November 20, 2014

He Gives and Takes Away

Our second baby left this world to be with Jesus this week, and my heart is aching with a grief I never knew possible. For weeks, we were growing with excitement and anticipation over sharing the news with our families at Thanksgiving.  We naively assumed this pregnancy would progress fairly smoothly, as it did with Oliver. However, at the beginning of this week I started experiencing symptoms of a miscarriage, and the OB told me to come in right away. I went in with some hope in my heart, but the overall gut feeling that something just wasn't right. My worries and fears were confirmed with an ultrasound that showed no heartbeat. 

Our minds were filled with hopes and dreams for Oliver's new brother or sister. Our dreams have been crushed, and all I can think about is the newborn I'll never hold, the smile I'll never see, the voice I'll never hear, the arms that will never be wrapped around my neck, and the sibling relationship I'll never see develop. I am aching over the loss of the person that baby would become. 

We are clinging to each other and clinging to the cross and our faith. We are so blessed by Oliver, but so deeply saddened by the loss of his brother or sister. I have been grappling with so many questions. Why God? Why would you bless us with this baby and then take him/her away so quickly? We are so open and willing to be parents - why do you give babies to drug addicts or people who don't care for their kids, but take ours away? Why us?  

I found these beautiful words that have offered me such hope and peace:

"My Lord, the baby is dead!

Why, my Lord—dare I ask why? It will not hear the whisper of the wind or see the beauty of its parents’ face—it will not see the beauty of Your creation or the flame of a sunrise. Why, my Lord?

“Why, My child—do you ask ‘why’? Well, I will tell you why. You see, the child lives. Instead of the wind he hears the sound of angels singing before My throne. Instead of the beauty that passes he sees everlasting Beauty—he sees My face. He was created and lived a short time so the image of his parents imprinted on his face may stand before Me as their personal intercessor. He knows secrets of heaven unknown to men on earth. He laughs with a special joy that only the innocent possess. My ways are not the ways of man. I create for My Kingdom and each creature fills a place in that Kingdom that could not be filled by another. He was created for My joy and his parents’ merits. He has never seen pain or sin. He has never felt hunger or pain. I breathed a soul into a seed, made it grow and called it forth.” 

I am humbled before you, my Lord, for questioning Your wisdom, goodness, and love. I speak as a fool—forgive me. I acknowledge Your sovereign rights over life and death. I thank You for the life that began for so short a time to enjoy so long an Eternity." 

-- Mother M. Angelica

Our baby is now a Saint in heaven, and one thing that has brought us peace is that he or she will never know the pain and suffering that we experience in this world.  No fear, no worries, no anxiety, no stress, no pain, and no loneliness. He or she is experiencing nothing but God's love and goodness in heaven, what we hope for all of our children someday. 

God has been really challenging my heart to show thanksgiving in all circumstances recently, and this is putting me to the test.  He is still showering us with his graces throughout this painful week, and if I seek him, I feel his presence with us throughout this. I am thankful we were met with love and compassion by healthcare workers. I am thankful for the woman who drew my blood, held my hand, looked me in the eyes with sorrow, and so genuinely said "God bless you, sweetie." I'm thankful for the doctor who told me to cling to my faith. I'm thankful for those that have openly shared their own experiences and pain. I am thankful for my husband who has been my rock throughout all of this, crying with me and pushing me to pray when I least feel like it. I am thankful for our sweet Oliver who doesn't know of this loss and who continues to bring us so much joy and laughter throughout all of this.  I am thankful for our faith that reassures us that our baby sees God's face and the most splendid treasures that heaven holds. 

It's hard and it hurts, but in the midst of the lies the Devil is trying to make me believe, I still believe in a God who is mighty, loving, giving, and faithful.  He is the author and Creator with the power to give and take away as he pleases. I don't know or understand his plans for us right now, but I know he always has and always will make all things work together for our good. We have hope as an anchor for our souls, and I am thankful for that gift.

Please pray for healing for us and pray for the soul of our baby. 

November 17, 2014

A Red, White, and Blue Weekend with my Family

This weekend was the absolute best. The reality of living away from my family really sank in after we bought our house, my brother moved back home, and my sister accepted a job where she'll be moving back home in about month. I know God brought us here for this season in our lives for a reason, so I'm not lamenting the fact that we're apart, but it doesn't make it any easier. I'm just so thankful for the times when we are together because dang, I love my family. My parent's house was lit up with so much love and joy over the weekend, and for that I am thankful. 
We arrived home Friday evening to find out my mom decked the house out in red, white, and blue to celebrate Thomas becoming a citizen! My family even gave him a gift of a red, white, and blue shirt and a Captain American flannel underwear shirt haha! What can I say, they are very patriotic! 

We had a big American feast on Saturday night, complete with hot dogs, burgers, potato chips, pickles, and macaroni and cheese.  Like I said, my mom went all out with the American festivities! We had cookie cake during the day and my mom's homemade apple pie a la mode with caramel sauce for dessert at night. We spent the evening bundled up around the fire pit in the backyard, drinking homemade hot chocolate as we laughed, chatted, and reminisced. Pure bliss. 
Oliver, naturally, was the star of the weekend. It is such a joy to see the blessing that he is to our family! He was absolutely delighted by my brother pulling him around the house in his little chariot all weekend!

He was also enthralled by my parent's Golden Retriever, Charlie. He had the most smug grin on his face every time he saw him, and he'd reach out his hand to touch him, but then pull it back so quickly like he was nervous! He crawled up to Charlie one time while he was laying down and very gently pet him, and it was just about the cutest thing I've ever seen! 

