2018 – A Year of Cultivating


{ Pursuing Pearls Blog } 2018 - A Year of Cultivating

For the last several years I’ve chosen a word as my “goal” instead of New Years resolutions. Cultivate proved the perfect tone for 2018. What I was most drawn to about the word was that it didn’t imply perfection, but did require action. I longed for a year of pursuing growth, and while it was anything but perfect, I know I will continue to reap the harvest of what I experienced and learned.

Marriage & Family

All of these things take time, they take work, they take intention. Last year my goal was to cultivate it all; not to passively wish for things to be a certain way or merely hope for change. I believe reflection is a vital part of growth – it keeps us encouraged (seeing where we’ve come from) and builds momentum (pushing us into deeper, bigger things). So, here is just a handful of reflections on 2018:

My Faith // This was and always will be ongoing growth, never the same as the day before. I’m so grateful for God’s endless grace, which covered me with peace and joy during an amazing yet challenging year. Setting aside time to be in the Word, in prayer, and in fellowship was not always easy but always left me filled to the brim. When I abide in him, he is lavishly faithful.

My Marriage & Family // The months passed quickly with a newborn, but things really shifted gears when I left my job to become a stay at home mom. I had originally planned on waiting until 2019 for this change, but after meeting some financial and personal goals earlier than expected, I knew the time was right. I’m thankful to have a husband who is more supportive than I could have imagined. I’ve thought long and hard about my “dream job”, and while I have still have many personal aspirations, the decision to invest my days in Noli truly is a dream come true.

My Relationships // I was very fortunate to surround myself with some amazing friends and mentors this year. Participating in diverse Bible studies, joining my local MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group, and making time for friends without kiddos present are a few ways I was intentional about this. Relationships require investment. Looking back, I’m immensely grateful to the kind souls who invested in my life even when I struggled in reciprocation.

My Home // Our home was so filled this year, exactly the way Stephen and I wanted it. It truly brings us joy opening our doors and letting people in. Loved ones gathered for holidays and celebrations, new and dear friends came for play dates and meals, relationships with neighbors blossomed, and a few others also called our home theirs for several months. I’ve been convicted that home has nothing to do with the size of a house or the trendy decor, but rather what takes place within its walls.

My Dreams // As for my dreams beyond motherhood, I have so many building. I am quite an expert at keeping my dreams in my head, allowing them to steep – possibly for too long – before pursuing or implementing them. However, some dreams have been intentionally placed on the back burner for this busy season of mothering a toddler. And I am perfectly happy with that choice.

As I think about a word to adorn in 2019 (I’m still pondering a few!), I look forward to this day next year, and the reflections I’d like to have. What did I learn? How am I different? Did I use my time wisely?

For now, regardless of what 2018 held for you, I want to wish you a very happy new year! Leave a comment with any words or goals you have for this year upon us – I would love to cheer you on!


Honey for the Soul

{Pursuing Pearls Blog } honey-for-the-soul-legacy sunset

L E G A C Y .

When I think of the legacies that have been passed down to me, I experience a multitude of tastes, smells, sights, sounds, and feelings. My grandparents particularly come to mind with the word. Though I did not know any of them beyond the age of fifteen, I hold legacies from each of them close to my heart. Some pieces of their legacies I cherish from personal memories and others from their memory passed down through the generations of my family.

Many things fill my mind when I think about legacy I desire to cultivate for my darling girl. As I see her personality unfold a little more with each passing day, I ponder what things she will grow to believe about herself and her world. Will her words be salted with grace, knowing that limitless grace is hers to receive and give freely? Will she speak truth in love to others, knowing that truth brings ultimate freedom? Will she overflow with compassion, knowing that she herself is adorned in it? My heart is flooded with conviction, because honestly, I do not always speak of or to myself the way I hope she one day will. I long that she would secure herself in her true identity – Chosen, Beloved, Whole. I continue to strive to do the same, only now, after becoming a mother, I do so with greater boldness.

{Pursuing Pearls Blog } honey-for-the-soul-legacy words

Kind words are like honey—
    sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.
{ Proverbs 16:24 NLT }

Perhaps these words are familiar to you. From a young age, I’d heard them time and time again. I had always understood that the purpose of this verse was to remind us that kind words are good and something we should aim for. Honey is sweet to taste and gives energy to the body. Pretty straightforward, right? It wasn’t until recently that I realized this metaphor in a new depth. You see, not only is honey sweet-tasting and energy-giving, but did you know it never goes bad? It does not spoil or rot with time, as other resources do. Our words, like honey, not only ignite our senses the moment they touch our lips, but their effect never fades. How amazing – and intimidating – is that?

