pandemic milestone.

It’s not a wedding, or a graduation, or a funeral, or the birth of a child. This milestone may seem small on the outside, or small from the casual smile and shrug when you ask me. But the truth is that it hit me deep in the soul. My first milestone to occur during the COVID-19 pandemic: my daughter’s second birthday.

Two months ago, many in Kansas said that May 15 would be the date that things would start to get better. While some stay-at-home orders have lifted, it’s not the end, and it turns out we are nowhere close to an end in sight.

Don’t get me wrong, I know I have it good. My family is beyond blessed. But the purpose of this writing and this processing is an effort to not play the “comparative suffering” game. In my own circumstances, I am processing loss and change. I must grieve.

 

O U R . G R I E F .

I’m grieving that the last two months of Lydia’s second year of life, she didn’t hug nor play with many of her favorite people. She didn’t go to many of her favorite places. No kids church, no toddler gymnastics, no parks, no visit to see her grandparents in Texas, no play dates or babysitters, no chance to be the flower girl in our friends’ wedding, no softball or baseball games… the list could go on.

The things I am missing out on as an adult pale in comparison to the loss I feel for my daughter. My heart aches for her. It hurts. I feel a weight that is hard to explain. The pain I feel for Lydia’s loss of life’s experiences, diversity of people, sports, and activity is multitudes more than my own loss.

Day by day, I make an effort to focus on the positives. But for a moment, I can’t escape from what’s been hard. Like the moment when, during a “social distance” dinner with friends in our driveway, Lydia knew to keep a distance before I even told her. She learned from imitating the actions she saw everyone else doing to keep a distance. Or the moment when she asked if her two best friends could come to her birthday party, but she’s too young to understand why the answer is no. Or when she asks to go to the gym and upon hearing it’s closed, she responds with a prayer: Please God, open the gym! I admit that her prayer has more faith than my own.

And while she is too young to understand a global pandemic or perhaps even recognize a daily difference, more than it’s hurting her, it’s hurting me.

Outside of social media and select family, now for over two months, some of our closest friends aren’t seeing the beautiful young girl that she has grown into over the past few months.

They’ve never heard her sweet excited voice speak in full sentences or sing entire songs.
They’ve never heard her use the words please, thank you, I’m sorry, great job, I’m proud of you, and I love you—words in her daily vocabulary.
They’ve never heard her makes jokes just to get you to laugh.
They’ve never seen her use her newfound imagination to play “make believe.”

So much has happened in her little life. She picked up a ball bat and took a swing for the first time. And let’s not forget the fact that she’s potty trained! They’ve never seen her pride and joy every time she makes it to the potty, just waiting for mama and dada’s celebration and her piece of chocolate reward.

I wish they could see.

 

O U R . T I M E .

Some days the quarantine feels like life has paused.
like we’ve slowed down,
and
we can appreciate the simpler moments.

But as this milestone passed us,
it reminded me that
time
doesn’t
stand still.

Time moves forward no matter how much we try to slow it down.

No matter how many things are canceled
no matter how many free evenings and weekends we have

Time moves on.

Which is why, I must remind myself of truth: these losses are not worth dwelling on. Time goes far too quickly to dwell on the things you can’t control.

I must grieve,
yes,
and then
let go.

I must move on.

I must let go of the what-ifs and could-have-been and remember what is eternally important.

.

This quarantine has been an incredible opportunity to teach Lydia real life skills and to rejoice in the simple pleasures of life. Every night, we recite our family motto together: “We are the Tietz Family,” Kevin and I start, “and in this family we…”

Lydia usually prefers to finish it herself. “We live simply, give more, and expect less… because we have all we need in Jesus.”

She may have it memorized, but that doesn’t mean she knows what it means. Well, not yet. We are planting seeds that one day, we pray, will bear fruit.

We are modeling a family that eats meals together, takes care of each other, laughs together, prays together, reads God’s Word together, exercises together, takes care of our home and yard together, forgives, celebrates, and loves.

We are modeling a family that endures. We don’t always get what we want, and not everything in life will be in our control. We have to be brave when things are hard. We have to ask for God’s help when we are afraid.

We have to remember to live simply, give more, and expect less.
Why?
Because we really, truly, have all we need in Jesus.
and
for eternity
that’s what counts.

Lord, help me let go.

 

O U R . H O P E . 

On April 29, 2019, I started reading the Bible chronologically with the hopes of finishing it in a year. 364 days later, I finished Revelation 22, the last chapter.

