Bon Voyage 2017

This year was the worst for me personally. I thought I heard God say grow my family and I lost 3 babies. This last miscarriage in October was an especially low moment as I began to question God’s faithfulness. So I’m so ready to put this year in the books and start a new journey into 2018. 

I was reading yesterday and soaked in that God delights in our praise to him. He delights in seeing Him in all circumstances. Romans 5 shares how trials in our life lead to preservance. Perseverance develops character and character gives us hope. How desperately we all need hope.

2017 showed me this life is not about what I see as best. I’m trusting that as I persevere, my character is grown. As that is grown, my hope continues and focuses on the plans He has for my life and our family.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

I pray that as you embrace your journey ahead for 2018, you have hope. Life throws us challenges. Place them at the feet of Christ who is able to fill your soul in ways you never thought imaginable. He will give that hope to face whatever you may be enduring.

Waiting for the storm

Sitting on my porch, watching darkness take over the night sky, it dawned on me that sometimes you have to walk out into the dark and face being uncomfortable and not sure of what’s ahead.

We are in a season of wondering what is next. When it’s dark out, I can’t see the sky to tell if a storm is brewing or if sunshine will rise in the morning. All I know is I must get up and step out into the darkness. Obey. Listen to the inner voice that continues to prod at my heart and take the next step forward without knowing the footpath.

I just have to say, it’s the same for you. We never know what tomorrow brings. Saddle up your closest friends and hold their hand tight. Brace the joys and heartaches the day will bring.

Close your eyes and ask God to give you peace and tell you what path to place your precious feet. Do it scared but put your foot down and be ready for your trail ahead.

Transition is painful. Waiting with a blindfold on, plain exhausting. But I tell you what, I’m doing it scared because I’m not letting life go by, leaving God’s best for me by the wayside.

This heart adores you, friends. You all know who you are. Reach out to those around you because the path can go downhill quickly and it’s a less scary with your tribe by your side. When you reach the place you’ve been dreaming of, you have someone to hug (and pinch to see if it’s real).

We need each other. Sharing this life makes it so much sweeter. Go find someone to hug and tell them you love them. Two things that we can’t live without.

The eve of silence

It is the evening before our son would have been born. It is hard to put into words the mix of emotions I have felt this past year. The excitement of pregnancy, the sadness of loss and the gratitude I continue to feel each evening I tightly hold my girls and husband.

I wasn’t going to write at all but this week at a work conference, I was reminded that silence is not an option. When we remain in silence about the realities of life, we can be shackled to the experience and suffer alone. When we are silent about injustice we see, we are just as guilty by not saying a word.

So, today I choose to speak on life. Our son was real. He existed. He didn’t survive to meet us on earth but he remains a memory of hope and joy. Hope that I someday will hold him in heaven with his other siblings that never came to life on earth. The world moves on but for many families, I have heard your pain. Families living in infertility. We see you and pray for your comfort. If you experienced, miscarriage and stillbirth, they were real living beings that heaven holds dearly. To the parents of toddlers, school-age and adult that have experienced death after raising these loved ones, my heart aches and only hopes that others help you remember him or her. As I’m sure not a day goes by that you haven’t thought of them.

Gratefulness is an understatement for this gift of life. To receive another day to experience the joy and trials that come with human existence, is simply a gift. When things don’t seem expected, just or fair, I have to look to Christ and trust that He knows, He see me or your experience.

The eternal life that He has given freely to all who ask far outweighs the experience of earthly pleasures. I turn on the news or receive a message to be quickly reminded how fleeting this temporal body is. We long for more because we were designed for eternity. We long for perfection because the garden of Eden was supposed to be our dwelling. There will be a day when pain is no more but until then, I close my eyes and thank my Heavenly Father for every blessing He has bestowed.

I long for those little lives I lost in February. I am sad that Anders will not be born tomorrow but eternity is coming and that is what what we are ultimately living for.

My beautiful family will be experiencing Maine this week for the first time. We will live in this moment, embracing every memory because this life is too precious and fleeting to do otherwise.

