“Is This Your First?”

It’s inevitable lately: when meeting new people who don’t know about Tori, they will ask if this pregnancy is my first.

Since I recently started a new job it’s happening fairly often. The first few times took me by surprise and I had to think quickly about how to answer: I could be truthful and tell them about Tori, or I could be mostly truthful since this is my first TWIN pregnancy and just say yes to avoid the uncomfortable truth.

So far, I’ve opted to just tell the truth, short and sweet, and allow the potential awkwardness (from their end) to exist.  I look at it as an opportunity to tell others about Krabbe, about Tori’s amazing life, and about the faith that has sustained us.

In each instance, I recognize that I have a choice: I can be truthful with joy or I can be truthful with pain. I can embrace the joy we have found or I can be miserable. 

I continue to embrace joy. 


The title of my upcoming book is “Even So, Joy” which I derived from two sources: the song “It Is Well With My Soul” –

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

and Habakkuk 3:17-19  –

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
    and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
    and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
    and the cattle barns are empty,
 yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
    I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
 The Sovereign Lord is my strength!
    He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
    able to tread upon the heights.

The Bible makes it abundantly clear that things are going to be imperfect here on earth. Once sin entered the world, it was inevitable that life would be terrible at times. Things are going to go wrong, our hearts are going to hurt, and sometimes it will seem unbearable.

But, the Bible also makes it clear that it can still be well with our hearts and our souls no matter what comes our way because all of this is temporary. Imperfect life on this earth should make us desire the perfection of what’s to come in Heaven. 

For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! – 2 Cor. 4:17

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. – James 1:2-3

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. – Romans 5:3-5

Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.  Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.  For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.) – Romans 8:18-25 (emphasis mine)

Our God is a God who redeems. He is worthy of all our praise, even when circumstances don’t appear to be praiseworthy. He knows the full story while we only know this current chapter.


You have a choice to make daily just like me; though our circumstances may be different, I know your life isn’t going perfectly.

Joy is something to be chosen and embraced in the uncertain times, in the “even though” or “even if” moments. For it is then that our faith grows stronger and we are reminded of God’s love, and the least we can do is share it with those who need it the most.

Always be real and genuine, of course, but always be pointing others toward the hope and joy we have in Jesus. It has been said that light shines brightest in the darkness, and this has certainly been proven to be true in my life. Our decision to choose joy after losing a child stands in stark contrast to the way much of the world would react. And that’s kind of the point. We should be different as Christians in this world.

I will continue to be honest and share that the twins are actually child two and three for us, not our first. I will embrace the potential discomfort and awkwardness that the other person may feel and I will point them to the glory of the Lord and the hope and joy He brings.

Even so, it is well with my soul.

Book Review: “Blessed Are The Misfits” by Brant Hansen

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Have you ever felt like you were alone, like you didn’t fit in? Have you ever wondered why so many people seem to have a different experience in church than you do?

You are not alone.

Brant Hansen, the radio personality and author of Unoffendable (another amazing book), has done it again. He has put into words what so many of us have felt but couldn’t express.

For years I felt like I was failing because I didn’t love evangelism. The thought of talking to strangers about Jesus felt like torture. I wondered if my faith was authentic. It wasn’t until a few years ago, when I discovered that I’m actually an introvert, that I realized it wasn’t that I didn’t want to talk to strangers about Jesus – I didn’t want to talk to strangers at ALL. 

And there is NOTHING wrong with that. Chapter Seven told me so (and the Bible, but still 😉 ).

Brant discusses many aspects of life in which people feel like misfits – things that no one has ever really discussed before. And I think you need to read it. You can order it here!

If you don’t feel like a misfit, maybe you know someone who does…so buy a copy or two to give as gifts. Someone you know needs to read this book, and I bet it’s you.

Pregnancy and Parenting After Loss

I’ve mentioned before that ever since Tori went to Heaven I’ve felt quiet, as though I have nothing to say. And so I’ve stayed quiet, not wanting to force the words just for the sake of writing.

Well, I finally feel as though I have something about which I can write.

Pregnancy and Parenting After Loss.

As the date for our embryo transfer draws nearer, I have so many thoughts and feelings running through my mind and heart. We will be pregnant soon! I honestly feel like I’m already “nesting” even though I’m not even pregnant yet. Brennan can attest to this, haha. Granted, that’s partially because we still haven’t really moved into our house yet and I’m ready to be SETTLED. But I digress. My heart longs to be pregnant, to have the hope of future children.

