Heavens Gates :: Two Years after Miscarriage


Hey baby,

Two years ago, on this very day, we found out that you had died. Your little heart, the one I cried happy tears over seeing, had stopped.

Two years ago we were celebrating your sisters birthday, and were excited about the big news we were going to be telling everyone soon. Two years ago, we had a very confusing day.

And while I've gone back and forth all through this birthday month (because this IS a big birthday month) I'm not quite sure where to place this day. See, you were already existing with Christ by the time your dad and I got word, so this day is really just a day we got the news of it. I tell my heart to see it as your little 'everlasting' birthday party. Because, while it might not have been the day you woke up to heavens gates, it's the day my heart had to accept that you did.

This day has been one of the most cataclysmic days I've ever lived.

About a month before, I was walking along a path with your sister and I started praising Jesus. You see, I had started feeling better. I thought you were being extra nice to me. I thanked God for answering my prayers. Your several weeks here were so rough on me, harder than anything I've experienced even since, and I desperately prayed for relief. And then it came. And so I praised.

So, to find out weeks later that those praises were actually over your death? Oh, sweet baby, I can't tell you how quickly those praises turned bitter in my mouth.

Your life was an unexpected celebrated surprise, and your death was my heartbreak.

When we were in the hospital, desperate for good news, I saw you. I had seen you before-moving around with that little heartbeat, so I searched and searched for that again, and while I saw you-I didn't. Your heart wasn't beating and I started praying desperate that God would make you lazarus and bring. you. back. Dear. Jesus. Please.

But he didn't.

Yet, when I prayed those prayers I heard him. And while I sometimes try to convince myself it didn't happen, I KNOW it did. And so I won't deny it.

I prayed and our God responded in a way I've never experienced since. Our God was loud and clear and as I prayed for a miracle he responded with two words.

I'm here.

And as we strolled back to the room and my heart started breaking because I knew what was coming I kept hearing it. His voice, flooding my brain and my heart as my eyes flooded and my fists clenched.

I'm here. I'm here. I'm here. I'm here. I'm here.  I'm here.

It was loud and I couldn't think straight and I kept thinking "am I actually hearing this!?"

(this isn't my proudest moment, but you want to know how I responded?)


I've thought a lot about why I responded like that. I think it shows more of my heart than I'd like. Nothing like an encounter with God to show how much I need an encounter with God. I think my mouth said those words because when your creator flooded my heart with his presence, I somehow knew that meant that YOUR presence wasn't coming with it. And it showed what I worshiped.

And as we looked the nurses in the eye, and as they cried while they explained just what happens when a mothers body lets go of her baby, and as we drove home and called our parents and wept and wept and wept,

your life started to change me.

Before my thoughts of you were logistical. How am I going to handle two kids close together? Double stroller? Shared bedroom? Is this going to be insane? Yes. Yes it will be, but WE CAN DO IT!

But, now my heart was asking harder questions.

How could a God who loves his children, kill their babies? How could my body go A MONTH  growing around you without letting me know something was wrong? Is God really kind? How could a God who is the AUTHOR and GIVER of life refuse it to the ones who follow him? Was it my body? Did I do something? Am I broken? Did God want this? Did he even care?

Your life, sweet baby, unveiled my deepest doubts and ugly fears and gave them arms and legs and feet and fists. And those fists waved in fury at the heavens and my mouth got tighter and tighter till at one point I told your dad I wasn't praying again.

But Your dad, when I said those words, led me back. He pushed me back. Dragged me back. Back to the feet of Jesus. Your dad reminded me that I can have fists, but they're for banging on heavens doors, not for waving in bitterness. Your dad didn't have answers, but he refused to turn his back on the one who does. -Oh, I'm so excited for you to meet your dad, sweet baby. God is kind and good and so loving, and getting to be married to your dad is a reminder of that.-

And so.

Bit by bit, as the days moved on, your life made room for God to shape me. You living and dying brought about my worst fears and Christ is putting them to rest. While we all face death sometime or another, you allowed me to feel death in my own flesh and allowed me to realize, perhaps for the first time ever, why it is so imperative that Jesus ever even walked on this earth.

