Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Today

It was the faintest of lines. I admit I sat staring waiting those grueling few minutes, barely blinking in anticipation of a second line showing up. For any woman who has ever taken a pregnancy test you understand the range of emotions during those pain-staking minutes. For any woman who has taken test after test after test, you can empathize with the racing thoughts coupled with hopeful prayers. For any woman who has been longing for that line to show up, you can understand the heartache when it doesn't. The knot in your stomach, the lump in your throat, those minutes that feel like an eternity. The wave of disappointment that floods over you when nothing appears. The checking and double checking then checking once more...just in case. For any woman who's experienced the pain of loss, you understand the highs and lows in the almost bipolar unsettledness of your heart hoping that it's positive, yet gripped with fear by the reality of it being so.

And there it was. Two years ago today I got that sign. The faintest of lines. The sign that would confirm that I was in fact carrying another child. My heart had been aching, grieving the loss I had experienced months before. In a split second a sign of hope filled with overwhelming fear. 

We know the story now. That sign was our beautiful Violet Hope, the picture of hope and joy, the hope we held onto during loss. The hope I have believed in through all of the trials I've faced. The hope that I have clung to in the midst of despair. I did not know if that line meant I was carrying a boy or a girl but on this day two years ago I knew that God had placed a life inside me and he was giving yet another sign of continued hope.

Even as I type this I am well aware of the fact that there are women reading who will not be able to move forward. There are some whose hearts are still aching, gripped with pain and fear. There are some who are simply too grieved to even finish reading. There are some with such a deep longing they're wondering why it's worked out this way for me and not them. When will it be her turn? When will she experience this Hope fulfilled?

If you've been around me for any length of time then you understand that I can completely empathize with all of these emotions. Two years of infertility. Multiple failed adoption placements. Nerve-wracking interviews with birthmothers. Waiting to be chosen then the grief when you're not. Another year of questions and not knowing. The joy of pregnancy. The pain and grief of a miscarriage. I have walked through this journey navigating each twist and turn that has left a scar of remembrance upon my heart. No matter how far removed or how my cup runneth over, I am not too far from the memory of each and every step it has taken to get to this point.

Today represents one of those altars I mark as a testament of God's faithfulness. It would be easy to think I'm in a position to proclaim His goodness because of where I sit now, but it is because of the journey I've traveled and the fact that He's carried me through. He allowed me to carry a baby, but during the years of tears, heart-wrenching pain, empty arms, failed placements and aching loss, He drew my heart to His and became the source of my comfort and hope. I know the longing, emptiness, loneliness. I know the questions, stinging tears, dreaded doctor visits, and sitting unrecognized on Mother's Day. I also know the comfort of His embrace, the depth of His lavish love. I know He heard my heart's cry and answered not always with a yes or in the way I prayed, but He always answered. And for that I will stop today and give praise as I remember how far He's brought us. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Red Pants

It was the Sunday before Valentine's Day and I was determined to don a celebratory outfit. You all know this about me. I've written about it before. I have a love-hate relationship with Valentine's Day. It falls just five days before my birthday. I think it's over patronized as a holiday designed for us to spend money simply to say that we love another. It seems futile. At the same time I don't miss an opportunity to celebrate. There are often times when I wonder if I should have been a kindergarten teacher and then I could have appropriately worn my valentine heart leggings. But you all know that I would have never made it in a classroom with five-year-olds. All. Day. Long.

So there I was. Staring at my closet. Looking through all of the red. Then I spotted them. My skinny red pants. I felt certain they were the perfect complement to show my celebratory mood in honor of this day of worship before the day of love. Oh, but there was one problem. My post-partum body was not meant to fit in these skinny red pants anymore. Sure, there had been a time when they fit me like a glove. But this was not that time. It was more like the scene from O.J. Simpson's trial trying to squeeze his hand into a shrunken piece of fabric that simply wasn't going to work. I felt the same as I did the jig, jumped up and down, squatted, and bent over trying to get the pants to stretch and fit. If anyone had witnessed this episode they would have been in for a real treat. And not the sugary sweet Valentine kind of treat. More like the kind where your eyes bug out of your head and then you roll over laughing because you can't believe what you're seeing.

Thankfully, my jig worked at least enough for me to get them buttoned. Never mind the muffin top. We'll blame all that extra skin on my sweet little Violet even though I would do it all again. So much for the simply fit board I got for Christmas. I guess I should have used it more than a dozen times in the last six weeks. Oh well, I didn't have time for that now. I would find a long tunic that would cover up all the problems. No one would be aware. A cute pair of heels and some jewelry and I was all set. 

I have to laugh. As intended no one suspected that underneath that long flowing top that I was poured into my red pants. I'm sure if they did know they would wonder how I was breathing.

In true confession style I come before you to share all the gory details. It seems only fitting. After all, I was the one who fatefully chose to wear flashy red pants that didn't actually fit. And yet those bright red pants were not easily missed! Oh the irony...

It makes me wonder how much we are truly covering up. How much we would reveal about ourselves if we were truly honest. If we were actually exposed for who we are deep down, Would it reveal the case of the too tight red pants? Would we see the blemishes and flaws? Would it reveal something that's desperately trying to be hidden? It could be a wound. It could be shame, hurt, pain. Whatever it is, there are some things worth covering. And then there's also other things worth revealing.

In this case I would like you all to give me a huge amount of gratitude for what I spared you from. It was certainly not worth revealing. But I have to tell you, my heart has been in that place where I've hidden the wounds with a painted on smile, covered up the scars with empty words, all the while wishing I could just let it all hang out and reveal the depths of my heart and mind. If I would have been gut-level honest it would have revealed the gut-wrenching truth of me just needing someone to share with. (Thank goodness that's the only gut I'm willing to expose...)

Today I'm challenged. Determined to take some things at surface level and praying for discernment to know when I should look deeper.  Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go change into a nice soft stretchy pair of leggings!! 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

To The Ends of the Earth

I get it. The issues are controversial. The conversations divisive. I found myself in a keyboard war on Twitter wondering where all these outspoken Christians have been for the last 8 years. Did we just awake from our coma only to realize things haven't gone according to plan? We're ready to fight to the death for the rights of lives that somehow weren't oppressed until last week...or were they? I hear you. "Be the hands and feet of Christ. Faith without works is dead. Jesus wants us to care for the widows and orphans." Indeed!! I know the scriptures well and I agree with these biblical truths we should employ as we seek to serve and share the Gospel. 

Yet I find myself conflicted. Understand I won't be protesting the President or proclaiming his praises. At least not in this blog. I'm simply coming to you and asking where you've been for the last 8 years. Why have we stepped forward now ready to battle? It's as if we somehow fear our Christian rights will be oppressed. Haven't we already been living through that?? Where were these opposing forces when so many of our Christian views were being squealched and held as offensive if we dare speak? 

We're taking on each other as if we're somehow enemies, becoming busy and distracted by things that seemingly don't align with our faith. Yet all the while neglecting the real Enemy who seeks to devour and destroy. He's eating us alive with the disdain and disrespect we have for one another. Never mind those who disagree with our beliefs. We're too caught up with the war of words among ourselves to realize we're engaged in the wrong battle. 

Hear me, please. My heart literally breaks at the countless tear-stained faces searching for shelter and refuge. The war-torn countries, the lands devastated by catastrophic events, surely we have room for them. Surely the abundance I live in could be spread among dozens to help. How can I help??? It becomes the heart cry of each one of us seeking to be His hands and feet. The practicality of the answer isn't so simple. It's not just one or a few dozen. It's thousands. Maybe millions. Plus the one billion citizens governed by a single democracy with nearly countless differing views. And we're expecting one man to make the right decision for the masses and we're infuriated if we don't agree. Surely only One can be the answer anyway. 

Help us, Lord. Forgive us for hurting one another but please God, have mercy on us for hurting You. Oh how Your heart must be grieved by our bellyaching. The self-righteous views we hold that my view is somehow better. Teach us how to show Your love and mercy. Show us the way, Lord, not just to You but how to lead the lost to You. 

I know we won't all agree. The truth is I'm not sure we really know what the truth should be on these matters. But I know the One Truth we shouldn't be arguing. So let me leave this here. I don't know why some are born into the land of the free and others are enslaved. I know we can just as easily be held captive by the chains of sin and selective hearing when we refuse to listen to the heart cry of our Heavenly Father. He desires for no one to perish. Lest we forget He died for all. Let us seek to proclaim this Truth to the ends of the earth. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Little Things

Sometimes it's the little things. The simplest of details that no one else would know or recognize, yet I know. More importantly, it reminds me that He knows. There's been way too many happenings in the past few weeks for me to dismiss it as mere happenstance, so I'm coming here today to give credit where credit is due.

It's the little things. The details of our lives. The stuff that means nothing to anyone but us and because it became one of the things that God chose to pinpoint in my life it ultimately results in something monumental.

It's the little things that lead me to stop and stand in awe of the God of the universe who cares enough to deal with the mundane of my day to day. It's the things that speak volumes to me when I feel like my voice is but a clanging cymbal among a thousand beating drums, realizing He heard me among the crowd.

It's often these very nit-picky things that drive us crazy. The things that gnaw at our patience or chip away at the very core of our faith. We get so caught up in these things, the petty annoyances, the simplest of grievances, that they often become the giants in our lives.

How quickly I can get caught up in my daily frustrations and miss it! I miss Him when all He wanted to do was bless my socks off, yet I spend my energy flustered and complaining.

I'll admit I'm the first one to sit in a Spirit-filled service and pray "Lord, speak to me. Use me. Let me be Your vessel." And yet I fall so short of the opportunity to fully embrace Him as He makes His way toward me. It's not always intentional. Sometimes I'm so distracted I simply miss Him altogether. Other times I'm so preoccupied with my own self that I ashamedly admit I don't leave any room for Him. "No, Lord. I've got this. You're free to help someone else." How often do I forfeit His blessings, His presence, because of my self righteous belief that I have somehow arrived?

And yet, in these moments, in these very details, He lovingly graciously comes back, pursuing me, drawing me, reminding me He's there. He seeks relationship with me. He does this by revealing Himself to me in the very distinct details that make up the mundane of my life.

But here's the catch. He's doing this for you, too. Don't miss it, my friend. Don't miss Him. The details of your life matter to the God of the universe, the Creator of all things, He cares for you and every little thing that matters to you.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Real Life

I have severely neglected this little blog of mine. I've always said it's for me to capture my thoughts and if someone wants to share in that then I'm happy to bring you along for the ride. It's a crazy one, though, and I decided to make today's post an ode to that specifically.

Halfway into the new month and I admit it's thrown me for a loop. It started out somber, celebrating the life of our beloved Poppy and now trying to figure out how to do life without him. We came home to snow - 8 inches to be exact - and the kids have been out of school for days. We're in the middle of a four-day holiday weekend so at this point we have yet to establish our new year routine.

We enjoyed snow cream and coloring in the snow with "snow markers." Eli had cousin time and Nana time along with plenty of hot chocolate. But if I'm being honest, we didn't spend much time outside nor did we fill our snow days with activity and mind-provoking projects. I admit to being a wimp when it came to playing in the snow although my excuse at the time was the baby would be too cold and was far too busy (lazy?) inside to plan out fun-filled days.

The one day that Eli had school this week was actually the hardest. Trying to entertain a very active and precocious 14 month old has proven to be one of my greatest challenges. (It's also made me extremely grateful for the bond and relationship she has with her brother who keeps her thoroughly entertained.) We read every book on her bookshelf, played motor skill games, went outside, took a walk around the neighborhood, played puzzles (well, she mostly threw the pieces while I put them back neatly), and made imaginative food in her play kitchen. All of that happened before lunch time and we still had the afternoon to figure out how to keep each other entertained. We went inside and outside and upstairs and downstairs and did the whole rotation again. One of us was ready for a nap and I'll just give you a hint that it was NOT the little person!

She learned the color purple and yellow. Okay, let's be honest. She learned to say the color purple and yellow. Whether or not she'll actually remember and associate the names with their respective colors has yet to be determined. But our little mimic repeats everything we say and for this particular day she proved she could say two of my most favorite colors.

I couldn't have been prouder of my sweet little daughter and was feeling somewhat accomplished for teaching her something. We came back inside and washed our hands and I went to make her lunch. I thought she was playing in her own kitchen until I heard water sloshing. Puzzled I called her name only to come around the corner and see her playing in the toilet. So much for washed hands. In case you're wondering, I didn't overreact. Mostly because this wasn't the first time and I'm nearly certain it won't be her last. I'm thinking we'll need to invest in a water table for the spring...

Snack time after lunch and I allowed her to be in the bonus room because I was in the middle of laundry. She was also not right by my side digging into the laundry baskets like usual. So I peeked around the corner and found her "painting" with her food pouch as she squeezed its orange contents all over the floor then smeared it in for good measure. Of course it was on the carpet and couch. Why wouldn't it be?! Those make much better canvases than bare floors let alone the artwork of pureed baby food is nearly a lost talent considering us parents want our children to EAT it instead!

I'm happy to report we all survived the day. Even Eli who fell in gym class and busted his lip. The nurse called me before 9:30 a.m. on his one and only school day the entire week.

I had big plans for us on our Friday off, none of which were able to happen because of an unexpected and crippling migraine. I don't know what I'd do without my mama who came over to take care of the kids while I spent the day sleeping it off.

A best friend camp out in the basement turned into two boys bounding up the stairs multiple times then finally again at 1 a.m. saying they were hungry and ready to wake up. Mama bear was not so anxious to see them and sent them to separate beds to finally fall let us all sleep. It's 10 a.m. and they're still sleeping.

This is real life. I share it because I don't ever want anyone to get the wrong idea about me or what I post on Facebook. Oh yes, I love posting the sweet and funny images of my children, their smiles and cute antics. But I know all too well the jealousy and judgment that can come when we see the picture perfect life that is really just a snapshot of the full story. So here's the full story. At least for this week. Filled with snow days and way too much screen time, three meals in a row eaten out, play-time in the potty (not really) and one tired mama just leisurely sipping her coffee as if I didn't have a care in the world (or unfolded laundry in the dryer, bathrooms to clean, meals to plan and prep, groceries to buy, sheets to change, you get the picture...). This is real life. My life. Don't be jealous and don't judge. (Please don't laugh either!)

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Hello 2017

I didn't watch the ball drop. I didn't see the disastrous performance everyone's talking about today. I didn't stay up and kiss my sweetheart (he was sound asleep an hour before me) and I didn't make any resolutions. The celebration of New Year's Eve has never been a big deal for me. I've usually spent it with family, maybe a few friends, there's a low-key dinner, sparkling cider, games, and it's been rare if we all stay together for the ball dropping. The only true NYE tradition I have is reflecting on the previous year and planning for the new one to come.

For me, New Year's isn't about a celebration of a date on a calendar. It takes on such different meaning when I ask myself what is it the Lord has for me this year. Did I accomplish what He wanted from me this past year? Have I lived my life fully for Him and His glory? What is His plan and will for me as I face a new year? 

2017 is no different. I've spent a lot of time the last two days reflecting and praying, seeking the Lord and asking for His guidance for me as I enter this new year. Call is tradition, but each year I seem to land on a verse or word that becomes my anchor. 2015 was hope, for which Violet has her middle name. 2016 was joy and as I wrote my reflection of the year yesterday, I can honestly say that was my anthem. Now as I press forward, I feel the Lord impressing upon my heart a few things.

The first is prayer. I love the image below because it encapsulates the heart of what I'm supposed to be praying about and for. My children and their hearts. My role as their mom. My priorities to my family. Making the most of everyday and every opportunity as I am reminded of my prayer to be a mother and the answer God gave me with these two precious lives. Lives given to me to shape, mold, mend, guide and direct. Lives I'm allowed to borrow for the sake of living out what He means in my own life. Prayer isn't something to take lightly. It's so often tossed around as a sentiment when we say we'll be praying for someone or something. I'm committing this year to not just say it but to pray it. We face BIG challenges but we have an even BIGGER God and the power of prayer is mine to claim on their behalf. 

The second word or phrase that I'm claiming for this year is "bless." You know it well from our Christmas card, from what I shared yesterday. Now it comes to take on a new meaning as I embrace the idea of bless, be a blessing, and live blessed. To live a life worthy of the calling for which Christ has given me. To give thanks in all things. To display sincere gratitude. To seek to bless those around me. To embrace the blessings God has so abundantly given and to live that out as a testament of His goodness and grace. I'm not overly filled with compassion naturally but I want to learn to bless and be a blessing. I admit this will require some soul searching. Maybe it will be through prayer that I can learn to bless. However the Lord leads me, I am committing to proclaim His blessings, to live as one blessed, and to seek to bless others.
This morning He led me to this passage in Psalm 19:7-9,

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
    making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
    giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
    giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure,
    enduring forever.
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
    and all of them are righteous.


Perfect. Refreshing. Trustworthy. Right. Joy. Radiant. Enduring. Firm. Righteous. So many amazing thoughts as the Lord stirs my heart. Each one of them could be used to describe Who He is. There's so much to know of Him. I can't wait to see what this year holds and how He teaches me more about Himself.

He gave me one other verse today. Psalm 28:7,

The Lord is my strength and my shield;
    my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy,
    and with my song I praise him.

I can't deny how my heart has leapt for joy at His blessings, His insights, His promises. It is my joy and privilege to praise Him with my song - with this blog - with my life. My heart trusts Him. Not knowing anything about what this year will hold yet knowing He's got each day already planned. I love a new year, fresh perspective, new insight. And with that, I welcome 2017. 

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Review

If not for anyone other than myself, I like to reflect on the previous year. I spent some time this morning looking back at my recaps from the past few years. Michael and I often say we've packed a lot of life into just a few years. The front of our Christmas card this year had the word "Blessed" across our most recent family photo. It wasn't meant to proclaim abundance, wealth or any type of prideful expression. In fact, it is meant to stand as a testament of the blessed redemption our lives represent. Our smiles are genuine. The photo shoot was the second attempt at getting that one amazing shot I had been hoping for. It represents truth and reality, just the way our lives bear testimony of the good, the bad, the painful, the hilarious and everything in between.
We started 2016 with a one month old baby and the year that has unfolded for us as parents has been nothing short of chaotic and amazing. We were blessed to stand before our church with family by our side to dedicate our sweet daughter to the Lord, our commitment to raise her with an understanding and knowledge of the Lord. I can't help but pray over her heart and ask for her to know the amazing love of our Savior and how He's orchestrated our family.


This year can be summed up with two words for Violet: milestones and moments. She's had a big brother to keep up with so she crawled at five months, walked at 10 months and has been on the go most of her life. She chose me and only me which drastically altered my original plan to go back to work after 12 weeks off. Instead, I would find myself working three hour stints and racing to get back to nurse my daughter. To this day she still won't take a bottle, despite being able to drink from a straw for months, and she won't have anything to do with any kind of milk in a cup of any sort. And yet, these moments mark the memories of this year. The times I've held her, consoled her, rocked her, watched her explore, witnessed her affection for her brother... Oh the bond they have! These two are simply inseparable and the feeling it mutual. My heart could nearly explode at their relationship, her "bubby" as she calls him. Life with two kids has certainly been challenging and exhausting and yet our family feels all the more fuller and complete. 
 

We enjoyed a visit from Poppy for several weeks in April. We didn't know then that it would be our last. Just three days shy of the new year, the Lord would call him home. Looking back at these pictures and the times we had with him those weeks are now precious memories. 

We were yet again blessed to visit Michael's parents in Florida and spend a fun and very hot week in Orlando during the summer. It was just the beginning of "Mom's Summer Camp of Fun & Learning" where my best laid plans to fill my children's summer with activity, learning and fun proved to be quite a challenge with two kids at such different stages. It was, however, one of the most wonderful opportunities for me to spend quality time with my E, learning, studying, and entering his world. It was ground-breaking for us both. 



Eli turned 8 in May and started 3rd grade in August. It turned into a turning point for his education with new accommodations and breakthroughs that have proven to be helpful for him both at school and home. So many of you have offered prayers, support, encouragement and advice and for those of you who know what it's like to advocate on your child's behalf, I simply couldn't be prouder of how far he's come and the progress he's displaying. He is a caretaker of his sister, an inventor of all things, creator, lover of outdoors and master negotiator. This year has shown so much of these qualities as his personality and God-given talents continue to develop and emerge. 

As I've gradually stepped back into work, my role changed with the addition of my mom taking on the Marketing at Chick-fil-A. If I can camp here for a moment, this is yet another example of God's redeeming work in my life. When I hesitantly but willingly stepped out on faith to walk away from leading the Career Center, I knew the Lord was leading me yet I felt as if I was leaving my true "niche." God has abundantly provided for me to fulfill this role now working for Chick-fil-A by providing professional development, career training and strategic planning for our leadership team - all while allowing me to maintain my priority as wife and mom. I simply stand in awe of Him and how He's provided!

We celebrated Violet's first birthday, we've enjoyed the wonder of our children at Christmas and even now as we still grieve the loss of Poppy, I cannot deny the outpouring of God's grace on us this year.


It's been a year of firsts, a year of blessings, a year full of family and memories, and now a year of saying goodbye. I'm turning the page on 2016 and excited to share (later) how I feel the Lord leading me for the new year to come.