December 31, 2015

Thank You Grace

Thank You Grace,

When I selected you as my word for 2015 I had no idea what that year would bring. Even more important and pressing was how much I would need Grace to be the center of my year.

The year started off with the goal of showing others more of you. I tend to have very high standards and low trust. So I followed my deep conviction, and set out to shower others with Grace. Some friendships were mended, some grew even stronger, and others came to their end. But I learned that Grace has no expiration regardless of a relationship status.

Then as the year settled into early summer Grace turned the tables. I became very sick with very limited resources. But Grace is not bound by our restrictions. My husband and I were overwhelmed with donations of time, encouragements, and financial support! Grace, you have really out done yourself.

We had a beautiful dance. A step forward in faith was reciprocated with more Grace. And as the situations grew more complicated and unstable, David and I reflected on our previous dance routines. Our responses were more than choreographed, they were a genuine natural movement.

With the cool breeze of Fall you graced us with your presence. You gave us a beautiful gift that we had patiently waited for. And when that gift slipped through our hands, you held us so tight. Your touch provided peace and love. Your constant guidance was the only light pulling us out of darkness and toward healing. You allowed us to scream and beat our chest. You allowed us to mourn and worship. There were no rules under your direction.

When David and I decided that we would like to name our child, we did not look far. This child was yours before it was ours. While singing the song "Lord I need You" the following verse sealed the deal.

Our child was not lost but found with the Lord, in a paradise of Grace. We had referred to Baby O as a boy and settled in on the name Gracen. His memory would be rooted in the overwhelming, undeserving gift of the Love of Christ. 

As tears and years come and go, I know you will guide my heart. As people inquire about this family of two, you will give me courage. As we meet other hurting couples, you will give me wisdom. As we celebrate with others, you will give me strength. 

Thank you Grace. 

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. - Hebrews 4:16

November 29, 2015

Thanksgiving Trimester

I mulled over this post over and over again constantly debating with how transparent I want to be with you and how transparent I need to be [for myself]. This may not be understood by anyone else but for me, I need to read this. 


Just a few months ago I thought it would take ages to reach this week and yet here we are. This week would have marked my second trimester of pregnancy. So how am I feeling? How am I holding up?

deep breathe in...


deep breathe out...

That is such a short sentence, and often so flippantly used but here, in this moment, it is pure. This simple sentence takes my breathe away and restores it with calm assurance.  

This week does not get to belong to my past. It does not get to be a mourning marker but a healing marker. It is the marking of my second trimester of healing. My main symptoms are deep breaths and my top craving is a whole lotta Jesus.....and a little bit of Adele   :)

Don't think about tomorrow. I just need this moment. 
Don't think about May. My heart can't see that far just yet. 
Don't think about the trials to come. After all, I know who I belong to, and nothing catches Him off guard. 

Our loving Father knew that Thanksgiving and my second trimester would share a day.
Sweet November has held my gentle spirit and taken calendar dates from the depths of mourning and adorned them on a heart in the middle of restoration. 

So Thanksgiving surrounded us with family, and a giggling niece and nephews. With hours of card games and football games (including a BIG 12 championship...BOOMER SOONER.) Delicious food and even some shopping.

Our thankfulness was expressed in living life with each other and embracing each other in love and laughter. It was beautiful marker of healing and celebration of the simple blessings. 

November 18, 2015

Phase Six: Altered

If you are visiting my blog for the first time, you may refer to the Phase One for background on our miscarriage story. We are thankful for your continued prayer support during our journey. 

When I began these posts I wrestled with what to call them. I jumped between "Part" and "Phase." And even though I have decided on "phase" it still does not adequately label these forms of expression.

A "part" & "phase" elude to a conclusion. There may be dozens of parts and phases, but eventually they will be complete; they conclude. I think this reveals my mind set at the time of losing Baby O. My Type-A personality said "you will only mourn for a short time, this will just be a portion of your story, this will only be a phase."

And while some days I wish it was over, there are tender sweet November moments when I am thankful to have my battle wounds. There are times when I just want to write a blog post about my weekend plans or show off my Christmas decor. There are also times when I open a post, bare my soul, and leave the post in draft mode because it is all too tender to release to you.

I am learning that a time is coming when "phase" is not permanent enough. I no longer want to look back and read about my phase of miscarriage, because God has moved mountains in my identity, marriage, relationships that far exceed the capacity of a "phase."

There has not been a day since September when I do not think of Baby O. in one aspect or another. That has never changed.

What has changed, and is so beautiful, is what brings Baby O to mind.

At first the thoughts came from a place of deep mourning. I missed my baby. Then through gentle interactions and tender conversations I was reflecting on Baby O in a positive light. God used our child to reach those around us that had not yet come to terms with their out miscarriage story. God used our child to soften our hearts toward the hurting hearts of others. My husband and I mourn better. Our arms are open with unconditional apology for the hurts of a broken world.

