Paisley Grace: 3 months

Our sweet baby girl is 3 months old already! Somebody just stop time for a little while, please!!!IMG_9307

At 3 months old she:

– Smiles. A LOT. We absolutely love it!
– Really, really loves to be swaddled when she sleeps. BUT…because of her boots and bar we are only able to swaddle the top half of her and her little arms. It’s kind of adorable.
– Is a paci baby. This momma is definitely thankful for that! (For now, anyway)
– Wakes up smiling in the morning. Some mornings we even have to wake her up to get her to daycare and she is all smiles even after we wake her up! I only wish I could be so friendly first thing in the morning.
– Is a WIGGLE WORM. Always. That’s all I’m going to say about that.
– Finally has her nighttime/sleep routine down and is currently at the point where she only wakes up once (or not at all) during the night!! We could not be more thankful!!
– Had her first Halloween – she was Snow White! We are very excited for next year when she’ll be able to go trick-or-treating!
– Is wearing 0-3 month clothing and is in size 1 diapers. It’s unreal how fast babies grow!!
– Has the cutest crying face. How is that even possible? Sometimes, Gus will just watch her when she starts to cry because it’s that cute!
– Is completely enthralled by anything that moves, makes noise, and/or has lights. Ceiling fans, the TV, her mobile, lights…you name it! It’s so cute to watch her “interact” with her environment.
– Has adjusted unbelievably well to daycare. I’m telling you – our little girl has the ability to adjust exceptionally well to different situations.
– Coos and babbles. This is one of my favorite things about this age. She’s so interactive! She makes the cutest little noises and faces as she tries to “talk” to us!
– Doesn’t like it when mommy has to focus on homework. She also doesn’t like it when we’re at a restaurant and the food arrives at the table. Both of those scenarios result in her loudly requesting our full attention. Maybe it’s just a phase?
– Is finally used to her boots and bar! This is a huge accomplishment for all of us!
– Laughs in her sleep AND cries in her sleep sometimes. Do babies dream? Either way, it’s entertaining.
– Is overall a very, very happy baby. She is exceptionally content! Obviously, there are exceptions…but overall we have been very impressed with how well-behaved she usually is.

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I never knew that a 3 month-old little baby could teach me so much. So much about myself, about life, and about God’s grace.

We love you very much, Paisley Grace.
Happy 3 months of life, little one!

Pregnancy Milestones to Remember

As my due date gets closer and closer, I’ve been reminiscing on my pregnancy and I’ve realized – there’s A LOT I don’t remember. I don’t mean little things like “Oh, I can’t remember some symptoms” or “I can’t remember how bad morning sickness actually was.” Even though some of those little things may be true, I’m talking about big things like not being able to remember how far along I was when we found out, when we told our family, when we announced it to our friends, everyone’s reactions…the list goes on and on. I wish I could just blame it on pregnancy brain, but it’s not that simple. Until this point in my pregnancy I’ve really just been going, going, going (thanks to nursing school and working all the time) & I haven’t had time to just sit back and fully enjoy being pregnant.

Tonight I decided to go back and look at old pictures, look through all of my ultrasound images, go backwards in my pregnancy app on my phone, compare dates, and sit down and finally figure out little details of my pregnancy I either 1) didn’t know 2) couldn’t remember or 3) somehow convinced myself had happened another way. I decided to share this and the story of how we found out on the blog because even though a lot of these things are personal (yes, personal – consider this your warning) they are precious things I want to be able to remember and look back on. I also want to encourage other expecting mommas out there to remember these details. I know it seems obvious and some people are probably thinking “How can she not remember that?” I’ve even thought that myself. Truth be told, I don’t really know. I think everything just came as such a shock to me from the start that I just kept busy and didn’t give myself time to wrap my mind around it until I was already about halfway through it!

