Baby Button Needs You To Stop Praying For Him Now

8 weeks ago, I wrote a story about the journey our baby was taking us on, and how we were praying that my body would survive being pregnant just 7 more weeks to give him the best chance. So many of you responded in love and prayers and genuine care.

I truly believe it worked because my body proceeded to need a total of 3 amniotic fluid drains, plus a dramatic 3 night stay in the hospital because I was having very real contractions every 5 minutes…and then suddenly everything stopped. I went home. Life has resumed at an almost-usual routine for the last 4 weeks. Baby Button has grown big and strong, we have a safety-approved place for him to sleep and travel, and my mom made it here without complication.

So now? I need y’all to stop praying. I turned the corner on 38 weeks yesterday, and I am done.

I know every third-trimester mother says that, but I don’t think you understand.

I am “answering questionnaires for concerned psychiatrists/sense of humor completely gone/collapsing into tears for no reason at least once a day” done.

I have survived the Apocalypse. I have lived in fear of the government and deportation. I have moved houses at least as many times as I’ve had birthdays. I’ve seen a childhood friend die right in front of me. I have endured losing a relationship with my father 2 months after it began. I have gotten lost in Europe, lost a baby, lost jobs, and been one paycheck ahead of financial disaster for years.

But 9 months of pregnancy, one of life’s greatest mysteries that I was looking forward to the most, is the straw that broke this camel’s back.

I feel sad. I feel angry. I feel needy. I feel weak.

And so I feel lost. My identity is shifting. I’m the girl who writes about all the crazy shit that happens to her, and still manages to make people smile. I’m the Chandler Bing, I’m the Spartan who keeps on trucking, I’m the one who has heard time and again, “Wow. Looking at you, listening to you, I would never have guessed that you survived all THAT. You’re amazing, and you should probably write a book.”

My shit has always been a little messy, but it was my mess, and it made me stronger.

Now? After being pregnant and sick and worried and unprepared for 267 days in a row (including being displaced from home for 60+ days in a cramped house with 4 animals and 4 in-laws out of that)?

All I want is to go to sleep, and wake up in my own bed with a fresh mani/pedi, a killer haircut, a multi-ethnic buffet, and an impossibly adorable baby who never cries longer than 5 minutes or makes me question whether I am mentally and emotionally capable of becoming a mother in the first place.

I feel gross for even admitting it. Because I can see all you ladies who have been moms for years, who are laughing at my innocence and thinking, “Just you wait, honey, it gets worse.” I can see all you ladies who have been thinking they’d like to get pregnant, and now I’ve just ruined it for you. I can see all you ladies who had magical unicorn pregnancies with babies made from Jesus’ eyelashes, and are secretly judging me for being so dramatic and non-sacrificial.

And honestly, I’m going to play the Pregnant Bitch card and say up front: I don’t need to hear from you right now.

The only thing that keeps me typing so vulnerably is the off-chance that maybe some lady will read this and think, Thank GOD I’m not alone. Maybe I’ll wait one more day before checking myself in to the closest institution. Hi, Carly. I’m your new messy mama friend. Let’s keep talking.

13 days or less…

 

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Take Me To Church

I am what you might call a “church-goer”. I look back on my life and cannot remember a time that I was not connected to a church somewhere. I’ve attended chapel at school, chapel at camp, Presbyterian church, Alliance church, Foursquare church, home church, Pentecostal church, Evangelical Free church, Salvation Army church, Baptist church, and back to Pentecostal church. Morning worship, communion, Vacation Bible School, Sunday school, children’s church, youth group – sometimes attending, sometimes leading. I’ve done it all.

What can I say, sometimes they have snacks. And always really good juice. I know it wasn’t koolaid because I’m still alive. (Really, Carly? Too soon.)

It’s not hard to picture going to church like going to a family reunion. There are people you know, some you love, some that you’re just like “ehh.” And if you go to church alone like I have for most of my life, then sometimes you actually *do* get adopted by some parents or grandparents that take you home for lunch after the service since you are probably wasting away.

A church has always been my place of refuge, confession, re-confirmation of faith. Where I could find God the easiest.

And now, I find myself being called away. Maybe not from church completely, but from what I think I know and believe about church.

Like any family, church assemblies occasionally go through rough patches. Fighting, gossip, disagreement over how things should be done, taking sides, misunderstandings, financial stress; sometimes, people walk out and don’t come back. Bridges are burned, hearts smoldering in the ashes.

Unfortunately, in these situations, the rest of the world looks at people like us and points vigorously, “See! I knew they were hypocrites! That’s why *I* don’t go to church.”

And unfortunately, some of us are not humble enough to admit that it might be true. So, once again, the reputation of God gets dragged through the mud.

I have recently discovered that I am very passionate about the integrity of God’s reputation. And that because of this, I need to be equally as passionate about the possibility that I may not be right about everything.

“Anyone who gets to the end of their life with the exact same beliefs and opinions as they had in the beginning is doing it wrong.” – Sarah Bessey

Some people might call this instability; a flaky standpoint. I call it maturity.

When I first started out, no matter which of those many churches I attended, my core beliefs were always the same.

