A difference in the air

I feel it the moment I open the laundry room door and step onto the stoop, an ever-so-slight difference in the air. Collin just got home, another late evening, the kids and I have already eaten dinner and the boys are busy telling him about their day and begging him to look for the walkie-talkies. Stella is tucked in her highchair banging her sippy cup and randomly squealing with delight – she likes to be a part of the action too.  Collin tries to eat a taco while talking to the baby and acknowledging the urgency in finding those hand-held gadgets; they are all distracted and it’s a perfect time for me to step outside to take the morning’s laundry down.

The yard is still and the quiet that surrounds me is in stark contrast to the bubbling energy inside – I can actually hear myself think. As I pinch the hooks to release the shirts I realize the clothes on the far east end of the line are in the shade; just last week at this same time at night it was still full sun back here. I ponder this as the clothes whip about in the breeze; a breeze that has just a sliver of a bite to it.

As I fold the last pair of pants I look up and see my hanging basket; the only yellow set of flowers in a sea of pinks and purples this year. It’s in rough shape, the very tippy top has a bit of luscious green with a flower or two blooming (thanks to the recent rain) but the majority of the branches are brown and shriveled. It looks like a bad haircut. “Ha! Mullets aren’t very becoming on plants,” I muse to myself. Watering plants was the one outside chore I tried to keep up on this summer but in the last few weeks I’ve let the rain take care of business and quite honestly, if it doesn’t rain I don’t plan to put much more effort into this task – I see the mums are already making their debut in the nurseries, it’s probably time for these impatiens to slip quietly into the night anyway. Next to the basket hangs the Oriole feeder; the remnants of dried up oranges and sticky jelly are screaming to be cleaned and the feeder put away for the season. We never had any more orioles after the last fill, just bumble bees.

I head inside to round up the troops and the dog slips out the door with them so I put her on the leash and try my best to maneuver her and the stroller.  The big boys ride their bikes in front of me and then turn their heads nearly 180 degrees in order to shout out questions  – “IS THIS THE ONE WITH THE DEER?? Does it have a GIRAFFE?” I plan to take them to the zoo up North on Friday and they are trying to remember all the details from their last visit.

Out of nowhere Nolan comes careening in from behind us –  his bike is neon orange and his helmet has three inch green spikes in the shape of a mohawak –  you really can’t miss him and as he catches up to his brothers the three of them ride off in a hurry to the end of the cul-de-sac. I breathe in the air slowly, letting it fill my lungs, and then exhale ever so gently; an evening walk is a luxury the summer months simply didn’t allow and I don’t want to take even a second of it for granted.

This summer has been….full, hectic, intense. I always feel a bit out of whack during the rush of the summer and between the boys sports schedules, work deadlines, and engagements that filled up weekends and sometimes required travel, this summer has been no different. Most of the season felt like an arduous swim upstream and a portion of it felt like out right drowning. But in the last few nights I have felt the shift – schedules are easing and a new, slower, rhythm is starting to emerge. We haven’t delved back in to school yet but that is coming soon and I think we’re all anxious for the return of the routine. Yes, there is a slight difference in the air, one that always seems to come at this time of year, and I’m welcoming it with open arms….hello, September.

Walking by Faith

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Early November 2015

It’s early November, the leaves are all but gone, the air is beginning to turn frigid and I’m running a solid 40 minutes late because I forgot how long it takes to get out of the house with a newborn. I send a text to let the girls know I’m on my way and they respond “no problem, we haven’t even started yet.”

I tuck the book we’ll be discussing, along with a couple of diapers and wipes, in my little yellow and gray chevron bag – a makeshift diaper bag. I could pull out my real diaper bag but Stella is only a bit over a week old and to be honest it hasn’t quite hit me yet that we are back in diaper-bag land. The book is Walking with Mary: A Biblical Journey from Nazareth to the Cross; I’m only a couple of chapters in but am in love with it all ready. Not only does the hardcover and slightly textured book jacket feel good in my hands after reading so many paperbacks in a row but the words have been speaking directly to my heart, forcing me to more deeply consider the Lord’s will for my life and our family….

“Although walking with God in faith can be a thrilling adventure, it also has some unsettling elements. If we truly allow him to guide our lives, we will be challenged to step out into the unknown, give up control, and rely more completely on him. And that is not something we easily do.” ~Edward Sri

We’ve been contemplating this decision for months, no….it’s been longer than that, much longer…years…our hearts already know the answer but our heads are hung up on the how. How would this possibly work? The logistics of it don’t make sense to me and yet each day the pull from my heart is stronger and stronger. We’ve talked to a few friends and family about it, but up until this point have been mostly cautious about saying too much—lest anyone think we’ve lost our mind—and I remind myself as I put the key in the ignition that this is not the place to bring up the discussion.

Mandi made muffins and coffee and as I settle in on the couch, baby in one arm and book in the other, we chat about a myriad of things: birth experiences, the age our babies crawled, and the local coffee shop before starting our book discussion. We keep an eye on the clock because most of us have preschoolers to pick up at 11, but we delve in.

“Kate, is there something you feel God is calling you to do?”

