Motherhood: Overcoming Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

**TRIGGER WARNING** this post contains in depth discussion of postpartum anxiety and depression.

*** DISCLAIMER*** I am not a licensed healthcare professional. This post discusses my personal journey with postpartum depression and anxiety. If you are struggling with any form of mental health crisis, please seek help from a licensed medical professional

E10C49FC-15F6-4C1A-BA09-5D633D385E80I think the top two questions I have been asked since becoming a mom are 1) how did you know you were ready for kids, and 2) why is the biggest thing you’ve learned since having Evelyn. They can both be answered the same way: There is absolutely nothing that can prepare you for motherhood. You can save all the money, read all the books, go to all the classes and seek all the advice in the world, but you will never be prepared. Even once you have the baby, you are constantly learning. Every baby is different and there are so many nuances to their behaviors and preferences. Just when you think you’ve learned them, they change. And you change. It’s inevitable. In fact, that change usually happens almost instantaneously the moment the nurses plop that slimy, screaming, precious baby on your chest. You suddenly becoming the embodiment of “mama bear”. You are completely high off of adrenaline and oxytocin and a dozen other hormones that flood your body. You feel like you can take on the world and also take the best nap of your life all at once. You somehow feel incredibly strong and unbelievably broken at the same time. This is the first thing you aren’t prepared for- the ocean of emotions that you are battered with. In an instant, you feel more emotion than you ever thought possible.

Most people are aware of the phenomenon women experience after birth called “baby blues”. Your hormones have gone completely haywire and the result is a lack of control of your emotions. It’s totally normal to be pretty weepy the first couple of days- crying because you’re happy, or because you’re just so in love with your new baby, or something ridiculous like FINALLY getting to eat or get up and walk once that epidural wears off.

After Ev was born, I expected to be a bit emotional. My midwife had prepared me for it, and I was ready. I was also terrified of experiencing postpartum depression. It was something I talked with my midwife about because I had experienced pretty heavy depression before pregnancy, as well as during my pregnancy. On day two of my hospital stay, I filled out the generic postpartum depression questionnaire. In my opinion, this is the dumbest thing ever. You are running on zero sleep, and you’ve only had this child for all of 48 hours. The questions, like “have you thought about harming your baby”, or “have you had trouble sleeping” are ridiculous and make zero sense for that particular moment. Regardless, after answering the questions as honestly as I felt comfortable, I was given a moderate risk factor for developing ppd/a. We left the hospital the next day, and over the next week or so, things got progressively worse. I had absolutely no control over my emotions. I was crying all the time, so anxious, and having complete meltdowns over the most ridiculous things. I lost it over not being able to find my crock pot. Ridiculous, I know! All the while, my mom and husband kept asking if I was okay. I think they knew, but they wanted me to acknowledge that something wasn’t right. A week after having EV, my mom, dad, and husband sat me down and told me it was time to call my doctor. This was more than just baby blues, and deep down, I knew it. My mom in particular recognized it very quickly because of her own experience with it. I’m so grateful I have people in my life who were so willing to be honest with me.

After talking to my doctor, she diagnosed me with postpartum depression and anxiety and put me on Zoloft. The Zoloft took about 4 weeks to fully kick in, but once it did, I began to feel somewhat normal. After about three months of being on the medication, I began to notice that it wasn’t working as well, so my doctor upped my dosage. My emotions felt under control, but I definitely didn’t feel “normal”. Nevertheless, I knew that I needed to stay on it to be the best mom and wife possible. I really struggled with that idea because I didn’t want to have to rely on medication to function. It’s easy to make the comparison that “if you have allergies, you take Zyrtec and that’s no different”, a statement I’ve made to many before, but it’s a totally different thing to experience it for yourself. I felt weak and inadequate. I was angry with God for seemingly not helping me. I felt angry with myself and guilty a lot of the time for many reasons. One of the biggest being- how could I possibly be depressed when I have the biggest blessing in the world in my daughter?

My breaking point came back in September. I vividly remember sitting on the couch feeding Ev before putting her down for the night and just being bombarded with the worst feeling. I having it out with God for the umpteenth time and i said, “If this is the way I’m going to feel for the rest of my life, I don’t want it.” And for a split second I thought “there’s a whole bottle of Zoloft upstairs that could fix that”. And I broke. I called out for Jon-Paul to come get Ev and I sat on the couch and sobbed. I was terrified by that thought. I had no idea where it came from. It was something I would never in a million years consider doing and it made me scared to death that I was even capable of having such a thought.

After calming down and talking with Jon-Paul, we agreed I needed to get some counseling. I scheduled to talk with my counselor a couple days later. After speaking with her, I began to make some changes in my life. I started spending more time in the word, more time praying, and taking some time throughout the week to focus on myself. All of this really helped the depression aspect of what I was dealing with!

