Dear Emmy,

Yesterday afternoon, I posted this picture for the world to see:

I shared it because it filled my heart with joy. We were all at church, and as I looked down our row I thought to myself, “We are so abundantly blessed.” Papa was holding Lexi, your daddy was holding KK, Auntie was holding Lakyn and the older girls were proudly performing every song the worship team played.  My heart was truly overflowing. I was so, unbelievably happy.

Later in the day, I was feeding Lakyn while listening to the older girls playing downstairs. Sister fell asleep in my arms, and instead of laying her down, I decided to just pause and enjoy the moment. But in the stillness and solitude, the sadness washed over me….

That picture should have six little girls in it.

And just like that my joyful, happy heart was shattered.

We should have needed on more seat when we sat down at church.

 Nana should have had one more little girl shaking sprinkles on the Christmas cookies.

 There should have been five sleeping bags on the floor at bedtime.

 There should be presents under the tree with your name on them.

 When people look at our crew and say, “That sure is a lot of little girls!” …what they don’t know is there is another one missing.

 3 Gillespie girls. 3 Hummel girls. Even playing field.

There should be six.

Sometimes A lot of times, grief hits me this way – in the happiest moments. Probably because it’s those moments I most feel your absence. I feel the hole that is left in our family with you not here, and I wonder if anyone else feels it, too.

Tonight, as we have every Christmas Eve since you died, we will light a candle in the center of the table that will burn in your memory. Your stocking will hang in its spot above the fireplace. A crystal angel that your Papa gave me our first Christmas without you will sparkle with the lights on the tree.

We do our best, sweet girl, to make you a part of who we are as a family. We are a family of 5. A family of 12. Without you…we are not full us.

On these days, I feel your absence in the depths of my soul. My heart aches for you. But when the sadness threatens to consume me, I remember how lucky I am that you were mine at all. I remind myself that God knit you together perfectly and wrote your story flawlessly. And even though you are not here, He is still writing.

He is the master author of each of our lives, and in the final chapter there is a common thread: death. But that is not the end. Because on the first Christmas, He gave the world a baby. A baby born humbly, who grew into a faultless man – God’s son, who died so the rest of us might live. So that even if when someone we love goes before us, we can hold to the hope of a heavenly reunion.

This Christmas, while I wish you were here to decorate cookies, sing in church, unwrap presents, and add one more little girl to our family photos, I will remember that God is uniquely using your story to write mine. That He gave you life with a plan and purpose – just like His own son. God gave His son’s life so that you and I would not be separated by death. And in the waiting, I never want to lose sight of that promise.

So for now, know that I miss you. And when I look at that photo, I know there are six little girls in our family. And one day, we will all be together again.

Miss you most,

Your Mama

One month.

One month. 30 days. 720 hours. 43,200 minutes.

One trip to the ER. Two trips to the doctor’s office. Three visits with a lactation consultant.

20+ hours of doula services that have saved mama’s sanity.

Over 5,000 minutes of nursing (but really, who’s counting…) Seven days (that felt like a decade) using a supplemental nursing system. 120 ounces of milk pumped and frozen.

One church service wrapped in a blanket because of an en route blowout. Mama didn’t pack extra clothes. #rookiemistake

Number of diapers…don’t really want to know.

One case of HF&M for big sister. Followed by a respiratory virus, which led to a three-day / two-night hospital stay. Five total days and nights completely segregated as a family in the first two weeks.

One K-State football game (plus one tailgate) every weekend since birth. Because #futurewildcat.

Approximately 832 daily meltdowns. Because THREE girls under ONE roof.

An embarrassing number of decaf lattes for mama. Because they’re cheaper than therapy.

Long days. Short nights. Countless sweet newborn snuggles.

Sweet baby snuggles.

 

However you count it, we are 1/12 of the way through the first year. Just like that. 

Lakyn Lee Hummel, you are loved. Beyond measure.

This is Thirty-Two

Yesterday was a good day. Yesterday was a HARD day. Yesterday, I turned 32.

Yesterday — My sweet husband had to work, so I kissed him goodbye in a sleep-deprived stupor long before the sun came up. He got home just in time to jump in on the nightly bedtime routine and fall back into bed completely spent. I missed him. Not because it was my birthday, but because it was an ordinary day. And ordinary days are better with him by my side.

Yesterday — I spent the majority of the day at home alone caring for my 5-day-old baby (formal introduction coming soon). Which means all of the good things (like sleepy snuggles and afternoon snoozes) and all of the hard things (like an explosive baby blow-out all over the bed, which then meant the sheets needed washed).

Sweet baby snuggles.

Yesterday — I was essentially isolated from my older daughter (for the third day in a row) because she was diagnosed with hand, foot and mouth earlier in the week. Explaining to a 3-year-old why she can’t stay at home with her mommy and daddy or give her newborn sister hugs & kisses is nothing short of brutal. My heart hurt for her this week in ways I didn’t know it could.

Yesterday — I was separated from my family who is in town because…well…a 5-day-old baby and a toddler with HF&M. And, my poor parents who took the brunt of caring for said toddler came down with their own case of the ick. So…no birthday hugs for this girl.

Yesterday — I ached. Physically, mentally and emotionally ached. Everywhere. Partly childbirth recovery. Partly sleep deprivation. But mostly a hectic, stressful week that looked absolutely noting like I had imagined our first week home with baby would look.

But yesterday — it  was so good. Because all of these really hard things….they are rooted in good things. Really good things.

Coffee and diamonds.

Like my husband — who kissed me goodbye before the sun kissed the morning sky (after the kind of sleepless night you have with a newborn). Yes, he was gone on my birthday. On what would have been our very first Saturday at home together as a family. But…he is providing for our family with a career in an industry he loves. His passion provides his paycheck, and that’s pretty rare. Also…he made sure that I felt not only loved  on my birthday, but also known. I woke up to a fresh pot of coffee, the sweetest card and a beautiful ring — baby band #3. Did I mention the coffee? Because he knew this mama would need a whole lot of #coffeeandjesus to get through the day. That’s love.

And this newborn baby — whoa. I started my day, also before the sun came up, feeding her from my own body (which was then demanded of me again and again throughout the day). I answered every cry and met every need. I cleaned up poop and spit-up and spilled milk. Because I am her mother. And that is a miracle that’s not lost on me. And through tired eyes, I got to watch the night turn into day and then the day turn back into night with her snuggled soundly on my chest. Holymoly I am #blessed.

And my Lexi girl — she had a long, hard week. Probably the hardest of all of us. Monday she woke up and her baby sister came into this world and everything changed just like that. Add on the awful discomfort of hand, foot and mouth and several days that she couldn’t be around her mama and sister…it was enough to make any person break, let alone a 3-year-old. But she is tough. So, so tough. I saw her resilient spirit more clearly this week than I ever have before. And it made me exponentially proud to be her mama.

And then there’s my family — Y’all. There are not enough good words in the world to describe them. Last weekend they loved, supported and comforted me through three days of agonizing pre-labor. They were there to welcome our sweet girl into this world and handle all-of-the-things I couldn’t. And my parents pretty much earned their Sainthood taking care of Lexi full-time so we could keep everyone at home as healthy as possible. Their love is supernatural and sacrificial. And even though our first week at home was not what I’d hoped…I am beyond words grateful for the incredible support and love that surrounded me each day. How lucky am I to bring my daughters into a family like that?

Every discomfort, every ache, every tear this week was so worth it. Because sometimes, the most beautiful things grow and flourish in the most difficult places.

So this is thirty-two. It’s not a birthday I will remember because there were extravagant gifts or a spectacular party. It wasn’t glamorous and there are no Instagram-worthy photos to commemorate the day. But it’s a day I will never forget, because it so perfectly embodied the hard stuff and the good stuff of this every-day life I get to live. And the humans I get to love through it all. And those things are far better than gifts and cake and parties any day of the week.

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

The Cost, Conflict & Consideration of Joy

Photo by Wrenn Bird Photography.

Last week, we finally shared our big news “socially” – we are expecting baby girl #3. We are truly overjoyed. Overjoyed that He has answered the resounding prayer of our hearts. Overjoyed that Lexi will know that having a sister doesn’t always mean loving someone we can’t wrap our arms around. But it took us (me) quite a while to share this joy with the world. Not because I didn’t feel it – but because sharing it felt so, so heavy. I am no longer oblivious to the impact of this blessing beyond myself. I am [un]fortunately aware of how my own experiences might affect others. And that changes everything. It’s hard to explain, but let me try…

This joy hasn’t come without cost. Infertility after having children is a difficult space to live in. Pregnancy after loss is no walk in the park, either. We are so grateful for those who have walked with us through all of these things. The faithful friends and family who have allowed us to share difficult thoughts and express difficult feelings – our sounding boards and our prayer warriors. We would not be in this place without you.

This joy hasn’t come without conflict. Conflict in our marriage, conflict within ourselves, and conflict with God. It is hard not to question. Everything. It is easy to talk the talk, but walking the walk is a different story. We stumbled – several times. We doubted – each other, ourselves and Him. We yelled, we cried and once or twice we probably asked ourselves it was all worth it. But now…now we know.

And above all, this joy does not come without consideration. Consideration for my sisters who have and are walking this journey of infertility and loss with me, but have not yet received the answer they are so desperately praying for. Consideration for the mamas who have carried little souls they will not know this side of Heaven. I can no longer be joyful without consideration. To those women – I pray that you know you are not unseen and you are never alone. I see you, but more importantly GOD sees you. Hold on to the hope that He is not saying “never” He is just saying “not yet.” I will continue to pray for you in the waiting.

It took me many, many weeks to be ready to share this joy – with the cost, the conflict and the consideration that came with it. My husband and my family gave me the grace to wait. Because you don’t always have to understand to empathize.

Jesus, thank you for giving us more than we deserve. Thank you for allowing us to walk in the depths of sorrow so we may fully appreciate the joy of our blessings. Please help us to understand that your timing is perfect. Your plan is flawless. And your love is limitless. Let us always walk in your will, trust in your timing and submit to your sovereignty. Amen. 

With Grace,

Jen

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