Living Without Fear of the Future. Possible or Impossible?

One of my best friends and I start our mornings by reading from a Proverbs 31 women’s devotional.  It’s a few paragraphs and usually one bible verse that allows both of us to start our days with God and learn a little about how God wants us to live our lives.  It’s 20-30 minutes of reading, digesting, praying and ‘chatting’ over email.  It’s the time after we are awake and before the day starts to set the tone, create a foundation, a strong platform, with God and each other.

Every day is a struggle whether it be at work, with your husband/wife, your health, kids who don’t seem to listen, a dirty house, lack of time to work out and the list goes on.  We weren’t designed to be perfect (thank God), but, we can learn a little each day about how to live a Godly life in the midst of this crazy world.  That’s why this is important to us.

We can try.  One day at a time.  We will fail, certainly.  Likely a few times, ahem, every couple hours.  We will take a few steps forward and inevitably, a step back.  The important thing for me (and for my friend, Vaneesha), is that we are making progress.  It may be slow, but, slow is better than status quo.  For me, one of the things I have learned over the last couple years and recently doing this daily devotional is to not worry about tomorrow, about the future.  Clearly, if you know me, you know I am FAR from perfect on this.  However, I am thankful that God has helped me be more present.  To not worry about tomorrow, about my future and to not let worry consume my thoughts.  And this verse from Proverbs 31:25 (coincidentally…or not) is one that makes me smile.  Makes me smile at the work God is doing in my messy life.proverbs-31-quote

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#prayforoklahoma

pray-for-oklahoma-2As I read my devotional this morning, the verse 1 Peter 5:6 jumped out at me for many reasons, but one being the heavy heart I have for the people in Oklahoma.  Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

I saw many celebrities on TV,  tweets and FB posts from various people and organizations  about #prayforoklahoma and was so encouraged.  Encouraged because we have a God who listens to prayer.  Encouraged because prayer was the response.  And encouraged that we have the freedom in the U.S. to pray and to talk about prayer.  So, my friends, keep praying!

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Bittersweet Lesson: The Necessity of Change

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As some of you know, last month I started a series called Bittersweet which was derived from a book I read called Bittersweet.  Clever, I know.  Anyways, in the author’s chapter called “learning to swim” she talks about suffering and change and when we are in it, we sometimes can lose sight of the fact that we likely are being made new.  That we have to suffer to learn, to grow to be redeemed.  It is a story of sacrifice, purpose and character.

But what stood out to me the most was that she goes on to talk about how suffering made her selfish, somewhat controlling and slightly ignorant.  Why me?  When will this end?  I don’t deserve this. What is God doing? I want to be rescued from this pain.  I don’t want to wait.  I want, I want, I want.  Thoughts and prayers that are so self-consuming and meanwhile we believe we are the victims and crave a fast exit from the pain because we don’t deserve this.  Man oh man I can relate to this.

It struck a chord with me because I have been, precisely, that person, more often than I’d like to admit.  In the midst of my suffering, I can barely even think about others or the world around me because I’m so consumed with my pain, my problems and my own prayers.  In fact, just a couple of short weeks ago in the midst of a yelling match with Rick (it was a rough month…we had to let it out), he made it very clear to me how selfish I had been.  My initial response involved a few words I’d prefer not to reveal as to keep my blog PG-13.  But as we cooled down, as I thought about what he said (or screamed, not that I am keeping track), he was right.  Ugh.  Not only could I not see or care for the world and people around me, I was not seeing or caring for the one person I love the most…my husband.

The point here is not that while we suffer we should be selfless. Rather, the point is while we suffer to remember that something deeper is happening.  And while the narrative is about us, we need to be awakened to the world around us and what good can come of this before we reach the final chapter. We are being redeemed.  We are being taught lessons of patience.  We are being shaped into a wiser person.

And as the author states, “I believe that suffering is part of the narrative, and that nothing really good gets built when everything’s easy.  I believe that loss and emptiness and confusion often give way to a new fullness and wisdom.

Amen, right?!  Suffering and change are inevitable. And we can choose to embrace the inevitable and embrace the pain, remembering that God is doing something bigger in us.  Work that likely has to get done.  That needs to get done.

This is the bittersweet lesson I am learning more and more with each mountain that I have to climb and each valley I crash in.  It’s not an easy lesson, but, it’s a good one and one that I am grateful for.  Embrace the change.  There are good things on the other side.

