The Valley of the Shadow of Death: Caleb’s Birth and My Emergency Surgery

I realize this is not the typical title for a birth story, and before you assume this is a horror story that will persuade you that the process of birth is something to be avoided at all costs, let me set one thing straight. This is not a horror story, it’s a story of God’s protection, grace, and provision. Also, nothing I experienced is “normal.”

My whole pregnancy I planned on an unmedicated birth center birth. After my success in treating Vaginismus (click for that story), I had a lot of confidence in what my body could accomplish. To my surprise, the more I researched birth, the more I became convinced that unmedicated vaginal birth was best for me and baby. The closer we got to my due date, the more I was actually looking forward to our “birth” day and the birth experience, since it was what my body was made to do. I read books, including Ina May’s “Guide to Childbirth,” “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding,” and “Holy Labor” by Aubry G. Smith. We took the class at the birth center, I made sure to steer clear of horror stories, and I prayed through my fears. I was convinced that Caleb would come on his own, that my plan was fool-proof, and I was prepared to stick to my guns to make sure my birth plan happened.

The 41 Week Change of Plans

The birth center policy is that you can give birth there up until 42 weeks (after which a hospital induction is scheduled), but they require a series of tests to be run at 41 weeks to ensure it’s medically safe to wait. I didn’t think there was any chance we would have to run those tests at 41 weeks, but Caleb decided not to come on his own.

Just before we hit 41 weeks, I had an ultrasound. At that ultrasound, the doctor informed me that I had elevated levels of amniotic fluid, but said there was no reason for the elevation (gestational diabetes or the baby not swallowing in utero are typical causes- neither of which were present). He called it “idiopathic,” strongly suggesting I be induced closer to 41 weeks than 42 weeks. I totally brushed him off, thinking “of course that’s your opinion- you’re a cautious doctor that wants to medically intervene.” This was on Thursday October 4th, and I had an induction scheduled for the following Thursday the 11th. The next morning, I had an appointment with my midwives. The baby was high, I wasn’t effaced at all, and I was barely dilated. They told me that my levels of amniotic fluid might risk me out of my birth center birth and they’d get back to me. I didn’t hear anything the rest of the day, so I relaxed and thought my plan would still happen. The next day, I woke up from my nap to a voicemail from my midwife. She said that because of my elevated levels of amniotic fluid, and because my body wasn’t showing any sign of going into labor on its own, she and the director had decided to transfer my care to the hospital, and they had scheduled an induction for Monday night.

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I was so desperately ready to have that baby!

I had a lot of feelings, but mostly I was terrified. To me, induction was the worst case scenario. I spent the rest of Saturday, all day Sunday, and most of Monday walking, bouncing on my birth ball, or drinking raspberry tea desperately trying to jump-start labor. When I wasn’t trying to encourage labor, I was trying to mentally prepare for labor. Despite my best attempts, labor did not spontaneously begin. On Monday evening Josh and I went to Outback for dinner and then went to the hospital to start induction. 

Induction

Due to my high levels of amniotic fluid, I was considered high risk. The concern was that the umbilical cord could slip out before Caleb, which would cause major issues. I was on constant fetal monitoring, which was extremely annoying and uncomfortable. Annoying, because I have a hyper-active baby and he kept swimming away from the monitor. Uncomfortable, because the monitor was strapped right on top of my extremely itchy PUPPs rash I developed over the weekend. I was put on an oral dose of Cytotec, a drug that encourages dilation, and had to have an IV. I remember thinking how miserable that IV was, and telling myself “it’s just for a few days and then it will be a SUPER long time before you ever have to have one again.” (Spoiler: it wasn’t.) I only got a few hours of sleep on Monday night, despite the sleeping pill they gave me, and figured it would be ok because I told myself “today will be the day I meet my baby!” (Spoiler: it wasn’t.)

Labor was long, starting with mild contractions on Monday night that continued all day Tuesday, but it kicked into high gear at midnight on Tuesday. My nurse had given me Benadryl to help me sleep, but I didn’t get any rest. At midnight I had another round of Cytotec, and within 10 minutes the contractions were on top of each other. As soon as I hit the peak of one, another one would come just as intense. It took me a while to be able to even talk to wake Josh up. At 1 am, I went to the bathroom, threw up, and there was a giant gush of liquid. I was worried, because it was grayish brown, and it didn’t look like what I expected my “water” to look like. I proceeded to leak said liquid and blood, so I called the nurse. She tested it and it was in fact my water. The color was from meconium- meaning at some point Caleb had been in distress in utero and had a bowel moment. That totally freaked me out. The midwife came in and explained that I had a high leak, and this wasn’t ALL my water. She said “you have enough water in there for a pool girl. You’ll know when your water starts breaking because there will be SO MUCH you might float away.” (Later the midwife broke my water, and she was right… I thought I was going to float away.)

