Coming off the whirlwind of a year that 2014 was I had declared the beginning of 2015 a season of rest. I remember telling people I was going to sleep the whole month of January. But it turned out that when I gave myself the opportunity to rest and kept our schedule open, things like painting our kitchen cabinets and walls happened instead. Things like organizing my closet, and hanging a framed photo collage of family pictures in our basement living room. Unhurried, simple things that brought life and creativity back to me, those things were rest. I loved just being in my home, taking my time, and I long for a season like that again now. It's quite a good way to spend January. The beginning of this past year seems like a soft, gentle blur almost... There was a piece of it pierced by tragedy and extreme sadness and confusion, but I feel like the Lord has already healed the deep hurts from it and used it in a way to bring good into our marriage. He sent godly counsel to us to help us process it all right from the beginning, and I am so thankful for that. I had goals to start running and getting back in shape again. But first I needed to have my right knee checked out to make sure it was ok to start (I had acl surgery on it my junior year in highschool, and it was hurting again) I scheduled the MRI for the middle of May. They told me to take a pregnancy test a few days before the MRI. I was sure there was no way I was pregnant, we had been planning on the MRI, knew it was coming, and being careful.... Well, I got up early in the morning a few days before the MRI and took a test, and if I squinted I could see a faint line. Oh. My. Gosh. It wasn't crystal clear, but it was exactly how my first test with Drew and Jaden both were. I remember tip toeing to our bed in the semi-darkness and waking Shaun to tell him.... I might be. His eyes popped open. WHAT?! I waited two days and took another test. And yes. It was confirmed. There was a baby on the way, and the MRI and plans of running again were canceled. And I remember feeling such an indescribable joy thinking of how God's plans are so much better than our own, and just embracing the idea that our fourth baby was on the way and being so, so excited. Around 7 weeks along I remember falling asleep one night when I had an incredibly strong feeling that this baby was a girl. I told Shaun. Then we waited 8 more weeks and had an ultrasound at 15 weeks that confirmed. Yes, this baby was our daughter. A daughter we had prayed and hoped for, and here she was on her way when we didn't even know it was in our plans. I felt like I was hanging onto the balloon strings of my heart as it sailed out of my body. My throat was tight with so much emotion. It took me about 5 weeks and another ultrasound to confirm for sure, for sure, that it was a girl until I let my heart go in full anticipation of all that a baby girl would mean to our family.
I spent most of the summer sick. My way of coping was to let everything I possibly could go, and I would just take the boys to my parents' pool to swim most days while I tried to feed myself and rest and fight the nausea. I don't think the sickness was as extreme as it's been in past pregnancies, and I was able to eat more fruits and veggies and tried to take better care of myself in the midst of it. I loved all the days spent at the pool with my boys. We took a family weekend to the beach in June, and even though I was throwing up in the hotel, something about the ocean and waves on the beach would really help to calm my sickness. I learned about choosing joy in the middle of not feeling well. Through other events, and combined with the tragedy that happened in the middle of the winter, June also found Shaun and I in the best place we've ever been in as husband and wife. Complete, total honesty and vulnerability, an extreme pursuit of each other, deep gratefulness and protection of our marriage, and intentionality in the way we expressed love and served each other. I can't say enough how thankful I am for that season. It laid a foundation that we are still building on now and we feel so strong together. It really is amazing how the Lord takes tragedy and difficult situations and refines them into these precious treasures that have the potential to be the most beautiful pieces of our lives. We had a vacation with my whole family in July before my sister and her husband moved to Minnesota, and while I was still sick, it was such an awesome week together. I had thought for years that when Shaun turned 30 I wanted to have a surprise birthday party for him. His birthday was coming in August. I took what seemed to be the simple route, hired the Marriott in Lancaster, rented a really cool room and had them cater all the food and do all the decorating. I had a specific budget, but they worked with me and went above and beyond what I asked for. All that we had to do was get dressed and go spend the evening with our friends. It was one of my favorite parties ever, ever, ever. We had so much fun, I didn't want the night to ever end. Somewhere in that end of August time frame, still battling nausea although it was beginning to get less, I had a little break down because all the things I had put off all summer came crashing back in at me at once, and I just didn't feel physically capable of handling it all. In my weakness He is strong, and somehow everything got done that needed to get done. Isaiah turned four (we went to the Plumpton Park Zoo), Drew started kindergarten at the beginning of September, we celebrated my sister in law's baby shower over labor day weekend, and right when I needed it the most we had a week long vacation in the OBX with two other amazing families. During that week away every little bit of stress and worry and anxiety and sickness completely melted off of me. I felt like a completely different person coming home from that trip. I am so thankful for the timing of it and the invitation to spend that quality time with people who love Jesus and spark life and energy in us, encouraging us and being the most amazing friends. (Ben, Camille, Paul, & Rachelle... thank you so much for asking us on that trip.... we loved every second!)
Once home from our September beach trip fall was beginning full force. And as always, the fall is my very favorite. I was so taken over with the beauty all around me. Drew turned six (we went to Cherry Crest Farms, and did the corn maze there), Jaden turned two (we had such a family fall day at longwood gardens and going out to eat at Ruby's diner), and we welcomed my first sweet niece, Selah Joy, into the world all in October. Let me tell you, this little girl is so very precious. I have never felt quite like this about anyone else's baby before.... She is beautiful and I miss her when I don't get to see her. I am so excited for my baby girl to grow up with her sweet cousin and see the two of them form a little friendship!
And in the midst of all the joyful milestones of life all around us a family nearby suffered the greatest loss I can imagine, their precious baby girl who was just a few months younger than Isaiah went to be with Jesus. I can't describe the way it has impacted my heart and mind, the depth of daily gratitude it is cultivating in me, that we really don't know how many days or breaths we have with the ones we love, to make every second count, and to just be thankful in the hard moments that my kids are ALIVE. As I hung up the Christmas card we got from this precious family on Christmas Eve just a little over a week ago I just began sobbing. Once I got my emotions under control I went and found each of my boys, and just hugged them. I know that any emotion I have in regards to it all is just a drop in the ocean of what this family is feeling and going through. But I feel like my heart has been bound to theirs, and I pray for them and think of them daily. Even while just getting to know them, I feel a deep spiritual connection and a desire to lift them up continually, and to let what they are going through change me and who I am as a mother, and the way I react to life.
November.... lots and lots of nesting. I felt like I needed to get things done before the holidays, and did as much as I could, leaving a few specific things for these couple of weeks between Christmas and baby girl's arrival. We had a beautiful Thanksgiving, loved the weeks following, preparing for Christmas with our boys this year was at an all-time excitement level... They are at such fun ages and loved every part of it and wanted to help with everything. I kept telling myself all the while, as excited as I was for January, and as much as my mind kept trying to race ahead, I did not want to rush this time. I soaked it in as much as I could. We had candle light dinners, and played family hide and seek with only Christmas lights on inside, and took a trip to Longwood gardens to see the lights, and I organized Drew's class Christmas party... we baked cookies and we all slept in our basement family room around our tree as has become tradition. Just yesterday we went to see The Miracle of Christmas at Sight & Sound. It was magical and wonderful. I really don't want it to be over. But I also want to put everything away before baby girl comes. So I am stuck right there at the moment. Savoring these last few days of Drew's break from school, nesting more when I can, trying to decide if I'll take down the tree today or tomorrow...
And looking so forward to all that 2016 holds. I've never started a new year off with a new baby, and I am so excited for that this time. Her bassinette is all set up in our room. Her carseat is ready to go. Her nursery is just about completed, I just need to spend a little time organizing the closet still. My mom is going to come over to help me clean early next week. I have a hair appointment scheduled for some fresh highlights... That's the next few weeks. Beyond that the changes are so big that I can hardly think about them. I can't wait to share that news here when it's a bit more official. I feel like God is going to show me how to move forward in big things without letting sentimentality hold me back so much this year. And as in every year past of my life, I know that whatever He does will be for our good, and I trust Him.