I berate myself before the words even come out of my mouth—Why am I such an open book?—but I blurt them out nonetheless: “I think God’s calling us to home school.” But I don’t stop there; I share it all, as I’m known to do, and tell them how I just don’t know how this would work. I’m not in a position to quit my job, how could I possibly handle both?

I look up and expect to see blank stares; these are, after all, mothers of my children’s classmates, but the reception my confession gets is the farthest thing from a blank stare.

“I’ve considered it.”

“I have neighbors that home school; it can be such a beautiful life.”

And it’s these words that will ring in my ears for the coming weeks: “God only asks us to take one step at a time.”

I had never considered it before, but those words made me realize that maybe, just maybe, if we are willing to take this step, God will open up doors for us, doors that seem impossible to imagine right now. Maybe even a door that would allow me to step back or out of work entirely. But, if we are unwilling to take this step, we’ll never know.


Late December 2015

 It’s the week before Christmas and our house is twinkling with lights and there are carols being played over the TV: Channel 811, even the kids choose it over cartoons these days. I read the text and laugh a little because I can relate: “Can I drop this food off at your house? I’m afraid if we keep it much longer we’ll end up eating it.”

She leaves her car running as she runs to the door with a grocery bag full of food. In addition to the casserole she brought raviolis, cans of soup, and breakfast bars. It’s clear that her youngest is still under a year; she vividly remembers what moms of newborns need to have on hand: quick meals and snacks.

We try to keep the conversation short as my boys would like nothing more than for her kids to get out of the car and play, but I fill her in on where we are: We took the boys out of school for the 10 days leading up to Christmas break, a dry-run if you will. And inevitably the words come pouring out….I just don’t know how it will work.

Jess is a woman of faith, one who has leapt, even when she cannot see, and her words resonate with me: “Maybe he is asking you to take a leap of faith.”

A leap of faith. I contemplate this in the days to come. Where might this jump take us if only we are willing to say yes to the request?


January 6, 2016

The baby has just gone down for a nap, so we send the boys outside to play while Collin and I tear through the pantry: organizing food, wiping down shelves, cleaning drawers…deep-cleaning a room that has been neglected for way too long, and doing it as quickly as possible because nap time only lasts about three hours.

I didn’t hear it ring, but my phone lights up as the voicemail buzzes in. It’s Mandi and she wants to know if we are home, she has a package to drop off. I smile because it’s my birthday, and I know full well the “package” she speaks of is really a present.

When she arrives I invite her in, out of the January cold, and we talk for a bit. I tell her how it went, breaking the news with the boys’ teachers and principal. It has been two days since we officially pulled them out of school. In my eyes I can start to feel the tears welling up again, as they did just two days ago. We loved the kids’ school. We loved their teachers and classmates; we had no complaints, which makes explaining our decision to others even harder. There was nothing wrong with our current situation, per se, except that it wasn’t where we felt God was leading us. But we are far from having it all figured it, and every day I have to stop myself from being overwhelmed by the how. How will this possibly work when I have to return to work?

She hands me the gift bag that says “Party like it’s your Birthday!” and inside is a mug and journal. The mug is blue and it’s one of those shorter, rounder ones and I can imagine retiring with it at the end of the day, tea in hand. As I flip the journal over in my hands the read the inscription it takes my breath away, there on the cover is an ombre blue and teal tree with gold lettering, the word Faith stands out like a beacon.

“I will walk by Faith even when I cannot see.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:7

I clutch it to my chest and tell her it is perfect.


April 2016

It’s been over three months now and I’ve been back to work for over two. “How is this working?” my mom has asked me more than once. I laugh every time the question comes up because the truth is, three months in I still don’t really know how, but somehow it is. We take it day-by-day, moment-by-moment…..I pray, a lot. Haha, I often say that tongue-in-cheek, but I actually mean it quite literally. I frequently ask the Lord to give me the grace to make it through this moment, just this one… this moment, this circumstance and you know what… He has.

That being said, we’re about to have another transition as building season is upon us and Collin is gearing up for a busy summer. That’s wonderful! We are so grateful for the work, but it has had me wondering again, how will this work?

What I have come to realize is that I’m not supposed to know how; I’m simply supposed to trust that it will. I’m supposed to trust and walk by faith, even when I can not see.

Enough

So.

I would like to write a blog post here that somehow brings you up-to-speed on my life over the past few months, but that also leaves you feeling some sort of peace or inspiration afterwards. That’s what I’ve always hoped to do here on The Sunlit Path: to uplift or encourage you, dear readers, if I can. As well as myself.

Unfortunately, I appear incapable of writing anything these days that isn’t directly related to the unending list of work deliverables piled up in front of me (and believe me, it is actually a lot of writing…it’s just a very different kind of writing).

So.

That leaves me feeling like I should apologize. Across the board…and to everyone.

“I’m sorry…have we not met? I’m Ember. Let me just start right off by apologizing for any future things I will not do well enough.”

An apology for the Mom I am not, the Employee I am not, the Wife I am not, the Daughter I am not…the Sister I am not…the Friend I am not…

I don’t have a lot of time and space in my life right now for inspiration. (Can you tell?)

I want to change that. I do. I just don’t know how.

