Kiss Your Miracle

motherhood after infertility

Crisis September 28, 2009

Filed under: Faith,Family — Linnea @ 1:03 pm

Last week my family got awful news: my dad has cancer. He’s been dealing with intense back pain since the beginning of the year and over the past few months his stomach has been bothering him, too. But none of us expected something so serious to be wrong. He was scheduled for back surgery this week and it was during some of his pre-op testing that his doctors found the cancer.

The night he told me I’d just finished giving Sky a bath. I noticed a missed call on my phone, so I stepped out onto the porch to call him back. “I have cancer,” he said matter-of-factly. I inhaled sharply. “What kind?” I asked. He hesitated. “Well, they’re not entirely sure… I’ll have more tests run later this week. But they think it started in my pancreas.” I stared out at the street lights. Started? I thought to myself. As in, it’s already spread to other places? And did he really say pancreas? I wanted to ask him a million questions, but sensed that now was not the time. “The doctors plan to start radiation and chemo soon,” my dad continued, and then told me he still needed to call the rest of my brothers and sisters. I told him how sorry I was and how I’d be praying. “Well, just remember,” he said, and I could tell he was looking for a positive way to end the conversation, “I have a secret weapon. I have your mother.” I nodded, as if he could see me, and we said goodbye. Then I sat down in one of our porch rocking chairs and cried so hard I could barely breathe.

The next day I woke up with one thought in my head: I need to be with my family. But that’s more complicated than it sounds. My parents live in Michigan and my sisters just moved into an apartment in Chicago. Two of my brothers live in Nashville, one lives in California, and my youngest brother lives in England with his wife and baby boy. We live near Adam’s family in Florida. All of us are making plans to head to Michigan, but in the meantime most of our communication has been through email. And I hear tears in every message.

But at the same time, my family loves God, so there is hope too. My brother Hans, after writing about how much he’s cried over our dad who “has worked so hard and been so good to us all,” signed his email with “live in prayer and hope.” Nelson wrote later and said that Lars, the Californian, took a job transfer to Chicago and will now be living just a couple hours from my parents. “God uses everything, wastes nothing,” Nelson said. Then he quoted Proverbs16:9 – “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.”

And it doesn’t surprise me that my mom’s messages are the most encouraging of all. “Please read the 23rd Psalm,” she wrote to all of us kids.  “He leads me… He restores me… He guides me… Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear NO evil…  He is with me… He comforts me… He prepares for me… Goodness and love will follow me….” She closed that email with this: “We are all stumbling as we walk together through ‘the valley of the shadow of death.’ But we need not fear ANYTHING! God is very close. We feel His tender touch continually.”

How is it possible to feel so devastated and so blessed at the same time? I’m scared of what the coming months may hold. Everything seems strange and uncertain; things will never be like they were before we heard this news. But when I feel the most overwhelmed, I think of my family speaking the words of God – words that are always true, no matter our circumstances – and I know that regardless of what lies ahead, He will never leave us to handle this on our own.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” – Psalm 34:18


Grace September 24, 2009

Filed under: Faith,Marriage — Linnea @ 1:12 pm

There are some things about life as a Christian that are hard for me to understand. Take grace, for example. I love the word; it’s actually Skylar’s middle name. We chose it because of the definition pastors often use to explain the concept – grace is something God gives to us that we don’t deserve. And Sky easily fits that description.

I feel like I have at least a little understanding of big picture grace. Ephesians 2:8 says that it’s by grace we have been saved, through faith, so I get that grace is a gift, an unearned thing. My problem is in how to apply grace in my everyday life. I’m afraid that if I concentrate too much on how my walk with God is not based on works, but on what God has already done, then I’ll let myself do whatever I want and I’ll be a lousy Christian. And I can hear you right now. You’re saying, “You don’t understand grace, Linnea.” And that’s exactly my point. I want to understand it, but for some reason, it feels unnatural, like it goes against me.

Philip Yancey, author of the best book about grace on the planet, writes, “I cannot claim that grace is fair. By definition, it’s unfair: we get the opposite of what we deserve.” He points out that grace is scandalous. It’s only by grace that a person could forgive a thief or an abuser or a murderer or anyone else who clearly doesn’t deserve forgiveness. It feels wrong. But the people I know who seem good at receiving and extending grace always appear to be so peaceful. People like me who struggle with being judgmental tend to be more anxious and guilt-ridden, sometimes over things that may not even be wrong.

So the other night Adam and I were having dinner and talking about grace and the fear of God, and I was questioning how we’re supposed to fit both of those concepts in our head at the same time. Adam nodded and listened. He said some things too, though at the moment I can’t remember what they were. All I know is that when dinner was over, I felt better. I always feel better when I talk to my husband. This Sunday is our sixth anniversary and I didn’t realize it when we first got married, but Adam is a man of grace. When I tell him about my struggles and weaknesses and doubts, all the things that make me feel like a pathetic Christian, he doesn’t get upset or try to argue with me about why I shouldn’t feel the way I do. He doesn’t start preaching or give me a bunch of advice on how to “fix” myself. He just listens to me. And then we talk through it. I might not have a complete understanding of grace. But I do get to live with an example of it. I’m so thankful for the six years I’ve had with him. And I hope I appreciate him every day for the rest of our life together.


Boys September 21, 2009

Filed under: Family — Linnea @ 1:34 pm

Last week we found out that I am pregnant with a baby boy this time. I realized on our way home from the ultrasound that I had been expecting to have another girl. I’m happy to be having a boy – we would be happy either way, of course. But I feel like I have to sort of shift gears now to get into boy mode when my life as a mom so far has been all about one little girl. The morning after the ultrasound I was shopping with Sky when we decided to detour from the toddler clothes to the baby section. Turns out all you mothers of boys are right – there are way more girl clothes available than boy clothes. I still found something cute, though. A fuzzy sleeper covered with little cars. “This is for your brother,” I told Sky, listening to the sound of those words. Sky looked at me blankly and went back to playing with the Velcro on her shoes.

When I think of boys, I think of my own brothers. I think of noise, chaos and mess. Growing up I had to share a bathroom with four boys and it was my job to clean it every week. I’d spend two hours scouring it and walk in thirty minutes later to find wet towels on the floor and grass clippings all over the place. “They’re boys, Linnea,” my mom would say calmly after my tantrum. “They don’t even see the mess.”

But I also think of jumping on our backyard trampoline with my brothers and playing “kick-the-can” with them in our neighborhood at night. I think of sitting in the back of the station wagon on family trips, listening to my dad’s Elvis tapes and laughing while my brother Nelson crammed an entire pack of BubbleYum in his mouth at one time. I think of coffee and talking now that we’re older, and lots and lots of laughing. There isn’t a whole lot of relational drama with my brothers; they’re all pretty fun to be around. And they are my friends. I can’t think of too much I wouldn’t talk about with them.

Today when I look at my growing belly, I wonder what our little boy will be like and how he and Sky will relate. I did my sharing of fighting with my brothers and expect that my kids will do theirs. I’m sure our house will be a little messier next year, and a little more chaotic. But the more I think about it, the more excited I get. I wonder how much my life will change because of the new person about to enter it. I have no idea. But I can’t wait to find out.


Dirt September 18, 2009

Filed under: Family,Skylar Grace — Linnea @ 1:45 pm

Whoever said girls don’tDirty Sky like to get dirty obviously never met Skylar. It might change when she gets older, but for now she loves to be messy. When I let her dig in the dirt, she’s so content she actually sits still for fifteen minutes at a time. It’s a pain for me, in terms of the cleaning up part. But any healthy childhood has to include a little dirt, right?

Yesterday at our ultrasound we found out that Sky will soon have a baby brother. And today as I watched her enjoying the messy outdoors, I couldn’t help but think, “There she is… just waiting for her partner in crime.”


Laughter September 15, 2009

Filed under: Infertility,Motherhood — Linnea @ 8:23 pm

Many things have surprised me about parenthood. Today while Sky entertained Adam and me with a doo rag (thanks Julia!), I realized how much our little girl makes us laugh. And once she realizes that she’s the one responsible for it, there’s no stopping her. She goes on and on and we end up laughing so hard our faces hurt. It’s quite the contrast from our pre-parent days. Sure, we laughed with each other then. But the sadness of infertility was always with us, even when we’d pushed it to the back of our minds. Home is a different place now – noisier and more chaotic and always on the messy side – and we love it this way.

Doo Rag Sky (1 of 4)Doo Rag Sky (3 of 4)

Doo Rag Sky (2 of 4)

At the same time, I’m nervous about having our second baby. I’m thrilled. But scared, too. Days when Sky demands all my attention I wonder how I’ll manage with another one. I wonder when I’ll sleep. Sky does great at night, but often naps an hour or less. When I’m up with a newborn at night and up with Sky all day, how will I function? I love sleep. I need sleep. For the first few months after Sky’s birth, I lived in survival mode. I knew overall that motherhood was just what I always wanted. But I still spent many of those early days at home fighting the baby blues, struggling to keep perspective. And when I really and truly remember that time I start to panic at the thought of doing it again, this time with a one-year-old along for the ride.

I feel funny admitting that. I hope I don’t sound ungrateful. And I know that millions of women all over the world cope with a lot more than two kids at once. My own mom has seven. My aunt has seven, too. Sometimes I wonder what’s wrong with me. How can I want more children and still find myself intimidated by it?

But recently I discovered something that helps me whenever I start to get anxious. I picture my parents and my brothers and sisters sitting around the dinner table. I think about each person, and the way we’re all different, but how we still get along, and how much laughing goes on when we’re all together. I can’t imagine my family with even one person missing and I’m so glad my parents didn’t just focus on how exhausting and expensive it is to have babies. From the beginning they saw each of us as individual people, created by God to be part of our family, but with our own separate lives, too. And that’s how I want to see Sky and our next baby and any other babies God decides to give us – not as my full-time job or even just as my children, but as growing, changing individuals with a God-ordained destiny far bigger than simply enlarging my family. On days like today, when Sky makes us laugh and we get to see a little bit more of who God has made her to be, it’s not so difficult to do.

Doo Rag Sky (4 of 4)


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