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.

one-on-one

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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.

{this moment}

Inspired by SouleMama, one of our favorite bloggers: “{this moment} ~ A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.”


A moment from Wisconsin…

keaton & Nolan reading


A moment from Michigan…

Nemo_Lucy

{this moment}

Inspired by SouleMama, one of our favorite bloggers: “{this moment} ~ A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.”


A moment from Wisconsin…

cards with K 1-21-15


A moment from Michigan…

Lily_book

Life in the Small Things

Small Things Quote

When I was a little girl, I loved to collect little, itty-bitty things. Charming little figurines and porcelain dolls, books and notepads, rocks and seashells, necklaces and barrettes, and colored pens and pencils (to name a few).

Each new and exciting little object (found in nature or purchased with my hard-earned allowance) would be assigned a place of honor on my dresser or bookshelf— often atop a doily crocheted by my Grandma Bea.

My tiny treasures.

They brought me so much joy.

I’ve recently started remembering all of my dear little childhood collections because my daughter, Lucy, has inherited a similar affinity for all things miniature and novel and pretty.

Lucy discovers—and immediately finds a fitting place in her bedroom for—any new-found treasure, right there alongside her previously-discovered ones, always adding to her little collections.

I love watching her during her process of discovery—the dogged search, the moment of wonder, the fierce and immediate admiration and attachment.

I love to watch how her little mind works as she carefully ponders where to display or store these treasures. My little curator: how lovingly and thoughtfully she treats them all.

Watching my daughter brings back so many memories of happy times, of care-free days, losing myself for hours in the joy of similar small things.

As I let my mind wander…remember…I come full-circle back to the present.  A question begins to form…a realization unraveling.

Where along the way had my focus shifted from daily admiring and savoring the small things—the intricate, wonder-filled details—to mostly gazing (longingly) in the direction of the sweeping, grandiose “big things” in life?  When had I traded in my macro lens for a wide-angle view, panning out and skimming past all the small things?

For years, I’d been spending so much time working towards the so-called “big things”—you know, the announcement-worthy events that are usually cause for celebration: that promotion at work, launching a cool new product, finishing a master’s degree, getting an article published—that I hadn’t stopped as often as I should have to enjoy or celebrate the small things.

Those little moments in life that cause you to spontaneously smile when you remember them.

Those acts of love and kindness that make you tear up with joy and thankfulness.

Those encounters that underscore our natural tendency to believe that life is precious and sacred.

Small Things Collage

Of course, it’s easy to savor the small things when they come gift-wrapped in pretty packages: counting the petals on a daisy, watching a caterpillar climb a tree, a random “I miss you” phone call from a friend, learning to “pump” on a swing…

What’s harder is not becoming weighed down by the not-so-pretty small things in life: piles of laundry never shrinking, children who refuse to nap, an apparent snub by an acquaintance, a muddy entryway that won’t stay clean…

In the same way it was easy for me to get lost in the drive to achieve or earn or produce or perform, it’s easy for me to get discouraged by the unending chores, the seemingly mundane string of days, and uncooperative kiddos.

The question is: How do you savor the small things without “sweating” the small stuff?

There’s no easy answer to that question, of course. I know for my own hard-headed self, it’s a daily “re-set and try again” type of activity that will never be easy. I’m daily striving, stuttering, failing, picking myself back up, and starting again.

Despite my shortcomings, I want to share a couple Bible verses that have recently helped me find more peace within my current Life in the Small Things…

“Who dares despise the day of small things?” – Zechariah 4:10

I read this verse recently as part of a daily devotional for Moms. It really resonated with me, because I find myself griping so often about the small things I don’t like doing. When I become weighed down by that not-so-pretty small stuff, I try to remember that there’s meaning in even the most mundane and seemingly unimportant tasks. As annoying and never-ending as household chores can seem, for instance, trying to view them as acts of love and kindness for the ones we love the most can help ease some of the burden.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters…” – Colossians 3:23

This verse has comforted me in so many different circumstances. In that sucky job. Or with the sucky boss. The not-so-glamorous projects and tasks and obligations. Whether you’re unloading the dishwasher, making lunch for your kids, updating a project plan, or dialing in to yet another conference call, the important thing is you’re doing what you feel called to do (for now—it might not always be this way). You are providing for your family. Or nurturing your family. Helping others. Helping your team. Whichever. There is meaning and purpose and lessons to be learned in all of that, even when it feels repetitive or unimportant or unnecessary.

