I Wish I Hadn’t Kissed Dating Goodbye

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I recently read an article about an interview with Josh Harris, author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye and other similar books. He somewhat apologized for his part in the harmful Purity Movement of the 90’s. Good for him, because honestly, that book messed me up, along with so many others. Obviously, he was only one small part of a movement that, while maybe started with good intentions, was very damaging to many young people. But, for me, his first book was the only one on the subject that I read cover to cover and was used heavily in my youth group to inform our ways of thinking on dating/courting/relationships.

My take away from the book was that “courting” was a purposeful form of dating/being in a relationship and that sounds okay enough. But the implementation was incredibly flawed. I was never outgoing enough to want to go on a lot of dates, but there were times that I turned down offers solely for fear that it would fall into the dating category. And wouldn’t that be horrible of me to want to go out with these boys if I hadn’t thought long and hard about their marriage potential? What would people think? What would my future husband think when I told him that I had been out to the movies with a boy and his friends and I never considered marriage with him?! Oi. (Thankfully, my real life husband really would not care. He would actually probably laugh at who it was.)

To see how this all informed my relationships, let’s talk about my first real boyfriend. I was 17 (yeah, 17), he was 21. But it was okay, because he was on the worship team, then the worship leader and he heard from God that I was his future wife. (yeah, I know.) And because I was the good little naive Christian girl, I thought, who knows, maybe he did…I can get to know him and it could be great. So I start dating?courting?deceiving myself? with this guy that I have just met. But hey, it was super cute how we met; he heard me sing an interesting note and stopped playing to exclaim, “what in the world was that?!” cause he hated it so much. Ah, love at first insult. The relationship was full of over the top romantic gestures, saying “I love you” way too early, pouting and calling me a tease when I would only kiss him on the mouth. One time he told me that he was it for me, the only one that I was meant to be with and if I left him that I would probably never get married.

One gem of a memory is when we were met my best friend and her boyfriend at the movies. (I’ll gloss over the fact that I married that guy 3 years later.) My boyfriend shows up with his hair matted down with the most severe part ever. I tried not to make a face and playfully messed it up, cause lord, no. Apparently it had been a test because I was wearing my hair in a ponytail and he had a told me before that he didn’t like the way that looked, yet I still wore it that way. … So, that started the night off on a great note. And it only got better as he was sad and offended that I pushed his hand away from my crotch as we were watching the movie in the crowded theater, sitting beside my friend. And then to cap it off, he wouldn’t get out of the car at the bowling alley afterwards because I would not take down my ponytail for him. I was so embarrassed at the thought of him leaving in front of my friend and her boyfriend that I went to the bathroom and took my ponytail down and tried to salvage the weird bump that a high ponytail makes. But, even after all that, I thought we were supposed to stay together. Surely it would get better, right? And how could I tell anyone what was really going on? That would out me and the worship leader. We weren’t even “supposed” to sit too close for crying out loud. Thankfully, he moved away for college and I realized that I was so much happier being single than dealing with the day to day mess and long distance. Unfortunately, the damage done in that relationship would stay with me for a long time.

You can’t talk about the Purity Movement without talking about the purity contracts. You get teens all hopped up and emotional and have them sign a contract to stay abstinent, but if you’re really in love with Jesus, you have them sign and say they won’t date. And if you really want to drive the point home, you don’t let them continue to be on the worship team unless they agree. Well, I signed that contract, my new boyfriend did not. Ha. My genuine thought process was that I had no intention of casually dating as I was in a serious relationship with my now husband. But, somehow I was in the wrong, I was given a good amount of side eye. I signed a paper and now I was supposed to break up with my boyfriend. This is where I really got lost. I was in a genuine relationship with someone I had been friends with for 4 years (and had a crush on for that entire time) and somehow I was doing something wrong, unholy, shameful. Did I mention I was nearly 19 years old at this point? All this did was make me feel like there was something inherently wrong with me, my thought process, my feelings and wanting to be with someone who actually treated me well. This pushed us into sneaking around to see each other. The sneaking around was fun and “dangerous” and that led us to sneaking around to make out and so on and so on. I never felt more shame heaped upon me than when I was trying to get to know the boy that I had wanted to get to know since I met him at 14 years old. Those first years together were laced with shame and hiding when they could have been accepted and celebrated and kept in the open. But for so many, that is what the purity movement did. It damaged and darkened what could have been healthy relationships and interactions with the opposite sex. It was coercion, shaming and legalism. Honestly, I was fine waiting until marriage. Why in the world wasn’t that enough?

But, here I am 17 years after the start of that first abusive relationship, more happy with my marriage than I ever thought possible. Happier than I was told I would be for the fooling around I did before I was married. But I would be lying if I said I don’t still regularly fight the deeply ingrained shame and condemnation from issues ranging from sex, not reading the Bible enough, and more. I fully believe in boundaries and healthy relationships. I desperately want to raise my sons to respect others in every type of relationship. And when they start showing interest in dating, I hope and pray that Justin and I will have laid a strong enough foundation of respect and a strong sense of boundaries. So they will be able to have healthy interactions with others, that they won’t be embarrassed or feel guilty for having a crush on someone.

As an aside, I did not write this to shame my ex or to talk badly about Josh Harris. In that article I mentioned, a man expressed the shame that never goes away, even to this day, when he is intimate with his wife, it is so deep within him. I wrote this because it is part of my story and it is something that I learned to overcome. There is hope and acceptance, grace and love, even if we weren’t always taught that when we were younger.

Dillon’s story

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Well, Dillon is almost 2, so I thought I would finish typing out his birth story! My first two sons were c-sections, unplanned and planned, respectively. As I wrote about before here, it was not the way I wanted, or even necessarily needed to go.

Fast forward to November 2013, I find out I’m pregnant. I’ve read a lot more, I feel a lot more informed and I’m determined to at least be given the chance to let my body just do its thing. Enter OBGYN North in Austin, TX, oh my goodness, I love love love all of the Doctors, midwives, nurses, all of the staff there. So lovely, so encouraging. They do VBA2C on a case by case basis. I knew it would be a long shot, but I just wanted a chance. And they were with me and for me the whole way. I made sure I didn’t gain too much weight, I took the supplements, drank the teas, learned more, kept telling myself I could do it, did all I could in my power to ensure a successful VBA2C. With only one small issue of high blood pressure around 37 weeks, things were looking good.

I went in for a check up at 40 weeks, 4 days to see that things were looking good to go, ya know, at some point.🙂 She swept my membranes to try to get things going and bless the Lord, it worked. I woke up at some point in the middle of the night with a sharp pain and went back to sleep, not thinking anything of it. Around 7am, I woke with the boys and felt the same pain. It was so low, short and stabbing, I honestly thought it was gas for a minute! When the next few came the same way, lasting about 30 seconds, I had that “OMG, wait, these are contractions!” moment, immediately followed by the “Sweet Jesus, am I actually about to do this?!” moment. My water broke slowly over the course of the morning, so for a few minutes I didn’t even realize that’s what it actually was.

I had Justin take the boys to Home Depot for the kids building workshop cause contractions were about 10 minutes apart, lasting about 30-40 seconds with short little ones in between. I took the time to pack my bag, finally, fix my hair and try to ignore them for a little while. Around 1230, I called the Dr for the second time, told her that my water had broken & contractions were 7 min apart, lasting 40-60 seconds. (Attempting a VBA2C, they wanted me to call in earlier than you normally would.) She told me not to rush, but I needed to get my stuff together and make my way to the hospital. By 330pm we had finally gotten the boys squared away and I was all checked in and settled. I had to be hooked up to the monitors, but was still able to move around freely, I even snacked and drank. Very different from my first birth experience of lying on my side and being fussed at when I got up to go to the bathroom. Dr. Sebastyn told me to put the exercise ball to the side and just sit and watch tv for a bit since we were probably looking at things picking up around 10pm or so, based on my contractions. She didn’t want to check me since my water had already broken, for fear of infection. So I watched tv until it annoyed me. I think I turned it off and slammed the remote down, poor remote, it wasn’t its fault I was having strong contractions! I thought I would listen to some music. After one song from the mix I made, Bloodstream by Stateless, I just had to get up and walk around. As soon as I did, I knew we were getting close.

The pain intensified and I couldn’t stand up straight during the contractions. It was right before 7pm and I wasn’t sure I could take this pain for 3 more hours and then go through delivery. Epidural was an option that I wasn’t sure I was going to go with, since their side effects mimic symptoms of uterine rupture, which is a serious risk with a VBAC. They will stop and perform and emergency c-section if it looks like your uterus is in distress. The option was on the table, though, if I needed it. When I asked the Nurse to get Dr. Sebastyn to check me, I could hear in her voice that she thought I was asking too early. But, she got her and I was 9cm and 85% effaced! That poor Nurse started prepping the room so fast!

By 805, the pushing was underway! I had my eyes closed for probably 95% of the delivery, it was calming and definitely helped me focus. I switched positions and few times and was given oxygen to help breathe more effectively. Somewhere close to 10pm, Dr. Sebastyn was out of the room and the Nurse told me to stop pushing because the last two times I did, Dill’s heart rate dropped some. Side note, not pushing through a contraction hurts WAY worse than pushing through it. When they told Dr. Sebastyn, she started talking to us about vacuums and such, which honestly scare me due to a friend losing her son due in large part to misuse of a vacuum. Justin told her as much and she assured us that they use them safely and sparingly. She checked me before making the call and when she did, she excitedly told us that we would not need any interventions and he was going to be here in the next few minutes! Those last pushes were rough and the last two? Sweet. Lord. Ow. But, when he made his debut at 1010pm, all was right with the world. He was 8lbs. 5oz, 21 1/2in and perfectly adorable and snuggled up to me without even crying. He gave them the cutest little cry, so they would know everything was right with his lungs and he just snuggled, stared and nursed for the next hour or so while the Nurses and Dr. Sebastyn gave me hugs and high fives for a natural delivery after two c-sections. I knew that it could have ended in a c-section and if it did, that was fine. I don’t feel like superwoman or anything, I was just determined to let my body decide which way to deliver Dillon. So, hey, if you’ve had a c-section, but feel like you can try for a VBAC, talk to your Doctor or midwife about how to increase your chances. It’s definitely possible and I’m so thankful for the encouraging staff at OBGYN North and Seton Northwest Hospital for getting me there!

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12pm, between contractions

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Some 10hrs later, holding Daddy’s finger

A few thoughts on a pushy Doctor and my C-Sections

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It’s Caesarean Awareness month! So before I (finally) finish Dillon’s birth story, I thought I would write a few words about my first two births. Seven years ago I had a spectacularly uneventful and healthy pregnancy with Boston. Aside from having to retake the glucose test, everything was great. Unfortunately I had a very good, but very assertive doctor and I did not take the time to educate myself enough on childbirth. Those two things combined are why, I believe, Boston ended up being a C-Section baby. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am proud of my pregnancies and births. C-Section, epidurals, natural, however that baby get safely into this world is amazing. What I don’t love is the fact that I felt pushed into decisions I regretted. I was induced 5 days early for no real reason, I was pressured to have the epidural immediately after they broke my water, I was made to lie on my side and not move for the entire day. None of these things encourage labor along at all. (But I didn’t know that that at the time.) I was loaded with pitocin and bedridden for about 10 hours before I was told it was time to push. I pushed for a few minutes before the Dr decided Boston just wasn’t coming. The nurse let me push while they got the OR ready and within the hour Boston was born via C-Section. It all happened so fast, even though there was no emergency. Looking back, its all very strange. When I could finally stop shaking and hold Boston, he immediately wanted to nurse and everything was right with the world.

I will admit that at times I have wondered if I my body just wasn’t up to the challenge and felt shame over the experience. Especially since Gage was born 19 months later via scheduled c-section because they didn’t entertain the idea of VBAC before 2 years. I thought that was just the way it was, so I didn’t look around and see if anyone would consider it. But at some point I decided I am not going to feel guilty over housing, nurturing and birthing 2 awesome little boys, just because it didn’t go the way I planned it.

Those experiences did help me plan better this last time around with Dillon. With learning more and finding a great practice in North Austin, the whole Doctor experience was a much more pleasant one. (I won’t get in to that now though, that’s part of Dillon’s story!)

Listen to your doctors, nurses, midwives, but don’t forget to listen to your body and let it do its thing. Pregnancy and birth are so beautiful. No matter how your child makes their debut.

Haiti 2.0

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I returned from Haiti late Saturday evening and am still “recovering” from the trip. “Re-entry” is a funny thing, though I’m glad to be home in lovely Austin with my family, I ache to be in Haiti with the other side of my family as well. It’s more than a mission trip or learning journey now. It’s going home, seeing family, seeing how the kids have grown and changed, catching up on the past year’s events. Water to my soul.

We arrived Saturday afternoon after delays and barely catching flights. Brennon (who had been in Africa directly beforehand) & Dario (HELP staff in Haiti) met us at the airport to take us up the mountain to Pastor Jean Alix’s. The change in the airport alone is ridiculous. Last year we rode from the plane to the airport in a stuffy bus and went through a small, chaotic baggage claim/customs area. This year we walked from plane to customs in a nice air conditioned airport. Not nearly as chaotic as last year getting to the bus outside but there are still the guys that clamor to carry your bag to your transportation for a tip. We noticed on the trip up how so much more rebuilding has taken place as well. Amazing.

Our next day started bright and early with a church service at Yaveh Shamma. In the 4 walls of an actual church on the grounds! We walked in and I was in awe of all of the construction going on. Construction from The Legacy Project that raised funds for a proper school in place of tents is in full swing! We walked into the service and were able to sing along a bit while I tried to dry the tears. Some of the kids noticed us and kept peeking at as during the service while we marveled at how much they had grown. Right after, they started making their way over. Beautiful Kettlie remembered me immediately and came to give hugs. I didn’t see him coming, but I looked down and there was my Anchelo, pushing his way to me. Little love pushed his way through and jumped in my arms and gave me what might be the best hug of my life to date. He held on and I tried not to weep uncontrollably. (Sort of succeeded.) He ran off and made his rounds after that. I already loved this boys before that day, but goodness, if he didn’t enlarge & permanently seal his spot in my heart right then. My heart hurts a little writing about him and not being able to sit and play with him.

If this post had a moral to it and wasn’t just me rambling of my love for Haiti & the partnership of Help One Now, I think it’s this: Sponsor a child through Help One Now. (Not even mentioning James 1:27.) Even if you never get to meet them, even if you only ever get to send money & the occasional letter & photos. You will help change a life, a community, a future. You will have someone in another country that loves you and thanks God for you, someone who pours over your letters & photographs & passes them around for their friends to see. And if you do get to meet them, maybe you’ll get a hug that will threaten to bring you to your knees & they’ll hold your hand and cherish the time you have together. It’s beautiful and amazing to be part of someone’s life that’s so far away.

These pictures are from Monday when he got a good running start to jump to me all over again. Love that Andrea was right there to capture it.

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I’m going back to Haiti!!!

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Last year I went to Haiti on a mission trip learning journey/pilgrimage with New City and Help One Now. I was on board the first day I heard Jacob mention the trip to Haiti. I was excited to get out of the country and get more involved with Help One Now. I didn’t know what to expect and when I arrived I wanted to say “Hola” to everyone I saw. I’ve only ever been to Spanish-speaking countries before so I was even more out of my element than normal. This was a good thing, it allowed me to hang back and observe some, figure things out a little, before jumping in thinking I’ve got it.

We covered a lot while in Haiti…Finish reading here

I apparently only blog regularly when I am out of the country, so I will be posting what we are up to here!

Want to help me get there?

If you would like to make the check out to me, I have a friend that is able to match the funds dollar for dollar! Comment or find me here and I’ll send you my address! You can also give directly through PayPal here. (PayPal will take 2.9% + $0.30 of the donation.) Or you can also make out checks to HELP and send them to: PO Box 26716, Raleigh, NC 27611.

Want to go with me? Check out the info here!

Come Alive – A Giveaway!

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Today was a great day. Our Advent activity of the day was to take breakfast to everyone at ReWork. Then my beautiful friend, Julia, took the boys to lunch while I got my haircut. I also received a free copy of Wrecked by Jeff Goins. Then I get on FB and see that my friend, Elora, post that her adoption is funded!!! To end the night the boys picked out a rabbit, ducks and chickens to give through World Vision. Then I remembered to return all of the books and dvd’s to the library on time. {Hallelujah}

So here I am in a great mood about to sit down and get back into reading Elora’s book, Come Alive, and it just feels right to give it away for someone else to enjoy as well. In all honesty, I am only a wee bit into it myself, but I love it already. A little description of it from Amazon: “Stephanie believes in stories. But even though she puts pen to paper daily and creates stories of change and hope, she fails to see the possibilities within her own life. Abused, alone and invisible to those around her, she struggles with self-worth and believing in another world – one of love and safety and healing. There are those in her life who believe in redemption and new beginnings, but can Stephanie trust them when all she’s ever known is betrayal? She wants to – her heart says it’s safe – but she struggles with believing the lies thrown at her day after day by others who should be protecting her. This is her story – all of it – the chaos and beauty caused by the wrecking ball of her family and the fight for rescue. All she needs is someone to listen. Will you be one who hears? It just may change your world.”

So, if you are interested, I would love to give you a Kindle edition copy. Leave a comment below and I’ll randomly pick someone Wednesday at noon! I have a tiny baby following here, so the odds will be quite good!

 

UPDATE!

Congratulations to Danielle! She’s our lucky winner! I’ll be contacting you shortly.🙂

It’s Generous Tuesday!

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Two highway exits from home Thanksgiving night and we see the long line of cars snaking around to get into the parking lots of the shopping center. Justin and I have a short discussion about the most we’ve ever spent on Christmas. I inwardly pondered when I stopped caring whether I received presents or not. For the past few years I remember telling Justin that I don’t care if he doesn’t get me anything for Christmas, birthdays, etc. 98% of the time he doesn’t listen to me. He loves to give me things and I appreciate the care he puts into finding me something useful and from the heart. If he wants to get me something, that’s up to him, it just doesn’t change how I feel for him if he doesn’t.

To be able to buy Christmas presents for friends and family is a blessing that I have not always had, so I love getting the opportunity. But I don’t hate remembering the times I couldn’t afford it. It taught me how much I valued things more than I should, how I was lost at the idea of walking into my parent’s house with nothing more than a tin of baked goods. It felt strange at first, but it was still a beautiful day, wonderful time spent with family and friends. So, I couldn’t buy gifts at Christmas and the world didn’t end. It’s silly how often I try to fill the longing inside with stuff and more stuff. We were created with a longing spirit, a longing only satisfied with God’s presence in our lives.
I’m not writing this to preach to anyone about consumerism or greed or my distaste for Black Friday. I’ve been on my fair share of Black Friday adventures. I simply had a moment on Thanksgiving night. Minutes after seeing the lines of cars, we pulled off onto our exit. Sitting at the red light, a man came over and started washing our windshield. I never seem to carry cash on me, but Justin, thankfully, had some on him. He dug in his pockets and gave me $2 to hand to the man. He gave us the hugest smile, “Thank you! That was just what I needed.” He pointed at Justin and smiled and thanked us again before he was finished. Now, living in Austin, seeing someone on the street corner is pretty common, but my reaction to this man was not common for me. I sat there fighting back the tears as the stark contrast of the shopping center and this street corner sank in. He was so genuinely happy for the few dollars we gave him while cash registers were being filled beyond capacity for gifts that, in great part, will statistically be returned to that very store on Dec. 26 or forgotten by February. Again, don’t get me wrong, I fully plan on Christmas shopping soon, I’m a consumer too. It was just this brief moment in time where it was so clear, the want vs. need. It was a personal reminder of the need to be more responsible and compassionate with my money. Like a friend of mine who is asking that in lieu of gifts, her friends and family give to HELP’s Legacy Project or Justin giving 20% of his etsy sales to Russell and Elora’s adoption. Meeting God in our giving, longing momentarily satisfied.
On a related note, today is Generous Tuesday, so head on over to Pure Charity, set up an account and give back with the money you were already planning on spending this Christmas season and find a few things to give to while you’re there.

Kristen Howerton‘s Occupy Christmas