I just want to be a mother again, to hold and care for these precious babies who are currently frozen. 

But there’s a lingering fear that I can’t quite chase away – a fear that one or even both of the embryos won’t attach. That I will miscarry. That we will have two or three children in Heaven and not just one. There’s little reason to think this will happen, says my doctor. I’m healthy, fertile, and have no reason to believe that the embryos won’t attach. We’ve seen how God has moved mountains to make this even possible. So why are these fears so present?

I have a feeling that parenting any child after losing Tori is going to be a greater blessing than we can imagine and yet contain the potential for greater fear than we’ve ever had before. Any symptom that reminds me of Krabbe. If they have reflux like we thought Tori did. If they have any developmental delays. Anything like that will have the potential to throw me back into the pre-diagnosis days with Tori, wondering if the genetic testing was wrong. Wondering if they do have Krabbe. I have a feeling this will be a challenge to overcome.

I’m not one to be fearful, really ever. I trust the Lord and I believe that He has me in His hands. I believe that He is in control and that He knows exactly what will become of these precious frozen embryos. So I must surrender, moment by moment, any fear or doubts that creep into my mind, because I know that they aren’t from Him. 

I will continue to process my thoughts and emotions about all of this as we progress though pregnancy and parenthood after losing Tori. I pray that my transparency is a blessing to others and that the Lord will continue to work in and through our lives.

Please pray for our embryos – our son and our daughter: pray that they will survive the thaw, that they will attach to my uterus quickly, and that they will develop into healthy, thriving babies. September 1 is quickly approaching! 

 

Hunter’s Hope Symposium 2017 – Day One

Symposium time is here!

It's the one time each year we are surrounded by people from all over the world who understand exactly what we have been through. It's the week where we can let our guard down and enjoy these precious moments with our Leukodystrophy family knowing that we fit in here, that we are "normal" here.

None of us would have chosen to be in this position, to be in this "family" of such suffering and grief, but we cherish the relationships and the joy that have come out of everything we have endured.

If grief and pain were measurable, the weight of it just from these precious families here would be astronomical in size; every family here has lost – or will lose – a beloved child (or two), something which has been called the most painful thing a human can endure; and yet, all we see are smiles, joy, friendships, authenticity, and an appreciation for each and every moment. We see hope. And it's amazing.

This is our third year at the Symposium and it's the first one I have been slightly hesitant to attend, for reasons I am still deciphering.

Perhaps it's this: Tori was with us for the first one and she was cherished by all; last year she had gone to Heaven a mere four months earlier and everyone remembered her; will she be remembered this year?

Perhaps this: we now seem to fall into the category of parents who lost their children "a while ago" and it's strange. It's a different feeling being here now, a year after she went to Heaven…not a bad feeling, of course, just different.

I watch the parents with their living children and am amazed at how distant that feels. The suction machines, the feeding pumps – sounds so familiar and yet such a distant memory because I haven't heard them or thought about them in a year. Something that was once part of my daily life now feels like a lifetime away.

I'm not caring for Tori constantly now, and I'm not necessarily grieving anymore (though it will never fully be over), so it's a strange place to be. It's just Brennan and me now.

Perhaps it's strange to be here because it's a time when we're forced to remember that this was our life for fourteen months, and that we did lose our precious daughter. In daily life it's easier to move on because of distractions and tasks. Even though we talk about Tori daily and think of her all the time, it's different somehow to be here surrounded by other families going through the same thing we did.

Despite my emotions through which I am sorting (thanks for letting me process above), I am so happy that we are able to be here again. We're praying that next year we will have a new baby with us ❤️

As always, I will blog about the new research findings and everything else we learn throughout the week. So thankful for Hunter's Hope and all that they do to support Leukodystrophy families.

It's going to be a great week!

Even So…

The common theme of the past six months has been hurdles. Things haven’t been going as smoothly as we would like and we’ve come up against some significant challenges.

  • Buying this house came with one obstacle after another and cost more than we anticipated not only to buy it, but to do the necessary renovations (that still aren’t done because we ran out of money). It seems like all of our Dave Ramsey progress was lost and we’re having to start over again in our process to becoming debt-free.
  • We drained our savings (and our HSA) to pay for IVF (though MUCH of the cost was donated by generous and amazing people and we are SO very grateful!), and it’s tough to rebuild it.
  • We started an AirBnB in the apartment upstairs and have LOVED running it. It has brought joy to us and to the families and single mothers we have been able to serve and bless through this venture. It has also been hugely beneficial financially. 

