To read the story of our precious Harlynn Renae, start here and follow the "next" links at the end of each post. Thank you for coming and sharing with us in this journey.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Greatest Command

Today is the last day of 2014. I never anticipate how intensely a "new chapter" affects me. This year was another roller coaster, with different peaks and valleys. We welcomed Little Man into the world at the end of April. Earlier that month on Harlynn's first heavenversary, I was heavily sedated under the influence of magnesium, in an effort to stop pre-term labor. I missed everything I had wanted to do that day. This year, I left my job of five years. I left a job of eight months. I started new adventures. I wrote. A lot. And here we are, the last day of the year.

This morning's sunrise was spectacular. The deep red sky boasted a certain authority, as the sunlight bounced off the sweeping clouds. I slept horribly last night, but being up to witness the sunrise this morning was well worth foregoing the warmth of my covers.

Last night, I was wrestling with far too many thoughts, and the consequences of eating far too many sweets. I was awake for hours. In my incessant swarm of ideas, I decided the new year was not going to be full of resolutions I wouldn't keep. I'm not going to resolve to lose weight, or exercise, or read every day, or do things I otherwise will forget or not make time for. I, instead, resolve to live toward one goal: to live out the greatest command. 

There are a lot of rules in life, most of them unwritten. There are a lot of policies and procedures we're expected to follow. There are certain ways to do certain things, and certain people who are called to walk certain paths with certain steps. But really, there is only One certainty, and He has given me the greatest command.

This coming year, I will strive to love God with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, and all my strength. I will be purposeful in my thoughts, actions, and words. I will do everything with the intention of bringing Him glory. And when I fail (for we all fall short), I will try again.

This coming year, I resolve to be all in. Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength. I will be present. I will be purposeful. I will be prayerful. I will persevere.

Obviously, I don't know - or have any control over - what the next year has in store for me. I do know, however, that I can approach it with a spirit of tenacity and confidence. 

What does 2015 have in store for you?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas Thanks

Last year, Christmas wasn't my favorite. I was distraught, angry, overwhelmed with grief, and overcome by mountains of "stuff". Christmas day marked 37 weeks we had been without Harlynn, who lost her life at 37 weeks. There were a lot of tears. I holed myself up with my husband and my daughter, and the three of us made our own memories, with our own schedule, and our own agenda. That in itself was wonderful, but it wasn't the kind of Christmas I typically would have looked forward to. Afterward, I shared some pointed thoughts on Christmases of the future, and got some pointed feedback in return. I was glad to close the books on last Christmas. I didn't care to repeat any of last year. Christmas, or otherwise.

This year was different. Dare I say, this year was wonderful.

My in-laws, God bless them, sent some amazingly creative gifts. When we put pizza boxes under our tree, we were wondering what on earth could be inside, and why pizza boxes? Brent's family opens gifts on Christmas Eve, and since we couldn't be with them this year, we did the next best thing by opening their presents Christmas Eve. The pizza boxes contained dough. Money dough. I had a moneyroni pizza. It was awesome, and adorable, and we got a good chuckle out of it. Little Miss and Little Man were given the perfect toys, and Brent and I were each given very thoughtful, meaningful gifts. (Thank you, G & P!) It was a great way to kick off the Christmas holiday.

After gift-opening, we went to Christmas Eve service with my parents. It was a wonderful service, as usual, and I love our church family. Love, love, love. I thank God every week and then some for leading us to these people and this community. When church was over, my sister, her husband, and their boys had arrived and met us back at our house. I had cooked a turkey dinner with all the fixings and we had a wonderful time together. Papa got to read The Night Before Christmas to all the grandkids. It's one of my favorite traditions. My Grandpa Fox read it to us, from that very book my dad is holding, whenever he was at our house for Christmas.

That night, I wrote my letter to Harlynn to place in her stocking. The tears stung my eyes as I wrote, but the pen wasn't as heavy as last year. The words came a little easier. The tone carried a little more hope. I love my little girl so much, and I'm so thankful to have found a way to include her every Christmas. Her stocking may hold only paper notes, but it also carries the full-on weight of a mother's love. 

Christmas morning, I was the first one up. I started making cinnamon rolls for breakfast. Our gift to my family this year was my cooking. With the job situation and our financial calamity, it was the most thoughtful, practical gift we could come up with. They were pretty surprised when I had gifts for them to open Christmas morning, but I didn't stray from my word of my gift being my cooking. Mom & Dad got an Italian themed kit. Spaghetti noodles (Dakota Wheat, of course), tomato sauce, Parmesan cheese - and homemade Italian seasoning. Sis & Bro got a Mexican themed kit. Taco shells, refried beans, salsa - and homemade taco seasoning. 

Before gift opening, though, we did our second reading tradition. Brent read Luke chapter two, the story of Christ's birth. My favorite verse from all of that is verse 19. Any mother, I think, notices that verse in the Christmas story. I ponder so many things, and I can only imagine how her heart was filled, watching her infant son being worshiped and praised, knowing he would one day, somehow, save mankind. 

We got some of the coolest, most thoughtful, meaningful, loving gifts this year. Truly. It was wonderful. This morning, Brent and I enjoyed free Starbucks courtesy of my aunt and uncle. I wore a purple scarf all day today (and yesterday), courtesy of another aunt. Dad made - M A D E - everyone gorgeous candles. And on, and on, and on I could go. 

We laughed (hard), and joked and made new memories with new inside jokes. I cooked more in two days than I've cooked probably this entire year. The kiddos had a blast playing with one another. And though it was a lot of work to cook and host and keep Little Man out of the fallen pine needles from the tree, it was a little sad to have it all come to an end.

Today, our company left. We took down the tree and put away the Christmas decorations. We organized our holiday storage, and made room for a fresh start to a new year. I did a little shopping, a little work, and a lot of cleaning. 

Tomorrow, we'll go to church. We'll come home and prepare for the week ahead. We'll enjoy having Daddy home an extra day this coming week. And we'll look back on 2014 with a sigh and a smile. 

It was a good Christmas. It was a good holiday. And it was a better year than last. Thank you, to all of you, who held us tenderly this year as we went along. Thank you for loving us, for listening to us, and for standing by us even when we (mostly, me) didn't make a shred of sense to you. Thank you for making this year gentler on our mending hearts. 

And thank you for the lattes. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Tug Of War

It's December 22nd. There isn't a flake of snow left on the ground, it's 38*, and raining outside. In North Dakota. It's amazing. The snow is on its way, but for now, I'm soaking in the glorious view of my (dead) grass in the yard, and the visible pavement. All too soon, and for all too long, we'll be covered in a thick blanket of white. The sun will shine, the chill will be stark, and this warmth and wet will long be forgotten.

