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She Doesn’t Sing Anymore (and Other Reasons Why Christmas is Hard)

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It’s December 13th and today it really hit me that Christmas is quickly approaching. I live in one of those neighborhoods where people tend to get a little over-zealous with their Christmas cheer in the form of intricate light displays, only complete with motorized lawn ornaments or, say, a giant inflatable Santa waving from a giant inflatable hot air balloon (oh yes, that is real). Plus, it finally rained today so I guess the combination of the two really forced me to accept that Christmas is a mere three weeks away.

Maybe I should give the disclaimer now that this probably won’t be the merriest post about Christmas that you’ll read this holiday season. I’m coming out of the closet, so to speak. The closet stuffed with garland and cinnamon pine cones and tree skirts. I’ve gotta be real. Christmas is hard for me.

I’m not really sure when it became this way. Maybe it has been for years and I’m just now realizing it (thanks to my therapist for shining the light on that one). I don’t want to come across like a total Scrooge, though. There are things I absolutely LOVE about Christmas, especially now that I’m a mom. The movie Elf has to be one of the funniest movies EVER in the history of funny. So there’s that.

And it’s not even like Christmas is so hard because of all the financial stress and the gifting pressure and the receiving pressure. Let’s be honest, that all exists right? It sucks to budget and stress over what to get people, which people you will be giving to (and not giving to) based on the expectations of who thinks they should be receiving. Did you follow me? That was weird. I’m saying it’s frustrating and there’s this pressure to get the gifts right and if you don’t it’s so disappointing. And then there’s the receiving and how it does feel kind of crappy when you receive gifts that seem arbitrary. There’s a lot going on here in this paragraph, I’m going to move on.

So, yes, all of that gifting stuff does add to what makes Christmas hard. But that’s not the worst of it.

A few weeks ago I was talking with a friend of mine who lost her baby this year. When Christmas came into the conversation she said, “I’ll just have to make the best of it.” It was as if she was already anticipating that Christmas would bring her sorrow. Why is that? Why is it that Christmas brings sadness when it should bring joy?

This year, my grandma has taken a turn for the worse. I wish I could describe in words so that you could fully understand the beauty that this woman exuded. She was so vibrant, confident, unbreakable. She had a singing voice that, at least in my mind, compared to Celine Dion. She was a star. Then slowly, dementia set in and her light is fading with it. She stopped singing. Now she can hardly walk. Please don’t judge my honesty here… I dread seeing her in this state. It absolutely breaks my heart.

Now, this is why Christmas is so hard. Christmas is full of life. It is bright and merry, full of wondrous expectation. It makes us all feel young. It should make us all feel happy.

But it doesn’t always work that way.

Because in stark contrast to the beauty and life and bright shiny lights is the reality of life. Divorced families. Failing health. Lost loved ones. The dark presence of what hurts us is in stark contrast to the brightness of what Christmas represents. It brings it all out. Because there’s this small (or large) part of us that just can’t fully be as joyous as Christmas advertises.

But then there is something more. Something beyond the gifts and eggnog and obnoxious decorations. There’s the expectation of magic. Of miracles.

This makes sense right? Of course it does because Christmas isn’t even really about any of those things anyway. It’s about the birth of the Son of God into this world. Brought into this world by a miracle. Something that shouldn’t have happened did. Something that’s very purpose was to restore all of the brokenness of humanity.

And it will. The birth of Jesus brought us hope. And now, after the fact, we wait. We wait for everything to be restored for God’s glory when Jesus returns.

The aching that we feel is the reminder within us that all is not right- yet. No amount of caroling, or gifting, or mistletoe or egg nog can bring us the lasting relief that will come when Jesus returns. Christmas gives us glimpses of peace and joy but it is merely a glimpse. That is the reality that we all live in until Christ returns on that glorious day.

That all being said, this year I am vowing to focus on the first miracle of Christmas. I want to stay close to God through advent devotionals on a daily basis. I’m sick of the stress and the disappointment. Those things will still be there, I’m sure, but they won’t carry as much weight. I’m not going to give Christmas the responsibility of making me happy this year. You hear that Christmas? You’re off the hook. I’m putting my expectations in their rightful place.

 

Y’All, We’re Moving to Texas

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This is probably one of the most difficult “Real Life” updates I’ve written. There is so much to be said and there are so many feelings being felt all at once that it might be hard to articulate it all. Regardless, I will try because I’m really eager to share all of this with you. This is an awesome God kinda thing.

It may seem out-of-the-blue to some of you but let me tell you this move has been a long time coming. Caleb’s heart has been longing to move back to Texas for years now. Being a California sunshine-beach-lovin’ girl that I am, moving to Texas sounded scary. It just seemed too different from what I’m used to. I was afraid I wouldn’t fit in and loneliness and I don’t mix well.

Over the years of our marriage we prayed that God would align our hearts. Implying there that our hearts were not so much aligned. We finally came to a place where we genuinely just wanted unity because for so long it was a battle. We dreaded the conversation because we knew we’d just butt heads. We were pushing our own agendas that we weren’t seeing things clearly, we just wanted to win. As you can imagine, that was super fun.

Then, slowly but surely, God did soften and align our hearts. As our little family began to grow, we decided that living near family was the most important thing for us. Caleb began to apply for jobs in both Northern California (where my family resides) and in Texas (where his family resides). Nothing panned-out for years. The waiting and the uncertainty was excruciating. But you know what? We grew closer during all of it.

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Austin New Church

Last Christmas, you may recall this post? We were in Texas for Christmas and we decided to visit a church because one of my favorite authors was going to be speaking there. Have you heard of Jen Hatmaker? If not, check-out her stuff, it’ll rock your world. Anyway, we went to this church in the outskirts of Austin on the eve of Christmas Eve to hear her speak.

I can’t even describe what happened that night. Looking around at the congregation and seeing the incredible amount of adoptive families was life-changing for me. Caleb and I hadn’t officially started our adoption process yet but we knew we were going to start it after the beginning of the year. Knowing that was our destination and seeing all of these families who had already travelled down that road stirred-up a longing in me to be a part of that community. It was weird though because it wasn’t even like it was ME, it was totally a Holy Spirit thing. I mean I just started weeping… it was crazy. I’m not really a crier. It wasn’t until later that I could understand what was happening.

I was literally crying tears of joy over the scandalousness of God’s love for us and how adoption is such a metaphor for that. He has adopted us. And that was exactly what Jen spoke about, the scandal of the cross.

Leaving church that night I knew that God had planted a seed and I felt certain that we were destined to move to Austin and join the movement there. I could

Texas Hill Country

Texas Hill Country

care less about moving to a new state. I began to see all of the things I refused to see before. I appreciated the beauty of Austin. I felt even closer to Caleb’s family and cherished the love they have for Luca and for me too. I researched and found a school that is like a dream for us to have Luca attend. It’s like I was seeing it all with new eyes. God was showing me the good.

So, Caleb applied to more jobs in Texas. None of them were quite exactly where we wanted to be but they seemed close enough. Then time after time, my husband, who let me tell you is an OUTSTANDING candidate, just never got the opportunity. It just was so weird. He was repeatedly first runner-up. Spring came and we weren’t really sure what to do at that point. I knew I had experienced something big in Austin but with time I began to question God’s calling for us. We knew we were still called to adoption so we began that process and tried to ignore the stirring that had begun in our hearts.

The stirring for change continued so we decided to look for our own home to buy. We thought that if we moved closer to our church community that the stirring would stop. We were renting a home about 20 minutes away and sadly that was just far enough to keep us from being as connected as we wanted to be. The market was looking good for buyers and my dad offered to help us with a down payment. We jumped on it. Shockingly, we got the first house we put an offer on. (Well we lost it at first but then they came back to us when their first buyers fell through)

We bought the house and moved closer to our church family. It was rough fixing-up all of the time but it began to feel more like home. Still, the financial responsibility of home ownership due to all of the fixing was frustrating.

The adoption process was going but we had some hiccups and disappointment with that too. A process that should have taken us weeks took months (and still isn’t complete). It just felt like we were moving forward but through the thickest of mud. Again, very frustrating.

Beautiful Canyon Lake

Beautiful Canyon Lake

Last October, we visited Austin again for my father-in-law’s 60th birthday. The stirring became stronger again. Seeing the cost of living there verses were we were was again: frustrating. It just seemed silly that we were paying so much for the stress of a fixer-upper when we could have a move-in ready home somewhere else, somewhere that we thought was awesome. (Coincidentally, Awesome and Austin are very similar words aren’t they?) Anyway, while we were there, we drove through an area that I just fell in love with. It was also near Austin New Church, the congregation that I had felt we were called to. As I was “ooing and awing,” Caleb said, “Well the rep who works in this territory is due for a promotion in the next couple of years…” “When it opens up, go for it,” I said confidently.

Little did I know that two years would actually be more like two weeks. The job opened-up just two weeks after we got home. The night before Caleb saw the job posting he was having a rough night sleeping. He couldn’t get Austin off of his mind. He even went to God the next morning asking Him to take these thoughts away. He wanted to be content with where we were… but then the job listing appeared. Maybe this nagging was from the Holy Spirit. It was just so weird.

The second Caleb told me about the job I knew with peace in my heart that he had to apply for it. Of course, moments later I freaked-out but my initial wisdom said, “Go for it” and that inner peace about the decision didn’t waver. A few days later, Caleb put some feelers out to see who he’d be up against for the position. He was informed that another candidate was a “sure-thing” for the position. “She’s a slam dunk” were the exact words he heard. We realized that the job was a major long shot but he applied anyway because this territory was the specific one where we wanted to be. He had to just try. If he didn’t get it, we were going to just focus on being content where we are and not look for anything until we had our adopted child for a year.

Well, God definitely orchestrated all of this. Jobs in the past that Caleb should have gotten, he didn’t. And would you believe it?? This one, the one that was a “slam dunk” for someone else- he got.

So, long story long (are you still reading this? Longest post everrrr…) WE ARE MOVING TO TEXAS!!! Jan 1st, we will be there! God knew the plan all along. He is so faithful and I am learning ever more to trust myself when I feel His promptings. It’s ironic (or not) that just about a year from when we first heard this call that it is now being answered.

I am so excited to see what God has in store for us. I just keep thinking that we are going to meet our new child there. This makes my heart just want to leap right out of my chest! I can’t wait to grow our family in that community. We will have to redo some of our paperwork in accordance with Texas law but luckily it is less costly there and most of the work we have done will help us get the home study done quickly. Yay for that!

But of course it’s not all yay. We have the most AMAZING community of friends

Check out Stacy and Jax on the left, best costumes ever!!

in Southern California. My Mama Tribe has been a sanity-saver the last two years and I know they are truly a gift from God. Not to mention my family in Northern California will now be further away. My heart has been twisting with sadness over leaving these precious people in my life. People cannot be replaced.

Then theres’s all the logistics junk… Getting our house rented it out, getting it ready to rent first, finding a moving company, saying good-byes, spending every last second with those I’ll miss so dearly, I’m also trying to find little groups in Austin to get connected with (did I mention that Noonday is based there??)… Oh right, and Christmas is right around the corner. It’s a little overwhelming. Just a little. Ha.

So, with all of that I just want to ask you all to please keep us in your prayers. Pray that we find renters for our home quickly. Pray that Caleb and I remain harmonious during all of this. Pray that this isn’t a ginormous (Sorry, Sarah) mistake. I am so excited but I’m also sad. We both are. Believe me, the next month or so I’m going to sound like I’ve got Multiple Personality Disorder with all of the different feelings I’m experiencing. Luckily, I know God is with us in this and the Advent season has been a wonderful opportunity to stay connected with Him. Our support system has been extremely, well, supportive. I feel so loved and I know we have created ties that won’t be broken no matter the distance.

Thank you for your prayers. I look forward to sharing my journey with you all through this blog and I appreciate your support and encouragement so much!

On What it’s Like to Be Pregnant with An Adopted Child

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Let me tell you, this has been an AMAZING week. We’ve been fundraising for our adoption and we’ve acquired over $500 in commissions from Noonday Collection so far. Not all of that is profit because of the initial investment required of purchasing samples and supplies. You’ve gotta spend money to make money right? Well, the next few trunk shows we have on the books will bring in actual profit and that will be awesome.

Regardless of the money and all the math, having everyone’s support has been mind-blowing. I feel so much love and support. I am well aware that this child coming in to our home will be loved and cherished by many. It’s a much different IMG_0003feeling than when I was physically pregnant. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely felt the love then. Baby showers and sweet comments (ok, mostly they were sweet, but not all) from strangers at the grocery store all assured me that what I was going through was supported. I felt special.

Being pregnant with an adopted child is different. When I was pregnant, everyone knew I was expecting and I guess I just sort of expected people to be excited too. I don’t have the same expectations this time and of course, people can’t tell just by looking at me that I’m on this journey. Forgive me, I don’t want to come across as ungrateful, after all, I made this choice to go down this path right? Well, we complain about being pregnant and that’s a choice (usually) too, so I think I have every right to be real. But can I just say that being this kind of pregnant is really hard. Can I just level with you without you getting all judgy on me? I just need to get this off of my chest.

Maybe it’s because it’s November. See, when we decided to adopt it was February. Do the math. If we had conceived in February, I’d be giving birth right now. This pregnancy is long. But what’s hard is that we have no idea how long. The unknown due date… just hanging out there in the space/time continuum somewhere. It will happen (right??) but we just don’t know when. The waiting is starting to get really difficult. I’m ready. I’m ready to hold my next baby.

Don’t get me wrong… I HATED being physically pregnant. The swelling, the unmentionable ailments, the moodiness, oh I could go on. But there was also something that I loved about being pregnant in that way. My baby was always with me. That overshadowed everything else. Well, this time, I have my skinny jeans on and I’m not on bed rest but my baby is possibly in the belly of a homeless woman or meth addict. That’s hard to bear.

It’s hard on so many levels. It’s so hard to imagine a woman who is pregnant in those conditions. My heart breaks for her. When I think of how hard my pregnancy was, I can’t even fathom the struggle of pregnancy without the comforts that I had: a safe home, a healthy body, a myriad of support, a loving husband. The basics that most of us take for granted.

Now throw on top of that the fact that there’s a baby in that environment too. Ugh. Let me tell you, people, if you want to increase your faith and trust in God, do something crazy like adoption. Because with every fiber of my being I want to scream and cry and stomp my feet at the ridiculousness of this scenario. How is it that women and children are here? I want it to stop.

I can’t make it stop.

