Only Love.

If you love me, show me by doing what I’ve told you. -Jesus

{John 14:15 MSG}

Happy New Year! 

It’s 2019. I remember when I looked at my driver’s license expiration date many years ago, and as my eyes saw those numbers [2019], I thought to myself how far away that sounded. And here I am, here we are, in the future which is now the present, and it has come alarmingly faster than I could’ve anticipated. 

This is now my fourth year applying Jeff Henderson’s new year sermon to my life, where he taught us to choose just one fruit of the spirit to cultivate in that year. I’ve prayed about it every year, and each year it has been amazing to see how God has helped me grow in a specific area. It’s not been easy for one second,  but it has enabled my faith to strengthen and my trust in Him to deepen.

In 2016, it was PEACE. Peace in the midst of being a working mom in a stressful work environment. Peace in a health scare and in trying to conceive a second baby. Peace during the agonizing bed rest with Harrison. 

In 2017, it was JOY. Joy despite sorrow and heart wrenching loss. Joy as I embarked on a journey with grief and parented our second born, our son, in heaven rather than here on earth. Joy for my daughter, Kate, who never stopped needing mommy and daddy despite the storm that ravaged our lives. Joy in our precious Hope’s high risk pregnancy that kept us on our knees. 

In 2018, it was GENTLENESS. Gentleness despite balancing two babies on earth, in balancing the dance between joy and sorrow. Gentleness in worry and fear, learning that gentleness is the opposite of anxiety. It was our sweet Lord who asked me to be gentle because the end goal was to get a control on my anxiety and rest in Him. 

Now 2019. You know what He whispered to me so clearly? Only Love. Because you know what? He tells us to love. And He tells us to love because He knows not only does it benefit the recipients of that love, but it helps us to really live. And just like that, as soon as the new year has started, He’s given me, and our family, opportunities to love. I want to focus on the people Jesus had such a heart for- our neighbors. Literally. Like the elderly man down the street who just lost his wife. I so desperately want to love like Jesus. No agenda. No recognition. No conditions. Only Love. 

Actually, before Christmas I started feeling this love stirring in my heart,  and I felt lead to begin with my family. If I can’t love my family well, how in the world can I extend that to others? He asked me to become “hands free,” and I deleted Instagram from my phone, and during pumping sessions began reading Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford. I felt this sense of urgency to be present with my children, cherishing and memorizing and savoring each and every moment. Because, my goodness, are they growing so fast. Hope will be one in a few weeks, and Kate five soon after. And I can’t for the life of me grasp how that has happened. I want to love them the way they deserve, which means leaving the phone away in another room, leaving texts and emails unanswered, and letting my hands be free to hold them and hug them and help them with crafts or boo boos. My eyes be free to really see them-to see the way Kate’s blue eyes glow aqua in a certain outdoor light, to memorize the way her little baby teeth look as she grins at me. To see Hope’s squishy cheeks marked by dimples and memorize the way her little fingers have indentions instead of knuckles. My ears to be free to hear Kate’s belly laughs and silly jokes and made up songs, and Hope’s babbles and deep giggles and smacking kisses. 

Just like Jesus, I want to be present. I want to open my home and my heart and my time to show my family, my neighbors, and anyone He puts in my path that they are valued and so very very loved. 

So here we go, 2019. It’s a lofty goal for a selfish, perfectionist, highly distracted mama, but I know that when He asks me to do something, it’s because He is going to be present, with me, to help me do it. Only Jesus. Only Love. 

Every Sky Needs a Sun 


December 17, 2018

My sweet Harrison,

Mama misses you. So much, bud.

It’s Christmas time, my absolute favorite time of year. We’ve been listening to Christmas music since Halloween, and your big sister’s  excitement is palpable. It’s your baby sister’s first Christmas, and it’s all so wonderful and magical. 

Except the parts that aren’t.

Unfortunately, mama’s grief really starts bubbling up again this time of year. Two years ago, at Christmas time, we told Kate you were a boy, hung ornaments on the tree that highlighted your coming soon, we got Kate Twas the Night Before Christmas from you (which we read every year now on Christmas Eve night), and then two days after Christmas on December 27, I began bleeding. And the road to losing you began. And mama remembers that more this time of year.

When we go through something tragic or traumatic, our bodies and deep into our subconscious minds do something at that time of year, even years later. I’m not a doctor or psychologist, so I could be completely wrong, but in my experience with grief it just gets worse at those times. Like when mommy was in a car accident her senior year of college and lost her best friend, for many many years in March, mommy would feel so heavy and anxious. Even after my heart was healed and better, something deep inside grabbed hold and forced me to recount that day as the anniversary approached.

That doesn’t happen anymore, so I do have hope that one day these weeks leading up to your birthday won’t be this hard. But even if they are, it’s ok because I can do hard things. And loving you is worth it.

Kate said something while at lunch in New York a couple of months ago as she scribbled away a drawing of our family with the kids meal crayons. Just out of no where she said, “Every sky needs a sun.” 

We all stopped. Quieted by the significance of that simple, yet somehow powerful statement. I wrote it down in my notes app, feeling quite sure it was God speaking through our oldest daughter as He so often does. 

Then this morning in church, as we sang and talked about Christmas approaching, I thought of the star of Bethlehem, lighting up the dark night. The thrill of Hope, a weary world rejoices… 

In the darkness, light came to earth. 

And He was named Emmanuel, which means God with us. 

In the still, silent night, He came to be with us. Our Hope. Our Light. Forever with us. 

