Maternity fashion 101

If I had a dime for every healthy recipe pinned or fitness article posted on social media today, I could hire a personal chef and a trainer and I wouldn’t even need to look at said healthy recipes and fitness articles.

But nobody pays me for my observations unfortunately, so here I lazily sit, eating string cheese and Greek olives for second breakfast, and hunting for maternity clothes online because I am fast approaching the point of no return where the next time I wear regular pants could very well be my last, and y’all better watch out, cause buttons will inevitably be popping.

Maternity clothes are horrific to shop for, because Exhibit A:


I can’t wait to wear this piece of material, which won’t cover my backside, or heck, even my frontside!” Said no pregnant woman ever.

My good people, I have done this multiple–and I do mean multiple–times: This lady isn’t real. She was created in a lab by Russian scientists. This sweater was designed for a toddler. Even the most adorable pregnant woman is never “all belly”, which is a vicious myth that well-meaning people perpetuate to make the gestating population feel better about their weight gain.

Maternity Fashion Advice from an Unfashionably Pregnant Person:

Tip 1: Everything gets bigger and that’s okay. Wear things that you make you feel happy and that you aren’t constantly tugging at or adjusting.

Tip 2: Comb your hair and brush your teeth. OOPS.

That’s it. Unless you’re worried about Melissa Rivers ripping your outfit to shreds on national television, this could apply to everyday fashion outside of being pregnant.

The fact that I’m holed up in bed without any current obligations to attend events requiring clothes is helpful. I have no intention of dropping a few hundred bucks on a wardrobe that doesn’t leave the house, or at this point, the bedroom.

Sometimes I do dream about the day when Caleb and I can go out on a date and he will look over and smile at his cute pregnant wife in her sweater-dress, Walmart-manicure, and muppet extensions; but then I’m all like “These ten-year-old sweatpants are mad comfortable” and I make him play the extreme version of “M.A.S.H.” with me while I steal half his nachos. WINNING.


Still in the game

Aaaaaaand I’m powerless on my back in bed again. (Gettin’ real tired of your crap, uterus.) It’s December 31st, the last day of 2016. I have a crazy random cold and all my systems are spazzing out. I feel like I’ve been run over by a tank; and then someone came back, cut my head off, and made me eat my own head. Also I may be having some mild hallucinations due to a severe fast food deficiency, which wasn’t a problem during my nauseous early months of pregnancy but now that I’m in my second trimester, it is a serious issue that can no longer be overlooked.

I honestly don’t know what to prepare for in the next day or two much less for the next several months. Last week I was on cloud nine awaiting what I was sure would be the “all-clear” doctor’s appointment. I may have been slightly over-eager and done *a little* more cooking/cleaning/standing than I should have. And now here I am. Snotty and stuffy and crampy and exhausted–but you guys:

My heart is light. I’m good. I don’t know what is going to happen and I don’t know what to do about it, but God is with me, and every little thing is gonna be alright. It’s been a gloriously mild winter so far. I am surrounded by family and friends. And I still have my surprise baby #5, who is a blessing to my heart in every sense of the word.

Plus, there is so much joy to be found in the seemingly mundane world of bed rest. This morning I had an enlightening thirty-minute conversation with Arbor about freckles. I’ve now seen all of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. I don’t have to feed the chickens or wear pants. As for this evening’s New Year celebrations, I don’t picture it going any different than it has in previous years:

Pretty much the standard Toni-issue NYE. Nachos and jammies. So dope.


Hey girl hey

All my sweet young college girls who I have such a heart for because everytime I look at any of you I see my own daughter, take heed: Let’s say that a guy you’re seeing continually tells you he’s not looking for anything serious/he just wants to have fun/he’s not ready to commit. These words spoken in English, translated literally, mean: “Hey girl. You are at least mildly hot and I’m bored and/or lonely. I am ok with selfishly using your body and taking up your time only while it is convenient for me, and, on the days when it is not convenient, please refer to the times that I warned you how un-special you were.” He DOES NOT MEAN: “Hey girl. I’d be ready to settle down if you can prove to me you’re worth it.”

I could go delve so much deeper and offer up more spiritually-inspired advice, but for the sake of time let’s just stick with worldly common sense for now.

