Home Sweet Home

img_5118It’s 16 degrees outside. I’m sitting in the Honda in a Biggby parking lot using their internet because we don’t yet have wifi at home. The baby is asleep in his car seat and the oldest is happily watching Finding Nemo. Hey…gotta seize the moments whenever and wherever you can!

We’ve been back in the Mitten now for four weeks and it has not gone as we’d expected. I could go into a lot of detail but instead I’m gonna just hit the highlights. Four hours before the moving truck arrived from Florida, our plans for where we would live for the next seven months or so fell through. It involved a dog and a lot of hives on Phineas. Plenty of people pitched in, helping us return the moving truck, store our things, putting us up, and generally being selfless, but we were solidly nomads for a couple of weeks and candidly, not in a place financially to really do anything about it. But then…community.

One of the big reasons we returned to Michigan was our people. Having lived here pretty much forever, we had relationships deep and wide. We were in crisis. Unbeknownst to us, our friends stepped up and in the span of just a couple of days they located an apartment for us and gathered funds together to cover our security deposit as well as rent for the next seven months.

Guys. My eyes flooded with tears when I was surprised with this news. I was such a mess Chad assumed something horrible had happened, but it wasn’t too long before he was ugly crying right alongside me. So here we are, not squatting in somebody else’s house but with our own space, right where we’d hoped to land. God’s plan is so. much. better.

This is why we are designed and intended to live in community. We are supposed to take care of one another. We are supposed to love one another. This life is not meant to be lived in utter independence and isolation. So now we sit in our cute little apartment just soaking in the physical manifestation of the love our community has for us. It’s almost overwhelming and it’s a feeling I’d like to hold onto forever.

A Year of Sunshine

img_4879It’s the morning of your first birthday and as I sit here typing you’re asleep on my lap. I wonder…of the 8,760 hours that made up your first year of life, how many of them were spent like this? Quite possibly half. I didn’t think to count.

It’s overwhelming at times. You love nothing more than being held and I’m your number one pick. We tried setting sleep schedules and being consistent, but your first year was filled with so many journeys…Orlando in April, Michigan in June, July, August, October, and December and Georgia in November. Even today on your first birthday we fly our last scheduled flight, moving home to Michigan from Florida. Each journey brought us further away from those norms until we finally just leaned into it. There wasn’t any point in trying to set parameters when they were disrupted every three or four weeks.

We do what we must to get rest.

You’re my lap baby. My Tula tyke. My last baby, unless God really surprises us. From the start of your life you’ve been a peace bringer. When you sleep in my arms I’m forced to slow down. To breathe. To sit in a dimly lit room and be with you. How much longer will I be able to cradle you like a baby? When will you get too big? How many more hours do we have left this way, before you outgrow my lap entirely?

Your dad and I endeavor to enjoy every season we have with you and your brother. The future holds such wonderful discoveries as we learn what interests you, where your passions lie, what your sense of humor is like. So while I look forward to every new season and attempt to appreciate each season as it happens, allow me one moment to snuggle you closely and remember what your year as a baby was like. Don’t mind those drops falling on your fuzzy head…I’m just mommy-crying over here.

I am forever grateful God chose me to be your mama. I love you, sweet Solly Bear.

Sunset, Sunrise

img_3668You made the moon to mark the seasons, and the sun knows when to set. -Psalm 104:19

Over a year and a half ago, I crafted a blog entry announcing our move to Florida. In that post, I wrote that it wasn’t a goodbye to Michigan, but merely a “See you later.” My Michigan friends, later is now.

We have been here in Florida since July of 2015 and in that time experienced some wonderful moments, from good times spent with the people of Lift Church to the birth of our precious youngest son, Solomon. Some things last for a lifetime and others last for a season. As the Psalmist wrote, the sun knows when to set, and the sun is setting on our time in Florida.

Today, while I lead worship at Mount Hope Church in Lansing, knee-deep in tech week for Mount Hope Church (Grand Blanc)’s production of Scrooge, Chad announced to the Lift Church congregation that we would be leaving. The major projects he’s working on all wrap up at year’s end, so our last Sunday will be January 8, 2017. That week, as Solly turns one year old, our family will move home to Michigan where Chad will begin a long-term subbing position at Okemos High School. He plans to return to teaching full time in the fall. He misses his students, co-workers, and the Okemos community quite a bit.

God has used this year and a half to refine, refocus, and reprioritize. We are journaling what He’s spoken so we can keep it before us as we return to life in our home state. To those at Lift who took us in and treated us as family: thank you. We pray the Lord blesses you as you have blessed us. To those in Michigan who’ve missed us: see you very soon!

The BS of Parenting

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Somewhere in the middle of the night, my dear husband tried to hand off our five month old. His efforts to settle our sweet offspring had failed. Being the loving wife I am, I growled, “Well, what do you want me to do about it?” Then I got out of bed, went to the bathroom, and came out saying, “You’re poo pooing all of my plans!” What plans? Probably the plans to solve all the world’s problems. Thanks to Chad’s poo poo we’ll never know.

Naturally I have no recollection of this exchange.

You see, it’s been over six months since I last had a night of uninterrupted sleep. Solly may only be five months old but you know I wasn’t sleeping those last weeks of pregnancy. I was waking overnight to pee, blow my perpetually congested nose, attempt to find a comfortable position, get a snack, or simply sit owl-like on the couch, awake for no good reason. Third trimester glory right there.

Here’s the truth: the first twelve months of parenting are about survival. It’s a swirling vortex of sleeplessness, teething, diaper changes, laundry, growth spurts, developmental leaps, feedings, mood swings (both baby’s and parents’), and drool (hopefully just baby’s). You tackle one day at a time, doing whatever gets you to bedtime…or just the next chunk of sleep you can manage to snatch. It’s nothing but BS.

What? I meant Basic Survival. Natch.

36-funniest-and-hilarious-parenting-memes-4We’re in the trenches with Solly. It is no joke. He is adorable, sweet, and lovable. He is also challenging. This being our second, we were surprised how much of the BS stuff we forgot. It happens pretty quickly once the infant stage ends. This is a necessary phenomenon; if it all remained crystal clear, parents may not sign up to repeat it. While only children are totally fine, if every family just had one kid eventually the human race would die off.

There’s a bit of a problem with that forgetfulness, though. We can lose the grace new parents so desperately need. Luke 23:34 ought to be the theme verse for the BS of parenting. “Forgive them, for they (have a helpless infant at home and therefore are so exhausted they) know not what they do.” (That’s from the AAT, Amanda’s Amplified Translation.) It’s for this reason my husband and I have committed to the following maxim: for the first year of a baby’s life, parents get a free pass. Cranky? It’s probably just BS. Inflexible? BS. Irrational? Snippy? Fallen off the face of the earth? You got it…BS.

Admittedly my timing is little self-serving since we’re not quite halfway through the Solly year of BS. Partly I want to plead for understanding and empathy in case my hubby or I do or have done something that offends or makes no sense to you. I also write now because it’s fresh and real and for our future selves, I want to set a reminder to extend that same grace to future new parents, no matter how their particular brand of BS manifests.

Every kid is different so the BS of parenting may be unique for each family, but if we can all agree to assume the best of one another – especially new parents – it’ll make all shades of BS a lot easier to handle. Then all of humanity, new parents, veteran parents, and non-parents alike, can raise their voices together in a grateful chorus celebrating babies, parents, the continued existence of humanity, and the varied BS skills we employ!

Pregnancy Following Miscarriage

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It was the day after Easter when the labor cramps kicked in and the thing so many pregnant mothers dread began – I was losing our baby.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. Until this year I didn’t know such an awareness month existed. I had no reason to know; I had never experienced such a loss. This year is different. This year there was our Smooch.

Most of you know I am currently pregnant. We’re expecting a son this January. People assume he is our second child, but they don’t know about the little one we lost earlier in the year. They don’t know about our doctor being unable to find baby’s heartbeat. They don’t know about the emergency ultrasound. They don’t know about the blood draws so HCG levels could be measured. They don’t know about the bleeding, the contractions, the guilt, the grief, or the sadness. Why? Because nobody talks about this stuff.

Now, here I am pregnant for a third time and the invitation to worry is strong. Thanks to the loss of Smooch there’s a cloud that stalks this pregnancy experience. That little doppler tool now not only checks for baby’s heartbeat, it increases mine. Until our 20-week ultrasound a large part of me didn’t feel safe anticipating a new child. I have no journal chronicling this pregnancy because I can’t imagine wanting to read it later. It’s not that things are much different physically from the first time around; it’s that they’re wholly different emotionally.

I want to connect with this baby, but it’s so much more difficult than it was with my firstborn. I have to work around the scar of miscarriage.

I was pregnant with Smooch for eleven weeks. For some reason, development did not properly progress and we lost the little life of our second baby. If this is not something you’ve experienced it can be very difficult to understand. So much of it is invisible to those on the outside. There is no funeral, many people didn’t even know there was a pregnancy, and in the midst of it few parents have the energy to put words to the experience. But for those who must walk this road the loss is quite visible. It is tangible. It is felt both emotionally and, at least for the mother, physically. I know the moment I was no longer carrying Smooch. That moment will be with me forever. Likewise, the memory of these lost lives linger with their families. These children deserve to not be kept secret.

My dear friend Lacey started a family necklace for me when I got married. There is a leaf with our anniversary date, a leaf with Phin’s initials and birthdate, and now a tiny heart to represent our Smooch. I look forward to adding a leaf with new initials and a new birthdate this coming January; mostly because it means our baby will be here, but partly because it means we know he was born safely. He made it.

Scratch that – WE made it.

Going Grey

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It’s a fight I’ve been engaged in for over a decade. I was still a teenager when I found my first silver strand and the logical response at that time was of course to yank it out at the root. My hair is extremely thick, I reasoned…who cares if I tear out a few here and there? Sadly, into my 20s the little boogers continued to multiply in spite of my regular removal of their compatriots. I never really said anything about it to anyone but my mom, who gently reminded me that my dad went grey at a very young age.

My dad’s last name is Whitehead…guess we know how that family name originated.

Soon a friend from church choir who was studying at Douglas J convinced me to get highlights. Fairly quickly we advanced to all-over color and I faithfully kept it up for years. It looked good! We played with various tones…chestnut, auburn, brown with golden highlights, even a year or so of black with indigo highlights on just the right side of my head. It was fun to change looks and for the most part I could forget about my Whitehead roots.

In my 30s I got married and pregnant. Once the baby arrived it became more and more difficult to motivate myself to go get my hair colored. It’s tough to get out of the house with a newborn, no matter how accommodating the situation! I also noticed the grey we were covering seemed to be more plentiful and aggressive; regrowth was noticeable just two weeks after a color. I was tired of the frequency, the cost, and of using babysitter time to sniff chemicals for three hours. On a whim I googled something about greying in your 30s and found How Bourgeois. This girl makes grey look so good! I began to seriously contemplate giving up the dye.

After about a year of going back and forth, I missed a scheduled hair appointment and couldn’t get another one until three or four weeks later. Again I contemplated aloud the grey hair thing and my husband encouraged me to go for it. “You can always go back to color if you don’t like it.” With his full support, I made the decision. The last time I dyed my hair was February 27. I was growing out the grey.

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Rather than drag out the process to mask what I was doing or to keep my length, I decided to let it go long enough so I could get a cute pixie cut and then lop off the color. The date of the big chop was set for July 2 and we had four months of growth to work with. There are still bits of color left on my head that will be trimmed off over the next couple of haircuts but for the most part, I’m now grey. My hair is shorter than it has ever been and my curls are on hiatus until I begin to grow them out again. For now, I’m enjoying the change, the uniqueness of my color (just try and get your faux granny hair to look like this, kids!), and the freedom from having to keep up the dye.

Beauty is available at every age and in every color. Embrace it!

Moving Forward

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The theme of the last few years has been sweeping change. Apparently once Chad and I got together, God decided it was time to unfold some dreams rapid-fire style. We got engaged, married, then pregnant in the span of about six months. Once Phin was born I transitioned out of full time ministry and into stay at home motherhood. All this time, God was speaking to Chad about the future and what he was hearing was so exciting he was rather antsy to see it come to pass.

For a few years now Chad’s felt like his time as a teacher was winding down. His passion for creative ministry within the church was growing. He waited, serving both Okemos Public Schools and the church faithfully and with great excellence (I can say that un-objectively because he actually won an excellence award this year). Well friends, another part of the vision has come to pass. An opportunity for Chad to move into creative arts full time has been presented. Steve Bradshaw, a wonderful friend we met during his time with the Assemblies of God Michigan District, is pastoring again. He replaced a retired pastor in a mid-sized church, relocated his family, and invited us to join him with Chad as his Creative Arts Minister.

In Venice, Florida.

Whaaaaat?! (I assume that’s what you’re thinking…it was what we thought at first too!) Chad lived in Florida for two summers during his time employed at Disney World. I visited frequently during my time on staff at Mount Hope as Pastor Dave hosted a number of Church Planters Schools and Leadership Interchanges in St. Pete Beach. Neither of us ever dreamed we’d move there. But when we started talking with Steve and his wife Mary Beth, when we visited the church, we knew it was the right move.

This is a very bittersweet time in our lives; we are excited for the future while mourning the leaving. We have a marvelous community here in Lansing. We have family here, along with many people we love dearly and a church family we adore. Our hope is to simply expand our community to include Venice while maintaining strong connection with our Michigan loved ones. As we prepare for this big transition we ask for your prayers for wisdom, favor, and simplicity.

In closing, here are a few FAQs related to our move:

  1. When’s the big move? Chad’s first day on staff is July 29; our move will happen sometime the week prior.
  2. What are you doing with Chad’s house/the condo? We still aren’t sure what we’re doing with our two (count ’em, TWO) houses here in Michigan but are researching all our options.
  3. Creative Arts Minister? What’s that? Chad will be responsible for all things creative at the church. It’s a new position for this particular church so he has the privilege of building the department from the ground up, recruiting, training, and releasing people to flow in their creative gifting.

Michigan folks, we love you. Remember this isn’t goodbye, it’s only “see you later.” Trust me, I’m saying that as much for myself as I am for anyone else. Here’s to moving forward, into new adventures!