Days.

Last Sunday at church Pastor Denny asked “what is our fascination with bad days?” It struck me that just 24 hours before that message I wrote about a bad day I was having. And I realized, I oftentimes focus on the bad things, the bad days. I remember a long time ago my dad told me that there’s no such thing as bad days just bad moments. And really, that’s true.

I realized that though we’ve had some real bummer days over the past year, they have been far exceeded by really good days! Through what has proven to be the hairiest year of our time, we’ve been able to do some really cool things and we’ve been able to spend a lot of really great days together making really happy memories.

In May we hosted my sister-in-law’s wedding at our house! It was such a magical day filled to the brim with love! Just a few weeks later we hopped in the car and road tripped to Hilton Head for a much-needed beach vacay with the kids! July 4th was spent with family, making amazing memories yet again! In October we road-tripped to the mountains of NC with most of the Middleton family. We hiked, we shopped, we RELAXED, and most importantly we laughed until we cried!

It is so easy to focus on the bad days, the hard situations, the times that feel like things will never get back to normal. But really, there are SO many amazing days between all of that, and those are what we will choose to focus on!

So here’s to what’s to come! Here’s to choosing joy in the midst of difficult times, to finding the good in between bad moments and allowing ourselves to cling to those good days when things go sideways!

Failure.

I never cared much about not being able to do something really really well. I am okay with being “just okay” at certain things. I’m not a great cook, but I cook well enough that I’ve been able to keep kids alive for the past fourteen years. I don’t consider myself a brilliant writer, but I’ve blogged and journaled for as long as I can remember. I’m not overly great at any one particular thing, and this has always been totally fine with me. It’s who I am- what makes me ME.

Being part of the Recurrent Miscarriage Club is not something I ever expected for my life. As I’ve mentioned before, I never considered having more kids after my perfect “girl and boy” pairing that I already have. But then, Ryan Middleton happened. And everything changed. (And I know, poooor me, my dream husband and two of the sweetest human children EV-ER). Now I can’t imagine not having children with Ryan. I can’t fathom going through life without more Littles like my Lilly and my Anderson. But to this point, I’ve not been able to make that happen. It’s the one thing that I’m not okay being “just okay” with.

Unless you’ve endured infertility, miscarriage, or recurrent miscarriage you just can’t grasp the enormity to this sense of failure. My logical mind knows that this is science. This is just a matter of things not lining up properly. But my heart and my feelings instead say: WE get pregnant, but I can’t keep the pregnancy. It’s personal. So personal that even my incredibly patient and entirely TOO forgiving husband can’t understand. He doesn’t understand that it hurts because I can’t give him what I know he wants too. He doesn’t understand that it hurts because I’ve never wanted something so badly in my life. He doesn’t understand that I’ve never allowed myself to feel failure in my life- because I’ve always been okay being “just okay” at things. He doesn’t understand how differently that type of love feels- the love between a parent and a baby. I want him to get to experience all those things, and mostly, I want to experience that alongside him.

So, while I won’t let myself fester too much in these feelings of failure, I will let myself grieve these losses. I will let myself feel all of this- the hurt, the disappointment, the physical pain of daily hormone injections and ultrasounds every three days, the inner sadness that sometimes seeps into my outside life, and causes me to pour champagne at noon on a Saturday afternoon to mask the emotions!

I will feel it all, because I know I love a God who knows my desires and my heart. I know I serve a God who is good and mighty, and who knows the outcome of all these feelings. I know I have a God who has his hand on my life and can scoop me up and soften all these feelings with just my willingness to let Him. And. He.NEVER.Fails.

Pivot! Pivot! PIVOT!

The first half of 2020 has proven to be full of surprises, month.after.month. I am truly ready for a solid Ross Geller “PIVOT!” at this point! March brought the dreadful COVID-19, which came with changes at work, school, socialization, and well…everything! What we all thought would be a brief adjustment to our normal routine has become a new way of life. We’ve seen the country explode due to one social injustice after another. We’ve seen a passion from our friends and family that we never saw before, and felt a burning call to movement in our own souls that we never felt before- or if we did, we were able to ignore it. Now we can’t (and we shouldn’t).

In our house, we’ve endured heartaches in the form of two more miscarriages, we’ve experienced celebrations in the form of work promotions, we’ve made memories with the kids by way of vacations and staycations, and have put our finances to good use in the form of multiple home updates! As we are close to wrapping up the first month of the start to the second half of this insanely chaotic year, I am choosing a second word of the year.

PIVOT.

