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Open Hands

I am facing a hard new corner of my story. If it is analyzed too much it quickly becomes scary, unmanageable, a mountain too big to climb. I am choosing to face this one differently though; with open hands. Hands open to whatever God has for me and /knowing/ He will make good come of it.

In a beautiful song, Open My Hands, Sara Groves sings the words that ring true in the depths of me right now.

“I believe in a blessing I don’t understand. I’ve seen rain fall on the wicked and the just. Rain is no measure of His Faithfulness. He withholds no good thing from us.”

-Sara Groves

I covet your prayers this week for peace and comfort over my family as we have hard talks and make tough decisions that I don’t feel ready for. Jesus will meet us there.

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Perseverance

Recovery from this last brain surgery has been one of the most difficult obstacles yet. It was a big hurdle to get through having seizures and being on a ventilator and in the ICU right after surgery, but the challenges since I’ve been home have been a whole other beast. One that shook me a bit.

I was so excited and thankful to go home from the hospital, but I was not there long before we noticed something was really wrong. My short term memory was almost non-existent. Every day I would forget the day before, and often I would not even remember things from earlier in the same day. Entire conversations were deleted, things I had experienced earlier evaded me, and I often could not even remember what I ate for the previous meal, or IF I even ate. I remembered enough to know I was forgetting, and it was terrifying.

My husband is the very definition of steadfast. He would lovingly and calmly repeat things to me as many times as I asked, and would gently break it to me that we had already had this conversation or done that activity. Meanwhile I was curled up sobbing; broken that my husband was having to watch his young wife like this, and terrified that the rest of my days would be more of the same.

After a weekend like this my sweetheart reached out to my neurosurgeon, who unfortunately is a 2 hour drive from us. He has taken up my cause though, and would bend over backward for me, so it was no surprise that only a few minutes after leaving a message my hubs got a phone call from the doctor himself. Based on my memory problems and a handful of other symptoms I was experiencing my kind doctor explained I was probably continuing to have seizures, albeit small ones, but with enough frequency that it was throwing my mind and body into this blender of confusion. A treatment plan was initiated and they waited expectantly for results, but in my heart I was suspicious and saddened that this was truly the beginning of the end of my time here. I kept that fear to myself.

My love had a trip on the calendar way before any of this happened, so he somewhat reluctantly left me in the care of friends and family while he went on travel for the next week. That week was hell for so many reasons. It took several days to realize it had been a week since I had kept down any food. I switched to nutrition solely through my feeding tube, but quickly discovered all of the vomiting had displaced my feeding tube, so using it was not longer an option. I tried for a few more days to limp myself back to stable, but I could not even keep down jello or sips of sprite, I could only stand for seconds at a time before getting near to passing out, and my blood sugar was dangerously low. It was the last thing I wanted, especially without my wingman with me, but I had to go to the hospital for help.

It took some convincing for me to let them admit me again, but once I agreed to it they were aggressive about getting me sorted out, and I started to rebound quickly. With some IV nutrition and my feeding tube fixed, I quickly gained strength to be able to go back home. It was then that we realized that while fighting face down all week I had been too sick for us to realize that my memory was improving. Back home again I was able to remember things for longer and needed less reminders. One of my close friends had marched straight to the courts of Heaven and pleaded on my behalf, and God had honored her faith; he was healing the damage in my brain.

I will not go as far as saying that I am happy I had to go through all of that, but I will say amen and amen to my God showing his grace and great loving kindness in choosing to bring healing and restoration to me, and I do not believe he is done yet. I would not have chosen this path of suffering, but I will hold on because suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character hope. And hope has been the song of my heart through years of great challenges and life changing pain, and it will continue to be my heart song until my eyes finally gaze on the Giver of all hope.

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Mother’s Day Remixed

For days my kids and I chatted about what we would do on Mother’s Day. Sleep in…snuggle up to breakfast in bed… go out to a favorite lunch after church…stay in playing board games… go out to explore the beauty of a new park.

All week I had been hearing the excitement of my littlest guy as he earned his own money to create a project at school that his whole class were each making for their moms. When he came home from school Friday holding a beautiful flowered gift bag he was vibrating with excitement over getting to give it to me on Sunday.

Friday afternoon we got a call that would demolish all of our weekend plans. Ever since my shunt revision surgery nine weeks ago I have been fighting infection in one of my incisions. My neurosurgeon has kept in close contact with me as I know have done multiple rounds of antibiotics to try to clear it up, and sent regular photos of my incision to document its progress. Unfortunately on Friday it was obvious the infection has gotten much worse and was not responding to the antibiotics. It is a dangerous place for it to be located as there is a very small distance from the end of the tube to my brain. We have given ample opportunity for it to heal itself to avoid further intervention, but Friday it became obvious that my neurosurgeon was going to have to step in.

