Monday, December 30, 2013

New Year

This post is probably going to go several different directions, so please bear with me.

2012 was the worst year for our family. We buried a son, and with him many hopes and dreams of what could be. I was very depressed for the last half of the year, and living with me was no easy task. As the year closed, I was thankful to survive and looked forward to the hope of a new start. I truly believed God would give us a baby in 2013. I found a Pinterest post about a Blessings Jar and decided our family should start one for the new year. I used an old Gatorade jar and we began filling it with little slips of paper, counting our blessings.

I've taken several pictures throughout the year, but this is the only one I can find right now. As you can see, it's almost full! We can't wait to open it up tomorrow night and literally count our blessings! I'm going to play the old hymn, and we're going to write them down in a notebook so we can look back over the years at the ways God has blessed us. I will admit we weren't perfect at keeping up with the jar. There were many months when it was literally lost in the chaos, and many times we would write five or more blessings at once. If you decide to incorporate a Blessings Jar in your life, take comfort in knowing there is no right or wrong way to do it. Have fun!

So 2013 didn't turn out the way I'd hoped, we don't have a baby and there is no indication our family will be growing anytime soon. I'm not going to say I'm okay with that, because in my heart I still want another baby. But I know God's timing is best. Everything works out for His glory. A few months ago I made a visual reminder of this truth. The women's ministry at my church takes trips to Pottery Hollow, a place where you can paint pottery. The first time I went I made a plate for Hope with a Bible verse that has her name in it and has encouraged me through the years. The second time I really wanted to make something for myself. I chose a coffee mug (to drink my morning tea in) and searched my Pinterest boards for the right quote. I finally settled on this one:

"Faith in God includes faith in His timing"
When I showed my small group leader, Amy, what I was making, she practically jumped with excitement. "And just think, every day while you're drinking your tea and having your quiet time, you can have this as a reminder that God isn't finished with you!" Amy is amazing. I made it in early November (or late October...can't remember which) and as the pictures show, it's already begun to chip. There's a huge chunk of paint off the handle, and there were a few nicks in it when I got it. I wasn't really disappointed though. I knew I wanted to write a blog post about the potter and the clay, and I figured that would fit perfectly. I drink out of it almost every day, and it has been so encouraging to have a constant reminder that God's timing is perfect. 

So, what does 2014 hold? Shaun already has a promotion, so hopefully the bills and the paychecks will balance out. Hope will start her last year of elementary school in the fall. As for me, well, God knows. I plan on reading more books, and continuing my personal Bible studies. I'm hopeful we can watch less TV and eat healthier. Beyond that, I don't know what the future holds, but I know who's holding it. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Hey Look, I Found a Rainbow

Not what you were expecting? Well, it wasn't what I was expecting, either. I saw this new magnet on Grandma Jo's fridge, and I had to smile. God DOES keep His promises! 

Isaiah 41:10 NIV
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

I was searching for a verse this morning, and I think it's worded differently in another version than the two I have, so I was getting frustrated when I couldn't find the wording I want in the NIV or ESV. As I was searching my eyes caught this verse, and I think it is almost better suited for what I wanted to say today.

When we lost William, my world fell apart. I lived in a shadow for months. Looking back, it was the grace of God that allowed me to function and keep putting one foot in front of the other. There were days (early on) when I was thankful breathing is natural, because if I needed to remember it I would probably be dead. Or I would just give up. They say there is nothing worse than burying a child. Thankfully this was the closes I've come, but I'm confident "they" are right. 

Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE I know who suffered a late miscarriage was able to conceive within the first four months following. They all kept telling me how confident they were we would have another baby, how they wouldn't have this child if they hadn't lost that one, and how everything would work out. I want to thank those people for taking a devastating situation and making it so much worse. I know they had the best intentions. I know they were just trying to comfort me. What they didn't understand was I only had two desires growing up: To have a large family and to have kids closer in age than my sister and me (eight and a half years). With each month, my chances of having both those dreams dwindled. While I'm hopeful that God will allow us to conceive and carry another baby to term, only HE knows how our story will end. I know the doctors insist there is nothing wrong and we should be able to have another child with no troubles, but even they don't know when it will happen.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (Romans 8:26-30)

The Spirit carried me through last year. Many times I prayed "God, I just don't have the words. Please listen to my heart." I was so broken. In the weeks before we learned of my pregnancy with William I posted Romans 8:28 on our bathroom mirror.  When I couldn't stand not being pregnant, I prayed that verse asking God to work my situation. When I finally tested positive, I was sure it was God saying "YES! Here's the baby you've been praying for." Little did I know a few months later those verses would be read over my son's grave. 

Infertility is a difficult experience. Even now my husband and I disagree with what to call our situation. Webster defines it as "not able to reproduce, not able to reproduce children, animals, etc." I have a child, so according to Shaun I'm not infertile. What I've tried to explain to him is that my experience is similar to secondary infertility, but still not the same. There isn't a word for what I struggle with. I would define it as "difficulty carrying a second baby to term." There's nothing that fits that description. We can conceive! For whatever reason we just haven't been able to bring home a baby yet. 

I heard more heartwarming adoption stories yesterday, and while I hope we will one day adopt, I really think we're called to wait right now. I worked weekly with babies in 2013, and now in 2014 I will be stepping back and not working as often. I'm a little nervous about not having a weekly "baby fix", but I am confident now God is calling me to wait in rest. I've been working while I wait, and I'm great at that, but sometimes we need to just draw close to Him and wait. I hope 2014 will bring a new baby into our home. I hope I can watch my husband father a son or daughter. I hope I can give my in-laws the grandchild they desire. Above all else, I hope I can continue to praise God while I'm waiting. I hope when my flesh fails, the Spirit carries me through. 

