For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. - Psalm 139:13-14


Tattoos, Race Cars, & Swollen Feet: Here's to New Chapters

Over the last several months, we've had many changes and challenges. I became a Resident Director at Anderson University, which required us to move in to a female residence hall apartment. (We love Morrison Hall!!) Ben and I both continued to tackle our graduate programs (Ben graduates in August & I am set to walk in December). Throw in there the challenges of raising a fun but strong-willed 2-year-old Cohen, still processing the loss of Carter (whose first birthday would have been February 2), and navigating the new pregnancy joys and anxieties of Baby Boy #3 on the way....and, well, let's just say our new chapter has been nothing but full.

However, as I reflect on the last few months, a few specific milestones stand out to me. Moments or ways in which Carter Benjamin continues to mark us and influence our daily lives.

Back in August, after much thought and planning, Ben and I both got tattoos in honor of Carter. We decided to both get his initials "CBW" in Hebrew, and Ben added the phrase "your works are wonderful" (from Psalm 139:14) to his. This decision brought us our first major wave of healing. It solidified Carter's mark on us and on the world. We have been forever changed, and these marks serve as reminders of all the ways God continues to restore our brokenness.

In October, we found out that we were pregnant for baby number three. With this news came much excitement, hope, and anxiety. We knew the likelihood of bilateral agenesis reoccurring in a subsequent pregnancy was very low, but we had been a rare statistic before. No longer did we consider ourselves safe. So baby three has become a new experience in trusting God.

January brought us some relief. We had our mid-pregnancy ultrasound, which revealed not only that we were having another boy (apparently Ben is overflowing with testosterone) but also that he was about as healthy as you could get. Our doctor was so thorough and patient with us; I think he was even a bit elated at such a "model ultrasound," as he put it. Our newest baby boy has definitely been a source of hope and healing.

Only days later, February rolled around much too quickly. We found ourselves trying to figure out how to remember and celebrate Carter's birth (February 2) while simultaneously grieving his death all over again. Ben and I both decided to get away for that weekend to give ourselves space to grieve, but not before our family stopped at Carter's grave. We tried to figure out what to take to commemorate that day, but nothing seemed fitting for a little boy. I didn't like the idea of leaving flowers, because I didn't want to come back to find them dead. We finally landed on leaving a small Matchbox car, much like the ones Cohen plays with daily.

Cohen and I had made a special trip to the store to pick out just the right car. Cohen decided a bright yellow race car was just the thing. He held onto it tightly on our way to the cemetery. Ben and I weren't sure if he would actually leave it there when it came time, but we decided to wait and see what happened. When we pulled up to Carter's gravestone, Cohen pointed to it and said enthusiastically, "Carter's stone!"

Ben and I both stopped breathing for a second.

While we had talked to Cohen about Carter's stone, he had never been there. He had never seen a picture and really didn't have reason to know what "Carter's stone" even was. But, as if it were the most familiar thing in the world, Cohen approached Carter's gravestone and began to race the yellow car around it. Ben and I could do nothing but watch; this was the closest thing our two oldest boys would get to playing together in this world. It healed and hurt fiercely.

Now here we are well into May. The weather has again turned warm, and my pregnant swollen feet remind me that we have only weeks until our third baby boy joins us. God has been so faithful, and while life is often so busy, we continue to see the many ways God restores our family, taking what was broken and making something beautiful out of it. I love my job, getting to know and support all the college women in my residence hall. We have beautiful friends and family surrounding us, giving us permission and space to keep walking (sometimes wounded, other times firm and confident). While I am sure there are many more to come, we have turned yet another corner in our journey toward this new normal.

God is truly good. Amidst tattoos, race cars, and swollen feet, He is good. All the time.



I've never been a fan of those books where the author drops you right in the middle of some conversation or storyline, with little to no back story. However, today's post may feel a little bit that way. I apologize in advance and hope to give you more of an update on our family in the near future.

But here's where I am today...

This morning while getting ready for work I found out that my friend and former neighbor Brittani gave birth to her son Elijah. Around Thanksgiving, they found out that Elijah had a similar condition to our little Carter, so my heart has hurt for this family as they have anticipated the day that they too would get to meet and would have to say goodbye to their little boy.

Today became that day.

I do not want to tell Brittani's story for her, so I won't mention any details that surround her son's birth and their time together.  That's Brittani's story to tell. However, I do want to mention that she has traveled this road thus far with much grace, dependence on God, and openness in what she has been experiencing. I praise God that she has known His faithfulness like we did only a little over a year ago.

