Thursday, December 12, 2013

Life lately and sweet levity


Superheroes.


Cousins at Thanksgiving. Bella is one of two of the girls' cousin dogs. 


Reading superhero books. 


So snugly and sweet. 


Hilariously reading the paper like granddaddy. 


Happily waiting in line to see Santa. 
Completely freaked out when she saw him and would NOT get close enough for a picture. 


My heart. 


She had way too much fun on our girls weekend. Her favorite part was eating a snack at midnight in the hotel bed. 


Some of my favorite people. This is the friend who would sit outside my door quietly knocking and praying for me after Owen died. Her oldest daughter (same age as Owen) took the picture. I love them. 


Meeting their very first cousin! (Well, third cousin.) She is a sweet little baby girl. 


Born at the same hospital as Hannah. So so sweet to go back there. Such good memories. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Walk the line

There are moments when I feel greatly detached from the daily goings on around me. The girls laugh, yell and play at my feet, my husband sits next to me, his hand near mine... and... sadly, there are times I feel like an observer in my own life. Worry, grief, sadness and stress can enclose my heart in a cage where I struggle to feel and hear and see the life happening all around me.
I am not ambivalent to the beautiful girls and the precious husband that I have. I love them so.

But the fear and grief that this broken world has brought us... well, it can threaten to suffocate me. I don't like admitting this, and I wish I didn't have to... but I do.
And not for the reasons you might think.

I don't like admitting all of this, my weaknesses, not because I feel like I should be strong and unflappable and unbroken in this world.

But because there is this line that is drawn in the sand. The line, invisibly bold, that tells us we should boast in our weaknesses because in Him we are strong. But don't be too broken or too weak because it is too scary or too much to deal with; and we are afraid of brokenness. You can't possibly trust in the Lord if you have such brokenness and struggles in your daily life.
The line that tells me if I cross over it- You can't be a pastor's wife if you are this weak.


Deep breath.

Can I be a pastor's wife if I am this weak?


In seminary, I had many sleepless nights wrestling with the thoughts and worries, with the lies that I am not cut out for ministry. I am sensitive, prone to worry and anxiety. I have deep wounds that leave me breathless some days.

Since moving to help plant a church, those thoughts and lies have intensified.

I am weak. Obviously and overtly weak. But I am not ashamed that I struggle daily. I am humbled, yes, but not ashamed.

The enemy may love to lie to us. The world may seek to discourage and diminish us because we have been steeped in brokenness. But we have eternity written on our hearts, and our brokenness points us to the unbroken God and unshakeable hope of a day when all things will be made right.

I have weaknesses that would discourage me from living the life that God has called me to live. But those same weaknesses shine a light on my Savior and I am thankful to be reminded that I need him so. He is so sweet to me. It is so sweet to know him better and better, to have deeper relationship with him who made me, who made us all.

He loves us, and sees us. He sees all our brokenness, even if we refuse to see it, or pretend it's not all that bad.
And he loves us not as we should be... but just as we are.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Six years ago

These little baby girls are my light. And my joy. 





On days like today when my thoughts and my heart are full of the sadness of this day six years ago... I hear them giggle and growl and coo. 
My heart is full of the sadness of missing my son and the joy of having two daughters. It's complicated and messy but somehow it's becoming familiar. 

This day six years ago was the worst day of my life. The day they told me he was gone. And I will never get over that. Things can never be the same after that. 

But there is a new normal. A new way of living and breathing and getting out of bed each morning. I can smile and laugh and have a bad day too. I'm not the person I was before my son died... but I like the person my son has made me much more. 

We miss you Owen Christopher. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Breathe in

Six years next month.    Six.years.


The days following his death, my breathing was shallow. It took great effort to breathe, to stand, to be. The surface of my skin was raw, electric. I felt like I would burst wide open if I moved too suddenly. If I breathed in too deep I would collapse from the pain of it all. The shock. The trauma.

He was alive. I knew him. I loved him. 

And then he was dead. No warning. He was still...so very still and quiet, so much heavier than the day before...the day before when he had been alive.


I've been writing these past few weeks and every word I write is etched in sadness. I can imagine what these words are like to read.
Painful. Uncomfortable. Tragic. Pitiful. Heartbreaking.


These words... these feelings are not easy for me either... but somehow... somehow in the past six years they have become familiar. As the days turn cooler and the nights come earlier, I feel that familiar ache that reminds me so bitterly that all is not right in this world. Can you feel it? Do you see it too?


I breathe in and the sadness stirs, going further down. I breathe in deep and let the sadness wash over me. I breathe in deeper still and feel the sadness fill the tender ache.

Yes, he was alive. Breathe. I knew him. Breathe in. I loved him. Breathe in deep. I love him.
He would be six this year. He was my little boy. He was perfect. He was here and I miss him.


_________________________
I want so badly to leave this post alone. Not to add a p.s.
But I'm doing it anyway.

If you worried about us, don't be. We're ok. Really, we're ok. If you pray, you can pray for us...

But pray also for the families just entering this terrible time of grief. The ones who have just lost a loved one. Those ones who feel so alone, who are hurting so badly and who need support and comfort. If you can be that kindness, that support to them... please do. Just be with them, breathe in with them.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Kindergarten

Little shoulders adorned with brand new backpacks.
Feet skipping down sidewalks
excitedly to school.