I keep trying to do just that—to find pockets of time in my day to sit with myself and be—but it feels forced. It usually happens around 10 p.m. at night…after a full day of drop-offs and commutes, errands and conference calls, hours spent at the computer —trying to make sense out of chaos, dinner-making and homework overseeing, baths-books-bedtime, and even a return to work responsibilities for an hour or two, before I flip that switch over to “me” time.

Lately, by then that “me” time consists of reading a few pages of my book, checking out what I missed all day on social media, maybe watching a show, then stumbling to bed.

Ta da.

Don’t you feel inspired? Uplifted? I have so much to give lately.

I’d love to be able to share with you all about how well I’m balancing it all, and feeling great about it. “I’m figuring it out, you guys!” Except…you know I’ve written before about how I believe balance is a fallacy.

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To be honest, these days I mostly just feel tired. And apologetic. Cut off from my family and friends (but oh-so-grateful for the work friends who have become like family to me). Accomplishing what I need to do for work, thankfully, even if it’s kicking my ass, but then holding on so tight to those precious little girls of mine in the evenings. Nodding and smiling wryly at my understanding husband as we share the details of our work days. Hoping that those brief moments with the ones I love are enough.

They don’t feel like enough.

I don’t feel like enough.

But, for now, it’s going to have to be…good enough.

Not Yet

I tuck my leg up under me as I sit down on the couch. Now that she is a bit older and it doesn’t take quite as much concentration I no longer have to retreat to the rocker to nurse her. As I cradle my daughter in my arms my two big boys are on the floor beneath me carving shapes into boxes they found in the wood room—boxes and now shreds of boxes that will eventually be used as fire starters. Their younger brother, who’s not old enough for a pocket knife—not even the My First Pocket Knife his two siblings got for Christmas and their birthday—lies on his belly with his chin propped in his hands.  He watches the carving intently and jumps at the chance to pick up scraps and put them in the wood box.

“I don’t want to go back to work!” My mind screams.

I have two weeks left, two weeks left of twelve.  I took the full twelve, even if it wasn’t the best decision financially, because I knew full well that I wouldn’t be ready mentally or emotionally to head back at six, eight, nine… or ten.

But the truth is I won’t be ready at twelve either.

I won’t be ready because nothing has changed since I wrote this post last January in which I declared my number one goal for 2015 to become a stay-at-home mom. What I didn’t state in that post is that my number one goal was really to become a stay-at-home-homeschooling mom. I wasn’t ready to announce that to the world in its entirety, but now the world knows because at the beginning of 2016, the homeschooling mom part went from dream to reality.

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I don’t want to go back to work.

Part of its nerves: how will I balance working full-time while also being solely responsible for my children’s education?  Of course, I use the word solely loosely; it will be a joint effort between Collin and me and those who have offered to help. But most of it is simply this: the deepest desire of heart is still, and I suspect ever will be, to be a stay-at-home mom.

My eyes well up with tears as I tilt the baby up to burp her and watch the boys below, still carving away.

Not yet.

I hear the two words in my heart clear as a bell, a God whisper.  Not yet.

In two weeks time our family is going to embark on one of our most difficult journeys yet.  It won’t be easy, this working and homeschooling thing. I know that, but unfortunately staying home full-time just isn’t an option right now…not yet.

My oldest holds up a box carving, “Look mom, a great horned owl!” and I smile because I realize not yet doesn’t mean not ever.

A Special Place

We returned from our family vacation “Up North” a little over a week ago now, and I wanted to share a little something here about our time away.

What I was really hoping to do is write something during vacation and post it from Mackinaw City. The beach house we rented outside of town doesn’t have Wi-Fi (a blessing when you’re trying to unplug), so my grandiose plan was to rise early before my husband, kids, and the sun and do a little writing out in one of the adirondack chairs on the back deck while facing the lapping waves of Lake Michigan…slowly watching the sun start to illuminate the grass, then sand, then water, as its soft glow expanded from east to west. Then I’d pack up my laptop, throw on a baseball cap, and run (not actually) into town to the 3-story Starbucks and luxuriate in the warm and sweet froth of my frou-frou latte while logging in to post what I’d written. And then I’d somehow sneak back to the beach house before everyone else awoke. Mommy rules!

Ha! How idyllic that sounds. And how naive I unswervingly remain despite my continual failure to accomplish anything remotely resembling these daydreams. If there were an award for over-inflated expectations, I would be the champion!

Also, let’s face it: I’m not a morning person. I keep filling my head with these cute and quaint scenarios of “making the most” of a quiet hour or two before the candor and chaos of the kids waking up, but the fact of the matter is, two things make the possibility of the aforementioned scenario highly unlikely:

  • My 3-year-old is a bonafide Pop-tart. (Translation: she literally “pops” up out of bed by 6 a.m., give or take, raring to go, and chattery as hell, EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.)
  • I am a night-owl. Rarely do I fall asleep before midnight. My brain usually pops on at about 9 p.m. and goes places I wish it would leave for tomorrow right when I’m trying to wind down for the evening.

So, for the sake of comparison, it’s really only fair to describe an actual typical morning while we were on vacation:

“Mommy, I awake!!!”

