Saturday, May 21, 2016

To the stranger at Target

I know exactly what you saw.

You saw what seemed like a mother distracted by her cell phone, ignoring the toddler tapping her leg asking her to "c'mere!" And you made a snap judgment about my mothering. And honestly, I probably would have had the same thought if I'd walked by someone else in my shoes. But I would have kept my judgmental thoughts inside my head.

You didn't.

"Oh my gosh. Just talk to your kid!"

I whipped my head around to see you, but you were gone. You could have been any of the handful of women walking away from me. I said "Seriously?" in your general direction, knowing full well that you had every right to question my ability to pay attention to my child.

Except that you didn't have every right. Because you don't know me at all. You decided to judge me based on the three seconds of my day you happened to witness. You decided you were seeing the whole story. Shockingly, you weren't.

What you didn't see is that my toddler had my full attention for the entire shopping trip until that point. You see, in his 2-year-old wisdom, he has deemed himself much too mature to ride in the cart, which puts me on full alert of his whereabouts down every aisle and around every turn. He has opinions about everything that we walk by, so our trip is a constant conversation about what we're buying and what we aren't.

What you didn't see is that I had to pick up a prescription at the pharmacy, all while watching my little guy test the limits, getting farther and farther away. Checking out all the fancy kids' toothpaste and telling me all the characters he sees. And finally finding a spot to sit on a bench near where I was.

What you didn't see is that the very helpful pharmacy tech asked if I would like to enroll in text message reminders for picking up my prescription each month. Since I had unsuccessfully attempted to enroll in this service last month, I decided to give it another try. He had me text a random automated number and follow the prompts. "Text the blue 7 digit Rx number on your bottle." Will came back over to me, pointing to where he wanted to go next. I told him he had to wait just a minute while I finished something. He went back to his bench. I continued the enrolling. "Please text your 4 digit year of birth." Will came back to plead with me again. "Just a second, buddy. I'm almost done." The automated texts kept coming. "Please text the 10 digit pharmacy phone # located on your Rx." Dear Lord, what a process. This better be worth it. I'm locating the phone number and making sure I enter it correctly when Will comes back, taps on my leg and begs for me to "c'mere!"

And that's when you walked by and decided I was a terrible mother for not paying attention to my child. And my heart stopped for half a beat. And I fought the tears stinging behind my eyes. I felt so misunderstood. So attacked. "Seriously?"

I finished enrolling, double checked with the pharmacy tech that I had done it correctly, and proceeded on with the rest of my shopping. By the grace of God, I had saved the pharmacy stop for last, so I just had to grab a couple more items and make it to the check-out lanes and then I could leave. I made it through the check-out process (but not without my dear boy reorganizing all of the snacks on the shelf while I unloaded my groceries and paid), made it to my car, and burst into tears. I texted my husband about you. About how you'd ruined my day. How you'd stolen my joy.

But then I drove home, and God calmly reminded me that no one, least of all a perfect stranger that knows nothing about me or my child, has the power to do that. You don't have the power to ruin my day. You don't have the power to steal my joy. In that moment of your snap judgment, I gave you far more power than you deserved.

So, don't mind me, but I'm taking it back.

For a few minutes, I believed what you thought about me. But it's not the truth. I know that I am a good mother. Heck, I'm a fantastic mother to three amazing children. I'm nurturing and helpful and compassionate. I listen and comfort and teach. My kids know that I love them. And that matters more than what you think you know.

So thanks for making me think. About the truth, about my kids, about myself and my own tendency to judge. But next time, stick around for the whole story. Maybe you could listen to my toddler's toothpaste reviews while I pay for my prescription.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

One piece

My dad loves jigsaw puzzles. I didn't know this about him until a handful of years ago on vacation. Our family spends a week in a cabin on Lake Mille Lacs every summer, and this particular year, my dad found a cabinet full of games and puzzles and decided that we needed to put one of the puzzles together. And it's become a tradition--every year we complete a puzzle. (I use "we" pretty loosely. This photo is a little more accurate--it's pretty much just my dad and brother).

While jigsaw puzzles aren't necessarily on my list of relaxing vacation activities, I do find them fascinating. I love that I can reach into a box of puzzle pieces and pull one out and (without looking at the picture on the box) that one piece tells me absolutely nothing about what the final product is going to look like. It might be blue. I could guess that it's part of the sky or water or maybe a pick-up truck or someone's shirt. But I would only be guessing. The only thing that one piece tells me is that 1/1000th of that puzzle is blue.

One of the biggest gifts God gave me when Hannah died was the overwhelming peace and understanding that we were only seeing the tiniest part of a much bigger picture, and that He was the only one who could see the whole thing. I can actually picture where I was sitting in my midwife's office when this happened. We had found out Hannah was no longer alive, and we were scheduling induction for the next morning. We were devastated. Nothing was happening the way we thought it would. But in our grief, God was saying, "I know this doesn't make sense. But trust me."

A friend was in the hospital after Hannah was born and we got to talking about this idea that we all have a list of questions to ask God when we get to heaven. Why do bad things happen? Why do babies die? We want answers. We want things to make sense in our finite, limited human brains. And my friend said, "I think we're going to get to heaven, be face-to-face with our Creator and think, 'Well. I feel like I had something to ask you. But I don't think I do anymore.'" Because in that moment, everything will make sense. We will finally be seeing the whole picture. The completed puzzle. We will see all of our pieces and where they all fit together. Our questions will be answered before they're even asked.

Four and a half years later, my "Hannah died" puzzle piece isn't all alone anymore. It is surrounded by a few more pieces and sometimes I can tell they're starting to take shape. It's as if my single blue puzzle piece from earlier is now surrounded by other blue pieces and I can tell it's going to be a sailboat. The whole sailboat isn't put together yet, and I certainly don't know where the sailboat fits into the rest of the picture, but it's getting there.

And that's what grief looks like right now. I still hate that that piece has to be there, but my puzzle wouldn't be complete without it. And I'm called to trust the One who holds the rest of the pieces and knows where they all belong.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Gallery Walls

When we moved into this house almost three years ago, I was very pregnant with Will and it was all I could do to just get sheets on beds and clothes in closets. I did eventually hang a few photos on the walls, but for the most part, I didn't care enough about decor to make my crazy pregnant self even crazier.

Fast forward to a couple of months ago. I decided to do some major purging throughout our house, and one area I had to tackle was a storage area downstairs. In that area, there were three boxes full of framed photos that had all been displayed in our old house. A good portion of the frames went to Goodwill, but I did keep quite a few to repurpose on some focus walls that I'd wanted to create.

One wall is in our living room. In the midst of the purging, we also rearranged a couple of pieces in this room, leaving an empty wall looking even more bleak. Enter gallery wall #1!

My favorite frame is the big collage one that holds square Instagram photos. We also used a few family photos that our friend Alissa took, as well as the kids' school pictures, a wedding photo, and the picture of Hannah's footprints. The printable on the lower left is available here on etsy, the ceramic cross was from Hobby Lobby, and I made the Minnesota piece.

Gallery wall #2 has been a while in the making. Almost five years ago, our family of four took a very memorable trip to Duluth and Dan got some awesome photos, including one of Jack, Leah, and me. For about a year, we've had that photo and one of the lighthouse in Canal Park above our bed. I loved having Dan's photography displayed, but they were small for the wall and their placement was definitely temporary. :) When we went to Duluth in November, we recreated the shot of me with the kids (since there are three of them now!) and he also got a great shot of the lift bridge. So now I knew I wanted to stick with the Duluth/Lake Superior theme for this wall. And I love the final product!

The three photos are all Dan's. Thanks, honey. ;)

This is one of my favorite pieces! It's a water color of Lake Superior and is available from The Big Lake on etsy. Please check out her shop (and her Instagram feed)--she has some really great stuff!

These were a really fun find. It was a pack of 18 vintage postcards from the North Shore. The shop is called Bursts of Creativity and they have all sorts of sweet vintage stuff. :)

This driftwood anchor was also an awesome find on etsy from Simple Beach Signs. And I made the sign next to it with a piece of wood from Michaels.

I love how much just having art on my walls makes this house feel more like home, even after almost three years of living here!

Also, if you're looking for gallery wall inspiration, Pinterest is your friend. :)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A grieving sibling

I had a very sweet moment with Leah last week. I was upstairs finishing cleaning up the kitchen and Jack and Dan were also upstairs doing something on the computer. I knew Leah had gone downstairs, and we were all planning on watching a movie, so I just assumed she was getting things ready. I had to bring something downstairs, and I came down to find her sitting in our big recliner with Hannah's scrapbook open in her lap and she was sobbing. I scooped her up and sobbed with her for a while. I said "can you tell me what's making you sad right now?" She said "Hannah was so small and she died." And she kept saying over and over, "I wish that never happened." 

She was just so sweet and it breaks my heart that she will never have a sister here. She was so little--not quite 2 1/2--she never really grieved. But three years later, she's obviously much more aware of things now. It's very interesting to walk through that with her now.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014


My sweet Hannah should be turning three today.

But she's not. And while that reality hurts, the pain has changed. It's not the despairing pain that we felt in the first days and weeks after her death. It's not even the lingering pain that followed us that first year as we navigated life after two losses.

Last week, I realized it was October 30th, which was the last day I remember feeling Hannah really kick me. And it hit me--this will never NOT hurt. There will always be something painful about this loss. This little life should be a part of our family. Life goes on and most days are filled with hope and joy.

This year in BSF, we are studying the life of Moses and we were talking yesterday about what we are most thankful for about what God has taught us so far this year. And most notably, I am beyond grateful for God's faithfulness. It's amazing to read and study about how God was faithful to Moses and the Israelites and then look at my own life and know without a doubt that he is that same faithful God today. We haven't just survived the last three years. God has carried us so amazingly through it all and has used it as an opportunity for us to grow and to lean on Him.

I love you, my beautiful girl! Can't wait for the day I can hold you again.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

one year

My dearest Will,

One whole year.

One year ago, I had no idea how much love my heart could hold.

One year ago, I didn't know the joy that awaited us.

One year ago, I laid eyes on you for the first time and fell head-over-heels in love.

Frankly, I'm not sure how it's already been a year. It feels like just last week we were heading to the hospital on an unseasonably warm September morning, assuming we'd be there all day and night waiting on you. But you blessed us with your presence a mere two hours after we got into our room. What a lovely surprise!

Your laugh is infectious. Your cheeks are practically edible. You are just all-over squeezable and delicious. Seriously, I could just sit and kiss you all day long. You might object. But I might try.

I can't even describe how you've completed our family. It's a crazy thing, actually. When I look at the way WE thought things would go, you never actually should have been a part of us. We would have been done at Hannah. And then we would have been done at Charlie. So to have you in our lives is beyond a gift. And as much as it looks to us like you never should have been here, God has always known you'd be the baby to complete our family. He has had plans for you since before creation. Big plans. Good plans. And lucky for us, plans that included life on earth with us.

One of my greatest joys is watching your big brother and sister love you. They waited a long time to have a little sibling! And the excitement they had when they came to the hospital one year ago has not waned. They still simply adore you! They love to see you when you wake up in the morning. They love to play with you when they get home from school. They want to hold you and feed you and read to you and lay with you. You're a lucky little brother. :)

Thank you. Thank you for being you and being ours. I love you to the moon and back and can't wait to see what this next year has in store.


Video of Will's first year:

Sunday, July 20, 2014

12 years

I officially rang in our 12th anniversary by waking up my snoring husband at 2:00am to let him know he'd forgotten to put on his cpap mask.

Romantic, right? ;)

Ah, how things change in 12 years. I remember celebrating our dating anniversary every month. We also celebrated every 100 emails (a pretty big deal in the pre-texting, pre-Facebook world we lived in) all the way to 2,000-something. Lots of flowers, lots of gifts. We even had a big fancy date on our 1-month wedding anniversary. Ha! Now we sneak out for a couple hours of drinks and appetizers and tell each other to please not waste money on a card. :)

Would I go back and change how we did things?

Not for a second. I love how we celebrated each other then. I love the things that were important to us. I love that I have stacks of greeting cards from those "young love" days. I love that the couple in that photo had no idea what awaited them, but they were in it together regardless of what came their way.

I also love where we are now. I love how the years have changed us. I love that we have three littles to share this day with.

It's also so great that in the grand scheme of things, 12 years is just a drop in the bucket. We look back on the first chapter of our marriage and marvel and how things have changed and how much we thought we knew back then. But I know that in 12 more years, we'll look back at this point in our marriage and think the same thing.

So my dear, happy anniversary. We've got a good thing going. Here's to the next 12 years, and another 12 years, and 12 more after that. Love you.