Friday, December 31, 2010

First Christmas among other firsts

Hannah's first Christmas was, in a lot of ways, perfect. She had a white Christmas in the great southern state of Georgia. We snuggled on Christmas morning, watching the joy and wonderment on her face as she tore the wrapping paper and banged on her presents. We had a great time visiting with family, through regrettably we did not get to see all of my family. It was fun seeing the looks on their faces as they remarked on how big Hannah has gotten in four months. She certainly has grown up.

Hannah decided that during her first Christmas she would try out all kinds of new skills. It's amazing to see her grow up right before our eyes. She has been trying to crawl for weeks now, but the first time she was able to get going really well was at my parent's house. And she loved the attention it brought her!
The day before Christmas Eve, as I sat Hannah up after nursing she looked right at Chris and squealed 'Dada'! We all stared at each other in disbelief and hugged, laughing at our big girl's first word. Since then, she's been rolling dadada around in her mouth, trying out her new found sounds. It's so funny.

We've been signing to Hannah for months now, trying to help her communicate with us to ease a little bit of the frustration she (and I) might feel. The day we left Georgia to come home to St. Louis, after I had just put Hannah in her car seat in order to get on the road (again), she looked at me and made the sign for milk. I completely interrupted my brother-in-law and yelled at Chris, 'She signed milk. She signed milk!' I was so excited. Chris didn't really believe me, but he couldn't deny her new trick when she signed milk again that night. She's been signing milk like crazy since then. I'm pretty sure she's got the idea that signing for milk means signing for mommy. Which is true, I guess. She gets cuddles from mommy and a full tummy when she does her new trick.

Along the lines of 'I'm not really complaining, but I kind of am', Hannah has gotten in her first teeth. They are super cute little things! Her first tooth came in on the bottom, and then another right next to it. Now, her top two teeth are coming in at the same time. She's also been struggling to cut her bottom incisor, which I know hurts a lot. Honestly, I feel like an idiot for not putting two and two together, but teething is terrible! I feel horrible for her, because I know her mouth hurts and she has no idea what to do with all that pain, but man.... oh man, sleep is a thing of the past. There were a few nights where she woke up screaming every 30-45 minutes. I wish I was exaggerating. The combination of traveling and being in new places at night, seeing new people during the day plus teething has reeked havoc on all our sleep. The night before Christmas (no pun intended) was one of the worst nights of sleep. I propped myself up in bed, cradling Hannah crying in my arms and have never felt so helpless in my life. "Merry Christmas, my darling", I whispered to her when she had finally calmed down and fell asleep.

And it was a very merry Christmas.

My favorite Athens drink (Jittery Joe's vanilla chai), and chips and salsa.
Chai and salsa, if you will. 

Christmas in our jammies.

Christmas morning, oh the excitement!

Dada and Hannah Mae.

She did a pretty good job unwrapping her presents. 

How did this get in here? 
My first try at my grandmama's homemade biscuits. Delicious.

This was my plate on Christmas. And I did eat it all. I made a happy plate and a very happy tummy.

8 months old!

A beautiful red bird came and visited us this Christmas. Red birds always fill my heart with peace and comfort, reminding me of Owen (there's a big back story to this). Every time I see one, I know that God is with me.

Our Christmas snow in Georgia. 

I hope everyone's Christmas was full of the peace of God and the light of His love.
Happy New Year everyone!! 2011 here we come!

Oh, and I just had to add this- Today, Hannah Mae has been in our arms for 35 weeks 3 days- that is, to the day, how long I carried her in my womb. The eight months she's been in our arms has flown by way faster than the excruciatingly long 35 weeks and 3 days I carried her. We're so so thankful for every day with her. 

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

Hannah's sweet smiles lit up our little apartment more than the lights of our sparkling Christmas tree. She loved sitting under its bright lights, cooing and squealing in delight. Her first attempts at crawling were toward this beacon of light. 

This December has been the first in three years that did not begin and end with wonderings of 'will we ever have a living child to watch on their first Christmas?' 
December 2007 was marked by intense grief over Owen's death. He had been gone just shy of two months and the raw, excruciating pain was as constant as breathing. Thoughts of what would it be like to hold him on Christmas morning, how big would he be, and will I ever feel happy again plagued every thought I had.  December 2008 brought with it more pain. I was recovering from my third loss during pregnancy and though I was in no mood to celebrate, I went through the motions of the holiday. The deep, healing gift of grace was slowly beginning to soften my cold, hardened heart. 
December 2009 was full of hope and fear. A little girl named Hannah Mae was beginning to make herself known in our lives. I dared to hope and dream of life with a living child, a daughter. 

December 2010 has been beautiful and hard. And full of life; a life that three years ago, I could barely imagine. There were times during this Christmas that my mind drifted into a place that is hard to live in; a place that only exists in my grief-filled mind. 
Sitting in front of our Christmas tree for our annual photo, my mind played with the images of a family with four cuddled up on the floor, smiling for the camera. I was holding Hannah on my lap while a little boy of three leaned against me smiling. 
This December was marked with wonderings of 'what would it be like if there were none missing?' 

There was joy and fun and baby giggles filling our hearts this Christmas, but I would never gloss over the sadness and grief that still lives with us. There is a longing in our hearts for the missing ones in our family.

The longing, the grief, the sadness, the missing are all a part of the waiting. Waiting for Heaven, waiting for our long expected Jesus. Isn't that what Advent is all about?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Merry Making year 2

Our Christmas tree has been up for a week now. It's beautiful and smells sublime. This is the third year we've gotten a real tree instead of putting up our artificial tree. I love our new tradition, though this year we almost didn't put up a tree at all. Chris was swamped with studying for finals and his vote was to forgo any and all Christmas decorations. He tried to talk me into it, but I just couldn't do it. I wanted Hannah's first Christmas to be full of stockings, a Christmas tree complete with shining lights and fun dangling ornaments, a manger scene and peppermint mochas. Okay, not that last one- that one was for me.

We found a Christmas tree lot that was being run by a church; it uses the profits to benefit its various ministries. I thought it was a well spent $20.

Hannah thinks so too. 
I have the most adorable video of her 'talking' to the Christmas tree. It warms my heart.

Excuse my pjs... I was still recovering from my cold.

Hannah and I have been watching all my favorite Christmas shows on DVD. This is us watching Rudolph. She thought it was great... for about 5 minutes, and then she was done.

Anybody ever notice how mean Santa is? I didn't remember him being so ugly to everyone. 
Hannah and I had to talk about choosing to love our friends and how sometimes it's hard to choose to love those who are mean to us. And also how when our friends aren't kind to us, it makes us sad, but that God is always loving and kind.
Oh, man... I didn't expect a lesson in being kind from watching Rudolph. :)

Eating bananas- her new favorite food. 

 Last weekend, we had snow! We only ventured out in it for about 5 minutes. It was way too cold, but Hannah was all bundled up in her snow suit, which she thought was so fun until the frigid air hit her face.

The ground and roads are still covered in snow, and so was our car until last night when Chris finally had to go out. Hannah and I opted to stay home. I am scared of driving in snow, but I know eventually I'll have to get over that and try.
I have better pictures of us in the snow, but I'm saving those for Christmas cards! I have a ton of gifts to grow points from Pampers and I'm finally redeeming them to get free cards from Shutterfly. Yay!

I tried to get a good picture of Hannah for our Christmas card, but she would have no part of it.

I am happy to report that Chris finished his first semester of seminary yesterday. We are both breathing a big sigh of relief today. He has a whole 20 days off!!! Hannah and I are overjoyed to be able to have him to ourselves for almost three weeks. We'll be spending some time in Georgia with family and friends, as well as relaxing here at home with each other. I have been looking forward to this since August. : ) Hopefully, the weather will cooperate and we'll be able to get down south with no trouble.

I wanted to end this post with asking for your prayers for a sweet blogging friend, Anna. She is pregnant with her  second rainbow baby, 'little brother', and just got admitted to the hospital for bed rest. She's almost 24 weeks (on Friday) and the doctors say her cerclage has pulled away at one spot. Please pray for her heart and that 'little brother' would stay healthy and be born many weeks from now. Her first goal is to make it to 28 weeks. In addition to prayers, could you also click over to her blog and leave a word of encouragement for her? 
Thanks, friends.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Short and sweet

When things hurt,
when life hurts a lot, it's hard to turn my face to the Lord and believe that he loves me.

But he does.

He loves me even when I choose to be angry and resentful. He loves me despite the sin in my heart. He loves me when I look away from his gentle and gracious face and doubt him.

And even if I can't quite see or feel or believe that he loves me in this instance, I can be thankful because the truth is.....
he loves me.

Friday, November 26, 2010

So glad we didn't skip it this year

I remember blogging about Thanksgiving last year and commenting that we should just skip Thanksgiving altogether next year. I'm so glad we didn't actually decide to do that. Chris had a horrible stomach bug two Thanksgivings ago and last year, he got a migraine headache that may or may not have been allergies from the Christmas tree we chopped down that weekend. Fun times.

This year, we decided to stay home in STL because Chris only gets a couple of days off and he has a ton of school work to do, and finals are coming up. So, here we are- snuggled up at home the day after Thanksgiving. We're all still in our PJs and I'm about ready to dig out all the leftovers and pig out all afternoon.

