Naptime.

Y’all. It has been forever.

I have had so many posts swirl around my head, but I usually really do write these during naptime, and ever since third trimester started, Ellie’s naptime is my naptime.

I told my grandma I was tired the other day and she said something like, “You ain’t seen nothing yet, sweetie.” I know she’s right, but I also know that the kind of tired I am in the third trimester and the kind of tired I am because I don’t sleep at night and I chase kiddos around all day are different. That tiredness can be helped by wonderful things like coffee and naps while Nana babysits, this tiredness can only be helped by not being pregnant anymore. That being said, I’m still definitely enjoying pregnancy and am trying to savor these last few weeks as a momma with one baby on the outside.

And now, I guess I just have a few updates that I’ve been meaning to write about, but I just keep falling asleep.

My grandfather passed away shortly after I wrote this post.  Early in the morning on Father’s Day, he went to be with Jesus. It wasn’t anything like I imagined– I actually found out about it on the internet. We had kissed him goodbye the night before and gone home to get some sleep, and I woke up to the news on my Instagram feed. It was jarring. And when we showed up at the house he was just gone. And there was an empty bed where he used to be, and the world was going about its Sunday like nothing ever happened. Like nothing ever happened. And I knew that he was finally free, finally with Jesus, but I was still sad. I took my daughter on a walk to the park because don’t you sometimes just need some space when something like that happens? Sometimes when you’re grieving and the world just seems to go faster and faster, don’t you just want to pause and make space? That’s why I walked to the park and sat on the swings that Sunday. To make a little space in that Father’s Day for my grandpa.  I’m sure I’m not done writing about this, but that’s all I have to say for now.

I also went to the high-risk doctor to have my ultrasound sometime between when I last wrote and now.  In her awesome Long Island accent, the doctor told us that her ultrasound technician had been alerted to look for a lake in my placenta (remember, not a leak, people) and she “didn’t appreciate that at all.” I was kind of confused (again) but it turns out what she meant was that her tech didn’t find anything to be concerned about and after the doc had a look, she agreed.  So, thanks be to God, we got out of there with a clean bill of health and as close to 100% certainty you can get that there will be a sweet little girl joining our family in less than two months!  We were very grateful to hear that everything looks good. Thank you for your prayers. Please continue to pray. I have struggled almost daily with trusting the Lord through this pregnancy. He is still at work, and I am so grateful for the story he is writing in our lives today, for the gift of the family he has given us today, and I’m still asking him to help me learn not to worry about tomorrow.

My goal is to be back to writing at least once a week because I really miss it and because I think it’s important. Sometimes the hardest part for me when I fall off like this is getting back up, so now that we got this out of the way, hopefully there will be better things to come. I have a few good ideas– we’ll see what happens.

Happy Wednesday!

Waiting.

“This is not the end here at this grave 
This is just a hole that someone made 
Every hole was made to fill 
And every heart can feel it still– 
Our nature hates a vacuum”

We’re waiting right now.

We’re waiting with my grandfather while he spends his last days, hours here before he sees Jesus.

“This is not the hardest part of all
This is just the seed that has to fall
All our lives we till the ground
Until we lay our sorrows down
And watch the sky for rain 

And my grandmother talks about what a gentleman he is. And we remember.

And my mom talks about how gracious he is. And we remember.

And my dad tells a story about his sense of humor and adventure. And we remember.

And I tell a story about how he told me he would hold on to meet his first great-grand baby, and he did.

And now we tell him it’s okay to let go. His sweet wife stands next to him and urges him to run to Jesus.

“A thing resounds when it rings true 
Ringing all the bells inside of you 
Like a golden sky on a summer eve 
Your heart is tugging at your sleeve 
And you cannot say why 
There must be more”

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Last night we were sprawled on couches and chairs and floor sleeping. Together. Waiting. Expecting.

“There is more 
More than all this pain 
More than all the falling down 
And the getting up again 
There is more 
More than we can see 
From our tiny vantage point 
In this vast eternity 
There is more” 

And as the dim morning light started to creep in through the windows, we thanked the Lord for another day with him, but we know that when there isn’t one, it will be okay. We will be okay. And he will be dancing. His eyes will twinkle again, like they haven’t in years.

