She Will Be Called

Although we grew up seeing one another at various family get-togethers (our dads are high-school besties), my friendship with Annalyse didn’t truly develop until my brand-new husband and I house-sat for Annalyse and her husband. We started meeting regularly for Friday night dinners (pizza for the guys, Pho for the ladies) and soon discovered we were both pregnant with our first child. Five years, five kids (between us), (probably) hundreds (ok maybe exaggeration) of playdates and bowls of Pho later I’ve gotten to know a bit of her heart, and friends, it’s beautiful. Annalyse wrote this novel while struggling with her own infertility: she connected with Sarai and longed to know more about how God worked in and through this woman’s struggles. Now her oldest is almost 5 and Annalyse wants to share these words with others, male or female, to bring hope by recounting God’s goodness through all generations. This is a different type of storytelling, and we’re excited to host Episode 1 on the Campfires and Marshmallows blog today. You can follow Annalyse’s blog at to receive each episode delivered to your inbox (it launched February 21st!) and watch the story unfold.

Episode 1


This was why I had come, and yet I could do nothing.  Even as their voices raised and tempers flared, I could do nothing.

“Father, they are clay!  These ‘gods’ are nothing but dirt!  Powerless. Senseless! How can you resist the one true living God for fear of statues?”  My husband, Abram, motioned with an outstretched hand to his father’s shelves laden with the inventory of household gods.  Terah was shaking. I was shaking.

“You fool!”  Terah exploded.  “Do you want to curse this whole family?  Dare you come to blaspheme the gods in their own workshop? You were ever taught to respect the gods!”  Terah shook his idol-filled fist in Abram’s face, inches away from his nose. “Are you so quick to abandon the gods of your fathers for a strange being…the first time a demon addresses you?”

Abram’s eyes were locked on the human form in his father’s hands.  “It is not the first time.” The air was sucked from the room, and Terah and I gaped in the darkness, breathless.  Abram raised his fierce eyes to meet Terah’s. “He spoke to me first in Ur, just after we buried Haran. I denied Him then.  I thought He had abandoned me to my own stupidity.” His voice sank almost to a whisper. “I will not test Him again.”   

Terah shook his head violently.  “Do not speak your brother’s name to me.  I will not have his memory defamed by a blasphemer!”  His screams echoed in the small room, the mud walls magnifying the sound.  I instinctively cowered – but Abram stood tall.  

What has happened to my husband?  I thought, my mind spinning.  Always so reticent in the face of conflict…he abhorred it with every bone in his body.  Yet there he stood, inflaming our father’s rage with careless, impious words. “Abram…” I whispered, creeping toward him.  I reached out to tug the sleeve of his tunic but Terah threw his hand out at me. I froze. His eyes never left Abram’s face. 

“These gods you deny.” He extended a hand toward the shelves.  “Have we not been blessed by them? They have prospered our business – we have never been so wealthy!  The afterlife is nothing…all we have is now. Would you curse your family in the days of plenty? Indeed, you are already cursed!” His palm closed and his finger pointed at me.  “Surely this persistent unbelief must be the cause of your wife’s barrenness!”  

It was not meant for me.  I was nothing but a woman, too weak to persuade her men…but the words slapped across my face and brought tears to my eyes.  I gasped before I could stop myself and turned my eyes toward Abram. His jaw flexed as he ground his teeth together to keep silent.  

Terah sneered at him, basking in his victory.  He kept his gaze locked on Abram as he collected a broom from the backroom, then turned his back on his foolish son, rage emanating from his body like heat.  The conversation was over and Abram had lost.

Abram refused to concede.  “How, Terah? How does clay that lines the bank of the river suddenly gain the ability to see and hear when molded by human hands?”  Abram stepped to Terah’s shoulder, trying to force his face in front of his father’s. Terah threw his whole focus into the task of sweeping.  His silence only caused Abram’s voice to grow in strength and intensity. “Human hands, Father. We have no power to give life. If you could give life, would you not have saved…”

Terah jerked upright, staring at the wall.  His frame shuddered, and I could see the redness of fury seeping up his neck toward his face.  I had often seen my father enraged, but only once like this. The beating he had given Nahor, his oldest son, in his bloodthirsty rage had left his firstborn with a life-long limp.  

