please pray

If you know me in real life, you probably know one of my besties, Vicky.  There’s so much I could say about how awesome she is (she laughs at my jokes, for one!), but unfortunately this post is not dedicated to the amazingness of Vicky.  Instead I am asking for as many people as possible to pray for her dear, sweet baby girl, Adara Grace.  Adara is undergoing open heart surgery tomorrow (Wednesday, April 25) in Milwaukee to fix a hole in her heart.  Adara is only 2 1/2 months old. 

I can’t imagine what it is like to be faced with having a child undergo open heart surgery, but for many people out there, this is a reality.  Our friend Robyn put together a gorgeous blog post and has been asking parents of heart babies to post encouraging comments. If you have a heart baby, or you love a heart baby, or you just want to love on this family, please head over to Robyn’s blog and let them know. 

Thanks so much for praying!

evolution

For those of you who were guessing that my post would be an announcement of another pregnancy – you are very wrong.

Frank would lose his ever-loving mind if we had another child barely a year younger than the twins.

Nope.  This is not a clever blog announcement about a pregnancy.

I started this blog the same month that Frank and I became engaged to be married.  I was 22 years old.

I had been out of college for less than one year.  I had been working for less than six months.

I am not even really sure why I started the blog, other than that I had a weird fascination with the idea of having a diary.  And I’m not even sure why I had that weird fascination.  I’m a terrible correspondent.  Ask anyone who has tried to correspond with me.  I found letters from my darling college roommate, Kelly, and nearly wept at the beautiful notes she would write me.

I doubt that she could make the same claim about the letters I wrote her. Because I didn’t write.  I was a horrible pen pal.

If you look at my blog from 2003, you will find that it was nothing more than a documentation of shopping excursions, what I ate and how I felt about it, and who could forget my rankings of area shopping malls?? (answer: just about anyone and everyone could and should forget it)

I don’t go back to those early postings very often.  Sometimes I do re-read various posts from our wedding planning.  But truthfully, my most pressing concern (if I’m being honest) was finding a tube top so that I would tan evenly.  Heaven help me if I had strap marks while wearing my strapless wedding gown!

I look back on those early years and I wonder at how Frank and I managed to make a life together.  I mean, considering how seriously the odds were stacked against us (under the age of 25, for starters) and then reading my blathering thoughts at the time, it’s a wonder that we managed to move across state lines, find full time employment and not critically hurt ourselves in the process.

But here we are.

I look back on those early years – my immaturity and my self-absorbed interests – and I am struck not by how much I’ve changed, but how much more aware I am that I haven’t changed as much as I should have.

Yeah, this post is not about patting myself on the back.

“Way to go, self, you managed to generally stay clear of the Emergency Room for most of your adult life. Bravo.”

No.

I think a lot of life is about peaks and valleys.  Peaks offer a moment of clarity where I get to see where I am going and where I have been – and realize that the road in both directions is long, winding and generally uncertain.

And valleys remind me of my own humanity.

I think that I am on a momentary peak.

The K-Fam, for all intents and purposes, is doing very, very well.  Frank is employed.  I am employed.  The girls are healthy and growing and developing and have clean diapers on (at the moment).  We have food and shelter and enough extra cash to afford a brand new Starbucks addiction (as long as I keep brewing at home…).

Our coffee cup runs over.

But in this rare moment of clarity, I see my life as it is.  I’m not sad about it or angry or hurt or feeling guilty.  I am just aware that I was young and like pretty much all young people I know, I was blissfully unaware.  And now I am approaching middle-aged.  Or, if I am honest, I am probably middle-aged already (I’m 30 – does that count?).

Whatever.

The point is that I see myself driving home from church, work, wherever – I see the sun shining and the wind rustling the leaves on the lush green trees and even though I have many responsibilities, I feel unburdened. I feel light.

And I am becoming aware that being unburdened is a rare, precious gift; I feel that while I am in the sunshine, enjoying the beauty of this world, there are people whose burdens are great.

