Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Walking Wounded

Child of divorce
Estranged daughter and sister
Daughter of a raging, abusive alcoholic
Recovering anorexic
Sufferer of situational depression
Mom of a dead son
Flawed wife
Imperfect mom

If I were to look at this list and try to sum it up, there are a lot of things that come to mind. Messed up. Sad. Worthless. In a word: Broken. 

But what if I told you that this wasn't just any list, but that it was my list. A list of just some of my flaws and "issues." And not even a full list. Nope, I could definitely add more to this. Probably enough to fill pages.

We all have our list.

But this isn't just a list; it's a person. A person who you know and see and talk to every week or even every day. A person that is not just a list of words and things and flaws, but a person who matters. A life that matters and was made for so much more than all the bad, horrible things I could come up with to describe myself.

What if I were able to view myself the way that God sees me? I think that list would look something like this:

Child of God
Daughter of a King
Blessed mom to one angel and one living miracle
Blessed wife

What if I could replace my list with His list? What would my life look like? How could I impact the lives of others? How could God really use me if I viewed myself through His eyes? And even more, what if I could view others through His eyes?

My friend Kelly and I always joke about how great it would be if we all wore our "stuff" on a tee shirt for everyone to see. That we'd walk into a room and see someone with our same faults or failures or struggles and we'd squeal with delight as we ran to them because we'd know that they could relate. There's certainly comfort in knowing that someone gets it and that we're not alone. 

But the truth is, we shouldn't have to broadcast our crud in order to give or receive kindness or understanding or love or support or encouragement. We need to realize that we're all wounded. We all have a story. We're all just a bunch of broken people who have a laundry list of faults and regrets who on any given day, are just trying to make it. 

But, we have Jesus. Oh, how grateful I am for just the thought or whisper of His name! We may feel broken at times, but there's One so much greater who always puts us back together. 

Despite all of my shortcomings, there's someone who loves me so much that He gives me grace and forgiveness And once you have that gift, you can't help but to live and breath and walk in that truth.

And in that truth, there is Hope.

Monday, September 16, 2013

With Love, by Grandma

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of times spent at my Grandparents Michigan home. Picking warm tomatoes and strawberries from my grandma's garden and eating them in delight as the juice ran down my face. Watching summer hailstorms from the porch swing. Learning how to cross stitch when I was seven years old. And perhaps my favorite, watching my grandma in absolute awe while she sat at her sewing machine.

I could find her busy in her sewing room at all times of the day (or night), working on her latest project. The small, cozy room was strewn with fabrics of all colors and patterns. Files contained patterns for everything from curtains to dresses to pajamas. I was always so intrigued by the sewing patterns. The idea that you could take pieces of fabric that looked like nothing and turn them into something that could actually used. 

And she was always working on something for us grandkids. New flannel pajamas for Christmas morning. A new dress for my first day of school. Beautiful flannel quilts, perfect for snuggling. And perhaps my favorite part - a tag that finished each and every gift that simply said, 'Made With Love, by Grandma.' I would run my little fingers over the tag and I just knew that the words were true. 

When Grandma was in the midst of a blanket, her sewing room looked like chaos. Tiny patches would lay in piles around the room. I would hear the forward of her machine as she would sew and sometimes, the reverse when she didn't get it quite right. She would take it off and pull out the seams by hand until they were straight. For grandma, it had to be perfect.

I would peer over her shoulder to try to catch a glimpse of what she was working on and often leave in frustration. It was taking too long and didn't really look like anything but a mess of inside out fabric squares. I would nag her about when it would be finished because I wanted my gift now, but she always emphasized patience. She said that she could hurry through, but that it wouldn't come out right. That I had to wait and she then would reassure me that what she had planned would be worth the wait. And it always was.

And finally, she would present to me with her gift. What began as small, multicolored squares was now a beautiful flannel quilt made just for me. A quilt that I would sleep with every night. A quilt that I would snuggle with during Saturday morning cartoons and would accompany me on overnight trips. A quilt that would cover my head at night as I heard the distant yelling of my parents fighting again. And finally, the comfort I needed as I said goodbye to grandma when cancer took her from our family. 

So often when I think about what God has done and continues to do with my life, it usually doesn't make much sense. It looks like a pile of accomplishments and disappointments. Good and bad choices. Love and heartache. Life and loss. 

