Postpartum.

As I write this, we’re sitting waiting for Hurricane Irma to hit. Writing about the hardest period in my life (the postpartum period) seems fitting to do while we wait for one of the worst natural disasters to hit. #eyeroll. This is a long post, and full of heavy stuff, but I think I’m only starting to feel okay because of other moms who’ve walked alongside me and shared their stories. So here’s mine. I so, so hope it helps another mama know she’s not alone.

I’m three weeks postpartum today, and I finally feel like the fog is starting to lift—if the fog was a toxic, deadly fume that came with total sleep deprivation and anxiety like none other.

I’ll start at the beginning and work my way towards today…

Emory was born at 9:43am on Sunday, August 20th after a borderline traumatic labor experience. But there was a magic to the hour or two following her birth; her daddy and I were smitten, she was beautiful and healthy, and I was unbelievably thankful to have the pain of labor behind me. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the end of things.

You always hear stories about how in love you fall with your baby as soon as you see them. And there were definitely feelings I’ve never experienced, and I would’ve definitely given my life for that sweet child immediately, but there was not this beautiful afterglow of labor where I spent time ooh-ing over every feature, falling in love with her and feeling this immeasurable bond. In fact, none of that happened. I had a pretty significant tear that required some extensive suturing, I was exhausted beyond all understanding, and  I was emotionally starting to process what had unfolded and how we didn’t get the home birth I had so wanted.

Within a few hours (I think?) we were moved upstairs to the mother & baby unit. We said goodbye to our sweet nurses, and said hello to a new set that were…well…less than that. I mean they were nice, but our L&D nurses really set the bar high.

Once we got “settled” into our new room, things started to really hit. My hormones were plummeting, and as someone who suffers from anxiety disorder to begin with, I was starting to get super emotional and scared over everything. Was Emmy breathing? Was she cold or uncomfortable? And mostly…was she eating?

We had latched her on within an hour of birth. And by “we”, I mean the baby nurse. I honestly don’t even remember it. But let’s just say, it did some damage. And when we tried again once we were in our new room, she refused to latch to my other breast, so we went back to the damaged side and, not surprisingly, did even more damage.

Emmy was going 6-ish hours between “feedings” and my anxiety was skyrocketing because I knew I wasn’t doing something right. The night nurse had me try a nipple shield, which actually just messed up the other breast instead of helping. I was still in a huge daze and would watch her sleep, picturing the clock ticking by each minute that she hadn’t eaten. Eventually, the lactation consultant came by and her words were, “Oh man, your nipples look terrible.” Thanks. So comforting.

Since Shands is a “baby-friendly” designated hospital (super pro-breastfeeding, pacifiers are a no-no, and formula is definitely not the standard), we knew breastfeeding would be pushed hard and fast. So to hear that we needed to start supplementing her was kind of shocking. Since I had so much trauma to my breasts already, there was no way we could keep trying to get her to latch. So that started a cycle where I’d pump to stimulate milk production, hand express what little colostrum I could get out, feed that to Emmy via a syringe, and then finger-feed her formula (using a syringe to feed her through a feeding tube against my finger, so she’d still have to suck for food). It was exhausting and emotional and painful.

Once the pediatric team came for her 24-hour evaluation, they weren’t happy with how little she was feeding. There were talks of us having to stay another night until we could figure it out. The pediatrician mentioned a lip/tongue tie, but she didn’t think Emmy had that issue.

But the lactation consultant did.

And so began the battle of whether or not we needed to “fix” a tie that did or did not exist. Eventually, an OT who was also a lactation consultant came in and cast the deciding vote–that she did not have an issue and was just too tense to feed. We were to try and coax Emmy to relax her shoulders, but my tissue was still too traumatized to even attempt feeding her at the breast.

Eventually, we were told we could be discharged, as long as we saw our pediatrician and a lactation consultant the next day. I was exhausted, emotional, scared, and just had a general feeling of malaise. My parents and sister came to visit us in the hospital, and I just remember feeling so sad. For no real reason. I wanted to go home and I didn’t want to go home. I was so scared that Emmy wasn’t okay. When the nurse came in to do her heel stick, and Emmy wailed, I sat on the bed next to her holding her hand just weeping. I felt like I could throw up. I knew it was just a little prick, but I felt every cell in my body writhing in anxiety and fear.

