The Best Desires (2014)

When are you going to write again?

Rod and Kelly 12-21-13I’ve been asked over and over. I think this year is the least I have written in many. It’s not from a lack of content or desire. Maybe, if anything, it’s been that my heart and my head are too full.

This time last year, we were looking to a “small” set of changes. Rod was beginning a new job, one he’d wanted for awhile, one that would be more travel for him but more financial stability for us. Our oldest had just gotten married. Our youngest two were starting to eat from the big dinner plates… you know… not babies anymore. In our heads, we planned “big kid” trips (horseback riding, maybe New York city) and looked forward to a more mature family life. No. For real. Those were our “plans.”

A surprise positive pregnancy test on February 5th changed the essence of those plans, the essence of our future.

An even more surprising miscarriage three weeks later changed the essence of how I see everything.

fly_away_homeFour years ago right now, I learned what it means to “delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4) In youthfulness, I thought it was as simple as… trust God, praise God, yada yada, and He will give you what you want. And this very day 4 years ago, after our house had been for sale since May and we planned with all our hearts to move to Nashville, I finished reading a novel that had nothing to do with anything. It was an enjoyable read in which the main characters retreated to Cape Cod during a time of crisis. I closed the cover and asked Rod,

Why can’t we live at the beach?

And The Next Day, we had a lunch meeting that changed the course of our plans, our move, our lives.

Now, when I think of God giving me the desires of my heart, it’s more like, “I trust You, God. Go on ahead.” And then I see His hand wave over me, and the plans He has for me, the ones that far surpass my own, take root and grow in my heart. His desires become mine. He GIVES me the desires He hopes I will strive for when I open myself to Him.

That surprise positive test in February changed everything. It changed our dreams of “12 more years until we’re alone” and “When will the kids be old enough to take on a cruise and not be pains in the butt?” to “Our family isn’t done yet.” So we gave ourselves this year to “try”…

This wasn’t a light decision, folks.

– THE DAY the doctor told me our baby had no heartbeat was the day our son and daughter-in-law told us they were pretty sure a baby of their own was on the way.KK turns 6 (Also happened to be KK’s 6th birthday…!)
– Rod was about to turn 50.
– I had just, just weeks before, after years of waffling, made peace with not having any additional kids. And I was finally getting in shape again…

But God used that sweet baby who was ours on earth for such a short time to plant more desires. In spite of all the reasons why we shouldn’t have wanted more kids, we did.

And in spite of a report in 2004 that we’d “probably never be able to get pregnant,” I got pregnant twice in a matter of 5 months.

Jack's first pictureSeeing our baby boy on the ultrasound screen for the first time, in June, was one of the greatest moments of my life. The ultrasound we had in February was a nightmare in so many ways. But when the screen shined with “new” baby’s little discernible body, his arms waving all around (they haven’t stopped), I felt Jesus fill the room. It was a miracle!

Life after death is a specific joy. And while it doesn’t mean I haven’t occasionally struggled with fear, stress, discomfort, or even a bit of physical misery, the prospect of having our Jack, the preparation for his arrival, the peace in knowing that this will complete our family, is nothing short of amazing.

Poppy, Gigi, and NoraMeanwhile – yes, meanwhile – there is more to life. This year, we have seen our “big kids” grow and prosper in their careers. We were given the gift of Nora, our first grandchild, who is healthy, peaceful, and a sweet, blissful blessing.

Our little girls have continued to go with the flow. They mourned the loss of our February baby (David) with us. They’ve coped with their Mama’s abilities being hampered much of this year…and let me take naps when I needed them! And they have blossomed more into their awesome selves. One of my most treasured memories of this year will be the road trip the 3 of us took to Chicagoland in June. We made it straight through together and had fun stopping for caffeine, listening to a favorite book, and getting through a torrential Midwest thunderstorm. I can’t wait to see them being Big Sisters together.

I started this year planning to go back to school for a ministry degree… taking on a second part time job as an editor…losing my last grandparent when Gramma passed on my 37th birthday. It’s been a weird year. I guess, in many ways, I’ve been reset. Just when I was feeling my strongest and most confident, I find myself most vulnerable (because at the end of pregnancy… oy! I can barely put my own pants on!) and quite unsure about how things will look in 2015.

road trip!But… I know I am living out the right plans, the best desires for me… because God put them here.

Some things have not changed this year. My husband’s hand is still readily in mine, whether it’s over the phone from a distant hotel room, a look shared between us while he ministers with his bass guitar on the church stage and I in the altar praying, next to me in the minivan we said we’d never have, or while we nuzzle our girls or little Nora together. My feet still love being in the sand. My home is still an open place for the friends I feel I finally made this year, the old ones who come to visit, and the new ones in the future.

Not long after I purged our cabinets of little plastic plates and sippy cups, we have crazy new things in our house, like a crib and a high chair and lots of onesies and even cloth diapers. It makes me laugh. We are not living the life I thought we’d be living on the cusp of 2015.

We are living a perfectly-designed adventure that I would not trade.

Happy New Year!

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Happy Birthday…

4 babies
I am the mama of 4 babies.

The best I can guess, you would have been born today, or at least, some time this week.

I carried you for 6 weeks.

I knew you for 2 weeks.

And then, you were gone, before you were ever here.

I think of you daily, with sadness and wonder and gratefulness.

In 2 weeks, you gave us joy, love, and appreciation that we didn’t have before you.

In the 3rd week, through your passing, you gave us a new dream.

That dream is a different picture of our lives,
a more complete picture of our family.
It might have included you, but now, it includes your brother.

Thank you, sweet baby, Heavenly child, for what you gave to me.

I’m sorry I couldn’t give you more, but I am your mama, forever.

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just different (for David James)

angelIf things had gone differently,
in about 2 weeks,
we’d be holding you.

If things had gone differently,
your brother would not be thumping away in my womb right now.

If things had gone differently,
I would not know the depth nor the sanctity of a mother grieving her unborn child.

If things had gone differently,
I would not be able to identify with the others, so many others who have lost this way.

If things had gone differently,
we would not be smiling and dreaming and preparing for Jack.

– There is no reconciling this. I miss you every day, and yet, if you were here,
he would not be.

I love you both.
I wish things could be different,
yet I can accept and even rejoice in how they are.

I find peace in believing that you watch over us,
that you have grown strong in Heaven,
that you know we love you and we wanted you,
that you maybe even had a hand in sending  your brother to us.

After a summer of solace and renewal,
this month brings you back to the forefront of my mind.
You’d have been almost here,
and you will never be here.
But you are with us,
always with us.

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Those 10 Books

I was tagged by my friend Chris in a recent Facebook thing… and I had too much to say for Facebook :)

ootp-uk-kids-cover-art 1. Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling
On a Saturday in July 2003, the month before my wedding to Rod, four hardcover copies of the fifth installment of Harry Potter (Order of the Phoenix) were in our home. It was an ordering mistake and also a gift. A dad, a new stepmom, and two adolescent kids laid around all the live-long day reading ferociously. It was the first new book released since we had all caught on to and fell in love with Harry and his friends. Years later, the characters and their adventures, the story of friendship, sacrifice, and redemption, are still a special kind of magical – one that helped make us a family.

2. Hunger Games series, Suzanne Collins
I love YA literature. Always have. What Rowling might have lacked in literary sophistication, in my humble opinion, Collins got. Katniss’ story (& it is her story) was not as neatly tied up as Harry’s. Somehow, the losses were more real and touching and devastating to me. The bravery, love, and humanity (read: big flaws) that Katniss displayed make her one of my favorite literary heroes.

3. Mark of the Lion: A Voice In the Wind, Francine Rivers
Christian fiction that was emotionally resonant and not completely heavy-handed? It was a new concept to me when I first read this novel, a tale of a Messianic Jew serving as a slave in a scary, prejudiced home. Hadassah’s tale was eventually soap-operatic in a future book, but this book showed me that adventurous, captivating tales could exist within the settings of scripture.

4. Something Borrowed, Emily Giffin
Why do I love this fluffy book? Because for once, the tale of the “other woman” was told with balance and sensitivity. I’ve read it a million (ok, maybe a dozen…) times and chosen to ignore the movie.

flyawayhome5.  Fly Away Home, Jennifer Weiner
Weiner is one of my go-to authors, but this book… ah… It came to me in a time of huge life change. “Why can’t we live at the beach?” were the first words I uttered after finishing it. Meanwhile, the complicated tale of marriage and motherhood – and the fun and colorful descriptions of a woman learning to cook lavishly for her friends and family (while staying at the beach) made for a “chick-lit” novel I’m not embarrassed to admit I love.

6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
It was the first required reading of my high school career, the centerpiece of my best college paper (call Atticus Finch a racist and I will cut you…), and one of the first (ok, and only) novels I taught in my (very short) high school teaching career. A charming family, a tragic trial, and Boo! – all the ingredients are there for a classic that is worthy and lovable.

7. Seven, Jen Hatmaker
Hatmaker is a rare gem who is captivating as a writer and speaker. This book was my first encounter with her, and saying it is life-changing is not an exaggeration. The “seven fast” itself is the framework, but the foundation beneath it – the pure love and lifestyle of Christ, simplicity, brother/sisterhood, affected me deeply and gave validation to many thoughts that had been swirling in me for years. Eating only sweet potatoes/spinach/apples/chicken/eggs/avocados/whole-grain bread for a month is fine. Living a life of grace and generosity is a lifelong aspiration.

Where_the_Heart_Is_Billie_Letts8. It, Stephen King
Like so many, I had a teenage love-affair with King. His writing is genius, vivid, so disturbing. It was the second book of his I read (the first was The Eyes of the Dragon, which remains my favorite, but is totally different in setting and tone than anything else – it’s fantasy and not horror), and I was so captivated by it that I sun-bathed too long on my stomach and was rewarded with a 2nd-degree sunburn while vacationing in Myrtle Beach! The great thing about King is how is horror is not only metaphorical, but intertwined in complicated, realistic, and touching relationships. Who doesn’t want friends like those in The Losers’ Club?
9. Where the Heart Is, Billie Letts
The Walmart baby. Novalee. Americus. Forney. Kids named after snack foods.The basic premise & the cliché-ish southern-ness might make the whole thing seem cheesy… but it wasn’t. Novalee’s story of courage, growth, and victory over struggle, love after loss, was truly touching and inspiring.

10.The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold
I recently listened to a radio show that discussed movies people love but were too devastated by to watch again. The Lovely Bones is that book for me. The story itself was so profoundly sad – the spirit of a murdered girl watches her family grieve over the unsolved crime through the years. I remember reading sentences out loud to my husband because they were simply so beautiful. It’s my favorite book that I will not re-read.

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