The season of life I find myself in now has re-ignited my own process of discovery in finding joy in the small things…and I feel so blessed to be learning this lesson I so desperately needed.

In the past few months, I have doggedly searched for joy in the small moments—the shiny and the shabby ones—and I’ve often been surprised by the moments of wonder, admiration, and attachment that I uncover.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and ye shall find…” – Matthew 7:7

This macro view of life I’ve been gifted has brought the little things—the blessings, now closer and larger—back into focus.

And, of course, time with my two most precious little treasures is the best part of this Life in the Small Things.

They bring me so much joy.

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{this moment}

Inspired by SouleMama, one of our favorite bloggers: “{this moment} ~ A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.”


A moment from Wisconsin…

Nolan racing


A moment from Michigan…

Sissy kiss

 

Be Still: Kate’s Thoughts on “Strive” for 2015

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I never officially declared a word or phrase for 2014, but in my heart the word that guided me through last year was perseverance. I came upon this word while doing a devotional reading one bitter cold morning last January.

Not only that; let us exult, too, in our hardships, understanding that hardship develops perseverance, and perseverance develops a tested character, something that gives us hope. ~ Romans 5: 3 – 4

The past few years have had their share of hardships. I think it would be fair to say that 2012 and 2013 were our two toughest years yet. After rebuilding our lives piece-by-piece following our house fire, 2014 started on the heels of a significant financial loss. Had we suffered just one of these losses I think I could have held it together but two, in such a relatively short amount of time, broke me. Although we were through the worst of it by the time the calendar flipped to 2014, I knew I was still very battered and bruised, and truth-be-told the only thing I desired for last year was to make it through. I just wanted us to keep chugging, to not give up, to persevere.

2014 had its share of struggles, that’s for sure.   Not once, but twice we had to make major decisions concerning Collin’s career, I contemplated a job change, Collin had to have emergency dental surgery, he also ended up in the ER with a weird virus and threw his back out, which laid him up for over a week (actually, he kind of had a tough year). We also unexpectedly lost a loved one and Collin’s dad suffered a heart attack. The heart attack was what impacted last year most significantly, and on Christmas Eve the severity of the situation truly hit me for the first time. As Papa helped the boys with their chicken dumpling soup, a wave of fear washed over me, we could have lost him.

But we didn’t. Papa didn’t suffer a heart attack he survived a heart attack. While 2014 had its struggles it was most definitely not the worst of years.  We persevered and we made it though, and that’s all I wanted.

But with the dawn of a new year upon us, I hope for so much more in 2015. I don’t want to just make it through; this is the year I want to see some real change.  Collin and I sat down together on New Year’s Eve and wrote out a list of goals and objectives for the coming year and together we’ve decided that 2015 is the one we want to look back on as “the year we turned things around.” By the end of this year my hope is that we (individually and collectively) are thriving, not merely surviving.

Our list was broken down into four categories: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and financial.  I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise to anyone that #1 on the list is Get Healthy: exercise regularly and eat better.

I know, I know, this is the go-to resolution, right? Everyone declares this at the beginning of a new year!

Here’s the thing, getting healthy has to be our first priority.  While mentally and emotionally I am so much stronger than I was a year ago, physically I’m still a mess; bad habits are really easy to start and really freaking hard to break. If I don’t get my body healthy, no other aspect of my life is going to be healthy, because every part of our being is intertwined. When I lack discipline here, I lack discipline everywhere.  So not only am I currently overweight, I am also extremely disorganized, unable to focus, and my ability to procrastinate is at an all-time high.