“There is more 
More than we can stand 
Standing in the glory 
Of a love that never ends 
There is more 
More than we can guess 
More and more, forever more 
And not a second less”

My dad says the closest thing he’s ever experienced to what we’re doing now is being there for each of our births.  It strikes me funny because I think, how is this even the same? And I think about this while I sit next to my Grandpa and I hold his hand and my sweet baby girl kicks and kicks and kicks from the inside. And I think about how he is about to enter into new life. A better one with no pain or sorrow or hurting. One where he will see Jesus. And I smile. And I think I start to understand why Paul said we shouldn’t mourn like people without hope. Because my grandpa’s labor breaths? They’re leading to life eternal. They’re leading to a kind of birth so good we can’t even imagine it.

“There is more than what the naked eye can see 
Clothing all our days with mystery 
Watching over everything 
Wilder than our wildest dreams 
Could ever dream to be 
There is more”

*Andrew Peterson, More

A Lake is not a Leak.

This is a little embarrassing.

While was chatting with the midwife at my appointment today, David brought up my “leak.”

“Lake.” she corrected.

Oh. Lake? To be fair, with her lovely French accent, it kind of sounds like the same word.

Now I understand why all my Google research was so very unsuccessful. A placental leak is not a thing. I’m not entirely stupid. I kind of wondered if I had misheard when Google kept asking me if I meant placental lake.

I David was able to ask some more questions and our Midwife was very helpful. From what I’ve read, placental lakes, while abnormal, aren’t actually connected with any pregnancy complications and it usually isn’t even mentioned unless there are several of them. Assuming I didn’t misunderstand everything, I only have one tiny one.  She went on to explain that an OB might not even send me for the second ultrasound, but that Midwives have to be a bit more careful. My upcoming ultrasound is just to rule out any other deviations from “normal” as a precaution. Basically, the impression that I now get is that its primary purpose is to cover my Midwives’ you-know-whats.

Oh. Ok.

Even though I feel a little silly for completely misunderstanding a word…and for telling people that I have something that doesn’t even exist, I also feel really grateful.

If I’m completely honest, I have spent a lot more time concerned this pregnancy than I did in my pregnancy with Eliana. I think it’s something about looking at my sweet baby and knowing that there’s another sweet baby growing inside of me. Somehow, it’s not as abstract as it was the first time. I so desperately want to meet her. I so desperately want to get to know her, to have her personality revealed to me day by day, to watch her play with her older sister.  These last few weeks have had me leaning so heavily on Jesus. Asking him to remind me that he is the one who loves and cares for my sweet children perfectly. He is the one to whom they belong. He is the one writing the story of their lives.

I am only their mother.

I love them. So intensely, so deeply, but they don’t really belong to me. They belong to Jesus. I mentioned in my first post about this that it seemed like a great opportunity for Jesus to tend the garden of peace in my heart, and my friends, he has been so faithful.  Each one of you who took a moment to pray, each of you who took an extra moment to let me know that you were praying, thank you for helping him.

I was hesitant to write the first post back in April because I thought maybe everything will be just fine and then this will just be silly. But remember how I talked about thinking and no more lies before? I don’t want to pretend that I don’t worry about things that are silly. Because I do. I don’t want to only write stories that are finished and have good endings and resolution. Because a lot of times, there’s at least one story in my life that doesn’t. But Jesus meets me there. He meets you there. In the worry or the anger or the suffering, in the unfinished stories and the ones that end sad. He stands there with us.  I don’t know what new information, if any, we’ll learn at our ultrasound in two weeks, but I am also not living in fear of it.  The Lord is still teaching me to trust, in his goodness, his wisdom, and his faithfulness. Not that things will always be good, but that He. will. always. be. good. 

I still treasure your prayers as the Lord teaches me to trust him with my life, my plans, and my family.

Birthday Things

It was my birthday on Saturday.

I LOVE my birthday.

I always have. This year’s birthday was especially wonderful. Friday has been David’s day off for a while, so we made a two-day celebration out of it, and it. was. perfect.

David and I have been learning a little more about the 5 Love Languages.  I have suspected for a while that Gifts was a pretty strong one for me, and I was right.  I love giving gifts just about as much as I love receiving gifts.  So I decided that this birthday would include some gift giving on my part. I suspected that it might just increase my love for my birthday even more, and I was right again.

My first gift was to spend some birthday money I received on a zoo membership for our family. I know Ellie probably won’t have any memories of time spent there, but I’m looking forward to spending time there with her (and David) this summer, before Little Sis gets here.  We went for the first time on Friday, and Eliana loved looking at the animals, waving to everyone, practicing her walking, and playing with some of the exhibits.

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We spent the evening together relaxing, but woke up in the middle of the night to sweet Ellie’s first fever. It was so sad to see her feeling unwell, but I can’t lie. I love baby cuddles, and Ellie just hasn’t been as into them now that she knows how to walk.

We spent my birthday with some dear friends from college, eating delicious food, talking, and spending time together. It was a blessing to me to celebrate with them, not only my birthday, but also the new journeys the Lord is taking each of us on. It was a privilege for me to give small gifts that celebrate these exciting new places the Lord is leading them.   I think I hesitated to claim Gifts as a Love Language because it felt selfish to me, but I’m realizing that the joy is just as full in the giving as in the receiving. I felt new freedom to take a lot of joy in getting thoughtful gifts from so many considerate people, and it was an added joy to be able to give a few small gifts, also.

The day wrapped up with birthday dinner with family and a whole night of taking care of a poor sick baby.  I thank the Lord for the grace to see even this challenge of parenting as a gift.  I was tempted to feel self-pity that my daughter would have her first fever on my birthday. But I was gently reminded of what a privilege it is to care for and cherish this special life, and felt called to recognize the opportunity to give her the gift of my time, my patience, and my love while she felt sick.  It seems strange to write, but I really loved spending the last hours of my birthday evening holding my sleeping babe, not dwelling on how many or few hours of sleep I might get that night, but just thanking the Lord for all the fullness of the gift of being this sweet girl’s momma–all the hugs, drooly kisses, and smiles; and all the tantrums, huge messes, and late nights/early mornings of care taking.

Photo on 2014-04-26 at 20.13 #3

On Moving, Part 2.

I unpacked that box of tea a few weeks ago.

I cried a little bit.

I remembered the girl who packed it up. I feel like I hardly know her anymore and I feel like I’m still just like her, all at the same time.

The girl who dreamed of feeling “settled” and thought that trusting would just be easier if things were consistent. The girl whose heart was so sure that if that box of tea expired in some forgotten corner of a storage facility, her hope would expire right along with it. The girl who chose to trust because God was gracious to give her the courage to trust.

I think about her a lot.

I think about her when I watch my baby girl growing up and my mind starts to race with all the ways I could mess up.

I think about her when I consider the complete lack of control I have over either of my children’s lives, born or unborn.

I think about her when bills stack up on the counter, when it gets late and I’m home alone, when I remember just how much it cost me to get a degree I don’t use.

But it’s different now. In my heart, there is a stillness and a quiet that the Lord started growing the day I packed that box of tea and breathed that prayer for the millionth time. Today, I believe. 

The way the Lord has tended the garden of my heart– there is no word for it but grace. The way he has grown up that seed of faith into peace through gentle, tender care and attention, not giving me everything that I want, but patiently giving me the things that he wants.  It is beautiful. And I am grateful.

And as I sit here and think about heading to the doctor’s office tomorrow to catch a glimpse of our second sweet baby, I remember these truths. And there are so many unknowns and there is so much that I can’t control.  And worry and fear want to rise in my heart, but they can’t. Not like how they used to.  The Lord has been gently, graciously tending a garden of peace where there used to be a brush pile of worry.

And I write all of this because I remember how that girl sat on the couch and cried because she just knew she wouldn’t be able to muster up the strength to hope and trust and believe for that long. And she never had to. Because the amazing, wonderful, beautiful thing about the Lord is that, while the one thing he asks us to do is to trust, He never ever asks us to do it alone. That tea expired, but my hope and my heart are thriving.

Friends, the Lord has been faithful, not only to provide us with jobs and a place to live, but to continue to grow the garden of peace in our hearts.  To call us into uncomfortable places and fortify our hearts with his faithfulness as he meets us in our need, not always (not even often) in the way that we prefer or imagine, but in a way that will make much of him. And the delight in that place? One of the best gifts I have ever received. There is no word for it but grace.

A Letter to Ellie: From Your Daddy.

Today, I am blessed to share a letter my husband wrote to Eliana in celebration of her birth.  While it’s not a traditional birth story, it is beautiful. Something I love about The Bradley Method is the emphasis it places on the role of Fathers in the delivery room and throughout the pregnancy.  When people ask me how I gave birth without an epidural, my answer is always the same: because of David. 

Dear Daughter,

So.  Let’s be forthright, shall we?  I love you.  I love you more than words can say.  I remember very fondly the morning you came into the world.  I stood at your mom’s side (her right-hand side, in case you’re interested in that sort of thing) with the nurse at her other side and the doctor at her feet.  I like to think my eyes saw you first: you came out on the final push curled up and on your left-hand side, facing me.  If you had opened your eyes at that moment, you would have seen me.  Who’s to say you didn’t?
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Before the nurses picked you up and carried you away to be wiped clean (or washed clean, in which case it could be called a sort of firstfruits of the baptism that you will, I pray, one day undergo in the Lord), you were set in your mother’s affectionate and protective arms.  I wish I could describe for you the look I saw at that moment on your mother’s face, but it transcends language.  It was joy mixed with gratitude mixed with exhaustion–and probably mixed with pride.  Pride in bearing you those nine months and giving you birth, gratitude to the Lord for his great kindness and care, joy at your life and at your entry into the world we inhabit only for a time, exhaustion and love suffusing it all.
I hope my face showed something similar.

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Since that day you have grown quite a lot; you now are probably between 13 and 14 lbs and 25-26 inches long (from 7 lbs. 10 oz. and 20.5 inches at birth).  You are, by the numbers, tall and thin–like your mother.  Today, at nearly 16 weeks of age, you can hold your own head steady, sit in a supportive chair, lift your head up off the ground if we set you on your stomach, notice and follow toys or other objects, smile in response to our own smiles, and more generally show recognition of certain faces.  We suspect you will start to roll over soon and not long after that begin to sit up and (too fast!) crawl.  What progress you’ve made!
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I feel a keen sorrow almost daily–whenever I think that I spend too little time with you.  I work full time at a job that doesn’t allow me to bring you with me.  Your mother, on the other hand, works as a nanny, and therefore gets to take you with her to work.  This arrangement has its upsides and downsides, of course, but it means at the very least that she spends more time with you than I do.  I know, I know–this is normal in families like ours.  But I wish to God that I had more time with you.  How it feels to have your head resting on my left shoulder while I hold you with my right arm and touch the back of your head with my left hand–it fills me with happiness that I never knew before I had a daughter.  You, Eliana, enrich my life and edify my heart.  And you give pause to my mind; you make me weigh, make me consider what’s important and what, among the various goods I possess, can be let go.  I remember in Gilead, my favorite book, Ames talks about grace as something that takes life down to the essentials.  In that sense you are grace personified for me.  That makes me think of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poem, “Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places,” in which Hopkins says that Christ is “lovely in limbs and lovely in eyes not his.”  Yours are the limbs and eyes (and the smile!) through which Christ, right now, makes himself known to me.
Okay, that’s a good place to stop.  Child of my heart, hear my heart beat for you; know its affection for you, its desire that you grow up to be a woman who knows the Triune God and expends herself to the uttermost for His great glory.
Love,
David, your Father
*If we are successful, David will attend the training with me and will have the option to help teach classes as he is able. Click here to become a part of our journey. 

Lovely Because He Loves Us.

The air conditioner hums and I kiss my daughter on the cheek, the sour scratch of lemonade still fresh at the back of my throat. A fleeting memory blows through my mind like the breeze does on hot, humid summer days and I reach for my daughter’s story Bible, chasing it.  I open pages to bright pictures of mountains and of birds, of smiling Adam and Eve, of curly blue-green ocean waves.  I read the words out loud, but I’m really reading to myself.

“God saw all that he had made and he loved them. And they were lovely because he loved them.”

Oh, how those words quench my thirsty soul like that sour lemonade. I read on.

“And when God saw them he was like a new dad. ‘You look like me,’ he said. ‘You’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever made!”    God loved them with all of his heart. And they were lovely because he loved them.”

And my voice breaks and a tear slips down my cheek. Lovely. Lovely because he loves us.

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Today I have looked at my sweet daughter and I have thought about the stab of harsh words and mean looks. I have remembered the cold sweaty feeling you get from overhearing mean girls whisper and stare. I have thought about how to prepare my daughter for this ugly part of being a woman. 

Today I have talked with my mother about why people argue and fight so much about little things like wearing bikinis, pretending like Jesus cared about things that don’t really matter and ignoring things that do.  About why we choose to hold onto our soapboxes instead of holding onto one another’s hearts.

Into all of this slip the sweet words of my daughter’s little story Bible. “They were lovely because he loved them.” Not because the mean girls accepted them. Not because they believed all the right things and refused to talk to anyone who didn’t. Not because they chose a hill to die on regardless of how many bodies fell around them.

Because. he. loved. them.

This is what I hope to share with my daughter. This is what I hope to learn myself. That I am lovely because he loves me. That they are lovely because he loves them. No meanness can take that away. No rejection. No inclusion. No stubborn stomping on a soapbox makes me more lovely or makes others less lovely. There’s no room for pride when my loveliness is a gift. No room for sulking because I haven’t been included.

This is grace. We don’t deserve it and we cannot earn it. It made us lovely when we were not. And it changes everything.

On Moving.

How do you prepare your heart for a move? When echoes bounce off bare walls and brown boxes take the place of table and chairs, when the packing tape roll runs thin and the long-settled dust gets caught up in the air like dandelion seeds on a summer afternoon.

How do you secure your heart against the rising doubts while you secure the four corners of each brown box? How do you roll off a length of tape and gently smooth your hand over it, not knowing where or when you will remove it?

What are you supposed to feel when you tuck that box of chamomile, 3 months from expiring, between the grinder and the coffee canister and breathe a prayer that it doesn’t go to waste? Not for the tea’s sake, but for yours.

How do you walk out those glass doors that once opened, now slowly closing on people and a place that you love? How do you remain faithful when your place is so changeable? How do you anticipate when your way is so darkened? How do you hope when disappointment has marked your heart the way you marked each brown box?

What do you do when the to do list seems so long and the laundry has piled, when every day the phone doesn’t ring is another day waiting? What do you believe when you can’t believe that everything will always be alright? How do you hope when you cannot see your way? How do you get excited when you know that you might be on the verge of the hardest thing you have ever done?

When the move is exciting, we can hope in the destination. When the destination is unknown, where do we hope? And how do we hope? When the searing memories from the last time still burn deep? When we know that he is always faithful, but sometimes life is still very painful?

I sit down and lean my head back slow. And the peace washes over me like the slow morning waves would. Be still. And know. And there in the quiet, those familiar words come join the questions swirling in my head. Not loudly but quiet. It is a whisper I hear as I sit.

Lord, you have always marked 
the road for the coming day;
and though it may be hidden,
today I believe. 
 
Lord, you have always spoken
when the time was ripe;
and though you be silent now, 
today I believe. 
 

And I breathe in and I breathe out. I close my eyes on boxes and tape and dust bunnies playing there on the floor. And I hope, not in the destination or in a promise of future happiness. Not in an occupation or in a new place to unload our belongings, paint walls, and hang curtains. I hope in the one who has always marked and has always spoken. And my mouth forms the words that my heart is still learning, “today I believe.”