Living Our Story in an Instagram Age: or Lessons from a Horse and His Boy

Have you ever read A Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis? If not I encourage you to. Actually I would encourage any one who hasn't read through the entire Chronicles of Narnia series to do so. It will change the way you see the world. I promise.

Depending on what order you are reading the series A Horse and His Boy is either the third book you read (if read chronologically) or the fifth book you read (if read in the order written). Either way it is an interesting departure from the formula used in all the other books. In each of the six other books children from our world are transported to a magical world. In A Horse and His Boy however, all of the characters are from the world that contains Narnia.

In this unique book Lewis explores the concept and idea of story in a number of ways. Particularly the idea that we each have our own story, and that we are never told stories that are not our own. Over and over people tell their stories and . in some case, have their stories told to them. Each story raises questions and you are left with the realization that even our own stories can never fully be understood when they over lap with the story of someone else.

“Child,' said the Lion, 'I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own.”
C.S.Lewis A Horse and His Boy

There is no way that when C.S. Lewis wrote his book in the early '50s that he could have even imagined the world of social media we live in. Now days our stories aren't just told around kitchen tables or on park benches. Our stories are being told daily, moment by moment on a variety of social network platforms.

This is so much beauty in this. So often it isn't until we share our stories with others and hear a much hoped for “me to” that we find meaning and healing in our own stories.

This constant story telling also poses a danger. It is so easy to see a picture on Instagram or a few moments on Periscope and think we have the whole story. Even when it is a dear friend and I know the story is deeper than what I am seeing, it is so easy to forget.

It is so easy to wonder...
“Why them?”
“Why not me?”
“What are they doing right?”
“What am I doing wrong?”

It is so easy to long for a story that is not my own.
To get caught up in the snapshots of beauty and forget about the hard work behind them.

And so I remind myself over and over.
To live MY adventure.
To full enter into MY story.

“No one is told any story but their own.”


Un-extraordinary Loss: Our Miscarriage Story

February 12th 2012, the day we announced our pregnancy to friends.

Trigger Warning: This post is about pregnancy and loss.

I realized recently that I never really wrote about or shared my miscarriage story. At the time it wasn't really something you saw much of on blogs. Trust me, I searched. In the years that have passed I have had a number of friends experience this type of loss and many of them have written beautifully honest posts about their experiences.

But, one of the things I have noticed is that still, the people who write about their loss are those who have been through extraordinary circumstance. Be it ectopic pregnancy, late term miscarriage, laboring after a miscarriage, multiple losses, all of their stories have been intense.

My story is not.

I did some research and numbers are confusing and fuzzy, but most studies seem to agree that between 15-20% of confirmed pregnancies end in miscarriage. A confirmed pregnancy, in this case, means a normal (not early detection) pregnancy test has confirmed a pregnancy after a missed period.

That is a lot of pregnancies.

One of the main reasons I haven't shared my story up to this point is a sense of shame. I felt foolish grieving a baby I had only known about for two weeks. Had I been pregnant when my mother was young there is a possibility I wouldn't even had taken a test and would have assumed I was just really late. But the fact is, I was pregnant in 2012 and I had spent two weeks loving the child inside of me. I share my story for all the mamas out there like me.

You are not alone.

It was in the last couple days of January 2012 that I found out I was pregnant. January had been a crazy month and it took almost a week for me to realize I was late. A home pregnancy test confirmed that I was in fact pregnant. It was the beginning of the week and my mom and sister were coming to visit that weekend. We toyed with the idea of sharing our news with them, but decided to wait till we had visited the free pregnancy center for an “official” pregnancy test to share our news. This didn't however stop me from texting my brother's wife in Nebraska with our news. A day later she texted back with news of her own and I am still amazed that I managed not to spill any secrets while my mom and sister were in town.

Thursday, February 9th about ten days after our home pregnancy test, we visited the local crisis pregnancy center for a “medically administered” pregnancy test. It was the only place in town that would do a free pregnancy test that could be used for insurance purposes. We had left our kids with his parents under the guise of “date night” so it was just the two of us when the nurse handed us the form that stated we were pregnant. Too excited to keep it to ourselves any longer we sat in the parking lot and called our families only to discover that my brother and his wife were making the same phone calls that night.