My hope is by placing our attention on our health first the results will trickle down into other areas of concern and free up some space/time to spend on the fun parts of our list, which include taking up some new hobbies and enacting a monthly date night.

All of these goals should be achievable if we strive to make the best decisions day-by-day, but the boldest move I made on that 2015 list was including this: Become a stay-at-home-mom.

Whew! Just typing that here makes me hyperventilate a bit.

As our lives stand right now this goal appears impossible.  I shouldn’t say that, it appears possible but not probable as it would require a lot of things to happen first: get the house show-ready, list it, SELL it, find a new property, etc. etc. etc.

We have talked this over a million times—considered different scenarios and crunched the numbers—but every discussion ends with a deep sigh of regret as our heads tell us the only way to make this work is by selling the house.

However, it dawned on me the other day that in all of these different equations there was one thing lacking from each and every formula: Faith.

And in its place was a whole lot of doubt.

I’ve witnessed miracles happen in other people’s lives, I’ve seen hopes and dreams (ones that did not seem at all possible) come to fruition, why would I doubt that could happen for us?

I’m lacking faith.

My mind is constantly churning, seeking happiness, making plans and searching for ways to achieve my next goal. My mind is rarely quiet. It is rarely still. But if I do silence it for a moment I know that the only way to truly find happiness is to follow God’s will. If it is God’s will that I be home with my children and I am open to it (I am!), I know it will happen. I may not be able to envision how it could happen, but I have to trust that it will because He “is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us.” ~ Ephesians 3:20

But if it is not His will then no amount of planning or seeking ways will make it happen, or at least, happen successfully.

Although I’m leaving “become a stay-at-home mom” on my list of goals for 2015 (because it truly is the deepest desire of my heart) since writing that list on December 31st my mind-set has shifted a bit. This year, instead of constantly busying myself with making plans for our life and then struggling to achieve them, I will strive to silence my mind and listen to His call. But more importantly, I will pray that I have the courage to follow His guidance and the strength to accept His will.

Happy New Year!

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Be Thou My Vision: Ember’s Thoughts on “Strive” for 2015

Happy New Year! Kate and I are starting off 2015 here on The Sunlit Path with a theme word for the year: Strive. After much reflection and discussion of this past year, we kept coming back to the word strive as feeling “right.” Today I’m sharing what strive means for me in the context of the year ahead, and Kate will share the same for herself next week. Stay tuned! And, as always, we invite you to Come and walk with us!

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So, here we are. It’s 2015.

I’m so happy (relieved?) to see that calendar page turning. I’m giddy, almost, at the thought of plunging right into the new year—icy tingles baptizing the year ahead with a dazzling aura of all things refreshing and shiny and oh-so-doable.

Along with my excitement for a fresh start, however, comes some fear. The fear that comes with having been here before. Of knowing the drill, but not loving the outcome. I know, from years past, how quickly that tingle of excitement fades.

The shininess dulls. The taste bitters.

Life happens, and the things that earlier felt—looked, through rose-colored glasses—so easily achievable, are suddenly…well…not so much.

“How did I ever think I was going to get to the gym 5 days a week with my schedule, plus cut out carbs? I’m as angry and tired and hungry as a bear who forgot to hibernate, and I wonder why…?”

Momentary lapses of sanity. Over-optimism at what we’re able to handle. Rose-colored glasses while drafting our “to-do” lists…goals…resolutions. We all over-estimate what we (realistically) can do. Or how quickly we can change a habit and have it “stick.”

Sorry. I’m not trying to burst anyone’s “It’s still early in January and I’ve totally got this!” bubble here.

And don’t get me wrong, I am optimistic and joy-filled at the thought of this year ahead (truly!).

But I want to approach 2015 differently than I usually approach a new year. Without “set in stone” goals or lofty resolutions that I’ll look back on late in December and feel regretful about, because I failed them. Again.

There are so many things I want to do this year, focus on, STRIVE for…

But resolutions they will not be.

I am not going to do that to myself. To continue to set myself up…to then hate myself. To continue the cycle of self-disappointment.

…I don’t need the self-loathing come Valentine’s Day when I decide to eat a few squares of the Ghirardelli chocolate Drew brings home, because he knows it’s my favorite.

…I don’t need to look at myself in disgust once again when the scale has only inched down slightly (if at all!) by the time t-shirt weather returns.

…I don’t need to keep telling myself I’m only worthy of love and acceptance when I’m __________. (Thinner, more productive, earning more money, working at that job with the impressive title, etc.)

I’ll let you in on a little secret: What I see when I look in the mirror these days does not make me feel very good about myself. I’m world-weary, and it shows. Loss—of loved ones, of my confidence, of feeling worthy— has drained me, wrinkled and dimpled me. I’m worse for the wear on the outside. It’s true.

But you should see the beautiful swelling of my heart when my 3-year-old asks if we can go lie down on her bed and read books together—her favorite pastime these days.

Or when my almost-5-year-old kisses me goodnight and says, “Mama, I had fun with you today.”

Most days, I have to remind myself that these visions of love are what matters, more than my reflection in the mirror.

Still, I don’t want to neglect my own self-care with the excuse that there’s no time for it! Because I’m caring for OTHERS!

I know all too well that the days (weeks? months?) that I’ve neglected taking care of my body, mind, and spirit leave me ill-equipped to care for others fully.

With this knowledge in mind, for me, I think the word “strive” will take on a two-pronged approach this year.

I want to be, all at once, more forgiving to myself—that is, full of self-love rather than self-loathing—while striving to be more, to fulfill my potential without the self-defeating thoughts and excuses that I often put in my own way. I want to scale those roadblocks, jump those self-imposed hurdles, and sprint forward without the fear of stumbling (though I know stumbles will assuredly occur).

I’ll admit it: I have a lot of internalized goals for this year. A “list” (if I’m being honest) of things I would like to accomplish.

And I think that’s good. I think it’s natural always to be looking to better ourselves as human beings. It’s God’s will for us to daily strive to be more like Him—kinder, gentler, more loving, hard-working, etc.

But it’s also why I’m changing my thinking for this year. I’m trying to reframe what I want this year to look like: not focused on self-centered achievements, but on continuing to seek God’s will and peace in my life.

Here’s an example: I want to get healthier this year. Losing weight is a part of that, of course, and I could write a self-focused resolution to “Lose 30 pounds this year.”

But, like I mentioned, I don’t think that’s the right way to frame it.

Instead, I’ve been contemplating what the Lord’s will is for me—to treat my body with reverence and care, to be a reflection of His creation—and have that be my “become healthier” focus.

Making sure I move my body at least a little every day would help support that “getting healthier” goal. (Instead of: Do the Daily Shred every day in January.)

And, it leaves me some wiggle room. Because I know from experience that on Day 3 of the Shred I’ll be sore, and the last thing my body is going to want me to do is that. same. workout. Instead, I could walk for 20 minutes on the treadmill, loosening up those tight and sore muscles, and not completely “throw in the towel” when how my body is feeling doesn’t align with the goal I created for myself.

Nourishing my body with mostly whole, non-processed foods would also support that same “getting healthier” goal. (Instead of: Go back on the South Beach Diet, which I know I’ll get sick of after two weeks, then binge-cheat on french fries on a day I’m feeling particularly stressed out and need comfort.)

You see, if we can seek out living life more like God intended us to live—mindfully, intentionally, generously, and with more self-love and grace toward ourselves and others, we’re well on our way to achieving the right kind of goals in 2015.

As you contemplate this time of new beginnings and what you want to fill your life with this year, remember that those goals—no matter what you end up producing or how you end up performing—should not be set up to make you feel worse about yourself if they don’t quite go according to your original plan. Remove your “self” (ego) focus from the goals and re-frame them through the lens of God’s will (which is to “prosper you and not to harm you…” -Jeremiah 29:11).

I’m writing this as much for myself as for anyone else. My vision so often becomes blurred by seeking the wrong things in life: validation through other people’s opinions, ego inflation and accolades, money or possessions…

But when I step out of my “self”—out of those selfish longings for outside approval—the things that should have my attention easily regain focus.

The following hymn just came to mind as I write this:

Be Thou My Vision

(A traditional Irish hymn, select stanzas)

“Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;

Naught be all else to me, save that thou art;

Thou my best thought, by day or by night,

Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.

 

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise;

Thou mine inheritance, now and always;

Thou and thou only, first in my heart,

High King of heaven, my treasure thou art.”

My hope for you, whatever it is you’re striving for this year, is that you’ll try to see yourself and others as God does: not only as worthy of love and acceptance exactly as you are right now, but also capable of “…immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…” through Him. Let Him be your vision along this path.

Happy New Year!

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The Journey to a Child: A Story of Faith, Hope, and the Glory of God’s Miracles

Last weekend our families gathered together in celebration of Thanksgiving.  It was a wonderful day full of good food and great company; everyone was in high spirits.  Two days later we gathered again, this time with extended family and family friends for another celebration – one for which we are all very thankful – a baby shower for my sister-in-law, CaSondra.  After four years of struggling through infertility and pregnancy loss CaSondra and her husband, Ben, are expecting a child.  I wrote the following to be read at the shower as a prelude to one of the games we played; while the words are mine, the story is theirs. With CaSondra and Ben’s permission I’m sharing it with you today. My hope is that if you, or someone you love, is suffering through infertility or loss, this might bring you a bit of peace and hope as we look forward to Christmas and the birth of our Savior, a miracle himself.

journey_to_a_child

Written for CaSondra and Benjamin Shim with love by Kate Konopacki

December 2014

Introduction

Once  upon a time, there was a little girl named CaSondra.  CaSondra was full of spunk and love, and she lit up a room just by walking into it.  CaSondra had a very big heart and a special gift; she always made everyone feel welcomed. As CaSondra grew into a pretty young lady, she dreamt of marrying the man of her dreams and starting a family.

The Lord heard CaSondra’s prayers for a husband, and on July 26, 2008, CaSondra and Ben—her prince charming—were united in marriage. CaSondra and Ben quickly began talking about starting a family, but the two of them were an adventurous pair. Shortly after returning home from their honeymoon in Mexico, they decided that together they would spend the next year training to climb the highest free-standing mountain in the world! In February 2010, CaSondra and Ben set off for Africa to summit Mount Kilimanjaro.

I could tell you many more tales of CaSondra and Ben’s traveling adventures, but this story is about an adventure of another sort… When the lovely couple returned from their great summit, they set off on their adventure to start a family…..

Too Precious for EarthCaSondra and Ben spent each day offering their prayers to God, asking Him to bless them with a child.  On July 2, 2010, CaSondra and Ben found out they were pregnant. Unfortunately, a day that should have been filled with awe and joy was filled with much confusion and fear as CaSondra’s body was clearly telling her something was wrong.

“Please Lord, let this baby be okay,” CaSondra asked several times over the course of the next few weeks. As she and Ben were awaiting further news about the child that she was carrying, they offered their hearts to the Lord through prayers and tears.

In heaven, the Lord heard the cries of His children, and He bent His head in knowledge as the tears slid down His cheeks. As He wrapped the couple in His loving arms, He whispered:

 “Not yet. It’s not time yet. I have something to teach you first.”

After many consultations with their doctors, CaSondra and Ben’s worst fears were confirmed when they found out the pregnancy was ectopic.

On July 23, 2010, heaven received a new angel when Jaden Lyric  was placed in the hands of his Heavenly Father.

Jaden was greeted into heaven by a chorus of angels all ready and willing to cater to his tiny baby needs. He was a special little baby and everyone wanted to be close to him, but the Lord held onto him tight, rocking him gently and singing lullabies in his ear. To his parents on earth, whose hearts were shattered, the Lord gently whispered:

“ Trust in Me with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding: in all your ways acknowledge Me, and I shall direct your paths.” ~Proverbs 3:5-6

2011Over the next year and a half CaSondra and Ben continued on their journey to start a family.  The road was not easy; there were twists and turns and areas of rockiness. In January 2011, CaSondra was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and soon after began her first rounds of fertility medication.

“Lord, we trust you with our lives and our journey… please lead us,” CaSondra prayed.

In May, CaSondra and Ben were introduced to the great Dr. Bopp, a Reproduction Endocrinologist. Dr. Bopp was a wonderful man who prayed for and with the couple.  CaSondra and Ben were confident that it was by the grace of God that Dr. Bopp was introduced to them.

In July 2011 the couple prepared for their first IUI (Intrauterine Insemination), but were saddened by the news that the procedure had to be cancelled because the dominant follicle was on CaSondra’s right side. You see, during her surgery with Baby Jaden, CaSondra’s right fallopian tube was damaged and had to be removed.

It wasn’t time—yet.

Throughout 2011 the couple tried two more rounds of IUI, one of which was unsuccessful and another that had to be cancelled. CaSondra also struggled through periods of very painful and sometimes dangerous cysts. Their hearts were heavy, but CaSondra and Ben continued to put their hope and trust in the Lord.

Meanwhile, in heaven, Jaden was growing into a mighty fine little boy.  He had dark silky hair like his father and a heart of gold like his mother.  His angel wings grew more and more each day as he devoted his time to welcoming new little angels into the gates of heaven. He also spent a hearty amount of time running through the woods and tinkering on gadgets, as all good little angel boys do. The Lord watched over him and his earthly parents closely and listened intently as CaSondra and Ben prayed for another baby while Jaden prayed for an earthly sibling for his Mom and Dad.

2012: Free-fallAt the beginning of 2012 CaSondra and Ben spent much time in contemplation and prayer as they asked God to make His plan clear to them. The Lord listened and provided an answer; at the end of January the couple began preparing for their first round of In Vitro Fertilization.

CaSondra and Ben were filled with much hope and joy at the thought of becoming pregnant again! They continued to pray and put their faith in the Lord; they never doubted that he would make them a family, but they knew with all of their hearts that God’s plan was greater than theirs.

On February 15, 2012, the day their embryos were scheduled to be transferred, CaSondra and Ben received some devastating news.  The embryos had ceased growing and the procedure had to be cancelled.

They held each other as they wept: 5,241 tears, to be exact; the Lord counted each one as He wrapped them in His warm embrace.

“I’m so sorry, my children. I know this hurts. It’s not time yet.”

The weight of their journey came crashing down at this moment, and, no longer strong enough to sustain the trip on their own, they fell into the arms of their family and friends—the family and friends that were waiting and willing to lift them up and support this beautiful couple through encouraging words and warm meals and loving hearts. Through the pain, CaSondra and Ben were witnesses to something wonderful and beautiful. For the first time, the safety net that God had placed so lovingly beneath them was visible; they allowed themselves to let go, to free-fall into the love of others.

2012: Round 2A couple of months later CaSondra and Ben were ready to try a second round of In Vitro Fertilization.

“We trust you Lord, and although we do not understand your ways, we know that your plan is good.” As they prayed together, they left their hopes and dreams in the hands of God.

And each night while they slept, Jaden, their heavenly baby, would kiss his parents’ cheeks and whisper in their ears, “Do not give up hope, Mommy and Daddy. So many people are praying for you.”

Preparations for IVF round #2 began in March, and with each daily check-up things looked promising.  On April 9, 2012, the day after Easter, CaSondra had 18 eggs retrieved and was ordered to be on bed rest. Three days later she would have the strongest embryos transferred into her womb.

The couple spent the next few days in great anticipation. Family and friends called to check in and offer their hopes and prayers for this wonderful couple. Everyone was anxiously awaiting news that they were soon going to be a family of three!

The Lord heard these prayers and wishes and wanted the same, but with a heavy heart He wrapped His arms around His children once again and whispered:

“Not yet. It’s not time yet. You have something to teach them first.”

2012-2013: CaptivityThe couple was devastated by the news that their second round of IVF was unsuccessful. They decided to take several months off from their journey to parenthood to grieve and mourn their losses.

