Baby Steps & Mother’s Day

Photo by Lena Mytchyk on Unsplash

It’s been over a year since I’ve written. Over a year since I poured out my thoughts onto a blank canvas, processing as the words tumble out of my fingertips. More than a year has passed and I’m still not sure I’m ready to fully process all that has taken place. So instead I’m taking baby steps and writing what is on my mind today. Maybe tomorrow I’ll have more thoughts that need to be written down or maybe another year will pass, and that’s okay.

“Baby steps”. This phrase holds a whole new meaning for me. I am currently watching my almost one-year-old learn to take those monumental, extremely unstable first steps. Her little legs wobble and she grasps for things around to steady her, often finding only air to meet her fingertips before collapsing on the ground. But then what does she do? She stands up and tries again.

A few more steps.

A little more ground gained.

A victory as she reaches the thing or person she was headed toward.

Baby steps often feel small and insignificant, without much distance covered, and yet they are foundational. Before we can walk, run, and sprint our way forward we have to first learn to take those baby steps. And so, I’m taking “baby steps” back into the writing world.

In the last year and a half, our family has experienced: job changes, the birth of our daughter, death in the family, selling a house, moving to a new state, buying a new house…so…just a few things to process.

Today though I am sitting here, trying to grade essays, while also planning a list of things that need to get accomplished during nap time, and somehow finding myself distracted instead by the fact that Mother’s Day is rapidly approaching. What does this tell me? I probably need to process Mother’s Day. So here I am, putting my thoughts down in the hopes of finding better clarity.

Mother’s Day is both/and. It is both a beautiful way to honor those who work hard, day in and day out, to keep the tiny human(s) alive while also staying alive herself, and it is a day full of emotions for those who:

  1. Have lost their mom
  2. Have a complicated relationship with their mom
  3. Have an absent mom
  4. Long to be a mom
  5. Are mom to children no longer here on Earth

Last year I celebrated Mother’s Day by preparing to welcome our second daughter into the world, praying the delivery process would be different than our first. Sure enough, on May 11th (a mere two days after Mother’s Day), Jovie Jane joined our family and changed our lives forever. Jovie means “joyful” and we knew, from the moment we saw her sweet, squishy face, that was her name. Our little joyful, energetic, bundle of entertainment and delight! This year I will get to celebrate Mother’s Day with a healthy, exuberant, almost one-year-old little girl in my arms and oh how grateful I am for that! But, with that joy, there is still sorrow her older sister isn’t here to celebrate with us as well.

This year we will celebrate Verity’s 5th birthday. Five years since we held her in our arms and said goodbye. Honestly, I thought it would get infinitely easier when Jovie arrived and, in some ways, it has. But, being Mom to Jovie has also shown me all the more vividly what I have missed out on getting to do with Verity. I’ve missed getting to see her open her eyes for the first time, smile when someone says her name, belly laugh at her Dad’s antics, and take her first steps. I’ve missed getting to watch her be a big sister to Jovie and play with “Buba-dog”. I’ve missed playtime exploration and bedtime stories and what it would look like to be a mom of two littles.

So, as we head into Mother’s Day, my heart needed a reminder to be gentler with myself and more aware of those around me. My community is filled with people who have lost children, lost mothers, long to be mothers, and/or long to have a healthier relationship with their mothers. My friends, I hope this year you feel loved and seen on Mother’s Day. I hope you find space to feel heard and space to simply breathe. And, most of all, I hope you find your own ways to process all that Mother’s Day holds because Mother’s Day, like much of life, is both/and.

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“Growing As I Wait”

Honestly, while I have always known/been told that grief comes in waves I didn’t realize just how difficult the healing process would continue to be. A process only intensified by our infertility journey with aching arms still empty, desperately longing to hold a little one of our own.  Living in the tension of the unknowns about whether or not we will have another little life who looks like us, having Ben’s eyes, or my nose, or his wavy blonde hair. And while we look forward to the day God expands our little family again, hopefully through both adoption and biological, our life will always hold some really hard grief triggers. 

When we got pregnant with Verity my heart instantly became attached and transformed into being a “mama’s heart”. I know this isn’t necessarily the journey for everyone, for some it doesn’t seem real until the baby is actually placed in his or her arms and for others it takes time even after that to become connected to their child. For me though, I became a mama the day the pregnancy test said “pregnant”. Since the day we found out her heart was no longer beating, there has been a large piece of me missing. It isn’t just a Verity-sized hole in my heart, it is the calling of being a mother still unfulfilled. While I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God is still good and that He gave me the absolute perfect husband to walk through this journey with, something opened up in my heart the day we found out we were pregnant that has had to go back to trying to lie dormant. Trying, and most days failing. There is so much in Hannah’s story from 1 Samuel 1 that resonates with my heart. The longing, the bitter tears, the feeling of not getting to fulfill her purpose/calling. As much as her husband, Elkanah, wanted to be worth “more than ten sons” to Hannah, still she went to the temple in distress and prayed and begged God for a child. She begged to not be “forgotten”. She bartered, promising to give her son to the Lord all the days of his life. That feeling of being “forgotten” or “passed over” has played on repeat in my heart more times than I can count and is often an indicator of a “hard day”. There are good days, hard days, and days that feel impossible. 

On the “good days” I can get out of bed without immediately feeling as though the weight of each of the 7×10(to the 27th power…aka: seven billion billion billion) atoms in my body are impossible (not just improbable, IMPOSSIBLE) to lift. On the “good days” I can get on social media and see past the grief triggers of baby announcements, pregnant bellies, exhausted newborn parents sharing #real talk about the difficulties that come with raising tiny humans. On the “good days” I can simply celebrate with others, drop off a much earned 5th cup of coffee for my mama friends, and snuggle all the littles who call me “Auntie” without sorrow. 

Those are the “good days”. 

On the “hard days” I am a fraction of who I once was. I can’t seem to remember who I once was, who I am now, or who I want to be. I am full of doubts and “why me!?!”. I am reading the words of those who have gone before me and desperately trying not to close myself off to the rest of the world for fear the grief triggers will be too much to even accomplish one small thing, like getting out of bed. On the “hard days” doing the dishes OR walking the dog OR grading a few papers is a victory. On those days I manage to deny most of the lies telling me I am a failure as a wife, a failure as a mom, a failure as a daughter, sister, friend, human being…most, but not all. 

Those are the “hard days”.  

On the “impossible days” I am curled up in the fetal position, the irony not lost on me. On the “impossible days” I am lost, drowning in the weight of the infinite worlds created in my head of how life was supposed to be. Reading books and telling bedtime stories with our daughter.  Learning how to navigate bedtime schedules and finding the best babysitters for when family wasn’t available (as a teacher, I’ve never been too worried about this one because I have had the privilege of teaching some amazing humans!). A house full of noise and the patter of little feet as siblings chase each other around. Oh the worlds my mind creates. They are beautiful and captivating and haunting. Most of my “impossible days” don’t come from comparing myself to others, they come from comparing myself to the many different versions of my life dreamed up since I was a child. Versions I haven’t truly grieved the loss of, even though they will never happen. Versions that seem silly and insignificant when I type them out but oh so real and weighty in my head. 

But not all days are “impossible”. Not all days are “hard”. 

In this season, while there are still more “hard” and “impossible” days than I would like to have, I am learning to be thankful. Thankful for the “good” days. Thankful for a husband who is patient and kind and meets me exactly where I am. Thankful for the time and space to process through my feelings. Thankful for distance learning and jobs coming along right as we need them. Thankful for a home church who still sees one another via Zoom or socially distanced. Thankful for friends and family who love me and try so hard to understand. I am thankful for friendship hats, “Auntie Allie” dates, and pushing play on tv shows at the same time even though we are watching from our own homes. I am thankful for words of encouragement from those close to me and those who have never even heard my story. 

I started this post on July 23rd and only made it so far as the “impossible days”. There was no hope in my writing, only a blank page for me to get out my feelings of sadness and anger and sheer exhaustion from the number of grief triggers I still navigate each day. And so I held onto it, I left it sitting in my Google Drive waiting for a “good day” so that “impossible days” would not be the end. Yesterday I read two different things from people who do not know me nor do they have my same story or experiences, but still they managed to reach into my heart in a profound way. The first was in Fields of Joy by Ruth Chou Simons. Her book combines beautiful artwork with Scripture and a small sentence or two of inspiration, specifically geared towards joy. While multiple pages resounded, I was particularly struck by what she had to say on Proverbs 17:22. That specific verse says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Oh how my spirit has felt crushed as of late. To the point that normally a verse like that would simply become white noise, something that I know is playing but isn’t truly being heard. Yet because I am currently teaching a college course on child development and developmentally appropriate learning, and just wrapped a unit on neurodevelopment and the power of the brain, instead of tuning out, my heart tuned in. Simons’ says, “What we dwell on in our hearts and minds carries consequences in our bodies. The best healing your body can have will always begin with a heart glad in Him.” God has not failed me simply because my dreams do not look the way I thought they would. He has not abandoned me, nor is He punishing me. This world is broken. If you didn’t think it was before, is there any doubt left in your mind with a global pandemic and wildfires raging? Because of reading Ruth Chou Simons words I felt strong enough to get on Istagram and seek out some of the trusted voices I follow on there to continue to do the hard work of turning my “hard day” into a “good one”. The first post to pop up was Morgan Harper Nichols as she voiced her struggle in finding something “positive” to share with the world. Her words sank deep into my heart as I felt the gravity of her vulnerability and transparency. I am not alone in struggling to find the “positives”. I am not alone in feeling overwhelmed and that I don’t have the right words to say and as I scrolled through her artwork I was captivated by one piece in particular. It is a beautiful piece, simple, elegant, and only has four small words, “Growing as I wait”.  

I know now that grief will continue to come in waves, washing over me and pulling me down with the intense weight of the seven billion billion billion atoms in my body. 

I also know that I am “growing as I wait”. 

A Month of Both/And

This post originally began out of a desire to recognize the kindness of sweet friends who, in the past two days, gave me gifts I didn’t even know I needed. Their gifts reminded me of things I hadn’t known I needed reminding of. That it is okay to need grace each day and that I am not forgotten. I seem to forget these two things in the days leading up to July (okay, I forget them a lot but ESPECIALLY in the days leading up to July). The following processing is what then ensued. It is raw, it is honest, it is a bit rambly but if you know me by now you know I have a tendency to do that from time to time as I process through things. 

July is a month of both/and. 

I realize now, July will always be a complicated month for me. In my journey of working to become more in-tune with my body and my emotions, I have come to recognize I dread July’s approach, feeling the stress aptly in my body and mind. I am more quick to anger and judgment. Less likely to give myself grace on the hard days. More prone to isolation. Less likely to celebrate the beauty that has grown from our loss. 

Honestly, I thought I would be past it by now. 

But the end of June arrives and I am transported right back to July of 2017. 

July 1-3, 2017 – while camping with friends, we revealed our baby was a girl! We were overjoyed but also cautious because we had been told in our gender-reveal ultrasound that our girl was measuring small and they wanted to measure her again after a few weeks of growth.

July 7, 2017 – appointment with a perinatologist/genetics specialist to see if she had done it, if our girl had grown or if we were looking at a potentially life-long genetic disorder that would alter how we did life together. We were hopeful she had grown and we would be told all was well. We never once stopped to consider the alternative, that she was gone. Her heartbeat had stopped. 

I’m pretty sure mine stopped too, if only for a moment. My mind, on the other hand, was racing in search of answers. Was it my fault? Am I being punished? Why us, we had waited for her for what felt like an eternity! Could the doctors be wrong? Did they miss something? 

We had our last night at home with her, praying her heartbeat would miraculously re-appear the next day when we went in for delivery. 

July 8, 2017 – still no heartbeat. Instead, I labored and we grieved and felt the weight of all the things we weren’t going to get to do with her anymore. 

July 9, 2017 – Verity Grace Drake was born. We held her and cried and said our goodbyes. 

Each year, leading up to July, I am brought back to that place. The hospital rooms, the goodbye, the deafening silence that echoes in our house where an almost-three-year-old should be. 

I also know it is felt by those around me. Especially those who have walked this journey with us. But somehow I still feel alone, isolated in my grief and frustrated by my inability to just “move on”. My head still needs reminders that I am not alone, even though, deep down it’s a truth I already know. 

In the last two days, the final two days of June, as I brace myself for the start of another July, I received two perfect gifts reminding me there is grace for each day and that I am not forgotten. 

After a full weekend of laughter, bubbles, walks, Monopoly Jr. (which is the ONLY kind of Monopoly that should even exist in my personal opinion), and Mickey Mouse’s Clubhouse with two of our favorite tiny humans while their parent’s celebrated their anniversary, we were given a “thank you” gift. This gift was a combination of thanks for taking care of the girls AND in honor of Verity’s upcoming birthday. It is a beautiful sign that says, “Just enough grace for today”. Not only did this gift remind us we are not alone and have our daughter’s middle name represented, but it also serves as a beautiful reminder to me that it is okay to need grace each and every day. 

Days when I feel like I shouldn’t have such a hard time with the month of July…grace. 

Days I am frustrated at life not looking how I thought and dreamt it would…grace. 

When I am discouraged by still having unbearably hard days…grace. 

