Just as He Said: A Free Easter E-Book for You

The resurrection of Christ changes everything. As an Easter gift to you, I’ve put together some writings from the last few years on the resurrection and how it has changed me. Included are 3 chapters:

  • 4 Ways to Make Easter Meaningful for Your Family
  • The Longest Night of My Life
  • Death, Where is Your Sting?

Click the image below to sign up for my email list and receive this free e-book in your inbox instantly. Praying you and your family have a wonderful Easter. Christ is risen!

Book Update: The Anxious Lily, Coming Spring 2023

Confession: I’ve done a terrible job of updating this blog. The last year has been a bit of a whirlwind as we’ve adjusted to life as a family of five. My consensus on having three children so far? I love it. It’s a whole new level of chaos and exhaustion, but also a whole new level of joy. I am learning so much about patience, service, and dying to self. My husband and I have gone from playing man-to-man to a zone defense – it’s nice to know all that high school basketball is finally paying off in some way. 🙂

In the midst of all the craziness, I realized I’d never given my exciting news a home here on the blog – so here it is:

 I signed a book contract with End Game Press for my first children’s picture book!

One of the best parts of getting this news has been sharing it with my family. Seeing the excitement on their faces when I told them they’d get to hold one of those stories in their hands is a moment I won’t forget. 

Can I be honest for a second? I’ve come so close to giving up on writing children’s stories. Since I first signed with a literary agent 3 years ago, I’ve had a variety of manuscripts rejected more times than I’d care to admit.

This whole writing thing can be pretty painful. When you pour hours and hours into making every word count – only to be met with a “thanks but no thanks” – it starts to wear on you.

I remember saying to my husband not that long ago – “I think I’m done writing. I think I need to just let this go.”

To which he said, “absolutely not.”

Man am I glad he said that.

I’m so humbled by this opportunity to share a story with you and your families. It’s a story for the children in your life, but it’s also a story for you.

The Anxious Lily is a story I wrote several years ago while studying what Scripture has to say about worry, fear, and anxiety. The year after I finished the manuscript, I walked through a season of loss that plunged me into some of the most intense anxiety I’d ever experienced. I remember holding onto God’s promises in Scripture with a death grip. And I also remember pulling out that manuscript and reading it again and again. Because there’s something about a story that helps truth become more vivid. 

That’s my prayer for this story. 

I cannot wait to share this picture book with you, as well as all the steps along the way. I am currently in the midst of the editing process. I’ve been paired with editors from End Game Press who are helping me make this story as strong as possible.

To be among the first to know about updates (such as the cover reveal, preorder opportunities, and giveaways), click the image below and sign up for my email list. I can’t wait to put this book in your hands. Thanks for joining me on this journey!

There is Both: God’s Goodness in the Joy and Sadness

Sadness. That’s what I felt the moment they placed her in my arms.

And then – before my arms even tightened around her small frame – the sweetest joy.

If I’m honest, the moment I learned of this pregnancy, I was flooded with fear. Fear of another loss. But also fear of what I would feel if I didn’t lose her. Guilt? Anger? Anxiety? I wondered if the sadness would linger forever. I wondered if loving this child meant I loved the ones we lost less.

I’ve shared in the past about my pregnancy losses (see highlights and also link in bio), but processing loss while celebrating the new life God has given us is an entirely new experience. And I can’t help but think many women wrestle with the seemingly contradicting feelings of both grief and happiness.

I’ve cried many tears of joy because of this sweet new girl in my arms.

And I’ve cried many tears from the sadness of the three children who are not.

Because of God, I’m holding a healthy, beautiful baby girl.

Because of God, I have three crocheted blankets in a box in my closet that will never be used.

God gave three children to me.

God took three children away.

I’ve found myself both thanking God for my deepest joys and crying out to him with my greatest sadness within the same breath.

We’ve spent the last seven weeks welcoming a little girl into our family who really needs no welcoming because it feels like she’s always been with us, always been ours. And as I stare daily into her beautiful, perfect eyes, I see the answer to those questions that plagued me for nine months.

I love her so completely. And I miss them so much it hurts.

There is joy. There is sadness. There is both. And He is good, always.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

No Bodies to Bury: The Unspoken Pain of Early Pregnancy Loss

Does my grief even count if there are no bodies to bury?

