Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Gentle and Quiet Spirit

I'm a big fan of using a concordance when I want to dwell on a particular verse. It helps me to get a better understanding of the connotations of the specific words chosen and through it God speaks to me deeper revelations of His heart.

This morning, I was pondering on 1 Peter 3:4 which talks about the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.

I've done a word study on this verse before. Today I wanted to refresh my memory on the full meaning of gentle and quiet. (Spoiler alert: Quiet has nothing to do with volume!) I needed to recenter my heart and my focus.

According to Strong's concordance, the word translated gentle has connotations of reserve AND strength. It's described further as "God's strength under His control" or "demonstrating power without harshness." Gentle. I love that picture.

The word translated quiet is about inner stillness. It describes a spirit that stands "steady (settled) due to a divinely-inspired inner calmness." My very favorite description: "'calmly quiet' or 'appropriately tranquil' by not misusing (or overusing) words that would stir up needless friction (destructive commotion)."

That last one hit me right in the feels this morning. And that feeling was conviction. OUCH. ;) Pretty sure I could've used a reminder on that at some point last night!

Basically, when Peter wrote about a gentle and quiet spirit, this is what he envisioned: Strength demonstrated under control without harshness and a heart at peace that holds it's tongue from words that would only cause unnecessary drama. That does sound like a beautiful soul.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Endurance

Sometimes your heart gets a little sick, when you've lost hope that things will change for the better. Sometimes your heart feels a little raw and discouragement hangs thick in the atmosphere. Times when you watch someone else's happy ending and your heart longs and aches for your own, because you've been stuck in your wilderness for 39 years and it's about time to be done, y'all.

That was the kind of mood I was in yesterday and this morning, and when I was done pouring my heart out and began to listen to His, Galatians 6:9 came to mind. "Do not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."

IF we do not give up. Maybe a breakthrough is right around the corner. Maybe it's further out than that. Either way, He leads me in victory, (2 Corinthians 2:14) so I should probably keep going! ;) Fight the good fight and all that. (1 Timothy 6:12)

So for anyone else needing a little inspiration and encouragement, here are the scriptures related to endurance that resonated with my heart this morning:

Romans 5:1-5 "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."

Romans 12:12 "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."

Romans 15:5 "May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had..."

Romans 15:13 "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through the One who empowers me within."

Hebrews 10:36 "For you need endurance, so that after you have done God's will you can receive what he has promised."

James 1:2-4 "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."

Monday, December 12, 2016

Keep It Simple, Sweetheart

"Keep it simple, sweetheart."

That was the gentle reminder I felt this morning as I sat with my coffee and watched the pink sky brighten. That whatever ways I may feel like I'm failing, the things I think I should be doing but I'm not, the chores and tasks that are never really done, He is bigger. His love covers. 

As an independent, I'll-do-it-all-myself kind of person, pregnancy and postpartum is hard, because I can't do it all. It's hard to ask for help. It's hard to justify resting and taking care of myself when so much gets left undone. It's easy to feel like maybe I'm just being lazy and I really should be doing more. It's easy to feel like I'm failing my kids because I haven't managed to get us to church the last few months. 

Going to church is a good thing. A clean house is a good thing. The things I'd like to get done are good things. But none of those are the most important thing. Love is. Loving God. Loving myself. Loving my family. 

Right now, this is a season. A season of resting in the midst of the chaos. A season of slowness and simplicity. A season to give myself grace while I focus on being present and choosing love.

Because, in reality, I just need to keep it simple. I don't need to do it all. It doesn't all depend on me. God's got it. He holds my children in His hands. I can ask others for help. I can let go of my worries, perfectionism, and performance, and I can rest in Him.

I simply need to remember these two thoughts: 
His yoke is easy, His burden is light, and He gives me rest. (Matthew 11:28-30) 
and
Everything boils down to love God and love people. (Matthew 22:37-39) 

Keep it simple, sweetheart.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Elizabeth's Homebirth Story




On the 13th of November, I was really hoping to go into labor. The boys were both born on Sundays. I like the number 13. My sister Rachel was nearby, so she could've come to the birth. It was a great day for it, right? Plus I had lost my mucus plug the night before, so I hoped that meant things were happening! But other than that there were no signs of impending labor, even though I kept hoping. My braxton hicks contractions were an hour or more apart all day. 

