Pregnant with a Rainbow, Part IV

Let me preface this by saying with my physical, medical, immunological problems, we have learned that we have to be proactive about either pursuing or preventing pregnancy. (This is obviously a big can of worms to open up in such a public place as a blog on the worldwide web. But I guess I’m feeling no holds barred these days or something.) We have had to learn this the hard way, and there is a big part of me that has long wished I could just be one of those women who could “have a surprise” ~ I did have a surprise once, with my very first little darling, and it was truly magnificent. I will always be thankful that God gave me that gift.

Now that we know some of the intricacies and eccentricities of my body, and particularly how it connects to my womb, we know that part of what the Lord has entrusted to us is a responsibility to be particularly proactive about hedging our procreation with wisdom & diligence. My husband is called to be our protector, and God has given him some unique places where he needs to protect his wife and his children, and we continue to seek the Lord’s wisdom in how to follow Him in this.

But this all does actually tie back into where I was planning to go… which is to my freezer. Funny but true.

When I know there is pregnancy as a possibility on the horizon, I go out of my way to pack my freezer full of freezer meals. (I do like to have 6 to 12 freezer meals in there regardless, though, because it is always nice to have a buffer for myself or also in case someone I know suddenly needs a meal. But since this is a PAL post, I will leave my focus there.) I figure one way or the other, the Lord will be giving me an opportunity to stay away from the kitchen ~ either I will miscarry, and the heavy burden of grief and the physical ramifications of that will keep me from cooking for a few weeks, or I will be facing morning sickness, and the glories of that blessing will keep me from cooking well for a few weeks or months as well.

I can’t really explain what a gift it was to have filled my freezer last winter, and to drain its supply this year due to months of morning sickness. What a humbling gift and amazing blessing!

This time, my thick blanket of morning sickness lifted by about 17 weeks or so, and I was able to be back in the kitchen much of the time. But then restricted activity was prescribed at 19 weeks, and now well into my third trimester I have had to remain on partial bedrest. This has been quite the journey. A couple weeks ago we even stocked up on premade freezer meals from Costco! Which says a lot about how far God has brought me on the tough journey of letting go and lowering my usual standard of things that are so majorly tied into my line of work ~ cleaning, cooking, homeschooling, showing hospitality… wow, the Lord has given me some great challenges, and I have kicked at the goads of letting go, but He is so wise and tender and has really shown me just how sweet it is to actually do what He is asking of me.

But using fresh ingredients and making meals from scratch has long been a huge part of my career as well as my passion & love.
So a couple days ago, I found some recipes online geared specifically toward ziploc-to-freezer-to-crockpot meals, and just after I had chosen half a dozen or so recipes and was about to put together a grocery list to fill in some gaps (although I mostly did try to find recipes that would utilize things already in my pantry and freezer stashes of staple ingredients), I checked my email… and there was a note from a sweet friend of mine who wanted to know if she could stop by for a visit after work one day this week ~ including an offer to help with something practical around my home… and my heart swelled & my eyes filled with happy tears. It was the perfect timing, and an obvious gift from God.

Tuesday evening brought some additional ingredients which were piled onto the kitchen island, and Wednesday afternoon brought a delightful visit from a friend who shared in encouraging conversation and put her hands to diligent work to bless my family. I stayed mostly parked on a stool in the kitchen while she did the hard work on her feet of doing the chopping, the washing, the brunt of it all ~ I did the little piddly parts like labeling, measuring spices, etc.

And now my freezer has 14 new freezer meals packed onto a shelf!

What a gift that God works out details in such sweet ways. Food is one of the best ways we serve our families and love one another. Feeding my husband and my children well is a passion of mine. And feeding myself is one way that I am feeding Sweet Teen, and one of the best ways to help him grow. Having all the prep for these meals done without physically demanding anything of my body during a time where my feet need to be up for the majority of the days is such a blessing.

So let me share the seven recipes with you that my friend Laura and I put together yesterday in about 2 1/2 hours while we talked and laughed together. I just might have to rope her into coming and doing it again with me in another month, if my family goes through this shelf of freezer meals before the baby comes. Or maybe we’ll do it again after he’s born, because honestly I don’t plan on doing much of anything except snuggling my rainbow baby for two months after he is in my arms!!



Veggie Beef Stew

1lb cubed stew meat 1 diced onion, 1 cup sliced carrots, 1 can green beans, 1 cup frozen peas, 1 sliced parsnip, 1 cubed rutabaga, 1 cup red wine, 2 beef bouillon cubes.
Combine all ingredients in gallon ziploc freezer bag.
Label: “Thaw overnight in fridge. Dump bag contents into crockpot.
Cook on low 8-10 hours. Serve over mashed potatoes and/or with rolls.”


Asian Orange Beef

2 1/2lb chuck roast, zest & juice from one large orange, 2 Tblsp brown sugar, 3 Tblsp rice wine vinegar, 2 Tblsp soy sauce, 1 1/2 Tblsp minced garlic, 1 Tblsp grated ginger root, 1/4 cup chopped green onion.
Combine all ingredients in a gallon ziploc freezer bag.
Label: “Thaw overnight in fridge. Dump bag contents into crockpot.
Cook on low 10-12 hours. Shred, and serve over steamed rice with broccoli.”


Cranberry Mustard Pork

2 1/2lb pork butt, 2 cups cranberries, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 Tblsp dijon mustard 1 diced onion, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 tsp cloves, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground ginger, zest & juice from one large orange.
Combine all ingredients in a gallon ziploc freezer bag.
Label: “Thaw overnight in fridge. Dump bag contents into crockpot.
Cook on low 8-10 hours. Serve with roasted potatoes and veg.”


Ginger Peach Chicken

1lb chicken thighs, 1 cup peach jam, 2 Tblsp soy sauce, 1 inch ginger freshly grated, 1 1/2 tsps minced garlic.
Combine all ingredients in a gallon ziploc freezer bag.
Label: “Thaw overnight in fridge. Dump bag contents into crockpot.
Cook on low for 4-6 hours. Shred chicken, and serve over brown rice with salad or snow peas.”


Honey Sesame Chicken

1 1/2lb chicken thighs, 1 diced onion, 1 Tblsp minced garlic, 1/2 cup honey, 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup ketchup, 2 Tblsp oil, 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper.
Combine all ingredients in a gallon ziploc freezer bag.
Label: “Thaw overnight in fridge. Dump bag contents into crockpot.
Cook on low for 4-6 hours. Shred, and serve over steamed rice & peas.
Top with chopped green onions, sesame seeds, and sliced almonds.”


BBQ Chicken

1lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, 1 cup ketchup, 2 Tblsp worcestershire sauce, 1 1/2 Tblsp brown sugar, 1 Tblsp chili powder, 1 tsp red pepper flakes, 1 tsp yellow mustard, 1 tsp apple cider vinegar, 1 1/2 tsp curry powder.
Combine all ingredients in a gallon ziploc freezer bag.
Label: “Thaw overnight in fridge. Dump bag contents into crockpot.
Cook on low 8 hours. Shred chicken, and serve over rolls or rice with green salad and fruit.”


Chicken Chili

1lb diced chicken, 1 chopped onion, 1 can black beans, 1 can white beans, 1 can Rotel, 1 can diced tomatoes, 1 cup sliced frozen peppers, 2 cups frozen corn, 1 Tblsp minced garlic, 1 Tblsp paprika, 2 Tblsp chili powder, 1 Tblsp cumin, 2 tsp oregano, 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes.
Combine all ingredients in a gallon ziploc freezer bag.
Label: “Thaw overnight in fridge. Dump bag contents into crockpot.
Cook on low 10-12 hours. Serve with sour cream, shredded cheese, and tortilla chips.”



Yesterday, we made two of each of the above recipes. I also have two dinners’ worth of beef chili, one pan of enchiladas, one gluten free cheese pizza, and a couple other “surprise” dishes (that apparently I forgot to label…) on my freezer meal shelf. My sister in law gave us a freezer meal of pulled pork sandwiches, half of which is still in there.

Never underestimate the power of food, and the blessing it is to a family in need to surprise them with something for their freezer for that “rainy day.” Sometimes even rainbow pregnancies have their own host of rainy days where nothing blesses quite like a meal ~ whether hot or in the freezer.

If you have recipes (or links to recipes) that would fit the easy-freezer-meal bill, please share them in the comments!

It’s about what works for your guests, your family,
the people you love and have welcomed around your table.
It’s not about what will look great on Pinterest or Instagram later.
It’s about loving the people in your life
by gathering them close into the private space of your home,
about giving them soft places to land in hard seasons,
about meeting their needs for food, for listening, for peace, for rest.

~Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine, p278~

Pregnant with a Rainbow, Part III

As I look ahead toward the finish line of this pregnancy (cue the nesting season), I am also looking back.
One aspect I wanted to share with you about this specific PAL (Pregnancy After Loss) journey is how I shared the amazing & petrifying news with my family.
Here’s a peek into those sacred moments last winter, which I wrote about at the time:


I was waiting for just the right moment. I had a congratulations Daddy card and a hunting arrow stashed in an easily accessible place in case the moment presented itself. Dinner happened. House tidying happened. I turned on a video for our two younger children and began to fold laundry. They sat on the floor, propped on big decorative pillows, at the foot of our bed, watching the television with gleeful abandon. I had a mound of clean clothes and towels on top of our bed—I stood there making order from the chaos, folding piece by piece, sorting them into piles according to whom they belonged. I could hear my husband coming. I sneakily put the card and the arrow on his bedside table, and I stood on the opposite side of the bed to match socks and smooth shirts. He came in—he walked to his side of the bed to begin helping me fold the things which clothe our nakedness, warm our chill, and dry our damp. He stopped, seeing unusual items on his bedside table—he glanced at me quickly, then opened the card. His face! He saw the arrow, he read my words, and knowledge of our baby’s life seeped into his bones and changed his world in a nanosecond. He hurried to my side—kissed me, embraced me, touched my belly.

Such a real life family moment. The biggest boy at a sleepover for the very first time. Two year old sister and three year old brother, watching cartoons in the background, oblivious to the joy and the secrets and the conversation. Mound of laundry, half folded thus far, grounding us in reality. Our entire world taking a new shape while we stand here in the bedroom where we share this bed—the bed where thirteen children have been planted from seeds, in a love that only we know—and where there are memories of every child, the joys and the griefs, behind and beside us. Wedding photos—family photos—baby memorial photos—nine little wooden boxes where the bodies of babies rest. This is a sacred moment in our own sacred place. I did not plan it, but I waited for it. In this real life family moment, our family life is changing forever, one way or another. And all I can think of is how desperately I want this baby to live! And subsequently, how I never want to be pregnant again—how I want this moment to be the last time I share this sacred secret with the husband whose heart is knit into mine and whose body is my other home. I nuzzle my face into his shoulder, and I sigh—please Lord, save Lord, life Lord!

Telling our children has been a game-changer for me. Right from when I told Steven over a week ago about this little one in my womb, he was eager to tell our three munchkins, while I have been very reserved about the whole thing. Scorched into my memory as a burn whose scar will never completely heal is when I had to tell my oldest son that our baby girl had died. That was over a year ago. And then just a couple months later, I had to tell him again that God once again had said no. That was almost a year ago now. But the guttural, visceral pain I tangibly feel all over again when I relive the memory of telling my son that his beloved baby in his mother’s womb had died is indescribable, inconceivable, inexplicable. So telling our children about this new baby was not at the top of my to-do list.

My mother hen instinct is too strong—I want to cluck about, covering these precious chicks with my wings, distracting them with shiny bugs and grain on the ground, protecting them with every ounce of my being from the hawks that circle, no matter how far overhead. But my husband had a different perspective. He said, Our children pray frequently for us to have a baby—they deserve to know how the Lord answers when He hears their prayers. We should not try to protect them from what the Lord is doing here. These children are part of our family, and this baby is part of our family. The Lord put each of us together in this story for a reason, and the kids should know this chapter of the story too. We should give them the honor, the joy, and the privilege of rejoicing with us and continuing in prayer alongside us.

He got me there.

So I made a little notecard to give the kids, and right before we started our weekly tradition of a Sunday evening “family fun night,” we sat them down on the couch—the oldest, the only fluent reader, in the middle—and told them we had a gift to give them. With the three year old on one side and the two year old on the other, the 6 ½ year old read aloud the note that there was a baby in Mommy’s tummy, in answer to their prayers—and now we would get to pray together for God to care for this baby and to keep it healthy and safe. Two year old Evangeline remained pretty oblivious, slurping away on her sippy cup of cold milk—three year old Asher took a decidedly toddler response by scowling and repeatedly dropping his fist into the arm of the couch without actually saying anything—and biggest brother Gabriel’s eyes got big, his cheeks dimpled into a smile, and he said, “is it true? Is there really a baby in your tummy?” And less than a minute later, he wanted us to hold hands, bow heads, and pray for our Father in heaven to keep this baby alive, to let it live, to keep it healthy and safe.

And now I feel like anxiety is bubbling up around me in more noticeable, tangible ways than it has yet in this pregnancy. I feel naked, exposed, vulnerable. My children now know my secret. My son who can read me like a book and see through me like a piece of glass will interpret every attitude I have, every emotion I show, every comment or action—and he and I will now go through constant unspoken communication, where he will try to uncover every secret every day, and I will continue trying to hide his eyes and distract his gaze so that he will be as sheltered as I can keep him for right now.

Suddenly my weakness is plain and my strength is gone. My hope feels precarious and wavering. Even my praise and joy feel translucent, thin, wispy, fearful. There is no more hiding, no more pretending. I know what comes next: the children who pray at half a dozen intervals throughout the day for the baby in Mommy’s tummy, the kisses to my tummy, the spilling of the secret to everyone we see next.

Thus begins my time of needing to regularly preach the truth to myself. To cover myself with the armor that the Lord has prepared and given to me. To speak the truth to my family, to myself, to my God—regardless of what fears, feelings, anxieties, hopelessness tries to sneak in. I will bless the Lord with my words and my actions. I will do what He has called me to do, and I will follow Him in that wisdom. I will trust Him, even when that means giving up my entire set of spiritual and physical weakness to Him—because only He can give me the strength of soul and body that I need right now to accomplish the work He has set before me. So as I go to bed tonight, carrying a child within me that nobody can see or touch or help, I will recite His Word to myself and to Him, asking Him to renew my strength, to crown me with love and mercy, to satisfy me with His goodness.


Over seven months since I wrote that, I am still daily needing to preach the truth to myself, and asking the Lord to cover me with His armor. Just last week, I wrote a PAL prayer using Ephesians 6:10-20 as my skeleton. Looking back and looking forward are both good things, because they both remind me to throw myself on my King and trust Him for His mercy.

If you have lived through a loss, and have found yourself on the other side of that storm carrying a rainbow inside your womb, I would love to hear from you ~ what was it like for you to hear that news and to share that news?

The conversation will continue again soon…

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Pregnant with a Rainbow, Part II


I have set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember My covenant that is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.
Genesis 9:13-16

Last time I talked about how dressing my pregnant body walks a fine balancing line, and dances with a dichotomy. I know the pain, and I also know the joy. I embrace both.

Another way that I embrace both is another outward, visual thing. Not daily, but sometimes. You can see it in the picture above. Right over my heart is my necklace with all my babies’ names on it. Well, the first twelve. I haven’t added Sweet Teen’s nametag to it yet, because his name is still a secret. So he rests in my belly, and the names of the other twelve rest close to my heart.

Not that I ever forget… but sometimes I like having a tangible, visual reminder of all my children.
I like the conversation piece.
I appreciate the perspective.
And like our Lord’s seeing of His bow in the clouds, I like seeing this reminder & remembering.
And it’s something other people can see too, and maybe remember (or ask about for the first time).

The joy this little boy’s life gives me… this sweet baby who lives hidden underneath my skin… is indescribable. And the fact that I know what could have been makes me cherish him all the more, I think. I know how fragile life is. I know how undeserving I am. I know how miraculous it is that two cells met in my womb, that God spoke life into that union, that He gave us medications to control my body, that He enabled my physical self to nurture this tiny boy rather than attack it. I know. And that knowledge gives me a daily abundance of joy and dose of humility that I can not aptly put into words.

But if you look in my eyes, if you grasp my hand, if you see me fingering my necklace, if you notice me poking my belly because someone from the inside is poking me back… you might get a little glimpse of knowing too.

This necklace? Oh, it’s my mommy necklace.
Yes, each one of my children has a nametag.
Yep, there are a dozen.
Well… a dozen names there, and the thirteenth is on the way.
Yes, I am very blessed. You really have no idea.

Pregnant with a Rainbow, Part I

Recently, I have shared some thoughts about the grief of miscarriage, and I have also shared a couple little snippets about my current parenting & homeschooling endeavors with my living children. But what about the in-between? What about my current pregnancy with a rainbow? (“rainbow” being the term applied to a baby that follows a miscarriage or stillbirth)

I would love to share a few things about this season of my life, which is so varied and so full.

First… the outside.
This is from a month ago


& this is from a week or so ago.

On the outside, perhaps I look like any other pregnant woman.
When I am out & about with my three other children, perhaps I look like a whole host of other mamas.

In my heart, I feel somewhat unique, if not downright unusual.

There is a dichotomy that I face every day when I do something as simple as clothe my pregnant body. I walk a fine line between wanting to look pregnant and wanting to hide my belly. Everyone has a story, but not everyone knows the stories that belong to others. I know the pain that stairstep kids and pregnant bellies can cause to explode in the breast of a grieving, suffering, infertile woman. Thus, there is a part of me that wants to cover up the visual evidence of the child who grows and wiggles and hiccups and thrives beneath my skin. At the same time, I know more than a lot of people just how absolutely miraculous it is that there is a child growing, wiggling, hiccupping, and thriving inside of me!! I don’t take a day of this miracle for granted, and I want to embrace with faith and joy and hope every day that God gives me carrying this little baby inside (and, Lord willing, afterward in my arms). That includes not being ashamed of this gift. It also includes trying to clothe my ever-changing body with some semblance of skill, modesty, and beauty. Finding the balance between hiding and flaunting ~ this may be common to many pregnant women, but the nuances behind the need for this balance are fairly unique for those of us who have struggled to add a baby to our families.

When I see my reflection in a mirror or my shadow on the ground… any time my profile hits my eye… I am taken aback, and catch my breath. I never thought I would see my belly look this way again. The miraculous nature of this is not lost on me. It stuns me every day, it humbles my heart and covers my arms with goosebumps.

This is just the smallest glimpse into the “outside” of my pregnancy. I hope to give you little glimpses about the innerworkings, the things deeper inside my heart, and share a little bit about what it is like to be pregnant not only “with my fourth child” but “for the thirteenth time.”
I would love to let you peek into my windowpane, giving you a small view through the glass as I ride these last few weeks on the roller coaster of being pregnant with a rainbow.

And because you listen to these rules and keep and do them,
the Lord your God will keep with you the covenant
and the steadfast love that he swore to your fathers.
He will love you, bless you, and multiply you.
He will also bless the fruit of your womb
and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your wine and your oil
the increase of your herds and the young of your flock,
in the land that he swore to your fathers to give you.

Deuteronomy 7:12-13