While I am confident God will continue to be faithful to this family, I have to be honest that I hurt deeply today. I hurt in part because I was there not that long ago, in that same hospital with the same nurses and doctors, having to say goodbye to my son. While I had inexplicable joy and peace in those moments, I would be lying if I said it was not mixed with the deepest pain possible. I feel a few of my bandaids have fallen off today.

But I also hurt for them. So deeply. I hurt that they have to experience that all-to-familiar pain in the weeks ahead. My heart groans because I don't have the words to express to God how I hurt for them. I'm glad God understands those groans and moans from deep within me, even when I don't myself.

So I write all of this to first of all ask that you too pray, groan, ache for my friend Brittani, her husband Kyle, and their other two children. Whether you have the words or not, please join me in supporting them. Pray that they might have inexplicable peace, joy, grace, and comfort now and in the days ahead. They need God's Church to show up now more than ever.

Secondly, I am reminded today of our own loss and God's continued faithfulness in our journey thus far - a journey that continues daily. I've been very busy the last several months and have neglected writing about Carter's ongoing story, how his life continues to impact our family. But "impact" almost doesn't do justice to how God uses Carter in our lives. Today is a reminder that I need to keep his story alive. I am not sure whether telling it is more for me or for God to use it in his wisdom, but I know I need to do it nonetheless.

So today is about hurting with the loss of these beautiful little boys, Carter and Elijah, and for the families they represent. I am glad God gives us room to feel this pain. And today is about continuing to claim that God is good and faithful. May we all know that in the deepest part of our souls.


Prayer Request

Please join me in praying for the family of a young woman named Leah Whitaker. Leah was a student at Indiana Wesleyan University and part of the Women's basketball team. She passed away this week, and my heart is heavy for her parents and other family members. I don't know Leah personally, but our church and the IWU community is grieving her loss as well.

May God's peace, comfort, and lots of grace surround the Whitaker family.

And You Thought March Was Mad...

On August 1, our family hit the ground running it seemed. That day was my first day of employment as a Resident Director at Anderson University. And for anyone who has been around colleges in the month of August know how crazy things can get.

Retreats, Training, Staff Meetings, Dinners In, Dinners Out. It's all been a fast and furious, but such a blast. I have to admit that I am loving it here at AU. The other day I was telling Ben that even though I'm pretty exhausted at the end of each day that it doesn't really "feel like work." I think that's a good thing.

Cohen seems to be adjusting really well too. Perhaps a little too well. He already knows his way through the dorm and around campus. He's made friends with the squirrels of "the Valley" and even shoved his McQueen matchbox car into an unreachable spot in a post on campus. Plus, he has his eye on the neighbors' little girl (even giving her a quick peck upon their first meeting). I can only imagine his joy once he discovers that the dorm is now filled with new friends.

I am so grateful to be in this new position and new stage of our journey. Everyone has been so supportive and encouraging, allowing me to share and cry about our loss of Carter. We are beginning to feel at home here.


Six Months

Six months ago today, I had the blessing of holding, kissing, and feeling every heartbeat of my precious little Carter. In some ways, it's hard to believe that it's only been six months. I really don't have much to say about today other than to acknowledge yet another milestone and to ask for your prayers. My heart is heavy.
Happy six months, Carter Benjamin!


What Helps?

I've had a few conversations with people lately that seemed to start somewhere along the lines of "What helped you in your grief?" and "What hurt?" Having been on the other side of peoples' grief, I know it can be so difficult to know what to say, whether to say anything, or what you can really do to help.

I thought it might be helpful to include some of my own reflections on good things people did that helped us and encouraged us in our grief. (There could be a list of "don't do its," but I'll just stay away from that for the time being.)

However, let me begin with a STRONG encouragement and caution: My advice is based solely on how Ben and I are wired. Other people may react very differently and may need different types of care and compassion. So, please take this list with a grain of salt and consider the person who you want to reach out to. You may even just ask what they need or whether doing something for them would be helpful.