The second gift arrived today from a friend I have known since college who, although we go through seasons of silence, has always had a way of reminding me I am seen, heard, and loved. This gift arrived in the form of a Willow Tree figurine titled, “Forget-me-not” and a note reminding me that she remembers Verity with me and that she always will. For the second time, in as many days, I was brought to tears over the kindness and thoughtfulness of my friends. 

These gifts not only reminded me to have grace with myself and to remember that Verity is not forgotten but also encouraged me to reflect on the other Julys. 

July 2018 – we traveled to Austin, TX to visit my sister and brother-in-law. My sister has dealt with me her ENTIRE life. If anyone can survive my anger, tears, and dark sense of humor and still come out loving me on the other side, it’s her! So we celebrated the 4th of July and Verity’s birthday exploring Austin and eating our weight in smoked bbq, Tex-Mex, and Hop Doddy’s burgers! We flew home on Verity’s birthday and were greeted with thoughtful gifts from family members, reminding us she is loved and celebrated and she will never be forgotten. 

July 2019 – for the 4th of July we headed out to the Gatewood beach cabin for a few days with our friends (the same friends who gave us the sign). We introduced their then 3-year-old to the Tillamook Creamery cheese sample line and yummy ice cream, played with sparklers, watched fireworks and turned pop-its into ammunition (I’m pretty sure I was the favorite target, at least it felt that way…maybe it’s because their aim was way better than mine). Then, for Verity’s birthday, we went to the Oregon Humane Society just to look and came home with, what I am pretty sure, is the world’s best pup, Kili Kaleo! 

With July 2020 starting tomorrow, I am holding space for the sadness, loss, and grief AND I am also remembering to look forward to the good things I already know the month will hold. We are headed back to Texas (Buda this time) to visit my parents and my sister and brother-in-law. There will be time to relax in the pool, eat really good food, play games and just breathe in and out together, relishing the moments of getting to actually be in the same space. We will celebrate Verity Grace’s birthday AND Kili’s gotcha day, welcome our new niece, and celebrate our wedding anniversary. 

July is exceptionally hard. July has a lot to offer. July is a month of both/and. 

Till Only Grace Remains

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July 9th will be the three year mark since we said goodbye to Verity Grace and has me already reflecting on all that has changed…and what hasn’t. There have been epic travels, changing of homes, “hellos” to new friends and “goodbyes” as people have moved away. There have been new job/church roles, a new puppy, a new non-profit startup. 

Yet still my womb is silent. 

Still we wait, and I feel unloved, unseen and unheard by the only One with the power over the waiting. 

Just recently a friend who is also walkingwading…trudging through the emotional rollercoaster of infertility loaned me a book titled, When God Says Wait: Navigating life’s detours and delays without losing your faith, your friends, or your mind by Elizabeth Laing Thomson. At first, it sat there, collecting dust. In my “year of rest”, after saying goodbye to a job I loved, students I love, the sense of security in knowing a paycheck would come in each month, I did very little to truly rest. I filled up my schedule and I avoided. I avoided almost anything that had to do with working through the fact that God is still asking us to “wait” for another child. 

Not wanting to keep the book for too long and become known by absolutely everyone as THAT friend (yes, Al, I do still have your Brené Brown book I need to return and no, I still have not read it), I figured I would at least skim through it. Somehow, in my skimming, God always drew my eyes to what my heart needs (and I say “needs” very intentionally because it is an ongoing process; moment-by-moment reminders) to hear. 

“The longer God’s silence stretches, the more things start to break inside” (Thomson, pg. 15). YES! Yes, THIS! I know that feeling! I feel like I am breaking. Like maybe God loves everyone BUT me, or that He doesn’t actually see me or hear my cries. 

I must be breaking because I keep falling back into “auto-pilot” and operating as though this waiting period is God’s way of telling me to “pull myself together” and figure out how to love Him and others better before He will finally entrust us with another child. I keep forgetting the lessons He has been teaching me through this journey. Lessons like: 

  • Redefining my hope in Him. 
  • Learning to be brave. 
  • Remembering I am enough. 

(Sound familiar maybe? Like, say, previous posts where I thought I got the lesson and could move on…apparently that’s not how things actually work but wouldn’t it be nice if it was?) 

I have been breaking as I feel each setback, each moment of despair, anger and grief as if I was deserving of punishment or as if God is withholding until I figure “it” out. I have spent the last three years pinballing between feeling like I am finally getting it and like I am failing.

“The longer we wait on an answer, the more distant God feels. His silence fuels our suspicions: Does He even care? Is He unmoved by my tears, my pleas? Just as in the garden, the evil snake whispers doubt through gaps in our shield of faith. After a while, God may start to feel like the enemy. The Great Giver? Yeah right. More like the Great Disappoinoter. The Great Withholder. He is holding out on me on purpose. Ignoring me. Torturing me. He doesn’t want what’s best for me. He probably doesn’t even like me. We don’t like to admit this, lest we get struck by lightning, but the truth is, some of us get mad at God. Bitterness begins to wrap icy tentacles around our hearts – suffocating hope, strangling trust – till only anger remains. And what a terrifying place that is, when you feel resentment toward God clouding your vision, darkening your heart: not only are you wandering in the unmarked wilderness, but now you have lost your compass” (Thomson, pg. 82). 

In this last year I have felt my hope dwindling, till only anger remained. I felt unloved, unseen, and unheard by God. 

Oh, how wrong I was.

Honestly, I thought I had even learned THIS lesson before. 

Rewind to late winter/early Spring of 2019. I was teaching and college/career counseling with no idea I would be handing in my resignation before the year was out. I had finished running photocopies and headed back to my office, done with appointments for the day, headphones in, Spotify playlist doing its thing and adding new music it thinks I’ll like, and this song comes on. Not the radio version, a live, acoustic version of “Persevere” by Gang of Youths with an intro explaining the “why” behind the song. 

In his intro, lead singer David Le’aupepe says this, “We have this friend named David Andrew. He and his wife have been through hell and back. David and his wife were expecting a baby (My steps falter. I’m arrested by “were”…I know where this is going and my heart is already breaking) and then 8.5 months in the pregnancy I got a call from a friend saying the baby was gone. Her name was Emme Grace. Emme Grace Andrew. This song is about her and her amazing dad.” 

Grace. Her middle name is Grace. 

Tears already starting to well up in my eyes as I flash back to holding our little one, whose middle name is Grace. All I have to do is make it to my office and turn off the lights for a minute of peace and quiet, thankful it’s not a passing period. Thankful it’s an abnormally quiet afternoon in my office. 

I listen closely to the song’s lyrics, heart aching for my daughter. 

Heart aching for Emme Grace’s family and friends. 