I had never made Thanksgiving dinner before so yesterday was quite the adventure. I had fully planned on getting a turkey and trying my hand at cooking it all by myself, but chickened out at the last minute and bought a chicken instead (oh, the funs of puns).
Everything turned out great, if I do say so myself.

I stayed up super late the night before and prepped all my ingredients. I made homemade pumpkin pie, baked the cornbread for dressing, cooked the sweet potatoes and tried (unsuccessfully) to bake my biscuits for the dressing as well. Practically right after I put the biscuits in the oven, the tornado siren went off and we all trekked to the basement for cover. I maybe wouldn't have gone downstairs except for the fact that I'm pretty sure I heard a great roaring sound right after the sirens went off. It was quite the adventure. Our neighbors met us in the hallway and we cuddled our kiddos while waiting it out on the floor of the basement hallway. We watched the live weather map online and decided after about 15 minutes that we were safe to go back upstairs.

So, back to the biscuits....I did remember to turn the oven off before heading out, but when I got back upstairs I turned the oven on and continued baking them like normal. Six minutes later, they were burned. If it wasn't so late and I hadn't been so distracted, I might have thought that yeah, the biscuits had been sitting in a hot oven for much longer than they should have been so they didn't need to be cooked any longer. But no, common sense escaped me at that moment.

I decided to clean up the kitchen, head back to bed and worry about the rest in the morning.
Yesterday morning, we had a neighbor come by to watch the Macy's parade and we ate cinnamon rolls and had delicious coffee. It was really fun.

By noon, I was back in the kitchen, chopping and sautéing, mixing and baking. I praise God that I didn't get overwhelmed- I am thankful everything turned out so great.

In the middle of cooking my squash for the casserole, I looked outside our window and saw snow! I couldn't believe it... I can't remember ever seeing snow on Thanksgiving before. It was beautiful. I took a break from cooking and Hannah and I stood at the window watching while Chris threw snowballs with the neighbor kids. He even brought one back inside for Hannah to see.

When everything was finally done, we sat down to enjoy our first Thanksgiving dinner, just the three of us. Hannah had just about had enough fun and was ready for a nap, but she toughed it out and we had a nice meal. The dressing was my favorite part; it tasted just like my mom's, burnt biscuit debacle and all.

We ended the day watching a movie with one of our neighbors and then promptly plopped into bed exhausted.

It was a great day. Praise the Lord.

We're very thankful for all we have, and mindful of what, or rather who, is missing. God is still worthy to be praised. Hope y'all had a great, peaceful Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

All around us

This time last year I was just entering the second trimester of pregnancy with Hannah Mae. This year, I'm being kept on my toes by my energetic and spunky 7 month old (well, 7 months old on Saturday).
It's crazy- what a year it's been.

Chris has been working non-stop on a research paper for his covenant theology class. And I dare say, it's been kicking his butt. Okay, not really, but I think it's kicking mine. He's been so wrapped up in his paper that I'm having a hard time not feeling neglected.
His paper is important.
Seminary is important and there's nothing wrong with working hard and doing well in school.

All the same, I still miss him and can't wait for Thanksgiving break (he gets 2 days off!). We got into an argument this morning because he wanted to do something tomorrow after his class (the class he's writing the paper for) and I had big plans for the three of us to do something together (grocery shopping and Target!!!!) after he turns in his paper. I was really looking forward to having him back in the present for more than 10 minutes at a time. As I moped around the bedroom, I told him, 'Look around! Life is still happening all around you!'
I would like to tell you that I said it in my sweetest wife voice, but that would be a lie. I yelled. And then I felt bad.

We talked after I cooled off and I hoped we had a better understanding of each other's feelings, but alas, we had another argument after dinner. Good times.

One of the things that Chris' mentor has talked with him about is balance. Seminary is not solely about reading books, gaining knowledge, studying theology and learning to preach. It's about seeing our need for Christ, getting to know the person of Christ more deeply and growing in our relationships, and for us that means growing as a family towards Christ, our center.
We've never been in a situation like this before. I've never had to share Chris with something else so often (besides grief). And I know that this is just the beginning if we are going into full-time ministry after seminary.

I long to find balance during this time. I want to be more gracious with Chris when he needs to hunker down and be enveloped in essays and Word documents and books. I also know I need to remind him (hopefully more gently next time) that life is still happening and we don't want to miss out on it.
Yes, there are papers that need to be written, books waiting to be read, and somewhere in all of this the dishes get washed, the laundry is folded and put away and the toilets are cleaned... this is life. There is a sweet little girl cooing in her exersaucer while I unload the dishwasher, jumping around as I sing the ABCs to her... this is life. And it's happening all around us.