Our legacy is not just about the future, but also the present – something we can cultivate, live in, and reap from here and now.

We are all legacy-builders, and it is up to us the gift that we give. What a better legacy to cultivate than beautiful, life-giving words? What a better way to practice than on ourselves? And what a better time to start than today?

Nothing is more appealing
    than speaking beautiful, life-giving words.
    For they release sweetness to our souls
    and inner healing to our spirits.
{ Proverbs 16:24 TPT }

Noli Ann: A Natural Birth Story {Part 2}

Thursday, November 30th 2017.

….When I awoke at 5:30am, I slipped into bed with Stephen before he had to get up for work. However, at 6:15am I shot up in bed with my first “real” contraction. Let’s get this party started! (In case you missed it, check out Noli Ann: A Natural Birth Story {Part 1})

One of the things I had earnestly prayed over leading up to delivery was my proneness to anxiety. I desired to be as present as I could during each part of labor, and did not want fear to rob me of those precious moments. 2 Timothy 1:7 played on repeat in my heart: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

I planned to labor at home as long as possible, so when it became obvious that things were progressing, I reclined in the bathtub for quite some time. As the contractions increased in intensity and in frequency, that no longer felt comfortable, and I stood in the shower, swaying, with a stream of hot water running down my back. I may or may not have used up all of our hot water, so I moved to the living room, rocking and bouncing gently on my birth ball, and stretching on the floor. I quickly learned to just do what worked as long as it worked, experimenting with many difference positions I had practiced in the previous months. Stephen toasted up an English muffin, but I couldn’t think about eating. I knew food would be important for providing strength, but every time he tried to feed me I would decline (though truly I did not notice the sensation of hunger the entire day).

At around 10:30am, we followed the 3-1-1 rule as my contractions were 3 minutes apart, strong, and lasting over a minute. Stephen called the hospital (which was an hour away!) and the midwife on duty told to us leave immediately. We had kept in touch with Allyson (my sister/doula) all morning, but then had her meet us at our house to caravan to the hospital. As I said, the hospital was an hour away, but when your wife is in labor you throw on your hazard lights and just get there!

When we arrived to triage, we were greeted by an amazing nurse, Julie, who would support me until our sweet babe was in our arms. The examination showed that I was at least 6cm dilated. (Tip: have your spouse or a member of your birth team fill out your paperwork – I could not for the life of me remember my home address!) Before leaving the triage room, Julie encouraged me saying, “I hope you are going unmedicated because you have come so far already!” Those words truly empowered me. We moved to a spacious room where I would remain for the duration of my hospital stay and where Stephen and Allyson had unpacked our bags, hung my affirmation banner, and “lit” our battery operated tea lights. (I also had an oil diffuser with lavender, but we didn’t actually use that until after delivery.) The view from our large window was beautiful and calming, displaying glorious fall foliage. Stephen had loaded a few albums of Hidden In My Heart onto his phone, scripture sung to calm melodies. That room truly was a peace-filled place.

I first labored sitting down on the bench/daybed. It was tolerable, but I knew standing up would be more effective (i.e. more painful). Stephen and Allyson took turns swaying side to side with me through my contractions, which had greatly increased in intensity and frequency once on my feet. The slow, constant movement helped me stay focused in on each moment. This went on for several hours, though I can’t say I had any concept of time passing. My next cervical exam revealed that I was dilated about 9 centimeters, and I had just begun feeling incredible pressure and a slight urge to push. I wanted to wait until I was fully at 10 to begin pushing. I lingered in the bed for a few minutes after the exam, but when I did this the contractions began to slow down. Though it felt good – a nice little “break” – Allyson gently reminded me standing would bring about the progress I ultimately wanted. It took some time (and some courage) to scoot myself to the edge of the bed; before my feet even hit the floor, the intense contractions returned, more powerful and more productive than ever. On my feet again, I needed both Stephen and Allyson to support me now, as my legs were incredibly weak from hours of laboring standing up. They kept pace for my breathing, and made low humming sounds with me to remind me to maintain steady control of my exhales. At this point, contractions were long, and the peak of each brought a painful urge to push. When I felt the urge coming, I would say a simple “help” to let them know I needed extra support (physically and with breathing guidance). During the urge, I pushed a little – almost involuntarily – and my legs became like jello as pain shot down my thighs. With the help of my dream team, I was able to start and end each contraction in complete control of my breath – I cannot begin to tell you the difference this made. (Also, I must give a shout out to months of prenatal yoga, which truly helped me train for this!)

