Saturday, November 9, 2019

The Bravest Girl I Know

Its one of the most captivating things about our Eleanor. She is constantly brave.... in the face of things that scare, intimidate or challenge her we literally watch her overcome emotions of fear with a resolution that she can rise above it. For most of her life, we've celebrated this quality when we've seen her naturally act upon it. Many times, we've spoken it over her to remind her that we see this beautiful trait as we speak belief into whatever situation, trial or opportunity she has that may be holding her back. Our intentions have always been to celebrate the girl we see who is scared, but does it anyway.

But you know what isn't easy? Watching your "brave" girl not being able to put into words that she is scared, or anxious, or needs help but doesn't know how to ask. This year when Eleanor transitioned to her new school, she had mixed emotions leading up to the first day, as naturally, all of us would have. She was going to be the only new girl in the grade, before the summer hit she literally knew NO ONE there and was also changing from half-homeschool to full-time school. But we watched, and celebrated, her preparing for the school year with a brave face.

On the first day of school, there were little tears in her eyes as BJ and I dropped her at her classroom and she asked us not to leave. We reminded her that she's the bravest girl we know and that we would be praying for her all day long, missing her every moment, and be back the minute school was out to scoop her in our arms. She put on a brave face and I cried as we walked back to the car. Sure enough, at pickup she bounded to the car with smiles and giggles saying she made some new friends and had a great day... this behavior continued for a good week or so... you know, the honeymoon period.

About 3 weeks into school, Eleanor started visiting the nurse with a tummy ache every. single. day. Sometimes, multiples times. In the morning, she would complain that her tummy hurt and would have a hard time eating breakfast... after a full week of nurse visits, emails back and forth with her teacher and pressing to figure out what was going on... I decided to just sit with Eleanor. One night Tripp and BJ were off to a practice, Dorothy Grace was napping, and so Eleanor and I just sat and talked. It took awhile... but slowly, Eleanor started exposing little cracks in her heart that explained her tummy aches. Before I knew it, the flood gates opened and she couldn't stop sharing all that was raging in her mind and heart and ultimately, making her physically ill.

She is so eloquent, so mature and has such an old soul... it was like I was talking to someone looking back at their life instead of a child in the midst of the pain. But she shared how she was tired of being the new girl. She hated that she didn't know everyone and that consequently, not everyone knew her. At her old school she had grown comfortable with friends, with teachers and coaches... and this starting over was exhausting and lonely. And the curriculum,. In the beginning of the year most of the classroom practice reviews what was learned in the spring... she was confident in the answers they were getting in both math and grammar, but had no idea the manner in which they arrived at their answers. Every school day she went in afraid that a new concept was going to be introduced and she would be found out.... she wouldn't know how to get the answers, so her answers wouldn't be right anymore. This thought literally terrified her, hence the visit to the nurse every day right at the beginning of math class.

Oh my dear girl. As she shared I sat in silence and having to hold back genuine tears.... I asked her if I could tell her teacher so that we could make a plan to give her the help she needed. As I did, I watched her body language completely change... confidence returned to my sweet E.

As I was sharing this with my mom, she pointed out something that BJ and I never thought, nor ever intended, to be a consequence of telling someone how brave they are over and over and over again. Because maybe, just maybe, this was why it was so hard for Eleanor to admit she needed help... was this a sign of fear, or of inability or of weakness if she admitted she was anxious or scared?? This thought broke me. It is the exact opposite of every intention I have ever had for my girl.

So I'm no perfect parent (obviously), but in this moment I became determined to praise the beauty I saw in Eleanor's openness and ask for help.... because you know what? That is actually one of the bravest things we could ever do. Actually ADMIT we are scared. ADMIT we need help. ADMIT we are in pain. ADMIT we cannot do something in, or of, ourselves. Allowing someone in to your pain is really, really brave. It is one of the hardest things for most people to actually do, but it is so empowering to bring a need, a hurt, a pain point, or ulitmately even sin, to the light. Acknowledging that there is a little war in our minds that tells us we aren't good enough, brave enough, strong enough, fill-in-the-blank enough... and if we allow those thoughts to reign, they'll control us. But being brave enough to admit, in the small and the big, that you need help, you need belief, you need a Savior.... well, that is where life truly begins.

