Wednesday, December 30, 2015

My One Goal For 2016

Here we are at the end of another year. My what a year it has been. And if I had to rank all of my years on a scale of easy to hard well 2015 would most definitely be the hardest. Without a doubt. I think Brandon would agree. In fact, I know he would agree. More tears have been shed this year than in all our years of marriage combined.

January 2015 started off blissfully. I was pregnant with our third child and while we were anxious about how we would juggle three kids age three and under, we were overwhelmed with gratitude and joy. I would joke to friends about how the girl that was once "not able to get pregnant" was now "not able to not get pregnant," as this was our second spontaneous pregnancy since having Clara.

And then April 1st rolled around and what was supposed to be a day of celebration turned into a day of mourning. Our sweet baby had died in utero. I remember leaving that appointment with my head hung low, not knowing what to do next. We walked to the car sobbing and I just keep repeating to Brandon "What am I supposed to do right now?" I was 20 weeks, too far along for a D&C. I would have to deliver my dead baby. What a cruel April Fools' Day joke. Except it was no joke at all. It was our reality.

We were admitted to the hospital two days later and our little boy was born sleeping on April 4, 2015.   Tiny, but perfect. We celebrated his life the following Tuesday with the most appropriate graveside service. I have had countless attendees mention to me that Chance's service gave them hope and comfort and a sense of peace for their own loss, regardless of what type. It is so refreshing to know that Chance's service was about more than just our family and his short little life.

I have used this space to think aloud and process and write and grieve and heal. To anyone still reading, thank you for your gentleness and patience with me these last nine months.

And while 2015 goes down as a year I don't want to repeat, an abundance of fruit was born from our loss, fruit that I would be foolish not to push forward into the New Year. 

Peace. Heaven. A better understanding of how to minister to others in their sadness. Jesus. A stronger marriage than I could have ever known. Hope. A keen awareness of the Holy Spirit. Embracing the mess. Utter gratitude for life. Stillness. A reshaping of priorities. A renewed joy. A deeper faith. An amazing awareness of how light pierces darkness. A slowing down. A daily surrender to the One whose plans, while seemingly devastating, are far greater than my own.

So while I don't have any grand vision boards or bullet pointed list of resolutions to share with you as we say farewell to 2015 and welcome 2016, I do have one main agenda.

To keep Chance's purpose close to heart, and to keep pushing forward his fruit.

To family. To friends. To strangers. To myself. And this can play out in many forms - person to person encouragement, being present when it's not convenient, writing that note or making that phone call, writing here in this space, or elsewhere, as I feel the Lord's nudging.

I want to say yes to keeping my boy's memory alive. I want to keep paying it forward. I want our pain to produce a purpose.

So 2016, I walk into you with open arms.

It's time for the harvest. 

Leviticus 26:4-5 Then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. Your threshing shall last to the time of the grape harvest, and the grape harvest shall last to the time for sowing. And you shall eat your bread to the full and dwell in your land securely. 

(Previous posts related to Chance's life/death and our grief can be found here)

Friday, December 25, 2015

From Our Family to Yours

Merry Christmas!! We pray your day is filled with much laughter and love and lingering, as you still yourself to the true meaning and implication of December 25.

This common saying has never felt so real to our family, and we truly smile at the thought. 
Perfect way for Chance to be a part of our Christmas card this year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Our Very Own Angel Tree

A tradition in our house (ever since Brandon and I got married) is that every year, once the store displays switch to all things reindeers and twinkle lights, we pick a night to shop together and each select an ornament that represents that particular year. Once kids entered the scene, we passed the tradition down to them and they too get to pick out one ornament for the tree. Some selections are serious and some are more silly in nature, but each one holds meaning and represents "us" in one way or another. I will never forget the pink, sparkly tennis shoe we selected for Clara in 2014, the year she started walking.

After the year that we had, it was quite easy for me to decide what I wanted, what I needed, for our tree. I needed an another angel ornament. An angel ornament for our angel boy who is running the streets of heaven.

And one day while shopping with Brandon on a quick, unexpected weekend away, we passed a unique Christmas store and I found my little guy. My little boy with wings.

Tiny, but perfect. Just like Chance.

And then, one day last week, I got the most unexpected package that literally took my breath away. A dear friend saw this mother and child ornament titled "Angels Embrace," and gifted it to me, to our family, as a visual reminder to "hold close that which we hold dear." I pulled it out of the package and, with a smile on my face, just wept. Sweet tears of love and sadness and hope and joy and thankfulness for this perfect, tangible reminder that the world has not forgotten our boy.

I will forever cherish this gift.

Our tree angels sit next to the angel ornament we selected to represent Clara's twin that we lost in 2011 (far right in picture below). And while I still have moments of wishing and wondering and questioning, this picture brings so much hope to my sometimes weary soul.

