Saturday, December 19, 2015

On Waiting For Norah and Advent

Recently I have been feeling a deep sense of longing to meet Norah. I want to look in her eyes. I want her to be here, healthy and whole, and be okay. I just want to hold her and stare at her. I want to know what color her hair is. Will she have Mark’s dark skin, or my fair skin? Will she have very little hair like her momma had or will she have dark hair like her daddy has? Will her nose really look like mine as it does in her sonogram? Of course, I want her to continue growing in utero as she should, but I so desperately want to know she’s going to be okay and that I will get to meet her outside of the womb. I’m sure most mothers can’t wait to meet their babies, so maybe my longing is normal. But I also wonder if my longing isn’t accentuated because I have yet to meet any of our babies outside of the womb, and we have waited so long. I know that along with her birth will come a completely different set of worries, risks, and challenges, but oh, how I want to know her. 

I see her now on ultrasound screens, trusting and hoping she’s okay with each beat of her heart and with every movement, and seeing just a glimpse of her - her little face, her tiny hands and feet, her little neck and shoulders. I love her so much already, and I want to see her without an ultrasound wand between us.

I want these next fifteen weeks or so to fly by. While I’m generally not a person to want to rush life away, I just want to get on the other side of this fifteen week hurdle. I guess the race really started in the fall of 2012, and so now we are hopefully approaching the last leg of the last lap, the last few steps and jumps before crossing the finish line. It’s so close, and I so desperately want the race to end well. 

Looking back over the race, I remember a couple of years ago, where a series of circumstances lead me to a very dark valley. It was a season of sadness and darkness, and I’m scared to think what would happen if I end up in that very place again. In some of my worst moments, self-preservation allows my heart and mind to fill with dread of the “what-ifs”. We have come so far from there. While I trust there will be grace for those days, I don’t want to experience it. I even have a reminder on my phone that says, “But if not, He is still good.” 

The last couple of years I have read some beautiful writings on Advent and longing. I was going back over these posts this week to send to someone, and happened across a comment made by a pregnant woman talking about Advent. I had a bit of a light-bulb moment, relating my longing for Norah to the longing of the Advent season.

Sarah Bessey said on her blog, Would we be so filled with joy at his arrival if we weren’t so filled with longing already? If Christmas is for the joy, then Advent is for the longing. As I learned in particular through our lost babies, one after another after another, the joy born out of suffering and longing is more beautiful for its very complexity. The joy doesn’t erase the longing and the sadness that came before but it does redeem it, it may even stain backwards changing how we look at those days or years. But the joy is made more real, richer and deeper perhaps, because we longed for it with all our hearts for so many days.

I can’t help but think that my perspective, my sense of wonder, my coming joy, my longing, are all so very different, so much deeper, because of our journey. Sarah also said, Now that I have wept, now that I have grieved, now that I have lost, now that I have learned to hold space with and for the ones who are hurting, now I have a place for Advent. Now that I have fallen in step with the man from Nazareth, I want to walk where he walked into the brokenness of this life, and see the Kingdom of God at hand. Now that I have learned how much I need him, I have learned to watch for him. Advent is perhaps for the ones who know longing.

I know that my longing to meet my daughter is a speck of dust in comparison to the longing the world has for a Savior - the collective longing of all the hurts in the world to be healed, needs to be met, and beauty to be made from ashes. 

So this Christmas, as I long to meet Norah Grace, may my longing for my Savior be so much deeper. May my longing for my daughter remind me of the need I have for salvation and the need the world has for redemption.

May my longing not be merely a selfish desire for my own happiness, but may it serve as a catalyst in my heart to draw closer to another tiny baby - a baby wrapped not in a hospital blanket but in rugged swaddling cloths, a baby not laid in a fancy nursery crib, but in humble manger straw. May I find my peace this Christmas not in a perfect pregnancy outcome, but in a perfect, tiny, baby boy named Jesus. 

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
our spirits by thine advent here;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
and death's dark shadows put to flight. 

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

My Tricky Bedfellow

Faith. I don’t know if you have ever taken one of those spiritual gifts tests - you know, the ones that tell you how cool your spiritual gift is? If you get to sit at the cool table of spiritual gifts you get something like prophecy or discernment and then everyone thinks you can see the future and read other people’s minds. Then there are the spiritual gifts that are a little less glamorous, like mine. I took that test and got faith. Faith. Like, the thing that every Christian is supposed to have, right? Kind of like the foundation for Christianity. I mean, what is so cool about faith and how is that even a gift?