In the evening, feeling discouraged, I went and laid down in the birth room and put on my birth playlist and napped. I kept looking at the Supermoon out the window and willing it to put me into labor. Nathaniel woke me up when he was going to bed and I opted to change into my pjs and return to the birth room. I wanted to keep soaking in the worship music I had playing, preparing the atmosphere for the birth. Will, our 5 year old, wanted to join me, so I let him.

At 1:30 am, a contraction woke me up. I've never been woken by a braxton hicks, so I figured this was it! I got up and went to the bathroom to get that out of the way. Then I had another contraction before I got back to the bedroom and I thought that was pretty quick!

I wanted to make sure the contractions kept going before I woke Nathaniel up, so I sat down on the rug in the birth room with my phone open to my contraction tracking app. I sang and rocked through the contractions. They were about 5 minutes apart and 1 minute long. At 1:55 am, I woke Nathaniel and told him this is it! Baby time!

Of course, he's like 'huh? what do you mean?' because he's not quite awake. So I tell him I'm on my 6th contraction since 1:30 and it's only 1:55 now. I'm in labor! I tell him to start making calls. 

I went back to my rug and started notifying people in between contractions, which were suddenly only 2 or 3 minutes apart. First, I called my midwife. Then I texted and notified my prayer people. Nathaniel called my mom & his and took care of my "in labor" list-- starting the diffuser and so on. He also moved Will into the other room. And of course, the night I go into labor Nathaniel was feeling sick! So he hopped in the shower quick to try to clear his congestion.

Dionne and her assistant, Lorranda, arrived at 2:20 am and I let them in, breathing through a contraction by the banister. Back upstairs, I sat on the bed and sang or vocalized through the contractions as they became more intense. All of our animals were in the room greeting our visitors. Our dog Angel was especially insistent about getting attention. Our kitty Bella jumped up on the bed and snuggled up to me. The other cats wandered through, too. My contractions were about 3 minutes apart and 1 minute long at this point.

As things got more intense, the animals left the room. I moved to my hands and knees for awhile as I dealt with back labor and then I'd sit up in between contractions. Dionne, I think, rubbed my back for a little while. When that wasn't really working, I tried lying on my side, but that wasn't much better, so I ended up going back to hands and knees.

At 3:40 am, I went and used the bathroom again and had to get through a couple contractions before and after. I found that standing up while leaning against the sink felt better than what I had been doing, so I continued that leaning over the bed in the birth room. Then my legs were getting tired, so I tried kneeling on a chair in between contractions. At 4:11 am, I even tried to lay down to rest, but as soon as I laid down, it was like NOPE! And I got right back up for more contractions.

The contractions were super intense and coming on top of each other without a break now. Sometimes leaning into the pressure of Nathaniel's hand on my shoulder helped me to get my focus away from the pain. I became almost frantic if Nathaniel tried to take his hand away. I was really emotional, overwhelmed, and worn out at this point. 

In the logical part of my head, I was thinking-- OK, this is good. This is probably transition, so I can push and be done soon! The emotional side of my brain was like-- WAAAAAHHHH! I'm tired! Can I be done now? (Think whiny child or crying baby.) I wasn't coping so well! Haha!

I asked Dionne to check me because I wanted to start pushing just enough to take the edge off. And so at 4:35 am, we found out that I was complete with a bulging bag of waters. Pushing slightly into the contractions did seem to take the edge off. I wasn't really pushing yet, but it helped.

I moved to hands and knees on the bed again to rest my muscles, but it wasn't quite working. I was trying really hard to avoid saying "ow" during contractions, but for real, my comfort measures weren't cutting it. At this point, I started praying during contractions. Lots of "Jesus," "Lord help me," and "Oh God, help me," at the peak of my contractions. And, my favorite, in between contractions I said, "I just want a break." Multiple times.

I kept thinking of trying the tub, but I couldn't find the motivation to move. Plus, what if it didn't help?! I was so unsure if it would be better or worse. (*Note to self: should have gotten in the tub before transition!)

At 5:00 am, I moved to laying on my side and for a time it was actually better. I was still just pushing enough to take the edge off. Eventually it was just as bad again and I was nearly crawling out of my skin with wanting to move and find something better but with too much indecision to actually move. I kind of wanted my leg up, but I didn't want to hold it up myself and I was too conflicted to vocalize that.

