Rory + Rowen

Henley, Clarabelle, Rowen, Rory. This is the name order of our children. But my days look like this:

I have two children, but I am the mother of four. There are two babies I carry only in my heart, two who I don’t even know if they’re girls or boys, who only live in memory as the positive pregnancy test and subsequent loss, barely more than a normal monthly period.

It’s especially strange and bittersweet to think that neither of the babies I have would exist if the others had made it. Rowen would be ten months old this month, but instead, I have five month old Rory. As much as I wish I hadn’t miscarried at all, I’m so glad to be Rory’s mom. I’m so glad to have him. And unlike his sister, he really is only here because Rowen isn’t. This is a thing I can’t work out in my mind as joy or grief, misfortune or blessing. Those feelings need to coexist when I just think of his existence.

But that is kind of always true, isn’t it? Just about any good thing we have in life comes at the cost of some other good “could have been.” Our stories are formed from one path chosen over another, life woven over a sequence of events that span before us, almost as if we don’t have any say in the outcomes anyway.

I’m writing this on a mere three hours of sleep. As frustrating as that is, I’m able to be so thankful for this little boy who had to practice roaring all hours last night. I love him and I love being his mom. I get to be this sleep deprived because he is here, in the room next to mine, gleefully awake at one and two and three in the morning. It’s not ok but also it is. I forgive him. This time in life is short and I’m grateful for it.

When Rowen’s due date was approaching last October, it loomed. I debated naming this baby, but feared I’d forget he or she ever existed if I didn’t. We searched and searched for names, rejecting one after another. I kept coming back to Rowen.

At the time, we had Rory’s gender reveal sonogram hidden in a sealed envelope. I was waiting for the first due date to pass, for us to find a name for the first baby, before knowing what the next would be. I had to honor the first pregnancy before I could move forward in full joy in the one underway.

I had a few years earlier planned that if we ever had two boy twins or boy/girl twins, I’d name them Rory and Rowen. Garth and I always, from the very beginning of thinking about having kids, liked the name Rory for a boy, so we were pretty set on it. It’s also why Rory wasn’t a contender for the baby we lost, because we didn’t know the sex, and the name wasn’t as gender neutral as we wanted.

So we finally settled on Rowen. Rowen means, simply, “red,” something painful and true in our case, far too apt. I think I knew then that the baby filling my 24 week belly was a boy. We had our Rowen, so then Rory must be on the way, I told Garth. And so, when his sex was revealed, there was little question to what his name would be.

Rowen and Rory may not be twins, but one would not exist without the other. I’ll never forget Rowen, because I have my Rory.

And when I’m sad about the precious babies I’ll never met earthside, I look at these two miracle rainbow babies and think of how good God really is. I’m their mom because I’m not someone else’s, and that’s life. And aren’t they precious, anyway? Their love for each other bolsters me any day.

“For the Son of God, Jesus Christ… was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.”

2 Corinthians 1:19-20

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Pinterest Remains Safe

I didn’t delete Pinterest. The app is still on my phone, the account is still logged in. Not being much of a temptation, I thought I’d give keeping it a try. Pinterest remains safe. I like that I mainly use it as a search engine, so I don’t end up scrolling on it for hours a day.

I did reactivate Facebook to post pics from a friend’s wedding this weekend. Yeah, I’m not ready to have that live again. I spent way too much time mindlessly scrolling and checking back for notifications.

Bad habits die like a New York City cockroach.

Social Media Detox

You know what happens when you detox from social media?

Well, I don’t either. Not yet. I can tell you that it starts with a lot of time wasting. Not productivity, but a sort of stewing in old ways even though the pot is drying up. On day one, I read all 7 of my opened tabs that I had decided to “read later” for weeks. And I did two hours of research.

It wasn’t research that got me anywhere, really. But again, it was some really simple reading I had been putting off for over a month.

Social media as a gift:

  • I get to keep in touch with friends I’ve moved moved away from
  • I can share some short insights without writing a whole blog post and thinking up tags
  • I see advertisements and posts curated to my taste so I can get in touch with things that matter to me more easily
  • I can document life to later look back at memories I may have otherwise forgotten

Social media as a blight:

  • ‘Likes’ give a false sense of accomplishment and keep me checking back for more (even if I tell myself it doesn’t matter)
  • It’s an easy escape for avoiding unpleasant moments, confrontations, or emotions
  • I think of my days in context of how I can share each moment instead of appreciating them for what they are

So I’m really conflicted. As long as it’s around, I don’t think I’ll get away from social media. I’m experiencing some serious FOMO being off my social apps, and it hasn’t even been a week. But it’s a whole lot easier to appreciate life and be present when you don’t have constant distraction beckoning you from your pocket (or purse, or the coffee table).

