Noa Lou Dukes

Our sweet #3 was born last Monday, October 6th at 3:01 pm. 

Noa Lou Dukes
8 pounds 1 ounce
20.5 inches long

She is more magical, awe-inspiring, gorgeous and beloved than we imagined was possible (and we had heard that 3rd babies are pretty spectacular!). This was taken at 90 minutes old.

Some highlights:

The name: Upon being told we couldn't leave the hospital until we filled out her birth certificate paperwork, we decided to finally settle on the middle name that had eluded us all this time. You remember how much I love "Lukas" but couldnt saddle her with "Lukas Dukas" potential?  Well one of my favorite things about that combo was being able to call her "Noa Loo."

I knew that Jesse's mother's middle name was Louise and the thought of giving our daughter a name that honored and united two very strong and admirable female lines was pretty cool (read how Noa came from my grandmother--after we already loved the name--here). But Louise was a tad too traditional for me (like Genoa had been in the first name). Jesse had told our friend Kellen about this quandary, and he simply and brilliantly was like, "If you want to call her Loo/Lou/Lu, just actually name her that. It doesnt need to be short for anything."

So thats what we decided to do. It is still definitely an homage to Jesse's mother (who is called LouLou and Lovie Lou by the grandkids) even though it is shortened, and we had a blast telling Linda that that was what we had decided for her name. She may have slightly lost her mind. It was completely adorable and utterly affirmed our choice.

moderately excited about her 6th Grandchild being her namesake.

The name Lou means "warrior," and since Noa means "love in motion" for us, our daughter's entire name now means "His conquering love in motion"  (and the "His" would be Jesus). This is our prayer for Noa's entire life/legacy.

The birth: Oh dont you just WISH I had the story ready and we could find out how close to this plan we stayed? Well, I wish this, at least. I LOVE telling my birth stories, but they are an investment of time and brainpower, and I am not quiiiite there yet. Rest assured it will be faster than the first two, which took about a year each. 

IN the meantime, maybe you'd like to read my friend Tara's story of how she delivered her daughter Paige's first baby this weekend and was a few contractions away from doing so at the Baylor football game. Seriously one of the most hilarious and beautiful and angsty and insane birth stories I've ever read (Tara is my spirit animal).

The photos: Our wonderful photographer, Brenna, made it for the entire birth and has show us some early sneak peeks of her work. Great Golly Gosh, she is talented. We were thrilled to be her first birth session and obviously she is going to rock this milieu of photography like she already does for families and babies. Here are a few:


The family of Five: This too is going to get its own post, because my big kids have fallen SO HARD for baby Noa that the intensity must have its very own URL. Rest assured, it's cute, it comes with video and pictures and it makes me want to have 14 more babies for them to love.

Her Song: If you've been here awhile, you know my worship leader husband writes/records original songs for each of our kids (Judah's and Layla's are blogged). He has just finished writing Noa's song and just needs to record it. IT IS COMING! I'll let you know when that single drops (because I say things like that).

Playing a demo for me of his second draft. (We are so blessed to have Jesse on paternity leave for 3 weeks).

The baby: Oh man, I probably can't even articulate how dreamy Noa is. A big part of it is surely that now that I have big, stinky (seriously! they smell so bad compared to my newborn...how did I never notice this?!), non-baby kids, I am ever so much more schmoopy and treasuresome (not a word) about this utter beebee. Judah being 17 months when Layla was born, we really had two babies and didn't fully dive into or "back" to the newborn experience. We are full on submerging ourselves this time.

It's also much much easier to have a newborn when you've done it a few times. We were out of our minds stupid and stressed with Judah and thought a new baby was the hardest thing in the world. No. One newborn is a vacation. The hardest thing in the world is whatever age they are at today.

But the biggest thing I think that has made this go-round so cross-eyed lovey dovey is just Noa! She is so chill and sweet and easy and hilarious. There was a stretch in the hospital where we seriously didnt hear her cry for like 20 hours (and she was with us the whole time!). She eats like a champion, sleeps about 18 hours a day, and is wide-eyed, squeaky and nonstop funny faces the rest of the time.  And her poop smells fantastic (again...compared to the big kids').

We are soaking up every moment with this baby. I hardly ever can bring myself to put her down (sleeping or not), which is NOT like me, and I can definitely see how babies of the family get doted on or spoiled. It seems like I spend hours just petting her hair (so much more/darker than my first two!), marveling at her tiny little belly/chest (taking perspective photos to show scale to remind my future self of how tiny she once was), sneaking up the back of her onesie to rub that sweet, silky baby back, and super-saturating every cone and rod in my eyeballs with the details of her perfect face. 

This little angel bean is a massive meteor that has changed the entire makeup of our family in the best way imaginable. 