Don’t wait for sorrow to learn this lesson. Hug your loved ones and live out loud. Don’t suffer in silence, call a friend. I’m sorry for your pain but there is One greater that can provide peace that nothing on earth can give you.

Peace and love from the Veenemas.

“Though mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”

Isaiah 54:10

Waiting. Resting.

Resting is not something I do well. Most days it is full throttle, diving into everything I do both professionally and personally. I love our family being active. I love being with my people. I love problem-solving with my team at the university. But this week, I need to rest. My body is literally craving it.

How do you rest? For me it is reading, gardening, playing the guitar or walking my dog. I love just being mindful of what is around me. The sound of the clock ticking, the birds singing or hearing the windy breezy. I have been researching this practice of mindfulness and being present. What a gift it has been with the busy life I lead.

I want to be still so I can be actively available when my daughters run to me with their newest masterpiece they made. I can dive into the art asking questions about details instead of just stating how nice it is. I want to be able to have the awareness to see why my husband is quiet. To see if he needs some TLC or just hear and understand he had a busy day. I use social media but sometimes it needs to go away. Just far away, so I am not aware of what my goofy friends and family (that I adore) are up to or todays political crisis looks like. I need to have gratitude for the moment I have been given. Take a deep breath and realize today is a new day I have been given life. 

God wants us to hear Him. He wants to speak to us through His Holy Spirit and the Word. I make time each morning to have quiet time with Him. But if I am honest, some days, I’m just going through the motions instead of sitting listening to our Heavenly Father.  I have to ask myself what is the difference? If I chosen to enter the presence of the Author of the Universe, why am I a distant in that moment?

More than likely, it is the day ahead that I am planning out. Distracted by something I just read on Facebook or I have anxiety, stress, pain that I am trying to handle on my own. This happens to me a lot if I don’t allow myself moments of quiet.

We need to allow ourselves to restore ourselves with His the presence of God, His glorious creation, His words of love and faithfulness. We can also give God away to the people around us if we take time to hear Him and be overcome by His love.

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Whether you practice mindfulness (please look into this is you have not) or you worship our King Jesus, find your rest. Your body and soul need it. You are worth it.

This verse was given to me this year when I was seeking to find rest after some painful events and I just needed Jesus.

Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.

From the ends of the earth, I call to you.

I call as my heart grows faint;

Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.

For you have been my refuge, a strong tower.

Psalm 61:1-3

He wants to be your strong tower. Let Him take on those daily burdens. Only He can carry them for you.

Love to you all! Have a restful weekend.

Photo credit: My sweet friend, Lori. A beautiful moment in our neighborhood. We all take a moment to stop and look at a rainbow, we just need to do it more often!

Why is this my story?

Last night a wave of sadness just overcame me. This week I kept thinking, why does this have to be my story?

I look back to all the ways my story could have been told. Scholarship player at UNC. But instead I was told I could walk on. No national championship.  Chance to try out for the US National Team for field hockey, only to blow out my knee. Reporter at NBC Philadelphia. Pregnant with twins or having our baby boy. This list could continue of ways it could have gone.

That was my life and the possibilities that God put before me. But instead, I am finding that the story God wants to tell in my life is one a girl with bipolar disorder that serves in the disability community. A woman that is raising two beautiful girls that suffered with late losses in pregnancy.

The first paragraph sound a lot more alluring and honestly so much easier. But that is not who I became. I was a high-level athlete. But instead of writing a book on my career as an Olympic athlete or journalist, God used the disciplines of training to prepare me for my work ethic and devotion to my career in the field of education. To work as a team player to hopefully someday make systems change. The tenacity that I had is only driving me to want to go deep in pursuit of systems change in my work.

Having a mental health condition was honestly my worst nightmare. I don’t use that term lightly. My family faced intense pain with what my mom’s condition and at 17 years old, that news was devastating. Through soul searching and encouragement, 20 year after diagnosis, I am proud exactly who I am, bipolar and all. This disorder is the fabric of who I am. It’s the story of where God has reached down and showed me that I depend on Him and Him alone. I take medication that keeps me stable but when depression or anxiety creeps in, I find Him. In long walks with my dog, in music, reading the Psalms, I hear His voice. I am never alone and face the dark paths with confidence knowing my Savior is beside me.

