Ode to a Hobby Store: Dear Mom 2019

Dear Mom,

I hope this letter finds you well. I have been meaning to drop you a line but I have been so busy at my new job. I’ve been thinking about you an awful lot and I can’t wait for the next time I see you!

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So much has happened in the last few months. I have so much to catch you up on… So here goes. I started working at your favorite store! I needed to help out with all the kid’s tuition and while I am still decorating here and there, I don’t have constant clients and needed to fill up the time in between. I joke with people that “I was already NOT folding laundry at home, so I might as well get paid while still not folding laundry somewhere else!”

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the whole “job” thing but I decided to make the best of it and jump in. Before I was hired, after telling her all the things I’ve done over the years, the manager told me I was the whole package! Haha! Made me think of you. I mean, you taught me all I know, so I give you credit for ½ my creativity. Dad gets the other half! And with all that creativity, I got hired to be…. a cashier! Woo hoo! Either way, I told myself I was going to love it and I do. It’s amazing what God can do in your life if you let Him into all the parts, even the ones that don’t seem so glamorous.

I didn’t realize how much you shopped at that hobby store until I saw the name brands of all the things in the store. I mean, you bought all the fabric for Evie’s bedding and drapes there. Every burp rag and bib was created from some of that fabric in the store and all the pillows over all my couches. I remember the day we walked into the store and I picked out all the baby bedding not knowing if she was a boy or a girl. We picked a gender neutral “moon and stars” motif and then I painted the nursery to match. It was adorable. I can’t forget the 500 pounds of scrapbooking material you made all of our scrapbooks in! Holy Moly! I still haven’t used 1/10 of it that you passed down to me over the years. You have that way about you, like a machine getting 100 things accomplished faster than any human on the planet. I love that about you. So many skills and organization poured out of you!

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As I stand in my check out lane waiting for customers, I come across all these grey haired ladies that look like you. Sometimes they are shopping with their daughters and I tell them to go somewhere fun for lunch. I pray for those daughters who seem annoyed with their moms. I know I didn’t always appreciate you before I had children and I’m sorry for those times I took you for granted. I just want to tell those daughters to savor this time! Sometimes I see those grey haired ladies with their grandkids (babysitting and helping out) and I think of you and how you’d always call me and say you needed a “grandkid fix” and you’d come visit.

Remember that time when I lost a baby, and you decided to come over a week later to visit me? You just had a feeling.. and sure enough right as you were getting ready to leave that’s when I delivered my angel baby. You stood upstairs in the bathroom with Joseph and I, as I sobbed from the depths of my soul holding my tiny Josephine, and you said, “Spring, that’s not your baby, it’s just her shell. Your baby’s in heaven.” And then we baptized her.  I don’t know how you knew I would deliver that day. But you did, and you were there for me. You reminded me that death didn’t win.

When visiting, you always brought goodies of some sort in a pretty package and some clothes for the kids you found at a really good sale. You never came empty-handed and you are the reason I will never buy anything full price. You gotta make every dollar count, right? Especially with a big family like you and I had.

As a child I remember you could go shopping for HOURS. You had all your ads and knew all the sales and God-forbid we went clothes shopping and I had to try all the things on. I still hate clothes shopping to this day because of that, and I have a couple of friends who have gifted me their own clothing overstock because I refuse to go shopping and apparently I am frumpy. My favorite items though, are the clothes I got from your closet recently. I get complimented on them all the time! Who-da thought you had timeless taste? I know that it makes you happy. I look cute, and you picked them out. Win win. I’m sure you feel a little pride in that!

Sometimes Mom, there are little grey haired ladies that come into my line who are wearing things that you have been known to wear. They look so put together and I confess, I told one of those little old ladies that I hoped she had someone to give her a big hug when she got home because she looked so cozy in her sweater and scarf! I wanted to hug her but that would be weird. Or would it?

At my store there is cute camping artwork everywhere. I reminds me of all the trips we took when I was young. It also reminds me of the time when you and dad drove across the country and stayed in your camper to keep my kids close to their sick brother. You would love to decorate your camper with this décor! And the bear artwork! It reminds me of your family room downstairs and all the photos of our vacations we took together. You taught me to be an outdoor girl. I don’t know how someone who can shop like you, could also brave the wilderness! But you did and of course you were dressed for the occasion.

At work, when I head back to the break room for my lunch, I pass by the home accents aisle with the pictures of the churches and the bible verses.… I remember it was the same aisle where I spoke to you a year before, for an hour on my cell phone. I had been shopping for a client and was pacing back and forth talking to you, trying to help you understand. I was skilled at explaining things in different ways to my son with special needs, so it was easier for me than it was for dad, to convince you we had to run those tests. You asked me why we couldn’t just leave you alone but I told you, we just had to find a diagnosis and a reason why you were losing your memories before we could just let you be. I tried to tell you, plead with you, that we weren’t against you and that we were helping you and not conspiring against you. I remember feeling such despair, like we had switched roles and I had to convince you that I knew best. It’s a feeling I will never forget.. acting like a mother to my own mother. It broke my heart.

You eventually let me come to all your doctor appointments and speak to all of your doctors. We eliminated medications and got you some new supplements and we started to see an improvement in your memory! All the practice I had dealing with doctors over the years really prepared me to be your advocate. It was an honor to care for you!

While I shopped frequently at that same hobby store I now work at, I purchased things there for the project of a lifetime! I was renovating/decorating a church basement over the summer. It was to be a place of healing for women who suffered from trauma and it needed to feel cozy and welcoming for them. It was an answer to prayer Mom, because a week before I got the decorating job- I had prayed for something more; a job I could help touch lives using the gifts God gave me. I was a woman who had suffered my own trauma, and now I got to decorate a room meant for healing. I poured my heart out into that project and paid so much attention to every detail just like you do, and you said you could hardly wait to see it in real life. When I showed you pictures you would “ooh and ahh” and tell dad how talented I was. I beamed from the inside out knowing you were proud of me.