At the end of September, I decided to take a break from social media. While the depression was under control and basically non existent at this point, anxiety had ramped up significantly. In one week alone, I had seen 5 posts on social media about infant/toddler loss. I decided to take an indefinite break because I had enough anxious thoughts in my head without seeing that kind of stuff. It was truly the best thing I could have done and I HIGHLY encourage everyone to take a break from time to time.

So where am I now? My goal was to be off of the Zoloft by New Years. After a lot of work, prayer, and focus, I have been off of my meds for a month now. I feel truly amazing! I even went through all of the stress of the holiday season without the medication lol. It was definitely all about timing, as I had tried to wean off of them once before and quickly realized I was not ready. But this time around, I felt great. Of course I have my moments, but I finally feel back to normal- or my new normal I guess.

If you are experiencing ppd/a, my biggest piece of advice for you is to just hang in there. It gets better! Talk with your doctor, surround yourself with positive people, and communicate how you are feeling. Do not allow yourself to feel less than for having to take medication. Spend lots of time with God. Worship, prayer, just talking or having it out lol. Dig into the Word. Cover yourself in scripture daily. Be intentional about weekly “me” time- even if that means just a quick drive by yourself to the bank or to get gas- alone time is so important. Make yourself feel good and human- do your makeup and hair a few times a week, make your bed, get dressed in something other than spit up bathed bathrobe lol! Ultimately, make self care a priority.

I hope to dig into this topic more. I could seriously write volumes and volumes on my experience haha. Before I go, I want to leave you with some resources I found helpful. Below are some scriptures, songs, and people to check out!

Faith:

Prayer. This is obvious and has to be done in your own way.  For me, there were lots of rant sessions to God lol.

The Word. Covering myself in scripture was so important. Here are some of my faves: Psalm 16:9, Psalm 25:20, Isaiah 41:10, Psalm 118:29, 2 Corinthians 12:9 &19,  Isaiah 46:6, Psalm 46:10, Proverbs 19:22, 2 Timothy 1:7, 2 Timothy 4:17, Proverbs 4:23, Isaiah 43:2

Faith-based Social Media Accounts: @my_darling_diary, @legitsadierob, @stylecusp, @bethel, @whoathatsgoodpodcast, @liveoriginal, @jenessawait

Family and Friends:

I’m not going to go into specifics here because I will undoubtedly forget someone, but surrounding yourself with a solid group of people is so vital. I have the most amazing and supportive family and friends and I’m so grateful for them.

Music:

Worship was such a big thing for me as well. Worshipping despite your circumstances produces something so beautiful and amazing in your life. Declaring God is good even when you don’t feel good yourself can be difficult, but it’s so necessary. Here are some of the songs that helped me.

Hillsong Worship: So Will I, Awake My Soul, I Will Praise You, Upper Room

Hillsong United: the People album, the Of Dirt and Grace album

Covenant Worship: Here Waiting

David and Nicole Binion: the Dwell album

Hillsong Y&F: PEACE, Days Gone By

HouseFires: Give Thanks To God, Build My Life, This Love

John and Joslyn Brockman: I’ll remain, You Are My Reward

Lauren Daigle: Rescue

Sean Feucht: There is a Name, Victorious One album

Brian and Jenn Johnson: After All These Years album

Bryan and Katie Torwalt: Praise Before My Breakthrough album

Bethel: Goodness is God, Stand in Your Love, Every Crown, Christ is Risen, Alabaster Heart

Amanda Lindsey Cook: Awakening

Leeland: Way Maker

If you’ve made it this far, I truly commend you. I know this was quite the post, but it was so important for me to be open about all of this. I know that so many women go through this and suffer in silence. My message to you is that you do not need to. Talk to someone. Get counseling. Open up to trusted loved ones. And lastly, give it to

God. He wants to take it from you, comfort you, and heal you.

See you next week!

XOXO

ELK

2019 Recap and 2020 Vision

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Wow! What a year! It’s hard to believe that 2019 is over and 2020 is here. 2019 truly flew by. As I’m sitting here watching all of the festivities on TV leading up to the ball drop, I cant help but think about how different this New Years Eve is from last year’s. This time last year, I was 5 and a half months pregnant, sick as a dog, and staying up till midnight was a pipe dream. Fast forward 12 months, and I just finished nursing my daughter and put her down for the night, and now I’m enjoying a cup of decaf while praying these dang fireworks don’t wake her up. Jon-Paul has work early in the morning, so he has long since gone to bed. Before I dive into what I expect and hope for the new year, let’s do a quick recap of the year! 

