#findingtheheart In Marriage

Hey friends!

Nick is on my mind today, as I write. Well, he’s on my mind often, but for a specific reason today.

You’ve probably heard it said before that marriage is a lot of give and take. Nick and I have recently decided that it is simply give. It is always give. When you both are trying to out give the other, both needs are met and the “magic” some people seem to have is a direct result. I don’t claim to know all the things about marriage. I’ve only been at it for 12 years. I do know enough about our marriage though, to tell you that, when we aim to out-give or out-love the other, we rarely feel neglected or misunderstood.

This is not executed perfectly. We both fail at this, we both have bad days and it is extremely easy to go back to “keeping score”.

Nick stated the other day (on the ol facebook at that)…

“The best marriage is when you both think, “I’m the lucky one”🥰

So how do you get to that place you ask? I know you didn’t actually ask…but I’m going there anyway.

You out-give the other…

I know. It seems naive and even foolish.

I can’t say that this is a cure all or the answer to every little issue. I can’t say that it is easy or the most popular approach. This is simply what we’ve found, in our own life, that continues to prove itself over and over. When we decide to give “even when”… the results are usually in both of our favor.

“One person gives freely, yet gains even more;
    another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.

A generous person will prosper;
    whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.”
                                                      Proverbs 11:24-25

Refreshing the other will in turn refresh you. This is something you may think is completely absurd, but just give it a shot. It won’t always look perfect, but it will always be worth it, out of obedience to the Lord. When we are generous with our love, our grace, our time, our efforts, our compliments, our encouragement, our noticing what they do, inquiring about their day, finding interest in what interests them…it comes back.

When we withhold, we only have what we’re holding on to. When we give out, we gain a return that is blessed by the Father. Yes, this could be extremely difficult. Most things in life that are that difficult are the best things. This does not just pertain to tithes or offerings, money or resources. This, I believe, is also talking to us about our most deep and intimate relationships. Quit withholding. Out-give the other. Out-cherish the other. Out-love the other. Whether this is a marriage relationship or a friendship, a sibling or family member, you can’t control what they do, but you can certainly control what you do.

89

Perhaps you are tired and weary. I see you. God sees you all the more. Give him your heart and tired spirit and ask for the strength to give. He will supply.

#findingtheheart of your marriage takes time and honestly y’all, it takes so much work. It takes effort, humility and lots of grace. What I can say though, is that, finding the heart makes all the difference in the world.

Finding this rhythm in our own relationship has not been quick or easy. It has certainly been life giving and worth it, though!

If we can come alongside you or answer any questions, we would love to visit with you!

Much love!

Shaina (and Nick)

Advertisements

Singing vs Worshiping

Hello friends!

Today I am breaking away from my usual mom/woman/day to day life things writing and putting on my worship leader hat. My business card says “Worship Pastor”… I just feel like I have since I was a little girl, a singer who loves Jesus.

I’ve been a part of “the” church since I was comfortable in the womb. Since the day I was born, I have been in some sort of capacity, a church member. My parents have been faithful members of the church, believers, followers of Christ, raising my sister and I in the routine and rhythm of the church. Some of my earliest memories are of 1st grade Sunday School, learning the books of the Bible, in order, to a tune. I remember Ms. Ruth, the nursery worker who held babies for GENERATIONS. I remember Bible Drill, GA’s, Discipleship classes, Youth, Summer Camp, Mission Trips, “big” church, drawing on the pink offering envelopes (sorry FBC Canyon for being so wasteful, being on a church staff now, I see the expense I cost you HAHA) and church choir.e3e2ce7f-625f-479e-9143-2a85885de77b

Most of my childhood memories revolve around the church. We would play hide and seek in the “haunted hallway” in the old building. We would chase each other up and down the stairs in the education building. I remember hanging out after youth on the steps and then taking our group senior picture on the same steps. I remember walking down the isle to my Nicholas, with my Dad at my side, in the church that built both Tbyrd and I.

