Tuesday, October 24, 2017

on Hope and the Adventures of the Year Twenty-Two.

Well, technically twenty three. Since I'm starting my twenty-fourth year tomorrow. (*cue shriek of panic because I'm sooo not ready for that*) But that's CONFUSING even though it's accurate, so for the sake of simplicity, since I am for real TURNING 23 tomorrow, we'll call this the year of 22.

This has been a year for the books. In every conceivable way.

And I have struggled - majorly - in the past couple days to even get excited about my birthday. Because even though this year was amazing, and we've come so far and done so much since my birthday last year when we were just freshly married honeymooners in the backwoods of Vermont, this year was disappointing, painful, heartbreaking and tough. And for some reason, I want to do twenty-two again and fix all the hurting places, instead of letting it go, celebrating the beautiful, and starting fresh. But I'll get there, I will. Keep in mind that writing this post is my therapy, so it should get progressively cheerful-er by the end. *wink*

photo by Jess Lapp Photography

We've been on 10+ legitimate overnight trips this year. We are crazy. And somehow we are not broke. In all, I want to say it's been twenty-three states and two countries (three if you count the USA, ha) - which is completely insane.

FLYING OVER WASHINGTON ON OUR WAY TO IDAHO - JANUARY 2017

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - JANUARY 2017

FORT COLLINS, COLORADO - AUGUST 2017

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” – Mark Twain



 CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA - DECEMBER, FEBRUARY, AND MAY 2017



HONEYBROOK, PENNSYLVANIA - MAY 2017

AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 2017 

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” – Anonymous



 

photo by Tony Nisly
CRUISE TO MEXICO, CUBA AND KEY WEST, FL - SEPTEMBER 2017
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste it, to experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

ARK ENCOUNTER, CINCINNATI, OHIO - OCTOBER 2017

MY VERY FIRST MLB GAME - ATLANTA, GEORGIA - JUNE 2017

It's been an incredible year of loving every second of life beside my best friend, of wandering through other places, eating amazing food and collecting memories we'll always treasure. 

We also set up our first home - lived in the midst of multiple renovations to make it feel like a home - and had a blast being "adults" and making a "space" our place. My little homemaker heart has been in heaven - even though meal planning is SOOO not as easy as I was hoping it would be, blah, but grocery shopping is really fun YAY because of ALDI Y'ALL. (and although I always remember my quarter, I always forget my bags. can't win 'em all.)






And our little home has also seen it's fair share of tears and heartache.

And this year I've said heart-wrenching goodbyes to two precious babies that grew in my tummy for too short a time - my firstborn, Jeremiah, should be two months old right now, and my precious rainbow baby, Daniella, should be almost halfway cooked, due six weeks into the New Year. 


My body failed me, and something I sort of assumed would come easily, has turned into the biggest challenge of my life. I never understood depression, self-hatred, and how much grief can change your life so drastically. There's something profoundly broken about coming to terms with your own weakness, your own lack. 

Getting real: I've gained eighteen pounds this year. I'm not saying that for you to tell me I don't "look it" or that I'm beautiful or anything - it's not a plea for sympathy. I'm being honest. But for the first time, numbers on a scale began to mean something, began to scream at me. The weight that went on to nourish my babies, stayed on to remind me daily that I lost them. The outfits that got tight, that got me excited that they may never fit again because I was going to be a mama, now leave me crying on the closet floor because no one tells you how grief sneaks into something as stupid as caring about a clothing size. I've tried working out, I've tried eating healthier than ever before, trying to regain control of what I felt I had lost. It's been a nightmare. I've written about it some, instagram has been an outlet and a journal, but my own journals have been empty, my blog quiet, even some relationships have been pushed the back burner as I've had to come to terms with this new identity that comes from loss. Sometimes you have to admit that something hurts, that it's hard, in order to even begin to heal. I've thrown my phone across the room because of someone's pregnancy announcement on Facebook, wept over baby pictures of a child due the same week as mine was supposed to be. But I've also had moments of pure joy playing with my nieces and nephews and rejoicing over other's new little ones on the way...okay, pause, as I'm writing this I'm realizing....can we just have a moment of silence for all women dealing with jacked up hormones? They are real, they can be wonderful, but they are also bipolar and psychotic and GOOD NIGHT. *mic drop* Back to story.

I'm not here to complain. Or even to make you feel sorry for me. Or even to vent.

I'm here, and I'm writing this, because Jesus is turning this into a TESTIMONY. This is part of my story, and I don't want to forget it. 

There is a thread of hope that's been running underneath of this entire year.

It's this crazy idea that we have a purpose, a name, a place that goes deeper than anything we see in our physical lives. It has nothing to do with we can or can't do, or what we look like, or even our story. And it has everything to do Love. A love that compelled the Hands that gave us life to reach into our pain and our brokenness and tell us we are cherished, we are valuable, and we were created for something BIGGER than just ourselves.


I had never actually looked my faith square in the eye and said, "I BELIEVE." Because belief only counts when you don't have anything left to give. When everything inherently going for you falls away. It's easy to believe when life is going well. It's when you CAN'T see what's going on, or what's happening next, that FAITH matters.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. - Hebrews 11 
(go read the whole chapter. it's worth it.)

And lo and behold, we aren't just in this life to be "happy", or to get what we want. If you ask me what I want the most for YOU in life, I would NOT tell you I want you to be happy. That's fake, cheap, and doesn't mean anything in the long run. I would tell you I want you to know you are LOVED BY JESUS. That's it. Because if you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you are loved by Jesus, you WILL be able to overcome the brokenness and pain that this hurting world tosses at you. I'm learning that JOY doesn't mean laughing and happy all the time - it means rest and security and knowing who we are, why we're here, and Who is holding us in His hand. It goes beyond miscarriage, beyond depression, beyond grief, beyond weight, beyond relationships. *deep breath* And if we have our eyes open to see what Jesus is up to in everything, He can show us how He is lifting us above our circumstances and into His peace.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4
We just spent the weekend celebrating our anniversary in Savannah and Charleston. We slept, and we slept, (we don't sleep enough at home) and we talked, and we were quiet, and I drank water (cause I'm bad at remembering to do that, and Josh was around 24/7 to remind me) and it was a retreat from the crazy and it was beautiful.




We got sucked into This Is Us (no regrets!) and in those very first episodes, as I watched Jack and Rebecca grieve the baby they lost, even as they celebrated the lives they were given, so many broken pieces healed in my mind. I want to share more about that someday - there's a lot more to that story.

We capped it off by worshiping with Bethel Music for almost an entire day - and Jesus sealed it with His reminder that we are seen, we are loved, and He is with us, no matter what.

This year has been RAW. Real and raw. But aren't they all? I'm finding that out. And in just an short hour, I'll be starting another one. I have so much hope right now that unfulfilled dreams will come true, that healing is coming (has already started), and that beauty will rise from what feel like ashes.


But I'm also learning, as this year closes, that HOPE makes everything, even our pain, beautiful. And I'm about to spend the last little bit of being twenty two snuggling with the patient man who works his butt off everything single day to put food on our table and gas in our car - the man who has held me while I labored with both of our children, wept with me in our loss, and made me laugh harder than anyone I've ever known. I told him today, when he apologized that we're barely going to see each other tomorrow, that he's the greatest gift I've ever been given in this life. And he has always always always pointed me upwards and outwards when my eyes felt glued on myself. He's given me hope, he lives by Hope, and he's showing me how too.


So, tonight I'll go to sleep (late) 22, and wake up (early) 23, and Josh will be waking up (before me) beside me and Jesus is still on the Throne and twenty-three maybe maaaaayyyybe won't be quite so hard as twenty-two, even though I'm fully expecting it to be a doozy of a year in its own right, because they always are and being an adult is totally unicorns and butterflies. (right?).

Happy birthday to me...and are there any songs about being 23, 'cause let's be real, I'm gonna miss feeling 22...

*realizes forgot to take off makeup and decides to stay up all night because whyyyy who wants to use a remover wipe when you're already ready for bed. blah.* #hashtagSTILLAKIDYALL

Friday, August 11, 2017

remembering our angel babies

I firmly believe the Lord turns all our pain for good. Sometimes it's hard to see right away, but He is faithful to His children, and we can rest confidently knowing He's never left us, even in our darkest moments.

