Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Gospel of Hate

I am currently struggling with the gospel of hate. The rampant call to fear and hate those who are different than us is overwhelming my senses. It is on the news, in social media, within friend and familial relationships, on bumper stickers and signs and in every day conversations. "They", fill in the blank, are wrong, different, dangerous, racist, liars, manipulative, over-educated, under-educated, lacking patriotism, terrorists, evil, lazy, mentally ill, and on and on and on. "We", fill in the blank, are righteous, patriotic, honest, protecting our nation, hard-working, real Americans, healthy, right, Christians, and on and on and on. The point is that there is an us and a them. They are dangerous and must be stopped. We should be afraid, angry and fighting. If we do not wake up and take charge, then they will overwhelm us and destroy all we love. This makes me fear for my babies, for their future. Will they be an us or a them? Will they be on the right or wrong side? Will those people get to them and hurt them? How can I protect them?

This wears me down. The constant noise. The repeating of statements and manipulation of soundbites. I don't just hear it in the media, but in my everyday life. The political memes, articles, and angry statuses. The invitations to join this or that movement. The constant cruelty makes me tired. People are proselytising hate,committed to the gospel of digging in and building up walls of anger, bitterness, jealousy and fear. It is so easy to get caught up and join in. 

The world IS changing. The world IS a mess. The world HAS always been that way. The world IS supposed to be that way. We live in a broken society.  If our society wasn't broken, we wouldn't need salvation. There is a sick nostalgia that tells us that the world used to be perfect, it used be everything we wanted it to be, but now, now it is Babylon. Buying into this lie is dangerous. The Bible is a long catalog of a broken and sinful world. It was perfect in Eden, pre-apple, pre-banishment, pre-sin, but from that point on the world was and is sick. If it wasn't than why would we need salvation? When you glorify the past, you eliminate the need for Jesus. 

As a christian in this messy world we are called to change things. "We" are the lucky ones who have found salvation and been forgiven. If we respond to the call to hate, if we divide ourselves into "them" and "us" we will change things. We will create more division, we will be in a world that caters to our concept of right and justice, we will be surrounded by people who agree with us and support the same things. We will feel righteous and correct, leading charges to exclude and eliminate those who don't fit into our mold of those who deserve salvation. This is what happens when we put ourselves in the way of salvation. 

The messy world is built off selfish human desires. We are built to hate and divide. We bring that into the world. It is our natural inclination to selfishly protect ourselves and those we love. It is easy to rationalize our actions and cling to our petty justifications. We don't have to forgive, we don't have to engage, we don't have to interact with "them" and can give a hundred reasons why. Christ's love is the opposite of this. His salvation rises above our selfish desires, goes beyond our hate. The love we are offered is unconditional and all encompassing. In return we are asked to reflect that love back to the world. That is how we change the world. Not by embracing their gospel of hate, but by countering that with the more powerful gospel of love. 

"Beloved, let us love one another. For love is from God, and anyone that loves is born of God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God. For God is love." 1 John 4:7-8

If you can't love, you don't know God, because God is love.  We are called to love. Not those who are who like us, not just those who agree with us, but everyone. 

"Owe nothing to anyone-except your obligation to love one another. For he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law" Romans 13:8

"Love your neighbor as yourself" Mark 12:31

Clearly, love is the major motif here. Love, isn't limited to a certain group or cause. Neighbor isn't clearly explained. We are simply called to love. This is hard. It is the exact opposite of our instincts. Our nature cries out against it. How can we love those we fear? Why would we seek to love someone who hurt us, or another person we love? It can't be possible to combat the chaos and hatred we encounter on a daily basis. God is asking too much of us.

He really is. We, the fleshly selfish beings we are, cannot possibly be expected to do more than embrace the gospel of hate. We will categorize people and remember their wrongs. In some cases we actively seek to vilify those we do not understand or know. In some instances churches support this by "educating" their congregations on the dangers of one group or another.  We are weak. I am one of the weakest. I love judging people. I am super good at it. I love to think about what they have done wrong and mull over the ways they are inferior to me. I can easily list all the reasons I don't have to forgive someone, and why I am justified in my opinion that they are dumb.

So how do I, an embracer of the gospel of hate, learn to love so that I may know God and fulfill His law? It is rough, but here are some steps that have helped me shift towards the Gospel of Love.

1. Surrender: I suck at loving. I can't do it on my own. I have to actively seek God. Sometimes He pushes me to love at moments I really don't want to. Recently I have watched someone's actions truly hurt my Mother. I really wanted to bring down the Gospel of Hate. REALLY WANTED TO, but just as I was gearing up, a small voice told me to pray. Not for them, but for me. To ask God to help me surrender my anger and allow Him to teach me to forgive and love this person. I am currently praying this daily.

2. Walk Around in their Shoes: In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus tells Scout she can't understand other people until she walks around in their shoes. He is sharing wisdom for us all. Atticus couldn't imagine a world where we all walk around looking at screens and never in our neighbors eyes. Social media makes us forget that we are all humans. It makes it easy to judge, we are never at risk of stepping into another pair of shoes. Yet, we all need to do this. A few days ago I read some truly hateful comments on an article about a former student who is transgender. I was heartbroken. I have walked beside this person. I know they have feelings and dreams. In them I see my own children. We all need to put down the screens and start walking in the shoes of our fellow humans.

3. Love those who hurt us the most:  I have a relative who has made some shockingly poor choices. Those choices have upended the lives of my entire family. It has ripped what was a solid family unit apart. Sides have been chosen, lines have drawn, siblings don't speak to one another and it all boils down to one person's choice. This makes them hard to love. I don't want to. Again and again I find myself having to surrender to God. Having to pray. Having to fight against my basic human nature. I have to choose to believe that God will fix our family. His love is powerful enough to save all of us.

