Showing posts with label life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label life. Show all posts

Friday, October 21, 2016

in the eye of the storm

It has been a week.

Thursday morning I was writing a LONG blog post about how Bennett has been having a series of allergic reactions, but hopefully the next two days would be calm, when he had another reaction.

Here's the really fun (sarcasm) news: We're not sure what exactly he is reacting to. His doctor is fairly certain Bennett is having a massive immune response to something: either the initial food we thought caused the reaction, or a virus. Right now Bennett is on a very limited diet for 10 days - meat, vegetables, fruit - and then we'll start to reintroduce foods slowly.

Because without being on a limited diet this happened:

Bennett had a breakout - hives all over - Tuesday morning, followed by a flare up in the afternoon and evening. We thought we knew what the trigger was, but immediately after breakfast on Wednesday morning he broke out again. And this time it was worse. On Thursday I once again thought I knew what the trigger was, but in the middle of breakfast I noticed small dots breaking out on his face. I immediately took his food away and put him in a bath with apple cider vinegar and baking soda. I gave him an extra dose of the medicine and tincture given to us by our doctor as well. I don't know if it was the quick action on my part, or something else, but his reaction yesterday was not nearly as severe.


Five reactions in three days has me a little on edge.

And by a little I mean verging on hysteria much of the time. 

Despite being a nervous wreck most of the week there has been relief as well. The people who have loved us and given me grace while I fall apart have been instrumental in helping us survive the week. I am high needs in these kinds of situations. The stress has been so intense I've been sick most of the week.

And there's been the hand of God on Bennett and our family as we navigate this week.

On Tuesday as I frantically pulled out of the driveway on the way to the doctor the song playing on the radio was Eye of the Storm by Ryan Stevenson and the first lines I heard were,

In the eye of the storm
You remain in control

It was one of those moments where the desperate prayers I lifted up as I prepared for us to leave the house and go to the doctor were heard.

On Wednesday as I was driving to school/work (while Bennett is in school I work for the church in a different part of the building) this song came on

Then on Wednesday afternoon Jonathan came home from work, because my ability to carry on alone didn't seem possible. I needed someone else to be "on" for a while. It's really hard for Jonathan to leave in the middle of the day. I know he had to move patients around, and I know it wasn't easy, but I appreciate him stepping in when I was depleted.

And on Thursday after I completely fell apart on the phone with Jonathan, sobbing and wailing about not wanting to lose another child, a friend called and asked if she could pray over me. Jonathan letting me cry, and my friend praying truth and healing over me and Bennett, were life giving for me. I didn't feel like I could cope. My stomach hurt so much I was ready to haul Bennett and myself into the ER. But with the tears flowing out and the prayers coming in my stomach stopped hurting and I was able to calm down enough to parent effectively and handle Bennett's latest breakout.

Weeks like this I always wish I was a bit more together. Logically I know Bennett is not going to stop breathing suddenly. And if he does struggle to breathe I have medicine to give him via an Epi-Pen and there is a hospital a few minutes away. But when you've watched a child of yours stop breathing, it's extremely difficult to face emergent, or even urgent, situations without that trauma jumping forth from the back of your mind yelling and demanding to be heard. Jon thinks, Hmmm, he's having a reaction, while I think, This is it, the moment I lose him just like I lost his sister.

This evening I can look back and see how I could have handled things better. Or if not better, at least with a little more peace in my heart. But in the moment panic takes over and I just can't see straight. However, I can also see that although I was not very calm I did manage to pray a lot, ask for help, and be thankful.

Thankful for what, you ask?

That I didn't have to go through this week without my faith and my God holding me up.

For Bennett's doctor, who put up with my early morning phone calls and made time in his day twice to see us.


A car to take me to the doctor.

The ability to pay for the doctor and medicine.

Friends and family.

In all of that - the phone calls, the doctor, the people, the prayers - I see the hand of God and I see my prayers being answered. I've been in this season where my faith is stretching and growing through community, and to have the communities that I've found in the last six and a half years be with me during this difficult week has also been a way for me to see God at work in my life.

It is so difficult to say, this is really hard for me. I am not coping well. I don't feel like I can do this, but I am really trying to live honestly and vulnerably, and sometimes that means admitting I don't feel like I can handle what life is throwing at me.

