Fertility, Faith, and Fear

19 weeks.

That’s how long we have been walking with this little life the doctors told us we would not have without medical intervention. 

But despite the odds, I laid eyes on two pink lines.  

When I saw that positive sign, I laughed.  And then I cursed.  Because my heart was still broken from the previous losses.  I did not want to go through the heartache again.  I knew if loss ensued, I would not be able to handle it.

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Confessions Of A Former Breadwinner

When John and I got married, I memorized the perfect formula to have an ideal marriage:

Respect your man.  

That's what the married ladies told me when asking for marriage advice, that's what all the experts said in books, and it is what scripture commands.

On paper, my naive-wife mind patted myself on the shoulder as I claimed: "Easy, peasy. Done.  And got it."

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John and I’s income trajectory over the course of our marriage has been interesting.  John is brilliant, went to great business school, and landed a solid job right after graduating from college. 

I on the other hand, graduated with a political science degree, less than stellar grades, and zero job prospects.  

But I was determined.  I was determined that one day, all this lack on my part would be something else.  I would figure out how to make and do and achieve just as John had.  I would be able to compete with his income.  I would hold my own, make my own, and prove I did not have to be dependent on his paycheck.

And I did just that.  

I landed in a profession with unrestricted income potential.  It took time, but over the years, I became the coveted title of breadwinner within our household.

And that’s when it happened.

The posture of my heart towards John changed.  I became superior (so I thought). 

I questioned John’s capacity as a husband and provider because he was making less.  I questioned his ability to lead our family.  And I straight up defied the thought of submission.

Because how could I submit to someone who was making less?  

How could I respect his profession when I was the one bringing in more dough?

So you know what I did?  

I pressured the hell out of him.  I belittled him.

I looked down on him.  And I resented the fact I made more than him.

I told him implicitly and explicitly, what he was doing, what he was making, it wasn’t enough.

I told him he was selling himself short.  I spewed discontentment on him.  

I did everything but respect him.  

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Work has been interesting this year.  My capacity has been shrunk.  I've not been able to handle and produce like years past.  And it has humbled the heck out of me.

In the world of sales, if you're not producing, you're not making.  Past trends would indicate this should be my best year but instead I've taken a serious cut.  A kind of cut that has my ego bowed down in humility. 

Financially, I've been left in a place of dependency on my husband.  The kind of dependency that makes me very uncomfortable.  The kind of dependency that makes me feel ashamed for not being able to stand on my own two feet.

It has taken several months of walking in this kind of dependency to realize for me, there was a destructive correlative between how much money I made and my ability to respect my husband.

The world doesn't warn you about the competing dynamics that will enter your marriage when traditional breadwinner statuses are challenged.

Instead the world just screams:  Go do more and go make more...don't worry about the effects of your income levels.

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Over coffee a couple weeks ago, a friend asked how John and I were doing.

I told her we are the best we have ever been.

I told her it has taken six years, but finally, my stubborn heart has learned what it means to respect my husband.

As my income has been stripped and my ability to make and do have been severely impacted, I've been forced to come to John in submission.  I've asked for his help.  I've had to lean on him in more ways than ever before.

And he has met my surrender with an insane amount of grace. 

Turns out he had been waiting on me.  He had been waiting on me to get off my high horse and let him lead.

And lead he has.  In a season where I am darn near close to drowning on most days, John is thriving.

I've never seen him so strong.  

He has testified to my heart over and over again that he can be trusted.  He will not abuse my weakness and he will not pressure me to get back out there and produce.

No, instead he has said:  Just rest.  Just heal.  Just breath.  I've got you.  I've got us.  I am going to lead you out of this season.  I am going to lead us.

And as a result, my heart, has been overwhelmed with admiration for John's response to my shortcomings.  I've fallen more in love with him.  But more than anything, I've learned what true respect in marriage looks like.

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If you are reading this, I hope your heart can't relate to a word of it.  If you are a female, and wear the hat of breadwinner, I hope you have handled this title with far more grace than I have.  But if you feel these tensions, can I challenge you to make a change?  It took a hell of a storm for my prideful heart to learn what true respect for my mate looks like and I don't want that for you.  

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An action prayer:

Lord,

Forgive me.  I want to submit to you.  I want to honor the command to respect my mate.  Show me how.  