I was also surprised at how much pain I was in physically. I remember hearing that once the baby is born, you go from “a ten to a zero on the pain scale.” As my cousin said, I’m calling bullshit on that. It was so hard to walk to the bathroom, and even sitting up hurt.

Finally, around 7pm, we were “discharged” and told we needed to wait for the transport team to wheel us out of there. Our nurse gave us an insane amount of information, from everything on SIDS to when to call 911 to “bonding” with your baby.

Then shift change happened, and we were forgotten about. We waited for over an hour for the transport team to come, and they never did. We kept asking, but we didn’t have a nurse assigned to us anymore since we had been “discharged”, and we just sat in our room waiting. I started sobbing. I was so tired, hadn’t slept, and was slowly being consumed by a fear and anxiety that was growing like weeds. I couldn’t stop crying. Matt finally took Emmy and walked down the hall (a MAJOR no-no) which caused the nurses to freak out immediately. Which, frankly, was exactly what he wanted, and told them they needed to find someone to get us out of there ASAP.

Within ten minutes, we were finally wheeled out. Matt went to go get the car, and I held Emmy, still sobbing, wondering why this wasn’t this magical “going home” moment I so often saw. It was past 9pm, and was dark and silent and hot out. While waiting for Matt with the car, the nurse who had wheeled me down proceeded to tell me about the last mom who had to wait 2 hours to get discharged and how it was even worse for her because her baby had just died.

I think I broke at that point. I stopped crying and just fell into myself. I was terrified putting her in the car seat, and cried all the way home because I didn’t know if she was breathing or not. When we got home, I got in the shower and had a complete panic attack. I felt like I was losing my mind. I vividly remember wanting to climb the walls, wishing Emmy would just go away so we could have our old life back. I didn’t want her anymore. I just wanted Matt and I to be able to crawl into bed and snuggle and watch TV, not deal with our crying baby who I didn’t even know how to feed.

I didn’t want to hold her. I didn’t want Matt to hold her either, because I wanted him to hold me. But she was hysterical (um, who wouldn’t be at less than 2 days old and in a totally new place and pretty freaking hungry). Thank God for my sweet husband, who turned a steamy shower on and sat on the bathroom counter for three hours with her because the steam and noise calmed her down.

I laid in bed feeling like the worst mother on the planet. I couldn’t calm my baby, I couldn’t feed her, I didn’t want to even hold her, and my poor husband –who was also sleep deprived–was now being forced to sit for hours on end on our bathroom counter. Just writing it makes me sick to my stomach.

I’m not sure I’ve ever felt such a combination of fear and anxiety and sadness. I couldn’t breathe, and I couldn’t stop crying. I would just shake and feel like I was going to vomit. And it didn’t stop.

I remember wanting to take this picture during a meltdown, because I just KNEW that there would have to be another side to this season and that I’d want to reach back and hug this girl.

The next day I knew something was wrong. I knew I wasn’t doing okay, and that I needed help. I’d cry and cry and cry each day, because I just couldn’t do it. Unknowingly, we weren’t feeding Emmy enough because we didn’t know anything about formula feeding, and didn’t know that we needed to be quickly increasing her feeds. God had his hands on that girl since she somehow didn’t starve.

Our pediatrician saw us the day after we got home, and helped us understand that we needed to feed her more. And gave us the contact information for an amazing lactation consultant, who came to our home the next day, after giving me tips on how to quickly heal my damaged nipples.

When she arrived, she got Emmy to latch immediately. It was a miracle. We did a weighted feed: For perspective, we were feeding Emmy between 5-10mL of formula at each feed. From one feed at my breast, she ate 68mL. 68!!! Poor baby really was starving.

I finally felt like I was doing something right. Emmy didn’t scream after eating, her color was less red and she was totally calm and drowsy after eating. I wish I could say our breastfeeding journey was magical from that point on, but it wasn’t. It’s still full of pain and exhaustion and not knowing if she’s eating enough, but I think I’m too traumatized from our early induction to formula to switch.