The midwife checked me at 3:30 am and I was 4 cm dilated, 100% effaced. I was SO exhausted, and knew Pitocin was the next course of action. Looking at how intense it had been thus far, and how long I still had to go, and the fact that I hadn’t slept at all (and barely got any rest the night before), I decided to get an epidural around 4:45 am. I thought it would be horrible, but I honestly don’t remember it being painful at all. I remember being relieved, and I remember finally being able to catch my breath.
I got a few hours of sleep, and we started Pitocin around 9 am. I spent the day breathing through contractions, and Caleb’s heart rate crashed twice. The first time, I had been alternating laying on my sides with giant peanut ball between my knees trying to open things up. We decided to try me sitting up straight for a little bit. When I did, I started gushing liquid, Caleb’s heart rate dropped drastically, and next thing I knew the room was full of nurses and the midwife turning me on my side, hooking me up to oxygen, and making sure the umbilical cord hadn’t slipped out. It was terrifying.
By 7 pm I was dilated to 9 cm, but Caleb crashed again while the midwife was checking me. This time it was even more intense. It happened right in the middle of the nurse shift change. Suddenly the nurses were shouting instructions and the midwife started talking about considering a c-section… all while I was trying to move the way the nurses wanted (with a numb lower body), with a giant oxygen mask inhibiting my hearing and sight, and no one telling me if my baby was ok.
I had a complete breakdown. I couldn’t stop crying, I started hyperventilating, and I asked them to give me a minute to discuss it with Josh. I remember feeling exhausted and like my all my dreams were being crushed. Not only was I two days into an induced labor, I was coming to the realization that I might not get the vaginal birth I had wanted and planned.
By the time the midwife and nurse came back, Josh and I had decided that the c-section seemed like the best option because Caleb was still so high and I wasn’t progressing very much. However, while Josh and I were discussing the c-section, the midwife had been conferring with a doctor. The midwife said that they would like to give it a few more hours and see if I could progress and still pursue a vaginal birth. I was exhausted, but agreed – because that’s what I really wanted.
When the initial discussion of c-section started, my mom came to the hospital. I’m SO GLAD she was there. The labor I experienced after the 7 pm crash was totally different from everything I experienced up until this point. It was back labor, and the contractions were intense. Seriously… thank God I had the epidural, because I don’t think I could have made it as far as I did. Somewhere around 10 pm, I was checked again. There had been no change in that couple of hours. My midwife suggested the c-section again, and after conferring with my mom and Josh I concurred that c-section was really the safest option. I was completely and utterly exhausted, it didn’t look like Caleb was going to engage in the pelvis, and if he crashed again it would become an emergency situation. A c-section wasn’t what I wanted, but I felt like I was making the best decision for both of our safety.

The Unplanned C-Section

By 10:15 pm I was being prepped for surgery. By 10:44 pm on Wednesday October 10th, Caleb James Cornelissen was coming into the world screaming his head off and trying to open his eyes right away. I had an excellent surgeon, a very kind anesthesiologist who stood by my head the whole surgery and told me what he was seeing (“Wow there’s a head full of hair— I can see him coming out!— WOW that’s a big baby! He’s already trying to open his eyes and check out the world!”), and they let us do cheek to cheek contact as soon as they cleaned him up.
Reflecting on this whole situation, I’m extremely thankful for two things. First, my epidural. If I hadn’t gotten the epidural, I would have been completely knocked out for the c-section. Instead, I was fully conscious and I’m very thankful for that. Second, I’m very thankful that the birth center sent me to the hospital. I think that even if I had been able to labor at the birth center, I would have ultimately had to have a c-section either way due to the insane amount of amniotic fluid I had. The fact that we were already in the hospital meant that I got to make the choice to have a c-section instead of being forced because it was an emergency.
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First family photo!
Josh and Caleb headed back to our room for recovery while they finished closing me. When they went to transfer me back to my bed, the only thing I could move was my head and my right arm. My left arm was completely dead, which was terrifying and it took an hour to regain control of it. In that hour, I held my baby for the first time- but I needed help doing so because I had one arm. I felt so out of control of my body. I remember bits and pieces of what happened before we were transferred to our recovery room, but most of what happened after his birth is a blur. I clearly remember my mom coming in and meeting Caleb, which was so special because they share a birthday!
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The next several days in the hospital were terrible, and I thought it was all related to my long labor and complicated delivery. Looking back, we know that what I was experiencing was complicated by an underlying medical issue that had yet to be discovered, which is part of the whole story. In the hospital, I developed a blistering rash over my entire body, most likely an allergic reaction to the anesthesia used during surgery, but everyone who came into my room had a different theory about my rash. It was exhausting listening to everyone’s theories about my rash, and dealing with more and more doctors trying to diagnose it- all without any definitive answers. I couldn’t keep food down. I couldn’t sleep. I could barely move. And my legs and feet inflated like balloons. On top of all this, the recovery wing was completely booked. Lactation consultants were available, but literally told me that I was going to be at the hospital for a longer stay than everyone else so they needed to help the other patients first. After surgery, my whole body was swollen. Caleb and I did our best to breastfeed, but he had an improper latch and by the time we got real help I was in excruciating pain from trying to figure it out on my own, and any pressure on my abdomen was absolutely excruciating. I kept trying, but with each feeding my pain increased, and so did my frustration. I had to fight with the doctor to get discharged. They were concerned about my rash and the vomiting, but I thought the vomiting was the result of extreme sleep deprivation and stress, which were two things that would be remedied by being in my own home. By the time we were discharged from the hospital on Saturday night I cried at the very thought of feeling Caleb, because it was so painful. My plan was to use my breast pump at home, but we started using formula that night just to survive. I felt like such a failure. Not only did I not get my vaginal birth, breastfeeding was turning into a nightmare too.
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The Week After Birth and The ER Visits