The crass thought swirled around my mind in the weeks that followed my pregnancy losses. I was unprepared for how much our losses would shred my heart. But I was even more unprepared for how much the world would minimize the deaths of my unseen children. 

You’ll Be Fine

Mere moments after a doctor told me, “your pregnancy is not healthy,” a nurse told me—while drawing blood from my vein—”Don’t worry, you’ve already got kids. You’ll be fine.” 

I sat frozen, tethered to my seat by a needle in my arm and shards in my heart.

Another doctor said, “Don’t worry, we’ll get you pregnant and keep you pregnant.” 

As if one child is the same as the next. As if all newly formed lives are the same. Products of a baby-making machine—virtually indistinguishable from one another.

“At least it happened early, you know, before you could get attached,” others said to me. 

At least. Don’t worry. You’ll be fine.

When another asked me what was done with the contents of my uterus after my emergency D&C—“I mean, do they just throw it in the trash?”—I begged God to open a cavernous hole in the floor.

Make me disappear, Lord. I can’t handle this. I can’t do it.

These comments along with the variety of ways my children were described—”miscarriage,” “failed pregnancy,” or “spontaneous abortion”—felt like punches to my gut. I felt my grief being minimized, and I began to wonder—”Am I making too big a deal out of all this?”

Does my grief even count when there are no bodies to bury?

Surely I was being dramatic, right? Everyone else seemed to be in on some cosmic secret, some hidden knowledge that unborn children were exempt from personhood. If a life dies early enough, then it doesn’t qualify for grief. 

Don’t worry. You’ll be fine.

But deep in my heart, I knew nothing was fine. There are three children—with three sets of DNA, three completely different people—who will never be with our family here on earth. Never. 

Permission to Grieve

When our unborn children died, I was unprepared for how much the world would minimize their deaths. 

But I was also unprepared for how our family and friends would ascribe dignity and value to our children’s lives in some of the kindest, most thoughtful and loving ways. 

During those darkest days and months following our losses, I’m sure I didn’t adequately express gratitude to everyone who reached out—I was numb beyond words. But every kind word, text, card, meal, or gift felt like permission to grieve, validation of our losses, and dignity for the hearts I so desperately wished were still beating. 

My husband and I found our own private ways to honor our children’s lives. But having others honor their lives, too? That helped me put one foot in front of the other. 

You’re Not Alone

If you’re reading this and you’ve walked through a loss, I hope you know you are so not alone. Your grief matters. What happened to your child was terrible. And I’m so sorry.

You’ll be bombarded with insensitive comments from people who mean well but have no idea what to say. You’ll feel like your loss has been dismissed, devalued, and minimized. 

And it’ll be one of the hardest things in the world, but you’ll have to choose to show grace. To forgive the thoughtless words. To not replay them in your mind again and again. To choose to believe what God’s word says about the immeasurable worth of your child, rather than what the world says.

Grieving doesn’t mean your faith is weak—it means your love for that child is strong. 

The losses can’t be undone, but the wounds do begin to heal. Scars remain, and that’s ok—their deep imprints remind us of our deep love. 

God does not look at a brokenhearted mother and say, You’ll be fine. He does not and will not minimize your grief. Rather, Scripture says he is close to the brokenhearted, and he holds us up when our strength is failing. 

And that’s a promise worth clinging to.

Remind Her She’s Not Alone

If you’re reading this and someone you love has experienced a pregnancy loss, I’d encourage you to treat her the same way you would if one of her family members had died. 

Because that’s exactly what has happened. 

Shoot her a text. Mail a card. Leave chocolate on her porch. Babysit her kids. If you don’t get a gushing response of gratitude right away—or ever—show some grace. Your friend is most likely in a fog and trying her best not to drown. She may not write a thank you card, but I promise you she cherishes the small acts of kindness and love. 

Her loss may be “common” in terms of statistics—but there’s nothing “common” about her experience or the life she lost. So when she asks that terrible question—Does my grief even count?—you must respond with an emphatic and compassionate yes

There may be no body to bury, but there is most certainly an empty womb—and there’s not a moment that goes by when your friend is not painfully aware of that truth.

The world will tell your grieving friend her loss doesn’t matter—that she’s overreacting. 

When the world whispers, “you’re fine,” put your arm around her and say—in a voice that’s compassionate but also clear and strong—“You are not fine. You’ve lost something precious. I’m here with you. And no matter what the circumstances, your grief counts.”

Because all grief most definitely counts. 

And sometimes it’s ok to not be fine.

The Longest Night of My Life

Weeping may last for the night.

Some days it feels like the longest night of my life.

I miss my children today—the ones I haven’t met yet. I’d hoped these days would look different, that they would include a chubby set of twins, their eyes following the zigzag patterns run by their older siblings.

I’ve missed the kicks and rolls I would have felt if our fifth child were still here and only a few months from her due date.

I wish things were different.

I know I’m not the only one. Many people are hurting today. Our world is groaning under the weight of a pandemic that’s had its way with us. Much has been lost, broken, or damaged. There is much to grieve. There is much to weep over.

The night is long.

I think of the women who visited the tomb of Jesus after his death. I think of the anguish that must have ripped through their hearts as they watched him breathe his last on the cross. Those soul-crushing hours after his death must have been excruciating. What was it like when they finally rested their heads on their pillows that evening? Could they sleep? Could they breathe? Did they question everything?

It must have felt like the longest night.

But on the third day, as the women stared at that empty tomb, an angel spoke these words:

“He is not here, he has risen, just as he said.”

Just as he said.

Can you hear the gentle truth, the weight of meaning packed into those four words?

What might that angel have said if he had elaborated?

Precious women, he’s not here—he’s alive, just like he said! You look shocked, you look confused, you look like you believe everything good in your life is lost. You look like you have no hope, no future, no anchor. But your Savior keeps his promises. He always has, and he always will. He told you death wouldn’t win. He told you weeping would last for the night–maybe even the longest night of your life–but that joy would come. And it has! Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and when he says something will happen, there is nothing—no height, no depth, no tragedy, no pandemic, no grief, no loss, no death—that will stop or undo his word. 

The question of Why is relentless, and in my darkest moments I find myself looking to my pain for the answers to hard questions instead of to the One who keeps all his promises and is trustworthy.

If he’s trustworthy, I don’t need to know why. Because I already know him.

And he is good.

I miss my children today. But tomorrow—and every day—we celebrate Easter, a day when Jesus did the unthinkable and rendered death defeated. The moment his heart began beating again, the doors of heaven swung wide open to all who believe. Death did not have the last word for him, and it doesn’t have to for us, either.

I miss my children today. But because of Jesus, one day I’ll see them and know them. Our sin separates us from God, but the perfect life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is the bridge that makes a way for us.

And if you are walking through the longest night of your life right now, that promise can be true for you, too.

Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.

Because he has risen.

Just as he said.

 

 

I Cried on New Year’s Eve: Grieving with Hope in 2020

I cried on New Year’s Eve. 

We spent time with friends, blew noisemakers, and yelled “Happy New Year!” at 8 PM (because we knew there was no way we’d actually last until midnight). We laughed, talked about goals for the new year, and shared stories from 2019. 

But earlier that day, when I was alone, I cried. 

Someone asked me recently what my favorite memory of 2019 was. I didn’t think the question would trip me up as much as it did. I fumbled for words, grasping at something, anything. I knew the year had held many joys and victories. I knew it. 

But in that moment, nothing else existed in 2019 apart from the three children I lost. I couldn’t – and some moments, still can’t – see past the thick fog of grief. 

I cried on New Year’s Eve because of the sadness our family walked through. But I also cried because of a harsh reality that hit me: 2019 was ending, but my grief was not. 

I wish grief had a specific start and end date. I wish I could package it up, write “2019” in big, bold numbers, and then leave it there where it can’t sink its unrelenting talons into my heart anymore. 

Maybe you’re in a similar place. 

Maybe 2019 carried great sorrow for you. Maybe there was a miscarriage, infertility, a cancer diagnosis, death of a parent or grandparent, estranged family members, or any number of things that bring sorrow. 

Maybe 2020 isn’t so much a beacon of hope as it is a reminder that your grief is still there. And it still hurts.