God is watching my every move angrily so I better toe the line. God hates gay people. God hates women who have had abortions. Poverty and homelessness is God’s way of saying they should have worked harder. People that aren’t white or Christian are kind of scary; I should avoid them. Women should be seen and not heard in church. Men are always right, especially pastors because God speaks directly to them always. I am a bastard child, but God might still have room for me somewhere, if I try hard enough.

I don’t remember actually hearing any of those words being spoken to me personally or from the pulpit. (Especially considering my 2 year experience at the Salvation Army church, where they are all about women serving equally in whatever capacity!)
They were just…there. Maybe they were the lies I was born with, and no one bothered to set me straight. These lies would tangle around my heart like poison ivy.

But as the years have passed, a garden scissor has slowly been cutting through – a painful act of being set free.
They aren’t done yet. For the truth to continue, for the pruning to yield more fruit, I need to step out of the comfort of the church building for awhile. It’s far too easy to arrive at a church every week, dressed in your Sunday best, to stand and sing a few songs, sit and listen to a few words, learn a few lessons, greet a few well-known strangers, and then run out the door to beat the brunch crowd.

I’m not saying that everyone does this. I’m just saying that unless I’m living in a country that forces me to sneak-read my Bible, or whisper Jesus’ name for threat of death, I am the laziest Christian ever.

Turns out I’m not alone. I have friends who suspect there is more to this Jesus person and his way of life, and they want in.

“So you moved me, out of myself and into the fire… I can’t go with you and stay where I am, so you moved me…” – Susan Ashton, You Move Me

And so we’re going on a journey together. We don’t know where it will go, or what it will look like yet. But we do know that there will be no politics. Separation of church and state is still a thing.
We do know that it won’t always be on a Sunday.
We do know that we won’t be meeting in a building, and that there won’t be any programs designed to draw people in to the latest spiritual attraction.
We do know that it will be hard as hell, like someone’s pulled the plug on our Matrix-induced slumber and now we can see things as they really are.

Because that’s what we’re asking for: the real, warm, hard truth. To meet anyone and everyone in that truth, in
their story, and walk it out together.

For example, next week, the town is offering a bike course to teach kids how to ride bikes if they don’t know how. The course needs volunteers. So, next week, we’re going to show up, and help out. Because we know that if we can teach even one child how to ride a bike, we’ve changed their world. We don’t have a building with a kids program to invite them to, but we have our hands and hearts, ready to meet a need in the here and now. We didn’t have a board meeting, we didn’t take a vote, we’re just going.

Last week, we hosted a party where an entire pig was roasted on a spit, and many people I’d never met before showed up. And I talked to some of them. And I tried goat meat for the first time. And I helped a friend through 5 contractions in her long labour. It was all terrifying and exhilarating.

Maybe sometime, we’ll collect some of our own money to help a single mom without any strings attached. Meals For Moms is still going strong, and I’m thankful for that open door.

Maybe the week after that, one of our D.J. friends will book a wedding reception, and he’ll take a few of us over to start a celebration without asking anyone what their religious affiliation is.

Because love and building relationship and challenging any hidden prejudices is the name of our non-game.

Who knows what could happen?

And when we do get together to study the word of God, we’re going to ask the scary questions. We’re going to wrestle the angels until we find a crown worth keeping.

Maybe a woman will preach without feeling like she has to ask permission. Maybe a child will hear God speak and share it for our knowledge and benefit. Maybe we’ll see a body or soul be healed in front of our eyes.
Maybe we’ll fall on our faces, failing miserably.
Maybe we’ll get back up again.
Maybe we’ll wash out the bitter taste of God’s name in others’ mouths with pure water, free of hypocrisy and hidden agendas.
Maybe I’ll finally learn who I’m meant to be, and cut the last tangle of poison ivy from the soil of my soul.

That’s what I’m asking for.

[To be continued…hopefully]

Save-the-Day Shoes

A few months ago, I introduced my good friend and former roommate, Natalie, here at Growing Butterfly. She really could start her own blog if she wanted to *nudge nudge* but in the meantime, I am always honoured to share her deep and precious thoughts here.

Our community in Prince George has faced some turmoil this week, and this is Natalie’s response. (I also find it timely that my last post relied heavily on the theme of Community.) Thanks for reading.

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It’s been a tough week.

On Sunday night, I got a phone call from one of my best friends who recently moved away. The news she gave me was something I never would have expected.

One of her good friends (and her husband’s best friend of the past few years) passed away earlier that day, suddenly and without warning. She had wanted to let me know before I found out some other way.

In that moment, I was at a loss for words, as I felt my heart instantly ache and grieve not only for my two friends had known him so well, but for his wife and all of the lives he had touched in our community. It was a heavy blow, one that I wasn’t certain how to handle.

I did my best to comfort my friend – to tell her that I was there if she needed anything, and that I would be praying.

But I was still left with the question,

“What should I do?”

The next day, I was at work, surrounded by customers and fellow employees who had no idea what I was going through. I tried my best to just make it through the day while still thinking, praying and grieving over this sense of loss. I thought that I was doing okay until halfway through the day, when I got a text from another friend, telling me that her mom was in the hospital, going in for emergency surgery, asking for prayer.

Just when I thought my heart couldn’t take any more, I was almost brought to my knees as I prayed and hoped fervently that everything would be okay, that another one of my friends wouldn’t have to face another loss. And once again, as I tried to cope with what was happening, I was left wondering,

“What do I do now?”