Really I needed to push but I was scared to. I was almost crying, especially when Elizabeth started kicking from the inside during contractions! OW! 

At 5:15 am, the push reflex took over my lazy push and I said, oh, that was a real push! I didn't want to give into it, so I was trying to avoid it, but that just meant it hurt a lot because I was resisting. I said things like "I don't want to push" and "it would help if I wasn't scared to push." Dionne very soothingly told me to let my body do what it needs to. To which I would reply, "I know, I know, it doesn't make sense, but I don't want to" and "I know I'm being ridiculous." She also said something soothing about your husband is here, you're fine, safe, etc. And I'm thinking stop trying to reason with the whiny child in my head, LOL! I knew (in my logical brain) that I had to push and that the sooner I did, the sooner I'd have my baby and not be in pain! But my emotional brain was whining and pouting and resisting, so I was letting them know why it was taking so long. 

By 5:27 am, I began to truly push, my body took over! No resisting possible! Plus I could feel the stretch now and there was no going back. I began to really push into it because I really wanted her out so I could be done with the ring of fire! Haha! And I think Bella must have sympathized with me, because she chose this moment to jump up on the bed and lay along my back!

My water broke at 5:34 am during a push. Dionne let me know there was light meconium, but she wasn't concerned by it. I heard her ask Lorranda to find suction equipment in case they needed to clear baby's airways. Dionne told me to put my hand behind my knee and left my leg to make room for baby and I asked for someone else to help hold my leg up. I'm not actually sure who held my leg, if it was Nathaniel or the assistant, my eyes were closed!

I kept thinking baby was crowning and then I'd push and I'd realize there was still more stretching that needed to happen! I was panting in between contractions because the stretch was so intense. Dionne told me she could see lots of hair. I asked her to support me down there during another push and she assured me she already was. They also used olive oil. At one point, there seemed to be a really long pause in between contractions and I told them, "I want to finish pushing her out. Where is a contraction when you need one?" Dionne said something about it being a nice break though.

When baby was crowning, I was surprised to hear my mom encouraging me. She had slipped in when it sounded like things were close. (She had previous permission to be in the room.)

And then baby's head was out! Dionne laughed that little girl spit out some fluid as she looked around (and because of that they chose not to suction once she was completely out). Dionne told me later that baby didn't automatically turn for the shoulders to be born, which can indicate shoulder dystocia, when the shoulders get stuck. And really, after her head was out, it wasn't the big relief like it was with the boys and so I said "I just want her out!"

So I pushed really hard with the next contraction with Dionne assisting a little and out she came, no problems, at 5:45 am on November 14th, 2016! Dionne handed her up to me and I said, "Oh baby girl, I have waited so long for you!" Nathaniel leaned in close and put his head to mine and I could tell he was emotional about his baby girl's arrival. (According to him, he felt "a slight emotion" when she was born... So stoic. LOL) He also told me later that Angel came running back into the room when Elizabeth started crying. And Lorranda told me that at the same time Bella was walking around meowing loudly seeming to "announce" Elizabeth's birth.

Within a few minutes, the placenta came out and the cord stopped pulsing, too. I was losing more blood than they liked, so I was given some Cytotec. I almost expected it. Because I got a shot of pitocin after Seth was born for the same reason and because of how much I bled when I lost Phoenix. 

My mom gushed over the baby and I told Nathaniel to invite his mom up, too. Elizabeth was fussing so I latched her and she nursed very happily while my MIL sat with us. Seth, our 3 year old, woke up around this time. He came wandering in and exclaimed, "Babies!" Then he gave hugs to everyone in the room including Dionne and Lorranda!

When they got me up to go to the bathroom and clean me up, we discovered that I had some retained membranes. Dionne pulled that out and my bleeding slowed down considerably after that. She still gave me another Cytotec because of the amount of blood I had lost. Then they settled me into an herbal bath, which was lovely and wonderful and soothing. Once I was in the tub, they brought Elizabeth to me, and she nursed some more while I relaxed in the warm water. When she wasn't nursing, she was looking for her fingers. She was so alert.

My mom had been holding Elizabeth while they were taking care of me and Seth brought her a juice cup for the baby. What a sweet big brother!

When we went back to the birth room, Dionne did footprints, weight, and length. And that is when we discovered that Elizabeth was 9 lbs and 20.5 inches! 9 lbs!!!! We were all in shock. No one was expecting 9 lbs! My little chunk! Dionne even said that when she was crowning, she kind of paused on her cheeks before her head came the rest of the way out!

Later that morning when Will woke up, my mom told him there was a surprise for him in the birth room and he came in asking what it was. I pointed out his sister in the bed next to me and his face was so sweet to watch, this expression of awe and wonder was on his face with his mouth wide open. He was so excited and happy to meet her! Then he crawled into bed and was gushing about how adorable she was, and oh her little ears, and her little toes, and so on. As he was leaving, I heard him saying how he loved his surprise.

<3 Elizabeth Joy Collelo. 4:15 hours of labor. 5:45 am. 11/14/16. 9 lbs. 20.5 inches. <3


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Capture Your Grief ~ Day 24

https://www.instagram.com/p/BL-WJonjMUV/?taken-by=shellycollelo

Day 24 ~ Consciously Becoming

Prompt: So many of us split our lives into a timeline of before and after our children died. Who were you before your children died? Who are you now? Who are you now in this present moment? What are you feeling? Have you been irrevocably changed by the death of your children? How are you different now? Do you love anything about the new you? Do you want any old part of your back? Who are you becoming?

I don't think of myself in terms of before and after Phoenix, but I recognize the changes in myself since we loved her and lost her. My faith has changed. Before I prayed big prayers and had such incredible assurance that I continued to pray boldly even when prayers went unanswered. I asked and believed for miracles. I prayed for everyone and everything. My loss shook me like nothing else had before. It struck the closest to my heart.

There's more hesitation in the asking and the praying. There's been distance. It's been harder to get in the Word, harder to journal my prayers, harder to pray confidently for others, harder to worship in abandonment, harder to feel that closeness. It doesn't come as easily. I have to work at it.

I know He's near, but I'm still struggling at times to reconcile my feelings of betrayal. Because I fully believe in His power to do miracles, but my miracle didn't come. How do I reconcile His ability to save her with the fact that He didn't? What prevented Him from acting? I know His heart is for life and I know He conquered death, yet the reality of what happened doesn't align with what I know is Truth.

In many ways, I've relied on my faith, on Jesus, to get through this. I still believe in the Truth of His word, which has carried me through, but relationally, I became closed off toward Him for a season. Now I am becoming more open toward Him once again. As I have recognized my need, I have sought Him out more and more. 

Without that connection and infusion of the Spirit in my life, I've been increasingly short tempered, impatient, rude, and so on. It's been a bit ugly to be honest. And so I've been pressing in once again, because I have seen my need. I don't like who I am when I'm distanced from Him, so I'm choosing differently. I am choosing to become the most whole and healthy person I can be by pressing into the only One who can make me so.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Capture Your Grief ~ Day 13

https://www.instagram.com/p/BLgqZ6ODjNG/

What do I want the world to know about my kind of grief?

