Transplant

IMG_8560.JPGI’m currently sitting on our bed (*ahem* air mattress) in our apartment in Newark, DE. Yes, Delaware. That little slice of peninsula between New Jersey and Maryland, sandwiched between Pennsylvania (“The PA” as it’s referred to around here) and Virginia. You didn’t know where it was, either? Totally a legitimate answer.

But we’re here, nonetheless, and we have been for 3.5 weeks now. Transplanted. We didn’t come to vacate our lives, but to transfer them here for a season. Christopher is three weeks into the first of two summers for his graduate program at the University of Delaware. We left Colorado on June 20 and drove for three days. We spent our tenth anniversary (June 23) at the South Philadelphia IKEA and the local Target trying to find some basic furniture and other items to help our unfurnished apartment seem less barren. It has been an adjustment, certainly, but also a chance to do something different – to have a sabbatical season, of sorts, for our little family.

I have always wanted to live on the East Coast. Something about it has always resonated deeply with me: The trees, brick buildings, ivy-covered homes, cobbled streets, the ability to live in places that are close walking distance to nearly everything you need.

So, the reality is that I have dearly loved being here. It has been a joy to see Chris have the chance to be challenged intellectually, to learn new things, and it has satisfied that deep longing I’ve always had to live here. Our brothers have both gone off with their families to other places, to have grand adventures and build their homes in faraway cities, but we’ve always stayed close to our parents – and we do not regret that. We somehow get to have our own grand adventure these two summers and, in the end, still come home to the people and the places we love best.

Most days, P and I walk Chris to class along quiet residential streets with beautiful homes. Chris has class all day, every day, during the week, but his weekends are free. We have been choosing our own adventures, visiting DuPont landmarks (Longwood Gardens, Winterthur), some historical sites (Fort Delaware, Historic New Castle), the beaches, and making quick friends with the UDel campus and various local eateries. There’s a park only a few minutes’ walk down the trail from us. The trees and the flowers are all in bloom. The campus is lovely.

The whole experience has stirred up in me the desire to write again, which (obviously) hasn’t happened in a very long time (and was very much unexpected, if I’m honest – though I did have intentions to make myself start writing again while I was here).

But, oh my, I did not realize how hard it would also be to be here.

I haven’t been away from home this long ever (4 weeks), even when I was a summer camp counselor while in college (never longer than 3 weeks at a time). I haven’t lived out of state since I was 3, before we moved to Colorado as a family from Indiana (and I don’t remember living in Indiana, so perhaps that doesn’t count).

Our apartment feels a lot like a residence hall: Basic, aging, not taken care of well. We go in and out; we do our laundry in the basement (For $3.50 a load! When did that happen?!); we cook what we can using a hot plate (for whatever reason, it never occurred to us just to buy a cheap microwave?); we hope the A/C unit in the window can keep up on the worst of the hot, muggy days; and essentially the entirety of my life (work, eating, entertainment, sleep) all takes place in the same room (the second bedroom is too warm to sleep in, so we moved our bed to the living area).

I, the eternal introvert, miss my friends and our weekly summer backyard get-togethers with some of those friends and neighbors. I miss our church family. I miss our nice, clean house with central air and our fully stocked and working kitchen. I miss being able to open the window and have it make a difference. I miss our couches and my office and floors that I don’t worry about falling through (our apartment has some serious subfloor issues). I miss having a bathtub where I’m not afraid to bathe our kiddo. I miss having a dedicated playroom.

But most of these are just things in the end, aren’t they? (Naturally people are not things.) It’s fine to miss them – understandable, even – but the reality is that this is enough for the season. Not ideal, but enough. I remember saying before we left how I wanted to know what I could live without because we have the blessing of having so much. Now I know we can live with very little. I’m not always content with very little, mind, but it is enough.

And it seems so strange to think that, one week from today, we will be packed into our car and on the second leg of our drive back westward. So many long days while we’ve been here and, yet, such a short season when all has come to an end.

If you follow both Chris and me on Instagram, you’ve probably been keeping up with our adventures; if not, however, you can look at the #ckptakedelaware tag for a collection of images from our travels this summer (you’ll have to follow me @akatereynolds, since my account is private — Christopher’s is public, @cmrey).