About a week and a half postpartum, when Matt was back at work, I was still in the throes of reeling anxiety and finally decided I needed help. We made an appointment for me to see a nurse practitioner at UF, and she quickly adjusted my anxiety meds and got me a referral with a psychologist. Within two days of the adjusted dosage, the tunnel vision started to lift and I felt like I wasn’t drowning. I even made it a few days without crying! Things started to look up.

You’re probably wondering if I suffered/am suffering from postpartum depression or anxiety. None of the practitioners I saw thought so, they just thought I was dealing with the normal (albeit terrifying) thoughts and emotions that come with the postpartum period, but that because I suffer from an anxiety disorder, those feelings were amplified and I wasn’t processing them well.

We’re three weeks out today and let me tell you, it’s still hard. Really hard. Nothing prepared me for this. I think I knew I’d be emotional. I knew breastfeeding would be hard. I knew I’d have a physical recovery. I knew I’d be sleep deprived. I knew things would be scary.

But what I didn’t anticipate was having every moment in time where I felt all of those things at once. It is simply engulfing when you’re sleep deprived, anxious, terrified, in pain and trying to keep your new baby alive. There’s no room to breathe.

People tell you “you’re doing such a great job!” and “you’re a wonderful mom!” and you just want to slap them because sure, that’s really sweet, but you don’t feel like either of those things. You feel like a terrible mom, and someone just telling you otherwise doesn’t exactly help.

So what am I doing that is working? One day at a time. Stay on my meds. Reach out for help when I need it. Let Matt take an early morning feed so I can sleep a little more. Get out of the house. Write about it. Pray. Let other mamas hold me up and listen to their stories. Know I’m not alone.

I keep praying that each day, each week, it gets a little better. A little easier. And I hear it will. But for now, I’m sitting trying to remember all of the “things that work” tactics as we sit with our sweet newborn, awaiting one of the worst hurricanes to hit Florida in the last 25 years. Nothing like a little natural disaster to keep the postpartum period interesting, eh?

If you’re a new mama, and feeling any of these things, please reach out. I want to hold your hand and walk with you. I’m still in the weeds, but we can be in the weeds together. We can do these hard things, I promise.

xo,

A

 

 

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Why Beautycounter?

Last week I announced that I joined Beautycounter. I’m a total introvert, so this is wayyyyy out of my wheelhouse. But you guys, this mission is so important to me.

I wanted to share some more background on why I chose Beautycounter. A few months ago, I learned that my hormone levels were all over the place. At the advice of my doctor, I started eating hormone-free meats and dairy and slowly switching to “clean” products that go on/in my skin. Around that time, my friend Madison started posting about Beautycounter products. The timing was impeccable, so I purchased some lipstick and tinted moisturizer (more about why those products later).

Y’all, I wasn’t expecting much. I don’t know why I thought “natural” products wouldn’t work. But these products truly wowed me. I bought more products and have yet to find something that I don’t LOVE. I think I expected some Mary Kay-esque products, but this is far from your mother’s makeup. It’s high end, with modern packaging (I’m a sucker for packaging),  and IT WORKS. Like really works. Look, allure agrees!

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Madison had talked to me about partnering with Beautycounter but I was insanely hesitant. Here’s why:

  • I’m an introvert.
  • I HATE when people DM me on social media about their makeup/oils/jewelry/clothing.
  • Just the word “sales” makes my skin crawl, so there’s that.

She never pressured me, and we just kept talking about it over a few weeks. But then I read more about Beautycounter’s powerful mission, and about their cool partnerships with J.Crew and Target (hello, my two favorite stores).

This process was helped by the fact that my master’s degree is in health education & behavior. We learned so much about health policy, so I was shocked to learn in my research that the US hasn’t passed a major federal law regulating the cosmetics industry since 1938. That’s 78 years, folks!

Why does that matter? Because most of the chemical compounds used in skin care have been created in the last 50 years or so. That means that the laws have not caught up to the science. And that’s kind of scary.

I love what CEO and founder Gregg Renfrew said: “Like many of you, I’m a wife and mom—and, like many of you, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. As I applied sunscreen, lotion, and any number of beauty products on myself and my kids, I never thought for a second they might not be safe: After all, I thought, we live in a country that regulates everything. So imagine my surprise when I learned that when it comes to the personal care industry, that’s simply not the case. Companies are allowed to use harmful ingredients and make their own judgments about safety.”

And that kind of did it for me. I want to be a part of this mission because I want people to simply have the knowledge about safe beauty.

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I mentioned earlier that the first two products I bought were lipstick and tinted moisturizer. Why?

Because the easiest way to “go clean” is one step at a time. It’s not to replace every product in your makeup bag or shower all at once. The best way to make the change is to do it one product at a time. Ran out of mascara? Buy a clean version. Need moisturizer? Buy a clean version. Running low on face wash or blush or eyeliner? Buy a clean version. Need to get a gift for a girlfriend? Buy a clean version.

I want y’all to join me on this mission. So much so, that the first three people who place an order will get a free goodie from me! Huzzah!

Here’s a handy shopping list for my personal “go-to” products:

  • Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer (an allure Best of Beauty award winner!): I’m shade No. 2 for reference
  • Lip Sheer (best seller, and another allure Best of Beauty award winner!): I use the Twig shade for everyday use. This lip sheer was a game changer for me since I have super chapped lips and have never found a lipstick that doesn’t accentuate that, until I found this.
  • Nourishing Cream Cleanser: Safe to use to remove eye makeup!
  • Charcoal Cleansing Bar: This is a gentler version than what you might be used to, because it also uses green tea and coconut oil.

Want a sample of something? Just message me!

And shop all of their amazing products here: www.beautycounter.com/amandaredinger

I’m so excited for y’all to fall in love with their products and their mission.

PS: Have kids? This is equally (if not more) important. Baby products are not held to a higher standard–the same toxic ingredients found in your skin care and makeup can be found in your baby wash and oils. Feel better about what you put on your littles by clicking here: Beautycounter Baby & Kids

In good health,

A.

2016 Gift Guide: Girlfriends!

I *think* I’m done with Christmas shopping, and that’s mainly thanks to online gift guides. I don’t know why I can’t figure out what to buy people, BUT if you’re in the same camp, here are some fun gifts for your girlfriends/sister/mom!

PS: All of these gifts are under $75!

1. The Leather Pouch Wallet from Madewell

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This is SUCH a classic gift to give, and you can even go a step further and get it foil-pressed monogrammed. This is 100% on my Christmas list.

2. Beautycounter Winter Warmth Palette

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This is a great option for two reasons: 1) women love makeup and 2) this makeup brand is totally SAFE and free of harmful chemicals. Getting this for your girlfriend/sister/mom shows that you not only understand their love for beauty products, but also that you care about them and their safety.

3. Threshold Art from Target

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Getting someone art is such a unique gift. It’s a bold statement that will provide a lasting reminder of your gift-giving skills. Plus, this is a huge piece of art for only $70 (with free shipping!), so you’ll look like much more of an impressive gift-giver with this luxurious piece.

4. “Thankful” Print by P + Co

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Show your lady how thankful you are for her with this “Thankful” print by P + Co.

5. Beautycounter Band of Beauty Membership

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This gift takes it a step further with the makeup deal, because your lady friend will get some serious perks just for buying (safe!) makeup and skin care. For $29, she’ll get:

  • 15% product credit with every order
  • Free shipping on orders over $100
  • Complimentary gift just for signing up
  • Special offers exclusive to members

 

PS: Want help picking out makeup/skin care products for your girlfriends? Email me at amanda.p.redinger@gmail.com and put “Gift Guide” in the subject line!

 

xo, A

Thoughts on ‘Stranger Things’

SPOILER ALERT. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

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Let’s just jump into this with my thoughts on Stranger Things, as well as some questions we need answered. Again, and for the last time, SPOILER ALERT. Would love to hear your thoughts. (I’m writing this before reading any other fan theories so these thoughts are all my own!)