“I never got to kiss your head 

Ah, Emme

And the call came the week I got divorced

I thought I had a real understanding then of loss

But I didn’t know a thing ‘til you were gone

And I’m tired of trying to find some sort of

Meaningful thing

In making sense of such unspeakable loss

But as I’m staring at your folks 

The sweetest people I know 

I get a glimpse of what it is to be strong

Just holding hands and sobbing with sunglasses on…”

There is something that feels different in the loss of a child. Something that causes people to want to search for meaning, purpose, a reason to explain why a life is gone before it has even been lived outside of the womb. And when those answers aren’t found, something that plunges you into darkness where strength looks like clinging to one another through the tears. 

The song continues. The words washing over me as I listen to the perspective of a friend. An outsider looking in. Grieving in his own way as he watches the grief of his friends. 

It is at this point I should probably tell you that I don’t only listen to Christian music/Worship songs, in case you didn’t already know that. My music is completely mood and atmosphere driven. If it’s summertime and nice outside you are very likely to catch me blasting some Hawaiin music (thank you Brother Iz!). If it’s evening and I’m winding down for the day my choice may be more inclined to jazz (ugh, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, those voices get me EVERY time!). Belting out song lyrics on a road trip it may be Lake Street Drive or Lauren Daigle or Adele. Sometimes it’s Rock, sometimes Indie, on a VERY rare occasion (aka: if I’m out at the barn working with horses/mucking out stalls) Country. You get the picture. 

All that to say, Gang of Youths is not a Christian band. They sometimes use more “colorful” words or lyrics I don’t necessarily agree with philosophically, however, God used this song, on that day, to remind me of His grace.

I’m not going to type out all of the lyrics for you, nor am I necessarily saying “go listen to this song”. I am simply conveying gratitude at the ways God reaches into the darkness to remind me of His Light. 

“I couldn’t count the times 

I’ve ragged on heaven

As an opiate invented by the weak

It’s an argument I hate

‘Coz I’m content to love the fates

But it comes up a lot with Emme’s dad and me

So I’m shotgun in the car

And we’re just shooting the _____

And predictably the talking turns to God

So I throw him forty lines

How I don’t think He exists

And he just smiles and

Takes a dignified pause

Says, ‘it’s okay to feel unbelievably lost’

But God is full of grace

And His faithfulness is vast

There is safety in the moments 

When the ____  has hit the fan

Not some vindictive _______

Nor is He _______ at His job

What words to hear” 

What words to hear…….

God isn’t vindictive. He’s not bad at His job. He isn’t withholding or standing idly by in my moments of despair, anger, bitterness and grief. 

All my longings lie open before you, Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you. My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes…Lord, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God.” – Psalm 38:9-10, 15

When, in the waiting, He feels silent, I am reminded He is full of grace. 

In her book, Elizabeth Laing Thomson, points out beautifully that grace is not simply a small, insignificant compilation of five letters, it is not “a temporary, transient position based on our day-to-day performance” but instead it “may be the most powerful word in the world” (pg. 66).

“God’s grace lasts long enough. God’s grace never runs dry. Waiting is not a punishment from God; it is a part of life. Everyone waits for things, even the most righteous of people” (pg. 66).

I am not unloved, unseen, unheard. On days when hope is suffocated, trust is strangled, and waiting feels like punishment, God finds ways to reach me, through a book, a song, a friend and reminds me…

I am loved. 

I am seen. 

I am heard. 

Till only grace remains.

I Am Not Enough

 

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For most of my life I have hated crying. For me it was synonymous with weakness and I hate feeling weak. I know there are things I do not excel at because I am not naturally talented or gifted in areas like athletics or math, but I pride myself in having a “high pain tolerance” (at least according to a doctor and a tattoo artist (spoiler alert, I have tattoos) so I’m runnin’ with it). I had to. As a kid I was made fun of on the playground, a lot. When I was the one being mocked I tried to operate under the “say nothing at all” mentality and just ignored them, but if it was one of my friends they hurt, I could hurl insults right back like a champ. Still, I didn’t cry. There were a lot of things I was told I was “not” during those elementary school playground days. I was not pretty enough, I was not fast enough, I was not smart enough, I was not strong enough. Because I chose not to cry about those comments I convinced myself I wasn’t affected by them and I truly was strong. But, for a long time, the inner narrative of my life had been that I am not enough and that crying makes me even weaker.

I was wrong.

Crying is not a sign of weakness. Crying is not a bad thing. Crying is something that can be, and often is, healing for the soul. AND I am enough. I am enough because God made me on purpose and for a purpose and so I am enough.

Don’t get me wrong. I still have days, most days, okay almost every moment of every day, where I feel as though I am not enough and I have to fight hard to remember that I was made on purpose and for a purpose and that makes me enough.

One of my favorite parts about teaching at a private Christian school is getting to worship together on chapel days. On those days, I feel content and can dwell in that balance of being just enough. I love knowing God is in that place and that there is a body of people gathered together to worship Him. And most of the time my heart is just glad. No tears, just contentment and a feeling that this is enough.

At one of the very first chapels of the 2017-2018 school year our worship team starting playing “Praise You In This Storm” by Casting Crowns. As I sang, I wept. I couldn’t tell you how many times I have heard and sung that song, and not once cried , until now. I know the lyrics without even needing to see them and yet, this last year, in this season of life and of feeling as though I am not enough, those words took on new meaning.

 

I was sure by now

God You would have reached down

And wiped our tears away

Stepped in and saved the day

But once again, I say “Amen”, and it’s still raining

As the thunder rolls

I barely hear Your whisper through the rain

“I’m with you”

And as your mercy falls

I raise my hands and praise the God who gives

And takes away

It’s still raining. The thunder is still rolling. And yet God is still merciful and gracious. God is still good. Oh how I love the sound of an “and yet” statement. You see, up until recently I hadn’t realized just how much I was feeling I am not enough again. If I was enough, God surely would have allowed our daughter to live. If I was enough, surely God would have given us another baby by now. I am not enough…I am not enough…I am not enough.

This post originally began at the end of February, but I wasn’t done grappling with it yet, and so, for some reason, today I felt drawn back to this post. In February I concluded it was okay to cry. Crying is not a bad thing. God is still good. And that still resonates in my heart today, but as we come up on the one year anniversary of our daughter’s birth, I realize I have fallen again into the pit of feeling not enough.

I was sure by now God would have reached down and wiped our tears away, stepped in and saved the day, giving us another little life to love and cherish here on Earth. But once again, I say “Amen”, and it’s still raining. And as the thunder rolls, I barely hear His whisper through the rain, “I am with you”.

I listened to another podcast episode of “That Sounds Fun” with Annie Downs recently (seriously, I am continuously encouraged by her podcasts and the guests she invites). Her guest, Christine Caine, brought up Psalm 119:68 and reminded me, once again, I can hold tight to the fact that I believe in a God who is good. Good, even when I don’t understand His timing or the things He allows to funnel through His mighty hands. Even on days I feel I am not enough, God…is…still…good.

