{December 17} Advent: Lifting up the Little


Oh how I dread this day now, the day my son’s heart stopped beating. Or at least the day we confirmed it by ultrasound. I actually think it stopped several hours before at a Christmas party I was at…playing the piano singing Away in a Manger – that last verse always gets me. But that year it was a Saturday night…and I couldn’t get in to see my (amazing) doctor until first thing Monday.

(On a different note, this was the 3rd baby we had lost. And all three were lost on weekends. When I was forced to go through a Sunday of waiting-yet-knowing…sometimes those waiting valleys become some of the most life changing days of your life. But also some of the darkest.)

It’s a day that can fill with so many haunting images…

Sorry I’m rambling.

That day. Oddly I felt at peace that day. The entire ordeal was finally almost over. We had almost made it to the finish line of the insurmountable 220 day marathon. There was a sense of relief. We felt like a “normal” was so close to us…we even decided to go to the mall after that appointment. No reason except to be around people. Normal people doing normal Christmas shopping sorta things.

And while I sat there at the top of the stairs while Chris was getting us Starbucks drinks, feeling mild contractions beginning to gear up in preparation for my body’s natural reaction to the end of a pregnancy, I wanted to scream out to everyone what was going on.

I thought how many times there are normal looking people all around me who have giant problems and I have no idea.


And here we are two years later.  So many come here looking for a story similar to their own. In fact today, even, today, I was contacted by a young mother who had her devastating confirmation ultrasound today. Totally unexpected. She was planning her big facebook announcement to go live after the ultrasound.

There will be no announcement.

Women come here and read through Kyle’s story from the very beginning and skip to the end to see how someone is faring a year, or two out. They are looking for hope.

This post is for them.

Two years later on this day, my heart hurts. My body aches. My arms feel just as empty. Not a day goes by I don’t think about him. Every two year old little boy catches my eye. Sometimes I shed a few tears. Mostly I smile, though. I picture my head-full-of-dark hair boy running around Heaven doing those exact things.

Today Kami caught me crying over a few of Kyle’s things. She said, “It’s OK, mommy. Kyle is having a great birthday in Heaven. He’s probably making a mess like boys do. But don’t worry. God will clean it up.”


Now, two years later, the tears don’t come as easily or as heavy. I’m a little more predictable than I was before. I know what my triggers are.

Grief is such a process. And wherever you are on that road, know that each day gets just a little easier than the day before. But you can’t look at it in day by day progress or it’ll seem too small. Like a little one’s growth. You have to look at it in the sense of months or from one year to the next.

God made our emotions the way they are. Grief is a part of those emotions and it can make up who we are. You will heal eventually, but everyone’s time table is different. A slower time table doesn’t make you any less of a woman, a mom, or a spiritual person. Neither does a quick healing schedule.

I grew up in a “get over it” culture where even childhood ailments and hurts were made light of.  Part of that was my dad’s innate nature to be able to make a (seriously funny!) joke about everything. He really was good at it. And kept many serious moments from being too overwhelming for us kids growing up. However, I think I was shielded a bit from what real life hurt looks like. So when I experienced it, it was rather a shock to my system.


I think I’m rambling again. This one won’t make a guest post anywhere. :)

Can I say, though…this is my “secret”. My life isn’t perfect. My kids don’t make breakfast for me everyday and behave perfectly in grocery stores. My house right now is a wreck because I’ve been rather down today…and unable to do many things considered productive. (Although, my girls all afternoon practiced gymnastics routines by copying videos online…and now consider themselves ready for the Olympics…so I consider that PE for the rest of the year.)

You have to be able look at the good. I have to-when I can. I find the good things that point me back to my core beliefs. That God is in control, yes. But that He’s also good. That’s the one I have a hard time with often. When I separate those two vitally important parts of who God is, I crash hard.

Sometimes the good is small things – like, Trader Joes is offering samples of their dark chocolate caramels for free and everyone can take two and my girls are with me but they don’t like dark chocolate so I get, like, six pieces of Heavenly goodness for free. Maybe that’s actually a big thing. :)


Sometimes it’s big things – like someone sends me a message about how Kyle’s video has impacted their life. Or their pregnancy crisis center. Or their prenatal comfort care organzation. Or an entire Southeastern region of OBGYN’s at a conference. Or the doctor and nurse attendees at the March of Dimes annual conference.

I have to look at the good things. Think about them. Write them down even. Take photos of them. (I have almost 3,000 photos on Instagram chronicling these gifts now.)

