Pink

We found out that our new baby is a little girl a couple of weeks ago. I thought for sure that she was a boy, and that Littleman was going to have a little brother. I was convinced that she was a boy because having a girl frightens me to my core. The only experience that I’ve had carrying a girl ended with her passing away before she was born, and while I was pregnant with her, God’s mercy kept me from being able to imagine having her in our home. I was 27 weeks pregnant when she passed away, and I hadn’t bought her anything. I didn’t have her nursery planned, I hadn’t read any parenting books. Looking back, I see God’s hand in my mental block: because I couldn’t imagine her at home, her loss was easier to carry. Because my home wasn’t filled with items just for her, coming home with only two people instead of three didn’t have as many physical reminders of what we’d lost. The pain from her loss was still acute, but my depression and anxiety wasn’t as severe as I know it could have been if my very active mind had drempt more dreams for her life.

I didn’t purchase much for Littleman either, but that was because when we found out we were having a boy, friends and family showered us with more clothes and toys that I had imagine possible. One sweet friends in particular brought of boxes and boxes of little boy clothes that I had immense amounts of fun sorting through before he came. I picked out a little zip up sleeper that was my favorite: light heather grey with little blue space ships, flying saucers, and shooting stars printed on it. I hung that sleeper up and looked at it every day, as an act of hope. I purposefully left evidence that he was coming so that every day, I would actively hope that he would come. And if he didn’t come home, I knew that God would still be good, just like when we lost Cora.

For this little girl, it’s been harder to look at girl clothes. For more then three years, clothing for little girls has brought a tightness to my throat and tears to my eyes. But this week, I bought her a little pink dinosaur zip up sleeper to hang on the wall. Every day, I will look at that sleeper and pray for her. I will pray that God’s will will be done and that her life with honor Him. I will pray that Husbandman and I will parent her in such a way, whether or not she comes home, that God would be glorified.

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May you take small steps of faith, even if that step is to buy a terrifying pink sleeper and to lay it out as a reminder that God’s goodness does not depend on whether or not your heart is broken. He is trust worthy.

PS. Anyone have any girl clothes they’d like to hand down, a crib, dresser, or cloth diapers (we’re considering them)? I’m all about those hand-me-downs 🙂

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My Rocking Chair

My rocking chair is a time machine.
I hold your nearly toddler self, hair matted from a day of play and learning, and catch a glimpse of the tiny baby boy with a furrowed brow that I brought home; you struggling to eat, me struggling to feed you and hold myself together. I could see your little neck then, now hidden under the layer of padding that God has given you to cushion your fearless falls and to fuel your exploration. Has it really been a year since you left my womb and filled our home with your presence?
My rocking chair is a metronome.
“Cree, cree”, it says over and over until we’re done. Forward and backward it rocks, on and on until you calm and are ready for sleep. It marks the slow and blinding passage of time, good days and bad days, confident and turbulent days. No matter the day, here is where it ends. Some days I ask the Lord to grant us another good day, and some days I thank the Lord that the day is finally over. My favorite tick of the metronome is when you turn, your mind full of sleep, and bury your nose in my chest. It is then that I try to slow time down by rocking more slowly and holding my breath. One day, this metronome will stop ticking and your daddy as I won’t hold you every night; you will be too independent.
My rocking chair is a battle field, stained with tears, blood, and milk.
We’ve fought so many nights on that tiny battle field. (Forward) go to sleep, (backward) now please, (forward) go to sleep, (backward) now please, (forward) go to sleep, (backward) for the love of all that is holy and sanctified now please. We’ve fought illness and pain together in that chair, fighting snotty noses and hurting gums, twice taking you to the Emergency Department for extra help; sometimes fighting invisible enemies that leave us both frustrated and in pain. We’ve fought my insecurities as a mother when you cried out for your daddy or when the way I wanted to feed you didn’t work and I took it personally. Those nights when we still fought to breast feed, your daddy slept on the floor in your room because I was so scared of my frustration but God saw us through.
My rocking chair is an altar of prayer.
Even before you were born, I rocked in the chair and prayed for you. I prayed that the Lord would be honored by your life, even if He took you before I knew you like He took your sister. After you were born, I prayed that you would grow strong and eat well, and that I would be a mother that would honor Him first. I prayed that God would use your big voice and love of music for His glory; that He would use your strength to love others, your hands to serve, your quick mind to help, your sensitive heart to love. I pray that you would know Him as your daddy and I do.
My rocking chair is a play ground.
Your chubby hands smack the arm rests as you fight sleep in my lap, making enough noise to amuse you. All your weight pushing on the front of my rocking chair makes the blanket draped over the back billow like a ships’ sail as you stand in front of it and pull on the bar in the middle to make it rock without me. The bars underneath become a jungle gym as you crawl around, under, and between them to retrieve lost toys and evade us when we’re chasing you. We read books and escape to distant lands, going on adventure after adventure while you delay bedtime.