At the next cervical exam, I was finally at 10cm with a steadily increasing urge to push, I had the midwife break my water as a final step! After she broke it, I began to labor in bed (because, jello legs) and began pushing with intention. I started to feel like I was getting the hang of it, but when midwife came a while later, I just hadn’t made the progress we’d hoped to see. During the next contraction she performed another exam that determined our babe was posterior, meaning the largest part of her head was coming first, and hence the lack of any significant progress. At this point I had been pushing for about an hour.

In hopes of turning the baby, I began to push while propped on my side. Stephen, Allyson and Julie were an incredible help, holding my legs in place, encouraging me through every contraction, and literally cheering me on during each push. I honestly remember feeling incredibly calm, even cracking jokes here and there. Once we began to see progress, I let go of any remaining hesitancy I felt toward pushing, and that’s when things finally began to move. Pushing on my side and with baby’s feet pressing against my ribs, it was difficult to take deep enough breaths to make the most of each contraction. I had previously been pushing twice per contraction, but then began three times and things really began moving.

Once babe’s head became visible, I felt so empowered!!! Julie said she would need to call in the midwife soon, but with my next contraction I pushed four times and I heard Allyson exclaim, “I see the baby’s face!!” Followed by Julie, “stop pushing Katelynn!” as she sprinted out of the room. (How does one stop pushing when a baby is already in its exit route?) Thankfully, 40 minutes after beginning to push while lying on my side, baby had indeed turned naturally! The next thing I knew, the midwife was there, accompanied by who knows how many others scurrying about the room – this was it! The following contraction, I pushed with everything I had.


November 30th, at 6:36pm, our lives were forever changes. There was nothing like the moment when our baby was out from head to toe, crying, and Stephen doing a double-take before announcing, “IT’S A GIRL!?!!!!” We were absolutely shocked and immediately began weeping uncontrollable tears of joy. Julie placed her on my belly while we waited for the birth of the placenta (you better believe we got pictures of that amazing life-giving thing). I just kept repeating, “She’s HERE! She’s OURS!”

Now, to be real for a minute, I am a major wimp when it comes to pain – even the mere idea of it. But labor was like nothing else I have ever experienced. This heart of mine that too often wrestles with anxiety and self-doubt was not present in labor and delivery that day. Yet, I realize it had nothing to do with me, and everything to do with Jesus. He crushed all my fears, sweeping away any hint of anxiety and replacing it with his indescribable peace. Focusing on God’s promises kept me in the present moment; I honestly cannot remember a time I got ahead of myself. I never worried “I can’t do this”, because I knew He could.  

Every birth is unique and holds its own set of challenges – physically, mentally, emotionally, even spiritually. I am so thankful to have had the support of the most incredible labor & delivery and postpartum nurses. Along with the encouragement from Stephen and Allyson, they truly made Noli’s birth the experience I dreamed it would be.

Naming our darling girl:

While Cannoli was simply a nickname we used during pregnancy, we learned that Noli comes from Greek roots meaning “New City”. We are praying over her new life, that it be continually built up – brick by brick – as a strong fortress, protecting the name of Jesus and promoting God’s love. As for Ann, it is my middle name, as well as my mother’s. We believe in the power of legacy, remembering that our lives are so deeply connected through the blood of Jesus.

Noli Ann DiCarlo
November 30th 2017
8lbs 6oz / 21.5in


3rd Trimester Reflections

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T h i n k i n g 

  • { Meeting Baby } I have long wrapped my mind around being pregnant. I believe I’ve also wrapped my mind around the idea of a baby residing within me. But I cannot even begin to imagine meeting this sweet, sweet soul! That is one of the reasons I am glad we did not learn the baby’s gender during pregnancy – there are so many mysteries wrapped around this precious life! We are absolutely thrilled to watch and help him/her grow into the person they were created to be in the days and years to come!