I was reminded in that chapter of our eternal hope. The timing was fitting. By the way, this is how the entire Bible ends:

‘I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.’ The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

…He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:16-17, 20)

Jesus reminds us that He is the promised one, the one that fulfilled all the laws and all the prophecies from of old. And we are reminded that those who want Jesus, get Jesus. The one who is thirsty can come to Him, drink from the water of life without price.

There is no price to pay,
no checklist of things we must do,
or we must achieve,
or we must get right before we come.

We get to come without price because Jesus paid the price for our sin on the CrossAnd He promises that He will come again.

.

So when we see the pandemic at hand, the death count rising, with no end in sight
Come, Lord Jesus!
When we read yet another headline of a racially driven murder
Come, Lord Jesus!
When we feel helpless to comfort friends, spouses, children, or parents, those we love the most
Come, Lord Jesus!
When our private thoughts and actions are exposed, and we must confess our own sin
Come, Lord Jesus!
When we hold walls up to others or self-harm because it feels like the only thing we can control
Come, Lord Jesus!

When we teach our kids that we have “all we need in Jesus,” this is what we mean: All of our hope, our joy, and our satisfaction is found not in material things. It’s found not in the exhilarating experiences of life like sporting events or big parties. Whether homebound or traveling the world, whether richer or poorer, whether sickness or health, no matter our circumstances, our hope in Jesus is one thing that doesn’t change, even when our world changes.

.

So as I reflect on Lydia’s second birthday and let go of birthday party hopes and dreams, or what could have been for her these last few months, I am reminded of the opportunity to point my daughter to her ultimate hope. No matter the trials she faces in her life on this earth, may those seeds be planted, that even she has all she needs – not in mama or dada or birthday cake or balloons – but in Jesus.

In Lydia’s heart, mind, and soul
Come, Lord Jesus.

baby two.

As I write, I’m sitting and looking out a window of our guest house on Table Rock Lake. To the west, I see a beautiful sunset, colors of pink, orange, yellow and blue painted across the sky, shadowing the Ozark Mountains. One glance to the east, and I see rain pouring onto the lake from a distance.

Such is life.

With one look you see the beautiful blessings that God provides, and in the next glance you see the brokenness of the world we live in.

I feel this tension every day, and especially in this moment as I sit down to write and process the fact that I am 14 weeks pregnant with my second child. I see the sunset. 14 weeks. Out of the first trimester. Out of the higher risk for miscarriage. Into the second trimester, just six weeks away from finding out the gender of our baby, and just 26 weeks away from meeting him or her face to face.

The next glance.

Since arriving at Young Life Camp three weeks ago for our summer assignment, two friends from my church community back home have lost babies through miscarriage. I see the rain. I feel the brokenness. I wish I could stop their storms. I wish I could trade places with them some days just to take away their hurt, their grief, their fear.

but
here
I
am

experiencing the beautiful sunset and merely glancing at the storm from a distance.

To be honest, I didn’t want to write this. I fought guilt in posting a photo of pregnancy. These two friends with recent losses aren’t the only ones I’m walking life with experiencing pregnancy loss or infertility. There are many more. The last thing I want is to be a trigger for others pain and grief. It makes me want to run and hide and pretend that I’m not experiencing the incredible blessing of having a second child that will be only 19 months apart from our first.

It’s hard to admit that I inflict shame on myself for experiencing this blessing when I have absolutely no control over my circumstances or those of others when it comes to fertility. But what I do know is this: In the midst of the broken world we live in, I have a God who redeems.

I have a God who sees the beginning and the end.
I have a God who is writing my story and their stories perfectly for His good and His glory.
While it may not seem good right now, I have a God that will see it through in His perfect timing.
He will calm their storms and bring them to the shelter of His presence and His peace.
He will redeem the hurt, the pain, the fear, and the grief, and they will rise redeemed.

With eyes wide open to the blessings of my circumstances, here’s my story.

 

F I N D I N G . O U T .

Kevin and I have always dreamed of having kids close in age. I grew up with three siblings within four years of each other, including having a twin. I have wonderful memories of childhood and still love how close the four of us are to this day. Around the time that Lydia was 9 months old, I remember feeling disappointed that I wasn’t pregnant yet, but also wanting to trust my body and trust God’s timing. I remember taking a pregnancy test, that was negative, right before I got the stomach flu. It was the first time I experienced disappointment from a pregnancy test, and I realized that it was time to start praying intentionally for God to provide another child. However, I lowered my expectations and set my mind on the present season.

