Saturday, August 12, 2017

happy birthday, winnie.

Sweet Winnie.

It’s your first birthday.  I can’t even believe it.

This year has been different than last year in many, many ways.  I’ve had to remind myself that it is okay that I’ve had trouble remembering you without the pain associated in losing you.  I’ve had to remind myself that I don’t owe it to anyone to share my heart, and it’s okay to keep a lot of it private.  It’s okay to feel the need to protect you by keeping you to ourselves a bit more than Clive.  Our grief is different because you aren’t him—you’re you—and that’s perfectly okay. 

I’ve had to remind myself that I’ll have my whole life to remember and celebrate you, and grieve you, and that it’s okay that I could hardly do that this year. 

This year we survived, and that was enough. 

Today we'll make a little pink cake, go for a hike, pick some wildflowers,  and buy a 1st birthday balloon.  We'll look at pictures and watch some videos and remember.  

I love you and miss you, sweet wildflower. 

You are precious to me, forever and ever. 

I’m grateful that I’m your mom. 

Happy Birthday, Winona Joy. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Adoption Update + Fundraising

It’s been a few months since we last updated about our adoption.  We’ve had a lot of time waiting, and unfortunately our homestudy (approval to adopt) is not yet complete.  We’ve gotten caught in the midst of some staffing changes at the agency we are using for a homestudy, and it’s taken quite a lot longer than we expected.  We're getting close!  Meanwhile we're finishing up our adoption profile and video.  

In this time, we’ve had a lot of time to think through what we want to do next.  There are endless choices in agencies to use for the matching and placement with a baby.  We’ve narrowed it down to a couple excellent choices.  We’ve decided our priorities are to use an agency that does a high number of adoptions a year, is very well staffed, and has a short potential wait time.  We’ve decided against trying to find our own birth mother (which can be a much more affordable option) because it would be too taxing emotionally.  We have already experienced a lot of ups and downs in this adoption and feel that we need to have an agency or attorney that will buffer all inquiries and potential matches.   In the search for agencies and/or attorneys that meet our needs, we have found that they are very expensive.   Being well-staffed, available to answer questions, transparent about things, and having a lot of resources comes with a higher price tag.  After several days of anxiety and near panic attacks about the cost, I (Rachel) have just had to come to the acceptance that this is the best road for us.  It doesn’t eliminate the risks, but it does help us have a better chance of a short wait and excellent guidance/care/protection for the process.  

Our adoption costs are estimated to be about $45,000-$50,000 in total.

This includes:
· Expectant Mother’s Living Expenses (limited to a specific amount), Support/Counseling & Medical Expenses
· The Baby’s Medical Expenses
· Legal Fees
· Administration and Advertising Fees (to find a match)
· Profile Fees
· ICPC (Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children) Fees
· Home Study & Post Placement Fees
· Finalization

This amount is so huge and so overwhelming.  But, we continue to feel assured that this is what we need to do.  We’re continuing to save our own money, but we know that we can’t do this alone.   We’ve been blessed to raise over $7,000 so far in t-shirts (through Etsy and Mad Goat) and a Noonday Jewelry sale.  Rather than wearing ourselves out (and all our family and friends) from doing a lot of smaller fundraisers, we're going to try to concentrate our efforts on a one or two larger fundraisers.  We decided to create a YouCaring page because many people expressed interest in donating money.  (Read on to see what we'll be giving away when we draw a name at the end of the fundraiser!)

Donation Info:

-YouCaring Page for donation:

-You can also donate though PayPal:   We will manually add this amount to the total on YouCaring.

-You can email ( to request our mailing address if you want to send a check.  

-You can still purchase shirts at  All shirt proceeds go to our adoption.  

-We have stickers for change jars if your kiddos want to collect change for us!  Several kids have been so sweet (they love Clive and Winnie so much!) and donated over $50 to us!  We can mail you a sticker, and just ask that you write a check for the total at the end (rather than giving us all the change)

-As a small gesture from us, when our adoption is complete we’ll draw a name (from those who donate anything more than $100) to win a year subscription of monthly bean delivery from Mad Goat Coffee (or equivalent in gift card).   You can donate through PayPal, YouCaring, or mail to do this.  In addition, your name or donation amount can still remain anonymous to other viewers on the YouCaring page if you wish to keep it private. 

Thank you so much for your generosity, kindness, love, care, and compassion. Thank you for being our village.  Thank you for sharing this post or our YouCaring page link.  Thank you for your continued prayers.  

Much love,
Sam and Rachel

Saturday, April 15, 2017

the in-between, the saturday, the long wait

We were at our finally-met-in-person (!) friends’ church this weekend in NYC.  David and his band, The Brilliance wrote a beautiful song for Clive 2 years ago while we were in the hospital.  

It was so good to finally connect with them.  Their music has been such a gift to us.  From the crying out of “Have You Forsaken Me?” (which we blasted and cried out on our drive home from the hospital after Winnie died, and had some friends play for her funeral) to the hope of “The Sun Will Rise” to the beauty of “Gravity of Love.”  (They have an amazing new CD out, please check it out!  Or really any of their music.  I’ll share more about their upcoming projects when I hear more, too.)

The service at their small church was exactly what we needed.  Something about the anonymity so much more freedom for me to openly cry.  It’s harder to do that in a room where everyone knows me, even though I know no one would be surprised or bothered by it.

We got prayer.  David’s dad and friend prayed over us, their faces wet with tears.  His dad said the apostles’ creed:  “We believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…” 

And went on to pray “I say WE, because we know that sometimes you can’t believe alone.  We carry you.  Even when you can’t believe, we believe for you.”

So beautiful. 

Isn’t it true, though: I believe.  Also, Lord, help my unbelief.

The sermon was about expectation and disappointment.  Jonathan Merritt shared about the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem the week of his death.  He came riding a donkey, and people thought: “Can this be the king? Righteous and victorious, He’s coming to do something Big here.  He has done so many miracles, now He will do more.”  But he came to die.  They did not expect that.  (Please listen here:  So worth listening to, especially if you’ve felt in a season of disappointment!)

We sang Hosanna, after talking about Syria and Egypt’s tragic weeks.  It was the saddest Hosanna I have ever heard.  The instruments cried and wept with us. 
Hosanna.  Hosanna in the highest. 

So somber, so sad.  My face was streaked with tears. 
On Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into the city.  Welcomed and praised and surrounded by hosannas.  Killed only days later.  The hosanna would be oh so sad if they knew what was coming.  Somber.  Grief. Death.

And then, days later:  New life.  Restoration.  Resurrection.

I feel like I’m living in the middle days, on the Saturday.  Yes, I can rejoice in what is ahead.  But I am still somber, stricken.  I am still naming what is wrong and waiting for someday-restoration.  My hosanna song is somber, tear-filled, because I know of these broken days, and this broken world that surrounds. 

Yes, I rejoice for the work that is done.  For the presence, peace, life, joy that I (sometimes) feel in Christ.  But, I will not pass over these days lightly.  I will not, cannot, say “But look what comes ahead! Life!”  Because the middle can be ever-long-suffering.  Not that we lose hope, but that we don’t just reject the teaching that suffering offers us when we meet it with somber reflection. 

My hosanna is sad, because I know what lies ahead in these middle-days and I don’t know when the end will come.   Just as they didn’t know Jesus would rise, I don’t know when joy will return in this life, or when full restoration will happen in the next. 

As I sang the hosanna-song, I thought of my joyful babes in heaven. Singing a happy hosanna-song.  Oh, how I miss them!  I wept.  Not for them, but for me and the others waiting in these middle-days.  We don’t know, we don’t understand.  We wait.  We sing “holy, holy, holy,” and we wait.    He will return, making all things right, and new, and true. 

I wrote this post a few days ago, and received this in an email this afternoon:  SUCH a good article about the Saturday wait.  Please read!

“It’s a strange day, this in-between day. In between despair and joy. In between confusion and clarity. In between bad news and good news. In between darkness and light.”

Sunday, April 2, 2017

struggling to pray | by Sam

This may come as a surprise, or this might be the most obvious thing in the world, but Rachel and I have both struggled with anger at God, and are in the midst of struggling with anger at God. Except, (and I’m speaking for myself here) I’m not even sure anger is the right word, something more like disappointment and frustration may fit better. Anger, I think, requires too much energy for someone as tired as I am.