Reading the news is a buzz kill.  You are bumping along in life all concerned about what is for dinner or wondering whether or not you remembered to pay the water bill, when all of a sudden a news anchor calmly, matter-of-factly explains that 32 girls in Ghana were rescued from a baby factory where their brand new babies were sold into slavery or as human sacrifices.

The juxtoposition of my life and theirs is hard to grasp.  How can my brain comprehend such disparity of the human existence?

God has been working on my heart, opening my eyes.

Am I going to end human trafficking in this world?  No.

But how can I do nothing?  How can I enjoy a warm summer day spent going for a walk or teaching my baby girls how to build sand castles, while other men, women and children are in such total darkness?

Many children find themselves sold into slavery because their families cannot afford to eat.  They are sold so that the rest of the family can survive.

And yet so easily, I can go to McDonald’s and enjoy a fruit and yogurt parfait, oatmeal or a warm cup of coffee.

While I am contemplating ways I can get involved (more to follow over the next few weeks), I cannot help but realize how mindlessly I eat.  I think very little about what and how much I put in my mouth.  After fertility treatments and a twin pregnancy, this is definitely starting to show.

I have a lot of weight to lose.  Fifty pounds to be exact.

Yeah, that’s right.  Fifty.

Not fifteen.

FIFTY.

Ugh.

What’s sad is that I’ve lost pretty much all of the baby weight.  The weight I have left to lose crept on slowly at first.  I slowly gave in to the weight gain.  “It’s just a pound.  Or two.  Or five.”

Or fifty.

Working out my body is just as important as working out my mental muscles.  The discipline I use for walking and running (and not eating dessert after every meal) helps me be more disciplined in other areas of my life, like time management or finances.

Getting involved in helping to stop human trafficking isn’t going to happen over night.  I won’t find a solution by writing a check for $5.  Big problems like this require persistent and unrelenting action.

In 2001 I started Weight Watchers.  I lost 60 lbs over the next 8 or 9 months.

I did not lose all 60 lbs in the first week.

Every week I lost a little bit and it all added up.

It’s that kind of discipline – making one more person aware, getting one more person to care – that adds up.

A little bit of kindling added slowly builds a big fire.

My goal is to become more disciplined and aware of what I eat, which will simultaneously help me work out the mental muscles needed in order to be dedicated to a cause as important as ending human trafficking.

It’s a weird way to connect two things, but it makes sense to me.

If you ask my mom, she’ll tell you I’ve always been annoyingly persistent. When I want something, I usually find a way to get it.

For every pound that I lose, we (Frank and I) will donate $10 to end human trafficking.  It’s a weightlossathon.

If you want to join me in this effort – either by losing weight yourself or donating money for every pound that I lose, please do!  Let me know in the comment section if you are “in” and what you are doing.

And if you aren’t interested in joining in, if you could keep me in your thoughts and your prayers as I go down this road – both weight loss and figuring out how to help raise awareness of human trafficking issues – I would be so grateful.

Thank you.

100 joys (13-17)

The great thing about doing this project is that every day I find myself excited to look for all the joys in my life!  The not-so-great thing is that this has been a particularly busy week and so it has been difficult to find time to document all of the joys.

That’s ok!  It’s a good problem to have 🙂

Joy #13

My shampoo and conditioner.  If you recall from yesterday, I find my Mary Kay skin care to be a joy because it takes care of some dry skin issues I’ve had in the past.  Unfortunately, this dry skin shenanigans is not limited to my face and has, at times, invaded my scalp.  Ugh.  There is nothing worse than not being able to put your hair in a pony tail on a hot summer day because of how dry your skin is!  (Ok, there are plenty of things worse, but stay with me)  I tried lots of things over the years – expensive shampoos and conditioners, scalp oil, etc.  The expensive (ahem, Aveda) scalp shampoo only dried out my hair and didn’t greatly improve my scalp situation.  Then one day, in a fit of frustration, I used Herbal Essences.  Instantly, my hair was shiny and soft again and my scalp was much healthier!  Every day that I wash my hair, I am delighted that my finicky head craves the cheap grocery store brand of shampoo instead of the super-expensive variety.  Love it!

