God’s answers aren’t like Magic Eye pictures

This blog contains the facts that prove my childhood was so normal. We had really raging Friday nights that involved a trip to the grocery store followed up TGIF on ABC. You know, a little Full House, Step by Step, Family Matters…you get the picture.

When I was a kid, my dad got paid once a month, which meant that once a month my mom did a HUGE grocery shopping trip. And typically, this happened on Friday evenings at Meijer. We’d all go with her.

51sjhhutl-_sx258_bo1204203200_While she took her time getting food for the family, we were allowed to cross the store and wander the toy aisles. I remember back in the early 90s, there was a craze involving Magic Eye puzzles. On my monthly trip to the toy area of Meijer, I’d stop by the racks of Magic Eye posters and see what I would make out.

I’d stare at the mess of shapes and colors. I’d have to relax my eyes, blur them a little and the picture would come into focus. Like it had always been so obvious before. Every time I looked at the picture after that, I could see the image, clear as day.

I mean, how could I miss that 3D lion jumping out at me?

I keep wishing that everything was that simple. Especially about making life decisions. I know that God has a plan for us and not to worry about things, but when I’m making a major life decision I want something more concrete. Like God’s seal of approval…on letterhead…so I know “Hey dummy this is the answer.”

Instead I stare at problems, looking for choices, praying for answers. I’m concentrating so hard, waiting for the plan to pop out as clearly as those Magic Eye pictures.

About nine years ago, we decided to sell our house. I wanted to move. We had a brand new baby and my husband was working a horrible schedule more than an hour away from our house. I needed him home more and the only way to do that was to relocate. I knew I could find a job. So we listed the house and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

keep_calm_and_trust_god_letterhead_template-recbbc2caa57b4d03a95d425c68d3005d_vg63g_8byvr_324And then an offer came. It wasn’t exactly what we wanted, but what we actually wanted was to sell our house. So, was God telling us to wait, a better offer would come along signaling our time to move or was he saying “here is your chance! This won’t be easy, but don’t get greedy.”

Then the house we were planning to buy came back with some things that needed repairs. was it God presenting us with a great house in our budget or was he telling us to run to another house? Do we pour money into the thing that we want and assume that’s what he was trying to tell us, or do we see it as a sign that it’s not our time?

The same type of decision-making has gone on over many things. Jobs, having kids, whether or not we should take a vacation, buy a car or any number of things.

I’m waiting for the hand-written letter, the signed letterhead or the magic eye puzzle to reveal itself to me. I pray and i wait. I avoid decisions in the hopes that my clear-cut answer is just going to show up. My husband jumps feet first into situations he wants and then assumes that trials are a way for God to teach us trust. And if we make a mistake, that’s what forgiveness is for.

Working in a church, I feel like I would understand this better. I mean, it’s GOD’S HOUSE! He’d have to throw out some signs right. Turns out, no. Working in a church doesn’t make things any easier. We don’t have a secret scroll where we can reveal God’s writing with magic ink.

I don’t want to be selfish. I don’t want to make a decision based on my wants. I want to do the right thing. I am the rule-following, parent-pleasing first-child after all. Give me the answer!

God isn’t about to give me the easy way out, because really that’s what I want. I want to avoid the trouble, work, effort and tribulations that come with “wrong” decisions. Instead, the instances where I feel I’m making a bad decision, I need to know that he’s still there.

Life is not the toy aisle of Meijer. I can’t just stare at the problem and expect it all to come together. I have to do the work. I have to pray. I have to listen to others around me. I need to take a leap.

The scene is always in the magic eye puzzle, it’s just up to me to make it come into focus. And, in my puzzle, no matter what I see, I know that this is God’s plan and he’s always there.

The day I became a mom: The birth of my daughter

The weather was unseasonably warm for October. And the end of October at that. I left the house in a tank top and yoga pants, instead of the typical fall-in-Michigan jeans and a hoodie prerequisite.

I had called the doctor’s office earlier in the day to tell them something was off, and I was told it was a rainy day with storms predicted later and babies liked to come on days like that.  She figured labor was coming and we would soon meet our baby.

I was 39 weeks pregnant but our little pumpkin had been trying to come since week 32. While I was convinced I would go to my due date, if labor did start now, it wasn’t a surprise.

This is what I looked like just a few days before I delivered my first baby. Ah, so young...

My husband was starting his second day on the afternoon shift and I was terrified to be alone and go into labor, so we decided to head to my parents, which is closer to his work. I would stay there while he was at work and if I went into labor, I wouldn’t be alone. The dog would come with me, and then we would all sleep there and go to my doctor’s appointment the next morning.