In these moments, I believe that the hardest thing for me has been to know how to react. Having a protective personality, one of my first instincts is to rush to the side of whoever is in need or hurting, but then my doubt always hesitates and wonders,

“What if they don’t need me? What would I even do when I got to them? What would I say? Are words even enough?”

In a way, not knowing what to do has eaten me up inside, threatening to break my heart all throughout this week.

And then I was at work again, stewing with all of these feelings. I tried to grasp onto the good things around me, tried not to let my own thoughts defeat me. Working in retail, it can be hard enough to help people and serve them well on a good day – and in the past few days, it’s taken all I have to remain positive and not just start throwing shoes at people’s heads. (Sometimes, it just feels like they deserve it!) I think it’s safe to say that I will not getting Employee of the Month.

But after dealing with a few customers, I came back to help an older woman with her two granddaughters. They’d returned from earlier in the day to pick up some shoes and find another pair for the youngest girl.

Now this girl was, by no means, a sweet angel, but I found that her excitement to try on shoes was so contagious that I couldn’t help but smile. After I brought out the pair she wanted, she was so determined to shove her little feet into those shoes as quickly as possible that she didn’t even bother to sit down.

As she inevitably began to lose her balance, it was in that moment that I chose to make a fast decision and I quickly put out my hand for her to hold onto.

Now, normally, I make it a bit of a rule not to get too close to children that I don’t really know, and I would never admit to being a touchy-feely person. But as that little girl grabbed onto my hand, I felt instant relief in the fact that I knew she trusted me, that she knew she was going to be okay.

In that split second of a moment, when everything had seemed so uncertain and confusing, that simple fact was enough for me.

If there’s anything I’ve learned (or re-learned) from this week, it is that I need to be like that little girl and just trust. Trust that I know how to do the right thing, trust that other people will let me be there for them, trust that even when I hurry so much to put on my save-the-day shoes that I lose my balance – God and the people in my community are going to be there for me too. Above all, trust that everything will be okay.

It’s not always easy, and I know that sometimes I may have to risk exposing my heart to all kinds of unpleasant things, but I know now that for all the times I might reach out empty-handed…

…the second that someone chooses to take my hand and trust me is the only moment that matters.


(Source)

I Cried In Church Today

I cried in church today.

Not that I’ve never done that before. Anything can make me do that – a song, a prayer, a hug from an old friend.

Today I cried because I saw something I rarely see: community.

We gathered in a building behind the Tim Hortons – not just me and my people, but them and their people.

Multiple churches, multiple dialects of faith, all in one spot because it’s the end of the summer and this is what we do at least once. We pile in, we sing songs that we all know collectively, and someone chosen from the community speaks a message. We drink coffee together and we leave, feeling like real connection was made in that hour. Pastors, deacons, elders, middlers, young adults, teenagers, children, men and women – anyone who has a habit of going to the Church on a Sunday morning is there in equal measure.

Today, however, felt different.

The bodies were so close, the voices were so loud. I felt surrounded by a choir. My voice joined in, weakened by tears, strengthened by the words.

One pastor stands up, introduces the mayor and two female police officers. One of them is decked in the Mountie Red, another is on duty in black. They’re all asked to share why they are here today.

The mayor takes the microphone and smiles nervously: “I am here because I believe in the power of community. I am not a man of religion, by any means, but listening to you all sing just now – I felt the Spirit of God here. It’s undeniable. Smithers will benefit because of you.”

The woman in red takes the microphone. She’s young, new to town and new to the force. She’s a police officer, speaking publicly in a church building; she is practically a modern miracle. And why shouldn’t she be?

“I came here as a police officer because I want to help people. I know everyone says that, but it’s really true for me.”

The woman in black takes the mike from her. She starts to say something, but then she pauses, putting her finger to her ear. We sit in silence, wondering. After a moment, she says, “10-4, on my way” or something similar. Then she tells us, “I’m going to make this really quick.”

A laugh ripples across the crowd.

“I am here representing Cops for Cancer. We bike across the province every year to raise money for pediatric research. And if you don’t think pediatric research is relevant here – we all know of a little boy who is in Vancouver fighting for his life right now.”

We nod, and tears fill my eyes again. One of our own, a 10 year old boy who hadn’t been feeling well lately, had discovered his body was made more of cancer than blood and flesh and bone. Just a few days ago.

She tells us what we can do to help, and then she runs down the aisle of the sanctuary and disappears, because that’s her job. Any time, all the time.

We take up an offering. I pray that it goes directly where it is needed.

And then a man from the Salvation Army comes and speaks to us. He shows us a picture of this sculpture that is sitting in Toronto at this very moment.

 

 

It’s called “Jesus the Homeless.” He is lying on a bench in a shroud, and the only way to know that it’s him, is to see his nail-pierced feet peeking out. He speaks volumes.

We are led all over the Scripture, reading portions of passages where Jesus did nothing but reach out and spend his time with the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the unclean, the addicted, the outcast and the sinner – and the religious leaders did nothing but condemn him for it.

These passages are called The Gospel, or “Good News.”

Except it’s not news.

It’s not news that Jesus was a bit of a rebel, that he broke a lot of rules, made a lot of people angry with his all-surrounding compassion for just anyone.

