Monday, June 11, 2018

I Thought This Would Be Easier...

Answering a call...saying yes to God...ultimately means that your path will be clear and free from obstacles right? Your way will be a straight shot with no fear, no doubt, no chance of failure, hm? Once you pattern your life after God's example and live according to His plan, His will, everything magically becomes easy doesn't it? I'm sure you're sensing the facetious tone here. Because NONE of that is true about saying yes to God. Following God's will for your life, saying YES to His calling, is not easy...

Greysen and I watched The Star (an animated film about the Christmas story) for the first time Friday night. I'm so glad we finally did, because I really loved it and so did he. I've heard several times since then "Mommy, want to watch Jesus?" which is music to my ears! The movie brought me to tears, though, and also brought some important things to light for me. Funny how an animated film can do that...

There is a scene when Mary and Joseph are on the road to Bethlehem and everything seems to be going wrong. Their cart breaks down, they're doubting their aptitude for the massive task they've been entrusted with...basically everything they've both been thinking kind of comes right to the surface. And Mary says, "This is so hard! Why is this so hard? I know this is God's plan, but I guess I just thought it would be easier than this..." Oh sister...can I identify with that reality! When you say yes to God...when you agree to be a part of His ultimate purpose...it doesn't magically exempt you from the world and everything that comes along with it...

So what does that mean? Say no to God because ultimately that's the easier road? Interesting thought isn't it? Hearing those words come out of Mary's mouth in the movie got me thinking about how many people God called who may have said no to the heavy task of carrying the Messiah. It's a nice thought to think that the first woman he prompted was Mary and she said yes with no hesitation. Maybe that's how it went down, maybe it's not. But it got me thinking about the lineage of Jesus...essentially God's "rescue plan" for His creation. He had a plan and He used His people to carry it out. Just as He is still doing today. But it took willing parties to say yes to Him. To trust His plan. I don't think it's an accident that the blood line of Jesus Christ is punctuated with women who battled infertility and loss. "Non-traditional mothers", if you will. It's not a mistake. Sarai, Rachel, Hannah, etc. Those heroines of the faith said yes, and their yeses came with pure joy and fulfillment AND crazy difficult obstacles and TOUGH promises to keep. Don't you think Mary rethought her yes to God when it became more clear that her precious son was to be hung on the cross? Wasn't Hannah's promise more difficult to keep when Samuel became old enough to commit his entire life to the ministry and leave her...she was going to have to make good on her word to give him over to the work of God! I can guarantee you that continuing to say yes to being a part of God's bigger purpose was NOT easy for those women then, and it's NOT easy today...

Fear is loud...and very convincing. Doubt is intense...it's hard to dodge. Worry is my arch nemesis...it follows me like a big black cloud ready to engulf me if I let it. In the midst of this IVF journey, just like last time, I am constantly...daily...being bombarded with things and circumstances which create worry and doubt and fear about this process. The "what ifs" are SO hard to drown out. There are an insane number of potential derailments, disappointments, failures. And it is SO easy to let myself go down that road of what ifs. Ultimately, I have no idea whether any of those what ifs will play out in my story. But I'm not supposed to have it figured out. I'm only supposed to take His hand, trust His plan, and keep saying yes. Keep taking another step, and another step, and another step. Even when it's scary...terrifying. The one truth I know beyond a shadow of a doubt is that God will be with me. The circumstances won't change His constancy. When I said yes to him 23 years ago, He became a forever enmeshed part of me that can never be separated...

Psalm 27:13-14 says, "I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living.Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord." A sweet family here in Oklahoma is walking a tough road with their son Caleb as he recovers from a traumatic brain injury. This young man has been SUCH an inspiration for me during these last couple of months. Caleb's father wrote this a few weeks ago: "This weekend I pictured our biblical heroes as they lived through God’s miracles. Do you think the Israelites ever glanced up at the walls of the Red Sea and wondered if they would hold until they had crossed? Do you think Daniel ever looked suspiciously at the lions and worried they might suddenly become hungry during that long night in the den? Do you think the disciples ever questioned whether they heard Jesus correctly when He said He would return? Of course they did. But we call them heroes of the faith because they endured to the end, whether the wait was one night or a lifetime..."