F e e l i n g

  • { Thankful } As the day of our Dear One’s arrival approaches (yet another mystery), I am thankful for time spent with Stephen, family, friends, and just the extra hours to get things done. The wait can be hard, and the anticipation great, but this journey has been filled to the brim with blessings that are providing me with a glimpse of motherhood.
  • { Motivated } While some days are better than others, I still have quite a bit of drive. I planned to work as long as I could, and made it working past my due date! But my maternity leave officially begins this week (week 41) and I am glad for the flexibility this will bring as the frequency of my appointments increases. (Also, I would love to get our Christmas tree up and prepare for Advent – things I have given myself to look forward to as we continue to wait for our little Cannoli.)

C h a n g i n g

  • { New Limitations } I began to notice some very sudden changes and limitations around week 36, part of which I’m sure can be attributed to really slacking on physical activity. Braxton Hicks made exercise a bit of a pain (literally) and I noticed even with yoga, what I can do one day I cannot necessarily do the next. I’ve been trying to spend more time on my exercise ball, alleviating some sciatic nerve pain that surfaced in the ninth month.
  • { Major Growth Spurt } While my own weight seems to have plateaued, starting week 38, my belly began feeling very tight and itchy from all the stretching of a growing babe. Any attempts to scratch it are left unsatisfied, as it is numb and I cannot feel anything – it is quite a bizarre sensation! I’ve had to tell myself on a somewhat daily basis that my belly is not actually going to burst, as it feels it may (just take a look at the following picture – that is a BIG belly!).

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P l a n n i n g

  • { Ready (or Not) } We have completed our various childbirth classes, including a general hospital class, a natural childbirth class, and a postpartum recovery/infant care class. Our hospital bags have been meticulously planned for and packed. Small gifts for our labor and delivery staff have been assembled. The baby’s room is organized (though not totally decorated – I figure baby will forgive me for this). Freezer meals have been prepared. The house has been cleaned from top to bottom (perhaps the last time for while). Thank you notes are written and in the mail. Now, we wait…
  • { Birth Team } I am incredibly thankful that joining Stephen and I, my sister, Allyson, will be also attending the birth. She has had six natural births, and is simply amazing. We’ve met together to talk about our hopes and plans, all scenarios considered. I know I could not ask for better support – mental, emotional, physical, spiritual – than from these two! They really are my dream team.

P r a y i n g

  • { Birth Without Fear } When you announce you are pregnant, it is as if overnight you become a walking billboard inviting others to share their birth horror stories. While I know most of these retellings come from the best of intentions – to remind the mama-to-be that all will be well regardless of how many things go “wrong” – they are often anything but helpful. As I write these words at 41 weeks, I remain grateful that anxiety has not seeped into my mind and heart as it so easily could (and so often does). Some of this may be attributed to a form of denial about all that is to come, but I truly believe this has been God’s way of protecting me from fear. For the spirit He gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7).

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The next time I post, our sweet little Cannoli will be here!!

When One Month Remains

one month remians - pursuing pearls blog

Yesterday was a big milestone for our little Trio – we are just 4 short weeks from our due date. Knowing that our sweet Cannoli will be here in the next month or so is indescribable!

Honestly, I have absolutely loved pregnancy – the growing, the changing, the learning, even some of the not-so-pleasant parts have brought me joy as Stephen so faithfully reminds me, “this change just means progress – and that’s what we want!” What a treasure, that man.

But yesterday. Yesterday was HARD. Actually, probably one of the most difficult days in pregnancy so far. Between lack of sleep, shortness of breath even just in conversation, my hips and back cracking every time I stood from my desk, and constant Braxton Hicks, my emotional stability felt as if it was hanging by a lone thread. I was a bit of a wreck.

While I physically feel better today, I realize there is no guarantee of ease in the days ahead. Yet, my heart feels restored as I ponder how each of yesterday’s complaints truly have blessings tucked within:

{ Lack of Sleep }

Cannoli is moving all the time, even at night when I am attempting to snag a few consecutive hours of coveted sleep. As disruptive and uncomfortable as this can be, I am going to miss our time together in this special way. My heart could burst when I imagine holding our baby in my arms, locking eyes for the first time, and falling in love in yet a whole new way! But this time as our Dear One’s physical home? We will never share this again, which leads me to firmly grasp every last second that remains…even at 3:00am when the party in my belly is still going strong.

{ Shortness of Breath }

Two tiny feet and knobby knees are exploring the space below (and in) my ribs, space that is steadily decreasing as baby packs on those wonderful rolls of chub. Cannoli has been head-down for several weeks now, which is right where we want him/her to be! As my organs continue to shift, causing a variety of uneasiness, I am comforted knowing our baby’s organs are mostly developed now. It is just a matter of growing bigger and stronger, and readying to face this new world! It is so exciting!

