Honesty – Reposted with Permission from Dalas at Crunchy Lutheran Mommy

So many people have told me that what they love most about my blog, Crunchy Lutheran Mommy, is my honesty.  That’s why I haven’t been posting much lately… I haven’t wanted to be honest, not on the blog, not anywhere.  And now I feel like I’m in a Dr. Suess rhyme all of a sudden… sigh.  I still have lots of drafts backlogged in my files.  For nearly a month I neglected my weekly pregnancy posts.  I haven’t wanted to take a belly picture because that would mean I’d need to smile for it, and I don’t feel like I can give you an honest smile today.  Or any of the days I might have had time to put up a quick post.

Every time I see someone outside of my own home (which isn’t very often as you might imagine) I get the same reaction “You look so exhausted!”  Here I am trying so hard to put on a joyful, Christ-filled, my-cup-overfloweth countenance and every single person can see right through it.  So much for being a model pastor’s wife, right?  But that’s the truth.  Exhaustion is my truth right now.  Every tiny little activity is exhausting.  Serving my children is exhausting.  Enjoying my children is exhausting.

Every once in a while my Dad asks me “Do you feel like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew yet?”  That’s been his concern this whole adoption, and sometimes it still comes up.  For months I have been saying no, but the question is starting to haunt me like a bad jingle I can’t get out of my head.  And I don’t even have any cutesy music to go with it.  I’m struggling right now.  That’s the only honest thing I have to say, and I hate to say it.  I hate to say it because the last thing I want is a slew of comments or messages or phone calls from people asking me if I’m ok or asking how they can help.  Just my pride talking?  Probably.

Prayer is good, but I know we’re covered in that already, without even having to ask.  So why even post?  Why not just say, we’re going through a tough transition time and I need to take a blogging break?  Why not run away?  I certainly feel like running, but running isn’t going to help me or anyone.  What might help though, is being honest, putting my weaknesses out there for the world and letting ya’ll know I am far from perfect.

It might help other adoptive families have realistic expectations for when they get home.  Did you know that the norm is actually to experience some level of post-adoption depression?  It’s very much like post-partum blues and depression, but even more common for both adoptive moms and dads, and even more complicated because of the deep sadness that naturally accompanies the reality of adopting a hurting child.  Adoption is all about loss.  We don’t like to talk about it much, just like we don’t want to talk about how redemption is all about the cross.  But the one is a living icon of the other, and the picture is poignant.

When we baptize our babies we dress them up in these beautiful white gowns and take family pictures and have a big reception and celebrate it.  Some families remember their baptisms every year (I know we do!) and we linger on the promises and the miracles that have been given to us in our gift of baptism.  But what we don’t see with our eyes as the pastor pours clear, sparkling water over that sweet child’s head is…  the blood, the death.  Because as much as baptism is about new life it is first about death, the death of the person being baptized, the gruesome death of Jesus on the cross.  There is a saying that as Christians we do not need to fear death because we have already died.  We died the death of Christ during our baptism, which means death has no hold over us – just as it had no hold over the God of the Universe.  And there, in the loss and only through that loss comes the beauty and the promise of true, abundant life.

Adoption is also about loss.  Life for these children only comes by means of very deep loss.  Everything that was their life has to die, everything that was meant to have been theirs, that should have been theirs was taken from them.  Only through that reality, can they begin a new life.  But the child isn’t the only one who loses something, the family also experiences loss.  In the end, it will be a blessing to us all.  But right now?  Wow is it hard.  We had a lovely little family.  Two perfectly healthy, bright, beautiful children – a boy and a girl.  Sweet, sheltered, secure little ones… not a real care in the world.  And then we took a hammer to all of that.  We shattered our perfect little family and we changed it forever.

Now we’re a family of broken pieces and broken hearts.  A family where half of our children still don’t understand what it means to have a Mommy and a Daddy.  I overheard my four year old daughter telling a lady the other day that the nannies dropped Hope in her crib when she was in the orphanage.  We try to not talk about things like that in front of her, but she hears and remembers everything.  There is so much her little mind is trying to process: abuse, abandonment, neglect, pain… crushing pain.  Things I never intentionally would have introduced to my four and two year olds, but now they are living those realities second hand by watching us as we try to help their brother and sister heal.

They were away from their home for two months; that was hard for them.  Neither of them have been as secure since that trip.  We spend hours a week in therapy, hospitals, referrals and appointments.  Time I could have been reading stories or making fun crafts or teaching them how to bake.  And us?  We’re exhausted emotionally, physically and spiritually from all of it.  Suddenly we are a family with trauma, a family in need of an incredible amount of healing.  Overnight we went from having it all together to picking up the pieces.  Did we choose this?  Sort of, but not really.  Were we expecting it to be hard, even this hard?  Of course.  But just because trauma doesn’t always come without announcing itself doesn’t mean it isn’t just as traumatic when it finally walks through your front door and decides to live with you for a while.

Adoption is hard.  It is inherently loss, not just for the adoptive children, but for everyone in the child’s life.  Beautiful, lovely, miraculous things come from adoption.  But we do a disservice to adoptive families and their children when we overlook where that beauty came from. It came from ashes, ashes that are blown into a home, leaving the family to clean up the great mess that follows.  It’s not pity that I, or any adoptive parent, needs.  It’s prayer.  Understanding.  Support.  We need to know that if we don’t make that phone call or we don’t send that thank you note or if we never reach out for help it’s not because we don’t care about you.  It’s because our families have just been broken, and it’s taking all of our energy and strength to pick up all the pieces.

Sometimes we need you to reach out to us because we can’t reach out ourselves, but other times we just need space.  Sometimes we need respite, other times we just need a meal we didn’t have to cook ourselves.  Sometimes we need to sit and talk with someone who understands, and other times we just need people to stop asking how it’s going.  But most of all we need huge heaping doses of grace and mercy and love.  We need to know that the people in our lives are going to see our crazy, depressed, angry emotional roller coasters and they’re going to love us anyway.

(Just as a side note, if you are a family member or friend of an adoptive parent and you’re wondering why we aren’t asking for help, it’s probably because, especially when our children came from hard places, the kind of help we need is so specific that it would be difficult or impossible to just ask for a simple hand on something.  And if we tried to ask we would either come off as ungrateful or unreasonable or both.  Unfortunately, there are just situations where there is no real help that can be given without a logistical brainstorm involved.  Our children’s needs and our new family dynamics make simple things, like bringing in outside help, much more complicated.)

So here’s to honesty.  Here’s to dispelling the myth that adoptive families are superheroes that don’t need anyone’s help.  Here’s to coming out and saying that just because we signed up for this doesn’t mean we will always have our act together, and just because we “chose” these children doesn’t mean we can’t have a bad day, or week or month… or even year. We are just like you, and just like any family, when trauma kicks off its old, muddy shoes and decides to stay a while… we’re going to struggle.  And we are.

May the Lord, in His mercy, turn our sorrow to joy and our tears to laughter.  May He bring the dawn quickly and banish the darkness from our midst.  May He orchestrate the beauty from the ashes, and give us inclination to focus on neither, but rather to seek His face in this and in every season. Amen.

~~~~~

Dalas is a mother to four with another on the way. She is seriously passionate about motherhood, adoption, being “crunchy” (a fancy way of describing how she keeps her family healthy) and her Lutheran faith. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter and on her blog, Crunchy Lutheran Mommy. You can read her original Honesty post here.

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Stress Buster Tips for Single Moms – Guest Post by Holly from Bonza Brats

Feeling the stress of being a single mom lately? Don’t succumb to it! You can fight it. You are unbeatable. You can whip up a magical dish with your amazing culinary skills. You can make the chaos inside the house disappear in matter of minutes. With just one kiss, you can even make your little girl or boy stop crying. But if you were to be honest with yourself, will you still be able to do all of these things if you were stressed out?

Stress Busting

If you have a partner inside the house, you have someone who can take over the activities of the kids when you are feeling under the weather. As a single mom, you need to be the dad at the same time, too, which basically means that the pressure put on you is twice more than that of a parent with a partner. With this come higher levels of stress for single parents.

So what should you do to keep your stress levels in check? Here are some tips that could let you keep a cool head and feel relaxed while working and being a single mom at the same time.

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  1. Ask for help
    Your ex does not want to be a part of your son’s life and you are worried about your kid not having a father figure? Ask your own father or brother to fill in that role. Too tired to do the chores since you have been working the whole day? Then the teenager next door may be in need of a part-time job and could clean the house for you in exchange for a few dollars. You need not carry the burden by yourself. Share your responsibilities with the people around you.
  2. Work on your routines
    Make it a point to follow a routine; this way your child will know what is expected of him. If you wake up at six in the morning so that he will be able to catch the bus in time, then adhere to this on a daily basis. Do this for his meal time, bedtime, and other activities for the day as well.
  3. Learn a bit of finance
    One of the main challenges of being a parent, especially the ones who are earning below to average salaries, is making ends meet. If you are living from paycheck to paycheck, you need to reflect now on where your money is going. Use a calculator or an excel sheet and write down your needs. Take off the ones that are not considered “urgent” until you get your finances together.
  4. Get some sleep
    Your mind and body need rest and sleep for at least eight hours a day. Lack of sleep will not only make you cranky; it will also make you lose your focus at work or possibly snap at your kid even when he is just being noisy.
  5. Have some “me” time.
    Although you love your child very much, you also need to take care of yourself, too. You can’t expect to be an effective mother if you do not feel happy. Aside from your kid, what are the things that make you feel joyful? Visit the salon and get your nails painted. Go out and have dinner with your girlfriends. Or if you have some extra cash, go try on some clothes at the mall and get something new as a gift to yourself.
  6. Eat healthier
    The stress from single-parenting affects not only the way you feel, but your body suffers from it as well. You can correct this problem by observing a healthy diet. To prevent heart conditions, eat foods that are healthy in Omega-3 fatty acids such as tuna and salmon. Green leafy vegetables like spinach will help regulate cortisol levels in your body, and antioxidants, vitamins and other essential nutrients are needed to help fight stress.
  7. Work out
    Exercise will not only help you lose weight and build muscles, but different studies show that they can also help you beat stress. This is tied to the increased production of endorphins (happy hormones) when you exercise. So instead of just lying down on the bed or couch on the weekends, put on your running shoes and jog around the neighborhood, attend a dance class or head to the gym and work with a trainer.
  8. Do not ditch discipline
    Unruly kids are a product of a household that does not follow any set of rules. By imposing some rules that they ought to follow, children know that breaking these will have corresponding consequences. Disciplining your kids is teaching them early-on to be responsible for their own actions. And this could take off a lot of stress from you, too, since you won’t find the need to scold as frequently.
  9. Laugh often
    You may have heard some people claim that “laughter is the best medicine.” In the past, this may have sounded like a promotional script for a certain comedy show to get their ratings up. However, some studies are now saying that it may have some truth to it. According to experts, depression, loneliness, and being pessimistic can impair the immune system, and you could feel a mix of these emotions when stressed out. All of these can be easily countered with positive feelings. So make it a habit to watch a comedy show and play silly games with your kids so that you can smile and laugh more often.
  10. Ditch the guilt
    Thoughts like, “You are not doing enough” or “You could have done better.” Or reminders that there are so many things that you may have missed to do and some things that you can’t possibly do due to limitations that you wished were not there. Want to know how other parents make it look easy? They forgive themselves for the things they cannot do and revel on the things that they can. Do the same and stop feeling guilty since no one could really be the perfect mom after all.

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You can beat stress, guard your health, mind, and emotional well-being through time-management, discipline, sharing responsibilities with other people, eating healthy foods, and working together with your kids. And, remember, you need to be in great shape if you want your kid to see a single mom that is capable of raising them.

~~~~~

Holly Easterby is a freelance writer that shares tips for parents and families. Her love for children has seen her featured in many education and children websites, whether helping parents with problems or talking about healthy snacks, motivating students or discussing children’s fashion at Bonza Brats. Holly loves reading books, and shopping is her way of spending time with her young family. You can catch her via Google+ or on Twitter @HollyEasterby

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The Love Rock Story – Reposted with Permission from Susan of Love Drenched Life

I have had a beautiful life filled with lots of laughter, smiles, and lots of love, beautiful children, a wonderful, dedicated and loving husband, solid friendships and a community that loves and supports their neighbors unconditionally. But sometimes life brings circumstances that are completely out of your control. In those times, it’s important to remember the beauty in life, love​,​ and knowing​ that God can​ — and will​ — bring a peace that surpasses all understanding​. Love Rocks was inspired by two girls who lived with immense love and joy. In their honor, we have chosen to s​hare that love and joy with anyone willing to receive it. Thank you for​celebrating with us!

On Oct. 20, 2013, the unthinkable happened to my family. My daughters, Anna (6) and Abigail (11) were hit by a car in front of our house. Both girls went to Heaven that night without warning. Since then, my husband Tom and I have had to navigate grief that we wouldn’t wish upon anyone. Our house is now empty – no laughter, no dance parties, no morning cuddles, no fighting about homework or bonding over our favorite meal. Empty.

We decided shortly after the girls went to Heaven that we were not going to allow the tragedy of one night to define our girls’ lives here on earth and the life they were now living in Heaven. Their legacy would not be this tragedy but rather the love and joy that they poured out to everyone who knew them and hopefully everyone who would hear their story.

We did not have choice on whether they went to Heaven on October 20th. We do, however, have a choice on how we live our lives honoring our Creator and honoring the lives of our sweet girls. And so, we choose love and joy!

Anna’s and Abigail’s lives were full of so much love and so much joy. They had a way of lighting up a room with their presence and putting smiles on the faces of those they came in contact with. They loved each other dearly and they were definitely sisters – maybe not by blood, but by the way they knew exactly how to push each other’s buttons. Anna adored her sister and wanted to be around her all the time. Abigail loved her little sister and was annoyed by the fact that Anna wanted to be around her all the time. True sisters!

Anna loved horses, Abigail loved theater. Both girls loved to dance, climb, be with their friends and loved family time. They would prefer a game as a family over a movie any night – LIFE, UNO and Jungle Speed being their all-time favorites. They were beautiful beyond words, both on the outside and more importantly on the inside. They had giving hearts and loved to find ways in which they could help those in need. They were insightful, kind, nurturing and loving to all who had the honor of being in their presence, especially their friends.

In April of 2014, 6 months after the girls went to Heaven, Tom and I felt nudged to share a project that we as a family did for our wedding in June of 2011. The girls, Tom’s mom and I spent time cutting out fabric hearts from our favorite fabrics and then Mod Podging them to river rocks. We made one for each of our guests to take home and another one that would be written on by our guests for us to keep. These little rocks have held a lot of meaning in our house since our wedding day and are placed in various rooms so that we can enjoy them no matter where we are.

That little nudge to share took on a life of its own. On April 20th, I launched the Facebook Page, Love Rocks. I shared a bit of our story and our hope for spreading love and joy through these simple rocks and included a tutorial for how to make them. Before pushing the publish button, I had to come to terms with the fact that nothing may happen with this little idea of ours. I took a deep breath, said a prayer, and sent our idea out into the world.

What has happened over the past 5 months has been miraculous. Love Rocks have been shared in our little town, our state of Oregon and in every other state in the U.S. Love Rocks have been shared in Africa, Asia, South America, Europe and Australia. I’m still waiting for a picture to be posted in Antarctica.

There are photos of Love Rocks in parks, on beaches, on The Great Wall of China, in front of the Eiffel Tower, on doorsteps, in hospitals, at weddings and at funerals, in a secured NASA facility and at Anna’s and Abigail’s tree.

There have been so many stories of how these little rocks with fabric hearts have found their rightful owner just when they needed it most. They have warmed hearts and brought so much Love and Joy to this world — so much more than we could have ever imagined when we felt nudged to share.

The inspiration for Love Rocks comes from Anna, Abigail, and our loving community that supported us and continues to care for us. The outpouring of love and the immense joy that is felt throughout the world is their legacy – one filled with hope, light and laughter.

My girls’ lives were and are beautiful. They have taught so many how to live a love story and I am very proud to be their mom.

~~~~~

Susan lives in Forest Grove, Oregon. She is a mom, a wife, a daughter, a sister and friend. She loves God with all of her heart. You can read more about Susan and the Love Rocks movement she founded at www.love-drenched-life.com or on www.facebook.com/lovedrenched.

 

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Surviving a Stillbirth at 36 weeks – Guest Post by Taylor Arthur at Red Vine Spirituality

My husband, Jack was traveling the day my sister-in-law, Semmelle, and I excitedly walked into my OB’s office for my 36 week appointment. She had never been to an ultra sound before, and I was so excited to show her a sneak peak of her new nephew. I met her at my mother’s that afternoon, where relatives were still visiting after throwing me a beautiful baby shower the weekend before. My cousins and I had stayed up until late the previous night, unpacking gifts, laundering tiny clothes, and decorating the nursery while we ate chocolate cake and giggled like little girls. Caleb was the first grandchild for both Jack’s and my families. After years of fighting an extreme case of bipolar disorder and wondering if I would ever be well enough to bear my own children, we felt the world was celebrating with us as we prepared to welcome our victory child.

At first, they couldn’t find the heartbeat in the exam room. I became furious with the nurse, assuming she was inept. They brought in another nurse, and she, too, could not find the heartbeat. My OBGYN was called in. We were rushed to the ultrasound room as my OBGYN shouted orders to her receptionist to call her nanny and tell her she’d be late. I didn’t realize that anything could be that wrong until I heard the ultrasound tech gasp.
“What?!” I screamed.
“THERE’S NO HEARTBEAT.”

As I write this, years later, I still cry. I remember begging them to do an emergency c-section, kicking and screaming like a three year-old and my sister’s face covered in agony. I remember leaving with my dead baby still inside me, Semmelle driving me back to my parents’ home. I remember calling my husband’s family, knowing that Jack was somewhere in an airplane, still believing that our baby would be born and live, and knowing that I would have to be the one to tell him we were living a horror I had never even thought to imagine.

Shock makes some people crazy. Shock makes me sane, and I am able to see what is necessary and what is not. I am able to function and choose. I am able to get on the phone with my husband, while he is sitting on the airplane, and tell him his first son will be born dead. I am able to do that because he needs to stay on that plane and come home to me. I laid in my parents’ bed and waited as well-meaning, shocked relatives came in one at a time to tell me they loved me and rub my belly as they had done so many times throughout my pregnancy. I laid in bed and prayed the Our Father and the Hail Mary over and over, because they were the only prayers that I could muster. I asked my mother if she thought I was unlucky. If I was cursed. I prayed Jack home to me, praying that he, too, would not be taken from me.

Jack’s father greeted him at the airport and drove him to my parents’ home. He burst up the stairs to hold me in his arms, and we didn’t care who watched. We wept. We wretched. We held each other all night, knowing that would be the last night we spent alone with Caleb, the child we already loved so much. We gathered up every ounce of courage we had, and we made our way to the hospital. We had just toured the birthing center in our labor and delivery class, so we knew right where to go. Our bag had already been packed, just in case Caleb had decided to come early.

For me, before having children, labor and delivery seemed like a black hole that I would enter, having no idea how I would make my way out the other side. I was afraid of the pain, afraid of the risks involved, afraid that I might die. I had never considered that my child who had been checked and rechecked thoroughly throughout my pregnancy and was certified healthy, could die. And I never dreamed what it could be like to face all of the fears of my first childbirth, knowing that I would have to endure it all only to leave the hospital without my child.

It was a day. An entire, 24-hour-long day. I was heavily drugged, as I had requested, with an epidural that left me entirely numb and very groggy. I spent the day with loved ones hovering over me when I opened my eyes, and kneeling next to Mary at the foot of Jesus’ cross every time I closed my eyes. In both realities, I was in extreme pain, but with my eyes closed I was in the company of Jesus’ Mother. As He suffered, she suffered, and they both held me in my suffering. That day, as I lay in that hospital bed, I felt the most intense love being poured out upon me, into me by pure mother love. In her suffering, she begat love for me, born of physical and spiritual travail. It entered my laboring heart and flooded my chest cavity. This love rested upon me for weeks, as I bore the physical pains of just giving birth without the joy of my baby to help me forget them.

Caleb Joshua was born at 6:27 pm on Wednesday, March 19th, in the middle of Holy Week. Time stretched in front of me like never before. There would be too many tomorrows without him, so now was the only time to not fall asleep with exhaustion or miss one small dimple. Now was the time to make up for a lifetime of loves and hugs, kisses, baths, and songs. Those few hours would be the only ones I would ever spend with my son’s physical form, and I knew that it would most likely be a very long time until we would again be face to face.

He was baptized by our beloved Father Ed and Deacon Bill. I bathed him, undaunted by his already decomposing form, and dressed him in his going home outfit. We took many pictures, but not enough. We held him, our parents held him, and we held him again. Time stood for me. And then, I looked at Caleb’s eyes and they were crying blood. We knew it was time and I handed him to the nurse.

They wheeled me out that night only because I refused to stay the night in a hospital without my baby. I howled from my room to the car, where Jack laid in the back seat next to me until I passed out from exhaustion. I woke up early the next morning in the guest bedroom at my parents’ house. I woke up without Caleb and started to wretch again. My sobs woke Jack up, and the two of us laid in bed and cried ourselves back to sleep.

We did everything we could for our son in the days following his silent birth. I went to the funeral home and picked out his casket, his burial plot. I went to the children’s boutique and bought him his final outfit. When the sales lady asked if it was a going home outfit, I doubled over in sobs. My mother then went ahead of me into every store we entered and told them what was going on and to please leave me alone. I bought myself a hot pink dress to wear to his funeral, and his father a bright orange tie. It was Easter week and we refused to wear black.

The Tuesday after Easter, surrounded by loved ones all dressed in their best Easter clothes, we laid Caleb to rest. Our siblings, his aunts and uncles, carried his casket down the middle aisle of our church while Jack and I walked hand-in-hand behind them. We celebrated his life, as well as the unending life he was already living in heaven.

We have spent the time since Caleb’s death trying to move on. We have had two more beautiful sons and live as joyfully as we are able. But the love for our firstborn son never fades, and my yearning for him has created a deep hole in my heart that is only satiated by my relationship with Jesus. Certainly, the shock and the intense pain have subsided. What is left is an ache, deep and unyielding, gnawing in the background of a beautiful life. I still hang his stocking at Christmas, and his birth certificate will forever be displayed in our hallway upstairs with the tiny prints of his perfect feet. We celebrate his birthday every year by going on a “Caleb adventure,” with his brothers. We look forward to heaven more than ever before, but know our little Lebanite Warrior is in Good Hands, exploring the Promised Land, until we meet again.

~~~~~

Taylor is from Seattle, Washington and mother to Caleb (stillborn 2008), Abraham (5), and Samuel (2), and happily married to her husband, Jack, of 14 years. She tackles mental illness, surviving stillbirth, and caring for her heart warrior, Samuel, in her weekly blogs at www.redvinespirituality.com.

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The Purpose in My Pain – S.L.’s Story

I didn’t become the mom I am when my husband and I decided to start a family. Like most people, God had been shaping my life for motherhood before I even knew it. It began when I was in preschool. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was sick. I’m not certain exactly when it happened because I was so little, but some of my earliest memories are painful ones. The problem with pain, though, is that you don’t realize it’s pain when you’ve only ever been in pain.

When I was 17, I spent a an unforgettable summer on a mission trip with some wonderful friends from my church youth group. I knew then I wanted to be a missionary. The warm air in that impoverished Caribbean nation made me feel so good and I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be, doing what God wanted. It was humbling and exhilarating all at the same time to have the opportunity to daily share Christ with the kids I worked with. And though it was also hard, I loved being completely dependent on God. He daily gave me strength.

I didn’t want to lose the closeness I had with God or the purpose that I felt on that trip, so when I came home, I made one of the most pivotal decisions of my entire life, although I didn’t know it at the time. I prayed that God would continue to keep me completely dependent on Him. God isn’t safe. He’s good, but His ways aren’t our ways. I had no idea that only three weeks later, the pain that I had felt my whole life would become excruciatingly unbearable. I went from being an athlete to barely being able to walk. It was so bad, I had to crawl up stairs and it hurt even to be touched. If someone just accidentally bumped into me, I was reduced to tears.

The summer ended and I began my senior year of high school, but everything had changed. I needed all the support I could get, so gone were my plans to attend college out of state and when I lost my voice, my dreams to major in music also ended. I realized I wasn’t healthy enough to go live overseas anymore so I couldn’t go into missions, either. I was devastated. And, to make it even worse, I still didn’t have a diagnosis. I was so scared because pain like that usually means something bad. Really bad. It took a year before I was finally diagnosed with fibromyalgia; a chronic illness that has to do with overactive nerves and causes miserable pain. There is no cure for it and my case was severe, yet, I was relieved knowing that it wouldn’t take my life like some of the others diseases that were being considered. Still, I felt so hopeless and lost in darkness. Didn’t God understand that all I wanted to do was to serve Him? I felt like He took my ability to do that, but truly, I had the complete dependence I had asked for.

It took me a few years before I could understand the point of all my failed dreams. God wanted to teach me something first. I learned how to manage my illness and got it under control so I could live pretty normally despite being in constant pain. I met and married my husband, Brian, finished college with a degree in psychology, and we started a family.

I had always wanted a little girl. Desperately wanted a little girl. And we had Ethan. Then, two years later, we had Luke. Four years after that, Jackson joined our family. Don’t get me wrong, I adore my three boys! But, when I found out that I was having a third boy, I cried. All the feelings of loss crept back upon me and another dream died. I sobbed to God, asking Him, “Why can’t I catch a break? I’ve lost so much already and now I’m never going to have the daughter I’ve always wanted. Why does my life look so different from what I planned on it being? I just want to be normal!”

When Jackson was born, everything changed. I fell in love with being a mom of three boys. God started showing me how wrong I was to think that my plan might have been better than His. I couldn’t have been happier being mom to my Monkey, Gremlin, and Trouble, respectively. And I love that we laugh. A lot. There was the time that Ethan colored himself and Luke completely with a blue marker in three minutes while I was on the phone. Later,when Luke was a toddler, he drank day-old cold, black coffee, straight from the coffee pot when my back was turned. And once, at two years-old, Jackson snuck out of bed in the middle of the night and we found him watching The Chronicles of Narnia with the sound turned all the way down and the subtitles on. Yup. All we can do is laugh!

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Still, my heart ached. I didn’t feel done with our family. Brian and I lost a precious baby between Luke and Jackson and I found myself wishing that I could make some difference. I’ve always had a desire to adopt, but it never worked out. The doors just kept closing until, one day, one door stayed open. Foster care. It wasn’t what I planned. It was messy, complicated even, but the need was great. I brought it up to Brian and he was immediately in. I know it makes no sense to do this. I was only 29 years old when we started the process. We have our three boys, live in a house with only three bedrooms, and I’m sick. There were so many reasons to not do it, but God put it on my heart. The desire wouldn’t go away and when God asks you to do something, you can’t say no.

Right now, I’m a mom to four. We are on our second placement with a precious infant foster daughter. God gave me my girl. I might not get to keep her, but that is okay; God is bigger than the pain of goodbyes. If there is one thing I learned from my miscarriage, it is that I am going to make the most with all the time I am given with my kids, biological or not. They are all my kids. I’ve also realized that I don’t want to be normal. My boys are amazing; they love their foster sister and are incredibly compassionate. They’ve seen so much pain as they’ve watch me struggle with illness and they want to take care of their foster sister since they understand she has lost her biological family. They are so empathetic and are learning to serve God sacrificially even at the tender ages of 8, 6, and 2.

It occurred to me once as I walked into the social services building that I actually am on the mission field. I may not have been able to go overseas, but God brought the mission field to me. The psychology degree I hadn’t planned on getting was exactly what I needed. And I might not be using my voice to sing, but I’m using it to tell others about God. As a foster parent, I get to work with these precious, hurting birth parents and make a difference. Because of my pain and chronic illness, I am open with them about how I don’t have it all together. They know I understand and so they listen to me. I never expected my pain to be so important.

Being a mom is so much more than simply taking care of kids, making PB&Js for lunch and reading bedtime stories. Being a mom means giving of ourselves in ways that we never expected and serving God even when it doesn’t make sense. My journey wasn’t what I had planned, but it was what God planned and His plans have proved far better than mine ever could.

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S.L. Payne, a Southern Californian transplanted to the South, lives with her husband, three biological sons and foster daughter. She is thankful for God’s faithfulness in her illness as God has used to it help her see Him in everything; the three boys have supplied the humor! She loves writing, photography and laughing with her family. She writes at Rest Ministries and on her website, www.uncommongrace.net, where she hopes she can encourage others to live in grace. You can follow her on Twitter @saralynnpayne.

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Hiding Behind Masks – An Unnamed Mother’s Story

When I was growing up, my favorite Halloween costume was Super Girl. It was the first and only time that my very practical mother ever let me have a store-bought costume. I couldn’t wait to tell my friends that I would not be going as a gypsy (draped in scarves and grandmother’s vintage jewelry), a business woman (Working Girl, anyone?) or a princess in a flower girl dress from one of my many aunts’ weddings. I was thrilled that this year I wouldn’t have to wear my raincoat over my costume (rainy Oregon) because the entire full-body suit was made of plastic. But even more exciting for me was the mask. It was wonderful; with blonde, perfectly-styled, molded plastic hair, a porcelain face and a make-up job complete with ruby red lips. For the first time in my life I felt beautiful. But more than that, when I wore the mask, I could be someone different. It made everything perfect on the outside while hiding the real, flawed person underneath.

As I grew up, I realized that I could wear masks in real life, too. I became a pleaser, ready to do anything for anyone to win approval. I was perpetually sunny; the girl who was friendly and fun, but not close to any one person. A girl that held a lot of secrets and a lot of scars deep within. I learned to never reveal too much about myself, because that would give someone power over me and even worse, I worried that once someone knew what I was really like, they would be disappointed. And the fear of rejection was unbearable.

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So I developed and wore many masks over the years. Masks I thought people wanted to see. I had a well-behaved daughter mask, an upstanding Christian girl mask, and as I grew into adulthood, I put on a corporate business manager mask and eventually, loving wife and doting mother masks.

It was exhausting keeping up every facade, especially when the person hiding behind all the masks was so broken from the years of pretending and keeping secrets. For most of my life, I had hid from my family the fact that I was sexual assaulted on two separate occasions; once when I was six and another at sixteen. Because of those, I feared true intimacy of any kind and went into a marriage where I never expressed what I was thinking or feeling. Yelling or even raised voices were traumatic for me and I developed a strong aversion to nagging or bickering. In my effort to please everyone around me, I lost myself and my own desires for the future, taking on everybody’s hopes and dreams as my own. I felt guilty when plans didn’t work out the way my friends or husband wanted them to; that it was my fault for not being able to please everyone.

When I was young, I had never considered having children. My own childhood was filled with pain, guilt and a load of responsibilities caring for my younger siblings and endless chores around the house while my parents worked full-time. I wanted to study music and perform, but when that dream died, I was lost. What was next for me? I thought God provided an answer when I met a man; so six months later we were married and I convinced myself that the new dream was to be a good, Christian wife, making and raising good Christian babies and baking cookies.

Unfortunately, the motherhood mask was the hardest one for me to wear. After five years of wandering in the infertility desert and all that comes with it, getting pregnant was the Promised Land. Or so I thought. Pregnancy actually ended up being one of the hardest experiences of my life at that time. Inwardly, I loathed every moment of it, but on the outside, I forced myself to be sentimental and “glow” like many of my friends had during their pregnancies.

When my son was born, I was secretly thrilled that my doctor told me he would be my only natural child. But three years later, I was devastated to learn that my month-long ‘flu’ would not be cured with antibiotics. At the time, I could barely keep up with my strong-willed, ridiculously active and verbal toddler, how on earth could I handle another one just like him? After a second high-risk pregnancy, ending with ten weeks of prescribed bed rest (impossible with a three-year old boy); I was relieved to deliver a nearly full-term baby girl. The doctor and I both agreed that I should never do that again.

For the next several years, I juggled raising two children, working a stressful sixty-hour a week job all while dealing with a husband who was becoming more and more detached from reality. Keeping my super-Christian mask in place was becoming too much and I knew that something had to give. I never anticipated it would come from another brutal sexual assault which would result in a complete mental breakdown and subsequent hospital stay.

My marriage, already badly suffering, could not survive the posttraumatic stress and eventually fell apart. The relationship with my parents became strained, and I could no longer be the cold-hearted executive at work anymore, so I ended up moving several hundred miles away, back to a place that I felt safe with just my children and me on our own.

After that, keeping up with all of the masks became impossible and I finally began to let some go. My motherhood mask was replaced by a new and much heavier one, single motherhood. Surviving each day as a child of God, saved by grace, became much simpler and more real than I ever thought I would allow. I don’t miss the married mask, but I sometimes long for something to hide behind when I walk in the church door without a husband and it’s obvious that life has gone awry for me. Showing even that much vulnerability is still something I struggle with.

I hate how much pain my personal agony has caused my children. They don’t know and couldn’t possibly understand what I struggle with daily, but it’s all I can do to try to keep things going and keep the mommy mask in place. I love my children with all of my heart, but I don’t love motherhood. I despise the never-ending monotony of chores and most nights I just want to go to sleep without my hands smelling like poop or bleach.

Both of my children have emotional delays and if I were really being honest, I think they would thrive and soar if someone else was their mother. A better mother would make sure that they get the structure and help they need. I’ve met so many amazing women that are unable to have children of their own or others whose kids cannot walk or breathe without help. And many who have lost their children entirely. I am awed by their strength and courage. But what I struggle with is why God didn’t give my angels to one of them?

I know that God has a plan for us and I hope that His grace and love continues to be sufficient so I don’t have to feel like I need to wear masks for the rest of my life. Perhaps one day He will allow me to forgive myself and help release the crippling guilt I feel every day about the choices that I’ve made. Sometimes seemingly small things have had big impacts and I find myself getting stuck playing the “if only” game. However, I know that is not healthy and I’m working on it. Finally, I hope and pray that my children will grow into healthy, well-adjusted adults and only remember the fun times I’ve tried to create on the days when mommy was not too exhausted to wear her cool-party-mom mask.

~~~~~

The author to this story prefers to remain anonymous, but I think she presents a wonderful opportunity to talk about the not-so-joyful parts of motherhood and, frankly, just personhood.
It’s okay to own not loving motherhood. It’s okay to say you don’t always like your children. And it’s okay if you, as a woman, don’t even feel called to be a mother. We all have scars and ugliness that we would rather put a mask over than open ourselves up to the possibility of more hurt.

There is no judgment or condemnation here; just support, love and prayers. And hopefully, there is also healing. Healing in sharing our stories, our confessions. Healing in feeling camaraderie with others who’ve been there before or are there right now, too. And the strength to move forward toward a healthier future. And maybe, just maybe, some day we can all be released from the fear and bondage of wearing our masks.

Can you relate to this mother? Are there sometimes when you don’t enjoy motherhood? Do you put on masks to protect yourself as well?

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The Story of My Miscarriage – Guest Post by Monica at Mommy & Love

I was haunted by the sound of the pause in the doctor’s room. I was there for an early ultrasound to hear my baby’s heartbeat. It would have been the very first time, but I left with nothing. All the excitement came and disappeared in what felt like a matter of seconds. I was left traumatized, shocked, and furious. It all caught me off guard.

I remember I wore a favorite, flowery dress that day to match my bright outlook on life. But my joyous mood had changed. I irrationally decided to hate the world, everything and everyone in it. I never anticipated miscarrying a child. Truthfully, I had never even anticipated having a baby in my early twenties, but once I found out I was pregnant, I fell in love with the idea. That love grew more and more intense as I discovered a whole new world of motherhood. Never before had I gazed so happily towards tiny little baby clothing, diapers, and nursery accessories. I was in another state of mind, all googly-eyed.

My pregnancy only lasted seven weeks, yet those measly three weeks of knowing I was pregnant changed my life forever. I instantly wanted to try again for another baby despite being in the middle of my college career. My boyfriend at the time, now my husband, was one hundred percent against the idea. The one person I needed to be there for me let me down and I felt alone. I was trapped in a dark cloud of emotions.

That day of bad news went by in a daze. The sun refused to stop shining and the birds continued to sing. The world couldn’t have cared less about my sudden loss. It continued as mine shattered and froze in place. Later that night, the physical pain was triggered and soon enough, I was experiencing full-blown labor pains. My body was cramping up repeatedly, preparing to reject the embryo unworthy of being called fetus. To make matters worse, the doctor insisted on having me collect the embryo once it passed so it could be sent to a lab for further testing. Can you imagine collecting an undeveloped embryo that was supposed to grow into your human child? I am very much in favor of medical studies, so reluctantly I did as they asked. I was fortunate that my loving boyfriend spared me and took care of that part himself.

A small amount of time passed, hardly a month, and sure enough, my sister, sister-in-law, and step brother’s wife both became pregnant at the same time. It was at that time that I should have sought professional help from a grief counselor. My world completely flipped upside down and my mind was plagued by pregnancy hormones. My relationship entered a state of turmoil and I passionately hated everybody in sight. I discovered the most bitter form of jealousy imaginable towards pregnant women and skipped all baby related events. It was unbearable looking at ultrasound pictures and watching baby bellies grow and protrude outward.

One evening, I was driving and talking on the phone with a relative only to discover that my cousin was also pregnant. To say that I threw a crying fit would be an understatement. I had a psychotic break-down. I could not see or hear anything, I could not even breathe. My rage was beyond measureable. That was by far the worst pain I had ever experienced at this point in my life. My boyfriend had me pull the car over and he took over driving once I had calmed down. It is shocking to look back at this period in my life to see how muddied up my vision appeared. I was the first person pregnant in both my boyfriend and my immediate families so babies were a very new and exciting topic those three weeks. I had desperately wanted my sisters to be pregnant with me because I thought it would be the coolest thing ever. Instead, I ended up without child and they all conceived as if to spite me.

Although the pain dragged on and on for over a year, there is a happy ending and moral to this story. I learned that many women experience miscarriages through no fault of their own. Roughly, one in five pregnancies end in miscarriage. It has been almost five years since my first miscarriage and I now have a crazy cute two and half year old daughter and a five month old son.

         monica2           monica

I did end up having a second miscarriage in between those two full term pregnancies, but it was not nearly as tragic as the first one. I miscarried right at five weeks pregnant that second time and due to my first miscarriage, I was wary of announcing my news early again. Not many people in my life even know about that one.

I also learned that it does not matter how long you carry a baby for you to be affected by the loss. I was only pregnant for seven weeks when I miscarried the first time and it made for an emotionally draining and exhausting year of my life. I sunk into a deep depression that did not end until I became pregnant again. But, I am now happily writing about my motherhood experiences. I started blogging while I was pregnant with my daughter. Motherhood has been one gigantic learning experience filled with many beautiful ups and some scary downs. Overall, I realize how blessed I am to be able to raise children and show them a love never before imaginable.

~~~~~

Monica lives in Michigan with her husband, Bill and two children, Amelia and Oliver. She blogs at www.mommyandlove.com, shares her family’s journey through photos on Instagram and updates on the Mommy & Love Facebook page.

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The Story of How I Became a Parent Coach – Guest Post by Hannah at Foundations Parent and Life Coaching

I’m going to be honest. The past 18 months of my life’s story have been hard. Hard down to the deepest parts of my soul. My heart has grieved as my dream of life and family have been shifted and refined. There have been days that waking up and moving through the simple rhythms of the day has taken all my energy and focus.

In the summer of 2012, my life turned upside down. My marriage of over ten years suddenly and dramatically fell apart and I found myself waking up to the reality that I was drowning in the busyness of life. It had been my desire to live with purpose and intention for many years but I had allowed small and seemingly harmless things to take up residence in my life. The constant checking of Facebook, the obsessive following of blogs and the pursuit of a “perfect” body had robbed me of living present and purposeful for each day. Fear had taken up residence and was driving my choices and my beliefs about myself as a woman, wife, and mother. I have known from a young age that I was created for relationship with God and that I am loved by Jesus. But there is a difference between knowing and living. And there is no fear when I choose to live by faith.

As the physical aspects of my life seemed to crumble around me, a beautiful awakening was growing inside of me. I remember walking one day and crying over the sheer disbelief of what was happening to me and to my family. In that moment I realized I had two choices. Either I could wallow in self-pity, bitterness and anger, or I could choose to embrace this season and what it was teaching about myself and who God created me to be as a woman, mother and friend. During this time of my life I am learning what it means to live free from fear and fully present in the gifts of today. I am learning that even when life doesn’t look like what I want it to, there are gifts in that place that must be recognized. By identifying the gifts, my heart overflows with hope and joy. I am learning to put my phone down and to step away from the computer. I am learning to stop being busy and start playing with my kids. I am learning to let go of how far or fast I can run and enjoy the act of moving and being. And I am learning to laugh and to find joy even in the midst of a painful season.

Practically, I looked to the future and wondered how I was going to support myself and my two young boys. My thought and desire had been to stay home with my boys until they were in school full time. But with the ending of my marriage that was no longer financially possible. Late one night I was roaming the web looking for ideas. As I researched different options, I stumbled across the Parent Coaching Institute. As I read the description of the program, I knew it fit my giftings, knowledge and my desire to partner with others to experience an engaged and wholehearted life. Parent Coaches team up with parents in a unique relationship that equips parents to engage in life from their strengths and giftings as a parent and person to move them towards their dream for their family.

I graduated this month as a Certified PCI Parent Coach® and have started my own coaching practice called Foundations Parent and Life Coaching. My heart is to work with parents and individuals who want to build a solid foundation for a thriving life. Parenting and just living in general require being purposeful; otherwise busyness and distractions will crowd out the things that are truly important. Sometimes we come to a season of life where we need to be purposeful in establishing healthy, sustainable practices for ourselves and our families. That is when working with a coach can be beneficial. The coaching relationship is all about partnership. We work together to establish the rhythms that will help you and your family be your best selves.  People come to coaching for a variety of reasons. For some it is when they have a newborn and are learning about who they are as a parent and what they want for their family. For others, it is when their child is school aged and they are struggling to find balance between screen time and physical activity. Some parents finding coaching helps them navigate a diagnosis. No matter the reason, what I know to be true is that when we are working towards being our best self, we give a gift to our children that will impact their future in the best way possible.

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Hannah is a teacher with a background in early childhood development and is now certified as a parent and life coach. You can find more about the exceptional Parent and Life Coaching services she offers on her website Foundations Parent and Life Coaching or read her thoughts about thriving daily rhythms at her blog The Daily Rhythms of Life.

 

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A Life Spent Loving Others – Mary’s Story

Mary was born March 12, 1980, the second child to Dan and Kathy. She became the younger sister and mentor to Leo-Paul (LP) and the older sister and friend to Tanika. From the very first moment of Mary’s arrival, she touched people’s lives physically and emotionally. At the tender age of 9 months while watching LP work with his speech specialist, she began mimicking the therapist through a two-way mirror. LP laughed at the sound behind the wall and then he too began to make the sounds that the therapist wanted to hear. Physically challenged from birth, LP learned to speak, walk and read following Mary’s lead.

When she was four, Mary’s family became a medical foster home for infants born to chemically-addicted parents. She became a voluntary consummate ‘mommy,’ changing diapers, diagnosing bottom rashes, redressing and feeding any baby that needed it. Burping them, burrito-wrapping them and singing them to sleep along with all her dolls and the dogs and the neighbor kids that routinely stopped in. By the time Mary was nine, she was carrying car seats and diaper bags and heading off to another hospital for another baby to bring home.
At 13 she met her sister Tanika, weighing only 3 pounds 11 ounces and measuring 14 inches long. Mary would soon call her “my shoe box baby.” Mary would take extra special care of this little bundle for the rest of her life. When she was fourteen Mary was the only person allowed to pick up and hold Tanika’s medically fragile twin sister, Tanisha. Tanisha lived in an infant hospice foster home and shortly after her visit with Tanika and Mary, Jesus moved Tanisha home. Mary held Tanika close to her for a very long time. She loved Jesus but she wasn’t ready to let Tanika follow Tanisha’s lead.

At 16 years old, Mary’s parents divorced, but that did not hinder her spirit. She was a cheerleader to all around her. She coaxed, prodded, pulled and harangued many people out of some of life’s deepest ruts. Two years later, in 1998 at the age of 18, she started doing foster care on her own while attending nursing school and became one of the youngest licensed foster parents in the state of Oregon. Over the next thirteen years, she would become a caregiver to more than forty children but ‘momma’ to only thirteen very especially loved babies of all ethnicities and all manner of health and drug-related problems. Her heart was always ready to love just one more little one. She was an encourager, inspiring babies who could not feel, to live and learn how to love. God blessed Mary with the gift to love those among us who are difficult to love.

After receiving her RN license, she continued doing foster care and began caring for the elderly and mentally challenged as well; the population pushed away from society. While physically caring for her patients, she also prayed mightily over them. She encouraged them and listened to their life stories. Every life mattered to the Lord and she wanted even those lost within themselves to understand how important they were to Jesus. She sang daily their heart-songs to Jesus.
God also blessed Mary with the gift to share Jesus with anyone needing to know Him prior to their earthly departure. One woman that Mary became especially close with asked her to pray that God would take pity on her and allow her a small place in Heaven. Mary assured her that Jesus already had her mansion built and that He was just waiting to bring her home. That evening, Mary’s friend moved into her mansion built with Jesus’ own hands.

Woefully, Mary had her own health problems. For years she had suffered from genetic endometriosis and ovarian cysts and the doctors had told her she would never be able to conceive her own baby. But when she had a miscarriage early on in her marriage, she was devastated. Not long after, in 2003, at only 23 years old, she was diagnosed with HPV and had to have a complete emergency hysterectomy. They would have never found out about the cancer if it wasn’t for that precious, lost baby.
Mary had also contracted a rare strand of bacteria during her second year of nursing school, which began to attack her vital organs causing sustained damage. The mounting health problems forced her to give up working as an RN. However, Mary’s joy and enthusiasm for helping others did not end, and so she worked more creatively at being a better foster mom to medically fragile infants. Her patience was limitless and her zeal for life inspirational.

In December of 2004 Mary picked up a two-day-old boy, Baby “J,” from the hospital with the intent to adopt. He was a drug baby, so she knew he would suffer from many developmental issues and probably have to have years of therapy and special education. Mary took it all in stride. She loved him as if he were her own flesh and blood. Two years later and two weeks away from signing Baby “J’s” adoption finalization papers, Mary’s husband abandoned them. After that, the state determined that as a single parent she could not adopt any child, but as a top-notch foster parent she would be allowed to keep “J” in her home as a foster child until he reached the legal age of eighteen years old. If he were allowed to stay in one foster home for seven years, permanency might be ensured. Her hope fervently changed to emergent prayers.
Mary kept and raised her boy and for the next four years he called her his momma and she called him her son. In fact, one time in mental health therapy, “J” was told that Mary was not the mom that carried him in her tummy, but he didn’t like that. He told Mary later that it made him mad at God because he loved her and wanted to have come from her tummy! Mary reassured him that she loved him with all her heart and that she couldn’t love him more if he had come from her tummy.

Just three months prior to his 7th birthday, in September 2011, after a state-induced whirlwind adoption process, “J” was placed in his “forever home” 2500 miles from where he had lived and grown up with Mary. She only got to say a quick goodbye before he was taken away by what seemed like the perfect family for him. Under the guise of an open adoption, the state caseworker told her she had to wait six months before contacting the adoptive family. Later, however, the adoption worker told Mary the family said there would be no more contact, ever. Mary’s heart was broken and she felt betrayed by the adoption worker, the state caseworker and his new family.
Months went by and then a year without any update on “J” from the adoptive family or his caseworker. Mary continued to grieve the loss of her son and wrote this to a friend:

“I know God will give me answers in time or when my time ends. I know eventually “J” is going to grow up beyond their control and want to seek out answers to those questions they could not answer, but that I can. So I’m praying that someday he will return to me with memories and we can be reunited.”

Mary did not foster any more children after “J” was adopted and her health began to quickly fail. She was devastated and heartbroken on the inside, and even though she knew that “J” was where God wanted him to be and the family was a good match for him, she confided in her mom quietly that she felt her life was over. She had no energy to date again or make many friends and she was lonely. What she didn’t realize is that through the thousands of people that she touched, she had more friends than many people would gain in a lifetime. Mary’s heart-warming spirit encouraged veterans, the disabled, first responders, medical personnel on all levels, patients waiting for care, patients exiting care, surviving family members of newly departed loved ones and people from sea to shining sea. But she still prayed daily that God would send her a good friend and He answered that many times over as she rekindled old friendships through the internet.

Mary’s health continued to deteriorate with each passing week. The bacteria had compromised her entire immune system. She developed Crohn’s and Sweet’s syndrome in her GI tract and pseudo tumor cerebrii in her brain which began multiple types of seizures. By the middle of 2013, Mary’s lungs weakened to the point where she was getting pneumonia ever couple of months and her kidneys were functioning only at a 20-30% rate. Her liver, pancreas, gall bladder and spleen were enlarged and she could not stop vomiting. The doctors could not seem to diagnose her worsening condition. The disease continuously ravaged her already scarred young body over the years, requiring multiple hospital stays, serious surgeries and demanding test after test after test.
Her struggles were grueling to say the least, but her words were always uplifting for those around her. She would pray for the first responders that were urgently called to her home. She would pray for her family, hoping they would forgive her this ‘one last time’ for making them rush her to the ER when her heart wouldn’t stop hurting. She prayed for the nurses, doctors and technicians and that their jobs would be a little less ‘crazy because of her illness this time.’ She talked to God all the time.

In mid-November of 2013, she was finally diagnosed with Atrial Septal Defect (a hole in her heart) and while she awaited more testing and the possibility of another surgery, Mary was near bedridden and had to have daily supplements of IV fluids and oxygen. She insisted on staying in the comfort of her own home, demanding that she not return to the hospital. Her family knew that under no circumstances were any resuscitation methods to be made if she slipped quietly away from them.

Although she was getting weaker and weaker, she still made the time to email a dear friend from grade school who was grieving a miscarriage. Feeling her friend’s deep pain of loss and the hopelessness of having to pick up the pieces after everything is said and done, Mary wrote this to her:

“I seem to miss my babies first thing in the morning. They are on my mind at noon, around dinner and then again at bedtime. They are the last thing I think of before I go to sleep and the first thing I think of upon waking. Each year seems to get better, but the pain doesn’t seem to go all the way away. Grief is so complicated. I can’t wait to get to Heaven to ask the Lord why He allows our Angel babies to be taken back to heaven and ask Him if we can touch them, hold them and smell them.”

On November 17, 2013 at 12:33 p.m., Mary, our daughter, sister, family member and friend solidly grasped Jesus’ hand and walked Heaven’s distant road home. She left a legacy reflective of a life filled with love for the Lord, a willingness to help no matter the chores because it meant doing ‘as Jesus would do if He were here.’ She left memories of her ability to laugh loudly, heartily and unashamedly. She left memories of her skill to sing off key, on key, or just forget the key and sing out loudly. And, she left us with the memory of her smile; her bright, enthusiastic, encouraging, dreamy and ‘you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me’ smiles. Mary believed smiling broke through armored, tough exteriors and she proved that action correct more times than not. How can you not smile when twin dimples and blue eyes are flashing you?

                       2008 Mary (3)

Mary grew to become the woman Jesus wanted her to be. Her life lesson is twofold. First, her pain-filled illness was God’s rendering of Mary as a Masterpiece. The pain drove Mary into His open, embracing arms. He nestled her there, spoke loving kindness and mercy over her there, healed her a bit and returned her back to us. He honed her as only the Maker can. And secondly, her mother’s heart loved first her babies, but also that same heart loved the disabled, the hard-wrought, the lost and the found. Her mother’s heart beat with life for all connecting with her. Be rendered to God. Connect love with others’ heart beats.

Mary is whole, healthy and perfect in eternity. She is in heaven holding her angel babies and every other angel child up there. She is singing praises with the saints and dancing with her Savior. Her amazing, selfless personality is there blessing everyone in the next life.  And we, her family and friends still on earth, rejoice in the fact that we will one day see her face again. She will be there by Jesus’ side as one of the first to welcome us when we journey home as well.

~~~~~

In loving memory of Mary Jo Lippincott, March 12, 1980 – November 17, 2013.
To see her memory slideshow, please click here.

The Bitter Irony – Guest Post by Lizzi of Considerings

For the longest time, I was adamant that I didn’t want to be a mother. I had a horrible, tough childhood, subjected to victimization in a home ruled by depression, lies and the idol of marriage. Marriage was something which God had joined together, and no man, or woman, or child, should EVER try (or hope) to tear it asunder. Divorce was the vilest dirty word. And so, in our ways, for 12 years, my sister and I were daily sacrifices on the altar of that idol.

I determined that I would NEVER have children, because my experience of being parented was so hurtful, so poor (not in *all* ways, but in many) and so confusing, that I genuinely thought I would have nothing to give a child. In addition to which, LOOK at what parenting turned you INTO! Because with childish egocentricity (emphasized by the insistent message that I was a burden; something to be put up with and dealt with – never someone to be cherished or enjoyed) I assumed that somehow, part of the responsibility for that toxic home lay with my sister and I. I mean, it MUST, right? We were there, after all, being demanding and requiring input and attention, and getting things wrong and mucking things up and being in the way…some of the blame must be apportioned to us. And I never wanted a child of mine to feel that way for turning me into such a horrible person, and for ruining my home.
But I got a job working with children and gradually my heart unfroze. I realized the full extent of how horribly wrong my frame of reference for family life was, and on the day my sister announced her first pregnancy, I cried bitter tears of regret, because as the older sibling, surely it was supposed to be my turn first?

Yet marriage and children (I know not everyone feels the need to tie any knots before getting knocked up, but as a committed Christian, I wasn’t prepared to do it any other way. Which makes my story that much harder, I’ll admit) was not forthcoming. So I waited until I found the chap who had a touch of destiny about him. The first time we met, my gut told me “He’d be a good husband and a good father.” As I got to know him, I could see myself growing old and content with him by my side. And when he proposed, once I got over the surprise, I didn’t have a second thought about saying a joyful “Yes!”

If I’d known, would I have done things differently? If he’d known, would he?

You see, my dear Husby turned out to be sick. Sicker than either of us realized or anticipated or would fully know until three years down the line, when we received the official word that there’s no point trying for a baby anymore, because we will never be able to conceive naturally. We will (hopefully) be offered one shot at fertility treatment. And then we’re cast loose to figure out how to live our lives.
And in the meantime, to make matters worse, our marriage has been plagued by this sickness and its associated challenges, for its entirety. Three years of absolute hell; of suddenly having to manage a spouse who had succumbed to that dread beast, depression. Who often didn’t want to be alive by the end of the day. Who claimed he loved me, but rejected me on several very intimate and very painful levels, as a result of seeing the world through the dark cloud of mental ill-health.
His sickness also pervaded to other parts of his body, resulting in two miscarriages for us – the bitterest pills to swallow, that our first two children – our Neverborns – might be our only two. And each time I allow myself to think about that for too long, it absolutely devastates me and leaves me bereft.

In the time since, the gates have slammed down, one by one, on our options for parenthood. We can’t foster or adopt, as the depression has us (rightly) disqualified from their eligibility criteria. We can’t afford private fertility treatment.  And we have some of Husby’s sperm frozen, so why would we waste our one shot on donor sperm?
This is our final chance to realize our fragile, shaky, precious dreams of becoming parents to a live child, and it sucks beyond belief to know that the success rate for the treatment we might get – the BEST treatment – stands at 16%.

The irony of those miscarriages is strong. And each month when crushing disappointment claws at my heart as I realize that no, I’m not pregnant. Again. It is only balanced by the knowledge that at least I’m not LOSING another baby. Because there is no more profoundly painful feeling I have ever encountered than knowing that my body – designed to protect and nurture and grow – had been unable to hang onto my child. Or the knowledge that each of my tiny babies were defective, and were never going to grow beyond the point they reached, and so just gave up; zipped up wrong – abominations to be disposed of and expelled.

No pain EVER equalled this before.

And so I face life as an Invisible Mom – potentially forever. No one will see my children. I’ll never get to hold them close or smell their hair or kiss their scraped knees better. I’ll never shout at them or get kicked in the face by them, or embarrassed in restaurants by their behaviour, or have my heart broken when theirs is.
I’ll get to sleep in on the weekends. To do precisely as I want, when I want. With two incomes, I’ll be able to buy myself nice things, and enjoy them without risking the ruin of little fingers. I’ll be able to drink without worrying that I might need to be sober if one of the kids had an emergency. I won’t have to pay out for schooling fees or worry about bullies. My life will be my own.

And I’d trade it in a second.

Considerings

Lizzi is a deep thinker, truth-teller and seeker of good things. She writes her thoughts on her blog Considerings. You can also find her on Facebook at her Considerings page as well as on the group Invisible Moms Club.