Losing Precious Astrid and Keeping the Faith

These days I start to pray, and I don’t know what to say. I feel the need to lean on God more than ever, but at times I don’t know exactly what I’m putting my faith in.  He promises to take care of us, that we don’t need to worry about anything, that He won’t give us more than we can bear, that in all things He works for the good of those who love Him.

Well, let me be honest – right now, I do worry and I don’t feel very taken care of and my heart is breaking under the burden of grief and it doesn’t seem like things are working out for “good.”

But I suppose that’s what faith is all about. Who are we to question the Maker of heaven and earth?  His ways are not our ways; we don’t always understand how He works.  It’s so easy to doubt and question when we just don’t get it.

Last week, my twin brother and sister-in-law, Jenn, lost their sweet baby Astrid, born into Heaven, just a few weeks away from her due date. Labor and delivery took a few days, and throughout the whole time I was praying praying praying, thinking that if I just believed and had violent faith, it would all be fixed.  God can do miracles; I just needed to have faith – God can do anything!  He would come through.  Astrid was sleeping – He would wake her up and she would come out wiggling and crying and into the arms of parents who have wanted her for so long.

She didn’t wake up.

When I heard the news, I cried out, “no, no, no, this wasn’t supposed to happen!”  God was supposed to take care of everything and make it all better.  How could He allow this to happen, to let this sadness rain down upon us?  I felt like He had answered a prayer for a baby when she was conceived, then took it away before it was even her time to be born.


Dan, Jenn, & Astrid

I was crushed when we lost Shiloh, and it has taken me time to move on. I will never forget the loss, always feel like someone is missing from our family, but it has gotten better. This sudden tragedy has rekindled and magnified that grief – the lost future, things that will never be, cousins who will never be together on earth. Oh, I just want to hold that sweet baby and watch her grow up! The loss of Astrid has touched more people than I can imagine. One of the things I kept praying over and over while waiting for Astrid to be born was that I didn’t want Dan and Jenn to feel such pain and sadness – “don’t let them go through this pain, Lord, please please please.”  But His ways are not our ways.  Faith.

I wish I could make it all better. But apart from sharing in this burden, it’s not up to me to make it go away and deny the work that God is doing and the glory that will come from it all.  Dan and Jenn have exemplified such strong faith throughout all of this; their story is a testimony to myself and others.

Recently, they wrote Astrid’s beautiful story to share with others.  Please take a moment to read about the short, precious life of Astrid Katherine Sorensen, who has already touched so many people.


Waves of Light for October 15th

You know how there are different colors assigned for different areas of awareness?  The one that immediately comes to mind is the pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness.  And I know about grey or silver for various brain diseases because a college friend of Phil’s died a number of years ago and we wore bracelets.  Well, apparently there’s a long list of colored ribbons and what they mean.

infant loss awareness ribbonI recently discovered another one.  Shortly after losing Shiloh, I was scouring the web for blog posts and articles, trying to deal with my grief.  To my dismay, I learned that October 15th – my birthday – is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

While it obviously hurts to think about what is lost, to focus on it, remember, think ahead to what is missing and what will never be, it is also important to me to honor Shiloh.  And to remember all those other women and families who have been touched by this particular kind of grief.

From the October15th website:

“Everyone is invited to light a candle on October 15th at 7pm in all time zones, all over the world.  If everyone lights a candle… and keeps it burning for at least an hour, there will be a continuous wave of light over the entire world…”

Remember the Babies


*Edited to add: Here are some additional ways from the October15th website to help and spread awareness during the month of October.

Another discovery which touched my heart is the Carly Marie Project Heal website.  Her art – like the one above – speaks to those who have experienced this intense loss.  She organizes a bunch of projects – like Memorial Beach Art with your baby’s name and beautiful images carved into the sand, Capture Your Grief where you explore a subject word each day and take meaningful photographs, and the Prayer Flag Project for making a memorial flag for the one you have lost.

prayer flags


Even though the official project day is over, I really want to make one of these for Shiloh. I love what her website says about the prayer flags:

“The tradition of hanging Prayer Flags dates back thousands of years. It is believed that once the Prayer Flags are hung up, the breeze takes the prayers and carries them all over the world.”

So, whether or not you know someone who has been touched by infant loss – whether it be a miscarriage, stillbirth, or loss of a baby – please light a candle on October 15th to honor and support those around you. Add your brilliance to the Waves of Light.

*See my Angel Baby Pinterest board for other inspiring links, quotes, songs, etc.


Body Prayer

I started attending a Sunday School small group at my church.  I had balked in the past, mostly due to the fact that Addy was little and I didn’t want her to have to be in the nursery forever, because it would end up being a long morning and she would be tired and fussy afterwards.  Also, part of me didn’t want to commit to something; some days I don’t feel like getting out of bed and making myself presentable, much less dragging the kids to church with me if Phil is working.

But… recently my church started offering up small groups again, and they began with six-week studies, which seemed doable for me.  I picked a women’s prayer group, partly because I know the lady who is leading it, partly because it’s just women… and also because I really struggle with prayer.  Perhaps I would learn a thing or two?

I went to the first meeting, then missed the next two due to the fam coming down with colds and our trip to Deerfield, but I’ve enjoyed the two meetings I actually attended.

We follow the acronym for ACTSAdoration. Confession. Thanksgiving.  Supplication.  We start by singing songs and writing down or telling things that God has been doing in our lives.  We take time to ask God’s forgiveness – either by writing in our journals or praying silently.  We list things for which we are thankful, and share with the group as we feel led.  Then we ask for prayer for those things which are on our hearts – big things, little things, whatever they may be.

There are some activities our leader has incorporated – praying as a unified group for needs in the church, praying for missing children (the ones you see on food boxes), regularly praying for something specific.

Each week, a poem is passed out, and this past Sunday’s poem is called Body Prayer.  I find praying through music or written word helpful, because they can often say and express what I cannot.  This poem resonated with me, and I’d like to share.

Body Prayer – anonymous
I pray today with my head, Lord, lifting it heavenward in adoration.
I pray today with my eyes, Lord, looking for things that are not seen.
I pray today with my hands, Lord, raising them in jubilant praise.
I pray today with my knees, Lord, bowing in submission and contrition.
I pray today with my feet, Lord, working with all my might.
May you be please with my prayer.

The theme for the week was Prayer Posture, and the songs, verses, and poem highlighted the different forms people take when they are praying to God.  I shared that I tend to pray when I’m standing or driving – sometimes laying in bed – but this usually distracts me.  If we take the time to purposefully pray, raising our hands or bowing our heads, saying our prayers out loud, I think they would be more meaningful.  Here is an interesting post about the significance of different prayer postures.

One of my favorites verses about prayer:
Philippians 4:6-7“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”


Deerfield Fair

This year’s trip to Deerfield Fair was bittersweet.  It ended up being our only camping trip of the season since money has been tight, but it is a tradition from Phil’s childhood and we have carried it on since Josiah was a baby.

I knew it would be tough… before it all went down, I realized with anticipation that I would be wearing maternity clothes and would experience another Deerfield camping trip being pregnant (like I did a couple years ago when Addy was in my tummy). There are lots of memories of being pregnant and having babies with us for the journey, but this year kind of threw a wrench in the works.

Of course I expected to see lots of pregnant women, but there happened to be one crossing the road just as we were turning into the entrance, and I was like, well, here we go…  We had a wonderful time, the weather held despite forecasts of rain, and the chill in the air kept the crowds down.  I only cried a few times, mainly at certain areas of the fair where I had hoped to buy something for Shiloh.

We love the fair for its agricultural purposes – the farming, animals, different shows and attractions… but of course the kiddos like the rides.  We let them each pick a few rides, but we don’t go overboard.

This year, Addy thought the amusement park section was a “playground,” and didn’t understand that she couldn’t just go on anything she pleased.  We knew she would get tired from all of the walking around, so while we did let her go on foot part of the time, Phil wore her in the baby backpack, where she was a happy camper.  When Meme and Pepe go along, like they did this year, they generously let the kids pick something to buy.  We weren’t sure what Addy would be interested in, and I remembered the fiber arts tent (with sheep, goats, llamas, alpaca, and various booths made with their fur).  Sure enough… she found this wonderful, smooth, shaggy bear and wanted to take “her baby” home right away.  The hair on this thing is just like Addy’s!  We had recently seen Ponyo, so that’s what Addy named her.  On the last day, we caught a dance act, and Addy tried to dance along with them on the grass doing twirls and various acriobatics – it was a riot!  Doesn’t her hair look red in these pictures?

Addy at Deerfield

*I just realized I have the same photo in there twice – oops! It was just too cute.

Josiah and Daddy both love to look at the big machinery; in fact I tease Phil that the only reason he goes to the fair is to try and get a good deal on a trailer, tractor, wood planer…  We watched a tractor pull, which honestly was a little boring for me, but the boys love it.  Actually, they love anything that involves dirt and grease and loud noises.  Why is that?!

Josiah at Deerfield

Both Gwen and Josiah have gotten better at showing interest in things other than the rides… but oh, the grins on their races when they go on!  We also go on the ferris wheel as a family, which is always fun.  Gwen is kind of like Mommy – she loves to see the animals and coo over the cute creatures.  Right after breakfast in our camper, we go through the animal barns and petting zoo before it gets crowded.  There were lots of baby pigs this year, one of them a brindle pig with beautiful coloring – I wanted to take it home with me!  Last year it was hot, but this year the chill had us craving hot drinks, so we often walked around with hot chocolate or hot apple cider – yum!

Gwen at Deerfield

Aside from the animals, another one of our favorites is the sheepdog herding demonstration, which we catch every year.  I have no idea what local farm they come out of, but I think it’s fascinating how they work with their dogs.  And we finally managed to catch the the Flying Wallendas act in its entirety; their high wire act made me nervous!  BJ Hickman’s magic act always has us laughing… the kids in stitches.

A family member on Phil’s side owns a traveling children’s zoo, and it’s always a lot of fun to walk around their tent and see the animals.  The last two years they had a baby kangaroo, and this year Meme and Pepe shelled out some coins to feed the animals who acted like they hadn’t eaten for days.  Addy got a pony ride, and Gwen and Josiah had their first camel ride – ah, milestones!

Probably the biggest event is the Free-For-All Horse Pull on Saturday night.  You have to get to the stands early if you want to get a seat, and this year we packed dinner (I made tailgate sandwiches) so we wouldn’t have to fight the crowds. The kids get tired and antsy, but we pack snacks and it’s neat to watch the horses.  Big ol’ draft horse teams keep taking turns pulling a sled with weights on it, more and more weight is added till they can’t pull anymore, and the team who pulls the most weight wins.  It’s exciting to see what will happen and the energy in the audience gets pretty charged towards the end.  I love those draft horses – they’re gentle giants!

One of the things I do NOT look forward to is all the work and preparation that goes into the trip.  Not only cleaning the camper and packing the stuff, but prepping food and making meals ahead of time.  It’s nice once we get there, though… we don’t have to eat the greasy, over-priced fair food and we can take a break and go back to the camper when we want.  There are some exceptions, though… cotton candy.  And I’m not talking about the pink kind.  I’m talking about the kind they make in the maple barn… maple cotton candy.  I love the stuff!  We always get a small bag to share, and I wanted to get another just before we left, but they were sold out.  (pause)  I took it as a sign.

Deerfield Fair

As bittersweet as the trip was, it was bittersweet coming home.  It’s always so nice to spend so many days in a row together as a family, doing something special, having fun.  And now, back to the Real World.


Breathing in the Apples

What does moving on look like? (pause) I really don’t know!  The other night, I was thinking that I can’t go back and change things – much as I would like to – and I don’t know how to move forward.  But… I guess I am, one step at a time.  Sometimes the every-day routine helps, and sometimes it seems exceedingly pointless and infuriating.  These things – getting myself out of bed, finding something that fits and is presentable to wear, getting healthy meals on the table, cleaning the house, keeping up with everything, homeschooling the kiddos – were already challenging.  With the weight of sadness on my shoulders, sometimes I wonder how I’m still breathing, existing.

It helps when there are some outings and activities to look forward to.  One of my favorite Autumn activities is apple-picking (yup, it’s officially Fall).  The smell of the apple orchard, selecting the best apples, tasting the different varieties, imagining what to make with the bounty, smiling as the kids ask for “just one more.”

I just made Phil an apple pie for our anniversary and didn’t feel like making another – the crust is so bothersome.  I decided to make some crock pot applesauce, try my hand at some apple jam (with less sugar), and make syrup from the leftover apple scraps.

The applesauce is always good, and so easy – no peeling necessary, just cutting out the cores.  I put everything in the crock pot on low overnight, then blend it in the morning.  I usually add a bit of lemon juice and cinnamon, but rarely add sweetener (if I do, it’s maple syrup, honey, or some other less-processed sweetener).  It’s great on its own, but I also like to add it to pancakes and other baked goods.  I just used some for this carrot cake banana bread since I also had some ripe bananas that needed to get used up (I’ve done a bunch of baking recently, so this banana bread will go in the freezer – yay for planning ahead!).

I didn’t have the cardamom for the apple jam, so I ended up using star anise and an early grey green teabag for flavoring – it’s pretty good!  I think the kids will love it on English muffins or toast for breakfast.  The syrup turned out a bit too runny for my taste, never did thicken up, but it still has good flavor.  I’ve been saving apple scraps and will try another apple scrap recipe in the future – perhaps Spiced Apple Jelly or Apple Honey Jelly.

My friend Nichole organized the apple-picking trip to Knight Farm with her co-op group, and we were happy to tag along.  This is the same place where we got over six bushels of apples last year!  Their prices have gone up, though, so we probably won’t be buying bulk apples for cider this year.

Just down the road from Knight Farm is another orchard that a friend told us about, the only organic apple orchard in the state.  Elwood Orchard had Phil itching to come home and plant more apple trees of our own!  Their selection of apples is mouth-watering, but since we had just picked a big bag of apples, we opted to pick peaches instead.  We were really excited to try their garlic, too, but they were sold out of most of the varieties.  When a recipe calls for a clove of garlic, we’re like, eh… just throw in a whole bulb. *grin*  The kids really wanted to buy the hugest pumpkins they could find.

So peaches… right away I made a dump cake.  Have you heard of those?  Basically, you dump all of the ingredients in a pan and bake.  I haven’t made one of these in a while because it typically calls for a cake mix and a can of pie filling, things I rarely buy.  But I just so happened to pick up a box on sale, and was looking for a quick peach dessert – so I tried fresh peach dump cake.  It was really good!  But sweet.  I think it’s a keeper for when I want a fast, no-fuss dessert (and have fresh fruit on hand), but decided it would be best with more fruit, less topping.  I got a couple more boxes of cake mix on sale, and will divide up each package into two mason jars with old-fashioned oats and chopped nuts for topping.  The chocolate cherry dump cake looks sooo good, but I refuse to buy the canned pie filling.

There were still a bunch of peaches left over, and I decided to pick one of the peach jam recipes I had pinned recently.  I love the idea of adding sweet and spicy elements, and ended up making Spicy Peach Jam (with, you guessed it, less sugar).  I realized too late that I had the wrong kind of pectin, and I was kicking myself – arrrgh!  So, I have a Spicy Peach Sauce. The kiddos and I dipped our grilled cheese sandwiches in it – yum.  And it will probably taste good on grilled chicken.  I do have a host of other canning recipes I want to try, both online and from cookbooks I have (Canning for a New Generation and Blue Ribbon Canning, both from my brother and sister-in-law… are they giving me a hint?).

On Saturday we went to a friend’s wedding reception, someone Phil has known since high school.  It was bittersweet, since we were invited when I was pregnant and I figured we would tell her the news then, what would I wear?, and of course everything has changed.  It was a beautiful day, much of the time spent outdoors at Stepping Stone Ranch, and the kids had a blast.  There were all sorts of outside and table games for people to play, good food to eat, and the favors… burlap bags to fill with APPLES!

Can you ever have too many apples?  And by apples I mean food, family, fun, good times, chocolate, peaches, Autumn-y things… and apples.