Redemption in a Dog: Our Sammy

Sammy Redemption final(1)

There are days when a writer has to sit down and bleed at her computer…to just open up, spill all the words in their messiest, most imperfect, often-ugly forms, and get out what’s there.

It happens some days and, on most of them, those words stay locked away.

Today is one of those days for me, but those words won’t be locked up. They can’t be. They’ll be shared because they absolutely should be.

This is the day I want to tie up a story that’s been told in pieces over the years…here and there, in different places in our lives to others…and share the entire thing. It will be long, it will be messy, and not everyone will understand.

I get it, but I invite you to stay anyway.

It’s a story that needs to be told, and I’m going to do it in honor of the sweet golden retriever boy who shared our lives and love for over 12 1/2 years. He died just over two weeks ago, and it’s taken me that long to even find words that might attempt to tell about all he was to us. We miss him fiercely and heartbreakingly, but his presence and the ways God grew us through him will always stay with us.

So this. It’s for Sammy.

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It started on a Monday night in January of 2006, the kind that was rainy and gloomy and wasn’t stormy, though that would’ve made a great intro. 😉 Indonesian rain and gloom in January is about as close as it gets to winter in the tropics. At any rate, we just needed to get out of the house so we braved the rain on the bike and drove down the hill to the closest Starbucks.

Watching the tropical rain pound the windows from our cozy couch seats, we worked on school…planning, grading, lessons…and occasionally chatted about life. After a few hours, with the mall closing down in just about 20 minutes, we decided to pack up our things and head upstairs to check out the new pet store before we went home.

I don’t remember how it all went down, but I’d like to think it’s as if I semi-remember/imagine. 😉 I stepped off the escalator and locked eyes with a golden retriever puppy. He was panting, he was smiling because goldens smile so darn big and it’s awesome, and I was instantly smitten. I must’ve begged pretty hard to get my hubby to say yes, but within 20 minutes, we’d visited a cash machine, paid for our new family member, purchased a crate, and were on our way home, me and our new boy in a taxi.

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Our, we’ve-got-two-dogs-now, season of life had begun.

It seems like yesterday. And I have to stop here and let myself cry a little because the time just flies so fast. There are so many memories of that night…tied to dogs, tied to a place, tied to a time in our lives that can only be in our hearts now.

We already had an almost-3-year-old Golden Retriever at the time, Andre, and he was truly our baby. (Eye rolling is permitted here as long as it’s gentle.) I guess when I tell you that, I also remind myself that there’s more to this story than just loving a dog. Now, dogs.

It wasn’t all daisies and rainbows from the beginning, though…rather it was double the poop, double the dog hair all over everything, double the cost, double the crazy. And double the love. He kept us up most of his first night home and for a few more after that, life was always a literal wrestling match between the two dogs, and sometimes we felt like we were going crazy whenever we (or anyone else for that matter) walked through the door. But we smiled and laughed and loved it all…I guess we’re just created to be dog people, and we let them add all the love and crazy that came with them to our lives.

And we continued our lives overseas, too…some days were easy, some days not so much. That’s life in another culture when you have a busy job and ministry. It’s good most days, but that good can mix with hard, too…and we messed up a lot. We chose to love…or try to love…anyway, embracing it all, and we had two sweet, big-hearted furry boys along for the ride to help us feel a little more at home.

It was a sweet life, and there were so many incredible blessings. We wouldn’t trade those. Not for anything. 😀

And then there was the year when we decided that maybe we’d like some human kids, too, and by maybe I meant we absolutely couldn’t wait to be parents and by the time we we realized this, nine months felt like an eternity. I never imagined we’d struggle. But after months and months it became clear that this wasn’t going to be an easy road.

And I guess our dogs became even more precious to us.

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Maybe that’s right and maybe it’s not…but there are no apologies in this story today. I’m just sharing it…all of it, my heart wide open.

When I go back to that season, I remember how heartbreaking it was to see one pregnancy announcement after another. Knowing that there was still no baby for us. There were so many days, for me, of surrender and choosing joy in all of it. The faces of my doggy boys made me happy, made me smile, made me forget my aching heart for a few moments at a time. In a very real sense, they were our kids, at least in that season. They filled a void that not everyone can understand.

And so it hit us hard and out of the blue the September morning of 2007 when my husband walked into my 4th grade classroom. I’d just sent my kids off to music class, and I looked up to see his face. I’ll never forget the look on it.

Sammy’s gone.

Somehow, without anyone seeing, someone had taken our precious boy from our yard. Our housekeeper had been home, but like always, she’d let the dogs run around the yard during the day. We had no clue that anyone would ever dream of taking him. Who does that?!

Apparently there are people who do.

That moment tore my heart out as we raced to figure out a plan, whatever that looked like, in a country where things worked differently and where we couldn’t always communicate well.

We didn’t know what to do, but we had to do something.

We spent days and days blanketing the city of Bandung with flyers, promising that we’d keep the police out of it, that we’d offer a large reward…we just wanted our sweet dog back.

Multiple times a day we’d hop on the bike and drive down to the two places in town known for selling stolen dogs. One, shamelessly set up on a street corner and the other in front of a shopping mall, we’d go and ask them over and over: Have you seen our dog? Please help us. We won’t tell the police. No police. Just a reward. Please help us get him back.

We spent six days living like that, on broken sleep with even more broken hearts while still trying to do our “jobs” at school.

Talk about messy people in a broken place.

During the day, my students…oh, my students. They would pray. They would encourage me with the love they poured on a teacher they’d only known for a couple weeks. One was so bold as to approach me one morning and say, “Mrs. Schroeder, God gave me a vision of Sammy. He’s going to come home.” I weep at her faith, even now.

To top it off, all of this went down during our Spiritual Emphasis Week at school.

While my faith was floundering and shrinking and the devil was having his way in my own life, Jesus was being lifted up. Satan wasn’t going to win, and even if I didn’t feel that…everyone else claimed it for me.