Eleanor doesn't get the full picture, quite yet, of how her humility and acknowledgement of her pain is so brave and so freeing... but it taught me. It is still teaching me, actually. And I am constantly on my knees that she, and all of my kids, would find safety in opening up to me, to BJ.... not afraid to bring their fear, their hurts, their pains, their failures to light... and that we would meet them with love, with hope, with grace and be simply a shadow of the love, hope and grace that they'll find in Christ Jesus.

Fast forward about two months and here we are today... and still parts of the story are still unfolding. Eleanor told BJ and I this Wednesday (3 months later!) that on the first day of school she cried 3 different times. When we left, before lunch and after lunch. She also laughed and said she can't even remember why. But my heart swells to know that she wanted us to know it. She that invited us in to a vulnerable part of her story. That because of this brave act a few months ago, she got the help she needed to go in and face every day, tummy ache free... and mentally free... of the fear of being found out.

You are so lovely, Eleanor. Thank you for teaching us, .... me, what it looks like to face fear head on. You don't hide from it, you don't ignore it in hopes that it just goes away, but there is HOPE in admitting when we don't have it in us to be "brave".

9 weeks

July 1, 2013 was the day I had my miscarriage. I hadn't seen the words "Pregnant" on a test since and we have tried for over 4 years. November 21, 2017 may be one of the best days of my life {for now - it will be replaced when you arrive} because hope rushed in. You are growing inside of me - and that is a miracle. Its the greatest gift and I will still not have the words to explain all the emotions in my heart... It may burst. 

Sweet, sweet redemption. I don't know why daddy and I didn't put it together in the doctor's office... I'm sure it was because staring at your heartbeat on the screen was so overwhelming in and of itself there was no room for any other thoughts.... but baby, you are due the first week of July. F I V E years later.... the Lord has redeemed our mourning and will turn it to dancing. What has been a day, week, month of great sorrow will now be redeemed with life. Your precious life. It will NEVER, ever take away the pain of losing BR#3, but what a beautiful picture of redemption. May God be ever-glorified for this testimony your life will be to us (deeper than anyone will ever, ever fully understand) and to the rest of the world. You will not save us, but you are a picture of the kindness of the God we serve. You life has already been used to bring glory to His name.... because everyone than knows me, knows that YOU are a miracle baby. Thank you, Jesus. 

I'm still sick - really just aversions to a lot of things, a racing heartbeat and constant fatigue with the inability to get good sleep. Two nights ago I went to the bathroom six times, I woke up at 12:45am and needed to eat yogurt at 1:30am... and didn't fall back asleep until closer to 2am. You are worth it. I'll be sick for 40 weeks with your heartbeat and body growing inside of me. My belly is growing and I often have to unbutton my pants... or wear a baggy shirt... surreal and I love watching it grow. 

Lots of people have learned about you - and the celebrations every time bring me to tears. People thanking Jesus and praising Him for who He is because you are coming.... its been such a joy. You are being prayed for by all your grandparents, the Rives, the Brooks and our life group...... and well, we can't wait to tell Eleanor and Tripper boy about you.... oh my gosh, they are going to be besides themselves in every way. For the last few days they keep asking why I am still sick, so daddy and I think its time for them to know. What a precious way to usher in Christmas time... the best gift the four of us could have ever asked for and received. 

As I shared with some friends yesterday, I got a beautiful word that I have been praying in my heart and singing on my lips ever since...

Psalm 40:1, 3, 5
waited patiently for the Lord;
    he inclined to me and heard my cry.

He put a new song in my mouth,
    a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
    and put their trust in the Lord.

You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
    your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
    none can compare with you!
I will proclaim and tell of them,
    yet they are more than can be told.

