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doppelgänger

exhibit a:

exhibit b:

exhibit c:


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Two years ago, we went to the Saturday night service at our church. It was Mother’s Day weekend and our friends were dedicating their little girl to the Lord. Our church honors mothers who have lost children by handing out white roses. I was relieved to be going Saturday night because the thought of walking out of church Mother’s Day morning and passing moms with hands full of children while I was clutching one small hand and three rose stems was unbearable.

I sat in the pew heavy with disappointment and despair. May was the darkest of months. Our hopes for another child were growing dimmer and it felt as if our prayers were falling on deaf ears.

That evening our pastor preached on love, God’s glorious love.

“The Lord is good to all,” he read, “and his mercy is over all that he has made.” He said that “God wants you to know yourself loved” and “I have preached this message so that you would know more fully and experience more deeply how you are loved.”

I did not feel loved. I believed I was loved, but I could not feel it. Each truth felt one-part hope and one-part sting.

He closed by saying, “Life is hard. We need all the help we can get now to know the greatness of God’s covenant love for his sheep. Come to Christ and discover that you are loved with invincible, never-ending, covenant love.”

I could not move. The church emptied and I was still sitting there weeping. Nate lifted me up and led me to pray with him.

I remember looking up at him through my tears and saying, “I believe what you just preached. Every word. I believe that God loves, but we have lost three babies and our hopes for another one seems bleak. And it is hard to feel that God loves me when what we want, another child, is being kept from us.”

He put his hands on us and prayed for us. He praised the Lord for evidence of his work in our lives through the testimony of our faith. And then he prayed that God in his mercy would give us another child. We thanked him as Ava skipped past us, up to the front to pick out our white roses. She turned and marched out in front of us waving the roses like three little flags of surrender.

Three weeks Saturdays later I stared stunned at a positive pregnancy test. The dark clouds began to break as sweet mercy rained down on us.

And two years later, in the brightness of the morning we stood at the front of the same church holding a red rose and twenty-three pounds of love. We came to dedicate our son to the Lord who had given him to us.

Our Jude Matthew. His story is written into his name. He is the rejoicing that comes in the morning. He is the gift from God for which we prayed.

After he was blessed, Jude grabbed hold of that red rose and waved it up and down. I am here. You prayed and God sent me. Up and down, a bold red flag. God loves you. God loves you. God loves you.

Jude Matthew, you are a gift. A sweet providential gift from God. We pray that you will know the giver of all good gifts, that He will be your counselor and comforter. May you be a man who is strong in the Lord and mighty in his power. May the Lord deal bountifully with you all the days of your life and may you always trust in his loving-kindness. In the days of hope and gladness and in the days of sorrow and darkness, may you rejoice in the Lord’s salvation and sing to Him forever and ever. Amen.

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I live up my eyes to the mountains

where does my help come from?

My help comes from the LORD,

the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—

he who watches over you will not slumber;

indeed, he who watches over Israel

will neither slumber nor sleep.

I don’t know about you, but here the sun is only beginning to melt the massive amount of snow we’ve received this winter.  When I look out my window I still see more snow than I see grass. The warm rains are beginning to wash it away, but we have another snowy day right around the corner.

The other night when we were in the midst of bi-weekly snow storms, my husband decided that the only thing to cure his winter blues would be a juicy summertime burger.

We layered up in our coats and scarves and hats and boots and mittens, which at this point in the season have begun to feel as akin to our bodies as our very own skin. We piled our padded selves onto frozen seats, buckled up, and made our way to Five Guys.

He was right. Those hot greasy burgers melted in our mouths like a sizzling summer day. As we ate our burgers we made plans for what we would do when we could see the grass again and grilling a burger was a weekly affair.

On the way home the roads were slick and snowy. We came off the highway and drove right past a car that had just slid off the road and into the snow bank. You have to understand that we have nearly four foot snow banks on the sides of most of our streets. Ava walks from the street to the sidewalk with the snow coming up over her head on both sides.

This car is up on the drift, the tires aren’t even touching the ground. We pass him and I know instantly what my husband is going to say, “I should go help him.”

I nod as we double back and park on the opposite side of the street.  The snow is silently falling through the shadows as Nate dodges through traffic to get to the stranded car leaving Ava and I at the perfect vantage point to watch the unfolding drama.

At this point I should tell you that I’m not from Minnesota so I’m not sure what one is supposed to do with the car stuck in the bank. But Nate is from Minnesota so he knows and begins to do the things that you should do if you are from stuck in a snow drift in Minnesota.

Within minutes this big macho man in a big macho truck arrives. From the moment his boots hit the pavement it is clear that he’s going to the lay his massive hands on the car and show these two how it’s done. So he starts telling what’s what and everyone braces themselves for the big shove.  He squats down like a center lineman ready to snap the ball and push the line forward—nothing. It doesn’t budge. A couple more pushes and the man stands up. He shakes his head, as if to say, if I can’t move it, it can’t be moved. He gets in his truck and drives away.

Nate and the driver continue doing whatever it is you do. Digging out snow. Rotating tires. Trying to get traction. So on and so forth.

Moments later another big dude arrives on the scene. Same story. He starts waving his hefty arms and calling out the play. He throws his weight into the hood and it doesn’t move. He leaves as quickly as he came.

Next a Papa John’s delivery guy pulls over. He jumps out with a miniature snow shovel. I would guess it’s the size of my arm. Nate, the driver, and Mr. Delivery take turns shoveling with mini-shovel until Mr. Delivery realizes that people don’t tip well for cold pizzas. He leaves the men with his child-sized shovel and drives off into the storm.

At this point, Ava and I start praying. I pray that her dad doesn’t get hit by other drivers coming off the highway onto this dark snowy road. She prays for four men. She is quite certain that four men working together will get the car out.

We sit bundled up in our cozy car the heat warming our toes as Jude’s slow breathing adds to the quiet hush.  The storm is wrapping up our car in quilt after quilt of snow as Ava looks out across the shadowy street to the scene that is appearing more and more helpless.

“My daddy’s not going to give up until he’s out of there. He’s a boy who doesn’t stop until the work is done.”

It’s true, so true. Other than the part of about him being a boy, which called for a quick review about grown-up boys being called men. The car seemed brighter and warmer with the knowledge that her dad wasn’t going to give up. He was still out there shoveling and pushing, shoveling and pushing.

Before long another man showed up with a standard size snow shovel. The snow under those tires started flying. Ava cheered as the fourth man arrived with yet another shovel. In a matter of moments the four men working together dug out the tires, pushed the car out the bank, shook hands and ran off in different directions into the darkness.

We praised God for answering all our prayers as Nate rubbed his hands together in front of the heaters.

In Sunday school, Ava is learning the attributes of God.  Each week they learn a new truth about God that corresponds with the next letter of the alphabet.  The week after this storm, she was lying in bed trying to sleep while contemplating the fact that God never sleeps. It’s hard to do. Go to sleep while imagining never sleeping.

And so I was pulled onto her bed and into this puzzle. And together we contemplated what it means that God is always watching us and always working for our good.

“Ava,” I said, “Remember when we went out for hamburgers in that storm and we saw the guy stuck in the snow?

“Yes.”

“And remember how daddy helped him even though it took a long time and lots of other guys went home.”

“Mmm-hmm.”

“And remember how you said, that daddy wasn’t going to give up until the work was done.”

“Yah.”

“Our God is like that, Ava. He never stops working for our good. Even when it’s dark and snowy. And the snow were trying to remove keeps piling up around us, he’s still helping us. He never takes a break. And, Ava he’s not going to stop until the work is done. “

It’s true. Even when we feel like our tires are up in the bank with no hope of traction. Even when everyone else gives up and drives way. Even when the snow comes down faster than the little shovel can remove it. Our God is still there, right there in the storm.

We also have a daddy who’s not going to quit until he’s done.

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There was a time when I used to blog. It’s true.

For a good couple years, I would open up my laptop and type out little stories from our lives. And then for several reasons, some good, some not as good, I stopped. More like I sputtered to a stop, coughing out a few last stories over the past year.

You would think that after almost of year of not blogging, I would have forgotten about the whole enterprise. But nearly every night as I’m drifting off to sleep, I reflect upon the day and those images generally arrange themselves into a blog post. Then I think, “This is blog worthy. I really should post this.” And then I remind myself that I let my blog die.

This blog is like that poor neglected plant that you forgot to water for months and months. You don’t tend to it and you don’t throw it away. It just sits there limp and lifeless in its dried out dirt, a pathetic reminder of what it had been or should be. And it’s not like you could go water it now.

You know what happens when you water a dead plant? All the water pools up and pours down the sides.

That’s a mess. No one wants that.

And so I don’t post. And yet, I can’t close the blog.

At the end of December, I got my blog rental notice. My lease on my little spot on the internet was up. How could I justify renewing a lease on a vacant blog? But how do I let go of my little storybook?

This is it. Today I’m putting the pot back by the window and pouring in a little water in hopes that there are seeds lying dormant waiting to sprout.

Hello, little friend, I’ve missed you.

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happy christmas

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At first this post was going to be about how he went from this

to this.

 

 

About how he is no longer a sleep-all-day-and-night infant,

but a smiling, laughing, rolling-over, bubble-blowing baby.

Even though he has doubled his birth weight and discovered his toes, in many ways the biggest changes around here these past four and half months have been hers.

She has gone from being shared by her parents

 

to sharing her parents.

She has become his big sister.

She went from sounding out little readers to reading him “big” books.

She bid farewell to the birds on her wall and the only home she’s known. She learned to sleep far away from her parents and claims to no longer need Bubba.

She had her first dance recital,

learned to ride on two wheels, and blew out six candles on her cake.

And before I could blink, she waved goodbye to Kindergarten.

In the shadows of all these events I’ve sensed a maturity happening that I cannot capture in pictures and hardly even name. Over the past four and half months I have felt a shift, a deepening of understanding, a lessening of selfishness, and an eagerness to serve others. It’s as though I’ve been given glimpses of the young lady that is emerging

and she is lovely.

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sometimes…

after a long, hard winter

you have to go outside

and unwind.

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I started this post five weeks ago. Every day I say to myself this is the day that I’m going to get a chance to blog, and then the day gives way to cuddling, feeding, singing, rocking, staring.

Oh the staring. My eyes never seem to get their fill of this baby.

Before I know it the day is done and I must retreat to my bed before the nighttime feedings begin.

And all I really wanted to say five weeks ago is precisely what I want to say now: I’m head over heels, madly in love with this boy.

Jude has confirmed that two weeks is more than enough time to fall in love. Two days, two hours, two minutes are more than I needed. I knew the moment the doctor lifted that round face over the curtain that my heart would never be the same.

Seven weeks ago, I sat in the hospital twirling my finger in the palm of a tiny hand and gushing about this sweet boy to my friend Jenna.  To which she responded,  “The amazing thing about having a baby,” she replied, “is that you get to fall in love all over again. You think that’s over when you get married, but then you have a baby.”

“Oh, it’s true! It’s true! That’s exactly what it’s like.”

And so I’m falling in love all over again.

The amazing thing is that there is no division in love–it isn’t parceled out to Nate and then to Ava and then to Jude. Having a baby is discovering an entirely new reservoir of love.

I have spent the past seven weeks staring and studying this small boy, getting to know him and feeling like I’ve always known him.

I get lost in his wrinkles and could spend hours counting his toes. He has ten. And each one is as kissable as the next.

How many ways can I say that I love him? I’ve already compiled a score of grunts and squeaks, and he hasn’t even started to giggle. My nose is continually searching his scalp for more sweet scents. His skin. It is so soft and so delicious.

“Are you real?” I say each day as I cup his little head in my hands. “Are you mine?”

My arms can’t seem to put him down and each time I pick him up he melts into me as if to say, “remember, we go together.”

I knew that I wanted another child, but I did not know that I would love it this much. I only have one word left.

Bliss.

(The first and third photos are Megan’s. If you live near the Twin Cities you should get to know Megan.)


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xoxo

Hugs

& Kisses

from Ava & Jude!

Happy Valentine’s Day!






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“praise and thanks”

By now it is obvious that we didn’t have a name when we arrived at the hospital Monday morning.

The trouble is that in the process of finding a name for our little boy, we fell in love with too many names. So it was more a battle of which name to let go of then it was of which one to keep.

Several times, Nate expressed his disappointment that our boy was not a set of twins, because then it would be so much easier. I do not share this sentiment.

One of the many naming books that Nate poured over at the hospital suggested that if you can’t decide between two names, imagine your baby as a kindergartener and how you would explain to him the reason for giving him his name.

As you know we have a kindergartener, so this was not too hard to imagine.

This is the story that I told my kindergartener.

MAMA: “Once upon a time there was a daddy and a mama and a little girl. The daddy and the mama loved the little girl lots and lots, and they had even more love to share. And the little girl loved her daddy mama very much, but she had more love to share too.

AVA: Is this us?

MAMA: Listen to the story, Ava. So the daddy and the mama and the little girl began to pray for a baby. Every day the little girl would pray, “Dear Jesus, please put a baby in mama’s tummy.” She would pray at meal time and bed time and throughout the day.

Then one day the mama told the daddy and the little girl that a baby was coming. Everyone was so happy! They prayed and thanked Jesus for the new little baby. But then the baby died and they were very sad.

They prayed again that God would send them another baby. And He did. That baby died too. And so did the next baby. And then the mama and the daddy and the little girl were very, very sad. But they did not stop praying.

They prayed and waited and prayed and waited and prayed for a very, very long time.

Then one day the mama had good news. There was a new baby in her belly. The daddy and the little girl were so happy, but they were also a little scared. They didn’t want this baby to die too. Each day the little girl prayed, “Dear Jesus, please keep the baby safe in mama’s tummy.”

AVA: That’s what I prayed.

MAMA: Yes you’re right. And this little baby grew in the mama’s tummy and soon it was going to be born. And the daddy and the mama and the little girl were so excited, but they didn’t know if the baby would live or if the baby would be healthy. And then time came for the baby to be born and he came out healthy and whole. He had all his fingers and toes. He could see and hear. And he was beautiful.

AVA: Just like our baby. This is us, Mama, right?

MAMA: You’re right. And so did God answer our prayer?

AVA: Mmm-hmm.

MAMA: And what did we say to him?

AVA: Thank you for giving us this baby!

MAMA: Yes, that’s what we prayed, and we were so happy that we praised God for this baby. So do you think we should choose a name that means “praise and thanks”?

AVA: Like Jude. That’s why his name is Jude?

DADDY: How did you know that Jude means “praise and thanks”?

AVA: I just do.

MAMA: And Ava, who did you say gave us this baby?

AVA: God.

MAMA: So don’t you think we should give him another name that means “gift of God”?

AVA: What is it?

DADDY: Matthew. His name is Jude Matthew.

MAMA: And every time we say his name we can remember that how we prayed, how you prayed for him to come to our family and how God heard our prayers and gave him to us.

**Postscript: Jude is also the name that Nate and I have had in our minds these past three years as we have been praying for another child. Matthew comes from the same Hebrew word as Nathan and they share the same meaning.

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