As I said above, the beginning of 2019 was filled with lots of morning sickness, precious baby kicks, heartburn, and change. 2019 was by far the most challenging year of my life, but also the most amazing and rewarding. We welcomed our beautiful daughter, Evelyn Daphne Clara Keller, on April 29th at 3:06am. She came into this world weighing 7lbs 7oz and was 19 ¼ inches long. I’ll dig into this more a little later in the year, but labor was tough! We instantly fell in love with this tiny little nugget, and somehow we have continued to fall more in love every day since. She brings so much light and love to everyone she comes in contact with. People really are just drawn to her. I know that probably sounds a bit conceited, but it’s the truth. Sometimes I wish they weren’t quite so drawn lol (hello germs!!) She is now 8 months as of the 29th. She has grown so dang fast in every way. She now weighs 21lbs and is 28.5 inches long. I about had a mental breakdown in the middle of Target the other day when I went to buy her Christmas jammies and realized that, because she wears 12 month clothes now, we have to shop in the toddler section. I was NOT prepared for that! She’s scooting around via the cutest little army crawl and somehow manages to find every little bit of dust on the floor and every cable she can get her hands on. In case you haven’t seen a picture of her, the kid loves to eat- like mother, like daughter! She’s eating all kinds of purées now, is addicted to puffs, and enjoys a banana now and then. We are slightly obsessed with her, and I don’t see that obsession ending any time soon! That’s pretty much our 2019 recap. Ev took up every ounce of mine and Jon-Paul ‘s attention and we love it.

ELK had to take a backseat this year, as I’m sure you could have guessed by now. Due to several different circumstances, I just had to take a break. I’ll be getting into that more next week, but for now, just know that I’m back and ready to give this as much of my attention as I can! I miss it. I love writing and inspiring others and sharing about the things I love in the hope that you might just love them too! My goal here is to be as open and honest with y’all as possible. In sticking with that spirit, I have to be honest and say that I’m pretty embarrassed about my lack of commitment when it comes to my past New Year’s Intentions. I’m all about giving yourself grace and allowing yourself to figure things out, but the time for that is done. This year I am 100% committed to becoming the best version of myself possible. So, here goes nothing- here is my vision and goals for 2020: 

  1. Get healthy. Mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially- every single aspect. 5 years ago, I was in the best physical health of my life, but was struggling in other areas. Then 3 years ago, I was in the best mental and spiritual health, but my physical health took a total back seat. Actually, it wasn’t a backseat- it wasn’t even in the car! I gained back everything I had lost and then some. Add 2 huge moves, marriage, stress, and a baby to the mix and it’s all all over the place! But this is the year I reign it all in. So what does that look like? I’m not quite sure! I think it starts with taking small steps in each area and working through things bit by bit. The rest of these goals will all help in achieving my overall health. 
  2. Exercise. I want to learn to love exercising. Right now I literally despise it, so I have a long way to go lol. 
  3. Spend more time in the Bible and with God that I do on social media. I think this speaks for itself! 
  4. Achieve higher emotional intelligence. I actually don’t have bad EI scores, but I could definitely do better! 
  5. B-U-D-G-E-T!!!!!!!!! That is all. 
  6. Get organized. I literally want to go Marie Kondo on my whole life. 
  7. Prioritize a weekly session of “me” time. You cant pour from and empty cup!
  8. And finally, learn to knit. Sounds stupid, I know it sounds stupid, but when my Dat-Dat passed, I got all of her knitting stuff and I was so emotional afterwards that I never really tried. I have a new niece coming in May, so I want to be able to knit her a blanket. 

So what about ELK? What are my goals for this platform and all the subsequent platforms? I simply want to be intentional. I don’t want to post just to post. I want everything to have a purpose and meaning. That being said, I will be posting here once a week on Fridays. I’m really excited for some of the content I will have coming out, and I really hope y’all enjoy it! 

Thank you so much for reading this far! I pray you have a Happy New Year, and I’ll talk to you soon!

XOXO 

ELK

April Showers Bring… Baby Keller!

That’s right! We are expecting!

Baby Keller will be joining our journey on April 24, 2019.

Wow! It feels so good to finally say that. If you know me, you know that it is so beyond difficult for me to keep my own secrets. And this has been the secret of the decade for me haha. I will have several posts coming up detailing the first trimester, our testimony, answering your FAQs, as well as updates all throughout my pregnancy on how I’m feeling, what products I’m loving, and updates on baby K!

I will be 12 weeks on Wednesday, but we wanted to announce this on our anniversary (Happy Anniversary, Babes!). The first trimester has been an interesting one, filled with lots of changes, and even more morning sickness, but it has been so worth it. I will be going into more detail in my next post, but for now I’ll give you the basics. We found out super early- about 4 weeks and a couple days. We had our first appointment at 5 weeks, and due to some concerns, we had another at 6 weeks, and then the regular 8 weeks. We have our next appointment on Friday, and I am so excited!

