Please welcome Miranda Loucks, www.EverythingUnscripted.net’s very first guest blogger. She is a spirited young woman with a heart for Jesus, family and everything life has to offer. I am both honored and thrilled that she accepted my request submit this…it is an endearing personal story that will pull at the heartstrings. Someone I know and love once told me: “there is a story to be told within every life we encounter.” Miranda is one such soul.
Grief is something so many of us have in common, but how often do we openly share our experience in walking with our grief…and our faith? If you’ve watched Disney’s Encanto on repeat like me, think of it like: “we don’t talk about grief no, no, no.” Often times, especially for Christians, we feel that because our deceased loved ones knew Christ and are in Heaven that we need not grieve. Many of us are taught to suppress, not express.
I felt called to share my family’s story in hopes that one day we could use our experience as our testimony.
I prayed on our bathroom floor many nights for God to “use this, use me, send me to someone who will need encouragement and support going through this, use this for your good and for your glory…” I broke the silence. I shared our story. I continued to pray to God that “even if I can only help one woman know she’s not alone, please send her to me or me to her.” I prayed those prayers as my own heart broke time and time again. I remember thinking “He can still use this. He’s going to redeem even this.”
My husband Joe and I endured four miscarriages, each one more devastating than the last.
I was so hurt.
I was so broken.
And I felt so abandoned.
Our last miscarriage was incredibly painful and I was hospitalized as a result. I woke up the next morning, heartbroken, thinking “this is the last time.” I was bound and determined that I wasn’t going to take “just go home and try again” or “this happens with so many pregnancies” anymore. I asked the doctor if we’d finally met that “magical number” she had told us we’d need to hit before we were sent to a specialist.
Shortly after, we met with our fertility specialist who confirmed what I felt was indeed not “normal.” To have four consecutive losses was less than 9% worldwide in my age category. I was quickly given the option to do IVF. Even being, we had a less than 20% chance with our history of me being able to carry a pregnancy to full term. “Faith as big as a mustard seed” I kept feeling being whispered in my soul. All I needed was a chance…one chance…if God was able.
And able He was!
Even with numerous complications with my egg retrieval requiring two surgeries and a temporary drain placed in my abdomen to drain the fluid accumulation in my pelvis and lungs. Even with a bleed early on in my pregnancy that put me on bed rest. Even with preterm delivery and postpartum hemorrhage and emergency surgery... He was there. He was able. And He redeemed the hardest storm of my life. Joe and I were gifted our miracle son. Colton.
Throughout our journey women from states away gifted us items for Colton…women I barely knew who prayed for and supported us! Through the sharing of our story, God sent me innumerable women wanting to share their story, their loss, their babies and their legacies and their infertility/IVF/IUI/surrogacy stories. They wanted to share all of this WITH ME! It’s opened me up to a network of women who felt ashamed to tell their stories; women who said by me sharing our journey that it had helped them to not feel alone. Do you remember those prayers I prayed in my brokenness on the bathroom floor? Every single prayer I had prayed was answered. Maybe it wasn’t the timing I had hoped for, nor the way I ever envisioned becoming a family and what it would take to get there. Regardless, GOD WAS ABLE.
Maybe it’s not loss or infertility that you’re spiritually wrestling with, but each of us has our own storm. I challenge you to share your story and pray for God to use it because it will be worth it. My storm said infertility, but my God said I’m meant to be a mother. My GOD, my Creator, the One who has gone before me, the One who has a plan for my life today, tomorrow and the future. Life, even as a Christian, isn’t perfect. It isn’t easy. However, the good news is you don’t have to carry the weight of that alone because that’s where God steps in. His reassurance is clear in Matthew 11: 28-30: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon You and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Also, in 1 Corinthians 13, He states: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
Hold true to Him. And may you find comfort in knowing that while you’re riding out a storm in your life there is hope. He loves you and will take care of you now and for all eternity.
At one point in time, St. Valentine’s Day signified something more than roses, chocolate, cherubs and everything dripping with cheese.
Eons ago, there was indeed a Saint Valentine. He became the patron saint of love, marriages, engagements, young people, greetings, travelers, bee keepers, people with epilepsy (yep, that one surprised me big time, having Epilepsy and all) and numerous churches. Believers say God worked through his life to perform miracles and teach people how to recognize and experience true love.
This famous saint, an Italian doctor who later became a priest, inspired the creation of the holiday of Valentine's Day. He was sent to jail for performing weddings for couples during a time when new marriages were outlawed in the ancient Rome. Before he was killed for refusing to renounce his faith, he sent a loving note to a child he had been helping to teach, the daughter of his jailer, and that note eventually led to the tradition of sending Valentine's cards.
While his birth year is unknown, he died 270 AD in Italy. The original purpose of St. Valentine’s Day to remember him with honor in a celebratory feast.
