have been surprised at the number of people that have "come out of the woodwork" so-to-speak, who have struggled or are still struggling with infertility. 

When you are going through the experience, you feel so isolated and alone; it is as if you're watching couples and new families live their lives from far above---an outsider looking down at a dream that feels unbelievably far away.

At the same time, you have to continue to live your life. It's hard. It's frustrating. And at times, it's difficult to deal with people who do not understand or acknowledge that hardship.

Another surprising aspect of our infertility experience has been the grace and the providence God has shown us. I dont' know why I am surprised, but I am. I've learned more about who He is and who I am in Him during the past few years than I would have learned if my life were paved out in front of me, fully equipped with road signs and maps with keys explaining each new location along the way. 

Yesterday's sermon was about trust. We've heard it before: Trust God. He knows what He's doing. 

Yeah. Right. Tell that to someone who just lost a spouse. Tell that to someone with a life threatening illness. Tell that to a couple desperately wanting to start a family. 

It's a hard pill to swallow.

But here's the thing: trust requires risk. Without risk, there's no reason to authentically trust. Trusting God and placing the events of our lives, no mater how trivial or how grave, into His hands requires us to risk being out of control, stepping away from the command center of our lives.

Trusting God also requires a perpetual turning over of the reins. Daily. I've not mastered this. I am working on it.

With regard to National Infertility Awareness Week, it's our hope that more people will come to know about infertility. While no one expects someone whom has not been touched with infertility to understand it all, it would be amazing to bring this topic out of the shadows and into the light. 

My dearest friend Katie got pregnant the first month she tried to conceive. She had a dream pregnancy and now has a beautiful baby girl. She loves me almost as much as my husband does, but the reality is, she can never get what it was like for me to struggle with infertility. However, she was informed and was able to support me the best she could. I appreciated that. 

If someone you know is clueless about infertility, here is a great link to help them understand what you're experiencing. They don't have to "get it" 100%, but sharing about it is the first step toward their growing understanding and your diminished resentment.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Childbirth Class: Sitcom or Soap Opera?

Because our calendar is pretty full in May and June, we decided to venture out for a childbirth class a bit early. I clearly had the smallest baby bump in the crew, as at 24 weeks, Chris and I looked like super  over-achievers compared to the 35-40 week pregnant "couples" (I use the term loosely-- will explain) in the room.

We had the option of taking the class in chunks, every Tuesday for six weeks. Or, we could get it all completed in one eight-hour, Saturday session. We chose the later option, and although it was a long day, I am glad to be able to check it off the list.

As we walked into the hospital and found the room, I was telling Chris about how my parents met some of their best friends in childbirth class! I was excited to meet other couples who were experiencing pregnancy and generally, looking forward to the day.

The "couples" in our Saturday class were a diverse group. We felt like we were the oldest couple, at 28 years old. It was strange. Added to that was the fact that there were only a few married couples and the rest were either young women with a friend or family member there as a coach, or partners whom, upon first glance, did not appear to be married (or thrilled to be there, for that matter!). 

We sat down and within ten minutes, heard the "couple" behind us fighting with each other. Anger and agression were palpable as they muttered insults back and forth to each other (all the while, we were supposed to be watching a natural childbirth video. Holy candidness!). I use the terms 'husband' and 'wife' loosely as I outline a part of their conversation Chris and I overheard:

Wife : "I knew you cheated on me. I checked your phone."

Husband: "I am sick and tired of you looking though my phone."

Wife: "We are married now. I'm allowed."

Husband: "Well, I only cheated on you to get even. You of all people should not talk about cheating!"

I am not making this up! A heated exchange from a couple due to welcome their child into the world next week. I kept thinking that we were on Candid Camera or something. While aspects of it were comical, considering the environment (imagine the instructor trying to get us all to relax and breath while the couple were visible not wanting to be anywhere near each other), it was so sad. I just kept thinking: Why do they get to be parents? So many couples want children. So many couples would provide a better, more loving environment than this couple appeared to be able to provide. 

Other than the crazy couple, Chris and I did learn some good tips and insight that we didn't know before. It was a profitable day, a day that once again solidified that we were pregnant! The class also reminded me of the awesome partner I have in Chris. I wouldn't want anyone else with me through this process! 

I don't have a great 24 week photo, but I took this one this morning for posterity's sake. Note: My go-to t-shirts are getting a bit tight, but all in all, I continue to feel great. I love being pregnant right now. Here's to hoping the feeling good continues! 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Already There

My cousin was recently diagnosed with cancer. She has a good prognosis and a strong support system behind her. She is, for the most part, optimistic about how she will come out of this experience. However, like anyone struggling or battling with a physical or mental difficulty, there are days when she feels hopeless.

She "ranted" a bit in a recent email, stating she was "tired of this thing already" and that she wanted to "crawl into a ball and just be alone."

She later wrote again, apologizing for her candid complaints. 

I immediately wrote her back stating that her stream-of-consciousness email merely proved that she is, in fact, human.  An honest human.

I think so often we sensor what we say or how we say it so that it can be acceptable and appropriate. This is especially true for many people battling difficulties. Consequently, there are times when we need to HEAR the thoughts and feelings of those enduring hardships. It is through their candidness that we learn. We can become more sympathetic, empathetic, and overall, attempt to see and understand that person's particular struggle.

While I've never had cancer, nor has anyone in my immediate family, I am able, even if only through a tiny glimpse, to see what my cousin is going through. She's teaching me. I'm learning how best to support her and consequently, how to support anyone I encounter in the future who has been diagnosed with cancer. While I can't totally get it, I am a step closer thanks to her authenticity.

I've looked back at some of my fall 2012 posts. I've read over some of my journal entries from the past few years, entries detailing our infertility struggle, and foremost, my struggle to understand why God was not hearing me and following my plan. 

Lately, I've been hearing a song by Casting Crowns, titled, Already There; it's played on my radio multiple times in recent weeks. It is an incredible reminder that God is God; He knows what paths lie ahead. He's crafted them one by one. Whatever your struggle, He isn't wasting a minute of it because it is leading you to something... something that you can't know now. But  He knows. And even for the control freak like me, that's reassuring.  

Monday, April 1, 2013

Easter 2013

He is Risen! This past weekend was a whirlwind of activity. Between Good Friday service and Easter morning service at church, I thoroughly enjoying singing traditional Easter songs. Saturday we did Meckbach/Beck Easter at my parent's house and then after church yesterday, we went to both sides of Chris's family for lunch/visiting.  

Next year, Baby Knipe will be joining in on the Easter festivities....Finally! Another person (okay, a baby) to join me in the hunt for Easter eggs!

Every year that we have been married, Chris and I have colored eggs and then on Easter morning, Chris hides the eggs around the house for me to find. Due to my competitive nature, we set the timer to see if I can find all of the eggs by the time the timer goes off. (Clearly, I can't compete against the egg hider himself). Here's to hoping that in a few years, we won't have to set the timer because a third Knipe will join in the egg hunt! 

Baby Knipe--- We were thinking of you this Easter. You got your own egg!