To those who knew and kept our secret, THANK YOU!! And we are so grateful for all fo the love and support we have already received. I am so looking forward to sharing this journey will y’all. I plan on staying true to me and remaining 100% transparent through this whole process. Thank you in advance for your love and support!

XOXO

ELK and Baby K

A Grand Proposal

Every girl dreams of the day when the man of her dreams drops to one knee, tells her how much she means to him, and pops the question. We all love the idea of the happily ever after dream we have dreamt since we were little girls becoming a reality. Most girls, no doubt, have in their minds or on their Pinterest boards what the perfect proposal will look like, and we all hope he gets it right! On the second anniversary of our engagement, I wanted to share with you the story of how it all went down!

First off, let me give you a some quick backstory for context. Jon-Paul and I knew from the very first week we started dating that this was it- we had each found the on!  He had just returned from a trip to the Arizona, where he visited the Grand Canyon (important) a couple weeks prior, and after a beautiful whirlwind first week of dating, we just knew. I can’t explain the feeling. I don’t know how to describe it to someone who hasn’t experienced it themselves, except that it’s an overwhelming sense of peace and excitement at the same time. Shortly thereafter, he moved out to Phoenix in October of 2015, and I moved to Tucson with my parents in December of 2015, then later to Phoenix in March of 2016. I was waiting patiently for the proposal- okay, maybe not so patiently! We had discussed our future countless times from where we wanted to end up living to how many kids we wanted to have and what names we would give them, and I wanted that life to be a reality. I was so excited to get the show on the road!

Fast forward to the week of Easter 2016. Jon-Paul had a horrible stomach virus followed by food poisoning. It was miserable! Poor thing was completely drained come Easter Sunday when my family came up to Phoenix to attend Easter service with us, which was of course followed by a nice lunch out. Now, Jon-Paul is not a particularly chatty person on the regular. He more so likes to observe, especially when he’s around my rowdy family! Because of this, I didn’t think anything of his quietness during lunch, especially because he had been sick. The next day, he called me and said, “How are your parents with surprises?” I said, “Uhhh, well, it depends of the surprise… why?” To which he responded, “Well, you know, I wasn’t feeling very well yesterday at lunch and I felt bad for not talking much, so I decided to go down to Tucson to see them.”…………. Now, mind you, Tucson is a two hour drive from Phoenix. In my mind, I just KNEW he was going to ask my parent’s permission to marry me. I was about to jump out of my skin from excitement! I told him to call my parents and let them know he was coming, and he did.

I am THE worst when it comes to surprises. I have a love hate relationship with them. I love the excitement, but I hate not knowing what is happening. So, from that point on, I made sure to have my nails done every 10 days or so, always made sure that my makeup and outfits were ON POINT, and may or may not have done some snooping through Jon-Paul’s phone trying to find out some details. We had planned a trip for my mom’s birthday up to the Grand Canyon, and I thought maybe it would happen on that trip, but I had convinced myself it wasn’t going to happen then. My mom had the whole thing planned out down to the minute. She had told me multiple times that we needed to be at the canyon by 11am on the Monday after her birthday because we still had a 4 hour drive back. She probably mentioned it in every conversation for like 2 weeks. This, logically, led me to believe that something was planned at 11am! Then, the day before our trip, she told us that the 11am arrival time was not a thing anymore and that we could take our time. In fact, she encouraged us to stop at some towns on the way up and make a full day of it. I was in shock! That is so 100% the polar opposite of her personality!

The next day, we started on our way up to the Grand Canyon. We stopped about an hour and a half into the trip to get breakfast and wander around one of my favorite towns, Sedona. As much as I was trying to enjoy myself, I was so stressed about time because I was convinced my mom would still be upset if we arrived too late, and our trip would be ruined! I also reeeeaaaly wanted to see the GC! So I rushed Jon-Paul to the car after about 2 hours in Sedona and told him we had to get going. But, he had other plans. He wanted to take the scenic route- a route that would add a whole hour onto our drive! As worried as I was, I went along with his plan. We drove through the most beautiful national forest and stopped at a beautiful lookout and took it all in for a minute. Then my brain kicked back into overdrive and we were on our way again, only to have Jon-Paul tell me he needed a potty break. We stopped at a gas station in the middle of nowhere and I pumped the gas while he did his thing. I finished pumping and pulled up to the store parking lot and waited. And waited. And waited. I wondered if he had fallen in! 10 whole minutes later, he came walking out with a gigantic jug of windshield wiper fluid. “What the heck is that for?!” I asked. He responded with, “Well, you’re almost out and there’s a lot of bugs out here. We will probably need it.” I rolled my eyes and waited as he fumbled around with the hood and started pouring the liquid. You would have thought he was pouring molasses!! He was moving soooooo slow. I finally went over, snatched the jug from his hand and dumped it all in the container myself! I was slightly annoyed at this point, and rushed us back on the road.