Four days after Sammy was stolen, something happened. I’ve gone back to this day, over and over, for two poignant reasons.

That Sunday afternoon I’d reached a breaking point. My hubby had just hopped on the bike (again) to drive by the two stolen dog markets (again) and I knew in less than an hour he’d be home (again) to tell me Sammy was nowhere to be found…again.

The tears had been constant, but I remember them flowing like they never had before. It hurt too much, physically, to even sit up and so I let myself lie down on the cool tile in our hallway. Face down.

And I wept. Tears-pooling-on-the-floor, wept. At first I wept for myself and my broken heart, but then, even more, I wept and surrendered. God, Sammy’s yours. I love him and I want him back so badly, but if this is Your plan, then he’s Yours. If I could just have him one more day…one more. But, still. He’s yours. Face down, I prayed those words as I pressed my forehead into the floor, as if that would make my prayer holier…or something like that.

And looking back, there was more to that surrender than a dog. I think I was surrendering it all then. My plans, my dreams, my hopes, and yes, my dog…and my future children, too.

And even after I sat up again, I cried more. It was maybe the most paradoxical, soul-crushing-soul-redeeming moment of my life. Yes, the two can co-exist.

A few minutes later my husband returned to get me, and we went down to the second market again. I think we went back there that day because I just needed to be there. I needed to look into the eyes of whoever was working the joint that day and let him know that there were real people and feelings behind this.

I remember approaching the mass of people huddled around all of the animals, locking eyes with a man working there, and immediately trying in my oh-so-broken Indonesian, covered with tears, to ask him to please find our dog.

That was when a miracle happened. I call it one anyway.

A fully-covered Muslim woman, with only her eyes showing, touched my arm tenderly. What an odd thing to see her there, standing and looking at dogs, something her culture didn’t allow. Ma’am, may I help you please? In perfect English.

I explained to her what was happening. She turned to the man and, in Indonesian, gave him every detail.

I thanked her and then I never saw her again.

But I hold on to that moment to this day and wish with all my heart that I could go back and thank this woman again…because my husband got a phone call two days later from the man we’d spoken to. He knew who had our dog, and he’d arranged for Tobin to meet him at a Dunkin’ Donuts, down by the mall, with cash, so this man could go buy back our dog and return him to us. (Yes, it was exactly like it sounds. Basically paying a ransom. At a Dunkin’ Donuts. In Indonesia. Everyday stuff.)

In just minutes, Tobin had hopped in a school vehicle with one of the drivers and another employee and they were on their way. We were skeptical that this was legit, but it brought a shred of hope. Something we’d prayed for, something to hang on to.

I went back to my kiddos, who had abandoned their recess to stand in a circle and pray. (Golly, this just makes me love them all over again.) And then I went back to teaching…my cell phone sat on my desk, and I shamelessly left the volume turned up, waiting for the phone call that my shaky faith still didn’t believe would come.

But it did. My phone rang and I set a record getting to it.

It’s him, it’s him!!!

That’s all we heard. His cries were loud enough that my entire class heard.

My boy was found.

I’ve never forgotten the emotion of that moment as I told my students to go tell everyone. That’s what they needed to do…what we needed to do. We had to let the people who’d lived this with us, who’d covered us in prayer, who’d supported us though they didn’t understand…that God had answered our prayers.

We’d all knocked down the doors of heaven…and God said, Yes.

He said Yes. And He not only said yes to one more day with our dog…he said yes to 11 YEARS, 1 MONTH and 2 DAYS more. That’s humbling.

I think so often of those days, and while they don’t bring the heartache that they used to anymore, they do remind me of a relentless God. For six days, Tobin and I did everything to wholly pursue getting our dog back. To redeem him and bring him home to us.

And, friends? Our God is the same way.

He moves heaven and earth and relentlessly…WITHOUT. GIVING. UP…pursues those He loves because he WANTS us more than anything.

That makes me weep. He wants to redeem every single one of us.

Sammy & the fam

It’s true that the life we lived with Sammy gave us so many memories. He lived so many things with us besides being stolen and then redeemed…he was there for the everyday joys, heartaches, big transitions, so much love. He lived life with us no matter which hemisphere we resided in, he welcomed Mae and Mac home as babies, let them climb all over him as toddlers, he kept on loving us every day, and he became part of the lives of the people we love so much, too. It’s hard to see that come to an end. It makes me cry today. Every day.

But Sammy leaves us with a lesson that our hearts have held on to for so long…it’s a lesson in the faithfulness of God.

Friends, we serve a God who hears us and knows the cries deep in our hearts. He understands heartache and there are times He allows it, but He never leaves us alone. He brings redemption and that redemption looks so much bigger than we can even imagine.

Tobin and I have talked a lot over the years about what might have happened if Sammy hadn’t come back. It’s not really a place we ever needed to go…but it’s something that would come up as we’d reflect on the miracle…and it really was…of him coming home. Several people told us, gently, that there was no feasible reason Sammy should have been returned to us. And, yet, God allowed it.

We’re so grateful.

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We said a hard goodbye to our sweet boy two weeks ago. My hubby and I both held him as the vet gave him a shot and he went to sleep for the last time. Our hearts broke and the tears felt endless for a few days…and honestly, I’m sitting at my computer bawling. It’s ugly and messy and that’s ok today and tomorrow and in the next days.

But, even as the tears just poured down our faces, we also couldn’t help talking about him as we drove home.

About how God gave us SO. MUCH. MORE. than we deserved in that sweet dog. How the love and the time and the memories were multiplied so much I can’t even do the math…and about how God knew how much we needed him and so He let us keep him longer.

We’re holding on to that right now…and we’re finding ways to remember him. The dog hair on everything feels sacred right now, which is totally stupid. But if you see me and there’s a dog hair on my shirt…just leave it there, yeah? It’s a mark of love.