So what does all this mean for me...for you? God doesn't promise us ease on this earth. He doesn't promise us prosperity and success. He promises us His PRESENCE, His CONSTANCY, His PROVISION, His PROTECTION, and most importantly His KINGDOM. John 16:13...Jesus' words..."I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." So that means when it feels like I can't find peace here on earth...peace in my circumstances...I can trust that if I seek peace in Him I will find it. It also means that I myself don't have to overcome the world. I don't have to "beat the odds". He already did all of that on the cross! And He did it FOR ME! So praise God for His presence, His constancy, His provision, His protection. I can do this...I can answer His call and say YES to His calling. Even when it's terrifying. Why? Because I serve a God who PROMISES that participation in His ultimate purpose will NEVER go unnoticed and unrewarded by Him...


Tuesday, June 5, 2018

I Don't "Get" Pregnant

In the IVF world, we don't say "get" pregnant.  We use the phrase "achieve pregnancy".  And believe you me, that action verb "achieve" is 1,000% percent more accurate than "get".  How I have longed for the ability to just "get" pregnant.  To decide it was time to try, and then within 12 months or less, you're there.  It makes it even more frustrating to know that even after all of the extensive testing and procedures we've been through, there's still no explanation for why we can't "get" pregnant and maintain a pregnancy without help.  But I've learned to be ok with the fact that "achieving pregnancy" is the hand I have been dealt.  I'm an over-achiever by nature...so maybe this was just what was supposed to be all along!

Let me just give you a small snapshot of what the following 6-8 weeks is going to look like for us:

Every day (currently):
400 mg of CoQ10
Daily Probiotic
Daily 5,000 IU of Vitamin D
Inositol (Vitamin B8) Supplement
DHA Supplement
Prenatal Vitamin (AKA horse pill...)
Cyclafem birth control (I actually don't mind this...I lost 8 pounds last time on this pill.  So far I've lost almost 6 this time and I've got a solid 3 more weeks left of it!)

In about 2 weeks:
I'll continue the above supplements but add an injection of Lupron once a day right in my belly.  Lupron injections don't hurt *too* much, but they are usually accompanied by a pretty gnarly headache which I will try to stay ahead of this time...

About 2 weeks after that:
I'll drop the birth control and add 2 more types of injections.  Yep you read that right.  Three needles to the lower belly once a day.  Ouch...  One of this medications is called Menopur.  It's made with the urine of post menopausal women.  There's a fun fact for ya!

About 2 weeks after that:
I'll drop the Lupron and add Follistim which is the drug that stimulates my ovaries to crazy produce.  Meaning my ovaries go from being about the size of lemons to what feels like basketballs.  I will go in every other day for blood work and ultrasounds, and then eventually every day until it looks like my ovaries are ready to be triggered...

About 10 days later:
I take a shot in my belly (which smarts with the fire of a thousand suns) called Novarel to trigger my ovaries.  24 hours later I go in for my egg retrieval...

Egg Retrieval Day:
We go in at zero dark thirty and they put me under general anesthesia.  They send Jonathan back to collect and I go into the procedure room where they basically pierce my ovaries with a needle and aspirate out all the fluid (and hopefully eggs) from each mature follicle.  Last time we had 11 mature eggs.  Dr. Hansen is shooting for about 15 this cycle by changing up my stim drugs a little in the beginning.  Then I go home and sleep on the anesthesia and stay ahead of any cramping with Tylenol.  I also can drop all my supplements except for the Prenatal Vitamin, the DHA, and the Vitamin D.  I also get to add a lovely shot of Progesterone in oil right in my butt.  Every day for hopefully the next 13 weeks.  While I'm snoozing, the embryologists are performing a procedure on my eggs and Jonathan's sperm called ICSI (rhymes with pixie, but stands for Introcytoplasmic Sperm Injection).  We do this because our infertility is unexplained. One of the causes of infertility is the incompatibility of the sperm with the shells of the eggs.  This procedure basically eliminates that as a possibility.  More on that in another post...