No snow. But lots of coffee.
It's also a Monday. Three days before Christmas. My family will be on their way to see us tomorrow. There are presents under the tree, meals waiting to be made, and goodies waiting to be consumed. In fact, my groceries just arrived via delivery. Hang on, I need to get the door.


Have I ever mentioned I love grocery delivery? Back to blogging.

This morning when I woke up, I still sounded ridiculous. I've got (another) some kind of sickness that has taken my normal voice hostage, and has me sounding like a pubescent Barry White. I drug myself to the kitchen (because I am not a morning person) and got some milk warming for Little Man. I sat and stared at the lights on the tree, because that's the only light I can handle first thing in the morning. I like dark and quiet. 

After Little Man ate his fill, I snuggled him despite his wriggling, and headed downstairs to get to work. Yes, I get to work in my home, in my pajamas, while simultaneously wrestling Mr. Muscles for some affection, I have a pretty sweet deal.

And that's where the tug-of-war rests. It's almost Christmas. There is a sense of holiday cheer in the air I haven't felt for a while. Anticipation. Excitement. On top of that, there's joy and gratitude for my job. The people I get to interact with and work for every week. These, then, are tangled with that old familiar ache. Harlynn is missing. 

It's exhausting, while my feelings and emotions battle it out for which will be felt most dominantly. Taking turns, they stand atop my heart and echo their victory cry above the canyons my life has carved through its veins. Every pulse, every beat, adds to the weight of the story it carries. One second, elated. The next, distraught. Though I'm sitting completely still, I feel utterly worn out. It is an internal tug-of-war.

This is Little Man's first Christmas. I'm excited to keep him from eating the ribbon and wrapping paper, as I know those will interest him more than any gift. I'm excited to see how he interacts with his cousins. His Papa and Gramma. His Auntie and Uncle. I'm excited for them to see how he drags himself from point A to point B, pausing intermittently to prop himself up on all fours and rock. 

Last night, as I rocked him to sleep, I prayed a prayer over him (and Little Miss) that would cover all of my shortcomings as their mother. I also prayed that Harlynn would forever be a part of their lives. No matter the hustle and bustle and crazy that fill our days, I don't ever want her to be an after-thought. It makes me so proud when Little Miss brings up her sister, and strikes me so solemnly at the same time.

The other day when I went to the cemetery, the fog was covering the entire city. It was the most peaceful, perfect, and pristine visit to Harlynn I had experienced to date. The deer and turkeys were in numbers I had never seen before, no doubt feeling protected by the thick blanket of gray. They moved without a sound, sojourning to find apples and corn left out for them by the groundskeepers. While I loathe the fact I have to go to a cemetery to spend time with my middle child, I rejoice I get to have moments no one else does. Another tug-of-war. I hate to love it there.

Now as I wait for Christmas to arrive, and as I'll be a willing prisoner of my kitchen, gifting my family with food and fun, my heart beats a little harder on the back-and-forth pulls of emotion. 

I pray for a gentle Christmas. I pray for many moments of merry. I pray though she won't unwrap any gifts from the tree, or wrestle with her siblings or cousins, she is still a very present part of our Christmas. Of our lives.

Merry Christmas, Harlynn.

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Christmas Letter From a Bereaved Believer

It's the time of year when cards keep the USPS in business, and families are left with the decision of whether or not to include a letter. With social media, almost everyone knows everything about us as it is. Yet, one time a year, we have a chance to share our highlights, dreams, and well wishes on a piece of festive paper, complete with our picture of smiling faces, coordinating outfits, and Christmas catch phrases.

For some of us, however, the "Merry" in our Christmas may seem a little out of reach. Some of us have been through hell-on-earth. Some of us are bereaved, broken, and bewildered. So what do we say? What do we compose for a letter no one wants to read? 

I, myself, didn't do a letter this year. What would people read that they didn't know already? We had our son, who brings light and life to our lives along with Little Miss. We miss our daughter, Harlynn, every moment of every day. That sums up our year. Our days. Every day. 

Yesterday's sermon, however, gave me pause. (Again. It's like God speaks through His Word or something. Weird.) Christmas letters are so much more than a highlight reel. They're a testimony. I could have written a letter this year...and it might have gone something like this:

Season's greetings from our family to yours.

This year was full of heartache and hope, as was the year before. There is not a season, or a month, or a week, or a day, we do not miss our baby girl. Our aching and longing for her is a permanent fixture, as if it has now joined our family as a physical member. We feel her presence, yet her void, every moment. 

Little Miss had her Christmas program at church, and while it was cute and adorable, I was struck by the fact we'll never see Harlynn perform. I'll never pick out her Christmas dress. Fix her hair in pigtails. We'll skip right over the years of her involvement and prepare Little Man for his performance debuts. The holidays especially, amid their cheer and joy, are an ever-present reminder of the moments we'll never have.

There are days when the heartache overcomes me. Days when I crumble beneath the weight of my grief. Days when the lack of understanding from others only adds to the burden of my suffering. There are days that are incredibly dark and heavy, and the feeling of missing Harlynn wraps itself around me and rests upon my shoulders. I still feel incomplete. I still feel broken. I still feel amiss.

However...there is hope. I look back on this year and I see the many blessings we received. The many ways in which we were provided for. The many comforts heaped upon us in our hours of need. Little Man arrived safely, and has been an immeasurable joy. His addition to our family has brought more love (and less sleep) than we could have predicted. Our jobs, our home, our time together as a family, our time with loved ones, the friends who have been rock-solid for us - we can't give enough thanks or praise to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. 

God gave us clarity. Direction. Purpose. He gave us freedom to mourn. To rejoice. He gave us health. He gave us light and life. He gave us comfort. Understanding. He gave us forgiveness. Hope. Future.

He gave us the ability to see, and to recognize, His light in the midst of our tunnels. 

As this year draws to a close and we once again surge ahead to the "new" and the unknown, we will trust. We will cling. We will believe no matter what lies ahead, He holds us. In our brokenness, in our joy, and in our journey, we lean on Him with every step. 

May your Christmas be gentle, and may your hearts feel full.

Praying for and with you,

The Kleppens

Friday, December 12, 2014

When the Time is Right

Brent and I used to host gatherings in our home all the time. Actually, I should say Brent was gracious enough to tolerate my need for hosting gatherings. He was also great at last-minute-panic-cleaning, which is usually how I tended to operate. We had a 90s themed party, white elephant gift parties, birthday parties, movie nights - all sorts of gatherings. They were a riot, usually, and hosting filled my tank. It was one of my favorite things to do.

Then Harlynn died.

