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Thoughts on Grief: Miscarriage

3 Mar

It was a surprise–both the pregnancy and the loss. We had decided to forego any additional biological children in order to focus on foster care. But then on Dec 4, I took a pregnancy test (my period was late) and it came back positive. At first, we were disappointed because the pregnancy upset our plans–foster care, Europe, my new job. But over the course of December, we grew excited, talking about names, gender reveal methods, pregnancy announcements, etc.

But then the bleeding started. At first, it was just spotting. An ultrasound revealed that the baby was smaller than expected, with a heartbeat of 92 (slower than it should have been, I found out later). I also had a corpus luteum cyst on my left ovary, a subchorionic hemorrhage, and “debris” in the gestational sac. They said they expected these things to resolve on their own.

I left the doctor’s office with a bad feeling about the pregnancy, even though no one else, including the nurses, seemed to be overly concerned about things. I tried to put it out of my mind. We told my family about our exciting news over New Years weekend, and prayed for good news at the next ultrasound.

But that next ultrasound on Thursday showed the embryo had no growth from before, and no heartbeat, and the spotting I’d had had turned to blood. I had gone to the doctor’s office for the ultrasound alone. It wasn’t until the reality that we were losing the baby set in that I realized how fully pinned my hopes had been on hearing that things were fine.

I kept it together until I got out into the hallway and called Travis. The minute he answered the phone, I started sobbing. “The b-b-baby…d-d-doesn’t…h-h-have a…h-h-heartbeat,” I stammered. Travis quickly arranged for our neighbor to take the girls, even though it meant waking them up from their naps, and came to the hospital, while I sat in the nurse’s office and learned about our options. Travis arrived, we discussed what the nurse had said, and decided to wait and see if things would happen naturally. We scheduled an appointment with the OB for the following Monday, just in case things hadn’t progressed on their own by then.

After we left the hospital, we went to Caribou Coffee to digest what was happening before jumping back into the craziness of parenting. I confessed to Travis that I was mad at God. The thoughts running through my head were, “This is so like God. He gives us a surprise pregnancy and enough time to get excited about that change in our plans, and then the baby dies.” It felt like God was the ultimate manipulator, toying with our emotions just to prove to us how little control we have over our lives. “What was the point of this?!?” I screamed in my soul. I felt like we were just pawns in God’s schemes, and that He didn’t really care about us after all.

The next morning, Friday, I got up at 6 am to cramping and lots of blood. A surreal experience if there ever was one, knowing that it wasn’t just blood–it was my baby too. Thankfully, it wasn’t very painful, lasted only a few hours, and another ultrasound that following Monday showed that I did not need a D&C.

God enabled me to see His grace to us in the midst of our loss. I’m so incredibly thankful that my body miscarried on its own, and that it happened the day after we found out our baby had no heartbeat. I’m also grateful that we have the money to pay for the costly ultrasounds.

God also reminded me how I had prayed a few months earlier for Him to enable me to hold the options of having another biological child or pursuing foster care with open hands, willing to follow wherever He led. I discovered that I wasn’t as willing to follow as I had imagined myself to be. The Sunday following the miscarriage, I had a vision in church of Jesus standing on the other side of the waterfall, beckoning me to join Him with an outstretched hand. Am I willing to follow through the veil down the road of fully acknowledging and feeling my pain and sadness?

Faced with the sorrow of losing a baby less than a year after the death of my beloved mom, I felt the familiar feeling of not wanting to follow Jesus into hurt and pain. As if there were a choice; the hurt and pain are there regardless. For some reason, though, accepting the hurt and pain as God’s perfect plan makes the pain hurt more, makes the loss seem more final. It seems easier to kick against the goads and reject the reality of loss. With the death of my mom, I clung to God’s goodness and perfect ways like a buoy in a white-capped sea. With this miscarriage, though, I floundered in unbelief and anger.

