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Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas Morning

Some highlights of Christmas 2008....

Opening gifts:

German Pancakes for breakfast:


And, finally, one of the sweetest moments of our Christmas morning. It rained non-stop the week before Christmas. Since I've been sick all week, and with the rain, we haven't been riding to the cemetery. We were happy to wake up to the sun shining on Christmas morning, and decided that after the morning activities we would leisurely ride over to the cemetery. There, we found that someone had left a Christmas card at the twins' gravesite.

So sweet.

So precious.

We were so touched. I don't quite know how to explain what it means to know that there are people out there who would have loved our girls so much, had they had a chance to live a little longer... people who love them even without having had a chance to meet them. Moments like this make this mother's heart so tender. 

Family Therapy

There isn't anything that helps me find healing faster than being with family. The last couple of weeks have provided many experiences with family, and friends who are like family, that have helped me get through this month. I had a chance to see two brothers and two sisters (plus their families) for a few days, as well as my awesome friend Christy and her family. I also got to spent an entire afternoon with this amazing friend learning all about making Christmas treats. I have added some awesome recipes to my favorites that I'm looking forward to making again next year. Thanks, Rachel! This month has been filled with some good memories that have helped to make the season more merry and bright.  I haven't been toting my camera around, so I only have a couple of photos.

We stopped by the Christmas Box Angel statue.

Mandi and Audrey:

Audrey with her favorite Auntie Meg (seeing as she has only one of those):

The Pioneer Woman

A couple of months ago my sister, Mandi, told me about a cooking website she had stumbled upon - The Pioneer Woman. I have since become a regular visitor and have been more motivated than usual in my meal preparations. I have simply rediscovered my love of being in the kitchen, and have loved trying new recipes. Her recipes have never disappointed. Try them yourself. I dare you.

So far, I've tried these recipes (and, LOVED them all): 

Mexican Lasagna

Pasta Primavera

Chocolate Sheet Cake

Blackberry Cobbler

Carmel Apple Pie

Apple Dumplings

And, while searching through her recipes, I've drooled on my laptop on more than one occasion.

You'll find that the Pioneer Woman includes her own, step-by-step photos, but here are a couple of my own, proof that I actually have tried some of the recipes listed above.

Carmel Apple Pie:

Blackberry Cobbler:

Heidi's visit

(Heidi came from November 28th-Decemeber 2nd... sorry I'm so behind.)

Back in May of this year my best friend from childhood, Heidi, called to let me know that she was planning a trip out to California with her husband. He had some business meetings and she would come spend a few days with me. At the time, as you know, I was expecting the twins. And, her trip out here just happened to be the same week as my official due date (December 2nd). We were both looking forward to having her trip revolve around two newborns.

Well, even though she ended up coming under different circumstances than what we had hoped, I probably needed her more under these particular circumstances. It was a huge blessing to have her here on those particular days. I've never been one to believe in coincidence. I like to think that there was more going on behind the scenes for Heidi's visit to come on those precise days. Her presence, her love, and her friendship comforted me through some of my hardest days.

Heidi, thanks for coming. Thanks for our visit to the cemetery. I will always remember that brisk morning... and the things we shared in those moments together. Thanks for the poinsettia. It has been the perfect addition to the girls' gravesite.  

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Celebrating Christ

I have a lot to catch up from these last few weeks of absence. Not tonight, though. That comfy half of the couch that I call mine is being held... with a waiting, cuddly Marc. I couldn't bear to miss out on that on a night like tonight.

But, I couldn't let tonight pass without checking in and wishing you a very merry Christmas. We are most definitely celebrating Christ at our house - perhaps more completely than any other Christmas past. We are so in awe of that perfect Christ-child, who would grow into His intended full stature and become the Savior of the world. Since He is not here, it is in our hearts that we come before Him, adoring and worshipping. So grateful for Him. He is the reason we have hope. He is our Prince of Peace.

He is the reason we still are a family of four.

Unless, of course, we count Einstein and Watson....

From our home to yours, wishing you a Merry, Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Thoughts of Christmas

It's late and I should be in bed, but there seems to be a build-up of thoughts and feelings lately that have corroded my sleeping habits. So, I gently laid a kiss on Marc's cheek and rolled myself back out to the Christmas tree with it's welcoming, white glow.

I've always loved the peacefulness of the Christmas tree. Right now ours just has the lights on it. We haven't pulled any of the other decorations out yet. It's been a slow start this year. Just as we were warned, the holidays have added a new layer of difficulty. 

There are the obvious reasons - mainly, the dreams we had of how Thanksgiving and Christmas would be with our twins. We had so many dreams... and really, we still do. But, for now we're sitting in front of our Christmas tree listening to Bing Crosby and Perry Como, eating apple pie, watching movies like Holiday Inn - and while I'm so grateful, especially for the "we" part, it's still more than a bummer that we don't have two little bundles of joy to distract us. We got the tree up too fast, we're sleeping in too late, and have way too much quiet time. I know for many people that probably sounds like a dream come true... but, I've never felt so sad to have such a quiet house. It's definitely harder than I expected it to be.

But, there is another aspect of the holidays being hard that I hadn't anticipated. There are so many distractions that leave me feeling agitated... strangely enough, they are the same distractions that usually make me excited about the holidays. Searching out the most perfect gifts, getting out all the decorations, wrestling my way through the crowded stores (okay, you're right, I don't get excited about that one)... but, really, usually there is an excitement that comes with doing all the normal traditions of Christmas.