My love for gathering with friends was replaced by my love of personal reflection, needing space, quiet, and refuge. The thought of hosting other people made me physically uncomfortable; this was something I had never experienced before. I had a few friends ask me when I was going to host parties again. There was a time I would have thought, "never". Yet I would answer with, "When I'm ready." or "When the time is right."

I decided this year, this month, the time was right. Kind of. A little bit. Using my passive-aggressive tendencies as my shield, I decided to have a white elephant gift exchange. I knew if I hosted it during the week, beyond the first week of December, I probably wouldn't have a big turn out. Everyone is busy this time of year, and with so much else going on, it would be difficult to get people to come. I could ease my way back into this hostess persona.

How does that saying go? "If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans."

We have a history of having anywhere from six to eight people show for our white elephant parties. They're usually the smallest gatherings. Or at least they were. We had 16 people last night. Six. Teen. Sixteen. Our home is big enough to comfortably accommodate 10, maximum. We were very cozy in my living room.

Being a little rusty at hostessing, I felt the need to get the party underway as soon as possible. We drew numbers and were off selecting gifts. I have to tell you, I haven't laughed so hard in such a long time. My face was sore before the night was up, The next morning, my cheeks still ached. 

My biggest disappointment of the night was the fact our guests had to leave. We put Little Miss and Little Man to bed, and I sat in our living room, feet propped up, telling my husband repeatedly how much fun it was. He agreed. 

Our home may be small, but when it's full of friends, laughter, and hilarious treasures of gifts, I'm okay with being cozy. Especially since it allowed me the opportunity to see this up close and personal...

The time was right. I was able to talk about Harlynn with our friends. Her stocking hung with the rest of ours. Her special ornaments were displayed prominently on our tree. Harlynn bear was sitting in the living room with the rest of us. We had her blessing to host the party.

It took 20 months before I was ready to open my home, my heart, up to hosting again. It was the time table that was right for me.

I just want to encourage you: whatever you're going through, whatever you're facing, and whatever you struggle with, you can return to glimpses of yourself, of what you're comfortable with, when the time is right. It doesn't have to be today. It doesn't have to be this month. This year. This decade. The Lord will prompt you when the time is right. And when it is, you'll be ready. And if you're only "kind of" ready, as I was, power through. It just might surpass your expectations.

I can't wait to host another party...

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens." 
~ Ecclesiastes 3:1

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Christmas Letter

Hi Harlynn,

It's the holiday season again. I've been playing Christmas music, putting up decorations, and anticipating the marathon cooking I'll be doing once your Papa, Gramma, Auntie, Uncle, and cousins arrive for Christmas. I don't love the cold, but I do love this time of year. 
I hung your stocking a few days ago. The letter I wrote last Christmas is still inside. I haven't had the courage to take it out and read where my heart was a year ago. I'll add another one this Christmas Eve as I place little love gifts in the other stockings as well. I love that I can do that for you, that it can be my gift to you. A tradition all my own. 

I've found my mind start wandering in thinking about this holiday season were you here with us. What Christmas dress you would wear. How many gifts you would try to open before Christmas morning. What you would be interested in. Your big sister wants "decorations for my room" for Christmas. Isn't she the sweetest? Your little brother, I'm sure, just wants food. That kid can eat. And eat. And then eat some more. And the drool. Oh Harlynn, you should see the mass amounts of drool he produces. It makes your mama shudder.

Tuesday, I was stopped at a stoplight, and a mommy was walking across the street with her little girl. She was adorable, all bundled up in her winter coat, her showy snow boots, hat, and mittens. She would have been about your age, and she struggled to keep up with her mommy as she crossed in front of me. I never know what will trigger it. I never know when or why the tears will fall. Watching her hold her mommy's hand, and skip hurriedly through the crosswalk, did me in. I hope her mommy hugs her extra tight tonight.

This Christmas is different from last year. Rather than being angry for all the things I'll never experience with you, I've found I'm far more hopeful. Far more appreciative. I'm so thankful I get to remember you, memorialize you, honor you, so publicly. I'm so grateful as we head into the Christmas holiday, I get to hang a stocking for you. Special ornaments on the tree. I'm so thankful you'll always be a part of our family - at Christmas, and always. 

You would love our tree. It's beautiful, and it smells so good. When it was frozen, and in our van from the lot, I thought it smelled....not great. Now that it has warmed up and it's been watered, it smells like the Christmas trees I remember as a kid. If you find yourself next to a scotch pine, give it a big whiff. I'm sure the scents in heaven are far more lovely than in our living room.

I just wanted to you to know that I miss you. Still. Always. I think of you, I speak your name, every day. This Christmas is no different. It's hard not having you here. It's hard. If the lump in my throat could do any bit of good in bringing you back, it would have happened long ago. I long for the day we can all be reunited. I long for the gift of finally being able to look into your eyes. 

Until then, I'll be down here, loving you. I'm trying to take good care of your daddy, sister, and brother. Some days are better than others. They would tell you as much. Merry Christmas, sweetheart. Tell Jesus your mama says "happy birthday". 

All my love and then some,


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thankful Anyway

Holidays are tough. I forever think of our daughter who will never be at our table. Never be underfoot in the kitchen as I make the holiday meal. Never be arguing with me over how often to baste the turkey or question why I make stuffing from a box. (Because Stove Top is amazing. Just saying.) As I feed her baby brother pureed foods, I wonder what morsels she would favor this year. Would she like sweet potatoes as much as I do? Would she like mashed potatoes with or without gravy? Would she sit and chew forever on a single piece of turkey like her big sister does? Every holiday, and this Thanksgiving is no exception, I find myself thinking of her incessantly. Oh, Harlynn, how I wish you were here with us.

In that despair of not having her here, I'm able to still find myself in the spirit of Thanksgiving. I'm still grateful for all we have, all we've learned, and all we've gained.

I drove to the cemetery the other day to spend some time sharing with Harlynn. I often take the long way home so I can visit with her about whatever comes to mind. I brushed the snow off her headstone and looked around. I saw a gorgeous, big, buck muley. He was quite handsome, and he was a sight to behold. A nice six pointer, he stared my direction and our eyes met. I saw his breath slowly rising up from his nostrils as he measured my potential threat level. I stood still, holding my breath in my throat, wondering if he was the least bit impressed with my stature, as I was with his. Soon enough, he grew tired of our stand-off, and continued on his way. Did you see that, Harlynn?! Eventually, I loaded myself back into the car and drove around to the gate, where I was greeted by a flock of tom turkeys. They patrolled the grounds searching for morsels and purpose.  They strutted confidently by as I slowly drove past.  I'm thankful when I go to the place that represents the worst time of my life, there is still beauty. There is still a majestic peace. There is still always something to appreciate.

