The First Cup

The past few weeks (or months) have been particularly…challenging. We’ve entered into a very vulnerable season in our marriage…and in our family as a whole. We’ve chosen to face issues that would have been easier to ignore. We’ve wrestled with old demons and new guilt. We’ve had to choose – daily – between our selfish desires and sacrificial love. And sacrificial love, when you are already running on empty, is a difficult thing to choose.

I say all of this as a preface to “the thing” I really want to talk about. The thing that, I believe, has transformed not just our marriage but who we are and how we’re living our lives as a whole. We’ve started giving our first to God.

For me – it’s my first cup of coffee. When my feet hit the floor each morning, I head out to our back porch with my cup. As it is emptied, I am filled. Whether it’s listening to songs of worship, praying intentionally, or just allowing myself to be with God – He gets me before I let any of life’s chaos in for the day. This seemingly minor shift in my daily routine has been truly transformative. When I start my day being filled by Him, there is more of me to give to others – including my husband. I’ve heard many times over “you can’t pour from an empty cup” and I am seeing this daily in the most powerful ways.

My husband, who graciously preps the coffee and sets the alarm for us each night, has chosen a different route. He spends the first half hour or so of his day on a walk with our dogs and his thoughts – giving God his first mile. He sets off before the sun comes up on a path behind our house we call the dirt road. It is one of our family’s most sacred places to be together, and for him, it now holds even greater meaning and purpose. It’s where he has the space to just be before giving to everyone else who needs a piece of him throughout the day.

 

When the alarm goes off (much earlier than it used to) we say our “good mornings” and head our separate ways. We both know – for the sake of ourselves and one another – that we need to be filled up before we can pour out. So before I get him or he gets me, God gets us both.

This small step has been the catalyst for us changing the trajectory of our marriage. We are all soooo busy, right? It’s society’s badge of honor. But it’s bogus. Yes – our lives are full. We both have full-time jobs, we have the show barn full of pigs, families that count on us (ahem, Kade) to help feed/prep for shows that now go on year-round, the daily grind to upkeep a farm, a toddler we’re constantly trying to keep up with…oh yes, and I am 38+ weeks pregnant so there’s the physical and emotional prep for a new baby as well. So then, when are we supposed to find the time for our relationship with each other and with God?! Unfortunately, for far too long, we were letting the latter two slip. Because there just wasn’t time. We bought into the lie that we were too busy. There were too many things that needed done. Too many people we still hadn’t gotten to that day. What we didn’t realize was the two things getting the least effort and attention were the fundamentals….the foundation for everything else in our lives. Our foundation was cracking…and the rest was starting to crumble with it.

So we tried something new. And it is changing everything.

The first cup, the first mile, or the first five as you drive – what this time “looks like” is far less important than how It feels and what it does for your soul. Maybe you do something like this already – I’d love to hear about it! Maybe you’re reading this desperate for a solution to your own struggles – I hope you give this a try. Wherever you are, I pray for you the gift of Romans 15:13:

”May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

With Grace,

Jen

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