And then in church I thought about your birth, in the middle of the night, and yet in the darkness of grief, we were never alone. Emmanuel. He was with us. 

Today was one of those days where everything in my heart just feels hard. Everything is a struggle and the tough walls that get built around a grieving heart from time to time need to come down. The process isn’t easy or immediate for me; it usually begins as a far away whisper of anxiety, followed by a short temper and irritability with those I love most, and that continues for weeks sometimes before I realize what it really is….

I just miss you, my sweet baby.

And then even when the acknowledgment makes sense, I then have to fight the guilt that follows, that my wave of grief in light of my beautiful, beautiful blessings is something to be deeply ashamed of. But Harrison, I know that’s not true. 

So as we drove to visit you today on this dreary morning, with blue hydrangeas, white roses and sprigs of eucalyptus leaves (picked out by Kate as it was her idea to bring you flowers today), the sun came out for the first time in days. I was reminded of how good that feels, and that Kate was right-every sky needs a sun. 

And every heart needs an Emmanuel. Our light. Our Hope. He is with us.

And He holds you, bud. 

To Heaven and back, I love you I love you I love you.

Mama

A Seat at the Table 


When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. 

Psalm 94:19

Hey Buddy,

This past weekend, your daddy, sisters, Maggie and I headed up to The Horseshoe Farm in the mountains. Your daddy had an opportunity to talk with a real life Navy SEAL Commander, Rorke Denver, who has written two books (Damn Few and Worth Dying For), and was also in the movie Act of Valor. He hosts “Fireside Chats” where he meets with people and chats about his experience with the SEALS. Your daddy got a seat at one of these chats, which brought us to this farm for the weekend.

I felt you the entire time we were there…as we explored the gorgeous farm with rolling green pastures, the sun beams outlining the fluffy clouds, shining just enough warmth onto the cool blue outline of the Blue Ridge Mountain range, Mount Pisgah towering in the distance. I felt you as we watched a red cardinal flutter by the window of our little farm cottage, landing among the chickens clucking outside our front door. You were with us as your big sister giggled on the tire swing, squealing “Higher, Daddy!” You were in my mind as we spoke to the real life hero, Rorke Denver, talking about life with daughters (he has two girls of his own,) and wanting to tell him what a warrior you are…how strong you were. 

We went on a short hike to a waterfall, and your courageous sister had to get in. In my head, I was thinking how cold the water would be, the inconvenience of changing clothes, needing to get back to nurse…bla bla bla. But a little voice in my head reminded me of something I read recently about how we should strive to say yes as moms as much as we can. So I said YES! I nursed on a fallen log, watching with a big smile and full heart as my sweet Kate and her wonderful Daddy climbed into that frigid water and swam by a waterfall. 

There was a pregnant goat named Bobby Marley that was the farm pet, and she especially loved Kate. In fact, I think Bobby Marley loved Kate as much as the mosquitos loved Hope! Hope had a great weekend, too, but she certainly got the most bug bites! 

We taught Kate about Granddaddy long-legs spiders (honestly the first she’s ever seen!) and marveled with her over the rooster’s morning crows. She played in a little play house with Hope, and ran wild and free in the field. Harrison, it was good for the soul.

One morning, one of the farm employees hosted a meditation. Now, it was exactly what you’d expect of an organized meditation, but it sounded relaxing and I felt like I should keep an open mind and give it a shot. 

During the guided meditation, I just focused on Jesus. It was an opportunity for me to be quiet, still, and in a state of mindfulness, or deep prayer. It was during this morning meditation that I received a vision from our Heavenly Father. And I want to share it with you! 

We started by sending our brains off in a hot air balloon. I tried not to giggle as I took deep breaths and calmed my mind. Honestly, I’m happy to send my mind away on a hot air balloon-it gets me into trouble, causing me all kinds of stress. Bye, Felicia. GO. Go on your adventure in your hot air balloon. 

Anyway, then the lady continued to lead us in meditating, telling us to recognize emotions and feelings as they arise, and to acknowledge them as they come up. It was in this moment and in the minutes after that I received a vision that I strongly believe was from the Holy Spirit. 

In this vision, I saw the scene in the picture I posted above (photo cred goes to your Daddy.) The sun was setting, and I was seated at that gorgeous picnic table overlooking the sunset over the farm. Seated around me was your daddy, your sisters, family, friends, and Jesus. We were laughing and smiling and eating and looking at the amazing view. I glanced over my shoulder, and I saw a tall, dark cloaked figure standing by a white oak tree. In this vision, I look at this figure, acknowledge it, but then turn back around to keep smiling and laughing with Jesus and my loved ones. The vision continued just like that, with the figure never leaving, yet never joining us. 

I didn’t give it a seat at my table.

Harrison, my beautiful boy. That dark figure represented my anxiety and fear. It’s there. There is nothing I can do about that. I am human and flawed and have experienced gut-wrenching tragedy. I will grieve and I will have fear and anxiety. BUT, I do NOT have to give it a seat at my table. I do NOT have to invite it to sit, to whisper in my ear and ruin my joy. I do not have to welcome it to my table to take away the seat of someone or something that matters. I do not have to feed that figure-no, bud. It’s not invited to my party. There isn’t a seat at the table for it. 

Instead, I acknowledge that he’s there. But leave it at that. Hey there, anxiety. I see you. But you stay over there by that old White Oak. Don’t you come over here. You aren’t welcome. 

You know what, son? My table is large-and it is completely full! There simply isn’t room for fear or worry, because I have too much joy and gratitude that I would rather feed and enjoy. 

