Thursday, April 24, 2014

Ephraim and Sarah. A story of Redemption.

Sometimes out of the blue a thought, a song, a story will jump out of nowhere and remind me. Remind me of my journey. My journey is one of so much life and yet mingled in the chaos of raising five children there is the reality of five more children waiting for me in heaven.

The other morning I was rushing around the kitchen doing the "get dressed- eat your breakfast-do your homework-get your shoes on-stop fighting with your sister now" routine. I was combing Hope's hair and telling some one else to stop dawdling and all of sudden I started thinking of them. The five babies in heaven. My thoughts were not left to themselves for long before they were interrupted by another child needing something in the madness of the morning rush out the door.

That morning I was headed to the gym after I got the kids on the bus and as I was driving I got a text from my sister-in-law saying I needed to listen to a broadcast that morning on miscarriage.
 "That's weird", I thought to myself, "I was just thinking about them this morning".
Later that afternoon on my way to get my haircut I had a few minutes of silence and alone time and I listened to the broadcast on my phone. All of a sudden I am crying. God was continuing to touch and heal parts of my heart.

The reality is I am so incredibly blessed by the five children I have and my cup feels full and running over. Yet sometimes there is still an ache. I don't dwell on it long but sometimes it is there. And maybe there will always be a little ache for those babies in heaven. And that's okay. 

But I am seeing more and more that in the midst of the losses is woven incredible testimonies of God's faithfulness, compassion and caring love for us.  It's in those times He seemed to be scooping us up and carrying us when we didn't  think we had the strength. His voice is often loudest in those times. And looking back I can see Him there.

Lately I have been feeling like part of my healing is in writing out the stories of the babies in heavens and in doing so seeing God's fingerprints and the stories of redemption He is weaving.

Here is one of those stories.

The year was 2004 and we were just shy of two years of marriage. It had been whirlwind of a two years and we had just celebrated our firstborns first birthday. We were returning home from a week at the beach with Mark's family and the last day or so there I had not been feeling good. "Could I be pregnant?" I remember asking Mark as we drove the turnpike home from the beach. I took a test that night when we got home and much to our surprise I was pregnant! We made the announcement on our second anniversary on Sept 14th, calling our families to say "two years of marriage and two kids". We were very excited despite being surprised by the pregnancy! We had high hopes for this little family that we were growing!
 On October 5th I was about 12-13 weeks along and the first trimester had been rough, a lot more sickness than my pregnancy with Moses. We were leading a small group at the time and that night we asked them to pray over me and the baby. As we prayed many in the group began to get prophetic words about the baby. They began to pray out encouraging words calling forth the destiny of this little one growing inside of me. One of girls prayed that our baby would be "a son at Mark's right hand" and that he would be a leader and a mighty warrior with speed and strength. A lot of the things that they had prayed had confirmed things that God had already been speaking to Mark about the baby and his name. After everyone left we talked about it and Mark shared with me how he felt we should name the baby Ephraim Benjamin after his grandfather on his mother's side. Our son was called to redeem a family name and generation.  Ephraim in the bible was the second son blessed as the first and Benjamin means "son at my right hand". It seemed weird to me to be picking out names this early when we didn't even know for sure what we were having but it did seem like God was confirming things in our hearts about this baby and his calling and destiny.
 October 9th I got out of bed, ate breakfast and got Moses up and dressed for the day. I was up in his room putting away some clothes when all of sudden I felt a gush, as if my water had broken.  In a panic I called Mark and as soon as I heard his voice I lost it. He began to pray for me and changed his plans and came home for the day. As the day progressed I began to bleed. I rested on the couch or tried to rest, really I couldn't think of anything else. I remember sobbing and pleading with the Lord to save our baby. At this point in my life I believed that if we prayed that God would heal our baby. The thought that we would lose the baby wasn't a possibility. We got every intercessor we could think of praying and warring for our babies life.
(side note: I still believe that if we pray God can heal our baby! I also know that sometimes His answer to our prayers do not always look like what we thought. My babies are healed and whole in heaven.)

I remember that night as we were preparing to go to bed calling our friend Ryan to pray for us. As he prayed he asked us if we were willing to trust that God was God even if we lost our baby. That was the moment I knew that maybe Ephraim wasn't going to make it. And I needed to surrender. Mark and I cried on the couch surrendering our lives and Ephraim's to Him.
The next morning I woke up to painful cramping and more bleeding. It felt like the beginning of labor. We called the doctor and they told us to come in right away. By the time I got there things were intensifying and I ended up miscarrying in the triage area of the hospital.

Going home felt so empty. My womb felt empty. My heart felt  heavy. I remember stopping and getting subs at Smileys, going to Musser park and just sitting at a picnic table crying and talking, shocked at what had just occurred. We felt very thankful for the night with our small group where those prophetic words had been spoken and that we had decided to give our baby in heaven a name. We also felt hopeful even in the loss that we were going to have more children. I remember feeling sad yet hopeful, strangely hopeful.
His presence was also very close during this time bringing comfort through friends and family, prayers and words of encouragement. A few short days after the miscarriage I was helping to lead a worship set at the house of prayer we were a part of at the time. We were singing verses from Psalm 91. When I got to verses 9 and 10 I just froze. I wasn't sure if I could truly sing the words, "If you make the Lord your refuge-the Most High your dwelling then no harm will befall you and no disaster will come near your tent.". Up until this point I had not wrestled too much with "why" but that night I was struggling with the whys and the questions. It certainly felt like "disaster had come to our tent" and harm had fallen on us. I went home after the worship set and looked up the verse in my new living translation and in that version it said "no evil will conquer you". The Lord was speaking to my heart that harm may come but it will not conquer me if I am rooted in Him. It was a battle to trust that God is who he says he is but as I chose to lay down my fears and questions, peace came. I believed God was going to bring redemption.

Fast forward to a month later, November 17th, we are getting ready to fly on an airplane across the world to Hawaii to minister at a YWAM base. In the midst of packing I had stopped by at my neighbor and friend Terah's house for a few minutes. As we talked somehow it came up that I still didn't get my period yet since the miscarriage.
"Maybe you are pregnant", she exclaimed excitedly, "Here I have an extra test go into the bathroom and take it. " She practically shoved me into the small bathroom off her kitchen where I nervously peed on the stick. Instantly the lines appeared. I. was. pregnant. As I walked out of the bathroom holding my positive test my friend said these words to me, "No more holding back."

Just a little over a month later I was already pregnant! Later when I went for my first prenatal visit they would say that it was near impossible what happened. My due date literally changed by only a few weeks. Crazy!

That little impossibility was Sarah.
The redemption of Ephraim's short life was first daughter! In her God fulfilled my heart's desire for a little girl. And through her I believe God is redeeming a generation.
I look forward to meeting Ephraim Benjamin someday in heaven and I cherish the gift of mothering Sarah Elizabeth here on earth.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Tales from the dressing room

You have got to love kids for their honesty. Unfiltered and real honesty.

Today we stopped by my favorite store Goodwill for a few minutes. I browsed the aisles and found two dresses I liked both from Target with tags still on them. Score. I decided to go into the dressing room to try them on quick. I had Hope and Eden with me so I pushed the cart into the small mirrored room. 
Hope was watching me as I tried on the first dress.
I studied my appearance in the mirror. Hope studied me. 
She piped up from the bench. 

"Mom, that dress makes your breasts look chunky. If you wore that dress to church people would say that girl has chunky breasts."

I took another look at my reflection and cracked up. The way the dress was pleated was not the most flattering. Definitely don't want the "chunky breast" look. Not a keeper.

And that's why everyone needs to take a five year old along in the dressing room. 
They tell you it like it is.

Monday, April 21, 2014

eden grace

Next week this little girl turns two. TWO. How can this be?
 These picutres are from a few weeks ago on one of the first warm days of spring. This girl LOVES to be outside and will stand at the door and fuss till we let her out. She comes to life outside where she can run free and imitate the big kids in whatever they are doing. These pictures of her with her pigtails, hand me down sweatshirt and black eye are so her. She lives life to the fullest with spunk and determination. Oh yes and a little attiutude too. "No" and "mine" are her two favorite words right now. And anytime she can have the stage she is happy whether it is on top of the coffee table belting out the song from Frozen "let it go" or outside on the barn step yelling "ta-da". She loves to be the center of attention! And being the youngest of five she often gets it!
We love you so Eden! 

a new season.

We pulled into the parking lot and parked the suburban. Behind us sat the building that housed some of best and worst moments in our life up to this point. Our highest and lowest memories happened within the confines of those walls. We sat there together, as husband and wife, with worship music playing in the background, holding hands and remembering.

We remembered the five babies we had brought into the world in that building, the joy of each one, and how each experience was different. We laughed out how fast Moses entered the world, and smiled fondly when remembering Sarah being born not knowing if we were having a boy or a girl. We remembered Silas and how sweet and relaxed of a baby he was and Hopey girl how she surprised all of us showing up ten days early. We both agreed that little Eden is the perfect addition to our family, everyone fighting to be her favorite. We reminisced about the divine connections we made with nurses and hospital staff. We loved being there just the three of us soaking up those holy moments of new life with visitors coming in to meet the newest Buckwalter.
Each little life forever changed ours.

