Friday, September 8, 2017

Elliot's birthday

Chris dropped me off at the hospital admissions main entrance as he sped up to the parking garage to park. We were late to our designated arrival time at labor and delivery. We had to drive an hour to get to the hospital that morning and we had gotten stuck behind a car driving 15 mph below the speed limit. Our nerves were fried and I practically jumped out of the car when we finally got there.

I knew exactly where to go...I've walked those halls before, and nothing had changed in ten years. 

I've never had a planned c-section day before. I've never had our plans for my baby's birthday actually work out. Both Hannah Mae and Cooper were born weeks before my doctors had planned and I was rushed down the labor and delivery hallways into operating rooms for emergency c-sections with both of them. 

This time I went to bed the night before my baby's birth knowing that the next day I would be holding her in my arms. I nervously checked in with admissions and changed into the breezy hospital gown with excitement and anxiety at an extreme high. This time I was walked calmly down the hallway and into the operating room, stopping to say a quick 'I love you' to my scrub-wearing husband who was waiting outside the OR. This time I sat at the edge of the operating table with the nurses and techs while my doctor snuck up behind me and playfully tapped my back to say hi. 

There was no emergency that day. There were no concerned faces and no rush to get my baby to safety. 

Elliot Elizabeth was born crying in that cold OR. It was so very beautiful. Born at 6lbs 5oz- a whole pound bigger than Cooper, and two pounds bigger than Hannah Mae. She is the sweetest, most clingy baby we've had and we all adore her.

There are some that would roll their eyes at me calling a birth by c-section beautiful and serene. It is major surgery, yes. It is scary, yes. But Ellie Beth's birth was the most beautiful and peaceful and serene birth I've experienced. She was healthy and thriving inside my womb, and she was healthy and thriving as she was born. And as I type this, she is healthy and thriving in my arms. 
That is the goal of pregnancy and childbirth. 

I was so very bitter and angry after Owen died. I hated that my body could not carry a baby without a lot of medical intervention. I actually hated my body itself. I hated the twice daily shots I had to give myself and the hours and hours and hours of extra monitoring and doctors appointment. After Hannah was born, so tiny and growth restricted, I told Chris I was done. I did not ever want to be pregnant again. I just couldn't go through that torture again, the self loathing that pregnancy induced, and endless fears that my body would hurt another baby. 

But then came Cooper. And Elliot. 

I've had to let go of the idea of 'normal' pregnancy and being a 'normal' pregnant woman. And with the letting go came a precious peace. I grew into a thankfulness for the injections that burned and bruised, for the hours I spent quietly resting while hooked up to monitors, listening to my babies heartbeats. 

I have never had a normal pregnancy. And that's ok. I gave birth to four beautiful babies and I get to raise four beautiful babies. One I did not carry or give birth to calls me mommy, and one I did carry and give birth to has never called me mommy. But I am their mom just the same.

Ten years ago I left the hospital without my baby and with a broken heart. The nurse that discharged me walked us down the back stairwell and out the side door, away from the nursery glass window, away from the rooms filled with crying newborns.

Three weeks ago I entered that same hospital to deliver my baby girl under such extremely different circumstances. I never thought I'd step foot in that labor and delivery hospital wing again. I never thought I'd have happy memories from that place.

I'm not the mom I thought I'd be when I was pregnant for the first time ten years ago. I could never have imagined in my worst nightmares or in my best dreams what our life would be like. Our life changed forever in that hospital room with the death and birth of our first baby.

Our life is so much better because of that precious baby boy. He is more than a sad story... so much more than a tragedy. Telling and re-telling his story- the story of our God's faithfulness, the story of how grace broke into our lives is an ebenezer so big no shadow of difficult circumstances can cover its light.

Three weeks ago we left that same hospital, hugging and waving happily to the nurses who cared for us, Chris walking behind my wheelchair carrying our newborn daughter in her car seat.

Our Father God is the same ten years ago, today and tomorrow. The God who walked with us down that sad, dark back stairwell is the same God who led us out the front door rejoicing. He is the same. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017


I'm currently sitting on the couch with my feet propped up, trying to relax...but I'm 36 weeks 3 days pregnant, and I'm entering into unchartered territory.
I've never been this pregnant before.

Honestly, I don't know what to do with myself. I keep making lists and organizing, and folding little baby girl clothes, and remaking lists and crossing things off, and generally pacing and driving myself crazy.

