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.

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