Baby Bandy: 38 Week Update

How time flies! Back in my first trimester, baby was so small and tiny, and delivery day seemed so far away. There was still that nagging feeling of “what if something happens to baby while he’s so fragile?”, and even as we talked about plans and child training and home birth, the reality of it actually walking through it all was always “later in the future”.

Now reality is upon us! Today baby is 38 weeks old and, at least physically, pretty much ready to meet the world. In celebration of greeting week 37 last weekend, the warmer weather, and our general enjoyment of capturing special moments together as a couple (WE’RE HAVING A BABY!), we did our maternity shoot around Peoria. I’ve included my favorites from our session below. Technically I should have scheduled the shoot for about 2 months earlier when I wasn’t quite so huge, but who wants to take photos in dirty snow with their noses running?

View More: http://samanthasuzannephotography.pass.us/bandymaternitysessionThis pregnancy has gone fairly well, and we are so very thankful. I recently read a blog post including photos of a 14 week old baby who was miscarried, and showed the photos to my husband, both of us in awe over the perfection and details of the tiny life that was lost so young… the parents having to say goodbye as soon as they said hello. I found myself in tears as I felt our son move inside of me, realizing how often I have taken for granted God’s protection over our baby these past 9 months.

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I would definitely have to say that the first trimester was the hardest; with feeling sick, having a hard time eating, being more tired and sleeping a lot, and dealing with inflammation that caused some pretty intense lower back/hip pain. Thankfully once I moved past that, the 2nd trimester was great, and the third has only brought the normal little complaints that simply mean I’m carrying a chubby human being inside of me!

View More: http://samanthasuzannephotography.pass.us/bandymaternitysessionAshton has been wonderful throughout the pregnancy, allowing me to rest and sleep in, doing the dishes as my belly makes it difficult to reach across the sink (who knew?), being patient with my changing needs and desires, and talking through everything baby-related with me so that we’re both in the decision process together… even decisions like which brand of changing pad to get for the nursery. 

View More: http://samanthasuzannephotography.pass.us/bandymaternitysessionWe’re so ready for this next adventure. At least, we think we are!

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The past month in preparation for baby, I finished up teaching the last session of ballet/exercise classes I had been doing with moms and daughters once a week. I’m really glad I was able to teach throughout my pregnancy- it was refreshing to get myself out of the house even when I wasn’t feeling well, and a good motivation to try to workout when I could… plus I just had fun with the ladies in class!

View More: http://samanthasuzannephotography.pass.us/bandymaternitysessionWe also attended two baby showers and received so many adorable, lovely things for baby! Unpackaging, washing and folding all the blankets and clothes was so much fun as I freaked out over how tiny and adorable everything was… and the fact that my own little baby will be filling out those clothes very soon. 

View More: http://samanthasuzannephotography.pass.us/bandymaternitysessionOur prenatal visits have gone very well, and we are so excited to be having a home birth. We love our midwife, our doula, and the fact that (Lord willing, barring any need to transfer) I will be able to labor and we’ll be able to bring our son into the world in a peaceful, familiar and natural environment. We are blessed to have supportive family and friends throughout the process of planning the best we can for baby… desiring to be natural but wise, and are confident that the Lord will give us wisdom in each decision as I deliver baby, and as we raise him. God’s providence, I think, is such a huge source of peace and comfort as we look ahead to the huge responsibility of caring for and raising our child. 

View More: http://samanthasuzannephotography.pass.us/bandymaternitysessionWe love him so much already!

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I’m still in shock that we’re so close to meeting him. It’s also weird to think about going into labor soon, because I haven’t had any braxton hicks at all throughout this pregnancy, and other than a few aches and pains, really have nothing with which to liken oncoming labor to. The idea of going from “normal” to “get-this-baby-out-mode” in a short amount of time is rather odd. Right now, though, I’m just hoping my water doesn’t break in Church… you know, right during the prayer time.