If my rocking chair were a rocket ship, we’d have flown to the moon and back twice in your first year with all the rocking we’ve done to fuel it. One day, when you’re too big to rock, my little wooden rocking chair will be full of memories of those flights; full of memories of my tiny boy who’s all grown up. But for now, I’ll rock you for one more minute and kiss you goodnight an extra time to store up enough memories in my rocking chair so that when you’re too big to rock, I’ll have that many more minutes of rocking and kissing to look back on. I will remember when you were just a baby and I was just starting to learn how to be your mommy.

Happy first birthday, #littleman. I am so grateful that God has allowed me to be your mommy.

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Minimal

The month of January is usually full of resolutions and thoughts about a new year and new goals. Most people want to lose weight, be a better person, read the Bible, be a better friend, write that book that we’ve always wanted to write, to exercise, the list goes on.

I love the start of a new year. The cold air whispers hope into my mind that swirls with new possibilities and ideas. I have longed for the last few months to make a new start with a right focus.

I have been so distracted. I have spent valuable time on social media that should have been spent on more meaningful pursuits. I have spent time watching random YouTube videos that both dull my mind and make me feel mildly like I’m missing out on life somewhere else while I miss out my life right here and right now. I have avoided dealing with painful emotions and stress by eating and watching Netflix instead of sitting down, studying my Bible, writing, and praying. I have muted my struggle with self-image by purchasing new, “exciting” items that give me a rush when I buy them that wears off within days.

While Husbandman and I were on Christmas break, we watched the documentary “Minimalism” that sparked a lot of conversation. (I’m so thankful that we both work in higher education and get such generous breaks.) The movie follows two men and their associates who have dedicated their lives to sharing their journey to actively pursuing less in a quest to find satisfaction in their own lives. According to their website, “Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important- so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.” (source: https://www.theminimalists.com/minimalism/). They say that they’re ultimately pursuing happiness while they work to keep their material possessions to a minimum of the most useful tools.

At first glance, that sounds perfectly sane. Happiness is nice. I like being happy. Who doesn’t want to be happy?

In her book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing”, Marie Kondo encourages her readers to discard items that don’t “spark joy”.

Possessions “sparking joy” sounds great.

But is the root of true happiness or even joy what I possess or what I do not possess? Is it seeking my happiness?

Minimalism and decluttering to pursue happiness joy on the surface sound Biblical. Christ Himself didn’t put effort into accumulating material possessions but trusted God to provide for His daily needs. But in modern-day culture, the main impetus of minimalism seems to be on wanting less things in order to live a more personally fulfilled life. That fulfillment is still self-centered. These are not inherently bad things, but they encourage people to pursue their own happiness and satisfaction outside of Christ.

I am a Christian; I have committed to following Christ. The root of my decisions to keep an item or discard it should not be my own happiness or perceived fulfillment. I want to determine how to live my life while pursuing a right-ordered heart. When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus answered:

“37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40( ESV)

My greatest calling isn’t to pursue my satisfaction, even if that comes from service to others. I am to love God with all I am, and to love my neighbor as myself. I am, however, not exempt from living a personally intentional life. As a Christian, I should be careful in my consumption of financial and material things; not dulling my senses to the emotions and needs of others and myself.

So how do I pursue a life that honors God and doesn’t fall into the trap of minimalism for self gratification?

That’s my plan. That’s what I want to pursue this year “out loud” with you all: examining the motivation of my heart in light of God’s truth as I seek to live with minimal distractions. There is so much joy in pursuing the Lord. There is so much freedom.

As John the Baptist said about Christ when discussing his role in Christ’s ministry, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30, ESV).

Two

As you live them, two years can seem both infinite and momentary.

Today is Cora’s second birthday. On her second birthday, we know better what could have been and is not. We’ve spent the past five months caring for our second child and learning just what we missed when we lost her. I see beautiful two year olds around me almost daily. A few weeks ago, one of them instructed me to put her hair back in a ponytail, twice because the first time wasn’t good enough. The cracks that I’ve gotten used to carrying in my heart started to burn again, aching for my little girl that I won’t get to know this side of heaven.