The last three nights I've slept with Bennett's forehead pressed against mine. I forgot that he used to sleep like that as a baby; it was one of the few things that would comfort him when he was small and itchy and we didn't know why. This week I've watched him turn to art and coloring to distract and comfort him when he was in the middle of severe, uncomfortable breakouts (I'm talking head to toe hives). It's important for me to see the growth and change in him; to see the baby and the boy that are contained within every 5-year-old. It reminds me Bennett is growing, and he is here, and full of life and love.

As we drove to his doctor's appointment this afternoon he was listing all the things he saw out the window that God had made. After he worked through that list he said, "And God made me!

He sure did, buddy. And I am so glad God not only made you, but that in His infinite wisdom He chose me to be your mother. I don't feel equipped or able, but through Him I am. Isn't that amazing?

Friday, August 12, 2016

lost in the remodeling dust

I don't really feel like we've had a summer. We are in the thick of things on the small bathroom remodel, there's a lot of life stuff going on, and we haven't stopped to do anything fun.

So this morning I loaded up the kids and headed for the beach. I hate taking on solo trips by myself, but the beach isn't too far from us - just over an hour - and we have a great spot we go to that has a shallow stream. Chasing two kids around the roaring ocean waves isn't very fun, but finding a nice spot along a shallow river on the beach is perfect for me. Today my hands were very full, and the kids didn't care in the slightest about seeing the ocean, so we didn't even attempt cresting the small rise for a view. We walked straight to the stream and crashed with all of our things.

I went all out for our trip. I hauled every sand toy we own, as well as the giant beach ball, and packed extra outfits for everyone (although I forgot my extra clothes bag and had to buy an overpriced sweatshirt from the market so I didn't freeze while we waited for the fog to burn off). I stopped at the store for chips, chocolate and watermelon and let them eat that for lunch. I didn't even add turkey or cheese to the menu even though I packed it. I let them eat out of bags and containers, food mixing with sand and cold water from the stream. I let them be messy and busy, I let them wade a little deeper than I was comfortable with, and wander a bit farther than I normally do.

Instead of sitting at home searching for bathroom vanities and flooring while the Olympics played in the background and getting frustrated when the kids asked for snacks (every hour - seriously) I spent the day on the beach watching them splash, build sand castles and make friends.

By this time next month B will be 5 and we'll be back to the school year schedule. August is for beach trips and blackberry picking. Splash parks and hikes in the cool woods. Time spent outside before the seasons change and draw us back indoors.

Bathrooms can wait. Finding bathroom vanities and flooring can wait (I am SO ready to hire a designer). Dishes, laundry, and watching the Olympics can wait. My babies will be 3 and 5 this fall. Now is the time to soak them in and enjoy our days together.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

"every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end"

Our sweet Hazel house goes on the market tomorrow.

I am alternating between - YAY! - and - WAIT!.

The house looks really good, and I am proud of all of us for hanging on through the last couple months. I can't believe J - who works FULL time - knocked out a kitchen remodel in three months. Not to mention all of the other projects we tackled. These last three months we've learned something really important: do projects immediately! Don't wait until you're getting ready to move out!

Even though we are ready to move it is hard to leave. A few days ago I walked down to the Capitol with the kids. I love being able to meander downtown from our house. I will miss my long walks with the kids. Where we are looking to move is further out from the city. More housing developments. Fewer walking opportunities. This evening we went to a nearby restaurant and ran into neighbors. We know a lot of people on our block, and they know us and our kids. We've found a place here, and it's hard to think about giving it up, but when we think about the next five (or even ten years) what we want is elsewhere.

We moved here in 2008. It was our first home. All three of our babies grew in my belly here. They didn't all come home to this house, but there is a connection between them and these walls all the same. It's just hard to go. It's a hard time of year, and it's a hard place to be in: ready for change and yet feeling like so much of my heart is here.

And we're staying in the same town! Can you imagine if we were moving to a different city? Or state? J would have to peel me off the house. Drag me from the state kicking and screaming. I love Oregon something fierce. I would not leave her willingly.

In my state of anxiety I think I've told our real estate agent at least twice - maybe three times - that the rose, the one in the front yard, has to be excluded, it has to come with us, it's the only exclusion, but it must be in the contract, it's IMPORTANT.