Wednesday afternoon is my scheduled c-section. I'll be just hours shy of 37 weeks pregnant. Our precious Elliot is still doing well, growing like she should be growing, and rolling around and about. The last two ultrasounds I've had have shown that she's almost in the 50th percentile and has a head full of hair. This is by far the most normal and boring pregnancy I've ever had.
Honestly, again, I don't know what to do with myself.

I feel like all my edges are electric and raw. I feel overwhelmed and overstimulated. My mind is not a safe place and I can't trust my thoughts right now. I know that sounds awful and unhealthy, but this is what it's like to have PTSD from a late term pregnancy loss, and have to re-enter into all the triggers of the last few days before delivery.

Ellie was such a surprise, and the last seven and a half months have been steeped in so much uncertainty and anxiety, but she is our bright shining light by which the Lord has shown us such tenderness and goodness. She is a treasure and we're so thankful for her.

Pregnancy is a time when what I say and believe about needing to be truly dependent on grace gets tested. My nerves are fried and I feel so fragile. I know I am weak and incapable on my own. I could get caught up in pride and ego so easily and not want to admit that this shit is hard. It is one of the hardest things I've ever done. There is not a day that goes by that I don't struggle with anxiety and fear so palpably that I could actually wrap my arms around it. But still, I could hide it. Most of my anxiety and panic attacks are internal.

But I believe it is when we are weak that we get the biggest glimpses of who the Lord is and who we really are in Him. And so I boast in my weaknesses. I boast in my inability because it draws me nearer and nearer to Him, our saving grace. And I want others to see Him in this way. It is such a gift.

He is a capable and strong Savior who longs for us to come to Him. He is a gentle and merciful Father who loves us with an unending love. He is a kind and powerful Lord who holds us all in His mighty hands.

As I sit here waiting impatiently for Ellie Beth's birth, I can't help but think of all the worst case scenarios and fear something happening to her.
The only thing that stills my anxious heart is remembering who He is and who He's always been...
my good, good Father.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

On we go

yea though we walk
through fear and uncertainty,

hope goes before us
in blinding light, 
we cannot see the way.

yea though we walk
feet stumbling in darkness,

we lift up our eyes.

eyes lifted up
hearts longing for hope,
on we go, on we go.

hope goes before us
in gentleness and mercy,
we cannot see the way.

yea though we walk
though trouble would dismay,

we lift up our eyes.

eyes lifted up
to fix our hearts above
on hope, on love;
on we go, on we go.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Fear not, keep on

I never imagined that we'd find ourselves in this particular set of circumstances.

Life is full of surprises.

On January 3rd we drove all our worldly belongings packed tightly in a huge U-haul, having found ourselves without a job and without the prospect of a new job on the horizon. We moved from the home we built and loved for the past three years down to home in Georgia. And into the basement of generous family.

January 7th I dug an old pregnancy test out of a still packed bag. When those two dark lines appeared, my hands shook and I choked back tears as I held it up for Chris to see as he sat perched by the tub washing our two youngest, one screaming, one splashing. I will never forget his response. "Seriously?!?!" he said as his eyes lit up and then the sound of the deep belly laugh that came right after.

Our Father, who art in Heaven... what a sense of humor and drama He has.

I spent almost three months in shock. My emotions ranged from disbelief, to fear, to anger, to the smallest bits of hope and excitement.

Life is not always what you think it will be. And sometimes the surprises that come will feel more like dark thunder clouds quickly appearing on a blue sky day.

My hardworking husband got a job washing windows, leaving early before the kids are up in the morning and coming home just an hour or so before bedtime. When he isn't washing windows, he spends his time on networking phone calls and at conferences making connections.

Our first ministry call had been beautifully and wonderfully challenging, calling us to go deeper in the Word, deeper into our identity as beloved. It ended with the realization that the Lord was calling us somewhere new, though the road was unknown to us at the time. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done... to leave a place and a people, precious friends, that I had grown to love so much.

"My feet are light... my eyes are clear... I cannot see the way from here..."

We left winter behind in Indiana and found ourselves in the middle of what felt like springtime in Georgia. The kids have been outside in the warm sun for months, running around in short sleeves, riding bikes, playing in the rich red Georgia clay and throwing rocks in the lake behind my parents house.

The days have been long, slow adjustments of new routines. I spend a lot of time out in the backyard, listening to the sweet birdsongs of cardinals and blue jays and watching nature come to life as spring springs all around us. The lake shines bright blue as it slowly swishes up onto the red rocky clay of the shoreline.

This unexpected and beloved baby is a girl. A precious baby sister that her big sisters could not be
more excited to hold and love.