Friday, February 10th Josh had plans to drive to a near by city with some buddies. I dropped the kids of with his parents for a sleepover and headed home for some rest. I noticed some spotting that night but didn't worry too much. I had a large amount of spotting with my first pregnancy and intense cramps with my second both caused by dehydration. I drank a glass of water, put my feet up, and decided that was no need to call my husband and worry him.

Saturday, February 11th I picked the girls up from my in laws that afternoon and we went to visit Daddy at work. The spotting had come back so I mentioned in passing to my husband. He calmly reminded me of the spotting in my first pregnancy and told me not to worry.

Sunday February 12th by the time we got to church Sunday I had been spotting all morning. To ease my mind I sought out a friend who was a nurse educator for labor and delivery nurses. She reassured me of all the reason spotting could happen. She encouraged me to rest and pray, and if I was still concerned in a few days to call the doctor's office to see if I could move up my first visit.

Convinced that rest was the answer my husband picked up tale out and movies on the way home from church and parked me on the couch for the afternoon. It is a testament to his love that he sat and watched teenage vampire movies with me all afternoon.

It was around 4 pm that afternoon that everything shifted. Certain that dehydration was the primary culprit I had been drinking crazy amounts of water and, as a result taking constant trips to the bathroom. Everything was fine... until it wasn't. The brown spotting had changed to bright red.
I knew then that my baby was gone.

It took me a while to tell my husband. I went downstairs and sat in our recliner trying not to cry. I sent two text messages. One to my mom, one to my sister in law. “It's red.”

A few hours later the spotting changed to bleeding and I knew I had to tell Josh. I thought I made it clear. I guess I didn't. He still had hope. I fell asleep crying that night while he prayed for protection over our baby.

Monday February 13th Josh left for work that morning continuing to pray over the baby that I knew was gone. I was left with the task of calling various doctors offices and the pregnancy center trying to find some one who would see me. All of the had the same answer. “Sorry we can't help, go to the emergency room.”

His mom came and sat with our girls, a friend came and drove me to the ER. After a while Josh met us there.

Here is the thing about going to the emergency room for a miscarriage.
It isn't an emergency.
There is nothing they can do to stop it.
You are bottom priority.

And so we sat, and sat, and sat. Friends brought us lunch. My sister called. I still hadn't told our siblings so I am not sure if I texted her or if my mom had told her, but she called. I stood in the waiting room staring out a window listening to her. “I'll come,” she said. “But only if you want me to.” I felt horrible asking her to come. It was beyond selfish asking her to take time off of work to drive from Maryland when there was nothing to be done. I couldn't answer. “You have to ask me Joy. I need you to tell me what you want.” More silence. “Come,” I said. “OK,” she said. “I'll be there.”

More waiting.
They take us back.
They draw blood.
More waiting.
They order an ultrasound.
I drink water till it hurts.

The nurse does the ultrasound and for a few fleeting moments she seems to see something. Our spirits perk up only to be dashed when we realize she thinks she sees something wrong with me.
It's nothing.
It's not a baby.
It's not something wrong.
It's just nothing.

They still make us wait for blood work. The Dr. comes in and hands us lots of papers. He says things he thinks are helpful.
“There's no signs you were ever pregnant.”
“You probably had already lost the baby before the first pregnancy test.”
And as kind as his intentions are, what I hear is that I have no reason to grieve.

We quietly tell our families and post something simple on facebook. Conventional wisdom says you don't announce your pregnancy before 12 weeks to avoid situations like this. I have no regrets sharing our news when we did. Every baby should be celebrated, even if only for a few weeks. I am so thankful for those who not only celebrated with us but walked with us through the next few weeks with grace and concern.

Tuesday February 14th Valentine's Day. Josh fixes me breakfast in bed and the girls and he bring me my gift. He has to go to work and offers to call his mom but my sister is on her way so he goes and the girls and I wait for her. I don't remember much about her visit. I do know it was one of the most self sacrificing acts of love I have ever experienced. To say any more would be to tell a story that is not mine. And I will not attempt to do that.

And then life moved on.
Sort of.
We picked back up where we left off.
I went to MOPS that week.
We went on the trip had planned to TN and up to Ohio to see some of his family.
No one mentioned the miscarriage, so neither did we.
We went back to church.
No one mentioned the baby, and so neither did we.

Over the next few months two couples in our circle both experienced miscarriages ending in traumatic DNCs and a close friend delivered her baby girl stillborn at 20 weeks.

I kept silent, full of guilt because I was still grieving after such a “simple” and “uncomplicated” experience. I felt like my sadness was invalid. It was an early miscarriage with no complications. Had it been a different decade chances are I wouldn't even have known about it.
But I did.
I knew and loved my baby for two beautiful weeks.

October 2012 my mom came to visit. It was the weekend of my due date. We didn't really talk about it much until right before she left. She told me in many ways the hardest part was over. I could stop ticking down in my head what milestones we would be passing in the pregnancy. Now I could move on.
And she was right.

There are still days I miss our baby There are still moments I look at my brother's oldest son and wonder if we would have had a boy or girl and how they would have played together.

I have a wonderful, beautiful, full life. I have three amazing daughters. We were eventually blessed with our rainbow baby Anastasia which we found out means resurrection. It seems fitting as she resurrected hope and dreams we had placed aside.

But loss is loss and I four years later I am finally writing this blog post with no shame or embarrassment.
Having three healthy pregnancy doesn't change the fact that one of them ended too early.
Loosing a baby 8-10 weeks is still loosing a baby.
Just because it happens all the time doesn't mean it isn't devastating.
You don't have to have felt the baby move, or seen an ultra sound, or heard the heart beat to know you have a child inside of you and to love them like a mother.
There is no shame in your sorrow or your tears.

You are not alone.


On Saying "Yes" and Saying "No" : A Lesson from Noah and the Ark

Has this ever happened to you? You are sitting there having your quite time, maybe you are reading your Bible, maybe it's a devotional, when all of the sudden a phrase lodges itself in your brain and won't budge. You go about your day, but that phrase or verse just stays there, stuck in your brain like an annoying commercial jingle playing over and over.

This happened to me the other day and, since I am trying to pay attention to the things that clearly stick with me, I took some time to sit down and do a art entry in my journaling Bible. A lot of times I will sit down and write out my thoughts on a verse that sticks with me, but this time I couldn't quite pin point what it was that drew me to the passage so I decided to just sit with a bit. I let my mind work the words over and over while I painted and created. I spent about 20 minutes with it and in the end felt like I had wrestled through some of the Lord was saying to me through these words.

The exact verse from the ESV Bible reads “And Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him.”

Clearly I took a little bit of license as I journaled, but I think I stayed pretty close to the translation.

Here is the interesting thing about the story of Noah and the Ark, his part of the story can be summed up in that one verse. Noah's story is covered in a a little less than four chapters and, with the exception of one incident, all of it falls under that one verse. Everything he did was in response to God's directions.

“And Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him.”

Not the easy parts.
Not the parts that he understood.
Not the parts that made sense.
Not the parts that lifted himself up.
Not the parts that lined up with his own plans.


And that's all.
He didn't do anything else.
He did his part, and that is it.

It had never rained before.
But Noah didn't question.

He didn't have a clear time line.
But Noah didn't rush.

The outcome was unknown.
But Noah didn't hesitate.

The task seemed impossible.
But Noah didn't hesitate.

God gave Noah a job.
And he did it.
And he didn't worry about anything else.

It is now just over one month into the new year. Maybe you are like me and you sat down in early January (or maybe even let December) and set out some dreams, goals, and plans for yourself or your family in 2016. Maybe you are nothing like me and tend to fly by the seat of your pants evaluating opportunities as the arise.

May I encourage you with this?
Are the things on your to-do list the things God is asking you to do?
Is there anything that needs to be added?
Are you holding back from saying “yes” to God because the outcome seems unclear?
Are there things that need to be taken off your list?
Have you said “yes” to things that aren't yours to do?
Be cautious.
Saying “yes” to tasks that aren't ours makes it harder to say “yes” to the things that are ours to do.
That is some a task for some one else.
When you say “yes” you are taking away their opportunity to say “yes.”

May we say “yes” to all the Lord has commanded us (and “no” to the things He has not.)


Dear Mom at Story Hour

Dear Mom At Story Hour,

I don't know who you are. I didn't ask you your name. I saw you at the story hour working to wrangle your toddler just like me. Like me you stuck around after the story to explore more of the children's museum. I noticed you again in the under three area. I noticed you because you were sitting by yourself. The room was full of busy toddlers and chatting moms. You and I seemed to be the only two moms who didn't come with a friend. We both sat silently watching our kids play. You looked nice. I wanted to come over and introduce myself. I wanted to get to know you and ask if you were coming back next week. But I didn't. I was scared to.

I sat on the opposite side of the room wanting to talk to you, but too afraid to and I was struck again by how lonely motherhood can be.
You see I didn't come up and talk to you because I was afraid I would say the wrong thing.
I worried that I would make a comment about schooling, or car seats, or diets that would upset you.
I was worried that instead of connecting over this beautiful thing called motherhood I would say something that would unintentionally push you away.
Something that would make one of us put up a wall and mentally declare the other one unsafe.
I have good reason for this fear. I stopped going to play groups over four years ago after multiple attempts. After having my second child just 20 months after my first, my mother kindly but firmly pushed me to step out side of my little duplex and try to meet some other moms. I tried (Honest Mom I really did!). Like most endeavors mine met with some hits and some misses.

I did manage to find a MOPS group that I loved and participated in for nearly two years before the closed down. I have seen what motherhood done together can be. I have seen the beauty and the fun and safety net other women can provide. I have also experienced the side ways looks and out and out unkind comments that come when you say something out of step with other moms.

I can remember with extreme clarity the moment a play group found out I had two c-sections or when I asked another group of moms their thoughts on a particular medication. I learned fast to keep my mouth shut unless I knew exactly who was there and had followed them on face book long enough to know where they stood on things like nursing, car seats, schooling, and vaccinations.

It's exhausting and lonely. The chances that I will agree with some one else on EVERY SINGLE parenting “issue” is pretty slim.

I took a photo of my daughter on her 1st birthday (or shortly after). She had just had her one year shots and was sitting in a forward facing car seat for the first time drinking whole milk out of her bottle. I went to post in on facebook and stopped. She was my rainbow baby after a heart breaking miscarriage. I was so excited for the milestones she had reached. We had made it through the haze of sleepless nights and weaned her just a few months prior. I was so proud of my baby girl. I didn't want to read the inevitable negative comments. I sent the photo to my mom instead.

I know I am guilty of these comments as well. I know my exhaustion and insecurities as a mom mean that I have times when I give in and let loose a sarcastic comment or two about moms who are different than me. I know that when I feel defensive my Mama Bear comes out and I lash out verbally at “them.” I'm so sorry.

Here is the truth. I don't care how you parent. As long as your choice aren't hurting your kid then I encourage you do to whatever works and keeps you and your kid happy and healthy. There is a good chance my choices will be different from yours no matter how crunchy or not you are. (I am maddeningly middle of the road.)

I may not understand your choices, but I do understand they are yours to make.
I know that at times I can make comments that are snarky or sarcastic about other parenting styles.
I can guess that you some times do to.
So let's make a deal.
I'll do my best not to do that any more, and to remember that when you do it's most likely out of a place of exhaustion and insecurity.

And maybe next week I'll work up the guts to introduce myself.


When the World Falls Apart: or showing up in a cluttered life.

I look around and the world feels like it is falling apart.
There is evil every where.
Paris is broken.
Isis is powerful.
There are refugees that no one knows what to do with.
There is hate and racism and deep-seated distrust in our country.

And that is just the world out there.
At home it is my cousin's cancer.
And the broken seatbelt in the back seat.
Sales numbers that need to double and only nine selling days left.
There are exhausted outbursts at the end of the school day.
And home work that feels too hard.
A toddler who won't give up her bottle.
And a cavity in my back molar that irritates the corner of my brain more than my jaw.

And if I can't do anything about the small things close to home, how can I even hope at having an impact on the world out side my front door?

I drive down the highway flipping between bitter debate and saccharin music. So the radio goes off leaving me with my own thoughts. And my father's voice plays over and over shuffling between two thoughts.

"We chose to clutter our life with people not things."


"Show up."

The first a line from letters he wrote my husband and I on our wedding day. A motto he and my mother applied to their entire marriage. A motto my husband and I strive to embrace. The reason we bought our home. Not for status or security. But to fill it to the brim with family and friends and laughter and God's goodness.

The second line from a sermon he once preached. It was a difficult season for us. A toddler and a newborn with a close family member ill. We were in constant pain and it was easier to check out and shut down than to actually show up and be present in our lives. We were on a path that could have destroyed our  marriage. During the four hour drive home that day we made a choice. No matter how painful, no matter how messy, no matter how inconvenient or irritating, we would show up for our lives. When with each other, with our children, with our families, at church, we would stop shutting down and start engaging.

I don't really know what these two things have to do with a broken seat belts and cavities, much less bombings and refuges.

But there is homework tonight.
And Thanksgiving is next week.
And Christmas is coming.

And so I pray.
And bake bread.
And clutter my life with coffee dates and soup suppers and date nights and family nights.
And wherever life puts me I will show up.
Because some days, that's really all we can do.


The Best Laid Plans

I am a planner. It is in my nature. I have an unhealthy obsession with school supplies and get down right giddy about back to school shopping. Nothing makes me quite to happy as an empty notebook or blank planner pages. So much so that I collect them. My wildly disorganized office is full of stacks of notebooks and planners in use, discarded, or waiting for their time.

I can schedule and map out action steps with the best of them. Making to do lists and figuring out what needs to be done to reach a goal are a piece of cake.

But the best laid plans.

You see there is a flaw in all my planning. Though I have been a mama for almost 8 years, almost with out exception, I make plans failing to take into consideration this crazy bed head and her two big sisters. Despite careful thought and planning I am rarely able to accomplish all I set out to do.

With this toddler's big sisters starting school last week I set out to take steps to grow my blog, as well as submitted my application for the largest, juried show our area has to offer. I made plans to grow my offering at this show and introduce new products. I started doing yoga. I added name to my happy mail list. I attempted to rearrange the girls bedroom.

I forgot my pint size companion was on a sleeping strike. I forgot that I was running on fumes. I forgot that when we move toward what God is calling us to there will inevitably be set backs. There will be road blocks and distractions and there will be other work to do.

And I would like everything to be simple and clear cut. I wish the answer was as tidy as forget the to do list and play all day. Forget the dreams and focus on the dishes. Or, forget the dishes and sew up a storm, your family needs the money. But it's never all or nothing. I am a mother, and a wife, and a friend, and a writer, and a creative, and a church member and all of those things require my attention. So some times and answer is to cut back on the to do list and some times the answer is to stay up till 11 pm to knock it out. Some times the answer is rest, and some times the answer it to kick myself into high gear and get things done while the baby plays and the kids are at school so that I can cook dinner and do home work when they get home.

I really like planners. I like the boxes and the lines and the check marks. And life is so much messier than my plans. It's complicated and pushes back far more than I would like. There are days when the hats I wear get confusing and I am not sure which is supposed to have my attention at the moment. Life isn't as easily as defined as I would like to think on my notepad pages.

So I keep trusting that as long as I keep moving forward, and doing the next thing, that it's all leading to the perfect place for me.

P.S. For fellow planner addicts you can find my planner instgram account at https://instagram.com/plannerofjoy


Don't Grow Weary

Galatians 6:9
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

I don't have a well thought out, edited post for you all tonight. I have tried but my brain is just not working the way it needs to. I am lucky to be getting this up.

Some days are about simply doing the next thing.
The thing right in front of you.
Doing the right thing because it's the right thing.
Some times faith is big and bold.
Some times it's folding the laundry and baking bread and sending an e-mail.
And it's easy to get weary when the work is mundane.
Some times doing good looks a lot less changing the world, and a lot more like changing my heart.
And so you play JJ Heller music way louder than was ever intended and brew your third cup of tea and keep on keeping on till harvest time.