Terah’s breath had quickened and rattled loudly in the small shop.  He will kill Abram.  Terror coiled in my stomach.  He may kill me.  But Abram was unafraid.  He brought his mouth half a hand’s breadth from Terah’s head and shot his words into his ears. “How is it that this clay has senses and power when that left on the banks does not?  How do I run the risk of being cursed by something under our power, which we formed with our own hands? Is not the creator greater than the created?”

Terah spun on Abram, his open palm cracking against the side Abram’s face.  “I am not great enough to understand the ways of the gods! It is not for me to grasp…no more for you.”

Abram laughed derisively and rubbed his cheek as a red welt raised before my eyes.  “You put so much faith in a piece of clay worked by your own hands, and yet you question how I can have faith in the God of the universe, whose power I felt and who chose me?!?”  He grabbed a statuette from the shelves and held it out towards Terah. “Father, it is just clay!”

Terah began to tremble again.  “You fool!” He growled between clenched teeth.  “You defile the gods by your touch.” He snatched the statue from the apostate’s hands and spit on him.  “These clay gods are more powerful than your god will ever be.”

The blood drained from my face.  I opened my mouth but found I was mute.

Abram grew silent, like a gathering thunderbolt.  He glared down at Terah, who watched him with scorn.  I did not understand what this God had done to so radically change my husband, but I knew Terah’s challenge had lit a wildfire in his gut.  It was not my place to trifle with the affairs of my husband and father but common sense dictated I intervene. Intervene!  My mind screamed.  Before he kills him!  But I could not move; I could not speak.  I was frozen and, as always, helpless.

The three of us stood immobilized, tied by the palpable hate.  Suddenly a sound like lightning crackled through the room. I startled.  Pieces of the clay figure in Abram’s hand trickled through his fingers, the idol crushed by his iron grip.

“What kind of god can be destroyed by a man?”  He asked quietly, letting the final clay shards fall to the dirt floor.

Before either Terah or I could move, Abram picked up a larger wooden idol and drew it across the shelves, smashing some statuettes on contact and sending others to their doom on the ground.  

“What kind of gods allow their servants and representatives to be destroyed by a mere human?”  He shouted above the din as the temple statuettes were reduced to rubble. “What kind of guardians cannot protect themselves?” The entire inventory of clay dog statues was demolished.  Nothing was left but clay carnage.  

Abram was in a frenzy, wild with frustration.  What can he possibly hope to gain by this display?  Terah and I stood motionless, aghast at the simple and systematic destruction of what our people trusted in – had trusted for generations.  It was a hope my father had peddled to great profit, now all swept away in the fury of an overzealous man. A faint, elusive thought danced across my mind and turned my stomach.

What if Abram is right?

“What kind of gods would allow me to wreak such havoc without stopping me?”  Abram cried, beating the wooden statue against the ground until the head finally splintered and fell away.  He tossed the body among the rubble and wiped his forehead with the edge of his tunic. His breath was ragged and heavy, but the light in his eyes remained undimmed.  “If your gods are so powerful, Terah – why did they not stop me?”

We stood and surveyed the shop. Dust danced in the air and made me cough.  The shelves that had been laden with armies of clay figures now stood barren.  One shelf hung at a precarious angle, partially broken by Abram’s pounding. The once-impressive supply of household gods, prayer statuettes and guardians now littered the floor, covering it like a layer of thick dust.  A few of the wood idols were splintered and broken like the one Abram had used as a weapon. The rest were strewn about like sticks blown by a strong wind.  

Abram had in one evening destroyed several months of labor, a year’s worth of profit, and what had been left of my dwindling faith.  I saw nothing here to inspire fear or worship. My stomach turned as I realized I had been correct all along. The gods do not care about us.  We were alone, in charge of our own fate and vulnerable to the abuse of life.  The power of the gods was nothing more than this rubbish heap, to be thrown into the middle of the street and trod on by citizens and dogs alike.

Abram was staring at Terah expectantly.  He had not destroyed his father in malice, but rather to free him from the claws of his useless religion.  He had tried to save his father.  

Terah did not see.  His whole body shook with anger and his face gradually darkened to purple.  “Get out!” The scream tore from his throat. “Get out, you blasphemous son of a whore!”  He spit in Abram’s face. “I want you out of my house. For my daughter’s sake alone will I allow you to gather your things…but do not take three days.”  Terah turned his back on us. 