"But on we go... He knows the way, and in his arms he keeps me safe"

I honestly have no idea where we'll be this summer when Elliot is born.

When I cannot remember myself what I know to be true, I have so many precious friends who remind me of the truth. The Lord is guiding us and we can trust Him. He was not surprised by our circumstances when we found out that our church could not financially support us in the new year. And when job prospect after job prospect did not pan out. When it was clear that we were going to need to move in with family while we worked to figure out our next steps. He was not in the least bit surprised or concerned that I found myself pregnant four days after moving into my parents basement.

"Fear not, keep on, watch and pray..."

I have been overwhelmed with one consistently recurring truth in the past five months...

Our capability is not, in fact, a fruit of the Spirit. We do not have to rely on our understanding or ability or works in order to gain rest and security in the Gospel. That is not the Gospel of good news at all.

The Gospel is simply and beautifully recognizing our deep need of a Savior. It is forsaking all trust in our ability to redeem ourselves and leaning all of our weight onto Jesus as He lived and died to make us sons and daughters of God Almighty. It is crawling up into our Father's lap and receiving the acceptance and security of a Holy Father. It is not the quantity of our faith but the quality of the object of our faith. In what... in whom are we putting our trust?

 We will not receive more of Jesus once we hit a standard of understanding and knowledge. We've already been given all the grace of Jesus. Capability nor perfectionism is a fruit of the spirit.... but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control... and against such things there is no law.

Over the past year, I had been struggling with and had slowly fallen into the belief that I could rely on my own understanding of the Gospel and that if I relied on my knowledge of grace and my understanding of Jesus that I could stand in front of our holy God.

But it is just Jesus that saves.... just faith alone in what Jesus has done on my behalf.
That is such a relief.
Such a freeing, burdenless relief.

All our understanding of grace is meant to draw us nearer and nearer to Jesus, the Messiah, comforted that it is finished on our behalf so we can truly rest in our acceptance, and grow in love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control by the Spirit living inside of us.

We can turn to see the beauty all around us and in others because nothing is up to us nor in what we can do.... or what we are capable of doing for God in this world.  We are meant to point to Jesus in  all things... What endless beauty and joy and hope to be found in him.

What freedom there is when you see that perfectionism and success and capacity are not actually what our Father wants for us... oh, what a weightless freedom to know that we can and should boast in our weaknesses and in Jesus' saving grace.

I think we'll always be thankful for this difficult season of our lives. It has been full of grief and fear, but puncutated with so much hope and the peace of seeing that we are safe with our Father, who knows what He's doing and where He's leading us.

I never imagined that we'd find ourselves in this particular set of circumstances.

Life is full of hope and joy and endless beauty when we fix our eyes on Jesus.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Rememberings of an unashamed people watcher

I've sat at my window and watched car after car roll through stop signs as people walked/jogged/biked on the concrete trail that crossed town. I've seen parents with babies in strollers, toddlers trailing behind crying and stomping their feet, trying to enjoy a sunny weekend afternoon. I've watched professional bike racers and kids on training wheels share the path with ease and probably some frustration mixed in.

We witnessed the craze and excitement of Pokémon Go as fifty people, old and young, crowded the street corner where three Poké stops were located.

Late one night I sat up and prayed for the homeless woman who set up her pallet across from our apartment. She yelled out several times a minute until, I suspect, she decided to forgo sleep and got up to walk downtown, leaving her pallet behind.

Every Saturday morning our family woke up to the sights and sounds of the farmers market coming to life. Wildflowers gathered up and tied with string, fresh eggs and vegetables spilling out from every canvas bag carrying man, woman and child. And every first Friday night, the shops turned into art galleries and people gathered to hear pop up concerts on the street corners.

One night just before last Christmas, Chris and I watched as the police arrested a man for pulling down the colorful Christmas lights from a downtown business storefront. Those colorful lights stayed discarded on the pavement for days.

We watched and wondered many a late weekend night where the formal clad college students being picked up by charter bus were headed.

We've watched lively parades and (road)bikers with protest signs and loud jazz bands stroll the b-line at dusk. I spyed a young couple get engaged right on our street corner as the sun set behind them and a photographer snuck priceless photos.

Each weekend brought with it a line for the steakhouse across the street, and the amazing smell of steak-filled smoke as it wafted up to our window. And every November we watched in fascination as parade goers gathered excitedly on Krampus night and strange creatures roamed at dark around us.

We sorrowfully watched as the beautiful handmade mural of Bloomington and its sister city was
ripped and torn as it came down when the building it was attached to was demolished.

Mid-September came with my favorite weekend. The annual music festival brought the loud deep
thudding of drums and international music that filled our walls. We opened our terrace doors wide and let the cool autumn air in, mixing with the sounds of beautiful music and people laughing from the streets below.

I've sat and marveled at hundreds and hundreds of sunsets. And thousands and thousands of snowflakes as they floated down to cover pavement and rooftops below. The historic Bloomington Antique sign painted across the large brick building and the smoke stack that loomed on the edge of downtown ever our home's backdrop.

We witnessed life and joy and heartache from that big beautiful window of our third floor apartment.

We lived life and joy and heartache inside that 900 sq ft two bedroom apartment. I will always miss
and be thankful for that home and what the Lord gave us there...

the sweet friends that filled it, the prayers and tears and joy we shared inside those walls...I will never forget the late night laughter and conversations with all the people we loved and that loved us so well. All the meals shared and game nights that lasted late... the playdates with little kid friends and cups of tea with their mamas. The relaxing craft nights with friends (and too much chips and dip) and community groups that became like family. My youngest baby girl turned into a big girl who talks and acts like an independent teenager, my oldest became a reader and my baby boy... we brought him home from the hospital to that tiny apartment and watched him take his first steps and say his first words inside those walls. Chris and I celebrated our 12th anniversary just before moving... and that apartment was our home together and I had never felt closer to my sweet husband.

Bloomington... you gave us so many unexpected blessings and we will always love you.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Let them lead me

Things feel very challenging right now. In the midst of boxes stacked high in our small apartment, and heartbreaking goodbyes and sad lasts in our last days here, I am craving normalcy and praying for peace.

I have always sucked at transitions.

I held Cooper for about an hour last night as he fought against heavy eyelids and sleep. He snuggled close and pulled my arm tighter against his body, looking up at my face and whispering "hi mama" as he touched my chin with his sticky little fingers that smelled of sweet peanut butter.

I closed my eyes, pretending to be asleep in hopes that it would encourage him to close his eyes too. He chattered and giggled to himself, saying "bat bad guy" over and over again laughing quietly. When I peaked at him a few times, he was staring at his hands raised up toward the ceiling, waving them around and turning them over, finally bringing them down to cover his nose and mouth and giggling some more. Then he turned his head and touched my chin again... "My mom.... My mom..... My mom" he whispered firmly over and over again as if he scolding someone invisible.

As he laid there as close as he could get to my side, I realized that in the midst of the chaos of boxes and cleaning and questions and uncertainty and sorrow... there is peace and rest here too. There is so much comfort just being still in the presence of my good, good Father. His hand sustains us all.

"why are you cast down low, o my soul?
why are you cast down low and in turmoil?
hope in God, for I shall again praise him,
hope in God, for He is my salvation...

send out your light and your truth
let them lead me"
-Sandra McCracken

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Watch and pray

Though Chris finished all of his ordination exams and was ordained about a year ago, I still struggle to call myself a pastor's wife.

It has been a good, hard year.

Last fall in the months leading up to his ordination, I felt so much fear and worry over this life of ministry. I was very preoccupied with whether I had both the capacity and competency to do full time ministry. Honestly, I actually had a panic attack that Sunday during church in the hours before Chris took his vows.

In all the anxiety surrounding the ordination service, I had forgotten where to go... where to look. My head had been bent so low that all I could see were the things I wasn't good at and where my feet might stumble.

Lift up your head, oh my soul.

Lift up your eyes,
I lift them up to You.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord.

This Lord? The one who was in the beginning, the one who made the Heavens and the Earth is the
same one who sits in the dark places with me, the one I trust with my deepest wounds, and I have learned that I can trust him with this too.

Though fear and worry still struggle against the truth, He has taught me to sit with Him, the Lord of all things... He has shown me that I have security in His love, that it is right and good to strip away the layers I tacked on thinking I needed my own carefully placed metal armor. He has shown me tenderness and mercy in ways I never knew I needed. He has taken my roots deep into solid ground, to the place where hope abides and heals.

I am His child. I am made in His image and I am beloved, just as I am. My worth and value are never in question with Him.

He has set the sun and the moon, and He has set me as well.

These are the truest things about me, whether or not I am a pastor's wife. They are yours too.

I do not want to keep my head bent so low... there is so much beauty and hope and life to see when we lift up our eyes.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Come and be loved

Have you ever thought that we view others as mirrors? 

I can't remember exactly where I heard this (and I know I'm paraphrasing and plagiarizing this) but it has been rolling around in my head for months. 

