Proof.

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Here we are. Proof. Proof that we are here. Together.

And happy. Happy to be here together.

We have summited the mountain and are above the timberline. The glorious clouds at our feet. The sun shining on our faces.

Our hearts are together.

And our fingers entwined.

Proof that God is victorious in our marriage.

Today I hope we act as an encouragement to you. Perfection? Never! Grace-full? We hope so.

Eat your Wheaties, and go for it!

Summit that mountain of marriage. Together.

Be your own proof.

By the grace of God, you can do it, too.

Rainbow Baby?

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I will never shy away from sharing of my loss.  And I am not sorry if I cause discomfort.

Miscarriage is a very silent loss.  It is a very wrenching loss.  It is a very soul-crying loss.

Miscarriage takes you from elation to depression sometimes within weeks.

Today I read many articles of women, very prolific writers, phew!  Writers that bore their souls of their miscarriage losses.  From first trimester to 16 weeks.

From listeria infections to sudden delivery.

Women that never shared the loss with their children.  And then some that, for some unknown reason, started the conversation in the car on the way to school.

I am sure many of us (especially if you are around my age) can recall the episode from Friends when Rachel, Monica, and Phoebe are in the bathroom during the reception of Monica and Chandler’s wedding.

And the two girls, Phoebe and Monica, had given Rachel another pregnancy test to take to see if she really was or wasn’t pregnant.

Phoebe read the results, “She (Rachel) was not pregnant.”

Rachel cried.  And said she was happy.  And that it was for the best…

Of course, Phoebe was not telling the truth.  She wanted to see how Rachel really felt.  And, obviously, Rachel felt a great loss once she thought she was not pregnant.

Now, let’s leave fiction and enter reality.

The character of Rachel shared the heart of many.  THAT pregnancy test.  That pee stick.  That unsanitary little thing carries a great weight.

And as soon as we see the sign “Positive” our lives change.

Our beings change.  Our hands fly to our bellies.  We smile secretly to ourselves, appearing looney to the rest of the world watching random woman lady walking around with dreamy smile on her face.

We envision blue.  And then pink.  And then blue.  And then pink.

We have already calculated how far along and potential birth dates before even the first doctor’s appointment.

Names.  I am sure that is the first Google search you did as soon as you got back on your computer, after the due date, before the Chinese gender calendar.

Names.  Beautiful names.  Crazy names.  Trendy names.  Old names.  New names.  World names.  Names and their meanings.  Social Security popularity on names.

And twins?!  I mean, after all, can’t you recall someone, somewhere in your family that had twins?  Therefore, what would the doctor share with you?  It’s TWINS!

Whether you lost your baby 24 hours after your positive pregnancy test or 12 weeks later…In those potentially 24 hours you knew you had your baby growing inside of you, you conquered the internet.   You looked at What to Expect-type websites.  You saw where the baby was and how you would grow, and you secretly tucked your favorite name away, knowing that even if you had to fight for it, that special name would become a part of your baby in some way, sort or form…Soon.  If 9 months is considered soon.

Miscarriage.  It rips the very soul out of you.

And even the most gut-wrenching cries cannot bring back what you want the most.  The realization of your baby.  In your arms.  In the 9th month.  Like it should be.

Miscarriage.  It is a devastating end to what was once a beautiful beginning.

For you.

My husband?  For him it still continues, too.

Two years after our miscarriage, my husband and I were in our car on our way to church.  Church is one hour away.  My husband is the pastor of the church.

We were on our way.  On the highway.  We were driving.

It hit my husband.  The loss.  The great, great, tremendous loss.

And as we were driving in the car at 80mph, he started to cry.  The car started veering.

Sobs.  Gut-wrenching sobs were escaping the soul of his being.  Tears that he had always stifled to be strong for his wife that suffered so much physically with the loss and hemorrhaging and emergency D and C to remove the placenta.

He was so strong for so long.  And then two years later, our son Maxwell nearly died.  And then Maxwell lived.

And then all of it hit Richard.  On the way to church.  In the car.  Traveling 80mph.

And we nearly wrecked the car.  He had to pull over on the abandoned highway.  And I had to sit there.  Stunned.

I sat there as Richard shouted at God.  “Why?”

Why?

I sat there as Richard shared his guilt.  He was in America when our baby’s heart stopped beating.

“Why, God?!”

I sat there as Richard cried.  And cried.  And cried.

I didn’t know what to do.  And that is probably exactly how he felt as I lived through my time of tears. He probably didn’t know what to do.

Miscarriage.  The silent shame?

Never!

Miscarriage.  The silent pain.

The pain of loss.  Such tremendous loss.  For the mom.  For the dad.  For the brothers and sisters.

For those that love you.  For you yourself.

No one knows what to do.

No one.

And that is probably why miscarriage remains such a silent topic.

Because what can you say about a baby that you loved and barely knew?  Except to the very core of your being you did know.  Just as well as you know the other children you have.

I read once that a rainbow baby is a baby that follows the storm of loss.  Just like a beautiful rainbow shines after the rain.

And I loved what I read.

So, today, I am here to say.  Miscarriage.

It is a loss that guts your soul.  And you feel it forever.

But miscarriage also taught me about life.  The beautiful value of how precious and yet fleeting life is.

I had never valued life so much until our baby lost it.

And then we, through the storm, saw our rainbow.

Eventually a double rainbow.

And their names are Maxwell Loren (2 years and a few months old now) and Josephine Diane (9 months old).

Our baby we never got to meet.  Sam.  Simply Sam.

And despite the beauty of our rainbows, there is not a day that goes by that we don’t reflect upon the gorgeous life of our Sam.

For Sam was our storm.  And Sam was our watering.  And Sam was our awakening.

Our awakening to compassion.

To beauty.

And to life.

Sam.  Oh how I miss the baby I barely had.  Then I look at my rainbow babies and I smile.  I smile at them while remembering Sam.  It’s as if there will never be one without the others.

Just like there will never be a rainbow without a storm.

And 3+ years later, I can smile.  Sadly smile.

The ultrasound of my perfect baby alive in my mind.  The heartbeat-strong.  The feeling of life-there.

And yet time has passed and life has changed.  And we have double rainbow blessings…

But today, Dear Sam, I raise my life and voice for you.  And for all women like myself.  And for all men like my husband.  And for all siblings like my Adelyne.

And I say loudly, without shame, you are loved deeply…even if it is only our hearts that get to hold you.

You were our storm.

But everyone knows—water is necessary for life.

And that is what you were.  A life.  A beautiful life.

Thank you, Sam.  Simply Sam.

Now, I am off to kiss my babies.  My rainbows after our storm.  And I am going to inhale deeply their scents.

And maybe even cry a little.

Because the world does spin, but my heart remains the same.

Mother.  To Sam.

No matter, I will go to bed with a smile.  Because my storm was beautiful.  And mine.  And forever I am changed.

So despite death.  I was taught life.

And I am happy about that.

Because life is beautiful.  Just like our storm.

Now I am speaking my wife’s language…

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Now I’m speaking my wife’s language.

-Richard

Is that code?! When Men and Women DO NOT speak the same language

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It was Saturday morning and I came into the kitchen.  One baby was in her crib.  The toddler in his highchair.  The 8-year-old eating breakfast at the kitchen table.

Everything was under control.  So I said, “I’m going to take a shower…”

My husband looked at me, with excitement in his eyes, and said, “Is that code?!”

I looked at him.  The “Like really?” look before saying, “Um.  Yes.  In fact, it was code for ‘Watch the children!'”

My husband, being a funny man, after getting over his initial disappointment said, “Blog that!”

Haha!

And so we have it…

A blog posting of Man versus Woman.

In this story you should know…Woman won.

But man doesn’t stop trying ;)

I forgot to feed my daughter. And we sent her to a counselor.

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Living in a different country, in a village, where hardly any English is spoken is a bunch of fun. Especially when you forgot the differences of the beginning of the school year.

Things that are quite important like…

Oh, packing your daughter’s lunch for her.

You see. I forgot that they don’t start serving school lunches the first day of school. I even made sure to tell my husband, “Richard, make sure to go and pay for school lunches so Adelyne will have money on her account.”

So, Richard went to pay for lunches. The lunch lady said, “Oh, no worries. Pay by September 15th.”

And we thought, “Wow. What a relaxed country. How nice!”

Little did I remember (until well past lunch time) that they don’t serve school lunches that day.

AHHHH! Well, good thing I packed Adelyne a cookie to snack on. Oh, and Smarties because, after all, it was the first real day of school and I wanted to remind her to be a “Smarty”. Smarties are like M&Ms. Therefore, technically, she did have two things to eat. Both sugary. But I guess sugar worked well enough. She made it through the day ;) And, yes, she came home HUNGRY.

To make it up to her, I had bought her favorite French pastries for her arrival home…apple! She was so happy to see them and devoured them quickly.

But forgetting her lunch was not all. Somehow, lost in translation, was the fact that she would need PE clothes to change in and out of.  She did, however, change her shoes from outside shoes to hallway shoes.