It’s not news that Jesus would rather have dinner with a prostitute or a tax collector than a religious hypocrite.

It’s not news that Jesus never avoided anyone for the sake of his reputation.

It’s not news that he didn’t notice skin colour or background or age or gender.

So why do we act like it is?

I wept when I saw that homeless Jesus. I’ve seen him before.

I’ve also seen the poor Jesus, the aboriginal Jesus, the sick Jesus, the hungry Jesus, the black Jesus, the addicted Jesus, the gay Jesus, the mentally ill Jesus, the prostitute Jesus, the angry Jesus, the bitter Jesus, the strung-out Jesus, the imprisoned Jesus, the orphaned, abandoned, helpless, overlooked Jesus.

And I have not loved him.

I cried in church today, because we were all there. We all heard it, we all saw it. Even the mayor knows it now.

He’s right there, shrouded in the form of our community, just waiting to be picked up, dusted off, and taken in. It’s not too late.

Because once we’ve seen, we cannot unsee.
Because maybe, if we’re more like Jesus, then more people will want to become like us.
Because we all have a story, and we are all more than our labels, our backgrounds, our denominations or our mistakes. This is not news.

I cried in church today, and I think maybe God did too.

 

How We Had a Kick-Ass Wedding (Without Kicking Our Wallet’s Ass!)

It’s not even the middle of January, and already, it seems that “wedding season” is beginning. (Did it ever really stop?)

I love weddings. And I’ve been to some pretty fantastic ones. But I have to be honest…my favourite one so far…was mine.

A lot of people know that we dated, got engaged, and married pretty quickly. For those who are new, it was the span of an entire 5 1/2 months. And only 9 WEEKS of it was spent planning the actual wedding. We didn’t have a lot of money. We didn’t have a lot of fancy ideas. We didn’t even have Pinterest. And yet, our special day was an event that friends still talk about with fondness.

Now that our time is over, and more friends are joining the revelry, they’ve started to ask our secrets. I will gladly divulge them here, through many a picture and story. Because everyone deserves to know that they don’t need $20,000+, or the best food, or the highest-rated photographer (although, we lucked out MAJORLY, as you’re about to see!).

1. I found my wedding dress at Value Village, a good two years before I was even close to getting married.

Did you know that, on average, all wedding dresses at VV cost only $130? Some of them are truly hideous, and unless you’re a skilled seamstress with a fantastic vision in mind of what it COULD be, you should try them on just for a laugh. That’s how I found mine – I was having one of those silly, fun shopping days with my ladies – where I wanted to try everything on without actually buying any of it. You know, that Best Customer of the Day Award.
As we all know, VV can offer some pretty great finds, and I was having a ball as my girlfriends brought me costume after costume. And then, the fateful words left my lips: “Hey, one of you should go find a wedding dress! That would be hilarious!”

Next thing I knew, Michelle brought back this pure white cloud of gloriousness, and I was sure of 3 things: a.) It was not common VV fare, b.) It wasn’t “my type” and c.) it wouldn’t fit anyway.

I was only right about one thing.

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It was one of those moments where you could feel the magic falling upon the room. I opened the door…the ladies gasped…I saw myself in the full-length mirror…was in shock for awhile…had complete strangers, including men, coming up to me, saying, “I don’t know who you are, I don’t know your life, but honey, you need to buy this dress.

So, I did. With the wallets of all my ladies combined. (I was totally just gonna do it myself, but they insisted. This was a great foreshadowing of situations to come.)

And then… almost two years went by. That magnificent little dress hovered in the closet like a ghost, wondering if it would ever fulfill its purpose.
And then…one week into the planning of the Big Day, I tried it on again.

It didn’t fit. I would have had a heart attack, except that the dress, in its tightness, prevented my heart from going anywhere.

2. A very skilled seamstress and a little box of Dryel go a long way.

Our wedding colours were red, black and white. When my very-skilled-seamstress friend Jeannette saw that my dream dress no longer fit, 8 weeks before the Big Day, she just laughed and said, “Oh, I’ll fix that.”

But first, we noticed it should be drycleaned. I tried to calculate another $200 into the budget, until Jeannette, once again, saved the day with her wisdom. For $25, I bought a box of something magic called Dryel. You put your items into the Dryel bag, tumble it in the dryer and voila! You’ve just dry-cleaned your own clothes.

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As for making my dress fit without making me lose 10 pounds over night…a red panel with a black lace-up was found to be extremely forgiving and super matchy-matchy.

(What are we at now? Dress $130 + Dryel $25 + Alterations $100 = $255. Who do you know that has spent $255 on their wedding dress? ME.)

3. Keep it simple, silly.

We each chose 3 close friends to be a member of the wedding party. There wasn’t really a “best” of anyone. For their Big Day outfits, I told the girls, “Just use whatever little black dress and red high heels you might already happen to have in your closet.” I honestly didn’t care. I like variety, and I think making every girl wear the exact same style of a pre-chosen dress could potentially be asking for trouble.
It couldn’t have gone better if I planned it myself.

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Since we found a mother lode of Red Converse at Army & Navy for $14.99 a piece, we told the boys we’d take care of that, as well as their red suspenders and red bow ties. All they would need to come up with is a long-sleeved black button-up shirt and black dress pants. They accomplished this with utmost flair, and our wedding gift to them was taken care of. BOOM.