Thank you for the gift of being able to make and do...but Lord, cleanse me.  If these things are hindering my ability to respect my husband, clean house. 

Provide the wisdom to know how to do better.  And then help me do better.  I long to be a wife that respects her husband.

Amen.

A Letter To My Younger Self

Hello.

It’s me.  

Well really, it is you, the older, more wiser version.  

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I’m standing on the edge of 30 and I thought I’d reach out to tell you this:

It is all going to be okay.  You are going to be okay.  Life really is more about the journey rather than the destination.

In your early 20's you are going to cross boundaries and do things you swore to God you would never do.  You’ll think all this is okay, none of it matters. 

You’re just having fun.

And it is at this point I wish I could hug you, take you to coffee, look you in the eye, and tell you:

Your actions matter.  Every drink, every reckless night: they matter.

I wish I could tell you medication and seeking professional help are not bad things.  Girl, they are good, life-changing, soul-healing kinds of things.

God is about to bring some incredible people into your life.  People who will pull you out of that pit you’ve created.  People who will point you to Jesus by the way they love you.  People who will teach you God is oh so very real.

Grace is coming.  And it is going to mess you up in the best of ways.

Life becomes crazy beautiful when you are sober and not starving. 

I wish I could tell you the boy you are hurting, the one who is slowly destroying your infatuation with roller-coaster-kind-of-love-affairs, well, he’s going to be your husband one day. 

And there will be consequences for the way you treat him.  You will have to come clean.  Secrets are no good.  Confessing about the life you have lived will be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do.

But girl, you will do it.  For the first time, you get real honest.  You will lay it all out on the table.  You will start to obey that small, still voice whispering: Tell him, tell him all of it.

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You will learn  life is all about obedience to your Heavenly Father.  You'll start to long for that small still voice to direct you.

You will walk into marriage not having a clue who you are nor what you are doing.  It will feel dreamy at first, but then something is going to change.  The pursuit of success will enter the scene and you will not even see the destructiveness at work.  

In the beginning, the work, the frantic pace, will seem good, harmless. Then your business will explode, and you will not know what to do with yourself.

The growth will happen too quickly.  And ultimately it will break you.  You will enter into another season of depression. 

And from the bottom of a new level of darkness, you’ll learn money and success aren’t really all they are cracked up to be.  You’ll ask for help.  You’ll beg God to rescue you once again from that abyss.

And girl, He will.  Once again, He will surround you with people who look you in the eye and say: We are getting you out of here.  And through their friendships, you’ll learn you’ve got a lot of healing to do in your heart.  So you’ll focus there.  

This is when real growth starts to happen. 

You will start to have bold conversations and will listen to that still, small voice again.  You will enter into a season of abundance.  Business will change, marriage will change, community will change.  And slowly but surely, you will start to change too.

You will start to let go.  You will start to unclench those fists.  You will start to see God really can be trusted. 

You will start to explore the idea of working from a place of faith rather than fear.  You’ll feel the pull on your heart to go do things that make you come alive, but you will resist.

 And then your parents are going to get sick.  You will get sick.  And at this point you start to hear that still small voice again:

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

And so you decide to give rest a shot.  You’ll declare 2018 to be a year of healing and you’ll pray for revival.  You’ll start to be good to your body.  You’ll give up the extremes of maintaining an exhaustive pace.

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And then you will experience one of the deepest joys your heart has ever known: you will lay eyes on a precious fluttering heartbeat growing within you.

And girl, fear is going to try to consume you, because you know the risks associated with your pregnancy.  But you decide to trust no matter what the outcome may be.

Sweet girl, it isn’t good.  The baby, she doesn’t make it.  And the loss will try to destroy you.  It will hit you in the most vulnerable place you’ve ever been hit.

And Satan, he is going to think he has you.  He’s going to think he’s won.  Because there’s no way you will be able to recover from this loss.  This time, God cannot rescue from that pit. 

Losing your child is a guarantee your heart will forever turn on God.

But girl, this is when the story gets even better.  This is when you experience revival.  This is when you yourself experience resurrection.  This is the first time you declare with all your strength:  Satan, you will not take me down. You will not keep me in this pit.

And it is from the bathroom floor, the bottom of that pit, shaking from the pain of the loss, you declare with all your might: Lord, my life is yours.  Even if you give or take away, YET I will praise you.  For you are good.  Have your way.