4. Faith: If we believe the world is a broken horrible place and we are called to change that place, then we must have faith that God's love is powerful enough to overwhelm our base natures and transform us into reflections of His loving salvation. The impossible becomes possible when the Holy Spirit is allowed to pour out love through us. Only then can we meet people where they are, love them for who they are and not expect them to change.

5.Do Something: God has been challenging me, not to sit at home and write a blog, but to go out and actively love. This means actively praying for God to create oppurtunities for His love to shine through me. It means embracing the idea that I don't have to understand or agree with someone to love them. I am still struggling to follow this call to humble myself and wash the feet of my neighbor. The other day I made myself go across the street and check on neighbor. I had to make myself do this, because I am busy and the baby was tired and it was rainy and I didn't want to try. God kept working on me. He answered my prayer to embrace chances to show love.

The Gospel of Hate is powerful and seductive. We all have been ardent missionaries spreading the message wherever we go. Luckily, The Gospel of Jesus is more powerful. This Christmas season, let's all try to be missionaries by spreading the message of God's unconditional love wherever we go. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


7 is the number of years I waited for my family to be complete.
7 is the number of times I thought I was pregnant.
7 is the amount of clomid rounds I did.
7 is the time I checked in for Teddy's delivery.
7 is the number of years we were married when Harper was born.
7 is the age Ashley was when she lived with us.
7 is the number of hours I pushed with Harrison
7 years is how long Egypt was in famine
7 days is how long it took God to create the Earth
7 years is how long Jacob worked for Rachel (and then 7 more after being tricked)
7 years is how long the Israelites were given to the Midians
7 years is how long it took to build Solomon's Temple
7 years is how long David had to wait to be crowned the King of Israel

It feels as if we have come out of a desert. We spent the past seven years focused on creating our family, and now we have the rest of our lives to build that family up. I was unsure that we would ever be at this point. For a long time, I was angry and bitter and sad.  I have been amazed and awestruck and astounded. My heart has been taken from me. I know now what real sorrow is. I also know happiness like I have never know before. I understand contentment. Patience has a new meaning. Life has slowed down and sped up at the same time.

Love is what we relied on when it was dark.
Love is not as simple as we thought it was.
Love is what kept us going.
Love is harder than I thought it was.
Love is what God showed me when I didn't deserve it.
Love is what our friends and family poured out on us.
Love is discipline and hard choices
Love is choosing to let go of what you want
Love is giving you child a peaceful death
Love is the sound of your little boy running to hug you
Love is the smile your baby gives when you kiss her
Love is the exhausted husband who stayed up so you can sleep
Love is the Mom who comes to help because you are her baby
Love is a God who gives us all this when we don't deserve it.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Tag Me Out Bro!

Today has been one of those Mama days. I have said "No", "What are you doing?", "Don't do that" "Why did you do that?", "Did you poop your pants?", "Why did you spread applesauce all over yourself?", "No, you cannot stand on the sit and spin.", "If you put your drill in your mouth it will hurt", "I am right here". You get the point. Add to that my son's inability to be less than six inches from me all day, no nap, intense back pain, a cat who is somehow always under my feet and a husband who is working hard to redo the kitchen cabinets and I am in that place.

I am eating peanut butter sandwich crackers and drinking a Pepsi. I put on the second movie and placed my son in front of it. I am sitting on a yoga ball that leaves me two inches too short for this desk and I am pretty sure that smell is me. The sink is full of dishes, and there is a pile of yet more vegetables that I need to freeze or can or throw out the window. I emptied half the dishwasher before realizing the dishes weren't clean. I have had to wash poop out of clothes.   Adulting has become too hard. I want to be tagged out pro-wrestling style.

My doppelganger can come in and I will go to hotel. One with a fancy lobby and rooms with incredible beds and super soft robes. Wearing the robe, I will read a book and order room service. I could spend sometime reveling in the silence. I could go to the bathroom by myself. I wouldn't need long. Twenty four hours would be enough.

Thanks to the glory of my Mom's group, I know that I am not alone. Other Mamas feel this too. They are also biting back the scream as they tell their child to not do something for the thousandth time. They feel the guilt that comes with your child wanting nothing but you and you wanting nothing but ten minutes to breath. They know that you can feel this overwhelmed and still revel in the wonder that is bed time snuggles. You can love being a Mom and still need to scream sometimes.

So scream, go into the bedroom, close the door and let loose. Dance to a song your kids probably shouldn't hear. Group text your Mom friends. Call your sister. Call your Mama, and pray she will take the kid for awhile. You may smell and your t-shirt is gross, but lipstick goes with anything. Know we are all in it with you. If you don't know other Mom's send me a message.  Adulting is hard. No one should do it alone.

Today was rough, but my kid is alive. I remembered to eat something and keep the baby growing. At some point I think I kissed my husband. I will give the cat some soft food to make up for all the stepping on. Now I will put on some headphones and listen to Sondheim while my kid watches one more episode of the Bob the Builder. Stay strong fellow Mama. I got your back.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Tonight I Cry

I miss my son. As we prepare our home for our daughter, I find myself missing him more and more. Missing him doesn't negate excitement for her. It is just complicated and hard. Sometimes I have to cry. The pain doesn't go away. It lessens, but it doesn't leave.

Tonight it hurts, and I am crying for a myriad of reasons. There are so many women in the same place. Miscarriage is shockingly common, but we as a society tend to turn away from it. For the parents, the families, turning away isn't an option. They will always miss their child.

Tonight I am mourning my son. I am cursing Ancephaly and how it took his life. At the same time, my daughter is kicking me, reminding me she is healthy, my rainbow after the flood. In the room next to us, their older brother sleeps and reminds me that I have already been given a miracle.

