For Those Who Haven’t Lost

Since the Lord led me to “go public” with my pregnancy history, and since we’ve really begun telling people about our road to parenthood, I have learned a lot about people. Once you admit publicly that you’ve had a miscarriage, you’d be amazed at the people that come forward with their own story of struggle or loss. I’ve had people I never would’ve dreamed, come whisper in my ear and give me a knowing hug. According to statistics, about 10-25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. That’s as many as 1 in 4 pregnancies….1 in 4 babies never make it! In our case, it took 9 tries to bring a pregnancy to birth. And as heartbreaking as this has been, it truly has been a blessing to me… a way to open a door, to share a story of hope.

But y’all, that statistic holds great news! It means that, of those 4 babies, 3 made it! Three of those precious little humans were able to be loved & hugged & cuddled by a Mommy & Daddy. A Mommy & Daddy that, hopefully, anticipated their arrival as eagerly as the Mommy & Daddy of Baby #4. It means that they didn’t have to hear dreaded words, give dreaded news, or feel dreaded emotions that come with miscarriage and pregnancy loss. And friends…that’s a great thing! A gift from God!

Most of my messages here on the blog are directed to the parents of Baby #4…the one that slipped away. That’s my story- my background. That’s what I know. But today, I want to take a minute to talk to the rest of y’all. The ones who haven’t had to experience the loss of a pregnancy…of a baby.

Before I begin, I should tell you where I stand. I believe firmly. . . FIRMLY . . .that life begins at conception. And as much as my struggles with miscarriage have strengthened my stance on this issue, I believed this long before I ever experienced pregnancy loss. I believe that life begins when life is formed…not at the time that it can breathe air through its’ own lungs, or at the time that it can move its’ own limbs, or even at the time that it has viable brain activity or a beating heart. I believe that life begins when it is formed…when it is officially “under construction”. When GOD creates it. I believe this because this is what Gods’ word tells me.

“Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee…” -Jeremiah 1:5

The emotions that come along with miscarriage and pregnancy loss are some that are hard to explain. And they are definitely different for everyone. Hurt. Jealousy. Sadness. Confusion. Doubt. Anger. Bitterness. Regret. Isolation. Grief. It is an emotional rollercoaster of some or all of these feelings, and more. And that’s ok. You probably already guessed that.

But today, I want to tell you what you may not have already guessed. A few things that, if you’ve never been in the shoes, you may not have ever realized. 1e0e6ecbec1bb60936ab80cf130e5b85

As painful as miscarriage is emotionally, it is also painful physically. I know that the majority of people “get” the emotional pain associated with pregnancy loss. What I don’t think many people realize is the physical pain that comes with it. Friends, even though that baby (or fetus, if you prefer)  is only a little over an inch long, barely the size of a kumquat, they are still inside us. At ten weeks, our babies have fingers and toes. Their vital organs have formed. They can bend their wrists. They are tiny humans. And just like your tiny human at 39 weeks gestation, they still have to come out – even if they aren’t making it out alive. How does that happen? The same way it does for everyone else. Contractions. Bleeding. Pain. Basically, labor….or a surgical procedure, if so chosen.  Now y’all don’t get me wrong – I’m not likening it to full-term labor pains by any means…but the physical pain of miscarrying a baby is still present. And it’s real. Coupled with the emotional pain and, well, it’s a lot to handle.

Besides the feelings of grief, it’s a WEIRD feeling. The most often talked-about part of miscarriage is the initial onset. The moment when you “find out”….the initial finding of blood, or the unexpected ultrasound, or the Doppler with no heartbeat. What isn’t often talked about is what comes next. After you find out your going to miscarry your baby, but before you actually miscarry your baby (or have the surgical procedure), you’ve got a few awkward days to deal with. Y’all. I’m about to be harsh. I don’t know how else to put this, except to tell you how it’s hit me more than once. “Oh God. I have a dead baby inside me.”  I don’t care how you look at it…that’s a weird feeling. It’s a feeling I don’t think you can truly understand until you’ve felt it. I know it’s a jarring reality. But, in the world of miscarriage, it’s reality nonetheless.

They were real people to us. We think about them every day. We wonder who they would’ve been. Just like you dream about your kids – what they’ll be when they grow up, who they’ll marry, where they will go in their life. We wonder about them too. We wonder what they would’ve looked like. What type of personality they’d have. They were our babies. And every so often, it crosses our mind – that we should have a 9 year old, and one starting kindergarten, this year. And our heart breaks a little bit again….for who they would’ve been. It doesn’t mean we can’t try again. It doesn’t mean we won’t have more babies. And we will love them & hug them ever so tightly. But it doesn’t change the fact that some of our babies are missing.

As sad as we are that this happened to us, we truly are happy that it didn’t happen to you. It has been suggested, after some of my losses, that I was angry at people that were able to have kids without any problem. Friends, I can assure you that this couldn’t be farther from the truth.  I’m going to be blatantly honest right now – I’ve made the statement, in times of grief, how aggravating it is that people can drink alcohol, do drugs, abuse their bodies and have disregard for the life growing inside them, and still have babies left & right with no problem. When you’ve been in these shoes, I think you could understand how frustrating that can be. But you know what else? I’ve never, ever been less than happy that those little lives came to fruition! And I don’t think any other miscarriage mommy has either!   Mommy friend, I would never wish the hurt or grief of miscarriage on you- for any reason. I am not angry that you have what I couldn’t. I am not upset that you didn’t have to struggle to have your babies. I am so, so happy that my story isn’t yours. Jealous? Probably. Is that a sin that I wrestle with? Definitely. Angry? Never.

You don’t have to know what to say to us. I think one of the most awkward parts of pregnancy loss are the condolences. It’s why so many people that have experienced recurrent pregnancy loss choose not to disclose their pregnancy until later into or after the first trimester…because although so many are kind-hearted and well-meaning, they just don’t know what to say. And that’s ok. In the back of our minds, we may know that everything happens for a reason, that God has a plan, and that our babies are in a better place…but friends, it sure doesn’t feel like it at the time. I’m sorry – it’s enough to just say that. We understand that you don’t understand. We’re ok with leaving it at that.

I’m not really sure why I felt led to write this post today. Maybe just to speak a word of togetherness. Oneness. Today is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day. To some, it’s just another October 15th. To those that have experienced the loss, it’s a day to remember. I hope that this post will open the eyes of those that haven’t observed this day before. Light a candle for your friends’ angel baby. Give them a call or a hug. Let them know that you remember. And even if you can’t relate, you care.

Fellow Mommies, just because our babies never lived outside our bodies – it doesn’t mean they didn’t live. It doesn’t mean they weren’t real – they were our reality. They were hoped for. Dreamed about. Prayed about. Anticipated. Loved. Just like yours. Y’all, there’s a lot that could be said here. And some may say it better than I. But losing a baby – it’s hard. after birth, 38 weeks in, 20 weeks in, 9 weeks in – it’s still hard.

Let’s just love each other through it today.

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. ”  -1 Peter 4:8

Being There: A Mans’ Perspective

Friends, today I’d like to share this post with you. It is a guest post, written by my husband. He wrote it some time ago now, and I’ve been holding on to it for just the right time. So, here it is…pregnancy loss in a marriage, from HIS perspective.

We’ve been in this car for nearly 60 hours this week. I’ve heard “Daddy” a lot of times. It’s been enough times that it probably would’ve gotten on your nerves by now. But, as I’m riding in the passenger seat on the way home from vacation, looking back at the not one, but two, boys that call me “Daddy”, I’m reminded of how great our God is. I’m also reminded of how far I’ve come, to hear that word. Daddy.

You know, there was a day that I thought I would never hear that word. At least not directed toward me. Over the years, my wife and I have been through a lot of ups & downs on the road to becoming parents. We wanted a baby for a long time. We never thought it would be so hard. We never thought it would be so heartbreaking.