I had to decide if I would take and drink from whatever cup He gave, and actually continue to trust in a God who allows a world to exist where my babies die and I sing praises unaware.

I got to experience, because of your existence, how kind God is to the mourning mother. I got to imagine how beautiful it must be to wake up never knowing the ache we experience here. I got to wrestle and settle on the reality that God? and Eternal? They aren't ideas for the weak. They aren't concepts that we desperately hold on to just to get through (although, I'll be the first to admit I'm weak and desperate.) They are the reality that linger in our souls even when we try to shake them.

And so, two years later, I look at your life and death and I can't help but sing praises.

There's a lot of ways this day can go down. But once again, we're gonna end it the way it should be ended.

Oh Jesus.

Thank you. Thank you that I got to experience the life of a baby, even one I didn't get to meet.
Thank you that I got to feel the fragility of life and become so aware of how much you are the creator of our beings.

Thank you that you solved the problem of death and that you made it so the grave wouldn't be the final answer. Thank you that you took it one step further and give us joy and abundant life while we still breathe HERE. That you can take literal dust and turn it into glory.

Thank you that you gave us another one, even when that baby died too. It forced me to let go of any claims I had on what only you can do.

Then, thank you for giving us Elias.

Thank you for teaching us the tenderness of life and allowing us to become wild about praying for expecting moms and allowing us to see that you keep bringing life after life after life after life into our hearts and homes.

Because you're so good.

Thank you that if I was broken (and I probably am) you can bring life from me anyways. Thank you that nothing gets the final word other than you.

Thank you that you allow us to live eternal with your created, regardless of their number of days here.

Thank you for letting me rejoice over that little heartbeat.

And lastly, thank you for allowing us to go through dark valleys, and to see and be able to share that there's life after death. Even here. in these days. We can do all things through  you who gives us strength.

And the life abundant you give is even more beautiful than I could have hoped, even if scars come with it.


I love you, kid. See you sooner than a vapor.

Your Sister In Christ,

"And when on earth I breathe no more, the tears oft mixed with tears before, I'll sing upon that joyful shore (!!!) thy will be done."

Happy 26!


In honor of my beautiful bride, Brittany, and her love of lists, here are 26 reasons why being married to her is awesome! Happy birthday!

1.       Let’s get this one out of the way first… SMOKING. HOT. BOD. Pregnancy has been kind to you.

2.       You have the best smile ever, quick to show itself.

3.       You have this one laugh that is uncontrollable.

4.       You always research to find the best answers to the problems that we face.

5.       You are the strongest woman I know. 2 labors, no meds. That’s pretty amazing.

6.       You love me even in my own flaws and inconsistencies.

7.       You have changed me for the better. This is what marriage is all about. Changing and challenging each other to look more and more like Christ.

8.       Your encouragement is unparalleled. You’re my biggest fan, and I desperately need that.

9.       You cook some mean soup and some amazing homemade pizza.

10.   You’re the best mom to our kids that I could have ever hoped for, with patience even through all the sleep deprivation.

11.   You make room in the margins for both us time and alone time.

12.   You are on this crazy adventure in Europe, and I can’t imagine a better person to share it with.

13.   You exhibit immense amounts of grace. It humbles me in the best ways.

14.   You don’t cut your hair. I love it long and wild!

15.   Your skillz with a camera are pretty amazing.

16.   You are never content with just being “good enough” and you always try to find ways to improve in anything you hope to do.

17.   You are such a devoted and loyal friend, and try to stay connected as much as possible.

18.   You have a huge heart for giving to those in need.

19.   You have a beautiful voice. I love listening to you sing to Eowyn and Elias.

20.   You are the perfect travel companion, always helping to plan a trip and navigate a new place.

21.   You enjoy Star Wars. Maybe not quite as much as me, but at least you put up cool Star Wars posters and legitimately think they are cool too.

22.   You slay orcs with me. The Lord of the Rings card game is not for the faint of heart, and you approach it with excitement.

23.   You make really interesting crafts to decorate our apartment. Our home really does feel like a home.

24.   You have a passion for Christ and becoming Biblically literate, which drives me to become so as well.

25.   You have a silliness that makes me laugh daily.

26.   You just are. You just are an amazing woman. And your presence fills me with joy!

I love you so much! The list is just a small start to how amazing you are. Happy birthday!

Your groom,

Leaning into the "Not Yet"



If there's anything a quarter of a century can teach a rather slow-to-learn girl, it's that life has seasons.

Within that is the reality that there are seasons to say "yes!" and seasons to put the breaks on and say "not yet."

Knowing when to do these two things makes all the difference in the world.

Before we left the states I had to allow a lot of dreams die. At the very least, they had to be postponed. Now, while that may seem a bit ridiculous, WE WERE MOVING TO FINLAND (many of you readers dream of living abroad.) I struggled with the reality that some of my dreams of owning a home, living close to and growing roots with friends and family, and growing my photography business (I had just reached the landmark of shooting photos for people I had never met before!) etc. had to be put on the back burner or even off the proverbial stove top entirely.

While I mourned, I began to realize how silly many of my dreams were in the context of  my timeline. For example, while many friends of mine are able to own homes in their twenties, (and I love to celebrate that!) that isn't our best reality. We value a lot of things. Not being tethered to a roof, especially in this season, is one of them. So, buying a home now or even in the near future isn't a reality for us. Yet, my parents and so many others didn't own a home till much later in life. For me to mourn not owning a home NOW, is much like a 12 year old mourning not getting her license yet. Soon, enough. Soon enough.

The interesting thing is, the longer I spend being okay with the "not yet" the more the not yet seems to be okay with leaving me be. So many of my dreams have changed shape as our experiences shape us. Had we rushed into RIGHT NOW making dreams a reality, especially when it was technically possible even if not the best possibility, we would be struggling with those decisions (and a mortgage.)

So we learn. We get surprised to discover we actually can do just fine with one car (even back stateside we managed quite well,) renting a small apartment,  living with less-both in form of possessions and schedules and spotlight, and letting dreams rest for a season so other dreams can grow.

I find myself, especially in this deep-end of motherhood, needing to hold on to this idea firmly. My kids, if I entertain the idea of what I could be doing too long, become burdensome and obstacles. It's certainly fine to pursue things outside of mothering even while in the thick of it. I'm not speaking to that. I'm speaking to the way my heart, when cleaning dishes and doing laundry, and playing on the ground with my kids, starts to wander and think of the more significant ways I could spent my time.

It's easy to think that if I spend my time here doing this now, that will mean I won't ever get to spend my time over there doing that.

But it's not true.

What God has called me to now is worth my time, right now. Those dreams and ideas that God allows to live? He'll bring those out in their time too.

Just not yet.

So I'm learning to lean. I'm learning to allow myself to dream. Yet, I put a leash on those dreams. I'm learning that, Lord willing, there will be a lot of life to live and there's a lot of things this heart needs to learn. I'm learning to wake myself up and open my eyes to how many "not yet's"  are a YES right now. I'm learning to be satiated by answered prayers rather than perpetually on to the next wish list.

Perhaps God is allowing my heart to not achieve future goals it sets its sights on because I'm unable to handle the things that come with it. Perhaps this season really isn't the best for me to be the next great american writer or awesome photographer, or insert the handful of dreams I've hoped for. Perhaps His goodness is in the delay.

His "not yet" is in place so that when the "yes" comes, I can cherish it.  I won't have to mourn missing out on my kids lives, or living abroad or those things that are deep down values to us. Giving room for 'not yet' allows for what we really want to boil up to the surface. This allows for us to not waste our time managing our impulsive "yes! NOWS!" and have time to delight in what we waited long and hard for.

I imagine the next 25 years will hold a lot of dreams realized. I imagine it'll hold a lot of failure too. No good story has one without the other. I imagine there will be many "not yet's" and probably a good share of flat-out "no's".

But that's not for for me to set my sights on. I'm called to this place. This time. These two kids (one of which thinks she's so sneaky playing quietly with the light switches in her room instead of napping. :P)

So, I'll continue to train my heart to celebrate the place I'm in now. While we are working toward the dreams we have for the future, I'll allow those to remain in the future and not try to take the shortcut.

I'll keep leaning.

