Gratitude

 

pexels-photo-709907.jpeg

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

Gratitude can be hard. Amiright? Like, when life is aallllll good and easy breezy, finding things to be grateful for is easy. “I’m grateful my kids were all perfect little angels today. I’m grateful for my awesome job promotion. I’m grateful for the outstanding health of my family. I’m grateful my whole entire house is perfectly, spotlessly clean. etc. etc. etc.” But what about in the storms? What about when the sun isn’t all bright and shiny. What about when those strong winds blow, and I mean hard, against your house? What then? How can we be grateful when our wombs that we so desperately want filled are still empty? How can we be grateful when that baby we so longed for left us too soon? How can we be grateful when we are so sick we can barely stand? What then? How can we be grateful?

Friends. I’m about to tell you a really hard, maybe painful, truth, but please know that I am speaking it in love. This is in no way a smack on the hand, or an invitation to “be more holy,” but rather a loving nudge to find a way to breathe when you feel like you’re suffocating. Gratitude is a choice. Always a choice. Ever a choice. Gratitude. The definition of gratitude is: the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. The quality of being thankful. Readiness to show appreciation. This is hard stuff, right? Dear one, I feel you. I know. There have been days when I have strived to be grateful. Days when it felt like being grateful was simply not possible. In fact, I once got a mug for a friend who had recently lost a baby that said something along the lines of, “Thank you, Lord.” I told her it was so she could try to remember the things that she was thankful for, but that she also had permission to throw that mug against the wall and smash it into a million pieces, if that felt better. It can be that hard. Most of us have been there at one point or another. And that’s ok. 

It’s totally ok to be at a point in your life where you are struggling to feel grateful. Because it’s in those moments when you find the things to be the most grateful for. Sometimes when we’re put between a rock and a hard place, amazing things happen. God opens our eyes to see what’s truly in front of us.

Are you at a place where you’re struggling to be grateful? Can I help you take that very first step in the choice to be grateful? Find one thing. Just one. One tiny little thing to be grateful for. And then speak it. Did you load one dirty dish into your dishwasher today? Praise Jesus! Grateful. Were you able to pour yourself a glass of clean water to quench your thirst. Incredible! Grateful. Were both of your socks hole free when you pulled them onto your feet this morning. Nothing like it! Grateful. It doesn’t matter how small or inconspicuous it may seem, you will be able to find something to be grateful for. Did you have a tissue to blow your nose while you were crying today. Thank you Lord! Grateful. Your phone was fully charged and ready to go when you woke up. Can I get an Amen? Grateful. Somebody posted a funny gif when you looked at that fully charged phone. Yes, please! Grateful. Start small. Work your way up. You’ll get there. I promise. Just give it time. If you need help thinking of something to be grateful for, phone a friend and ask them! I’m sure they would be more than happy to help you out.

And friend, just because you’re grateful, doesn’t mean that you have to be ok. It doesn’t mean that all the darkness has gone away. It just means that you’ve taken a tiny little pin and started to poke holes in it to let the light shine through. That’s all. It means you’re taking a first, tiny little step into letting your heart heal, whatever that may look like.

In this season where gratitude takes center stage, even if every thing in your life seems to be going wrong, or simply not according to plan, know that you can also take part in this whole gratitude thing. The choice is up to you. And it’s a choice you won’t ever regret. Honestly. Grateful for all of you. Grateful you’re tagging along for my journey. Each and every single day. Thank you.

Our Twin Story

14701038_10155329043978222_4789633152657158909_o

I don’t know why this is so hard. I’m always ok talking about our Judah Story, but for some reason, it just feels different with the twins. It always feels harder. Relatively speaking, it was a much less dire situation. Yes, we lost two babies. Yes, my heart was broken. But I myself wasn’t in any danger. My life wasn’t on the line with the twins the way it was with Judah. When it was Judah, I had known all along that something was terribly wrong. With the twins, I was totally and completely blindsided. I’ve been putting off posting our story with them for some time now. I’m not 100% sure why. At first, I said that the timing simply didn’t feel right. And while that may be true, while that actually may be it, I just don’t really know.