A few weeks later, around the time that Lydia was 10 months old and shortly after my best friend Keely’s gender reveal party, I had a dream. In the dream, I was having a conversation with Keely and said, “You’re pregnant with a girl… I’m also pregnant with a girl!” I told Keely about it the next morning at church but shook it off as just a dream, again masking my hopes that it was reality.

About five days later and a few days after my missed period, I had another dream that I was pregnant. The next morning, I asked Kevin to pick up a pregnancy test at the store simply for “peace of mind.” When he got excited, I quickly quieted his emotions because I told him that I didn’t want him to feel let down if we weren’t pregnant, insisting that I didn’t “feel” pregnant.

The busy day began and turned out to be quite chaotic. Lydia was biting me while nursing throughout the day and having quite a few toddler moments. Even during happy hour with a few friends, I made a joke about it being my last drink but continuing to doubt that I was actually pregnant. “My cycle has been off since breastfeeding….” I claimed, among other excuses. That night I had yet another rough feeding attempt before putting Lydia to sleep and actually had to pump after. (PS, I found out later that hormones could change the taste of breastmilk for her? I’m going with that, or else, a strange coincidence that it was all on this day.) Finally, after a long day, I sat down to pump. As I was pumping, I felt a wave of nausea and extreme thirst. And that’s when it hit me. Oh my God, I feel pregnant.

Taking the pregnancy test was no longer casual after that because I knew in that moment that I was pregnant. After cleaning up my pumping supplies and confirming that Lydia was sound asleep, I grabbed the pregnancy test and started shaking as I took it, my mind racing as the pieces of how I felt the last few days were coming together. I left the test in the bathroom and after a minute or two, insisted that Kevin go in to grab the test and confirm. Around 9pm that Friday evening, I saw the look on Kevin’s face as he read it out loud and smiled. “You’re pregnant.”

Immediately we embraced in joy and excitement and—me being me—I quickly downloaded my old pregnancy app and pulled up my calendar to calculate our due date and plan out the next 9 months of our life.

 

F I R S T . T R I M E S T E R .

About one week into finding out I was pregnant, I got the stomach flu, really bad. I look back now and laugh that I thought it was pregnancy symptoms at first, so I tried to push through my work day. I remember the relief I felt when I realized I was sick and that this pregnancy shouldn’t feel that miserable all the time! Those few days forced me to slow down and just remember my dependence on the Lord throughout this chaotic season. I wrote more about what those two months looked like in my recent two entries, “finished.” and “work ahead.”

About a month later, I had my first doctor’s appointment. After my sonogram, they pushed my due date one week later to December 13. My cycle was indeed off since I was still breastfeeding. It was a small reminder that regardless of Kevin and my attempts at “trying” to get pregnant, I ovulated a week later than normal, and we happened to get lucky. The timing made it feel even less of something we could have controlled and made me even more grateful for the way God orchestrated it all. Truly it was He that created this little life and spoke his or her name into existence.

It didn’t take long for me to start showing way earlier this time around. My stretched out skin and belly button quickly popped back out, and around 7 weeks, I realized that I needed to start telling friends before they could look at me and see for themselves! Nausea and aversions were in full swing, so I slowly starting weaning Lydia in hopes that would help. Lydia was fully weaned around the time I was 10 weeks pregnant, and nausea ceased shortly after that. I was also wrapping up my Master’s degree at that time, leaving behind a lot of stress that I’m sure wasn’t helping. It was a tough few months not feeling well and working really hard with a lot of late nights. I had little time to process the fact that I was pregnant and merely just trying to survive!

 

R E A D Y . F O R . T W O .

We publicly announced our pregnancy right before leaving for our month-long summer camp assignment for Young Life. Being at camp has allowed me time to rest and time to spend one-on-one time with Lydia in this sweet season before Baby #2 comes. It has allowed me time to process the previous two months as well as physically, emotionally, and spiritually recover.

As I hit the 14-week milestone and am headed into our final week away from home, I feel peace and a readiness to look forward to December and begin making preparations. I’ve started to process the fact that I am going to love another tiny human as much as I love Lydia. That he or she will be like Lydia… but different. Their own person.

Sometimes I get scared. Will I really love baby two as much as I love my first? It seems hard to fathom. I also have feared: will God provide the finances for us to support a family of four on a ministry salary? Will we be able to afford sending them both to college? In all these fears, He has comforted us and provided people to speak truth and encouragement to us.