Thank you, Jesus. You see me. You see this sweet baby inside of me and You have ordained all of their days. May they be long, and healthy, and bring you great glory. 
**Written December 2017

I can think of no other title, but His kindness overwhelms.

Back in August I wrote my heart out sharing my quiet, an often not so quiet, pain that I have felt for the last four years. I wanted to put my thoughts down in words, maybe for the 100th time, but often in my writing I find the real wrestle in my heart. I've struggled deeply with the promise that God is good. I KNOW He is good.... but the "even if not".... the even if we aren't spared from this raging fire in Babylon, even if we lose it all, even if we never receive what our hearts want most... He is still good and its all for His glory and our goodness. I've struggled and wrestled and prayed and yelled and cried for the last four years begging to believe this truth in the midst of isolating, then marital, then family pain desiring for our family to grow. And here is where He has been so sweet.... I've had to wrestle. I've had to admit that I'm struggling believing it (He knew). I had to shepherd my children through that very same pain and confusion. 
And its made me actually come to believe it. 
Though the pain... through the trial... in the wanting, He met me and healed my broken heart by picking up the millions of little pieces in tender ways. Like in our family days, in the moments where I hold my Eleanor and Tripp so tightly and they hold me right back, like in tying my family together because though we wanted more, we know we have more than enough in one another. Slowly but surely, I came to understand His goodness to me - it looked different than I thought it would, but I truly had come to a place where I trusted His plan. And that's all I can remember begging for.... Lord, if this is your answer, prove to me that you are good. Prove to me that this way is better. Change the desires of my heart if you must, slow me down where you need to, but I am begging to believe when you say that you are good. 
And in his tender mercy, I got there this fall. Not perfectly, not completely, but in the wrestle He was so tender and consistently present. I saw the goodness of the Lord so evidently because where for years I would lose my breath, refuse to get out of bed, or harbor bitterness - now in the wrestle I found Him to be near, my peace, my sustenance. 

November 8th... it was a Wednesday before the women's conference at our church. The last calendar event for 2017 after an insanely busy fall. I was meeting with my friend, Holli, to make sure we were ready for our teaching sessions... and I was dragging. Eleanor had just gotten over a sinus infection and I was confident she passed it along to me - mix that with the previous 10 weeks of constant activity - and I was drained. Holli even noticed how tired and fatigued I looked....we prayed that I could finish the weekend strong. 

November 14... Julia and I always go on a birthday lunch date. That evening I called her to let her know I had been in bed all day and would be miserable company and that we would need to reschedule. Because truly, since the women's conference ended, I was in bed or wanting to be in bed. I was dizzy, lightheaded and I felt like my heart was constantly racing. So I made a doctor appointment for the next day. 

November 15... I laid in bed until my doctor appointment at 4:30pm. I begged the doctor to check for infection, for mono (because I had mono in high school and this was so reminiscent of that entire experience), for anemia, for hyper thyroidism... truly, for all the things. And she did. She took 10 vials of blood and told me she'd keep me posted as they tested for every possible scenario. 

November 16... I called the doctor back and said I couldn't keep living this way. While we waited on the blood test results, I needed medicine. She called me in Amoxicilin and BJ started telling me he thought I was dying. 

November 17... BJ and I had planned to go to the French Room for my birthday and we were both looking forward to it. I didn't have the energy to shower, so he took me to DryBar so they could do my hair (I almost told the girl I needed to lay down halfway through), and I muscled up every ounce of strength to go on our date. Big mistake. What a waste of money and time I was.... literally I just complained about how gross the food was, how tired I was and kept checking my resting heart rate every 10 minutes. I was miserable...... and we learned our lesson, don't overdue it when you don't feel good.

November 18-19... Over the weekend test results started to come in but I don't know how to read test results. So instead I slept as much as I could and when I was awake if I didn't eat I would literally feel like I was going to vomit. Overnight I went from Whole30 to Chickfila, Potbelly, Wendy's, La Madeline, Papa Johns.... it didn't matter. I needed food and I needed it now. 