I will never forget this sweet dog. Our Sammy Boy, who will always occupy a special corner of our hearts and lives and remind us of the faithfulness of our Father in all seasons.

I will always be grateful for what God did in our lives through him.

Goodbye, sweet boy. We will miss you with all our hearts.

Sammy redemption final

Sig

Confessions from a Tired, Whole30 Mama Who Needs to Tweeze Her Eyebrows

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So I typed out that title and laughed a little because it’s totally and completely 100% true. The tired part AND the Whole30 part AND the part where I tell you that I have largely ignored my eyebrows for my entire life.

But I’ll get to that later.

First we must sit down with something to drink, preferably coffee since I can still drink that on Whole30…thank you, Jesus…and talk about the tired. 😉 I kind of wish we could chat it up in real life because, let’s be honest, for most of us it’s been way too long. But since this is the best we can do today…well, let’s get to it. :)

I was telling the sweet, fellow-mama cashier at Walmart yesterday, as she rang up my…AHEM…eyebrow mascara, that there will be a day, again, when we shall sleep. I don’t know when that day is, and it may very well be in heaven, though I’d like to think there’s hope of it happening before then. Now don’t go getting all theological on me. If God is creating a place of pure and absolute joy for us, then I have to believe there will be naps. (Uninterrupted ones with fuzzy blankets and just the right amount of darkness and rain on my mansion rooftop to accompany them.)

But, enough about heaven. For now, I’m tired.

When we had Mae, I didn’t know how good we had it. She was an instant sleeper and slept through the night, EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT., from 7:30 p.m. to 7:00 a.m., at FIVE AND A HALF WEEKS.

Let’s just let that sink in.

I thought it was normal and surely a result of reading (sort of) and implementing (kind of) this book.

Easy peasy stuff.

She has continued to sleep like an absolute champ, and while there are other things we struggle with, sleep is not one of them. Bless it all and her, forever and ever, AMEN.

Mae 7 years final(Isn’t she SO grown up? I just adore this girl.) :)

And then, there’s Mac…probably, and by that I mean absolutely, the happiest kid I’ve ever seen. He’ll give a smile to anyone, and he’s full of cute words and giggles and kisses and love. But sweet little smiley boy that he is, sleep is NOT his gift.

Here are the facts: I’m over-the-moon lucky to get one good nap from him a day. And nights? He almost always maxes out by 5:00 a.m.

Oh, dear Lord, I pray as I hear him whimper each morning. Aroused from sleep and aware of my insatiable need to pee, I refuse to move even the slightest. (This is helped, not at all, by the fact that he is in the alcove attached to our room. I CANNOT WAIT for our addition to be finished and for there to be a DOOR. on. his. ROOM.)

Hallelujah and another amen. 😀

Once in a very great while, he’ll have a cup of milk and go back to sleep until 6:15 or so. But not always.

And so there have been many early mornings and a tired mama often. Always, perhaps?

I am blessed by this sweet face. He is pure joy, and it’s a good thing because I would like a nap pretty much every single moment of my entire life, currently.

Mac laughing finalAnd let’s be honest. He may be the cutest little boy ever.
(In my incredibly unbiased opinion.)
😉

The other day, I was examining the crows feet that have taken up residence in the corners of my eyes. I sort of wanted to cry as I realized that we are here, and next year my age will not begin with a three. No, no it won’t.

And while I’m planning to celebrate with a huge party of epic proportions, it’s all kind of sinking in right now.

And then there are my eyebrows, which are really close to those crows feet.

To be honest, I’ve ignored them pretty much my entire life.

Oh, I’m a makeup girl. Not a ton, but you’d better believe that there’s powder, mascara, and eyeliner involved before 8 a.m. every day. (Except Saturday.) But my eyebrows have never bugged me too much, so I just kind of left them alone.

Except now. NOW they’re changing to grayish. What on earth?!?! And I’ve been dying my hair for years because hello, genes, but eyebrows? What does one do with those?

So off to Walmart I went this week. Mac and I wandered the makeup aisles and finally found a little tube of the right color of eyebrow mascara (I. KNOW. RIGHT.) I’m probably the last person to know it existed.

And so I bought that tube, and we came home, and I tried it out, and HOLY EYEBROWS. They exist! And my daughter told me they look weird, but I’m going with the opinion of the girl who actually knows how to. use. makeup. 😉 So I think they don’t actually look too terrible, except now I can see every hair, and NOW I am going to have to tweeze them.

Yikes.

Should I wax them instead? Please send help???

And also, it would be a total injustice to my current existence to leave out the part where I also confess that it’s Whole30 time again for this girl. Friends, my jeans don’t fit. And out of all the eating plans I’ve ever done, this one helps them fit the fastest. (Even though it’s not technically a weight loss program. But let’s be honest…when you remove sugar and dairy and grains and beans and alcohol from anyone’s diet, they’re gonna lose weight.)

So, while I wait to recover my lost sleep and long for some dark chocolate and tweeze my eyebrows, you can most likely find me with a cup of black coffee and a bowl of cauliflower rice which, contrary to what everyone says, is NOT an acceptable substitute for the real thing. It tastes like…Cauliflower. Blech.

But I do like the part where I can eat bacon. So there’s that, too.

Life…it’s just a beautiful mess, isn’t it? Every day.

But then, every day, too, there are always reasons to smile. It’s September (one of my favorite months), fall is on its way…and hellloooooo to all the hoodies and boots and things that can be made pumpkin spice, even if they shouldn’t be. 😉 Why can’t we just live in September all the time?

The kiddos are growing, changing, becoming even more of who God made them to be. Hubby and I…we’re good, too. Still growing in Him and in life and in marriage. Perfect, no…but He’s not done working on us yet.

Community still continues to be a precious gift…a beautiful one that is sometimes a challenge but always a blessing. The roots for our family are being dug even deeper, and the joy that comes from anticipating a lifetime in this place is good. He’s good.