I'm not sure how to separate leaving here from leaving Charlotte. The flowers in our yard that remind me of Charlotte and her birth month are already beginning to bloom. It's throwing me off balance. My equilibrium shatters when I look out the front window and see the lilies about to bloom, or when I clip lilacs for the table. I put vases of lilacs all over the house in May. They ease the ache, and they remind me of her. What are they doing blooming at the end of March?!

Setting a jar of lilacs on the table this evening made me want to text our agent with frantic anxiety: I need ALL the flowers that remind me of Charlotte. Every last one. Wait a minute - I need this house. I need the backyard where I labored with her. I need the nursery I decorated for her. I need the memories to come with me, and I am afraid if I leave here I'll lose something. She's not here, there's so little of her left, and if I accidentally lose something I will never be able to recover it. So pack it all up. Every flower. Every blade of grass. Every room. Figure out how to flat pack it, and we'll take it all with us.

But that would be insane, and I'm really trying to present a calm facade through all of this so ... never mind. Never mind. But if you could flat pack every last thing that reminded you of your lost one because doing so would guarantee you would never lose a memory - not even a wisp of one - you know you would do it without hesitation, or even much thought.

This weekend my pastor preached on the concept of two cities: the city of man and the city of God. He talked about being rooted, and how if one is rooted in the city of man life will be disappointing, hope will be hard to find, and perspective all but lost.

During this process I have to stay firmly rooted in the city of God, or else I will lose my focus and forget that all of this is temporary. This house, these walls, the next house, the last place, bricks, and chimneys, and kitchens, and lawns. It. is. all. temporary. I have a forever home.

John 14:3 - And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you will be also.

And in that forever home, Charlotte waits. God waits. LIFE waits - eternal, incredible, beautiful, pain free life.

Isaiah 25:8 - He will swallow up death forever; / and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces / and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, / for the Lord has spoken.

John 16:22 - So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

Hope, friends. It's pouring forth from those verses. It's Holy Week. We need hope to carry us through the darkness to the breathtaking Sunday dawn.

Easter is one of my most favorite days because one can run around shouting the spectacular news that Jesus is ALIVE, He is RISEN, and people will accept it without too many sideways glances simply because it's Easter and there's so much joy floating around even the hardest heart jumps a bit in response. And really we should run around like that all day, every day, but sometimes that can be so hard to do.

I think I'm preaching to myself more than you here, but still, listen:

have hope

be brave

focus on the promise of forever

be rooted in the right city

Every little thing is going to be all right.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

I just don't have time

For you

Or me 

Or friends 

Or anything beyond THE HOUSE

I am so over this process and we are nowhere near the end of it!

We want this house to be in great shape for the next owners, so we (and our families!) are putting a lot of time and effort into making it nice. For example: J built new garage doors with his dad on Sunday because the old ones weren't built with pressure treated wood and were rotting from the ground up. Could we have left them? Sure. But who wants to move into a house with rotting garage doors? So there's big projects and little projects and in between all of that there is 

illness (so. much. illness)


music class

trying to find a new house

preschool registration (oh my heart, really?)

sleep deprivation (our kids just cannot get the sleep thing down)




I have not seen my best girls in ages and I'm just about going to die from the missing.

I need a pedicure, and a movie night, and at least three consecutive nights where I don't have to wake up AT ALL.

And, of course, buried beneath all the busy is the coming of spring. The weather this year is so unseasonably warm it's like we're getting an extra dose of spring, which is enjoyable because I can take the kids out every day, but it's also absolute torture because the lead in to May is going to feel loooong this year with flowers already blooming and the sun constantly shining. 

It feels awful - really awful - to prepare to leave this house. We've outgrown out, it's definitely not the best fit for us anymore,  but I still love it, and a lot of life happened to us here.

I'm just an emotional mess right now, and I'm stress eating, and stress shopping like you wouldn't believe. I don't know why I'm surprised by the falling apart. I don't cope well with change at all, and this is a big change. The kids aren't coping very well either, which is making a challenging time even more so. Have you ever moved with little ones? What helped them through the process?

I haven't been writing lately because of a lack of time, but also because I feel like I'm stuck on the same subject: the house! the house! 

This is just a season, but it's a really intense one, and I'm already looking forward to the end. The post-Charlotte me just isn't as capable as the pre-Charlotte me, and the last time we moved was long before she joined our family.

I'm falling asleep as I type this, but I wanted to sit down and write something tonight because it's been so long, and I have a lot on my mind.

Send some encouraging words my way, friends. The days have been hard lately.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

tell me again why I married you

If you want to remember why you married a person, fix up an old house. J and I are working non-stop to renovate the kitchen so we can (hopefully) sell the house. The kids and I are really sick, which is making a tough project more difficult, but we're making progress.

While I was priming this morning I thought about how well J and I are getting along right now. (There's nothing to do but think while painting.) Projects are STRESSFUL. Having the contents of my kitchen in the dining room is STRESSFUL. Eating three meals a day in the living room is STRESSFUL (my area rug will never recover). Keeping the kids occupied while we work is STRESSFUL.

Usually all of this stress would make us snip at each other, but we're keeping the sniping at a minimum and I've been reminded that we work well together. We complement each other.

J can do a lot of things I can't - like most of this project - but he is very, very disorganized. I can't do as much as I would like to help, but I can round up the tools every morning and put them in one place so he can find them, and I can chase him around the house every time he comes back from the hardware store until he hands over his receipts. I can keep track of funds, and give him updates on how much we've spent, and remind him twelve times that, "all purchases - even online ones - need to be recorded in the house book!" And I can paint!

Last night J said I'm doing better than expected, or something along those lines. Which means I haven't had a complete meltdown and made everyone question why they were chosen to be my people. I'm staying calm, and I didn't cry on the dining room floor yesterday even though I wanted to, and when the kids don't keep every last bit of food on the sheet I put on the living room floor I clean up without snapping.

Chaos and uncertainty don't sit well with me, but this project is all about both:

When will we finish? When should we list? Will it sell? Will we find a house we like? How long will I be without a dining room? When can I have a fully functional kitchen again ... and on and on. We are moving faster than I thought we would. J works really hard every night, and I do my best to keep other things on track so he can walk in the door and start working.

J says, "good job, team!" often enough that B now refers to us as a team. When we get to the grocery store he says, "let's go team!" and when we do well at a task he says, "good job, team!" And this project has made me see us as a cohesive whole in a way that I haven't in a long while.

Everything was so hard after Charlotte died, and then we had two kids in quick succession after that, and I haven't really stopped to think about how we're in this and we have to work together to keep a strong foundation. It's so easy to just exist, but it's been good to work really hard at a project together and remember how much we can accomplish when we support one another.

And J lets me wear his work jacket when we paint really late at night even though he's the one who has to run down to the freezing cold basement every few minutes to glue trim on cabinets. Now that's love.

Monday, January 5, 2015

on music classes and shy children

The kids had their first music class this morning. I heard whispers of a magical teacher back in the fall, but couldn't get the kids in a class until the winter sessions started. I asked the kids grandparents to help with the class as a Christmas gift, because I thought it would be nice to have something that lasts a while that isn't a toy.

The classes are word of mouth only, and I feel quite lucky that we got in since every class every session is wait-listed. And the classes are all mixed ages so I can take Bennett and Ainsleigh to the same class. We couldn't get into the time I wanted, but 8:45 isn't too much of a stretch for us.

Anyway, this teacher, this Mrs. D, she's AMAZING. Today was our first class, and I felt fairly anxious about it because new things and situations make me feel sick, but I'm trying to manage the anxiety so the kids can have a normal life and do normal things. So I was up some last night worrying about all manner of things I didn't need to be concerned about, but I got us there on time and I didn't yell at the kids in the process even though everyone slept late (of course) and the morning was a little hectic.

Bennett didn't want to have a thing to do with any of it - instruments, dancing, singing - but after a while Ainsleigh got up and wandered around a bit. Bennett is extremely shy. I keep trying to encourage him to do small things - like hand out Christmas treats to neighbors he knows - but even those tasks are difficult for him. This class is 10 weeks long, so I hope he joins in at some point. He did get comfortable enough at the end of class this morning to lick the window. Seriously, three year olds.

But the teacher was wonderful and didn't seem to mind that Bennett licked the window. Or that other kids were all over the place, checking everything out, staring out the windows, making faces in the mirrors, etc.

If you have busy kids and feel like you can't take them anywhere because they are high energy and can't sit still, try to get into this class. It is so nice to be in a 45 minute class that everyone can enjoy - parents and kids - because kids are allowed to be kids. And somehow the teacher is able to manage 12 roaming toddlers and babies, and their parents/caregivers, without chaos reigning.

Bennett has already learned a couple of the songs (we were sent home with two CDs and a book) and I think he will enjoy going back next week even though he says he doesn't want to go back until he grows up. I'm just excited to have something to do once a week during the winter months!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

I feel like I should ...

sit down and commemorate this year.

I can't believe I didn't write about this Christmas. I thought a lot about what to write, but I felt like I've said it all before (more than once) so I just didn't open the laptop. For at least two weeks I left it sitting on the floor upstairs and thought about all of the redundant things I could write when I passed it on my way to bed at night.

There was a fair amount of depression keeping me from writing this season as well. Depression has the ability to suck joy from every. single. thing you find joy in so I found myself avoiding writing, and dreading time with friends, and wishing I could be alone under the covers for two solid weeks.

This year I discovered that you can pour all your energy into enjoying and loving the holidays, and still yell at your kids - a lot - because you don't feel as happy as you think you should. This much effort = this much joy is not a real equation, but I thought I could force it into being. (As you know, I've never been very good at math).

There were good moments. The kids were fun to watch. I sat on the couch on Christmas night watching B play with his new toys. I looked around the house, and thought about the guests coming the next day, and then I pulled a blanket over my lap and just watched him get lost in new worlds.

And then somehow a week went by and now it's New Year's Eve, which has never felt like a holiday to me. Ringing in a new year is momentous, I suppose, but we never stay up to see midnight. I need sleep far too much for that right now.

2014 was a pretty good year. We became members at our church. I grew closer to a few friends, and connected with a few new people (one of the scariest things an introvert can do). 2014 was a year of community, and learning how to care for the people around me. My perspective on what is important really narrowed this year.

It was a year of spiritual growth and choosing to really own my faith. I began reading along with the She Reads Truth devotions in August and I haven't stopped, which may seem like a small achievement, but for me it's huge. I'm excited to start the 365 day plan tomorrow. I've been wanting to read the Bible cover to cover, but I've felt rather intimidated by it. It will be nice to do it in community.

I anticipate change in 2015. I don't know the plans God has for our family, but we are hoping to move house sometime this year. We would like a bigger kitchen and a second bathroom, but we like our location and community so leaving will be difficult. There are so many factors that must fall into place for us to move I feel a little uncertain it will actually happen, but we are beginning to fix up this house to sell so perhaps it will all come together!

Tonight at dinner we asked Bennett how he would feel about moving somewhere else. He listened to us chat for a bit about a house we are interested in before asking, "But what about our blue house? I like that one." So we'll see how he feels if we buy a new house!

I'm trying to keep perspective and have a grateful heart. Not only about moving house, but about all the small things going on in our lives. We have so much, but it's easy to get caught up in what's missing, or what could be improved. I feel completely overwhelmed about making the right decision about a house, but this last year I've learned to give all of the worry and anxiety I carry to God. It's a slow process, and I often forget to let go, but I feel much less stressed about everything when I rely on the Lord to guide us.

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. This year I had a real sense of the space where Charlotte should be. I could see her spot by the tree and at the breakfast table, and when I saw the kids playing around her spot I felt proud of us for creating life around the space. This was our fifth Christmas without Charlotte, and while it doesn't get easier (the day to day does but the holidays don't) there is so much healing in the life and family we built after we lost her.

The song "Come As You Are" by Crowder was on repeat this year:

Come out of sadness
From wherever you've been
Come broken hearted
Let rescue begin
Come find your mercy
Oh sinner come kneel
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can't heal
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can't heal

So lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home
You're not too far
So lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are

There's hope for the hopeless
And all those who've strayed
Come sit at the table
Come taste the grace
There's rest for the weary
Rest that endures
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can't cure

So lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home
You're not too far
So lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are
Come as you are
Fall in his arms
Come as you are

There's joy for the morning
Oh sinner be still
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can't heal
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can't heal

So lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home
You're not too far
So lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are
Come as you are
Come as you are

I feel like I really came home this year. I settled into my faith. I gave up on trying to figure out all the pieces of my life and let God have control. He's a better driver anyway.

Ainsleigh is asleep. Bennett is heading that way. The house is quieting, we'll be in bed by 10:00. Life is predictable, and small, and quiet, but I like it, and I can't wait to see what God has planned for us next year.

Enjoy your new year celebrations!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

a little update

I am a terrible record keeper. When I see those calendars where you fill in a square for every day of your child's first year I feel a lot of shame, because I don't keep track of anything. I write a lot down here, but I definitely recorded more of Bennett's life than Ainsleigh's. (When she confronts me with that particular truth I'm going to tell her I was far too busy keeping her safe/putting her hearing aid back in to do much else.)

I'm going to start posting regular kid and life updates here so I have a bit more of a record of how the kids are doing/what is going on in their lives. I am still planning on creating baby books, so I need to write down what I can remember from their babyhoods NOW (since it's so fresh and all - *sarcasm*)


This afternoon my physical therapist said, "you're well on your way to being one of those hunched over old ladies, but this exercise will help prevent that. And it will ensure you don't get a double chin."

Well that's one way to make sure I do my exercises at home.

Healing is slow. Progress is back and forth and frustrating. But at this very moment I am not in pain and that is a vast improvement.

I was in fantastic shape before I had Ainsleigh. How can one little pregnancy set me back so far?!

Speaking of Ainsleigh, she learned how to growl this week. It's the cutest thing, but it's also a little scary. She's completely enamored with the new sounds she can make, so we get to hear them all the time. Ainsleigh has this deep growl that absolutely cracks me up. If you con her into putting her hands up (where's your head? usually does the trick) while she is growling you can tickle her underarms and make her go from a low down growl to a high pitched shriek. It's pretty entertaining.

The Bennett battles are fairly epic right now - I need a lot of time outs - but he's much more than a boundary pushing bundle of attitude. He's clever, and funny, and everything is AWESOME right now.

He sat really still for a haircut today, which I thought was really impressive.

The Polar Express scared him, "a little bit." Kiddo jumped in the air and threw his popped sorghum grains (corn allergy) everywhere and then he had the shakes until we turned the movie off, but he still insists "it only scared me a little bit."

Bennett's favorite Christmas movie of the ones we've watched so far: Charlie Brown. I haven't watched it in years, but I related to Charlie Brown and his feelings of depression; that's basically Christmas for me - "I should be happy!"

We don't pray before every meal. Dinner is constant. Lunch is hit and miss. Breakfast never happens. Bennett is the reason we sometimes pray at lunch, and he always prays over our evening meal. Here's an example of one of his prayers:

"Thank you for our love. And our food. And tacos. And cheese. And tortillas."

He often starts with thank you for our love, or Jesus, followed by naming every item on the table. After he prays he sometimes asks, "Was that a long one?"

Bennett and Ainsleigh are now old enough to go off and play semi-nicely with each other for a while. They like to climb on Bennett's bed, or into the play kitchen, or chase each other around the house. There is some pushing and shoving, but most of the time if they're off by themselves while I'm cooking or cleaning I let them be. They're developing a relationship and it's the sweetest thing to watch. My heart just about explodes when Bennett says, "Hi girly!" with a laugh when he sees Ainsleigh after she naps.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

on yoga and deseeding pomegranates

Going to physical therapy twice a week makes me want to get back in shape. I've lost the baby weight - YEAH! - but now I need to get in fighting shape. In Hawaii I hiked a mountain with B on my back in the Ergo and I didn't feel a thing but lightness (and a fair amount of sweat). My goal is to get back to feeling that strong and able.

All the chiropractors and physical therapists I see say the following, or a version of it: you're so tight, so tense, you carry so much in your shoulders, can you drop your shoulders, can you breathe a little more, can you feel how stiff you are?

It's like grief moved into my bones, great wisps of it like fog settling over a valley and wending its way into every hidden crevice. My tendons and bones are all knotted up from years of tense living, of failing to have faith, of believing that all the good is just temporary and there's another shoe hovering just off the page where I can't quite see it and at any moment it will drop so I hold myself tightly day and night in worried anticipation.

It's no way to live, folks, but it's the way I've been living because all the bright, sparkly words - faith, hope, believing - didn't come around for a good long while. And they're still new enough that I don't quite trust them, so I step tentatively out, one toe tapping the idea of living with the bravery that can only come from Jesus, but I'm not quite ready for all in yet; there's still too much tension in my spine.