One morning this week the girls and I got up and out of the house fairly early for a play date down the road. Ruby cooed and played with the toys in her car seat, while Hannah chatted excitedly next to her about anything and everything that came to her mind. I sipped my coffee and felt content with the little life we have here in our new town. And then...

And then I spot one. And another. And then more and more little kids on their way to school. Some walking, some skipping, some riding bikes with their moms trailing behind. Their backs covered by too big backpacks bouncing up and down.

I smiled at first, thinking of how soon Hannah Mae will be on her way to school. And then... and then all of sudden I was crying. Big hot tears rolling down my cheeks as my breath caught in my chest. "I'm so sad" escaped from my lips before I had a chance to stop the words from forming. I didn't know I was going to say it, but I needed to let the words and the tears come.

In the midst of packing, and Ruby's adoption finalization, and then our big move with the subsequent unpacking and cleaning and organizing that comes with it... all the craziness lately has kept my mind from thinking too much about the fact that I have a little boy who would have been a kindergartener this year. But my body knew and remembered. When I saw those little boys excitedly running down the sidewalk to school, there was no denying the grief that is with us everyday.

Owen has been gone almost six years, and the sorrow of his absence is still as profound as it was the day (the only day) I held him in my arms. Grief looks different each day, but the sadness and the missing are always the same.

We miss him.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Forever

Our hearts could burst with all the love and joy we feel. 
Our Ruby forever. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A time for gratitude, mourning and rejoicing

We are about three weeks from moving our family of four to a new home in a new state for a new job. We are also just under a month until our littlest one finally receives our last name and we can all breathe a sigh of relief and rejoice at the permanent-ness of her adoption.

Life has been strange lately. I don't know any other way of describing it simply.
In other words, life has been fun, chaotic, slow, structure-free, sad, scary, joyful and a tad stressful and nerve wracking.

I've been struggling with some of the 'same-old' stuff as well as some new hardships, and I know... I can tangibly feel the enemy's eye on us as we set off to do the hard work of ministry.

We are really excited about our calling. We are so ready and also so sad to leave seminary. It is so hard to explain but maybe it is easy to understand. Seminary has been full of deep friendships, hard loneliness, intense struggling, and a deeper understanding of grace, of the Lord's faithfulness and love. We have grown up here... in a lot of ways.

Three years ago, I came here thinking I was a very mature. I thought I was much more wise than my 28 years. But I wasn't, and I've been humbled here... but not harshly humbled by an unloving and disappointed Father.

I've been humbled because I've seen more grace than I ever thought was possible.

And it's kindness that brings me to repentance. I'm so thankful.


It's been incredibly strange to stay behind for the summer... to be living here while brand new students and their families move in... while friendships are starting and their time is just beginning... while ours has ended and we have set our hearts to move. It's hard to explain. I don't know if I'm doing it any justice.

Some of you may be asking why we have stayed this summer. The state of Missouri won't allow us to leave with Ruby until her adoption is finalized. And so we wait.
Chris has been support raising for his job (I could write for days about the hardships of raising money, but I'll spare us all that) and has taken a part-time job working for the seminary cleaning. I am staying home with the girls, trying to provide structure and stability when my heart feels so far from stable.


So life goes when change is imminent. The knowledge of more transition weighs heavy on my heart and the enemy takes advantage of my fears. But in all of this, the Lord is ever present. A faithful, true and gracious friend.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Summer lovin'

After a grand total of 45 hours in the car driving from Missouri to the mountains of Georgia, to the coast of Florida with a brief stop in Savannah, to northeast Georgia and then back again to our midwestern home... some of my favorite moments from our trip:

. Seeing Chris again after our longest time apart (17 days!!)
. Hannah Mae running through the crashing waves yelling, "This is so much fun!!"
. Spending the afternoon on the porch drinking coffee, listening to the roar of the ocean and feeling the warm beachy breeze
. Going on a date or two with my best friend
. Watching HM and Ruby play with their second cousins, Grandparents, Great Aunts and Uncles, Great-grandparents and Great-Great Aunt
. Eating much too much seafood
. Taking an impromptu break in Savannah and having a little adventure
. Discussing (at length) teen dystopian novels
. Dipping our youngest daughter's toes into the ocean for the first time
. Seeing one of my closest and dearest friends, and watching our girls play together
. Having my three year old pee on said closest and dearest friend's carpet
. Spending my birthday in Georgia
. Toes in the sand, book in hand, the sound of the waves crashing nearby


We had a lovely and tiring trip. It was a much needed break from the normal. Chris graduated from seminary in May and has been support raising since then. He took a 17 day trip down south to meet with potential supporters and churches to raise awareness and support for the church plant we are moving to IN to be a part of. The girls and I stayed home. It was a challenging time for us. But I'm thankful to be through it and to look back and see God's faithfulness to us through that time.

We have about five or so weeks left in our little seminary home before we move to our new home in IN. I am dreading the boxes, the chaos and the long nights packing, but I'm so looking forward to starting a new journey. AND Ruby's adoption will be finalized next month!!! Which means more freedom for us a family, and a great deal more posts about our sweet little girl as well as a picture or two (or twenty).








Saturday, May 4, 2013

Brother

It has been awfully rainy and gloomy around these parts lately.

About a month ago, we had a happy day of sunshine and we soaked it in. If you know me well then you know I shun getting too much sun on my skin, but that day, one of the few sunny days we've had recently, I let my bare arms feel the warm glow from the fickle sun above. 

