To two of my children.

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To Jonah:

You are six years old today.  I love you so very much.  I love being your mom and I am so glad that YOU are my child.  I really, really like who you are.  You are a perfect blend of your parents.  You have your dad’s brains, his love of learning.  You have my love of people.  I love watching how these loves fold out into your everyday.

I love how you play; fully engaged in the world as you see it.  I love your wild and crazy adventurous spirit.  I find your fearlessness inspiring, actually; like it simply does not occur to you that you can’t do something…so you just do it.

You are funny and cute and sweet and I am just so into you.  Happy Birthday, my sweet child.

 

To our first unborn:

It has been four years…four years since we lost you- the day your older brother turned two…we celebrated his life while mourning yours.  It was the first bad twist in an unfortunate plot.

Still today, hanging in Jonah’s closet is the “Big Brother” t-shirt we got for him when we found out about you.  And then you left…as quickly as you came you were gone-but I couldn’t put away that shirt.  It was too big for Jonah four years ago and now it is too small.  But it still hangs there…because I just don’t have the heart to remove it- not yet.

I want you to know that though I have never held you in my arms, you are such a part of me.  I miss you.  I know where you are, though.  And the One who does hold you is the same One who is holding me.  I am confident of this:  that I might have 60 more years here, apart from you.  But I will have forever with you…and the dear ones who came after you.  I cannot put into words how I long for that day.

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The honest truth…

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Team Light

Again, it is my turn to share.  I am going to share about how this journey has affected me and what it is like to walk it in my shoes, but I have again struggled to find the words to say.  Even though we have experienced this journey as a team (Team Light we affectionately call ourselves), the past four years have seemed to have centered around me.

Our current infertility is because of something malfunctioning within my body.  The condition, whatever it is or what caused it, could also be the likely cause of the miscarriages. It is tough to know that our current status is because of something wrong with my body.  Another reason that I feel our current journey has some direct connections to me is because of piece we haven’t shared yet.  If you have read the other aspects of our story in the other blog post you may of realized that there is a three year gap in between the three miscarriages and our current discovery of infertility.  That is because in the middle of all of that, I came down with a strange fungal infection in my lungs which took me two years to heal and recover which delayed our current knowledge.

Because of these reasons, it can be a struggle to not feel responsible for where we are.  I understand that ultimately I am not responsible for our circumstances, but I often have to process through this.  It is hard to not feel that the weight of our status is on my shoulders.  I know it is not true, but my brain goes there anyway and at times my heart follows.

Along with this, it is difficult for me not to feel like less of a man/husband/father as I am “broken” physically, and not only that, but this “brokenness” has set us on the rocky, uncertain road we currently walk.  This life we are living is not the life that I believe we were meant to have.  This is not the way that things are supposed to work.  My body should function. Our babies should be in our arms.  However, as we probably all have experienced, life does not always follow the path that it should.  So we find our self on a road we don’t particularly want to be on, but one that is ours to walk.  It is very difficult to know that we are walking this road, at least in some ways, because of me.

As a husband/father I feel that part of my role is to protect my family.  It is difficult to know that I can’t protect them from the pain that this deficiency causes.  My heart breaks every day as I am reminded that something is wrong with me that has broken my wife’s heart.  Let me be clear, Anna, does not put that on me and deep down I know that we are experiencing this fully together, but there are parts of me that struggle with these thoughts and feelings.  If I had to be honest right now, I struggle with this every day.  I have no way of protecting my family from this pain and that makes me feel pretty helpless and weak.  These are two things that Dads/Husbands don’t want to feel.

Also as a Dad/Husband, I feel it is my responsibility to provide for my family.  Again I struggle often with the fact that I can’t provide my son with a sibling and I can’t provide my wife with another child.  The thing that I provide in the pregnancy and development of a child I can’t give.  That is devastating. And if I can to be totally transparent, it is pretty emasculating.  It is hard to not feel responsible for my inability to provide my family with another child even though I know deep down I am a victim.  It is hard to honestly admit to you all that I have these feelings.  To be really truthful with you, I have to tell you that for the past two to three months I have avoided admitting these feelings even to those I know would receive them with grace and love.  In fact many of these people read the blog and are hearing this honesty for the first time.  So instead of honoring people with my vulnerability I have struggled quietly with this pain. This then has lead to me finding ways to escape or to avoid feeling this pain.  And here is the thing, I shouldn’t escape or avoid the pain because this action is often based in sin.  Sin is trying to escape the pain of a reality we were never supposed to live.

One way I have done this is I have tried to strive and achieve these feelings away.  There is no way for me to strive or achieve specifically for this situation yet I find myself doing this in different ways.  Such as, “If I just try harder to move on from our hurt and get over it then it will be ok.”  Or, “I can fake my happiness and peace until it is real.”  Or things like if I just pour into my work or into the projects I need to do then I won’t feel the pain; if I can distract myself then I don’t have to feel the hurt inside.  I don’t  think it is a surprise that I have tried to escape the pain this way; men are natural strivers and achievers.  We think if we can just double our efforts then we can work this out.  Here is the truth though, it doesn’t work.  I can’t escape the pain; I can’t escape experiencing the feelings that come with this pain.

Another way that I have tried to escape our grief and hurt is by wrestling for control.  Men want to have control and want to fix things that are broken.  There are so many thoughts in my mind about how to get back control over this situation.  There are so many thoughts of “how can I fix this?”  I have tried to do this in the most ridiculous ways – an example would be “maybe if I change what type of underwear I wear or take more ibuprofen or stop drinking so much coffee things would change”.   One of the more common ones is  “maybe I need to pursue more medical answers because there might be more wrong with me that can better explain what is happening”.   I try to gain control in this way because I have anxiety over medically related things.  It is actually a stronghold in my life as I worry about medical issues often.  In this case, it is a way of escaping the reality that we are facing; a way to put my hope in some other answer that would change things, instead of what I should be placing my hope in.

Escape is a temptation we all face.  It is so much easier to escape than to accept and feel.  It is so much easier to ignore the pain or to pile things on top so that you don’t feel it.  We can do this so much that we forget what the pain is we are escaping.  My focus often is stolen away from the things that matter by these types of escape mechanisms.  In fact, I can potentially get pretty obsessed with these types of avoidances of the pain I am experiencing.  I long for things to be different and want this problem to go away.  My thoughts can be filled with looking for solutions and ways to overcome that I miss out on the life around me.  I miss out on the things that matter.  Fortunately I am realizing this.  Fortunately I can see what mistakes I am making; what sins are being used to escape the pain of loss and broken heartedness.

The truth is I can’t escape this path we are on.  The damage that I have in my body is permanent, it isn’t going way; there is nothing I can do to get control over this or to fix it.  Boy that is hard to write.  It is hard to surrender to that reality even knowing God wants to meet me there.  It is hard to lay this at His feet.  It is hard to give this disappointment, grief, and hurt to the only One who truly understands.  Every day this past two to three months I have been faced with a choice of bending low and giving this over to my Father or trying to work it out myself and find my own way.  Most days I fail completely, but a few days I get it right.

Here is the cold, hard truth:  my heart is broken.  I have lost more than I can even know.   I have really wanted to avoid saying that.  Loss and grief can have permanence and finality to it.  I know that for the rest of my life I will walk with this loss and pain.  I know it won’t always hurt this bad, but I am really disappointed in this reality.  I long for it to be different.  But here is the thing that I forget on a regular basis: God is also disappointed in this reality.  He wants it to be different.  It is not His plan for us to live with such loss.  Our heartbreak is His.  If we allow Him to, He will take our broken hearts and make them beautiful.  That is where our true hope lies.

Philippians 1:6  And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

2nd Caroline Project: Heartline Ministries

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heartline

I will admit that I have been procrastinating in writing this post about our second Caroline Project donation, and for the longest time I couldn’t even tell you WHY I was procrastinating.  Then, last night, it hit me:  What do I know about Haiti?  I mean really…?  I’ve never been there.  I haven’t even spent much of my life actually considering what goes on there.  Aside from the news coverage I’ve seen highlighting weather events; I have not really considered it at all.  And now I’m supposed to write about this cool organization that exist there?  Like I actually know something about it?  No.  I claim right now that I don’t know.  Not really.  But that’s the point of The Caroline Project, I think- that we would start considering things we haven’t considered before.  People, places…all of it.  That we would just be more aware.

While it’s true that I cannot speak into the daily life for a person in Haiti, I can speak into why we were drawn to Heartline Ministries as our second organization.  I first read about what Heartline is doing on Jen Hatmaker’s blog post about adoption ethics.  My brief overview of the blog post is that though there are many, many organizations that provide safe, ethical adoption services, there are also some that don’t.  And though there are many, many times when adoption IS the answer, overall, there are EVEN more times when it may not be:  these being times when families can and should be kept together.  Please read Jen’s blog post because she is brilliant and her outlook made me consider, just like it always does.

