Thursday, November 5, 2015

A family that fails together...

I'd had it with Swiffers.
The third time using my brand new Swiffer, it stopped spraying (the whole point) and so I stopped mopping...until Piper spilled cranberry juice everywhere and it had to be done.
I refused to buy ANOTHER stupid Swifter.
I also refused to buy a real mop (sorry Pinesol lady).

 So I deconstructed my swifter to figure out what was wrong.
Nothing was wrong.

 My daughter Cayden watched me unscrew the plastic cover, inspect the wiring on the motor (I was pretending I knew what I was doing), check for clogs in the tubes, etc. When I pulled off the battery pack, Duracells rolled across my sticky floor.
"Maybe you need new batteries?" She optimistically suggested, 4 years of experience rattling in her tilted head.
I laughed a bit at her innocent solution to everything.
When the internet isn't working, she says we need to change the batteries.
"No, it's pretty new, I don't think it's the batteries..."

There was nothing wrong with the stupid Swiffer Sweeper.
The only thing I hate more than being wrong is when someone else is right.
The only thing I hate more than that is sticky floors.
Long story short, it was the batteries.

We whooped and hollered when the sprayers blasted full power with those new batteries.
I saw the pride in my daughter's face, but also noticed hints of humility as she applauded my efforts, saying, "I saw you had already tried everything else, so I thought it might be the batteries."

Then, giggling, she said, "Usually you know more, but this time, I was smarter, Mommy!"

Sometimes I am wrong. And I'm glad that my daughter saw me accept my failure today, because maybe she will remember that failure is ok in this family.
Family means not ridiculing failures.
Family means stepping in to help when someone has failed.
Family means working together to put the broken pieces back together.

I am thankful for my family.
And for new batteries.

Friday, October 2, 2015

I miss that little person...

Today, I overheard this conversation upstairs between Cayden and her little friend.

“The baby is dead! And it’s all your fault! We need to go to the real doctor STAT!”

The two girls were playing doctor and unfortunately, Cayden’s friend had taken too long to retrieve the life-saving pretend syringe.

Death is an experienced reality in my 4-year-old’s life.

Cayden Elizabeth Ann was named after my good friend and mentor, Beth, who died two months before Cayden was born. Beth’s parents have become like grandparents to my girls, and we often talk about how Beth is in heaven now.

Death came up again when my mom’s dog died.
Then it was the flowers.
Spiders die when she squishes them.
Simba’s dad died.
And baby brother died before she ever got to meet him.

Sometimes when I am chatting with some stranger at Les Schwab about how old my kids are and such, Cayden will matter-of-factly pipe in, “You had another baby too, but he died.” Like I forgot. Like this woman next to me needs to know that information to complete my story.

The thing is, that woman does need to know.
Because the story of my children is incomplete without a mention of Hunter.
But it’s an awkward thing to say.

It catches people off guard.
It catches me off guard.
And it makes me vulnerable.

In an instant, I have to decide how I want to present this sad reality of my life.
I want to be able to share my darkness along with my Light.

I lost a child.
But I have gained so much in that loss.
I have gained strength from a God who also lost His child.
I have learned a whole new level of compassion.
I have experienced how precious life is.

I have held a little tiny human in the palm of my hand.
He wasn’t breathing, he wasn’t alive, but he was a person.

And I miss that little person.

I remember when my friend Beth died, her mom told me that she couldn’t make it through the songs at church (especially the hymns) without crying.

I get that now.

I can’t even make it dry-eyed down the road with K-LOVE playing because there’s always a song with the perfect lyrics for my soul.

The best part is when I’m quietly trying to keep it together up front, and the chorus comes around and my sweet 4-year-old starts belting out, “I WILL CAST MY CARES ON YOU!”


And the words from Finding Favour pour through my soul.

“This war's not what I would've chosen
But You see the future no one knows yet

“And there's still good when I can't
See the working of Your hands
You're holding it all

“I will cast my cares on You
You're the anchor of my hope
The only one who's in control
I will cast my cares on You
I'll trade the troubles of this world
For Your peace inside my soul.”

I was supposed to be 8 months pregnant right now.
I was supposed to be able to say, “I’m having a baby next month!”
But sometimes bad things happen.

Sometimes cancer takes our children.
Sometimes bullets take our children.
And sometimes we don’t know what took our children.

What we don’t want is for the world to forget our children.
Because we never will.

