Friday, June 9, 2017

honestly - it's been a hard year


This year has been full of brokenness and hard days.

Things really began in December of '16, but 2017 hasn't been easy. We're halfway to 2018 (isn't that crazy?) and I find myself unable to do much but hope the latter half of this year will be easier, because I don't want to imagine what other hard things might be coming.

I'm slowly coming out of a difficult few weeks of extreme illness. Like I have never before been so ill in my life. I know that is not a completely true statement, but goodness I have been sick.

Long story short:

My miscarriage left me anemic. When I finally went to the doctor to find out if I was low on iron I was told my body was so depleted of iron the blood test registered almost none present. My doctor put me on a HUGE dose of iron, which made me really, really sick.

BUT

I didn't know the iron supplement was causing my sudden disturbing symptoms.

I felt like I couldn't swallow.

I felt like I had a golf ball in my throat.

My stomach was upset.

I couldn't eat.

I had a massive anxiety attack because I felt like I couldn't swallow and it was the week of Charlotte's birthday, and the kids were really sick ... And I thought: oh dear me this anxiety issue has become a major problem and I should possibly be committed.

Then I lost 6 lbs in 4 days, a tremor developed in my right hand, and my heart was racing.

Oh, maybe not anxiety, I thought. Perhaps my thyroid problems are cropping up again. I called my doctor and asked for a same day appointment. She didn't have room in her schedule and her physician's assistant had recently quit so I was referred to urgent care where I found out that the golf ball in my throat was due to acid reflux and my thyroid levels were perfectly balanced.

Why in the world am I having crippling acid reflux when I have never had a problem with it before? I wondered. And why did I spend a week feeling like this before seeking help?!

Two miserable days later I finally traced the acid reflux issues to the iron supplement my doctor prescribed.

Every day I am off the iron supplement I feel better. (Well, I did until I tried taking my recommended multivitamin. That set me back a few days). The iron supplement destroyed my GI tract. I was only on it for a week, but it was a really high dose and my body did NOT like it.

The only good thing about all of this? I didn't touch caffeine for three weeks and I had hardly any sugar. Before this I would have said, impossible!, to three weeks without chocolate, but when every bite of food makes you miserable you want to avoid eating as much as possible.

Two weeks after my doctor referred me to an IV infusion center for an iron boost insurance approved the procedure and I head in Monday to get my first infusion. And I really, really hope it helps me feel better. And as more time goes by I hope all of the GI issues will settle and resolve. I still have to drink aloe juice 30 minutes before I eat to get food down and keep it down without getting knock me over acid reflux, but I no longer feel like I have a golf ball in my throat which is a huge improvement.

When I think about the stack of issues we are up against right now (B's health and mine primarily, gah it's all such a mess) I get overwhelmed, but in the middle of the swirling chaos that the last few months have brought I see God's presence and help in our lives.

I've written a little bit about going back to counseling at the beginning of the year. I'm still at it. Nearly every week. Yeah ... healing takes so. much. time. But a few things I've learned that have been SO helpful: how to breathe (I'm serious), calm myself enough to stop an anxiety attack (so useful) and use guided meditation when I a) can't calm down or b) can't sleep. It has been so helpful to learn how to manage my anxiety symptoms so I can function fully. Just learning how to use guided meditation (I just use YouTube to find guided Christian meditations, but there are apps) to help me get good rest has been instrumental to my survival during this month of illness.

This has not been an easy, or pleasant, process, but I hope at the end of all these health trials - whenever that comes - I'll be healthier mentally and physically. And in the meantime I am doing the in the deep trenches one day at a time dance, which isn't necessarily a bad thing for a worrier like me. Every day I have to evaluate what I can and cannot do, and the kids are learning to adjust their expectations of what I can and cannot do. It's not easy, but we're all hobbling through life together right now and the kids are learning flexibility and compassion.

This is my third health issue since December - broken finger, miscarriage, iron supplement nearly killed me (I'm kidding - ish) - but having so many issues is teaching me a lot about dependency and vulnerability and how to accept the limitations life sometimes puts on me.

After nearly four weeks of having problems eating / being unable to eat I am glad for the basics: food, having enough to eat, being able to eat, and hopefully soon - enjoying food. Right now I still feel wary about eating, but a lot of the anxiety that cropped up when the acid reflux crashed into my life has subsided.

I am so thankful B is done with school. The last week was pure misery for me; I could hardly function. I still haven't snapped his last day of preschool picture, but I'll get around to it. Maybe.


