Every family has a story

Photo in photo: Dearly Photography

Photo in photo: Dearly Photography

You might look at our family of four and think, Picture perfect. They’re so blessed. And I wouldn’t argue with you—God has been good to us. Two healthy little girls, nearly six years apart, one favoring my hubby and the other favoring me (depending on who you ask).

But a photograph doesn’t tell you about the journey to today. It doesn’t tell you about the years of longing, about the negative pregnancy tests, about the envy, about the long conversations, about the prayers, or about the loss.

For every photo of a smiling family, there is a story. 

I can’t speak to the unimaginable pain and grief that accompanies infertility testing, treatments, and the like. I won’t pretend to be able to understand what that’s like. But I have walked through seasons of unanswered questions, waiting, and wondering if my family dreams were just that: dreams.

Our story is, most simply, that pregnancy has never come easily.

Early in our marriage, I watched women around me become pregnant and families begin to grow, the news of each new life delivering a stinging blow to my heart. I wanted to say I was happy for others and mean it. I dreamed of being a mom. One year went by, then two, then three. I had a pretty intense fear of doctors at that point and chose ignorance as the better option, though I was secretly deeply afraid that I wasn’t able to conceive and carry a child. Looking back, my three years of struggling were nothing but a drop in the bucket—I know this now. But at the time they felt endless. I know women who have endured much longer and who continue to endure. Pain in the waiting is real, whether it lasts one year or 15.

Then one cool November day, I discovered I was pregnant. One season of my life ended, and another began. It was the beginning of what can best be described as a totally bananas pregnancy and birth (that’s the medical term for it, totally bananas). The curveballs started early and kept on coming (hyperemesis gravidarum and kidney stones were two), and God taught me lesson after lesson about adjusting my expectations. Those lessons didn’t stop after she was born, either, but that, my friends, is a story for another day.

Ten months later, I was blindsided by an emergency surgery for a problem I didn’t know I had until it was too late. (If you ever have a nagging feeling that you should go to the doctor, go to the doctor.) When I awoke from the anesthesia, there was a doctor by my bed explaining they’d removed a good portion of my reproductive organs but that I shouldn’t worry, because one ovary “should” do the job of two. Wait, what now? Don’t you know how long it took to conceive the last baby? And that was with two ovaries! Now I only have one? What if all my eggs were literally in one basket? What if that was my good side, and now it’s gone? 

I felt robbed. The whole thing had been so sudden and so shocking. My feelings of loss were wrapped around dreams of babies that didn’t even exist, but I grieved. I felt my body had not only let me down, but my husband as well. What about his family dreams? Together we released our future to God and moved on, focusing all of our attention on our little girl. Faith sustained me. This wasn’t at all what I had in mind, but I knew I could trust Him.

I needed to believe with my whole being that God’s plans for me were better than anything I could dream up on my own. 

For the next four years I hovered in a strange place of wondering whether I was capable of conceiving another child. If it was medically an impossibility, I just didn’t want to know. When you start marking years off the calendar, you begin to assume. We talked frequently about our daughter being an only child; we dove into adoption research; my previous health issue threatened to repeat itself; I went back to work. Life moved on. And then—just as unexpectedly as it had happened the first time—we discovered that after all those years of no babies, I was pregnant.

The nervousness, excitement, and complete shock gave way to grief when I miscarried several weeks later. (Can I just say? No one warns you about what that’s like, physically or emotionally. Perhaps nothing can truly prepare you for it. Still, if you’ve been there, I wish I could hug you and tell you—everything you’ve felt or are feeling right now? Go ahead and feel it. You have permission to grieve even the tiniest life.)

Our sadness swallowed us up for a while. When I came up for air, my practical response was to reduce the entire horrible experience to a big, flashing sign from God that we weren’t meant to grow our family further—our daughter would be an only child, and we needed to be okay with that.

But that wasn’t the end. He would soon remind me, once again (why am I always surprised by this?), that He was the one writing the story, not me. He had more chapters coming, and the next one just happened to be really good.