It’s ok to ask me about my son.
He was a gift to be shared.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The song

Yesterday, I looked at my calendar to find an appointment for my "big ultrasound" at 20 weeks. It made me wonder how different today could have been, in many scenarios. If things were different, I could have been so excited to announce we were having a boy. Instead, today I am rejoicing that my baby boy is seeing perfection in Heaven, and continuing to bless people with his story down here on earth.
One of the most healing things I encountered in this process was the church service the week after we lost Hunter. Bryan defined "hope" for us as a steadfast conviction that is anchored in Jesus and sealed with a promise. Then, I read my June 2 blog post. Then, with the whole room in tears, the worship team had to get up there, pull themselves together, and sing some amazing songs about hope. It was so beautiful.
The following week, I asked the worship team to record one of the songs: Everlasting God (We Set Our Hope). This is not an original song, but is an original video.
My talented brother, Steven, has a recording studio (Vibe Control Studios) in town, so he helped us make this beautiful sound track.
A big "thank you" to everyone who made this possible.
Please watch the video here:

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Hunter Hope

One of my favorite things to do as a child was snooping through the haphazard boxes of mementos and photo albums in my mother’s wooden hope chest upstairs in their bedroom. I loved finding old black and whites of grandpas when they had hair and sports cars, a golden lock from my first haircut, and once, a box of my brother’s baby teeth.

Somewhere in that mess of memories, I distinctly remember a brown Statesman Journal article with a 4 column photo of my dad playing baseball in high school. The headline proudly yelled, “HUNTER DOES HIS JOB.”
I don’t even know if I ever read the article, or figured out what “job” my father, Scott Hunter, had done, but for some reason, that headline and that photo have always stuck with me.

I think it’s because that headline is so much my dad.
He does his work, no complaints, no dilly-dallying, he just does it.
I don’t think anyone would ever describe him as lazy.
Tired, maybe. But not lazy.

I can just imagine his high school baseball coach yelling out, “C’mon Hunter, do your job!”
And he did it.

I always wanted a son named Hunter.
He would play baseball, like his daddy.
Some coach would yell out, “C’mon Hunter, do your job!” and I would smile and think about my daddy.

I had plans for Hunter.

Three weeks ago, I held my son, Hunter, for the first time.
And I didn’t even know it.
There’s a reason why you are told the gender of your baby at the 20-week ultrasound.
I learned this because if your baby is only 14 weeks, 3 days old, you can’t really tell.

When our breathless baby was born 174 days too early, I thought at first, “It’s a boy,” but then the nurses guessed otherwise and we settled on the idea that the baby was a girl. When we told Cayden that she had another baby sister, she looked confused and said, “Huh? I thought it was a brother.”

The genetic tests done in the weeks after the baby’s birth told us his chromosomes were XY – male.

This rocked me.

My heart had settled on my daughter Hope.
I had grieved my daughter Hope.
And now, I had to grieve a son too.

We named him Hunter.
Hunter Hope Bernard.

I remember watching Hunter on the ultrasound at 10 weeks, somersaulting around and making it hard to catch a profile.

I’d never seen a 10-week ultrasound before (usually coming in at 8 weeks) and I was amazed at his arms and legs flailing around. The curve of his belly when he faced down, the outline of his ear. 

One month later, they couldn’t find his heartbeat.
I saw him on an ultrasound that day too, so much more grown up, but not somersaulting this time.
The next day, I got to hold my son.
If anyone knows about losing a son, it is my Heavenly Father.

God didn’t take away my son, He let me carry my son for a few short months.

He let me love the thought of my son growing inside of me, and He let hold my baby.

I never got to feel Hunter’s sleepy weight under my chin or see him wiggle his precious toes, but I did get to love him, and he made me a better mama.
He reminded me how miraculous bringing life into this world is, and how quickly good news can change to heartbreaking news. He showed me that my healthy children are to be snuggled and kissed every day because we never know how much time we have.
Hunter taught me many things before I even knew he was my son. To think of the things he would have taught me, had he lived, breaks my heart, but I have hope, and I am thankful.
I had always wanted a son named Hunter, and God gave me one for 14 weeks and 3 days.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


I had a baby girl last Tuesday.
There was no pushing.
No pain.
No first cry.
I had baby girl last Tuesday, 174 days too early.
For nearly 15 weeks, she was ours.
We wondered if she was a boy or a girl.
I dreamt up new names.

I gained 5 pounds for her.
I resisted extra caffeine, snuck in naps, and even made Mother’s Day coffee mugs bearing a picture of her 10-week-old ultrasound silhouette as gifts for her grandmas.

My mom hollered when she saw the picture, which foretold that her 3rd grandchild was due the day before Thanksgiving. Then, just a week later, I wept listening to my sweet mother sing to my sweet, breathless 1.5 ounce girl “your little tiny hands, and your little tiny feet…”
How does this happen? How does a baby somersaulting in an ultrasound at 10 weeks now lie there perfectly formed, but without a heartbeat just a month later?