Joy #14

AirplaneI know, Frank makes the list nearly every day in some form or another, but seriously – this guy is fabulous.  A lot of snow had blown onto our driveway in the past couple of days and when I came home from work tonight, Frank had completely tidied up the driveway.  He’d also taken care of several other chores around the house, which is such a treat!  He makes the bed every day and I love coming upstairs to see the made bed.  Frank is the source of a lot of little joys!

Joy #15

Note: This is not our dishwasher, but it looks close enough.  After having experienced life without a dishwasher, it is such a joy to load up the dishwasher, turn it on and… walk away!  Take that, sink full of dishes!

Joy #16

I had a visit with the doctor today and got to hear the babies’ heartbeats!  I love hearing them – it is such a sweet reassurance.  Baby A’s heart rate was around 140 and Baby B’s heart rate was around 150.  Plus, the babies have both been quite active today – another big blessing and joy! Because we are having twins, we are now going to have appointments every two weeks.  Yay!

Joy #17

Not exactly the best picture of my parent’s living room, but this is a glimpse into what my parents’ house looks like at Christmas.  They set up one lonnng table to seat about 20 people and Mom makes an amazing prime rib with all of the fixings.  SO GOOD!  And such a great time with family.  It is a joy that I am looking forward to!

the things I just don’t forget

Since we are having twins, our doctor wanted us to do the birth classes at our hospital early.  So at just 22 weeks, we are in a four week birth class at our hospital.

Our hospital is a large, sprawling campus.  It is the hospital that I was born at, that my great-grandmother (and namesake) died at, where they took my dad when he had his stroke, where one of my close friend’s mom passed away and where we went for the D & C when we lost Lily earlier this year.  There are so many entrances to this hospital and they are constantly expanding the hospital and building new wings and towers.  It’s easy to go there and not enter in the same doors twice.

On our second night in class, Frank and I ventured around the south side of the campus to see the new maternity wing.  Our adventure took us past the blue awning of the “Day Surgery” center.  The same blue awning that I came out of after our D & C.  Frank and I both looked at this awning at the same time.  I could hear the air going out of both of our chests as we looked at that sad, sad spot.  It was like walking past a grave for us.

I don’t remember what we said to each other, but it was just a gentle acknowledgement of that door.  That time in our lives when our hearts were both simultaneously broken.

If Lily had been a healthy little baby, she would’ve been born in late September, likely.  We would be getting her ready for her first Christmas.  I’d be going back to work in January after my maternity leave.

But Lily was not a healthy little baby.  Frank and I have discussed this – not extensively – but in brief conversations about her since March.  Things just seemed to be going so slow with her.  The doctors were always pushing the due dates back – she always measured small.  In a family where we’ve always measured well past the bell curve, this seemed strange – foreign – to us. She was a fighter, though – and she tried really hard.  But in the end, she just couldn’t do it.  And that’s ok.  It’s hard for us to have to wait so long to meet her, but we have peace that she’s with God in heaven.

All we have from losing Lily are a few early ultrasound pictures and a doily they gave us after the D & C to help us remember her by.  I put all of these items in a folder and I put them in a filing cabinet in the basement.  I’ve looked at that doily and the pictures since then, but only quickly and only to put them in a new location.

But driving by the blue awning of the “Day Surgery” center was a fresh reminder for us of the sweet baby we lost.  And in some ways, of the struggles we went through over 18 months in order to get pregnant.

I don’t take anything about this miraculous twin pregnancy for granted.  Sometimes I feel like I’m in an out-of-body experience – I see myself looking at baby furniture or picking out a nursery theme – and I can’t believe that it’s me.  I can’t believe it because in the either-or experience – either I’m pregnant or I’m not, either the baby is healthy or it’s not, either I’m ovulating or I’m not – I’ve been on the “or not” side with great frequency.  I have not had the experience of easily getting and staying pregnant.  I have not had the sense that “of course I am pregnant, why wouldn’t I be?”  Instead, I feel very frequently how delicate life is.

