Thursday, November 03, 2016

Grief shared

I've expressed my dislike of "inspirational quote art" before. But I've got another good one for you. ;)

Hannah's birthday is in two days. And the whole week has just felt very heavy. I expressed this to Dan on Sunday or Monday and wasn't sure if this year was feeling harder than other years or if it's always just a crappy week. I have a feeling it's the latter and that it just sneaks up on me every year.

Then I woke up on Tuesday morning with a song in my head and a crazy idea. This year is Hannah's golden birthday (she'd be turning 5 on the 5th). I already had some ideas of ways to incorporate "gold" into the ways we acknowledge her birthday, but I decided to ask others to participate too. I posted on Instagram and Facebook that I'd love people to take a picture of something gold or yellow and share it with me. And I've been overwhelmed with the response. I have quite the collection of photos already. I'll post a full album of them on Facebook tomorrow, but here's a sneak peek:

A funny thing happened as these yellow pictures started coming in. The week felt lighter. People were remembering our girl with us. We didn't have to carry that alone. Just like five years ago, when our world crashed around us, and we felt held and loved and supported like never before. People had our backs. People loved and grieved for our daughter with us.

The week is still hard. I wish this wasn't reality. But this will always be our story. I'm just grateful for friends who are willing to be a part of the story with us. And for a God who remains faithful through it all.

Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

On the weather, Sandra McCracken, and remembering

As we approach Hannah's birthday, I'm in that time of year of intense remembering. Remembering what our lives were like five years ago and how innocent we were. Remembering how much has changed since then and where God has brought us. Some days this remembering is subtle. And then there are days like last Thursday.

One of the most prominent memories this time of year is the weather. There is a certain perfect fall day that is very reminiscent of the first week of November, 2011. The sky is absolutely clear, the temperature is cool enough to need a jacket, but we're all in denial that winter is coming and likely refuse that extra layer, and the sun is intense and beautiful. Last Thursday was exactly that--amazingly crisp and clear and just lovely. The kids and I met some friends for lunch and ran a few errands, and I welcomed the cool reminders on my face. I remember how weird it felt that November 3, 2011 was such a beautiful day. Didn't the world know the news we'd just gotten? Didn't it care that there was nothing beautiful about our life that day? I woke up the morning of November 4th to more of the same--headed to the hospital under the clear, blue, sunny sky. And November 5th, the sun came up outside our hospital room as we held our dear, tiny daughter. We drove home, empty-handed, with the heat on in the car. Because, well, no jackets. So when these fall days threaten to steal my joy and bring me back to a place of bitter pain, I don't let them. I live for the reminders that Hannah was a part of our lives.

On Thursday night, Dan and I went to an All Sons and Daughters concert at Open Door. The opening act was their friend Sandra McCracken. I knew I'd heard of Sandra before, but I didn't think I'd recognize anything. And I didn't--not any particular song, anyway. But as soon as she began to sing, her very distinct voice transported me, again, to 2011. I knew right away that she'd sung a song with Indelible Grace, one of a handful of songs my cousin had sent me after Hannah died. It was a song that I listened to multiple times a day for many months. "Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul" is a perfectly honest hymn of grief. It was exactly the song I needed in those first days (and weeks and months), when I wasn't yet ready to say "It is well with my soul."

Thy mercy seat is open still
Here let my soul retreat
With humble hope attend thy will
And wait beneath thy feet

Oh, how grief sneaks in when we're not expecting it. And even sometimes when we are. I know it's inevitable in these next couple weeks. And I welcome the memories.

Friday, October 14, 2016

October 15th

October is "Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness" month, with October 15th set aside as the specific awareness day.

This day feels different every year. But no matter how many years pass, it will always be significant. Hannah and Charlie will always be a part of our family. And although grief is forever changing, I am honored to speak their names and remember their brief lives.

"When a child loses his parent, he is called an orphan. When a spouse loses her partner, she is called a widow. When parents lose their child, there isn't a word to describe them. This month recognizes the loss so many parents experience across the United States and around the world."
-Ronald Reagan, October 1988

Friday, October 07, 2016

Together is better

It's Friday. Which means I am simultaneously reminiscing about this past Tuesday and counting the days until next Tuesday.

You see, Tuesdays are kind of a big deal around here lately.

It started innocently enough. I told a friend that I was going to bring him and his roommates dinner, and we planned a date for that to happen. And then, a few days prior, I re-noticed a verse hanging on the wall in my dining room.

Truth be told, I bought this about 7 months ago because it was pretty and it talked about eating so it worked well for a dining room. (I know--I'm super deep and spiritual). The more I thought about it and talked to Dan about it, the more I felt like I wanted to be people who actually DO that, not just people who have a Bible verse ABOUT that on their wall. So I told my friend, in so many words, "Change in plans! I'll still feed you, but you should come to our house for dinner." And they did.

The first week, it was our friend and two of his roommates. The next week, it increased by three--the fourth roommate, plus two more friends. And the next two weeks brought two more friends to our increasingly cozy table.

And now Tuesdays are totally our favorite part of the week! We eat and drink and laugh so hard we cry. It's kind of an indescribably beautiful thing.

And my kids? They're in their glory. :)

These people, most of whom were strangers just a few weeks ago, are now some of the dearest people to me. And we're only a month in! Just imagine the shenanigans that lie ahead!

Love you, friends! See you in four days. ;)

Friday, September 23, 2016

September Top 5

Happy Autumn! It's my favorite time of the year. Here are some more of my favorites right now.  :)

1) TEA!
I'm not a coffee drinker, but in the last couple of years I've warmed up (pun intended) to the idea of tea. I'm still exploring, but this is one of my favorites.
And of course, Starbucks passion tea is just as awesome hot as it is iced, so that's another go-to.

2) This is Us
NBC has been advertising this new Parenthood-type drama for a while now. I went in with pretty high hopes and I was not disappointed. I already love the characters and the plot twist at the end was intriguing. Here's the scene that sealed the deal for me.

3) The Year of Living Danishly

Shauna Niequist recommended this book a few weeks ago and I requested it from the library right away. Truth be told, I'm only a few chapters in, but it's absolutely delightful. The author is a joy to read. The Danish concept of hygge is something that Dan and I embraced a couple of years ago (blog post coming), so this idea of the "world's happiest country" has been intriguing to me. The author moves to Denmark for a year when her husband lands a job with Lego. Each chapter covers one month of their year and what the author refers to as her Happiness Project. At this point I either want to move to Denmark or befriend Helen Russell. Maybe both.

4) All Sons and Daughters
I decided to re-do some of my Pandora stations a while ago and have been loving my All Sons and Daughters station! Plus, they're going to be at Open Door next month if you're local. Join me! In the meantime, here's one of my favorites, Great Are You Lord.

5) Cooking!
Summer is all about grilling and salads and light dinners. And that is totally welcome for a couple of months, but by mid-August I'm longing for comfort food and my crock pot and delicious food that takes more than 20 minutes to prepare.
And if I have a table full of people to share that food with? Even better! (Blog post coming on this as well....)

So, there you have it. Hope you're enjoying the change in temps and are settling into the new school year nicely. :)

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Summer of Fun!

Just before Jack and Leah got out of school a few months ago, I came across a blog post that made me think about how I was going to approach my summer with three kids in the house. Around the same time, a friend on Facebook said that she'd be posting a photo every day during the summer to show what they were doing to find the joy in every day. I decided to combine these two ideas and post a photo every day, showing the joy in even the most mundane of days, and to focus on FUN instead of potentially getting stressed or bored or annoyed. :)

I love my children, and I truly do enjoy having them home all summer. I love lazy mornings and going to the beach and eating popsicles outside. But even in the midst of the fun, I tend to still crave structure and routine in our days and weeks. But this summer, I decided to throw all that right out the window. Out with the chore charts and screen time tickets and in with the impromptu ice cream dates, the bonfires, the beach days, and the movie nights.

***Before I continue... Yes, my kids still did chores when I asked, and they didn't have unlimited access to the TV or computer. And no, I did not plan something fun each and every day to keep them entertained and prevent boredom. We got bored. We got annoyed with each other. We had crappy days and long days and right now we all have this horrendous head cold! But that's what made this fun--we had to find the joy in the midst of even the hardest days. When the toddler wouldn't nap and the road construction had us trapped in our own driveway and it was so hot I thought I might actually melt. Because even on those days, I could still find lots of things to be grateful for.

And here's the thing. When you have to find the joy in every day, you realize how amazingly blessed you are. I enjoyed my family so much this summer! I didn't bemoan the mundane tasks of laundry or washing dishes or packing lunches for the beach. Because I was having so much fun with these crazy kids of mine! (And my husband--summer of fun happened on weekends too!)

Here's a smattering of our "summer of fun" photos:

A few days ago, I took the kids out to Applebees for a "farewell to our summer of fun" celebration lunch. I had printed about 40 of this summer's photos and brought them to look through. We spread out the photos on the table and had an awesome time remembering some of the things we'd done. We also talked about our favorite memories and what things we did this summer that we want to do again next summer.

We ate burgers and French fries and ice cream (and Jack wore the barbecue sauce from his ribs all day). We laughed. We remembered.

And now we're heading into a new season. Back to some structure and routine, which I think we're all craving a little right now. But I am mourning the end of this summer. I will be a little sad to put Jack and Leah on the bus on Tuesday morning. (I think Will will be a LOT sad to see them go....)

Thank you, my children, for joining me on this crazy summer ride! Love you lots. ;)

Friday, August 19, 2016

August Top 5

Summer is winding down (sad face), but fall is around the corner (happy face, as long as it's a good one!). Here's some of what I'm enjoying right now. :)

1) Books!
We vacationed since my last top 5, which means I had a little more time to read for fun. A few of my favorites from the last month:

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

This was our latest bookclub pick and we all loved it. It's a murder mystery set in England in 1950 whose narrator is an 11-year-old girl who you'll just fall in love with. And it's the first of a handful of books based on the same character, so there are more to look forward to.

Wild in the Hollow

I mentioned in July that Seth Haines' Coming Clean was on my list of things to read, after doing a 30-day journal of his. Well, Seth's book is still on my "to read" list, but his wife's book is now on my "already read" list. ;) And it was fabulous. So honest and raw and inspiring. I adore memoirs, so this was right up my alley. You'll also want to follow her on social media because her four boys are simply adorable.

Night Driving

I went to college with Addie and was super excited to read her first book, When We were on Fire a few years ago. Night Driving was just as beautiful and real as her debut memoir. Her writing style is just lovely and you'll want to sit down for a cup of gas station coffee and chat about everything under the sun. :)

2) Olympics!
Obviously, the Summer Olympics in Rio is pretty much all that's been on my television for the last two weeks straight. The Olympics got its own blog post last week, so I won't bore you with anymore ramblings about Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky and the Final Five and happy tears and the awesomeness of Jen Hatmaker's Olympic commentary. But honestly, I'm not sure what I'm going to do when these games are over. I love that there's just always something on TV that I want to watch. I'll probably sink into a deep depression next week when NBC is back to America's Got Talent. :(

3) Lundberg Fiesta Lime Rice Chips
For a variety of digestive reasons, Jackson has recently joined me as the second gluten-free eater in our house. I'm trying to make the transition as painless as possible for him, so we're experimenting with some new recipes, including one for pizza crust. It calls for psyllium husk powder, which required a trip to somewhere a little fancier than Target. I mean, who has psyllium husk powder just sitting in their pantry? Not I. So we ventured into Whole Foods yesterday, and of course we did not leave the store with ONLY psyllium husk powder. "Whole Foods. Come for the psyllium husk powder, stay for all the free samples!" And so we did. They happened to be sampling these amazing rice chips and we bought two bags. THEY. ARE. SO. GOOD. We've had them on their own and with salsa, but I can't imagine how amazing they'd be with guacamole. Mmmm. Go buy some and be happy.

4) On Being podcast

I'm still enjoying my morning walks with podcasts in my earbuds, and Krista Tippett has delivered a few great ones. She actually has a fascinating backstory and produces her podcast from Loring Park in Minneapolis. Local love! A few of my favorites of hers have been interview with Brene Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert, and the Indigo Girls. And her voice is so soothing--I could listen to her interview a 6-year-old about macaroni and cheese and still love it. I need more podcast time. I keep coming across podcasts I want to listen to, and my "unplayed" list is growing longer and longer. Oh, #FirstWorldProblems.

5) These crazies!

Yes, I'm including my children in my favorite things this month. Because we have had a seriously awesome summer and I just love them to pieces. There's a future blog post coming on this, so I won't say too much now. But the joy they've exuded this summer has blessed my heart, and I'm mourning the impending beginning of school right along with them!

Enjoy these last few weeks of summer, my friends!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Olympic Fever!

Okay, guys. We're almost halfway through this two-week Rio Summer Olympic experience. And frankly, I need to process. Join me, won't you?

I love the Olympics. I always have. I mean, when else does the world come together like this? Yes, there are still horrible things happening all over the place. But this feels like a couple weeks of beautiful coming together and (mostly, ha!) healthy competition. I have very fond memories of watching both summer and winter games as a kid (you know, when both summer and winter were the same year every four years?). I longed to watch gymnastics and figure skating and wished I wasn't too tall for either. :) I remember the summer Olympics being on American soil--Atlanta in 1996. Our women's gymnastics team, the "magnificent seven" won gold. Oh, and that vault by Kerri Strug. Bless her heart.

In the last few Olympics, it's gotten even more exciting, particularly with the addition of Michael Phelps to the world of swimming. I can distinctly remember sitting in the office of our first home in 2004, playing a game on the desktop computer (haha--this was obviously before kids) and watching this 19-year-old swimming phenom taking the Athens summer games by storm.

And it just keeps getting better and more exciting every time another Olympic year rolls around. I think what makes this year particularly fun is that Jack and Leah are old enough to actually enjoy watching some of the events. I'm sitting in the family room with both of them right now, as the afternoon coverage bounces among the various events happening live. We're marveling at the men's 1500-meter freestyle swim. (You guys--that's roughly 15 minutes of swimming without stopping. God help me). This is on the heels of seeing the semifinal of the men's 50-meter freestyle swim last night. It's one length of the pool and they literally don't breathe at all until they finish. The pool is a blur of splashing water and flailing bodies. Insanity.

We're waiting for coverage to return to rowing finals, which is a very exciting event for Jack and me, having both read The Boys in the Boat this year. (Side note--if you haven't read it, please do. And they adapted it for younger readers, which Jack loved). We're watching women's indoor volleyball and qualifying high jumps in track and field. We're hoping that the "trampoline" event listed in the schedule actually going to happen. Because that is so fun to watch!

I think another factor in the excitement of this particular summer Olympics is social media. Obviously, Twitter and Facebook has existed for previous Olympics. But memes are a more recent addition to the social media world, and there have been a plethora of amazing ones.

And, of course, Phelps face....

Also? Jen Hatmaker. Jen has made these Olympic games so enjoyable. She's hilarious--I'd love to sit and watch some events with her. :) 

I also feel like this first week has been such an emotional rollercoaster. The Olympics make me so happy! But also, THE TEARS! My top tear-jerker moments?
1) The refugee team entering the stadium at the opening ceremonies.
2) Michael Phelps running into the stands to kiss his baby.
3) Women's gymnastics gold and announcing their team name, the Final Five. So touching!
4) David Boudia and Steele Johnson's interview after winning silver.
5) Anytime the person on the medal stand starts to tear up (I'm looking at you, Phelps, you softy). 
6) Aly Raisman finishing her floor routine. She immediately started bawling, and then so did I.
7) Simone Manuel winning (tying for) gold in the 100-meter freestyle, making history as the first African American woman to win gold in an individual swimming event. 

Okay, a little over week left, people. Swimming is coming to an end, and now we get to delve into track and field! I said on Facebook yesterday, I'm a little concerned for my emotional health when these games are over. I'm going to be so depressed when I can't turn on the TV and watch whatever sport happens to be going on. Talk about withdrawal! Lord help us all. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

14 years

Happy Anniversary to this amazing man of mine! Fourteen years ago we had no idea what was in store for our life together. God knew what he was doing when he gave us each other.

So grateful for you, my love! xoxo

"It's a sweet, sweet thing
Standing here with you and nothing to hide
Light shining down to our very insides
Sharing our secrets, bearing our souls,
Helping each other come clean.

Better than our promises
Is the day we got to keep them
I wish those two could see us now"

Friday, July 15, 2016

July Top 5-ish

Hey, Happy Midsummer! Here is this month's list of things I'm enjoying right now. :)

1) Friday Night Lights

So I finished Grey's Anatomy and still haven't found another show to watch during naptime. I'm not in too much of a hurry because naptime is a different beast when Jack and Leah are home, but I'll find something once school starts long as Will is still napping! Anyway, Dan and I needed another show to watch at night when the kids go to bed. We've had some great ones (Lost, 24, Parenthood, Breaking Bad, and most recently Parks and Rec.), so it always feels like we have big shoes to fill with what we pick. I had read something about Friday Night Lights recently, and I knew at least one of the writers also wrote for Parenthood, which we adored. Plus Dan played high school football and I love Kyle Chandler, so it seemed like the stars were correctly aligned. We're only a few episodes in, but we're both hooked! The culture of high school football in Texas is just so fascinating. I'm looking forward to getting further into the story, but so far so good. :)

2) Outshine Peach Fruit Bars

I mentioned in June that I crave cold things in the summer, and these fruit bars are always in my freezer. There are a ton of awesome flavors (pomegranate is another fave), but the peach are pretty perfect. I don't share them with my kids--they get the cheap Target popsicles and they know the "big popsicles" are mine. Ha! I'm so mean. ;)

3) Sara Groves

I recently organized some CDs (do other people still own CDs?) and realized I have a ton of music that I never listen to. I'm generally listening to the radio in the car or Pandora in the house. So I bought a mid-90s-style travel CD wallet and filled it with CDs to keep in the car to mix up my radio listening. A HUGE chunk of the CDs--at least 10--are Sara Groves. I've been listening to her older stuff and remembering why I've loved her for so long. She's so real and an extremely talented songwriter. Her albums have spoken to me in so many stages of my life and it's been fun to remember as I listen to everything. 

4) God Centered Mom podcast

I found this podcast on a couple different lists as I looked for new podcasts to get into. I'm usually not a huge fan of the typical "Christian mom blog," but I decided to give this a try anyway and I'm SO glad I did. God Centered Mom is Heather MacFadyen and so far the episodes I've listened to have been applicable and encouraging. (Some favorites are "Pain Not Wasted" with Peggy Banks and "The Respect Effect" with Emerson Eggerichs). She's been doing this for a while, so I have LOTS of episodes to choose from!

5) Seth Haines' "Coming Clean"

Okay, this one shouldn't actually count until next month because I haven't technically STARTED the book. ;) But I somehow subscribed to his "Coming Clean 30-day Journal" and it's awesome. (I really wish I could tell how how I signed up for this, but I cannot. If you want to search longer than I did just now, check out his Facebook page or website). As Seth says, everyone is addicted to something. And the journal prompts he has put together are kind of cool. I also have his wife Amber's book "Wild in the Hollow" on deck for vacation reading next week, so stay tuned for that review too. :)

(Which reminds me of one of my favorite children's books, The Alphabet from A to Y with Bonus Letter Z! by Steve Martin. Yes, that Steve Martin. The book is alliterative and so hilarious. Check it out here)

Okay, on to my final favorite thing this month....

Our new ice cream maker!!! So about a month ago, I got an Amazon credit because of some weird settlement with Kindle. Anyway, all of a sudden I got $30 from them and then my brother gave me an Amazon giftcard for my birthday. I had been sort of thinking about looking at ice cream makers because it sounded like something fun to do with the kids this summer. And then I remembered how much a friend of mine LOVES the ice cream maker attachment for her Kitchenaid mixer, so I decided to get it. I have had my Kitchenaid mixer for over five years and I don't use it for very much. But I like it enough for the things I DO use it for (pizza dough and whipping cream--about 3 times a year for each), that I keep it around. Well now I have a whole new use for my mixer! And it's been really fun. As soon as it came (well, 15 hours after it came--the bowl has to freeze first), we made some vanilla ice cream. Then we made strawberry and chocolate. All of them were delicious (and I think all of us liked a different one best). We're having friends for dinner tonight, so last night I made more vanilla and this morning I made raspberry sorbet. I snuck a taste before sticking it in the freezer, and it's pretty amazing. Looking forward to dessert. :)

So there you have it. Happy July! And here's to enjoying more of the sun and ignoring the back-to-school section at Target!

Friday, July 08, 2016

Be all there

It feels as though the world is coming apart at the seams right now.

In the last few days alone, the loss of life has been staggering. Alton Sterling. Philando Castile. Five police officers in Dallas, TX.

There are not adequate words right now. Nothing can make this right. Doing noting feels helpless, but really, what is there to do?

Jim Elliot said, "Wherever you are, be all there."

So here I am. Loving and mothering three littles who are growing up in a painful, scary world. But I can raise these babies of mine to love. To cherish and respect people regardless of the color of their skin. To bring peace to the chaos. To forgive and to help and to unite. To pray for each other and this world.

It doesn't feel big. But it's I'm supposed to be. So I will be all here.

Friday, June 24, 2016


Eight years ago today, I said goodbye to Julie. She was leaving on a hiking/camping trip with a group of students through Angel Tree ministries.

What I didn't know is that I was saying goodbye to Julie for a lot longer than a long weekend. The trip was cut short when Julie and one of the students were taken by the currents of the Temperance River.

It's funny how memory works. How selective it is, leaving seemingly random bits of the story to be recalled. I remember what I was wearing that last time I saw her. I walked outside where she was walking in from the parking lot and the wind caught the skirt I was wearing and she said something about it being like Marilyn Monroe over the air vents in that iconic photo.

I remember seeing the whole team of adults who were going on the trip standing inside the church, holding hands in a circle and praying.

I remember my phone ringing two mornings later, earlier than I usually got phone calls. And Julia's voice on the other end telling me what had happened. And saying, "Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh," over and over because it was all too unbelievable. Unimaginable.

I remember walking into church that morning and glancing over at the receptionist's desk. Her desk. I'd glance in that direction every time I walked in the door for a long time, always half expecting to see her face. Always crushed when the reality hit me that I never would again.

I remember the whole staff sitting in a big circle in the chapel. Telling Julie stories. Crying together. I remember walking through the planning of her funeral. A task I'd completed a few other times because it was my job, but never like this. Never for a friend.

I remember seeing her face in the casket at her funeral. And thinking, "That's not Julie. Julie isn't really here." Because everything that made her Julie was gone. The life, the personality, the grace. Her shell was left, but it wasn't her.

And now it's eight years later, and she's still not here. But we remember. I remember the sweet young woman who made me laugh. Her passion for photography and American Idol, for good food and deep friendships. And how she wouldn't drink out of a water bottle because she read it could give you smoker's lips. See? She's still making me smile.

Julie Steiskal
July 28, 1978 - June 25, 2008

Friday, June 17, 2016

June Top 5

I decided to lighten things up around here, at least once a month, and give a little list of things I'm enjoying at the moment. So without further ado, here are my top five things for this month.

1) Starbucks Iced Passion Tea

We Minnesotans endure some long, cold winters. So when summer comes and the weather gets nice and warm, I crave cold things. Popsicles, ice cream, anything frozen and sweet. Now if my waistline and pocketbook didn't protest, I'd enjoy a frappuccino/cooler/frappe every day. Instead I indulge in those about once a month and reach for THIS AMAZINGNESS in between. I'm not a coffee drinker, so this past winter I discovered a love of hot herbal tea, including Passion Tango tea at Starbucks. And LO AND BEHOLD, they also make it iced and it is SO GOOD.

2) Love Beyond Reason by John Ortberg

A few weeks ago, I was searching online about books about God's love and decided to go with this one because I've loved Ortberg's stuff in the past. And I have not been disappointed. He's a very easy author to read, and the content is fantastic.
An excerpt from the first chapter:
"We are all of us rag dolls. Flawed and wounded, broken and bent. Ever since the Fall, every member of the human race has lived on the ragged edge. Partly our raggedness is something that happens to us. Our genes may set us up for certain weaknesses. Our parents may let us down when we need them most. But that's not the whole story. We each make our own deposits into the ragged account of the human race. We choose to deceive when the truth begs to be spoken. We grumble when a little generous praise is called for. We deliberately betray when we're bound by oaths of loyalty. Like a splash of ink in a glass of water, this raggedness permeates our whole being. Our words and thoughts are never entirely free of it. We are rag dolls, all right.
But we are God's rag dolls. He knows all about our raggedness, and He loves us anyhow. Our raggedness is no longer the most important thing about us."

3) Grey's Anatomy

I had never watched this show until I binge-watched it this past school year during Will's naps. I'd sit and crochet and get sucked into their world. The most recent season comes out on Netflix TOMORROW and I will try to make it last longer than a week. ;) And then I'll be all caught up and have a new show to watch in the fall!

4) This Good Word Podcast

I'm a workout DVD junkie, but by the time the snow has melted and the sun is up nice and early, I am dying to get outside. So I've been walking in the mornings before Will wakes up and it's one of my favorite things ever. I have a pathetic lack of music on my phone, so I've started listening to podcasts while I walk. I decided to start with my friend Steve's podcast "This Good Word" and I've enjoyed every single episode. Some are just him, but he also has some awesome interviews (Sarah Bessey and Seth Haines were two of my favorites). I'm almost caught up (he posts a new episode once a week), so I'll have to expand my podcast world pretty soon.

5) Avocado toast

It took me a while to jump on this bandwagon, but now this is one of my favorite quick lunches. I'm the only person in my house who likes avocados, so I often have half of an avocado in the fridge. Sometimes I also have leftover bacon, which takes avocado toast to a whole other level. :)

Friday, June 10, 2016


The Belmont Stakes horse race is on tomorrow night. I've talked before about how that event transports me back to the year we lost Charlie.

When I cleaned up my blog a few weeks ago, I changed my "profile picture" over in the righthand column. For almost four years, that photo was this:

And while that seems like a happy enough picture, I can still remember the behind-the-scenes well enough to know that it wasn't. I mean, sure. I was eating Punch Pizza and celebrating Dan's birthday. But that's about as far as the smiling went.

That woman was mere days post-miscarriage. Still in shock, still angry, still physically wrecked.

That woman was certain she was broken. Surely two post-first trimester losses in a row meant something was seriously wrong with her. Babies don't just die. At some point in a pregnancy, you should be safe. Except they do. And you never are. Broken. Convinced her first two healthy children were complete flukes and coming to terms with the fact that another living child might not be in the cards for her family.

That woman was embarking on what she'd later affectionately refer to as the summer from hell. Her marriage was kind of a mess. She'd "celebrate" her 10th anniversary a month later, but there wasn't much celebrating past the over-priced dinner and the "happy" Facebook posts.

But that woman was a mother, both to her living children and to her sweet babies in heaven. She was a daughter. She was a wife and a friend. And those truths, those identities, would carry her through that summer and beyond.

Four years ago tonight, I was empty. Physically and emotionally empty. No more baby. No more tears. No energy. No life. No hope.

But the night became morning. The summer from hell didn't last. The empty places were filled. Filled with love and light. Filled with hope. Eventually filled with new life.

So to my sweet boy, no more than an ounce in the palm of my hand, your tiny, brief life still had weight. Your name will be spoken by this family for years. Because you're ours. You'll always be ours.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

This is the work

In looking for some verses for my gallery walls a few months ago, I ended up knee-deep in "inspirational quote art" on etsy. And while I can stomach few, most of them annoy me. I'll take a funny meme over an inspirational quote any day.

I mean, come on. That's funny.

Maybe it's just that I'd rather laugh at inane internet stuff than make my brain think about anything deeper than what I should eat for lunch.

One such "inspirational quote" floating around right now is this:

It's nice, right? It's one of those quotes that makes you stop and go, "Oh, yes. So true," and then you magically appreciate the little minions in your home just a little bit more. Or not.

I think what gives me pause with this particular quote is that it's hard for me to believe. I know my children are important and I love them all to pieces, but what I do day in and day out doesn't always feel like important work.

I was a teacher until I had Jackson. After a couple other jobs, I decided to stay home after I had Leah. And I'm so glad I did. But sometimes there's a little part of me that is pretty sure I left the more important work in the classroom. Or that I could be doing so much more somewhere else--anywhere but my own kitchen or living room.

But that's a lie. I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be, doing the most important work of all.

And moms? So are you.

The mom working the full-time job AND holding down the fort at home? So is she.

The stay-at-home mom entertaining toddlers for hours on end and washing dishes in her spare time? So is she.

The single mom working two jobs and still giving whatever she has left to her littles? So is she.

The homeschooling mother of seven, taking on the roll of mother, teacher, housekeeper, chef, and more every single day? So is she.

We're doing things that don't always feel important. Packing lunches, cleaning bathrooms, driving kids to baseball practice, nursing a newborn every two hours around the clock.

This is the work.

Rocking babies to sleep, patching holes in jeans, baking cookies, reading books.

This is the work.

Flipping pancakes, watering the seedlings that came home from school last week, sweeping the crumbs off the dining room floor for the third time today, making beds.

This is the work.

Buying end-of-the-year teacher gifts, bathing toddlers, cooking macaroni and cheese.

This is the work.

And someday we'll miss this work. We'll be back in the workplace or adjusting to life as an empty-nester. Because...

See? There's an inspirational quote for just about anything! But really--before you know it, you'll be hosting your son's graduation open house and reminiscing about the fact that he was JUST starting kindergarten.

So take heart, moms. We're doing the most important work. Right this very minute. Don't believe the lie that these little lives are distracting us from anything more important.

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.