Dang, so 2021. Coming to a close. How’s your heart doing? Though I faced overwhelming depths of grief in 2021 that I sincerely never thought would be part of my story with the loss of my daughter Blakely, I still somehow have such incredible memories from the year. When I think of 2021, I somehow still smile and have happy thoughts. I have learned such a lesson in life the last couple of years that joy and grief co-exist, and that it’s okay to be both okay and not okay. I think we can get so hung up on one or the other that we miss opportunities in the spaces in between.
As a way to celebrate the year, I wanted to share something from every month *some things are surprises you guys don’t know anything about* simply because I would love to share it all with you. The good, the bad, and the spaces in between.
January: We kicked off our year excited and hopeful. We had just pressed “go” on the year long process to launch a church with our network ARC, and everything we did was looking ahead to September. We had a lot of “firsts” and January was our first launch team gathering. We are just so grateful.
February: I went to Disney with my best friends for the first time in my life. I truly have no words for it except that I am so freaking thankful I have such amazing women in my life. I can’t wait to go back with all my boys. Also, how many women do you know who have a group of 8 best friends they can legit travel with and come home loving one another just as much (if not more!)? We have something so unique and I just can’t believe I get to call all of these incredible women my best friends.
March: We started Interest Gatherings for Cadence in March and I, unknowingly at the time, began meeting some of the people who have now become dear friends to us. I remember walking outside and seeing these marquee lights spelling out “Cadence” for the first time and it took my breath away a little. Ten years of dreaming and this moment made it feel like we were truly launching a church. It was the first time we did something for the public and it was so scary – you have no idea what to expect – but wow, what an incredible first step into our calling.
April: Okay, so this one is a surprise/secret I have kept. In April, I had a dream opportunity arise with a well-known publisher. Basically, my dream book deal was handed on a silver platter to me by an acquisitions editor who had been told about me and spent months watching my Instagram and emails to see if I was a fit (WHAT?!) I still had to write a pitch worthwhile for the publisher… but, the initial first steps were eliminated and I had a publisher seeking ME out. It still makes me both smile and shiver with shock to be honest. I began working on my pitch, praying about what I wanted to write, and spent the next few months exploring the world of publishing, which has always been my long-term goal. Did you know I was a creative writing minor in college?! All this to say, my dream was put on the back burner a bit at first when I shockingly found out in June I was pregnant and spent my days just trying not to puke, and then fully so when I lost Blakely in August. The creativity in me was completely diminished for a season while I grieved. However… the dream and my creativity has been reignited somewhat within me and is rolling again. I have a unique idea for a book that I am truly thrilled about. I hope to see this dream come to life in 2022 and it feels fun to just finally get to share this with y’all. I have been scared to share about this because I feared failure. What if I never wrote a pitch worth them signing me on for? But, I am here sharing because regardless of when or IF I ever finish the book, I still had a dream come true in April and I want to celebrate that.
May: We FINALLY (4 months late…) moved into our home. A whole year after signing to build, I got to move into the home I designed every little nook and cranny of. It’s so surreal still and I think we say (no joke) daily, “Can you believe we get to live here?” I sincerely loved the building process, though it was delayed and a few frustrating moments, it was in general so fun and has already proven to be a great investment. Don’t let people scare you out of building – we had a blast! Paul and I never fought about it as so many try to convince you will happen if you build a home and we just really did enjoy the process whole heartedly!
June: I celebrated my 29th birthday in June, and then found out at the end of the month I was VERY shockingly 6 weeks pregnant. I mean, it was truly a shock. I laid on the floor for an hour when I saw two pink lines show on the stick that I literally only took just to tell the doctor I knew I wasn’t pregnant when I set my appointment up for how sick I had been feeling lately. I just figured it was a food allergy thing and that I needed to do a re-set. We were thrilled, though it felt crazy to be doing this in the middle of planting a church. I knew God was up to something and I had specifically prayed that if I ever got pregnant again I would need him to do it as a surprise. I had also prayed months before for the surprise to be my daughter I longed for. As per usual, God flexed and did His thing.
July: We were diving into our new community at our new home and I was writing portions of my book pitch in the rare moments I got alone/didn’t feel nauseous. At the end of the month we went on a trip to Alabama for our church planting network with our staff. I had just taken the blood work test a week or so before to find out the gender of our surprise baby, and I had asked God to somehow miraculously get us the results early. He did, but in a way I didn’t expect Him to. While in Alabama, I began cramping so incredibly bad and my stomach was swelling up (although, I just thought I was starting to pop early), and by the end of day 2 I was concerned. I couldn’t even sit without wincing from pain. Then, as we walked into dinner with our team I knew I was bleeding. I ran to the bathroom to find blood everywhere and immediately began to weep. We rushed to the ER where we waited to be seen, my heart racing and the fear setting in that I surely lost my baby. As we went back with the sonographer, we could tell she was a believer and turns out she went to the church we were attending for the church planting conference. We were missing out on a prayer night, but we ended up having our own in a way with her in that room as she grabbed images of our baby and prayed over us, praying the bleeding would cease. It still makes me cry. She told us *though she wasn’t supposed to* that she saw a hematoma and the doctor would tell us more about it. She also asked if we wanted to know the gender early to which I nearly bounced off the table with a “YES!” She let me know what my heart already knew, and I was pregnant with my daughter I had ached and prayed for. *I took this video for a collaboration I had booked pre-bed rest with Red Dress Boutique and you can see how swollen my belly was. Below is a photo I took from our hotel room before going to dinner just before I began bleeding. I sent it to my friends saying “look how much I popped!” but also asking for prayer for my cramping.
August: I was put on bedrest for two weeks minimum and somehow… we all managed to catch COVID. My entire family sat in bed for two weeks basically waiting and watching, praying for a miracle, and blowing our noses. I had been told once I got back from Alabama to see my own midwife that I had a severe hematoma, and that while most women carry full term perfect babies with a SCH… I was a risky case at 5 CM. On August 10th, I went into labor with my surprise Blakely Amelia and delivered her at 14 weeks. I held her perfect hands, toes, and sweet tiny body for hours. I know there is purpose and beauty that comes from all pain. God doesn’t create pain, but only HE can make good from our pain. The greatest mystery of God is that in His sovereignty He doesn’t choose to take away or snap His fingers and make our pain right every time. He chooses sometimes not to heal or save or answer our prayers how we want them to be. But I also know He is so very good. It’s the greatest confusing mystery that I can only find peace in when I recognize God is God and He is always good … even when I cannot make sense of it. I know Blakely’s life has purpose. Her life answered prayers I have prayed for 5 years. Her life reassured me, staring into her perfect face and seeing her heart and ribcage through her delicate skin, just how real life in our womb is. I will boldly and proudly scream it from the rooftops, and I have a conviction deeper than ever before that it is true. A baby is a baby, whether planned for or wanted. I have such a passion now for helping women and their babies through unexpected pregnancies.
September: What a month. One month postpartum of a miscarriage AND launch month. The very thing we had been working toward since the previous October. At moments, it felt impossible while at others I was grateful for the distraction. We brought home our new puppy Dolly this month, which (mostly for Paul) is still a toss up if this was a blessing or a curse… lol. (Mostly kidding) The week after launch, Paul was in a pretty bad car accident that, praise God, he walked away from, but it nearly totaled our brand new black 4 Runner (which is still in the shop!) I also faced unbelievable loss personally outside of my daughter that I can’t really talk about, but I had to draw difficult lines with people I love deeply and the grief at times kept me on the floor gasping for air. Grief is wild, because as you must somehow pick back up the shattered pieces of your life as you thought it’d be… others are living their lives. And worse… Happily. You look around you as people pass by and it literally feels like slow motion. How dare them be happy. Don’t they know I lost my daughter? Don’t they know I have people I love but can’t talk to? Of course they don’t. They have no idea. It’s the weirdest thing, trying to live life again as others don’t even know that getting out of the house that day was in and of itself a difficult victory. September 19th came and we launched Cadence Church. It was perfect. It was a dream fulfilled, and then also the realization that this one day we had dreamt of was just one Sunday of thousands more to come. It was thrilling. I am so grateful for Cadence. I am grateful for the way it, in some ways, saved me in the midst of grief. I am grateful the people who call it their home. I am grateful that we are already making a difference in the lives of those in our community as well as the city we are in. September taught me, truly, that I can do anything by Christ’s strength because it is LITERALLY the only explanation for how I made it through with joy and faith still in tact.
October: Life has begun to feel somewhat normal again, whatever that means. Grief had its days, but in general less of them. I think October taught me it’s okay to feel “okay” after grief, though still very real and painful. It’s funny, when I was barely 2 months post-loss, it felt somewhat like pregnancy with Blakely was years ago yet in the same breath still a bleeding wound. If you find yourself in the middle of grief, I hope me sharing this timeline but specifically about this month, can encourage you. Take each passing day as it comes – whatever it looks like. And see a counselor. I say that a lot … but I mean it. Having a counselor has at times saved my marriage through very difficult seasons and decisions we needed to make, and it also has saved me. Arguably, counseling has brought me back. Below is just a random October night with my boys where I remember thinking, “Life is as it should be again.”
November: My favorite time of year! In November, the notable moment to me was I drove for the first time in 4 years further than 45 minutes away from my home. I had PP OCD and anxiety after Knox’s birth and I suffered a HORRIBLE panic attack alone on a drive to San Antonio with my 6 month old baby while Paul was completely off the grid somewhere in Africa. This felt like such a victory, driving to see my family again now with two babies in tow, and I felt like it was a significant moment for me. I felt nauseous most of my drive from how nervous I was. But I did it. I drove down to see my sweet grandpa in the hospital and it was worth the battle. I wrote more about here on my IG.
December: Alas, we’ve made it. 2021 was … well, kinda wild, huh? This holiday season hasn’t been easy. The painful relational lines of September exist still, and I had to grieve that along with the constant reminder I should have been almost 8 months pregnant with Blakely this Christmas. Yet, I sit here and smile. There’s so much to be so thankful for. I have had such a fun year, full of laughter, travel, and so much fun. So many new things. So many fun adventures with our boys. I am so grateful for our health. I am grateful for my boys and my husband. I am grateful for my best friends. I am grateful that if I lost everything, I truly have it all in Jesus and with my boys by my side. Yesterday we celebrated Christmas alone at home. Literally, just us. Things panned out to allow us this opportunity and we took it. We watched movies all day long, napped on the couch to The Christmas Story, and played with our new toys all day, ending with a delicious meal of steak, vegetables, artichokes, and sweet potatoes. It was unanimously our best Christmas yet.
In closing: God has been so good to us. I cry just thinking about the sweet gifts of this year. I feel the gifts He’s sent our way are truly extra special and intentional in the midst of the grief we have faced. If you allow yourself to see it in this light, you can see how sweet the Lord is in our pain- yours and mine. Maybe that relationship or prayer didn’t unfold how you hoped it would- I would have never prayed or asked for me to lose my daughter- and that can make you feel forgotten or overlooked by God. But, friend, look at all the ways God showed up and protected you even in your unwelcomed circumstances. I can see his protection even in the Labor and Delivery room as I lost my baby. I can see it in the sweet friendships I have that feel like family. In November, Paul drove up to our home around 8:45 PM after he stayed long at a men’s event for the church to find a man watching me from a ladder in our living room. Our brand new living room we had prayed over and asked God’s protection over. Having a peeping Tom in our “safe” space didn’t exactly feel like God protecting us. But the truth is, HE DID. People are evil and people have free will to do bad things. We live in a fallen world and subchorionic hematomas exist – God in His perfection didn’t create these. Division over politics and health choices exist because the devil who is fighting for people to be divided exists. But God is sovereign over it all, and I trust him with the gaps that sin has created. He promises us a place of no more tears or suffering in Heaven and that is the hope I cling to on this side. What I am trying to say here is, God didn’t have a peeping Tom come look at me and violate my privacy in my safe space. That’s obvious. But, had Paul not stayed longer at Top Golf that night, he would have never driven up at the exact right time to catch the man who was watching me (for who knows how long or how many times) to follow him and get his license plate, call the cops, and ultimately protect our home longterm. God ordained Paul’s steps perfectly to truly protect us. You following me?
God is so good. He is in every detail. I am so thankful. I surrender every ounce of pain at his feet and send up prayers of gratitude for the blessings I see all around me. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, y’all. I can’t wait to see what 2022 brings for us.