As we draw near the end of our Advent season this year, I am so grateful for these daily reminders of God’s love, faithfulness and salvation plan. The entirety of scripture echoes His redemptive plan — a plan that includes a child born to a virgin and laid to rest in a scratchy, old feeding trough.

As we arrive at Christmas morning, we stand together with millions of others around the globe. We kneel before that babe in a manger, the straw tattooing our knees and the stench of manure on the tips of our noses, and worship. With love, we bow before the one who came and who is yet to come again. Our hearts join in with the hope-filled prayer of generations past as we cry out, “Come, Lord Jesus. Come.”

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“We only have a few days left, mama!”

My son’s excitement rings out as he flips through his Bible each morning, checking to see how many days remain until Christmas morning. It’s part of our December Advent activity, working our way through the Jesus Storybook Bible. Each day we read a story from the Old Testament, leading up to the birth of Christ, and make an ornament to accompany it.

It’s been one of my favourite parts of this month: sitting down next to each other at the kitchen table and carefully turning soft pages, reading about God’s great plan together.

His excitement is tangible, his anticipation building. I’ve never seen him so eager to read his Bible. Not only are we uncovering the meaning of Advent, we’re also building a deeper love for God’s word. As we bend little pieces of wire and glue popsicle sticks together, we see how each of these stories point to Christmas morning — to the birth and life of Christ. God’s grand narrative is wrapped together better than any present we might find under our tree.

Here’s what we’ve been learning this week:
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O Come, O Come Emmanuel.
And ransom captive Israel.
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear

This is one of my favourite Christmas songs.

In a season strewn with jingly tunes about reindeer and jolly, bearded men these five words, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” cut straight to the heart. They remind us of all that we long for and hope for in this Christmas season: the coming of a Saviour. Tiny and new, nestled amongst scraps of cloth and bits of hay, a King is born.

This Christmas, we are celebrating Advent as a family by reading our way through the Old Testament stories in the Jesus Storybook Bible. In this children’s Bible, there are twenty-four OT stories leading up to the birth of Christ. (One for each day leading up to Christmas!) Each night, we will be reading a different story and creating an ornament to go along with it. (I originally stumbled across this idea here.)

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I remember, as a child, staring up at the big Christmas tree in my elementary school lobby. It was decorated with paper ornaments; each of them carefully (or not so carefully) crafted by sticky-fingered, glitter-covered students. It was a Jesse tree. A reminder of the generations who waited on the arrival of a Messiah.

As kids, most of our anticipation around Christmas comes with what’s found under the tree. But the truth is, this sense of yearning and longing for Christmas morning can be transformed into something so much more than our desire for new toys and sparkling gifts.

This yearning leads us to the stable — past some scraps of swaddling cloth and an exhausted mother to a newborn babe. We’re reminded of those who waited for His birth, just as we ourselves wait with open hands and hearts for His return.

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“Mommy, what if baby doesn’t come out in October?”

We were in the car, on our way to a routine pregnancy check-up when I heard the little voice pipe up from the backseat. At nearly 35 weeks pregnant, we’d been talking a lot about the baby that was due to arrive in a month’s time. My son had accompanied me to each prenatal appointment, listening to the heartbeat and watching my belly grow. With his head pressed up tightly against my stomach, he’d talk and whisper to his little sister, kiss her good-night, and eagerly count down the time until her arrival. There was no doubt that our entire family was eagerly awaiting the birth of this little one.

From the driver’s seat of the car, I smiled. We’d had a conversation about birthdays earlier and I assumed that this was where his question was coming from. I snuck a glance at him through the rear-view mirror, noting the thoughtful expression on his face. “Baby will definitely come by October,” I replied cheerfully. “The doctors won’t let her stay in longer than that.”

“Unless she goes to be with Jesus first.”

My heart skipped a beat.

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Our "happily ever after" doesn't always look like what we thought it would

I like books with happily-ever-afters.

I want the novel in my hand to close with the satisfying feeling that all has been resolved. To turn to the last page and find the loose threads woven together, the dragons slain, and the broken hearts whole and healed.

For the past three years, we’ve walked through the pages of a story that have been written with tears: a stillbirth, four miscarriages, six months of negative pregnancy tests. The words are rougher and messier than what I would have penned for myself. Others see the book’s jagged edges and whisper well-intentioned platitudes like, “It will happen. Hang in there.”

And if this was a novel written by my own human hands it would certainly end with a baby born, whole and healthy with screaming lungs and flailing arms. Given the chance, who wouldn’t write out happy answers to our most heartfelt dreams? An acceptance letter into that longed-for university program, a perfect job that provide unending happiness, a spouse to snuggle up next to each night. With the rub of an eraser we would fix marriages that have been cracked or marred by human brokenness, and lives that have been devastated by sickness and poverty. With glittery rainbow-coloured markers, we would scribble out a lifetime of dreams fulfilled rather than crushed. Because if it were up to us, those things that we have been dreaming of, longing for, and praying for would always happen.

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Cautiously prodding a crumpled tissue out of the way, I carefully reached my hand down into the garbage can and fished out the used pregnancy test. I’d tossed it in moments earlier but now I was second-guessing myself.

I held the test up close against my face and squinted, hoping against hope that somehow that would change the answer. Maybe I hadn’t waited long enough? Maybe there was a very faint line and I’d just missed it?

One lonely pink line stared back at me and my heart sank. The pregnancy test was definitely negative.

Again.

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Hey everyone!

I just wanted to write a quick little note and thank you all for hanging out with me this past month as we’ve talked about grief and pregnancy loss. (If you’ve been following along on my blog and on Facebook, you know that this is a topic we’ve covered extensively this month!) I’ve really appreciated you sharing your hearts and your stories with me. October may be Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month, but families grieve all year round, and so I especially want to thank all of you who have chosen to intentionally stand alongside those who mourn.

It’s not easy to talk about grief. We don’t like to think about pain and death, and we prefer to tuck these not-so-palatable topics away out of sight. Often times we associate grief with weakness or depression (two other words that make people very uncomfortable!) But it’s important to know that we all experience grief at different points in our lives – and if we haven’t yet, we will.

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{October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, join us with the #thismotherhoodstory as we journal our way through topics surrounding grief and life after loss.}

Thursday, October 12, 2017 – Journal Prompt
In the midst of your pain and loss, where do you find hope? Has faith shaped the way you grieve? Read through Psalm 43, 69, or 77 – what verses stand out to you? Take some time to write out your own Psalm (or poem) of lament.

“You’re so strong! How do you do it? I don’t think I could have handled it…”

I’ve heard this statement in varying forms over the past three years. People tell me I’m strong or brave for having gone through what we’ve gone through; but the truth is, I never feel particularly brave or strong. Mostly, I do it because I have to. There’s no other choice but to take it one day at a time: breathing in, breathing out.

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One year ago today, I got a positive pregnancy test.

After months of mourning and healing, my husband and I were finally ready to set aside our fears and “what ifs.” Love had begun to overflow the shaky walls that we’d built, and new hopes and dreams were blossoming in place of pain. Our grief had not been forgotten but our hearts felt called to stretch once more.

It was a quiet Monday morning when those two, pink lines first appeared in my hands. This family was growing again, and I felt nothing but pure joy.

After a quick trip to the store, the toddler and I spent the rest of the day decorating a Popcorn Cake and munching on marshmallows. I knew exactly how we were going to surprise my husband with the baby news. I topped the gooey dessert with a mini-bunting that announced, “Mama’s Going to Pop!” and my son and I sucked on Smarties while the cake chilled. The kitchen counter was dusted with cinnamon and fluffy, white marshmallows: the scent of hope and anticipation, the flavour of possibility.

A year later, I can still see the love and excitement that was poured into that cake; the look of shock and amazement that crossed my husbands face at the sight of it. I never dreamed that we’d be here, a year later, still waiting on a baby.

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I’m not really a sporty person – more like a proud bench warmer.

In college, I won my first athletic award for “Most Academic Athlete.” That should tell you where my talent lies – off the field and in the library. I don’t even like watching sports. Excluding a collection of retired Canadian figure skaters, the number of athletes that I could list by name would fit on one hand. I would never pay for tickets to a game or voluntarily sit down and watch TSN or ESPN for fun.

But for a couple weeks every two years, I am the biggest sports fan. There’s a game streaming on my computer in the background, live medal updates blinking on my phone. I can’t get enough of them. For this brief period of time, I actually enjoy sports.

Because despite my usual indifference towards all things athletic, I absolutely love the Olympics.

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One year ago today, I hit “publish” on my first blog post.

I still hesitate before clicking the little blue button that sends a post zooming into your emails and Facebook feeds, but that first time was especially intimidating. Feeling vulnerable, and slightly self-conscious (not to mention fighting off every blogger’s worst fear – “What if nobody reads this??”) I took a deep breath and began to furiously type out our story.

Twelve months and sixty posts later, we’re here. Wherever exactly “here” is.

I started this site as a much needed outlet for grief; thoughts that I had previously been unable to speak found their voice on these pages. And during the process, I re-discovered a love for words and a quiet delight that comes along with each satisfying click of the keyboard.

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