So, here goes an attempt to remember and share some of these precious details of such an incredible time in our lives:

December 9th, 2013: I went to my 10:00 Sociology class just like I did every other Monday. I sat next to my friend Heidi (who has been an incredible friend ever since freshman year and now we’re finally going to be GRADUATING this year with our nursing degrees! Sorry… side note. It’s kind of a big deal for us). I felt really weird all throughout the class and I just remember that I couldn’t focus or anything. I can’t explain the feeling. I didn’t really feel sick, I just felt kind of weak and like something was a little off. When we left class that day, I told Heidi I was going to skip chapel and go home because I wasn’t feeling so hot. I’m pretty sure I even told her I was going to take a pregnancy test just to make sure I wasn’t pregnant. (Obviously, I can’t remember – maybe Heidi knows!) On my way home I stopped at CVS and grabbed a 2-pack pregnancy test. I knew Gus was home sleeping because he had to work a 12-hour shift the night before. I didn’t wake him up, I just came home and took the test. Honestly, I was fully expecting for it to be negative. I also felt funny the day before after Gus and I finished a run outside and it took me quite awhile to recover. I just knew something was off and I figured I should use the process of elimination to narrow it down figure out exactly what was wrong with me. I was on birth control consistently, so I didn’t think for a second that I was actually pregnant! I hadn’t had any morning sickness or missed my cycle, so let’s just say I was SHOCKED when two little lines appeared on that stick. Shocked, scared, terrified. The flood of emotions I felt literally cannot even be expressed. I still didn’t want to wake up Gus so I went in the living room and just texted my mom asking her to call me. In typical mom fashion, she responded “Is everything okay?” “Yes, mom, I just need you to call me.” Her next question: “Is Kassidy okay?” “Yes, Kassidy is fine.” “ARE YOU PREGNANT?” When I didn’t respond for a couple of minutes, the phone rang and when I answered it I was just crying hysterically. I remember repeating the words “I don’t know, I don’t know!” And she told me to send her a picture of the test. IMG_8216She was instantly excited. Meanwhile, I was scared and terrified, yet somehow she was just excited & happy from the start. I told her I thought that maybe the first test was wrong, so I hung up and took the second test in the pack. Of course, the second test was also positive and when I called my mom to tell her she reminded me that I should probably tell my husband! I still didn’t believe two little sticks I bought at the drugstore, so I decided to call the Piedmont Women’s Center, which is a great Christian organization in our area who I knew would do another pregnancy test. I made an appointment for that day at 2:00. This was all happening so fast and I couldn’t really wrap my mind around it. After I called and set up the appointment, I decided it was time to tell Gus. I nervously walked into the bedroom. I sat on the edge of the bed holding one of the pregnancy tests and said “Gus, I’m pregnant. This isn’t a joke.” He woke up, saw the tears in my eyes, looked at the pregnancy test and excitedly said, “We’re going to have a baby!” And he gave me the biggest hug. He was excited from the second he found out. I was relieved that he felt that way, but it wasn’t long after that I broke down and just cried and started freaking out. “I’m still in school! We just got married! We can’t be parents! How are we going to do this?! We weren’t planning on having kids this soon!” Never once did any of those things seem to concern Gus. If you know Gus at all, then you understand why. He’s not the kind to worry – about anything. Him and my mom are a lot alike in that way. That’s just one of the many things I admire about both of them and I totally wish I could be more like them in that area. I left the room for a little while to just go out in the living room and think – and, of course, let him sleep. A few minutes later, I walked back in the bedroom to wake him up and I had a whole new outlook, “You’re right, Gus, we can do this. I can finish school. We will be great parents. God knew we were going to have kids this soon. We have great families who will be so supportive.” And within a short time the emotions I initially felt came flooding back in and it was just a rollercoaster of a morning.

Somehow in the midst of all of this I remembered that I had a nursing test that afternoon! My test was at 1:00 and let’s just say there was NO WAY I was going to be ready to take a nursing test that day. I had way too much on my mind. I e-mailed one of my teachers to let her know I wouldn’t be able to take my test that afternoon. It was almost 1:00 and she hadn’t e-mailed me back, so I decided to just go to school and let her know I would have to take the test another day. I had no intention on telling her that I was pregnant, but after frantically running up to her office with tears streaming down my face, those were some of the first words out of my mouth. She was so sweet and understanding! She congratulated me and, of course, told me that I could make up the test another day.

