Fourth pregnancy, two kids

“How many pregnancies? How many children?”

This question is a sharp reminder of loss and grace. It’s a matter-of-fact statement that happens in an instant without pause or acknowledgment. The first time I answered 4 pregnancies, 2 children it took my breath away. It became real again. The grace and gift of two. The loss and grief of one. And the hope and desire of another.

Happy photos of parents with babies usually have a story behind them.

My first two pregnancies were uneventful, healthy, and straightforward. Knowing the statistics on miscarriage I tried to keep myself from connecting too much and becoming too excited – it was a form of self-protection from potential heartbreak during the first twelve weeks.

The birth of Frederick was shocking and blurry. He had the cord wrapped around his neck twice and after an hour at the hospital trying to fix the intense dips in his heart rate with every contraction, he was delivered via an emergency c-section.

When I became pregnant with Edith, my doctor encouraged a natural delivery and it took faith and hope to believe that a new story could be written. The labor was “textbook” according to the doctor – no complications, no red flags, no concerns. But she didn’t breathe. And refused to take a breath until 6 minutes of intense intervention from a team of experts who rushed in seconds after she was born. Looking over at a huddle of doctors surrounding your 6 pound 14 ounce baby is terrifying. You can’t breathe. Your heart stops beating. You pray. She spent 6 days in the NICU and made a miraculous recovery with no signs of the initial trauma.

Friends began to ask if we planned on having more. For two and a half years I absolutely refused to entertain the question or idea. After almost losing both babies right as they entered this world, it was terrifying to think about risking it all over again. Rolling the dice and hoping for a different experience was unimaginable. It wasn’t until a friend sat in our sunroom and challenged me to believe for something different with tears rolling down my cheeks that my heart began to change. She planted a seed of hope that didn’t exist. A month later, glancing up as I emptied the dishwasher I noticed three arrows we have hanging on our living room wall. Two silver ones face east and a gold one faces west. In that moment, I felt God speak to me that our third baby would be different.

I became pregnant right away. Unlike the other two where I protected myself from connecting and feeling excitement, I thought to myself, “it will be different from the beginning – no fear or doubt.” We shared the news with a few close friends and asked for their prayers and support. The evening my miscarriage started I couldn’t stop crying. It felt like a thousand pounds of bricks fell on top of me and I couldn’t breathe or move.

The weight of disappointment is crushing. It causes you to curl up in a shell of comfort and retreat to a cave of safety. I read the entire Harry Potter series in 2 weeks. It took every ounce of strength to get up and be mom to my two living, breathing children, every other obligation faded in an effort to be present for them.

Friends who knew I was pregnant and then about our loss cared for me and it was a massive learning curve in vulnerability. Life was stolen before it even had a chance to breathe. A good friend messaged me saying that in an eternal perspective the baby will always be my child – just not here and now.

I wish I could say that when I got pregnant again hope filled my heart and faith was restored, but until I was twelve weeks it was a tightrope walk of restoration. Carefully balancing hope and realistic expectation is tricky business. Today, fourteen weeks along, it’s becoming less tightrope walk and more balance beam. Peace in the process is a practice that requires trust in the word that this third baby on earth will have a different birth story, one without trauma and drama. Perhaps the beginning days of conceived life have been tenuous and tearful but the beginning days of life in this world will be peaceful and beautiful.

I’m certainly not the first to speak about the grief of miscarriage and I won’t be the last. Some have done so far more eloquently, but there is something powerful and restorative in sharing and hearing stories of loss and restoration, disappointment and hope.

“Even in times of trouble we have a joyful confidence, knowing that our pressures will develop in us patient endurance. And patient endurance will refine our character, and proven character leads us back to hope. And this hope is not a disappointing fantasy, because we can now experience the endless love of God cascading into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” (Romans 5:3-5)


Spring reading round-up

The first months of the new year in Michigan are usually pretty cold and grey and dreary. Here are some of the best and most interesting reads from the past few months. I definitely went down the rabbit hole on the topic of hygge (pronounced “hoo-ga”) and all things Scandinavian. If you haven’t heard of hygge it’s the Danish concept having to do with “the everyday mindfulness that comes from a wholehearted participation in life” (Louisa T. Brits). Being grateful and fully engaged in the present can be tough sometimes, but it’s worth the effort. Here are the best reads from the past few months:

Nordic obsession

How to Hygge by Signe Johansen

This book is full of unique and interesting recipes. If you want to freshen up your repertoire of baked goods or add some new ingredients to your cooking, this will definitely inspire all bakers and cooks who enjoy exploring in the kitchen.

The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking

Full of infographics and bits of information, this book on hygge is a good overview and introduction for those who love to glean facts visually.

The Book of Hygge by Louisa T. Brits

The most poetic and visually beautiful book about hygge. It is full of quotes and reflections on the central characteristics of this Danish practice. This one is best read curled up with a blanket while sipping tea with nowhere to go. This one is good to savor slowly.

The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell

Written by a British journalist who moves to Denmark, this is full of well-researched facts and personal anecdotes. What I appreciated most about this memoir is the presentation of the good and the not-so-good aspects of Danish society and culture. She presents a balanced perspective on this (sometimes) idealized nation.