When we arrived to the canyon, I was so taken aback. It didn’t even look real. It looked like a painting or a green screen. We walked up to the main overlook and were just in awe of the beauty. Then, my dad, who was in the middle of a Facebook challenge promoting awareness for ptsd, saw a little cliff that we could hike to and said he wanted to film his pushups for the challenge down there, and asked Jon-Paul to film it. I said I’d go along as well. We hiked our way down there and filmed the pushups, after which Jon-Paul asked my dad to take a picture of us. Little did I know he was actually recording. Jon-Paul took me to the edge and started to tell me that a little less than a year before that, when he visited the Grand Canyon, he was in this exact spot trying to send me a picture and couldn’t get it to send. (fun fact, there’s like zero cell service out there) He told me that it kept failing to send, and he said out loud, “Ugh! I just want to talk to her!”, and in that moment he realized he had feelings for me. He then got down on one knee and said some stuff that I honestly don’t even remember because I was so flustered and excited! I immediately said yes before he could even finish asking me to marry him! I was shaking and so so happy. Then, he turned me around and his whole family had flown out to be apart of the day! In fact, because they were using buddy passes, they weren’t able to fly in on Sunday as planned and had been traveling right behind us our whole trip! They only passed us while we were at the longest gas station stop known to man lol! As if all of that wasn’t enough, he proposed on the anniversary of my grandfather’s passing with a diamond from one of my grandfather’s rings. It was simply perfect. We drove back to Phoenix and went to dinner that night and celebrated the day. It was so beautiful and magical and wonderful.

And that’s how I would sum up the past three years since Jon-Paul and I have been together. Beautiful, magical, and wonderful. I’m so grateful everyday that God brought us together. It was definitely not something either of us expected, but it has been the best years of my life. He is the most kind, loving, funny, caring man I could have ever asked for. He surpasses all of my wildest dreams everyday, and I am so glad I said “Yes” to him two years ago. Ladies, if you get one thing from this post, let it be this- Do not settle for a man that treats you less than what you deserve. I promise you that it is worth the wait! There is absolutely nothing that can replace the feeling of knowing you are with the one that God intended you to be with. Wait for the man that will exceed your expectations and surpass your wildest dreams, and give you a beautiful, magical, and wonderful life.

XOXO

ELK

Georgia On My Mind

The saying, “God works in mysterious ways” is used pretty commonly- Lord knows I’ve said it way too many times to count. It is usually the follow-up to an ironic story with a happy ending, or when something happens in our lives that we don’t quite understand. It’s like implying that, though you may not know how something is going to play out, but you know that God will work it all out for your good. He knows how to orchestrate events in your life- good or bad- to bring you out on top. He takes the ugly and makes it beautiful, the tragic and makes it joyous, and the unknown and makes it territory to conquer. We go through life as Christians knowing this and believing it, but it’s not until we have to fully rely on God to make our nonsensical situation make sense that we truly understand the beauty and the mystery that is our loving Father.

For Jon-Paul and I, that season is in a way just finishing, but also just beginning. We have recently been going through a season of having to fully entrust our entire lives to God more than ever before and believing that He would make a way where there quite literally seemed to be none. It’s so funny, because we thought before this season that we had given it all to God. But, it took going through this for us to realize that there were so many areas we were still relying on our own strength in and not giving God room to be God.  At one point it seemed that we were getting bombarded from every angle possible with problems, from finances, to family, to friends, it seemed like new wounds were being made and old wounds reopened every way we turned. Needless to say, it was a very trying season. But, hindsight is 20/20. I still 100% believe that we heard the Holy Spirit clearly. I believe it was a God ordained season that we had to go through in order to draw closer to Him. He does, after all, work in mysterious ways.

Rather than focusing on the negative consequences that were many, but brief, I want to take time to give honor where honor is due. We talk about God being our loving Father God (any Father-God-ers out there???), but what Jon-Paul and I had the privilege of experiencing over these past few months made that more real to us than ever before. It was like when a parent takes the training wheels off of their kids bike for the first time. You get them all ready- elbow pads, knee pads, and a helmet- and take them out to the street, show them how balance and steer, and hold the bike as they start to pedal. They are wobbly at first but soon have the hang of it, so long as you are holding onto the back. Then the time comes for them to try it on their own. You tell them to start pedaling and they yell pack, white knuckling the handle bars, “Don’t let go!” You tell them you won’t, knowing full well that if they are going to learn how to ride, you are going to have to let go at some point. But, just because you let go doesn’t mean that you aren’t still running behind the bike, ready to pick them up when they inevitably take a tumble. You pick them up and dust them off and tell them to try again.