Last year, I made an executive decision regarding our holidays. I decided we would spend them without company. Thanksgiving, Christmas - we were by ourselves in our little home. And I loved it. I needed it. This year, I'm opening myself up again. We're going to be with others. I'm tentative, I'm hesitant, and I'm unsure. But I'm also ready. We'll be with people who love us, and if I get choked up or despondent, they'll understand. If I have to check out for a bit, they won't hold it against me. I'm thankful for their understanding.

And in those moments where I miss my baby girl, I have moments still that pull my heart in the other direction. Moments that fill me even as I am reminded of what I ache for. Being able to spend every morning at home with my littles has given me experiences I will cherish forever. I've been so sick so much recently - the latest bout having me on the sofa with the flu. My home is in shambles all around me because I was too weak to get up, let alone clean or put anything away. Little Miss wanted to entertain herself with music. The Lion King soundtrack, to be exact. I sat, perched in my sofa spot, and witnessed the following. I cannot tell you the joy it brought to me. Sick as I was, my heart swelled as I watched her full of life, completely embracing her moment. 

Our holiday table, and every meal we have, will forever have one person missing. But I'm thankful she is not forgotten. I'm thankful she has two siblings here who give me more joy than I'm worthy of receiving. I'm thankful I got to hold her precious body in my arms for those fleeting moments after her birth. I'm thankful I'm Harlynn's mom. I'm thankful we get to be the family to love her forever.

Friday, November 21, 2014

1,000 Words Worth

I have this thing about becoming overwhelmed. I'm not sure how the expectations or pressures seem to stack up, but they do, I feel like I'm failing somehow, and then I just shut down. Then, something happens to knock me out of my slump, I kick some productivity butt, and then the downward slope starts again. Maddening.

Lately, though, I've been able to counter the feelings of failure and shortcoming by focusing on the blessings I have. I "pause and reflect" (that's for you, Tiff) and really try to soak in the moments going on right then, so I can be present and appreciative of what's happening now, rather than fretting about what may or may not be in the future. As such, I take a lot of pictures. So, as "a picture is worth 1,000 words", allow me to post the longest blog in history - using the stories of pictures.

Elsa and her ice gloves, watching some Veggie Tales
Elsa, holding on to her coronation items, with her ice gloves
Heston's dedication, he reached his hand to my face, I kissed it, and our friend snapped this photo.
She's wearing her "Instruction Thing" so she can give instructions.
At lunch she asked, "Want to take a picture of me praying?" Duh!!
He does this thing when he's mad, where he tries to eat his right arm. Always his right arm, never his left.
Snuggling with me, so I went to take a picture, and she resorted to posing.
Gymnastics wore her out.
Gymnastics wore brother out, too.
He is not a snuggler, so this was extra special morning time!
My two favorite goofballs. Every time she hugged him, he would turn and look at me like, "Are you seeing this?"

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

~*Heavy Sigh*~

This morning I woke up with a sore throat and achy ears. No warning, no gradual decline of health; I just opened my eyes and realized I was down for the count. The burning in my throat felt as if I could have produced fire when opening my mouth. I suppose there are worse things than being a dragon... I was supposed to be on nursery duty at church, but since I'd never forgive myself if I got one of those littles sick, I stayed home. 

I wish I could say I was able to relax and rest, but that was not the case. It was no different from any other day at home with both children, save for the fact that I felt like doo, and was not necessarily up to life-per-usual. Little Miss wanted to play out very scripted scenarios, ("Mama, how about you are the Queen Mother, and I am the princess and you tell me.... how about you tell me that... tell me that you're going to plan a royal ball, and then I have to buy a new dress and shoes, and then when the....when the um.... when the prince....when the pri - when he comes, then you tell him to.....") Little Man fussed and rolled, and pivoted, and rolled, and fussed, and whined, and ate, and fussed, and wanted to be held. Not entertained, just held. Upright, facing forward, and able to reach something with which to put his slobbery hands all over. So I treated myself to some Airborne.

My Airborne cocktail. 

Someone has not slept all. day. long. 
Even though I was worn totally ragged, Little Miss was being adorable. And this happened. And it makes me giggle, even though giggling hurts my throat. It's hilarious, even if it is the 2348702938740298374th video we have that ends with, "Can we watch it now?"

~*Heavy Sigh*~ Even when I'm feeling overwhelmed by life, these moments are just too precious to not appreciate. Thank you for the giggles, Little Miss. Mama loves you.

Monday, November 10, 2014

To Our Friends...

This morning the surrounding areas were covered with snow. It was weird to hear all the reports of snow covered yards, roads, travel delays, etc., and look out our windows and see the cold, bare concrete, the yellowing grass, and the swing set out back - all without snow. On one hand, I was incredibly relieved. On the other hand, however, I was a little saddened by it. I had hoped, in some strange way, a fresh snowfall would somehow blanket the weekend we had, and provide new ground for us to begin our week on.

Friday afternoon, just as I was starting dinner, I started to feel horribly sore, achy, and generally unwell. As an experienced veteran in this feeling, I knew just what it was. This would be my 13th episode of mastitis. Within a couple of hours, I had spiked a fever, had chills, and was incredibly sore and tender all over - my chest especially. My 13th time. I had it nine times with Little Miss. Why I kept breastfeeding is beyond me. Now, after four times with Little Man, I'm ready to be done. It's too much for me to be down for the count with this, as often as it crops up. Soon enough, I'll be done breastfeeding. I'm comfortable with this because we have an ample (ample) supply stored up in a couple of freezers, and I know he'll have enough milk to sustain him until at least his first birthday. However, it's the end of an era. This realization makes me incredibly sad.

We won't be having anymore children. With what we've been through, and how we know my body works (or doesn't work) in pregnancy, it would be playing with fire to end up pregnant again. Little Man is my last baby. While it's a decision I know as the only right one to make, it's still a difficult one, and still one that invokes incredibly strong emotion. As I wind down breastfeeding for my last baby, it ends a chapter for us. I am deeply saddened and incredibly discouraged by it all. 

That said, I couldn't be sad today when I saw there was no blanket of snow in town. I have a new friend I met a couple of weeks ago. She's the friend of a friend (I have a few of those...) and her daughter was life-flighted here from the other side of the state three weeks ago. Thanks to social media, I felt like I knew her, and asked if I could come visit in the hospital. Our first in-person meeting was in the PICU, but it might as well have been in one of our living rooms. We sat and visited for a couple of hours, catching up like we were long-lost friends. And maybe we are. We have a lot of similarities in our life experiences, and are certainly kindred spirits in those regards. I went there to meet her, encourage her, and pray over her daughter, but I was the one who left encouraged. When I prayed over her daughter, I had this incredible sense that Natalie knew more about God and Jesus than I ever would this side of heaven. I felt like she had an in. She knows. She already knows. It's hard to explain, but I couldn't shake it. It was incredible.

Saturday, while I was holed up at home, I got a message on Facebook from a complete stranger (to me), who happened to be a really good friend of Melissa's (Natalie's mama). She asked if I could help her orchestrate a surprise pedicure for Melissa, to get her out and about and boost her spirit a little bit. I, of course, was excited to help. I was taken completely aback, however, to learn that Melissa wasn't the only one getting pampered. This friend of hers wanted to treat me, as well. A stranger! Wanted to spoil me! I couldn't believe it. In my fresh-broken-fever-state, I did what I could to express my thanks and gratitude, and got everything lined up for today.

What's incredible to me, is how God uses people to show love. Not only was my friend being loved on immeasurably by her friend back home, but that love spilled over onto me as well. I get notes from people all the time with little snippets of encouragement. Little pushes to keep going. We have friends who have anonymously mailed us grocery store gift cards. We have friends who have ordered custom jamberry nails for me to remember Harlynn. We have friends who watch our children on last-minute calls, for no reimbursement, because they want to help us. We have friends who offer themselves up so I can stay home and rest and recover from mastitis. Again. We have strangers who lend a helping hand. We have people placed in our lives, whether for a moment or a span of time, who do nothing but love on us. All. The. Time.

And then I sit and pout because of decisions we have to make. And you know what? Even when I sit and pout, I get loved on. Just this morning, I got a message from one of my favorite people saying she thought she just needed to check in on me on this wintry day. I told her about my weekend battle with mastitis, and her reply was nothing but love and understanding. Even though I was pouting. 

Earlier today as I was driving around, I was listening to Charles Stanley on the radio. He was talking about friendships, and the importance of having a friend who will tell you (in love) what you need to hear, hold you accountable, and steer you back to truth in your thinking, and living. He then posed the question, "Do you have a friend who does that for you?" I could think of a few. He followed up with, "Are you that friend for someone else?" Gulp

I don't know what kind of a friend I am, and I'm sure I could be far better to almost everyone who is in my life. What I do know, however, is we are surrounded by people who love us immeasurably, unconditionally, and without bounds. 

I may be on a roller coaster ride still in my grief. I may pout because of what my life is, or has become, or never will be. I may struggle, daily, in being the person I want to be. But I do not lack in being loved on by others. 

And to all of you who are a part of that circle ~ I cannot thank you enough. Thank you for your love. Thank you for continuing to love me, love us, in our worst. In our darkest. In our best. In our brightest. Your reward is in heaven.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

November Rain

Remember the song? It's like the longest Guns 'n Roses song ever. It's not at all related to my post today, other than the title. Today is November 5th, and it's raining outside. Profound. It felt weird not to preempt my post with a {31 Days}! November 1st I had to nearly physically restrain myself from posting about nothing for the sake of posting something. I am so thankful for the 31-Day-Challenge, and that I was able to complete it, though. Tough as it was, it was worth every keystroke. 

Anyway, I'm thankful it's raining today. You've heard me talk before about my need for lots of sunshine, but I'm thankful it's raining because that means it isn't snowing. Not yet, anyway. As much as I feel like I'm ready for winter, I'm not. The cemetery shortened their hours at the end of October, as they do every year, and having three less hours during the evening to go visit Harlynn makes me feel so limited. Silly as it may seem, I don't like only having the hours of 8 to 5 to go see her. That said, I'm glad they close up at night to keep vandals at bay. Even still...what I wouldn't give sometimes to just pack up in the middle of the night and go sit at her site. 

No....more than that. What I wouldn't give to have her call out to me in the middle of the night, because she's had a bad dream. What I wouldn't give to groggily comfort her and lull her back to sleep. What I wouldn't give to crack open her door, tip toe in her room, and pull her covers back up over her to make sure she stays warm. What I wouldn't give to have her come barreling into our bed in the mornings. What I wouldn't give to watch her poke her big sister, and tackle her baby brother. No matter what I give, though, those things will never happen. So instead, I sit here thankful it's raining and not snowing, and her grave goes one more day without being covered by a blanket of white. 

I sit here thankful, because even though we didn't get to keep Harlynn, we're still able to keep the hope of seeing her again. I sit here thankful because there are things that have happened, and keep happening since losing her, that remind us of how loved we are - and are therefore an absolute reflection of how loved she is, every moment of every day. Not just by us. But by, and because of Him. 

There have been a lot of changes in our home over the last couple of weeks. I started working a few hours a week as a virtual assistant, which has given me a boost I didn't realize I needed. I wake up to an alarm every day instead of sleeping as long as possible and getting up when Little Man decides he's hungry. I start my day in the Bible instead of in a rush to get ready. I have a schedule and a routine, that so far I've been able to manage pretty decently. I cook actual meals for my family instead of throwing a frozen pizza in the oven as my culinary contribution. (Though, I still will be cooking frozen pizzas from time to time.) I'm feeling purposeful. It's been a while since I've felt purposeful.

Looking over these last 19 months, I don't think anyone could have convinced me I would be in this spot - emotionally, mentally, spiritually - after losing Harlynn. Feeling a sense of accomplishment, purpose, and having the reward of simply being productive, has carried me a lot further than I would have imagined. Having Little Man here to slobber on my face has not only made me feel closer to my husband and to Little Miss, but to Harlynn as well. Even though we'll forever have an empty chair at holiday meals and she will forever be missing from our presence, I feel a strange sense of completeness. She isn't here, but she is. We're missing her, but we aren't. I feel like I'm finding her every day, all over again, in everything I do. In every part of our family. 

I also feel like I have to type fast, because each time I pause to look out the window, I see flakes of white infiltrating their way into the rain. Just give me a few more days, snow. Just a few more days.

Today, I'll be thankful for the November rain. For one more day without cover on her grave site. And for the simple fact that life, as I know it, is still life.

Friday, October 31, 2014

{31 Days: Day 31} Back To Crazy

WE DID IT!! Picture me saying that in my excited nerd way. First of all, thank you to all you die-hards who read every single post of mine. You're as insane as I am, and I love you. Group hug!

Now that I'm not "challenged" to publish a blog post every day, I can get back to crazy. There have been things neglected in this time as I have purposely carved out time each day to write. There's laundry that needs washing, folding, and put away. I'm pretty good with the washing and folding part. It's the putting away that proves a lifetime struggle. There are floors that need cleaned, and I pray no one looks at them when they come over. Gracious me, what a mess. There is clutter that needs to be cleaned out. Clothes that need organized. Work space that needs a little face lift. Menus that need planned. And a very special Little Miss who has patiently allowed me time each day to hammer words out on a keyboard as she snuggles and holds me accountable to my time limit, who needs some Chutes and Ladders time.

The picture above was from our family photo night. Our photographer, the one and only Michelle Warren, told Little Miss to give Mommy a hug. Little Miss hugged very tightly and actually crunched my throat. It was uncomfortable, I made a face, and Michelle clicked the camera. I love it because everything about that picture is so true to life. The kids are adorable. Little Miss is being sweet and snuggly. Little Man is gnawing on his fingers. Always gnawing on his fingers. Harlynn is still a very present part of our lives. Brent is too suspicious to smile. And I am choking on love. Ha! I'm making a face, because I always make a face. Why do I always make a face?

Our life is crazy, and if you had told me ten years ago this is what my life would be, I probably would have flipped you the bird and told you how wrong you were. Thankfully, I've grown a lot in ten years, and I've stopped flipping people the bird and immediately launching in to why they're wrong. Now, though, I have an idea for another blog post. Oooh, day 32!! Not really...I'm so taking a break! But stay tuned, because it's coming. Anyway. Circling back. I never imagined this would be my life. Married to a rock-star-saint of a husband, giving birth to three children, only being able to keep two of them, living in North Dakota, and sorting out life as a bereaved mother. Never imagined.

There are good days, there are bad days, there are middle-of-the-road days, and there are extremes of all of them. All of them have their own element of crazy. I can tell you this, and it should come as no surprise: I am a mess. But in this mess, God has done some amazing work, and written some amazing stories. If you don't know Him, or if you aren't sure if you know Him like you think you should, let Him meet you in your crazy right now. Let Him help you sort it out. I can tell you I'd be a lot crazier without Him.

The other night, I was trying to hurry and get dinner ready before a hearing specialist made a home visit for Little Man. Little Miss had heard me singing "I Surrender All" earlier and had asked to hear the song. In searching for it on Spotify, it pulled up this song. As it played, Little Miss was dancing ballet underfoot as I was cooking. I set my pots and pans down, grabbed her hand, and danced along. Sometimes in the hustle and bustle, you just have to dance in the middle of cooking dinner and expecting company. They all can wait, but these moments are so fleeting. She won't always be four. She won't always want to dance with her mama. She won't always want to listen to some good ol' gospel music. Take advantage of the crazy moments. Don't let another moment without knowing Him pass you by. It's worth it. I promise.

Back to 31 Days List Post

Thursday, October 30, 2014

{31 Days: Day 30} My Cup Runneth Over

It's a frigid day outside. The wind cut right through me as I ventured from the car to the inside of the grocery store this afternoon. The trees lay bare after cutting ties with their foliage, and the leaves scatter across the ground looking for a new home that will prove warmer than the yellowing grass or the gray, sullen, sidewalks. It's the time of year where we remember the warmth that was, and await the subzero chill that will take up residence with us for the next several months. 

As the gloom of the gray sky hovers above, and as all nature has abandoned its beauty for the sake of survival, there is warmth in my soul. My cup runneth over.

Right now, Little Miss is sitting next to me sounding out words and reading on her own. Mostly. There's still a lot of, "Is this what it says?" and other verification taking place. Little Man is napping. Dinner is waiting to be made (turkey burgers with pesto and of my favorites!). It will be a good evening.

I could sit here and list off several ways God has used others to bless, care for, and provide for us in the recent weeks. As I've been between jobs and not bringing in income, nothing we've done works on paper, but somehow, God has made a way. He has used people in varying ways to bless us abundantly. Some in ways I'll never be able to repay. Some people I don't even know how to thank, because they've blessed us anonymously. All in ways I never expected. All in ways we needed at the exact moment we needed them. My cup runneth over.

I recently was paired with a client through my virtual assistant position, and will begin logging hours for work with them in a couple of weeks. I'm not replacing the income I once had, but we're making strides in getting to a more comfortable position for our family, and I'm still able to stay home. To those who question why I haven't thrown in the towel and just gone back to corporate America, let me tell you about Little Miss' prayer a few nights ago. She prayed, "...and thank you that Mommy gets to be home and spend time with me." She followed up later with, "and help me and Mommy to spend more time together." She's four. She's full of sass. And she loves her mama. My cup runneth over.

I'm working to find some sort of schedule and balance that allows me to get it all done. The play time with kids, the mothering, the being an amazing wife, the work, the dishes, the laundry, the me-time. I know I can do it. I just need the help of a big calendar and lots of markers to make it happen. I know it's supposed to happen. My cup runneth over.

As we head in to the holiday season, which will forever bear a burden of incompleteness for our family, I have to remember that my cup runneth over. I have to remember how we are loved and cherished, and how He has provided for us in ways we never imagined. A year ago, I may have heard only a rattle in my cup: the tink-tink of the few blessings I recognized. Today, I don't dare move my cup, for where it sits, it has caught an abundance of love and care. 

It's not always easy to recognize or remember how we've been blessed. It's an exhausting task at times, to pull back the curtain of grief and peer at anything other than missing Harlynn. It is important, though, to remember there is life beyond that curtain. I'll never take it down, and I'll use it to close myself off from the world around me from time to time, but I will also venture out and remember what lies beyond its hem. Even in my grief, my cup runneth over.

If you find yourself feeling the despair of an empty cup, come sit a while. Let me share with you. Let me bless you in whatever way I can. I may not be able to fill your cup, but He can. And until He does, I will pour into you as I have been poured into. My cup runneth over. Soon, yours will, too.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

{31 Days: Day 29} New Heights

This 31-day challenge has taught me a lot about writing, organizing my thoughts, creating things in a pinch, and most importantly: climbing to new heights!

The great thing about climbing, is the view gets better and better. You can't always see where you're headed, but when you turn around and look over all you've already conquered, it feels pretty good. And even when you walk through some pretty rough terrain, once you see it from higher up, it falls into place to make the "big-picture" a far more glorious sight.

When I was in my (very) early 20s, I was somehow in charge of the young-adult group at church. I had planned an overnight camping trip, followed by a hike up one of our local mountain paths. We ascended some 5,000+ feet and I thought I was going to die. First of all, I am one of the most out-of-shape people you've ever met in your life. In your life. I get winded just talking about exercise. It's pathetic. Here we were hiking up as a group, and I was breathing so hard it felt like my lungs were trying to escape out my ears. My heart was pounding somewhere above my head, and I was holding everyone back. EVERYONE. I wanted to stop for "snacks and hydration" breaks every 100 feet because I needed to catch my breath. I was trying to pass it off like I was doing fine, but I was doing horrible. Horrible! I promise you at least all of them were thinking, "Why was this her idea? Cause she really sucks at hiking."