I've talked to many moms like me - worn out, neck deep in health issues, chock full of anxiety. We're so busy hustling and bustling for our babies and families we push ourselves to the back burner until we fall off the stove entirely and require extensive repair to get all the pieces back in order. Whether you're in pieces mentally or physically, or all of the above like me, you're in good company. There's a lot of us down here on the floor trying to figure out how to be healthier so we can continue caring for the ones we love with our whole hearts.

Don't forget to take care of yourself.



Wednesday, May 10, 2017

year seven


I have a huge bruise on my right hip from zip lining with friends on Monday.

Can you believe I went zip lining?

6 days before Charlotte's birthday! 

With an anxiety disorder in my pocket (it's always there. I can't take it out, but I'm trying to make it less comfortable).

Because flipping out on a platform halfway up a very tall tree with no way down aside from a zip line sounds like fun!

Typically May is for hibernating, but that didn't make me feel better in years one through six so I thought I should try pulling myself together and living in May instead of suffering through May.

This year Charlotte's birthday falls on Mother's Day, which is making my head spin in ways I didn't know were possible (I think it's so overwhelming a thought I've mostly shut down and decided to ignore it) so when an opportunity to get away with my best girls came up I decided to go for it, anxiety disorder and all.

In utter defiance of the panic attacks that come weekly I packed the car on Sunday morning and said goodbye to the kids and Jon. As I drove to the resort I reminded myself I was going on a break, that it was going to be fun, and that I was lucky to have a chance to spend time with my friends without our kids climbing our legs and demanding our time (the five who went have 18 children here on Earth with us. That's a whole lot of needy babies!)

On Monday morning I ordered room service for breakfast because it is one of my favorite things. I don't care about the cost, or the fact that they overcharge, or anything logical or practical. I. love. room. service.

And then I met up with my friends and after scrambling into a harness with zero dignity and much confusion I climbed up a set of stairs on shaky legs, clambered onto a platform and threw myself into the beautiful cool stillness of a quiet Northwest forest. Oh wait, it wasn't quiet. I was with three other terrified girls; there was a LOT of screaming.

Oddly enough, I wasn't as scared as I thought I would be. By the end I was even stepping up for my turn without a topsy-turvy stomach and shaking hands. I was so busy focusing on what the guides had to say and how to keep myself alive I didn't have time to panic.

In therapy I've been working through the idea that I don't have control over my life, or the lives of those I love. I have a lot I am working through, but the issue of control is a whopper of a problem and the core of my anxiety.

Out there in the forest, soaring through the trees with the beautiful Columbia Gorge surrounding me, I made the choice to relinquish control and have fun. I couldn't zip line without the guides (not if I wanted to live) so I had to let go and allow them to be their job: a guide, a helper, a sign post.

At one point a guide was giving me directions and I cut him off. "I just want to go straight, please. I don't want to turn. Why are you telling me how to turn?!"

He put his hand on my shoulder and said, "I'm trying to tell you how to go straight. You're not listening. Just listen, I am showing you what you want to know."

I quickly shut my mouth, listened to his words, followed his instructions, and zipped down the line just as I wanted to (straight as an arrow, no spinning please! It's enough I am on this contraption, I don't need to spin in circles as I am flying down the line!!)

That interaction was my entire life encapsulated in thirty seconds of instruction.

I spend so much of my time in a STATE of upset I miss what I need to hear. I am so busy trying to solve and manage things on my own I don't see the helping hands all around me. I am so determined to sail the ship and keep all the people alive I forget it is not my job, nor am I able to do so. It doesn't matter how hard I try, or what effort I put forth: I cannot keep the people I love alive, well and safe. Coming to grips with that, which I am still in the process of, has been one of the more difficult things I have done.

The last few weeks I've been hearing the Lord urging me to pick up my Bible, but the lethargy of grief and the buzz of anxiety knocked aside His voice.

Why pick up my Bible when I can spend an hour on Instagram? Why pick up my Bible when I can watch Netflix?

Why pick up my Bible when I am so anxious I can't take a deep breath? Why pick up my Bible when I feel completely lost in the wilderness?

This time of year there is always a bit of a war between God and I and it always comes back to the salient fact that He did not answer the way I wanted Him to when I cried out for Him to spare my baby's life and give her back to me.

So I always circle back to this question:

Why pick up my Bible when you didn't save my baby girl?

But last night I listened and picked up my Bible.

This is what I read:

Psalm 27: 1-2

The Lord is my light and my salvation
whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life
of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 34: 4

I sought the Lord and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.

Psalm 34: 18

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

After inhaling those verses last night my anxiety scaled down a bit. I'm still jittery as all get out, but I have confidence I can get back to a manageable place soon, and maybe even a healed place someday.