We also sat there and remembered five other lives, four of which we lost in those walls of the building. Five babies waiting for us in heaven. Four of the lowest moments, leaving the hospital empty handed and heavy hearted.
Each little life forever changed ours.

We sat there for a long time, laughing and crying and remembering.

Today we had come to close a door on an eleven year season. A journey of nine pregnancies. A decade of birthing and nursing five babies. A season of filling and emptying the womb. A journey with lots of ups and downs and twists and turns.

After the miscarriage in November, one of the hardest things we had to wrestle with was "What's next. Where do we go from here?"
I felt emotionally and physically spent and honestly wanted to be done with the journey. But also knew I needed to wait on the Lord for His answer. Both Mark and I felt we were grieving more than just the miscarriage but an accumulation of the losses and maybe even more so, an ending of a season.
We continued to pray about it and process it with some close friends during the winter months.
During this time I felt a lot of expectations and heaviness of what a "good, radical, christian, holy (fill in the blank) mother " should do, be, look like. I felt the weight of these "shoulds" resting heavily on my shoulders. As I let them go one by one,  I felt the Lord say, "You are free to choose. What do you want to do?"
When I really boiled everything down I wanted to be done. And when I said those words out loud it was like the heaviness began to lift off of me. It was a wrestling match of identity and expectations, of choosing and trusting. But in the end I was free to make a choice.

So in closing the door to one season I am stepping into the next. Heart wide open, hands ready to receive whatever is next. There is grieving as I say goodbye to the old. But through the tears there is a deep sense of anticipation for the new and the unknown that is waiting.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Hope Goes To Work Day

This morning Hope had off preschool due to Easter vacation. First thing in the morning she asked Daddy in her raspy voice and imploring eyes if she could go to work with him today. Being the awesome Dad that he is he said yes (her cuteness was definitley working in her favor as well). So off the two of them went in the pick up truck for a couple hours of Daddy/Hope time.
At the studio she got to take some pictures with Daddy, get flowers with Miss Katie, and color. Hope's only complaint about her morning with Daddy was that it ended too soon! Thanks Daddy (and Katie too) for investing into Hope! Here is what Daddy and Hope captured.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Happy Birthday!

Happy 40th Birthday to the man I am privileged to call husband, best friend and father of my children!

Here is 40 pictures for 40 years and 40 reasons I love you! 

I love you!

1. I love your passion even from a young age!

2. This is how you looked when we first met. I was drawn to your zeal for the Lord. I still love that about you!

3. You are a great Uncle!

4. I love your love for books, history and writing. Your journaling was one of the first things that sparked my interest! 

5. I love that you love the outdoors. This reminds me of our boys playing outside with sticks and forts!

6. I love your heart for the generations, for the southern end, for family roots.

7. I love you for your style.

8.  I love how you love people and invest yourself in so many people's lives. 

9. I love that you are a story teller.

10. I love that you have a motorcycle and that it brings you life.

11.  I love how you teach the boys about sports and football. You are their hero!

12. I love watching you father our daughters.

13. I love dates with you. 

14. I love how far we have come and how you make me a better woman! Our love keeps getting better with time!
15. I love your rugged good looks!

16. I love laughing with you! I think we laugh now more than ever and I hope that we only learn to laugh more as we get older!

17. I love your sense of humor!

18. I love the special father son bond you have with Moses! You are a great Daddy!

19. I love that you push others to live life to the fullest!

20. I love that you are the father to my children.

21. That little smirk right there...I love that. And the dimple too!
22. I love our love!

23. I love your strong arms that hold me and carry our children.

24. I love sitting on the porch drinking coffee and dreaming together and occasionally taking self timer pictures too!

25. I love campfires with you and sitting outside under the stars.

26. I love the way you father our sons.

27. I love that you play with our children in the snow. You are way more fun than me!

28. I love that you teach the boys about hard work and how to be a man!

29. I love taking pictures with you! Thanks for capturing so many memories for us to remember!

30. I love the connection you have with Matt and am so blessed that Matt & Naomi aren't just family but our best friends! And I love all the memories we have made together!

31. I love the way you have walked with me through the losses. This is a picture of me pregnant with the twins.  The losses only made our love stronger. 

32. I love how you love to celebrate whether it is Christmas, birthdays or a friday night!

33. I love the farm boy in you!

34. I love how you make me feel like the most beautiful woman in the world when I am with you.

35. I love how you push me out of my comfort zone and I love experiencing new things with you! Here we are at my first Phillie's game :)

36. I love how you encourage my ideas whether it is a photo shoot in the yellow flowers, rearranging furniture or doing a garden. I love how we work together!

37. I love road trips with you!

38. I love your tender heart.

39. I love your sense of adventure.

40. I love how you help others to reach their potential and how you never stop dreaming!