The recent loss of those babies did not destroy me. I still don’t know why my son could not be part of my story. I don’t understand why He chose to take him almost halfway through with no explanation. Why is that my story? Why is it that He chose suffering to show me how deeply I could feel loved?

I have come to the place that it’s because this is not my story I tell. It is His story in my life. God’s hand has been in every aspect of my existence. Look closely and step back and you can see Him in your life too. Throughout time He is always been a God of redemption, especially in the toughest circumstances. For me, suicide attempts and death were no match for Him as that is where He meets us most. The darkness of our lives. He only light. We just need to see Him and feel Him. Not push Him away.

The love of Christ is so vast that the oceans and sky are small in comparison. That story of His death is one I need to know. Every ounce of pain and suffering were cast onto our God so that we may have Hope and live forever with Him. That story is perfect and I don’t even deserve to be part of it.

So, I will let Him work in my life as He sees fit. I may not get to pick out the ending of each chapter I live but I trust in the One who does. Even in my darkest hours, He has picked me up and shown me deep love. He freely opens His arms with His powerful presence.

As much fun as it would have been to be a reporter or athlete, this girl will gladly take a messy, at times painful life. I have always said, I am His beautiful mess. In my job, motherhood, marriage. I will let Him write these pages and trust that it is all meant for purpose. We all have this purpose. I hope you seek out yours with me.

Speechless

I’ve been so overwhelmed. By the love of those around me. Love so deep that I could not even list the outpouring of expressions shown. By the loss of my son. Yes, we were having a boy. But, mostly by the hope I have. This hope has become all that I need. It has filled every part of my being.

It has been a month since I delivered our boy via surgery. My eyes well up as I even recall the day that I had to say goodbye to that precious life inside me. The doctors have no explanation after testing. It still leaves me speechless how could be almost halfway through a pregnancy, see his heartbeat on ultrasound a few days earlier, the outline of his beautiful face and now he is gone.

But, what has risen out of this loss is a new sense of purpose. I do not live for this earth. I live for heaven. To see my Savior. To sit at the feet of the one who bore all suffering so I can have eternal life. To one day hold all 5 of my children. Each one of them. I can’t wait for the day to be held in the arms of Jesus with my grandmothers, aunts, uncles and all the other loved ones, with all 5 of my children in my lap. We’ll praising God together until the end of time.

So, I while I am here, I want to love like no other to all those around me. Pray and remain in the Word of God so that I may share the peace and hope He offers. He offers everything you need. And fight hard for the work that God has so blessed me to be part of. My work as a wife and mother. Daughter, sister and friend. And my passion for supporting individuals with disabilities.

I believe God makes all things new. I believe that out of suffering there is growth and the ability to see and meet others in a way you are unable to before. I believe that this world and the people around me have a deep capacity to love because they were made in the image of the true God of love.

Not a day goes by that I have not cried. Sometimes over our son or little twin. Sometimes over what won’t be and how I thought our life on earth was meant to look. But mostly because I have been drawn to the giver of Life eternal Himself that loves me unconditionally. He has shown me that Jesus is all I need.

Thank you all for your support along this journey we are on and continue to take. We all have been loved well. I pray that you too would find this Hope because it can quench all pain and sorrow like nothing on the earth could ever do. All you need to do is call out to Him where you are. He will meet you. This loss has been another testament to that truth.

Psalm 121:1-2

“I lift my eyes up to the hills-where does my help come from? 

My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

 

 

 

 

My Friend in loss

I’ve had this trip planned to Colorado for months. I came out here to attend a conference that just so happened to be near one of my dearest friends. Vivian and I were so excited for this trip and she could not wait to rub my pregnant belly. She was someone praying for our family to see if we should take the leap on trying to have another baby. But out of nowhere and almost halfway through my pregnancy, we lost not one, but two babies.

