my husband beside me in the hospital bed

March 2014, Indianapolis, Indiana

The first night at the hospital was miserable. After multiple tests and being told I had a brain tumor and would have surgery in two days, there wasn’t a bed ready on the neurology floor. Finally, at about 2 am… 3 am… I don’t know.. a room was ready.

We went upstairs and realized we didn’t have any clothes or other necessities. And Oscar probably needed to go out. Besides running home to pack a bag and let out Oscar, Dan stayed with me the whole time.

While he was gone, the sweet nurses searched out another bed to push beside mine for Dan. By the time he got back the adrenaline of the night’s events had worn off, and we were fully exhausted and finally alone.

We laid down, side by side, facing each other. I whispered my fears and my apologies for everything I ever regretted. I cried hard for the first time since we’d gotten to the hospital. We held hands and snuggled as best we could tangled with the hospital bed rails. We fell asleep.

I woke up a couple hours later after light, worried sleep. I simultaneously wanted it to already be morning and wanted morning to never come. I saw Dan beside me in the hospital bed, his face peaceful but his body uncomfortable from the small bed. He was still wearing the clothes he had on when we went to dinner and my body started saying something was wrong.


husband beside me in the hospital bed


(I love him so much. My throat gets tight picturing him there.) And right then, in the middle of the night, I started thinking: What if God has brought me through these really hard experiences since Dan came into my life because He knew I couldn’t handle it all alone? 

It just sucks sometimes. It’s miserable. But goodness gracious, how sweet it is to always have this husband by my side. He will not give us more than we can handle. And we might just be able to handle more together than we could have apart.


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This is the thirtieth post in my 31 Days series. This page will be updated each day with the newest post, if you want to come back to it from time to time.


moments that mattered to me // 31 days @ little things + big stuff


 

nurse in the ER



It's Raining Red by Rose Lindo



It’s Raining Red by Rose Lindo

March 2014, Indianapolis, Indiana

At about 10p, after three hours of a headache that would not stop and had eventually resulted in half my face being numb, Dan decided we should go to the ER. I had been curled up in bed with a heating pad for a couple hours wearing sweatpants. I couldn’t think clearly, but I knew I should change. I changed numbly and teetered downstairs to put on my shoes in the dark. I chose socks + Toms. The comfiest combo I know.

Hospitals bring me lots of anxiety. So when I found myself in the ER that Dan’s work at with what I thought was just a complex migraine but was really a brain tumor, I was anxious. And I wasn’t afraid to tell anyone I was afraid, wanting them to know: This resident you all like so much? Who is so calm under pressure? His wife is usually not this crazy.

The nurses were great. One, in particular, was calm and funny. After taking my vitals, she walked toward the end of the bed to leave the room (no, curtained partition). She looked at my Toms. “Hey, sis, you’re shoes don’t even match!” 

Sure enough, one light gray shoe, one dark chambray shoe. And I laughed for the first time in several hours of complete pain and fear. 

I told Dan I wanted him to thank her for her kindness and lightheartedness the next time he saw her. And he did, several weeks later. He thanked her for me.

Hospitals don’t have to be scary. God gave me some relief in the middle of a bunch of scary events. And it was that nurse.

This is the twenty-ninth post in my 31 Days series. This page will be updated each day with the newest post, if you want to come back to it from time to time.


moments that mattered to me // 31 days @ little things + big stuff


assumed to be the mom

July 2013, Indianapolis, Indiana

Mister E was our third Safe Families placement. His mama had daycare set up and wanted us to keep taking him every day, so we did.

Each morning, I would wake up E, he would eat his cereal, we would drive to daycare, and he would roll down the window and yell at people on the street.

E’s daycare was, by my observation, made up completely of black children, parents, and teachers. About a week into our time with E, we walked into daycare to find a professionally-dressed woman sitting at a booth set up inside the entrance.

“Hi,” she said. “We’re polling mothers about their use of daycare for their children. Would you be interested in participating?”

It took me a while to process, but once I did, I told her E was not actually my child, smiled to myself, and walked him to his room. It felt so nice to be assumed to be the mom of a little boy who did not look like me.


Safe Families



Safe Families


This is the twenty-eighth post in my 31 Days series. This page will be updated each day with the newest post, if you want to come back to it from time to time.


moments that mattered to me // 31 days @ little things + big stuff


the first time I was called mommy

May 2013, Indianapolis, Indiana

Our first Safe Families placement was 2-year-old M. He was a little teary and confused the first day, but by the second, his little personality was starting to come out. He was sweet and cuddly and funny and loud and a little defiant.