My kind and gracious neurosurgeon requested that I drive to Indianapolis to be admitted through the emergency room. They would immediately start IV antibiotics and plan to take me to surgery Monday to remove more of the shunt tubing and hopefully eradicate the infection. My heart sank at the thought of another surgery, but most of all at the thought of being far from my family again.

It felt like I had a boulder in my stomach when I sat Colby down to tell him the news. As expected, his face dropped as I told him I would no longer be home for Mother’s Day. He sat with his chin in his hands and big tears silently rolled down his cheeks. “This’ll is the worst Mother’s Day ever, Mom.” I had to agree. It was heartbreaking to see his grief over being able to plan a special day for me. We decided we would have a welcome home/Mother’s Day celebration on the day I get released from the hospital, so he was given the option to give me his gift before I left for surgery or to save it for when I came home. He said he wanted to give it to me now so that I could take it with me to the hospital.

My heart will forever have captured the picture of him walking into the room so carefully and proudly holding the flowered gift bag that he had chosen for my gift. He sat by excitedly as I unwrapped it. Tucked inside was a small wooden frame carefully decorated in butterfly and flower stickers, and holding an adorable photo of my precious eight-year-old, holding a beautiful bouquet of flowers. The tears hung in my throat as I lavished thanks on him and gave him all the hugs and kisses. It was the most thoughtful gift ever. He made sure I had room to take it with me to the hospital.

My sweet girl Baylie also gifted me: a delicate necklace with the word “Hope” on it. Boy does she ever know!

Late that night Mark took me to the store and I picked a small gift for each of my kids so that they would have something from their mama for Mother’s Day. It was so special the next morning to be on the phone with them as Mark handed them each their gift from me. Loneliness and disappointment turned into excitement and smiles as they each opened something from their mama 110 miles away, but right there with them at heart. It was not the Mother’s Day we imagined, but we found the grace to make it something special and memorable, and we still have a Mother’s Day celebration day to look forward to upon my arrival home.

My sweet boy Jacob surprised me yesterday and drove the whole two hours here to spend some time with me. I can’t even express my gratitude at how much it uplifted my spirit. These sweet babes have touched their mama’s heart in ways they’ll never comprehend.

Last night after Jacob left I had the kindest hospital tech taking care of me. He asked me about my kids and listened as I raved about them. He then sneaked off and brought me a delicious chocolate chip cookie, that I believe were supposed to be just for the staff! “Happy Mother’s Day,” he said. “I’m sorry you’re spending it here.”

It truly is each small kindness and bit of grace that keeps me going.

Today Mark will come down to Indianapolis to be with me as I’m taken to surgery. I’d greatly appreciate your payers for all to go well, and for there to be no more complications, only healing from this point forward.

Thank you for being my people and standing in my corner to hold my hands up when I’m too weak. It means so much to know I have an army of people behind me on the hardest of days.

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Hope and Healing?

Several weeks ago I had surgery to correct a problem with my VP shunt. A small handful of days before surgery my hospice company had been working on my recertification; that is getting everything in place for me to receive another 6 months of care. I was very anxious about surgery, but confident in knowing when I came home I would be in the good care of my hospice team. They have been so supportive and able to meet my needs no matter the hour.

Two days before surgery I got some very surprising news. My care team had collaborated, and they believed I have more like a year or two to live, rather than a number of months. On the day of my surgery, hospice would be pulling out of the picture and I would be transferring to palliative care, another aspect of comfort care.

At first we celebrated what that meant. The doctors seeing my condition stabilize and giving me a greater expectation of life was something to worship over! We had been seeking out some more natural ways of healing, and with the help of some friends also going before the Courts of Heaven to take ownership over healing for myself. This news seemed to be a nod that God in fact wasn’t done with me yet, and we had much to celebrate.

I am trusting God’s plan, but the transition has not been easy. When I came home from the hospital after surgery there was no one to come check in on me at home, and no one we could call at any hour if we needed more support. When my pain rises to unbearable levels we have to wait on a doctor appointment to address it instead of having immediate intervention from home. When I’m dry-heaving for hours on end and unable to keep my medicines down, we are on our own to fight through until relief is found. Instead of a phone call or home visit every week from one doctor who manages everything, I’m finding my schedule filling up with appointments I have to get to in order to see each doctor that handles each problem individually. That alone is exhausting.

I am dealing with infection from one of my incisions from my recent shunt surgery. Unfortunately because of where it is there is a risk of the infection traveling to my brain. It has taken many days and a slew of phone calls and my need to start IV antibiotics has still remained unresolved. These were the things that were easy when we had the hospice team at our fingertips.

While we celebrate that no more hospice means the anticipation of more days with my tribe, and perhaps even a complete healing of my body if that’s what God wihu, it has also been a bit of a challenge to adjust to. I did not magically feel better when I was given this news; instead I have continued to fight hard daily battles, only without the support I had grown comfortable with. I have had to fight harder with less support, and my capacity to do so taps out so quickly. It has meant long stretches with no relief from pain Sleepless night upon sleepless night. Indescribable fatigue having to make phone call after phone call to set things up or to get myself out in my wheelchair to see doctors in person.

I pray this will settle down; that we will eventually find a rhythm in which my needs are met and we can go longer stretches between doctor visits. I pray my focus can remain on living my days well and embracing the moments that will last. Right now I feel like there’s not enough left of me for my family at the end of the day, and I hate that feeling. I know God has a plan in this. Will you please pray that members of my palliative care team will rise up to take some of the burden from us? That I will find rest and restoration at home, and be able to extend myself further to my family?

I’m thankful for you, dear reader, and the support and encouragement you have graciously continued to extend to me. Please tell me how I can pray for and support you as well!

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War

“War is hell.”

-General William Tecumseh Sherman

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I am tired.

So tired.

Tired in the marrow of my bones and to the bottom of my weary and tattered heart.

I feel beaten by the daily battle of fighting for life and time. Battling the indescribable pain that ravages my muscles and bones. Battling against the constant nausea that the pain brings. Battling to feed a body that usually has no appetite. Battling to take breaths when even while awake my body forgets to.

I am tired of seeing the grief my children carry over watching me become so different from the mom they knew. I am tired of watching my husband grieve over the things we used to do but no longer can. I am tired of feeling like a failure because of the things I can’t accomplish anymore.

And then I flip open my journal and there, taped inside the cover is the reminder I left for myself…

And I look at their faces and feel my weary heart swell with the uncontainable love I have for them and the bottomless joy that they bring.

And I pull myself up and don my armor and push through each battle with renewed determination. Because no matter how tired I am they will always be worth the war.

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Never

Someone recently asked how long it would be until we “got over” the death of our youngest daughter. As if it were an obstacle course to leap over. As shocked as I was, it shed some light on an area where maybe people need help to understand. Perhaps for those who have never walked through something like that it truly is something they can’t comprehend. I think I know the answer to the question, and I’m going to share it with you.

When will we get over the passing of our daughter?

Never.

That’s right; I said never. If “getting over it” means when we will we stop talking about our beautiful blue-eyed little girl, stop sharing her pictures, stop acknowledging that she was a part of our lives, then that will never happen.

Last week would have been our Ellie’s 10th birthday. It has been most of a decade since we held her in our arms. Did we check the box; “10 years, now you can move on, stop bringing her up.” No. We did what we always do on Ellie’s birthday. We celebrated.

We celebrated because we are grateful for the 4 1/2 months of pure joy of having her here with us. We celebrated because her short life has changed us in ways we needed to be changed. We celebrated because if she were here we would be celebrating her, so why not still celebrate? Also we never pass up an opportunity to have cake! We reminisced over cake and then carried on our tradition of doing something helpful and kind for someone else in need.

Are you familiar with muscle memory? How your body automatically remembers how to do certain things because you have done them so many times? Well 10 years later my arms still have the muscle memory of what it felt like to hold my girl close against my chest. I can close my eyes and remember her smell and how her fine hair tickled my lips when I kissed her on the head.

These things will forever be treasured in my heart, and we will always find ways to honor her on special days, and that does not mean we are not “over it.” It means we loved someone so deeply we gave pieces of our hearts away and those holes will never be filled by anything else.

There will always be triggers of grief; when she would have started school, graduated, gotten married, etc. No matter how long it has been we will allow ourselves to grieve those things; that is a normal, appropriate, and necessary part of our healing process.

I am aware that some people are uncomfortable because, well, sad things are uncomfortable and they want us to get back to the happy baseline as soon as possible. We are not stuck in the deep mourning of our daughter, but as far as getting over it, we will never get over it, nor would we want to. We want to honor her life, her place in our family, and her spirit, which is still very much alive.

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A Decade

My sweet little love. How is it possible that today is already your 10th birthday? A whole decade! It seems just yesterday I was feeling the warm weight of you on my chest, your delicate fingers wrapped around mine.

We talk about you often around here. Reminiscing over sweet memories with you, and wondering over so many things. What your laugh would sound like. If your eyes would have stayed that piercing blue. If you would have my sense of humor or your daddy’s quiet strength.

It still hurts, missing you. There will always be an Ellianna-shaped hole in our lives. That hole has brought about so many amazing things though. I am thankful for that. We have formed deep and lasting relationships built around the scars of losing you. We have reached out and filed gaps and met needs and made magic happen all in the name of honoring you and the impact your mighty life had on us.

On this momentous birthday of yours I am eternally thankful that I was chosen to be your mama. I’m thankful for the scars that have pushed me closer to Christ and helped me stand in the shoes of the hurting. I’m thankful for the people we have gotten to love on because we’ve been there and we get to pay it forward. I’m thankful for all the ways that your life and death has opened our hands to trusting in God’s plan, and has opened so many doors for us to spread love and support in your honor.

We love you, Ellie Grace! Happy birthday!

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Time

6 months ago my hospice doctor signed a paper that said if my disease continued at the current progression my life expectancy was 6 months or less. Welp, surprise! Here I am! Seriously though… I know that no man can put a number on my days and only God knows when that time will be. And it will be the perfect number of days, because He planned it that way.

Does it weigh heavily sometimes having that kind of thing spoken over you? Yes absolutely, but I have to choose to continually give my fears and anxieties over to my Heavenly Father, because I’m not meant to carry that kind of weight.

With the help of some insanely wonderful friends and even people I have not gotten to meet yet I have been able to try some more natural treatments for my body, and while I do not know for sure how they will work I know they are a gift from God and they do my body good. I know that I’m still here.

I am so thankful for more time. There are days when things seem scary and overwhelming, but we keep taking each next day and making it the best it can be, because it is truly a gift. The gift of time. The gift of more snuggles with my littles. The gift of more smiles, more memories, more treasured conversations with my people. It is not lost on me what an incredible blessing this is.

I remain in hospice care at home, and my team members are the most compassionate people you have ever met. I’m so blessed.

Some of my favorite people have moved mountains to span miles and spend time with me and check in on me and love me in all the ways. My home is a revolving door of my local tribe encouraging me, entertaining me, bringing me sweet love. After a long and hard period of extreme isolation and many prayers for community we have been surrounded in the most amazing ways.

Sometimes I look into my eyes and I see that it’s changing me and I get afraid. I wonder what’s going on in there and what my future days will look like. Then I remember I have not been given a spirit of fear, but a spirit of love and of power and a sound mind. That’s all I need.

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Teenage Musings

People warn you that the newborn stage and the toddler stage are hard and exhausting, but no one tells you that the actual process of them growing into older kids and young adults will simultaneously make your heart explode with pride and rip it out with grief for the things of the younger years. What a crazy wild journey it is! This week three, THREE of my children will be teenagers. How did this happen?!

Though my heart sometimes aches with longing for the days of binkies and Eskimo kisses, there are also so many amazing things I am experiencing as I watch my older babes blossom into who they are going to be. I’ve decided to share a few of these important and often amusing things you can expect to experience, so you will be less surprised than I was.

ONE. They clean their sneakers incessantly with baby wipes. They often choose all-white shoes despite my urging that a different color would be better, and then they panic over dirt and scuffs and are found with little piles of dirt covered baby wipes as they fervently scrub and buff their shoes back to an acceptable appearance. So, shoes are meant to be worn, but never look lived in. Who knew?

TWO. They will start calling you “bruh.” At first I was wildly offended by this and tried frantically to disallow it, but I soon learned that it is actually rather insightful into the emotions they are feeling but refuse to ever talk about. If you get a “bruh” they are likely to be displeased or annoyed at something or someone and it is best to let them vent it out. You are welcome.

THREE. They sleep. A LOT. Like all day if you let them. I remember being a teen and feeling exhausted all the time but I was not allowed to sleep in and I never understood it. I decided then that I would remember what that felt like and I would let my teenagers sleep when they wanted to sleep. And I do. Within reason.

FOUR. They will still sleep with their favorite childhood stuffed animal and then hide it when their friends come over which is just the cutest most heart-melting thing you could see from these strange people who most of the time seem tough and hard and perfectly disinterested in anything sentimental. I have more than one teen still sleeping with their childhood stuffie, and it twists my heart every time I see it. I got permission from one of them to post this picture.

FIVE. Seventh grade is literally the worst. Whoever invented it should be punished. At the end of sixth grade they should all be granted a hibernation that lasts until about the second quarter of eighth grade, and then they can reemerge. For the sake of them. And us. And world peace.

SIX. They eat an astonishing amount of food and your grocery bill will become the first priority on your budget as you strive to provide a constant flow of generous meals, hearty snacks, and midnight munching. Teach them to like eggs and Ramen because those things will become staples when you are scraping for pennies for the ninth trip to the grocery each month. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is just the teenage boys. Oh no, the girls are equally capable of becoming human garbage disposals, and you’ll just stare at them and wonder where on their bony little bodies they are hiding it.

SEVEN. It is a wonderful thing when your children start driving on their own and can A) go do things for you, and B) take themselves to their events. From picking up dinner to taking another sibling to their practice to picking up a gallon of milk for the fourth time that week, you will savor the ability to simply stay in your slippers and actually read a book or something because you don’t have to live behind the wheel of your minivan anymore. Life-changing.

EIGHT. Teenagers are the most interesting species on the planet. Their physical bodies transform frequently, they start having their own soapboxes and quests, they sometimes give you a fake hug and other times want to snuggle like a four year old, and they walk around making strange noises and generally being confusing. However, they will become like a really cool friend and they will still say “I love you” every time before they hang up the phone with you, and you will be proud of seeing them do all the adult things only maybe on a smaller scale because let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. Baby steps. They were just newborns like, yesterday!

**My teens previewed this post and ok’d it (and giggled reading it) before I posted**

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Giving Hope

If you are usually on our Christmas list and thought we forgot you this year, there’s a very good explanation, and no, we didn’t cross you off our friend list. We decided as a family this year that instead of giving gifts to each other we wanted to find a way to give to someone who wouldn’t otherwise get anything. We are abundantly blessed all year long, and wanted to find a way to bless someone else. We planned to adopt a family, providing their gifts and groceries for Christmas, but there was continued lack of communication and I began to worry it was not going to happen. We racked our minds for other ideas; taking stars off of a giving tree, handing out comfort packages to those experiencing homelessness… and we prayed that God would use us right where we were needed most. As I began to worry we weren’t going to find a place to serve, an email showed up in my inbox. It was a foster care agency I had been in touch with, and they had an urgent situation. They had already completed their gift drive for children in foster care; they had collected wishlists and sponsoring families had shopped for each child. Well now just a few days before Christmas an emergency placement was happening, and there would be 12 and 14 year old sisters brand new to the foster care system without Christmas gifts. She asked if we would be willing to sponsor them. I couldn’t think of a more perfect “yes!”

In a rare occurrence, we made sure everyone was off work and off school and we squished all 6 of us into the car and set off to go shopping. Mark’s parents also donated to the cause, and since we had a 12 year old and 15 year old girl of our own, we were well equipped to choose just what these sweet girls wanted and needed. We were given a short wishlist by the foster care agency, so we made sure to make a few of those wishes come true.

It brought so much joy to see my children excited about helping someone else, and instead of being sad there aren’t gifts under our tree, the absence has been a positive reminder that we got to do something wonderful for someone else. So if you didn’t get a Christmas gift from us this year, please smile in knowing you were a part of something so much bigger.

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Difficult Days

I am fighting for good days. I dislike the desperation in that sentence, but it is the most accurate. The pain that used to be a whispering reminder is now a roaring force that seems to sneer at my attempts to quiet it. It mocks me as I try to plan time with my beloved friends, and it smirks when I have to scrub my calendar to prop myself among my pillows instead. I did not expect for pain to be the thing that makes me feel so desperate.

I wish I was kind and gentle even in my hurting, but sadly it makes me irritable with the ones I love, and makes me say things I know aren’t true to my character. There are medications to help, and some of them work quite well, but change my personality and bring out a mean streak in me. In my mind it will never be worth easing the throbbing at the expense of my family’s feelings.

The medication that works the best to take the edge off of my pain makes me staggeringly sleepy. I’m so thankful to have something that works, but I find myself having to choose between being comfortable and asleep, or being awake and in agony. Sometimes I choose one, some days I choose the other. Neither one of them feel fair.

I am trying to find a balance; staying present enough to love on my people, and allowing myself respite from the agony that threatens to break me. Will you pray for me? That my moments with my tribe will be multiplied, and I will have the strength to ride out the hardest parts with grace and patience for the better days that are coming.

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Skipping Town

Trying his best to make each special event an amazing memory for us, my sweet husband booked us an Airbnb for a short getaway a couple of cities away for our 19th wedding anniversary in November. This man; he is the king of making good plans, and the expert at rearranging them when life gets in the way. On our 19th wedding anniversary I was in inpatient hospice because my pain was so severe, and I was under quarantine because of a covid exposure. Draw a big scratch through those plans. He came up with a back up plan and made it wonderful and memorable, and I enjoyed every minute of it, but we still had these Vrbo reservations to see about.

Hubby reached out to the owner and explained our situation and asked for an exception, and they allowed us to move the dates of our Vrbo stay when I was out of the hospital. THEN I was invited by a friend to fly out and spend time with her getting her new condo set up in her brand new town. Now friends, my hubs is fiercely protective of our time together, but he is also the master of flexibility, and understands each moment and each possibility is truly a treasure for me and for my people right now. He reached out again, got another exception to change our Vrbo dates, double-masked me, and put me on a plane to make memories with my friend. My friend and I had a wonderful time, and then the day finally came that it was time for Mark and I to run away together. Giddy like a schoolgirl!

My husband is a rockstar at finding cool places for us to stay, and this weekend did not disappoint. He found us an apartment complex built in the earlier 1900’s that had so much class and charm, and was the perfect place to tuck away and socially distance for the weekend. He cooked for me, hauled around my heavy wheelchair whenever we needed it, let me sleep in, and gave me a heart full of special and lasting moments to tuck away.

We pretty much had the run of the place, hardly seeing anybody when we ventured down to play ping pong or snuggle in the hot tub. There were gorgeous details to catch your eye all throughout the building, but our apartment was simple and cozy and just the perfect place to hide away.

Throughout dating and on into our marriage Mark and I created a fun tradition of getting super dressed up and going out on a date. For our very first “formal” date over 20 years ago, we got dressed to the nines and Mark took me to a baseball game, build-a-bear, and then dinner at Morton’s; the best steakhouse ever. This weekend we were tickled to find just a few blocks from our apartment was a Morton’s, so naturally we made that our choice for our dressy dinner out again 20 years later! It was dreamy!

Morton’s Steakhouse
Filet perfection!

The wait for this trip was worth it, and thanks to Mark we had a wonderful and very special 19th anniversary. We celebrate often and we celebrate big; fully embracing each of these treasured moments I’m given.

Beautiful brickwork
Stunning
Each elevator door had a different dog picture!
Taking on our second puzzle
No kids + no cats = no missing pieces!
Pool, hot tub, and lots of bling
Me losing at ping pong
Hot tub with an amazing view!
Tallest shower ever, and it felt like standing in an actual rainstorm.
Beautiful time in a beautiful city

I’m so thankful to my man for working so hard to make sure we could do something fun but still accommodating for me. I’m thankful he still enjoys pursuing me, and lets me play dress up . I’m thankful most of all for the quiet, rejuvenating weekend we had together and the new memories made with the love of my life.

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Breaking

These last few months have held some really intense challenges for my family and I. The kind that shake you down to your core and make you question everything about yourself, what you believe, and how you’re going to pick up and move forward.

I thought about telling you about how the seal broke on my inability to cry and how I big fat ugly sobbed for multiple days in a row, but what I really want to say is that these bottom-of-the-valley moments have reminded me so much how important it is to lean into our pain and feel it. Let it break you. Let it change you. Let it shake up everything you knew to be true because that’s the thing that makes you the incredibly strong, courageous, real person that you are.

These moments may feel impossible at the time, but they’re the very foundations upon which your strength grows from. Don’t let your heart grow weary; know that you are becoming the you that you were meant to be. Keep going. Keep leaning in. Keep letting it suck, because on the other side you are going to be stronger and braver and wiser than you could have ever imagined.

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Susan 🦋

My heart feels crushed every time I remember that a hard goodbye is just around the corner. I am grieving having to say goodbye to an incredible woman. An Angel among us. I have been so blessed in life to have been given friends who leave such important footprints on my heart.

I met Sue in a roundabout kind of way; we were both following the same blog, and the blog author had asked for prayers for Susan’s granddaughter, Delainey, who was having complications from Trisomy 18. In the end, we lost our daughter Ellianna, and she lost her granddaughter Delainy just a few months apart. Thus began an unexpected friendship; raw, real, beautiful, and based on the bare bones truth of treating people gently when they need to be loved.

Sue and I carried the heaviness of grieving our little ones side by side even though we were states apart. She was always accepting of whatever stage I was in, and gave me space to feel and express all that I needed to. Do y’all know how rare that is? It is an indescribable gift to have a person like that! Even in her own grieving, Sue found ways to speak to my hurts and mend my broken pieces with her gentle words and kind heart.

From right: Susan, Delainey, Delainey’s mom Christy

Susan is a relentless encourager. If I look at my “friendship” on Facebook I will be scrolling through page after page of scripture, encouraging quotes, and meaningful articles she would send on to me. And that woman must have liked and commented on every one of my pictures for like five years. She was always looking for ways to build me up.

I only got to be with Sue in person one time, and that makes me a little sad. She was traveling near my town and made it a point to stop and meet up with us so we could finally meet in the flesh and have a good meal together. It is a treasured memory, an experience that really made me realize how gentle and kind of a person she is. She is calm and sure of herself, content in the moment, unlike how I sometimes come roaring in in a hot frazzled mess.

How blessed I am to have shared in such an uplifting and encouraging friendship at a time we both so deeply needed it. My heart aches that this world will not have Sue anymore, but my soul rejoices wildly at the thought of her scooping up her Delainey once again, and snuggling her close for all of eternity. How happy she will be. Once again she will be paving the way for me through a new unknown.

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Truth be Told

I’m sorry that you had to say “ok” when they asked you how you were doing today. I’m even more sorry that when you paused they took that “ok” and assumed you meant “good” and bulldozed right on past it. I’m sorry because I know the truth, and the truth is you were not doing ok. The truth is today is hard and you had to pep talk yourself into even leaving the house today. The truth is your pieces are breaking into pieces, and it is going to be awhile before things feel “ok.” I saw you though; you wanted to say this out loud, and you couldn’t. No, the truth is that people just want to hear that you are ok; not that things are messy or painful or hard.

I’m sorry that the world is not ready to accept your truth. Or anyone’s really. We all have this never ending undercurrent of just smoothing things over and pretending everything is ok. The truth is, that could not be farther from the truth.

What if we created a community where when we asked how someone is doing we truly wanted the honest answer; good, bad, or ugly? What if we made it ok to say I am here but I am struggling? What if we did not feel pressed to know what to say to smooth it over, but were ok with accepting that things are hard and people hurt and not everything is tied up in a pretty little bow? What if we made it ok for people to share their truth instead of what we want to hear?

I know I can not change the world, but I can change myself, and maybe even the culture around me. When I ask how you are doing, I really want *your* God-honest truth. You do not have to pretend for me, because guess what… I’m hurting too. Maybe it is ok to not be ok, and maybe the very comfort we need is the people around us accepting us where we are at. It seems like a good place to start.

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Blue and Pink October

October is miscarriage and infant loss awareness month. I do not quite know how I feel about awareness months. I think some of them help raise needed money for research and hopefully better medicine. I think some of them actually do shed light on things we were previously oblivious to. The thing about miscarriage and infant loss though is that there is no “research and cure” for it, and most people already know it happens, or even know someone who has been through it. Dedicating a month to it does not necessarily do anything for it except perhaps stir a lot more emotion for the families who have survived it. Maybe more people are sharing their own stories because of this month, and that’s good, they need to be told.

At my roots I’m a fixer, and if there is going to be a month dedicated to it, I want it to be productive. I do not know how to do that. What do you do when throwing money at it or doing walks in matching t-shirts and selling rubber bracelets does not bring babies back from death or prevent it from happening in the future?

I have a new friend who recently experienced the stillbirth of their son, and just sitting in the thick of how raw and earth-shattering that pain is reminds me that the only thing that can and needs to be done is circle around that sweet family and let them feel what they need to feel, because there is no campaign or 5K or colored ribbon that is going to take away that pain. Know what? That is perfectly ok. It is ok for people to hurt. It is ok for them to take all the time and feel all the feelings they need to without anyone rushing that along, regardless of how uncomfortable that may make the rest of us feel.

I guess what I have then is a list of do’s and don’ts. Maybe you have not walked with someone through miscarriage or infant loss, or maybe you have and you want to do it better next time. I hope that coming from the heart of a mama who has lost babies I had not met yet, as well as a baby who lived earth-side with us will help those of you looking outside in, wondering what to do.

DO acknowledge that it happened. You cannot just keep trying to carry on with business as usual and hope that your person will be over it soon enough. They lost a huge chunk of their heart; hopes, dreams, memories, and they need you to tell them that you realize they are going through that.

DON’T try to compare their loss to, well, anything else. Their loss and their grief is completely unique to them, and believe it or not, it does not help them feel better to hear about your friend’s mom’s sister who lost a baby and how they handled it. Let their story be /their/ story, and let them share it with you through their own lense, not the one you had ideas about before this.

DO make specific offers of help. Saying “call if you need anything,” will never actually result in a phone call. You need to take the wheel here. Tell them you are making them a meal and ask what night is best. Tell them you are heading to the grocery and ask what can you pick up for them. Go over and rake their leaves/cut their grass. Tell them you’d like to help with some housecleaning and give them a choice of days to choose from. It is very hard to ask for help. Period. You need to not offer it, but to actually just give it and help with the decision making.

DON’T rush them into the future. Never ask if they’ll try for another baby or if they’ve ever thought about adoption, or reassure them that at least they are young and can try again. I do not want to have to explain this one. Just don’t do it.

DO continue being supportive well into the weeks, months, years ahead, not just right now during the “crisis period.” This is a hurt that is always going to stay with them, and there will be triggers for the rest of time such as holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, random Mondays. Remind them throughout time that you remember and are thinking of their little one. Use their baby’s name; it means the world to hear it.

DON’T use platitudes like, “God just needed another angel,” “everything happens for a reason,” “you can always have another,” “now you have an angel looking after you,” or anything that begins with the words “at least…”.

DO say “I’m sorry,” “my presence is unconditional,” “do you need anything?” “[baby’s name] will be greatly missed,” “this was not your fault,” “just take the moments one at a time.”

It is ok to tell your person you are at a loss for words, and have no idea what they are going through. Assure them that you want to be there for them, and then follow through and show up. They will help you know what they need if your eyes are open and your heart is receptive.

Miscarriage and infant loss are sad and hard and uncomfortable, but if you can look past your own discomfort and come alongside a friend or a family member who is going through it, you will not only bless the socks off of them, you will learn a lot of good things about yourself as well.

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Incurable Hope

It has been a long six years trying to find a diagnosis. Based on my symptoms and the way they have progressively worsened, we’ve known it was some kind of degenerative neuromuscular disease, but we haven’t quite known the prognosis. Early on it was thought to be MS, and I was able to work through it, making some modifications to how I did things, but vastly able to continue life as normal. Things continued to decline though, and I found myself losing the strength and endurance I needed to continue working as a paramedic. This is when I cut back to part time paramedic, and also took an office job in organ donation. As fulfilling as that was, I eventually found myself no longer to make the drive, or even remain upright for the hours that it required. Eventually I had to face that I could no longer safely work in any job, and I needed to save what little energy I had for my family and friends.

It’s been a frightening journey at times, especially with the unknowns, but we are beginning to have some clarity. A recent brain MRI showed significant damage to my brain stem, which is responsible for many of the automatic functions of the body. This information shed light on why I was having symptoms related to that area of the brain, like trouble regulating my breathing. All of these pieces started to fit together and pointed to Multiple System Atrophy. In some ways this was a relief, as the contenders like ALS have a very short length of survivability. MSA comes with its own fatal prognosis though, typically within 5-15 years. Being at year six, I already feel blessed for the time I’ve had and continue to enjoy. I’ve tried to stay in the moment and be continually grateful, although I’ll admit that sometimes my attitude stinks and I fall into a grumpy state of forgetting the gifts I’ve been given.

I know that God knows my heart and hears my prayers, and those of so many who love me. I know that He can take this from me if He chooses to. But even if He doesn’t, I will still choose hope and thank Him for every moment He allows me to have here.

I hope you’ll help me, dear readers, to continue to find Hope and Grace in the day to day. I know that it’s there, and sometimes I just need help to lift my eyes up for it. Please don’t treat me differently; let’s laugh and dance and do big and small things without fear of the future. I’m ready for today, how about you?

Please leave me a comment, it lets me know you’re listening!

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Taking the Leap

Sometimes it is easy to let myself get dragged down and have a pity party about the things I cannot physically do anymore. I am constantly working to change this posture of my heart by replacing the “can’ts” with gratitude for the things that I still can do. Yesterday provided the most epic opportunity to make a can out of a cannot.

I have been enjoying a few days with some girlfriends at my friend’s lakehouse. They have lovingly cared for me to make things as easy as possible; driving me, cooking for me, carrying my bags, and bringing me whatever my heart desires. I am so spoiled.

Yesterday was boat day. Because of a hitch with my medical care and insurance, I have been without portable oxygen when I leave the house for some time now. Instead of letting me be without oxygen for a few hours while we were out boating, these girls packed up my boulder of an oxygen concentrator and lugged it down hills and over docks to get it into the boat so I would not be without it.

We had an amazing day buzzing around the lake soaking in the warmth of the sun and cooling off in the refreshing waters. We laughed, we relaxed, and we stopped at the big pier for some of the best soft serve ice cream.

It was near the end of our time on the water that we happened upon the “jumping bridge.” I had seen it before as we had driven over it. An overpass covered in colorful graffiti, it beckons the bravest of swimmers to climb the steep, rocky bank beside it and plunge into the deep water below. I had commented on how much my oldest son would love to do that because he is thrilled by finding tall things he can jump off of into water. And then my mind went on a lot of little bunny trails, but I’ll skip that part and get to what you want to know. I decided, “I’m doing it.”

My friends watched anxiously from the boat as I ditched my oxygen tubing and awkwardly swam-paddled my way to the shore. It was then that I realized my chest port was still accessed; a big risk for infection. I found a place where I could stand firm between the jagged rocks, and I began pulling off the medical tape and dressing, finally able to pop the needle out of my chest. With no sharps container in sight, I tied the tubing and needle around the belt of my life jacket so I would be sure not to leave it lying around.

It took me a few minutes to pick my way barefoot up the rocky incline, but I finally made it to the top and limped my way to the middle of the bridge.

There was a young boy standing nearby, trying to gather the nerve to jump off into the water below. I asked if he wanted to go together, but he wasn’t ready yet. If I had stood there very long and thought about it, I probably would have talked myself out of it, so I took a few breaths, gave my friends the “ok this is about to happen” sign, and I stepped off the ledge into the nothingness.

To an able-bodied person it may seem small and insignificant for me to have made that jump, but the joy and power I received from that free fall into the cool, summery water put a confidence and satisfaction in my soul that will last long after swim suit season is over. I did something the world tells me I’m incapable of. I did something my body sends off all the warning signals against. I did something that says no, I refuse these limitations and I believe in more.

It was not until I looked back through the pictures that I realized that right where I had chosen to stand the word “Hope” was spray-painted on the concrete behind me. How perfectly perfect.

Sometimes we have to accept “no,” but I hope that you never stop pushing for the “yes,” because the reward is most definitely worth the pain, even if all you can do is try. That is already a win.

Click play below to see my epic jump!!

******Update******

I spent the whole next day curled up in a chair and hobbling to the bathroom, but I would absolutely do it again. I made my family FaceTime me while they watched the video, not knowing what they were about to see, and it was priceless!!!!! Pretty sure I scored some cool mom points too 😉

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Plot Twist!

Well surgery didn’t go as planned. Fortunately we are well versed in changing plans!

I was admitted through the ER Saturday with an infected VP shunt for IV antibiotics. They took me to surgery Monday.

Monday night after surgery I had a series of seizures. I was intubated in the ICU and don’t remember the rest of the week. They are caring for me and trying to get me back home. Thank you everyone who has brought meals or watched my kids or sent flowers. We could not carry this weight without our community. Your grace runs deep.