Friday, July 31, 2015

God’s real love in my real suffering


our precious baby John

Each night at VBS this week we’ve focused on a characteristic of God’s love: incredible, faithful, invincible, unconditional and real.

Last night the 4th and 5th grade girls in my group learned about the realness of God’s love. Both their craft-time and Bible-time teachers asked the girls if they could give examples from their own life of how we know God is real (even thought we cannot see Him). Several girls had stories to share, and they all went something like this:

My cousin’s baby had a hole in his heart but everyone prayed and now that baby is eleven.
My mom’s stepsister’s baby was sick before it was born and it was really scary but she’s okay now.
My sister’s extension umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck and she almost didn’t live, but she did.

Goodness, was it ever tough to sit there and hear those stories.

When the doctor listed off everything that was wrong with John, it made sense that he would die. But I believed God could make John whole. I believed (and still believe) God could have done some crazy heavenly fetal surgery and the doctors would have been speechless, and I could have gone on to birth a healthy, living baby, and people around the world who had been praying for us would have been able to point to John as an example of God’s love. He could have healed John, but He didn’t.

When I became pregnant with Jane, I battled fear constantly and I prayed constantly. I believed God was blessing us with a life after our loss. I believed God would rejoice in giving us a healthy baby, and I prayed that He would. He could have, but He didn’t.

God didn’t show His love to me by giving me what I prayed for. The evidence of God’s real love in my life does not look like what I thought it would (but it is still there). There have been many dark days when the choice to recall to mind God’s love and goodness has felt excruciating, but I HAVE that choice because His love IS real.

"I cry out, “My splendor is gone!
Everything I had hoped for from the Lord is lost!”

The thought of my suffering and homelessness
is bitter beyond words.
I will never forget this awful time,
as I grieve over my loss.
Yet I still dare to hope
when I remember this:

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.”

-Lamentations 3:18-23

We need these stories of real love during real suffering.
We need to remember God’s realness isn’t only found in “success stories” and prayers answered “yes.” We can experience God’s love throughout our times of trial — not just when the trial is over.

My story is not "God is real! He healed my babies."
My story is "God is real! He is healing me.

Monday, July 27, 2015

what I buy at Costco and Trader Joe’s

I know I can’t be the only one who is curious about how other people live — whether it’s how they schedule their day, what makeup they wear, what TV shows they watch, etc. I’m sharing what I buy at Costco and Trader Joe’s because I’m hoping you’ll tell me what one (or five, or ten) thing is missing from my list that I absolutely must try.

I do most of my shopping at Giant Eagle, which is close enough to our house that I occasionally walk there. I usually go two times a week, for around 5-20 minutes of actual shopping time. I write my list according to where things are in the store. I always use a basket when I’m doing my weekly shopping. It helps me to stick to my list, and I move faster when I’m desperate to relieve my tired arm! Plus, I have enough items in my pantry and freezer that I tend to only need produce, meat and dairy products.

A sample shopping list might look like: salad, green beans, bag of baby potatoes, an onion, apples, grapes, deli meat, chicken breasts, milk, eggs, cheese.

Costco and Trader Joe’s build up my pantry and freezer.

Costco

I don’t go to Costco very often, since there are only two of us. (I’m grateful to have a free membership through my dad’s company.) I store the bulk items in our laundry room and I freeze whatever bread products we aren’t using that week. 


I mostly go for specific food items, but I occasionally browse the center area and the small kitchen appliances section. I’ve bought socks, flip flops, towels, a rice cooker, splatter screens, a beach chair...and maybe two or three times a year I’ll stock up on movie passes, toothbrushes, shampoo, and baking goods (I love their bulk spices and salt and pepper grinders.) These are the things I most consistently purchase:
  • naan
  • rotisserie chicken
  • frozen meatballs
  • paper products (tissues, TP and paper towels)
  • dog treats
  • black beans
  • tomato sauce
  • Kirkland tuna
  • rice 
  • coffee

Trader Joe’s

Our closest TJ’s is about 25 minutes away, but I’ve actually never been to it! I always go to the one in Springfield, VA, which is right by my parent’s house. I’m there every two months or so.
What else should I try? 

Friday, July 10, 2015

cabin weekend and homemade thyme rolls

Last Friday we met my parents at the cabin for the weekend. I made chicken tikka masala for dinner and we read, played Pinochle and watched “Big Hero 6.” The temperature dropped to the low sixties and we had the windows open when we went to bed. It was gloriously chilly. I woke up to the sound of rain and Andy’s soft snoring, and I burrowed back under a quilt and fell back asleep.

The cabin is my very favorite place to sleep in.

Sometimes, if you’re very good, your mom or dad will creep up the stairs and bring you a little “taster” of bacon. And if you like, you can take a mug of coffee into bed with you and spend the morning reading and staring out the window.

Once you’re finally out of bed, you can read on the screened-in porch for a bit. You can have a snack, then climb in the clawfoot tub and read some more. And if your nightmare comes true and you realize you didn’t bring enough books, you can dip into the basket of James Herriot books and old Martha Stewart Living magazines that permanently reside next to the couch.



CAN I JUST LIVE THERE, PLEASE?

As lovely as summertime is, it’s a bit sucky that I finally got over the hump of Jane’s anniversary only to face another anniversary: the death of our son, John. Two years on Monday. Blegh. It’s frustrating to be in a complete state of bliss and then suddenly crying, or simply feeling blue. A few days ago my body started freaking out. I was dry heaving, my head was killing me and the area around my incision was hurting. (It rarely ever hurts anymore.) It’s amazing how our bodies react to stress and pain.

A lesson on grief: there will, eventually, be good days. Followed by hard days. Followed by numb days.

This week has flown by. I’ve been spending hours each day working on my first paid design job (!!!), catching up on lessons and assignments for my design class and trying (but failing) to keep the house in order. I’m having one of those seasons of being completely uninspired in the kitchen, but Andy is usually able to get me out of my rut by suggesting I try to copycat a dish we’ve had at a restaurant. (Like Old Bay wings.) On Wednesday Andy cooked me up a fabulous ribeye that he seasoned with salt, pepper and fresh thyme. He remembered a restaurant we went to in Culpeper, VA, back when we thought we were going to move there. The restaurant, called “It’s About Thyme,” had rolls with...you guessed it...thyme!

how many times (get it?) am I going to write the word ‘thyme’ AHHHHH I need more coffee.

ANYWAY, long story short, I made homemade thyme rolls last night! I hardly ever bake, so I was thrilled when the rolls came out looking just like they do in the picture. They were incredible! I cut the recipe in half, because I knew we were going to eat all of the rolls that night. You can’t not eat all the bread when it’s hot out of the oven!

No-Knead Thyme Dinner Rolls from Alexandra Cooks
I served the rolls with heated up tomato and roasted red pepper soup from Trader Joe’s and a salad with goat cheese, walnuts and dried cherries. I would be perfectly content to have that meal every week!

I'm working on a post of my favorite things to buy from Trader Joe’s and Costco. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

around here

While I’ve had my fair share of hard days over the past two weeks, I’ve also made some fun memories and taken every opportunity I can to breathe deep and let myself be. To push the constant stream of “this time last year” thoughts to the back of my head and choose to focus on whatever is in front of me: a good book, a patch of sun, a furry pup, an article I need to turn in.

Two weekends ago my sisters and I tried on mom’s dresses from when she was in her late teens/early twenties. We did a little impromptu fashion show for my parents. I actually wore that dress with the animal print skirt to one of my bridal showers!



Doesn’t the pink and gold dress look so Betty Draper? I really hope I have an event I can wear that dress to someday.

I also went to yoga in the park for the first time, bought new running shoes (that I actually run in, whaaat who am I), enjoyed a sweet sibling dinner date with my brother, started an online interior design course, read two books (“The Likeness” and “The Last Letter From Your Lover”), hosted some friends for brunch, participated in a team trivia night for the first time and went on a date with my guy.

A few weeks ago I thought about throwing out all of the cards people sent after John and Jane died. I’ll never read them again, I thought. They’re just taking up space. But something made me wait. A few days ago, on the anniversary of the day I held my stillborn Janie Lou, I took out my “Jane” box and read through every single note. It was a bittersweet activity, and by the end of it I was completely wrecked from crying. I’m glad I did it, though.

This weekend we have a combined cookout with our small group and our old small group, and then Sunday we’re heading to Winchester to hang out with dear friends visiting from Florida and Andy’s family.  I can hardly wait!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

beach trip ‘15

I broke my two-month break from fast food with breakfast from Taco Bell on our drive to the Outer Banks. And I liked it.

from Twiddy’s website
Last week we headed to Corolla, N.C. to spend the week with my family — my parents, my older sister Katie and her husband Todd, and my older brother John-Michael and his wife Sky. JM and Sky live in South Korea and we usually only see them once a year. I loved chatting on the beach with Sky and screaming “it’s a big one!” with my brother as we ducked under waves like we did when we were kids.

We also had the pups with us — our dog, Casey, and my parent’s dog, Ellie. They happily spent the week chasing sand crabs, kissing squealing children, running into the water and flopping down under the umbrella for a snooze.




My little companion. I love her so!

I re-discovered my love for tennis last week. I don’t remember playing legit tennis since I took lessons when I was twelve. Our house was steps away from a tennis court, and we all had a blast hitting around and playing doubles. We laughed over how one of our rackets is so old it was made in West Germany!

Andy told me on the drive down that he was going to take me out one evening for a date. We went to The Crafty Cow for dinner (Jeopardy was on!) and played mini golf afterwards. I’m still thinking about the loaded tots we had... they had grits on them, of all things! But they were fabulous.

I was pregnant with Jane when we were at the beach last year, and the week after our vacation was when she died. I was understandably a little nervous about how I’d do on vacation this year, considering. I set as much of my grief aside as I could and chose to focus on the many blessings I do have. Now that I’m home, much of what I pushed deep down has come up and I know I have to let myself process these feelings, as painful as they are. There really isn’t an easy time of year anymore, because every season is tied up with different emotions and memories, but summer is especially hard.

God has answered and continues to answer my prayers for moments of relief from my sorrow. I’m grateful our beach trip was one I truly enjoyed, and that the following months hold cookouts, reunions with dear friends, new design projects and lots of summer reading.