The ache is acute, and the sadness permeates me completely: it’s part of who I am now. I’ve always thought that life experiences weave into who you are like a piece of yarn in a blanket, but losing Cora felt like my whole life’s blanket got dipped in a vat of dye that has colored every part of me. When we first lost her, I was amazed that the sun kept rising and that life kept moving even though everything felt like it shouldn’t. I wanted to stop participating in my life and to retreat into silence, which I did for a time. But now, it is time to live again. I refuse to stop living my life because the Lord took her sooner than I expected. I could easily quit and dwell on what is not, but instead, today I choose to celebrate her life and her impact. Every day that my eyes open is a gift, and God has a purpose for those days. He has granted us a gift in our son Teddy, and it is my responsibility to parent him as well as I can and to be mentally present in the roles God has called me to.

I am grateful. God provides. I am grateful for the family and community that have carried us on their shoulders for the last two years: through tests and grief, another pregnancy and the uncertainty of whether or not I could carry a child who survived, the early months of pregnancy, and the anxiety that has threatened to pull me under. I am grateful for doctors and nurses and techs who held my hand and worked with me to try and find a way to get us through Cora’s delivery and tests, decisions about genetic testing and treatment, finding out that we’ll never know exactly what caused her die, and the marathon that was Teddy’s pregnancy and birth.

I’ve been pretty silent publicly about Teddy because it’s hard to know how to share his life in a responsible manner. How do you celebrate the life of a child born after a loss without making his life about her death? He is a gift from God, but God would have still been good if we had no more children than Cora. We did not deserve him because we lost Cora; there is no morbid system of entitlement built into God’s nature where a loss sustained automatically guarantees the birth of another child. I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, but I think about them.

Through it all, God is gracious. I don’t know why Cora died. But I can tell you that God is good. I am thankful that for 27 weeks I carried her. I am thankful that she is with Him in Heaven, and that I have assurance that I will see her again. I am hopeful that because of her life, God has been glorified.

I pray that in whatever trial you find yourself you cry out to God. He is near to the brokenhearted. You do not need to clean up your feelings or attitudes before you run to Him; He can and wants to be with you as you are. I have probably said everything imaginable to God, and He hasn’t left me yet and won’t leave me. He can handle your ugly, and He will turn your mourning into gladness.

Happy birthday to our little girl, Cora Lorraine.  Every day of my life, I will miss you so much, but I thank God that you lived.

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Pregnancy Loss

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance day. This one day of they year, we pause to remember children who are lost and the families that mourn them still. I can imagine, so close to my loss, that I will still feel the loss of my daughter for the rest of my life, although my grief will change as time goes on.

For those of you who have lost children, in the 6th or the 41st week, I pray for your today. I pray that the Lord would give you comfort and peace. I do not know your exact pain, just as you do not know mine, but I am thankful that we are able to support one another as we walk a road of pain together. Something that people safe often in regards to grief is “time heals all wounds”. This phrase is not true. Wounds that are not treated correctly do not heal with time, they often get worse. In our Griefshare meeting yesterday, another phrase was offered. Time spent with Jesus heals. Spend time with Jesus. Bring your confusion and pain to Him. Choose to trust Him with your pain, even if you don’t feel like it.

For those who love someone who’s lost a baby, support them. Feel free to grieve their loss yourself, but be careful to think about them and pray for them. Offer your support. Don’t forget. Even years after, don’t forget.

“13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Throughout the month of October, I’m writing a series titled “Hopeful Grief” with a fabulous group of writers, doing the Write31Days challenge. To catch up, or see new posts, click here. Interested in last year’s Write31Days posts? Click here. Know someone that this series may touch? Share as you see fit. 

You can also sign up to receive notifications when I post something new, using the link to the right. If you’d like, you can sign up for extras too, such as exclusive newsletters and personal updates, by using the “Click Here” button to the right. Want even more? Connect with me on social media. 

Lost

Months and months ago, we were overjoyed to share that we were expecting a baby in November.

Over the weekend, I noticed that our little girl was moving less and less. Monday, she didn’t move at all, and I waited until the night (her most active time of day). She didn’t move on Monday night, even when it stormed, and on Tuesday we went in to see my doctor to get her checked out. Her heart was beating well, but my doctor had concerns about what he saw on the ultrasound and referred me to UK hospital for an ultrasound with a high risk doctor on Wednesday.

After another long night of not sleeping and not feeling her move and trying my best to focus on work on Wednesday morning, we drove up to UK to have the ultrasound. Five minutes into the ultrasound, the doctor came into the ultrasound room, took my hand and told me that our baby had passed away. They couldn’t find her heart beat. I was 27 weeks pregnant, and had just started the third trimester.