Now when it came to actually finding bow ties and suspenders, that proved a little more challenging. We only found stores that carried one thing or the other, not both. And even though we liked variety, we kiiiinda wanted the reds to be the same on these particular accessories.

So we prayed a little, made some phone calls, took some chances AND!

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Van Halen fans, take note.

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Between Le Chateau (I ❤ you 4ever!) and Black & Lee, we managed to find 4 sets of suspenders and 3 bow ties, ALL the same beautiful cherry-red colour. If that doesn’t make you believe in God, I don’t know what will.

(Money Tally: $255 dress + $60/4 pairs of shoes + $70/4 suspenders & 3 bow ties + $50 special Van Halen tie = $435.)

4. Do it outdoors.

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If you have a willing friend with a big backyard, you can forget about paying to rent a church or a hall or a courthouse etc. What about the weather, though, am I right? Well, again, I prayed my butt off, and I got NOT ONLY the sunniest, warmest day in Northern BC in late September BUT I got the sunniest, warmest WEEK leading up to the Big Day in Northern BC in late September. The very next day, it rained buckets. I’m telling you, prayer gets shit done.

**We did have a big white tent on stand-by, just in case.

5. You’d be surprised at what $200 at a flower shop can get you.

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Plus 3 small bouquets and 7 boutonnieres. We set our budget, stuck to it, got the simplest arrangements, and had an amazingly accomodating florist. (Shout-out to Larkspur Floral Design & Gift Baskets in Smithers, BC!)

6. Make it a Facebook event.

I know, it’s SO not classy or pretty, but doing our invitations this way accomplished so many things: a.) time-crunch proof RSVP, b.) a list of names you can always easily access, c.) update-able to all guests if any information changes, d.) paper-free. That being said, sometimes, getting some people to actually RSVP on time is like pulling teeth. Therefore, I’m going to add an e.) with one click of a button, you can private message ALL of your guests with a gentle reminder to RSVP…and then again a couple weeks later with an even gentler reminder to RSVP….

7. Catering shmatering.

One of the BIGGEST costs for a wedding is the FOOD. Can I suggest a potluck? Once you have your easily-accessible guest list on Facebook, NOW you can message them about what they can bring to the table! (Once they’ve finally made up their mind and RSVP’d, of course.) If anyone in the wedding party has an deathly allergy *coughcoughMyGroomcoughcough*, make this specifically known so that it won’t get tossed into the food by accident. Or, your guests can make that dish and put a VERY CLEAR sign next to it that details any potential allergens.

Having a potluck was so fun for us! Friends got so creative with all different kinds of appies and main dishes, with some different ethnic tastes thrown in!

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Turns out that my super-skilled-seamstress friend Jeannette is also a super-skilled-wedding-cake-maker. She threw this in as a GIFT.

On that note…

8. Know the Power of the Nifty-Gifty.

Delegating and gifting is a magical combination. If you ask someone to provide a service for you, ie: that gorgeous wedding cake, tell them that this can be their gift to you and they don’t need to bring anything else. (It really only works if a FRIEND is providing the service, haha.) Because of our adopted family and actual family’s generosity, we didn’t have to pay for the majority of renting the hall, the cake, the wine, the table centrepieces (double duty of our main photographer…man, do I know some talented people or what?) or the food. You don’t want your day to be remembered by how expensive it looked, but by how much love was poured into it. And man, we had buckets.

9. Take the Plunge…and Hire a Decorator.

Doing this made us a little nervous financially, but in the end, it was SO worth it. I can’t stress this enough. For $725, we received a GORGEOUS hall for the night AND we didn’t have to clean any of it up afterwards. Between the decorator, a few volunteers from our guests and a small donation to a 4-H club, the Round Lake Hall was returned to its normal state, and we didn’t have to worry about a thing. After all the fun we had, we were exhausted, and cleaning was the last thing we wanted to do. It’ll be the last thing you want to do too.

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Image10. Take another, littler plunge and hire a professional make-up/hair artist as well.

I didn’t really feel that this could actually be important but when I got to the end of my Big Day and I realized that my hair was still in place and my make-up was still on, I knew I’d made the right decision.
Mine and the girls’ make-up was done by my former youth pastor’s wife Kim. She’s gone to Hollywood and given make-overs to celebrities, yet she chooses to grace Smithers with her beautiful presence. She’s kind of a big deal.
And then Allison, another church friend, made a house-call with a baby to do our hair. We didn’t really know what we wanted, but we tried to describe it verbally, and she took it and ran with it like a champ.

**Believe it or not, your wedding day is kind of like being in a play or a movie. Not in the sense that you’re performing for everyone there, but there is a definite element of “costume”, “design,” “lighting,” “photography” and “make-up.” Having artists there who do this sort of thing for a living are invaluable. Your wedding photos will have a huge difference too. Hence, why I also decided to get the false eyelashes for myself and the girls. Now you can actually see our eyes, hurray! (And by purchasing the make-overs/hair-do’s for them, my wedding gift to them was also done, double hurray!)

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Michelle has make-up, I do not. Helloooo, lighting difference!