Because the bad days will come and when they do you need to have some good memories to look back on to hold you over until the dark clouds pass. And they will pass.


Here’s today’s goodnesses:




Kami rocked her Kyle bear all morning long with one of his blankets (made by my Grandmother) along with a toy someone gave Kyle along the way.




And she wasn’t going to let his birthday-into-heaven-day go by without a celebration treat. Notice the blue frosting cookie on top of the stack. <3


Being away from his grave today and this week has proven to be particularly difficult. Images like this reminding me of finding joy in the hard cold days really brings smiles.


{December 5} Advent: “Yeah, that happens.”


So my girls. Are so often so perfectly precious.

And they love babies. If you have a baby, and they touch it, I’m sorry. Sorta. I’ll stop them if they’re sick. But thankfully they are also so often perfectly well. So I don’t stop them. They know the “only touch the baby’s head or toes” rule, but sometimes they forget. Thankfully, most mamas, especially here in the city, are pretty open to such affection. They ooooo! and aaaaaahhh! with the most girlified voices you’ve ever heard. And usually one of them will say something like,


“We had a baby brother, but he’s in Heaven now. You’re baby is so cute though.”

I always cringe. Over to the side like I usually am. I leave all the touching to the girls. I cringe – not because they’re talking about Kyle, but because I feel bad for the poor mama who was just told that as nonchalantly as they might have been told “your baby has ten toes!”.

Almost always, the mama stares in unbelief. Sometimes she’ll say something to the girls – understandably stuttering to find the right words. Every reaction like that I appreciate and hold dear. Those mamas let themselves into the hurt for such a brief moment and imagine what they’re holding suddenly not being there.

This is when, if the mama hasn’t walked away yet, I jump in with an age guess. And somehow I have this keen awareness of a child’s age – I haven’t been wrong on a single guess since Kyle. Down to the months. I could probably make a pile of cash if there were such “guess-your-age” booths for children at a carnival. It’s because I’m always, whether I realize it or not, guessing children’s ages. Lining them up to where Kyle would be…desperately trying to picture him now and what he looks like in Heaven.

But that’s just normal I think for a mama with a baby there and not here.

I was asked to attend and play the piano for a funeral – by a friend who knew a friend who knew an elderly marathon runner man who died a week ago. I was happy to do it. Funerals are oddly comforting to me – all that talk about Heaven.

After the funeral, a lady came into a little side room to feed her baby. My girls had their normal gushy reaction. I asked, “So, is he two months old?”

She answered, “Yes! He just turned 2 months last week.”

One of the girls said, “We have a baby brother too. He almost lived but now he’s in Heaven.”

I cringed.

Then, without skipping a beat, the woman said, “Yeah. That happens.”


There are so many things that have been said to me regarding our little Kyle’s birth, my choice to make it such a public story, my choices in his birth plan….most of them I don’t mind really. People don’t understand such things unless they’ve been there. I know I certainly didn’t. I’ve said enough stupid things in my lifetime – I can’t hold such words against anyone else, truly. Life is too short.

But you know, this comment just really rubbed me the wrong way.

No. It doesn’t *just happen*. I thought, screaming in my own head.

And the anger and hurt and longing for what we’ve lost felt so real all over again like it did almost two years ago.

I felt like I was sinking again.

The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke His heart. And the Lord said, ‘I will wipe this human race I have created from the face of the earth. Yes, and I will destroy every living thing – all the people, the large animals, the small animals that scurry along the ground, and even the birds of the sky, I am sorry I ever made them.’ But Noah found favor with the Lord.

~ Genesis 6:5-8

His heart was broken.

“And God whispers close to us in a hurting world. A mother whose heart is bound to her child’s? That doesn’t compare to how your Father’s heart is bound to you…

It’s the quantum physics of God: one broken heart always breaks God’s heart in two. 

God’s heart breaks. Breaks in two – to let us into the ark of His love.”  ~Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift

When I remember that hurt – that God hurts with me. Every time I hurt. Just like my heart hurts when my girls’ heart do, I know I’m not alone. And another day can happen. Being blessed by God doesn’t mean that hurt and pain and loss disappears. It means that you aren’t going through that flood alone. And that there is Someone beside you each step you have to take.

“Every flood of stress is an invitation to get into the ark of our Savior.

Every flood of trouble remakes the topography of our souls – making us better or bitter.

Every trouble is a flood, and we can either rise up or sink down. And getting our days all into the ark of Christ always lets us rise.” ~ Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift



{December 3} Advent: Why are you hiding?



The woman…saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.

When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

~ Genesis 3:6-9


Where am I. That question has come to my mind several times in the past two years. The wandering about in sorrow and loss and wondering what is real and what isn’t. Who God is and Who He isn’t. I always came to some sort of answer – they weren’t always the “right” ones. In fact, some of my answers were so against the mainstream things I’d always been taught they were only secretly breathed to some of my dearest friends.

But I learned that while I was searching for God and His answers and His hand and His comfort and His peace and His love….He was already searching for me. When I turned to Him, He was already looking at me. Lovingly, eagerly.

God is searching for our hearts. He wants a relationship with us. He doesn’t give up on us. His love never fails. His searching never fails.

Your God looks for you when you’re feeling lost, and your God calls for you when you feel cast aside. He doesn’t run down the rebel. He doesn’t strike out the sinner. He doesn’t flog the failure…

And that moment when you heart turns to His heart – already turned to you?

The Fall turns into a falling into His everlasting arms.

~ Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift


{December 2} Advent: You were made in God’s image



In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.


Then God said, “Let there be light.” And there was light. And God saw that the lights was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.”…DSC_0067

God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”

So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

~ Genesis 1:1-5, 26-27


You know what gets me? That the God who made all of this. The giant universe. The big skies. The faraway stars. The tiny cherries. That God who brought all those things into existence with mere words – He is the one who joined together all of Him in love to make people. “Let us make man into our image…” Like, we were special. Unique. And all that love was funneled into our very existence.


“The three persons of the Trinity — Father God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit — gathered close together to imagine you. And God in three persons, uncontainable affection, knelt down and kissed warm life into you with the breath of His love…No matter your story before, this is your beginning now: you were formed by Love…for love.

“Christmas begins here. The Christmas story, this love story — the whole blue marble of the world spinning right now on the Cross-beam axis of Love. ”  ~ Ann Voskamp




What does this sort of love mean to you?



Thanks for joining me for Advent this year. Jump here to catch up on Day 1. Or just stay here and follow along. I’m happy to have you. Whatever you do – don’t think it’s too late. 25 days is good. But so is 24. Or 14. So come on this journey. Live this Christmas.

{ A few links to get your start }

>> DIY for making your own salt dough spiral – We do this in about 20 minutes – or 20 Christmas carols. <<
>> Advent book for you – my favorite study for Christmas <<
>> Free reading plan for the Jesus Storybook Bible for littles. >>
>> The book we are using for advent this year for our whole family. Big pictures. Big truths. <<

{December 1} Advent: Out of the dead comes something alive.


It’s a little branch, but it’s alive.

Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot -

yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.

And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him -

the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,

the Spirit of counsel and might,

the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord….

In that day, the heir to David’s throne

will be a banner of salvation in all the world.

The nations will rally to him.

and the land where he lives will be a glorious place.

~ Isaiah 11:1-2, 10

Do you know what my kids do with stumps? Stand on them.

That’s all they’re good for it seems. Lifting others up. Helping others be taller. But never taking time to grow itself. 0011_IMG_8435

I met a girl the other day. Ringing a bell for the Salvation Army in front of a nearby grocery store. All I had to give Kami was a crumpled up dollar bill. Kami asked what she was ringing the bell for. “I’m helping people buy food at Christmas.” Kami peeked into the bucket.

“You don’t have berry much money in der.”

She didn’t. Now, the season has just gotten started.

“Would you like to ring the bell?” she asked Kami.

She eagerly agreed. And loudly she rang that bell. A few other people stopped by the bucket. Many walked waaaaaay around it though.

“I appreciate you.” I (should have) told her.

I wonder if that woman felt like she was rather stump-y.  But that she was working hard to dig roots in hard dirt and as Kami pointed out, she didn’t have much growth to show for it. 0009_IMG_8417

Maybe your stump is your entire life-bucket. It feels unfair, unjust, unloving.

Maybe your Christmas seems rather dead and lifeless. A lifetime of memories with no energy to make new ones. Or even keep the old ones going. Maybe some of your family have been cut off from life. That makes Christmas more of a curse on the calendar than something exciting to watch for.

Let me tell you something though.

The tinsel. The lights sparkling. The reds and greens. The bells. They’re all a quiet little chorus right now singing softly – Jesus is coming

He is the reason we can celebrate this season. Christmas isn’t a tree. It isn’t even making memories. It isn’t gifts or decorations or a twinkling yard.

It doesn’t have to be big. Simple is how He came anyway. A little baby with almost nothing in the middle of a cold hard cave.

A little live branch in the middle of a dead cold hard stump.


One candle can work as well as 25.