We got home, and I continued having issues keeping food down. I starting working on pumping instead of breastfeeding, because I really needed to heal, but I didn’t want to close the door to breastfeeding. I hoped to pump until I could try again under the guidance of a lactation consultant that actually had time for me. I have never felt more discouraged, trying to pump while not being able to keep down food. I grew physically weaker each day, I had no desire to see – let alone hold – my baby, and even if I did want to, I was too nauseous and too sore to do so.
On Tuesday afternoon (October 16th), I was taken to the hospital by EMS. I had sharp pains in my abdomen, trouble taking deep breaths, and I was in pain more severe than labor. Unfortunately, my experience in the ER was a nightmare. After ten hours of being ignored, given a CT and ultrasound, fluids and meds, they concluded that my bowels were backed up and that was the cause of my pain (spoiler: it wasn’t). They gave me an enema, and sent me home in the middle of the night.
On Wednesday, I felt like I was dying… and that’s because I was. Over the next few days, my abdomen grew more and more distended. I felt fluid sloshing around in my abdomen, and moving caused excruciating pain. Not moving also caused excruciating pain. And honestly, there was no relief because I threw up everything, including medication. All this time, I was still trying to pump. Talk about major mom guilt. I was laying in my bedroom, absolutely drenched in sweat, unable to keep anything down, feeling insane because the doctor in the ER told me that the only thing wrong with me is too much poop, and I was trying to pump around the clock because I was feeling like a failure as a mother. 
I’ve struggled with depression in my past, but I have never experienced darkness like I did during that week. I sobbed almost constantly and I was absolutely consumed with anxiety. I listened to worship music and pleaded with God to give me the desire to live, because there were moments that I honestly believed that Caleb would be better without me. I thought that I was experiencing postpartum depression, but I was literally walking through the valley of the shadow of death. 
Friday came, and so did my mom. My mom has a unique gift and ability to care for people. Diane Crutchfield doesn’t just take care of physical needs; somehow she is able to assess and treat all needs – physical, emotional, and spiritual – simultaneously. She’s also an incredible problem solver. So, in typical Diane fashion, she formed a plan and helped me process all the things that were going on with me emotionally- including my struggle with pumping.
Saturday morning I decided that the best thing for Caleb, and my mental health, was to have Caleb on formula exclusively. It was so kind of God to give me the opportunity to surrender this, because later in the day the choice would have been made for me. By Saturday afternoon I was in super rough shape (feverish, full body sweats, not super with-it, and extremely distended) and nothing we did improved my situation. We went to Urgent Care, where we explained the whole c-section and ER saga and the Doctor ordered an X-Ray. After reviewing it, he sent us to the ER and made sure they knew we were coming. Once we got to the ER, things happened very quickly. I don’t remember much, because I was extremely out of it, but I remember my mouth being super dry and desperately wanting water, I remember the incredibly kind nurses, I remember getting an IV, I remember getting a CT scan, I remember crying when the doctor told me I was going to be transferred to have emergency surgery, and I remember the kind EMS guys who gave me morphine. I know now that the doctor suspected that I had a perforated bowel, and that they suspected I had sepsis. I know now that I was dying… and that God spared my life.
I remember the ambulance ride, and thinking that I was so relieved to finally have a respite from the pain, thanks to my new friend morphine. I remember joking with the EMS guys, and telling everyone prepping me for surgery about my adorable baby Caleb James, and my amazing husband – who I referred to as “Super Dad.” (Guys, he literally is though.) I remember meeting the surgeon on call, Dr. Alleman, and him telling my mom all the scenarios from worst to best case. I don’t remember what he said, because a man that looked like the Black Panther was taking blood out of my hand. I do remember looking at my mom to see how she was reacting to what Dr. Alleman said, and she seemed ok… so I was ok. 

Emergency Surgery and Ten Days in The Hospital

On October 20th, I had emergency abdominal surgery, just ten days after a c-section following a 48 hour labor. I don’t remember coming out of surgery, but I do remember waking up in ICU and being so happy because I finally felt better than I had in two weeks.
By God’s grace, I didn’t have sepsis and I didn’t have a perforated bowel. Instead of the worst case scenarios, which included a six month hospital stay and my bowels being in a bag outside of my body so my abdominal cavity could be rinsed, I had the BEST case scenario. I had a perforated stomach ulcer. Basically where my stomach and intestines meet there was a hole. So all the fluid from my stomach was leaking into my abdominal cavity. They pumped five liters of fluid out of my abdomen. (That explained the sloshing feeling every time I moved!) Instead of a six month hospital stay, he estimated a ten day stay.
It took several days for me to realize what all had happened to my body. When I woke up, I had two surgical drains, staples down my incision, a central line, an NG tube, a catheter, and I was on oxygen. My new incision went from my breastbone to my c-section incision.
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My “trunk,” aka NG tube
The next week-and-a-half in the hospital involved another surgery (third surgical drain), physical therapy (lots of walking the halls), lots of blood draws, lots of bird baths, lots of people helping me to the bathroom, and no food or drink. Because I had a hole in my stomach, I couldn’t have anything by mouth for over a week. I got all my nutrition from TPN, an IV through my central line. Every time I closed my eyes, I had these mini dreams (thanks to morphine). I had many, many dreams of drinking a big, ice cold Coke or enjoying Five Guys Cajun fries (my fave!). Unfortunately the closest I got was a mouth swab (a piece of foam on a stick) in ice water.
Every day I walked the halls, tried to spend time sitting up in the recliner instead of bed, and tried to be a ray of sunshine to everyone that walked into my room. Not to brag, but I succeeded in that last goal. I called my surgical drains “honey pots,” my NG tube my “trunk,” and I was known by every nurse on the floor. By the end of my ten day stay, I had at least five nurses a day that would stop in to say hi, not because they were taking care of me that day – but because they wanted to see how I was doing, and if I had any new pictures of Caleb. Two days before I got discharged, I got to meet Caleb and my mother-in-law outside! It was so nice to finally see my baby, but it brought so much pain to the surface. At that point, I had the NG tube out, but we didn’t know how much longer I would be in the hospital. I cried a LOT that day. 
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Obviously the stomach ulcer is the craziest thing about this whole ordeal. The number one question we all had was WHY didn’t we know about the ulcer? The answer is that the symptoms of the stomach ulcer were masked by pregnancy symptoms. I had INSANE heartburn (to the degree that I had TUMS with me at ALL TIMES and called it “my candy”)… common symptom of an ulcer. I couldn’t eat a lot of food in one sitting… stomach ulcer. I had nausea… stomach ulcer. See? SUPER common pregnancy symptoms. Our other question was WHY NOW? Why did it burst when it did? Dr. Alleman said that during major (or traumatic) life events, the body shows its weakest part. For me, the major life event was having a baby, and the weakest part of my body was the stomach ulcer.