Merry Christmas

Christmas is my favorite holiday. I love celebrating my savior's birth. I've struggled with feeling the 'Christmas spirit' this year. I wasn't as weepy over William's due date as I was I was last year, but it was still a hard day. We haven't decorated or enjoyed most of our traditions, and that has made it difficult to feel 'Christmassy'.
I spent many years juggling work schedules and family parties. This is the first year in recent memory when we haven't had to do that. I never understood why people would be relieved to work on any holiday, as it just caused stress for us. This year I am thankful to be together, but I can see how any holiday can be heartbreaking.

Right now I'm sitting next to a bassinet purchased for William. Only two things were bought for him; one is a nursing cover I kept hoping we can use it someday, and the other is this bassinet Shaun's grandma bought and stored for us. She lives an hour and a half away, so this is only the second time I've seen it. Last year it brought me to tears and I hated to be near it. Today I was surprised and relieved to see it in the same corner. I was surprised she kept it. I'm so thankful it's here as a reminder William was important, and it's symbolic of the hope we have that one day it will hold our child. 

We've enjoyed making memories with our new Christmas Angel. I've read favorite stories with the child I watch, and Hope has read some new ones with me. Did this Christmas turn out the way I'd hoped or planned? Absolutely not. But I'm thankful for another holiday to spend with those I love. I'm thankful for another chance to celebrate my savior. I'm thankful for a child who knows the true meaning of Christmas, and doesn't expect piles of presents.
Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Wait for the Lord

I have never been a patient person, though God has given me many opportunities to grow in that area. When I was little I just wanted a little sister to play with, I waited eight years for her and another two before she wanted to play with me. Of course by that time I didn't want to play with her. Years later God blessed me with a step-brother and step-sister, and eventually a half sister. I never had the inseparable bond many of my friends experienced with their siblings, but I can honestly say we all love and respect each other now.

When my (first) little sister was a toddler I often lamented "Patience is a virtue that you don't have!" I knew I was just as guilty of impatience, but it was so much more fun to accuse her. Big sisters can be mean. Looking back, that's one of the reasons I wanted my kids close in age; I knew it took years and horrible experiences for us to bond well, and I wanted better for my kids. Maybe God's plan is better than mine.

A few weeks ago a dear friend said her daily devotion was on the subject of waiting, and she thought I would like to read it. I told her I'm always eager to hear more on  this topic, as it's been a great struggle for me. Last night she handed me a photocopy of the devotion. I read it this morning, and I have to share some of it with you.

From Charles Spurgeon:
For example, Jacob had to wait all night for a blessing from the Lord, for God "wrestled with him till daybreak" (Gen. 32:23). Jesus did not immediately answer the plea of the woman of Syrian Phoenicia "whose little daughter was possessed by an evil spirit" (Mark 7:25). "Three times [Paul] pleaded with the Lord to take .... away" his "thorn in [the] flesh" (2 Cor. 12:7-8), but never received any assurance it would happen. Instead, he was given the promise from the Lord: "My grace is sufficient for you" (v. 9).
If you have been knocking at God's gate of mercy but have not received an answer, do you believe I can tell you why the all-powerful Creator has not opened the door and let you enter? I cannot, for our Father has reasons for keeping us waiting that are all His own. Sometimes it is to demonstrate His power and sovereignty so people will know Jehovah has a right to give and withhold. Yet more often than not it is for our benefit. Perhaps you have been kept waiting in order that your desires would become more passionate. God knows His delay will enliven and increase your desire, and that if He keeps you waiting, you will see your needs more clearly and will seek an answer more earnestly, and that ultimately you will value His mercy even more having waited for it. 

There is so much more in this little devotion I would love to write, but there just isn't time. What struck me this morning is these are three examples I've rarely seen referenced when talking about waiting. Sarah and Abraham are commended for waiting for Isaac. Hannah is praised for waiting for Samuel. These are amazing stories, and I have been encouraged by each from time to time, but sometimes knowing both waits ended with a baby is heartbreaking to a woman waiting for children she may never have. 

Why is God keeping us waiting? Part of me believes it's to help us take our eyes off the things of this world and focus on Him. I struggle with that so much, I fear my eyes will never fully focus on my God. Sometimes I think it's to give us the patience we will need with an infant and a pre-teen in the house. More than likely it's a reason we will never know until we see Him face to face. I hope that while I wait I can direct others to Him. I hope that I can encourage and uplift the people around me, reminding them there is more than this life. As I wait, I look for examples of God's blessings, and encouragement from others who have waited.

One example God showed me this week came from a family our church is sending to be missionaries in Africa. I just started to get to know them in 2012, about two years before they were finally able to make the move to Chad. This Sunday God used the husband to speak to me. I realized while listening to more of their story I need to quit focusing on a pregnancy or baby. I need to quit trying to figure out God' plan. He's God, He's big enough to worry about it. I've tried hard in the last two years to think of every solution, hoping that once I thought of everything God would have to go with one of them. Now I see that's just silly. God will do what He wants, and He knows more than I could ever hope to. His solution is perfect, and still probably very different from what I have "planned". I'm stepping out on faith, saying God's way is the ONLY way. My expression of faith right now is to rest in God, drawing close to Him. I am called now to wait patiently and quietly. If you know me at all, you know this is a greater challenge for me than dealing with a room full of screaming toddlers. Please pray for me, for I don't know how I'm going to learn to wait and rest. I am going to rest on the words of David: 

I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.
Psalm 27:13-14

Saturday, December 7, 2013

What to Say

I know, I know. It's been over a year, I should accept the miscarriage and move on. Most of me has, and yet... I still want my story to end with a baby. A baby I carry or a baby we adopt, I don't care which. I'm really trying to quit looking for a baby as the end result, but it's so hard. So, if you know a woman who's suffered a miscarriage or stillbirth, here are some things you can say or do to comfort, even years later.