Still, I am scared. Aren’t we all scared for the unknown? Will I be able to do it all? Will I be able to be a working momma of two? Will I be able to care for a newborn while having a toddler? Will God really provide the finances? Will our marriage continue to strengthen as life only seems to get more messy?

In the midst of the unknowns and the fears, I am thankful for a God who sustains me through it all and gives me peace, assurance, and confidence. He hasn’t failed me yet, and I choose to trust in His promise, that He never, ever will.

Baby two, we’re ready for you.

finished.

After breastfeeding for about a month after finding out I was pregnant with our second baby, first trimester nausea was in full-swing. In the week before Lydia’s first birthday, not only was I ready to be done, but I could tell Lydia was ready too. So on May 6, I was prepared to nurse Lydia for the last time. The next day I was leaving town for a Young Life Staff Conference for three days, so the timing was perfect to wean her completely off our last remaining feeding, the nighttime feeding.

Our family was out late that evening with our church City Group. When we got home, I started Lydia’s normal bedtime routine, mentally and emotionally preparing for my last time breastfeeding Lydia. Despite feeling ready to be done, this was still a significant and emotional moment. Whether Lydia was teething, tired, coming off a cold, or a combination, she refused to nurse and on the contrary, wouldn’t stop screaming. My husband suggested that we just put her straight into her crib for bed, and I glared back and him and sternly responded “no.” And I tried again. And again. And again. Lydia’s screaming only got louder.

As my daughter cried in my arms
unwilling to nurse
I gave up
what was supposed to be my last time nursing her
never happened
it was gone
there would be no last time.
I held her
and cried just as loud
I let go
this season,
it is finished.

 

L O O K I N G . B A C K .

We read a bedtime story through tears and my daughter went straight to sleep immediately after laying her in her crib. As I exited the nursery, my husband was concerned about my strong emotions yet confused. I explained to him the thoughts racing through my mind:

Memories.
The very first time Lydi nursed, what seemed like minutes after she was born.
The emotional roller coaster of trying to get her to latch after my milk came in, feeling helpless for days.
The six months of her not eating any solid foods, only nursing for nutrition and survival.
The late, dark nights and early, dark mornings.
The countless hours and hours of feeding her.
The special bond that only mama had with her.
Done.
Gone.
Finished.

But more than just this simple act of nursing her, it was more.
Weaning represented the physical symbol of the present reality.
The first year of my first baby’s life is over, and I will never get it back.

Being pregnant through all this surely wasn’t helping the hormones and the emotions. But as I explained to Kevin the bigger picture and processing her first year being done, he understood. In fact, he joined in the reminiscing and sat and cried with me. We talked memories of her first year, from the moment we met her to taking her home from the hospital, to all her firsts. We celebrated the walking, talking, full-of-joy toddler that she is now. We grieved the time that we’ll never get back but laughed at the memories that we’ll hold forever. We continue to stand utterly in awe of how it’s possible to love a child so incredibly deeply.

I wish time could rewind, stand still, and move forward all at the same time. And yet, it moves forward. And in healthy emotional and spiritual processing, so will I.

 

T H R E E . D A Y S .

After three days away, I came home ready to embrace our new routine and celebrate my little girl’s first birthday. As I write this, I notice the way that God’s presence was with me throughout the week. If it wasn’t for the series of events that night, I may not have taken the time to feel, grieve, and process the emotions that came along with the change. God used selfishly unfavorable events to bring about greater good. Though it was hard to see in the moment, after three days away, I came home excited to continue to love Lydia and meet her needs in the countless other ways that only mamas can do.

The phrase, “It is finished,” reminds me of another scene in John 19. On Calvary’s Hill, the Son of God, who lived a perfect, sinless life, experienced the undeserving weight of sin and death on the Cross. After three days, Jesus rose from the dead. God used selfishly unfavorable events to bring about greater good. Though it was hard to see in the moment, after three days away, He resurrected to give us hope, joy, adoption, peace, and a promise of eternal life for those who trust in Him.

Really, “It is finished” was only the beginning.

.

In the case of my very normal, mundane life, the same hymn rings true.
As we celebrated her first birthday with family and friends
It marked the end of year zero
And the beginning of year one.

Lydia Evelyn, we are excited to continue to watch you grow and see who you become.
Really, sweet girl, it’s only the beginning.

 

life & death.

The devastating news from my best friend came in the form of a text message: We lost baby G. No heartbeat.

A quick phone call and a few minutes later, I left my 3-week-old baby at home with my husband and a house full of guests. Along with two other close friends in our community, we were on our way to the pregnancy clinic to meet our friend Keely. We walked into the clinic room only to see her, tissues in hand, staring down at sonogram photos of her unborn baby in her lap.

What was a routine check-up for peace of mind after mild cramping turned into her worst nightmare: not her first, not her second, but her third miscarriage.

After embracing, tears, and questioning, Keely handed me the sonogram photos of her baby. In those photos I saw my own daughter, Lydia. How many times had I looked at the same sonogram photos with hopes of meeting her, wonders of holding her, and dreams about what she would be like?

For my friend Keely, I had no words.

 

V I S I O N S .

I felt darkness for a few days. Postpartum emotions surely weren’t helping. I grieved for Keely and her husband Kyle and the loss of their baby.

I questioned God of suffering, why them?
I also questioned the Lord of blessings, why me?

Why was I chosen for a healthy, easy pregnancy and a beautiful, healthy baby?

Not to mention, my mind started playing tricks on me. Fears of loosing Lydia increased.

I started having visions…
visions that my sweet and gentle dog would attack her when I wasn’t looking…
visions that I would drop her or that she would fall off her changing table…
visions that I would go to look in her crib or her car seat and she would be dead…

Back-to-back nights, I woke up in the middle of the night to feed Lydia alone, surrounded by darkness, continuing to wrestle with God and try to process my friend’s reality.

As a new mom, her loss affected me even deeper. I couldn’t articulate it in words until, finally, the true distress came to me in prayer:

Lord, can I trust You to keep Lydia safe? You – who allows babies to die?

 

E V E N . I F .

I stared at this question, written clearly in my journal. This doubt in God and lack of control fueled my anxiety. Not only was I grieving on behalf of my friend, but it suddenly became all too real that I could lose Lydia in an instant.

God, who is a good Father, ultimately allows the unthinkable to happen.

While I had processed a potential loss in pregnancy, I’ve now met Lydia and fallen in love with who she is. The thought of losing her scares the hell out of me. The thought that God could allow that to happen scares me even more.

However, once I confessed my fears, I was able to combat those fears with Truth and experience healing and clarity.

Yes, but God is still worth trusting, because He has proven Himself faithful too many times. He has the power to redeem even the darkest of circumstances.
Yes, but God is still worth trusting, because my hope is not in this temporary world. My hope is in Jesus and in eternal life with Him.
Yes, but God is still worth trusting, because quite frankly there is no better way.

Ultimately, I am choosing to trust a God with my own baby’s life that lets babies die. But God is still worth trusting even if _________ (fill in the blank – my worst nightmare).

While I will always take precautions to keep Lydia safe and control what I can control, ultimately, those fears will still come and much is out of my control. Yet I surrendered the visions, in the name of Jesus, they have no power over me. Lydia’s life is in the God’s hands. Her days are numbered perfectly and every day is a gift. I choose to trust Him and to let go of control, even if He doesn’t give me what I want.

Peace followed.

 

L I F E . I N . D E A T H .

I had a mom-friend recently recommend that I do a Scripture reading plan from my phone, one that I can access while breastfeeding or holding my new baby. The Lord led me to a She Reads Truth study called “The Miracles of Jesus.” A few days ago, I happened to finish the two-week study with a devotional that highlighted the times Jesus performed miracles by raising someone from the dead (Matthew 9:18-26, Luke 7:11-17, John 11:17-44). Again I thought about my friend Keely. Why couldn’t Jesus save her baby from death? What’s the point of showing us miracles like these when we are faced with the reality that too many times, Jesus chooses not to save those we love from death?

Then the devotional ended like this:

Jesus knew the temptation we face with miracles is to desire the gift more than the Giver (John 6:26-27)…The Gospel accounts of Jesus conquering death seem like the ultimate of all miracles. But really, they were only a short-term (and yes, miraculous) solution to a long-term problem. The only source of real and lasting hope is not a miracle, but the Messiah.

God is a lot more concerned with our spiritual health than our physical health because He knows that our spiritual health is much more important. Our physical state is temporary, but our spiritual health is where we find true joy and satisfaction for eternity. Jesus Himself is more glorious than any miracle and any answer to prayer. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.” (John 11:25)

He is still worth trusting, even if our current anxieties come to be and even if He doesn’t give us what we want.

Ultimately
He Himself conquered death on the cross
raised to life
so that we may experience life to the fullest
even in the face of death.

The depth and joy of knowing Jesus is far better than any accomplishment or any earthly blessing. Jesus is our hope for truly living our best life.