After that meditation session, I couldn’t shake the vision. I told your daddy about it and mommy’s best friend, “Miss Jen.” I was (and still am!) so excited because I feel so strongly that it was a word from the Holy Spirit. And you know what? It’s already helping me. Every time I feel that dark figure of fear or anxiety lurking near, I call it out-look at it-acknowledge it’s presence, then I tell myself, Do not give it a seat at your table. 

My sweet baby, I will always long for you and grieve your loss here on this earth, but I do not have to allow anxiety or fear to have a seat at the table in my heart. You, precious boy, have a seat though. Jesus holds you, as we all laugh and choose JOY over sorrow, peace over pain, each and every day. Because of Jesus, I can choose who sits beside me and I’m not going to invite anything but love and joy and freedom and grace. That’s as good as it’s going to get on this side of heaven. The pain and the fear isn’t going anywhere. Jesus knows that. The most He can ask of us is to not let it take hold, to not allow it to have a seat in our hearts. 

I love you, Harrison. To Heaven and back, I love you, I love you, I love you. 

Mommy 

True Identity

So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

Galatians 4:7

My beautiful daughters, 

I’ve got wonderful news for you! You, my Kate and my Hope, are daughters of the King of the Universe! (I love that phrase-I got it from Jeff Henderson when he spoke at Buckhead Church recently). And because of that, you are true princesses, heirs to the throne of a kingdom far greater than this fleeting earth. Your worth and your identity is so much deeper, and goes beyond the role of daughter to me and your daddy. 

By the time you are old enough to read these letters to you and to your brother, you’ll know that your mommy sure does love words. It’s no shock that words of affirmation is my love language, that I feel so loved and encouraged by kind words. I adore writing notes and obviously writing this blog has been pivotal to my healing during my grieving the loss of your brother. 

But it’s more, precious princesses. Words are powerful. And when I think about you two, so young and open. The way you are learning and look to me or your Daddy for understanding of this world, of how you fit in it, and I believe so strongly that the words we speak into you, over you, is who you will become. 

Kate, the Lord has placed the word COURAGEOUS on my heart for you. One of the first bible verses you have memorized is “Be strong and courageous, for God goes with you.”  My precious Kate, you are so very courageous. Our Heavenly Father  has already begun to cultivate this part of your identity, as you have already had to display such courage. 

Mommy had to work full time after I had you, and you were so courageous being dropped off at day care. Even on the days when the teachers had to peel you off of me, screaming and crying for me, you were courageous. Because courage happens when you are still scared. 

How scary it must have been when mommy was on bed rest for 5 weeks with Harrison, unable to do anything for you. To see mommy lying in a bed all day, every day. To see and feel mommy’s fear. Yet you comforted me, loved me, adapted and thrived. So courageous.

You lost your baby brother and never got to meet him. You went to sleep one night, and when you woke up mommy was gone to the hospital. Your grandparents brought you to see mommy in the hospital and you laid on me and held me, like you were my mommy. So courageous. When mommy and daddy got home from the hospital, Harrison was not in my tummy anymore. You had to hear us tell you that he was in Heaven with Jesus. To hear those words, sweet girl, and display understanding at just shy of three years old, that is beyond courageous. 

You started a new school that following fall, excited and brave. 

You made new friends, and you have begun speaking back to adults when they speak to you, looking them in the eye—that’s courageous.

You met a little girl at the pool, and when she came up to you, you both introduced your names and began to chat and play without any prompting from me. Such courage! 

You saw mommy go back on bed rest with your baby sister you prayed for that was in mommy’s tummy. You did not fear-you prayed, “Thank you, God, for taking care of my sister.” Your confidence in Him is courageous! 

You have taken on the role of big sister beautifully, and have shared mommy gracefully. You still balance your role as big sis to Harrison, too. Unbelievable courage.

But you know, many strangers, or even people we know well and love have told you that you are shy. Over and over again, you have heard it. Oh, she’s so shy! She’s being shy. Is she shy? She must be shy!

And your daddy and I will correct them, because we believe in the power of words spoken to and over little ones. No, my child, you are not shy. You are courageous. 

Sweet Hope, my littlest one. The word I keep coming to is HAPPY! I can’t even type it without smiling! You are still so small, so no one has spoken anything to you quite yet that we’ve had to correct. But I know your little ears are listening and ready to receive positive, affirming words. You are so happy-and I know that your joy-filled attitude will fill our lives with so much celebration…it already has! Your laugh is infectious and makes me forget anything that may be consuming my worried mind. 

I believe Jesus wants us to be happy-to celebrate well and often, because again, we are children of the King! We are heirs! We have a promised hope, my Hope! I believe you will help keep our minds fixed on that good news, keep us light and oh-so-happy. Just as you have done in the past six months, well really in the past year as we celebrated your pregnancy! Even when you were growing in my tummy, we felt called to celebrate. So each Wednesday, when I was one more week pregnant, we celebrated somehow by eating something or somewhere fun. Your entering into our lives during our grief and pain, became this rainbow of happiness and cause to celebrate. 

My girls, my Courageous Kate and Happy Hope, you are a million other words that I will speak over you and to you, including kind and generous and humble and beautiful and smart and gentle and patient and funny and worth Jesus to your Heavenly Father. Girls, you can rest in these things, secure and loved. You can allow the King to cultivate these fruits, to mold you as shape you to do unbelievable things for His glory. And I am so eternally grateful He chose me to help shape these things in you, to see them even when you can’t, and to be a voice that speaks them to you every day even if you get annoyed by me telling you the same things over and over. You will sometimes hear the lies of the enemy, sometimes in voices right in front of you…sometimes in voices you respect or value. And sometimes those lies will be shouts, loud and believable. In those moments, lean into the whispers of the truth of who you really are. Daughters of the King of the Universe. 

