Grace in the Grocery Line: What It’s Like to be a WIC Mom

Grace in the Grocery Line

Hey, you know that “pride” thing that we all have to preserve our ego? It’s where we avoid talking about our flaws or shortcomings because those things don’t make us feel good about ourselves. Well, today I’m dropping my pride on the Knoxville Moms Blog. Why? I want you to hear my story, and hopefully that will encourage someone to think of me and be kind next time they find themselves in this situation. This is just an excerpt, so click the link at the bottom to read the rest!

We have all been there.

Whether you do your grocery shopping on your lunch break, on a mad dash between work and dinner time, or while trying to wrangle all your cranky/bored/energetic/overtired/whatever kids on the cart so you can make it home in time for naps, there seems to be a universal understanding among moms that grocery shopping can be stressful. And the one thing that can take even the most successful shopping trip and make it feel like a disaster is when you get stuck in the slowest.checkout.lane.ever.

When you’re stuck in that dreaded lane, trying to distract yourself from the growing frustration of how long this is taking, glancing over racks of tabloids and chewing gum at all the other lines moving faster than yours, you start to stare down that person at the front: what on earth could be taking so long?! you think. You start counting items… you glare at the cashier… then you realize the hold up: this mom is paying with WIC. UGH.

In case you’re not familiar, WIC stands for Women, Infants and Children. This government program provides nutritional assistance to low-income pregnant or nursing moms and children under age 5 by providing certain items for free, such as milk, bread, cheese, eggs, cereal, and beans. If you have ever been a grocery cashier, used WIC, or been stuck behind someone using WIC, you know it is ridiculously time consuming to check out. And regardless of who you are in the situation, it is ridiculously frustrating for everyone.

I have been that person behind a WIC customer, annoyed and tapping my feet, huffing and glaring, wishing “those people” would just get it together or let me and my 6 items go ahead of them or use a designated lane so us paying customers could move through at a reasonable pace. Believe me, I know the frustration.

Then I became a WIC mom.

The circumstances don’t really matter, and no one should ever have to justify themselves in a public forum like the internet, but here I am, a pregnant, stay-at-home mom to 3 kids who depends on WIC every month. It is what it is; it is not a situation I really celebrate, but I am very thankful to live in a country where this is an option for my family. It doesn’t come anywhere close to covering all of our groceries (nor is it supposed to), but it is a big help with a family and income the size of ours.

I am telling you this, anticipating plenty of hate in the comments (tip for bloggers: never read the comments), because I have one simple request for anyone who will listen: please be kind.

Click this link to the Knoxville Moms Blog to read the rest of this post!


Hearing God in the Noise

Hearing God in the Noise


NOISE. That is the one word that describes my life right now. It’s summer, and all 3 of my kids are home from school. Last summer wasn’t so bad because they took naps every day, but this year my 5-year-old is really fighting it. So that means from sun up to sun down, I am constantly bombarded with NOISE – voices chattering, feet running and stomping, somebody whining about something-or-other, giggling and laughing, screaming and crying, balls bouncing, cars zooming, even the restless pre-kindergartener tossing back and forth on my bed while I pray he sleeps next to me. It’s nice to think things will settle down once school starts back and we all get into a routine again. However, we will be welcoming another baby the week before school starts, and since my 3-year-old will not be returning to pre-school, he’ll be around to make sure I don’t get to “sleep when the baby sleeps,” that classic new-mom advice that is next to impossible to follow.

A few years ago, when I was mom to a 3-year-old, 1-year-old, and a newborn, I heard someone describe this stage with small kids as “in the trenches” of parenting. Usually I avoid appropriating military verbiage so as not to devalue the original context; however, this one really stuck with me. Being “in the trenches” with little ones can feel like a mental battle zone – especially when you run out of diapers and have to make a Walmart run with all 3 in tow… That’ll get you plenty of stares!

The endless diapers were probably my biggest struggle at that point, but now that we’re all potty trained (for now!), I have to say it’s the constant noiseThere are several times and sometimes entire days when I don’t even know what I’m thinking, or if the thoughts I think I’m thinking are really mine or if I’m just repeating some jumbled mess of whatever my kids have been thinking out loud all day long. I do try to find quiet time every day, but usually those moments are quickly interrupted by someone needing something, and I’m back on mom duty. One of my biggest concerns in this is that if I can’t hear myself think, how will I be able to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit?

He’s Still Here

In the secret, in the quiet place

In the stillness, You are there…”

Sonicflood, “I Want to Know You (In the Secret)”

I have always heard it said that we hear God in the quiet moments, when we get alone and in peaceful solitude, there we can truly hear his voice. Believe me, I know this to be true, and I cherish the quiet moments I get with the Lord. Lately, though, I feel discouraged, because there are literally almost no quiet moments. If I wake up early, the kids hear me and get up too. When I try to escape to the bathroom or send the kids outside to play, they are constantly coming back demanding my attention. My chaotic life is filled with noise, and I have been complaining to God that I can’t be with him without the quiet.

But you know something? God is not confined by our chaos or our expectations of when and how he should speak. In fact, just as clearly as he calls to us in the quiet, he can certainly speak out in the noise.