When March happened, and shut downs and quarantines started (and then lingered), I can honestly say I was embracing it. For someone who loves her alone time (and please hear me say- I STILL DO!), I was actually (and surprisingly) LOVING the time working at home with Ryan, and having the kids at home 24/7. As we now navigate this back-to-school/reopening plan, I must admit I’ve considered homeschooling these alien children more than once, just to keep them home with me! (Could be that I forget how dreadful eLearning was for those four months, I don’t know!) And even though I am lucky enough to work fully remote now, Ryan has gone back to an office…and I have to say, I liked my days way more when he was home all the time! So now that life is starting to go back to “normal”, I am working to embrace the “old” way of life again…with the kids at school, and my husband at work all day.

Work has been incredibly different, and I’ll spare you all the details, but I am proud of my husband’s promotion to VP of Operations, and look forward to my new role once things get rolled out. Again, another big “PIVOT!” moment- at a time when this all started we were concerned what our future with our company would look like. Now we are hopeful and excited for the future!

Recently we endured our second miscarriage of 2020. Bleh. The thing I’ll say is this- we are finally at a point where we’re ready to PIVOT in our outlook and “plan” of growing our family (right now). And believe me, this is not a decision (errr…an acceptance) that has come easily or without a lot of tears and prayers. Before our second miscarriage, I was really digging deeper into the Word and trying to really grasp for any answers. The morning I was to get some test results, I wrote down “No matter what…God’s plan is perfectly designed for US.” And it piggy-backed on something I had read or something we had studied earlier that week- Isaiah 55:8-9. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

So let me explain how this piece of humble pie hit hard then in May, and again in July as we experience what is now our third miscarriage since we’ve been married. I am so incredibly thankful for the God who protects my body from an unhealthy pregnancy. I am so incredibly thankful for the God who KNOWS what is best for me and my marriage and my husband, because if I was in control, I’d go full-force at this pregnancy. I’d get to be pregnant along my bestie sis-in-law, I’d get to experience all the beauty that a pregnancy with the most loving husband brings, I’d get to have it all…or at least that’s what happens in MY version of the perfect plan. THANKFULLY, God knows the better plan. And I am finally at peace, pivoting in my mind, that there is beauty in a different plan. One that includes traveling with my husband and kids, remodeling a house to make it a loving home, growing in my marriage and as a mom to teenagers (ya’ll, that is no joke in and of itself). I am truly thankful for the faith in my God, who knows the perfect plan for my family. And mostly, being humble enough to know that MY plan is not THE plan.

As a self-proclaimed control freak (shocking, I know), I have felt a calming peace in our future. I am finally “letting” God take the reins, willingly giving them over to Him (I know I know…I never REALLY had control, but ssssshhh!).

No matter how this back-to-school season goes, or how many hours my husband works, or how many friends and family have babies around me, I am at peace with this decision we made to pivot our focus to something different than what WE planned.

Here’s to the final months of 2020, and for future Ross Geller quotes in my blog!

Happy 14th Birthday, Lilly Jane

Today is my sweet Lilly’s 14th birthday. Being the first born has to be scary- your mom literally has no clue what she’s doing, and yet somehow Lilly has managed to morph into this perfect little ball of perfection! At the ripe age of twenty-four, I was incredibly naïve to parenthood. Having Lilly changed my life in ways I can never fully explain. The excitement, the fear, the unknown. We went through it all together. She helped me grow. She pushed me to do more, be better.

This year is the first time I’ve actually considered how little time I still have with her at home. Before we know it she’ll be driving, and then heading off to college. She’ll start her own new adventures, and the squishy perfect little girl I once held will be gone.

I am beyond lucky to have such a sweet, kind, loving teenage daughter. Everyone warns you about the teenage years, and though we’re in the early stages of those years, I am loving every single day with her. Lilly is truly the most thoughtful girl in the universe. She loves her family fiercely. She is the first one to offer a helping hand. She is genuinely kind and truly cares about other people. To know her is to love her.

Today, I am just so incredibly thankful to have a daughter like Lilly. There is no one like her in the world, and I just thank God for her every single day.

The Longest Month

May 1st. Finally. Thankfully. Amen.

April proved to be the longest month in the world’s history. From learning that we’d never leave our house again, to processing how to work from home with my husband, while also assisting two middle schoolers with eLearning, it’s been quite the adventure.

We filled our month working on a new outdoor dining space, learning new martini recipes, scheduling contractor after contractor to work on various projects in the house, dodging snow one day, rain the next, and then basking in the sun on a few others.

Our dog has developed total separation anxiety, which is mostly fine for now since, see above, never leaving our house again, but there comes a point where her constant shadow behind me grows annoying. She is literally at my heals all day long!

