Wednesday, October 29, 2014

happy birthday, ainsleigh hope!



We celebrated Ainsleigh all day today. This year has zipped by! It is a blessing to be mama to a girl who is so full of life and energy. I've been feeling really down, but this morning we spent time with Ainsleigh's almost birthday friend, and another good friend, and it lifted my spirits so much. Maybe because we all brought treats ... We gave the little girls pedicures and I felt better emotionally than I have in DAYS. We need our friends, sisters! 



Darling, darling Ainsleigh girl,

You are one!! What a fun year it's been! You like to sit in mama or daddy's lap while you play. You love your brother because he makes you laugh. You can walk a little bit, but you prefer crawling. You love food - oranges and grapes are your favorite. You talk and sing all the time. You are VERY, VERY loud. You love music - you clap and bounce when your brother turns it on. You like to put things on your head. You're developing a sense of humor. You call your people mama, dada, and bra (brother). You know how to wave and stack, and climb. You celebrated your birthday by climbing on the kid table with the toy bus. You fell off and hit the side of your eye. You might have a tiny shiner for your first birthday party!


We love you so much, and we are so happy you are ours. There is a part of me that needed you so much, baby girl. You won't understand until you yourself are a mama, but when I say you are my hope I mean you literally made it possible for me to breathe deeply after years of shallow gasping. You are the answer to so many prayers.

Love you, Ainsey girl!

Monday, October 27, 2014

on building a wall


I read through the book of Nehemiah yesterday with the She Reads Truth devotion as my guide. It was so encouraging, and so applicable to where I am in my life right now, I can't stop thanking the Lord for pointing me to it.

Nehemiah is a short book about the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem, but it is far from simple. Nehemiah's faith and trust in God is evident over and over throughout the book. He doesn't make a move without talking to God first. (2:4, 4:9, 6:9).

I am in the middle of following God's call to build a ministry for parents who have lost babies at our church. It's a mess, friends. It's hard work. It's discouraging. It's frustrating. It's way harder than I thought it would be. But Nehemiah's work is a reminder to stay faithful, to be obedient to what God is asking me to do, and to take every step with faith and prayer. (4:9)


Chapter three of the book of Nehemiah lists who worked on each section of the wall. The devotion that accompanied the passage pointed to instances when specific areas appear later in the Bible. It had been hundreds of years, but the wall was still up, and was still being used! The devotion encouraged readers to look beyond the boring list of names and see how God was using these people to support a later mission. And then this passage of the devotion jumped out at me:

"Could it be that the section of the wall God has given you is important for His glory today, but that He might also have an eternal plan for the work you're doing?

What if ... your simple job is the setting for miraculous kingdom-size work for generations to come?"

Oh. I hadn't thought about that! Honestly, I've been so busy trying to make everything go my way I haven't stopped to think about the future of our ministry. I'm head down determined to make things happen, too busy to look up and pray about why God is asking us to create this ministry.

If you've read this blog for any length of time you know I sat in the "why valley" for a loooong time after Charlotte died. You can read three or so years of blog posts on the scenery in that valley. I didn't really like it down there, but I couldn't figure out how to get out. And every time I found a path and began the climb I fell and ended up on the valley floor again.

What I finally - finally!! - learned was the only way out of the valley is reliance on God and an understanding of faith. Faith in God's plan, and acceptance of the fact that His plan doesn't align with mine. His plan is so much greater! And along with faith there needs to be a willingness to put aside the need to know why and accept that there won't be answers this side of heaven.

Here too, in this ministry building time, faith is the answer to all of my questions. I don't know what we're doing. I don't know if we're reaching people. I don't know how our ministry is going to grow, or where it will be in a year. I'm just one person working on a wall because God asked me to do it. There's amazing people building next to me, and we're praying for guidance with every brick we set. It's not about me, or my comfort, or my need to know what is happening and why. It's about loving people and being where God has asked me to be. Arms open, heart open, ready to serve. (4:6)

The first Empty Arms Connections meeting is on November 17th. It's not a support group, it's a hope group. There is absolutely nothing wrong with support groups, but our vision is to give people more than support. We want to remind them to look forward to heaven and lean on the truth that this is a temporary home.

As we face opposition and frustrations, as we try to work cohesively and peacefully with everyone around us, I'm going to keep Nehemiah and his faith at the forefront of my thoughts. There were armies trying to take Nehemiah down, but he stayed focused and He continually relied on God to guide him and take care of him.

Nehemiah 6:9 - 

They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, "Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed."
But I prayed, "Now strengthen my hands."

The past two weeks have been challenging. The last month has been challenging! God is moving, God is working, and that means the Enemy is working too. Pray for us. Pray for our ministry. Pray for the mothers and fathers we will work with. Pray for us to seek God every step of the way.

All the glory to Him.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

on birthday grief


Celebrating birthdays with my living children is one of my biggest triggers.  It's the one time I hide my sadness from them because I don't want them to feel the weight of my sorrow on their special day. I want them to feel the sheer joy and heartfelt relief we experienced when they were born and we heard them cry for the first time.





After a nearly silent birth - or a completely silent birth - hearing a cry as you labor to bring a baby into the world is like birthing with a symphony in the background. That one cry lights up every nerve ending in your body and makes you so glad you held on through the trauma and fear that accompany pregnancy after loss.




It feels a little unfair that I am so overwhelmed and emotional about birthdays. Unfair to the kids that is. I asked a friend to make a tutu for Ainsleigh to wear on her first birthday. I asked for a pink tutu even though I remember the one that hugged Charlotte's cold feet for a photograph. I have to find a way to hold the image of Charlotte's feet next to the image of Ainsleigh in a tutu without falling apart. It's a hard balance. Just looking at the tutu makes tears come to my eyes, but I want to see Ainsleigh walking around looking gorgeous on her birthday, so I'll put aside the sadness for a day. I'll sit on it if I have to, if that's the only way. I'll pretend it doesn't exist just for a day. It's not a betrayal. It's not. It's coping.

When you wait so long for something getting it feels a little unreal. Looking at Bennett and Ainsleigh playing on the living room floor makes me pause sometimes because they are a dream come to life.

The other thing about waiting a long time for something, or someone, is that when you get to the place you've been dreaming about - a first birthday, a live birth, a year of growth and discovery - the achieving is weighty. And in this case it's tinged with sadness too.

There's a lot of, yay, a girl, we had a girl, and we've had her for a year, praise the Lord! and there's a lot of, but I want both my girls, but why couldn't Charlotte live, who would she be, how would we be ...

I don't want my kids to spend their birthdays competing with someone who isn't here, so I smile and sing 'Happy Birthday' with tears in my eyes and the understanding that in a few years they'll see the tears so I'll have to sing the song without the tears. And every time I wrap birthday presents I cry because it makes me realize how gone Charlotte is. How she never had time to be. How I'll never know what she would have loved to receive as a gift.

Ainsleigh is nine days shy of her first birthday. And I am glad - so incredibly glad - that she is here. That she climbs on furniture and falls off chairs and stands up in the shopping cart after escaping her buckle and generally leaves me feeling exhausted and like I can't keep up.



But I wish there were two pink tutus sitting on the back of the striped chair in the living room waiting for party day. I wish there was a four year old here. I wish I had my C, the missing piece to my B and A. I wish I had them all because then life would be purely sweet, and there wouldn't be that bitter tinge of grief that rings every celebration with shadows and guilt and that mean spirited thought: you should be happier.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

from Gabriel by Edward Hirsch

I did not know the work of mourning
Is like carrying a bag of cement
Up a mountain at night

The mountaintop is not in sight
Because there is no mountaintop
Poor Sisyphus grief

I did not know I would struggle
Through a ragged underbrush
Without an upward path

Because there is no path
There is only a blunt rock
With a river to fall into

And Time with its medieval chambers
Time with its jagged edges
And blunt instruments

I did not know the work of mourning
Is a labor in the dark
We carry inside ourselves

Though sometimes when I sleep
I am with him again
And then I wake

Poor Sisyphus grief
I am not ready for your heaviness
Cemented to my body

Look closely and you will see
Almost everyone carrying bags
Of cement on their shoulders

That's why it takes courage
To get out of bed in the morning
And climb into the day

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

"take a deep breath, mama"


Dinner prep did not go well this evening. I'm back to monthly meal planning, and tonight's dinner was tacos. Here's the thing about tacos at our house: I have to make everything from scratch. Everything. I dream about those taco kits from the store ...

Taco night is tricky because I need a long stretch of time to make dinner. Like two hours if I do it all in one go. I usually make the tortillas halfway while the kids are resting then finish them off while I am making the filling and fixings, but today during rest time I crashed on the couch with my Bible and a chocolate bar.

I started with the taco seasoning, which I knew I needed to make more of. A few spices, shake the jar up, done. Then I began making the tortillas. When I went to add the baking powder I discovered an empty jar. Gah! I quickly mixed up a batch of baking powder (we don't buy it from the store because we don't eat corn).

J and I had recently discussed why the tortilla recipe had sugar in it. We concluded that it was for flavoring purposes so I decided to leave out the sugar, but the end result was so sticky I ended up throwing the batch away. I told B, "We don't normally do this - in fact Daddy would never do this - but if Mama doesn't throw this away and start over she is going to start yelling."

While I was mixing the tortillas Ainsleigh was screaming as loud as she could because a) I wasn't giving her peas fast enough, and b) that's what Ainsleigh does. Queen Squawkers is the perfect nickname for her. I think the Lord thought it would be helpful to make her super loud so that all of my worries about her verbal skills failing to develop well because of her hearing loss wouldn't have a leg to stand on.

Then B joined in the yelling, because he is three. And then I yelled, because I am human.

I was mixing the dough, getting more and more frustrated, and then B, who was standing in his helper tower, looked at me and said, "Mom, you need to breathe. You need to take a deep breath, mama," because that's what I say to him when he gets frustrated.

The tortillas did not come out perfectly, but I got enough done and pressed that we could have dinner. I threw them onto silicone mats then pulled the griddle out so I could cook them. Two weeks ago when I made tacos I had two silicone mats full of beautiful little circles all laid out and ready to cook as soon as J got home from work. This time I wanted to throw all the tortillas out the door, or have J fix the problem - which he is brilliant at - but I knew J was going to be home late and I didn't want to make him walk in the door and fix dinner (foreshadowing!)

Tortillas done. Spanish rice started. Taco meat started. Fixings done. J almost home. I thought I was home free.

Oh, wait! While I was busy cooking Ainsleigh was pushing the kid chairs and table all over the dining room, which I thought was no big deal because she does that all day every day. But little miss was scheming and plotting and when I peeked in the dining room I saw this:


She used the small chair to climb on the big chair and was doing her best to get up on the table!!

J finally came home and whisked the kids upstairs with him to change/bounce on the bed. I put dinner on the table. I taste tested the Spanish rice before putting it on the table since it was my first time making it. SPICY!! I tried to figure out what I did wrong while eating cheese to ease the burning in my mouth.

"Something is wrong with the Spanish rice," I told J. "You can try it if you like, but it's really spicy."

I served the kids then made myself a taco. I took a bite, then my eyes began watering.

"J! This is SPICY! B, stop! STOP! Don't eat the meat."

He tried a bite. His eyes got huge.

"Eat some cheese, baby!! Quick! It helps!"

"It must be the chili powder, J! The chili powder we bought from the bulk bins this weekend."

"There's different kinds of chili powder?" he asked.

"I don't know! I guess so."

Then another thought crossed my mind.

"Oh my word, that's a pound of grass fed beef!" 

"Stop freaking out, let me try to fix it."

And he did. Mostly. Of course. He used his science brain to add a certain ratio of fats to the meat to tame the spice, then he rinsed it out, and it was edible. Ish.

I just put my head in my hands and ate a plain tortilla.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

on keeping promises


I've been doing as I promised, which is a miracle. I have a  problem with sticking with things and seeing them to the end. (See quitting the diet soda habit. I. just. can't let. go.) The beginning of an adventure is always more fun than the end, right? But I said I wasn't going to add the Facebook app to my phone after resetting it, and I haven't. Sometimes I will access Facebook via the Internet  on my phone after the kids have gone to bed, but I haven't opened it while they are awake, and that is HUGE for me.

I am learning that losing one time filler leads one to immediately seek another, but I'm really trying to stay focused on the important things - like the kids and the house and my people because there won't be second chances to raise them, or love them, or take care of them - and refrain from losing myself in a world that is all about me and my interests. 

You know I'm not saying I hate social media, because that is far from the truth. My love for Instagram is on a par with my love for sweets. I'm not going to give it up because looking at picture of your babies and watching hoped for children grow brings me immense joy. So if you love Facebook, great, I do too, I just love it less because I've come to realize it's often more of a barrier than a gate for me.

I have been immersing myself in the lives around me, which has been an experience, and a blessing. And a couple days ago when I logged onto Facebook and asked people how they are what followed was the best thread on my page in a good long while. I felt connected to people. I felt like we were having a conversation instead of just complaining about little things that only matter in the immediate moment. Because that's what I used to update on a lot: petty annoyances and small frustrations.

I feel less stressed. I feel less anxious. I control what I see and what news I'm exposed to, which helps my overall mood a lot. Ten status updates on the end of the world in the space of an hour was affecting my spirit.

I've been yelling at the kids less. I think. I don't know. You know how some moms are calm and quiet, and some yell? I'm a yeller. I've been trying to follow a motto that equals less yelling: If you are going to yell, don't do it. So the house is a little messy when friends come over because cleaning every inch is going to make me yell at the kids. And some days I read on the couch with B instead of making him have quiet time because trying to enforce it will just make me yell. Three is hard, friends. Three. is. so. hard. And I've been trying to make three a happier year for B, because I feel like so far it's been rough and we've been clashing a lot. So, less yelling, more grace has been the general goal lately.