For me, one of the biggest consequences of this is that it is very difficult to pray. Prayer requires submission to God, it requires some level of seeking and accepting (and trusting) His will. I do want to point out that I haven’t completely given up on prayer, just as I haven’t completely given up on God, but it has been very difficult. Praying with sincerity was difficult after Clive died, but it has become nearly impossible since Winnie has died. I pray, but I can barely bring myself to ask anything of God, or when I do, I struggle to believe it can happen.

I have a few different thoughts about this and maybe they will take up multiple blog entries, but I am going to try and put them coherently into this one, because my lack of energy usually means months go by between posts.

My first thought is this, the three questions that every person has to answer in their own hearts are:
  1.   Is God real?
  2.   Is God good?
  3.  Can I trust Him?

When a crisis strikes we are brought back to these 3 questions. For many people, their answer to the first question is “no” and they move on with their lives. For a lot of other people, they begin by accepting God as real, but as life progresses they have a hard time imagining Him as good, so they decide that He is neither good, nor real. Because, honestly, if you decide that God is not good, you pretty much also have to also decide that He is not real. It is my belief that our inner selves cannot accept a reality where God is real and not good.  There are people who probably claim to believe that God is real and that He just started creation down its path and is indifferent, or not powerful enough, to intervene.  But I think that once someone has gone down this road of logic, practically speaking, they don’t really believe in a God, because that sort of god means nothing to everyday life.  In actuality, that sort of god is an insult to existence, it would be better if everything were meaningless.
Surprisingly (given the circumstances) I still believe God is real and God is good. I struggle sometimes to believe that I can truly trust Him to work good in my own life, but that is something I am grappling with. However, it would be impossible and meaningless for me to grapple with it if I didn’t first believe that God was real or that he was good.

I think this is a very important starting place for those who are struggling through difficult circumstances, or struggling through their faith. I can’t guarantee that this line of thinking will be helpful for everyone, but I have been helped a lot by Christian apologetics (“apologetics” means giving a rational defense of the faith). A couple of books that have been hugely influential to me are “The Everlasting Man” by G.K. Chesterton and “Walking with God through Pain and Suffering” by Timothy Keller. In addition to almost everything written by C.S. Lewis, though perhaps especially, “The Weight of Glory”.

My heart is a pit of despair. To approach it, and to wrestle with what is inside of it, is oftentimes beyond what I am prepared to handle. I think it is even dangerous for my mind to try and deal with my heart until my mind has solid foundation to stand on. Otherwise, my mind is not prepared to deal with the sorts of questions my heart is going to inevitably ask. So, before I can help my heart, I have to first address my mind, and for me that has meant comforting my mind with the assurance that 1) God is real, and 2) God is good. The 3rd question is really a heart issue, but like I said I can’t wrestle with that until I’ve wrestled with the others. If I attempt to, I am likely going to suppress my nagging doubts until they fester and pop up again at the next crisis, which I think is what a lot of people do.

The books I mentioned above have comforted my mind with what I believe to be Truth. How they have done that is to assure me that the existence of God, and specifically the story of Jesus, make sense and explain the world we live in better than the alternatives. Chesterton (as well as Lewis) tackles this issue by appealing to the arts and literature and our own imaginations. If we can create such beauty in our arts, and if the stories we love to tell speak again and again of heroes saving the day, then it is very likely that those longings are trying to approach that which is ultimately true. Otherwise, what are they trying to approach? It would be a sad world if our imagination was better than reality, and if it were, what is it were are imagining anyway? But what if our imagination is trying to tell a story of how things should be? Our longings for peace and justice are not mere chance, but have truth inside of them. Which is why these same longing have appeared throughout human history, going back to the earliest writings. The hero we have been longing for is the One that actually came, Jesus. This line of thinking rings true to me, although I cannot guarantee the same will happen for you. This isn’t a step-by-step guidebook that works for everyone, life is far too complex for that.

So, I have gotten this far, but I still struggle with the 3rd question: can I trust God?
You might think that this is closely related to the 2nd question, Is God good? If He is good, than surely you can trust him.

There is sense to that thinking, but the reality is that trusting is much more difficult than merely believing. Saying that God is good and letting it sink into your heart that you can trust Him with your entire being are two very different things. They are definitely related, but you have to take some serious steps of faith in order to answer “yes” to that final question and seriously mean it no matter what. If everything falls apart, will you still trust him? Will I still trust Him?

This leads me back to prayer. I’m not saying I don’t trust God. I’m not saying I answer “no” to that 3rd question. But I am struggling with it. It’s not a simple “yes”, and at times it definitely feels like my answer is “I’m not sure”. This makes prayer difficult. At least sincere prayer, I guess surface level prayers and saying a quick grace before eating a meal aren’t as difficult. But the real prayers. The kind that take trust and faith and a real relationship with God. Those are difficult. Yet, I still find myself trying, making attempts to say the words I struggle to say. Or just sitting quietly before Him and hoping (perhaps even daring to trust) that He will do the healing work in me that so desperately needs to be done. 

He is good after all, right?  I still think so.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

what's with the shirts?

The why.   I love knowing the background stories, so I thought I’d share a bit today about why I’m making all these shirts and selling them to fund our adoption.  

In October of last year, I found myself (obviously) in a really dark place, two months out from losing Winnie.  My plans for raising Winnie been completely smashed.  I’d quit my job earlier in the year, and my job of “mom” was ripped from me again.  Sam returned to work, and I didn’t have anything to structure or govern my days.  I had little energy, didn’t want to interact much with people, found that my words were gone and I was unable to write, and I was very alone.  

I found myself deeply questioning my identity, value, purpose, and life.   I was still in shock and numb, and that protected me from an even deeper darkness, but I knew that something had to be done.  I remember a couple days spent in bed, begging God to give me some peace and to feel his presence.  I did not feel this, and it was incredibly hard.  Sam had to carefully pull me out of darkness and keep me from slipping away.  I knew that I needed something to give me a little boost in feeling support from others around me, something to do to keep my hands busy, something to give me the gratification of ‘work’.  

It all sounds so dramatic when I write it down, but I really think that making my first batch of Trees & Flowers shirts brought a tiny sliver of meaning back into my meaningless days.  My hands kept busy, and my mind was distracted, and a making some silly shirts just might have saved my life.

I know that there are other (and maybe easier) ways to do an adoption fundraiser, but making these shirts has been so much more than just trying to set aside some adoption money.  It’s been an outlet for my creativity, a distraction for my hands and mind, and a way to feel the arms of our community wrap around us.  

Thanks for doing that.  Thanks to the high school friends, college friends, family, friends of friends, friends of friends of friends, and the friends we haven’t met yet.  #ittakesavillage 

Shop on Etsy @ to see all ten designs.  


As an aside, (I always feel I need to make it clear, because it's just so darn easy to assume we're 'better' now) we have so much more to process, grieve, and heal.  We are still so far from ‘better.’  The numbness has continued these last 7 months, and we see the blessing in that--allowing us to take off tiny bites and process as we are able.  We’re taking more steps in intentionally working through and giving space for that.  Practicing rest, silence, and solitude.  (Netflix and wine—or another house project-- is so much easier than intentionally grieving, but we have to know our limits.)  Thanks for listening.  

Sunday, March 5, 2017


We’re adopting!  I'm sure most of you won’t be surprised to hear that we’ve taken steps towards a domestic adoption.  We have so much love in our hearts, and we can’t wait to have our arms filled again with another son or daughter.  There’s no replacing Clive and Winnie, but we are so ready to have children in our home.   Our hearts will continue to grieve, but grief and love and hope and new life can all co-exist.  Isn’t that beautiful?

We may still have more biological children in the future, but we definitely feel that adopting a child is what we’re supposed to do next.  Since we’ve always been interested in adopting or fostering, it hasn’t felt like a difficult decision to come to, it’s just felt right.  We didn’t know when we’d adopt, and thought it would be after we had a couple kids in our home already, but we feel that it definitely the right time now. 

One hard part was deciding between domestic, international, and foster-to-adopt.  Since all of them have different paperwork right from the start, we were forced to make the decision early and feel certain that we should do a domestic adoption at this time.  While international adoption may be in our future, we didn’t feel a clear sense about adoption from a specific region or country right now, and there are several countries that have had significant delays and hiccups in the adoption process in the past few years (including some stopping all US adoptions).  Foster care has been on our hearts, too, but since the primary goal of fostering is reunification with families, we feel that it’s not the best situation for us right now after loss. 

We have almost finished our homestudy.  It involved several day-long training sessions with our agency, lots of reading, tests, appointments, and hundreds of essay questions.  

(The white pages are our essay questions...) 

It was cumbersome, and even frustrating at times to think about what we have to do to ‘prove’ ourselves worthy of a child.  But, in the end, it’s easy to understand that the agency has to very thoroughly screen all adoptive couples to make sure that they are not allowing an unstable family to adopt a child.  They need to understand our upbringing, where we are in our grief, our philosophy on parenting, our expectations of adoption, and our stability in marriage, jobs, and friendships. 

It can take many months (or years) to have a match or placement, we aren’t sure how long we’ll have to wait to bring our baby home.  We’re excited. We’re hopeful.  We’re nervous.  Nothing about adoption is simple. The paperwork, the decisions, the emotional rollercoaster, the cost, the matching, and the parenting an adopted child.  We’re so glad to have experienced several friends that are helping guide us through these decisions and give recommendations.  It truly takes a village!

For now please join us in praying for the following:

  • The decisions we’ll be making and conversations we’ll be having to reach those decisions.    
  • The birth mother(s) we’ll be working with, her heart, and her decisions.  It will most likely be an open adoption where we will know her and she (and possibly the birthfather) will stay a part of our child’s life.
  • The child we’ll be adopting.  For adjustment, health, and joy.
  • That the timing of our match and placement would be right, and that it would happen this year. 
  • That we will not have failed matches or failed placements, so our hearts can be protected from further hurt and disappointments.
  • That we will use the waiting time to prepare and grow.
  • That families will come forward to foster children in our area.  Our hearts are so heavy for this, but since the goal of fostering is to reunite children with their families we feel that it’s not the best situation for us right now after loss.  But we see such a great need!  

I’m sure that many of you will have questions, but there is not much more that we can share at this time.  At this time we're set with an agency and not actively searching for a birthmother on our own, as some couples do.

Thanks for praying. 

We aren’t doing much fundraising at this time, because the amount we need to fund may depend on several factors, but I will be making and selling t-shirts that will go towards our adoption.  Some will be adoption themed, and some are coffee themed (surprised?).  Check out the shirts and order them here:    More styles will be added soon!  

I’ll share more on Facebook and Instagram if you want updates, or you can sign up for blog emails below. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Terrifyingly confusing

It's been so hard to write.  It's been so hard to grieve.  It's been so hard to process Winnie's death.  The past few months have been very hard, and we've been relatively quiet about how we're doing.  

Clive’s and Winnie’s deaths were so different, and our response has also been different. 

Clive’s body failed him slowly.  It was traumatic to watch him suffer so greatly.  His body was so incredibly broken.  We held him.  We said goodbye.  We watched him close his eyes one final time, and breathe his last breaths.  We ushered him from our arms into heaven.  We were devastated, but we had a measure of peace knowing he was finally healed in heaven.  God's presence was with us in that hospital room and went with us as we left the hospital and headed home. 

Winnie, though...  Winnie’s death was a violent shock. She was here, and then she was gone.  Like a vapor.  9 days were really just 7, as she was born so late in the night, and died so early in the morning.  Most of the days she was under the phototherapy lights for hours, with a little mask over her sweet eyes.  We got a call in the very early hours of the morning, and rushed across the street to the hospital.  We had to try three entrances before we finally got in through the ER and hurried through the long hallways to the NICU.  We didn't say goodbye.  Her final moments were anything but peaceful.  She was gone so suddenly. I held her body for hours after she passed.  We were wailing and weeping.  I was begging God to let my heart stop, too.  Please.  


I read an article about losing a child and gaining something greater in our closeness to God and our understanding of his suffering.  (

I get it.  I get the gist of what they are trying to say.  I actually would have resonated with it a lot after losing Clive.  I felt close to God.  I felt a small measure of understanding.  I felt a remarkable and surprising peace.  It hurt so incredibly badly, but I felt the sense that good was happening in midst of our painful story with our son.  And it was.  It did.  It still is.

But, Winnie.  Winnie’s death has broken me open.  Winnie’s death has not made me cling to God in that way.  Winnie’s death has brought utter confusion and complete terror on a new level.  Winnie’s story was supposed to be an expectant one.  It was to be one of restoration and hope, of renewed joy, of prayers answered.  We were so hopeful of healing.  I remember being so glad that this time I wouldn’t be the ‘scary NICU story’ and that I could have a place to reach out to NICU families from the other side.  We had so many plans for that little girl.

I don’t feel that I gained more in losing her.  I lost more.  I'm not sure I’ll ever understand why things happened the way they did.  Sometimes there is no ‘silver lining’, no reason, and no ‘better’ to come of it.  Sometimes things feel so devastatingly broken and completely shattered. 

Processing her death has been terrifyingly confusing.  Sam has described it so well: it’s as if I have just placed this traumatic event on a shelf in my mind, unable to register it or process it.  Every so often, I take it off the mental shelf, and open it up.  My brain freaks out, sending it straight back onto the mental shelf.  

Terrifying confusion.  I have no other words to describe it.  

My perspective may change.  My healing may bring some different understanding and some peace.  I hope for this.  I desire this.  I’m pressing into Him.  

But, in my completely honest and vulnerable heart right now, I feel an unrest and lack of peace.  

I feel anger and indignation.  

I feel jealousy and frustration and bitterness.  

I feel darkness and abandonment.  

I feel exposed, abused, and cast out.  

I feel many, many things that I didn’t feel in the same way after losing Clive. 

I feel that I understand both sides now.  I understand the people that watch others grieve with peace, understanding, and acceptance and think “How is that possible?  What’s wrong with them?  What’s wrong with me?”  

And I understand the people who have peace that surpasses understanding.  

But right now, that is not me.  

And if that is not you, either, I want you to know that I see you, I hear you, and I'm with you.  

It is so very hard.  It's hard to feel so uncertain.  It's hard to sit across from a friend and say. "I need you to know that I am not okay."  It's hard to do some normal things and feel that people may interpret it as being 'better.'  We may smile, but we absolutely ache inside.  We are not better.  We are not okay.  And that is to be expected.  Our children are dead.  We shouldn't have to be okay.  

Right now, it's hard to hope.  Hope has disappointed us.  Each day is a struggle for both of us.   We're very unsure and unsteady.  But, even on the days when darkness is incredibly heavy, we are showing some hope.  Right now, hope is evident in working, eating, sleeping, and just living.  Hope is evident in the fact that we have plans for the next month and that we haven't given up.  

We still have so much hardship ahead of us.  There is so much we could share, but struggle to even find the words to communicate.  It's hard to be in a familiar place of devastation again, but find that many of the tools that worked last time are too painful or ineffective this time.  Healing and grieving is looking different, and it's hard to figure it out.  

I'm in different and separate places in my grief with Clive and Winnie, and it's confusing to sort that out mentally.  I've processed and grieved Clive's death so much more than Winnie's, and I've figured out how to mother, love, and remember him.  But with my sweet daughter, I am stuck.  Healing is so hard.  It takes a ton of effort and energy and I just feel so tired.  

I sat in a heap of rubble after our miscarriage, and slowly allowed healing to happen.  It took time and effort, and I witnessed the rebuilding and restoration.  The walls fell again when Clive died.  I found myself again sitting in the debris.  I slowly created something with the ruins.  Rebuilt and healed.  It took so much effort, but I saw the hope and joy slowly restoring.  But after the walls fell again, I feel incredibly defeated.  Healing is hard for me, because it's been followed with more pain, more damage, and more destruction.  Healing is tiring.  There's a thousand stones around me, and I'm just taking one small stone at a time.   

Thank you for continuing to reach out.  Even when texts and messages and calls go unanswered, it means so much to us.  Thank you for taking the time to write to us at Christmas and share how our story has impacted you.  We're still slowly reading those comments and emails.   Thank you for continued prayers.  We still need them.