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


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.


Change is in the Air (Or is that Dust?)

The Westfall family is excited to report that this spring has brought some exciting new developments to our lives. I've been doing some spring cleaning, both literally and figuratively, and things are starting to look quite sparkly.

As you may or may not know, I have been working on my masters in Student Development Counseling and Administration from IWU. In short, I want to work with students in higher ed, and this degree is a step in that direction. Also, ever since my residence life experience in college, I have wanted to be a resident director at a Christian college.

Today is that day!

I have accepted the position as Resident Director for Morrison Hall at Anderson University.

While this decision may seem out of the blue for many (especially in light of the major life change we experienced with Carter this winter), I want you to know this career move was actually in the plan all along. We just weren't broadcasting it and were planning to go after it with two kids in tow. And through our experience with Carter, we believe it is even more vital to go after this dream job I have wanted since college. "Now" is the time.

So...we are in the process of putting our house on the market (any buyers?), packing, sorting for garage sale, and getting ready to move into our new RD apartment in Morrison Hall. I am so excited!

Although we will be living in Anderson, Ben will still be working at College Wesleyan Church, and Cohen and I will be there too as normal. We will just have a bit longer commute than our mile drive right now.

I just wanted to share with you our good news...just another step of faith that reminds us of God's grace and goodness to us in all things.


Memorial Day, Indeed.

We really didn't plan it this way, but Memorial Day Weekend became quite literal for us this year.

With Cohen hanging out at G & G Westfall's house, Ben and I finally worked up the courage to pick out a monument for Carter's grave. We (and by that, I mean mostly me) had been dragging our feet to take care of this "last official business" of laying our son to rest. Of course, I think the real letting-go process will take a lifetime.

However, with our coffee in hand, we went into a local monument shop and walked out an hour later confident we made good decisions on behalf of our son and God. We picked out a stone that wasn't too big (why get a big stone for such a tiny boy?) and included his name, date of birth/death, two tiny footprints, and a verse that we feel encapsulated God's hand on Carter's short life: "Your works are wonderful..." (Psalm 139:14).

Yes, it surely was Memorial Day at the Westfall house.

But I have to say that I now feel good that we did it. And while it may be "just a stone," we feel the monument will not only be something we can return to and remember Carter, but also a symbol of the weight Carter's life had in this world and the next.


Shout Out to the Mommas (And the Moms at Heart)

Sunday is soon approaching.

Some of us may be crossing our fingers, hoping that our spouses remember to assist the kiddos in doing "something" to make the day special. The rest of us may be hoping (for once!) just to get the family out the door on time for church and in one piece. (I admit that I am both of these.)

But from one momma to another, let me be one of the first to say: Happy Mother's Day.

And I would be remiss if I didn't say something special to we moms who have either lost babies or have yet to have the babies we desire (the moms-at-heart): May you find a deep joy and contentment this Mother's Day. I don't expect it to be an easy one for myself or for you as we may feel our loss more intensely than normal days, but I do have great faith in God's abundance. My hope is that each of us can cling to God's grace and comfort and seek after a life overflowing with God's grace this Sunday.

For the record, I also want to say that I feel so deeply blessed to be a mom to both Cohen and Carter. While my responsibility as a parent looks a little different for both of my boys, they have both brought me unspeakable joy.

God's blessings to all you mommas, moms-to-be, and moms-at-heart. You. Are. Special.


Any Greek Geeks?

I have to be the worst blogger ever. My friends are so good at blogging as they go throughout the week, but unless I get hit upside the head with something, I check out. I am really working to get better at this.

Just a quick question for my friends...if you are well-versed in either Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic, would you possible know how to translate Carter's intials (CBW) and Psalm 139 (just the reference) into those languages?

Ben and I are working on a project to help us memorialize and remember Carter's life and God's goodness, and we need these translations, if they are at all possible. But we don't want to trust our own internet research to get it right.

So, if you're a Greek or Hebrew guru (or you know someone who is), could you possibly send the translations our way?


Permission to Grieve

I don't know how to start this other than to say that today has been one of "those days." 

This morning, I was able to share pieces of our journey over the last year with a pastor at church. I've been hesitant to talk about some of the "what we've learned" aspects of our journey because I feel like we are still in the beginning stages of this transforming process. We are so glad that God has given us a lifelong "learning curve" on this one. 

However, I also don't want to hesitate in being open with our story, in case God may use it somehow. And while I am excited by how Carter's life might further reveal God to others, talking about our son, our experience, and our God has brought up some intense emotions that I haven't felt in a little while. 

So when I sat down this afternoon to have a few moments of much-needed solitude during Cohen's nap time, I was surprised by the following Scripture verse in the Psalms:

"O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. 
O LORD, you brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down into the pit."
(Psalm 30:2-3)

I'm not sure why these words surprised me other than this was exactly what I needed to hear. 

I needed to be reminded that even though most days aren't as difficult, I can still call out to God for help and he will hear me and heal me. I needed to remember that even if my sorrow overwhelms me to the point where I feel stuck in a pit, God will find me there. 

God is bigger than grief, so I shouldn't be afraid to go there. 

As emotions get less raw, as time separates us from Carter's death, it's easier to depend on myself for strength. Most days, it's easier to just ignore sad feelings rather than invite them in. 

And today...I really don't want to let myself grieve. I have dishes to do. I need to run to the grocery store so my family can eat this week. I need to exercise so I can fit in that bridesmaid dress I'm supposed to wear in June. Grief doesn't seem like a "productive" use of my time.

But after my conversation this morning, I can't help but come face to face with grief once again, and I need to give myself permission to go there, to call out to God, and to let Him heal my heart. I need to give myself permission not to be strong (or my version of it). I need to give God permission to be God in my life...for He will "spare me from going down into the pit". 

