Introducing the Love, Kingston Project

It’s been five years.

Five years since my firstborn, my only son, my Kingston, was stillborn. Arriving into our lives and leaving, all on the same beautiful, crushing day.

Five years. Even as I type that, it still seems like it’s not real. Like it couldn’t have happened to us. Like he should be here.

King 2

“How are you?” That’s what my people start asking as dates like this approach. Counting the years without someone is not how this parenting thing is supposed to go. So, the holidays, and the birthdays, and sometimes the plain old normal days- they’re hard. My people know this, so they ask.

“I’m okay, I think.” That’s usually what I tell them.

After Amelia was born, and I decided I would go back to work full time, I was having a hard time writing. After feeling guilty about it for too long, I finally decided I would give myself permission to not work on my blog, and only write when I really felt like I wanted to, until it made sense to do otherwise. Then Mariana was born. The break was a lot longer than I ever anticipated it would be, but I needed it. I needed the time to figure out who I was, and what mattered most, in these days of raising two baby girls.

Recently though, the how are you question kept rolling in. I could see his 5th birthday approaching on the horizon and while I kept answering that I was okay, I needed to sit down and sort it out for myself. Over the past couple of years as I’ve been on this break, I’ve only written when it’s like that: when I need to find God and my own thoughts. I wanted to answer authentically, and honestly, I wasn’t sure. Are you ever really okay after losing a child (or any close loved one for that matter)?

Music, coffee, some quiet space and a blank screen. A mess at first. But quickly, I realized that it’s true. For the most part, I really am okay and this, my friends, is a truly miraculous answer only 5 short years after the most crushing moment of my life.

Things are hard, sure. But things are also beautiful. When I let myself, I can still feel the pain of holding him, of releasing him from my arms, still see the brightness of the florescent hospital lights. When I open that door, it’s still so, so real. Like it was yesterday. But most days, that kind of searing pain isn’t what I feel. Most of the time, I just find sprinkles of Kingston throughout my day and that, well, it makes me feel deeply grateful.

When I’m brushing Amelia’s hair, I’ll look over and see the legos on the floor and wonder what he would have been building. When I watch Justin playing in the yard with both of the girls, I think about a taller child, standing to the right, arms up, ready to catch a football thrown by his daddy, his hero. When I see little boy’s clothing at Target, or when I’m doing dishes, or laundry, or laughing really hard, I think of him. Oh, and the ocean. Always when I see the ocean, I think of my boy. I find him in normal things, and when I find him, I’ve learned that it turns normal things into holy things. His story makes me immediately grateful.


I’m so aware of how dark things could have gotten. I’m so aware of where I could have gone after losing him. Yet, here I am. Doing my best to live his story well. To love his sisters well. His two sisters who are healthy miracles I never thought I’d get to experience. He’s made me a better mom, for sure. A better human, really. The Lord has held us, friends. If I’m sure of nothing else after losing my baby, I’m sure of the Lord’s closeness to the broken, of His love for us, of His faithfulness. Of His ability to make beauty out of ashes.

Are there hard days, even still? Absolutely. But I think I’m more alive to the beauty, I see it more, because of Kingston’s story.

Looking ahead to his 5th birthday, I knew I wanted to do something special this year. It took me some time to find it, and then I did. So much of the beauty we have seen since Kingston’s death has been in the moments where we’ve realized that he still has an impact, that his life has had so much purpose, even without a breath here on earth. Time and time again, we’ve seen his story bring people together, help people heal, serve others in incredible ways.

So, instead of piñatas and balloons, I told Justin about my crazy idea through trembling words one night. Then I told Mandi. And Mom. And Carey, and Josh, and they all said, “Yes. You have to do that.”

For the month of December, I’m going to post once a week. I’ll be sharing 5 things I’ve learned in the 5 years since losing my boy. I’ll post once later this week, and then once a week for the rest of the month. I hope you’ll follow along.

As I’m posting, I’m also going to be gathering. I’m going to be gathering my people (that’s you), and asking them to do something amazing to remember my little man this month.

I’m terrified, intimidated, fearful. These emotions are not anything like who I normally am. Because of that, I know I’m doing exactly what I should be doing to walk out these days as Kingston’s mommy in a brave, kind way… and that makes me excited.
Want to check out what we’re doing? (Please say yes, please say yes!) You can take a look by watching the video below:

Interested in helping? In joining us? (Please say yes, please say yes!) You can visit: to be a part of his incredible story this holiday season.

I’ll be back with 5 Things I’ve Learned in 5 Years of Grief. Meet you back here?

Love, Suzie

Happy First Birthday to My Beauty

One year ago today.

How is it possible that one year ago today, I began my morning in a cold hospital room, watching the medicine trickle into my arm?  The medicine telling her she needed to come early, so we could try to keep her safe from this body of mine.  Strapped to machines.  Holding Justin’s hand.  Hearing the steady, quiet beat of her little heart.  Thanking God each moment that she was still alive, and that we had actually made it here.

A few hours later, the same people that held legs, and cameras, and fans when her brother was born, were surrounding me again… holding legs, and cameras and fans.  Holding hopes and fears, all their own. The same hospital.  The same faces.

The contractions came in big, familiar waves, but my heart- well; it had been stuck in one big contraction since the moment I found out I was pregnant again.  And I hear their voices as they try to remind me to breathe.

The doctor comes in.  Things are moving very quickly.  No, I’d prefer not to have any medicine.  One thing I’ve learned on this journey is that numbness always sounds appealing, but being fully there- in pain, in beauty, in the dance that they share- is really what your soul was made for.  I search for strength from somewhere deeper.

Ok, big breath Suzie, chin to your chest and push.  Push.  Push.  Push.

Then, there was this moment, right before she was born, that gripped everyone with the same suffocating fear.  The heartbeat monitor stops, my sweet doctor yells to the nurses that she needs help and they assume that same position, standing over me, ready to push on my abdomen, the same way they did with Kingston.  The cameras go off, the alarms ding and everyone is silent.  For a second, I see it in their eyes- the desperation.  I lay my head back, close my eyes.  Not again, Lord, please- never again.


And then, from the first moments of her little life, we caught a glimpse of her independence.  It’s almost as if she said it right to us: “Relax, guys.  I’ve got this.” Without any help from nurses, or me even, she took over and punched the fear that was trying to flood the room right square in the face.  One more push, and there she was, held above me and the first thing I saw was her little face squint, then her fingers wiggle, and my heart leapt.  She’s moving.

“She’s alive! Thank you, Jesus. She’s alive!”

Not what most mamas whisper the first time they see their babies, but certainly what this mama said as the tears rolled down her face.  Her cry filled the room and right along with it came so much beauty and so much redemption.  When I held her wet little body on my chest for the first time- well, there aren’t really words.


The room was full of laughter, and tears, and big, deep breaths all around.  The social media channels exploded, and it felt like the whole world was celebrating with us.  The whole world wept alongside us for our boy, and now they rejoiced alongside us for our girl.  And the peace that surrounded us as we sang her first birthday song?  It was miraculous.

And every time someone asked me how I was doing?

Well, it didn’t matter if I was sleep deprived, or if my body was doing all kinds of crazy things as it tried to recover, or if nursing was hard, and money was tight.  I couldn’t complain.  We couldn’t complain.  Because even if I was exhausted, and sick- our girl was here and I was grateful to my very, very bones.

270804_4662047161270_1814504281_n 946995_4744040291047_1331932056_n

Here we are, a whole year later and there are still days where I just stare at her in disbelief.  Days where I say it out loud to my loved ones, “I can’t believe she’s here and mine and well.  She’s a miracle.”