God knew where I needed to be for a few days after all this heartache. To get away and process alone and through tears with my friend at 8000 feet elevation in the glorious mountains of Colorado. Her home has been a haven of rest for me. I have spent a lot of time reading God’s word and in prayer just talking with Him. My relationship with Christ has never been stronger and it has had me look back to why I waited for suffering to meet God so intimately.

I attended a christian school all my life and had so much head knowledge of the Bible and what I thought Christianity was. (We seriously had to memorize the Sermon on the Mount) I could answer most Bible fact questions after 12 years there. I had amazing teachers invest in me but it wasn’t until an event in the school auditorium my senior year that I heard His voice and started a serious relationship with Him. I let go of my striving in my own strength and accepted His abundant grace. He accepted this messy, prideful 17-year old girl just as I was. No judgement only grace.

I was planning to play Division One Field Hockey but knew that I wanted more of this Jesus. I declined my offers and went to Houghton. The middle of nowhere in upstate New York. I met my forever friends and was poured into by them and my professors. But once again somehow, I focused on the head knowledge of being a Christian and doing things for Him instead of pursuing that relationship with the Savior I met in the auditorium.

Move forward to present day, I continued to have ups and downs in my relationship and connection to God. But for the past 2 years, I have consistently pursued intimacy Jesus with the accountability and love of family, friends, work, neighbors and my church Willowdale Chapel.  I praise God for that because I don’t know where I would be right now. I waited 8 years to finally hear the words from my husband that He was ready to try for another baby. God answered our prayers. With twins. Only months later to take them away.

I don’t know why I won’t get to hold either of those babies this side of heaven and it hurts. I don’t know when I will have a day without crying. But I do know that He loves me unconditionally and prepared me to walk through this with Him. He is refining me and showing me that He is still a good, loving God and is all that I need.  I am blessed beyond measure through the people in my life. But they will never be able to make me whole. They can love me and point me to the One that ultimately fill every need I have. There is only one Savior, Counselor and King. It is through His strength that all of us can face the challenges, heartaches and trials. He alone is and must be enough. And He is. Through His Word, Jesus speaks. By abiding in Him and in prayer, I can hear his voice. He alone can satisfy and fill my heartaches with love and peace. This Friend I pursued a relationship 20 years ago was willing to die a shameful, horrible death for you and me to have eternal life.

So, here in these mountains, resting in this wonderful haven my friend has created with her family, I met my Counselor and Friend during the most painful experience I have ever faced as an adult. In His word and through prayer, I am just where I need to be. I may be crying in this unpredictable, messy life because loss, hardship and suffering is hard. But He treasures me and loves me unconditionally. My relationship is steadfast because He is always faithful. Like those glorious mountains I hiked next to, His is love for me is unmoving. Regardless of what comes my way.

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“But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness.”   Psalm 86:15

 

 

Facing death and experiencing love

Writing is how I process. Thoughts crowd my mind throughout the day and in this space I find clarity and understanding. I need that now more than ever.

A few weeks ago, I had an appointment to find out how the one twin was growing. One of my favorite songs by Matt Redman was on the radio. Its titled, “Bless the Lord O my soul.” I sang:

The sun comes up

It’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass
And whatever lies before me
Let me be singing 
When the evening comes

I knew what singing those words meant. I did lose that baby. I cried and I trusted my pain to God.

 Last weekend, the unexpected happened. I went to the ER for hives and they could not find the other baby’s heartbeat. At 16 weeks pregnant, after 6 perfect ultrasounds, the last words I ever thought I hear were, “I’m sorry. This baby has died.”

  I pinched Jeremy hoping I was dreaming. What would I tell those girls at home so excited to be a big sister? With the doctors staring at us, I fell back on the crinkled paper and talked to God. I prayed something like, “I praise you despite of this. Walk us through this and fill us with your Presence.”

  You see, I walked through pain before. I hated God. I was angry. It was the darkest, lowest time of my life. How could a loving God claim to love me and cause such pain? My dearest friends loved me though this and helped restore this relationship. In time and before Mia was born, I was walking side by side with Christ again.

  I write this with full knowledge that this world is full of pain. Death, uncertainties and unmet expectations, divorce, miserable marriages, financial struggles and abuse. We all carry something. The road of life is not easy and pain is certain.