We’ve spend the past several days in the hospital, and we’re home now with one less person than we expected. Our hearts are broken, but we’re thankful that God gave us the time He did with our little girl.

Her name was Cora Lorraine. She had her Daddy’s ears and feet, and my hands. She was beautiful.

Cora's Feet Square

We appreciate your prayers.

Cover Letter: Dos

So, you have the basics of the layout for a good cover letter. You’re actually writing one. You’re well represented by a professional email address and voice mail message. You have a killer (standard business professional) layout.

Let’s get down to business on your content. (to defeat the Huns… YAAAH!) (<- Movie quote. Ten points of you get it.)

Cover Letter Part 2

Most folks think that cover letters are just another opportunity to give them your resume contents. That sounds like a good idea. *Smacks hand* NO. WASTE OF TIME. BAD. BORING. 

So, what do you put in your cover letter?

A better question is “what is the point of this cover letter?”

A cover letter is a golden opportunity. A cover letter is your chance to set yourself apart.

How? Glad you asked.

  1. A good cover letter shows that you’re willing to go above and beyond the bare bones requirements. As a potential employer, I want to hire the person who is going to put in the extra work to do a truly great job.
  2. A good cover letter allows you to show how well you can write. Anyone can write pages and pages of text and manage to sprinkle in a few things about how awesome they are. But it takes a truly good writer to communicate well in short writing formats. (Short=one page only. For the whole letter. True story.)
  3. A good cover letter shows a potential employer how well you understand them. Sure, you can put all of your information in a resume. But can you read a job posting a glean what they really want out of it? Can you do extra research to understand the company and demonstrate how well you understand them by writing well about them?

So, now that we know WHY we’re writing a cover letter and it’s proper formatting, we can delve into contents.

  1. DON’T use your precious cover letter space to regurgitate your resume. NO. BAD IDEA. Instead, use it to paint a lovely picture of yourself. Interested in being a full time teacher? Use your space to talk about how valuable you learned quality education was while you were volunteering as a tutor in college.
  2. Demonstrate that you have a good idea of what they’re about and who they’re looking for. Do they want someone who has excellent research skills? Don’t spend most of your space waxing eloquent about how much value you draw from spending time with other humans.
  3. Walk the line between self-confident and cocky. Don’t sell yourself short, but don’t oversell yourself. If you’re really good at Microsoft Word, carefully choose whether or not you’re “Advanced” or “Expert”. Say that you see yourself fitting well into their corporate culture and team, but if you don’t have years of experience with that software, just say that you’re familiar with it.
  4. Don’t tell them what you’re bad at. Cover letter real estate is limited. You get maybe… three paragraphs if they’re short. You don’t need to tell them what problems you have. They’ll figure it out. Point them to your positives. If you don’t know one software that they require, say that you’re technologically adept and a fast learner. Don’t say “I have no idea how to use Oracle”.
  5. Keep is honest. Paint yourself in a positive light, but don’t ever lie. If you’re caught at a later date after you get a job, even if it’s ten years later, you can still be fired. Be honest.
  6. Write a new cover letter for each job that you’re applying for. It looks lazy if your cover letter is just a standard letter that would work for each job you apply to. It shows a reviewer that you didn’t spend that much time on them. It’s perfectly fine to use the same letter as a base for your application, but you need to customize each letter for each job that you’re applying for. (See number four.)
  7. Use their words. I encourage you to print out the job posting. Highlight all of the important words. And then use them about yourself. How? Say a job posting says “Must be able to work in collaboration with colleagues” (translation= must play nice with others. Must be a team player.) Use the word “collaboration” or “collaborated” in your cover letter.
  8. Proof your cover letter at least three times, and then have someone else proof it for you. When you’re working very closely with a document, you read what you think you wrote instead of what’s actually on the page. Be careful and cautious with your proofing.

How is your cover letter writing going? What other job application help could you use?

What I Learned in September

Today, I’m linking up with Emily Freeman at Chatting at the Sky to share September learning.

  1. I would clean my house forever if I was allowed to listen to podcasts as much as I wanted. As it stands, Husband-Man feels neglected when my ear buds don’t leave my head for hours on end. I guess that’s why my house is just a little bit dirty.
  2. I LOVE Snap Judgement, an NPR podcast (see #1) that tells stories based on decision making situations. Be warned, sometimes the subject is not little-ears appropriate, but they always give a verbal warning before the segment. Check it out.