I guess a lot of it is that I've become so aware of how tainted my own view of Christmas has been, and still is. As much as I want to think that in past years I celebrated Christmas for the right reasons and with the right spirit, I'm realizing this year that it's a completely different experience. Because our life isn't normal anymore, none of the usual things seem normal either.

Laying in my hospital bed on the night of July 16th, holding my two daughters within minutes of being born, in awe of their perfection, my heart was tender, but at peace. Panic didn't exist in that moment (though, naturally, it was there in the moments prior and has come multiple times since). Instead, on that mid-summer night, I found my thoughts urgently turning to another night in another place and time, when another baby was born. For possibly the first time in my life, the story of the birth of Christ really mattered to me on a very personal level. It became so much more than just a nice story. Even though I had always tried to make Him a personal part of my life, it always felt a little too abstract or something.

There's nothing like death to force you from abstract to reality. All of a sudden, there we were saying good-bye to Elliana and Emmaline. It was different than saying good-bye to grandparents. Maybe that's because in my mind I had always figured that if for some reason there really wasn't a heaven, then I could feel satisfied that after 90-something years, at least they had lived a good, long life. But, in this case, I needed to know like I never had before that it was all true. Those stories of the Carpenter of Galilee - were they just a fairytale, or possibly exaggerated history from 2000 years ago? Did Jesus really do what He said He would do? And, did it really extend to the whole human race, including our precious girls? Did he overcome death for them? Would we really see them again? Are they really ours forever?

In what should have been a moment of sheer terror and panic, there was the strongest assurance that filled our hearts that it was all true. Our experience in the hospital with our daughters is so sacred to us that I won't get into the details here, but the feelings that dominated were ones of gratitude for the Son of God, the Savior of the world. His birth, His life, His death, His victory over the tomb... all of it mattered more than it ever had before. It wasn't abstract anymore. This was real.

It mattered that Jesus was born, that He lived a perfect life, that He willingly laid down His life, that He victoriously raised Himself up again. It matters because through Him I have hope of dreams yet to be fulfilled in this life and in the next, and an indescribably joyful reunion to look forward to.

Since July I've been learning over and over again - He is real. His peace, His healing, His comfort. It is all so real. And, even though He has always been just as real, His reality is so much stronger in our hearts than it ever has been before.

For that reason... this Christmas is different. And, I'm honestly hoping the change will last.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A long overdue thank you

We have been blessed with the greatest families and friends. They have been so faithful in standing alongside us through all that we've experienced, lifting our hands when they hang down and strengthening our feeble knees.

We started this blog mainly to help us with our adoption quest. Along the way, over the last year and a half, we've been blessed in so many ways. Especially over the last few months, we've felt overwhelmed by the faithful support we've received from family, friends and strangers, for all the prayers that have been offered on our behalf all around the world.

We don't express our gratitude nearly enough to all of you. Please know that your prayers and love, the comments, the emails, the phone calls, have all helped our hearts to heal... and in addition, the gratitude we have then felt for your love and support has brought even more healing.

The journey we've been on has had some incredible ups and downs. We've felt a profound gratitude for YOU. Yes, YOU, the one who is reading this right now. There are many who have followed our journey from the beginning, some who have joined us mid-way through, some who we've met in person, some who have chosen to remain anonymous. And, we want ALL OF YOU to know that we have felt your love and support, whether you've expressed it to us or not.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Given this season of thanksgiving, I've been thinking a lot about the blessings in my life. A few months ago I had a hard time recognizing anything that might be labeled a blessing. Grief has a way of clouding one's vision and obscuring the view of blessings in life still to be appreciated.

Gratefully, I've been having more moments of deep, heartfelt recognition of blessings. I've even been able to start counting blessings that have come as a direct result from the nightmare experiences we've been through this year; blessings that could only have been born out of adversity. Blessings that have come wrapped in the most painful and heart-breaking packages.

I've been reminded of some thoughts I wrote down last October. While the trials of this year are much different than last year, the lesson is still the same. Blessings sometimes come in the most oddly wrapped packages, and the goal is to always have the faith in God to receive His gifts and rejoice in the gifts that He gives, trusting that He knows what and when to give. Today, this Thanksgiving, I am grateful for all of God's blessings to me, maybe even especially the ones that have come wrapped in pain and sorrow.


The Oddly Wrapped Gift - originally posted on October 18, 2007

"For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift."

The other day I decided to post about some of my more honest feelings about the difficulty of some of our trials. While it felt good to express that raw emotion, I want to be perfectly clear about a few things.

Yes, dealing with infertility has been painful.

Yes, the wait for adoption can be hard.

But, I would be completely ungrateful if I didn't admit that somehow in the midst of going through these trying times, we have found so much beauty. How is it possible that adversity can be a blessing?

I've started to recognize that the most wonderful of life's blessings have usually come to us in the most oddly wrapped packages. To look at something on the surface, it's easy to be deceived into thinking it represents something awful and unattractive.

Have you ever been to a white elephant party where the beautiful box wrapped in gold paper with the perfect red velvet bow on top is coveted by everyone? That is, until the person who finally ends up with it, and no doubt fought hard for it, finds that its contents are totally undesirable... you know, like an old fruit cake or a half burned candle or something.

While, on the other hand, there is a plainly wrapped gift that everyone does everything they can to get rid of it... only to discover at the end that it contained some very desirable gift... like, a large box of See's chocolate. {can you tell what I'm in the mood for right now?}

So, where was I? Oh yeah, packages. When we first found the "infertility package" on our doorstep, we were in denial. "No, no, it wasn't intended for us... we'll just ignore it there in the corner until it goes away." We didn't even want to go near it... it was not a gift... it was most definitely a curse.

Well after a couple of years, either out of desperation or curiosity, we decided to unwrap it. But, we did it very slowly. Just a little bit at a time. We went at our own pace. Even while in the middle of unwrapping it, we were trying desperately to understand how this could be a blessing. We were still deceived by how it came wrapped. We wanted the pretty, gold wrapped package with the big red bow.

After some time, we finally started to recognize little blessings of having received this "gift." We have found the gift of empathy. The gift of bearing each others' burdens. The gift of knowing that everyone has their quiet struggles. The gift of very faithful, supportive family and friends. The gift of knowing how to let each other mourn in the way that works for each of us. The gift of a strengthened marriage. The gift of patience. The gift of faith. The gift of learning what it means to pray intently. The gift of seeing past the awful wrapping of infertility, to find that we had been given a very wonderful gift. Adoption.

We're all given different "gifts"... they come in all different shapes, colors, and sizes, and most importantly they all represent different things for each of us. The key is to "receive the gift" and "rejoice in the giver of the gift" even if it appears at first to be something that we think we don't want.

Because, there is a loving Father in Heaven who knows how to bless us, and always blesses us with "good gifts."

Monday, November 24, 2008

I will not take these things for granted

* photo taken Autumn 2007

My sister made me a CD recently and included this song on it. Good song with an even better message.

I guess it's probably obvious that this year has majorly changed our life. It's different.

Little things have come to mean so much more to me than they did before we lost our twins.

This morning Marc was up early to get ready for one of the classes he teaches at the college. On most Monday mornings I'm usually still in bed by the time he leaves. Which was the case this morning, since I was up past midnight last night.

Sometimes he comes in to kiss me good-bye, but sometimes he sweetly leaves me undisturbed. (I don't know if he knows this, but I never mind being disturbed by his kisses.)

I heard him in the kitchen, getting his jacket on and zipping up his bag. I squinted over at the clock to see the time.

At first, I thought, I'll just wait 'til he leaves, and eventually I'll roll myself out of bed.

And just as that thought scrolled across my mind, I found myself jumping out of bed and hurrying to the kitchen in hopes of catching him before he got out the door.

He heard me and met me halfway on the top step that leads into the kitchen. I think I was still half-squinting because I only half-noticed what he was wearing. Even still, I noticed enough to know that I'm married to one incredibly handsome man. He pulled me into him and hugged me like he meant it, even with my morning breath and bed-head hair.

As we had our good-morning/good-bye kiss, my body tried to remember every detail of his embrace, and my heart was busy memorizing the way it beats just for Marc.

I guess that has been one of the results of experiencing our tragic loss. I know there is so much I've taken for granted in my life. And, I don't want to do it anymore.

The thought that bounced me from my bed in half-slumber to my feet in half-sprint was this:

What if this is my last chance to tell him I love him? What if something happens and he doesn't come home at approximately 11:10am like every other Monday morning? How hard would I kick myself for not getting out of bed early enough to tell him I love him?

Does that make me paranoid? I don't know. Maybe. But, I don't care. I'm grateful that our twins have taught me how fragile and precious life is. I'm grateful our recent experiences have made me want to embrace life like I mean it.

Because the honest truth is that I don't know when tragedy will strike. And in most cases I won't be given advanced notice.

Marc did come home at 11:06am this morning. I was watching from the kitchen window. He saw me from the front walkway and his smile made my heart skip a beat.

I will not take these things for granted.


Friday, November 21, 2008

"Rejoice with them that do rejoice"

Back in March when I found out I was so unexpectedly pregnant, it was incredibly hard to share the news. Having been down the painful path of infertility, I knew our news would be received with mixed emotions by some of our friends who have walked that painful pathway with us. I felt so blessed beyond measure, and even undeserving. There was a very real internal battle between feeling joy for our gift and sorrow for those who were still waiting. I wanted so badly to somehow pass out fertility passes to every infertile couple we know.

I found myself thinking of the scriptures that command us to "mourn with those that mourn" and "comfort those who stand in need of comfort." After sharing our news and getting some mixed responses, I wanted there to be a phrase that included something like "rejoice with those who are rejoicing." Since I was the one rejoicing, it seemed like the best idea around. C'mon, everyone, rejoice with me!

Don't you think it fits?

Well, apparently it really does fit. I came across this verse in Romans 12:15: Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.

Now, that our greatest grief has replaced our greatest joy, and we're back on the other side of feeling pain and uncertainty of infertility, I've struggled with these feelings. Why is it so much easier to mourn with those who are mourning? Why is it not just as easy to rejoice with those who are rejoicing?

I wish it wasn't so hard. I wish I didn't have worries about when and if it'll ever happen for us. I wish I understood why it has been so hard for us. I wish I didn't worry about heaven running out of children to send to our home.

It's a struggle, and I know it isn't something that will come quickly or easily. But, I know there are great things to be gained from making an honest effort to get my heart to that place of rejoicing, even if it's rejoicing over someone else receiving the one gift I would give anything for.