A couple of months later you started to decline and landed in the hospital. The doctors removed the newly discovered mass in your colon, and verified it metastasized to your liver. The surgeon said chemo would kill you faster and wipe out your memory even more if we tried to treat it. My worst fears were confirmed. Cancer invaded another family member, and after all I had tried to do, I couldn’t save you. All my life I’d been scared of losing you or dad. I chalk it up to being the youngest child. I couldn’t even conceptualize what life would be like without you. I’d barley gotten 40 years and I still needed you! My kids are still young.. who is going to tell me things will be okay if you are gone?? The doctor told us after your surgery, that you had a couple of months left if we were lucky.

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So many times Joseph and I would stand around the kitchen island discussing you and all you’ve done for us and how much we’d miss you. We’d both end up crying. That first month after your surgery was touch and go. You were in agony! We thought we’d lose you around Christmas. But then one day shortly after the prayer of anointing of the sick, you got up and made your bed! We couldn’t believe it!

During those next 10 months on hospice, us kids spent a lot of time with you and took turns caring for you while giving dad some breaks. I’m pretty sure he’s going to be a saint after caring for you. But you were already going to be a saint after being married to him for 59 years, so there’s that! Sometimes you were a difficult patient because your mind started to go faster and faster, but you never forgot any of us kids. Dad was your source of comfort and you wanted him there constantly. You guys lived out what it truly means to love one another in sickness and in health… for better or for worse.

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During that 10 months from your diagnosis, I came to visit often. One trip, I poured out my heart to you and dad about my kids and struggles going on in their lives. We had that kind of discussion we used to have all the time, where I’d  bask in your affirmation, love and guidance. I’ve always appreciated your hindsight and wisdom. You had been pretty out of it that day Mom, but you stood up and hugged me, rubbing my back and saying, it would all work out.  It was so good to have my mama back for a moment. Your words were not as prophetic as they once were but they held weight in that simple sentence. “It will all work out.”

Each time spent with you, each conversation, each lunch date, I savored it. Peace was made within your family that had not been there for decades and miracles happened while you were dying. Healing occurred in our family tree. It was beautiful. At least 3 times we thought it was the end for you and each time I’d bawl my eyes out thinking it was the really the end, but God wasn’t done with you; with untangling the knots that held you captive to this world. It was unfathomable thinking of what it would be like to finally lose you, but God was lovingly preparing you for heaven.

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Mom, I’ve NEVER lost anyone I was close to. And YOU- you are my best friend. You know me from the inside out. When most people were done having kids you welcomed me at age 38. You were always right about all the things.. There! I admit it!! You also believed in me and told me you admired my courage. But you were the one with the courage who fought battles no one even knew about… You never lost faith which you passed down to me, even through the toughest times of your life. You are my prayer warrior! And a fan of my humor.

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One day at my cashier job at the hobby store, a woman came up and commented on my ring. Your wedding ring. I never take it off. It’s the one you wore when I was growing up and the one I slipped off and on your fingers to try on, as a little girl. The lady said it was lovely, and I told her it was yours. She asked me how you were and I told her you had left us in the fall. Her eyes got misty and she said “The first Christmas is always the hardest..” She seemed to understand my heart and we stood looking at each other over the counter, both of us bleary eyed until another customer came and she had to leave. She spoke volumes to me sharing tears with a stranger. Simple, yet profound. Like your wedding ring.

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Our store is known for its elevator music that plays continuously in the background. The song I sang at your funeral comes on at least once a day and I hum the words quietly to myself. I feel like these are little kisses from heaven saying you are near.

Mom there are so many people who remind me of you walking through my line. I try to love on them and ask them about their day, and their projects. I smile into their eyes and tell them the things they are making for their kids, really will be treasured forever. Just like the scrapbooks you made for all of us documenting our whole lives.

God is giving me a lot of grace during this season. I’d love to keep being a decorator.. keep beautifying spaces and using my creativity. Yet, this passing of time at the store you apparently lived in, makes me feel closer to you. It helps me to stop over-thinking each day. I interact with people constantly and it forces me to make a choice each morning to show up in my life and to “choose joy”. “The Joy of the Lord is my strength.” It’s my superpower actually. Without it, I don’t know if I would get out of the house. This little job makes me get out.

I feel like there’s a void so deep inside of me. The woman who brought me into the world is gone from it… and things that mattered before don’t anymore.

But Christ’s Joy tells me my separation from you is not forever. That Joy wants to leap from my broken heart and love on all the people who need reminders of Christ’s love. That Joy heals me and helps me see the hurting; to be present with them. That Joy tells me this phase of my life is my mission.

I almost called you the other day, Mama. I realized I had a window of time and as soon as the thought entered my brain, it dissipated with the realization of you being gone for 5 months already… I still can’t wrap my head around it.

So for right now, I’m gonna be the best cashier at your favorite store and help out my family little by little. I’m gonna go where He sends me. I will do small things with great love like you did, and I will shine that light of His. That same light that you live in right now. When I choose His Joy, I am closer to you. And I miss you so… I can’t wait to see you again.

 

 

Shine 2019

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I have this Light in me that won’t fade. It consumes me.  Most days all I can do is stand in awe with hands lifted high at the wonder of it all. All I want to do is surrender in praise and in gratitude.

 

 

So many miracles have transpired since I produced that tiny mustard seed.. And trials. Oh, there are many of those too. Almost like a resistance in faith, which rips deep, leaving bigger faith to endure. I don’t always like the trials but I’ve come to an age that I know I am not alone, even if I physically am. I’m not. I am surrounded and held…

I have this heartache to be close to that Light…and I cannot get enough. I have to connect to it each day and recharge. It’s the only way I can make it through my day. A refueling of sorts.

I ran out of strength a long time ago. I’ve lost people close to me; including one who faded from this world beyond my control. It’s a strange vulnerability to be LEFT.  I know it’s a part of life…those seasons. Fading, dying, regrowth. And you know you need the Light to grow. These trials make you believe you’ve been buried, with tears like rain; yet you’ve been planted and ready to become new. The darkness is not forever.

I pray in song. I hear His voice in the words… sometimes He gives me the words that I sing and I feel Him near.  The tears pour out and I really don’t know why. But yet I do, all once. I am fascinated by how incredibly weak I am but how strong He is.

I am done with imitation. I no longer believe the lies. The lies that say I’ll be happy when… or after or if.. or with.. Lies that say I need to numb the difficult things. The lies that say what happiness is. Happiness is Jesus. He is my happiness. He never runs out, yet I constantly want more of Him.

