Finding joy and grace in the ordinary.

Marigold // Part Two

You can find the first part of our story here.

I was so fearful of what was ahead of me. I was scared to induce labor, something I had never done. I was scared for the pain. I didn’t feel mentally prepared to endure this. I thought I had another 20 weeks to get ready for my fourth labor. But most of all, I didn’t want to let go of my baby.

We had a vacation scheduled and it was a week away so my midwife advised that we move quickly to give my body enough time to heal. We decided to go in the next evening so I could labor overnight. I took a shower to calm my nerves before we left and cried as I held my pregnant belly, realizing that I didn’t have much longer to carry my baby. I was supposed to have 20 more weeks of baby kicks and stretching skin and it hurt so badly to have that taken away.

It was dark as we drove to the hospital. Truman held my hand and I remember thinking to myself ‘I don’t think it’ll be that hard to be on the same floor as the rest of the laboring mothers. I don’t think it’ll bother me.’ I was wrong. As we sat at the check-in desk, with visitors coming in and out, a wave of familiarity washed over me. We had been here twice before to deliver two of our daughters with so much excitement and anticipation. There was no joy this time. After getting settled into a room and slipping into an ugly hospital gown, it wasn’t long before we started the first dose of pills to begin contractions. The cramps started lightly and were bearable for hours. The nurse encouraged me to try and sleep but I couldn’t possibly. I felt emotionally numb. I had this huge task ahead of me of delivering my dead baby and I didn’t feel like I could tap into the grief yet. I needed this process to be over.

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Occasionally I could hear shouts of pain down the hall from other moms in labor. I did my best to shut off my emotions every time the lullaby would play through the speaker when a baby was born. It made me wonder if there were women enduring this heartbreak on the same floor as me while I was delivering my babies. Perspective is a crazy thing. I managed to drift off to sleep for a bit until my water broke in the early hours of the morning. We inserted the second dose of pills to make the contractions stronger and waited as my body slowly pushed our baby further down. My midwife sat by my bedside, answering all of my questions and talking to us about our options for burial. We spent so much time waiting in silence for the pushing to begin. Truman slowly tickled my arm as I read through my Bible verse cards.

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I didn’t feel strong. I didn’t feel brave. But I was clinging to God’s word and praying that His strength would be mine. I had compiled a list of songs to play and as we listened in silence the tears started to roll down my cheeks. Truman held my hand and cried with me as the reality settled in that we would be meeting our baby soon. My midwife could sense a shift in our emotions and suggested that we pray.

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It wasn’t long after that the pushing began. I was forcing my body to do something that it wasn’t ready to do so it took a very long time. I held on to those last moments of my baby inside me. I didn’t want to let go and yet I knew that I didn’t have a choice. My midwife could see tiny hands through the amniotic sac and showed them to my mom and Truman but I couldn’t look. As I gave my final push and felt the weight of my child leave my body I wept deeply into Truman and let the heavy wave of grief take over. I was so relieved that this part was over, but I knew that I now had to face so much emotional pain.

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When they brought her over to me for the first time I could hardly bear it. My chest ached deeply to feel the weight of a newborn. I longed to feel her head under my chin and hear her tiny cry. The beauty of childbirth is that you endure hours of pain because you know there is joy at the end. When you hold your baby in your arms it’s all worth it. As Truman held our baby in front of me I longed to feel that joy. There was only deep, deep sorrow at the sight of our lifeless, precious baby.

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Ten fingers. Ten toes. I had never seen baby at 16 weeks other than on an ultrasound and even though it was painful, I was so in awe of God’s perfect design. How incredible is the human form that in only 16 weeks a baby has fingernails?! I studied the ears, the eyes, the tiny mouth, the delicate chest bones. My perfect and beautiful baby.

A doctor came by to inspect the body and see if he could detect a reason for death. He was an older man and at first seemed to be unemotional, I suppose you have to be when you deal with so many difficult situations like this. He explained that the umbilical cord was twisted and wrapped too tightly around the abdomen, leaving a bruise and cutting off blood flow. He assured us that this wasn’t an internal issue but improper placement of the cord. I wasn’t sure if that made this easier or harder. A complete accident. I wondered what I was doing when the cord became too tight and my baby’s heart stopped beating. I tried to keep my composure. I didn’t want to make him feel uncomfortable. When he shared with us that our baby was a girl my heart broke. I kept my speaking to a minimum, trying to avoid an outburst of tears. I’ll never forget the look of heartfelt sorrow that he gave me as his eyes became red and wet. “I’m so very sorry he said.” I managed to whisper a “thank you” and looked out the window as he walked away.

Though this information wasn’t easy to digest, I was thankful for it. We held our precious girl and grieved all afternoon at her life that was cut short. Leaving the hospital was the hardest part. We wept as we laid her in her crib and said goodbye. I felt empty as I walked the halls to the car. We were going through the same motions that we had with our other children, but this time we were leaving empty-handed. It was the first time we drove away from the hospital without our baby. When we got home, I held Maggie immediately. I needed to feel the weight of a baby in my arms. I cried at the sight of my girls and I cried for the moms who go through what I went through and don’t have babies to come home to. My eyes had been changed. Our family now felt incomplete. I knew it was going to be a long road ahead as we accepted our new reality.

It has now been three weeks since we met our precious girl. Our Marigold. The pain is still very present. There are so many triggers that catch me off guard and leave me in a weepy mess. My sore breasts, trying to produce milk out of confusion. Putting on regular jeans for the first time and folding away my maternity jeans. June, coming up to pat my tummy and saying “hi baby!” (she still doesn’t quite understand). Pregnant bellies everywhere I look. Newborn babies at the store. Driving past the reserved parking spots for expecting mothers at the grocery store. When the waiter at the restaurant asks if you’re having anything to drink and your initial thought is ‘I can’t’ but then you remember ‘wait, I can.’ I know these things will fade over time. But it makes me wonder… how many other women are silently holding back tears as they go about their day? How many women are feeling this pain deep inside? How many people do I pass by each day are carrying grief of any form?

I struggle to find adequate words that describe the place I’m in. My body feels empty and even in my joyful moments, I carry this sadness that my baby is no longer here. I grieve the way I thought our future would look. A growing belly through the spring. A summer baby like I’ve always wanted. I dread my due date in June. But even in the sadness, I am thankful to have a hope to cling to. I worship a God who has conquered death. I worship a God who knows my pain and feels my sorrow. This heartbreak wasn’t a surprise to Him. He knew Marigold’s number of days before we even knew she existed. I find peace in that, even though I desire a different outcome. The newness of the pain will wear off with time, but I will long for my child for as long as I walk this Earth. It’s hard when the rest of the world moves on but you’re left with this ache in  your heart that never leaves. She will never be forgotten.

My precious Marigold. I long to feel the weight you in my arms. I long to smell your newborn skin. I long to nurse you in the quiet hours of the night. I long to feel your tiny fingers wrapped around mine. I long to see you toddle around in your sister’s hand-me-downs. I long to see you look at me for the first time. I long to hear your giggle. I will always long to know who you would have been. Even though my arms will always long to hold you, I can have hope and celebrate because you are being held by the arms that made you. You are dwelling with the maker of the heavens and the earth. You will never know pain. You live in a place where umbilical cords don’t get twisted and hearts don’t stop beating. Where hearts don’t break. You will only know the peace that God intended for us all. And for that I say hallelujah.

I love you so much, baby girl.

We wanted to honor Marigold’s life in a special way by setting up a fund to benefit a local organization called the Lincoln Pregnancy Center. If you would like to contribute to that, you can find more information about it here. You have three more days to donate. Thank you for helping us make something beautiful out of our sorrow.

(Special thank you to our friend, Holly, for taking photos of Marigold’s birth. We will cherish them forever.)

Marigold // Part One

Miscarriage is a quiet grief that so many women carry around with them. It’s the club that no one ever wants to be a part of, yet so many are forced to be. I used to be the one who would shy away from miscarriage stories because they left me fearful. The sadness was too hard to read about. I understand that my story might not be for everyone, but I decided to tell it for multiple reasons: 1. It is therapeutic for me to re-visit my memories, as horrific as they may be, and put them to words 2. I want to let other women who walk through similar experiences know that they are not alone and 3. I believe life is valuable, at every age, and I hope that my transparency would affirm God’s perfect design and ultimately glorify Him. Even in my sorrow.

I had been looking forward to January 31st all month. I couldn’t wait to see my baby on the ultrasound and find out the gender. I always feel more bonded to my baby once I know the gender. I can call them by name and dream up what they might be like. Were we going to add to our little girl club or were we going to enter into the new territory of boyhood?

We dropped Penny off at school and the rest of us piled into the small ultrasound room, anxiously waiting to hear the news. The ultrasound tech scanned my tummy and within seconds she said “I’m going to do some measuring and then I’ll talk.” I didn’t think much of it. She broke the silence with “you guys, I’m so sorry but I’m not getting a heartbeat.” I thought she was joking. I couldn’t even speak. I thought maybe if we kept searching we would find it. She wiped off my tummy and said the baby was measuring around 16 weeks, I was 19. She left to get my midwife and I sat there in disbelief. I couldn’t even look at Truman or the girls. How could this be? I stared at the equipment, tears rolling down my cheeks, wishing I was alone so I could sob like my inside was. The first thought that popped into my head was “God, why? Am I being punished?” We had gone through so many ups and downs with this pregnancy. We were scared to enter into the newborn stage so quickly, but at the same time we were so in love with this little unexpected life. Was it being taken away because I didn’t appreciate it enough? We heard a heartbeat at 15 weeks! How could this be the ending?–my midwife rushed in, gave me a huge hug and said “I need you to repeat after me. This is not. my. fault” and through my tears I obeyed, yet part of me wasn’t so sure. “You loved this baby so much that you’ve been carrying her for weeks when she was already gone. Your body just isn’t ready to let go.”

That was an understatement. My heart wasn’t either.

I feared what was ahead of me. I felt betrayed by my body. I felt different, knowing there was no longer a live baby inside of me. My midwife explained what needed to happen next and sent us on our way with a packet of grief material and the instruction to decide when we wanted to induce labor. I never anticipated walking out of that doctor’s office with the deepest heartache I had ever known. We rode the elevator in silence, completely overwhelmed by all that had happened. I was living in this nightmare that I just wanted to wake up from. I desperately wanted to rewind to 45 minutes ago when I was cheerfully driving to the doctor’s office, full of hope and excitement.

Truman had to go get Penny from school so he dropped me off with the other girls. I put them in front of a TV show so I could process my new reality. I fell to floor on my knees with my arms catching the edge of our chair and sobbed. I cried the way I wanted to cry as I sat on that ultrasound table in silence…and I prayed. I’ve always wondered how I would react in a tragedy. Your faith is never tested more than when you meet despair. I cried out to God, admitting that I didn’t understand why we were facing this trial. I confirmed what I knew to be true: He did not do this. And He does not punish His children. I knew that He felt my sorrow with me. I knew that because Jesus walked the Earth as a human, he could sympathize with the deep sorrow I was in. I so badly wanted to find peace in that. I begged Him to help me fight the lies that were attacking me from every angle. I begged Him for His peace that surpasses understanding. And through heavy tears and a broken spirit, I begged that His glory would shine through our devastation.

Truman and I sat together and cried for a long time. The past four months had been so exhausting and we felt far beyond our limits. We felt beaten and broken, unsure of how to even take another step. We had come to love this baby that we didn’t even know we wanted, and now we were faced with the unbearable task of meeting our child and saying goodbye.

Current Favorites

One of my favorite things to read on other blogs is what people are currently loving. It’s so fun to read about what others are drawn to and sometimes I end up finding a new favorite for myself. I have a lot of current favorites right now and just wanted to pass them along in case you’re needing inspiration (or maybe even a few gift ideas)!

Favorite Small Business: Rose Henges

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I try to be really intentional about spending my money through small businesses first. I came across this KC-based artist a while ago and when I saw this print for Christmas I knew it could be something I use every year. You can find all of her artwork here.

Currently : Listening

I love listening to podcasts while I’m doing housework. It’s a great way to distract myself during my not-so-fun chores and I feel more productive than if I were to just put a TV show on. I’ve been a big fan of Revive Our Hearts radio for many years. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is a very gifted teacher. She has a series out right now that walks you through the meanings of many classic Christmas carols. There are so many phrases that I’ve sung since a child and had no idea what they meant. It’s fun to have a bit more knowledge about the carols we sing. You can find that series here.

Another great podcast that is a little more lighthearted is Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey. Jamie has interviewed so many great women that I admire. From authors to entrepreneurs, she chats about life, spirituality, motherhood, inspiration, etc. I particularly love the Happy Half Hour where she asks them a list of great questions and I always find a new thing to look into. You can listen to that podcast here.

Last one. The Daily Liturgy podcast that is produced by our old church, Coram Deo. Lately I find it SO hard to spend a decent amount of time in the Word. This short, daily podcast is combined of scripture readings and prayers and liturgy. I love to put it on while I’m getting ready in the morning. Find it here.

Currently: Reading

I don’t have a ton of time to read, but I’ve been trying to be disciplined in the evenings to turn off the computer and open a book when I’m in bed. I recently started Francine River’s A Lineage of Grace: Five Stories of Unlikely Women Who Changed Eternity. I used to scoff at cheesy Christian fiction books, but Francine Rivers proved me wrong. I don’t read many fiction books, but I fall in love with every book that I read of hers. This one is quickly becoming a favorite, as well. You can find it here.

Currently: Wearing

I can’t even talk to you about clothing right now. Maternity winter clothing is the most depressing, ugly subject and I haven’t made peace with it yet. Moving on.

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I have never made self-care a big priority in my life. Once I started having kids, that became even more true. However, after three kids and many brutal winters, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not leaving Nebraska any time soon and I need to figure out how to thrive through this season. Self care plays a huge role in that. I get down in the dumps easily this time of year. It’s dark and cold and my skin is dry and pale and it’s easy to fall into a slump. I’ve decided to make self care a priority this year by paying extra attention to my skin, taking the extra time to do my hair and makeup (on most days) and forcing myself to get to the gym or yoga studio. I’m even going to put together a basket of pampering items for my bathroom where I can lock the door a few nights a week and create my own little spa. These are a few of my favorite products right now:

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(1) Rosemary Mint candle from Target (2) Glossier cleanser (3) Nars orgasm illuminator (4) Arbonne lipgloss-Anise (5) Arbonne CC Cream

Currently: Spinning

I don’t have half as much of the time that I used to have as a teen to find new music, but every now and then I’ll come across something new (to me) that I love and, of course, I have to share. I heard of Kacy & Clayton a while back and instantly fell in love with their retro sound. She reminds me of a folk singer from the 60’s so obviously I’m destined to love it. You can find all of their music on Spotify. This song is a favorite:

Ryan Adams released a new single for his upcoming album today and I just love it. It’s a bit edgy and abrasive, but his new album is inspired by his divorce to Mandy Moore (still sad) so it’s not surprising.

I think that’s it for now! I hear two children fighting in the backroom so I suppose I should go take care of that. Until next time!

J.

A Gift

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Sometimes Thanksgiving feels like that holiday you need to get through so that Christmas can start. We’re so eager for the magic to begin that we forget to stop and savor the holiday of gratitude. I’m totally guilty of it. However, Thanksgiving is particularly special to me this year because God has blessed us in crazy, unexpected ways.

We had a really great summer. Truman started his new job and he was home often, the girls were all at an age where we could go do fun things, and I was feeling like myself again after surviving the baby stage. I was closer to God than I’ve ever been, my appetite for His word was so strong and I had the mental capacity to invest in others and cultivate relationships. I was even leading a bible study and organizing a women’s retreat! It felt like we were thriving and it felt good. When autumn came, I entered this unexpected and abrupt dry season for no particular reason. Negative thoughts were setting up camp in my mind and I felt like God was silent. I knew that God is steadfast and I knew He was still there, but I couldn’t feel his closeness like I did in the summer. It’s happened before, this numb-spell, and I knew that relying on my own feelings was fruitless so I continued to seek Him in little ways and hope that He would breathe life into our relationship again.

It was mid-October and I found myself walking down the street to the local pharmacy to buy a pregnancy test. I wasn’t doing it because I thought I was pregnant, I was doing it to ease my husband’s mind. We were both on the same page about the timeline of our family. We wanted more children, but after three kids in three years, we needed a break. We needed time to invest in our marriage. I needed to give my body time to heal. We wanted to be in a place where we were thriving and not just playing defense constantly and it finally felt like we were getting there. We liked the feeling of not being in constant chaos. We liked the feeling of not drowning. We liked feeling like we had enough room to breathe.

As I watched two pink lines flash across the test, I felt the blood rush to my head. I’ve only ever cried tears of joy when I read a positive pregnancy test, but this was different. I turned around into the towels hanging on the wall and I cried into them. Tears of confusion and fear and shock. How could this be? Why, God? We were just getting our feet underneath us. I was just starting to feel like myself again. I can’t do this all over again right now. How on earth was I going to tell Truman? The hysterical part of me legitimately considered keeping it from him, but we all know how well that would go. I eventually mustered up the strength to tell him and we processed together. For a long time. We went through all of the stages of emotions that you go through when you get unexpected news and at the end, we came to this conclusion. God is good and life is a gift and a miracle. Whether it was planned or not. Whether it’s convenient or not. We truly believe that. The tears are welling up in my eyes as I think about the glory of God that shines through in all of this. Being pregnant right now was not at all part of my plan, and yet I still cherish and love this tiny life so deeply. Truman held me as I was crying the night that we found out and he said something that I’ll never forget. He said that even though we don’t understand God’s plan, life is a gift and we are going to love this life just as though we had been expecting it. I felt a peace in that, in surrendering to God’s will.

Fast forward a week. I had been having horrible back pain and cramping for a few days and it was causing concern. I went into the doctor just to make sure we weren’t dealing with an ectopic pregnancy. They were behind schedule and Truman eventually had to leave to pick up Penny from pre-school before we got to the ultrasound. When I went to the bathroom, I saw pink and my heart dropped. I have never once seen pink with any of my pregnancies and I just knew. I knew what was happening. I hopped up onto the ultrasound bed with a lump in my throat, shaking. The ultrasound tech scanned over my stomach for what felt like an eternity and couldn’t see an embryo or detect a heartbeat. She tried to reassure me that it was still very early and it’s common not to hear a heartbeat yet, but she was concerned with the shape of my gestational sac. I tried to let my body go numb. I wanted to hold my tears until I was alone. The midwife gave me information on miscarriage and explained my options if that’s what it came to. She told me not to lose hope yet and that it’s not over til it’s over. The pain in my back was so intense that I had to rest in bed for two days. I couldn’t stand without feeling like I was going to pass out. My mind had shifted from a place of hope and gratitude to a place of sorrow. I cried out to God in bed, begging that it would just be over soon. I had finally accepted this pregnancy and even gotten excited about it, all to have it taken away. On the day of my 27th birthday, the pain had become so intense that the midwife advised me to go into the ER. I was poked and prodded and my blood levels were checked and somehow they were still slowly rising. It didn’t make sense. How was I bleeding and cramping? The doctor speculated that we were possibly dealing with a blighted ovum (when an embryo never develops but your body thinks it’s pregnant), but said there was nothing she could do since it was still so early. The next morning I got a call from our family doctor, asking me why I was in the hospital. After explaining to him, he offered to let me come in to check my levels again to see if they were rising. I just needed a clear answer. I needed someone to tell me that it was going to end. Holding onto hope hurt too much. When I met with him and explained what I had been going through, he wasn’t hopeful either. He told me he doubted that this would be a viable pregnancy, but would call me later that day with the results. When our family doctor called, he was shocked to tell me that my levels had jumped once again. He told me that he really wasn’t expecting those results and that he thought that was a good sign. I was driving when he called and when I hung up the phone I bawled. This back and forth motion was taking a toll on me, but this good news felt like a sweet kiss from God. He felt so far away, I felt so alone, yet I knew He was still there.

A few days later I went in for my second ultrasound. My emotions were all over the place. I didn’t know whether to expect bad news or to be hopeful that things were okay. This baby that I hadn’t even planned for had become something I desperately longed for and now I feared that it would be taken away. As I waited for the ultrasound tech to scan my abdomen, a tiny little speck appeared. There was, in fact, a baby. “Shall we listen for a heartbeat?” she said. My own heart was racing and then the sound of a miracle pulsed through the speakers. She smiled and tears rolled down my face. I had spent the weekend in bed, my  birthday weekend, waiting to miscarry a baby that I didn’t even know I wanted and now the sound of a beautiful little heartbeat filled the room and all I could do was praise God. I felt so undeserving of this blessing and so, so thankful for this precious life.

It turns out my intense pain and spotting was due to a small hemorrhage in my uterus that had formed when the embryo formed. It’s a small sac of blood that dissolves over time. The first ultrasound tech had been looking at the hemorrhage instead of the gestational sac, leading me to believe that the shape was concerning.

I felt emotionally exhausted after such a long week. I think God took us through that detour of fear and lost hope to help us see how precious and valuable this life is. We didn’t realize how much we wanted this baby until it was almost gone and after all of that, I feel a confidence that God’s plan is greater than ours. Even when it doesn’t make sense AT ALL. He knows what this life will be and He believes that this is the right time for it to join our family. So we will trust that and move forward with joy.

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I apologize for the novel. I know that this is very personal, detailed information, but it was easily one of the darkest and most beautiful weeks of my life and I believe in sharing those vulnerable moments with others. We are getting close to the end of the first trimester and sharing this news with the world is very scary for me. I feel so fragile. My hormones are running in every direction (much like my children) and a part of me is fearful of what others will say. “What are they thinking?! She can barely handle three! Don’t they know how babies are made?!” Believe me, I’ve thought the same thing. Some days I break down and think I can’t do this. I liked being the person that wasn’t falling apart! I liked being the person to help others, not the one who constantly needed help. I liked wearing high-waisted jeans! But after all we’ve been through in the past few months, I firmly believe that this was not an accident. God will use this life for a very special purpose and he will sanctify us through it all.

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SO. It is with deep gratitude and joy that we announce that another Faeh baby will be joining us in June of 2017. And according to Penny, it’s a boy and he will be named “Nergis.” TBD.

Advent 2016

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There is always this lingering tension I feel as the holiday season approaches. Don’t get me wrong, I love this magical season of beauty and cheer and all things cozy, but the (self-imposed) pressure to create a memorable season for myself and my family can seem daunting. Pictures start popping up all over Pinterest and Instagram of the perfect Christmas where the halls are decked head to toe in fresh garland and every corner of the home looks like a photo from a magazine. If I’m not careful, this season can quickly become more about me trying to prove something (my worth? my creativity? my ability as a mother?) instead of celebrating the always-incredible gift of Jesus. I don’t ever want to be the reason my family is drawn away from the true meaning of Christmas and I want to be very serious about avoiding comparison and high expectations and falling into the trap of consumerism. It’s not easy and it’s going to take a great deal of intentionality through the years.

So. In order for me to achieve this, I need to do a little planning ahead. First, I need to decide what I want my family to value most through the holidays. First and foremost, I want Jesus to be exalted and in order for that to happen I think it’s best to keep things simple. Simplicity is my goal and that’s going to mean being content with my choices and not using social media as a measuring stick. Family time, service to others, and teaching the girls about the Christmas story are the essentials. I need to hold onto everything else loosely.

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Since I would like to be intentional about creating special moments for my family, I knew that I needed to plan early enough to avoid any stress. We’ve never done an Advent calendar, but I love the idea of having something fun to wake up to every day. I know there are many ways to do this, and after doing some research I feel that the best fit for us is an advent calendar based around experiences rather than actual daily gifts. I searched the web and asked other mamas what their favorite Christmas activities are and I came up with a list of activities we will enjoy. This requires little prep time on my part and the only thing I’ll need to do is create a simple advent calendar. There are more than 25 activities here so I need to condense them before I finalize our calendar! If you’re looking for some inspiration, here you go!

  1. Go to the bookstore and let each child pick out a Christmas book to read throughout the month.
  2. Make dinner together and eat by candelight
  3. Find a scripture to read and memorize each week
  4. Family Movie Night: Charlie Brown Christmas
  5. Open Christmas gift of jammies to wear throughout the month
  6. Decorate sugar cookies
  7. Family  Movie Night: Elf
  8. Look at Christmas lights
  9. Make and take treats to friends
  10. Donate food to a food pantry
  11. Take gift to teacher
  12. Take treats and thank you card to local police station
  13. Pay for a stranger’s coffee
  14. Make Christmas cards for a nursing home
  15. Make handprint Christmas trees
  16. Read Christmas stories by the tree
  17. Decorate and hang snowflakes
  18. Family Movie Night: Polar Express
  19. Visit a live nativity
  20. Leave a thank you note for the trashman
  21. Bake cinnamon rolls for breakfast
  22. Family game night by the tree w/ Christmas music
  23. Go watch the ice skaters
  24. Go to a local Christmas carol concert
  25. Hand out care packages to the homeless
  26. Special date with mom and dad to pick out Christmas gift for siblings
  27. Make paper chain Christmas countdown
  28. Each child gets to pick out one new Christmas ornament
  29. Make picture ornaments for grandparents and mail to them
  30. Handprint reindeer
  31. Snowman craft
  32. Make Christmas wreaths

Some days we’ll do a few of these together (i.e. look at Christmas lights and finish with a movie). For me, this is a great way to experience all the fun Christmas things without the stress. It takes a little planning ahead, but it’s worth it if I get to enjoy the month with my family!

What are your favorite ways to celebrate the Christmas season with your family? How do you avoid the trap of comparison and consumerism? What are your essential family traditions? I love hearing how others stay intentional during the holidays!

Cheers to a stress-free, grace-filled holiday,

Jord.

My Favorite Things

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I had a completely random thought the other day that caught me by surprise.

Our world is very driven by the influence of others. This isn’t always a bad thing. Some mom might share her favorite recipe with me and suddenly it becomes a staple in our house. Or I might read a blog about this book someone recommends and I’ll add it to my Amazon cart. It’s fun to discover new things and adopt new interests and get inspired, but I realized that I hadn’t stopped once to think about what I love. What are the things that I’ve naturally become drawn to? What are the things that would still be a part of my life if the internet didn’t exist? What are the things that I’m passionate about? What are the items that have subconsciously worked their way into my daily/weekly routine? What are the things I love that haven’t been recommended by some hip mom on Instagram?

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Social media is a great tool to inspire creativity and encourage others with glimpses into our own lives. I won’t get into the downsides of comparison because we already know all of that. What I hadn’t considered, though, is the fact that social media has a tendency to form my likes and interests in a very gradual and disguised way. It makes me wonder how much of us is influenced by others? And also, are we just playing the game? I have to remind myself often when reading blogs that many of these bloggers are being funded/supported by a company that wants you to buy their product. They’ve hired a cool girl with a sh*t ton of followers to make their product look cool and then suddenly dozens of other girls think they need that too (I’m 100% guilty of this). And like I said, it’s not always a bad thing! Sometimes I end up really loving that product or tip and that’s great too.

Am I making any sense? Am I completely alone in this? I guess what I’m saying is as I get older, I want to continue to strive to give social media and blog influences a proper place, but a small one. I want to utilize them for what they’re good for, but I don’t want them to distract me from finding my own creativity and my own interests, whether they are Instagram-worthy or not. For the most part, I want to be in a place where my life would look the same whether I was going to share bits of in on social media or not.

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So. The only proper reaction I could think of was to come up with a list of things I love. Not things that I wish I loved (like cooking, or using all-natural products, or skincare, etc.) but things that I’ve come across over the years that have become a part of my life to a certain degree.

  1. J.CREW CAMP SOCKS My mom bought me a pair 6 years ago and I’ve loved them ever since. They are thick and cozy and the perfect thing to wear around the house during the colder months.
  2. MONDAY MORNINGS ON KZUM I discovered our town’s local radio station back in college. Some of it I don’t care for at all (not a big blues fan and they play it EVERY afternoon) but every Monday morning an older gentleman named Con Good comes on the radio and from 8 to 10 he plays the best of big band music. It is my favorite way to start the week. His voice is gentle and friendly and I really wish he was my grandpa. You can live stream it via their  website.
  3. INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC Over the years, I have grown to really love instrumental/classical music. There is so much noise in my life so I think that genre of music brings a necessary gentleness that I need. My sister calls it Hobby Lobby music. I call it peace.
  4. REVIVE OUR HEARTS This ministry has played a huge role in my spiritual maturity. I respect Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth so much and I’m thankful for her wisdom and insight into the scriptures. No, it’s not very hip. The intro music is a bit cheesy. But the teaching is so solid. I often put her podcasts on while I’m cleaning the house. I went through a phase during the early years of motherhood where I always had a Netflix show playing throughout the day and I didn’t like how it made it feel. Listening to podcasts was a great transition out of that and it made me feel more intentional about my time.
  5. WOMEN OF THE WORD This book is a GAME CHANGER. I didn’t grow up with a very solid foundation in scripture so I approach the Word very timidly. Jen Wilkin has played a huge role in giving me confidence to study God’s word for myself instead of just turning to scholars to tell me what it says. In turn, it has given me a love for the Bible like I’ve never known before.
  6. VANILLA CHAI I worked at a coffee shop in high school that sold this brand of chai and I haven’t found anything else that can even compete with it. I love to stir it into some warm almond milk at night before bed. Soooo good.
  7. JAZZ/BIG BAND I love love love jazz. Especially in the fall. There’s nothing better than jazz music on a crisp fall day. Truman and I are currently taking dance lessons so we learn how to dance to this genre of music. Even if it’s just in the middle of our living room.
  8. WEEKLY PLANNER The notepad I actually use doesn’t exist any more. It’s Sugar Paper from Target and I can’t find it anywhere online. But if I had to choose another one, it would be this. I’m a big list-maker. Every Sunday night, I sit on the couch with my planner and calendar and write down everything that needs to get done that week. I’m a visual person so I need to see it written out in order for me to gain motivation to do it. It’s an added bonus when you can write it on cute stationary 🙂

That’s it for now. It’s nothing glamorous, but these few things are significant to me and I love that they naturally weaved their way into my life. What are those things for you? Have you ever thought about it? I would love to hear.

Cheers, Jord.

 

Family Photos

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It can be a scary thing to take family photos. Children are so unpredictable and professional photos can be extremely pricey and you can get easily stressed by the whole thing. But. We didn’t have a nice photo of all of us since Maggie was born and I really wanted to commemorate this crazy, chaotic, but really beautiful season we’re in.

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Nebraska is FULL of amazing photographers. Seriously. I could make a very long list of photographers that I would love to capture our family, but what it came down to for us is the price. We aren’t in the place to be spending hundreds of dollars on family photos especially when our children are so young and don’t really cooperate and we’d like to add to our family at some point. As I searched for newer photographers looking for more experience, I was reminded that Truman had a cousin nearby who has a photography business. She’s in high school and is looking to gain more experience with families.

I was amazed at how talented she already was at such a young age! I loved that we could partner up with family and her price was very reasonable. I think the key to taking photos with littles is to go in with very low expectations. I knew the girls weren’t going to sit still for very long and we brought along m&m’s to encourage them to cooperate for a little longer 🙂 #noshame

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^^^June was so over photos at this point. It cracks me up that she’s the creeper in the background.

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^^^This is probably the most accurate picture of our life right now, ha!

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If you live around Lincoln and are looking for an affordable photographer I highly recommend Jessie! You can view her website here.

Cheers to embracing the crazy!

Jord

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Apple Orchard

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So, if you follow along on any social media platform of mine, you know that I am 100% a summer girl. I want to live where the sun always shines and it’s 80 degrees. Saying goodbye to summer isn’t easy for me. It doesn’t mean that I don’t love autumn, but knowing my favorite season is a year away makes me want to cry into my pillow for a bit. However, there is something beautiful about living in a place that fully experiences all four seasons. Whether you’re ready or not, you’re carried through the rhythms and you get the chance to start fresh and indulge in the special gems that are saved specially for the time. Visiting the apple orchard is one of those things.

I love to write out a “bucket list” for our family each fall–a list of activities and events to try throughout September and October. We chose the perfect day to check off the first activity on our list. It was breezy and the apple orchard was quiet while most of the state prepared for the first football game of the season. We rode the trailer through rows of trees and took our time finding the best honeycrisps (my personal favorite).

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Penny insisted on carrying her bag of apples and June was only concerned with taking a bite.We’ve been doing this since the girls were babies and it gets better and better as they age. Watching the girls explore and have fun brings me so much joy.

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The transition to autumn is really lovely. I crack open my windows on a crisp morning while the big band music plays and my favorite fall candle fills the house. My tea kettle whistles and I pour hot water into my favorite chai mix and I sit underneath a blanket before anyone’s awake to open my Bible in silence. There is so much romance in the changing of the trees! We’re only on the edge of autumn, but I eagerly anticipate all the goodness it brings and we plan to enjoy it to the fullest.

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We came home from the orchard and I poured myself a glass a wine, put on some jazz music, put my favorite soup on the stove, and made apple butter in the crockpot while my husband watched the game. It felt like the official welcoming of a new season (even though it was 90 degrees the rest of the weekend ha!).

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We welcome you, Fall. Please be gentle as we say goodbye to a dear friend.

I’m excited to share all of my favorite fall things with you soon, including our family bucket list! Stay tuned and have a great week!

My Favorite Tank Top

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I’m a homemaker on a budget who loves fashion. It’s kind of an oxymoron. It’s not easy to have Madewell/Free People taste on a Target budget, amiright?! BUT. After all these years (lol I’m only 26), I’m learning to be selective with the pieces I add to my wardrobe. I’m not a hardcore “wardrobe capsule” person, but I love the idea of being intentional with the pieces of clothing you buy–making sure they are good quality (get outta here F21) and versatile. This tank top is just that.

I’m pretty sure I was born in the wrong era. I love the combination of simple and classic mixed with the vintage elements of the 60’s and 70’s. To me, a turtleneck tank is the perfect piece to transition into cooler days here in the midwest. It’s cool enough to wear as a tank when the sun it out, but it can also be layered and worn well into the winter when the temperatures drop lower than I’d like them to.

So when I found this top at the Gap, I immediately had this idea to do a blog post on a few ways I can style it with different outfits from my wardrobe. I will most definitely be going back for the other colors!

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I love the playfulness of this tank with overalls and chucks. It’s the perfect outfit for running errands.

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For those who know me well, they know that I have a denim obsession. I just love it. Denim jumpers, denim dresses, denim jackets, denim skirts, etc. My husband teases me that sometimes I remind him of a Sunday school teacher from the 90’s. I mean, that doesn’t totally feel like an insult to me but, whatevs. I think denim on denim is great. Most of the time you need to have something to break it up a little (a.k.a. the stripes) or you’ll be mistaken for Jay Leno and nobody wants that.

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I don’t really consider myself to be a badass. I drive a minivan, for goodness sake, but every now and then I like to spice it up with a leather jacket and some black boots. The fur collar makes me feel a little Penny-Lane.

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I love the tank paired with a suede skirt. (It would be equally cute with a mini-suede skirt). Midi-skirts are one of my favorite things and you can wear pretty much any solid-colored skirt with the stripes (I’m not a big gal on mixing patterns but if that’s you, you go girl).

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^^^I also forgot to put my cute black hat on in the photo above because my children were getting antsy and we were rushing to get these photos taken. hashtag RealLife.

I highly recommend you add this top to your autumn wardrobe. As you’ve seen, it can be worn with numerous outfit combos and you will definitely get your money’s worth! And just in case you were wondering…this isn’t some sort of ad for Gap (#goals) I just really like this top and I really like sharing the things I love with you!

I hope you have a wonderful week and I’ll leave you with the song and I’m currently addicted to.

Ireland

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It has been four months since our trip to Ireland. It took me all summer to muster up the motivation to sort through all of my photos and condense them down to a handful. The trip was, hands down, the best experience of my life. I don’t travel the world often and I really hate flying so it took me a while to gain the courage to fly across the ocean, but I’m so glad I did. Ireland was a dream. It was everything I imagined it would be and more. The pictures just don’t do it justice! I think of those special memories often, this romantic week tucked in the back of my mind.

We were able to take this trip through my husband’s work and they took VERY good care of us. Usually when we travel, we are pinching pennies and being as frugal as possible. We were completely out of our element staying in five star hotels and eating at the finest restaurants. I could totally get used to that style of traveling 😉

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We started in Dublin. The city was beautiful and full of history. Truman’s favorite part was the Guinness brewery tour. I’m not much of a beer drinker so I didn’t appreciate the real Guinness as much as he did, but apparently the stuff in Ireland is much better than what we have in the U.S. After a few days in the city, we took a train to Killarney to experience the beautiful countryside of Ireland. I enjoy cities, but I was mostly looking forward to this part. We took a three hour train ride and I was SO excited for it because I had always wanted to ride on a train. However, it was the worst. I don’t really get motion sickness, but something about riding backwards and the cart shaking back and forth made for a pretty miserable ride. The scenery was still breathtaking as we passed many pastures and cute, little cottages along the way.

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We stayed at The Europe hotel and it was STUNNING. When I think of Ireland, I don’t think “mountains” so I was pleasantly surprised when this was our view from the hotel. The first thing we did when we arrived was walk down to the dock to take it all in. After a long morning of travel, I snuggled up on one of the chairs by the pool to read a book.

We took a few tours on the trip and my favorite  was the Dingle Peninsula tour. We rode a bus all along the peninsula and stopped in Dingle to experience small-town living. Unfortunately, we caught a really gloomy and rainy day so we couldn’t see most of the views off the coast. Our tour guide told us it was a true shame because it’s one of the most beautiful things to see in Ireland. Through the fog and rain we could barely make out the site where they filmed the last scene from the most recent Star Wars.

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On our final day, we set out early in the morning to take a tour through the Gap of Dunloe. It felt a lot like Colorado, but getting to listen to the tour guide’s rich Irish accent as he led us via horse and carriage was extra special.

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Once we got back from our tour, Truman treated me to an afternoon at the beautiful spa in the hotel. I spent time in the steam room, I floated in the salt water tub, and relaxed in the sun with a good book before my massage. After my massage, they led me to a special room with heated lounge chairs overlooking the mountains. A small heated pool was attached and I lay over the side, listening to the water and the birds. It had been mostly chilly and rainy while we were there, but on that day the sun was trying to peek through the clouds. That moment was the most restful moment of my life. I listened to the birds chirp and just praised God for this amazing opportunity. I never grow tired of experiencing His beauty and it felt like a big kiss on the cheek to have an entire afternoon of quiet and rest. I think back to that scene often when I need to escape my mind for a moment. I hope that I’m fortunate enough to return someday.

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I want to go back to Ireland so badly. There was so much of the country that we didn’t have time to see and there are many things that I want to see again. I’m so thankful for the experience. Ireland captured a piece of my heart and we hope to return again! (Maybe next time in the summer when it’s *slightly* warmer.)

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