Little feet pad across the bedroom floor. Lily has let herself into the master bedroom at the beach house. As I groan inwardly, I’m suddenly re-thinking our bright idea to leave that wicker chair next to the ungodly-high full-size bed in the bedroom next to ours (where Lil’s been sleeping) so that she doesn’t knock herself out while climbing down.

She starts grunting and struggling to pull herself up onto our also-higher-than-normal bed, grasping at the duvet and pulling it off me. I’m already shivering from the breeze blowing in off the Lake from the open windows, which I’ve been too lazy to get up and close. The blast of cold is a bit shocking as I struggle to pull the duvet back around myself.

I hungry!Can I play your tablet?We should go downstairs now!Can you make pancakes?I gotta go potty!Will you read me this book?Are we going to the island today?Mommy, your hair looks CRAZY right now!” A million questions and declarations spill forth from her mouth all at once.

I groan and turn over, trying to block little fingers from poking at my eyes, nose, cheeks…wherever she can try to peck at and get me to acknowledge her presence and open my eyes.

Drew groans and turns over. “Shhh!” he says, then returns to snoring.

I reach for my tablet to let her play games while I try to grab a few more winks, but I knock my journal off the nightstand in the process. Guilt ensues. I groan again. Oh yeah, I was going to get up and WRITE this morning. Hahahahaha…the best laid plans…

So much for that.


In all seriousness, though, our vacation was really great. Idyllic morning aspirations aside, I think we all had a nice mix of just-relaxing-on-the-beach days and getting-out-and-about-to-explore days. I was joking with a friend before we left that vacation for us = moving the whining and fighting approximately 4 hours north for the week, and while that is still absolutely a true statement, we desperately needed, and benefited from, a change of scenery and schedule for the week.

The scenery, by the way? Can you believe this view? I never, ever got tired of it.

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Inspiring, isn’t it?

So inspiring, in fact, that this is the place that originally spurred the idea for The Sunlit Path two years ago. There really is something about the tranquility and beauty of this place that makes just about anything seem possible. The spark of an idea for a combined writing space slowly evolved and took shape during that first year after our joint family vacation, and last year at this time we went live, sharing The Sunlit Path with our family and friends. Although our lives don’t allow us to write here nearly as often as our hearts desire, we are so grateful for this space, and for you…our readers!

We missed having Kate and her family join us at the beach house this year, but as vacation drew nearer, it became quite clear that Kate would need to stick close to home in an effort to keep Baby Stella tucked safely inside her for as long as possible. #stayputstella

The beach house, and the Mackinac area in general, will always hold a special place in our hearts, both for the memories we made there during our first extended stay two years ago, and now because of new memories we made this year as a family.

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Opportunity to Trust

My hands are folded and perched on my now protruding belly as I step up, close my eyes and gently bow.

“The blood of Christ.” She says, as she hands me the cup.

“Amen.”

As I hand the chalice back I look down to my right and there he is, my little tow-headed-three-year-old, looking up at me with the biggest blue eyes.

“What you drinkin’, Mom?” He asks, every time, just a little too loudly.

Collin passes on the wine and the other two boys always follow after him, but not my Nolan, he waits right by Mama’s side and is always inquiring about “what I’m drinkin’.”

I’ll never forget the first time I saw a pregnant woman take the wine during communion.  I think my jaw hit the floor and my eyes were as big as Nolan’s: You can do that??  My head had just exploded.

Wait. I should back up, that makes it sound like I was judging her.  No.  No, no, no, my head exploded in a good way.  You can do that!!?? This is the best news ever! EVER!

Okay, maybe not ever, but listen, Mama likes her wine, is what I’m sayin’.

**

This pregnancy has come with much joy and excitement but also a lot of anxiety and worry.  I’ll be honest, on more than one occasion I have wanted to indulge in a glass of wine….okay, fine, a bottle of wine, but I don’t because I’m too scared to do anything that might in some way harm our little girl.  What if I partake in that wine and my body relaxes too much, I have often thought.  What if, instead of calming my nerves, it actually puts me in labor?

I have a history of pre-term delivery. Our three boys were born at 36 weeks, 34 weeks, and 35 weeks gestation, respectively. Last time we tried weekly progesterone injections, which I think helped, but I still only made it to 35 weeks.  This time I’ve been seeing a high risk specialist.  These appointments started back in week 16 and were scheduled for each three-week period after that. However, by 22 weeks my cervix had shortened enough (from 3.9 cm to 3.0 cm) that I was put on a weekly appointment schedule.  Unfortunately, things haven’t really slowed down and, in fact, the progressing (shortening/thinning/effacement, whichever you’d like to call it) has actually sped up a bit.

Two weeks ago I walked into my 24-week appointment expecting to hear my cervix was in the 2.5 cm range so when my doctor told me it was only 1.9 cm I was so taken aback I had a hard time processing what, exactly, he was telling me. He laid out our plans for the future (steroid injection for her lungs if it gets below 1.5 cm) and we went over the “warning signs” again, things that would require me to come in and get checked out immediately if they occur.  I heard everything he was saying but I was completely in a daze.

I moved straight from that appointment to my regular OB appointment but was left sitting in the exam room for a bit of time.  I tried to collect my thoughts and temper my nerves but I wasn’t very successful in doing either. What did this all mean?  We are prepared for a pre-term birth, but how pre-term are we talking here?