{ Creaking Hips and Back }

Thanks to the release of the hormone relaxin, my ligaments are loosening as my body prepares for baby’s entrance into the world. I am sure I will be especially thankful for this once labor comes!

{ Braxton Hicks }

These “practice contractions” really are a blessing, because I need all the practice I can get! But in all seriousness, they have been directing my mind toward labor. What an incredible, unknown, and beautiful experience that stands before us. We have practiced breathing through and timing contractions, in addition to pain management and mindfulness as the anticipation builds. I know I could never imagine what labor will be like, but am confident knowing that my body was made for this, and that even in the darkest of moments I will never be alone.

{ Wavering Emotions }

Learning to take captive every thought is such a challenging discipline, yet one I will lean on all of my life. I have been turning to Philippians 4:8 for guidance whenever I need to be redirected:

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.”

It is easy to become overwhelmed with worry, comparison, discontentment, or fear when I am placing my focus on things other than those above. When I feel my emotions beginning to get away from me, I remember to practice taking captive those runaway thoughts.

Regardless of what the next few weeks may hold, I am determining to remain thankful for it all with the knowledge that each hurdle is just a thread in the tapestry. These days are so precious, and they are numbered.


2nd Trimester Reflections

second trimester reflections - pursuing pearls blog

T h i n k i n g

  • { Time is Flying } I can’t believe how fast pregnancy is progressing! Only about three months remain – though, I’m sure the days will feel longer as the Big Day approaches.  I am determining to not dwell on our due date or any sort of countdown, knowing that baby will come at just the right time. I keep telling myself, our Dear One will be here for Christmas! What a beautiful time to be making an entrance into this world.

F e e l i n g 

  • { Hungry Again } My interest in food returned, which makes me oh-so-happy! I have not had many particular cravings or aversions, and my appetite feels rather normal at this point…which may in fact be dangerous because the “normal” me can throw back a pint of ice cream…
  • { Tired!! } Naps are my favorite pastime, as sleeping at night has been fairly challenging and unfulfilling the last several weeks. I have learned to use peak times of energy and motivation to the absolutely fullest, and to have guiltless-rest when needed. Listening to my changing body is an ongoing lesson in humility and grace.

C h a n g i n g

  • { Growing Pains } It is surreal that the little person inside of me is already over a foot long and two pounds! I am beginning to feel the aches and pains from the recent acceleration in growth, which makes me all the more thankful to have had my prenatal yoga classes throughout this whole trimester! It has been helping me cope with symptoms, learn useful breathing and relaxation techniques, and meet other lovely expectant mamas! Such a blessing, and I highly recommend it. I supplement yoga with long morning walks (before it is too hot!) and short pregnancy workouts on YouTube, wanting to remain strong every step of this journey.
  • { On the Move } Our little Cannoli is busy each morning and night with lots of wonderful kicks, jumps, spins, twirls, and front handsprings (or so it seems!), as well little thumps that seem to say “I’m still in here!” all throughout the day. I cherish our family time in bed each night, as baby is active as ever, and Stephen reads our favorite stories.

P l a n n i n g

  • { Boy or Girl? } We opted out of learning the baby’s gender, something I wasn’t sure I could do but now am so glad we did! This hasn’t affected our planning, and if anything, has saved me money by not buying an exuberant amount of baby clothing. (; So far, the guesses rolling in consist of dozens for boy, and only one guess for girl. I do enjoy hearing everyone’s predictions!
  • { Nursery } The last few months I have worked on my vision for the nursery, though there is not much to show for it yet. I have a rocking chair that will eventually have cushions and that is almost it! But I’m trying not to stress about it because let’s be honest – how much “stuff” does an infant need anyway? (Not much.) Is little Cannoli really going to care how their room looks? (No.)
  • { Appointments } Just one more 4-week routine visit before we start seeing the midwives every other week. This milestone is making things more real than ever. I have had such a positive experience with the medical staff so far, and leave each appointment feeling more reassured that I am at the right place for us!

P r a y i n g

  • { Smooth Transitions } Right now my prayer is for a smooth transition back to school and wedding season. Our fall is booked with photography and events, with only one free weekend before baby is here. ONE. Honestly, that does intimidate me some. Asking for wisdom to know when I need to rest and for opportunities to do so. Also thanking God for my ever-supportive husband who often meets my needs before I even realize I have them – he is living out fatherhood and husbandhood so wonderfully.