As for a man, we can’t be heartbroken. We’re not supposed to be heartbroken. Or at least that’s what I thought. That’s what I was always told. I grew up in the country…dirt roads and fishin’ and deer hunting… where boys are taught to be tough. You don’t break down. You don’t cry. You don’t even really show your feelings at all.

I tried to not be heartbroken. I tried to keep everything bottled up, and be the strong one. I was a hard person to get along with at times. Looking back, I can see this now. At one point I even left Leslie, because I wasn’t sure what I needed to do any more. I didn’t know how to be there for her. I didn’t know how to deal with what I was feeling. I just didn’t know anything.

I saw so many of my buddies having kids, and I really was happy for every one of them. But, honestly, it was hard to not be a little jealous. Eight miscarriages will do that to you. Yes, eight. I’ve always been the type of guy that was great with everyone else’s kid. Our friends’ kids loved me. But I couldn’t have one of my own. What was I doing wrong?

There were times during that 7 year stretch that I just wasn’t sure what I was going to do with my life. I always thought my life would include a family of my own, but it was looking like that wasn’t in the cards for us. We did everything that the doctors said to do. Still no baby. I wanted kids so much, and I wasn’t sure if my wife was going to be able to give me one. I mean, I was getting her pregnant . . . that meant my job was done, right? I have been there with my wife through it all…or so I thought.

I questioned things like, did God really love me? Did He really have a plan for my life? Was I ever going  to experience the life of a father? Well let me tell you something ….all my questions were answered when I put God first in my life over everything else.

Let me say this before I go any further. I am a Christian man… I was saved when I was seventeen. But, until a year and a half ago, I didn’t know how to live my life according to the way God and His word wanted me to. All those times I thought I was there for my wife or I had done my job.. I was completely wrong.

Being there” doesn’t mean just being in the presence of your wife.

It means meeting her every need like a husband should. It means being there for her physically, spiritually, and emotionally. It means talking to her about your feelings through the tough times, and listening when she needs to talk about hers. It means being strong for her, even when you don’t think you can. Doing your job? Well, being a husband isn’t a job. It’s a blessing from God, to get to do life with your soul mate. So until I quit looking at my marriage as job, it was never actually complete. All the emotions that we went through, and hope that we lost with every pregnancy, they made us feel like we weren’t doing something right….for each other or for God. And, at that point, we really weren’t.

Men, if you and your wife are going through the loss of a baby, the only thing you can really do for her is to be there for her. Talk to her. Pray with her. Maybe you don’t know what to say or do to make anything any better…that’s ok. Just tell her that. Ask God to show you how to make it better. When you’re in the middle of a loss like that, you and God are all she has. So just be there.

And eventually, when I got my mind right, my God gave me a relationship with Him. He gave me a meaningful relationship with my wife. And then He gave me my sons. We adopted our first son 3 years ago, and he is just like me! My wife laughs at how much he acts like me. God gave me the perfect little boy, in a way that I never would’ve expected.

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But my story doesn’t end there. Toward the end of 2013, my life was changed again. Leslie was pregnant. All I could think was “Here we go again.”  We made it through the New Year, and everything was going good. But it was so hard to not feel in the pit of my stomach that it would probably end the same way. I knew I was never going to let Leslie know how I felt!  I had lost all hope of us ever having a biological child of our own. I didn’t have my mind right! And sure enough, it wasn’t long before we found out we’d lost our eighth baby.
It’s sad to say, but even though it should have…it didn’t phase me much. I had been here so many times and the story was always the same. I mean, I already knew the ending! Then about 3 am the next morning, Leslie got a call that would change everything for us. Her grandmother passed away. That, my friends, was my last straw. I did exactly what I was supposed to do…what God had taught me already when we were given our first son. I was strong for my wife and made sure she was okay! But I was really just going through the motions.
Inside, I struggled with it all week. I knew at that point where I needed to be, and that was with God. We had to give it all over to Him. What I knew was that He would take care of me and my family, if I was only willing to let Him! So, we did. Then, that summer Leslie came to me with another pregnancy test. But, for the first time since this adventure started, I felt calm. Not even scared. For the first time, we had a plan. No medicine, no shots, just leave it all in Gods’ hands. We trusted Him. We prayed constantly for that baby. We trusted God with all our hearts. 8 months later, we had another baby boy.
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Gentlemen, I know that sometimes we have to be strong. We are supposed to be strong. But I hope this story lets you know that we can be vulnerable too. I mean, we don’t have to be a sissy, but we can let go and give it to God. He wants us to lead our families in the right way, and that starts with putting Him in our lives. The moment I surrendered to Him wholeheartedly, and let Him guide me, I saw an amazing change in my home, my family, and myself. My prayers got stronger than ever. We often joke about how we prayed this baby here, but really….that’s what we did!
“What is impossible with man, is possible with God” – Luke 18:27
So many times we listen to people…we let people tell us what we need to do… instead of listening to what God is telling us! Once we listened to God, claimed His word for Leslie and her pregnancy, and believed with all our heart that this child would be born healthy and at term –  that’s what happened.
Miscarriage is hard. Losing a baby is hard. Having your dreams shattered is hard. Not knowing what to do or how to be there for someone you love is harder. But what I have learned is that God will help us through all of that, if we will just let Him.
This is a small part of my life that I hope inspires or gives someone out there a little calmness. If you are struggling with anything…give it to God, pray about it and let God take control.
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Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.  Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” – Psalm 127:3-5

The Easy Way Out

I made a half-hearted joke on my personal Facebook page today.

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I posted it jokingly. But, I’m a little ashamed to admit, I meant it. I did want God to hand me the answer to my problems right there in the aisles of a grocery store. I did imagine myself running into a long-lost friend or acquaintance, and it being like God handing me a beautifully wrapped gift. I wanted a tangible answer, right then & there. What I got, however, was a cart full of groceries & a whole-lotta nothin’.

I haven’t blogged here in a while. I’m ashamed. I blame the devil. I let him into my spirit for a while. I let his schemes, and his road-blocks, and his trials, hinder my quest to advance the Kingdom. I let him wreck my quiet times. I let him steal my joy. I let him into my relationship with Jesus. And, you know what? It’s been showing.

A lot has been thrown my way lately. We’ve had some financial set-backs. A while ago, my husband & I decided that we weren’t really being very good stewards of what the Lord was entrusting us with. So, we decided to do something about it. We knew that we spent a good deal of our income toward eating out. It is truly a weakness for us. So, we decided to stop. We decided to intentionally make smarter decisions with our spending, to not buy things just because we wanted them, and to get a better handle on our finances. And you know what? We came under attack y’all.

First, we were hit with bills that we struggled to pay. Our electric bill doubled. Our water bill doubled. We decided we’d be more cautious about these things.

Then, the enemy brought out the big guns. We received a bill in the mail for a toll violation from our recent vacation – $65. To make a long story short, we made a poor decision while vacationing & didn’t stop at the toll plazas. According to the signs we’d seen, we thought we could go online & pay our tolls within 7 days of using the highway. Our misunderstanding cost us greatly, because about a week later another toll violation came in the mail – this time, to the tune of $400. I literally cried.

But you know what? The enemy wasn’t done with us yet. Then, sickness hit. Snotty noses, coughs and ear infections led to doctor visits, which led to deductibles. The baby had a lingering ear infection. We’d already treated it with a round of antibiotics, so the doctors’ next solution was ear drops, of course …. $190 worth of ear drops.

A week later, my husband received a phone call from a debt collector. When I quit my full-time job, as one of our ways to cut back we’d decided to forego our satellite service. When he’d called to disconnect, he was told that our satellite boxes were obsolete, and the company therefore did not want us to bother returning them. Now, months later, our friendly local debt collector had a bill from said-satellite company in our name, to the tune of $250.

I felt in over my head. Friends, I work 12 hours a week. I don’t have this kind of money.

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But guess what? That enemy…he still wasn’t done.