I didn’t want to go to my appointment alone, but I really didn’t want Gus to have to come with me since I knew he was so tired from working the night before. I texted my sister to see if she wanted to come somewhere with me, and I’m pretty sure she had to skip a class to come with me but I told her it was important. I put the pregnancy tests in a little ziplock baggy and I wrote a cute little note that said “Aunt Kassidy, look under here.” I set the note on top of the bag on the center console of the car and when I picked up Kassidy from campus I was so excited to tell her. She got in the car, saw the note, looked at the pregnancy tests and just screamed. She was so excited. We went to the appointment together and there they did another pregnancy test.
It seemed like it took them forever to come back to the room and tell me the results of the test. The lady at the Piedmont Women’s Center was so sweet and caring. She could tell that I was scared and she did a great job calming my fears and helping me to trust God even in this unexpected blessing. When she came back into the room with my results, she shut the door behind her and as soon as she turned around she had the biggest smile on her face. “You’re going to be a little momma!” She gave me a big hug and we sat and talked for awhile. I finally came to the point where I, too, was excited to be a mom instead of scared of the unknown and unexpected. We obviously didn’t know at this point how far along I was (we later found out that I was 6 weeks pregnant at this point), but they set up an ultrasound for me the following week.

December 16th: Gus, Kassidy, and I went to my first ultrasound. It was another service provided by the Piedmont Women’s Center. As you can tell, I’m a huge fan of that ministry and everything they do! We found out based on the baby’s measurements that day that I was about 7 weeks pregnant. We got to see the little heartbeat flicker on the screen and just watched in amazement as the sonographer explained to us exactly what we were looking at. It was a really great experience and at this point I was beginning to get really excited about our surprise little miracle.

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First ultrasound: baby at about 7-8 weeks

December 20th: When I was 8 weeks pregnant, we told my dad and Gus’ parents. Yes, my mom actually kept it a secret from my dad from the time I told her on December 9th! Pretty impressive, I know. We told my dad via Skype, and my mom was able to record the whole thing without my dad knowing!

We called Gus’ parents afterwards and put them on speakerphone to tell them together. They were very excited!!

I honestly can’t remember when we told the rest of our family (grandparents, his brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins, etc) and close friends but it was sometime after December 20th and before January 30th. Gus thinks we told them after January 1st. I really can’t remember. I know, I’m terrible for not remembering when we told them. I want to say it was sometime around Christmas. I won’t bore you with all of the details but we definitely had some great reactions from the people we love!!

I do remember that when I went back to school after Christmas break at the beginning of January, one of my teachers (Miss Hannah, the same teacher whose office I ran into frantically crying the day I found out I was pregnant) e-mailed me before class to let me know that she was going to give everyone in our class an opportunity to share any exciting news that may have happened over Christmas break. She knew I hadn’t yet shared our news with my classmates (who, in reality, are more like a second family) and she also knew I eventually needed to find a fitting time to do so. Some other really exciting announcements were made and afterwards, I raised my hand and told my nursing class about my news. Let’s just say I think that most of them were about as shocked as I was when I first found out!

January 31st, 2014: We announced our little bundle of joy to the rest of our friends on Facebook when I was 15 weeks and 3 days pregnant. [A simple post, you can find it here] It was pretty difficult to wait this long to announce it to everyone, but we knew we wanted to wait until I was at least 14 weeks pregnant and out of the first trimester to let everyone know. Gus wanted to tell everyone right away, but I really wanted to wait. I had an ultrasound the day before, and we thought it would be a good idea to announce the pregnancy the day after that ultrasound.