This particular post isn’t about the history of St. Valentine, though. If you’re intrigued, please keep reading. If not, consider scrolling down a bit further for a yummy cookie recipe. :-)
Holiday celebrations tend to get mixed up between their original purpose and what social norms have evolved into. I miss the old days when things weren’t complicated. Yes, again, old elementary school memories with all the other boys and girls. We’d give each other handmade cards and those terrible chalk-like hearts (though they did have cute messages). The teacher would make cupcakes or cookies that always wound up ground into the carpet, ceiling, desks, chairs and bodies. The boy I liked even left Garfield and Odie stuffed animals in my backpack. I still have a backpack (if you count a laptop bag and backpack purse), but I don’t have a boyfriend to surprise me with something. Don’t feel sorry for me. It’s just a fact.
Things are different now. I’m 46, not 8. Though my parents—the very same individuals who make sure there’s a gift from Santa under the tree every year—keep things special for me on Valentine’s Day, too. This year was classic. They gave me a miniature heart-shaped waffle maker. That has to be one of the coolest things evaaaar. :-)
That said, St. Valentine’s Day is much different for grown-ups and each and every one of us have different feelings and perspectives on this day.
For example, those in perfect relationships, i.e., "cutest couple rah rah," glow with love and warmth. It’s 100% classic romantical time involving the very best sweetness of everything. No matter what's happening (good or bad), it’s set aside for another day to focus on the love they share. I'm not being sarcastic. This type of relationship exists and should be cherished.
For others, today is one of the worst days ever. There are countless men, women and children grieving the loss, impending loss and/or disconnection from one or more of their loved ones. These individuals need to be held close. Listen intently to their feelings…don’t try to fix who or where they are. Just be there and remind them that they are unconditionally loved.
Single people, perspective 1. Tricky. Perhaps approach with this creature with caution. Sometimes feelings about this day is masked with “whatever, I don’t care.” Perhaps that is truly the case. However, there is a fine line between true depression and apathy. If you have a single friend like this, don’t bug him/her if they want to be alone. Reach out and if they do want to talk or text, let the conversation flow naturally. Listen and care. Don’t judge or push. If they seem open to it, perhaps ask if they’d like to hang out or do something else that they enjoy. Together.
Single people, perspective 2. (I fall under this category) Hmm… Netflix and Chill while binge watching horror flicks and mint chocolate ice cream sounds perfect. This type is pretty well adjusted, or seemingly so. This type might not be 100% happy being single. So if you know a single person, PLEASE DO NOT EVAAAR tell him/her that there’s a perfect person out there for him/her. It’s not a new nugget of shiny happy details that we single people need to hear over and over again. Oh, and that "but you're too pretty to be single." *eyeroll* If your single friend is as lucky as me in the relationship department, that perfect match is taken or otherwise unavailable. Love them just as they are.
Now, onto a yummy suggestion for EVERYONE! :-)
I’ve tweaked the snickerdoodle cookie recipe…made it a bit sweeter for all to enjoy. Have fun with it! Enjoy them yourself and/or make someone’s day with a batch.
As always, giving cred where cred is due, David Beverage posted the original Grandma Ruth’s Snickerdoodle Recipe on Tfrecipes.com. The original recipe can also be found in one of my earlier blog posts, should you be interested in that.
GRANDMA RUTH’S SNICKERDOODLE COOKIES...with Jen's twist on things
Time: 35 minutes
Yield: 36 (my results yielded more…happy, happy)
Happy Valentine’s Day, dear readers. Sending hugs and sunshine (or, in this case, moonlight…) your way!
I worked on this piece a few years ago...thought it would be a nice edition to this website and we could all use a reminder of the message now and then. :-) The picture is now featured in the My Art gallery.
I'm a Christian and find that this video from Mormon.org serves as a beautiful reminder that no matter who we are, we can touch others with the Love and Mercy of Christ if we put our belief and faith in Him. Jesus works for and through all of us. Every second of every day. We are so very loved by One who is greater than any of us. Thank you, Jesus, for Your Unconditional Love, Sacrifice, Mercy, Comfort and Grace.
It’s Holy Week. A reminder of Jesus’ death and resurrection. He suffered and died on a cross so that we might have eternal life with Him. And because He loves us, He continues to be ever present in our lives. To love, shelter, guide, care for, shepherd, comfort us. Even though we’re stubborn. Even though we’re unappreciative. Even though we’re sinners. We are so blessed to have His unconditional love and grace…
Being reminded of the Ultimate Salvation…I'd like to segway into something that perhaps we all take for granted (in addition to the Perfect Gift mentioned beforehand). Did you know that Jesus protects and saves us every day, too? Can you think of a time when Jesus has saved you or the life of someone you know? Perhaps a miracle healing? Perhaps a near miss crossing a busy intersection? Perhaps being in the right place at the right time to avoid a child being hurt on the playground?
Jesus has saved me more times than I can count so I'd like to offer a testimony of one such example.
Incident Date: 30 March 2013.
That day, I woke later than planned. With one semi-conscious bat of my arm, I launched my blaring alarm clock across the room. It was 6am and nothing was going to pull me out of bed. In doing so, however, I failed to take my anti-convulsant medication (for Epilepsy). And as I went about my day, I failed to realize that fact.
After a shower, my plan was to slip on my favorite cute clothes and drive to Starbucks for something yummy, then return home to chillax. Not far from my home, a gentle voice spoke. He told me to turn around and go home because it wasn’t safe. Like a stubborn child, I tuned out the warning. I wish I had listened...now I believe in my heart for certain that was Jesus.
When I opened the door at Starbucks, something felt…off. Ever feel like that? I went through an inventory of things in my mind and then it hit me… I forgot to take my medicine. Just two simple pills. As I do not have frequent grand mal seizures (also classified as generalized tonic-clonic seizures), I thought that I could buy a bottle of water and some mixed nuts, then take my medicine and sit in my car until it took effect. I didn’t think to call a cab just in case. Actually, I’m not sure what I was thinking because I feel like I got one of those Men in Black alien brain wipes. The time between the parking lot and waking up in my car at an angle in a ditch is really hazy.
All I can gather is that my brain lit up like a Christmas tree, operated on auto pilot for I don’t know how long and erased my short-term memory—seizures do that, after all. Remembering the scene is like looking through a strange film reel. There was a flurry of activity…so many emergency vehicles. firemen, EMTs, police officers. I was pinned in place so all I could really do was look around. It was a nightmare. Everything around me was torn to pieces—except for the bottle of water in the cup holder, cap off and half full. The passenger side was a disaster having been blown to pieces and crushed. As an example, the passenger’s side FLOOR was gone. While observing all this, a police officer told me what happened since I was in obvious shock. I was on a four-lane highway. My speed was clocked at more than 55 mph. Eventually I crashed into a barrier wall and flipped around. No one knew if I'd had the seizure before or after impact. While I might’ve caused a little traffic delay, though, I didn’t hurt anyone. Also, I walked out of the hospital with a clean bill of health four hours later. Physically, a few lacerations and some dark bruising (let's just say I had one strong seat belt). Emotionally, I had trouble with the traumatic flashbacks. Still have a little PTSD, but have mostly healed. Miracle, miracle, miracle.
My Honda was totaled and taken away that day. I had to see it before it was dismantled for reusable parts distribution—and worse. So my dad took me to the impound lot. I took a lot of time. Circled the car. Looked in the car. Sat in the car. Took pictures… It was overwhelming. When I looked back through the pictures I’d taken, I was reminded that Jesus was in control that day. There was one picture in particular that sealed that belief for me. The sun was shining just enough to cast reflections on my car. There was a reflection of a cross above the driver’s side front headlight. A true sign of God’s love.
So tomorrow is a celebration of life and health. Eight years ago, Jesus saved me (and others) on that highway. Also, I had what I hope to be my last grand mal seizure...God willing.
Every day is a blessing. Even the bad ones.
Update: 30 March 2021
This afternoon, just after 1pm, I went on my annual "remembrance drive" to the neighborhood Starbucks. It's tradition.
For the first few years after the 30 March 2013 event, I've purposely driven to the original Starbucks as a way of remembrance and coping...PTSD is no joke.
Today, the sun is shining so very bright, the weather is as it was back in 2013 AND I feel fabulous.
After a few tears (flashbacks...), I put on a sassy outfit (those who know me well are very aware that ensemble includes a pair of knee-high black leather boots), loaded some great tunes and hopped into one of the family cars (which I have nicknamed "My Honda" even though it isn't a Honda...but it might as well be because it's awesome). I rolled down the windows like one of the local kids and blasted my music, not caring about the dirty looks from some neighborhood cranks. I didn't go to the original Starbucks. I went to the drive thru near home, ordered a drink (one that I ordered every day in the mid 2000's), then enjoyed a breezy drive through the neighborhood and past one of my old schools. I almost stopped at the bookhaus, but figured I should have a book to contribute...the take one (book), leave one (book) principle. :-)
When I pulled in the driveway, I just sat there. Happy. Wanting to cry. Happy tears, of course. I did it. No anxiety. No incidents. Just success, cheerful sights, pretty weather and a drink the cost of a small club martini. :-) Even updated my selfies. :-)
Thank you, Jesus, for keeping me safe, granting me a perfect day and, well, for waking me up to enjoy it all.