    However, two of our neighbors are “uncomfortable” with the idea for ridiculous reasons (they don’t understand AirBnB at all, essentially) and they filed complaints with the township. We were forced to make a decision to either pay $450 and wait three months (and go to two zoning board hearings) to try to be rezoned for this type of use (no guarantee of approval), or give up and just get a tenant (less income, loss of the opportunity to help others enjoy Hershey and run an AirBnB; loss of space to host family and friends and bands (through RYFO.org) upstairs).

    Ultimately, we’ve decided to try to find a tenant because some battles aren’t worth fighting. The township needs to modify their rules about AirBnB instead of trying to make it fit into other molds and making it impossible for residents to do. I am proud of my letter to the township supervisors and hope that it will make a difference in the future for property owners to use their property as they choose.

  • I haven’t had much time to finish my book proposal or to find an agent, even though my manuscript has been complete (and edited) for six months. I’m struggling to remain positive about it being published, even though I believe that the Lord led me to write it for that purpose.
  • I am committed to do many good things, but finding a balance and remaining disciplined has been a challenge.

Even so, it is well with our souls.

It hasn’ t been ALL bad, but the hard things in life tend to overshadow the good; when we focus on the positive we realize that we have had some GREAT things happen:

  • We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to California, Oregon, Washington, and ALASKA in June and returned home feeling rejuvenated even though the trip was exhausting. Seeing the beauty of God’s creation and spending treasured time with family was worth every lost minute of sleep.
  • We found out that we have THREE embryos (out of the five) that are healthy! Two are not even carriers of Krabbe! The fourth embryo needs to be retested, and the fifth has chromosomal abnormalities that are not survivable. We are thankful for these 3-4 and will hopefully do the first transfer in August.
  • Thanks to my dad spending two weeks out here, we’ve nearly completed the basement projects (laundry room/bathroom drywall and paint, etc.). We’re going to be ready for hosting bands and other guests so soon! Since we’re giving up the AirBnB this space will allow us to continue to minister to bands through RYFO – an amazing network of host homes for touring musicians.
  • Brennan and I are trying to become much more disciplined than we are currently in every area of our lives. It’s a struggle but we must overcome and become self-disciplined.

Through it all, my heart has remained at peace because I trust the Lord completely and I have absolute faith that this is all happening for a reason. As the popular song states, “Let go my soul and trust in Him, the waves and wind still know His name…” He is still on the throne, He is still in charge, and, most importantly, He still LOVES us. In those moments when I feel worry start to encroach on my peace, I stop and pray and remind myself that He’s got this.

And so we press on, knowing that it will all turn out alright.

It Is Well

I have served as the worship leader at Transcend Church for a little over three months now. While I have led worship almost continually over the past 22 years in some capacity, this is the first time I have been “the leader” of a worship team instead of me just playing guitar and singing. This has certainly been a growing experience for me and I am so thankful for the members of the worship team and their talents and hearts for worship.

Few are aware of what goes into choosing a worship set – it’s far more than just picking songs you like. I typically read the Scripture for the upcoming sermon and prayerfully choose songs that go along with the sermon. Yet, sometimes it’s honestly just following the Holy Spirit’s guidance and how I “feel” about a particular song fitting in with the set.

This week was definitely a “feel” week as the passage did not easily lend itself to songs. While I was doing all of this, I considered that this Sunday was Mother’s Day but didn’t give it much thought.

As I leafed through my (gigantic) binder of music, a few jumped out at me, unrelated in theme at first glance – “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” would start the morning as a great reminder that God is trustworthy, merciful, and faithful. We’d do “Even Unto Death” and “Give Me Faith” to remind ourselves that the God we serve is worthy to be followed and trusted, no matter what. I chose a few other songs to fill in the set and thought I was done.

I grabbed my guitar and began playing through the set but it still didn’t feel complete. Later that afternoon the hymn “It Is Well With My Soul” – one of my favorites – came into my head and I knew that was what was missing. In addition, I decided to add Bethel’s song “It Is Well” to the end.

If you aren’t aware, the back story to the song “It Is Well” is one of the most powerful I’ve ever heard. Mr. Spafford lost his four daughters in a shipwreck, all at once. Four daughters. And yet, he penned the words to this poem (now song) and declared that it was well with his soul.

How can that be?

I contend that…

It can be well with your soul despite your grief. 

It can be well with your soul despite your circumstances. 

It can be well with your soul despite your questions and uncertainties of God’s actions. 