Safe Families placement child


We told him our names right away, and we repeated them over and over again. We have two little boys already who will hopefully someday call us mommy and daddy. And mister M had a kind, gentle, soft-spoken mommy I met the day I picked him up.

But no matter how hard we tried, he would not call me “Natalie.” I heard him call out for mommy once, but I knew he was likely just calling for help in the hopes the mommy he had known for two years was suddenly in this confusing place he was now sleeping.


Safe Families placement child


A day or two later, it was undeniable, though. He looked up at me from his booster seat with those milky brown eyes, held up his arms, and said “mommy.”

He was the first to ever call me mommy. He slept in the bed of those who were to be the first to call me mommy. He wore their clothes. And it was really a privilege. God knows what I need. And He meets my needs on His terms, not mine.


Safe Families placement child


This is the twenty-seventh post in my 31 Days series. This page will be updated each day with the newest post, if you want to come back to it from time to time.


moments that mattered to me // 31 days @ little things + big stuff


31 days update + Target gift card giveaway

I’m going to be posting for 31 days later today about one of my Safe Families experiences. I’ll share another couple experiences from Safe Families and my relationship with Dan the rest of the week.

But first: I don’t think it’s any surprise that I love Target. It’s a surprise if someone doesn’t like Target, right?

Since attending the Influence Conference, I’ve got connected with a group of women who are blogging, sharing advice, and sharing encouragement. So, I jumped in on an opportunity to give away a $120 Target gift card giveaway with some of them! Good luck!



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Heavens to Betsy // Glitz & Gritz // Wetherills Say I Do // This Crazy Cass Life // A Savory Feast

Life Behind the Lens // Set Free // The Truelife of KMK // Arroway // According to Laura Jean

TaniaKnowsBest // Two Miracles // Seven Graces // My Little Sunshines

Life with the Casterlines // All the Joys // Simple Moments Stick // The Bitsy Button // Butcher’s Niche

Simply Love // Little Things + Big Stuff // Annabel & Alice // The Beauty Section // Life w/ Mrs. G. & the Artist



Target Giftcard



Giveaway runs from 10/27 at 12AM EST to 11/4 at 12AM EST. Available to US Residents 18 years and older. No purchase necessary.

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If you don’t see the giveaway widget, click the link above! 

my mom and the dead squirrel

Spring 2010, Muscatine, Iowa

That morning, as I left for high school, driving out of our subdivision, I hit a squirrel. Right at the entrance to our neighborhood. I made the mistake of looking out my rearview mirror, and I saw him flopping around. His death was certain. I dreaded coming home from lunch to see his little body laying there as a reminder that I had killed one of my favorite animals. 

I came home for lunch, and sure enough, he was there dead. I walked into our kitchen from the garage and told my mom I had hit the squirrel that now lay dead in the middle of the street. I got a little teary. It really did bother me. I told her I was worried about seeing it over and over again each day. And then I got giggly, because I knew it really was silly for an 18-year-old girl to cry about hitting a squirrel.

When I came home from school that afternoon, the squirrel’s body was gone. “Mom, the squirrel is gone now! Do you think someone picked it up?” “I went out there with a shovel, and I gently scooped it into the ditch, so you wouldn’t have to see it every day,” she said. 

And though small and silly, that moment gave me yet another glimpse into the many, many ways my mom’s love and care for me takes physical form. She has never minimized my hurts and worries… and there have been a lot in 27 years.


me and Mom


This is the twenty-sixth post in my 31 Days series. This page will be updated each day with the newest post, if you want to come back to it from time to time.


moments that mattered to me // 31 days @ little things + big stuff


a thousand tiny nows

I was busy, busy, busy yesterday, so a post didn’t happen. But this card sent to me by Allison is an excellent reminder of why all these tiny moments mattered to me.

Each moment shaped me and informed me and inspired me in some way. And I think each of them haven’t fully worked themsevles out yet… I don’t fully understand the magnitude of them, and I may never. But God brought me to and through each moment. Each tiny now is being drawn together for someday.


Someday is made up of a thousand tiny nows. (curlygirldesigns)


“Someday is made up of a thousand tiny nows.” 

This is the twenty-fifth post in my 31 Days series. This page will be updated each day with the newest post, if you want to come back to it from time to time.


moments that mattered to me // 31 days @ little things + big stuff


Mouse Mouse and Coonie

October 2012, St. Louis, Missouri

The first thing I bought for our baby — when our baby was just one baby and we didn’t know his or her face — was a little mouse security blanket. Two, actually. We wanted one to keep and one to send. We wanted something we could sleep with before its journey across the ocean. And we really like mice. Seriously.

It came from Amazon, in a cute, well-designed gift box. I opened it up and took out the mouse blanket. I held it up to my cheek and in breathed in the generic, just-mailed scent.

We called that little mouse blanket Mouse Mouse, and we slept with it every night until we knew we had two sons. We ordered a raccoon then — the perfect complement to a mouse, right?

We slept with Mouse Mouse and Coonie every night until we had painstakingly considered and compiled each part of our care package to the boys. We thought it would be the only care package we’d need to send, because at that time, we thought they’d be home in six months.

Before I placed Mouse Mouse and Coonie in that little backpack to journey across the ocean, I pressed them against my faced in breathed in the smell of us. And I prayed that two little boys in a big country in Africa would come to understand — as best as two little boys can — that there are two parents who love them and a big God who loves them even more.


care package for adoption


This is the twenty-fourth post in my 31 Days series. This page will be updated each day with the newest post, if you want to come back to it from time to time.


moments that mattered to me // 31 days @ little things + big stuff


seeing my sons while in the hospital

March 2014, Indianapolis, Indiana

The day after I was admitted to the hospital with a diagnosed brain tumor and the day before I was to have surgery to remove that brain tumor, I saw an email with new pictures of the boys pop up on my phone.

Dan was sitting next to me on the second hospital bed the nurses had pushed together to make a full-sized hospital bed for us to sleep on. I was emotional and I was fearful, and if it’s even possible, I was also very calm. A nurse was in the room… There were always nurses in the room.

I silently opened my email and tipped the phone for Dan to see. I just wasn’t sure I was ready to share with near-strangers that not only do I have a brain tumor, but by the way, we have been waiting tirelessly for years for our sons to be able to come into our home. 

We opened the pictures, and I melted. One full-body picture of each boy. Both wearing crisp, clean polos tucked into elastic-band khaki pants. Little sandals on the feet. The same sandals as the previous month’s pictures. The boys were each holding a bright, plastic toy, and standing on a walkway with grass and plants behind them. The pictures were clear and bright. I melted again.


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When the doctors told me in the ER the night before that I had a brain tumor, I fell apart a little. I didn’t cry, but my thoughts crumbled into a disoriented mess. I first thought: Am I going to die? And then: Will I leave Dan a widower already? And then: Will this mean we can’t bring the boys home?

The answers to all those questions were “no,” of course. But in my fear, I had emailed our adoption agency to tell them what was happening. They replied to my email with reassurance and pictures of the boys. 

The nurse overheard me and Dan talking about the photos, so I showed her. She was visibly touched, which touched me more than I can explain. “I know they’ll be home soon, honey,” she said. “I know.” 

This is the twenty-third post in my 31 Days series. This page will be updated each day with the newest post, if you want to come back to it from time to time.


moments that mattered to me // 31 days @ little things + big stuff


when I first saw my sons

September 2012, St. Louis, Missouri

Our adoption agency’s program director had called us to share the details she knew about the twin boys and their story. (Those details are their story, and we will never widely share that first information or all the information we’ve since received.)

She estimated they were about six months old. She said they looked fairly healthy but possibly malnourished. Would we like to see pictures of them? 

Of course, we would. As a binge watcher of YouTube adoption videos, I had seen videos of families seeing the pictures of their future children for the first time. They always cried; I always cried.

We hung up and waited for the pictures to come through. I squealed — an excited but nervous squeal that has become common in this process — and squeezed Dan’s hand. He did his overly-exaggerated smile and bounced his knees while we waited.

The pictures came through, and we set up the computer to record our own YouTube-moment reactions.


seeing adoption referral pictures for the first time


We opened the pictures up one by one in new tabs. Two pictures of each boy — a fully-body shot of them held in someone’s arms and a photo closer up of their faces.

My reaction was not what I expected. At first, I felt horrible that I didn’t have a stronger emotional reaction. Their clothes and overall appearance was what you would expect for babies with their story.

But we kept staring at the pictures. Clicking from tab to tab. Examining the one-shoulder-latched overalls and long-sleeve oversized polo shirt and little pink socks. We noticed their hair — different but similar. We noticed the drop of milk on I’s mouth and laughed about “little milk mouth” for days after.

And now, when I see those pictures — or even think about them! like right now! — I get teary. I had no idea how we would continue to study those pictures and long to know those faces. For how long we would continue to study those faces. I had no idea how those 6-month-old faces would transform into almost 3-year-old faces through pictures nearly every month. 

I wanted to believe then that I was seeing my sons for the first time, and I still want to believe that today. 

This is the twenty-second post in my 31 Days series. This page will be updated each day with the newest post, if you want to come back to it from time to time.


moments that mattered to me // 31 days @ little things + big stuff