From this place, from that floor, crazy things start to happen. God becomes undeniably real.  His voice becomes crystal clear:  Come follow me.  

You start to own your strengths, those things that make you come alive, and you declare them to be used for kingdom-building purposes.  And then everything starts to change.

Things change because Satan has finally lost his grip.  The fear is gone.  The anxiety breaks.  The worst has happened.  The Lord has made it clear He is not done with you yet.  You are no longer afraid of those pits.

God whispers to you in the silence: This is what it means to live from a place of freedom rather than fear.  This my child, is faith.

But girl, you need the next 10 years to get to this place.

You need the next 10 years before you can grow from "girl" to "woman".

And that is okay.  You are okay.  The time it takes to get here is okay.

Just keep putting one foot in front of another.  Just keep taking that next step.  You are going to be all right, you really will.  

Strip It On Down: The 5 Lessons That Saved My Marriage

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Strip it down…this is the greatest lesson I’ve learned in marriage.

In February of 2016 I attended a Christian women’s conference.  By the last day of the conference, I found myself on my knees with tears streaming down my face fighting like hell to suppress all the emotions.  

John and I were not in a great place.  Work had taken over our lives.  It had taken over our marriage. We were in one of the driest seasons of our relationship.  

Our marriage, it felt more like a roommate kind of relationship.  We knew changes needed to be made. 

We wanted to bridge what felt like a 12 mile gap standing between us, but we had no idea how.

As the conference drew to an end, the leader of the event challenged all present in the audience to reclaim an area of life where we knew we were being disobedient.  

Each person present was given a domino.  The domino was to represent the very thing that needed to be addressed.  

The idea was if you were obedient to that one domino/area of your life, the domino would fall.  And as it fell, so would another.  And another.  And before you knew it, an incredible force of momentum would occur within your life.  Change would happen.  Progress would occur.

We were asked to write the act of obedience we needed to do on the domino.  And then she challenged us to share the act if we felt bold enough to do so.

I knew before I even heard her challenge what needed to be written down on that domino.  But it was so personal.  The thought of putting it in writing made me want to vomit and furthermore the thought of saying it out loud seemed next to impossible.

But I felt that internal nudge, the one prompting me to speak up.  Although I was convinced no one would be able to relate.  These women probably would think I was a nutcase…because everyone has a perfect marriage, right?

Nevertheless, that quiet voice in my heart persisted.  “Speak up.  Share what you wrote.”

So I swallowed my pride and out of my mouth came these words:

"Sexual obedience.  That is my domino.  I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere over the years, I stopped letting my husband get close to me.   I stopped letting him see me fully exposed: physically, spiritually, mentally. 

I’ve struggled for years with body image.  And as a response to that struggle, I restrict: I restrict food, nourishment…touch, and intimacy.  Because I feel more safe when I restrict these things.  I feel more in control.  But it is a mirage.  And the control is breaking me.  It is breaking my marriage."

Stripping down: Is it Biblical?

In Genesis 2:22, we meet Eve for the first time.  

Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

When I read the back half of that sentence, something in me stopped.  God brought Eve to Adam. 

And this is where it gets pretty awkward.  God brought Eve to Adam, naked. 

I don’t know about you, but this nakedness makes me feel awkward.  

Because when I replay how this event went down, the thought of Eve naked before God just seems so weird.  The thought of God leading a naked Eve to a naked Adam is even weirder.

And I just can’t shake this image.  I can’t shake this image, because it is vulnerable and raw to the core: 

A daughter, a woman, a wife, standing before her Creator completely exposed.  Completely stripped down.

Before Eve met anyone on this earth, she stood before her heavenly Father in her most vulnerable state and it was normal.  It was all she knew.  There was no shame.  There was no hiding.  She opened herself to the gaze of her Creator, and she let him see every part of her.  

As I reflected on this truth, these words were whispered to my heart:

This.  This right here.  This is the kind of intimacy I want with you.  And it is also the kind of intimacy I want you to have with John.  Stop hiding.  Stop running from my touch.  Stop coming to me partially exposed.  Don’t you know, I can see your hurt.  I can see the pain you are carrying.  I see you trying to control and restrict and it is wreaking havoc on you. Let me lay eyes on you, all of you.  Come to me naked, exposed. My daughter, don’t be afraid.

The night the conference ended was the first time I allowed God to see me in the same way He laid eyes on Eve the day He created her.  Fully exposed.  No hiding.  And it was also the first time I let John see me in that state.

And by God’s grace and in His time, the domino fell.  And the momentum following that act of obedience is something only God could do.

But this is a constant struggle.  Because the truth is, we live in a broken, sin-filled world and living in this kind of transparent state is not natural.  We have to fight for intimacy both with our heavenly Father and our spouse.

So how do we strip down?

1.  Get naked with God.  What does this look like?

-The worst part of my miscarriage happened on Easter.  My head knew it was a day of rejoicing in the resurrection, but in that moment all I felt was death.  My prayers, they were explicit.  I cursed God.  I cursed the pain.  I cursed the brokenness.  

And you know what, I am so glad I did.  I am glad I did because God can take those kind of prayers.  He wants that kind of honesty.  He is not afraid of our hurt and anger.  Instead, He wants to be in it.  That Easter was the first time I held nothing back from God in real time and I swear it caused a breakthrough in my relationship with Him.  In those horrible moments, I felt the squeeze of His hand saying “I can take it.  Get the anger out.  Cast it on me.  I want all of it.  I know you’re angry, let me have it.  Don’t you dare suppress it.  Hold nothing back.”

2.  Get naked with your spouse.  What does this look like?

 -It starts with the heart.  John and I try to have an “awkward” date night once a month by asking these questions from @betweenparents.  Prompted by these questions, we ask if there are any secrets we’ve been keeping.  We ask if there’s anything we are hiding in our relationship-physically, emotionally, spiritually.  We dig into the awkward.  And it has helped tremendously.  Below is a link to some sample questions.  Thank you Billy and Joy for leading the way with these conversations.  Change is happening because of your boldness to speak into the awkwardness.

https://www.betweenparentspodcast.com/blog/the-awkward-date-night

3.  Get naked with yourself.  What does this look like?

        -I’ve gained what feels like a significant amount of weight this year.  Partly as a result of the pregnancy, partly because of crazy hormones, and partly because I am trying to get physically healthy which means no extreme dieting and no extreme working out.  And as a result,  nothing fits.  And I hate all of it.  

Turns out my body has been running on fumes for way too long.  And while I’d love to fit into those skinny jeans again, truth is it just isn’t healthy in this season.  So every time I put on something that feels snug, I change, put something more comfortable on, and scream “Screw you, Satan…this new size, it is beautiful.  My body is healing.  I’m done living on fumes.”  

Ladies, our bodies are temples.  We were uniquely and perfectly made by God.  Own what you’ve got.  Embrace it.  Screw the skinny jeans.

4.  Do the darn thing.

       -Put it on the schedule.  Find a routine.  Life is busy and schedules are crazy.  Make it a priority to strip down, to be seen, to be known, and to not hold back.

5.  Still want to vomit at the thought of all this nakedness?

      -Pray pray pray.  Pray for boldness.  Pray for strength.  Pray for the courage to let yourself be seen, touched, and known by your heavenly Father and your spouse.  Lean in to the awkwardness.  

Surrendering Your Strengths

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When I was introduced to Tom Rath's book called Strengthfinders a couple of years out of college, a mental light bulb came on.  Tom's argument is boiled down to this:  Focus on operating and investing in your strengths rather than your weaknesses. 

Finally, someone had given me permission to embrace the fact I was never supposed to be a business or math major, because all those classes were never playing to my strengths and my GPA reflected this reality.

What I now know is:

1). A gpa is not the end all be all for determining where you will go in life;

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2).  When you figure out what your strengths are and submit those strengths to the holy spirit, a degree and a 4.0 from Harvard cannot compete with what God will do in your life;

3).  Pay attention to the tension.  It is a cliche term but if you feel constant friction in your job, the kind that is more than just a result from a busy, stressful season, chances are you may not be operating in your strengths.

But it takes time to figure this stuff out.  For some people, they start operating in their strengths right out of college.  Bless them!  But for me, it took a lot of digging and working a lot of jobs that made me want to poke my eyeballs out.  

Tapping into your strengths

When you get to the place where things start clicking, and you're operating in your strengths, you will know it.  It does not mean you won't have to work crazy hard but it will feel as though you are working with the flow instead of paddling against it.

And if you keep your head down and keep investing and operating in your strengths progress comes.  Influence comes.  Increased responsibility happens.  People start to call out those very strengths you worked so hard to tap in to.  They start to affirm the fact you've got something other people don't.

When this happens, it is easy to claim these strengths as our own.  Because after all, they are ours, right?  It is easy to pat ourselves on the back and take credit for the progress.  For the promotion.  For the increased influence.  

If you're a believer, it is usually around this timeframe you start to feel a new kind of friction.  

It is more of an internal, spiritual tension.  You've found your lane, you know your strengths, but something is missing.  Something is off.

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What is the tension?

Several years ago I heard a woman asked what she wanted to be most remembered for.  Without missing a beat, she responded with something along these lines:

I want to be someone who knows how to be first loved. 

Let me explain: my whole life I have been a doer.  I am a girl who just gets stuff done.  And I own that strength. 

My greatest challenge: it is being still.  

I hate being still. Because when I am still, I realize all these strengths are not my own.  They are God's.  And I realize God is asking me to submit those very strengths to Him.

What I produce is good in my own strength, but man, when I get quiet, and submit my getting done skillset to my heavenly Father, that's when the real magic happens.  That's when I get in sync with the holy spirit and watch him invade my work in a way I could never claim as a result of my own doing.

So, you know what I've learned?  

I've learned I will always be a get-it-done kind of girl.

But what I want to be remembered for?  

I want to be the girl who is remembered for knowing how to first go to her heavenly Father on her knees in full submission of the skillset I'd like to call my own. 

Because it is not my own.  It is His and it is a matter of stewardship.  If I want to operate at my full potential, I've got to get really good at knowing how to come to Him and be loved before I can go out and do my little heart out.

Can you hear your refrigerator?

Seeking quiet and stillness is countercultural.  Our world screams to go and do.  Resist slow.

A couple years ago in an interview, I was asked if I could hear my refrigerator.  

The man asking me said if you can't sit still in your house and hear your refrigerator running, then chances are, you will never be able to hear from the Lord.

That refrigerator question has stuck with me.  Because the majority of my life I have been running at a pace where I could never hear the soft hum coming from my kitchen.

I've heard glimpses of that distant sound, but it was sporadic at best.

In full honesty, it took a miscarriage and a lot of sitting still for the past month to hear my refrigerator on a consistent, daily basis.  It has taken laying flat out on my face in submission begging God to open my eyes to His goodness.  It has taken an endless amount of ugly cries and physical exhaustion to get my heart back to hearing from God.

Because the thing was, I had gotten too comfortable operating in my strengths.  Things were running just fine.  Work was good.  Money was good.

But I felt that internal tension.  I knew God was tugging on my heart, begging me to come and submit my strengths to Him...but I didn't want to.

My heart had grown lukewarm.  I was high off indulging in the comforts my strengths had provided.  And all the while God had been in the background, whispering right above that refrigerator hum:

Won't you invite me in to your strengths?  Won't you submit it all to me?  Won't you take those skillsets, lay them at my feet and then watch what I can do with them?

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As my daughter, I love you too much to let you keep going.  I heard your cries for revival.  I heard your cries for intervention.  I know all you feel is death and loss, but Daughter, I am doing a new thing.  I want to bring you back to life.  I want to consume you like a fire.

Let me.  You don't have to do a thing.  Just be still.  Just trust.  Just stay on your knees in submission.  And then watch what I will do through your strengths.

In A.W. Tozer's The Crucified Life he writes the following:

"It is important that we understand how dangerous it is to trust our good habits and virtues.  Only God can bring us to the point of understanding that our strength is indeed our weakness.  Anything that we rely on or trust can be our undoing.  We do not realize how weak we are until the Holy Spirt begins exposing these things to us."

Heaven

I've often thought about what God might say to me when I enter heaven and He asks me to give an account of my life:

My love,

You spent your whole life building things and doing things.  Things that to the world looked so good.

But you missed it.  You missed me.  

Why didn't you invite me into your strengths?

Why didn't you do the very work I called you to do?  

Why didn't you submit to me?  

Oh the things we could have done together...

No one knows what will be said to us the day we leave this earth and enter heaven.  But what I do know is I want to get the answers to these questions right. 

When I kneel before the Lord and give an account of what I did with my strengths, I want God's response to be:

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Well done, my good and faithful servant.  You invited me in.  You submitted your strengths, you let me love you, and look what I was able to do in and through you.

Because you sought me, because you pursued stillness, because you actively submitted, I was able to use your strengths for my glory.

Well done, my Daughter.  Well done.  

Friend, don't let severe grief or a crises drive you to getting this right.  You can start today.  Lean in to the stillness.  Fight for the quiet.  Submit those strengths.  Figure out what it means to be first loved before you go out and use your talents.

And then watch what follows when you are able to hear the sound of that hum from your kitchen on a daily basis.

A challenge

If any of this resonated with you, please watch this fourish minute video, it is pretty powerful.

 

 

To Second Acts

There's this burning desire in all of  us to make our lives count.

This desire is usually broken into two life parts:

Part one is defined by running hard towards what the world says we are supposed to.  Pursuing the job, the title, the things.  Pursuits that are not all bad, but, if they are the primary fuel for all our running, we will burn out.

And then as we get older, we experience achieving these things and as it turns out, these things prove to not scratch that constant itch we've lived with for so long.

The trend then switches.  We search for something bigger, something deeper, something way beyond ourselves.  We’ve experienced something unsettling: a calling of sorts that comes forth out of a deep inner place.

Spiritual awakening, midlife crisis, call it what you will.  But if you’ve felt it, you know it is not easily dismissed.

The title of this blog: “Reckless Remainer” describes someone who’s heart has been captivated by God.  It is more than just a check the box and go to heaven kind of faith.  To be a reckless remainer means you’ve been hit hard with the hard things of life…but you’ve also tasted a kind of faith that has made it impossible to deny the love of a heavenly father.  And so the reckless remainer (R.R.) goes out into the world trying to live in this tension: the tension that bad things will happen BUT God is in them even still.  

The R.R.’s vision has been changed.  It is far from perfect, but they have learned to search and see God’s hand at work in their circumstances and when they can’t see anything but darkness, they trust God has not abandoned them.  He is there.  He is working.

This is the kind of faith I desire to have and perhaps you desire it too.

I thought it would be fun to showcase from time to time some reckless remainers out there.  And to begin with, I thought I’d introduce you to my dad.

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He goes by Keith or Dr. Maxwell, but to me, he is my Melv.  Short for Melvin, a middle name he is not the biggest fan of.

My dad came from nothing.  But he had a vision for something greater and he had a work ethic that wouldn’t let him rest until that vision was fulfilled. 

My parents got married when they were kids.  They left the alter with committed hearts to one another and to the vision my dad had carried in his heart for so long:  We will do things differently.  We will build another kind of life.

And build they did.  They built a first act kind of life.  The success, the career, the fancy house, and all the beautiful things.  But these pursuits only looked like sure things on paper.  In reality, they were anything but that.

Then the divorce happened and my mom and dad parted ways permanently.  While the divorce was 100% necessary, it still brought with it heavy emotions and a faulty sense of closure.

And then last year happened.  My mom had a series of small strokes and the dementia diagnosis was given.  Independence was no longer an option for her life. 

I remember weighing whether or not I should tell my dad what happened.  Because her diagnosis had no impact on him.  But I couldn’t keep it in.  I remember exactly where I was when I fought back the tears and tried to steady my voice: She’s in a locked unit, they don’t think she’ll ever come out.  

He cried at my words.  We cried together.  Because even though all those years had passed, and life had moved one, we were all still connected in a way.

And then in October my dad got hit by a car while cycling.  By God’s grace he walked away from that accident but it changed him.  He felt spared.  He felt God had protected him for a round two, for an act two.

He decided to go all in with this next chapter.  His life was to be a vessel.  He declared to use his talents, his resources, and his time left on this earth for building God’s kingdom and only that.

And he started going to see my mom, in that locked unit.  He decided to make good on those vows he said almost 40 years ago.

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In sickness and in health.

For better or for worst.

’Til death do us part.

My parents will never get remarried.  My dad is madly in love with my stepmom and they have an amazing marriage; the kind of marriage that is a testament to God’s love and redemption.  And my stepmom has been one of the most beautiful gifts to our family.

So in this second act season, both my dad and stepmom are leaning into what it means to love well, to have open hands, and to leverage whatever they can for God’s kingdom and His glory.  

My stepmom has given my dad the freedom to make good on those vows he pledged to my mom so many years ago.  And it is a beautiful, holy, and remarkable thing.

My parent’s relationship looks nothing like what I, their daughter, wanted it to look like.   Instead, it’s better.  It’s better because it is marked with what only a God-given grace could look like.  It is an active example of what holy restoration within a family looks like.

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God took this dark thing and He changed it.  He made it something new, something more beautiful.

And it stems from my Dad responding to that second act invitation.  It all stemmed from him saying:

Okay, God, I’m all in.  Whatever it is you ask me to do, I will do.  Because I don’t want to live a first act kind of life.  Leverage it.  All of it.  

I joked with a friend the other day at the thought of what Satan must think about my mom and dad’s renewed friendship, because if I am scratching my own head at how all this restoration came about, I know without doubt Satan has been thrown by it.  The divorce. The addiction. All the heartache.  He had to think they were all sure, final things.  Darkness reigned for so long.  How did the light get in?  How the hell did the light get in?

It got in because God is that good.  He really does know how to work all things together not only for our good but His glory.  

But He won’t force you into this life.  Instead, He calls out asking, nudging, whispering: Come let me in to the second act of your life.  Come, let me bring light into those places that have never seen such a thing.  Come let me leverage it all.  Come remain, come abide, just come.  And then watch what I can do in and with and through you.

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These days you can find my dad back on his bike, cycling his heart out. But you can also find him in the mornings tucked away in his office with a small army of prayer warriors begging God to show up in their day-to-day work.  You can find him leading a local charge amongst doctors to step up and be accountable for the amount of narcotics they are prescribing.  You can find him and my stepmom pouring their hearts out to serve kingdom building platforms.  You can find him praying with his patients and preaching the gospel to them in the small ordinary moments.  And several times a week you’ll find him with my mom, reminiscing on all those memories made together cherishing what remains of her mind.

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To God be the glory for a life renewed by a marvelous, indescribable kind of light.  And to God be the glory for second acts.

To my Melv:  Happy, happy birthday.  Watching Jesus get ahold of your whole heart has been the most beautiful gift.  Thank you for loving those around you with boldness.  Thank you for your encouraging spirit.  You light up the room you’re in and I am so grateful to call you dad.

Source: recklessremainer.com/secondacts

Finding Hope in Heaven

I would have been 12 weeks next week.

The point at which you can go public about the little life growing inside you.

I was never one of those females that dreamt about being a mom.  But then we were told getting pregnant was going to be more challenging and the contrarian in me wanted nothing else other than to be just that.

We found ourselves in the middle of the fertility clinic world and after three months we were exhausted with it.  So we quit, and we trusted if getting pregnant was supposed to happen, it would have to happen in a more holistic way.

But then the unexpected occurred and we laid eyes on a positive pregnancy test just two weeks after walking away from the fertility clinic.  We chalked it up to what happens when you surrender and quit forcing things.

And we were elated.  Blood work was taken and everything looked just as it was suppose to.  John and I headed off to New Zealand and Australia with a onesie in hand and a selfie stick in the other so we could capture photos of our growing family of three.

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Once we got back from our trip, we had our first ultrasound and laid eyes on a precious fluttering heartbeat.  Everything looked good.

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We were asked to come back one more time the following week just to make sure things were progressing as they were supposed to.  So we did, and while there was still a heartbeat, the doctor looked us in the eye and said things didn't look promising.  The baby wasn't growing as it needed to.  She told us to prepare for not having a heartbeat at the next appointment.  She told us there was little room for hope.

It might sound crazy, but we walked out of the appointment vowing we would not go back to that clinic.  Because we were hoping.  Our whole hearts were already captivated by that beating heart.

So we rallied our friends and family together and we asked that they too stand in faith with us.  We asked them to intercede on our behalves.  And they did just that.  Amidst the turbulence of the news and the odds, we felt peace and more than anything: hope.

Hope is an interesting word.  It is one my soul sister, Lauren, the one who led me to Jesus, spoke and proclaimed over my life almost eight years ago.  Romans 15:13 served as a guide post.  Shortly after surrendering my heart, Lauren, gave me a necklace with the word hope on it.

And I've worn it around my neck for almost the past decade.

