on your second Christmas 

It’s been a confusing few weeks, hasn’t it?  Seriously, Mom and Dad have been acting so weird.

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Thanks to our lovely friend : JW Photography

It all started when Dad brought a large tree into the house.  Mom put a bunch of shiny toys and sparkling lights on it, and told you not to touch it.  The tree was practically crafted to be impossible to for toddler hands to resist, and yet, we insisted that you not mess with it.  That seems really unreasonable.


To add to the craziness, Mom brought you to a crowded mall full of strangers, and into a very unnaturally staged area full of large presents and candy canes.  Mom encouraged you to sit on the lap of an old man that you’d never seen before in your life.  This seems so random and completely unsafe!


As the weeks progressed, Mom made a bunch of really yummy treats and put them just out of your reach in shiny green containers.  Mom told you they are called, “Cook-ies!” which you immediately mastered.  Mom left the green containers in your line of sight and tried to give you celery of dinner.  Everything about that defies logic.

While we are on this topic, lately, there has been some inconsistencies with expectations when it comes to destroying things.  You are supposed to leave the tree alone, and yet, the boxes underneath the tree  are meant to be “unwrapped.”  But only when Mom and Dad say.   Not any sooner.  Mom probably should have been more understanding when she left you alone with these boxes and returned to find you unwrapping.  You were just following directions.

And yet, little one, all this newness, chaos, and confusion of the holidays will likely never go away.  The hustle and bustle will likely always be there.  And with this, as your Mom, I hope to help you to understand why we are acting so joyful.  The greatest gift I can give you as a mother is to teach you about the perfect love that was gifted to us thousands of years ago.

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In an attempt to capture the joy that was born so humbly, we do everything out of the ordinary.  We don’t need to change things up, but we do.  And yet, probably the best thing we can do is just sit still.  Do the ordinary things better, and then worry about the extras.  Mom needs to work on that.


I pray that the story of the first Christmas remains one of the first books you reach for, year round.  I’ll leave it in your bookcase, just to be helpful.  And to help me, please always keep being you, in the purest form.  Keep loving ferociously, living adventurously, and reminding Mom and Dad what’s important.

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We love you Gracie girl.  You are forever our gift.  Merry Christmas.

three years ago today

“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”‭‭Psalm‬ ‭139:16‬ ‭NIV‬‬


Three years ago today was both the best day and the worst day.  We said “hello” and “goodbye” to a beautiful little girl that wasn’t meant to stay here, on Earth, with us.    

Some people only get minutes together, some get years, but we got hours.  Yet, I am so thankful for those hours. I’ve never felt so helplessly in love, elated and devasted all at once.  

We spent our precious hours as a family of 3 holding and loving our sweet Darla Jane. I told her I love her constantly, because even though she couldn’t understand the words, I knew she’d feel them.  Even though we lost her, those precious hours live on in my heart.  A mama’s heart doesn’t forget.

People can be so amazing.  One friend told us that you don’t have to live very long to have an impact on the world. That quote never left me.  Other friends gifted us this beautiful oak tree, in her memory. It lives on the banks of the river in the arboretum in Ann Arbor, MI, where Jon and I met and went to school.  



And so, even though Darla doesn’t live here on Earth, this beautiful tree lives and thrives because of her. Her daddy and I live and love and parent better because of her. And even though Darla doesn’t live here on Earth, she live enjoys perfect, whole, and peaceful eternal life in Heaven.  
I couldn’t have her here, and to this day, that still stings. But as a parent, you always want what’s best for your kids. It’s hard when it’s not with you, but in the end, she got the best. She got what we all strive for. In the end, what else could any mama hope for?

I love you, DJ.  I always have, and I always will.

my unknown blessing

It may not look like it at first glance, but these photos were taken in exactly the same spot.  The top photo was two years ago, and the bottom is from a week ago.

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I like to do that sometimes, compare where I was and where I am.  I like to think about how things have changed, and it almost always makes me feel good.  Although it’s not a particularly remarkable spot, outside the fence of a sheep cage at a local orchard, I’ll never forget it.

About two years ago, I stood in this same spot, feeding a sheep, and heavy with sadness.  The day before, Jon and I had gotten the initial news about Darla at our 20 weeks ultrasound.  I had left feeling heavy and sick, the weight of the world on my shoulders.  That Friday night, I hurt physically.  I cried enough to fill buckets.  I couldn’t sleep, we did’t know what to talk about, and by the next day…we had to get out of the house.  We got in the Jeep and sort of just drove, and we ended up at Russell Orchard.

I remember walking around and staring at the families with their kids, happy, and seemingly unaware of me.  I longed for answers, I longed to have what they had, and I even longed to go hold their children.  I felt hopeless.  We ended up by the pen of sheep, and as I fed them, I remember thinking, “This is something you do with your kids.”  I couldn’t imagine ever coming back happy.  I felt Darla moving inside of me, and I ached to fast forward and know if I would ever be doing these things with her.

After we lost Darla, I started writing in a journal that came with random, full-color pages of hopeful messages.  I would be in the middle of writing and come across a message that attempted frame my situation in a more positive light.  One of the messages said, “Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way.”  At first, I could’t imagine doing this.  How could I be thankful for something I didn’t know existed? It made no sense to me, and it also scared me.

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I realized that it would have been easier for me to sit in my fear; it would be harder for me to accept the challenge that fully trusting God with brings. I knew that this trust would take total release of control on my part, and after living the past several months completely surrounded by a situation that felt out of control, I didn’t know how I could keep living in perceived chaos.  I didn’t know the peace this release would bring.  I would have to make myself vulnerable again, and I didn’t think that I wanted to do that.

Fast forward 2 years of ups and down, highs and lows, slips and triumphs…and I stood in that same place.  I wasn’t alone, and I wasn’t with Darla, but I was with her sister.  I stood in the same place with the baby that has come into the world, I believe, to help heal my heart.  She is the most joy-filled baby I’ve ever met, I am thankful for each day I spend getting to know more about her.  She isn’t Darla, she is Gracie, and I am in a place where I can be thankful for them both, individually.

The more time that passes, the more I can reflect back on everything and be thankful for where our journey has brought us.  We are different now, better than before.  I work each day to embrace the struggles that the future could bring.  Journeying into the second year since everything happened, I can be even more settled that it happened to us.  If I think about it too much, the future can be scary; I struggle with the fear of it happening again.  However, after getting to be mommy to Gracie, I know that it’s a risk worth taking.

When in fear, stay thankful for the unknown blessings already on their way.

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what i’ve been training for

Today is Boston, as they say.  I love being able to wake up, turn on the TV, and watch all the runners that have been training months, years, even their whole lives, for a race that is less than 20 miles from my house.  I remember watching the Boston Marathon last year, as well.

It was about a month before the marathon in which I’d get my BQ (Boston qualifying time).  I had a beautiful training run that day.  I also had two conflicting ideas of where I could be in a year.  Last year, I hoped that I would either be running Boston in 2015…or that I’d be pregnant again.

I earned my BQ on 5/18/14 with 3:31:35.  I am not sure if this time would have gotten me into Boston this year, as the competition is always fierce and a qualifying time doesn’t guarantee a racing bib.  However, I do know that after my BQ, I was torn.

Around June 2014, I started to feel a pull that I hadn’t felt since losing Darla in December of 2013.  I started to feel the little tug at my heart, a little pain…a tiny loneliness.  Completely independent of any action on my part, my heart was preparing to be a mom again.  I wasn’t ready in June, but July was different.

I felt like I knew how to be strong enough for whatever.  I didn’t have the strength on my own.  Just like in 2013, no matter what was waiting for us this time, we still weren’t alone.  God carried us through the darkest storm when we lost our first baby, and if need be, He would do it again.  I couldn’t lean on my own strength to be ready, I had to cling to where true strength comes from.  I knew how to be brave again.

I still wasn’t quite sure what to do about Boston.  However, after trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant in July, the increase in longing in my heart confirmed that I was definitely ready.  I was more ready than I’d realized.

I knew that, as hard as I had worked to train and qualify for Boston, I wanted this more.  We decided we’d try for a while and see what happened.  If I didn’t get pregnant by when it came time to register for Boston, maybe we’d put it trying on hold.  Maybe?

It never came to that.  We got pregnant in August.  I’ve been blessed with the pregnancy that I’d hoped for.

Now I sit here, on Marathon Monday 2015, less than 2 weeks from my due date, and ready to pop.  I am celebrating all the runners that made it and hoping I someday get the huge honor of joining them.  I still dream to run Boston.  But for now, I’m ok.  I have time.  I’ve been training for this race longer.

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To be honest, the idea of giving birth again is scary.  Walking through those hospital doors in active labor will surely be accompanied by a flood of memories from that December night.  Some will be happy, some will be painful.  I’ll never be ready, but in less than two weeks, it’ll be my own marathon.  I don’t know how long it will take, and I don’t know how much it will hurt.  I don’t know if I’ve trained enough, but I know I can make it through.

I just can’t wait to meet our little rainbow baby.

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This Monday, I’m linking-up with SarahJennRachel, and Tauna for the Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-up.

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how we started again…

With the new year right around the corner, I can’t help but reflect back on this past year.  I wanted to get real about what we’d been through. Although people go through so much worse than what we did, I still believe it’s important to share how we dug ourselves out, because everyone will face hills at some point in life.  Being a faithful person that truly lives for God and loves Jesus won’t keep you from heartache and pain.  However, true and sincere faith will carry you through whatever this world throws at you; you won’t be touched.  If you cry out in your pain, you’ll come through without a scratch.

Some days, I can’t believe that I’m pregnant.  I know it’s real because I live it, but I’m just so beyond thankful and it doesn’t feel real.  No one ever tells you how hard it is to accept good news after you know what it feels like to received the worst news.  Most of you already know this, but some may not.  In December of 2013, my husband and I lost our first baby shortly after birth.  I dedicated a blog to her story, and it’s posted here.

After losing Darla, I knew right away that the hole I had in my heart was permanent.  It would be there forever.  In fact, I said it was a “Darla-shaped hole,” and to this day it remains open.  I didn’t even try to fill it.  I left that space empty because I knew that nothing else could fill this void that had been carved out just for her.  I had never known to love like a parent until her.

I didn’t know where to start, so I did what came easiest.  I started back into the life I knew from before…but it didn’t feel the same, so I let it change.  I found ways to fill my days so that I would spend as little time as possible lost in my thoughts.  I saved the thinking for the evenings, and only if I needed it.  Together, Jon and I surrounded ourselves with people that we loved.  We did stuff.  I said yes to everything that sounded fun (and seemed safe).  I saw every new experience as an opportunity to heal, to experience life in a new way.  Hot yoga, book clubs, downhill skiing…I said yes to it all.

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I found myself completely surrounded by a community of beautiful people that helped pull me out of my dark place and back into the light again.

I remember the first time that I was walking and smiling, and I realized that I wasn’t thinking about anything.  I was just walking.  That felt really good.

With the support of my husband, I also decided to train for my first marathon.  It was a goal I had always had, and I knew that the healthier my body became, the faster my emotions would heal.  Running gave me something healthy to focus on.

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Throughout all of this, I learned a lot about my heart and what it could do.  Just because that Darla-shaped space was there didn’t mean that my heart couldn’t still heal.  The space stayed there, but my heart grew around it.  Love built good things, and made everything better than it was before.  I find myself not knowing the person I was before I held Darla, and I’m grateful for that.  Love for Darla, love for my little family, and love from everyone around me made my heart grow bigger and stronger than ever.  The space that Darla left had changed me, and I could never be the same.

Don’t get me wrong…the healing hurt.  In between happy moments and fun times, there were days that I didn’t even feel human.  I felt like a shell of a person.  Going through a difficult pregnancy had taught me how to go on autopilot, and I used that a lot.  I never knew what exactly would send me spiraling back down, but sometimes I would hear a song or a noise that would remind me of what happened, and it would take me the rest of the day to recover.  I didn’t always know what would trigger me. I needed to heal was because I had been broken, and being broken up into a million tiny pieces hurts.

I used to cry out at night in my grief, and I asked God to take the pain from me.  I’d cry myself to sleep, I felt like I physically couldn’t handle it.  Yet, I knew that I wasn’t alone in my pain and I realized that this didn’t happen to us because of anything we had done.  That’s not how life works.  Being a good person doesn’t protect us from bad things because we live in an imperfect world.  Bad things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people.  However, it is how we handle what happens to us that defines our character.  The bad can melt us down and leave us better than before.  Jon and I made a decision that in our pain, we were blessed.  We grew as a couple, we got to hold and love our first daughter.  Life looks different now.

Despite my personal growth, I wasn’t 100% sure if I could ever be a mother.  I yearned to have a child to hold so badly, it hurt.  I just didn’t know how I could go through pregnancy again without feeling completely terrified.  Yet in my fear, I never lost hope.

The amazing thing about hope is that it doesn’t take much for it to grow and multiply until one day…you smile at the thought of being pregnant.  You look at the baby clothes you tucked away in the back of the closet and you don’t cry.  You feel genuinely happy for others around you that are expecting, and experiencing the very thing you’d give anything to have.

You accept the truth: as much as you loved your child, and as sure as you would have given anything to save her, you realize that Earth wasn’t the best place for her.  It’s not the best place for any of us.  Heaven is…that’s the goal.  And that’s where she is.

You realize that you are the mother to an angel.  You got to meet someone that was so perfect and beautiful, she got to “take the express lane” back.  You feel blessed to have even known her, let alone to have carried her for 30 weeks.

Your heart leaps when you remember how she responded to your voice in the hospital, all the nurses and doctors saw it.  Someone so small and so perfect knew who you were and felt safe with you.  You remember falling asleep with her in your arms.  What could be better than that?

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You know that no matter what happens…you’d do it all again, and you’d never do anything different.

And then, you feel ready to try.

In June, I was ready to try.

In August, I got 2 pink lines, and I wept.

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After 12 long months of waiting and hoping, Jon and I couldn’t feel more blessed that this spring…we will welcome our second baby girl to the world.  Our family will grow by one more.  While we are hoping and praying every day for a baby that will be healthy, but we are open and excited and honored to love this baby just as much, and no matter what.  We celebrate this pregnancy and this child as an individual.  Although I cannot forget what happened, I know that this baby deserves to be its own baby.  My heart continues to grow.

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We couldn’t have gotten here alone, and we can’t continue alone.  Strong in our faith and surround by love for each other, our family, and our friends…we know we will always come through pain without a scratch.

 

I'm linking-up with SarahJennRachel, and Tauna for the Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-up to encourage one another and build each other up.

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