April 25, 2014

Losing Grace, one year ago today

Today is the one year anniversary of the day we walked into an ultrasound room and had our hearts completely broken. It was a day just like today. A little cloudy and breezy with the sun coming and going. I remember the long walk to the doctor's office. I was meeting Matt there and I walked slowly, knowing I was about to officially hear the words that I already knew to be true in my heart.

You couldn't pay me ten million dollars to go back to those first moments and days and weeks and months. The physical loss and heartache are unreal. The empty arms. The silent hospital room. I remember waking up morning after morning thinking how unnatural and wrong it was that I had slept the entire night before. I wanted a newborn waking me up. I shouldn't be getting so much sleep, I just had a baby! I hated that nobody knew I had just carried and birthed the most beautiful baby girl. I remember making up reasons to be able to mention to complete strangers that I had just given birth.

Some awesome friends and my parents paid for us to get away to a local hotel with a waterpark two weeks after I delivered her so more awesome friends could come finish packing, moving, and cleaning our house, since we had sold it with plans to relocate to Seattle for Grace's care. I proudly wore my bathing suit to the park because the extra skin and loose belly were the only physical evidence I had that I had carried my sweet girl for nearly 8 months.

It's hard to believe that a year has passed. So much grief and joy. It's exactly as Angie Smith has described it: a sacred dance of grief and joy. It's both, and somehow they move and work together. Some days (and months) one leads the other with a strong hand, but they're both there.

So as I reflect back on the last year, these are a few things I've learned. About myself, about God, about other people.

1. God is faithful. I know that's Christianese to say but I say it as strongly and firmly as I can, and if I were sitting across from you, you would see the conviction in my eyes as I grabbed your hand and said, God is faithful. He will do it. He will surely do it. I didn't think I would ever feel the full measure of joy again but he has filled my heart with such an overflowing measure of joy that I can hardly adequately describe it. It literally fills me.

2. God is kind. I had many moments and seasons this past year when I said in my brokenness to the Lord, You do not feel kind. You do not feel trustworthy. But in his faithfulness and in ways that I alone will treasure in my heart, he has shown me such kindness and unfailing love, it's hard to truly fathom.

3. I wouldn't want to be the person I was before. I would never ask for this or choose it but I thank the Lord that he continues to redeem it and bring beauty from the ashes. I had a lot of "right" theological answers before but I often lacked what people loved about Jesus, his compassion. I've learned that humans are intensely complex and there is no one-size-fits-all response to grief. What people often want in their pain is for someone to simply grieve with them, not give them a slew of "right" answers. Job's friends had a lot of good theology but they were called "miserable comforters" and God himself rejected their words about him. Today I'm a lot less like Job's friends than I was before.

4. The body of Christ is an amazing and beautiful thing. The love that we've been shown this past year has done more to make me want to love Jesus and others well more than any other thing I've experienced in my life. I feel better equipped to love and serve others because of the example I've seen in countless others toward us. I know that a simple card in the mail can brighten someone's entire day because someone took the time to do that for me. I know that letting myself cry for the pain of someone else can do more for their broken heart than the most eloquently spoken words because somebody did that for me. I know that a homecooked meal, lovingly prepared and delivered, can take the edge off a grief-filled night because many people did that for me. So many practical and tangible ways that people loved us, I'm so happy it's finally my turn to love others where they're at.

5. New life has never meant so much to me. I didn't go to church this Easter because Asher was sick so I volunteered to stay home with him. But to be honest, I wasn't too sad to miss. I didn't want it to be about a new dress and fancy clothes and Easter baskets. When I thought about the resurrection and the impossibility, apart from God, to bring life from death, my heart was craving more, something deeper. So Asher and I stayed home and weeded our front yard. And it was the most worshipful thing I could have done on that day. As I pulled dead and broken plants and weeds and saw the new life coming in underneath I couldn't help but be in awe of God and what we learn to be true of him from his creation. As dead as those plants seemed and as long as the winter was, there was still new life! It's true in creation and I've seen it to be true in my life again and again. Nothing is ever too broken, winters are never too long, that God cannot bring new life.

So yes, today and everyday, I miss my girl. I'll always miss her. Someone asked us recently if we feel we've moved on or past it and Matt told them that it's something we'll never move past. We'll always miss her and carry her with us. I'll always mark dates and anniversaries. I don't want to spend her first birthday at a grave site. I want her here with cake-smeared face and chubby fingers. I long with every fiber to know her on this side of eternity. I want to know what she looks like and if she's as feisty as Asher or as sweet and silly as Micah.

I know tomorrow will be sad. I know I'll cry when we visit her and wish with everything in me that things were different. But I thank the Lord that this life isn't the end of our story. We will get to know her. For all of eternity, more deeply than we could ever have known her on this side. The very indescribably best is yet to come. And I'm thankful that he has not allowed this to destroy us. I'm thankful for the hope that we will see her again, for this overflowing joy he's placed in my heart, and for new life and resurrected hope.

He is faithful and he brings such beauty from the ashes.

April 22, 2014

34 Weeks Pregnant

Oh my goodness, there's so much I want to catch up on the last couple of weeks, including a recap of the conference and our time away in Denver, but I'll save that for the next couple of days.

For now, I'll do a pregnancy update or I know I'll keep putting it off and then he'll be here and that'll be the end of that. And sorry for the terrible quality of pictures. Bathroom selfies were all I could get while Matt's at work and the boys are napping. (I mean, I could set up the timer on my fancy camera but then that would entail setting up my tripod and the timer...and ain't nobody got time for that.)

How far along: 34 weeks.

Total weight/gain: I hadn't gained anything at my last appointment from my previous appointment which follows the trend of my other pregnancies. In the final 6-7 weeks I either plateau or lose a pound or two. Amen and Hallelujah.

Maternity clothes: 100%. I'm actually down to very few (if any) shirts that comfortably reach all the way down to the bottom of my belly. I may need to do another thrift store run to look for some oversize everyday-wear ones. (FYI, I get most of my maternity clothes from the thrift store and couldn't recommend it more. If you go regularly and pick up a couple of items here and there, you build quite the wardrobe for super cheap. I have Liz Lange, Motherhood Maternity, etc., all second-hand and in great condition for about $4-$6 per item.)

Stretch marks: I don't think I have any new ones besides the few on my sides that I've had since Micah's pregnancy.

Sleep: is a booger. Matt was out of town for 9 days last week and I got spoiled rotten having the bed to myself. So between having to adjust to sharing the space again and getting up 17,000 times a night to go to the bathroom and the hip and back pain, sleep's not too good.

Best moment this week: Hitting the 34 week mark and really starting to feel like I'm in the final stretch.

Miss anything? Not being in constant sciatica pain and sleeping well.

Food cravings: Not so much. I still have to have protein or I become very hangry.

Anything making you queasy or sick? Not really.

Gender: Sweet baby boy! Luke Honor.

Labor signs: I've actually started having a few painful contractions, a few that I've even had to breathe deeply through. I talked to my doctor about it and he said it can happen earlier with subsequent pregnancies. Other than that, just the regular Braxton-hicks.

Symptoms: Near-constant sciatica and back pain, difficulty getting up and down, getting out of breath easily, just overall feeling bigger and ready to go.

Wedding rings, on or off? Mostly off nowadays.

Happy or moody most of the time? Depends on how much sleep I've had. If I feel mentally rested, pretty happy. If I feel mentally exhausted and my eyes are tired, I'm pretty moody.

Looking forward to: I love labor and the anticipation leading up to it and of course holding him in my arms and soaking his sweet face up.

Well, there you go. Hopefully, I remember to do another one before he gets here!

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...