Monday, November 28, 2011


Last week we had a heartbreaking thing happen -- we lost our baby at 31 weeks of pregnancy.  On Friday, November 18, I noticed that I had not felt her kick in a while, so we went to the hospital.  After investigating, our doctor confirmed what I could already see on the ultrasound machine's screen -- our baby had died.We went home that night, and spent Saturday making sure that our dogs had a home for the weekend, tidying up the house, and packing for our hospital stay.  On Saturday night, we checked into labor and delivery and began the process of inducing labor.  From Saturday night through Sunday morning, our loving nurses placed pills near my cervix in order to ripen it.  I began to get very uncomfortable, and at ten o' clock on Sunday morning I received an epidural that eased me greatly.

At noon we started the pitocin drip, stimulating contractions.  The contractions came on fast and strong, and I began to feel them quite intensely on my left side in spite of the epidural.  I received an extra boost on the epidural, which ended up coming just in time for delivery.  I began to feel intense pressure as our baby started to crown.  Our nurses and doctor cried with us as I delivered our little one in three pushes.  She was born at 3:43 PM on Sunday, November 20.  She was seventeen inches long and weighed three pounds and three ounces.  We named her Eve.

As I had requested earlier, they took Eve away to bathe and clothe her, then shortly returned her to us.  First my husband held her and showed her to me, and I sobbed, thinking how dead she looked.  But then something in me shifted, and I began to see how beautiful she was.  Soon I was cradling our daughter in my arms, so in love with this little person that we will never truly know.  She had my husband's face and my dark curly hair and the longest, most graceful fingers.

My husband and I feel so blessed that we have friends and family that lovingly surrounded us during this time.  They visited us regularly at the hospital both before and after Eve was born, and many of them got to hold her.  I am so glad that we got to share her with them.

Soon, however, Eve's body began to deteriorate.  Stillborn babies' skin is very delicate, and from our handling of her she began to look more dead.  I felt okay with this, though -- it left no room for delusions that we could keep her, that she could stay with us.  Sometime around 8:00 Sunday evening, the Best Husband Ever and I said our good-byes to our little girl.

After discussing our options with our doctor, we decided to have an autopsy and genetic testing done to see if a reason for Eve's death can be found.  However, we are expecting there to be no known cause -- at this late of gestation, we learned, the main causes of death are cord complications, preexisting conditions in the mother, or some other obvious physical problem with the baby -- none of which were present in our situation.

Although this is a tragedy and hard to bear, we are not blind to the many blessings we have experienced over this past week: friends and family standing with us, praying, loving us, crying when we couldn't, supporting us at our weakest -- extraordinarily loving nurses who were an answer to prayer -- the fact that Eve was beautiful and largely unblemished, something that is not true for all stillborn babies -- a fast and easy delivery without complications . . .

. . . and, of course, the God who is big enough.  Who knows what it means to lose a child.  Who can withstand our anger and questions, should those ever emerge.  Who hurts with us.  Who loves us.

We are so blessed.

This weekend we held a memorial for Eve at our church.  Again, our friends and family surrounded us in a profoundly empathetic way.  At the service, our pastor read an email I had written earlier in the week.  I had decided  to give him the email to do with as he liked -- to read all or part of, or just let it inform his own words -- because it was written without any thought of being shared with the world, and so is the truest thing I can say about this experience.  I've been asked to post it, and so here it is, with photos of our remembrances of little Eve to follow:

We're home now.  Leaving the hospital felt absolutely glorious, but coming home was hard.  Most of our baby-related stuff is closed up in our spare bedroom, which is good for now, but I know that dealing with it will be hard when the times comes.

I am so grateful for the people in our lives -- you and our other friends and family have surrounded us in such a special way.  I feel so blessed.  God is good.

I am especially blessed by my husband.  I already knew that he is the Best Husband Ever for me, but he is proving that even more true every moment.  I am so thankful that he is the one I get to walk through this with.  He has been so gentle and open and giving.

We have been getting visits from friends and family really regularly since Saturday evening, but we are setting aside today to just be alone together with God and our feelings and the memory of little Eve.  Tomorrow we have a doctor's appointment and perhaps some more visits.  We'll be spending Thanksgiving with J's family and my mom, and we are going to have a memorial for Eve at church on Friday morning.

After that . . . I feel like that is when the real hard stuff will begin.  When it's easy for other people to heal and move on, but we (or even just I) still feel so much sadness.  Our nurse at the hospital gave us some reading on grief, and one of the papers said that we should expect the grieving process to take up to two years.  I can't imagine.  It feels too long.


I also don't feel like that takes God into account.  Of course we are still early on in the process, so maybe things will get much worse than I can imagine...but I can't help but trust God.  I feel like Edmund in the The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, when monsters are howling around him and the White Witch is shrieking condemnation and hate at him...and Edmund is simply gazing at Aslan.  Because that's all that he can do.  Because that's the best that he can do.

I don't know if that makes sense...but I know that God promised that He will never leave us or forsake us, and now I find that that is the only sure thing I have right now.  Because the life-giving attention of our friends and family will fade, because they are only human.  Because J might heal from this far faster than I do, leaving me alone in experiencing these feelings.  Because I might lose J, too (this is a very big fear right now).  Because nothing in this whole world lasts except God.

I don't know why the promise of God to never leave us never felt real until now.  Maybe I relied too much on feeling Him emotionally instead of trusting Him in all ways (intellectually when emotion failed, as it always does).  Maybe I never really believed that He would back up His promises.  I don't know...but now I know that nothing else is permanent except His promises.  It's so comforting.

So far we have been pretty protected from asking the "why" questions -- Why would God let this happen?  Why isn't He good enough/big enough/loving enough to give us back our daughter?  I don't know -- those questions just seem empty.  We can't know why God let this happen.  But I also don't believe that God will waste this.  I mean, I feel like He predominantly uses hard things or "bad" things to shape us, to draw us close, to change our hearts so that we can change the world, even if just in some small way. 

So while I don't know if there is a particular meaning or reason behind Eve's death, I don't feel like this opportunity will be wasted by God.  I know that I already feel my faith being strengthened by this (at least in some other ways, it's easy to doubt...but I wonder if those doubts will ease as I heal) -- and I know that God has been using infant-related hardships to shape our church family over the past year or year and a half.  My hope is that Eve's death will help draw my parents and other unbelieving family members closer to God so that He can heal their hearts and lives.  And those are just the things that I can see from here -- who knows how far the ripples of this could spread.  I am hopeful.



Thursday, November 24, 2011


"Thankfulness takes the sting out of adversity. That is why I have instructed you to give thanks for everything. There is an element of mystery in this transaction: You give me thanks (regardless of your feelings), and I give you Joy (regardless of your circumstances). This is a spiritual act of obedience -- at times, blind obedience. To people who don't know Me intimately, it can seem irrational and even impossible to thank Me for heartrending hardships. Nonetheless, those who obey Me in this way are invariably blessed, even though difficulties may remain.

Thankfulness opens your heart to My Presence and your mind to My thoughts. You may still be in the same place, with the same set of circumstances, but it is as if a light has been switched on, enabling you to see from My perspective. It is this Light of My Presence that removes the sting from adversity."

From Jesus Calling
Image source.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Creative Vertigo


She's finished!  At last!  A few months ago, a woman from my church asked me to create an identity portrait for her daughter (to learn more about my custom identity portraits, click here).  After we met and discussed what she wanted, I felt excited to begin . . . and then procrastinated working on the portrait for the next two months.  Deadlines are powerful motivators, however, and so after a few weeks of hard work, praying, and persistence . . . I finished the portrait!

I am really quite proud of how this turned out.  This is the first time that I've ever created a custom identity portrait for a person that I have not met, so it was quite a unique challenge -- and one that created more than a little stress.  On top of that, this commission was the first that I'd taken for which I charged the "full price" that I felt honored my work on the portrait.  I felt afraid that I wouldn't be able to deliver a product that was worth the price tag, and feared if my church friend felt my work was not worth the price that our relationship would be permanently damaged.

Really, I need not have worried, because I would never deliver a portrait that was not created with buckets of love, prayer, and attention (and, um, a hefty dose of perfectionism!).  And because I poured myself into this painting, lingering over the smallest details, of course it turned out well.  And not only well -- I love the finished product!  My favorite part of the process is watching the artwork unfold beyond your own plans . . . although that does involve a bit of creative vertigo along the way!

All that to say -- she's finished!  My latest identity portrait is finished, designed with my church friend's daughter in mind, created to encourage and uplift.  And not only is my church friend pleased, but I find that I am lifted up by the entire experience as well, vertigo and all.

Care to follow along with the process? Here's what happened:

{in progress}

{in progress}

{in progress}

{in progress}


What an adventure!  I stitched this mixed media identity portrait together with with acrylic paint, watercolor crayons, graphite, marker, gel pen, lace, ribbon, paper flowers, ephemera, and, of course, lots and lots of love.

What has your latest [vertigo-inducing] experience been?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Something New . . .

Feel What You Feel

In this week's Gratitude Monday post, I mentioned that I found some inspiring new art blogs.  I was particularly talking about Amy McDonald's blog and free online classes.  Yes, you read that right -- free.  And these classes are pretty amazing.  It's clear that Amy loves art, and loves to teach.

Plus, it's refreshing to find someone who is willing to create community and share information without putting a price tag on those things.  Wow.  I feel inspired for when/if I ever teach my own art classes.  I'll say it again -- wow.

On top of the classes she offers at her Ning site, Flutterbye, Amy also teaches live art classes via an online video chat room.  It looks like these classes are held about once every week or so (check out Amy's blog for future classes).  When I saw that there was a class scheduled yesterday, of course I had to take part in it.

And . . . it was super fun.  Mostly because I felt like I was participating in a live art class.  As I've written about before, I love painting while someone is chatting in the background, and this class offered the bonus of being able to respond via text.  Plus, Amy is really awesome.  She makes me want to dreadlock my hair. 

The goal for the class was to paint something ugly just for the enjoyment of painting, and not to show off.  So I started sliding paint across my paper, not really hoping for much and fully expecting to hate the end result.

But I didn't.  In fact, I actually kind of love the finished product (that's it up there at the top of this post).  It's not profound or deep or ultra-lovely . . . but it's something new, something different from my usual creations, and that's what I like about it.  I like that I was willing to try.  Plus, I discovered a new color combination that makes me really happy -- turquoise + red.  Delicious.

All this to say . . . Amy's art community is worth checking out.  I'll definitely be participating in her upcoming live classes.  And maybe I'll even start painting abstracts on my own more regularly.

Do you create outside of your comfort zone?  If so, how does it make you feel?  And if not, why not?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Making Progress

Remember when I last posted about a couple of new creations that were in progress?  Like, a really long time ago?  Well, I finally got back to working on the still-unfinished piece.  Here's what it looks like now:

{in progress}

It's not quite done yet, but I'm pleased with the progress.  It's a new art-venture for me, seeing as I've never a) included landscape in a piece, or b) painted someone from the back.  So I'm excited just for the trying that's happening here. 

I'm sorry for my semi-absence from the blog this last week or so.  It's so busy here.  This past weekend my parents visited, which put a halt to all creative projects.  It was a nice visit, but I'm glad to have more time to create.  This week I'll be focusing my energies on a custom identity portrait for a customer, which I'm hoping to share the finished version of in just a few days.  Exciting!

What are you working on?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Snowy Gratitude Monday








#261... cornbread in the oven
#262... playing mancala with my niece
#263... snow!
#264... joyful visiting at church
#265... more snow!
#266... Cody romping in the snow . . .
#267... . . . then snuggling on the couch with me afterward
#268... the chihuahua's jubilant morning flailing
#269... discovering inspiring new art blogs

On Mondays, I catch you up on the beautiful gifts -- both large and small, hard and comfortable -- that God has been throwing my way.  Read more about my gratitude adventure here, and start your own One Thousand Gifts adventure by clicking on the banner below.


What are you feeling grateful for today?

Monday, November 7, 2011

[Chilly] Gratitude Monday









#184... restful sleep
#185... Cody on his bed, curled, with nose tucked beneath his tail
#186... feelings of expectancy
#187... reading in John 1 how Jesus didn't just call the 12 disciples -- He already knew them
#188... being more than 29 weeks pregnant!
#189... the rising sun's light touching only certain mountain peaks
#190... showering
#191... buying tables at Wal-Mart with the Best Husband Ever
#192... Lio stretching tall against me for petting
#193... playing cards with loved ones when it's cold outside

On Mondays, I catch you up on the beautiful gifts -- both large and small, hard and comfortable -- that God has been throwing my way.  Read more about my gratitude adventure here, and start your own One Thousand Gifts adventure by clicking on the banner below.

What are you feeling grateful for today?

Saturday, November 5, 2011





It started snowing here last night, and was still going when I let the dogs out this morning.  I wonder if the above photos are the last we'll see of bare ground and leaves until April!  Not that I'm complaining -- there is something so magical about snow, especially the early snowfalls.  Even with all our window shades closed, the falling snow makes the house just feel different, makes life seem more special. 

Plus, the snow gives me the perfect excuse to stay indoors and do some serious (or seriously fun...!) art-making today.  I haven't made anything in a week because I've been feeling intermittently exhausted or, ah, lazy.  Oops!  But today my blood is thrumming for a creative day -- especially after staying up late to read Art Saves -- and I'm not going to fight it.  

Happy weekend!  Do you have any plans -- or snow?

Don't forget -- I am holding a special sale on my entire shop that ends this SUNDAY, November 6 (I extended it by a day!).  Get 10% off your purchase when you enter the code NOV2011MARKET (no spaces) at checkout (more details here).

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Goodbye, Autumn?

frosty leaves

This afternoon I raked our front yard, even though not all the leaves have fallen.  The weatherman is predicting our first real snow for this weekend (even though we already had some scattered snowflakes over the past two weeks).  Last year early snows surprised us and left us raking this spring, so this time around I'd at least like to get as much of what's already fallen out from beneath the snow as possible.  So I raked.

And as I raked, I thought about autumn.  About how it's very likely that this beautiful, wonderful, best-of-all season is almost over.  After all, we made it to November without any snow accumulation, which is not something that I've seen in Montana since moving here five years ago.  But autumn is my favorite season, and the winters here get very, very long.

So, as I raked, I couldn't help wondering -- shouldn't I be sad?  Because I usually am when forced to bid fall farewell.  Because going months without sun is hard, especially for those of us suffering from depression or SAD.  Because snow is only magical until it turns gray and hard and freezes my spirit.

But I don't feel sad.  Not even a little.  And I have to ask myself -- why??

The only answer I can come up with is God.  God changing my mind, changing my heart, changing what I think about big and small "bad things" and "bad times."  God changing everything.

And after that, I can only whisper, a thousand times over -- thank you.


How do you feel about the encroaching winter?  Has any snow fallen on you yet?  

On a business note: I am adding new items to my Etsy shop all the time in preparation for the holiday shopping season.  What's more, I am holding a special sale on my entire shop that ends this Saturday, November 5.  Get 10% off your purchase when you enter the code NOV2011MARKET (no spaces) at checkout (more details here).  Thanks, friends!  Enjoy the snow if you get any!