Bear with me while I’m crazy honest for a minute here. Part of me wonders if it’s because I haven’t fully dealt with it yet. I cried. A lot. I grieved. Excessively. I prayed. Relentlessly. But I sometimes wonder if I let myself feel it all the way. You see, losing the twins was honestly only the beginning of an unbelievably hard time for us. I often told people during that time that one of the things we were facing, all alone and by itself, would be enough to put me over the edge. But here we were facing several terrible, hard things. I was honestly just trying to make it by. Trying to survive. I’m a big advocate of thriving instead of just surviving. But this time, my friends, there were no chances for thriving. I knew the thriving would come. I held out for the thriving. But for the time being, I had to survive. For myself, for my kids, for my husband. For that portion of our lives, surviving was enough.

It’s hard to think about that time. It’s painful to remember. And yet, in that pain, there stands beauty beyond compare. We were so well loved during that time. And we so fully had to rely on Jesus. Blake and I grew so much, and our kids got to watch us stand up in the midst of so many storms. They were able to witness how the family of God was meant to function. They learned empathy and compassion in ways they would not have learned otherwise. But it was also a time wrought with fear. And dread. And sadness. Maybe that’s why it’s so hard. Part of me worries that if I talk about it too much, all the fear I felt then might rear it’s ugly head again. Blake and I both were just constantly afraid of what would come next. There were days it felt like it would never end. There were days that I would cling to the only sliver of hope that I had for a new day, a new season. Somewhere in the midst of all that, a friend said to me, “You know, after such a hard season, God usually brings incredible things. Big things. Things you would not have imagined. God has some awesome things in store for you. I can feel it.” I clung to those words like they were my life source. And you know what, she was right. So many amazing things have happened since those dark days of 2016. I’m so grateful…

Ok. I’ve got to start telling this story. It’s time to share the story of our twin boys.

It was the end of summer, and we had finally decided that we did actually want to have a baby. I had always wanted a boy, but after losing Judah, I wanted one all the more. I knew that no baby could replace Judah, but the thought that he was my only chance at a boy broke my heart. After only one month of trying, I got a faintly positive pregnancy test. We were thrilled. My belly got big fast. My appetite was insatiable. I wanted meat most of the time. Not only that, but I would eat three times my normal amount and then stop eating, not because I wasn’t hungry, but because I was too embarrassed to eat more. 😅 While I did feel sick-and unimaginably tired, my morning sickness was the best I had ever experienced in pregnancy. One friend even told me she had a hunch that it was twins. I shrugged it off and laughed saying she was crazy. But wouldn’t ya know it? She was right.

I remember being at out first ultrasound. The tech circled the first baby and said, “Ok, now here’s the baby….” then after making another circle, “and here’s the other baby. You’re going to be having identical twins!” We had our girls in the room with us and our oldest, Lane, said, “What?! How are we going to do 2 babies? We already have 3!” We laughed and were thrilled…and shocked…and nervous…and scared. We left the appointment with several other appointments in front of us. Because twins are considered a higher risk pregnancy, we also needed to see an MFM doctor.

We were scheduled to go to a class after our ultrasound, but we were far too much in shock for that. Instead, we sat in the car in the mall parking lot for a good 45 minutes at least. Except for an occasional “oh my gosh” or “I just can’t believe it” we were mostly silent. After some of the shock wore off, we told everybody we know, and we started planning. My sister created a “Twinsies” board for us to add stuff to from Pinterest. We had planned out products we really needed, and some we really wanted, to purchase. My parents had plans to move into the apartment complex next to us so they could help us with our 5 kids. We were still nervous, but we had a plan and an awesome support system, so as time passed, we grew more and more excited. We could not wait for the experience of having twins. We knew it would be hard, but we knew it would be so much fun too.

The whole time, all of us knew they were boys. I had this idea in my head that it was all part of God’s redeeming plan. I think we all shared that same idea. He gives and takes away. I was beside myself with gratitude. We often joked it was the “going out of business sale” two for one. While we had a few concerns, for the most part, they consisted of labor and delivery and taking care of the babies once they were born. I didn’t really think about the chance of losing them. At least, not until the week that we lost them.