My humanity runs on fumes. I eventually crack. I yell, I scream, I lament. I fail and come up short. Jesus never runs out. When I invite Him into EVERY aspect of my life it’s no longer me dealing with life but it’s Him though me, dealing with it. I can’t do anything without Him. I have an expiration date. He does not. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. All the things that were once hard for me become manageable with His never-ending Grace. The help is there at our fingertips. Love is here, Love is now. It’s readily available.

There was a time, in the last few years.. I didn’t feel like enough. I didn’t know I was precious and so deeply loved by a God who created ME to use for His glory. I was never meant to do it alone, but I was living like I was. I poured from an empty cup and I ran dry trying to compensate for what I wasn’t. I wasn’t created to be all the things. That’s what God is for.

When you invite Christ in and give Him permission over your life.. your life becomes NOT about you, which is contrary to what the world tells us about success, posessions or beauty and self-reliance. Self preservation blocks us from the vulnerability of receiving the Father’s love.. We weren’t meant to tough it out. When we are weak we are truly strong in HIM. I’ve fallen clumsily on my face most of my life coming to that realization. Just be still and let Him love you where you are!!

I can finally say, “I love me”, because it’s Jesus living in me and allowing me to see myself through His eyes. When I shine, it’s Him you see. When I’m patient, it’s Him who speaks softly. When I speak truth out of love, it is He who delivers the message. When I smile, it’s He who gives me the strength to do so when the world says I have every right to curl up in the fetal position and wilt. God gives me a reason to smile and strength to reach out to those other souls who don’t know that His comfort is a “Yes” away. Just allow Him into your heart..

You can be brave in Him. He will give you courage. You are called and sent forth for amazing things. You were paid for with a great price. You are loved and cherished and precious. There is a great plan and a purpose for your life. I promise.

Rest in that truth and shine.

 

 

One Pivotal Moment in the Spring of 2003

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Photo by Giallo on Pexels.com

…..”The first victory needed to happen within my own heart allowing God in.  Jesus was beckoning to me. He came to me through the love I had for my daughter which made me desire His love for her.  Discovering that, I realized in order to show her His love, I needed to accept His love for me.  I wanted it more than anything.”

 

Liezel Graham says, “Every woman who heals herself, heals her children’s children..”
Let that sink in… I only learned this phrase recently, but how incredible is it? It’s like breaking a chain of bondage so your children don’t have to carry around what you did. When you are FREE, they are free.

Aren’t we all broken in some way? Don’t we tend to carry around baggage or pain with us, maybe without even realizing it? This was true for me. I carried around DEEP pain, believing lies about my goodness. The choices I made because of those lies, cost me my relationship with God and myself.  I didn’t know my worth as a youth, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to let my daughter go through life like that! No, I would protect her. I would teach her what I didn’t know. I would instill the Truth in her so she would never doubt for one second, her goodness. Because God made her and He doesn’t make junk! But how could I teach what I didn’t know?

I had to go back to school. But school wasn’t a classroom. School was Christian people who taught me how to find God and to know Jesus’ heart.  Like I said before, I needed resuscitating.  I wasn’t going to learn how to have a relationship with Jesus going through the motions at church not having any clue why I was doing them. And “Encountering Christ” was what I believed I needed to try.

Encountering Christ is a weekend away with other Christian’s open to all denominations, but Catholic in nature because of the Sacraments offered. You start on a Friday and you hear a bunch of talks, you go to confession, you have Mass and adoration.. you bond with other women (they have a weekend just for the men too); and through the witness of other regular people, you hear how God worked in their life. You are reminded the obstacles of how “life gets messy” and how to be a Christian in this modern world and how to keep that a priority amidst all the chaos. By Sunday we are taught to have a true meaningful relationship with Christ and how to feel His love and bring others to that love. You acquire an accountability group of women you have met, and you meet weekly to discuss your plan to stay close to Christ. You talk openly about your failures that week, and your moments closest to Christ, and then your plan for the next week.

My father attended this retreat after he became sober through AA. He was on his third step for the program, which was turning your life and will over to the care of God… and was led to Encountering Christ (mentally kicking and screaming) when he was an atheist. He came out a born again Christian who changed his life around, and became the man who has helped countless others to do the same. He’s who I want to be when I grow up!  My mother made the weekend shortly after my dad and both of my parents were involved with it for years, helping to bring other people to Christ. My dad still has the same prayer group 40+ years later and has also been sober for 43 years.

***My parents sponsored Joseph and I to attend the weekend, but first I had to talk Joseph into going. He was fine you see… He didn’t need spiritual help like I did. But he eventually obliged to go. If you were married, the rule is husbands have to go first, because apparently the men would rarely go if they had the choice- because they’re all fine and don’t need it. So luckily I had a husband who truly did want me to feel better and he knew I could only go IF he went first. If only one spouse were to go there is danger of becoming unequally yoked- which puts a strain on the marriage when one is full of faith and the other is not. So he went. For me… An entire weekend. To get me off his back. That’s true love!

I was so nervous. He was spending 48+ hours away from myself and our daughter who was a little over a year old, with no phones or TV, or connection to the outside world just so I could go to this thing later. I was walking around on edge all weekend because I thought he would hate it and be so bored and be completely annoyed with me that he HAD to go, just so that I could go. Because after all, he was fine and didn’t need to be there. It was me who needed it. I felt like I completely put him out and was wasting his time.

When my parents brought Joseph home, (they had to take him there and pick him up as his sponsor) he came through the front door. I followed him trying to look in his eyes to read him. “How are you doing? How was it?” I asked, all paranoid. He walked into our bedroom and put his suitcase in the closet and flopped down on our bed. I gave him a bunch of kisses thanking him for going for me and apologizing that he had to go so I could go.

He looked exhausted and there was something else.. I couldn’t quite pinpoint it.. there was a difference in his eyes… He looked at me… “Spring. I thought I went on this weekend for you..” I interrupted him, “I’m so sorry baby!! I-”  Then he said, “Shhh.. wait. I thought I went on this weekend for you, but realized it was really for me…I was meant to be there.” I was blown away. His eyes were all misty.  There was a softness about him in his eyes and his expression. I’d never seen it before. It was irresistible. There was a light I had never seen radiating from him. More kisses. I was so happy for him, for us! He was so at peace and I could hardly wait to hear about it but he had to pick and choose what parts he could tell me, since he wanted me to experience it for myself and be surprised.