Due to an on-the-job accident, my husband and I did not have the ability to prepare for childbirth the way we wanted to. I was home on bed-rest courtesy of pre-term labor and he had his arm crushed in a machine at work resulting in surgery to nearly reconstruct his arm. Our childbirth class went from in-person to several DVDs we watched at home…alone. I do not advise that. I probably would have felt better had I not turned it off every time I got overwhelmed or had I been able to ask questions.

On the way there, I kept getting waves of contractions. This wasn’t anything new. I had been having contractions on and off for days, but they never amounted to anything more than a few hours of pain.

This time, secretly, I was glad we had brought all the hospital stuff. We got almost all the way to my parents’ house and my contractions were six minutes apart and pretty consistent. I called the doctor’s office and they said to head in to the hospital to get things checked out. We dropped the dog off and headed out. It was about 2 p.m.

This was not how I expected things to be. Was I in labor? Was I imagining this? Why was the world still moving around us while I was so terrified?

We got to the hospital at about 2:30 p.m. and checked in. I kept crying because I was so nervous to actually have a baby. The triage nurse wasn’t sure they would keep me. I was dilated to two and my contractions were off the scale, but my water hadn’t broken and they like to see more progress than that. The nurse called my doctor, who was on call and already at the hospital. She decided to keep me, break my water and see where things went. No turning back. A quick ultrasound was done to verify the baby’s position and my labor, which was all back labor.

Back labor refers to the intense lower back pain that many women feel during contractions when they’re giving birth. Some women even feel it between contractions. This pain is usually attributed to the pressure of your baby’s head against your lower back. –

At 4 p.m., I got into the labor and delivery room and my doctor came in. We asked her if she thought we’d be there to watch “Grey’s Anatomy.” She said she thought we might be watching it with our baby in our arms.

How could this be? Our lives were going to change so much in the span of a few hours and I couldn’t process that thought. I wasn’t ready. No one has asked me if today was a good day—and it wasn’t. I just wasn’t ready.

The doctor came in and calmly broke my water. It was just a nurse, the doctor, my husband and me sitting in a sun-filled hospital room. I had little idea about anything going on around us. The insane weather for one. It was so serene. The nurse started an IV even though it wasn’t looked up to anything. I had some blood drawn, my blood pressure checked and the baby monitored. After a few minutes, they told us we could start walking the halls to try and get labor to progress.

We started walking the floor. I had to stop a few times for contractions. Back labor is rough. I cried as Jacob held me as I had contractions in the hall. We looked out a few windows trying to distract me, but it didn’t work. After about a half hour, we were back in the room. The doctor came back and checked me and I was at 4 cm. She was hoping I’d be further.

Further? I’m almost half-way through the process. I wasn’t ready. I was beginning to freak out. What was I thinking? I was not ready to be a parent. There was no backing out now.

We decided to try the birthing ball. First, the doctor thought this might help with my back labor if we could get the baby flipped around. Second, it might help get the labor progressing. I moved to the ball. This is where my transition phase kicked in. I was in so much pain I could hardly even do what I was supposed to on the ball. Everything around me was surreal. I couldn’t barely understand words.

The pain was so intense.

As I sat on the ball, I looked out the wall of windows in my room facing west. The sun was glowing orange and the warm temperatures with a cold front on its tail ushered in a tornado warning. I could see storm clouds on the horizon getting ready to rain down on us.

I asked for something to take the edge off and I was told I could have Nubain, which is a narcotic safe for delivery. The nurse administered it as a shot in my IV. Immediately I felt drunk, but still in immense pain. I asked to get back in bed and for an epidural, something I didn’t think I’d ever do. I simply don’t like needles.

I was given an IV to hydrate me before the epidural could come in. This was around 7 p.m. and it was shift change with the nurses. I was really in bad shape with the back labor and would hold my breath and cry through the contractions, which didn’t help at all. The anesthesiologist finally arrived with the drugs. I was checked one more time and told I was at 7 cm. The doctor said there is a lot to be said for getting to 7 cm with no epidural. It wasn’t about the stamina…I just hated the idea of a needle in my spine.

The epidural was started and I felt a little relief, but barely. I was told the epidural may not help with the back labor. I had three contractions before I told Jacob the pain was getting lower in my back and to rub lower.

The nurse said “you feel pressure that low?” The doctor came in, checked again and said I was fully dilated and could start to push.

She apologized for the fact that the epidural would probably not do much for me at this point. I hadn’t had it very long, not to mention the back labor. This meant, I was going to have to push with basically no medication. This terrified me to no end,  yet was still really calm in the room.