I see the events of my life strewn around me and I can't see how it's all going to fit together. I beg God to hurry up and let me see even just a glimpse of what He's doing. I feel parts of my life being torn apart, but not without Him lovingly putting them back together again; each time a little stronger than before. As the years go on, He reveals small sections that have been pieced together and always bring me one step closer to looking more like His son.

Although I may never see the full realization of what God has planned for my life while I'm on this earth, I have absolute trust that it is good and perfect. And finally, one sweet day, I will look back at the finished piece and like all of my grandma's projects, I will see His fingerprints all over my life and I can  absolutely certain that it is all 'With Love, by God'.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Because We're All in this Together

I am so blessed. Everyday, all around me, I am constantly blessed. 

I have a wonderful husband who loves me. I wake up each morning to the most amazing coffee and my cup already sitting next to the coffee pot. It may seem small, but to me, it's true love and it blesses my day.

My cup overflows from the love I receive from my sweet Mason. A tender, sweet eight year old son who smoothers me with hugs and kisses every chance he gets and can't leave the room without adding, "I love you so much mommy."

The support and love I have from friends humbles me on a daily basis. Friends new and old who pour into my soul seeds of encouragement and accountability.

And in this age of technology, I am blessed by some of my online friends. I've been a member of the site (TM) for over seven years now and this site and it's amazing members have blessed me in so many ways.

TriangleMommies is an online community of women from all over the Triangle who meet together online (and sometimes, in real life (IRL)) to offer support, advice and help on this mom road so many of us walk. We're a community made up of so many different types of women and although we may not always see eye to eye, we have one common core - we're all moms or want to be a mom. 

I've walked some of my darkest days with women on TM. Losing a son. Depression. Secondary Infertility. And every step of the way, I've been loved and supported by the women of TM, many of whom I've never even met IRL.

One of the most lovely things I've seen TM do is to have members leave gifts outside another TM's house when they need a pick-me-up. These are little "fairies" who spread cheer to other women who often need it desperately. The absolute beauty of it all is that the women who deliver the gift have no idea to whom they're delivering and the women who receive a gift don't know who brought it; it's completely anonymous. And even more, the women who give are spending their own money and time to bring a gift and bless a woman that they don't even know. In the words of Martha Stewart, "It's a beautiful thing."

I'm fortunate to have been on the receiving end of these TM gifts on several occasions, but the ones that mean the most to me are ones that come at the same time every year around August 21; the day we said goodbye to Robert. These women remember me and the pain I've experienced and they remember it every year. You have no idea how much that means to me. 

If you look around and notice the world around you (or even those people directly within your sphere of influence) there are opportunities all the time to bless others. It may mean just being available when someone needs an ear to listen. Maybe it's helping a mom with a screaming kid at Harris Teeter by loading up her car while she takes care of her kids. Or perhaps it's grabbing lunch for someone in back of you in line at Chick-Fil-A. Ways that we can bless people and expect nothing in return.

We get so busy with our own lives that it's easy to miss opportunities to bless others. I challenge you today to be more aware. Ask God to give you a spirit to notice people and ways that you can help. These "divine appointments" are all around us if we just take notice.

Soon enough, you'll become so aware of ways to bless others that you'll come to expect them. And in time, you'll find that you are really the one who's truly blessed.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Out of These Ashes - a Wholly Committed Heart

I've always had a love of learning. A love of knowledge. A burning desire to know more, read more, learn more. But knowledge can be wasted if we only use it for ourselves and don't share what we know.

And as much as I love learning, there are things I wish I had never learned. 

I wish that I didn't know what a baby looked like at 22 weeks gestation. A perfect, beautiful, baby boy that had all of his fingers and toes, but not a single breath left. 

I wish that I didn't know that hospitals mark your name outside your recovery room differently when you've had a stillbirth, so that any hospital staff entering that room know. (The next time you're visiting a friend who's just had a baby, look around and see if you can't tell the difference - ask God to give you a heart to notice).

I wish I didn't know that urns come that small. Tiny little jars that can hold a whole person.

There are so many things that I wish I hadn't learned, but now that I do, what do I do with it all?

When we're in the midst of a storm, we can't see the other side. We don't know how it's going to turn out. But we don't forget. We hold onto what we've been through and we have two choices: do nothing or use it for good.