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And helloooo Bride!      ImageImage

(Money Tally: $435 + $200 flowers + $735 decorator + $400 make-up/hair= $1,770)

11. Have a few photographers, who are just starting out.

You’ll get different points of view of your Big Day from each one, and if you’ve seen their pictures already and you like them, who cares if they’re “new”? It’ll cut your costs way down from choosing someone who has been established for a long time, with a company name. We had 3 photographers, all friends, 2 who made their photos a “gifty”, one who was 8 months pregnant and also made our centrepieces as a “gifty.” We got her a hefty Starbucks card. (Now, 16 months later, she’s one of the most requested photographers in Smithers – and we were her first wedding! I hope she’s charging a lot more now; she deserves it.)

12. Make a photo-guestbook!

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$30, Shoppers Drug Mart, boom you’re done. Now you have a photo album with everyone’s lovely comments and it’ll last forever.

(Money Tally: $1,250.)

13. Be KIND to yourself.

It’s a Big Day. Even if it’s the funnest thing to ever happen to you (which for me, it was), there’s going to be adrenaline and rush and hugging/talking/shaking hands with everyone who came to see you.

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EAT SOMETHING. THROUGHOUT THE DAY.

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TAKE THESE DAMN THINGS OFF.

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AND PUT THESE DAMN THINGS ON.

Drink water frequently, take deep breaths, don’t be hungover. It’s that simple.

14. Get married and make merry!

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15. Realize that you are just getting started.

Sure, we only paid roughly $2,000. Sure, we had a lot of things handed to us and got our socks blessed off. That doesn’t mean that every day since then has been easy or inexpensive. Sometimes I look at these pictures and don’t recognize myself in them anymore. But I always go back to this day when I forget who I am or why I’m here. Love, and the Journey; that’s it. “Where you invest your love, you invest your life.”  A Wedding Day is important, but a Marriage is even more important. You might have been King and Queen for the day, but if you don’t have real love in your hearts and lives, it means nothing.

So prepare for your day, save your money, call your friends. Or forget everything I just listed and elope. I don’t care. Just make sure that when you say “I do,” you say “I do” to all of it. Cause there’s gonna be a lot of it. And this glorious day…

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…will turn into this quiet moment.

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And all of it…the highs and lows, shocking twists and throat-gulping turns, the turbulent sea at rest after a storm…all of it will be good, good, good. Just let your heart keep beating Love…the Journey…Love…the Journey…Love…the Journey.

xo Carly

** MAJORLY NECESSARY UPDATE**

I cannot believe I forgot about this.

16. “Do you have the wing?”

clergymanpbride2

 

 

 

The way our wedding rings came to be is one of my favourite parts of this story.

As I have mentioned before, Steve was once-upon-a-time engaged to someone that we tenderly call Voldemort.

After she left him 6 weeks before their wedding for his groomsman, AND after a 4 month spiel that resembled a train wreck, Steve found himself with a pair of her rings that he just didn’t want to deal with quite yet. He packed them up in their little boxes, intending to pawn them eventually.

A year and a half later, he showed them to me. They were beautiful, thought up from his brain with the help of Spence Diamonds. In other words, they had not been cheap.

Looking at them, I felt sad for him, but hopeful for us. If we pawned them, perhaps they would bring in enough money for us to purchase our own. We both agreed that it was time for this chapter to be closed, to start a new one.

And then, believe it or not, my mom came up with this brilliant idea: we knew a really cool jeweler in Smithers who was gaining experience and reputation by the day. What if he could melt them down and make brand new rings out of them?

beautiful colorful sunset with sun rays

HAAAAH-LAY-LU-YAHHHH!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a few email exchanges, one in-person computer design sesh, and one weekend, Gaelen Van Gorkom gave us these:

wedding rings2 wedding rings

 

 

 

 

 

And that was just his first time melting down an already existing ring and making a new one. Now, he does it regularly, and he’s pretty spectacular. (Also, his original designs are out of the world amazing.) And because we already had the materials, he only charged us for the labour, even going so far as to throw an extra diamond in my ring for free when the design called for an extra.

Steve and I love our rings. We feel naked without them, actually. I think we would love them on a normal basis, but knowing their Phoenix-Rising-From-The-Ashes origin story makes them even more treasured.

Thank you, Handmade Engagement Rings – thank you, Gaelen. And hey, THANK YOU, VOLDEMORT. Without you and your hurty ways, we would not be lovin’ this journey we’re on today.

How I Became a Jesus Feminist Without Really Trying

ImageSome of you may have seen this photo on my Facebook and Instagram feed yesterday, and I can almost hear the collective nods across the interwebs that affirm, “Yes, I know exactly what and who you’re talking about!” but I’m betting there are still more going, “Huh?”

I’ll start from the beginning.

Last June, my best and longest friend Laurie was here for a visit. When we’re apart, we’re constantly sharing things on each other’s walls, things that we just know the other person will love because we love it and it’s awesome. (Our adventures on Bitstrips are our newest obsession.) And when we’re together, like we were for a week this summer, we spend mornings drinking our warm cuppa’s while browsing the sites that we love so much, sharing them together.

One morning, she started mentioning a name. Sarah Bessey.

“Who’s that?” I said.

“You don’t know who Sarah Bessey is?! She lives practically down the street from you! OMG I have so many blogs to show you!”