After learning that our WFH adventure would last well beyond the summer, we decided to move my office to our basement so that I could have a designated home office. I am obsessed with my space! Our basement has become one of my favorite spaces in the house- probably because I planned and designed the entire thing, but also because it’s calming and quiet…though both kids have decided to also do their daily work in the basement alongside me!

Today, our governor will slowly begin lifting the stay at home order. We obviously have no idea what that really looks like, but we’re excited for warmer temperatures, date nights, Target runs, and maybe even some outings with friends.

We’re extremely thankful and blessed to have the luxuries that we do. We’re thankful for a family we all love and enjoy. We’re thankful to be working. We’re thankful for all we had in April, all we could do, and most importantly our health. We are truly a blessed family!

 

Patience

Friday night I got a super sweet message from an old cheerleading friend. For whatever reason, I’d been on her mind, and she kept feeling the desire to pray for me, and she kept feeling the word “patience” on her heart for me. This also comes on the heals of another friend (who happens to be our family/wedding photographer and a livelong friend of mine), who chose to do a weeklong fast “for” my fertility. First let me just say, when someone texts you out of the blue that they’re feeling a tug to pray for you, wow, God is doing some deep work. When a friend CHOOSES to do a fast for you and your struggles, it’s beyond humbling. There are just no words what these two friends have done to my heart this week.

It forced me to look at my lack of patience in so many situations. Not only have I continued to, month-after-month, struggle with not getting pregnant again, but I also have some serious issues with doing things on anyone else’s timing. I prefer a very set schedule, well-known to all those involved, and in a perfect world, I’d love to see it on a fresh sheet of lined paper, written in one of my favorite Papermate pens, and in my own handwriting. I truly don’t think I’m asking too much, amIright?

Being in our home nonstop for over a month has also brought to light many of it’s imperfections. It’s many flaws that I just can’t spruce to life. It’s bare walls and drab existence that just beg for character and stories of a marriage that loves well and a family who enjoys their time within it’s walls. And so, I’ve been adding and adding and adding and adding and adding and.. you get it….to a list of things that just need changed in our house.  And we’ll get to all of those things. It’ll just take one thing. T.I.M.E.

The fact that my friends are praying for me means so much to me. And it truly jolted me into taking a look at myself. Am I praying for my fertility issues? Am I praying for my health? Am I praying for my future? Am I being patient and TRUSTING God’s timing?

My husband challenged our family to pick a verse of the day and to write down what it means to us, or why we chose that particular verse. This morning I wrote Romans 8:24-25. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

My prayer is that my heart can trust God’s perfect timing…that I can trust that if/when we have a baby, it’ll be because God has cleared that path for us…that I can trust that this house is much more about the things on the walls or the furniture we sit on, but more about the memories we make together in it, and some of that just takes time. My prayer is that in the waiting, I can be fulfilled by the love of Christ and the love of my family…because I have both of those things right now. May I not be so obsessively planning for the future that I miss out on who and what I have at this perfect moment.

What if…

As you can see, my guest writers have disappeared and are apparently not yet bored enough to be regular contributors to my blog! So here we are…I think 37 days into quarantine and social-distancing.

An article was circulating social media and though I kept seeing it pop up on my friends’ pages, I never took the time to read it. Yet, after another Saturday of HGTV repeats, I finally caved and read it. You can read it here. A lot of it makes sense to me, but some of the things that stood out to me really hit me hard….

We’re going on week six, I believe, of doing church online. We took communion from home a few weeks ago, celebrated Easter Sunday from home, and have gone through an entire series, all while being apart. Not in the church building. And it got me thinking. What if this is the point. What if we were meant to have this period of quarantining to slow us down, and more importantly, remind us that the point of church isn’t the actual church building. What if it’s to remind us that the responsibility of being spiritual leaders is on us, as parents. Joshua 24:15 kept replaying in my mind. It’s a reminder to me that what’s really important is what’s happening within the walls of my home, and it’s MY job to make sure my kids are learning and growing in their faith, even without youth group and Sunday morning services AT the church.

The kids are now completely remote when it comes to school. They won’t return to their school at all this school year. And we’ve all seen the memes about what it’s been like to “homeschool” our kids this year, the truth is, it’s no joke! It’s tough! Our kids love their teachers. And we, as parents, love the kids’ teachers too! What an eye-opening way to make us realize just how much we depend on teachers to guide our kids. And what a perfect time for us to reinstitute the role of actual parenting when it comes to our kids’ education. We have this rare opportunity to reset the way we “teach” our kids, and to teach our kids some accountability about staying on task and being independent in their learning.