Last month I read a book called The Lucky Few. I wrote a review on it, but I am going to re-post part of it here because I need the reminder.

When Heather and her husband are struggling with the medical issues stemming from their first daughter's open heart surgery she breaks down over the stress, which leads her dad to remind her that God is in control:


"Heather. Heather Elizabeth. Every breath she will ever breathe has already been accounted for. Nothing you do or don't do is going to change that, Heather. God's got this ...



There it was: life-giving, life-changing truth. We had sat in the hospital in the shadow of death. Now we were home, and that same shadow was knocking on my door, but the truth of my dad's words drowned out the racket that death was trying to make.



The truth my dad spoke that night was branded on my heart. And as the days and weeks and months and years went on, I would say the words out loud whenever I needed to drown out the fear that death would whisper in my ear.



'Every breath she will ever breathe has already been accounted for. Nothing I do or don't do is going to change that.'"

In four days I should be celebrating my first daughter's seventh birthday. Instead I am navigating another year without her. A year that has brought new challenges and incredible valleys I found impossible to navigate solo. But it's also the year when I found the courage to live in May. It's the year I dared to say, I need help, and I am listening, and I feel anxious, and will you walk through this with me?

And it's the year I found a little bravery, jumped off a platform and sailed through the forest with shaking hands and a quick tripping heart.

Every fear I confront is for Charlotte. I want to live my life well because she didn't get the chance to.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

the lucky few {book review}




I was reading through The Lucky Few by Heather Avis when I realized she lived the story I'm in right now. It's a story of letting go of how we expect mothering and parenthood to be, and who we thought would make up our family, as well as relinquishing control over everything - even our children - and giving our families to God so He can direct our steps in the way He wants us to go.

For Heather and her husband Josh, the journey includes the valley of infertility and the rocky uncertain path of adoption and parenting special needs children. Throughout The Lucky Few, which chronicles the Avis family's life as they move from a family of two to a family of five, Heather is honest about her doubts, hopes, fears and strong feelings.

I read The Lucky Few in one day. As I was finishing it up my kids were at the park with their dad, burning off energy before bed. Moments after I read the last words I could hear the arrivial of my family. Ainsleigh was screaming and crying so hard in the driveway I could hear her from the house. While at the park Ainsleigh slipped and fell in a creek. (She is fine, we took her to the ER to make sure, but our sweet girl had a terrifying experience last night.)

As I held Ainsleigh in my arms in the ER waiting room I thought about the chapters in The Lucky Few when Heather and her husband are struggling with the medical issues stemming from their first daughter's open heart surgery. When Heather breaks down over the stress her dad reminds her that God is in control:

"Heather. Heather Elizabeth. Every breath she will ever breathe has already been accounted for. Nothing you do or don't do is going to change that, Heather. God's got this ...

There it was: life-giving, life-changing truth. We had sat in the hospital in the shadow of death. Now we were home, and that same shadow was knocking on my door, but the truth of my dad's words drowned out the racket that death was trying to make.

The truth my dad spoke that night was branded on my heart. And as the days and weeks and months and years went on, I would say the words out loud whenever I needed to drown out the fear that death would whisper in my ear.

'Every breath she will ever breathe has already been accounted for. Nothing I do or don't do is going to change that.'"

I know this isn't a straightforward book review - mine usually aren't - but I believe God put this book in my hands so that when we were sitting in the ER waiting room I would recall Heather's words (and her father's) and remain calm.

I've been doing so much work on letting go of my kids and family and asking God to be in charge (because He ultimately is and I'm just wearing myself out trying to steer the ship solo) and then something like last night happens and it reminds me how close all of us always are to the edge.

I can't keep my kids alive.

I can be careful, vigilant, and mindful in my care of them, but I do not have the power to keep them whole and healthy. That is a difficult truth, but it is one Heather Avis comes to terms with in The Lucky Few as she watches God take control and grow her family in unexpected ways.

I enjoyed reading about Heather and Josh Avis and how they created a beautiful family with God's grace and guidance. 

I  received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, April 9, 2017

disaster falls {book review}


Just as I was going to pick up Disaster Falls and begin reading I miscarried. I put it aside for a while, knowing my heart and mind were not in the right place to read a book about child loss. When I flipped the calendar to April I knew it was time to try Disaster Falls again. I needed to read it before May and Charlotte's birthday and all the attendant emotions that come with her month fell.