During this time, however, they never, ever, gave up hope.  They never stopped trusting in their Lord with all of their hearts. They never stopped praying for another baby, and they had faith. They knew that God had the ability to work miracles.

What they didn’t realize is that this hope of theirs, this commitment to trust, and this love for God that they poured out wherever they went, despite their struggles, was a shining example to all of those around them.

CaSondra and Ben, through their difficulties, taught their family and friends what it meant to be faithful. Suddenly, this safety net of people who caught them when they fell, watched the couple spread their wings and begin to soar. As they climbed higher and higher with their trust and faith, each and every person around them began to rise up as well.

From the heights of heaven, the Lord watched this couple, and He smiled.

Although their journey was not over yet, the next year would bring more challenges as CaSondra and Ben tried another IUI procedure and then started researching different adoption alternatives. Through it all the Lord saw their devotion and lovingly whispered to them:

“For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you and I will bring you back from captivity.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11

2014: 4 YearsIn heaven, Jaden and the choir of angels continued to watch over CaSondra and Ben, and the Lord continued to offer them support through the help and love of family and friends.

March of 2014 marked the fourth anniversary of CaSondra and Ben’s journey to start a family. Shortly before this they learned that CaSondra needed to have surgery to remove endometriosis.

They were sad to hear the news, but as I’m sure you know by now, this did little to weaken their faith. They decided to put their journey on hold for a year and try again to have a child in early 2015. Despite the unlikelihood of them being able to conceive without medical intervention, they still believed in God’s miracles.

“We trust you, Lord, with our lives and our journey,” they prayed in unison.

A Miracle ChildIn July , while CaSondra and Ben were unknowingly going about their day-to-day lives, the Lord summoned the angels to His side; His smile was wide, and they all knew instantly that His announcement was great.

“It’s time,” He said to them.

The angels, unable to contain their excitement, immediately broke out in joyful sound; the singing that erupted in heaven that day was glorious. As they looked down on Earth at the unsuspecting couple, they sang “Alleluia, Glory to God!”

As the Lord stood and gently quieted the room, He called out in a deep Fatherly voice:

“Jaden Lyric, are you here?”

The choir of angels parted, and from the very back of the room Jaden stepped forward. His body had become lanky, and his wings were nearly full grown; as he walked, the choir of angels saw that he was holding the hand of a small child. As they made their way to their Father’s feet, Jaden beamed and the little girl clasped his hand tightly. Her dress was white as snow, and her glossy brown hair shone as bright as the sun.

“We’re here, Lord,” Jaden said to his Heavenly Father.

“Wonderful, my children,” The Lord bent down and touched the chin of the most beautiful little girl, a true miracle child.

“Eliana, do you know what your name means?” He asked her.

“Yes, Lord. It means ‘My God has answered’,” she said as she looked lovingly into His eyes.

“Yes, my child.  Eliana, are you ready?” He asked her.

“Yes, Lord, I am ready.” As she looked up, a smile spread across her face; with a twinkle in her eye, she said, “Send me to my Mommy.”

 

* Eliana Shim is due to make her earthly appearance on April 5, 2015. *

With Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week by reflecting on the blessings of this past year, we both count The Sunlit Path as one of the things for which we’re most grateful. What started out as a tiny seed of an idea for a place to share our dreams (and fears…and struggles…and hopes…) has grown into a bountiful harvest, ripe with unexpected connections and grace.

We started The Sunlit Path to write down—and try to make sense of—what was happening in both of our lives during these times of transition. Even though we started writing partly as therapy for ourselves—spilling out our truth and hoping to find some clarity hidden in there among the rubble—we always hoped that we would touch someone else’s heart along the way.

That hope remains—that, at one point or another— you’ve felt a glimmer of recognition in something we shared, a “Me, too!” moment in which you hopefully feel a little less alone or a little more at ease.

We are humbled and beyond grateful for any and all of the words of encouragement you’ve graciously shared with us through your comments, texts, emails, and phone calls.

We can’t say thank you enough for walking with us on The Sunlit Path…

Happy Thanksgiving!

Love,

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