Christmas Pages

 Merry Christmas from my home to yours!


I wish you and yours a wonderful Christmas!
{Don't forget to watch for the miracles....}


Health, Happiness & Homeschooling

It's been a while since I've written about my health and I thought I'd post an update. I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis in September. Our first attempts at official treatment have helped quite a bit, especially with morning stiffness and overall ability to function. I am still in pain everyday, and still have days that my energy is compromised. I sometimes limp, due to hip problems, knee problems, or difficulty with foot pain. Sometimes I still run low-grade fevers and feel flushed and ill, but not as often as before. I still don't feel well, but am very thankful to be feeling better!

I try my best to maintain a positive attitude, choose joy, and find myself seizing opportunities more often, as there is always the possibility that my mobility may be greatly effected in the future. There's fear in that uncertainty, but I am learning to take joy in the gift of today, and not worry about tomorrow.

On vacation, laughing at the bottom of my first sledding run
Homeschooling continues and I love seeing the girls learn new things, grasp new concepts, and see Hannah's reading improve. I love seeing them dash to the kitchen table to pull out workbooks, journals, markers, crayons, scissors, tape & glue. One of the things that most excited me about homeschooling was the flexibility, more time with my girls, and the ability to emphasize a love of learning, literature and creativity, in addition to the basics of education. 

We have a lot of fun reading aloud together. (We are currently reading the Betsy, Tacy & Tib series, the All-of-a-Kind Family series, the Grandma's Attic series, and the Samantha {American Girl} books, all of which feature little girls living in early-to-mid 1900s.) 

We recently took a family vacation to the snow. We had a WONDERFUL time making snowmen, sledding, swimming and simply being together. Christmas movies, a good book, a constantly crackling fire, and hot cocoa made it even better.

My little family
Sledding with Hannah - Willing us both to remember this moment
Sweet Sisters & their snowman with the icicle nose!
Hannah's two front teeth are coming in just in time for Christmas, and we are just around the corner from her 7th birthday.
Natalie just turned 4 and we celebrated her birthday on vacation. She loves coloring and working in her preschool workbooks and LOVES bunnies.

And now, home from vacation, we are accelerating into full-steam-ahead Christmas mode. Our little family adores this time of year and all of the traditions and memory making, like pumpkin pancakes & coffee before tree-hunting, making cookies, the music & the must-see-yearly movies, taking the girls to choose inexpensive presents for each other, writing by the light of the Christmas tree, big mugs of hot cocoa with dreamy clouds of whipped cream & candy canes. The lights, the chill in the air, the wonderment.

I am learning that chronic illness can be, if I choose to let it, a great gift. It makes every day that I am able to engage in life that much more special. It adds another layer to the perspective loss has taught me: Don't take this day for granted.


The Incomparable Gift

In our family, this is a season of celebrations. It began with Thanksgiving, a beautiful time of family & friends, food and reflecting on all we count as blessings. A few days later, we celebrated one of those blessings, our younger daughter Natalie, as she turned four. In just a few weeks it will be Christmas, followed by Hannah’s birthday, which falls in mid-January. With our girls’ birthdays’ bookending Christmas, it is also a season of gift-giving.

I've been reflecting lately on the verse in Psalms that defines God as an "ever-present help in trouble." Wanting to get to the heart of this text, I turned to the dictionary to help me create this version:

"God is our [protection from danger or distress] and [capacity for endurance]. [At any time, in any way], He is a [gift] to us, always [in view or at hand] in [any state of difficulty]."

Wow! That's not a gift you can pick up at the mall. It's not something you can buy with a gift card from the relative who doesn't know you well enough. It is a gift that God is offering you. The same god who has known you since before you were put together, and who will always know the cry of your heart and what you really yearn for; the same God who gave this world a gift without equal or comparison, His son Jesus.

From the moment we hear the name of Jesus and accept the gift we are being offered, He shows up. It's just that simple. He will be there in any circumstance -- in the joy of celebration or the desolation of loss. At any time, in any way, He is a gift.


Releasing the Past

Words, and how we use them, help define our experiences. The language we use has the power to trap or free us. I want to begin identifying my problem words and replacing them with language that still holds a positive connotation for me, so I can go into situations freed to embrace the experience, not trapping myself into the same box as past journeys have been stored. This concept has the potential to evoke change over the past, the present, and the future.

Past hurts, sorted through and re-processed using new language, may well be released or forgiven, leaving behind peace and freedom. Unintentional hurts, for example, hold less power for me than intentional hurts. If in my reexamination of something in my past that hurt me, I come to the conclusion that my wounds were secondary to someone else's (their hurt caused them to hurt me), my compassion for their pain can help erase mine.

Learning these tools is Drivers Ed for trauma. Once educated, I can give my traumas license to take their leave. They can pack their baggage and hit the road.



My Miscarriage Story - Final Part

It’s been 5 years this week since we said goodbye, and not a day goes by that I don’t think of the baby we lost.

Between then and now, I had 5 surgical procedures and a lot of pain, both physical and emotional. It's been quite a journey.

Miscarriage is not what I once thought. Before I experienced it, I thought miscarriage was sad, a disappointment, a setback… I didn’t realize that miscarriage forever changes you; that the baby you lose is a child you will grieve, that even if you have a healthy child the next time, it doesn’t replace the loss. Children aren’t interchangeable. With each of my babies I formed a unique bond.

Losing our baby has changed me. I cry more easily when others hurt. The lense through which I view the world is different now. Loss has sharpened my perspective.

I also hold so much tighter to my daughters. Losing one has helped me not to take my girls for granted. I now view every healthy baby as a miracle. The process from conception to birth is so intricate, and I feel so lucky that I have two healthy children here with me. Natalie was born healthy and hearty (at 9&1/2 pounds) the year after we miscarried. I hesitate to use the words "our family is complete" -- I suspect no matter how many kids we could have, there would always be one missing -- but she is a piece that belongs to this puzzle, and she has brought us great joy. As they say, joy comes in the morning. For me, joy came in the mourning.

I believe we will hold our baby in Heaven, and that this loss will be redeemed there. Until then, I don’t know that you can fully heal. Maybe you just learn to cope; integrate the loss into the fabric of your life.

What helps me the most is to hold onto my faith. The hope I have in Christ is real, and I could not walk this road without Him.


There can be no situation in life in which the conversation of my dear sister will not administer some comfort to me.
Mary Montagu

There is something so special about sisterhood. That may be between you and your biological sister. It may be a step-sister, sister-in-law, or adopted sister. You may not have that bond with a sister, you may have found it, instead, in a friend. I am blessed in the department of sisterhood. I have a biological sister who I love hanging out with {just a couple weeks ago, we went grocery shopping together and had a blast}, laughing with, watching movies with, or having heart-to-hearts with, I love being the person she calls when she needs to talk or cry or wants a dose of big-sister advice.

I have been gifted two daughters I have the privilege of raising as sisters. Currently 3 & 6, they are the epitome of siblings -- they giggle at each other's made-up knock-knock jokes, share clothes, compliment each other on their outfits, play together, make messes together, get into trouble together, adore each other, and fight with each other. I hope they will always be close.

I also have sister-friends -- women I have met at some point in my life with whom I have a sister-like bond. These are the women who have celebrated with me, watched me fall and helped me back up, not judged when my actions or attitude were not admirable. These are the women who have showed up, without my asking, when they knew I needed them; who have prayed for me; who have cried over my hurts like their own.

I have a mom and aunts I look up to and who encourage me on my journey. They are not perfect and that frees me from feeling like I can't measure up. They are real and they are flawed and they are wonderful.

Sitting across the table at a restaurant recently, I looked into the eyes of a new sister-friend as she told me parts of her story. Where she came from, what obstacles she has overcome, and what makes her who she is. I felt so honored to be given that gift. We ate pumpkin pie and sipped hot chocolate and talked for more hours than you would believe about authenticity and motherhood and love and faith and things we struggle with. To be able to be real with someone, to show them your heart and have them accept and understand it, is such a gift.



5 Years Ago

5 years ago this month, i was pregnant with you
5 years ago this month, i craved mexican food
5 years ago this month, we were about to move from the home where you began
5 years ago this month, i was still nauseated
5 years ago this month, everything was going perfectly
5 years ago this month, we'd already chosen names for you
5 years ago this month, we'd already purchased your crib bedding
5 years ago this month, i knew nearly nothing about the many terms for losing a child
5 years ago this month, we didn't know yet that we'd never get to hold you

5 years ago next month, a lot of things changed forever

p.s. {if there was any doubt, i still miss you}



Sometimes after my family is asleep, I sit on the floor in my kitchen with only a small light above the oven to write by. I brew a cup of tea and set it beside me and uncap my pen and write. I think in ink, it's the best way for me to get at my truest thoughts and that's where the insights hide.

Sometimes the rain pours down outside the back door and I can hear the music that falls in sheets.

When I really have things to say, or I know I need to process or heal or grieve or be completely without distraction, this is my little ritual. Without distractions, I can write 3-5 pages before I get so uncomfortable I can't take it anymore. There's just enough light that I'm not tempted to do something else; the range light over my stove is like a spotlight reminding me of where I am to be and what I am to be doing.

It's in these late-night, dimly-lit moments that the answers come. Sometimes no answers, just peace. Sometimes no peace, but relief.



I was thinking the other day of a perfect way to explain my current experience of illness and subsequent choice to simplify my life:

You know when you're driving along and you get to a hill, and if you stay in the gear you were in on flat ground, you won't be able to make it up the hill? So what do you do {those with a stick shift, like me}? You down shift. Flat ground and a higher gear worked fine, but trying to climb a hill? Forget it, you need to shift down.

So that's what I'm doing. Shifting down. Shifting down so I can make it up the hill.

I'm starting to have some better days. Less pain, or less stiffness in my joints. Not as exhausted. We should know soon how much my medication will help.

And bad day or good, I am loving this life of simplicity.

Baking, nesting, organizing, tea time, homeschool, laundry, journaling & creativity, oh how you feed me!

What's feeding you these days?



I've been working on simplifying my life over the course of the last several months. I was diagnosed with a chronic health condition last week, and I simply can't keep up my usual life pace. The frustration is that I can't. The fun part is figuring out what's worth my time & energy. I'll tell you what's on the list so far:

cuddling with my kids
journaling & creativity
feathering the nest {although more feathers may be left out of place than before}
family time

going out every day
attempting significant car trips alone
letting external stressors in the front door
guilt that i can't measure up to others' or my own previous standards
extras & unnecessaries

My energy is severely compromised. I can't be on my feet very long. I limp sometimes. I run fevers, which is the only type of running I do.

My life is going to look different now than it used to. So that's what I'm in the process of accepting. I'm also in the process of accepting that I'll possibly be in pain the majority of my life {for now, that's every day, but hopefully my new treatment plan will help}.

I'm going to have to make decisions about what I can manage, and what's not feasible.

I'll tell you what I will not cut: my daughters. They will know and feel that I love and adore them, and that I have what it takes to take good care of them. Even if that's all I can manage some days.


Diagnosis: Confirmed

I've been waiting for months to see the Rheumatologist, and finally, yesterday was the day. I was incredibly nervous and anxious. I just wanted a diagnosis, some answers as to why I've been so tired, feverish, stiff and in pain.

I was suspecting Ankylosing Spondylitis, which is a chronic inflammatory condition which attacks the joints, but can also effect many other parts of the body. It is an autoimmune disorder. In the United States it effects only about 0.5-1% of the population. It is similar in a lot of ways to Rheumatoid Arthritis, but RA generally effects the small joints of the hands and feet, and Ankylosing Spondylitis, AS, generally effects the large joints, such as spine, hips, neck & shoulders.

So 2:30 p.m. finally arrived on 9/22/10. Finally. I limped into the exam room.

My appointment was 2+ hours long. And at the end of it, the doctor confirmed the diagnosis I was expecting: Ankylosing Spondylitis.

I feel relieved and validated to finally know what's going on. I feel hopeful that we will find a treatment or combination of treatments that will improve my current quality of life. I feel concerned about the possibilities for the future. Possibilities like not being able to walk, needing a wheelchair or cane, having my joints fuse and losing range of motion.

But overall I feel relieved, because now we know for sure, and we can start trying treatments.

My wish is that by Christmas I'll feel much better.
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