The Nordic Theory of Everything by Anu Partanen

Written by a Finnish journalist who moves to the U.S., this is the counterpoint to The Year of Living Danishly. She describes the culture shock and adjustments she makes. This is an organized and thoroughly researched look into the differences between the U.S. and Finland (she uses Finland primarily, but includes other Scandinavian countries too). She organizes her findings focusing on relationships: parents and children, men and women, employees and employers, and government and citizens.

Spiritually strengthening 

Passion Translation: Psalms, John, Acts

The Passion Translation has been so refreshing to my devotional life. It’s vibrant language and fascinating footnotes infuse new energy into reading the Bible.

Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung

Written a few years ago, this is an excellent book for anyone needing to prioritize and figure out what rest looks like in the 21st century. The last two chapters do a phenomenal job outlining the reality and necessity of working hard without burning out.

Perspective changing memoirs 

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

There are a handful of books I read every year that really impact me and this is one of those. It is heartbreaking, eye-opening, and beautifully written. The personal story is presented alongside thoroughly researched statistics making the personal memoir also a story of a whole community.

The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines

I laughed and cried through the entire book. We all need to hear stories of individuals who persevered and faithfully pursued their passions without giving up or compromising. An inspiring and entertaining read for those of us who are nosy and love to learn about other people’s lives.

Home and family

Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach

This easy to digest memoir and cookbook is full of practical tips for anyone getting started in the kitchen to those who have been cooking for ages. It’s especially encouraging for anyone who has young eaters in their home.

The Highly Sensitive Child by Elaine N. Aron

An enlightening read for anyone who has kids, works with kids, or spends a lot of time with kids. It breaks down the characteristics of highly sensitive children, provides insight to help them thrive, and offers advice for each stage of development from age 0-18.

Simply Styling by Kristen Grove

Sometimes you just need to look at photographs of beautiful spaces and this totally delivers plus more. Kristen Grove gives practical and easy to follow advice for discovering your own home style and  how to make a space cozy and personal.

Captivating stories

In the Woods by Tana French

I’m may be a little late to discover Tana French, but after reading In the Woods and The Likeness I’m a fan. Her mysteries are rich in plot and character. If you enjoy a twisty, detective story, check her out.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

A poignant and profound novel about a handful of individuals living in Chechnya spanning the decade between 1994 and 2004. It is raw in portraying some of the violence, but the depth of characters and socio-geographical setting make it well-worth the read if you have the patience for fiction that conveys a powerful message with artistic subtlety.

What have you been reading lately? I would love to hear your favorites and what’s been inspiring you.


Five encouragements to stay curious and pursue your passion

Anything one does everyday is important and imposing and anywhere one lives is interesting and beautiful.” (Gertrude Stein)

By happenstance, I discovered The Country Diary of an Edwardian Woman by Edith Holden at the library last fall. Written in 1905-06 and discovered and published in 1977, the book itself as well as the story of its discovery are both incredibly beautiful and inspiring. Edith wrote and illustrated the whole document without showing it to anyone during her life. She illustrated and documented a whole year of plants and animals around her home. Each month includes beautiful drawings, quotes, and informative details specific to that month. It’s amazing to think about the time and energy she invested into a project for no one but herself. She saw the beauty of her environment and valued her own passions enough to call them important even if no one else did.

In a world of instant feedback, affirmation, and connection, this story provides a powerful counter-narrative to our contemporary culture. What does it look like to do something for the sole purpose of fulfilling your own internal desire without seeking fame or approval? How secure must we be to pursue something without any encouragement but our own?

I adore social media and the ability to share and connect. It’s powerful and beautiful when used well. Creative expression and important messages have instant audiences.

Perhaps the most important thing that has come out of my life is the discovery that if you prepare yourself at every point as well as you can, with whatever means you may have, however meager they may seem, you will be able to grasp opportunity for broader experience when it appears. Without preparation you cannot do it. The fatal thing is the rejection. Life was meant to be lived, and curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.” (Eleanor Roosevelt)

It’s easy to stifle our passions because they are daunting or seem unimportant compared to everything immediately in front of us needing our attention. Regardless of what other people see, we always have the opportunity to prepare ourselves by staying curious and pursuing the desires in our hearts. Like Edith Holden we can produce something for the pure purpose of fulfilling a deep desire within without having anyone else see. 

Whether you decide to share your pursuit with others or keep it to yourself, here are five encouragements to stay curious and pursue your passion:

  1. Choose something specific: it’s really helpful to go narrow and deep rather than broad and wide. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, unless that’s something you’re really passionate about, but we can focus in on one niche aspect and specialize on it.
  2. Write it down: put that one thing or those ten things that you would do if you only had a year to live on paper and start putting a little time aside each week to work on it.
  3. Remove perfection from the equation: this is a tall order for most of us, but it’s so important to do something that’s “good enough” and be content with that.
  4. Make it a habit: it doesn’t have to happen daily, but adding this to the rhythm of life means it will get the attention it deserves. It also means something else may get less attention because if you say “yes” to this something else will get a “no.”
  5. Stay inspired: focus on and search out inspiration. Sometimes inspiration turns into competition because we see the amazing work done by others and feel defeated, but it’s vital to our soul to nourish it with those things that speak deeply to our hearts.

Happy passion pursuing, friends!

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