12 years

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Photo by John Keatley

Twelve years ago today we said “I do” in the sticky hot July heat, so in love and without a care in the world. I remember our photographer never having to ask us to smile, because we couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear the entire day, all starry eyed and rosy cheeked. We were twenty-one years old and when I think back, I can’t believe what babies we were.

You were smitten with my beauty, I was smitten with your charm. We started dating April of our senior year of high school. We had chosen colleges states apart and decided we would date for a few months and then break up for college. Little did I know that you, my first boyfriend, would sweep me off my feet slowly but surely.

When you left for Arizona, I realized for the first time how much you meant to me. We continued a friendship over those next few months and had many long phone conversations. It was clear during our time apart that God was drawing us to Himself and to each other. Christmas Eve we officially started dating again. I’ll never forget the butterflies I felt seeing you walk down the hill, wearing your wool sweater, flowers in hand, as you came to greet me at my dorm room after we had been apart for months. Baby, you still give me butterflies all these years later.

You moved back to Washington, started attending SPU where I was going to college, and also worked a full time job so you could buy me the engagement ring of my dreams. You proposed bright and early one morning and surprised me with my favorite breakfast. We had decided not to live or sleep together until we got married and kept those convictions until our wedding day. Many thought we were crazy, but we were crazy in love and knew what we wanted, to spent the rest of our lives together.

And so that hot July day we recited those traditional wedding vows that have been said for generations, having no idea how many times those vows would be tested in the years to come.In our twelve years of marriage we have grown up together and those bright eyed and bushy tailed kids have seen some hard times. Together we have endured joblessness, depression, and infertility, just to list the tip of the iceberg. There have been many times we have gone to bed angry, said harsh words to one another, not been on the same team, and wondered how the heck two stubborn people like ourselves can be happy together.

And so here we are twelve years later, with no simple advice or tips for friends that are seeking marriage advice. The trite advice we would have given years ago falls flat, but there are a few things I’m sure of. I know that God is love and that His love is greater and more powerful that I can imagine. I know that His grace is sufficient and that His mercies are new each morning. I know that each day I choose you, my husband. You are still the one my heart desires…your touch can melt away the stress from the day, your singing puts a smile on my face, your cooking always touches my stomach and my heart, your convictions inspire me, and your tenderness with our son makes me excited for this season of life God has us in. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, troubles will come and go, but I choose you and trust the Lord to continue to guide us each day as He faithfully has these past twelve years. I love you Angelo, Happy Anniversary.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,  bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”  Colossians 3:12-14


Say Something

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Picture taken by Emily Sue Allen

Here it is, Mother’s Day, and I couldn’t let the day pass without sitting down to write. For those of you that haven’t read my blog before, it started when I turned 30, just shy of three years ago. During that time I was navigating the emotional waters of infertility. Little did I know that a month after talking about the challenges of celebrating Mother’s Day while longing for a baby, I would become pregnant (after trying for 3 years) with our first baby, only to miscarry that baby 11.5 weeks later. Then God carried us one more full year and we conceived our rainbow baby who had the exact same due date as his brother or sister one year later. Here I am now the mother of a happy, energetic, sweet 14 month old son who brings more joy and love to my life that I could have even imagined. You would think that this Mother’s Day all I would feel is happiness, but I have to be honest that I still feel a mix of emotions on the day that we celebrate mothers.

Today heavy on my heart ….. J, who gave her baby up for adoption and sacrificed so much to give him the best life she could….R, who lost her sweet baby girl in utero at 5 months along…N, who already has a child and longs for another and that dream keeps being unfulfilled…A, who buried her precious baby under a Japanese maple tree…K, who just lost her baby at 12 weeks along last week….S, who has longed to have a child to raise and has a foster child in her care….B, who longs to be a mother and doesn’t know if that will happen…my family who is mourning the loss of my grandmas, the matriarchs of our family. My heart is heavy for these amazing women in my life and the longings, prayers, and tears that have been shed on their journey of motherhood.

Today I am celebrating… N, who is expecting surprise baby number four, M and T who have waited for years to become pregnant and both are expecting their first child… E, who I’ve known most of my life and I just found out is expecting…A, who had a miracle baby that is now in her arms… … E who recently welcomed baby number 6 into her family….my own mother and mother-in-love who unconditionally love our family. My heart is celebrating these amazing mothers and their children who are wanted, loved, and adored.