How about you? Are there things that you've been waiting for and God is making a reality? Are you able to fully celebrate them and allow those other "not yets" to stay in their place-and not steal your joy? What are some of your "Yes, now"s? What are some of your "not yets?" How do you work to be fully present in your current situation, yet continue to build toward your future hopes?

I'd love to hear your thoughts and any other things you have to say.

Birthday Shenanigans :: Eowyn Turns Three


Our sweet baby girl is officially three years old! We kicked off the birthday weekend with getting her a big girl bed. We're slowly transitioning into it, and in the near future her brother will inherit her crib. Some nights she loves sleeping in the big girl bed, other nights the crib beckons again. We don't mind one bit. Take you're time, sweetheart.

On Sunday we ventured out to the zoo with some dear friends. Sadly, the zoo wasn't too kind to us and after not even an hour we were totally rained out. So we ventured back home and then enjoyed solid birthday fun. Ice cream cake, sausages, and spending sweet time with friends was the perfect way to spend our Sunday afternoon. Eowyn was full of "happy birthdays!" for the rest of the night.

On Eowyn's big day, we woke her up to streamers and chocolate chip pancakes (a running tradition, three years strong!) and later her daddy surprised us by coming home early. We ate lunch, opened presents, and relaxed together. We got lots of happy birthdays from family via skype and google hangouts, and the verdict seems to be that this is the best birthday yet.

Happy Birthday, Baby Girl. So grateful to have gotten to spend the past several hundred days with you. The best 1095 of my life.

and for her annual interview, (it's about as random as she is):

We got a pretty awesome dino, jesus loving robot on our hands. Let us know if you need any background music for your upcoming party. I know a girl who can sing for hours and looks pretty great doing it. :)

Eowyn Grows :: THREE

Our baby girl is growing up.

To see the rest, click here 

Lammassaari, Helsinki :: Helsinki Adventures


There's a whole slew of places here in Helsinki worth a mornings time. Lamassaari has been on our adventure list for quite sometime and an extended open weekend felt like the perfect chance to get a glimpse of the place. We're so glad we did.

Having kids, we have a rule that the first time we check a place out (at least if it's nearby,) we don't stay very long. We normally don't know exactly where we're going and the second time around we're able to plan better for trails (stroller? no stroller? Restrooms?) and prepare appropriately for more time spent. So while the trip was short, it was just enough for a little girl to get tired legs and enough for my wilderness need to be subdued for a bit.

One awesome perk about Finland, especially southern Finland is the lack of bugs at this time of year. You'd expect with the  marsh for the bugs to be thick, but we didn't see much of any. We DID however get to see several birds, baby goslings, and lots of little ants (I guess I just count flying insects as bugs...) Eowyn getting a walking stick was the icing on the cake for her.  

It was well worth the 20 or so minute drive up, and I'm definitely looking forward to going again. 

Elias :: Five Months

Five Years :: His + Her Lessons from Marriage


This is probably one of my favorite posts all year. Pretty much anytime I can get my boyfriend in on a post, it's bound to be a favorite. So here she is in all her glory. Five years of marriage brings you TEN little tidbits (his 5 are little, mine are wordy) on what we're learning in marriage.

Notice I said learning not "learned." We're still working through all this. Maybe by year 10  (ha, jk more like 40) we'll have these figured out and be on to bigger lessons to learn. Maybe.

Still, I like where we're going. 

If after reading this you're like "Man, Ben seems like the best husband ever."

You're right.

Alright, here we go!

1. Leash your hobbies. And invite (and respond with a yes) the other person into your hobbies. This goes both ways! Guys, don't be afraid of a sewing or craft project.

2. Don't sweat the petty things, and don't pet the sweaty things. Seriously, just let the small stuff go. It's not really that big of a deal if the lights are left on in the other room. As far as the second half goes, a shower before some intimacy goes a long way ;)

3. Explore together. Get out. DO STUFF! TOGETHER!!! Experiences are great, but experiences shared with that special someone are so much better.

4. Sometimes, going to bed angry is the only way to calm yourself enough to be rational. I have a hard time with this myself. I always want resolution. But if it's 11pm and the baby has been screaming for 2 hours and exhaustion is at it's peak, sometimes both of us just need to sleep and approach it the next day.