I’m still in the withdrawal phase. I keep opening my phone to check for notifications that aren’t there, keep looking for apps that I deleted three days ago. This is what we’ve come to. I’m know I’m not the only one.

At the same time, I’m thinking of ways I can realistically shut everything down periodically so I can be more present, more productive, without the ability to give into temptation.

If anyone has any ideas, please share them. I’m looking for something that doesn’t cost $100 just so I can have some effective boundaries with my social media use.

Offline

I deactivated my Facebook today. My first thought in the process was to come up with what I’d say in my Facebook post announcing the successful deactivation. So this needed to happen.

They tried hard to keep me. It felt a little ominous. The algorithm chose six people I had interacted with recently (not even necessarily people who care if I’m not posting on Facebook) and said each of them would miss me. Kind of creepy. Didn’t change my mind. But if I were deactivating because I was just depressed or something, maybe it would have helped. A little. Almost.

So now I’m free. I have some goals this month. To get writing, to get organized, to be creative and get myself set up for success. Maybe learn a few new things I seek out with intention. I can’t do that if I’m opening my social media tabs to check ‘likes’ on my latest picture 55 times a day.

I love social media and the scope with which these platforms can reach people. How it curates lists and can identify what you’d like to see, how that helps people who have things to sell find their audience so they can be successful. But it is addictive. This mind needs a break. There’s plenty more to do.

Post-Hiatus

After roughly six months off the blog, I’m planning a little comeback. I’m now a mother of two and slowly learning how to balance this new life dynamic, which changes every week, it seems. Our family has hit some waves and we’re not quite stable yet, but life has to keep moving forward and so do we.

When my daughter turned two, life started opening up. I felt I could take more time for myself and we had more time to spend together as a family, minus the overwhelm of being home for every nap or always getting to bed on time. Now, with the new baby, we feel like we’ve gone back to square one. Only this time, with an older kiddo who misses the old dynamic and freedom just as much as I do. And then there are all the changes that have yet to take place for us – another move, Garth starting a new job, baby schedules and new places and people to get to know.

It’s really no surprise to me that the moment I started writing the first sentence the baby woke. I suppose I’ll have to get used to it 🙂

More to come, friends. Life will open up again. I believe it.

Peace, Immanuel

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Hearing the Christmas story while pregnant is a different experience. This is the second Christmas I’ve been pregnant during the Christmas season, and something about hearing Mary’s story while pregnant helps me identify with it in new ways.

After two miscarriages, I know something of the waiting. No, I didn’t experience extensive periods of infertility. My rainbow babies haven’t been “long awaited.” But they were prayed for, anticipated, and especially after my second loss there was a touch of doubt that a baby would even be coming.

During those waiting times I remembered one thing that would keep me focused on God’s goodness even in hard circumstances: God is a keeper of promises. He is THE keeper of promises. And this Christmas, I’m pondering not the baby that was promised to me (as no babies were promised, I didn’t know God’s plan), but the baby promised to a nation, promised to the world, who did come as our ransom.

Israel waited. And a virgin conceived as promised to them. The circumstances of the birth are wild and unconventional. We see this baby born not into wealth or even the arms of so much love, but in a stable. We see this mother who wasn’t accommodated while laboring but cast out by her own family–her husband’s own community. The savior born on the margins of society to be identified with the marginalized, to illustrate the depths of the brokenness of our world clearly in need of saving (Luke 2).

How could Mary not ponder it? How much fear did she feel? How much faith? After all, if you’re carrying the Savior of the World you can’t really be afraid that he’ll meet an untimely death. She had to trust God with this infant regardless of her circumstances.

Our circumstances are often what make it hardest to trust God. I could hold tightly to my plans and lose heart when it all falls apart, or I can step in faith and remember that the Lord establishes my steps (Proverbs 16:9). Though this baby is due the day before Garth graduates from grad school, just a week or two before we move and he starts a new job. With so many expenses on the horizon, God’s promises that I am firmly in his hand steady me when anxiety rocks me.

My first pregnancy symptom has always been a dream that I’m pregnant. This summer, before I could even suspect conception, I had a dream that I found out I was pregnant and in the same day had a live premature birth. It was bizarre and I lost a lot of the details when I woke up, but I remember from the dream that since we weren’t expecting a baby we prayed to God for a name. I remember several names going through my mind as I recounted the dream to Garth–Salem? Shalom? Salome–that’s a name, right?

I looked it up. All three names, in fact, mean “peace.” So maybe it didn’t matter if the baby in my dream was male or female, or which name specifically we gave that baby. What I knew was that God was telling us, telling me, for one reason or another, “peace.” That whatever was coming next, I was supposed to trust him and know that he is the keeper of promises. That he sent us the one thing we really need already and He can’t be taken from us. He is trustworthy.

Today we wait one more day to celebrate the birth of our savior. God with us. God one of us. God for us. And each time this baby in my own womb moves, I’m reminded not to fear but to trust.

Peace. Shalom.

Immanuel. God with us.

Goodbye, Davenport

let's keep in touch,

We are four weeks out from our move from IA to MN, settling back into another temporary yet more familiar place, seeing the past three years solidify in what was rather than what is. There’s a real sense now of life going on without us even as ours continue forward, and a knowing that despite a rich sense of community, we will ultimately fade into the rear view as well.

When I say, “Goodbye, Davenport,” who I’m really talking to is our church family at Sacred City Church in Davenport.

When Garth and I moved here, we prayed for community. We were committed to finding a church we could participate in, a place with needs to fill and people to love and preaching to edify us. Leaving one temporary place and moving to another, we regretted not investing fully in the community we had been part of before, and we didn’t want to make that mistake again. It was worth being as present wherever we were as possible, even if we knew we weren’t going to stay.

Nine months into living here, in the full swing of grad school life and just coming out of the newborn stage of parenthood, exhausted and lonely and lost, we saw the sign. The literal sign. I don’t know how it was there, because at the time, the tarp with the church name and meeting time was only up during the service on Sunday mornings, but that day it was out later somehow. Just for us, maybe. All I saw were the words “Sacred City,” but it struck me as a church name, so I noted it to look up online.

I typed it a Google search. And there was the church website. And there were the words “Acts 29,” a network we were familiar with and trusted. They met in the Davenport Junior Theater – an old church converted into a theater now sharing space with a new church congregation.

We didn’t simply come in, sit, and leave. We were greeted warmly and welcomed by a few people on our first day. Within a few weeks, I found myself nursing in the lobby with other young moms. Because it was the only available space, nobody entering the building or on their way to the restrooms seemed bothered by these moms with babies under nursing covers out in the open. I kept thinking, “this how it should be.”

We were invited to three Missional Communities – the church’s name for weekly small groups each with a distinct mission – and chose the one that met closest to us. We folded into a group at that time who were mostly comprised of people in their early-mid twenties like us. Some just buying houses, some with babies, a couple new to the area and a number who grew up there. It wasn’t perfect, but it made this place feel a little more like home.

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A people who would pray over us – Our last day at Sacred City Church. Courtesy of Julia Bickford.

We kept showing up. We became members. We gave what we could lacking time and resources. We joined prayer groups (accountability groups named “Fight Clubs”), attended play dates, made friends. We delved as deep into community as we could and didn’t look back.

A year later, we were shaken up as our Missional Community was split in half to merge with another. I was angry because we had just made friends and certainly it was too late to form new friendships with these new people. But within months, rather than finding our community waning, we found it even richer and deeper. Really, we had more friends now. Our roots went further in this place, and we knew it would be that much harder to dig them up to leave.

Quad Cities, Davenport, Sacred City, Midtown MC folks, we miss you.

Photos courtesy Natalie Schneckloth – midwesthomeschoolmom.com

Garth and I were talking about leaving the other night, in particular things we never did. Never went to a River Bandits Game, never toured the breweries, never took Clarabelle to the Putnam or John Deere museums. And he reminded me that he will have reasons to come back. That Palmer will have homecomings, he’ll be back for seminars for his continuing education credits. Every few years will bring an opportunity for us to return. We look forward to making these times little family vacations. To bring our family back for visits, attend church services as former members, intermittently see your babies grow up at impromptu play dates with ours.

It won’t be the same as raising our babies together. We won’t keep in touch with everyone we’d hope to. Our temporal minds are prone to forgetting, but know that we leave with the hope of remembering, the hope of meeting with you again as we are able. So stay in touch. Lord willing, we’ll be back.

Thank you for being a taste of God’s kingdom in a foreign land.