View More: http://samanthasuzannephotography.pass.us/bandymaternitysessionI’m so thankful that regardless of how long labor is, when it happens, or how difficult it may be, I know I’ll have my husband beside me to walk me through it. Plus, we’ve been to Bradley class, so he’ll know how to recognize signs of different stages in labor and help me (and him!) stay calm throughout the natural process even when it’s all so new. Husbands really are the best!

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One thing I specifically appreciate- and so desperately need from my husband- is his constant and genuine affirmation of me as my body is changing. Especially with a dancer’s background, it’s been more difficult than I thought it would be to reconcile the fact that my body will never be the same again. I always KNEW this about pregnancy and motherhood, and that it is so, so worth the changes… but of course reality is always different on the other side of the fence.

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Even as I want to take care of my body, this temple for the Lord, as best I can, I know there will be increasing demands on my sleep, energy… goodness, even my wardrobe will be greatly affected (challenged? slimmed down?) as I enter the world of nursing. Believe it or not, this can be a huge emotional hurtle for someone who likes her affordable, flattering, and wide range of clothing options!

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I also have to be careful not to look at photos of myself pre-pregnancy or I’ll feel like a whale with no hope of ever wearing pencil skirts again. But through all of this, my husband blesses me by not just being okay with the changes, but appreciating them! It does this proud heart good to catch him looking fondly at my giant belly, or looking for stretch marks because they’re “badges of honor”, or still finding me sexy… and to humbly realize that my standard of beauty is not God’s, and my husband’s delight over my changing body is a special way He uses to strip me of my pride and self-imposed standards of false perfection.

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It’s a lesson I know I’ll need to keep on learning in the years ahead. My body is not my own! And when I realize and fully embrace His calling to give up of myself for my family (what greater privilege could there be!) I know in the end, I will be blessed in return.

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We are so in awe of this gift the Lord has given us, and we can’t wait to see our son’s face, to hold him, to study his tiny features. The whole picture of raising him, teaching him, guiding him and being good and godly examples seems so impossibly overwhelming… until I bring myself back to the present and realize that God in His mercy only gives us one day at a time. And I know each day as a mommy, whether hard or easy, sweet or monotonous, will be precious.

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Only a few more weeks!

Dear baby…

Dear baby,

Let me tell you about your daddy. I can’t wait for you to meet him! Besides seeing your perfect little face for the first time, I really can’t wait to see your Daddy’s face when he meets you, his little boy, his firstborn. He loves you so much. He loves me so much! And you are already a blessed child to have him as your father and role model; the man you will look up to and learn from. Many of the same qualities that made me fall in love with your daddy will be the same qualities that will you will grow to admire as well…

Your daddy is a gentleman. He opens the car door for me, helps me with my coat, guides me around the ice, never laughs at my “girly” tears and emotions, and cheerfully serves me when I’m weak, in pain, or just feeling big with you in my belly! I can’t wait to watch as you learn to be gentle with and protective towards women and children, just like your daddy.

Your daddy is a leader. He reads bible to me every day, he prays over me, he makes decisions for our family as the Lord leads, despite pressure from society or others to conform to what is popular. He doesn’t seek the limelight, but he is visionary and willing to step out and stir others up to action for the kingdom. This is one of the main things that won me over to your daddy… he showed initiative and leadership skills in our courtship, and I can’t wait to see how you learn to humbly lead others, just like your daddy.

Your daddy is a follower of Christ. He is submissive to the Lord and His word, which is the center of our home. He desires to honor God in how we practice hospitality, relate in our marriage, operate as a family, and raise you. His relationship with the Lord is so important, it’s one of the main things he prays about for you. We pray that you would not know a day apart from the Lord’s goodness and mercy… just like your daddy.

Your daddy is funny! I do have to warn you, baby, that your daddy can be goofy. He makes me laugh in ways other people wouldn’t get, and I’m pretty sure he’ll be the one to coax those adorable belly laughs out of you first. He likes to have fun, he plays with legos, he teases me, and he knows how to balance work and play. I can’t wait to see you grow up having fun in our home and in life, just like your daddy.

Your daddy is handsome. And I hope you get a boyish grin, strong hands, and curly brown hair… just like your daddy.