I had to wait 2 weeks until the women’s weekend started. I could hardly wait to go because of what he went through but as the time came closer I got grumpy. I started having doubts. What if I hated it? What if Joseph couldn’t handle our daughter all alone and something bad happened or an accident?? I began to have horrendous anxiety about the whole thing. Then came to the day I got to go. I was so nervous. I didn’t know what to expect. This is what I wanted, right? Now I was getting it and I just wanted to run in the opposite direction. I didn’t belong at a church group with all these holier than thou people.

They didn’t know me! I assumed none of those ladies had ever sinned like I did! Here I was 24 years old with so many older woman around me, and the ones that were my age were totally people I knew I would never be able to relate to.. They didn’t know my past and if they did they would wonder why I was there. I didn’t belong there. I got lectured in confession once after all, when I was 15.. and then told I was luke warm and would be spit out by God a few months later by another priest (for not going back to confession). How could I belong here?? Some of the women at my table discussed where they prayed and how they did it. I didn’t pray, (unless it was a quick thought here or there when I really needed something) let alone have a special place I went or special prayers I said.. I didn’t read any books about faith.. I felt like a fish out of water. I knew they all had to be secretly judging me.

About the second day of the retreat, I decided to go to confession. We had heard a great talk by a priest about the subject and I thought I would go just this once. This would prove I didn’t belong here because surely after 9 years and the sins of high school and college, I’d get yelled at again. So I went. I told the priest about being scolded in confession as a teenager and then being told that basically I was vomit and that God didn’t want me. The priest stopped me right there and this man apologized for what the other priests had said to me. He didn’t even tell me I must have misunderstood them (as I realized on my own years later with a much wiser mind and perspective of a parent), he simply apologized to me for the hurt I felt all these years on behalf of the priests that said what they said to me. And for the first time, I thought maybe I wasn’t terrible after all! My heart was softened by that priest who I can’t even remember now. Softened enough to open up just a little bit, the rest of the weekend.

And that’s all God needed to get through to me. One little crack to let the light shine in…I eventually came to see the ladies at my table as beautiful sinners like me trying to find their way even though we were at various levels in different journeys. They said they admired me for coming to the retreat at the age I was because it meant that when I was their age, I would be far past where they are at now. That made me feel great- like I made the right choice! They didn’t look down at me for being young and a baby in my faith.. They just loved on me. I met so many women that felt like God had placed right in my path.. One of the women on the weekend worked for the doctor who had helped me get pregnant with my daughter Evie. I found so many little things in common with so many of these new mentors God gave me. It was no coincidence.

By the time my weekend was over I was blown away with a new sense of purpose. I was filled with the Holy Spirit for the first time. I lived on this cloud of happiness and I never wanted it to end. I relived everything I learned on the weekend with my husband. We sang songs about God’s love on a whim, and we prayed together now. That was totally foreign to us. But we did it. We were on this level we’d never known before and it was better than anything I can explain. We started listening to Christian music and turned away from anything that was not of God. And it was hard and took years!! We had new eyes to SEE things for what they were and we helped each other during weak times. We both joined prayer groups immediately and went to them weekly. We even gave our own personal testimonies to this new community of ours as a way of starting over and letting people know where we came from and hw God worked in our lives. (This is NOT required.) We were on fire!

Shortly after Encountering Christ retreat, my depression started to creep back in. I was crushed. I thought everything I’d experienced had been a lie- that happiness truly wasn’t meant for me. I’d experienced God one other time at a Teens Encounter Christ weekend 7 years before,  but came back to a huge rumor about myself spread around the high school. It erased the entire experience for me and the progress in my faith I’d made.

Was this instance just like the one years ago? Was it all gone? I explained how I felt to my Encountering Christ prayer group and how doomed I thought I was. One of the women, in her wisdom explained to me.. “Spring, the devil had you for so long.. he’s not going to let you go without a fight.”

That was a light bulb moment for me. She was totally right. The devil had me believing lies for so many years. I was under his thumb. I had been miserable and in bondage. Why would he just let me go without trying to pull me back down??

I had led so many astray during my faithless period before. So, I made an inner vow to do the opposite now. I was going to lead others TO Christ. It had to start in my family and with myself and my husband. I began my journey with my new evolving relationship with Christ. I took me awhile to figure it out and I’m still figuring it out. And I wouldn’t be where I am today without those women on that weekend and that movement. It was a catapult that helped me go out and send me on my journey to knowing my identity in Christ… the precious beloved daughter that I am. I can not pour out on others if I am empty. Christ is the limitless fountain.

Being a born again Christian, or a Catholic revert, was not always easy. I slipped and fell many times over the years. My husband and I have been put to the test.. and almost broken. In Encountering Christ, we were shown how to have the eyes to see Him, ears to hear Him and the grace to endure all that the evil one would throw our way. And when we were weak, God gave us community to back us up. We learned how to pray, and how to submit to God and resort to our faith which He grew and strengthened when we were put to the fire. And when we fell our prayer warriors held us up.

The nothingness I lived in before, was so much worse than the cross I picked up when I decided to follow Jesus completely. 

Matthew 16:24-26 24Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”

For more Stories or blippits check out “Spring Williams: Fumbling For Joy” on Facebook and LIKE it.

 

 

 

What to Expect:

 

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Nothing could prepare me for what was to come. Not the “What to Expect When you’re Expecting” book, not Lamaze classes, and not the wisdom of family members with children. Nothing.

This was my one **most important job in the whole wide world** and I didn’t want to screw it up. I was a rule follower in this department and did everything I was told by those I trusted most. ESPECIALLY doctors.

After the anxiety of leaving the hospital with Evie, I made sure to document everything she did and I mean everything. I had a journal I kept for her not only of her birth story and all that entailed, but also a notebook where I kept track of every feeding, diaper change, nap, and fever this little child ever encountered until 11 months old when I hesitantly stopped keeping track (and felt immense guilt too BTW). I called the doctor with every sad face she made, every sniffle, and any doubt I had in her overall health.  All the modern norms that were preached by pediatricians, I followed to a T. I took her into the doctor for everything and every “well baby checkup.” I wanted to do right by her and never take a chance that any sniffle or sign of discomfort could take her from me. I remember that sigh of relief I felt when the doctor told me I was doing everything right.