And I’m thankful that, despite horrible sleeping patterns and funky eyebrows and a bit of a pudgy belly that spills over the top of my jeans…that God meets me anyway.

He loves me despite those and in spite of me and the way I run ahead of Him often and try to do things my own way and, instead, just end up making a mess of things.

And I wasn’t really planning on ending up here today, but I did. And so I’d like to share this with you.

One of my dreams is coming true this year.

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I’m over-the-moon humbled and so very grateful to be included in this book as an author. :) And there’s a part of me that does an inner, WOOHOO!!! scream every time I see the cover, but honestly, letting it sink in makes my eyes well up with tears, too. The happy kind. 

It’s one that’s for people like me…the ones who want to follow Jesus and make him their all every single day, even in the middle of the mess.

You can pre-order it here, and if you do, you get that super cute mug FREE from Dayspring, too. (Ummm…yes, please!) :) I feel like you kinda can’t lose with extra time with Jesus and another cute mug to drink coffee out of. (And mine will have creamer in it in 25 days, too!)

You know what? You all bless me, just for taking the time to read the random words that spill out of my heart through my fingertips. I may not ever author a published novel or be a storyteller who goes viral, but I’m a writer, and it’s very much a piece of what defines me. I’m learning to speak that and believe it.

And so it means the world when you read my words.

Blessings, hugs…and may you go eat a piece of chocolate for me today since I can’t. 😉

Happy Friday!

Sig

Wandering Home

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I had determined that so much time would not pass before I wrote again, but six months happened anyway.

Six months of life and joy and ups and downs and all the things that come from what happens when less and less time is spent at a keyboard.

I miss it, often. Most days, really.

But I also see the gift in giving myself the freedom to breathe away from screens and, instead, sit on the floor and play with bristle blocks. I didn’t even know they existed until my little boy came along.

Somewhere in the last six months…

…we went from first to second grade.

…we went from seven months to thirteen, six to seven, 38 to 39, and someone, who shall remain unnamed, found his 40’s. 😉

…we went from fourteen years married to a milestone. 15.

…we laughed and cried, fought and rebuilt, hurt but chose love.

…we built a thousand plus more memories.

…we turned a two bedroom to a working-on-becoming-three-with-an-extra-family-room thrown in there. Hello, awesome construction and MORE space. 😀

And so much more. (Including miserably failing at anything related to writing.) 😉

I’ve never been the type to stick my roots down. I think insecurity and painful childhood memories have a lot to do with that. When I actually did fall under the title of nomad, I reveled in it. The freedom to go and see and do…

And leave.

Yet, here we are, and the house at #127 has the deepest roots we’ve found so far. I’m not sure they’ll ever really be yanked up, and that’s oh-so-good.

And hard. Some days, really hard.

The July day we broke ground was the day my Indonesia heart broke a little, too. No one knew because I masked it with a big smile, but I knew that, most likely, an Indonesia life wasn’t in the plans for us anymore. My heart has always longed to return, somehow. Short-term, probably, but long enough to love again. But God has to move in all hearts, not just the emotional one.

And so, above dragging my family across the world and tearing us from a place we all love, I choose to honor God’s calling for us in this season. I press into the relationships and hang on to those that need a little extra hanging-on-to. They’re precious, and friends like this don’t walk into my life every day. I cover our lives in prayer because we always need it, but I think we all need it a little more right now. If that even makes sense.

I choose to invest, even on the days when it hurts; I smile when I sing a praise song because even though the act of praising is sometimes bittersweet, the God I’m singing to is unchanging. Always the same.

And we breathe silently and deeply, the kind of breath that catches in our throats because another year has passed…and we walk our girl to her second grade classroom, where she flits off and gets ready to fly just a little more. And tears pool in the corners of our eyes as we watch it all. But then the stories of recess and art-creating, of singing songs and learning math spill out of her at the pick-up line, and I know to the depths what a blessing this all is.

But my wandering heart is still learning to stay anchored to the One Who holds me.

And so I stumble out of bed every single morning, a bit earlier than I’d like thanks to the baby boy who enjoys those early hours. I sip a little extra coffee, find some time and space for my Father and what He has for me that day, and then she rises so we can really start the day. It’s routine…it’s our becoming.

The kind of becoming that teaches us, again, that no matter where we go, He is always with us. But the part of that verse I never see there, and maybe He just meant to imply it because we should already know it, is that wherever we stay, He’s there, too.

I’m finding myself again slowly, in the most close-to-Jesus way possible. I know he’s my everything, and so I lack nothing.

But sometimes I still wander.

Away from my blog, away from what I should be doing, and even, at times, away from Him.

I’m so, so grateful He doesn’t wander from me.

There’s a lot of life not shared here anymore…and I miss that part. I was half-joking, kind-of bragging to friends the other night that when it comes to words, I’ve still got it. 😉 But the truth is that sometimes He asks silence from us so He can quiet us and teach us more than we’d learn if we were making noise all the time.

So that’s our season. For now.

Seasons definitely change, and I don’t know what the next one will look like. But I do know Who tells every leaf where to fall.

And so I’ll wander a little bit more, looking for His next plan…but I’ll always wander back to Him.

I’ll always wander back to Him, because in the end, He’s Home.

Sig

On Seasons and Sleep…and Giving Thanks

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It’s been a long time. A really, really long time.

And I don’t know why this morning is any different from the other mornings other than I feel like there are some words. So I should write them, yeah? :)

Potentially it’s because I browsed facebook for all of five minutes this morning and dissolved into a puddle of tears twice because of Humans of New York and CBS. (Thanks, guys.) And then I watched a story last night, too…this one. And it made me weep because that’s just what I do these days, apparently. (Though…major tissue alert. Just sayin’ that right now.)

Maybe those tears are pushing the words out, I don’t know.