Your daddy is not perfect. He does make mistakes, just like I do. He won’t always feel cheerfully selfless when taking care of us, when he’s tired and had a long day. He will say things that won’t come out the way he meant them to. There may be times when he makes decisions you don’t understand or like. But baby, no one is perfect. No daddy is perfect. But I do know this; the daddy the Lord gave you is perfect for you. When he makes a mistake and apologizes, you will see a humility that can only come from the Lord. When life throws a curveball and he chooses to trust God rather than despair, you will see a faith that only comes from above. When you disobey and he lovingly corrects you, you will experience a taste of the unconditional, unmerited love that comes from our heavenly Father. Just like your daddy does.

I can’t wait for you to meet him!

Photo Credit: Kathryn Grace Photography

Photo Credit: Kathryn Grace Photography

Our 2014 Christmas and New Years Letter

As we usher in the New Year and reflect on all that has happened in 2014, we are so thankful for the Lord’s provision and blessing. Ashton completed his third year as an assistant to the CIO at Samaritan Ministries and kept busy coordinating board meetings, taking a public speaking course, and becoming certified as a project manager. He volunteered to help coordinate our church’s annual Reformation Faire in October and has been giving more time to local ministries… and he keeps fairly busy spoiling his wife, especially when it comes to Valentines Day!

I called six English Country dances and taught 14 weeks of dance/exercise classes… a fun, low-commitment outlet for teaching and dancing after leaving my studio in Omaha. I have enjoyed practicing hospitality and being able to really focus on homemaking, as well as developing new friendships at church and in the community… not to mention taking care of my hubby, which has definitely been the highlight.

We have been both blessed and challenged as a couple in 2014. In March we were in an accident that totaled our car, and grew a lot as we dealt with the frustrations of insurance and having to buy a new vehicle.

We viewed several houses while we were seriously looking but finally decided to stay in our current apartment as long as we can. You can’t beat the commute and daily lunches together! We joined the local Right to Life chapter, as well as our Illinois’ homeschool Legislative Task Force. We were able to travel to Cincinnati twice, Nebraska several times, and Wisconsin.

We’ve had a good balance of “busy” and “fun” as newlyweds, from having fun volunteering to also experiencing firsts together… a canoe trip, walking local trails, enjoying the local farm-to-table restaurants, taking a moonlight cruise down the Illinois river, babysitting together for the first time (practice!), going on road trips, reading, and learning together. We love doing hospitality and discovered that we really can have my seven family members stay with us in our two bedroom apartment for 4 days!

But of all the memories we made, finding out on July 21st that we are expecting a little one was our favorite. Our little truffle is due in April… a boy! And we can’t wait to meet him and expand our family as we move into a new and fun season of discovery. We are taking Bradley classes and reading a lot, but most importantly we are praying and taking in the amazing changes as baby grows. We are very excited to be parents!

On September 21st, we celebrated our first anniversary… we are so thankful for a wonderful first year as husband and wife. We rejoice in this season and pray that He would bless you abundantly this New Year!

In Christ,

Ashton and Jennifer

 

It’s a boy!

I realize this post is a bit late, since I rather ruined the surprise in my previous pregnancy update. However, my motto recently (especially as I move into motherhood) has been “better late than never”, and as a first-time parent I’m sure it’s my duty to show off baby’s first photos, however blurry they may be.

Ashton and I really thought (we were nearly convinced!) that we were having a girl, but we did want an ultrasound to confirm the gender, and to see our little one for the first time. We were planning a trip to see my family (and I really wanted to share the experience with my mom), so I contacted my friends at the women’s pregnancy center in Omaha and asked if we could have one done there. I had volunteered at the center as an advocate for seven months, and at the end of most appointments I was able to be with the women as they had their ultrasound done and saw their baby for the first time. We thought it would be so special to see our own little one at the same center, with the same nurses I had volunteered with around us sharing in the joy.