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As we drew nearer to our next appointment with a new practice, now more than ever, I was praying for this word hope.  I was hoping for a miracle.  I was hoping we would beat the odds.  I was hoping God would show up and show out and that we would hear a heartbeat.

I had decided in my heart that if we were to lay eyes on this child and it was a girl, we would name her Hope.  Because this season was marked by that word.  The day before the appointment a dear friend prayed over me.  As she said amen and we parted ways, she said she saw this little blonde haired girl running through a beautiful green field.  And as crazy as it sounds, she said she kept hearing the word "Hope", and perhaps that was to be her name.

She had no idea that name had already been chosen in my heart.  And when I heard her words, I wept.  I wept for many reasons, but the thought that first came was that it sounded like she was in heaven.  And my heart broke at that thought.  But we kept hoping for that heartbeat...we kept standing in faith begging God for another outcome.

On Thursday, we waited for that heartbeat.  They started with one machine, but nothing.  They went to another, but nothing.  And then we went to the most advanced, and it was confirmed with finality:  There's no heartbeat.

Over the past couple of days John and I have wondered at times if our own hearts are still beating.  Because the pain of no heartbeat has broken us.  We've never felt such physical and emotional loss.

And what about Hope, now?  Where do we go with these shattered hearts and wrecked dreams?

1 Peter 1:3-7 keeps coming in front of me.  Our Pastor preached from it on Easter, it was where I landed in my quiet time on Sunday, and I've seen it several other times in the past couple days randomly.

Any time I see more than three of something, I believe God is speaking to me.  At that point, it isn't coincidence.  As I opened my bible for the first time since learning of our loss, I laid eyes on these words:

"Praise to God for a Living Hope"

I didn't dive into commentaries or study that passage in depth, I just held onto "Praise to God for a Living Hope."

It was as if in that moment the Lord spoke directly to my heart:  I've got her.  She is living here in heaven with me.  You will see her.  Until then, trust she is safe in my arms.

I still want answers.  My heart wants to know the why.  But this, this has been enough.  

It doesn't take away the pain and the anger, but it does provide a deep rooted peace John and I have both felt.

"Praise to God for a Living Hope."

A peace in knowing we will see this sweet life one day.  A peace in knowing we are not walking through this storm alone.  Neighbors, friends, family, and people we never expected have shown up, spoke up, and have loved us in the midst of the ugly cries and the rawness of the loss. 

They have literally been the arms of Jesus as they have embraced us through it all.

And we have felt the love of God invade our lives and take root in what feels like a crater in our hearts.  And we have felt His presence in the most tangible of ways.

We've not lost Hope.  Instead, we are fighting for it.  

Our hearts have been reminded through all this of the power of living for heaven.  This life is temporary, it all will be stripped away: the money, the job, the house, the things... but Hope, this is what we live for.  Heaven, it is what our hearts long for and because of it, we will keep our eyes lifted above until we reach our eternal home.

It was not a coincidence "hope" has been worn on my heart for so long.  And it is the word I will keep wearing on my heart and around my neck until I lay eyes on that precious life.

"Praise to God for a Living Hope."

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The heart behind this blog has always been for it to be a space where people can relate to the story being told.  I've never wanted for it to become too preachy or overly in your face about Jesus...but today, today I feel a little different.  Friend, if you are reading this and you find that your life has become defined by pursuing the comforts of this world, they will not last.  They will not hold when the storms come.  You can keep running to different avenues, but at some point, they will break.  Just know there is another way.  Another path.  One that is defined by no assurances of a perfect life here on earth but rather a life that looks up through the trials as it rests in the truth God's grace and the hope of heaven will and can sustain you.

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People don't talk about miscarriages openly.  But for us, talking has been crucial to the processing and the healing.  If you've walked through this storm, my heart physically hurts for you.  And if you ever go through this storm, know you're not alone.  The world will tell you to be quiet about it, but you don't have to listen.  It has been the women I've known who have suffered such loss and have been open about it, that have helped me more than I will ever be able to comprehend.  They've been there to ask the painful questions to; they've been transparent and it has been such a source of relief. 

And men, the same goes for you.  This journey is just as painful, the loss is just as severe, I pray there is someone in your life you can talk to about it.

You might think I am crazy for writing about this so soon, and that's just fine.  If you've walked this journey, if you're walking this journey now, just know you're not alone.