And then there’s prayer. Prayer is not so much a spiritual gift, but has been something that has also come relatively naturally to me. The ability to pray throughout the day as things pop into mind and converse with the Lord is something for which I am very thankful. That is, until recently.

Things changed. My prayers weren’t so easy. I wasn’t sure how to pray. I wasn’t sure that I believed my prayers really mattered. I wasn’t sure what I believed about prayer at all. After all, hadn’t I prayed for healthy pregnancies? And hadn’t I lost three babies to miscarriage? After a hell storm of circumstances it seemed like my prayers were anything but effective. And this was new to me - a bit of a stiff arm toward God and an apathetic attitude toward prayer.

In light of that, I recently decided that it was time I did something about my prayer life. I couldn’t exactly put my finger on it, but I felt like I was paralyzed in prayer. Like my perspective and worldview had shifted. I knew something wasn’t right but I wasn’t sure what to do to fix it and it had been going on for a while. In true form, I decided to research and do some reading on prayer. I decided I needed to get some good theology on prayer to help me overcome this hurdle - this silence. This distance.

So I bought a book. I started reading the book, didn’t really give it much of a chance, and realized maybe I needed something more specific - something more along the lines of theology of suffering.

And then I happened upon a sermon by Jen Hatmaker at the IF: Gathering conference this weekend and I was kind of hit between the eyes. Jen talked about faith - you know - that thing I’m so gifted in, right? She talked about how faith is one of the highest prizes we can expect to obtain, and that we should expect it to be hard-won.

Then she went on to talk about four reasons why we struggle to believe God and grab hold of faith, and you guys, she totally nailed me. I realized pretty immediately that my issue wasn’t prayer. Prayer was my symptom. I believe it was my pastor who talked about how prayer is a good thermometer for one’s spiritual life. Well, let me tell ya, in this case, that was certainly true. My problem was faith, and because of my faith struggles I wasn’t sure how to pray.

While her entire sermon was spot on, the last reason she gave for why people struggle with faith resonated with me the most. She said some people struggle with faith because they have endured a real beatdown and are afraid to believe God. Bingo. You want to talk about a beat down? Pull up a chair and I’ll tell you about mine. But before she went into this one, she talked about suffering, and said that suffering is a tricky bedfellow with a God that tells us He is good. Because the thing is, we will ALL suffer, and so as she said, if death and sickness and loss and confusion and abuse and sadness mean that God’s character is in question, we should throw this whole thing out. No one has ever made it through life unscathed. So there’s that - suffering - a tricky bedfellow. Suffering? Check.

But then she talked about the beatdown. I think this is perhaps a little more extensive than suffering. Perhaps it’s repeated suffering or prolonged suffering or maybe suffering with no end in sight. Regardless, she talked about the Israelites and how they experienced FOUR HUNDRED YEARS of slavery. And then, just like that, they were free. And so it’s no surprise that the Israelites struggled to believe in “freedom” under “God’s favor” in a “Promised Land” - it was just too terrifying to hope for.

Too terrifying to hope for. Yep. It’s a scary thing to get one’s hopes up about a healthy pregnancy that results in a living baby after experiencing the same terrible ending three times in a row. Hope can be elusive. Hope can be scary.

So you know what the Hebrews did? They said, “let's just go back to slavery.” Debilitating? Sure, but at least it’s familiar.

For many of us, belief takes a lot of courage. For me, belief takes a lot of courage. I want to believe that God will provide healthy children for us, I truly do. But that belief, that faith, gosh, it’s so hard-won. That thing that had been so easy for me - faith - belief - suddenly I’m fighting tooth and nail to hang on to it.

You see, my issue is not prayer. My issue is faith. This beautiful gift of faith that I have been given has been taken from its resting place and beaten with a baseball bat within an inch of its life. And so I hold onto this mangled gift that is unfamiliar and confusing - barely recognizable.

No, I have no idea whether or not God will grant us biological children. No clue. I have no guarantee that we will get pregnant again, nor do I have a guarantee that our subsequent pregnancies will be healthy.

But here’s the thing Jen said: Yes, God works His purposes through the captivity. Yes, He uses the wilderness for good. But His story tells that he is a Promised Land God. Guys, He’s a Promised Land God. Not a God that leaves people high and dry, alone. He is a God of redemption. He is capable. He is trustworthy. He is for me. He is for you. He is for us! He is good. He is trustworthy.

He is a God of redemption. He is capable. He is trustworthy. He is for me. He is for you. He is good. He is trustworthy.