Baby at 15 weeks & 2 days

Baby at 15 weeks & 2 days

March 20th: We found out that we were expecting a sweet baby GIRL. I was 20 weeks & 4 days pregnant at this point. Gus, Kassidy, and I were able to go to the ultrasound together. We each had our guess as to whether Baby Vanaman was a girl or a boy! Kassidy and I dressed in pink, and Gus wore blue. We made it a lot of fun and it was an experience I’ll never forget. At this appointment, we also found out that our little girl possibly had clubfeet. On April 1st, we met with the specialist and they confirmed our little baby’s clubfeet. If you want to, you can read all about that experience here.

Well, there you go. I guess I remembered a lot more than I originally thought I did. I’m thankful I finally took the time to sit down and write it all out. I’m telling you right now – if I had waited to try to blog about these pregnancy milestones AFTER Paisley got here I’m sure I wouldn’t have been able to remember anywhere near as much.
To other expecting mommy’s – really cherish this sweet time in your lives. Take time to remember the little details. It really is such a beautiful experience for you and the people you love.

As I’m wrapping up this post, I’m rocking away in my rocking chair. Not in an “old lady sitting on her front porch crocheting” kind of way, but in a “new mommy who is excited as can possibly be” kind of way. Soon I’ll be holding our sweet Paisley Grace and rocking her to sleep in this chair. I’ll spend countless nights and hours feeding her and singing to her and just cuddling with her in this chair. I cannot wait to be her mommy. Thinking back on all of the special memories of this pregnancy and all it has entailed makes me even more excited to be at the point we’re at now.

It’s definitely been an unexpected journey – but it’s one I would never want to change a single part of. 10414421_10203953725147765_3921106650031762840_n Only 17 days until your due date, baby girl. We’ll meet you so soon.

Perfect imperfections

World Clubfoot Day Happy World Clubfoot Day! Today is a day designated to bring awareness to this condition and I thought it would be a fitting day to tell others about our own little girl’s clubfoot journey.

On March 20th we found out that we were having a baby girl. Gus, Kassidy, and I were all able to be there together for the ultrasound and find out the good news! We also found out some other information that day which I haven’t yet shared with everyone. After the ultrasound we went to a back room where the doctor asked if he could speak to Gus and I alone. At first, I assumed the doctor always spoke to the expectant parents after the full anatomy ultrasound, however when he asked us to take a seat my heart completely sank. Gus and I sat down across from the doctor as he explained that we would need to go to a specialist for another ultrasound because it looked as though our baby girl may possibly have clubfoot. He explained to us that it may just be the way the baby was positioned in utero, however they would need to do a level 2 ultrasound in order to confirm it. I left that appointment feeling a little bit worried but I honestly just assumed that it was simply the way she was laying and that when we went for the ultrasound at the specialist everything would probably be fine.

When I was 22 weeks pregnant, we went to the maternal-fetal medicine specialist. There they did a very long, in-depth ultrasound which seemed to take forever. That day the specialist confirmed that our baby does has bilateral clubfeet. Clubfoot is a birth defect that affects about 1 in 1,000 infants. Of those cases, about half of these babies are born with bilateral clubfeet, as opposed to unilateral, in which case only one foot is affected. The doctor came in and showed us our baby’s clubfeet in 3D. That’s when it became real to me. The feelings, emotions, and fears I experienced that day are so much different than they are now. At first, I was completely terrified and heartbroken that our little girl would have this deformity and would need  to have her little legs and feet corrected. I was angry at myself for some reason and I felt extremely guilty that somehow this problem was my fault. Now, after much prayer, research, and talking to other moms of babies with clubfoot, I’ve been able to have a lot of my questions answered and most of my fears have subsided. Although some days I still have questions and fears, I’ve come to realize that although our baby will have a little bit of a rough start, after corrections she will be able to develop like any other child her age. All of her major organs are functioning perfectly. She doesn’t have a life-threatening disease or disorder which will be debilitating to her throughout her life.  Our baby  has a deformity which is thankfully able to be fully corrected through casts, a minor surgery, and bracing. God allowed our sweet baby girl to have this specific congenital deformity for a reason. In our eyes, she is perfect because we know she is fearfully and wonderfully made by a powerful and loving Creator.