Tonight I am praying for all the parents who have lost a child. I am hoping that they are as blessed with support as we are. I am asking God to comfort them as He has comforted is. I am wishing for a day when miscarriage is something that we can freely discuss.

I miss my son, I am excited for my daughter, and delighted to be the Mother of my three year old miracle baby. God is with me. He is beside me and will comfort me. It is complicated, painful and incredible all at once.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Anxiety, Failure, Infertilty, PCOS and Grace

I have been thinking about this topic for awhile. What to say? What not to say? How to get my experience across without diminishing the experience of others? At a recent doctor's check up, my OBGYN thanked me for being honest with her about my mental state. She sees so many women who are ashamed or unaware of the source of their issues. I spent a long time being one of those women, so perhaps it is time to discuss what changed and why I am not scared to share anymore.

I have been anxious my whole life. My whole life. Things scared me in a way that didn't scare other kids. I thought about the worse case scenario all the time, and I truly believed that everyone felt that way.  A combination of a cautious nature, vast imagination and classic abandonment issues made it hard for me to recognize what was and what was not normal. However, I thrived as a little kid. Outside of an obvious undiagnosed case of ADHD- and no one was looking for that in 1984- I was happy. I was weird, but not anymore than any other child of the 80's.

After we moved to Oregon, and I was isolated from my large and loving family. After my mother divorced my Step-Father, an excellent move on her part. After my Father exploded back into my life and the hormones of puberty were suddenly present. That is when I think my anxiety really took hold. My world was changed so quickly, my support systems so depleted, my grandparents and sisters so far away that I for the first time I felt truly scared. Now it was just my Mom and I, and she was scared. She was tired and scared and doing all she could to put a roof over our head and keep us fed. We had no money. If it wasn't for the generosity of our church and neighbors, we wouldn't have had food. My Step-Father did all he could to make life hard for my mother. It was rough time, and I want to be clear that she did all she could. A single Mom in an economically depressed town in the early 90's had few choices. She put me in a community that kept tabs on me, she put me in school where I had friends. She worked hard to rebuild my sense of safety and security. She did all she could to alleviate an anxiety she didn't even know existed. There was no way I ever would have told her.

Through high school it got harder to hide my growing fear. Anxiety works away at you. It keeps you up at night. It makes you abandon social situations and drop out of things you enjoyed. You feel like at any moment, the whole world will crash around you. I felt that way all the time, but it amplified my Senior year. Encroaching life decisions overwhelmed me, leaving home and being on my own was terrifying. When my Dad wrote a bad check to pay my tuition at Pacific, my world spun even more. My carefully planned future was gone in an instant. Suddenly I was stuck, going to a school I didn't want to and unable to imagine a future that would work. I was too embarrassed to tell anyone what had happened, so I let them all think that I had stayed for my boyfriend. That was a terrible year. I actually dropped out of life. I didn't want to participate. Everything was scary and everyone else seemed to know what they were doing. I stopped trusting myself, or my decisions. I felt like I had failed before my life began.

Somehow I got to Western, I am not even sure how. Somehow I met Jill. Somehow I started going through the motions of life. I became less scared. I made new friends, who encouraged me to go to counseling. There for the first time I was told that I wasn't failure. I was sick. I learned coping mechanisms. When life got extra stressful, I took a drug to help.  I found my way through. It wasn't easy. There is a lot I would change, but I learned how to function. How to be happy. How to be ok.

It all worked, until 2003/2004. That year I gained sixty pounds in three months. Sixty pounds in three months. I couldn't figure out why. My eating hadn't changed that much. My insurance paid 30% of any doctors visit, so I had to be careful about when to go. I worked out, and I gained weight. Justin and I changed our diet, and I gained weight. I swear to you I slept, and I gained weight. At the same time, my anxiety worsened. All my tips and tricks stopped working. It felt as if my whole body was spinning out of control. In desperation, I went to the doctor my insurance had approved. He spent ten minutes with me. He asked about my exercise regime and diet. At the end he told me he could do nothing to help someone who was clearly lying to him. No one gains sixty pounds for no reason. Until I was willing to really work at losing weight, I would have to be content. The only one who could change me was me.

I slunk out of his office and sat in my car and cried. A medical professional had just confirmed what I had secretly known all along. I was fraud and a failure. Now I was a fat fraud and failure. I would never do anything or go anywhere. I was incapable of having a future. Of being happy. I was a big fat mess, and it was all my fault. I had let my family down, my boyfriend down, myself down. I was worthless. I truly believed that. It is so hard to type, because it is so ugly. Alone in my car, 25 years old, while the rain poured down on a gloomy Oregon day I embraced the idea of my worthlessness. For the next few months, I did all I could to demonstrate this to those around. I sabotaged my relationship with Justin, I allowed my self to be belittled at work. I actively agreed with my father when he told me I would go nowhere if he wasn't there to save me. I was a mess.

This is when Justin loved me beyond what I deserved. This is when he worked two jobs, and came home to lift me up. He just stayed. He just loved. Slowly he helped me function. I started grad school, got a job, we got engaged and then married. I was happy, and I never discussed my weight. When I went to new doctors, I never told them about the sudden weight gain. I didn't tell them that my anxiety amplified when I had my period. I never mentioned the incredibly painful cysts I had. I powered through. I smiled. I had a husband, my dream job, friends. The rest didn't matter.

Then we started to try to have a family, and it didn't work. I was told to lose weight. I couldn't. We endured test after test, month after month of heartbreak, years started to pass. Finally, my Mom recommended I see a doctor she had heard good things about. I was in her office for 20 minutes and I found myself sobbing out the whole sordid story to her. She ordered tests, she prescribed drugs. She explained that I had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. That my anxiety, weight gain and infertility where all normal for people who have this disease. She helped me understand that my mental and physical health was connected. She made me feel sane. She believed me. I responded to the treatment. I lost forty pounds. I felt healthy. I could talk about infertility. I ate better. I felt happier than I had in long time.