1) Say her baby's name. Write it, type it, say it. Every mom wants to see her child's name in print. Most of us only see them on tombstones or sympathy cards. People don't talk about the baby, because they don't know what to say. Just give her a hug and say "I saw this and it made me think of you and (insert baby's name)..." and tell her your story. Send cards or messages on due dates and angel dates, even years later. The pain lessens, but it never goes away.

2) Encourage her to share. Some women will tell you every detail, others won't talk much at all. Most fall somewhere in between. Let her know you're always there to listen, and then ACT on it! If she messages you in the middle of the night, make it a priority to respond right after your morning cup of coffee. She needs to know you mean it when you say she can talk to you. It's hard to determine who you can reach out to, and it takes a lot of courage to start a conversation.

3) Give her a hug. You may not know if she needs it or not, but human touch is always a wonderful thing. If she's crying, offer a shoulder to cry on. Understand the tears don't stop. They may not come every day, but there will always be a giant hole in her heart. There will always be something that triggers her tears.

4) With her consent, strike up conversations with her husband or kids about the miscarriage. My princess always has something to share. It's not something we bring up, because I don't want her to feel pressure to feel any certain way, but there are days when she just wants to cuddle and cry. I know if someone asked her about William, she would jump at the opportunity to talk about him. Shaun desperately wanted a man to talk to after our loss, but men aren't always open to talking. Have your husband take him to shoot pool or play golf, something to get out of the house and relax for a bit. Take her kids on outings with your family. Let them know they're loved.

5) Understand that it will take time to heal, and everyone's journey is unique. Just because your great aunt got pregnant immediately following a loss doesn't mean your friend will. For a woman who's struggling with carrying a baby to term, these stories can do more harm than good. I know so many people told me their positive stories afterwards, I was certain we would conceive right away. Now seventeen months later we still don't have a baby, and there's no indication that I'll conceive anytime soon.

6) Know that miscarriage is a mysterious thing. Doctors don't want to bring it up during visits, because they don't want to worry patients. Many families don't have an autopsy performed, and even when they do it won't necessarily explain why it happened. We know William had a Chromosome 13 defect, but we don't know if that caused his death. We won't ever know for sure. Also, it doesn't matter if she was eight weeks or thirty-eight weeks, she loved her baby. The pain is the same.

7) Also know that with every subsequent pregnancy her first thought will be "Will I lose this one too?" It's not that she's not excited, but she now knows how easy it is to lose a baby you barely know. Some women will delay announcing a pregnancy because of this, others (like me) will use it as a reason to announce right away, maybe even before a doctor confirms it.

8) You're pregnant? Congratulations! She wants to be happy for you, and she may be, but she's also fighting jealousy. You already have two (or three, or more) kids you didn't plan/want. You may have planned each and love them dearly, but still....why is it so easy for you when it's such a struggle for her? While I know you want to update everyone on every kick, every sickness, every pound gained, understand these posts will be hard for her to follow. She may out of loyalty, or she may distance herself from you for a time. Don't be offended. Just try to understand she's a mess of emotions. Whatever you do, DO NOT complain in front of her. She would swap every grave, every tear, every painful memory for weight gain, memory loss, nausea or any other annoying pregnancy symptom.

9) Tell her she's an awesome mom, even if she only has children in heaven. Point out how she's changed her diet, exercised more, or done anything to make her body ready to conceive and carry a baby. If she has a child or two, point out the amazing things she does with them. We all should encourage each other, but moms struggling with fertility desperately need it.

10) Pray for her, and tell her. Tell her how far you've seen her come since her first loss. Tell her how inspiring she is. She won't believe it the first time, but after a while she'll begin to see. Send notes of encouragement, years after her loss. Every mom I know still thinks about the babies they lost, sometimes decades later. The pain never goes away. It may lessen, but it will always be there.

I hope all these make sense. It's hard to reach out to someone after a miscarriage, and we often think we should stop after a while. These are just my opinions, based on my experiences and observations. Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Dandelion December

Dandelions have always been my favorite flower. I know most people consider them weeds, but they will always be flowers in my heart. By the start of November I was sure I'd seen the last of these little flowers this year. The frost would hit soon, and anything left would perish. I remember being pleasantly surprised to see one or two here or there throughout the month, but I didn't think much of it at the time.

Yesterday one of my dear friends shared her testimony in church. You can read her story here. As I was watching the video about their heartache, Satan started his attacks. "Look at that perfect family. See, if you had started the adoption process immediately after losing William you could have your baby by now." I shut him down just as quickly "This is THEIR story, not mine. God has a plan for each of us, and ours is to wait." It's not been easy, but I've found it easier to speak truth as time goes on. I know we're waiting for God to move. I know that His plan is perfect. That's all that matters.

So what does all this have to do with dandelions? I'm getting there, I promise. I walked home after church yesterday (yes, I walked in December! It was that nice of a day!). As I was walking home I spotted a full dandelion seed ball.

At first I stepped over it and kept walking, then I realized what I just saw. A dandelion in December! Not just a dandelion, but dandelion seeds! Seeds are the beginning of life. Seeds are the promise of hope, that something new will be born. I excitedly ran back and scooped it up. I snapped a quick picture (bottom) and brought it home. As I continued walking, I counted four more dandelions! These were the cute little yellow flowers. I picked one and brought it home, reminded that God keeps his promises. I put both in our remote control holder (top), but the yellow one was missing this morning. Honestly, I don't care. I'm just glad I saw the seeds. I'm hoping to find a spot to keep it this winter, as a visual reminder that God keeps his promises, and there is always a chance for new life. Given how delicate it is I know it probably won't last the whole time, but I'll enjoy it each day it does. 