I thought I would need time to read about Stephane Gerson and how he experiences life and grief after his son Owen drowns on a rapids trip in Utah, but I tore through the book in one afternoon. I was captivated by Gerson's story (how often do we get to witness a father's grief experience) and how he navigated his journey of guilt and grief.

In Disaster Falls Gerson explores his relationship with his father, as well as his father's history, and ties it into the greater story of his son's death, but it was the narrative of Owen's short life that captivated me. I can't always read books on grief and loss. Sometimes the stories are too close to my own, sometimes I can't relate at all, sometimes there is too much bitterness or anger for me to continue, but Disaster Falls is a well written story of a father who loses his son far too soon and how he coped with that loss and his feelings of failed responsibility.

The story of Owen's life and death is interesting and well written in and of itself, but Gerson's meditations on being a father to a surviving child, and potentially having another child, were the most poignant for me. In what might be my favorite passage Gerson writes,

"How would we carry the memory of a dead child while remaining open to the possibilities of a new life?
I wondered whether I would allow myself to experience the full immersion in parenthood that I observed in young couples. If so, where would this leave Owen? If not, if loyalty to his memory and fear of pain held me back, what kind of father would I be this time around? Children deserve insouciance and the belief in a better future and a world in which mistakes do not necessarily yield disasters."

Stephane Gerson's Disaster Falls is a book well worth reading whether you have lost a child or not. He writes about the trauma of sudden loss and what it looks like when a family loses an elemental part of its structure. Gerson also explores how loss, guilt and grief changes him, and how it is possible to move forward while still holding onto memories of the lost life after something unexpected and devastating happens.

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

miscarriage {baby #4}


We lost a tiny one a month ago. A really tiny one, just a few weeks along. We were still in the whirlwind of what the ... that throws a wrench in about a thousand things ...

I haven't really wanted to talk about it. Less than a handful of people knew I was pregnant. Then a few more found out I lost the pregnancy when the process went on longer than expected.

But I can now confirm something I have always claimed despite a previous lack of personal knowledge: a miscarriage is hard in its own way. A just forming baby can be desperately missed and wanted. Equally so, a just forming baby can be a shock and a surprise, and the loss can lead to mixed emotions.

That's where I landed: mixed emotions and one difficult month that I'm only just on the other side of. It's not that I wanted a baby, or another pregnancy, or even another child, but once I had it - however briefly - I wanted, and expected, to keep it.

Pregnancy and birth is so traumatic for me I couldn't plan on having another child, but when we were surprised with one I felt the hope that always comes with new life. I also cried a LOT because I don't do well with change and another baby is a BIG change. I felt so confused for the few weeks we knew. I wasn't sure I wanted another baby, but I also didn't expect the pregnancy to end so early. I assumed I would come around to the idea of having a baby eventually. (That's why pregnancy is such a long process, right?) And just when I began to think about Ainsleigh and Bennett - who love babies - with a new sibling in the house, the pregnancy ended.

After the loss I wasn't craving a busy 1-year-old or a saucy 2-year-old or a curious 3-year-old, but I desperately wanted a newborn. That's exactly how I felt after Charlotte died and feeling that way again sent me in to a bit of a spin.

I was worried the feeling would last forever; that my certainty our family is as complete as possible this side of heaven would evaporate and I would once again question if we should have another. But then the feelings faded, after one very intense difficult week, and I remembered that the deep, dark feelings don't last forever, they just feel like they will.

There is no way to know, but I think #4 was a boy. I believe I have a daughter and son waiting for me in heaven. We didn't tell the kids about the pregnancy, but they knew Mama didn't feel well (I couldn't hide that!) and there was so much comfort in their tiny arms and beautiful lives as I miscarried and recovered. 

Losing this baby was a different kind of loss, but it was still a loss and I am so thankful for the people I told for allowing me the space to grieve and have lots of different feelings about the miscarriage. 

There is a small part of me that is reluctant to share this. This loss is a much quieter one than our first. One of my initial goals for this blog, which I've tried to carry forward, is to be honest so that others may feel like they can share their life stories. In that spirit I am going to share about the miscarriage, but I probably won't write about it after this post.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

living with food allergies


I have noticed over and over and over that it is impossible to truly understand the impact and challenges of living with food allergies unless you or a loved one are exposed to the struggle daily.

When Bennett had his reaction last fall to the new nut butter we tried my anxiety went into overdrive mode and it is just coming down now (mostly due to therapy). Even though his reactions in the fall ended with hives and did not affect his breathing at all, I have spent the past few months in a panic about Bennett and his allergies. 