As I think back on my own years of struggling on this day, I think of the friends that reached out to let me know they were thinking of me and I wasn’t alone. Those moments are still not forgotten years later, because they meant the world to me. They taught me that on Mother’s Day of all days it is important to reach out and let your friends know you are thinking of them. You are mourning with them. You are celebrating with them. You are praying for them. What they need to hear most is that you are thinking of them today, they are not forgotten.  So often I think we fumble in trying to find the right words to say, and then often don’t say anything at all. It is so much more important to say something, than to say nothing all.

As I look back I am thankful for my dear friends C and N. C, who on Mother’s Day when I was still longing for a baby sent me a text saying “Happy Mother’s Day! I trust that someday in God’s timing you will be an amazing mother. I love you and am thinking about you today.” When I think back to the Mother’s Day when my heart was aching for the baby we lost I remember my friend N sending me a text saying “Today I am thinking of you. You may not have your baby in your arms, but you are a mother. Remembering you and your precious baby today.” And last year a number of friends thanked us for sharing our journey so they could share in our joy that our long awaited son was here. If you are one of the friends that have reached out to me on Mother’s Day I want to say thank you. Thank you for reminding me that I’m not alone and for teaching me the importance of reaching out to others to remind them the same thing.

“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, But a good word makes it glad.”

Proverbs 12:25

*This post was inspired by the writing of Shauna Niequist.

**Spoiler Alert…I’ve been writing and planning over the past few months and am planning on more officially re-launching my blog in the near future!


a weekend of celebrations

Two years ago yesterday I started this blog not having any idea where it would go and what direction my life would take over these past few years. At the time I was turning 30 and going through infertility. I felt led to start a blog to open up about our journey and also to write about other passions of mine. I have been a fair weather blogger to say the least and yet I’m thankful to have this small platform on the internet to share my heart and journey with those that care to listen. It has been humbling and healing to open up about our journey and invite others to walk beside us and give a voice to the struggles of infertility as well as bring hope. If you are new to the blog you can read more about our journey here and here.

Yesterday I turned 32 and the day before that I celebrated Mother’s Day with our sweet two month old son in tow. A lot has changed in two years! I have started a few blog posts over the last couple of months, but not managed to get any posted. I haven’t even given baby D a proper introduction on the blog! I laugh when I think about how much extra time I thought I would have when our baby arrived. I didn’t anticipate being one of “those moms” that held their baby for so many hours during the day. This sweet baby has slowed down this type A, social butterfly, always having an insanely long to-do-list mamma in the most beautiful way.

I know how fleeing the days are when he just wants to snuggle and smile and coo at me all day. I cherish each and every moment I hold him in my arms. His daddy and I are obsessed with his cuteness and the joy he brings. Daily we talk about how thankful we are for his joyful disposition and we pray that as he grows he has the joy of The Lord in his heart and spreads that joy wherever he goes. He has a smile that lights up the room and quite the charming personality to go along with that big toothless grin. Ah, I could continue going on gushing, can you tell I’m smitten? He was worth the wait in every way.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalms 147:3

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Baby D, four days old. Picture taken by Emily Allen.


Crocuses

Hello sweet neglected blog of mine. I have thought about you often over these past few months as I have watched my belly grow and move with life. I have intended to write and share this journey, but have found myself pulling inward and taking these past few months to reflect and soak up the sweetness and healing that this season of life has brought.

Here I sit today, 39 weeks pregnant, Valentine’s Day, anticipating the arrival of our sweet son. The pure joy of this moment is magnified because of the longing, prayers, and heartache that have lead up to this moment in time.

Just one year ago I was dreading February as we approached the due date of the baby we will someday meet in heaven. I felt the weight of grief and a season of bareness that seemed to go on and on. In the midst of the pain I remember noticing little purple crocuses popping up from the ground. These resilient little flowers bursting forth from the cold, frozen earth, showing their amethyst color, which immediately made me think of the February birthstone. To me these flowers symbolized new life, hope, and the promise that God can bring life out of what seems like barren land. Everywhere I went I would notice these tiny pops of purple hope.

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Today I was taken aback as I looked down and saw a plethora of amethyst crocuses proudly making their February debut. Immediately I was taken back to the emotions I felt last year and the stark contrast of where my life and my heart is today. God is faithful to bring life out of the barren land.

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Picture taken by the amazing Emily Allen of Solace Arts Wedding and Family Photography

“The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” Isaiah 58:11


Raining joy

The saying ‘When it rains it pours’ usually applies to difficult seasons of life, but the last few months I have been seeing that phrase in a new way. I have watched my life transition from a heavy season of waiting, wrestling, and struggling to a new season of life, hope, and answered prayers. I can only describe it as a raining down of joy and blessing from God. In my darkest hours I clung desperately to hope and today I am more convinced than ever that God heard those prayers and is answering them in the most beautiful way. He is truly a God who redeems and restores.

“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!” Pslam 30:11-12

A couple of weeks ago we had our 20 week ultrasound and we planned a gender reveal party that same evening with some of our closest friends and family. I will admit that going into that appointment I had fear tugging at me. Would we see a healthy baby? Would we find any major developmental concerns? It was a leap of faith to plan the party and walk in faith and hope that the ultrasound would be fine.

Our hearts lept for joy as we saw our healthy, active baby on the screen! The ultrasound tech meticulously checked out every single part of our little one and the report came back….perfectly healthy. What an answer to prayer! At times I still have to pinch myself because I feel like all of this is a dream, but there on that screen I could see in such a visible way our dreams coming true.

We then came back home to a room filled with loved ones as we all waited in anticipation to find out if this precious baby was going to be a boy or girl! Please feel free to check out the fun reveal here. OH BOY! We are thrilled to be expecting a baby boy in February! How very loved he is already. My heart swells with joy to think of the day we will meet face to face.

Oh boy!

I have recently been searching for a Bible verse that that would hopefully guide our son’s life as he grows. We are currently going through a sermon series on Psalms and last week we focused on joy. The words of Psalm 27:8 immediately stood out to me:

“The Lord is my strength and my shield;

in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;

my heart exults,

and with my song I give thanks to him. “

Angelo and I loved everything about this verse for our son and how appropriate that it came to us on a sermon on joy! This baby boy is a gift, a joy, and we pray that his life will be a song of thanks to the Lord. 

 

 

 

 


Woah Baby!

It is a dream come true to share that Angelo and I are expecting a sweet baby in February! If you have been following this blog then you know it has been a four year journey of longing and waiting to get to this place. We are beyond grateful to be at this point in our journey and for all the love and support has been given to us during the years we have struggled with infertility. Many of you are prayer warriors and have faithfully prayed for our family and we know God has heard and answered those prayers. Thank you for your steadfast friendship and support during a season that seemed at times like it would go on forever. Your love has carried us in more ways than you know.

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I will warn you that this post is longer than usual, but there is much to share about this past year of our journey. As I sit down to write I am flooded with emotions. I am elated, humbled, grateful, and in awe of the gift we have been given. I know how precious the gift of this child is and how blessed we are. On the other hand being pregnant again has brought feelings of fear, remembering the struggles we have gone through, and fighting to live in the present instead of the past.

In so many ways I just want to move forward with rose-colored glasses and be a giddy, naïve, obnoxiously elated pregnant woman, yet to do so would not be genuine. I can’t and don’t want to deny all the ways God has deeply worked in these past four years of struggle, waiting and longing. I am forever changed because of our journey through infertility. As we enter this new season I am processing all the lessons God has taught me over these past few years and will share more on this topic in a future blog post.

http://solacearts.com

When I announced our first pregnancy I titled my blog post “God is faithful” and when I miscarried that precious baby 11.5 weeks later I titled that blog post “God is still faithful.” God’s faithfulness has certainly been a present theme during our journey of loss and infertility and with this current pregnancy. Even on our darkest days the hope we have in Christ has been our anchor.

After we went through our miscarriage last July we took many months after to process and heal. This last year of infertility has broken us in ways I could only imagine. During that time we decided to move forward with meeting with a fertility clinic (Seattle Reproductive Medicine) to talk about what our next steps were. I had one last test I could try to see if my progesterone was low. I went ahead with that test and I ended up being slightly low, but not low enough that they thought it was affecting my fertility or cause for concern. Once again we were back at undiagnosed infertility, where on paper we should have no problem getting pregnant and yet here we were. The next step we were looking at was IUI and then after four cycles if that didn’t work, then we were looking at IVF. We were only given a 20% chance that IUI would work.

After that appointment I didn’t feel peace to move forward with IUI right away. Of course I had a sense of urgency and desperation for a baby, but for us the journey of infertility has not been to plow ahead at a fast pace doing everything and anything that is within our control. Each step of the way has involved much prayer and seeking God’s peace and direction to move forward. So we sat for months waiting and hoping to get pregnant on our own and taking time to heal…. waiting past what would have been our baby’s due date, past yet another Mother’s Day, the waiting was incredibly painful, and yet it was clear we were called to wait. And to be honest part of me really wanted to just get pregnant again naturally. It had happened once and I was hopeful it could happen again. But it wasn’t happening and one day while praying I felt a release to move forward with IUI and so we started the process that very same day.

http://solacearts.com

To our surprise, relief, and utter joy we became pregnant after our first try at IUI! We found out we were pregnant right before Father’s Day. When I calculated the due date February 17, 2015 came up. I froze. Chills ran over my entire body. Our first precious baby was due February 17, 2014. We have the EXACT same due date one year later. Wow. This was clearly God’s timing. I was instantly reminded of a sermon preached that past Sunday about how God intimately cares about us. I realized that this whole time God had planned this timing, this special due date, not to fully erase the pain we had experienced, but to bring healing and redemption.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.” –Lamentations 3:22-25


Beauty out of ashes

I started this blog one year ago on my 30th birthday. I had felt the nudge to start blogging for a long time and decided that entering a new decade in life was a good time to take the leap. I was excited to share some of my passions – my faith, homemaking and cooking to name a few, but I had a deeper reason to start my blog. I decided to open up and share about my journey through infertility and to give a voice to the inner struggle that so many face alone. Wow. Little did I know how life would unfold and all that I would go through as I entered my 30’s.

Here I sit one year later. Empty womb. Baby in heaven. Mother’s Day. My Birthday.

My heart feels heavy. I can feel the tightness and weight of it all in every part of my body, even though I try so hard to push it all away. This past year God has allowed a deep work in my life through all I have experienced and I am forever changed and humbled. However I am not entering this new year feeling jaded or hard, but with a fresh perspective. I have a renewed heart of compassion for those who struggle, suffer, and hope for dreams unfulfilled. I have eyes to see and a heart to empathize with people in a way that I didn’t have before. For as much pain as I have gone through this past year, I can honestly say I wouldn’t change what has happened.

I trust that my suffering is not in vain and that God does have a plan. Even though I have no idea what that plan is, I trust my loving Father in heaven. As Romans 8:28 says “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (NIV) I cling to the hope I have in Jesus. He is the God of the resurrection and all that follow him are resurrection people. As I  read these words from Rachel Held Evans this week they spoke to me in a powerful way:

“Our God is in the business of bringing dead things back to life, so if we want in on God’s business, we better prepare to follow God to all the rock-bottom, scorched-earth, dead-on-arrival corners of this world, including those in our own hearts- because that’s where God works, that’s where God gardens. There’s no ladder to holiness to climb, no self-improvement plan to follow. It’s just death and resurrection, over and over again, day after day, as God reaches down into our deepest graves and with the same power that raised Jesus from the dead wrests us from our pride, our apathy, our fear, our prejudice, our anger, our hurt, and our despair.”

In so many ways through this past year I have wrestled with God over my own fear, pride, despair and He has met me in that place and sustained me. As Shauna Niequist says in her book Bread and Wine, “We never grow until the pain level gets high enough.” Ugh, isn’t that the ugly truth. I wish I could trade the pain, but I will take the growth and press forward into what God has for me. I trust him to make beauty out of these ashes (Isaiah 63:1) and will wait to see how that beauty unfolds in this barren land.

Until then I will continue to count my blessings each day and to strive for contentment and gratitude daily. Today that includes feeling the love of dear friends and family, getting out to enjoy the sunshine, and enjoying a delicious dinner with my husband. I do have much to be thankful for.

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” –Philippians 3:8 (ESV)

***For those who also find Mother’s Day bittersweet, may you find this article encouraging and honoring of your situation.


hope

As you can see I have taken a long hiatus from this blog and that was quiet unintentional. These past few months have included many ups and downs and as a result I have had to take a step back, reflect, and prioritize what matters most in life. They say “when it rains it pours” and I don’t know why that so often is the truth, but I have been in a rainstorm for much of these past few months.

If you have been reading my blog you know we went through a miscarriage in July after what had already felt like a long infertility journey. Our baby journey has only been one of the storms I have been going through these past few months, but it is definitely one that weighs heavily on my heart and is the reason I need to break my blogging silence today.

Today, February 17th, was the due date for our precious baby.

Perhaps in some strange way I have been holding my breath for this day to arrive to begin blogging again and continue on the path of moving on and healing.  In so many ways I have been dreading for this day to come, to acknowledge the pain of what was lost and a heart and arms that ache for a baby that will not be arriving.

It never ceases to amaze me that on my darkest days God reminds me to hope.

Today I went to work at my job as a nanny and my sister joined me for most of the day with my sweet nephew. I was going through the motions, trying to be present in the day while at the same time knowing how tender and fragile I was. When I set up the playdate with my sister I knew what day and it was, but didn’t acknowledge it’s significance to her. I figured it couldn’t hurt to have a fun distraction to keep my mind off of things.

Well the morning was fun and full of distractions looking after three busy little ones. Towards the end of the day my sister handed me a  gift. I asked what it was for and she said just to open it.

I opened the card and read the most heartfelt letter acknowledging the significance of the day, our loss, her prayers and hopes for us and our future family. I completely lost it.

If the letter wasn’t enough, she also got me a beautiful pure white glassybaby and it’s name….

Hope.

A word that has so much significance and sums up what our precious baby meant to us.

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Source

Tonight as I sit here admiring the bright candlelight in the darkness and think about the events of the day, this verse comes to mind, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

Here I have been wallowing in my own grief  and God reminds me that no matter how dark things get He is here with us, and there is always hope.

Thank you to those that continue to read this blog and friends and family that walk closely with us on this journey. To those that have sent a text or note today, each and every prayer and word of love is felt deeply. When the darkness threatens to take over it is such a gift to know we are not forgotten, we are loved, and there is hope.

 

 


fall in our home

Fall is here and I have been embracing the season whole heartedly. We had such a beautiful summer in Seattle filled with sunny, hot days and it’s so nice to feel like I’ve had my fill of summer to last into the colder seasons. I was actually craving the colder weather and all that comes with it…hot tea, leather boots, scarves, and warm jackets. I was also ready to give my home a mini facelift and bring in the cozy and inviting fall decor.

I love decorating our home to reflect the changing seasons. It just takes a few small touches to have your home reflect the season and it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. I have collected fall decor throughout the years and always like to change things up a bit each year. Here is a little glimpse of our home:

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Here is one of the pumpkins on our porch that I chose not to carve, so they will last for weeks to come. I found the pumpkins at Grocery Outlet for a steal, I think they were $5 a pumpkin!

IMG_2326 Welcoming fall wreath, just made a few changes to this spring wreath.

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Love this reminder to be thankful. I made this banner a few years ago using a cricut.

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Notice I did a little DIY to the green candles to give them a more fall feel by wrapping with burlap, ribbon and raffia.

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Lots of fall colors on the table and our simple brown sectional.

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I’ve always had a big crush on glassybaby votives and they are part of my decor year round. I would really like to add this orange one to my decor next year.

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It’s nice having a bunch of blankets that are easy to grab, the one peeking out of the basket is from Crate & Barrel similar to this one. Honestly I would stay away from acrylic for blankets because they tend to ball over time. The pillows in the background are from Pottery Barn (they don’t currently carry the color we have) and Crate & Barrel. I couldn’t find a link for the Crate & Barrel pillows since we got them a couple of years ago. I would recommend the PB and CB pillows because they wash beautifully and have held up over time.

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I love to mix up expensive and inexpensive items in my home. I found the polk a dot pillow for $3 at Value Village (what a find!) and I made the sweater pillow by using a pillow form we already had and a sweater I found at Value Village for $7. The sweater pillow is definitely a favorite and very cozy….

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…Stella is demonstrating how cozy and snuggly the sweater pillow is! This is a great tutorial for this project: http://www.brassyapple.com/2011/01/diy-sweater-pillows-cozy-up.html

Stay tuned for another post on fall decor featuring the shelves in our kitchen! Also I’m curious, do you have any fall decor staples you love?

 

 


moving on

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I have had so many wonderful friends and family checking in and asking how I’m doing. The answer changes depending on the day.

Most days I am doing okay, moving on, living life and aware of my many blessings. Other days it is just plain hard. Friends telling us they are pregnant and trying to smile and be happy, while feeling like I just got punched in the gut. Going to visit other friends at the hospital to meet their baby, only to be flooded with memories of the last time I was at this hospital for the D&C. And there is something about hugs that can really turn on the waterworks, a big bear hug from someone who cares and wants me to know how sorry they are and that they are praying. Sometimes I just come undone and that is not a feeling I am used to. I like control and I am used to control, but grief does not behave or follow the rules.

A wise friend described grief so eloquently to me recently and I’ll do my best to repeat it. She described grief as this river that is always there and sometimes it is so low that you don’t even notice it, but other times it rises all of the sudden and the emotions completely wash over you in a way you don’t expect. We can ignore the river, but it is always there.

I am learning to give myself grace when the emotions take over and the tears flow. Friends have been so gracious to remind me its okay to be sad. On the hard days it can be physically and emotionally exhausting, but those days only stay for a little while. God will never give us more than we can handle. This is a season where I just need to go with the ebb and flow of grief and healing. If I don’t grieve then I won’t truly heal.

I would much rather try to put on a happy face and keep going, but God isn’t calling me to be fake, He is calling me to be honest. I don’t have it together. Some days I’m a mess. I’m thankful to serve Jesus, who came to earth and understands suffering and pain. A God who loves me enough to walk through the valleys and comfort me. I know I’m not alone when the hard days come and I’m thankful for that peace in the midst of the pain.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

Lamentations 3:22-24