US pic 2So during our trip to Omaha to see my family in October, we stopped in to the center, excited to see our little one and hoping (though not counting on!) finding out the gender. I was 17 weeks along and we knew it would be rather early to tell, but we were hoping! My mom went with us, so between us and the nurses, we had a room full of people excited to see the miracle inside my womb. And I must say… even after seeing plenty of ultrasounds as a volunteer, there really is nothing like getting a glimpse inside of your own womb, getting to see the profile and outline of your own baby, witnessing life growing in such a natural yet mind-blowing way.

US pic 3Our little truffle was very active the whole time. I honestly thought that I could usually tell when baby was awake and really moving around, but I was surprised to see so many strong, sharp movements going on that I couldn’t feel. We were thrilled to see our little one kicking up a storm, punching, twisting, rolling, swallowing, touching his face, and even waving at us (eliciting a lot of laughter and “awwwws” from the women in the room). I had no idea our baby was so active. Now that I’m even further along I can feel it more, but at the time it was so amazing to realize how much was going on inside my belly that I was unaware of.

US pic 5While we weren’t concerned about health issues or finding something unexpected, it was such a joy to see the perfect little body of this miracle our Creator has been knitting together… fingers, toes, little feet, strong femurs, the spine, the beating chambers of the heart, the brain, the skull, the ribs, the cute belly and the most adorable little nose you’ve ever seen.

And I’ll spare you the photos, but after long last we were able to get baby to hold still long enough to find out if we were having a son or daughter. And after four good pictures, everyone in the room pretty confidently agreed that we were looking at our little boy. Of course, we know an ultrasound can only be so accurate, and we could always be surprised in April! But we were confident enough to announce the gender and start planning for a navy blue themed nursery. We were pretty shocked, to say the least… a boy! I grew up with five brothers, but as we walked out of the center, grinning and stunned and so happy, I remember thinking… what am I going to do with a BOY?!

US pic 7But as surprised as we were, I know the answer. First, I’m going to kiss him, and snuggle, and examine his little nose, fingers and toes. Then, we’re going to raise him to fear the Lord and to walk in His ways. We’re going to play in the park and go exploring, build with legos and travel around with model trains. We’re going to build things and read books and play hide-and-seek. And we’re going to enjoy the moments we have as we raise a son for the Kingdom.

We are so excited!

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20 Weeks and a Pregnancy Update

Friday marked 20 weeks of life for our little baby boy! We’re already halfway through this pregnancy and can hardly believe how time has flown by… after the holidays speed past, April will just be around the corner! There are days we are just in awe over the fact that life is growing inside of me… that the bumps and kicks we feel is a precious child that the Lord knew from the beginning of time… and that child is ours! With his own unique personality and character, physical features and body type. We are savoring this time of newness and anticipation, but are so looking forward to meeting our son and watching him grow outside the womb.

Baby Truffle has grown right on track, and is now roughly 10 inches long from head to toe, about the length of a banana. He has pretty good range of motion, and we already know our little one is strong, after both feeling him kick his little legs at an early 15 weeks. We can feel him punch, kick, roll over, and sometimes wonder if he’s jumping and turning somersaults as well. His favorite time to be active is when mommy is getting ready to sleep, but he gets pretty quiet when daddy reads a book out loud, since he can hear our voices now.

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So far, the pregnancy has gone fairly smoothly and I am feeling like one blessed momma, especially after hearing stories of prolonged morning sickness and ongoing pain issues. I had about a month and a half of morning sickness towards the beginning where it was almost impossible to eat full meals, and all I really wanted was toast. Then I had about 4-6 weeks of lower back pain that peaked to a point where I was having a hard time walking up stairs and couldn’t turn over in bed. That was by far the lowest point of the first trimester, as I didn’t know how I could make it through a healthy pregnancy if it continued or got worse. It gave me an opportunity to really cry out to the Lord, place my trust in Him, and learn not to waste the pain but learn from it. And praise the Lord, He almost completely lifted the pain and soreness the day of our anniversary at 12 weeks, and it hasn’t come back since.