We spent most of the day on the playground. Ruby in my arms, cooing and smiling. Hannah Mae running around playing with friends. That day, she followed the boys around. (In her humble opinion, they have the best toys.) One of the boys had brought out a toy toolbox. 

She played so happily with them, so excited to be included by these little boys just a bit older than her. I handed Ruby over to Chris, who had just rounded the corner from a busy day of classes and studying, and walked over to Hannah to see what fun she was having. She had a toy screwdriver (or a hammer, I can't quite remember) in her hand. I smiled and asked her where she got it from. She pointed to a little boy and said, "From brother."

My breath sucked in like I had been hit, and tears immediately welled up in my eyes. I knew exactly who she was referring to, and it hurt. A lot.

This little boy's name is Owen. And he is an adorable little five year old. 

It took me a minute to gather myself, and thankfully I had on sunglasses so Hannah didn't know how upset I was. I didn't want her to think she was responsible for my tears. I smiled at her, tucked her wispy windblown hair behind her ear and said, "Baby that's not your brother. Do you know where your brother Owen is?" She replied quickly without even looking up from playing with her toy, "In Heaven." 


Sometimes grief is as constant and reliable as breathing... in and out, in and out each day. And sometimes grief hits you from out of nowhere. Suddenly pulling you down and forcing you to see how utterly wrong this life is without the one who is supposed to be here. The one who should be five years old, with dark hair like his mommy. Running around the playground with his friends, laughing and running from his sweet little sister who just wants to be with him.


_
I wrote the story below about six months ago, and I'm seeing more and more what this life of missing Owen looks like for all of us.

---
"It is a strange feeling to miss someone you never knew." The little girl sat back on her heels and looked up at her mother.

"Hmmm...." her mother murmured quietly while she delicately threaded the tiny needle through the fabric on her lap.

"I mean, how can you miss someone when you don't know what their voice sounded like? Or what kind of cereal they liked to eat in the mornings?" She took a strand of hair from behind her ear and twirled it playfully with her long fingers. The little girl watched her mother carefully sewing a patch of fabric over the knee of her favorite pair of jeans, and felt even more questions bubble up inside her.

"Or what games they liked to play, or if they liked to run through the woods and get their knees dirty and scratched?" Her mother started to hum a quiet song as the little girl stood up and climbed into the rocking chair beside her. She liked how quickly her mother moved the needle in and out, in and out patching up a tear she had gotten while crawling through the bushes in front of the house.

"Or what books they liked to read, or if..." The little girl stopped and nuzzled her head against her mother's arm, rubbing her face against the warmth of her mother's cotton shirt. A single tear slipped down her face wetting the fabric underneath it.

"Did you know that you and your brother have the same dimple in your chins?" She peeked down at her daughter's face, and smiled gently. "The very same."

"We do?" asked the little girl. She smiled widely at her mother and jumped down out of the chair. "I bet he would of liked playing in the woods and getting dirty, and he probably would have gotten holes in his knees too." The little girl laughed at the thought.

"Yes, my sweet little girl. I'm sure he would have." The little girl's mother finished the patch, made a knot in the thread and snipped the loose ends away. The little girl squealed with delight as her mother handed her back her favorite pair of jeans. She ran quickly back to her room to change while her mother quietly picked up the scraps of fabric around her. Tears escaped down her cheeks but with no one there to see, she did not dare wipe them away.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Therapy

Sometimes I wonder and worry if I am too honest here on my blog. And then I remember that though it is sometimes painful to put something 'out there' and be misunderstood... that it is still worth it. To the Lord be Glory and Praise.


I have something to confess. Before last December, I had never actually seen a counselor since the first five years since Owen died. In the year after Owen died, I hardly talked to anyone (this is pretty literal). I cried out to my husband, I wrote a lot, and tried talking to friends who would listen. The next year, Chris and I had quite a few appointments with pastors to talk about theology. You see, I thought that if I had the right theology then I could understand better and cope with what the Lord had ordained for our babies' lives.
And really, it is amazing to see how the Lord has transformed me since those early days. I feel such hope and rest and peace when I read the Bible now. Theology is merely (and GREATLY) how you think about God. I wanted what I thought about God to line up with who God actually is. I wanted to understand who this God of the broken world is, and I wanted to know him. I remember many nights rolling over in my bed and whispering to Chris to 'tell me something true and beautiful' before I fell asleep. I wanted to wrap myself in the Truth.


I've been sitting here with my hands on the keyboard for awhile trying to articulate what it feels like to know Him. But I can't quite verbalize it. 

Rest. Hope. Affection. Awe. Peace.

Those words will have to suffice. 


But I want you to know that I'm still broken. I still have wounds that can't won't quite heal. And it's because of this brokenness that I still struggle with God. There are still nights where I have no rest, no peace and little hope. Nights where I've wrestled so painfully with the Lord God that I love. 

I don't know how to articulate it, but I can try. 
I trust the Lord. But I fear what he may ordain for my life, or my family's life. 
I have hope for an eternal and unbroken remade home. But I fear how my loved ones may be separated from me, or I from them. 
I have affection and awe for the God who made me and who calls me his own daughter. But I fear his ways. 
I have peace that all will be made right one day. But I fear what may come from the days from now until then.


You see a pattern? Fear and anxiety.

I live with a lot of fear and anxiety in my life. It doesn't mean that God hasn't worked greatly in my heart or in my mind, or that I don't love and trust my Savior. Oh, I do. But because brokenness remains, so does fear.