I wasn't a failure. My body functioned differently. I functioned differently. Different, but not failing. Once I knew how my body worked. Weight was manageable. I also understood that the 130 pound me was probably not an option, but a healthy happy me was.  In the midst of this I became pregnant with Harry, and for the first time in a long time I felt on track. After his birth, the anxiety came back with vengeance. I was terrified for him, but some drugs and counseling helped. Things felt good.

Teddy's death broke me. Losing him destroyed ten years of work. I was back to that parking lot. I was worthless. Only now I was worthless and scared. Scared in a way I didn't know was possible. When I left the house, the world closed in on me. A simple conversation with the gas station attendant made me shake and sweat. Running into someone I knew was a nightmare. Being around friends and family was like walking on glass. I forgot how to be around people. All of last summer was a long stretch of me stumbling to act like I was normal. There were major drugs and major counseling. It took all I had to go back to work. To smile and make small talk. In the morning I would sit in my classroom and work my through constant panic attacks. I thought my principal wanted to fire me. I was sure my coworkers hated me. I knew my students were counting down until they were no longer in my class. I shattered. I was hollow.

God did a lot this fall. He held me together. He moved me forward. He literally walked beside me and got me through the day. His love kept me going. His grace pushed me forward. His word got me out of bed in the morning. Then I found I was pregnant. Then there was a new baby on the way. I didn't want to feel anything. I didn't want to be happy or sad or anything. I wanted to be numb. The problem was I wasn't. I am not. Walking into the doctor's leads to panic attacks. An ultrasound is indescribable. It is all too much. Too much fear, too much pain, too much happiness, too much love. Just too much. This is what mental illness is. It is what anxiety combined with PTSD is. The world is too much. Life is too much. I can go from the highest high to lowest low. I am a mess.

Thankfully God loves my mess. He never gives up on me. When it is too much, He is there. When I am despondent, He is there. When I can't, He does. He provided me with doctors who helped me find a drug that helps, a counselor who is pretty amazing, a community of support that is overwhelmingly filled with love. When you suffer from a mental illness, it can be harder to see God's ability to love you. It can be harder to find the faith required to accept the Grace so lovingly offered to you. Through my whole anxiety filled life, He has been there. Paving the way, putting in safety nets, providing me with support and love. Through it, He has taught me about love. He has taught me the glory of His timing. He has taught me to let go of me. He has carried me this whole way. Most of all He has given me the grace to accept who I am. To share where I am at. I am a mess, my imperfections are many and I am struggling each and everyday. However, in that struggle I find my Savior and He brings me peace.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

When you feel alone

I recently read a blog about how lonely motherhood can be, and I was surprised by how deeply it resonated with me. Me, who works and has a vast group of Mamas to support her.  Part of this author's experience with loneliness involved infertility and infant loss. These things set you apart. It makes it harder to just be. You walk around with a constant ache that you don't know how to describe to anyone. It is isolating.

Being pregnant again has brought another type of isolation. First, the secret pregnancy and the unwillingness to tell anyone. It was hard enough for us to believe it was true, harder still to have hope she would be healthy and hardest of all to think about her future. What if it was ripped away? We couldn't tell others, it was too terrifying. Weekly check ups,  massive anxiety attacks, sobbing for the son who isn't here and constant overwhelming fear. FEAR. I spent 8 weeks of my life holding my breath. Small prayers, please let her be ok right now, and now, and now. Please don't take her, please.

Ultrasounds were, and are, the worst. I don't sleep the night before they come. I lie awake and hash it out with God. If they find the worst, if she can't survive, please don't make me see it this time. Or, you made her, you did this, please make her healthy, please keep her safe. Clenching my husband's hand, I hold my breath and wait as the tech checks each small detail. We don't speak, we don't smile, we watch. He flexes his hand, I am crushing it. The tech tries to reassure us and in my head I sing every chapel song I learned at Grace. I sing praise song after praise song.  They always end well. She is always healthy. I am always exhausted. After the last two, I took four hour long naps.

I think that people expect me to express unparalleled joy, or to rush about proclaiming a miracle, and I feel that I am failing them. My classroom neighbor, Michelle, described my feelings the best, "Wow, God where did that come from?" I am learning to swim in this sea of pregnancy after miscarriage. There are moments of unparalleled joy, they really do come, but I also have moment of deep grief. Every moment I celebrate the coming of our baby girl, I remember the little boy we lost.

This is what makes it lonely. I live in the high and low at the same time. Pregnancy has amplified my PTSD, the smallest thing can cause big issues. Getting a new car seat led to me lying awake wondering what I would do with that car seat if she dies. Would I sell it? Never be able to look at again? Would it sit in our garage? Perhaps I should wait to buy the car seat? Maybe I should wait on all of it? But that isn't fair to her. Dear God, she isn't even born and I am messing her life up. All of this is crazy and I should sleep, but I can't sleep because now I can't stop thinking about how crazy I am.

I don't usually sleep through the night.  I take naps. Sometimes I am nauseous from pregnancy and sometimes I worry my self sick. This is me on drugs. I spent the first three months drug free, and I couldn't function. I couldn't keep track. All I could do was worry. This level of anxiety is isolating.  I can't explain it to you. I can't change it. It just my current reality.

Where is God is this lonely anxiety ridden time? He is here, constantly. His word is assuring me, His arms are holding me, and He is teaching me to depend on His love through all things. Having faith doesn't mean that we are never worried or anxious. It doesn't mean we must be perfect. It means that when we feel bone crushingly lonely, we know we are not alone. We know that the He is with us. We know that we will come through this moment, this worry, this anxiety attack, and be ready to face what is next.

This is all new, all terrifying and all miraculous at once. Each moment is different. Each day brings a new challenge. Thankfully, I am not as alone as I sometimes feel.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Hope and Terror

One year ago today, my life changed in a matter of seconds.  Literally seconds. I went from the highest high to depths. The week that followed is a nightmarish blur and the grief still comes, yet here I am one year later sitting in a doctors office waiting to check on a baby, again.

I am terrified. That would describe this pregnancy. Terror. Constant fear and anxiety. I have lost the ability to believe that "it will all be alright." I no longer take a healthy baby for granted. I know that each moment her heart beats is a gift.

This doesn't mean I don't dream and plan. It doesn't mean I don't get butterflies of excitement. Just now they are tempered with loss. As I much I already love this little girl, as amazing of a miracle she is, as perfect as she will be for our family. She is not her brother. She will not fill the hole left by his loss. She has made her own place in my heart.

This week. The one year anniversary has come to me by surprise. I would reschedule my appointment, but we have today is the day for Spinal Bifida. Today, I sit in a doctors office and I hold two of my children in my heart.

My son has taught me that no matter what the future holds for my daughter, God will see me through it. My daughter has taught that there is unexpected joy after incomprehensible grief. They both show me how little I know about life and motherhood.

There will be other milestones, more tears of sadness and joy. I will take more breaths and pray more prayers. Today however, today I have been in long talks with God. His plan never ceases to amaze me, and His love and grace never cease to uphold me.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Shadow Box

I thought today would be a good day to put together Teddy's shadow box. A place to keep his ultrasounds, footprints, blanket and cards.  Almost a year has passed and the pain isn't what it was. I want him to have a place in our home. I want it to feel like he was and is a part of our family. I waited until Justin and Harrison went to swim lessons, because I wanted to take his things out alone. It has been a long time since I looked at his ultrasounds or his little footprints. It has been a long time since I held his urn. Not because I forgot, but because I remembered how to live. Life pushes you forwarded.

Today, with the sun beaming, I felt like it was time. I fell apart. I cried as hard as I did the first time I saw those tiny footprints. I have sat here and sobbed for the past hour. Grief stays fresh. I am crying for hope lost, dreams vanished. For the little boy who should be starting to sit up and crawl and giggle. For his brother who will never play with him. For his memory, which will die out with his father and I. I am crying for all the other babies lost to horrible things we don't understand, and for all the Mamas whose arms ache to hold babies they never got to meet.

His last good ultrasound was taken almost exactly a year ago. That was before I knew about Ancephaly and how ultrasound machines have levels, or that most OBGYN's don't have the training to notice the disease early. It is before the amniotic fluid washed his brain away. Before the blackness that would meet us on the next ultrasound. This one is full of hope. Even at 13 weeks, it is clear he is a boy. He is there so alive.

I looked at it and tried to imagine myself on that day. That woman who was excitedly calling her husband, who had no concept of true fear or heartache. She did not know that she would soon be forced to make decisions that would rip her apart.  The pain of inducing at 20 weeks and the anger of a body that does not want to give birth. She was happy. She was confident. She had few fears.

I will never be that woman again. I have learned to be happy, but in a different way.  I am confident in the fact that God will not abandon us, and I can go forward assured of His great love. I have many great fears. I know fear in a way that I cannot forget. I have to work hard to leave that fear behind. It takes prayer, faith, healthy practices, acupuncture, counseling and at times meds.

I have cried and I am calmer. Grief doesn't lessen, it just becomes more manageable. I will get this shadow box done, and he will have a spot in our home. I am blessed. I had my son for 20 weeks. I got to have his footprints and his ultrasounds. I have an urn to hold. There are many Mamas who lose babies too early for these things. Babies that they have hoped and prayed and longed for. Some Mamas lose more than one, and  they have yet to get to hold any of their children. I have wiggly miracle who is almost three.

As we approach Mother's Day, please keep these Mamas in your prayers. Mamas whose arms are empty and hearts ache. Mamas who long for their baby and have waited so long their hearts are broken. Mamas who aren't sure they will ever be seen as Mamas by society. They need extra love in the next week. Please reach out to one you know and offer it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Grace to Listen

It has been awhile since my last post. In the time since, God has been giving me the privilege to speak and connect with women who are dealing with loss of all kinds. My best friend lost her father. Though she knew he was ill, there is nothing that can prepare for your father not being there. Nothing. Another friend is grieving through secondary infertility. They are facing struggles that are hard to put into words. Infertility is isolating and deeply personal. No couples journey is the same. In the past two weeks, two women I know have suffered miscarriages. Though they will heal in body, smile again and hopefully have more children, there really aren't words to express the loss they have had.

When you someone you love is in pain and crying out for help, it is natural to want to step in and solve it. I am a control freak. I love to solve it. Solving it is my thing. Except none of this is my thing. How do I comfort someone who has lost a father? Me, who has never really had a father. I can't even imagine what it would be like. Yet, the sister of my heart lost an anchor in her world. I have to do something. For me, God stepped in and stopped me from being ridiculous. I had no words to comfort her, but I had the ability to make dinner and clean. It is nothing. It is less than she has done for me, but it is all I knew to do. I am here to listen when she calls, and I don't always listen well. Listening and problem solving is a skill I am working on. I am lucky that she has the grace to be patient with me while I learn it.

It would seem that I am tailor made to comfort someone who is struggling with infertility, but I was just heartbroken that my friend hurt so much. Yes, I have been there. Yes, I "get" it. But I also know that no one can truly grasp the emptiness of this disease.  While we spoke, I was painfully aware of the weakness of my words. It is impossible to say, "it will be OK", because it may not be. I also don't want to overwhelm someone with my experiences, because this conversation wasn't about me. Once again, God told me to listen, and I was some what successful. It is still a skill I am working on.

