2006 began in our small house in Jacksonville that we had bought in 2004. Dwayne and I had been married just over 2 years and we had a 1 year old son. And I was pregnant with our second child. I was scared to death of having the morning sickness from hell that I had had with Cayle, but I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't. Don't get me wrong, I was still nauseous much of the time and had tons of headaches, but on the whole I felt pretty good. I threw up like two times the whole first trimester. I was able to change Cayle's poopy diapers without vomiting which was pretty helpful. Ha!
Dwayne took me to celebrate my 23rd birthday in St. Louis that year. We just went for the weekend but had such a good time hanging out. We have never been away for more than a few days at a time in our whole marriage, but I love looking back on all our little getaways.
One night towards the end of my first trimester, I had a dream. In the dream I heard God's voice and He said I was pregnant with a baby girl and her name meant "praise." I was super excited when I woke up because I had never really had dreams like that before. I had been praying that the Lord would make me like those Joel prophesied about: "And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions" (Joel 2:28). I immediately told Dwayne and we treasured it in our heart, waiting for the confirmation from the ultrasound. We believed completely that that was from the Lord, but we looked forward to the confirmation from the ultrasound so that we felt like we could share with others with confidence.
Something else spiritually significant happened at that time. Cayle (who was 15 months) started having "night terrors" which was horrifying to us because he would wake up screaming. I knew that this was demonic, but didn't have real insight about how to handle it. I actually had a phone conversation with Bro. Dennis (from my Freshman Year post) and he talked to me about anointing the windows and doors with oil and rebuking Satan from our home, which we had never done before. If you remember I talked about having a ton of fear as a little girl. This fear of the dark continued on into my adulthood. I had decided at some point not to watch scary movies anymore because of how deeply they affected me. I didn't like being home by myself at night. We didn't live in the "hood" at that point, but we lived close and there were sketchy things going on around us all the time. There were many nights I would have a nightmare or wake up to a noise in the house and I would have almost a full blown panic attack. I would pray in my mind, but I was actually too afraid to pray out loud, which is ridiculous. I felt like the Lord wanted me to do that, but the enemy had me so bound up in fear that I couldn't make the words come out. Often I would have nightmares about trying to scream for help because someone was after me, but it only came out as a whisper. This was very real and intentional spiritual attack. One night I woke up from one of these nightmares, heart pounding, sweat dripping, and the Lord again spoke to me very clearly: "The enemy is outside your window prowling about trying to devour you. Fight!" So for the first time I verbalized all I could in a whisper, "Satan I rebuke you in the Name of Jesus!" And immediately the fear was gone. This was the beginning of me waking up to spiritual warfare. Dwayne and I really started warring for Cayle and immediately his night terrors were gone. We knew that the only reason Satan was attacking Cayle is because he could see what Cayle could become for Jesus and he was afraid of that. That's the only reason he ever attacks any of us.
One of the things I fell in love with about Dwayne was his heart and passion for leading worship and about worship in general. He was (is!) gifted musically and had been shepherded and discipled in leading others into the throneroom of grace. I could spend several blog posts talking about what worship means to him and me and how we often make much of things in church worship that are really inconsequential to what worshipping Jesus really means. Dwayne had been on the worship team at every church we had been part of and he also was helping lead worship for our youth group at that time. His heart's desire was to be on staff as a worship pastor though and he had pursued this avenue in many different facets. He wanted to spend his days worshipping and teaching others to do the same. But all those doors would not open. Finally he felt like maybe he should go back to school and get a worship arts degree of some kind. He knew that Multnomah Bible College in Portland, Oregon was an amazing school and started to look into it. I was a little hesitant of moving because of all that was going on in our lives, but I wanted to support him in his dreams because he had supported me in mine. I had my Bachelor's degree, but he hadn't finished his because he was our sole bread winner and took that job very seriously. So we chased the Multnomah dream. We felt like we were getting a lot of yesses toward moving there, and put our house on the market, FSBO. But then nothing was happening with that. Finally we set ourselves a deadline that if the house hadn't sold and we didn't have X amount of money by a certain date, that we needed to take that as a closed door from the Lord.