The months and years after Owen died feel like the dead years to me. I could hardly see, let alone feel, the life I was living. I remember sleeping in as late as I could, wishing the hours by until Chris got home from work and then just 'being' with each other. Movies, TV shows on Hulu, or old episodes of the Gilmore Girls. I spent a lot of time killing time. I forgot I was still living.

I don't remember an exact moment where God, in his great mercy, woke me up. But I am thankful. Sometime in the midst of my dead years, I realized I was still living a life. As much as I tried to pretend otherwise, I still had a life and it was happening all around me.

I distinctly remember the first day I felt the wind again. It blew in my face and I could feel its chill. It had a smell, and I couldn't remember the last time I took in the smell of the wind. I rolled the windows all the way down in my car and drove with one arm out of the window, feeling the air flow through my fingers. Then later, I turned on the radio in my house, listened to the rhythm of the music and danced. I felt my body move and my heart pumped faster. I was starting to feel alive again.

My point in this long-winded post is not to paint Chris as an absentee husband or father; he's far from it. Whether it be school work or jobs or grief or our health, we all can focus so much on 'things' and forget that we're alive. I'm not saying that these things aren't important or aren't due their appropriate consideration. I certainly give grief its due, and I think it's important to do that. But there is a balance. A balance I long to learn; a balance I'm sure I'll struggle with until I go Home.

And the struggle? That's life too.

Friday, November 19, 2010


From a blog post almost a year ago:
"I was almost 11 weeks pregnant with her when we bought her first outfit. A little brown bear coat with ears on the hood. We weren't really looking to buy, just looking to look, when we saw it. I wanted it so badly. I wanted everything that it meant in buying that little coat. I wanted the six month old baby just sitting up on her own. I wanted the chubby little face poking out of the hood with ears. I wanted it all."

There are not enough words to convey what this picture means to me. "I wanted everything that it meant in buying that little coat."
Oh, man...

She's talking to me right now, grunting and cooing and staring me down, willing me to look at her. I have to smile back at her, looking up between each word to soak in her precious 6 month old perfection. 
She's really here. Living and breathing and being here with us. It's almost unbelievable, but still, at times I do forget that I never thought we would be here. 

Hannah's had a cold since Tuesday (but really, it may or may not just be teething) and then yesterday she went in for her 6 month well visit and shots. She weighs 16 pounds!!! I almost fell over. That means she's quadrupled the weight she was when she came home from the hospital! Praise God.

Between the teething monster, the runny nose and the after effects of getting shots yesterday, none of us slept well last night. I've had a lot of time to reflect because Hannah has been extra sleepy all day (She's already had two 1.5 hour naps this morning!). I've gone back over a lot of my past blog posts to read and re-read where we've come from. 

It honestly feels like an out of body experience to read the words of a broken woman, desperate to parent her children. There were so many times this morning that I could feel and visibly see the full circle, the redemption that God has brought to us. 
*speaking of that, I've got to interrupt this blog post to change a super poopy diaper!*

As wonderful and amazing and beautiful as it is having Hannah Mae home with us, it's not a complete or perfect full circle. There is not full redemption yet. And there won't be until we are all together, living true life with our Father. I long for that day.

It is undeniable how much my life has changed these past two years since starting this blog. My two year blog anniversary is next weekend. Strangely enough, the date also falls on Hannah Mae's 7th month birthday.

To completely honest, some of the things I wrote about- hope and healing, trust and faith- I've needed to revisit since Hannah was born because I've forgotten. I think this is just part of life though. We learn and grow, we become self righteous with our new found wisdom and maturity, and then we find ourselves struggling with the same issues again and we need to go back to the root of all wisdom. We need to go back to the cross and to Jesus. We think we have it all figured out, but what little insight we've been given makes us feel self sufficient and righteous within ourselves. I have been this way many, many times before and I doubt that I will escape it in the future.

But the good news is that God is more gracious and more wise than we can imagine. He knows we will lose sight of Him and His saving grace, become preoccupied with worldly things; and He knows we'll find no greater comfort, peace, or love outside of Him. We can try to live otherwise, but eventually God in his great mercy will show us the Truth and we'll fall on our knees, not in shame, but in thankfulness.

I'm so thankful for the good news of the Gospel tonight.

It took me literally all day to write this post. Here it is 9:30 on a Friday night and still, I think I could write all night long. There's so much I need to write and share, but I want to be intelligible and I don't think I can do that now. After reading back from my very first blog post to now, I can see the beautiful work of the Holy Spirit and I long to bring Him glory.

I feel such indebtedness to each of you who've walked this road with me. I can't say thank you enough. I want to continue to share our little life with you, and I hope you'll continue on with us. Life and blogging has looked a little bit different since we welcomed Hannah Mae into our arms, but I hope to continue writing here. I'm very thankful for this place.

And I'm super thankful for this sweet little baby girl who has brought us more joy than we thought possible.