A Million Miles Away

I saw this coming from a million miles away.  This moment where you come back from a third world country and you feel like a stranger in your own home town.

I start feeling normal.  I get distracted.  I eat a lot.

It’s when I blink that I see their faces.  Their homes.  Their eyes.  Their smiles.

I have visions of reaching for this little boy.  I stretch out my arms and they cannot reach what seems a million miles away.  This small sick child that I could not help.  I could not stay with him.  I could not make him smile.  I could not make his home better or give him food to eat.  I could not even find his name.

In my blinking I shout for him.  I reach for him.  I cry for him.

My eyelids lift up and I am back at home- eating carrots and hummus and trying to “stay healthy.”  I smile, nod, and keep up well with the conversation, despite the fact that inside I am a million miles away.

I laugh with my family.  We swim in the pool.  I close my eyes to swim under water and he is there.

He is holding my hand and won’t let go.  I don’t let go until I have to take a breath.  I am out of the water and my eyes are open.

My daughter has learned how to swim and I am so proud.  I am so thankful for her health.

I walk through the house at night and turn off all of the lights.  In the darkness he is there.  Standing outside of his house, and he is watching me silently.  Never saying a word, he is there.

In the silence I shout to God, I beg for his healing on this child.  Please God, be in Haiti.  Be with his family.  Keep him fed.  Provide for his needs.  Make a way for him to be in school.  Heal his sickness.  God, let us meet again.

It’s that moment where you realize it is a person, and not a country, that changes you.

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What’s it like?

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked, “What’s it like?”

“What’s it like living with your dad?”

“What was it like growing up in your family?”

“What’s it like having the pastor know everything you do?”

“What’s it like being in church leadership?”

 

I was 7 years old when my father became the pastor of Eastgate Christian Fellowship.  What was it like growing up as a pastor’s kid?  I think every pastor’s kid probably has had a different experience with this, because all pastor’s are so different.  Some are obsessed with rules, tradition, and appearance.  My father was obsessed with getting to the core of why we even have church.  When he began as a pastor, he threw everything out the window and said let’s start over, this time just using the Bible and the traditions that are helpful to people.

My dad was so harmed by the church.  What should have been a place that was full of God’s love turned out instead to be a monstrous beast intent to tear my family and our souls apart.  It sounds dramatic, but it’s the truth.  Broken, empty, and alone my father found new hope in God.  God used that brokenness and strengthened my father to stand up once again.  He created a church that was also a place of shelter for anyone else who has been hurt.  Never again would my dad allow our family to be subject to the abusive power found in church or the cruel methods of punishment given for any mistake.

My parents, who created Eastgate together, were always so busy.  I remember them working all the time.  They did not get paid to be pastor of the church and both worked jobs that had long hours and little pay.  They taught me that it’s better to do what God has called you to do then to be rich.  This never felt noble when I was a child, because the reality of this lifestyle meant that my Dad was often preoccupied and that my clothes rarely fit well (because they were handed down from my sister who was four years older than me).

That being said, there has always been a tremendous amount of love in my family.  With four kids and two adults (and a cousin living with us here and there) our house was always full and loud and I loved it.  We were tight knit, honest (sometimes brutally), and loved spending time with each other.  To this day, I am incredibly close with my siblings and parents, and have a love for my family that words cannot describe.

What was it like growing up in church?  I found at an early age that my family gave more than we would ever receive.  My father, after working his normal job, would slave away writing sermons for a group of people that sometimes didn’t feel like showing up.  Or, sometimes they would show up and then tell him about how what he said could have been better, funnier, more entertaining, or more Biblical.

One time I remember my mom putting together a movie day for a group of ladies and no one showed up.  Well, correction, one person showed up and they fell asleep during the movie.  That killed me.  I hated watching my mom come home and cry.

I hated on Sunday afternoons seeing my dad sitting in his chair, staring off into the distance as he tried to navigate the negative comments he heard about his sermon earlier that morning.

Church leadership is such an odd and sensitive beast.  We want people to feel they can be honest and share if they don’t agree with something, while at the same time it just hurts so dang much.  Especially when we know our heart is in the right place.  We know what we’ve sacrificed to give these sermons to the community.  To spend our day off, our hours off, working to make sure we have everything set up on a Sunday morning just to watch people walk in and lift their nose to the ceiling as they watch and seemingly judge every step we make.

At some point I realized that while we may have escaped the nastiness of awful church leadership, that doesn’t mean we’ve escaped the nastiness of people.

Time went on and I grew up.  I found that no matter where I worked and lived, I felt a tugging from God to move towards Eastgate.  If you cut me open and looked inside, you’d find Eastgate running through my veins.  God made me to serve this community and serve it I will.

Now our church has grown.  As a child we had 20-50 people and now we have 300-400 people every Sunday.  I work here part time as the children’s pastor and it’s the most challenging job I have ever had.  My father is still the pastor and preaches almost every Sunday.  My mom has recently taken over as treasurer and also runs the media (because she’s a nerd).  We have a board and committees and staff and all sorts of ways to stay accountable to other people, because we know that every church has a beast waiting to escape it’s cage.  All these committees and groups are the different locks that we use to reinforce the strength of the cage.

 

I don’t know what it’s like to be a visitor at Eastgate.  I don’t know what it’s like to be abused by another church or group of people.  I do know what it’s like being in leadership, specifically at Eastgate.

Here’s what it’s like being someone on staff at Eastgate:  Every Sunday, I get complaints about something.  Here are some real examples:

“The lights are too bright.  It’s too hot.  It’s too cold.  This church never has enough of this or that. Someone is sitting in my seat.  Someone made a face at me.  Someone didn’t look at me at all.  This spot in the room smells funny.  The kids classrooms are confusing.  This visitor is confused and we should never let that happen.  There are not enough bathrooms in this church.  The roof is leaking.  The band is too loud today.  The band is too quiet today.  The announcements are too long.  The kids check in system overwhelms me.  The volunteers aren’t very nice to me.  There aren’t enough volunteers.  There aren’t enough slides during the sermon to keep my attention.  There are too many slides during the sermon and now I’m distracted.  Not enough new songs.  Not enough old songs.  No one talked to me.  Too many people talked to me.  Someone said something mean on their facebook page.  They don’t preach on the Bible enough.  All they do is preach on the Bible.  You said a curse word on your facebook so you should probably fix that.” And my personal favorite: “We are using bar codes for the children’s check in system?!  We might as well insert a microchip of the mark of the beast now!” (On a side note: we now call our “bar codes” at the front desk “key tags” so we don’t hit any trigger words and start unnecessary fighting)

Ya’ll, it’s exhausting.

I have people threaten to leave almost every Sunday because this or that bothered them and it’s the last straw.  I’ve seen my father, my mother, and my husband all cry because of hurtful complaints or words that people said.  Heck, I’ve cried more times than I can remember.  Or sometimes we don’t cry.  Sometimes we just stare off into the distance.  I wonder if my daughter watches me do this in the same way that I watched my father as a child.

I don’t want to do a bad job.  I love this community so much.  I love the kids in my program so much.  I love the Bible, I love Jesus, and I love these people- but damn this is tough.

On Sunday mornings and on social media, I don’t share political views, I don’t swear, I even only wear long pants (including in the dead of summer) because I don’t want to offend anyone.  At some point I started to feel like a prisoner.  Since I was a child I was held to different and higher standards because of my parents and their role in the church.  As an adult it is the same way because of my role.  However, most prisoners are held against their will.  I am here willingly to serve, and if this is part of my service, then so be it.  I resolve to know nothing but Christ and him crucified and I will be all things to all people.  I will happily sweat my butt off in the summer if that means someone is not offended or distracted by my bare knees up on stage.  I will happily not share political posts if it means that someone will be able to hear clearer what I have to say about Jesus.  I will (un)happily not swear around those whom it offends because these are not the crosses that I am willing to die on.

The truth is, when it’s all said and done, I know my heart.  I know the heart of my family and the others in leadership at Eastgate, and that is: We love Jesus and we love people.

I had to learn the hard way that when I serve the community of Eastgate I am not serving the people.  I am serving God.  The people let you down.  The people make you feel like poop over and over and over and over.  God is the one I serve.  God is the one who sees my heart and says, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

And, here’s the great thing about God: He creates friendships in the madness.  The God I serve is not held back by pettiness and frustration.  He creates life and love amidst the pain.  He puts together one of the most loving communities of people I’ve ever seen.  A community of people that supports the sick, that hurts with the broken, that feeds the hungry.  A community that finds family among friends and blesses my family daily with love and support.

How is that possible?  How can it be that a group that is so hurtful is also so loving?  I think it’s because we are all human beings.  These people are not my saviors and they are not my enemy- they are my family whom I love.

This group of people gave everything of themselves when we lost my Aunt.  They gave their money, their time, their food, their prayers, and anything else they could think to give.

This love is possible through God.  God is in my community and He’s the reason that we keep fighting and serving day after day.  It’s the reason we are able to laugh at some of the odd complaints and it’s the reason we think through the tough ones.  God gives us the strength to be challenged by other beliefs.

So, God help us.  Help us to fight the good fight and love another day.

Melted.

Someone handed me a stapler to put away and when I looked down at it I almost melted.  What was invisible to others was plain as day to me: a large Aunt Lynn thumbprint found in the shape and size of a small label that read “Kidzgate classroom 4th-5th Grade”.

I was going to tell her so many things and I never got the chance.  I was going to tell her that after 5 years, I finally understood why she labeled all the staplers and tape dispensers, because they always seemed to disappear from our kids classrooms at church.  I was going to ask how she got the font so small and what kind of label maker she used.  I was also going to ask if she noticed that I didn’t spell Kidsgate with a “z” anymore and ask where that spelling came from.

Now I can’t ask.

Now I just cry over staplers and wonder if I cry too much.  Now I cry at the Little Mermaid or mentions of it.  Now I cry when my daughter wants to know what she’s done wrong and why you won’t teach her anymore.  Now I cry.

 

I cry and I wait.

I wait in anticipation of the rejoicing and I cry in anticipation of our sweet reunion.

Receiving the Blessing

(This Blemory was originally written on November 28, 2015.  I allowed for it to sit cozy with the dozens of other unpublished drafts I’ve got hidden away, but today I set it free.  Be blessed.)

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope.  With less of you there is more of God & his rule.”

-Matthew 5:3 (The Message)

“I am way past my breaking point.  I was past it last week, and I’m even further away from it this week.  I have no words left to say and no more tears to cry.”  I said that to my husband, and by the look of his face,  he already knew.

I have gallstones in mah belly.  While, I know that these are stupidly common and millions of people get them, they have been completely life changing for me.  My family has to put every extra cent we have towards getting these out of me.  They tell me not to, but I can’t help it, I feel bad about it.

I spend a lot less time working at my job because of the fatigue and regular pain, and even though everyone tells me not to (but I can’t help it), I feel bad about it.

I spend extra money on groceries and cook fat free meals for my family, and though they tell me not to, I can’t help but feel bad about the changes my family has had to make because of my issue.

I am the family “Debby Downer”, because when they ask me how I’m doing, I am always honest.  The honest answers lately have been generally negative.  I tell them eating food is, “Like the scene in bridesmaids when Kristin Wiig eats the almond to prove she doesn’t have the stomach bug.”  I see how much they take on my burdens, my pains, my sorrow, and though I know I shouldn’t (but I’ve never been able to help it), I feel bad.

Someone brought up the beatitudes to me recently.  Actually, not just any someone, but that handsome husband of mine brought up how we see people that are doing really well in life, and we say (or they say) that they received those things because they are “blessed”.  But, if we look at who Jesus said was blessed, it was never the people who had all these great things going for them.  Jesus said the poor, the sick, and the hurting were the ones that were blessed.  The husband was quoting someone else, but still, remembering smart things makes you a genius.

What he told me was haunting.  It was something that I could not get out of my head because it breathed life into what I was going through.  I spent almost every waking moment thinking about that idea, because if that was true, then it meant that me, in my sad, pitiful, life draining state was more blessed now that I ever have been before.

I did not understand how that could be.  So, I took some time and practiced telling myself that Jesus was blessing me every time I was going through a rough patch in the day or week or whatever.

When I was too sick to play with my child, I would tell myself over and over, “I guess I’m blessed by Jesus right now.”

I missed another day of work and had to ask (yet again) for someone to cover for me, “I am blessed.”

“I am blessed, I am blessed.” I would say those words over and over in my head, usually ending my prayer with a quick and not so subtle reminder to God that I still didn’t understand how I was blessed.

I spent another afternoon curled up on the floor and crying.  “I am blessed.”

And then, Thanksgiving happened.

I couldn’t eat fat, so that meant that the only thing I got to partake of was small portions of the white meat turkey and some re-heated, precooked food I was eating the rest of my time away from home.  I stepped outside the house where we were having my Thanksgiving meal (in Georgia) to get something out of the car, but really to get a moment to myself so I could take a deep breath.

I don’t get to have a real Thanksgiving meal this year, “I am blessed,” I said in my head.  I don’t get a Christmas meal either, “I am blessed.”  I looked out around my car and the scenery was breathtaking.  I spoke to God again, “Thank you for this beautiful view.  Thank you for this perfect weather.  Thank you for giving my daughter such a magnificent day where she can play with her cousins and chase chickens (did I mention I was in Georgia?).  Thank you for giving my husband a day to eat whatever he wants and a day for him to rest (he works so hard to keep me well).”

So it began.  Whenever I reminded myself that I was blessed, I reminded myself to thank God about something in that moment.  When I took time to do that, I found countless gifts waiting to be opened and received.

When I first got sick, I asked God if he was putting me on the bench.  I felt that so much of my life was trying to be as busy as possible for God (not some secret desire to find fulfillment based on my own good deeds), that when I got sick I was forced to sit and be helped.  I had to be humbled, and I found that everything I could give to God and to those around me usually fell short.  Short enough that someone else would have to help me get the rest of the way.

Through my pain and sorrow, beyond my breaking point, God finally showed me how I am blessed.  In all my efforts to show God’s love, I never took a second to receive God’s love, deeming myself unworthy of such a blessed and powerful thing.

However, a broken person doesn’t get to make the decisions.  I was forced to depend on God’s plan for me.  I became forced to surrender my plan for our relationship and allow God to finally lead.

In my brokenness, I have seen God more now than ever.  Through the loving friends and family, God has stayed painfully close.  Whether it is finally finding something they can cook for me to eat, sending me a funny book in the mail to get my mind off the troubles, hugging me while I cry, hurting with me, or breaking with me.  My God has stayed with me every step of the way.

I sat alone in a room eating hot shrimp.  Hot, because my Kiki took pride in meeting my needs, and made my food fresh to order.  Two sweet Kearby girls walked in and sat with me, and together we all ate shrimp and talked and laughed.  I enjoyed the moment, received my blessing, and thanked God for the love.

“You are blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you.  Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.”

-Matthew 5:5 (Obviously, the Message)

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I still hear his laugh.  Even though I knew him much less than everyone else, I definitely hear my husband’s grandfather’s laugh.  It usually happens when I break a drill bit (because I guessed wrong again on which one I needed) or when I make other mistakes when building, hanging, and fixing up anything in my house.  I feel a sense of shared pride with Papa, as he was called, when I can step back and appreciate what has been achieved when we hang a TV on the wall, replace a shower head, or start mapping out our next project.  We bond more now than ever.

I think of my grandmother, my father’s mother, when I write.  She was an English teacher with a quiet dream of living in New York and becoming a writer.  I see her smiling when I teach a Sunday school class at church, encouraging me not to worry when I wonder if the kids really “get it”.

I see my Papa, my father’s father, when I go to work.  Realizing the third generation of church ministry that I represent.  He sat at a large desk in a small office in an old white chapel in the middle of nowhere, while I sit at a small desk in a large office not too far from there.  What secrets of leadership will he pass on to me through his son?

As of Sunday, I feel my Nana, my mother’s stepmom.  A woman I did not understand until I became one myself.  Her love for gardening overflows into my backyard where I find myself in the middle of my small containers of herbs and plants.  The time we will share out here will bring new hope to our relationship.  Someone who I was never able to spend alone time with before, is now among my ancestors, guiding me through life one deep breath at a time.

I Love Lamp.

(I found this draft that I wrote a year ago and never posted…enjoy!)

It’s spring time again.  This means that every weekend I get my husband nudging me as we pass by a garage sale sign.  I don’t know why, but he loves having and going to garage sales.

Garage sales, yard sales, estate sales, etc., are not my thing.

Last year, my mother convinced me to garage saling with her.  We were driving around different neighborhoods and following neon signs we saw posted on the road.  After looking at about four or five different places we stopped at this gem of a house/ trailer.  What a glorious time we had there.

This couple had a big yard with some of their stuff on tables and on the grass.  They sat in lawn chairs and were probably in their late sixties or early seventies.  The man sat quietly in his chair smoking a pipe while the lady with short curly hair, a white tank top, and flip flops would shout information about the items we were looking at.

My mom picked up a picture frame.  “That belonged to my friend who just committed suicide a week ago!” the woman shouted.  She smiled at us like that was a neat fact.  My mom and I froze.  We had a dilemma.  We can’t just drop the frame and say, “ew no thanks,” but obviously the frame no longer carried the charm it had just a few moments before.

Without really knowing how to respond I said, “Oh that’s cool.”  The lady smiled and nodded.

My mom found a lampshade.  “How much?”

The lady replied with a price and started wiggling in an attempt to stand up.  My mom quickly responded, “No, no, you don’t have to get up!  I’ll bring the money to you!”

“Help me get up!”, said the lady.  My mom gave her an arm and steadied the woman out of her chair.  “I just got an operation done and it’s hard to git out of the cheir!”

“Oh, I’m so sorry!” said my mom as she handed her the money.  “Well, I hope you feel better…”

“It was right here!  You should feel it!”

From where I’m standing (which is on the other side of the yard, near the car), I see the lady, in slow motion, point to her left butt cheek.  I smile widely.

My mother, not wanting to be rude, but not wanting to touch the ladies butt, stands in stunned silence.  Again the lady points to her butt, grabs my moms hand, and shows her the area.

“Right here- touch right here and feel what they did!”

I watch as my mother slowly, with the tippiest tip of her finger touches this woman’s butt.  She pulls her hand back so quickly and shouts, “Wow!”

Standing near the car, a good 15 feet away from my mom and her new friend, I felt confident they couldn’t see my shoulders shaking while I did everything I could to hide my laughter.

Dear Samantha,

To the soft little girl that I love,

One day you may feel like God has called you to do something.  You may not like it, or maybe you’ll love it.  Maybe you’ll try to run from it, or maybe you’ll feel and do all these things and more.  I don’t want to take my journey and put it as a reflection on you.  You will have your own mountains to move, in the same way that I’ve got mine.

This is one thing I’ve learned.  God is the giver of all things and our job is to receive.

You may not feel the most qualified at what God has asked you to do, and that’s okay!  Read about Moses in Exodus.  It will help you feel better.  Think of his family and how it’s made up of all different people from all different places, and how they helped guide him, sometimes without even knowing it.

Sometimes you may feel crazy, like people won’t believe the things God has told you, and that’s okay too!  Read about Noah in Genesis.  He probably was a little crazy, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t hear the truth from God.  He chose to trust in the one steadfast truth, and that is the same truth who is by your side today.

Other times you might want to run away and find a new path that is your own.  Boy, do I get that!  You can read about Jonah, not to learn about the consequences necessarily, but to see for yourself the peace and resolve he found at the end.  Live for that.

Whatever it is you feel called to do or not do, I believe in you.  Be confident in what God has asked of you and do that to the best of your ability.  Remember that it’s not about being perfect, or being the best in your field, but it’s about God and his glory.  So, whatever pressure that might be on your shoulders, shake that off and do good.

We are together in this- your family in me, and your family around the world, working together to guide each other towards God, sometimes without even knowing it.

I love you.

-Mom

Paint By Numbers

I was painting at my church yesterday.  Actually, I was painting a church wall with a new design for our kids ministry.  I was listening to music, my arm was getting sore, and I was standing on a ladder when a splotch of paint landed directly on my new shirt.  My mom taught me better than that.

I could hear her voice telling me even before I left the house that morning, “It’s probably better not to wear that shirt.  Wear something you won’t mind getting paint on.”  I ignored the memory and proceeded to finish packing my stuff up.  I told the memory that I was an adult now and that I can wear whatever want.  I did this for two reasons.  One, to prove I don’t have to listen to memories of my mom telling me what to do (sometimes this is proved in the form of eating ice cream before each meal of the day) and two, because I believed that adults don’t spill paint on their clothes.  They don’t spill paint anywhere.

Running to the faucet I got a paper towel and dabbed cold water on it.  Again, the nurturing voice was back, “Use cold water and dab, don’t rub.  See, rubbing it get’s the paper towel flecks on the stain.”

I looked back up at the wall, and the floor where I should have put a drop cloth.  Staring, I started to wonder if maybe my efforts of being an adult rebel were really just over thought cover ups of my own laziness.

In the fifth grade my mom let me stay home from school so I could help her paint the kids classroom at our church.  It was our first kids classroom that our church ever had.  Painting felt like a dream compared to school and I couldn’t believe my mom actually said yes when I asked her.  My dad was always the softie about staying home, but for some reason she was cool with it.  She even took me out to lunch for being such a good helper.

Later on, in middle school, we moved to a new building and painting was needed once again.  I stayed home from school, wore a very old basketball shirt, and together, my mother and I painted the kids classrooms.  Now here I was, fifteen years later from when it all began, and only a few feet away from where we last painted together.

It’s hard not to question these times.  Have I really grown at all?  Am I still just a child in my parents church painting a new wall?

Facebook is so challenging as a parent.  Well, it’s actually challenging at every phase of life.  When I see all these posts and links to articles by fancy people with fancy thoughts that have fancy opinions about how my parenting is the reason the world is going to explode and if I don’t stop scheduling my child’s naps she’s going to end up worse than Hitler, I hear my mother smiling and saying, “Don’t forget, ‘Guilt’ is a mother’s middle name.”

Samantha has started to snuggle.  Her greatest joys seem to be shaking her butt and snuggling up with a good book (AKA a book with fuzzy animals to feel) and a fluffy blanket.  There is something so special about how still she gets when I read to her.  How she so effortlessly melts in my arms and twirls my hair.  Like there is nothing else she needs.

I don’t know why, but maybe hearing my mom’s voice in my head provides the gentle ease of a rocker and it feels like the pages of my book are being read aloud.  And, maybe one day, Sam will hear that voice from me.

Bird Flew 2

I don’t like birds.  I never have.  Yet, for some unexplained reason, they seem to haunt me.

This morning I woke up earlier than I would have liked because my dog was crying at the door, begging to go outside.  I looked at the clock and  became angry once again at an inanimate object.

Wiping my eyes, I pulled back the curtain to the sliding glass door and let Zooey out.  She bolted towards some birds at the end of the yard.  I watched at least five birds get up all at once and try to fly away.  In an instant I realized why Zooey wanted to get out.  These birds weren’t just in my backyard, they were trapped in the screened in part of the pool.  My mind started reliving a past memory.

I was in the kitchen and Matt was looking out the back door laughing.

“Janelle, you’ve got to see this,” he said while looking out the kitchen sliding glass door.  “Zooey is trying to get a bird that’s trapped in the screen!”

I was rolling out a pie crust to make a Quiche.  You know how people have mystery casseroles?  I have a mystery Quiche.  I throw all of my unused ingredients from the week into a delicious tasting Quiche that never has the same flavor.  Yeah, I’m a mom.  Anyway, Matt called me over to the door.  Quickly putting down the rolling-pin and wiping my hands, I said, “Oh no! Get Zooey in and help the bird out!”

Matt replied, “Zooey can’t get it!  She’s been trying for a while.”

The moment I got to the sliding glass door Zooey chased the bird directly towards me.  She trapped the bird up against the glass where I was standing and ate it.  I watched the little wings scramble as they tried to escape from her jaws.

Obviously, I screamed.  Then, obviously, I cried.  Then, super obviously, I yelled at Matt.  Matt told me later that when I was crying and my back was turned, Zooey brought the dead bird in the house.  Matt, in quiet desperation, got her outside and grabbed a shovel and brought the dead bird back outside.  I had no idea this kind of chaos was happening behind me.

Coming back to today’s sad reality, I watched all these birds scramble to get away from my monster of a dog.  I knew it was too late.  These birds were going to die and I was the one who released the dog on them.

I closed the door.  I closed the curtain.  I crawled back in bed.  And like I do with all the other problems I can’t fix in the world, I closed my eyes.

Matt heard the commotion and decided to get out of bed.  I continued to stay in our dark room and hide under the covers while I fought mixed feelings of sadness about the birds and anger towards myself.  Minutes later I heard the scraping of metal against cement.

One Scrape.  Two Scrape.

Matt was picking up the carcasses with a shovel.

As he did the first time Zooey killed a bird, Matt continued his protection over me.  He woke up to take care of it all before I saw it.  He put pants on for me.  Not everyone can say that about their man.

I got dressed and on my way out, I asked Matt how many birds he had to pick up.  “Only two,” he said.

I sighed, completely relieved to hear that some of them got away.  “Zooey literally ate the rest of them.”

“Oh,” I said as I shut the door on my way out.

You Make Beautiful Things

How many times did I cry over you?  How many times did I tell God that I needed some alone time?  So angry with his plans.  So angry with how neglected I felt.

It’s funny how a little bit of pee changed my fate.  Well, not a little bit.  A lot of bit.  And maybe it wasn’t the pee itself, but it was what the pee told the stick and what the stick told me.  My wait was over.

Eight weeks pregnant and I woke up terrified.  Completely convinced I was losing another baby.  The OB/GYN office heard my fear, anxienty, and persistent nagging.

A week later, we got a phone call from a nurse explaining that my bloodwork was not good, and that indeed I was miscarrying.  She also said I had to come in the next day for an appointment.  I hung up the phone.  Looking around, through tears, I saw my co-worker.  I saw an empty bus that was moments away from being packed full of children.  I stumbled outside and finding the words, I called Matt.  I came back in the bus and focused all of my energy on not losing it in front of all the children.

I went home.  I went numb.  I went silent.

The waiting time at the doctors office was quick.  No one told the ultrasound technician why we were there, so we had to explain our blood results.  She apologized for not knowing.

The screen was clicked on.  I turned my eyes away.  I refused to look at another baby gone.

“There is a heartbeat,” said the technician through our silent pain.

Matt shot up and I shut my eyes.  I would not give in to false hope.  “Let me check out some other stuff,” continued the tech.

After what felt like, well it felt like hours, days, and just a few seconds all at the same time.  The technician spoke again.

I was so resolved not to cry, but I couldn’t help it.  I still had that voice that saying not to get my hopes up, but there was now a fresh hope that wasn’t there before.

We drove straight to my parents house after the appointment.  My father was in the living room, waiting to console us.  We walked in, completely silent, and handed him an ultrasound picture of a beautiful gummy bear shaped baby.  He said, “What is this? What happened?”  Matt and I both tried to speak, but all we could do was smile.  “Seriously, what’s going on?!”

“The baby’s okay!” I stuttered through my tears, “The ultrasound showed us a completely healthy baby and the doctor said it must have been a lab error!”  My father looked at Matt and then at me.  I smiled and nodded at him, and he collapsed in our arms.  We stood there hugging eachother, getting soaked by our tears.

My mom walked in from the other room, continued crying, and said, “I’m so sorry you guys.  It’s going to be okay,” while patting our backs.  We all stopped, realizing that she didn’t know, and shoved the picture at her.

“No you don’t understand!  The baby is okay!”  I don’t remember who said it, but it was probably all of us.

Just like that, our fate was changed again.

And the world was changed Christmas Eve 2012 when my little girl, Samantha Grace was able to be kissed for the first time.

How many times have I thanked my God for you?