How could it be so calm? I was about to have a baby? What if something went wrong? Shouldn’t these people care more about something going wrong? My world is about to change in ways that I can’t even imagine and the environment is still so very relaxed.

This was about the point I began to wonder if the baby would actually fit out. The doctor didn’t seem to have any concern so I just kept pushing. I pushed for a while. It felt like no time. At about 8 p.m. more people began coming in. The light came out of the ceiling and my once dark room was now much brighter. I heard someone say she was there to catch the baby. I knew we were close but I didn’t think we were that close. They turned the baby warmer on and suddenly I knew the time was very, very near.

I remember anytime anyone would talk to me, I would concentrate on them really intensely because I had to. I kept thinking it was all a dream. The physical feeling of delivering a baby was nothing that I ever could have prepared myself for. Not to mention the emotional effects. They would reassure me I was doing great. I kept telling the doctor I was really scared. She said everything was going really well.

There was a lot of pushing, a little cord unwrapping and a lot of people telling me that I was so close.

And just like that……at 8:47 p.m….out she came.

Our perfect little 6 lbs 15 oz, 19 inch pumpkin.
Our perfect little 6 lbs 15 oz, 19 inch pumpkin.

There was a long delay and someone finally said “it’s a girl.” It hadn’t even dawned on me to care. We didn’t know in advance and I had been curious about this little detail for nine long months, yet at that moment I was just happy the baby was finally there. I had survived the birth of my daughter.

I was so terrified that I cried through the entire delivery. I was afraid something would go wrong. I was afraid of my ability to care for a baby. I was afraid of just about everything.
I was so terrified that I cried through the entire delivery. I was afraid something would go wrong. I was afraid of my ability to care for a baby. I was afraid of just about everything.

The two days we were in the hospital were a blur. Family visits, hearing tests, shots, examinations, breastfeeding videos, lactation consultants, taking in the baby, trying to sleep…and in all of it, I kept waiting for someone to give me permission to be her mom. I was afraid to feed her, change her and even put her in the car seat.

Despite my fears, my husband was my rock. He was amazing during the delivery and so supportive as I recovered. He had this forearm stamped with her footprints and never wanted them to wash away. I think they are actually still stamped there, but only he can see them.
Despite my fears, my husband was my rock. He was amazing during the delivery and so supportive as I recovered. He had this forearm stamped with her footprints and never wanted them to wash away. I think they are actually still stamped there, but only he can see them.

Nine years later, I still can’t believe I’m her mom. I’m pretty lucky. She’s a pretty cool kid. She loves deeply. She hugs me tighter every day. She wakes up happy and goes to bed with a smile on her face. I still sometimes dream about the birth of my daughter and meeting her for the first time.

I had no idea how to care for a newborn and she had no idea how to be a human. We grew into it together. She now 9 and as awesome as I could hope for.
I had no idea how to care for a newborn and she had no idea how to be a human. We grew into it together. She now 9 and as awesome as I could hope for.

Those nervous moments in the delivery room…well, they’ve only changed over time. Now I’m concerned about other things. I know now that the fear didn’t end when the baby was born, or when we were home, or when she could roll over, or talk or walk or went to school or whatever. The fear of being a parent is real and it’s lifelong.

Putting her in the car seat felt like a hopeless task. The nurses said they couldn’t help and I had no idea how to adjust the straps. So I did what any new mom would do, I cried. And my husband figured it all out.

I just hope that God can always provide me with the peace that was in the hospital room the night she was born. That night, those memories, the people there…it will forever be etched in my brain.

This is the moment I knew we would be okay. Whether she took to breastfeeding or no, whether she cried all night or not, whatever the challenge, we would be okay.
This is the moment I knew we would be okay. Whether she took to breastfeeding or no, whether she cried all night or not, whatever the challenge, we would be okay.

Happy 9th birthday sweet girl.


Raising Girls, Raising Cheerleaders

I’m raising girls, and I want them to be cheerleaders. I’m not talking about the ones on the sidelines at football games. That would be fine too, but what I want goes deeper than that. Let me explain.

Two years ago, I walked 60 miles for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day. For three days, the route was lined with thousands of people who came out to cheer us on. They danced, they wore funny costumes, they took our pictures, they gave us Tylenol and water (God bless them) and they held up posters and they yelled things like “Good job!” or “You got this” or “Thank you for walking for my mother/sister/friend.”

It was uplifting and motivating in a way that still brings tears to my eyes.

