Sunday, May 31, 2015

Through it all, through it all, it is well

I had so many clever baby announcements pinned to my secret "Baby #3" Pinterest board consisting of cute kids holding chalkboard signs announcing the impending arrival of a new sibling.  I'd downloaded baby name apps, deciding on some favorites and pairing them with middle names, making sure the initials wouldn't spell anything unfortunate..

All of this because a week ago tomorrow I took a little test that told me what I'd been highly suspecting (and hoping) for the week prior.  I had the perfect Pinterest-inspired way to tell my husband and an adorable announcement for close family and friends featuring my current tiny humans and, of course, a chalkboard.

So much excitement, anticipation, gratefulness, planning, dreaming and smiling was unfortunately replaced with tears and a fair amount of physical pain over the last two days as I had to say goodbye far too soon to the teeny tiny one who had already captured my heart.

I unfortunately know far more women who have had miscarriages than who have not.  It's a group I have always had a tremendous amount of respect and compassion for, but selfishly hoped to never join.  Well, here I am.

I have countless things to be thankful for in this situation.  I was not far along at all.  I have two beautiful, healthy tiny ones who are doing their best to deal with an emotional mama this weekend.  I have a wonderful support system all around with family and friends.  And ultimately, though there is a deep grief, the underlying peace and hope runs deeper because of Jesus.  I don't feel like I have to hide my frustration, sadness or anger from Him.  It doesn't diminish who He is or that He is still good.

It's easy to want to shut off the emotions or compare our personal situations to other things in the world that could be far worse, but I am simply attempting to let it all come as it will, in waves of physical and emotional pain, waves of peace, grief, overwhelm, and ultimately hope.  I of course hope that this season would be a quick one, overshadowed soon with news of a healthy pregnancy.  But regardless, I want to find contentment and trust not in the circumstances surrounding current and future seasons, but in the one who walks through them with me.  And it may involve a moment to moment reinstatement of that trust when fear and despair attempt to creep in.  I have to speak truth over myself, not to negate the raw emotions, but to remind my heart where my hope is truly found.

I was supposed to sing this song this morning at church but laid low today instead.  It's a good one for whatever season you might be in.

It Is Well

Verse 1
Grander earth has quaked before
Moved by the sound of His voice
Seas that are shaken and stirred
Can be calmed and broken for my regard

Through it all, through it all

My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all
It is well

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
It is well with me

Verse 2
Far be it from me to not believe
Even when my eyes can’t see
And this mountain that’s in front of me
Will be thrown into the midst of the sea

So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name 

It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Overseer of tiny humans day

My children decided to bless me this Mother's Day weekend by sleeping through the night last night!  They were also up with the sun this morning, but rolled around in our bed and ate cheerios while watching that lady on YouTube who plays with playdoh and miniature Anna and Elsa dolls.  She probably does other things, like encouraging children to ask their parents for more toys, but my head is usually buried under a pillow during these absurdly early morning viewings.

Because I am well rested and have a few hours to myself today (thanks Nonna!), I'm able to calmly and lovingly reflect on motherhood with all its blessings, frustrations, and refining moments.

Never have I known such depths of love and awe....and then two minutes later the bleak abyss of utter frustration and rage.  I would think I was truly going crazy if I didn't hear confirmation from other mothers telling me this is normal.


And if I begin to question whether the irrational creatures I encounter on a daily basis, shrieking like hyenas from the backseat of my car, eating stickers, and sobbing uncontrollably when their plate isn't the right color, are entirely unique to me, I simply consult The Honest Toddler.

Because I always strive to be educational when I blog, here are a few gems I've gleaned from motherhood:

-My former ability to have any sort of out loud thought or momentary self-processing is immediately hijacked by a tiny 4 year old voice chiming in with "What you said?"  I then make an annoyed face to an invisible off-screen television camera, ala Jim Halpert on The Office.

-Food tastes better when children are asleep.  I've tried not to eat at night, but it's too enticing.  Day time food tastes like tears of defeat.  And even those are cold by the time you're able to consume them :(

****Personal triumph: I once ate an entire snack size bag of Dortios right next to both of my children without either of them realizing.