Abram stood speechless.  Shock was etched on his face.  He had tasted his God’s presence and it had made him drunk.  It never occurred to him that others might not imbibe as readily.  His eyes softened and his hands started to shake. The zealous terror softened into the husband I recognized.  He realized his mistake…but too late. “Father…”

Terah spun on him.  “OUT!” He bellowed, his finger pointing at the door.  Every feature in his face was strained with fury, his eyes wide and bulging.  His scream burst forth from his depths, causing the very walls of the shop to shake.

The sound was cut off prematurely.  Terah gasped, gulping for breath. He sagged against a wall, his hands clawing at his chest as if to free himself from bonds.  His body trembled slightly as the reddish-purple hue of his face drained instantly to sickly grey. Eyes still wide, Terah slumped to the floor.

“Father!”  Abram rushed forward and dropped to his knees next to the prostrate form.

The tears streamed down my cheeks, unbidden and surprising.  I did not love my father. He had not loved me. I was simply a sign of his wealth, the daughter of his concubine.  But I still wept, not even realizing it until I felt the collar of my tunic soaked. Terah lay on the floor motionless.  His face was pallid, unseeing eyes staring at the ceiling.

Abram raised his eyes to mine, agony disfiguring his face.  “Run!” He choked on his tears before catching his breath. “Fetch Shesh-kalla and Lot!  And the physician! Bring the physician!” He returned his gaze to the stony features of Terah’s face, his hand resting on the still chest.  I turned and stumbled out of the shop, crushing the shards of idols under my feet.

Abram’s scream of grief followed me as I fled, echoing down the street.


The “Right” Path

I had the opportunity to go for a long hike last Saturday. Friends, one of the most amazing things about living east of San Francisco is the East Bay Regional Park system. I mean, just look at all these open spaces within an hour’s drive of my home! It is such a gift.

East Bay Regional Park District map

This particular Saturday, I tried out a brand new park: Briones. I had never been there before, but with my energetic dog, plenty of sunscreen and water, a few snacks and my AllTrails app, I was ready for some adventure.

Now, there were some recommended hikes I found on AllTrails, but none of them seemed quite long enough for me. I figured I would easily be able to make my own route, taking some of the less-traveled trails. My goal was to make it to the Briones Peak, which apparently had beautiful views of the surrounding mountains, hills and valleys.

After about a mile into the hike, which was mostly uphill, I made the choice to jut away from my destination, veering east and downhill instead of west and uphill. Whereas before, I had to be cautious of Spear behaving well towards the passing people and other dogs, on this new trail, I had no such concerns. We were the only ones on it. And since there are 2.5 million people who live in the East Bay, seclusion is a sweet commodity.

seclusion in briones park

Down, down, down we hiked, enjoying lovely views of Mount Diablo and the peaceful country-side around us. Once we hit the valley, the trail began finally heading west along a small creek. And it was there where I realized why this trail was so empty. 

The trail that ran along the creek was wide, yes, but you could also tell that for the last two months, this trail had been mud. Thankfully, it hadn’t rained for a while, so almost all of the mud had dried up. However, the big hoofprints of many cows had sunk most of the trail a foot and a half lower than where the path “should have been.” I wish I would have stopped to take a picture. It was not fun to try to hike through/on top of/around. Pair that with the feeling of being VERY secluded and VERY far away from anyone who could help should anything happen, I was beginning to doubt my choice of trail.

In time, the trail began to climb back up out of the valley. We actually passed another hiker. I paused on a fallen log to have a snack and give Spear some water. The forest around us was beautiful. We continued our quest to get to Briones Peak. 

tired puppy on hike

The climb was pretty strenuous, both for me and my pup, but I knew we were getting close. I saw that we had just about a mile left of a pretty straight shot to the peak. That mile took us up, up, up. And part of that climb was through a thicket so close to the trail that I could not see much besides bushes and trail. My imagination got the best of me, and I began talking loudly to my dog, taking a cue from my brother, Jon, who likes to sing  loudly “to the bears” when he hikes in Colorado. I knew there were no bears here, but I was not so sure that there were no mountain lions creeping about. My adrenaline was in full-force, and my body was getting tired from all the climbing.

Finally, we reached a clearing where two paths intersected. I was hopeful that we would see other hikers again soon. I was able to relax for a bit. I thought about just skipping the peak and heading back to the car. This restful hike was becoming more trouble than it was worth. However, I only had 0.2 miles of climbing left and I knew I wanted to make it to the top. 

And…. We made it! The views were very nice, but honestly, having the chance to sit on the park bench at the top was probably my favorite part.