The verse says this, “You are good, and what You do is good; teach me Your decrees.”

And so instead of stepping back, instead of holding in the tears and trying to be strong, I am choosing to lean in and let myself feel all the emotions. I am leaning in on the promises that God is still good and that I am enough. I am leaning into His Word and remembering that God made me on purpose and for a purpose and even though this season is painful and the waiting is difficult and the tears may come…He is still here leaning in with me. God does not waste hurt. He allows facets of beauty from it to pierce the darkness and provide a warmth to soothe your soul while you walk through the valley. 

If you have taken the time to read this post and your inner narrative is one of feeling “not enough” please know there is someone else who understands. Not fully, because I am not you. I was not created to be you, just as you were not created to be me, but you ARE enough. You were created on purpose and for a purpose. Trust that God has a plan and a purpose for you and He will not abandon you.

“The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever – do not abandon the works of your hands.” ~ Psalm 138:8

My Little Gardens

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Everyone’s journey is different. No two people are the same. No combination of events the same. And while that is true, there are also many ways we can relate, sympathize, even empathize with one another. We are not alone. My life experiences may not be the same as yours but with some of you reading this, maybe you can relate. Relate to loss. To waiting. To longing. To the frustrations that come with the answer “no” or “not yet”.

When I first decided to start a blog I was hesitant. To be completely honest, I still am. I wanted to give a place where people felt a little less alone, although I’m sure a large part of that was me needing to remember that I am not alone. I am not alone in loss or grief. I am not alone waiting or longing. This specific post has taken many shapes and forms over the last few weeks as I have stewed over the significance of today, March 4th, and of what I am feeling and how I might want to convey that. It has gone from being a post about learning how to communicate through sadness and grief to how to respond in kindness when people say stupid things (because, let’s be honest, we all say stupid things sometimes) to seasons of waiting to not wanting anyone to feel alone and somehow morphed into this: the lessons I learn from my little gardens. At some point you will probably see another post about the things mentioned above but for today, for some reason, I have decided to process by writing down my thoughts on the plants I have that hold meaning and significance to me and by the end of the post who knows, maybe it will have morphed again. I am not sure why this is what is in my heart today but my prayer is that, by revealing another glimpse into my life and the way I am processing today, you might feel a little less alone and be encouraged to find little garden lessons of your own.

I am going with my dump truck method (mostly because I am learning I over-think things too much if I don’t. Perfect example: the many different visions for this post that have almost made it an impossibility to publish). I will probably jump around here a bit and likely give you more information than you really want or need. If you choose not to read any farther, I won’t hold it against you, this post got crazy long. If you do choose to read more I want to thank you for walking with me as I process.

Today I want to share with you my little gardens that have come out of loss. I want to share with you the way plants have helped me grow and remind me of beautiful life lessons that can be learned as long as I choose not to allow my circumstances to consume me.

I am reminded by a little bamboo that a “no” can sometimes actually be a “not yet” and to never let the “no” make me bitter.

I am reminded by Grandma Anita’s strawberries (seen in the image above) to continue to fight and grow, even in difficult circumstances.

And I am reminded by a backyard oasis of immense love and rest and peace and grace.


~ My Little Bamboo ~

A few years ago when we took our first negative pregnancy test I experienced the struggle with the answer “no”. It was in the first few months of trying and we had known it wouldn’t be easy for us to get pregnant so I thought I had guarded my heart well, rationally anticipating a negative. I took the test in the morning, saw the negative and went off to school, telling myself it was like any other day. I made it through the day, putting it as far from my mind as possible so I could be present for my students. What I didn’t realize was just how deeply my heart hurt at the answer “no”. (Anybody else have a hard time with the word “no”?) My sweet husband, on the other hand, knew that while it may take a while for me to process emotions, eventually the sadness would seep in. Before even receiving a text from me about needing to bail on our plans with friends for that night because I just couldn’t “people” anymore that day, he went out to Trader Joe’s and purchased my favorite cheese, crackers, a bottle of wine, chocolate coconut covered almonds, and a small, beautiful bamboo shoot. That bamboo shoot was the start of my little garden of growth. He brought home the grocery bag, full of reminders things he had chosen with care, and I was overwhelmed by the love he has for me. In a day that started with the answer “no”, my husband turned it into a “not yet”. He took something that to me, felt so harsh and final, and reminded me that it was simply “not yet”. He filled it with hope, hope of growth and life in the future, and I was reminded not to let my heart become bitter just because it was not the answer I had wanted.

I still have the bamboo shoot (it’s one of the few things I have managed to keep alive. Yes, I have even killed succulents) and each time I see it I am reminded of the love my husband has for me. I am reminded to have hope, hope of life and of joy, and to never allow bitterness to consume me. I am reminded of how far we have come and how far we still have to go. I am reminded that I have grown and am continuing to grow, molded and shaped by life experiences, and that “no” can sometimes be seen instead as a “not yet”.


Grandma Anita’s Strawberries ~ 

Two years ago today, March 4th, the world lost a beautiful woman, Grandma Anita. The family did not see it coming. The loss was shocking and felt by the family and throughout the small church community she had been so greatly a part of. After losing my grandmother my senior year of high school, my friend’s grandmother adopted me. Anytime Grandma Anita saw me she greeted me with a smile and a, “Hey, grandfriend,” always asking me how I was doing. She was a woman full of life and vigor, who loved her family and invested in those around her. As her family got ready to sell her house, I was asked if there was anything I might want from the garden she cultivated with such love and care. She was well known for her beautiful garden! I brought home with me strawberry plants, now lovingly referred to as “Grandma Anita’s Strawberries”, and planted them along the barrier wall in our new backyard.

That first fall in our new home included quite the wind storm, knocking down three panels of our fence and crushing a section of strawberry plants. After being transplanted I wasn’t sure the plants would survive and my heart ached. Not only did I want to have a little reminder of Grandma Anita for myself but I also wanted my friends to be able to come over in the summers and eat strawberries from the same plants their grandmother had loved and tended to. The fence was fixed, Spring came, and low and behold, not only did Grandma Anita’s strawberries survive, they have actually grown and spread farther along the barrier wall! Those beautiful plants have grown and shaped our new house, providing us with delicious strawberries for the past two years. From those strawberries I have learned what it is to fight and grow, even in circumstances that seem impossible. Those plants were uprooted, replanted, and then crushed and still they survived. Not only did they survive, they became stronger, growing and spreading and producing delicious fruit. Each time I look out at those strawberries I am reminded not to let my circumstances overwhelm me, but instead I choose to fight and to grow.