Praise Him

When I was little one of my favorite songs was "God is Love"

Praise Him, praise Him
All ye little children
God is love, God is love
Praise Him, praise Him
All ye little children
God is love, God is love

I invited everyone I knew to church, and I prayed daily for my friends and neighbors. I specifically remember having the chicken pox and being bored our of my mind (happened frequently as an only child...) and having a tea party for Jesus. I invited Him to my room and played just like he was there with my invisible friends. I never thought anything bad would happen, or I would ever not want to praise Him.

Many years and heartache later, I still praise Him. There are many times when it's hard, but there's many times when it's rewarding. I'm supposed to be journaling the "God Spots", the times when God reveals himself me through little answers to prayer. Unfortunately journaling is one of those things I love to do but don't always make time for. So tonight I'm going to share with you some ways God has answered prayer recently.

My husband, Shaun, has worked at the same gas station since right after our marriage. He quickly worked his way up to assistant manager, but was stuck in that position for several years. While we appreciated the paycheck, we struggled to make ends meet. There were times when I took two jobs or jobs far away from home just to make sure we had enough. When he couldn't get time off after William's death, I was ready to demand he quit. I was sure there had to be a better job out there. As usual, he calmed me down and assured me he was doing the right thing by staying. It was hard, but I trusted him. Earlier this year we learned there could be an opportunity for promotion as soon as next year. Imagine our surprise when the opportunity presented itself weeks (rather than months) later! We prayed through the application and interview process, and God answered! Shaun not only got the promotion, he also received a hefty pay raise. We are still incredibly thankful, and in shock. God is good!

I always hoped my home would be a safe haven for people who didn't have anywhere else to go. Not necessarily strangers, because I know that can be dangerous, but maybe friends or family who are struggling. Last week our community was hit by a tornado. It destroyed several homes and businesses, and with my babysitting job I wasn't sure how much I could help. I went to the ministry our church has and spent some time sorting through clothes and other donations. Then one of the moms said she wanted to go help with cleanup, but needed someone to watch her kids. Woohoo! Something I could do! For three days last week I had two extra little boys in my home. We had fun playing sword fights, building pretend fires, and they even built their own guns and played army! I've always said I wouldn't know what to do with boys, but it turns out I have more ideas than I knew. They're not as difficult as I feared. God has routinely placed boys of various ages in my life in recent years, and I don't think I'd be lost if he blessed us with a little boy to raise. Once again, it was nice to see how God can use our little home to bless others. It felt good to help someone help someone. He didn't answer my prayer when I wanted or exactly how I wanted, but He did listen, and he did answer.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Christmas Angel

Most of my friends have the adorable (or terrifying, depending on how you look at it!) Elf on the Shelf. I think I heard about these little guys when they first premiered in 2005, but figured I'd wait til my princess was a little older to buy one. Suddenly last year EVERYONE had one. At first I was horrified, then I read the story about the origin of the concept. As I Googled images of retro elves, I saw some that looked similar to the elf that my family owned. Suddenly all the memories came flooding back, and I felt a little more enthusiasm about the little helper.

 This year I thought ahead and asked Hope outright if she wanted one. She was a little interested, but admitted it wasn't high on her priority list. Of course, if Santa happened to drop one off, it had to be a girl. Later that night I found the cutest Christmas elves on Pinterest. I was planning on posting a link, but now it's broken. Go figure. Anyway, this mom's idea was to buy elves from the dollar store and have them leave encouraging notes (caught you being good!) and suggestions for acts of kindness (let's bake cookies for our neighbors!). I loved this idea so much more! I knew with a little tweaking I could make it work for our family. So I spent my Black Friday shopping for an elf, angel, fairy, anything that would work as our Christmas helper. This is what I found:

I'm going to let little miss give her a name tomorrow. Here's the poem I wrote to go with her (it's been a few years since I wrote poetry, so cut me some slack!)

I'm a Christmas Angel 
that you can see
my job is simple but,
I hope you'll join me.
I spend each December trying to find
Boys and girls, moms and dads,
who are helping others and being kind.
Each morning I'll leave a note or two
telling the good deeds
I saw coming from you.
Some days I'll leave a simple quest.
A challenge for you and your family
to share how you're blessed.
Christmas is often a time when
we're reminded of family
already in Heaven.
I know you miss each one
so whisper a prayer in my ear
and I'll carry it to them to hear.
One last thing I want you to do.
Please pick a name,
one you will treasure
a name to call me forever.

What do you think? A little less creepy than the elf? 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


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Friday, November 15, 2013

Ten Years Later

     Ten years is far too long to be without your best friend. I have several "best friends", so the word probably doesn't mean the same to you as it does to me. My best friends are the people I call or text at almost any hour. They're the ones I come to first for prayer. If we decide to go on an outing and take friends, they're the ones I call. My list of best friends has changed over the years, but there are some lifers on there. If Jason survived, he would've been a lifer.
     Jason and I had a relationship that was different from others. We depended on each other in the hard times. Sure we laughed and joked, but some of our memorable conversations were difficult ones. He got me through middle and high school. If we hadn't met when we did, I honestly don't know where I'd be today. He loved "sweater weather", that time from October to March when comfy sweaters and pajama pants are in style. Christmas was OUR holiday. We marched up and down the school halls singing Christmas carols, we decorated our lockers, and we gave cards to all our friends. It's all we talked about in December (until finals week.) Jason's death was announced on November 16 2003, and one of my first thoughts was "How am I going to survive Christmas?"
     I survived it, somehow. God carried me through. That was one of the more memorable Christmases, and it wasn't all good. I wasn't ready to celebrate yet. I tried, but my heart wasn't in it. It took five years for me to adjust and celebrate the season. Sure I went through the motions, but I wasn't excited. By the time I was ready to celebrate, we were grieving two more losses. Shaun, Hope and my mom made that Christmas exceptionally special. Since then I've been able to enjoy the holiday season, and I've tried to pass some of the joy to Hope. Honestly I don't think I could ever make it through without her & Shaun.
     I've grown so much in the last ten years. I'm now able to look forward to my birthday and Christmas. I also appreciate birthdays. Every one. Even though I'm well past the quarter century and I'm inching toward 30, I'm thankful for every year. Growing older is always something to celebrate! I see each day as a new adventure, a chance to start fresh. Even if everything goes wrong from the minute your feet hit the floor, there's always the chance the next minute things will turn around. I savor time with my family. Sure we have our problems like all families, but we do our best to work through them. I am so thankful for the lessons I learned this year. Turning 27 was incredibly difficult. I was further from 25, and every month was one less in which we could conceive another baby. All I saw was darkness. Now our family is awaiting some news, and even though there's no chance of me getting pregnant, I'm totally okay with that. I'm thankful for Hope and the blessings she brings, and I'm thankful for the lessons William and my other have taught me. Happy Birthday to me (a day early!)!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Love Your Family, Because One Day God Will Take Them Home