Grief without God is scary due to its ability to overwhelm. Grief without God can consume and devour a person. This may be why I try to hold grief at bay. 

But I am clinging to the promise today that experiencing grief with God is where healing takes place, that in loss we can cry out "help me!" and not be devoured. Grief isn't weakness (and I need to hear this more than anyone...); it's an opportunity for God to prove Himself to be who He says He is, if we let Him, and for us to find true healing.

So, goodbye, to-do list. I may get to check a few of you off today. But today I need permission to grieve.


Does Anyone Really Like Change?

I usually don't. However, I've been thinking lately about why I started Carter's blog and what it is now, and I decided it needed a bit of a change.

So...I did some "redecorating." You may notice I did a bit of renaming and rearranging...a good spring cleaning. :)

But, to be completely honest, I had also been wondering about its purpose, since I began it as a one-stop-shop of info for our friends & family members to stay updated. Plus, it is pretty therapeutic for me to help process my thoughts and emotions. But...I could find that therapy in my own personal journal. Who wants their therapy broadcast to the world?

But I am discovering something else along the way...the blog has been a way for God to allow us to tell Carter's continuing story. I continue to be amazed at how this little boy's life has touched the hearts of people, some of whom I have never met or heard of previously. (If that's you, thank you! Your ability to reach out to complete strangers astounds me.)

So while some days I want to shut the blog down ("what more could I possibly have to share?"), I am reminded that God is just beginning to write Carter's story. His life was short, but his legacy isn't. So...I am going to do my best to keep his story going, not to cling to my grief, but to celebrate what God has done.

I once read a mother's book, telling the story of how she lost her baby girl. She said that she wrote the book, in part, because she wanted to be her daughter's voice, to give that tiny life weight in the world. And maybe it's the same for me. (Hence the title change to "Little Feet...Big Footprints")

So...while I usually detest change, I felt that a change to Carter's blog was necessary. It may not be all that different, in theory, but I felt like I at least needed a reason to keep writing. Plus, the overall facelift to the blog design made me feel lighter a new chapter is beginning.

Celebrating Our Little Men

Today I had the honor of holding scrumptious, little baby Josh — the now one-week-old son of my friend Diane and the new little brother of Cohen's friend Sam. (Don't feel left out, Jake; I know you're a proud papa too.)

All 8 pounds of Josh are lovable. He has that sweet baby smell and was so content to just sleep in my arms. I could have rocked him forever if I didn't need to chase after my own 19-month-old son who was terrorizing Diane's dog Hugo.

Diane and I have experienced much of our pregnancies together, all of our boys born only a couple months apart (Cohen & Sam born in Summer 2009; Carter & Josh born in early 2011). I know that if our situation had been different, Carter and Josh would have been good friends just like their older brothers. So, I found it very fitting and comforting today that Josh was the first baby I held since holding my Carter.

I don't have any new revelations or insights to share from this experience, but I thought it worth mentioning in order to celebrate the birth of baby Josh and to recognize what a gift our little boys (all four of them) are.

Thank you, God, for our little men.

(And thanks, Diane, for your continued friendship...and for being so gracious with Cohen's treatment of poor Hugo.)


A Little Update...

It's been a while since I've felt like writing. Life hasn't been particularly difficult or anything...just busy.

Ben was in Denver for about a week, recording some songs for our church, and he returned with some nasty virus that took yet another week to say goodbye. So, I got just a two-week taste of what being a single parent is like. (Kudos to all you single parents who do it every day. You're stronger than I.)

Making apple pie with Cohen's help. 
But for now, life is relatively normal. Ben goes to work. Cohen and I do a lot of running: Running errands. Running after Cohen. Running to attempt an exercise routine. Running. Running. Running.

Ben and I welcomed two weekends in a row that we could just enjoy some "nothingness." Cohen needed time with his grandparents, so he enjoyed his visits while Ben and I slept in, ran errands without diaper bags, and even went out to eat without having to order from the kid's menu. We enjoyed some much-needed alone time (did I mention all the running I've been doing?), but each time, we looked forward to seeing our little man again.

In the midst of all this running, though, I've found myself a bit (how should I say it?)...lighter.

Okay, while I may have shed a physical pound or two thanks to Jillian Michaels, I refer to "lightness" more in the emotional sense. February and March were heavy months as we grieved over our loss of Carter. April has brought a bit of sunshine into our lives as we have been able to look forward at what life might bring next. And you know what? We find ourselves looking forward with expectation and hope.

If our ongoing experience with Carter teaches us anything, it is that we should embrace what is before us and move forward in expectation of what God will do, rather than fear of what we can't control.

So...we are moving forward. We still have several grief moments, like last Sunday when I found the hospital parking ticket from the day we found out that Carter would die. And while I let myself have these moments, I also cling to the hope of what is to come. I look forward to long walks on warm, spring days. I look forward to re-starting my grad school classes in May and finishing that masters degree. I eagerly anticipate the summer vacation we have planned and even the 5k Ben and I have decided to run together (yes...again with the running).

The great part about living life, especially life with Christ, is that even in the midst of hurt, we can have hope for our future (in this life and the next). I continue to cling to the promise that God will redeem our brokenness and use our little Carter's life in big ways. And the best way we know how to do that is to live in the hope of today and what is to come.


How You Can Be Praying: Part 2

When we first found out about Carter's condition, many people asked how they could be praying for our family. Such has been the case since Carter's passing six weeks ago. However, our requests have changed a bit as we have entered a new phase of this journey.

So, for you prayer people, here's how you can join us in talking to God:
  • Courage to grieve: We are discovering that everyone deals with grief differently, which is okay. However, always having the faith and strength to confront our grief and allow ourselves to feel it fully isn't always easy. Sometimes it's "easier" to just get distracted by something — exercising, dinner, March Madness, and the list goes on. We need the courage and strength to recognize our grief when it comes and to feel it fully.
  • Staying united as a family: In so many ways, God has allowed Ben and me to come together as a couple as we deal with Carter's death. But this doesn't come easily. Daily, we have to make sure we are praying together, talking about what we are thinking/experiencing, and allowing each other to grieve how and when we need to. And let me make this clear: Doing so isn't always easy. Understanding that Ben's grief looks different from mine has been particularly difficult for me to grasp. (I can be pretty thick-headed at times...thank goodness Ben is the very essence of patience.)
  • Grace with others: This request carries over from before Carter passed away and is probably even more needed now. Here's the best way I can think of to pray for this: "Lord, help us to see the hearts of others when they offer support and when they stay silent. Help us to remember this is a difficult situation and no one really knows how to respond. And when the response is awful, may we have abundant grace and love for that person." (By the way, this request is not a back-handed way of trying to get anyone in particular to respond differently. I hope it doesn't come across that way. But, if you're wondering what to say or do in situations like these, let me just offer one small piece of advice: Ask the person. Some people need distance; others need to talk. And the worst thing you can do, probably, is to assume one way or the other. So, just ask: "What is helpful? What do you need?")
  • Incorporating Carter into our daily life: Carter made a huge impact on our hearts and lives. Now, we need to figure out how to keep him and his legacy as a part of our lives while still moving forward. As time moves on, our grief has become somewhat lighter and less constant, which can be both a blessing and a burden. We feel some normalcy, but at the same time feel like Carter is slipping further away from us. Sometimes the intense grief moments make me, in particular, feel closer to Carter. Therefore, the lack of intense emotion makes him feel a little farther away. So, please just pray as we figure all these things out. We aren't trying to rush ourselves, and we don't even have a picture of what that "new normal" will look like. We will (and want to) carry Carter forward with us, but want to do it in a healthy, God-honoring way. 
  • Not being fearful parents: It's so easy to be overprotective with Cohen right now. I think I even feel it a little bit with Ben sometimes, too....that fear of losing him, too. Ben and I both need to put our trust in God with this. However, after losing Carter, the reality of how easily life can be lost is with us daily. So, it's hard not to try to control it. 
Overall, know that our hearts are feeling lighter. We still cry. We still hurt. Certain moments sting worse than others. And I expect this loss will continue to confront us for the rest of our lives. However, we do feel like we are moving forward and are hopeful for the future.

Last week, Cohen and I were able to spend several days at my parents' house while Ben was in Denver, and I think that trip was really healing for me as I was able to spend time with my parents and sisters individually. They were all a huge help with Cohen (which he loved all the attention, like a good firstborn would...), and each one of them were so willing to let me talk about Carter and how I have been doing. Plus, I think they needed to do a little talking of their own. I'm so grateful for them. 

I want to close this post with a verse I recently read (I've been working my way, slowly, through the Psalms). May we all cling to its promise: 
" heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure, 
because you will not abandon me to the grave,
nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
You have made known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand."
Psalms 16:9-11 (NIV)


Carter's Dedication

Last Sunday was one of those days I anticipated, but didn't quite know how to prepare myself emotionally for it.

Our church regularly has baby dedications, in which the parents bring their little babes (dressed to the hilt, I might add) up in front of the congregation as a public way of giving their child over to God and asking the church to keep the parents accountable and supported. Well, Ben and I were asked if we wanted to be a part of it.

We weren't sure at first, because (as I think I had mentioned in Carter's birth story) our pastor had actually led us in dedicating our son to God in the hour after he was born. Right there in the delivery room, with our family members, close friends, and probably a few nurses gathered around us, Pastor Steve read Scripture and led us in a prayer of dedication, helping us hand over our Carter Benjamin to God.
"Handing him over" - this phrase just hits me over and over again because Carter was quite literally transferred from his earthly daddy's arms into his Heavenly Father's embrace, as our son passed away just minutes after the dedication.

While this image seems quite heavy, I have to admit that I felt God's presence more in that delivery room than I have in any church, cathedral, or religious site. I don't say this lightly, but I honestly believe God made that hospital room, with all its beeping machines and monitoring equipment, holy ground for those of us who were blessed to be there.
A time that should have wrecked us as parents wrapped us in joy. In those moments, we felt a peace and a strength to surrender our rights to be parents to Carter Benjamin. This calm surrender was from Someone outside ourselves. I will gladly be the first to admit I would have been a train wreck if left to experience these moments all on my own.

Carter's dedication was so sacred to us.

So when our church asked if we wanted to take part in the baby dedication, we were filled with uncertainty.  What could possibly "trump" the dedication experience we had in the hospital? In our minds, we had already given Carter's life and our rights over to God, so why would we need to do that again? Would we just be drawing unnecessary attention to ourselves? Did we have the strength to stand up with the parents who had babies in their arms and not fall to pieces? We didn't want to bring a cloud of sadness over what was supposed to be a happy occasion for these other parents.

These questions and concerns filled our minds, but our pastors had a clear vision of how they wanted to incorporate us and Carter's story into the baby dedication, without trying to "rededicate" him in any way. As it turned out, the pastors wanted to first of all share about his dedication and also make it an opportunity for the church to do its part in child dedication: to keep us accountable and support us as parents.

So on Sunday morning, March 6, in front of our church family at College Wesleyan Church, Pastor Steve shared briefly about our child who had been dedicated to God but that the dedication was unable to take place at the church building due to Carter's short life. He and Pastor Jil (our children's pastor) handed us a red, unopened rose not only to commemorate the dedication but also to symbolize that Carter's life (much like that rose) would open up not in this world, but in a heavenly one. Then, we along with the other parents who were up front dedicating their babies to God shared a time of prayer, led by Pastor Steve.

