The day before I turn 30.

I began this decade as a somewhat naive college sophomore. I remember I had my birthday dinner at Outback in Lynchburg, VA with all the people that made me smile the most. The night before, my best friends and I all stayed up to party hard (with welchs sparkling grape juice) when the clock displayed midnight. I also remember it as the day I revealed a very dangerous personal struggle I had been dealing with. So it wasn't a totally great day. I had an anorexic mind and a body that was quickly heading that direction but I believe God saved me on that twentieth birthday. He saved me from almost going over the brink, He pulled me back before I slipped too far over the edge. I inched my way back to His arms a bit more each day and He used that birthday to reveal the deepest pits of me and I allowed myself to be filled with Him once again. It's the day I realized that doing things in my own strength is feeble. It's redundant and a waste of both my time and His. I've struggled to maintain the relationship He and I rekindled on that 20th birthday. The honeymoon phase lasted until the day I came home from college in May 2005 at age 21. Then I became preoccupied with all things wedding and marrying my childhood sweetheart the following four weeks. It was almost as if I had divorced my First Love and was remarried to my Only Earthly Love. I didn't know I had to balance both and I was too immature to know how to do so. It wasn't too long after marriage, eight months to be exact, I became pregnant. I was one of those moms-to-be where I believed motherhood was like a Johnson & Johnson commercial. I essentially had no clue what was coming and I never imagined the opposite of what I expected would be my reality. I was not excited about the birth of my son. I was depressed. The depression stole months from me and also my desire to have a large family. In fact, I never wanted another baby again. But God was in this time even though I barely saw Him through the thick fog. And He's used this for His good and my good as well. Once again He was faithful, once again, I found Him closer than I thought I had left Him. Always within arms reach, always ready for me.

There were fears over money [and even now], there were fears in marriage and fears when we became pregnant again 9 months after our first. There was sorrow and relief (in hindsight, I regret feeling relief) in a early miscarriage of our now named, loved, and daily thought of second child, Grace. There was a lot of intimidation and fear with another pregnancy at fifteen months postpartum and I did not want to be pregnant. It took twelve weeks before I gave my fear up to God and trusted Him with this pregnancy and for a better outcome after his birth. Carter really was my rainbow baby and not just in the literal sense, he was a rainbow baby because he was Gods promise to me that He is always in control and He always sees me, loves me, and wants to bless me. Carter was the easiest baby of them all and God allowed me to experience the joy that I missed after having Hunter. He uses everything. He keeps writing my story. He developed my passions in me and stretched me to where I felt beyond recognition. He still is...He's not finished. I'm still a work in progress.

He knew I wanted a daughter. He loaned me one, but not before He allowed her to stay in a NICU for 21 days. If it wasn't for the stretching He did through me during the previous four years of motherhood, I know I would've handled that time in a less unbecoming way. But I trusted Him and although it was one of the worst times of my life so far, I knew it would be worked for my good once again.

Fast forward to today and my heart is filled with daughter number two who will turn one in less than three weeks. It's also filled with two beautiful nieces and one nephew who I couldn't love more. I am more in love and connected to my husband than ever before. He's literally my everything and we figured out how to become one with our Creator. I've also been stretched further by the call to homeschool and God-led fertility. I've witnessed my siblings "leave me behind", I've encountered death of extended family members and divorce. I've had amazing friends come and go. I've dealt with and am still dealing with feeling isolated, feeling discontent, and insecure. There are times when I feel the only validation that matters should come from other mothers. I'm nowhere where I need to be but I'm leaps and bounds from where this decade started. I can look back with clarity and see just how beautiful my story is because He is the beauty in it. The world around may be messy and the vile whispers the enemy tries to convince me of, sometimes are welcome into the home of my heart, but there is no question who I live my life for. And this new decade before me is a new chapter in His story for me. Always learning. Always growing. Always stretching. Always seeking to be molded into something that reflects His beauty.

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-Alicia