And we didn't get what we needed to, so we knew we needed to shut it down.
Dwayne was devastated. This was a mile marker for us. He felt like we missed God. Like he had missed God. He felt like he would never see his dream of being a worship pastor come to fruition. And to him this was a holy dream, so why not? He stopped playing his guitar and writing music as much and when I asked him about it, he felt like he just didn't have the heart anymore. My heart ached for him.
We were also really dissatisfied at our church at that point. We felt like we were really digging deep spiritually and that no one wanted to go there with us. We were dealing with a lot of serious issues, spiritual attack, and just general hunger for the Lord, but our small group kind of looked at us like we were crazy when we wanted to worship and pray instead of having game night every week. Between that and Dwayne's dream being put to rest, we needed some breakthrough. We ended up finding out about a house church that had just grown to the point that they were meeting in a local private school. The people who were leading the church were people who were passionate about Jesus and we wanted to know what God was doing among them. So one Sunday we decided to go visit. From the very first week, we felt immensely loved. The door greeter, Rob, who Dwayne had known for a long time, gave me the biggest and best hug I had ever had on our first meeting. It was like God's love exuded from him. We were intrigued by all of it. God was up to something here. Then at the end of the service, the pastor said that the following Sunday they would be starting a series called, "How to hear the voice of God." Since Dwayne really felt like he must have missed God's voice with Multnomah, this felt so providential. We decided to come back. And back again. And soon we knew this was where we were supposed to plug in.
We went to Wye Mountain and took pictures in the field of Daffodils in March
We went to our ultrasound appointment and found out we were indeed having a girl. The doctor was very confident. We were ecstatic. God was speaking! We starting looking at Hebrew names again. We felt like Cayle truly exemplified his name and knew that God wanted to make much of him being "faithful and bold." We knew our daughter's name was to mean "praise" and we found the word "Hallelah" in Hebrew. We began digging deeper and remembered that "Yah" means God in Hebrew. We concocted the name "Alaya" from both of those words, meaning "Praise God." Our precious baby girl.
For Mother's Day that year, we made a scrapbook for mom with pictures of us that Dwayne and I took.
Cayle and Uncle Bubba
Dwayne got promoted to General Manager of a new restaurant that was opening by the same people he was already working for. The restaurant was in a town about an hour from where we lived which wasn't great. He started working loooooonnnnnnggg hours. He would literally leave the house at 8am and not get home till midnight 6 days a week. On his day off we still had to go to the restaurant to make pizza dough. The restaurant owners promised to get him an assistant manager but they couldn't agree on who it should be, so Dwayne, for months, was working that schedule by himself. It was killing all of us. One night I had an uneasy feeling about Dwayne when I went to bed. I prayed hard that God would station angels around his vehicle to keep him on the road and protect him from other drivers.
Suddenly he was waking me. His voice was quavering. "Shana, God protected me tonight. I was on my way home and had just passed an intersection. 30 seconds later there was a massive explosion behind me. A car crashed into an 18 wheeler and the 18 wheeler exploded. Had I been just 30 seconds slower..." My heart was pounding. I was fearful of him driving home late at night and that far anyway and that accident only expounded on that. We were both in awe of how God had protected him though. He really felt like his days were numbered at work though because he just couldn't keep doing it. The straw that broke the camel's back was one morning Cayle woke up and thought Dwayne hadn't even come home the night before. Dwayne was usually leaving before Cayle got up and coming home after he was in bed. Dwayne couldn't handle it anymore. He stepped out in faith that God knew what we needed and gave a month's notice at work. I was completely behind him in that decision. Mathew 6 man.
He got a job working for HMS Host which is the corporation that manages the restaurants in the airport. I was near the end of my pregnancy and my sweet friend Melissa hosted a baby shower for me. I was so excited about all of the pink!
I should add that we were daily living on bread. We never had "extra" money, though I do look back and see how God blessed us so much with more than we needed at times. We literally lived paycheck to paycheck. It grew our faith tremendously to live like this. But then we really came to see what the Acts 2 church looked like when our small group blessed us with a surprise baby shower and money we were not expecting. Money we needed at that exact moment. I need to try to name these many moments in our lives at some point on this blog, but suffice it to say, God has used His Body to provide for us more times than I can count. Our hearts were so full in that season of living like this: "They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved" (Act 2: 42-47).
Then came the month of August: time for us to have a baby and also our third anniversary. Since I was huge pregnant, our anniversary celebration looked like a movie and some fast food. And we laughed about it and loved each other in it. Three years sure had flown by quickly. Because I was terrified of having a bigger baby than Cayle (because of my pooping glass episodes after Cayle), we decided to induce again 10 days early. This was different because I knew what to expect. They actually placed my epidural as they started my pitocin so that we didn't have to wait on the anesthesiologist to come do it when I was already hurting. I was already dilated to 4 so we thought labor would progress faster and it did. The difference this time was I threw up twice: once when they started my IV and once during transition. Also my friend Becky from my NWJH days was one of my nurses which was a little awkward, but I was also grateful to know someone. She got to see me puke and put my catheter in for me. You know you're a good friend when you take care of someone like that. Ha! At some point during labor, Alaya's heart rate decelerated which concerned everyone that she might have her cord around her neck. But then I went from being dilated to 5 to transitioning, to being complete in literally like 20 minutes. I started feeling pressure and my nurse checked me and was like, "Uhh, DON'T PUSH!" They paged my doctor who was down in the ER helping another patient and it was taking him a while to get there, so the nurse started gowning up to deliver. She also noticed that my water had meconium in it, so they prepared themselves to have to suction Alaya. Just as I was about to push Dr. Marks came sweeping in and put a gown on and I pushed three times and out came our baby girl! She had her cord wrapped around her neck twice and so Dwayne didn't get to cut it. She also had meconium in her airway, so they suctioned and she was okay. She got to come right to me. I'll never forget her cry. From the very beginning it sounded like she was singing. He said her name was "praise" didn't he? I knew this girl was going to be a worshipper. She was born August 15 at 12:26pm and weighed 7 pounds and 3 ounces. Not nearly as big as my big boy. And I didn't poop glass afterward. Hallelujah.
Cayle meeting his baby sister for the first time
Our family of 4
When she was 6 weeks old, we ventured out for some family pictures
Everything was easier, except I could tell this baby was going to be very attached to me. From the very first night in the hospital, she wouldn't let me put her down in her bassinet. She wanted to sleep beside me. And I worked diligently when we got home, even Baby Whisper ing, trying to get her to sleep in her bed. No dice. So I decided we were going to cosleep for sanity. And man I was kicking myself for not doing it sooner. Lift your shirt up, nurse the baby, doze, baby nurses, baby goes to sleep, soooooo much better.
We settled into a routine. I loved being a mama even more. I was in love with my babies. Cayle adjusted so well to his baby sister which made my heart full. Dwayne liked what he was doing with HMS Host, but they kept changing his schedule making it very hard for him to sleep. He would work day shift one day and night shift the next and day shift the next. He was on the prowl for a more steady schedule. Finally he heard about an Assistant Manager position at a well known family owned restaurant in Little Rock. He applied and got hired. We were excited because the pay was good and the hours were much more manageable. He started there in November 2006.
Cayle's 2nd birthday
Alaya's first Christmas
Alaya wearing the same dress I wore at about the same age!
2006 really taught us a lot about Jesus, His Body, the very real spiritual war that is happening around us, and overcoming by the sword of the Word. God was preparing us for what was ahead.