I’m not saying quiet time is unimportant – we all need to schedule regular time to be still and listen. But when you’re in the trenches of parenting littles, it often feels completely impossible to achieve that. Don’t let your circumstances lead you to feel like a failure or that you can’t be intimate with God. He is here with us in the LOUD just as he is in the quiet… And he still has a word for you.

Hearing God in the Noise

The other day was one of “those days” for me. I had stayed up until 3 am the night before trying to meet a writing deadline. Then morning came, and with it were 3 little people needing breakfast made, shoes tied, and had stories to tell. I drug through the morning, mentally counting down every minute until nap time.

Finally that glorious afternoon routine rolled around, and I couldn’t wait to finally enjoy a moment of peace and quiet. But Sweet Prince had other plans. Bless his heart, he really did try to sleep, but he just couldn’t settle his little brain down. He was back and forth from his bed to the bathroom to his bed to my room to the bathroom again and back to his bed and…. Finally I gave up. I sent him to his sister’s room (she had requested to nap on the trundle bed in the boys’ room) with a book and instructions to please just leave me alone for a few minutes. No sooner had I gotten him settled, the other two were up, and Little Man needed help because the blinds were stuck and he couldn’t see to change clothes for the 50th time that day.

I surrendered and gave them my iPad so they could watch a movie in their room while I had quiet time in mine. “But we don’t want a movie!” Squealed the boys. “We want to plaaaayyy!!!” No matter of begging or bribing or threatening could convince them to sit quietly for a few minutes. I turned on the movie, shut the door, and within a few steps down the hall I could hear them giggling and jumping on the trundle mattress.

All evening this went on, and I was so tired, so mentally exhausted from the NOISE, of course I vented to my husband about it. As I was complaining about the incessant and intense volume of my day – all while my boys were making flatulance sounds and “Frozen” was playing in the back of the van for Princess – the Lord suddenly spoke to me so loud and clear I repeated it out loud to my husband. He was surprised at the sudden change in my tone, but it was so distinct, the words came out as though I had thought them myself.

Isn’t that what I always pray, that my thoughts would be his thoughts, and my heart would echo his?

Suddenly I was so thankful for all the noise in my life. The constant noise usually means constant playing, constant laughter, constant memories being made. My children are best friends, and I have the privilege to stay at home with them and watch their relationships develop. My children love me, they love this family, and they love their lives. Their constant motion shows that they are constantly seeking out new experiences and trying to live life to the fullest. Sure, they break things and make messes and annoy myself and each other along the way, but they are looking for life, and life abundantly.

It is my responsibility but also my honor to guide them in this journey and point them to the one who truly gives abundant life. One day they won’t bug me all the time because they will have friends and cell phones and social media or whatever other technology is all the rage then. One day their lives will be filled with influences that are not me, and I will look back on these days of parenting in the trenches and realize that I really was waging war. Only it was not a battle for my sanity, it was a battle for their souls, making the most of every opportunity to pour truth into their lives while I have their undivided attention. What am I doing with my time?

So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that as long as the sky remains above the earth, you and your children may flourish in the land the LORD swore to give your ancestors.”

Deuteronomy 11:18-21

In the Trenches

In the middle of the frustrating, exhausting, mentally-draining noise of my life, God undeniably spoke to me. He could have said anything, but on that day when I was feeling the most stressed and inadequate, my Father gave me just what I needed – encouragement as a mom.

Right now, you may be in your own trenches. It could be the stress of parenting, or a job, or an illness, relationship, whatever. You may feel like there is no quiet to listen to God, but let me tell you, friend, that doesn’t mean you can’t hear from Him. God loves you in the noise, and he will call out to you with just what you need… and just how you need to hear it.

Lying in the Dust

from passion city church instagram

from passion city church instagram

Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! For each day he carries us in his arms.”

Psalm 68:19

That was the YouVersion verse of the day on Sunday. When I opened my app in church, I breathed in these words with a deep sigh and closed my eyes. I need to be held today. 

I noticed this verse was already highlighted in my app, and it turns out I highlighted and shared this very same verse on Instagram 52 weeks ago. One year ago. Today.

That was the day I lost my 5th child.

Don’t Give Up

It actually started nearly 6 weeks earlier when I learned I was pregnant. I had been assured that after 3 healthy, uneventful pregnancies before, the loss of my 4th child in March was surely “a fluke,” just one of the 1-in-4 pregnancies that end in miscarriage. We did not plan to conceive again so soon after a loss, but God has always seemed to take the lead in our family planning, so I was overjoyed at this gift. I immediately went to the OB for bloodwork as a precautionary measure. A few days later they called to say my progesterone was low, so I gladly started on prescription supplements.

A week later I went back to the doctor to repeat my bloodwork and ensure the medicine was working. I felt great physically and emotionally, so I didn’t worry one bit about it. One morning I ventured to the grocery story with all 3 of my young’uns – ages 2, 4 and 6 – in tow. We loaded up in a cart and had barely made it in the door when my phone rang. I didn’t even look at who it was before I answered.

“Hello, this is Nurse from Dr. So-and-So’s office. We got the results of your bloodwork, and the numbers went up, but not enough to feel good about it. So, you know, this pregnancy just isn’t viable, so we need you to come in tomorrow for a D&C. I can put you in at 9:00, or…”

I stopped in my tracks, stunned not only by her message but the completely casual tone in her voice, as though we were talking about having a wart removed.

“Uh, no,” I interrupted. “I’m not doing a D&C. You just said my numbers went up.”

The nurse sounded incredulous that a patient would actually stand up for herself and not just blindly do whatever she was told. “Oh… Uh, well, they did go up, but you see it wasn’t enough, so it’s going to miscarry. We need you to go ahead and do the D&C because Dr. So-and-So is going on vacation, so he won’t be around to…”

“NO.” I said firmly. “I said I’m not doing it. I’ll come back in tomorrow at 9 to repeat my lab work. Goodbye.”

I hung up the phone and just stood there in the middle of ALDI’s entrance for a moment. I don’t know if my kids were staring at me or climbing on boxes of food or what. The whole world stood still. All of a sudden I turned around and walked back out of the store. “Come on,” I told the kids. “We’re not shopping today. We have to go.”

I packed them in the car as calmly as I could. I don’t remember breathing at all. We immediately drove to the church where my husband worked. When we got there, our church administrator came to the door. I said I need to see Jeremy right away, and she said of course. “Here, let me take the kids,” she said as she swept them into the church nursery and put on a movie. That simple gesture of helping without my having to ask, without knowing what was wrong – that meant the world to me, and I will never forget it.

I don’t remember how Jeremy made it to the foyer. I just remember collapsing onto a bench and weeping. It was several minutes before I told him what the nurse had said, but it didn’t take him that long to figure it out. We didn’t talk. We sat on the bench and held each other and cried for what seemed like forever. Finally my husband said, “So, what do you want to do?”

I spoke without trembling for the first time since I hung up the phone. “I don’t want to give up.”

Medical Un-necessity

The next few weeks were a roller coaster. More like a series of roller coasters, or maybe a whole theme park strung together in the most dramatic and paradoxical sequence imaginable. I went to the OB every other day for labs. I had a couple of ultrasounds. I never once saw my doctor.

On the off days from getting my blood drawn, I would get phone calls from Heartless Nurse who thought I was being obtuse to hope in the life of my child rather than submitting to an unnecessary surgical procedure. She would tell me that my numbers went up again, but still not enough. I would tell her my God is greater. It seemed like I could hear her rolling her eyes through the phone.

Just before Dr. So-and-So left town, I convinced him (over the phone) to order an ultrasound if my hCG level reached a certain number. He agreed, and we spent the weekend praying for that number. Our family and close friends joined us in fasting for that one number. We came up just shy of it, but they still did the ultrasound. The technician wasn’t able to see enough to determine health or gestation, but she did see something that looked like an embryo in my uterus. A few minutes later we met with Dr. So-and-So’s partner, who both he and many friends of mine have said is the best. I was thrilled to finally sit with a doctor who could see that good things were happening.

“You need to do this D&C as soon as possible,” she said. “It’s for your safety. This pregnancy could be ectopic (tubal) and if it ruptures then you will need emergency surgery.”

My heart sunk, not because I was scared of the possibilities, but because the doctor seemed so determined to do this procedure after I had just seen an embryo on that ultrasound screen. “I don’t understand why this is a concern,” I retorted. “We just saw the baby on the ultrasound, so we know it’s not ectopic.”

The doctor picked up my ultrasound chart and slapped it back on the table. “This means nothing to me,” she huffed.

Tears welled up as I told her about my faith in God and in this child. I was praying for a miracle, and I wasn’t giving up.

She literally rolled her eyes at me. “Well, I guess I can’t force you to do it, but you need to know it is my strong, professional, medical opinion that this procedure is necessary, but you have a right to decline my professional advice. Just promise you’ll come to the ER if you have any abdominal pain at all.”

I nodded and left her office.

Faith Hurts

You are my refuge and my shield; your word is my source of hope.”

Psalm 119:114

I’ve mentioned before that my husband and I felt a great deal of spiritual anticipation at the beginning of 2014 regarding big things that were in store for our family. Around that time I also felt God leading me to fast for a miracle. This isn’t necessarily a strange thing, as fasting is a spiritual discipline taught by Jesus himself and which every believer should practice. It was weird to me, though, because I’ve never considered myself very “good” at fasting. I have done it, and that’s fine, but I never seemed to get much out of it. I wasn’t terribly concerned about that until the Lord specifically told me to fast, so I figured I should learn more about it. I borrowed some really helpful books from my pastor and studied the scriptures. The unusual part about my call to fast is that while God told me there would be a miracle, he didn’t bother to say what the miracle would be.

I was still trying to learn and figure all this out when I got that first call from Heartless Nurse. I thought I needed to figure everything out to do it “right,” but when I got that news, nothing else mattered. I began a modified Daniel fast (basically, I didn’t eat any bread, sugar, or meat for 10 days) right away. I knew what my miracle was. God wanted to save my baby.

Over the weeks that I journeyed through all the doctor visits and bad reports, I was also on a spiritual journey wherein God increased my faith beyond what I had ever imagined. I spent more time in the Word than ever before. Every second I could possibly break away – early in the morning, late at night, nap time, while the kids watched a movie, any time I could get a moment of quiet – I was reading the Bible and searching for hope in the scriptures. God consistently led me to scriptures and stories of faith and miracles. I was connected with family and friends and complete strangers who shared their own stories of miraculous pregnancies and affirmed my faith. I visited my PCP for a sinus infection, and the Nurse Practitioner cried and prayed with me when she heard my story.

In the face of all the doubt and discouragement from my doctor, I was filled with faith and hope from every other source in my life. It was the most exciting time in my entire life, truly expecting greatness from the God who is able…

…But then He didn’t

On Tuesday, June 17, 2014, I started bleeding. No pain or cramps or other symptoms of a miscarriage, so I reminded myself who is the Giver of Life, and I continued praying and believing. That weekend my husband and I took a short trip to a bed & breakfast in Gatlinburg for our anniversary. We went to Cades Cove on Saturday, and in one of the little churches on the Cove I found an old hymnal open to this page:

I Believe Hymn

Despite the obvious circumstances, I was full of faith when we returned home Saturday night.

Then came Sunday morning, June 22. It was my brother’s birthday. There’s something about birthdays… My husband left early for church, as usual, so I was rushing around trying to get everyone ready for church. I was scheduled to serve in the nursery, so I had to be early. I need to remember to call my brother. The kids all want something different for breakfast. I’ve just got to fix my hair…

I was walking across my bedroom when I felt it. Something came out, but not completely. My heart stopped for a moment and suddenly I couldn’t breathe. When I miscarried in March, I asked God to allow me to see my baby so I would know for sure this was it, and he granted that request. That tiny baby looked exactly like a 6-week-old fetus (technically zygote), and that moment with my teeny tiny little one brought me so much comfort.

This time was not like that. I reached down and pulled out what I had felt. I was horrified. It was a jumbled mass of tissue and blood vessels that honestly terrified me. My husband was gone, my kids were in the other room, I had no idea what to do. I was so shocked by what I saw, I wanted to take it to my doctor’s appointment the next day to have it tested in Pathology. It was the only thing that made sense to me in that moment. What is it EMTs do when someone loses a limb? Don’t they freeze it? That seems extreme… Maybe it just needs to be cold?? I placed it on a tissue while I got dressed, then I got a plastic Ziploc bag and put it in the refrigerator.

I called my best friend and told her I had an emergency and needed her to cover for me in the nursery. She didn’t ask questions but immediately agreed. More of those little things that others did for me to show me grace in my time of need. I called my mom. I was flustered. I know I didn’t make any sense. I didn’t know why I was calling, I just didn’t want to be alone in that moment.

My parents came over and took my kids to church. I didn’t know what to do, but I knew I didn’t want to be alone, so I got ready and went on to church. I was late, so I sat in the balcony. My parents sat with me.

Our worship team sang the gospel hymn “My Life Is In Your Hands” :

You don’t have to worry / And don’t you be afraid

Joy comes in the morning / Troubles they don’t last always

For there’s a friend in Jesus / Who will wipe your tears away

And if your heart is broken / Just lift your hands and say

Oh, I know that I can make it / I know that I can stand

No matter what may come my way / My life is in your hands”

Honestly, I was furious. I sat there in the balcony silently crying tears of anger and betrayal.

As confused as I was by what I had seen, as much as I felt in shock, the one thing I knew was that my pregnancy was over. I had lost my baby, or whatever was left of him. All that prayer. All that faith. All that believing. And here I am looking like a fool. I was so angry with God for the miracle he didn’t do.

Healing… slowly

The next day I went to the doctor and brought along my “specimen.” They did an ultrasound to confirm there was no remaining tissue in my uterus. Bloodwork confirmed that the numbers were no longer rising incrementally but had drastically fallen to almost zero. I still never once saw my own doctor.

That afternoon I sat on my patio during my usual time in the Word and just stared at my Bible. I was so broken, I didn’t even know where to start. I turned to the only scripture I could think of – the only prayer my wounded heart could utter:

I lie in the dust.

Revive me by your word.”

Psalm 119:25

I lie in the dust. I felt so crushed, so helpless, so frustrated, and yes, still angry. I poured out my heart to God. I cried and screamed and told him how humiliated I felt that he let me down. Honestly, I didn’t want to do this anymore. I wanted to give up. I wasn’t shy about it. God was right here with me, so he knew how I felt; there’s no sense trying to hide it. I was so mad. Over the next few weeks, I wept bitter tears nearly every day as I cried out to God. But I kept crying to him. Because even in my brokenness, I knew he was with me.

I will bless the LORD who guides me;

even at night my heart instructs me.

I know the LORD is always with me.

I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.

No wonder my heart is filled with joy,

and my mouth shouts his praises!

My body rests in safety.

For you will not leave my soul among the dead

or allow your godly one to rot in the grave.

You will show me the way of life,

granting my the joy of your presence

and the pleasures of living with you forever.”

Psalm 16:7-11

No matter how angry I was, how broken I felt, no matter how much I wanted to walk away, I couldn’t because I know the truth. The truth is that God is good, and his plan is so much bigger and better than anything I could imagine for myself. Even when I didn’t want him there, God never left me. And he will never leave you.

There is joy in the presence of the Lord. You don’t always have to feel happy or like everything is going right. Because sometimes, it’s just not. Sometimes, you are sad and things are a mess. Sometimes you are standing there in the middle of the wreckage of your life, and you don’t even know where to start picking up the pieces. And he is there, and there is joy in knowing that he is with you.

I’m still on my journey of healing. I’m expecting a healthy baby boy in 6 1/2 weeks, and while his existence does not erase the hurt of my losses, he is my constant reminder to joy in the presence of the Lord. A few months ago, on my birthday, I shared with you as I mourned the loss of my 4th child. That day, in the midst of our grief, my husband and I chose a name for our son that means “Jehovah’s gift.” This gift in my womb is kicking and rolling now as I type, and with every flutter and punch, I hear the Lord whispering to me, “I am here.”

My friend, he is here. And he is there, with you. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know the point of the journey I have been on, but I have learned to experience joy even in the midst of pain and to trust the goodness and love of a Savior I don’t always understand. I am not alone. You are not alone. You are never alone. Each day he carries us in his arms.

I love you. I need you.

I waited patiently for the LORD to help me,

and he turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the pit of despair,

out of the mud and mire.

He set my feet on solid ground

and steadied me as I walked along.

He has given me a new song to sing,

a hymn of praise to our God.

Many will see what he has done and be amazed.

They will put their trust in the LORD.”

Psalm 40:1-3

Wilderness, Depression, & Stars in the Night*


The purpose exceeds the pain.”

Beth Moore

We are a culture that abhors pain. We are always looking for a quick and easy way out, whether it’s avoiding the gym or popping pills or distracting ourselves with who-knows-what to escape that gnawing feeling of something being wrong.

Even church people are guilty. Christians often get blindsided by difficulties we face in life, and rather than seeking the purpose of our trials, we pray and petition God for a way out. Pain is uncomfortable, and that just doesn’t fit with our Americanized vision for serving the Creator of the Universe.

In fact, our aversion to pain has often caused American church culture to glorify certain workings of the Lord over others, or – worse – superficially write off painful circumstances without searching for the beauty of God’s plan in that moment. It’s great for when you’re on the mountain top, but it will leave you empty when you’re walking through the valley of the shadow of death.

The truth is, God is there in that terrible doctor’s report, that tragedy, that lonely road. He’s there, and he is moving and working and doing his miracle-thang that he does… He’s just not standing front and center like in those great moments of healing and deliverance.

Think of it this way: if miracles are stars, healing might be the sun. It’s like HERE I AM! LOOK AT ME!!! and you have to put on your sunglasses because woah, that feels bright! Maybe, just maybe, the pain and hurt we experience is still a star, but it’s more distant. You might not even notice it unless you’re really looking for it. Heck, you might just need a telescope to know it exists, but there it is, 30 million miles away, and what’s it doing out there? Shining brighter than the sun.

The thing about those distant stars is that even when you’re looking for them, you can only see them under certain conditions. If you’re sitting at a park on a warm spring day, watching everyone around you run and play and bask in the sunlight, you might feel alone and isolated, wondering why everyone else can enjoy the day while you are still drowning in your circumstances, your depression, your pain. That doesn’t diminish the others’ joy on this beautiful afternoon, but it can make you feel pretty crummy. I have heard depression described as drowning, only everyone around you is breathing. You don’t want anyone else to drown either; you just want to come up for air.

Believe me, I’ve been there. (I am there?) We have to remember, though, that our painful miracles can’t be seen in the daylight. It doesn’t mean they’re not present, they’re just not visible because of our perspective. To see, recognize, and appreciate the beauty of a distant star, you have to get into the darkness. There, in the cold, lonely night, you can look up and see not only your star, but billions of others that you never would have noticed without that bitter dark.

Here’s to all of us who are sitting outside at night, telescopes in hand, waiting for the clouds to part…

*Thanks, Jefferson Bethke, for this incredible video that my husband showed me yesterday while we talked about this. Thanks for saying this so much better than I can. And sorry I used your title. I hope it’s not copyrighted…

How Long, Oh Lord? A Different Kind of Rainbow

How Long

photos courtesy of Renee Van Druff, used with permission

O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
    How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
    with sorrow in my heart every day?…

But I trust in your unfailing love.
    I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
I will sing to the Lord
    because he is good to me.

Psalm 13:1-2, 5-6

The other day I read this post from Twin Cities Moms Blog about “Rainbow Babies.” If you’re not familiar with the term, a rainbow baby is one that is born to parents following a loss, particularly miscarriage or stillbirth. The idea is that the new life is the beauty – the rainbow – after the storm of a loss.

Certainly every child is precious, and there is something special about the way parents cherish any baby that is born after having lost one.The thing is, when you see a spectacular rainbow after a storm, all you can do is marvel at its beauty, and you hardly remember the darkness or fear that came with the storm. You know the hard part is over, and you have something beautiful in its place.

I’m sure that is the experience of some parents who have a rainbow baby – that having a child makes everything better and easier. However, I am so thankful to Beth, the author of the aforementioned piece, for pointing out that not everyone has that experience.

It’s been just over a year since my first miscarriage and not quite 10 months since my 2nd miscarriage. I’m also 6 months pregnant with my 6th child (the 4th that will make it to delivery). And if we’re being completely honest (and I pretty much always am), I’m not as happy or whole as I thought I would be.

What I Don’t Need To Hear

If you have ever experienced loss or tragedy of any kind, you are all too familiar with platitudes – you know, the generic, often spiritual comments people make when they want to help but really have no idea what to say. I guess these statements have helped some people somewhere at some time or else they wouldn’t have caught on as sayings. However, the truth is that these things are annoying at best, and often they tend to hurt more than they help.

One I have repeatedly heard regarding miscarriage and especially subsequent pregnancy goes something along the lines of this: “Well that loss is really a blessing in disguise, because if you hadn’t lost that baby, you wouldn’t have little so-and-so here.” I mean, I get the logic. I may have even said something like this before I had a miscarriage and knew better. (If I ever said this to you, I’m sorry.) So, looking at the calendar, it is true that if my 4th pregnancy had continued, I wouldn’t have had the 5th pregnancy 2 months later, and if the 5th pregnancy had continued, I wouldn’t have had the 6th… At least not in the same time frame. However, that line of thinking doesn’t help me; it actually makes me feel worse. It will give you a headache and probably raise your blood pressure if you do this for every dumb sympathy phrase you hear, but just for kicks and giggles (not really), can we dissect the theology of this particular platitude, please?

I am all about the sovereignty of God and perfection of his plan. I understand the eternal value of my children and the mission for which he has called them in this life. But saying that one child died to make way for another presumes that the latter child’s life has greater value than the former. I can’t help but feel this suggests God ended a child’s life because the parents somehow made a mistake and conceived at the “wrong” time. Is this problematic for anyone other than me??

Let me tell you something, friend, especially if you have ever lost a baby: God is the giver of life, and that was the right time for your child, though only a short time. Your child’s life mattered and matters.

Eternal Perspective

Years ago I read a post from Johnna regarding the late-term loss of her daughter, Branson. Although her experience was years before mine, I never forgot her words about purpose. When she was pregnant, she felt the Lord had a specific calling for Branson, and the loss of her life could have felt like that calling was lost, God’s plan thwarted. But God. It is so easy to get lost in the temporal things that we understand, or at least have some grasp on. But God is so much bigger than this life, and his plans are not limited to the confines of this earth and this life. Just as Branson’s purpose is being fulfilled in eternity, so the lives of my lost children will also realize their potential in a life I do not yet know… but I will.

Today I am struggling with the why. Why did things happen the way they did? Why would God encourage me so much in the process only for me to be let down in the end? Why is it a year later and I’m still angry and sad? I knew there would be days and moments when I struggled, but this season is quiet and lonely. I thought things would be better by now.

Maybe… Maybe we aren’t supposed to “get over it” and move on; we are supposed to experience the pain in this moment. What is light without darkness, high without low, joy without mourning? Rather than wishing to skip the hard part, God, allow me to sit here and grieve our losses, whatever that looks like. Teach me Your goodness through the struggle and the pain.

A Different Kind of Rainbow

Believe me, friend, I am not writing this from a place of healing. I do not have such wisdom to impart from “the other side” where things are happy and I’m not hurting anymore. I am writing in my brokenness, grieving the loss of my two children every single day. I ache and long to know them and be known by them. I intensely miss them, even though we never truly met. I really don’t know what I’m supposed to be learning in this. God, that would make this process a lot easier if I did! I am hurt and confused and frustrated… But I’m not getting out of this boat. There is a storm raging all around me, but I won’t abandon ship. I’m not praying for God to calm this storm or that he would calm me, his child. I’m just hunkered down in the hull, curled under a blanket in the fetal position, holding on for dear life, trusting that the one steering this vessel will keep me safe. I can’t see the way out, and nothing I do can make the ride easier; this is pure, blind, reckless faith based only on a hope I haven’t seen.

Maybe for me it’s more like a rainbow after a tornado… There is definitely beauty there, and hope for a bright future to come. But while I stand here admiring that gift of light, I’m standing in the middle of wreckage, a mess of lost memories and opportunities that will take time and work to sort through. And while I may never recover what was lost in that storm, there is hope to rebuild.

…In time.

O Lord, come back to us!
    How long will you delay?
    Take pity on your servants!
Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love,
    so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives.
Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery!
    Replace the evil years with good.
Let us, your servants, see you work again;
    let our children see your glory.

Psalm 90:13-16

Waiting for Spring

Waiting for Spring

In my world, spring is the most glorious season of all. I mean, you’ve got the warmer weather and pretty budding trees and flowers and grasses and pollen… oh Mylanta the pollen…

Spring is particularly glorious for those of us parents who have been cooped up indoors with our children for the last 3 months of dreaded winter. Cabin fever is a very real thing, and it is even realer (pretty sure that’s not a word) for small children. Hats off to all you cold-weather-loving parents who bundle your kiddos up and go outside to play in the snow, but that’s big time not me. Yeah, we go out in the snow when it falls – which is rare here in Tennessee – but I get so frustrated every time because we spend 45 minutes finding and adorning 3 layers of clothes, removing and re-adorning said clothes 5 times after 5 sudden potty emergencies, searching for those blasted boots, crying that the boots are too tight with extra socks, and fighting over who gets to wear which toboggan before we finally make it out the door. Then the kids play for an hour on a good day – 10 minutes on a normal day – before coming in, wet and freezing, refusing to take warm baths because they’re too cold to undress (because preschooler logic is so very logical??), and resuming the either excessive blanket-fort movie-watching or running-and-screaming-indoors-like-it-is-outdoors that we would have been doing from the beginning anyway.

Can I get an amen??

Can I get an amen??

The coming of spring is like the dramatic breakthrough of dawn, when the darkness and cold of winter is overcome by the beautiful force of sunlight. I have Relient K’s “High of 75” stuck in my head literally all season. Because to me, winter is a season of cold, bleakness, and depression.

But the truth is, we need it.

Winter isn’t the season of death it can feel like to us haters. Winter is a season of rest. After all the growth and production and change and development of spring, summer, and fall, winter is when everything goes into hibernation mode and just chills for a bit. No visible growth, no work to keep up with, just rest.

Are you needing rest?

In Biblical terms, we call that a Sabbath. Once a week, God commands the Israelites to observe a day of rest in recognition of God resting on the seventh day of creation. (We’ll save the creationism discussion for another day.) Taking a day off once a week is something we can all wrap our heads around. But I’m talking longer-term than that. In addition to the weekly Sabbath recognition, God also creates this Sabbatical Year. That’s – you guessed it – a whole year of rest.

“While Moses was on Mount Sinai, the Lord said to him, “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. When you have entered the land I am giving you, the land itself must observe a Sabbath rest before the Lord every seventh year. For six years you may plant your fields and prune your vineyards and harvest your crops, but during the seventh year the land must have a Sabbath year of complete rest. It is the Lord’s Sabbath. Do not plant your fields or prune your vineyards during that year. And don’t store away the crops that grow on their own or gather the grapes from your unpruned vines. The land must have a year of complete rest.”

Leviticus 25:1-5

If that seems extreme to you, consider this. the concept of fallow lands – that is, allowing soil to rest by not planting crops for an extended period of time – is an ancient practice backed up by modern science. The earth actually needs this break in order to regenerate sufficient nutrients to sustain a healthy crop in the future. Depleting the soil means future crops will suffer.

Are you feeling depleted?

Winter and Sabbath seasons are necessary for the health of the earth. These seasons of rest are needed for the health of our souls.

The other day I pulled out my resumé to update my profile for a freelance writing website. (I don’t have any offers, in case you were wondering.) It was so depressing. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom since just before my 3rd child was born, so it’s been a while since I looked at it. The frustrating part was looking at those dates of my last employment and thinking, Why would anyone hire me when I haven’t done anything in 4 years?

Here’s the thing about winter: even when it seems bleak and desolate, important work is being done. The rest is important work. Plants are storing energy and nutrients they will need for spring production; sabbatical soil is being chemically rejuvenated; my soul is finding meaning in the mundane and investing in the future harvest that I won’t reap for years to come. This season of rest is not dead, it is preparation for the spring.

If you’re feeling depleted and in need of rest, don’t despise the changing of the seasons. And if you’re like me, feeling stuck and a little useless (or, at least that bachelor’s degree I’m still paying for feels useless…), remember that the seasons change. And the down time is needed for the spring time to come.

Your season is coming.

And because I couldn’t make mention of Relient K without giving you an embedded video…

I’m Sorry for Judging You

Confession time:  I did something I regret yesterday.

I walked into Chick-fil-A with my two preschool-aged boys, as we often do when we need to get out of the house but I can’t really think of anything to do. This day, in particular, we had actually made it to the gym for my yoga class (20 minutes late, but hey, we made it!). I’m 5 1/2 months pregnant, but I look 8 months, and of course not even spandex will fit, so I was wearing my husband’s gym shorts and one of his t-shirts. My swollen calves were on brilliant display between the oversized shorts and my bright purple tennis shoes, which are the only shoes I can stand to wear for more than 30 minutes at a time these days. My hair was frizzy from being curly the day before and not having time to wash it that morning, so I threw it up in a bun atop my make-up-less face. Simply stated, I was straight up People of Walmart* material.

*It should be noted that I shop at Walmart all the time, and I love it because no one freaking cares. That’s actually quite a beautiful thing. I’ll write more about that one day…

But I didn’t go to Walmart; I went to the fancy gym among all the fit people with their spandex and weight racks, then to Chick-fil-A – the classiest of all fast-food establishments – where the folks asking “would you like waffle fries with that?” look more put together than I do, and they politely smile and tell me it’s their pleasure to serve my sloppy self and kids who obviously dressed themselves.

My boys immediately ran to the play area, as is their custom, while I got our food. Luckily I scored the perfect seat, the booth right next to the play area window, so I can eat my food – still hot! – while the kids play. I sat down and watched through the window, content to go ahead eating my chicken strips (and side salad… hey, I tried) without letting the kids know their meal was also available.

That’s when I saw her: a mom sitting in the play area watching her child – another woman who, like myself, didn’t seem much concerned with impressing anyone. She was wearing cotton shorts and a t-shirt with flip flops, but what I really noticed was her hair. It was dyed different shades of purple and blue, but by now it was badly faded. Usually when I see someone with wild colored hair I get excited and compliment them, a simple courtesy that meant a lot to me when I was sporting pink locks a couple of years ago. For some reason, this day, I didn’t. Instead, my only thought was, Sheesh, that color looks awful when it’s faded like that. You can’t wear that color if you’re not going to keep it up.

Then I noticed her daughter, just a toddler. I started to jump up and remind my rambunctious boys to be careful around the baby, like I usually do when there are itty bitties in the play area with them. But I stopped and watched this little girl for the worst possible reason: she looked different. She had a large bump on her forehead, unlike anything I had ever seen. I glanced at her often, trying to hide my curiosity, wondering if it was a pump knot like my kids have gotten or… gasp! What if this child is abused? Now, truthfully, this bump was unusual, but why did I jump to that conclusion?

I finally got up from my seat and went to tell my boys to be careful. When I got in, I walked right past the other woman without even looking at her. My 4-year-old was standing next to the little girl, and he reached out to touch the bump on her head. He giggled, “Look, Mommy! She has a BIIIGGG bump, and it’s squishy!”

I was mortified that he said this right in front of her mother, and I got nervous about how to respond. I quietly replied, “Yes, she does, but it’s not nice to touch people’s faces. You need to leave her alone and watch out because she’s small.”

“But look how big…” he interrupted, “and it’s squishy! That feels weird!” He and my other son snickered.

My back was to the mother, so I couldn’t gauge if I needed to reprimand him or calmly say something about how our differences make us special, but it didn’t matter. No words would come out of my mouth. I just stared at him until finally the mother sweetly chimed in, “Yeah, it does feel funny! It’s actually a birthmark, and it should go away by the time she’s your age.”

Now I knew I had failed Sensitive Mothering 101. Not only did I not help the situation of my own children teasing someone else for being different, but I had actually assumed the mark was a sign of abuse, and honestly, it was because of the mother’s appearance.

This mother and her daughter eventually moved to the booth behind mine when they got their food. As I overheard snippets of their mealtime conversation, I determined that this woman is a loving, attentive, good parent. Maybe she was overly sweet because she sensed my judgment and wanted me to hear, but really, does that matter? She had every right to make me feel like the slug I was.

Please know, this scenario is not normal for me. I am generally very friendly and will make conversation with anyone nearby, especially someone who looks like she did. I am often intimidated by moms who are wearing clothes and makeup and have their hair fixed when they run errands with the kids, so I reach out to the care-free moms that do what they gotta do to get out the door. Solidarity, girl.

Honestly, I don’t know why this day was different from others. Probably it’s because I have been depressed lately, feeling frustrated that my constant fatigue keeps me from being productive, and annoyed that none of my clothes – even maternity clothes – fit. I don’t feel like myself, which is pretty much a defining characteristic of pregnancy in general, but for some reason it has gotten me particularly down as of late. I could write a book on that, but the point is that I was thinking selfishly.

Now, I’m not saying depression is inherently selfish – I have walked that road and fought that battle, and if you are there, know that you are not a bad person and you certainly are not alone. But being depressed makes us feel not ourselves, and that can lead to thinking selfishly when generally you wouldn’t. Selfish thinking is giving so much attention to yourself and your own issues that you don’t value or respect other people. Yes, judging others is really about being selfish – putting someone else down to somehow lift ourselves up. The depression I have been walking through caused me to look at another mom who is probably a lot like me and we should totally be friends and thinking she doesn’t care about her own appearance, so she must not care about her child.

Geez, I hope no one around me thinks that way, because I am a hot mess.

In Romans, the Apostle Paul reminds us how selfish thinking leads us to devalue those around us:

“Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.”

Romans 12:3

He goes on to talk about how the body has many parts, and as followers of Jesus, we are the Body of Christ. Each part serves its own purpose, and to value one over the other because of the way it looks or the dignity of its job is missing the point of the organic function. When we look at those around us and put them down, we are missing the point. We can’t evaluate the fulfillment of our purpose based on the way we look or dress or what color our hair is. What matters is if I am using the gifts God has given me and living according to the faith he has given me. If I am doing those things, the only thing I will feel for those around me is love and compassion. Rather than judging that mom or hurrying out of the room after my 4-year-old acted like a 4-year-old, I should have sat down on the bench next to her and asked about her daughter, her family, and even tell her about the time I had pink hair.

After all, I’m used to eating my food cold.