Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Audacity of Hope--A Borrowed Title

I've never read the book. I've never given my vote to its author. That's neither here nor there. I don't feel much like discussing my politics--which would probably surprise you anyway. That title though. It's golden.

I know about hope's courageousness. The human spirit is resilient. Every month, for many of my married years, I experienced disappointment only to rally my emotions right back onto Hope's bandwagon. I wasn't pregnant. But maybe I would be next month. The audacity of hope.

With every court hearing, and every day that passed, I hoped Matthew would suddenly just be ours. I knew we'd probably have to wait out the long 14 months. I knew we had every possibility of losing him forever. But deep down, I believed it might end that very day. The audacity of hope.

In November, I leaned in to God, praying for His will and wondering if this little unborn baby girl was supposed to be our daughter. I allowed the prickling tingly feeling of prospect to keep me up at night in curious belief that I was standing on the edge of a fat miracle. The audacity of hope.

We lost her and it wasn't long before I dared to think of the future. Hope is brave and reckless and bold. When I hear from our facilitator. When I know that our profile is in the hands of a mother, multiple mothers, maybe, my heart beats a little quicker. My body responds with a physiological reaction to what my soul is saying. Could this be the one? What if this is the one? The audacity of hope.

Each of these children, in the waiting to meet them, conceive them, adopt them, hold them, has taught me a little more about my heart and about my faith. When we walk with the Lord, when we trust Him with the unknown, when we wait (even though it may feel like slow torture) for His timing, we learn that real hope has guts. Real hope holds tightly to the dream and yells that it's not giving up. Real hope is, perhaps, defined by its resolve.

Faith is grown when, against all odds, we have the brazen ability to hope.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Grief & Hope

Sometimes, I feel like grief is my new normal. It is there, just under the surface, kept at bay only by a conscious decision to make it so. It is there when I close myself into the bathroom stall and immediately start to cry even though I hadn't felt it coming. I cry hard for thirty seconds, wipe my eyes, and exit the same as before. No one knows. No one sees. It is there when my six-year-old finds a little pink outfit at Costco and pauses. Whispers quietly, "I want a baby sister." It is there, constant. A lump in my throat that I speak around, swallow down, live with.

Because my daughter is dead.

I expect everyone to get it. Sometimes. Other times I want to be the only person who has ever grieved like this. My sorrow is unfair to everyone because it is not predictable. It is fine for three weeks and then all messed up for five days straight. It is fluid. Raging waters. Stagnant. Ever the same. Always different.

Just last week, someone asked me about her. I said that it had been three months to the day since she'd been born still.

But it hadn't.

It was four. Four months. Not three. Inexplicably, this made me feel like a terrible mother. How did I not even know how much time had passed since January 19th? A lifetime? Five minutes? Three months? Four?

I sensed when it was time to stop talking, when people had heard enough, when I was expected--by most--to begin to pretend that everything was fine. It was long before I wanted to stop talking and long before anything was fine.

I smile. Sometimes because there is so much joy in life, so much happiness and so much to smile about. Sometimes because smiling is the only thing holding back the damage.

I did not know her. I mourn a dream. Still. Because I did not know her, I have just one memory of my girl. A fuzzy pink blanket with a kitten on it. Her small body in my arms. That day, I willingly gave her back to the funeral home. I stood and, ever so gently--terrified she would break--gave her away. Why didn't I simply hold her forever? Why did I walk away when it was all I had--all I would ever have? I had sensed that it was time. Now, I would do anything to hold that kid just a minute longer.

We were four and we were content. How then did this tiny dream come into our lives and leave such an indelible footprint that we feel lost without her? Why do we feel so incomplete?

I have said many times that we can grieve and hope at the same time. I believe, wholeheartedly, that this is possible and acceptable and right. But I am learning that, more often than not, it depends on the day. Most days I feel the expectant joy of hope. But there are other days when I feel torn up and twisted, wishing only that Kate's story had ended with a beginning.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

To the One Who Might Consider Us

I wish I could sit down with every woman who looks at our profile and hold her hand and tell her who we are. I wish I could say this. I wish I could say so much more...