I'm a mama who's suffered through multiple miscarriages. I hate that I have any experience in this area, but I do. I've gone through the joys of my very first pregnancy test, and the deep loss of innocence that is saying goodbye to your first child. I've gone through the roller coaster of hormones and five months of waiting to carry another baby. I've gone through the emotions of a rainbow pregnancy (getting pregnant after a loss) - the fear, the joy, the excitement, the determination to enjoy every second. And then the devastation of losing that baby too.

I don't have any living biological children, and that's hard. Sometimes I feel like it would be easier if I could throw myself into caring for a child right now, instead of the painful, stark emptiness of a quiet home.

But something Jesus has been showing me since losing Daniella, is that I *am* still a Mama. And that it's completely normal and healthy to celebrate that. I went through two labors, both incredibly intense and painful and traumatic, I gave birth to two children, and with both pregnancies I had to wear maternity clothes and adjust my personal life to accommodate my growing little ones. I was a mama then, I'm a mama now, and I've found so much beauty in embracing my pregnancies and my stories and the lives of my children.

Since sharing about Jeremiah's life back in January, I've heard so so many of y'alls stories of loss and grief, and while I know not everyone is a blogger, or feels comfortable sharing personal details, I feel like the Lord has given me words and a platform and I want to use them to help those of y'all who are walking similar roads, and want to celebrate and remember your babies, but aren't sure how.

*note, this isn't a sponsored post, just me sharing what we've found is meaningful for us!

1. Willow Tree figurines
When I found out I was pregnant with Jeremiah, I was really nervous. I spent a lot of those seven weeks worried I was going to lose him. I held off on so many things, sort of unspokenly waiting for that all-elusive end of the first trimester before I let myself get excited. When I lost him, it shook my world, and I instantly had regrets about not celebrating his little life fully before it ended. So in the weeks following, my husband and I made a conscious effort to do things that honored the life of our baby.

We had a Willow Tree figurine from our wedding, of a husband and wife. When we were out shopping one day, not even a week after the miscarriage, we were in a boutique shop and saw a Willow Tree figurine sitting on a shelf...an angel helping a little baby walk. I started crying when I saw it...it felt like a perfect gift from Jesus to remember our little one.


The day after we lost Daniella, Josh and I hopped online to find the perfect figurine for her too, to add to our little family. We picked one of another angel holding a baby in her arms - it looked so tender and represented what I was longing to do with my precious daughter.

The Willow Tree figures are so beautiful, so poignant...I'm thankful for the tradition we inadvertently started, a tradition we'll be able to continue with any future children as well. I love our little "family" on our dresser.

 

2. Buy an Outfit

Once again, with Jeremiah, I didn't really do much while I was pregnant to celebrate him, but afterwards I learned so much. I went out to the store a couple weeks afterwards to buy him an outfit that was all his. Something that was specifically for him. Even though it was hard to go to the baby section and buy something with an empty womb, it was also healing to acknowledge the fact that I did have a baby, just not with me, and that he was real.

As SOON as I found out I was pregnant with Daniella, within a week, or so, I went to the store and bought an outfit for her as well, this time with all the joy and hope in the world of our precious rainbow baby. And, once again, even after we had to say goodbye, it was so incredibly healing to have that outfit that stood for our hope and our love for her, even before she was born.



3. Make a Shadow Box
Mine are still a work in progress, but this has been such a fun way to pull together all my little mementos for each child into one framable, hangable memory. It's also something that I could do for any future children - I love the idea of things that carry into any future pregnancies, a way to unite these first two little ones with their future siblings. A shadow box is definitely more hands on and creative, but it was fun to shop for things to decorate with, and spend time arranging each box to look different and unique.


4. Remembrance Jewelry
On Mother's Day this past year, one of the most emotional days I've walked through in the recent past, a dear friend gave me a gift at church, and it was the sweetest little necklace. A tree with a little heart - and somehow it instantly felt like that little heart stood for my heart, for Jeremiah's heart, for the heart Josh and I have for family...and I pretty much haven't taken it off since. (except for the brief weeks it got left behind in Ohio, so glad to have it returned now!)

After Daniella, we found a beautiful necklace with customizable nest and initials on etsy. I decided to go with white eggs (versus birthstone colors), to represent our angels and it turned out perfectly. Another piece of jewelry that reminds me of who I am, where my heart is, and how valuable our children's lives were, and still are.



5. Stuffed Animal(s)
I love stuffed animals, I loved collecting them as a child, I love having them around our home now. My dear friend Kaitlin makes these adorable little owls as a fundraiser for Downs Syndrome awareness, and I commissioned her to make these two for our sweet babies. My heart was to have something that was special, that "belonged" to them, and once again, something would connect them to our future children as well.

Also, little plug for KK, her website for the owls is HERE - and here's a post I did years and years ago with the first Henry owl I bought, and why they matter so much to me. It's so important to me to use the lives of my babies as a platform for advocating for the life of other children who are at risk, and so it was no-brainer to use Kaitlin's owls as part of our remembrance of our little ones.


6. Name your CHILD.
Not everyone feels comfortable with this, and I understand, but to me, it was so so important to acknowledge that our children had beating hearts, eternal souls, and purposeful lives, by giving them names. We chose names for our babies that we were actually going to name them anyway (most likely), and then used middle names that reflected the purpose we felt Jesus had laid on their lives. Here's our babies name stories, as a source of encouragement or inspiration to y'all.

Jeremiah Chayyim - Jesus gave us the name "Jeremiah" to call our baby while he was in utero...there was a night about a week before I miscarried where I was dealing with a lot of fear in regards to the baby, and Josh and I took the evening to just sit and pray and thank Jesus for the life He'd entrusted to us. Josh opened his bible to Jeremiah 1, and there's a verse that says that God called Jeremiah from the womb to be a prophet, and placed a calling on his life before he was born. It was so comforting to me, as a mama, to know that God KNEW our child, had a calling on their life, and LOVED him so much to give us a name like that to call him. Six days later, our baby was in heaven and we were comforted by knowing Jesus had given us a name for him, and that His calling was still there. Jeremiah means "the Lord exalts" or "the Lord raises"....and "Chayyim" means "LIFE" in Hebrew. The Lord Raises Life. Even though Jeremiah only lived a couple weeks, he was a gift of Life to us.

Daniella Rapha - Daniel is a family name on Josh's side, and since we were pretty sure we were having a girl, from day one, we were tweaking some of the family names to see if we could make them work for a little girl too. We actually had a pretty solid list of little girl names we were thinking about for this baby, even at ten weeks. We never talked about names with Jeremiah, but we did with this little one and I'm so glad! So Daniella was on the top of the list, and every time we jokingly called her some other name, it felt weird, and we always came back to our top pick. I have no doubt that that would've been her name at birth, so it was given when picking her name after she passed away. "Daniella" means "God is my Judge" - and when you think about how God sees us when He judges us, it's actually tear-jerkingly beautiful, this redemptive righteousness that covers us. Rapha means "HEALER" in Hebrew, and all through my pregnancy and even in the days leading up to the miscarriage, including our midnight race to the ER the night she was born, every song, every scripture, every word of encouragement from others, had something to do with healing. So we stood for it, believed it, and even after we said goodbye, we claimed God as our Healer and gave that testimony to our daughter to carry.

Also, there are testimonies from our own immediate family members who went back years later and named little ones that they lost, as a way of healing, even decades later. So if you're still dealing with pain from un-grieved little ones in your past, I encourage you to consider giving them a name. No matter what the circumstance, or what happened, they are still your children, they are still precious in the eyes of God, and they are valuable, and worthy of being remembered.


Also, I have a friend who lost her precious daughter at 40 weeks, and over the past seven years, has written her little girls name in the sand all over the place, and now so many people all over the world have been writing her name and remembering her, and Hannah collects them all and has them in a scrapbook. There IS something healing about writing your baby's name out, and then there's indescribable feeling when OTHER PEOPLE remember and love your child enough to write their name and send it to you...it's precious. 

