Why We Named My Daughter "Claire"

When I was pregnant, I took the responsibility of naming my child seriously. Not only must she wear the name I give her for the rest of her life (from the playground to the professional world) but I also wanted it to have significance for her. I wanted it to not just sound good but also carry good meaning over her. It's a quality that we see frequently in the Bible; if a name's meaning isn't fitting for a person, God will intervene to alter it and re-name them.

And so, I sought out a name that would do both.

That wasn't as easy a task as I had expected, as I began researching and sorting through a variety of names.

Claire was a name that kind of came out of nowhere. My husband and I were on a family vacation, driving in the middle nowhere, back to the cabin we were staying in. We hadn't yet found out the sex of the baby but were still quite certain that we were going to have a baby boy. Still, I was sitting in the passenger seat when I said to him, "If it's a girl, what do you think of the names Claire or Heidi?" Heidi was rejected immediately, but Claire was a good contender.

Later, I looked up it's meaning: "Clear and Bright."

As my pregnancy progressed, we discovered that we were in fact having a girl, much to our surprise. And then I had my kidney incident. Once I'd recovered, I began processing my pregnancy and saw how so much of it had been covered in prayer; we'd prayed for months before actually getting pregnant, we prayed through the kidney incident for the baby to remain safe and for me to find healing.

I saw how this pregnancy had brought so much focus and glory to the Lord as he answered each request and remained front and center through it all. That meaning, "Clear and Bright," began to seem so fitting for this little girl who's very existence was becoming a shining example that pointed, clearly and brightly, to the God who made her.

Still, we weren't wholly convinced and waited until she was born to finally decide, with a couple of other contenders in our back pocket. But when we saw her, we agreed: She's a Claire. And even today, we still say the same. She's a Claire, with a personality that shines bright. And we pray that as she grows older, she will continue to live up to that meaning of her name, that she will embrace it as it was originally intended and that her life will point, always clearly, always brightly, to the One who made her.

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Why I Wanted a Natural, Unmedicated Childbirth

Even before we found out we were pregnant, my husband and I were agreement that when the time came for us to have children, we wanted to try to do so without drugs or surgery. At first, it was because I deeply wanted to avoid a C-section, and I know that once you introduce one medical intervention, others are more apt to follow. Consequently, the best predictor of avoiding a C-section is to avoid drugs in the first place.

But upon finding out we were expecting and childbirth became all the more real, I began thinking and praying about the whole laboring process. And through that, I started to not care as much about the possibility of having C-section. Instead, having an unmedicated birth began to feel more like a calling to me than just a means to an end.

Before I go on, I’d like to say that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with getting an epidural or using Pitocin or having a C-section or anything else really. I don’t think that’s evil or even bad. I don’t think having a natural birth is something to be deemed necessary or better or to boast about. I know many people get hung up on those things and use them to judge others and the method of childbirth can become something divisive. That is exactly what I want to avoid doing with this post.

Because for me, the finalized choice to have an unmedicated birth was based on one simple fact: It was what I felt the Lord was calling me to. I felt like doing so provided a chance for me to learn to lean on him in a very physical way—much like I had to during my kidney stone incident. That was the first time I’d ever been exposed to physical suffering and hardship, when I wasn’t in control of even my own body.

I began to see this birth of mine as an opportunity for me to draw near to the Lord and watch him work so intimately in my life; not simply to knit together a baby in my womb. But also to draw her out from it, into my arms. It became a sacred thing, where I knew I had no idea what to expect or what I was going to have to experience, but I wanted to take a leap of faith and trust the Lord with that.

Of course, I was never opposed to medication or intervention if it truly was necessary. But I really wanted to lean on the Lord himself, rather than any drugs, to deliver this daughter of mine to me.

So while I read up on the physical aspects of a natural birth and hired a well-respected (and Christian!) doula, I also began studying things in the Bible like physical pain and suffering and the Lord’s role in that. And once I began to embrace this call—as scary as it was—and realize that I was not going at it alone, but with the Lord by my side, a confidence began to mount. I began to envision the birth as not just me pushing my baby out, but the Lord at work, guiding her out. As teamwork.

