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 ūüôā

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


Peace, Immanuel

Untitled design

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.


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 –

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.








Image from quotefancy

About a month ago, I arrived alone to my small group after a tantrum filled, no-nap day with a toddler. Everyone was tied up in their various conversations, and I took a seat on the far side of the room to take a breath and just be. A newer family walked in right then, and I thought about how we only had two months left here. Not enough time to connect with this family, to get to know them well, to develop a friendship. Not enough time left to have those relationships with anyone. I thought of moving to our next place, and how we’d only be there for a few months before moving on again to something new.

“I don’t belong anywhere,” I thought. I felt tears coming, restricting air. I got up quickly to leave, grabbing my keys to make it look like I had forgotten to lock my car, but really I simply went down the walkway, turned to come back, and sat on the front porch crying alone. A room full of people on the other side of the window, not noticing.

We have reached our last month in Davenport. Finally. Already.

As we leave, I’ve been reflecting on all the drafts of unshared work I’ve written. I have over ten posts saved, unfinished, all on what it’s like to be a “temporary transplant” in a community. To be both new and leaving.

Most anyone who has uprooted their lives to move has felt an intense loneliness for months or even years afterward. It is hard to leave your family and friends for a completely new place (even if you looked forward to the adventure), and harder still to make connections with people who are already engrossed in their own communities and busy with their own lives. This is no different for Christians, even though we have the opportunity of searching out and joining a church. There, we’re able to find connection, or at least some weekly guidance and sustenance, but being part of a church isn’t an automatic “fix.”

I so wish I had the answers.

Our first year here I was pregnant and struggling to find a job, my husband had just started school, and we visited a different church every few weeks before finally settling into one after Clarabelle was born. It took another year to feel we were making some solid friendships, and then we only had a year left here.

It’s hard to connect with new people in a deep way when you already know your time together is limited. Being new and on our way out at the same time brings a vulnerability to relationships. We can’t put down roots, but still we need soil.

At the same time, we had literally nothing to offer. The reality of grad school is that it takes you hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt, and especially when you have a family, that financial burden isn’t only immediately felt but extends uncertainly into the future. Our small apartment doesn’t offer much for entertaining, and a chiropractic school schedule coupled with a stay at home mom with no reliable babysitters or nearby family to help left us feeling a little trapped within our own lives.

As we move and settle into a new place, I hope that my family is eventually able to extend the opportunity of friendship to others. To recognize newer families, couples, and singles, and invite them into our home and out with us. And to extend that invitation over and over again even if occasionally turned down. To make meals, to buy lunch, to show up without being daily hampered by nap schedules and bedtimes. Because we know what it’s like to be new, to be temporary, to be far from family and support, to long for something familiar.

I so hope to become something familiar in a new place for future friends. To fulfill the call to love the sojourner in our land, even if they only come from the next state over.

I want to nestle into life here. Buy a house, open its doors, go to birthday parties and raise my babies with these people. But it’s not our time for that yet.

I’ve had the strongest sense these last three years of not belonging. Maybe some of that is in my head. After all, I suffered severe depression and anxiety just after my daughter was born, and mental illness is a liar. It tells you all kinds of things that drag you down, and part of overcoming is facing those lies and calling them what they are. But on the other side of that, I’ve come to terms with a feeling of not being home. This isn’t home, here.

I’m not home.

Maybe I feel a sense of being foreign because my soul truly is foreign here on earth.

And that means, no matter where I am, I have work to do. And the work I do, what I diligently put my hands to, is sufficient because it’s from God. Sometimes that work will be more internal. In this season, God has been doing quiet and slow work within me. In other seasons, it’s more outward and the fruits of those quiet seasons of growth are produced. I look forward to the day I see the fruits of this growing season. In this life or after.

The writer of Hebrews talks about the patriarchs (plus some women) of the Jewish and Christian faith. He says they were strangers and exiles on this earth, seeking a homeland that was not the land from which they came (Hebrews 11:13-14). This is encouraging to us who find ourselves in strange and foreign places. We don’t need to make this place home, we need to trust God in his work here and remember where¬†home ultimately is.

And maybe we won’t see all that God is up to in these places. Maybe we will never know. But Hebrews ends with such a marvelous comfort to us who trust God’s work in each season, that “God provided something better for us, that apart from us [his plans] should not be made perfect” (verse 40).

You may not feel at home here. Maybe you don’t feel effective in ministry. But God’s plan for you is so much greater than you can see in this immediate life. Wherever you are, you have a purpose, and he will fulfill it in you.¬†His kingdom waits for you.

Home awaits.


Losing Babies


Photo by Madeline Strobel

Today is pregnancy and infant loss awareness day. Every October I half dread the prevalence of the topic and the emotions it brings to the surface, but I also look forward to the space for shared stories, comfort, grief, and awareness. Sometimes we become an advocate for something that we’d rather not have any experience with. For me, that’s miscarriage.

This year in particular I’m feeling the need to be among the voices that boldly, maybe sometimes hesitantly, bring to light something that feels so personal and isolating. This isn’t a loss of a life that touched many, it’s not a unifying or shared grief filled with painful but healing memories to look back on with other loved ones – it’s one that is often very lonely, unshared, a very personal pain. And I still write about it because it affects one in four women. One in four women who feel alone. One in four women who need to know they’re not the only ones. There’s a whole community of us, and when you speak out, you find you’re not alone.

This October, I treasure the child I have and the one growing inside me, and I also remember the two we lost, one who would have been born only two weeks from today.

Two babies I’ll have never hold, two babies I’ll never even see on the ultrasound screen.

Two babies I’ll carry in heart and memory until my life ends and I see their faces in God’s kingdom, and I’ll know them.

And even as I sit in the refreshed grief of a baby that won’t be born this month, I feel this little child stretch within me, one who would not exist if I had my October baby. This is a joy in the midst of grief that my mind can’t make sense of. A little confused and conflicted, I am grateful.

In my last semester of undergrad at University of Northwestern – St Paul, I took a course in poetry. Our final assignment was to write a poem based on the style of another we had read in class. I chose to write my poem imitating Hymn by Carl Phillips. Still mourning my first baby without another to cherish, I wrote about the grief and the waiting. The past few weeks I’ve been contemplating that poem, and with some sleuth work I managed to dig it up from an old jump-drive. I think maybe it even more appropriately relates to my motherhood now than when I wrote it.

I’ll share it here, untouched and unedited since submitted for class in 2014.



Less the branches,
than this the bud, pushing, through it.
Less the bud sprouting than

the pink, with which
Less the blush as cheeks shy,

to either side of shrugging petals, than–
between them–the stigma that must
promise, one day, heir.

Less the heir.
More, mostly, the spirit
in it.

If I think of life, the sheen of
the earth expanding, bursting, pulling me
outside myself, it is only

as one of many long days
waited with the irrationally
red memory, again the drug store’s

blue strip purchased not for reading
but for keeping
courage close, the mind

longing, impatient, until it finds
the muscled patterns that
finally, given time and

relief, womb holds.
When I think of love,
it is in the close way that I do

God: as Father, any stern
and patient shadow, man that is only
love, he ever waits

to be trusted.
And I the daughter who, more than a little,
should learn faith.

My dreams–as I have dreams–
are of how deep I should be, trusting,
and in my later cresting how

insufficient, moreso than you
are gracious, Lord,
all my other misdirected desires.

The Empty Seat and Who Will Fill It (Counting Rainbows)

On May 1st, my birthday, we stopped at the local Dunn Bros coffee shop for my birthday frappe and headed west on the interstate toward Des Moines. We were meeting my sister and brother-in-law, whom I hadn’t seen for nearly a year. I snapped a picture of my mocha frappe between answering “happy birthday” texts from friends, and posted the image on Instagram – cool blended coffee with a backdrop of my dashboard and the road ahead. I tucked my phone in my purse and looked up as we rounded a bend, where a rainbow stretched before us over the interstate. I think I knew it then, but I didn’t want to be too hopeful.

“Not February,” I told Garth weeks later when it was clear I wasn’t pregnant yet.

“Not February,” I prayed to God, then tried to control the outcome anyway.

February, that black spot on the calendar. The due date that brought no baby, the death of a friend, that second miscarriage that was still so new. Yet, God insists on redemption. He emphatically insists on lavishing us with good things, even in trials, if we will trust him.

“In this world you will have trouble,” Jesus tells his disciples (John 16:33). And we do. Not to punish us but as a consequence of living in a fallen world. We see all around us brokenness. Chromosomes multiply too rapidly to sustain new life, hearts fail, hurricanes wipe out whole corners of already impoverished islands. And if we focus on it all we find ourselves in one season after another of grief.

“But take heart,” Jesus continues, “I have overcome the world.”

He promises that we will be in his very presence, that we will have joy, and that nothing can take that from us. Redemption. Hope. What more could we ask for?

And yet.


We’re adding to the family.

“Never again,” I said to Garth in that hard, sleepless season of infant reflux and anxiety, depression, insomnia. “I won’t survive a second baby like this.”

I’ll tell you something about miracles: Not only can God open wombs but he can change hearts and circumstances. I can tell you it is nothing short of a miracle that I survived that season of such intense loneliness. And it is another miracle that not only am I pregnant, but that this child was prayed for, wanted,¬†desired.

And our firstborn – that¬†hard baby – she’s a strong-willed yet loving and intuitive toddler. The day I told Garth I was pregnant, she came to me, fingers in mouth and mumbling under her breath. She wanted a hug. She¬†curled into me and then leaned back on my lap and pointed at my belly. She’s so excited about “our baby.” Her level of comprehension surprises me every day.


She doesn’t even need practice, she’s ready.

Right now, when I look to the future, I see so much to fear. Will I feel lonely again? Will this baby be hard? Will Garth get a job that can provide for us straight out of grad school? Will I have anxiety or post-partum depression again? Will this baby continue developing normally? What trials await us?

But God didn’t give us a spirit of fear but of “power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7, ESV). He pushed back the darkness to reveal the light, and nothing – nothing – can undo his work. Whatever trials lie ahead for me in this broken world has already been undone and restored in his kingdom. I trust that.

I can look back at how he’s worked redemption and restoration in my life up to now, and I know his work is ongoing. It isn’t over yet.

And now I’ll get to look at two living evidences of that grace. I’ll have two rainbow babies to remind me of God’s promises and how he brings us to them.


Room for two. We look forward to filling this seat next summer.

Strobaby dos will be joining our family this next February!

A special thanks to Studio 124 Photography and Design in Austin, MN, who graciously provided the images for this post.

Reconstruction: A Season of Waiting and Rebuilding

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about calling, wondering what it is God has called me to. I keep asking myself if I’m too afraid to move or if God really has commanded rest. What I keep reminding myself is that I can’t go wrong, God will have his way.

I’ve been envisioning myself on a plateau lately, which I suppose is a bit cliche. As I turned down a job opportunity last month, I told my friend that I feel ready to take a leap of faith. And if God said jump, I was going to jump. But he didn’t say, “Go” he said, “Wait.” And so I here I sit on my plateau, I guess I should learn to enjoy the view.

But I’m not on a mountain plateau, I’m in a second-story apartment, overlooking seemingly endless construction that has been here as long as we have.

I suppose the imagery there is more fitting and significant.

Construction is inconvenient. It’s loud and takes up a lot of space. It closes roads and frustrates drivers. And it is slow work. The vision isn’t enough to call the work complete. It requires many hours, manpower, patience, kicked up dust, expertise, labor. And first it requires destruction of what was there before. The original structure has to be torn down or gutted, or if you’re starting fresh from the ground, it requires zoning and digging to get started. And it isn’t ever pretty.

My daughter, though, she loves to watch the construction. At the age of 18 months she was learning the names of diggers, bulldozers, cement mixers, cranes, dumpsters, and flatbeds. The sight of men on a roof are common occurrence to her. She’s fascinated by the piles of dirt, the sound of a drill, how a forklift carries loads across the landscape, the men who walk alongside large machinery, guiding it. Many times she has taken me outside just to cross the street, sit across from the site, and watch the work. Watching with her is just one way I’ve learned to slow down.

Never ending construction work

Our view from the second floor. It almost looks complete from here.

And me, I’m under construction myself, reconstructing the very core of who I am. I’m constantly seeking some more interesting work to put my hands to, yet the work God and I are doing¬†here and now is not finished. It’s not mine to declare finished, either.

In the past year I’ve learned that I need to take responsibility in, well, a lot of things. If I’m feeling lonely, I need to reach out. If I want friends, I need to pursue others. I had spent so much time blaming the church for not taking care of me that I forgot to invest myself into relationships. To do unto others as I’d have them do to me. To take care of what God has given me. Stewardship. It’s scary and sometimes messy, but I’m finding community is our tangible Jesus. And I need to be actively invested in community in order to be part of it.

If I’m feeling unaccomplished in this season God has me now, it’s my own fault. So what if he has called me to be just a mother? What if the work he calls me to next requires abilities I’m learning now? Then my work as “just a mother,” “just a housewife” is important, isn’t it? We’re reinforcing the structure for something here, and I can’t rush through it. It has to be sound.

Also, no one is “just a mother.” Mothers are world changers through their children, and part of what makes motherhood sanctifying is also what it opens our eyes to. Suddenly, I see patterns in my life that need breaking, and by extension patterns in society that need healing. I have swallowed up study after study about sleep, health, the causes of anxiety, all in the name of being a good mom and passing on what I’ve learned. That is no small work. It’s not something I would have done without this slow and lonely season of early motherhood, either.

I don’t have any inkling as to what comes next. What I do know is what God has been whispering to me for two years now, what I’ve found both comfort and complexity in, what I have yet to actually do. And that is to heed his call, to be obedient in whatever that may be. For now, that call is to be still. To let the master craftsman do his work in me.

To trust the one who knows what comes next. Who is preparing the way for me.

Obedience. Stillness. Rest.

It’s dusk now, and the moon is vibrantly reflecting the sun. The construction crew went home hours ago, leaving behind sleeping machines and so much dust. They’ll be back at it early in the morning, early as the sun, accomplishing their tasks at an almost indiscernible speed–drilling, soldering, digging, hauling, building. And tomorrow they will go home again, tired and satisfied that they have accomplished progress, valuing the slow work.