When I am at the children's museum, or the park, or church, and a child has a peanut butter sandwich, or peanuts are served, I want to explain to people how hard and stressful it is to live with a food allergy. If you haven't been exposed to food allergies, or lived in close proximity to people with food allergies, it's hard to understand how frightening it is to see a parent pull a peanut butter sandwich out of a lunch bag.

And Bennett isn't even that allergic! His allergy is triggered by ingestion, thankfully, but it's still stressful to to take him to the park and other kid heavy places because he has a terrible habit of putting his hands in his mouth (we hand wash and remind, remind, remind, but this is a hard habit to break!).

Our friends and family have been accommodating, kind and thoughtful, but if I had to tell a new friend about what it's like to live with food allergies this is what I would say:

It is very challenging and sometimes heart breaking to have a child with food allergies. My son feels left out, he knows he is different, and it makes him sad there are so many foods he can't eat.

I spend a lot of time shopping for food and preparing meals my son can eat. Every time I shop I check labels, even if it's the three ingredient rice crackers I buy every week. Ingredients can change at any time and assuming a food is safe can have harmful consequences. Please don't feed my child anything from your cupboard or fridge or child's backpack without my consent.

There are restaurants we cannot go to because they serve foods cooked in peanut oil or made with peanut sauce. We have to bring a separate dinner for our son if we are eating out. We used to be able to go to two places and get him something from the menu, but he's been too reactive lately for us to try. If we want to "eat out" we either bring food for my son or my husband brings food home and I make a separate meal for the kids (this is what we usually do).

Holidays can be a nightmare. Finding food substitutes and safe options is hard and time consuming. (Last Thanksgiving Bennett had a smoothie while everyone else had a full turkey dinner.)

I have cried because I don't know what to make for dinner / I'm tired of eating the same five dinners that are safe for my son / I am exhausted from cooking.

I have also cried because I want to take my son out and enjoy a treat with him. Seeing pictures of parents taking their kids out for ice cream, a hot chocolate, or a cupcake because they wanted to do something special makes me sad and jealous.

Despite the challenges there are positives as well:

We are all eating healthier. I still eat the foods my son can't have, like wheat, but I eat way, way, way less than I did before. Nearly all of our dinners comply with Bennett's diet restrictions, which means at least one meal a day (and usually two because I often eat leftovers for lunch) is free of gluten, soy, corn, dairy (mostly, I do love cheese) and preservatives / food dyes. 

My son is learning compassion for himself and others. He knows what it is like to feel different and he carries heaps of kindness and empathy in his little heart.

I've learned a lot about cooking and preparing meals from scratch with a handful of ingredients.

And here's some ways you can help:

Be considerate and try to remember the food restrictions. I know this is really hard to do! Right now Bennett's list of restricted foods is so long it is easier to list what he can eat than what he cannot eat!! But the kids who remembered my son's food allergies on Valentine's Day and made sure he had a non-food treat in his bag made my day - not to mention his.

Think twice about bringing foods with peanut butter to kid focused places and events. For kids with airborne or contact allergies just breathing in or touching the allergen can cause anaphylaxis.

If you have a child with food allergies over for a play date:

- Please wash your child's hands and wipe the table down after they eat.
- Don't let them play with toys while eating unless you plan on washing them.
- Don't let them wander around the house with food (my son eating a small bit of peanut butter cracker off the floor when he was 9 months old led to an ER visit and his Epi-pen prescription)
- Musical instruments that touch the mouth are not to be shared (whistles, harmonicas etc.)

Parents of children with food allergies appreciate your kindness and consideration! It is so stressful to be in an environment where allergens are. When there is a safe place for us to drop our time consuming vigilance and let our kids play and make friends our whole family benefits.

Does your child have food allergies? Do you have a friend who has a child with food allergies? What is living with - or near - food allergies like for you?

assimilate or go home {book review}


Assimilate or Go Home: Notes from a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith by D. L. Mayfield is a well timed book that every evangelical Christian who is interested in reaching beyond the church should read.

Mayfield grew up wanting to be a missionary so when she has the opportunity to use her hometown, Portland Oregon, as a missions ground she is excited. But as Mayfield lives and works with Somali refugees in Portland she realizes being a missionary and loving her neighbor is more difficult and complex than she expected.

Mayfield's refreshingly honest stories about her struggles with helping others, particularly refugees, was enjoyable and written in a an easy to read style. I appreciated Mayfield's willingness to confront her failures and how she learned and grew from her missteps and mistakes.

I recommend Assimilate or Go Home for anyone who is seeking to learn how to help with the refugees who are pouring into American cities. As I read Mayfield's book I realized there is a population in my city I don't know anything about. With this book Mayfield provides a road map of how to sit with and learn from people instead of trying to convert and change them.