I'm a bit overwhelmed with challenges like this that take such serious self-mastery of pride, of jealousy, of entitlement, of bitterness, of frustration, of any other number of vices you can imagine. But, those are things I want and need to purge anyway. There's no doubt that this refiner's fire I've found myself in is my chance to do some serious purging.

This is my chance. My opportunity. And, possibly the greatest challenge of my entire life.

(With that said, don't be surprised if it takes me my entire life to get to that ideal point. And, if you're one that is rejoicing, please understand that I'm trying. I really, really am.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Interesting times we live in...

This is what happened to our Church sometime late Saturday night (or early Sunday morning).

Saturday, November 15, 2008

"my soul did long to be there"

I've had some heavy feelings weighing on my heart lately. I've written at least a dozen blog posts that have all remained unpublished, and I'm left feeling rather frustrated in my inability to express what I've been feeling lately. I think it's the wide range of topics and situations that have been pressing on my mind.

But, today, I just miss my girls.

If they could have waited until their intended delivery date, they would be about two weeks old.

I hate marking time now by their passing. I wish every month I could just skip over the 16th day. The more I try to avoid thinking about it, the more it seems to wait for me to take note of it. And, I've found it frustrating that if I don't stop and acknowledge it, then I'm pained with the most awful, guilty feeling.

Today I came across a verse of scripture that immediately brought tears to my eyes and seemed to sum up at least a portion of my feelings perfectly.

Yea, methought I saw,... God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels, in the attitude of singing and praising their God; yea, and my soul did long to be there. - Alma 36:22

There is something about reading about a vision of angels praising their God that makes me so desperately want to be there with them, and with Him. I know that's where my girls are, and I know that's what they're doing.

And, then I happened upon this quote by one of my heroes, Neal A. Maxwell:

Such longing for a heavenly home is real, especially in view of how this life is designed. After all, brothers and sisters, when we rejoice in beautiful scenery, great art, and great music, it is but the flexing of instincts acquired in another place and another time.

Life turns out, however, to be just what one would expect of a deliberately constructed proving and tutoring experience which features opportunities, choices, and deprivations. Furthermore, there is no way around—
the only way to go is through!

And, so, tomorrow I will go through the day. I will give myself permission to feel whatever I need to feel. I will no doubt be reminded of the heartache that comes with many of the memories of July 16th... and longingly look forward to the day when that pain no longer stings my heart.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Weekend Surprise

Saturday morning we woke up early and made our morning bike ride to the cemetery. I enjoy that bike ride so much for so many different reasons. Just love it. And, I love it when Marc is able to come with me... it's much nicer when it's shared.

We came home and while Marc took I shower I started cleaning like a mad woman. You would have thought we were expecting company. I just really love getting everything cleaned and organized for a peaceful Sunday (little did I know of the company about to arrive). I finally jumped in the shower by 10:30am, I think. Just as I was getting out, Marc told me we had some friends stop by and were outside, waiting to talk to me.

Anyway, so I threw on some clothes and as I opened the door all I saw was Marc talking to some guy. As I looked closer, I realized it was my oldest (or is it nicer to say biggest?) brother Jamie, who lives in Idaho! He had just called like an hour earlier and asked to talk to Marc about a technical question. Having a computer genius for a husband, this is a common occurance... but apparently the "technical question" was simply to find out if we were going to be around for the day.

Jamie drove down from Idaho with his childhood best friend - Kenny - who is probably his adulthood best friend, too. They were in town to pick up some of Kenny's things in storage, since he and his family recently have moved down the street from Jamie and Janet, in Idaho. Oh the fun they're going to have being inseparable again!

(Kenny, where are your shorts?! I hope this photo isn't too embarrassing!)

I really don't have many memories of Jamie growing up, seeing as he left the house when I was 6 years old. I'm so grateful that as we've gotten older we've been able to create such a strong friendship with each other.

And, grateful for others who captured these kinds of photos of Jamie, that I wasn't able to witness firsthand:

(Jamie, do you have any explanation for this picture? Please tell me it was halloween or something.)

And, now that I may be in very big trouble for these two photos, here are some that should redeem Jamie as an awesome big brother, who always goes the extra mile. This first one was when we were together for a family reunion during the Summer of 2001. Everyone had already left for church and I was sure to be late... so Jamie brushed my teeth for me while I did my hair. Seriously, who can say their brother has done something like that?

And, it gets better. Today, Jamie decided to head home an hour early from church, so that he could get started on making the mashed potatoes to go with the pot roast that I had in the crockpot. Well, I was completely shocked at the scene I came home to. Not only were the potatoes already mashed and ready to go, there was a salad on the table, a pan of bread loaves rising, a tray of dinner rolls rising, butternut squash baking in the oven, and he was in the process of making the gravy. Seriously? YES! I was so surprised, I grabbed the camera to capture the moment. Proof:

(Even with a smile on his face!)

I can't even describe how wonderful it was to be surprised with Jamie's visit. It has been almost four months since he was here last - for the twins' memorial. As soon as I saw him, there was a joy and comfort that immediately filled my heart. I guess during trying times you start to recognize how precious your family is, how wonderful it is to have people in your life who accept you one hundred percept, who love you and desire to protect you.

