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.

pink-onesie

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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Three

It doesn’t seem possible that it’s been a full three years since Cora was born still into the world. Those three years have passed in the blink of an eye and have taken an eternity all at the same time.

The further we get from Cora’s birth, the easier carrying losing her comes to be. We have been blessed beyond measure to have a little boy, and are expecting our third baby early this winter. Her little brother has filled out house with mess and noise and our hearts with joy that we didn’t think was possible, and has simultaneously reminded us of what we did not get to experience with her. We in no way “deserve” children because we experienced a loss. Our God is good whether or not we have children who live because of who He is, not because of whether or not He grants us what we desire. Most of all, we have seen God’s goodness in the land of the living because of His presence.

He has met my cries for relief with His presence, and tiny undeserved gifts. A three year old that I love spent the month of May reminding me that he would be “free” in June, proudly displaying three fingers to me to emphasize his monumental accomplishment. I couldn’t tell him that I would never, ever forget how old he is. Last fall, a now almost three year old that I love demanded that I put her hair in a pony tail, and then demanded that I do it again because my first attempt didn’t meet her standards. She has fine, white blond hair and blue eyes, just like I imagine Cora would have had if she had lived. I cried when she couldn’t see me anymore, because I didn’t want her to be sad about the gift she had unintentionally given me.

May you encounter the presence of God in the loss or grief that you are feeling. He is near to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Happy birthday to my first baby; my little Cora Lorraine. Every day I am grateful that you are in God’s presence.

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).

Imperfect Transitions

When I begin a journey, I have a clear picture in my mind of the destination. Sometimes this is a strength, and other times, it’s a weakness. Driving home from my parents house always approaches its end with a clear view of the foothills of the Appalachian mountains right before we exit the interstate and ends with another view of my beloved foothills as we turn into our neighborhood. I feel a sense of home when I see the mountains that watched over my journey into adulthood. When I plan out a project, I have a clear picture of the end product and often get frustrated when what I produce is less than Pinterest perfect, which is most of the time.

When I started writing this blog, I had delusions of grandeur of a book contract within six months of my first published post. The Lord has chiseled away at my imagined perfect endings over the past several years, regularly redirecting me to being present and grateful in the process instead of in the end product. More than two years ago, this blog provided an outlet to process my grief after losing my daughter Cora. Grief is a funny thing; it stays part of the very fiber of your being but eventually, it blends into who you are and doesn’t remain a healthy thing on which to focus. Over the last year and a half, I haven’t been able to share or process “out loud” for all to see. Processing things in private has been a gift to me. Grief informs my motherhood, but my son’s life isn’t about the short life of his older sister. The Lord certainly has a mighty purpose for His life, and I can’t wait to see how He moves in Littleman’s life.

My life has kept moving at an almost blistering and simultaneously slow pace since I stopped writing regularly. We walked through a healthy pregnancy closely monitored by the best medical team I could ask for, we welcomed a Littleman into our family and have started the lifelong process of parenting a baby that we get to know, and Husbandman finished his masters degree. (GLORY, HALLELUJAH, PRAISE THE LORD. Let’s not do that again.) All “big” things that take forever until all of a sudden, they’re done. I play ukulele now, sort of. More importantly, the Lord has been growing my desire to study His word and speak hope rooted in truth into other people’s lives.

I want to write again, through a new lens. As I told Husbandman the other day, the lens through which I want to write is still being incubated and sharpened. It’s too new and squishy to tell the world about yet, but I’ll share soon. While it incubates, I’m going to keep working on my PowerSheets for 2018. (More info on them here. They’re the bomb. You should do them.) If you’re in a goal-setting sort of mood too, listen to the Goal Digger Podcast interview with the creator of PowerSheets, Lara Casey.

I can’t wait to see where this process takes us, friends. I’m glad to be back. 

Fear/Hope

Fear used to be the thing that lived under my bed when I was a small child and threatened to grab my foot if I let it dangle over the edge of the bed too long. It would rear its head sometimes, but when I turned the lights on, found someone that I loved to be near to, and fear would retreat.

After losing my daughter last year, fear has taken on a new form. I hear bad news, from markets taking a downturn to illness spreading, and my heart begins to race. My mind whirls with “what if”s that steal my peace and my hope. And I worry that someone else that I love will be taken from me. I worry for all of those who will lose a loved one to senseless violence, illness, or accident. I worry that everything will fall apart again, and that this time, everything will be too broken for me too pick up the pieces and keep going.

Losing Cora was a trauma. It took me a a long time to recognize that. And I carry scars from that trauma, physical and mental. We’re working on the mental scars, and have been going to a therapist. (An aside: If you’re struggling, go see a professional. There is not shame in going to therapy.)

There are so many people suffering trauma now. It feels like the world is ripping itself apart. Fifty people were murdered and countless more injured last weekend.

And the truth is, I am not strong enough for this. We are not strong enough for this. I am not strong enough to pick up the pieces and keep going. But the basis of the faith that has come to mean more to me since Cora died is that God loved us all so much that He was willing to give up His only Son so that we could be saved from punishment for our sins by accepting Him. The point is not that I am supposed to be strong enough to keep going. The point is that I’m to turn to Him when I’m hurt, confused, and falling apart.

It is impossible to hope on my own after loss. To hope that God would allow me to get pregnant again and carry a baby who lives; to hope that it would be soon. To trust that although bad things happen as a result of sin, that God is still good. Hope is an easy task when you have not experienced loss or disappointment. When you know loss and disappointment, hope is an act of faith. Hope is a hard choice that becomes an act of worship and surrender to God, because you know the pain that loss can bring and know that God may choose to tell you “no”. Hope is believing that God is good  and will sustain you even when you are disappointed and hurt. Hope is trusting that God will hold you together when everything goes wrong.

Hope is knowing that even if everyone that I love is lost, even if I never carry a child who lives, even if my home remains empty of children or another sort of calamity visits my life, God is still good. I still choose to love Him because He first loved me. I deserve nothing, and yet Christ loves me.

God is still good. Even when it feels like the world is burning down around us, God is still good. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.

If you follow Christ, live your life in the light of hope in Christ, not hope is material things or family members. Even in light of the murder that was committed just this past weekend, hope audaciously. Pray without ceasing. And then go do something. Show your love to another who is hurting. Weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. May we all take our fear and pain to the foot of the cross, and then act as Christ would have acted. May we glorify God’s name by living our lives and choosing daily to trust in Him.

If you do not follow Christ, my words won’t make much sense. If God is good, why do people die? If God is good, why do people spew hate in His name? If God is good, why did my unborn child die or why did a man murder fifty people over the weekend? I cannot sum up the whole of my faith in a blog post. I would encourage you to read scripture. To examine the life of Christ and to see what He said about Himself and how He loved and lived, and how He died to pay the price for our sins. I also encourage you to ask questions. God does not require that we become perfect before we seek Him. He came to seek and save those who are hurting and those who are sick.

And when we see pain and sickness, suffering and death, and people who claim faith who wield it like a club with which to beat others, know that Christians are not perfect and that some who claim faith in God are misled. We are a poor reflection of the Christ that we serve. I pray that you would seek Him with your whole heart, because He is waiting for you to find Him.

Don’t want to talk

These past few weeks have been dark for me.

Since losing Cora, I have had many hard days. I have learned that sometimes grief pops out of nowhere and hits you over the head with heartache that you were just starting to feel like you had come to grips with. I have learned that sometimes I feel guilty for being happy, and I have daily wrestled with the quiet that is still in my home. No tiny person to keep me up at night; no toys and supplies betraying a little human who has taken residence.

And life has gone on. I still get up and go to work every day. I’m teaching again, and I’m planning and hoping. But these past few weeks, I have struggled. I have felt hopeful and hopeless, alone and surrounded. Life as I think that it should be doesn’t exist.

And I become bitter. I compare myself to those around me whose situations I envy and I want to give up. I try to figure out God’s will with my human reason, and I feel even more bitter and upset. I focus on myself.

And I cry, and I hide. And I tell God that I don’t feel like praying right now. I don’t feel like studying my Bible. Being obedient to God and pursuing Him isn’t like shaking a magic eight ball and being told “Yes! Definitely” when I present God with the desires of my heart. He gives me more of Himself, but not exactly what I want Him to give me. And I feel such guilt for telling God that I don’t want to talk to Him.

But, that is prayer in itself, isn’t it? God is not so small as to not be able to handle my emotions. He isn’t surprised when my worn out heart looks at Him and says “I can’t do this for another day. Take it away from me.” As a dear friend listened to me whine last night, she reminded me of another person who asked for His circumstances to be changed if God willed it. The night before Jesus was betrayed and arrested, He went to God, His Father, and said:

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42)

He knew what needed to happen. He understood. He knew that on Good Friday, He would be put to death and that in that death, He would pay for my sins and yours so that we could be untied with God upon accepting Christ’s gift.

