He Sets the Lonely in Families

There are two things people say most often about adoption.

  1.  You can’t save them all.
  2. Do you really need another kid?

And I agree.  We can’t save them all.  And adopting one out of 154 million feels like a drop in the bucket.  But here is what I know.

It would only take 7% of the Christian population to solve the orphan/foster care crisis.  Only 7%.

Imagine if that 7% were empowered to bring these ones into their homes.  Imagine if the other 93% rallied around that 7%.

No, I can’t save them all.  But the body of Christ can.

And frankly, no.  I don’t need another kid.  (I sometimes wonder if I need the ones I have, hardy-har-har.)

This is not about me.  Or us.  Or our family.

This is about a child that God called us to rescue.  This is about a little girl who needs us. This is about giving God our yes.  This is the overflow of our redemption.  The overflow of how very loved we are.

This is about being a family for Sissy, not getting a kid for our family.  Our family already has a ton of kids.

From now until Easter, I’m going to share Reece’s Rainbow kids…I am asking you to pray over their profiles.  Give God your yes and see where it leads.  There are so many things that we can actively DO.

  1.  We can pray.
  2. We can give.
  3. We can show up for adoptive/foster families, helping with fundraising and meals and moral support.
  4. We can adopt.

This is Curtis

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Pray for Curtis today.  He is a person of eternal significance, created in the image of God.  Ask God what your part in these lonely ones’ lives is.

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Whatever You Have Done…

The rain pours this morning as I hurry children to the car.  It pours and pours.  We wait at the bus stop, jumping out at the last moment and I am grateful I can do this for them, that they don’t have to get wet.  Michael and I talk about what we would do with 15 billion dollars.  We talk about how we wouldn’t go crazy, just get the necessities, put some in savings and then help the world.  Feed the hungry, clean up the water, make sure all have what is needed.

I get home and pour coffee, grateful for its warmth and readiness.  My eyes fall on the chalkboard that John has written words on in his art-tastic way.

The words there strike me.  Tug at my heart.  Sit on my conscience.

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I know this verse, I know it well.  It’s part of Christian experience, it’s a thing we say…it’s a thing we often do.  But what I wonder is…do we only think of it in terms of the good we do for the least of these?

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When we feed these small ones that God loves, we are feeding Jesus…but how did we let them get so hungry in the first place?

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When we give water to the thirsty, we are giving water to Jesus.  But why are we allowing fellow humans to be thirsty?  How did we let it get so bad?

homeless

We give a homeless person a $20 or a sandwich and we are feeding Jesus.  But why are our brothers and sisters going to sleep outside?

I am thinking about this, about my own response to doing for the least of these and doing for Jesus…I am thinking about how apathy ruins us.  How choosing to do nothing is the same as neglecting Jesus.  How ignoring the problem is ignoring Jesus.  How choosing ourselves means not choosing Jesus.

Because if giving someone a drink equals giving Jesus a drink, then not giving someone a drink means letting Jesus be thirsty.  Because if giving someone food equals giving Jesus food, then keeping our food for ourselves means letting Jesus be hungry.

And that’s not loving like He loved.

This epiphany shakes me this morning and my thoughts turn to Ferguson.

I am grieved over Ferguson.  I am grieved by Facebook and the flippant, the ugly, the choosing sides, the minimizing of what is a tragedy on every side.  The brushing off and ignoring of the fact that there is a much deeper problem running below the surface of our nation.

There is so much more to this than what just happened in Ferguson.  It’s a symptom of a systemic, deeply rooted disease.

And all this vitriol that is directed at those involved is disturbing.

But more disturbing than that is the detachment, the apathy.  I am seeing the weighing in, the choosing sides, I’m seeing opinions. But where is the grief?  Lives are forever changed, a family lost a son, a young man lost his life, a police officer will live in unwanted infamy.  Ferguson is in turmoil.  There should be grief.

But I just see finger pointing, side taking.  I see people who are sick of hearing about it but the crisis is real and isn’t going away.

And all of this…all of this is unto our Lord Jesus.

I know he grieves and I want to choose to grieve with him.

I am praying for Ferguson.  I am praying for everyone in Ferguson.

Loving Much

I’m not even supposed to be posting until March.  John and my friend Kerry and I are working on a new look and a new format for this old blog and my plan was not to blog again until we launched it.

And for that matter, I’m not even supposed to be sitting in this chair on my laptop.  My house is a MESS.  And not a cute little mess, either, where there’s just a few toys on the floor and maybe a couple of pairs of kids’ shoes in the hall.  I’m talking college frat boy level mess.  Dirty dishes, dirty laundry, book bag contents, spilled and then dried coffee, toys, toys, toys, shoes, muddy tracks in the hall from the feet of kids, grown ups and a great big dog.  Monday and Tuesday are busy daycare days and Wednesday was wall to wall appointments and it doesn’t take long for a house filled with kids and animals and a bunch of inherently messy adults to wreck the place.  We’ve done a bang up job.

But everyone knows I hate cleaning and besides I think I’ve arrived at an epiphanal (It’s possible that “epiphanal” is not a real word but I’m gong with it) truth and I’ve got to share it with you.  Even if you  might not like it.  Or maybe you will.  I don’t know but it doesn’t much matter.

I’m always talking love, gratitude and restoration.   And lately at Grace Church, we’ve been talking about discipleship.  And lately, in counseling, I talk with my therapist about Receiving Love.  Being Loved.

And I’ve figured out that learning to Be Loved is the key to the whole thing.  Learning to Be Loved and then sharing that Love.

So, I was thinking about all this today as I was driving back to preschool with Claire’s lunch box that I did not place in her bookbag this morning…

I was thinking about the lady I met in the waiting room at Claire’s opthamologist’s appointment.  She had four boys and upon hearing that I had five daughters and only one son, she said this:  “I’m so glad I didn’t have girls.”  And actually did a little fake shudder, horror at the thought of having a daughter.

And immediately, offense rose up in me.  This is a hot button issue for me because I just don’t think boys or girls are better than the other.  One is not harder than the other, one is not easier…frankly, parenting is hard.  One kids, two kids, thirteen kids, all boys, all girls, some of each, it’s hard.  And anyway, you can’t paint one whole gender with such a broad brush.  You can’t.  My five girls are all different from one another, some hard at times, others not as much…they all have their own quirks, they all have their own strangths and you know what?  It really pisses me off when people act like one gender is preferable  to the other.

See?  This stuff makes me stabby.

And all of that was running through my head so loud that I almost didn’t hear the still, small voice gently pulling me out of offense and selfishness and into compassion.

“Hear her in this.”

Because here is what she said next.  “I just know any girl I would’ve had would’ve turned out like me.”  And she said it and laughed but because God opened my eyes…I saw the hurt in her words.

How do I know her story?  Where that misogyny was born?  Who spoke ugliness about daughters over her?  How do I know that she isn’t bitterly disappointed about not having a daughter and covering it over with jokes and bravado?  How dare I take offense?  I don’t know her story.

And she went on to talk about her divorce and raising four boys by herself and I listened and we chatted and then it was time for Claire to go see the eye doctor.

She has stayed on my mind and I am praying for her and our paths may never cross again and that’s fine.  But I almost missed an opportunity to  love because I was so quick to take offense.

And that got me thinking about the modern church and how we are so quick to boycott, so quick to take offense, so quick to picket and protest and pray for people to stop sinning and get their life together.  Our ministry is not to meet needs and share this Great Love that we’ve been given, this Great Grace and Redemption and Deliverance…but no, our ministry has turned into “helping people change” or “calling people out of sin” or “standing against (insert sin du jour here)”.  Is this really His plan for us?  His desire for us?

How can it be?

Is it love that goes first and foremost out of us?  Is it grace?  Is it peace?  Who have you ever heard of who came to a closer relationship or a relationship at all with Jesus because of a boycott or a protest or from being “held accountable” by someone who was not invited to their life to hold them accountable?  But how many have felt the love of Jesus from a kind word, a listening ear, a hot meal, a paid bill, some babysitting, a visit?

We need to be reminded:

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We need to be reminded:

Matthew 22-37,40

We need to be reminded:

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And you know what else?  Let’s stop acting like our sin isn’t equal to the sin we’re always making such a fuss about.  We are ALL sinners and we have ALL fallen short of the glory of God.  And every single sin, the ones that Christians find “acceptable” and the ones we don’t are all the same and are all the nails in His hands and the thorns in His forehead, the sword in His side.  Every drop of His blood that was spilled was for EVERY sin and that is what makes them equal in His eyes.

How His heart must break when we are so busy calling out sin and not pouring out love.

I want my heart to break over that too.

Matthew 25:31-46

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

This is His heart.  That we stop making it our ministry to change people and start making it our ministry to love people into the kingdom.  He wants to lavish His love on His people, all of us, no matter what our favorite sins are.  His love and forgiveness and His sacrifice was for us all.  For the annoying, for the addicted, for those who can not or will not help themselves, for those who’ve got it all together and for those who are just a big mess, for the weirdo and the non-weirdo alike, for the awkward and the confident.  We all hold the same value.

Jesus died for every sin and every wound and every single soul that His father made.

I want to lead with love.  I want the love of Jesus to fill me up so much that it sloshes out on everyone I meet.  I want to be known by love and not judgement, to be known by grace and not condemnation, to be known by mercy and not self righteousness, to be known by acceptance and not by pride.  I want to see my fellow man, woman and child through the eyes of Christ and offer the love He’s given me to them.

Because…

Luke 7:38-50

38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,[a]and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

 This woman was a sinner, just like we all are, but she was an unacceptable kind of sinner.  She was weird and she was awkward and she just pushed her way into a respected male home and she pushed way under the table and poured out tears and perfume all over his feet.  Picture that.

Just picture it.

It’s dinner time and Jesus is at someone’s house, eating.  And this woman, (a known prostitute or adulteress?  I’m not sure, ask John Carter, he’s the theologian around here), she is weeping in the presence of this Jesus who has covered her with grace.  Her love is so great, it is falling from her eyes and she must pour it out at his feet.  

And this woman is me.  This woman is you.  This woman is all of us who profess to love Him.  We have all been forgiven much, we have been bought at such a high cost.  How are we not pouring out our love on everyone we see?  Loving much, because we’ve been forgiven much.

But the thing I really want us to SEE here is how Jesus received her.  He did not call out her sin, it was there between them and He knew about it and she knew about it.  But what He saw was her love and what He gave was His love.

This is our Jesus.  Leading with love.  Waving a banner of love.  Grace.  Redemption.  Peace.  Joy.

So, that’s where I’m at today.  That letting Him love me and in turn sharing that love is the key to it all.  To making disciples, to evangelism, to being a good friend, to honoring others, to being a good mom…it’s the key to it all.

My prayer for you and my prayer for me….”Beloved, be loved.”

The Summer’s End

Summer has ended and here we are.  It flew by in a flurry of searching for swimsuits, laughter, tantrums, lost shoes, visiting the library, visiting friends, road trip after road trip, bananagrams, cousins, watermelon and mosquito bites.

John headed back to work.  My daycare days resumed.  School supplies have been organized, paperwork filled out and even the weather seems to have cooled.  Breezes blow and there is no denying that fall is coming.

At first I was cranky about the end of our Extravagant Summer.  It seemed to just go by so fast, I felt we careened into fall and I just wasn’t ready for it to be over.  But then I counted all the gifts of the summer and they were too many to number…fall will bring as many good things.  This much I know.

God has begun so much in me this summer, He has worked out so much in me this summer and I can’t wait to sort it out and share it with you.

But for now…here’s our Extravagant Summer in photos.  In lots and lots of photos.

 

 

When’s Your Due Date?

“When’s your due date?”

It’s the most oft asked question of pregnancy.  You answer it every time you call the obstetrician’s office. You answer it every time you stand in line at the grocery store.  You answer it for friends, relative, acquaintances and strangers.

January 31st was my most recent answer.

And yet.  She came on November 18 and I almost left this world on November 19th.

It still seems surreal to be sitting here in my pre-pregnancy jeans, looking across the room at a feisty miracle baby sleeping deep in her swing.  She is unaware of how special she is, of the circumstances of her birth. She just knows that she is here and that she is loved.

It’s been a wild ride.

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At first, there were two.  Two little lives that we loved and longed for.  Nora is on the left and Asher is on the right.  In spite of weeks and weeks of bleeding, those two hung in there.  Little hearts beating with every ultrasound.

I was on bedrest and it was hard but the prize made it worth it.

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But then at twelve weeks, Baby B was gone and we were shrouded in grief but so hopeful for Baby A.  For Nora.

The summer ended, bed rest ended and it seemed like we’d turned a corner.

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At 28 weeks, my water broke and I began what I thought was going to be a marathon of patience and endurance.  I was admitted to the hospital and there I stayed for eight days and that’s when everything changed.

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On November 18, I began to hemorrhage.  I had a panic attack, I was so afraid.  Afraid for Nora, mostly.  I was so worried about how my twenty nine week little girl would do.

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But she did fine.  She had apgars of 8 and 9.  She only needed oxygen by cannula, did not need to be intubated.  She was 2lb. 14oz. of spitfire and determination.

IMG_1337And while she was doing so well, I was doing just as poorly.  My bleeding would not stop.

The family gathered in the waiting room…unsure of what would happen next.  My three oldest were awakened and given the news.
“Mommy has lost a lot of blood and we don’t know if she’ll make it.”

My husband and my sister who are…there aren’t words to describe what these two are to me…rallied the body of Christ.  They texted, they called, they put it on Facebook.  They called the saints to war on my behalf.

Stories of people waking out of nowhere to pray, stories of people praying like never before, stories of friends staying up to contend for hours.

And I came back from the brink.

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After a few days in ICU, I was finally strong enough to see my baby.  To hold her.

IMG_1386What a wonder she was and what a wonder she is.

I went home without her about a week later.

10 Days Old

 

Every day that first week, we came to see her.  I ignored how I was feeling and we went to Norfolk, we did Kangaroo Care, we loved on our tiny miracle.

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Then I started to feel sick again.  Fevers, vomiting, pain.  Back in the hospital I went where I was treated for seven days for, it turns out, a terrible UTI.  It was a hard, hard week.  I still shudder to remember it.  I couldn’t see Nora the first five days because I was too ill.  We were reunited and I wept.  This was such a hard journey.

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Home I went again and for a while, I could only visit Nora every other day.  I was weak and I was afraid of getting sick again.  But, her daddy was there every day.

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Slowly, I began to feel better and have a little more stamina.  And for a while, I took myself to the hospital every day to see my sweet girl.  Those were precious hours, she was growing bigger and stronger.

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And then, it was January 14th and it was time to bring our sweet girl home.  Eight weeks old!  It was bittersweet, saying good bye to the NICU and the nurses and all that place and those people had meant to us.

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But oh how sweet to have her home.  I sat in my wonderful recliner that my beloved friends had gotten me to recover in.  The chair that symbolizes so much of our journey- its presence is a testimony of how people rallied together to help is.  It’s big and soft and comfy like a hug, like the love that’s been poured out on us.  It’s solid and dependable, the perfect place to get well.  I sat in that chair that means so much to me and I held my little daughter and just breathed that moment in.

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And now, here we are.  Her due date.  I feel like we’ve “done it”.  We survived a hard thing.  We are together.  We are well.  She is beautiful.  She is fearfully and wondefully made.  And while I feel a pang of grief for Asher today…and while I still shake my head in dismay at all that has happened…I can’t shake off this grateful heart.  It overwhelms.  I am so thankful to be here with Nora, with Claire, with Lila, with Chase, with Aubrey, with Julia.  I am so glad to be part of John’s every day.  To be part of my sister and her family’s lives.  To still be here with my parents and my inlaws and my cousins and aunts and uncles and all of my sweet friends.  To still be an alive and living piece of the Body of Christ.

Nora and I have a story to tell.  A story of His faithfulness and a story of how He hears our prayers.

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Thank you, Readers.  Thank you Family.  Thank you Friends.  Thank you Strangers.  Thank you to every single one of you who prayed for us.  Thank you to every one who cooked, cleaned, raked, babysat, listened, called, texted, emailed, face booked.  Thank you all.

Thank you, Jesus.

 

 

Love, Kindness, Generosity

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This morning I can’t help but think about the world and how there’s so much evil in it and so much sorrow.  Yesterday, the unthinkable happened and the lives of 26 families were changed forever.  Twenty precious little souls with eternal significance were robbed of their earthly life…six more adults were taken too and I just can’t fathom it.  Then, my oldest two daughters tell me that a classmate of theirs from Poquoson was killed in a car accident yesterday.  So much sorrow in this world.

And this is  a fallen world.  There is evil in it.  We saw that yesterday.   Every mother I know held her children a little closer and wept for their sisters, the mothers who won’t ever hold their children close again.

It broke my mother’s heart.  And I had to ask the question…why do I get to live but these little ones in Connecticut, Julia and Aubrey’s Poquoson classmate…they don’t?

Of course a question like that has no answer.  Certainly not an answer to assuage my sorrow and even my guilt.  I’ll never stop being grateful that my life was spared.  I’ll never stop being grateful that Nora will know me, that Claire will remember me, that my children will have their mother and John will have his wife and that all the people who love me still have a me to love.  I am so grateful and I don’t understand these mysteries…the question can not be answered.

So, I just prayed fervent prayers for the families of all of these ones, prayed that God would redeem it all and that He would bring comfort.  And I just thought…I’m really good at believing that God works all things together for good…but I can’t see any good in the deaths of children.  It’s a mystery I can’t unravel.  I know He is good.  I know He redeems.  But I know that children dying is just horrific and that those mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers and aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents and friends will always feel that loss.  I prayed more and more for the peace of God that surpasses all understanding to fall on them…because His peace is steadfast and it doesn’t always make sense but He will give it.  Let your peace fall, God.  Let the Comforter come…nothing will make this okay, but God will stand with those who are hurting.

Is our world just so evil, God, that there is no hope?  Watch the news for five minutes…all you see is death, destruction, horror.  Human trafficking, slavery, murder, thievery, abuse of all kinds…It’s disheartening and discouraging and you wonder if there is any good left in the world at all.

But I know that there is.  This morning, my two little girls came downstairs to heaps of gifts under our two Christmas trees.  Lila said, “Where did all of this come from?”  and I told her that people had heard our story and they were sad that Mommy was in the hospital so long and that Nora is still in the hospital and that those people wanted to bless our family.  I reminded her of the fundraiser that’s happening this morning, where my loved ones and friends and people I don’t even know are gathering to raise money for our hospital bills.

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She went back to studying the presents but my mind went back to remembering all the kindnesses that have been shown to us not just since I went into the hospital but since the summer when I first went on bed rest.

  • Meal after meal that have been made with love and delivered to us from June until yesterday and more to come
  • Cards, notes, texts, facebook messages and emails offering love and prayers and encouragement
  • People have come and raked our leaves and cleaned up our yard
  • People have come and cleaned our house
  • People have come and cared for my little kids
  • Gifts sent over from generous hearts and hands
  • Gas cards and gift cards given from people we know and people we don’t
  • Tiny baby clothes purchased and given for sweet Nora
  • Prayer meetings held on our behalf
  • Money contributed for medical bills
  • Groceries bought and delivered
  • Prayers, prayers and more prayers

We’ve been amazed by the kindness not only of our friends and family, but also of those we don’t even know that have heard our story and reached out to us.

I am thinking too of the nurses at Norfolk Sentara who have consistently showed me so much love and kindness.  The ones who took care of me during my two long stays.  The ones who care for my Nora even now.  The ones who remember us from visit to visit, who are rooting for us, who are praying for us.  The nurse who put a bow in Nora’s hair just because I was coming to visit.  They are Good.  They are Loving.  They give with Generosity.

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And maybe our world does have more Evil in it than Good but, Beloved Ones, I think we can change that.  We can be the ones who show love and generosity and kindness.  We can share Jesus by being like Jesus.

It’s been so humbling to be at the center of his favor, to be experiencing such an outpouring of Love, Kindness and Generosity.  Our cups are so full they are overflowing and we are swimming in blessings and favor.  All of this outpouring has allowed us to be more generous to the orphanage, has freed us to be able to focus on my recovery and on Nora’s nicu stay and on the rest of our family.  We’ve been given such a gift- to see the body of Christ come together and to see the floodgates of heaven opened wide and poured out on us…I am awestruck.

The body of Christ is beautiful.  The church is beautiful.

Can we become a people who bring light into darkness?  Can we offer Love, Kindness and Generosity even when it’s hard?  Even when we don’t have much to give?  When we are so empty that the smallest kindness offered seems like an insurmountable effort?  We can.  We can because when we do, it multiplies.  When you share Love, your heart grows and is filled.  When you share Kindness, Kindness returns to you.  When you share Generously…the Lord returns and returns it more and more.  That’s the way God designed it.  When we live like Jesus, Love and Kindness and Generosity multiply.

And don’t you want to be part of that?  Don’t you want to bring His Light to this dark, dark world?  I do.  I want to be the sort of person who Loves Big and lives a life of kindness and generosity.  I want to bless.  I want to pay it forward, because how could  I not?  We’ve seen the Love of Christ in the community that has surrounded us.

This morning, I still mourn for those families who’ve lost loved ones.   This morning, I still pray fervently for God’s mercy and comfort and peace.  This morning, I know there is nothing to say or do to help ease that pain.  Nothing.  But there is plenty to do to bring Light and Love into this world and I promise God and everyone else that I will LOVE big, I will practice KINDNESS, I will give GENEROUSLY.

 

The Preemie Learning Curve

When Julia was born twenty years ago, she was placed in my arms and I held her and kissed her warm head and I knew her.  I had an instinct for her that I could trust.  And I seldom second guessed myself.  I don’t know if that was the cockiness of a nineteen year old or just me settling into a role God made me for or both…but I always trusted my gut instinct when it came to Julia.

Same with Aubrey and with Chase.  I was twenty one and twenty three when they were born, still a young mother but a mother filled with confidence.  I knew what they wanted and what they needed and I trusted myself with these precious little creatures.  I believed in my abilities as a mother.

Lila, then Claire…they were both so different from my laid back, easy going first three.  It was tougher.  I was older, I was more of an over-thinker but still…I knew them instantly and trusted my gut to know what was best for them.

Fast forward to baby #6 and she is the game changer.  I don’t have a gut instinct for her because preemies are so different!  I have to look to the strangers that take care of her every day for guidance.  (And her nurses are amazing!)

My baby philosophy is that you can’t really hold a baby too much…but it turns out, you can hold a preemie too much.  They have immature nervous systems and can get overstimulated.  My philosophy is to feed on demand when they are small but my baby can’t nurse or drink from a bottle yet.  She is fed through a tube, every three hours on the dot.  She’s going to have to learn to drink from a bottle.  And, you kind of get in the habit of changing your baby right after a feeding but a preemie baby needs to have time to be still and digest. These are things I didn’t automatically know.  I am in an odd position of not really knowing what’s best for my own baby.

There are so many things I’ve needed her wonderful nurses to tell me.  I feel like I learn something new every time I go in to the nicu.  The nurses are knowledgeable and kind and they encourage us to do what we can for Nora.  And I do, but truth be told, I’m kind of intimidated by my little 4lb. 2oz. baby.  I’m getting more comfortable with dressing her and changing her and taking her in and out of her isolette.  I’m okay with unhooking her feeding tube to get her shirt over her head.  I’m more than happy to kiss her face right off and pat her sweet little back.  But I don’t always know what’s best for her…because she’s different than all of her siblings.  I am full of questions when we’re in the nicu and I want to learn all I can.

She has to take caffeine in order to keep her breathing regular.  She has to have regular testing to make sure she’s progressing okay.  She is so small that it’s hard for her to keep herself warm.

She has alarms on her body to keep track of heart rate, breathing, blood pressure.  I asked the nurse last night, only half joking, if we could take the monitor and some nurses home with us when the time finally comes.  Because if I’m being honest?  I’m excited for that day and very, very nervous for that day too.

Even as much as Nora has grown, all of my other babies were at least twice her size, some more than that.  (Lila was 10lb. 4oz.)  Will I know what to do with her when I get her home?

And so I’m thinking about all of that this morning.  I’m drinking my coffee and thinking about Nora getting her dose of caffeine.  I’m looking at my Christmas tree and thinking about the lights from Nora’s monitor.  I’m snuggled in my comfy chair, thinking about Nora swaddled in her isolette.  Will I develop an instinct for her like that one that just came for my other five?  I love her so much, just like I loved them…will I know how best to take care of her?

And then I think about God and how He’s promised to give us new mercies every morning and grace for whatever we face.  I think back to all that has happened over the past month and I know that He has shown up.  He has given me grace to handle waters broken at 28 weeks.  He has given me grace to handle recovering from a traumatic surgery.  He has given me grace to endure 22 days in the hospital, countless uncomfortable pokes and procedures, antibiotics that have wrecked my stomach and a very slow recovery.  He has given me grace to accept where I’m at right now- a little broken still but on the mend.

He has given me grace and met me right where I am and ministered to my broken body as well as my humbled and broken spirit.

That’s what He does.  So I can stop looking ahead and worrying about what it’ll be like to bring my beautiful and terrifying tiny little baby home.  There will be new mercy for that day. There will be a grace and an equipping that will come.  He has been with Nora every step of the way, He has been with me every step of the way.

New things are scary.  Uncharted territory?  The unknown?  Scary and intimidating and I wonder to myself…do I have what it takes to do this well?  Can I really be trusted with this fragile and perfect little love?  And the answer is yes.  Because God is with me and with Nora and He is for me and for Nora and He will guide us and give me what I need to be her mommy.

She is a treasure, a blessing and I’m so honored to be her mommy.  I still cry a little bit every time I hold her because she and I have been on a journey together and I’m still awestruck that we’re both here.

Last night, I held her against my chest and sang to her…

“Nothing can separate/even if I ran away/your love never fails/I know I still make mistakes/you have new mercies for me everyday/your love never fails/and when the oceans rage/I don’t have to be afraid/because I know that You love me/Your love never fails.”

It’s our song- I’ve been singing it since the very first pregnancy complication. I trust the One we sing about to bring those new mercies, to make all things work together for our good.

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Asher

When I was a little girl, before years and stages of renovations, Paw’s house was one of my favorite places.  (It still is.)  It was a pieced together, rag tag place full of character. It seemed to have been built from leftover supplies by a visionary who thought, “This’ll work.” and who wasn’t a stickler for details.  Around the back, off the kitchen there was a back porch with a porch swing…three steps leading to the yard that had not been very well planned for. They were very short and it seemed like one or two were missing. You had to be careful…that first step was a doozy.  For all its asymmetry, it was a good and happy place.  I can still see the Phlox growing in the cracks and between the stairs and in the flower beds beside the porch.

This is what I was thinking about last night. Paw and me and sister and cousins snuggled on that porch swing, drinking Tang made with well water and listening to our Paw sing…

“Oh Jolly Playmate
Come out and play with me
And bring your dollies three
Climb up my apple tree
Yell down my rain barrel
Slide down my cellar door
And we’ll be jolly friends
Forevermore.”

Last night, while I was missing Baby B…I was thinking about my Paw and how loved and secure I felt snuggled against her as we rocked in that old porch swing.  Purple phlox poking up through the cracks.

I closed my eyes and told God of my sorrow and in my heart I could see Paw…bare feet pushing that old swing back and forth, holding our baby B.  Baby B gripping a handful of purple flowers.  Laughing with Paw, happy.

Yesterday, I found out that Baby B wouldn’t be part of our Earthly life, but that he had gone on to heaven…where there are siblings, friends, and our beloved Paw.  Where there is Jesus and love and joy and where his eternal significance will be played out with no sorrow, no tears and never any pain.

But we are surely feeling pain.

All along we’ve said that we’re surrendering this whole thing to God.  The whole thing.  The bleeding, the babies, our future…We laid it down over and over.  And all along we’ve said that no matter the outcome, God is still God and God is always Good.  He can’t change who He is.  And we felt so much peace about Baby A and the smaller Baby B.  I think we assumed that peace meant that we were going to get the outcome that we wanted.  Two whole, healthy babies born on schedule.

And now I know that we were wrong about that, because we lost Baby B…That peace did not mean we were going to get what we want.  No, what that peace meant and means is that God is still God.  He is still good.  He is still with us and in this.  He still brings peace.  I still feel peace…even in the midst of my grief.  I am so disappointed, so sad, so longing for a do-over…but still…peace.

About two weeks ago, I had a really big bleed and then began to bleed bright red again.  It was different than it had been before and it was discouraging.  On Friday, I went to the doctor for cramping and she saw and I saw two healthy, beautiful beating hearts.  On Friday.

Yesterday, I went to Maternal Fetal Medicine for a consult about my issues- my thyroid and my age and the twins and the bleed.  I waited for two and a half hours.  I finally saw a doctor and it was really closing time by then.  She hurriedly talked about my thyroid, said it was no big deal and was sending me on my way.  I was almost about to check out when they called me back.

“Let’s at least try to get heart beats.”

I wasn’t worried.

They couldn’t get them with their doppler, and I still wasn’t worried.  They did an abdominal ultrasound and got Baby A, but not Baby B.  I still wasn’t worried, but I could see the doctor was.

We switched to the Other Kind of Ultrasound (sparing you details) and again, Baby A looked perfect…but Baby B was so still.  I could see his little heart and could see it wasn’t beating.  They tried for about twenty minutes.  And they tried every button and bell and whistle on that fancy machine and they were grimly silent while they did so.  Nothing.

Baby B was gone.

I cried as she told me what I already knew. I cried as we discussed the risks to Baby A.  Apparently I have a whole extra bleed that either popped up along the way or was never diagnosed.  (The machines at MFM are a million times more sensitive and they are trained to look for complications in a way that regular OB/Gyns are not.)  I cried as the doctor explained that the hemorrhage is a huge threat to Baby A and that Baby A only has a 50/50 chance.  I cried as she explained that the babies didn’t actually attach very well, that Baby B in particular was not attached very well.  That his placenta was pulled away from the wall.  I cried as she apologized and offered condolences in that awkward, medical way that the doctors at MFM have.  Bless their hearts.  I appreciate their expertise, but at that moment, I longed to be at my usual doctor’s office where, no doubt, there would’ve been prayers and hugs and tears.

“This is not your fault.”  the doctor said as she handed me a box of tissues.  “There’s not a damn thing you could’ve done to prevent this.  It’s just one of those things.”

I nodded and I knew it already because I know something she may not know.  That God is the one who numbers our days.  Not mommies, not daddies, not doctors.

“Are you by yourself?  Are you okay to drive?”  the doctor asked.

Through tears I said that I was…I hadn’t brought John because I’d known it was going to be way too long an appointment.  I hadn’t expected this.  And I just wanted to get out of there.

I cried through check out and I told the lady I didn’t really care when my next appointment was scheduled for.  I cried in the elevator and as I walked across the parking lot and broke down and cried harder in my very hot car.  Through tears I texted John and gave him awful news in an awful way because I couldn’t speak.  I texted my sister.  I started the car.  I calmed down, took a deep breath and drove home.

And then I walked through telling my kids and seeing their tears and seeing their grief.  Seeing my husband’s sadness and disappointment because we really love Baby B a lot and we were in love with the idea of having twins.  Our hearts were all in.  We had names for two boys or two girls or a girl and a boy.  We had nursery ideas and we’d talked and laughed about how tired we’d be.  We are so disappointed.  We wanted this a lot.

I am heavy hearted.  I am grieving.  I am filled with sorrow.

I’m not really questioning why because I just feel like that won’t get me anywhere.  Whys aren’t going to change anything.  I will not understand why anyway…because I can’t see the end of the story.  I’m asking God for healing and miracles but I’m still saying…

God is God and God is good…even when we don’t get what we want.  We have to accept this truth either way.  When it’s raining and when the sun is shining.  When life is good and when life is awful.  It’s His plan we trust.  It’s His plan that we know is good.

I know this.  I’ve seen it.  When my friend Jen lost her son Carter, I saw it.  When my friend Jen’s son Silas became critically ill and remained ill, I saw it.  When I got divorced, I saw it.  When I miscarried last summer, I saw it.  In countless other difficult circumstances…I have seen it.

So, I am asking for prayer.  For miracles.  God can do miracles.  The Bible says so.  I’ve seen Him do them.  I am asking specifically for strength for baby A to pull through.  I am asking for healing from the subchorionic hemorrhage and for the bleeding to cease.  Quickly.  I am asking that the Lord would protect Baby A and the placenta from the hemorrhage.  That the two would have nothing to do with each other.  I am asking for God to soothe our broken hearts.

Please pray.

God gave me a picture of a little boy last night.  A little boy with blonde hair whose name is Asher.  Asher, happy and blessed.

Happy and blessed and present with God.

Love

From downstairs, I can hear Claire’s voice.  She’s learned to say, “Hey Daddy!”  and then Daddy says, “What?”  and she says, “I luh you!” and Daddy melts into a big puddle of sappy.

If you say it back, “Hey Claire!” she’ll say, “What?” and you say, “I love you!”  she’ll say, “I luh you too!”  It’s so cute and none of us ever get tired of hearing her say it.  From the oldest sister down to Lila, they all love to hear it.  Because LOVE is a common thread in the culture of our family.v

I look around this room I’ve been in since Sunday and I see echoes of Lila and Claire everywhere.


In our house, it’s not at all unusual to find plastic animals basically anywhere. (Examples: the refrigerator, the snack basket in the pantry, any windowsill, your purse, John’s desk, the toilet) Lila sets up these intricate scenes and Claire comes along and destroys them.  It’s not unusual to step painfully on a Littlest Pet Shop creature in the night or to trip on someone’s shoes or backpack at the bottom of the stairs.

In our house, it’s not all unusual to find books all over the place either.  We all love to read.  The older girls are always reading their Bibles or the Hunger Games or Jane Austen and they’re always leaving their books everywhere.  I’ve read two books since I got my Nook on Wednesday.  (I can’t leave those laying around though.)  John has eleventy million books and they are in piles and on shelves and all around.  The little girls love their books too and never tire of being read to.  I like that books are part of the culture of our family.

In our house, people don’t always remember to put things away, stack their dishes in the sink, return things they’ve borrowed.  It’s not uncommon to find water glasses on bedside tables or discarded jewelry on end tables, shoes in the hallway.  It’s not uncommon to have to search three bedrooms to find your hairbrush…or make up brush…or the good mascara.  It’s not uncommon to see big girls going from room to room searching for a shared article of clothing.

In our house, it’s hard to get a word in edgewise and it’s hard to hear the tv over voices talking and cracking up.  In our house, you might hear up to three instruments being played, one to five voices singing, or three girls squealing over Bollywood and K-dramas.

In our house, it’s weird and strangely quiet in those rare moments when just John, Claire and I are home.

Claire looks for the chaos when that happens.  She wanders the house saying, “Lila?  Aub-bee, Ju-ja, Duh…Bubby?”  She’ll try the next tier of loved ones, “Nonnie?  Gunkie?  Meema?”

I love that the culture of our house is relational and people oriented, that we worry more with loving well than having a super clean house.  That you can’t hear yourself think because everyone is buzzing with chatter and laughter and conversation.

I told a friend who came to visit yesterday that I’m happy as long as the house is at about a level six or seven and that’s really true.  I’d rather have a Calico Critters village in my bedroom and books everywhere and the shoes of teenage girls all over the place than a clean and empty home.

I listen to Claire, she’s singing now….”I luh you….you luh me….” and I think we’re teaching her something good.  That love comes first. That relationship comes first. That sometimes sitting in the kitchen floor with four teenage girls until 1:00am is more important than finishing the dishes.  That reading the Blues Clues pop up book for the nineteenth time today is nothing but a pleasure.

Our kids may not be spectacular housekeepers (well, except Deanna but we can’t take credit for that, she came that way) but they know how to love well.

Our household motto is “Love Well”. What’s yours?