I have been blessed with the best family. I really have. I also happen to have married into an equally best family. On top of that I've been blessed with friends who fit more into the family category than the friend category, which is a rare and special blessing. And, while I'm at it, I have to add a huge thank you to our blogging friends, known and unknown. Thank you for your continuous love and support through the last few months, especially. Much of the most loving support we've received has come through our blog. We've been so touched by the encouraging and beautiful comments that have been left for us. Please know how much your kindnesses have meant to us and continue to mean to us.

Jamie, thanks so much for your surprise visit! Your big brother hugs were more needed than I had realized. My heart healed a little bit more from your visit. It meant more than you probably realize. I love you. So. Much. Please drive safe tonight. (Janet, thanks for your hugs by proxy - I actually got TWO from you! And, thanks for the goodie box that was hand-delivered! Love it!)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Desires of the heart

Boyd K. Packer:

Some years ago a president of a student stake asked if I would counsel with a young couple. The stalwart young man and his lovely wife had recently been told, with some finality, that they would never have children of their own. They were heartbroken as they sobbed out their disappointment. What they wanted most in life, what they had been taught and knew was an obligation and a privilege beyond price (part of the Plan), they now were to be denied. Why? Why? Why?

I consoled them as best I could and offered comfort that really was insufficient to quiet the pain they felt. As they were leaving the office, I called them back and said: “You are a very fortunate and very blessed young couple.”

They were startled and the young man asked why would I say such a thing as that. Did I not understand what they had told me? Why would I say they were fortunate and blessed, when they were to be denied the thing they wanted most, children of their own.

I answered, “Because you want them. In the eternal scheme of things that will be of inestimable and eternal value.” The Lord has said that He “will judge all men according to their works; according to the desires of their hearts” (D&C 137:9). Many people now do not want children or want few of them or consider them a burden rather than a blessing.” They were a very blessed young couple.

When you understand the plan, you can cope with challenges in life which otherwise would be unbearable.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Great and Precious Promises

There is a talk by Elder Spencer J. Condie from General Conference last year that I've listened to probably at least 26 times since he originally gave it. I literally sobbed through the talk when he first gave it, and have since shed many a tear as I've watched it again and again. It is a beautiful reminder of God's love, of His awareness, and of the assurance that He will fulfill His promises to us. I'm convinced that this talk was given specifically for me, and nothing anyone says will convince me otherwise. (I'm only 33% joking, btw.)

But, I still want to share it with anyone out there who might be wondering if God has forgotten you.

He hasn't. Trust me. I know He hasn't forgotten you or me.

If you still don't believe me, watch this. It might be the best spent 8 minutes and 22 seconds of your day.

(If you want to also read this talk, you can find it here.)

Some highlights that I just have to point out:

Sometimes, in our earthly impatience, we may lose sight of the Lord’s precious promises and disconnect our obedience from the fulfillment of these promises.


And the Lord changed Abram’s name to Abraham and Sarai’s name to Sarah, and when he was nearly a hundred and she was 90 they were promised that Sarah would bear a son to be named Isaac (see Genesis 17:17, 19). Amidst their disbelief the Lord asked: “Is any thing too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14).


The Apostle Peter testified that “the Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering” toward us (2 Peter 3:9). In this age of one-hour dry cleaning and one-minute fast-food franchises, it may at times seem to us as though a loving Heavenly Father has misplaced our precious promises or He has put them on hold or filed them under the wrong name. Such were the feelings of Rachel.

But with the passage of time, we encounter four of the most beautiful words in holy writ: “And God remembered Rachel” (Genesis 30:22). And she was blessed with the birth of Joseph and later the birth of Benjamin. ...

When heaven’s promises sometimes seem afar off, I pray that each of us will embrace these exceeding great and precious promises and never let go. And just as God remembered Rachel, God will remember you.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Finding joy... today

We have fond memories of our childhoods, memories of being surrounded with great love and lots of laughter, and we hope to build these same kinds of memories in our own home. We can't wait to play with trains, swing on swings, chase butterflies, and re-experience the beauty of the world through a child's eyes.

The quote above is taken from our adoption profile. I've decided it needs to be changed... here's why.

Soon after the passing of Elliana and Emmaline, I found myself feeling sad that I had failed to provide a full life of memories for my girls. Even though I knew there wasn't anything more I could have done to save my girls, there was still a feeling of guilt and responsibility weighing on my heart... I should have been able to save them. (There's that banned "should" word from our vocabulary.)

From the moment I found out I was pregnant, my girls became my sole purpose for living. For the better part of five months I literally focused 100% on my girls. I dropped everything during those months - school work, Church responsibilities, even many household chores (thanks to having an amazing husband). I did a lot of laying on the couch, a lot of vomiting, a lot of sleeping... I also did a lot of reading to my girls. We got through most of the Chronicles of Narnia.

Since they've been gone, I've naturally had moments when it has been difficult to find joy or purpose in life again. As weeks have turned into months, I've tried to look at things differently. I've tried instead to live my life as a gift to my girls. I know they want me to find joy in living... and since they aren't able to experience all the joys of life here on earth, I find myself hoping that somehow they can find joy in watching me experience things for them.

Evidenced by the quote at the top, when we were preparing to adopt, I seemed to have the mistaken idea that we had to wait for a child to re-experience the joys of trains and swings and butterflies. I'm realizing we can experience all of those joys with or without children in tow (though I know the joys are probably at least 100 times greater with). I'm grateful that the birth of our twins has re-opened our eyes to the simple beauties and joys of life. Here are a few of the simple blessings that have given me a renewed joy for life:

Mother Nature. Maybe I was just blind to them before, but in the last three months I've seen more rose buds and flowers blooming than ever before... as well as butterflies and hummingbirds. Maybe they are extra special gifts from God. He knows how much they mean to me right now, and I am so grateful. I love the earth. It is such a wondrous gift.

This is the bike I wish I had...

Bike rides. Before three months ago, it had been probably at least 7 years since I'd really been on a bike for any extended period of time. Now, as we make our rides to the cemetery, my favorite thing to do is ride down the big hill with my hands high in the air... well, relatively high, anyway. Nothing takes me back to being 7-years old faster than that. Love it.

Ice cream cones. The newly constructed Rite Aid added an ice cream counter, selling Thrifty brand ice cream, complete with the cylindrical ice cream scoops! We've only been once... but, I was all laughter as half of my double decker melted down to my elbow - it must have been 109 degrees that day! It brought back the joy of so many childhood memories. We need to go back.

Autumntime. Besides all of the vibrant, autumn colors to enjoy, this time of year it's so fun to go on walks and hear the crunching of leaves and acorns.

Meet our maid and butler...

Dancing. With or without music. Lately, I've found myself swept up in Marc's arms much more frequently, swaying and holding on to the moment together. I love it how time seems to stand still in those moments.

Singing. You know, the outloud, completely out-of-tune kind that only occurs in the car all by myself. (Thanks, Mandi, for the awesome CDs you sent me... they have definitely brought moments of dancing in the sun, like you hoped.)

So, when we get back into adoption at some point, it looks like we'll have quite a few things to change in our profile... our perspective of life has changed so much... we have changed. Life is way too short and fragile to not enjoy every moment; whatever moment we are in and whatever the circumstances of that moment consist of. It's silly to put off exploring and enjoying the world around us until a child finally joins our family. We can enjoy it now. And find great joy in what life offers us today.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Bacon, really?

I don't know about anyone else, but even just looking at this maple doughnut with bacon on top makes me want to hurl. Who comes up with things like this?  


We'll be continuing our Halloween tradition tonight of making homemade doughnuts... and we're really looking forward to sharing them with friends. You can rest assured that we won't be adding bacon as one of the ingredients.

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Planting Bulbs for Springtime

A few weeks ago my Mom asked me to plant some daffodil bulbs in their front yard, so that when they get home from their mission in a few months that they'll be able to enjoy some yellow beautifulness. So, I picked up some bulbs, which have been sitting in a bag waiting for me to find my gardening gloves and my handy little kneeling pad. Last night I was looking over the instructions, hoping that I haven't missed the prime planting time yet. I was happy to find that for where we live the ideal planting time is October to December, with the specific instructions:

Plant in the fall, before the first frost hardens the soil.

It made me think of something I read recently (I don't remember where, though)... something about planting a tiny seed of hope in our hearts, even if it's hidden under the many wintry layers of grief and sorrow. When I read it, I imagined my heart covered in winter snow and there underneath it all - a seed, waiting for the winter to pass and the sun's warmth so that it can blossom. It makes my heart warm to think of something with beautiful potential lying dormant under the winter soil, sure to bring joy and beauty after a cold and dreary winter.

In the past (and very recent past, I might add) I've had a really hard time with the principle of hope. It feels so risky to put my emotions and expectations on the line {again}, not having a perfect knowledge of whether or not what I hope for will actually come true. If I give myself permission to hope for something I desire with all my heart, then I worry that I'm setting myself up for further failure, greater disappointment and another hard fall. It can be so scary to hope.

But, then I'm reminded of this quote attributed to Theodore Roosevelt: Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the grey twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.

I find it rather interesting, though, that putting my hope in the potential of these daffodil bulbs to grow doesn't trigger any risky feelings at all. If I didn't know better, I might be very skeptical about how these bulbs could survive the frozen winter ground and still emerge in the spring as beautiful flowers. I might think it's a waste of money, time, and energy, and not even bother planting them.

But, I've planted enough bulbs and seen enough bulbs blossom that I know that good things come from the time I spend planting these bulbs. And, besides, even if there are some that don't bloom, there are enough bulbs being planted that it won't make a difference. The key is that in order to enjoy the flowers, the bulbs have to be planted. I know it's obvious... but, they will not grow if they have not been planted.

So, while I am digging and placing these daffodil bulbs, I find myself wandering through the garden of my heart. Gratefully the soil is still good, and if I use my agency to choose to plant good things there, then good things will surely come. Otherwise, I can decide it's too scary and risky to plant seeds of hope, allowing my heart to be over-run with despair and discouragement. It's really my choice what gets planted.

Rather than let despair and fear keep me from planting bulbs of hope in my heart, I'm just going to plant enough that beauty is sure to abound. Having the courage and faith to dare to hope, puts me in a position to allow God to continue to fill my life with His blessings. I've dared to hope for the impossible before and was blessed in greater abundance than what I had hoped for. Who am I to place limits on God and His power to bless my life, even with miracles if necessary?

So, I'll do the planting now, brace myself for whatever winter brings, and patiently wait for my Springtime. I don't know when it will come, how much longer the wait will be, but it will come. I do know that. And, plus, if we're commanded to have hope, then I know God will prepare the way before me, and have mercy on me because I'm choosing to hope {still}... not only for the blessings that await in the next life, but for blessings He has in store for me now. 