Briones Peak

As I rested and refueled, I pondered which trail I needed to take back to the parking lot. There was the straight-shot one, which had elevated my blood pressure and was not-at-all enjoyable at parts. Or there was one that looped around to the west. I wasn’t sure that Spear or I had the energy to hike longer than necessary, and my experience on the secluded loop valley trail earlier had me a bit gun-shy. I asked God to show me. I had the sense that we were supposed to head west and take the longer loop.

Can I just tell you that it was my favorite part of the whole hike? The descent gradually wound around the sides of hills and through a lovely, shaded forest with abundant varieties of trees, bushes and ferns. The path was soft and smooth, and we jogged along most of it. My heart was light and filled with joy that God would give me the sense to take this trail–I was so glad he knew which one would be best for me.

easy lovely trail

As I often do on my hikes, I came back to God with the question: “Is there something I need to hear from you today?”

Two phrases popped out at me:

The shortest way is not always the best way.

The best way is not always the easiest way.

I thought about Jesus and the ways in which he was tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). Three different times, the devil came to Jesus and offered him a short-cut–a way to get around the hard work that the Father had set before Jesus to do. Each time, Jesus trusted the wisdom of the Father rather than the appeal of what was easier. And in the Garden of Gethsemane, toward the end of Jesus’ life, Jesus asked the Father for an easier route (and was quite capable of taking an easier route), but he was willing to do the Father’s will above all else (Matthew 26:36-56).

I was forced to stop and examine my own life and motives, and the decisions that I make day-in and day-out. So often, I prefer comfortable and safe. So often, I want what is easiest or quickest. But the Lord, in his kindness and grace, was reminding me that quick is not always best, and best is not always easy.

I became thankful for the muddy, hard-to-pass trail of the valley and for the spooky, adrenaline-pumping hard trail up the hillside. Without experiencing those hard things, I would not have sought out God’s wisdom, nor known the joy of the sweet trail down through the forest. 

So it is in our daily lives. If we do not have to walk through difficult, weary paths, then we cannot fully know the joy that comes in the beautiful, peaceful times. Our God is the God of both. We can trust him to care for our every need, no matter which path we are on. And he delights in leading us in the best path–the one that leads to him.

What kind of path do you feel like you’re on right now (muddy and challenging, or beautiful and delightful)? What might God be accomplishing in you on your journey?

Preparing a Place

“Would you like to go for a run tomorrow?” He asked me, casually, over dinner. His parents and my grandparents sat across from us, and looking out the window, I could see the outline of the Yampa Valley Flat Tops in the Rocky Mountains. We were nearing the end of our week together in-between summer work (he, at my grandparents’ ranch, me, at summer camp) and my student teaching/his return to Chicago. We hadn’t enjoyed many moments with just the two of us, so I agreed, and we set a time (early, before his irrigation chores would begin).

Running was normal for us. We’d completed two marathons (and all the training!) together and enjoyed especially the challenge presented by the altitude and hills on the ranch.

Putting chips on our shoes for the Water Tower marathon (our second)

The next morning, we started our normal route, enjoying the semi-easy downhill run into the woods. Nathanael suggested we take a longer route which circled one of the lakes and ended with a long, semi-steep uphill portion. I felt confident after working all summer at Lutheran Valley Retreat’s 8,000 feet, so I agreed. Unfortunately, however, even after a summer of working and running at altitude, I was not ready for that hill. My side of the conversation lagged, as my thoughts turned to frustration that I couldn’t keep up. Nathanael, however, encouraged me, sharing his favorite memories of our relationship, and vowing to love me always, even when I’m huffing and puffing or dirty and sweaty. Me? I was thinking of other, more colorful, words to describe the cowpies littering the trail.

Finally, after what seemed like forever, we reached the top of the hill (aptly, the road adjacent bears the name “Huff and Puff”) and I took the opportunity to catch my breath. Nate knelt down to tie his shoe, so I put my hands on my head, taking deep breaths and walking in circles. Slowly I felt relief in my burning lungs… still partially irritated that Nate didn’t seem to be having a problem. But surely, it wasn’t taking him this long to tie his shoes…I turned and lost my breath for a completely different reason. There, at the top of this gorgeous hill, looking over the valley we both loved, was my 21-year-old beau holding a diamond ring and asking me to marry him. I finally spoke: “Are you serious?”

Running across the finish line at the Wisconsin Marathon (our first!) We joked, “you should pretend to propose so we get free stuff!”

If you’ve ever been engaged or been close to someone who is, you know that many a conversation for the next 6 months or so will include two questions: “Can I see the ring?” and “What’s the story?”

Girlfriends of mine can recount fabulous tales of day-long dates visiting the couple’s favorite hangouts and ending with a party surrounded by their closest friends and family. Others have told of a ring slipped into a glass of champagne at a fancy restaurant or the simple question, “so you wanna look at rings or something?” during a ballgame. Two years ago, I had the blessing of helping my brother-in-law plan the perfect – surprise – beach sunset engagement for my sister (oh yeah, it was gorgeous). Engagement stories tend to capture us, and especially around Valentine’s Day.

The Bible tells us that we are Christ’s bride and that one day he will come back for us. Tenth Avenue North’s lead singer Mike Donehey has an excellent video describing the Hebrew betrothal process (click here) and the beautiful metaphor that Christ sets up for us when he tells us that he’s preparing a place for us.

But here’s where the beauty ends and the fall into sin rears its ugly head. See, I love my engagement story. But what I don’t usually share is that two weeks before, I’d been complaining to a friend that I wasn’t engaged yet. Despite the two years of internships and college left before we could marry, jealousy of my engaged friends overtook my heart. And do you remember the part of the story where I was thinking about cowpies? Yeah, that’s not so pretty either.

I am the bride of Christ but how often, instead of joyfully and patiently looking to the future, am I too busy looking around in jealousy? Or, instead of enjoying his presence with me through the hard, long, uphill battle of this life, am I staring down at my shoes and thinking about poop?

Side note: please don’t misunderstand me here. Sometimes hardships and pain and suffering really, really suck. I also know many beautiful and wonderful men and women who are still waiting for their spouse and aching in the process. I’m not trying to belittle either of those experiences. I’m only speaking of my own natural navel-gazing tendencies when I should instead be looking to my savior.

After the run (I did eventually say yes), Nathanael and I spoke to our closest friends and family, sharing our good news, and then Nathanael had a bottle ready of my favorite sparkling wine and a blue-raspberry ring pop (very important).

See, weeks before, while I was complaining, Nathanael was communicating long-distance with his sister, choosing the perfect ring through text message and coordinating how to secretly send it with his parents, along with the wine and ring pop, in a sealed, unmarked box. The night before, while I slept peacefully, he was up late, restlessly writing and re-writing his uphill speech. During the run, while I was thinking evil thoughts about his apparently much more well-adjusted lungs, he was carefully running with his hand next to his pocket, to make sure the precious cargo didn’t fall out.

Devil’s Causeway – taken just a couple of days before he proposed.

Friends, my husband certainly isn’t perfect, but he points me to Jesus Christ, who is, and this story is an excellent example. Even when we complain that he present enough or fulfilling us, Jesus is preparing a heavenly place for us (John 14:3). Even when life is good and we’re resting peacefully and unaware, Jesus’ legion of angels is unresting in the daily spiritual battle against the devil (by the way, he already lost, but he’s looking to ruin our lives along with his). Even when life is a struggle and we’re running uphill, in a bad mood and possibly thinking about synonyms for cow pies, Jesus is pouring out his love for us, protecting his precious cargo (our hearts) (Philippians 4:7). And he’s promised to have our favorite wine waiting at his feast of feasts (Isaiah 25:6-9).

Dear friends, these words aren’t empty promises. They are real and true. I don’t know where your story is with Jesus, but I hope you know that you are so, so loved by a really rich guy with enough diamonds to make Kim Kardashian’s ring look pretty small.

Isaiah 25:6-9 “On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine—the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken. In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”

John 14:7 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The Shirt That Just Didn’t Quite Fit

It was a monumental conversation with a friend that I look up to. A conversation that I probably wouldn’t have had if it wasn’t for this shirt. My husband had ordered a shirt to coach in and it just didn’t quite fit right for his liking. It had one simple fleur-de-li on it (the school logo), so we brainstormed who else it may fit and could use it for coaching or teaching. We came up with one of his colleagues. I told him that I would text his wife a picture to see if he would be interested. She said that he would take it. Now my husband could have easily taken the shirt with him to school to give it to his colleague, but for some reason (now I know it was God), I told him that I would make arrangements with his wife to get it to him. Sounds kind of like a round-a-bout way, but God knew what he was doing. His wife texted me back and said she could stop by and get the shirt and asked if she could stay to chat. I agreed and I told her I would have the coffee on Wednesday at 10 a.m. She knew that I had been dealing with some stuff and I agreed that it would be nice to chat.