~ My Backyard Oasis ~ 

And now, I finally get to the reason today has been on my heart for the last few weeks. I finally get around to telling you why I need to process today through writing. Now I get to the part I have wanted to avoid, but still cleared my schedule this weekend knowing I may need space to process and grieve.

One year ago today, March 4th, 2017, after negative pregnancy test after negative pregnancy test and seeing the answer “no” what felt like a million times, I finally saw those two, beautiful pink lines.

We were pregnant! We were finally pregnant! It somehow seemed so fitting that on the anniversary of losing Grandma Anita, the day would feel a little bit redeemed with so much hope and joy. And so I rejoiced! I had chosen to fight and grow. I had chosen not to allow myself to become bitter but to instead hope and finally my “not yet” had turned into a “yes”!

One year ago today I finally started to allow myself to dream and imagine our future with the little life that was finally growing inside me. The little life that had been so hoped for and prayed for. I started to plan out the nursery and what color schemes I might like. I would finally get to celebrate Mother’s Day and experience all of the joys of pregnancy! By now, if you have read any of my earlier posts, you know how this story ends. I experienced 22 beautiful weeks with our little girl. Weeks full of joy and hope and immeasurable love before we had to say goodbye. And now, as I look back on March 4th, 2017, I long for that moment of utter elation, not yet tainted by sorrow and loss.

If we are able to get pregnant again it will not be the same as before. We will look at those two beautiful lines and be excited, yes, but it will also be different than before. We cannot go back to the moment of pure and utter joy but that does not mean we can’t choose day-by-day, moment-by-moment, second-by-second if we must, to have faith and hope over fear. My prayer is that when that day comes, if that day comes, we will choose to continue to cherish each moment and not be consumed by the endless possibilities of what could go wrong.

Back to my little backyard oasis. The week we said goodbye to Verity Grace my parents came over on a mission, what mission they wouldn’t say. We were told to stay inside and let them work, they would fetch us when they were ready. Ben was working from home that week, I was on summer break, so he went back to working upstairs and I popped in the copy of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (extended edition) that my parents had brought with them. That’s right, when I am sad or sick I like to watch Lord of the Rings and the second one happens to be my favorite. I’m weird. I know.

Hours went by before we were finally allowed to go into our backyard to see what they had done. Our little backyard had been transformed into our own, personal oasis. My parents had graciously dedicated their day to transforming our backyard into a space where we could rest and find peace and comfort. In the empty space along the back of the house they had planted three blueberry bushes and two Russian Sage plants and even had a small potted mint plant to be added to iced tea or coffee. They used the tall shepherd’s hooks from Ben and my wedding to create a little square around our back patio and hung a strand of large outdoor lights from it. And, last but not least, they set up two comfortable reclining lawn chairs so that we could sit back there, in the peacefulness they had created just for us, and enjoy out little oasis.

My parents knew we would need a place where we could remember just how much we are loved and cherished. A place full of life and the promise of a better tomorrow. A place full of peace and rest and grace. A place of beauty amidst the struggles and hardships of life. They blessed us with a place where every time I enjoy the fruit grown by those blueberry plants I can think of my daughter and the immense love surrounding her little life.


My little gardens have taught me much. They have taught me that it is okay to feel sorrow and pain and sadness but to not become bitter at the answer “no” or “not yet”. They have taught me to continue to fight and grow, even when I feel overwhelmed by the fences that come crashing down on me. They have taught me to make time for rest, for peace and for grace. And they have reminded me of the immensity of love.

Today, March 4th, 2018, is also the day one of my friends is marrying her best friend in beautiful, sunny San Diego. As I sit here processing, I am receiving pictures from her stunning wedding and I am reminded of the many emotions of numbers and of dates. Todays date in history has held many, many emotions from the sadness of death, to the joy of new life, to the beauty and excitement of a marriage just begun. And I remember words spoken by Graham Cooke, “There are no good days or bad days, only days of grace. The grace to enjoy or the grace to endure.”

Today my prayer is that your day would be full of grace and that you would be able to find life lessons in your own little gardens.

 

 

The Many Feelings of Numbers & Waiting

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As I drove away from yet another doctor’s appointment with no answers, no solutions, no progress made on our journey toward having another baby, with tears in my eyes (and by tears I mean I was ugly crying, almost to the point of needing to pull over) I was overwhelmed by the feeling of numbers. Numbers have feelings attached to them.

In Math class, or even History class, the feeling attached to numbers was often frustration for me because they never seemed to line up right. They didn’t make sense to the way my brain works. My mind jumbles numbers. It’s why I often don’t have my students memorize exact dates, but more the general time frame. I might see 1784 but out of my mouth comes 1847. I have to check and double-check that I have the correct order of numbers before I type them, say them, post them because my mind does not like to leave them in the order they were supposed to be in and so, numbers can often be frustrating to me.

Significant dates can hold such a wide range of emotions and feelings. Anniversaries, birthdays, March 13th – the start of March Madness (now THAT brings quite a bit of joy for me! I love creating brackets with my classes during March Madness and watching as the underdog teams defeat all odds to beat teams ranked higher than them!). Significant life events are often marked in dates and so we have feelings attached to them. Sorrow on the anniversary of the loss of a loved one. Joy celebrating another year well lived. Despair as months pass by with still no answers, being no closer to having and holding a little baby of our own. Anxiety, anticipation, warmth, love, happy, energetic, the list could go on and on. Dates are attached to events which are connected to emotions and so we think and feel when it comes to dates.

Appointments are filled to the brim with feeling numbers. Let’s take doctors appointments, since this has become the most prominent type of appointment in my life lately, although it could apply to other appointments as well. Specifically the appointment that had me driving away, feeling strongly in numbers. I sat there waiting, watching the minutes on the clock tick by excruciatingly slowly (numbers holding the feelings of dread and anticipation and a bit of hope that maybe this time there will be some answer, a move forward in the process of getting pregnant again. After all, this specialist was the one who helped us get pregnant with Verity). I felt like a number in a long list of numbers as I waited, not a name or a face or a person, just a number.

Finally it is my turn, my name is called. I step into that room and am asked my medical history, and I re-live, yet again, the life and death of my daughter and the infertility journey we have traveled. I am asked for dates, times, numbers and each one feels like a wound opening up again. As I sit there, I think to myself, “Why? Why do they need to know all this again? It’s all in my files and in the portal messages we have been sending back and forth. I have no new information for them so why dredge it all up?” Then, the specialist finally comes in and simply points me back in the direction of my primary care provider, because it will be more cost efficient in the long-run. Wait, what? And suddenly, in just a few short minutes, I am made to feel like a monetary number. I am made to feel like the number of dollars I can bring in and be charged for an appointment that held no new information and gave no new answers. I feel the cost of the half-day I took off of work to go to the in-person appointment the specialist had recommended, and the stress of creating lesson plans for a substitute. I felt the cost of parking in downtown Portland and the anxiety I get anytime I have to drive there. And I felt the cost of being charged to simply be told, “I can’t do anything for you” in person, instead of through messages. As I drove away I felt that hope start to slip slowly through my fingers as despair took over and I felt like a number, not a person and it hit me like a brick, numbers have feelings.

Time, ultimately, is a collection of numbers and so the passing of time holds a multitude of emotions and “feelings”. For anyone who has walked the path of infertility, you know that each month that goes by brings with it a roller coaster of emotions. Recently I have been reading a book titled Seasons of Waiting: Walking by Faith When Dreams are Delayed by Betsy Childs Howard. This book was given to me almost a year ago for my birthday by a dear friend but, at the time, I thought my season of waiting was over. I was finally moving forward in my dream of having a family and so relieved to be done with the waiting and so I didn’t read it. And then, suddenly, life changed and I found myself back in the throws of waiting again. At least once a week my friend would gently encourage me to pick up the book, take a look, maybe see if there was encouragement to be found in among the pages. After months of waiting again for another miracle baby, rapidly approaching another year of waiting, I finally picked up the book. Now, let me just say that I am still working on reading it but I did make it through the first few chapters. I have read through the chapter on waiting for a bridegroom, waiting for a child, and waiting for healing and though there are more chapters yet to come, I have found renewed hope and encouragement in among those numbered pages. In the beginning of the book the author points out that God isn’t wanting us to learn our lesson about waiting so that we don’t have to wait anymore, but instead He wants us to learn how to wait well, even if that waiting continues on for the rest of this life (pg. 14). God is working in our waiting (pg. 15). The Bible is FULL of waiting! The Jews were constantly waiting; Elizabeth waited, Hannah waited, Job waited, the Disciples waited. I am slowly, excruciatingly slowly, learning that beautiful growth can happen in the waiting.

Originally, I had thought that my problem was in not being patient enough, that I haven’t learned my lesson about waiting patiently yet and so God is keeping me in this wasteland of waiting. But that is not how God operates. When it came to dealing with the overwhelming emotions attached to numbers and waiting my first reaction was to detach. Stop feeling numbers. Don’t allow numbers to dictate how I feel. But then, I’m not sure that is truly realistic for me. Round 2 then, how can I keep my many “feeling numbers” in perspective so that I can still feel them without letting them consume me? How can I learn to wait well?

I can start by believing in the truths found in Scripture.

I can continue to hold onto the hope found in Matthew 7:7-11, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

I can strive for the truths found in Philippians 4, to rejoice in the Lord always; to not be anxious about anything, instead bringing it all before the God who created everything and knows my thoughts and feelings better than even I do; to be content in every circumstance and to rely on Him for my strength.

I can keep things in perspective through remembering what Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 has to say about there being a season for everything and never forgetting that for God time is different (2 Peter 3:8).

I can gain wisdom in living knowing that my days are numbered (Psalm 90:12) and that God has established each and every one of my steps, no matter how I try to plan (Proverbs 16:9; Jeremiah 29:11).

I can remember to make the best use of my time because I do not know what tomorrow may bring (Ephesians 5:16; James 4:13-15) and I can be encouraged by those who lived before me.

And so today, my prayer for you is that you would be encouraged in your waiting. Whatever that waiting may be. Know that you are not alone in the waiting and that there can be great beauty in the waiting. That doesn’t mean that the waiting won’t hurt at times; that numbers won’t continue to pass you by, full of all kinds of feelings, but growth can happen in the waiting. Wisdom can be gained. And life can still be full of hope.

 

 

 

 

And Yet I Choose Hope

 

As I put on my makeup one morning in September, bracing myself for another day, I distinctly remember feeling that I wished I could just be “me” again and not this drained and exhausted being that seems to inhabit my body. I didn’t used to have to try so hard to be happy or even wake up in the morning. I used to be able to simply choose clothes to wear for the day, instead of feeling like I’m putting on a costume for a play called “The Happy Teacher/Friend/Family Member”. And then I realized that this is me. A new me. A new normal. And I needed to figure out who I was all over again.

Grief and tragedy don’t just happen for a moment. Sometimes in an instant life changes, but that’s just it, life changes. An event has occurred that has created a new normal. Sometimes the catalyst for change is something wonderful like graduating school, getting married, having a child, getting a new job…and other times it is something hard like finally realizing you need to get out of an abusive marriage, losing a loved one, losing your job.

When changes are hard we tend to lose things. We lose the hopes and dreams we had built, we lose the ease with which happiness once came, we can even lose a bit of ourselves. But I would also argue that we have so very much to gain out of loss, if we allow ourselves the opportunity.

Recently my husband and I escaped to the beach for a weekend. A short little vacation to our favorite cabin up on a hill overlooking this stunning view. It was set to be perfect, actually sunny weather (a rarity for the Oregon Coast) and a long walk on the beach was just what our hearts needed. Unfortunately that morning Ben got a horrible headache and lay down to try and sleep it off but I still felt the call of the ocean. I put on my giant, sleeping-bag of a coat (because even if it looks sunny it’s normally windy and cold down on the beach) and set off. Normally I would plug in my headphones and listen to music as I walked but I had just started listening to a new podcast on my commutes to work and thought I would give that a try instead (besides, if I got too bored I could always switch to music).

In her podcast, The Glorious in the Mundane, Christy Nockels was interviewing Annie Downs (from back in 2016, I’m a little behind in the podcast times and just found this one). As I walked along the beach, by myself, God used that podcast and the words of those wonderful women to speak truths into my life that I needed to hear.

They talked, laughed, reminisced and made me so wish I lived in the South! As they discussed the book that Annie Downs wrote, Looking for Lovely, my heart was overwhelmed by how perfect God’s timing is. I wasn’t behind the times in finding the podcast, I was right in God’s timing. God knew that my heart would need to hear Annie talk about hope, and how it isn’t a Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), or something that comes easily, when I was in a place of holding onto merely a shred of hope and feeling even that slip through my fingers.

That day, that walk, God knew that it was what my heart needed. That reminder that hope isn’t the easy choice but it is worth it! I loved that walk, and the way God used it to speak truths into my heart.

Fast-forward to a week later only this time, I’m at home sitting on my couch with a sinus infection missing a swim championship I had really wanted to be at and forgetting, already, that hope does not come easy. This was week 4 of being sick and I had started feeling that my body would never be (relatively) healthy again. I picked up my copy of Looking for Lovely (because of course I ordered it as soon as I got back to the cabin), while keeping tabs on the swim meet results online, and started the chapter titled “Tragedy”. First, let me say that I am pretty sure this book was written just for me! God knew how to find someone who’s life experiences and feelings I could so relate to and had her write it down knowing I would need to read it (awkward sentence but just roll with me here because I’m doing my dump truck thing). The first two chapters alone describe how I have felt much of my life, including having similar health issues! Anyway, back to the chapter “Tragedy”, that starts out with my life verse, the verse I feel God chose just for me (so much so that I have it permanently inked on my body, but more on that in some other blog post), and I was already hooked. It starts with Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Such a wonderful reminder that we are not expected to walk this path alone.

And then, her words. Her words summed up what I have been trying to embrace in these last months since losing Verity Grace, but she puts it much better than I so I want to share her words with you now. I tried to pair it down but, well, I just couldn’t because it’s all good so brace yourselves for a long quote (possibly formatted incorrectly because I am still new to this whole blogging thing).

It’s not about pretending everything is beautiful and nothing is ugly and you have no questions or doubts and picking out the beautiful in your everyday is going to protect you from anything hurting ever. It’s about feeling the pain, letting the suffering be part of your life, embracing the Romans 5:3 moments so you can process through the Romans 5:4 days so you can live a Romans 5:5 hope-filled life. If you aren’t experiencing pain, you aren’t experiencing beauty. Darkness makes us appreciate the beauty of the light. If you aren’t allowing yourself to feel the hurt, sadness, loneliness, and disappointment this fallen world has to offer, you aren’t feeling the fulness of the joy and beauty the redeemed moments have to offer. There is nothing beautiful about tragedy…But there is beauty in choosing to feel that pain, in calling it what it is, and not pretending everything is okay. Whatever tragedy you have experienced or are currently living through, the most beautiful thing you can do is LIVE. Keep walking, keep weeping, keep eating. Don’t ignore the hurt. Don’t attempt to avoid it and just move on with your life. Feel it all, and invite people in to feel it with you.

The idea of being okay with the sadness and the pain, but still looking for the lovely and the hope has been my goal. I am not always good at it. Some days the sadness overwhelms and the despair weighs me down so much I would rather not move from my bed. But then there are days, moments, that I see the lovely and the beauty in the pain and through the pain.

Recently my girl’s bible study group listened to a sermon by Graham Cooke where he talked about being in the wilderness and how the wilderness reduces our descriptions down to nothing, revealing who we truly are and teaching us how to depend on God and who He is. In that sermon he emphasizes the idea of an “…and yet” statement. Take Job for example, a man who suffered tragedy upon tragedy and yet he still trusted in God. Or the book of Lamentations, where the “and yet” statement can be seen in the middle of pain, panic and fear and yet that belief that God is still good. Sorrowful and yet rejoicing. In pain and yet God is good. When our circumstances feel relentless, we can also experience how relentless God is, something I often forget. As my wonderful bible study leader Anne pointed out, “God asks us to step into our pain to receive our ‘yet’ moment. This happens only in brokenness and humility.” Or as my friend Taylor so beautifully said, “God doesn’t ask us to deny or ignore the pain or hardship, but to believe in the ‘yet’.” And so I am working on looking for the “and yet” moments each and every day and would encourage you to do the same. What are some of your “and yet” moments? If you would be bold enough to share, I would love to hear ways in which you have been able to experience the power of an “and yet” statement in your life. You can either comment, or if it is something you would rather share with just me, please feel free to reach out through the “Contact” section.

The Story of Verity Grace

As I mentioned in my “About Me” section, I am a mom…sort of. I am a mom without a physical child here to hold. Our daughter, Verity Grace Drake, was loved every moment of her 22 weeks of life but she is already living out eternity. Some of you may have heard or read this story before, but not all of you know how long we prayed and waited for Verity Grace to enter our lives.

I have what is called PCOS, something that often makes it difficult to get pregnant, and while I knew this information when we first started trying to grow our family, I didn’t know the toll emotionally it would take. For over a year we tried to get pregnant, seeing doctors and specialists, and then, finally, on March 4 (almost a year ago) we finally took a positive pregnancy test! This means that last year, at this time, I was pregnant with little Verity Grace, even though I was holding my breath, not knowing. Honestly, I held my breath through the first 12 weeks of the pregnancy, in constant prayer that God would keep our baby safe and continue to grow and shape her until the safety of second trimester. Then second trimester came and I finally started to breath a little easier. I felt a little safer. I started to dream a little more, planning out the future, the nursery, wondering if it would be a boy or a girl, praying I would make a decent parent. The baby’s room would be travel themed because my husband, Ben, and I love to travel AND because the baby was lovingly carried around London, Paris, and Rome on a school trip I led Spring Break of 2017. The room would have pictures framed of each place the baby had already been and a giant map of all the places we wanted to take him/her, as well as special markers for loved ones living/traveling around the globe. Oh how I planned and anxiously awaited the arrival of that little life we had prayed so fervently for month after month!

Then, on June 19th, Ben and I went in for our gender reveal/19 week ultrasound. In that meeting we found out two things:

1. We were having a baby girl!
2. She was measuring at 16 weeks, on average, instead of 19

Because of how small she was the doctors set up an appointment with the perinatology department for the day before our 22nd week of pregnancy. The thought at that point was possibly something genetically wrong and we didn’t know what to expect or why she was so small.

On Wednesday, June 21st, I went in for a normal prenatal visit and heard her little heartbeat which helped put my mind at ease a little bit. She was moving around a lot and even though I couldn’t feel her, the nurse kept having to move around to find her heartbeat.

On Friday, July 7th we went in for an ultrasound with the perinatology department and within minutes of being there it was obvious there was no longer a heartbeat. The one thing we had seen and heard strong since our first ultrasound at 6 weeks was her heartbeat so it was a huge shock to us. We truly had not thought to prepare ourselves for losing her.

Verity Grace Drake was born July 9th at 7:02 in the morning. She weighed only 3 ounces and was 7 inches long. Cause of death could be seen immediately. She was such a mover and so active she got all wrapped up in her umbilical cord. Our doctor said the chances of that happening was 0.004% (or something along those lines). He also said this type of death was painless which made our hearts a little less sad. Knowing it wasn’t genetic and is highly unlikely to ever happen again is a huge blessing. The nursing staff that took care of us was amazing and we are so thankful to have had such great support and prayers from so many!

Verity means “a firm belief in something; especially of fundamental importance”. It is a name we always liked if we were to have a girl, but for her it was just perfect. We truly believe in God’s grace and that He is walking with us through this extremely difficult journey. While a part of us obviously wonders, “Why us?”, we also know God’s plans are bigger than our plans, His ways bigger than our ways and His grace is sufficient for us. Naming her became so clear….Verity Grace.

After delivering we were able to see her, hold her and get some much needed closure. We have pictures of us with our little bundle that brought us so much joy in those short 22 weeks we knew her, as well as a treasured memory box that holds her tiny footprints and handprints that we will always cherish!