On the second day, my walking partner was fading toward the end. We had reached a point where she couldn’t walk anymore, but I couldn’t stop walking or the pain would set in. For part of the day, we had been separated. I walked on alone while she took a much-needed rest. We agreed to meet up at a rest stop on the route and finish the trek to camp together.

We were tired. I tried jamming the music. I tried singing to her. I kept telling her it was just one more step. Truth was, I wanted to cry. My hip hurt in a way that seemed impossible and the blisters on my feet had long popped, leaving the skin completely raw. Yet, I wanted to finish the last ½ mile of the day with her. I didn’t want her to quit.

I think if she quit, raised her hands to form an X-shape and taken a sweeper van back to camp, I probably would have followed and I really didn’t want to. I had to dig deeper—to a depth I didn’t even know I had. A depth where I truly thought I was going to stop breathing, yet somehow find the oxygen to plunge even further.

I had just finished amusing my friend with my mad rap skillz when we came to the final approach, the last few hundred yards before the sweet, sweet relief of the massage chairs, dinner and then a glorious shower.

Lining the path between us and our version of Heaven on Earth, was a team of boys. They made up a local football team or something, it didn’t matter. They had formed a human tunnel, lining each side of the road. When we came through…well, here is the video.

IMG_3613 from Rebecca Thomas on Vimeo.

And there is something about this video.

This was my walking partners second time through. The woman who could barely pick up her feet went through the tunnel and was so moved by the support, she actually asked if she could walk through again, this time recording it.

She voluntarily turned around and walked that distance again.

And let me tell you, after a 20+ mile day, it’s hard to consider turning around for much.

Indulge me as I add to my illustration for a moment.

The following day, as we walked through Livonia, my shins felt like they were about to burst into a million pieces. I had already stopped at a medic tent and had them taped, but the tape made it even harder to walk, so I cut it off. As we wound our way through the neighborhood, we came upon a swarm of bees. I thought I had come out unscathed, but as we approached a major intersection and a highway, I realized all of these bees were in my shirt. They were crawling around on my skin and there was no way I was getting them out. So there, on a street corner, surrounded by walkers and cheerers, I peeled my shirt off. With just a sport bra covering me, my walking partner swatted the bees away.

It gave me enough of an adrenaline rush to push me a little further, but quickly, the pain returned and I could barely convince myself to put one step in front of the other. That was until we came to cheerleader row. All of these girls, high school, middle school and elementary school cheerleaders, lined both sides of the sidewalk for nearly an entire mile. We walked single-file between them as they shouted cheers and encouragement—at like 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning, to a bunch of strangers for a cause that they probably knew very little about.

IMG_3621 from Rebecca Thomas on Vimeo.

I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed.

But I kept walking.

Since then, all I’ve wanted to be is a cheerleader.

Rather than cutting someone down in a form of competition, I want to build them up in as they experience success and overcome challenges. And while I’m probably past my prime. For me, it’s a conscious decision to be a cheerleader. However, my kids are young and pliable, moldable, etc. I have this grand plan to make cheerleading more than an after-school activity.

Raising girls is  hard work. Raising cheerleaders is harder.
Raising girls is hard work. Raising cheerleaders is harder.

And it’s working.

Today, as we were riding bikes, I was encouraging me them the way I always do. Suddenly, my middle, the one I least see as a cheerleader, yells out to her sister, “You’re doing great, you’ve got this! Keep going! You can do it!” Rather than go with my gut and break down at the words, I cheered her again, “Madison—Great job cheering on your teammate!”

It’s the first step, I realize that. Things can still revert, but for two years, I have been offering up little cheers, teaching them to send happy mail and encouraging them to pray for others rather than just serving themselves. And today, I felt like I was back on that walking route, seeing the difference that cheers actually make. Watching my friend turn back around and walk the extra steps because the cheers got her through it.

I pray that my daughters will keep doing this, not only for each other but their classmates, friends, future coworkers and then their own children. Raising girls is hard. Raising cheerleaders is harder.

In a world of competition—I think I just want to raise the cheerleaders.

Bob Goff: Live in Faith, Walk in Love

I took a selfie with Bob Goff after he spoke at a local church recently. I first saw him at MOMCon 2015.
I took a selfie with Bob Goff after he spoke at a local church recently. I first saw him at MOMCon 2015.

I wouldn’t say that I hold grudges,  but I definitely remember that one time that girl didn’t come to that party in elementary school and it hurt my feelings and there is no way I’m inviting her to my kid’s 1st birthday party. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve cared less about these things, but probably just for the sake of stress and space in my brain. Nationally-acclaimed author Bob Goff does it because that’s how Jesus would want his children to live. He coined the phrase, “Live in grace, walk in love” and recently, I got the opportunity to hear Bob gives some tips on achieving that lifestyle.

Oh, and just a note. He totally wants me to refer to him as Bob. He introduces himself by saying “Hi! I’m Bob!” and giving each person he meets a hug. And he’s way taller than I thought. Just telling you.

I saw Bob Goff speak for the first time at MOMcon 2015. As the only male speaker in the program, I had no idea why this guy was hanging out in a hotel full of women. He’s either insanely smart or just insane. I quickly figured out that not only is he insanely smart, I would learn a lot from him and his book.

Bob Goff wrote "Love Does" which illustrates love as a verb and not just a noun.
Bob Goff wrote “Love Does” which illustrates love as a verb and not just a noun.

As a lawyer, Bob Goff didn’t set out to write a book about love and Jesus. However, he did want to build a school in Uganda for the under-privileged children in that area. And the publisher offered to build the school, so he wrote the book. The book, “Love Does,” illustrates how love is an action, not just a feeling.

After seeing Bob at MOMcon, I picked up the book from the library. It was amazing. Each chapter was a story that illustrated love as an action. It may have been Bob’s outreach to others, or the way someone else loved him.

I recently had a chance to see Bob speak at a local church and felt the same uplifted feeling that I did after MOMcon and reading “Love Does.”

Bob knows a little thing about living in grace. While visiting a friend’s shelter several hours from his home, Bob’s laptop, containing a 65,000 word draft of his second book, was stolen. And there was no back up.

“Live in grace! Walk in Love!” Bob said he reminded himself. Maybe next time, he’ll invest in an automatic cloud back-up solution. Ouch.

6 tips from Bob Goff to “Live in grace, Walk in love.”

  • Bob Goff spoke at Immanuel Lutheran in Macomb, Mich., and I was blessed to see him there. I first saw Bob speak at MOMCon 2015.
    Bob Goff spoke at Immanuel Lutheran in Macomb, Mich., and I was blessed to see him there. I first saw Bob speak at MOMCon 2015.

    Be available. Bob doesn’t send people to voicemail…he answers the call every time. He also has his phone number printed inside of his book. Therefore, he gets a lot of calls. When he answers the phone, he said many times people say, “Bob?” and he responds, “Yeah,” and then say, “Bob?” and he responds, “Yeah.” And, he said, many times, they just laugh.

  • Don’t put people in boxes. Just meet people, be curious about them. Don’t be distracted.
  • Keep your eyes on God. At one men’s conference where Bob spoke, he brought with him a seven-foot, inflatable, remote control bass. During one point during his talk, he had a young boy propel the the bass off an upper balcony over the heads of the unsuspecting men. As it drifted over the crowd, Bob told them to keep their eyes on him and ignore the flying fish. It was hard. We get distracted by seven-foot flying fish, and work, and pop culture, and other things. It’s important to focus on God to live in grace and walk in love.
  • “If you want to do something awesome for God, do it for his kids.” Do something for someone in need.
    • Bob said he once spent a lot of time going to Chuck E. Cheese’s with his kids. Over the course of several years, he amassed a pile of tickets. One trip he decided he would redeem them all. Thinking he would get the best prize, he was shocked when he learned that a pencil is something like 1,000 tickets (He may have been exaggerating.) “What we do for God…it’s like getting three more tickets at Chuck E. Cheese. They aren’t worth anything! Stop counting the things you do for God. Just love.”
  • Don’t be hard on yourself. Bob said even on our worst day, Jesus sees us as beloved. He just want to play catch with us like a father does with his son or daughter. If we drop the ball, he just comes a little closer.
    • “What if I said to my son, ‘I want to play catch with you,’ and he said ‘I’ll just study you in Wednesday,'” Bob said.
  • Meet people where they are.
    • Bob said when his daughter got married, it cost roughly $200 a plate….and the invite list just kept getting longer. There were many people they had to invite, but didn’t necessarily want there…especially not at that cost. He said it’s much like church. We invite people, but we do’t necessarily want them to come. “People walk into our houses of worship and they know they aren’t welcome. They won’t want to come back.”

It’s not easy to live in grace and walk in love, but Bob said if we keep our eyes focused on Jesus, we can get there. I’m trying. I’m trying to listen to hear, not listen to respond. I’m trying to help while respecting boundaries. I’m trying to show love to those who don’t always return the love.

Live in grace.

Walk in love.

To learn more about Bob Goff or his book, “Love Does,” visit the Bob Goff website. And if you meet him, expect a hug and take a selfie.