He is good.

As Jen says, faith is its own prize. It isn’t the formula to get the good stuff - it is the good stuff.

I’m still processing everything in my heart and mind as I hope to mend my faith. But what I know is good for the soul is being reminded of the Truth that we have a Promised Land God who is good.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain...  (Hebrews 6:19)


*This post references Jen Hatmaker's recent sermon from the If:Gathering. Run, don't walk, and check it out. I quoted her some, and paraphrased her, and used her ideas in my blog. Credit due to her! (-: *

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Room In The Psalms

I read a book recently in which the main character was a piano student. Her teacher forced her to learn hymns so that the words would be rooted deep in her heart for use at an appropriate time. The girl became a prodigal daughter of sorts and through her wanderings, her mistakes, and her pain, those words would spring up in her head and she couldn't push them out. They flooded her rebellious and hurting heart with Truth.

I totally get it. Music permeates - it has a way of getting right to one's soul, cutting out the superfluous. It has been doing this to me lately, and I admit I don't always like it.

Singing on the worship team at my church is a privilege and something I really enjoy. But it is not always easy to get up week after week and sing songs. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love it and I love Jesus - I feel called to proclaim the Gospel to people in this way and wouldn't change it. But oh, there are days when it is tough.

Within two weeks of losing our first baby I was back there, standing in front of my brothers and sisters in Christ, singing. Some days it's hard to get the words out. 

There was one Sunday, I believe after our second loss, I cried during a song we were singing in the choir. And let me tell you, there are few things more miserable than crying on stage and not being able to do anything about it. That song spoke to my broken heart.

There are also Sundays where those songs are a balm, a banner over me, promises from God. Those days the songs are my hope and I cling to those words of encouragement. Those days the songs are reminders of God's provision and his love, that He is able to do immeasurably more than what we ask. And those are great Sundays!

Then there are Sundays, like Mother's Day, when I just don't even go there. I give myself some grace and don't sing.

Lately, I have been surprised by my emotions. At my last counseling session, after we had talked about several things, my therapist asked me how my heart was doing. As I answered I began to cry - I had been forced to show my cards. Then at my MEND meeting last night I was an absolute mess. I see that under the surface, the waters of my heart are murky and unsettled. I have been doing a bit of treading water - keeping my head above what is below. I have been doing well, really, but I think I have been neglecting the tough stuff a bit too much. My due date for our second baby is June 30th. Father's Day was this month. We are close to getting more medical testing done. Sometimes our story is overwhelming to me. There's the waiting. My hope is a bit deflated. And there's the longing.

Then tonight. Tonight we rehearsed for this Sunday morning, a day I have already been expecting to be more emotionally challenging than most. We sang those Jesus songs. And I felt like I was singing the words but crossing my arms, not wanting to hear them.

"The enemy, he has to leave. At the sound of Your great name."

Yeah. Yeah. Seems to me like the enemy is not leaving. Seems to me like he is camping out at my house, having a flipping hay day. 

Bratty, I know. Hearing truth, but not wanting to hear it, because really I wasn't feeling it. Internally I was covering my ears and shaking my head, working to drown out the noise of the words that felt a bit like a personal affront.

But those words. They permeate. I can't sing them and not think about at least some of them, even though I might not want to. The truth is God is Redeemer, He is Healer, He is our Savior, Defender, Lord Almighty. I know that even when I might not feel it, He is

Later in rehearsal we sang another song with a line that said,

"[He] knocks outside my broken heart till I let Him inside."

That's it. The words pierced again. There He is. Knocking. In my heartbroken state, He is knocking. Waiting. Even in my anger, even when my flesh screams that it's not fair. Even when I shake my head at those words, not wanting to hear them. He is knocking on my broken heart.

And I have to decide. Even though I have no guarantees that things will go my way, do I let Him in? Or do I only open the door when there is a celebration going on inside? Is He allowed to come in only on those days? Or is He allowed to come in when my house is a wreck and my face is tear-stained and I might be angry? I don't think God walks in and pretends like the pain is gone, forcing us to move on to other things. I think He comes into the living room, sits down on the couch and grieves with us. He knows there is a time to mourn and a time to dance. He is our comforter. Because even when I might not feel it, He is. 