Thus began my journey that would lead me here, to this newly found Jesus Feminism. Since that fateful June day, I have been reading all of Sarah’s updates faithfully and laughing or crying or pumping my fist with each one of them. She’s like a literary soul mate. The fact that we do live literally only an hour away from each other is both amazing and heartbreaking. So close and yet still so far!

Anyhow, through my reading of her, I’ve learned that for the past while, she’s been writing a book called Jesus Feminist. And it just released yesterday. As you might imagine, in certain circles, the title would be a little hair-raising. But to a mischievous person such as myself, it intrigues me.

Now before I can fully relate why I KNOW I’m a Jesus Feminist, I must share a sad little story.

In the excitement of this book release, I made that above photo, knowing and believing that TODAY I was going to possibly meet Sarah Bessey. Her first stop in her book release tour is at Relate Church in Surrey, a mere 20 minutes from my house. I looked it up and dropped a pin on it. The only thing I couldn’t find was what time it started. I looked all over Sarah’s page, the Relate Church website, and found nothing. As soon as I could, which was only this morning because I HAVE BEEN SO CONSUMED WITH LUSH TRAINING LATELY AND NOTHING ELSE, I phoned the church office to see if they knew anything.

They did. And when I called, it was just starting, ending at 11:30am, which at the time I wrote this, was one minute ago.

I don’t know why I assumed it would be an evening event, but I did. So I didn’t insure my car or try to find a bus route or call a friend. I was totally unprepared and now my dream is derailed. Sometimes, being an adult is hard.

So, to ease the pain and self-pity, I’ve put Ed Sheeran’s “+” album on in the background, and now I’m excited to share my heart on this touchy issue.

Why am I a Jesus Feminist?

Because I believe that Jesus loves women. And girls and ladies and LGs and chicks and broads and crones and dames and housewives and powersuits and singles and everything in between.

Because I don’t believe that I have to choose between being a Christian or being a feminist.

Because I am a woman and I love Jesus and I think women are one of the most beautiful creations I’ve ever laid my eyes on and God created them and how can that not be connected?

It’s really that simple.

However, I also believe that the words feminism and feminist have been slightly corrupted.

When I call myself a feminist, I am not calling men inferior. I am not hating men.

I am merely saying that, in my way of thinking, men and women are equal, in beauty and strength and skills and wonder and words and power. And I think Jesus and Sarah Bessey would say the same thing.

How dare do I presume to speak for Jesus, right?

Allow me to introduce 3 women to you that I just adore, possibly because they so mirror image my own life and I’m biased that way — and I think you’ll find that my presumption is actually proof.

1. Jael, housewife, Old Testament.

If you read the Bible enough times, you’ll start to discover a pattern – at least, in the Old Testament. It goes like this: people are enslaved or warred upon, they cry out, God saves them, they serve him for awhile, they forget what he did, they start breaking his laws and serving other gods, slavery and war and crying out and saving starts all over again.
So Israel’s got a lot of armies and strong men going off to fight these wars on a pretty regular basis. But two particular villains named King Jabin and his Captain Sisera had everyone shaking in their boots, including the Israelite’s army leader guy named Barak. (Judges 4)

A woman named Deborah (who is also pretty awesome in my opinion) was a prophetess in the land. She was revered and listened to the world over. When I picture her in my head, I kinda think Galadriel from Lord of the Rings. Beautiful, majestic, all-knowing, and you don’t really wanna mess with her.

Deborah goes to Barak and says, “Hey, I know King Jabin and Captain Sisera are a royal pain in the ass, but God has told me that if you go into battle against them, you will win. It’s a guarantee, so don’t be afraid. See ya.”
But Barak was like, “No way dude. I’ll go into battle but not without you by my side, kay? Thanks.”
Deborah, gracious and mighty woman that she is, says, “Okay. I’ll go with you. But because you refused to take God’s promise, your victory will be given to the hands of a woman.”

Oh snap.

So the battle happens, and somehow Captain Sisera escapes the battlefield! He goes into hiding, choosing a certain tent for refuge. It was the tent of Jael, whose husband was away fighting the war WITH King Jabin and Captain Sisera. Sisera thought he would be welcomed there, right?

Big mish-take.

Jael, secretly sympathetic to the oppression of Israel, is going about her daily housework, but turns on the charm and welcomes the Captain into her tent. He asks for water to refresh himself. She gives him milk. Why? Because he’s an honoured guest! He deserves milk! And also…

It will make him sleepy.

Sure enough, when he’s crashed out on the ground, Jael very calmly picks up a tent peg and a mallet and pounds it into his fricken head, killing him instantly. Can you imagine? Talk about a not-clean death. In this day, something like that would make the news and would portray Jael as a psychopath of Dexter-like proportions. Lock that woman away so we can all sleep better, please. But Barak and Deborah and all of Israel wrote songs about her.

I think Jael was just tired. She’d been seeing an innocent Israel be oppressed and enslaved for 20 odd years by her own evil people, and I believe God moved her heart and she decided to get shit done. That battle went down in history with not Barak or even Deborah as the victor, but Jael.

When I think of my picture that says I am an immigrant; I am a survivor, I think of Jael. In my very own special way, I got tired. Tired of living in fear, being oppressed, having no future. And one day, I decided to take a stand and make my case against the powers-that-be and I won. I am an immigrant, I am a survivor and I am a Jesus Feminist.