I am so serious. This guy? He thinks he’s clever because he has stated his intentions up front and he can’t be blamed for any cruelty he commits towards you either intentionally or unintentionally. (Even though everyone knows you don’t take the time to tame a fox and then just leave it alone on a planet all by itself.) He told you, right? He’s covered. Your heartbreak is your own fault. And it kind of is.

Let’s say you stick with him and he manages to pull his crap together long enough to think he’s ready for a wife. Know what that marriage is going to be built on? Not honor and respect. Actually, more like lust and convenience. And eventually, both lust and convenience fade. Hard.

I’m not saying it’d be hopeless, but if you don’t take the time (preferably in the beginning) to learn to understand and respect your spouse, your marriage will be dominated by anger and frustration, disappointment and bitterness. You will throw so much of your heart into trying to prove your worth to him, even subconsciously, only to find that nothing you say or do changes the way he sees you.

It could be 11 years, a few drywall repairs, and several thousand dollars of marriage counseling to even begin to correct course.

But THIS GUY. He has wonderful qualities. You see them–you believe he is special.

Pull yourselves together ladies! Do not forget that YOU are something special. You are a treasure, a compassionate human being with a heart as big as a lion, and you are worthy of so much more than last minute after-dinner plans or a random midnight text.

Are you helping him in anyway by enabling him to be the laziest version of himself? We are not responsible for anyone else’s irresponsibility–but what would happen if girls stopped being booty calls and started calling men up? (Not out, but up. Huge difference.) What if you respected yourself in such a way that anyone who had an inclination to date you would have to seriously consider stepping up his game? What if we rejected not the person, but the giant pile of bull crap they’re trying to pass off as a twisted form of nobility?

I can’t speak for the people who are okay with casual relationships, but I do offer a word of caution: at some point, it will stop being casual for at least one of the involved parties.

But to that bright-eyed hopeful girl who is dating someone who is way less into her than she is into him? To her I would say: he is his own problem; your goals and your feelings matter so much more than his temporary mild disappointment. You can’t change him or control him with your words, your looks, or your actions. You should not be faulted  for wanting kindness and respect from the person you’re with.

The proper response to a funboy: “Oh, you’re not looking for anything serious? Well then I’m not someone you need to hang around then, since it will be extremely hard for you not to fall in love with me. And since my standards dictate I only spend time with men who are honorable, respectable, dependable, and unselfish, I am afraid that your falling in love with me would be tragic, because truly you don’t even have a chance at this point.”

And then go forth and treat yourself right by not allowing anyone else to treat you wrong.


Naming Souls

I’ve been birthing kids a solid ten years longer than most people my age so I think I can say with earned authority that ain’t nobody got time for stupid baby names. Go with me, if you will, on this crunchy granola crazy Christian journey:
I believe the names we give our kids can be eerily prophetic to their individual personalities or life paths. Take Cheyenne, for example. I was 15 when I had her so an expert in the land of choosing monikers for human beings I was not. It wasn’t until I tried to buy her a customized name-meaning plaque at a kiosk in the mall that I learned “Cheyenne”, literally translated, meant “unintelligible speaker.” Funny story: I HAVE NEVER UNDERSTOOD THAT GIRL NOR WILL I FOR A MILLION YEARS. (Not to mention she was one Cheyenne out of 50,000 others in her kindergarten class. Fail.)

I vowed to be more thoughtful with my next child’s name. 8 years later, my Mia Alaina was born. Simple, Italian; not off the wall but not technically popular either, at least not at the time. She truly is “My dear one.”

We all know the story of Merrick, and how I only liked the name because of Gerard Butler, who played a character named Marek in a movie that I saw at a theater that I may or may not have snuck into without paying. We decided to spell it “Merrick,” which means in Irish, a fork in the river. His birth marked a major turning point in our lives, one where we abruptly turned from one path and went a completely new direction.

The name Arbor seemed to have it all: it was unusual; short; beautiful; it invoked images of climbing roses and summer gardens; it had an “I am the vine and you are the branches” Jesus vibe which honored our faith, in a way.I loved the connotation of strength the name Arbor implied. And then God bestowed upon me the most strong-willed, heel-diggingest child the universe has ever known.

(Side note: I think we can all agree on the accuracy of my name, Antoinette, which means “priceless”.)

You guys, it is serious business, naming souls. I’m reminded of that movie “Where the Heart Is”, and that girl who admitted to an old black man she was thinking of naming her baby “Wendi with an i.” “Girl, don’t you dare! Give that baby a good strong name!” He does not hesitate two seconds to tell her. It is the best advice any fictional character ever gave to any other fictional character.

My kids gotta have that strong name, and I don’t care how impossible it might make them as toddlers. They got to have that sweet name, that God-honoring name, that “I-know, my-mom’s-an-artist” name. So far about 0% of our choices have been well-received and that’s ok.

Go for the name. Go for the bizarre name. Go for the grandpa name. Go for the popular name that been at #1 on the charts for 8 years in a row. Go for the name that is meaningful to you. Go for the name that embodies every dream you have for your precious child. Never mind when people say “Oh, that’s definitely unique” or “That’s boring as hell.” Don’t worry about the haters that openly gag at the thought of a baby named Bernadette (meaning: brave as a mother-freakin’ bear.) 

You just go on with your bad self and name that baby, who God entrusted to you, with every ounce of love in your whole heart.

And when you’re done, be supportive of other parents who are trying to do the same.


Gray 

Captain’s Log, Day 15,891: We are experiencing rather gloomy weather conditions. Spirits and rations are low. The children have gained control of the main living quarters including the master bedroom, where “The Good Dinosaur” will now play on a continual basis in the hopes that the youngest will keep her blood-curdling screams to a minimum. Hair from our canine companions now coats the floor in an 8-inch thick layer. Clutter is rapidly multiplying on every previously clear surface; the visual chaos is almost too much for me to bear. Much of my time is spent staring off into space pretending not to see the scotch tape left out on the kitchen counter.

The current diagnosis is what is called a “threatened miscarriage.” Bleeding is unpredictable and at times, heavy. The medical theory is that bed rest may be instrumental in getting the pregnancy into the second trimester; or it may not be helpful at all. I find the complete lack of control that I have over the situation to be difficult to handle, especially since I cannot cope by cleaning or running.

The uncertainty and the boredom are combining to form a slight but definite depression, which manifests itself in the form of passive-aggression and tantrum-throwing. Caleb is stout-hearted, but his patience with me is wearing thin. This creates a dangerous cycle of guilt which only fuels my anxiety. Sleep is elusive. Overall frustration levels are at an all-time maximum.

Waiting and being still has proven to be one of the hardest things God has ever commanded me to do.

For the moment, the family is at church. I pray they come back in good spirits, their hearts rejuvenated, and their strength renewed. I pray that from my eternally-reclined position I can at least verbally encourage my husband; I no doubt will struggle over the next couple weeks but I hope to see a light at the end of the tunnel with my upcoming doctor’s appointment. Until then, I will bark orders in regards to tidying up things in my line of sight.


When you can’t see 

The thing about bedrest is you spend a lot of time in bed. Not resting.

I do a lot of staring at the ceiling. I watch “Marley and Me” three times a day and still cry my way through it, every time. There may or may not be an obscene amount of precious phone battery life supporting a neverending game of Bottle Flip.

But something else I’ve been doing: praying. Listening. Waiting. Reading. Studying. Asking. Begging. Listening. And praying. And praying.

Praying.

I want so much to be with my church family right now. I want to teach my weekday preschool class. I want to encourage my friends and be a voice of reason and I want to be a light especially when it’s dark. I want to get up, to help, to serve, to speak truth, and to spur fellow believers on.

I want to act.

But God keeps saying to me “Be still.”

My feelings, my perceptions, my opinions and my actions–God reminds me time and time again that He is working things for the good of His people with or without my physical presence.

I beg and I bargain and I cry out for forgiveness. What have I done to be grounded like this? What can I do to change it? How can I best apologize and repent so that I can continue on with the plan I had for my life?

God tells me “Be still and know that I am God.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9

I am not, nor will I ever be, in charge. I follow up a limited perspective with a predictable human response.

Have I really been trusting in God?

I’m happy to make sacrifices when I know there will be a favorable outcome. I will take risks as long as success is highly probable. I trust in God as long as His plan for my life involves me getting to do what I wanted to do anyway.

I work well with others as long as I am in agreeance with them and they with me; any plot twist or rejection (real or perceived) is a direct attack on my value as a person, and a defensive path is what I immediately and selfishly pursue.
Can I be brave enough to be broken? Brave enough to fail? Will I sacrifice even when the cost is more than my common sense would allow? Will I fight even when I know I won’t win; or more importantly, the opposite: will I not fight even when I know I would win?