I read this particular blog post a couple of months ago when we were “weighing all our options”.  In considering adoption…I was trying to reconcile how, though adoption is so wonderful and Biblical, and beautiful, and purposeful…what if it isn’t the right choice for us.  Because, and please, please give me grace here, I will propose that often adoption is presented as the next logical choice for someone in our shoes, and though we are not writing it off for the future, at this time our hearts tell us it is not what we are to do.  The concept of working to keep families together was kind of new realization to me.  And I thought “I can’t have any more babies.  But what if I can help women who CAN?”  I have to tell you:  even as I write that sentence, I cry.  Because I want to have my own babies.  But I can’t.  So what CAN I do?  I can help others…who are able to do what I cannot.  And though that is so painful, I know that it is right.

Heartline Ministries has a Maternity Center that, taken directly from their website,  “is a place where expectant mothers can find education, safe and sanitary conditions and respect for them and their babies.  (They) have two full-time midwives on staff who love these women and are committed to giving them loving and honoring care before, during and after their labor experience.”  Oh you guys…do you see?  This is exactly what I had when I was pregnant with Jonah- education, safe and sanitary conditions, respect…  Why did I have this?  Because I was live in Minnesota, and I have a good health plan.  And really, for no other reason than that.  And I am convinced that every single woman DESERVES to have that.

Once I dug into what Heartline Ministries is, I was surprised to see all that they do for the people of Haiti, not just soon to be mothers.  Seriously, you guys.  I want you to go to their website because I cannot even describe in words all that you will find there.  I was told by one of the missionaries who works there that they have many different branches, including a maternity center, a sewing school, a cooking school, jewelry making, and literacy training.  Look at all of these. Ultimately, what Heartline Ministries is doing is providing people with a way to provide for their families and in doing so, Heartline is giving people dignity.  And don’t we ALL need that??

If a person wanted to support Heartline financially, they could do so in many ways, including, but not limited to:

  • Giving to the general fund
  • Giving to a specific missionary that works in one of the variety of branches
  •  Buying a purse or piece of jewelry (http://www.haitiancreations.com/#2)

Please consider giving to this organization and the people who are putting foot to pavement to make change in a country that really needs change.  Go to their website: http://www.heartlineministries.org/.  I think you will be inspired to see all that they offer.

A Boundary Waters Weekend

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At least once a year, for many years, we go to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.  The BWCA is this pristine wilderness located in northern Minnesota and on into Canada.  It’s remote.  The air is crisp and clean.  Quite literally, going to the Boundary Waters is “getting away from it all”.  You have to get a permit to enter.  You have to canoe for miles and miles to get to your campsite.  You filter drinking water from the lake.  You carry in all your food and carry out all your trash.  You don’t shower for days.  I mean, it is really something…

We’ve gone by ourselves, with our friends, with our dog.  Last year, for the first time, Jonah got to got into the Boundary Waters for one night.  Prior to that, we would take him up to the outskirts of the BWCA and camp at a state park.  Then we’d canoe in for day trips.  But now he’s old enough and he gets to do the official Boundary Waters experience.  This is the big time, guys.

Anyone who has ever been in the same room with Jonah knows that he is THE most active kid.  Ever.  He’s constantly in motion, climbing on things, talking constantly, touching everything…and he’s fearless, too, which makes for an even crazier experience.  But you put this kid in a canoe or a kayak and he’s good to sit still for 4 or 5 straight hours.  He’s been like that his entire life.  Maybe it’s because we always go paddling with him…Or maybe that’s WHY we always go paddling with him.  I’m not sure which…

family

anna boat

 fishing

jonah front         jonah looking

tent

      joel hammock

mink

To the delight of us all, this little mink came running through our UNO game.

newt

It is not UNCOMMON for Joel to pick up slimy things he finds in the woods.

canoews

So then, when you’re done, you go into the town of Ely.  There are canoes everywhere.  Atop cars, piled high at outfitters…everywhere.  And most of the businesses are named something “up northy”:  Portage Realty, The Paddle Inn, Wildlife Liquor.  Ely is the coolest small town in America.  No, seriously, I’m not making it up.  Budget Travelsays so!
And I whole heartedly agree!

chocolate moose

This is our tradition:  when we’re hungry and tired and cranky while portaging (carrying) our canoe for miles, we think about what kind of pie we’re going to get at the Chocolate Moose once we’re done with the trip.
The Chocolate Moose is our favorite restaurant in Ely.

 And it has THE. BEST. PIE.

pie