Saturday, December 31


I have a theory for when Blair is out of town. If I stay up very late, then I can go to bed and fall asleep right away, and not have to think/realize/irrationally fear being alone. Since Blair has been out of town the past week, I think I've been up past midnight every night.

Wednesday, December 21

a toast

It's that time of year, and Blair, the boys and I are at my parent's for the Christmas holiday. I'm not sure whether it's from eating all of the Christmas goodies laying about, or simply because I'm 21 weeks pregnant now, but I'm definitely entering the "cannot-sit-up; flop-over-like-a-beached-whale" phase of pregnancy.

Friday, December 9


Ahh, the sound of quiet.

Well, it's actually not quiet yet, but the boys are about to switch from the bath, to reading books, to bed, so quiet is soon on it's way. Blair and I had a long day in town with the boys, including a doctor's visit for B and visitation for both of them. And while my heart is still racing from scurrying about: making dinner, cleaning dinner, throwing a load of laundry in, wrapping presents, and putting groceries away, my thoughts are about 1,000 miles away.

Wednesday, December 7


So it's December, my calendar tells me. And the anxiety building in my heart about Christmas gifts and having things organized is also a reminder that the end of the year is coming on quickly... how come Christmas isn't more like Labor day? The purpose of Labor day is to NOT work, NOT stress, and just enjoy. Christmas should definitely be more like that!

Sunday, November 20

a little fruit

Dear Gwenny,

I think I've decided that it's easier to write to you than to write out my own thoughts these days. Most of the time, random gibberish and unimportant details of the day make their way into my personal journal... maybe with you, I try to actually consolidate my thoughts into something cohesive and semi-important.... maybe. :)

Tuesday, November 8


Twenty-eight. That's how old I will be as of tomorrow morning. After Gwendolyn went to Jesus, I decided to take a break from all holidays for a year - I ignored my birthday last year, pretty much failed at Christmas, Valentine's Day, and every friend's birthday that has passed. So now that I'm back into a season that allows for special days of the year, I feel out of practice. Or maybe it's that I'm getting old - birthdays lose their "funness".

Monday, November 7

just a thought.

So, confession: I'm a movie cryer.

I'm also a TV show cryer. Last night I cried during a (ridiculous ending) to Bones--- a TV show about forensic anthropology and solving murders. Tonight I cried because of a sad relationship breakup in Pan Am. Most of the time I keep thinking how ridiculous it is that I'm crying, when there are much more important things in the world to absorb your emotions.

Tuesday, October 18

one year; one thousand faces

Dear Gwendolyn Hope,

Happy birthday, precious one. It's 10:24pm on the night of your first birthday, and as I sit here wondering how to encapsulate 365 days into one post, I'm remembering you. I can't remember the exact time, but I know it was close to now when I was finally able to see you. I remember being wheeled through the hallways, up the stairs and praying that they were able to revive you... your heartbeat had plummeted, you know. I was so consumed by the fear that I would arrive in your NICU, and they would tell me you had passed. But the Lord sustained you -- and us -- and allowed us to love on you before you went to Jesus.

We celebrated Christ in you this past Saturday. We wanted to acknowledge your birthday, and give our humble props to God for how tenderly He moved us this year. Gwen, it was such a beautiful party. It was just how it should be - beautiful, full of friends and laughter. It's just what we wanted. And we got to light a wish lantern! Did you see it, lovely?

(Oh Gwen. I am anxious for the right words to say, as if I only get one chance to speak to you! Thank God we have all of eternity.)

In the last year, I've often felt like God gave you the best... and I've been thankful for that. But have held a hurt, begrudging heart toward Him as if to say, "Lord, you gave her the best... but you gave us the short end of the stick." Yet somehow in the past few months, the Lord is shifting my theory.

Gwen, I have seen Christ in one thousand faces. I have been touched, hugged, and kissed by Him every day for the past year. I have been fed meals, sent cards, had my house cleaned, been provided for financially, been given memorial gifts, vacations, days off from responsibilities... all little gifts of Love to salve my broken heart. I love your dad more now than I thought possible. I value life, family and friends more dearly. I (hope) am more empathetic and compassionate to ALL suffering, no matter the cause. I LONG for Heaven - that in itself is a miracle! I know the character of God in a way that I honestly would never have attempted to find.

And maybe, darling, it sounds terrible. You know that I love you; that is unchangeable. But I don't know that I could trade what God has done in me to have you here... what kind of a mother would I have been? Selfish, consumed, petty, close-minded. (I am obviously not perfect, and struggle in a thousand ways.) But Gwendolyn - I know Jesus better. And I know that you value Him above all else... so I think it's okay that I can value Him and knowing Him above you.

This wasn't the short end of the stick for your dad and me. This was His best for us too... just in a much more raw, unimaginable way. God's best may seem like a stone to me, but that doesn't change the truth. And the truth is that He always intended you for Heaven, and us to grow from your death and our short separation.

So here we are... 365 days later, one year closer. I think I wanted today to be some kind of "sob day", where I felt close to you and full of you. I was looking behind Gwendolyn, instead of ahead. Because what you and I have is yet to come! I have all of paradise to chase, tickle, laugh, explore, dream, and create with you.

Our best is coming soon... closer by the day. In the meantime: Gwen, I love you deeply and am so profoundly thankful to be your mom. God took this unformed, unresponsive clay and wet it with the tears and prayers from one thousand friends, family and strangers who have loved you. He began to pull, stretch, roll and shape me into something useable... something of value. I am so humbled to be your mother.

I love you deeply, forever and ever.


If you were one of the amazing friends who have loved, prayed, written, served, gave, or in some other humble way have loved us --- please know that Christ used you to shape us, drawing us closer to Himself and into His likeness. He is sufficient, and He works through His children. 

And if you do not know Him... can I tell you that you are missing out on the best thing that will ever happen to you? There is no hope, no future, no paradise awaiting you without Him. Don't miss out. 

Christ - You saved me. From eternity away from you, yes. But You also graciously saved me from a year spent in bitterness, anger and depression, have saved my marriage from becoming torn apart by grief, and have sustained my relationships with those who still have earthly children. You have redeemed my soul, and I love you so much more. Thank you for being the best part of my life. 

Gwendolyn Hope Cushman
October 18, 2010 - October 20, 2010
First time we ever saw her was this photo.

Monday, September 26

a week later

I wanted to give this a whole week before posting, and coming to any conclusions about foster parenting. Here's what the week looked like, by days:

Sunday, September 18

ready, set...

as Anne would say, "Here we go, life!"

It's 10:00pm on Sunday night, and in 12 hours life as I know it will cease, and this soul ache of mine to be a mom -- in one way or another -- will find it's end. We're getting two boys tomorrow, ages three and one. Of course, we don't know how long they'll stay with us, what they're like, what their needs are... but we'll find out tomorrow.

Monday, September 12

a new leaf

Dear Gwenny,

Hello Sweetheart! Happy Fall. Though we're in a drought and everything stays brown here, I can close my eyes and imagine the fall leaves and "sweater weather" that I love so much. (I wonder if there are seasons in Heaven?) Right now I'm enjoying a hot chai and listening to Pachelbel, wondering what your days are like in Glory.

Thursday, September 1

fall lessons

It's the first day of September. And although it's still reaching 104 degrees most days, the idea of September evokes visions of scarves and new books, pumpkins, hot soups, apple tarts, and all my favorite colors in play. The fall is my favorite season. It's just so cozy. So while it is still blistering hot outside, I will politely ignore the heat, stay inside and make maple leaf decorations. I was talking with Mandi the other night, and recapping for her all that the Lord has taught me in the last couple weeks, and wanted to share here.

Friday, August 12

reclaiming joy

What a summer.

It's an unusually chilly morning here, and I'm enjoying a slow morning with my second cup of coffee. The last of 2011 campers made their way home yesterday, and tomorrow the summer staff will follow. Last night we had all 16 of our staff over for games and a movie. Tonight we'll debrief the summer. And today I'm debriefing myself, evaluating my heart and life and goals.

Wednesday, July 20

Heaven Day

Gwen's headstone was put in this past weekend, and we got to see it today. It turned out nicely, which makes me happy. Happier still is the day when it will be broken and undone, because the Lord will resurrect her little body. What a glory we can look forward to!

Sunday, July 17


Aughhhh, nine months.

Nine months is here, and I hate it. Nine months since I started having contractions on sunday, october 17.

Friday, July 15


There's been a 24 hour flu bug flying around Texas this summer, leaving dehydrated and exhausted campers in it's wake. It's possible that I've caught the bug, so i'm staying home today to avoid contaminating anyone.

Wednesday, July 13

Elijah days

Have I talked with you about Elijah days? I honesty can't remember. I know that some of my journey is cyclical, and God keeps unwrapping the onion as I go deeper and deeper into hurdles, heartaches, and His character.

(This might be a senseless post; i'm okay with that.)

Today is an Elijah Day. And if you haven't recently read Elijah, God and the Broom Tree chapter, you should. But some days, I've just had enough and I don't have it in me to keep going and I don't even want to ask God to fill me, because I know that He will and then I'll have to keep going. (How's that for self-pity?)

Well. Yes. I am selfish and self-pitying and tired. Maybe I'm mostly tired. I don't know.

But today I appreciate that God responded to Elijah with sleep and food, and sleep and food again. So that's my plan for today: Sleep, and food. and maybe tomorrow I will journey on.

(and this will probably be a post that I will later be embarrassed of; oh well. cheers for authenticity!)

Thursday, July 7

all things new

It's been a really strange summer. I feel outside of my skin most of the time, and while I normally like to have my "feelers" out, able to take a read on my emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being at any time, my personal thermometers seem to be on the fritz. So at any point of solitude, I feel as though I'm playing catch up with my soul.

Wednesday, June 29


Last night was one of those amazingly starry nights, with warm summer wind and good friends. My neighbor Anne has an iPod app that you can point at the stars and it identifies constellations, so we found Hercules and Corona Borealis! Gwen's star is in between the two, by Hercules' nose. It was fun moment to see her star, and I was thankful that the constellations were visible from my front yard, at a normal stargazing time of night.

Tuesday, June 21

at all times

I used to keep this quote by Francis Chan by the front door: "The decisions we make next year will be profoundly affected by the degree to which we submit to the Spirit, right now, in today's decisions."

Today I was reminded that faithfulness, obedience, and contentedness in response to chaos, hurt, and disappointments are not made during crisis. They're made in the everyday moments.

Saturday, June 11

call to action

Sometimes, Facebook can be helpful. I'm not good at keeping up with world/state/local news, so in my case, it can be extremely helpful. Kristen, a friend of mine, posted about It's the story of Madeline, a (now) 8 year old girl who was abducted in 2007. Her family has spent the last FOUR YEARS looking for their daughter, trying to raise awareness, trying to find leads, trying to remind the rest of the world that precious sons and daughters are taken every day.

Thursday, June 9

a new canvas

Before Gwen was born, I started writing her letters. Not very many... less than I wish. But I cataloged the pregnancy with her, and told her about our life in progress, waiting for her arrival. Since she's been in Heaven, I've kept up with writing her. I have this idea that just maybe God reads her my thoughts, and when I see her again she'll understand me a little better for it.

Sunday, May 22


I work for a christian camp, Camp Eagle, who's mission is to "Inspire Christlike change through outdoor adventure, authentic relationships, and Biblical truth." This really is the motivating factor in all that we do, and in the counselors that we hire. We want counselors who love God, love kids, and love adventure. The activities, group initiatives, and experiences that we plan and facilitate are sprung from this mission statement.

Friday, May 20

a snapshot

so i'm taking five minutes to update you on the last five days of staff training:

1. We have 16 staff - 7 girls, 9 boys. that is SOOOOOO many! at least, it seems like it is. But that barely covers the quantity of campers that will be here each week of summer. I like them all. They're quirky, talkative, quick to do things and with a good attitude. (ps. i originally posted "7 girls, 8 boys" and then realized that my math is wrong and i forgot a boy. we have nine...whoops!)

Monday, May 9

the outer fringe

This is an excerpt from a letter I wrote to Hope Moms today, and wanted to share with all of you who had prayed for my Mother's Day:

Earlier last week I had asked the Lord for something unique for Mother's Day, something only He could give. Yesterday morning I was praying for a God-perspective, because mine looked bleak and discouraging, and I was definitely on the fast track to an embittered Mother's Day. 

Saturday, May 7

letter #4

Hi sweetheart.

Do you know that there's not a holiday about children? At least, I don't think that there is. Tomorrow is Mother's Day. But what does tomorrow mean for me without you? It means sympathy hugs, instead of laughter and shared anecdotes. It means awkward looks instead of smiles. It means a quiet house, instead of breakfast in bed with a six and a half month old baby. It means lots of tears, and not all of them worth crying.

Friday, May 6


The feeling of "being out of it" is something I can't seem to shake. 

Even though I have recognized that I have a "new normal" - well, it's not normal yet. I keep waking up, assuming that today I'll feel put together. Today I'll be able to handle camp, Hope Mommies, dishes, and laundry. Today I'll be able to actually listen and emotionally invest in my husband, my friends, family, and LP's. Today I'll feel like all the bases are covered, my house is delightfully clean, my relationships are just where they should be, and I'm at peace and enjoying life.

Wednesday, April 27

missing you.

I really have extraordinary nieces. Each of them is so unique, and with a completely different personality. Brynn is just hilarious. She has a HUGE heart, communicates constantly, always wants to be included, kindof a space cadet, but very intuitive and observant of people. Debi told me a story about her from when she was 3 that has stuck with me:

Monday, April 25

Easter (+ 1 day)

This past week brought many visitors out to Camp Eagle/Home - both of Blair's grandparents came for a visit (drove all the way from Wisconsin!), and my parents came out for the weekend to celebrate their 35th anniversary. 

Thursday, April 21

to wait.

i've been on the run this week. I haven't wanted to let six months be a big deal, so i've stayed busy and have had shallow quiet times. I have found that evasion does not work; your thoughts will find you, no matter how hard you try. here's a bird's eye view of my thoughts this week:

Monday, April 18


it's my daughter's 6 month birthday and my 3 year anniversary with my husband today, so this is not the post that you would typically expect for such a day. But today.

Saturday, April 16


This week held interesting moments for me.

On Wednesday night I sobbed on my porch, remembering how happy I was 6 months prior. It was the eve of my due date, and although I had not had any contractions, how can you not be excited that the day you've been waiting for has finally arrived? Remembering the happiness is too much for me. How could I have been so blissfully unaware?

Saturday, April 9

house of cards

As I've said before, I love C.S. Lewis. Earlier yesterday afternoon, I realized that I had never listened to one of his broadcasts (I was assuming something existed, somewhere, with his voice.) So I found a YouTube video last night, and sat there smiling like a goofball, hearing one of my heroes go on about "prayrr".

I've felt in a funk all week. I've been tired and overwhelmed, and tired of being overwhelmed. I've entertained "crazy" ideas... ideas of running away, hopping a plane, starting over, medication, car wrecks... wednesday was not a healthy day for me. (My husband is amazing though, and redeemed the day by setting out notes of encouragement all over the house, reminding me that it's okay and i'm safe to be myself here.) All week I've felt in a wash of self-pity, jumbling around with discouragement, disappointment, unmet expectations, and bruised pride.

Monday, April 4

a kitchen floor kind of day.

You know it's a bad day when you cry on the kitchen floor.

I woke up today, somehow knowing it would be a tender one. My premonition proved true: I took a nap this afternoon to try and dispel the gloom; I woke up in a daze and wandered to her memory box, crying for awhile over the smell of her. Then I wandered to the living room; I cried for awhile over her first photos. I sat on the kitchen floor; crying for awhile over the enemy of Death, and crying out for the Lord Jesus to return quickly.

Thursday, March 31

terrariums are good for the soul.

So far today I've accomplished:

1. breakfast! (unusual.)
2. prayer meeting at work. (convicting.)
3. gardening! (also unusual.)
4. iced coffee! (delicious.)

I'm a big fan of terrariums. I've only ever had one before now, mind you. But I've always liked them - it's contained chaos, which is pretty cool. This morning I planted three, once i realized i had the right ingredients. Hopefully lavender, dill, and columbine will start sprouting soon.

Monday, March 28

what next?

It's monday morning, and I'm back to my usual routine: coffee, pajamas, quiet time, and blogging. Yesterday I ran the half marathon in dallas. It was ... an experience? To run with so many (15,000 to be exact), all running for various reasons and causes, cheered on by so many family and friends. There was a very cool moment when we were all silent, listening and humming the national anthem. It made me thrill at the thought of thousands upon thousands singing in Heaven, all united in the single purpose of glorifying our Redeemer.

Tuesday, March 22

facing the storm

i've taken a morning "off", so to speak. "Off from what?" you ask? I have a to-do list a mile long for personal, work, and HM tasks that need to be accomplished. But last night I sat on my bathroom floor for an hour, praying and thinking about my current roles and how to keep them all afloat. (I did not reach a solution, in case you were wondering.) But i did doodle all over my washing machine as i processed.

Thursday, March 17


Blair proposed to me at sunrise on November 10, 2007. It was the weekend of my 24th birthday, and he had surprised me with a trip to the Schmidt's for the "girlfriend weekend" and going to an apple orchard. I thought that he would propose at the orchard, so when he came into my room at 5:45am saying, "Sweetheart! Come watch the sunrise with me! I have coffee and a blanket..." I definitely did not see a proposal coming. I scrambled into a pair of jeans and sweater, threw my hair into a clip, and managed to slip in contacts before heading out into the freezing Wisconsin air. We sat on a swing, talking about who knows what and sipping scalding hot coffee before he said the words that changed everything: "I want today to mark the beginning of our new life together. Erin, will you marry me?" (at least, i think that's how it went; i'm pretty sure shock set in and i might've screamed? i did communicate "yes" in some form or fashion.)

He slipped this amazing ring on my finger - a design that i had seen and liked, but he went above and beyond the one i saw and had a jeweler custom make this ring. A few minutes later, i saw camera flashes behind me and looked back to see Miss Laurie and Maggie grinning and snapping pictures. (It's then that i regretted my clothing and hair style choice for the morning.)

We were married five months later, on April 18, 2008. We both had our wedding rings made by the same jeweler who made my engagement ring. Blair's ring is a solid white gold with my name, Erin Leigh, engraved on the top. He told me that he wanted the world to know who he was spending the rest of his life with. My wedding band is a simple rope design, with the words "To Be Holy" engraved on the inside. I wanted to remind myself that marriage was more than the sum of dreams and pursuit of happiness - it was a reverent call to be holy, to be made more and more into the likeness of Christ, who loves us and gave himself for us. I am called to follow the leading of Jesus and serve Blair sacrificially, with joy.

About halfway through my pregnancy, I had to remove the rings. I tell you, it was a sad day when pregnancy fat worked it's way into my fingertips. After I had Gwen, I had hoped that the swelling would go down and I could put on my rings. After three months, I had to face the hard facts: it was not just water retention; my fingers were permanently fatter than before. I took them to get resized, and I finally picked them up today.

I've missed my rings. I forgot how pretty they really are. I have definitely missed the "I'm taken" signal they give off... not that I've been hit on or admired, by any stretch. But it just makes me feel good to know that if I was at any point, I could flash my ring finger as if to say, "That's right, buddy. Taken."

On the drive home, I reflected on what my rings mean - the single token that symbolizes my commitment to love, serve, cherish, admire, uphold, protect, and sacrificially love my spouse. I wish I could remember our vows that we made on April 18, 2008. I don't, and for some very annoying reason, I cannot seem to find the actual vows wherever they are lost in my house. But this I know - what we vowed that day has been lived out for every second of every minute of the last 2 years and 11 months, to the day. Imperfectly, yes. But I love him more today than I thought possible 3 years ago. And I've grown in my comprehension of the characteristics of Love. By the grace of God, our covenant of 2 years and 11 months stands -- without amendments, additions, or excuses.

Reflecting on my wedding day with Blair and our relationship caused me to think about Christ and His bride, the Church. And I created "vows" for Jesus, and what I believe He says to me:

"I will always protect you. I will serve you. I give my life for you. I will always forgive you. I will never hold on to anger with you. I will communicate with you. I will respond when you call. I will provide for you. I will comfort you. I will counsel you. I will create beauty in you. I will lead you. I will never fail you. Even when you fail me, hate me, question me, despise me, ignore me, hurt me - I will never leave you. I will never give up. Nothing can take you away from me. I will love you, unendingly."

Thank You for loving me incomprehensibly, for pursuing me when I was dead to you, pushing you away, rejecting and despising you. Thank you for covenanting with me, accomplishing what I could never do and creating a union that will never fade or be corrupted. 

Tuesday, March 15

chapter 11

I need to start tagging my posts... since i'm pretty sure that this journey is a spiral, and the things i say and conclusions i come to are cyclical.

I've been reading through John for my quiet times. The character of the Lord is so difficult for me to grasp, especially since Jesus' earthly ministry was jam-packed with miracle after miracle, which we don't always see today.

Some observations from John 11:

1) The sisters believed that on the basis of Jesus' love for Lazarus, he would come to them quickly and heal their brother. (11:3) Not an absurd belief at all - I do that every day. Because Blair loves me, I have certain expectations for his actions towards me. If i didn't believe that Blair's love translated to everyday realities, I would have a very low, disconnected view of our marriage and his affection for me. Jesus' love has implications in our day to day life. But i also have a narrow view of what His love for me should look like: I want His love for me to feel soft, to be easy, to always be about comforting me and giving me what I think I need. (there's an ugly, honest truth.)

2) Jesus is about the glory of God. (11:4) and not unfeelingly - He just sees a greater picture than we can see, and He does not stop at what would solely fulfill our emotional desires, but goes beyond that to meet both: the glory of God and the redemption of Man.

3) Jesus purposefully re-enters a city that's dangerous for Him. (11:7) He walks confidently into danger, persecution, reviling, because it is the will of God and He values God and His glory over Himself.

4) Jesus refers to physical death as sleep. (11:11) He sees it as a transient state - true death is separation from God for an eternity.

5) Jesus intimates that healing does not always lead to belief (11:15). I think Jesus rejected sensationalism, and didn't want a fan crowd that only followed Him because He did the miraculous. Jesus could've been present in Bethany and healed a very sick Lazarus. But He held back. Why? Because He wanted Martha, Mary, His disciples, and the crowd to know that He is the Resurrection and the Life.

(Here's where i'm pausing in my study.) Would I have simply given glory to God if He had healed Gwen? Would my life had continued as it was, with her birth experience being just a hiccup and a scare? Would I have been changed? Would my desire to know God be fueled? Would my passion for others to have hope been recharged? Would I long for heaven?

and what about Gwen? Did Jesus in His love for Gwen keep her where she is??? Because He sees Heaven, knows how much better it is than anything the world could offer... than I could offer, and wants that for her? Did the dead who rose in the Bible times really enjoy being brought back into this life? Did they not feel cheated out of paradise for the time being?

Just food for my thoughts.

Saturday, March 12

Running Purposefully

"So I do not run aimlessly..." is Paul's concluding sentence in his argument for his strenuous efforts for the promotion of the gospel. (see 1 Corinthians 9:26)

I have to say, I run aimlessly a lot. Or my aim is for very small, inconsequential things, such as getting rid of pregnancy fat and adding extra endorphins into my system. I started running after Christmas, and set my sights on doing thirteen miles in the Dallas Rock and Roll Half Marathon on March 27.

(Yes, that's right. March 27. That's fifteen days away.)

I've hesitated on asking for sponsors and running for a cause. So many of my good friends, some of them running with me, are already running for great organizations. So instead, I decided to stick my neck out there and run my little heart out for no glorified purpose (heavy sarcasm).

I don't want to run aimlessly. I don't want my efforts, whether they be physical, emotional, spiritual - to be aimless or without a divine, eternal purpose. Who, in their right mind, strives for things that fade? So in fifteen days, I will run for what I believe is imperative for all women - the hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, through the vehicle of Hope Mommies.

I'm actually pretty excited about this now, since I want to make a shirt that will get the 10,000 poor souls running with me to think as they go flying by.

I haven't set a financial goal. I'm nervous. okay, mostly i'm faithless. I don't want to set something too high, and be disappointed. But I don't want to be faithless either, and ask God for something that is "manageable" on human terms. I believe that God will, with funds or without, build Hope Mommies. It's definitely His mission, not my agenda.

But I invite you to participate with Him and us as we strive purposefully for His truth and hope to be known. Pledge whatever the Lord puts on your heart. Pray for Hope Mommies. Earnestly pray. and if you're in the Dallas area on March 27, come cheer us on, please. :) and if you're interested in pledging, shoot me an email at

"I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings." 1 Corinthians 9:23

Friday, March 11


i'm attempting to "simmer down" and breathe. i came home last night from a five day kayaking trip, slept wonderfully, awoke to the sound of my chickens squawking, and got to the busyness of my day. i'm on my  ___ cup of coffee (number unknown), and my scattered thoughts range from the smell of basil in my house, to what the heck am i doing starting a non-profit, to summer camp t-shirts, laundry, my family coming down, and back around again.


where am i really, God? I feel like i've been a little energizer bunny, going and going without knowing how my heart is doing, with emotions bubbling under the surface but never having time to slow down and work through them. or even bring them out to acknowledge, "oh wow. look at that, i feel anxious because ____."

(breathe. collect.)

i had a meltdown in my kayak in the last 3 miles of our 60 mile trip. why, you ask? because God didn't change the wind (and a mound of reasons underneath that.) After a beautiful four days of kayaking, we had only a few more miles before arriving at the boat ramp. We were in the middle of a wide canyon, facing a headwind that i put 100% effort into and moved about 4 inches. irritation, to the max. I was by myself in my kayak, spaced out about a quarter mile between people, praying that the Lord of the Earth would stop the wind and waves. Or at least reverse it so it was a tailwind. But He did neither. So like the disciples, I started crying, "Don't you care???" (Mark 4:38)

Don't you care that I'm not moving at all? Don't you care that I have a hard time knowing You, pursuing You, trusting You? Don't you care that I'm trying really hard to stay faithful, and I don't feel like You're faithful to me? Don't you care that I feel lost? Alone? Discouraged? Overlooked? Overwhelmed? Don't You care about my heart? Why don't You care?"

(cue crying. and yelling in the wind.)

I pulled over to the side of the canyon and towed my boat behind me. I caught up to the group eventually. My mind replayed, "You don't care," a thousand times.

and i'm stuck, Lord, wrestling with what it means to earnestly seek You, believing that You will make yourself find-able. I have felt so unloved by You. I feel like You just keep telling me, "Press on! Persevere! Keep going!" without saying, "I love You sweetheart. I'm for you. I'm with you. I will protect you. I will keep you."

This morning in the shower I picked up the fight where we left off yesterday. (maybe it's a water thing.) and immediately You said, "I scream 'I love you!' from the cross." What more am I asking of you, really? Am i expecting you to make life a bundle of happiness, without any of the tribulation that you promised? Am i expecting you to rescue me from every challenging situation, or emotional or spiritual hurdle? That's not your style. You're about my growth. You're about me turning more and more into your own likeness, the likeness of your Son who died. for me. died. died. Do i even get that? (no.)

Lord, I'm sorry. I do want it easy. In so many ways, I feel like I deserve a free pass on the rest of life's disappointments and sorrows. and i'm an idiot, who looks in the mirror and immediately forgets what she looks like when she walks away. You do answer. You do restore. You do love me. I just forget, God.

(breathe. rest. walk.)

Saturday, March 5

Nueces Trail Run

well i raced a 10k trail run this morning! and you know what? i actually enjoyed it. i know. ME! i hate running! (and i still hold to that.) but somehow the trail run... or maybe it was the racing part? was enjoyable. Blair got first place overall! and I got 5th place in the women's category, out of 27 women. so i'm good with that. :) perhaps now the 1/2 marathon won't be too daunting??

Surprisingly, around the 4th mile i had this song spring in my head, replaying over and over while running. i'm pretty sure it was buried deep somewhere in my psyche, since it definitely isn't part of my normal repertoire. :) enjoy!

Friday, March 4

lessons from my girl

Hi sweetheart.

it's a friday, and i'm hiding out in the house for the morning. It's been a busy, hectic week and I'm craving solitude and time alone with Jesus.

I miss you, sweetheart. I'm assuming that you know that by now, but in case you forget or think that i'll just tag it on to the end of my letter as an afterthought - you're in every thought. i miss your presence at every moment. what i'm not experiencing with you is before me, at every time of the day.

this morning i had a sweet realization - your friend Mandy and i were writing, and i realized that how i speak with her is how i hope i'll speak with you someday. and with your siblings, if the Lord wills for us to have more children. she's ten years younger, but still my friend.

you make me love Jesus more, gwenny. I didn't know what it would be like to feel more love for Jesus, but you give me glimpses of what that looks like. I've read about people really in LOVE with Jesus and kindof  thought they were crazy, or that that kind of passion is so heavenly that I won't feel it until I get there. But knowing how I love you has made loving Him more tangible. For example:

Your name is precious to me. I love to write it. I love seeing it. Putting your name on something gives it more value to me (my necklaces, your scrapbook, etc.) If anyone were to use it casually, or treat it irreverently, i would definitely sin in some way (curse them, slap them, murder them in my heart...).  And not because your name is some powerful word on it's own (even though it is beautiful), but because it's yours. it's what i call you. and YOU are my precious daughter.

Jesus' name means more to me now. I want to love His name the way I love yours. I want to be offended when people use it casually. I am learning more and more what it means to pray in the name of Jesus - to pray what I think He wants, what is His will, what will glorify Him. I would never casually tack your name onto my grocery list of needs - why should I do that with His? If I were representing you, I would make sure that I what I was pleading for was pure, right, and holy; making you not ashamed to be called my daughter.

You're on my mind, ALL the time. Like C.S. Lewis wrote, "Your absence is the sky, spread over everything." and some days the sky is overcast, and some days it is bright blue, full of hope and laughter. but missing you eclipses every moment.

Having you always on my mind has made me aware of two things: one, praying ceaselessly IS possible. I now know what it feels like to be in constant communion and meditation. and two, Jesus is over all. He's in everything, every moment, Lord of every situation, conversation, decision. Like i told you in the hospital, He created everything - everything is by Him, for Him, and held together in Him. I understand His nearness and involved-ness in a new way.

Thank you for teaching me what it means to long for the Lord, gwendolyn. You are my precious daughter, and I am blessed and humbled to be your mom. I'm eagerly awaiting the day when I get to hold you again.

Love you deeply, more than you'll ever know.


Tuesday, March 1

heirs of the earth

This morning i decided to use a devotional book as a supplement to my quiet time, to kick start me back into study since i've been coasting the past week or so. I have a devotional by Nancy Leigh DeMoss that works through the Psalms, so I opened up to the next one in queue: Psalm 51, David's famous "forgive me" psalm after his affair with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah.

And immediately I thought, "oh rats. I was hoping for a better one; this doesn't apply to me." (warning sirens should've sounded in my brain, but they didn't.)

So as I'm working through it, the Lord began to highlight things in me, ugly things that I wish weren't a part of my processing:

1. The "why me?" victim mentality I've frequently entertained since Gwendolyn died,
2. The audacity and pride that I've held before the Lord; "Sin isn't my issue; your will is."

Why not me? Why not me, out of the 15 other pregnant women I knew in 2010? Why am I anything different, that I "deserve" a healthy, happy daughter? Why do i elevate myself above pregnant teens, neglectful parents, abusive parents, parents on drugs?

Have I made wise decisions, preparing me for motherhood?
yes, by the grace of God. 

Did I enjoy a healthy, drug free pregnancy?
yes, by the grace of God.

Will I ever hurt or neglect my children?
no, by the grace of God.

My ability to be a better mom is not my own doing; it is by the grace of God. And while it is so difficult for me to swallow that the Lord gives precious babies to irresponsible women, and not to me - it's not for me to decide. it's not for me to point my finger, to elevate myself, to decide who is deserving and who is not. How can I know what God is doing in that woman's life? perhaps that baby is His redemption.

And what am i deserving of? An eternity of suffering - an endless October 20th. But by the grace of God, I am what I am: saved. forgiven. redeemed. chosen. blessed. hopeful.

Monday, February 28

time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping...

"oh home, let me come home! home is whenever I'm with you! Oh home, yes I am home, home is when I'm alone with you!"

Those are the words to the chorus of a song by Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes, and it's a quirky but quickly annoying song, so i didn't link to it. :) But I've had it weaving through my thoughts yesterday and today, as I've finally settled back in to home and am reorienting myself to a normal schedule.

For those of who you didn't know, the past month has been busy with traveling -

February 4-6: Hope Mommies Retreat in Brady, TX
February 11-12: Austin for the Sparks/Saenz wedding extravaganza
February 14: Blair left for marketing in San Marcos
February 15 - 20: I went to Dallas/Denton to see family
February 21 - 23: Blair and I both drove to Tyler (separately) for a CCCA Conference
February 24: Home for a day! Laundry. lots of it.
February 25-27: Family Camp with Kerrville Bible Church
February 27: Left Family Camp, drove to San Antonio for a Camp Fair
February 28: Home! (oh home, yes i am home...)

It's been a long month. And in my old age I'm getting very used to my homebody schedule, and feel "out of it" whenever I am not able to wake up in my own bed, brew my starbucks coffee, sit in my pajamas all day long, working from my couch for Camp Eagle and Hope Mommies.

I haven't had adequate time with the Lord and in His Word in the last two weeks, so I don't feel like I have any deep well to draw from to sum up or expand on any emotional diatribes I've had in the month of February. It's just been one of those missing months, where I know I was busy but i'm not always sure with what, and how well I did whatever it is that I was supposed to do.

So on to March!

Tuesday, February 22

somewhere in the middle of this

** I wrote this yesterday, but didn't finish, but wanted to post anyway. so here. :) **


so worship is hard for me, right? (and by worship i mean, the beginning music set at a christian church service.) music is emotional words put to song, and christian music is emotional words, founded on truth, directed to the God of the universe. and it's just really unfortunate for me that music is always the beginning of a church service, because i'm usually a wreck by the 3rd line of the first song, and i start to check out because being in His presence is just too much for me. so by the time the sermon comes along i have a difficult time pulling back together and concentrating. I think i miss a lot of good sermons now because my brain is so blurred.

last night i went with Autumn and Justin to the Upper Room community in Dallas.

So i was raised fairly conservative, and this group is just so NOT conservative that it's a little unnerving. But last night i started to wonder if they are the group that has the courage to shout what we only whisper, to proclaim what we only hope for. (maybe. and maybe we're all wrong and in heaven we'll laugh at our elementary worship of God on earth.)

I know that everything I do, see, hear, or experience is filtered through the lens of disappointment, and great sorrow, and the weight of the knowledge of a Long-Suffering God. And it's difficult for me to be with so much joyful happiness when I am not in that place. And it's challenging for me to put a reign on cynicism, and not think, "Yes, but..." all the time.

Saturday, February 19

to MJ, BG, LJ, AF; F T

so the problem is that my brain doesn't wind down until 11:30 or so at night. that's when i can finally consolidate all my millions of thoughts into a blog post. the downside of this is that i don't get to sleep before midnight very often... at least not on my own. blair goes to bed early these days, so i usually go to bed with him, and lay awake for a couple hours. but since we're in different cities this week, i've had no one to remind me to get my butt in bed and off the computer. (miss you, handsome.)

i spent time with my nieces today. they are hilarious. we painted toes and fingers, and spent about a half hour playing with the photobooth application on my macbook. i don't have much to say, except that i've noticed a trend: good days follow hard ones, if i let them.

merit on the left, working the comic book effect
(correction, that would be the right... i only realized this after autumn told me i was wrong... geez. that whole left/right thing is a real challenge.)

blonde brynn takes the spotlight

funny faces are obviously so much more fun than smiley ones

went for a rollercoaster ride

blurry, but i got all THREE to smile. and look in the general direction of the camera. yes, be impressed.

leila was completely creeped out by this, but the other girls thought it was hilarious.

i'm thankful for my four beautiful nieces. they delight my heart.

ps. if you're wondering about my blog title, it translates: "to merit jane, brynn grace, leila joy, aidah faith. from tante." (tante would be me. and all the initials are how the girls address and sign their letters. UH-dorable.)

Thursday, February 17

a million places

My sister Autumn and her husband Justin live in a swanky old apartment building in downtown dallas. It's similar to my apartment that i had in chicago - hardwood floors, multiple paint layers on the door jams, well worn creaks. [as a side note, every time i've stayed with them i've gotten stuck in their bathroom. you can't close the door all the way due to the door jam sticking, and I inevitably forget that each time i've visited, and reach the point of crying at 3am because i can't get out. i have thankfully avoided this dilemma this time around. (house=4, erin=1)]

Being with Autumn has been refreshing for my soul. good sisters have a way of doing that, i think. I miss Blair. I wish I were with him. and at home. And i've been reminded that I'm not fully present anywhere, all the time. My mind was a million different places today. I went for a walk in the Dallas Arboretum, determined to do some listening to God rather than all the talking. Amidst the magnolia trees and gravel pathways, this is what I observed and heard:

"I am glorified in all my creation."

"I bring forth the flowers in their right time."

Beauty will spring from the dead, frozen earth.

"I will restore joy."

One day you will bring your children here, and reflect on the day when you were sitting here alone, missing your child.

"To him who has no might He increases strength."

 I want to elaborate on His reminder that He restores joy. At one end of the Arboretum is a huge grassy slope that overlooks White Rock Lake. When I was about 10, my family went for a picnic to the gardens, and I remember Autumn and I rolling down this hill along with a bunch of other kids. At the bottom of the hill after a breathless roll, a boy came up to us and announced, "This is my game. I made it up!" And i remember my sister giving him a mouthful about how he did NOT make up rolling down hills. I'm not sure why this particular memory has stuck in my head all these years, but it did.

Today I laid in the grass on the hill (which was awesome, let me tell you. grass is non-existent in the hill country) and asked the Lord, "What is it that you want me to hear from You, God? I want to hear You." And I opened my Bible to Isaiah 40:6-8:

A voice says "Cry!"
And I said, "What shall I cry?"
All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
when the breath of the LORD blows on it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.

After reading, I laid back down to contemplate the meaning of this word at this exact moment in my life, when i heard laughter behind me. I turned around to see a small girl with curly hair and her big brother rolling down the hill. The moment was so precious to me - that I would see a repeat of a picnic day from long ago.

Even now as I contemplate on this, I see Isaiah's words blooming into meaning: Things repeat. Sorrow increases and replays. but Joy is better, stronger, and eternal. It repeats. We're just people, and we will see the same habits and stories and sorrows and joys replay in every person's life; it just fleshes out in alternate ways. but the word of the Lord stands forever.

What is the word of the Lord? It is Jesus. He stands forever. He will never change. He will always be true to His character, His actions will always proceed from it. He does not act one way toward me that He will not do for another. He is not like us, with our masquerading faces. He will show compassion, because He is the definition of Compassion. He will heal, because He is the Healer - He cannot act in a way that is contrary to His nature. He is unendingly Himself. It is not that I need Him to be compassionate, or healing, or faithful, or loving. It is that I need to have eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart that is receptive to His person. When He is fully present, I will be knocked off my feet, and overflowing in every aspect of my life.

Oh how I long for the fullness of Your presence! Give me eyes to see, Lord.

Monday, February 14


Oh Gwen.

I had plans for another post, but with Kelly's song playing in the background and Paige's recent post, the images of you laying in your NICU bed have rushed to the front of my mind and i sit, missing you.

oh baby, does God give you my letters? does He let you see me and your daddy, here missing you? does He show you what He's doing?

oh dear. here i am alone at the house, and having a breakdown like i haven't had in awhile. i've kept busy with work and hope mommies, and it's shoved my sadness into darker corners, waiting for an opening to take the limelight of my concentration.

gwen i miss you. i miss being pregnant with you. i'm envious of every young mother i see. i want to show you off. i want to see you discover your hands and how your wrists can move. i'm missing your infancy, and i'm jealous of the angels and saints. i have a week where i stay fairly busy, and have only cried a little each day, and i think, "maybe it'll work to keep going," and then in rushes you, the memory of your fuzzy head and how hopeful i was in the hospital, "maybe... maybe i will see her and her heart will have improved...maybe her kidneys will have started to work... maybe, maybe..." remembering the hope is painful. i physically ache to feel you, gwendolyn.

it's valentines day, sweetheart. although that doesn't mean very much to me, really... holidays come and go and i usually don't remember what day it is anyway. but if you were here, i'm sure i would've dressed you up in something obnoxiously pink and red, taking pictures of blair and me kissing your chubby cheeks to send out as our valentines day card.

oh sweetheart. your mom is now armed with a box of kleenex and listening to just about every depressing song that exists, so i will not drag this out. i love you. i miss you. endlessly.
happy valentine's day, sweetheart.

Wednesday, February 9

what in the world.

seriously, only God.

Over the last four months, I've had a continuous thought: "I don't know how people who don't know the Lord get through death, especially death of their long awaited infant." And since then, the Lord has burdened my heart to share the hope that I still hold on to, even (almost) four months after my gwenny's death.

First, let me just lay my hope out there: I believe that I am a sinner, and that there's no possible way for me to get around that. Imagining God doesn't exist doesn't get me around that. Doing good things doesn't even out the score. Pretending like it's all fine and "I'll worry about that later," doesn't get me around that. The great thing is that I don't have to. I believe that God exists, that He loves me and all mankind, and out of His complete mercy, He sent HIS SON to die a torturous death on the cross, to cover my sin. and then God raised Him from the dead, bringing the offer of salvation to the table and showing the world who's Boss.

What am I supposed to do in response to this knowledge? Accept. Trust. Repent. Turn away from sin and self. Hope for the future, walk in the Spirit, and be obedient to His words. And because I have believed that Jesus Christ is Lord and died for my sins, I know I will live forever. In perfection. with my daughter. because I believe that all infants that fall asleep in this world wake up in paradise.

and that is my hope. that Gwendolyn's death is not a forever thing. it's a "only as long i shall live" thing. and then it's on to perfection! crazy.

Knowing that God is bigger than death and that He has saved me enables me not to despair. and enables me to live each day - still - with joy, knowing that perfection is coming.

So, that's my hope. and that is what many people don't have. And i cannot - CANNOT - ignore that any longer. Gwendolyn's death has given me a greater sense of urgency for people to know the Lord, and i'm thankful for that. and as a result, Hope Mommies is beginning.

Hope Mommies is actually just this grand idea, really. I want it to be a website for infant loss, since there isn't very much out there that i've found to be helpful or truthful. I want it to be a way to build community among Hope Moms, so that they can know they are not alone. I want a prayer team that faithfully upholds each Hope Family in prayer. I want to be able to financially help families who cannot cover medical or funeral expenses. I want to give each new Mom a gift basket with good books, tea, kleenex, and gift cards so they can dine out/order in, or pay for a cleaning service. I want to designate teams of people who are willing to tangibly serve these moms by making meals, cleaning their houses, watching their kids, doing laundry. I want to have bible studies for them to download and do on their own, as they wrestle with topics like, "the Goodness of God" and "Heaven" and "Anger" and "What Now?". I want them to be able to buy a t-shirt that tells their story. I want a lot of things for this, actually.

But mostly i just want God to be glorified in my life and blair's and gwenny's. and for moms to know that they are not alone, and that God loves them more than they could ever, ever imagine. and that He will bring beauty from ashes, if they allow Him to.

so stay tuned to Hope Mommies for more details. :)

Thank You Lord, for doing something so beautiful in this broken vessel. It's your beauty leaking through. Please tell my Gwenny that I love her, that I cannot wait to see her, and that I am so thankful for her in my life... she is making me a better mom than i could've ever hoped for. 

Tuesday, February 8

yes, i know this is my 4th post in one day

it's taken me a long time to change my facebook picture. maybe such a small thing shouldn't have held so much meaning, but it has. since gwendolyn died almost 4 months ago, i haven't wanted to change my photos from any of hers... i was afraid of looking "fine". I knew the picture would have to be something really fantastic to make me feel like it was okay to take gwenny's down. 

this is my photo now. because this still holds the reminder of my gwendolyn, but even more, it is an ongoing proclamation of what her life is accomplishing. These are Hope Mommies. 

post post script - my favorite part

As i said earlier at the beginning of this story, my favorite part of the weekend was the end of it. I sat with eight other women on a rock in the middle of the San Saba river, pouring our hearts out before the Lord. I loved the closeness of the Holy Spirit to us in that moment. it was tangible. and cause praise to spring to our lips.

I drove home with a heart full of words to our Savior. I had such an intense drive home! I'm actually surprised i didn't get ticketed. I don't normally speed, but as i was praying i would forget to watch the odometer and found myself past 80mph more than once.

I was driving through Fredericksburg to Kerrville, and would pass Gwen's cemetery. I couldn't wait to stop and see her. I was anxious to tell her about the weekend, to thank God for how her sweet life is changing mine and countless others.

I stopped the car. I practically ran to her plot and fell on my knees. I sat there, kneeling over my daughter's body, kissing her headstone, with arms outstretched and voicing the highest praise i could imagine. And i kept saying, "Only YOU! Only You could cause a woman to kneel over her baby's decaying body, declaring Redemption and Hope. Only You can cause brightness and beauty to spring forth from ashes and desolation. What satan had thought would forever cause me to despair has created a greater, more fulfilling joy than i ever imagined. Only You!"

And i knew then that dark days were still ahead. i would still doubt, still be sad, still cry, still mourn the loss of my motherhood and what our family was meant to be. but God is gracious enough to walk through those moments with me. and while I may not always be at peace enough to praise Him from the foot of my daughter's grave, I was that day. and I now have that picture permanently sketched in my mind, and I know that He can and will bring me to that peace again.

"For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave. You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever." Psalm 16:10-11, NLT

post script

the enemy's attempts at destroying this weekend were so evident to me.

first, the weather. how often does Texas have freezing "arctic blasts" in a winter??? not very often, let me tell you. The weather changed whitney's flight, and almost prohibited chelsea from coming from dallas.

 --- one good thing about the cold weather is that it hopefully prohibited trafficking and prostitution from coming to dallas for the super bowl! praise the Lord.

second, envy was high on my personal list of attacks this weekend. i was surrounded by beautiful, fashionable women! and i live at a camp, in t-shirts and jeans and no make up! "auggghhh!" my materialistic side wailed. the Lord reminded me ceaselessly this weekend not to take stock in my personal appearance, to be myself, and to know that that is enough. I am loved.

weekend recap

oh my goodness. well i just have no idea how to communicate the things felt/experienced/learned from this weekend. and i really want to start blogging with my favorite part, but that came at the end of the weekend, so i should just save it and build suspense.

this past weekend 10 of us Hope Mommies traveled to Brady, Texas to spend a weekend together -- sharing our stories, crying, laughing, and finding comfort in the One who brings Hope to such dismal circumstances. to be honest with you, i had no idea what to expect of this weekend. and i actually thought that the whole thing was pretty weird (still do, kind of.) i mean, who travels to nowhere texas to meet up with women who's blogs you have read?? it's weird. i've never done such a thing before. but, i've never had a reason to do this before either. so, travel to Brady i did.

as i drove,  i prayed that the Lord would show up in a big way and bring comfort and healing and laughter. (and He did.) i actually passed the entrance to the ranch the first time around, because i was talking on the phone. so i made a u-turn and continued searching for the entrance, then came to a screeching halt (not the brightest idea on a busy road) when i saw a huge, ginormous Hope Mommies banner! i think my first words were, "Tisha! she's so crazy." (crazy in a good way, Tish. :) )

The ranch house was beautiful. Set over the San Saba River, it had a beautiful porch, fireplaces, tons of room, comfy couches. The driveway was also nice and smooth, which was good since i had a long run planned for saturday.

The girls started arriving around 5pm, and it was almost like first date awkwardness... but better. :) knowing so much about each other's hearts made it seem weird to start from the inside out, learning about the little things... if/how each person likes their coffee, their hobbies, how old they are, where they went to school, etc. but by the end of the night i think we all had relaxed into a comfortable rhythm of relating to one another. Friday night a musical group came out to entertain us and lead us in worship music, and i loved sitting next to Kelly and hearing her beautiful voice harmonize when we sang I Will Rise by Chris Tomlin.

We stayed up til 2am talking!! I'm fairly confident that i have not done that since college. Sarah and I shared a room, and i appreciated that she agreed with me that this whole thing was kindof weird. glad to have a kindred spirit. ;)

Saturday morning i awoke bright and early... literally bright, since our window faced the east and had no blinds or curtains. :) Thankfully we were stocked up on coffee, and our morning started slowly as each woman meandered out. A sweet woman named Lindsey came to share with us and I appreciated her words, specifically how the soil in the midst of our valley is fertile, ready to receive our tears and bear fruit of righteousness, hope, and faith if we allow God to grow it in us.

Saturday afternoon consisted of talking together, calling our husbands individually, taking photos with the amazing Shuffields, and going for a run (6.4 miles! amazing. i've never run so far in my whole life!). Saturday night was a delicious dinner, loads more of talking, sharing the vision of Hope Mommies (more on that later), smores, wine, LAUGHING, taking silly pictures with the girls, talking. another late night - 2am! seriously. you women are amazing that you can stay up so late. :) i think since Gwen i've become a sleep hoarder.

Sunday morning was sweet, with more coffee, a bit of a quiet time, saying goodbye to Mary Beth,  listening to Tina, and having a letter and gift from my prayer warrior. Tisha had asked specific women to uphold the 10 of us in prayer for the  past 30 days, then write us a letter. My warrior gave me a a willow tree angel - the angel of hope - who holds out a candle in the darkness. Perfect reminder of what i have because of our Savior - light in a dark world of suffering and doubt.

Sunday I packed up, and before we left we took a few more photos down by the river, and sat on a rock and praised the Lord with prayer. This was my favorite part, and will have it's own blog post. :) Then i drove back to kerrville to watch the super bowl game with my wonderful husband.

And it was a fantastic weekend. full of more than i could've imagined. and less weird than i thought. :)

Sunday, February 6


is welling up in me.

This weekend was such a tremendous blessing, and i am so thankful to the Lord for His orchestration of the entire thing. I love my sweet new friends. I love their babies. and I love our Jesus, for giving us hope.

I have more to write about, but i am so tired (10 hours of sleep tops the last two days!) and need to debrief this weekend with the Lord.

But thank you for praying for us this weekend. I know that countless saints were lifting us up, and I want to say thank you, and know that your prayers were heard and abundantly answered. Praise be to our majestic Savior.

good night, sweet friends.

Wednesday, February 2

crying uncle

"For in grief nothing 'stays put'. One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral? But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?"
- C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

i've been so irritated with you, God.

and i've felt like i keep coming back to this place of surrender and ashes, that i wonder, "Haven't i learned anything at all?" But perhaps it's only wishful thinking that hopes that a decision once made, a bridge once crossed needs never to be crossed again. I would hope to never wrestle with the demon, "God is not good" ever again, but that's not the way it works. I come back to grappling with him, again and again, until I finally cry uncle.

I'm awake at 4 in the morning with these thoughts, and the unquenchable Spirit you've put in me repeating, "I surrender, I surrender..." And I do yield, Lord. I resist that you are, in fact, a paradox; a combination of good and uncertain,  absent and faithful. I'd rather think that you are altogether pure and nothing evil can be done or allowed by you, or uncaring - wholly bent on your own will being executed and your glory attained.

You are both. And that is so very difficult for me to grasp.

I correct myself - You are not uncaring. Your caring is greater than what I want it to be. I would rather have Gwen than the shadow of the cross covering me. But that in itself it's own paradox - I will have Gwen again because of the cross.

I love C.S. Lewis. and how reading his books makes everyone think they can write as brilliantly as he did.

I've been irritated with you because what I know to be true and what I'm experiencing are different, and the only way of getting "even" with you (as if that were possible) seemed to be to ignore you and run away.

I appreciate that Lewis has felt the same: " I was getting from it the only pleasure a man in anguish can get; the pleasure of hitting back. It was really just Billingsgate -- mere abuse; 'telling God what I thought of Him.' And of course, as in all abusive language, 'what I thought' didn't mean what I thought true. Only what I thought would offend Him (and His worshippers) most. That sort of thing is never said without some pleasure. Gets it 'off your chest.' You feel better for a moment."

Haven't I already wrestled through this with you? Haven't I already decided, "No turning back"?? Why is this repeating itself?? And why, when even during my fits of false accusations (or true ones), I already know the answer, and know that I will eventually yield and trust? Does this mean that I'm a fool, never learning from past matches?

You are so bizarre, God. I arrive at last to the conclusion i've known all along, and what do i find waiting for me? Peace. bizarre.

I really just want you to tell me that you'll never do this to me again. and promise to give me other children. and remind me in tangible ways that I am loved by you, cared for, delighted in, adored. I want you to apologize, really. I want you to say you're sorry, and to make it right.

And perhaps as Blair suggested, you've been trying to do that very thing, but cannot comfort a writhing child, anxious to run away with her fingers plugged in her ears. but perhaps not.

"For I know whom I have believed,"  is my cry, Lord. I know your character, and though it's paradoxical, i know it can be trusted.

Oh Lord I believe! Help me in my unbelief. But oh God, tenderly, tenderly.

Friday, January 28

you take the 'mallow...

so, God is so God to do something like this.

I think... no, i KNOW that He's radically changing my perspective about Heaven and my life here on Earth. and guys, i cannot even tell you how crazy this is for me. I was the girl, who though i was a believer and loved Jesus and was thankful that He saved me from an eternal death, was f-r-e-a-k-e-d out by the idea of Heaven, and an ETERNITY spent there.

freaked out. i even confessed this to my pastor and his wife while they were visiting us after gwenny's death, and i was extremely consoled that my pastor's wife also thinks its crazy to be somewhere for FOREVER (now i'm mentally picturing the Sandlot's kid saying, "forrr evvvv er....")

but seriously - i used to pray that God wouldn't allow me to die until i was a grandma. there was too much i wanted to do here on earth, i didn't want death and heaven and eternal glory to get in the way.

what a load of crap, you know? what a lie of satan to tell me that this Earth is the end all, and to dull the senses to things that are purely selfish and about getting the most of out of life that is humanly possible.

so i've been reading Heaven by Randy Alcorn, and i finished Safely Home, also by Randy Alcorn (a must read) and have been meditating on 1 Corinthians 15 and Isaiah 61. I love that the Word of God is transformational. and that reading and allowing the Truth -- that i am a sojourner here -- to affect me is altering my perspective on the few short years i have left.

"so why not?" has been the question in my mind as i contemplate new ministry opportunities, or the daily ministry that i find myself in with my community here at camp. why not get over myself, and invest all, give all, hope for all, pray for all?

and this definitely doesn't negate grief. but it softens it. it reminds me that Gwendolyn is real, and really waiting for me. It reminds me that I'll spend an eternity knowing, loving, laughing, playing, and worshipping with her.

so, today is starting out hopeful. we're going to Austin for the weekend for some work things, so i'll get to enjoy a run (hopefully) around Zilker park, and drink my favorite zebra mocha from Austin Java, and breathe in the goodness of Anthropologie (things that i love but are way too expensive.)

Thursday, January 27

death and taxes

i was going to have a productive day today... i was.

blair and i had a good morning together. we both had tea and quiet times. i was going to file our tax return, work on our personal budget, clean, go for a run, spend a few hours on retail, make something for dinner.

and so i started with our tax refund, since that usually doesn't take that long. and did you know that you can claim a deceased dependent? you can. i suppose i'd rather have our government acknowledge Gwen, as opposed to glossing over her life as if it didn't happen, but still. i'm not supposed to have to wonder how to do this. or how to get her SSN, since she wasn't issued one. and how to file for her since i don't have her SSN or birth certificate. so after calling H&R Block and crying, i decided i'll let them do all the work and hopefully they can figure it all out, using just her death certificate.

as a side note, i could've gotten her birth certificate, but when i called about it the young woman on the other line quietly informed me that it would have a giant red "DECEASED" stamp on it. so i declined. seriously though, is that necessary!? as if i didn't know. ridiculous policy.

okay. breathe. the day can be redeemed.

mmm, maybe.

Tuesday, January 25

warning: i'm in a weird mood.

i'm the worst citizen in America. i didn't even realize there was a State of the Union address tonight. i treat my civil liberties nonchalantly, as if it were no big thing to have the freedom that i have. ugh. sometimes my ignorance and selfishness really irritates me.

my sweet friend danielle came to visit me for a few days. blair has been gone on a recruiting trip since sunday, so she came down to keep me company and help me with my back room. we packed up some of gwendolyn's things.

and yeah, i don't want to talk about that right now.

so, moving on...

(i've sat here for 5 minutes, thinking what topic i should "move on" to... and realizing there's not one, really. geez.)

M (danielle) and i went to Fredericksburg today. and for all of you christians in this middle of nowhere vicinity, you should know that there's a christian bookstore in Fredericksburg. smallish, but good selection of books and authors.

hmmm.... i feel that i have nothing important or impactful or helpful or informative to say.  (i did just learn that spell check doesn't recognize impactful as a word. is it not a word?)

so i'm going to bed now.


Thursday, January 20

in the presence

this has kind of been an interesting week.

hard conversations, another melt down, a great time with the walkabout students, a true "farm experience" (more on that later.)

the last two days my thoughts have revolved around one idea - that God prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies. I keep waking up each day, hoping that i won't be overwhelmed with despair. that something will happen in that day that makes it worth it to keep waking up. (i know, that sounds super depressing. but i've decided that maybe i am super depressed, but it's not as bad as we make depression out to be.) and i've realized that sadness will not go away. it will be a consistent undercurrent to my daily life. i don't have to acknowledge it every day. and if i don't acknowledge it, it doesn't mean i love Gwen any less. or that she's not consistently on my mind or that i don't miss her. and what others think about me is not what matters. ( i get worried that they think i'm over it. or that i'm too upset. but that's not the point.)

so i've meditated on God preparing a table before me - providing for me, loving me, ministering to my needs - in the presence of my enemies - Self Pity, Doubt, Pride, Despair. So i may be in the presence of those things, but that doesn't mean that they have conquered me.

on the livelier side things, blair and i killed a chicken this week. it was terrible. we raise chickens for eggs, but we had a meat hen that we wanted to butcher, since she was getting picked on by the other hens anyway. and thankfully scott, our neighbor, came by and held the chicken down so i didn't have to anymore. but i'm now seriously contemplating removing chicken from my diet for awhile, since i can vividly picture it doing backflips without a head. seriously traumatizing...

also, last night i did an identity piece with the walkabout girls - college age girls who are here for a gap year program. it was so beautiful to see that the Lord is truly in the business of redeeming what has been broken, stolen, or spent. He is passionate about those girls (and me, and you) and is INTENT on us knowing His truth in our inmost being. and He will not stop until He has won over every part of us, even those things that are shameful and hidden, and has renounced the lies in which we view ourselves. I loved seeing Him at work last night. and selfishly, i think i really needed the reminder that God is here, at work, and has not forgotten to be merciful.

This quote has been drifting around in my brain this week:

"There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: "Mine!" -Abraham Kuyper

I believe He cries that over me now, that even in my sadness and the current thread of my daily living, he declares with confidence and power, "MINE!"

Friday, January 14


my daily routine has dramatically changed in the last 12 weeks.

while i was pregnant, i would wake up multiple times in the night to use the restroom. i would usually wake by 5:30 or 6am, and stay awake while gwendolyn announced (with many kicks and pushes) that she too, was up and ready for the day. I would make breakfast for blair and myself, 75% of the time. I'd have a quiet time with a cup of tea before i got on the computer. i'd clean the house, organize her bedroom, finish projects before the upcoming birth. i usually needed a nap by 10am. i'd hang out with anne and boone, or walk down to camp to see the WA students. i made lunch and dinner with relish, enjoying easing in to my role as a stay at home mom.

now... well, now things are pretty different.

i wake up when blair kisses me goodbye for work, around 8am. i get up and put the tea kettle on, and after i finish the tea i put on a pot of coffee. i maybe have breakfast one morning out of the week. i check emails and facebook. i have a quiet time and journal when i feel that i can be in the Lord's presence with all of me.  then i sit and read - a novel, a grief book, blogs. i try to do something productive in the afternoon - laundry. dishes. going for a run. rummaging in the fridge for something edible for dinner. blair and i usually watch a movie or play a game or read our books at night. he goes to bed early now, and i stay awake. and the day repeats.

this morning i was reminded of two things:
suffering is universal. and it is possible to shine Light into the darkness, and the darkness will not prevail.

I found a blog about Katie, a 21 year old american woman who counted the cost and now lives in Uganda, and has 13 adopted girls. She is inspirational in her devotion and willingness to be used up.

I recently started reading the book Heaven by Randy Alcorn, which is really a feat for me since i've always been nervous about eternity. Knowing that we won't be married in Heaven, i often tell Blair how sad that makes me since i love being married to him. (He doesn't seem to have the same emotion in return. :) ) but we now joke that since our marriage is temporary, we should make the most of it.

and reading Katie's blog, and looking at my Gwendolyn's picture this morning, i felt the urge to "make the most of it" - my life here on Earth... "Why not?" was the question echoing in my head concerning a new opportunity God has given me.

The more I read of Heaven and fully embrace the goodness awaiting us - the goodness my daughter is already experiencing - the less hold i have on these things here. and my spirit is uplifted.

"But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep... For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words." 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, 16-18 (italics mine)

And so right now, sitting on my couch listening to pandora, i am encouraged at heart and rejoice (yeah, i actually rejoice!) that this is coming! how exciting. how wonderful to have hope. how wonderful that my daughter gets to rise first, and we will always be with the Lord. how short our time is until this becomes reality.

but here's the tricky part of life - in just a moment i am going to get off my couch, put on my running shoes and jog. then come home and make lunch. clean the house. work for a few hours. spend time with scott and anne. and carry on with the day to day business of life. and when the dailyness of life comes back, i am hit again with what i don't have right now - a baby, a home full of laughter, an unbroken heart. and it's with the dailyness of life that i despair, and miss my gwenny. and what my life was supposed to be.

so. somehow i need to keep Heaven before me, allow for mourning (which is right to do), be motivated by the brevity of life, and still make an impact for eternity in the day to day. hmm. daunting. possible?

"May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the 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! 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." Psalm 20

Tuesday, January 11

on bad days...

i am full of verbal vomit.
when some unsuspecting stranger asks me how i'm doing, a strangled, senseless response comes out and all of a sudden, i'm crying.
when people talk, i have the endless thought, "pay attention! pay attention! pay attention!" occurring in my brain... and five minutes later i ask myself, "what did they talk about?"
i cry when people look at me sympathetically.
i cry when they don't.
i cry at animated little girls in tutus and rain boots.
i worry that i'm going crazy.
or that i'm depressed.
i want to sleep forever.
my psychology classes are coming to haunt me with dumb diagnoses.
i'm more comfortable in front of this computer screen than my friend's faces, and that worries me.
i worry about blair being stuck with a mental wife.
i worry about blair and his grief.
grief seems to be getting worse.

mandi reminded me that there's no roadmap to grief - it is messy. no clean way of doing this.

today was a bad day.

Friday, January 7

a better country

when i was a child i used to pretend quite a bit... one of my more eccentric pretends was to imagine life without one of the senses (touch, hearing, talking, sight, taste). the worst one for me was always blindness... i would close my eyes and stumble through my house, cursing when i'd stub my toes and  thinking of how brave blind people must be to attempt to encounter a world that would always hold a surprise for them.

today i've felt a surge in compassion for the campers that we serve each summer. we often do a group development activity that involves blindfolding campers, teaching them to rely on their friends and to learn to trust. some are able to trust immediately, seeing this as a game and laughing about how they stumble about. others are frozen, and nothing can coax them out of their current position and inspire them to move.

i've felt "off" this past week. while on our trip, i was in survival mode, just trying to make it through each day until i got home. now i'm home, and i've felt emotionally stunted, blinded once again. i've felt disconnected from God, and irritated about it. He did take my child; the least He could do would be to stick with me through it all. and what am i to think about the promised Holy Spirit? isn't his role to comfort and counsel? so what the heck, God.

On December 28, the Lord whispered to me through Isaiah:
"And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know; in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do; and I do not forsake them." (Isaiah 42:16)

So where was this Guide? Did He leave me? Is He ignoring me? Am I too stubborn to get up and move?  Where is the promised light before me?

I got my answer in another treasure hunt... combine John 1 with chapter 1 from Randy Alcorn's book on Heaven, plus Isaiah 42:16, and this is my conclusion:

I've been sitting in the dark, cupping my hands over my ears, trying to hold on to grief, hold on to Gwen, and block out anything that could further hurt me, be it friends or family or God. It's still dark. I am blinded by it, and blind to the glory of Heaven that is TRUE, and awaits those who put their trust in Christ. But Jesus has been standing by my side, patiently waiting, calling me to reach up and grasp His hand, and trust that He will lead me. He didn't say when He would turn the darkness before me into light. But He is the Light. He didn't say when He would bring me from this valley. But He promised to lead me through it. and His promises are sure.

"The blind must take by faith that there are stars in the sky. If they depend on their ability to see, they will conclude that there are no stars." (Heaven, pg. 13)

"We will one day be delivered from the blindness that separates us from the real world [Heaven]." (Heaven, pg. 13)

"In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." John 1:4-5

"These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one." Hebrews 11:13-16

If i see my Gwendolyn has having attained a home in that real country, and my short time here as preparation for such a place, will it make living without her, for now, endurable?

hmm. more to consider...

Thursday, January 6


so, i've felt this pull to move forward... maybe because it's a new year, or maybe because of being gone for three weeks threw me for a loop, or maybe because it's been 11.5 weeks since gwenny was born and it seems like other people are moving forward...

but i refuse. i'm just not okay, and i'm okay with being not okay. i think there will be a point when i know it's time to change my facebook photo, or box up her clothes, and take the crib and changing table down. but it's not that point today. and i don't envision it happening tomorrow either. or any time soon for that matter.

personally, i'm sure this is all in my head and i'm fabricating external pressure, and being a bit paranoid. but i need the stark reality of my gwendolyn to hit me again, because this slow slip, this medicated emotion, just sucks.

Tuesday, January 4

aidah faith

i just uploaded photos of our trip to facebook, and i was reviewing the album of Aidah, my week old niece. i stopped short when i saw this photo:

this is exactly what i want. these are my nieces of course, and i love them to smithereens. but this is what i want, for me and for blair. i want children. and hopefully one day, i'll have children here on earth, and their big sister gwendolyn will be peeking over our Father's shoulder, looking at her brother or sister. 

Monday, January 3


we're home.

after 18 days of travel, 3 family christmases, one wedding, my niece's birth, 5 different beds with varying shades of comfort... we are finally home. and i really love my home. it's a good one, with ginormously comfortable couches, a wide selection of teas, soft lighting, hundreds of books, and a delicious bath. and of course, our giant bed with a memory foam topper.

blair and i arrived around 5pm, and started the business of unpacking our adventure... laundry to do, christmas gifts to be sorted, groceries to put away, mail to read. now i have taken a bath, the tea kettle is warming, and i am settling in to digest our trip. expect that these snippets will have no particular order or flow:

we spent the first week in denton, with my family. christmas eve was rough... i definitely was the woman walking down the street, looking at christmas lights with wine glass in hand, yelling at the Lord and crying my eyes out. ( i did enjoy the rest of the night, and the time in denton as a whole.)

i think that i'm learning the hardness of God. He is completely Other;  we prefer to think only of His soft or easy attributes, and regard anything that is difficult or harsh from Him as a punishment for wrong doing. I don't think that paradigm is biblical. For reasons I cannot comprehend, it seems that God allows and even arranges sorrow in our lives, regardless of our standing, effort, or obedience.

During our trip, we went to sheboygan, wisconsin for a wedding. Blair's "brother" Jeremy was getting married, and blair was a groomsman. Jeremy's sister Mandi, one of my best friends since i was 11 years old, has an seven month old daughter. His sister-in-law and my friend, Ashlee, has a 7 and a half week old daughter. Over the weekend the three of us were alone, spending the night in one room. And of course, it is unfair that i'm with them, they who have their daughters and I who am without mine. We all cried about it, and i appreciate their love for me and gwendolyn.

and then, the difficult Love of the Lord steps in. He, who gave me a choice - see this as half empty, as you without your gwendolyn, bereft, surrounded by women whom i have blessed with living children. or see this as my kindness to you- i have allowed you to be with those who love you, who grieve with you, who have daughters in the same year as yours, which you can choose to love and hold when your arms ache to be filled by gwenny.

and so i chose to enjoy my nieces, and hold them and cry and be thankful for the severe mercy of the Lord, that comforts and heals where it has wounded. thank you ashlee, mandi, debi and danielle, for sharing your daughters with me, and allowing me a few moments of motherhood with your precious girls.

during the wedding reception, jeremy and his bride put a twist on the traditional "ring the bell for a kiss" - they required that the guests would come to their table, perform a kiss, and then they would match or master it. very very cute idea, and sparked some hilarious performances. as i watched, i saw so many stages of life represented in kisses - married couples, innocent children, families, grandparents... and i wondered, "can your love withstand the death of a child? of a parent? of hopes and dreams, of your best laid plans? can it endure seasons of doubt, sorrow, wounds, busyness, joys, hectic schedules, the everydayness of life?" my prayer for those two is that they will know the deep, abiding faithfulness of our God, and relish in His character and His will, and prove to the world the glory of our God through a marriage well lived.

off to enjoy my magnificent bed, next to my wonderful husband, who walks through this season with me.

I will be your God throughout your lifetime—
until your hair is white with age.
I made you, and I will care for you.
I will carry you along and save you.
Isaiah 46:4

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