You’re probably wondering why you’re reading a blog post about a silly ole shirt and why it matters so much. To give you the full understanding of what this conversation did for me, you’ll need the back story. This is a story of one of the darkest places I’ve ever been in my life. It’s a story of how God has demonstrated redemption and has shown me His grace. It’s about how he takes darkness and turns it into light. It’s a rough story. Not one I’m proud of. One that I never in a million years thought I would be sharing on social media. But it’s one that I’m sharing so that others know they are not alone. And so they can see that God works even through the roughest of circumstances.

I gave birth to our sweet baby boy on August 5th, 2019. My water broke when my feet hit the floor at 5:00 that morning. Our sweet Judah Thomas entered the world at 12:58 p.m. after a relatively quick labor and an hour of pushing. They laid him on my chest and I remember feeling so in love. They then took him away because he wasn’t crying as much as they wanted him to be. We were told he probably swallowed a lot of fluid and they needed to look him over a little better. In the meantime, I began hearing words of “her uterus is limp” and “we need to stop the bleeding”. After a baby is born, the uterus is supposed to contract to get back to normal size and constrict the blood vessels to prevent bleeding. However, I basically began bleeding out. I suddenly felt terrified. I remember saying “Is my baby okay?!” and “Am I okay?!” all at the same time. After what felt like a very long time (although it was only a few minutes, maybe just a few seconds), my doctor was able to get my bleeding under control and Judah was laid back onto my chest. They said that he looked great and they would continue to monitor him. I was told that they were able to use internal and external massage on me (ouch!) to stop the bleeding that was occuring. They would check my levels the next day to see if I needed a transfusion, but I should be okay.

A few moments after they laid Judah onto my chest for the second time.

The next few hours / days were spent getting to know our sweet boy. He was perfect. More than we had ever been able to dream of. Breastfeeding was hard and overwhelming and painful, but I felt positive that we would get it figured out. I was sore from giving birth, but I knew that would soon ease. Despite these minor discomforts, we were just happy. Happy to finally have this little human in our arms after 9 months of dreaming of what he would be like. Happy to show him off to our families and on social media. Happy. Everything was good. Or so I thought. Everything seemed to be going well and I didn’t realize how much I was truly struggling inside. 

This is my story of postpartum depression and anxiety. Yikes. Actually saying those words is still hard. It’s hard to share on a platform like this, but it’s one that needs to be heard. I don’t know who else out there may be dealing with something similar, but I want you to know you’re not alone.

Postpartum depression and anxiety is something I never thought I would deal with to the degree I did. It was something I thought I was prepared to deal with because I have had “anxiety and depression” in the past. I had done all the right things to prevent it –  seeing a counselor and reading all the books and following all the instagram accounts. But it hit me like a rock falling out of the sky. And I guess that’s how it works. I’ve learned that sometimes you’re depressed and you don’t realize it. And that’s totally what happened to me.

Looking back now, I think I dealt with postpartum anxiety right after Judah was born, and I definitely didn’t realize it. He was born on a Monday and we brought him home on Wednesday. Everything seemed to be going fine. We took him in for a 5 day checkup on Friday. We found out he had lost a whole pound. It’s normal for babies to lose weight after they are born, but they are not supposed to lose more than 10% of their body weight and Judah had lost 12%. The nurse practitioner didn’t seem too concerned, but we did need to get this boy gaining weight. She gave us this little syringe device to be able to supplement our feedings. She told me that I needed to start pumping after every feed to get my supply up. She gave me recipes for oatmeal cookies to increase supply and told me where to buy brewer’s yeast. We were to begin “triple feeding” –  nursing, pumping, and then supplementing (yes, it is as exhausting as it sounds). We were to continue waking Judah every 3 hours at night to make sure he was getting everything he needed. 

My husband/sister helping me supplement feeds with a syringe. This syringe also had a little tube that we could slip into his mouth that would allow us to supplement while he was on the breast.