When I made the decision to leave my full-time job and go to work part-time in order to spend more time at home with my kids, we really struggled with what we would do with the baby while I was working. The decision meant cutting my income in a third, which left us far from able to afford daycare. A sweet friend who only worked weekends offered to watch the boys when I needed help. Her fee was virtually nothing, which I struggled with at first. But, you know? So many people have told us to accept the blessings God sends our way…so we did. And it was a great arrangement for 4 1/2 months. But last week, the enemy sent another cannonball my way. She had been offered a management position during the day at her place of employment. Which meant, effective in one week, she could no longer keep the boys. As happy as I was for her, and as exciting as I knew this was for her career, it made a knot in my stomach. It changed everything for us.

Will I be able to find someone else that I trust to watch my babies? Will I be able to afford what they’re worth? Is there any way I could afford daycare & still have money for feeding our family? How can we possibly make ends meet if I can’t find someone to watch the kids and I have to quit my job altogether? Will I have to go back to work full-time again? Why did I even think I could quit my full-time job in the first place, when it means I can’t even afford medicine for my sick child?! What kind of mother am I?!

My brain hasn’t quit reeling since I got the news. I’ve stressed. I’ve beat myself up. I’ve played over every worst-case scenario in my mind. Then, I prayed. I confessed my worry, I sought His forgiveness, and I “gave” it to God. I use “gave” so loosely, because really….honestly….I didn’t give anything to Him. I kept holding on to all that worry and anxiety and frustration. I have been holding onto it for days now. I’ve struggled…because HOW do you give something like this to Him? If I just let Him handle it, how will I ever solve the problem? How will I find a solution – somebody to keep my baby? (Side note – I won’t…not alone!)

So, today, I prayed that silly little prayer in the Wal-Mart parking lot. And, friends. I truly, half-heartedly expected God to hand me that person. And when I left, and He hadn’t answered, I saw how silly, and petty, and trivial I’ve been.

Praying for a chance encounter in Wal-Mart? That’s the easy way out.

Why am I experiencing all this trial? Why is everything hitting us at once? Why have I had to spend all these days feeling like I’m drowning in life?

You’re probably wondering by now why in the world I’m telling you all this personal junk about my life? Because I think it’s crucial for you to understand where I’m going with this….this verse came to mind.

“And He saith unto them, “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” Then He arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.  – Matthew 8:26

When I started writing this, that verse popped in my head. However, I didn’t remember it word-for-word. When I looked it up, I almost laughed out loud. God has such a sense of humor. Why? Because last week, when we felt knee-deep in the middle of our trials, my husband had sent me this verse.

They reel to and fro, and stagger around like a drunken man, And are at their wits’ end. Then they cry out to the Lord in their trouble, And He brings them out of their distresses. He calms the storm. So that its’ waves are still. Then they are glad because they are quiet. So He guides them to their desired haven. Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness!”  -Psalm 107:27-31

Friends, when we feel out of control, struggling, like we’re drowning in life….GOD! He is our calm!

I realized something today. That all this struggle. All this storming. It’s been attacking me since I’ve let my grip on Jesus’ steady hand slip. Since I’ve stepped away from glorifying Him here on this blog. Since I’ve let brushing teeth & changing diapers & doing laundry take priority over my time with Him. Since I’ve put worldly things first.

It is so crucial that we put Him above everything, anything, else. Because one finger lost from His grip, gives the enemy something to grab onto!!

Now, you probably think I’m writing this because God gave me a solution & I want to sing the praises of how faithful He is. I’m not…not exactly. He hasn’t given me a solution yet. I have a no-longer paid off credit card, and no idea what I’m going to do with my children in a few weeks. But God…He IS faithful.

Today, I started re-listening to a sermon series our pastor preached a while back. It was such a timely reminder for me!

“Temptation is not always being lured away or enticed, like lust…. Temptation is any pressure that is put on your flesh. Trouble is tempting. Trials are tempting. You say, Tempt me to do what? QUIT!”

“The pressure put on your flesh, and how you respond to that pressure, is by itself temptation. And we’ve been tempted through trouble to do a lot of things that are outside the will of God because we were in trouble.”  – Pastor James McMenis, Word of God Ministries

Trouble has tempted me. Tempted me to give up, tempted me to question my decisions, tempted me to question myself as a parent and even as a person. But, now I know how I must respond! Lock all ten fingers around His steady hand…and hold on for dear life.

So, here I am guys. I’m here just to be brutally honest with you, and hope & pray that you will take something from all this trial my household has been experiencing. And also, I’m here to state for the record……the devil will not win this battle!

As for me and my house, we will serve (and keep our faith in) the LORD.

A Marriage on the Rock

62701_428788110875_908313_nToday, I have been married to my best friend for 13 years.

And as you read that sentence, I’ll bet that you were thinking this would be a post on us. Our wedding day, a tribute to him and all that we’ve been through in those 13 years. Well, you’d be wrong. Sort of.

This post is about the people that showed me what a marriage should look like, and how I want mine to look in 50 or so years – my grandparents. I know it seems strange, to write a post about someone else on my own wedding anniversary. But believe me, the person that I’m celebrating my love for today….he understands.

I vaguely remember my grandmother telling me once about when they were married. She was 17 years old. He was 13 years older. She sat on the fence post, waiting on him to pick her up. He picked her up on the back of his horse, and they went off to get married. On December 12, 2005, the day he died, they’d been married 58 years.

I don’t know the specifics about their wedding day, their early years of marriage, their parenting styles and trials, or even the specific struggles that they encountered in married life. I’m sure they had arguments, differences of opinion, problems of their own. I don’t know about these things, because they never let us see them. I could be totally wrong & off-base with my description of them….but I don’t think so. Because what I do know is what I saw in their marriage, over the 23 years I witnessed them together before he passed away.  What I do know is the lasting example that they left for my own marriage.

62032_428907965875_3196156_nIn Proverbs 31, there is a description of the Virtuous Wife. The scripture says that the heart of her husband safely trusts her. She does her husband good and not evil all the days of her life. She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. As I read these descriptors (these are just a few), I couldn’t help but think of her.

She loved my grandfather like no one else. A kind of love that’s rare nowdays. She loved us all, and would have done anything on earth for us…as I’m sure most grandmothers would. But her! My grandmother served her husband like no other woman I’ve ever known. I hadn’t really thought about this until recently. The things…little things…that so many of us women grumble & complain about doing for our familes, our husbands, she did so willingly.

She rose early every single day to make sure he had all that he needed for his day. She made sure he had breakfast on the table. And lunch. And dinner. Every day. Clean, ironed clothes to wear. She managed the household, paid the bills, ran the errands. She measured out his two scoops of vanilla ice cream, and split his Coca-Cola with him because a whole can was too much. She watched wrestling, and baseball…oh, the baseball…every.single.day. Not because she liked it – she didn’t – but because he did. I never even realized how much she really didn’t care for it until after he was gone. She never complained. If you happened to be over while he was taking his bath in the afternoon time, you’d probably even hear him call for her to come rinse out his hair. Now, I know that may seem a little over-the-top to some people. But really, isn’t that what God calls us to do? Love, and serve, and help, without the grumbling, or complaining, or self-seeking. As I’m writing this even, I’m thinking of just how much I pale in comparison to the wife she was.

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is the head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.”  -Ephesians 5:22-24

She epitomized this. She submitted to him. I know, I know. This is such a controversial topic these days. But I just feel that if you could’ve seen her submit to him, you’d understand how God meant for this to be done.

He was never overbearing, or harsh, or mean. He was never loud or demanding. My grandfather was such a gentle man when it came to her. For the most part, at least from what I always saw, she did as he asked. He made it easy, I’m sure, for her to submit to him. For her to follow his lead, want to be with him and around him, move and conform to his ways. Because his ways always had her in mind.

They had such a love for each other. If she occasionally did go into the “back room” to watch her TV shows, it wouldn’t be long before one of them was asking the other to join. She watched him carefully from the kitchen window as he fished on the pond. They rode to job sites listening to Kenny Rogers, just to pass time and be with each other. They just truly enjoyed each other. You could see their love in each others’ eyes. He called her Mama, she called him Daddy. Neither one of them measured over 5 feet tall, but their love could’ve consumed the biggest person you know.