Dear Mom,

What you see in our letter is merely us in the smallest of nutshells. Each section is a paragraph resume highlighting our family, our faith, our passions. We don't really live in the highlights, though. They are the bullet points but the real living happens between the lines. How can we show you who we are in such a tiny space? Especially when there are four of us vying for your attention? That letter is some of us. You've seen the short resume; the love of travel and sports and theatre, the Christian home and the closeness of our family. What we really wish, though, is for you to be a fly on our wall. We wish that you could really feel who we are.

We are a family of air bands and dance parties--all four of us hopping around like maniacs and only one of us with any rhythm to speak of. We love movie nights with popcorn and all of us draped over each other under blankets on the couch with our fire place blazing and snow falling outside. Every night, we snuggle our boys in their beds, knowing that tomorrow they will be one day older and a little bit bigger. We love ice cream cones on road trips and surprise stays in hotel rooms because the boys think hotels are the very best thing in the whole wide world. We eat vegetables and salads and fruit and put healthy things in our bellies. We also eat Happy Meals because life is too short not to have McDonald's from time to time. We cheer loudly and proudly when our boys score a goal but we remind them that it's about having fun and learning and good sportsmanship. We laugh until tears are rolling down our faces. We kiss chubby cheeks and give long hugs liberally. We're sit at the table and help the kids with homework kind of people. We believe in volunteering in the classroom, chaperoning field trips, and being completely connected to our children's education. We believe that raising them is our greatest calling and we will not sacrifice our time with them for anything. Period. We spend long summer days at the pool, often slurping Sonic slushes on the way home.We read the Bible, classic literature and fantasy stories together. (Well, to be completely honest, Lori reads them classic literature and Troy reads them fantasy stories.) We teach honesty and integrity. We try to model love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We fail. We say sorry. We ask for forgiveness. We show our children as much of the world as our bank account will allow. We believe in mercy and grace. We believe in dreaming big.

We're in love. Not brand new, explosive fireworks love but the kind of love that says, "I see you. I know you. I choose you. Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow." Love is not always easy but we are in it for the long haul and there's no where we'd rather be than in each other's arms. We are committed to one another, committed to our family, committed to love and committed to our relationship with Christ.

We are an open adoption family. No question is off limits. No emotion is deemed inappropriate. We encourage our son to talk as much as he wants to about his birth family. We tell him everything we can. He knows he is abundantly loved by all four of his parents. We've talked about adoption from day one and we keep talking about it because it is his story and his heritage. He is 100% our son, 100% their son, and 100% loved. We honor his birth family because we love them and because no words could ever describe how thankful we are that they chose us.

We are joy and thankfulness and pride and love.

We have been raising children for nearly nine years. Once upon a time, we thought our family was complete and we were content. Then, God gave us a deep desire for another child. We lost our daughter to stillbirth and, while that was an incredibly difficult and grief-filled experience, we know that we will meet her one day in Heaven. We long for our family to be completed here on earth with another daughter. Our tender-hearted boys pray every night for a sister.

They are ready. They are so in love with the idea of her already. They are really incredible little people and they will be amazing big brothers. Matthew will teach her the joy of adoption and they will have one another to share the experience with. Garrett will hold both of them under his wide, protective wings.

We are ready. We pray every day for our daughter.We eagerly await her arrival. We trust in God's timing just as we did when we waited through infertility treatment for our firstborn, just as we did as we waited to be matched with our second boy, just as we wait to meet our daughter in Heaven.

We are so thankful for you and the choice you have made to give your baby life. We know that the choice to place her comes with anguish and sorrow but we know that it comes from the fact that you love her with every fiber of your very being. Know that, even now, even without seeing her face or feeling her heartbeat, we love her and we are waiting for her. We will hold wildly and expectantly onto hope.