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Otherwise, my list of complaints is fairly short. I occasionally have pelvis issues but nothing that can stop me from going through my day. I do have to be more careful what I expect my squished, rearranged stomach to digest, and my gag reflex is functioning amazingly well, especially with leftovers I’m tired of.  I’m slowly phasing out pre-baby clothing from my closet, though I’m definitely holding out as long as I can before shopping maternity. I’ve been able to teach an exercise/ballet class once a week, which feels great, except for the fact that bending over is starting to feel kind of weird (oh yeah, I guess I can’t really do that anymore!). I’m still sleeping well at night, though, and naptime isn’t always necessary to make me feel human (yay!).

Ashton and I are very blessed to be in a Church community that supports and helps equip us as we prepare for a natural, hands-off, healthy pregnancy and delivery, so we feel fairly prepared even as we continue to pray, read, and prepare. We started taking Bradley classes and I continue to read books on nutrition, breastfeeding, and natural childbirth. We’re starting to rearrange our second bedroom and plan out the nursery, as well as build our registry… which can seem like an overwhelming task, with so many different baby products and items on the market today. However, we strongly feel that natural is best, that babies don’t need every new gadget under the sun to be happy, and that we can take a more minimalistic approach as we consider what to bring into our home. Even then, the list is quite long!

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We continue to pray for our little boy… that he would be strong, healthy, meek in character, a joy to many. We pray that he would follow the Lord with all of his heart, and that God would equip us with the wisdom and love we need to raise him to fear and follow his Creator. It seems like such an unattainable goal, to be good, godly parents and role models, but we are excited at this responsibility, and know that our feeble efforts will be blessed as we commit our ways, and our children, to the Lord.

To my sister-in-Christ who is waiting for children…

I think of you often, you know. As my baby grows within me and I feel his movement, kicks, punches, I desire you to feel the same joy and anticipation of meeting your little one. I pray for you, I grieve with you, even though I don’t really know how you feel. I pray silently because I don’t know what to say that would comfort you without coming across as that mom who pretends to know what you’re experiencing, when she really doesn’t.

When we’re talking and having conversations, I want to share my joy with you and draw you into my experiences as a pregnant momma, make you a welcome part of the process so you’re not looking in from the outside, but instead brought into our circle. But there are times I just don’t know how much to say and share, because I don’t want to remind you of the ache and longing for your own child.

Photo credit: Kathryn Grace Photography

Photo credit: Kathryn Grace Photography

I do see, you know… the tears or sadness as you’re having a particularly rough day, the hope and desire lingering behind your smile during conversations. I pray for you during the service when there is a baptism, a baby announcement. I want to give you a hug and let you know that I’m thinking of you but I just don’t feel bold enough… to step out and risk a misunderstanding, or look as if I’m pretending to understand when I know I really don’t.

Many of my facebook posts are thought through with you in mind. We want to share our joy over our son, but I never want to be “that” mom who can’t talk about anything but herself, her experiences, her baby. I always think of you when posting pregnancy updates and photos for friends, hoping that one day soon you too can announce your happy news to the world. I hope you know how genuinely I want that for you.

I also hope you know that I want to be friends. I hope I’ve never given the impression that my new and only hangout is with the moms. You have so much to offer in your friendship, your experiences, your talents, your conversations… and sometimes in refreshingly different ways. Sure, the moms can talk kid stuff, but it doesn’t mean your relationship isn’t just as meaningful, relevant, and necessary within the body. If I ever seem awkward in conversation, it’s not because I don’t want to talk to you, it’s because I’m trying to figure out how to be genuine and sensitive at the same time when it’s my turn to share what I’ve been up to.

Photo credit: Kathryn Grace Photography

Photo credit: Kathryn Grace Photography

And please don’t let Satan trick you into thinking that you and your husband have less to offer because you don’t have children yet. I know it may be hard, especially in family-integrated communities, to remember how vital you are in the kingdom. But your marriage does not mean less, and you as a member are not any less important before you have kids. In fact, you have so much to give as a couple with time and energy, and the areas of impact you could have even before establishing a family are limitless. I know sermons and conversations and events are often focused on families, but you are a family even now, and we truly value and love you for the unique gifts you bring to the body of Christ, with or without children.

