This Girl

This girl –

She turned 11 yesterday.

Kayla is 11!

It was a beautiful day celebrating this beautiful girl.

Her smiles and love and tender heart.

Her joy and fun and creativity.

The way she adores her friends, cares for animals, cherishes her family, and loves God.

She has this quiet strength, amazing perseverance, and glorious way of lighting up the room.

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at the zoo

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fun day at the zoo

Kayla and bear

my girl and me

zoo fun

There are so many things I adore about this girl, but two have wrapped themselves so tightly around my heart that I can barely breathe when I think about them.

How she knocks on the door late at night to snuggle and giggle and talk of all the things going on in her heart.

And how God never ceases to use her to bring joy in the sorrow. Always. From the time she was a babe, as she saw the tears when no one else did – right up to her special day, when her birthday looked a whole lot different because of this mama’s doctors appointments. She just keeps bringing smiles in the grief.

Oh, I love this girl.

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Happy 11th Birthday, Kayla Ann!
You will always and forever be a glorious reminder that God is good – and brings joy to the hurting.
We love you deeply!

Joy and Sorrow

I’m this splattered puddle of emotions today.

There’s this sweet surprise of joy found right here squished between scrubbing bathroom floors and shaking whipping cream to concoct this buttery science experiment.

And there’s this ache of missing my daddy that – after eleven years – I know will always be here in the way her dazzling eyes light up the the room, in his dimpled smile, in them growing and laughing and changing, and in the simple watching-out-the-window moments of my days.

There are more tears and more smiles than I thought there would be as I remember…

It’s been eleven years – forever ago and just yesterday all wrapped into one.

And the memories are all faded and jumbled.

But I remember my tummy. How the knots squeezed tight on my belly swollen so round that I couldn’t see over or around or through.

And two babes toddled at my feet as I inhaled and exhaled the pain.

Five minutes and I felt the contractions deep once again – searing as I tried to play a game of peek-a-boo.

Breathe. Just breathe.

And I didn’t know that the pain was only beginning.

That hours later – after coming home from the doctor with baby’s arrival no longer imminent – my heart would shatter right there on the bare floor.

That snarled hair would wipe tears that I couldn’t even cry as I cradled the babe inside of me.

I had hoped for new life that day and the sweetness of birth – instead I faced the death of my daddy.

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Phone calls and cards and I couldn’t even talk. And flowers and gas money and meals poured in. Was I suppose to be crying more?

People tell you that everyone grieves differently, but when you’re in the middle of heart-wrenching grief, you feel as if you’re doing it all wrong.

One day later and this check of money comes in the mail from this man I just lost. No note. No “I love you” in the memo. I’m not sure whether to spend it, rip it up, or frame it and his all-capital-letter-handwriting forever.

Suitcases packed. Pictures found. Hundreds of miles traveled with two tiny toddlers and feeling those contractions hard and tight with clenched fists and a lip bitten raw every three minutes.

A hand reached over to grasp my own, wondering if we needed to find a hospital or pull the car over to have this baby right there on the side of the road.

Breathe. Just breathe.

And pray long and deep.

And it was like God came and rested His hand on my aching belly.

A miracle that I could still feel her sweet kicks as her little body enwrapped in mine, but could no longer feel the pains of contracting.

Through funeral arrangements and picture boards and sleepless nights and so much remembering.

Through Dairy Queen runs with tear-stained eyes and two pig-tailed girls bringing joy to everyone.

Through agonizing good-byes. Through longing for more. More time. More talks. More precious memories.

I felt His strength and I felt His peace to keep going even when it hurt to breathe.

Still hours from home with little ones finally tucked snuggly in bed – me and my scar stretched to fit a basketball belly scrambled up on top of the toilet frantically knocking on the wall beside me. I tried to get away from the tiny black mouse trying to make my acquaintance in the night.

And did I know that everyone in the next room thought I was in labor as they came running?

Breathe. Just breathe.

It felt good to smile. Even over a mouse.

And I couldn’t go back, but God came in the beautiful ugly. As God comes to us in all moments.

Kayla just born

In empty hearts and death aching. And a newborn’s cries and love unending.

In a baby who saw my tears when no one else did. Who gave me smiles when I wasn’t sure I could breathe again.

Inhaling and exhaling God in each moment.

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Today tears trickle down for the eleven years and for the memories that will last a lifetime.

And my ten days shy of being eleven years old daughter, with eyes so much like her Papa’s, peeks her head in and smiles at me and hugs me long.

And the sun is shining, and there is beauty, and there is joy in the oh, so murky.

The Day My Boy Turned Nine

The Day My Son Turned Nine

It’s been nine years of this crazy adventure of raising a little man. Nine years of courage and passion, joy and strength. And my heart swells looking upon the man God is growing this now nine-year-old of mine to be. Oh, Isaiah Gabriel, our lives are so much richer and more glorious because of you. […]

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On Your 12th Birthday

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A dozen years since that day in the hospital when our worlds changed forever. These two tiny, precious babes came and made their ways straight to our hearts. Who ever could’ve believed the fragile, beautiful, terrifying, heart-molding, glorious days to come? Oh, Alyssa Marie and Elliana Grace, how can it be that you are twelve […]

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Slow Down (School Pictures 2016-2017)

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Slow down. Just for a little. I want to just sit here and breathe in all the moments that God has orchestrated for His glory. Today – Today I will marvel at the beauty and the mess, the first steps and the closed chapters, the tears and the joys – each one strung together by […]

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Our 6th Grade Curriculum (The Thinking Tree) – and what we think so far

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More than a month of intentional heart-growing, mind-stretching learning – and I can’t help but smile and breathe it all in. It’s been amazing to wake up to this – the crazy beautiful that comes from teaching my half a dozen kids at home. A few short months ago I agonized over the amount of […]

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A Sneak Peek to our School Year

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Today was our first day of school for the year. We’ve got kindergarten, first, third, fifth, and sixth grades going on at out home. It’s the first time all of our children are in school. I find it this incredibly beautiful mixture of happy-sad. Oh, I am so grateful for a God who goes before […]

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Now She’s 7 Years Old

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She’s the girl that sparks sweet joy in our hearts. She’s the girl that teaches us more about love. She’s the girl that sings glorious songs every day. She’s the girl that shows us how to be brave. And I’m in awe of the ways that her beauty and her strength, her uniqueness and her […]

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life with this man – harder and much more beautiful than I ever could’ve dreamed

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Words etched out a year ago, but still so, so true today… The blanket spread out over the tall grass and there we sat searching for words to express what we were feeling. And I could’ve sworn that my beating heart was about to come thundering right out of my chest – for somehow we […]

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Today My Baby Turned 5

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Today I woke to your sweet giggles from the other room. And I smiled big at your excitement bursting. But it took just about all my strength to sing that birthday song to you this morning without letting the tears spill out. For somehow a half a decade’s worth of days have gone by, and […]

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