When I don't let Him in, He is still there, waiting. And when I let Him in, He gives me space. He gives me room to lament. I may not always feel like singing those songs, but He understands that. As Sarah Bessey says, "There is room in the Psalms for your grief." God is near to the broken-hearted. The celebratory days are good, but the other days - that's when the hard work gets done. That's when the words can really pierce the heart and force us to examine ourselves. The words can wash over us and speak Truth. That's when we hear God knocking, waiting. That's when we have to make a decision.

I may not always feel like singing the songs, but I think that is when I need to sing them the most. 


Friday, June 13, 2014

The Days For Moms and Dads

Dear Mr. Hallmark,

I am writing to you from heaven,
and though it must appear
A rather strange idea,
I see everything from here.
I just popped in to visit,
your stores to find a card
A card of love for my mother,
as this day for her is hard.
There must be some mistake I thought,
every card you could imagine
Except I could not find a card,
from a child who lives in heaven.
She is still a mother too,
no matter where I reside
I had to leave, she understands,
but oh the tears she’s cried.
I thought that if I wrote you,
that you would come to know
That though I live in heaven now,
I still love my mother so.
She talks with me, and dreams with me;
we still share laughter too,
Memories our way of speaking now,
would you see what you could do?
My mother carries me in her heart,
her tears she hides from sight.
She writes poems to honor me,
sometimes far into the night.
She plants flowers in my garden,
there my living memory dwells

She writes to other grieving parents,
trying to ease their pain as well.
So you see Mr. Hallmark,
though I no longer live on earth
I must find a way,
to remind her of her wondrous worth
She needs to be honored,
and remembered too
Just as the children of earth will do.
Thank you Mr. Hallmark,
I know you’ll do your best
I have done all I can do;
to you I’ll leave the rest.
Find a way to tell her,
how much she means to me
Until I can do it for myself,
when she joins me in eternity.
~Jody Seilheimer
Shortly after Karlie became a part of our family, Mother's Day had a new layer of sweetness for me, and for that I am so thankful. Then in 2013, shortly after the loss of our first baby, the sweetness of Mother's Day was tempered by the bitter. The rawness of aching over a life lost, the longing to have a little one to hold, and the celebration by so many who already have achieved this was all so very loud. This year, with two more babies in heaven, I admit there was a part of me that wanted to crawl into a hole and wait for the day to be over. I also know there are others who are aching for their mothers and still others whose memories of their mothers conjure painful emotions.

And then this weekend is Father's Day, and I know we will celebrate with Karlie, but my hubby is also the daddy to three little ones in heaven. For me, I was so incredibly touched by the amount of people who reached out to me and told me they were thinking of me on Mother's Day, so let's not forget the dads! If there is someone you are thinking about right now, reach out to that person! Rarely do we ever regret sharing how much someone else means to us. You can send a text or message, or even a card. Our M.E.N.D group was sweet enough to give us a rose for Mother's Day and Father's Day, and there are other ideas on our Hannah's Hope website.

As the poem above mentioned, you may find it hard to say exactly what you want on Father's Day. Since it's 2014 and things are all technologically advanced, you can now create your own cards online. Here is an example of one I made from Treat Greeting Cards. Here's the front:

And here's the inside text (I filtered in on insta):

Okay, so if I was actually going to send it to Mark I would be more personal because he is my husband. Ha. But, you get the point - if you don't see the perfect card in a store you can create one yourself. (-:

Let's use these holidays as ways to shower hurting people with love! I know sometimes it's easy to talk ourselves out of reaching out to others and sometimes we feel like we don't know what to say or don't want to say the wrong thing. A simple "I'm praying for you today and thinking about you on Father's Day" works just fine. Acknowledging parents of babies in heaven as moms and dads can mean so much to them. Shauna Niequist says it well when she says: When we do the hard, intimate work of friendship, we bring a little more of the divine into daily life. I don't know about you guys, but I'm all for that!

So, Happy Father's Day and Happy (belated) Mother's Day to you!


Saturday, May 3, 2014

Peace and Quiet

Peace and quiet, hand in hand. Companions.
Working in the yard. Flowers and vegetables and thoughts. Peace and quiet. 
Peace and Quiet. Uninterrupted sleep until the alarm sounds.
Car rides around town, conversation and music. Peace and Quiet.
Dinnertime. Peace and Quiet. Clanking silverware, conversation. 
Evenings without plans. What to do? Peace and quiet.

It’s funny how quiet can be so loud. Quiet is loud when you know something is missing. 
When quiet is an adversary of peace. When things should look differently.

Working in the yard. Cooing and laughing, distracting the gardeners.
Sleep. Short increments. Always interrupted. 
Car rides around town. Crying until sleep sets in. The same song over and over.
Dinnertime. Food thrown on the table, meltdowns inevitable.
Evenings without plans. Bathtime. Books. Exhaustion. 

Sometimes quiet speaks for itself. 

Yearning for noise and what’s missing today. 


Tuesday, November 5, 2013


This is a season. 

I heard the words quietly whispered to my heart. I was unsure where they came from, but as they washed over my soul in the way only words from the Holy Spirit can, I knew. With a heavy heart and no words to pray, I was wandering through my neighborhood with my poodle as my companion. Tears were in my eyes as I asked Jesus to intercede for me, as I was out of prayers.

It was the end of October, and I had not yet discovered the fall palette with which our Creator had begun to experiment on the trees. Coming around the corner toward our house, I saw it. I saw the colors, one yellow tree in particular. This season is striking - the golds and reds, just beginning to be brushed onto some trees, other trees already surrendering. It was then that I heard the hushed voice.

This is a season.

My heart became full as I began meditating on the seasons in that moment and in the days that followed. The leaves, the trees, the wind, the cold, the new growth. There are some trees that change at the first blast of cold air. They don't hesitate - they are happy to give a burst of color at the first sign of a new season, and the leaves are equally prepared to leap from the branches and fall to the ground in a swirl of color. These trees are proud to be the first- the first to change, the first to empty, the first to be ready for winter and new buds.

But there are some trees that are in no hurry. Stubborn trees. Only a few leaves change for what seems like forever. These trees are still a deep spring emerald with just the edges giving in to the change of fall. These trees compete to be the last - the last to change, the last to empty, the last to be ready for winter and new buds.

We sit and anticipate as the days go by. We expectantly keep a watchful eye, waiting to see the brilliant display of change and the new season. Sometimes it is weeks after the first trees have long been emptied before the reluctant trees surrender. The colors take our breath away. The wind conquers the last few leaves that were holding on to the nearly bare branches and they finally fall.

This is a season.

This simple phrase has been a balm to my heart. There are some trees in my life that are so stubborn. The leaves are hanging on with everything they can muster, not ready to change or let go. I sit while prayerfully and expectantly looking for signs of change. I know that even though they are determined, the season will change. The cold air will force the leaves to color, and they will not be able to withstand the wind.

Seasons in life do not adhere to the same time table as the trees. Life seasons can last months or years instead of days or weeks. But I am encouraged and confident to know that the seasons will change.

This fall, the trees seem to be putting on an exceptionally rich display. I am grateful that the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and for a moment lifted the veil, pointing out the beauty and mercy that is found in the seasons. It has been said that this year the trees are extra beautiful, and I know that part of the reason for this is because God is choosing to pour out his love into my life through His creation. Every day when I see the leaves and their various personalities, I am reminded of that whisper and thankful for a God that loves me so intimately. When you see those trees as I do, beloved, be reminded and encouraged in knowing that God cares about every detail in our lives, and this season will not hang around forever.

The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.  ~Psalm 145:9


Wednesday, October 16, 2013


You may or may not know that yesterday, October 15th, was National Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness Day. I had been looking forward to this day for a couple of months - since I found out that my support group ( would be doing a balloon release in memory of our babies on that day. Karlie came down from Shawnee with her boyfriend to participate in the event, and it was really beautiful.

They had lots of balloons ready to go when we got there!

We were given balloons so that we could write messages to send up to our babies. It was very sweet, and also very emotional. Mark started tearing up as soon as he started writing on the balloon.

After we finished writing on our balloons we took a couple pictures before going outside to release them.

When everyone had finished their balloons, we all went outside on the porch and got in a circle. The leader said a prayer of thanksgiving for our babies and then after the prayer ended we all released them. We watched them go up into the sky until we couldn't see them anymore. It was beautiful.

After the release we had our regular meeting, and it was nice to have so many couples with so many different stories. The cool thing about MEND is that it's remarkable to hear how people work through their grief in so many ways. You can see the healing, the redemption, and Jesus all in the midst of the pain. It's really incredible. You are also surrounded by people who understand how it feels to experience a pregnancy loss, and people are open in sharing. It's people loving other people who are experiencing the same walk in life. I can't say enough good things about it! (-:

After our meeting, we went around and looked at the tables. People brought memorabilia for their babies and it was really special to see what everyone brought. I chose one of my ultrasound pictures, a little lamb, and a card saying that a Bible was donated in memory of our baby.

All in all, it was a perfect evening. (-:

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