I've felt for sometime now that God was calling me to a new place. Somewhere that can take my experiences, His love, and new knowledge and use it for more than just myself. A place where I am wholly committed to His plan for my life and to allow what was meant for evil to be used for good (Genesis 5:20). 

That's why I'm so excited to share that I'm officially applying to the online program in Marriage and Family Therapy at Liberty University! My prayer is to become a licensed therapist and certified grief counselor, where I hope to specialize in pregnancy loss and infertility. And maybe, someday, to write a devotional for women who've experienced a loss like mine.

Now if God had told me five years ago today, after twelve hours of labor and holding my son that I wouldn't get to bring home that this is where I'd be, I would have never believed Him. But I wasn't ready, and He knew that. That was just the beginning of getting me ready for what lies ahead. Where He began His plan to use me, but only if I let Him. Where He allowed me to go through the worst night of my life in order to help other women through theirs. 

If you hold on long enough, you do get to see God's plan; His beautiful, absolutely perfect plan. It's often very different than how we thought it would all play out. But that's the beauty of it all. When we completely surrender to God everything we have and everything we are, when we are wholly committed to His will, we get something so much better - a life that can truly be used.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


"How many kids do you have?"

Even five years later, this is always a tough question for me. It shouldn't be, but for someone who's experienced loss, it's a struggle. I often have to assess the situation and decide who I let in to my conflicted mind. Sometimes it's simple and I stick with the easy, comfortable answer of one child. Even after I say it, even if it's right for the situation, I always feel a hint of guilt that I've betrayed my son. If I'm feeling brave, I say one living child. And if I'm comfortable enough with you, I tell you that I have two children. Two boys. I just don't have them both with me. And one would have been five today.

I recently read a book called Sifted by Rick Lawrence. It's based upon Luke 22:31-32, in which Jesus' gives permission to Satan to metaphorically "sift" Peter, his most beloved disciple. The author aligns Peter's struggles with our own struggles and God's role in what happens and why. My mom sent me this book almost two years ago. It's been loaned out once, but otherwise, it sat on my nightstand for almost two years until one day, I felt a nudge at my heart and I knew it was time.

Sifting wheat is a tough process. It goes through many stages of being stripped down, tossed around and rinsed clean until you get to the part of the wheat that can actually be used. 

God uses struggles in our lives to "sift" us. He allows things to happen in our lives that are hard and painful, even if it feels downright cruel and unfair. But it's not about the struggle; it's about what we look like after it's over. It's about what's "usable" when we're done being sifted. It's about looking more like Jesus.

Losing Robert has been a major sifting in my life. It left me broken, exposed and never more aware of just how little control that I have on my life and just how much God does. 

I could have turned from God and there are those who would not have blamed me for it, but then I would have missed out on so much. 

I would have missed out on my church. We didn't have a church home at the time I delivered Robert, but we felt compelled to call this little church we'd visited a few months back called Journey Church. A few hours later, Lisa Bauer walked into my recovery room with a plant and a smile and let me know that I was not alone. It's been our church home for the last five years.

It could have destroyed my marriage. We were both grieving and could have turned inward, but we allowed God to use us to support one another and our marriage not only survived, but it flourished and remains stronger than ever.

I would have missed out on friendships. Wonderful, Godly friendships. Women who love me and support me, even when I'm at my worst.

Losing Robert has never been in vain. It's never been meaningless. It's been hard and painful, but I'm so grateful to God for where He's brought me through it all. And the further I am, the more I know and that I'm absolutely certain that there is a much bigger plan in all of this. That had I not gone through losing Robert, I would have missed out on God's very best for my life.

I want to finish this post by sharing an amazing song by Shane and Shane called "Though You Slay Me," featuring John Piper. It wraps up so much of what this has felt like for me and why even now, missing my son like crazy, I will continue to praise the only One I need.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Just look how far I've come

In the last 18 months, I've been on a health and fitness journey that God willing, I intend to stay on for the rest of my life. It all started with wanting to drop 10 pounds, but it's turned into a lifestyle. It's been hard and painful and I've definitely struggled along the way, but where I've come from is nothing less than a miracle as far as I'm concerned.

I think that the best part of my journey is all of the wonderful friends I've made along the way; friends and instructors that have loved and encouraged me to strive to be the very best Katy that I can be. One in particular is my favorite cycle instructor, Becky.

Becky is not just a fitness instructor. No, that's just not a fitting description for this wonderful woman. Becky is an angel of an encourager. Becky is the queen of visualization. Becky wants you to succeed. Becky helps you believe that you can and will not only get through the class, but you will be better because of it. I'm so grateful for Becky!

The funny thing about cycle is that it is my least favorite fitness activity. It is so hard and arduous for me that I literally have to talk myself into keep going when I'm in class. I'm talking minute-by-minute, I have to keep telling myself that I can keep going and complete the 55 minutes that I'm there for. There are so many times that I want to jump off that bike and make a run for it, but I stick it out. Sometimes I could scream because it's so hard. I've even wanted to cry under the pressure. But I grit my teeth and I push through. Why? Because I know that the temporary pain and discomfort pales in comparison to how it would feel if I quit. Because I know that I will have that much more life to live and to give to my precious son and loving husband. Because I feel more alive and more at peace when I cycle or run or do anything that takes care of my body. I do it because it's worth it.

Life is tough sometimes. It's hard and arduous and you feel like giving up. There were days over the last 5 years, especially right after Robert died, that I didn't think I could go on. There were days that I couldn't make it out of bed. There were days that I had to take minute-by-minute just to make it through. But I did it. Not always with grace and dignity, but I did it. There were times that I cried and screamed and was so mad at God, but I never gave up hope that it would get better, and it did.

I'm not saying that I still don't have my moments, but it's worlds away from where I was five years ago. I have not arrived, but I'm grateful for where the Lord has brought me and I look forward to where He's taking me in the next five and beyond.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

When you know it's for real

I'm absolutely in love right now with the Addison Road song, "What Do I Know of Holy". I hear it and it brings me to my knees because when you've encountered the Lord in such a real way, you can't help but to stand of awe of who He is and just what He's capable of. And once you've even had a small taste of it, you can't help but to become absolutely obsessed with wanting more. 

You begin to crave your encounters with God and don't just "hope" that you'll see His hand in your life, you expect it. You anticipate it. You stop thinking "if?" but "when?". 

And when you live in this heightened awareness of just how big God really is, you can't help but to be humbled. You can't imagine living any other way than in complete and total surrender. 

What Do I Know of Holy ~Addison Road

I made You promises a thousand times

I tried to hear from Heaven
But I talked the whole time
I think I made You too small
I never feared You at all No
If You touched my face would I know You?
Looked into my eyes could I behold You?

What do I know of You
Who spoke me into motion?
Where have I even stood
But the shore along Your ocean?
Are You fire? Are You fury?
Are You sacred? Are You beautiful?
What do I know? What do I know of Holy?

I guess I thought that I had figured You out
I knew all the stories and I learned to talk about
How You were mighty to save
Those were only empty words on a page
Then I caught a glimpse of who You might be
The slightest hint of You brought me down to my knees

What do I know of Holy?
What do I know of wounds that will heal my shame?
And a God who gave life "its" name?
What do I know of Holy?
Of the One who the angels praise?
All creation knows Your name
On earth and heaven above
What do I know of this love?

What do I know of Holy?
What do I know of Holy?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Radical obedience and second chances

I have a confession to make - it's not the first time I've been introduced to this idea of radical obedience. In fact, it was over three years ago that I first picked up Lysa Terkeurst's book What Happens When Women Say Yes to God and I had my first real encounter with God and His telling me to step out in obedience. And I feel as though in order to fully understand where He's brought me over the last three years, I have to go back to June of 2010.

We had just found out that our first cycle of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) had been cancelled due to the poor response of my ovaries to produce enough eggs. This was almost two years in to the grueling process of trying to get pregnant for the third time. This was almost two years after I'd delivered my second son, Robert, stillborn. This was almost two years after hearing that my once very fertile body was no longer able to conceive on it's own and I had heard the dreaded words "Unexplained Secondary Infertility". It had been a rough two years.

I laid in my bed, reading Lysa's book, tears pouring down my cheeks as I read chapter 3 and was introduced to this whole idea of radical obedience. And I knew right away what God was asking of me. I had just deposited a very sizable refund check from our Fertility Clinic and I knew right then that we were supposed to give that money to God. 