Photo: WriteTheRoughDraft

Our baby, our second little girl, turned 2 last weekend.

The chapter about the flood was followed by the part about the rainbow.

I know that no season in my life thus far has been without purpose—even if that purpose was simply for me to share this story with one of you reading right now, for His glory. I believe that wholeheartedly. I believe it for me, and I believe it for you, too—even if you are in the midst of what feels like the worst chapter of your life. He will redeem your story. There is more to come.

People have started asking if we’re planning to have any more kids. Close family and friends—and now all of you!—know our story, so at this stage of my life I don’t mind being asked. (But please, on behalf of those secretly struggling, don’t let curiosity get the better of you.)

I usually just laugh, shrug awkwardly, and stammer through some vague response. Knowing the twists and turns of our story so far, how could I assume to know the answer to that question?

I can’t peek ahead at the next chapter. The story of our family is in the hands of the Author.

We have to keep reading, turning one page at a time, soaking up the wonders, joys, heartaches, and love in every paragraph, trusting all along that He is good and that He loves us—and believing that He writes the best stories.

An extra note, because it is heavy on my heart this week:

If you are in a season of wondering and waiting, if you have received a diagnosis, if you are wading through the adoption process, if you are raising funds, if you are undergoing procedures, if you are grieving loss, if you are questioning what in the world God is planning for your family—you are not alone. 

And if you have walked through the dark days and broken through to light on the other side, whether it be through a child born, a child brought into your forever home, or simply peace in the uncertainty, praise God! Share your stories and yell hallelujahs for the miracles. Continue to support those who are still in the thick of it. You don’t have to give advice—just be a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on. Offer hope. Reach out. Squeeze a hand. Pray. 

We each have a story. Let’s be in this together. 


April 24-30, 2016 is National Infertility Awareness Week. Read more here. 

Bikes, bruises, and growing up

At age 7 and a half—’cause we all know the halves are important—my daughter has learned to ride her bike training-wheel free.

It took three afternoons. Three long, are-we-doing-this-parenting-thing-right?, call-upon-the-name-of-Jesus afternoons.

I’m being a little dramatic, but then, so was she. I don’t know where she gets it from.

[Side note, I now know all about balance bikes. We missed the memo. That’s what second kids are for, right?] 

The process began rather abruptly with the announcement that she was ready for the training wheels to come off. Peer pressure might have had something to do with it, as most of her classmates and quite a few much younger friends have already passed this milestone. She’s been aware of this and has taken it in stride. For her, it wasn’t the time yet. She hadn’t been ready, and that was okay with her and okay with us.

We’ve learned to trust her instincts with things like this. When she received her first big-girl bike with training wheels for Christmas a few years ago, she lovingly ran her hands over its shiny pink surface. She was effusive in expressing her gratitude to Mom and Dad for the gift. She even sat on it for a minute so I could take a photo. But no no no, she was not ready to take it outside and put her feet to the pedals just yet.

So it sat, and we waited, and all the while she thought it over. And then one day, she hopped on and rode away, and that was that.

It was a huge learning moment for us as parents as we began to understand just a little bit more about how this girl worked and the intricacies of the traits God had woven into her personality.

We found ourselves back in the same boat again when a birthday passed, and then another, and she was no no no, not ready to take those training wheels off.

But three days ago, she decided it was time.

Day 1 was… well, I’m not going to talk about Day 1.

On Day 2, things were starting to come together—the pedaling, the steering—but boy was she quick to throw herself off the bike when she felt she was losing control. It became the routine: start to wobble, wail like a banshee, and leap off the beast bike and into the safety of the grass. This was simultaneously frustrating and entertaining. But we began to notice that despite the scrapes and bruises she was accumulating and the sweat, dirt, and tears of frustration running down her sweet face, she was not and I mean not going to stop. She was getting so close, but after a couple hours of this torture (for all of us), I had to set a timer to put an end to it and promised we’d be back at it the next day.