I've been thinking and praying about this post for weeks, that's why it took me so long to write. I've come to some surprising conclusions in the process. November has always been my worst month. Here's why.

On my eighteenth birthday I awoke to the phone ringing. I was always the first one awake, and was usually handed my baby sister to care for. Since it was my birthday and I wanted to sleep in, I rolled over and pretended not to hear. I waited a while before dragging myself up and going to the living room to watch TV. A little while later I heard my dad and step mom coming up the stairs.

"Do you know a Jason Brink?" my dad asked.
"Yeah," I answered.
"How about an Elizabeth Shubert?"
"Yeah, she's like my best friend." I said, getting nervous.
"Well, Elizabeth called. Jason died in a car crash last night."

I don't remember anything else about that conversation. I know I asked to call Elizabeth, and I know she and I talked briefly. I also know my dad returned a short time later and wished me a happy birthday. I didn't care about my birthday, I just wanted to die. I could not imagine life without Jason, my confidant, encourager and best friend. I just talked to him a week ago! How could he be dead?

I could write a novella about that birthday and the weeks that followed. Maybe I will for NANO month. I'll spare you the details, but just know Jason was the first young person I knew who died. Sure my great-grandma died a few years before, and I'd attended the wake for an elderly church member before that, but losing a classmate is a whole different grief. I didn't understand why God took Jason. I felt it was a personal attack on me, something I did wrong caused it. I was young and didn't know any better.

In 2008 my dad called me while I was spending time with Shaun. He demanded that I go to my cousin Daven's right away. I knew by his tone something was wrong. I expected my grandma died. When he met me in the front yard and told me Evan, Daven's six-year-old son didn't wake up that morning, I was shocked. How does a healthy child die in his sleep? I'd heard of Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood (SUDC), but never thought it would happen to MY family. Once again, a novel could be written on the impact Evan's death had on the whole family (don't worry! I'm not planning on it!). Many of us are closer for it, some have drifted further apart. We all dealt with it in our own way, each as unique as the family member grieving. Most of us tried to find a middle ground, a safe place to stand in the pit. We each handled it in our own way, none were right and none were wrong. Looking back I also feel sorry for my dad. How do you tell a child someone she loves died, twice?! It's been five years, and we're still changing from Evan's death.

Later that year I returned to college. My three-year-old daughter and I moved in with my mom, step dad and sister. I was ready to face the world as a single mom, and excited for what my education would do. My cousin Carolyn was pregnant with her fourth girl, but I didn't give it much thought. One night while I was working, Mom & Lee (my step dad) came in to Citgo to tell me they were going to see Carolyn, she was in labor and it wasn't going well. I reminded them to tell everyone hello for me, and asked that they give the new princess a kiss.

When they returned later that evening, I was disturbed by the change in their moods. Mom was confident Carolyn was dying. She didn't really understand what happened, just that it was bad and didn't look good for Carolyn. Her baby, Liberty Belle, was fine. My mom has a flair for the dramatic, so I murmured a prayer and brushed it off.

When we arrived at the hospital the next morning, there was a feeling of death in the air. So much so I was certain Carolyn had already passed. We stayed for hours, and were finally allowed in one at a time to say our goodbyes. She was in some sort of coma.*

I didn't deal with any of the deaths well to that point, but with Carolyn's I shut it aside. I told Shaun I would deal with it if and when I ever got pregnant again. I was just getting back in school, had a preschooler to worry about, and didn't have time for grief. For future reference, this is NOT a healthy way to handle loss. I would NEVER suggest it to anyone.

This brings us to another reason I lost William: I was just reaching a point in my pregnancy where I felt better, I was more energized, and ready to tackle my grief over Carolyn, Evan and even some residue from Jason. God, in his own clever way, gave me the chance to do just that. When William died I had at least four years of grief I poured out. I firmly believe that's one of the reasons it took me so long to come to a place of acceptance.

For the past nine years I have approached May and November with a certain amount of trepidation. I was terrified something bad would happen. Now I am confident if anything bad does happen, God is in control. I am no longer grieving the losses. Do I still miss them? Desperately. Do I wish I could talk to them? Every day. Am I confident they are in a better place, and I will see them again? Absolutely. I've seen many good things come from each death: Jason prepared me for a lifetime of grief, he taught me how to grieve so I could better handle it the next time, and the next, and the next. Evan taught me to enjoy every moment with my children. He taught me to be kind and always remind them how much I love them. He also taught me the importance of raising children to follow Christ, because no age is too young to return home to Him. Carolyn taught me to enjoy each pregnancy. She reminded me even in the twenty-first century mothers die giving birth in America. Tomorrow is not promised, so hold your children today.