Life After Being Discharged

On October 30th, I was discharged from the hospital – and I thought that meant life would get back to normal. The truth is that I didn’t start feeling normal (in any sense of the word) until Thanksgiving. The first few weeks I was home were filled with nausea, vomiting, another trip to the ER, another CT scan, and another surgery to put in a (fourth) surgical drain. Thanks to the nausea, I still couldn’t spend much time with my baby. The smell of his formula (which I was thankful for but simultaneously hated – because it was a constant reminder of the fact that breastfeeding was taken away from me) turned my stomach and almost guaranteed that I would lose whatever food, liquid, and medication I had been able to muster down.
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Me and Caleb on Thanksgiving
 
Through this whole ordeal, it has become so obvious how blessed Josh, Caleb and I are. Our families have sacrificed their time and sleep to care for us; Josh’s mom was here for two weeks, and my mom was here for almost a month. Our friends have provided meals, visited me in the hospital, have cleaned our house, brought us groceries, and come over to hold Caleb. Our pastors have come to visit, provided financial support, and prayed for us.
 
During my pregnancy, I took a postpartum course by Angie Tolpin (which I highly recommend). Her last lecture addressed the fact that her course – as many issues as it addressed – would not prepare the viewer for every scenario. She teared up as she shared her heart, saying that God allows hard things to happen and allows challenges because they give us an opportunity to grow. Motherhood is an opportunity to grow as a person, and as a Christian, and we can praise God for these things because they grow our character. We can praise Him because He cares about our character.
Lying in my hospital bed, separated from my newborn, unable to go to the bathroom without holding onto two people, God brought those words to my mind. God cares about your character. I’ve prayed many times that He would mold me to be more like Him, and this is one way He’s chosen to do so. I’ve prayed that God would use these experiences to encourage others, and I’ve prayed that God would let me see why He allowed these painful circumstances to be my reality. 
 
I have a precious eight week old baby, who is healthy, happy, and so loved, and I’ve only spent 16 days as his primary care giver. It would be so easy for me to become a bitter, angry person… but I don’t do things the easy way. Yes, I wish I could have experienced the birth I planned for. Yes, I wish that I could have fed my baby with my body. Yes, I wish that I had gotten to experience life with my newborn. But I am way more thankful for the modern medicine that preserved our lives during my stalled labor, and my emergency surgery.
Even though I walked through the valley of the shadow of death, He was with me.
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Like anyone who has experienced trauma, I have a lot to work through. I am on medication to suppress my stomach acid production, and will have to be closely monitored for the foreseeable future. My abdominal muscles are essentially non-existent, so I will be working on rebuilding them, hopefully in physical therapy. Primarily though, I’m loving my new job and role as mom.
Takeaways
  • If you have a fear of birth, I believe the best weapon is education. Do research. Our bodies were made to give birth, and it’s important to have a positive view of how our bodies are made. At the same time, birth doesn’t always happen the way we hope. I think I had a lot more fear about having a c-section, and lot more to work through afterwords, because I didn’t research how c-sections worked, or what the recovery was would be like. 
  • If you had a traumatic experience, be wise. Don’t share every detail with every person. Work through the raw emotions with someone who won’t be traumatized by you processing your trauma. I strongly recommend reaching out to a mentor and seeking counseling. Don’t use your trauma as an excuse to isolate yourself! It will be tempting to avoid people, because it feels like no one understands what you went through. Even if that’s the case, it’s important to stay engaged in community and let others bear your burdens. Let people love you, and remember that it’s ok to not be ok. 
  • If you know someone who had a traumatic experience, don’t avoid them. Show up. Your presence is a gift. Allow them to share as much or as little as they want. Pray for them. Find ways to love and serve them. It’s extremely likely that they are overwhelmed and simple things- like dropping off a meal or doing their grocery shopping- will be huge blessings.
Resources (Birth, Pregnancy, Positive Motherhood):

 

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What’s The Goal?