Looking back upon this experience, I'm glad we did it. I was very anxious about it all Sunday morning, not knowing how I might feel when it was actually taking place. But, just like He has all along, God showed up and gave us the strength to do it and the eyes to see past our own painful world into an unseen one to which we dedicated our son. Carter now sees this other heavenly world with completely unhindered vision. In fact, that is the only world Carter has ever seen since he never opened his eyes during his time with us. That's strangely comforting to me.

While the church dedication service had difficult moments for us emotionally, we were honored to stand beside the other parents with their babies. Their joy did not increase our pain, because we would never wish our circumstances on anyone else. Moments like that one just remind us of our loss. But by hearing Pastor Steve share about Carter's dedication in the hospital, we were also reminded of our joy, of that sacred, holy time we spent with our son in the presence of God before He took Carter up in His arms.

We were glad to share with our local church family (and the greater worldwide Church) how we dedicated Carter to God, so that as we move forward in this life, we can continue to be held accountable to live in God's presence, just like we were in that delivery room. Even now, I invite you to be a part of Carter's life by helping us to be parents to him the only way we know how: by being his voice in this world. Please pray also as we continue to parent our son Cohen (now 18 months old), and ask God to give us the strength and wisdom to daily surrender our rights as parents and to give both our sons to God.


Hand in Hand

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
  and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

But I trust in your unfailing love;
  my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the LORD’s praise,
for he has been good to me.
- Psalm 13: 2, 5-6 (NIV)

I'm trying to do my best not to write only on the rough days. We really have had a lot of sunshine (literally and figuratively) in the last four weeks. Each day brings a bit of goodness and difficulty with it. I'm doing my best to embrace both, for they are both part of this journey.

And really...I think they are both honoring to Carter.

Yesterday, I think Ben described our hurting as "raw," and I really couldn't have chosen a better word for where our emotions are most days. But this feeling of being raw, with open sores for all to see, is just a testimony to how Carter's short life was such a big one and how much we love that little boy. (Yes, I use the present tense "love" here. I still love the socks off of him, even if I can't hold him and tell him that face to face.) So while I may burst into tears without warning, it's because of the intense love between a momma and her boy. You just can't heal without some pain along the way.

And when we have less-painful days, when our home is filled with the laughter of visiting friends or when Cohen's toddler antics and attempts to talk keep us quite busy, these days are also a testament to Carter's life. These lighter days show how joy will always overtake the suffering, even though they often come hand in hand. We are able to laugh and have fun because we know Carter's short life was filled with a lifetime of love.

God's presence was never as evident to us than the hour and three minutes we had with Carter in that delivery room. The peace and overwhelming joy we had during our time with our son bleeds over into our daily lives, and we just have to cling to the God who gives such comfort. I think I am really just beginning to understand what it means to have joy in the suffering, to rest assure that while my heart anguishes over my loss, my soul is still at rest.

I'm so glad that joy (not happiness, mind you) transcends the good and the bad days. That something as quiet as night but as strong as iron keeps track of my broken heart, silently taking each piece and creating something beautiful out of each shard.

It may take quite a while, and I'm not always the most complicit with God's attempts to redeem this difficult situation. However, I find I have to cling to God's goodness and faithfulness. Nothing else gives me something to hold on to, to face both the good and the bad as they often walk hand in hand. Belief in God, even in circumstances like this, is not an option for me. It's essential to my daily survival.

And for a moment, let me just say to others who may find themselves aching in their own loss: I'm so sorry. From the depths of me, I feel your pain. In the quiet of the night, when you feel alone or like you can barely breathe, I'm right there with you. But, please, don't stop believing in God's goodness or His ability to turn our brokenness into beauty. If you are struggling to believe, tell Him. May we not allow the pain of our loss to turn our souls bitter.

With gusto and with tears, I cry out: God is good. All the time.


Carter Pictures

Only about a week before Carter was born, we were blessed to have some great maternity pictures taken through an organization called Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. Our photographer, Marla, did a great job helping us capture our pregnancy time with Carter. Here are a couple of our favorites:

When I went into labor early and in the middle of the night, I couldn't sleep because I knew we needed to find a photographer in our area....and fast. Having good pictures of Carter was a must. Oh, and we needed to find someone who would be willing to drive to the hospital in the midst of the blizzard. Our friend Lindsey is a great photographer and was willing to brave the conditions (bless you, Lindsey), but she did not have the setup at our local hospital. However, she helped us find Carl at Portrayal Studios, who already did some fantastic newborn photos and had a small studio right at the hospital. He agreed to come to the hospital when Carter was born as long as his car could make it there. And we thank God it did safely! The following are a few of the priceless images Carl took of Carter and of our family.



It's been three weeks from today since we said hello and goodbye to Carter. I feel like it's been longer, as the last few weeks have brought every imaginable thought and emotion.

We keep asking ourselves, "What is normal now?"

More often, I find that my grief comes in deeply painful waves that fall in between somewhat "normal" moments. But these unexpected waves are so deep that it literally takes my breath away until I let the emotions all spill out. Things catch me off guard, like when Cohen points at my smaller belly and says "baby" as we finish our breakfast. Or when I look up from watching TV and see pictures of Carter on our entertainment center, and I just ache to reach into the photo and hold him close.

Sometimes feeling "too normal" in and of itself can be painful, because I'm afraid of moving forward too quickly or forgetting the blessings of the last nine months. I'm afraid that healing means forgetting, even though rationally I know that's not the case. But try telling that to my emotions.

As Angie Smith noted in her book I Will Carry You and on her blog, I am finding it takes so much strength to allow myself to be weak in these moments of intense grief. Being weak is scary. It means letting myself go to the lowest of low places, trusting that God will meet me there. And trust doesn't always come easy.

It is fear that keeps me from breaking down when I know I need to. Fear makes me bite my lip to hold back the tears when people ask if I'm okay. I'm afraid to be weak, and I often avoid it. I don't know why, and I'm sure that the why is far less important than choosing not to act on that fear.