A tree branch cut out of the yard can hold handwritten verses or some homemade ornaments.

You can celebrate quietly every night. Or every Sunday. Or whenever you get a moment to let God’s Spirit breathe newness into that old stump-life of yours.

But you know something? Out of that dead, lifeless stump a marvelous thing happened. A new branch grew. And this new branch brought forth so much life and freedom.

Watch for it friends. You may feel like a stump. Forgotten, unloved. Condemned, misunderstood.

Don’t be afraid to sit still.  That’s when the real life happens. That’s when you’ll hear it. Jesus is coming…

Wait for it. Something is coming. It seems small now. Just a small branch coming in a quiet whisper. But it will grow and it will be so big and loud you won’t be able to miss it.

Jesus is coming…



Join me every night around this time. Grab something to drink. Lean your kids in close with your own Bible or advent book. Maybe light a candle or many. There’s no right way or wrong way. Just take a few moments and focus on the life of the season. The real reason we are all here. The reason I can make it through Decembers. Merry Christmas. It can absolutely be merry.


Join me for Advent? {links to a simple Christmas}




I remember not knowing what “advent” was a few years ago. I always knew the “true meaning of Christmas”. I didn’t need that. Besides – “isn’t it a Catholic thing?”

photo 4

Then I had a son. A son who was here only to teach me the truth about life in the dark of death. And when we lost him in December two years ago, I knew Christmas would never be the same. And it isn’t. We still have gifts for the girls. We have a tree. We get excited at the beautiful displays of reds and greens and lights and sparkles. We hope for snow on Christmas Eve. {We are even more hopeful this year. :)}


photo 3

But the month is just full of memories of the lasts. The last ultrasound. The last kick. The last maternity sweater I bought for a Christmas party…and had the intuition to not remove the tags. These thoughts would overwhelm me in a sea of sorry.


This advent thing keeps me from drowning. Because there’s another boy who came to earth. For the purpose of teaching us about life in the dark of His death. Did Mary know that He would live a different kind of life? A shortened one that was meant to reach far more than any one person usually reaches in a long one?


photo 1

Everything is whispering softly the truth – “Jesus is coming.” I want to be still and hear it. I want to be focused and see it. I don’t want to sink this Christmas. I want to stand straight and tall and smile.

Join me. Every night around 7 PM Philly time. Make it big or small. Make an advent spiral out of simple things, flour, water, salt, or just light a candle by your computer. Sit by the fire, or the tree, or that candle - light.  Think about the Light of the world and let it brighten and slow and lift your holiday to something higher and more peaceful and full of sparkle.
{ A few links to get your started }

>> DIY for making your own salt dough spiral – We do this in about an hour – or 20 Christmas carols. <<
>> Advent book for you – my favorite study for Christmas << and for you, for today, a special deal? Only $8.39 if you use code HOLIDAY30?
>> Free reading plan for the Jesus Storybook Bible for littles. >>
>> The book we are using for advent this year for our whole family. Big pictures. Big truths. Only $10.49 in you use code HOLIDAY30!>>

{Cranberry Apple Cornbread Stuffing} with sausage




So I’ve been a little nervous about the holidays for several reasons. But sometimes my memories of childhood Thanksgiving dinners just overtake me with happy inside I can’t stand it. One of my memories is Thanksgiving at my grandparent’s house. My dad’s mom had four boys. This alone makes her a saintly creature. Each of her boys has wives and kids – and my cousins were everywhere! Second cousins and great aunts and uncles and in laws of the in laws would come. I’d always try to figure out who went with who as they came inside…but I usually couldn’t get it all down in time for the meal. It was such a happy time for all of us to walk up that big hilled driveway through the garage and pass the “A Fisherman and the Catch of His Life lives here” sign and through the door-that-was-always-unlocked. No one ever used the front door. Unless we were in the middle of a giant game of chase and needed an escape route. And if that house was ever locked, we could find the key by feeling around in the open brick wall on the other side of the garage. If we could squeeze ourselves around Grandpa’s truck.

We’d all squeeze into that house. And the love and laughs (there were tons of those!) would overflow right back out. There was a kids table. Usually in the kitchen (with the hard floor). There was a grownup table – usually two big plastic tables smushed together – brought in from somewhere – the attic or the basement workshop maybe?