It wasn’t until I humbled myself and read the Bible that God broke through my anger, bitterness, and accusations, and my heart softened. The truth was that Satan causes harm and destruction; God redeems and heals.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

This experience revealed how close sin and unbelief are to me. They’re crouching at the door, waiting to devour me. And the only weapon I have is the sword of the Spirit–the Word. Truth. And the Truth is that “This God–his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 18:30)

One unexpected grace that has come from this loss is that I appreciate and cherish my two daughters and husband more. I feel so blessed to have them–and I actually feel it in my heart, instead of just acknowledging it in my head. You would think that a loss like this would make you feel less content, not more. But losing an unborn baby has reinforced how much I truly love kids in general, and specifically my own kids–even when they’re driving me crazy, I’m so blessed that they’re mine.

This sadness has also made me aware that we are entering into a world of potential heartache with foster care. A world of unrealized hopes and dreams, of uncertain outcomes and tenuous relationships. But Travis and I continue to feel called in that direction.

Lord, whatever lies ahead, give us the faith and strength to follow You.

Grief: One Year

12 Feb

Today marks one year since my mom’s death.

One Year is a milestone. It means we have survived the “firsts”—the familiar holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, reunions, now all different due to the gaping hole left by my mom. We are still trying to figure out how to function as a family without her. She was the glue. She did a lot.

One Year also makes me realize that all this time, I’ve been subconsciously hoping that this was still just a nightmare. I want to say, “Ok this can be done now. We’ve had enough sorrow and pain.” I’m like a child being dragged somewhere, digging my fingernails into the living room rug, refusing to go along. I don’t want to keep going down this sorrow-filled journey. I don’t want to keep yearning to see and hear my mom. I want to just see and hear her. But One Year reminds me, this is permanent until heaven. Man, that hurts.

They say the First Year is the hardest, and I expected to crumble into a puddle of emotions and crying at every special occasion that was now being celebrated without my mom. But I didn’t. Those occasions were times to recall the happy memories, see the vast impact my mom made on our lives collectively, and relish family time, which my mom loved to the core of her being.

Instead, the hardest parts of the First Year were the things I didn’t even think would be hard. It was not having my mom call me after my first day at my new job. It was not being able to ask her for advice when the girls got sick or were driving me crazy. It was not being able to spend the week with her while Travis was hunting in Wyoming. It was not having her to go shopping with, or ask about decorating opinions, or just listen to me while I vented about life.

It wasn’t until my mom was gone that I realized how much I valued her as a friend.

She was an excellent listener, and she had the ability to draw me out like no one else, save my husband. I told her things I told no one else but Travis, and she always listened with support and love. We had entire phone conversations that were just me talking about my problems, and her listening. It wasn’t until we hung up that I realized I had no idea what was going on with her, because we talked about me the whole time.

She was interested in everyone, friendly, always asking questions, actually listening to the answers, and asking follow-up questions. It reminds me of something C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call ‘humble’ nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.”

That was my mom. She loved life. She loved people.

She was my best friend.

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Christmas & New Year’s 2016

13 Jan

I better get posting about Christmas before it’s February, huh?

We celebrated Christmas first just the four of us on the Thursday before Christmas. I made chicken cordon bleu (from the deli), green beans, red potatoes, and rolls, and we drank “bubbly” (which Emma loved). Then the girls opened their presents from us, and their present from Papa Dave since it was a big box that we didn’t have room to transport from Rochester. We got them some art supplies, a few books, a bouncy buddy, and a Little People nativity set. Papa Dave bought them this treehouse with the camping buddies from The Land of Nod. Within 15 seconds of opening it, both girls were drawing on it with crayon. (Seriously…) Luckily, I was able to scrub most of it off. Their favorite present by far, though, was the box that the treehouse came in. Of course.15741131_1332807960082856_4438754616654293238_n15781037_1332807950082857_3583310463122747060_n15727286_1332807923416193_7831163184979449209_nThe next day, we headed up to Travis’ parents’ house in Nevis, arriving in time for dinner. Travis’ sister and nephew, and brother and sister-in-law were also there almost the whole time we were, so we were able to spend some nice time together. Emma and Annabelle were in heaven. They love their Nana and Papa, and Aunties and Uncle, and have a lot of fun with them. Their cousin Drew isn’t so much of a kid person at age 16. 😉