When I do things to remember Phoenix Bliss, it's not about making other people sad. It's how I share my love for my baby. It's how I keep her memory alive since she isn't here. For loss mamas, it's one of the ways we love our angels from afar. We talk about them. We honor them. We make memorials or light candles or get tattoos or raise awareness. Our angels are part of who we are, part of our story. We are forever changed by the fact that they were here for however brief a time. Yes, there are still tears that come at times, but usually, it's very matter of fact when I share about Phoenix Bliss. She was here. She's now in heaven waiting for me. And I love her. [Thank you to @honoringjensen and @mommyofsullivan for providing the inspiration for this part. You gave me a way to express what I had been feeling.]

~~~~~

The other thing I wanted to share about was the sense of embarrassment or shame that I battled in the back of my mind when I put out the word about my loss. Which is stupid, I know, but we all know how some people feel about early pregnancy announcements being improper or unwise. I had "broken the rules" by openly announcing our joy at five weeks on Facebook, declaring how good God was to give us this blessing, and then I lost my baby. My answer to prayer had been snatched away from me and I was now left to announce our loss, "burdening" other people with the awkwardness of witnessing our grief and loss. Of course, everyone was very gracious when I shared and no one actually said anything like that to directly to me. There was just that fear of the silent judgement.

In this last year, I have been very vocal about my loss and this is part of the reason why. I hope that someday this will not even be in the back of anyone's mind after a loss, so they can share as freely as they are comfortable without any hesitation from that kind of thinking. The pain and grief of miscarriage is not shameful and it does not need to be hidden. Is there any other loss where we try to hide what happened? So why the hush hush related to miscarriage? No matter how early, the loss is felt just as keenly. The pain is just as real. The need for support is just as tangible. I will keep speaking up in the hope that this stigma will one day disappear.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Capture Your Grief ~ Day 3

https://www.instagram.com/p/BLGqRjgDWV0/

Day 3: What It Felt Like

It felt like labor but worse. The pains came without the joyful anticipation and happy hormones that make labor easier. Instead, the contractions were accompanied by gut wrenching grief. The sharp physical pains were a mere echo of the breaking in my heart. Because of course the physical pain was not the worst part, but rather knowing what the pains meant. 

My baby was gone and I was having a miscarriage.

For over an hour, I rocked on my bathroom floor crying and praying in denial, no, no, no, no, no, no, no... I repeated the words "You're gonna live and not die, says God. We speak life." over and over. After awhile, with the amount of blood I was losing, I wondered if I was really singing those words over myself. Maybe.

When we went to the ER, I got rushed in and had two IVs placed because my blood pressure was so low. I mostly felt numb laying in the ER hospital bed, except when the staff would look at me with teary eyes and tell me they were so sorry for why I was there. Eventually, my red eyed husband had to go home to take care of our boys so my sister could get to work while we waited for my mom to arrive so he could come back to my side.

While I sat alone, waiting, I reached out on Facebook and via text message, seeking prayers and letting people know what had happened. And over and over, I typed out the very worst words I've ever had to type...

We lost our baby.

It made it real. Like if I never spoke the words, maybe it wouldn't be true. If only... But no, and so I typed out repeatedly through sobs and tears the words that tasted like acid in my heart, seeking solace and relief from my friends and family. 

And so my grief journey began.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Capture Your Grief ~ Day 1

Instagram

A few days ago, I found out about Capture Your Grief happening in October. I'm 33 weeks along with my rainbow princess, due in November, and my loss also happened in November. It felt like a perfect opportunity to both remember Phoenix Bliss and prepare my heart for my rainbow.

I felt like I had pretty well processed my grief. Like I had done a good job of moving forward. And then yesterday I read a few chapters in Lysa TerKeurst's book Uninvited. She was writing about rejection, but her words kept bringing me back to my loss and then I recognized myself in this:
He draws you near despite the sharp evidence of your grieving heart. The anger. The deep disappointment and disillusionment. The questions of why you and why now? ... How could He let this happen? The cussing and banging your fist on the steering wheel. The shame and anguish. All of these are shards of being shattered. - pg 143
I began thinking maybe I need this Capture Your Grief thing more than I realized. Maybe my heart isn't as healed as I thought. Maybe all the anger and cussing that's been coming out over the last six months or so is actually rooted in unprocessed grief and not just pregnancy hormones or lack of self control. Maybe it's really rooted in that deep disappointment and disillusionment. In trying and failing to reconcile within my heart God's ability to change hard things and the fact that He didn't. 

And that's okay. It just means I'm still on my journey of healing. And Lysa's next words speak so much hope and comfort to my heart:
God isn't afraid of your sharp edges that may seem quite risky to others. He doesn't pull back. He pulls you close. His love and grace covers your exposed grief. And step by step He leads you to a new place of victory. - pg. 143
 So this morning I got up for the sunrise for Day 1 to remember and honor Phoenix and all the other angel babies. I lit a few candles and prayed. I listened to the birds sing. I kept thinking of the line in the song Forever by Kari Jobe, "Now Death where is your sting? Our Resurrected King has rendered you defeated!" and Phoenix's verse Isaiah 40:11 "He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young."

My plan for this month is to process, to remember, to heal and to prepare for the arrival of my rainbow. This is where I start.

"The Lord draws near to the one who has had her heart shattered and delivers her from exposed grief to victory." - Psalm 34:18