“So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” -Ephesians 5:28-31

And he loved her. Completely, and perfectly, and effortlessly. Actually, I can’t even describe the love he showed toward her as effortless, because it was even more than that. I don’t even know a word for it. It was natural, an after-thought. He just loved her, plain and simply. It was so obvious. He gave of himself freely to her. What was his, was hers. They shared everything. They did everything with the other in mind. They were one.

When people talk about marriage these days, these verses are used almost as if they are ugly words. But if y’all could’ve seen this lived in person….oh, how I wish you could’ve seen this lived in person….you’d “get it”.

Now, I don’t know how much my grandfather actually based his marriage on these verses specifically. My grandfather quit school when he was very, very young to help support his large family, and thus couldn’t read much. But regardless of whether or not he actually knew these verses…he lived them.

527995_10150645110285876_1428526438_nA few days ago, the Lord gave me a sentence that I felt was specifically intended for this post. I didn’t really understand how it was supposed to fit in until today. Wives, the Lord calls us to love our husbands like this because that’s how He first loved us!

And then, today, our pastor preached briefly on submission during his sermon. He explained that the word sub- means beneath, and mission- means assignment. So, if we as husbands and wives…and even simply as people…are practicing submission, we are surrendered to His assignment. Husbands are called to be submitted to Gods’ assignment, and wives to their husbands. It is the foundation of marriage.

In fact, we were saved by submission. Saved from our sin! Not MY will, THY will be done. Jesus prayed this as He was dying on the cross. Our Heavenly Father loved us enough to send His Son to die for us — the same Son who loved us enough to submit to His Father’s will, even to the point of death! He rested in His foundation and the power of His Father. And that same God that He rested in, raised Him from the dead!

Friends, we have to make God the foundation of our marriages. HE is the base. Husbands, seek him and rest in Him. He alone will give you the strength and provision you need for your family. Wives, you can then submit to your husbands, knowing that he is planted firmly in a foundation of the Lord. He will love you with completeness, and gentleness, and love…just as Pop loved Memaw…because God will show him how.

It’s been a lot of years now since I’ve seen their love in person. It’s easy to forget. Hard to remember. But, even as I write this, it’s something that I know I have to strive to remind myself regularly. Daily. It is the success of a marriage. It is the key. We are taught that God has given us all the answers in His word. So, why not marriage? Just because they sound old-fashioned & hard to live by? If you could’ve only seen how easy they made it look.

My husband & I got away together this weekend. We were able to talk, reminisce, and think about the future. We talked about what we want for our family. We talked about how we want to raise our boys. And we talked about this set of grandparents, and their marriage…and how, even though they’ve been gone a while now, we still want what they had.

So, today, on my 13th wedding anniversary, I’m not going to write some fluffy piece about how great my marriage is & how much trial we’ve overcome. Although those things are both true, I want to honor the marriage that made us want ours to be better. I honor their marriage today because it was what marriage should be.

Today, I will promise to love more like them. Live more like them. Do marriage more like them. And, in turn, more like God wants me to love, live, and do marriage. Because, honestly, I think they had it pretty darn close to right. Will you join me, friends?

And honey, to the most challenging, yet rewarding, 13 years I could’ve imagined….it’s been real, and tough, and exciting, and fun. But, most of all, it’s been with you. And that’s what makes it best.

Every day…but especially today…I love you more than most.

Just Be Held

I sat down today during my few minutes of “Mommy” time with the intent to make a grocery list, look up some ideas on eating better, and start organizing some things for back-to-school. And then I got the blogging urge.

To be honest, I haven’t felt very qualified to write a blog post lately. We’ve been struggling around our house. Between the (large) demands of a two- almost “threenager”, an early-stage teething baby, some significant financial stressors, and some pretty big career decisions to make, the stress level in our household has been at an all-time high. I’ll admit, there have been angry words & stressed silences. Marriage…and life in general…has been tough. 11822729_10152833335765876_9107079343337356003_n

As I was reading back over my previous blog posts the other day, I realized that I’ve been telling y’all about all the good & blessings that have come from my trials. But, what about all those times when you have trials, and you pray & pray, and you don’t get a bouncing new baby, or perfect new husband, or long awaited opportunity? What about those times when you have trials and nothing good does seem to come from it? I do have those kind too!

The stress had been high, and a week or so ago I had one of those just-walk-away moments.

I cried out to God that I just felt alone. As I said this to Him, a familiar song came on the radio. I’d heard it many times before, but it had never held the meaning for me that it did this time. It’s a song by a band called Casting Crowns, titled Just Be Held. The whole song really is wonderful & spoke to me immensely, but a particular part really smacked me in the forehead.

“So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away

You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held.

Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place

I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held.”

It was His way of answering me…I’m not alone.

And you’re not alone either, friend.

It’s true, God did answer so many of my prayers with exactly what I prayed for – I prayed many years for a baby, for a family. And I got exactly what I asked of Him. But friends, it’s not going to always work like that! Not for you, and not for me either.

I did have babies. My prayer was answered. But you know what else? I have other prayers that have been answered with a No. I have other prayers that I’m still waiting to be answered. Does it mean that I’m going to lose my faith in God? No! Does it mean that I’ve done something wrong, or that He loves me less? Absolutely not. Does it mean that He’s telling me no because He has something different in store for me? Probably so.

See friends, sometimes we tend to get controlling & pushy when we aren’t getting our way. I know I do. My ugly comes out. If something isn’t going the way I want, I’ll just go all “threenager” on it, and try to make it go my way…. y’all tell me I’m not alone here!

And then, when things don’t just conform to the way I think they should go, I get mad. Or upset. Or both. I may or may not start cranking up my pity party. I feel alone… because surely if God hasn’t given me what I want, He must not be there with me at all!

But friends, when things don’t go your way, it doesn’t mean your alone at all.

Maybe it means God has gone before you, making your pathways straight for the next big thing.

Maybe it means He’s trying to open your eyes to new things, new possibilities that you may not have considered before.

Maybe it means He wants you to wait patiently and just be held.

Sometimes I have to give myself a reality check. We are God’s children. And just like I love to hold my sweet 5 month old baby & listen to him breathe – just like I love to curl in that tiny little toddler bed and get snuggles from my big boy – God loves to hold us too.

He sees us like we see our children.

And if you don’t have children, it doesn’t mean this doesn’t apply to you! Just like the niece or nephew that you stared at, amazed at their perfect little cheeks and lips – just like the sweet little puppy that curled up on your feet & let out that quick little sigh of contentment  – just like the comfort you feel being back at “home” with a parent or grandparent. That feeling of love & peace & perfection – that’s how He sees us.

He loves us. Really & truly & deeply. And He only wants what’s best for us. At all times, all day, every day. So when your prayer isn’t answered and you’re on your knees and everything seems far away – when you feel alone – know He’s there. And just because His answer doesn’t look like what you had in your head, all planned out & perfect, it doesn’t mean He isn’t answering.

Hold me, God. Just hold me.

Your tears are not wasted, friend! Let yourself just be held.

PS- I’ll be reading this to myself later.

“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear.” -Isaiah 59:1

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The Answered Prayer

Tonight, I watched as my little boy ran across the street to share his big bag of marshmallows, fresh from the grocery store, with the neighbor he so loves. I listened to my husband tell him about a dozen times not to jump on the couch near his baby brother, as he halfheartedly listened to Dads’ instruction. I sat in my living room & witnessed a marshmallow fight with my coffee table and dining room chair as forts. I laughed as he screamed because my husband & I were snuggling on the couch, and tried emphatically to physically move his Daddy away from me.

When he finally settled down, we joked about how for years we sat quietly & peacefully on the couch, watching our TV shows, wishing we had kids to fill the silence. And now, here we are, wishing for just a couple minutes of silence from the loudness & chaos & screaming….all the while knowing we wouldn’t trade it for the world.