It was the week before Thanksgiving and I was 12 weeks along. I had been reading a book where the main character gets pregnant. As the story progresses, she gets pregnant and loses the babies each time. It welled up some fear in me, but I pushed it down, telling myself it was only a coincidence, it didn’t actually mean anything. That night, I had a dream that at my doctor’s appointment, they could only find one heartbeat. We had lost the first twin. My dream ended with us praying that we wouldn’t lose the second. The next morning at my doctor’s appointment, my doctor was only able to find one heartbeat. He said the second twin was probably hiding behind the first, and that’s why we couldn’t hear both. I told him about my dream and asked if he could bring in the ultrasound machine. He didn’t even hesitate, and once on the screen, he quickly found the second heartbeat. I also had my exam that day, and I was starting to feel like I could breath again.

The next morning I woke up feeling really, terribly off. I was cramping a good deal, but I knew that was normal the day after having a pelvic exam. I rested as best as I could that day, but something just didn’t feel right. When my mother-in-law came over that night to help out, I locked myself in our bedroom and watched Gilmore Girls on repeat. And then I woke up the next morning feeling considerably better! We had Friendsgiving that weekend and I kept telling people that I couldn’t believe how good I felt. It was the first time that I felt good once I hit the 12-13 week mark. We had a great weekend, and I was so excited for the week of Thanksgiving. Blake always takes that week off and we do lots of fun, festive things. It was our second year doing it, and I was beside myself with excitement. We had out first MFM appointment that Monday, and then from there it was going to be all fun all week long.

Now, I was particularly nervous about this appointment. Along with an ultrasound, they were also going to go over all the scary possibilities that come with a twin pregnancy. Not only that, but it was also the same office where they told us we were going to lose Judah, and there was a very real possibility that we would lose me too. To put it lightly, it wasn’t our favorite place. Just being there brought back so many unpleasant memories. I had a lot of people praying for us that day. I couldn’t wait for it to be over so that we could move forward.

The night before that appointment, as I was reading my She Reads Truth devotional, the title read, “Blessed are Those Who Mourn.” Immediately a red flag went up in my mind. I tried to settle the fear in my heart and sleep. Eventually I was able to shake it off enough to rest, but as I woke up the next morning, it kept rearing it’s ugly head in the back of my mind. We went into the office for our ultrasound first. The tech looked at a few things, and confirmed what we already knew-2 boys! We were thrilled. Then she went to check the heartbeat. She excused herself and went to grab the doctor. When they came back, the doctor (who I had never met before) sat at the end of my bed, patted my leg and told me that there weren’t any heartbeats. I lost it. I wept openly. Which, if you know me, that’s not really my style. I might shed a few tears, but this time, I wept. Here we were in the same office where we had received bad news only a few years before, receiving more bad news. I was in complete and utter shock. They sent us down the hall to see our regular OB. He was just as confused as we were. Everything seemed to look fine, he recalled the dream I had and us checking on them to make sure everything was as it should be. Then he laid out our options – go home and wait for my body to deliver the babies, or schedule a D&C.

I couldn’t imagine carrying two dead babies around in my body for who knows how long. The last thing I wanted to do on Thanksgiving Day was to go into labor and deliver not just one, but two stillborn babies. My doctor had said to expect a lot of bleeding if I went into labor on my own. It didn’t take long for me to decide that I wanted a D&C, and I wanted it as soon as I possibly could get it. We were scheduled to have one early the next morning. My doctor graciously sent me home with some medication in case the bleeding got bad and his personal cell phone number, just in case I needed anything. I went home that day feeling totally numb. There’s nothing quite like knowing that you have two little lifeless bodies inside of you. All I wanted to do was snuggle up on the couch with my babies and watch Christmas movies all day.

That night I cried out to God in my bed. Pleading with Him, questioning why I had to face this again. Asking why it hadn’t happened sooner. Blake lovingly held onto me while I screamed at the Lord for who knows how long. Finally I cried myself to sleep, dreading the next day. The drive to the hospital in the morning was all too familiar. That feeling that you’re heading to death row. I had them check one last time just in case, but there they were, still and lifeless.

The D&C was over quickly. I felt a little dead inside after it was over, but I also felt a little relieved. My recovery was not an easy one, and as it turned out, I actually had to have a second D&C not quite a month later. It took about 2 moths for my body to get back to normal. My doctor was amazing and worked with us so well the whole time. We knew we wanted to try just one more time to have a baby. And I’m so glad we did…because that baby is our sweet baby boy Fletcher.