The church has given me a foundation that I’ve built my life on and have not regretted it one bit. I don’t know why I fought the idea of being in full time ministry, but here I am. It seems as though when I look back at my life, God has been paving the way, the whole time. (He does that, doesn’t He)

I grew up in the golden age of youth ministry. The dark trenches of “the contemporary vs traditional church music war” 1990-2003 was the bulk of my childhood/adolescence and early adulthood. Within that span of time, I remember singing everything from “I Surrender All” to “Shout to the Lord” and everything in between. I enjoyed church choir from a tender age. We started church choir at  preschool age, but I actually remember it most from 1st-12th grades. I remember singing Chris Tomlin worship songs one way in youth and then singing them in the choral adaptation for our youth mission trip my Jr year, for choir. It was an interesting time. It was hard at times to be so drawn to the “new” sound of the music that was shaping my faith, as my own, not my parents’ or even grandparents’, but I felt deeply rooted in the hymns that, in fact, taught me how to harmonize. See, when the choir would sing, I would sing the alto line (I didn’t know it then), but I was more interested in that line of music and before I knew it, I could harmonize. I felt so fancy. ha! Church and music have been instrumental (pun intended) in my life.

My great grandmother was a pastor’s wife and church pianist for the bulk of her life. My Dad was in church choir, my Uncle still is and leads worship in many capacities to this day. My grandmother sings and plays the piano and has been involved in church choir for as long as I can remember. From the time I was in 9th grade, I have been involved in a “worship band” in some capacity. Church music is in my blood.

Here is where I’m going with this.

Church music often doesn’t have anything to do with True Worship.

I love love love modern worship music. It breaks down barriers and walls in my own life/heart. It fires me up, it has been the battle ground in many seasons of my life. It has been a part of my walk with Christ since I first heard “Shout to the Lord” during my 6th grade year of Disciple Now when hot tears were streaming down my face and I couldn’t tell you why. I just knew that the Holy Spirit was real and that He changes everything. I could tangibly experience God’s hand and his movement in my life through worship. I remember not long after our son died, I was in church, during the worship time, and a song began that I immediately got frustrated with. The title of the song is Healer. I stopped, put up a wall, got extremely frustrated with it all. How dare we sing a song about healing and God being our healer when my son had died a month prior?? I was completely justifying my attitude because “I was right” and “he is not a healer”. I suddenly felt as if God was holding me by the face and in the most gentle yet stern voice I heard, “I know you don’t understand and I know you’re mad at me right now, but you can’t have an attitude with me. Your worship doesn’t depend on what you feel about me, your worship comes from trust”.img_4281

Worship changes us. Worship, when we let it, works things out between us and God.

I Surrender All is a hymn I will always love. It is rich, deeply rooted and timeless. To me, it reminds me of when I decided that I wanted Jesus to have my heart and my whole life. That song is a moment in time, that thankfully, has shaped my life. Hymns are rich with truth, strong words, weighty statements of faith, deep thoughts and classic tunes. They are so simple and yet so dynamic in content. I can get lost in hymns when I sit at my piano and play alone, singing along without the pressure of the world on my shoulders.

Church, I want to encourage you to lay aside your preferences, so that, you can worship in spirit and in truth. Whether you prefer loud or quiet, up beat or slow, hymn or praise song…the music of the church is not what it is all about.

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” John 4:23-24

It is a scripture many of us have read many times. But, have you stopped to think about what it means?

True worshipers. It doesn’t say true worship. It doesn’t say “those who worship with hymns”. It doesn’t say anything about music. It says true worshipers WILL worship in spirit and truth. So what does it mean to be a TRUE WORSHIPER. It means that we lay aside our preferences as we walk in the door, our preference not just about a song we like, but our preferences of what we believe. We walk into church on any given Sunday with attitude towards our spouse (I did last Sunday. I promise you that those of us behind mics and drums sets and guitars are REAL PEOPLE with STUFF) We come in frazzled and frustrated, we try to open our mouth and sing out a song and we find that we are completely scatter brained, hurt, tired, sad, broken, maybe puffed up with pride, lying to everyone around us,even ourselves, that we are indeed exhausted and barely making it. You know what we do, so often? We fake it until we make it. We fake it through the songs, we half way listen to the message, we pretend we’re fine with everyone around us and then we leave saying “church was ok today, I didn’t like that one song and the sermon went long, why do they always ask for money and I don’t feel like getting involved in serving because I don’t have time and I’m too tired”…

Do we believe He is worthy, despite how we feel? Do we believe He is God, even though we are doubting? Do we believe that He is enough, when we don’t see how things will work out? Do we believe he heals, even when he didn’t heal our son?

What do we believe?