We are so much more than our resume.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

New York, New York

Our trip was fantastic. The boys were off track so my dad stayed with them so that my husband could continue working while I gallivanted all over New York City. He did so many fun things with them that I don't think they missed me for a single second. We got back into town late Sunday night and, on Monday morning, Garrett crawled into bed with me and barely came up for air as he described the incredible time he'd had with his Grandpa. Obviously, my husband was around for some of it but my kids probably barely noticed him.

Meanwhile, my mom and I were visiting The Empire State Building, Times Square, Liberty and Ellis Islands, the Holocaust museum, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, The Cloisters, The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Rockefeller Center, Central Park, The Brooklyn Bridge, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and many flagship stores. We enjoyed Grimaldi's, Magnolia Bakery and Serendipity. And we saw It's Only a Play and Phantom of the Opera.

Also...this happened.

Which really just meant that I went into a wax museum but I posted it on Instagram and Facebook and had a couple of people wondering what the heck had happened in my life to warrant an appearance on Fallon. 

But alas...I only met Fallon in the way that I met Spiderman. 
It is important to note that if I actually met Spiderman (or Jimmy Fallon, for that matter), I would not drape myself over him.

When I bought that shirt, Garrett told me that if we ever get another baby, all my kids will be represented in giraffes with Kate being the one that looks different from all the rest because she's a ghost. I corrected his theology. We do not become ghosts. (Nor do we become angels but that's a whole different theology lesson.) Still, I LOVE the shirt even more now and I'm just waiting to see what God might do about that last giraffe.

You know what? I used to look JUST like my dad. I still do in the fact that my hair is like his, my coloring is from him, and I have two giant smile lines running down the length of my cheeks which look just fine on a dude but are maybe not the most attractive thing on a female. But now, when I walk past a mirror, I sometimes see my mom looking back at me. This was evidenced by the fact that people on Facebook said we were twins. This is a nice compliment for my mother, if people are implying that she looks like she's 33. It is not really a nice compliment for me in event that people are saying I resemble a 50+ year old. Still...

Yeah. I guess I see it. Fifty, here I come!

We saw THIS SHOW and it was hilarious. The pastor's wife in me cannot endorse the language as it was not so great with the not cussing. But the comedic timing was just phenomenal and the script was incredibly witty.

The next night we saw Phantom of the Opera for two reasons. 1. I had never seen it before which is unacceptable for someone who holds a degree in Theatre. 2. It was super inexpensive. Given the people around us, it really was more like we were at the circus. There's a pending blog post dedicated just to that evening.

On Thursday morning we went north to The Cloisters. It was a beautiful day. The gardens were gorgeous and the experience was breathtaking.

The GW Bridge is beautiful when it's not a crazy storm and you're not trying to walk across it and your umbrella isn't inverted and trying to take you away Mary Poppins style.

This cathedral is huge. The pulpit is approximately 37 times the size of my husband. He would need phone books to stand on.

This. There are no words, really. You people who say that they are not good are within seconds of being dead to me.


6.1 miles around Central Park on this bad boy which, if you let go of the handlebars, toppled over because of uneven basket weight distribution. Also, there were hills. Painful-I'm-out-of-stinkin'-shape hills. An old lady ran them faster than we peddled. Granted, she was like the most fit old lady I'd ever seen but STILL.

Turtles in Central Park! I wanted to box one up and bring it home to my boys but decided there were probably rules against that sort of thing.

We went to the top of the Empire State Building and then we went to the Top of the Rock so that we could look at the Empire State Building. It was all included on our City Pass so why not?

You guys. This frozen salted caramel hot chocolate changed my life. I'm not kidding. I'm a better person for having met this drink. My associate pastor's wife is a better person for having told me about it. Congratulations Sonrise! Holly and I are BOTH better people because of a chocolate beverage. You're welcome.

On our last full day, we went to Grimaldi's under the Brooklyn Bridge and had delicious pizza! 

We walked across the bridge. It rained a little. This leads me to the conclusion that I cannot walk across a bridge in New York without summoning the rain.

On Sunday we went into Greenwich Village so that we could obtain cupcakes to bring home to our men. I decided that if I lived in the city, I could go for having an address in Greenwich Village.

Then we made our way to the airport and flew home. I was very happy to see my vehicle. I mean, sometimes it decides not to start but USUALLY it starts when I want it to. I don't have to walk a quarter mile to get to it every time I want to use it and, TYPICALLY, there are not dozens of people in it with me.

But if I could have my own car and a magic traffic genie, I could TOTALLY live in New York.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

New York

You guys, I'm in NYC. I heart New York. My mom and I used hotel benefits and flyer miles and we got here last night and leave on Sunday! My dad is at home helping out with the boys. When we went to check in for our flight, we found out that our flight out of SLC into Dallas/Fort Worth and then to Newark turned into a flight into Phoenix and then to JFK. It arrived at JFK at 4:30 which put us in the worst ever traffic. But we were quite glad our flight was not cancelled altogether since, apparently, half the country was closed down because of weather.

Today we hit the ground running which proved catastrophic for my poor feet. I am now sporting two blisters on each of my little toes--one of which is GIGANTIC and SO painful. I guess I should have put on socks instead of opting for fashion. 

My mom bought us the City Pass and we started off our day with a boat cruise around Manhattan. It was definitely worth it. We saw all five boroughs, the statue of liberty, Yankee stadium, all the bridges, and so much more.

After our boat cruise, we went to Times Square and enjoyed Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum. We went up to the observation deck at the Empire State Building, ate a hot dog from a street vendor, and walked through Macy's flagship.

We have four more full days and part of Sunday to cram in as much as we can but so far, we're almost halfway to paying for the city pass!

Tomorrow and Thursday we have tickets to see two shows and I can't wait!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Paper Kate

I hadn't cried in a good long while.

My mom's best friend's daughter just had a baby. It's her first and I'm super excited for her to experience the joy of motherhood. But, see, I have clothes hanging in the closet of the playroom baby's room library that match clothes she has hanging in her baby's closet. Our moms bought our babies matching clothes. I desperately hope that one day I will have a daughter to dress in the clothes that were bought for Kate. You see, I just don't think Kate would mind. She's in the arms of my loving heavenly Father and I really feel that, like every female everywhere, she'd want the clothes to be enjoyed.

So on the day that my mom's best friend's daughter was in labor, I had to open that closet (which I really rarely do because it's filled to the brim with baby stuff in the hopes that one day it'll be used) and I happened to fix my eyes on the matching outfit. I want her to wear hers, of course. I'm just reminded that Kate will never wear hers.

So a couple days ago, I cried. It had been weeks since I'd shed a tear which is really a testimony to the grace of God and the power He has to heal if we let Him. Sometimes we like to be stuck in our grief. Sometimes it feels so wrong and unnatural to be happy that we allow ourselves to stay fixed on sadness. But I am convinced that our loved ones do not want us circling sorrow for the rest of our lives.

They want us to live.

Still, sometimes, the grief creeps up on me. When my boys stare longingly at babies in Walmart. Grief. When I think of the life she won't lead. Grief. When I see tiny baby clothes left unworn. Grief. I sat on my bed and allowed myself to feel the weight of sadness for several moments. My eight-year-old walked into the room, took one look at me and said, simply, "Kate?" Then he came, wrapped his arms around me and hugged me tight. I am convinced that, one day, he is going to love his wife just as tenderly. I simultaneously cannot wait for that day and could wait a lifetime for it.

Troy came in and pulled me close. I explained. "I just wish I could have one child that I did not have to cry buckets over." And I know that we will all cry over all of our children for one reason or another or a hundred. But just once, I would have loved to experience the joy of conception and birth and life without the pain of infertility and contested adoption and stillbirth.

Matthew wandered in and then wandered out. Later, he came up the stairs and handed me a gift he had made.

"It's a Paper Kate," he said.

"Now you have her. It's a doll. You can snuggle her."