  1. Clearly, Eleven is still alive.
  2. And, almost certainly, so is Papa. (Since we didn’t actually see him die.)
  3. Will…oh Will. You can’t survive in the Upside Down for a week and not have some kind of emotional trauma. So maybe that’s what he was experiencing at the end of the final chapter? Or maybe he was impregnanted with the Demogorgon’s spawn and he is just a host. This could be possible, but since Joyce/Hop saw an egg (that clearly did not need a host) in the Upside Down forest, it’s unlikely.
  4. How was Will the only one who survived? Yes, he was ‘good at hiding’ but this takes it to a whole new level, considering that everyone else had been eaten. My theory: Will was the first one taken. At that point, the Demogorgon might’ve been new at hunting, or a baby, or both. Either way, the “non-Upside Down” world was new to the monster, so he might’ve been confused and unable to hunt at his peak, allowing Will to run. Either that, OR, the monster was focused on spawning, not hunting, and needed Will alive.
  5. Does Papa love Eleven? Well, if he does, it’s clearly in a tormented way. But I think there’s more to their story than just Frankenstein and his monster. As with Mary Shelley’s work, the relationship is obviously conflicted, but there is deep emotion there. I think we might see more of this in Season 2.
  6. Where did Hop go with the bad people at the end? What exactly were the terms of the agreement between him and Dr. Brenner? Is he in cahoots with them now? Clearly he’s feeding El, but what happened when he went back to Hawkins Lab? My theory: This is all an elaborate mind game (see #8) and this is all a drug-induced psychosis. Hop is now having to help Hawkins clean up the mess they made, AND make sure they have follow-up data. Hawkins (Dr. Brenner) needs to know what happens to the people after they’ve returned to a “normal” state, and Hop is responsible for reporting that data. But, what about El? Hop knows the deal here, and he is NOT about to return that girl to Hawkins. She’s likely living in the woods with….who? Who are we missing? No one. That means that Hop isn’t the only one in on this. Mike probably is as well, and maybe Joyce and Jonathan. They’ve probably built up “Castle Byers” for her to stay in.
  7. Nancy and Steve….oh Nancy and Steve. Classic. But I’m glad it ended that way, because it would be unrealistic for her and Jonathan to get together.
  8. Have you seen Shutter Island? I’ve had a feeling that this is going to turn out in a similar way. That all of this is in their heads, likely due to the “LSD hippie crap” that Hawkins is/was testing. If so, that gives the writers a LOT of freedom on where they can go with this.
  9. The acting in this series is SILLY GOOD. I mean incredible. I was constantly in awe at how realistic and natural El’s facial expressions were.
  10. IF Eleven were to be dead, I’d be angry. She should’ve lived over Will, because the emotional trauma Will will suffer from being in the Upside Down will never be repaired. Eleven gets my survivor vote.
  11. Who are the other ten? This is a stretch, but we know that El’s mom Terry willingly participated in the clinical trials. I think Dr. Brenner was sleeping with his patients (read: Terry Ives), impregnating them, and then taking the babies to do further research on. Therefore, Eleven is Dr. Brenner’s eleventh child with his patients. It seemed that he also had a “normal” son, since the person who originally goes into the Upside Down @ Hawkins Lab was referred to as “son” just before he enters (and dies).

So, to wrap all of that in a bow, here’s my fan theory: The Demogorgon, and everything related to it, is a hallucination, brought on by the “LSD hippie crap” that Hawkins is testing on their residents. Could also be mind-control drugs, but either way, there is no “Upside Down”. Heck, even El might be a figment of their imagination (that would be sad). Hop made a deal with Hawkins to collect follow-up data, but he’s actually part of the study as well–he just doesn’t know it. Dr. Brenner is obviously still alive, because the Demogorgon isn’t real, so he didn’t get eaten, and he is still running the study, and will continue to run the study. But Steve saw the monster, too! Yeah, and Steve had some pretty serious blows to the head before that. Seriously, the guy should’ve gone to the hospital. Then what happened to Barb and the others? People die in drug studies. She was a casualty of war. Or she’s locked up at Hawkins, still being tested on. BUT ELEVEN! I know, she’s my fave too! But, likely, a figment of their imagination. Since Hop is a part of the study, he still thinks she is real, which is why he continues to feed her. But what if she IS real!? Well, then, I believe she does have the powers we’ve seen. However, I think she is a messed up little girl. If you ONLY listen to what El says, it doesn’t necessarily equate to what happened. She says like twenty words total, and a lot of them are “bad” and “monster” and “friend”. That could mean A LOT OF THINGS. But we saw her flashbacks! Yep, and none of them were her with the actual monster in the Upside Down. She was in a dark place, likely hallucinating. Don’t you find it strange that the “Upside Down” that El went to was different than the one that everyone else went to?