CURRENTLY READING
Anne of Green Gables (again)
The Boxcar Children books
Slowly working through (and loving) Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

 

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The dates we don’t mark on the calendar

Today is July 14. If you look at my personal calendar, it looks like any other day. There are no special events written in, no reminders beyond work tasks and a few personal notes.

I don’t need a reminder for July 14. It isn’t a date I mark on the calendar.

Three years ago today, we were informed by our (very kind, very human) doctor at an ultrasound that I had miscarried (again). It broke me in a very powerful way. I spent some time this morning thinking about it, weeping over it. My heart still aches for the babies I’ve never held, never named. It still affects me in a very real, very tangible way; perhaps moreso because I now have the distinct pleasure of being called “Mama” by this guy:

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This is Paul, my son. And, really, there are no words for my heart toward this little guy. I don’t need to put November 2 on the calendar, but I do. It’s a date to mark, to celebrate God’s kindness to us. I do not deserve the gift of being his mama, but here we are 20+ months into this insane journey. So much in life has come easily to me, but this role has been the most natural of them all.

Which brings me back to today, to July 14. As I have watched P grow, my heart has grieved not knowing the others – it has wondered what they would have been like. For all the things I do not know and will never understand, I do know two things for certain:

  1. There would be no little boy sleeping in the next room now if I had not lost the baby before him. It still hurts and I still mourn that loss, but it is undoubtedly true. They were the only set of dates that ever overlapped in our journey to have children. I was due February 12; I found out I was pregnant with P on February 14. God knew Paul was ours, regardless of everything that came before.
  2. God completes that which He begins (Philippians 1:6). Perhaps the greatest comfort in our journey was Christopher’s reminder of this simple truth. God began the process of knitting together all of our babies in my womb, and He will be faithful to complete that process. I don’t know what that will look like, necessarily, but I can trust that He has done it and that it is good.

So, today – a date I don’t mark on the calendar – I will take the needed moments to cry and to remember, and I will hug my little boy close to me and reflect on God’s kindness and my smallness.

And, other than that, it is just like every other day.

Transitioning

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A year ago, on July 4, we were in Driggs, Idaho with Christopher’s family. At the time, we were anxiously awaiting a third early ultrasound (we had already had two) after being told at our previous appointment that the baby did not appear to be growing as it should.

Little did we know, though I would come to expect and fear in the days before our next appointment, that we had already lost that little one, too.

It was the furthest I had made it into pregnancy — the first miscarriage that went beyond what they label as “chemical” (such a harsh word when you believe in life at conception, as we do). The renewed hope we had experienced after my cystectomy last spring died quickly and, once more, I felt the keen failure of my body and its inadequacy in keeping our children alive.

The loss total now hit four — two unconfirmed and two confirmed — and I realized that I felt created to be a mother and utterly incapable of becoming one. I didn’t think I could bear the toll of another loss, so we decided to wait until I felt I might again be able to handle the outcome.

In the fall, I threw myself into finally finishing my master’s thesis and making my way through a grief cycle that had become very familiar to me over the last several years. My committee fell into place. I began collecting and dissecting data. It proved a nice distraction.

But December rolled around and I found myself completely terrified that I was pregnant again — I truly, deeply, feared it. I couldn’t handle the prospect. Thankfully, it was not so.

As the new year began, I wrestled extensively with what the previous months (and those ugly fears) had revealed of my heart. The answers I unveiled were decidedly shameful — I had no hope left, no trust in the God to whom I had once looked to for guidance and comfort. While working on our annual AIM resource, I had to (several times) turn off my office light, sit on the floor against the wall, and weep. I didn’t want to see or to acknowledge the places I had dragged my heart. I didn’t want to reopen wounds that I knew would still take years to heal.

And I really, really, really was sick of crying.

In the days that followed, we made a conscious decision to step forward in whatever simple faith we had and work to trust that God had some sort of good for us. We knew we desperately needed to move forward, even if we had no idea what that might look like.

February 12 saw the passing of my due date, as well as the day we had found out I was pregnant in 2013. On February 14, a date I most recently remember as the day we realized I was miscarrying in 2013, I anxiously discovered that I was once again pregnant. The fears of history repeating itself, of stacking another missed due date right next to our 2013 loss, of having yet another reason to despise the second week of February — it was all a little too overwhelming.

In all His grace, that was when God began to write a new story for us. It’s hard to describe without listing through every detail where He showed us that He had been paying faithful attention, that He had not been silent as I had feared — but merely waiting. He displayed full knowledge of my heart’s depths as I recalled dates, sequences of events, and how they so closely tied to each of my fears. Humbling doesn’t begin to cover the experience.

My blood work came back better than it ever had, but anxiety still securely gripped my heart. Those early weeks passed and each milestone was boggling in its details — things I had linked to the last two losses were unbound one by one from the horrible pattern into which I had sunk.

And then, one morning, just before our 10.5-week ultrasound, I was praying and felt God grant me a measure of peace that had been absent for many months. He reassured me that I would survive another loss. He wouldn’t leave me. He would pay close attention to the needs of my heart.

Later that morning, I wept as I watched this little one’s heart beating strongly and as we were shown his spine and his arms and legs. He was growing — and he has continued to grow — just as he was designed to grow.

It has been a very wet season in terms of tears. Joy, sorrow, and shame have intermixed in ways I never thought possible. This child doesn’t exist outside of the story God has crafted for us, that there were those who came before — that there was a season of loss that we lived through (however difficult it was). It all overlaps emotionally and I cannot untangle it.

Somehow, I finished my thesis and my master’s paperwork in those early weeks. The burden I had schlepped along for the four years I had been done with coursework and back in the working world was at last removed from my shoulders.

And, little by little, I have been settling into the fact that I have a healthy, growing little boy inside that will (by God’s goodness and grace) be joining our family in October. It has not been an easy thing to accept — on the contrary, it has been particularly difficult because my heart cannot help but ache for the other four whom we will never know.

But this little one is a beautiful gift. We look forward to loving and treasuring him, to being fully aware that we will make mistakes in raising him. We are grateful that we are not alone in any of it — that we have One before whom we can come and seek grace. We pray this little boy will come to know the same merciful and loving and grace-giving God who has given us so much more than we could ask or imagine — and most certainly more than we ever could begin to deserve.

The last long, hard season has come to a close. We are transitioning into something new and we are so incredibly grateful.

Six Months

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It is funny how grief comes on you in waves, and then it abates, and then it sneaks back in to hound you later. Eventually, though, you numb to the water’s chill and you learn how to brace yourself against its powerful rise.

Six months ago, I miscarried. Again.

I’ve attempted to not make a big deal of our desire and inability to have children in this forum, though I have mentioned it once or twice in passing. The reality is, however, that it has been an incredible force of pain and growth over the course of the past three years. And that grief ebbs and flows, continuing through every season.

Four months ago, I had a manic fit and decided both to migrate my blog and bring it back to life. I accomplished one and failed miserably at the other, as the tide threatened to pull me back under in the following weeks. I appreciate your never-ending patience.

Though it has been difficult, depression has not won. Those of you who know me well know that I have experienced freedom these last few years, but it is hard-won freedom. Most days are minor battles, with major ones scattered throughout the landscape. Sometimes, the major battles last for days and sometimes for only hours.

The last week has been a full-out battle for my soul in ways that I may never comprehend. My soul has been so incredibly downcast, my heart so very angry and irritable.

And yet, tonight, one of my best friends gave birth to a beautiful baby girl — long hoped for and dreamed of — and my soul rejoices greatly at that news.

With this incredible new life, however, I also find myself awash in fresh grief that I will not be able to join my friend yet in this new adventure.

It is amazing what can happen in six months. We are trying to wait with eagerness for what God has planned for us in the months and years to come, but it has made us weary. I have somewhat of a love-hate relationship with the verse that says, “A hope deferred makes the heart grow sick.” It is truth, and so I dearly love it. But, alas, it also is so clearly and obviously truth. Of course a hope deferred makes a heart sick! Why would it do anything else?

I guess if you think of us, please pray for us. There are more good days than bad days, but the bad days still hang out with us sometimes. We don’t want to be bitter. Or angry. Or unable to enjoy what God has so graciously given.

Regardless, I’ve made the decision for this blog to stand mostly empty for the time being. Between my workload, my time with and serving my dear husband, the myriad of things we do regularly with our families and church families, and finally attempting to move forward on my thesis and finishing my master’s degree, I simply do not have the time for this space’s upkeep — and I think that’s okay for this season.

You can still find me on Twitter (akatereynolds) and now on Instagram (akatereynolds). Occasionally, I’ll still put together blog posts over at summitview.com/blog (because it’s a part of my job that I’m hoping to be more faithful with).

I’m working on enjoying life, on capturing it through a camera lens, on what it means to rest. Sadly, to report, I’m not very good at any of it, which is all the more reason to do fewer things — that I might grow to be excellent in those things I do choose to do.

I’m sure this will be my endeavor through the many seasons yet to come.

Gingham Revisited

So, if you remember, I finished a purple gingham blanket in October (see https://akatereynolds.wordpress.com/2012/10/21/weekend-workroom-finishing/). Things are beginning to look a little familiar around here, because I began a green gingham blanket in January. I’m about 15 rows from finishing the body. I didn’t use stash yarn for this one, and since they are all the same base yarn, it works up pretty quickly because the yarn is all the same size and feel.

I’ve been working on a bunch of projects again, which is nice for a lot of reasons. It’s great to feel creative again. You should be seeing some of them pop up in the next few weeks, as I have time. I’m not going to try to stick to a particular schedule for the time being because the last few months have been really busy and I’m sure the next few will be as well, but I’ll try to be semi-regular in posting items.

Small (Vague) Update

Hi everyone. I know I’ve been incredibly absent lately. The beginning of the year rolled in like nothing I’ve ever seen, and now Christopher and I are processing some things that have happened in the last week. Essentially, we could really just use a lot of prayer. We want God to be glorified in all we do, particularly in the attitudes we hold in our hearts.

Anyway, I know that’s terribly vague. Maybe someday I’ll feel up to writing about what’s going on, but today is certainly not that day.

Thanks for loving us! We are grateful for the people God has placed in our lives.

Weekend Workroom: Simple wall art

For a long while, we’ve still been trying to figure out how to fill those empty walls we tend to find throughout our home. We’re getting there, but it has been a slow process because we haven’t wanted to put things up just because we have them. We wanted to put things up that were meaningful or actually might qualify as grown-up art.

And, yes, I know grown-ups rarely refer to themselves as “grown-ups.”

I came across this project, however, and figured that if it worked it could be a really awesome way to make our own “art” pieces for both our bedroom and for the living room (which, aside from the Christmas season when stockings are hung on the wall, can be pretty barren). If it didn’t work, I realized I wouldn’t be out a ton of money and I would have at least spent an afternoon trying something new.

A quote Christopher has really come to love lately (that I’m trying to work into my own heart and mentality, as well) is from G. K. Chesterton: “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.”

So, I set out to try this project. I bought most of my supplies at Michael’s, but I shift my supplier (that sounds so much more official than it actually is) based on what is on sale. Michael’s happened to have the better deals on large (I think they were 18×20-inch canvas packs), as well as a coupon for the Helvetica packs that I used for the lettering. I think I bought the paint there, too.

The project was initially supposed to be a secret but, as most people who know and Christopher and I well, we don’t do particularly well with secrets. We maybe keep them for two days. Then it’s all over. The main reason this project didn’t stay a secret was because I wanted something that would be meaningful for Chris and I wanted his input. We finally (after much debate) settled on short bits of one of the verses from “Be Thou My Vision,” which is one of Christopher’s favorite hymns (if not his favorite).

And, since the process takes a while, we’re still trying to figure out what to put on the other set, which is why they haven’t been put together yet…

Regardless, I liked how the panels turned out, particularly because I took the time to draw the necessary grids and to space letters for each panel, knowing that I am not capable of making anything straight on my own. We decided to keep this set (for our bedroom) really simple, only doing one color per panel. Some colors needed more coats of paint than others (particularly the deep red), but I just kept at it – I did laundry and cleaned the house bit by bit between coats. The paint did bleed in a bit (like the one from A Beautiful Mess), but from any distance it’s not too bad. It adds a bit of texture and gives the Helvetica a bit of a distressed look, which is kind of cool (in my opinion).

Anyway, it was a fun, simple way to do wall art. I’m looking forward to completing some more in the coming year and continuing to make our home both beautiful and meaningful.