ellie mae | on the night you were born

*Trigger Warning for Loss *


On the night you were born, the moon was full and ripe.  Good Friday was hanging heavy in my heart; sacred and holy...but full of grief, so full of grief.

It's a strange thing to grieve at a birth before a first cry.  A hesitant expectation.  You shocked all the doctors, consistently defying the odds for months...but still we didn't know if there would even be a first cry. 

When you were born, everyone held their breath. There was a hymn playing in the background as we waited, wide eyed, to see if you would breathe. 

You did. You gurgled a cry.

You were created perfectly, Ellie Mae, even though your 6th chromosome was not there.  Tears fell down my face as I photographed your tiny hands clutching at your daddy's finger, your lips, your perfect feet.  There was no denying your creator loved you.

For days your family and friends gathered to wait for you, to welcome you.  Ebbing in and out of the room like the tide; loving and serving and then giving space.  It was obvious their love for you and your family.  It was so deep, so tender, and such a beautiful part of your story.     

The hours following your birth were filled with grandparents ooing and ahhing, just like they always do, tears, laughs, treasuring every minute.  It felt a bit numb to me, like I was in a sacred dream.  Your mama and daddy loved you for a lifetime in those minutes, in those hours.  

The nurse and I sang the doxology over you.  It wasn't pretty but it was beautiful.

I was so honored, so deeply honored to have witnessed your short life, Ellie Mae.  God reached my heart in a way I didn't think possible that night. 

When morning came your breaths had gradually finished.  Gentle.  

Your big sisters came to meet you full of joy. That's when the heaviness set in.  Their eyes were bright as they discovered your tiny features, just like it always is with siblings. 

A beloved blanket was given up, wrapping your tiny body in it. Chubby baby hands comforted Mama.  They knew you weren't there but still they asked, 

"Why can't we take her home, Mommy?"

My heart is broken that they couldn't.

Easter came two days later.  Full of hope and life eternal.

Words cannot even touch the sorrow left in the hearts here.  

I can't heal it, but I can shout from the roof tops that you lived!

I can share it far and wide: the beautiful story of your birth.


this strange space | costa rica

Coming down off of a year of intense change and hurt, our family took a trip to Costa Rica for 2 weeks, just us 5.  

We saw monkeys and hiked the base of a volcano.  We swam in the sea surrounded by rugged rocks and twisted tropical trees.  We have 500 pictures of it all, in little rows on our iphones.  

The few times I picked up my camera-sometimes hazy with the humidity-it wasn't to capture the beauty of the country or document us doing something exciting.  It was a breathless attempt to grab onto the quiet magic. 

We ended up renting an open air house in the jungle on the Oso Peninsula, where they don't have electricity and you have to drive through rivers. 

It was there that our family found such tender healing. It goes beyond words.  Hours would pass with no speaking, just the click click of tiny transformers and the breeze in the trees.  I had time to cook and wash dishes while my family played games, filling my heart up to bursting. We spent days covered in mud on the rugged beach, completely free to be ourselves as not a soul walked past.     

At night I lay in Noah's sweaty arms listening to the ocean and the gekkos chirping, in awe of the strangeness of this space.

I saw my children there.  Raw and open, not who I was fashioning them to be, but their exposed souls-terrifying and magestic. 

Here are some of my most treasured photos I've ever taken. 

I wonder if you can see it. 

I wonder if they arouse in you the same heart longing that they have me.  

to sullivan on his 7th birthday

my forever valentine,

Today you are 7.  7 years of being in the greatest kind of love and 7 years of being curious about you. 

You seem simple, but as the years go by I realize how I still don't even know a fraction of you.  You are deep and mysterious.  I'm pretty sure the girls in high school are going to go crazy for you.  Also...you eyes?  DREAMY.  

I will not lie, currently I'm on the brink of loosing it because I'm so tired.  You took 3 extra hours to go to sleep (which has become the norm) but last night you were up from 12:45 until 4 am jumping out of your skin with excitement.  I'm so nice to you for the first few hours and then I just want you to go the #$@% to sleep.  This area is challenging me so intensely.  It is challenging our whole family unit.  You end up in our bed 99 times out of 100.    

We can't quite figure out what is going on with you.  You blame all sorts of things but mostly I think you were deeply affected by me being so sick last year and having to leave for weeks at a time.  Truly the other children have sailed through relatively easily but you are sensitive and quiet and I think it hurt so bad.  

Last year I was in treatment in Tennessee and I cried all day long thinking about not being with you for your birthday.  They let me call you for a few minutes which broke my heart even more.  

I never want to miss a birthday again.  I never want to leave you again. 

I hope this year we can slowly and gently make you feel safe and secure. 

I feel like half of this last year you were one person and the other half you were another.  You've sadly grown out of bugs,  You now seem a little creeped out by them which blows my mind!  This spring and Summer you could find any bug any time and your hands were filled with them.  A girl at school told you that there were bugs in your food and that was the downhill fall of that.  You were so carefree and gentle and now I feel like you're guarded and hard.  Some of this was because of a bully at school.  Some of it is because of trauma of loosing me for nearly a year and some of it is being picked on (no matter how hard I try to protect you) by an older brother who loves you so much he can't even stand it...and he harasses you.  We are working on helping you stand up for yourself.  It's a lesson I'm learning too.  

Even though things have been hard with you, in the ideal circumstances I see that same gentle boy.  He's still there.  

I love you, and I can't help laughing at your quirks.  Getting dressed and fed in the morning is a HUGE struggle for you.  If pants feel bumpy we might be in for 40 minutes of what I call Floppy Sullivan.  This is where you flop on the floor like you have no bones and don't speak actual words.  This can also be because a cup is different or an orange had too many strings.  It's not every day by any means but when it happens it's quite something.

Ok enough about struggles...these are things I adore about you.

You care for me in a way that the others don't.  You notice when I'm feeling hurt or overwhelmed and you come and put your pudgy warm hand in mine and lean your head on my shoulder.

Your fire in the eyes excitement when you talk about animals and the facts about them.

You are a good friend.  You are trusting.  You've been trying to be friends with this one boy at school who didn't like you.  Recently you were so excited because he was your friend finally.  Turns out he wanted to sell you a cell phone for 2 dollars and you were all over it.  He still hasn't delivered but he sure has a lot of interesting stories about why he hasn't.  You really believe he will do the right thing. 

Everyone loves you.  Everyone.

You are really really good at art.  I'm in awe of what you create.

Your teacher recently me told me that you don't test well but that you are her smartest student.  You are a wiz a math and do everything in your head.

I love when you are in your zone.  This is either playing with fire (outside and safely), digging in the dirt or creating.  You can't even hear or talk when you are there.

You got a gekko for Christmas ( those things turn out to not be very easy to take care of).  You love him-Barclay is keeping him alive though since the crickets you have to feed him creep you out.

You are sandwiched in between two firecrackers and you love them both well.  I wish sometimes that you had a little more space to breathe and be.  We do what we can but in the end that's just how our family is.  

Your face is the cutest face in the history of the world.  I think you could ask me for the moon with those eyes turned up at me and I would find a way to make it happen.

You started playing tennis this past fall and I just assumed it was for fun and that you probably weren't going to be able to hit much.  I was wrong!  I always underestimate you!  I've really got to work on that.  You are a beautiful tennis player.

Sullivan, I actually don't feel like I know you as well as the others.  I'm not going to believe that you're just simple.  I really hope this next year we can get away together, just the 2 of us, so I can discover more about you.  I'm so sorry I haven't made more of an effort.

I love you.  You make me melt with love.  I say this every year but it is ALWAYS true.  You are balm on my heart.

Happy Birthday you beautiful boy.