Sunday, November 27, 2016

2016 Christmas Decor

We got a head start on our Christmas decorations this year and put them up the weekend before Thanksgiving! I typically just decorate the main floor and put a few things in Will's room. Our decorations are simple but make our living room so cozy. Dare I say that I'm actually looking forward to snow?! Although, playing in this weather has been wonderful. 

We pick out a tree from Kingma's each year, and this year we got a small one that leans...it also has a sandals in it that Will threw after we told him 1. it's too cold for sandals and 2. not to throw them. Such is life :) 


First time doing an Advent Calendar

The tree is our Christmas card holder

And some action shots...







We're also waiting for this nativity to arrive as it came recommended by a friend. We are excited about it!

Earlier this month we added some frames to make our wall gallery larger. We also had that big blue wall in our living room painted! I was so ready to see it go. Below are the before and afters.


In other news--I have my first monthly blood draw next week. Grief is funny and hits at random times. My heart still aches for the child we don't have and don't get to meet yet. However, we are fixing our eyes on all the blessings the Lord has provided and continues to provide. He remain faithful to Him and trust in His plans/timing. We are very grateful for this week to reflect and spend quality time with family.

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

6th Anniversary


Corey and I went up north to The Homestead in Glen Arbor for our 6th anniversary this past weekend. It was so refreshing to get away for a bit! It was a quick trip, but just what we needed. I even slept in till 9:30! I cannot remember the last time I slept in past 7:30am. The accommodations weren't the best or worst we've ever had. We probably won't ever stay there again since it's just too far from anything...the closest gas station is 20 miles away. But the time with Corey was needed. We had dinner at North Peak Brewing in Traverse City, and it was superb. 

We also celebrated because Corey got a new job!! He's been waiting 2.5 years to get the offer. Some may think it's silly to wait that long, but Corey was pretty strategic about it (I can share details in person). He will still be working for the government, but as a criminal investigator for the IRS rather than an auditor. To begin, he will have to do five months of police/tax training in Georgia. There are still a lot of unknowns (like when he'll start), but we're trusting in the Lord's timing and praying we have sufficient notice before he has to go. There are many things we could be anxious about, but we are choosing to be amazed at how God would provide such incredible news during our miscarriage difficulties. 

We are also rejoicing because my levels have stayed negative for three consecutive weeks! This is a major answer to prayer, and we are deeply grateful. Now I do monthly blood draws for 4 months instead of weekly. The days seems to be moving by slowly, but the weeks are flying...if that makes any sense. Four months seems far off, but really, things have been moving fast. Having a busy fall and anticipating the holidays has been a great distraction. 

Speaking of holidays, we are going to begin a new family tradition for the Advent season. Typically our only tradition, besides adding a new ornament to our tree each year, is that we go to breakfast at Peppermill Grill on Christmas Eve. Now we are going to do an advent calendar. I ordered one from Land of Nod, and I am going to write down something we need to do on Popsicle sticks for each day. Some examples: bake Christmas cookies, read the nativity story from the Bible, sing a Christmas carol, donate toy(s), write a thank you for the mail carrier, take a picture by the Christmas tree. A few days here and there Will is going to have a little present instead. Some examples include chapstick (he's obsessed--wonder where he gets that from), candy cane, a quarter, stickers, etc. I am really looking forward to this, and I am hoping these activities--no matter how small--help me to slow down and have "a thrill of hope as the weary world rejoices." And to remember what a privilege it is to have Will and teach him about our Lord.

The last fabulous update is that there are only 22 more work days until Christmas break!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

A Quick Update

We have been quite thankful that my numbers have decreased quickly, and it has only taken 7 weeks for me to be negative! We praise God for His provision. I have three more weeks of blood draws before going monthly. This is fantastic news that we do not take for granted. 

Honestly, I've been doing well overall, but this week was a bit rough. Out of nowhere the grief and loneliness hit. As a social worker, I know that's normal, and I attempt to embrace it...while still trying to maintain a sense of normalcy. A partial molar pregnancy isn't normal though. I really cannot do it in my own strength.

There have been quite a few pregnancy announcements this past week, and what I absolutely don't want to be is bitter or unhappy for others. So although grief is ever present and tricky, the Lord has given me peace. Sometimes I need a moment, but I pray that I would continue to be excited for all those sweet babies that are popping up on my newsfeed--babies are such a blessing! 

And that's it for now. There's about a million more things I could say (about the miscarriage, work, life in general), but I don't have the words for them quite yet. Overall, I am choosing gratitude. And I'm trying to be obedient as the Lord continues to refine my very human heart. Thankfully, I've got lots of room for growth :) 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Will: 2.5 Years

Our sweet little boy is 2.5 years old! 

Currently, Will is...

having conversations
starting to ask "why momma?"
fully potty trained
counting to 10 (20 with help)
identifies shapes and colors
singing the ABCs
obsessed with trucks, construction vehicles, airplanes, trains
head-over-heals for Sesame Street, Mighty Machines and Bob the Builder

Will loves to be goofy, dance and sing. He's a social butterfly and tries to keep up with the big neighbor kids. He loves to ride his "motorcycle", play sports, and do "cartwheels" in the yard. He just transitioned to a big bike with training wheels! It was the absolute sweetest when we got it for him (a hand-me-down from his cousins). He gasped when he saw it and then yelled, "biiiiiiiike!" followed by "thank you". Melt my heart!

Will is also doing more pretend play which is so fun to witness. He loves to snuggle with us and with his stuffed animals. Will enjoys church and can recognize when we're close (or near other places). Will no longer takes naps, so we're trying to teach him quiet time. The lack of nap makes him extra sleepy in the evening but bedtime has improved significantly now.

Will has a decreased appetite since he'd rather be playing, but he always eats better if we're with other people. He is still obsessed with peanut butter though. Will loves babies, and he loves to help. He also has his fair share of tantrums! Typically when he's tired or hangry...like most kids (and me). Now that our lives are more stable, we've been back to focusing on "nice words", less screen time and more independence with tasks.

Corey's mom took some family pictures last week, and these are some of my favorites:















Although this season has been difficult for us, I am incredibly thankful for our family and the many, many blessings we have. The Lord has been good to us.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Gratitude

We are feeling all sorts of gratitude that my levels are at 7. I will continue to do weekly blood draws after my levels are >5 (considered negative) and then go to monthly draws to ensure that my levels stay down/the molar tissue has not regrown. Thankfully, once they are negative for a few weeks in a row, the likelihood of regrowth is very low.

Now that we've had time to grieve (and continue to do so as it creeps up here and there), my hormones are finally stabilized, my body is getting back to normal, we have the reassurance of my levels dropping, and I'm getting over a pesky cold...we have been able to get back into a more healthy rhythm. Less survival and more intentional. 

Again, I am amazed at the Lord's graciousness and power. He has guided us through this journey, and we continue to trust in Him as we keep going through it. He really is good, and we will be exclaiming that no matter what our circumstances are (as annoying as they may be :)). I have been feeling considerably less anxious about our future for which I am grateful. I'm thankful how the Lord has grown me and will continue to refine me through this as I have much to learn still.

We are also thankful, once again, for the outpouring of love we have receive by friends and family near and far. The Lord provides us with exactly what we need when we need it, and we have been comforted by so many. I have been encouraged by and honored to hear similar stories of others. 

I am excited for the child God has prepared for us and the day that we can meet him/her. In the meantime, we continue to process, pray and seek joy. We will continue to be excited for those around us as we are constantly reminded that the Lord is near and holy. We praise Him for that.

The last few posts were incredibly raw and honest. Since my hormones have gone down, my posts may not be so intense (we'll see anyway, ha!). Whatever happens, we "trust in the Lord with all our hearts"...the verse Will memorized last month for church.

And hopefully I'll finally get around to writing an update about Will since he has grown SO much! He's the just the sweetest (and sassiest) <3 More to come!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Pumpkin Patch!

This past weekend Corey's friend, Moseley, was up visiting for the weekend. There was a lot of lounging and football watching which was fabulous. We also went to Schwallier's on Sunday for donuts, pumpkins and play.












We're so thankful for this time together!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Monitoring & Peace

Sharing our story has caused relief, than an oh-my-what-did-I-just-share period, and then again comfort when others reach out in support or share that they (or their friends) have found encouragement in our story.

I've had some of my lowest days in the past two weeks, but God continues to lift me up through the words and actions of others. Time itself is healing. And the numbers. The numbers help a lot right now.

Every week  (and then monthly) I have to get my blood drawn to make sure my HCG levels have gone down. They are monitoring the levels to ensure the molar tissue does not turn cancerous. There is a very low chance that it actually would. But boy, seeing the decline remains refreshing and comforting. I will be monitored for 6ish months, but I am trying to focus on God's sovereignty rather than perseverating on next week's numbers. 

When we first started this journey, everything was unfamiliar, unknown and overwhelming. But each week I feel more hopeful. Since the beginning of the pregnancy, I've felt the Lord's presence which is the most peaceful feeling of all. When I finally surrendered all the fear from last week I felt an incomprehensible peace that can only be attributed as coming from the Lord. He is worthy to be trusted.

This past weekend Corey and I had a long overdue date night, then there was lots of playing outside, church, apple cider drinking, small group and relaxing in the incredible weather. It was a weekend of normalcy. A weekend of excitement for others. A weekend that helped reframe my thoughts. There are still so many things that I am incredibly grateful for from being able to watch Will play with neighbors to the cool breeze entering our living room window at night. And although I know it is important to embrace the grief, I am eager to keep moving forward...while acknowledging that there are others enduring much more difficult circumstances.  

There is still uncertainty of course, but I have clearly seen God answer our prayers. God has continually provided support through friends and family. He has reminded me of His goodness in such tangible ways. We constantly are in awe of the love we've felt, and we continually praise God for each of you.

Being human, I know I'll have more low moments or days, but the joy is returning more frequently as I start feeling more like myself again. The grief comes in waves, but instead of overwhelming billows, they are a rippling that I hop over. I pray it stays this way :)

Whatever our future holds, we will continue to thank the Lord for his provision and blessings. We thank Him for our salvation, that is what matters most, despite our circumstances. We will continue to exclaim, "I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise will continually be on my lips" Psalm 34:1

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Protection and Intention

I have been amazed at quite a few things the past few weeks with one of the biggest realizations being that God has been, and will continue to be, protecting me. 

He is not protecting me from pain or grief--quite the opposite actually. But he is protecting and keeping my heart. The Lord has granted me an incredible support system, and I have been continually lifted up by some dear friends and family. I am amazed with the community I have--not taking it for granted for one second because I know it is quite a rarity these days.

And although the Lord has a hold of my heart and spirit, I am feeling a constant pull. It has been more difficult for me to regulate my emotions the past few days due to this constant battle to hope and trust in the Lord, knowing that He is sovereign and good, while also negating the fear. Fear of cancer, fear of dying (there's more to the story if you know me well), and fear of not having another baby. Irrational fears, I know.

In my head I know that all things will work out for good, and when we look back on this part of our journey we will be immensely grateful for it and how the Lord guided us through it. I trust that someday it will make sense. But right now, in the middle of the mess, I am torn moment by moment. The enemy is trying to extinguish my hope and fill me with anxiety. At times I've let that worry consume me. I've been overwhelmed and overtaken by the unknown more times than I'd like to admit. 

But then the Lord quietly whispers truth or brings clarity through people again and again. He is holding me close when someone checks in, provides insight, offers encouragement or just listens to my high and low ramblings. (And boy, they are high and low as my blog posts often tend to show). And I have been able to laugh about our circumstances. Sometimes I chuckle, "Is this real life?" Corey's strengths have been exactly what I need right now.

And I'm so tired. Emotionally and psychically spent. But I've been able to function well at work, and it has been a positive distraction for me. (I laughed with Corey in the ER as I realized I can empathize with my students so much better now. Utilizing coping skills are hard work!) Being able to do my job right now is another example of the Lord protecting and providing for me. He is giving me a strength that I wholly could not have mustered on my own. Even if I don't feel peace every moment, He is providing endurance.  

Right now, although being constantly tempted to, I cannot afford to worry. I'm desperately hanging on to what I know to be right and true and good. I earnestly want to remain faithful to God during this season as He has been (and always will be) faithful to me. Even if it is the most difficult journey we've been on thus far. 

I am remembering that I have the choice to let the fear consume me or choose gratitude and to live with intention. To be thankful for our sweet little family and this extra time we have together. To enjoy this upcoming fall (the best season) and holiday time. To be so intentional with my words, focus and purpose.

I pray that I would allow my heart, not just my mind, to continually remember that God has already won the battle. He's already conquered my fears. He is good, He is in control, and He can be trusted...even with the news of a partial molar pregnancy. 

I'm praying that God would "restore to me the joy of His salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit." (Psalm 51:12). I mean, it's tattooed on my body for a reason. And that I truly would have joy for others (pregnant or not) because everyone has a story worth hearing.

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PS Again, I must say it feels awkward to share these posts (aka my constant self-talk and processing) on social media, but writing out our journey has been nurturing to my soul. I have also been feeling a nudge to share so that someone else may be encouraged that they are not alone. And ultimately, that God's will is better than we can ever imagine.

The first post about the miscarriage can be found here. The one following it, can be found here.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Surrender

Surrender

: to agree to stop fighting, hiding, resisting because you will not win or succeed
: to give the control to someone else
: to allow something to influence you

I recently shared about our miscarriage in this post, and since then we've had some turn of events. We found out we had a partial molar pregnancy, I had a trip to the ER, and I had another D&C. This has added more questions, processing and surrendering. 

In theory, surrendering should be comfortable. I am committing all my worries, my entire life even, to a God who is described as a good father, just, merciful, faithful, everywhere, gracious, all-powerful, loving, sovereign, faithful, all-knowing. When my heart believes those things, then surrendering is comforting. But sometimes it's scary. I want control, and I want to plan (it's my gift after all). 

When I first heard about the partial molar pregnancy, I was really struggling. I felt like I was grieving the miscarriage well, adjusting to new expectations, and finally able to surrender control. And then wham. 

But you know what? God is those things I mentioned above. The next morning in my devotions God  gave me Psalm 20 (English Standard Version):

Trust in the Name of the Lord Our God

May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble!
May the name of God of Jacob protect you!
May he send you help from the sanctuary
and give you support from Zion!
May he remember all your offerings
and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices!

May he grant you your heart's desire
and fulfill all your plans!
May we shout for joy over your salvation
and in the name of our God set up our banners!
May the Lord fulfill your petitions!

Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed;
he will answer him from his holy heaven
with the saving might of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
They collapse and fall,
but we rise and stand upright.

O Lord, save the king!
May he answer us when we call.
It was exactly what I needed to read, and I thanked God through the tears as I shared with him my rawness. I was reminded that God doesn't just notice me, He knows me. He hurts with me. He cares about everything about me. He surrendered and suffered on the cross for me. Sometimes I'm frustrated at how easily I forget that.

And I praise dear friends who continually remind me.

So here we are. Researching and communicating with others in similar situations. I'm constantly vacillating between being realistic so no more surprises occur (ha!) and hopeful. Still grieving, still desperately clinging to truth. Praying that I glorify God through this refining process, hoping that others are encouraged or may hear His voice. 

I started reading Shaun Niequist's book Bittersweet a few years ago, but I was not in the right place in life for it. I recently picked it back up, and this is what she writes in the first essay:

What I know now, though, is that change is one of God’s greatest gifts, and most useful tools.  I’ve learned that change can push us, pull us, rebuke and remake us.  It can show us who we’ve become, in the worst ways, and also in the best ways.  I’ve learned that in many cases, change is not a function of life’s cruelty but instead a function of God’s graciousness. 

If you dig in and fight the changes, they will smash you to bits.  They’ll hold you under, drag you across the rough sand, scare and confuse you.  But if you can find it within yourself, in the wildest of seasons, just for a moment, to trust in the goodness of God, who made it all and holds it all together, you’ll find yourself drawn along to a whole new place, and there’s truly nothing sweeter.  Unclench your fists, unlock your knees and also the door to your heart, take a deep breath, and let God do his work in you.

I think learning to surrender, even when I am scared, confused or want to fight back, will 
 be a constant theme for my life. This journey, although devastating and overwhelming right now, is a blessing to help me learn that. And patience. (I really need help with patience). And through it all, I'm going to keep choosing hope. Hope that God will give us another baby someday on his perfect timing. It's hard friends, but I'm choosing it.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Thank you, God, for Everything

It feels awkward posting this. But it also healing to share a recent sliver of our story...maybe someone will be encouraged even <3

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Thank you for the world so sweet
Thank you for the food we eat
Thank you for the birds that sing
Thank you, God, for everything

These are the beginning of the prayers we say with Will every night at bedtime. I began crying as I recited the last few words because I was thanking God for the missed miscarriage I found out about earlier that day. Thank you for everything. We proceeded to pray for bulldozers and air conditioning units per Will's request. 

When the ultrasound began, I knew right away. I didn't feel angry or guilty. I wasn't surprised even.The intense nausea had dissipated all too quickly. I felt disappointed and sad. 

A very deep, accepting sadness. 

The baby had stopped growing at 8.5 weeks, and we received the news when I was supposed to be 11 weeks along. It was supposed to be a March baby. A long maternity leave, and a completion of our family. Instead, a procedure was done the following week.

Gratefully, we have been covered in prayer and God has provided comfort with the tears and sorrow. I haven't doubted His goodness. I haven't felt envy of others. I've soaked in the grief and reality of the situation. I didn't fear the initial next steps, but my heart is cautious about our future...knowing that we are not entitled to another healthy baby. Yet, there is nothing to do but trust Him and put one foot in front of the other.

Will has been an exhausting, yet encouraging and sweet, distraction.  

 It is a gift that God would allow me to experience a miscarriage in this way I guess...providing peace the moment we found out we were pregnant early this summer. Acknowledging that this baby is God's baby from the start. Allowing us to again recognize how deeply blessed we are to have Will.

But some moments are just really hard.

A phrase our pastor mentioned months ago has been on repeat in my heart and mind, "God is good. He is in control. He can be trusted." I truly believed that, and I still do. I can't say I have believed that through other trials in my life, but through this journey it has grounded me. Especially since the sadness has been really difficult, and annoying, to process through thus far.

There is more to the story that I could share over a cup of hot chocolate sometime, but this is what I feel comfortable sharing with the world right now. Surprisingly for me, it has been quite healing to talk openly about it, so if you're curious about something you are more than welcome to ask in person.

Ultimately, there's no way we could have endured the news, and continue to do so, in our own strength. "I may be weak, but Your spirit's strong in me. My flesh my fail but, my God, You never will."

And our story definitely isn't over yet.

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To the friends and family who have been diligent in praying for us, checking on us with texts/cards/emails, bringing us food/flowers, offering to take Will: our deepest thank you...except that I may have eaten too many cookies. (Never mind, that's not possible). We have been completely overwhelmed and humbled by your support and love. We have been astonished by who God has placed in our life to protect us and build us up--we cherish each one of you. You have been a clear reminder that there is so much to be thankful for among the grief. Again, thank you...our words do not do justice for the gratitude we have in our hearts for you.

To those experiencing loss in any form: you are not alone. I wish my words could take away the pain, but even more so, I hope you feel how fiercely your Heavenly Father loves you. Also know that there is no right or wrong way to grieve as it looks different for everyone and each situation is unique. Grief is weird and tricky. May you feel the freedom to embrace the messy, uncomfortable feelings--they are normal and okay. (This is my constant self-talk).

To those who are pregnant: I am excited for you :) 



Saturday, August 20, 2016

New Main Level Floors

Since we've paid off my undergrad/graduate school loans (YAY!), we have been able to put in new flooring on our main level. The 14 year old linoleum was ripped, stained and well worn. We went through every option under the sun--vacillating between tile, vinyl and laminate. Based on reviews, price, and recommendations, we decided to do this luxury vinyl plank. We absolutely love it! Will immediately spilled his cereal and water all over the floor, and it easily wipes up. It is water resistant which we needed. Benson Flooring did a fantastic job! We were very pleased with them, and we would highly recommend them. We will be getting a rug for the kitchen at a later date.

We've done quite a bit to our kitchen since moving in four-ish years ago. Since then we also...

Painted it red
Added back splash (details found here)
Painted the cabinets and island (details found here)
Changed the light and window treatments (details found here)
Painted it blue
Painted it back to cream to match the other walls (clearly I couldn't make up my mind!)
Changed knobs/hinges

BEFORE






AFTER

 We are planning to add shiplap to the island to give it some dimension. We've got the materials just need to buckle down and do it...I'm going to need a LONG break from house projects after that one :)



We added board & batten (minus the batten) to the dining room & painted it white (Swiss Coffee to be exact). Corey's mom was very gracious and painted it for us!




close-up of floor...

We also added wainscoting to the half bath and painted the top part the same as our bedroom color: Sherwin Williams Seasalt. Jill also painted the half bath for us--we are so grateful!



Before/After in one shot...

A FEW OTHERS

A co-worker made this table for us in December, and it has been GREAT for toy storage! I love that the toys are easily accessible, but each item has a place. It's nice to have a few toys upstairs without the toys taking over the entire room.



A new wall gallery that needs some pictures...
 

Overall, we are so so grateful for the updates we've been able to do over the past 4.5 years. It makes our home feel more like us, and therefore, more welcoming to others. We were able to be disciplined with our loans because the Lord has granted us stable jobs, and we are very thankful to Him.

With that said, come on over for dinner!