I read a blog called Moosh in Indy. Casey, the blog author, struggled with infertility for FIVE years.  She battled serious depression and tried a lot of medical procedures to resolve her infertility.

And then one day… she was pregnant.  Of course, there was so much rejoicing and so much happiness, but as she writes so poignantly about infertility in this blog post – “I can never forget where I came from that got me to this point.”

I also cannot forget all of my friends who are still waiting, hoping and praying to start or expand their family.  The notion that because we are pregnant, we can then forget the heartache of losing Lily and struggling with infertility is entirely wrong.

Life is precious.

To all of my friends who are struggling with various forms of loss and infertility, my prayers are constantly with you.  I have not forgotten.

meet rosie, al and luis

Rosie, Al & Luis: The Family-To-Be!

My dear friend Rosie is one of the sweetest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.  She has been my companion on this unfortunate road of fertility treatments.  Her husband, Al, is one of the most dedicated husbands I’ve ever met – it is his delight to just be with his wife.  They are a couple that we simply marvel at and are encouraged by.

In their quest to become more than a family of two, they’ve suffered the loss of two babies, Katie and Daniel, in the second trimester of Rosie’s pregnancies. With other on-going fertility challenges, Rosie and Al had been considering fostering children. It has been their hearts desire to have a family and God answered their prayers!

Al’s older sister had abandoned two of her children with Al’s mother.  Struggling to find the energy to raise her grandchildren, Al’s mother asked Rosie and Al if they would be able to take the youngest, Luis.  Sweet Luis has not had an idyllic life: his mother tested positive for cocaine when Luis was born and he was even an innocent participant in a drug raid. Being shuffled between homes and parent-figures has taken a toll on the little guy.

After thinking and praying about this, Rosie and Al consulted a lawyer and determined that they would raise Luis and adopt him!  Luis is a vibrant, sweet little 3 year old guy and I truly believe that his life will be infinitely better because of Rosie and Al’s love.  It will be quite a beautiful family!

So here is my shameless plug: in order to get legal guardianship of Luis, they have to run ads in the newspapers and pay for a lawyer.  The cost is $1,500 and they are very humbly asking for assitance in achieving this goal so that they can provide Luis with a permanent, loving home.  If you are interested in helping out, please visit their blog. At the very least, they would greatly appreciate your prayers and thoughts.  THANK YOU!

belief

I read a book called Lamb over the weekend.  The author, Christopher Moore, put together a hilarious take on Christ’s life as told by Christ’s best friend, Biff.  It was gritty and colorful (both in its telling and in its language – read: lots of swearing and sexual situations).

I loved that the story was gritty because I believe that life is gritty and raw.  I believe that more often than not, life is messy.  Life is change and evolution and growth and development and loss and loosely controlled chaos.

We are all on the verge of being tagged out of this great game of life – and yet we mostly live our lives with a somewhat misguided belief that we are immortal.  That’s why we’re shocked when something bad happens.

Sure, there are some of us who are better at faking the control.  There are some who might say, “aw, Em, cute – but I have this all wrapped up!”

But I believe for the rest of us, despite our best efforts, we often find ourselves putting out more fires during the day than checking things off of our “to do” lists – and that’s ok.  My dad liked to quote a Beetle (or someone) who said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”

So I loved the grittiness of Lamb.

And I loved that Jesus had a sense of humor in the story.  Yes, the book still portrayed him as innocent, but I loved that his best friend taught him sarcasm (which he used very moderately in the book).  The Bible is great at telling us a lot about Jesus – what he did, his virtues and character – but I kind of wonder about his sense of humor.  Was he playful?  Did he ever play pranks on the disciples?  I wonder if he ever short sheeted Peter’s bedroll or teepeed John’s tent.  Did Jesus spend time on the banks of the Jordan, hanging out with his friends and pondering some of the great mysteries, like: if Elijah and Moses were in a cage match – who would win?