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  3. Sometimes, foods that I crave (IE, copious amounts of chocolate, ice cream, cake, etc.) make me feel horrible. In the short run, while I’m eating it, it makes me feel comforted. But then… I get a stomach ache and can’t sleep. Or I feel like there’s something growing inside my stomach that is trying to get out (not a tiny human). It’s not worth it.
  4. I might be food sensitive (see #3). This month, I started trying an elimination diet to prevent an upset stomach, which I had been experiencing about 3-4 times a week. (Again, not due to a tiny human). I already knew that I can’t eat loads of dairy, especially just drinking straight milk, but this month we learned that Cheese-Its make me sick to my stomach. (But yogurt doesn’t?) Not cool.
  5. Lifting weights in my favorite. It makes me feel strong and comfortable. And it’s an activity that doesn’t require a lot of human interaction.
  6. Mayan Mochas are the bomb. Think chocolate, coffee, and just a little bit of spice (cayenne and cinnamon).

What did you learn this month?

Visor

I have driven the same car for over nine years, and have grown quite attached to him. (And yes, my car is male.) His name is the Brave Little Toaster, or the BLT for short. My Uncle Jerry gave him too me soon after I turned sixteen, and Daddy and I spent years and years working on him to help him run well.

Why the name “the Brave Little Toaster”? I borrowed the name from a movie I was always putting away in the children’s section at the library that I didn’t see until I was well into my twenties. (The Brave Little Toaster is kind of a creepy movie for a kid’s cartoon, isn’t it?) He lived in a field for three years before I got him, so he really shouldn’t have ran when I got him. But, he did. And he has a very good heater. He has a 4-60 air conditioner, which Daddy says is “four windows down, sixty miles an hour”.

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This little car drove me back and forth to college for four years, drove me to my wedding, my honeymoon, my first job interview, my first full time job, and to countless other milestones. And I own him outright. I’ve been teased about my Flinstone’s style car, but he doesn’t have holes in his floor-boards. Just holes in his doors.

He has many other quirks that are too numerous to mention here, but let’s just say that he’s a grumpy old man and doesn’t always do as he’s told. (He was made in February 1989, and I was born in January of that year, so I’m only a month older than him. But, in dog years, he’s 113 years old.) Unfortunately, we’ve gotten to the point where it’s not worth fixing all of his ailments, because according to the government, he’s only worth about $200. He also has some issues that we can’t fix, like rust on his frame. (If you don’t speak car, that translates to a death sentence. It means that if you get into a wreck or go over a really big bump, his under carriage could snap. Which is really, really bad.)

There have been a lot of things that I’ve just lived with for years, and one of those has really vexed me. About seven years ago, his driver side sun visor (that magical piece that keeps the sun out of your eyes when it’s at the horrible angle that blinds you) snapped in half, and for those seven years, I’ve been talking about getting a “new” one for him (from the junk yard). And I’ve never done it. And I’ve gotten really, really good at holding my hand up to block the sun and driving one handed. I’ve driven facing the sun and had to pull over because I couldn’t see. And I’ve just lived with that.

This past week, we had an issue with a belt. (You could see that ground through it. Again, if you don’t speak car, that’s a really bad thing.) So, we took it to a nice little shop close to our house to get it looked at, and to make sure that there was nothing else major wrong with him. When we pulled up, I noticed a Corolla wagon that looked like it was about the same year sitting in some weeds on the side of the parking lot, and was very happy that the BLT would have a buddy when we left him.

We came back the next day to pick him up, and after about $100 of repairs, he was deemed good to drive until winter. The nice man who fixed the car told Husband-Man that if we needed anything off the Corolla wagon that we could have them for free, because it wasn’t in running order. So, Husband-Man brilliantly asked if we could have the sun visor off the other car, and when I found out what was happening, I squealed and jumped up and down. I’m not joking. My stressed-out sick self was so excited for this little piece to be added to my car.

And then I started thinking. I really should have gotten a sun visor as soon as it broke. I would have taken about twenty minutes and twenty dollars to drive to the junk yard, pull one off another car, and install it in the BLT. And I never did it. And I spent seven years dealing with an inconvenience that someones turned into a danger that I didn’t have to deal with. I was complacent. I was lazy.

How many times have I done this is my walk with God? How many times have I just lived with something that wasn’t working well that would have taken minutes to deal with?

And how are we supposed to deal with our complacency? Daniel 9:13-19 is a pretty good start.

13 As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not entreated the favor of the Lord our God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by your truth. 14 Therefore the Lord has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the Lord our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice. 15 And now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly.

16 “O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us. 17 Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.”

Today, let’s take a look at what we’re putting up with that we don’t have to. What are you putting off dealing with?