I hope that you know that you are not forgotten, and you are not alone. When one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers… and there are many of us who are praying for you and eagerly looking forward to the day when we can rejoice with you as you add to your family. We who have not experienced infertility may not always know how to say it, or when, but we love you and earnestly desire that your prayers would be answered and your heart’s cry attended to.

I think of you often, you know…

Practicing Joy as an Expectant Mama

So I’m expecting. I’m expecting! This is an exciting season of anticipation that is filled with newness, joy, and wonder. However, when I sit down and really think about the future, it can sometimes feel like the calm before a storm, the peace before the chaos, the fun before all that hard work!

I am a natural worrier. I don’t need encouragement to think about the future and all the hard things that may come with it. What if we get overwhelmed and can’t properly take care of our kids? What if I have a physical problem and can’t even cook dinner, let alone take care of my family? How does a mom with an infant and toddlers in tow use a public restroom???

There are lots of questions, and plenty of puzzles, if I allow myself to think on all the potential complications or frustrations or difficulties or sacrifice involved in raising a family. I mean, I grew up in a family of nine. I know raising kids isn’t a piece of cake (though as a middle child, of course I was the exception…). We’re told it’s hard work, it takes a lot of sacrifice, it involves basically no sleep for the first year and you won’t have time to use the bathroom alone for 3 minutes.

But wait, isn’t this supposed to be a time of joy? We’re told children are a blessing. We believe that, and we’re so excited to meet and love on our little Truffle. But there are times when I think it’s easy to have my joy as an expectant first-time mother be overshadowed (overwhelmed?) by all the available advice of others who have gone before.

I know they mean well. I know my brothers and sisters would not seek to discourage when they share their insight into parenthood. But if there’s one line I’ve heard most frequently during my pregnancy, it’s “enjoy this time while you have it”, or “savor these moments- you’ll never have this time again!”. I can’t speak for other new moms, but to me, those phrases simply encourage a dread of the future, a feeling that something is about to be lost that can never be regained… that the clock is ticking and we better hurry up and enjoy where we’re at before it’s behind us. And I hate that feeling.

As a first-time expectant mom I don’t fully understand it yet, but I watch-and admire- you mothers as you make sacrifices for your family. I see you struggle through your difficult trimester, I observe you coming to church with little ones in tow, looking tired and worn from the past week. I hear your prayer requests for strength, your plea for help when you don’t think you can make it through the day without an extra pair of hands. I don’t need words said to know that there will be difficulties ahead.

But, I’m expecting. I’m expecting! This little baby is just the size of a lemon but so, so precious, and I’ve never been through labor or stayed up all night with Truffle or figured out the whole child-training thing… but we can’t wait! We’re young and in love and blessed and want to welcome our sweet child with open arms, holding nothing back, without regrets and without fear. We want to greet the month of April without counting how many times pre-baby we were able to sleep in, or just leave the house when we want to, or have time just the two of us. Our time as newlyweds has been wonderful, sanctifying, and precious… and we want to believe and anticipate that our time as parents will be even more so. We want to greet the future with joy.

I really do think there are times when it’s better to hang on to some of that innocence, that sweet naivete. To hold hands while stepping into the unknown, as husband and wife, to discover the easy and the hard, the “better” and the “worse” without anxieties of “what may be” tugging at our hearts. And right now the best gift I could ask for from other parents is that of wisdom, yes… but even more importantly, encouragement to choose joy, because it is a choice. To choose it now, to practice thanksgiving, to highlight the blessings in life even while working through the difficulties. To know that as hard as it may be, and look, and seem, that it’s so amazingly worth it, and that the blessings far outweigh the hardship.

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If you are a parent who knows other new moms and dads, consider how you share advice, insight and wisdom. Certainly we need to know what to expect, how to prepare; and there’s no better way to learn than from those who have years of experience. Advice is greatly needed and appreciated, so long as it’s balanced between the joyful and the difficult, and not focused on the negatives. It may just be that the young parent needs to hear encouragement and celebration more than anything… to see the genuine love and joy, as weary as it may come, on your face as you raise your own children.