  Not all who are reading this believe in Jesus Christ. I find that ultimate Hope and Love is found in a relationship with Him. That in accepting Christ, we are given His Holy Spirit to face anything that we come across.

  I lost my other child this week. Both babies are in heaven. A place where there is no pain. They will never experience the hurts that this world offers. I am heartbroken to never wipe their tears but I don’t know if I would trade the last 4 days of being loved and being seated in the the presence of God for anything. He has filled my gaping hole of hurt with love. My God has a plan for me and it is not holding twins on my lap. I don’t know why I will deal with this hurt the rest of my life but God knows exactly what I need. His plan is ultimately perfect. Designed in the beginning of time.

  For those of you that don’t believe in Jesus, I pray that you have a support system, a way to meditate, touching the earth and being in creation. Filling your self up so you can putone foot in front of the other and begin to move again.

  Allow people to love you. I have felt the hand of God through the love of people in my life this week. My mother-in-law holding me in desperation at the hospital, my sister flying in from Hawaii just for this, my best friends checking in throughout the day, close friends I have not seen in years visiting me. Meals, flowers, calls, texts, messages and Facebook flooded with encouragement and prayer. God works through people. You are his people, made in His image. I felt it this week.

  All of you are made to love. May you find love when you face trials as I have. May you have someone to call out to and lean your burdens on. Even try to cry to God, He will answer.

 “Hear my cry, O God. Listen to my prayer.

From the ends of the earth I call unto you.

I call you as my heart grows faint,

lead me to the Rock that is Higher than I.

Psalm 61

 

**If you would ever like to talk to me about my experience with this, bipolar disorder, what you may be facing or what a relationship with Jesus/God means. Please reach out.  I would sincerely love to chat with you. 

A Valentine from Eden

Dear Mommy,

I love you so much! I know you are very sad about the baby and so am I. We have to remember God has reasons for this and he wants us to be happy. The babies are in the happiest place in the universe eating lasagne with our family. I really hope we can be happy through this time. Jesus loves us so much, he was willing to die for us.

You are the best mommy in the whole wide world and all 5 of your children know that. I love you so much and hope you have a happy Valentines Day!

Love,

Eden

 

Oh, the faith of a child. While she doesn’t understand yet the difference between happiness and joy, her message is the same one I received in the Word this morning. Joy and peace in the midst of suffering.  I love how God speaks to us through our children, just what we need to hear.

Hope and having twins..and tears

Not sure where to begin as my heart is pulled in different ways. We had so much joy to learn we were expecting not one but two babies: twins! One was measuring smaller but we were so full of Hope that all would catch up and both babies would be fine.

Thursday afternoon my doctor sent me to the hospital to confirm that one of our twins did not make it. Even then I had Hope, maybe she was wrong.

When they did the 3D ultrasound, I kept thinking I saw them both but it was just a different view of Baby A. The screen quickly showed our second twin who was not moving, no blood flow and then it finally became real. Where was my Hope then? Was I silly to have it all this time?

I got in the car to a beautiful rendition of “It Is Well With My Soul.” A favorite hymn that didn’t always have such personal significance. But, amidst how numb I felt, I did feel God’s peace.

In the hospital room, I could hardly enjoy looking at my perfect baby jumping around moving his/her arms and legs. Even though I was seeing the profile and each inch of his/her body, I still felt nothing. After the news of losing the other, I struggled to find joy in the gift that was growing inside me.

I will say that the Hope given to us can give us peace in the trials we face. Hard times are ahead for us all. That is just part of being human. I don’t understand why God gives and takes away but His plan is perfect for our lives.

I will be still be shedding some tears in the next few weeks or months to come but I will be celebrating the gifts I do have to treasure while dwelling here on earth. I know in heaven, I’ll meet those that I lost in the womb and never cry another tear. I need to remember is not suppose to reflect heaven, God created that place for us to be together, praising Him, letting go of all the struggles and hurts we face. When that day comes, I will be ready. Until then, I wait with the gifts I have been given.