I believe that God sometimes allows us to go through things so that we learn to rely on Him and become even closer to Him. He’s like the parent teaching their child to ride a bike. He gets us ready- prepares us with a vision or word, gives us the tools through His word, and gives us promises that He’s faithful to the end and never forsakes us- and then begins to teach us. He doesn’t cause the storm or hardship, but He uses to His advantage what the devil meant to take you out, knowing full well that you have the full armor of God and can handle anything with His help. I believe this is why we went through the season we did. We followed God’s word, and though He didn’t cause the problems, He used them to draw us closer to him. He drew us out into the deep where the waves were crashing, and we had to realize that he didn’t want us to fight to keep our heads above water, but rather He wanted us to let go so he could guide us safely to the other side. We had to rely on Him like a child does with their Father. He had to dust us off, bandage our wounds, and take us to a vulnerable place to give Jon-Paul the biggest word He’s given us in our relationship.

In November, Jon-Paul and I went to Atlanta to visit his side of our family for my sister-in-love’s wedding and Thanksgiving. Now, on previous trips, I fully enjoyed myself and loved seeing friends and family, but could never see myself living there. If you aren’t familiar with the area, it’s very humid, there’s about a million freeways surrounded by trees, complemented by like 5,000 little small towns and suburbs. It’s all very pretty, but for the absolute most directionally challenged person in the world (a.k.a moi) it can be a little (a LOT) overwhelming. But for some reason, from the moment we landed this time, I felt so at peace being there, and a very strong pull to be there. I was a little (a LOT) freaked out by it to say the least. So much so that I kept this to myself for 5 days. I was concerned that I was just feeling this because of the turbulent season we were in, and I didn’t want to make any rash comments. But after 5 days, the Holy Spirit was not letting up. So on our drive up Chattanooga to see some good friends, I sheepishly asked Jon-Paul how he was feeling about Atlanta. His response was one I was not expecting. He replied, “It’s weird, I’m actually feeling a strong pull to be here.” I couldn’t believe it. He used the EXACT wording I had been mulling over in my head for five days! My first thought once I wrapped my head around that fact was, “Oh, crap.” This had come out of nowhere. Despite the tough season back in Phoenix, we were still so in love with our life here. After all, we have an amazing church, friends, mentors, etc. So we spoke with some mentors in our lives and decided we really needed to lift this up in prayer. We had every reason move- proximity to family, more music opportunities for Jon-Paul, not to mention the undeniable move of the Holy Spirit in giving Jon-Paul and I the same wording; but we also had every reason to stay. So we asked God to give us a “No”- a reason not to move. We prayed and asked God to show us by a specific day. We asked that if He wanted us to go, that he would give us an abundance of confirmation and clarity. The days following that prayer were suspenseful. We were awaiting God to give us direction, and He did.

We are so excited to announce that the Kellers are moving to Atlanta on February 23rd of this year! This is such a bitter-sweet time, to be honest. We are so very excited for what lies ahead, but also very sad to leave this wonderful place called Phoenix. All emotion aside, we know that God has prepared a way for us in the good ol ATL. We are so appreciative of all God has done here in Phoenix. He brought so many amazing people into our lives here, and we will never be the same because of it! I’m a firm believer that we as Christians are not meant to stay put in the same place for our entire lives. I believe that we are to glean from every stop along the way and take with us to the next place everything we have learned. Lord knows the amount of knowledge we have gained here in the past 2 years. So now we are asking you to join us in praying for this journey! We know that God has already gone before us and made a way for us to prosper. We are truly so excited and a little nervous, not gonna lie!

I know now that if we had not been taken to that vulnerable place with God, we may not have been receptive to His word for us to move- especially myself given how closed off I’ve always been to the idea. And as hard as that season was, I would do it all again if it meant I would gain this new level of intimacy with God. Not only did it strengthen our relationships with God, but it made Jon-Paul and I grow closer. We truly relied on each other during that time for strength and emotional support, and also comedic relief! I just love seeing how God works all things for our good! He loves each of us so very much. He knows exactly how to communicate with us and show us His love. He knows what we need in our moments of despair. He knows how to mend our wounds and comfort our hearts. He goes out of His way to show us His love. He is such a magnificent, mighty, loving, kind, powerful, gentle God. If you get one thing from this blog today, I want it to be this- never take for granted a trying season. Never think that just because the seas are rough means that God isn’t there. He is always with you. Guiding you, protecting you, helping you up, dusting you off, and telling you to try again. Even when you can’t feel Him, He’s running right along side you, ready to catch you. He will always catch you. He will always work it together for your good. His plans for your life are so much bigger than your storm. The destiny He’s placed on your life alone is enough to carry you through the hardships. Never doubt God’s intentions for your life. He’s got it all figured out, no matter what you choose to do. He does, after all, work in mysterious ways.

XOXO

ELK

 

7 Things I Learned In My First 365 Days as Mrs. Keller

Marriage is an adventure. Apparently the saying that time flies when you’re having fun is true, because it definitely does not feel like a year. At this exact time last year, I was preparing to take a walk down a very wet, grassy aisle to marry the man of my dreams. By the grace of God, Hurricane Matthew managed to cease, what had been up until 10 minutes before I walked down the aisle, a torrential downpour. One of the ring bearers was MIA due to the fact that he was 2 and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse was much more entertaining than watching his aunt get married. Also by the grace of God, I managed to squeak out my vows after having the worst cold of my life the entire week before the wedding. We took communion with a slice of Italian sandwich bread and a glass of sangria that was rushed up to the altar during a time of prayer by my aunt due to my mom forgetting about communion amidst her million other tasks for the week. There were several other issues that went unbeknownst to me until 3 months after the fact, but it was still the most amazing and magical night of my life. I still could never thank everyone enough for all they did- from flying in from all over the country, to setting up, to keeping my mom sane, to tearing down, none of it would have been possible without each and every one of you, and I am eternally grateful. Today, I want to take time to share with you the 7 most important things I learned in the past year. I hope this is something that won’t just resonate with newlyweds or engaged couples, but with everyone. Let’s get started!

1. Patience and grace. With myself, my husband, and with God. The term patience is a virtue never became more true to me than in the past year. Something I had to learn very early on is that marriage is never-ending learning process. Jon-Paul and I had never been married to each other, therefore we really had no clue what we were doing! And we still don’t! That was a very hard pill for me to swallow. I LOVE being good at things and mastering them. In marriage, we encounter new things every day. And we are not always going to respond to those situations in a perfect way. The most important thing is to have patience with yourself and your spouse. Jon-Paul has done some things in the past year that have genuinely pissed me off or hurt my feelings. I have done the same thing to him, probably 10 times as many times! But you have to be patient with one another, and offer grace to them and yourself when you mess up. And you are going to mess up. Neither of you are perfect! As for God, you must have patience and know that He knows what He’s doing. You can’t be in control all the time! 

2. You can never apologize too many times. I believe you are never more strong than when you can admit that you were wrong. I also did not mean for that to rhyme, but it did, so we will stick with it! You gotta lower your pride, babe. Hop off your high horse, admit you messed up and apologize! I remember one specific week about 6 or 7 months ago where I swear I apologized at least 8-10 times a day. I was dealing with some hormonal imbalances and was “snippy McGee” as my husband affectionately called me. It should be known that he has continued to have immense grace for me as this has persisted. I told him, “I feel like I’ve apologized so much more in the past week than I have in my entire life!” But through that process, I learned how important it is to apologize. At the end of the day, you have to go home with that person and crawl in the same bed. When you harbor resentment or refuse to admit you were wrong, the 6 inches of space between you and him in your queen sized bed can feel like a million miles. You have to communicate. You have to voice your feelings. You have to go through the hard things in order to get to the good things! It’s not always easy to talk about your weaknesses and screw-ups, but it is crucial for the survival of your marriage. 

3. God needs to be your number one. One of the main reasons I love my husband so much is because he loves God more than he loves me. When you put God first, not just in your relationships, but in life in general, you set yourself up for success. See, when you love someone, you automatically make decisions based on pleasing that person and protecting your relationship with them. With love comes respect. Ultimately, because God is before me for Jon-Paul, and because God is before Jon-Paul for me, we not only make decisions based on each other’s needs, but based on what we know God wants for us separately and as a couple. You cannot allow yourself to put any human being, not even your spouse, before God. In a healthy relationship, the closer you both move to God, the closer you get to each other. This is a true source of intimacy. Speaking of which, that’s a perfect segway into point number four.

4. Sex is not everything. Growing up in the church, we are taught that sex is great under the covenant of marriage, but outside of that covenant, it is destructive, sinful, and should NEVER be done. Some are even scared straight with “the talk” including all of the negative consequences of pre-marital sex. I am all for sexual purity before marriage. I believe that is a Biblical principle and a standard that I held myself to,  but I believe the church, particularly the youth ministry, has focused far too much on the negative side of pre-marital sex. You are told your whole life “No sex until marriage” or “You can only give it once and that should be to your husband” etc. And we aren’t just told that, it’s literally drilled into our minds. Like most other things, too much of anything can be detrimental.  This either scares us to death of sex, or we rush into marriage with the wrong person just so it will be “under the covenant” So here’s sweet little Susie Q getting married as a virgin because she’s been told time after time to not have sex, and then suddenly she says the words “I Do” and signs a piece of paper and we’re all like “YEAH! Go be fruitful and multiply!” We have given the misconception that intimacy through sex is found in the physical side only. What I discovered in the first few months of marriage was that, yes, the physical aspect does bring you and your spouse closer, but the real intimacy through sex is found in the open line of communication before, during, and after intercourse. Yes, I said during. No it doesn’t “just happen” like in the movies. Sometimes it does, but more often than not, at least from my one year of experience, sex entails a lot of communication. You have to be able to communicate what you are comfortable with and what works for you. Sometimes you have to do a little give and take because what works for you, may not work for your spouse. This is all very personal, but it’s something that is never discussed! I say all of that to say, yes, sex is amazing, but it is not the only way of becoming intimate with your spouse. Talking about things like feelings and emotions, and perspectives, both negative and positive, are so so very important to achieve intimacy. Like the every youth pastor on the planet has ever said, “Intimacy equals into-me-you-see” 

*Moving Right Along*

5. Nothing is ever THAT bad. Fights suck. Jon-Paul and I didn’t have our first real fight until we were registering for our wedding. We had had disagreements and minor tifts here and there, but nothing like this blow out. To spare you a very long story, basically I had unintentionally set very high expectations for this trip to Target and Bed, Bath, and Beyond. This was going to be magical and we were going to run through the aisles scanning everything our hearts desired and we would both be so excited to choose what kind of dishes and pots and pans and bedding we would get to build our new love nest. The only problem with that, aside from the fact that I was living in fantasy land, was that I did not communicate these expectations to my very loving and patient husband. After an hour and a half of scanning JUST kitchen items in BB&B, he had reached his max for the day (side note: apparently they don’t let you run rampant with the scanner like in the movies at BB&B). This caused a huge blow up because in my mind, he didn’t care about our new life together. After he took an hour-long trip to the coffee shop in the parking lot of the store, we promptly  left. It was a YUGE fight for 30 minutes solid in the car on the way home. I was PISSED that he didn’t read my mind to find out my expectations. HOW DARE HE! Any way, during that giant fight all I could think about was, “Oh my gosh, this is it. We are going to break off the engagement and we’ll be done. We can never recover from this fight.”Boy, was I wrong (thank God). We sat in that car and talked for over an hour once we got to the apartment and worked it out. We realized I needed to share and make more realistic my expectations, and he needed to make a little bit more of an effort to participate. He had a very reasonable explanation for not being concerned with our pots and pans- he doesn’t cook much, therefore he wouldn’t be using them. As for the dishes, so long as he can drink the milk from it once done with his cereal, he’s good. All in all, I have learned that no fight is THAT bad. Sometimes it takes just talking it out, or taking time to think things through. Ultimately, you have to communicate* (See point 4 on intimacy)

6. Me time is crucial. Just because the two have become one, doesn’t mean that the one can’t still have time for him/her self. In fact, I’m pretty sure in order to resist the urge strangle your spouse from time to time, you need to take me time. Go get a mani/pedi, or hang out with a girlfriend, or, my personal favorite, go walk around Target and design six different versions of your living room, only to walk out with everything your didn’t need and nothing that you did! You cannot lose who you are. That’s not what marriage is about. Who you marry should amplify who you are, not diminish. And though your interests may change, the time you take for yourself should not. 

7. As is accountability. This is so so important. Surround yourself with successful, Godly married couples to look up to. We have several couples that have sort of taken us under their wings and taught us so many valuable lessons. We also have a few couples our age to glean from as well. They are our peers and we can talk to them about newlywed things that no one else would understand. Some of our best friends in the whole world were married just a few months after us, so being able to partner with them and walk through this together has been an integral part of our lives. Both of these types of couples have permission to ask us the hard questions. They can ask us about our financial state, our communication, our sex life, and so many other things because we trust them to help keep us on the right path. Most of them have been there, done that, made the mistakes, had great triumphs etc., so they can speak from experience. 

This past year has been so beyond amazing. I have learned so much about Jon-Paul and myself, and who we are as a couple. We are a team. We fight for each other and for our marriage. Marriage is not work. I personally don’t like when people say that. Theres a saying that goes, “When you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.” If you love playing the guitar, sure, you take lessons and train yourself to get better. You sometimes play until your fingers bleed. It hurts your hands and wrists some times, but at the end of the day, it’s your passion and you love it. Marriage is the same way. You have to walk through some hard times, you have to practice to get better, and you have to learn some hard lessons. But at the end of the day, you love that person more than anything else in the whole world, and you are passionate about your marriage. So babe, thanks for making this the best year of my life. It has had its ups and downs, we have laughed and cried, but we have been together through it all, and that’s all I could ever ask for. You are my best friend and I love you so much. Here’s to 100 years more of the best sleep over ever. Happy Anniversary, honey bunches.