Ashton and I are so excited about our little one, and any other blessings that may come. And today, I’m going to touch my growing belly and praise God for the season we’re in, and the season we look forward to with great joy, knowing that we serve a faithful Father who plans good things for his children.

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“1st Anniversary” Photo credit: Kathryn Grace Photography

One Year Ago

Ashton,

One year ago, I woke up alone with butterflies in my stomach, ready for our wedding day to begin. Now I get to wake up every morning next to the love of my life.

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One year ago, I carefully dressed and prepared myself to be the most beautiful bride for you. Since we’ve been married, it’s been a delight to be beautiful for you… the only one you desire. But even more precious are the days when I feel so much less than pretty, and you still see me as your bride in white.

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One year ago, on that peaceful sunny morning, I somewhat nervously walked up the patio where you waited to see me… wanting to surprise and delight you, not knowing exactly what your reaction would be. Now that we’ve grown in deeper trust towards each other, we don’t have to be nervous about sharing the new or unexpected… I know that you will always love me and care for me, just as you have every day this past year.

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One year ago, we prepared for the day and took fun photos with our wedding party. And how blessed we have been to build on those friendships as husband and wife, together… how blessed I am to have a husband who desires to share meaningful relationships with the dear people in our life.

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One year ago, my father prayed over me before the ceremony started; his last prayer over me as my protector and leader. Now I am daily blessed by a husband who leads spiritually and prays for me and our baby.

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One year ago, I stood nervously on the back staircase, holding my Dad’s arm as I watched my bridesmaids disappear into into the sanctuary… waiting, waiting for the final moment to walk towards you. Now there is no waiting, no hesitating, and every day is an eager embrace when we meet.

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One year ago, I walked down the aisle towards you on the arm of my father, overwhelmed by the moment and trying hard not to cry. Today and every day, we get to walk together, you and me, through this journey called life. And how grateful I am for the man I walk beside!

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One year ago, we looked each other in the eyes and said our vows, promising to be faithful yet not really knowing what that would look like yet. After a year, we’ve gone through our misunderstandings and long conversations and hurts and tears and become closer and deeper in love as a result… beginning the discovery of what it means to live out our vows.

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One year ago, we kissed for the first time, and in front of 350 people! And now we kiss all the time, only… not always in front of people. And while I appreciated the sacrifice of our chaperones, it’s still pretty cool and exciting that we get to be all alone now, just the two of us.

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One year ago, as we stepped out of the Church into the sunny Fall day, you surprised me with a vintage mint green car as our getaway vehicle, complete with dapper, charming chauffeur! And you have brought so many fun surprises along the way in this past year.

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One year ago, we walked into our reception together, for the first time, as husband and wife… truly blessed and humbled by all of our family and friends who filled the room. This past year, we have had many opportunities to attend events, volunteer, show hospitality, and be a team together as we step out into our community. And I wouldn’t want it any other way!

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One year ago, I danced with my Daddy as we both cried together, knowing that such a happy day also brought an end to a special season of life together. In the year that has followed, I have been blessed by your desire to build stronger relationships with our families, and to watch you become a part of mine, even as we establish our own.

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One year ago, you and I danced together; our special first dance that we had practiced. We did pretty well, even though we only had one class and a few times to practice beforehand. But even now, we’re so much more in tune with each other as we dance through life… I can anticipate how you will lead and know better how to follow, we step on each other’s toes less and less as we grow in maturity, and we have become more fluid in our movements as we set patterns and habits for the future.

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One year ago today, we drove away from our reception, past the blur of smiling faces, waving hands, dear hearts. Saying goodbye to our former selves, our single selves, and saying hello to a new life, a new beginning, an exciting unknown as husband and wife. And we haven’t looked back. Life has been full, life has been blessed, and I couldn’t be more thankful for the precious first year the Lord has given us.

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I love you to the moon and back, Ashton. Happy anniversary!

Photo credit: Kathryn Grace Photography 

The next adventure

Ashton and I love adventures. We like traveling, going to new places, trying different things. Our honeymoon to Switzerland was our first adventure after getting married, and living in a new city and getting plugged into some ministries and projects together has been a fun “adventure at home”.