Lovin' Eight

Every year there are 52 weeks (breaking news!). So it is a little cool/weird/statistically improbable that so many of my major life events managed to occur over the course of my existence during the same seven-day period:

Yesterday (9/30)was my 10 year baptism anniversary (public wedding to Jesus)
Tomorrow (10/2) is my 32nd birthday
On Monday (10/6) I am having what's known as "a baby."  Noa's Birthday!

But today, well, today (10/1) is extra special too. It's Jesse and My 8th wedding anniversary!

So from 9/30-10/6, we are locked up pretty tight with banner moments (our first pet, Chopper, the insane cowardly rescue mutt, was born on 10/3, but that one just doesn't seem quite monumental enough to put in the special list. Still, though, he is a Dukes, so we count it). 

Anything important that needs to happen for the remainder of my life should probably pencil in 10/4 or 10/5 because that is the only availability we have left. 

This streak is also why I am able to claim that October is "my" month more than any Ugg-wearing, Pumpkin Spice-drinking, sweater weather-gushing, born-in-the-wrong season little Autumn groupie, Just sayin'.


Since we don't get a full mushy-gushy anniversary week to just schmoop all over each other (and something tells me we arent the type that would anyway), I want to isolate today and celebrating my marriage to Jesse.

When I was writing about the clutches in the previous post, I linked to a post from over 4 years ago.  It was a post about the state of our marriage that rather brutally depicted how rough things could be between my husband and I. 

After I had linked to it (which I had done just to give you a glimpse of my wonderful friend Natalie and how she had pulled me through that day), I went back and read the whole thing and found myself so shocked and sad. 

It's not that I didnt know that there was a HARD learning curve for us the first handful of years; I have always told people that despite understanding that marriage was going to be difficult from the moment we started, we still plowed headfirst into almost complete destruction of ourselves, each other, the relationship, and several physical walls. We went through blow ups like the one in that post pretty regularly for years.

What saddened me though, reading from the end of year 8 was how vividly I remember being that pregnant wife on the floor. How scratchy the carpet was under my cheek and how the tears and snot gushed. I remember the feel of, "This is impossible.  I can't do this anymore. There is no way out." 

Oh, my heart breaks for that girl.

morning of 10/1/06. Dont worry about putting on makeup...youre just gonna cry it all off in 4 years.

But what shocks me in reading those words is how far Jesse and I are from that place now. And how we haven't even visited its suburbs in several years. Maybe "shocked" isnt the right description so much as "redeemed" or "freed."

I don't know if it was that day in particular that did it, but it was around that time that we just tossed our frayed little scraps of a marriage into Jesus' hands and said, "Okay, we so don't got this. You're going to have to teach us how this is supposed to go."

And holy crap, it worked!

It's still hard. We still fight. But I couldn't tell you the last time I thought, "I hate his guts and never want to talk to him again," which sounds utterly ridiculous now, but was a place I ended up in often during these meltdowns. It has been years since we had a fight that turned into a promise of mutually assured destruction. Where we were truly, actually enemies.

yeah. rough stuff, ahead, little ones.

There have been a few things that have made the hugest difference for us in the past few years have been:

1. We are on the same team. Always always. We refuse to go to a place where the battle is me versus him (Ephesians 6:12). When we feel it drifting that way, we try to press pause and reconnect. This can be physically with a hug, kiss or handhold, verbally with a straight up affirmation, "hey, I love you, and I am on your team," or spiritually by praying out loud together, "Jesus I'm finding myself wanting to punch Jesse in the eyeball, please change my heart."  All three of these things have pulled our chestnuts out of the fire dozens of times, and kept us from starting an excruciating hours-long journey down a very ugly road.

2. Letting God manage our spouse's growth. Hey, you know what works like 0% of the time? Trying to change who people fundamentally are through the force of your will. It usually just pisses them off, makes you seem negative, nagging, controlling, or critical, and even if you get the outcome/behavior you're looking for in the other person, it has probably cost something to the relationship or their self-worth

Jesse 100% got the ball rolling on this one. When issues came up with how I would do/handle something, he would typically try to show my why my reaction or choice was bad/wrong (not talking about sin behavior here, so much as just unhealthy methods of relating/living. Outright sin needs to be rebuked and addressed). This would usually end with me feeling attacked, him feeling frustrated, and nothing changing--with a good chance for a Chernobyl-esque brawl developing as well. 

So instead, one day he decided to just pray for me. And after a while he heard Jesus saying, "You just love her. Give her a safe place to be vulnerable and to rest, and I will do the work on her heart." (Ezekiel 36:26)   Jesse listened and obeyed, and sheesh did it work. I felt so not-attacked and so incredibly safe with him,that I began to ask  for ways that I could love him better. I was so overflowing with love and security that I had ample heart resources to invest back into Jesse and to really hear what he needed from me, rather than feeling attacked and criticized when those moment came up.