The Next Day or Two Later...
Connie, our nurse, calls to tell us how our embryos are growing.  This is SUCH a high anxiety call to answer!  Last time we had 7 of the 11 eggs retrieved fertilize successfully.  Conceivably, you can expect that about half of the eggs you retrieve will fertilize, and about half of those will be viable embryos for either transfer or freezing.  Dr. Hansen is shooting for closer to 15 mature eggs retrieved this time in hopes that our outcomes will be the same or better as they were the first time.  So essentially we are hoping for 7-9 fertilized embryos which would leave us 3-5 viable for transfer or freezing...

Either 3 or 5 days after Retrieval...
I go in and they bring us pictures of our "embabies"!!  They prep me for what looks like a basic pelvic exam, but they also to a trans abdominal ultrasound so they can watch the catheter thread right into my uterus.  Then the embryologist comes in the room from the lab with a syringe which contains our embryos.  We will transfer 2 (assuming we have that many viable).  We watch as the embryos are transferred into my body.  It looks like two little balls of light being transferred on ultrasound!  Then I stay lying down for about 30 minutes, and then I leave...

14 days after Retrieval...
I hopefully take a positive pregnancy test!!  This is literally the longest 10-12 days in the history of time.  No guarantees but a WHOLE lot of hope! Also in this time period we are informed if any of our remaining embryos (if there are any) are viable enough to freeze...

Whew!  Is your head spinning yet??  Mine is!  It's a ride y'all.  And its WORK.  But we also know that there is a divine component to all of this that we have absolutely no control over.  It's in God's hands.  The outcome, the embryos, the procedures.  He's got it all in His hands.  So while it's incredibly scary, it's also exciting.  We get to see how God creates pregnancy from a literal front row seat.  Here's the reaction we are hoping for about 4 weeks after that retrieval day when we see our sweet little one's heart beat for the first time...






Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Fight the Good Fight of Faith

Today, we step out in faith again and we press forward in the hope that our second “magnum opus” is what’s waiting around the corner for us. SO much has changed and SO much has happened since we put our selves out there like this 4 years ago. There has been so much loss and so much pain, but there has also been unimaginable joy and SO many answered prayers. God has already “summoned our army” and Baby Womack #2 already has a voice on this side of Heaven. We have been blown away once again by all of your love and support. Your words and your gifts, your kindness and your prayers. While this is a position I hoped we wouldn’t find ourselves in for a second time, I know that each of our steps is already laid out...we simply have to continue forward...one carefully planned step at a time. I’m praying for that road full of green lights again like we had with Greysen’s IVF process...

So the time has come. I know from experience that our arrival at this point has a greater purpose beyond ourselves. It’s  bigger than me and Jonathan and Greysen. It’s bigger than our infertility struggles. It’s part of our tapestry. I feel confident that when this part of the mural He is painting of my life is finished, we will stand back and  see it with eyes of pure awe. It feels a bit like “the trenches” right now, but we are going to fight the good fight of faith in this. I teetered back and forth when deciding whether or not to share our journey this second time around. IVF is scary, but it’s MORE scary when you put it out there and so many people are hoping for a miracle right alongside you. Nonetheless, we hope that you’ll do just that. We pray you will HOPE alongside us, pray with us and for us, look ahead with POSITIVITY and anticipation for what God is going to do. We hope and pray and plead that the end of this story is the expansion of our little family. But we know that no mater what happens, God will be glorified. His plan will unfold as we walk this road and it will be spectacular...

So here we go again folks. Womack’s Thinking Positive. Hope with us, pray with us, fight the good fight of faith with us. We’re inviting you to take a journey with us that promises to be harrowing and exciting and difficult and ultimately MIRACULOUS.  Take the trip with us y’all...

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Letting Myself Off the Hook

These two years of our lives have absolutely been the most difficult ones we’ve had to endure. There have been moments of unimaginable joy intermingled with the parts that have been nearly unbearable, yes, but my little heart and mind have been through the emotional equivalent of a meat grinder in the last nearly 24 months. I keep telling myself that it’s the refining fire. I know that it really is. I know that these experiences are formative for me and for us. The losses we have been hit with in this amount of time have changed us, but I know really they are changes for the better. Our marriage has been strengthened, my mothering has been more purposeful, and my friendships have become more deep and meaningful. Those are all great and perfect gifts that I have received from my Father...