And during this time, it got me to thinking about my sweet little big boy. The one that God gave me to remind me that He still answers prayers.

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He was such a blessing, even from the start. Even before we knew he existed, when the money to fund our adoption seemed to fall out of thin air-  straight from an inheritance that wouldn’t even be duly mine for almost 3 more years. We’d talked about adopting, met with an agency even, but had decided that it just wasn’t in the budget for a couple middle-class twenty-somethings with mediocre savings. Then a family member, unknowing we’d even considered adoption, came along with a fairly substantial sum of money. Not enough to fund an agency adoption, but enough to fund a private adoption. It would be almost a year before we knew why God presented us with that money.

Blessings even from the very first phone call that posed the question, “Leslie, Amy is pregnant. We were wondering if you & JW would consider adopting the baby?”  What she didn’t know is that I’d prayed for this. Specifically for this. In a community of babies that were seeming to appear out of nowhere for well-deserving couples to adopt, I’d so jealously told my husband that I didn’t understand why that couldn’t happen for us- why wouldn’t a baby just fall into our laps, so to speak? It was pure, ugly sin talking. And then, months and months later, came that early-morning, out-of-the-blue phone call that would change our lives.

Blessings even from how the details of how our adoption fell into place. I didn’t have the first clue how to piece together an adoption myself, without locating & receiving placement through an adoption agency. Did we start with an attorney? Could we pass a home study, living paycheck to paycheck in a 2 bedroom apartment? I literally Googled an attorney, which led me straight to someone in the state where he would be born. It only took a few phone calls to have all my “ducks in a row”, and we were miraculously on the right path.

Even from the grace extended to me by his birth mother in the moments of his birth. She labored, felt the pain both physically and emotionally, and gave birth to this perfect baby boy. And in that moment, she let me hold him first – the baby that she would give to me to raise. She was the only other woman in the world that possibly loved him as much as I did at that moment, and even her smallest acts were selfless. Words can’t even describe the admiration I have for her.

What Bryce’s birth story has taught me is that God is good. He does answer prayer. Although not always executed in the way in which we expect, He answers. If you’d told me 8 years ago that I’d be an adoptive parent, I may have laughed at you. Heartily. I would’ve never expected that adoption would be the avenue God would choose to bring me a child. But I can tell you so surely now, that He chose that avenue because Bryce was meant to be a part of our family. Not just any baby. Bryce.

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I had so many questions. So many emotions, in the days leading up to and following our adoption.  What would it be like, when he was born? Seeing him for the first time. Loving him in person. Knowing that no signatures had been signed, no paperwork drawn up. Loving another woman’s baby, waiting for him to become mine. Would be look like her? Would he be attached to her? Would he cry for her?

After he was born, I remember wondering how she could do it. Not in a mean, “How can you give up your baby?” sort of  way. In a “How can one person possibly exude that much courage?” sort of way. She had to be the strongest person I knew. The emotions she must have felt are completely foreign to me, but the sentiment is most definitely not lost on me. I remember wondering what I’d done to ever deserve for her to give me this child.

Friends, as much of a pure blessing as Bryce was, and is, to our lives….so is Amy. She gave us an unimaginable gift. The most generous gift I could ever dream. She entrusted us to raise her child.

See, before he was mine, he was hers. Yes, it hurts a little to think about it. It hurt me so deeply to know that in order for me to have my happy ending, she had to experience so much pain and loss. I cried so many nights, thinking about her impossible situation. It’s such a hard emotion to explain – I could never, ever blame her for wanting to keep him. I truly, truly would have understood. Even though, if she decided to do so, it would have torn my world apart.

How was it fair that Gods’ blessing to my life was such a sacrifice to hers?

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And then, we experienced His blessing and grace again on March 25, 2013, when we nervously stood in a courtroom as a judge declared Bryce officially and legally ours. Our sole responsibility, entitled to everything that we have, and as if he’d been born naturally to us. Naturally. To us! We wept in the courtroom. We felt His answer to our prayers.

He is spunky, and fun. He isn’t scared of much of anything. He is tough, and stubborn. He is tender-hearted, and so caring. He is outgoing, and talks non-stop. He loves Jesus, and wants “everybody to go to heaven”. He is smart, and so wise for his age. He likes tractors and airplanes, and wants to be a dinosaur. He is two-going-on-ten. He is the little love of my life.

As an adoptive mother, I think I will always carry a degree of wonder with me. What would his life be like, if he was with her? What kind of mother would she be? What would my life look like today? Would I have no kids, instead of two? How old will he be, when he asks to see her? What kind of relationship will they have? What about him is most like her?

See friends, adoption is so much more than just a way to parenthood. It is a lifelong commitment to ride an emotional rollercoaster. A lifelong commitment to intertwine your heart with someone else. I will always have a piece of her heart, and she will always have a place in mine. No matter how little or how often we talk, no matter whether we communicate daily or not at all, we are connected by him – and by Him.

God had a plan for Amy’s life, just like He had a plan for Bryce’s life. And for mine. And for JW’s. And even for Sam’s. Bryce & Sam were meant to be brothers. JW & I were meant to raise him. Not because we are special, or better, or more “fit” parents. That’s not it at all.

11698540_10152781266185876_220896220121655618_nBryce needed to be with us, in order to be in the place that God needed him… in order to be used for God’s glory. He was meant to be a part of our family.

For Bryce to be who God meant him to be, he needed a part of Amy. Maybe it was her fun charm. Maybe it was her outgoing personality. Maybe it was her DNA.

For Amy to get to the place that she needed to be, she needed his story to be part of her life. I don’t know the specifics of her story. I do know that many people, myself included, had prayed for her to experience a breakthrough moment in her life and situation – even before Bryce existed. Maybe God answered those prayers inadvertently through the birth, and giving up, of her baby boy. Maybe…. What I do know is that today, she is in a good place. And I believe wholeheartedly that it’s a place that she may not have made it, had things been different.

For us to learn of God’s complete grace and glory, to be reminded of His goodness, we needed to be given this child. We needed to see prayer answered tangibly. We needed to feel a certain obligation to raise him with the Lord. We needed him to complete us.

We all needed each other, in order for God to work all things together for His good. He answered many prayers, prayed over many years, in one big way on September 23rd.

Friends, it’s not about how badly you want a baby. It’s not even about what a wonderful mother you’d be. Sure, this is true. God did create us to be mothers. To love & nurture. To have olive plants around our table. To have our quiver full of arrows. But ladies, He created us to be Mommy in HIS time. untitled

If you’re considering adopting, there’s an Amy out there that needs to learn something from Him, as much as you need to learn something from her and her unborn child. There are many unanswered prayers waiting to be answered intricately in your one situation. In.due.time.

“If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.” Habakkuk 2:3 (NLT)

Sams’ Story

3 am. That’s what time my phone rang on January 14, 2014.

In my experience, it’s never really a good thing when your phone rings in the wee hours of the morning. This was no exception. “Leslie, you need to get to the hospital. I’m on my way.” The feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach is one that I probably will never forget. And the hours that followed are some that I know I will never forget.

I threw on the first clothes I saw. Half of my outfit was from the dirty clothes basket, un-freshened, un-ironed. I threw a couple quick essentials, like mascara and a toothbrush, in a little cosmetic bag. Middle of the night phone calls never lend well to coming right back home to get freshened up and ready for the day. My lips barely even brushed my husbands’ as I hurriedly kissed him goodbye. My sweet, perfect baby boy was sleeping peacefully down the hall, without a care in the world, unaware that my entire world was about to fall apart.

I’m not a law-breaker. I’m not even a rule-breaker. But I ran 2 red lights that morning. I cried angrily at other drivers that got in my way- why were they out at 3am anyways? And still, I didn’t make it in time to tell her goodbye. I remember my words to God as I frantically dodged around cars & sped through traffic lights. “God, don’t do this to me now. I can’t take this right now. I can’t take any more.” Honestly, I’m crying right now as I write those words again because they still hold so much weight for me. I was broken. Completely, utterly, unimaginably broken.