Anyway, that’s where my brain stops for today with this. Would love for you to challenge my theory!

A

Loving through hate

This morning, MTR and I watched the news and learned about Dallas. One day after learning about Philando Castile. Two days after learning about Alton Sterling.

I was standing, watching. My mouth was agape*. I was in shock, and so confused and hurt. I had to walk away, and a few minutes later, I was crying in our closet, MTR praying over us and over our world. For Jesus to show us how to love and how to love through the hate. I just wept.

I have too many thoughts and too many feelings, but since I am a verbal processor, I’d like to try and get some of it out of my head.

I wish I had good news. But the only good news here is Jesus. I think about the evil in our world, and know that this will not be resolved until Jesus comes. There are many days when I am confused why He hasn’t come yet. I would’ve–but that’s why I’m not God.

Here are some thoughts:

  • Black lives matter. This will not change. We must acknowledge institutional racism for what it is. We have to humble ourselves and see how we’ve added to the problem, even if unknowingly.
  • Blue lives matter. This also will not change. I’ve seen a lot lately about “all lives matter,” and yes, that is true, because we are all made in the image of our Creator. But when we make statements like that, we minimize the issue. We cover it up because it makes us uncomfortable. So let’s call it what it is. Black lives matter because hatred and bigotry and racism has caused this violence to happen. Statistically, more black males are in prison. But let’s be truthful when we answer this question: Are more black males in prison because they commit more crimes? Or are more black males in prison because of stereotypes and racism and profiling? That hurts to answer, right? Blue lives matter because retaliation is not okay. Grouping cops into a collective mass of black-hating murderers is doing THE SAME THING that we are trying not to do with blacks. Such narrow-mindedness is what led us here.
  • Prayer matters. It’s easy to think that saying a prayer and asking God for help is futile. And that is exactly what the Enemy wants us to think. One of the most powerful things I’ve read is from C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. Screwtape, a minion for the Enemy, shares this, “Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts…” Let us not be so idle to betray Hope. And when we are confused and don’t know what to pray for, “If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.” (Romans 8:26, MSG)
  • Love matters. May we not see these types of violence and think that all cops or evil, or that all blacks are evil. That type of thinking is what got us into this mess. God calls us to do TWO things: Love God, and love our neighbor as we love God. That’s it. The first part is easy, the second part is hard. Especially when we know “neighbor” to mean literally anyone other than us. We need to LOVE our black friends. We need to LOVE our police force. We need to LOVE those who are confused and don’t do either of those two things. One of my first reactions after hearing the news this morning was “Do NOT get on Facebook.” Because I knew that amongst the pain and grieving, I’d find hate. More vicious, disgusting, spewing hate. And I was scared that I would go off on them. That I’d call them what they were, and yell at them and use hateful words. And quite frankly, I still want to do that. But that does NOT help. That draws a deeper line in the sand. And if we continue drawing lines, we will have more violence. That’s history, folks. So, show up. Say kind words. Don’t voice hate. Let’s ONLY show up with love in our hearts. As hard as it is, let’s let go of anger. Let’s let go of retaliation. Let’s only show God’s love…for after all, He is the ultimate Judge. We add nothing to our lives or the lives of others through hatred.

My heart hurts equally for the wives/girlfriends/daughters/sons of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and the five officers shot dead. The pain is equal. May we all feel that way.

via @amyckeeney on IG

via @amyckeeney on IG

* Agape…how interesting that my mouth was agape. “Open wide, especially with surprise or wonder” is how it’s defined. But if you type in those five letters… A-G-A-P-E, how interesting that you see clearly that it is the same word as LOVE. Agape, or “Christian love.” “Unselfish love.” or, the best one: “The love of God or Christ for humankind.” My mouth was agape, open. And when we are stunned into silence like I was this morning, the only thing that has room is Christ’s love–agape. How hauntingly beautiful.