Many of you may not know that I have been in counseling for a few months. Ironic that I am finishing up my own certification to be a counselor, and I find myself on the receiving end. To be frank, I think EVERYONE needs a counselor at some point in their lives. Life is HARD, folks. For me, my grief response has been to “keep the plates spinning”. Do this, say this, make this, take this on, etc. In the midst of that acrobatic feat, though, I have seen “plates” come crashing down and be pulverized into dust that I couldn’t possibly put back together.  When that has happened, I have carried the responsibility in my heart for both the breaking and the mending. Neither of which were my fault or within my ability to prevent or repair.  In my counseling session Monday morning, my sweet counselor had me read Romans 8:31-37 and replace all the generic binaries with personal ones. She made me read it out loud. Here’s what it sounded like (The Message translation):

“So what do you think, Rachel?  With God on your side, how can you possibly lose?  If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for you, Rachel, embracing your condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending His own Son, is there anything else He wouldn’t gladly and freely do for you, His daughter?  And who would dare tangle with God by messing with you, one of God’s chosen...his girl?  Who would dare even to point a finger at you, Rachel?  The One who died for you-who conquered the grave for YOU-is in the very presence of God sticking up for you RIGHT NOW, Rachel!  Do you think anyone or anything is going to be able to drive a wedge between you and Christ’s fierce love for you?  There is no way!  Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture. None of this phases you, Rachel, because God LOVES you. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing-nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable-absolutely NOTHING can get between you and Gods love for you, Rachel. Because of th way Jesus has embraced you, his daughter”.

While that seems easy enough, I basically could not read that out loud in my session. It felt wrong to me. So I have spent yesterday and this morning trying to read it that way with confidence. You know what?  It dawned on me how crushed my Lord must be to hear me NOT be able to confidently read those verses and apply them to myself. It’s taken more than 20 read through a of those verses written like that for me to have a breakthrough. My God is bigger than circumstances. He is bigger than death, bigger than loss, bigger than rifts, bigger than mistakes. He can take ANYTHING and make into something BEAUITFUL. And you know what?  It was NEVER my responsibility to help Him along in that. I was never supposed to be the “fixer”. I am only supposed to be the beloved daughter of my King and let him do the rest...

There are things that happen in life that are not at all preventable. I can’t change someone’s mind, I can’t convince someone who is entrenched in their own truth that what they are believing is a lie, I can’t take on the responsibility of “fixing” what has been crushed. It was never within my power and therefore it was never part of my list of expectations. I can no longer take on this heavy burden of “responsibility” of mending broken things that was never my burden to bear. As my counselor says, “Rachel...that was never yours to fix.”  So I get it...I think. How crushed my spirit has been because of those “pulverized plates” in these last few months...  But you know what?  That feeling of a crushed and unloveable spirit is NOT a feeling from Christ.  “Is there anything else he won’t gladly do for you, his daughter?”

In Gods timing, He will make a glorious masterpiece of these broken pieces. I have not a clue on earth how He will do it, but I know He will. I’m beginning to see how far behind I’ve left the concept of my worth to Christ. How deeply and purposeful He loves me. My ability to see that has been clouded by what feels like a marathon of “taking away” and “leaving without”. But the Word tells me, and I know it is Truth, that God is a God of LOVE. He doesn’t just “do” love...He IS love. And if He truly IS love, then I must rest my heart and my mind on HIM. I have to know and believe that He knows the story well...like the back of his hand...and He hasn’t nor will He leave me or forsake me...

I hope you’ll take a minute to replace my name with yours in that Romans passage. As freely as He gives to me and as fiercely as He protects me...He does the same for you whether you realize it or not. And join me in fervent prayer that God will miraculously build that masterpiece in my life and in your yours. That it would be more breathtakingly beautiful than we ever imagined it could be...

Sunday, April 8, 2018

What Should Have Been...