Miscarriage is still a fresh wound for me. A deep fear and sharp pain always accompany a conversation around it.  Friends who have had early term miscarriages often minimize their experience to me. "Yes, I am sad, but it wasn't what you went through". No, it isn't what I went through, but losing a baby you want is indescribable and incomparable to others losses. Whether it was six weeks or 13, grief and pain are real. Yes, it is common, but that doesn't mean it isn't painful. These moments are when I don't want to say anything. I have no words. I am truly only able to listen. What I am able to say on here, becomes impossible in real life.  Strangely, this is the time I feel the most helpful. The most in touch.

I have spent the past month listening, God has been showing me that we all have suffering. We all have pain, and we all need someone to listen. If even for a moment. Just listen. Make a meal. Clean their house. Bring Coffee. Love through listening. This is tough for me, but I hope to become an expert at it.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Me. Me. Me

Some things have happened in the past few months that put me in a selfish space. Wait. That makes me sound like a passive bystander.  The past month I have chosen to be selfish, cranky, and distant. I have wallowed in my pain, my comparisons, my unfulfilled wants. I embraced it. Reveled in it. Sank deeper into a sanctimonious stew of selfish sin.

I have been mean to my husband and short with my son. Jealousy, bitterness, greed, anger, and resentment have been my good friends. The further I sank, the easier it was to add self loathing and guilt. I'm awful.

You see, I am impatient and frustrated. I thought by now God would have done something to show me what this is all about. I thought I would know the plan, but my version of the plan feels impossible. I feel old, and ill and worthless. I wonder when my husband will wish for a wife whose reproductive system works, or when my son will blame me for his lack of siblings. This is not what I want.

People are beginning to tire of me, of listening to my struggles or my hopes. At least that is my paranoid perspective.I don't want to be the weird lady who we feel bad for, yet how can I be anyone else? I have wrapped myself up in my feelings. Held on to rage, sadness, disappointment, depression and shame. I am so ashamed. Infertility feels shameful, choosing to deliver your child and ending his life feels shameful, being sad still feels shameful.

I wrap myself up and around this because I am embarrassed and afraid. This broken, hurting, lost and tired woman is not who I planned to be. Yes, I see a counselor. Yes, I am seeking medical care, yes I know lots of women lose babies. Yes I know almost a year has passed. Yes, I thought I would be much better by now too. Yes, I thought we would be pregnant again. Yes, I thought another child would come. Yes, I am almost 37. Yes. Yes. Yes.

I get angry. I ask God why this is happening, and when a clear answer doesn't come I get angrier. Everyday I am at the foot of the cross crying out. Everyday God takes me to Joseph rotting in prison, Sarah laughing at His promise, David facing Goliath, Paul in chains, Stephen stoned, and back to Christ on the cross. Everyday I tell God I got it and plan to not be selfish, bitter and angry. Lately, I have failed everyday.

Everyday I am coming back with the same cry and every day He is holding me again. Perseverance develops character and character develops hope. Romans 5:4. The past few days the pain is less. I can make it further. See others besides me. I have no answers. I am frustrated. I am struggling. All I have is obedience, so each day I am back at the Cross crying again.

Maybe faith isn't being perfect, or getting it right? This selfish journey is part of the plan, and I may never know why or how. I am starting to believe that just trying is a big part of this. Admitting I need God in all of it and learning to be content when I don't want to be. God is slowly unwrapping me, helping me make small changes. Today, I was bitter, but I caught myself. Tomorrow I begin again. Thank God for His all encompassing patience, forgiveness, and love.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Faith expressed through love

The only thing that counts is faith expressed through love Galatians 5:6

My son is singing. In his sleepy sweet voice he is crooning "grown ups come back". He has an unbreakable faith that those he loves come back to him. Mom,Dad, Nanny, Grandma and Grandpa, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Hudson, Brett the cat. These people love him, therefore they will come back. I am in awe, and finally get the goal of child like faith.

I never believed people came back. I was distraught to see them leave and sure they wouldn't return. I lived in constant terror of losing my family and being alone. The roots of my anxiety disorder are pretty clear. I still live two minutes from my Mom and see her almost everyday. I still get anxious when we travel apart from each other.

This fear has impacted my faith. If you believe you will be abandoned, you will always be looking for the "good enough" balance. I did this great thing, so they will stay, but I also was bad so they will leave. You need the right balance to ensure security. Don't mess up or bad thing will happen and you will be alone and worthless.

I learned this as the daughter and step-daughter of two emotionally abusive fathers. They both gave and took love based on inconsistent and petty whims. They both used their words to hurt and manipulate. They used anger to control, and they both left. At 16, I determined that I couldn't balance the scale for a God whose love would only turn out to mirror my fathers. I wasn't worth loving.

I was a failure. An ugly failure. An ugly, fat, failure. I couldn't figure out what I needed to do to earn the love I wanted. Then I married a man who knew my worst secrets and loved me in spite of them. I begin to wonder if I knew anything.

I spent the beginning of my marriage waiting for him to leave. Waiting to tip the balance, waiting to be proven unlovable. He told me he wasn't leaving. He worked through the rough patches, held me while I cried, he had faith in us and he expressed it by continuing to love me when I didn't deserve it.

There is no "good enough " balance. All that matters is faith expressed through love. My husbands love impacted my faith. If I believed that God brought me Justin, then I had to believe He could offer me the same love.

I had to come to the Cross with the same faith my son carries everyday. Jesus was always there for me because He loves me. His love makes my faith possible, and that faith grows when I allow the Spirit to teach me to love.

A girl so like me returned to my life a day after I asked God to give me someone to share His love with. She is struggling to fight demons and be good enough. Unlike my son, her faith in those who should love her was shattered a long time ago. She lies, and runs, and manipulates. She cries, and begs for help, and I have a longing to love her. A fierce desire to protect her. She isn't my child, and the help I offer is small, but I love her. I have no scale. I can only offer love.

Of course I feel the same love for my son, but that love was born with him. This love came to me in an assurance of faith. This is Jesus using me to show how big His heart is. This is faith expressed through love. I am not good enough to love like this on my own. Scarred hands softly make my heart bigger and through that my faith grows. Loving this child is a gift.

I am not an exceptionally good or loving person. Anyone can have this love. Anyone can feel this joy. Anyone can be this hopeful. Anyone can revel in this faith. Ask for it. You don't need anything else. Jesus will do the rest. Your faith will grow when you accept His love. It will explode when you share it. No scales. No good enough. Just faith expressed through love.

Thursday, March 5, 2015


At what point do you break free? How do you you keep believing your pain will wnd and that all you are going through will be for the glory of God? My body is my prison. For almost a decade I have fought it. The constant struggle to get pregnant, lose weight, take a drug, have a procedure, workout but actually gain weight, a new drug, fertility meds, acupuncture,a miracle, no milk, non stop focus on getting milk, failing to feed my child, back to the weight struggle, infertility, surprise miracle two, exhaustion, illness, anemia, ANCEPHALY, baby kicks that disappear, too much unneeded milk, exhaustion, anxiety, exhaustion, anemia, cysts, exhaustion, precancerous nose, biopsy, precancerous face, menopause? Oh, biochemical pregnancy, acupuncture, trying to lose weight, hormones to balance your crazy, has made me hate my body.

I am trapped in it. It has failed me. I hate it. White hot, fierce, why don't you work. Hatred. My body's inability to meet its main biological imperative forms the chains that way my down. I keep expecting them to be miraculously removed, but the past month they have only gotten heavier.

Paul died after years of imprisonment. Peter too. Joseph went from slavery to prison, had hope of release and still waited two years for freedom. How did they do it? What staved off bitterness and self pity? These guys understood that suffering was nothing when compared to the love they were offered.

They still hurt. Paul complained of a pain,Peter was tortured, Joseph languished in prison for a decade. He had to bathe and shave to see Pharaoh. Their faith didn't grow because they overcame their prison. It grew because they submitted to their imprisonment and still chose to say, "you will not mie. Your plan not mine". Freedom came in death for Paul and Peter and a glorious promotion for Joseph.

I hate my body, yet God loves it. I want to give up, but God holds my hand. I want to fight, but He tells me peace. My miracle fix will most likely not come. I really physically and financially can't do more than one last round of treatments, and letting go of a baby leaves me with cysts and hormonal weight and a decision of how to proceed.

I have fought my prison,but I am learning to submit. To show my body love with healthy food and workouts, to use sunscreen and do yoga. My body sucks but my faith is growing stronger each day.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Why I can't discuss your ultrasound

Dear Friend,
  I wanted to take a moment to explain my actions, and I thought doing it here may help others in similar situations. You may have noticed that I tend to shut down when you discuss your upcoming gender ultrasound. Or maybe you have seen me turn my head and begin a new conversation in the midst of you sharing your excitement at such and important day. I must seem so rude and selfish to you.

I was the last of us to discuss gender ultrasounds, and you were always interested and excited, but I can't discuss yours. The mere thought of it makes me dizzy. I am  suddenly back in a small room going from joy to terror in seconds. My heart is racing, my world is spinning and I can't breath.

I am terrified. I belong to a club that I don't want anyone to join. I now know that good can become bad, and I do not want someone I care for to share that knowledge. Please know that I am praying. That I am happy for you. That when your baby comes I will hold him or her and be happy for  your family, but for this moment. For this thing, I can't.

Other moments, when people discuss the terror of getting pregnant again, or tell me that I don't know hard it is with two kids, those I can get through. Those I can breath through, but this is too big.

I may not always be this woman. God is working on me. No matter what, you are in my prayers and I do want to know if you are having a boy or girl. I do want to celebrate with you, but it will take time and I am thankful for your patience.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

I don't think I should have to pray for her.

" If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing"
1 Corinthians 13:1-3

There is someone I don't want to pray for. I don't want to forgive them. I don't want their situation to get better. I want them to go away. Far, far away. I want them to leave my family alone. The mere thought of them angers me. This person is so selfish, deceitful, manipulative and abusive that they have almost succeeded in tearing my extended family apart. 

The amount of energy that we have expended on this person and their effect on us is astounding. God finally intervened and removed them from part of our lives, but they are still there. Knocking on the door and poking the wound. I don't even deal with them directly. I am way far down the line. Outside of a random crazy text message, they never contact me. However, I still get angry at them. I still want to see Karma serve them right. I want justice!

God has been pushing me to pray for this person for over a year. Everytime I become angry or want to rant about them, He puts the verses above in my head. I can write the blog, I can spend time in devotions, I can journal and pray and go to church, but if I deny love then I am doing it all for naught. I don't want to love this person, and I don't think they deserve it. The problem is that I don't deserve God's love and forgiveness, but it is freely poured out on me. 

To help me, I have been reminded of this person's life. Their clear mental illness, their lack of family support, their overwhelming lack of self esteem and clear self loathing. Thoughts of how I would feel in their position have flooded my mind, and a desire to pray for them has bubbled up. Honestly, I have done all I can to resist it. 