In the Hebrew tradition, a couple gets married under the chuppah (like an overhead curtain), representing the fact that a marriage is not just between a man and a woman, but that the Lord hovers over it and plays a role, as well. Two become three. And I saw that imagery vivid in giving birth, as well.

What had been a decision borne out of fear (needles, staples, incisions and blood) became one emboldened by the desire to let the Lord lead this labor and delivery of mine, to put the process and the pain in his hands and trust him with that. I’d seen him work it out once before, and I wanted to submit myself to that once again, if only to have my heart and eyes opened even more to his grace and mercy and fatherly love.

And you know what? It was, because it turned out to be much more of a spiritual struggle than I'd anticipated, which you can read all about, if you haven't already, in my daughter's natural birth story.

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My Birth Story: The Arrival of My Daughter, Claire

Giving birth to my daughter was a lot different than I’d expected. I’d spent the months leading up to her due date reading all kinds of childbirth books and taking classes. I felt prepared and wasn’t scared of giving birth, especially after having gone through my kidney ordeal, which many people said is comparable (if not more painful) than labor.

But as much as I prepared, the entire process still took me by surprise. It started out with the passing of my due date, when my daughter still hadn’t come. Our practice allows mothers to go up to two weeks past the due date, given that all is still looking healthy with the baby, placenta, amniotic fluid, etc.

However, there was talk that if she didn’t come, I’d have to be induced. People started advising me about other natural methods to try to hasten her along, but I realized that all of that was stressing me out, making me panic. There was no peace for me in the idea of taking things into my own hands, and I felt like the Lord was asking me to trust him with this baby, with this birth. He had been the one who’d planted the desire for a natural birth in my heart (more on that later), so I needed to trust him to finish what he started. And that was when I felt peace about things.

It was Monday morning (one week and two days past my due date), when I woke up at 1am with cramps. Throughout my pregnancy, I had never really experienced the Braxton Hicks contractions that everyone talks about—where your whole stomach is supposed to feel tight. That’s what I assumed contractions would feel like, so these cramps caught me off guard and I wasn’t sure whether they were contractions or not. But when they continued through to the morning, we went into our doctor’s office to have them check and see, where we discovered that I was in fact in labor, and my midwife predicted that I’d have the baby by 1am the next morning—24 hours of labor.

So, with hopes high, we went home, packed our bags and made dinner. At this point, the contractions started getting stronger and I had to stop and focus on my breathing to get through each one. I sent a few text messages and emails to let people know what was going on, and typing those up took a great deal of effort, pausing through each contraction. They were intense enough to send us on our way to the hospital, where we arrived at 8pm and got settled in with our doula and a close friend who were helping with the birth.

This is where things start to get blurry for me, in my memory of what happened and how painful things were or how long things took. So this is the hazy, hormones-laced gist of how I recall the rest of childbirth:

At the hospital, I started experiencing back labor, which significantly slowed things down, to the point where 1am came and went with no apparent progress. At 6:30am, they broke my water and brought in the baby warmer and all the delivery tools because delivery was supposedly imminent. It wasn’t.

Again and again, predictions were made about how quickly my little girl would be born and again and again, they were proved wrong.

Honestly, I don’t think I would have realized how much time had passed had it not been for the oversized clock that hung on the wall, opposite the delivery bed. And it was that element that got to me: It wasn’t so much the physical element of labor that overwhelmed me but the mental, emotional aspect.

I never felt like the pain was enough to warrant an epidural, but as the time ticked by and it seemed that no progress was being made, I started getting really frustrated, discouraged, ready to throw in the towel because of how long it was taking and tell them to just get my baby out, whatever it took. I started to feel like I couldn’t do this.

Fortunately for me, I had an incredible team supporting me, praying for me, encouraging me, reminding me to press on and not give up. Together they held my hands, pressed my hips together (to alleviate the back-labor pains), helped me into the tub to try to move things along, encouraged me to recite Scripture and hymns, got me to try different positions to help things along—a medley of methods to make it through what is known as “labor.”