After showing us her little legs and feet in 3D, the sonographer could tell we were upset. When the doctor left, she turned the 3D ultrasound back on and showed us a beautiful picture of our baby girl's face!

After the doctor showed us her little legs and feet in 3D, the sonographer could tell we were upset. When the doctor left, she turned the 3D ultrasound back on and showed us a picture of our baby girl’s face!

Gus and I were referred to Shriners Children’s Hospital after our appointment with the specialist. It’s not simply a coincidence that we happen to live only 10 minutes away from an incredible children’s hospital which specializes in orthopaedics. Even in that, we can see God’s provision. After our ultrasound with the specialist, they set up another appointment for us at Shriners. The next week, Gus and I went to Shriners Hospital and met with our daughter’s nurses and cast technicians who will be helping us through the clubfoot journey. There, the nurses discussed the plan of care and correction after our baby gets here. The Ponseti Method is commonly used to correct clubfeet. One of the doctors at the Shriners Hospital we will be going to was actually trained in the Ponseti Method by Dr. Ponseti himself! The severity of each baby’s case of clubfoot (or clubfeet) cannot usually be determined until they are born, and because clubfoot can range in severity from mild to severe, the Ponseti method can be tailored accordingly. Although the time frames may need to be adjusted according to her specific case and severity, the general plan of care for our baby is this:
– They will start the casting regimen with our baby as soon as we’re ready. They recommend beginning castings within the first week of her life. The nurse told us we can call them after delivery when we’re still in the hospital and before we bring her home we can come to Shriners and get her casts put on.
– For the first 6-8 weeks of her life, she will have to wear plaster casts on each leg from the tips of her toes to her upper thighs. She will most likely have to have a new cast every week (they recommend changing the casts every 5 days) for these 6-8 weeks. Changing the casts each week allows the bones to gradually align properly.
– After the serial castings, she may need a small procedure to allow the tendons in her foot to lengthen. Most babies with clubfeet require this procedure.
– The serial castings will be followed by a single cast on each leg which will need to be worn for 3-6 weeks.
– To prevent relapse, she will need to wear special bracing equipment 24 hours a day for the next 2-3 months.
– Her corrections will be evaluated and if no further casting is needed, she will transition to only needing to wear her braces at night and at nap time until she is 3-4 years old.

Like I said, each case of clubfoot is different and the Ponseti method is tailored according to each child’s specific needs. I’m thankful that we were able to meet with our daughter’s phenomenal nurses and cast techs and get an idea of what we are about to jump into. When we got to Shriners, they took us down the casting hallway and into one of the many cast rooms. They showed us molds of the serial casts and the braces and special shoes our baby will be wearing. It could have been overwhelming and scary, but instead it was extremely informative and we left feeling more prepared then either of us thought possible. The nurses and cast techs were so excited about our baby coming soon! They referred to her as their “special baby” because she’s just like any other baby, she just needs a little bit of special care at first.

Although we may not know exactly why right now, we know that God has a special reason for giving us a little girl with clubfeet. We hope and pray that throughout this journey, God will be glorified and that others will see Him do awesome things. We want to encourage other parents of children who have special needs – whether it be clubfeet or something more serious. God has entrusted these special children to special parents and He will give the grace and strength needed to get through each day.

We love our little girl. We love her from head to toe – even with her little adorable, perfectly imperfect clubfeet.

clubfootribbon Over the past couple of months, I’ve been able to do so much research and I’ve had the opportunity to learn a lot about this condition. If you’re interested in learning more about clubfeet or the Ponseti Method, you can check out the links below!
http://www.clubfootclub.org/about http://www.ponseti.info/clubfoot-and-the-ponseti-method/what-is-clubfoot/ponseti-method.html http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001228.htm http://www.ponseti.info/clubfoot-and-the-ponseti-method/what-is-clubfoot/learn-about-clubfoot.html

Pregnancy update: 22 weeks

I’m 22 weeks pregnant and time is flying by!