Monday, March 6, 2017

choosing real {review & giveaway!!}



Bekah Pogue's book Choosing Real is an invitation to learn how to cope and enjoy the journey when life doesn't go as planned. Pogue encourages readers to lean on God and let go of striving for perfection when life goes sideways. She uses her own life experiences, particularly the loss of her father, to explore what it means to truly 'enjoy the journey.'

I appreciated Pogue's honesty and encouragement as she wrote about her experiences as a mother and learning how to be content with her place in life. There are a lot of books out on this topic right now, because our world has changed so dramatically, and we are living so much of our lives online, but Pogue does an excellent job of bringing every topic she explores back to God and how living closely with him can help us let go of the idolatry of striving and comparing.

I enjoyed this book and I think you will too! Thanks to the Blythe Daniel Agency I have a copy to give away! Leave a comment and I'll pick a winner on Thursday!!



Monday, February 13, 2017

alongside {book review and giveaway!!}




What do you do when a dear friend finds out they have cancer? What do you do when your neighbor, whom you've only met once, experiences a significant loss? What do you do when a family in your church encounters crisis after crisis? How do you help? What can you do? Should you do anything?

Alongside by Sarah Beckman seeks to answer all of these questions with solid, researched advice, much of it drawn from her experiences and the experiences of people she interviewed, all who have been through - or are in the middle of - crisis. I wish I had fifteen (or more!) copies of this book to give away. I wish all of the parents I have met who lost children had people in their lives who read this book, because some of the comments and actions that I have heard about have made a devastating loss even more so. I wish I had a copy of this in my hands years ago, but I am glad to have it as a resource now.



Beckman covers everything from what level of response to a crisis one should have based on their relationship: from Tier 1 to Tier 4 (this is so helpful for those who are trying to navigate how to respond to friends and acquaintances in times of need) to what to say and not to say, and what gifts / offers might be appropriate.

I especially appreciated Backman being honest enough in her writing to admonish people to keep their focus outward and make sure their purpose and intentions are to serve, not glean information, or show off how much they are assisting. Motivations get mixed sometimes and it is important to remember that helping someone through a major life event is for and about them.


Alongside is a useful guide one can pull out again and again as different events in life happen. There are practical gift guides, helpful websites, and practical advice spread throughout the book. You can either read it front to back or use it as a reference guide as needs arise.



I highly recommend this book for everyone who is trying to live out the Biblical edict to love one's neighbor (which is everyone by the way, not just the people next door or across the street). And even if you are not a Christian there is practical, helpful advice within these pages if you are walking through a difficult time with someone.

Thanks to the Blythe Daniel Agency and The Blog About Network I have one copy of Alongside - signed by the author! - to give away. Please leave a comment if you are interested in winning a copy. I'll choose a winner on Friday, February 17th!

Friday, February 10, 2017

living without answers


I feel like we are doing the up, down, loop around roller coaster ride with our boy B and his food issues all day every day. Every time I think, we've got this! we reach a crest and plummet to a low, low place once again.

I was waiting to fall asleep last night, alternating between thinking about B's food issues and praying, when I realized a lot of my parenting life has taken place in the land of zero answers. (Isn't that true for all parents? We have no idea what we're doing, right?!)

Why did Charlotte die?

The answer hasn't been revealed to us.

Why does Bennett have food issues? What exactly are his food issues? What is the base problem?

The answers haven't been revealed to us.

Why was Ainsleigh born with hearing loss in one ear?

The answer hasn't been revealed to us.

With all of these questions I want the resolution that answers bring. I want that big hallelujah moment when all is revealed and everything makes sense, but the tricky thing about revelations and answers is that we often don't get to know everything this side of heaven.

The lingering questions about the girls I am mostly sort-of kind-of okay with not having answers for. I've done a lot of grief work since Charlotte died and most days I can live with the unanswered questions that surround her birth and death. As for Ainsleigh, her situation is not ideal, but it's manageable and she's not noticeably delayed, so I'm not overly concerned about what exactly happened during her gestation to cause her hearing loss.

But what do I do if the Praise Jesus he's healed moment!! doesn't come around for years, or at all, for my boy? What if we're ten years out and B is still battling food issues and we're still riding that roller coaster? What does that look like? How do I cope? Will I still be hanging on to faith and hope and believing that God has my B and his life in the palm of His hands?

I'd like to say I will, but in the same breath I have to admit I cannot fathom ten more years like this. It doesn't feel sustainable, BUT I don't have to go forward on my own power. I just have to keep handing the problem over and asking for help as each new day and challenge arises.

I've been learning a lot about myself lately (therapy will do that to you) and how and why what is happening around me has landed me in this place of barely coping. And I've had to rely on God to get me through each day because I literally cannot. It's been very stretching and challenging and I don't like it AT ALL, but my brain is kind-of broken - not to mention my heart - and if I can fix myself now (with a whole lot of help) maybe that + Jesus is how I get through this time of waiting and hoping for healing that could go on for years.

The good great thank you Jesus news in all of this is that we get to shed these troublesome earthly bodies some day and be completely whole and healed in heaven if we accept Christ into our lives and hearts and allow him to change and shape us. That is good news! I'm excited! But my kids haven't made that step yet, so I need to model Christ for them and introduce them to the Bible and take them to church and show them the way. It is hard to witness B in pain, clutching his stomach, but there is so much light and hope in being able to be with him in the moment and say, this will not last forever. I promise. It might not abate until heaven, but if you believe in the Lord and ask him into your life it WILL abate then.

Though life may feel dark and heavy now the Praise Jesus moment will come. It might not come when we want it to (likely it won't) and our pain and sorrow may last longer than we think we can endure, but God promises he will wipe every tear and take away our sorrow and that we will be whole with Him in heaven. Holding on to that promise is how I am going to make it through each day while I ride the roller coaster with my B and wait for answers and healing.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

nothing to prove {book review}



In Nothing to Prove Jennie Allen writes about the abundance of God's love and how we need to put down whatever we are carrying, whatever is slowing us down, or causing us to be numb, or making us strive, and realize that God is enough and He has us in the palm of his hand, we just need to quiet ourselves and rely on Him.

In the second half of the book Allen focuses on various chapters in the book of John and relates them to God's Streams of Enoughness. Those chapters made the book come alive for me. I often feel like I should be doing more for others. I get stuck in routine, we all do, and before I know it we're already a month into 2017 and a lot of the 2016 goals and promises I had in mind have fallen by the wayside.

I was especially convicted by Allen's exhortation to rely on God and let my life and mission flow from that dependent relationship.

Allen writes, "Consider the things that are holding you back - the things you say you don't have enough of .... Now I want you to picture the streets in heaven. I want you to picture streets as far as you can see and every street is full of warehouses as far as you can see.
I just want you to picture all that God has and all that He wants to do.
Then you land in heaven with him. He looks you in the eyes and says, 'I wanted to go crazy through you. I wanted to change your neighborhood, your city. And you kept going up to your room and watching Netflix.'"

For me it's reading a book instead of Netflix, but it's the same general idea! God wants us to be His voice and He wants to work through us, but we have to let go of our fear and anything else that is holding us back and let Him.

Lately my story, my life, my habits have been focused inward. I've been focused on me and how I am feeling and how I need to get better because I can't continue as I have been, but what I really need to do is put all of my need on God and turn my focus outwards. Because I am not the only one who feels like life is hard and overwhelming, and as I learned with my last post, being honest and reaching out leads to more connections and deeper friendships.

It was just such a relief to read Nothing to Prove and be reminded that I can put everything that is going on in my life on God's shoulders and he can use it for His purposes. My life, small though it feels sometimes, can make a kingdom difference if I rely on the power of God to transform instead of my own skills and abilities. Nothing to Prove reminded me that I can't do anything without God, but with Him I can do whatever is asked of me.

“I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.”

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

no, I am not fine


I've mostly been posting book reviews here because I haven't wanted to share as much about what is going on in our lives. The kids are getting older and I have been feeling the need to be careful about what I share about them and their lives. And most of the time my life is fairly boring and routine: we're remodeling the house, B is in preschool, I read a lot ...

Of course I began writing here at a time when I needed to be heard and understood. I wanted others experiencing loss to know they were not alone so I shared about all of my grief and parenting after loss struggles even though some of it was hard to write about.

I wrote about my anxiety after B was born and how I needed outside help so I went to counseling. And that counseling helped quite a bit, but it didn't really solve anything. I felt better most of the time, but I was still anxious about a lot of things. Then B had a series of reactions (just hives, no Epi-pen required) in October and I quietly fell apart.

I appeared fine on the outside, but I was an anxious mess on the inside. I was sick to my stomach (literally) with worry and fear, but I continued putting 'find a new counselor because I didn't LOVE my last one,' at the end of my to do list.

