Monday, October 30, 2017

What NOT to say when someone has a miscarriage

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. I've tried to post a little something during this month each year in honor of our baby we miscarried two years ago.

As I reflected on miscarriage this month, I realized how incredibly difficult it is not only because of the grief you experience on a personal level, but because of our culture's confusion and insensitivity when it comes to life in the womb. If someone wants an abortion, our culture denies that the baby is a person, a human life, a unique individual. We callously state it's all about a woman's body and it's her choice and no one should judge or have specific opinions about it. We close off the matter entirely from each other. It's no wonder when a woman has a miscarriage, the world has no idea how to comfort her or how to offer respect and condolence for the unique little life she has just lost.

People say a lot of stupid things to a woman who has miscarried. And sometimes they say nothing at all. Here are four things NOT to say to someone who has a miscarriage...and a few thoughts on what you could do or say instead.

1) At least you can get pregnant and can have more kids. / At least you already have ___ number of kids.

These two go hand in hand depending on when your miscarriage occurred-- your first or somewhere down the line. Again this is our culture's predominant view on life in the womb-- that it's replaceable. One pregnancy is as good as another. Yet what a huge miss of the mark! Every conception results in a human being with unique DNA that has never been before and will never be repeated again. This is a unique human life. When a woman loses that life within her, she knows intuitively it cannot be replaced or repeated. That child was unique and the parents will never get to know him or her in this life. What to say instead: I'm so sorry for your loss. Acknowledge that this unique child's death was indeed a great loss, not something to be brushed over or replaced by other children. There are many organizations that sell sweet jewelry with a birthstone or engravings...these would make beautiful gifts to acknowledge the uniqueness of this child.

2) At least you were only ____ weeks along.

I get it. I get the sentiment behind this. We often think that the longer we know someone (or carry them beneath our hearts), the deeper we love them and the greater the loss. But you know what? Sometimes the earliest losses can be so deeply painful because we didn't get to have those moments and memories and we'll always wonder what might have been. This statement also suggests that human life becomes more valuable the bigger and older a child gets (something we see a lot of in abortion discussions...scary how much that has seeped into our view of life in general). I remember after our early loss having such a deep, tangible pain because my body was no longer carrying our child...I wanted so desperately to have more days, more weeks knowing he was alive beneath my heart. What to say instead: I'm so sorry for your loss. Sensing a trend here? It's always appropriate to give heartfelt, sincere condolences. A dear friend also asked my due date and remembered on the very date many months later to reach out to me-- that was so touching and amazing and rare.

3) Heaven needed an angel. 

This one drives me nuts for a couple reasons. First of all, humans don't become angels when they die. We become saints (hopefully if we go to heaven, that is.). I know it's cute to think of babies with angel wings but it's just not theologically sound or true. It sounds trite and superficial, however well-meaning it may be. The other thing is that heaven doesn't need anything or anyone. We don't understand God's ways or timing, so let's not assume we know that a mother lost her child because heaven needed it up there. ;) What to say instead...This may actually differ depending on your faith background. As Catholics, we believe in the Communion of Saints-- that those who die and go to heaven can pray for us from heaven in the same way we pray for each other on earth. So we believe that our miscarried children (knowing we would have baptized them had they lived) are in heaven, waiting for us and praying for us. For me, this was comforting to have others acknowledge. It further showed their respect for the tiny soul that had once been inside me, that my child's soul was eternal and his life has eternal significance despite the too short time on earth.

4) Everything happens for a reason. 

While it's true we have a sovereign God and nothing happens without first passing through His loving hand, this statement is so cliche and feels superficial. Kind of like something that someone says when they don't know what else to say. It's like a "shrug it off" type of statement. The truth is that we don't know why bad things happen sometimes...children die, people get cancer, hurricanes devastate. Yes, God is in control, but we also live in a fallen, broken world because of sin. So sometimes things happen that would not have been in God's perfect will. Yes, He permits them but He doesn't always cause things to happen because He had a "specific reason." Personally, I find much more comfort, strength, and hope in Romans 8:28 (an actual Bible verse instead of a cliche *wink*): "And we know that in all these things God works for good for those who love Him." We don't know why things happen, but we do know He will bring good from them. He is the Redeemer of all people and all things. What to say instead: God is with you in this. God weeps with you. God will bring grace in the midst of suffering. 