5. Your hands show what you are currently paying attention to. If I have a PlayStation controller in my hands and we just need to talk for 5 to 10 minutes, it doesn't matter if the TV is off. I'm clearly communicating that I want to play video games rather than talk to the love of my life for 5 minutes. So, set the controller/phone/book/etc... down. Even better, hold her hands. That will REALLY communicate that you are listening.

1. Be Kind.

The world can be kind of cruel. The stress involved in showing up day after day to support a family, be a loving parent, awesome spouse, jolly good friend can be overwhelming. Having someone, especially someone who sees every flaw and broken bit, give out kindness makes a heart rest easy. Your husband needs some place to rest easy and your home is where that should happen.

I'm especially learning this recently when my kindness seems so hard to find at the end of the day ( It sometimes feels like I spent it all on our two little people.) The reality is, that's when we need it most. A kind answer can do a whole lot of good for a marriage. Far more than a grumbling friend who's got her eye on the clock and a lecture on her tongue.
2. Measure the Cost.

 This season, everything seems costly. Husband wants to go out with the guys? That costs me. Helping him by doing his share of housework during stressful seasons? Costly. Making food and keeping it warm when he's gotta do overtime? Double costly. Heck, spending time playing board games when my pillow seems pretty sexy right now: costly. 

There's two ways to go with this. Either I rack up the debt of my gifts to him or I buy into the idea that everything that costs me and blesses him isn't just chump change, but investment into my own good. 

I've tried it out, and letting him go out without the guilt of returning home is worth his rest. It's worth helping out with chores when it means we can rest together when he gets home. Investing in my spouse, however costly, to bring about his joy is worth my energy. Yes, I'm tired. Yes, sometimes that's the farthest thing I want to do, but the energy cost is rarely greater than the joy produced. 

The same goes for intimacy. There's always the classic sitcom joke of  "not tonight, honey." But when will it really be a good night? Sure sickness and pure exhaustion have their grounds, but in this season? The pure exhaustion part is kind of part of the territory. Again, the energy cost is rarely greater than the joy produced (for both parties. Wink, wink.)

3. Let him parent how he's gonna parent. 

Someone once joked "my kid doesn't need two of me." It's stuck with me ever since. Eowyn doesn't need two Brittanys to parent her. She needs Ben. He does it differently. He holds them in trapeze over hardwood floors and is just itching to introduce them to Lord of the Ring Movies as soon as they can stomach it. He makes some things major that I minor in. He minors my majors. And while the parenting styles do need to cross over a bit (like making sure we don't belittle each others majors and uphold what each other is trying to build up,) it's okay if quality time for them looks very different than quality time with me. 

It's supposed to be that way.
4. Encouraging each other in Christ. (It can be done without nagging.)

 I used to be wary of ever asking Ben how he was doing in his 'walk with Christ.'  But I'm learning now (especially living abroad with a much smaller christian social network) how imperative it is to encourage each other with this. This doesn't have to be the check mark "did you read your bible today?" business, but it can be a regular, honest conversation. If we aren't growing in what we value most, well, we don't value it most.

I used to default to "he's the 'pastor' of our family, so I shouldn't have to ask him." Uh, and I'm supposed to be the biblical helper (see Genesis.) If I'm not helping him in this, then somethings off in my understanding of helping. Spurring each other on towards Jesus is the primary goal, so a conversation on how that's going should be had. 

5. Let God Write your Love Story (no, really.)

All my youth group compatriots just let out a heavy sigh. Remember how youth pastors dealt this sermon out along with the purity rings? Yeah girl.

I think we all drank that Kool-aid  to some degree-and that's actually a good thing. It meant we, in some teenage way, let go a bit. It meant we became kind-of-okay (maybe) with the reality that eventually God would f.i.n.a.l.l.y line up our soulmate. 

But then 5 years later, when things get messy and the dishes are piling and the babies are screaming, and he's looking exhausted after yet another stale mate conversation, it can be really baffling how this all happened since God was supposed to be writing this epic love story for me. Soulmates aren't supposed to argue over sleep training. Soulmates aren't supposed to break each others hearts and sin against each other. 