Or maybe it’s that the last two nights I’ve been out cold before 9 p.m. (Actually, the first night was 6:30. SIX-THIRTY, y’all.) Clearly I’m catching up on sleep. This is sort of funny, but I fell asleep in my puffer vest and leggings last night…the night before it was in my jeans and hoodie. Who needs pajamas?! 😉

At any rate, it’s not even 6:30 a.m. 7 a.m. and I’ve already had two three (and a half) cups of coffee and am considering stock in Kleenex.

So it might be that kind of blog post. We’ll see. But I haven’t written in a long time, and I miss it sometimes. So I’m guessing there will be a lot of words this morning. (You’ve been warned.) :)

It’s honestly been a random sort of existence lately.

I don’t so much remember this with Mae, but I’m sure it happened then, too. It’s just that with her, I never had to be anywhere. We never had to do anything. So our normal was whatever the day brought. With Mac…it’s different.

We have a first grader to keep up with…and she needs to get to school, be picked up, have her mama there for certain things. It’s all good and it’s all beautiful, but it’s changed the baby game plan I had in my head. The kind that looked like two solid naps a day, sleeping through the night…all that good stuff with which I was so incredibly spoiled with Mae. (But I’ve tried not too compare my kids. Too much.) 😉

The truth is that I’ve loved watching my daughter grow up, even though it’s bittersweet. Every day I take her to school, and my heart pinches and explodes at the same time…leaving her there. Knowing it’s right, but accepting that it’s going so, so fast. I mean, look at this girl! Seriously. So. Grown. Up.

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She’s such a cool person, in my incredibly unbiased opinion. 😉 She writes plays that make us laugh our heads off, she fills up journals at the age of six, she’s asked to “real blog” (though I won’t let her use her domain just yet), she’s rocking the big sister role, and she’s reading chapter books with her reading light, late at night when she’s supposed to be sleeping. She’s got such a tender heart, always praying for others and hurting when they hurt.

I don’t know God’s plans for her, but I know they’re going to be amazing. I just love this girl.

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And watching her be Big Sissy to this Little Man? Oh, my heart. (In a puddle all over the floor.) I was so, so worried about two kids, girl and boy, six years apart. And, yet…Mac completes our family…and these two. Just the best.

Baby boy keeps growing and changing because that’s what little boys do, and it seems like it’s already going way too fast. Flying. HOW is he four months old already?!  He’s rolling over and moving around tons, and I think he’s getting ready to crawl. OY. And, judging by the amount of drool he produces, I’m pretty sure that teeth aren’t too far off either. WHERE is time going? Ah, this face. Melting again.

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It’s Thanksgiving week, and I really love this time of year. It’s starting to get colder, which might not be my favorite…but a change in seasons always makes me stop and think about life and how there are always changes. Challenges. Sometimes pain. But a lot of joy, too.

On Saturday, fall-ish winter finally arrived. I (somewhat painfully) put the flip flops away and put on an actual coat as the temps dipped into the 20’s and 30’s…and I was forced to reconcile with the fact that my toes will now need to be covered for approximately five months. (Give or take. And here in the bi-polar Midwest, it will probably be give.) :)

Sometimes I gripe about change, but the truth is that I enjoy it most of the time. I like the surprises of life, and I love a good adventure. Sometimes change brings hurt, too…but I’m learning to deal with that. Just like I’m learning to put on a winter coat. Because…reality. I live in Illinois, and it’s November. 😉

Our last year has been full of change, for sure.

Sometimes I look back and am amazed we survived. Or, me at least. 😉 A year ago, I’d just seen the positive pregnancy test, and a few days later I was already vomiting my guts out. (Sorry for that bit of graphic information.) And as the weeks progressed, it became apparent that, if baby was going to make it, I needed help. (And IVs and lots and lots of medication.) We were scared…there are side effects and unknowns that come with those things, and I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you I was worried there would be something wrong with my baby boy. But God…He’s good, and Mac is healthy. Though I do wish he’d take naps! (We’ll save that post for another day.) 😉

macmommy-finalSorry for my freakishly large-looking hand.
Selfies will do that to ya.
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I truly have so, SO much to be thankful for, and no doubt, topping the list is a sweet little boy named Mac. My little family, my friends…many of whom ARE my family, a place to live, more than I will ever need, prayers answered beyond what I could have imagined by a Father Who loves me more than I will ever understand.

Life is really good, even if it’s really random.

And thank goodness there’s coffee to help survive the random. 😉

This has always been one of my favorite songs. It’s been around awhile now, but…I still love it. Maybe having a listen will bless your day, too.

I’m so thankful for all of you. Happy Thanksgiving. :)

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Stepping Back

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I was so close to quitting it all. SO close.

Sometimes life has a funny way of telling us that’s the best thing, right?

Things were getting overwhelming and I felt, often, that I struggled to even keep my head above water. Between being a wife and a mama and now a NEW mama, six years later, who was re-entering the infant stage…let’s just say it was all becoming too much.

My house looked like a tornado had ripped through it, the dishes continually piled up, I couldn’t remember to actually finish a load of laundry in one day, and let’s not even talk about how many times I didn’t cook dinner…

AND? I was doing good to keep the kids (yes, kidS…plural now) fed and alive.

That’s how life felt two months ago when I messaged my dear friend, Alecia, and told her I needed a break from God-sized Dreams.

I was taking that oh-SO-much-needed break…but in the back of my mind, I wondered if it was a step toward being done with the site, too.

Between an extremely difficult pregnancy and, now, a brand-new baby boy…and trying to give everything I could to my family and life here, I didn’t feel like I had much to offer to other dreamers.

Today I’m over at God-sized Dreams, sharing a little about life lately and where I am now. I hope you’ll join me here:)

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He Redeems

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There are times in life that cause reflection…major life events seem to do that for me. (That also seems to be the only time I can manage to find the time…or words…to blog these days, too. Sorry. I promise I’m working on it!) 😉

Our family has been through something pretty important recently 😉 and I want to share it with all of you.