After Charlotte died I ventured into the exclusive world of aqua fitness for a while. It was really healing, surprisingly so, and no one seemed to mind that my friends and I were years younger than everyone else in the class. I think it would be nice to do that again, but I can't figure out the kids, the time, the logistics, the swim suit ...

I keep talking about doing yoga because I loved the few yoga stretches that we did at the end of the aqua fitness class, but every time I look up classes online I just feel intimidated and like I might be too Baptist to participate. I also think I might benefit from a little yoga because I have so much anger and could really use some calm down breathing time a couple times a week.

This afternoon I was deseeding a pomegrante, which can either be a meditative experience, or a futile, frustrating endeavor. I was strictly in the meditative mindset at first. I was feeling very calm and working through all sorts of things while I immersed the deep red pomegranate sections in cold, biting water and pulled the seeds out.

After finishing half the pomegranate I rinsed the seeds in a colander then reached to put them on the stove while talking to B. I dropped it, all of it, all over, and all my meditative goodness went wooosh and I lost my ever loving mind. And then B said, "Mama, it was just an accident. It's okay." And I sat on the kitchen floor a moment and held him on my lap and thanked the Lord for his sweet self.

Then I pulled the rest of the seeds out with bitter, angry hands while a just woken up Ainsleigh pulled at my leg and begged for seeds with a newly discovered, "mmmmm" that means "feed me, feed me now or I'll scream." I really wanted to throw the entire mess out. I swept up the ones that fell on the floor (beyond rescue, my floors a mess, the seeds covered in kitchen detritus and dog hair) and was so tempted to throw everything away, but there were edible seeds and the kids love them so I continued on.

And this is progress for me because I tend to be one who gives up. I tend to be someone who doesn't like to do the hard work, who would rather buy just the seeds next time I go to the store even though I told J it's ridiculous to pay so much money for seeds when one can buy a whole pomegranate for much less and do the work oneself, I mean, really, it's not that hard!

So that was humbling, and somewhere in there, I'm sure, is a lesson about Jesus and how He doesn't throw us out even when we're a broken mess and can't figure out how to be brave enough to try a yoga class.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

ministry work and house problems

Life has been busy, busy, busy lately. We've had some house complications, Thanksgiving is coming up and there's a lot of planning involved in that, and the first Empty Arms Connections meeting took place last night.

First, the house complications. If you live in Salem, have a drain problem, and need a plumber call me. I can tell you who to go to, and who to avoid, so that you don't receive - and nearly accept - a crazy high bid. Plumber the first told us they couldn't clear out our pipe and we would need to pay thousands of dollars to put in a new one. Plumber the second cleared out the pipe. We had a good time hyperventilating over the cost for twenty-four hours. I tried to be cheerful and optimistic because I just started the She Reads Truth thanksgiving study and was all full of give thanks in all circumstances verses and truth, but I quickly reverted back to, "we'll never move now! I know we have the money in savings, but it's still a lot! Wah, wah, wah."

Second, the first connections meeting. You guys, people came!! Not a lot of people, but we had six (ministry team included - so four really)! That feels like a good start. It was hard to get the conversation up and running, but there was discussion and tears and some laughter and I think people felt a little lifted and encouraged at the end. There was a moment in the beginning when I was like, hey wait, I asked a question, no one is answering, what do I do now? I'm an introvert, I'm awkward, this is awkward, am I really in charge of this, was this my idea?? but I said a quick prayer for confidence, and remembered that God doesn't call us to do hard things on our own.

Last night we read a devotion from the One Year Book of Hope and then talked a bit about how much God cares for us as we mourn. The conversation wandered all over the place, but that was the starting point.

For a long time I went to a support group that meets every month, but I haven't gone for a while now. It just wasn't a good fit for me anymore. I felt really guilty about that for a long time, and there's a lot of people from the support group I miss, but last night after the Empty Arms meeting I felt uplifted instead of broken and angry, which is how the other meetings left me feeling.

I've been conflicted about all of this for a long time: support groups and ministries, and where I fit, and where I want to fit, and worry about making people angry. I don't want to be a Christian who sections herself off with people who think and act like her, but in this particular time in my life I really need to be in my grief with people who believe in the hope of heaven and our great Comforter. I can't go into the grief for extended periods of time without that component in place. (I still really like that support group and highly recommend it, it's just not a good fit for me right now)

That doesn't mean if you don't believe you can't come to an Empty Arms meeting. And that doesn't mean we can't be friends if you don't believe in God. It simply means that I am giving myself permission to grieve in the way I need to without feeling guilty. I'm a people pleaser - to my very core - but in this instance I have to take care of myself and my heart.