I had spent so much time and effort in wanting to have another child that I let it become my idol, even more than I wanted God. Now please let me be very clear: I think IVF is a wonderful thing! I know many women who've been blessed with babies through the medical miracle of fertility treatments. But the moment I put all of my hope and faith and trust in my doctor, there wasn't much left over for God. So because of this, I believe that God was asking for my radical obedience by placing my sacrifice on the altar to be offered up to Him. That Sunday at church, I wrote a check for the full amount of the refund (even though I argued with God about giving it all back, as if it wasn't His to begin with) and laid it in the offering plate as it passed by.

So you'd think that I would have learned my lesson, right? Wrong! In true form of "Katy knows better than the God of the universe," the following July, we were right back where we'd started. My second IVF cycle had failed and as I prepared for our last and final attempt to have another child with a Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET), I got the dreaded call at 7:30 am on the day of the transfer that all of our frozen embryos had died during thaw. And there I was once again; broken, devastated and so desperate for God that I felt like the woman who reached out to touch Jesus' cloak, just hoping that His power would heal me of all of my brokenness. 

And so that must have been it for me, right? Wrong again! But this time it was trying to fill that hole for more children by becoming foster parents. After all, this definitely was something that God would approve of, taking care of orphans and all. I assured myself, my husband and our social worker that I knew that fostering was temporary care, but in the back of mind, I secretly hoped that it would lead to adoption. So after almost a year of classes, background checks and home visits, we were licensed foster parents and I knew, just knew, that this must be what God had for us to build our family.

When we accepted our first placement, I was so excited and hopeful. I prepared the room for a four year old little girl that would potentially be in our home for 12-18 months. I had friends shower us with clothing, bedding, toys and everything else a little girl would need. When she arrived and for the first few days, we were all on cloud nine over this little girl that we'd been chosen to take care. And then, it all began to unravel. This little girl was so broken and we were so unequipped for what she needed that we, together with our social worker, made the heart wrenching decision to have her removed from our home to be placed with another family. I was devastated and felt like an utter failure. 

We went on to have a respite, or temporary, placement of another little, 9-month old girl that we all fell in love with. And when she left our home a week later to go back with her foster parents, I fell apart. I didn't understand why this kept happening, over and over again. Almost five years of loss piled up on my lap and I knew that I couldn't do this any longer. I knew that the more and longer I tried to fill the emptiness of my heart with anything other than Jesus, I would always come up empty.

And that brings me to today. In God's infinite love and mercy, He has once again given me another chance to be radically obedient. I know that God is asking me to finally be satisfied with all that He is and to get rid of all of my former self. He is asking me to sell or giveaway all of our baby and kid items that Mason no longer needs. Eight years of toys and clothes and books and games and "stuff" is sitting in my bonus room right now, freshly gathered from the attic and waiting for me to sort and purge. My final act of radical obedience regarding my desires to have more children, finally gone. With arms open wide, I release the grip on my desire to have more children and offer it up to a Father who loves me so much.

The last five years have been the most painful, and in many ways, the most amazing of my life. Like the loving a patient Father that He is, God has refined me and brought me even one tiny step closer to looking more like His son, Jesus. Oh, how I'm grateful for grace! I'm so grateful for second (and third and forth) chances. And I'm so grateful that He's not finished with me yet.

I can already feel that the Lord is stirring something new in my heart for this next season of my life. I know that He wants to use me in ways for His kingdom beyond anything I can even imagine.

But for right now, I'll keep that between God and me.


There's this boy...

I am so blessed to be a mom. You have no idea just how blessed I am. Aside from God and Bob, Mason is the love of my life. Of course I have limited experience because I only have a boy, but there is definitely something special about a boy and his momma.

Once a week, Mason and I go on a Mason & Momma date. We may go to lunch or just go for a walk, but it's our special time together. We talk about what's going on in his 8-year old world. We act silly and he always makes me laugh.

We also talk about real things and about God. He asks me questions that seem to come out of nowhere and I pray that in that moment, God will give me wisdom that speaks to his innocent little heart.

I cherish and live in the moment for these precious times that I can spend with my only child and I thank God every day that he calls me momma.

Five years in the making

It's hard to believe that it's been over two years since I last blogged; a lot can happen in two years. I really prayed over whether I'd just continue to write on my old blog, but God impressed upon my heart to start new. Because in so many ways, I am new. 

God has done some pretty amazing things with me over the last few years (well, more like over the last five years) and I feel as though this new season in my life deserves a fresh start. 

So here we go!