I have been thankful to spend some time with some of Chris' professors here in seminary, and it has been good to sit with people who have spend most of their lives studying and learning about our Father in Heaven. The week of Owen's birthday, I sat down with a professor and tried to articulate my fears and the panic I feel sometimes. 
As sad as this may sound to some, this is how fear, trust, worry and rest look for me...

Some days before my eyes even open in the mornings, anxiety has already taken hold of my thoughts. I struggle to shake the worry out and replace it with the truth. "Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up. God is our salvation." Psalm 68:19

I hear the sounds of my daughters awake and playing in their cribs and I breathe a sigh of relief. I thank the Lord that they are alive and well this morning. I cuddle and hug and kiss their sweet cheeks and we go about our day.
And then another bout of anxiety comes. I kneel with my girls and we pray together. "I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth." Psalm 121:1-2
The worry creeps in. Some days are better than others. Some days I brush it away with clean stroke and do not miss a beat. Others, the worry turns to panic and I struggle. I forget to turn to my Father and I wrestle with my thoughts on my own. Those are the days that suck the most.

(I know this may sound terrible, but I know this is true for so many of you as well.) I live with the reality of death, of sickness, of separation constantly. It is almost always on my mind. It drives my thoughts to panic when Hannah or Ruby sleep longer than usual in the morning. I cannot explain what it feels like to know that one day I could wake up to death again. Just like that cold November day in 2007.

And it is with this thought, this increasing panic, that I am driven to counseling with a trained and professional counselor. Since last December, I have been seeing a counselor who is licensed in EMDR therapy. If you're curious about what this is, this website is very helpful. EMDR is a type of therapy for people who have had traumatic events in their past that have shaped and wired their brains in such a way that they get stuck there in the traumatic event. It has been used for people with PTSD with great success.

I am right smack in the middle of this therapy. And it is so hard. But so good.

If you're a friend in 'real life' who sees me on a daily basis, you may notice that I'm not quite myself lately. Therapy has forced me to relive past traumas and it is all being brought up to the surface, which in the short term may seem like I feel worse. But in the long term, this is vital.

I am not at the end stages of therapy yet, so I can't tell you what EMDR has done for me, but I wanted to come out and say it outloud.

I am in therapy, and I'm not ashamed. It is not a shameful secret. It is God's grace to me. It is okay to need help processing your past. Going to therapy, by no means, means that I am ready to move on from Owen or Sunshine or Chipmunk. That is not the goal of therapy. My children are my children, no matter where they are.


Therapy is a gracious, wonderful tool. Some people may feel like it's a private thing (which is fine) but let's not NOT talk about it. Talking about therapy may help someone else get the help they need. Talking about it may help someone feel less alone, less ostracized or less than others who don't seem to need therapy. 

Let us in the Church be loving, understanding and supportive of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us love one another, and serve one another... we are the body... made to help and support our members in love.

~~~
I started this post late last December, and finished it just now. It has taken me a few months to feel ready to share. Not because therapy is shameful, but because I didn't know how much to share on such an open forum. A lot of events have happened lately that have brought this post to my mind, and it feels right to share it now.

If you're struggling with the idea of therapy, of what it means to go, of what the goal of therapy might be for you, or how others might perceive you.... please know that therapy is probably not what you think. Therapy is listening to your body, to your thoughts, to the things that most often go unnoticed day to day, but these are the things that are shaping how you're living and reacting to life. If you are thinking right now that therapy sounds pretty good... then you'd be absolutely right... and with great love, I'd encourage you to look into it. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

An Easter Prayer


I love you, Lord.

More importantly, you love me. Thank you.

I want to live the life you've given me with a grateful heart.

It's your love that leads me to repentance, not my guilty conscience.

I repent of taking your glory. I confess I have tried to steal control from your hands. I repent, Lord.

I confess that I have a hard time trusting your goodness and your ability to do what you say you will do. I repent of doubt.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of faith. Thank you for leading me beside still waters.
Help me look to you when I am afraid and anxious and to turn away from what the world (myself included) offers.

Thank you for your Son and it is in His name that I pray. Amen.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spring

The promise that spring is here shines as clear as the sun that lingers longer and longer each twilight, even if the snow covering the ground says otherwise.

The hope of new life... a promise that life springs forth after death...

This is the week six years ago that we discovered I was carrying a baby, an unexpected and deeply loved baby, who would live and grow and kick inside me for 8 months. You may think it's weird to acknowledge and even celebrate the time I found out I was pregnant with Owen, but...
But it was all we had. Those pregnant days, those 36 weeks 1 day were all we had with him.


Spring calls me to remember hope. I'm so thankful for the yearly reminder that God renews, redeems and resurrects. Yes and Amen.

And one day, one blessed day, those 36 weeks 1 day won't be all we had anymore.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Bits and Pieces

Our big girl is now (officially) potty trained. We've been slowly introducing what it means to go potty, and one day a few weeks ago, she just decided she wanted to do it. Since then, she's only worn a couple of diapers. We've had a few accidents, but mostly I'd call it a success! I can't believe how big and independent she is. I think being able to decide when she goes potty and taking care of it herself, she's discovered she has control over some things in her life... and that makes her want control over everything. And this leads to quite a few more tantrums in the house because the girl is not quite as big as she thinks she is!

Our little girl is sleeping much better these days. At least the past couple of days have been much more restful at night. I'd say she's eating three times in the night now, which is great for a 8 pound one-month old! She is starting to smile at us, and it makes me cry every time. I love her sweet little smiles. One of my favorite things is to cuddle up with her in my favorite spot and rock her to sleep.

This may be TMI for some, so just stop reading here if you're uncomfortable with normal body functions....
(still reading??) Well, since I still produce a little bit of milk, I have tried to breastfeed our little girl since the day we got her. But oh my goodness, it has been one of the hardest things I've done to decide that it just wasn't working. She would get so frustrated and angry about the flow of milk and so preferred the bottle to breastfeeding, that I've come to the conclusion this week that I need to stop trying. I know formula is not bad. I'm not going to argue with anyone about that. I just so prefer breastfeeding to formula feeding. I was so thankful that I got to breastfeed Hannah Mae and I wanted to do that for Sissy too. But after five weeks, it is apparent that we're not getting anywhere and it's stressing everyone (me and Sissy) out big time. Little Sissy is healthy, and gaining weight well and is such a precious baby girl. We are so thankful.


Hannah Mae and Sissy are really stinking cute together. Hannah loves to talk to her and tries to play with her all the time. Sissy hears her big sister's voice and turns her head and searches for her. Oh, how it warms my heart. I love having two little girls.


This last semester has been the busiest, most stressful and crazy-flying-by semester of our three years in seminary. I guess adding in a newborn, normal life, plus classes, plus planning for our after-graduation life can do that.
We're really excited about what we're going to do after graduation. Chris has been asked to be the functioning assistant pastor (it's a three year residency) at a new church plant in a really great college town. The church has just started meeting weekly at a location, though it's not open to the public just yet. The core group is growing, and it's really exciting. Since it's a church plant, and not a particularized church yet, there is no real budget for Chris' job. He will get some of his income from the church's budget, but we have to raise the rest of our income. To be honest, that's a bit scary. We have lived off of support these past years here in seminary, but we've also had other sources of income too- like Chris' TA job or his library assistant job, and my babysitting/nanny gigs. But soon, we're going to be living off of support alone... and that means we need to raise the money.

I know I went on and on about how God will provide if he calls you to do something in my post about Sissy's adoption, and I totally believe that. But there is still a little trepidation about how and when he will provide what we need.


We're getting ready for spring break and springtime!! Yay! I am doing a small cleanse after such a stressful couple of months, and it feels good to spend some intentional time focusing on my health and body. I've ditched my shampoo and conditioner this week and I'm cleansing it with a baking soda/water mixture and rinse the ends with apple cider vinegar. I also discovered that you can use baking soda as a facial mask/exfoliater.  And if that isn't enough, you can also use baking soda as a deodorant! I am a pretty stinky girl, and I find that the baking soda actually does a pretty good job. Coconut oil is my new favorite lotion/mositurizer. We started using it on Sissy because her skin tends to dry out pretty quickly and natural lotion can be quite expensive. Thankfully, coconut oil is cheap and a much better moisturizer than most lotions we've tried; and a little goes a long way so it lasts forever!


Those are some of the most random bits and pieces I've probably ever written. Oh well.
Happy last week of winter!!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

I am a mom

I am surrounded by giggles, squeals, coos, crying and sometimes screaming. I am surrounded by little girls. Little girl smiles, little girl sounds and little girl smells. I am a mom to two little girls.

