Monday, February 4, 2013

Hope Does Not Disappoint...

I went to a Hope Mommies retreat this past weekend.  Hope Mommies is an organization ministering to the hearts of mother’s that have seen their babies go to heaven ahead of them.  I met 30 other women who are grieving the loss of one or more babies, either through miscarriage or through infant loss.  I heard so many heartbreaking stories.  Stories that would simply undo you.  Stories no one should have to live through.  But stories that Are Being Lived… bravely, courageously, and in community together. 

The theme of this year’s retreat was Marked, knowing that each one of us has been forever marked by this tragedy in our lives.  Marked by death, marked by grief, marked by anger, by empty arms, by the loss of a dream. Marked… together with Christ, sharing in His suffering, bringing His suffering to completion knowing one day we will be with Him again in glory. 

I walked away from this retreat remembering again the answer to a question that I’ve been wrestling with for years.  The question being “Who am I?”  In light of losing these babies, in light of years of battling with fertility issues and losing what once was a place in which I found my identity, in light of it all, who will I be now?  I have been marked.  So what will my mark say about me?   

I have a choice.  My mark can leave me bitter, angry, jealous and just downright hateful.  No one would blame me for it.  They would even understand it.  But choosing that is just not who I am… and nothing close to what I was designed for.  I know this.  God knows this.  And you know this.

I was designed for worship.  And I was designed by and for the Love above all loves.  I simply am not meant to dwell here forever.  I’m made for a different place: an upside down, inside out Kingdom, where what is now unseen will be seen and all the heartache of today will be no more.  A place where my babies are now.  And now, right now, they know this Love face-to-face.  How I long to be with You, too. 

But for today, I do live here.  It hurts; and I will make my choice.  Jesus is true and sure and my heart cries out for Him to come.  In light of this, I choose to be a woman of Hope.  For, hope does not put us to shame.”  I am and hope to always be a Hope Mommy.  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My Advent Preparations: Part 1

There are several things we are doing around here to prepare for this Advent season.  For instance, we will put up our tree this Friday, instead of fighting the crowds at the mall.  We will have a slow morning and hopefully a slow day in the house together listening to music and eating left overs!

Then starting December 1st, we will begin our newly created Advent Traditions for our family.  Since I didn't grow up celebrating Advent, I've been learning from friends' families, from suggestions on facebook and Pinterest and just searching my heart and scripture for what is truly important.  Here, I'll just list out a couple of things I have done or will be doing this year.

1.  I sent out the 2nd annual email to Lucas' grandparents casting vision for what I'd like his Christmas memories to be about... family gatherings, learning to anticipate Jesus' coming, as well as not bombarding him with every toy a boy could ever want, but certainly does not need.  I gave them a few ideas I have for things that would be helpful and beneficial to him... some toys and some activities... if they felt inclined to donate to :)

2. I've created an Advent Calendar of sorts.  See this post for details.

3.  I stole this idea from this mom.  Because it's a good one.  I'm collecting a children's  Christmas book for each day of Advent.  Lucas will get to unwrap and read one each day.  I've found several at the library and several at Half Price Books.  You'd be surprised how difficult it is to find stories about Jesus rather than Santa, but they are out there!  It wouldn't be fiscally responsible right now for me to buy them all, so we may do a few repeats.  But since repetition of the story is what this is all about... he'll love it!  If you like this idea, the above listed blogger has a huge list of books on that link.  She also has a million more Advent ideas.  I've found a few others books: The Little Drummer Boy by Kristina Redams; Little Porcupine Christmas by Joseph Slate; One Starry Night by Lauren Thompson, Waiting for Christmas by Monica Greenfield; One Winter's Night by Leo and Diane Dillon; The First Night by BG Hennessy; The Christmas Star by Igloo Books and The Christmas Story by Igloo Books.  Just use your own discretion when sharing any story that includes details not directly from the Bible... like the Little Drummer Boy.  But this book made me cry!

A few that I've found so far!

4. We will say our Advent Prayers each night.  When Lucas is with us, we will use this Children's Devotional called Welcome Baby Jesus.  I've never used it before but it looks fun.  We will light our Advent candles and all say things we are thankful for and things we sacrificed that day... like sharing a toy with a friend, or Daddy working longer than he wanted to so that the family will be provided for.  For each thanks and each sacrifice said, we will put a (yet-to-be-created/bought) trinket into a treasure box for Jesus for his birthday.

This all may sound like a lot.  It might be too much.  We will adjust as needed.  But I'm hoping to simply incorporate it all into our daily activities to help us focus our hearts and minds on Christ's coming.  And in the end may we all cry out in a deeper way... "Come Lord Jesus!"

My Advent Preparations Part 2: The Easy Peasy Advent Calendar

Since, I'm doing absolutely nothing to help prepare for the Thanksgiving meal tomorrow, I've been spending my time planning for Advent, "The Arrival".

Part II of this post will focus primarily on our Advent Calendar.

I've been searching and searching for the "appropriate-for-my-family's-needs" Advent Calendar and for activities to include in it.  When I say "appropriate for my family", I mean a lot of things.                  

1. Personality... I'm not the super, crafty, do-it-yourself-er who enjoys all that craftiness and I'm okay with that.  2. Time... this year we are stretched for time and energy.  I needed and wanted something easy and inexpensive.  Each of us has to find what works best for our families and for our own capabilities during these coming weeks.

So, here's what I found at Garden Ridge yesterday:

A big box!

That holds lots of little small boxes!

I didn't have to make a thing!  Well, except the numbers!

And all for less than $20!!!  I did print out stencils for the numbers.  Then cut them out and glued them onto the boxes.  I wish I had kept looking for more stencils online because soon after mine were complete, I found these.  They would have been quite a bit easier!

Now, I'm trying to compile a list of activities to be included into these cute little boxes!  I stole most of these from friends on facebook, Pinterest and Google searches!  Some are silly, some are very intentional teaching moments, some are simply about family being together.  I have ONE purpose in doing an advent calendar for Lucas and our family.  That purpose is to create longing and anticipation in our hearts.  The world ached and groaned for Christ's first coming.  I want to feel that.  And today, the Earth and all of our hearts tremble for His Second Coming. I want to be aware of the anticipation in my heart.  Advent means "The Arrival".  I want to wait longingly for his coming Arrival.  And I want to help create that for Lucas.  And together we'll pray, "Come, Lord Jesus."  Each day, as Lucas opens a box, he'll anticipate what's in it and what we are going to do that day.  Then I will talk about how every day, in that same way, we long for and expect Jesus to come for us.

With all that said, here's my list.  They are not quite in order yet and I have more than 25.  I'll arrange them best with our weekly schedule and move things around as needed.  If I stick to this 80%, I'll feel great about it.  And one thing to note: we don't do Santa Clause at our house.  Ask if you'd like more explanation on that, but notice I'm celebrating St. Nicholas Day on Dec. 6th.  And that's why some of my calendar boxes have Santa on them... but we call him St. Nicholas :)

1. Go to  Mozart’s for special dessert and hot chocolate.  It's a coffee/dessert shop on the lake and they have great lights up already!  

2. A new Christmas coloring book

3. Read the Christmas Story from Luke 2

4. Make Christmas cards for Friends and Family 

5. Make a card for our mail person 

6.     Celebrate St. Nicholas Day on Dec. 6th; Buy a gift on the Any Baby Can Wish-List  and deliver it to them

7.     Make and Decorate Cookies- deliver them to neighbors and the mail person with cards

8.     Order a pizza and watch a Christmas movie together; make hot chocolate and stir with candy canes

9.     Feed the ducks at the pond and go to our church’s Christmas party

10. Make a Christmas Ornament and take Christmas Pictures at school

11. Make “goody” bags for the homeless and pass them out from our car

12. Make a Ginger Bread house

13. Have a tea time

14. Make a card for someone who doesn’t have a lot of family around and invite them to come to one of our upcoming activities with us

15. Go see the lights on 37th Street in Austin and go to across the street to Amy’s ice cream

16. Lower our heat for a day and pray for those who don't have heat at all.  

17.  Make a pine cone bird feeder to feed the animals around us.

18.  Make paper snowflakes and hang them in our windows.  Check these out: Easy ones for kids

19. Ride the MetroRail and meet a family member or friend downtown for brunch and/or the Children's Museum.  Annie's is my favorite!

20. Make a ginger bread house or a ginger bread nativity

21. Go to Trail of Lights with family!   Trail of Lights Schedule!  The 21st is Caroling night! Begin building our nativity set by adding the angel.

22. Make a full traditional breakfast and play Christmas music.  Add the wise men to the nativity

23. The Element Express!  See here for this fabulous idea!  Add the animals to the nativity.

24. Make a birthday cake for Jesus.  Add Joseph and Mary to the nativity.

25. Remember It’s Christmas Day.  We have a family who loves us, and Jesus has come for us… He is the most important gift of all.  Add baby Jesus to the nativity.  Open gifts and spend the day celebrating with family.

Other activities:
    1.     Take family photos
    2.     Make the house smell like Christmas
    3.     Make a list of things you are thankful for
    4.     Go get warm donuts at Krispy Kremes
    5.     Find Mistletoe and hang it in your house
    6.     Buy a stranger’s coffee or meal
    7.     Finding things in your home to give away to charity
    8.     Write a note to someone you appreciate
   9.      Singing carols together with family or friends

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I read Twilight! There! I said it!

Yeah, I did!  And it turns out, I'm learning, you probably did too!

Gotta say, I was a little late to this Edward Cullen party.  I just read the books about 6 weeks ago.  And, it only took about a week to read ALL FOUR books!

This summer, I got on a novel reading kick and was searching for mindless entertainment.  Life has been pretty crazy lately with lots of stress and intensity.  So, I wanted escape... albeit somewhat healthy escape as I've already tried the eating-too-much/drinking-too-much escapes and those just lead you to places you don't want to go.  When I began asking around for books to read, it turned out almost all of my girlfriends had read the whole Twilight series!  SECRETLY!  And they LOVED it!

I will admit that I had previously watched the first two movies following all the hype about this beautiful vampire.  I wasn't all that impressed.  Even with Robert what's his face.  And the acting in the first film!  Gag!  I was seriously offended when someone asked me if we named our son, whose middle name is Edward, after the books.  Uh, no.

But, I'm blogging about it now because in all honesty, reading Twilight has changed my life a little.  Before you laugh at me, let me explain... in numbered paragraph form:

1. Like I said, life has been really tough lately.  All in the last few months: I had surgery, my grandmother passed away, my husband changed jobs, I potty trained my 2 year-old (uhhm, I have a 2 year-old. That's on the list too.), and last but certainly not least, we lost 2 babies.  This summer goes down in the books for us... as ruthless and entirely harsh.  Maybe I'll write more about that later, but for now, I just want to write about Twilight!  Twilight, along with several other fiction trilogies, was the perfect escape from the emotional and physical turmoil of a hard season.  I mean, Twilight alone contains: a silly and completely unrealistic love story, a fantastical world of beautiful vampires and imprinting werewolves, fights of good-vs-evil, and in the end a pretty good "everything's going to be okay."  It was just what I needed!

2. Through learning that my girlfriends had covertly read the books, I also learned that  they are all, again secretly, pumped about the new movie coming out in November.  A few of them even keep up with whether Robert and Kristen are still together or not!  Who knew!?  Let me clarify:  We are all 30-something Christians, mostly stay-at-home moms.  I figured it was only teeny bops out there reading this stuff.  And, truthfully, I had a little judgment in my heart for the non-teeny bops who had read it.  So, I was snobbishly reluctant to buy the first book.  But I have now seen the light. Therefore, in order to pursue greater purpose in my relationships with my friends (wink), I have organized a movie marathon so we can all be ready for the release next month of Breaking Dawn Part 2!  Hey, I've only seen the first two films. This just seemed the best way to catch up!  And I get to hang out with some women I love... enjoying some silliness, a little wine, popcorn, chocolate and Jacob taking his shirt off!  In conclusion, Twilight has scratched the surface in deepening my relationships! (wink, wink)

3. At the end of the Kindle version of the books is a transcript of an interview between another author and Stephenie Meyer, Twilight author, in case you didn't know!  I never read these things at the ends of books, but for whatever reason, I read this one.  She is (or was) a stay-at-home mom of  three young children.  She didn't consider herself a writer and had only sporadically written a few things casually.  One night when her youngest was barely one year old, she had a dream.  Her very detailed dream was the scene between Edward and Bella in the meadow... yeah, the one where he sparkles like diamonds in the sun!  She woke up from her dream so intrigued with the story that she just had to know what was going to happen between these two.  That morning, before swim lessons and while knowing she should have been doing other things, she sat down to write out the story.  Three months later, the first novel in the series was written in its entirety.  For some reason, this story really inspires me.  To know that another mom out there, found the time... made the time to follow a dream.  In her case a literal dream, but you know what I mean.  And whether you like the story she wrote or you make fun of it, you've gotta give the girl her props!  She's written four New York Times bestsellers and got 5 movie deals!  This woman is now a multi-millionaire. Way to go Stephenie Meyer!  I think you rock a little bit!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Things I'm Learning Through Infertility: Part Four


I cannot say this one enough.  I couldn't have gotten through this with any inkling of sanity had I not had other women to walk with.  I am a true believer of community and family living life together... sharing celebrations, sharing resources, sharing pain, walking together... what my church calls the "one-anothering" of life.  

When all this fertility stuff started for me, I knew of a couple of women who had endometriosis.  So, I called them. Immediately.  I was scared and freaked out.  Their words, unlike any others, were rest and comfort for my little heart.  As time went on, I met more and more women walking this same road for one reason or another.  Oddly, I have 3 friends from college who were all going through fertility treatments at the same time that I was.  We began meeting for lunch once a month or so just to connect and pray for each other.  Just being in their presence was deeply comforting... just knowing that other people felt that longing as deeply as I did.   

Early on, I loved hearing stories of people's fertility struggle as long as it ended with  a pregnancy and baby!  Then, as time went on and my heart grew in understanding of what was happening in my story, I began seeking out stories from women who adopted.  In late 2009, I met a woman, who after years of battling infertility adopted 2 girls.  As she shared her story with me, I saw on her face that she felt satisfied in the Lord. She still carried her scar. But she felt peace and joy. And she gave thanks and was not bitter.  She hugged me and held on.  She cried and told me that she knows my pain.  I felt God touch me.  I have several stories like this with other women... but this one always stands out in my mind as a moment where real truth seeped into my heart and set it a little more free.

In all honesty, for a long time I had a really difficult time being around women in groups... women's retreats, showers of any kind, etc.  When women are together they talk about their families... and sometimes not so kindly.  It was sooo hard to hear a woman complain about the difficulties of motherhood or pregnancy.  I mean, I get it, it's hard.  But not one of those complaining women would trade places with a "barren" woman.  And I would have given my left arm to have those 4 kids she's complaining about.  

At times, it was also difficult to connect with my really close friends who had kids.  Ironically, during my struggle with infertility, one of my closest friends had three Unexpected, Unplanned babies!  If our friendship was to survive (due to my own heartache and envy), she and I had to have some really honest conversations about how we both felt.    When she got pregnant with her third, we cried together (both of us wishing it had been me!)  As we talked, I realized that her heart was going through a very similar thing that mine was.  This had not been her plan.  Having a baby means completely laying down your life for a while.  She had other things she wanted to do, dreams to live out.  And God had another plan for her.  She had to surrender.  And it was painful for her.  She also had the capability to simply let it be painful for me.  She understood and was not put off by my pain.  I appreciate her more than she knows!  Tear.  

All that to say... I needed old friends and new friends to go through this without losing hope and possibly ending up a mere shell of who I'm called to be.  Those same women who grieved with me, also celebrated the homecoming of my son!  My house was decorated when we got home, I had meals for several weeks, a baby shower and lots of mom shoulders to lean on.  To all my lovely friends out there, I say Thank you.  You are a gift to me!

These really great pics, I stole from facebook.  They are of some friends of mine from  high school.  Most of these girls have been friends with each other from at least junior high and they are still all "besties!"  They travel together every year... a very intentional way to pursue friendship!  It's inspiring.  Love to all you girls from afar!  I hope it's okay that I borrowed your pics ;)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Things I'm Learning Through Infertility: Part Three

And number 3 in the things I'm learning:

I will NOT be defined by this!  

Today, "Infertile" is NOT a label I wear.  I did wear it for a long time.  And I believed everything about me was... barren. 

Before I was diagnosed with endometriosis, I was working in a job I loved and I was good at it.  I believed that too.  I felt that I knew who I was, I felt confident in my abilities and I had a lot of dreams.  After getting diagnosed and then experiencing disappointment upon disappointment, my identity (along with my womb) became the center of this attack.  I began doubting who I was altogether... revealing that a huge part of my identity was wrapped up in this dream of bearing children.  And I began seeing things in my life unravel.  I doubted all my abilities... especially my relational abilities which was the core of my job at the time. I even quit my job... some for need of rest, but a little because I just became so anxious about it.  I began shying away from all areas of leadership.  I felt like a horrible wife, a horrible friend and mentor, and on top of that, I couldn't even get my garden to grow.  Seriously, my joke was "Well, my own seeds don't grow without the help of chemicals, why would my garden grow?"  I truly believed that everything about me and my life was "infertile."  And I stopped dreaming.

Through a series of events, God lead me to give up that label.  It is not what He says is true about me.  And it's a lie!  I am not "infertile."  I will not be called barren any longer.  A couple of years ago, I was given an opportunity to share this publicly (about how God asked me to lay down the barren label and believe truth about myself).  In much fear and trepidation, I went and shared it.  Then Felipe and I got in the car to drive home.  Ironically, on that day I had been waiting on a call from the fertility clinic... it was THE call to find out if we were pregnant or not after our last IVF cycle.   I got the call in the car on the way home.  We were not pregnant.   Of course, it was devastating.  But this time it was also different.  I no longer believed that that negative test defined me.  It has been a life changing truth to hold on to.  

I feel today, as though I have my life back.  I believe that this change even gave me the freedom and courage to adopt... the best decision Felipe and I have ever made!  I have also stepped back into many areas of life that I had previously been afraid.  My garden, it grows! And I'm dreaming again!  All this has made me very aware that if I let it, infertility will steal my destiny!  

"The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." - Jesus of Nazareth

"Sing, barren woman, who has never had a baby. Fill the air with song, you who've never experienced childbirth!  You're ending up with far more children that all those child bearing women."  God says so!  "Clear lots of ground for your tents!  Make your tents large. Spread out!  Think big!  Use plenty of rope, drive the tent pegs deep.  You're going to need lots of elbow room for your growing family.  You're going to take over whole nations; you're going to resettle abandoned cities.  Don't be afraid- you're not going to be embarrassed.  Don't hold back- you're not going to come up short.  You'll forget all about the humiliations of your youth, and the indignities of being a widow will fade from memory.  For your Maker is your bridegroom, His name, God-of-the-Angel-Armies!  Your Redeemer is the Holy of Israel, known as God of the whole earth."  Isaiah 54:1, The Message

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Things I'm Learning Through Infertility: Part Two

  A little bold in the title, right!?

In great contradiction to the title above, here's #2:

I am NOT in control!  

No matter how hard I try, no matter how many things I do to help this womb become the best little incubator on the planet, I can't do it.  And believe me I've tried.  I've been to 3 doctors, 2 holistic practitioners, been on countless herbs, medicines and diets.  I've been dairy-free, gluten-free, chocolate-free, sugar-free, carb-free, caffeine and alcohol-free!  Oh yeah, and we tried a yeast-free diet once!  All that, and I gained 40 pounds in the process!  I've been massaged and acupunctured! I've even rolled a rolling pin up my leg while having castor oil on my abdomen supposedly to get blood to my ovaries!  And I've Taken Charge of my Fertility!    I've done the best treatments that science has to offer! I've prayed, I've surrendered, I've been anointed with oil, and I've been through healing prayer to find that "inner psychological wound" that's causing my body to not work!  Sheesh! 

What I'm not saying is that all of the above was for naught.  Some of those things were great for my health and well-being along the way.  But through most of it, I was simply reaching for control.  Along this journey, there are so many things that I had no power over... my cycle, cysts growing continuously, the right timing, the dumb negative sign on that stick!  There was just no control.  And I wanted it so badly!  It would send me into a panic.

And now, what I'm learning is that feeling of control is just an illusion.  The only thing I do have a tiny bit of power over is how I choose to respond to this most horrible tragedy in my life.  Don't get me wrong, I made many choices to sit, wallow, throw full on 2 year-old tantrums, and sulk in my own pity.  But... I also made some choices to worship even in sorrow, to be honest with God and confess my anger and rage, and to give thanks.  And letting go of my earthly fate, dying to my own will, and choosing to believe that God is with me, has been water to my thirsty soul.  All that sounds really great and easy when I write it down all pretty right?  I don't really know how I got to this place of just accepting that I'm not in control.  But I did get here.  And my heart  is much more peaceful than it once was.