Margaret Garcia went home to be with her Savior at 3:26 am on January 14, 2014. It was one of those moments in time that would change my life forever.10400522_105169050875_7956877_n

You see friend, before I even received that phone call, my heart was already broken. About 14 hours prior to that call, I had been anxiously waiting, lying on an ultrasound table. My husband sat expectantly behind my left shoulder, and we were so hesitantly excited. The heartbeat was perfect. The amniotic sac was perfectly shaped. Arms & legs were forming. The baby had grown just on track for the last 10 weeks, and we were ready to hear how close we were to being out of the first trimester. And then the little black & white image appeared on the screen, and we knew. We’d been around this block a time or two….or eight times, to be exact. If given the opportunity & free-range of the ultrasound room, we probably could’ve performed the test ourselves. We knew what the little flicker of a heartbeat looked like on that big, black & white screen. And that day, on January 13, 2014, for the 8th time, the flicker was gone.

In less than 15 hours time, I had lost the newest & oldest person in my life.

You see, my husband & I were extremely close to my grandparents. They were parental figures to us. We’d lost my grandfather several years before, and the loss of her rocked us to our core. The timing couldn’t have been worse. The pain couldn’t have been deeper. We were just broken.

Still, it was just a first-trimester pregnancy, you’ll say. And, technically you’d be right. But friends, let me tell you something about pregnancy loss. Specifically recurrent pregnancy loss. It changes you. It breaks you. It makes you a new person, a different person.

Let me pause for a moment here…

Are you a parent? If so, I’m going to ask you to go on a little journey with me now down memory lane. Do you remember when you first saw those two little pink lines? Do you remember how anxious & scared & excited you were when you told your husband that you were going to be parents? Do you remember planning a cute, creative way to tell him? Do you remember the thrill, after the shock wore off? Do you remember dreaming of how you’d tell your parents? Your friends? Do you remember dreaming about the little person starting to form inside you? We know those feelings too.

Then, do you remember how anxious you were, waiting on your first doctor appointment? The unexplainable feeling of sheer, unmatched joy you had when you heard that little thump-thump of a heartbeat? The love you felt when you looked at your husband & saw his face as he watched his little dot of a baby up on that screen? Is that when it sunk in for you, like for me, that there’s a person growing inside of you now? We know those feelings too.

Do you remember how strange you felt, as your body started changing? Your sore breasts? Your weird cravings? The crying because someone looked at you wrong? The tiredness that only a pregnant woman will ever understand? I know those feelings too.

But let me tell you about some feelings that you may not know about. Here’s where our journey down memory lane ends. For you, at least. These are feelings that you can’t know, can’t understand, unless you’ve been down the road of pregnancy loss.

Do you know the feeling of hesitancy when you see those 2 little pink lines – fear where there should be excitement? Do you know what it feels like to question yourself, whether or not you should tell anyone that you’re pregnant – just in case this time isn’t any different than the last? Do you know what it’s like to keep yourself up at night worrying over whether or not you took your medicines at the exact same times as yesterday? Do you know what it’s like to agonize over a decision of whether or not to take medications that doctors say will help your baby, but that you feel in your heart will not?  Do you know what it’s like to hold your breath as they prep the ultrasound machine, not knowing what to expect this time? Do you know what it’s like to breathe a sigh of relief when you see that tiny little flicker on the screen, and let yourself for a quick little minute get excited about this person inside of you? Do you know what it’s like to feel complete emptiness when that flicker just disappears the next week? Do you know what it’s like to see the disappointment in your husbands eyes when they say there’s no longer a heartbeat? Do you know what it feels like to think you’ve failed him completely? I do.

We buried my grandmother on a Thursday. On Friday, I had a procedure to “remove” my pregnancy, to remove my baby from my body. By Saturday, I was physically, emotionally, and spiritually drained. Sunday came & went. We sat in bed that Sunday night, and we were lost. We talked about my grandmother. We talked about our babies, all 8 of them. We imagined her up there in heaven, playing with each of them. We even envied her a little. We cried. We talked about our future, and whether or not we would try again. And then my husband said possibly the most pivotal words of our marriage thus far.

“Leslie, we need to find a church. I’m starting to question things that I shouldn’t be questioning. I’m starting to doubt God. I don’t want to, but I don’t know what to do.”

I’d been telling him for months that we needed to find a church home. I felt guilty. God had undoubtedly given us a gift in the adoption of our Bryce, and we weren’t even raising him to know God! But we’d been lazy. We’d lived in this city for about 3 years, and we’d tried out many churches around town. But none had felt like home. Sadly, none had kept us coming back for more.  We decided right then and there that we would try out a church the following weekend. And that, my friends, changed our entire world.

I’ll try to keep this simple, since my post is already getting long. But when we walked through the doors of our now church home, we knew. Just like we knew that there was no heartbeat on that ultrasound screen, we knew this was where we were supposed to be. And through this church, we learned about God in a way that we’d never known before. We learned to talk to God like we never had before. We learned to claim His promises, His word, over our life. We learned to have a relationship with Him.

We’d attended church. I’d attended church my entire life. I’d done youth groups, and VBS, and church camp. We even taught Sunday School at one point.  I’d felt God move in a room before. I knew His presence. But our relationship with God had never been anything compared to what it became after God found us, and drew us back to Him, at Word of God Ministries.

Now flash-back to that last pregnancy, our eighth loss. When I’m pregnant, it’s a big deal. There are weekly doctor visits, weekly ultrasounds, many medications, blood tests, daily self-administered injections. The whole nine yards. I see my regular Ob-Gyn, as well as maternal-fetal medicine specialists for my high-risk pregnancies. During one of these visits, the specialist had mentioned that he intended to request my medical records from the fertility specialist that we had consulted with several years ago. That had been a whole other ballgame, back after my 3rd miscarriage. They’d run every test under the sun to try to find out why I couldn’t carry a baby to term. They’d done blood-work to make sure we were a chromosomal match, checked my husband’s sperm count, checked my fallopian tubes for blockages. The list goes on. The only thing they’d found was a borderline positive for a condition called Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome, which basically means that my blood clots too much. Our high-risk doctor wanted to review all of these test results, just to be sure nothing had been overlooked. Otherwise, my losses were basically unexplainable.

Fast-forward to present again. The more we came into our relationship with God, the more we started thinking about those test results. Did the doctor ever review them? What did he find? We’d miscarried before we ever got the chance to go back and discuss his findings with him. So I made an appointment.

His findings? Nothing. I did have the blood clotting condition, and that was the only thing, after scouring my records, that he could find wrong with me. He agreed with every other doctor that the only thing that was going to give me a successful pregnancy was to continue injecting a blood thinner every day in any future pregnancies. And, even then, the reality was that our chances were slim to none.

I was prepared for the news. Albeit disappointed, but prepared. I’d done my homework, y’all. After 8 miscarriages, the chances of me ever having a successful pregnancy were somewhere in the neighborhood of less than 5%.

So, we asked the dreaded question. We explained to him that we’d come into a new relationship with our Lord. We had a fresh perspective. And we thought we had one more good, valiant effort in us. Then, we were done. Drained. DONE.

Should we try again, and can we do it with out the medicine this time?

His response was nothing short of the Lord speaking to us through him. “You can definitely try. Medically speaking, it will never work without the blood thinner. You have this condition, and all the medical evidence shows that you need it. But, I’m a Christian. And I do believe that God can do things that we can’t explain.”

Our decision was made. Two months later, I was pregnant.

There was no excitement, or sweet surprise reveal of a positive pregnancy test to my loving husband. I walked into the bathroom, sat (or maybe slammed) it down on the counter in front of him, and we exchanged a look of fear. Then I called the doctor.

It’s a funny thing, really, when you’ve had multiple pregnancy losses. Normally, when a woman finds out she’s pregnant, there’s a couple weeks time before the doctor wants to see her in the office. They want to wait until around 6-7 weeks, to be sure everything is going smoothly & there will be a heartbeat for your first scan. Me? I’m the exception. They can’t get me to that ultrasound table fast enough. So, when I call the doctors office to tell them I’m newly pregnant & need to make an appointment, there’s always a moment of explaining that has to take place.