But what I do know is that God does not call me to embrace my fears. He calls me to trust Him, even if that means letting my heart break into so many pieces I'm not sure they can all be found. It means trusting that He can and He will create something beautiful out of my brokenness.

Strength, I'm finding, isn't putting on a happy face and powering through. It takes so much more strength to let myself crumble, to be weak. And in those moments when I collapse in tears on our kitchen floor, when I cry until I'm physically tired, I find that God does something only God could do. I wish I could put the perfect words to it, to explain it tangibly. Here's the best I can do: When I let myself be weak before God and others, I don't walk away healed from my pain completely, but I also don't walk away feeling quite so lonely. Perhaps this is what God meant by finding joy in the midst of suffering.

So while we're hurting, we continue to find God faithful. We continue to find joy in our time we had with Carter, even though we miss him. God is good, and His fingerprints continue to be all over our lives as we do "normal" things like going to work or eating dinner as a family. We still don't know what our new "normal" looks like fully, but we are hopeful, knowing that our God is near.


A Letter from Us

The last couple weeks haven't been easy, and I haven't much felt like writing. It's kind of been a feeling of, "Where do I start?" However, we did want to be sure to post the following letter. For those of you who weren't able to be at Carter's celebration service on February 4, Ben and I wrote the following letter to our friends and family and had it read by one of our pastors during the service.

Dear friends and family,

When we first learned of Carter’s condition, we looked at each other and said, “I can’t do this.” “This story was not supposed to be ours.” Had we left that ultrasound room and tried to walk this journey alone, without God’s grace and strength and the support of His Church, we couldn’t be here today with such an inexplicable mix of joy and sorrow in our hearts.

This journey has and will continue to be bittersweet. We’ve experienced more pain and deep sorrow than we knew possible. We think about the “what would have beens”: Carter and Cohen as best friends and playmates, perhaps even partners in crime. All of Carter’s “firsts.” We ask ourselves what personality he would have developed and what funny things he might have said and done. These thoughts break our hearts and will probably continue to do so for a long time.

But in this pain, we are accompanied by a sweetness. God has drawn us closer to Himself, reminding us that our loss is Carter’s gain. Life isn’t easy, and neither is parenting. Raising a child in an unpredictable world can be such a scary thing, so although we miss Carter, we feel God is stepping in and almost saying “Hey, Ben and Sarah, don’t worry about this one. I’ve got it covered.”

God’s peace is something we may never fully understand or grasp, but this journey has allowed us to experience it in a deeper way than we knew possible. God is so faithful, good, and loving. In that one hour we were able to spend with Carter before he passed, God orchestrated such a beautiful and sacred time with our son. We felt God’s presence in that delivery room as we held Carter; heard his sweet little cries; kissed him; watched as grandparents, aunts, and uncles snuggled him close; as Cohen touched his baby brother’s toes; and as Pastor Steve dedicated Carter to God. In that hour, Carter experienced more love than many people get in a lifetime.

So while it’s tempting to ask, “Why God? Why us?”, we think about that hour we had with Carter and simply reply, “Why not us?” Life is difficult, but God redeems the broken pieces. He creates something more sacred than what we could have ever put together ourselves. Our hearts mourn the loss of our son, but we know God has and will continue to demonstrate His faithfulness. We hope that everyone who hears about our baby boy will not walk away angry or bitter but instead will see God’s presence in the midst of pain in a very real and tangible way.

We also want to thank everyone for all your prayer and support. While we may appear brave at times, we have had (and will continue to have) many moments and days where we don’t know how to move forward, but we firmly believe that is where God fills our broken pieces with the prayers of His people. Thank you for walking beside us and making Carter’s life so special.

We love you all, 
Ben & Sarah


Service Details

The following is the information for Carter's celebration service and graveside ceremony:

Celebration Service - Friday, February 4
Visitation with the family and a celebration service will take place at College Wesleyan Church in Marion, IN. Visitation begins at 10 am in the church chapel; the service starts in the church sanctuary at 11 am.

Graveside Ceremony - Saturday, February 5
A short burial service will take place at 11 am at St. James Lutheran Cemetery of Reynolds, IN.

Carter Benjamin Westfall

We finally got to meet our Carter Benjamin yesterday. While I want to share the entire story of his arrival and our goodbye, we aren't ready to include all the details quite yet. However, we wanted our friends and family to hear from our lips about the beautiful blessing that came to us yesterday morning.

Because pretty much nothing has gone as planned with this pregnancy, God decided to allow that trend to continue with Carter's birth as labor began about five weeks early. Plus, the day of his arrival brought the worst snow and ice storm to hit the area in years. So when my water broke early Tuesday morning, we knew that traveling to the IU Med Center in Indianapolis was out of the question, and therefore we opted to deliver Carter here in Marion. My OB-GYN actually had the day off, but he made an exception to come in to the hospital to help us and deliver Carter.

The labor progressed slowly, which allowed all of our immediate family to make it to the hospital carefully and safely on the bad roads. Since we ended up in Marion instead of Indy, we were able to have several church friends stop by and offer support and prayers. When it came time to give birth to Carter, our family was surrounded by a lot of love.

Carter arrived at 5:52 am on February 2, weighing 5 lbs and measuring 17 3/4 inches. He was so beautiful and perfect, and we were able to spend one amazing hour with him. During that time, Carter was overwhelmed by love as Ben and I, along with Carter's big brother Cohen and each of our immediate family members, pastors, and a close family friend were able to hold him, kiss him, and talk to him. Pastor Steve literally sprinted through the winter storm a block and a half to be at the hospital. He arrived in time for us to all gather around Carter and dedicate him to God, right there in the delivery room. I wish I could describe how beautiful and sacred that moment was.

When Carter passed away, he went quietly and peacefully snuggled in Ben's arms. Ben and I both felt God's comfort and peace in that moment, knowing it was Carter's time to be with Jesus. Our family continued to surround us as we took pictures of Carter and held him for quite a while. Saying goodbye was the hardest part. I can't even go into detail about that right now.

We just want you to know that while our hearts mourn the loss of Carter we feel God orchestrated his entrance in and out of this world better than we ever could have imagined. Our God is good.

God has been so faithful, answering so many of our/your prayers. However, we still covet your prayer support in the days ahead as we know they will continue to be quite difficult emotionally and physically. I (Sarah) am recovering quite well from labor and delivery, but I know that the next few days will be quite taxing. Please pray for God's continued grace and strength for us, our family, and close friends. Many hearts are hurting. Pray for us today as we finalize Carter's memorial service and burial plans. Pray also for Carter's big brother Cohen as he continues to fight off some seasonal illness and ear infection; we would love for him to feel well. Thank you for your love and prayers. We will post memorial service information soon.


In labor

This post will be short as we are in the hospital and time is coming closer to meet Carter. My water broke early this morning and we have been slowly progressing all day.

Please pray that labor will continue to progress and that Carter continues to handle it well. We just want some time with our little boy.

Please pray also for family members who are traveling in adverse winter weather conditions in order to get here. Most of our family is here. Between family and our church family, we are being well taken care of.

While taken off guard, we feel God's timing is perfect, but just need His grace and strength to do what's next.

Thanks to everyone for caring and for supporting us. You are much appreciated.


The Bittersweet

Over the last couple days, I've really been thinking about how this whole journey with Carter has such high highs and low lows. Let me tell you what I mean:

Bitter: Knowing Carter will likely never play trucks with his older brother or discover music, sports, or art. It's really hard for us to think of all the things we imagined doing with Carter and Cohen together. We were so excited for our kids to be so close in age and become good playmates.

Sweet: Being able to appreciate all the little nuances of pregnancy and bonding with Carter now the only way we know how. We spend a lot more time talking to him, touching my belly, responding to his movements, and just trying to include him into our everyday adventures (everything from watching TV to enjoying the worship music at church). I tell him about his daddy and older brother, but most of all, we tell Carter how much we love him and the blessing that he is.

Bitter: Having to tell people that our little boy's prognosis from the doctors is terminal. We don't tell every Joe we meet on the street, but even then, we have to give a lot of grace to strangers and their typical pregnancy questions: "What are you having?" "When are you due?" "Is this your first?" We don't spill everything in these situations, but kindly answer their questions: "A boy. His name is Carter Benjamin, and he's our second son. The due date is early March." Behind our short, simple answers lies the sting of reality.

Sweet: One of the most amazing things has been how real our relationship with Jesus has been since finding out about Carter's condition. We don't mean to come across as fanatics, and we hope none of our friends think that our talking about God's peace and grace so often is an effort to proselytize. The fact of the matter is that we talk about Jesus and ask for prayer in all this because it truly is the only way we know how to survive. It's only through Jesus that we find peace in the midst of such crappy circumstances. It's only through Jesus that we can get out of bed every day knowing what is to come. We've certainly asked Him our questions (and told Him what we think), but we cling to Him nonetheless. I really wish I could describe how real God has been to us.

Sweet: I want to end on another sweet note. This week has been particularly tough for us as I began to show some early labor signs. No major contractions or anything yet, but these early signs do indicate that things may be happening sooner than we had planned. It's been a tough reality to handle. We want more time with our Carter, but we are also really excited to meet him. However, the sweetness in all this is how we've seen God gently care for us through other people. We've had family members allow Ben and myself some much-needed time alone. We've had unexpected financial gifts given to us, knowing of the medical and burial/funeral expenses we have ahead. Numerous people have brought us delicious meals and even offered to watch Cohen when we need some "time off." So in the midst of such fear and uncertainty, we are gently being reminded that God is taking care of us. Even an early delivery may be a blessing if it means being able to have time with Carter while he's still alive.

All this to say that although the bitter can often outweigh the sweet, we are not without some sweet, sweet moments with Carter, with God, with our family, and with our extended church family and friends. We know this situation is bleak and our hearts grieve daily, but we know God is faithful and He WILL redeem this pain. The sweet WILL outweigh the bitter at some point.


Jan. 20 Doctor Visit

Yesterday we met with our new doctor down at the IU Med Center, and ever since, I've been trying to find the words to tell you about the appointment.

In some ways, it was very routine. My belly was measured, and we listened to Carter's heart beat at 130 bpm. Every time the doctor goes to check the heart, I hold my breath. Although I feel him move inside me, the reality that he could yet be stillborn lingers in the room. I depend on that heart beat right now, because I so badly want to meet my baby boy alive, even it's only for an hour.

His heart beat normally yesterday. I love that little heart beat.

Our new doctor was quite different from ours here in town, but I think we will like her. One thing I definitely appreciated about her was her honesty. She did not try to mince words or sugar coat the truth of what we might face during the next several weeks and at Carter's birth. Knowing the facts seems to help.

As of right now, we have decided not to induce. I know this goes against what we originally thought, but our doctor seemed to think that (all things considered) allowing nature to work out the due date would be best. We will continue to assess this decision, though, as the weeks go on (I'm currently 33 weeks pregnant).

To be honest, this decision was a bit of a relief to Ben and myself. I was growing more and more uneasy at the thought of choosing a day to meet and say goodbye to Carter. I don't mean to sound calloused, but it almost felt choosing like a death sentence. I wasn't ready to make that choice. So, as it stands, we are going to continue carrying to term and allow my body to tell me when Carter will arrive. For now, I feel settled in that decision, although continued prayer that God would give us wisdom in these decisions would be helpful. These are decisions we just never considered for ourselves and trying to find "what's right" isn't easy.

We continue to cling to all the precious moments we have with Carter. Here's what we know about our son: We know he continues to grow, but is likely a bit smaller than most babies at his stage (probably about 3 weeks behind on the growth charts). He moves around a lot, especially when his older brother Cohen bumps into him or comes to "inspect" Mommy's funny belly button. One very cool thing is how Carter seems to respond to Ben's touch and his voice. I can't tell you how many times Carter has been somewhat quiet, only to have Ben put his hand on my belly or talk to him that elicits more movement than I felt all day. Ben definitely knows how to rile up his boys, and we both find a lot of joy in this.

I'm not exactly sure how to wrap up this post only to thank you for your prayers during our doctor visit yesterday and by continuing to thank God for our Carter Benjamin. Please pray we will continue to make the most of this time we have with him.



It continues to throw me when something so simple can throw me for an emotional loop. Today, I was driving back home from dropping Ben off at the church when a Lifehouse song "Broken" came on the radio. I've heard this song a bazillion times, but today the lyrics hit me like a brick wall.

"Broken" by Lifehouse

The broken clock is a comfort, it helps me sleep tonight
Maybe it can stop tomorrow from stealing all my time
I am here still waiting though i still have my doubts
I am damaged at best, like you've already figured out

I'm falling apart, I'm barely breathing
With a broken heart that's still beating
In the pain is there is healing
In your name I find meaning
So I'm holdin' on, I'm holdin' on, I'm holdin' on
I'm barely holdin' on to you

The broken locks were a warning you got inside my head
I tried my best to be guarded, I'm an open book instead
I still see your reflection inside of my eyes
That are looking for a purpose, they're still looking for life

I'm falling apart, I'm barely breathing
with a broken heart that's still beating
In the pain is there is healing
In your name I find meaning
So I'm holdin' on, I'm holdin' on, I'm holdin' on
I'm barely holdin' on to you

I'm hangin' on another day
Just to see what you will throw my way
And I'm hanging on to the words you say
You said that I will, I'll be ok

The broken lights on the freeway left me here alone
I may have lost my way now, haven't forgotten my way home

I'm falling apart, I'm barely breathing
with a broken heart that's still beating
In the pain there is healing
In your name I find meaning
So I'm holdin' on, I'm holdin' on, I'm holdin' on
I'm barely holdin' on to you

So, there I was, sitting in my car with Cohen in the backseat (thankfully we were parked in our garage at this point), and I just lost it. I let the tears roll down my face as I let the reality of my own brokenness over Carter sweep over me. As the song says, "In the pain there is healing." I just sat there crying, knowing I had to let myself just feel the intensity of that moment. I needed to cry. I need to feel that pain. I needed to mourn the doctor's prediction of Carter's short, sweet life.

Of course, poor Cohen in the backseat didn't have a clue what was going on, but he quietly sat there as I finished the song. Sometimes God just knows when I need to unravel, and I am so grateful for things like music that help bring the brokenness out of me. The last thing I want to do is bury it and allow it to make my soul bitter. Letting it out lets God in.

And over time, even this afternoon as I was able to have some quiet moments during Cohen's nap time, my heart heals a little. I know more brokenness is in the works, but healing along the way has got to be so much easier than ripping off a bandage to a gaping wound later on. It just has to be.


1/18/11 Update

We have been a little M.I.A. this last week in keeping everyone in the loop due to Cohen and me both getting various illnesses. I think we're finally on the up and up, however. You never appreciate good health quite as much as when you start getting over a sickness. So here are a few tidbits to bring you up to speed on how we're doing. Sorry it's pretty random.

Carter continues to move around a lot every day. While there's still a chance that he could be stillborn, my prayer continues to be that we get at least a few hours of precious time with him. I know God can do a lot more than this, but that's about all the "hoping" I can muster up right about now. We definitely are depending upon the faith and prayers of others to pray for more. (So please...keep praying for miracles!)

I (Sarah) am increasingly more tired and have been struggling with quite a bit of back pain, which is just normal pregnancy stuff. However, prayers for comfort and for sleep are much appreciated.

Our sleepless and sickness-filled week last week left both me and Ben a little raw emotionally. I think we have both been feeling like our time with Carter is slipping by, and as his due date gets closer, we have really mixed emotions. On one hand, I cannot wait to meet the little guy who continues to daily move inside me. I want to hold him and love on him like you can only do after a child is born. However, I know that his birth also means saying goodbye. And that is what we do not feel prepared to handle. God will give us grace and strength in those moments, we are sure. He has been here so far and will continue to be. Not knowing what lies ahead, we just have to depend on Him.

Doctor Update:
Jan. 20: Dr. Appt - Many of you may know that we have decided to deliver Carter at the IU Hospital in downtown Indy. This week, we begin our regular appointments with one of the neonatal specialists there. This doctor is new to us, but we have heard good things about her. Please pray that we can begin to feel comfortable with the staff in Indy. We will also probably meet with the perinatal hospice worker with whom we've been in contact. Between now and when we deliver Carter (date still to be determined), we have a lot of details to work out. We hope to share some of our plans with you at some point.

More Thanks:
Thanks again to everyone for your support and prayers. We continue to be blessed by all our friends, family members, and even complete strangers who are encouraging us, praying for us, and thinking of Carter daily. We are amazed not only be the number of people who care, but also how MUCH they care. Thank you.

Scared to Intrude?
We just want to reiterate that you can feel free to talk to us and ask questions. We aren't looking for more pity or anything, but I know several people who have said that they didn't know whether to say something to us or stay away. So, I just wanted to be forthright with where we stand. I know words don't always come easy (they don't for us either), but talking is much easier for us than knowing how to deal with avoidance. You are not intruding. Even a simple "We're sorry" or "I'm praying for you" blesses us. Talking about the facts of what's going on is generally therapeutic. We don't expect everyone to say something, but want you to feel that you can.



Yesterday was a particularly challenging day in the Westfall home. Normally, I'm not inclined to give you a play by play of what happens at our house, but yesterday was just too much.

Cohen had been fighting off a virus along with an ear infection the last few days, which produced a pretty cranky toddler. Combined with a few sleep-deprived nights (courtesy of Cohen's fever and ear infection), Ben and I were probably not in the best of moods or mindsets. It was one of those days in which I probably would have taken a friend up on the offer to hang out with Cohen, but I didn't want to pass around anything contagious he might have had.

So, we just had to face reality as it came to us. Even though we were tired, making me more hormonal and emotional, we had to keep on being parents. That was the kind of day in which I needed God's grace. Cohen is such a blessing, but sometimes being a parent can be exhausting even on the best of days. I really had to muster up all the determination I had to make it through.

And let me say...the day at least ended on a good note. Well, in a weird way. I was getting Cohen ready for bed, which included his ritual bath time. He was playing by himself nicely while I talked on the phone with my brother, Michael. Suddenly, I looked down at Cohen just in time to see an odd expression on his face followed by a surprise. I quickly yelled into the phone, "Cohen just pooped in the tub, I gotta go" and then grabbed Cohen out of the water. Then, in trying to clean up the mess quickly, I thought I heard my scooping bucket leaking. Not seeing any leaks, but still hearing the noise, I look over at Cohen who was peeing on the floor.

I burst out laughing. Cohen, who had previously had an "uh-oh" expression on his face, began to laugh with me, and I just had to give him a huge hug. Despite all our grievances with each other that day, we smiled, took care of cleaning up him and the tub, and enjoyed a peaceful remainder of our evening.

No matter how challenging, I thank God for these moments. I thank God for giving me Cohen who keeps me grounded in reality, not wallowing in self-pity. He also gives us lots of laughs. Laughing really is good medicine. We continue to learn that we need to allow ourselves time and permission to experience every range of emotion; we need both the highs and the lows.


How you can be praying...

While I'm sure our prayer needs will change from time to time, here are some specific ways in which Ben, Cohen, Carter, & I ask for your prayers:
  • Strength for each day. Being emotionally and physically worn out seem to come hand in hand, especially when we are still chasing after a toddler and trying to keep up with other areas of life.
  • Grace for ourselves & as we interact with others. Ben and I have a phrase that we keep saying to each other - "Stop 'shoulding' yourself." In other words, stop using the word should in reference to how we feel, think, or react. There's no guidebook on how to react in this situation, and we need to exercise a little grace with ourselves. Also, we need grace to extend to others, especially when we have to tell them about Carter or when our emotions are raw. We are so grateful for the support of others that we cannot fault them if they do not know exactly what to say or do around us. I'm not sure we would know either, if we were on the other end.
  • Wisdom. We can't stop parenting Cohen just because we are in a difficult situation. We need parenting wisdom to keep at it with our 16-month-old. Plus, we are making some pretty major decisions for our family and for Carter after he is born. There are a lot of things to think about, and we want to make sure these decisions bring honor to God and to Carter.
  • Miracles. While I honestly have a hard time allowing myself to hope, I know I would be overlooking the power of the God I love if I did not at least ask for Carter's complete healing. We aren't naive to Carter's condition, but how can we not ask? Perhaps you all have a bit more faith than I do at this point and can ask better than I can for such a miracle. But in the same vein, please also pray that we would find peace & comfort in knowing that God may not redeem this situation like we would want, but that He will redeem it.
These are the major prayer concerns we face on a daily basis. Some days more than others, as we allow ourselves to experience the pains and joys that come each day. Believe it or not, we actually do have some relatively "normal" days, and this is good. God uses Cohen a lot to help keep us grounded.

So thank you for your continued prayers. I know God may give you even more wisdom to know how to pray, and I am so grateful for it.


Carter's birth defect: Renal agenesis

I am not a medical person. However, both Ben and I have found that talking factually about Carter's lack of kidneys as well as what we can expect during and after labor/delivery has been helpful. While we cannot be fully prepared for Carter's delivery and the days to follow, knowing some of these medical things have given us some strength to face what's ahead. However, I'd be remiss to think Ben and I were the only ones with questions about Carter's medical state.

While I can explain in part Carter's condition - called renal agenesis - I think I better let the experts do the bulk of the work for you. Hopefully this link about renal agenesis can clear up some questions people have.

This information comes from the March of Dimes website and seems to be pretty straightforward. Hope it helps.


Why blog?

I was initially hesitant to start a blog about Carter and our family's journey. I didn't want to commercialize on our pain or dishonor Carter's life in some way by being just another blog out there. However, after some encouragement from family, as well as the realization of how hard it can be sometimes to retell things over and over, I gave in.

We are overwhelmed by the number of people who care about Carter and our family. Overwhelmed in a good way, I might add. The least we can do is keep people up to date on what's going on, how God is working, and how others can be praying. Plus, I don't want people to miss out on the current joys we experience as Carter is still quite living and active inside me (Sarah).

As difficult as this is and will continue to be, we also have to draw attention to God's faithfulness. Carter is so clearly God's child. And as much pain as it causes us to give him up, the grace, strength, and love we have experienced so far has been more than we ever expected of God. It really is bittersweet to feel such pain on one hand and such love from Another.

God is good, all the time.


Thank You

To everyone who has left us a Facebook message, delivered a meal, said a prayer, given us a hug, or shown us love in some way...

Thank you.

While we may not reply to every note or message we receive, we need your support and covet your prayers. God is hearing them and has been faithful in helping us survive each day. Know that we have been comforted and overwhelmed (in a good way) by your love.