Wow. That was long and emotional! Thanks for reading to the end.

God Bless!

*There have been several causes suggested. I don't know what is fact or hearsay. What I know for sure is the doctors had never seen anything like it. She was the only mom Good Samaritan has ever lost, and everyone was devastated. If you have any medical knowledge and would like to explain anything to me, feel free to contact me.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Share the Love

As Christians it is our job to be 'salt and light' to the world. I'll be the first to admit I'm not always the best at accepting this challenge. However, for the month of November, I'm going to pump up my efforts to spread the Gospel through my actions. When people look at me they see Jesus, and I want Him to be a Jesus they want to know.

This November is going to be an emotional struggle for me. November 5th marks five years since my cousin (and first best friend) left the world. November 15th it will be ten years since "My Jason" (our nickname for him) died. Oh and I turn 28 on the 16th. That puts me WAY closer to thirty than I would like. Needless to say I'm prepared for a roller coaster of emotions.

BUT, I'm learning to not let my emotions control me. So I've decided once again to try to spread the Gospel through kindness. Last year I wanted to do 27 random acts of kindness by the 16th. I had them all planned out, but most of my plans fell by the wayside when the bank account screamed "BILLS!!" It's not Christ-Like to give yourself into poverty, so I stopped. This year, I want to focus on telling everyone how much I love them & how thankful I am to have them in my life. I'm going to tell the kids I know that I love them, and Jesus does too. I'm going to (try) to be kind to everyone I meet, and look for opportunities to engage in conversation. I'm not gifted with the 'gift of gab', and talking to people I don't know is out of character for me, but I'm going to try. As we inch closer to the holiday season the cashiers and greeters will be overworked and overtired, and I want them to know they are appreciated. But for the grace of God, I would be in their shoes.

Now, my challenge to you: Be kind this November. Visit a kid in the hospital, Pray with someone in the nursing home, treat your cashiers and sandwich makers with dignity and respect. Take a moment and realize the stress level of customer service jobs (i.e. fast food and retail), and show compassion to the workers. Tell your family you love them, especially those related to you by blood. Show your children grace and mercy when they make a big mistake. But more than anything, remind them you love them. It may be your last chance.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Weeping Forward

     Before I get too deep in my writing today I want to explain something. I began this blog a few months ago for myself, hoping that writing about my struggles would ease them a bit. I waited a few weeks before telling Shaun about it, because I really didn't want to make it a big deal. He immediately questioned why I wouldn't share it on Facebook. I explained I was terrified of being judged. I'm one to lay it all out there, and at times I've been pretty open about my struggles. This has brought a wealth of judgement on me. When you're dealing with fertility, judged is the last thing you want to be. After a few months of talking about and praying about it with Shaun, I finally relented. Feel free to go back and read my previous posts. I'm sorry if not telling you sooner offends you. 

My women's small group is reading the book Ruth: Loss, Love & Legacy by Kelly Minter. Last week was our first week, and we talked about weeping forward. Ruth & Naomi wept forward and followed God back to Naomi's homeland following the deaths of their husbands. As I was reading the first week, I wondered if I was weeping forward or weeping backward, or just standing still in my misery. After confiding in my girlfriends, I was amazed how many of them were supportive! I don't know why this always shocks me, they are the sweetest, most understanding women I know. Yet each time I come to them with a concern or fear, I'm terrified of being judged (I'm thinking that's Satan talking...). So many encouraged me to keep weeping forward, and to not lose sight of God. One encouraged me to recommit each day to Him, until He answers. I feel our answer for now is still "Wait", and waiting is hard on me. I tend to repeat myself while I wait. Maybe that's okay. God knows my heart. He knows my fears. More than anything, I know He has plans for me, and they will all work for His glory.

This week talked heavily about sowing in weeping. Galatians 6:9 says "Let us not become weary of doing good, for in the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." This is what I struggle with the most, especially when I don't hear from God. I want to give up. I want this "wait" to be a "no." If it's a no, I know how to work with it and can begin to accept it. "Wait" doesn't mean anything to me. Wait for how long? Wait for what? God is teaching me patience, and I'm learning to trust Him. When I struggle with doing the "right thing" even though no one is watching, I remember this verse. Don't give up. 

The other verses that spoke to me this week are found in Psalm 126:5-6

Those who sow with tears
    will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
    carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
    carrying sheaves with them.

As I've wept, I've tried to sow seeds wherever I can. I've been praying for the women I know carrying babies. I've prayed over the little ones in the church nursery countless times. I've prayed over the children I've cared for, my daughters teachers, and anyone and everyone the Lord has placed on my heart. Am I perfect? Not by any means! But right now there's not much I can afford to do, so I trust that God will hear my prayers and that will be enough. There are days when loving on everyone else's kids is just tough. I love them to pieces and I'm so thankful for the opportunity to love on them and pray for them, but I wonder why God just wants me to care for others, and won't let us have more of our own. I'm hoping this is just for a time, and someday we will look back on this struggle and praise God for working things out. Until then, I'll sow in my weeping and keep weeping forward. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Missing William

This is definitely not where I expected today's post to go, but I heard a story about a boy named Will, and was suddenly struck with longing.

Most of the time when I talk about William I reference the pregnancy or the miscarriage. I repeat our deepest desire: to raise a baby of our own. I haven't ever allowed myself to miss my son, because I didn't know him. Today, I'm giving myself that right. Today I'm going to imagine my life with all my children. Just once.

My second baby should've been born in the spring of 2008. I've always felt it was a boy, so for this conversation I will refer to 'him'. He would be in kindergarten now. I hope I would be homeschooling him. Maybe he would cheer for the Red Sox tonight, like his dad. Hope would love to tease him about that. Now the fantasy stops, because if I had him I might not have married my husband, and then where would I be? I'm thankful he's in Heaven waiting for me.