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The thoughts swirling in my head were causing so much anxiety that I was on the verge of tears. I desperately needed to collect myself and stop processing all of this information before my OB walked in and was greeted by a sobbing patient. So I did what I think so many of us do in this day and age, I distracted myself (and my thoughts) with my phone.

And wouldn’t you know, the first thing I came across was a daily devotional email with the following meditation:

“Avoid worrying, then, about anything else for your children except whatever may contribute to bringing them up virtuously. For the rest, having entrusted them to God, try to see what His will for them is, to help them along the path in life He has chosen for them. Never be afraid of relying too much on Him, but rather seek always to increase your trust more and more, for this is the most pleasing homage you can pay Him and it will be the measure of the graces you will receive. Little or much will be given you according as you have expected little or much.”
— St. Claude De La Columbiere

My OB walked in as these words rolled around over and over in my head: Seek always to increase your trust….it will be the measure of the graces you will receive.

I left those appointments and headed straight to Starbucks to feed my feelings, as I often do when I get not-so-good news, and on the way home I cried – I turned that radio down and just let the tears flow, deep sobbing breaths and all – tears really can be cleansing.  I was scared; I am scared about her coming too early. But as I’ve continued to let those words roll around in my head: Seek always to increase your trust….it will be the measure of the graces you will receive; I have found so much peace in this situation.

A week later I jumped up onto the exam table, wrapped myself in the oh-so-fabulous paper-thin covering and looked to the sky while thinking, Lord, I’m putting this in your hands.

It’s taken years for me to learn this lesson, years and trial after trial, but I think I’m finally (finally!) getting it….each and every struggle we face in life is really just an opportunity to trust more deeply in Him.

This week, at my 26-week appointment, my cervix was down to 1.4 cm so I had the first of two steroid shots to help develop her lungs. The good news is, although the doctor has deemed her very stubborn, Baby Stella looks great and so far I am not exhibiting any signs of pending labor.  I am still very hopeful that we can make it to at least 34 weeks.

This doesn’t mean that I’m not still worried – I am, some days more than others.  Last night I was awoken by two painful contractions and my nerves shot through the roof.  But, I’m learning and each day I try harder to turn that worry into trust. Still, there are days that I’d really just like that glass of wine to calm the nerves, so if you see me tipping that chalice back just a bit too far come Sunday morning and you hear my little boy ask “what you drinkin’, mom?” let’s just smile and nod, okay?

Opening Back Up

“It was never my intention to stop writing here, to put the pen down and close shop. I needed a breather, yes, but walking away completely was not the plan….”

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KATE:

In the days following the loss of our fourth child I had so much I wanted to say, so many feelings I wanted to share. Words swirled in my head; words of pain and anguish, words of confusion and broken dreams but also words containing slivers of hope, given to me mostly by other women who had walked in these shoes before me. For the first few days I wore my heart on my sleeve, bearing each and every feeling freely, passionately. I didn’t care that people saw me crying at mass, I was mourning. I didn’t mind sharing every last detail of the moments leading up to and after the loss, I was an open book.

But then suddenly something changed, and changed drastically. My heart didn’t stop bleeding, it was still splayed open and broken, but the raw feelings of pain from losing this baby turned to guilt because in some way my loss didn’t feel like “enough” compared to what other women have had to go through. I suddenly felt like my experience wasn’t worthy of anguish because my miscarriage was an early one. I felt so alone despite the fact that so many women were telling me, “I know. I’ve been there. You are not alone.”

Then, slowly, the confusion and broken dreams shifted and began to turn into anger:

“Why?? What is He asking of us?” I yelled from my office chair as Collin walked down the hall. “Our house, our savings, and now our children?? What? Is God just going to strip us of everything one-by-one? What are we doing wrong?”

He immediately turned around and came back to me, wrapping his arms around me as I collapsed into his shoulders in tears. “That’s not what He’s doing, Kate.”

I knew he was right, God doesn’t punish us like this, but I’ll tell you what, it sure as hell felt like He was in that moment.

That night, after putting the kids to bed, we began reading the book of Job. I was feeling pretty beaten down and battered and my faith was a bit shaken. The words of this book were exactly what I needed to hear to regain my strength.

A couple of days later, with the boys’ help, we chose the name Job Simon for the baby we lost. Job was chosen for obvious reasons, Simon was picked by our oldest son who was preparing to present the Stations of the Cross during an upcoming children’s mass, Station 5: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his cross. The choice was more fitting then I think Keaton will ever know.


EMBER:

Right as Kate was experiencing the overwhelming grief of losing Job, both my husband and I were wrestling with some big work-related decisions. Drew and I had been exploring different job opportunities for a few months, and suddenly we were both in the position of considering job offers at the same time.

At first, it was kind of exciting going through the process together. However, that was really only in those first couple of days when the job offers are shiny and new and flattering—full of all things positive. I don’t think either of us fully realized the added stress and complications that concurrent decision-making would add to the process. During a time when you need to turn inward in order to pay close attention to your heart and your gut for the purposes of your own personal decision, you need to reach outward to support your spouse in their own decision as well. Then, you have to find a way to bring all of those internalized and shared findings into one big, tough consensus. Murphy’s Law of Decision-making also applies. It states that just when one of the vested parties starts to feel a certain way about each of the decisions being considered, the other vested party will suddenly shift their course in the other direction, and your carefully crafted Jenga-structure of a game plan will come crashing down.

Sigh.

We made it through that stressful time of sorting out our individual and family priorities, and, in the end, I accepted an opportunity to return to work while Drew decided to stay with his current employer.

Once those decisions were sorted out, I told myself I’d take a few weeks off from writing at The Sunlit Path—a bit of time to adjust to transitioning back to work, time devoted to scaling that steep learning curve of a new industry and subject matter, time to allow our family to ease into our new schedule.

Then, I told myself, THEN, I’ll come back.


KATE:

Within a month of losing Job, just as I was beginning to engage with family and friends again, just as I was starting to consider sitting down to write, we were blessed with a really wonderful surprise – inside my womb was new life once again.

I clasped my face with my hands in utter amazement when I saw the two pink lines and instantly began to shake. I was so elated and so, so scared at the very same time. I held my breath for the next few weeks and prefaced every statement with “If we don’t lose this one….” Then, on a Thursday morning while the big boys were at school Collin, Nolan and I entered into the ultrasound room and breathed a sigh of relief when we saw the flicker of a heartbeat.

We shared our news privately with those around us immediately but I didn’t feel comfortable sharing publically. My emotions were so jumbled, I was happy and excited and hopeful but at the same time I was still in pain from our recent loss.

Writing about Job and the things I was still feeling made me feel like a fraud when I knew there was a new baby inside me. But writing about the new baby felt like an injustice to Job.


EMBER:

I’m not sure when I thought THEN would be. As though I’d be able to recognize it: flashing T-H-E-N letter lights, alarm blaring, as if it were shouting, “Time’s up, Ember! Your latest life transition is now complete. Please resume your regularly scheduled activities.”

Life happened, as it tends to do, and instead of things calming down after that initial craziness of starting something new, the intensity only seemed to grow around here. Work, certainly, kept me busier than I’d expected (isn’t that always the case?), but all of a sudden there was another potential client…and another…and then the girls’ school year was coming to an end…and all the end-of-year activities were upon us.

The month of June, the beginning of summer, was basically a blur. Just when it felt like we should’ve been slowing down from all the end-of-year craziness, everything ramped up, all at once. I had three product releases hitting in the span of two weeks. Drew had to travel for work. My Mom and Dad set out on a 3-week road trip out west to see family and friends, which meant transitioning the girls into full-time daycare during that time. Ah…life. It was an intense few weeks, but we made it through.

The 4th of July holiday felt like a deep breath. A much-needed one, caught just in time—when I hadn’t even realized I’d been holding mine all this time. A long, shaky inhale; a cleansing, steady exhale.


KATE:

I’ve had several months now to process and sort out my feelings and what this experience has taught me, once again, is that it IS possible to experience sorrow and joy simultaneously. I mean, I know that, but when you are in the midst of life and loss these emotions somehow feel incompatible. I have struggled with finding the words to convey exactly how these experiences, the miscarriage followed immediately by new life, have impacted me. While I tend to be an over-sharer in regards to my feelings surrounding our current life circumstances this time I feared that sharing too much of anything would give people the wrong impression, or worse yet, be unintentionally offensive.

As I type this the little girl (It’s a girl!) in my belly, now 22 weeks along, is kicking furiously.   It still brings me a bit of pain to know that she is only here because of the child we lost, but her life has brought renewed hope and fervor to this house. After a period of feeling like we were stuck in a thick patch of fog we have started to live fully again. We have a few months yet to go, but we are all eager for her arrival and eager to become a family of six.


EMBER:

The thing about breathing, if you can slow down long enough to actually do it, is that it’s pretty reliable about gently reminding you what’s important, what you might be missing out on, what you’ve clenched up and hidden deep inside and need to let out into the open.

I’d be less than truthful if I talked about life these past few months—the newness and busyness of it all—as being the only reason I stopped writing.

I admit that I’ve been scared to pick back up and write again. There were times when I allowed myself to bleed out onto the page in front of me, and the vulnerability I’d feel after hitting “Publish” was at times too much for me to bear. It didn’t matter if only a few people read it—or hundreds. As an introvert, it is inherently against my instinct to share my innermost feelings with anyone other than my small circle of best friends.

Fear begets fear, and I felt mine grow—little by little—with each new blog post. Fear of judgment, of inadequacy, of over-sharing, of being perceived this way or that; of wanting to connect with others, but fearing I’d be misunderstood…that my words would instead only push people away.

Life keeps happening, as it tends to do, and a truth I stumbled upon for a season might shift beneath the already shaky ground, transforming into something else entirely. What I thought and wrote about yesterday may not be what I’m starting to believe today. There’s something that feels fraudulent and frightening about that to me. It’s growth, I realize, it’s part of the process of living and writing, but it is often difficult to do “out loud.”

Despite the fear, I still feel that urge to write. I’m somehow not fully able to work through what I think or how I feel about what’s going on within me and around me until I let the words unfurl. And I really miss making that meaning.

When I sit still long enough, hushing out the worldly noise, I can hear the words prickling beneath the surface—feel them squirming and impatient beneath my skin—yearning to march up to my fingertips and hop out onto the keyboard. These words may be jittery—helter-skelter—scattering every which way except the way I intend, but I’m going to bite my lip and let them shakily find their way out nonetheless.


There’s no perfect time for us to return here. No clean break from the grief or deadlines, life changes or fear. Now probably isn’t the best time to start writing here again for myriad reasons, but it’s good enough. The perfect time was probably a couple months ago, or couple months from now, but you know…LIFE.

When we touched base with one another over the past few months about The Sunlit Path and whether/when we’d return, despite our never-waning life obligations, we’ve always come back to this underlying truth: We want to do this.

And so, we will.

Thanks for walking with us.

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Stumble

Stumble

The thing about The Sunlit Path is that, when you’re traveling along it with someone, you sometimes find yourself navigating twists and turns that you wouldn’t have necessarily taken if you were traveling alone.

This space we’ve started here—a place to share our dreams and vulnerabilities, our triumphs and heartaches—has been integral to healing and renewal for us both over the past several months, and we hope it will continue to serve that purpose.

Our blog is called The Sunlit Path, but we all know firsthand that this path called life is often overcast by loss, hardship, and the winds of change, which can make it hard—seemingly impossible at times—to regain your footing…and to see the sun through the clouds.

As you all know, Kate has recently been traveling down a dark stretch of The Path with the loss of her fourth child to miscarriage, and because I’ve been down a similar road before, I can’t help but find myself traveling beside her, at times, reliving the sorrow.

Also, in a somewhat sudden turn of events, I have recently gone back to work, which requires my family to adjust to a new schedule/routine.

We just want to thank you all for your patience with us right now, as we regain our footing from the stumbles that inevitably occur through loss and life changes. We hope to be back here soon, writing and sharing more about the ways in which our lives are unraveling…according to His will…and in His timing.

Thank you all so much—as always—for walking with us.

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A Letter to my Baby

Dear Baby Kono 4,

BABY KONO 4!!  I am over-the-moon excited that I am finally saying these words! We have been patiently waiting and praying and hoping that someday the timing would be right to add another child to our family. When I saw the two pink lines my heart nearly leapt out of my body; I was overcome with joy!  I had planned on surprising your Daddy with a dinner of baby back ribs, baby red potatoes, and baby carrots but in that moment I could not keep the news from him for another second, much less a day or more (those ribs were still frozen, you see) and so instead I wrapped that little test up and presented him with a Monday morning present.

“What is this?” He asked.

“Oh, just a little something.” I could not hide the smile on my face.

When he opened it he was a little surprised, “really?” he asked me; your timing wasn’t completely ours, but it was entirely God’s. I nodded and he took me in his arms, giving me, giving us, a hug.

I’ve told a couple of people about you but for the most part your presence has been a secret just your Dad and I have shared. Not that I haven’t wanted to shout it from the roof tops, believe me, I have! Your Dad has had to talk me down more than once already and we finally agreed that we’d share the news with your grandparents and aunts and uncles on Valentine’s Day – the day of love, of hearts bursting with joy – it seems appropriate.

Your Dad is convinced you are a girl.  He just knows it, he is sure.  I don’t argue with him on this stuff because usually when he has “feelings” about something he is right.  I do not have any overwhelming feelings about whether you are a girl or a boy, I am just so happy you are here, nestled inside of me. I can feel my body responding to you and I am already so madly in love, October can’t get here soon enough.

While we haven’t shared the news with your big brothers yet it’s almost as if they can sense your arrival.  They have been asking for another sibling for quite some time but recently their requests have become almost incessant:

“When can we have another baby, Mom?”

“I want THREE girl babies!”

“I want a boy AND and girl.”

Your Dad and I share a smile each time they ask and while I can’t wait to tell the world about you, I mostly can’t wait to tell your brothers about you.  They are going to be so excited!

Of course with any big news like this I have some fears, mostly around money and affording maternity leave, but each time these fears creep in I repeat the phrase “I trust you, Lord.” And I do, even though we don’t always understand God’s plan or know how the details will work themselves out He always, in some way, provides.

God’s plan is always better than mine.

I’m trying hard to remember this.

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I trust you, Lord.

I trust you, Lord.

I trust you, Lord.

The words roll around in my head over and over. I sound like a scratched record that keeps skipping… skipping… skipping…

I trust you, Lord.

I force myself to say them even if I’m having a hard time believing them.

It is snowing and blowing and I can hardly see. I am on my way to a meeting just 15 miles or so from our house.  I get within a mile of my destination when I whip the car down a dead end road and make a U-turn, heading back the way I came. The GPS is confused and keeps trying to tell me to turn right, turn right, turn RIGHT! You are going the wrong way, TURN RIGHT!

I feel really bad for skipping out on the meeting when I said I’d be there but in that moment I know I need to be home, laying in bed. Your Daddy and brothers are in shock when I walk back in the door; as I am taking off my boots your dad comes in the coat room and I collapse into his arms in tears.

“I just need to go lay down.”