“Let’s listen to baby,” nurse Glenda told me after taking my blood pressure during my routine appointment last Monday morning.
I jumped up on the table, she put the goo on and started laps across my stomach with the Doppler.
“That’s you,” she said instantly, when we heard one heartbeat, slow and loud.
We were both waiting for that quick, swishing beat that we both knew so well.
Back and forth, back and forth.
Not good.   
Glenda moved me to a bigger room and rolled in the portable ultrasound machine. I saw my OB in the hall, and her face was grim.

I think my own heart stopped as I searched the screen for a beating heart in my baby. But she just lay there, perfect on the outside, and dead inside.

Later, Bryan and I came back for a formal ultrasound in radiology, where they took measurements and looked for any abnormalities. Her perfect little legs crossed at the ankles were too much to bear. I sobbed. Her perfect profile looked like it was smiling. Her fists were up near her face.  
I went home and put my face to the hot shower wall and cried.

“We need to induce you,” are words I’ve never heard before.
All day Tuesday, we sat in Labor & Delivery at the hospital, waiting for the medicine to make the baby come.
“The baby is here!” is something I’ve never had to announce, but suddenly, there she was.

As a flurry of nurses descended upon us, I saw Hope.
Lying there, a perfect little creation stopped short of life outside the walls of my womb.

But how amazing was she? There are no words. Without her own breath, she took mine away. God’s handiwork shone through her as we spent the next three hours marveling at her 10 individual fingers and toes, her round belly, her little ears, her eyes.
We had her weighed, and thought, initially, that she weighed 1.5 POUNDS, because it was unfathomable that this little detailed person could only weigh 1.5 OUNCES. But when we actually looked into it, 1.5 ounces is pretty close to the average weight for a 14 week, 3 day old baby in the womb. It still blows my mind.

From the moment I saw Hope, my heart rested.
The past 32 hours of uncertainty and grief had drained me, but there was a new hope inside my soul. The same amazing God who formed this little person inside of me was telling me, “It’s ok. I have Hope.”
So, I have hope.

Hope that my baby girl is getting loved on by the same God who loves my heart enough to give me peace, even in this most devastating of circumstances.

I know that God is going to use this. He already has. There are doors in many grieving mothers’ hearts around me that only empathy can open.

I lost my very first baby to early miscarriage in 2010.

When I found out I was pregnant in late March of this year, miscarriage was on my mind. That week, God placed me in two separate situations to encourage two women on two different continents as they went through miscarriage. During those days, I wrote down the following verse in my journal, and going back to read it today tells me that God knew all along that I would have a tiny daughter named Hope.

“My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind and therefore, I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end. They are new each morning, great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul,’ therefore I will hope in Him.”                  - Lamentations 3:20-23

Monday, February 16, 2015

A love I can't stop

The other day, both girls were eating their breakfast and I was washing dishes. I looked over to see Piper about to tip her bowl off her high chair tray.

“No, no, Piper,” I chided, waiting to see if maybe this time she would choose to obey.

She looked straight at me with a “Just try and stop me” gleam in her eye.
I tried to make it there in time, yelling, “NO!” as I reached to stop the soggy granola from blanketing the floor AGAIN, but I was too late.

Frustrated, I scolded Piper, then bent down to clean up the mess, AGAIN.

 “But Mommy, do you still love her?”

Stunned, I turned to the soft, worried voice of the 3-year-old big sister who had watched all of this unfold. My answer didn’t require thinking.


“Good,” she smiled, taking another bite of her cereal.

She was worried that because Piper had disobeyed me, I no longer loved her.

That is ridiculous.

My love for my children is something so deep, so unconditional, and so something I can’t stop.

I was suddenly floored by how this helps me better understand God’s love for me.

He loves me so deeply, so unconditionally, and He can’t stop loving me, even when I look Him in the eye and say, “I choose to disobey you.”

He hates it when I make that choice. He even runs after us and screams, “NO!”

But he’s still going to help us pick the pieces of soggy granola off the high chair wheels, AGAIN.

And yes, he is still going to love us.

“For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5 NASB).

“Who is a God like You who pardons sin and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain anger forever, because He delights in unchanging love. He will have compassion on us; He will tread our sins underfoot” (Micah 7:18-19a NASB).

I tell my children that when they obey me, they are showing me their love.

It’s the same way with God.

His love makes me want to love Him back through obedience.

“If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you” (John 14:15 MSG).

One of the most important commands we’ve been given is to go out and share the Good News of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection with those who have not heard.

 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16 NIV).

Don’t hide your light.