And staying off Facebook gives me space in my day. Time to read my Bible in the morning, which shapes my attitude and heart for the day. Time to say, "of course!" when B asks me to play with him. Time to check in with friends. Time to connect with people. Time to talk to people who help me be a better mother, wife, and friend.

The years are spinning past so quickly. Ainsleigh is weeks away from her first birthday. B rounded the three corner a couple months ago. Charlotte would have been four and a half now. I don't have much time to pour all of me into them so that they can find Jesus and build a solid foundation before they are on their own in this big, overwhelming, scary world. 

Every day matters. Every long day when we don't leave the house and all I get done is a load of laundry and sixteen games of car races and gun fights. Every short day when we have seemingly endless tasks to accomplish and my temper wants to be short because I'm tired and the kids aren't listening. All of the happy and sad moments that make up an hour matter. My prayer is to use them wisely to pour love into my kids and the world around me.

And now I have to stop writing because Ainsleigh is awake, and my darling girl can wreck a room in about three seconds flat if I'm not paying attention.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

on the corner of church and madison


I put up a little piece about this soon after it happened on Instagram, but I have more thoughts on the matter so I'm writing a little more today


On Wednesday the kids and I went for a walk. We wandered a while then headed home. As we were crossing Madison I noticed someone sitting on the curb. He said something, but I couldn't hear him because I had B's ride on board attached to the stroller and that thing is noisy!

I had noticed him a few blocks over and my heart skipped for a moment when I saw him again. He was quite tall, wearing basketball shorts and a white hooded sweatshirt, hood pulled up despite the warm day.

When we reached the other side of the street he stood and held a phone out. "My phone is deactivated. Can I borrow yours to call someone?"

I hesitated. In that split second of hesitation I wondered if he was running a scam to steal my phone. That's the world we live in, right? A world of mistrust and fear. A world that overshares evil and hate in so many excessive ways one can easily believe love has stopped being the more powerful emotion.

I said, "My phone is having issues. Let me start it up, then you can make your call."

"Thank you!" his face melted a little, relief colliding with worry. I noticed that he was younger than I initially thought."My dad and I got in a fight, he left me here. I'm from a town 45 minutes away. I don't know where I am! I need to call my mom to come get me."

I asked him for the number, then I dialed it, pressed call and handed the phone over. He talked for a minute while I chatted with the kids. He wandered into the street to check the street sign and that's when I realized he literally had no idea where he was.

"I can't talk, I borrowed someone's phone," he said walking back to the sidewalk. "Okay, okay ..... yes, okay."

He hung up the phone and handed it to me. He stretched his arms over his head, which knocked his hood off. As he dropped his hands back down he ran them over his eyes. I realized he was crying, and that he was much younger than I initially thought.

You know that feeling of sheer relief that someone who loves you knows where you are and is coming to get you? The weight of that feeling crashed down on him and it released ten years from his tense body. He looked as if he hadn't drawn a full breath since his father dropped him on the side of the road.

I looked up at him, he was well over 6 feet tall, and said, "Oh honey, how old are you?"

"I'm 16," he said in a shaky voice as more tears fell.

"Oh honey!" I said again, then I warned him I was going to hug him.

We stood on the street corner, two strangers, hugging, and I said, "I'm just going to tell you it gets easier. 16 is a hard age, and parents don't always remember that. Jesus loves you, okay?"

Then I offered him the $2 I had in the diaper bag, but he wouldn't take it. I spent the rest of the afternoon worrying about him. I wondered if I should have invited him to wait at the house (we were a few blocks from it). I wondered how long he had to wait before his mama picked him up. I sent a text message to the number he called on my phone. I never got one back.

It's Sunday afternoon and I'm still thinking about him. I wonder if his home life is a mess. I wonder what possessed his father to kick him out of the car in an unfamiliar city. I wonder if he made it home. And I keep circling back to that feeling of relief that washed across his face when he heard his mama's face.

Do you have that in your life? Do you have someone you can call day or night, familiar city or not, and ask, "Can you come pick me up?" I hope you do. We all need that person - or people - to help us when life falls apart.

I want to see him again because I did such a clumsy job of expressing myself in the moment. What I was trying to convey to that boy on the corner of Church and Madison was this: you might feel all alone in the world, but Jesus is here with you on this street corner. You might feel unloved and unworthy, but Jesus loves you.

Have you ever wandered from Jesus? Have you ever cried out to Jesus, "I don't know where I am, and I don't know how I got here, but I need you to pick me up?" Have you ever felt the relief of being known by a loving Father?

Jesus will always pick you up. He will always come to you, if you ask, no matter where you've been or what you've done. Isn't that amazing?

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