At this point in the conversation we were joined by a teething Ava as we discussed what it’s like watching Ava grow, meeting her husband Alex, and how they have gone on to grow in faith as a family.
So, I know from reading your blog that you had two losses before having Ava – I can imagine that finding out you were pregnant yet again must have been a difficult experience to say the least. Do you think there was a moment when you really exhaled? When you put your fears aside and said, ‘this is going to be OK – she’s going to be OK.’?
Gosh, I think my exhale moment with Ava was when she was born.
It was such a long drawn out thing – I was actually in the hospital for a while before she came. Because I had lost two pregnancies before her, I couldn’t really exhale – I was never completely comfortable. I don’t even think I can say I was excited initially. In my head I was like ‘If I’m going to have this baby, let me have it. If I’m not going to have it, I don’t want to get attached.’ It sounds harsh but that was my thought process in the beginning. So my mindset for most of the pregnancy was really ‘Let’s just do this’. It felt like I’d been holding my breath for a long time.
There was one night where I really wasn’t feeling well, and Alex was away for work, so I went to the hospital. When I got there, they told me I might be going into preterm labor – which I totally didn’t expect. That night I remember praying, just a simple, quiet prayer where I said, ‘You know what? I’ve been believing that you’re going to give us this child. But right now Jesus, I don’t know…it doesn’t feel that way. Jesus I’m scared right now, but I know You’ve got this.’ The thing is, when you go through the shock of a miscarriage or any type of trauma in your life, you start to use your fear as a crutch to help you get through things. It’s not what we should do, but it is a part of the human inclination and experience. The logic is that it’s easier to have a bleak outlook than to risk the possibility of getting your heartbroken again. It makes sense and it’s okay to go to that place but we have to be careful not to get stuck there. I think it gives us a false sense of control and so naturally we hold on to that. But that’s also how the enemy attacks and that’s where we fall, when we elevate ourselves and our understanding above Jesus’ will.
I should actually mention that I had a friend, Dionne, who would pray for me and fast for me when I was pregnant. Thank God for people who stay in your corner and really, truly support you. She’d say things like, ‘You can’t fast for yourself, so I’ll fast for you’, and we’d make light of it and laugh about it but the truth is she really just contended for and with me when it came to Ava. And when I was on bed rest at home, having a tough day she would always tell me things to pray for and words to say over my belly when I myself was at a loss for words, and I remember she told me to take an oath with God because He had promised me this child. I never told anyone and I had never taken an oath like that before, but I really took that to heart. So I had a candid chat with God and told Him that like Abraham, I’m promising my faith to You, and I’m going to trust You.
So that night when I was at the hospital unsure of what was going on I remembered my promise and subsequently His promises to us… to never leave or forsake us, to give us hope and a future and to crown us with life after we persevere under trial. And suddenly I just felt this peace and calm come over me. You would imagine that it would be smooth sailing from there but nope! A couple days later my water broke. It would be dishonest to say that I didn’t worry, in fact it was the first time I cried or showed any type of emotion. She was definitely coming prematurely and I worried over what her standard of living would be like or why this was even happening in the first place but even when my faith was running low, God was always faithful.
But the moment she came, and I saw her, I just knew it was all going to be alright. Though she was so small and tiny, I just knew by looking at her that God had placed a fighting spirit in this child and that she would make it. More importantly, as her mother, I knew I had to believe that for her because she couldn’t yet believe it for herself. And as parents isn’t that what we must always do for our family?
Was there ever a time where you heard God audibly during dealing with loss and with Ava being born prematurely?
I feel like honestly, God had been silent throughout that last year but He sure was speaking to me. Does that make sense? I didn’t too often hear Him audibly. In fact I think there was only one time while at church. It was an enigmatic service and we were all praying for different things. And randomly out of nowhere — I wasn’t even supposed to be at church, I was supposed to be at home on bed rest — one of the pastors described how she just felt this overwhelming sense to pray for women who had struggled with loss or pregnancy. When I say that room was so full of sanctifying energy, I kid you not. Throngs of women, girls like me with different stories just got up and went to the altar. It was beautiful, we started to just organically place our hands on one another and pray for each other and in all the noise I just heard Him say, “Don’t you know how much I love you?” And i just cried like a baby. It was such a sublime moment. God is not a lofty idea, He sees us through and through and knows the desires of our hearts.
What do you think God is teaching you in THIS season?
Definitely patience. And trusting Him and believing that He’s real in my life.
It’s easy to talk ABOUT God, but not so easy to talk TO Him and implement Him in real ways in your life. Even little things like quiet time and devotionals. I was always kind of on and off with my faith. And even now that I have a closer relationship with Him, I STILL have a tendency to go on and off. I recognize that to see Him active in my life I have to make a conscious decision. You can’t sleep on that.