We passed a few people on horseback, on their way down the mountain. When they heard we were planning on reaching the top, and we still had 21 switchbacks to navigate, they shook their heads and wished us luck. One said, "Without horses?" What in the world were we doing? Had I organized a group suicide in this camping trip? I wanted to jump on the back of one of the horses and tell everyone else, "Save yourselves! Ride!" but I couldn't even catch enough air to utter "help" to the horsemen. I was done in.

At one point, one of our group members asked me if I wanted to use her trekking poles. I said yes, thinking at the very least, I could run one through my temple when no one was looking, and put myself out of this misery. Interestingly enough, however, those trekking poles made a world of difference. I wasn't holding anyone up anymore, and I was keeping pace with the rest. All I needed was that little bit of support, and I was able to enjoy the rest of the ascent. It was still a tough climb for me, but I fared much better with a little help.

When we got to the top, after four hours of hiking, I remember feeling like I had just won the lottery. I had DONE it. And I had come so close - so many times - to giving up. Sticking it out and getting to the top of that mountain was an experience I won't soon forget. I remember putting both hands in the air and shouting, "WE DID IT!" like a total nerd, but I was an excited nerd. My lungs didn't explode, my heart didn't pound right out of my chest like I thought it would - I had done it. Even though I thought I couldn't, I did it. My technique was awful, but it got the job done. When we were standing at the top, looking over the switchbacks and valley we had come up from, I remember just soaking in the glorious view. It was amazing. Exhilarating. Profound.

We made it down the mountain in half the time it took us to go up. Going down was a lot easier. I was familiar with the trail, I knew what to expect, and I didn't have to climb. I just had to be gentle on my knees. I was out of breath most of the way down as well, but not because I was exerting myself; it was because my sister's ankles kept giving out and she would suddenly crumple to a little heap on the ground, and I couldn't stop laughing. Like those toys, where you push the bottom and they just collapse? That was her. I'm not the nicest sister in the world either, and even though she had encouraged me on the way up, I was the first to laugh at her for falling down. If you knew her history of weak ankles, though, you'd think it was kind of funny, too. Trust me. I'm not evil. Eventually she grew tired of being a spectacle for everyone and she went to the back of the pack. I offered her one of the trekking poles, and wouldn't you know it, she fared much better with a little help. No more stumbles. Smooth sailing the rest of the way.

Maybe the poles were magic. 

My point is this: when your path seems impossible, do not think you have to do it alone. Do not refuse help from those around you. Some of them are better equipped than you realize, and can give you the tools necessary to make it to the top. Or to find your way back. Whichever way you're headed. Don't give up before the victory materializes. The view, the rush, the shouting like a nerd - it's all worth it. Then, once you've conquered your journey, you can go forward to new heights. The world is waiting. Start climbing.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

{31 Days: Day 28} Popping In

I have 45 minutes left for today. I have a commitment to write every day this month. It's been a long and busy and event-filled day. I am full, but spent. Here goes.

A Blogging Haiku

Nothing comes to mind.
I write because I have to.
And now it's bedtime.

Monday, October 27, 2014

{31 Days: Day 27} Keep Your Appetite

Every time my son gets hungry, he starts to cry. Getting him fed isn't as easy a process as simply sticking a bottle in his mouth. Usually feeding time is also an indicator his diaper needs changed, so we take care of that first. Once everything is dry and comfy and my hands are clean, I search for a bib for him. Every single time, without fail, when I put the bib around his neck, he voraciously grabs it and sticks it in his mouth. He wiggles his eager, hungry head from side to side, trying desperately to taste and consume the bib. Every single time, I take it out of his mouth and struggle to get him to calm down enough to let me feed him.

As soon as the bib comes down, he shoves his hands in his mouth. He gnaws and slobbers all over them, and gets so upset when he realizes his hands aren't what he was after, either. Finally, after fighting, struggling, and him shedding tears, he's able to eat. He drinks his fill and sits back relaxed and satisfied.

Every. Single. Time.

Usually, when he sticks the bib in his mouth, I try to remind him that's not what he's after. The bib looks and feels nothing like his usual meal, yet he so eagerly tries to spoil his appetite with it. Same thing with his hands. Instead of letting me feed him, he gets too impatient, and tries to feed himself with whatever he can get in his mouth. Nutritional value is of no concern. He's blinded by hunger, and believes if he can just get something in his mouth, it will all be better.

It can be so frustrating trying to feed him. I have his food ready and waiting, yet I have to pull his self-imposed obstacles out of the way before he'll finally eat. 

It's an interesting parallel to my own life. How many times do I get so impatient, I try to fulfill my desires and longings with whatever I can get my hands on? Whatever happens to be nearby? Yet none of them will satisfy. How frustrated must God be when all He's trying to do is feed me, and I'm crying and blocking my heart?

Don't waste a chance to savor. Don't reach for junk to fill you up when a wholesome feast awaits. Even nibbling before it's time to eat can spoil the entire meal being prepared for you. Take time in choosing what to feed your soul. The wait will be worthwhile, and your hunger will be exponentially rewarded. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

{31 Days: Day 26} Hitting the Wall

Yesterday I went to visit a new friend. She was a mutual friend of one of my life-line's through losing Harlynn. She's not from here, but her daughter came up against some serious health issues and was life-flighted to our local hospital recently. I went to pray. I went to give hugs. I went to be there. The funny thing is, even though I went to offer my support, I was the one who left encouraged. I was the one who felt supported. (Does that mean I suck at encouraging? I'm not sure...)

In our discussion, which ranged from tears to laughter and everything in between, I was reminded of those first moments, those first days, in sorting through my grief when we lost Harlynn. I was reminded of how I felt like I was walking around as a gashed, gaping, bleeding heart. No one wanted my stains on their hands. I felt isolated. I felt shunned. I holed myself up. "That's the woman whose baby died." It was if their thoughts were audible to me. I was so tired of feeling that way. I built a wall around my world. The difference, though, was when I "hit the wall" it wasn't because I had nowhere to go - it was because it was the only thing in my life I felt could take my beatings. 

So many times I wanted to call someone and say, "Come sit with me while I cry." or call them and say, "I'm just going to yell, cry, and then hang up." Though I wanted to do that, I never followed through. I thought, "Who would take that call?" or "By the time they came over, I'd be over my emotional slump and probably not want anyone here anymore after all." It was such a lonely, longing place. I know there were several friends who always offered, "Just call and cry!" and I smiled and said "Okay" but on the inside I was thinking, "Who wants to be burdened by those calls?" I knew no one would know what to do or say, and I also knew even if I said "I don't need you to do or say anything." they would still try. Then I would be annoyed or grieved more than I already was. Grief and mourning is such a tricky place. Such a finite line, yet vast valley to navigate. So I would hit the wall. 