But really, not even beautiful Switzerland can compare with the adventure that started when we found out, with great joy, that we are expecting our first baby. We were hoping and praying for this blessing, and in late July I began to wonder if those unexpected, intense hunger pains just might be a signal… so on the 21st, our 10th monthiversary, I decided to take a test. I knew it would probably be way to early to get a positive, but if there was any chance, why not find out on the day we got married on?

P1170850After I excitedly turned over the test to see two lines, I was shocked and excited and tearful all at once! Needless to say, the rest of my day wasn’t terribly productive. I spend my time journaling and praying and smiling and putting together a special card for Ashton. I could hardly wait to watch him walk up the street on his way home from work so that I could tell him. Since it was our monthiversary, I was dressed up and ready to go out on our special dinner date, and nonchalantly sat him down on the couch and gave him a card, which we also like to do on the 21st of each month.

P1170857When Ashton read the card- which was actually a note from baby, instead of the traditional card from me- he didn’t believe me at first! I, however, acted upon my pregnant instincts and promptly started crying. We’re going to have a baby! This is really happening! We stopped by a meeting to catch the parts we needed to before heading to dinner… almost sure our little smiles and looks would give us away. We spent a romantic dinner on cloud nine, still trying to take it all in.

DSC_0458We decided to wait a bit to announce our news, especially as we wanted to surprise our parents and family in a meaningful way, which can require planning when my family is 6 hours away. The morning sickness hit around 5 1/2 weeks, but I managed to live on granola bars and only vomit at home… making it through a busy wedding weekend without letting our secret out.

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Finally, at 7 weeks, we announced to my family over Skype, having sent them a box in the mail containing baby booties, and then Ashton’s family that weekend while we visited them. We were so excited to finally have our news out and be able to share it with those closest to us!

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DSC_0508Today marks 10 weeks already. Next week I’ll have my first prenatal visit, and we’re hoping we get to hear a heartbeat!

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 Baby Truffle is expected to arrive in April of 2015. We are so excited to meet our little one; and what an adventure it will be, as we become a family of three!

11 Months

11 months today! 11 months since I walked down the aisle, heart pounding, holding my Dad’s arm and with a small smile on my face… trying not to cry with the emotion of it all. Knowing my life was changing, turning, knowing that with each step I was moving into a new life as your beloved.

View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferweddingHow long had I waited to see you standing there, waiting for me… me! You looked so serious, but I knew you were feeling it all inside. Your hands clasped, waiting at the end of the walk to take my hand. It seemed like such a long wait before, when I didn’t know your name, but all of a sudden that all melted away and it didn’t seem so long anymore. How my heart rejoices now that the Lord timed my walk down the aisle perfectly, and that you were the man He chose to place at the front of that sanctuary on that sunny Saturday afternoon.

View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferweddingYou know I love my Daddy so much! One thing I appreciated so much, and have come to love even more these past 11 months, is your respect and love for both of our fathers. Just as my Dad raised and loved and protected me before giving me to you, so I look forward to watching you love and nurture our daughters as we prepare them for their husbands. You are going to be an amazing Dad!

 

View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferweddingLooking into your eyes and saying our vows to each other. So much meaning, such a beautiful promise, such a big responsibility before the Lord and all our witnesses. So little we understand yet! But by God’s grace, He has begun to show us over these 11 months what it means to live out our vows.

View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferweddingGod truly gave me a man with loving, caring hands. Nothing is truly perfect in this world, but they are perfect for me. They have comforted, served, guided, and protected me. Our hands are the Lord’s, and just as He is honored as we raise them in worship, so He is honored when we clasp them in marriage as a sign of devotion… a reflection of His relationship with His bride, the Church. How I love those hands…

View More: http://kathryngracephotography.pass.us/ashtonjenniferweddingOnly 11 months later and I feel we have grown so much, and still have a world to discover together. I savor the discovery and adventure… from the mundane to the special, doing it all with you is a gift I don’t deserve.

I love you, Ashton. Happy 11 months!