William should be ten months old now. I like to think he would be toddling around the church nursery, but with his chromosome disorder that's unlikely. Knowing that, I really can't imagine my life with him. I know I would be terrified. I don't know how I would do it. Ultimately I am thankful both my babies are safe in the arms of Jesus.

I know God has great plans for me. I'm trying to keep my focus on Him. I'm trying to trust His plans are greater than my dreams. Some days are just so hard, but He's always there to carry me through.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Moving Forward

I've been mulling over this post and praying about it for over a week. Last week was rough; the government shutdown confirmed my fears about losing my job. I'm a nanny, so if my employers don't work, they don't need me. I've struggled to find a new job. Even McDonald's is hesitant to hire me with my education.

So, you would think being unemployed would dampen my desires for a child. You would be wrong. I've been praying a lot this week. My husband and I prayed together, and some friends have prayed with me. We sang a song about Grace in church on Sunday, I think it was Your Grace is Enough, but I'm not sure. As we were singing I felt God saying "Why don't you trust me? Why have you given up?" I've realized I completely gave up hope for a family. I tend to prepare for the worst and hope for the best, so I've been preparing to be finished having children. I've told everyone in the last three months we're done. It's so much easier to believe we're done and hope God will provide a miracle than it is to just trust He will do it. I'm stepping off the ledge; I'm trusting God will grow our family. I don't have to live in fear. I don't want to live in fear. I know His plans are perfect, and whatever happens will work for His good.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Tattoos, Tombstones, Trinkets and Trust

Before we buried William we spent a few days looking for things to place in the casket with him. Talk about a strange shopping trip! I don't remember everything we bought, but here's a sample:

  • STL Cardinal's blanket (for Shaun)
  • Batman dog tag (Batman for my dad, dog tag for Shaun)
  • Auntie bib (for my sister)
  • Lamb (for my grandma)
  • Teardrop pin (for me, I have the keychain and card that go with it)
  • I AM LOVED pin (we distributed these at the funeral. I hand them out in memory of a friend in Heaven)
My keychain is so special to me. Unfortunately it fell off a couple months after I bought it. I have the heart in my purse with the card. For Christmas last year Shaun bought me a heart necklace engraved with William Christopher and angel wings above it. I wore it every day for six months. Then the heart started to wear out and my neck broke out. I desperately want a trinket that I can always reach for. Unfortunately I doubt this will happen with my allergies.

William is buried next to two other babies from our church. One family miscarried theirs at 16 weeks like us, the other was stillborn at 20 weeks. When we first visited William's grave I saw the little white name card by the first grave and felt like a failure. How could I forget to ask about a marker? How could I assume something would be there? An aunt gave us a beautiful statue that rests there, but there's nothing to identify William. Earlier this year the family with the stillborn was able to place a tombstone there. I know we can't afford that. I don't know how much it would cost, but with our limited budget I know it's not going to happen anytime soon. I wish I could. There was so much I wanted to give William, so much I wanted to do with and for him. I can't do any of it. I wish I could at least give him a tombstone. I wish I had the courage to call the funeral home and ask about a paper marker. 

When my trinkets kept breaking I slowly began considering a tattoo. I know there are all sorts of opinions on Christians and tattoos, and I DON'T CARE. I hope someday I can have a tattoo somewhere discreet and small to represent William. Somewhere I can touch it easily and always feel him close to me. I'm terrified of needles, and like I said, we don't have any money, so it probably won't happen soon. 

I'm learning a lot about trust. Obviously not enough, because God keeps giving me chances to trust Him. In the last year I've learned to accept I have no control over my family's health or size, when we have kids or if we do, and I've learned to trust through a variety of job changes. Every time I get comfortable, God shakes things up a bit again. My heart longs for peace, for something to be still in the chaos. I'm trusting God will continue to use these situations for good, for His glory. I'm trusting that He watches the sparrow, and He will provide for my family. 


It's been well over a year since we buried William. Most days I don't notice the gaping hole in my heart, but some days it still throbs. There are times when I feel 'normal', talking with friends and laughing together; but the really good moments are followed immediately by a collection of sympathetic stares. I can't talk about anything in my life, jobs, hopes for a baby, or anything else without everyone looking at me like I'm crazy. I know most people (especially women) truly do sympathize with our loss. Those who have experienced it remember the pain, and those who haven't are unsure what to do. I wish more people would SAY something instead of just looking. If you're really unsure what to say, whisper a quick prayer and tell me that. If I say something that is wrong or inappropriate, let me know. When you don't say anything, I always assume the worst.

I have some amazing friends. Many women stop occasionally and ask how I'm doing. I know several are praying for me. Those prayers are all that gets me through my really bad days. I hate that talking about miscarriage is so taboo. I hate that this experience has been so isolating. I hate that my boobs sill swell up when I hold a hungry newborn. I hate that I'm jealous. I'm still jealous. I try to fight it, I try to accept the blessings God has given me, and quit begging for more, but when my period is late and another friend announces her pregnancy, my heart just breaks. I want to believe I have decades left to have children, but most of the people I know who've struggled to carry children only have one or two. I want things in our life to go well.

We celebrated our anniversary yesterday. It's only been three years, but we've had a long three years together. We've lost jobs, a baby, gained vehicles and a church family. Our lives aren't perfect, but they're going the way God planned.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What's in a Name

We chose four baby names while we were still dating. Two boy names and two girl names that have great significance. We never suspected we would have trouble carrying or conceiving. As we were preparing for William's birth we discussed names. Many of the names we had chosen were in memory of someone in Heaven, so we knew the other would agree to choosing a new name.

