every April

I don’t remember exactly how she told me. Maybe her firstborn (just barely one then) wore a “big sister” shirt. Maybe, across half the world over FaceTime, she just gave me the wide-eyed excited-but-this-is-crazy face and told me over, “Guess what! I’m PREGNANT.” Either way, I was excited for her. We had both been awaiting positive pregnancy tests for a few months, both hoping for a close sibling pair—her first and second, my third and fourth. Her baby was a few months older than my youngest, so it made sense that she’d have news to announce first. I started dreaming about perhaps flying to Czech to see her when her baby arrived late the following April, providing I didn’t get pregnant too soon.

I did. It was literally days later when I got the faintest second pink line. But this was not my first pregnancy. I knew: a faint positive is a positive. She was one of the first people I told. We figured our due dates were perhaps a week apart. “Cousin twins!” we excitedly declared them.

And that April, she gave birth to her Sophia, and I was six months pregnant with my Lilly. There were no cousin twins. That pink line flickered and went out over the next few weeks, then my body let the baby go. That April was a weird mix of feelings: excitement at the pending birth of my niece, sadness that there was no corresponding birth for Hope, Sophie’s “twin,” and guarded anticipation of the baby girl I was finally beginning to feel moving within.

Every year, I expect grief as I pass the anniversary of the loss, and every year I’m surprised to find the anniversary is over with little feeling. I guess I see it—the prevailing symptoms of my grief when I lost her were numbness and lethargy (which turned out to be depression). I only recall crying twice that Fall; I just remember sitting in the recliner in my living room, trying to muster up a few craps to give about my three little kids’ misbehavior, and feeling generally catatonic.

But in April, it hits. This is the month little Hope would have come. This is the month she didn’t.

I’m never quite sure what to do with it. It has taken me by surprise for a third year. I remember people telling me when I became pregnant with Lilly that a rainbow baby is the best medicine for a miscarriage. My truth is a little more muddled than that. I’ve written before about the work it took to fully love Lilly and Hope simultaneously, because wishing Hope here means basically wishing Lilly gone, and celebrating Lilly means I’ve let Hope go.

To some degree, this remains.

This April, as I see Sophie’s birthday coming and picture Hope turning two just a few days later, I’m aware that it’s not really fair to picture Hope here turning two and Lilly also turning two in July. It’s not possible.

But April is a sweet month for me, too. I’m finding that, like the last two, Jesus is holding me close and quiet. The grief stings, sure. But to borrow a lyric from Andrew Peterson,

The aching may remain, but the breaking does not.

The grief means she’s not forgotten. It reminds me she was here. Miscarriage is weird—life moves on like it never was, when a mama is acutely aware of the lack of a human in her body, in her family. But April reminds me she was here, and her name reminds me (as I had hoped it would) that she’s not lost, she’s just gone. I know where she is, and I will get to love Hope beside Lilly eventually.

Friend, I don’t know what your story is. I know there’s a good chance you have one like mine, or eventually you may. I promise you know people who hold little ones in their hearts that few others remember.

If this is your story, I hope you find comfort in the sadness, as I am. I hope Jesus holds you close in the sorrow and the quiet. That the aching remains, but the breaking does not.

Because the Man of All Sorrows, He never forgot
What sorrows were carried by the hearts that He bought
So when the questions dissolve into the silence of God
The aching may remain, but the breaking does not.


If this is you or someone you love, I want to point you to a book I’m reading right now. It’s due out 5/1/2018 (so just in time for the potentially oh-so-painful Mother’s Day!) and it’s called Grace Like Scarlett. I’ll probably share more about it when I’m done, because I believe from the depths of my soul that this book is one that the world needs, but for now, I’m about a third of the way through it, and I’m experiencing it just like April: the sorrow is quiet and deep, and the presence of Christ is palpable and deeper still.  If you’re interested in checking it out, you can find it here.

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love him anyway

I had the privilege of reading an advance copy of Love Him Anyway in exchange for an honest review. The opinions are all mine.

Abby Banks is a busy mama of three. Then one morning her youngest, at seven months old (that’s my youngest’s age now), woke up paralyzed. This is the story before and after that morning as the Banks family (and Abby in particular) fought for a new normal within what is, rather than what should be.

I know Abby Banks.

I mean, I don’t. Not really. But as I read her words—her heart—sharing the story of her family’s last several years, she seemed entirely familiar. It took a while to identify why, but she feels like a combination of several of my close friends. Her strengths, weaknesses, neurotic googling of medical conditions, mama bear love, second-guessing of her mothering… I get it.

So I wasn’t especially surprised to find myself pulling for her and for her family about three pages into the story. Before the wheelchair, before transverse myelitis, before Wyatt even came to be, I was really hoping things would turn out well for them. I mean, I’d read the synopsis, so I knew Wyatt and paralysis and a chair were coming. But I was really looking forward to the redemption and the healing.dsc_6176-copy

I was not disappointed.

I don’t want to offer too many details because it’s worth reading on your own (and her account is much better than mine could be), but my heart was so encouraged by the places this story went.

As a mama, of course I was picturing myself in her place. Initially I was anxious and heartbroken as she fought for answers and waited for progress, but as she found her bearings and her hope, so did I. Do I want my children to face challenges like Wyatt has to? Not especially. But as she walked me through the backstory and the diagnosis and the treatment, I realized that there has always been enough grace every day for Abby and her family in exactly the same way there’s always enough for me and mine. The circumstances are so different, but our God is the same.


Tomorrow is the last day of the #LoveHimAnyway blog tour, and it’s closing out on Abby’s page. If you want to follow Wyatt’s journey (or just want a little bit of sunshine in you feed) I recommend following Wyatt’s Fight Against TM on facebook. Or check Abby out on twitter OR instagram: @fightlikewyatt.

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If this story sounds like something that will resonate with your heart, it’s available for purchase all over, like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Christianbook.com. Or, if you’d like to save a dollar, buy it through Ambassador International’s online store and use the coupon code “LoveHim” for a 10% discount.

Better yet…

You can win a signed copy.

Click here for details.

(You don’t have to enter an email or anything. I just had a handy dandy widget that doesn’t want to work, so you have to click to look at it.) 

(a sad story, but a good God.)

A long time ago (probably just past a decade now), we were in a group of mostly-college-aged mostly-singles from our church.

In this group (as frequently happens), a boy and a girl started to date. They were perfect together. Beaming. He proposed. The engagement lasted only long enough to put a simple wedding together. Its length was measured in weeks, not months. I was overjoyed for them. (I had, not long before, endured a six-month engagement… a few weeks seemed much more doable.)

I helped with a few practical aspects of the wedding. I recall cutting up a LOT of fruit from Sam’s club with another friend. I remember chatting with the bride’s mama the evening before the ceremony. “This one’s gonna last,” she said. I agreed. They loved each other deeply and, more, they both loved and followed Jesus.

I watched them pledge “until death.”

A couple years passed. We were now attending different churches, so we saw less of each other. We shared a few meals. He became a police officer, she became a mama. Then, as friendships can go, we all got busy and we lost touch. We kept up on pieces of each other’s lives over facebook. We chatted when we ran into each other around town, marveled at the size and number of each other’s kids.


Earlier this month, his face showed up all over the news and social media. He’d been ambushed on duty. Shot multiple times. Miraculously in stable condition in Anchorage with his wife. His leg would heal- he was up and walking, despite bullets still imbedded. Shrapnel had hit his eye, and it may be lost, but he’d likely be fine. We rejoiced with the entire town for his life.

Then, after nearly two weeks, he went into surgery for that eye.

Things went south.

He’s gone.

His sweet wife has four little kids to grieve with. They have a God bigger than all of this, but the road is long.

The community is heartbroken.

They say “Fairbanks lost a hero,” but we have hope, because he actually isn’t  lost- we know where he is.


I keep seeing the letters “RIP” followed by his name. “Rest in peace” is a nice sentiment, but I can’t help but read the word “rip.” Death is a rending of the way God created us. We know this intrinsically. Even when death is expected, it jars us.

Allen was ripped from his wife, from his kids, from his fellow officers, from his church and friends, from the town.

“Rip” indeed.

My heart is thankful for One who specializes in mending.

And right now we weep.


Lord Jesus, please hold Natasha and the kids especially near right now. I ask that You would use this, unfathomably, for their good and Your glory. Thank you for Allen’s faith and for the promise of heaven. Please give those around them wisdom to help and comfort his family. I pray that you would provide support for them long after the news has died down. Please cover them all with Your goodness and grace and mercy.


(If you’re looking for a practical way to help, here’s the crowdfunding page set up by the FPD Employee’s Association.)

wide open

This week busted me open.

Wide open.

On one day, there was rage over injustice in one tragedy and celebration over a major victory, and then there was a loss. Oh, the loss.

I lost a sweet nephew before he was due to arrive (but not by much) and I have no words about that just now, only all the feelings. And it’s not even primarily my tragedy, so I’m aware my feelings, whatever their volume, are just a reflection of the feelings of his parents and sisters, not equal to them.

(Please pray for my people as the Lord brings them to mind.) 

Saturday, my kind and wise husband talked me into going for a family walk. And bringing my camera.

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You guys, that was what I needed.

Nothing was fixed. I forgot, in the sub-freezing temps, to bring my two-month-old a hat. Eventually, she borrowed her sister’s. I realized my 1-year-old doesn’t have a proper coat. In Alaska. No proper coat. Must fix that ASAP. He has a vest and a very cute hat. The girls wore ridiculous dresses for wandering, and we didn’t bring them gloves. Katherine threw her daddy’s gloves carelessly over the side of a bridge, just because she was done with them. (Because Katherine.) At the end, an unnamed daughter dropped my camera and busted the lens. (My husband took it apart and fixed it today with his Leatherman. Because of course he did.)

But going out in creation with an eye toward finding lovely things to capture? That was good for this heart.

I needed to remember in practical ways (not just theoretical ones) that God is big. He made all the beautiful things. He’s still in control, whatever is swirling around me. It doesn’t heal the intense grief, but reminds me, in a visceral way, just how good our God is. The God who makes a world where there are swirls and bubbles in ice in a pond is certainly capable of holding the people I love who are hurting right now.

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I have a friend who’s on Instagram all the time sharing beauty and talking about how good it is for us to find it (even more healing to look for it)… She’s onto something.

Beauty.
Gratitude.
Worship.

Jesus.

That’s what’s getting me through this week.


This post is part of the write31days challenge… I’m trying to post every day in October. The rest of the posts can be found here.

faith to be strong

Hey, you guys.

Today has been a hard day and my heart is completely dizzy from a range of emotions from a whole bunch of different things and I simply have no words. So I’m going to share someone else’s words.

I’ve shared Andrew Peterson’s music before. His music is figuring pretty prominently in my life now (as usual) and this is stuck in my head and heart as a prayer tonight.

Give us faith to be strong
Father, we are so weak
Our bodies are fragile and weary
As we stagger and stumble to walk where you lead
Give us faith to be strong

Give us faith to be strong
Give us strength to be faithful
This life is not long, but it’s hard
Give us grace to go on
Make us willing and able
Lord, give us faith to be strong

Give us peace when we’re torn
Mend us up when we break
This flesh can be wounded and shaking
When there’s much too much trouble for one heart to take
Give us peace when we’re torn

Give us faith to be strong
Give us strength to be faithful
This life is not long, but it’s hard
Give us grace to go on
Make us willing and able
Lord, give us faith to be strong

Give us hearts to find hope
Father, we cannot see
How the sorrow we feel can bring freedom
And as hard as we try, Lord, it’s hard to believe
So, give us hearts to find hope

Give us faith to be strong
Give us strength to be faithful
This life is not long, but it’s hard
Give us grace to go on
Make us willing and able
Lord, give us faith to be strong
Give us peace when we’re torn
Give us faith, faith to be strong


This post is part of the write31days challenge… I’m trying to post every day in October. The rest of the posts can be found here.

Lilly and Hope

October is miscarriage and infant loss awareness month. It’s also the month that Hope would be six months old. Miscarriage affects one in four women (according to some statistics) and it is such a silent loss that many of those women feel alone. So I will continue to bring it up from time to time, in hopes of making the one in four feel just a little less alone.

I’ve talked about last year’s miscarriage an awful lot here, and I really thought I’d processed it pretty fully. I was able to hold the tension between the joy and the sorrow and, while it’s still sad, I’d have said I pretty well found healing.

And then Lilly girl was born.

My rainbow baby.

And, for a few weeks, the newness and the chaos that always comes with a baby pretty fully occupied my mind, hands, heart, and time.

Then I went to an event where, among other things, I took a pretty solid look at the lies I was telling myself. Here’s a pair that came out:

I am being disloyal to Hope if I fully love Lilly.

and

If I am still sad about losing Hope, then I don’t love Lilly very well.

The problem that was caught in my heart was the fact that I could never have had both; they were too close. If I hadn’t lost Hope, Lilly could not have come to be. To have Lilly at all, I had to lose Hope. So in loving Lilly, it felt like I was glad I lost Hope, and in missing Hope, I felt like I wished I’d never had Lilly.

The friend facilitating the discussion about this tried to help me separate the two girls from so many different directions, but I wasn’t having it. I simply couldn’t see past the dichotomy.

After a great deal of frustration on my part, my sweet husband stepped in:

“I think you might be getting stuck because you believe that loving Hope has to mean you wish with all your being that things had been different.”

Yes. That’s exactly the problem.

But what if I step back from that definition of loving Hope? 

I had to ponder it for a little bit. How would loving Hope look if I didn’t wish with everything that I hadn’t lost her?

Trust.

Here’s what loving Hope looks like for me:

I loved her deeply for the time I knew I carried her.

I grieved her fully when I lost her (and continue to do so.)

And I trust that God knew what he was doing when He brought her home rather than allowing me to raise her. I trust that she’s fine, and that this, the family precisely as it is with four children here and one in heaven, is what God has in mind for us now. He gives good gifts, which means raising Lilly is a good thing and it means that the having and then the sorrow of losing Hope is also ultimately a good thing. (Though it absolutely does not feel that way.) I can see a few ways in which this loss has pointed some people toward God and softened me and made me just a little more like Jesus.

It’s still a really uncomfortable truth, this realization that I could never have had both.

But, while I cannot have both, I now know that I can love both just as fully as I love my others. And there is a great deal of peace and freedom there.


This post is part of the write31days challenge, where I’m trying to post every day in October. The rest of the posts can be found here.

after the last tear falls

I’ve officially reached the point (it happens every pregnancy) where I cry randomly at songs. (When I was pregnant with #2, I inexplicably broke down crying every time I heard “Country Girl Shake It For Me.” Please don’t google the lyrics if you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s ridiculously silly and it’ll negatively impact your opinion of me.) I’m not actually much of a crier, so it’s always a little startling (especially for the kids) when I start blubbering in the car for no apparent reason.

Most recently, it’s been “After the Last Tear Falls” by Andrew Peterson. Here it is… I’ll wait.

Or here’s a slightly abridged piece of it, if you’re in a hurry.

‘Cause after the last plan fails, after the last siren wails
After the last young husband sails off to join the war
After the last “this marriage is over”
After the last young girl’s innocence is stolen
After the last years of silence that won’t let a heart open

There is love…And in the end… is oceans and oceans of love and love again
We’ll see how the tears that have fallen
Were caught in the palms of the Giver of love and the Lover of all
And we’ll look back on these tears as old tales

‘Cause after the last tear falls there is love

[Aside for those who worry about this sounding like Rob Bell’s “Love Wins” theology… His lyrics are frequently pretty unmistakably orthodox. Like here and here, for a small start.]

One of the things I love so much about Peterson’s writing is how well he handles the dissonance we live with as humans.

I love the idea (the unmistakably true one) that all the Sad Things are discreet events. Sirens, abuses, deaths… they’re all countable things.

And they’re not infinite. They are many. More than anyone can track, with the exception of the God who knows the number of hairs on each head. But not infinite. There will be an end. And not just any end. A good one. As my favorite children’s Bible puts it, God  will make all the sad things, even death, come untrue.

And the tears? The ones that Psalm 56:8 says are recorded? They’ll just be stories. Stories of battles fought and things survived and, ultimately, the faithfulness of a God who loves us.