What if we stopped viewing ourselves in relation to what someone else looks like? What if we stopped measuring ourselves against the person in front of us, and stopped imagining how our images lined up with theirs, as if theirs was the standard.... or worse, as if our image was the standard... 

What if when we looked at the person staring back at us, we just appreciated them for the unique and wonderfully made human being they are? 

I don't want to be a mirror that calls others to look and compare themselves or judge themselves against my standard. I have no standard. I have no standard because I did not receive a standard to achieve when I ran to my Father and climbed up into his lap. 

I received so much gentleness, so much kindness and grace when I deserved none of it. My hard heart... my bitter, angry, unrepentant heart did not in turn recieve bitterness and hardness. I received a gentle hand... 

an invitation to sit and cry, to be comforted and accepted and loved.

We are called not to fit a standard... but in our uniqueness together... as broken and imperfect as we may be, we are called to reflect the gentleness, the kindness, the acceptance and the comfort of a Father who longs for us to draw near to Him. 

This is His church. We are His people.

And the closer we draw near to Him... the further we shrink back from the things that tempt us away from our Father... we are transformed by his infinite love for us. How could we not? It is irresistible. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016


There is a lie that masks itself as truth, putting on church clothes and behaving nicely in the row in front of us. It sounds like wisdom, this lie, penetrating deep into our hearts.  

It was a battle, a feat to get out the door to church that morning. Everything in you screamed to stay home, to stay where it was safe under the covers, but you went anyway. Late, of course, you snuck in the back hoping no one notices the mess you know you are. 
Your heart is longing for the acceptance, for the peace that comes with security. 

You are not as good as you should be, a quiet whisper brushes past you. 

Our clothes may be neat, our homes may be tidy, but our minds hold a mess of doubts and questions. Am I accepted? Am I safe? Is there something I still have to do, what can I do?? 

You are not as good as you should be reverberates inside your head until it makes its way to your heart, taking hold of you. 

But we must not believe it. We must fight against it... This lie. 

But fighting does not look like working. There is no good work you can do to gain the security and acceptance we long to have. There is no work you must do before you can rest. That is not our fight to win. 

Fighting looks a whole lot like resting. 

Because it is. 
Fighting... faith... It is a resting. 

We rest in the unchanging, never stopping, always and forever love. We rest, lavishly soaking up the security and love of our Father. 

And in our resting, we gather up our friends to come with us. 
Come and rest, we confidently say. You are more loved than you ever dared to dream. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Hope, 7 years later

It started the day we found out Owen had died. It came from friends, a few family members and my doctor. 

It will be better in time. You'll have more babies. It gets easier. You're still young, you can have more. Time heals all wounds. 

What those words offered me was hopeless. Time does not heal. Grief's burden does not get easier to carry. Having a child that lives will in no way replace Owen or take my grief away. Maybe I will never deliver a living child and being young certainly does not guarantee a body that is able to carry a child to term.

I found no hope in their words, all except one.

Jesus loves you. He loves you... my pastor boldly proclaimed to me at Owen's funeral.

16 months later by God's grace, I am able to say, boldly and without shame... 
Yes. Yes, He does. And in these three beautiful words we have great hope.

I cannot hope in time, for in time more suffering may come. I cannot place my hope in having living children. I cannot hope for a reprieve from suffering on this earth, because I will always be disappointed. If I place my hope in something that is passing, something easily shaken, then when it fails- where will I turn?

But if we place our hope in the Lord, we will never be disappointed because He is unchanging.

And we will have great hope.
Hope that we will never be abandoned. Hope that when everything else is gone, He will never forsake us. Hope that when I leave this earthly home, I have a Heavenly home waiting for me.

Hope that one day, all things will be made right. 

It has been 7 years since I wrote these painful, beautiful words. At this point in my life, I had no idea if I would ever know what it was like to hold my living children, to raise them and watch them grow up. I had no idea I would be given three babies to hold in my arms. I had no idea. 

But I knew hope. I knew hope, because I knew Jesus. I clung to him like he was a lifeline amidst waves that threatened to drown me. 

Do you want to know the truth? 

I have days that feel scary, and hopelessness presses in. Waves push against me, threatening to overwhelm me. I still struggle with questions of why, Lord? and prayers that sound more like bargaining... please Lord, no, please help...

But even in struggling.... my hope is still unchanging, unshakeable. My hope is Jesus, who is secure. 

In a world full of insecurity and brokenness, in a body that struggles and fights within itself, I cling to my Jesus, to be nearer and nearer to Him, to know Him better. 
He is still my hope. And oh, how beautiful, how precious it is.