Sunday, March 31, 2013



"Once more to new creation Awake,
and death gainsay,
For death is swallowed up of life,
And Christ is risen today!" ~ George Newell Lovejoy

"There is not room for Death,
Nor atom that his might could render void:
Thou - Thou art Being and Breath,
And what Thou art may never be destroyed." ~ Emily Bronte

"And he departed from our sight that we might return to our heart, and there find Him. For He departed, and behold, He is here." ~ St Augustine

"Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed— for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead." ~ John 20:1-9

Happy Easter, friends!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

God is God, Even When the Miracle Doesn't Come

photo by forest wander via creative commons

I heard the story of a miracle this week on the radio.

A man had called into the station, and shared about how his baby was born weeks and weeks premature.  How unlikely it was that she would survive.  How he and his wife and everyone they knew prayed and prayed -- and their daughter lived.  How good God is because he saved their baby.

I am so glad that these parents didn't have to learn what it feels like to have your baby die.  To watch her dwindle away into death (I am grateful that I don't know what that feels like either).  I am glad for their miracle.

But as I listened, tears welled up in my eyes.  Angry tears.

Their story, it seems to imply that God is only as good, only as big, as his miracles.

And that, I think, is simply not true.

God is good even when your baby dies.  God is faithful when you cradle her lifeless form in your arms for the one and only time in this life.  God is loving when grief and pain threaten to tear you apart, body and soul.

God is God, period.  And he is faithful. 

God is God when the cancer does not go into remission.

God is God when your marriage is dissolving around you.

God is God when depression takes over.

God is God when people kill other people.

God is God when debilitating pain lingers for years and years and years.

God is God when death visits suddenly.

God is God when the addiction always wins.

God is God when the life you thought you'd have is a mockery of the one you find yourself  battling through.

God is God when your body is breaking. When your heart is breaking.

God is God, and he is not limited by his miracles.

Because which is more miraculous: that God would deliver the miracle, or that God would heal our hearts when the miracle doesn't come?

It is miraculous to me that my soul is not splintered into a billion, billion pieces by the ravages of dysfunction, depression, disordered eating, and my daughter's death. 

It is a miracle that God would see my pain and care, and act.  Even if he didn't act to save my daughter. 

Even though I still have questions, even though it hurts and it hurts, my still-beating heart is the miracle. 

So while I am grateful for the family whose premature baby beat the odds and lives . . . her life is not the measure of God's goodness, or power, or love.  

"Jesus and the disciples recrossed the sea to Jesus’ hometown. They were hardly out of the boat when some men carried a paraplegic on a stretcher and set him down in front of them. Jesus, impressed by their bold belief, said to the paraplegic, “Cheer up, son. I forgive your sins.” Some religion scholars whispered, “Why, that’s blasphemy!”
"Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, “Why this gossipy whispering? Which do you think is simpler: to say, ‘I forgive your sins,’ or, ‘Get up and walk’? Well, just so it’s clear that I’m the Son of Man and authorized to do either, or both. . . .” At this he turned to the paraplegic and said, “Get up. Take your bed and go home.”" 
"He sent me to preach good news to the poor, heal the heartbroken, announce freedom to all captives, pardon all prisoners."
What do you think? 
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Friday, March 22, 2013

{In the Art Studio} Courage, Gratitude, & Treasure Hunting

{new backgrounds} 

Well, it's been another not-so-creative week.  I try to remind myself that one day I will have far too much time to myself, that I will be missing these days when my son is tiny and all about the cuddling and the eating and the waking up at night.  And thanks to my daughter it's not too hard to remember to soak up every moment that I'm able, although sometimes I must admit that my selfishness creeps in too close and I get grumpy.  Especially if I'm low on sleep, like I have been these week. 

But this morning I was able to wake up a bit early and spend an hour making new backgrounds and trying to figure out what to do with the hair on the woman in my main work-in-progress.  Let me tell you -- deciding about her hair is freaking me out.  Because I really love how her face looks, and poor hair attempts have definitely ruined many a fine face of mine before.  But obviously the risk of face ruination must be taken, and a finished piece is worth it . . . so I'm trying to be brave.  I keep telling myself that there are no mistakes in art -- and that even if there are, that's what white paint is for.  ;) 

{in progress}  

Also, I just want to say how grateful I am for you.  Thank you for leaving me little love notes of encouragement or understanding here.  I'm sad that I'm not able to reply to your kind words right now due to the baby-induced lack of time (see above), but I read every single one.  If you'd really like a reply, please make sure that your email address is associated with the account you use to comment -- that makes it much easier for me to reply.  Thanks, sweet loves!

p.s.  Did you spy Eve's name in one of the backgrounds in the top photo?  I'm going to try to incorporate both my children's names into new pieces, just for fun.  I love both finding and hiding secret treasures of meaning like that.  Both of their names are in the bottom piece -- can you find them?  :)

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Why Bullying About Grief's [Lack of] Timeline is Unhelpful

our children

Today my daughter would have been one year and four months, if she'd lived.

The grief is starting to get uncomfortable now.

Well, not the grief, really.  People's reactions to the grief, to my feeling and expressing of it.  I'm feeling pressure to stop talking about it, about her.  To "get over it," to "move on."

They don't understand.  You don't just get over something like this.  Because no matter how much you express or repress your pain, it is always there.  It always rises up and knocks you down, no matter how much you think you've healed.

At least, that's how it feels to me.

And really, it's not all that many people who have said the words that knife deep into my heart, that urge me to forget my daughter.  But it's enough people, and it's people who are supposed to count for more, people who wear the name "family."

It's enough people that I wonder what other people are thinking, the ones who say nothing.  Enough that I wonder if people think I'm hanging onto this grief for the attention or the drama.  Enough that I feel afraid to wear my necklaces -- gifts from friends and family, I might add -- that boldly proclaim the fact that I have two children.

Here's the thing that I think the ones who cut with their words don't understand -- that I don't go looking for the grief.  I don't want to ache with the missing of her.

I don't seek out the pain.  It finds me, always.

Especially around this time of the month, every month.  Every month the anger that masks the pain rises, the irritability, the tears, and I feel like I'm going insane -- until I look at the calendar and realize that it's the eighteenth (the day we found out she died), the nineteenth (the day I was admitted for her induction), the twentieth (the day she was stillborn).

I never notice the calendar and think, "Oh, it's her days," and muster up the sadness.  The sadness always comes first.  My body remembers before my mind.

If I were to stop talking about my son, to stop being blessed and amazed by him, to stop rejoicing in his little miracle of a self, I would be criticized.  So how does it follow that I should never talk about my daughter, that I should never rejoice in the miracle of her short life?

I cannot leave her memory behind, and the pain of missing her will not leave me.  There is healing, there is restoration in God's hands, but silence and forgetting have no place in those things.

In case you don't know it, in case you've been told otherwise, let me remind you, my sweet friends -- grief is a symptom of love.  Grief is natural and normal.  Grief is healing.  Grief has no time limit.

Grief is necessary.

Let no one bully you into thinking anything else.

As for me, I will pray for courage and wear my necklaces and tell this story that I've been given.  It feels wrong to do anything else.

our children 
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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

5 Sanity Savers for Parenthood After a Loss

When I was pregnant with our rainbow baby, it was hard for me to purchase anything for him.  I wanted to, but the death and stillbirth of our daughter loomed larger in my mind, and I was afraid to bring more baby items into our home that might go unused.  But as his due date drew near, my nesting instinct kicked in, and I began to collect items that would help me to navigate the stressful early days of rainbow motherhood.

Because, as scary as it was being pregnant again after a loss, that fear did not instantly disappear when my son was (thankfully!) born alive and healthy.   I was — and, five months later, remain — afraid that SIDS might claim his life.  However, I also know that basic precautions aside, it is not possible to prevent SIDS.  It is, by definition, unable to be predicted or (if you are following safe sleeping guidelines) prevented.

With that in mind, I knew that I needed to find ways to keep myself sane in the early days and weeks of my son’s life.  I needed to be able to sleep, and knew that I wouldn’t be able to if I was constantly worrying about SIDS or other potential problems.  So I gathered items that would help me and my baby sleep, and prevent me from going out of my mind.  These are my top picks for saving your sanity during rainbow parenthood . . . .
Today I am writing over at Still Standing Magazine!  

Sunday, March 17, 2013

What to Do When Google Reader Bites the Dust

image by anonymous, creative commons

So, this week Google made me want to cry when it announced that my much-loved Google Reader is going kaput on July 1.  Google Reader is what I use to stay up to date with my favorite blogs, and I'm really sad that it's disappearing.

I wanted to give you, my wonderful-est readers, a chance to explore new subscription options and find one that works for you if you are also a Google Reader fan.  And I'd of course love for you to resubscribe to my blog once you figure out your new mode of blog devouring.

As for me, I'm going to continue to use Feeddler RSS reader app on my iPad.  And while I'm not 100% sure yet, I think that I'm going to use Bloglovin when accessing my subscriptions on my PC.

What's nice about Bloglovin is that when you create an account, it automatically asks you if you want to import your subscriptions from Google Reader.  So with one click, you can painlessly keep following along with your favorite online writers.  I don't know about you, but I like easy transitions. Whew!

If you'd like to follow along with my on Bloglovin, you can click the link at the top of this post, or here.  You can also follow via the Bloglovin button on the right sidebar of my blog.

Please note -- if you were already following my blog via Bloglovin and want to continue, you're going to have to re-follow (here).  Somehow my last account there for this blog went wonky.  Sorry about that!

If you're currently using Google Reader, what are you switching to?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

In the Art Studio: Open Hands + New Art

I didn't get very much time to work on my art projects this week, but the little time I did find I put toward finishing these very different lovelies:

Open Hands 

Open Hands

Open Hands was born out of my fear.  Having had my daughter die before she was born, it feels like all bets are off for all the other precious people in my life, especially our son.  I know how easily death creeps in, and it terrifies me.  So my "solution" was to desperately try to control everything so that nothing bad would ever happen to my family again.  But of course . . . that's not really much of a solution at all, and even if it was, that's no way to live.  The true solution, I believe, is to trust everything to God -- to live open-handed to Him.  I know that's no guarantee against future pain, but I think it's the best that I can do.  This painting is a reminder of that for myself and, maybe, for you.

Star Boy 

Star Boy

Star Boy is a creation inspired by an online art class I am taking from Mindy of Tim's Sally (I have no idea what the significance of that name is -- if you do, can you let me know? I'm super curious!).  I'd attempted to start a new creation on this square canvas a myriad of times, but each time I felt really discouraged by what I produced and painted over it.  In the end, I turned to Mindy's inspiration and practiced shading a more primitive figure in a far different way than I am used to.  I love how it turned out, and am tempted to hang onto it to hang in our son's room.  But I also don't want to horde my own art (I am given to hoarding in general), so instead I'm putting it out there to see what happens. 

It feels lovely and satisfying and a little bit scary to put these out in the world.  I love each one because they are different from my usual creations.  Hello, courage!

Seth with name 

I also finished another Not Forgotten remembrance drawing and it sent it off the mama who commissioned it -- I both hate and love doing these.  I hate it, because it means that a precious, wanted child is missing from this earth, yet love to be able to provide this little way of remembering to ease a mama's heart just a tiny bit.  And I love, too, that I am able to create this cute, sweet drawings out of my own daughter's absence.  Beauty from ashes, my friends.  It always seems to come back to that. 

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

My [Writing] Identity Crisis


I've been thinking about writing.

Because I write a lot (here, obviously).  And yet, I don't write what I thought I'd be writing.

For as long as I can remember, I've loved books, libraries, bookshops.  I've loved reading, loved diving into a well-written story.  And I have always wanted to be a writer of books, author of stories.  I even earned a degree in creative writing, and I love talking and teaching about writing.

But, thirty and a half years into this mess, I haven't seen a single book through to publication (well, except for this one).

What happened?  

Part of the problem, perhaps: I've never written much on my own.

That is to say, I've never had the guts and discipline to sit down and write instead of reading, to create instead of consuming.  But when I was assigned a creative writing project in high school or college, I went about it with heart-singing joy. 

After graduation, I didn't write because (I told myself) I didn't have time, and it didn't matter much, anyway, because it's not like I could make a living from it (said my parents).  If it didn't make money, what was the point?

And then, finally, I did have time, and I committed myself to showing up at the page everyday.

Can you guess what happened?  (I bet you think I'm going to say that eventually, with enough time and sticking-to-it, a habit was formed and blocks were overcome and that's how my one single finished book gotten written.  But that's not what I'm going to say.)

Writing fiction triggered my eating disorder.  Badly.


Looking back, I think it was the fear, and the perfectionism.  The thought that -- this time I'm spending here, at the page, better pay off, in cash.  Because otherwise it's a waste and I'm a waste.  So this thing I'm writing, it better be freaking perfect in a couple of months.  I'd tremble and procrastinate and bang out a few thousand words, and then go binge, or binge on exercise.  Or I'd just think about writing and binge instead of facing the pressure.

In the end, I felt like I had to choose between writing and my health.  I chose the latter.

And then I found art without really looking for it, and God used it somehow to open up my heart and route that eating disorder right out of there.  And while sometimes the fear and perfectionism come into my art-making, it doesn't scare me off, and the eating disorder hasn't returned (two years this month! thank you, God). 

So I make art, but I have words inside me, too.  I share them here, but still the dream of published books lingers.

Books that don't get written.

So I find myself thinking -- what's the difference between writing here, on the blog, and writing a draft of a book, fiction or not?

Part of it is that I don't have the endurance, the attention span.  Or really, that I haven't cultivated those things.

And also -- I wonder if I don't have much imagination.  Because while the words pool and I can type my truth out easily, when creating worlds and hearts and someone else's dialogue, my imagination feels dull and gray.  It always has, even reading.  When I read or write a setting, it always has gray skies, uninteresting landscapes, and a strong sense of being closed in.  Is this normal?

And another thought: do I want to write books because I want to write books, or do I want to write books because I feel that I should?  Because everyone who's anyone does?  Because successful blogging = book deal? 

Here's what I hear from my friends who are writers (that is, who are actively writing stories right now, and not just thinking about writing or dreaming or talking about it) -- that they write because they must.  Because there are stories inside of them.  Stories that must get out.

The only story that's inside of me is my own.  And I don't know how to write that into a book.  So I write it here.

I don't know if that's enough.  I don't know why it can't be.

Or maybe I'm just making excuses.

Often, when I come here to work out my thoughts with you, I can write my way into some sort of conclusion or resting point.  But that's not happening here today.  All I know is that I love writing, sharing my thoughts with you, and hope that they bless you (and try not to worry that it's narcissistic).  And also that God has given me a gift of loving words and being decent with pushing them around, and there's got to be a reason for that. 

I just don't know what.

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."
~ Sylvia Plath

Friday, March 8, 2013

Sometimes Self-Care Looks Like Paint-Covered Hands

This week, I had a little bit of time to get paint on my hands. While our baby's night sleeps markedly improved overnight (thank you, God!), he's still mostly not napping. And by "mostly not napping" I mean that he took a three hour nap on Tuesday -- and that was his nap for the week.  Ouch.  Every other "nap" was the result of me wearing him and going for a treadmill walk. 

{in progress}

It's so frustrating because I can see that he is tired during the day, but if I try to put him down for a nap he just screams, poor guy.  Maybe one day he'll get it . . . but if he's anything like his mama, who cannot nap to save her life, he won't.  ;)  Regardless of whether he ever learns to nap or not, I am so looking forward to the day when we can both get painty together.

{in progress}

That said, I put that one three hour nap to good use, and then this morning I got up early to get some more art time while the guys (meaning hubby, baby, and pups) still slept.  It has felt so good to find time for this!  Art-making is truly nourishing for me.  It really is more of a form of self-care than anything.  I am discovering that when I don't get art time, my attitude is not as good, comfort snacking creeps in, and my general sense of wellness and energy are depleted. 

{in progress}

Here are a few of the things I've been working on, including some exciting new styles of painting that make me really excited -- meaning the two girls in the gowns. They were born after I had some fun creating backgrounds.  I usually paint the figures in my pieces first, and then work out the backgrounds around them, but doing the reverse this time was refreshing (and a little scary! hello, perfectionism).  Prints (and maybe the originals, if I can bear to part with them) will be in the shop soon. 

{in progress} 

Also, I made my very first art video!  It's rough around the edges -- my camera turned off midway through, and I forgot to re-zoom when I turned it back on -- but it was fun to make and edit.  I'm hoping to make more of these in the future.  Enjoy!

What kinds of videos would you like to watch here on the blog, if any?  Art demos?  Tutorials?  Me getting my verbosity on?

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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

And What if This is Our Last Baby?

pregnancy photos
28 weeks pregnant with our son

I didn't expect this to knock me over like they did, the words of this one mama.  I started to read her article about why she has decided to be a mother of only one child because I was curious.  And then my eyes met this:

“I’ve had my daughter . . . .  I am so grateful to have my one beautiful daughter. I don’t wish to have any more.”

And those words, they were met with tears.  Are met with tears now, as I write this.

Because ever since my daughter died and my second pregnancy's ultrasound revealed a son, I've been holding onto the dream of having another daughter.  One that stays, that breaths, that I get to dress in tutus and Easter dresses and ribbons, if she'll let me.

I've refused to consider the possibility that maybe God doesn't have any more children for us.  Maybe the only curly, dark-haired baby we'll have is the one who lives in Heaven.

And I must admit, since having our precious, beautiful, sensitive son who looks so much like his daddy (even though his dad protests that fact), I've been wondering if I have it in me to give this boy anything less than my whole heart.  That is, if I want to divide this mother-love that I have for my children more than it already is divided.  Because what division is greater than Heaven and earth?

So those words, of having only one child on this earth -- they rocked me.  And I now I sit here in my son's room as he resists yet another nap (stubborn like his mama!), talking to God and writing to you, because what else is there to do?

I ask Him, "Is this it?  Am I a mother of two only?  And do I only get to be a mother to one?" 

I can't hear Him answer.

So I breathe and cry and breathe and try to let it go -- the hope that I've held since those two lines appeared on the pregnancy test almost two years ago now.  The hope for a daughter.

I think I can do it, release this dream.  After all, I am more blessed than some, who dream of children yet whose arms are never, ever filled.  I do have the daughter I hoped for.  And she is beautiful and has her mother's hair.  She's just not here.

But to let the dream go . . . oh, it hurts.  Grief upon grief.

And it's scary to release that hope of a second daughter, because it means putting all my eggs in one basket, as it were.  This world is a terrible place, and to send all of my mother-heart out into it in the hands of just one child petrifies me. What if something should happen to him, too? 

Fear upon fear.

And yet -- joy upon joy, too, because this boy . . . oh, this boy. 

When I am wondering if my heart will survive without the daughter I long for, without the daughter I have, I look at him and know -- this is enough.  No, not just enough -- this is blessedly extravagant, fill-my-whole-heart-up, more-than-I-could-ever-want in His hands.

I can be the mother of one on earth and one in Heaven, and be well.

Because no matter how many children we happen to have, all of them will leave, because all children must leave their parents.  And it is my job to help them to leave, and in the end I'll have no children snuggling in my arms anyway.

In the end, always, it is just God and me.  

So I let the dream go, and even though it hurts, even though it makes me weep, I know that my tears are seen and caught and cherished, every one, by the One who is ever my beginning and my end.

That has to be enough.  I know that, eventually, in His hands, it will be.

happy 5 months old day, sweet boy!
the sweetest boy -- 5 months already!
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Friday, March 1, 2013

Creative Resistance + Practicing Gentleness

Hope Abigail with name

It's been a rough week for creative pursuits here.  I was glad to be able to create this sweet Not Forgotten babyloss remembrance drawing from start to finish recently, as well as start on an entirely new remembrance drawing, but other than that I haven't been able to grab much creative time for myself.

It's been interesting to observe my reaction to whatever free time (a.k.a. baby nap times) comes my way.  I am constantly longing to get my fingers all paint-y, but if our son does happen to nap, I find myself procrastinating getting down to it.  Instead, I'll check my email, wash my face, dawdle on the couch, or exercise.  And while none of those are inherently bad things, if I'm using them to avoid the work that both nourishes me and blesses others (that is my hope, anyway) . . . well, that's when they become unhealthy.

That said, I'm trying to be gentle with myself.  Because while this week I have let resistance win out in my artistic endeavors, I have also been making strides in other areas -- being brave with a new, humongous, and really terrifying project . . . starting some vulnerable fiction writing for the first time in ages . . . listening in on some of the Right-Brainers in Business video summit (it's free!) . . . finally making progress against an unhealthy habit masquerading as a healthy one . . .

So this week, while it hasn't seen much in the way of new art (or blog posts, for that matter . . .), hasn't been without its victories.  Still . . . I miss my paint.  A lot.  Cross your fingers with me that our sweet boy will go down easily for some much-needed rest (for him) and much-needed art time (for mama). 

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