Almost thirty-six hours after my labor had first started, things still seemed at a stand-still: My pain wasn’t that great, I was able to remain calm between contractions, and I never got the urge to push. But since things were taking so long, my midwife decided to check and see how much progress had been made.

I was fully dilated and effaced, so in spite of my not feeling any urge to push, we decided to just go for it and see how things would go. Turns out, my body and baby were completely ready and my daughter was born less than an hour later. The pushing itself wasn’t as natural as I’d expected but it didn’t really hurt until Claire started to crown. It was at that point that my calm demeanor melted and I began yelling!

Before I knew it, my daughter’s head was born, at which point the pain reached its height and finally became overwhelming; one push later, her entire body slipped out and the relief that followed was one of the most incredible, almost-euphoric feelings I’ve experienced.

With that, at 2:22pm on Tuesday, March 5, my child—all 8 lbs. and 10 oz. of her sweet, flailing body—was thrust upon my chest and I began sobbing: tears of joy. I cuddled with her and cried over her and couldn’t stop saying, “My baby, my baby. We have a baby!”

And our lives have never been the same since!

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My Secret to a Happy Marriage and More...

While I've been on maternity leave, I've been sharing a bunch of guest posts from some lovely readers and contributors. (Many thanks again to all of you who have volunteered your stories!)

I'll be back to regular posting next week!

But until then, I thought it was a fitting time to share a guest post of my own that I recently did on the blog Ever After Blueprint. Andrea interviewed me about my marriage (which you all know I've detailed in-depth in my Secrets of a Newlywed series, which provides a look at some of the most important lessons I've learned through my first years as a wife, as well as my Our Love Story series, which details how my husband and I met).

Here's a sneak peek at that a couple of questions I answered in that interview:

What was one of your biggest challenges the first few months of marriage?
While there were quite a few challenges, I would say that for me, personally, many of them boiled down to having to let go of my selfishness as well as learning to truly trust my husband and his love for me. In that last regard, it took me awhile to realize how sincerely he did love me and how he really was willing to put me before himself. I knew the Bible called for that, but I don't think I actually expected that. What a pleasant surprise! When I finally let down my guard and trusted that, even if he does hurt my feelings, it always was from a place of love, our marriage became much easier, richer and lovelier.

What have you learned since you’ve been married?
I've learned a lot! So much so that I wrote an entire series about some of the lessons I've learned, titled Secrets of a Newlywed. But if I had to pick just one of those lessons, it would be Get Used to Saying I'm Sorry. As I wrote in that post: "Apologizing is one of those things that none of us at any age enjoys to do. It takes humility to say, I was wrong. It takes us being willing to think of another to say, I was wrong. It takes courage to admit, I was wrong. And yet, with that courage, humility and selflessness comes restoration…" I think that goes back to the previous question where I said one of the first things I had to learn in marriage was selflessness, and part of that was embracing the humility to apologize.

What's your secret to a happy marriage?
Listen to the Holy Spirit. Period. And invite him to convict and trust Him enough to act on those convictions. I sincerely believe that the reason my husband and I enjoy a wonderful marriage is because we trust the Lord enough to follow Him, even when it means apologizing or choosing not to complain or whatever the situation might call for. The Lord wants the best for our marriage even more than we do–so we must trust Him with it!

Pop over and read the complete interview (including what I consider to be the best part of being married and what I wish I would have known before tying the knot). Thanks so much for the interview, Andrea!

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Sponsored Post: The Latest from Your Publix Grocery Store

As you well know, there's always some sale going on at Publix, and right now they're hosting one of my favorites: their "Running Out? Run In" sales event. Which of course, is exactly what my life feels like right now: No time to spare!