I won’t pretend to have some sort of magic formula that makes all the heartache go away. But in the last year, I’ve experienced what it means to grieve deeply, but not “as others do who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

Instead, scriptures that I’ve read my whole life have spoken to my heart in ways I just didn’t understand before. And I’m learning to cling to the truth that, while our pain and suffering here on this earth is real, it’s not worth comparing with what waits for those of us who know Jesus Christ (Romans 8:18).

So if you’ve entered 2020 with a heavy heart, here are a few scriptures that have been carrying me through. I hope you’ll take a few moments to look them up and read them. The word of God is “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12), and I’m confident that if you read these with an open heart, God will use them to foster healing.

Job 1:21
Psalm 94:17-19
Psalm 62:5-8
Psalm 56:8-11
John 16:33
Romans 8:18-39
2 Corinthians 1:3-10
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Revelation 21:1-7

Even if your 2019 was perfect, the reality is that one day in the future – maybe this year, or the next – you will experience sorrow. And if we had no hope beyond ourselves, then that truth might very well cripple us with fear. 

But listen to the thrill of hope ringing through these words:

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Trouble and hurt and heartache and pain are promised. But so is the truth that Christ is greater. He is our hope. And because of him, one day there will be no more “mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore.”

And Jesus himself said, “these words are trustworthy and true” (Rev. 21:5).

I pray that 2020 is a year for you filled with growth, faith, and hope. 

No Longer Empty-Handed

I can’t feel them in my arms anymore.

It’s inexplicable, really. I’ve stared at four positive pregnancy tests in the last four years. And each time—without fail—I could immediately feel them in my arms.

The anticipation was instant, the bond immediate. Some may roll their eyes at such extreme statements, but the knowledge that a newly formed life had been purposefully and miraculously knitted inside of me took my breath away.

“At least it happened early, before you could get attached.”

I’ll never forget when those words were carelessly tossed in my direction. Words normally come to me easily. In that moment, I had none. 

At least.

Two words that have no place in any conversation when a woman has lost a child. 

I’ve lost three babies this year. Three. And the reality is this: it doesn’t matter how early it happens. The moment those hearts stopped beating, pieces of me died, too.

Some days I wake up thinking it’s all been a bad dream. Some days I forget that it’s happened, and I start mentally planning for due dates that will only leave me empty-handed once they arrive. 

But then I’m reminded of John 14, of Jesus’ promise that he is preparing a place for me. How beautiful to know that before the world began, Jesus knew and planned that my true home would include the three children that have gone before me. What a gift to know that they are waiting for me!

And here is the beautiful truth that God has whispered to me in my pain: my coming reunion with Jesus Christ is the true ‘due date’ that my soul—and every soul—longs for. 

And on that due date, my arms won’t be empty anymore. 

 

This article first appeared on Just18Summers.com

He Gives and Takes Away: My Pregnancy Loss

The last thing I remember before going under was the sensation of tears limping from my eyes and tap tapping on the stark white sheet beneath my head. I sobbed into the mask that was placed over my mouth and nose, both welcoming and dreading the oblivion that waited for me. 

I still see the blood when I close my eyes. There was so much blood. I couldn’t understand how no one else was as startled by the blood as me. Life was pouring, draining from my body. Why did no one scream? How were their eyes dry, their faces expressionless? 

I screamed. Not where anyone could hear. But in my mind and my heart, I screamed. 

I’m still screaming. 

When I woke up, it was gradual. I heard a voice speak, pulling my mind out of the sludge and back to reality. Minutes passed before I could speak. But the moment my mind woke—the exact instant—is when the tears started again. 

Because even though I couldn’t remember the day or the time or exactly where I was, my mind was reminded right away that the only heart beating on that table was mine. 

They handed me a small, plush heart that some sweet volunteer had probably sewn and donated to the hospital. It had a ribbon in the shape of a flower attached to the top. They told me it was a gift from the hospital, to express how sorry they were for my loss. 

I accepted it without a word. Ran my fingers over the ribbon.

Two. They should have given me two. 

I was never able to bring myself to say the words. I wish I had. 

A Quiet Grief

In the weeks and months after I lost my twin babies, I experienced a level of loneliness I never knew possible. Questions raged inside my head and heart. What did I do to make this happen? Why couldn’t I protect my sweet babies? Why did God take them before I ever heard their precious heartbeats? And when will this cavernous pain in my chest go away?

The worst part about grief is that it has no end date. Instead, it drapes its heavy presence over your soul and sinks its strong fingers into the everyday mundane. Life has no concern for whether or not you’re actually ready to take a step forward—it simply forges ahead.

I went grocery shopping, worked, cooked dinner, played with my kids, paid bills, and kept smiling. People stopped asking, and I didn’t blame them. Because life goes on. 

I still cried. Every night.

A Quiet Comfort

Hope broke through on one of those nights. Bone-weariness begged me to give in to sleep, but my mind refused. The hour was late, but all I could do was stare at the ceiling and try to stifle my sobs. I rolled to my side, and as my cheek pressed against my pillow, I could feel the large circle of wetness from my tears. 

In my mind, all I could see was the blood. And all I could hear was the relentless woosh of an ultrasound that detected no life. 

Soft, almost imperceptible footsteps padded nearby. Our bed squeaked and I felt the weight of my four-year-old as he wedged himself between me and his sleeping dad. My back to him, I drew a ragged breath and swiped at my tears. I didn’t want to him to know I was awake, much less upset. 

After a few moments, my son sat up. He crawled over my back, nestled himself against my chest, and wrapped his arms around my neck.

My tears began to flow again. 

A scripture I’d once read whispered into the quiet moment.

“You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?…this I know, that God is for me….In God I trust; I shall not be afraid.” (Psalm 56:8-11)

It was as if God had stirred my son’s heart and moved him to remind me that I am not alone in my grief. Every tear that I’ve cried–every night I’ve tossed and turned while sleep evaded me—God has been there. And even when no one in the entire world understands the depth of my sorrow or knows that I’m crying—God knows. 

I whispered a prayer of thanks and fell asleep within minutes. 

A Quiet Truth

In this world we will have trouble. We will walk through dark valleys riddled with grief and sadness. Our hearts will clench in pain, and the sorrow in our chests will feel so tangible that we’ll wonder if things will ever be good again. 

But take heart, Friend, take heart. Because there is a God who not only sees you in your pain, but is with you in your pain. 

Take heart, Friend. Because there will come a day when the darkness of the valley will be shattered by His marvelous light. 

Take heart. Because the Creator of the universe has promised us that one day there will be no more tears, no more pain, no more suffering—no more death

Take heart, hurting Friend, because His words—all His words—are trustworthy and true. 

Take heart. Because Jesus Christ has overcome the world. And no matter what kind of pain is ripping through your chest right now, if you know Christ, then nothing can separate you from his love and his presence. 

The Lord gives. And the Lord takes away. 

And He has taught me to say, through tears, but with confidence and conviction—

It is well with my soul. 

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Pumpkin-Spice Legacy

I have a love/hate relationship with this time of year. Things I love: Pumpkins, s’mores, boots, scarves, colorful leaves, the smell of bonfires, and oversized sweatshirts (although in this North Carolina weather, who knows when we’ll actually see any of those things). Things I hate: The 3,643 holiday season events and activities that turn me into an overwhelmed and overly zealous basket case. 

Is it just me, or does it seem as if there’s a tad bit of pressure to do all the things? After all, if you don’t enjoy a pumpkin-spice-something while wearing cute wedge boots and carving a pumpkin while roasting a marshmallow…did fall even happen? And if you don’t create DIY Halloween costumes for your children while wrapped in a blanket scarf and bake pumpkin-somethings from scratch…do you even have a soul?

These are the questions that haunt me. 

In all seriousness, I’m guilty of trying to do every last activity or event with my kids—like if I don’t do enough, they’ll be in therapy someday, lamenting the woes of their lost childhood to their therapist. 

If only I’d gone apple picking and had my picture taken with a scarecrow, I might have gotten a real job and made something of myself, they’d say.

Ok, so I can be a bit dramatic. 

But what if instead of focusing on doing lots of stuff, I focused on making each task, event, or activity an opportunity to point my children to Jesus? 

Instead of obsessing over doing everything to make my children’s holiday season “good enough,” what if I were obsessed with making a few things into teachable, gospel-centered moments?

Sure, go to the pumpkin patch. But use it as an opportunity to talk about how creative our God is. Yes, bake pumpkin cookies. But then use them as a way to bless others, reminding your children that we love others because God loves us. 

Pick a few things your family will love to do, and then focus on injecting every one of those moments with the gospel.

I’m learning that my children are so receptive to truth that even an everyday mundane moment, when connected to Jesus, can make a lasting impression. I want to leave my children with more than just 28,953 filtered pictures of themselves posing next to pumpkins and scarecrows. Instead, my hope and prayer is that when they are grown, they’ll be changed by the gospel message and obsessed with sharing it with others. 

Parents, our legacy is not our calendars jam-packed with stuff to entertain and fill time. 

Our legacy is the way we point our children to Jesus. 

One pumpkin-spice-something at a time. 

 

This article first appeared on Just18Summers.com.

Awkward Mom Moments (And Why They Matter)

The music was so loud I could hardly hear myself think. I climbed out of my minivan and cast a sideways, amused glance at the car next to me. I remembered the days when I used to crank my music to ungodly levels. Something tells me I just wouldn’t look as cool today rocking out to “The Wheels on the Bus” in my minivan.

I reached for the sliding door handle to unload my kids, and that’s when I heard it.

The lyrics of the music thumping from the car were a bit…colorful. Vulgar, actually. I thought about my children who sat waiting inside the van, no doubt hearing the thump, thump of the music but unable to make out any words.

I stood there for a moment, thinking, debating.

The Holy Spirit nudged me in that oh-so-familiar, you-can’t-ignore-me way.

Ugh. Okay, fine.

I steeled myself for the awkward encounter about to take place and turned to the car next to me. I rapped my knuckles on the half rolled down window.

“Hey,” I said, in what I’m sure was an overly chipper mom-voice, “would you mind turning that down until I get my kids in the building? I don’t want them hearing those words.”

The look on the man’s face went from confused to incredulous to embarrassed, and with a slight jerk of his chin, he turned down the volume and, without a word, went back to scrolling on his phone. “Thank you!” I said way too enthusiastically, and pulled the van door open.

My son’s questions started immediately.

“Why were you talking to that guy? What were you saying to him?”

“I asked him to turn down his music.”

“Why did you do that?”

“Well, some of the words in that song weren’t very kind, and I want to protect our ears from hearing bad words.”

The look on my son’s face was one of complete and utter shock. “Why would there be bad words in a song?”

His sweet innocence nearly took my breath away. I briefly shared with him that sin has affected everything—even some kinds of music—and that we have to protect our ears and hearts from listening to things that aren’t good, beautiful, true, or pleasing to God.

As we walked into the doctor’s office, my son plastered his hands over his ears and looked at me, his eyes shining with determination. “I’m not going to let my ears hear any of those bad words.”

I smiled at his sincerity, and silently prayed for the man he’ll grow to be someday. Once again, I felt the Holy Spirit nudging my heart, reminding me that these little moments—the awkward, asking-complete-strangers-to turn-down-their-music moments—matter.

Because someday, my children won’t have me around to protect them. Someday, they’ll have the opportunity to listen to, look at, or take part in something that could damage their hearts. And on that day, they’ll have to decide for themselves whether or not they will protect their hearts and minds from the things that claim to be better than Christ, but just aren’t.

Can I be honest? Sometimes I don’t feel like rapping my knuckles on the window. I don’t feel like being selective about TV shows, music, language, or behavior. But the patterns, standards, and expectations we set for our children in the early days will carry on into the pre-teen, teen, and out-of-the-house years.

My prayer is that, by handling my children’s hearts carefully in these early years, God will turn their hearts to him and empower them to do what is right—not because “mom said so,” but because they’ve known and experienced that Christ is better.

My son believed me when I told him that that music wasn’t worth listening to—because I’m his mom. He trusts me. What a privilege and heavy responsibility to be charged with guiding our children’s hearts to see the world correctly: through the lens of God’s Word.

Parents, every awkward, cringeworthy encounter with the world is worth it if it means we can help our children know that Christ is better.

He is always better.

 

This article appeared first on Just18Summers.com.