So, let me set this all straight:

She was the only student that did not have a lunch.

She also was the only student that did not change clothes after PE.

And she was the only student that DID change her shoes from outside shoes to hallway shoes back to outside shoes.

That’s it.  Three strikes.  We definitely struck out.

But in spirit and adventure and smiles, we still won.  Adelyne came home completely happy to have been at school and back amongst her friends in Poland.

Now for the counselor…

Before we returned to Poland, my husband and I were completely breathless, having near panic attacks, worried about Adelyne’s return to Poland.  After all, we had been living in the beautiful and glorious USA for the past year and a half.  That’s a very long time for a child.  Especially when you go from 1st grade to 3rd grade.  The maturity at 8 that was not there at 6 is astounding.  Her entire being is different now.  And school in Polish.  Eek!  The language is so difficult.

And, so, we, trying to be and ahead of the game parents, decided to set up a back-to-Poland counseling appointment.  Hoping that it would be 1 of 3 appointments.

We met with the counselor and spoke to her about our concerns and told her about Adelyne.  She was extremely perceptive.  Probably a great trait in a counselor, eh?  And we scheduled the time for her to meet one-on-one with the counselor.

Adelyne was told that she was going to meet a lady that she could share openly with her feelings about returning to Poland, or anything else that laid heavy on her heart.

She seemed okay with it.  So off we went.

Now, here’s the funny part, the lady that we sent Adelyne to is specifically a counselor for children.  She has toys and crafts and art supplies galore in her office so that the children can play and talk at the same time, keeping the atmosphere very safe for them.

Well, Adelyne decided to sit on the couch across from her and speak the entire time.  You see, Adelyne was an only child for 6 and 1/2 years.  And for that entire time, she has helped us build a foundation for the poor in Poland.  Meaning, she has spent the majority of her life in meetings or doing grown-up stuff.

The counselor was funny.  She said, “It’s the first time a child has sat on the couch the entire counseling session.  It made me a bit uncomfortable.”

Haha.  A piece of the counselor’s own medicine—being on the other side of the couch, eh?   (But I say that in respectful love because I truly believe greatly in good and Godly counseling and hold the utmost respect for the counselor herself)

Back to the counseling session.  Adelyne shared a lot.  The counselor after spoke with me about what was said and her advice on how Richard and I could help with the transition back to Poland.  Overall, it was a beautifully great and helpful session.

And with everything in my being, I had intended to take Adelyne in for 2 more sessions before our move back to Poland.

One session to address the difficulties Richard and I had in our marriage the past year that she was witness to.

The next how she felt when Maxwell was sick (Our son is a NICU and then later an ICU, blood transfusion, and coma survivor).

So, you see, there is a lot that a little 8 year old could share with a counselor.  And I had really wanted to get her back…

But life got in the way of my best intentions.  My husband was once again out of the country for a month.  I was packing and moving a house without him.  My daughter had daily dive lessons.  And I have 2 wee ones that were even wee-r at the time (if there is such a word).

All of this means we did not get back to the counselor despite my heart telling me it was so needed.

And then we went and did it.  Moved back to Poland.  And we began to settle back into our lives of living in a foreign country and all that entails (which is  lot on its own).

Happy, happy, happy has my daughter been.  And then it hit!

Bam!

Maxwell, our son, had a horrible allergic reaction to something.  His face swelled up, his eye was swelling closed, the red was creeping along his neck.

He looked horrible, felt horrible, and I began to panic.

Can he breathe?  What happened?  Did he touch something?  Did he eat something?

And then something even worse happened.

My daughter lost it.  She just sat there and cried and cried and cried.

I felt for her, but, at the moment, we had to take care of Maxwell (and the regime that comes with a horrible allergy attack) and then monitor him closely for about 20 minutes with our epi pens right next to us.  We were debating, do we call my brother, a fire captain and paramedic?  Do we call our brother-in-law, a doctor?  Do we call the Polish emergency number 1-1-2?  Do we ride it out?

Who knows if we made the best choice, but we made a choice that we felt was best.

And while Maxwell slowly started to improve, Adelyne started to dis-improve.  She melted.  Literally melted.

She climbed in my lap like a small child would and crumpled against my chest.  No matter how many times we tried to assure her that Maxwell was fine, she seemed unable to breathe peacefully.

And that’s when I got to the heart of her panic.

Laying flat against my chest with her legs curled up into my lap she said through her tears, “Do you know what it’s like to have your brother almost die on you?”

No.  She wasn’t talking about his allergy attack (as severe as it was), she was talking about when no one knew if Maxwell was going to live or die when he was a baby.

In the midst of something sad but not so extraordinary (although I don’t take allergic reactions lightly, especially with my nutty son), the past came back in a rush to my daughter, and I could tell the future will continue to hold a lot of healing.

And while we have epi pens for our son Maxwell, dealing with the heart of Adelyne may require a different kind of medicine.  Called time.  Love.  And lots of hugs.

Now, to end on a funny note.  As Adelyne was super sentimental about Maxwell’s horrible allergy reaction, she just wanted to cuddle her precious baby brother.

Max, on the other hand, kept kicking her away and tackling her and shouting, “Noooooo!”

Yes.  This did eventually make the waterworks worse.

But, truly, isn’t that what brothers are for?!

 

Murder versus peeing on the side of the road?

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So, many people wonder what it is like living in a foreign country.

Today will be a short post, and I will share it through the eyes of my 8-year-old.

We were on a mommy & daughter breakfast date when we pulled into McDonald’s parking lot. And, for some odd reason, she asked “Murders are rare, Mommy, right?”

I looked at her. At 8, children can’t be so easily dismissed, so, trying to gauge her thought process, I counter-asked, “Are you afraid of being murdered?”

“No,” she responded.

So I asked the question differently, “Are you afraid of being murdered in Poland or were you afraid in Arizona?”

“Arizona is scarier,” she said, “Poland is a nice country.”

And then she continued, and, like I said, it’s hard to follow the thought-process of an 8-year-old…

“But it’s dirtier. Like people pee on the sides of the buildings.”

Insert chuckle here.

You see, she has seen this take place countless times right outside of the very apartment she lived the first half of her life. And, well, and she pretty much sees it on a near daily basis still today: at the lake, at parks, in town.  So you have to give the 8 year old freedom to express her own thoughts.

Which brings me to this, since my 8-year-old brought it up, one day as we were driving down the road, my sister-in-law, Coralanne, Adelyne, and I saw a fat man literally peeing into the road.  Yes, I said “into” the road.  A big ol’ arc of pee.

It made us think of Tommy Boy, the movie. And the instance where Chris Farley put on David Spade’s jacket and started singing, “Fat man in a little coat…” (or something along those lines)

Both my sister-in-law, Coralanne, and I started laughing and singing at the same time, “Fat man peeing on the side of the road!”

It’s one of Adelyne’s favorite songs to this day.

So, what’s it like living in a foreign country?  Well, if you can put up with a little extra public urination, it’s, in the words of Adelyne, “…a nice country!”

For which she is very, very glad to be living in once again.  Especially because here, in Poland, you probably won’t get murdered.

My daughter asked about the first miracle of Jesus…How do you tell her it was wine?

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My husband has taken to telling stories at the dinner table that encourage my daughter for school. This past week marked the end of the first month of Polish school that she has started and nearly completed.

Woot-woot. Victory.

She seems to have fared fairly well. We’re even doing okay keeping up with the homework. And she is even eating school lunches—which are vastly different than American school lunches (like couscous and meat sauce for day 1 or ham and other random meats soup for day 4). This is a big victory, too, as she has had to readjust her palette upon returning to Poland.

For example. They put fresh parsley on everything. Potatoes, Meats, Soup. Everything. Which is great—when you’re an adult. But when you are 8, it is like, “What is this green thing that they are putting on every piece of food I am eating?!” We’ve had to start telling the restaurants “Without parsley, please,'” as she readjusts to the Polish cuisine. But I also told her, “Ada girl, you better start eating it because soon school will start and you won’t have a choice.”

At home, parsley was a battle, but at school it seems to have been a non-subject. She just eats what they serve and likes it ;)

Life with kids, eh?!

It is cute, however, because she was playing “restaurant” at home the other day and made the menu. 3 of the items were Polish specialties: Zurek, Barszcz, and Pierogi. So we are making progress in the food arena…Especially if she includes barszcz on a menu (it’s beet soup).  Now when she makes a menu that includes mushrooms, you know we will have won!

School.  Oh, it is so difficult.  Everyone asks if we kept up with Polish while away.  The answer is a Big Fat No!

We originally intended to keep up with Polish, but, you have to understand, our daughter had never lived in the United States.  And so every experience was like Disneyland.  And every day was a big ball of bubbling joy.

She did things like swim team and dive team.  She did things like soccer teams for girls and softball.

She joined chorus for two years and the running club for one.  She even went to circus camp.  CIRCUS CAMP!

It was awesome.

School in America.  You can say whatever you want about school in America, but we loved school in America.

It taught character traits and exploration.  It taught teamwork and discovery.  It taught respect of authorities and looking out for others.

School in America was AWESOME!  So awesome, in fact, that my daughter continues to wear her school PRIDE shirts even while in Poland.

Our intentions were to continue her Polish while in the States—but, you know what, living in the States is an invaluable experience that I wanted her to soak up and enjoy.  I wanted her to live every minute and smile as much as possible.

I wanted her to play freely, read much, and learn about everything.

Now she is back in Poland.  And she sits.  And she does workbooks.  It’s okay.  Her teacher is precious and her friends are grand.  But we are so happy that while our daughter lived in America that she got to experience America.

Funny insert story.  The other day at PE the PE teacher said to the kids, “Okay, boys, follow me!  Girls go over there.”  The boys went and played football (soccer) and the girls were put in a small ball pit.  My daughter was not amused and did not find it fun, as it was a lot of girls crowded into a small pit of balls.  She said, “Mom, she didn’t even ask if any of the girls wanted to play football!”  Oh my precious daughter—hang in there!  And we told her, “Next time tell the teacher that you want to play football, too.”  But that is hard for an 8-year-old to do.  I understand.

Anyhow…Back to the blog posting.

All of the above brings us back to present day Poland.  She is in the 3rd class.  And she works really hard each and every day.  She receives two hours a week of Polish as a Second Language, and we send her for study hall twice a week.

It’s different and the language will largely be a barrier all year.  But she is trying hard and that’s exactly what we’ve asked of her—to try hard!

But that brings me to the first miracle of Jesus.

We were talking about firsts in the Bible.  And then we asked her what story she wanted to hear about in regards to the Bible.  She said, “What about the first miracle of Jesus?  What was that?!”

Rich and I glanced across the dinner table at each other and paused.

Well, hmmmm…How do we tell her it was wine?  Because, honestly, living in Europe, she would find that a bit fun.  And funny.  And the significance on the miracle might be lost on the fact that while it was not healing a leper, it was still a miracle of God takes on the elements and the disciples believed proportions!

And so we sat for a moment.  And we thought.

And this is what we said…

You know, Adelyne.  The first miracle of Jesus was turning water into wine at a wedding.

Giggle.  Yep.  We knew that would happen.

“Why?” followed.  Fair enough.

Well, you see, Adelyne.  Jesus and his mother and some disciples were at a wedding (See John 2:1-11).  And the wedding was a very special event, as all weddings are.  And Jesus was not yet known to many to be the Son of God.

Big eyes.  Listening.  Because, at 8, every story she has ever heard is about how Jesus is the Son of God.  I think sometimes we forget that there was Jesus, son of Joseph and Mary, before he revealed himself to the world as Jesus Son of God.

And they ran out of wine.  And so his mommy came and told him that there wasn’t any more wine (maybe in hopes that he would help somehow).

Look of confusion.

But, Adelyne.  This is where it gets really special.  Did you know that Jesus didn’t just run out and buy some more wine?  Or he didn’t just make any ol’ plain wine.  He made the BEST!  Out of water he made the BEST wine.

Eyes widen.

Let me tell you, honey…That is exactly how Jesus takes care of each and every one of us each and every day.  He doesn’t run out and look for other people to solve our problems.

He doesn’t just do a so-so job.

He doesn’t even wait until the very end to give us our gifts.

Jesus takes control of all of the elements and gives us the best!

He cares for us the best.  He loves us the best.  And he saves us the best.  Because that is who he is.

So Daddy and I want you to know that when you encounter something in your life, you go straight to Jesus because he has your best intentions in mind.

Nodding head.

What do you think about that Adelyne?

“Can I have some wine?”

Giggle, giggle.  Sigh…

And then we prayed, together, as a family,  “Dear Lord, thank you for this example.  How you took control of the elements.  How you blessed this family.   How you turned water into wine.  And not just any, old wine.  The best wine!  Because you care best of all about us.  Please help each and every one of us to remember who you are—almighty Son of God—as we enter each new day and to believe in you.  Amen!”

And my daughter said, “Amen.”

You know.  I thought that it would be much harder to tell that story to a child.  But, in the end, it wasn’t. Because each story told in the Bible has great significance.  And there is no reason that any of us should falter in sharing any or all of them.  The difficult stories of the Old Testament.  Tell them.  The miraculous stories of the New Testament.  Tell them.

Because, and this is a big B, because in each story of the Bible, God is revealed.  God is glorified.  And we should never shame in sharing what it is He has shared through His word.

Why?

Because everything he does he does because he loves us best of all.

Amen.