Margaret Esther

In order to really understand why my Maggie is such a miracle, you need to know that for a long time I thought I would not be able to have children.

With the severity of my Crohn’s disease and the intense treatments I’ve been on, and the surgeries I’ve had, I was under the impression that I would never be able to be healthy enough to be pregnant. It was something I came to terms with, but something that was hard, and became more difficult once I got married and really wanted to have a baby.

My doctors gave us the green light.  And we didn’t expect it. The medicine that I’m currently on and put me in remission, I was told to stay on.  We did lots of research and the doctors didn’t even consider me to be high risk.

Throughout my pregnancy, I felt good overall. Once Maggie started to get bigger she began pushing on my ostomy. I ended up in the er one day because she started to force my intestines out of my body- prolapsing them. I sat in the er with my husband  for hours until someone could help us, and we had a series of doctors who ended up pushing them back in with sheer force. And then they told me that there was no way to know if it would happen again, and if it did the best option would be for me to push them in myself.  Throughout the rest of the pregnancy I had several times when I had to do just that, always with a sense of panic. I kept track of the weeks; every week we got through meant Maggie would be more healthy and if something happened she would be more ok coming early.

And then we hit 36 weeks and I could take a breath. We started to get more excited and set up the nursery and instead of worrying about intestines I started to worry about labor. I really wanted to try without an epidural. I did research on what to expect and started watching for contractions. And in week 38 they started in the middle of PARCC testing my students, and quickly were about 5 minutes apart consistently. My husband and mom told me to go to the hospital even though the nurse on call said it was too early- we went in and I expected to be turned away. We checked in around 6 that night, and the contractions went from being manageable to severely painful and close together, but I wasn’t progressing. I threw up and the nurses went from saying they would probably keep me to calling the doctor in and rolling me over in the bed, trying to find Maggie’s heartbeat better. Her heart rate started to drop and they took me away for an emergency c section, where they didn’t have time for an epidural, they just put me under.

Maggie was born at 8:40pm, April 17. Her full name is Margaret Esther. She is named after my grandma, a woman that I loved and admired deeply. Her middle name is after the biblical Esther, a woman that I respect. Caleb’s family uses biblical names and we wanted to respect their tradition in our daughter.

1950's12

Maggie is our miracle, and she came into the world quickly and with force. She seems to already know what she wants.

I am so blessed to be her mom. I am so blessed to have the love and support of our family and friends as they have surrounded us with help as we’ve transitioned our way into parenthood. It isn’t glamorous. Just a few minutes ago she spat up milk all over me and she has a blocked tear duct so I am wiping goop out of her eye. She seems to have a knack for knowing when I’m changing her diaper so that she can aim an extra helping of whatever is filling her diaper for me to catch. She screams bloody murder when she figures out it’s bed time but she’ll sleep for hours in my arms during the day. She’s so boring sometimes and so infinitely interesting in other moments; her personality is beginning to flesh itself out. She has no patience, just like her mother, and when she’s fast asleep nothing wakes her, just like her dad. When she wakes up she stretches in every direction, her legs sticking straight up in the air and her toes outstretched. She loves to stare at the blinds in the window and the patterns on the couch and at Caleb’s eyebrows.

IMG_1211

She made me into a mom, over the course of nine months and a couple of very scary hours of labor and surgery. I went to work one day and everything was normal, and at the end of the day a brand new person was here, and our lives will never be the same.

IMG_1230

So welcome to our daughter, our lovely little Margaret Esther. May you be filled with joy and wonder like your great grandmother, may you build community like her and build a tribe of people in your life that love you. And may you be brave, like Esther; may you do what is right even when it’s terrifying. May you know that you were born for such a time as this. You are so loved, and you don’t even know us yet.

Advertisements

2015

This has been a big year for me.

2015 started with me working as a substitute and an assistant and dating a wonderful man. In March, he proposed. As we were driving  back from our engagement I got a phone call offering me a full-time teaching job.

MexYlEQglzHKR9hbyRCHW6hETdam1G_rzRLRTC3Xr40,AJ-sPaPvs_mLsMfPUKS0-ELYZ2SRVMZXETw3Zo9RLnI

In June we got married and it was beautiful and fun and full of love. Our wedding was full of our friends and family and our hearts were overflowing.

IMG_60541

Now we’ve been married six months already and we added a new member to our family- our new dog Finn.

2015-12-23 13.00.09

So basically this year has been huge. I’m learning and growing all the time. We’re learning how to love each other better every day and it has been so rewarding to learn how to be a wife. I’m sitting here now on winter break with Finn sleeping with his head on my leg and life feels really beautiful right now. My years seem to come as good years and bad years; some I can’t wait to get through and move on, and others you’d like to stay in a while longer.

This year has been filled with big, loud, incredible blessings, and I am so very thankful for every moment of it. I’m looking forward to see what 2016 will bring for me and for us. I don’t want to sit and be content without moving forward and being willing to step into the risk of newness, so here’s to the next year and the next season and the next lesson, hoping I have the openness and willingness to learn it.

 

December

It’s almost Christmas.

Christmas is my favorite holiday, very closely followed by Thanksgiving, both of which I love because of family and tradition and circling up to appreciate the people around us. My grandma loved Christmas in a serious way, and I miss her a little bit extra when the Christmas lights start going up and Christmas music starts playing.

christmas 1954 1

This year is my first not in my parents’ house; I don’t have a tree yet, it’s foggy and warm outside with no sign of snow, I haven’t watched Elf or White Christmas.

It doesn’t look like Christmas yet. But in our new home, we’re trying to focus on what Advent means. We’re trying to focus on what Christmas is really about (thanks, Linus and Charlie Brown) and we’re trying to focus on how to open our hearts to God and be ready to celebrate. I love my church, but I love Christmas told from candlelight services and acoustic hymns and we have plans to go to smaller churches this season.

Our small group started reading Luke and I love how God showed off Jesus first to faithful people and people who are completely normal. The shepherds out in the fields with the sheep are surrounded by angels and singing and basically something that’s unimaginable and totally cinematic.

Luke 2 8-14

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

I’m trying to build practices in my life of cultivating more thankfulness and prayer and being aware of God in all of it. I know that God can break the quiet night with angels singing, but I’m working on being aware of God in those quiet bits too. It’s easy for me to get caught into the noise and the jingle bells and potlucks and not give any time to preparing my heart for what a miracle this season truly celebrates.

So I want both. I want both the open heart for God and his story and the celebration of family and tradition. I want to turn away from the frenetic and toward the peaceful.

Change

It’s been a while since my last update, and I’ve gone from engaged to married; from assisting to teaching; from small family to huge; thrown into a brand new season of life that is exhilarating and scary and feels very big and very grown up.

I think the thing that I want to hang onto right now is how very aware I am of the blessings in this season. I am just unbelievably blessed by my husband who loves me well and this new job that is fulfilling and meaningful and it’s all a step up. It’s easy to complain about busy schedules or stress and I have moments of awe of all of these gifts and I don’t want to ever be blind to that.

As we move into this new season, both literally and figuratively, we are trying to live with intention. We are doing less passive and more active. We’re trying to lean into our relationships and lean away from isolation. It’s hard to do that sometimes, but it’s already proving to be worth it.

Life feels really short sometimes. It moves so fast. It feels like a moment ago and a lifetime ago that I was a kid and now I’m here and these moments are precious and short. Instead of zoning out in front of the tv today we took our hammock out to the forest preserve and ate a picnic lunch and napped and talked and enjoyed the silence. I know there will be other seasons where silence and serenity will be hard to find and I’m thankful to have married someone who knows how to grab onto these opportunities and teach me to slow down in them. I started today with a list in my head of things to accomplish and didn’t really check anything off, but I’m ending today feeling more peace than I’ve felt in a long time. I don’t want to be a person that fills life with busyness and media and forgets God, but it’s just so easy to do that. It’s so easy to zone out and not connect and all of a sudden it’s the middle of October and where has your time gone even?

So right now God is showing me what my blessings are and pointing them out in neon flashing lights and sometimes it makes me feel emotional, like how do I have this? How do I deserve it? How can I make sure it never leaves?

And I guess the cheesy things you read about fall are true sometimes. That fall reminds you that things die and change but there’s beauty in that too; and I know that holding onto a single moment would mean ignoring all the future moments that haven’t happened yet. I need to constantly learn the lesson to stop worrying, stop overthinking, stop planning. Peace is a gift, gratitude is a gift, and it’s far too easy to ignore their quiet lessons.

2015-10-10 13.07.36

Blessings

This weekend a wonderful friend threw us an engagement party and I have been thinking about it ever since, struck by several things.

One thing that I love about my friends is that in this season of joy in my life, they have come around me to help me celebrate in a way that is humbling. They are teaching me to love better, and showing me what loving selflessly looks like. I’m surrounded by people that are inspiring me to be better and to show love and friendship better and to celebrate people better.

And at the party this weekend we had people there to celebrate with us in this big season and encourage us and that is all special and wonderful. But I think what we really had there this weekend is family and friends who have helped us become who we are. Without these people we may have never met, or our story may have looked different; but I think deeper than that, without these people I would not have been the person I am today. I would not have had people to teach me to be stronger and to allow me to show vulnerability. I wouldn’t have had people to encourage me through highs and lows and everything in between.
I don’t have a huge family, but my friends have become that for me.  At the end of the night they came around us and prayed over our future marriage and this incredible blessing is what’s sticking with me. We are so thankful to have people to stand with us in good times and bad, to celebrate with us and to pick us up when we fall down.
So to all the people who have been instrumental in my life, people from my childhood and from high school and from college and now, thank you so much for your patience and love and encouragement and joy. Thank you for your presence in my life. Love you all.

2015

I’m not into New Year’s resolutions so much, and the whole experience of changing calendar years generally feels more like just another day than anything transformative. However, I do love to step back from life and take a look at it. I like to look at patterns and changes and a year is both an instant and a century when you’re experiencing it.

Part of the magic of blogging, even as occasionally as I do it, is the ability to tangibly look back on life moments. A year is condensed in a few entries and I can see that just about a year ago my brother was rushed into surgery and was in intensive care and I can remember sitting in my room under the crushing fear that something even more terrible could happen. I remember crying in my bed while my parents were at the hospital with him and praying that he would be ok. It was honestly more like yelling; it was angry and desperate, and it was some of the most honest praying I’ve ever done. And now, a year later, he’s fine. He works full time and it’s hard to remember that I was ever that afraid, and it was really only about 365 days ago.

I see the end of the last school year and I remember how much that guts me every time, how hard it is to leave the kids that I love. I see me teaching summer school and taking online classes and being SO OVERWHELMED, and I see that moment of release when I finally am able to read a book in the sun and remember that busyness is not healthy for me all the time. I see the mission trip I took with Elevate which was just as meaningful and changing for me as it was for the kids, and I see all the retreats and moments I had this year with my soon-to-graduate 8th graders and I’m reminded to build into them and encourage them for the last few months of our time.

This year has given me beautiful moments. I met new people and grew relationships with old friends. The people that I love dearly took a pilgrimage with me to Hope College and helped create the most lovely birthday in years. And there are hundreds of other moments, that I can’t describe here.

The point I’m trying to make is that maybe for me I shouldn’t be focused so much on a resolution as in seeing how I’ve grown. I should see how God has worked in my life over the past year so that I can be ready to move forward in the year to come. I want to recognize my mistakes and bad habits so that I can remedy them, and the only way to do that is to look back.

So in 2015, I hope to recognize moments of greatness when I’m experiencing them. I hope to document them with pictures and words. I hope to write more letters this year, to invest in people and to remember the poison of overscheduling myself. I hope that I remember to value the people I love because life can change in an instant and I don’t want to wait until then to tell people what they mean to me.

This isn’t a “go work out more” resolution; this is a live my life the way that makes me feel fulfilled resolution. I know what works for me. I know what is meaningful and what fills me with joy and what makes my life worth living, and sometimes I need to be reminded to choose that, over and over again, even when it’s hard. Choose joy and choose love and choose the hard path when Netflix is calling, when it feels like I need to fill my every second of time so that I don’t face the horror of silence.

In one of the sermons I listened to last year, they asked these questions: Am I making the most of every day that God has given me? Am I doing all that God has put me here to do?

I hope that at the end of 2015 I will be better at answering yes to those questions. I hope that I begin to learn to take in the silence instead of blocking it with aimless tv marathons and social media clicking. I want to actively make memories instead of stumbling into them.

Instead of calling these New Year’s resolutions, I really want to think of these as just living life better. Our days are numbered, and I’d hate to think I’ve wasted any of them.

Breakaway!

2014-11-08 13.31.56

These incredible girls are now 8th graders and we just finished our very last camp together as a group.

I am exhausted, emotionally and physically spent, but these weekends are so worth it.

2014-11-08 08.17.27

There are moments like bumper balls which are just pure fun and crazy.

2014-11-08 13.48.55

There’s dancing and eating junk food and laughing and spending every waking moment together as a unit; there’s serious team building and absolutely insane games and friendly competition.

2014-11-08 12.42.35

And then there’s moments of conversation. There’s learning to love your enemies and learning to be a “kindness bully” in those years when it’s oppressively hard to be yourself and be kind anywhere. There’s one-on-one interactions, chances to recognize in a kid some greatness that they haven’t caught in themselves yet. There’s tears because people are vulnerable and tears because I’m just so proud of how far these girls have come.

2014-11-08 13.36.43

So this year is progressing faster and faster, but I’m so glad to be able to slow down and grab onto these exceptional experiences. I’m thankful for the wit and wisdom and tenderness of each of these kids, and their strong desire to be seen. We all want that, but they are just more honest about it.

As I struggled with getting through my workday today, I am reminded of how small the price of exhaustion is.  I’m so sad already to see them go at the end of the year, but I know that these kids can move mountains. They’ll take the world by storm.

Fall

There was a tiny taste of fall this weekend.

Friday began hot and the air was heavy and muggy. It was sunny and uncomfortable and then in a split second near the end of the school day the sky turned black and roiling and the heavens opened. The rain poured and poured and there was thunder and the lights flickered and turned off. We ended the day herding students out after the storm, with the sky still dripping and power gone, loading kids onto buses. The roads were full of branches and trees had fallen onto power lines and houses.

And with the end of that storm, cool air blew in. I wouldn’t call it fall yet, but the nights are turning chilly and it feels SO CLOSE. Fall is my favorite season. Summer feels like swimming through humid air and sweating and uncomfortable sunburns. Fall feels like sweatshirts and mittens; it feels like roasting marshmallows around a fire that you huddle around for warmth. Fall tastes like apples and cinnamon and pies; it smells like huge cups of tea. Fall is gray, but gray in layers. The sky pulls blankets over itself and snuggles in.

I’d like to go apple picking and bake now. I’d like to start packing away warm weather clothes and unpacking piles of blankets to drape over everything. Changing seasons spurs cleaning up and wrapping up loose ends. Changing seasons makes you feel like time has flown. Fall already? Every year my dad laments the beginning of football season; he marks the passage of time with the start of football. Each year he feels like the Super Bowl has just ended and week one of games is already over. I’ve never been a football fan and have only begun watching, so this is the first year that I feel that. Time flies and seasons change faster and faster each year and I hope I remember to slow down sometimes and grab onto moments.

Gratitude

School has started. Routines are solidifying, I’m waking up before the sun, late nights are impossible.

Everything feels centered again. I’ve missed this; over the summer, I don’t always feel necessary. I like to make sure my time is spent in a meaningful way. When I’m here, working, I feel like I am giving to people. I wake up every day feeling like my job is special and worthwhile and lovely.
 
 
My birthday was last week and with the start of school and the start of my 27th year (WHEN DID THIS HAPPEN?) I have tried to remain aware of the blessings I’m surrounded with and the lessons I’ve learned. I’m trying to cultivate an attitude of gratitude, because when I do I feel at peace. It’s much more satisfactory to live in a world you are grateful for rather than a place you resent.
 
 
 
photo(1)
 
So some gratitude. I have a full schedule this year and my time at work flies by, filled with students who are quirky and funny and clever and really quite beautiful. They say funny things and are vulnerable and strong all at once and run towards life. These kids want experiences and crave good conversation and learning; they see the magic in books and silly songs and they make me see the world as if it was new.
 
 
I’ve had a chance to finish classes this summer and have applied for my middle school endorsement which means I’ll soon be able to apply for actual middle school teaching jobs. I have the chance to see my middle schoolers from my summer mission trip and my 8th grade group of girls from church and I love them deeply. They are filled to overflowing with energy and potential and pain and confusion all at once and they are ready to change the world around them.
 
 
 
2014-08-20 20.25.19
 
My life is also surrounded by a family that, while small, is full of love and sarcasm and joy and encouragement, a family that taught me how to love to read and what cooking looks like and how to support people through crisis. My family shows me what stability is, and compromise, and how to help someone see the potential they have. My family saw the potential in me even when I couldn’t; they have encouraged me through times of doubt and have been with me through every difficult season. My family taught me to laugh at myself and how to take in each day and appreciate what I have.
 
 
And of course, I have a larger community as well. These friends grow more into family each year. I’ve been blessed to have conversations that change me and push me and help me grow into something better. Some friends and I went to visit my old college last week. We drove out to Michigan for the day and went to my favorite places in the world and stood on the shores of Lake Michigan and were sprayed by waves. We invest in each other. We share experiences and wisdom and love and I know that I am incredibly lucky to be surrounded by people like them.
 
 
photo(2)
So now it’s Friday. Another week has flown by and September is already here which means it’s basically almost Christmas. My goal this year is to intentionally cultivate this attitude of gratitude, to let go of the bad and embrace the good. Life is too short to do anything else.
 
 
 
photo(2)

Summer

School finally starts again next week. Tomorrow I’ll be going in to set up classrooms and see coworkers and in just a matter of days routine begins again.

I am SO EXCITED. Summer is great, but I am bored, and I’m missing my kids and full days.

These last few months have been an incredible blessing. I had a chance to spend time with old friends and meet new ones. The days have been cool enough to mostly leave windows open and get constant fresh air. And the summer began with a retreat with my newly eighth-grade girls, kicking off our last year together in a pretty epic way.

2014-06-21 17.21.26

I had Friday ice cream dates with my grandpa, who has taught me from a young age the value of good dessert.

2014-08-08 15.41.09

I went on a mission trip with the greatest students who taught me about loving well.

2014-07-16 13.39.09

I took three classes and taught summer school and read some beautiful books on the deck with this face.

2014-07-24 15.23.41

There were walks outside bonding with my brother and going to a lake house and learning to slowly appreciate nature (a little bit).

Summer was lovely, and fall is coming which I love even better. Hope the end of your season is filled with light and life, and that you grab on to every moment.