I know there is so much still to hope for. 

Friday, October 24, 2008

One Vote

I'll be honest, I'm very concerned about many moral issues that are being debated with this upcoming election. I'm concerned mostly for my children - the children that are yet to join our family - and the world they will be raised in. I have other fears and concerns, but they mostly come down to what life will be like for our future generations, if we don't protect what is sacred now.

Please, God, bless America... and bless Americans to use their voice for good. 

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Infinite Power of Hope

“ ‘Hope is like the sun, which, as we journey towards it, casts the shadow of our burden behind us.’ … Hope sweetens the memory of experiences well loved. It tempers our troubles to our growth and our strength. It befriends us in dark hours, excites us in bright ones. It lends promise to the future and purpose to the past. It turns discouragement to determination.”

- Samuel Smiles

(image courtesy of flickr)

This week I've been studying and thinking a lot about Elder Uchtdorf's talk from Conference - The Infinite Power of Hope. If I had to choose a favorite, this might just be the one. It is awesome and I strongly recommend a good read through of it. And, if I had to choose some favorite parts from this talk, these would be included: 

"[H]ope is both a principle of promise as well as a commandment, and, as with all commandments, we have the responsibility to make it an active part of our lives and overcome the temptation to lose hope. Hope in our Heavenly Father’s merciful plan of happiness leads to peace, mercy, rejoicing, and gladness. The hope of salvation is like a protective helmet; it is the foundation of our faith and an anchor to our souls.


"Surrounded by those we love, we will know the meaning of ultimate joy as we progress in knowledge and in happiness. No matter how bleak the chapter of our lives may look today, because of the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we may hope and be assured that the ending of the book of our lives will exceed our grandest expectations. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”


"There may be times when we must make a courageous decision to hope even when everything around us contradicts this hope. Like Father Abraham, we will “against hope [believe] in hope.” Or, as one writer expressed, “in the depth of winter, [we find] within [us] an invincible summer.”


"And to all who suffer—to all who feel discouraged, worried, or lonely—I say with love and deep concern for you, never give in.

Never surrender.

Never allow despair to overcome your spirit.

Embrace and rely upon the Hope of Israel, for the love of the Son of God pierces all darkness, softens all sorrow, and gladdens every heart."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Headstone decisions

When Marc and I were first looking at headstones, Marc had decided it would mean a lot to create the design/layout of our girls' headstone. Well, it's taken us three months... mostly because it has been so hard to make any final decisions, knowing it would be, well, so... FINAL. (Unless we want to pay thousands of dollars to change it every month.)

Well, we still don't have the headstone in place... BUT, we almost have the design and wording finished. I never knew it would be so hard to figure out what to put on a headstone. What words do you write? Do you address the loved one to whom the grave belongs or do you address the random stranger who may or may not visit the site? What graphics or pictures do you include? Any other designs? What font? How about a decorative border of some sort? And, did you know you can get different colors of granite? They have red and pink, black and other random colors I didn't care for. We decided on the normal gray granite, since it weathers better than the colored granite.

I've been feeling anxious lately about getting it done... as hard as it is to face all these questions and make these decisions, I just want the gravesite to be complete. I already have the prettiest purple and cream, silk flowers to put in the girls' vase, but I'm waiting for the headstone to be in place before leaving the flowers. Motivation of some sort to get the headstone done, I guess.

There is something really final about the headstone that makes me relieved and sad at the same time. Relieved because it's really the last thing to do (besides taking down the nursery... still haven't done that). But, sad because it makes it feel more real that they're not with us... but, that's obvious I guess. It isn't like I'm expecting them to come back to life or anything. (Not right away, anyway.)

I guess it's just the recognition that our most hoped-for-but-never-would-have-imagined, greatest dreams came true with our miracle twins. We will forever remember the sweet taste we received from those brief moments with Elliana and Emmaline. That sweetness is our driving force, pushing us upward along this path, filling us with hope for the day we meet again. I can already imagine drinking deeply from the well of joy and love that awaits us on the other side.

And, just because, here's a little random fact.... In my quiet moments, I find myself writing letters to my daughters in my thoughts. I've never had my thoughts organized in "letter-form" before. It's kind of a neat experience. I mostly ask them questions... I guess it's my way of anticipating with great hope to one day hear all their answers.

Elli and Emma, do you have any idea how much we love you? I think you do. Do you know you've brought us more joy than we ever could have imagined? We couldn't have been blessed with two more courageous and perfect girls. We can't wait to be with you... we'll make it through this. We promise. Oh, how we love you....

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Heart throbs

I had the hardest time choosing a major when I was in college. It actually got to the point that at the beginning of my Junior year I wasn't allowed to register for classes until I declared a major. After a very long process that consisted of all kinds of failed attempts to find my "passion," I finally settled for "eenie, meenie, minie, moe" and ended up with Spanish as my major. 

I had done well in Spanish in high school, and the language had come fairly easy for me, so I figured at least that I could get good grades with Spanish as my major. I progressed quickly through the classes, and soon found myself in classes with students who had been missionaries in Spanish-speaking countries. And, as I thought ahead to the mission that I would serve, I would dream of all the Spanish-speaking countries I could possibly go to.

As you know, my mission call was to Italy. It came as a HUGE surprise to me. I had never once considered Italy as a possibility. In fact, after I first read my mission call, my friends and family who were with me said that I seemed very dazed as I repeated over and over again "I'm going to Italy." 

When I arrived at the Missionary Training Center I was very excited to jump into the language, since I had heard Italian was very similar to Spanish. My foundation of language learning proved to be both a blessing and a curse. Since I didn't want to forget all the Spanish I had learned, whenever I would learn something new in Italian, I would automatically translate it in my mind in Spanish... it shouldn't have been a surprise when in conversations I would use phrases like, "muy bene." That mixing of the two languages was greatly discouraged.

It must have been pretty bad, because after about three weeks at the MTC one of my teachers finally pulled me aside and said, "You have to stop speaking Spanish." I guess she was afraid that no one would understand me when I got to Italy. Go figure.

That was a major turning point for me. It was the first time in those three weeks that I recognized that I was having a really hard time. I had been so focused on staying positive that I finally realized that I was afraid if I admitted I was having a hard time, I would somehow disappoint my family, and more importantly God. But, the truth was that not only was I struggling with the language, I was struggling with homesickness, and with finding my place in this new way of life.

I still remember the moment kneeling in prayer, when I honestly opened up and admitted I was really having a hard time. It all came out... my fears about living in a foreign country with very limited contact with my family, my frustrations with learning a new language, my insecurities about being fit to be a missionary. And, the most incredible thing happened. As I trusted those very vulnerable feelings to God in prayer, I was filled with peace and reassurance that not only did He already know everything I was feeling, but He had been waiting and wanting to help me get through it.

Over the last three months, I've found myself feeling many of the same feelings as I did in those early weeks in the MTC. I've been trying so hard to go through this trial with a clear perspective and a positive attitude, afraid that I might disappoint God in some way if I admit that I'm having a hard time coping and healing, and even accepting this loss.

I've been filled with fears and insecurities and frustrations, and they have added up against me this week. My heart has felt so heavy all week... and I'm trying to re-learn the same lesson I learned almost ten years ago... that admitting it's hard and that I can't bear the burden of this trial on my own doesn't make God disappointed in me, but rather it opens up the way for Him to comfort me and strengthen me.

I have always appreciated James E. Talmage's insight on prayer: 

"It is well to know that prayer is not compounded of words, words that may fail to express what one desires to say, words that so often cloak inconsistencies, words that may have no deeper source than the physical organs of speech, words that may be spoken to impress mortal ears. The dumb may pray, and that too with the eloquence that prevails in heaven. Prayer is made up of heart throbs and the righteous yearnings of the soul, of supplication based on the realization of need, of contrition and pure desire. If there lives a man who has never really prayed, that man is a being apart from the order of the divine in human nature, a stranger in the family of God's children. Prayer is for the uplifting of the suppliant. God without our prayers would be God; but we without prayer cannot be admitted to the kingdom of God. So did Christ instruct: 'Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.'" (Jesus the Christ, pg. 238)

At a time like this when I can't make sense of the feelings in my heart, trying to express them in prayer can be a very overwhelming task... and that's why it brings me such great comfort to know that God already knows what I'm feeling. He already knows that I feel weighed down and discouraged, heart-broken and afraid. When I kneel in prayer, and emotions choke my words, I know He hears my silent pleadings and understands my hidden sorrow. And, I'm so grateful that He is so generous in reassuring me that He is not disappointed in me, but that He loves me with the perfect love of a Father. Not only do I find relief in my honest prayerful moments, I sense there is also a feeling of relief on His end when I fully open my heart to Him.

"Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." - Romans 8:26

Friday, October 17, 2008

Beautiful Autumn

An opportunity came up that we couldn't refuse and, knowing that a good vacation would be good for us, Marc and I spent most of last week in New England. Autumntime is our very favorite time of year, and we happened to be in the most beautiful part of the country at the most spectacular time of the year.

Here's an overview of the loop we made through as much of New England as we could possibly squeeze into our trip:

We started in Manchester, NH. From there we went to Portland, Boston, Providence, some small town in Connecticut, then back up to Manchester. It's too bad we didn't make it to Vermont. I guess it gives us a reason to return. 

We did a lot of driving, a lot of walking... but, most important we completely jumped into the present. We didn't think or talk much about what has happened, we didn't worry about what lies ahead of us; for the six days we were away, we lived. We enjoyed each other. We marveled at the beauty of the earth. We reconnected. We found renewal. And, for the first time in three months I felt one hundred percent certain that we were really going to make it through this.

The photos that follow are just a tiny glimpse of the beauty we experienced. It's impossible to capture what we saw, and even more impossible to describe the healing effect this getaway had on us. It was exactly what we needed... I only wish it could have lasted longer or that coming back wouldn't have been so awfully hard. But, I suppose this is all part of the process.

New Hampshire

From the start of our trip, we got off the major freeways and travelled as much as possible on smaller highways and roads. We loved exploring and finding little treasures along the way. New Hampshire was very clean. It was the only place we've ever found an upscale Walmart. Yeah, I know, it would have been picture-worthy.

This is in rural New Hampshire, just north of Manchester:

A cute little church in Canterbury, New Hampshire

We stopped up the road from this place to buy a bag of apples at an orchard. They were the most delicious apples we've eaten - sweet, crisp, and juicy. We're still enjoying them!

This is part of Shaker Village. The landscape in this area was so immaculate.

Lake Winnepesaukee - filming location of "What About Bob?" (This is me practicing my "baby steps"....)

This river is the border between New Hampshire and Maine: