Dear Emmy…

For the past couple of weeks, I have been in full nesting mode. At least, to the extent my “almost due” body has allowed (someone actually used that phrase to describe my ever-impressive physique recently…I just thought to myself…you should have seen 36 weeks with twins!)

In the midst of cleaning out bathroom cabinets, sorting through no-longer-worn clothes and organizing e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g I could get my hands on, I allowed myself to slow down for a couple of hours to sort through one tub in particular. Yours.

It’s hard to wrap my brain around, even now. How can your beautiful, precious, meaningful life be summed up by the contents of one large plastic tub?

It hadn’t been opened it since we moved to Kansas…almost three years ago. Everything kind of got stuffed in there to “deal with later” because the loss was still too fresh. Now, with some time and distance between my heart and that day, I was able look at things from a new perspective.

There were some things I actually took out – realizing their irrelevance. Things from who exactly I couldn’t remember and that you never actually used. Inanimate objects that once held great value had lost their power over my heart. And that felt good.

Other things, however, still made my soul ache. Like the pair of boots that matched your sisters that we used in our pregnancy announcement photos. And the little outfit your daddy and I picked out in Chicago that you didn’t get to come home in. And the book we read to you and Lexi after all the tubes and monitors had been unhooked, and we we free to just be a family of four for a brief moment.

The hardest thing to look through, though, was a box. I didn’t even remember what was in it at first, and when I took the top off, I didn’t realize the floodgates I was opening. Cards and letters from friends and family and some people I didn’t even know. Words of sorrow and grief and hope and love. Prayers that poured in over us. I read each and every one, sobbing at such raw reminders of our loss.

I needed that time, though. Time alone with you. Time before our next baby girl comes into this world to remember my baby girl in heaven. Time to re-grieve the immense hole your death has left in my heart that will never be filled, no matter how many babies fill our home.

What I realized through this time – through my lack of connection to much of the physical “stuff” but deep emotional ties to the words written by those who love us – is that your memory isn’t defined by a tub full of things at all. It lives on in how you changed our lives. In how you changed the lives of so many who never even met you. You changed lives, Emmy girl, and your memory lives on through that. 

Each night before I lay down, I go into the room you should be sharing with Lexi. The room she will soon share with her baby sister. And I tell each of you goodnight and that I love you. Because just like the little girl who is sleeping in the bed and the baby who is growing inside of me – you, my angel, very much still live here. In us, you live.

Miss you most baby girl,

Mama

Dear Lexi Rae…

Oh, sweet girl. There is so much I want to say to you…

I’m not quite sure where the last 39 weeks have gone. It’s hard to believe that in the next week(ish) we will be bringing home your baby sister. Although she is already a part of our family, her physical presence will bring a whole new meaning to our lives.

When we found out right before Christmas that we’d be adding to our family, I thought we had all the time in the world…for just…everything. I should have known better.

Photo by the incredibly talented Autumn Shoemaker of we chase the light.

Time has a way of doing that – slipping right through our hands. I can honestly say, of all the emotions I WAS prepared for this pregnancy, the way I’m feeling about the impending changes to my relationship with you have totally caught me off guard. In so many ways, I’m just not ready.

A few weeks ago, I posted this:

Honestly, I have continued to fight these feelings of anxiety, guilt and fear with each passing day.  One night this week, it completely overwhelmed me. I laid on the couch, absolutely exhausted, needing just a few minutes to myself. But as I listened to you and your daddy playing outside, my heart was breaking – torn between my physical and mental need for a break and my primal desire to not waste one second of time with you.

These emotions are uncharted territory for your mama’s heart. I have trudged slowly but steadily through the grief of seeing you separated from Emmy, and somewhat learned how to handle those complex feelings. But this – I am still learning. So as we move into this new space as a family, I want you to know a few things…

I want you to know that I love you. Like, to the depths of my soul and deepest corners of my heart kind of love. It’s a love you will not understand until you become a mother. And then, it will suddenly all make sense.

I want you to know that things are going to change. A lot. And parts of that change will be so, so hard – for both of us. But it will also be beautiful and exciting, and while we will remember parts of our lives before this baby, we will never want to go back.

I want you to know that I will mess up. In so many ways as a mama, I will fall short – for both you and your sister. I will give in when I shouldn’t because it’s easier than the alternative. I will lose my temper with you because the exhaustion will have ahold of my brain. And I will fail to show up in ways I know I should because at times, there will just not be enough of me to go around. But I promise you this, sweet girl – I will do my very best. Every day I will wake up and love you and your sisters and your daddy with everything I have. Just know that some days, it might feel like it wasn’t enough.

Finally, I want you to know that your sisters will be among your greatest blessings. I am deeply sorry you have to navigate your life without Emmy by your side – that your heart will forever know the ache of that missing piece. But just because she is not here physically does not mean she is not with you – now and always. As for the baby sister you’re about to meet, you can bet she will drive you absolutely crazy. She will take your toys and someday your clothes and on many days your sanity. But, when it really counts – in life’s best and worst moments – the two of you all three of you will have each other. 

I am so proud and grateful and humbled that God chose me to be you mama. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would have the three most incredible daughters. But HIS plans for me were are so much better than my own.

Love you most sweet girl,

Your Mama

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

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