As I sat there visiting yesterday, we talked about our shared and similar experiences. We talked about the good intentions of others. We talked about the blessings that were above and beyond what we ever anticipated. We talked about favorite tv shows. We talked about life. We talked about nothing and about everything. 

It made me want to talk to you - the one reading this who may have been sent my link because you lost your baby. Don't compare your journey right now, to where I am in mine. If you've just said goodbye to your precious child, don't read my recent writings and think "She has so much faith. She's so much better able to handle this than I am." Go back to my beginning. Read along with me from there. Don't let these sentences today deter you from where you are right now. It's been 18 months for me - and while I still struggle daily with the fact my daughter is gone - I'm looking through a different pair of lenses than what I had 18 months ago. Don't read my words and think this is where you need to be, or what you need to feel, or how you need to cope. Your mind and your heart will guide you to the exact right place, through the exact right process, as you experience it. Go ahead and hit your wall. 

I remember so many people sent me links and stories and articles and all I could think was "There is no way I can be as 'together' as this parent." At that point in my grief, I couldn't. I still can't hold a candle to most of them, but I'm in a completely different spot from where I was in April of last year. Or even in December of last year. 

It doesn't get better. It does get different. Your perception, your perspective - it will change as each new day dawns. Don't be discouraged with your discouragement. Don't be put off by the words or appearances of others in the journey. You'll get to where you need to be, in the time you need to take. Go ahead and hit your wall. 

There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about or speak the name of my baby girl. My Harlynn. I still cry, I still choke up, I still ache. But I'm not still in the same frame-of-heart as I was. 

There will come a day when you reach a point, look back, and think, "Wow. I made it through that. Even that." And you'll sit with a new friend. You'll chat, you'll cry, you'll laugh, and you'll hug and know no matter what - your life and your journey haven't been for naught. You will find blessings in the billows. You will find strength in the storms. You will find answers in the asking. But it doesn't have to be today. Pace yourself. Allow yourself to feel everything you need to feel in all the time you need to take. Go ahead and hit your wall. 

There will come a day when you can breathe again. Let that day come to you. Don't rush to make it happen. 

And if you need to call me just to cry, yell, and hang up - - I'll answer. I'll let you. I'll understand.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

{31 Days: Day 25} Let's Talk About Love

How many of you, after reading today's title, have the Celine Dion song stuck in your head? I know. Me too. You're welcome. 

Ugh, but now I can't get it out of my head, and I really need to focus on writing, because this post has been weighing heavy on my heart. For months. I've not been quite sure how to articulate it - mostly because I hate confrontation, and this could stir controversy, so I've been avoiding it. Lately, though, my prayer has been to know when God is speaking, and to be obedient when I hear Him, so...there's this whole conviction thing. 

I hope, if you're reading this post right now, you know me. Like, really know me. And I hope, you can picture me sitting across the table from you, with my gigantic vanilla latte from Northstar Coffee (the best in Fargo, in my humble latte-connoisseur opinion), and you can imagine my voice, and insert the intentions of my heart, and see the weird faces I'm making as I speak because I want to make sure I'm being understood for exactly what I'm saying. Please, remember who it is who's writing this. It's me. It's Val. I am no scholar, I am no activist, I am no opinion pusher (except in the way of lattes). I just want to get to the truth, and protect others against believing falsities. 

I tend to rile easily (surprise) and one thing that is sure to get me riled up within seconds, is hearing Christians be slammed because we're "not loving" or because we're "judging." I've heard, "I'm not a Christian, but what I do know about Christians, is they're supposed to love, and what they're doing isn't loving!" I hear it all. the. time. On TV. Online. In public. In writing. It's everywhere. Non-Christians have decided to proclaim authority over the definition, action, and acceptable display of love. And guess what, believers? We're falling entirely short of their standards. Anytime we express Biblical insight, we're not loving someone. So I get riled up. Their definition of love has somehow superseded the scriptural explanation, and because we are not all-encompasing-accepting, we are not loving. Because we have moral objections against ideas, practices, and choices others make, we are unloving. Because we not only disagree with them, but defend our beliefs, we are judgmental, unloving hypocrites who are intolerant bigots. Have I summed it up accurately enough? 

Here's the thing. That is wrong, wrong, wrong. Off-base. Completely untrue. And we as believers are, as a result, walking a slippery slope in the name of trying to be known as "loving". 

Seriously, I have a knot in my stomach typing this, but I have to keep going. 

1 Corinthians 13:4-7  "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

John 15:13 "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends."

Mark 12:29-31 "'The most important one,' answered Jesus, 'is this: 'Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

Let me unpack these - quickly and concisely enough to make my case.

To love as a Christian is called to love, you must first love the Lord your God with all of you. Every ounce of your soul and being. Second, love your neighbor as yourself. Do you hold yourself accountable? Do you make choices between right and wrong? Do you care for your needs? Love others in the same way. When your child runs into the street, do you not run after them in full-out panic, to ensure their safety and protection? Would you not do everything in your power to keep them from harm, from wrong, from making unsound decisions? And why is that? Because you love them. If your child comes to you and says, "I'm going to play in the street." and you just smile, nod, and "accept" that from them, and let them play in the street, YOU WOULD BE INSANE! But in the world's eye, that is how we are supposed to love others. We can't disagree, we can't protect, and we can't argue. No matter how dangerous the choices they're making may be, they consider us unloving if we at all try to minister to their mind. To their heart.

No!! We minister out of love! We discipline our children to protect them and keep them safe. God forbid anything happen to anymore of my kids ever, but have no doubt I'm going to sacrifice life and limb to the ends of the earth and back again to protect my kids, because I love them! As I should do for the soul of any other person God put on this earth. I don't disagree or reject or take an opposing stand out of spite. It's not because I'm judgy. It's not because I'm holier-than-thou. It's not because I'm self-righteous. It's because God gave me a heart to love them and fight for their soul, and because I do not hold a world-view of love.

When someone does, says, acts, whatever it is - completely against your knowledge and heart as a Christian - do not turn a blind eye "for the sake of love". That is not loving. That is shameless negligence. They are right in saying we, as Christians, are called to love. They are not right in their perception of what that love is, or should look like.

Love people enough to stand up for what's right. Love your God enough to fight for His people. Love yourself enough to equip yourself with truth, and to stand firm in it. Do not forget what love is. Do not forget how to love. Do not forget the greatest command.

Back to 31 Days List Post