God could, but He doesn’t. He gave humanity free will and thus…

I rest in the fact that He called us to this and that means that good will come from it. Even if it’s simply that my character is being refined, which let me tell you, it is. You know how people say you should never pray for patience? Yeah… Well, I probably prayed for something like that at some point. I think I am becoming more patient. I can also tell you that I am appreciating Luca and motherhood even more and more. Now, I have the added benefit of working with the amazing company of Noonday and helping to prevent poverty-created orphans all over the world! That is a huge blessing. It has been so nice to have something so good to pour my heart into while I wait. I know the waiting will end. Really, it could end any day now! Please pray that it does- tomorrow works for me. ;)

Well, thanks for listening. If you have any words of encouragement, bring ‘em on.

Adoption Update: Mama’s Got a Brand New Bag

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Hey All!

It’s Adoption Awareness Month and I am so excited to announce that our adoption process is moving right along! We are SO close to being done with our home study I can almost taste it. There are a couple of prospects on the horizon and I’m really hoping one of them pans out. In the meantime… It’s fundraising time!!

I am so incredibly stoked to have partnered with Noonday Collection to raise funds for our adoption. Noonday is a company that helps to provide economic opportunity for the vulnerable throughout the world. They assist artisans in achieving fair trade wages and help make things like health care and education for their children possible.

Check-Out the IMPACT section on my website to learn more about how Noonday is helping.

Check-Out the IMPACT section on my website to learn more about how Noonday is helping.

Plus, the stuff is BEAUTIFUL!

Angelica Scarf and Taj Earrings

Angelica Scarf, Taj Earrings, Very Versatile Bracelet, and Tushabe Layered Necklace

The items are so unique but versatile. Plus, knowing the story behind these handmade items just makes them all the more special.

We are having our very first major fundraise Thursday November 13th! If you would like to order online to participate do this:

- Go to www.jaclynsnyder.noondaycollection.com between Thursday the 13th through Thursday the 2oth

- Place items in your cart

-Upon check-out select, me, Jaclyn Snyder, as the Ambassador

- Enter “Snyder Family” for Trunk Show Name

That’s it! We appreciate your support SO much! I am hoping to earn $1,000 from my Noonday endeavor. If you love what Noonday has to offer, consider hosting a Trunk Show. Not only are you helping our little family and people all over the world but you also could get free stuff!

Do it, do it, do it!!

Do it, do it, do it!!

Alright well, that’s all for now! Check-out the stuff and let me know what you think! Last but not least, please please please keep us in your prayers as we are getting so close to getting matched. Pray that the first match we get is the one for us. Pray that our little one is safe. Pray for the health and comfort of the bio mom- that she will feel God’s love. Pray that we will all adjust well. Thank you!

Dear Luca, As Long as I’m Living

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Dear Luca,

Today we celebrated your SECOND BIRTHDAY!! In so many ways it seems like decades have passed since I first held you in my arms. In others, it feels like I’ve just met you. A seasoned mother, a former stay-at-home mom, once said to me, “The days are long but the years are short.” I can relate, being a stay-at-home mom I’ve experienced days that seem to drag on. You get bored too and now that you can talk more you’ll beg me to “Go!” while pulling me towards the garage so we can depart on some new adventure. We’ve really become great friends, you and I.

One of your favorite books right now is Love You Forever. The mama sings a song to her son with the line “As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.” It saddens me to think that someday, probably too soon, we’ll need to part. It’s ok, it has to be that way and it’s healthy, I know… It’s just that I’m really going to miss you being my little buddy. We cuddle so much, laugh, play, and your laugh is contagious, it makes my heart skip a beat. Your dad can make you laugh the best! You two light up my life. It’s so hard to imagine my daily life without you in it.

But then I think about… watching you read on your own, making friends and asking them over, you bringing me a mother’s day gift that you created, teaching you how to drive, meeting your first girlfriend, watching you graduate… All of the things that I can’t have with you as a two-year-old. I have to let go of some things but they will be replaced by so much more. You will be your own person and I can’t wait to get to know you.

I love you Luca. I am so thankful for you and for all the ways that you have helped me grow. You really do light-up our lives. I am so lucky to spend my days with you. Just know that as long as I’m living you’ll always have a special place in my heart as the baby you are today.

Happy Birthday Luca Bear.

Love,

Mama

Your Day of Birth, First Birthday and Second Birthday!

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Happy Halloween! Pumpkin Patch Fun

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Halloween is still kinda low-key around here, I’m sure it’ll get exciting in a couple of years when Luca gets the concept a little more and we actually let him get lots of candy. For now, it’s really just an excuse to dress-up, play at the pumpkin patch and watch Nightmare Before Christmas a bunch.

This year,  I was really excited to get a costume for Luca because he’s way more opinionated than last year. I toyed with the idea of Daniel Tiger because he loves that show, and get. out. THIS is adorable!

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I also thought about Olaf because he’s still really into “Essa” (That would translate to “Elsa” from Frozen)

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Buuut…. I had a feeling that would be a wasted investment. There’s no way he’d wear it. Well, then I just happened upon a Thomas the Train costume at kids’ resale store. It was $5. Not much of a loss if he didn’t wear it… Which, of course, he didn’t. Nope. In fact, I did.