I love you, my daughters. You are princesses. You are loved. You are His. 

Love, 

Mommy

Rainbow Baby

I’ve seen You move, You move the mountains.And I believe, I’ll see You do it again.   You made a way, where there was no way. And I believe, I’ll see You do it again.

Do It Again, Elevation Worship

{June 2018}

My Sweet Baby Hope,

This morning, your daddy took big sis to Costco and that gave us some time together. I took a quick, uninterrupted shower (all the praise hands!), and then you began to stir from your nap. 

I went to get you out of your crib, and you gave me your happy kicks and larger than life toothless grin. I turned on my worship music loud in the house, and sweet baby girl, you and I began to dance.

We twirled, cheek to cheek, praising our Creator together. I listened to your little breaths and noises, sounds of worship and proof of His goodness and faithfulness. Your little fingers tightly wrapped around mine, we danced and sang out His praises. And in this moment, this precious moment, I never wanted to forget what my heart was feeling.

As we spun around the kitchen floor, slow dancing to “So Will I,” and “Do It Again,” and “Waters,” a million feelings and visions flooded my heart. I thought of your brother, and my eyes filled with tears, aching to one day share a dance with him. Simultaneously breathing you in, while also breaking with the visions of what it would be like to also have experienced these moments with him.  My heart clenched as I thought about my dance parties with your big sister and the J O Y that she brings me, her silly faces and dance moves and giggles, and my heart burst as I twirled with you, my littlest, kissing your cheeks and thanking God for the miracle He gave us in you, my rainbow. 

I love the term attachment of rainbows to babies after loss, the beautiful image of God’s promise of hope following a storm, the beauty in the pain and the reward for suffering. But Hope, even in the glory of a rainbow sighting, the dark clouds remain, the heavy damp air lingers from the storm that has ravaged our hearts. The storm is over, but not forgotten. The pain doesn’t disappear, but takes a back seat to the splendor of the rainbow. The miracle appears while the memories of the storm are still visible. It’s beautiful, sweet baby. It’s God.

And you know what, even though your big sister came before our storm, she’s also a rainbow…something so absolutely beautiful to display His glory and goodness in the midst of sorrow, the shining rainbow beaming through the dark clouds. I believe He gave us Kate first, knowing she would carry us through the darkest, most painful season of our lives. 

Hope, I’m not sure I can even put into words what you are doing to mama’s heart, the gift of comfort you provide with every kick and grin at the sight of me. You love me, my angel. And being able to hold you close, it’s just so good. 

It’s so conflicting, and I want all mamas who have suffered loss to know, that having a rainbow does not “fix it.” You will still ache for the one not here. You will feel overwhelming joy and gratitude, yet still have days where you just can’t seem to catch your breath because the pain of missing the one not here is still so intense. You will be confused if you should have another, or if that thought is simply a form of continued grieving. It all has to be hashed out, with Jesus, and with your spouse. Allowing the pain, but never losing sight of His promise. 

Hope, your Daddy and I feel a perfect peace, given by the Holy Spirit that has cultivated a deep contentment with our family of five. The path He has chosen for us, to be mommy and daddy to you and Kate on earth and Harrison in Heaven, desiring to be present in this story, not dwelling in the past or longing for the future. 

 But it wasn’t a seamless, clean journey to that peace. Grief is messy and ugly and horrible, but I’m forever grateful for your daddy who has my hand in his and walks beside me. The dark moments where I can feel the enemy delighting in plots of pain, our good and kind Heavenly Father turns them into something that points to His glory, His goodness. The miracle of you, Hopey girl, and of your sister, my rainbows in the storm, two precious girls whose mere existence sings His praises. Thank you, Jesus.

I love you so much, my sweet littlest. Thank you for your biggest cheeks with dimples and a smile that takes up your whole face. Thank you for your constant laughter and joy and lightness of life. Thank you for the way you bring so much comfort to me, Kate, and your daddy. You make us so very happy, and you are positively adored. 

Love forever and ever, 

Mommy 

I Will Follow

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

Matthew 16:24

My sweet baby boy,

It’s been way too long since I’ve written. While I think of you always and speak to you often, my heart has ached for this time with you, my words, my thoughts, sitting and resting with you and with my Savior who relentlessly speaks truth when I stop to listen. 

It’s been four and a half months since we had your baby sister, so I have been quite busy balancing life with a newborn and with your busy big sister :). So many give their loving advice about life with two, but each time I hear that number, two, my heart breaks a little. It should be three. But I breathe in grace and remember that I am only balancing two…it’s just that I will always wish you were here, a year apart from Hope-how wild and wonderful would that have been? Three children 4 and under. And I know I could have ten babies and I would still feel this way, aching for number eleven while being beyond grateful for the ten. 

Harrison, I adore how a part of our family you are-you are spoken about and loved and remembered. Kate drew a picture of our family the other day. She drew me, Hope still in my belly (which made me giggle), and your daddy. I thought of you, but didn’t say anything. We oooohhhed and awwwwed and put her masterpiece on the fridge. 

When she got home from VBS that afternoon, she said, “I forgot to draw Harrison!!!!” So she got her blue marker, since you are a boy, and she drew you. But not just you. She drew you right beside Jesus. Oh, my heart. You and Jesus. 