So our pastor was talking about a moment when their daughter had a problem with something at school, He would teach her how to deal with life using the Word – you know, like give her verses to remember. But it went so much deeper than giving her a verse to remember, he was teaching her to make real life decisions by applying the wisdom of the word in her everyday life at such a young and critical age. And I thought to myself: ‘What am I going to teach my children?’ I have verses to give her, but how strongly do I apply them? Can I really make God real for her? I’m learning that I have to be more conscious not just for me but for her – because I don’t want her to have the difficulties that I went through without a strong sense of who she should turn to first. She’ll go through challenges in life one day but hopefully from watching us, she’ll rely on God’s wisdom and not hers. So as parents we’re challenged daily. I want her to be on fire for God and the things of God because she understands Him and has a relationship with Him not because it’s forced or seen as some thoughtless Sunday ritual.
I can completely identify with that. I think every time I thought deeply about a relationship I was in at the time, it always really boiled down to faith. I have always wanted to raise my kids in church – I’ve always wanted them to have an even greater relationship with God that I ever had and ever will – and being with someone who doesn’t believe what you do, or take it seriously makes it hard. I can’t imagine living in a household where my husband tells my kids ‘you don’t have to go to church’. No lol. So long as you’re under my roof you go to church. And when it gets to the point where you have to decide for yourself what you really believe, you have the foundation to make an informed decision – you know where to look. So while I haven’t always been on fire for God as I am now, it was always at the back of mind. And that has definitely defined what I look for in a relationship.
And you have to proclaim those things! You have to speak them into existence – you have to tell God that you want your kids to walk in their purpose from the moment they take their first breath. I spoke that over Ava while she was still inside me. And I know it super crazy spiritual stuff to some people, but speaking your vision and desires over yourself, and your husband and children – whether you have them yet or not – is so powerful.
So tell me a cool story: how did you meet Alex?
You know I’d been in relationships before Alex, and I was so certain that everyone was “the one”, but when they ended I just knew that I couldn’t do a relationship without God no matter how much I tried. I knew no matter how much I became in tune with God it wouldn’t make up for both of us not being in tune together.
And then I met Alex – we met online girl!
Forreal? So I should really go do this Christian Mingle thing huh? Lol
Do it! Sign up! LOL. I always tell people to give it a try. Don’t get me wrong, I was skeptical about it at first too. We don’t do those things where we’re from – what if someone I knew saw my profile and then put me on blast? Nightmare! Lol I would have died. But my friend was doing it so I just blindly followed her lead. And I liked it! Because you get to pick… you really get to ‘curate’ your own choice and screen them. That sounds so horrible lol. I wasn’t actively trying to be in a relationship (I know everyone says that) but I was in a women’s college so men were pretty slim for the picking lol.
OK, so what happened next?
So we went out for our first date, and it was amazing – we talked and talked and talked. And he wasn’t Christian at the time. I was asking tough questions about family and marriage and aspirations – I wasn’t there to play lol. No honestly, I just believe in being intentional and being yourself, if those questions scare him, that’s fine…at least now you know who you’re dealing with. There’s nothing wrong in having standards – and I asked him about his faith and if he believed in God– I didn’t even give him the option of believing in anything else lol (I explored buddhism in college so I mean I could’ve asked him a broader question). His answer was that he didn’t know and that it was something he contemplated often. I then proceeded to tell him why I was Christian. I could’ve just shrugged it off, because everything else about him was great. Thankfully he sat there and he listened to me. I wasn’t going to be like ‘oh, you don’t know what you believe, so bye!’, but in my head I knew I wanted something completely different.
So as I drove home I prayed and was like ‘Jesus, if this guy is for me (and I really really mean this), then keep him in my life. But if he isn’t then take him away. I don’t want to make the decision because I probably won’t make the right one.’
That’s one of the hardest things to pray.
It is. And I didn’t hear from him for like a day after that, so I was like ‘Thank you Jesus! You took him away!’, but TWO days later he called me from work because he was thinking about me (cue all the heart eyes). And I wasn’t sure what to do so I prayed before I picked up the call (I’m so extra lol). But we talked and kept going out on dates and getting to know each other.
I would drop hints every now and then and say things like ‘oh I’m going to church’, trying to manipulate him into coming with me so at least I’d have some assurance that he’d get with the program at some point. When will women learn? Lol! And he was straight up like, ‘nope, no thanks’. And I’d get so upset – he had no idea, but I was. And God just kept reminding me to stop making it about me. I fell in love with Alex very quickly. He had a very different childhood from anyone I knew and yet he still managed to stay motivated and to do great things. He was kind and thoughtful and actually quite shy and I fell in love with that. He’s very much like my father and very very much my Prince Charming. Growing up, he always felt like he was in control of everything that happened in his life. I really admired that he was so self motivated. But I also felt like that was too heavy a burden for one person to carry because you can never show your weakness. And as I begun to realize this, I wanted him to see that life can be light and easy with faith.
And I don’t know when, but I just remember God telling me that this isn’t an evangelism relationship, – that I wasn’t the one who was going to make this miracle happen. He said, ‘he’s not YOUR project, he’s Mine. You’re in his life to be a light so he can get a glimpse of the type of Christ you know.’ He kept reminding me that it was about Him and if Alex was going to come to church, it had to be a personal desire about wanting to know Him and not because Dana said so. So I just enjoyed being with the man I fell in love with and stopped putting this unnecessary pressure on myself and on the relationship (of course, Al was oblivious to any of this LOL)
Then one day, a few months into dating he called me after work, just like he did when we started dating and said, ‘Hey, do you mind if I come to church with you?’ And mind you, this was a Wednesday night service. This wasn’t Sunday church.
Hahaha Wednesday night church definitely isn’t Sunday church! Wednesday church is un-apologetic LOL
Right? So I was like errrrr… Wednesday night church is a little different – things go DOWN. But he came, and I asked him how it was, and he was like it was OK. He didn’t say much – but that’s just him naturally. And I had to remind myself again – it’s not about you.
But the third time he came, he gave his life to Christ. And now I can say without a shadow of a doubt that he is the spiritual head of this household. Like, when I’m not praying or in my Word, he knows and is the first to point it out. Being a new Christian, he is hungry, and that hunger propels me to want to go deeper with him too.
I get that. There’s a certain awe that newer believers have that just makes you feel like you gotta step up your game lol
Right. I definitely believe that had I not come into Alex’s life, he may never have seen the God that I know – a God of love and grace and not religiosity. But I also had to always keep in mind that it’s not about me – I’m not the headliner. It’s not my show. It’s God’s. And with God it’s all about timing. And how great God is to give me a man that so desperately seeks him out and can teach me as I teach him.
That’s good. So the last question I always ask when I do these interviews really gets at the heart of what Slayed & Saved is all about. We often look at our lives and say: ‘Hey I’m a Christian… and a mom/dad, woman/man, employee/employer, writer, lover of food and music etc etc. Like we have all these characteristics and labels for ourselves – but we separate them from our faith because we just don’t see them as having anything to do with it. We think our Sunday and our Monday are two totally different experiences when they really aren’t. We have gotten into the habit of divorcing our everyday lives from our faith. So my question is this: How do you balance your Slayed with your Saved – your humanness with your faith? How do you live your life – as a mother, wife, and gorgeous woman with passion – while keeping your faith central to it all? How does Christ permeate and speak into every nook and cranny of your life?
I think that sometimes balancing it can be hard – but not impossible. I think it’s easy to slip into routine when it comes to life – whether you have a full time job, or you’re in school, or you’re a mother – I think it’s tough to keep God and our faith central because life can get in the way… if you let it.
I have learnt (and am still learning) that to keep Christ at the center of it all, I have to start off my day with him, committing it all to him. I need him to be in control of everything, no matter how menial or mundane it is. I’ve learnt (and am still learning) that it’s not about questioning my feelings and fears and anxiety but it’s about bringing them before God and asking, where are these thoughts coming from? What are You trying to teach me? Where am I missing the lesson?
There’s something I heard once that has always stuck with me and that is to think of your life as the Cross. Christ is the vertical, and you’re the horizontal. If your life aligns with Him, then everything else aligns; that means your family aligns, your children align, your job aligns, your finances, your heart, how you feel about yourself…you can’t have a crooked cross, neither can you have a Cross without your participation or a Cross without Jesus as the main stake. Like you mentioned, the trouble is when we start to think of our everyday lives as separate from the Cross, that’s when we start to get things wrong. But when we see that we ARE the Cross- and the reason FOR the Cross – we’re more aware and mindful of it and of Him in our lives.
I don’t know if I’ve learnt how to balance everything yet, because a lot of this is very new. And some days they do all feel like separate things, but it’s about bringing everything back to God. Christianity is God saying, I see all those separate characteristics you define yourself as and I care about those things because they are good, but I care more about the state of your heart and your relationship with Me. Our grace should not shine in some of those titles and hide in the others, it is in those seemingly mundane areas that we see God more clearly. God is everywhere. He’s speaks through everything. We just need to pay attention.
You can follow Dana and her family @livebeautifulmama on Instagram, and at livebeautifulblog.com