November 20... my birthday. We went to serve at City Square downtown and I had to sit most of the time... and afterwards I ended up at Freebirds then in bed for literally the rest of the day. I had no cake, no birthday dinner, no anything.... BJ even took the kids to dinner without me because I couldn't hang. We decided we would celebrate my birthday the next day, instead.

November 21...
7:02am - Phone call from my doctor that I missed because it was 7:02am. I heard the phone ringing but there was no way I was answering that early. But I heard the voicemail go off so I knew I should take a listen. Truly, BJ and I thought I was dying... I was just sure my white blood count was sky high, or mono was wreaking havoc in my body... instead the message was brief but thorough. "All of the labs have come back and everything is ok. There is no evidence of mono or CMV and your blood count looks fine, BUT...... the pregnancy test came back positive."
7:03am - After I let out the worlds largest gasp, I shook and stumbled my way to the bathroom because I couldn't believe my ears. I'm sorry, the WHAT came back positive? And because like I've mentioned, I've wrestled for the last four years... I have a pregnancy test that I could take. So I did... I fumbled getting it out of the package, trembled as I thought of actually taking the test and then took a big deep breath and did it. Sure enough something I never thought I would ever see on a test again: PREGNANT. I started wailing so loudly and convulsing to much that you would have thought the greatest tragedy of my life just hit. 
I sobbed, I mean I sobbed, my way back to the bed to shake BJ awake. I told him the doctor had called me to tell me my results and I know he feared the worst based on my behavior. Then I shared something I never thought my lips would say again: BJ, I'm pregnant. And I shook and cried and sobbed and heaved for a good 15 minutes in his arms. 

November 22...
I called the doctor because its been six years since I've had a baby and I don't remember much, but I remember getting in to see him to figure out how far along I was. And it was the most surreal call, drive, and appointment of my life. It felt like I was living in the twilight zone... I was back in the office where we first saw Eleanor's heartbeat, where we first saw Tripper's heartbeat, where we had the confirmation that we lost BR #3.... and here I was four years later telling them a blood test and a pee sample said I was pregnant. Dr. Richards doesn't deliver babies anymore, so I went to his son.... and he was so gentle, so patient, so compassionate and so excited for BJ and I. We did the sonogram and saw it clear as day.... your heartbeat. I sobbed, gasped, on the table.... a heartbeat, there YOU are,  growing inside of me. A mercy and kindness I don't deserve, that my heart cannot fully grasp, an abundance beyond what I could have ever dreamed. His kindness overwhelms. 
Thank you, Jesus, for this miracle
I'm overwhelmed in every way. I've got a new understanding of You that I never have had, nor knew I needed, in this life. You are good, but your goodness is so far beyond me getting the desires of my heart. My heart wrestled with this for years, but your tenderness led me to believe it in the wanting. Assuming I would never, ever be celebrating this precious life inside of me. But thank you, thank you so much for your kindness to me. I am undeserving and humbled.

Baby... you are our miracle. Our next miracle. We have prayed and pleaded and begged for you for years.... and all four of us cannot wait to have you in our arms. Eleanor and Tripp don't know about you quite yet, but that's only because you will be their dream come true and we want to make it part of Christmas for them. They have prayed for you for years. They talk, ask, beg for you in so many of our conversations and we can't wait to let them know you are on the way. 
Its surreal. Its overwhelming. Its our greatest joy. 
This past year I have been studying Psalm 139 and I am SO THANKFUL that the Lord gave me that passage to prepare my heart for you. Its the peace I need in all of my fears waiting for you.... verses 13 - 16 remind me that you are HIS. I'm so thankful that the one who is GOOD has made you, knows you, sustains you. 
Today, I pray that for years and years and years and years we will sing testimony of his hand on your precious life. Trusting the One who loves you more than I do. That sees that beating heart in my tummy and loves you, and will love you with a perfect, steadfast love. 

For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother's womb.

14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,

when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.

Baby, we love you. We can't wait to meet you and its our privilege to continue to pray over your precious life as we prepare our hearts, our lives, and our home in the waiting. You are SO worth it. July 2018.... my heart may burst.

Thank you, Jesus, for your kindness to us. We are so, so thankful and excited.
**Written November 2017

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Tripper Boy Goes to Kinder

Last year I sobbed and sobbed through sentences as I prepared for Eleanor to start Kindergarten.... and exactly one year later, here I am again, prepping to send my baby boy to school. Its funny, because I am not as emotional as I was last year {yet...} but I am exponentially more excited to see what all this year holds in store for my Tripper.

Buddy, since the day you were born you have lived up to your name... in every way. You really are the strong-willed warrior (William) that we prayed you would be. Sometimes, I wish it wasn't as heavily weighted on the "strong-willed" portion, but you know what, I don't really mean that. Because here is what I see in you.... someone who is so convicted of his desires that literally neither hell or high water will keep you from accomplishing or getting what you want. Currently, this makes parenting you VERY hard. But it makes the duty of shepherding your heart incredibly exciting.... because what greater prayer could we have for you than that as you grow, that you would be unshakable. As you mature, I pray that you continue to know who you are, what stirs your heart, what matters greatly to you and defend your position. That you would be a leader, a servant, a protector, coachable, and humble enough to admit that you don't know it all and that you have more to learn and that in your life, God will increase (Joseph).

So as I'm looking back questioning how we are already to the point that you are entering this next chapter of life, I'll be honest... I think you and I are more ready than I figured I would admit. For the first 22 months of your life, it was you and me. Sure Eleanor and daddy were in the picture, but I was your everything for those first two years. Sometimes, I would give anything to go back to those precious moments when you snuggled up on my chest (I can remember the smells and the warmth SO WELL)... oh those days and nights where you just needed to be cuddled... I loved them. But then, remember the time you were 18 months old and climbed out of your crib (while in a sleep sack?).... ya, really and truly, since then.... you've proven to be that strong-willed warrior boy. You spent most of your younger years roaring instead of talking, fighting sleep instead of sleeping, in my bed instead of your own, calling battle cries to a fake army, imagining your right fist to be a character in your own little world, running 100mph in a 50mph world.... basically, you are all boy. You are all warrior.

But Tripper, you are also the most loving, sensitive, nurturing boy. Your rough and tumble exterior can't hide your soft heart for long.... you are a snuggler, a kisser, a cuddler.... you are loyal, imaginative, loving and strong. You've got a joyful heart, a curious spirit, determination to learn and my heart swells when I think of what you will accomplish in your first year of school. I can't wait to watch your math facts explode (you are already SO good at math!), listen to you read, celebrate you memorizing the Bible timeline, make new friends, practice self-control under the leadership of a new teacher, grow in respect as you learn to consider others as more important than yourself..... I am praying this is a banner year for you, buddy.

I am already dreading the day where you learn the correct way to say the letters R and L. I know its coming for me this year, but your precious, raspy voice won't last forever and it tears me up. So you'll grow and you'll learn new things and you'll definitely transform into a big boy... but you'll always be my baby. As this next chapter begins, of course I want to hold tightly to my babies and wish I could keep you little forever... but Tripper boy, I can't wait to see the big boy you will become.  I pray that for years and years when I tell you that you are my boy that you will respond by telling me that I am your girl. I pray that (even though its an odd one) you keep calling me your "squishy mama". I pray you keep initiating kisses and snuggles. I pray that you keep your imagination and your creativity  - and that they swell. I pray you have a love for learning and for new challenges. I pray you fall in love with Jesus and that you let him change your heart, making you a new creation. I pray that as you go, you take others with you.... that you lead well, protect people's hearts, include those that others may look over or ignore, defend what is good and right, and pursue peace. Praying this today, and every day, over your sweet life.... William Joseph... "He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8

You are a warrior, Tripper boy. You were meant to fight for what is right... what is good... whatever is praise-worthy. Kindergarten, you are getting my baby boy this year. The boy that I know can change the world - and I can't wait to have a front row seat as Tripper soars. I love you, boo boo... you are my best boy.