Why does it matter if Jesus had a sense of humor?  I dunno.  I guess I just like the idea of knowing the person of Jesus – I like to imagine what it would be like if Jesus walked in the door and said hello.  Would he have a booming voice or a quiet disposition?  Would he shake my hand or give me a big hug?

I loved that Lamb painted a picture of Jesus that was so much richer than what I am able to glean from the Bible because so much of the Bible gets lost in cultural translation.  Perhaps there ARE elements of Jesus’ sense of humor embedded in the stories about Him – but humor in each culture is so subtle, it’s hard to pick up just by reading without studying the culture further.  And we all know that when you have to explain the joke, it really becomes less funny anway.  I am sure “That’s what she said” would be completely lost on ancient Jews.  And I can only imagine how future generations will interpret our jokes.

But I also felt convicted while reading Lamb.

Not because I was reading a story that was an irreverent and somewhat scandalous telling of Jesus’ life, but because as I read this story,  I was struck by Biff’s unbelief.  I don’t want to ruin the story in the case that you decide to read it, but generally speaking, I was surprised that this character Biff could literally WALK with Jesus for practically of his life and so miss the point on so many occasions.  It reminded me that I often miss the point.  It reminded me that I so frequently forget who Jesus is and get distracted by my own selfish desires.

I don’t know if the author intended for this result – I think the author wrote this book to provide a humorous explanation for what happened to Jesus between the ages of 6 and 32.  And perhaps the author knew enough Christians to know how many of us often spend all of this time learning about Jesus and God and MISSING THE POINT; there are so many of us who KNOW much, but BELIEVE little.

The disciples didn’t always understand what Jesus meant, but they believed in Him.  They were willing to stake it all on Him.  They believed He was who He said He was.

So yeah – I liked Lamb. It’s not for everyone, but it’s great satire.

answered prayer

I love and appreciate when people say that they are thinking of us – it’s nice to know that people are remembering us and are hoping that it works out well for us.  Kind thoughts are always appreciated and are not taken lightly.

What really knocks our socks off is when people pray for us.  Prayer is such an active process of going to our Heavenly Father and bringing those people and circumstances that are on our hearts to Him.  If you want to know what you can do for us, pray. And scratch Frank’s back – he LOVES it.

Whenever I see an ambulance go by, I generally pray for the people in the ambulance.  Their day has just gone south if they are headed somewhere in an ambulance.  I imagine that these ambulances fly to the hospital, leaving a comet’s tail of prayer in their wake.

A few years ago, when my dad had a stroke, the ambulance made it to my parents’ house in less than 3 minutes.  Our neighbors didn’t know what was going on, but their family stood on their lawn and prayed for my dad.  It makes my soul happy to know that my dad’s ambulance also had a comet tail of prayer on his way to the hospital.  Along with the amazing emergency medical team and the doctors and nurses, I credit the people who stopped to pray for my dad with helping save his life.

During this whole fertility adventure, Frank and I have been so grateful for all of the prayers that have gone heavenward on our behalf.  That is stinkin’ awesome!

A few days ago I emailed one of my friends who is an amazing prayer warrior.  When she says that she is going to pray, it’s not lip service.   She goes to the mat praying.  Awe.some.

So I told her about our sitch and she said she’d pray.  A few days later she emailed me and said, “This might sound weird, but God told me that you should keep praying (and listening).  He is going to give you direction on your treatment and your children.”

What an encouragement!  I was energized by this because so often, it’s not always easy for me to hear from God so clearly (that’s a whole ‘nother topic for a whole ‘nother day).  The next morning I went for a run and I was praying and God said to me, “Be still and know that I am God.”

While that doesn’t sound like the answer that I was hoping for, it was what I needed.  It calmed my heart and soul.

So I went on my merry way.

Then I got an email from my doctor.  The second round of tests looked better than the first.  We are candidates for insemination.

My goodness.

So I love when people think of us.  It’s great and I don’t take that lightly.  Some people don’t believe in prayer and so thinking of us is the best thing they have in their arsenal.  And it means that we matter to them, which fosters community and love.  I’m cool with that.

But when people pray, man, that is awesome.  God hears our prayers and that is sweet.