I find myself thick in the season where goal setting is quite in vogue. Everyone loves to dream about the things they will accomplish, looking forward to the blank slate of a new year. I no longer feel like I have to wait until January 1 to plan big goals (see my last post!), but I do enjoy looking back on what the past year has taught me. Speaking of which, my goal to read the entire Bible through while I had a break from work was a fantastic failure. I decided to scrap it, because I wasn’t reading the Bible to change, I was trying to finish. I was trying to accomplish a goal, against all odds, so I had something to be proud of. I don’t think I need to say that is a poor motivation, but I’m going to anyway… that is a poor motivation. So instead of pushing onward, I stopped. I re-assessed. I set a new goal.

This coming year, I have decided not to race through the Bible, but to feast and savor. I have decided to select commentaries to accompany my daily reading, so that I am not just reading- but I am gaining knowledge and understanding. My dear In-Laws got me the most beautiful Journaling Bible for Christmas, and I am so excited to put it to good use, and to have space in the margins to write notes about what I learn as I study God’s word with intention.

This past year has been such a beautiful picture of joy and sorrow in my life, which maybe I will share in a later post, but if there is one thing I have learned, it is this: I can do tough things. I can be consistent, I can dig deep, I can learn new things, I can be vulnerable, I can encourage others through my struggle.

That’s where I am! I’m excited to share more and to continue reflecting on the blessings and lessons of this past year.

The Problem of Reading

I have a problem. In fact, my husband and I BOTH have a problem. 

The problem is this: our reading lists have grown so long that I don’t know if we will ever catch up. I have, in fact, proposed early retirement in order to devote more intentional time to reading- since there is no end to our list. The annoying thing about reading is that there’s always a new book, and there’s always a new author, so our lists are constantly growing. [When we got married, my husband actually was actually giddy when he learned about a Crutchfield Family Christmas tradition: books on Christmas Eve. The origin story of that tradition will have to be for another time!] My sweet husband has reminded me that if I wished to retire and devote my days to reading, I should have married someone in the medical, law, or financial vocations. But that’s not what I did. I married a man pursing God’s calling on his life (a 2nd masters and the mission field) and 30k deep in debt. [To be clear– I made the right choice.]

Since it seems to be me vs. the hourglass, I am a chronic over-estimator of how fast I will read. I have an annoying habit of checking out multiple Kindle books from my local library, and then I am forced to keep my Kidle on airplane mode for months as I fail to even begin a new book, because I am crippled by the fear that it won’t be as enjoyable as the last book I read. You don’t have to tell how ridiculous that is, believe me, I know. 

My mother is a oxymoron to me; I am truly befuddled by a simple fact of her personality. She is both a do-er (I don’t know if she has ever sat through a movie without multitasking and working on a project), and reads more books than anyone else I know. I consider myself a do-er… but as soon as I sit down with a book, I am shocked and awed by how filthy my house is. How can I possibly engage in a relaxing activity, such as reading, when there is a tissue on the floor RIGHT NEXT TO THE GARBAGE CAN, but not actually IN the garbage can, because my husband and I have a perpetual game of basketball going on in our living room, but we are both miserable players when said “ball” is actually a loosely crumpled tissue?!?!?!

The thing is this: I have convinced myself that reading is being lazy. (Please, dad, don’t disown me.) I have allowed myself to choose less stimulating entertainment (lookin’ at you, Netflix) and convinced myself that reading can be “too much work” or isn’t “time effecient” because I can’t read AND do something else. I’ve relied on Podcasts and Netflix for too long! [I picture this to be a inspiring speech, but since it’s just all 5′ 1 3/5″ (ever bit counts) of me standing up from my desk in our study….it’s… just… not.] 

In all seriousness, I decided I had a problem with reading when I realized that my habit of not reading was impacting my spiritual life. Here’s an obvious thing: God did not make a podcast. He did not make an original Hulu series (though if you’re looking for one, The Mindy Project is my choice). He gave us His Word, comprised of 66 books. Since I’m pointing out the obvious, I shall continue by saying BEING IN GOD’S WORD REQUIRES READING. As I pondered this (truth ad conviction) and the strong shift in my entertainment, I decided that I needed to make some radical shifts. I think most cleanses are utter poppycock (guys isn’t that what our kidneys and liver are for?), but I do think “boot camps” can be helpful. Thus, my Bible Bootcamp was born. My mission (sorry, Josh finally got me to watch Star Trek and now Jean-Luc Picard narrates my life): to read through the entire Bible in 6-8 weeks. Why 6-8 weeks? Because that’s how long of a break I have from work. I now have the BEST job in the world, and I am a nanny! I watch 2 boys (5 and 2 years old), and a sweet little girl is about to join the family! So while momma is on maternity leave, I some free time- and I want to be intentional with it. 

I’m not following a reading plan, I am making it up as I go along. As I write this, I haven’t actually told anyone about this plan, because I’m afraid I’ll fail. I’ve been spending a lot of time considering what failure would mean in this scenario, and I don’t think failing to finish the reading by the time I go back to work would be “failure.” While I was in college, we had a frequent guest speaker, and every time he spoke, he said “We don’t read the Bible to finish, we read the Bible to change.”

My mom always asks “What’s the goal?” So here it is: the goal is to put myself through a Bible Bootcamp for the purpose of change. I want to change my mentality not only about reading, but about reading God’s Word. I want to be marked as a woman that treasures God’s Word, and frankly my life is not reflecting that I AM that woman right now.

Hopefully I’ll have a follow up post with details about how it went, and ways I’ve changed… even if I don’t “finish.”

Using My Voice (Again)

This has been a year of healing, adventure, and growth! I stopped blogging because I lost my voice, or at least felt I had nothing to say. I’m still not sure I have much to say, but I thought I’d at least try to start using my voice again no matter how hoarse it may be to begin.

This year has been void of blogging, but much has happened. I’m finally beginning to process through all of it, and what I’ve learned.

I quit my full-time job and felt relieved.
Josh and I took on a business venture.
Josh and I bought a second car, debt free.
Josh and I have whittled his student debt down and will soon be debt free.
We experienced healing from past wounds.
We experienced freedom as roles changed.
We traveled to new places and enjoyed adventures.
I have closed my business.
I have planted a flower garden.
I have started fresh.

I don’t know how to summarize all the ways we have grown and changed this year, so I’ll just say I’m thankful. Like never before, I am enjoying my long morning walks and healthy meals, going to work, and dreaming about the future.
I’m not sure where this blog will go, or what its new purpose is… but I’d love for you to walk with me as I rediscover my voice and begin to use it again.

Five Faves- September 2016

I tend to like things in spurts. A while back I became obsessed with Mumford and Sons… their songs are sadly no longer enjoyable because I played them into the ground. I went through a hat phase and was rarely seen without one… now I feel much like Kathleen Kelly, most hats are a mistake. The point is that at any given time, there are some things I am really into and are current favorites. I thought it would be fun to list 5 of my current favorites! Hopefully I don’t wear any of these things out!

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  1. Thieves essential oil. I have dipped my toe into the sea of essential oils this summer, and I am glad I did. I ordered a starter kit from Young Living, and have used my oils for cleaning, fighting off colds, healing burns and rashes, and battling anxiety. My current favorite oil is Thieves, because I don’t go a day without using it. I keep getting a sore throat, and after using my Thieves roller, it goes away every time. PLUS it smells super good. 🙂
  2. Brie cheese… best if paired with Salami and Red Grapes. Seriously, this is a delicious combination. My love for Brie cheese began in France, so obviously it makes me feel very cultured, but it also brings back such happy memories. (Please note this hilarious and hidden joke referring to cheese cultures. Thank you.)
  3. LuLaRoe Carly dresses. Yes, I sell them- but I don’t love them because I sell them, I sell them because I love them. 🙂 This dress is seriously so comfortable that I wear it on days I’m not “doing” anything. I have NEVER been one to wear a dress just because… but the Carly is the exception. (If you want to shop, I have a weekly Popup on Thursdays in my Facebook group!) I cannot wait to layer these dresses with leggings, boots, and long cardigans!!!!
  4. Pumpkin French Toast Bake. I made this last weekend for our growth group retreat, and I am a fan. I am someone who struggles to make breakfast happen every morning, so I love making casseroles like this that I can just warm up. Minimal effort, people.
  5. Cam’s album Untamed. This ALMOST turned into a Mumford & Sons situation… but I quickly realized my trajectory (and remembered the graveyard of albums I used to love)… and took a break. So, now I’m back to loving the album. Even if you don’t like country, just listen to Burning House… and if you don’t cry, I’m not sure you’re human.

A Big Summer For the Cornelissens

Friends, the last few months have been packed full of crazy changes. I have been meaning to sit down and get back into blogging, but stuff just kept happening! So here’s a whirl-wind update on our summer. 🙂

May was a BIG month.
My parents celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary and went to Ireland for a few weeks, so we visited my brother Andrew in Columbia and celebrated his 18th birthday at Carowinds. What a blast! A week later, Josh graduated with his M-Div from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and started a full-time job at CarMax! He is working as a sales consultant, and frankly crushing it.
Aaron moved out! He is adulting like a boss, working 2-3 jobs, paying his bills, making meals, and we are so excited with him and proud of him.
We bought a car for Josh, because Aaron is using the Explorer. 🙂 We got a Nissan Versa from a motivated seller on Craig’s List, in our price range, and with crazy low miles.
I researched and prayed and decided to sign up with LuLaRoe. At the time, I thought it would be good to have something to keep me busy in the evenings and the weekends, because Josh’s work schedule requires a lot of evening and weekend hours at work. I was working full-time in May, but Josh knew I couldn’t shake the idea of starting my own LuLaRoe business. So the day he graduated, I submitted my on boarding paperwork.
ALSO in May we bought our first brand-spanking-new major appliance, a dryer. This may not sound exciting, but I could not have been MORE excited. Long story short, we have paid ridiculous power bills this year because a bird made a nest in our exterior dryer vent, and our dryer was running for hours without drying the clothes. Once we fixed the bird issue, we realized the dryer was just dead and we could keep paying ridiculous bills or bite the bullet and buy a new dryer. Obviously we bought a new one, and we haven’t doubted the decision once! (Also our power bill is HUNDREDS of dollars lower each month. Isn’t that insane?!)
I think was in June… but it might have been May… we took a short trip to Charlotte and hit Ikea for some LuLaRoe supplies and ended up meeting my parents for dinner! It was a great time away, even though it was short.