This can all be true because it isn’t dependent on you – it’s dependent on God. When you believe the truth of who God is (faithful, loving, merciful, kind, generous, good), when you believe His Word and His promises (there IS life after death for those who trust in Jesus!), and when you trust Him fully, there is peace within your soul that surpasses understanding (Phil. 4:7). We’ve lived it. We know this is true.

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We have a beautiful sign in our home that quotes this hymn, and it has been a great reminder to us as we’ve learned to live without Tori here on earth. We’ve truly learned that “whatever our lot” we can be at peace when we are trusting the Lord and following Him.


As I led worship this morning, the emotion of missing Tori began to well up inside as we sang the final verse of the hymn:

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul!

The emotion was two-fold: first, remembering the tragic circumstances that brought this song into this world and how deep the pain is when you lose a child; second, I long for this day – the day when Jesus returns and we are reunited with our precious Tori (and other loved ones who have gone before us). I cannot wait for that day and for the eternity with her that will follow.

I got through the song, but as the sermon began my eyes were teary as I pondered the joyous reunion that awaits us.


As the Bethel song by the same name says,

Through it all, through it all, my eyes are on you.
Through it all, through it all, it is well.
So let go, my soul, and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name.

The same Jesus who calmed the storm that threatened to wreck the ship He and His disciples were on is the same Jesus who lives today and loves us deeply. He is still in control, even when we can’t feel it.

Being well in your soul doesn’t mean that things are perfect, or that you pretend to not be in pain. It simply means that you trust Jesus more than you fear your circumstances.

Yes, my Tori is gone. Yes, my heart longs for her. Even so, it is well with my soul. 

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I don’t know why I was led to put the songs on the set list today that I did, but I know that, if nothing else, my own heart was encouraged by the words of these songs. Hopefully the Lord used them to speak to others, as well.

So, I Got a Job…

As I mentioned before, I recently accepted a part-time position at The Hotel Hershey – more specifically, at The Spa at The Hotel Hershey (where Brennan has worked for 13.5 years and counting). This all came about rather quickly, so I’m still getting used to the idea of working outside of the home, but I know that it will be good for many reasons.

This was my idea. Even on Easter, just hours after Tori went to Heaven, I asked Brennan what I was supposed to do now that she is gone. My “job” as a mom was suddenly null and void, and I was completely unsure of what I should be doing.

Two years ago I left my job (that I loved) to become a stay-at-home mother; I ended up loving my new life more than I had ever imagined. I was so thrilled that I may never have to have a “real job” outside of the home again. I had finally found what I was meant to do.

And then, Krabbe.

Krabbe is the proverbial gift that keeps on giving, but in a negative way. I suppose that makes it the gift that keeps on taking.

It took Tori. It is making future children merely a dream. And it took my beloved job from me.

With Tori gone and no more children in our immediate future (yet), I just don’t feel as though I can justify not having a job anymore. I want to help with our finances during this period of waiting to ease the burden from Brennan (even though he has never complained).

I didn’t take the job because I am bored – I’m so far from being bored! I have many things on my plate that require time, but none of them bring money along with them (yet), unfortunately. My book is essentially done, and the book proposal is in process, so maybe that will eventually bring in some extra income, but it’s not a guarantee at all.

This summer was amazing and it was just what I needed: doing photography for CRC, writing/editing for The Transcend Project as well as my own blog and manuscript, serving at Transcend Church, traveling and seeing family, lobbying for Newborn Screening in Pennsylvania occasionally (and next week), and many other things. Doing these things gave me an outlet for my creativity, filling my heart with joy as I was able to serve once again in these capacities. I was able to take some time to do what makes me happy, and I am so thankful for that. All of these things will still happen, of course, even though I have a job – that’s why I only accepted a part-time position 😉

More than anything, though, what my heart longs for is to be a mother again. That’s all. The very thing that so many women take for granted is the thing I want most of all, and it’s so risky (to try naturally) and expensive (IVF or adoption) for us because of our genetics.

So, while we wait on the Lord and trust His timing and guidance, I decided that it wouldn’t hurt to get a fun part-time job (2-3 days a week with the option to take on extra shifts) at a place that feels like home with people who have been so supportive of us through everything. And God made all of that happen. 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
    do not depend on your own understanding.
 Seek his will in all you do,
    and he will show you which path to take. – Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT

If nothing else, this will get me out of the house, allow me to meet interesting people, and provide new topics for my writing 😉 I’m sure that my encounters with guests will be interesting!

In all things, we continue to trust God fully, knowing without a doubt that whatever He has in store for us is amazing. ❤