Then I had an anxiety attack in the middle of a church service one Saturday night. I was sitting there worrying about B and the small spot he had on his face after dinner. I worry spiraled, as I do, letting my mind wander from worst case scenario to just shy of worst case scenario when I realized my vision was off. Well that was frightening. And then I got really, really, really hot. I leaned over and asked Jonathan to walk out with me. When we had walked down a side hallway I told him I didn't feel well and he checked my heart rate. It was over 200 bpm.

After calming down - and crying - I told Jonathan it was probably time to get help. Again. Finally. 

I called a counselor the next morning - another random choice, which did not work perfectly last time, but I think this one is a better fit - certain I was ready to do just about anything to prevent another anxiety attack.

A few years ago I would've been like, it's time to get help! Let's all get help! Thank the Lord for helpers! This time I'm more ashamed. I mean, it's been nearly 7 years since Charlotte died and I'm still feeling aftershocks. SEVERE aftershocks. Just about pass out from fear and anxiety in the middle of church aftershocks. And it makes me feel really broken and messed up.

But when I told the new counselor about Charlotte dying her jaw was practically on the floor, and it reminded me that what happened to us was very sudden and incredibly traumatic so aftershocks are to be expected, even seven years after the initial traumatic event.

So I'm back to doing the work I need to do to heal. Because I can't live every day waiting for the children who are here to die. That's more waiting for disaster that may never come than living, and it is certainly not a healthy place to parent from.

And B is fine. He's on a new medicine, his doctors are optimistic about the plans we have in place for him, we've been given the go ahead to reintroduce a few foods and even try a baked egg challenge in a month (dear Lord give me the tools I need to cope with that before it occurs!) and he is overall just fine.

I, however, am not fine. I need to reorganize my stress responses so I can parent from a healthier place. I need to be honest with myself and others about how I am so that they can help me find my way. I need to be reminded that there is nothing wrong with how I am handling my grief. I have peace about much of Charlotte's life and death, but I still struggle with what happened - the actual event - because it was so traumatic and life altering.

And I need to tell you something: if you feel like you may need help, get it. Don't wait. God created kind compassionate helper healers for a reason. It's okay to ask them to walk alongside you while you figure out what you need to live a complete and healthy life. It's not easy asking for help, or admitting that everything is not fine, but it's better than having an anxiety attack that leaves you convinced you are dying - trust me.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

what falls from the sky




I selected this book on a whim. I was scrolling through a list of books, trying to decide on a title to read when the subtitle caught my eye:

What Falls From the Sky: How I Disconnected from the Internet and Reconnected with the God Who Made The Clouds

Esther Emery spent an entire year offline. No phone, no computer, no email, no facebook, no blog, no instagram ... nothing to do with the Internet for an entire year.

Could you do it?

I couldn't, but the idea of it is intriguing, so I settled in to read this book one evening and I blazed through it.

I didn't expect the writing to be so descriptive and beautiful. I didn't expect to feel so deeply for Esther and the gut wrenching upheavals that led her to go offline for a year. I loved that she didn't sugarcoat her story; instead she was brutally honest about the job she lost, the strife between her and her husband and how those things affected her life and the choices she made, and eventually led her back to God.

And the background stories that are skillfully woven throughout the book were just as interesting as Esther's reflections on her life.

It was intriguing and sometimes harrowing, to read about what it was like for the Emerys to live in close proximity to a family in crisis, but it was also a good reminder on how to love others well. And the stories about Esther's mother, who was a homesteading back to the land proponent in the 70's, were also fascinating.

Above all else Esther Emery is a good storyteller, and I enjoyed reading about her life and how she came through a time of crisis with her marriage and faith intact.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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Sunday, January 1, 2017

lights out {book review}


I have to keep this short since I am still dealing with one hand in a brace. Hopefully my hand will be healed soon; I am ready to have it back!

I enjoyed Ted Koppel's account of the security  risk our power grid is, but I found the first section a little too dry. I really enjoyed the third section about what to do in the event of a cyber attack, although it left me wanting to buy 5 acres and build a bunker!

I like reading disaster plan books, or what if books, because they force me to think about the emergency plans we have in place and what our family needs to do to improve. Reading Lights Out presented the opportunity to ask myself a series of questions: What would we do if the power was out for months? Could we survive? What would change? How would we need to adapt?

One concrete action I've taken since reading Lights Out was to make an emergency box solely for my son who has food allergies. In the event of a major disaster, like 1\3 of the United States being without power, it might be difficult to obtain the foods he needs to stay healthy.

Lights Out is an important book for everyone to read so that they may be prepared in case a large scale cyber  attack is perpetuated on the United States. 

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