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.