That weekend (and the next 3 weeks) was rough. It was exhausting, physically and emotionally. And it wasn’t at all what I thought the newborn life was going to be like. I had visions of me snuggling my newborn baby with my hot cup of coffee and my breakfast burrito (that I had meal prepped before baby was born) sitting on our comfy couch in my cute nursing tank and robe that matched baby’s swaddle. Instead I was attaching a tiny human to my breasts with an improper latch which led to tremendous pain every single time he nursed. Then I would hand him off to my husband or mom or sister (praise Jesus they were there!!) to give him extra milk while I hooked myself up to my pump for the next 20 minutes. Every. Three. Hours. And in the newborn world, you count their feeds from start to start. Which means that I would begin a feed at 2 a.m. which sometimes lasted 40 minutes, and then pump for 20 minutes, which put me at 3 a.m. and then go back to sleep only to have to wake up again in TWO hours. We did that faithfully around the clock for 3 weeks and it was rough. I was exhausted. I was constantly worried that he wasn’t getting enough. I was constantly worried that I wasn’t pumping enough. I was so worried that I wasn’t adequate for him. I was refusing to give him formula for supplementation. My sister graciously offered me some of her breastmilk (she happened to be nursing her 7 month old at the same time and had an abundance of milk – shoutout Britt – you are amazing), and I felt “weird” using it. Because I should be able to provide for my baby on my own, right?? I shouldn’t have to use anything except for each and every little drop that my body produced, right?? WRONG. If you’re reading this, please know that it’s OKAY to supplement. It’s OKAY to use donated breast milk or formula. FED is best, no matter how you do it. The amount of milk you pump in a setting does NOT have anything to do with your worth or your ability to provide for your baby. All the things I told myself I wouldn’t let bother me before I was a mom, I was totally struggling with as a mom. 

Those first few weeks were rough, but then things got better. Judah finally made it back to birth weight and we were able to let him sleep for longer stretches at night and get more rest ourselves. I no longer had to pump or give him a bottle after every single feed. He started to seem happier after feeds. I started to feel better physically. It was all good. I was finally feeling more like a human. I spent the rest of my maternity leave loving on my baby. Looking back, I know I didn’t truly heal from all of the trauma from Judah’s birth and those first few weeks. I sort of just took that experience and shoved it deep down. Because I didn’t want to have any negative feelings towards my sweet baby. I didn’t want to let myself feel the feelings of inadequacy. I was his mom and I wanted to be enough for him. So I just ignored those feelings and moved on. And it did seem like all was good. I felt like I was good. But I most definitely wasn’t. And it didn’t hit me again until I went back to work. 

I returned to work full time as a physical therapist 12 ½ weeks after Judah was born. I was excited to get back to work and to have a routine. I was nervous about leaving Judah but I felt good about it. I fully trusted the daycare providers we would leave him with and it would be nice to have adult conversations again. But what I didn’t realize was that there was a storm on the horizon. Between leaving my baby at daycare, pumping, getting back into the swing of things at work, pumping, worrying about him gaining weight (still), pumping, worrying about him when he got his first cold, pumping, etc., etc., etc., it was what I have been referring to as the perfect storm. I soon realized I was just going through the motions. I was in a fog. I woke up one Saturday morning and told my husband that something was horribly wrong with me and that he needed to take me to the hospital. I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I felt so out of it. I had numbness and tingling in my arms and legs. I had a headache and I was dizzy. I had intermittent heart palpitations and shortness of breath. And I realized I had been feeling this way for a few weeks. I was convinced that I must have a brain tumor or something was physically wrong with me because depression and anxiety could most definitely not make you feel this bad. Well, I’m here to tell you that it totally can. I did not realize that I was depressed. One of my psychiatrists referred to it being like a frog in a boiling pot of water. If you put a frog in a boiling pot of water, it will immediately jump out. If you put a frog in a cold pot of water and then slowly bring it to a boil, the frog doesn’t realize the gradual change and will just sit and be content until it boils and dies.

I thought that all the mom worries I was having were normal. But these were not normal. I became obsessive about these worries. These worries soon led me to a very dark place. Despite the continued worries about Judah gaining weight and getting enough, I was now having worries that something horrible was going to happen to him. I even had worries that I would accidentally drop him or hurt him. I now know that this was just the anxiety (and the devil) overtaking me, but at the time I was so incredibly scared that something bad was going to happen. Anxiety and depression can present itself in many ways, but this is the biggest way it affected me. Looking from the outside, it would appear that I would have had no reason to be struggling. I had an amazing husband and sweet new baby, a warm home to live in, and a good job. I’ve since learned that anxiety and depression do not discriminate. Satan uses it on whoever and whenever he wants to. 

But, this is not the end of the story. Praise Jesus. Over that weekend, my husband and I both realized that something was most definitely wrong – I was struggling with severe postpartum depression. We both called into work on Monday and he took me to my OBGYN. She was incredibly amazing and supportive. She increased my medication dose, got me set up with a psychiatrist for medication management, encouraged me to continue counseling weekly, and took me out of the workplace for 4 weeks while we worked on getting the right medication dosage. She even gave me her cell phone number and told me to call her if I needed anything. She hugged me and I felt a small sense of relief – I was finally getting help getting out of this pit I was deep into. 

Over the next 5 weeks, I spent time recovering and healing from this disease. It took more counseling, conversations with loved ones, and two more medication changes. Finally after beginning a 2nd medication, I began to feel more like myself. I began to smile for real again and motivation slowly came back. I returned to work and felt passionate about my career and my patients. I distinctly remember driving home from work one evening and noticing that the houses, trees, grass, and lights down our street suddenly seemed more crisp and clear than they ever had. That was because I had been living in a literal brain fog for the last few months. 

So the shirt. Remember the shirt that I talked about at the beginning? Oh yea, how does that fit into this story? Well, let’s just say I can confidently say I am glad I went through this hard time. Wait, what? Yes, I am glad it happened. It was horrible and I don’t ever want to go through it again, but I can honestly say that God knew what he was doing. See, now that I am on the other side I can see why I went through it. It was in this conversation with this friend of mine that made me realize why I went through it. The shirt didn’t quite fit my husband so we decided to give it to my friend’s husband so she came to pick it up. It was in this conversation with this friend over coffee and tears on a Wednesday morning that God showed me why this happened in my life. I filled her in on my struggle over the past month and mentioned that through it all I felt so alone. 

Yes, I had people that knew what was going on and reaching out to me to ask me how I was doing, but I still felt alone. I felt alone because I had a hard time asking people for help. I didn’t have a group of moms to lean on, even though I had a plethora of numbers of moms to text in my phone and lots of people checking in. I was so grateful for everyone that did reach out to me, but I didn’t have a weekly physical space to bring up my struggles. It was in this conversation that God solidified my desire to create a space like this. My sister-in-law had been encouraging me to find a group like this for months and in this moment I realized that there is such a need for it in this area. 

And now that I had returned to work part time, I would have time to create such a space. And it turns out that this is a group that my friend here had realized was needed as well. I texted a few moms in town and they too agreed that they had felt this same need. So that is what we did. Weekly. On Thursday mornings. Moms in all seasons are meeting over coffee, the Word, conversation, muffins, and kiddos running around. Because mamas, just as my favorite podcast moms Laura Wifler and Emily Jensen say, “Motherhood is hard. One second we think we’re doing a good enough job and the next we feel like the worst mom on the planet. Which is why we need the refreshing truth of the gospel to be repeated over and over, giving us hope in the everyday moments” (Jensen and Wifler, Risen Motherhood). And we need the support of other moms to walk through life with. It was in this moment that I realized that I went through something this hard so that I can hopefully be there when other women around me are going through something similar. 

Some of the babies at Mom’s group – Judah (6 months), Esther ( 4 months) and Grayson ( 2 months)

And it wasn’t just the solidifying conversation that morning, it was also the verses that my sweet friend happened to read that morning that really opened my eyes to what God was trying to tell me. I’ll leave you with the verses, Philippians 2:12-13, in a few different versions, because the words are all so beautiful and true. I’ve added emphasis for the situation at hand.

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” – ESV

“My beloved ones, just like you’ve always listened to everything I’ve taught you in the past, I’m asking you now to keep following my instructions as though I were right there with you. Now you must continue to make this new life fully manifested as you live in the holy awe of God—which brings you trembling into his presence. God will continually revitalize you, implanting within you the passion to do what pleases him.” – The Passion Translation

“For it is [not your strength, but it is] God who is effectively at work in you, both to will and to work [that is, strengthening, energizing, and creating in you the longing and the ability to fulfill your purpose] for His good pleasure. – Amplified Bible

*I do want to take a moment to thank each and every one of you that reached out to me and did things for me during this rough season. I am so grateful that God placed each of you in my life when I needed it most. I’m most thankful for my sweet husband who held my hand, wiped my tears, and reminded me of the hope of the gospel every single step of the way.

**If you’re in the Concordia, MO area and want to be involved in this group, contact me for details at 402-806-2918.

***List of resources that I’ve found helpful in my journey: