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.