-I've learned the art of asking forgiveness from a tiny human when I throw a royal full size human tantrum.  Not that I do.

-PBS is a life saver.  I will gladly sacrifice some of my children's (non-existent) college funds to contribute toward a proper education for them right now at the hands of a train with a British accent, a spy organization run by comedically gifted children, a half-naked tiger, and a monkey who is always assuredly rewarded for doing what he's asked not to do. Basically if it isn't Caillou, I support it.

-Hygiene is something I feel I am on top of if my children have been bathed within the last 2 weeks and hair brushed within the last 4 days.  Bonus points for when their ears are clean. They also have toothbrushes.  Somewhere.

-Certain things I never imagined would bring peace are a huge asset to me now, including messes that are wreaking havoc on various parts of my home, and yet allowing me to make dinner, go to the bathroom alone, or simply check Facebook (not that I do..)

-Spiders, flies, slugs, roly poly bugs, and various other creepy things I would have previously disposed of are now very beloved distractions that keep my children occupied for minutes upon seconds at a time.  That's all I ask for in life.

-I should never attempt to assemble ANYTHING with my children around.  I've learned this through our recent move.  Even stapling papers together at times is enough to bring us all to tears.  I'll never learn.

-Pinterest is both a virtual dream world for all I can accomplish as a wife, mother, and over all creative well as a virtual graveyard of all I will never accomplish or have attempted to accomplish but had to then replace with a cheap burger and fries because my creation was inedible.

I've wasted so many sweet potatoes..

Here are the most important ingredients I've found for motherhood (you can pin this recipe):

-Jesus. I imagine I would have run away and my children would have been sold to the gypsies by now if it weren't for the grace of God in my life.  My kids are the best gift I have been given.  And they are a gift I honestly have NO idea what to do with much of the time apart from Jesus' wisdom and guidance.  I have learned a dependence I never knew previously.

-My own mom.  Not only have I gained a whole new respect for my mom, but she has been integral in the life of my kids and I love watching their relationship and the way they all delight in each other.

-Other women.  Some of my closest friends are mamas in a similar season of life to my own and they bring a great deal of sanity, humor and wisdom to the table.  And occasionally allergy-friendly cookies.

-If you haven't come across this, An open letter to pastors regarding Mother's Day, I highly recommend it.  It sums it up better than I can, but I am privileged to know some amazing women who may not have children of their own, and yet what they have helped birth within my life and the lives of so many others is beautiful and will continue to bear fruit for years to come.  I am so thankful for each of you.

Now I have to go cut out a coupon for my Mother's Day breakfast "croissan'wich" from Burger King.  My husband knows I'm not a jewelry girl, so this is the obvious second choice.  Keep it classy my lady friends.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Never met someone who thinks so much like me...jinx!...Jinx again!

Exactly 7 years ago today I put on a beautiful borrowed white dress (thanks Christy), had approximately 83,000 bobby pins placed in various locations throughout my hair to keep it in place, gathered with some of my most favorite people in life, and exchanged a few life altering words with a strikingly handsome young man I met on the internet.

Sort of.

Recounting Josh's and my story is no small feat because of its unique nature and the fact that 7 years later we still marvel at the idea that we ever met and actually managed to get married.  We joke that we got married so we could finally date, and also that we basically had an "arranged" marriage that we arranged ourselves...and then hoped for the best! 

Neither of us really could have imagined that one small church group outing would end up changing the rest of our lives.  Both of us had our reasons for joining this random outing to Safeco Field to tour the stadium for a few dollars.  It was shockingly not our deep mutual love of baseball that drew us, but rather that we each had friends going and we admittedly thought maybe there would be other single individuals there...because this is how you think when you're in your late 20's and going to any sort of outing.  

We interacted only briefly throughout the day, each functioning in the comfort zone of our closest friends who could affirm how delightful and funny we are just in case our future spouse happened to be watching...

Our love story nearly met its demise before it began when two groups of us agreed to meet up after the Safeco tour at the Cheesecake Factory.  We all did end up there, only half of us were in Seattle and the other half in Bellevue.  Like Romeo and Juliet. 

Weeks passed without any further interaction, except of course for the customary MySpace investigating.  I determined from his social media persona that he was quite adventurous, funny, musical, handsome...and he thought pretty highly of Natalie Portman.  

I didn't attend the church he was going to, but I felt "compelled" to attend in the following weeks to support my friend Brenda who was leading worship there at the time.  I'm a really good friend.

I should also add that I knew at this point that this handsome man was recently home from a long stint in Thailand and would be leaving in a few months for a 2 year commitment in Cambodia.  This definitely deterred my thoughts of anything actually transpiring between us, but I've never been one to let Natalie Portman win, so after ending up at a few lunches together with mutual friends, I decided to finally take the next big step.

I sent him a MySpace friend request with a witty, non-chalant "I'm really funny and you should be my friend via social media, but don't read into it like I like you" message attached. 

It worked. 

We went on a group outing to the Pacific Science Center to learn about our changing bodies and gaseous activity.  All the things a budding romance is made of.  We then arranged to go hiking because I suddenly loved the idea of hiking after looking at his MySpace page.  I brought roughly 48 friends along with me because apparently I was too nervous to be alone with such a handsome man.  I was getting over a cold and could only hear out of one ear during our adventure.  It put a damper on things, but the good news is I never cried!  I wanted to save the emotional part of me for marriage.   

I remember feeling disheartened as we chatted on our hike, thinking I was far too un-adventurous and non-outdoorsy to ever be a possible match for this handsome world traveler.  I couldn't compete with Queen Amidala and her pointy snake skin helmet ear cover thing and fancy royal starship.

Despite writing myself off as a possibility for him, we began to exchange more MySpace messages and eventually even spent time just the two of us exhibiting our natural God-given athleticism and prowess on the tennis courts of Everett.  We were incredible.   

In the meantime, I had no idea what to do with these interactions.  He was leaving the country in a month, we barely knew each other, and he'd recently been given his first opportunity to hear some of the song stylings of FigTree21.  None of this fared well for me, I'll be honest.

My only hope, my final shot at winning this man's heart forever, was an invitation to his youngest brother's wedding where I would be wearing an adorable black and white strapless dress and my full array of Star Wars makeup.

I opted out of the makeup at the last possible moment, which worked out for me in the long run.

All of my hard work paid off hours later when I went home, checked my email (sometimes we took a classier route than MySpace), and he'd sent me a small note to tell me how beautiful I looked that night. 

What!?  What could this mean??  He'd complimented my duct taped ankles at one point (that's for another blog), but to be so straightforward like this, so unabashed in his affections!  We hung out the next day to return his wedding suit, and ended up on an unplanned outing to take his brother and new sister-in-law to the airport to go on their honeymoon.  I rehearsed in my head all the way to the airport what I might say on the way back.  We obviously required some sort of "DTR" at that point.  I didn't even know if we had a relationship to define, but I DID know that he was leaving the country for two years in exactly two days from that point, so something needed to happen!

At the airport, his lovely new sister-in-law told me in private "You know he likes you, right?" 


It sounds silly, but this piece of information entirely shocked me.  Did I mention he was leaving the country in two days??

So on the way home I got up all of my courage and asked "What is this??" (pointing back and forth between the two of us) 

He replied "Your finger?"  

And that's when I knew he was the one...

We sat in his car in a church parking lot and talked for hours.  His dad had joked about him bringing a ring with him that night just in case.  Apparently all of our "like" of each other was out in the open now.  The Cheesecake Factory and Natalie Portman could not  destroy what was meant to be. 

Two days later, his parents and I sent him off to Cambodia.  He tried to hold my hand at some point but I missed the cue so I only had MySpace messages to snuggle in his absence.  We e-mailed as often as we could, which was not terribly often for someone who was constantly leading teams throughout the provinces of Cambodia.  We "broke up" a few months later, also via email, after some well intended but unhelpful advice from a pastor friend.  The people who knew Josh and I best were surprisingly entirely on board with the craziness of it all and affirmed what a good match we were. 

Somehow we survived the "e-breakup" and he was making plans to come home for a week and a half at Christmas.  We knew this would help us determine if our whole communication had simply been a virtual e-relationship or something more substantial.

After getting past the initial awkwardness of suddenly being out from behind our laptops, we realized we actually really liked spending time together.  We engaged in a lot of non-written communication, went on a few actual real life dates, and I eventually made him kiss me.  He was a pure minded missionary, susceptible to the feminine charms of a young American woman. 

Per our style, he told me he loved me right as he was saying goodbye at the airport to go back to Cambodia.  We're very good at last minute expressions of affection.

Our emails became slightly more mushy and far more detailed in terms of what life might look like if this really all progressed as it was seeming to.  Three months later, he called to ask me a very important question.  He presented option B: he would fly home that spring, propose, and then that following Christmas (approximately 9 months away) we could get married...At this point I told him I would probably pick option A...

Option A, which is exactly what transpired, involved him flying home 3 weeks after that phone call, officially proposing in person, and us getting married 3 weeks later.  More than enough time!  I was 28 years old.  Had never left the country aside from Canada.  Had just finished up my Bachelor's degree (finally).  And was desperately and entirely in love with a man thousands of miles away.

The strangest thing for Josh during this time was receiving a copy of his own wedding invitation while still in Cambodia.  

He came home, took me to the beach, put a ring on my finger, and his sweet dad officiated the most beautiful wedding I could have ever imagined.  We sat on a couch literally minutes after being pronounced husband and wife in absolute awe of the moment.   

We went on dozens of dates together throughout multiple provinces of Cambodia for 16 months, hosted quite a few teams serving orphans and widows, learned what marriage looks like in some pretty foreign circumstances, and eventually moved back to America and were able to finally hold hands in public :) 

That's our story.  And I wouldn't want it any other way.  I have had the absolute privilege of sharing 

my life with the kindest, funniest, most thoughtful, loving, patient, generous, handsome man I've ever met. He loves Jesus and loves me unlike anything I could have ever fathomed.  I still don't understand how well he loves me.  I've fallen in love with him a thousand times over and I am thankful for the many chapters we've been able to add to our sweet story.  And if you've read this far, you're probably my mom.  But if you're not, then thanks for reading anyway :) 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

My least favorite mystery.

Roughly three and a half years ago I involuntarily began a journey into a world that I was entirely unprepared for as I became a mother.  I wasn't prepared for any of motherhood in reality, but specifically I was quite taken off guard by this relentless, itchy, messy, frustrating, seemingly unsolvable issue called "eczema."

Not only has Emma dealt with this since she was only a few months old (with some brief reprieves throughout the years), but now our sweet 16 month old Ben has it as well, only far worse than Emma's ever was.

I decided to blog about it because I feel like I should have some sort of honorary eczema doctorate degree from the hours and hours of online research I have put in over the years.  It's not that I am such an excellent researcher, but at the end of every day I find myself at such a loss as to what to do, how to help my sweet kiddos not scratch at their skin the next day until they bleed.  To say that it breaks my heart is putting it midly.  It feels crushing to any parent I imagine to watch your child in obvious pain and feel entirely helpless.  So back I go to this vast world wide web in an attempt to find some new clues, some new cream, some new method, some new hope.  I have to feel like I'm doing something to help them.

I feel like I've tried everything. Various allergy tests, gluten free, dairy free, egg free, taste free, homemade laundy soap, homemade hand soap, homemade eczema creams, wet wraps, bleach baths, steroid creams (ugh), hazelwood neckalces (desperate times), aquaphor, cerave, aveeno, eucerin, neutrogena, vaniply, waxelene, calendula, vaseline, coconut oil, shea butter, apple cider vinegar, vitamin D, vitamin C, fish oil, probiotics....the list goes on.

My goal here is to temper this incredibly depressing entry with some humor as I navigate the itchiness.  Jesus and laughter get me through the days like today when my son with the staph infection scratches at his leg until the skin finally breaks open and starts bleeding before we can stop him.  I look at them both in the bathtub at the end of the day with red patches covering both of their sweet little bodies and it's hard to not feel quite hopeless.  I pray daily for healing, that they wouldn't have to go through life like this, that their skin wouldn't keep them from being able to participate in activities, and wouldn't make them feel embarrassed.  I'm thankful that they are such happy, fun, otherwise healthy children and realize it could be so much worse.

I'm also thankful for homemade almond butter cookies on discouraging days :)