Reflections at 1 Year Post-Miscarriage

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You know how there are those things in your life that define you–that change you? Those catalyst events that occur, and you know that you will never be the same again. Last year I experienced one such occasion, and it has forever altered my very being.

One year ago this week I miscarried what would have been our third child. I’ve written about this topic several times this year because it’s been cathartic for me and has been a huge part of my healing process. I feel very strongly that my pain should not be wasted, and if my story can help even one other person, then I will continue telling it. Now that it’s been one full year I want to revisit my thoughts–mostly just to check in with myself, but also to share with you about how God has worked in my life this past year. So much has changed…and yet some has still stayed the same.

There is still not a single day that goes by that I don’t think about my lost baby. Even though I know that this was God’s plan for this child–and for me, and my family–it’s still difficult. It’s painful.

I wonder what she would have been like. I wonder if she would have had Jon’s eyes and my nose. I wonder if she would have giggled when her big brothers played peek-a-boo with her. I wonder if she would have enjoyed rice cereal and avocados when we introduced them this month or if she would have spit them out at first taste. I see other babies who are the same age as she would have been now and I wonder if they would have grown up to be friends. I wonder, I wonder, I wonder and the hardest part is that I will just never know. Not in this life, at least, and that’s a hard pill to swallow.

So, you see, some things are still the same. I don’t think I will ever not miss this child. Perhaps some things are meant to never change.

On the other hand, some things have changed profoundly.

For starters, I am stronger. I have learned the power of the heart and soul, and mine have been fortified. I know now that I can weather storms and come out on the other side–not just intact, but more powerful than before.

Along with my personal strength, I have been encouraged by the strength of others. So many of you have shared your own stories of heartache and loss with me this year, and walking through these trials together has motivated me to continue moving forward. Going through a difficult time is so much easier with friends, and for all of you who have shared with me, and in turn supported me, I am grateful.

Most importantly, however, I have learned that God’s plan is always perfect. I knew this before, but now I truly believe it. Even in the messy, chaotic, unexpected, heartbreaking turns that life throws at us, God is sovereign and His plan is perfect.

I would not be where I am today–as an individual, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend–if I had not experienced pain and healing this year. We are not meant to go through life feeling like we are in control, because we aren’t. We are not meant to live in total comfort in this world, because this world is not the prize.  We are not meant to suffer in solitary silence, because Christ suffered publicly for the benefit of all people. We are not meant to walk through life alone, because we are created to live in the community of others. The truth is that we are made for a greater purpose, and sometimes pain and suffering are necessary to move toward that goal.

And then there is hope. Because no storm lasts forever, and new days begin just when we need them. Our joy comes in the morning. That is where I find myself now: a place of profound joy. Not superficial happiness, but joy. Joy because I have walked through this time and still experience grace and love and triumph every day. Joy because the end is not really the end, but just the beginning of something totally new. Joy because my story is still being written, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

May you be encouraged, friend, whatever you are going through. Know that with pain comes power. You are cherished. You are never alone. And finally, find your joy–your joy in today, your joy in tomorrow. Find your joy in the journey, and never let it out of your sight.

One year down, and forever ahead. Bring it on!

 

 

Hope on the Day My Baby Would Have Been Born

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Today is heavy.

Off an on for the last six months I’ve been dreading today because I knew that today would come, whether I was ready for it or not. That no matter how much I worked to let go and move forward, that today would be a difficult reminder. In fact, this day will come every year, and it will be a reminder.

Today is the day my baby would have been born.

I’ve written a lot on here about my miscarriage and, had that pregnancy continued, today is the day our child would have been born. Instead, where there should be presence there is absence, and where there should be joy there is a touch of sadness. I miss the baby that I never got to meet, and I am reminded so clearly of this fact today.

I’m not sure if the pain of losing a child–even a child who I never got to meet–will ever go away completely. What I do know, however, is that there is hope in the midst of pain. Hope in my past, hope in today, and hope for tomorrow.

Hope in my past because I even though I was not in control over my loss, God was. And He loves this child even more than I do. His hands were the first to hold this child, and he will keep her close to his heart forever and always. His heart breaks along with mine, and He sheds tears in time with mine. The reassurance of His plan and His presence–even in the darkest of days–has given me hope.

There is hope in today because I am made new in Christ. The hurt and loss of my past do not define me–rather, they have caused me to seek Him more thoroughly and grow more closely into the person He created me to be. There is hope today because I have much to be grateful for: a new home, the start of a new school year, a healthy family, silly boys who never let me off my toes–even another baby on the way. There is hope in today because at 5:30 this morning I was awoken by the sweet serenade of “You Are My Sunshine” and butterfly kisses from my 3-year old. There is hope today because today is a beautiful gift that I will only get to enjoy once. I intend to do that.

There is hope for tomorrow because the best is yet to come. Although pain is an inevitable part of life, there will always be another tomorrow. My tomorrow is looking brighter than ever, and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead.

So on this heavy day, my spirit is lightened by the hope that remains.

Today, tomorrow, and for always.

The True Story of St. Patrick’s Day

Tomorrow we’ll celebrate one of my new favorite holidays: St. Patrick’s Day–and it’s not because I have a strong affection for leprechauns and green beer. As with most holidays today, St. Patrick’s Day has become a commercialized celebration of silly nonsense. And I get it–it’s fun. I love fun just as much as the next person–and there is certainly a place for fun in all of our holidays–but what gets to me is that up until very recently I didn’t even know the “true” story of St. Patrick’s Day. In fact, I didn’t even know there was a true story.

In fact, the true story of St. Patrick’s Day is one of deep historical–and spiritual–significance. Far more than celebrating pots of gold and wearing green, St. Patrick’s Day is a vivid illustration of God’s power and redemption. For me personally, the day is also a reminder of the singularly beautiful place that I got to call home for a short time: Ireland. The Emerald Isle will always hold a special place in my heart, and I want people to know her story.

This week I’ll be going to David’s preschool to share my rousing rendition of The True Story of St. Patrick’s Day. It will go something like this:

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Last year our family lived in a country far away from here called Ireland. When we were living in Ireland, we learned a lot about the country and the people who live there.

 

 

 

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You know how in fairytales there are princes and princesses and castles? Well, in Ireland there are real castles! The castles in Ireland were built a long, long time ago. We got to visit many castles in Ireland to learn about the stories of the people who built them and lived in them. Although plenty of castles are still standing today, people don’t live in them any more.

 

 

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Not everybody in Ireland lived in castles. A long time ago, people built other kinds of houses to live in. This is called a beehive hut. It is made from small stones stacked on top of each other to make a kind-of rock igloo. Grass has grown on top to make a roof. Does this look like the house you live in?

 

 

IMG_4768Quite a bit later, people in Ireland built another kind of house. These houses looked more like the houses that we live in today, but most of them were still built entirely out of stone. The people who lived in this village all left during a time when many people in Ireland were very poor and sick. In just a few years’ time, the entire village became deserted. Many of the people who left this village boarded ships that were going to America. They hoped to find a better life in America. Today in America, there are many people whose families came from Ireland long ago.

IMG_2822This is called the Dromberg Stone Circle, and it is a very, very old statue. There are several stone circles like this in Ireland. Nobody today knows exactly why people long ago built the stone circles, but they think it had something to do with the gods they worshiped. Throughout history, people in Ireland have worshiped different things. For a long time, though, people did not worship the one true living God.

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Over 1,000 years ago, in about the year 400, a man helped to tell the people in Ireland about the one true God. He was not the first or only person to be a missionary in Ireland, but God used his words and his work to change many peoples’ lives. Today, we know this man as St. Patrick.

 

 

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Before St. Patrick was called St. Patrick, he was a boy with another name. He was born in a country called Scotland that is just north of Ireland. When he was 16 years old, he was captured and sent on a ship to Ireland as a slave. The young boy was scared and alone.

 

 

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Once he arrived in Ireland, the boy was given a new name: Patrick. He worked each day as a shepherd, taking care of his master’s sheep. Patrick would be alone outside all day, every day taking care of the sheep. While he was alone, he came to know the one true living God. He started praying to God, and asked God to protect him.

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God answered Patrick’s prayers and, a few years later, Patrick escaped to safety. He left Ireland and didn’t think he would ever return. But God had a different plan. God changed Patrick’s heart to love the people in Ireland, and Patrick knew that he had to return to tell the people there about the one true living God. When Patrick returned to Ireland as a grown man, he spent the rest of his life teaching the Irish people about God. He used shamrocks, a plant that grows everywhere in Ireland, to teach people about the trinity. He would point out that each of the three heart-shaped leaves is unique, but part of one unit. In the same way, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit work together as one.

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Patrick would also point to the rainbows in the sky–and there are many of them in Ireland!–and tell people the story of the flood and God’s promise to protect His people.

 

 

 

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Partly because of Patrick’s work teaching about God, many people in Ireland came to know the one true God. Today, there are many churches in Ireland where people can go to worship God.

 

 

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Because of his work in Ireland, Patrick became known as St. Patrick. Today, we even have a special holiday named after him: St. Patrick’s Day. On St. Patrick’s Day we dress in green to remind us of the green hills in Ireland where Patrick used to live and teach.

 

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Today we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with fun activities like games and parades. Now when you see green and shamrocks you’ll know the reason why we celebrate this special day!

 

 

 

As I was putting together my little preschool presentation, I was struck by how significant St. Patrick is. Yes, Patrick was just a person, but God used him mightily. In his day, Ireland was widely considered to be the most heathen corner of the planet–and, yet, God broke through. Using the voice of an obedient man, God spoke Truth to a people who so desperately needed it. More significantly, however, there are many ways that Patrick actually points to the work and life of Jesus.

Patrick was a slave to his master. We are all enslaved to sin, yet Jesus came to conquer sin once and for all.

Patrick was given a new name and identity upon his arrival in Ireland. God gives His sons and daughters a new identity in Christ Jesus.

Patrick was a shepherd. Jesus was the lamb of God.

Patrick was obedient to God’s call on his life to rescue the lost. Jesus was obedient to His Father to the point of death on the cross and resurrection.

Patrick has been immortalized as a “saint” who we celebrate once a year. Jesus is a Saint who we worship every moment of every day, for now and forever.

So now when you’re eating corned beef and cabbage or setting leprechaun traps with your kids, you’ll know that there’s something more to the revelry. We can all celebrate because God is, and always has been, GOOD!

 

 

Why Jesus Is The Better Santa

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Childhood is such a magical stage of life, and Christmas has to be the most magical time in childhood. For a few short weeks every year the whole world transforms in anticipation for the most magical of all days: Christmas. Of course I loved Christmas when I was growing up, but nothing compares to seeing Christmas anew through my childrens’ eyes. The wonder, the excitement, the joy– everything is magnified with young children, and I can’t get enough of it.

I have to confess: when I think of the “magic of Christmas”, though, one of the first images that pops into my mind is of a jolly old man in a red suit with eight flying reindeer. I mean, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Santa.

Or would it?

Five years ago when we celebrated our first Christmas with our first baby, Jon and I had several discussions about what to do about Santa. We wanted to keep the Christmas-focus on Jesus–and all of the hype around Santa kind of gets in the way of that.

After much thought and prayer, we ultimately decided to put Santa on the back-burner (this article does a great job expressing our thoughts on this subject). We still have fun with Santa– we tell our kids about the real St. Nicholas who loved Jesus and served the poor in His name, we read books and sing songs featuring Santa, and we get our annual photo with the big guy–but we just don’t make him the center of our celebrations. Santa doesn’t visit our house on Christmas Eve, and there’s no man at the North Pole putting our kids on the nice or naughty list.  We acknowledge Santa without prioritizing him.

What it all boiled down to is that we didn’t want Santa to compete with Jesus for a place in our boys’ hearts or minds. And why should he? Everything that Santa “can” do, Jesus CAN do better.

In fact, if you think about it, Jesus really is the better “Santa”.

Jesus is the better Santa because Santa brings gifts once a year, but Jesus gives us the free gift of eternal salvation.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

Jesus is the better Santa because Santa brings fleeting happiness, but Jesus brings forever-joy.
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

Jesus is the better Santa because Santa condemns those who are naughty, but Jesus redeems our sin.
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Jesus is the better Santa because Santa comes just for kids, but Jesus came for all people.
“For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” Galatians 3:26

Jesus is the better Santa because Santa wears a tacky red suit, but Jesus is clothed in righteousness.
“He put on righteousness like a breastplate, And a helmet of salvation on His head; And He put on garments of vengeance for clothing And wrapped Himself with zeal as a mantle.” Isaiah 59:17

Jesus is the better Santa because Santa brings coal for those who are naughty, but Christ brings forgiveness for all who sin.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

Jesus is the better Santa because Santa only comes once a year, but Jesus never leaves us.
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” 1 Corinthians 3:16

Jesus is the better Santa because Santa tries to complete our wish list once a year, but Jesus answers every request we bring to Him.
“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” John 15:7

Jesus is the better Santa because Santa lives in the North Pole, but Jesus lives in Heaven.
“But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” Luke 22:69

Jesus is the better Santa because Santa keeps a list of “naughty or nice”, but Jesus composes the Book of Life.
“The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.” Revelation 13:8

Jesus is the better Santa because Santa brings gifts that offer temporary pleasure, but Jesus brings the timeless gift of grace.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8

Jesus is the better Santa because your belief in Santa ends in disappointment, but your faith in Jesus ends in fulfillment.
“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8-9

I am so grateful that God didn’t just send us any old gift at Christmas, he sent us the best gift–the perfect gift. The only gift that is guaranteed to never disappoint or break or fade with time. God became man to show his great love for all people–naughty or nice; today, tomorrow and forever.

This Christmas, may you experience the great joy that comes from this love! Merry Christmas!

 

 

Daughter Promises

On Jon’s first Father’s Day, when I was still pregnant with our first baby, I gave him a book. The book was called Daddy Promises, and it is one of the most beautifully-written children’s books I have ever read. It is about all of the promises that dads make to their children, and how that connects to the promises that God the Father has made to us, His children.

The first time I read the book I cried, and I still cry tears of joy when I re-read it. I know that my husband is demonstrating God’s love to our boys through his forgiveness and grace and bedtime wrestles. He is an amazing dad–the best dad I could have picked for my kids. The other thing I think about when I read this book is my dad–the best dad I could have picked for me.

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My dad is a rockstar father. He has loved me unconditionally, prayed for me unceasingly, and supported me through my most difficult times. I even remember one time that he drove up to my house, an hour away, one night just to be with me after I’d had particularly rough day at work. The time, the distance didn’t matter–he just wanted to be there for me. When I was in labor at the birth center, the hospital, wherever they took me–he was there, up all day…then all night…then all the next day in the cramped little waiting room, patiently waiting and praying for me and my baby. He is a model of Christ-like love, and he has lived out so many of God’s promises for me.

In honor of Father’s Day this weekend, I have a few promises of my own that I want to share with my dad–my daughter promises.

I promise to stay true to the path you have set me on. That even when I wander (and maybe do crazy things like pierce my belly button) I will remember the way you have taught me, so that “even when I am old I will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 

I promise to walk in faith, and to trust the One who is leading me, even when you are not there.

I promise to live in the peace of Christ that you have taught me. That I will not let worry consume me or doubts take away my joy.

I promise to be persevere. I have always thought that our mutual perseverance (stubbornness?) is our best trait!

I promise to keep healthy and active. Otherwise I won’t be able to keep up with you when you’re running marathons in your 60’s and beyond.

I promise to maintain the magic of childhood for my kids, the same way you did for me. Right now I’m working on mastering the whole “pulling off my thumb” trick.

I promise to pray for you, just as you have always done for me.

I promise to teach my children proper anatomy, starting with the pectoralis.

I promise to love my boys the same way you love your girls: unconditional, unceasing, unrelenting parental love.

I promise to love you forever and always.

To all of the amazing dads out there, Happy Father’s Day! The world would not be the same without you.

God’s Faithfulness in 2013

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The new year always brings with it a time of reflection: what have I accomplished, where have I gone, what would I change about the last year? And with that reflection I often find myself praising God for the way He has been working in every thing that I’ve done, every place that I’ve gone, in every hardship that I’ve faced. Today at church we were challenged to reflect on God’s faithfulness over the last year, to really notice His presence. 2013 was a year of very high “highs” and very low “lows” for me. Yet, through it all, I know that God was with me.  He has been, as He always has been and always will be, faithful. Faithful. How do I know? Because I am here.

It was almost exactly a year ago that we first felt called to move to Ireland. It seemed crazy at the time (and more than a few people actually told us that we were crazy for even considering it), but we just knew that God had something new for us.  There was a LOT that needed to happen if we were going to uproot our young family and move halfway around the world. A lot of mountains that God was going to need to move to clear the path for our passage. But He did it. Every single mountain that stood in the way–even the mountains that we didn’t see coming–were vaporized before our very eyes. God is faithful.

For starters, we were at the whim of Jon’s company to relocate us internationally. Not such an easy task when you consider the legal, logistical, and monetary aspects that come into play. But, after months of paperwork and negotiation, they signed off on the move. We had our green light. God is faithful.

Then came all of the logistics for actually moving. What would we do with our house in Washington? What would we do with our dog? Where would we live in Ireland? God had an answer for each of those questions, too. Our good friends agreed to move into our house, care for it, pay rent, and let us leave a garage FULL of our belongings in storage there. Check. My parents sacrificed countless hours and put hundreds of miles on their cars running our dog around to state veterinarians and cargo airlines so we could have our beloved dog shipped overseas to us. Check.  God placed us in the perfect house (just enough space inside and out, comfortable, and a view of pristine Irish farms out my back window) , in the perfect neighborhood (some of our best friends live across the street, tons of kids for the boys to play with, walking distance to David’s school and our favorite pub), in the perfect city (beautiful, lots of activities, close to everything) for our family. Check. God is faithful.

After the logistics started falling into place, we knew that this move might actually be able to really happen. But what would we do? Would we have any friends? Would we be able to find a church? Would we even like Ireland (which, at that point, neither of us had ever visited before)? Again, God answered every question on our heart. Before we even moved a friend of mine from my teaching days in California contacted me. She heard that we might be moving to Ireland and said  if we ever got over there we should check out this little church that a friend of hers pastors. It’s in this city called Cork, had I heard of it? Cork, the city we moved to. The first Sunday we were in Ireland we went straight over to check out this “little church”, and it has been our home ever since. From the moment we walked in the doors, we knew that we were in the right place. We were welcomed with open arms from these brothers and sisters who we’d never even met, and a few short months later, they are our family. We worship with them, we celebrate with them, we love them. God has blessed us through Calvary Cork. God is faithful.

And, as far as Ireland goes, I love it more than I thought I could ever love a place. Before we moved here I don’t think I ever would have taken the time or spent the money to travel out here. But now that we live here, I get sad just thinking about the day that we’ll have to leave. Ireland is a beautiful place with a rich history and the kindest people I have ever met in my life. It’s a magical place where you see rainbows nearly every day and people drive tractors on the freeway. I love it here. God is faithful.

We went into 2013 knowing next to nothing about our future. It was a big year of questions for us. Yet God showed His faithfulness to us in every answer. Looking back now, I would say that the overarching theme of our whole year was exactly that: God is faithful.

I don’t know what 2014 has in store for us–last year taught me to go into things with few expectations and much trust. So that’s exactly what I will strive to do in this new year of 2014. To trust mightily in the God who is always faithful. That no matter what I do, no matter where I go, no matter what peaks and valleys I may face, just to trust. Because God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Because God is faithful.

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