And with that I am thankful.

Only the God of the Bible, our Creator, and redeemer. Only He can take something awful and by His spirit use it to bring peace and comfort to our hearts and to the hearts of others.

Nothing else can do that. No one else can do that.

This is a life change. Not a "part" or "portion" or "phase" of my life. The very fabric of my thoughts, of my love, and of my actions are altered.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come." - 2nd Corinthians 5:17

November 4, 2015

Phase Five: Sweet November

Thank you for your continued prayer during this season of our life and phase of healing. If you are reading this post for the first time, you may refer to the Phase One for background on our miscarriage story. 

I have always wanted to be pregnant in Autumn.

I loved everything about cozy blankets, football games, and two holidays back to back. Many of the ideas of sharing news with family and friends centered around cute pumpkins, at the Thanksgiving Dinner table, or through Christmas gifts. 

So it was a tender sweet gift to be pregnant in the fall. The pregnancy was not only an answer to prayer but the timing was as well.

A few weeks ago I shared about the cruelty of this miscarriage experience. While writing that post I viewed my autumn miscarriage as a cruel taunting of this fallen world. Why did it have to be during my favorite season? Why did it have to be near my birthday? The hurt seemed so intentional. The pain seemed so specific. 

Then, during a crisp fall night, October passed away and gave birth to November. 

Sweet November. 

A time of Thankfulness. A time of looking back on what God has done this year. 

Throughout the New Testament the apostle Paul continues to remind his fellow Christians to seek a heart of thankfulness, especially during a time of trial. 

"...give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
 - 1 Thessalonians 5:18

So here I am. In my autumn, barring wounds from battle, as I march in the season of Thanksgiving. 

What I have found when I am face down before God is that I can more accurately see His provision over my life instead of my vision for my life. When I am humble before God I am reminded of the 1,000's of dollars He provided for my surgery. When I step back from my current hurt I am reminded that God puts air in my lungs each morning. There are things to be thankful for everywhere!

So how tender and how sweet of the Lord to have November after October. How tender and sweet of Him to move me toward a heart of mourning to a heart of thanksgiving with autumn leaves all around me. While October seemed cruel, November seems sweet. 

October 21, 2015

Phase Four: Content Choices

Thank you for your continued prayer during this season of our life and phase of healing. If you are reading this post for the first time, you may refer to the Phase One for background on our miscarriage story. 

One of the things I focused on during the miscarriage was the positive fact that I was able to get pregnant in the first place. This was a miracle in itself. The surgery to remove the tumor was successful and the diagnoses of only stage 1 Endometriosis was such a blessing. We had expected things to be much worse.

So when the hard news hit, I focused on December and the hope of having another announcement.
When I had to breathe through nightmare contractions, I focused on the fact that my story is not over; I will have another chance to have a child.

Once the fog cleared (of the physical pain at least) my husband and I had the conversation. With emotions at bay, we discussed when we would try again for a family of three.
While other couples may start as soon as her body allows, other couples are not us. Other couples are not in their senior year of Bible College. Other couples are not graduating in May. Other couples are not student workers employed part-time with no health benefits.

Not that it could't be done. But we needed to be realistic and honest.
It would not be honest to send resumes this winter and go to job interviews over Spring Break with the full intention of being a stay-at-home-mom once the baby is born.

So we wouldn't try again until settled where ever God takes us after May.
I've already done the math. I know it will be almost a year or more before I hope to see another positive pregnancy test.

Some days I am fine with this. I just finished midterms and finals will be here in 2 months. We will keep busy with networking and prepping resumes. We have 7 months left to soak up fellowship with classmates and professors. Our schedules keep us busy. And as a young married couple, we have plenty of time.

Plenty. of. Time.


Then there are days when all I see are a the tiny boxes I have to cross off. Three hundred and sixty five boxes. When I can barely make it through a single day.. I think of how many more I have to "make it through" before our family grows. It feels never ending.

While I am so scared to ever trust a positive test, while I will hesitate at every ultrasound, and I know I will panic at every feeling and abnormality. While going through all of this again seems terrifying, I long to be pregnant again. 

I have already heard people say "You have plenty of time." But the irony is that they are the same people that say "Don't tell God your plans!" when I share that we are waiting.

It's smart to be realistic. It's healthy to mourn.
And it's okay to prepare while God heals us.
And it's okay to rest while He moves in your heart.

"He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake."
Psalm 23:3

October 15, 2015

Phase Three: Cruel October

Thank you for your continued prayer during this season of our life and phase of healing. If you are reading this post for the first time, you may refer to the Phase One for background on our miscarriage story. 

I don't believe in signs or destiny. I don't believe that "nature" or "karma" send things my way to reward or punish me. I know why bad things happen to good people. I know why there is hurt. I know why cancer exists. I know why there is death.

There is general pain caused because we live in a decaying world full of sin. And there is specific pain that is caused by my own sin.
Pain is here because sin is here.

But it's hard when that general pain feels specific.
It's hard not to feel targeted, selected even, to go through this very pinpoint pain.


When you have to take medication on October 1st to induce labor of a failed miscarriage only to learn that October is Infant Loss and Awareness month.


It's breathing through contractions only to find out that a few states away an old acquaintance is doing the same, except she is in a hospital room awaiting the arrival of a living child.

Then there is today.
Today I am waiting for the doctor to call with my blood work to confirm that this physical nightmare is complete. That the miscarriage passed "successfully."
October 15th 2015.

Do you know what today is?
Infant Loss and Miscarriage Awareness Day.

When I realized this, I allowed my jaded and sarcastic inner voice take control of my thoughts. Laughing to myself thinking "Oh I am VERY AWARE of what happened. I am very aware of my loss."

But the "awareness" is never for the person who has experienced the loss. What is sad is that as common as miscarriage is, it's not common enough for people to share it. After all even I am resorting to a blog post instead of facebook updates and phone calls.

But why raise awareness? Why take the time to document this wave of pain and dance between joy and grief? (Thank you Angie Smith for that phrase).

Because where there is pain, there is reason for comfort.
Where there is pain, there are questions for why.
And while I understand why there is pain in the world, someone out there does not. And the pain they are feeling, feels...targeted.

The word I have been using is Cruel.
It's cruel to go through a miscarriage.
It's cruel to pay an ER bill for a miscarriage.
It's cruel to lose a life I cannot bury.

Pain. can. be. cruel.

So what do I do when I live in a world with cruel pain?
What balances specific, deep, loss?
What could possibly out last my patience, withstand my screams, and embrace my brokenness?

"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." -Psalm 73:26

Phase Two: Lost and Found

Thank you for your continued prayer during this season of our life and phase of healing. If you are reading this post for the first time, you may refer to the Phase One for background on our miscarriage story. 

It's not just the baby.
Its not just the pregnancy, the birth story, the feedings all night, and all that comes with having a newborn. 

It's not just the cute clothes, the cute books, and cute pictures. 
It's not first steps, first words, and first days of school. 

It's not just sport games, and recitals. 
It's not just birthdays, and family portraits. 

It''s not just prom, graduation, and college visits. 
It's not just engagements, and wedding days.

I did not just lose a baby.
I lost a lifetime of memories.

During a gentle conversation last week, a woman shared insight from her own miscarriage. She explained that a miscarriage is not just the mourning of the pregnancy but a loss of everything that that life may have included.

This week those words rang a little too loud in my heart.
I found myself walking in crisp fall weather, singing in worship songs, and giggling with my husband...all the while wishing "Baby O" could be with us.

And yet,

My hope must be in the fact that God exists, and that while loss does sting, Hell has no victory with this life.
My hope is in the fact that while I did lose a child, my child is not lost. But found in the most precious, most holy, most safe of places surrounded by the most powerful form of love from the very source Himself.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, 
but wholly lean on Jesus' name. 

When darkness veils His lovely face, 
I rest on His unchanging grace; 
In every high and stormy gale, 
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way, 
He then is all my hope and stay. 

When He shall come with trumpet sound, 
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone, 
Faultless to stand before the throne. 

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
all other ground is sinking sand. 

October 11, 2015

Phase One: Lord I need You

There is no easy way to say this. You are going to be blindsided.

After discovering an ovarian tumor in April, I finally underwent surgery in mid-August. We hoped that this surgery would provide healing and ultimately lead to successful pregnancy in the future.
In early September we found out that it did. We found out that after seven years we were expecting.

I was progressing as normal and began to embrace all the feels and excitement. May would bring all sorts of change with college graduation and the arrival of Baby O.

Toward the end of the month I sensed something was not right.

I remember a very tender Sunday morning at church. I stood for worship and clung my hands around my aching belly. As I read the words on the screen that described how powerful our God is, how He is Able, I could feel that my body was not able. I knew, in that moment that something was wrong. I also knew that there was nothing that could be done about it. So I stood. I held my womb and sang.

“Lord I need You. Oh I need You!”

With each sting and cramp, I held on tighter. I sang louder. There was a blurry line between a heart of worship and a heart of request.

“Lord I need you. Every hour I need you!...”