February 25. Letting Go.


ann-written-notes-let-godMy arms are a little weak as I inhale and exhale, fingers tapping gently on the keypad.  This post will be tough.  It is tough.  But do it, Ann.  I don’t want to, but I’m going to. 

Today is the due date of what would have been our first baby together.  I actually can hardly type those words without my heart aching so heavily it physically weighs me down.  You see, you never really ever understand the pain of a miscarriage loss until you actually go through it.  And you never ever forget the pain, I am convinced.  And you especially don’t forget it on the due date of the child’s birth.

I feel sad today but the sadness is amplified after finding out, about two weeks ago, I miscarried again.  I wish February 25 was only about the birthday of a child that only lived for 10 weeks inside of me.  The child that I wonder if I will meet in heaven.  I wonder if it was a boy or girl.  I wonder if the child would have had Rick’s smile.  Or my eyes.  I wish I could mourn this loss and remove the now increased pain, the tearing up of my heart just so I could focus on child number one.  I wish.

But that isn’t the case.  Instead, it’s two losses I mourn today.  Two children, siblings, that weren’t ready to enter the world.  Two children that God called to heaven sooner than I had hoped.  Today I am mourning, with my body suffering,  in ways that I didn’t know existed.  That I didn’t expect.  The type of mourning that I sometimes wonder how a person could actually be strong enough to go through this. 

Three weeks ago I received the positive sign on three pregnancy tests.  And five days later, on a beautiful Saturday morning as I was preparing for a party at my home (with non alcoholic champagne and all), it happened.  A miscarriage. I knew it immediately.  I wept in Rick’s arms.  I knew it.

Sparing you all of the details (though you may consider the below a lot of details, trust me.  There are around 150 more details that I am leaving out because as Sweet Brown says, “ain’t nobody got time for that!”), here is the summarized play-by-play, according to blood work, tests, exams, ultrasounds, speaking with various doctors and nurses and a. lot. of. waiting.

It goes like this:  Visit doctor after a lot of bleeding.  It’s a chemical pregnancy (wtf is a chemical pregnancy? Pardon my French.). Take a pregnancy test at the doctor’s office.  It’s negative (five days ago it was positive, three times).  I drink wine that night. Get my arm poked to test HCG (pregnancy hormone). Wait.  Nurse calls the next day.  HCG levels are higher than expected.  Need another round of testing.  Get my arm poked again. Wait. The HCG doubled (which is on trend with what a normal pregancy is). I might be pregnant.  There is hope. I wait.  Get my arm poked again to test HCG.  They lower.  It’s probably a miscarriage, an ectopic pregnancy or you could be fine and it’s a normal pregnancy.  Oh, really?  I’m sorry, but when did the bad news bears become OBGYNs?  Ugh.  Get my arm poked again.  I wait. I dream I delivered a baby boy and seconds later the nurses let him die.  Doctor calls the next day while I am at work.  The levels went up.  Need to get an ultrasound and a D&C STAT (at least it’s cool they used the word STAT in it’s true context).  I weep at my desk.  Colleague walks in, I’m embarrassed, I explain and I leave the office.  I arrive at doctor’s office. Get an ultrasound.  Weep as it brings me back to the last time I was in the ultrasound room and we received the “there is no baby” news.  I sit.  I wait.  Exam was “good.”  Ultrasound confirmed no uterine pregnancy and no ectopic.  Yes, I am typing this correctly. Remember, bad news bears.  Too early to see either.  Scratch the D&C.  Get my arm poked again for HCG.  Wait a day.  Test results come back and levels went up.  D&C for real this time.  I get the surgery. I wait.  The surgery was primarily for ruling out the possibility of ectopic pregnancy.  Doctor calls.  No pregnancy cells were confirmed via the D&C so they deduce I have an ectopic pregnancy.  Need to get injection of methotrexate STAT (yes, the word STAT was used a LOT during this process).  Ectopic pregnancies can be deadly if not caught. But before injection, have to get HCG tested again, among other tests to confirm my body can handle the drug.  (Methotrexate is a drug used to treat/kill off cancer so to say it’s strong is an understatement.).  I get poked for the 85th time in two weeks.  And I wait.  For two hours at the hospital.  Results come back, my tests were good.  Go to Prentice women’s hospital to the unit where pregnant women go and the first question I get asked is “how many weeks are you?”  I may have called the receptionist something not nice in my head.  I sit in the hospital for six hours and have nurses, doctors and medical students come in. Oh yeah, they invited Kirsten, the cute med student in because my case was “a doozy” and they wanted her to learn from it.  Awesome.  At least I am furthering Northwestern’s OBGYN program. Get injections and get strict orders of: no drinking, no working out, no travel, no sex and the list goes on.  They should have just directed me to curl up in a corner and sit there until this process is over which at this point could be a week or three months.

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So that’s where I am.  I am drained.  In pain, emotionally (physically I am fine, thank God). In shock.  Trying to mourn the first loss. But now mourning two. Right now, all I taste is bitter with minimal sweet.  I am trying to pray but I have asked many people to pray on my behalf because right now, I’m not even strong enough to do that.  I know God knows.  I know Jesus is mourning my loss with me.  I know and believe God’s plans are perfect.  I know I will grow from this.  I know God is good.

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It’s just my heart that isn’t quite there yet.  And that’s okay, for now.  When we suffer, often times during the suffering we cannot see one ounce of light (and we BEG to get out of the pain).  We can’t imagine that what is happening could lead to amazing things.   And I think God does this on purpose so that we lean on Him  to help us through and to remind us that we can’t do it alone (very humbling).  For me, there are moments of my life when I suffered (first marriage, divorce, post divorce, first miscarriage, to name a few) and I have those times to look back on to ask myself: Was God faithful?  Yes.  Was God’s plan better than mine?  Big fat yes.  Did I learn something?  Yes. Wisdom is a gift.  Did I grow from the experience?  Yes.  Was I able to help someone else as a result of my suffering?  Yes. 

And this is where my hope comes from.  Sometimes our plans have to fall apart for God’s plans to truly unfold.  It’s time to let go and let God do some work.

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Learning to Find Joy in the Midst of Pain: Scenes From a Woman Who Desires to Have a Baby

Note-to-Self-ann-written-notesEvery so often I share things I am going through on my blog.  Sometimes it’s easy and it comes naturally for me, being the open book that I am.  Other times, it’s harder.  Today is one of those times.  But, I am appreciative of Rick, who, this morning, said to me, “you should write about it.”  For one second I thought absolutely not.  And here we are, 10 hours later and I am writing.

As most of you know, Rick and I had a miscarriage a couple of months back (well, if you count the start to finish of that super fun process it was about 5 months ago from the start…not that I am counting).  Yes, it was painful. Yes, it was sad.  Yes, I had a ton of love and support.  No, I’m not over it.  Not that anyone expects me to be, but I suppose I put this 3,000 pound pressure on myself to dust myself off and get over it.  And usually I do get over whatever it is I am going through.  Well, this situation isn’t that easy. Why, you ask?  Oh, let me count the ways.

First, I have always said (quietly to myself with nobody around) that I would never be one of those women who after having a miscarriage would envy or feel anger when hearing of other women who get pregnant or have children.  Second, I have high expectations of myself.  Third, miscarriages and trying to have a baby is hard.  Knowing that, let me share with you a few scenes in my  life that. actually. happened.  (As a side, when I do the whole word. word. word. thing in my blogs it’s a way of emphasizing what I am saying.  Hopefully you have gotten that by now and if you haven’t, well, that’s why I am telling you.   Just now when I typed that way I realized it may not be obvious and you guys may think I just have no idea how to write. Which I suppose could be argued.  Anyways…)

Scene 1, Act 1: Ann’s First Ridiculous Episode Post Miscarriage

Scene:  My couch
Actors:  Myself and two close friends from my bible study (we will call them Cathy and Denise for this scene).
Script:
All:  “Hey, it’s so great to see you!” (big hugs happening, coats coming off, glasses of water being drank, getting comfortable on my charcoal gray Crate & Barrel couch)
Cathy:  “I’m so glad it’s just us for a few minutes before everyone gets here.  I have some news…I’m pregnant!”
Denise:  “Oh my gosh, Cathy, wow, this is amazing!” (or something like that, reaching in for an additional hug of joy)
Ann: Awkward facial expression (half-smile/half weird lip movement to prevent frown), lump in throat, “eeehhhh, ummmm…” (Ann starts to weep, apologizing for her completely rude response to her friend who just shared with her such incredible news.)

Okay, so that was a short film that clearly didn’t win any awards at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.  Yes, I did that.  I wept out of sadness for myself when my friend shared with me she was pregnant.  Let’s continue, shall we?

Scene 2, Act 1:  Ann’s Second Ridiculous Episode Post First Ridiculous Episode Post Miscarriage

Scene:  My couch
Actors:  All of the women in my bible study, including Cathy and Denise from original scene
Script:
All:  “Great to see everyone…what’s new, what are the updates before we dig into our study?”
Denise:  “I’m pregnant!”
Ann:  Same scene from above, but no crying and Ann held it together physically and later that night, she prayed/yelled at God and cried herself to sleep.

Are we having fun yet?  Oh, no?  Okay.  Let me continue on with this humiliation.

Scene 3, Act 1:  Ann’s Third Ridiculous Episode…No Further Description Needed
Scene: South Florida, hotel bar
Actors: Myself and two colleagues
Script:
Colleague 1:  “So, how are you doing with everything, Ann?” (and by “everything” she means miscarriage)
Ann: Starts weeping in front of her colleagues in the middle of drinking a Moscow Mule.  Classic.

Haven’t had enough of my meltdowns?  Okay, fine, I’ll share another.

Scene 4, Act 1:  Ann’s Fourth Ridiculous Episode
Scene:  My boss’s house
Actors:  Myself, my colleague (note, different colleague from South Florida scene and note, my boss was upstairs and missed this scene)
Script:
Ann:  Takes a conference call that didn’t go well, comes into the room with her colleague and starts…wait for it…wait for it…yep, crying.
Colleague 1:  “Oh my gosh what is that matter?!” (she comes in for the big hug)
Ann: Weeping, “I just had a bad conference call and it’s been a hard week and everything with the miscarriage and my hormones and WAH WAH WAH…”

Yes, that was me, AGAIN.  Thankfully my boss was in the other room and didn’t see that disaster.

You see, the last few months have been hard. And the harder issue is me trying to mask the pain, not talk about how I feel and think I am just going to be okay.  The reason I share these embarrassing, real stories with you is that in the last couple days, my pain has deepened and I have been trying to work my way through it and. I. can’t.  (There is the emphasis thing again.)  But, I am learning something very important.

I woke up Friday morning mad at God.  Saddened that everyone and their brother sister is pregnant and I’m not.  Even just typing that sucks.  I prayed and talked to God about it.  And do you want to know what I experienced the following morning? Get ready to laugh (or cry, depending).  Minutes after praying (literally), my phone rings and it’s an old, dear friend from NYC.  We catch up and talk about our holidays and the New Year and work.  And then she says those three fun words, “I have news!”  Yep, she’s pregnant (and has been for almost  7 months).  But something she said stuck with me.  She said, “After everything you went through, I didn’t want to tell you…I knew it may be hard…I wanted to be sensitive.”  She was the second person, second close friend, that has said something like this to me.  And for some reason this time it made me think.  And we hung up and a few small tear drops fell down my cheeks.  Why, God?  Why today?  Why amidst my heart hurting?  

My day went on and knowing I should continue to pray, I didn’t.  I medicated my pain with hours and hours of HGTV’s Love It or List It, wearing my house coat eating crappy, sugary cereal.  I have to admit, it did make me feel a little better. Rick and I then went to church and sitting within a three-foot radius of us were the following:  A cute couple with their one month old VERY cute baby.  Sting.  Another couple, wife with a big belly that she was rubbing and I could just FEEL her joy.  Ouch.  Cathy from scene above (again, my dear friend) and her husband and it was the first time I had seen her since her belly starting showing.  Double ouch.  Jeez, I wondered if I could have gotten pregnant just by being around all of these people!  Hmmm…

And as church began, another woman came in with her handicapped son, perhaps 5 or 6 years old, in a wheelchair.  I watched that mother hold her son (as he couldn’t walk or stand) and kiss him and the love she felt for that boy was pure, real love.  She held him and hugged him and smiled in his eyes.  He smiled back into hers.  A few more tears filled mine.

And then, God reminded me of a friend who recently lost her baby at 39 weeks.  And I was reminded of a couple who I don’t even know that I have been praying for that recently lost their baby at 35 weeks.  And then God reminded me of the amazing news that friends of ours just received a little girl that they had been trying to adopt for over a year.  And then He reminded me of my other friend who wasn’t able to have children and adopted a beautiful boy.  And I am reminded that God doesn’t call me to live from a place of what I don’t have, but from a place of gratitude for what I do have. And slowly, my heart started to change.  And when I think God isn’t listening to my prayers and when He has forgotten about me, He whispers, “I’m here, trust me.”

This is my journey right now that I am on.  A road that is leading me down a path of being honest with God, remembering that His plan is perfect, His timing is perfect and that while I am feeling sad or angry or hurt, I can also remember the joy, the gifts, the love I have.  And please, please don’t mistake my pain for the absence of joy I do feel for my friends who have gotten pregnant.  My heart smiles for them and I truly am happy for each of them.  And now, it’s time for me to focus on the blessings.  The massive amount of blessings that God has given me.  I can, each day, even ONE time a day, give thanks to God for these blessings.  I have said this before and I will say it again.  Life is painful.  Bad things happen.  Confusing things happen.  As humans, we long for love, for babies, for perfect careers, for perfect bodies, a large bank account, a clean home, respect and the list goes on and on and on.  And while longings are not inherently bad, the obsession of the longings can be bad.

Last night I went to bed, still in pain but with a changing heart and Rick said to me, “will you pray?”  I can’t tonight.  And he said, “well then tell me one thing you are thankful for.”  This warm, cozy bed on a very cold Chicago night.  My heart softened and I fell fast asleep.

As long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible.  

Gifts Worth Sharing: A Recap of My Holiday Favorites.

I feel very blessed this year to have had such a great Christmas and New Year spent with family, friends and so. much. food.  It went by way too fast, as always, but was memorable and really, really fun.  And I have to say, I received some pretty awesome gifts.  Gifts that screamed “Ann!” and gifts that couldn’t have been more perfect.  So, I had to share.  Maybe this will help spark some gift-giving ideas for any upcoming birthdays or anniversaries.  Or maybe it will spark an idea for, um, a gift to buy yourself 🙂  Enjoy!

Moscow mules are one of my new favorite cocktails. So obviously, my mom hit this target with buying me these amazing (and official) Moscow mule mugs!

My dear friend Rose nailed it with this one! I heart Julia Child.  Here's to French food in 2013.

My dear friend Rose nailed it with this one! I heart Julia Child. Here’s to French food in 2013.

Perfect stocking stuffer from Rick. This truffle and salt is so delicious I can hardly stand it.

Perfect stocking stuffer from Rick (via Vaneesha). This truffle and salt is so delicious I can hardly stand it.

I love coffee table books and this one, from my  mom, is beautiful inside and out.

I love coffee table books and this one, from my mom, is beautiful inside and out.

My sister-in-law and brother-in-law couldn't have picked out a more perfect book!  Anything French is a sure Ann pleaser.

My sister-in-law and brother-in-law couldn’t have picked out a more perfect book! Anything French is a sure Ann-pleaser.

Foiled dot napkins from Anthropologie that are sparkly, yet classic?  Okay! Amazing job, Rick :)

Foiled dot napkins from Anthropologie that are sparkly, yet classic? Okay! Amazing job, Rick 🙂

Now I'll always know the rules to the games, especially in Poker!  Awesome gift from my mom.

Now I’ll always know the rules to the games, especially in Poker (ahem, Dave and Brenda…)! Awesome gift from my mom, naturally.

This was the nicest surprise and delight from my amazing neighbors! Such a thoughtful, classic and beautiful bracelet from J Crew.  Plus, love the emerald to kick off 2013!

This was the nicest surprise and delight from my amazing neighbors! Such a thoughtful, classic and beautiful bracelet from J Crew. Plus, love the emerald to kick off 2013!

My friend Vaneesha had this amazing quote customized and framed for me from Posh Paperie! Love it so much!

My friend Vaneesha had this amazing quote customized and framed for me from Posh Paperie! Love it so much!

A gift card to the Dana Hotel Spa?  Sign me up!  Rick giving me some R&R is so perfect :)

A gift card to the Dana Hotel Spa? Sign me up! Rick giving me some R&R is so perfect 🙂

I almost cried when I got this...a wish ornament from my sister, brother-in-law and their kids.  Check out those wishes they made for me!

I almost cried when I got this…a wish ornament from my sister, brother-in-law and their kids. Check out those wishes they made for me!

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I've been wanting this weekend travel guide by The New York times for a year now and my sister gave me it!  So excited.  Let the travels continue!

I’ve been wanting this weekend travel guide by The New York Times for a year now and my sister gave me it! So excited. Let the travels continue!

What were some of your favorite gifts from the holidays?

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