Here’s a little update on life lately:
– We are having a baby GIRL!
– Cravings: fruit & pizza
– Pregnancy brain is REAL. I have an entirely new respect for pregnant women.
– I got a part-time job at a local ice cream shop to keep me busy through the summer until baby girl gets here.
– School is going really well. I just started my OB rotation of clinical and I LOVE it. Labor and delivery nurse in the future? We’ll see (:
– We are moving in May! Not too far from where we are now- just into a bigger, 2-bedroom place. I can’t wait to start decorating the baby’s room!
– Gus got to feel baby girl’s little kicks for the first time last week! It was precious. I just know that Gus is going to be a wonderful dad. I’m so excited to see him interact with his daughter.
– Every day we are more excited to meet our little girl.

Ever since we found out I was pregnant I just knew we were going to have a girl. I even told a few of my friends that I would be completely surprised, but still ecstatic, if the baby was a boy. Either it’s that “motherly instinct” or just a lucky guess.

Gus, on the other hand, seemed very concerned at first. Maybe it’s the thought of a baby girl completely wrapping him around her little finger? Our gender reveal ultrasound was so precious, though.  Kassidy and Gus were both able to be there, which made it very special. When the sonographer told us that we were having a girl Gus asked her two or three times: “Wait, but you’re not sure? Are you sure it’s a girl?” For a while, he wasn’t convinced and until he had the pictures of the ultrasound in his hand I don’t think he believed it. At first, I was a little worried that he might’ve been disappointed but he told me later that he was so excited and he just wanted to make sure the lady was 100% sure before all of us got too excited. It was really sweet.

It’s so amazing to finally call our baby girl by her name, to say “she” instead of “the baby” and to start planning her nursery and going shopping for our little bundle of joy!

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Baby at 17, 20, and 22 weeks! We cannot wait to meet you!

Happy one month of marriage, my love

Ever since I was a little girl I have looked forward to my wedding day. As I got older, conversations with friends and family often included the phrase, “When I get married…” In 8th grade I started praying that God would prepare my future husband and I for our future marriage together.

I met Gus when I was in 9th grade
The summer before my senior year, Gus and I started dating. I had the privilege of dating my best friend for four years and throughout those years the topic of marriage came up frequently. Throughout all of those stages in life, however, my wedding day felt like just a distant dream.

A month ago today, I actually had the wedding of my dreams. Now, I am enjoying married life with my best friend. I was overwhelmed with gratitude as we stood before our family members and friends who love and support us. I cannot say thank you enough to everyone who helped make our wedding possible!

I’m a wife. I have a husband. Sometimes it still doesn’t feel real.
Without God, none of this would’ve been possible.  All of the glory belongs to Him.

One month down, forever to go.
I love you so much, Gus Vanaman.

One month & I’ll be a married lady!

This time next MONTH I will be married. Actually, my husband (woah, that’s so weird) and I will be driving to our cruise port! I cannot even believe it. I keep asking myself “Is it really happening next month?”

We have been engaged for almost a year and during the engagement we have both been so busy. Not long after we got engaged in August of 2012 we had to head back to college and it was back to the school routine and business of life. From August to May I really didn’t do much to plan the wedding (oops) or even think about the wedding because I needed my focus to be on my classes. Looking back, I definitely wish I would’ve done more planning gradually instead of waiting until school was out but it will still get done (Don’t mistake this as me complaining– consider it my advice to other future brides). For about nine months I had to force myself to not obsess over the wedding or even be too exited about it because it was “so far away” and I didn’t want to get impatient. Now it’s right around the corner & I am so happy!!

I have amazing family and friends who have been helping me throughout this entire process and I couldn’t be more appreciative. I know this next month is going to fly by and we have so much to get done before August 2nd. It’s really crunch time now and I know that from here on out it’s going to be super busy. That being said, I want to say thank you to those people who have been helping me immensely throughout this entire process. You know who you are and without you, none of this would be possible. I’m so thankful that God has brought each of you into my life.