I hope this has been helpful on ways that we can weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). Miscarriage is such a silent cross in our country. Don't be afraid to step forward with your time and your presence to someone experiencing one. Acknowledge their loss. Offer a meal or treat. Give a gift of remembrance. And best of all, remember their child through the years by mentioning it on or near the miscarriage date or due date.

Every single person is created unique and unrepeatable by our good God. You are. Your friends are. And every tiny person in the womb.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Cozy Fall Reading: Book Reviews

I first read her well-known book The Lifegiving Home and mentioned it a few times on here and how much I loved it. So when I saw she had a new book called The Lifegiving Table that focused on food and meals, I was all in! I am such a fan of food and I've always connected it with celebration...when you have a party or gathering or even a friend over for tea, there has to be food! Author Sally Clarkson takes it a step further by connecting not only celebration with food but also spirituality. She explains how the warmth, comfort, and welcoming of a delicious meal can nurture conversation as well as evangelization. This is particularly important in raising our own families, but also in inviting others in (similar to my post about inviting the lonely). I not only loved the message of this book but also the layout and 'extras.' The first few chapters focus on the core message of the book. The rest of the chapters are divided into ways we can live this out (birthday meals, everyday meals, Christmas meals, meals on the go, etc.). Each chapter includes some devotional verses and questions, as well as practical ideas to put into practice. Sally Clarkson is fast becoming a favorite author/mentor for me, and this book affirmed that. Five stars.

[Thank you to Tyndale Publishing for my complimentary review copy. This review contains my honest and original thoughts.]

Two of my favorite books are One Thousand Gifts and The Greatest Gift (an Advent devo!) by the popular Ann Voskamp. She is a beautiful, beautiful word-weaver and her messages are profound. But somehow this book just didn't do it for me. Be the Gift is a gift-type book and collection of passages from previous books. The message is for all of us to be a self-gift to others (love the Theology of the Body implied there!) no matter how broken we feel. That by giving, we can not only heal and help others but ourselves as well. Her reflections are always touching and gorgeous, but this particular book just felt somewhat redundant which make the message lose some of its lackluster. It was also a bit confusing because the reflections were not separated by dates or chapters so you didn't quite know when you were in a new story or section (just a fancy capital letter beginning the story each time.). I think in some ways, this is still a rich book for meditation, and I love the 'extras' in it-- space for journaling your giving, ideas of intentional ways to give, and even some cute tags to add to food gifts for others. But overall, I found myself less drawn in than I usually am with her books. 3 out of 5 stars.

Thank you to Book Look Bloggers for my complimentary review copy. This review contains my honest and original thoughts.]

Last but not least, I've mentioned how crafty I've been feeling lately and I ordered this book to go out on a limb and see if I can master a new skill: watercolor. The title itself was tempting: Everyday Watercolor, Learn to Paint Watercolor in 30 Days. Honestly, I love this book. But honestly, it's much more in-depth than I anticipated. I think my best explanation would be that yes, you could learn to do watercolor in 30 days but it would be more like taking an actual course for those 30 days rather than slipping in a quick chapter and five minutes each day, if that makes sense. So the book is still EXCELLENT and I really look forward to learning, but it's not quite going to be the short naptime activity I thought it might. I envisioned learning some quick stroke techniques to be able to paint pretty flowers and leaves around some calligraphy quotes. But instead the book covers not only strokes, but also principles such as hue, saturation, value, shadows, gesture, volume, background and foreground, and much more. Again, I think it's a great resource and I love that they divided the concepts into 30 days, but I would definitely be aware that the book is very thorough and technical as well. I would give it a 4 out of 5. 

[Thank you to Blogging for Books for my complimentary review copy. This review contains my honest and original thoughts.]

Sunday, October 22, 2017

God Places the Lonely in Families

"God places the lonely in families." -Psalm 68:6

This verse. I can't get it out of my head. I don't even remember when I read it, but somehow it's been on my mind and heart the past couple months and that's usually a pretty good sign the Holy Spirit put it there. 

But what does it mean?

I'm now married, living in our cozy home, raising a little girl and ready to welcome another baby in the spring. My life and my heart are full in a beautiful way. Because of my family. 

We are meant for family. God Himself came to earth in a family with Mary and Joseph. Even in the Trinity, we see the family image of Father, Son, and Spirit. The first created humans were a family with Adam and Eve and their children. Obviously, family is a pretty big deal to God. 

On this worldwide Mission Sunday, I'm thinking about my own family's mission. And you know what keeps surfacing? Perhaps my family's mission these days is not so much to go out, but to invite in.

We are so blessed with the love of each other in our little family. Companionship, conversation, faith, warmth. In our broken world, not everyone has this. And without family, life can be so very lonely. God knows this, and so I believe He asks those of us that do have a healthy, loving family life to invite in those who are lonely. God wants to place those people in our family. This includes:

The single woman yearning for children, uncertain of her place during so many upcoming holidays that often center around children. She needs to be included, not only with your children and the fun activities, but as a friend and equal with her own valuable experience for you to learn from.

The person struggling with same-sex attraction yet trying to live a chaste life and follow the Church's teachings on human sexuality. They need so greatly for the Church to BE family to them, to welcome them in with love and grace and belonging. 

The elderly lady who lost her husband a year ago and whose children live far away. She needs your family to welcome her in and show her she still has so much worth and purpose and wisdom to share. 

God has adopted each one of as as His children (Romans 8:23, Ephesians 1:5) and has made us a family in the Church. For those of us who also have loving families we live with (whether it be your spouse or your parents), let's respond to God's call to allow Him to place the lonely in our families. Don't be afraid to reach out and invite someone in to your everyday life-- your meals, your trips, your holidays, your mess.

It may not be the greatest-reaching mission like those evangelizing in other countries. But to one lonely person, by simply inviting him or her into your loving family, it's life-changing.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Quick Takes on a Monday

(Because I wrote these on Friday but the internet wasn't working when I tried to post!)

1. This has been such an exhausting and crazy week and it’s not over yet. P continues to be busy with his job, working lots of late evenings and an occasional Saturday (including this one) and is just swamped mentally even when he is home. It’s definitely our sacrifice as a family for the ministry and working for the “least of these,” but I often have to remind myself to do it joyfully and willingly.

2. However, it was neat to see God gently speak to me about this at one of my mom’s group book clubs this week. We’re doing Bishop Robert Barron’s study Untold Blessing: Three Paths to Holiness and in the video, he was talking about when Jesus fell asleep in the ship while the storm raged and the disciples were going crazy. Bishop Barron said that we all are a ship and when we get busy and focused on too many things and we lose Christ as our center, we are allowing Him to ‘fall asleep’ within us and we lose our calm. The storms come and we get anxious because we’re simply relying on ourselves to make it through. We need to wake up Jesus within us and give Him the central focus in our lives once again and we will find that “no storm can shake my inmost calm, while to that Rock I’m clinging.” It was SO beautiful and I was not the only mom touched by it. It was such a beautiful and convicting reminder that HE is enough in my life right now. He is with me in all the hard moments when I’m holding down the fort at home and I can be calm and at peace even with the craziness around us right now.

3. We had an overnight guest last night, a mission director. She is possibly coming for dinner tonight as well. Though I was a little nervous about it all (morning sickness still hitting me hard all day!), it turned out really well and I enjoyed meeting her and talking with her. We even had a little God-ordained chat on a drive today about relationships and it was neat to see God use some of my past brokenness to minister to her in a current situation. Last night we all went with her to a pro-life fundraiser banquet and it was great to dress up and have dinner served to me (shallow, I know) and have G behave pretty well, too.  The speakers were great, too. ;)

4. My mother-in-law is arriving today for the weekend. She’s always really sweet and helpful and it’s nice to have the company. G is still in a somewhat clingy mood (I saw a tooth popping through yesterday!) but I’m hoping she’ll warm up quickly to her nana so I can get some extra breaks and rest—um, or clean out something? Haha. That minimalism book is motivating me!

5. And remember how I was wanting to craft? I bought some Sugar and Cream yarn today on a great sale!! I’m pretty sure I’ve decided to crochet a bunch of rustic washcloths and then make some homemade soap bars to go with it as gifts this year. Another book that I’m reading for the book club I host had a mind-blowing chapter on how in the modern world our minds work so much more than our body (esp since modernism/industrialism) and there’s been a subsequent increase in workplace (and home) depression because of the body’s lack of movement/skill/innovation/etc. Because we’re created body AND soul, God intended for us to use both, to work with our hands in addition to our minds. The whole chapter was INCREDIBLE and I can’t even summarize it in a few sentences. She said mental work has great value and importance (she’s a writer, after all!) but that if our work is somewhat sedentary, to make sure we are engaging our bodies outside of work rather than succumbing to screens in the evening. Anyway, it really made me want to craft even more. Now to find my crochet hooks.

6. Children update: G is just super fun these days. We have our hard moments of course (sleep, picky eating, and such) but she is such a doll and I love seeing her little personality, her humor, and her creativity in playtime. She’s my little partner in crime each day and we have so much fun. As long as I’m not feeling sick, these are sweet times we’re enjoying before our new baby comes and we transition yet again. That being said, we heard little baby’s heartbeat at my appointment this week and it just makes me fall in love all over again. We could even hear a few kicks on the Doppler. So precious. Can’t wait to feel this little one move in a few weeks.

7. We’ve had a mix of weather this week—some cold, rainy day and some warm, sunny days. It’s a reminder that winter is coming and it makes me want to take advantage of any and all of the nice fall days and get outside as much as we can!

Tell me about your past week or your upcoming weekend! What books are you loving? Is your ship going through storms or calm right now? Where do you think is an area you can use your body to be more healthy/creative?  

Linking up with Kelly!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

My October Front Porch Tour!

So I'll start out with the disclaimer that my porch is nowhere near being "Pinterest-perfect," but having it clean and decorated seasonally has brought me so much joy this month and I wanted to share it with you! I asked my husband to sweep it a few weeks ago and he went all out with taking furniture off and cleaning every inch! There were so many cobwebs prior, you would have thought we were decorated for Halloween. ;) But now it's a lovely place to sit during naptime with a cup of cider and some books! I wish you could join me to sit a spell!

I found the pumpkins at a neighbor's roadside sale, the corn was given to me by my mom,
and the mum was a $3 Walmart steal. ;) I have since switched the yellow "R" on the door
to my fall wreath once I knew the little berries on it wouldn't fall and be choking hazards.

The rug was a gift from our wedding...still looking pretty decent after two years! ;)

These yellow mums are just so bright and cheery!! I love that I can see them from the inside of the
house through the window, too! They were from the local farmer's market and I have to say
I've noticed a big quality difference in them from my Walmart variety. ;)

This cute little guy was salvaged from a free box at a garage sale, haha! My husband thinks
he's creepy, but I think he's rustic-ly charming!

Thanks for stopping by! Come again soon!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Currently // October

Joining Anne and Dana for a Currently link-up today! Here's what I've been currently...

Styling // unfortunately NOT my hair...I really need to come up with some tried-and-true styles for everyday. I love my hair straightened or curled for the weekends but day-to-day the messy bun and I tend to be together.

Saving // Very little. I've been on a minimalist kick and loving this book about minimalism for Christians/Catholics. Don't get me wrong, The Life-Changing Magic had its merits, but some of the New Age parts just weirded me out too much, plus some of it was just unrealistic for a married momma. I'm really appreciating Sterling's views on why minimalism is important-- even a calling-- for a Christian.

Searching // For fun, family-themed trick-or-treat costumes! We don't really celebrate Halloween, but we do love All Saints' Day as well as trick-or-treating in our neighborhood. Our neighborhood is a huge, family-friendly place with lots of young kids and the neighbors go crazy for trick-or-treat night. This is the third year we've lived here and we've created a tradition of inviting my side of the family for it. Right now my top pick for cuteness and simplicity is a 'money bag' costume for G and 'robber' costumes for me and P. ;)

Picking // A recipe to make for an Oktoberfest we were invited to this weekend. I'm so excited because I've been wanting to go to a fall party and this one sounds fabulous-- lots of families, hosted in a barn, and includes a bonfire and hayride. I'm pretty sure I'll be bringing a pumpkin dump cake as a dessert to share.

Making // I want to be making Christmas gifts, but need to find the time, energy, and money, haha. I've lately just had such a desire to do crafty things soap making or crocheting or scrapbooking crafts... This season has got me with all the heart eyes for the upcoming cozy holidays-- and the accompanying food and crafts and traditions.

What are you up to this month??