Big Helps:
  • Books: While I still haven't read all the books people have given me, I have picked up a couple and have found them encouraging in times I was ready to read them. The two that meant the most to me in my situation were: I Will Carry You by Angie Smith and Heaven Is For Real by Todd Burpo.
  • "Open Door" Conversations: When people would come up to us and sincerely ask, "How are you doing?" and then allowed us to answer honestly, we found a burden being lifted. Allowing us to share and guide the conversation was helpful on two levels: 1) We didn't need to hear advice ("all things work together for good" or "he's in a better place"), even if what they said were true. When people came with things to say, I often felt like they were handing over more of a burden rather than lifting it. We didn't need "one more thing" to think about. 2) Sometimes we didn't want to talk, and when people let our answers be short (perhaps following up with a quick hug or prayer), we were grateful.
  • Jewelry or other mementos: Two girlfriends of mine ordered me a personalized Lisa Leonard necklace with Carter's name on it. I think this is one of my most treasured possessions now. Other mementos people gave us were: a picture frame for Carter's photo, a garden angel, a decorative block with Psalm 139 and Carter's name on it, a gift card for Cohen to Build-A-Bear, and memorial trees to plant in Carter's name. Each of these gift ideas are special and unique to us.
  • Food: I could barely think about making meals in the days before and after Carter died. Our church family just stepped in and said, "we will take care of it." And they did. For almost two months, we had daily meals or gift cards brought to us. The gift cards were a great help because sometimes we needed to get out of the house and break from the chicken casseroles. Pizza was also great on occasion. Some people even brought us paper plates and utensils along with their meals so we wouldn't have to worry about dishes. Very thoughtful!
  • Money: In all honesty, we were in no way prepared financially for Carter's death. No young couple I know has money set aside for burial and funeral costs for themselves, let alone their kids. We were SO overwhelmed by the friends and family members who stepped in and generously gave more than we ever imagined.
  • Cards: We never checked the mailbox so frequently, because we found ourselves daily needing the encouragement. Sometimes it didn't matter what was said but just the reminder that people were thinking of us and praying for us.
  • Childcare: I cannot tell you the number of people who offered to spend time with Cohen. While there were times I really needed him close by, we also needed times with no responsibility. We needed time on certain days to stay in bed all day if we wanted to, and with a toddler, that wasn't easy. So having moments when Cohen could go play with a friend or spend the weekend with the grandparents was so helpful.
  • "As Time Goes By" Check-Ins: Two months after Carter died, the number of cards and people asking how we were doing dropped off suddenly. We expected it, and because we were doing a lot better, didn't feel like it was inappropriate. However, we have discovered that those people who now take the time to ask how we are (almost six months after the fact) greatly bless us. Ben and I both usually find ourselves quite emotional when people ask because we still miss Carter daily. Those unexpected "we are thinking of you" moments are really helpful.
That's all I can think of right now. If I didn't mention something that someone did for us, it's probably for lack of brain cells, so please know your giving and encouraging heart were appreciated.

Feel free to keep asking me or others, "What's helpful?" Just by asking, you've done a lot for people who are walking a path of grief. I'm sure it's a little different for each person, but remember that making yourself available and just being there for others is the biggest thing. Let them know you care; don't just assume they know.


Fourth of July (A Little Late)

Yes, I realize July is almost over, but I wanted to share with you all a special moment we were able to have as a family.

It was last year on the 4th of July that we found out we were pregnant for Carter. So I knew that the day this year would come with some bittersweet emotions. Because we were already planning a trip to Ben's parents house that day, we decided to go also visit Carter's grave site.

We had not been back since February, when we buried Carter. Combine that with the fact that July 2 marked five months since Carter was born and passed away and you can imagine we (Ben and I) were pretty emotional.

When we pulled into the cemetery, I turned toward the back seat, where Cohen was contentedly sitting in his car seat, and told him that we were going to go see Baby Carter's stone. (They had recently laid the foundation for his monument.)

He didn't say much until we got out of the car, and Cohen asked, "Baby Carter?"

Ben and I lost it.

We took Cohen over to the grave site and showed him where his baby brother was buried. Cohen contentedly played in the dirt around the foundation while Ben and I just sat there crying. It's still so tough to think of what the boys would have been like together.

But as we sat there, watching Cohen play in the dirt and telling him about his baby brother, we did feel some peace. The sun shining around us and the green grass around the grave was a stark contrast to the blizzard and ice storm that surrounded us when we buried Carter. The cemetery itself is out in the middle of a corn field (literally), so it was quiet and serene.

I guess that's kind of how you could describe the entire experience of visiting the Carter's grave site. Difficult, sad, but strangely filled with hope, peace, and warmth. Suffice it to say that our 4th of Julys will likely never be the same.