It's been such a process to start the Empty Arms Ministry. I hope we continue to grow. I hope if people need us they ask for help. I know there isn't a cure for grief, or an end goal, or a way to be over the loss, but there is hope. I believe in Jesus and His promise that this is not our forever home. I need that truth to make it through life without Charlotte. And I want others to know that hope, and to know that God is not callous, that He cares about our broken hearts.

Psalm 34:18: The Lord is near to the brokenhearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit.

Psalm 56:8: You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.

Isaiah 65: 17-20:

Behold, I will create
new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever
in what I will create,
for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight
and its people a joy.
I will rejoice over Jerusalem
and take delight in my people;
the sound of weeping and of crying
will be heard in it no more.

Never again will there be in it
an infant who lives but a few days,
or an old man who does not live out his
he who dies at a hundred
will be thought a mere youth;
he who fails to reach a hundred
will be considered accursed.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

how to save a life

I've spent the last few days asking J, "what do I do?" I've asked his opinion, I've asked what he would do, and I've asked him if I am putting our children at risk by blogging about our lives.

He said, "I think the benefits outweigh the risks."

He said, "You're pretty careful."

He said, "It's up to you."

Before switching back to a public blog setting I knew I had to do at least one thing: delete Charlotte's pictures. Every time I thought about what to do and how to proceed one concern kept rising to the top of the pile: what if someone takes Charlotte's image - or identity - and uses it to promote their agenda, or suggest she is their child?

This evening I combed through four years of blog posts and I deleted nearly every picture of Charlotte.

I still don't feel completely comfortable with how many pictures of my kids are on here, and therefore in the Google Image search database, but I'm not ready to delete every single picture here. I'll probably post fewer pictures, and I made my Instagram private (accepting requests, but I need to know who you are / why you want to follow), and I'm going to have to figure some things out as they come up.

I was going to delete this blog, but J gave me a few solid reasons not to, and as I scrolled through four plus years of our lives I realized that I couldn't delete this record of us. Of my journey to become a mother to living children. It's hard for me to read the early posts, because they are so raw and broken, but to transition from those posts to the ones where I hold my living children with joy radiating from eyes that have cried a thousand tears I see a story - my story - and I just can't erase it.

(Yes, I can have it made into a book, and I will probably do that, but I received a few messages and e-mails that made me realize it's important for others to have access to the story as well.)

When Charlotte died I was left with a desperate need to record every second of my life. I wanted to make sense out of the senseless. I thought I could write my way to clarity. And then when Bennett was born I wanted to capture every moment of his life just in case he left me too, but now that desperate need to record every second of our lives has eased.

The number of posts I write has dramatically decreased now that we have two kids because life is busy. And I don't feel as much of a need to have tangible proof that Ainsleigh is here and growing because her brother is alive. I don't have to obsessively record every moment because I know there will be more. I understand now that most children don't just up and die on you without warning. I get that what happened to Charlotte was an anomaly.

As I glanced at blog posts and scrolled through pictures this evening I realized that whole swathes of mundane days that I don't even remember are written down. I saw how all of my kids look like each other. (I can see them within each other now, in the planes of each other's faces, and it takes my breath away.) I saw that if I delete what we were I risk forgetting how far we've come. I want my kids to know that I struggled before I knew them. I want them to know that while Jesus rescued me they healed my broken mama heart.

Ainsleigh and Bennett will always have each other, but I want them to have Charlotte too. This is the only way I can give her to them. My words, our memories, a few photographs, are the only flimsy items we have to shape their idea of a third, older sibling. I can't give them Charlotte, so I will give them this record of the crooked path we took to become a family.

And now that I've wandered through years of writing I see that I can't give up because I am a writer. From zero readers, to five hundred, to three, to two hundred. From zero comments, to fifty comments, to five, to zero. From happiness to sadness to joy. From mothering to grieving to parenting to marriage to renewed faith to friendship to life - it's all here. And I've kept writing through more difficult times than this. It's the love of words, and the love of memory, that keeps me coming back.

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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