Our beautiful Amelia Rose.  Her name means strength and beauty.  It’s fitting.

IMG_0036 IMG_0057 IMG_0067

She is shy, and silly.  A fighter of sleep.  Her Daddy’s girl.  Tender-heartened, determined, a leader.  Strong-willed, and feisty.  The best cuddle buddy, and a woman of many, many words.  Easy going, and a lover of fruit, of Minnie mouse, of the breeze and of the ocean.  She’s a family girl.  Happy at home, happier outside, the happiest at a restaurant outside and a dancer.  Such a dancer.


There are things in this world that constantly convince you that God is real.  None of it’s an accident, it’s all on purpose, it’s all grace.  And, her kisses.  And her laugh.  And her smile.  They do just that and I’m convinced.

We’ve been making tutu dresses, having photo shoots and wondering how in the world it costs so much to plan a little person’s birthday party.  But, when people ask me how I am?

I’m completely undone, you guys.

So thankful.  So grateful.  So honored.

And just so… happy.

There are bittersweet moments on this parenting-after-loss journey, but my oh my, does she bring the sweetness.

I call her my beauty.  Maybe because her life is a reminder of the One who can take a story marked by ashes, and write beauty into it. 

I call her my beauty and today, she is 1.

Happy Birthday, Mia Rose.  You are unconditionally loved, my sweet girl.

Prepare for cuteness overload and check out Amelia’s First Birthday photo shoot by clicking here.  Courtesy of James & Elaine Photography– they’re brilliant.  My favorite pictures… the ones of her with her big brother’s teddy bear.  Be still my heart. 




The Why & The Who.

They don’t tell you about the hard conversations.

When you’re a young girl, dreaming of being in the ministry, full of these wild ideas that you can somehow carry this sacred message to the ends of the earth.  Believing that for Him, you can change the world and for Him you can impact lives.

They should tell you then. Right at the very beginning.

They should tell you that not every prayer is answered, no matter how passionately it is prayed.

They should tell you that there will come a time when all the cliché Christian-ese answers, like “God has a plan” and “everything happens for a reason” and “God won’t give you more than you can handle”, will just fall… flat.

They should tell you that knowing Jesus, fully knowing Him, is to know Him in His sufferings- too.

They should tell you that sometimes, you can pray for years and months and invest all of your time, all of your energy, all of your heart- and that in the end- it can still be broken.


This week alone, I sat with a young woman, on a bench and listened as she told me how her first love is gone, and how her body is hurt and how her days have been hard, and dark.  I listened over a long phone call as a dear friend told me about her marriage, about how she doesn’t think she can do it anymore.  I prayed for several young men we know, who have heard us tell them a thousand times about a different life.  Young men who we’ve visited in hospitals and handed money to when they had nothing, and asked them to bravely walk away from the fights and the drugs and today, they still haven’t chosen to do so.

This week alone, I’ve received news that another baby was stillborn, and a beautiful teenage boy that we’ve been praying for has gone to heaven- finally defeating cancer, but leaving his mama, brothers and daddy here without him.

This week alone, a mother crumpled into my shoulder on Sunday morning to tell me of her son being sentenced to four years in prison, and another woman whispered of miscarriage to me over the phone and I received an email that a dear elderly woman who sits in the row behind me every Sunday, will meet the Lord this week.

This week alone, I’ve counseled an abuse victim, comforted a family devastated by grief and tried to piece together a torn friendship over coffee.

And I don’t remember anyone ever telling me, that choosing to love people and serve people and reach people, could mean weeks like this.

I don’t remember anyone telling me that there would be days, when I would just stop, and close my eyes and sigh it out loud… “God, are you even here?”

Days when I would wonder if it was worth it.  The whole carrying of this message.

The truth is that the closer I become to the Lord, and the more I learn about Him, the less I feel like I know and the more inadequate I become.  12+ years of ministry has taught me everything and taught me nothing, all at the same time.

And the truth is, on days like today, and on weeks like this week, I just don’t have answers.

I don’t know why some marriages work and others don’t.  I don’t know why some choose transformation and others don’t.  I don’t know why babies are born without life, and children enter eternity before their parents.  I don’t have an explanation for devastation and pain and loss and cancer and rape and war and starvation and poverty.

I don’t know why He doesn’t just make it all better, right now.

There are theologies, a story about a garden and a fall, and sure- you can think out the reasons.  But your soul, it doesn’t always listen to theology.

On weeks like this, your bleeding, human heart just begs Him to fix it.

Please, God.  Just FIX IT.  Heal it.  Re-write the story.  Please.

I remember sitting in the bathroom, alone for the first time on the day that Kingston would be born.  A few short hours after it all came crashing down, when they said there was no heartbeat.  I was attached to monitors, and in a hospital gown and contractions were coming, fast and hard.  But the pain of the labor couldn’t even touch the pain of the loss.  The florescent lights, the ugly tile, the cold floor.  And I finally whispered it to Him- angry, frustrated, suffocating from the darkness of those moments:

“You’re the only one who can fix this.  You are the only one.  You’re the only one that can save my son, let him live… and You’re just not going to?”

After I whispered those words, my mind reeled.  Some of the thoughts I had about faith and life are too dark for me to share here, but oh, did I have them.  I wondered if I was being punished.  If only I had been a better Christian, a better mother, a better person.

They say there is this spirit-man within us, and this flesh-man within us, and that the two wrestle.  On most days, I’m no theologian and I don’t know about all of that.  On most days, I just feel like me- one person- who is hungry for her faith to not be a wrestling match.  But on that day, while a part of me was reeling in darkness, there was this small part of me that knew something different.  It was a tiny part, but somewhere among the crushing, from a deep part of me, something different rose, like a truth from my bones.


My family found me in that restroom and they didn’t hear the dark thoughts, but instead a whispered song on my lips.  I was singing, rocking back and forth, holding my stomach, trying to find Him- I think.  And I sang of how Jesus paid it all, and of how every time I lose it, I lose it my way- but every time I find it, I find it His way.

And while I was angry with Him, certainly.  And while I was utterly devastated and had no answers, I knew He was there.  I talked to Him, in all of my anger, because I knew He was there.  Not walking away from me because I was mad, not walking away because I was asking the hard questions.  Just faithfully, almost stubbornly: there.

And I think that’s the only theology I need to understand on weeks like these: He is here.

There was a part of me that day that knew.  Knew that when sorrows abound, you don’t need to ask why, you just need to remember who.  And on weeks like these, I try to connect with that part of me.

I try to remember that we have been promised a day, when there will be such wholeness, that we will no longer need to ask why. A day when the reasons and the answers just won’t be important anymore.

On weeks like this, when children have died, and cancer has wrung the life out of a body, and prayers haven’t been answered the way we thought they would; I try to remember who He is.

Not a God we can control, or tame, or ever fully understand.  But a God who loves, and who is good and who never leaves, even when we’re angry, even when it’s dark.  A God who knows of darkness, who knows of pain, and who steps into it to be with us. To be here.

So, I continue.

No longer that young girl, who had no clue how hard this would be.

But as a young woman, whose soul is just a little older and a little battle-worn.

And I pray, still.  And I worship, still.  And I say it with my every breath… Jesus can fix this, still. 

And I whisper to the girl on the bench that the darkest times of my life were the times that I found Him to be the closest.  You see, when the situation is so bad that we are rendered helpless, it’s there that we can surrender to something bigger then ourselves.

And I wish someone would have told me, earlier, that carrying this message really has nothing to do with having the answers and everything to do with pointing people to the only One who can redeem all the unanswered, broken, ashy places.

I tell her, that girl on the bench, to make it all about Him.  About who He is, during these hard, hard, hard days.

“I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” – John 14:18 

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 




Present Over Perfect – The Bread & Wine Winners!

Thank you so much to everyone who has responded to the Bread & Wine Giveaway post! I certainly believe in Shauna’s book and I am deeply thankful that all of you are so encouraging to me when I choose to share the honest and not-so-pretty moments I encounter on this road.

We had a beautiful Thanksgiving spent feasting and loving and laughing.  We ran around, and stayed up late, and I neglected my house to pay attention to my friends, which was just what I needed.  I was feeling so refreshed, and then this morning, I woke up following a night of very little sleep due to a sick baby girl and found 350+ emails in my work account.  My to-do list is mounting at a ridiculously high speed, and on top of life in general- I’m feeling a little daunted about what we have ahead of us this week.  Needless to say, by 9am, all of the bliss of the slow-down I experienced with Thanksgiving was gone.  And I miss it already.

This week holds so much for us.  It’s my birthday on Thursday, and Kingston’s 3rd heavenly birthday follows on Friday.  Also on Friday, I’m going to attempt to leave my baby girl overnight for the first time (on her brother’s birthday) to attend my husband’s annual company Christmas party.  We have family flying into town on Saturday, and I’m planning to fall into my bed following this whirlwind come Sunday evening.

On one hand, I’m so excited for parts of this week.  Like getting my hair and nails done.  Putting on a long, fancy dress.  Laughing, dancing, staying in a beautiful hotel with my hubby.  Talking to my girl about her brother, taking her to the beach for the first time on his birthday.

Then on the other hand, I’m dreading parts of this week.  How do I leave her (I know, I know, I’m such a first time mama)?  But especially on his birthday?  How do I allow myself to do other, fun things on his birthday?  Then there’s the matter of being at the same hotel.  The one we were at when I was so huge, so pregnant, trying to stuff myself into a formal gown.   The one where I sat on the bed, unable to sleep, wondering if he was ok- dismissing it as my nerves- thinking maybe his movement had changed.  The same hotel we were at just a few short days before he was born.  How will I be there again, knowing he’s not home with his little sister and his Nonna?


I don’t really know yet what the end of this week will look like.  And I could certainly use your prayers as it approaches.  But, what I do know is that I don’t want to miss it because it’s so busy, because of hundreds of emails and heavy to do lists.

If I were truly honest, that’s what I’m most scared of as his third birthday approaches.  Not that time is passing, but that time is passing and I’m missing it.  I want to have time and space in my life to miss him.  To honor him.  To think of him.  To celebrate.  To grieve.

And really, this yearning to not miss my life.  It extends to more than this week for me.  It’s a longing I’ve been wrestling with for a while.

Shauna has a chapter in her book called Present Over Perfect and as we enter into the holiday season with full force, it’s what I think I need to hold on to most.  Probably what we all need to hold on to most.  I thought it would be the perfect thing to share with you, as we announce the giveaway winners, as I approach this week, as we all approach the busy holiday season ahead.

Check out this excerpt:

“Here we are again, Christmastime.

I’m certainly not the first to point out the irony that it’s during Christmastime that we find ourselves most tempted to abandon Christlikeness in favor of overspending, overdoing, and overconsuming, but I find it to be true: the season that centers around the silent, holy night; the simple baby; and the star very quickly becomes the season in which we over-everything – overspend, overeat, overindulge, overcommit, all in the name of celebration.

I fall into it every year, and this particular year, I was falling even a little bit deeper…
Our week was full to bursting with family parties and gatherings with friends, preschool Christmas programs and coffee dates with out-of-town friends just here for the holidays. Our gifts were mostly purchased but mostly not wrapped, and our laundry situation, after a busy weekend, was dire.

The stress and chaos were on the rise, and something had to change or I’d miss the loveliness of the season entirely. I stopped myself in the middle of it all – the trips, the wrapping, the cookies, the expectations – and I asked for help. I prayed for new eyes to see, for a way outside myself and my tense, swirling chaos. As I slowed down and listened, three words laid themselves on my worn-out spirit like a blanket: present over perfect.”

Her writing is so what I need.  You too?  Bread & Wine is full of body-nourishing recipes that are incredible.  It’s also full of soul-nourishing words, like those penned above.  Because of this, I couldn’t be more excited to give away 5 free copies, this week!


Here are the winners:

  1. Danielle Geiger
  2. Amelia Abouzeid
  3. Catina Cruz
  4. Tara Harrigan
  5. Shaunna Tripanier

*Message me here or via Facebook/Twitter with your address and your book will be on its merry way.  Woo hoo!  Congrats, ladies! 

And if you didn’t win, get out your wallet and treat yourself and some of your loved ones to this treasure of a book.  Seriously, do it.  It’s worth it.  Order here.

In the spirit of being present, over perfect.  I’ve taken off on Thursday, and on Friday of this week.  I’ve planned a little slow time into the chaos.  And I’ve intentionally made space for my boy.  My house won’t be very clean this week, and if I’m slow to answer an email from you, please forgive me.  I’m choosing this instead.

Want to join me, friends?   In the intentional choice to not be perfect this year?  Instead, maybe the wrapping isn’t exactly what it should be, and maybe the laundry goes undone, but maybe we are alive to our families, to our friends, to the little baby in the manger who humbly came and gave it all for us, to the beautiful moments hiding among our days?  Maybe this Christmas, it becomes more about presence.  Your presence, His presence.  More about presence, and being present, than being perfect?

I hope you have a wonderful week, friends.

Thank you again for following along.  I heart you.


Book Give Away- 5 Free Copies of Bread & Wine!

**I’m giving away FIVE FREE COPIES of Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequest!  Read through to the end of this post to see how you can enter to win.**

“I’m failing.  I’m always failing.”

That’s what I whispered as I pulled the covers over my head.  It was a rainy, Florida Sunday morning.  Cooler than usual, and my room was dark.  I was supposed to be at church, supposed to be praying more than I had been.  I was supposed to have a cleaner home, be a better wife.  I was supposed to have met many deadlines that were still haunting my inbox.  I was supposed to be eating healthier, exercising.

But instead, I was failing.  This pastor’s wife wasn’t going to church today.   This rocking career girl, well let’s just say she hadn’t been rocking much lately.  And this wife.  Well, my husband told me I was his hero as he brushed the hair from my face and tucked me back into bed that morning.  But as sweet as he always is, I knew the truth.  I’m no hero.

Everyone thinks I’m this brave mama.  Because I speak, and I share and I lead – even after loss.  But the truth is that I’m a coward.

You see, when you’ve lost a son.  When you’ve met a baby, held a baby, snuggled a baby, and said goodbye to a baby all in the same day – you’re not a hero when you’re pregnant again.  You’re a shaking, terrified little girl.  It doesn’t matter if you speak, and lead and share.  You’re so very afraid.

Kingston Isaiah

People like to pretend it won’t happen again.  They like to pretend we can control things like that with our own hands, with our positive thoughts and our positive statements, but those of us who have looked at the still screen on the ultra-sound machine know better.  We know that God is good, and He is faithful, but there are these hard, horrible things that we can’t control.  Loss like that can’t be controlled, and it could happen again.  I see stories in my inbox daily, mommies and daddies asking for prayer, because there’s bleeding – again.  Because there’s no heartbeat – again.  Because again does happen.  And I’m pregnant – again.

I try to brush the thought from my mind and I whisper the words that are as close as I get to praying these days.  “Never again, God, please.”  I’m restless.  Desperate.  I should sleep, but I can’t.  I should probably get up and pray, but the fear has me trapped so deeply and I’m so physically sick, that even that sounds like too much work.  I flip channels.  Normally, my secret love of the Kardashians would win – but not this morning.  So, I look over at my nightstand and there’s Shauna’s new book.  I pick it up and flip through the pages of this pre-released copy, my highlights and notes still sitting there.

And I’m reminded again of my failing.

Not only has fear trapped my heart this pregnancy, but sickness has taken over my identity.  I have been so, so sick.  Exhausted to my very bones.

I’ve been so weak and so fragile and so pathetic that I let even this opportunity pass me by.  I sigh as I remember the day Shauna announced on her blog that we could do reviews of her new book and we’d get pre-released copies.  I squealed like a little girl when her assistant told me I could participate, when the book arrived in the mail, when I started dreaming up what I’d write as I devoured the first few chapters.  But then, along with the joy of this pregnancy, came the sickness and now I’m even failing as a Shauna-fan.  Fantastic.  She was super sick with her pregnancy, right?  She’d understand.  I dismiss it and open up to where I left off in my reading.

And then, friends, with the rain pouring down outside my window, my room dreary and dark, I fell in love with Shauna’s writing all over again.  Honestly, I think I may have fallen in love with Christ all over again in those moments, thanks to her writing.  I read a small, brief chapter in this book called Hummingbird and, page by page, tears began to fall.  I’m not a big crier, but I wept.  Shauna’s writing is eloquent, and it’s so conversational at the same time.  She’s honest.  She’s gentle.  Her words make you feel like you’re having a meal with a friend, warm and full, never wanting to get up from the table.  She spoke in this chapter about the fear she experienced in her pregnancy with her son Mac, after several losses, and I leaned into the words as if leaning over a dinner table:

“When I found out I was pregnant with Henry, I felt delight.  But this time, one split second after the deep happiness, what I felt was fear.  I basically wanted to be put into a bubble with a twenty-four-hour ultrasound so that I could always know if the baby was OK.  I was so happy, and I was so scared.  I prayed, but mostly in a manic way, almost chanting out loud, please, please, please.”

And for the first time in a long time, I felt like I wasn’t alone.  I’m not the only one.  Have you ever found a friend in a book?

She went on in the chapter to tell the beautiful story of her pregnancy after loss.  How there were ups and downs, and scares.  Then, towards the end, she connects it to food (and by food I mean my heart) in the way only Shauna can:

“The doctor’s gave me lots of extra appointments and a ludicrous amount of ultrasounds.  They assured me everything was fine.  On Valentine’s Day, we went to Art Smith’s restaurant in the city with good friends.  His restaurant feels more like a home than a restaurant, in the very best way, and we had amazing goat cheese biscuits in a little cast-iron pan, fried chicken and hummingbird cake.  We laughed and told stories and watched a couple get engaged.  I drank homemade ginger soda and rested my hands on my belly beneath the table, life, life, life, smaller than a hummingbird…  Our little hummingbird was still beating its tiny wings and even though my fear was detonating over and over like bombs dropping, the fragile and fractured wings of my heart dared to beat as well, and alongside all that fear and all that gratitude, I felt the first precious rush of hope.”

The chapter ended like almost all of the chapters do, with a recipe.  Goat cheese biscuits. I’d like to say that I jumped out of bed, with renewed energy and made the decadent biscuits she talked about.  But I didn’t.  I had a decadent feast of ginger ale and saltines – again – and I curled up with her book, and kept reading.  What I did do was pray and connect with God for the first time in awhile.  That’s right, I’m a pastor’s wife and I said it – I had been so distant from the Lord – and this “love letter to life around the table” made me feel safe enough to approach Him again.  I was honest about being afraid, and I stopped beating myself up about it, and it was all thanks to this book of Shauna’s.   Bread & Wine was nourishing to me that morning, and I think it’s because at the heart of Shauna’s writing there’s this:

“I am a bread-and-wine person.  By that I mean that I’m a Christian, a person of the body and blood, a person of the bread and wine.  Like every Christian, I recognize the two as food and drink, and also, at the very same time, I recognize them as something much greater – mystery and tradition and symbol.  Bread is bread, and wine is wine, but bread-and-wine is another thing entirely.  The two together are the sacred and the material at once, the heaven and earth, the divine and the daily.” 



I promised myself that day, that even if I never wrote an official review of Bread & Wine, man alive would I tell the story of that morning, when Shauna and her biscuits hung out with me.  I promised myself I’d make the biscuits and I did.  I also made the Blueberry Crisp.  And the Breakfast Quinoa.  And the Breakfast Cookies.  And the Dark Chocolate Sea Salted Butter Toffee.  And the Mango Chicken Curry.  Oh, and her Winter White Bean Soup has been on our WEEKLY menu since I first read it on her blog, but it’s in this book too and sweet, baby Jesus – you HAVE to try it.  Fast, delicious, warm.  Whoa.  Anyway… I literally ate my way through Bread & Wine and today, I tell you the story of that morning.  The morning that I, inspired by Shauna, put my hands on my belly, and allowed myself to be hopeful again.

Next week will be Kingston’s 3rd heavenly birthday, and as I type those words the ashes still sting my eyes.  It still hurts that time goes on.  And, oh, do I miss him.  But this week, I think I’ll stay up late with my people, and I think I’ll make goat cheese biscuits.  While we eat them, I’ll try to stop myself from waking up my beautiful Amelia, Kingston’s little sister, sleeping soundly in her bed.  While I eat them, I’ll think of how excruciatingly cute she is and how I love her so much it hurts.  I’ll think of how full of life she is, and how she is here with us every day and how every day, that’s a miracle.   And while I eat the almost sinful goat cheese biscuits, I’ll remember that there are times when I’m afraid.  But more than that, I’ll remember how powerful hope is.  Because sometimes again doesn’t happen.

“And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:5)

Bread & Wine is Shauna’s best work yet.  Not only is the writing absolutely incredible, it’s full of the best kind of recipes.  Recipes that challenge you to cook just a little more, just a little better.  Recipes that are easy enough to make you feel like you’re a gourmet chef and recipes that are delicious enough to make you remember them for approximately, well, forever.  But even better than the recipes, are the stories.  Everyone can find a friend in Shauna’s stories, a celebration or a hardship, something or someone they so honestly connect with.  It’s because of the stories, and the food, and the writing that Bread & Wine is by far the best book I’ve read in a long time.  And I read a lot of books, folks.

This Christmas, you really, really need to buy it for everyone you know.  I promise you there isn’t a better gift.  Write a sweet note inside the cover, and hand it over with a bottle of olive oil, or wine, or a batch of cookies, or a single candy cane or all by itself.  You could even tie a cute Pinterest inspired bow that you made on it (note: I won’t be doing that – good grief, Pinterest).  Click here, or here, or here and order a bunch.  I promise you’ll love it.

Oh, and if you’re into this kind of thing – the free kind of thing – you could also leave a comment on this post and share this post on either Twitter, Facebook or Instagram to win one of the FIVE free copies I’m giving away (using random selection, I’ll announce winners on Monday)!  Giveaways are sexy, huh?  And, yes – I said FIVE FREE copies of the best book I’ve read in a long time.  Amen and amen.


Seriously though, you will heart Bread & Wine and if you haven’t read Shauna before, you’ll heart her too.  You will also heart the way that I heart using the word heart as a verb.

Anyhow… it is my prayer that Bread & Wine will end up in your hands this winter and that it will remind you to let your heart be FULL of hope this season, even if it’s harder than normal. Especially if it’s harder than normal.

Happy reading, happy cooking.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

All My Love,


On Accepting Grace & Gift Card Winners

I have tried to write this post at least twenty times, and I end up staring at a blinking cursor on the screen until I finally give in and click the red X again. I’ve recently learned that while I’m pretty good at extending grace to others, I’m bloody awful at extending it to myself.

This blog is such a dream of mine.  Connecting here with you is something I think about every day.  Something I long for.  And yet, it sits on the bottom of my priority list these days, along with so many of my other dreams.  I feel so disappointed in myself just typing those words.

I sat at lunch with my sister a few weeks back and hung my head in shame as I told her that I was surely the most undisciplined person I had ever known.  That lunch was the first time I had left my house in what felt like forever due to having a new job, and a new baby and a new medicine my endocrinologist placed me on that made me have every symptom of the flu- for THREE weeks.

“You can’t get a book published if you don’t blog, Mandi.  You can’t get a book published if you don’t send out proposals.  More than that, how do I reach people with his story if I can’t get online to connect with them?  If I’m going to tell his story- I have to write it- and I love writing, but I’m terrible at writing consistently.”

She tells me I just had a baby.  She extends grace.  And I push it away.

“I know, but I don’t think that justifies it.  It’s been 2 ½ years since Kingston passed- I wasn’t pregnant with Amelia for most of that.”

We go back and forth like this for a while.  Her holding grace out across the table with her words, me pushing it back towards her with mine.

Then finally, her tone changes and she almost sounds like our mother.  

“Do you remember, Suzie?  Have you forgotten what happened that made you feel like you should write about him in the first place?  What made you passionate about telling his story?”

The conversation starts to shift, and I think I’ve finally recognized that Jesus is sitting somewhere around here with us, while we eat our scones.  I hear her, and I hear Him somewhere in her words.

Do I remember?  I ask myself her question.  How could I forget?

I started writing, because I lost him.  It’s been almost three years.  Some days that feels like forever, but then, when I stop to think about him and I remember him, it still feels as real as it did that very day.

My sister Mandi is this amazing combination of Aslan, Yoda, CS Lewis and Bon Jovi- all in one incredible person- and in only the way she can, she recognizes that I’m starting to hear her and she pushes the grace back across the table, hard and gentle:

“It could take your whole life for you to process this, love.  You have to give yourself time.  You have to let yourself be Justin’s wife, and Amelia’s mom, and still dream- yes- but give yourself time.”

And for the first time, I don’t shove it back.  My shoulders feel lighter as I let her words fall on me, and then, I finally confess it out loud to her.  To myself.

“I’m terrible at accepting grace.” 

Because I know I don’t deserve it.

But really, which one of us does?  Who among us can really earn grace?  I’m the first to tell you we all need it and the last to open up my hands as He reminds my heart that He did it for me too.  He did it for me, too.  And I can’t earn it.  It’s already finished.

the-grace-card.001Am I the only one?

The only one around here who struggles with being kind to themselves?  Am I the only one who is understanding when others can’t do it all, but somehow manages to place these ridiculous expectations, these ridiculous standards of perfection, on my own already heavy shoulders?  The only one who feels over-extended, ragged at times, whose dreams just seem to be pushed to the bottom of the long to do list far too often?  Am I the only one who listens to the voice of shame, and condemnation, a little more than I should?  The only one who needs to remember to listen to the voice of the One who doesn’t speak shame, but instead, listen to the One who bleeds Grace for even me, in all my failings?

I’m hoping I’m not alone in this.  And if you’re like me, would you allow me to extend grace over the table to you today.  Would you accept it when I say…

“Give yourself time, love.  Be kind to yourself.  Say no if you need to.  Pull back if you need to.  Tell that voice that screams about your failings to be silent.  Close your eyes, take a deep breath and listen for Him.  His love language is amazing grace, and you, even in all your imperfections, you already have His love.”  

It’s been too long since I’ve been on here with you, friends and I hope you’ll accept my apology for that.  I’ve thought of you often, and I’ve tried to write to apologize and to give away those gift cards many, many times.  In my less noble moments I’ve also tried to think of ways that I could trick you into thinking I had already given away the gift cards on a beautifully, disciplined schedule and that it’s you who forgot.

But the truth is, I’ve been sick.  And I’ve been working new jobs.  And I’ve been a wife.  And I’ve been a friend.  And I’ve been a writer.  And I’ve been a Pastor’s wife, and a leader, and a mentor, and a minister.  I’ve been a speaker, and a woman who never sleeps it seems.  I’ve been a maid.  And, I’ve been a mommy again.  A mommy again, but a mommy for the first time with a child who I get to keep here with me, alive and well, on this Earth.  And in being that new mommy, I’ve slowly come to realize that parenting after loss is so very beautiful, and so very, very hard.   So much harder than I ever imagined it would be.

I know you are busy too.  I know we all are.  So, please know that I’m not giving any excuses today.  I’m just being honest about my life with you.  In my world these past few months, things have been hard and crazy and really off balance.  So, I’ve been trying to find margin, places to breathe.  I’ve been trying to say no.  I’ve been trying to prioritize and fill all the roles.  Trying to do what matters most.  But on a lot of days, I fail.  And I hope that you’ll extend grace to me for that and stay tuned.

So without further ado (and just in time for the holidays, maybe), here are the gift card winners!  Thanks for subscribing and sharing- congrats ladies- I heart all of you.  Message me your address and your $10 Starbucks Gift Card shall be on its way!

–          Lisa Cook

–          Richelle Grey

–          Danielle Taylor

Thank you all for reading my posts, even though they aren’t as frequent as I would hope.  Thanks for believing in the dreams I have and encouraging me in them, even if they are sitting on the bottom of the list right now.  Your understanding, kindness, all of that- well, it’s such a gift.

Before I head out, here are a couple of amazing posts on this whole finding balance thing that I think are worth sharing.  I’ve been reading lots of them lately.  If you’re like me, and you’re balance has been off a bit recently, check them out.

How to Create More Margin in Your Life by Michael Hyatt

Anti-Frantic and Should is a Warning Sign by Shauna Niequist

If you have any tips, to this whole finding balance thing, I’d be more than happy to hear them- share in the comments?

Resting (or trying to rest) in His Grace,



FREE Starbucks Gift Cards & My Sparkly New Blog!

Here it is friends: the pretty, shiny, sparkly new blog!  I love it and I hope that you do too.  I want to start out by sending a HUGE thank you to Fran at Small Bird Studios.  She’s another baby-lost parent, whose heart I love, and she was an integral part of the new design here.  Thanks for being awesome Fran!

If this is your first time stopping by, I want to welcome you.  I’m so thankful you are here and I hope you’ll stay awhile.  Also, if you happen to be one of the gems that has been hanging around waiting for my blog to re-launch, welcome back (and shhh don’t tell, but I might love you the most)!

I took a really long, somewhat intentional break from Blogging this past year.  I spent some time writing privately and really seeking God on what I wanted the community here to look like.  I also spent some time having a baby, starting a new job, and moving.  But, we’ll get to that stuff another day.

As the Lord started to nudge me about what this space could become, I wrestled with it a lot.  Mainly because I felt inadequate.  Will people still want to read about him?  Will they still care?  What about all this other stuff I’m passionate about?  Who am I to share on all of it?

You’ll notice that I’ve set the blog up as somewhat of an author’s website (both and link to this site).  This is required for me to pursue my dreams of writing books, and I know that’s part of what I should be sharing here, but to be honest, when I look in the mirror most days I don’t see a writer.  I don’t see a woman who can lead a community, or reach people.  I’m mostly a confident person, but when it comes to the big dreams I have, I look in the mirror and mostly I just see a tired pastor’s wife.  The mama of a newborn, who is doing the best she can to get make up on for the day.  The mama of a little boy in heaven, who still hurts sometimes.  Not necessarily a world-changer.  Not a mentor.  Not a writer.  Just me.

So, I’m working on that.


Working on seeing myself as the person in my dreams.  Working on being brave enough to pursue those dreams.  Working on believing I have a voice that is worth hearing.  A voice that might be able to make a difference. Working on letting others into this whole process.

And that’s part of my goal with the new blog.  To make sure I’m letting others into the things I’m working on, in hopes that some of you will find a place to relate.

I want this place to feel like a little table in your favorite coffee shop, where the two of us can sit down together and talk about life.  About faith, and God, and family, and babies, and loss, and grief, and books, and all the other stuff too.  I want it to be a place where you can feel like you’ve had a quick break.  A moment to read, to refresh, to be honest – like you’ve found a safe place to share. I want you to leave feeling like we’ve just enjoyed a cup of coffee together, and while I’m still not exactly sure how that’s all going to play out, I’m excited to give it a shot.

That all being said.  Let’s talk about coffee.

In the nature of this feeling like your favorite little table, in your favorite little coffee shop, with your favorite person (say it’s me, say it’s me), I want to buy you a cup of coffee.   Since I can’t buy all of you a cup of coffee (Dave Ramsey has a plan and we’re on it, and man alive, hubby just won’t let me), a giveaway seems in order.


So, three lucky winners will be getting Starbucks gift cards mailed to them from yours truly this Friday!  Here’s what you need to do to enter:

  1. Go to the right side of the home page of the blog and enter in your email address where it says to subscribe.
  2. Share the link to this post on some form of social media (facebook, instagram, twitter).
  3. Head to the comments section of the blog and say something – anything.  Maybe what you think of the new layout?  Or what you’re looking forward to hearing about on here?  Maybe something you’d like me to write about?  Or even just to say hi.  Whatever you say, share it in the comments.

I’ll select three winners at random and announce them on Friday.

I do hope you’ll take a moment to look around, read the pages on the tabs, enjoy some of the pictures and make yourself at home.  Also, if you haven’t found me already, you can use the social media links on the top right of the page to meet me over on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

This week, I’m hanging with my very best friends, my sweet little daughter and my hubby on vacation.  That means I have more time to write, but it also means I have more time at the pool.  So, we shall see which one wins.  I’m hoping to be back soon with an update on life, and then also with a post that will introduce you to something I’m so very passionate about.  After that, I’m hoping to be on here with you all once a week (lofty goal, I know).  Stay tuned and follow the steps above to win some coffee!


Thankfulness and Missing- Remembering Kingston’s 2nd Birthday

Soon after we found out that this new baby on the way would be our first daughter, we sat up in bed one evening talking.  We were giggling about pink things and about how she’d certainly become Daddy’s little girl, but not more than a few moments went by before Justin’s eyes glossed over a little, and he said it.

A statement so weighted by the honesty of this season, whispered across our pillows.

“She won’t know her big brother.”

And so here we are.  His second birthday has arrived.  How is it that two years have gone by since you were in my arms, and left my arms, sweet baby?  Your sweet Daddy is making me French toast as I type this, and we both awoke to tearful eyes- to empty arms.  The theme of this season is certainly a dichotomy, bouncing back and forth between two heavily defined emotions:

1.  Thankfulness

2.  Missing

We have much to be thankful for and we miss him, in the deepest parts of our hearts.

God is doing so much with the story of his little life and we are overwhelmed daily by the life change we see taking place in other people’s hearts as they hear his story.  It’s more than we ever could have asked or hoped for.  In just the recent weeks:

There was this beautiful article we had the opportunity to write in the Message Magazine.  My boys featured on the cover of a national magazine?  I’ve never seen anything more beautiful than the two of them together.  What’s the most powerful of it all is the letters and testimonies we received after people read it, the hope that the Lord gave them through it.

message magazine cover

Then there was this speaking and praying for a group of powerful, young, world-changing women at Southeastern University just yesterday.  I tried to teach them about leaning when you are in the darkest moments of life.  Leaning into Him, into community, into worship, into giving and into the truth of eternity.  We told them that hope does not disappoint and that it is an anchor for our souls.  What’s amazing?  We really believe every word we said about hope to the core of who we are, even among these ashes, especially among these ashes.

28079_677026761948_1673529284_n 67800_4960597254132_1076460483_n

Then we’ve been filming, too.  We’re terrible actors, but we have willing hearts and so now, we’re in a music video.  As is our boy’s nursery and his beautiful things and his beautiful story.  The song you ask?  Well, it’s called Smile.  Something we do a lot, even among these ashes, friends.  The brilliant Joshua Cruz will be releasing it soon, and as soon as he does, we’ll be sure to share it with you.  We think you’ll love it.


You can see it, can’t you friends?  How He and only He makes it beautiful again?  How could we be anything but thankful?

Ah, yes… but then, there’s this: “She won’t know her big brother.”

The missing, in the midst of thankfulness.  There are moments when the ashes still sting the eyes, harshly.  We have a little blue box that holds the ashes of Kingston’s little life, and I don’t know that it will ever stop hurting.

The truth is, you can wrap it in bows and call it pretty and speak positively, but at the core of it all- she won’t.  Amelia will never know her big brother.  Not in the way that we had hoped she would.

There won’t be a two year old toddling into the hospital room this Spring to meet her for the first time, or a two year old kissing my belly as it grows, being taught to say her name and love her early on.  She won’t know his voice, or his protection, or him pulling her hair, or his laughter.  The cupcakes we make today are not for him- not really, anyway- and neither are the balloons or the birthday songs or his little blue clothes that still fill the drawers in his room.  None of us will know the color of his eyes or the sound of his cry or the warmth of his breath.  Not while we are here in this life.  So, we miss him, today and everyday.

“We will tell her about him,” I said as I reached over and grabbed Justin’s hand.  And we will, because that’s all we can do.

We will make space for him, and we will whisper to her about how he is her big brother and we will make sure she knows how he changed our lives, forever.  We will keep telling his story as God allows us the opportunity to: in print, in speaking, at the grocery store.  And we will remember him.  Because he was our gift, our first born son and we love him. And because who could forget this child?  Surely, not us.  When we are 75 and gray, on December 6th, and everyday really, we will hold the secret of his life in our hearts and he will be our first boy and we will be his mommy and daddy.

Tonight, we’ll gather with our best friends, our parents and siblings and we’ll sing to him on the beach.  We’ll stare as the balloons rise to the heavens, we’ll watch as the sun slowly sets, and we’ll gaze on the waves as they crash along the beautiful Florida shore.  Those moments will remind us that God is holy, and sovereign and that He loves us.  We will know, more than ever, that He is the God who climbs into the ashes with those who He loves, and begins to craft beauty.  The children will laugh. We will eat at our favorite pizza place on the beach, because we are Italian and we comfort ourselves with good food and who cares about calories and carbs on days like these?  We will hug, we will cry, we will softly smile and we will miss him together.  In the hardest, most beautiful way: we will celebrate you baby.

We remember you, sweet Kingston boy.  We remain thankful for your life, but we miss you.  More than words could ever express, we miss you.  We wish with all of us that there was a way that you could be here with us instead.  When mommy closes her eyes today, she thinks about Jesus holding you and she wants you to know that she can’t wait to run to Him, and to you, one day. To the place where the ashes can no longer sting the eyes and death is no longer something that separates our hearts.  We love you, Kingston Isaiah.  Happy 2nd Birthday, darling.

135776_1803157600114_1275067747_2135822_7689511_o 149514_1710729049458_1275067747_1937550_7156501_n Picture48

To all of my sweet reader-loves… if you’ve been following along on our journey, or maybe you’re new to it, either way, below are a few links if you’d like them.  They are our favorite ways of remembering, and we want to welcome you in, to the beauty of our mess, to miss him with us today if you want to.

Video of Our Story

Slideshow of Memorial Service

Blog from His 1st Birthday

Message Magazine Article

Blog about Justin on Father’s Day

Blog with links to videos of the first time we spoke about his story

We’ve received all of your texts, and messages, and have read your own posts about our boy today.  We have felt the fullness of your prayers for us.  You, friends, are one of the things we are most thankful for.  We know this journey would be much darker without you and your willingness to miss him, love him and seek God with us. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Love, Justin & Suzie

The Bravest Daddy I Know.

I’m not exactly sure when the first time I said it to him was, but I know it was in one of those transparent, dark and hurting moments that we so often shared in the weeks following Kingston’s death.

“I don’t think I can lose anything else, Justin.  Especially not you.  Promise me you’ll keep talking about this?  Promise.  I don’t want this to ruin us.”

It’s interesting the pleas and desperate questions that are whispered across tear-soaked pillows; that linger among the sleepless nights following the loss of a child.  The color of grief running so desperately over everything you once knew. Everything sounding, tasting, smelling and appearing slightly different than before.

We both personally knew several couples who had lost everything else, after they lost their children.  Homes, marriages, friendships, spirituality, finances.  Somewhere, sometime, it was whispered to me that on average, only 1% of marriages survive the loss of a child. I remember thinking when I heard that… why?  Why wouldn’t you cling more than ever to the love of a spouse after losing a child?  Why give up then?  Why not use your marriage as a way to survive?

I’m not sure if this awful statistic is accurate, but it stuck with me in the months after the baby passed and today, I know the painful answer to those questions that my former, naïve self didn’t.  Yes, I know why.  Why the 99% let it all become ruin and I don’t even dare to judge them for it.

Because the truth is, survival is about our natural instincts and those instincts would take one look at this thing called “marriage” in the midst of such loss and they’d tell you to get out.  To run away.  No one will blame you for trying to survive this… so go ahead, do it.

Close off.  Shut the door. Roll over in the darkness and let the numbness take over your heart as the space between your two souls grows distant, further apart.  It’s easier, after all, to fight over small things, then to dig through the mess left in front of you- isn’t it?

Because the mess in front of you contains so much sorrow.  It’s the place where the regrets are.

The place where the hard questions, and the past and the future and the fear and the dreams all collide and at the core of it, the real reason you should run, is the fact that the marriage-relationship mimics the God-relationship, and the God-relationship is the last thing you want to deal with when your God has refused to answer the most desperate of prayers for the sweetest of babies.

Yes, I know why only 1% of marriages survive the loss of a child.  Because there is this enemy that is very real.  He comes to kill, steal and destroy and when you’re already so devastated, so defeated by loss… surviving could mean just letting this enemy have it all, because surely you’ll fail if you try to fight back in the state you’re in, right? And what are you fighting for, anyway?  One more precious thing that death could take away from you at any moment?

But I think the heartbeat of God would ask you, what is this wild, beautiful thing called life worth, if we’re merely surviving?  Is the purpose behind this vapor you have been given, to merely survive?  Don’t you feel it beating within you?  That you were created in the image of More. 

I want to live this life, not just survive it and to live, in this vapor we have been given, to fully love the rest of what we have left after the loss, that takes more than primal survival skills.  Choosing to stay and to fight for one more thing that you have no guarantee over.  Agreeing to relentlessly love something else you could so easily lose.  That’s not the easy way out.  That’s not the survival way out.  That, my friends, is the narrow road. The path less-traveled, where the beauty broken pieces are found.

We were created for the adventures found on the paths that are less-traveled.  Our Lord, walked the narrow road Himself so that we could choose to be brave and follow His self-sacrificing, relentlessly-loving footsteps.

He was just a boy when I met him, this husband of mine.  Young, tan and handsome with coke bottle glasses and a back pack too big for his thin body to carry.

Different from the boys I had been dating.  Not the most popular.  Not what would “appear” to be the bravest.  Not the tough guys I was used to. But he was gentle.  And kind.  And if I had to pick one word to describe him then, now, it would be: good.  To his core.  He’s just good.

I needed good in my life when we became best friends.  The gangster, broken girl and the shy, nerdy guy.  As shy as he was though, he was never intimidated by my fight.  By the fire and the polarizing force that can be me at times.  In fact, he always let me shine.  Then, now.  A steady, grounding force he quickly became to my heart.

I never knew, when I married that sweet boy.

That we’d be here only a few short years later.

And that the statistic of the 1% would be haunting me.

“What if it all falls apart baby, slowly, years down the road because we miss something or we don’t guard something?”  I desperately would say, and sometimes in my weak moments, still do “Don’t be afraid.  Don’t be fearful.  It won’t.  We’re in this with each other and Him- together.  I love you.” The grounding, steady force of that sweet boy says.

You see it, don’t you? How the marriage-relationship, indeed mimics the God-relationship?

My baby sister told me after seeing us, in the months following Kingston’s death that she learned more than ever why she just can’t settle when it comes to dating and marriage.   How Justin never left my side in the worst of emotions.  How we loved and fought through.  How whoever she is going to marry, has to be someone who loves Christ more than he loves her, so that they can walk through things like that together and do more than just survive.  I nod in understanding and I’m daily proud of her for choosing narrow paths of her own.  Brave Little One of mine she is.

We’re different now, in so many ways.  From the time we met, from the time we got married.

Life has brought us lessons that have put a few grey streaks in our 20-something strands of hair.  Our eyes are surrounded by dark circles that I’m convinced no amount of coffee will ever fix, and there are some lines appearing along our faces that I’m oddly proud of.  Our souls are older and battle-warn, but I’m thankful to report that on most days, we’ve managed together to do a lot more than just surviveWe live, in love with Him and in love with one another.   While we still have weak moments, the majority of our days are filled with tickle fights, laughter, great conversations, dreaming together, and loving each other through our weaknesses.  Joy.

Father’s Day just passed and I’m so deeply thankful for a boy who fell in love with me when we were just children, really.  He may not have “appeared” to be the bravest when I met him, but at the center of that goodness I saw in Justin is a steadfast, passionate love for Christ.  It’s that love, for his God, that makes him the bravest man I have ever known- full of the most gentle, quiet and steadfast strength possible.

You see, it takes the deepest kind of courage to weep over a lost son, feel the ashes of broken dreams stinging your eyes and choose, instead of running, to stay and fight for what’s left.  To love a woman relentlessly, softly guiding her fragile heart through the sea of emotions and back to the throne of her King.  It takes the heart of a warrior to realize that if the enemy had his way, everything else would lay in ruins as well and that we could so easily be part of the 99%… but instead, he daily dies to himself, puts me first and loves the Lord with all of his heart, soul and strength- therefore guarding my heart and fighting for us, in a way, that only he can as the head of my household.

Yes, that boy I once knew has grown into the strongest of men.

And, do you know what he spent this Father’s Day doing?

Missing his boy?  Yes.

Weeping over the breakfast in bed I made him and the sweet card with pictures of our baby? Yes.

But, also, loving some of the teens of our church who have no Dads, in only the way he can.  Pastoring people.  Dancing in the Father-Daughter Dance with our little niece, and loving on our nephew as if he was his own.  Because the young boy, who grew into the strongest of men, has the heart of a true Daddy and really, always has.

Happy Father’s Day, my love.  You are undeniably, the greatest gift God has ever bestowed on this girl.  Our sweet Kingston (and any of our children that follow him), could not have been blessed with a better Daddy.  I hope you know how much of a treasure you are to all of us!  You so beautifully represent Jesus to me and to our family… thank you for being in love with Him, for being in love with us and for fighting for us with such strength even through the thickest of life’s battles. Thank you for helping me find beauty in the brokenness!  I love you!

And to all the mommies and daddies out there who celebrated Father’s Day in a different way this year- like we did- we love you and have taken time to pray for you.  Be strong, be courageous, cling to Him and be part of the 1%.

Consider clicking here: and visiting another great post from baby-lost parents on marriage in the wake of loss, being lost instead in His grace?

Thanks for hanging in for a longer than usual blog post today.  Love to all of you!


Honesty- With a Side of Update!

Ah, here we go again.  Beginning yet another blog with an apology for my completely busy life and the fact that I’ve failed to write enough on here.  Forgive me, sweet friends?

Just wanted to tell you all is well in the Barbour’s world and give you a random and quick update on life.

#1: I’m unemployed.

It’s fun and terrifying all at the same time.

I’m trying to be protective of my time, so that I can be productive- write, exercise, apply for new jobs- all of that. It only works about one or two days a week as there is always something to do, but I figure one or two days a week is progress in compared to the non-existent time I was having when working 60 hour weeks. We’re still trying to decide what the future is going to look like for me in this job thing, and it’s really difficult considering I’ve worked full time since I was 15 years old. The finances are a take it day by day, faith walk… which I hate.

I’m really good at living a faith-filled life when the path is clear and I know where the money is coming from and what’s going to happen. But that really isn’t faith at all, is it?  What’s that you say?  You struggle with it too?  Ok, good.  Thought I was a little crazy.  I might be.  But I’m ok with that and I’m doing this thing.  We’re learning and Justin is so supportive and I’m super thankful.  Prayers are appreciated as we continue to navigate these uncharted waters in our life.

Speaking of uncharted waters, #2: I’m writing.  Or not writing.  I’m learning how “I’m writing” can actually mean “I’m staring at a blank screen”.

Sheesh.  I’m home now and have more time to write, and life is good, so you think I’d be inspired, right?  Negative captain.  Apparently, my “Writing Self” is only inspired to write at 3 am, when I’m working 60 hours a week and need to lose a little sleep like I need a hole in my head.

She (I call her a she because someone so fickle could only be a woman) also only prefers to write when the absolute worst things are happening in my life.  I get it, I get it.  Broken places produce sweet fragrances, one of which is great writing.  It’s a deeply spiritual process.  But, I’m trying to live the dream here… and now “we”, meaning my “Writing Self” and I, decide to be un-inspired the majority of the time. Fantastic.

“Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank piece of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” – Gene Fowler

Perhaps it is because there is so much non-creative work that goes into organizing book proposals, redesigning author websites, scheduling photo shoots and researching this long process.  I’m an administrative bird, so I get lost in the tasks sometimes.  Intentional creativity is hard for us organizers.  I think what I need is a hammock and permission to drink café con leche in the middle of the day or at midnight.  I also desperately need permission from someone to put REAL sugar in it, regardless of the fact that I’m a diabetic.  I’m a little tired of the guilt that goes along with REAL sugar in my life.  So permission, pretty, pretty, please? In the name of inspiration?

#3: I also need books.  Anyone who knows me knows I adore new books. When hubby gives them to me, I love them like they’re roses or shoes.  I love them most when they go along with roses and shoes.  Yes, he has his hands full.

The whole unemployment thing isn’t doing a lot for my “roses, shoes, and book” budget to say the least. I don’t want to complain too much, because at the heart of it all, I’m really thankful we have enough to buy groceries for this large family.  I’ve been to the places in the world where that’s not an option for most, and so in spite of being unemployed- I’m thankful for the miraculous provision that is a car, a beautiful home, clean water and groceries.  However, I do have to admit that I miss new books.

I think the lack of new pages in my life, also adds to the lack of inspiration and creativity I’m experiencing.  I need to read all different kinds of writing in order to be inspired to write, and I need to smell some new pages like a fat kid needs cake.  That’s not nice.  My apologies to any fat kids.  I’m one at heart; note the REAL sugar frustration, so I understand.  But seriously, I have a list… some of which include (in case you have them and feel like generously lending them to me): Real Marriage by Mark Driscoll, Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, The Gift of Imperfections by Brene Brown, I Thought it Was Just Me by Brene Brown, The Writing Life by Annie Dillard, Still Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis by Lauren Winners, The Jesus Driven Life by Michael Hardin, Empty Promises by Pete Wilson and The Pastor by Eugene Peterson.  I told you I had a list. Sadly, I could probably name more.

I’m currently devouring the first book in the Hunger Games (I know deep, right)- just because it’s new.  Sharayah lent it to Mandi, and she lent it to me.  I’m flipping through Steven Tyler’s biography and I’m also diving into a small prayer book on healing for our bodies that my sweet friend Annie gave me.  Someone else gave that to her. You see how this is the gift that keeps on giving folks?  Share books!  Seriously, when is the next holiday that you can give someone a gift… Mother’s day?  Gulp.

#4: So, yeah, about Mother’s Day.  The thought of it stopped me in my book rambling tracks- which I bet you’re grateful for.  My throat got a little tight and my eyes a little hot when I typed it.  Since this blog is mainly about my sweet Kingston and his story, I’d be amiss (amiss- take that, uninspired Writer Self) if I wasn’t a little transparent about my feelings as this holiday approaches.  Holidays are super hard in general.  I spent most of Easter thankful for the cross, but not like most Christians are.  To be honest, the driving motivation behind the thankfulness this year was a little selfish.  To me now, the cross means I get to see Kingston again one day.  It means Heaven is real and my sweet baby is whole with Jesus.  It’s amazing the way broken places and painful trials can move you closer to the reality of Christ, to the reality of what He did, Who He is.

The rest of the day on Easter, I looked at people’s cute outfits and also thought about what it would be like to carry around a 16 month old from place to place.  Every place I walked into, I imagined him snuggled on on my hip, diaper bag on the other arm.  I pictured us keeping a close eye on him, taking pictures at the Egg Hunt and taking family Easter photos.  Life sure is different now.

Last Mother’s Day, it was my first without Kingston and Justin tried so bravely to take us all to church- he’s a good dude, I tell you.  I managed to get all dressed, and drive half way there in the car before I began utterly sobbing- not the cute kind of crying- but hysterics.  The rest of the family’s tears followed as Justin made a u-turn and we went home for pancakes instead.

Since Kingston passed, his story has opened up a lot of doors in our lives- one of which has been becoming a resource to families going through similar situations as ours.  Truly an honor.  In the past few weeks, we’ve had the privilege of encouraging a few families who have lost little ones.  And, every time I think of Mother’s Day approaching, I think of them.  And I think of me.  And of all the ways that life is more precious, and just so utterly different now.

There’s a beautiful Easter Lily (more writing on that to come) on my dining room table.  It’s in memory of my sweet little man, but more than that, it’s a reminder of my Lord’s gift, and how even though life is different now:  He was.  He is. He is to come.  So, even in all the “different” that makes up our beautifully broken story these days, we have Him and so much to be thankful for in the gift of His love, yes? Indeed.

“In this world, you’ll have trouble.  But, take heart!  I have overcome the world!” – John 16:33

So there you have it: an honest update on our crazy, lovely life.  A little more honesty, than update, I’ll admit- but cheers!  I love you all and really cherish the fact that you stop by here occasionally.  Tell me, please- how are you?  Do you relate at all to my struggle with inspiration?  What about my need for real sugar and/or my love of books?  What books are on your want list?  Any I should add to mine?