Lauren and I showed up to our first pre-marital class in winter of 2004. We drove out to a far-flung Minneapolis suburb to listen and learn from another Christian couple assigned to us by the church. I still remember walking into their house, glancing at the framed picture of George W., taking a seat awkwardly in the ultra-formal, ultra-floral love seat, and wondering how weird this was going to be. Sparing you the details... it was, in fact, weird. We flunked our compatibility quiz, stumbled through the sex discussion, and fought desperately from rolling our eyes as the couple waxed-on about their unbelievably obedient, gifted children. Despite all of the weirdness, the couple had two things right: they were desperately in love with Jesus and desperately in love with each other. It was infectious.

Six months later, I married my beautiful bride on a warm and sunny June day in Minnesota. She balled her eyes out the whole day.

It was perfect.

We flew to Mexico for our honeymoon. While in Mexico, we drove up an ocean-side mountain, discovered Lauren had a severe allergy to shellfish, and watched thousands of "creatures" emerge from the Pacific one night, just after nightfall. The million crab march was utterly terrifying and altogether beautiful... just like marriage.

The ensuing years equalled lots of grad school, apartment hunting, meals-gone-wrong, and beautiful dusk walks. We spent lots of time traveling. We wandered through Florence and Rome: lovin' the Bernini and biscotti. We flew to Rio de Janeiro: explored a jungle, lived for churrascaria, and got mugged on the Copacabana. We travelled to Paris: fell in love with the Marais disctrict, pane au chocolat, and Chartres. This past spring we took a trip to northern California and drove from valley to valley looking for old mission churches, vineyards, and breathtaking views.

While president-elect Obama was speaking to a crowd of thousands in Chicago's Grant park (election night 2008), Lauren and I were a few blocks away eating dinner. That night Lauren told me that we she was pregnant and I was so joyful. I remember instantly thinking: what name should we choose for him? For her? Where would he/she go to school? Would he/she be a cubs fan or a sox fan? ... But, before Obama could take residence in 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, we had miscarried and were distraught. so shattered.

By late summer 2009, Lauren was pregnant again. We were fearful but so excited. I didn't allow myself to think of names or schools or sport affiliations. We took one day at a time and everything seemed to be going so well. Lauren's midsection grew slowly...then dramatically. Week 8, 12, 20, 24 passed and everything was perfect. Then in the last throes of winter, our sweet boy, Isaiah, passed away at 32 weeks. Lauren endured labor and we held our dead son.

It snowed with abandon on the day he was buried. The snow covered my bible. It covered our coats, boots, and faces. I wanted to disappear with the snow. To be white and only one of millions of flakes.

We drove our old Saturn along the north shore as the snow storm intensified. The sensible would choose to stay off the roads, but I had no sense and so we drove from Rosehill cemetery on Chicago's northside north along the crashing waves of Lake Michigan.

The days that followed were so dark and schizophrenic. We hurled our anger toward the ALMIGHTY and buried our faces deep in HIS beautiful chest. We sensed HIS love more than ever before. And, in our desperation, lived for HIM alone.

There is a song that captured our thoughts during that time (and it's still our favorite worship song).

soon and very soon
my KING is coming
robed in righteousness
and crowned with love
when I see HIM I
shall be made like HIM
soon and very soon

soon and very soon
i'll be going
to the place HE has
prepared for me
there my sin erased
my shame forgotten
soon and very soon

i'll be with
the one i love
with unveiled face I'll see HIM
then my soul
will be satisfied
soon and very soon

soon and very soon
see the procession
the angels and the elders
'round the throne
at HIS feet I lay
my crowns my worship
soon and very soon

though i have not seen HIM
my heart knows HIM well
the LORD of heaven

soon and very soon...

My favorite phrase in this song is "with unveiled face, I'll see him." This comes from 2 Corinthians 3:18 where Paul writes:

"And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the LORD's glory, are being transformed into HIS likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the LORD, who is the SPIRIT."

Heavenly Father, it is our desire as husband and wife these 5 years and the next 50, to reflect YOUR glory with unveiled faces.

we've experienced so much joy, discovery, patience, and pain these last 5 years. Tonight we are packing for a long weekend at Sleeping Bear Dunes near Traverse City Michigan. The landscape along the lake dunes is utterly sublime and breathtaking. I can't wait to enjoy the CREATOR'S creation, and walk hand in hand with my beautiful bride.


What's in a name?

This is a question that has popped into my head repeatedly in the busyness of the last few weeks. Something I still treasure more than words express is to hear people use Isaiah's name. Somehow this simple gesture seems to validate my son's brief life. In hearing his name, it reminds me that he really did exist. I really was pregnant with him for 32 weeks. Its not just a whimsical dream of some far off carefree life.

I am a member of an online support group and recently, we have been doing a name project where we take picture of each others babies' names and photograph them in interesting ways. It is such a simple project, but I can't tell you how powerful it is to see your child's name written out. Its a tangible representation of how he left a mark on this earth in his brief life. Here's a few of my favorite examples:

Sadly, these sweet pictures are not the only ways I have seen my son's name in the last couple of weeks. From time to time, Matt and I like to go visit Isaiah's "property." We know he is not really there, but it is a special place for us to go and spend time where his physical body rests. Because Isaiah died in the winter, we were not able to get a tombstone right away. We designed the stone a while back but were told that it wouldn't be in until spring or so, and that they would call us as soon as it was in.

Two weekends ago, we were out visiting the property and we were shocked to see that his stone was already set. No one called to warn us. I know it may not seem like such a big deal, but there is something shattering about seeing the name that you lovingly picked out for your son etched in granite.

So final. So real.

A flood of emotions hit me as I gazed upon this marker. Part of me was happy about how it turned out and the fact that there will be a permanent marker of his existence, but I was also flooded with the memories of what happened and the realization that my son really is buried and I will never see him again this side of eternity. I can't help but think, "Is this really my life?" "Did this really happen?"

Alas it did. I am coming to terms with the fact that I may never fully understand why God allowed this to happen. Daily, I am choosing to trust God and his goodness. Something that used to come so naturally to me, now really is a daily choice. Its so easy to trust God when things are going well, but its a whole different ball game when life is hard.

Something I have really been seeking to do lately is focus on the truths of God. Though my emotions are quite the roller coaster right now, and can't be trusted, God is unchanging. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

"The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliver; my God is my rock,
in whom I take refuge."
(Psalm 18:2)