I brush hair, pull pigtails out of thin air, play with princesses, and gently smooth coconut oil on my sweet smelling girls. My days are full of one little girl calling my name, following me around, endlessly asking me to play people or "watch this!" She asks for snuggles one minute and demands a pink sucker the next. Her hair smells like grown-up, big girl shampoo, and it seems to get longer and prettier each day. I spend my days with a tiny baby girl wrapped up next to my chest. She coos and sighs and smiles up at me. She cries and whines, searching for milk and even more snuggles. Her soft cries wake me up in the middle of the night, and I struggle to keep my eyes open while feeding and shushing and cajoling her back to sleep.

I am a mom to two little girls. I smell like coconut oil, milk, spit up, and sweet lavender lotion. I have a spare pink bow in my coat pocket, and a million tiny elastic bands in my purse. There are princesses, cinderella dresses big and small, and some superheroes thrown in for good measure.


Five years ago, in a quiet, invisible sort of way, I was a mom too.
I did not smell of spit up or diaper cream. I did not have a crib at the foot of our bed or a diaper pad in the middle of the living room floor. There were no toys scattered around our home, no little boy clothes in the laundry... no little boy sounds... no coos, no squeals, no cries.
Our home was quiet, and our hearts were broken.


Five years later, I am a mom to two little girls, and a little boy. Our home is not quiet, yet our hearts still feel the brokenness of his absence. That is something no amount of noise or joy or business or years can affect. This year he would be a kindergartner, a big boy with no time for snuggles or rest. I can't teach him to tie his shoes or learn to read. I don't have grass stains to wash out of his jeans or five million G.I. Joes to pick up off the floor.
Our house is busy and our days are full and loud... but there is a gap, a silence, where a five year old boy should be.

I don't write this way to gain sympathy or pity. I write about him, about the heaviness and reality of his absence because he matters. Because he's always a part of our family, and his absence will always be felt.

I am a mom. I am his mom too.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A movie and a project

I can't think of many things more validating than listening to another person's story that resonates so closely with your own.

One moment you are alone in a dark cave with no hope of light, no way of knowing which direction is up or down, left or right... and then suddenly there is a warm hand in yours... holding a candle, lighting the small space around you.

It is a deep down gut wrenching, heart breaking, wonderful feeling... that someone could possibly understand you and your grief.
It frees you up to feel whatever you need to feel... because suddenly you're not alone. And there's this person who not only has been where you have- in that hospital bed recovering with empty arms- but they now walk alongside you on this road, on this journey that lasts the rest of your life.

This is one of the reasons I blog. And why I talk about my son so much.

That is also one of the reasons this movie, Return to Zero, is so important. And this one too- The Still Project.

Both movies are bringing stillbirth out of the shadows and darkness, telling the world that it is not something to be ashamed of... our children are not something to be hidden and never spoken about.

Thank you, Sean Hanish, for allowing me to talk about and share Owen's story. No matter what the world says, my son is more than tragedy and loss. He is our boy, our blessing and God's great gift to us. We miss him, and love him with all that we are. And we are NOT alone.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Some things and some pictures

1. I love my baby girls' feet (even when they're stinky and have little baby toe jam).


2. Princess night at Chick-fil-a. So.much.fun.


3. Hannah is a doodler. 


4. We're having a lazy snow day here. A much needed lazy snow day.


5. Sometimes I'm super grumpy (no picture needed for this one).

6. Yeah, and I'm no artist. But you can probably tell by this 'drawing'.


7. Hannah loves having a baby sister. And loves to pretend she's a mommy too. She had to have her baby in a wrap too.


8. The Christmas cactus flowers, blooming just for Sissy.



Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Snuggles

Oh my goodness, I am itching to show you pictures of Sissy and share her real name. Yesterday a good friend gave us the gift of pictures- Sissy had newborn pictures taken, and we had shots of the four of us done too. Whew. Amazing. I can't wait to see them and show them off! Our girl is beautiful... both of our girls are the most adorable, most beautiful little girls I've ever seen! :) 


Check out those little booties... oh, the precious feet of our new daughter.
(and you can kind of see, if you strain real hard, the pink blooms in the very back of the picture)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

7 things

1. Sissy. Oh, sweet little snuggly girl. We love you. We have prayed for you, and the Lord has heard us. Thank you, dear Lord.

2. HM is the best big sister you could ask for. She wants to kiss and rub her head every chance she gets. The cutest thing is when someone new comes over to meet Sissy, HM will use her arms and showcase Sissy saying, 'that my baby sisater!'

3. About a week and a half (maybe two weeks) ago, my two Christmas cactus plants started to develop small buds. Normally, a Christmas cactus blooms in, well, Christmas time. Well, right around the time we got the call that we had a baby girl to bring home, little pink blooms appeared. I don't think it's a coincidence at all. Thank you, dear Lord.

4. We met Sissy's birthmom a couple of days ago. She is amazing. And we love her. Neither of us could stop telling her how much we love her, and everyone cried, a lot. She is a wonderful, truly wonderful woman. I told her that Sissy will always know... that I promise she will grow up knowing how much her birthmom loves her and how strong and courageous her birthmom is. We could have sat there for many more hours. It felt like the most natural thing in the world to be sitting with my daughter's birthmom, though I honestly have no categories and no context for what we were doing. God was there, he was with us in that room and he went before us too.
Sissy's birthmom wanted us to name her. We had a first name picked out a few months ago, but couldn't agree on a middle name. When we sat with our caseworker signing the last bit of papers, she asked us if we had a middle name for Sissy. Chris immediately said one name, and I said another. We looked at each other and I could tell that neither of us would budge. So our caseworker suggested using them both. So we did.
When we were talking with Sissy's birthmom, she asked us what Sissy's middle name was. We told her and she got a big smile on her face... her middle name is one of Sissy's middles names. I don't think that is a coincidence at all either. Thank you, dear Lord, for going before us... for holding all things together.

5. Newborns are sweet and cuddly, and long to be held and loved... and oh, how I forgot how tired you can be! But I remember this time with Hannah went so quickly, and I want cherish our Sissy's newborn snuggles.

6. I often wonder if people are wondering how we afforded Sissy's adoption. Families have babies in seminary all the time, really... if you don't believe me just come for a visit! :) But rarely do families adopt or foster.
I can attest that when God calls you to do something, he will provide. If you're curious about adoption costs, and you're seriously wondering if you can do it too... then please don't hesitate- ask us! We are happy to tell you how God provided for us!

7. AH! We have two little girls!! It is amazing!!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

This is her story

Last week our lives were turned upside down...by a little baby girl. Sissy came to us in a hurry, and we have fallen madly in love.

But I should back up a little.
In July 2011, I started praying for another child. My heart was set on having another baby, and I also knew that I couldn't go through another pregnancy again. I felt such an intense desire to have a baby, but not one bit of me wanted to be pregnant again. I mentioned the idea of adopting while in seminary to Chris, and quite honestly was surprised by his eagerness. I expected a lot of kickback, because really who adopts in seminary?!

Adoption has always been in our plans. but we never knew when we would be able to adopt. We always assumed we would have to wait. But when the Lord moves, you have to move too...

Over the summer I had talked to a friend who went to seminary in the same city as us, and she mentioned an adoption agency who had placed children with seminary families in the past. I felt the Lord's leading and I went with it. We continued to pray about the timing and the expense of adoption, and in October we believed that it was okay to go forward with an application to a local adoption agency. The next month we started our homestudy. Our case worker told us we could finish our homestudy and be placed on the list within 3-6 months. We tried our best to finish all the paperwork, visits with our case worker, etc etc etc but time passed by and we didn't get approved until June 2012. I started to really stress then because we only had one year left of seminary and only one year to be able to stay with this agency before we moved states. Once we move from here, we would have to start all over again with a new agency and a new homestudy. You can see how doubt creeped in, and I started to wonder if we were doing the right thing.

And then the real waiting began. Weeks, then months passed by with no phone calls, no news of any kind. Then in late August, we started to get phone calls about potential matches. That was some of the hardest waiting we've ever experienced within this whole process. With every call we received about a birthmom who was planning to make an adoption plan, my heart grew more and more restless, more ready to hold and love the baby that God had chosen for our family.

From August to December, we were put forward to 6 birthmoms to look at our family book, and subsquently received 6 phone calls telling us that we were not chosen.
The emotional rollercoaster of these phone calls cannot be put into words. Our hearts longed for our child, the one God was calling to our home, our family. I struggled to hope and struggled to believe that we were following the Lord's leading.

Then... less than two weeks ago, we heard of a birthmom who would be making an adoption plan and we dared to hope again. One whole week passed after receiving the news that she would be looking at our family book. No news. I had gotten so used to receiving the 'no' calls, which come rather quickly, that I didn't know what to do with myself in the waiting. Do I hope? Do I hold back?

Exactly one week after hearing about this birthmom, the phone rang. I shakily answered and heard the voice of our caseworker say hello. Hannah was chatting and following me around the living room as I struggled to hear what she was saying on the line. I heard the word 'selected' and completely lost it. I cried and actually made our caseworker repeat herself. We were chosen! This was it!

For our Sissy's sake, I need to restrain myself from going into all the details (and her real name for now, but I can't wait to tell you all about her name and how we choose it). After all, this story is not just ours. It is Sissy's story. It's her birthmom's story. And we don't have the right to tell all of it.

What I can tell you is that from the time we first knew we were chosen to the day we met and brought home our new daughter- only 44 hours had passed.

We are growing more and more in love by the minute with our sweet girl, and more and more thankful for the sacrifice and love of a woman who gave us the greatest gift on Earth. Sissy is a treasure, and we are soaking in these cuddly newborn snuggles. Hannah Mae is in love with her baby sister, and can't kiss her enough. She loves to show off her baby sister and tell everyone that she's the big sister.
I look down at the content, squeaking baby in my arms and sigh. So this is the child we longed for, this is the one who was meant for our family. She's perfect. She's home.


God has been so faithful to us, and I believe with all that I am (even when I'm struggling) that He will be faithful to us, to Sissy, to her birthmom in the future. I have learned so much in the past year and a half... when God calls, or whispers or moves, we must follow. It doesn't have to make sense to us, we need only trust that he knows what he's doing (and when the doubt creeps in and the anxiety rises, the Holy Spirit intercedes and by his Spirit we can keeping moving forward).

By the way, we hope to be officially official with all our paperwork in six months, which also happens to be when we move on to our next adventure of church planting! Praise the Lord! He is so good!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A rant

Disclaimer: This is not a post to call out those who believe in a women's right to choose or start any arguments, but to share my personal experience of what it's like when my children in Heaven are viewed as less than by other Christians.

Every once in a while, I feel the need to rant. Most of the time my rants are only heard by my supportive and loving husband, but this particular chain of thoughts has been bubbling up inside of me for a long while and I think it's time to share (again, because this post is a repeat and because the anniversary of Roe V Wade was this week and people have been shouting about abortion on facebook.
I also feel the need to disclose upfront that this rant is about Christians and abortion- a very emotional topic.)

Because of the Gospel, Christians should be the most loving, supportive and biggest 'grieving with the grievers' there are, but unfortunately this is not always true. (And also because of the Gospel, there is grace, so so much grace... for me, for you.)

Most Christians will knock you over with their belief that all life begins at conception and that the sanctity of life extends to a baby in the womb. This is my belief as well.
But what (usually) doesn't knock you over is the support and love of those same Christians when your precious baby, the life inside of you, dies.

I am blown away by some (NOT all by any means) Christians who will go on and on and on and on about how abortion is wrong because murder is wrong. They will stand outside of abortion clinics and loudly protest, or on university campuses holding pictures of some mother's baby after abortion. They will lobby for laws against abortion and try to convince anyone and everyone to believe what they do about life at conception and the sanctity of the life inside a woman's womb.

But in my experience, after a loss during pregnancy some of these same Christians will tell you that 'it' was only a miscarriage, that there was probably something wrong with 'it' anyways. Or that it's better that it happened sooner rather than later. Or that it's better this way because at least we didn't know them yet. Or they will tell you that they hope it works out the next time.

Let me stop here and emphasize that when you call an unborn baby 'it' you are devaluing God's precious child. You are dehumanizing a real person when you refer to a loss during pregnancy as something that didn't work out.

I am not writing this rant to condemn. Really, I'm not. Yes, I want to call out sin as sin but what I want to impress is that we have a solemn opportunity when the tragedy of loss during pregnancy occurs to proclaim and demonstrate our belief in the sanctity of life beginning at conception.

How about instead of knocking someone over with a protest sign against abortion, we stand beside those who have lost their babies during pregnancy and validate their children's lives. What if we used our voices to support and love and console women whose babies' lives were only lived within their mothers' wombs instead of shouting words of condemnation.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't speak out against abortion (and this is a whole other topic and rant in and of itself), but condemning a woman for having an abortion (because we believe that life begins at conception) and then in the same context devaluing a human being's life by calling the baby 'it' and making a mother feel like their baby is less of a baby because they did not take a breath... well, that's a damn shame. (To add to this, grace. Grace. Grace. There is so much grace.)

If we really believe that life begins at conception and want to extend the sanctity of life to an unborn but real person, then we should grieve the loss of a child by miscarriage or stillbirth as no different than the loss of a person who dies after birth.

We, who have been loved and pursued and redeemed through no merit of our own by our Heavenly Father, should cover these women with love. We should validate and value the lives of their babies; babies who are loved not through merit but by the simple and incredible fact that they belong to their mothers and fathers. We must grieve with these mothers and fathers.

If our eyes have been opened by the Gospel then no dark corner of our hearts can go unchanged.


For me personally, if you want to make a huge difference in my day (or week or month) then refer to my son, Owen, as a person. Call him by his name and tell me that you think of him or that you wish he was here with us. He was a person (and he still is a person) though he did not take a single breath. I do not measure his life by the number of breaths he took, or the days he lived, or the growth chart on our doorway or birthday parties we planned. I do not grieve the person he could have potentially been. I grieve him, his absence and the heartbreaking fact that we are separated from each other. This is unfortunately not how most people see my son. They picture a pregnancy that didn't turn out, or a faceless nameless fetus that somehow disappeared when he died. It is a damn shame, and it breaks my heart....
Because his story is beautiful....


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Home and two poems

Home again, home again, jiggity jog.


After 12.5 hours on the road, we are home. It was a very long day in our loaded-down car with two of my favorite people, both of whom are sleeping soundly at this present moment. Hannah Mae, who was a gold star trooper most of the day, fell apart immediately upon entry into our home. She followed me around demanding I hold her. She's getting so big, it's a little harder to unpack bags holding a 32 month old(!). 

Christmas and New Year's were both well celebrated in our family. I have some particularly fun memories of both holidays this year. Quite a few of them involve various members of my family cutting a rug on the dance floor (including my grandmama). It was hilariously fun to dance side by side with my grandmama the day after her 87th birthday... 
I have another memory of Hannah renaming my sister-in-law's cat 'Strawberry' because the dog's name is 'Blueberry' ... that just makes sense, doesn't it?...
Then there's the night that Hannah made everyone take turns trying on her hooded Batman towel she got for Christmas, and pretend to be Batman with her...

Oh, why not a poem?... (set to the tune of O Christmas Tree)

Pink Jesse boots and a hat to wear
when riding her new pony.

Four Batman guys and a weird Joker,
who live inside a pink castle.

My mom and dad can really dance
according to that guy watching. (repeat)
We may have laughed at them a lot,
but only from the balcony.

Two long hard days in a crowded car;
The beach, the mountains, twice as far.

O Christmastime, O New Year's Eve...
what fun we had as a family!
O, what fun we had as a family!!


Whew. Yeah. That was cheesy. You don't have to tell me. ; )
Speaking of poems (or things that resemble poems), I found one of my first poetry books last week at my parent's house collecting dust. And because I think it's too hilarious not to share... here it is:

Hannah (a limerick):
There once was a girl named Hannah,
who lived in a state called Alabama.
She walked all around
And had to sit down
No wonder, she was in Savannah.

Yes, I really wrote that... when I was 12. Who knew I would have a little girl named Hannah all these years later?? Crazy. 


I hope everyone had a restful and joyful Christmas and New Year's. I know that the holidays are often a time of sadness and grief, much more often than a time of rejoicing, but I pray that you had moments of lightness and hope.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

red birds are everywhere

Like a single
ornament,

the red cardinal
on a pine

outside
the window

is our only
decoration,

until
the snow.

Noel
Linda Pastan
____________________



A sudden loud noise draws my attention to the back window facing the water. There in the tall barren trees is my red bird. It sits as still as a statue. I smile and whisper my thanks.

Thank you, Lord.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Counting the cost

Sometimes the urge to write is undeniable. And sometimes the impulse to run and hide is impossible to dismiss. It is rare that I feel both at the same time.
I have been taking longer and longer breaks from blogging. But I have not stopped writing. I have just stopped sharing all I write.
Lately I've felt so vulnerable, and so exposed in all I've shared, either in person or in writing, that I've been left feeling very fragile and sensitive. In the past, I've felt that the risk I take in being honest is worth the cost of being exposed, maybe even judged. I still feel that the cost is worth it, because damn it... we are free. And friends, nothing can change that.

I don't know if I can say exactly why I've been feeling so fragile. Maybe it is because we've been trying to add to our family and it is harder than we anticipated. Maybe it is because we are on the edge of moving again, and leaving good friends and a safe place. Maybe it is because where we are isn't really a safe place at all, but it feels safer than the world out there. Maybe it is spiritual warfare which is ever-present, even if we don't feel it at all.

If I'm being honest, which I do try to be, our life is far from perfect. It is not pinterest or facebook worthy most of the time, whatever that means. It is messy and complicated, and we are messy and complicated.

The truth is... it will never be comfortable or glamorous to live as God has called us to live. And if we truly want to love our fellow Christians and our neighbors as well, then we have to get down in the mess and love. And point to the One who can make all the sad things untrue, and remind each other of the beauty of the Gospel that tells us how valued and loved we are. He sees us in the mess of our sins and our brokenness, and he loves us. And he calls us to do the same, no matter the cost.