My brother and his girlfriend even humored me by letting me use them as models to practice my picture taking at the park over the weekend. They make a good pair, those two. 

It went by way too quickly, but it was enough to power me through the next week and a half until I see everyone again for Thanksgiving! I am so thankful for the gift of family. 

November 12, 2014

Creamery on the Farm

Thomas and I are some of the biggest ice cream fanatics in town, and I am not exaggerating. There is almost always ice cream in our freezer, we're attempting to try all the flavors of Blue Bell, we seek out ice cream shops whenever we go out of town, and we sit down and have a bowl together almost every night. Or brownies in a mug with ice cream on top. Just being real. So naturally, when we found out there was a new local creamery with ice cream made from the milk from the cows on the farm, we had to check out the new hot spot! 

It was about a half an hour away, but no drive is too long for homemade ice cream! We took some back roads, passing country homes and cotton fields galore, and we began to wonder if we were going to the right place. We started giggling, wondering if the creamery was actually going to be a rinky dink stand in someone's backyard.  However, we eventually saw a beautiful white picket fence with a field full of cows on the horizon and we knew that had to be it. 
The creamery was absolutely adorable and exceeded our expectations. We were blown away by all the effort that had evidently been put into it by the owners. Rocking chairs, mums, and pumpkins spread out over a huge Southern porch? Yes please! 

I am still in awe of the fact that the ice cream is made from the cow's milk on the farm. I know all ice cream is made from milk, but it was just so neat to see everything happening in one place. What can I say, I am very easily amazed. 
After trying several samples and deliberating over all the options, Thomas chose cookie dough and I chose cookie dough and salted caramel. Y'all, that ice cream was divine. Creamy, rich, and delicious. Not to mention the fact that it was in a waffle cone bowl. That was also homemade. 
Poor Oliver snacked on Cheerios and eyed up our bowls of ice cream the entire time....and we only felt a little bit guilty! ;) One day, my little man. 
 However, he was extremely entertained by the cows! He pointed, shrieked, and made all kinds of noises we haven't heard before.  This boy is becoming quite the animal lover! 

 He was especially fascinated by the baby calf (as were we!) 

It was so special having a little afternoon date with my two favorite guys. I'm appreciating all the little things about that day because they are, in fact, the big things. I could have stayed there all day rocking my boy on the porch, holding hands with my hubby, watching the cows, and eating homemade ice cream. It just doesn't get any better than that. I think we've found ourselves a new favorite ice cream place! 

November 11, 2014

Oliver: 11 Months Old

Our sweet little nugget is one month away from turning a year old. He's looking less like a baby and more like a toddler every day. It's bittersweet, as I miss all of his early baby stages, but I'm loving watching his little personality unfold. He is sweet, curious, snuggly, friendly, feisty, and more and more fun as each month passes.  

There's so much I want to soak in and remember about him at this stage - the way he lights up and speed crawls to the door when Thomas gets home at night, how he shovels in food by the fistful, how he fake laughs to get us to laugh, how he points and squeals at dogs and trucks, and how he smiles when he sees me and Thomas kiss. He loves patty cake, peekaboo, dancing with us, chasing his balls and cars around and around the house, banging on pots and pans, getting tossed in the air, going for walks and runs in the stroller, and eating everything and anything we give him (and anything else he finds around the house). He's curious about how everything works, and we often find him pushing his high chair around the house and flipping over his cars to look at and poke the wheels. 

From before he was born, I've prayed for his heart to be filled with joy and the Lord has certainly answered that prayer. He is such a happy, content baby and he lights up our lives, and the lives of those around him, with his sweet smiles and giggles.   
He's getting pretty feisty too! Whenever we take him grocery shopping or to the store, he points and waves at everyone (and everything), and if someone doesn't look at him, he'll shriek until he gets their attention.  

He's been crawling for the past few months, and he can't stand to be still for a long period of time, which has made going to church pretty interesting. Along with that, we have to be very careful not to sit behind women with long, interesting hair or to look at our missals in church because he will rip pages out of the book or try to yank people's hair.  He's lucky everyone thinks he's cute for now! 
He's started developing separation anxiety, and we cannot go to another room without him getting upset, even if he's been playing independently. He also crawls up to us all the time, pulls up on our legs, and reaches up for us to pick him up which makes me melt every.single.time. I think he mostly does it because he's so curious and wants to see what's going on at our level, especially if I'm cooking in the kitchen, but I still love it! 
His favorite part of the day is bath time, which makes it our favorite part of the day too. This kid is an absolute trip when we plop him in the tub. He whips his washcloth around, splashes fanatically, and laughs hysterically throughout the entire bath. By the end of it, everyone and everything in the bathroom is soaking wet, and Thomas and I are both in tears from laughing so hard. 
His other favorite thing to do is to read.  If we ever need to get stuff done, we put a big pile of books in the middle of the floor and he could look at them all day long! He's adorable when he brings me a book to get me to read it to him, and he snuggles right up to us to read stories at night. I hope he always has that love of books.
It's so exciting watching him develop! He walks while we hold his hands, but hasn't taken his first steps on his own yet. He bounces up down while he's standing or rocks on his hands and knees when we play music. I'm totally claiming "mom" as his first word because when I got back from being out of town for a few days, he said it as soon as he saw me! Other than that, it's a lot of mamama, dadada, ba for ball, bu for book, and du for duck. This kid eats and nurses like a champ and is still representing the top 90 something percent of the charts. 
Our little man is such a gem. I'm so thankful that God gave us him as a precious gift, and I can't stop myself from thanking him every time I hold Oliver. He has enriched our lives and strengthened the love in our home. We can't imagine life without him!