“Yes, I’m Leslie Brookshire. I just had a positive pregnancy test & need to make an appointment please.”

“Ok, how far along are you?”

“Probably about 4 weeks.”

“Oh ok, we don’t schedule your first visit until you’re at least 6 to 7 weeks.”

“Yes ma’am, I know. But I’ve had 8 miscarriages, and she normally wants to see me right away. Could you just check with her, please?”

Y’all, the doctors all said the same thing. There’s no way this pregnancy would survive without blood thinners. They offered to alter my dosage, but strongly discouraged me to forego those injections altogether. They explained to me again, in depth, the reason why I needed them. A small blood clot can pass through my body, my veins, and never really affect anything. People live with this condition all the time and never know it. But, when a baby is forming in the womb, their veins and arteries are so small, even the tiniest clot can cause a blockage. Brain damage. A heart to stop beating. And yet, we still felt that small voice telling us not to do it.

It’s hard to go against doctors wishes. Especially when that doctor has been to hell and back with you. Especially when that doctor has celebrated with you through every successful ultrasound, and cried with you through every loss. You know she cares, and you truly feel like she knows what’s best.

But guess what, friends? God always knows what’s best.

I went back & forth on my decision for 2 weeks. The doctors couldn’t be wrong, could they? The studies don’t lie. No one I’d seen on the Facebook chat groups or APS message boards had ever gone injection-less. How could I, as that baby’s mother, withhold a medication that could save its’ life? HOW COULD I DO THAT?! And then, as I was randomly reading a book one night that I’d started months before, I came across two verses. They were on the same page, one after another. Written perfectly for my understanding. They were in translations of the Bible that I do not typically read, and thus worded in a way that I may not have otherwise understood….but that I now couldn’t ignore.

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will set aside the understanding of the experts.” -1 Corinthians 1:19 (HCSB)

“This is why the fulfillment of God’s promise depends entirely on trusting God and His way, and then simply embracing Him and what He does. God’s promise arrives as a pure gift.” Romans 4:16 (The Message)

Just like that. Powerful and spoken straight to my heart from God’s mouth. Set aside the understanding of the experts – the doctors. The fulfillment of His promise depends on my trusting Him, embracing Him. This baby would be His pure gift to me. I could not ignore it. I couldn’t take that medicine. God was telling me as clearly as He knew how that I needed to trust Him, and HIM alone.

So we prayed. Every morning. Every night. Every time we breathed, it seemed. We prayed for fullness, and wholeness, and blood that would flow freely & smoothly from my body to his.

And one morning, as I was getting ready to go to a moms’ breakfast at my toddlers pre-k, I got the shock that I’d been dreading. I knew there would be blood before I even made it to the restroom. I cried uncontrollably. I called my husband, told him to come home. Then I called the doctor & made my appointment. I was lost again, and I didn’t know where else to turn. Hadn’t God been hearing my prayers? If I speak it over my life, He’s supposed to listen. Right?

So my little boy & I sat down, cross-legged, right in the middle of the living room floor, and we did the only thing I could imagine to do – we prayed. We prayed for the bleeding to stop. We prayed for the blood in my body to continue to flow freely & smoothly to his. We prayed for him to be born healthy and at term.. We claimed Malachi 3:11 over my body, over that baby.

“And I will rebuke the devourer for your sake, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts.” Malachi 3:11

And friends, the ultrasound that day showed a perfect little baby with a heart happily pumping away.10933883_10152443186045876_5853890963099997158_n

I will not go into depth or detail of my pregnancy, but I will tell you that it was uneventful and successful. My fruit did not cast from my body before it’s time, because my God promised me it wouldn’t!

Samuel Amos Brookshire was born on March 10, 2015 at 7:45 am, healthy, perfect, and only 3 weeks premature. Every test performed on him was passed with flying colors. He spent only 3 days in the hospital, and never saw the inside of a NICU.

He was named after Hannah’s son, Samuel, in the Bible – the son she’d prayed for & promised to God. He was also named after my grandmother, who changed our life even after her death. And as our dear friend and associate pastor pointed out, even in the most meticulous little detail of his birth date (3/10), God made us a promise for Sams’ life.

“Now the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel answered, “Speak, for Your servant hears.”   -1 Samuel 3:10

Friends, I know this post has been long. And I will tell you that I could’ve gone into so much more detail about Sams’ story and the Lords’ handiwork in it. But I tell you this as a story of hope.

Nothing we could’ve done would have brought that baby into this world. God did it. He had a plan for my life, for Sams’ birth and life, to bring Him the ultimate glory. Ultimate glory.

If the road hadn’t been so rocky, we wouldn’t have given Him all the glory when He made it smooth!!

Tonight, as I sat in our Wednesday evening church service and listened to our associate pastor speak on being emptied of self and filled with the Spirit of Jesus Christ, I heard God tell me this.

Leslie, there’s someone out there that’s angry. And they need to hear what you have to say – What I have to say through you.

Friends, I know how easy it is to be angry at the Lord. We were there! I’ve walked in the shoes of confusion. I’ve questioned how this could ever be a part of God’s plan. I’ve questioned whether God even really had a plan for me at all. I’ve been SO angry at God for taking away what seemed like everything from me. With every pitying look from friends, with every hurt look in my husband’s eyes, I blamed God.

But you know what?

He forgave me for all that anger, and hurt, and doubt. He forgave me before I even knew I felt it. And then He showed me just how perfect His plan for me could be.

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You see, after we finalized the adoption of my oldest son, I thought that this was God’s plan for me. He wanted me to be Bryce’s mommy, and that was why He’d had us wait all those years for a baby. Because He had the perfect baby for us in Bryce! And I know that this is 100% true.

However, after Sam was born, it became crystal-clear to me. Bryce was a gift! He was God saying “You waited patiently my child, here is the one you’ve longed for”. He’s the icing….little did we know, our cake was still coming. But Sam? He’s the one to teach me something. He’s the one that couldn’t be. He’s the one to bring glory to God’s name through this story.

God’s plan never really looks like the plan we have in our head.  But He does have a plan. He had one for me, and He has one for you. I say that to you as surely as there are stars in the sky.

God had taken so much away from us, not to punish us, but to show us how much we really needed Him!

You can’t rush His timing…Because it’s perfect! Perfect for you, perfect for your place in life, perfect for giving Him the ultimate glory. Give Him time, and He’ll show you just how perfect.

“And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

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For Better and Worse

It was almost a year ago that he was conceived. The “miracle baby”. The one that “stuck”, as people often say in the world of fertility. Even at his conception, he was met with anxiousness and excitement and hesitation, all bundled up into one emotion.

And the stories of my two boys….the losses, the hopes, the prayers, and the tears…is a story that I do plan to tell you one day.

But today, friends, as I think about Father’s Day coming up and what a downright amazing father my husband has become, I want to tell you about our road to get there. The  bumpy, winding, seemingly never-ending road of want. Of longing. Of a marriage put through the wringer. Of a marriage now stronger than I ever could have imagined. Of a father who deserves his honor this Father’s Day.

We married young. I was 19, and he was 20. We were babies, looking back now. But back then, we thought we had it all figured out. College, jobs, house, cars, babies…life. We had a plan and we thought nothing would stand in our way. He got a job, and I finished college. We bought a house. We traveled, and experienced new things together, and we lived life.

I remember, even back then, knowing what a great Daddy he’d be one day. He loved kids, and they loved him. He wanted babies from the minute we said, “I do.” I was always the cautious one, the planner. I wanted to wait until we had it all worked out – until we had more time, more money, more life under our belts. 298216_10150311189240876_931050993_n Then, good ‘ol life started the journey without us, and strapped us in along for the ride.