I grab my rosary and my prayer books as I head to bed; in my heart I know what is happening.

I trust you, Lord.

I get snuggled in and your brothers join me, each one flanked to a side. I feel like I should kick them out of the room, tell them Mommy needs some quiet time, but a weird sense of peace comes over me and I know they are meant to be here, together with us, as we say goodbye.

The cramping comes almost instantly and my body withers in pain. My insides feel as if they are being wrung out like a wet rag, my body is trying to expel you while my heart is trying to hold on for dear life. I feel so helpless and I grasp for you because I’m not ready for you to go….

Hail Mary, Full of Grace…

Your brothers listen as I repeat the prayer over and over, louder and louder each time as if somehow raising my voice will stop the inevitable.  As your big brother Hutton nuzzles his head into the crook of my neck I close my eyes and a shiver runs through my body. Deep in the recesses of my mind I see your heavenly Father, a bright light surrounds him and his presence in my mind brings the slightest sense of peace to my aching heart.  Gently, and ever-so-reluctantly I place you, swaddled in a beautifully crocheted white blanket, into His hands.

The next morning the doctor calls with the results of my hcg quant test and confirms what I already know is true, I’ve lost you.

Oh sweet child, I am so sorry.  I am so sorry that I failed to protect you.

My most recent positive pregnancy test is still sitting on our bathroom counter; the word PREGNANT blares at me each time I go in there. I’m not sure why I haven’t thrown it away yet, I think it’s because it’s the the only tangible thing I have left of you.

Your Daddy and I are hurting so much.

I am so angry with my body. I am so worried that I did something to cause this.

But mostly we’re sad.  We’re so sad because in your short time with us you filled our hearts with so much joy. So much joy!

Sweet angel of mine, please know you are so deeply loved and will be forever missed. I’m holding on to the knowledge that some day we will be together again.

Until then….

All my Love,

Mama

One-on-One

I swing open the garage door and thrust my arm out at shoulder height, my pointer finger aimed straight at the passenger side doors: “Get in the car!”

___

I spent the early part of the morning snuggled up with my oldest on the couch, he was watching a Nickelodeon show while I did some reading. It was a perfect start to the day.

But as soon as the middle and youngest came bounding out all hell broke loose, as it has a tendency of doing.  Any combination of two of these boys seems to be just fine, but when all three are together the bickering and fighting and screaming turns up a notch.  Scratch that.  TEN NOTCHES. It was not even 10 am and already I had broken up at least a dozen quarrels between these guys.  I was done! I’d had it!

I would have sent them all to their room for a breather, a time-out, but that wasn’t an option.  After two failed hearing tests and a perpetual diagnoses of “just a little fluid on the ear” Keaton had a follow-up appointment with the audiologist at 10:20 am, followed by an appointment with the ENT.

___

As he climbs to his seat in the back I shut the door gently and walk around to the driver’s side.  Before opening my door I take a deep breath: inhale vitality, exhale tension (thank you, yoga). I get in the car, adjust my seat, and look into the rear view mirror, “after your appointment I’ll take you out for a special breakfast, how does that sound?”

His eyes light up, “to the place with the milkshakes?”

“Yes, to the place with the milkshakes.” I smile back at him as I put the car in reverse; Denny’s is magical when you are a child.

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Keaton’s appointment went well.  For the first time in two years his hearing improved and there was no sign of fluid on the ear.  The ENT was happy with the results from the audiologist; she was a bit surprised he was able to clear the fluid in the middle of winter.  We happily left the office with a clean report and an order to come back if the concerns happen to arise again.

___

“Two?” the waiter asks as we walk in the door.

We are seated at a booth towards the back of the restaurant. I untape the crayons on the children’s menu and slide it across the table; Keaton immediately gets to work. It’s penguins again, maybe it’s penguins every time? No matter, he colors and I look over the menu.  He already knows what he wants: chocolate chip pancakes with sausage and a side of scrambled eggs.  Oh, and that milkshake, can’t forget the milkshake. I decide on the Veggie Skillet and Keaton giggles when I order a coffee alongside my milkshake.

I know he is hungry because he didn’t eat breakfast before his doctor’s appointment, but he’s a trooper. We spend our time reading penguin facts, answering penguin true/false, and putting together a penguin mad lib. He laughs audibly when I read it aloud to him and my heart swells.  I love spending time with this little boy. I can’t help but become a little nostalgic….the years, they’ve gone so fast. He’s already six. Just last night I was telling each of the kids the story of their birth; it feels like yesterday that the nurse shouted out to us in the wee hours of the morning: “you have a… Keaton!” My heart bursts at the thought, oh, I love him so!

Finally our food comes and he digs in.  I’m amazed at how quickly he eats. I pull the third pancake off of the plate assuming we’ll take it home but quickly put it back and cut it up into small pieces.  He downs the pancakes, sausage, and half of the eggs and I slide him a glass of water to wash it all down.

As he places the glass back on the table he looks up at me and smiles, “thanks mom, I needed that.”

I smile at him and I can’t help but think: No, thank you. I needed that.

___

When the demands of parenthood and sibling squabbles become more than you can bear so often a little one-on-one time spent together is far more productive then issuing another time out.