There was never enough room for all the food. In the oven. Much less the table. The turkey would take up all the space in that small oven but of course all my aunts brought in their own things. My mom always brought in a hash brown casserole. And yeast rolls. Usually tensions would rise in that hot hot kitchen when my mom showed up with her rolls. Because that’s when the space ran out. But somehow everyone always forgot about those rolls every year. So, inevitably, all the food would be out on the counter (sometimes there was also fried chicken from somewhere?) – and my mom was somewhere in the living room saying “we’re just waitin’ on the bread!” Except no one was waitin’ on nothin’.

My Grandma had a dessert table. Always two things – pecan pie. And pumpkin. They were in the dining room away from the rest of the food. And Grandpa had a secret appetizer dessert course stashed in a cabinet – white chocolate red and green ball covered sprinkled cookies. When there’s so many people squished in one house, there isn’t much room for one busy mama or aunt or grandma or whoever-else-was-there to notice us kids taking those cookies. By the handfuls. Grandpa usually knew though. Which is why he’d hold the bucket in the living room in his chair.  If you could endure a few lighthearted jokes, and a few kisses, you could manage to stave off the hunger pains until those rolls finished.


My grandma and grandpa with their four boys. My dad is the one on the bottom right.


Then my grandma would yell over the loud chatter – “Ricky! Ricky! Pray for us son.” My dad always got picked! Well, sometimes one of my other uncles. But usually my dad. I used to think it was because he went to church the most of all the uncles. It was probably just because he was the oldest. It was the one quiet moment of the day. Then the noise levels would kick back in and everyone would talk about who took all the dark meat, who made those rolls again? Whether Grandpa spiked his ambrosia or not, and which of the four brothers was gonna walk away with the most $$ for Christmas this year.

That’s what I think of when I think Thanksgiving. I miss this more than any of my childhood memories. I’ve learned the hard way that my kids won’t have the same sort of memories with our living so far from family so often. So we make our own. And I’m learning that their memories are becoming just as important as mine are to me, even though they aren’t the same.

This year, in the midst of another holiday season, I’m thankful for memories. Happy ones.

Well, except for Grandma’s stuffing. I never liked that. (What kid does?) It was probably amazing and I just didn’t appreciate it.

Truth be told, I came up with my own stuffing recipe.  So, now if my grandparents were still alive. And we all gathered under that roof once more. I’d bring the stuffing. And this is the recipe I’d make.



cranberry apple stuffing

I make up a quick batch of cornbread. I have my own recipe I use to make it from scratch, but the sweetness and ease of Jiffy makes this just the best.


While the cornbread is cooking (unless you’ve made it ahead of time!), cube two loaves of bakery bought bread. I like to use French and Ciabatta.



I like to bake it in the oven for 15 minutes at 425 degrees. To get it nice and dry and toasty. (So it’ll hold all the yumminess that’s about to be poured on top of it!)



Meanwhile, cut up your other ingredients. Two large apples, and one large onion.



Then while those are sitting on the counter, I cook up a pound of sausage. This is so so yummy. Usually somewhere during this sausage cooking my bread has finished toasting so I can take it out to cool.


Once the sausage is finished cooking, I’ll drain it and remove it from the pan to set aside, then add the chopped apples and onions. Cook them on low heat until the apples are a tad mushy and the onions are translucent.



Then I add my spices. I added 1 Tbsp of Basil and 1 Tbsp of Marjoram. But really any two of your favorite spices would work well together in this. I also tasted this and salted as necessary. Remember to season well because you’re about to add this to a lot of bland bread!


Add your toasted bread crumbs to a (very) large mixing bowl. Don’t forget your cornbread! Add that in there too!



Right on top of that bread, I add the sausage, the apple and onion mixture, and one cup of dried cranberries.


Then I add about 2 cups of chicken broth. And mix it gently but firmly. The cornbread will become pretty crumbly, but the other cubes of bread will hold their shape pretty well.


At this point, I’ll taste it a bit because I’m so hungry and it smells so amazing and it tastes out of this world!  to check the seasonings. Then pour it into a 9×13 pan and stack it up high and pop it in the oven at 350 for about 20 minutes. Or until the top of it looks brown and toasty.


The apples and onion blend into the bread to make this deliciously sweet bread and the salty sausage cuts that sweet and takes it over the edge. You have to try this. You’ll be so glad you did it. And I promise it’ll be such a notch above anything store bought! Keep making those memories, though, storebought stuffing or not. They are oh so very important.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!!


(And for those of you who think my kitchen is neat like this for all these pictures. May I step back a few steps and show you what it really looks like right now? Keep cooking – even in the mess, girls. It’s all worth it.)



I mean really. I was making stuffing. So why did I need two things of sugar on my counter? Maybe because I’m thinking that bag will fall off?