6 years old


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And now we are here, opening the door to your 6th year. I can't wait to see what's on the other side. Something tells me it's going to be a rather wonderful year.

The other day daddy and I asked you what you were most excited about in turning 6 and you responded, without a moments hesitation, "Holding my baby brother." Sweeter words I've never heard.

Soon you will get to do just that. You will get to hold the answer to the quiet prayers you've prayed and the tender hopes you've carried. Daddy and I couldn't be more ready to see that moment. I know it's going to be just like the one I described on the day you were born. Utter grace.

And you, sweet Little Bit, are going to be the loveliest big sister. With all the plans you are already forming and communicating to us about what you are going to do with baby brother and teach baby brother and show baby brother, I know all the more that this little boy is so very blessed to have you.

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To have you as my daughter, my hour by hour sidekick, my little companion, is to have a tangible picture of that utter grace looking right at me, with expressive blue eyes and the most contagious belly laugh. It's beautiful.

So on this, your 6th birthday, know this, my darling Anna Kate: I am so very thankful for you, so very proud of you and forever changed by being your mama.

Happy Birthday, my Bit!!

I love you with all my heart.

 

 

 

 

There you are, my six year old girl. 

It's absolutely true, what they say. You blink and, in that instant, 6 years have gone by.

6 years ago, at 6:41pm, they handed you to me for the first time, laying you right down on my chest. I close my eyes now and I can see that moment like a home video in my mind. I remember what I felt to hold you that first time, taking in every aspect of you, and feeling so giddy about your head of hair.

You were beautiful. You were here. You were ours.

As they rolled me out of the delivery room, moving me into recovery, with you snuggled next to me and your daddy walking right beside us, I just remember the greatest sense of peace and a very special kind of gratitude coming over me. 

To be given your daddy and then for us to be given you? Utter grace.

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My mind is playing all the memories from this past year of your life like a slideshow as I write this to you, Little. We have seen the Lord work in boundless ways in you. Through the heartaches and the struggle, the victories and the celebrations, the many many "new things" you have tried and done, the countless ways you've been brave, the deep thoughts you've begun to have and slowly shared with us, the ways you've stepped out of what is comfortable to you, the ways you've loved those around you and learned to  respond when they love you, the beautiful truths that you are mulling over in your heart, the way you gently speak truth to us, the hundreds of times you've helped, and the desire that you have for all people to know God. It has been stunning to watch Him work so masterfully in your heart. I pray that so soon your heart comes to know His love for you is best, His knowledge of you is the deepest, and His desire for that eternal relationship with you is the greatest hope.

I love seeing all the pieces of you come alive even more with each year, all the characteristics and qualities of you that God knit together inside of me in just the way He had always planned. Those pieces of you are a tool He uses daily in my life -- you challenge me, you encourage me, you inspire me, and through you He shows me so much grace. Utter grace.

the story of baby boy

This day was a rather wonderful day. A day that we shall always consider as one of the best days we lived. A day that still, and I'm sure will always, feels rather like a dream because of what it was for our little family of three. It was a day in which one of our dearest and most tender prayers became a beautiful reality. 

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I have had many people ask me: "how'd you keep it a secret for so long!?" Well, the truth is, we didn't know for so long! We didn't find out until I was nearly 15 weeks. This was no 4 month kept secret! The other question I have received a good bit, as have members of our family, is: "if you/they have been trying for 4 years wouldn't it be pretty obvious when it happened?" and "how did you NOT know!?"

[Now, full honesty here, that's been hard for me a couple of times because it's difficult for me to not take it personally and feel like people are thinking, "hello! you're pregnant. you know how this work.....it's your own body, for goodness sake." In moments of struggle I've feared that people might think we weren't truly hoping for this like we've said and that we were simply in denial. But, in His patient grace, my sweet Jesus has helped me grow a thicker skin and a more truth-filled mind through receiving these questions/comments and realize that a. I need to stop assuming and putting fully formed ideas into people's minds that may never have existed there in the first place. And b. once we have the opportunity to share the story it's met with, "Oh! I understand. That makes so much sense." Oh, even in this the Lord is faithfully putting to death that fear of man that resides in me! He uses it all.]

If you've followed our story than you know that I've shared before that my body is on the unpredictable side when it comes to those delightful monthly cycles. I've never been regular, not once in my life. I'm very influenced by stress, good or bad, and that has brought with it countless times of pushing my cycle a couple weeks, skipping a month, or even two. The other factor that is a piece of us is that my doctor is 95% sure I don't ovulate regularly, but more like 6 to 8 times a year, and with no clear cut "when" those times are. So, the whole planning things has looked a bit different in our lives. || I will share more about how these factors played into our infertility journey in another post || But the knowledge of those facts is an important piece to know with baby boy's story.

Continuing on.........

April, May, and June were three of the busiest, if not THE busiest, months we've ever had. We moved into our house, I hosted showers, my little sister moved in with us, we were putting the last touches on her wedding, we had visitors in and out and then straight from the end of May to the end of June, and two very important and dear weddings. We were on full throttle every day for 3 months. And as much as it was all joyful beautiful things, all of which we were so thankful for, it was still a type of stress. Thus, the fact that I skipped my cycle in May was not a surprise. Honestly, it was what we expected. Neither was my level of exhaustion -- we hadn't stopped since moving on April 1st -- exhaustion was a fact of life at that point!

As we entered into June, J and I had a conversation about skipping my cycle, but we both agreed that there was nothing out of our ordinary that would cause us to think we needed to take a test. As far as my body goes, we were trudging through typical waters. I wasn't sick at all either and I had been so intensely sick with AK that my lack of nausea or sickness of any kind made us all the more assured of the fact that nothing was going on. After the crazy settled down, I'd start. After all, that's what I always had done. 

The very end of June came and it was the last couple days of Momma Coobs visit. At that point I was now in process of having fully skipped my June cycle, too. That's when the tears started to come. I would say to J how much I wished my body was different -- these unknowns, these rollercoasters were so hard to handle. I was weary. Once this cycle started, we decided, it would be the time to delve further into the medical aspect of all of this. The emotions weren't helped when I became more discouraged by the weight I had gained during the stressful months. This was easily answered by the fact that I hadn't eaten well or exercised consistently in 3 months. Finally, on one of the very last days of June, J said, "Babe, we need to know. We need to take a test. We need to be able to move forward, trusting the Lord, and then we can begin taking steps into what's best for the next season." He was right. As much as having to bear the effects of another negative pregnancy test would be so painful, we needed to know. Our hearts needed to move forward. 

So, J picked up a pregnancy test a couple of days later, the kind that said "pregnant" or "not pregnant" because we didn't need any of those confusing lines. The next morning he came into the bedroom where I was still laying quietly in bed, dreading what I was about to have to do, and he sat down next to me and asked, "are you okay? are you ready to take it?" "I'm scared," was my reply. He looked at me with those always comforting blue eyes of his, "I know, I am too," he said. "But we will walk through this together. I'll go get AK settled downstairs and then I'll be back." He left the room and I slowly got up and made my way to the bathroom. I took the test, set it on the counter, and walked out of the room without the smallest glance back. When J came back I was sitting on the edge of the back. He sat down quietly next to me and just started to pray. When he finished we hugged, he kissed my forehead, and then gently asked, "Do you want me to go look?" Every other time I always had wanted him to. I couldn't ever bear seeing the words. This time, though, I said, "no, I'll go. I just need to start moving forward." 

My legs felt so heavy and my heart was quite literally in my stomach as I walked toward the room. I was so positive I knew exactly what that test would say, that I would immediately drop it in the trash and turn to walk back into J's arms and just let the tears fall. "Here we go......Lord, please help me," were the last thoughts that crossed my mind.

Then I walked in the bathroom, picked up the test, and my eyes fell on the word that I had prayed to see again for 4 long years........

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PREGNANT.

There it was. To describe that first wave of emotion feels like an impossible feat. I turned my head toward J and with tears streaming down my face, in a barely coherent voice, I said, "It says we're pregnant!" He was in the bathroom in a half a second, taking the test from my hand in disbelief. We looked at each other and as we put our arms around one another we became a muffled ball of laughter and tears, completely overwhelmed by the joy and surprise we were experiencing. We were pregnant!!! That beautiful moment is one of those that will remain forever like a movie reel in my mind. I can see it, feel it, and live it over again at any time, and I love that so much. 

The rest of the day the smiles were plastered and the tears flowed often. Our words all day were, "I can't believe it!" and "Thank You, Lord!" We were in the happiest state of disbelief and gratitude all day long.......and we haven't left it.

Over the next several days we told our family, which makes up another handful of the best moments we've experienced. We had decided to wait to tell Little, though, or anyone else because we couldn't get into the doctor for about 3 weeks. I had to wear the same clothes out in public on repeat because that weight I had gained was started to look more and more like a baby bump during those 3 weeks. ;) But that time to quietly savor our news was sweet for me, for us, just to slowly take in this beautiful surprise, this good good gift from our good good Father. The hardest part was not being able to tell Little. Oh, our hearts were about to burst to tell her the news: that those sweet tender prayers she had prayed for months now had been answered. She was going to be a big sister. 

On July 19th, we walked into our OB's office, with stomachs so full of butterflies we both felt a little nauseous. We sat in the waiting room feeling every second tick by until the nurse called my name and said, "we are going to go ahead and do your ultrasound first." OKAY! When we walked in she asked, "Do you have any idea of how far along you are?" "Nooooo. My body is so off all the time that I just have no clue," I said with a sheepish grin. She laughed and said, "No worries! I completely understand. We will just find out now then!" I laid back in the chair and the cold goo went on my belly as J and I squeezed hands. The minute the nurse put the wand on my stomach the screen filled up with the very best sight: it was our baby! "That's a lot of baby," I thought quietly to myself, shocked by how fully formed baby was already as I was sure I couldn't have been more than 12 or 13 weeks along. "I think you're further along than you probably thought you were," the nurse smiled. "How far along do you think!?" J asked. She did a few more measurements and then replied, "I'm pegging you at 17 weeks 5 days." Our jaws hit the floor. 17 weeks, 5 days!? We just laughed! This little miracle just kept surprising us!! And the surprises didn't stop there as she followed that up with, "do you want to know what you're having!?" "Really!?" We couldn't believe it. Not one part of us expected that question to come! "Sure, I mean yeah, I mean we do want to know.....," we stumbled over our answer trying to form words. She moved baby around a bit trying to make sure as sure could be and then said, "Okay guys, it's a baby BOY!" I clapped my hand over my mouth and tears filled both our eyes. A boy. A precious little man. I had always dreamed of having a baby boy, a little brother for our big girl, and to be laying there staring at our son on the ultrasound screen!? It was overwhelming, in the best possible way.

We walked out of the Dr.'s office that day again with teary eyes and the biggest smiles. We were giddy with the knowledge that we were HAVING a baby, that he was a boy, that we were nearly halfway through our pregnancy, and that we were going to be able to tell Little when we got home. And telling her was another one of those movie reel moments. We showed her baby brother's picture and played her the recording of his heartbeat, that beautiful strong heartbeat, and we just stored up every bit of that moment as we celebrated our little family of three becoming four. Her joy in this has been so precious to see. She talks constantly of "my baby brother" and asks about all the things she can help with and do with and for him. When I think about seeing her hold him for the first time the tears stream. I can't wait for that moment.

As we walked through the parking garage to our car that happy Dr. visit day, I said to J,"I love our story. I love that when you look at it there is no other thing we can attribute any part of it to other than the Lord." 

There isn't. It's all Him. Every single part. He's tenderly taught us more of the powerful truths of James 1:2-4 and Lamentations 3:21-23 and Psalm 16 and shown us His love and faithful presence in the hardest days. He's helped us find joy in the pain and He's made beauty from ashes. He has worked wonders by making us more like Him. And He has made a miracle in handing us this good gift from Him, our beautiful son. 

There will never be enough words to fully communicate what the last 4 years of life have been, what they've meant to us and for us, and the joy of how this season of life is playing out in its concluding chapter, but the theme of all of them and for all our days to come is this:

To God be the glory, great things He has done.

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such beautiful news


How do I even begin this blogpost, friends!? As I've thought ahead to writing it since receiving this beautiful news I've wondered, "how will I begin to express all the emotions? how will put these past few weeks into words? how can I possibly communicate to everyone who has walked with us these past 4 years how much they all mean to us!?" Oh dear ones, it has felt almost impossible to form the words, but form them I shall try, with the deepest gratitude and joy in my heart. 

WE ARE HAVING A BABY BOY!!!!!!!!

And right on cue the tears have begun to fall. To see those words typed there to share with you all, to have on this beloved little space of mine, to keep written down forever. Oh, it's such a gift. A precious, incredible, awe-inspiring answer to prayer gift!

This story of ours began 4 years ago, as many of you know, and these past 4 years have been full of heartache and wonderings, of pain and such beauty, of being brought low and of knowing such true satisfaction, of understanding our hearts more and coming to know the perfect character of our God in an even more intimate glorious way. Above all, these past 4 years have been about Him, our good Father. They've been about Him in the way He has changed us, in the way He has shaped us using rivers of tears and hearts that don't understand. They've been about Him in the ways He pulled back curtains to crevices and corners of our hearts that have desperately needed His grace to enter in. They've been about Him in the way He has made His truth so very alive to us and shown us how nothing, nothing will satisfy us apart from Him. They've been about Him in the way He's used them in our daughter's life, in the conversations He's allowed us to have because of her sweet 5 year old questions.. They've been about Him in the ways He's strengthened our marriage as we've walked this hard road, in the ways we've come to know and understand one another more, and the ways He's made His truth known through one of us to the other. They've been about Him in the ways He's made the bond between the three of us even sweeter, growing such a love for one another that I never knew could be. They've been about Him in the ways He allowed us to share our story, to come to know and love many others who are walking similar roads, to learn how to walk through the mountains and the valleys with others, to know what it means to bear one anothers burdens, to rejoice with precious ones and to grieve with them. They've been about Him in all the countless ways He's shown us a more intimate revealing of Himself and the way He loves us. They've been about Him because He has not wasted one single bit of these past 4 years, but has done everything in His time, has acted in perfect wisdom and love towards us, and has made beauty from ashes. They've been about Him because He is in all and above all, causing all things to work together for our good and His glory. And every bit of this rang true a month ago, before we knew of this little life growing inside of me. And with this little life growing inside of me we say, with all our hearts, "All glory to God," because none of this has been or would have been the pieces of our story apart from Him.

And precious friends, before I go any further I just want to say thank you. To just say the words doesn't seem enough to express to so many of you, literally hundreds who have prayed for us across the globe, how profoundly grateful we are for the ways you have walked with us, encouraged us, and lifted us up to our God over these past years. We have seen the body of Christ at work in the most generous, loving, and thoughtful ways in these years and just praise the Lord that He gave us one another to walk with on this earth! Thank you for being His hands and feet to us, for speaking truth, for crying with us and hoping with us, and for loving us so well. You have shown us Jesus and we are forever grateful.

And to my dear hearts who understand this road of infertility in an especially personal way. To my precious friends who have babies with Jesus, friends who are longing and praying for a little life to enter their family, who have walked this road of loss and heartache and who are still walking it. I just want you to know how dearly you are on my heart, always. I want you to know how grateful I am to have had you these past few years to link arms with and who I shall always have to link arms with to remind one another that our God is great and faithful and good even when it's painful and we do not understand His ways. I want you to know how treasured you are, how much your testimonies and words and lives have impacted my own, and how I am fervently lifting you each up to our Father, always. You have rejoiced with us and you have grieved with us and I treasure your open, vulnerable, loving souls so dearly. It is a privilege to walk with you in this life!

I am so eager to share with you all the story of how we found out about our sweet baby boy and give you all the joy-filled details about the last month of our life, but I couldn't even begin to write that post without first sharing what I have with you all. As I rub my tummy now and talk to my son (oh, how amazing it is to say that!) I tell him daily how much he has been prayed for, how many people have already had a tremendous impact on his precious life and how many people love him already. To share this news and not first take the time to let each of you know how beloved you are in our family couldn't be done. Our God is great and does great and mighty things and He has done many of those things in the past 4 years of our life through your lives!! It is a rich and humbling gift to share this news with you, to share our son with you! 

We have been so humbled and overwhelmed with such gratitude in the past several weeks that the tears have flowed nearly daily. We are blown away by the work of our God. His lovingkindness to us to entrust us with this little boy, to gift us with the privilege of being his parents, to bless Anna Kate with the joy of being his big sister, to continue our story in the way that He has!? It is breath-taking to us. We stand in awe, with hearts filled to bursting!

"Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgements and how inscrutable his ways! "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?" For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen."

"when can we have a baby, Mommy"


"Mommy, I'm going to be the BEST big sister." She said these words, out of the blue, as we were driving one day and the road ahead instantly became blurry because of the tears that filled my eyes. "Yes, sweetheart. Yes, you will be," being the words I could force out with decent control.

And I believe those words with every piece of my heart. This tender, brave, strong, beautiful little soul that made me a mommy will be the BEST big sister a baby could know, if the Lord chooses that. That "if" is the hard part; the piece that makes these conversations we have with AK some of the most painful we've faced these past 3.5 years. These are the conversations where my heart sinks to its deepest and the tears flow the heaviest, because if I could, I would move heaven and earth to make that big sister dream a reality for her.

When we wander through the baby section at Gap or Target to buy a gift and she says, "We should get one of these for our baby!" When I watch her sit in awe as I hold a friend's newborn baby and she gently strokes baby's head or tiny hands. When she pretends she's playing with her "little brother and sister." When she asks me, "When can we have a baby, Mommy?" When those imploring blue eyes search my face for answers. When she asks if I have a baby in my tummy, too, and I have to say "no" and her little eager clasped hands drop to her side. Whenever I see the painful side of our reality right now touch her heart in really tender ways, that is when I especially wish that I could tap into some secret formula that makes all the pain go away and place in her hands a snuggly pink or blue bundle that's all her own.

But as much as my mothering instincts want to put up a 10 foot high fence and hire some Jedi-like warrior to guard and protect her from any sort of pain or sorrow, I know that isn't actually the best thing for her. She's been given to me, to us, to train and teach, to mold and guide, and one of the hardest parts of that is letting her come face to face with the truth that "all is not right in the world." We have to let her see the tears run down. We have to say the actual words. Obviously, in a way that is right and good for her 5 year old heart and mind to digest, but we still have to look into those imploring eyes, pull her on our laps, hold her dimpled hands, and say, "we don't know."

As hard as it was the first time to explain to her the little pieces of "why" that we can and as much as the gut-wrenching feeling never goes away when we have to explain it again, those moments sit apart in my mind because those are moments where we get to plant little seeds of glorious truth. We don't have to leave it at, "we don't know", kiss her forehead, and set her down with a despairing heart. We get to add, "but He knows and He's going to right this world one day," kiss her forehead, and set her down with a hopeful heart. We get to use this longing that all of us have, a longing that aches until we feel our hearts might break in two, to teach her about the character of our sweet Savior, His perfect love, His gentle presence, and the beauty that He spreads across even the hardest pages of suffering. We get to tell her about what we've learned, about what we are still learning. We get to be real with her about the struggles we face and tell her about how the Lord has met us there and refueled our hearts and minds with all the truths of Scripture He's planted there. Goodness gracious, we get to tell her about HER, the most beautiful answer to longings and prayers that He allowed to be placed in our arms 5.5 years ago. We get to say, "look in the mirror. you are one of the best, dearest pieces of God's grace." We get to tell her about hope, hope that does not disappoint, that will bring complete satisfaction and fullness of joy when Jesus is our Savior. 

We have been given the sweetest task to guide this little one, to take her hand and not just walk ahead of her a step or two, but let her walk right alongside us, being real about how much the pain hurts, yet pointing her to the One who gives us a multitude of reasons to smile and laugh and find beauty among the ashes. Most of all and more than anything, we pray that she knows Him as that good good Father. So, we must let pages of her story be marked up by our present reality, the hard and the beautiful, entrust those to His wise hands, and watch to see all the ways He chooses to use them. 

"You know, Little, like we always talk about, we can stop and pray to God anytime about how we want to have a baby," J told her at dinner a couple nights ago. "Yeah! Why don't we pray right now?" That was her reply, with the biggest smile spread across her face.

grab a hand

"You can't stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes."

-- A. A. Milne

We weren't made to walk alone. From the very beginning of it all we were made to walk in companionship. In God's perfect kindness He gave us "people with skin on" to link arms with as we venture through our day to day. He gave us a taste of heaven on earth, a piece of Himself -- the company of people who love Him, who love us, and who want to live this life well, with steadfast hope for the next.

There isn't one of us who doesn't crave that company and who doesn't have it waiting for us, but sometimes it takes us looking up and remembering we don't have to solo flight our days. Sometimes it takes us saying, "it's hard." Sometimes it takes us writing the email, sending the text, making the phone call, scheduling the coffee date, preparing the dinner. Sometimes it takes us leaving our corner of the Forest, going to them, holding out a hand, and saying, "Will you walk with me?"

We weren't made to walk alone, but sometimes we let ourselves sit alone for way too long. We sit alone with a mind full of things that aren't true. We tell ourselves that we shouldn't bother anybody with our struggles. We battle the fear that no one else will be able to understand the large chunks and little pieces of what we are walking through. And we just let the enemy keep feeding us those lies as we begin to feel the loneliness build up more and more.

Junk junk junk junk junk. We were not made to walk alone.

As we have walked the hardest days of parenting we've ever faced these last few weeks, the hands that have grasped hold of our open, asking ones have been many, and they are holding tight, let me tell you. With inquiring texts, emails, and Instagram messages, with dinners delivered and date nights offered, with words of "I don't know fully what to say, but just know I'm here", with prayers that have flowed like a torrential downpour, with bear hugs and ears that truly want to hear, with so many things my weary self has seen in an even greater way that we were not made to walk alone and it is so much better when we don't try to.

It's been hard for me, for us, to say, "this is hard," and to lay our vulnerable, weary hearts out to others; but every single time we have we've been so glad we did. We were made to live authentic, real, sin-bearing, forgiveness-seeking, growing, in-each-others-homes, grace-filled lives. We were made to long for community and to live in it and there's not going to be any depth if we don't lay those vulnerable, weary hearts of ours out there. If we don't share the highest joys and the deepest sorrows and all the in-betweens, our relationships are going to sit in the very shallow end of the baby pool, and that's not how our good Father intended it.

He said "iron sharpens iron" and "he who walks with the wise grows wise" and "love one another" and "rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep" and a whole load of other things that can assure us that shallow is not what we want to aim for. But to trudge into deeper waters we might have to leave that corner and walk out, with boldness and trust, knowing that we are seeking to do the very thing we were intended to.

And I guarantee you that if you push "send" on that text, if you grab that hand, if you start that conversation, you are going to have a piece in helping your people be defined even more by a really beautiful, truth-filled, hopeful way to live with one another, because the Lord is kind to use us.

In all these past days, in all the tears and the pure exhaustion, in that "I don't know what to do" moments (which have been many) and in the moments that have been a bit more clarifying, I have been very aware of the fact that we have person after person standing right next to us, holding up our arms, layering prayer upon prayer for us, loving us and our Little in the sweetest ways. And I have grown more firmly assured of the fact that It's so much better this way.

 

because of infertility.....

"Be still and know that I am God."

 

If I had to pick one verse to sum up the past year, and my desire for this new year, it would be this one. 

All last year, this verse sat at the back of my head, particularly as the theme song to our infertility struggle. It was an answer, one of many that are both known and not known, as to why He still had us waiting. I needed to know Him more.

His timetable for each one of us is different. The circumstances that He has penned for us long before we even took our first breath will not ever be the exact same as anyone else's. Even when we find those who understand, who have walked before us, who are walking with us, who will come behind us, no one else's will match up to be formed just like ours. Even for J and I, husband and wife, the particular pieces of why God has orchestrated our days the way He has will look different. He has taught J vastly different things through infertility than He has taught me. He has revealed fears in my heart that are not at all the fears J has in his. And the way He chooses to reveal Himself to each one of us is different, done in different ways, and taking place at different times.

For me, for my story, for the chapter entitled 2016-present, He has used that verse up there to help me see what I've needed to do. To be still. To know. To know that He is God. And I firmly believe that one reason He has allowed us to be where we are in this infertility journey is this:

because of infertility I know Him better.

Infertility has, hands-down, been one of the most powerful and compelling instruments He has used in my life to help me know more of who He is. And in knowing Him more I have come to love Him all the more, even when I don't understand Him.

I know more of what it means that He is my Father. I know more of how He is the only One who is fully and always present. I know more of His faithfulness, of how He shows Himself to me, and when He seems very silent. I know more of His goodness, of the beauty that He has so generously speckled my life. I know more of His friendship and more of His kindness through community. I know more of His patience, with all the questions I've asked, the times of asking "why" and the times of asking that it end. I know more of His forgiveness, when I am angry or accusing or assuming. I know more of His grace, that unending well of grace. I know more of His wisdom, for all the reasons that He has wrapped up so perfectly as to why He designs and leads and allows the way He does. I know more of His perfect love and His perfect peace. I know more of His steadfast promises and His gentle, shepherding hand. 

Because of infertility I know Him better and the being still part has become a place of greater rest, rather than a place where I plop down resigned to the "have to" of it. It has become the place I eagerly go to, the place I long to be, and the place I'm all the more thankful I get to go because it is there I remember that God is God and I am not.

Only a God like the One I've come to know all the more through His hard and incredible Word and His mysterious ways could use such a tender struggle as infertility to bring me to a place of rest. Only a God like that could help me say I'm thankful for the very struggle that I long to see end

8 years

Happy Anniversary, husband of mine.

It's coming, Babe. Our first decade is almost here. It's cray. What is this weird phenomenon, though, that makes us go, "Eight years!? Can you believe it!?" and then quickly be followed by a discussion of how "surely it must be longer than 8 years" because life before each other has begun to get extra fuzzy. Whatever it is, I like that it reminds me that, at the beginning of all time, the Lord picked you for me and me for you and had us planned for each other all those many many years ago. You're my person, for always. I like that.

This past year was a bit of a doozy, just like we talked about on our date the other night. It was definitely bookmarked by a lot of tears and a lot of pride showing up and a loooooot of having ourselves shattered. But we leave the past year changed, the good kind of changed, knowing more about each other, knowing more about Jesus, and understanding a lot more of what He meant when He told us how to love.

We've learned to stop taking things so personally, to "believe all things" and not read more into each others words than was said. We've learned that our little family must have margin and that family trips, the 3 of us, need to happen much more and date nights need to always be way high up on the important things scale. We've learned to laugh at ourselves more and put pride to death and say "I'm sorry" and "I forgive you" even more quickly. We've learned to parent with more patience and grace and make the everyday moments, the simple things, really wonderful. We've had our fear of men ripped out of our hearts to an even deeper place, and wow, has that ever been freeing. We've picked up books more than the tv remote and put our phones away more often. We've played more games and made more crafts and kitchen messes with AK. We've learned that having a puppy is one of the most self-revealing experiences one can walk through. We've learned that we can't be "all things" to each other and that neither one of us possesses any superpower that allows us to handle everything perfectly all the time. We've learned to be more humble, to choose gratitude, to fight for contentment, and to daily look back and say, "The Lord is faithful and so very good. He's got us."

This past year, this doozy of a beautiful year, will forever, in my mind, be the book whose spine reads: "refined." The definition of refined is: "with impurities or unwanted elements having been removed by processing." We've left those unwanted things behind us this past year, Babe, and isn't that wonderful to know!? I love the hopefulness of that.

You, my darling man, make life better. You just do. I still do sit and think back on that day we met and think about I couldn't believe that you wanted to come talk to me! Not in a self-deprecating way, but just in the way that I somehow knew, even then, that you were the best man I'd ever met. I'm so glad for that parking lot meeting. I still get butterflies when I think about it. I know I always will.

In the weighty and wonderful pieces of life, in the past year of marriage and every one leading up to it, in the hardest things we've faced and in the pieces of life that sit at the top of our favorites list, the Lord has done exceedingly, abundantly beyond all we could ask or think. That's who He is, even when He shows us that in ways that don't make sense to us. And as we live these days, I'm just so truly, awfully, immensely thankful that He put us together. He's got it all, Babe, and we get to watch it unfold together. No where else I would ever rather be. 

Happy 8th Anniversary, J. You're my favorite.

I love you.

 

turning 29

A week ago today, I turned 29.

A couple days before my birthday I stopped and looked at J and said, "Babe, I'm entering my last year before 30. I can't believe it." I didn't say it out of a fear of turning 30, I am excited about getting older! I said it out of a genuine disbelief that I have almost 3 decades of life under my belt and, wow, what a sweet life it has been. It was one of those moments where you take a step back and, in an sort of out of body way, you see your life in an instant. And in that instant, I felt so grateful.

This last year of life was a tough one, though. 28 will definitely be marked by "hard" in my memory book. Good hard and just plain not fun hard. There was a lot of stripping down of myself that happened and that is a painful process. It was a year that flattened me, in a sense, and trust me, I surely did not want to be flattened, but praise God He knows what I need because the sweetest joy laid waiting for me on the other side. 

A deep-rooted selfishness was uprooted. More of that consuming fear of man struggle came to the surface. Tendencies of laziness and greed were seen for what they really are. Deeper layers of distrust and unbelief and crippling fear were peeled back. So many pieces of yuck, so many things that I didn't even realize were debilitating me and robbing me of joy, or at least to what extent they were. And there were many times in the moments of discovering these things were I felt exhausted by discouragement. When I had lost my temper with AK...again, when I wasted time lazily scrolling through my phone while much better things sat wanting....again, when I pushed back on wise words that J spoke to me because my pride was hurt....again, when I compared..again, when I doubted whether we would ever find a house....again, when I wondered if our Little would ever be able to hear laughter without crying....again, when I just wanted to stay in bed for days and cry because the ache for another baby was so deep....again. I felt flattened. Flattened by my sin, flattened by the stuff that was just painfully hard.

I know this is sounding like a super uplifting post right now, but this was last year. It rubbed me raw. It was a fight, in some seasons a daily one, for gratitude, for hope, for "being content in whatever circumstance" I was. So many times I wanted different circumstances, I just wanted "dreams fulfilled". It was a year of coming to grips with what I want most in life, and in that, discovering how often the thing I was saying I wanted the most had everything to do with me and nothing to do with Jesus, and I always came up empty.

But, like the good God He is, He carried me through it all. He reminded me, "those sins you see? I died for those. Now you get to live in the freedom of my forgiveness." He pulled out all those file folders of verses in my memory to help me remember the truest things about myself, the truest things about Himself, and the truest things that define my everyday because I'm His. He showed His perfect strength in my weakness. He showed me His grace and helped me to know what it is to rest in that more. He helped me ease up on things, learn to be okay letting things go, and reminded me of the importance of margin. He showed me how He chose J and me to be AK's parents, not anyone else, and He loves her a whole lot more than we ever could, so couldn't He be trusted with her, too? He reminded me that there's a lot of sweetness to be found in waiting, there's memories waiting to be made every single day. And He showed me, over and over and over again, how He knows my heart most intimately and He is the most present source of comfort. In each and every one of those ways He showed me that He's the best thing; living for Him, resting in the love of my sweet Savior, brings with it the greatest peace and the most enduring sense of joy.

As I said, it was a year of good hard and a year of just plain hard. And not a single part of it went to waste. And, because He is God and He knows just the type of cap that each season of life needs, He showed Himself again. I woke up on my 29th birthday and discovered that there would be no baby this month either. To be honest, I didn't really know what to feel in that moment, but the Lord gave me a quick answer for that. My phone started dinging with text after text of the kindest and most gracious words. My phone rang as my parents and in-loves called and I heard their sweet voices on the other end. FaceTime sounded and I saw 5 of my most favorite faces in all the land, my big brother and sis-in-love and 3 nephews, and they brought the biggest smiles. One of my dearest friends showed up at my door, and she gives the greatest hugs. I read the most generous, humbling words written on instagram posts and a blog that left thankful tear-streaks. I opened cards and was handed beautiful flowers and had packages arrive in the mail. And my people, my two dearest and best, they went above and beyond. They showed me love in the most tender, thoughtful ways. That day literally overflowed with the clearest presence of grace and a love that I cannot possibly fathom the depths of. 

28, I am glad to close your chapter, but I am thankful for the hardness of you and the fringes of beauty. And 29, my arms are wide open, eager and ready for the pages the Lord has already formed to fill you with. Let's do this thing.

a golden day

You know the chapter in Anne of Avonlea where Anne and a few of her dearest have a golden picnic? I always loved that chapter. Truth be told, I always wanted to have my own sort of "re-enactmet" of that day: make the food and the treats that they did, sans drinking water straight from the brook, gather all the goodies together in a picnic basket, and trek out into nature with some of my lovelies. I think AK and I shall do it still one day.

My sweetest part of the chapter, though, is the glow of it; the delight in all the pieces of it, the joy in simplicity. Reading the Anne of Green Gables books is a lesson in seeking simplicity, delighting in the little bits, the everyday, the mundane, and that is one of the many reasons why those books rank high on my list of all-time favorites.

The other day was a day that felt golden, like Anne's picnic day. Anne would find a more poetic way to say this, but it was just a really good day. When you wake up to snow falling, what could be more magical? I'm pretty sure AK thought the snow was her own special gift and I love that about her. She reveled in it; pulling open our balcony door to step outside and watch it fall 85+ times, saying, "I love the snow, Mommy" about every 16 minutes, and doing snow-induced joy dances around the apartment until bedtime that night. The girl loves that white fluffy stuff with a passion, and I think she won't ever stop eating it.

We ate breakfast as fast as she could put it away and donned our coats and gloves and snow boots so that we could experience our first snowfall of the season in all its glory. Between my kid and our dog, joy was flooding the property of our apartment complex. We walked, we held our tongues out to catch snowflakes, we made footprint trails in the fresh, untouched parts, and my phone held out just long enough to capture my girl in her element. Pictures like these are the best kind. It's just her.

When our fingers and toes starting losing all feeling we went back inside and baked magic bars, nothing was more fitting. We listened to music, we read, we wore comfy clothes and watched a classic music, all while seeing the snow continue to fall outside our windows. When J came home that evening we had roasted tomato basil soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. We built a fire and made AK's life a complete dream with a s'more and an episode of American Ninja Warrior. I don't think there was a happier kid as she laid her head down to sleep that night.

A day like that, ended with book stacks and an episode of Madam Secretary, is the very kind that gets planted in my memory as one of those great ones. There wasn't anything out of the ordinary, or seemingly significant that happened. There was no big news or no life-changing decisions made. There was just us, having our day, doing the things that we still needed to, but throwing a little bit of gold confetti in there as well. The everyday was the significant part

I saw the goodness of the Lord dotted across every bit of that day; soft reminders that He's present and lovely and so very generous. I can't get over how He continues to help me discover more of the beauty that exists in the minutes that make up the hours of my days, but every time I think I've gone the depth He says, "no, here's a little more. A little more of me shown through all the pieces of life I've given you to life."

Those golden days; they aren't as scarce as I thought.