You see, even though pregnancy lasts just nine months (for which I am EX.TREME.LY. thankful…) our story is so much more than just that. It includes prayers and trust and some hard, hard days…and I know that many of you have prayed for us during this journey.

So while it’s ultimately God’s story, you are all a part of it.

So here we go. :)

I’m not even sure when it really started…years ago.

But for this piece of it, my heart goes back to July 22, 2014. That was the day we lost our baby, the one we named Carly Kristine.

Just a few weeks earlier I’d seen the faint line that told me my girl, Mae, was going to be a big sis. I was so, so excited…but cautious. I guess I’d just gotten used to living the paradox of holding on to and fighting hope.

And while I never wanted…or let myself expect…to lose our little one, the night the spotting started, that hope slipped. And the next day, I knew.

And that was the day…the day of the ER and the freezing cold room and the what-seemed-like-hours of tests and ultrasounds and the words,

No heartbeat.

And so we went home that day and fumbled through just trying to keep going. There was grief. There were tears and there still are today. There were ways we remembered and still do. But there was also a mark on the calendar day…and on my heart…of July 22nd, and I knew it would never be a day I welcomed.

It isn’t that I didn’t think God could heal my heart…I knew He could. And that He probably would.

Someday.

But I didn’t expect full redemption…the kind where He says, See what I’ve done? And that I’d truly be able to stand back in awe.

It’s just that sometimes a loss is too great, and it can never be replaced…so we don’t even dare to hope for it.

The months that have made up the years since have been up and down…there’s been a lot of joy in the gifts that He’s given and some moments, too, of hurting and wishing for what can’t be anymore. But I can’t complain…His goodness has always been there.

And then came a day last November.

I honestly didn’t expect to see the positive on the test.

I’d had symptoms. I threw up during a longer run. My running pace had gotten slower. I was tired. And so…I peed on a stick. And I almost just threw it away after that without even looking because I thought I knew.

I didn’t.

It was there, and it wasn’t even faint. Full on. We. Were. Pregnant.

And there was a huge part of me that refused to let myself even go all the way to July 28, 2016…my due date. Because, how?

That was too much hope to let creep in.

But as the weeks went on (days, really, because I get so darn sick when I’m pregnant) there was no doubt. This baby was thriving and taking me down. (I can laugh about that now.) :)

And I fought with HG and puked my way through the almost-first-half of pregnancy, and as I was starting to feel just a bit better, we found out we were having a boy.

A boy I’d wished with all my heart to be a girl.

But there it was on the screen, and there was no mistaking that a son was on the way for us.

And as the weeks somehow flew and turned into months, I found myself ready to welcome this little one. I was full of fear, full of anxiety…but also a little bit full of hope, too.

Maybe finding that hope again was the first of many gifts this little boy gave to me.

And on Wednesday, July 20, 2016, we welcomed McClain Jonathan Schroeder to our family.

It was instant love.

He stole my heart. 😉

And I wondered with everything in me why I’d never wanted a boy.

There will always be a part of my heart that grieves the loss of a baby, just two years ago, who was just as wanted and loved.

But that Friday, just two days later…July 22nd…I was lying in my hospital bed, looking at a sweet little boy, feeling my heart almost-explode at the love I have for our new little one.

And I didn’t hate that day anymore.

This, friends, is redemption.

He can always, always redeem.

He can always, always take something that hurts and make it beautiful.

He can always, always give hope when hope feels impossible.

And I’d go through it all again…just to know and see and feel this much of His goodness.

Thank you, Father…You know better. Help me to remember that anytime I doubt it.

Welcome to the world and to our family, sweet Mac. We love you so, so much.

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Letting God Rewrite Your Dream

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I always thought I’d be a mommy to two girls.

When I envisioned our future family, I saw my daughter, Mae, walking with her hand clasped tightly to another little girl’s.

It’s a precious image I’ve had in my head for a long time, but one I was afraid to verbalize.

In 2014, after a struggle to become pregnant, we found out we were expecting, and I was sure this was it.

My two girls.

Sadly, we miscarried that sweet little one, and I pushed that image far back into the corner of my brain…and my heart.

I felt like that dream was over, and it was one I grieved for a long time.

And then…surprise of surprises…we found out this past November that we were expecting again.

And I allowed that dream to take its place in the depths of my heart again.

I was sure.

My pregnancy with this one was nearly identical to my pregnancy with Maelie, other than the fact that I was even sicker. But everyone knows…sick = girl.

Oh, I wanted her to be a girl so badly.

We’d picked out her name. Hope Kristine.

And though there were nagging thoughts of, I think this might be a boy, I tried to stay positive.

God knew the desires of my heart, and I was sure He’d give them to me.

Today I’m over at God-sized Dreams, sharing a piece of how God is doing some rewriting in my life. Will you join me here?

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About a Year…and What’s to Come

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Ha ha…I’m getting pretty good at writing on the last day of the month and no other days. I guess that’s just life right now.

I’m honestly still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that 2015 is hours from ending, and I’m not exactly sure where it went. (I’m also wondering if this blog post is actually going to make it…it’s 11:45 and I still haven’t posted.) 😉

I mean…there were milestones. There were lots of things that happened. Lots of good. Some bad. Probably a few things I’ve blocked from my memory, too, and that’s ok.

There were sweet family moments and vacations…hello great, BIG, I-love-you, New York City! There were friend moments and lots of coffee and chats at a picnic table I actually built. I know. 😉 There were laughs and giggles with my girl as we rang in the big FIVE (really? how did this happen???) and so many memories that I can’t even really begin to count them all. Oh, and I ran a ridiculously long race that I will probably never do again. And I got a tattoo.