Jesse shared with me this journey he had been on when, months after it started, I had said, "Dude, marriage has been ass-kicking lately. What's up with that?" And when he told me, I was all, "OH MY GOSH THAT IS SO TOTALLY IT! IT FREAKING WORKED!" Like when they secretly switched people's normal coffee for Folgers and then told them afterward. 

And since it worked so well, I started doing it too. Let me tell you, it isnt just a dream come true to receive this kind of love; giving it is just as eye-opening and freeing. Instead of trying to come up with strategies to manage/manipulate/nag/convince Jesse into stomping out something annoying or lame that I think I see in his character, I can just let go. To give it to Jesus and recommit to loving Jesse right where he is now. If it's something that is an actual problem, I get to trust that the Lord will work it out (telling me how/when/if to do my part). I'm pretty controlling by nature, so this one can be difficult for me, but it is extremely liberating. It's like delegating to the creator of the universe (not that the task was ever truly mine anyway). I think I can rest easy knowing Jesus is on the job. Jesse's heart is mine to love; his rough edges and stumblements (new word) aren't my really responsibility or jurisdiction.

Said better: "Not my circus, not my monkeys." 

3. Knowing when there may be more than a heart issue at play. Many of the most frustrating themes in our marriage have been greatly alleviated by treating a biological problem. Thank you, Jesus, for Zoloft.


Eight years feels like a lot to me. But it's not a lifetime, and a lifetime is what we've signed up for. I'm not at all trying to say we've cracked the code or mastered marriage or that the work is now over because we beat the game. I know there are many battles to come and lots more lessons to learn in the rest of our years to come.

Today is about looking back on the eight that are under our belt. The belts are quite larger (and currently made of elastic in my case), but the love has grown exponentially.  I have always been really transparent about the hard times in our marriage, and blogging them has been very therapeutic.  I'm not as good at checking in to talk about the wonderful growth seasons. I have a fear of coming off as one of those people who only use the internet to share the sunny parts of their lives (absolutely okay! just not me).

I hope that the fact that I have never held back about the bad stuff can lend some credence to the fact that I am writing those posts so infrequently now because things have improved drastically.  As ugly and heart-bludgeoning and claw-my-face-off-frustrating as those years and those fights and those lessons were, it is so simple to say IT IS WORTH IT. I would do it all over again to get to where we are now; with a marriage that deserves the position of second place in our lives and hearts right behind Jesus. 

There were lots of hard times when I found myself saying, "Eff this, eff Jesse, eff marriage." Now, the mantra that comes out of me most frequently is "I effing LOVE marriage." When it's operating the way it was designed, it really feels like heaven.


Jesse Dukes- 

You are my lobster. 

You and your big, brilliant brain thought long and hard and responsibly about the decision to ask me to marry you.  Boy did you get that one wrong! Well, maybe not, but it sure looked that way for a while there, didn't it? I wonder if you still would have done it if you had known what those first years would look like. I know you loved me as much as any boyfriend can love a girl before they are married, but still, we really had no flipping clue about love--we were just hot stupid little kids. 

I bet you would have though. Because your big old brain knew I was a little bananas, and that we have extremely incompatible natural styles of relating, and that these things would make it hard. But your heart followed Jesus and trusted that he'd always be enough to pull us through those trapdoors and to take our stupid scraps and knit them and us AND HIM together into something we never even knew enough to hope for. 

You are not my everything. And that's only because, Jesus-wise, I don't think you're supposed to be, and I  do try really hard not to make you into that. But damn, you're pretty close, and would make it just so easy to idolize you. When I try to bring to mind the amount of gratitude that I feel that I get to be your wife, my brain just flashes that calculator error where there arent enough decimal places to display the result. 

Nowhere in the rules does it say I have to like you. Loving you is non-negotiable, but I could fulfill all the vows and still never really like you (no judgement, but, this is kind of what I think Michelle Duggar must do, because Jim Bob is such a gooberhead!).  But you are easily favorite. Your personality and who you are just hit all the stuff on my checklist, baby!

Thank you for letting Jesus lead you in loving me like He does. Thank you for loving me enough to let me be weird, whacked-out, work-in-progress me, and for never withholding any part of your heart from me until I have become pretty enough to deserve it (spoiler alert: I may never get there anyway!). 

Thank you for how you constantly point me and our children back to Jesus. How you model the Father's love for them, and for how you're giving them a safe place to be grown by God, stewarded by us,  into the humans He wants them to be. 

I love you so much, I just want to squeeze you into my pores and fully absorb all the awesome. But hey, today isnt just the anniversary of our wedding day, and there's a highly decent way of absorbing the awesome that Jesus also invented and is all about celebrating. HIYO. (with 4 weeks of postpartum no-no looming, I'm trying to go all out here at the end).

fine. i'll marry you. hold a knife to my throat, geez.