2. Mary, the mother of Jesus, New Testament.

This one’s kind of obvious. Mary has had a pretty prominent pedestal for the past 2000 years, but sometimes I think we forget that realistically, she was probably only about 13 or 14 years old. Having a baby. In a cold, shitty barn with a man she’d barely met — get this, with a man that she was expected to spend the rest of her life with, who had not impregnated her. She skipped all of that! Considered a woman, yet still very much a girl. (Luke 2)

I know plenty of 14 year old girls, and the thought of them experiencing what Mary did gives me shivers. The doula-heart in me breaks for the agony and ecstasy of birth that she lived through with Joseph the stranger, who was probably very helpful in his own way, I imagine. But this life was not inflicted upon her. She chose it. She said yes when God asked her permission, and her life was never the same.

A number of years ago, I wrote a song called Hail Mary, relating how her life and my life are so different and yet they are the same in so many ways. Here are some of the words.

In this world, it’s so hard to be faithful. In this world, it’s so hard to be strong. In this world, I can’t compete with what’s required of me, how much simpler would it be…In your world, the future was so fragile. In your world, deliverance seemed so far. In your world, all you had was strength and faith unseen in a lost society. Did you pray for the Saviour to come to a world that was undone? Did you know you were the one? And did you cry when you realized the truth that the Lord had chosen you to bear the one we all needed? I tell you, girl, if that was me, I would have run away. I guess he knew what you were made of when he came to you that day…So here I sit in my content little world, and I have my doubts and my complaints. I don’t really know what my future holds and I struggle with that every day. And there you were at such a tender age with your entire life before you, and when it fell apart, you said, “Let it be. Let it be. Let it be.”

So when I say I am a doula, I think of Mary. I think of the power and nourishment that women possess to not only grow a child within themselves, but also to get it out. And my heart breaks and prays for those who have struggled their whole lives to know what any of that miracle feels like. I hope you know that whether you are a mother of earthside babies or heavenside babies or no babies at all, that God holds you close to his heart. Your worth to him is not held in what you can or can’t create, but in what you already are.  I am a doula, one day I hope to be a mother, and I am a Jesus Feminist.

Now for my favourite woman of all.

3. Unknown, “unclean sinner”, New Testament.

I’m not a scholar in all of the Jewish culture, but from what I understand, every family that could afford it gave their daughters a box made of alabaster stone, filled with precious oils and perfumes. It was to be kept unopened until the girl was married, and then she would give it to her new husband, as a dowry of sorts.

So one night, Jesus and his followers were eating a meal together at someone’s house, as they often did. Now these followers were all outcasts of society to some degree or other. Jesus was famous for spending time with people who didn’t fit the status quo of the perfectly-righteous-on-the-outside. In this setting, I’m pretty sure it was Jesus who first said, “Haters gonna hate.”

So they’re hanging out eating, and suddenly this woman comes in, approaching Jesus and everyone else starts freaking out. “What is she doing? She’s touching Jesus? JESUS IS LETTING HER TOUCH HIM. She’s crying and pouring perfume all over his head, wasting such a costly thing, she’s so unclean and is trying to drag him down with her, we’ve got to stop this.”

But they barely get a word out against her before Jesus rebukes them, telling them to leave her alone, and that she’s committing a beautiful act of sacrifice and worship.

We have a few blanks to fill in about who this woman was and why she did what she did. I would imagine that judging by the crowd’s reaction that she had probably been a prostitute in the past. Perhaps she knew that she would never find anyone to marry her, so she took that precious alabaster box and gave it to Jesus instead as thanks and worship to him for forgiving her past and making her new again. Never mind the bravery it took to even enter that room to begin with. To hear the scolding of all these other men and maybe women, casting judgment on her even though they weren’t exactly saints themselves. (Luke 7:36-50)

So when I say I am a wife, I think of this unknown woman. She had no hope of becoming a wife, but she gave all that she valued to Jesus anyway. And Jesus did not turn her away or look down on her or see her as a woman and therefore inferior – he blessed her, he forgave her, he thanked her, he loved her.
And even though he has given me a husband who loves me and forgives me and blesses me and thanks me every day, I still need to give my heart, my valuables, my precious possessions to him, even if it’s painful or embarrassing or hard. He created me to be in a relationship with me, and I will do everything I can to say yes every day.

It’s funny…all of these accounts I shared have varying degrees of sexism in them, did you notice?
Jael, Mary and Little Miss Unknown and others like Esther, Ruth, Rahab, Miriam and even more were bound by a culture that considered them to be not much more than property. I think that’s where some people misread God’s heart towards women. What they don’t realize is that God didn’t create that culture, other people and laws from generation upon generation did. And he used each one of those women to go ABOVE and BEYOND the culture they were in, to be scandalously noticed, to be holy troublemakers, to be brave and soft and able to do hard things with his heart inside of them. I see myself in each one of them, and I want to see myself in each one of them.

So for all of my 26 years, I have believed this about women and the Bible and Jesus. But yesterday, I became something a little more. I joined a community of women AND men who are brave enough to say “I am a Jesus Feminist, ask me why!” And so I thank Sarah Bessey for giving us a voice, a place, a cause and a name. The nations will rise up and call you blessed.

Warrior-ing on,

Carly xo