I can remember the first time like it was yesterday. I’d had a minor surgical procedure the month before, and had taken a test as standard precaution prior to the procedure. It was negative, of course. You don’t get pregnant when you’re not trying, right? That’s what my naïve, barely 24-year-old self thought anyways.

I remember the phone call, the nurse asking me those six little words that would pretty much change my life.

“Have you taken a pregnancy test?”

I remember his words to me, “A pregnancy test?!”. I remember how scared we were. I’d been bleeding for weeks, and little did I know, I had already lost our first baby earlier that day.

I remember driving to the hospital. We had so many emotions running through us that we were both shaking. I remember knowing how hard he was trying to be strong for me. Were we excited? Sad? Scared? Nervous? What were we supposed to be?

I remember the exam in that cold, drab Emergency Room. The doctor who wasn’t my own examining me with rough, cold hands, and telling me that our baby was already gone.

I remember the look on my sweet husband’s face. The sadness, the disappointment. The Loss. I even remember the hope we felt, as we explained to our families of our loss, and that we planned to try again right away. It wasn’t what we’d planned, but it had stirred a want inside of us. And now, we were ready to be parents.

Except, God had a different plan.

130904025408-dnt-ks-selling-pregnancy-tests-00005517-story-top The second time I remember even more clearly than the first. We had no trouble becoming pregnant, and anxiously waited those few weeks for our first doctor appointment.

I remember the look on his face when we heard that sweet, innocent little heartbeat for the first time. Y’all! I remember the tears of joy. I didn’t think I’d ever seen him so happy. If anybody in the world could’ve been happier than I was in that moment, it was him. And in that moment, my life felt perfect. I knew what pure joy felt like. We told everyone we knew. Cloud Nine was about 50 feet below us.

I remember the look on her face, the ultrasound tech that performed our next baby check. I remember the silence, and the confusion my husband & I exchanged between glances when she told us that she’d have to get the doctor to step in on this scan. I remember the raw, pure empathy in the doctor’s voice when she told us that the heartbeat was gone. And I remember, again, knowing how hard he was trying to be strong for me.

I remember the look on his face this second time…the sadness, the disappointment. The Ache.

It makes me cry even now, even though now I know how our story will end.

Y’all, he wanted kids so badly. SO BADLY. I wanted them too, but he truly longed for them. He ached for a baby of his own, a little buddy to play ball and take fishing. You could see it in his face, in his eyes every time he saw our friends with their kids.

I hurt because he’d chosen me…the one girl who couldn’t give him what he truly wanted.

He was such a saint, in a saint-less kind-of way. I told him (on more than one occasion) that I would understand…I wouldn’t blame him…if he wanted to find someone else. Someone who could carry a baby. Someone who wasn’t a failure. He assured me every single time that I was his girl. I was the only one he wanted, and that if we couldn’t have kids together, we wouldn’t have kids at all. He told me how much he loved me, and how sure he was that he’d picked the right girl back in 11th grade. But how could that be? I just could not wrap my brain around that.

But, his emotions often told a different story. He was angry. His temper would get the best of him sometimes. He said things to hurt my heart, just because he could. So did I.  I was selfish and inconsiderate. I thought only of myself.  I thought he should feel more, hurt more. And in reality, he was hurting. We hurt in different ways.

And with every baby, with every loss, it got harder. The pain got deeper. The communication got tougher. But we got stronger. 40937_418395300875_797226_n Infertility, miscarriage and pregnancy loss have a way of doing that to a marriage. They will pick up a perfectly healthy marriage, twist it until every ounce of good is dripping out of it, and throw it away like yesterday’s news. Oh, how HARD it was back then! We didn’t know how to recognize each other’s pain. We didn’t know how to support each other in our search for patience. We didn’t know how to communicate our needs, and his anger and my self-pity created a trench in our marriage the size of the Grand Canyon.

But you know what, friends? He didn’t give up on me. We didn’t give up on each other.

“So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”  -Matthew19:6

We will be the first to tell you that our marriage has not always been the most Godly example. We are far, far from perfect.  And I’m not saying that we have it all together now. But we know the One who was perfection. We’ve heard His word. We said our vows before Him.

And I will venture to speak for my husband as well when I say that we have kept this verse, or at least the premise of it, at the heart of our marriage all these years.

We didn’t give up on what God joined together. We JUST didn’t see that as an option.

And this Sunday, we will celebrate so much more than his first Father’s Day as a father of two. Or at least I will. I’ll be celebrating him. The man who loved me when I felt unlovable. The man who longed for these babies. The man who stood in that court room and cried like a baby as he promised to take “B” as his very own flesh and blood. The man with the pride of the world in his eyes when he showed me “S” for the very first time, so thankful for the life that we created. The man who promised me, all those years ago, that I was his girl.  The man who stuck by me through thick and thin. Better and worse.

Isn’t that what our vows say, guys? For better or for worse.  Even when worse means painful words, or longing hearts, or babies being loved on by Jesus today.

Happy Father’s Day to my baby’s daddy. You deserve every last dirty-handed hug & sloppy wet kiss.

Happy Father’s Day to all the father’s out there. Even the ones right smack-dab in the midst of “worse”.Brookeshire-10

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” -Proverbs 3:5-6

Seek Your Peace

image2Life is hectic and crazy sometimes. Ok, let’s just be honest….life is mass chaos.

There are those moments (lately they come more often than not) when you just want to curl up in the very far corner of your closet and hide. In fact, I had one of those moments yesterday. There I was, hiding on the other side of the bed. On the floor. Crouched and avoiding eye contact with the toddler.

The baby, mid-growth spurt and hungry, had been crying uncontrollably for what seemed like the entire day. And then, right in the middle of my frantic search for the 2 year olds’ juice cup (which was conveniently irreplaceable by any other juice cup on the planet), I discovered the poop in the closet.

My body slumped to the floor and tears stung my eyes. Not because we were experiencing a potty-training relapse…although that didn’t help my condition. And not even because I knew I had to clean it up. I cried because I was tired.   T.I.R.E.D.   The kind of tired that no “Honey, I’ll do the dishes tonight” would help. Tired as in sheer mental exhaustion.

I needed to quiet my mind. I needed a Mommy Time-Out. Except when you’re the Mommy-On-Duty, there is no time-out. Just about the time you’re pretty sure you’ve solved all the toddler-drama in the world, the baby is hungry. Or dirty. Or just plain mad because he woke up without a pacifier. And so it begins again.

And in this moment, hiding behind my bed, it comes to my mind — didn’t God tell us in Matthew to come to Him when we are weary and heavy-laden, and He will give us rest? I know He did.

And God…I do come to You. I come every morning, emptying to You my transgressions, sharing with You my thankfulness, asking of You requests for health or guidance or peace.

Where is my rest, God?

But just as His word instructs us to come to Him in Matthew 11:28, it also instructs us that we must actively seek our peace.

“Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it.” -Psalm 34:14

Have I been seeking peace? Or have I just been stringing my words & hopes together in my conversation with the Lord, and waiting for Him to hand me my peace all wrapped up in paper with a big, pretty bow? Friends, we cannot expect from God if we aren’t willing to give to Him.

Seek peace. Pursue it.

Just sit on those thoughts for a minute. Sure, He’s our heavenly Father. Sure, He loves us beyond imagination. But, He also wants us to seek Him. To fellowship with Him. To trust Him. To pursue Him.

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”  -Isaiah 26:3

Today, I came to the park on my lunch break. I spread out my sandwich alongside my Bible and my notebook, and I trusted that God would show me the peace that I so longed for. I took a step.

I actively pursued it, and Him.

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I sought my peace, and I found it. The dogs stopped barking, a cool breeze blew through, and I felt God showing me how much He loves me. “Come to Me, my child” . . .

And I prayed. I prayed that God would show me how to find my peace – THIS peace – in my home life, in the every day and the mundane. And now, I will pursue it, and trust that He will provide. I know He will, because His word tells me so.

“The peace of Christ must control your hearts – a peace into which you were called in one body. And be thankful people.”  -Colossians 3:15