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June was frankly a month of struggle. Josh and I were both working full-time, and I cried a lot. Our schedules completely collided and my love cup was completely dry. I was gone from 7-5:30 everyday, and Josh was working mostly from 12-9 every night. By the time he got home it was 9:30 or 10, and I had fallen asleep because I had to get up early the next day for work. We agonized over what to do, and finally decided that the best decision was for me to quit my full-time job.
Growing up, my mom would always ask “What’s the goal?” Josh and I had a lot of conversations, serious conversations, over g-chat while we were both at work, because there wasn’t time to actually sit down and have a conversation. I felt so strongly that the goal of this season- just being married without anyone living in our house and before we have kids- is to focus on our marriage and make sure we are the strongest we can be. Secondary goals are to pay off Josh’s student loans and to gain direction for future ministry… but if our marriage isn’t strong, we won’t be able to accomplish much. Ultimately, we decided that both of us working full time may accomplish paying off the loans at a faster rate, but we might accomplish it at the cost of quality time and the ability to strengthen our marriage.20160725_085847

July was a month of endings and beginnings. Josh finished training at CarMax, I concluded my employment at my office job, and I got the call from LuLaRoe to order my initial inventory! We got to spend a long weekend with the Gilmores, and the dream of me spending more time at home because a reality. august

August was a month of excitement. The first week I was home, not working full-time anymore, Andrew came to spend the week with us. We did a lot of fun stuff, but we spent the most time playing Pokemon Go. 🙂 In the middle of his visit, my initial inventory arrived! At the very end of his visit, he bought his first car. Josh was able to find the perfect vehicle, in Andrew’s budget. Isn’t that insane? When did he get old enough to buy a car?!?!?!
A week and a half later, I had my official business launch. It was what I hoped! I had several friends come to my in-home launch and fall in love with the clothes the same way I did. It was such a joy to see the giant smiles on their faces, and you could tell how amazing they felt about themselves.

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Right now, I am loving the flexibility of my schedule. I’m establishing new routines and habits to take better care of myself and our home and enjoying the experience of owning my own business. Most of all, I’m thankful for Josh! He has been so supportive of my desire to spend more time at home, to pursue the dream of owning this business, and encouraged me to push outside of my comfort zone. I’m not sure what the next few months hold, but I am sure that we made a great decision putting our marriage first.

I have weekly LuLaRoe sales in my Facebook group (facebook.com/groups/lularoedeborahc) and THIS weekend I have an exciting multi-consultant sale! I’d love to see you there. It’s a great opportunity to try all the clothes on and get your sizes, as well as to see other styles I don’t carry yet. 🙂 Here are the details!
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Managing Expectations

Last night I looked down at the beverage I was holding and just kind of chuckled. Seminary life is a strange, strange time… full of things I never expected and the gender stereotypes have been reversed. For instance, I’m the one that comes home from a long day and wants a beer. I have rarely do dishes, grocery shopping, or clean the bathroom. In fact Josh does a lot of chores for me while I’m at work so that when we’re both home we can spend time together.

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It all feels backwards and it’s been hard for me to let go of all the things I’m supposed to do. I used to think that when I got married maybe I’d have a part time job, but that my main job would be taking care of our house… the floors would never be in dire need of mopping, the dust would not be out of control, the sink would be perpetually emptied of dirty dishes, and the counters ever clean and wiped down. Isn’t that a nice dream?
The reality is that I rise before the sun and I spend 10 1/2 hours out of the house each day… and in that time, there are other humans, with other standards of cleanliness, in my house. Yet, I still inwardly hold myself to that standard of cleanliness and when it’s not met, I feel like I’m not doing enough. WHY IS THAT? Am I comparing myself to other wives I know? Is it a fair comparison? (The answer is no, because it’s not fair to compare.)

I spoke some truth to a friend yesterday, and the truth is that I desperately needed to hear it for myself. The person you’re comparing yourself to isn’t perfect. In fact, they have sins that Jesus needed to die for… just like me.
Ironically, I’m finally learning to recognize the lists I make of things I should be doing just as we’re about to make more transitions out of seminary life, and into both of us working full time. I’m sure the amount of grace we’re giving each other will only need to be increased as Josh won’t have free days to get chores done. Just as I’m becoming aware of the unrealistic lists I’m making for myself, I need to be mindful of the list of “shoulds” I’m making for my husband. I can either be thankful for the things he is able to accomplish, or resent him for the things he can’t. I think the right choice is obvious, but often difficult to make. I pray I’m actively aware of this, and avoid hurting the one I love.

Last night, after a long day of work, a long walk by myself, and time spent in serving others, I didn’t list the things “I should be doing”… I rested and enjoyed that beer (and Grey’s Anatomy). Maybe the counters needed to be wiped, maybe I should have vacuumed our room- instead, I was grateful for the life we have, a husband that serves, and the freedom to say “this is all I can do today.”

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Love One Another

Obviously this space of mine on the internet has been neglected lately. Life is so full. I am finding myself tired, in a good way. My moments of rest are sweet, my time is being spent well, and I don’t regret being too busy to sit down and record it.

Something I have struggled with over the years, but especially the last 2 years, is a balance between social time and solitude. I lean much further towards the introverted side of the scale, and it’s been hard for me to figure out how to be in community without being burnt out. Y’all, this year I have discovered it’s simple. Invite people to do things you’re already planning on doing. We have found that we’re able to deeply engage in community by hitting the gym with friends, having girls over to watch The Bachelor, and just having friends over for a lazy Sunday afternoon. Community is simply doing life together… that means having people over even if the floors aren’t swept or the dishes are dirty. It’s been hard to let people see a messy house, but much harder to let them see a messy heart. How are you doing with letting people see the real life version of you? I have found two things: 1) It gets easier with practice, and 2) honesty and transparency encourage honesty and transparency. I am not saying live like a slob on purpose. I am saying that community can be messy… so worry less about the mess and be real.

At church, we’re doing a study called “Life Together.” We’re studying Biblical Community, and it’s been so convicting. Do you realize that our example of sacrificial love is JESUS? The one who gave His LIFE for us!? It certainly wasn’t convenient for Jesus to take the form of human, and die as a sacrifice for all of our sins. Yet, He is our example… and how many times do I back out of something because it isn’t “convenient?” That was so convicting to me. I tend to think that if I have time, I’ll love and serve my community. It isn’t always convenient, and it isn’t always what I want to do… but we’re called to love sacrificially.

A few months ago we were studying in Acts, and I was struck by the verse “there was not a needy person among them.” I want our community to be a place where we meet each other’s needs, and part of that has been meeting people’s social needs. We have a friend in our Growth Group that works from home, and lives alone. Guess what? He needs friends! He has social needs! I have a tendency to be selfish with my time at home, and was extremely convicted about closing my home when I know people are in need. He is a pretty permanent presence in our house on Sundays, and surprise- I don’t hate it. Additional surprise- I don’t have to entertain him. He just wants to be around us, and it’s turned out to be a huge blessing for all of us.

Click HERE to find our church sermons online!

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Since January? Well, we paid our taxes. Our return has gone into “intentional savings” which is basically money we’re setting aside for a car or to put towards student loans. Anyway, we got taxes out of the way as soon as we were able. It was SO freeing!

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We’ve traveled a lot… and I am enjoying being one of 3 drivers with a license which means I get to hang out in the backseat and watch movies on said roadtrips.

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We’re in a season of routines. Every night of the week is packed full of exercise, cooking, chores, and social time. Every day my checklist resets (vitamins, morning devotions, walk, weights, drink over 64 oz of water, remember to brush your teeth, put away your clothes), I go to the same job and do the same things. I come home and try not to beat myself up for not getting everything done. I remind myself this is a season… a strange season that will not last forever. My brother in law will not always be here, Josh will not always have papers to write, and I will not always be the primary breadwinner. I pray every day that the Lord would show me His grace in the midst of the routine. That I would be shown a new truth in my devotional time, that I would not dread my commute, that I would be content in Him instead of discontent in my circumstances.

I made a lot of cooking goals this year, and we’re off to a splendid start! I have wanted to add more variety in our diet… we eat a lot of chicken. Honestly, I love chicken… but we need diversity. We’ve been eating more fish, I made a pot roast, and I made pulled pork! Next on the list is lasagna, salmon, and a deep dish pizza. I’ve also been baking a lot of bread! I love my bread machine, but don’t LOVE the block of bread shape. I started letting the bread machine do the hard work and then baking it in the oven. I love it.

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Josh only has about two more months of school, so we’re almost at the point of him looking for a job. We’re also dreaming about taking a vacation this fall to celebrate the end of seminary and to have some fun. To say it’s been a hard year is an understatement… and it’s fun to dream.

 

Dear Josh,
I’m so thankful that we’re able to engage in ministry together. Thanks for leading our growth group and taking “life together” so seriously. Thanks for challenging me to love sacrificially, but also take care of myself.
I’m excited about all the new meals we’re trying! I really appreciate the fact that you do the grocery shopping for me every week. It is so nice to make a list of what I need, and for it to “magically” appear in my kitchen when I get home. You’re the best. I know that this season of Seminary has been really stretching for you, but you have not failed to find ways to love and serve me. So thanks for bringing me coffee every morning while I do my devotions, for packing my lunch, and for doing the grocery shopping. I don’t thank you every day, but I’m thankful for you every day.

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What I’m Reading in 2016: When God Doesn’t Fix It

As I have shared in a previous post, my goals this year are mostly focused on taking care of myself so that I can take care of others. The most radical change has been creating a purposeful time of prayer and reading each morning. (It doesn’t necessarily happen first thing in the morning on the weekends, but otherwise I am diligently doing it first thing before work.)
My morning devotional routine involves 3 things:

  1. Prayer
  2. Scripture Reading
  3. Devotional Reading

I record who/what I’m praying for, read a chapter of scripture (going through Genesis right now), and read a chapter of a book I have selected for enrichment purposes. Real talk: if I try to start with reading the Bible, I won’t absorb nearly as much as if I make reading the Bible my second reading… which usually happens halfway through my coffee. This has been working for me!

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This month, I am reading When God Doesn’t Fix It by Laura Story. I don’t even know how to express how much I have loved this book. Laura and I graduated from the same college, and I applaud her handling of scripture. She unpacks hard Biblical truths with integrity and clarity. She speaks from experience, and doesn’t always put herself in a good light. This book is incredibly encouraging, because she reminds the reader about things that are fundamentally true of our God. He is good, he has a plan, and all things are meant to be for His glory.
Maybe you’re not going through a trial right now, so you feel like the content doesn’t apply to you. Here’s what I know: you have either gone through a trial, or you will in the future. Since trials are inevitable, I think it is important to have resources at your disposal to encourage you and remind you of the truths that are hard to speak to yourself. I strongly recommend this book; it’s packed full of good theology, feelings and thoughts I have related to, and pierces through the lies we believe about (and in the midst of) trials. Laura’s vulnerability is beautiful, as she shares the way God molded her heart and mind and used a tragic situation to grow her. I haven’t quite finished the book, but I have read the majority- enough to say GO BUY IT.

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