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Luckily, one of our good friends know of Luca’s train obsession and had gotten him an Engineer outfit at a garage sale. So for Halloween, I am Thomas the Train, and he is an Engineer. You could SO have a field-day analyzing this, please don’t. Instead, look at these cute pics from our fun day at the Irvine Regional Park pumpkin patch.

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Check out Stacy and Jax on the left, best costumes ever!!

Check out Stacy and Jax on the left, best costumes ever!! Not everyone was there but it was great to get most of us together!

 

 

 

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This pic is important because Luca is patting the seat next to him for me to join him. I’m relishing in this stuff because I know it won’t be long before he’s too cool for Mama.

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Can’t forget to wear your hat on the train! Don’t tell him it doesn’t fit at ALL.


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It was such a fun day. I can’t believe he’s going to be two so soon!!

Our Trip to Texas (Fall 2014)- In Pictures

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We had so much fun visiting Gigi and Papa at their home in Spring Branch, TX! We made the trip as a surprise to my father-in-law for his 60th Birthday. Luca LOVED spending time with them and his cousins, we did too. Here are some photos from our trip. I wish I had some of the birthday party but I was too busy celebrating to take any!

Luca and his cousin, Payton, immediately connected as if no time had passed since they saw each other last. This is a The Salt Lick. AMAZING BBQ!!

Luca and his cousin, Payton, immediately connected as if no time had passed since they saw each other last. This is a The Salt Lick. AMAZING BBQ!!

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Payton and Luca as Astronauts at the Children’s Museum in New Braunfels, TX.

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Cousin bath time! There’s Robbie on the left, he’s just 6 months older than Luca.

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Hiking at Canyon Lake. Everyone please note that my child is actually SMILING FOR A PHOTO. Soak it in.

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Canyon lake. The water is gorgeous because it has a limestone bottom. I planned out our vacation home on the lake, it’s going to be Fabulous.

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More hiking. I just can’t get over how beautiful it is there! Unfortunately, Luca and I had our first experience with fire ants, no photos of that adventure.

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We finished our trip with a visit to Ladybird Johnson’s Wildflower Park. It was so inspirational. This photo was taken at a special climbing and play area, all made out of old tree stumps and branches!

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Four Generations! On the right is Luca’s great-grandma Muriel, then Gigi. It was such a treat to get to spend time with Muriel because she lives in Minnesota and so we don’t see her often.

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Spotting (then chasing) butterflies.

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Luca didn’t want to leave TX, we didn’t really want to either. We had a wonderful time!

 

Luca’s First (Real) Haircut!

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I haven’t been as good about keeping up with life events on this blog. I’m trying to get better at that because I know that someday I’ll love to look back at the memories. Like this one… remember when my baby was balding??

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You can’t really tell in that picture because I purposefully cut off the very top of his head. Yep, I’m shallow. It was really bad though, you guys, it was like comb-over worthy. So. bad. He was still my little sweetie though. And eventually his hair grew in… again…

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See there it’s a little more even. It kinda looks like a buzz cut.

Eventually it grew-in a LOT.

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And more…

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And here’s recently…

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So this weekend we decided it was finally time for a pro hair cut. I’ve been trimming his hair to the best of my ability every now and then but it was time for the real deal.

We were pretty sure he was going to freak-out so we thought it would be best to take him to watch his Daddy get his hair cut first.

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He gets his hair cut at this cool place called American Barber Shop in downtown Santa Ana. It’s all retro and hipster. Perfect place for Luca to get the Swag vibe.

Then after a nice loooong nap. We took him to Sharkey’s Cuts for Kids in Tustin. Ashley cut his hair and she was amazing! We were only going to have her give him a trim but he was doing so well that we asked if it would be ok for her to go ahead and do what we really wanted, hehe! Taking full advantage of our son’s ignorance about hair and style, we went for it!

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He could NOT wait to get into the car. Surprisingly, he cried when she put the cape on but as soon as he saw Mickey Mouse on the tv, he was over it. The lollipop helped too. I am not above bribery, people.IMG_0057 IMG_0058 IMG_0059 IMG_0060

Two lollipops later…. Eeee!! Hipster Baby!

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I blame Pinterest.

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So happy with his lollipop (#3) and balloon!

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One hour later he’s back to helping Dad fix up the sprinklers, just looking cute as can be!


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I’m so glad we took a risk and chose a fun cut, it won’t be long until he’ll have his own opinion!

Losing Bristol

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In honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, I asked a dear friend if she would be willing to share the story of her recent loss. She gladly agreed as she said she wants to bring hope and encouragement to others who have felt this pain. Thank you, Juliana, for sharing the story of Bristol with us.

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I was at the park one July morning with my son, Barrett, when a lady asked me if I was pregnant.  “Not that I know of,” I replied.  We were both a bit embarrassed and then continued to push our kids silently on the swings.

The next morning, I decided to take a pregnancy test.  Come to think of it, my shorts were a bit tight, I’d been waking up to pee at night and I’d been a bit nauseous for the past week.  Before the control line on the test was even wet, the pregnancy line was glowing in its fuchsia glory. It was a rare solitary bathroom trip and I stood their shaking for several minutes as my son played with trains in the other room. I wanted to tell someone, but there was no one with whom I could share my news –Chris, my hubby, was in an all-day meeting with the President of his company, a first and not something I could interrupt unless I was dying.  So I waited and waited and cancelled plans with friends so I wouldn’t accidently divulge my secret before telling our little one’s sweet daddy.

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Barrett revealing the pregnancy to Daddy.

I stalled on bedtime that night, so our son could be the one to tell daddy that he was going to be a big brother. When Chris walked in the door, Barrett said, “baby” and handed him the stick.  He hugged him and said, “You are my baby!”  Then he asked me, “What is this?”  Thirty seconds later, the recognition set in and he said, “Really?!?!  YAY!!!” We took pictures of Barrett in his Big Brother shirt and shared it with family. Unable to contain my excitement, I drove to my friend Jaclyn’s house to tell her that night.

Chris and I had never experienced the pure joy of being pregnant before.  Previous positive EPTs had sent me immediately to the doctor’s door to find out if the pregnancy was viable.  Since the full term birth of my son, I felt confident right away that I was indeed pregnant and everything was going to be fine.

The almost all day nausea further assured me that I was indeed very pregnant and going to give birth to a baby in the beginning of March 2015.  We both felt really strongly that we were having a girl and began to dream and plan for the new addition to our family.  We worked toward fully-weaning our almost two-year-old son, moved him to a toddler bed and transitioned bath time to daddy in preparation.  We designed the nursery in our head and dreamed of snuggling our little girl in our favorite carrier.  We were smitten and unreservedly sharing our exciting news.

Chris and I on a (pre-scheduled) wine tasting trip while I was pregnant and starting to show.

Chris and I on a (pre-scheduled) wine tasting trip while I was pregnant and starting to show.

 

 

Since I had a history of ectopic and chemical pregnancy, we scheduled an early ultrasound just to be sure.  According to my ‘record keeping’, I should have been at least eight weeks, three days when we had the ultrasound.  I only measured six weeks, three days.  Something just didn’t seem right, but we could see the heartbeat flutter and everyone tried to assure me that perhaps I had missed something in my record keeping and that everything would be fine.  I pushed  doubt out of my head and continued on with my nausea and dreaming.

 

 

Several days later, I found out that the heartbeat was slow and that I should have another ultrasound and

Baby Bristol on the first ultrasound.

Baby Bristol on the first ultrasound.

then some blood work to make sure everything was ok.  I began spotting the same day. I immediately felt a dark cloud come over me.  We had been here before and I knew how this story ended.  I began to grieve the possibility of losing our little girl. I scheduled the ultrasound for the next morning and went to bed trusting that God knew exactly what was going on and had a plan for our family.

My husband was able to join me for the ultrasound – our son sat joyfully in his lap as daddy said, “See the baby?”  I didn’t see the baby and flashed him the ‘no more’ look. There was still a sac and I could make out some tissue inside, but it didn’t look right and I couldn’t see the flutter of the heartbeat like I had the week before.  The tech did a few measurements and confirmed my worst fear – the baby had not grown since last week and the heart had stopped beating.  We thanked her and quickly left the office.  I was devastated.  I explained what had happened to Chris, who was still wondering if there was something we could do to preserve the pregnancy.  “The baby’s heart stopped beating, it’s the same size as last week- she’s gone,” I managed through tears. We sat in the car for a few minutes, just letting what had happened sink in.  I told him that I wanted to name our little girl.  I felt so bonded with her and she deserved the dignity of a name.  We decided on Bristol.

He took the rest of the day off and we had lunch as a family and went to the beach.  I needed to see the power of the ocean and be surrounded by children playing to remind me that God is the author of life and that our little girl was in his hands.  I stared out at the waves and lamented to our sweet girl that I would never see her run on the beach, never hear her laugh or cry, never nurse her or smell her sweet baby skin. Meanwhile, I watched our son shriek with glee as daddy pushed him so high on the swing. He could laugh, he could run, he was alive and the answer to years of prayer for a child.  I knew in that moment that, although my grief over Bristol’s loss might be greater, I had hope and this miscarriage would not send me into the despair that my previous failed pregnancies had.

We shared our news with our family and close friends.  I think they were more shocked than I was.  God had been preparing my heart for this loss and I was grateful.  We shared dinner that night with some of our best friends, who were also experiencing some significant loss.  I needed to fill my home with life, love and the joy of our little boys.  The grieving came in waves over the next several days.  Chris and I grew closer as we

The care box that some of my dearest friends had put together for me.

The care box that some of my dearest friends had put together for me.

shared our sorrow and trusted together that God would grow our family in His time and His way. The outpouring of love and care from our loved ones was astounding – flowers, meals, cards, babysitting and a keepsake box filled with chocolate, a bottle of my favorite wine, and personal care items to help me through the miscarriage.  What was even more amazing was that my mom, who lives in Oregon, already had tickets to come visit us in a few days; she would be here for the miscarriage.  The same thing had happened when I had the chemical pregnancy – she had a preexisting trip planned that fell exactly during the time that I lost that pregnancy. I felt God’s merciful hand upon me.

I had acupuncture to help induce the miscarriage naturally and the bleeding soon increased.  It continued at the same pace for several days and the heaviness of dread hung over me as I waited.  My baby had died inside of me and she was still in there. I had to carry her around with me, even though she was gone.  I wanted this to be over.  I felt terrible physically, and emotionally I needed closure.

The afternoon that my mom arrived, my son woke up from his nap with a 103° temperature. He was miserable the rest of the afternoon and evening.  The next day, he showed mild improvement in the morning, only to crash in the afternoon again.  He was grabbing his ear and would cry out in pain whenever he swallowed.  He had little energy or appetite and he was miserable.  He had been sick several times before, but I had never seen him act like this. We made the decision to take him to urgent care in the morning, as it was the weekend and the doctor’s office was closed. We took him in and I’m so glad we did – he had an ear infection and awful sores in the back of his throat.  The doctor prescribed him antibiotics and told us to watch out for further signs of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. Sure enough, the telltale rash developed and my heart sank.  There’s no treatment for it and due to it being highly contagious, we would have to keep him away from other kids for a couple of weeks. This meant isolation from my friends at a time when I really needed to be surrounded by them.  He was so sad and wanted mama to hold him all the time.  When anyone else tried to do anything for him, he screamed and threw himself to the floor.  As he was clinging to my legs crying while I sat on the toilet, I thought to myself, “This is motherhood – caring for your sick baby while you’re losing another one.”  Nothing can prepare you for this.  In a time when I really needed to care for myself and process the loss I was experiencing, I instead had to push that aside and care for my son. My needs could wait.

I was starting to lose it.  I just wanted all of this – the miscarriage, my son’s awful sickness – to be over.  Thankfully my mom and husband did everything they could to help me through.  My mom cooked, cleaned and cared for me, while my husband attended to our son as much as he would allow.  Finally around six o’clock on Sunday evening, August 10, it happened.  The bleeding had been increasing and a big sneeze broke everything loose.  I jumped up from the couch and got to the toilet just in time to pass a clot the size of a dessert plate. I was surprised by its magnitude, but couldn’t tell if there was any tissue or just blood.  I began to soak through heavy pads very quickly and pass additional large clots with every bathroom visit.  When I had soaked through two pads in 20 minutes, I made the decision to go the ER (I had been told that I should go in if I was soaking one in 30 minutes).  I called my mom and asked her to come back from my aunt’s house where she was having dinner so that she could take me to the hospital.  I spoke with my midwife who confirmed that I should go in right away.  I was losing a shocking amount of blood and I was starting to feel light-headed.  I asked Chris which hospital I should go to and he suggested Saddleback Memorial where we had our son and my OB had privileges.  I jumped on the phone with Dr. James and he said he would call ahead to the hospital and see me there.  It was a thirty-minute drive, but well worth it to know that someone I trusted and felt comfortable with would be handling my care.

I reached out to some friends for prayer as my mother drove us to the ER.  I told them that I would likely be given drugs to slow the bleeding or have surgery (a D & C) to clear out all the tissue and complete the miscarriage.  I was given a room and hooked up to IV, BP and heartbeat monitoring very quickly.  I continued to bleed very heavily and passed a clot with the dimensions of a grapefruit.  The ER doctor did a pelvic exam and after clearing out a lot of blood, found that I had some tissue just inside my cervix.  Dr. James recommended a D & C and I spoke with him personally to answer my questions of why I wasn’t getting an ultrasound first and if there were any other options.  Satisfied with his answers, I began the preparation for surgery.  I called Chris and told him through tears that I wish he could be there with me and how sad I was to be saying goodbye to Bristol.  He assured me of his love and how his place was to watch over our son at home while my mother (an RN) could be by my side. I tangibly felt God’s peace and provision in all this.

Very quickly I was in the OR and under general anesthesia with a breathing tube down my throat.  This was necessary because they were going to manually dilate me and if I were awake at all I would thrash around in pain from the procedure.  Before I knew it, I heard the anesthesiologist calling me out of the depths.  I woke up sobbing (this is my typical reaction to general anesthesia) and then quickly transitioned to cracking jokes and entertaining the recovery room nurses.  It wasn’t because I found the situation funny; it’s just how my body reacts to the medication.  Before Chris and I were even dating, I flashed him in a hospital room following an appendectomy.

Dr. James followed up with us to share how the surgery went.  He said I would have continued to bleed extremely heavily for a very long time if we had not completed the miscarriage.  It’s unclear why my uterine lining was so thick, but I was grateful that he had done the procedure.  I was out of the hospital by midnight (we checked in at 9pm), in what must have been the quickest ER visit in history.  Relief washed over me.  I had closure and could finally process everything that had happened.  I crawled into bed at 1am, grateful that I would not have to get up with my son at our usual 5:30 hour.  My mom had changed her flight to be with us another day and my husband had taken the day off of work to care for Barrett.  I needed a day to recover and transition back into full-time mothering.

I awoke at a leisurely eight in the morning, enjoyed a hot shower, ate breakfast and spent time reading Scripture and praying.  It felt so good to be finally taking care of my needs.  The bleeding was minimal and I felt like myself again. The rest of day was peaceful and my son played happily with ‘Nama’ and Dada, while I had the opportunity to nap and write this story. Bristol is gone from my belly and from this world, but I will always carry her in my heart.

This verse my dad shared encouraged me and I hope it will do the same for you.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 ESV

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The Truth About Life After Conversion

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This message could serve as a warning of sorts to those who are almost on board with Christianity. It could serve as a wake-up call to new believers. It most certainly will serve as encouragement for some of you who are a little deeper in and possibly feeling disillusioned with your faith.

On the radio last tonight, yes, Christian radio, there was a sound bite from a well-known pastor. He said something that I don’t know that I totally agree with. I’m not trying to pick a fight with a mega-pastor by any means but something that he said kind of rubbed me the wrong way. Now, to be fair, I was driving so I couldn’t record exactly what he said and I couldn’t find it online either. So let me just give you the gist.

The implied message was this: if you are a believer, you better make sure that your life before Jesus doesn’t sound better than your life after Jesus.

To continue in the vein of fairness, this pastor certainly isn’t the only person delivering this message. Time and time again, we imply that it’s important to see the benefits of becoming a Christian. Now don’t get me wrong, my life after Jesus IS better than life was before. But also, to be honest, it isn’t really in the ways I would have thought.

I can’t speak for all Christians but I can speak for my own faith journey. I didn’t have this miraculous conversion where I no longer struggled with things after. I still struggled with body-image issues, low self-esteem, substance experimenting, lust, greed, lying, jealousy, anger, pride…. Ok, this list could get quite long so I’ll just go ahead and stop it there. Through Christ, I can say that I have, over time, been healed from some of my brokenness but not completely… and here’s the thing: I NEVER WILL BE. I will never be this happy-go-lucky-all-of-the-time-joyful-perfect-person. NEVER.

Here’s what else didn’t happen when I converted. I didn’t suddenly have everything go my way. I didn’t develop friendships with perfect people who never hurt me (because Christians would never hurt each other right??), I don’t always know which path I should take, I don’t have protection from calamity, I don’t have freedom from anxiety and depression. The Bible isn’t a self-help book and Jesus isn’t prozac. I still struggle and I still face suffering.

Look, what I’m trying to say is this:

Don’t become a Christian because you want a better life. 

Become a Christian because CHRIST IS REAL.

God really did create you.

Jesus really did die for you.

The Holy Spirit really will dwell in you.

Those things are real.

Sure, there are benefits to becoming a Christian. Heaven is pretty cool (although it’s probably not one big party in the sky after you die so if that’s what you want, well, sorry). Church has cheap donuts every Sunday, that’s pretty cool too.

Ok, but seriously, the MAJOR benefit that NO other religion can offer you? HOPE.

God gives us hope. We know that one day, every tear will be wiped away. Everything that is wrong will be made right. That is a promise that He will keep. And you know what else? He gives us hope that over time, He will heal us of our brokenness. We feel joy and peace knowing that. That is an added benefit of becoming a Christian.

But still, don’t become a Christian because you want to feel something good like hope. Become a Christian

God delights in His creation even more than we can comprehend! Gen 1:31

God delights in His creation (us) even more than we can comprehend! Gen 1:31

because you want to honor what is true. Your life is too short to go on ignoring the fact that you have a Creator who loves you very much. He wants to have a relationship with you. Talk to Him.

Don’t get caught-up in politics or preconceived notions of what it means to be a Christian. Just look for the facts. You don’t have to dump your brain in a wastebasket to believe this. But don’t waste any more of your life going about your business as if He doesn’t exist. He does. Now go, talk to your Father who loves you. He can’t wait to celebrate your return.

“I’ve seen atheists become Christians after they decided to honestly pursue the evidence of science and history wherever it took them, regardless of whether it ended up contradicting their deeply held beliefs.

Last month, I met a former prosecutor who read my book The Case for Christ at the request of a friend and then spent five years delving into the historical evidence for Jesus before he concluded Jesus is, indeed, the unique Son of God who proved it by returning from the dead. I know an atheist engineer here in Colorado who spent two years doing the same thing. Both are now strong Christians.” – Lee Strobel

If you’re into videos check out this awesome one by Mike Erre.

I want to hear your stories! Why did you become a Christian? If you’re not one, what holds you back from believing?

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