It's stuffed with toilet paper. I plan to keep it forever and for always. I hugged him and told him I couldn't love anything more. This experience has not been fun. There are a million things I would rather do than go through this and, especially, watch my children go through this.

But it is making them tender. It is teaching them about life and love and Heaven and grace and mercy. It is, in painful ways, making them better.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

I Am Not Alone

I'm singing a solo in church this morning. It very much runs the risk of being a train wreck. There is girl voice, people. If you know me in real life, you know that I never, ever, do that. I sing like a man. Singing like a man is right in my wheelhouse.  My voice may crack. It could go flat OR sharp OR both, there's really no telling. So I'm setting this particular post to "go live" at 11:00 am. Because if I wait to post it when I get home from church, there is a very good chance the train will have wrecked and I will be attempting to block it from my memory completely.

When I do any type of performance art, be it theatre, voice or modern dance, (completely kidding on that last one. Just wanted to see if you were paying attention. I have two left feet and zero rhythm. I mean NO RHYTHM AT ALL. My youngest son had more rhythm at two weeks old than I've ever had in my whole, entire life.) I really want to find a way, a moment or a memory that helps me connect with the piece. I started rehearsing this song with our worship leader back in the fall. It was very out of my comfort zone and I knew it would need a lot of work but I was immediately connected to it.

When I walk through deep waters
I know that You will be with me
When I'm standing in the fire
I will not be overcome

We'd had an emotional year. Everything felt overwhelming, like we were hanging out in deep water, barely keeping our heads up. My cousin's baby had just been stillborn and I sent her a video of Kari Jobe singing this song. I never mentioned that. My cousin delivered her son stillborn in October. When my mom called me with the news I just sat in the middle of my floor, feeling stunned. I couldn't imagine her pain. This song came to my mind and I sent the words to her.

Through the valley of the shadow
I will not fear

I am not alone
I am not alone
You will go before me
You will never leave me

Not long after, I began rehearsing it. I thought of my family and my cousin and the fact that in September we thought I had cancer. It was easy to feel the weight and the truth of the song. The Christmas season came and we tossed this song on the back burner and worked on a Christmas special.

Then January rolled in and my daughter was stillborn.

I am not alone
I am not alone
You will go before me
You will never leave me

All the way to California, we listened to worship music. It was the only thing we could think to do. I cried for most of the drive. Shook. Sobbed. Whispered the lyrics to songs. Allowed the already written words to become my prayers. Meredith Andrews. Hillsong. Laura Story. Kari Jobe. I thought it possible that I might never be able to stop crying. Never be able to breathe without it hurting. Never be able to sing again...

In the midst of deep sorrow
I see Your light is breaking through
The dark of night will not overtake me
I am pressing into You

I clung to the hope that His light would break through my grief. It simply had to. I would not be overtaken. I would respond for His glory. People would see the joy I have in Him. He goes before me. Always.

Lord, You fight my every battle
And I will not fear
I am not alone
I am not alone
You will go before me
You will never leave me

I needed time. I couldn't even listen my way through the song without crying. Slowly though, I found myself crying less. Eventually, I could even sing it without breaking down.

You amaze me
Redeem me

You call me as Your own

No matter what. No matter what we go through, we are His.

You're my strength
You're my defender
You're my refuge in the storm
Through these trials
You've always been faithful
You bring healing to my soul

It is not easy. Just last night I saw a baby that had to have been about seven weeks old. My arms ached and my heart twisted. I wish it had all played out differently. But there is healing for the soul. He has always been faithful. He is my strength and my refuge.

I'm singing a solo this morning. It has all the potential of being a vocal train wreck. But I am singing for an audience of one. I'm saying, Thank you. I miss my child but I do not cry all the time anymore. You have brought healing to my soul. You have always, always been faithful. Accept this train wreck as a living sacrifice.

Isaiah 43:1b-2
"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you."

Friday, May 1, 2015

Handsome Boys

This is what we looked like on Easter.

My boys are so handsome.