A hope that one day I will be reunited with my angel babies and all things will be made new. And until that day I will keep trusting in the One has more love for me and my babies than I can ever truly fathom or understand.

Isaiah 43:19 See, I am doing a new thing! It springs up now; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Weekend Links 12/18/15

One week until Christmas! For once we are ahead of the game . . . shopping is done, cards going in the mail today, and stress level is low. I am not sure how this happened but it is wonderful. So excited to celebrate Christmas next week with our little family and the extended family.

A few links for your weekend reading. . .

Let It Be
Lessons from Anna
The Brutally Honest Christmas Card
6 Ways to Make Time for You During the Holidays

Special Needs
Best toys for kids with special needs
12 Tips for Hosts Entertaining Holiday Guests with Sensory Processing Challenges
What Christmas is like when your kid has special needs

Not-Expected Christmas
A Prayer for the People in Joy and in Grief

A few pictures from our week . . .

Sweet girl picked out the perfect gift for her sister's stocking. . . 

Feeding the ducks

Target Dollar Spot window stickers = hours of independent play. #winning
A huge thanks to my friend, Jenna, for the idea!

Make it a great weekend!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Redeeming Suffering

Several weeks after Chance's funeral a sweet friend from church stopped me when she spotted me across the church isle.

"I want you to know I have been praying for you. Specifically, I have been praying that God would reveal to you the purpose in Chance's life."

Reading a card from the sweet hospital nursing staff the day of Chance's birth. 

And with that one simple sentence, her prayer became my prayer, too. I had never thought to pray this prayer, but in that moment, it sounded so profound. And it sure sounded like a good way to to turn this tragedy back to truth.

So I would pray day after day after day, "God, please reveal to me the unique purpose in Chance's short life. Show me. Make it known the purpose in what currently feels like constant pain. Give some meaning to this, Father."

I was overwhelmed and somedays overtaken by the reality of our experience and I learned quickly that amidst all my racing thoughts, I also had to ask the Father to clear my mind, my head, in order to make space for His answer. This was so key in my ability to listen.

Sarah Young writes it Jesus Today "Your racing thoughts make it hard to hear My gentle whisper," and she pairs this thought with 1 Kings 19:12. . .

After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.

My earthquake had come. The fire had blazed. But now, the day my friend stopped me at church, I was sitting in the space, the aftermath of the storm, where I could choose to focus on the gentle whispers of the Father.

So I kept praying and searching and asking and listening.

And over time I heard His reply.


The purpose in Chance's short life and stillbirth and burial is the sweet reminder of the promise of Jesus. The promise of heaven. The promise that there is so much more to life than the day to day grind that so easily bogs down my heart and my head.

"When you think of Chance, may you always think of Me. When the world hears of Chance, may they always be reminded of Me."

Such a tender answer from a tender God.

Although I don't believe that God wanted Chance to die, I do believe that He allowed it to happen for His good and His glory. For His greater purposes. For the pointing back to His son.

And while this belief does not remove suffering or instantly heal the hurt, it does redeem it.


So my prayer for you this Christmas season, for those of you going through your own personal earthquake or blazing fire, is that you can find purpose in the pain. That you can clear your mind and still your heart to hear the Lord's sweet, gentle whispers. That you can look at your circumstance through eyes focused on the cross. And that the Lord will grant grace and peace by redeeming your suffering and covering it with meaning.

So to our Father we join hands and say. . . Enter our hurts, Lord. Redeem each and every one. Breathe fresh perspective into our hearts that are aching today. Instill hope where there is none. Permeate the calloused areas. Give us your gentle whispers. Break down walls that have been erected out of pride or bitterness or anger or utter saddness. Show us purpose. Point us to Jesus. Redeem our suffering.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Weekend Links 12/11/15

Just a few links on this beautiful but too hot for December Friday. . .

Be the Blessing
Gentle Whispers
When It's Okay to Say "No" to Good Things

And a little look back at Santa pictures from the last three years. I really can't wait to take the girls to see Santa this year. Any predictions on how the visit might go over??? Stay tuned. . . :)

Happy Weekend!

Thursday, December 10, 2015


It is really crazy to think that in a little over one month, my littlest babe will turn two years old. TWO YEARS! She is at such a fun age right now. And by fun I mean equally entertaining and exhausting. But in all seriousness, her language is exploding and it is so refreshing to watch her skills develop month after month. Typical child development is a beautiful thing and a blessing we most definitely do not take for granted.

In an attempt to remember some of her most precious sayings and habits at this age, here is a little bit about Camille. Or "Camille-isms" as some would say. . .

"Holds"  = What she says when she wants to be held.

"Waters"  = Water

"Peas" = Please

"Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiii" - Hi. Always drawn out and shouted in a super excited tone. A measly "hi" is just too boring apparently.

"A Pass"  = Her pacifier (of which she is addicted to I might add, but we won't even talk about that mmmmmkay?)

"E E" = Her favorite stuffed monkey . . . or any monkey for that matter. For some reason this is the only animal referenced by the noise they make.

"Bank it" = Blanket

"Ma" = What she calls me. Not mommy or mama just ma.

"Theese" = This

"App" = Apple

"Hands" = What she says when she grabs my hand to lead me into another room.

"Baby" - Several times she has referred to Clara as baby. :) I always reply with sometime along the lines of "Well Clara isn't a baby! She is older than you! But she is still learning, right?" To which Camille replies, "White!" 
Before you judge the picture above can you please just take a look at those two pieces of apple on her plate?? Apples cancel out Cheese-Its and Capri Sun, no?

She loves to dance, greet daddy at the end of the day, walk with daddy to check the mail (their little end of day ritual), slide, swing, climb, play dress up, color, jump on the trampoline, follow Clara around, hog ma's lap, jump on the bed, have races (with herself) up and down the hallway, play with baby dolls, play with real babies (with supervision of course), play dress up, "read" to herself, and "cook" with daddy. (So they made homemade mac and cheese in a kid size Ikea pot together last weekend. Yes, the child size stainless steel pot that goes with a child, aka pretend, size kitchen. Well ok then. It is a good thing daddy is fun and brave like that because ma would never attempt such things.)

Camille-isms are my favorite!

(Someone please remind me of this when this same child, come 4:30pm, is temporarily losing her sweet mind.)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Build Your House

I remember the moment like it was yesterday. There I stood, in the middle of a graveyard, heart pounding, head spinning, and literally with no words on my tongue. How did I get here? What am I doing here? Is this all really happening? These questions plastered on my pale face as we walked from plot to plot to plot, attempting to pick out the perfect resting spot for our son. Our son. Our son who was born still just two days prior, 20 weeks too early. How could this be? While my physical body was present, mentally I was far away.

Chance's casket at his funeral the following day

The Cemetery Director talked us through our options and Brandon would ocassionally turn and ask "What do you think, babe?" 

What do I think?

I think I wasn't prepared for this. . . that's what I think. I think this happened all too fast. I think I want to go back and freeze time to the moment our son was in my arms. That is what I think.

"I don't know babe," I would reply. "I can't even fathom making this decision. I feel like I'm going to burst. I have no idea. I trust you. Can you please just decide for us?" 

And in that moment of wanting to freeze time I heard very clearly the Lord hinting to me, "But you are prepared for this. Your faith in the One that does not change is what will pull you through. Your hope in life after death is what will keep moving you forward. You were prepared for this because you spent time tending your soil and building your house."

And it was in that moment I was reminded of the teachings in Matthew 7.  It is here Jesus encourages his followers to be wise and to build their house on rock, the one and only true, solid foundation, so that when the storms of life come, the house will not fall. Jesus compares a house built on rock to one built on sand. And we all know how well sand withstands a storm. Not well. When the winds pick up the sand is scattered and tossed and thrown with vengeance.




Sand cannot stand up to the trials this life throws our way. It was never indented to.

God did not create sand for the might task of house support.

Since losing Chance, the truth of Matthew 7 has become so real and alive to me. Here is what I am being reminded of and what keeps me moving forward, day after day, pursuing the Creator of the universe. Even on days when I don't feel like it.

When crisis hits, we don't have time to build our foundation.

The foundation must already be laid. We must put in the work upfront, so that when the dark clouds come rolling in, and they will, we will not be thrown under. We must invest daily in foundation work. Yes, we might be taken by surprise, but our foundation won't.

So how do we invest daily, to create this rock infrastructure that is described in Matthew 7?

Intentionality - This is what I have learned. . . I have to get to the place of making intentional choices, day after day after day. Spending time in the Word, reading it for what it is and asking God to help me understand the words on the page, is key. I cannot claim the promises of scripture, promises that hold me up when the storm comes, if I do not know them. Spending time in prayer is a second key component. Prayer builds on the scriptures truths. The act of prayer is intentional worship . . . Talking to Him, claiming His truths and thanking Him for His sovereignty, wresting through my struggles and areas of sin and pride. Prayer might feel odd at first, it did for me, but over time it becomes a more natural way of living. I want to practice worshiping Him through prayer in the good times so that this same worship naturally flows from my lips in the bad times. Intentionality might take some sacrifice of time or schedule or even sleep. Building with sand is a much easier option. But let's think of the tradeoff here. Am I trading rock for sand in my daily choices of making Christ an intentional part of my day?

Stillness - In our current generational mindset, being still is not a popular life choice. We are inundated with constant to do's and enough social media options to keep us constantly moving from one thing to the next to the next. Noise is not lacking in our generation and intentional stillness is not seen as a virtue but a character flaw. But what I have come to find true is that sometimes it is necessary to shut it all down. To rest before our Creator with hearts and hands wide open. To be completely still before the Lord and just sit and listen. To say "Ok I am here with no agenda and no 'please make this happen for me or my family' list and I am ready to receive what you have for me so please speak so that I can hear you." Learning to be still in the times of plenty helps us hear his voice so much more clearly when famine strikes. Stillness produces mental clarity. And we so need this mental clarity when walking through the graveyard of loss or financial crisis or family disappointment or medical diagnosis (or whatever your own personal storm might be).

We left the cemetery that day and while I still felt a sense of overwhelm, I knew the overwhelm would not overcome. And I knew I had a choice to make. . . I could choose to place my hope in my ever-changing emotions, or I could choose to place my hope in the rock of which our home was built.

Investing in foundation work is investing in faith and investing in faith is investing in the hope that will pull us through when the waves creep in and threaten to throw us overboard.


Be intentional.

Be still.

Build your house.

(To read the full story in Matthew 7, click here.)

Friday, December 4, 2015

Weekend Links 12/4/15

He Is Establishing Good Things
Fear Moms of Littles - Here's Your "Don't Have To Do Holiday List"
For the Days You Feel Defeated: Hope from Gideon's Story

Special Needs
8 Tips for Special Needs Holiday Toy Shopping
How To Draw Up a Special Needs Trust for a Child With Disabilities
Learning Differences and What Is Most Important

Grateful and Grieving - This author beautifully and perfectly describes the state of my heart. So, so good.  I copied a bit below. . .

Both are true. It’s not one or the other. Yes I’m still grieving because I love and miss my son with every molecule in my body, but that doesn’t mean I’m not also deeply thankful for my blessings. As bereaved parents we are forced to learn the art of holding infinite space for both/and– because this new life we didn’t ask for is now a heartbreaking juxtaposition of contradictions. Our hearts hold both the blessings and the trials, the joy and the pain, the white meat and the dark meat on the same blessed fork. We are grateful and we are grieving.

I took Camille to Toys R Us one day this week just to browse around and get some Christmas ideas for the nieces and nephews. She found this purple animal (I don't even know what this is supposed to be. . . any guesses?) and would. not. put. it. down. Then she asked to ride the horse on our way out and .5 seconds after me placing her on she became very concerned and decided she did not, in fact, want to ride. #toddlers 

Happy weekend! 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015 . . . "Island Style"

We spent four nights, four days on Galveston Island last week with Brandon's family to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. Brandon's family has been renting a beach house every Thanksgiving since he was about four years old. He has so many memories over the years of cousins playing together, fishing, and turkey eating. It is a good thing this has been his family tradition and not mine considering he can remember everything from his childhood and I can hardly remember details from a trip I took a month ago. WHAT HAS MOTHERHOOD DONE TO MY BRAIN?

Moving on. . .

The beach house getaway is a long standing tradition that is fun to continue as we now have children of our own. We always look forward to our Island Thanksgivings every other year. Lots of family. Lots of laughter. Lots of children going bananas. Lots of eating. And not a lot of sleeping (because toddlers). Oh, and I wish I could show you the video of the kids attempting the whip & nae nae on night one. I can't even handle it.

A few pictures of our time in Galveston. . .

Boat rides. . .

The littles kept leaning over the side skimming the water with their nets. . . Insert nervous face here.

This one fell in love with boat riding and anytime she walked by the boat all weekend she would ask in a very loud and energetic voice, "RIDE??? RIDE??? PLEASE!!"

"Mom, you and my lifejacket are squishing my face. . . "

Cutie cousin, Eli . . .

Speaking of nervous face, Camille kept wanting to walk around the front of the boat. You are not even two years old child can you please SIT DOWN while the boat is in motion???

Lots of hammock lounging. . .

Turkey gingerbread house making. . . 

Sweet sisters just hanging out. . . 

Fishing. . .

Josiah caught a crab. . . I think the look on my face conveys "This is so cool, Jo, but also kind of nasty."

And because a crab was caught, Uncle B had the idea to make crab cakes. . . farm to table right here folks. . .

And in between all the boating and fishing and crab cake making, there was a lot of just enjoying. . .

Clara getting her trail mix on. . .

Was a fun few island days, indeed! Oh, and then we came home to this scene. . . My parents are so hilarious and set this yard art up in our yard while we were away (from my childhood that they were so generously passing on to my kids or that they were just wanting to get out of their attic. . . one of the two). Camille is still a little unsure of the whole thing. . .

Another Island Thanksgiving in the books!

Post from Galveston Thanksgiving 2013
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