He gave me a new outlook, right there standing in the dimly lit sanctuary. I can stand and mourn. Or I can stand and show my child a heart of worship. I wouldn’t know how much longer I would carry Baby O, but this baby would know worship. Looking back, I will hold that moment in my heart forever. A tender moment of worshiping with my child.

The following week would reveal that I was in the early stages of a miscarriage. We clung to Philippians 4:7 “peace in the midst of chaos” and God provided. David and I felt so strong and full of joy and peace. We developed a mind set of thanksgiving for God allowing us, choosing us to carry Baby O, even for a month. We were thankful for the opportunity after 7 years of infertility.

"Lord I come and I confess. Bowing here I find my rest."

Another week went by and I would have blood work done to confirm that the miscarriage was complete. The doctor called with the results that instead of decreasing, my blood levels had risen. This means that the miscarriage did not complete on its own.

I would need to labor at home.

"Without you, I fall apart. 
You're the one that guides my heart."

My peace was gone. My contentment was gone. What was seen as an opportunity now only seemed like cruel punishment.

After dinner one evening I went around the house tiding up. I found my most comfortable clothes. Gathered my favorite blanket. Lit my favorite candle. Took my medication to begin the contractions. It wasn’t a room on the Labor and Deliver floor. There were no nurses or excitement. Just me beside my husband working on my Greek homework to pass the time.

"Teach my song to rise to you, when temptation comes my way"

I imagine that as other women breathe through the pain of contractions they stay focused with the coming arrival of their child. Pain in the night but Joy in the morning.

Again, this experience only felt cruel.My focus was to survive through the next contraction. My goal was to be able to fall back asleep before the next wave. I had pain in the night and only mourning.

"When I cannot stand, I'll fall on You"

When we first found out about our pregnancy I quickly went to the calendar to plot the due date and trimester markings. We knew that we would have an ultrasound appointment for the heartbeat right before a trip back home to Oklahoma. It was perfect timing.

It felt like it would be forever before that ultrasound.

Then all of a sudden we were driving to Oklahoma with very different news to deliver.

"Jesus you're my hope and stay."

Like I said, you were probably blindsided by this news. For your sake and ours, we decided to keep this news to ourselves as long as we could. The honest truth of miscarriage is that few people know what to say, and we don't quite know what we want to hear. 

David and I are using this blog as we navigate through this season of healing. Even though you may not know what to say, we will always appreciate your prayers. 

The links for more recent posts can be found listed here.

Phase Two
Phase Three
Phase Four
Phase Five
Phase Six

-Renda and David. 

January 11, 2015

Clinging to Grace

My resolution a few millennia ago was to discontinue the use of resolutions in my life. I have commitment issues with resolutions. Resolutions and I... we just weren't meant to be together.

But January, January is sooo in love with resolutions. If January was Ross, then resolutions would be his Rachel. (I've been binge watching Friends #Netflix).

There is something so magical about the fresh start that a new year brings. New beginnings, fresh start, start over, do-over.
Just thinking of these terms brings a sigh of excitement and wonder!

I don't think we can help but to yearn for a fresh start.
We cannot help to yearn for it because we all need to start over. We crave it and it feels like a gift from nature to have a new Day One.
And not just this generation, or the last ten, but every single human being from the 6th day of creation to tonight craves a fresh start.

Sin hijacked our start.
Sin can often come wrapped in "new". Promising new peace, new experiences, new joy.
But the reality is that sin only brings new hurt, new pain, and new consequences.

Sin brings guilt and they throw a party in your heart and mind.
Their job is to convince you Day One is gone, and never coming again. You blew it.
You schmuck. You idiot.
And while others may tell you there is a restart, sin says: "You couldn't have it, even it if existed, because you are unworthy of new. You are dirty, you are worn, you are sick and broken. Old is where you belong."

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Corinthians 5:17
I am dirty, I am worn, I am sick and I am certainly broken. I am not a qualified applicant for a new creation.
It is by grace that you have been saved through faith in Christ Jesus... Ephesians 2:8

For you resolution setters, what propels you into the new year?
Doesn't the memory of the past year push you to make better choices?
In the same way. When we are a new creation in Christ, we are not patients with amnesia.
We remember we are unqualified. We remember our sin.
By grace you have been saved through faith in Christ Jesus. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works,  so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
We remember the sin and choices because we can more richly celebrate the gift of grace. 
We did not earn grace and yet grace was given.
Our actions in sin kept us unqualified, but as grace moves in our lives (via the Holy Spirit) that New Life begins to ooze out in all the other areas of our life: 
-at school
-at work
-at church
-with strangers
-with family
-with friends
I don't set resolutions. I can't keep them. But this year I was encouraged by a blog post from Aimee to have a word to "cling to in 2015." I loved this idea!
So for 2015, I'm clinging to this gift from God. I'm clinging to Grace.