Let me suggest something. What if, we came into worship as our true selves? Sinful, prideful, broken, not ok, tired, exhausted even, worried, anxious, fearful, shamed, condemned by the world, over worked, under paid, feeling unseen, clueless and not knowing where to start. We can feel feelings, experience emotions and struggles. God created our feelings and emotions. We can be fully and honestly angry or sad or upset. We can truly feel alone and hurt. We can be anxious and scared. THEN, we let God do work in us, surrendered to Him as His Spirit and His truth come forth. Yes, it is messy. Yes, it is uncomfortable. Yes, it will cost. Yes, it will force us to make hard decisions, trust when we can’t see, believe when we can’t feel. Yes, it will mean REPENTANCE. Yes, it will mean struggle. Yes, it will mean making life changes. YES YES YES. It will mean work. But, what if?

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? Matthew 16:24-26

Our preference for comfort and easy keep us from a life of true worship. Notice that most of our worship doesn’t actually come from our music preference. Worship comes from our life preference. We choose to prefer easy over committed. We choose convenience over sacrifice. We choose priorities. We choose what we worship. If we aren’t worshiping God with our finances, we are worshiping stuff. If we aren’t worshiping God with our bodies, we are most likely worshiping self medication/addiction or over indulgence. (raises hand here, solidarity friends) If we aren’t worshiping God with our time, we are worshiping our own agenda. Listen, God has called us to our homes, our families, our jobs, ministries, projects even. He is calling us to live our lives he has given. He has given us all of these opportunities. He blesses them even. He also is the provider of them all and if we don’t recognize that with how we live, then we are leaning and trusting in ourselves and most likely drowning in it all.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Phil 4:8

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.  And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.  That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. 2 Timothy 1:6-14

We live our lives within the context of God’s character, His commands and His agenda. We don’t just fit God into our preferences, our wants and our convenience. When we begin to live our life as True worshipers, we will begin to see. We will see. See His character as faithful, true and good even when we hurt. We will see His people as He does. We will see the enemy for what He is. We will see sin for what it is and quit making excuses for it. We will see needs. We will see what God does, not what he doesn’t do.

When we begin to prefer Him over the world. We will live a life of worship. Will it look perfect? Heavens no. Will we get it right? Nope. Will our kids never mess up? We wish huh. Will our marriages be magically picture perfect? *shakes head* Sure won’t. Friendships will still take work. Life will still be hard. Life will be centered on His will though. img_4240

         Through thick and thin, trouble and delight, all the highs and lows and in between, we can be assured that when we worship Him for who is He, not how we want, our lives will be centered on Truth.

I want to encourage you and give you some tools in this.

-Be planted in “the” church. Find where God has called you and root deep. Do life with other believers. It will take vulnerability and honesty. It will not always be comfortable or easy. It will always be worth it.

-Repent of sin. Be disgusted with sin in your life. Be willing to admit fault before the Lord and receive grace, right where you’re at. Be diligent in this practice. (learning this, y’all. it is hard, but it is key)

-Let God be God. I don’t know how to help you in this, other than saying it. You know where God is asking you to let go and trust. Do it. Most of the battle of faith is being obedient. As Lysa Terkheurst says, “God is good. God is God. God is good and being God.”

-remember this is going to take our entire life. We will never arrive at perfection, until we see Christ face to face. Do not lose heart, do not quit…”keep on swimming” as Dori says. Please do not quit church because you got hurt or quit reading your Bible because you missed a week. Don’t quit serving all together because you got burnt out. Let God revive you and sustain you as you continue to be obedient to serve him.

I hope this encourages you today. I hope it challenges you today. It certainly has challenged me. God is not finished with us yet. Let’s not be finished with Him.

Shaina

Worship Pastor/Creative Arts
Family Life Church

 

Amarillo Angels

Hello!

So, Amarillo has a large amount of children in the foster care system. Amarillo Angels is an organization that helps support these children and the foster families in our area.

Coming up is an event with The PopCast crew from The PopCast with Knox & Jamie. Check out their podcast!! They also have The Bible Binge podcast as well! Knox, Jamie and Erin Moon will all be in Amarillo for a Live Event! Joining them will be authors Melanie Shankle and Sophie Hudson of the Big Boo Cast. They both have several books out and are so fun and delightful! I love their podcast as well!

This is going to be an amazing opportunity to support Amarillo Angels and their mission here in Amarillo!

Don’t delay! There are only a few VIP tickets left!! September will be here before we know it!

http://www.amarilloangels.org for tickets and more info!!

Check out :

The PopCast w/ Knox & Jamie http://www.knoxandjamie.com/

The Bible Binge – http://knoxandjamie.com/thebiblebinge/

Knox McCoy

Jamie Golden

Erin Moon https://www.erinhmoon.com/

Melanie Shankle https://www.thebigmamablog.com/

Sophie Hudson www.boomama.net

Amarillo Angels https://www.amarilloangels.org/

They are on all social media sites and have sites of their own!

 

Can’t wait to see you there!!!

Shaina

 

Spring is Here!

Hello friends!

Did I mention I had the flu in February and life has been a revolving door since?

Well, I did and it has and here we are at the end of March and I’m catching my breath and dreaming of summer! I suppose mid-way through summer I will be wishing for school again, but not at this moment. I am ready for long evenings, slow mornings and some FUN. I’m ready for pool days, cook outs with friends and a vacation. There is something about Spring though, that I don’t want to miss. I don’t want to long for the next season at the beginning of this one.

I know a lot of people who hate thunderstorms with severity. I love a good thunderstorm. Friday evening’s storm was a great way to kick off spring, for me. The rain nourished the grass, (made it a lot easier for nick to work on our new fence haha), helped me clean out the flower beds, and calmed the air. The rain settled all the dirt that blew around a week or so ago. There is a freshness that doesn’t come without a good thunderstorm. Spring has its way of awakening us to beauty, getting us to come alive from the winter’s hibernation. Spring is a season of beginnings, newness, life and color. I find it so exciting.

I think Sundays in spring are particularly delightful. Church, lunch with the family, a nap, yard work, a trip to the park with the girls and then a picnic on the patio. Yes please!

(everyone is fed, bathed, read to, prayed with and tucked in as well as asleep, PRAISE GOD FROM WHOM ALL BLESSINGS FLOW) Everyone loves the tired that comes with outdoor play, or at least we do. ❤

See, I had this whole plan for Heart Month. I had all of these posts planned, some fun ideas and I wanted to use the month to really get into a pattern of writing more often .I struggle with thinking any of this is relevant to anyone, so I tend to hold back or not write as often as I would like, for fear of it just being a waste to everyone. I have figured out that if I just write because I have something on my heart, if I’m learning something or if God has really placed something in my lap to share, then I do, and in that, someone always responds. Being sick in February halted me from singing for over a month, put a huge damper on some health goals I have, threw me for a loop hormonally since I realized some medication I was on was giving me a rash. (TMI right??)  I guess what I’m trying to say is, not every month or season turns out the way we plan. Can I get an amen?! I had high hopes, big plans and was so ready for an amazing month of February and it tanked. So March has been the month of recovery and regrouping.

Giving myself a lot of grace, finding some books and tools that have really inspired me, stayed in touch with my best friend and my sister (both live 12+ hours away so communication is work), quality time with my folks, carved out time with Nick (even if it is a quick dinner before band rehearsal), regular counseling sessions, an incredible Bible Study (in which I have been so excited to open every day, thanks Erin), and so on… I am coming back around. Sometimes we just aren’t our best and that is ok.

One might think counseling is a bit much after just being sick for a week or so…well, see here’s the deal. For the last 6 years I have been walking the earth as a bereaved mother (so we are called). It is not a club I asked to be in or one I wish anyone to be in with me, but, none the less, here we are. So for 6 years I have found lots of ways to navigate, cope, even heal in many ways. I have been so blessed by a great church family, deep rooted faith since childhood, friends, family and others who graciously love me and support my family. I have done lots of studies and read books, I have poured myself in ministry for 5 of the 6 years and volunteered for many years on top of that, which has been a huge part of my story. All of this to say, I have had an amazing support system. I know many don’t. Through the last year or so I have noticed a lot more of a struggle with anger, anxiety and tension. I would find myself blowing up extremely often. It alarmed me when I had a full blown anxiety attack the weekend of the flu extravaganza. Ana was sick alongside me, she was coughing so much she was throwing up, I still felt awful,  Nick was trying to keep everyone afloat and I lost it. I laid in my bathroom floor and just lost it. I say this cautiously because I am not necessarily proud of this moment, but what it did for me was to push me to finally contact a counselor and start going. I will tell you, the first session was hard, but at the same time, the most relief I have felt in years. I have talked with pastors, friends, people who are on staff at churches, other bereaved mothers, etc. I had not felt so heard or validated, ever. I wasn’t told any of the cliche’s. I didn’t feel like I was wasting someone’s time or that I sounded like a broken record. I was just accepted and listened to and frankly, loved. Listening is loving. I’m slowly learning. This is not to say that ALL OF THE OTHER THINGS were not helpful. That isn’t true. Everything and everyone has been a huge blessing and a big part of my healing and life since Noah’s death. What counseling has been this last month, for me, has been a breath of fresh air, a beautiful change of scenery, self care at its core, and mentally a soft place to land. I’m very thankful.