Man my little tender heart has been STRUGGLING this week.  This month of April has weirdly hit me square between the eyes and I didn't even see it coming!  Around this time last year, Jonathan and I decided to start trying for Baby Womack #2.  We agreed, confidently, that if we arrived at April 2018 and we hadn't been successful in getting pregnant, we would go see Dr. Hansen.  There was an odd amount of comfort in that.  We didn't feel hopeless like we had in years past when we decided it was time to start trying.  We have our sweet and precious Greysen and we've seen God work in miraculous ways in our hearts and minds with his arrival.  He is my most precious gift and I tell him so every day.  We also had OPTIONS...it wouldn't be the end of the world if we ended up back at OU with our doctors and nurses who we love so much if a year passed and a pregnancy hadn't happened.  We could never have predicted what the following 12 months would bring.  SO many things that make this April 2018 SO much harder to digest...

The loss of my sweet Grandmother would have been enough to really knock me off my game, but to then lose our blessing baby...our sweet Soutine...mere weeks after the loss of my Mimol just seemed cruel, to be frank.  And while my mind's eye sees her sweet jet black curls and bright blue eyes happy and safe and being cared for by SO many that love her, as this week rolls around I can't help but feel overwhelmingly jealous of the joy of Soutine that I'm not getting to experience.  How my heart breaks when I think that this week SHOULD have been the week I was waiting for her arrival.  This SHOULD have been the week that I was waddling around and counting those "practice" contractions and telling everyone "Any day now!".  I might have welcomed her into this world this week.  I might have held her sweet little face close to mine and said, "I'm your Mommy sweet girl!"  I might have introduced her to her Daddy who loves her more than life itself.  I might have introduced her to her sweet big brother Greysen who would have been the BEST big brother to his baby sister.  I might have handed her over to her Nene...added to her joy of grand babies and given her another girl to spoil.  I might have placed her in the arms of her Papa and her Pops...two men who would have taken bullets for her.  I might have put her on FaceTime with her May-May and Uncle James and her sweet cousins...prepped her for the crazy shenanigans that were in store for her in this wild Harris clan.  I might have breathed her in so deep...drawn in that sweet baby smell down to the tips of my toes.  I might have lain my cheek against that downy baby hair of hers and wondered how anything could be softer.  I might have held her impossibly tiny hands and feet and marveled at how perfectly perfect every tiny finger and toe was.  That's what SHOULD have been...

That pill this week is BITTER y'all.  It is bitter.  It's a physical pain.  Empty arms physically HURT when they were supposed to filled with a newborn baby.  While I know I will hold her *someday*, today that notion doesn't bring me much peace.  I heard a sweet friend talk about a balloon release ceremony where she released a balloon for a baby she lost.  She said, "They said it would be freeing to let that balloon float away from my hands, but instead I found myself wanting to grapple for that string I let go of and climb right up into the clouds and get it back."  Today...this week...I want to claw my way into the clouds and get my baby back.  I want to go back in time and refuse to "follow God's will" and keep her.  I want her here.  I want what "should have been".  I don't really know how to find peace in this.  I think because of the profound loss that's happened in the last 2 years of my life, the absence of this blessing baby this week is just particularly piercing...

I pray constantly for God to replace that hurt with something joyful...something positive...something healing.  I long for Him to do those things and remind me that He truly does have something better in store for me.  It's hard to wrap my mind around something being better than holding my precious miracle baby in my arms this week.  Maybe He'll surprise me...

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Contentment in the Absence of Perfection

Merry Christmas Eve!  As has become tradition over the last 5 years since I've been blogging, it's time for my annual Christmas post.  As 2017 comes to an end, I'm feeling a bit disjointed.  Whereas last year we were still in a pretty thick fog after the loss of our sweet Bernice and Jonathan and I were doing our best to shore up our best friends as they prepared to lose their mother mere days after the holiday season passed, this year I think we both feel a bit of unrest.  A lack of "settle".  Life feels a bit like an amazing nearly finished puzzle you've worked on for weeks, that is frustratingly missing a chunk right smack in the middle.  Only we've been working on our "puzzle" for several YEARS...

So that feeling of "unfinished business" that we can't quite put behind us yet has spelled a bit of frustration.  We find ourselves striving for goals we know are reasonable and achievable, but they feel just out of reach at the moment.  And when I can't wrap it all in a bow and call it "finished", man does that mess with my psyche!  If it doesn't look like that perfectly perfect picture I have in my head, I come dangerously close to loosing my marbles.  That striving for and failing to obtain perfection is a cycle I find myself in more frequently than I'd like to admit...

So this Christmas season, I have had to work really, really hard at slowing down and savoring...letting go of my need for perfection.  I've had to remind myself that perfection is not the ultimate goal.  Contentment is.  And I think the picture in Bethlehem that God paints for us is the perfect reminder of that.  Many times I think the HUMANITY of the Christmas story gets lost in the shuffle.  We sing about baby Jesus and how he never cried.  We see paintings of Mary with a literal glowing halo around her head.  We set up nativity scenes depicting this angelic setting with pure white lambs and donkeys that look as though they've just come from the groomer.  We sing about how Jesus was unblemished...the perfect spotless Lamb.  And don't get me wrong...He was.  He IS!  But He was human...

He "took on flesh".  In my mind, that means He, in His perfect plan to save all of His own creation, stepped DOWN from Heaven and lived like we do.  He was the spotless Lamb...He lived a sinless life.  But y'all...he was fully human.  Mary gave birth to that baby just the same way mothers around the world give birth to babies every day.  She felt those searing pains, and she LABORED to bring Jesus into this world.  When He arrived, he was far from "spotless" I'm sure.  He took on flesh and all that entails.  Birth is messy...so was His.  And those little white lambs?  I'm sure they were not so much white as they were covered in mud and stinking to high heaven wondering why in the world this little family from Nazareth was invading their little barn in the middle of the night.  Mary and Joseph had to cut that umbilical cord, they had to clean that little baby off and wrap him in torn cloths to keep him warm.  And Mary rocked him and sang to him and comforted him, because really, that little baby Jesus was as much human as you and I are.  God wanted it that way!  Can you imagine what His experience must have been like?  To step down from HEAVEN into humanity and experience every single bit of it as a human just like us?

God didn't orchestrate this story because He wanted us to experience perfection.  He didn't come to earth as a blemish free angel with a halo around his head.  His mother was a child herself...a weary traveler from an extended family with a sordid past.  God incarnated Himself and came to this earth to give us freedom from the need for perfection.   There was not enough blood on earth to ever cover the sins of this world, and God couldn't bear the thought of our striving for perfection still not measuring up.  So He wiped out the need for perfection in that little Bethlehem stable by making CONTENTMENT accessible in the absence of perfection.  He made a way for us to connect with HIM in the midst of our imperfections...

So this Christmas season, and as you go forth into the new year, be reminded that God desires contentment from us.  He wants us to stumble through this messy life in all of our fully blemished HUMAN-ness and strive for peace and rest.  In the end, that perfect peace and rest is our reward in Heaven.  In the meantime, taking time to remember why we are even here at all is incredibly important.  It's how we keep things in perspective.  That's as much a message to myself as it is to anyone else!  God stepped down from Heaven to be near to us.  He took on flesh to identify with us.  He lived His life blame free to make a way for us.  And He died a criminal's death to atone for us.  So in the depths of your striving for ultimate perfection (depths I find myself in frequently), be reminded that perfection is not attainable here on this earth.  What is attainable?  Contentment.  May that be your gift this Christmas and always...

Merry Christmas!
Rach




Friday, December 8, 2017

Choosing Joy

So here we are rounding out yet another year. How can 2017 be coming to a close already??  I feel like I say that every year. How did 365 days go by so quickly?  2017 has been only marginally less brutal than 2016 was. 2017 started with the loss of a “more like family” friend, continued with a giant road block on our road to an MD, stumbled through a literal ropes course of nonsense on our way to then losing my sweet Mimol, followed by suffering a miscarriage, and then starting our December with my best friend having major abdominal surgery to remove a golf ball sized small cell carcinoma from her kidney. Sheesh. Uncle already 2017...

If I sit here and dwell on the negative aspects of this year, I could really go down a rabbit hole y’all. I could cry and cry about how awful life has been. How uncaring and unfeeling some people have been in the midst of all of it. How the end of this year looks SO radically different than I thought it would. Maybe radically different than I hoped it would. Or...

I can lay here and marvel at the GOOD. I can set my mind on the perfect orchestration God has laid out for this year. How incredibly GRATEFUL I am that I didn’t  have to try and  navigate all of these difficult circumstances with Jonathan working 80+ hours a week in a residency like he was “supposed to”.  How blessed I am that he and I are a TEAM and we navigate the messiness of life TOGETHER. How perfectly perfect he is for me...

I can be content in the love and support that has been poured out on me and my family as volley after volley of difficulties have come our way. My heart can swell at the thought of how incredible our friends and community and family have been. How they’ve been our backbone...our rock!  How 2017 has just been punctuated and defined over and over and over again by the generosity and selfless love of the people we have surrounded ourselves with. How our cups run over with gratitude for the people we “do life with”...

I can continue to be shocked and totally pumped at where A Different Kind of Flair  has gone in the last 7 months. From 80 pairs of fundraiser earrings turning into $1,600 donated to the American Cancer Society in honor of Bernice, Sharon, and Debbie to a shocking number  in total sales since July that makes me blush when it pops up on my calculator. How blessed I am by my customer base and how happy I am that a dream is slowly becoming a reality. Pushing through firewalls and glass ceilings on the way to things I NEVER would have imagined could be possible for this little “hobby turned Business”. And how freaking excited Bernice would be at where it is headed!

I can remember how much my Mimol LOVED this time of year and think of how excited she would be to see my house all decorated for Christmas. How elated she would have been to see some of her pieces and her recipes used on our Thanksgiving table. How I can  hear her sweet alto voice singing among the voices of my own church’s choir...

I can smile at the fact that this is the second Christmas in a row I have helped Charlie decorate his house for the season. How happy it would have made Bernice to tell all the stories of all the things coming out of those boxes. How content she would be knowing Christmas would be spent at HER house. I can marvel at the little pieces of her that I see in Greysen. Her curled smile, her love for books and music, that little twinkle in her eye. How my heart breaks and soars at the same time when I think about how happy she would be to watch Jonathan and I raise our family...

I can rejoice in the fact that my sweet Sara is RECOVERING and not requiring chemo after her surgery. I can cheer because I know that this hasn’t taken any time away from the two of us and our future of shenanigans. How happy I am that she can say she’s beat this soon. How excited I am that tonight she is HOME, and she got to see the snow in Houston!  My heart is warmed knowing she’s watching Christmas movies by her fire at home in her beautiful house...

I can feel those same butterflies of excitement when I remember getting to tell my grandmother mere days before she passed that I was giving her great grand baby #10. I can remember the joy of that positive pregnancy test!  And I can kiss my sweet Greysens cheeks and further marvel at the miracle that is his life. Like Mimol always said...he’s my miracle baby!  How special he is to me, to Jonathan, to our family. And what an amazing big brother he WILL be when our time comes again...

While the sting of loss hits hard this year on so many levels, and our “new normal” continues to evolve with the absence of Bernice and Mimol, I can still sit in my living room and honestly say “It is well with my soul”.  The warm glow of our family Christmas tree, the smell of fresh pine, the anticipation of a super fun family vacation to Disney World in a few weeks!  There is so much MORE I have to be grateful, thankful, and HAPPY about than anything else. I’m taking a stand for JOY this year in the midst of pain and uncertainty. And make no mistake y’all...it’s absolutely a CHOICE. I choose joy!  I choose to see the happiness in my little boys face as he grasps a little more deeply the true meaning of Christmas. Christ came to earth because he couldn’t bear the separation. He craved NEARNESS to us just as we crave nearness to each other and to Him. So in these coming weeks, I will bring my family close. We will sit in the warmth of our house, tell stories and remember  our Bernice and Mimol and everyone else we are missing this Christmas, and be near to each other. 2017 threw us yet another bushel of lemons. But we’re still making lemonade y’all...