Six to Seen

Today marks what would have been the 6th birthday of our our third - six years of healing, of wonder, and most of all, of honor. 

This grief journey never gets easier, it simply gets different, and this year is no exception. 

Most years, especially since it is the holidays, it is easy for me to believe the lie that I'm invisible. In fact, that is the single most used word to describe my new book from readers,

Thank you for putting into words and giving me the words to describe how I'm feeling, invisible.

For the first time in six years, I don't feel this, and not because I feel seen, rather because I don't need to be, at least not in that way anymore. 

For the first time I am beginning to feel the peace settle into my soul right beside my forever wonder and yearning of who they would have been, and of who I would have been as their mother. 

And, with a breath, I am realizing that this mother I am here on earth without them is pretty amazing and completely enough, even in, and perhaps most especially, in their absence. 

Because they were never mine to begin with, they were His.

And, because they brought me to Him. 

Instead of sitting in that lie of feeling invisible today I chose to be invisible sitting in a Starbucks. 

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I had $33 in Starbucks gift cards from speaking engagements, and admittedly I only get Starbucks at airports because I much prefer my Three Story Coffee at home. After I bought my black coffee I told the barista to use the remaining money for everyone else behind me until it was gone. Then, I asked her not to tell them who bought their coffee. I'll admit, my heart yearned for her to ask why, so I could say, "This is in honor and remembrance of my three, they would have been six this year".

And then I sat and watched. I watched people receive a gift, a gift as simple as free coffee, not believing they deserved it. I watched people pay it forward. I watched people look around and try to figure out who bought their morning cup of happy. One man, whether he saw me do it or the barista told him, stopped on his way out, smiled and thanked me. 

The card didn't last long and the experience was relatively uneventful, until of course I opened my Bible to John 1...

Life came into being because of him, for his life is light for all humanity. And this Living Expression is the Light that bursts through gloom— the Light that darkness could not diminish! John 1:4‭-‬5 TPT

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Perhaps, today a simple cup of free coffee made someone feel seen. I know for me it helped remind me that I don't have to be seen by the world because I am always seen by my loving Father. 

Our three, they made me a mother. 

He chose me, bursting through my gloom, in the gift of them. 

I am a happy and grateful mother. 

~~~

The Complicated Gray now available here or signed copies in the store.

The Moon of Fair and Prayer

I’ve had this post in my head and heart now for almost two weeks. I’ve sat down to work on it no less than 20 times in those weeks. Let’s call it the endless to do list of building my wholehearted empire, denial, grief, or fleeting creativity, it has not been penned until just now.

In which, I completely trust, this is when the words will be gifted to me.

It all started on a drive home two Sunday nights ago after a great dinner with some of our chosen family. Dinner conversation with three of my favorite boys about the movie Wonder, who their best friends are (I made the cut for Evan, that boy knows his audience), and then too much yelling and laughter about which girls they all like.

“Look at the moon,” I said to Chad as we were driving home much too late for a Sunday evening.

“Whoa,” he said with a catch of awe in his voice.

“Have you ever seen it like that before? The half on the bottom and not the side?”

“No. Kind of weird.”

“And, beautiful,” I reply.

We spend the rest of the drive in silence with worship music playing – grief and God wrestling in my head and heart.

My day had started with church, where as usual, I cried during worship, mostly tears from undone-ness in gratitude. Then, after weeks off due to tour and TEDx, I served in the 3rd to 5th grade room, where I ran the 3rd grade boys small group. The verse for the week was, 1 Thessalonians 5:18:

Give thanks no matter what happens. God wants you to thank him because you believe in Christ Jesus.
— 1 Thessalonians 5:18

We began by discussing the worst things that could happen at home, school, and their sports or school activities . Most of their answers centered around peeing or pooping their pants or barfing, because… boys. Then we got to the tough part, how to still be grateful even when you’ve shit your pants at school.

Their answers of gratitude were so refreshing. Nothing from comparison or scarcity like so many of us adults do. Just true gratitude of what good could come from pooping your pants at school – like a new pair of pants and getting to talk to the really nice nurse.

Gratitude even in the shit.

It’s the holidays.

It’s no secret I struggle with the holidays.

Last year we only put up a tree. I managed to string lights on it, and still couldn’t bear ornaments because… grief.

They’d be five this Christmas.

How much fun would that be?

Chad asked if we could decorate just a little more this year and said we could go get a new tree of my choice if that could help. We settled on a small pencil tree, pre-lit and with ornaments already attached.

Because, that is where I’m at this year, and it’s progress.

And, I only cried in Menards once.

That weird half moon, with the half somewhere it didn’t really seem to fit and yet it shined brilliantly for all the world to see, felt like looking at me that night. Most days, especially during the holidays, I feel like that moon, never fitting in, a little off, and still brilliantly shining.

The moon is always a reminder of God’s grace for me, as are the sunsets, sunrises, basically anything nature.

But that night was different, maybe it was the song playing on the radio, saying something to the effect that it is all for God’s glory…even the hard, dark parts, even the shit I suppose.

When you don’t get to parent your children here on earth and grief is a part of your daily life, the holidays are hard for obvious reasons. It also really makes you wish that people would remember what Christmas is really about.

There is also another reason it is difficult though.

There are a ton of adorable pregnancy and birth announcements, and lots of them say what a miracle it is and how God answered prayers. Not much unlike the miraculous conceptions of Jesus and John, because sometimes even the Advent reading plans can be tough.

I love seeing the joy of my loved ones’ families growing. And, the enemy will never miss a chance to have that small voice torture me.

You didn’t pray hard enough.
You don’t deserve to be a mom.
You weren’t faithful enough.
You’re being punished.
It’s not fucking fair.

Here’s the thing, I know better now.

This is not about fair, or really prayer, for that matter.

Sure, God hears our every prayer. Hell, our prayers can even change His mind I think. At the end of the day, though, I don’t get to say which prayers of mine He answers. And, I for sure, don’t get to say how He answers them.

Now to the toughest part, because all you have to do is read the news to get a sense of how unfair it can feel that Chad and I don’t get to be parents in the traditional sense of the word and a bunch, like a freaking bunch, get to. Bottom line, fair or unfair, that shit is above my pay grade. I doubt I will ever get the answer as to why I don’t get any and why someone else I have deemed undeserving gets four. I know my clarity and full healing is waiting for me when I get to meet Jesus face to face one day.

In the meantime, I praise God for giving His only Son for us. I know in Him, because of Him, and through Him I am whole, loved, okay, and a message of grace for this world.

As I have wrestled with so much of the new teachings that have been brought into my life and reading more and more scripture, and wading through the glittered difficulty of the holidays, I was brought back to the moon just this past Sunday, a week after the ‘little off’ half moon.

I remembered just before bed that I had to go see the Super Moon. In my pajamas and socks, I ran out to the driveway to see the moon, something I actually do on a pretty regular basis. At first, the big, bright full super moon was behind a veil of thin clouds. Even veiled a bit, it still reflected it’s shining glory onto everything.

With a deep breath, I prayed,

Lord, Help me to lay it down for good this time, I don’t want this anymore. I know it was, and is, fair. Because you are good and I am your loved daughter. My sadness and grief can coexist with my trust in your fairness, because when I live in the permission of The And, I honor you, me, and them. It is all for Your glory, and you love me so much, it is also for mine.

And then, the clouds floated over the moon to reveal a perfect opening for all His glory to shine in and on.

My story is hard and it is beautiful. It is my message of grace and I will never stop loving it, trusting it, and speaking it.

It has nothing to do with fair.

It is the story He has written for me and for Him.

And, graciously, it has given birth to me.

~~~

Exciting adventures: My new newsletter is short, sweet, and full of great content, make sure to sign up here. I have a new prayer plan over at Reflective Prayer, use coupon code JustinePrayer for 15% off! And finally, my Rising Ever Upward for Network Marketers video course is now available!

The Completeness of Just the Beginning

 
 

On Friday I was surprised by an email from the Barnes & Noble in Saint Louis where I will be doing my first book signing with this incredible picture! There she is, my baby, on the shelves of an actual bookstore.

I literally gasped with tears of joy.

As I have come to expect of life, my life especially, there will always be joy right along with the struggle.

That night Chad and I attended our first class of a marriage seminar our church offered. I had requested to not be seated with couples who had young children for obvious reasons. We sat down and directly across from me was a woman who was about 6 months pregnant.

I looked at Chad and whispered, "You've got to be fucking kidding me."

Yep, I totally said that in church.

Then we learned the couple next to us was also expecting, 11 weeks along.

I took a breath, held back the tears, looked up, said a quiet prayer and said out loud, "Challenge accepted."

It was a great first class, I learned so much about what a healthy, biblical marriage looks like. I also gained a better understanding of Ephesians 5; an understanding where I do not gag on the word submit.

Class ended and I knew I had to face the pregnant women again tomorrow and I would choose to be okay. When I turned my phone back on I was notified that the Thunderclap campaign went through. Thank God! Of course you can still sign up but since we had 100 people pledge a post it means that over 91,000 people will be notified of the Ever Upward launch on April 7th. When I turned my phone back on, I also was able to read one of the most amazing reviews someone had posted on Amazon!

The dark with the light, the joy with the struggle; this is what you get when you choose to live an engaged, wholehearted courageous life. 

And it is worth every single second.

Saturday night Chad, my parents and my friend Lindsay ventured to the bookstore to see Ever Upward in person. We wandered together at first trying to find that beautiful orange breakaway monarch on the cover but eventually we split up.

"I found it!"

I had shouted way too loud for a bookstore.

I stood there by myself for just a few seconds in this moment of awe; overwhelmed by a completeness and yet, the sense that this is really just being the beginning.

 
 

I felt proud. I felt accomplished. I felt happy. I felt deserving. I felt excited.

In that moment I allowed myself to feel all the goodness.

 
 

But, along with all that goodness also comes the reminder of the journey I had to survive to get here, the losses that have forever scarred my heart and the part of me that will always be different.

I am learning this journey never ends. I will never be complete or at the end of it; or at least in how I expected. It will only be through my own work and recovery, through my connections and relationships and through my faith that I am okay.

Just as I sang in church today, "I stand in Him complete." And so, even though I may never feel the completeness of finality, I know I can find it in Him. I know He has this; just as He has Maddie and my three never to be babies.

I know in Him I rise ever upward and therefore this is just the beginning.

~~~~

I am so close to hitting 50 reviews on Amazon before the April 7th launch. If you have read Ever Upward please consider doing a review. Just click the Kindle version of the book, click the customer review link under the title, then click write my own review.

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Choosing to Be Remade

I am not one to believe in the mindset of victim.

I do not believe we are victims unless we choose to be.

Labeling myself as a victim only leaves me powerless in changing my life.

Horrible things happen to all of us, hard is hard and struggle is struggle. If I sit in the victim place, at least for myself, I sit in the shit. Rather than being mindful of my suffering in order to move through it and then rise above it.

This has always been a common theme in my office. I have said these sentences too many times to count, over and over:

Being our past

You can choose to be your past.

You can choose to be your past mistakes.

You can choose to have all of your past hurts, losses, traumas and tragedies be your whole identity.

Choosing to be more

Or you can choose to learn from your past and move forward.

Or you can choose to embrace your mistakes and try again.

Or you can choose to make your past hurts, losses, traumas and tragedies just a piece of your story and not your whole identity.

You choose.

So it isn't surprising that when I heard the song You Are More on Joy FM by Tenth Avenue North I was immediately sending it to some of my clients. The chorus goes,

You are more than the choices that you've made, You are more than the sum of your past mistakes, You are more than the problems you create, You've been remade.

I realize when the artists are singing, you've been remade, they are referring to Jesus dying for our sins and with this grace we are remade. But as a mental health therapist, even one with my own strong and yet questioning faith, I must meet my clients where they are, faith or not.

 
 

Even with my faith, and the amazing grace of Jesus,I think, I also must still choose.

Choosing to be remade

We must choose to be more.

We must choose to be more, faith or not.

And if Jesus isn't your thing, well, then you still have a choice to make. You can choose to be more than the choices that you've made. You can choose to be more than the sum of your past mistakes. You can choose to be more than the problems you create.

You can choose to to be remade. You can choose to not be a victim to your life circumstances, your past hurts or mistakes. You can choose the power to change your life.

Choosing to be remade is my work in ever upward. When I choose to be remade because of and within the grace and love of Jesus, but also because I choose every single day, I choose me. I choose to be more than the woman who cannot have kids. I choose to be more than the woman who survived infertility and lost three babies. I choose to be more than depression and anxiety.

I choose to be remade.

This is my work in ever upward that I hope others can embrace for themselves.

Because we are so much more than those past choices, past hurts and past mistakes. They are just pieces to our brilliant life puzzle, they are just pieces of our story. We must do the work to embrace them all.

Because only then will we own all the parts of our story.

And, only then are we choosing to be remade.

 ~~~~

Housekeeping:

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Ever Upward Launch Party is October 4th.

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