My mom and my sister would tell me I was a good mom and I took such pride in following the rule books.  My husband was proud of me and I basked in motherhood. Even through the postpartum, and the continued hormonal depression I experienced. She was my sunshine and my dream come true. I would die for that baby girl.  For all I knew she could be my only child. She was a miracle for this young girl who was told may never have kids.

Looking back after 16.5 years of being a mom… I wish I could go back to the younger me and tell her to read different books, to take the advice of her elders with a grain of salt. To follow her own intuition about her kids over anyone else. To tell her that God gave her everything she needed to be a mother and she didn’t have to check in with anyone else on that matter to seek approval. That it was okay to do what her mothering instincts told her instead of snuffing them out because of what current clinical practices were.

If I could be face to face right now, I would tell Younger Me, that the best thing she ever did was find her faith again, because she was going to need it more than she’d ever know one day and all the days throughout motherhood and marriage. That her faith would be the one thing that would hold her together during all the rips and tears, and tears of joy and pain throughout the blessed burden and gift of being a mom.

I think that’s why God gives you only the present to deal with at a time, because He knows if He was to reveal to us all that would happen from the beginning, we might not want to sign up for that! I would have been intimidated for sure if I knew all the battles we’d fight. I was not equipped for any of it. Who is?

But as I went along, the Lord grew me in ways I never knew. He strengthened my marriage, not by making it easy, but allowing trials to make it strong. Trials we didn’t appreciate at the time because we didn’t see the worth then. Love is easy when there’s not a war going on around you.  Joseph and I went through quite a bit that could have easily broken us. It wasn’t easy. Or glamorous. Sometimes we had one little strand of faith holding it all together. But the bottom line was love, and the strength was not our own. It was supernatural.

We decided early on I couldn’t go back to work and leave Evie in daycare. I just couldn’t. The thought of leaving her sent me into an emotional mess. Plus I’d barely earned more than what daycare cost, and it wasn’t worth it to us. Joseph worked 3 jobs and donated plasma so I could stay home with her. It was hard but we made it work, and that was just the beginning…

***

HINDSIGHT: What No One Tells You about Motherhood 

No one tells you that when you are in the thick of motherhood there will be times when you physically and mentally can’t handle it some days.
Or that there would be that moment you may be sitting and bawling on your kitchen floor, holding snot nosed screaming toddlers wondering if it’s always going to be this hard… That even when you’re a mama, you will at some point cry for your own mother. Especially when you are sick and there’s no one to take care of you because your husband HAS to work and you have to “mom”.
Sleep deprivation. Not showering for days because you’d rather sleep than smell presentable. “Breast milk” becomes your signature perfume. And you don’t currrr.
The whole “heart on your sleeve” thing is real. Once you create humans you cannot look at the world the same way again. You want to PROTECT with every fiber of your being, and never let the hurts you knew growing up befall onto your own children.
Tears fall like it’s your job. You are filled with so much empathy and hormones you don’t know what to do with yourself. You cry when someone lets you in the traffic line.
Loneliness. No one will tell you about the loneliness that comes with motherhood at times. How in the beginning it always feels like nighttime because you’re up most of the nights with babies, toddlers… and that you don’t have time for friendships like you wish you did because your husband can’t nurse the baby when you’re gone and baby hates bottles because they aren’t YOU.
No one tells you what to do when the money runs out and all you have left is your vows and you’re hoping that love will still hold it all together…like the Matt Maher song.
No one tells you that even if you follow all the rules and did everything you were supposed to, the unspeakable could happen. To your child.
No one tells you that couples don’t grieve the same way. Or how to protect your kids’ hearts when a tragedy occurs and your own heart is aching so bad to can hardly see.
Or just when you think you have it figured out, WHAM you’d get a lesson in humility from one of your kids. You have finally mastered your OWN mouth and actions(sometimes) and now you have to help your child to master themselves. Repeat: often.
No one tells you that your children’s heartaches become your own or that you will feel twice the amount of pain, from your empathy for them, and also the pain of a mama bear whose child is hurting.
No one tells you that to be a mother is to master 17 things at once most of which are heavy and complicated and emotional. Then add-on sports and activities and all the other superficial stuff to your plate that doesn’t even matter.
No one tells you that your children’s friends become like your own children. That not only do you worry about your own kids, but you worry about their friends too, and so you have long chats with all of them in the van on the way to dances and sports and Target because you care about them and want to impart your life lessons.
No one tells you how hard it is to raise kids on the narrow path this day and age and that they  might will suffer for being in that minority and somehow to you have convince them it will all be worth it one day.
No one tells you how bad you are going to need a posse of strong lady friends in your corner as these years go by for comic relief and support that only other women can understand or offer… and how desperately you need your friends to know you and claim you.
No one tells you just how imperfect you will actually be as a mother, and how bad the disappointment is when you can’t do it all on your own and the sting of being reminded of your humanity, as you learn humility over and over again. But then you look UP and remember..


When Evie was about 13 months old I told Joseph we needed to find our faith again. There was this strong nudge in my heart, beating out of this fierce protection I had for our daughter and I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I KNEW that she was my blood and I had a foreshadowing. What if she felt the way I did growing up?  I didn’t want her to experience the pain that I felt. I heard my father’s voice saying to me so many times: “Spring, you are good because God doesn’t make junk..” How could I teach my daughter to believe that if I didn’t believe it myself yet?

Joseph said to me: “I agree with you, we do need to start going back to church.” And I said: “I need more than just going back to church… I need to be resuscitated.”

Little did I know then, that was God calling me home.  He knew I was going to need Him through our journey and I realized years later, this was His way of equipping me for what was to come. I would be needing Him more than ever.

The first victory needed to happen within my own heart allowing God in.  Jesus was beckoning to me. He came to me through the love I had for my daughter which made me desire His love for her.  Discovering that, I realized in order to show her His love, I needed to accept His love for me.  I wanted it more than anything.

 

Once Upon My Very 1st Mother’s Day

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When I was 22 years old, one year after I was married, and one month after talking a pill that made my body ovulate like it should, I found out I was pregnant with my first child.

I remember the disbelief I felt as I read the pregnancy test. Joseph was at work on a Saturday, framing houses. I couldn’t wait until after work to tell him the news so I decided to drive to the job site and tell him in person. I was so shaky with excitement that I actually tripped down my front stairs on the way to my car. I laughed picking myself up and looked around quick to make sure no one had seen me biff it, and off I hopped into my car. I drove over to his job site and got out walking to where he was standing. He must have seen the look on my face because his smile spread out big and he said, “What’s going on?” I told him that he was going to be a daddy and he said, “Oh my gosh, no way!! That’s so great babe!! I told you everything would be fine!!” He gave me a huge hug and I just jumped into his arms. If he stands up straight, he lifts me off the ground, and he did. When he set me down he gave me a kiss and patted my belly. I beamed with pride and joy. I could not believe I was going to be a mom!!! I waited all my life for this…

Part of my first trimester of pregnancy was spent on bed rest with cramping. I was on progesterone shots and had to drink so much water every day. I was considered high risk because of the contractions and I was scared that I was going to lose my baby.

Joseph already told me he knew we were only going to have boys because in the last 80 years of Williams’ history, there was only one girl. So I prepared myself for my baby being a boy and accepted I’d probably never have a girl. It didn’t matter. I was happy with whoever!

My parents took us to a furniture store and bought us nursery furniture even though the fear of losing my baby loomed over me. I felt like it was too good to be true. But we now had the nursery furniture and my mother was going to make all my blankets and sheets for the baby. My nursery theme was moon and stars in BLUE and we bought a blue car seat.

When May 13th 2001 rolled around, I was all of about 3 months pregnant. I was finally off bed rest and it was Mother’s day. Knowing how thoughtful my husband was, and all we had gone through to get pregnant and trying to STAY pregnant, I just knew that my first Mother’s Day was going to be special. It seemed perfectly acceptable for us to celebrate because I was with child. I was a mother. Joseph was no dummy.

That morning I woke up preparing myself for the surprise of flowers and a card- ya know, something to celebrate… and after a while of not seeing anything special I asked my husband… “Did you forget something..” And he was like…”Huh?” And I stared at him blankly. “It’s Mother’s Day. Are you just playing with me?” And my thoughtful husband said… “But… you’re… not… a mommmmm yet….” And by this point I was utterly confused. “What are you talking about? We have a baby don’t we? Just because it’s not born yet doesn’t mean I’m not…a mom.” Me: Blinking… disbelief…confusion…more blinking and staring. Joseph: Deer in the headlights look. “I mean…” He stuttered. My face fell. “You’ve got to be kidding me!” I was crushed. Here I thought he was just joking and he would pull out a card and say just kidding. But he didn’t. I turned around devastated and  walked to the bathroom shutting the door loudly and got in the shower so I could cry. Oh I was so hurt. I thought for sure he would know how important this day was. I was told I may never have children and yet, here I was, finally pregnant and then was on bed rest for a month and… we could have lost the baby.. and he didn’t think it would be a good idea to celebrate Mother’s Day? What? Oh I cried. I was so upset. And then just when I thought I was done showering and was going to get out I thought… No. I’m not done being sad yet. So I stayed in an extra 5 minutes sulking.

I finally got out of the shower after 20 minutes. I went into our room and got dressed and brushed my hair which took 5 minutes tops. When I came out of the bedroom to talk to my husband I found him sitting in the living room where he was before, with flowers and a card. I was shocked. “What is this??! I thought you forgot…” And he said, “Spring, you know better than that! I had it all along but you got out of bed so quick this morning I didn’t have a chance to get the card and present out of my hiding spot yet. I can’t let you see my hiding spot! You almost ruined my surprise!” My heart swelled! “I really thought you forgot, Baby!” Now I was crying happy tears and hugging him. What a great guy I married!  He looked at me and said “No. I don’t forget. You are very important to me. This is your first Mother’s Day with our little Peanut.” I was elated.

It was the happiest Mother’s Day for me to date. Each year after that I always woke up to flowers and a card in which he told me how grateful he was for me and all that mush. He never revealed where he hid the presents, but as the years unfolded, I realized his hiding spot was the neighborhood grocery store.

That very first Mother’s Day; seeing my great disappointment in not getting an acknowledgement for “our little bun in my oven”, he took the opportunity to leave the house while I was in the shower, drive the car like he stole it to the nearest grocery store which was a good 8 minutes away- buy flowers and a meaningful card, drive back home in mock speed, and sitting on the couch at the exact moment (with signed card equipped with all the sentimentality I loved) when I walked out of our bedroom.

Five days before I turned 23, we welcomed my birthday present, a little girl, Evie Spring Williams. Her daddy cried when she was born. We took her home in her blue car seat. The rest of my Mother’s Days after that, were a blur.

Feel free to follow my Spring Williams: Fumbling for Joy
Facebook page for videos and other snippits.

Singing with my Girl

 

Jack of All Trades

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You know some time has passed on your blog when you *almost* forget your password to log in. That’s not saying much for this scatterbrain who makes up super creative passwords for everything and then misplaces the papers she wrote the passwords on.

I love nothing more than sharing about my family. They are my pride and joy which is why I have to learn the art of prioritizing. I am a work in progress when it comes to ALL THE THINGS vying for my attention and for what NEEDS to get done vs: what I WANT to get done.

Writing is like painting. You can’t just paint a masterpiece when you aren’t inspired and you can’t write anything of quality when you’re not feeling it. (Or in my case super crunched for time, without an extra second left over for forming meaningful words other than “Stop wiping peanut butter all over your school clothes!”.)  My present reality is that my sweet husband is co-coaching my son’s baseball team and that leaves me to get the other 4 kids to their one activity that meets multiple times a week and remember to do laundry. Oh and throw food at them so they stay alive. I am failing at laundry but my kids are thriving which reminds me I need to make a Costco trip.

One day a couple of weeks ago, I finally made time and spent half my day cleaning bathrooms. I’m pretty sure we are the minority in our neighborhood, without a cleaning lady. We are also in the minority with 6 kids! I like to remind myself whilst I am bending over toilets that “I am saving $80 bucks a week doing this myself”. Why aren’t my kids cleaning toilets you ask… well they are.. They are supposed to be cleaning their rooms too, and helping out each day in whatever way I deem necessary at the time. And they do. They actually have to do a chore to earn a privilege and they have their set chores for the day along with homework. The shelf life for a clean and organized home around here is about 1 day. It is a pipe dream of mine to have the whole house clean at the same time– while we all live here in peace and harmony and in perfect organization. Ha! Until then, I got this ‘bathroom spin scrubber thingy’ that cleans at the push of a button and it’s almost like heaven.

I just recently purged closets and took out clothes too small and replaced with “new” grow intos. Organizing gives me great joy and then my kids swoop in and ruin it. While my closets are super clean right now, the rest of the house looks like a hurricane hit. Welcome to my world.

Throughout my marriage I have had little jobs here and there to bring in extra money. If I worked full-time, we’d have to hire a cleaning lady, a chauffeur, and a nanny. I would basically be paying someone else to “be me” and the money I earned would not exist anymore. It would be a wash. So like a  Proverbs 31 Woman I have learned to be creative and thrifty and frugal with my family’s resources and it’s a bonus when I bring in a little extra cash sometimes. It usually goes straight to groceries because teenagers eat like horses.

I have sold hundreds of paintings over 10 years, taught art lessons, hosted art and wine parties, worked a couple of MLM companies here and there (not my thing), ran a drop in day care, and currently I decorate people’s homes on the side.  Each skill set I acquired since being a wife and mom, was during a time of great difficulty. The trying times gave birth to new growth. My little odd jobs started amidst birthing babies, taking care of a chronically ill child, raising 6 kids, homeschooling (lets just say I tried) and taking care of sick parents while volunteering through various healing ministries in the church. What you learn along the way builds upon itself and can then help in even more areas. Sometimes I just thought I was in survival mode, yet I was being trained.

My first priority is my family. I want to be here when the kids get home from school. I want to take them TO school and talk in a funny British accent and hold whoever’s hand is in shotgun that day. I want to pray with them each morning and night. I also want to date my husband! I want to remember his eye color and hold his hand. It all started with us and we need to keep our relationship strong. And to keep that a priority, I need to fill up from the fount of Living Water. I need my Jesus, so I can pour out over my family. I can’t give if I have an empty cup.

Raising a large family ain’t no joke. Every mom wears multiple hats and our hats look a lot different depending on our certain circumstances. We do what we have to do and then some. God gives each of us talents and the ability to grow our skill set over time. For example, I never knew I’d teach myself how to cut my family’s hair, (that’s $20 a head, I’m saving just for the boys!) or that I had a built-in “mom ‘o’ meter” and that I could predict my kids exact fever temperature just by feeling their heads with my lips. I didn’t know I was capable of so much as a mama. Some things I had to unlearn and then re-learn a different way, so that I could better help my family! I didn’t know I had the courage. But God did. He gave it to me. “God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.”

We are ALL capable of so much. What are you interested in? How can you use that to benefit your family or help others?  God has blessed each of us like no other. What inspires you to grow? How can you use that inspiration to take care of your people? The world needs you.

For me, I’m schooled in art. I write and sing, but I also love learning about neuroscience and the immune system. I’m fascinated about the forgotten history of medicine and I’m continually learning about it. I totally love DIY projects, and decorating.  I’ve learned how to use homeopathy, and the healing properties of whole foods and herbs. Refurbishing furniture! I am passionate about deliverance ministry and healing.  I make my own cleaning products and lotions.  I mean, the randomness!!

God doesn’t make mistakes. I once said to God, “Hey God, I’m sorry I’m the jack of all trades. I’m sorry I didn’t just pick one thing and become the master of that. I’m sorry I am all over the place.” And as I sat there in the quiet of my church, I heard the Lord say into my heart: “Do you think I made you this way by mistake? I made you this way on purpose, and all of those things will be used for my GLORY!” I don’t know if I could adequately put into words how amazing that was to hear! What a relief to be free from the lie that I was somehow a failure because I was interested in SO many things and couldn’t just pick one.. that God put those things on my heart for a greater purpose.

So in the busy-ness of your life.. in all the ways you are learning and growing, trust in God’s perfect timing. He is equipping you for more than you know. He will call you when He’s ready for you to use those skills. You don’t have to force it. Keep doing what you love. Make your family a priority along with your faith. God will prompt you and He will put a fire in your heart to use those gifts when you’re called.

 

 

The Letter

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That first year of marriage was a blur. We were sort of in a “first year daze” consumed by each other. We didn’t go out much and were hardly without one another; attached at the hip. We took a camping trip a few months into our new marriage and went skiing in Colorado where Joe showed me where he used to cut down trees on the mountain and made snow. Give me my man and give me Colorado. I was a simple girl; easy to please.

In the summer I joined an all male rock band and wrote the lyrics to all their songs per their request. (Think LONG 15 min songs with no chorus, no repetition whatsoever. It was difficult!) This was quite a feat for me since I was still petrified by singing in front of people, let alone coming up with lyrics for such difficult songs that were more like jam sessions. When the bass player and drummer saw that the lead guitarist and I bonded well and wrote songs together, the rest of the band fired me while he wasn’t looking, stating that their band mate only wanted me around for his ulterior motives, which I knew to be a lie.
The lead guitarist (Jon) and I would get together to play his slower songs that I matched with my poetry. These songs didn’t have long drum or bass solos that the others felt were so important.. Jon would have liked to have had more story telling music in the band but he was out numbered. Ego’s flared. The guys didn’t want him to change their vibe they had created over the years. Even though that vibe prevented them from ever having a lead singer.
One time Jon asked me to put my voice to the song he had written for his daughter. It was a beautiful song he had written to the child he would never meet. He asked her what her name was and that he was sorry for what happened to her and that he was to blame. It had been years but the guilt was still there for him. He had accompanied her mother to the abortion clinic where her life was ended. And I sang his story about her.
Although I was “no longer in the band” Jon and I met seperately at my house, with my husband laying on the floor usually falling asleep, and played music together. That eventually phased out and nothing came of it. I was pretty deflated.

For my birthday a couple of months later Joseph gave me a guitar. He knew I didn’t think I was coordinated enough to sing and play at the same time. Seeing my confusion he said, “Babe, I bought the guitar for me so that I could learn to play for you. You write the songs and I’ll be your guitarist.” I pretty much felt like the luckiest woman in the world. Joseph worked 2 jobs and the reality of the situation was, self taught, he learned how to play: “Michael Row your Boat Ashore” and then it was no more. The gesture was never forgotten.  And if we had more time to devote to it, maybe he would’ve taken serious lessons. But alas, we lived in the real world, both of us working. To date, that was my favorite present of all time.

We eventually moved into a rental house within the year after we got married. We thought we were so liberated moving out of apartment life to this dated 70’s house barely bigger than our apartment. But alas we had a garage for Joe’s mowing business and all his tools. The landlord “let us” strip the wallpaper and paint the inside. My appeal was telling him we’d raise the value of the house by doing that and he agreed- also not raising our rent later becasue of the “renovations”. I had a little art studio in a tiny corner in the basement. The house was enough.

I had been off my antidepressants since the wedding because we knew if I was to get pregnant it wouldn’t be good for the baby. I did pretty well depression wise that first year, although I did notice some issues around “my lady” times, which I’d always been told was normal.

I was in the thick of Natural Family Planning which helped us to identify within that first year that I had hormonal infertility issues.
NFP is the process of learning your fertility signs and using avoidance to not get pregnant but also learning to identify when you ovulate to achieve a pregnancy when you wanted. Being newly weds and ideally wanting to abstain from children for at least a couple of years, we failed following the rules. Meaning: we never avoided or used abstinence during fertile times. Zero self control, but we knew that and didn’t mind. Yet we didn’t get pregnant… My charting was a red flag that I had underlying issues. Thank God we used NFP! After major hormone fluctuations noted by numerous blood draws and an ultrasound, we found out that I had PCOS. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome which, in a nutshell means you do not ovulate, or the egg released cannot get past the ovary. Birth control pills is the norm for this treatment but it doesn’t fix the actual problem. We are problem solvers and wanted to get to the bottom of it.

I was blessed to be a patient at a prominent fertility care center… I remember the day that my OBGYN doctor told me that there was a chance I may not get pregnant. He asked how many children I wanted and I said maybe 5? (Even though Joe thought 3 was a good number- haha) And he said: “You have youth on your side. It could take you 4 years to pregnant with this condition. Or if you are lucky 4 months. But you’re 22, you have time.”  I knew it was time to talk to my husband about our baby timeline.

I tried to talk Joseph into adoption because I was certain my fate was infertility- this was probably the “bad thing” looming over me that I had always felt in my gut. But he said “Babe, lets just try the drug they suggested for a year and go from there. If it doesn’t work after a year, we can cross that bridge when we get there.” He was on board, almost as giddy as I was to actually try for a baby. This was go time. It was exciting and terrifying. What if it didn’t work? What if it did? Were we ready? I knew my heart was ready…

During this same time I recall speaking to a friend of mine who was single. She thought she may be pregnant and if she was, she was going to abort her baby. It was such an extreme opposite of what I was going through. I felt pretty alone in my plight. I was sort of the anomaly in my circles. I got married at 21 and was ready to be a wife and hopefully a mother soon. I’d been waiting my whole life to grow up. All my siblings were years older than me and I spent most of my childhood watching them adult. I couldn’t wrap my head around how desperately I wanted to be a mom and how heartbreaking it was that one of my friends, was considering ending her baby’s life because it was inconvenient for her at the time… I was heart-sick. I would have adopted her baby. Thank God it ended up being a false alarm, but it stuck with me how incredibility different we both were and that I couldn’t relate to her anymore.

Here I was married to the love of my life and now I was told my body didn’t work and I may never have children. I was scheduled to start a drug that could help me ovulate while also taking natural progesterone shots to keep my hormones balanced. If this didn’t work, surgery was next. Slicing wedges into my ovaries? Don’t quote me, I can’t remember. Then options of more invasive surgeries to make my body work properly; to make it presentable for a baby to live there.

I remember some late nights when I’d pour my heart out to Joseph about what kind of mom I wanted to be. I had like 21 Cabbage Patch Kid dolls growing up. I loved my “babies” and always knew I wanted to have gobs of my own one day. I took impecable care of those dolls!  I once gave Joseph an hour-long foot massage (best wife ever) just talking and painting a metaphorical picture of this life I wanted for us and what it would be like. We talked a lot about our own childhoods; what we liked and what we’d do differently. We talked about our marriage and how we’d always want to stay close to each other and put one another first.

Like, who was I, that God would even answer my prayers if I should so choose to beg him with every fiber of my being for children? Joseph and I hadn’t stepped foot into a church since we were married. I surely didn’t deserve a wonderful gift of a child. But I decided to put it out there. In an actual handwritten letter…. to God.

Here’s the gist…

I lamented to God my desires for a child. I felt he was the only one I could cry out to. I didn’t want to bother my mother for fear of worrying her. I envied how easy it was for some women to get pregnant. I felt like a failure that I may never give my husband a baby. I felt so exhausted. I asked God how I could grow closer to him? I asked “do I just let all my doubt fade away and just believe no matter what?” Even though I felt like I was just trying to fool myself? Joseph always said he has enough faith for the both of us, but I still didn’t think that was enough. I needed faith of my own. He couldn’t be my 24 hour reassurance man. Because that’s how often I thought I needed reassurance. I felt like I was fooling myself every time I dreamt about what our children would be like. Why did I feel like it was impossible to conceive? I’d been ready for this my whole life. I would be a natural. Motherhood was my thing.  Super simple. Not overly poignant. It was my way of giving  over control.

**….And I left it at that. I put the letter away somewhere and didn’t remember I wrote it until I found it 10 years later. We had moved at least 3 times during that period and I found the folded letter in a box of art supplies and bawled my eyes out when I saw the date.**

After producing that tiny mustard seed of faith (like, half a mustard seed), I got pregnant a couple of weeks later, (the same month I wrote the letter) with my first child.

The second time in my life I reached out to God, with all I had (which wasn’t much),  He delivered. Again. First with Joseph, and then with my first-born child.