And I, a frail human, have no idea what will be required of me tomorrow or if today’s cup will pass from me.

But I know that Christ willingly subjected Himself to death and suffering for me. He suffered. He knows my suffering. And I know that on the third day, He rose again.

Easter is coming. Redemption is at hand.

2016-02-08 08.15.10

Five Things to do Instead of the #merrychristmasstarbucks “Protest”

As a Christian, I am called to love others. The Bible says in 1 John 4:10-11: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” I am not perfect, and I don’t do this well all of the time. But, it’s what I’m called to do. There is a lot of debate about what “love” really is. Because I’m a Christian, and because I sincerely believe that choosing to have a relationship with Christ is the single most important decision you will make, I will share my faith with you. If I did not share my faith with you, I would be condemning you to an eternity of separation from God through my silence. I will speak about how my relationship with Christ has transformed my life out of love.  

When I wish you a Merry Christmas, I am wishing that you know the freedom and joy of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I am wishing you the peace and joy that comes from knowing Christ. The name of Christ is not meant to offend you. His name is not a curse. His name and the celebration of His birth are a blessing.

I know that many of you celebrate Christmas as a holiday not rooted in Christ or His birth. As a Christian, that causes my heart grief because I know the great joy that comes with knowing Christ. I know that many don’t celebrate Christmas because they believe in other faiths. I believe that Jesus “is the way, the truth, and the life and that no man comes to the Father but by [Him]” (John 14:6). It grieves my heart when you don’t know Jesus as your savior, and when you celebrate or don’t celebrate Christmas without knowing Christ.

The #MerryChristmasStarBucks “protest” truly grieves my heart. The name of Christ is not a prank; nor is it a club with which a Christian should beat a corporation into using “Christmas” during the holiday season. Starbucks has clearly indicated that it does not celebrate Christmas as the birthday of Christ. Furthermore, do reindeer and snowflakes on your coffee cup symbolize Christmas as a celebration of Christ’s birth?

2015 11.09 MERRYCHRISTMASSTARBUCKS

As Christians, instead of protesting a corporation’s choice to not decorate their cups with Rudolf (and ignoring the fact that they make a killing off of their Christmas blend coffee annually), let’s think about using our social leverage to accomplish these five things:

  1. Spend the five dollars that you would have spent on your Starbucks drink on food for the local food bank.
  2. Practice responsible consumerism. If you find that a corporation doesn’t act ethically, don’t do business with them. Did your clothing come from a sweatshop? Was your food produced in a manner that was harmful to the environment? Your energy might be well spent making informed decisions about the companies with whom you do business based more than just an image on a cardboard cup.
  3. When it’s the Christmas season (post Thanksgiving) cheerfully wish whomever you interact with a Merry Christmas if appropriate. Do not force them or trick them into wishing you a Merry Christmas. Jesus did not go around tricking people into saying that He was the Messiah.
  4. Understand that as a Christian, your social responsibility is not to force corporations and their employees to act like you want them to while ignoring widows and orphans. Your responsibility is to know and share Christ. A five dollar cup of coffee not decorated with meaningless symbols not representative of your faith is not cause for great alarm in the light of wars, famines, droughts, an overcrowded foster care system, corrupt corporate government systems, or global warming.
  5. Act like Christ would have acted. Love your neighbor as yourself, and correct your fellow Christian in love if you see them behaving out of line of the faith. (IE- If you see them acting foolishly over a cardboard cup of bean juice because it doesn’t have a picture of a mythical red-nosed quadruped on it around the time that you celebrate the birth of your savior.)

Happy Thanksgiving, friends. May true gratefulness for all that God has blessed us with full our hearts and lead us to acts of love that reflect His willingness to come to earth as a helpless infant to die on the cross to pay for our sins even though we don’t deserve it.

Emotions Lie

Hi, internets. I’m here. I’m alive. I’ve been hiding. I’m way late in my 31 day series, but sometimes, we have to set our to-do lists aside and deal with ourselves in private.

My due date was November 4th. Many of the babies who were due around Cora’s due date have been born, and my heart has been struggling with the Lord.

New waves of grief have swept over me daily as I’ve been shown images of fat, healthy babies born in the last few days; as I’ve heard the names that have been given to them that speak life over the years that we pray that the Lord grants us with them. I’m so thankful for the healthy babies that the Lord has given those that I love. I’m so grateful that He’s granted their mothers health and safety through their delivery.

But I wrestle with myself. I wrestle with God as I fight my emotions that don’t tell the truth. My emotions tell me that I’ve been cheated of the physical discomfort of late pregnancy. My emotions tell me that I’ve been cheated of a happy, expectant stay in the hospital waiting for a live baby to be born instead of wishing that I’ll wake up from a nightmare and still be pregnant. My emotions tell me that anxiety is normal, and that because the worst case scenario has happened, it will always happen. My emotions tell me that I’ve been cheated of joy around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

My emotions don’t tell me the truth. They tell me that God can’t be good because my heart is still in pieces inside me as the weather turns cool. They tell me that God can’t be good because we don’t know what happened or if I should try to become pregnant again. They tell me that pain is bad so God cannot be good because He has allowed me to experience immense pain.

These things are not true, and that has to be my inner dialogue. God is good. God has not abandoned me, nor does He when my emotions boil over. God’s nature has not changed. He knows my pain, and feels it with me. When Lazarss died, even though Jesus knew that He would raise him from the dead, Jesus wept. He mourned him.

As you help those that you love through loss, help them recognize when their emotions are not true; when they should resist them. Encourage them to take their emotions to the foot of the cross every day, praying continually and reminding themselves of God’s goodness daily.

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. 

Move

Another thing that has helped me immensely has been taking the time to focus on my health after losing Cora. Physically, delivering her and dealing with the grief of losing her left me in pain. I needed to spend time resting because I was so exhausted. My time of rest was needed, and I still need to take breaks.

But the time came that I needed to move. I needed to exercise to take care of myself. So I started slowly. (Sometimes I did too much because it was so nice to not sit down.) And I decided to try and exercise. I wanted to be outside as much as I could, so I started a Couch to 5k program. I thought that the shin splint issues that have plagued me since I was a teenager would take me out of the program after a few weeks, but the plan (and app) would help me get started.

So I started. And I really enjoyed it. And it got me outside three times a week. And I’ve kept going, and hit a milestone yesterday. I ran for twenty minutes straight. I have never been able to run that long. I was so proud of myself.

Having an exercise goal has been so good for me. I’ve been physically taking care of myself, I’ve been focusing on a positive goal, and God reminds me that He gives me strength for each day. And exercise makes me feel better.

When a loved one goes through a loss, when the time is right, encourage them to physically take care of themselves through exercising. It’s so easy to get swallowed up in grief and to decide to not care for your physical body, even though God commands us to do that. Exercise is good for their hearts, too. When my emotions are in turmoil, moving helps calm my emotions. It helps me turn my focus from my sadness to God.

So when you go visit someone who’s gone through a loss, ask them if they want to go for a walk. It might help them clear their head a little bit.

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. 

Don’t be Afraid

I’ve found in the past three months that when you lose a baby, people are scared to talk to you about it. They feel like if they bring up your loss that they will break your heart all over again. I feel almost like the elephant in the room, because everyone knows what happens but everyone is scared to broach the subject. I won’t explode if someone bring up miscarriage, stillbirth, or pregnancy around me. I can guarantee that I’ve probably already thought about it that day. I may cry, but that’s part of the grieving process. (Crying isn’t that bad. Crying is actually good for me. It helps me process my grief.)  

I think that this is half the reason that pregnancy and infant loss is obscure in our culture. We don’t ever talk about it, so when someone wants to bring it up, they don’t know how. They don’t know if it’s okay. That’s one of the reasons that I’ve spoken so much about loss in this past month, because if I speak, it might free someone else to speak about their own experience or questions.

But I want to encourage you. If you have a question for me, for instance if you’ve gone through loss and want to know if we’ve felt similar things or if you know someone who is going through a loss now and you want to see what I would have appreciated in that situation, ask me. I appreciate your sensitivity to my grieving process and for my feelings, but it’s okay to ask if you have a question. If you ask a nosey question (where you’re just trying to get all up in my business and we’re not that close), I will most likely tell you that I’m not comfortable talking about your question. But you won’t hurt my feelings. I’m a naturally nosey person myself, so I’m totally okay with you asking and I’m totally okay telling you “no” if that’s what’s needed.

If you love someone who is going through a loss, ask them questions. Don’t be scared to talk about loss around them, as long as you’re careful to be sensitive to who they are and what you know of them. If they ask you to not bring something up, honor their request. But don’t make them feel like the elephant in the room. That only makes them feel alone in their grief.

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.