I am not a very righteous person. I do not love easily, and forgiveness is harder. I am not even interested in it for the "let it go for yourself" vibe. I do not want to do this. To God, I must sound like my toddler "no, thank you. I will take all the parts of walking with you that I like, but I would like to skip this part. I don't want to love someone who received what I so desperately wanted and threw it away. I don't want to. I. Do. Not. Want. To."

Yet, I am. I am praying for them. I am attempting to love them. I am doing this despite the fact that I don't want to. I would love to tell you that when I decided to begin praying for them I was magically filled with peace and love and forgiveness, but I wasn't. I have to force myself. I have to ask God for help. I have to choose to obey what God is calling me to do. 

I am like Jonah in the whale. God was very clear about what Jonah needed to do, and Jonah was very clear about his not doing it. I think I have spent the past few weeks in the belly of the whale. It isn't always about large and amazing miracles. Sometimes it is about obedience and faith. 

I need to be obedient and treat all people with love. It is not my job to judge. It is not my job to determine who is and is not worthy of God's love. It is my job to be a living example of that love. It is my job to show my son how God's love is all forgiving. It is my job to have faith that God will help me love and forgive those who I find unloveable and unforgivable. 

Loving someone right where they are at is easy, if you like where they are, but when they are some place you detest, when their actions appall you, it can  be impossible. However, all things are possible through Christ. I will keep praying, and maybe someday I will truly love them. Until then, I will be thankful that  God doesn't hold me to the same standard I hold others to. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

In a whisper

Grief is strange. I am at a point where a week or two can pass with no aches or tears, but then out of nowhere a word, phrase, look, or innocent question-at times not even directed at me- can make the world stop and waves of sadness crash down. This can be so surprising that I struggle to not break down in a public setting.

I breathe deeply, fight back tears and pray. I pray hard. There are moments when I am not even sure what I am praying. My heart knows the words my mouth can't form. These moments of greif and helplessness are teaching me about faith.

They occur so suddenly, so randomly, that I often have no choice, but to rely on God to get me through the pain of the moment. Often a verse or a praise song will pop into my head, and it is always the perfect comfort.

I do not enjoy these moments of greif. I still, after exactly six months, want to have him here. There are still moments when I can't believe he is gone. I still long to hold him. I still hurt. The only way to survive is to accept these moments as a chance to grow in faith and be reminded of my Savior's perfect love.

The reminders don't come as loud proclamations, or mind blowing miracles. They are quietly whispered to a broken heart. Time and again, the Lord of all Creation leans down to tell me He loves me and will carry me.

My greif may never end, but neither does God's perfect love. By relying on that to survive, I will hopefully be able to reflect that love and help other hurting hearts. I Canthink of no better wat to honor my son then to continue to  strive towards that goal.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Having it together

I have spend a chunk of the past few days watching Friends. I love Friends. Watching it has reminded me of several things; how glamorous it was in high school, how easy it was to relate to in college and how little of life I still have figured out. That is the appeal of the show. These six 20 somethings live a glamorous life and attempt to "get it together".  Twenty years ago, I would watch and imagine how I would have it together. I would review my life plan and smugly check boxes. I knew where I was a going.

Ten years ago I was coming out of three years of working nothing jobs and trying to decide what I wanted to be. I was applying to Masters programs, Justin and I were finally moving towards something serious and I was happy to have a semblance of a plan.

Now, I am married, teaching, a mother and at the age where I have to dye my hair to cover the gray, but I still have yet to get a solid plan. I have attempted plans. I had beautiful ones. A year ago, I was one month from discovering I was pregnant with our second child. One month from feeling that our family would be completed. One month from feeling as if the perfect plan was unfolding in front of me.

That plan didn't work. None of my plans have worked. Whether I am 16, 26 or 36, my plans don't work. In spite of my anxiety, my deep discussions, my research, my imaginings, my reading intos, my goal setting, my plans don't work. I do not have it together. 16 year old me thought she did, 26 year old me thought everyone else but her did, 36 year old me is happy to raise my hand and say I am winging it.

I don't want it to seem that I am irresponsible. I do plan schedules, college tuition, retirement, life insurance and other big deal things. Justin and I have certain life goals, but as for where our family will be next year, well I would say we are winging it. I am happy to stay in my job, my house and my friend group. It is a pretty great life. However, I also long to stay home with my little man. The hardest part of going back to work is leaving him. I have a great job, but 100 14 year olds are not Harrison. Staying home would be a great life too.

I don't know if we will have other children, or how they will come to our family. I don't know if it will be time for Justin to consider administration, or continue teaching. I don't know what my job will look like. 16 year old me would be shocked at how much I don't know.

God has spent this break helping me see that it is ok not to have it together, because He does. He knows where we are going. He knows what will happen. It may be no change, it may be small change and it may be a big change. I don't know. Psalm 27:14 says "Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord."

The words "wait" and "patiently" are my mortal enemies. I don't do either thing well, so I am asking God to do it for me. To help me learn the discipline that is required to stop planning and start living His plan. This is big, because it means that I have stop focusing on me and my wants.  My focus has to shift to God. He even comes before my wants for my husband and son. That is hard.

This break, I have wrestled with God. Big things were pulled out and shown to me. Large arguments occurred and I did not want to submit. I didn't want to say that I may not know what is best for me. I don't want to say that, but by slowly submitting and learning to put myself second, I am seeing that my anxiety and stress level is greatly reduced. I still struggle. The thought of waiting patiently FREAKS me out, and I am scared that in two weeks I will have to go through all of this again. I am a slow learner.

Are  you a planner? Or did you once have a plan? Is it getting between you and God? Are there things you desire that are creating a road block in your spiritual growth? Are you in the midst of a wrestling match? 16, 26, 36, 46, 56, 66, 76 or 86, we are all winging it. Join me in working on waiting patiently. I could use the encouragement and would love to encourage you.