On loss

What happens when the worst that you feared, happens?

Last week, that happened. Well, to be honest, I have a lot of fears roaming around in my head, so just one of those fears came to pass. Anxiety and "worst case scenario" thinking are some of my strong suits. (No, I am not proud of that, but hey ... work in progress.) So, this week in particular, as Jon and I walked into the doctor's office, we were once again faced with the words we heard 2 years ago that our pregnancy wasn't progressing and we'd be losing our baby.

Mid-January I took a pregnancy test and couldn't wait to share the news with everyone that Brighton would be a big sister. I was apprehensive because we had been down this road before, but I learned through our last miscarriage that life is meant to be celebrated, so if I only had 6 weeks to celebrate that life, those 6 weeks were still worth celebrating. So we chose to not shy away from sharing the news with our close family and friends. These are the people we do life with, and doing life includes the highs and the lows. 

A few weeks after the pregnancy test confirmed a little brother or sister on the way, I started feeling the same way I did when the first miscarriage happened and I just knew we'd be facing it again. And I knew we'd have to tell all the people who knew the good news, the bad news. Nobody likes sharing bad news, but when I'm the subject of that bad news, I hate it even more. It's extremely humbling to be in a position of allowing the people around you to rally and say, "I'm bringing you dinner", or "Need a night out? We'll watch Brighton." Grief has humbled me and forced me to quit trying to be superwoman and have it all together because sometimes I don't. (Actually, a lot of times, but that's a different story.)

Have you ever had scenarios in your life happen where you just never thought that would be your story? Where it seems like such an out of body experience? For me, the first time I remember this happening was in college when my Nonna was diagnosed with cancer. I remember sitting in a coffee shop with my brother, trying to process what was happening and I just kept thinking, "this doesn't happen in real life", "this happens to other people". Cancer was a far away, distant, unknown scenario that I never fathomed would be a part of my story. 

Miscarriage was the same far away, "not my story" story. Except now, it is my story. Twice. Except this time, I had the sweetest, happiest, most beautiful baby girl leaving the doctor's office with me. While we grieved one life, we had another life in our arms to celebrate. We left in silence, drove home in silence, I went and grabbed a freeze from Pressed Juicery (it's like frozen yogurt, but it's all fruit and veggies, so that's a win) and then I went home and started to make dinner. That's the funny thing about getting bad news: life keeps going. Life didn't stop because of the news we received. Brighton still needed attention and dinner, Jon still needed to go to work. 

As I was trying to get dinner together for Brighton, I slumped over the kitchen sink and the tears came. A few seconds later, Brighton was hugging my leg. I got down on my knees and she looked at me like she understood, and wrapped her little arms around me. Then got up, stroked my face, and then continued to tear apart the kitchen. Kids are incredible. We don't often give them enough credit. We dismiss them for being children, and not "understanding", but when my almost two-year-old saw her mommy crying, she knew something wasn't right and she knew the appropriate response was a hug. So then I got even more emotional because the love that exists between me and that little girl is indescribable. 

Processing grief with a baby like Brighton has been overwhelming. Normally, I'd like to take a day off and lay out the couch with some coffee and Netflix. But you don't get days off when you're a stay at home mom. So through the sadness, I have had to push through and show up for my family. Showing up after grief is one of the most difficult things we can do, but it's also one of the most inspiring and courageous things we can do. My good friend Trish and I had the opportunity to speak at an event together about writing and the power of words, and she was sharing about how the people who live the most inspiring lives are the people who have overcome hardship and taken risks. My hope when I started this blog after my first miscarriage was that my pain would be used to encourage others and that continues to be my hope. My hope continues to be that this mommy blog or whatever you want to label it would be a place where you can come and be encouraged that you are not alone, that God is good, and that we are all just trying to figure life out.  I refuse to let this pain go to waste.

So what happens when the worst you feared, happens? God is still there. God was right there to meet me through the tears in my car. He was there in the hug from my toddler. He was there with me while I showed up for the event I was speaking at even though I wanted to be on my couch. As someone who is constantly fearing the worst, my miscarriage was a reminder that when the worst happens, you'll still be ok because God is there and He is good. 

Be encouraged by these verses below: 

Lamentations 3: 19-33 (The Message)
I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed.
I remember it all—oh, how well I remember— the feeling of hitting the bottom. But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:
God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left.
God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks.
It’s a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God. It’s a good thing when you’re young to stick it out through the hard times.
When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence.
Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions: Wait for hope to appear. Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face. The “worst” is never the worst.
Why? Because the Master won’t ever walk out and fail to return. If he works severely, he also works tenderly. His stockpiles of loyal love are immense. He takes no pleasure in making life hard, in throwing roadblocks in the way

On Identity

A friend and I were getting together after not having seen each other for a few years. She told her kids they were coming to see me and Brighton and she scoured my Instagram for a photo to remind them of who I am. When we met up she said she couldn’t find any photos of me. And she said, You know, you’re not just a mom, you have an identity apart from that. I laughed and said "I know, I know", but really ... I've forgotten. 

I had Jon take a photo of me without Brighton and I felt SO awkward. I honestly didn't know what to do without my "accessory". Brighton has become somewhat of a security blanket. She is my way out of places I don't want to be, she is my excuse when I'm feeling introverted at the park and decide it's time to leave, she is my conversation piece when I don't know what to say. 

Last week I stopped by Jon's work and ended up being a part of a Facebook live conversation about social media and I left feeling so excited because I felt like I actually contributed to society and participated in some real "adult" stuff. As soon as I said that out loud to Jon, I heard the Lord reminding me that raising a decent, Christ-loving human being is just about the most important "contribution" to society anyone can give. Ok God, I hear you. 

I've always known I wanted to be a mom and as we came closer to starting our family I had a feeling that I would want to be home, but I also love writing so I knew that my dream world would be to stay at home while working as a writer. And here I am, doing that. What!? But the enemy is so cunning because he has continued to wage war on my sense of worth and identity. In every season it's something new, right? As a teenager, our worth and identity might be coming from the accolades we receive or how many people viewed our LiveJournal post (Xanga? Myspace? No?). In college, it might be our grades, then in marriage, we battle with our identity becoming wrapped up in our husband, and now as a mother, I have to fight to keep my identity from being too closely intertwined with my work and with my daughter. I am a whole woman apart from Jon and apart from Brighton. I love them both, and they have contributed a fullness to my life, but they don't complete or define who I am. 

My identity is in Christ. 

  • I am fearfully and wonderfully made - Psalm 139
  • I am His masterpiece - Ephesians 2:10
  • I am justified and redeemed - Romans 3:24
  • I am accepted - Romans 15:7
  • I am set free - Galatians 5:1
  • I am chosen - Ephesians 1:4
  • I am forgiven - Ephesians 1:7

Do any of these strike a chord with you? As I read these over and over and "masterpiece", "accepted", and "chosen" keep standing out to me. It is SO easy in society today to feel like we are none of these things. Not enough likes, not enough followers, not enough friends, not enough invitations ... but God says I am His masterpiece, I am accepted, and I am chosen. So who CARES if I'm missing out on something? Who cares if that girl is doing something I'd like to be doing? God accepts me as I am and has chosen ME for a purpose. And that purpose is one that no one else was intended to fulfill. That is a serious pill to swallow, people. I need to learn to be faithful with (and grateful for) what is right in front of me so I can walk in that God-given identity and purpose.

My goal for 2018 was to live more simply and a big piece of that involved simply being me. A sort of stripping away of all the junk, the lies, the insecurities, the facades. That's the whole point of this blog: to talk about reality. I'm not a stylist, I'm not some sort of outfit of the day mom maven, food critique, or workshop hostess. I'm just a mom trying to figure it out and remember that it's ok to be "figuring it out". Despite our faults, despite our failures, even despite all of our accomplishments and praiseworthy moments, our identities have big, thick, gnarly, moss-covered roots that stem from an unchanging God.

Sometimes we all just need a little reminder that we a masterpiece, we are accepted, and we are chosen. Let's rest in that cozy bit of truth.

On comparison...

We hear it all the time: "Comparison is the thief of joy." And yet somehow, we still find ourselves in the slimy pit of comparing our lives to those around us and even worse, those we don't even know (thanks Instagram). I've also heard it said that the main issue is that we compare our behind the scenes to everyone else's highlight reels. So true, but still, I compare. 

I'm laying on the floor, no makeup, wearing pajama shorts, hair unbrushed, and toddler drooling all over me, while mindlessly scrolling through the photogenic, the picture perfect, the moments worthy of sharing with the world and think: I'm not doing anything with my life. No, I didn't just think it. I said it. And my husband looked at me and said, "Your life is so meaningful. And you are doing incredible things. You are raising a little girl." And still, despite his encouragement, I had all my reasons lined up as to why he wasn't right. Pathetic, right? But so real. And I'm sure I'm not the only one. 

Recently, I've been attempting (and often failing) to see the simple, mundane, behind-the-scenes type stuff as meaningful. They matter. I am robbing myself of the joy that every day holds because I am looking at other people's lives (well, their social media lives) and declaring that my life is dull, meaningless, and I need to do something with it. When in fact, Jon is right: I am doing something meaningful. I have a job doing what I love (writing) + I get to raise a beautiful human + be a wife to an incredible man. I realize many people wish they had the opportunity I did. Sure, I'm not 23, single, with all the time in the world to pick up new hobbies, travel the world, have people follow me around to take my photos, buy all the new clothes, and color my hair as often as I'd like. I have a lot of friends doing incredible things. I run in a circle of friends who are actors, authors, world travelers, war stoppers, Broadway performers, community builders, change makers, business builders, celebrity photographers ... should I continue? You get the drift. But God has me here for a reason. How quickly I forget that.

Ephesians 2:10 says "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." I love The Message translation of verses 7-10 (emphasis my own): "Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing."

To JOIN HIM in the work he is doing. The work he prepares for us. The work we better do! Talk about perspective. Goodness Vittoria, it's not about you anyway. But the other thing I love about verse 10 is the use of the word "workmanship". In Greek, the word used was "poiema", which means poem and I just think that is so beautiful. I love to think that God sees me as his poem. I am his workmanship. This not only tells me he cares about me, but also that I have a purpose. And my purpose (in this season at the very least) could be the unnoticed, mundane, behind-the-scenes, changing your world at home kind of work. And that is just as beautiful. 

Even if I'm not living in Beirut, educating children orphaned by the refugee crisis (No kidding, I listened to a podcast today with a couple who is doing that. Another "what am I doing with my life" moment.) my work matters. I have to believe that my purpose is significant to God - all our purposes are equally significant and important - whether we have 1 million followers or 100. Whether I have a photographer following me around or a toddler drooling on my face - we just need to quit comparing and water our own grass.

Psalm 37:4 is always quoted because it's inspiring. "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." But verse 3 was recently brought to my attention: "Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness." Dwell in the land. The grass is greener where you water it. I want to be better at watering my own yard instead of looking at everyone else's and willing it to wither. I think God is asking me to dwell right where he has me and just keep tending to my own land, which in turn would help me delight in him so he will give me the desires of my heart. Because who knows, I may not always be the one behind-the-scenes.

So what does it look like to quit the comparison game and water our own grass? I'm not sure! I don't know that it requires the extremes of deleting all social media and hiding in a hole like I'm sure we sometimes feel like doing. (Although a little break from social media never hurt anyone.) I'm looking to find the answers too. So, if you've ever fallen into the pit of comparison, we're on this journey together! Let's be people who strive to encourage each other to be present and more thankful to God for each season, job, home, etc...that he currently has us in.