As parents, as people, we’ve become lazy. We’ve counted on other people to “handle” things that matter most- our faith, and our kids. Like I said, we have this awesome and unique opportunity to reset. We GET to spend a ton of time with our kids. We GET to spend EVERY SINGLE MOMENT with our spouse. We GET to call our friends on the phone instead of just texting. We GET to say hello to neighbors (from across the street, of course) during a daily walk. And we GET to slow down. Let us truly not miss the joy that can come from this time in quarantine.

Week 1: My perspective

Guys, I realize how incredibly rare this time is. And I’d really like to tell you that we’re killin’ it over here, Brady Bunch picturesque. That’s just not the case. Ryan and I, though working from home, have put in more hours this first week than we have in awhile! It’s been a LOT! And let me say, I am THANKFUL for a job that I love, and even more thankful I get to work alongside Ryan, but…it’s a lot!

The kids, as much as they’ve hated being quarantined, have REALLY been awesome! They have stayed on top of their eLearning, have kept their rooms and bathrooms clean, and have managed their moods as best as can be expected. They’re at an age where they can control their own time-management. I set expectations on “school days”, but they’ve really handled their work within those parameters on their own, smoothly.

Though the weekends don’t feel much different than weekdays, it is nice to unplug and just relax together. Between the four of us, we’ve watched enough Netflix, Disney+, and Hulu to keep all streaming companies alive and running! We’ve ventured out only a few times for wine groceries! Church has gone solely online, and it’s become one of my favorite things about being stuck at home- there’s just something about the whole family sitting around in jammies, drinking coffee and hot chocolate, listening to worship music, and reading and learning God’s Word.

Here’s to another few weeks together….

Week 1: Ryan’s Perspective

Ryan: Gretchen and I started off the month of March with a weeklong water & vegetable only fast; it was an opportunity for a physical cleanse along with a mental and spiritual refresh.  After a week of less than 500 calories a day, we ended the week with a nice steak dinner together… it was outstanding! After going a week without some of my favorite things; a hot cup of black coffee, a cold beer, a great steak… they were great when reintroduced, the “color” in them came back to life.  The week allowed me to focus on my relationship with God and my wife, and I had one very specific ah-ah, which I’ll touch on shortly…

A few weeks later, and COVID-19 has forced many to shelter-in place… our first week was a little rough, as I had already forgotten what I learned during the week of the fast.  I had life on cruise control of sorts – a good routine in place, and I thought Quality Time together with family was just being together.  I’m obviously late to the game here in understanding this, but it is so much more than that.  I love love spending time with my wife, love Anderson’s punny jokes, and Lilly’s cute silliness… and I so appreciate the “color” we bring to each other’s lives.  However, in many ways, I was present without participating.  I took for granted things my wife does, or didn’t notice when kids were about to tell a  great story.  My ah-ha from our week long fast and now from week 1 of COVID-19, is that relationship is more than just being there… it’s a connection.  A connection takes time, effort, and intentionality…with God, my wife, and the kids.   It takes me putting the phone down, shutting off the computer, and making time for those that it matters if you spend time with them!

I am so thankful for the “color” in our lives… and I pray I don’t miss the opportunity to use the time together, during the COVID-19 lockdown, to strengthen our relationships together!   I’m definitely not nailing it over here, just ask em! Just so so thankful, and forward looking forward to the next….. 6 weeks together??!?! 

Week 1: Lilly’s Perspective

Lilly: When I first found out that they canceled school I had mixed emotions. I was excited to stay home (at first) but I was super sad that I wouldn’t be able to see my friends (which is the only reason I like school lol). On the first day of quarantine, I was all good until I was done with eLearning (funny, right?) because Mom told us the we couldn’t go to our friends house and hang out (“chill with our homies” in Anderson’s words). Anderson and I both were very disappointed and angry. Being on quarantine is the worst thing ever! It’s only the first week and I went CRAZY!!! (But not as much as Mom!)

We are off school until May 1st but I think that they will change it so that we are not going back to school. Luckily, my cool mom is letting me have a few friends over for a mini graduation so that we can all wear our last day of school outfits and hang out. But for now, Mom won’t let us hang out with anyone so it gets so very boring. Also, everyone gets very crazy and annoyed so boy is that fun!! So, basically quarantine is terrible, boring, crazy, stressful, and oh so hard!

But just because everything about it is horrible, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take it seriously. So, SIX FEET AWAY AT ALL TIMES, KIDS!!!!!!!!!!!