And there were challenging moments, too…days of marriage that required surrender and forgiveness and humility. Times we wished for different circumstances. Sickness and disease in people we love…and those brought us to our knees and forced us to give thanks both in the healing and in the dying.

Whew. There was a lot.

But despite all of that, I’ll look back at this year as a good one. Read on. :)

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So a year ago, I chose a word.

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Open.

I was determined to be open to whatever it was that God had for us, especially me, in 2015.

I thought I knew what that was, and it included adoption.

So I was open…but with a plan for those doors that would open.

And then…it just didn’t happen. We had some good conversations and prayed, and it didn’t seem that, in this season, adoption was right for our family.

I was content with that and content to move forward as a family of three.

God was definitely working on me when it came to being satisfied with what He gives.

And so, instead of grief, we embraced the milestones. The first day of Kindergarten and her first time wearing a school uniform. (Cue the cuteness.) The first lost tooth, followed by another. The fact that Mae seemed to grow inches overnight and we had to keep buying new clothes. Her first season of soccer. Her first Christmas service.

Oy…I could keep going forever. So many firsts. Wonderful ones.

And we embraced them, knowing that most likely, those firsts would be onlys and lasts, too.

In October I flew out to New Jersey/New York to see some friends. During my time there, I had a pretty intense conversation with a friend where I told her, We’re done. And I’m ok with it.

And I was.

And then there was this morning in November. I’d wondered for a couple weeks before because I felt off. On a whim, I peed on a stick.

Yep. God has a sense of humor…and a plan so far greater than anything I could ever plan for myself.

2016 is going to bring a lot of things…included in it, a new baby in July.

I’d still be trying to wrap my mind around it all except I’ve been so dang sick that I am obviously pregnant (well, and we’ve gotten a heartbeat…), and at 10 weeks, have already just about exhausted all of the medication possibilities available to me. One has kinda worked, so we’re going with it for now. And, in between, I sleep and try to survive (and, yes, puke) a lot.

Not how I would have pictured it, but I tell myself continually to give thanks.

God is good, even when we don’t see it.

And I know without a doubt that this is good, too.

I’m not choosing a word for 2016.

I never really thought of one or felt like there was something specific God was putting on my heart. I suppose I could choose baby 😉 but I think I’m just going to go with taking the year as it comes and waiting on Him each day for what He has for my heart.

He’s continually making things new, and that’s a pretty awesome promise to cling to.

My family…we’d appreciate your prayers. While this is the second time I’ve gone through this…it’s tougher this time around. I’ve been sicker, and I’ve also got an active five year-old to keep up with, too.

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By the way, she’s completely over the moon and can’t wait to change all the diapers.

Golly, I love her. :)

So I’m not sure what all we’re looking at this coming year. Lots of changes, definitely. 😉 I’d like to keep up with the blog. I’d like to keep writing for the two sites I contribute to. I hope that will happen and that this online space won’t completely die off, too. Because I love it…and it’s special.

But no matter how often…or not…I check in, I think I’ll be around. There will be too many fun things I’ll want to share with y’all.

So here’s to a great year…and to 2016!

Happy New Year, friends. XO

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Finding Words Before November is Over…

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Wow. I need to write some words before y’all just pack up and leave me for good. 😉

It’s been quiet around here, but not quiet in real life. We’ve kept busy, and life has been good, and I’m honestly not sure how we’re staring at December. Tomorrow.

Really?

And writing…well, it feels a little foreign but still-a-little like home at the same time. So I feel like giving it a go…it might be kinda nice to actually not go an entire month without writing, too. 😉

There’s a weird sort of frozen-but-not-slippery-yet rainish substance falling from the sky right now, and I’m honestly wishing that it looked a little more like the gorgeous, winter wonderland we had a week ago. So pretty. :)

I feel like there’s a lot of good in life right now…lots of little happy parts that make up a really blessed life. Sure, there are the sad parts, too, but I’m trying not to think about those too much. Especially coming off Thanksgiving, I’ve been trying to focus on the sweet blessings. There are a lot.

And none of them are sweeter than this. These people. My people. (This one is just a sneak peek. My favorite, favorite photo is making its debut on our Christmas card.) 😉

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So I also went to the East Coast this month. (Actually, the end of last month. Close enough.) 😉 The last time I wrote, I was literally running out of the house to catch a plane to New Jersey/New York. (Some of you found that entertaining. Thanks.) :)

That feels like ages ago, but then, it’s been ages since I actually wrote, so I feel like I owe you at least a little.

I went, first of all, to see some precious friends. That was so, so fun.

We also went to the Hillsong Conference. (That was fun, too. And loud.) 😉

And I got to spend a memorable day in the city with my sweet friend and her husband, and I crossed something off my bucket list. The Met. (I SO sound like I belong in the city, don’t I?!) 😉

I loved it and wished we’d had more time there, but I also loved that I got to just see it. (And take a few selfies.) :)

I love New York, but no matter how much I beg, T will just not even entertain the idea of actually living there. Yep. So I will continue dreaming my big-city dreams and visiting as often as he’ll let me. 😉

And the other big thing I did in November was run. I ran a 15k. 9.3 miles.

Y’all, that’s a lot of miles.

It kind of happened without a lot of fanfare and photos, but I did it. And I got this sweet (no pun intended) medal when I finished. Even though it’s cheesy, and I took a selfie cause I didn’t have any other pics, I’m pretty proud that I did it.

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And now…back to 5k’s. Those feel like a vacation after 9+ miles!

So it’s Christmas now, and this is my favorite time of year. I’m not kidding when I tell you I could just sit by the tree for hours and stare at the Christmas lights with music in the background. I love it. And I hope there will be more words to go along with it all, too. :)

I hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving, friends. Thanks for sticking around here, even when I don’t write.

And I’m also over at Circles of Faith tomorrow, so make sure you check it out. :)

(((hugs)))

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September Friday Favorites (+ a GIVEAWAY)

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Hi, friends. And, happy fall! (I love that I can officially say that.) :)

So I’m sliding in late this Friday…and I’ve also written this post once already, and then I decided to delete the 1,000+ words and start over. I guess some days are like that.

I want to give y’all a glimpse into life…and also to share the joy when I talk about my month and my faves. I was in just a little too snarky of a mood when I wrote the first round…so we’ll see if the snark reduces a little this time. 😉

When I realized it was time to write this post, I decided that there are a lot of other things I could have (and probably should have) called it. Like…

That Post Where Mel Admits She Basically Hasn’t Written Anything in a Month

OR

All About Making Friends With Other Moms in Target

OR

The Day Mel Got an Extra T-shirt in the Mail and Decided to Ask if She Could Give it Away on Her Blog

So, let’s just roll with all of them, ok? 😉

Here we go…it feels good to end the 3+ weeks of not-so-many (translation: N.O.) words. (Don’t fall off your seat or anything, but I also already have a post written for next week. I. KNOW. I like Riesling, should you feel led to send me a bottle of wine to celebrate.)

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READ

We’re being totally honest here, right?

I haven’t read much at all this month. Sadly, not even my Bible has been opened every day. I think it’s a season…and I seem to go all or nothing, meaning I read twelve books at once or none at all. There are so many good ones out there, especially by women I know and love, but I just haven’t been able to…to focus long enough and actually keep a book open long enough to finish it.

And herein, I give myself some grace…and vow to do better tomorrow.

But I do have to share a blog post, written my GSD friend, Kayse. Honestly, the whole thing kinda breaks my heart, and I hate that this happened to her (you’ll just have to read it) BUT I love how she processed it and responded. So you should definitely hop over and read about the time a woman tried to parent her child in Target.

And as a side note, I’ve been feeling convicted about going out of my way to encourage other moms, especially after reading her post. Sometimes my to-do lists and shopping lists and general moods just get in the way of taking the time to encourage. Yesterday, I found out that being intentional can sometimes make my day…and someone else’s, too. I got to play a game of “soccer” with a sweet, two year-old boy and chat with his mama while we waited in line at Target.

And can I just say that it felt insanely awesome to trade confessions of the cereals we sometimes feed our kids? :) (No All-Bran in this house. Think Cookie Crisp. Which is delicious, by the way.)

WATCH

I’m beyond excited that there’s a new season of The Voice happening. Whoop, whoop! Other than that, I’m a TV failure. I know nothing about any of the current shows, other than an occasional flipping to HGTV in order to dream myself some big, home-renovating dreams. 😉

WEAR

This is always my favorite one. :)

So I have this dress that I’ve been waiting to wear. I saved it for a getaway my hubby and I were planning to have this past Wednesday-Thursday in a cute little town about an hour north of us. Sadly, our girl came down with strep throat (at least we think so…still waiting on results), and we had to cancel. (And are hopefully rescheduling for this coming week.)

So this beauty may get to see the light of day at least once this year. (Here’s a sneak peek…golly, I love a cute dress.) :)

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A few weeks ago, a friend and I were talking about how much we love a particular saying and how we both wanted it on a t-shirt. So, of course, I went to my beloved Etsy and found the perfect one and ordered two. They came, we both loved them…YAY! And then a few days later, I got two more in the mail.

coffee&Jesus finalPhoto Credit: SavChicBoutique (Etsy)

And I sorta felt like it was my super lucky day since I now had enough of this particular shirt to rock it for the rest of my life, but I knew I should tell the sweet girl who runs her Etsy shop about the mistake. And so I emailed Ashley at Savannah Chic Boutique and told her, and she was SO KIND and told me to give one of the shirts away on my blog and send the other one back. She’s just starting her store, and goodness…her stuff is so cute, and she’s such a sweetheart. (Hop over there or to her Facebook page and check it all out?) :)

And of course I said thank you…and now I’m so excited to pass on the love to one of you! Y’all…I love this t-shirt. And one of you will love it, too! (See the end of this post for how you can win it!) :)

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GO

So…my feet have been going a lot lately. I signed up for a horrendously long (to me) race, which means I. HAVE. TO. RUN. SO. I. DON’T. DIE. ON. THE. DOWNTOWN. CHICAGO. PAVEMENT. (9.3 miles feels like a lot. Just sayin’.)

It’s this race, and maybe the only thing that will keep me going is the chocolate at the end, but a confession? There’s a part of me that really, really wants to reach my goal of actually running the whole thing. I’m shooting for 1 hour 30…just under a 10:00 pace. We shall see. Sometimes I have really lofty goals…but sometimes I surprise myself, too. 😉

So I’ve been pricing trips to Indonesia lately, and I knew it was gonna happen. Two months ago, tickets were hovering around $900 each. (I know. I know. I shoulda bit the bullet and just bought them.) Yesterday? $1700. And so goes goodbye to any chance of an Indo trip Maelie and I may have had in 2016. (In reality, prices could go down again…you’d better believe I’ll be watching them like a hawk.)

BUT. On the flip side I’m headed out to New Jersey/NYC to visit my dear friend in a few weeks. That’s exciting, and I’ve been looking forward to it since April. :)

And, a random blessing today that doesn’t involve travel but that’s ok…my sweet girl is feeling so much better, and we even took a little walk today. I love her so much…and I’m so glad she’s (mostly) back to her spunky, silly, full-of-love, self. :)

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So that’s September and what life is looking like around here. :)

I’d love for you to enter to win the t-shirt I talked about. Click on the Rafflecopter link and follow the directions.

For reference, the t-shirt is a women’s size large that I think fits like a slouchy medium. I’m a size 6-8, and it’s a little big on me. (Trust me, you want this shirt. And if it’s not in your size, you can always pass on the coffee/Jesus love to a friend.) :)

Happy Friday, friends! Now click this link and enter. :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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