Problem: How do you choose a name for the child you are about to bury? We agreed we would pick two names, a boy and a girl. I immediately offered Shaun or Christopher to represent Shaun. He was totally against both. He never wanted a 'Junior' and didn't like the idea of using any part of his name. I don't remember talking about using my name; though I'm sure we did. I bought a new baby name book and we began looking for a boy and a girl name. We quickly agreed on William which means 'Will' or 'Desire'. It's our desire to follow Christ, and losing this baby was part of God's plan. We agreed on a middle name, but I don't remember it anymore. For a girl I desperately wanted to use the name Joy. We have Hope, and we're praying someday we will have a Faith and Grace, but we've never discussed Joy. Shaun hated it. How could there be any joy from this? For once in our marriage I was the one looking ahead. After much discussion we finally agreed on Amadea Joy, though Shaun still wasn't very happy with it.

The morning I was to be induced Shaun picked me up from my cousin's house. As soon as I got in the car he said. 'I've been up all night and I've come to two conclusions. If it's a boy I want him buried in Nashville and I want to give him my middle name.'

I was elated! I didn't want my baby buried an hour away with his grandfather, and giving him the middle name Christopher meant his name would mean 'Desire of one who follows Christ.' What a perfect way to honor God through our pain!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

That Time

If you've ever tried to conceive, you know the mixed emotions that come with That Time. For me it begins with the hormone fluctuations mid-cycle (I think that's when I ovulate, but who knows?) And ends about two days before my period ends. Until I see that dreaded spot of blood, I'm secretly hoping this will be it. A few times I've tried to convince myself I can still be pregnant, even with a late period. I really hoped this feeling of dread would subside when I accepted William's death. It hasn't. Every month I'm hoping, praying this will be God's time. Every month I feel we've waited long enough. And every time I remind myself we've just begun to wait. I know God has a plan. I'm trusting it's good. I just want peace with my irregular cycles, and I want the desire for a big family to go away. I really think we're just waiting, and that's why God has allowed the dreams of a big family to grow. If you have any stories of waiting for God's timing, please share them. I've barely lasted a year, how will I survive ten or twenty?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Radio Girl!

I have a massive bucket list of things to do. Realistically I probably won't ever finish it. Well, tonight I added and crossed one more thing off my list. I'm on the radio, in an actual interview! So cool! Thanks to WBGL for this opportunity. I'm praying it helps many people. :)

Here's my take on the show:
Wow! Every song is just what helped me survive the months following my miscarriage.

Tree 63: Blessed Be Your Name: I saw this band in concert before they were famous, when I was still in high school. If I knew then how much their music would mean to me over the years, I would've kept their autographs! Every blessing, no matter how painful, I will ALWAYS turn back to praise. Blessed be the name of the LORD!

Your Love Never Fails: I'm so thankful for this! Otherwise He would've given up on me long before William's birthday.

I Can Just Be Me: Laura Story: Her book What if Your Blessings Come Through Raindrops REALLY helped. I love her so much. <3

Toby Mac: Get Back Up: It's never too late. We can always get up. Nothing lasts forever (thank goodness!)

Mercy Me: Word of God Speak: I prayed this many times. Help me be still, show me your majesty, it's so hard to accept the wait.

Citizen Way: Should've Been Me: I don't think I've heard this before, but I like it. :)

Casting Crowns: Courageous: This song was released about the same time we found out we were expecting. Every time I heard it I prayed for Shaun to have that courage. It took losing our baby, but he has it now. What a blessing!

Francesca Battistelli: Strangely Dim: Oh, how this song helped. I loved to worship to it following William's loss (I still do!). When we're seeking God, we aren't focusing on our circumstances. His power holds us up.

Chris Tomlin: Holy is the Lord: I like this song. Not one of my favorite rocking out songs, but it's a great worship song.

Newsboys: Something Beautiful: I love everything the Newsboys ever wrote. Love it all. This song reminds me to enjoy the beautiful moments in life. We have so many, and if we just rush through life we miss them.

Matthew West: Forgiveness: I had to learn to forgive God for taking William, and forgive myself. I struggled to accept there was nothing I could do about it. I didn't do anything wrong. God has a plan, and this was part of if.

Kutless: What Faith Can Do: If I had a dollar for every time I sang this song, well, I wouldn't be working where I am! Faith can do wonderful things.

Mandisa: Overcomer: This song is fairly new, but man it helped during those last few months leading to William's birthday. Fix your eyes on Jesus, and he will help you overcome ANYTHING. You're an overcomer! Don't give up! God is holding you. How cool is that?! Note: I love the fact that T-Mac is referenced in it. :)

Psalm 127

Royal Tailor: Remain: Another new song. I like it! :)

Sanctus Real: Whatever You're Doing: Yup, this sums up so much. It's hard to surrender to God, but it's SOOOO worth it.

Thanks for listening, if you were able. If not, thanks for reading! :)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

New Blog!

I've thought about this and prayed about it for over a year, and finally decided to go for it. I don't know how much I have to say, or whom it will help, but you never know if you don't try.

So, why a new blog? Well, I've struggled with the grief after losing William, and wanted to find a way to share thoughts, images and Scripture that remind me of him, or helped with the healing process.

What's with the title? I love rainbows. I always have. Now they remind me of William. I know many women look for a "rainbow baby" after a miscarriage, and I want to stress that is NOT what the title refers to. I don't know what God's plan is for our family, and I'm not looking for the answers. He'll let us know when He's ready. Remember, the rainbow was originally a symbol of God's covenant with Noah to never flood the whole earth again. So, maybe subconsciously I like rainbows because I know God keeps his promises.

I also want to note I chose this background because dandelions are one of the few "flowers" I'm not allergic to. Earlier this spring our yard was full of them, and I desperately wanted to cover William's grave with them. I couldn't of course, but God had a better plan. He covered it with violets and Star of David. So cool!