Now through May 22nd, you can pop into Publix to take advantage of great savings on some of your favorite brands from General Mills and Procter & Gamble, like Cascadian Farm, Charmin, Crest—a variety of products for all your household needs to stock up on! Plus, if you buy $30 of participating items, you can mail in to receive a $10 Publix® gift card to use on your next shopping trip! (For more details on this rebate, please visit www.runningoutrunin.com.)

And, while you're there, you can also pick up a new product from Yoplait that's on sale: Greek 100 Yogurt. It has 100 calories (a great, slim-down option as we approach summertime and swimsuit season!) and comes in flavors including Black Cherry, Lemon, Mixed Berry, Peach, Tropical, as well as my favorite standbys, Vanilla and Strawberry. Through the end of the month, Yoplait's Greek 100 Yogurt is only $1 each at Publix, so you can add that to your shopping list as well!

The information and a gift card to sample the sales were provided by General Mills and Publix® through MyBlogSpark.

Deserted Islands and Sanctification in Marriage / GUEST POST


Chris and I have been watching Lost on Netflix recently. The other night one of us made a comment about how living on a deserted island has a way of flushing out all your flaws.

Well, if that's the case, then I think marriage is like living on a deserted island.

Can I get an Amen??

I'm sure I've said this before, but I feel like marriage is like having someone hold up a mirror to you, revealing all your flaws and imperfections. Some days it feels like one of those fun house mirrors where everything looks distorted and crazy, and some days the lighting is just a little more flattering.

Before we were married, I felt like I was a pretty good girlfriend (and then a good fiance) A catch really. And then my pride was horribly trampled on by the truth of my selfishness. Oooohhh. My selfishness.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to claim that I'm a horrible person, or a horrible wife. Thankfully I have a very encouraging husband who tells me the opposite everyday. What I am saying is that once my focus changed from self serving, to serving my husband and our relationship as well, I realized just how self serving I was in the first place. And to be completely honest? I'm running out of patience with myself.

I can't even count the amount of times that I've been confronted by my own selfishness in the past year. The amount of times that I have thought only of myself when making plans with friends, or have offered up the use of our home without asking Chris if he's ok with it. On a smaller scale, little things like he complains of a sore back and I don't offer to rub it, or he talks about how tired he is, and I don't offer to make dinner. These might be things that sound a little extreme, but they are things he does for me on a constant basis. Why on earth can't I reciprocate?? Even just the thoughts in my head that I quickly try to silence are getting on my nerves. "Why don't YOU do it?" "Can't you figure that out on your own? I don't feel like it."

I feel like I am constantly being stretched, challenged and asked to do more. Not by my husband. Oh no, this challenge comes from a much more important place. See, I believe that marriage is one of the biggest ways that God sanctifies us.

* "Christianese" alert! * Sanctification is a big old fancy word that describes how God makes us more holy. This process is never ending as He leads us and calls us to act more Christ-like in everything we do. This brings us closer to Him, and allows us to have a deeper relationship with Him.

So what I am attempting to explore then, is how God is using my husband to reveal my flaws to me; not in an attempt to condemn me or make me feel guilty, but instead in an attempt to draw me closer to Him. The reason why this is so possible in marriage is because it is a relationship that is unique and unlike any other we will have. Not only am I close to him in proximity (living together) but we are closer emotionally and spiritually than any other relationship I could possibly have. The key in this relationship is vulnerability.

I have let him in to the parts of me closed off to everyone else. He knows me, but more importantly knows why I am me; what has shaped my character, and why my personality is what it is. To know someone so intimately is a gift that is given from pure trust in the other person. It is this vulnerability that causes me to show all that I am to my husband. I don't hold anything back for fear of him not accepting me. I know he does- I am not scared that he will be unsatisfied with what I offer.

Now to pause: This type of relationship, while unique in a person to person sense, is not unique at all when you discover it's roots. This type of relationship- something that we all long for and search for, is something that God offers us freely. I would argue that the reason why we all long for such intimacy is because the Lord created us with that very desire. He asks that we seek Him in this way. Marriage is just a mirror of how this greater relationship already exists.

And so He is able to use the way that we offer ourselves to our spouse as a way to have us offer even more to Him. Each time we fight our selfishness, pride, and many other flaws in an attempt to serve our spouse better, we are rewarded by moving closer to our Holy Father's desire for our lives.

So as much as the growing pains can get on my nerves because I hate having my flaws thrown in my face, I am blessed by the experience. So very blessed that each time I am reminded how unperfect I am, I am also reminded how accepting my husband, and more importantly my Lord and Savior are of me. I am literally brought to my knees by the thought that these moments bring me closer to God than any other because it is this tough work of sanctification that mold me into a better daughter of the King.

Melissa is a twentysomethin recently married gal that among other things enjoys the chilly air and gorgeous leaves of autumn, delicious food, tattoos, and the satisfaction of cleaning something really dirty. (A bit of a nut!) She has a heart for women to know their worth in Christ, and a passion for all marriages to not only succeed, but be exceptional. She blogs at Gracefully Falling Down.


An Honest Look Back at The First Year of Marriage / GUEST POST


I think that when we look back on our first year of marriage from here on out, we're going to think to ourselves, "Thanks be to God, we made it."

Yes, there were a lot of great, romantic, lovely, wonderful moments. But yes, there were also a lot of uncomfortable, serious, mean, relationship-altering moments.

We have taken in a lot this first year of marriage. We were still getting to know each other and finding things out about the other person that sometimes we really didn't like. We were still trying to learn one another's heart and what makes them tick and then in the low times, using those things against one another. We had only known each other for nine months when we began our married journey and if I can be candid, we questioned if those nine months were enough. If maybe we should have waited longer or if this was even the right decision in the first place.

The first few months were good. We were settling in and making his home our home. We were unpacking boxes and gifts and getting settled into a routine that worked for both of us. We were in the clouds of newlywededness and married bliss and romance and the surreal life.

And then, months seven through ten came along. Months seven through ten were rough. I think they were more rough on me than him, because he is just plain more go-with-the-flow than I am. I feel everything. Physically and mentally, I feel every little feeling of pain, hurt, betrayal, you name it. I struggled big time in those four months and looking back, I don't ever want to go back to that.

I struggled with doubts. Was this where my life was supposed to be? Was this the man I was supposed to marry? Was this what God wanted for me, us?

I struggled with not being in the single circle anymore. Almost all of my friends here are single and I felt like I didn't fit in. At all. I didn't know how to relate anymore and I so desperately wanted to relate. I didn't know how to blend my married life with their single life, so I just stopped trying.

I struggled with loneliness. Big time loneliness. I felt isolated from friends and felt like I wasn't included in anything anymore. I leaned on Chris to make me feel not lonely and then when he failed, I turned against him. I started getting very homesick and there were nights where I just wanted to pack up and leave town to get to a familiar place.

I struggled with the picture I thought marriage was supposed to be. I wanted to be wooed and pursued and talked to with the sweetest selection of words. Instead, there were bills to be paid and dinners to be cooked and our lives still had to continue to be lived with our jobs and commitments. There was little time for the rest of it and I was desperate for all of it.

There were fights. Slammed doors (my bad habit as my parents can attest to). Stomps up and down the stairs. Yelling. Choice words. Tears. Lots of tears. Questions. Doubts.



The fights led to us stopping and quieting ourselves and our hearts to dig down deep to the root of why were fighting in the first place. We learned the ins and outs of the other's heart so that we could learn to tread more carefully the next time.

The slammed doors opened up new doors of communication and how we could better tell the other person how we were really feeling. Truth is, the slammed door is how I sometimes felt - like a door was being slammed in my face.

The yelling and choice words were deemed unnecessary when we learned how to talk to one another the way the other person needed to be talked to. I need lots of affirmation. He needs lots of affirmation as well, but with a tone of respect.

The tears (95% mine) were cleansing. It's amazing that as tears come out, so do words. Words that have been wedged so deep in the crevices of our hearts because we don't know how to make sense of them. Tears seem to piece them all together sometimes.

The questions were slowly answered.

The doubts were slowly turned into reassurances.

Months eleven and twelve saw a new beginning with new communication and new ways of showing the other person that we are in this for-e-ver. We were committed from day one, and we never intended to end what we started. But in those dark moments, doubts and lies and questions would creep up and try to steal it away from us.

I don't wish that we would have had to get all the way down to nothing for us to experience what we were meant to all along. I don't wish for the fights and nights of tears. But, they happened and I can't erase those ugly moments.

I can, however, look back and see how God has swept us off of our shaking feet and lifted us into something wonderful. Something that has been wonderful from the very beginning; we just haven't had the clear eyes to notice. I can now look back on this past year and see how God has taught our desperate hearts to see what He created marriage to be. A union, a servanthood, a vision of His love for us.

It truly can only go up from here, and I can't wait.

Jordy says, "I blog about life, faith and marriage over at Jordy Liz Blogs. I was born and raised in Texas, but now live in the deserts of Arizona with my husband, dog, and soon-to-be baby. By day, I work in an office, and by night, I'm a blogger and freelance editor. Come visit!"

God is the Reason We Got Married | GUEST POST


People have had a lot of opinions about me getting married in my early twenties. They don’t seem to understand… they say we rushed or just give me a look like I was crazy to marry someone within a year and a half. Without God, it isn’t going to make sense; I don’t expect it to.

God is the only reason why we got married.

It is all by Him and for Him and made possible through Him. Marriage is a symbol. A symbol of the deep, meaningful relationship of Christ and His Church. The church (not the building, but the actual members of the body of Christ which makes up THE church of Jesus Christ) loves Jesus and we submit to Jesus and do what He would have us to do with our lives. It is the same for wives and husbands. Wives submit to a loving husband who would give up his life for her. Christ died for us, and our husbands should love us in the same way. Sacrifice on both sides is necessary… putting others before yourself is vital. This is God’s will for us. Age in and of itself is not a determining factor of marital success.

I read an article on RelevantMagazine.com (a popular Christian-view on relevant things in culture right now) and there was an article that was talking about age and marital success. It gave examples of studies that have been done on couples who married at very different ages and it concluded that the age was not a major factor in marital success. Success has to do more with levels of commitment and personal maturity. Now I’m sure you know of those older folks who act like they are 12 and then there are some young adults who have wisdom that far exceeds some older adults. This is personal maturity. The Relevant article quotes: “There's certainly something to be said for going through those challenges with the person you love by your side. Having the mindset that everything in life has to be in order before getting married can mean missing out on the fact that marriage is often crucial in helping people mature.”

If God is in the center, your marriage will not be shaken.

On a personal note, I have had very different responses from people when they hear I am married. Today, I am younger than the average person to get married, yet back in the day couples would get married much younger. Age is such a huge factor today and I think it is focused in on too much and people raise their eyebrows at young married couples (with no legitimate reasons to back them up as to why they are judging others by their standards). The reason I got married was that I found a man who loves the Lord and he helps me with my faith and vice versa and to give glory to God through our marriage.

I’ve seen my parent’s marriage fail and his parent’s marriage succeed. My parents were older when they were married, his were younger. Age obviously, in this case, wasn’t the issue. God was the determining factor that his parent’s marriage has lasted. My parents did not have God in their marriage. And no, I don’t think there are any solid guarantees to any decision we make because we are human. We all make mistakes. We all fail. But God is our rock and our center. Leaning on Him in all we do can heal anything—even a marriage.

Stephanie says: "I’m 23 and married to biggest blessing in my life—Peter. We both work full time and stay busy with his band, A New Awakening. My passion is to spread God’s truth and love to those around me. In my (barely there) free time, I love to experiment with new recipes and to soak up good books. I’m an outgoing introvert (yes, there is such a thing!) and I am fascinated by psychology. I’m still trying to understand what God has in store for my future, but I’m holding on to the fact that He is faithful and there’s a wonderful plan for my life. You can read more about this little life journey of mine at Uncovering Hope."

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