Christmas Eve (Saturday), we headed into Park Rapids to have breakfast with some friends. That night, we dressed up all fancy and attended the Christmas Eve service at Travis’ parents’ Catholic church, Our Lady of the Pines. The girls actually did fairly well, all things considering! And they were adorable in their Christmas dresses.15726473_1332807670082885_2760584912961896007_n15672976_1332807490082903_846264537335391369_n15726223_1332807436749575_6890398017756359744_n15697791_1332807883416197_1671014031762530795_n15780738_1332807703416215_2116758220268045907_n

Cousins

Christmas morning, we ate the traditional breakfast of egg bake and monkey bread, and then it was time to open presents—the time that Emma had been asking about for the entire month of December. It started off well. Emma helped divvy up the presents, and was even tasked with the job of deciding who should open a present. But eventually that petered out, and both girls ended up throwing a tantrum in the middle of opening presents. Emma wanted to do something besides open presents, and Annabelle was apparently ready for an early nap, because I ended up putting her down around 11. By the time I got back downstairs, Emma was entertained with some of her new art supplies, and the adults were able to continue our gift opening in peace. Kids!

15726344_1332807373416248_4862802626677382042_n15726258_1332807200082932_8528536388724082939_nNote that Emma is wearing a tank top and shorts, despite the several weather-appropriate, cute Christmas outfits I had for her.15697526_1332807043416281_5419901375432218552_nSo tired15672964_1332807230082929_3678291493226962891_nMmmm… chocolate15697834_1332806786749640_3627580145260719665_nEmma went “Christmas shopping” at daycare this year for Nana Beth and Papa Al, and she chose a measuring cup for Nana and a fishing sinker for Papa without our help!15672680_1332806713416314_6249755915390785047_nTravis’ gift from his sister… perfect for him15780887_1332806673416318_9097940835346127866_nMy gift from Travis’ sister… love it15747611_1332807103416275_4427022023995455069_nEmma loves all thing art

The rest of our time up in Nevis was pretty lowkey. We ate a lot of yummy food and Christmas cookies, played outside sledding and snowmobiling, the guys cut down a tree and burned some brush, the adults played some games (including Speak Out, where you put that big plastic mouthpiece in—that’s quite the game!). There was only one political (civilized) discussion that we non-debaters had to break up, for fear that the discussion would last the whole night.

We stayed up in Nevis until Tuesday morning. The plan had been to head back home Monday night but the ice storm on Christmas Day made the roads pretty nasty, so we decided to at least drive home in the daylight.

We spent the rest of Tuesday and all day Wednesday at home. Travis had work off, but wanted to work on some projects (including cutting down a tree in our front yard, which almost ended up falling on our cars, due to a little miscommunication and lack of thought on my part…whoops—but all was well in the end, praise God). The girls and I went to 321 Bounce with our neighbor friends.

Thursday morning, we packed up and hit the road down to Rochester. Since we weren’t trying to get there by any certain time, we decided we could stop every hour on the 3.5-hour drive. Well, Travis wasn’t completely a fan of our many stops, but it was nice to take our time. We stopped for gas right by our house (#1), for lunch in St. Cloud (#2), at Cabela’s in Rogers (#3), and at a gas station just south of the Cities for a potty break (#4).

We arrived in Rochester just in time for dinner. My oldest brother Jeremy and sister-in-law Jen, and their two sons had arrived the day before, and my other brothers would arrive later, so it was just us, them, and my dad that night.

The four kids—Emma and Annabelle, and Jensen and Jackson—had a blast playing together. One of the cutest sights was seeing the four of them run around in circles together. Another favorite activity of theirs was jumping on the couch and building forts out of couch cushions (much to Papa’s dismay). They were also pretty wild and crazy with one of those Fisher Price ride-on toys and a little dog that you pull along behind you. Four kids is a little crazy at times!15781534_1338920992804886_5472908077247000943_n15823490_1338920989471553_969281655933574630_n15823680_1338921229471529_3041714289093367911_nOn Friday, Brian and Jill arrived around lunchtime. Chris and Meg arrived Saturday. We spent our time drinking lots of coffee, eating delicious food (frequently topped by grated Asiago), and watching animated movies that we turned on for the kids but that they didn’t end up watching. 😉 We also played outside in the ice-encrusted snow, which was great for sledding but not much else. I pulled Emma and Jensen on a sled all the way around the house, and it was a workout!15732661_10103166680174752_2259524021720836268_o15800359_10103166677405302_1021290843782300839_o15800498_10103166678178752_6830543933580665853_o15844768_10103166677744622_7747851522964179194_o15825795_1338921386138180_1443544932537754384_nThanks to my sister-in-law Jen for these great photos!

On New Year’s Eve, we opened presents in our now-traditional way (we draw names, and then try to go around and try to guess who had us), and then ate our special Christmas dinner. Everyone pitched in with various sides and dishes, and it was great! Though the orange sherbet jello salad that I attempted to make was an epic fail. Jello: a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.

We apparently had a little bit of trouble getting the girls down on time that night, because I was downstairs getting Emma to sleep until 11:55… though I might’ve fallen asleep, it’s really hard to say at that hour of the day. I actually made it back upstairs for the ball drop, though, and stayed up until 2 am watching bad New Year’s entertainment on TV and chatting with those who were still up. It was the first time I’ve stayed up for New Year’s since having kids I think, and it was nice! Thankfully the girls slept in the next day, and we were still able to make it to church at 10:30.

There was another snowstorm predicted to hit Rochester and the Brainerd area on Monday, so we ended up leaving Sunday night instead of the next morning. We got home around 11, got the girls to bed, and hit the hay ourselves.

Though I always love spending time with family, it was a hard holiday season without my mom (and the first). We miss her dearly, and talk about her often. My dad, as usual, bears the brunt of her absence, and through a series of miscommunications, ended up spending Christmas Day alone, which I feel badly about. A loss like this continues to reveal situations and circumstances that have been forever altered, and the best way forward is not always readily apparent.

Merry Christmas 2016!

25 Dec

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

I wish you and your families a Christmas season full of hope and joy, all because of the God-man who came to earth as a baby born in a stable.

Thanksgiving 2016

1 Dec

For Thanksgiving this year, we both traveled and stayed home, which is a new thing for us. We went up to Travis’ parents’ house in Nevis on Thursday morning. My dad and brother Brian met us up there a little later, and the whole gang on Travis’ side was there. We ate Thanksgiving dinner around 4, hoping to time it for when the girls were napping so we could actually eat and enjoy it. Things were looking good but as we were going around the table saying what we were thankful for, I heard Emma yell, “Mommy!” from upstairs, and Annabelle was standing right beside her. But it all worked out (for me anyway, as both girls wanted to sit with a grandparent instead of me). 

After dinner, we talked, played a little Catch Phrase, and ate pie. I made two pumpkin pies, both of which bore the marks of being tasted by a certain little girl. We headed back to our house around 8:30 with my dad and brother. 

Friday, we bummed around in our pajamas the whole morning, doing some online shopping and eating French toast and sausage. Travis went out to set deer blinds during naptime. Annabelle took an early nap and was up before 2, so we had Emma skip her nap. Once Travis got back, we headed up to Nisswa for their City of Lights festival. I had never been since we’ve been out of town on Black Friday since moving back. 

It was fun, but chaotic with a child as young as Annabelle who won’t ride in a stroller. The main area of the event is on Main Street and it was still open to traffic so we couldn’t just let Annabelle walk around. Even Emma we had to keep close tabs on (it would just be less stressful if you didn’t have to watch for cars).  

We bought some hot chocolate (not knowing they were giving it out for free at the other end of town) and walked around a bit. We pet reindeer, walked through the luminary path and the Polar Express train car, watched a live nativity, and learned some history about the area in Pioneer Village. And we finally found the free cider and mini donuts. After that, we were out of things to do and cold, so my dad and brother went to pick up pizza while we headed home. Emma crashed and went straight to bed. Annabelle wasn’t far behind. The pizza was delicious after being outside. 

Brian headed to the MSP airport that night to pick up his wife, Jill, but my dad stayed the whole weekend until Sunday afternoon. 

Saturday, Travis went hunting in the morning, and my dad and I took the girls to 321 Bounce (a bouncy house place for kids) to burn off some energy. Then it was home for lunch and naps. Travis came home briefly for lunch, then headed back out hunting for a few hours. I made chili for dinner, and we had a relaxed (at least, as relaxed as it gets with young kids) evening at home. 

Sunday, we went to the early church service (Annabelle made it through without a meltdown in the nursery!), attempted to hang up Travis’ second elk head mount (but the hanger we bought from the taxidermist was awful), ate lunch, the girls napped, and then it was time for my dad to head home. 

Both Emma and Annabelle have really grown to love my dad, and that is so fun to see. Emma asked to have Papa put her down for a nap or bed several times, and Annabelle often prefers to cuddle with Papa instead of with me. Melts my heart. 

A Response to the 2016 Election

9 Nov

“The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.” (Proverbs 21:1)

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

“Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” (Proverbs 31:25)

These are the verses that come to mind this post-election morning. God is BIG–BIGGER than this and He can use Trump to bless our country if He sees fit. So let’s pray hard that He would do just that. That Trump would rise to the occasion, put behind his childish and selfish ways, and that his presidency would be a surprise in a good way. 

If you say “HA, there’s no way he will!” I say “Well then what’s the alternative response? To seethe with anger and bitterness for the next 4 years? To wait hopefully for each blunder Trump will make in order to gloat ‘See, this is why I didn’t vote for him!'”

No, regardless of who you voted for, the way to respond to this election result is the same way we respond to anything that happens in life: we accept it from God’s hand. We humbly submit our lives, and in this case our country, to Him, with the knowledge that “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (2 Chronicles 20:12)

And then we pray. We pray hard. We plead, beg God to help this nation change for the better, even perhaps despite who’s in charge. We CAN make America great again but it will be by being people sold out for God in Jesus’ name, full of love, compassion, and a willingness to work alongside those who do not share our beliefs or lifestyles. It will be by being bold in our proclamation of the gospel of salvation by faith alone in Christ alone. It will be by laying down our own agendas, conveniences, and desires, and taking up Christ’s. What does that practically mean? It’ll look different for everyone, but like I’ve said before, we will be all united under the banner of

SATISFIED IN GOD ALONE.

We cannot change reality, we can only respond to it. Let’s make our response one that shows how BIG God is and how much we are ultimately trusting in Him to guide and protect our nation. 

2 Ways to Take Back Your Day Without a Schedule

17 Oct

takebackyourdayA year ago, I went to a conference for moms in Rochester called Hearts at Home. It was awesome, and I took away a lot of thoughts, but one of the biggest was the idea that I needed to get our family life on a schedule. Staying home full-time with a 2.5-year-old and a 6-month-old meant that our days were big on crazy and low on sanity. I thought getting on a schedule would help some at least some of my woes.

The only problem was that I’m a spontaneous person. I can’t commit to the same schedule day after day, week after week. I like change! I like doing things differently! I like lazy mornings some days, and a fresh shower and dressier clothes other mornings. I like having the girls take a bath at night some days, and during the day other days.

Emma (now 3.5) is a wild card like this too. I tried and tried to get her to be more predictable and routined as a baby, but she wasn’t having it. It wasn’t until she was over 2 years that her naps finally became a consistent 2.5-3 hours long. Before that, she’d nap anywhere from 45 minutes to 3 hours. Drove me crazy! To cope, I stopped having any plans of what I would accomplish during naptime because then I didn’t get frustrated if her nap was too short.

Annabelle (now 18 months) was a lot more predictable as a baby than Emma was. She actually put herself on a schedule! Some babies are just like that. We were so thankful that it seemed we had gotten a mellow baby to balance out our first-born spitfire. Then Annabelle learned to walk and WOW, she has even more energy and chutzpah than her sister did at this age. She’s a climber, and doesn’t take No for an answer without a fight.

My desire to take a crack at homeschool preschool this year with Emma inspired another attempt at implementing a daily schedule/routine. An attempt that also failed almost before it began. Which got me thinking… do I really NEED a schedule?

I had several things that I wanted to change about the way things ran in my house as a full-time, stay-at-home mom, that I thought having a schedule or routine would address. I wanted to be more intentional with how I spent my time–my time with the girls and my alone time. I wanted to stay caught on cleaning, laundry, meal planning, grocery shopping better, instead of waiting for bathrooms to reach an unprecedented ICK factor and the refrigerator to contain nothing but olives and maple syrup. I also thought that being on a schedule is what successful, got-it-together moms do.

But you know what? There’s more than one “right” way to do things. The real question is, is the way we’re doing things right now working for our family? The answer to that is Yes. Things aren’t as tidy or clean or straightforward as they would be if I were more disciplined in the Art of Structure, but I’d be constantly fighting an uphill battle against my spontaneous personality–and for what? Part of the benefit of being at home full-time is the flexibility and relaxed pace of life!

That said, I have noticed that there are two things that I not only enjoy doing, but that truly promote the goals I had with a schedule. Those are:

1. Get up before the kids.

When Annabelle regressed to waking up 1-2 times a night around 6 months (and ever since), I stopped feeling like a morning person. I was a zombie until at least 10 am and two cups of coffee. But for the past couple of months, I have been forcing myself to get up around 6 am anyway because I know that it is SO worth it. My day goes so much better when I’ve had time to drink some coffee and think some thoughts before kids start screaming, whining, and demanding cereal.

I also have more energy for Bible study, blog posts, and pretty much everything in the morning. By naptime, my energy is at about half-power (and I often take a nap with the kids if it works out), and after putting the kids to bed, I only have the energy for zoning out with Netflix, or talking to Travis. So the morning is my time to “get er done.”

2. Don’t get distracted by projects or technology.

I am notorious for thinking, “Oh the girls are playing so well together right now. I’ll just spend a few minutes tidying/organizing/sorting/assembling this thing over here.” ::45 minutes later:: “Mommy’s almost done! Then we’ll go outside!” I say as both kids are crying because they’ve started hitting one another out of boredom and their need for attention.

I’m also notorious for picking my phone up to text someone about something timely or important. ::45 minutes later, emerging from the Facebook and Instagram vortex:: “Mommy just has to text my friend about getting together tomorrow. Then we’ll go outside!”

I’m learning that even though organizing and tidying are good and necessary, and Facebook and Instagram are fine when used wisely, there’s a time and a place. Trying to do those things while the girls are awake almost always spells disaster…or at least a house that’s a disaster because the girls tore it apart while I was distracted.

What this one really comes down to is discipline and trusting God: discipline to wrangle my spontaneous and time-sucking habits into spending my time intentionally and wisely; and trusting God that when I prioritize what He prioritizes, I get joy and He gets glory. Even if that means I get nothing done but spending time with my girls because they were clingy. Even if that means I forego dishes and laundry to spend time reading the Bible. Even if that means I hardly ever blog anymore because I’m reading books about parenting instead (this is true).

Doing these two things gives me the foundation for the day that I need to manage the chaos and challenges of being home full-time with two young kids… without being on a schedule!