God tends to write stories far different than we would anticipate (virgin birth, much? )  Often times his stories include desperation, human limitations being reached, and everything seeming to fall apart. He so often shows up in ways that make us uneasy. But always, ALWAYS in ways that makes things far more beautiful than we could have hoped. See, I'm learning his stories really are HIS. He seems to like to write things up in some way that plagiarism  is far from possible.  Lord knows I couldn't write this craziness all up. 

All that to say, if I'm going to be waving the "Jesus wrote my love story banner" I need to realize he didn't past tense write it. He's currently doing so. Which means he's weaving his kind of love into my story now. If I read his book, I'll find something hard to swallow. His love is a hard, but unbreakable love. His love is going to be painful, and sacrificial and often mean feeling a little bit like I'm doing all the work. There might be some frustration in waiting for Him to show up and do what I so desperately hope He will. Sometimes He does. And sometimes He calls me out to move towards my spouse in a way that seems costly. 

But it's worth the cost. (see #2)

Cheers to Marriage!

To read previous years, click here

Party in the U.S.A :: First time back to the States!



That trip sure was something.

We're still processing the 17 days we spent stateside over here at the Sprague abode. The suitcases are just now being emptied, the fridge still needs to be restocked fully, and while that'll all get done in the next 48 or so hours, It's been necessary to slowly move back into the rhythm of our days.

Jetlag definitely got the better of us this time around. Three of us had a nasty cold (and it sounds like we infected a few along our path, so sorry.) and all of us are feeling like we can.never.get.enough.sleep. Going East to West, they say is much harder than west to east. I think we're in agreement.

We got to see some of our most favorite friends when we arrived in Minnesota (That whole stint of the trip I didn't take nearly any pictures, yet it was so good just to sit and visit and not be all to worried about being camera ready) , visited with Family in Wisconsin, visited with coworker friends, and my parents in Nevada, then with Ben's family in Phoenix.

Two weeks and 8 planes later we have international travel with two down pretty pat, but we're reluctant to go at it again. People, that was HARD.

and yet, looking back on these pictures, it's pretty safe to say that, while a whole different level of exhausting, it was worth it.

My dad got to meet his youngest grandson, Ben's parents got to meet him too (as well as both great grandmas!) we sat and visited with some of our dearest friends from where we first started out as a couple together, we got three (THREE!) dates together thanks to the grandparents-the first we've had since Elias was born-we were able to stock up on all the things we love from America, swam in the pool, felt what 100 degrees Fahrenheit feels like (Uf!) and got to enjoy the bliss that is air conditioning, drive-thrus, and familiar stomping grounds. Eowyn got to get all muddy in Nana's garden, TAKE BATHS, eat familiar foods, and enjoy being loved on by so so many people. We got to stroll the isles of target, nosh on chipotle and celebrate our five year (!!!) anniversary over delicious mexican food (I hadn't had a chimichanga in over a year, bless.) and we soaked up getting to visit our old church, see sweet friends, and truly savor our time in the states. It was a mix of soul rest, of being known by people and getting to rest in the familiar, and working through a touch of reverse culture shock and sadness at continuing to catch myself tell people "See you soon" without realizing how much time will be in between the next time we see others.

And so, to not leave out any detail, while the trip was so worth it, it most certainly cost us...I got to experience some extreme motion sickness after arriving to MN (many a "dear Jesus" was prayed,) we almost missed two flights due to travel agent error not including Infant  In Arms and t.i.g.h.t layovers, jetlag (oh how I loathe you,) naptimes destroyed, sleep missed, luggage not making it to its final destination on time, and three of us with nasty colds (resulting in the worst ear pressure I've ever felt. One ear is still plugged, so if you have a way to fix it, HIT ME UP) Eowyn spent the whole duration of the Nevada part of the trip being coaxed into eating (pretty sure one day all she ate was a cinnamon roll) and sleeping and us trying to get her fever down. All that to say it was a TRIP.

So, America, you sure know how to serve up a plate of incredible moments, and some exhausting ones. Yet our conclusion remains steadfast,

It sure was lovely seeing you.