So, Day 3. She had a fierce gleam in her eye as she strapped on the purple princess helmet. She let me take a picture of her sitting on the bike. And then she kicked off and just rode away. For the next two hours I watched her wheel up and down the sidewalk in front of our home, turn around in the neighbors’ driveways, and swing back by again while I cheered, shot video, texted the grandparents to share the news, and breathed a massive sigh of relief.


Learning to ride a bike. I can’t remember what the process was like when I was the one wibbling and wobbling on two wheels for the first time. But if it was anything like this, well, bless my dear parents.

This morning we noticed she’d selected a pair of tall socks for school, which she had pulled up past her shins. I thought it was an odd selection (temps here are reaching the 80s already) and raised an eyebrow at my husband.

“She’s covering up the bruises,” he explained. She pulled down the socks to show me her shins.

Small blue and purple bruises marked paths up the fronts of both legs—wounds from all those collisions with her pedals while falling off the bike. I grimaced, but encouraged her that it was okay and she didn’t need to hide them. Her dad chimed in, telling her they were awesome battle scars and that made them cool.

She looked at us skeptically and hiked the socks back up.

We’ve been seeing the signs of a little girl who’s growing up. Lingering a little longer in the mirror when she brushes her hair. Getting embarrassed more easily. Writing a note to a boy: “You’re cute.” (My husband nearly died.) Showing concern over having the right thing to wear. Simultaneously wanting my arms around her at all times and wanting me to leave her alone.

But this, with the bruises. There is so much for us to learn, 7-year-olds and parents.

The bruises are ugly. Why would we want anyone to see them?

Because there is beauty in those wounds. There is a story.

What strength and determination my daughter discovered within herself in those moments as she struggled to conquer this thing she’d set out to do! But perhaps more significant, she recognized after time and time of falling—struggling alone through the frustration—that Mom and Dad were right there for her, calling out advice, ready to swoop in and scoop her back up, help her get back on track if she would only let us.

We fall; He offers us a hand and helps us to our feet. We brush ourselves off. He sets us back on the path and we try, try again. When we finally overcome it, whatever challenge we face, we take with us those black and blue reminders of the struggle. But we also walk away with a story to tell—a beautiful, grace-filled story.

Don’t be ashamed that you fell down, baby girl. Show your bruises and tell your story, and know your mama is trying her best to do the same.


A little late to the game, writing about my word of the year on January 14, am I right?

Well. Consider this an exercise in putting my word into practice.

You might not define blogging about a New Year’s resolution-y concept two weeks into the year as brave per say—maybe procrastination would be a more appropriate word, eh Rebekah?—but baby steps, people. I’m here at least. Thanks for giving me grace.

Every January I observe friends, churches, bloggers, instagrammers doing this thing—choosing that one word they want to define the year ahead. Sometimes the really organized ones announce their words in December, just to get a jump start, because come January the internet is going to be sick of reading these posts. Sorry, internet. Here’s another.

I have never been one who makes decisions easily (save for lifelong ones like choosing to follow Jesus or saying yes when my husband asked for my hand), so the thought of selecting one little word that I’m supposed to embrace and weave throughout my life for a year? Bah. No thanks. I have a hard enough time deciding what color to paint my toenails or what to fix for dinner. Order for dinner. Whatever.

I have enjoyed seeing what words other people choose and how they implement them, though. Last year I followed one friend’s journey with her word, no (such wisdom there), and read along as another friend explored what living free looked like for her. I loved reading about what they did with their words and how their choices impacted their lives and the people around them. But I never and I mean never follow through on resolutions. How can I commit to something for a year with life’s ever-changing seasons? Moving, switching jobs, having babies. Life is too unpredictable, and I loathe the feeling of letting myself down by not being able to follow through on something I’ve committed to.

But then one night a couple of weeks ago as I tried to fall asleep, God did as He always does. He made it clear to me that no, I didn’t have to choose a word if I didn’t want to—because He was giving me one whether I liked it or not. 

Not two days later, a friend asked via group text if any of us had done this “word of the year” thing. One by one we all began replying with our words, and I was filled with optimism about what this year could hold for each of these women. Kindness. Focus. Present. Discipline.  


My friend Lindsey wrote a fabulously helpful post for people wondering, I picked a word… Now what do I do with it? One of the things she’s done with her word of the year is to have a little brainstorming session and map it out on paper. (You had me at “This is pretty nerdy, but…”, Lindsey!) This was messy for me, as I prefer bullet points and this turned into bubbles all over my little section of paper, but as I sat on my bed and just wrote out whatever came to me about the word brave, I could feel God working on me. And as I scribbled (what in the world has happened to my handwriting in the last few years? Good grief), I started getting really, really excited about what could come from being brave this year. Not sky-diving brave (let’s be serious)—brave in being vulnerable when needed. Brave in asking questions instead of faking it. Brave in speaking up. Brave in getting to know people and letting them get to know me. Brave in tapping “publish.” Brave in not letting myself be defined as introvert.

I wrote, in the pink-papered notebook my 7-year-old gave me for Christmas, some things that will try to stop me from telling my story, some things I need to say Yes to, and some things that might be harder than my beginning-of-the-year-optimistic self realizes.

There will be more bubbles and scribbling on my notebook pages in the days to come, and my prayer is that the words God gives me here reflect how He’s shaping my 2016.

He has made me brave. IMG_3675

Lost and found

Well, I have now managed to lose both of my children in public places.

20 months or so seems to be the magical age when this happens. With my older daughter, we were in a Carter’s clothing store and while I rummaged in the diaper bag for my debit card at the checkout counter, she stealthily slipped off. When I couldn’t spot her, the employees closed the store entrance until she was found, sitting happily on the floor behind a shoe display, trying on shoes (why didn’t I think to look there first, knowing her fondness for dress-up?). She looked up with a smile and lifted her foot in the air in a proud display, oblivious to the tension of the moments leading up to her discovery. She was missing for less than a minute, but my fear in that minute was real. The front doors had been open thanks to an unusually cool spring day in Florida, and my heart plummeted imagining what could have happened if she’d been bound for the exit—straight into a busy parking lot—instead of to try on footwear.

Last week at an indoor theme park, my younger daughter pulled a disappearing act of her own, on a slightly larger scale. This one is fast and sneaky, and we’ve known that about her since she started walking. (A few months ago she ran away from me in Publix and hid in the frozen foods aisle behind a stock crate. I caught her when she peeked around it and giggled at the look of frustration on my face. Oh, the gray hairs!) But this time, in a large space thick with short people (aka kids), she really scared me. She was standing right next to me, I looked up from her to her sister, who was asking for help tying shoes, and then I looked back, and she was gone.

I whirled around in a circle, scanning the room, which suddenly felt way too big with way too many places for a tiny person to hide. My friend and I instructed our older kids not to move and quickly split into opposite directions to look, but my girl was nowhere to be seen. My friend grabbed an employee who began asking me to describe my daughter. What was she wearing? How tall is she? What’s her name? Is she walking? (Um, no, she crawled away at light speed.) I stumbled through my description of her (“She’s really small! She has short brown hair and big brown eyes… She’s just really small!”), my mind racing.

I’m not the mom who loses her kid at a place like this. I’m the mom who knows where my children are and what they’re doing at all times! … right?

She was gone for maybe five minutes, which doesn’t seem long but is way, way, way too long. And then there she was, tears rolling down her face, in the arms of a young employee who’d had her wits about her enough to think like a toddler and climb way up into the big kids’ gym. Of course that’s where she was. My monkey. I hugged that girl so tight and tried to fight the tears and reset my fried nerves.

I tell this story because

1) It embarrasses me, but I know I’m not alone. I know this because when I posted a photo later that day on Instagram and mentioned her brief disappearance, three or four friends chimed in to commiserate (one of them was my own mom). I want to be forthcoming about my parenting failures because maybe you need to know you’re not alone. Sometimes friends compliment my parenting and I laugh before I realize they’re being serious. I am not a perfect mom—far, far from it—and that’s ok. My kids will grow up knowing that their mom makes mistakes and isn’t afraid to own up to them. Believe me, they’re already quite aware.

And 2) In those brief minutes last Wednesday when my baby was nowhere to be seen, and even that day at Carter’s so many years ago with her big sis, I caught the tiniest glimpse of how our Father feels about us when we wander off.

What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. —Luke 15:4-7

He is the shepherd, searching relentlessly until the one sheep is found. 

He is the father of the Prodigal, waiting expectantly and scouring the horizon for the sight of his son returning. 

He is the woman who dropped one of her 10 coins—a day’s worth of income—holding a lantern in her dark home and sweeping the floor in search of it, calling friends and neighbors to celebrate when it is recovered. 

I wasn’t panicked. I knew that the one I loved was there somewhere. She wasn’t lost, not forever. But how I longed for her! I knew she was alone and afraid. I wanted more than anything to have her safely back in my arms, but the realization dawned on me that it was not for my own sake or my own comfort. It was for hers. Because I love her more than I love myself and could not bear to think of her suffering alone when I was right there with arms flung wide, ready to hold her and wipe her tears away.

Because despite my daughter’s moments of reckless bravery and independence, she needs me.

Call it a parenting fail, but I’m grateful to God for reminding me of His relentless love for us and the truth that no matter how confident and independent I might feel, I need Him. 

Now. Where does one buy a leash for a toddler?


Fighting fear in a fallen world

I should have known that after my previous post, the sleeping-in toddler would be replaced by the up-at-7 toddler. These things happen. I’m grateful though that I had those peaceful, reflective mornings that particular week. I needed them, and I love the sometimes simple ways God offers grace, like a baby sleeping an extra 45 minutes in the morning for a few days.

My heart has been heavy lately, and I’ve felt so distracted from my husband and children, spending my time and energy poring over news articles and blog posts and trying to discern truth from lies, postponing daily life requirements like putting laundry away and planning dinners (you’re welcome, Pizza Hut). I’m trying desperately to separate what I know in my heart to be true of our God from my earthly, human fears. I worry about the future, about my children’s lives in another 10 or 20 years. What will their world look like? Will they be safe in it? Are any of us ever really “safe” this side of heaven?

Do I really trust God with the future of this world and with my children’s lives?

Witnessing atrocities of the world via this beast called social media is enough to make me want to curl up under my covers and hide. I don’t want to go to the movies anymore, even if there’s a film I actually want to see (rare these days). Why go to the store when I can order online from the safety of my kitchen? I bought concert tickets yesterday, but my excitement was underscored by pangs of claustrophobia. What has happened to me?

Debate and politics make me feel anxious and confused, and on several occasions lately I’ve teased the “delete my Facebook” screen, heart beating wildly, because I just can’t take it anymore. (I haven’t done it, but the day might be coming.) There is so much garbage being circulated. It feeds our indignation. It angers us. It empowers us if it’s worded just right. We click and click and click, sorting through the thoughts and opinions of others, hoping to find someone — a politician, a blogger, a preacher, an activist, whoever — who gets it right so that we can hit that Share button and type, “This. Yes.”

All I know is this: If you believe God’s Word is indeed His good and perfect truth, the answers are there.

Perhaps we don’t want to look there because we already know what we will find, and it scares us. But if you believe in Him, here’s the thing: The answers are in your heart as well. You know.

So, I will take a deep breath and draw myself away from the computer screen.

I will not withdraw into the black hole of social media, phone in hand.

I will go do the things that need to be done today.

I will show Christ’s love.

I will care for my family.

I will trust that God is bigger than my fears.

I will choose — year-by-year, hour-by-hour, probably some days, minute-by-minute — to fight my fears with Truth.

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. —Psalm 91:4




To give what I have and know it is enough

In college, I decided to major in journalism because I wasn’t quite sure what else to do with myself.

Most of my high school friends were education majors who had known from the time they were wee that they wanted to be teachers. Not having found anything that “made my heart beat faster,” as my old pastor used to say, I followed along for a while, even joining the Future Teachers of America club, because why not? I wasn’t an artist, wasn’t into science or math, and didn’t think anything technology-related would hold my attention. I could carry a tune and harmonize with my altos in church choir but I wasn’t a singer by any means, and the drama teacher always assigned me the role of peasant #6 or townsperson #2 so clearly acting wasn’t really my jam either. I was on the yearbook staff at my small high school and thought that was fun, so maybe journalism would be my best bet. I made good grades on my English papers and could diagram sentences like a boss, and I knew how to spell. And most importantly, a journalism track meant zero math courses, and I liked that idea a whole lot.

So off I went to the Communications building to first learn about marketing and the history of newspapers and magazines, which I found interesting. But as I moved through the years of college and into actual news reporting classes, I made a discovery. I didn’t really like writing the news—and haaated bugging people for interviews—and judging by the grades I received from my professors (mostly Orlando Sentinel adjuncts at the time), my writing was just okay. Feature writing was more fun—book review on Harry Potter? No prob!—but the feedback from my professor in that class didn’t leave me feeling too optimistic either.

Editing 1 though—the class where you memorize entries from the AP Stylebook (yup) and destroy sample articles with a red pen and proofreader’s marks galore—that class felt like home to me. Go figure. I got an A even though the prof said no one would… and thus began my career in copyediting. I guess if I’m not that great a writer myself, the least I can do is help other writers look better. Wah waaaah.

Yet somehow, here I am 10-ish *cough* years later with this blog and the stories in my head and the thoughts I try so hard to accurately express through written word. Lately I’ve struggled with this blogging business because the more I write, the more I want to read, and the more I read what other writers write, the more I feel like I’m back in journalism classes again with that disappointing, mediocre B scribbled atop every assignment, reminding me that I’m just okay at this and maybe I should just go back to helping other people with their writing.

It hurts.

There’s so much I want to do and often I feel too inadequate to even try. Too many things to attempt and not enough time. I want to encourage women. I want to help moms be better and kinder to one another and to our kids (and our husbands). I want to share these little thoughts I know God has put in my head for a purpose, whether it’s in a 1,000-word blog post or a quick sentence I throw out into the universe. I struggle with feeling like what I want to say is going to sound staged or fake or pretentious, because I hate that. I love it when people get real with each other in a way that is encouraging and promotes growth and change, steps forward—not pretty all the time. I still want to edit. I want to write a whole book. I want to organize all the photos I’ve ever taken and put them in albums so that when my children are grown, they will look back and know how much I loved them, because thousands and thousands of photos! 

I am quick to let my head take over and my thoughts spiral completely out of control. I get lost in them.

Rebekah. Stop.

What has Christ asked of me? For only the wisest and deepest words? For a sentence that will solve the world’s problems in addition to having layers and layers of meaning and mystery? For perfectly crafted, tweetable statements that someone will inevitably paste onto photos of sunsets and wildflowers to be reposted 26 times in a row on my Instagram feed?

No. He whispers to my heart simply,

Follow Me.

Share the stories I have given you as best you can, and know that I love your meager gifts—your B grades, your “just okay” words.

Be present with your children—the children I have entrusted to your care—in the everyday.

Love Me.

Love others. 

Just follow Me. 

We plant, trusting God for the growth.
We act in faith, trusting God for the outcome.
We build, trusting God to fill.
We offer, trusting God with the response.
Emily P. FreemanSimply Tuesday

The truth is, I need those other writers, the ones whose beautifully strung-together words frustrate me (why can’t I write like that?). I’m learning that God uses other people’s gifts to inspire me to use mine, however unworthy they are to my own critical eye. To encourage me to dig in a little more, to think harder, to study, and to remember that whatever I have to offer, God can and will use it if I just give it to Him.