Can I trust God even when I’m feeling hurt or betrayed or lost? Can I trust in Him even if it means I can’t get out of bed? Do I not believe that this could be exactly a crucial part of His infinitely higher plan?

Do I keep going, even when I can’t see?

I have been presented with a divine opportunity to meditate in these questions and to go to God in uninterrupted intercessory prayer over these things which break my heart. (Otherwise known as: doctor’s orders.)

We cannot allow Satan to rip our church apart. We cannot make assumptions or get caught up in gossip. We cannot alienate and vilify an entire group of God-fearing people because of a cause, however good we are led to believe that cause is. And we cannot allow one person to slip through the gaps where we as believers should have been standing arm-in-arm.

We must work together. We have to rid our minds of an “us versus them” mentality, both inside and outside of our church walls. Our ministries are intertwined to build up the entire body of Christ. If one area of the church is suffering, we are all suffering. (I call to witness: that time I had a gimpy thumb cause I burned it on a poptart, and I couldn’t do anything for a week.)

If needs change in one ministry, we simply must do our best to accommodate those changes and pray for the people being reached and loved through the obedient service of those we find ourselves weirdly competing with.

We need to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves.

Guys, this is so important: we are a good church. There is so much love and compassion and goodness and GOSPEL being proclaimed and examplified in every hallway. We are a people who know the meaning of miracles and the beauty of redemption. We are faster than 80% of all snakes. Satan does not stand one single chance if each of us chooses a position of humility, and holds strong to the dedication and love we have for our Holy God and His Word.


the words and the wolf

My heart these days, you guys.

My family.

My friends.

I will tell you that it’s been a rough season for people I love. That everything we said would never happened, has happened. Call it a deception or mere misunderstanding. Call it outright bullying or clash of personalities. Call it a concession for the purpose of unity, or an answer to fervent prayer.

Know what I call it? Division. In other words, the opposite of God’s will.

I’m not really sure how or when the ball got started rolling, but rolling it went, not stopping to care about anything but its own path, and leaving in its wake more hurt people than I care to know about.

But I know about them. And I’m sad.

“Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” — 1Corinthians 13, vs 4-6

These words. They come to mind in times when I need to check myself.

I want them to always be true of my thoughts and actions, and yet I know that’s not the case. I get excited. I get upset. I get carried away, and I let my sights become fixed upon a particular situation rather than fixed upon the God in charge of it.

I want to weigh the risks vs rewards. I want to know all the facts from all the people. I want to have a logical, measurable answer before making a rational, calculated decision.

And I want to have good feelings after I make that decision.

But sometimes? The decision is not mine to make. And even when I have the facts, good feelings are nowhere to be found.

I’ve heard it preached, “Watch out for wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing.” Those words have haunted me for almost a year. And I try. Skepticism comes quite naturally to me, so questioning a train before I jump on it is not much of a problem.

Faith, though, tends to be trickier.

Until recently. I have witnessed miracles in my life. I have seen the darkest of nights give way to the most glorious of sunrises. Tell me God can’t fix a problem, then get punched in the face.

I have faith in God. I have faith that He will heal His Church. I have faith in Jesus who unites us all. I have love for my brothers and sisters in Christ and I have a a deep appreciation for all the ministries that our church tries to offer.

There will always be wolves.

I will not hitch my wagon to any one person no matter how compelling a case they make, because I’m not at church to follow or serve one person. I will keep in mind that there are always many sides to a story–and then, there’s the truth. I will trust and respect the authority of those leaders–past, present, and future–that God has put in place to shepherd my church. I will do my very best to fear God and love God and love His people, though that love is sometimes peppered with a stick-it-to-the-man mentality.

I will beg forgiveness when I am not patient or kind, when I am jealous or way too consumed with the cleverness of myself.

I will not seek to blame others for my own failures, and I will not intentionally bring someone else down for my own gain. I will not celebrate in the shame of others, but I will rejoice when truth is revealed.

And I will try to serve His people with humility and enthusiasm. I will do my best to go and make disciples wherever God leads me. I will attend church and encourage my brothers and sisters, and worship The Holy God who sees all, knows all, and loves me even in spite of my mess and my big mouth.

Once I can get out of bed.


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