It’s how I picture you, sweet baby. I have a vision, of Jesus holding you, and when I get to Heaven, He hands you to me, both of you smiling. And I get to kiss that little face that I miss so much. It’s so real, this image. And I love it. 

You know, even though grief has taken a quieter, more private place in our hearts since losing you, it’s still a part of our lives. For the last several months, really since Hope was born, we have noticed a bright red cardinal in our yard. If we were looking out the back window, there he was; or the front, perched in the cherry tree outside Kate’s window, or on the side patio. It’s happening so much, that I’ve found myself saying, “Hey buddy,” every time I see it.

Now, I know that little bird is not you, nor would I want it to be. But I do feel like the Holy Spirit sends little signs to stir our hearts and remind us that heaven is real, that God is active and alive and powerful, and that He indeed has you safely at home. 

On our family vacation last week, we continued to see that little bird. Never have I seen a cardinal, normally a winter bird, at the beach especially in June, but there it was throughout the entire week. We felt so close to you, sweet buddy. 

I’ve been thinking so much lately about Jesus, about how beautifully He simply desired to be with us. To sit and exist and enjoy time together; how even after He defeated the grave, saving the entire universe, He wanted to have breakfast on the beach with His friends. I was thinking about this specifically one morning watching the sunrise on the beach with your furry sister, Maggie. Listening to worship music and spending that time to sit with Jesus, and just as the sun began to peak over the horizon, Chris Tomlin’s “I Will Rise,” began to play. We played that at your funeral. I felt you, and I felt cradled in my Father’s arms.

I want to be like Jesus, Harrison. I want to be present with those I love, enjoying moments with them over the material attempts to fill our voided hearts. 

Jesus, over and over again, asks us to follow him. As we are, right now, Follow me, He whispers. And I am. We are. We feel the overwhelming, reckless, relentless pursuit of our hearts. We believe in His sacrifice to save us from ourselves. So we are following Jesus, my precious baby. And in doing so we are finding peace in our pain, joy despite our sorrow, and in doing so we know we are also as close to you as we can get. It’s all so good.

I love you, my son. And I miss you terribly, but I’m giving my grief permission to lessen its grip, as I sit and enjoy the presence of your beautiful sisters, who are here in my arms, who bring me so much joy and so much love it actually hurts. I feel overwhelmed with gratitude for all three of you, my precious babies the Lord has chosen for me to mother. 

Harrison, to Heaven and back. I love you, I love you, I love you.

Mama

Stone Stories

So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”  Joshua 4:4-7

Kate and Hope, my beautiful daughters,

Our God is faithful. 

Lately, as I pray over each of you, my heart is filled with the desire more than ever to communicate to you, to reflect with my life, the goodness and faithfulness and love of our Heavenly Father. I pray Ephesians 3:18-19 over you nightly, that you would know how deep and wide and high and long your Father’s love is for you, and for that love to compel you to surrender your lives to Him, and for that love to pour out to others. I know that no matter what your daddy and I say or do, it’s the understanding and belief that you are radically and unconditionally loved by your Creator that will make you want to follow Jesus. But I do want to do my part in showing you that love, in telling you about how He has been faithful in my life, and in our lives together as a family. I want to set stones as a monument, to remember His goodness. In the book of Joshua in the Bible, God instructed the Israelites to put stones at the the very place He was faithful to them, to remind them not just at that time, but to illustrate His faithfulness to future generations. Because God knows our weak hearts, and…

Because my babies, we so easily and quickly forget. 

You see, mommy struggles with anxiety and worry, and it’s tried to rear it’s ugly head postpartum. I struggled so much physically after having your brother, and now after having you, Hope, combined with sleep deprivation, the enemy creeps in with whispers of worry and tempts me to dwell in the pain of the past rather than the continual, relentless, amazing faithfulness of my Father. 

So this exercise is not just for you two, but for me as well. We will, as long as we are on this earth, always need to remind ourselves of how good our God really is-because the world is broken-we are broken. We need our focus on Him. 

I love the thought of stones to signify something big God has done in a difficult situation. So I want to collect a stone, just as the Israelites did, to remember each one. I want to keep these stones and share them with you. As we do life together, sweet girls, we can collect stones that are for you, too, to mark the times God has shown up for you.

Here are my stone stories, and I promise to share these with you, so that you may get a glimpse into your Father’s beautiful hand in your mommy’s life…

*car accident on March 18, 2006-I lost my best friend (Kate, your namesake) and was badly injured myself. God’s relentless pursuit of my heart in the months and years following was when I truly fell in love with Jesus. 

*your Daddy-All girls (at least all the ones I’ve ever known!) have a fear of being alone, of never meeting “the one”-and that fear grows when your friends start getting married before you! Your daddy is such a blessing and a monument of His faithfulness, and he is immeasurably more than I could’ve ever hoped for!

*Kate-you made me a mommy, darling girl. You are a living, breathing stone of His sweet goodness and joy in our lives!

*Harrison-Girls, losing your brother on this side of heaven was, and still is, the most painful thing your Daddy and I have ever experienced, yet God’s faithfulness in this suffering has been the most beautiful thing we have ever experienced. I have no doubt that this stone will be monumental in your understanding of our Father’s love for us, and will point you toward Him as you grow in this life.

*Hope-Sweet Baby, you are a stone for your mommy and daddy, and your big sis, too. Oh how we all wanted and prayed for you desperately, and here you are! A living monument of God’s provision and love. 

So now I want to collect five actual stones for these five stone stories. I have one already for Harrison given to us by HEARTstrings at Northside. I want to put them somewhere in our home, on display where we can be reminded daily of the character of our God. That He is good, kind, faithful, loving, and powerful. Always. It’s the best antidote to combating anxiety, worry, or fear. It will produce, instead, worship, praise, and awe. I like those more, don’t you?! 

Harrison, I don’t have to write this letter to you, as you are living in the glory in our Father’s house already. You cannot doubt His goodness, as you are already at His table. That thought brings me to tears, in both pain and gratitude.

But my girls, this is for you. For your lives just beginning on earth, that you may begin looking for how He has rescued you, pursued you, loved you, helped you. And it’s for me, too. That I may dwell in His faithfulness which will in turn silence the enemy’s ridiculous lies, and allow us to flourish as a family in Our Father’s love, in this beautiful life we’ve been given here on our journey to heaven.

I love you both so much!  

-Mommy 

Holding onto Hope

Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Romans 5:3-5

My dear, beautiful Hope,

You are here! 

On Sunday, January 28, 2018, Mommy was struggling. Feeling super pregnant, (and trying to avoid the flu epidemic,) I told your daddy and sister we should skip church that morning. I also was overcome with grief. You see, sweet girl, the next day was the one year anniversary of your big brother Harrison’s birth and death, his entrance into the world and out of it into heaven, all in one day. The anticipation of this day was weighing heavily on my heart, and mommy couldn’t stop crying. I just couldn’t pull myself together. I felt angry and sad and anxious. And I was upset that I couldn’t get a handle on it, worried if my tumultuous emotions were affecting you, my littlest, in my womb. Could you feel your mommy’s sobs? Hear her shouts? Could you feel the heaviness of grief? 

I started feeling a tiny bit better around lunchtime. Your daddy left to go get his haircut and a flu shot (I’ve been nagging him about this!). I put on a tv show for your big sis and tried to rest. A little after 3 pm (not sure of the exact time-somewhere between 3 and 4), mommy’s water broke. I paused, and in a shaky breathless voice, I said, “Are you serious, God?” And yes, He was serious! My water had definitely broken. I was 36 weeks and 4 days pregnant with you.

So I called your big sister into my room and told her I had wonderful news, that you, her baby sister she had waited so patiently on, was going to come today! She was beside herself with joy-I mean, squealing, smiling, eyes open wide in excitement. Just as I finished explaining to Kate, your daddy walked in the door. Kate said, “We have to tell Daddy!!!!!!” And she did. She said, “Daddy, Hope is coming out of mommy’s tummy today!!” I looked at your daddy, so handsome with his fresh haircut, and said yes-my water broke and Hope was on her way to meeting us. 

I called Jen, truly a second mommy to you and Kate, and she quickly headed over to watch Kate so we could get to the hospital. Your daddy and I quickly finished packing our bags. I cried, excited and nervous tears as I kissed your big sister goodbye, the last second of it being just her here in our home. I couldn’t believe the time had come to welcome you into our lives. Our Hope!

We checked into the hospital and got into the labor and delivery room. Grandparents got there soon after, and I was only having minor contractions about five minutes apart. I was 2cm. 

The nurse gave me a pill of cytotec, and told me that Dr. Leader (the Doctor we prayed for-yay!) would come check me in about four hours. They started my IV bag of fluids to finish before we could even talk about getting the epidural, and she put in for my labs to be done, again, required before an epidural. 

Within minutes, my contractions began getting painful and closer together. Your pop and papa said a prayer as your daddy and grandparents circled around us. I was really hurting so the granddads left the room and your nana, BMama, and Daddy stayed with me. I then had back to back contractions lasting at least a minute, no breaks and the intensity was becoming unbearable. I breathed, thinking of you, and of God’s faithfulness. Hillsong United worship station was playing on our Bose speaker. 

I told everyone in the room I needed my epidural now, that I couldn’t wait for fluids and labs. And of course, they told me that was not possible and I had to wait. I kept telling them I wasn’t going to have time to wait. The contractions grew and became excruciating, but I continued to breathe and open my hands. I had recently read an article about keeping your hands open, not clenched, during contractions, allowing your body to do the work rather than fighting against it. Looking back, it was also a symbol of praise and surrender, hands open to my Father who I knew was in control and was with you and me in that moment. 

Then, just moments later I knew what was happening. I told your daddy and grandmothers I needed to push. No one was even in the room! BMama and Nana ran out to find someone, and they saw Dr. Leader, who then came running in to the room, confirming instantly that it was time to deliver Hope. I was in more pain than I can explain, but it was a blur-so incredibly fast. Just a minute or two after the grandmothers left and the doctor ran in, at 6:11pm, you were born. Our miracle. Our rainbow. Our beautiful Hope. 

And instantly you were crying. And placed on my chest. 

It’s a sound your daddy and I never wanted to stop. The loud, healthy cries of our baby. No silence as it had been just one day shy of a year ago. No death. Just life. We stared at you in awe. Looking at your beautiful face that so greatly resembles your brother’s and all we could say and feel is Thank you, Jesus.

Your sister was the first one to come in and meet you. I couldn’t hold back the tears as the moment I’d been clinging to in my mind for so long was about to happen. Kate came into the room with a sweet smile and precious pink scrubs that said “Big Sister.” She touched your head and kissed your mommy and daddy. She was precious. Quickly after that, your family flooded in with joy and tears and happiness. Your grandparents scooped you up, aunts and uncles, one of your cousins, and your “second mommy,” Miss Jen. It was so good, sweet girl, seeing the people who prayed you here to us, holding you. 

The next day was your brother’s birthday in Heaven. How amazing is our Father that we were holding you on that day, a precious gift of life and gain to help ease the sting of death and loss. But we still grieved for him. Your papa shared a scripture and toasted to Harrison, and to you. A few family members wore Team Harrison shirts to commemorate our boy. And we kept telling Jesus “thank you.” 

Hope, the journey to you has been long, painful, and beautiful. Now, you are almost a month old (time, slow down!) and I still can’t believe you are here. 

More than ever, we are overflowing with gratitude that God chose us to parent you, Kate, and Harrison. That He has made known the secure hope we have in Him. That He has drawn nearer in our pain and provided so much beauty from ashes. That He has shown how good He really is. 

I love you, Hope, more than I can piece together in words. You will never truly know how much your life means to me, the healing that it brings holding you and breathing you in. You are my littlest one, sweet darling girl, and I can’t wait to see what the Lord has in store for your life. I know it’s going to be big-for you are a miracle, whisper promised to us before you were even conceived. 

Welcome to the world, Hope. I promise to tell you all about the goodness and grace of our Father, of the love and adoration and anticipation of your big sister, of your Daddy who is nothing short of a hero, and of your tribe of friends and family that cried out to God on their knees for you. 

With So Much Love,

Mama

Hope Cathey Brinson, 1/28/18, 6 lbs 10 oz, 19.5 in

{Cross}roads

When I see that cross, I’ll see freedom. When I see that grave, I’ll see Jesus. 

-Hillsong United, “Grace to Grace”

Sweet Harrison,

You are almost a one year old. Our big boy in heaven. January 29 is in our minds and heavy on our hearts.

No smash cake here.

No pulling up to stand or trying whole milk. 

No airplane birthday party with balloons and family and friends. 

No pictures or kisses or presents.

But it is a celebration, precious baby. We will have balloons and cake and family. We will worship our Father who has given us you, and sing His praises for Jesus and heaven. 

The Lord has been preparing my mama heart for this day that is fast approaching, yet the devil has been in wait, throwing darts of anxiety and grief my way as well. 

I saw this quote by John Eldredge the other day and LOVED it…


And then God also played Hillsong’s “Grace to Grace” for me. I cried as I listened to the voices sing, When I see the cross, I’ll see freedom. When I see that grave, I’ll see Jesus.

We will gather by your grave in a few short weeks, with our tribe of closest supporters and worship. We will surely grieve, but not without hope. Because baby boy, we have Jesus. When we see your grave and your beautiful name etched in stone, we will not see death. We will see Jesus. We will see life. And we know that we will have you with us, lost once yet returned, one sweet day.

And it’s all because of the cross.

Harrison, sometimes as followers of Jesus we cling to His teachings, yet are desensitized to the cross. We forget where it started. It wasn’t in His birth, or His sermons or His miracles. It was all in His resurrection. His life after dying. His sacrifice. The debt paid in full.

We cannot receive anything without receiving and believing this foundational truth first. It’s all about the cross. 

Your big sister saw a Rad Joy cross hanging on a wall this morning. A gift given to me from your Aunt Staci after you went to heaven, it’s been one of my favorite pieces of all time. It’s changed my walk with Jesus, as I physically nail my burdens, fears, and hopes to it. An act of truly laying them at His feet. On the cross. 

She asked me, “Mommy, what is that arrow?” I smiled at her precious curiosity and told her it wasn’t an arrow, but a cross. I told her that Jesus died on a cross to forgive us for our mistakes, so that when we die one day we can have Heaven with Him, and with those we love like you, Harrison. She then wanted to know if she could bring Lubby to Heaven with her, and all her toys. And she wanted to know what mistakes were. Sweet girl. 

We have these types of mini gospel conversations often, all initiated by Kate, all stemmed from you, her baby brother in heaven. 

My precious boy, thank you for directing our minds and hearts to heaven. Oh how our Father has used you to point us to Him. So grateful.

Harrison, my forever baby, my sweetest son. When standing in the crossroads of tragedy, we have an opportunity to take the narrow road. The road that leads to peace and to life. But it isn’t easy. It’s not easy or natural to visit you by your grave and see life, see Jesus. The pulling darkness of death is much louder, much more obvious. But we have chosen as a family to continue down that narrow path, towards peace and life and you. We love you so much. Your baby sister, Hope, will be here in a few short weeks. We can’t wait to hold her and tell her all about you and our good Father who has carried us gently in this life we’ve been given. I know it will probably be harder to write to you soon, with a newborn and active nearly four year old. It’s already hard with mommy’s carpel tunnel and swollen hands. But know that I love you. Even when my words are quiet, my heart is not. We feel so much joy and gratitude, but sweet son, we still cry and yearn for you at the same time.

To heaven and back, I love you, I love you, I love you. 

Mommy

The Dance 

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1:2-4

No letter to my babies today. Just a blog placed on my heart, in the spirit of authenticity, in the midst of the ongoing battle in this mama’s heart. 

Friends, the grief is still so real. It’s been raw and fresh lately, bringing me to tears without any warning or precursor. Fragile, broken, and weary my heart has felt, while still feeling so much gratitude and joy. It’s a dance, shared between Grief and Joy, a dance that neither one does alone, but yet always together, hand in hand. A dramatic, painful, unpredictable dance. 

Bryan and I are celebrating seven years of marriage this weekend together with a getaway to Lake Oconee. I’ve been craving time away with him, so looking forward to being still and relaxing, especially with the weight of Hope’s precious growing body starting to manifest as back pain and typical third trimester discomfort. 

Also, I just wanted to be away with the man that I have fallen more deeply in love with this year than ever before. Our actual anniversary is Monday, December 11, and before we left for the trip I was writing a note to Bryan in a card to give him Monday. Tears burned my eyes as I wrote, overwhelmed with gratitude that I get to be his wife, that he is the father of our three precious babies. 

And y’all, I believe nothing intimidates and threatens Satan more than a strong marriages committed to one another and to our Father’s glory. 

So insert the enemy, paired with grief, and you get yourself a battle.

Kate has been asking for snow for the past several weeks, hoping for snow, wanting snow, equating snowy backdrops to Christmas. I’ve had an equal desire to see snow, and experience the magical peace it brings, and to see the delight in Kate’s eyes. So as the snow began to fall and blanket our home, while Bryan and I are away, anxiety began to grow and the enemy saw an opportunity. 

Yesterday, after coming out of a glorious spa with an 80 minute prenatal massage, I face-timed with sweet Kate, and she showed me the snow and was so happy and silly. When we hung up the phone, my heart was crushed. I was missing it. 

Tears began to sting as I thought of how I should be catching snowflakes with her, drinking hot chocolate and making a snowman. I wanted to bundle her up in her hat, mittens, and snow boots. The tears began to flow as I felt the grief of the year crush my heart…I just felt like I was missing it all.

Ashamed and upset that I was allowing this hurt to ruin my day with my husband, I shared with Bryan the demons that I battle, and where a lot of the emotion comes from. How I still struggle with the fact that I worked for three years, and feel panicked that I missed so much of her sweet young life. I’m now a stay at home mom and Satan still throws those lies my way. I relived bed rest and my panic of feeling like I was missing everything, an inadequate mother lying in bed while everyone else took care of Kate. The panic of remembering those first months after losing Harrison and the grief and heartbreak so raw and consuming that those days feel lost, again, feeling as if I’ve failed my precious Kate. Then the new panic that has recently set in with the third trimester, that my days with just Kate are numbered, that this unbelievable three year old, almost four year old, precious girl is about to have to share my attention and affections. 

So I cried uncontrollably, for a while. It’s as if the tears were mobilized, ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice. They began the first night we were here at dinner, as Bryan and I talked about Harrison’s Birthday and how we should celebrate (if that’s the word). I couldn’t speak because the tears began to gather and burn, memories of Kate’s excitement for her “brudder” and conversations and dreams we all had about him. And here we have found ourselves nearly a year later, about to have the one year anniversary of Harrison’s birth and entrance to Heaven.

So the snow was simply a catalyst for a yucky, dark, painful grieving. Grieving that affects others, like my amazing husband as this is our anniversary trip. I could almost hear the devil chuckling in delight as I began to drown in my own feelings and felt out of control of my emotions. 

But here we are, a new day, and Bryan encouraged us to go work out together this morning. Again, Jesus speaking through him, always. It wasn’t one minute into my treadmill walk while listening to my Hillsong United Pandora Station, that my heart softened and the tears burned again, but this time with so much love, peace, and joy. And gratitude for Bryan and his patient, relentless love for me.

Matt Maher’s “Lord, I Need You” came on, and my heart silently cried out to God the lyrics. I need you, Oh, I need you. Every hour I need you. My one defense, my righteousness. Oh God, how I need you.”

The dance between grief and joy doesn’t end, but the leader of the dance does. I need my Lord every moment of every day for joy to stay in the lead. It doesn’t erase the grief, but it takes a backseat. 

Back at the beginning of 2016, I listened to a New Years Eve service by Jeff Henderson. He challenged us to choose one fruit of the spirit to cultivate more of in our lives, and to focus on that one thing for an entire year. It was life changing for me, as I focused on peace. I desperately needed God to rescue me from my stress and anxiety at work, to be peaceful and content as a working mama in 2016, and to rest in His promises while running the race He’d called specifically for me. 

So in the beginning of 2017, I asked God to reveal to me what fruit to cultivate more of for 2017, and He told me JOY. On bed rest at the time, bleeding and fearful of losing Harrison, I knew He wanted me to learn to trust Him, and in doing so find joy despite my circumstances. To take things more lightly. I jotted it down in my journal, unknowingly that my commitment to cultivating this fruit would be put to the ultimate test. 

But I feel that God has taught me so much in the area of joy, how Joy is not the same thing as happiness, and how it truly is possible to have joy no matter what is happening. I look back over the amazing memories and moments we have had as a family this year, despite the days of tears and agonizing grief. I think of the joy and silliness that has grown in me as a mama, getting in the floor to play with Kate, dancing in our tutus and singing in the car. The joy I’ve experienced in my dream to stay at home with Kate becoming a reality, and in watching the Lord grow Hope. The joy I’ve felt in my marriage with Bryan. In the Bible, James even asks us in to “consider it pure joy” when we face trials. I don’t think he means we have to say what we are going through is good, but to simply consider the joy surrounding it. Consider how God is using it to bring beauty, to make us more into His likeness. To cultivate a deeper, lasting faith. 

As I reflect back on 2017, it drawing to an end, I’m beginning to ask and wonder what fruit God wants to cultivate more of in my life for 2018, with Hope being added to our family and our lives welcoming another baby girl to parent here on earth, still while balancing the hole left in Harrison’s absence.

And the dance will continue, the grief and the joy. But how grateful I am that the joy is almost always in the lead, the primary dancer in my heart. It makes the waves of grief survivable, bearable, because joy always comes in the morning, and the joy of the Lord is my strength.

Bryan and I on our wedding day-12/11/10