Tuesday, January 21, 2014

beauty from ashes

The night before we got married, a close family member was involved in something tragic.  Todd and I discussed postponing the wedding over it, that's how big a deal it was. And since then - Todd, myself, or someone close to us has waded through some seriously difficult things.  Job loss, unexpected pregnancy, a NICU stay, blended family challenges, addictions, recovery, pregnancy loss, family conflict, death, divorce, financial uncertainty, pregnancy after loss, colic...

You name it, we've lived through it, in just 3 1/2 short years.  Feels like sometimes we have lived through more difficulty than most marriages do in a lifetime.

Sometimes I feel a weird kind of smugness about this.

This blog is all about openness, transparency and honesty right?  So I'm going to be honest about a few things here - sometimes I wear our hardship like some kind of twisted badge of honor.  I hear what other people talk about as being difficult and I think to myself, 'Ha.  Please.  This person has NO idea what hardship really looks like.'

Weird, right?

I've been toying with the idea of writing this blog for awhile now, but have been hesitant.  I hope it comes out on paper the way it does in my head.

After we lost Lilia, I would feel so angry and hurt when people would post negative or complaining statuses about their children on Facebook.  I wanted to scream, "DON'T YOU KNOW HOW FORTUNATE YOU ARE?"  "Don't you know how many women there are who would give their left arm to be going through what you're going through?"

And then, God sent me Declan.

Oh, my sweet Declan.

When I found out I was pregnant with Declan, I just knew that he was going to be my REDEMPTION baby.  After all, we had endured so much already - Declan was going to be the solution.  He was going to be my perfect gift after enduring what I had endured with strength.

That's a really weighty label to put on an infant.  And it's a really weighty responsibility to put on myself.  To expect myself to rise above the very real, very gritty difficulty of being a mother.  It's amazing and beautiful and life altering in a way you can never imagine - but it's also the most challenging thing I have ever, ever done in my life. The reward obviously outweighs the challenge.  Most mothers will tell you that.

I found myself confused when Declan's colic set in.  Wait...what?  Hold up here, God.  I don't think you meant to give me a baby who screams all the time.  We are already going through so much personally - I think perhaps you haven't been listening well enough.

Ha. Talk about arrogance.

With Declan, I have struggled with what my counselor (oh yeah, I have one of those too...) refers to as 'duality'  There are competing values at play, or competing emotions.  The absolute and overwhelming love of being a mother to such a precious gift.  The absolute and overwhelming exhaustion and helplessness of not knowing how to make him just feel better.  See, pregnancy after loss is supposed to be - well - rainbows.  That's why they call it it a rainbow baby.  It's supposed to be hours upon hours of gazing on a sweet, contented little face who is just so happy to be here, y'all.

Only it wasn't.  It's been hard.  It was - for about 11 weeks - hours of gazing at a face contorted in pain and screaming longer than any human being should be able to continue screaming.  And after one particularly difficult stretch where I didn't leave my house for 9 straight days - I thought I might lose it.

Since then we think that we've figured out the problem, and acid reflux medication seems to be helping.

But - I have realized that I have been prideful.  It certainly wasn't intentional.  Who wants to be prideful about enduring trials? Declan has opened my eyes to a weakness I wasn't even aware of.  As if our hardships put me a notch above or something.  As if I had a right to look down on people who were struggling with things that didn't seem to be in the realm of what *I* considered difficult.

Infertility, pregnancy, pregnancy after loss, stillbirth, colic, motherhood, the terrible 2's, the teenage years - these things are ALL difficult.  They are ALL challenging.  In different ways, to be certain, but they are all challenging.  Experiencing one doesn't make you stronger than someone who hasn't experienced it.  It just makes you different.  I now have an experience that allows me to help comfort women who miscarry.  A friend of mine can comfort women who have experienced stillbirth.  Another friend can talk someone down off the ledge during the teenage years because she's been through it.  Another friend can comfort those who want desperately to be parents but can't.

We all have our own challenges.  What is challenging to one is lollipops and unicorns to another.

God shapes and molds us for HIS use.  And sometimes it is painful, sometimes it's oh so very hard.  But everything we experience, everything we rise above can be used for good.  To bring Him honor and glory.

God is stirring a lot of stuff inside of me these days.  He is teaching me and shaping me each and every day to see the world a little more like He does.  Most days I fall painfully short of reflecting Jesus back to those that see me daily, but I am becoming increasingly aware that we all have strength somewhere deep inside of us, experiences that force us to fall down in despair and cry out for the One who hears us and can turn our pain into beauty.

I am grateful that out of sin, pride, grief and despair beauty can be born.

"To appoint to them that mourn in Zion, to give to them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified." - Isaiah 61:3

Sunday, January 19, 2014


Many - if not all of you - know that I was a single mom for 10 years.

For the majority of those 10 years continuing into the last 3, I received little to no financial support from Logan's father.  He owes thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars and no one holds him responsible.

This used to make me really, really angry.  Like punch a hole in the wall (or wishing I could) kind of angry.  The kind of rage and anger that builds up inside and makes you feel like you could be physically violent towards someone.  Seriously.  I'm the least violent person on the planet, but knowing that my son's father didn't feel it necessary to help me out much made me feel VERY angry.

I let this anger fester and build for a long time, honestly.  As every month passed, and nothing changed, that anger grew.  It made me question a lot of people, a lot of things, even God.  It wasn't FAIR.  As a parent with full custody, if I decided to stop investing money for my child's wellbeing - for food, for clothing, for daycare while I worked - DSS would be at my doorstep hauling him off to foster care.  How come his own father wasn't being held to a similar standard?

I wasn't wrong in wanting there to be two parents who cared equally for their child.  In a perfect world, two parents would both contribute equally to the child's well being, financially and otherwise.  The problem came when I let it fester and get to the point where it bubbled under the surface all day, every day.  That anger was always there.  It affected a lot of what I did, what decisions I made, what actions I took.  Although I was extremely careful never, ever to say anything negative in front of or to Logan about the situation, I acted like a child in other areas of my life.  I wasn't doing it intentionally, but in many ways I was seeking revenge. I wanted SOMEONE to pay.

There was a point in my life where I worked a full time job and a part time job.  I would work 8-5 and then head to a bar where I waited tables until about 3am.  I would get home with just enough time to scarf food and fall asleep for 4 hours before getting up and doing it all over again.  I rarely saw my son.  I was barely keeping my head above water.  And while I was struggling, working my butt off to provide the bare necessities, Logan's father was taking vacations to Mexico with his girlfriend.

I am not even kidding, people.  I wish I were.

But that's not the point of this post.

I woke up one morning and realized I had to let it go.

And I know that it isn't this easy for everyone, but I honestly did just that.  I LET IT GO.  I decided right then and there that HIS crappy actions were not going to affect my life negatively for one more second.  Was it fair?  Hell no.  But this was where my life was at, it was the card I'd been handed, and it was time to stop walking around like a big ball of anger at someone who wasn't the least bit affected by my anger.  He didn't know how angry I was, and if he ever started to realize it, he sure didn't care.  So who was the anger affecting?

Just me.

That saying about 'holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die...' - that was true in my life.  I was walking around, this big ball of anger and it was affecting no one but me.

So I let it go.  That was probably 5 years ago.  The only child support I've received since then was one payment from a tax garnishment.  It wasn't a voluntary payment, it was a forced one.  And it was JUST ONCE.  But I'm not angry.  In fact, I still go out of my way to ensure that Logan spends time with his Dad several times a year, sometimes on our dime.

I changed my mentality.  I decided to not expect anything from someone who clearly didn't care to give me anything, even though Logan and I both deserved help.  I decided that *if* I ever saw a check in my mailbox, it would be an added bonus, some sweet relief that month that I wasn't expecting.

Changing my perspective changed my life.  It sounds dramatic, but I'm serious.  I felt a weight lift off my shoulders.  I felt happier.  I still had to work hard to provide for my son, but it was easier to do it without the anger hovering above me all the time.

Some might say I've let myself become a doormat in this situation.  And truthfully, I probably have.  Legally and morally, a father SHOULD provide for his child.  But for me to invest the time, energy and money into pursuing it - for me it wasn't worth it.  I am happier now that I'm not wrapped up in the drama of being angry, of wanting justice, of being judgmental.

I let myself hit almost rock bottom in my personal life before I realized how much holding on to the anger was affecting me.  When I said goodbye to that anger, it was like opening up every door and window in a house for the first time.  Fresh air and sunshine flooded in.

That's not to say that life has been smooth sailing since then.  It's not to say that it hasn't been difficult and that at times, I haven't wished for a check to show up every month.  And, just recently I decided it was time to pursue child support again.  But it's not from anger or because I want to seek justice.  I know in my heart probably nothing will change, and I probably won't see any money in my mailbox.

And I'm ok with that.

I learned a lesson when I let go of the anger.  I learned to let God be the judge.  I learned Grace.  I learned that above all, people WILL disappoint you.  They will mistreat you, they will be unfair to you.  At some point, someone or SOMEONES will do this to you.  And I learned how to forgive, how to move forward and how not to let someone else's actions consume me.

I'm a happier person for it.
Wednesday, January 1, 2014



I LOVE New Years Eve.  It has become one of my very favorite holidays - I just love the significance of closing the door on one chapter and opening the door to another.

I saw all these resolution bashing posts on Facebook yesterday, and I get it - I do.  No one wants to be set up for failure.


I happen to love the concept of starting with a clean slate, with fresh eyes, with new hope.  I love the feeling of the restart that comes with the morning of January 1.  Sure, maybe you'll make resolutions and fail.  Maybe you'll fail a little, maybe you'll fail a LOT.


Maybe you won't.  Maybe you'll succeed.  Maybe things will turn out bigger, better and brighter than you imagined.

When the New Year begins, I always think about goals or things I want to focus on for the year.  I'm not as specific as 'lose x amount of pounds' or 'go to the gym 37 times a week' - but I love sitting down for a few quiet moments, coffee in hand and daydreaming about the possibilities for the upcoming year.


Hope is my word for 2014.  Last year, I chose intentional - to make intentional friendships, to get all in.  In some ways I succeeded, in other ways I failed.

That's ok.  2013 kicked my you know what.  I feel like I clawed my way through 2013 thrashing and fighting but hey...I made it.  And I woke up this morning feeling full of HOPE for 2014.

Hope for...
Seeing my boys continue to grow and mature.

Hope for...
My marriage continuing to get stronger and stronger.

Hope for...
Friendships, both new and old.

Hope for...
God shaping me and using me in new, exciting and hopefully challenging ways.

Hope for...

Hope for...
Losing the rest of my baby weight!

Hope for...
Hope Spoken, a women's conference in Dallas, Texas that I am BEYOND excited to attend in March.

Hope for...
Dreams fulfilled.  Dreams I have and dreams I haven't even dared to dream yet.

The beginning of the year is like opening up a brand new notebook, journal or empty blog post screen with just a cursor blinking.  Most of the time you have no idea what the finished product will be until you start writing or typing.  And a new year holds a blank slate until you start living and moving and loving people.

My resolution this year is to be filled with hope.  If 2014 is anything like the last few years, it'll knock me down a few notches but I'll scratch my way back up to the surface.  And I'll make sure that this year, I stay hopeful.  This is a verse that brought me comfort in the last few months of 2013 and I'm going to make it my mantra for this year.

"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." ~2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Happy New Year friends.  May your year be filled with beauty, grace, hope and love.

And Happy Birthday to my firstborn.  He turns 13 today.  I'm so blessed to get to spend my days with such a kind, generous, thoughtful and loving young man.

What is your word for 2014?