I had always had a plan. I knew from a very early age that I wanted to be a mother. I will never forget my senior year of high school in 12th grade English class, sitting in a circle going around sharing what our hopes/goals were in 10 years. I sat and listened as peer after peer shared big lofty dreams; careers, money, possessions… it got to me and I simply said “I just want to be a mom.” Oh, the looks and comments that were thrown my way. But I just knew, it was what I was made to do. And I didn’t just want one child, not even two, I definitely wanted at least three but maybe even four. I had dreams of a big family, children running wild, laughter filling the walls of my home. When we decided to try for our first born I was pregnant the second month. What an exciting time pregnancy is, especially your first one. Your growing and changing body, the nesting, the joy and the anticipation for this life you dreamed of. Holding the baby, the Lord chose YOU to mother. And all of those things were true for me, the feelings, the joy, and the growing (can someone say give me all of the carbs!) In May of 2011 we welcomed our first born, a son into the world. He was a sweet piece of heaven loaned to us to love, shepherd and enjoy. Eventually we decided we’d continue to grow our family again and began trying for baby number two. I assumed that things would happen as they did the first time around, we’d say “lets get pregnant and BOOM, a bun would be in the oven.” This was not the case, this time around it took us 8 months to conceive our second child. But the joy was all the same… my son, the first to know the good news when I cried tears of joy over those two pink lines. And then our daughter arrived in June of 2013, our sweet, wild girl who was and is such a gift to our family. When our daughter was around a year old we decided we’d try, yet again to grow our family. This time we were living in a new state, hundreds of miles from our family but together. Again, it took a while to get pregnant, 9 months of trying and 8 months of staring at a single line on the test. The day I found out I was pregnant with our third was full of so much joy but also some sort of gut feeling I had never really felt before. Miscarriage had never touched my life up unto that point. I had heard of women having them but had never really walked closely to someone who had been through it. So, I sat there, staring at the two pink lines all of a sudden full of fear. To this day I can’t explain it, can’t explain why I had that feeling. I had read two positive pregnancy tests before and the thought of miscarriage NEVER crossed my mind. It was always, always (we were the announce it at 4 weeks people) celebration. I told Jeff when he got home but followed with, “I just don’t know” … I even brought the test down to my friend who was living down the street and she was like, “girl, you’re pregnant!!” I called the doctor and made an appointment thinking that if they could confirm it, I would feel a little better. I went in the following week and sure enough, I was positively pregnant. I finally felt like I could celebrate. I laid out a calendar, put a heart around December 26th 2015 and wrote inside the heart “#3”. I posted that picture to announce our third baby, we were so excited. About a week later I began to have really bad cramps and all of those feelings of fear began to flood me. I immediately took to google and started searching all of the things… I called my doctor and she just said to rest and stay off of my feet. The next day, April 22, 2015, I began to bleed, as soon as I saw the blood in the toilet my heart sank, it was like I knew. But I was still trying to hang on, trying to hope that somehow, some way my baby was there still, living inside of me and this was just something else. I called the doctor and made another appointment, they ran blood work and the following day confirmed that my HCG levels were dropping and that I had miscarried my baby. I was devastated. I sat there in the office, crying like I’d never cried before. The baby that I had hoped for, longed for, wanted, prayed for… The one who took 9 months to conceive, our third, was gone. The pain that gripped my heart was something I had never felt before. I watched over the next several days as my body passed the very one that I wanted and there was nothing I could do. I wanted to just scoop it all back up and put it back, I wanted to fix it, I wanted to give life to that baby, I felt so incredibly helpless. There was not one thing I could do as life left my body. I fell into a hole. A deep, deep hole of sadness. Brokenness. Grief over came me. I cried and cried and cried. It was a very, very, heavy and painful place I found myself. We took one white balloon down to the shore of the Columbia River and released it, in honor of our baby’s life. We stood there, I read a poem I wrote to our baby, we cried and then we watched the balloon float up toward Heaven. The months that followed were hard. I struggled. Struggled with God; why had he taken my baby? How was this good? How would I move forward? I had always had a hard time with relating to God as Father. I could understand God the Son, Jesus coming down to redeem and save us. I could understand God the Spirit, indwelling us. But God as Father just never sat well. Whether we acknowledge it or not I truly believe that we take the experiences we have had with our fathers, the ones who we share our DNA with and we project those onto how we view and experience God as Father. For me God the Father was distant, not tender or gentle, not one who intimately KNEW me. It was in one of the hardest parts of my life, in the middle of my grief and sadness that God revealed himself to me as Father. The ways that the Lord showed up for me, tending to my heart, providing words and comfort in ways that I didn’t even know I needed from people I never even expected to show up, was all Him. I realized that He knew me even better than I knew myself and that while His plan was never for me to lose my baby, how His heart ached with mine, He was going to use it for my good and His glory. For the first time I could relate to God as my Father because He tended to me like a good Father would, comforting me sweetly, meeting me in my brokenness and wrapping His arms around me through people, songs, prayers and even silence. One morning a dear friend left a beautiful vase of lilac clippings on my front door with a sweet card. To this day the smell of lilacs reminds me of my baby, my third baby. I could physically feel my God’s presence carrying me through. I know without a doubt that my baby, my third baby was created by God, with purpose. That God used that baby’s life to bring me in closer to Him. I don’t think there is ever any getting over losing a life. Time goes on but I will forever be marked by the life of my third. And time did move forward, I was a little more banged up than before but the days kept coming and I had two sweet little ones who needed me. Again, we found ourselves desiring to grow our family. We had talked about adoption, a seed that the Lord planted in Jeff’s heart but I was so set on having at least one more of our own. I needed healing. I needed a baby, a pregnancy to bring healing to my wounded heart. We decided to try again. It had been well over a year of not preventing pregnancy, but also not actively trying. When we did decide to really “try” we ended up getting pregnant the second time. I remember counting down the days until I was enough DPO (if you’re not familiar with the infertility world that stands for Days Passed Ovulation) to take a test. I remember getting the test, a friend talking me into taking it and heading for the bathroom. There’s this weird conversation you have in your head before you take the test. “if its negative, its OK, ill be OK…” followed by “please let it be positive!” When you’ve lost, there is not only joy in a positive pregnancy test, there is also fear. I took the test and sure enough, there was a second pink line but there was also fear. Again, I just felt unsettled. After over another long year of wading through grief, trying, desiring and hoping there I was with a positive pregnancy test. I told Jeff that night and we sat outside as the Texas sun turned all kinds of shades of orange and I confessed my fear. We talked and prayed and waited. The next day I began to bleed. It’s hard for me to find the right words to articulate the feelings I felt. It was pain but it was also numbness. The blood, the cramps, it was all too familiar. The helpless feelings as the life of our fourth baby passed through my body. July 7th 2016 our fourth baby went to be with Jesus. Grief over came me once more. And I pressed into Jesus as best as I could. But it hurt. It still hurts. Time is a tricky thing; you can’t stop it, it just keeps going. Feelings of bitterness welled up in me. This was NOT my plan. I never imagined my daughter who is about to be 5 years old being my last baby. If I would’ve known that I would’ve held her longer, snuggled her more, soaked in her sweet smell of infancy. I would’ve sat down more, rocked her longer, held on longer. This was not my plan. To lose two babies was not what I envisioned for my life and I was angry. But God in His goodness met me again, right where I was, right in the middle of my confusion, my anger, my pain, my bitterness. Right in the middle of my life that was NOT what I had planned for some decade earlier sitting on the floor in my 12th grade English class. It was not long after that loss that the Lord revealed to me my idol of control. It was an ugly thing to come face to face with but something that I needed to be freed from. I had a dream for my life, for my motherhood and I was white knuckling that dream. I wanted what I wanted and that was that. There was no room for anything else, no room for God to take the pain and the brokenness and make it something beautiful. He had already done that in my life and I didn’t need Him to do it again, not here in my plan for motherhood. But there I was and He was calling me to Himself once more, calling me to release the grip I held on my life and surrender it over to Him. Asking me “will you still love me if I don’t give you any more children? Am I still good?” The honest answers to those questions were so revealing of the condition of my heart. Because everything in me wanted to scream “NO! No, I won’t love you if you don’t give me more babies”. And I think it was through that, through realizing where I was at, that I was awoken to the grip I had and my desire to control my life. The moment I fully confessed that control and the ugliness of my heart was pivotal. It was not a magical moment where God met me in the golden light. It was in my minivan with my two kids strapped in their car seats, probably fighting, on our drive home from the park that I wept and confessed before the Lord. It was like the weight I was carrying began to slowly lift off. My plan. My dream life. My picture of motherhood, it was all met with disappointment as I had lost our fourth baby. Over the next several months the Lord began to reveal more areas of my life that I was not fully trusting Him. And as we walked through life, Jesus began to heal my heart. I think about the babies that I lost often. One would’ve had a due date close to Jeff’s birthday and I think about what life would be like with them now having a 6, 4, 2 and 1 year old. But that wasn’t our story. We will forever love, miss and long for our babies and I am thankful that I will hold them both in eternity. I am thankful for their lives, God used both of them to draw me in closer to Himself and that is where I know I am supposed to be. I know now that as I sit here waiting to begin our home study for foster care, with a heart that burns passionately for orphan care, with hopes and dreams of a future where our family is grown, not by blood but by His blood and love; I know now that I could not be here, we would not be here had our babies stayed. Today, I realized as I stared out our kitchen window that there is a lilac tree and right now it is beginning to bloom with sweet purple flowers. My heart swelled and tears filled my eyes… It was a sweet gift from my Father, who sees me and knows me. I loved those babies, God loved those babies, they were planned and purposed and we will never, ever forget them.