April 07, 2014

Why we don't ask them to stop dropping the F-bomb

(I was using a lens I don't normally use in some of these photos so some of them aren't super sharp. Photographer OCD.)

(I also had the permission of the skaters below to post their pictures.)

We've been taking the boys to the skate park in town. It started by accident. We originally were just taking them to ride their bikes along the trail by the river. But one evening when we were going by the park another dad had his young sons there and so we figured we'd let the boys try it too......aaaand the rest is now history. It is now their most favorite place in the entire universe and the number one place they ask to go.

I like it for a few reasons. I love that it's growing in them a sense of adventure and courage. And they get braver every time (much to my heart attack's non-delight).

But I also love that it lets them (and us) interact with a different "culture." I don't want our boys growing up thinking there's an Us and there's a Them. There's just a We. We are all people loved by God, innately sinful from birth, in desperate need of the saving grace and forgiveness of a Savior, Jesus Christ. And I don't want our boys thinking otherwise.

Do I think about the fact that sometimes they're inhaling second-hand smoke? I can't help it. Do we tell them to step back or go someplace else? Nope. Do I love that they occasionally drop the F-bomb within the boys' hearing? No. Have we ever asked them to watch their language? Nope. We're on their turf and if the boys should ask us what those words are, we'll take the opportunity to explain words and language and, hopefully, ultimately point back to the heart.

(Now, I have told teenagers to watch their language when they were curse-happy at a playground. But that's because it was a playground. Kind of goes without saying.)

Matt and I love talking with the skaters when we're there. Matt usually hangs out at the top of the bowl (or whatever they call that thing) and talks with the guys and I usually find a place along the wall to sit and watch them. And we've found the most interesting thing. They gravitate towards us. I've had several times of sitting there, all 19 1/2 months pregnant of me, and had teenage boys come over and sit right next to me wanting to converse. I tell them how awesome they are and I can't believe they can do those things and before I know it, they're back on their boards doing tricks right in front of me. They do the same with Matt. And we're lavish in our praise. Dude! That was awesome.

Because for some of these kids it might the the only time they get a word of encouragement that day. Or week. Or month. Or year. You never know what kind of life you might be speaking into someone's heart.

And we know there's a place for being wise and believe me, we're on it. We're not going to be foolish and put our boys in situations that they're not ready to handle yet. But we also don't want to raise them in Bubble-Wrap Landia.

When Micah says, Mom, look at that girl's pink hair! I say, I know, isn't it so pretty? 

So while it's not the primary reason we go by any means (we go because the boys love it and have a blast), I love that it gives the opportunity to show love and kindness to a "different" group of people and for our boys to do the same. It makes my heart so happy when I see Asher ride his bike within inches of a group of them and say, Hi! Watch me!



Ask me if we regret this decision in 15 years when they're on a pro circuit and I go to bed every night thinking about broken bones...

March 28, 2014

An update on last week's request for prayer

I thought I should update you on the last week since I specifically asked you to pray. I wish I could say that I magically felt better after reaching out but I think the difficult thing about grief is that you still have to walk through the milestones and pain and memories and loss and anniversaries. I think the big difference that I felt though is that it didn't feel unbearable as it had before. I could tell people were praying for me. (Which is always amazing to me, by the way.)

Tuesday was by far the hardest day, the 30 week mark. I was teary and easily angered most of the day. Asher and I visited her resting spot while Micah was at school and I felt like I usually do when I visit her - so incredibly sad that I have to go to a cemetery to visit my daughter.

After we left, I had to return some shoes at a store Which-I-Shall-Leave-Unnamed and had a terrible return experience with the employee helping me. Long story short - I left with the shoes. I was so mad and felt extra indignant and self-righteous because I wanted to yell at the lady that I had just come from my daughter's grave and could she possibly wipe the defiant smirk off her face and possibly have a little more compassion??? 

Later that day I could not escape the Holy Spirit's conviction that he wanted me to call and apologize to her. At one point I literally said out loud, No, why do I care? I don't want to do it. But I could not get out from under the weight of it. So I finally called and asked to speak with her (but she wasn't there) so I left the most awkward message they have probably ever received. Can you please tell her that I'm the girl who was in this morning trying to return my son's shoes? I was very rude to her and I just wanted to call and apologize....

So quite honestly that's what the day looked like. Tears and sadness and anger followed by I'm-sorry's. The boys. Matt. The store lady.

We had already decided to go to a worship night that night and I'm so glad I had already committed to a friend that we'd be there because we actually turned around on the way because I did not feel like I could tolerate seeing so many people. But then I remembered I'd already told her we'd be there so we turned back around and ended up going. My heart wasn't in the worship and I only sang about two lines the whole night but it did feel good to just sit and talk with the Lord in my heart.

And I ended up having such great, encouraging conversations after that I'm pretty sure the Lord had orchestrated it previously to make sure we were there.

So. We're past another painful milestone, the one beside her birthday that I was dreading the most actually.

Thank you, Lord, for your grace. Thank you for Grace. Thank you that we experience fellowship with you in our sufferings (Philippians 3:10). 

And thank you to the huge lot of you that wrote to let me know you were praying. It has a greater impact than I can express and I think even than I fully know.

To end on a happy note, here are some pictures off my phone from the last week.

That is a dead wasp. IN OUR HOUSE. Killed by ME. Have I never mentioned my manic/phobic fear of bugs? No? Well, it's manic and it's phobic and I was probably (definitely) praying out loud the entire time.

This is the smile Micah gives every time I ask to take his picture. I love it.

Asher is our cuddle-bug. He's always down for a good snuggies.

I took some pictures of Asher while Micah was still napping. I love this kid.

He let me take his picture but he had to get all his current favorite toys first.

Showing me how they're lined up.

Have a great weekend, my friends. So thankful for each of you.

March 19, 2014

I'm not sure how else to ask except - would you please pray for me?

Ok, I'm doing it. I'm reaching out. I've been battling the lies that tell me that I've asked for too much, people are tired of hearing about my loss, my grief, my needs; they're tired of more requests for prayer, more burdens placed on them by the needs of someone else. They have enough of their own needs, for the love of everything good and right in this world.

But I'm humbling myself again and putting it out there that this is a journey and some days are darker than others and some seasons are more wintry than others, and two days ago I found myself flung back into the darkness and the cold. Right on the heels of a particularly refreshing and encouraging season, I might add.

Simply put, I would so love and appreciate your prayers.

I am 29 weeks and 1 day pregnant. I was 30 weeks pregnant when we lost Grace and 30 weeks and 1 day when I delivered her. I have a full week ahead of me to remind me of those final days, and the memories and reliving have already begun in crushing measure. And then I have the beginning of April to relive when we were in Seattle and learned of her severely worsened heart failure and subsequent grim prognosis for making it to 34 weeks. And then I have April 26th, the day she was born into our arms, still and silent.

It feels un-doable, quite frankly.

And on top of that I'm preparing and studying to speak at this conference (which you should go to, by the by), and while the Lord has planted seeds of direction and insight, it's not all coming together. So I find myself having anxiety and fear thrown in for extra measure. Again, at this moment, it all feels rather not doable.

So I'm not sure how else to ask except - would you please pray for me?

I'm not even sure exactly what to ask specifically for. For this coming week. For the coming month. For the conference. If there is anything that terrifies me, it's going where God is not. It's quite the story about my agreeing to speak at this conference (and also quite the honor) but the Lord was absolutely behind it. So I trust that he's in this. But I need more trust to make it to the finish line.

So there it is. It's so incredibly hard to ask for help, to put myself out there, to be in such a needy spot, but the prayers of the saints are worth it to me.

Thank you. So much love to you all, more than you know.

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
 2nd Corinthians 12:9

March 09, 2014

27 Weeks Pregnant

We finally had warmth and sunshine yesterday when Matt took this picture so we were immediately out for a hike and bike rides. We take what we can get around here.

27 weeks and 4 days.

How far along: 27 weeks and 5 days. Officially in the 3rd trimester!

Total weight gain/loss: I don't know. Well, I don't know since my last appointment. And I've conveniently "forgotten" what it was. Let's just say I'm sure it was gained

Maternity clothes: In my defense, I did wear a shirt today that isn't maternity. But other than that, all maternity. 

Sleep: It's been a little better the last week. I get up several times a night to go to the bathroom but in between I sleep pretty soundly. 

Best moment this week: I'm just so stinking excited to meet him and hold him that it grows every week as we get closer.

Food cravings: PROTEIN. And sweets.

Food aversions: If it doesn't have protein, I don't want it. 

Gender: A boy! Luke Honor.

Labor signs: Braxton-hicks have started but nothing too strong.

Pregnancy symptoms: Weight gain, sciatica pain, waddling, heartburn, low energy.

What I enjoy: I never tire of the kicks and rolls and turns and hiccups. I'm always in awe of the growing belly and love to imagine him in his cocoon. I'm just so super thankful that I get to carry a baby. I can't wait to have an itty-bitty baby in my arms again. 

What I am looking forward to: Our next ultrasound. It was at this ultrasound that we saw Asher's chin dimple and I'm dying to know if Baby Luke has it too! Micah doesn't have one, Asher does, Grace didn't have one, so now I'm wondering if we're due for another one with that squishy, dimply goodness. :)

This photo of Matt last weekend in the middle of the blizzard we were having will give you an idea of how much snow we've had and why it's such a big deal when the temperatures hit 40 and the sun is shining. The wind chill was like negative 20 in this picture.  

February 25, 2014

Have you Ever Wondered if you Mattered?

I've been thinking about something lately and so I'm going to write because I think best when I write. Most of the time I write these thinkings in my journal but sometimes I write them in my blog. And today I'm writing them in my blog.

Matt and I are not native to Montana. We stepped foot in this state for the first time 6 1/2 years ago. And it was in the cab seat of a Budget truck with all of our worldly belongings and our cat. We knew nobody and nothing about our new Montana home. Almost seven years later, it's interesting to reflect back on those first months and those feelings of being a foreigner that we had because it's so far from where we are today.

But let me tell you how it started. We had lived here for three weeks and it was Matt's birthday and it was a Sunday and we were visiting a church in town for the first time. At the end of the service I found the pastor's wife (I don't even remember how I knew she was the pastor's wife) and introduced myself and said we were new in town and were looking to meet people. She immediately brought me over to two young couples that were standing side by side.

After introducing us, she left us to make small talk with our new friends. One couple said, Hey, what are you guys doing for dinner tonight? We have lasagna and a few friends coming over if you want to join us. The other couple said, Hey, what are you guys doing for lunch today? Can we treat you to some place in town?

The second couple went on to become our closest friends. They invited us into every part of their lives. Their family, their vacations, their home, their game nights, their work Christmas parties. Over the next several years, it became second nature for the lot of us to look for those new people or the fringe-ers and say, Hey, what are you guys doing tonight? Want to come over for dinner and games? We knew what it was the be the outsider, the newbie, and we knew what it was to be found out, to have people care and invest, and it was natural to extend that to others. And as a result, we added many more rich friendships into our lives.

In the last couple of years life has changed in nearly every way. Church changed for us. Family changed. Matt started a medical graduate program and spare time became non-existent. We added children. Grief and loss entered our lives.

It became easier and easier to stop looking outward. It became easier to simply (occasionally) look for new faces at church and Bible study, get to know them for a few minutes, shake their hand, smile, and call it good. No more (or few) invitations over for dinner. Rarely, numbers exchanged.

Our lives are full, who can blame us? We have a niche, a system that works, a delicate balance in a season when family time is scarce, we're still healing from loss, relationships that fit and are comfortable and don't require a lot of effort; why would we disrupt that?

Maybe because it doesn't reflect Jesus.

Maybe because it doesn't reflect the way he lived his life and the way the early Christians lived their lives and the way we're exhorted to live our lives. Maybe because Jesus has put his thumb on this area and we can't ignore it any longer.

Listen to me, my friends, and please let me so graciously issue a challenge. I know that easier is....well, easier. I know that when we've found a niche that works, we don't want to disrupt it, interrupt it. We feel like we don't have room for others. Or, more to the point, we simply don't want to make room for others.

But I've been on the fringe. I've been the one to be the newbie. I've been the one to wonder, God, is there a space/place for me here? Do people have room for me in their lives? I know, on a surface level, the answer is yes, but is it actually, in-real-life, tangibly true?

If there is one thing that we long for, it's to know that we matter to others. To know that people care about who we are. But while we can't control other people's actions toward us, we most certainly can control our actions towards others. We can be the one to make room. We can be the one to say, God, I'm available; I'm willing to be uncomfortable. I'm willing to disrupt my niche, my system.

Because here's the thing.

The first couple I mentioned at the beginning? We hung out with them occasionally and always had a good time but we never became close friends. But you know what they gave us that night when they had us over for lasagna? They gave us the gift of community on a day that would have otherwise been very lonely. We brought a cake and sang Happy Birthday, celebrated with new friends, and instead had a wonderful day.

And the second couple? They did become our closest friends. We experienced years of rich friendship and adventures and travel and shared life with them. Several nights a week we got together and had dinner and played games and laughed hysterically and were so richly blessed.

This second couple had years of roots here in Montana. They had close friendships with others and established jobs and a church family but they made room for us anyways. And I think it's safe to say that it's one of the greatest treasures of a friendship we've experienced.

You may be the first couple to someone. Or you may be the second. Reaching out and making room doesn't mean you add imbalance to your life. It doesn't mean that every new person is going to require a best-friendship. It means that in one instance you may simply provide the gift of a home-cooked meal and community to a lonely face. In another, it may mean that you're surprised by the addition of a rich new friendship.

The crux is the willingness of our hearts to make room. The crux is seeing like Jesus did. It's having an eye to look past our circle, to say, That person looks new or out of place or lonely or uncomfortable, I'm going to reach out; I'm going to make room.

Let's make room, my friends. Let's do it together. Let's find someone new to show they matter this week. When we find ourselves heading for the same worn spot by the same familiar people, let's redirect our steps with a prayer, yes?

Second couple. :)
Machu Picchu with Chris and Gloria. Just one of our many vacations together.

A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. Proverbs 11:24