Thursday, October 24, 2013

expensive earrings

There is a place in Colorado where Matt's family has a cabin.  We went there for the first time the week we got engaged.  We honeymooned in this beautiful little town.  We went there in summer and winter.  We celebrated Wavy's first Christmas there.  Harper took her first steps and celebrated her first birthday in that house.  We threw things in the car and drove straight there when we lost Waverley, grieving and looking for a little bit of peace.

I had purposefully not gone there since Matt died.  I just couldn't face it.

A few weeks ago I gave into the stirrings that it was time to come to back to this spot, and I planned a trip with Matt's mom.  Jake encouraged and supported me in going.  I wanted so badly for Harper to see me face something hard for me.  Of course, we did not talk about all of that.  We just talked about her first dad.  How much we loved being there with him. How much we miss him.  She can't know how scary it was for me.  But maybe when she is old she will think of me as brave.  Unwilling to limit my family by backing away from potentially feeling pain.

I want people to say of me, "there goes a woman of strength." It seems as though strength is a form of art.  Right now I am in the early stages.  The finger painting and learning to cut stages. I want to develop the kind of strength that you consider over wine and pricey cheeses.  I'm working on it.

So we went.  Last week, Matt's mom, Harper, and Everett and I got in my Jeep and headed for the mountains.  We took the essential items we would need.  A fun part of traveling with women and children and no men is what we considered to be our essentials.  A sheepskin for Everett to sleep on.  A sewing machine and more fabric than clothes to wear.  Chocolate and gummy bears.  Nancy Drew books and Wild Kratt DVDs for the baby woman.

I was scared but determined.  And do you know what?  It was beautiful.  I felt a happy connection to Matt.  I felt celebratory of the dozen years I had with him.  I felt thankful for the daughters we enjoyed together.  I missed him with a fresh and deep grief, but it was a happy kind of sad. Every view from every window of the cabin and from the top of every hill reminded me of Matt. Every piece of furniture holds a vision of him resting or reading or playing cards or cooking dinner.  This was Matt's favorite place.  He was happiest when he was there.

In Joshua 4 Joshua leads the Israelites across the Jordan river.  When they get to the other side he has 12 men, one per tribe, each take a stone and set them in a certain place to stand as a memorial.  In that way, when their children asked what the stones were for the grown ups would tell them about that monumental day and they would remember it forever.

I very much like the idea of this.  Sometimes you need a marker.  A stack of rocks to look at and remember what miracles God has given you.  A pile of stones to remember that God has taken my broken life and given me one that is whole.  I will grieve Matt and Waverley every day of my life.  I will also praise the Lord for blessing me so dearly with Jake.  Everett.  The constant gift of Harper. Hope for a future.  Rocks for loss and pain and people lost to me.  Rocks for healing.  For His unfailing love.  I wanted a pile of stones from this trip where the past and the present were all mixed up into one.  I say I'd rather remember with jewelry.

So in our favorite place, North Moon Gallery, I picked the loveliest pair of earrings.  Ones that made me happy.  Ones that I would feel the weight of when I wore them.  Ones that I could wear when I was sad or happy and remember all of these important things.  Ones that I could someday give to Harper and tell her why they mean so much to me.  Ones that I could celebrate both of her fathers while I wear them.  My past and my future.  Those are the kinds of rocks I can get behind.

wearing my pile of stones

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

be strong

Joshua 1:9 says, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged.  For the Lord, your God, will be with you wherever you go."  This is the verse I pray over my children.  This is the mantra I use when life is closing in on me.  I taught it to my girls when they were little things.

Over the years I have closed my eyes and said it in a firm voice before walking into court rooms where we fought to keep a child.  I have spoken it to Harper when she was nervous about starting something new or woke up scared after a bad dream.  I have chanted it as a victory praise when The Lord has seen me through different things.

I am grateful.  Because this verse has been His reminder and charge to me in lovely and terrifying times.  I pray it over my newborn baby as a promise to him, trying to teach him about how great our Lord it.  I have looked deep in a daughter's eyes and said it with a quiet intensity knowing I had nothing as important as that to tell her as parting worlds.  I have whispered it in a husband's ears as he slipped out of this life. Those words are a blessing.  A benediction.  A lifeline.  I am so desperately thankful for the truth in those words.  The promise.  The comfort.

How wonderful He is to share His beautiful words with us and let us store them in our hearts to use whenever we want to.

This year at Harper's Meet the Teacher night her teacher told us that each year she picks a verse to pray over her students.  A different one each year.  This year she chose Joshua 1:9.  Isn't that perfect?

When she recited the words my eyes teared up.  I caught hold of the past part and cheered inside.  The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.  I like the thought of Harper marching into second grade each day this year with those words flying over her like a banner.

I have some fears I can't seem to let go of.  Fears about something awful happening to my family members.  Or to me, leaving Harper and Everett without a mother.  And when I am totally rattled by them I lean into the comfort of His mandate.

"Be strong.  I'll be with you-- wherever you go."

I am trying each day.  To be strong and courageous.  To not be terrified or discouraged.  It's hard, but He is with me.  And so I try.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

and then he was here

When I went into labor I was thrilled.  I was terrified they would send me home from the hospital and tell us to come back later.  Instead they said, "stay."

My mother is fabulous.  She had come to stay with Harper while we went to the hospital.  I felt so happy that she was home taking care of Harps through the night.  I called her and asked her to bring Harper up in the morning when they woke up.  If things moved quickly I would call her with that update and have them come sooner.  I had really looked forward to telling some select people when I was in labor.  So I called a few people.  My sisters didn't answer their phones.  I was pissed.  I wanted to use the, "I'm having a baby" tone on them.  Eventually they got back to me.  They came and checked on me in the middle of the night before going back home to take care of their own tiny babies.  I called my friend.  Her family was in from out of town, her tiny baby was keeping her up nights, and she had a lot of bad hospital hours logged with me already.  I thought she would squeal and tell me to call her every time something new happened and come see me in the morning.  She didn't.  She said, "don't have the baby in the next twenty minutes." She hung up and brought that baby and camped out all night long.  In fact, she didn't leave until the baby was born, 19 hours later.  Her husband came.  My brother in law Marky came.  They sat up in the lobby all night.  I felt so loved.  I felt so peaceful.  My two sets of in-laws came.  Jake's parents had been dealing with a small family crisis and came up after midnight to see how we were in person.  Matt's parents came up and said, "Mol! You're having a baby!" One of the sweetest moment I have ever known was when that night my father-in-law Brian stood by my bed and fed me italian ices.  All my people were for us.  They were rallying around us.  Happy for us.  Happy for this baby to be coming.  Happy to be in a hospital together to bring new life into this world instead of telling someone we loved goodbye.  It was a time of healing.

The next afternoon a small boy was born.  He was eight pounds even of pure deliciousness.   He charmed us immediately.  He made us all happier.  He wound us all the more tightly together.  We named him Everett Gray.  We find Everett to be a nice sounding name and it had some subtle components that really mean a lot to us.  The name has elements of Waverley and Matt's name in it.  I had wanted to name him after my father in law Brian in some way, and Everett means strong and courageous; as strong as a boar.  Brian's college nickname was The Crane because he is so strong.  He is still in possession of an almost bizarrely strong form.  He also has a quiet strength that I pray Everett shares.  His initials are EGL which reminds us of the word eagle.  Jake's grandfather was dear to him.  He loved a particular Bible verse about soaring on wings like eagles.  Yes.  This was the name for our son.

I had prayed for a good head of brown hair.  After the dark beauties in my life I just couldn't get excited about a little blondie.  God agreed that would not be for the best.  Everett had lots of dark brown hair.  He had long feet and big hands.  He looked at me and winked.  Not really.  But he wanted to.

I had been so scared to have a son.  And let's get real.  Some parts are gross.  Harper suggested holding an umbrella while we change his diaper.  This morning I was holding my baby son while it was still dark out.  Giving him a bottle.  When I was done I had him at my shoulder.  He was snuggled into me and breathing quietly in my ear.  A perfect, tiny person in fire engine jammies.  I whispered how much I love him and how I always will.  And I longed for a thousand more perfect boys just like him.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

9 months

"I" and "pregnant" in the same sentence.  After a decade of not-pregnant-ness it took a very long time to believe it.  I was one day late, and I still have no idea what possessed me to take a test at all, but sure enough there I was glancing almost passingly at that stick and freezing.  Plus sign. "Okay," A few hours later and several more tests just to be sure (did you know there is no such thing as a false positive? I didn't.  Maybe that will save you a few dollars one day), I was convinced that something was going on.  I sat in a state of shock until Jake came over that evening.  I sat him down to tell him something.  I babbled on about our relationship while he was convinced I was saying I wasn't ready for "us." Finally I said, "well the thing is... I... am... pregnant..."  If you have met Jake you know how much he has to say.  This time, he was speechless.

I was starting to feel a thrill in my heart that I hadn't experienced since we had met Wavy almost five years earlier.  A hope was rising up in me that I was so scared of.  Could it be?  No.  I kept telling myself.  I told my parents quietly.  I told seven friends and two sisters.  No one else.  I was convinced every day I would miscarry.  The midwife I went to see told me kindly but cautiously that as I had never been pregnant before we would have to see how this went.  She wasn't predicting a miscarriage, but she was not predicting a healthy baby down the road either.

As the weeks went by I started to believe that this was happening.  As bizarre as it was.  A baby? Inside of me? My fears that the pregnancy wouldn't last started to abate.  Not to worry.  I like to keep my fear level high, so I got some new ones to replace the initial ones:
That the baby would be still born.
That the baby would be unhealthy.
That Harper would one day resent this baby.
That people would think I had grown dissatisfied with adoption.
These thoughts hounded me.

Additionally, I have been of the mindset for quite some years that pregnancy is overrated.  That pregnancy is glorified.  That people obsess with the fact that they are carrying a baby instead of focusing on the baby itself.  I one time wrote a blog post about reasons I was happy to avoid pregnancy all together.  Now I was going to know all of the downsides of pregnancy first-hand.  I have to tell you, I was not altogether wrong with my original position.  The way babies are born is a miracle.  I do not have to experience it myself to understand that.  I contend that is still true.   It is wonderful to feel a tiny babe moving around inside of you.  There are a few things I could have done without.

The 9 months held sleepless nights that no amount of pillows between my knees would help. Joints in my feet spread so that every step I took was miserable.  My skin was painfully tight around my swollen feet and ankles.  I gained weight in every conceivable spot including my rear end and my arm pits.  That's right.  I have fat arm pits.  And that is just the front end! Recovering from a delivery that got rough at the end was harder than I expected.  The thrill of my huge chest was pretty short lived.  I was left with only regret over a failed breast feeding attempt and a low riding bosom.  A formerly flat stomach now jiggles like a bowl full of jelly.  A closet full of clothes I liked well enough mock me when I go to put on my several sizes larger pants.  The shirts fit okay mind you.  I recommend gaining weight in the top half to balance out the bottom half if you want to avoid looking like a light bulb.  It's not glamorous.  Not one bit.  

As I got used to the idea of having a baby my thoughts got darker.  Most of me was elated.  Some of me was scared.  I had lost two of the three people I loved the most.  Now that I had Harper AND Jake AND a baby it seemed there was too much on the line.  That surely I wouldn't be able to keep all of this.  That something was bound to happen to someone in my family.  That it was imminent.  I also worried about mothering another person when I felt like I was barely capable of taking good care of Harper.  And how could a poor baby take on the weight of being the kid that comes after the child its mother lost? I tried every day to let it go.  We learned that we were having a boy.  I was freaked out.  I don't know anything about boys! I'm indoorsy and bookish.  I don't understand football.

Despite my panic the happiness rising up in me felt unstoppable.  A hot air balloon and me in the basket.  I heard this song on the radio by Matt Hammitt.  I would sing it quietly to the baby when I was feeling especially unsettled and it would calm me.  If you want to read the lyrics, here they are.  If you want to listen to the song click here.  I was trying to hard to think of these words, and when I heard them I was excited to be able to articulate my thoughts.  This little one was worth all of me.  Remembering that helped me put myself in my place.  And then of course I met him.  And I didn't need reminding any more. I just know it to be true.

Afraid to love
Something that could break
Could I move on
If you were torn away?
And I'm so close to what I can't control
I can't give you half my heart
And pray He makes you whole

You're gonna have all of me 
You're gonna have all of me
'Cause you're worth every falling tear
You're worth facing any fear
You're gonna know all my love
Even if it's not enough
Enough to mend our broken hearts
But giving you all of me is where I'll start

I won't let sadness steal you from my arms
I won't let pain keep you from my heart
I'll trade the fear of all that I could lose
For every moment I share with you


Heaven brought you to this moment, it's too wonderful to speak
You're worth all of me, you're worth all of me
So let me recklessly love you, even if I bleed
You're worth all of me, you're worth all of me

Chorus (X2)

It's where I'll start

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


When I was sixteen years old I went to the Lady Doctor for an annual exam and a renewal on my prescription for birth control.  I started taking the pill when I was fourteen years old to regualte some otherwise completely crazy cycles.  She casually put out there, "well, you'll probably have a really hard time getting pregnant."  I was bewildered and didn't know what to ask so I said nothing.  It was not an especially helpful comment and I had no idea what to make of it.  There was no context so I wasn't sure if she was guessing that based on some unknown factor she was considering or if this was a serious diagnosis.

When my boyfriend Matt and I were getting serious I brought this up with him.  I told him I had no idea what it meant.  I just thought he should know.  We discussed how little we both cared in that moment.  That we thought adoption was pretty amazing, and we would be fine building a family that way if it came to it.  About nine months into our marriage I somehow messed up the birth control I had been taking for the last eight or so years.  I stopped taking it figuring I would resume it in a few weeks. However, some health issues came to light instead.  For a whole host of reasons that don't really matter anymore we would not use any form of birth control again.  My doctors assured us a couple of years later when my good health was restored, that there should be no long term impact on my child bearing abilities.  Great news! So we tried getting pregnant.  For a year.  And nothing happened.  Never a pregnancy.  

So we stopped actively trying and started down a path that would bring the most wonderful little girl to ever walk this earth straight to our home.  It was a beautiful experience. Why would we use birth control? It didn't matter.  I surely wouldn't get pregnant, and if I did, that would be fine too.  But we didn't.  

So time and life and happiness and grief went by.  I wrote last about the gift of Jake in my life and about marrying him.  I celebrated God's goodness in providing me with someone to bear the pain and celebrate the sweetness with.  Now let's get down to the part that I am typing slowly with reluctant fingers.  I am super into my relationship with God.  So is Jake.  We each hold that as our highest value. As part of that belief we embrace that God has certain ways He wants us to live our lives.  These "ways" don't always follow cultural norms or mainstream lifestyles.  We believe that He intends sex to be between people that are married.  The thing about His plans is they are to free us not to hinder us.  They are so we experience the best there is, not to beat us down.  I do the best I can, but at the end of the day, I am just a broken and messed up person living in grace. Jake and I should have waited until we were married.  However, we did not. I am not making one excuse.  I am putting that out there so that is not glossed over.  Also to save anyone from doing the math.  I will not bring that up again, but wanted to be very clear what my take on that is.

Now, in one of the sweetest realities I have experienced in my entire life, God is so loving, that even though we messed it up, He did not withhold his love or blessing. One very memorable, very wild, and very amazing day I took a test.  It was positive.  I was pregnant.  Pregnant! Something my body was not capable of was happening.

It was so hard to believe, but I am here to tell you -- it was true. Pregnant.  If that isn't the bottom line of grace I don't know what is.  Even in disobedience, God gifted me with something I didn't even know to hope for.  A complete blessing.  Pregnant.  The word still tasted funny in my mouth.  It was as if He was saying to me, "I love you! I am rebuilding your hope.  I am giving you a future.  You lost much, but you will have much.  Full arms.  A full heart.  A new family to add to the parts of yours that remain.  I care for you and want good things for you. I am here.  I am good." Because He is good.  So, so good.

What started with Jake continued to grow -- a new family for Harper and I.  And just like with Jake, my grief had a joyful counterpart.  Our numbers were increasing.  What had previously been broken was being healed.  A perfect babe was headed our way.