Finally, don't be afraid to talk about your children. Use their name, or tell their story. You were pregnant, you are a mama, and there's a beauty when we as a church, as a people, remember these lives we love so dearly.

I hope this encouraged y'all as you walk through your own journeys - feel free to add your own ways you remember your children in the comments...I love hearing stories of others, and what they've done to honor their babies, and how they've walked through grief. There is strength in community, y'all! I believe it!

There so many hard days - days when I just curl up and cry and grieve my empty womb, but I'm so thankful for the freedom to still rejoice, and for the hope I have in Jesus Christ that He is close to the brokenhearted, that He carries us in our pain, and redeems our brokenness. That's ultimately how we stay grounded when our world crashes around us, and even when we can't always see how in the world He's going to heal our hearts, we can trust that He always will. The pain doesn't get easier, but our Hope gets stronger. Remember, there is no emotion, no feeling, no pain you're walking through that Abba Father didn't walk through when He lost His only Son. This is close to His heart, this IS His heart, and He is with us as we share in His suffering. He is the Healer.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

celebrating life, as early as possible

- NOTE: I wrote this post the week I found out I was pregnant with Daniella. For whatever reason, I decided NOT to share it, and I wish I had. But here it is, in it's entirety, a slice of my mama's heart from June 2017, celebrating the life of my daughter fearlessly from day one. - 

so, dear friends, this is a post that I've wanted to write for months, and had days where I felt like I'd be writing it soon, and other days when I wondered if it would ever be able to be.

it's been almost six months since our sweet Jeremiah went to be with Jesus. His due date is just around the corner, and instead of spending these blazing hot summer days being very pregnant and hiding in the air conditioning, I've been very capable of being a normal person and doing all kinds of activities....all the while being conflictedly trying to enjoy them and also deeply grieving the change of plans. 

As most of you know, this is has been a very very difficult season for me. I know not everyone feels this type of loss the same, but Jeremiah's life has been one of the most pivotal points in mine, and he's changed how I view pretty much everything and everyone I see.

For example, I will never see anyone's family the same again. Growing up conservative, where the unstated "gospel" can be the number of children you have seems to equal your depth of spirituality or trust in Jesus, it can be easy to miss the invisible pain of the woman with two children, or no children, who you might think has made that choice for her own selfish reasons, who may actually be longing for the family you have and can't. Or the couple with a beautiful rainbow family, heroes who foster or adopt - that we immediately respect (with good reason)...but whose own tribe is the redemptive fruit of years of loss or barrenness, grief and pain. Or the young couple who didn't get pregnant right after their wedding, who may or may not be "waiting" to have kids....you don't know their life, their dreams, their struggles. You don't. Rarely is anyone's story what it appears to be.

Also, I will never view my own children the same. I'm thankful and blessed to be a mama to over a dozen children who weren't born to me, who I don't see daily, who live all over the globe. My heart belongs to them, and not a day goes by that I don't think of them or pray for them or wonder what they're doing and who tucks them in at night. But my dream is to have children here, living with me, in my home - whether they're born from my body or not. But I never guessed my journey to having children from my own self would look like this....and instead assuming that I *would* give birth to children someday, now I hold that so loosely in my hand...and I will never take any precious baby given to us by birth for granted. Not that I would've before, but you know what I mean.

Which is why, dear friends, when Josh and I found out two weeks ago that we're expecting our rainbow baby, our first reaction was pure excitement and joy. And even though we sat on our special secret for almost a week before telling anyone, it wasn't because we didn't want to share...we just couldn't hardly believe it. SO many tears, y'all. So many.

Being pregnant after loss isn't easy. I was afraid of being afraid, and was pleasantly and wonderfully surprised by the joy I've felt since those two lines appeared on that test. But every day, going to the restroom is a little nerve-wracking...every cramp and ache and pain (which I am SO THANKFUL FORRRR - pregnancy symptoms make me cry with joy) makes me nervous...and I do have a mental countdown in my head to the weeks gestation that I lost Jeremiah, and my one prayer is to get past that date. 

But as Josh reminded me the day after we found out about our Little Rainbow, this baby deserves the same joy and love that we had for Jeremiah. And now that we have lost a baby, we know even more how precious life truly is. So instead of waiting, and being afraid of what might happen, we are choosing to celebrate this life to the fullest for every single day we are blessed with him or her. And if that's for sixty years or sixty days, we're beyond thrilled and thankful. We are parents of two beautiful children, and we are grateful.


celebrating the life of Daniella Rapha - born into the arms of Jesus on July 28, 2017, at ten weeks.

Monday, July 31, 2017

when your dreams don't line up.

I think as female specimens, and as people in general, we dream BIG. We have plans, visions, dreams, ideas of how our life, and certain events in our life, are going to go.

As a teenager, I think I thought the day I met my future husband would be a whole lot of fireworks and an instant knowing that THIS WAS THE ONE.

And it was. *wink*

But I also dreamed that my future relationship with said man would be a perfect testimony and "courtship" for the books. Ha. NOPE. I would encourage you to click through the "story" tab and read the whole "book" for yourself. It's far from ideal, far from perfect, in fact it's a complete mess.

As a teen, I thought the day I got engaged would be some kind of elaborate set up, with a photographer and everything.

Well, folks. We got engaged in a chair in a basement (the chair I am sitting in now, in the basement where we currently live) in the middle of the night after what was (at the time, ha) the hardest day of my life. Joshua made it absolutely beautiful, but there was no Hallmark movie scene or photographer - we were basically in pajamas anyway - and you know what? It was perfect.

I thought my wedding would be some kind of epic party affair, with dancing (and alcohol, to some extent, don't judge....my family is Crucian) and who knows what else. Was it? Oh, it was a party. It was nothing like my teenage dream...but it BECAME my dream, and anyone who was there can tell you it was pretty much the most perfect, gorgeous day imaginable. Totally worth it.

I thought I would have a baby nine months from my wedding day. *eye-roll* Ha. Did I expect to be puking and bleeding my guts out on our entire honeymoon? (sorry, TMI.) Nope. Did I expect to get pregnant just two months later, only to miscarry our first precious angel two months after that? Absolutely not.

Of course then, I was ready to jump in foster care, or adoption, or something like that. Did I expect to be living in a location where, due to our housing situation, any kind of fostering or adoption would be impossible? Nope.

Then I did all kinds of research on getting pregnant after a miscarriage...and was firmly convinced that with my healthy lifestyle and medical history, we'd be pregnant right away. Yeah. That didn't happen. Five long months of tears and messed up hormones and cycles later, we finally did...but the amount of disillusionment and grief I walked through in that time was beyond anything I ever thought I would walk through. Post partum depression is the closest thing I've found that accurately describes how those months played out, and it was so painfully hard.

The circumstances surrounding the beginning of life for our daughter were beautiful. Perfect. Miraculous. A story only Jesus could dream up and write. And for the first time in six months, I felt whole again...the shell of a bereaved mama whose heart was broken was once again filled with joy and purpose.

Did I see myself losing our miracle baby too?

Not in my darkest imaginations.

It may have crossed my mind at the beginning, but everything was so perfect. Such a powerful story. There's no way.

I could picture her, raising her, holding her....the curls we hoped she'd have...the personality I was so ready to meet.

When we passed the seven week mark, where we lost Jeremiah, we celebrated.

When we chose a midwife and toured the birth center, we celebrated.

When we found out our cousin was due the same week as me, we PARTIED.

When morning sickness hit like a truck, and the headaches and cravings and exhaustion kept me guessing, we rejoiced that our baby was growing like a weed.

When there were only fourteen days left until the end of this up-and-down first trimester, we cheered.

And when the bleeding started, we believed that nothing would happen, and that she would be just fine, and this would be just another part of her story, and our miracle had more life left to live.

So when the ultrasound showed nothing in my body, we were shocked. Where was the labor? Where was the baby? Where was our miracle?

And when, just a couple hours later, the contractions started....and when, six hours later, we raced to the ER to figure out why my body was shutting down...I was shocked.

And when the nurse came and sat by my bed, and told me that I had delivered my baby, measuring right up to ten weeks, our perfect miracle, birthed into the arms of Jesus...I was too numb to even cry any more tears.

Sometimes our dreams don't line up.

I still can't believe my womb is empty again. That my sweet baby, who I bonded with and loved so much, is gone.

Sometimes our dreams don't line up.

I'm learning that Jesus grieves with us. He is broken with us. It doesn't mean He's dragging our dreams in the dirt...but it does mean we have to be willing for Him to turn our ashes into beauty.

I'm twenty-two years old. A baby myself, in so many ways. I've been married for nine months. And I have two children - both ahead of me in heaven. Is this how I pictured this year of my life? Not even a little bit.

I want to write...I want to share the stories of my two beautiful babies in hopes that it can be an encouragement to someone else. I don't know why this is my story, I don't. But it is. And even though the grief is crushing, and my tears leave me weak, somehow we're going to keep going. Somehow Jesus is going to pull us through. And I believe my little one's lives have purpose, have meaning...and I want to continue to celebrate them, even though their earthly lives are over.

Hang tight with me. I was really excited to start blogging again, thinking of all the exciting things I wanted to share, and right now I'm not sure where to begin. But words will come, they always do, and so often through words Jesus brings me healing.

Monday, June 19, 2017

re-invisioning SCRAPS.

I HAVE A NEW DESIGN!!!!! Carmel, whiz graphic designer that she is, so graciously took time over the past several months to help me re-vision the blog and what it represents and where I'm headed with it, and I couldn't be happier. This blog and my instagram are my two favorite outlets of all time, and I'm THRILLED to be "coming home" to Scraps and re-styling it officially as the lifestyle blog it's morphed into over the years.

What can we look forward to, posting-wise? Well, right off the bat there are wedding planning stories and ideas, recipes, home renovation and decor ideas and DIYs, moving tricks, newly-married help settling into a new home, organization hacks (don't laugh), stylebook posts, songs and playlists, marriage and family experiences, and more like that...not to mention relationships, family, and the emotional and spiritual side of life that we've walked through recently.

How often will I be posting? I truly have no idea, haha. Hopefully at least once a week - easing back into the groove here. I have a lot to share, and that makes me excited, 'cause there's nothing like inspiration to get content flowing again.

So welcome back! And let's get this conversation open again - it's been way too long.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

remembering


"Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart."
—A.A. Milne


Thursday, April 20, 2017

telling our story // 04. the third year - commitment

Well, y'all, I'm back. And this is basically the final installment - although I've decided I'm going to do a full wedding post with Jess's wonderful photos of such a beautiful and powerful day. But you can't fully appreciate the wedding until you know how we got there.

Also, this post is massive. Just like the previous one. But this time its because I included about 500 photos of our life during this past year. I can't tell you exactly why, but for some reason these photos hold a key to our story - they capture so many hilarious and memorable moments in the midst of stormy season, and they, in essence, the Gospel of "consider it pure joy." So I'm sorry you'll have to scroll until you get carpal tunnel, but everyone loves photos, so try to enjoy them for what it's worth.

i seriously love this photo. credits to my sister Caroline. 
inspiration? When Calls the Heart and Love Comes Softly, CLEARLY.

To recap...

Year One: June 2013-July 2014 - our semesters at Ellerslie, Joshua's first year on tour
Year Two: August 2014-August 2015 - the year Joshua and I BOTH traveled

and NOW. Year Three. August 2015-October 2016. The year we committed to each other forever, and everything that happened to get us where we are now.

I want to begin this chapter by revisiting something I mentioned last month, that actually quite a few of you reached out to me about. Y'all, I have been SO BLESSED by the encouragement and love you have extended to me as I've shared our story - this is such a vulnerable season of our lives, and I was nervous at what would happen if I decided to share it, but I felt the Lord pressing me so deeply...and I've been blown away by the response. If our story can bring even the slightest level of freedom or victory in your live, or give you hope for the future, then all this is worth it to me.

So, to start. I want to bring up again this idea that we can trust Jesus with the desires of our heart, and trust that He is leading us. Josh and I have been on a roller coaster of emotions in our relationship, and yet through it all, we knew without a doubt that the Lord was bringing us together, and that if we submitted our hearts and desires to Him, that He would protect us from making mistakes, and that He would lead us perfectly forward.

I think in our conservative Christian culture, we tend to try to be God in our lives and in the lives of others. I think the heart of it all is good - wanting to live set apart from the world, to be deliberate with our words and actions, and not tamper with the affairs of the flesh. But if we set up rules and regulations to keep ourselves from stumbling, then we leave no room for the Spirit of God, and we can become so incredibly fearful of messing up and falling into sin that we keep ourselves from experiencing the freedom Jesus died to give us.

In so many areas of our lives, we give Jesus pretty nearly full reign. So often you hear people say (or YOU say) that you've completely surrendered your job situation, your mission trip, your church, and even your finances to Jesus. You're willing for Him to show you what to do with all these things.

But when it comes to a relationship? HA! Nice try. Here's the book of 650 rules of how to have a godly, pure relationship and perfect, conflict and struggle free marriage, and don't you dare mess this up. We live in such a fear of making the wrong choice, or doing the wrong thing. Think about it. Why do we have so many rules for relationships? To be honest, it's because we're afraid of ourselves. Afraid we'll go too far. That our emotions and feelings will get away with us and we'll do things we regret. We're AFRAID.

Josh and I had these fears in our past too. But throughout the twelve months that we went from friends to husband and wife, the Lord blew those fears out of the water, and proved to us over and over again that there is FREEDOM in love, there is beauty in surrender, and that IT IS POSSIBLE to have a godly relationship without a handbook.

So. Without further ado. Year Three.


Immediately following my departure from Colorado and subsequent arrival in Charlottesville....

I slept.

Y'all, I slept for like three months straight. Okay, maybe not that long, but close. I was exhausted. Beat. Spent. In every conceivable way.

I don't honestly remember a ton about the two months directly after coming home. I did a lot of things - volunteered at camp with my siblings school, joined a small group at my parents church, spent time with friends, spent a lot of time with Courtney (she came up to visit just two weeks after tour - seriously y'all, we were inseparable), spent a lot of time with my siblings, and really began to come into my own. I redid my wardrobe, redecorated my room....and all the time, I missed Josh.

The night after I got home, I sat down with my parents and told them everything that had happened recently with Josh, and got them up to date on where we had left our friendship. Unbeknownst to me, my hilariously wonderful protective father HAD CALLED JOSH ALREADY that day, and talked to him about me (whaaaa???) and was actually really impressed that Josh and I told him the exact same thing. Which, if you remember, was that we were just going to go home, be with family, and if the Lord led us into a relationship someday, then great, but Josh didn't have a green light yet.

Naturally, I was little mortified that Dad would call him first, but now it's super funny to look back on, and was just one more thing that smashed all my expectations of what a "normal godly relationship" should look like, and was one more way that the Lord proved Himself faithful.

Josh flew home to South Carolina a couple days after that, and on the car ride home from the airport, he had shared the same thing with his parents. I didn't know that until after we were together, but it's so encouraging to realize how all the puzzle pieces were fitting into place and getting us ready for the next big step.

Communication between us was limited. We had decided to correspond, but only by email. We sent each other encouraging messages every now and then, but everything was so surface level and not what we REALLY wanted to say. But oh, the trembling and nervousness every time I refreshed my inbox, and the shaky hands that held my phone as I read the few lines he would send. All in all, we call this season, the "silent months" - because in so many ways, that's what they were. We were both home, both with our families, and between us, life was silent.


In many ways, I struggled. Even though my initial reaction to being sent home and realizing I wouldn't be part of the team or the tour the following year was okay, and I was at peace and confident that Jesus had another plan for me, the feelings of rejection and abandonment and discouragement began to weigh heavily. Not only was I crying myself to sleep missing my children and missing Josh, but I had no one to go to about it, and really no one at home wanted to hear why I was so upset. I reached out to a couple friends, but for the most part, I just dealt with it in my own heart and it was hard. It's still hard. But those two months were crazily hard. It felt like all that time was wasted, and that I had to pick up the pieces to my own life by myself. I was twenty years old, and felt like I'd screwed up so much that I shouldn't do ministry again, but at the same time I knew that Jesus had always been with me - talk about a faith-testing season. Praise Jesus for my then-worship leader and mentor who stepped into that void in my heart in that season and encouraged me up out of it over those months.

I spent so many long mornings on our beautiful back porch, coffee and bible and journal in hand...but often never opening either...just sitting and looking and thinking and praying and sometimes crying...learning to take deep soul breaths and let go and let God.


In that time, I also was offered a full time job overseas in Geneva, Switzerland. I was so excited at the prospect, such a big wide open door, and such an incredible opportunity for valuable life experience. In my interviews with the staff at the church I'd be working at, I was blown away by their care and heart for their team and their ministry, and my little aching heart leapt at the thought of working in that kind of environment. I also would've had more responsibility in that position, and a huge part of my job would developing the children's program, and I was longing to actually use my gifts for real - it such a wonderful future. It would've been at least one full calendar year, most likely two.


Oh, but I was so torn! Because in my heart, I really wanted to wait for Josh. I wanted to stay put until I heard from him about what was going to happen to our friendship. Oh, did I wrestle over the offer! I felt like the only human being in the world who would turn down a perfectly good job in EUROPE for no apparent reason.




It came to a climax one weekend in early October. I had to make a decision about going forward with my final interview, and I was spending the weekend in Virginia Beach with my worship leader and her daughters. It was a beautiful weekend of rest of me, the girls and I had so much fun, and in that time, as I was wrestling with this decision and still hurting over the rejection I was walking through, I knew the only person in the world I wanted to talk to about it was Josh. And to my surprise, Jesus said it was okay *grin* I sent Josh an email, asking him if I could talk to him on the phone - process some things that had happened. And Jesus gave him a go ahead, and that Sunday afternoon, we talked for the first time in almost two months. Y'all, hearing his voice on the phone was the most beautiful sound in the world. We talked about life for three hours.


I'll never forget telling him about the job in Switzerland...and that I would be gone for a year. "A YEAR?!" he exploded before containing himself and sounding normal again. But I stored that shocked and horrified voice in my heart - "he doesn't want me to leave! he wants me to stay!"

There are so many other little moments in this two month time, so many journal entries and scriptures and stories of how God prepared us for the day when He would bring us together. I so wish Josh could share some of his heart too - he has some really neat testimonies of truths the Lord showed him as he wrestled over his love for me and how that fit into the calling on his life. Basically it came down to the fact that he was completely useless and miserable without me, and he figured he'd be more effective if we were together. Haha. But anyway. Ask him sometime.


ALSO. If you're a good Insta-scroller, i would highly recommend scrolling back in my feed till the dates read September and October 2015. There are some gems in there - verses and quotes and stories of God's faithfulness that now, looking back, I'm in awe at all He revealed to me, even in the midst of my confusion and my hurt.

And now. THE DAY.

October 25, 2015. My birthday. My 21st birthday.

I was in tears the night before, watching Cinderella as a pre-birthday celebration with my family. I loved that movie so much, but after everyone went up stairs, I found myself crouched on the floor, ugly sobbing for what felt like hours. Every muscle in my body ached, and my heart felt like it was splitting in two. I felt so alone, so helpless, so empty. I had never been so at peace, and yet so incomplete. And in that moment, I knew it wasn't a Jesus-sized hole, it was a Josh-sized hole, and that truly, I needed him. In my heart, it was time. And as far as I knew, he didn't feel the same way and I might be waiting forever.

Right before I went to sleep, I got a Facebook message from someone I loved very much, asking if "we could lift the texting ban" for one day, so he could tell me happy birthday on my birthday. Um. YES YOU CAN.

So I woke up to my phone going off its rocker at about 12:15am, with exactly 21 texts saying...

H
A
P
P
Y

B
I
R
T
H
D
A
Y

L
I
Z
A
!
!
!

(completely with emojis)
...from Joshua Scott himself. Best way to start what was about to become the most eventful day of my life.

My birthday was on a Sunday, which is so amazing when you think about it. The Lord's Day. The Day of Rest. The day of resurrection. The Day of Miracles. We went to church, and then, per my request, we drove up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and took pictures with the beautiful colors. And the whole time, Josh and I were texting - random things, and nothing deep, but oh the joy of 24 hours of being able to just be in touch with my best friend! He was truly the best gift. Forever and always.

Towards the end of the afternoon, our relationship finally came up. Just a little. He sort of half apologized that he hadn't gotten any clarity on moving forward. And I said something that apparently triggered a chain reaction in heart that set off what happened later that evening. I told him simply that I trusted him. I trusted the Spirit in him. And I knew that he would care for my heart, and Jesus was leading him.

That's all.

And for Josh, those were the magic words of confidence he needed, and by that evening, he knew it was time to move forward.

As a surprise for me, Courtney had coordinated a Skype call with Joshua, David and Katie for late that night - and I thought it was just going to be with her. There were some technical glitches, and the video for David and Katie never did get working, but when I logged on to answer the call and all of a sudden saw other accounts popping on to join, I had a freak out moment, realizing I was about to see Josh's face for the first time since tour.

That call was downright hilarious, and lasted a good long time. Eventually David and Katie logged off, and Courtney and Josh (and Christi, lol) and I chatted for a while, and literally like an hour or more later, Courtney said, "Hey, call me one more time before you go to sleep! Love you!" and HUNG UP.

Yes, y'all.


Courtney Nicole left Josh and I on Skype *on purpose*.

Was I surprised? Not really.

Oh the awkwardness! Haha!

We talked for like two minutes. Then Josh said, "Hey....so...um...after you call Courtney...can I call you?"

My heart just about burst. "Yes, yes, of course. I'll text you when we're done."

"Okay. Hey, don't hurry up your call with her just so you can talk to me."

*laugh*

Yeah right, Josh.

After I chatted with Court a little more, and we both speculated about what Josh wanted to say, I texted Josh that he could call me.

At 1:18am, on October 26, he called me. We didn't hang up for three hours.

I don't remember a ton from that call, except that Josh was telling me that Jesus had given him the green light to move forward in a relationship, and that he missed me. We talked for so long about so many things...finally free to go deep and share the struggles and ups and downs of the past few months and how ready we were to do life together. We knew from the get go that we were headed toward marriage, and we knew it was coming soon. We were best friends, we had seen each other at our best and worst so many times already, and there was such a beautiful completeness in finally committing to each other.

 these are both instagram photos from the two days after Josh called - recognize them?

this rainbow showed up later that day on the 26th as I was driving home - Jesus loves us! 
SO. MANY. RAINBOWS.

Josh drove up a week later and surprised me at my house before he flew off for his third and final tour. That was something we talked about quite a bit too - whether or not he should still go back on the road - but we both knew that Jesus had called him to that final year long before our relationship was in the picture, and that He had a purpose in it and we'd be fine. We had what we thought was nine months of long distance ahead - and to be honest, I'm so glad I didn't know how grueling it was going to be, or I might have balked.


I saw Josh for less than 24 hours on November 1st. We walked around Charlottesville, we talked, we sat silently, we drank coffee, and we looked at each other. And except for a hello hug (which my siblings so joyfully set up as a surprise and filmed - link HERE), and a goodbye hug, we didn't touch at all. I have no idea how, haha, but we didn't. It wasn't even something we consciously did or didn't do, but it just wasn't time and Jesus was laying other groundwork first. Honestly, that's pretty cool.


Minutes before he drove away, Josh held me tight and whispered in my ear, "I love you Liza." And in that moment, I knew this was home, and I couldn't hardly believe we were here, and this was our life.

I found this picture on pinterest, can't even remember why, and this is why on so many instagram posts I used the hashtag #chipmunks....we were the chipmunks, and this was our story *eye roll* *cheese*

In these first weeks, Josh wrote a beautiful vision for our relationship, and what the Lord was going to do with it for the Kingdom, and our focus and heart. Every time I read it, even now, I am blown away by the wisdom and eyes to see that Jesus gave him. I copied it in my journal, and constantly looked back at it when times were hard to remember why Jesus brought us together, and to remember that this story was so much bigger than us.

Here's some of what he wrote:

"I want this relationship to be open, I don't want there to be anything hidden in it. I want it to be marked by complete vulnerability. Our identity is found in our Father's love and acceptance of us, We have the grace to bare our heart and share freely whatever God lays on our heart. This relationship is solely for His glory. 
I want this relationship to be marked by love and freedom. It's a beautiful picture of our love relationship with Jesus, and there is a perfect love and freedom that motivates us to serve Him. That's what I desire, that we never feel pressure to perform for each other, for other people, or perform for God. Just be still and let God's perfect love always be our motivator. 
I want this relationship to be marked by the deepest purity. I really believe that the best way for that to happen is to never allow anything other than the perfect love of God to control us. Abide in Him at all times. Walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Rest in the tender care, and faithfulness of our Father and allow that to flow through us. 

Most of all I just want the perfect love of Jesus to be what we're centered upon. I want the voice of our Shepherd to be the only voice we heed. Our love is not ours to give away."
This is what our relationship has been built on over the years, and I'm still in awe that we've been given the chance to go through this earthly life hand in hand, with this kind of vision on our hearts. There's a lot more he wrote, I'll share some more as this story goes on.

I'm going to do the rest of the year in months like I did last time, it helps with flow. And there's so much I could say - I think this will keep me on task.

November
In November, Josh and I had several intense phone conversations. We had a lot to talk about, especially in regards to our year on tour, and our relationships with our team. There were tears, lots of hurts and pain revisited and then healed, and emotions and details clarified. Throughout all of this, Josh's heart was to take on my heart and my emotion and grief and hurt as his own, and begin to carry it for me. So many times, he would ask, "Can I carry this?" and I would be able to release everything to him and just rest. Gracious, y'all I love that man.

This was the month I began to work for Compassion, and one night in the hotel on my first job ever, Josh and I FaceTimed for six hours. Ya'll who have been in long distance relationships know this, FaceTime is valuable and always too short...if you have six hours, then YOU TAKE IT. Who needs sleep?! And during that call, I was sharing some verses the Lord had shown me on betrothal, and commitment, and Josh stopped suddenly and looked right at me and told me that he was mine, and I was his, and that one day we would get married, we would be husband and wife, and that this was his commitment to me, right now, that his life was mine forever. I was in tears, obviously, and of course I promised the same back to him. And from then on, that commitment became part of the foundation we built off of, and we felt engaged. We even started talking about tentative wedding ideas, and planning our future together. We were fully committed, no turning back.


 and i got to keep braiding haaaaaair! Geez y'all, I miss this. If you live near me and have a head of chocolate curls that needs done, please call me! my fingers are itching.

Joel and Christi even came to visit as they were passing through - so crazy to see them now as almost family, instead of friends...so much love for this crazy crew


December
Josh told me that yes, he would come home for Christmas. And so the countdown began. So. Many. Selfies, y'all. We sent hours of video messages, hundreds of gigabites of photo data, and probably thousands of text messages. Forty days seemed forever long. Ha, I knew nothing. But I will never regret the hours of conversation we were forced to have because talking was all we could do - priceless and precious times.

Jesus gave me such a sweet metaphor in the song "Star of Bethlehem"  - this idea of the star as the hope of the wise men, and how it stood as a reminder, just like the rainbow, of His promises.

 so many selfies, y'all. they never end. there's HUNDREDS. be glad I'm only giving you a few.

He came for a whole six days from the day after Christmas until New Year's Eve. We split our time in South Carolina and Virginia, and these are some of the sweetest days we ever had. It was really the first time we were able to just be together face to face since we were finally a couple, and so many hours were spent just sitting together, silent, just enjoying the fact that we could be side by side. Did you know that it's totally possibly to drive an entire seven hour road trip holding hands? *wink*

During those six days, actually during the drive from Abbeville to Charlottesville, I gave Josh my journal. The one I had filled over the past several years with verses and quotes and stories. It was such a powerful moment, I really felt like I was physically handing him my heart, and trusting him with my confidence and myself. I had never felt so vulnerable with him before, and it was beautiful.

That goodbye at the Charlottesville airport was another tragedy. I almost made him miss his plane. We had no idea when we would see each other again. The earliest we could think of would be when the choir came through South Carolina - which was looking like it would be April. APRIL. FOUR MONTHS. I was devastated. But we knew it came with the territory, and I knew I could be brave enough, even if it tore me up. Tears and hugs and frantic "I love you" and "I miss you already" texts as he disappeared past security...y'all, I do NOT miss long distance. Not. One. Iota.


these gems, keeping me sane while I counted the days down to Josh showed up.

the interwebs saw this picture....

...but not this picture...hehe. YOU HAD NO IDEA.


 January
January. Just a month of learning to live in a new normal. Coaching every day was pretty much my whole life, trying to be present with siblings and family and friends, trying not to miss Josh too much. Took a road trip with my dad and siblings, just did life. Read my bible. Didn't journal, at all. (sadly this entire year barely got chronicled in my ever-present journal - not sure why Jesus let that happen...but maybe it's to help me remember the beautiful things more than the challenges. I don't know.)





i also watched all 100 episodes of Lizzy Bennet all over again and colored countless coloring book pages. 
Don't judge me. This was basically therapy.



February
February. Literally another month of waiting and just living. The swim team made it to regionals and states, my siblings continued going to school and playing sports, I continued taking selfies and missing Josh, and life went on. And on. And on. and still I didn't know when I would see him again.



March
MARCH! This is the month I began doing Compassion nearly full time. Swim season was over, and life felt like maybe it was starting to pick up a little bit. I was feeling more confident, growing more, healing so much more, and I really wanted to start writing again. I even wrote on the blog for the first time in forever. (actually - go read that post real quick. It explains a lot) March was a good month.

Josh's dates to visit in April were solidified, and right after I booked a flight for work to Texas, I found out he was going to be in Colorado for a week with three days off, and I could come see him! I booked my flight and everything and was so excited...only to get a text saying that his days off had been changed. Then shortened. Then back to what they were before. Then shortened again. And instead of getting two full days with him, I knew I'd get a half day, then a full day, then have to take a red eye flight back to the East Coast. But it was totally worth it - changing flights, a miserable red-eye and all.

Long distance is not for the faint of heart. Emotionally, it wore us down. Josh was taking care of really challenging children, and it took everything out of him physically nearly every day, and the only thing I wanted was to be with him at the end of those days, and I couldn't. And I was going through this day to day life at home, without him, trying to be brave and strong, and even though he was loving and leading me the best way he could from far away, it wasn't the same as having him next to me. Long distance is exhausting - not just because of crazy timezones and texting and calling at all hours of the night when both of us were finally free. Our hearts were so constantly tired.

When you are emotionally and physically spent, faith gets tested in all new ways. We both were so confident that together is what the Lord had for us, and with that belief, we bravely plugged away, even when we felt weak. Hardship and soul-weariness forces us to trust Jesus in ways we don't have to when we have control of our own lives. If you can schedule Bible reading everyday, fulfill all your household tasks, stay in touch with friends, be present with family, and enjoy your job, all without sacrifice, faith isn't tested terribly much. But when you can barely find motivation to read the Word of God, and you feel like you're just clinging to truth by your fingertips, trusting that you are resting in the palm of the Father's hand is hard. But there is such incredible peace that does pass all human understanding when you can let go of control, even of your spiritual life, and let the Spirit comfort you. We were sustained simply by the intense love of a Heavenly Father. That's it. And that's all we needed.

Oh, this is also the month that I sent Josh's birthday present to some random church in the pacific northwest ahead of them, and decided to go all out decorating the box with markers and stickers and just hoped that maybe he'd be the only one to see it. Clearly I wasn't trying really hard to be subtle...but HEY IT WAS HIS BIRTHDAY AND I LOVED HIM.













April
Well, welcome to April. 

Up till this point, you may be wondering why in the world we didn't make our relationship public. By April, we had been together for six whole months already - you'd think it was about time we told some people. Really, just our family and extended family on both sides, and a handful of friends, knew what was going on. Oh, and pretty much all of Charlottesville. Just because that's kinda what happens when the oldest child of a family like ours starts a serious relationship. 




 so many selfies, y'all. but aren't they such a funny documentation of everything?!

Also, our relationship seems devoid of challenges and conflict, excepting the long distance. So why have I been acting like this was hard, and why were all my Instagram and Facebook posts so melodramatic throughout this entire year?

There's no easy way to share this part of our story, since so much is still left up in the air, and some hurts still sting when touched. But essentially, when Josh went back to Colorado that first week after we started dating (or whatever you want to call this craziness), he was met with surprise opposition. I had seen it coming, but he wanted to hope for the best and was honestly completely shocked. Essentially, the ministry we worked for was very uncomfortable with our relationship, had serious reservations about my character, and requested that for the sake of the other members of Josh's team, that we keep our relationship a secret. Honestly I thought it would just be for a few weeks, or maybe at the most, months, until they figured out the way they wanted to present it. So we agreed.

That might not seem like a huge deal, just keep it a secret from the team indefinitely, but go about our lives normally. Not so fast. When every member of the team is friends with all of your friends, you have to rule out social media immediately. Also, a team is a family. And that put Josh in a position of having to live a double life for what ended up being eight long months. These staff that were like brothers to him, he couldn't share what was going on in the deepest places of his life, and that became almost an unbearable burden by the end of the year.

In April, I had a Compassion job right before the tour was scheduled to come, so I actually was on the road over two weeks, working in North Carolina before heading to Abbeville.



So, the team came through South Carolina, and Courtney and I came and spent the entire week interacting with kids and staff. Throughout the whole time, we scrupulously kept our conversations out of eyesight and ear shot of the others, and Courtney was a gem in keeping situations light and not awkward as the week progressed.



During those few days, some really hard conversations happened one on one, with parents and leaders and family, and all the hope and confidence and healing I had experienced in the past months after leaving Colorado felt dragged in the dirt. I was discouraged, grieving, and broken. Several hours later in the afternoon, Josh and I sat on the back swing of the home we now live in, and realized that our family was our highest priority, not ministry, and that instead of planning on living in Colorado, we would start our lives together in Abbeville. And that very evening, when it felt like we were alone in the world, Josh got down on both knees, massaged and washed my feet, and asked me to be his wife forever and ever. I didn't cry, I wasn't surprised, but it was one of the tenderest, most powerful moments I have ever experienced. And then I curled up in his arms in our favorite big chair, and cried, and slept, and rested for several hours, until I had to leave for North Carolina for another Compassion job.



i literally drove away from him ten minutes later. worst day ever. SO MANY TEARS.

It was a pretty devastating week - and Josh had it worse than me afterwards, as he sort of had to clean up the pieces in the days following, and look forward to several more months on the road after all this had blown up so effectively. But in that, we saw more clearly than ever that TOGETHER is where we belonged.

To top it off, some of that conflict spilled over into family relationships for several months. And while Jesus graciously allowed those to be resolved, it didn't make that season any easier. It also cemented our decision to move to South Carolina.

I went straight from being proposed to, to work again. But thankfully my bestie forever came to see me and made a wet rainy miserable weekend away from Josh so much more palatable.


And that's why I dropped off the face of the earth again. My big plans to blog more fell flat, I felt like my life was even more hidden from the rest of the world, and it was a struggle to keep my head up some days. But in all that, I was finding more and more courage and bravery in the love Josh had for me, and the confidence that Jesus was orchestrating this song that was our story, and I didn't have to defend myself or try to prove my value or worth to anyone. 

I will say this - this forced social media silence for those eight months taught me so much about approval and belonging. It required me to focus on my relationships and the people in my life, and their hearts, and not making sure I portrayed a good story online. I couldn't. My life looked nothing like the pictures and stories I chose to post, and yet, it was still my life. And when we finally could share our story, I was so much more genuine than I ever could've been if I had been sharing our journey from day one. So in a way, I'm thankful. Even though it was hellish, quite frankly, and I wouldn't will that kind of double life on my worst enemy.

May
So began the summer of wedding planning, more long distance, and still keep my mouth duct-taped shut. Although at this point, we began sharing bits and pieces of our story with more and more people, and by the time our relationship was public, almost everyone we were close to knew. I had to send my ring away to get resized, and I just about cried handing it over, and had a countdown on my phone until it came back. 


May was actually a really fun month in many ways - lots of great Morales family moments and events, and now that Josh and I were for real getting married, and we were counting down to a day, I was growing more and more confident, and able to make decisions about our future without feeling like I had to please everyone in the world. Most days I still felt like I was slogging through mental fog without Josh (love is weird sometimes) but there were so many good moments. So many.







Also, can we pause this story to say a huge thank you to my wonderful parents, who saw their daughter walk this crazy journey for so long without batting an eyelash. They had to make so many choices, to hold their tongues when I was hurting so deeply and not reacting in anger to the stuff happening to me, but they were always there for me personally - even if it was just asking how I was feeling and not pressuring me to be happy all the time. There were many weeks where I looked legitimately depressed, and they never got upset or tried to fix it - they were just there. And my mother was the best wedding planner in the history of the world, and when details got over my head and I started freaking out at all the decisions, she never lost her cool, and truly enjoyed the entire process. I would be nowhere with my mama and daddy, and they were a beautiful highlight of this entire journey. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for being there when it mattered most, and carrying your daughter and son (in law) when we couldn't carry ourselves.

June
Remember y'all, I haven't seen Josh since April. This long distance story in itself was grueling - without the constant opposition and lack of support. From the day we started dating to the day Josh got home from Colorado, we spent a total of sixteen days together. Sixteen days in twelve months. Ouch. How did we do it? I have no clue. Jesus and coffee and FaceTime I think. Oh, and that flower service that allows you to order flowers and send them to your girlfriend with a personalized note at any time. That helped too.

June was another great family month - I was so blessed to be able to spend so much time with my siblings in these final months as the at-home big sister. Swim season was in full gear, I was chauffeuring them around like crazy, and we even got to keep my little cousins for a week. Maddie and I also got the crazy almost-once-in-a-lifetime trip with my grandparents to St. Croix, where my grandpa was born and raised, and spend two weeks living the Caribbean life with them. It was a great distraction, and being service-less and only having wifi when we were at home was easier than I thought it would be...hehe. Not because I'm a tech junkie but because I was a Josh junkie and if I could text him, I was. *wink*










Okay. Time for some more honest talk.

This was the month we sent out our save the dates to the people we could tell about the wedding. I'll admit, I struggled with a lot of resentment as the date got closer and we still couldn't tell people. It felt like the best season of life was being stolen away, the engagement and wedding planning that every little girl dreams of - the day I had been waiting for long before I ever had been involved in ministry or been to Colorado. The girl who started this blog seven years had such a different life than she ever had imagined, and I shed many a tear over that. Those are months, it's a time that I'll never get back, and I did have to give up a lot of my "dreams" because of the secret keeping and the long distance and the opposition we faced.

But Jesus showed me something in that time - that my "dream" wedding wasn't actually the point. It's not that I was being selfish for being sad, but He wanted to show me that HIS dream wedding for me was even better. It wasn't the same as I imagined, and sometimes I still wonder what it would've been like if things had been different, but I grew so much that by the time our wedding week arrived, I had fully embraced my "new dream" wedding and now I wouldn't have it any other way. Yes, I had a "right" to be upset that people unconnected to my family and my personal life ended up influencing the biggest day in anyone's story, but I want to stand here as a testimony that you can still get married and have a beautiful, perfect, dream wedding....that looked nothing like your dreams. AND BE COMPLETELY CONTENT AND HAPPY. Y'all, that is the power of Jesus, and He always always has our best interest in mind, if we are willing to let go of our tight fists and see it. If it is in His plan for you, it cannot be stolen.



So in June, Josh confirmed he was coming back east once again in a month (first week of July) to be in a friend's wedding in South Carolina. He was able to get a handful of days off, so the plan was for him to fly into Richmond and then we'd split time in VA and SC again. The countdown began again, the longest time we'd been apart yet, but the end was in sight, since I began making plans to come to Colorado in August to finish out tour by his side, and bring him home. 

July
Those six days with Josh in July were magic - we were at such a deep and intimate place in our relationship, such a completeness of spirit after all we'd been through, there was something powerful about being together. Every interaction was special and intense, and we were more and more ready to be married and do life together. We didn't feel like an engaged couple - we honestly felt more like a tired old married couple, who just wanted to spend time together. 



Our story was written all over our faces - we were soul weary, but blissfully happy to be sharing personal space. I think our engagement photos capture this so well - Jess drove down to catch us in the brief window we were together in Charlottesville and took this epic gallery. Of course the dear girl had to hold herself from sharing them online like normal photographers...still couldn't spill the beans just yet!

(all these photos below courtesy of Jess Lapp)








It was sometime at the end of July or beginning of August I think, that Josh was finally able to tell his team that we were not only in a relationship, but engaged. And even that came about almost by accident, since word was starting to spread and we were afraid they would find out from other people instead of from Josh, and basically Josh had to appeal to tell them sooner than "agreed to" and that wasn't easy. He called me afterwards and was just torn up, feeling like in a way he had let his team down as the team leader by not being transparent with them all year. It wasn't his fault, but he took most of the responsibility and it was hard to watch. Anyway. Thankfully, they are wonderful people and one of them was even able to get time off to come to the wedding, which I know blessed Josh immensely.

Dropping Josh off at the Atlanta airport to head back to Colorado, then spending a day alone in SC without him before driving home solo - not my favorite. Even though I knew it was our last goodbye, I didn't let him leave for so so long...it was harder than ever to let him out of arms reach...


August
Y'all, I would not have survived without the incredible community that is my hometown. They rallied around us and did so much for my mother as she planned our wedding, and took on so many tasks and loved us so well - it takes a village, and ours rocked. I also have the best best friends. You know who you are.



We had a splendid Morales family vacation at the beginning of August...or was it the end of July...I don't remember, but anyway, it was a great and glorious last hurray and a wonderful week of refreshment at a family camp in Maryland that we all desperately needed. We also swept all the swimming competitions and all got free ice cream. SYKE.




And then it was more travels for Liza! After some serious coordination, I got a crazy several weeks of travel planned and spent those final weeks of our long distance relationship being fully insane. I felt a twinge of guilt, leaving my mother just eight weeks before our wedding to go out of state for over three weeks when all was said and done...but Jesus blessed the time and I needed the fresh air and the encouragement so much. 





I worked my final Compassion job until after the wedding out in California, near San Francisco. Probably one of my favorite stops to date - full of fellowship and good conversation and sightseeing and In and Out. Then I was home for like two days, and then off again to Michigan for a long weekend with one of my favorite host families from tour, who has become like another family to me. Spending those days with them was the best possible medicine I needed to fortify me for the next leg of my trip.




On the plane from Grand Rapids to Denver, I pretty cried the whole time. So much of my heart felt like it was coming home. I dearly love Colorado. So much of my adult life was influenced by my years there. And yet now it held some of the most hurtful broken relationship in my life, and I was willingly putting myself in a situation that could potentially be really hard, or it could be amazing. I really had no idea. But I had a bad feeling, and for the first time, I journaled, and listened to music on repeat, and wept and wept and wept. And then I looked out the window and my Rockies peeked through the clouds like they always do, and I was just so happy. So happy to be home.


One of my dearest friends picked me up the airport and we headed to Fort Collins to see the children perform. And....I saw Josh. It was sort of a non-reunion, since we were in front of other people...and sometimes I wish we could've had some time to just be before we had to jump into this other double life. Anyway. 

Those two weeks were honestly pretty hard. I loved being on campus almost every day and spending time with the children who I had prayed for, fully expecting to be on tour with them, and then loved from a distance, and then had adopted into my heart because they meant so much to Josh. And the team was so gracious toward me, and made me feel like part of their little family. One of them even reminded me that I was part of their team, because I was part of Josh, and that blessed me more than anything. And especially getting to spend time with the boys that were Josh's whole world...it was a gift I'll never take for granted.









We said goodbye the children, and then still had almost a whole week left in Colorado. That week was even harder. Very similar to the month April, just times a hundred. And it was at the end of that week, that Josh and I made the very difficult decision to not only live back East, but end his time with the ministry as well. Tears, y'all. It was so hard. But we knew that for our marriage, we needed to pull back, and build our family on a different foundation, and let go of our desire to make it work where we were at. It still breaks our hearts, and we miss the kids, and we miss touring, and it's still hard to not look back and wish there was a way it could've worked out, but at the same time, we have thrived the past eight months, and Jesus has given us every grace we needed to start over.

The greatest gift of those final days was a wonderful supper out with everyone who had made Colorado home for us. This crew - there are so much bumps and kinks that you can't see, but each one of these people means so much to us, and we wouldn't be who we are without them.



And so, with heavy hearts and yet with joy, we got on a plane and flew home to GET MARRIED! Long distance was over, and no matter what we had gone through, and how many things didn't turn out the way we had hoped, we were so happy and finally felt like we could be excited about our wedding. No more secrets, no more guilt, no more double life - just Liza and Josh and a forever together ahead of us.

Also, the day I flew into Colorado was the same day I had flown out exactly the year before. Full circle. And yay for dates, and Jesus is good. 





September
For the six weeks left of unmarriedness, Josh and I actually never separated. Ha, you don't blame us do you? Josh lived with my family, although we really kinda hopped around so much we were never quite in one place for more than two weeks. He bunked with my brothers (it's all good y'all, we didn't LIVE together gee whiz) when we were in Charlottesville, and I stayed with his sister whenever we were in SC. We made several trips back and forth, for beach trips with family, or wedding planning weeks in Virginia, and spent time with his brother and almost-sister-in-law, who did I mention had gotten engaged right after we did, and picked a wedding day right before ours? Ha, it was a crazy season.



One of the highlights of these six weeks of togetherness was a little weekend getaway we had in Charleston. We stayed with my grandmother and I got to take Josh around to all the places I had grown up visiting as a child, and then we also spent a day down in Edisto where he grew up going to beach. Lots of wonderful memories shared in those short days before the wedding busyness.











In these weeks, yes, we were clearly crazy busy. But even in busyness, there's still thinking time, and as you can probably guess, we had a lot of good reasons to be frustrated or even bitter over everything that had led up to where we were. Not to mention, by choosing to leave the ministry, our future main source of income changed like that, and we knew life was going to look a lot different than we had planned. But with all these little vacations, and moments to get away, our sweet Abba gave us the grace and forgiveness we needed to take a deep breath and walk boldly into our new start. There were still glitches, even issues that came up just days before our wedding, but the Lord went before us and smoothed the way, and we were so at peace. Does it still hurt sometimes? Yes. Does our life still reflect the hardships we walked through? Of course. But every day each circumstance becomes more and more part of our story and the fabric of who we are. We see people differently now - we see hurts, we see heartache, we see pain more clearly. We can love others better than we ever have, because we know the love of Jesus more than we ever have. We've been given a gift in our story, the gift of knowing the heart of the Father in a deep way.

at Josh's brother's wedding, just eight short days before our own.

And THAT, my friends, is the story of Josh and Liza. Stay tuned for the final installment - our wedding post, complete with photos, and you'll understand so much better all the little details and why we did our wedding the way that we did.




And for real y'all, I just want to say thank you to each of you who has reached out and encouraged both of us throughout our entire relationship, and now that we've shared some of it publicly. We deeply believe that our story is not ours to keep, and that we walked through all that we did for a reason. This has never been about us, it's always ever been about Jesus and following His call on our lives, and that's why we've opted to share it with the world. It's not clean, it's not simple or always cheerful, but it's a testimony of the faithfulness of God and His promises to children. It's about two kids who He taught to be brave and to trust Him, and it's about the love that He has for each one of us, and the fierce way He shields and protects us even as we walk through deep waters. We serve a good good Abba, y'all. We do.