Beautiful crying forth

As I contemplate my thirteen precious children today, on PAIL (pregnancy and infant loss) Remembrance Day, I am praising God for His beautiful crying forth of ideas which created each one of them.

I still daily get to set my eyes on four of them, and I am daily blown away by His imagination in how He formed each one. They are absolutely spoken magic, woven into flesh.

But there are nine other ideas of His which were spoken into creation by His Words. Although my eyes do not see them, nor my hands get to hold theirs, and my days are not filled with teaching & instructing them; and although their beautifully cried forth souls have flown from their woven bodies of flesh; they are still spoken magic. Fully alive. Glorifying God.

How stunning.

God, thank You for giving me so many children.
Thank You for lending some to me for such a long time.
Thank You for balming my heart when You took so many of them to Your heavenly places.
Thank You for crying forth such beauty even through my broken womb.
Thank You for showing Yourself faithful to me in grief.
Thank You for hearing my prayers.
Help me to show my children how beautifully & imaginatively spoken they are by You.
I believe Lord, help Thou my unbelief.


October has always been one of my favorite months. In fact, if I had been a more patient woman, I would have waited an extra five months to get married just so I could have an October anniversary! But as it happened, seven days post college graduation was all I was willing to wait. (No regrets, by the way!) I had often prayed for an October baby (and an April baby, incidentally), and what’s interesting is that in all of my pregnancies, I never had a due date or a loss date in October. I did have some bad-news days in Octobers, particularly when carrying my sons Peace and Hosanna, both who died in early Novembers. And then the icing of the cake was the delicious joy that God (somewhat unexpectedly) gifted me with Simeon in October.

And now, just a few days into this beautiful month, with its cold nights and crisp days… days for wearing boots & scarves & sweaters… mornings that beg me to bring in an armload of wood & stoke a fire… bellies longing for soup and fresh bread…
Now, on October 4th, I can’t stop crying. No anniversary of anything specific. Not even the 15th, which is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day. It’s simply a random day.


A day of blinding grief.

I can not explain why. It simply is.

Most days now, I am so busy with focusing on what is right in front of me each day that my grief is faded into a dim shadow behind the hills. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of it. Sometimes it is like a cloud that filters how I see things on a given day, but it doesn’t fill the entire lens.

But there are occasional days where the grief is simply blinding. I wish I could put sunglasses on so I wouldn’t be walking around squinting, with tears running down my cheeks.
Today is one of these days.
The bright, sharp pain of grief is everywhere I look today.

It is in my bedroom. My bathroom. My kitchen. The bread rising in the oven.
It is in the knowledge that the house where I miscarried seven sweeties is being sold.
It is in these precious freckled faces all around me.
It is in the sound of Simeon’s cries.
It is in the ache of a womb that wishes it could be filled again.
It is in the frustration of not having a moment’s peace & quiet.
It is in the silence I feel when I hold Heritage’s box in my hands.
It is in the meal I am making for a friend who just had her sixth child.
It is in the load of diapers I have rinsing in the washer.
It is in the necklace around my neck with nine little crystals.
It is in the necklace that sits in my jewelry case, because honestly the thirteen tags on it have simply become weighty & awkward.
It is in the canvas I ordered today of my family of six. Only six.
It is in the nervousness I feel as I anticipate meeting new people at a homeschool co-op, and realizing I once again get to introduce my family & our life story.
It is in the ache of my muscles and the chap of my lips.
It is in the wrinkles on my hands and the grey in my hair.
It is in the songs I sing and the prayers I say over the four little red heads around my table.


It is not as predictable as the path of the sun.
It’s about as unpredictable as the weather.
I have come to understand it and live peaceably with it, as a dim and distant part of my landscape.
But these days of blinding grief that appear sharp and harsh… it stuns me.
I shade my eyes with my hand, I squint, I cry, I turn my face… I run back inside.

I don’t want to face it.
I would rather hide.
There are SO. MANY. good things in my life.
I feel ashamed that there are still days where grief eclipses the rest.


But I am not ashamed of missing my children.
I am not ashamed of how deeply I still love each of my wee babes.
I am not ashamed of being their mommy.

So I cry.
And I miss them.
My heart longs for heaven.


It never ceases to amaze me how our experiences shape and color the lenses through which we look.


Even something as simple as a devotional title this morning… it struck me…
My eyes read “Riding the Rollercoaster of Miscarriage.”
I was surprised to find, upon reading it & then going back to the top to double-check the title, that it was called “Riding the Rollercoaster of Marriage.”

My bad.

Yesterday when I was picking my two big boys up from VBS, someone who I have known casually for over a dozen years made a comment about how perfectly spaced my children are. She seemed to be congratulating me for the beautifully placed stairsteps… and then she asked when the next baby would be on the way (to which my eyes stung and my heart silently cried oh, I wish).



I breathed deeply to keep myself from breaking out into a sweat and allowing my heartrate to rise in anxiety.

I told myself quickly and quietly, she sees my family & me through different lenses.

Another deep breath, a squeeze of my little baby in my left arm & squeeze of my daughter’s hand in my right hand…
They do look stunningly like little stairsteps, I guess, was my reply with a smile.
I continued, Maybe you’d never know that there were nine other babies in there along the way.

I kept smiling, and the woman seemed to try processing my words.
She was blinking.
It’s like I was trying to share my lenses with her, but the glasses didn’t quite fit and the prescription was made for my eyes rather than hers.

Since it didn’t work well to share my lenses,
I just put them back on myself and let her keep her own.
Instead, I briefly explained what my view showed.
I described the picture’s colors to her, since she could not see their variety herself.


We have nine little ones in heaven already. One before Gabriel, six between the big boys, and two between my youngest children.

When she commented that she “hoped I lost them early on,” rather than bristling that her lenses didn’t show her the colors & shadows & silhouettes & nuances more clearly,
once again I just described to her what my lenses show me.
They were young, yes, but they had beautiful little arms, legs, eyes, umbilical cords. I got to hold most of them. They have names. They are my children too, and I love them dearly. Honestly, I can’t wait to meet them in heaven. But until then, I sure am thankful for these four little miracle million-dollar-babies God has given us to raise.

It’s enough.
It is enough to realize that I see things differently than other folks. It goes both ways.
And I praise God that He is giving me peace with my lenses.
He continues teaching me how to see, how to share what I see, and how to learn what others see too.
With thankfulness, grace, contentment, joy.

I pray that He will continue to work on my eyes to better focus
on what He wants me to see in this world
and in the particular life He has given me.

Palm Sunday Thoughts…

Yesterday was Palm Sunday. We were given little crosses made out of palm fronds at church. The liturgy was different. The vestment colors were different. And as I dealt with a 3 year old who threw up all over her church dress and her carseat… and as I bounced a fussy, overtired little 4 month old… I was happily comforted in the reminders that my Jesus, my King, is Lord over all things ~ both small and great. He came in lowly ways. He ministered in the daily things. He came to save.

My mind repeatedly wandered back to a year ago… six weeks pregnant with Sweet Teen… and the terrible dance of hope & doubt I was enduring…
So today, I am sharing with you something I wrote that day; last year on Palm Sunday. It’s as true today as it was 366 days ago. Hallelujah! Hosanna in the highest!


Today was Palm Sunday—a day full of good reminders of our King who reigns, of His lowly entry and faithful rule, of how we as His people can & should cry out to Him, hosanna! Save us now, Lord, we pray! One of my sons in heaven is named Hosanna, and I love the excuse to say his name. When I do, I am crying to the only One who can save to the uttermost. This morning’s church service, as we visited a church we love a couple hours away, began with the choir, pastors, and dozens of children processing through the sanctuary with palms in their hands while we all sang to the Lord of His glory and honor, lauding Him with our praise. We cried out to Him beseeching Him to save us! And since we are on the other side of the story, we know with confidence that He is the Savior! He has saved us! He didtriumphantly bear our sins and conquer death, saving us from the holds of those shackles! Amen!
But we are still in the midst of the story. This morning I felt painfully, acutely aware that the story continues.

I sat there with my family, in the midst still of our own story of asking the Lord to save and preserve and give us life in place of death, begging Him with every little panting breath to cause this baby to live…
In front of us was a family whose daughter suffered a terrible cancer some years ago, and the Lord preserved her precious life, and there she sat with parents and siblings, with health glowing in her cheeks and hair and the saving presence of the Lord spilling from her eyes as she sang…
In front of them sat a family who buried another son this very week—the Lord saved their little boy by ushering him to heaven, and now He saves this family every moment by upholding them even in the midst of horrible grief…

I cried repeatedly.
Suffering everywhere I looked. Sometimes already redeemed. Sometimes not yet.
It is hard to wait for the redemption, and wonder whether we will see it here in this life, or whether we will be yet waiting to see it in the next.

And then Pastor Sumpter preached on hope & joy.
He said, so much of joy is bound up in hope.
How painfully, purely accurate.

I am so afraid to hope and so afraid to be joyful. Even though there is a sliver of me that wants to shout from the rooftops that the Lord has filled my womb—I want to plan and prepare and anticipate and expect an autumn baby—I want to let the kids kiss my tummy and pray aloud all day for the little baby without wincing in my heart of anxiety—I want to talk about baby names for this little person, to embrace this pregnancy rather than moment by moment telling myself not to get attached.

Today we heard an exhortation to ignore the voices in our head that shout realism and logic and probabilities. We ought to rather take joy in hoping, and not to grow weary if we have to keep asking. It is exactly realism, logic probabilities, and my own history that causes me to limit my joy and squelch my hope. But we serve the Lord who delights in giving good gifts, who takes pleasure in acting outside the boundaries which people expect of Him, who came in order to redeem the broken places so that our joy could be full and our hope renewed.

So this week, even as I constantly preach truth to myself not to give in to anxiety just because it certainly doesn’t do any of us any good, I will also be reminding myself day by day to be joyful even when I don’t know the end of the story. Because that is why Christ came. I rejoice in hope—and this hope is not bound up or settled on the things of this world. This hope in which I rejoice is bound up and settled on the glory of God. And because of this, because of God’s glory, we can rejoice fully! Even when suffering comes. Even when endurance is necessary. When character is tried, tested, affirmed. (Romans 2:1-5)

This hope is not foolish. Hope that is grounded in God’s glory will not put us to shame. He died for me. So that I could have hope. So that I could rejoice.

So as I remind myself of these things this week, walking toward Easter as well as taking daily steps further and further into my pregnancy, I will remember the joy and the hope along with the suffering and the grief. It’s the dichotomy of living the Christian life. May He give us the strength and peace to glorify Him this week through all of this.

I want to hope with unabashed, reckless abandon. I want to have incalculable, irrepressible joy.

This is the Lord‘s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Save us, we pray, O Lord!
O Lord, we pray, give us success!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
We bless you from the house of the Lord.
The Lord is God,
and He has made His light to shine upon us.
Psalm 118:23-27

Balloon Release, PAIL Day 2015

I can’t remember for sure if we have done this every year or not, but if it hasn’t been an annual tradition, it’s been really doggone close. I remember doing it with Gabriel at our old house when he was only a year or two old, and how the balloons got caught in our neighbors’ pine tree. Whoops. It has worked much  better since moving out to the country, with more wide open spaces.

This afternoon, my children and I let off nine balloons into the sky.
Why do we do this every year, Mommy? Gabriel asked while Asher blew kisses to our babies in heaven & Evangeline said, Goodbye balloons- I will miss you!
I answered Gabriel with tears in my eyes, It reminds us in a way that we can see with our eyes, how our babies have left us & life here on earth, and gone to heaven where we can’t see them anymore but where we know by faith they still live.
Asher piped up, And this way, our brothers and sisters have balloons to play with.
To which quick & quippy Gabriel responded, oh Asher, they don’t play with the balloons- they probably don’t even see them. We just do it because we love them so much. And because we miss them playing here with us.

And he’s right. We do it because we love our children, and we do miss them. And it is a tangible, visible way to slowly (year by year) teach my children about their brothers and sisters. As I handed each of my three kids three balloon strings, I named off three of their siblings’ names. They repeat them.

With laughter and with tears, with memories and while looking ahead, this was our PAIL Day 2015 Balloon Release.

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Nine Treasures, on PAIL Day

Today (Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day)
we are remembering our darlings in heaven,
the nine siblings of our treasures here.

While this day does not cut so acutely into my heart as it once did, it is still a day that bittersweetly blesses and affects me.
In addition to treasures of glory, of Christ, of spiritual hopes & faith ~ we have nine treasures in heaven.
Little treasured people whose bodies I held within mine… and in my hands…
Boys and girls, my sons and daughters, who were beautifully created and wonderfully knit by their heavenly Father.


Covenant Hope, Glory Hesed, Promise Anastasis, Peace Nikonos
Mercy Kyrie, Victory Athanasius, Hosanna Praise,
Heritage Peniel, Fidelis Se’arah

~ oh, how we love you. I think of you all the time and imagine what life would have been like if you had stayed here with us. Your brother Gabriel talks about you a lot. And even Asher and Evangeline are starting to know your names, to remember how your lives have been entwined with theirs, to acknowledge that our family is much bigger than what meets the eye. ~


I am so happy, blessed and honored and privileged, to be their mommy. And I look ahead with joyful anticipation to holding them again (or if I don’t get to hold them, at least being with them and seeing them and singing with them) when I join them on the other side of eternity.


Tangibly Remembering

Psalm 105:1-6

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon His name;
make known His deeds among the peoples!
Sing to Him, sing praises to Him;
tell of all His wondrous works!
Glory in His holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
Seek the Lord and His strength;
seek His presence continually!
Remember the wondrous works that He has done,
His miracles, and the judgments He uttered,
O offspring of Abraham, His servant,
children of Jacob, His chosen ones!

One thing to help us in a visible, tangible way to remember our nine sweet babies in heaven, giving us fodder for conversation about it, and to be a sort of picture to our children here is to release balloons into the sky. I know it may seem like a silly sentimental thing to do, and I won’t deny that there are aspects of silliness & sentimentality here. But I’m okay with that. I love that my kids played with balloons and then said goodbye to them. I love that my kids each had three white star balloons to let off into the sky (3×3=9). I love that (simply due to the nature of having three little kids be in charge of letting off nine balloons into the sky) not all of the balloons were let go at once ~ in fact, they were let off in sets of 1, 6, and 2 which incidentally is the way my babies in heaven have been grouped as well (one before Gabriel, six between the boys, two this year). I love that my kids shouted cheerfully after the balloons, everything from “goodbye balloons!” to “brothers and sisters, we love you!” to “we hope you reach heaven, balloons!” and the boys wanted to be reminded of all their brothers & sisters’ names. I love that we got to talk about heaven, God’s sovereignty, the gift of life, contentment while still desiring more, remembering God’s works, living mercifully together in community. And balloons. We got to talk about shiny white star-shaped balloons too. 🙂

It was silly. Sentimental. Sweet. Tangible. Visible. Fun. Bittersweet.
And in a situation that is often filled with just tears and emptiness and unanswered questions, those are some pretty great adjectives.

Here’s a small glimpse into some of that. And yes, it got dark between playing with the balloons and actually releasing them into the wind. So we added some glowstick wands into the mix. 🙂

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Psalm 111

Praise the Lord!
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the Lord,
studied by all who delight in them.
Full of splendor and majesty is His work,
and His righteousness endures forever.
He has caused His wondrous works to be remembered;
the Lord is gracious and merciful.
He provides food for those who fear Him;
He remembers His covenant forever.
He has shown His people the power of His works,
in giving them the inheritance of the nations.
The works of His hands are faithful and just;
all His precepts are trustworthy;
they are established forever and ever,
to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
He sent redemption to His people;
He has commanded His covenant forever.
Holy and awesome is His name!
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever!

Unedited Raw Remembrance

I remember Covenant Hope. She made me “Mommy”—she was the first little image-bearer of my husband and me that God used us to create. I remember peeing in a little glass cup that had a sheep on it. I remember seeing a plus sign in the test window, but it was faint and I did not know what that meant—so I emailed a picture of it to a friend of mine! I remember my friend confirming my mommyhood to me. I remember waiting to tell Steven until the next day so that I could do it picture-perfectly. I remember setting up a special dinner, a gift (an arrow in a quiver), a Bible with Psalm 127 highlighted, a card with the positive pregnancy test in it. I remember telling my parents they were grandparents, and the delight in their eyes. I remember going to my sister-in-law’s wedding across the country, carrying my baby in my belly. I remember going camping with my brother and my other sister-in-law, carrying my baby in my belly. I remember craving Cheezits. I remember feeling so sick to my stomach. I remember being ecstatic to expect a March baby, wondering if the baby would be born on Easter. I remember thinking that I would know my baby’s gender early enough to buy gender-appropriate Christmas gifts for him or her.
I remember being in church that summer Sunday morning. I remember coming out of the bathroom, and asking a couple of young moms in the fellowship room if spotting during pregnancy was okay or not. I remember being nervous that afternoon, but resting in my bed and sending my parents home because we thought I’d be fine if I just laid down long enough. I remember feeling the cramps turn into contractions. I remember timing them. I remember calling the OB on call at the hospital. I remember his name. I remember hating him in my heart for his cold way of reacting to my fear. I remember calling my parents to come back to be with us. I remember sitting on the toilet and delivering the placenta, wailing. I remember being in my little bathroom and delivering my beautiful little baby into my hands, screaming. I remember my parents arriving. I remember holding little Covenant in our hands, each of us taking turns to cup her in our palms—because we knew this was our one and only chance to cuddle her. I remember getting cards and emails, flowers and food. I remember staying in bed, crying my eyes out. I remember the desperate desire to give Covenant a younger sibling. I remember knowing that she changed me forever in so many, many, many ways. I remember making things with her name on it: a necklace charm, stitchery, a scrapbook dedicated to her short but impactful life.

I remember Glory Hesed. This little baby did not live long in my womb. I remember those short days. I remember making Gabriel a onesie that said big brother. I remember trying to teach him to touch my belly and say baby. I remember thinking about having babies eighteen months apart. I remember thinking Glory was a boy. I remember telling people that I was having another baby, and how some seemed so shocked while others seemed so casual about it.
I remember working at my dad’s office that week for some reason… I remember being there, beginning to bleed. I remember very little about how the miscarrying process happened with Glory. I remember it being sudden, shocking me. I remember feeling so blindsided. I remember dreading Thanksgiving and Steven’s birthday, or anything autumnal. I remember sticking that big brother onesie in the bottom of the pile and just begging God to give me another reason to pull it out before it was outgrown. I remember that there were some emails, some flowers, some food again. I remember feeling like everyone expected me to get back to normal pretty quickly. I remember people telling me to focus on Gabriel. I remember wondering why people wanted me to neglect my little Glory.

I remember Promise Anastasis. I remember that she was in my womb for Gabriel’s first birthday and for my second wedding anniversary. I remember calling my midwife and begging for early appointments. I remember anticipating having a baby in the snow. I remember pulling that big brother onesie out again, trying to squeeze Gabriel into it again. I remember having hope that this time my baby would survive. I remember my in-laws being here to visit.
I remember it began with spotting again. I remember going to the emergency room for a blood draw one night. I remember frantic phone calls and fervent prayers. I remember lying flat on my back in bed, not daring to move for fear the baby would come out. I remember waking up the next morning, the baby coming out. I remember leaving the house just minutes later to go meet the local reproductive endocrinologist for the first time. I remember weeping in the RE’s clinic so they gave us a private room, a storage room, to wait in. I remember him giving me an ultrasound. I remember seeing emptiness where my baby had been nestled just hours before. I remember hiding in my bedroom. I remember having to celebrate Father’s Day the next day and feeling like my smile had never been so fake. I remember being told that Promise officially sent me into Recurrent Pregnancy Loss, because she was my third baby in heaven. I remember more necklace charms, more stitcheries, more tears. I remember connecting with women online who were suffering miscarriages. I remember trying to cling to hope.

I remember Peace Nikonos. I remember having renewed hope again because we had just spent three months of appointments, bloodwork, waiting, and getting my thyroid in order. I remember traveling across the country with Peace in my belly, although I didn’t know it yet, to say goodbye to Steven’s grandpa. I remember telling my father-in-law on his birthday that I was pregnant again. I remember calling our baby my little Arrow while he was in my womb. I remember seeing that beautiful little body and miraculous heartbeat on the ultrasound screen. I remember sitting on the couch with my friend Margaret, dreaming about having this baby to raise in the nurture and admonition of the Lord—even talking about baby names.
I remember the spotting. I remember the nurse calling to say that my hormones were doing crazy things and that it meant the baby could not possibly survive. I remember my mom telling me about a place online called Hannah’s Prayer. I remember meeting my friend Kristi who was in painfully similar shoes. I remember going back for another ultrasound the next week, and seeing the baby again—our baby, still alive. I remember rejoicing and thinking that God was simply showing everyone that with Him all things are possible. I remember going home and getting back in bed on bedrest. I remember Margaret calling and singing Psalms over the phone with me. I remember calmly going to the bathroom and rejoicing, thanking God out loud that there was no blood—and then suddenly, shockingly, my sweet Peace being delivered into my hands one second later. I remember screaming for my mother, I remember she was cooking in my kitchen. I remember saying words that needed repented of, and I wailed, begging God for forgiveness. I remember calling Steven and simply saying come home now. I remember Steven arriving home just minutes later, and having to tell him that once again our baby had died. I remember the shock of holding my baby in my hands just a matter of hours after having seen his beautiful heartbeat on the ultrasound screen. I remember the feeling of total deflation.

I remember Mercy Kyrie. I remember the incredible delight of what people call a surprise pregnancy. I remember getting in touch with reproductive immunologists across the nation because we were suddenly completely outside the realm of what the midwives, OBgyns, and reproductive endocrinologists could comprehend. I remember trying new medical treatments. I remember beginning steroids. I remember starting iv infusions of a clear sticky looking substance called immunoglobulin. I remember feeling like it was such a mercy to be pregnant over Christmastime. I remember my dad leaving a bouquet of roses on my front porch with a happy note, congratulating me on my excellent hormone levels. I remember feeling exhausted and nauseous. I remember deciding to wait until eight weeks for an ultrasound this time.
I remember my mom came with us for that ultrasound. I remember finding out Mercy had died the same day Steven’s grandpa died. I remember thinking of my babies singing alongside great-grandparents in heaven. I remember getting second opinions. I remember the agony of waiting it out. I remember walking around feeling numb and hollow for nearly four more weeks. I remember calling my womb a tomb. I remember contractions finally starting one night. I remember laboring for hours during that night. I remember delivering in my bathroom by myself. I remember wanting to let Steven sleep through that horrible delivery. I remember bleeding so much and feeling so weak, we were finally almost ready to go to the emergency room. I don’t remember much of what came next. I remember that this is when I began to truly despair. I remember that this is when it felt like life was actually falling apart.

I remember Victory Athanasius. I remember going to a church conference and telling our closest friends when we all got there that I was pregnant. I remember my friend Elizabeth squealing with utter joy. I remember being so thankful for her and her ecstatic response. I remember thinking being due on New Year’s Day was a fantastic thing to look forward to, a good fresh start for a new year. I remember nurses coming to my house to give me iv infusions. I remember the migraines and the nausea.
I remember being coldly told that my baby was not growing, was not alive. I remember getting second opinions. I remember heeding the advice of doctors to get genetic testing done. I remember going to the hospital for a D&C procedure. I remember having to say goodbye to my husband. I remember waking up wailing and weeping. I don’t remember that I kept asking Steven if my baby was gone—but he does—and he had to tell me over and over that yes, our baby was gone until the anesthesia finally completely wore off and I was awake enough to simply weep. I remember begging God not to let our nephew be born the same day as Victory. I remember going through the motions of celebrating Gabriel’s second birthday a few days later. I remember going through the motions of celebrating our third wedding anniversary just a couple days after that. I remember getting genetic results that our baby was a normal, healthy girl. I remember being willing to do absolutely anything to have a living child again.

I remember Hosanna Praise. I remember taking the pregnancy test. I remember climbing back into bed to tell Steven. I remember we had so much hope. I remember he was due on Father’s Day. I remember we had already been to Mexico for a controversial medical treatment three times, but we needed to go a fourth time now that I was pregnant. I remember making airline reservations. I remember craving salsa every hour of the day, and thinking that was so funny because I’d been to Mexico so many times that summer. I remember looking up what the word hosanna meant, and finding that save Lord was the perfect mantra for the pregnancy. I remember nicknaming my baby Hosanna-Baby in faith that the Lord would save him. I remember that during this pregnancy, Gabriel could finally communicate his understanding of things. I remember Gabriel, barely verbal still, praying for the baby. I remember Gabriel cheering me on while I gave myself blood thinner shots in my stomach every morning. I remember getting more iv infusions, and I remember liking some of the home care nurses better than others. I remember those flights to and from Mexico with Hosanna in my womb. I remember seeing that beautiful baby on an ultrasound, growth and heartbeat encouraging my soul with hope.
I remember a repeat ultrasound that lasted about ten seconds because all the doctor did was quickly glance, saw there was no heartbeat, and was ready to move on to the next patient. I remember the horror. I remember wanting to vomit. I don’t remember walking back to the exam room from the ultrasound room. But I do remember crumbling to the floor when I got in the exam room. I remember screaming the ugliest sound while pulling handfuls of hair from my head. I remember having to call my parents and tell them my baby died—again. I remember going to a new OBgyn for a second opinion. I remember the incredibly bittersweet gift it was when he let us stare lovingly at our little baby’s still body on that ultrasound screen, to quietly cry over this horrible death. I remember getting a picture of my baby’s ultrasound. I remember not wanting him delivered on Peace’s birthday. I remember going to a new hospital for another D&C. I remember my dad being there with us this time. I remember trying so hard to be brave. I don’t remember saying goodbye to Steven this time, and I don’t really remember waking up either. I remember getting a phone call from a new reproductive immunologist who my father had spoken with—I remember his compassion, just calling me out of the blue to give me a shred of hope for the future, and encouragement not to give up yet. I remember the candlelight vigil our church family held on our front lawn one night. I remember lying in my bed, physically to the point of needing to hold Steven’s arm to walk around, knowing people were outside praying for us. I remember peeking through the miniblinds to see Christian brethren wrapped in scarves and blankets, standing or kneeling or sitting in folding chairs on our grass, holding candles and praying together. I remember getting cards after Hosanna died. I remember my friend Amber calling to tell me she was praying about being a surrogate, gestational carrier for me. I remember finding out Hosanna was a perfectly healthy little boy. I remember grieving hard when I found that out. I remember Gabriel talking about his little brother in heaven with so much clarity, so much faith, so much peace, so much praise.

I remember Heritage Peniel. I remember trying to conceive her for months. I remember thinking I was pregnant each month in the fall. I remember having just one pregnancy test left, and it was about to expire so I figured I may as well use it. I remember getting ready for church while I waited for two minutes, and when I glanced back the test was positive. I remember thinking the timing could not be more perfect. I remember sauntering over to Steven in nylons and heels, paired with a nightie, and asking him if I looked like Mom to eleven. I remember needing to repeat the question, trying not to laugh. I remember immediately calling the baby Little ‘Leven and praying for God to use this child to bring life to the Kingdom. I remember telling my parents later that day by giving them a coupon for two new cheeks to kiss and ten new toes to tickle that would be redeemable in August. I remember the utter delight of actually surprising my parents with this news. I remember telling Gabriel by giving him a letter to read, and I remember the priceless expression on his face when he read Mommy has a new baby in her belly because he had been praying for another baby for months. I remember Steven telling his family via webcam on Christmas Day. I remember planning for a summer baby. I remember thinking I would have three under three like I’d always dreamed of. I remember buying AIO cloth pocket diapers because I wanted to have diapers that would fit all three of my kids who would likely be in diapers at the same time. I remember thinking what fun it was going to be to have a baby just a few weeks younger than my brother’s new baby. I remember thinking how great it would be to spend an entire pregnancy happily side-by-side my sister-in-law. I remember being pregnant together on Christmas Day. I remember my parents gleefully talking about how next Christmas there would be two new grandbabies to cuddle and spoil. I remember feeling like all the shots and all the pills were not a big deal anymore—because I knew they were so incredibly worth every penny, every owie, every inconvenience. I remember Gabriel and Asher taking turns praying with me while I did my shots every morning. I remember telling my dad that we would need bunkbeds before summer came so that we could work on shuffling kids’ rooms and beds around. I remember trying to figure out whether I would put the baby in with Evangeline, or move Evangeline upstairs with the boys. I remember being terrified but telling myself that my fears were invalid. And then I remember going to the OBgyn for an appointment. I remember seeing our beautiful baby and her beautiful heartbeat. I remember deciphering my doctor’s quiet and solemn demeanor. I remember him pointing out that her sac was small. I remember thinking that was a silly thing to worry about, until he explained that 90% of babies with a sac this small miscarry for some unknown reason. I remember putting myself on partial bedrest. I remember forcing myself to drink a gallon of water each day in hopes of helping that little sac grow. I remember feeling encouraged the next week at our ultrasound, finding that the baby had grown appropriately and the heartbeat was still strong. I remember needing to wear bigger pants and taking some pictures of my belly that was starting to remember what to do when a baby was growing inside.
Then at another later ultrasound, I remember being utterly shocked that the baby was still. I remember how horrific it was to see my baby on that screen, but not be able to see her heartbeat. I remember straining my eyes, blinking, squinting. I remember Steven’s head dropping into his lap and his hand feeling limp. I remember my doctor asking if I was surprised. I remember saying yes as tears began to roll down my cheeks. I remember holding it together really well as we waited for an appointment at the hospital for a more in-depth ultrasound with a specialist. I remember going to a craft store to pick up some supplies for Evangeline’s first birthday which was just a few days away. I remember the incredible compassion of the ultrasound tech. I remember loving her for how she let me just stare at my baby, how she printed out numerous pictures for me, how she used words like baby rather than fetus. I remember how I felt in my gut when she zeroed in on the baby’s heart, and there was just a flatline. I remember praying for God to cause it to beat. I remember begging Him for a miracle right there in front of my eyes. I remember leaving the hospital knowing that my baby had died. I remember getting home from that appointment to find my children and my parents waiting for us in our house. I remember my parents gathering my two little ones on their laps to read books on one couch, while Steven and I had Gabriel come sit with us on the other couch. I remember Gabriel looking up into my face and asking how the baby was doing today. I remember I just started crying, unable to speak. I remember his chin quivering, his eyes filling, and then him joining me in my weeping. I remember telling him that the baby died. I remember how he sobbed on my shoulder. I remember my best friend found out she was pregnant the day after I found out my baby died. I remember taking medication to induce labor. I remember walking in circles around my house waiting for it to begin. I remember crying as I put the pills in my mouth. I remember putting my hands on my stomach, knowing that my time holding Heritage inside had come to an end. I remember the pains starting. I remember feeding my children lunch and having them be distracted with a video, as I calmly made my way to the bathroom feeling the urge to push. I remember delivering Heritage with my mother there. I remember how beautiful she was, curled up. I remember looking at her eyes and thinking what beautiful blue eyes she must have in heaven. I remember looking at her little bum and her little back, and how much she reminded me of her big sister. I remember holding her and crying over her. I remember taking pictures with her. I remember Steven coming in to hold her. I remember my dad coming home from work to hold her with us too. I remember my dad taking the placenta to the lab for the genetic testing. I remember saying goodbye to my sweet little baby, and putting her precious little body in a vial that would go in the treasure chest her grandpapa was making for her. I remember finding out that Heritage was a girl, perfectly whole and healthy. I remember hoping my brother’s baby would be a boy—and then hoping that at least my new niece would not have a similar name to what Heritage’s would have been. I remember burying those dreams of baby girl cousins just weeks apart in age. I remember packing away Evangeline’s baby clothes, knowing I did not have the strength to see them on any baby but Heritage. I remember dreaming about having little girls eighteen months apart. I remember waking up from those dreams in tears. I remember wanting to get pregnant again right away. I remember desperately wanting my little Evangeline to be a real big sister.

I remember Fidelis Se’arah. I remember trying some things differently this time. I remember taking different medications, being more monitored, and hoping against hope that it would be different because Heritage’s small sac was probably an anomaly. I remember taking a pregnancy test one morning and thinking it was negative, so I went back to bed and cried. I remember looking at the test a couple hours later and seeing it looked positive. I remember spending that day feeling confused. I remember taking a pregnancy test again the next morning. I remember immediately falling in love with my Darling Dozen, and anticipating the season of Advent this year because he would be born then. I remember Gabriel praying that God would make Mommy’s tummy strong for the baby. I remember Gabriel praying that God would make us happy even if our baby goes to heaven. I remember asking God to give me a similar reckless faith and abandoned trust in God’s sovereignty. I remember praying for twins, hoping for twins. I remember how quickly my belly grew in those early weeks, thanks to supplemental progesterone and high doses of steroids. I remember eagerly walking in to my OBgyn’s office one day, expecting to get good news. But we didn’t.
I remember that all-too-familiar squinting at the ultrasound machine. I remember the agony of thinking I saw the heart beating but then realizing it wasn’t. I remember wanting to melt into that ultrasound table and never get up again. I remember taking deep breaths and preaching psalms to myself while my doctor was talking. I don’t really remember anything he said. I remember Steven had to go back to work. I remember that I had to wait around to be seen at the hospital imaging center, so I went to the grocery store and Starbucks before ending up at Steven’s office so I could just sit and numbly stare at the walls. I remember my dreams of Christmas babies and a happy ending to the hard year being shattered around my feet. I remember the next ultrasound tech and how much grace I had to extend toward her because she had no tact. I remember asking for a picture of my baby, and the way her eyebrows raised. I remember leaving the hospital, feeling like the breath had been completely knocked out of me. I remember driving home. I remember needing to pull over to the side of the road at one point to call my dear friend Elizabeth because I needed to tell her about my baby, and I could not wait until I got all the way home. I remember crying on the phone with her, but I remember that I even laughed on the phone with her. I remember pulling up to the house to find my kids playing outside with my mom. I remember begging God to give me strength and grace and joy in the next five minutes. I remember Gabriel running up to me right away asking Mommy! Is the baby alive?! I remember kneeling down in front of him, holding his hands, and looking up into his eyes. I remember I forced myself to gently smile. I remember explaining that sometimes God says yes and sometimes God says no but all the time He loves us just as deeply and faithfully. I remember believing it as well as saying it. I remember when Gabriel asked if God said yes or no this time. I remember telling him that God said no this time, and that we would have to wait longer to sing with this baby. I remember how sad he was. But I remember him immediately saying he would start praying again for a baby, for God to say yes, for us to be happy with God’s best decisions. I remember feeling most confused with God over Him saying no to Gabriel. I remember getting another ultrasound a few days later before once again taking pills to induce labor so I could deliver at home. I remember not wanting to deliver on Victory’s birthday. I remember resenting my body all over again. I remember feeling so much guilt all over again. I remember the physical process of delivering being faster and easier than my heart thought it should be. I remember taking pictures with our baby again. I remember trying to figure out how to compartmentalize enough to still enjoy Gabriel’s sixth birthday a few days later, and my seventh anniversary right after that. I remember adding that ninth little wooden treasure box made by Grandpapa to the rest. I remember that we had to buy an additional shelf for our room to make space for all the little boxes now. I remember getting test results saying that it was a healthy girl—but then finding out that it was my DNA rather than my baby’s. I remember suddenly realizing that that meant we could not find out if Fidelis was a boy or a girl. I remember getting one bouquet of flowers, which meant the world to me. I remember realizing that I would not have a 2014 baby after all. I remember saying goodbye to my baby. I remember packing away my medications. I remember putting away the stretchier clothing. I remember realizing that I would never have three under three, never have three in diapers. I remember planting flowers and strawberries and herbs while Fidelis was in my womb—and I remember how they bloomed long after my baby died.

I remember so many raw details. I remember so many joys. I remember so many tears. I remember the anguish. I remember the hope. I remember carrying them in my womb. I remember seeing them on ultrasound screens. I remember holding them in my hands. I remember how beautiful they all were. I remember how much I loved them. I remember how vastly I love each of them still.

Covenant, Glory, Promise, Peace, Mercy, Victory, Hosanna, Heritage, and Fidelis ~ Mommy loves you, my sweet little darlings. I’m slowly on my way to join you in song, where we will all together tune our hearts to sing His praise! You are sweet jewels in my crown, and I am so thankful for each one of you. I will always love you.

Remembering, joyfully

Today is October 15th, the day of Pregnancy and Infant Loss remembrance and awareness. In past years, I have been nearly overwhelmed by anticipating this and preparing for it. It’s one of the few times where I felt normal for speaking about the babies that were born directly from my womb to the glories of heaven, one of the few days where I don’t find myself blushing when talking about the little babies the size of a fingernail who I have cradled in my hand, one of the few Hallmark holiday type moments that I take delight in embracing. I love to speak about my babies, to remember aloud the beautiful little children that God created with Steven & me, to imagine what their resurrected bodies look like, to wonder what the hosts of heaven sound like with my seven little saints uniting their voices with all the saints victorious. I love to light candles and let balloons go up into the sky. I love to wear jewelry with their names on them, and look at the arrows in a leather quiver that also bear their names. As weird as it sounds, I love to think about the sorrow and the grief ~ it’s one of the few things I have done in my motherhood of these seven children. And I love to think about reuniting with them in heaven ~ it’s the only thing I have in my motherhood of these seven children that I get to look forward to. The mystery of heaven, the glory of heaven, the purity of heaven… some of my children are experiencing that right now, and I can only begin to wrap my brains around that.

Nancy Guthrie, one of my favorite authors, describes this at length (quoted from The One Year Book of Hope, pp 161-174):

Heaven. It is our fondest desire, and yet it is such a mystery, isn’t it? We lack the clarity or vocabulary to understand or describe heaven. The magnificence and marvels of heaven are beyond the capacity of our language and intellect. And really, anything less wouldn’t be heaven, would it?

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” ~ 1 Corinthians 2:9

If only we could long for heaven and long for Christ as we long for our son.
Suddenly I was longing for heaven and it seemed so real. And yet, if I was honest, it was not Jesus I was longing to see and enjoy most of all; it was Hope. But I didn’t want to admit it. not to myself, and certainly not to anybody else. It seemed to me a sad commentary on the inferior state of my love for Christ.
Should you feel guilty about wanting to see someone you love in heaven? I don’t think so. It is a desire God uses to awaken us to Himself. When someone we love is there, heaven becomes more real and our longing more vivid. It is a sacred longing. The fact that we long for them more than we long for Jesus reflects our current human limitations of taking in the beauty and magnificence of Jesus. In heaven, we will see Him in His fullness, and we will not have to choose  between focusing on the people we love and loving Jesus with our whole heart. We’ll be swept up with the chorus of heaven singing, “The Lamb is worthy” (Revelation 5:12). And together with those we love, we will look to Jesus.

The grace is, for me, a difficult place. Sometimes people have tried to comfort me be reminding me that Hope and Gabe are not in that grave — that they are in heaven. I know what they are saying — but my children’s bodies are in that grave and I loved their bodies! Bodies must mater to God because He will use the seed of our earthly bodies to make for us bodies fit for heaven. Out bodies will be remade for glorified minds that understand the mysteries of the universe and purified hearts that are free of bitterness and resentment, selfishness and suspicion. We will see each other as God intended us to be all along, before sin had its way in our hearts and bodies.

There is one place where heaven is always talked about — in the pages of a hymnal. Have you ever noticed how most old hymns end with a heaven verse — one that celebrates Christ’s coming return or what it will be like to cross death’s shores? O that with yonder sacred throng, we at His feet may fall, we’ll join the everlasting song, and crown Him Lord of all… Far, far away, not only could I see that “younger sacred throng,” I could see a familiar face in the midst of the throng! Someone I love is there, worshiping Jesus! I am closest to them when I do what they are doing and love Whom they are loving — when I fall at the feet of Jesus. They are at the feet of Jesus, singing praises to the Lamb who is worthy! But we don’t have to wait until heaven to join the everlasting song. We can join in here and now.

Grieve with us, share our sorrow, but don’t feel sorry for us. We are enormously blessed. A piece of us resides in heaven. Her absence leaves a hole in our hearts, but we are comforted to know we will one day see her again.

“He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever.” ~ Revelation 21:3-4

This life is not all there is, and neither is it the best there is.
The undercurrent of all Scripture — even the passages that give directions for how to live our lives on this earth — is preparation for and longing for heaven. To set your sights on heaven is to choose to anchor your thoughts and your heart’s desires beyond the ordinary things of earth. It is to choose to value what is valued in heaven, to be concerned with the concerns of heaven, and to enjoy what is delightful in heaven.

Longing for heaven is not a form of escapism. It is extreme realism.
Every hunger we have has been placed there by God. All are God-given, and he is not surprised when we try to satisfy these desires. Neither is He disappointed when we discover that we are  never satisfied. Discovering that we cannot satisfy our longings in the here and now forces us to reckon with the fact that we will never be satisfied in this life.

It is the separation that hurts. In heaven there will be no more separation. there will be nothing that separates us from each other or from God ever again. No more sorrow. No more crying. No more pain. No more curse. No more death. “No more” encapsulates some of  heaven’s sweetest gifts.

In a couple of weeks, it will (God willing) have been three years since my last miscarriage. Three years ago, my son Hosanna was snuggling in my womb, and we were praying with trepidation that God would save him. His very name, Hosanna, means “save, lord!” The realization that it has been nearly three years since death has been in our home is utterly astounding to me, extremely humbling.
I am in a transitional phase of life right now. Letting go. It isn’t easy. It is both good and difficult.
Remembering some of what Mrs. Guthrie said regarding letting go and moving forward (pp 409-414) brings bittersweet tears to my eyes. Back when I first read these words, I didn’t know if I would ever get to the other side. But now I can say that I know from experience that she is right. I’m there. Thanks be to God.

She wrote to her daughter in heaven, I don’t want it to be another year; it just takes me further away from you. I want so desperately to feel close to you, to be able to hear you in my mind even if all I ever got to hear from you was a cry. I want to feel your skin and stroke your cheek. I want to wake up and find you here. But you are so far away and becoming even more distant in my memory, and it is so painful. I don’t know how to let you go and hold on to you at the same time. How can I stay close to you if I don’t stay sad? Sometimes I want to scream because I feel so torn. Forgive me for going on with life without you… it just keeps moving farther and farther away.

Some days I wonder if the letting go will ever stop… I had to let go of her physical body, my dreams for her… her things… her room… my hopes for Matt to have a sibling…
The truth is, eventually, we will let go of everything in this life. Life is a constant barrage of having things and people we love ripped away from us. Every ripping away takes a piece of us with it, leaving us raw and stinging with pain.

Do you find yourself resentful that people no longer ask about your loss or struggle? Are you frustrated that they seem to have moved on and forgotten? Don’t be afraid they’ll forget. Don’t be afraid they’ll think you’re fine when you are still hurting deeply. It takes a conscious choice to turn conversations away from my pain, to stop trying to make sure everyone understands my hurt and has considered my feelings. but it is a step toward normalization, and a step closer to Christ.

There is a tyranny in grief. We realize at some point that we have to figure out how to keep on living, how to incorporate the loss into our lives. We want to feel normal again, to feel joy again. But the energy and emotion of grief keep us feeling close to the one we love or connected to what we’ve lost. Letting go of our grief feels like letting go of the one we love, leaving him or her behind and moving on. The very idea of it is unbearable.
We can make the painful choice to let it go — not all at once, but a little every day. We begin to find that we have the choice of whether or  not we will let ourselves sink to that place of unbearable pain when the flashes of memories and reminders of loss pierce our hearts. And we can begin to make that hard choice. We can begin to let go of our grief so we can grab hold of life and those who are living. but I think the only way we can do that is by telling ourselves the truth — that if we choose to let go of the pain, or at least let it become manageable, it does not mean we love the one we’ve lost any less. And it doesn’t mean that person’s life was any less significant or meaningful, or that we will forget.

When you love something or someone, the process of letting go is a painful one that takes some time, and it need not be rushed. Nor should it be avoided altogether. We feel the pain, mourn the loss, shed our tears, and with time we can begin to let go of the grief that has had such a hold on us. Perhaps it’s not so much that we let go of our grief, but more that we give our grief permission to lessen its grip on us.

Psalm 13
How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
    How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
    and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
    light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
    lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

But I have trusted in Your steadfast love;
    my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
    because He has dealt bountifully with me.

My Father has not forgotten me. We have trusted in Him, and our hearts rejoice in Him. We do sing to Him, because in all things (even in the grief), He has dealt so bountifully with us. We are so thankful.
Thank you for remembering our children, for knowing that we have ten children. Thank you for living with us through the storm. And thank you, too, for being with us in the peace that has followed the sorrow.

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The Thorn
by Martha Snell Nicholson

I stood a mendicant of God before His royal throne
And begged him for one priceless gift, which I could call my own.
I took the gift from out His hand, but as I would depart
I cried, “But Lord this is a thorn and it has pierced my heart.
This is a strange, a hurtful gift, which Thou hast given me.”
He said, “My child, I give good gifts and gave My best to thee.”
I took it home and though at first the cruel thorn hurt sore,
As long years passed I learned at last to love it more and more.
I learned He never gives a thorn without this added grace,
He takes the thorn to pin aside the veil which hides His face.

Remembering my Sweeties

Today is October 15th, the national day of awareness and remembrance for Pregnancy and Infant Loss. It is a unique way for those of us who have endured these griefs to publicly remember and honor these precious children that God has given to us. Today as I remember my Covenant, Glory, Promise, Peace, Mercy, Victory, and Hosanna, I am rejoicing over the gift that it is to be their mama.

I am so thankful for the blessing of having held these precious children in my womb. I am so thankful for the glorious hope of dancing and singing in paradise with them at the feet of our Father for all of eternity. I am so thankful that God has graciously allowed it to be 23 months since my last miscarriage. I am so thankful for the challenge of living out the dichotomy of grief & joy. I am so thankful for the story God has given my family to walk, both with its pains and with its pleasures, with its sorrows and with its rejoicings.

Today the Lord gives me the opportunity to share with you anew how glorious it is to serve Him!! Along these lines, let me one more time share Rainbows & Redemption for the blessing and encouragement of bereaved mothers who are once again holding life in their womb. You or someone you know may have the tricky blessing of walking this dichotomy, and this is a free e-book devotional geared toward that exact journey.

So today while Gabriel, Asher, and Tiny Ten are my tangible comforts and blessings and joys, they help remind me of their brothers and sisters who are already numbered with the saints triumphant. Glory be to God!