I had a beautiful surprise bridal shower on June 22nd and it was amazing to be surrounded by so many people who love and support us. Family and friends traveled from near and far (some from New Jersey, South Carolina, and North Carolina) to be at the bridal shower and I was just so overwhelmed and beyond happy to see everyone. Thank you everyone who was a part of that day and for the generous gifts! We are so thankful and cannot wait to see you again on our wedding day! We had a trip planned to go to Greenville for my sister’s college orientation and so the Wednesday after the bridal shower (which also happened to be my birthday) we loaded up the car and headed to Greenville. We surprised Gus a day early and also surprised him with all of the gifts we received for our shower! It was so much fun showing him all of the loving gifts we were given and it was even more fun unpacking everything into the apartment and setting it all up. It really looks like our home now and I can’t wait to move in after the wedding!

30 days!!

Why, God?

Today, because of various circumstances, I found myself questioning God more than ever.

Why does He allow horrible things to happen in life? If He is a God of love, why is it that some of the things He allows to happen don’t seem loving at all? As I was going through all these questions in my mind I came across something I wrote last semester:

(Written on March 27, 2011)

I’m learning that it’s easy to trust God when life is going easy; when skies are blue and everything seems to be going our way. It’s easy to keep a smile on your face when you’re free from worry. The words “God is so good” are prevalent in our vocabulary in times like these. But what about when the blue skies begin to fade to gray, and a storm is on its way? Maybe you have a big test coming up, maybe you got into an argument with a friend, maybe you or someone you love is facing health complications,  or maybe you lost someone who was very dear to you. Your “easy” days have become ones now flooded with trials. Circumstances of life can change in an instant, and can potentially alter how we view our unchanging God. All of a sudden it’s extremely easy to forget that God is so good. If you’re anything like me, you find yourself asking, “why did God let this happen if He loves me?” I don’t understand why things happen the way they do. I don’t understand why God decided to bring my grandpa home to be with Him when He knew how precious he was to me. I don’t understand how a devastating disaster in Japan can be part of a loving God’s plan. After trying to figure it out for so long, I’ve found that I don’t always need to know. What I do know is that God is absolutely perfect. He knows everything, sees everything, is everywhere, and He can do anything. Because God is perfect, His plan and will for our lives is also perfect.  Deuteronomy 32:4 says “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” He is a faithful God, even in those times of trial. 2 Samuel 22:31 says “As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.” When trials come into our lives we can run to God and take our refuge in Him. Another thing I am absolutely sure of is that God loves us and He has displayed His love for all of us by sending His son to die in our place. Because of sin,which is in complete opposition to the character of God, we deserve death. However, because of the great love God has for us, He has offered us the free gift of salvation through His son, Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23). God didn’t have to send His own son to die- but He loved you enough to, so that you have the opportunity to spend eternity with Him. We see how loving God is through His desire for no one to perish, but for everyone to come to repentance and live for Him. For believers, we have the promise that “nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Even unpleasant circumstances which are present  in our lives are unable to separate us from God’s love. Whether we’re facing trials or blue skies, as believers we can have constant joy because nothing is able to take us away from the love of God.

I’m not writing this to tell you that I know exactly why God allows things to happen the way they do. I struggle with having joy when my circumstances are unpleasant. I’m writing this simply to say that God is unchanging. His love for us is so amazing and never failing. He has a great plan for our lives and everything He does is for His glory and our good. Right now it may not look like the circumstances you’re facing could possibly be part of God’s plan- however remember that all things do work together for good for those who love God (Romans 8:28). Though we may not be able to see it now, over time God can use those trials in our lives to make us stronger. James 1:2-4 “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. And let patience have its perfect work, so that you may be perfect and entire , lacking in nothing”  God is good and He does have a plan.

This is a lesson I am still learning. Things  happen all the time that I do not understand. This year has been filled with circumstances that caused me to question God and His goodness. God is teaching me that rather than doubting His goodness, I need to react by placing all my trust in Him. Proverbs 3:5-6 is a verse which has been a huge encouragement to me this semester: ”Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths” God is also teaching me that I need to constantly remind myself that He has a wonderful plan and He is in control. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18