Spring brings with it the promise of newness. New life springs up, new energy and new outlooks. Our lives have seasons as well. Sometimes they start with coming out of hibernation and opening a new season of vulnerability. Counseling isn’t a cure all. It is simply a way to process, find support and get tools to help us walk this life. There are many ways to find support such as a life group or Bible study, a ministry team or speaking with your pastor. There is just something extremely different about the time I have sat with my counselor and the weight that is lifted when I leave is immeasurable. Spring can happen, for your mind and soul, in the middle of winter.

Whenever you decide to come alive to a fresh season, it is available. That is the beauty of grace.

So, find encouragement today! If this is the permission you need to find relief, take it! If you need a reminder that it doesn’t matter how many years it has been since the loss of someone in your life, a traumatic event or life change took place, you can find a new season, healing, help, relief, and support.

 

Romans 12:1-3 “Therefore I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Transformation takes work, time and a renewal of the mind. For me, renewal of the mind has meant finding new ways to process, think and examine my life. Renewal isn’t an easy process. Perhaps we will always be in a season of renewal, if we are truly letting God do his work in us.

Deeper, Simplify, Intentional, Commit, Wellness, Discipline, and Renewal..2013-2019..6 years of words, six years of waiting for eternity..each year will be another chapter in the story, each word another theme that God uses to bring myself back to him no matter how far I stray.

Happy Spring, friends! May God bless you in every way, only has He can, for His purposes! May you find grace and love, peace and healing, renewal and transformation, this season. Allow God to bring you a new season! Don’t do it alone! Here for any of you!

Shaina

Family Fun

Part of Heart Month, for me, is the “extra” stuff we get to do as a family, for the sake of celebrating our son, his memory and what he means to our family. Valentine’s Day is sweet and it is fun that it lands in the middle of the month, but Bubby Day is the 23rd and this year, Nick and I will be helping with Disciple Now, so we won’t be together as a family on that day. Our girls will be with their grandparents! Nick was able to take off Friday and Monday this weekend, as the girls are out of school! (another blessing that has come from the job he is in) We are so thankful! Yesterday evening we had heart pizza, cake and watched a movie! We exchanged Valentine goodies with each other and it was so nice.

We decided that today we would do some family fun things! We started with sleeping in(praises!!), we went to brunch and had a yummy family meal, laughed and visited and also had to get on to them both a million times for all the things, of course. It wasn’t picture perfect by any means. I also wasn’t in the mood to make heart shaped pancakes, do dishes or exert energy this morning, so Calico County it was. 🙂 *real life*

Ava and I went on a date to get our toes done and that was extremely nice! Spending one on one time with that girl is her jam. She loves time alone with either Nick or I and she is always filled up when that happens. We try to make that happen, however little or big the event/time is…sometimes it’s just sitting at the table together with various projects, sometimes it is going out and getting coffee or something bigger. What we’re learning, though, is how she responds and what she needs as a growing gal. It is nice that we can begin to provide that as she grows. img_4178

I have been sick for just about 2 weeks now. I was extremely sick last week for a few days, where Ava went to stay with Mimi and Pop, Nick stayed in Ana’s room and Ana on an air mattress in the room with him. I was quarantined to our room and stayed there for days. I began to rebound and went back to work Monday and Tuesday. Ana got sick in the midst of me being sick and Wednesday I had to take her home for treatments and meds all day. This roller coaster has been unpleasant, hard, extremely uncomfortable, discouraging, and down right depressing. I wondered why in the middle of this kind of month, for us, would I be so so sick, basically useless to the world. I was letting down my worship team that I lead, the staff I work with, my family who I take care of, etc. I was at a loss and felt very overwhelmed with guilt and shame for not being able to pull my weight. I know. It was probably more selfish that I was throwing pity parties about how I couldn’t do anything, then it was to just be sick.

Sometimes we get sick. Sometimes our bodies fail us and we get the flu, we have to stop life and get well. Why is this so hard for me? For you, perhaps?

My word this year is Renew and I know why for many reasons, but what I am coming away from this recent experience of being so so sick is this; my perspective needs renewal as well. I am finding what triggers anxiety and depressive tendencies in me. To be alone for a few days, unable to fill my days with activities, chores, errands, job stuff, etc I was fully aware of my inability to just be, to rely on others, to let others be a part of my world, to delegate, to trust that the people in my world actually want to help when they say they do, and know that they will. I realized how self absorbed I can truly be when I think I am the only person who can do what I do. I am thankful for so many of the people God has around me every day in ministry and work. I realized the last few weeks, that I have to actually take care of myself in order to serve. I do not have a choice, but to be real with my issues and admit where I need help and try to do better in not isolating or finding all of my identity in my job, ministry, gifting, roles, etc. Sometimes it takes the hardest moments, being completely worthless and so sick you can’t even move, to understand that none of this relies on me. I have a post it note on my computer at work that says, “It doesn’t depend on me”. You would think I would have read it a couple of times enough to believe it. It is so true though.

So, family day doesn’t look Pinterest perfect, in fact, Ana is fighting a nap right now and the house is a wreck. But, family day, this heart month is a bit less scripted and a lot more reality. It’s a little less “extra” this year and a whole lot of thankfulness that the illness is subsiding, slowly, but surely. I’m thankful for my hubs, who has kept us all alive and going through all the sickness. I’m beyond grateful for the staff I work with, my pastor and boss who extends grace upon grace to me. I am thankful for a worship team who can team up and fill in the holes when I am sick. They reassure me to just take care of myself and not feel guilty about it, and I know they mean it. I am thankful for friends who check on me and let me whine about how sickly I feel. Friends who get their mom to bring dinner to my doorstep. They are so very precious to me. I am thankful for my parents who took Ava in for 3 days to keep her away from the germs. I am thankful for my mother in law who takes care of Ana 2 days a week and will take on extra days if needed. We have a village around us and I am so very thankful for it.

Family day, for me, is remembering just how big this heart family is and how blessed we have been for 6 years (and more) to be a part of community. It is priceless.

Happy Heart Month! Hope you had a lovely Valentine’s Day! Share your heart pics anytime on Instagram or Facebook with the hashtag #findingtheheart I would love to see them!! I love getting tagged, texted etc in your heart pics! I love it so!

 

Finding the Heart of the Cardiac ICU

We were sitting at a lovely dinner one Saturday evening and she said, “it used to be that the PICU (pediatric ICU) was all there was. There wasn’t a Cardiac ICU and back in the day, no one wanted to take the heart babies, they knew that they were going to die.”

Nurse Kathy has been at Cook Children’s Medical Center for 40 years. She has seen the developments of pediatric cardiac care come from hardly anything, to 3d printers printing a replica of a child’s heart so doctors can create a better plan before going in for the repair. She has seen it all. She has cared for tiny hearts for many years. To sit and hear some of her stories from years gone by made me think of how many years of nursing are represented at any given time in the Cardiac ICU.

See, even I have seen incredible changes in the heart unit in the last 6 years. When we toured Cook’s while pregnant with Noah, we saw the PICU wing (D Wing) that the heart babies would return to post surgery. There were 6 or 7 beds for the heart patients. A year or so after Noah died, the old NICU was developed into a heart unit. There were more beds available and more privacy for families. It was really neat to see how much Cook’s was investing in the area of Cardiology. Then last year they unveiled and began using the new Heart Center in the brand new tower Cook’s built. This entire Heart Center is new, gorgeous and all inclusive. Cath labs can become operating rooms if needed. There is much less travel now from OR to recovery room. The step up unit is actually on the same floor now, but just down the hall, not a whole different building. The waiting room in the heart center is gorgeous, large, entertaining for littles and comfortable. There is a lovely outdoor garden type area that you can see from some of the rooms, especially the waiting room. You can walk outside and there is a heart that “Beats”. Truly, the care and special touches they thought through are so nice.img_2396

I remember being so thankful for all of the accommodations at the time because I didn’t know any better, but looking at this new heart center makes me SO thankful for current and future heart patients. They have 2 new surgeons joining Tam, who we had with Noah. They have an incredible staff of cardiologists, anesthesiologists, specialists, nurse practitioners,  intensivists, nursing staff, respiratory therapists, play therapists, OT, PT, Child life, etc.  I truly look back and think of HOW many people it took to take care of our boy at any given moment. It is an incredible place to receive care.img_2398

With that said… something Kathy  said actually, got me thinking. IF it weren’t for her and others who cared for the tiny hearts who “were going to die”, if there weren’t doctors and people who have fought for and pushed for more research, surgical developments, treatments, etc we would not have had 5 months with our son. We would have had days. I look at the facts that our surgeon Dr. Tam studied at John Hopkins and he was taught by the man, Dr. Norwood who developed the Norwood surgical repair for Hypoplastic Left Heart children. One of the other surgeons, most experienced in the nation, developed a repair, now named after him. Cook’s has a team that is globally known. Children have more of a chance of survival now than ever before.img_2399

She wasn’t afraid (I’m sure at times there was fear), but she was so invested in the care of every child, especially the heart babies. She has seen treatments change and develop over the years. She fought for the sweeties that many were too scared to fight for. She has held many a little one, hugged and sat with many anguished mommas and daddies.

I’m thankful for the legacy she has  in the CVICU.img_2353

There is something especially different about cardiac nurses. They have heart. (pun intended) Truly though, they serve and treat and work with such heart, such depth and care. They often forsake their own homes/families/kids for extra hours to make sure their patient is set up for the next shift with all they need, comfort and plan in place. They get in early, leave late, and they care. They care so deeply. I know most have a plan in place to keep a certain amount of distance, as they should. But, I can’t tell you how much it has meant to have the relationships we do.

Tonight, the Mended Little Hearts Group of Ft Worth is having a candle light vigil for all of the angel heart warriors who have gone on. She messaged me and asked if I would like for Noah to have a candle tonight. Cardiac nurses are something special. They have seen more than most and they keep coming back, shift after shift. They love our kids more than we can even know. They helped love and support my son in ways that only they could. There were many long nights of withdrawls for Noah during medicine weaning, there were several times after procedures where they would have to watch him particularly close for any changes/needs that would come up post op.

There were two specifically special cardiac nurses who spent our last day with Noah, serving us and being the biggest support. They gave us space, but would check on us frequently. They would stop and listen to me when I needed to just ramble on because I didn’t know how to be. They would make sure Noah was comfortable and that the morphine was consistent. The evening shift nurse would be the one to take out all of Noah’s lines, give him a bath and dress him for our farwell. She held us as we cried. She let me wait, but also assured me that she would take care of his last needs while we got some air and began preparations. She had him so sweetly taken care of and I had trusted her with Noah many nights before, this one was just so special and so different for us both. She was so gentle and supportive of  us. She helped us pack up the hospital room and she walked us out to our car. She didn’t have to be so kind. She didn’t have to hold us, cry with us or do all she did. That’s just how she is. She’s a cardiac nurse. She’s one of the best.seeingjesus

You see, I know that all nurses have a calling on their life. We all have a calling on our lives. Pediatric Cardiac nurses live a truly deep calling and they are so faithful to it. I find myself praying for them, their spouses/marriages (which get so strained because of the job), their children and all they sacrifice, their own heart and souls as they care for their patients. They see loss and death, but they see a LOT of healing and hope! They share their hope with scared mommies and daddies, big and little siblings, grandparents and friends of heart warriors. They do what they can to build up and light up these families during dark times, scary moments and even the nightmares. They help explain in our terms, what the doctors just tried to explain. They change the diapers, talk to them, encourage them, help turn on the movie above their bed, change their sheets, give little sponge baths, change lines, notice when they aren’t acting the same and they pick up on symptoms first.

Nurses are special and I would be amiss to not mention them during heart month. They are angels and do more than any of us can actually know. I can’t ever thank our nurses enough, but I will try to remind people to be aware of nurses and all they do. So, thank a nurse! Give them grace and remind them that they do amazing work, hard work, incredibly important work. ❤

So thank you, thank you, thank you.

Happy Heart Month to all of our nurses!

Shaina

 

A Month of Remembering

Heart Month is under way and I wanted to share with you some of the fun things we do in our home during heart month!

A lot of what I am sharing this month is for fellow heart families. Families who have heart warriors still with them, still fighting and for those families who have buried a heart warrior and want to celebrate them amidst all the celebrating of CHD awareness February brings.

Wherever you find yourself, I hope there is something for you here!

I want to share with you some of our favorite Heart Month ideas!

1. DECORATIONS– Y’all, do we need an actual reason to go to the Dollar Tree? Of course not. BUT, this is a good one! We love to find the most tacky and silly heart decor and hang it all up around the kitchen/dining area. The kids LOVE this! They get to pick glittery, bright, shiny and fun decorations. Y’all, its for one month. It is not a big ordeal to have some silly, shiny and even tacky stuff up if it gets us smiling and having fun together!

I do have some precious and more serious decorations for heart month as well, such as my favorite pictures of Noah, our letter board that always has the girls’ birthdays has his celebration date and his name on it. We put out some of Noah’s things that we love, but only during February. It makes them that more special to us all.

2. FUN INTERACTIVE IDEAS– I love finding things to do together as a family, especially with my girls. So, last year a friend of mine posted about these fun mail boxes she got her kiddos. They had a ball putting little notes, erasers, suckers, stickers, etc in their sibling’s mail box. She also put notes in there from her and her husband did the same. They had so much fun sharing the love with each other and any time their little mailbox flag was up, the excitement was too much to contain! So I found some little mailboxes at Target in the dollar spot last year! MY GIRLS THINK THIS IS THE BEST THING EVER. 🙂 I love sneaking notes in their boxes after they have gone to bed and then they wake up to their flags up and they light up!! They love making little notes for each other and get so giddy to open them up. I think I may have to add boxes for Nick and I next year!

– We usually find some fun ways to incorporate food into the heart month activities! One yaer we made heart shaped pizzas (You can also purchase heart shaped pizza at Papa Murphy’s fyi!! ) The girls enjoyed fixing up their own pizza. You can buy pre made dough or make your own! I have my Mimi’s pizza dough recipe I’ll share below! It is super easy and DELISH! We enjoy buying the cheesy valentine’s break and bake cookies! Cheap and so easy to bake and share with your neighbors, fire station, police station or school office! Baking from scratch is always fun and we enjoy Rice Krispy Treats with valentine sprinkles on them as well! Affordable and easily portable as well!

-any and all amounts of coloring, painting, creating and crafting are acceptable during heart month.It is fun to just get creative, let the kids enjoy all the craft supplies and you can turn all of their artwork into fun cards for community helpers, teachers, hospital staff or families at the RMH.

3. CONVERSATIONS– Heart month is a GREAT time to have conversations about the past. You  know the temperature of the room, so to speak, with your family. Our girls enjoy talking about “what if Bubby was here and well”, and we have fun imagining and thinking of all the things we would do if he were here. It is helpful for them to explore and imagine those things, even if they are reality. It is healing and helpful for our littles. Again, you know how that would help or hurt your own. I find hearing my girls talk about their brother and all the what-if’s can be such a fun conversation. It can also be hard, but we always leave that space smiling and laughing together. It spurs questions about faith, heaven and salvation. We don’t always have the answers, but we aren’t afraid of the conversations. We want to be the place that our girls come for hard discussions. This helps open the doors! img_5755



4. GIVING BACK– We find that during Heart Month, we have this surge of energy and desire to celebrate, so we make cookies, make artwork, and then realize that maybe we don’t need to eat all of the cookies and rice krispy treats or have room to hang up every piece of paper the girls have painted on.

I have found that the girls love to share their goodies with others in the community. So we go by the Fire Dept, Police Dept, Ronald McDonald House or our school office. It is so fun to see the girls light up when they bring treats to someone. I love how much fun we have making everything and then seeing how much joy the girls have when sharing it all.

 

So these are just a few things we do to celebrate Heart Month:

Here is the recipe for Mimi’s Pizza Dough:

Pizza Dough
Dissolve 1 pkg of yeast into 1/4 cup of warm water
Add to: 1 C of warm water
             2 T oil (any light oil-canola, vegetable, probably not olive oil unless it is light)
             2 T sugar
             1 t salt
Add: 1 beaten egg
Mix in: 3 C of flour (you can use wheat or regular all purpose here, or mix!) You might need a bit more flour, to make it less sticky. Just add a little bit at a time until you get a nice dough. 
Let rise double- about 30 min- 1 hour
This makes 2 pizzas since I am using the same pizza oven my Mimi used. 
you can read the whole post here: MIMI’s PIZZA DOUGH

 

Pro Tip! If you are nervous about messes, or just plain lazy and don’t want to make a batch of cookies or brownies, etc. JUST BUY THEM! Buy the pre-made dough, the break apart dough or slice and bake…they come with cute holiday pictures on them too! You can bag up pre-baked goodies from the bakery as well! Dollar Tree has such fun bags and boxes you can fill with candies or baked goods, but some bakery items, I guarantee, no one will turn down!! Whatever you do, don’t stress about it. It is supposed to be a fun time and a time to just enjoy each other as well as celebrate!

Whatever you decide to do, share it! I would love to see whatever you are doing this month! #findingtheheart #sharingtheheart

Happy Heart Month!

Shaina