Washed By The Water

Yesterday was a kind of big deal day…

After many months of consideration on his part (and many years of prayer on mine), my sweet husband decided to publicly declare his love for and commitment to Jesus through water baptism.

I’ve prayed over this decision for him the entirely of our marriage. Early on, there were a couple of things I knew for sure – I so desperately wanted my husband to get to this place in his faith, but I also wanted him to get here by his own free will (read as, not deciding to get baptized because I wanted him to and it would make me happy).

Watching the man I love walk to this place of submission to the Lord has been one of the most humbling experiences of my life. I am beyond words proud of him. I am eternally grateful for his strength (and my patience) to let the story unfold exactly as God had it written. After all, He is the perfect author of life.

As our motorcycle riding, cowboy boot wearing preacher said – there is nothing magic in the water. There will be peaks and valleys in his faith (and mine) over the course of our lives and our marriage. Yesterday was definitely a peak. But even when the storm comes, we are washed by the water – and the blood of Jesus Christ.

 

With Grace,

Jen

To the Woman in Waiting

To the woman in the waiting room….

As I take my seat across from you — now in my 7th month of a (relatively) routine, healthy pregnancy — I want you to know that I see you there. Right where you are.

I see you smack dab in the middle of the hardest season of waiting you could ever imagine. One you didn’t expect. One you’re still unsure how to navigate. One that’s testing you…your marriage…your faith.

I see you bargaining with God, offering up anything everything you can think of for one small piece of good news. One step in the right direction. One positive test. Praying that this time He will not only hear you, but that He will respond to your cries.

I see you pressing back the tears because there is literally no worse place to be waiting than the one place that all of the pregnant people seem to be gathered. Did they all plan to come on the same day, or is it just that everyone but you is pregnant?!

Seriously. They should have a back entrance for this kind of thing. Our kind of thing.

I see you. And when I see you, I see myself.

And I want you to know, I don’t just see you from the outside, like a spectator. I actually see you. And I feel your heart.  And I know your soul. Maybe not all of it, but at least a small piece. Because we are sisters in this battle. You just can’t see it right now beyond my now bulging belly.

I know the knot in your stomach as you walk through the doors and go to check in, knowing you’ll have to sign off (again) that you are aware — so freaking aware — that today’s appointment/test/medication/procedure is not covered by insurance. Because treatment for infertility is apparently “elective” …although, becoming a mother doesn’t feel elective. It feels essential. Like without it, it’s hard to even exist. At least at full capacity.

I know the feeling of the heat rising into your cheeks, hoping no one around you knows what you’re signing or why you’re here (again). Hoping you don’t run into anyone you know. You don’t know whether to be angry at God, yourself, the sweet girl checking you in, or every pregnant woman in the universe. But the anger is there, none the less.

I know the hurt in your heart each time yet another pregnant woman walks through the doors. And then the guilt that accompanies that hurt because it can be so. dang. hard. to be happy for those women. Those strangers. When you look at them, you see everything you want but don’t have. Everything you’re praying for. Everything you’re fighting for. And you might assume that for them…it came easy. You probably assumed that when you looked at me today. And for that, I am sorry.

I know the ache in your soul. The ache that only grows with each passing day…each missed cycle. Whether you’re hoping for your very first baby, or your fifth…the ache is there.

I know this place of waiting feels lonely…and I don’t just mean this room. It is isolating and heartbreaking and suffocating. But please, don’t lose yourself here – in the waiting. Because I promise you, in one way or another, the wait will end.

And maybe right now you want to fly this thing solo, or with your husband and family –and that’s ok. But I want you to know in the meantime, there is an entire tribe of women standing by ready to go to battle for your soul and your sanity. No one understands this journey better than the ones who have walked it before you…or are walking it with you.

I know the baby bump you see when you look at me can be blinding, but I beg you – don’t let it be the only thing you see. Because there is much, much more to my story. Just like there will be much, much more to yours.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

With Grace,

A Mama Who’s Been There

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Broken Body, Brave Soul

At the very moment I am writing this, three years ago, my baby’s heart stopped beating. I had the great privilege of holding her in my arms as she was set free from her broken body – leaving me with a piece of her brave soul.

This day is hard. It will never pass without a recognition of her absence in our lives. The ache in my heart for that girl will be a part of me until the day I hold her in heaven. Like my brown eyes and my stubborn spirit, it is now just a part of who I am.

But Emmy’s story is made up of so much more than sadness and pain. Woven into even the most difficult moments are feelings of hope and joy and peace. The death of a child will change you forever. But it is up to you how.

There have absolutely been moments of emotional turmoil and relational tensions and heartache that seemed to heavy to carry. But we have learned how to cope. How to dig deeper into our faith than I ever thought possible. How to lean in to the discomfort and look in to realize what we do have right in front of us.

It has lead to the sweetest family traditions. And an astonishing understanding of life and loss and heaven in a little girl who truly knows and deeply loves a sister she cannot see. The things about her sister and about heaven that come out of that girl’s mouth are inconceivable for a three-year-old. Some day, when I’m brave enough, I will share.

For now, I’ll just share these. Our day celebrating Emmy…

Helping dad dig the hole for Emmy’s new tree!

“Stamping” the bottom of the hole with dad before the tree went in.

Emmy’s original tree, a Spring Snow Crabapple, is on the right. It was planted with our extended family at her 1 year memorial ceremony. The tree on the left is the one we planted today. Lexi wanted a tree for her sister that would get purple blooms in the spring, so we went with the Oklahoma Redbud. Can’t wait to see them both blooming next year!

Talks about sissy. They happen on a regular basis, but especially on the day we celebrate her going to heaven.

Sending sissy messages to heaven on balloons. This year Lexi also decided to send her a sucker (it took three balloons to make sure it would actually float!)

SaveSave

Best.Day.Ever.

Today was one of those days. A hashtag worthy day. Truly, it will go down in my mommy memory bank as one of the #bestdaysever.

My heart felt light (albeit slightly sad, in a very resonant way), our family felt in sync, and we stepped away from all of the life junk to celebrate our beautiful little girl’s 3rd year on earth. And when I say beautiful, I don’t speak of her physical attributes (although according to statistics…she won the genetic lottery). What I mean is her bold spirit, her courageous heart and her kind soul. She is truly a beautiful little human. And today, my heart almost couldn’t handle the fact that God made me her mama.

We don’t really “spoil” on birthdays, holidays or special occasions. We lean more toward practical gifts than extravagant ones, and appreciate that a bag of suckers will get our girl just as excited as an expensive toy. But today…on her last birthday as the only child under our roof…we made it all about her.

We hit the mall to look at the fountains and ride the carousel.

Right now it’s the closest thing she has to a horse, so she’ll take it!

Yes, she tried to jump in. Yes, her daddy stopped her.

We stopped at our favorite donut shop in the world (sorry, Chicago) where we sang, colored and let her play the piano.

This is a major life decision when you’re three…

When she woke up this morning, she asked where her cake was. When she figured out we were going out for donuts instead, this is the grin we got.

Dominating her Blueberry Opal!

We let her pick out another tree for Emmy’s Place because she declared this spring that she wanted her sister to have a tree that bloomed purple (we will plant it tomorrow).

She picked the Oklahoma Redbud. Can’t wait to see it bloom next spring!!

All three of my girls. One in heaven, one in my arms and one on the way!

She got to eat all she wanted at the Pizza Hut buffet for lunch.

You would think we hadn’t had donuts just an hour before…

And then devoured all of the watermelon she could handle on the back porch after nap (if you know her Uncle Dale at all, you know this particular trait proves that she’s a Hummel).

We’re still working on our snack manners…like, we don’t put our fork on our feet.

Her Uncle Dale would be so proud.

And we ended the day with one of our very favorite things…a walk on the dirt road. And I don’t mean a 5 minute summer stroll. When we go out on the dirt road…we mean it. I don’t know the distance we go, but we are usually out close to an hour. Wondering, picking flowers, playing in the dirt and watching the dogs swim in the pond.

Her daddy said, “I hope she walks the dirt road like this her whole life.” All the feels.

“I’m digging up rocks. Aunt Susie taught me to do this.”

Hitching a ride. Didn’t last long.

I did not want this day to end. Honestly, I don’t want this season to end. But I know it will, and I know I will love the next season just as much and for just as many reasons. But right now, tonight…I want to freeze these moments and live in them just a little bit longer.

Love you most, Lexi Rae. Happy 3rd birthday!

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Why We *Heart* Chicago

This time last week, we were en route to the city that will always hold a piece of our hearts. For me – if Emmy “is” anywhere this side of heaven – it’s Chicago. And of all the things that little girl brought into our family, the tradition of this trip has to be one of my favorites.

For me, Chicago feels strangely like home. It’s where we spent weeks planning for and protecting the two little lives God had entrusted us with. It’s where we watched those two little lives come into this world, one of them only for a day . It’s the only place on earth we were ever physically a family of four.  For us, it’s a place that holds the very best and the very worst life has to offer – but each year that we make this trip, we’re adding to the “very best” category. And that feels so good.

I’m not sure why I’ve never written about these trips before – if for nothing else at least as a way to look back. So now, I’m packaging three years into one.

On each trip we try to do something new, with our adventures based loosely off the book Max Explores Chicago that we bought (and started) while we were “living” there. But, we also have our traditions within the tradition…our mainstay stops…the ones that are gut wrenching and soul shaking, but also peace providing. The people and the places and the things that take us back to the way we were before we were broken in this way – before we knew life as bereaved parents.

We always visit the hospital where the girls were born and Lurie Children’s Hospital where Emmy lived the duration of her short life under the most incredible medical care we could have hoped for. There is something about just being in that place that makes me feel so close to her. It could just be the memories. It could be my imagination. Or it could be a God thing. Whatever it is…she’s there.

Lurie Children's Hospital 2016

Lurie Children’s Hospital 2016

Lurie Children's Hospital 2017

Lurie Children’s Hospital 2017

Lurie Children's Hospital 2018

Lurie Children’s Hospital 2018

Lurie Children's Hospital - Aquarium 2017

Lurie Children’s Hospital – Aquarium 2017

Lurie Children's Hospital - Aquarium 2018

Lurie Children’s Hospital – Aquarium 2018

And of course, right around the corner from the hospital is our favorite donut shop, Stan’s (Chicago was really into the donut thing when we were there)

Stan's Donuts 2016

Stan’s Donuts 2016

Stan's Donuts 2017

Stan’s Donuts 2017

Stan's Donuts 2018

Stan’s Donuts 2018

Nom, Nom, Nom

Nom, Nom, Nom

We typically try to hit a Cubs game, because that’s something we did with the girls (and it may be the only thing that keeps daddy tagging along)

Cubs Game 2016

Cubs Game 2016

Cubs Game 2018 (BOB)

Cubs Game 2018 (Oh hey there, BOB!)

And there is always, always time set aside for a visit with our favorite neonatologist on earth, Dr. Meghan. My attachment to her my seem unusual, as she was the first doctor too look me in the eyes and tell me the likelihood of “Baby A” surviving was slim to none. Up to that point, it was like no one had been brave enough to say it out loud. It broke me. But in some ways, I needed to be broken. She encouraged us to start thinking about the best thing for “Baby B” as not to jeopardize her wellbeing. But then she learned their names. And she heard our story. And as the days turned into weeks and we made it further into the pregnancy than anyone thought we would, she and her team began fighting for both of our girls. They provided options and information and most of all – hope. And in the end, she carried the devastation of loosing Emmy right along with us. To this day, she shows love and compassion to both of our girls and has become so much more than just a doctor.

Visiting Dr. Meghan 2016

Starbucks with Dr. Meghan 2016

Playing with Dr. Meghan 2018

Playing in the park with Dr. Meghan 2018

A daddy/daughter snapshot always makes the “best of” list. On these trips I do tend to make some space for myself to just be alone and breathe. It’s what I need, but it also gives these two some unique opportunities to bond in ways they might not otherwise. It’s truly a win-win for us.

Lexi & Daddy Cubs Game 2016

Lexi & Daddy Cubs Game 2016

Lexi & Daddy Post-Cubs Game 2016

Lexi & Daddy Post-Cubs Game 2016

Lexi & Daddy Do-Rite Donuts 2017

Lexi & Daddy Do-Rite Donuts 2017

Lexi & Daddy Navy Pier 2017

Lexi & Daddy Navy Pier 2017

Lexi & Daddy Cubs Game 2018

Lexi & Daddy Cubs Game 2018

And of course, there is lots of family bonding time and some prime opportunities for family selfies, too…

Family at Cubs Game 2016

Cubs Game 2016

Family at the Navy Pier Centennial Wheel 2017

Navy Pier Centennial Wheel 2017 (clearly Lexi is impressed…)

Family at Gino's East (favorite Pizza in Chicago) 2018

Gino’s East 2018 (Favorite Pizza in Chicago!)

And our trip always ends in the same same way (in the best way) with everyone exhausted, but our family cup overflowing until we can do it all again in the next year…

Snoozing on the way to the airport 2016

Snoozing on the way to the airport 2016

Snoozing on the way to the airport 2017

Snoozing on the way to the airport 2017

(You will just have to trust me that this was her exact position on the way to the airport this year as well…I am literally kicking myself for not snapping that shot!)

So, as they say…This Is Us. It’s us allowing ourselves to experience and re-experience the best and worst parts of our story. It’s us allowing ourselves the grace and the space away from everyday life to remember. It’s just…us.

Thanks for continuing to give me grace in sharing our story, as I continue learning how to give that grace back…

Jen

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave