Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Three Reasons to Give Thanks, Our Story Continued


As November draws to a close, I can’t help but remember that this month might have been our first baby’s fourth birthday. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to enter the month of Thanksgiving without remembering the life that wasn’t ours to hold here on Earth.

You can read Part 1 and Part 2 of our journey.

Today, it’s been about two months since we thought that we would be having another baby, our third. I never wanted to add another chapter to our story about miscarriage and loss.

But, God.

I keep being reminded that God’s divine timing is not ours.

Andrew and I are loving each stage with our almost 22 month old, on-the-go, cute-as-can-be, into everything, toddler, Marshall. He is funny and fast and just so lovable. We definitely want to have more children, if God chooses, and we recently thought that dream was coming true for us.

In September, I took three positive home pregnancy tests. And another at my doctors office to be sure. Pure excitement, amazement and happy shock! I couldn’t wait to share the incredible news with Andrew. We looked at each other in disbelief, hugged and cried tears of joy. Marshall was going to be a big brother! We couldn’t be happier.

The thing with having ever experienced a miscarriage, even after delivering a healthy baby, is that the fear and uncertainty doesn’t leave you. The “what if’s” are always there, looming, in the back of your mind. It overshadows your joy. It makes you halfheartedly believe. You try to be all-in excited, but your heart still remembers the hurt and the heartbreak you once knew, at a familiar time in the past. I wanted those worry-filled thoughts to disappear. To stop whispering doubt into my ear. To stop robbing me of the happiness of this moment. But it kept hanging around.

We daydreamed about welcoming a new baby into our family. We celebrated with pizza (fancy, I know). We started strategizing how to make additional room in our home. And we prayed. And we talked about our excitement and about our fears. We hoped and prayed that God wouldn’t allow us to walk down the road of loss again.

My first ultrasound was scheduled the following week (per my request), when we would be a little over seven weeks pregnant. I simply could not wait to see our tiny growing baby on the screen and see that precious little heart beating. Then, and only then, would I be able to rest a little easier and fully bask in the joy of this pregnancy. I needed to see it to believe it.

The day before our ultrasound, however, I knew something wasn’t right. In addition, I didn’t “feel” very pregnant in general, except for some occasional nausea. I told myself not to freak out and that every pregnancy is different. It was still early. I was just going to wait to see the doctor the next day.

We drove to the appointment, which is at the same hospital where Marshall was born, and we got ready to see our tiny new baby for the first time. Except, there was no baby on the screen. My womb looked empty. The technician kindly told us that she could not see a developing pregnancy and that she was going to go talk to the doctor. When the technician came back, she performed a second ultrasound to be sure. Then the doctor came in and confirmed the news we didn’t want to hear.

How could this be?

How could I be pregnant, but there not be a baby growing inside of me?

Miscarriage.

That ugly word.

Again.

Something didn’t go right. The baby we thought was developing, simply was not. Almost as quickly as we learned that we were pregnant, we were faced with the reality that we weren’t anymore.

I had blood work done to be sure. And a follow up appointment. And more blood work.

The verdict: miscarriage. There was nothing we could do to stop it or explain it. Our hearts were once again left broken and wondering why.

Why put our hearts and our hopes through that? Why get us excited and looking forward to another dream coming true, only to have it trampled and stolen so quickly away? Why must we relive such sadness and disappointment, a second time over? It doesn’t make sense. After experiencing the joy and answered prayer of allowing us to be Marshall’s parents, why revisit that place of deep loss?

His ways are not our ways.

I couldn’t utter a word on the drive home. I sobbed in Andrew’s arms when he held me in our kitchen, while Marshall played in the other room. How was I supposed to get through this day? How was I supposed to move forward? Why was this happening? Again. What a cruel trick. I felt so foolish. Foolish for believing. Foolish for hoping it to be true and for all to be well. Foolish for allowing myself to dream and to be excited.

When Marshall took a nap, I buried myself under a blanket and fell asleep. When I woke, somehow I felt better. Like it was all a dream. Like I knew that this was the way God wanted it to be and everything was in His very capable hands. I was reminded that I have been given a husband and a son and a beautiful life, and most importantly, the life-giving gift of salvation. I had to get up, keep going and hope again. A simple and ridiculously hard truth.

I can’t say that it doesn’t hurt, deeply, because it does. It stings. In moments that I don’t expect. But, the fact that I have my husband of eleven years, walking the same road beside me, and our beautiful son to take care of, makes it somehow easier and more bearable. God has always been so very good to us, in the good times and in the difficult times. I know that God is in control, through it all, and that I can trust him. Even when it doesn’t make sense to me. Even when I wish things had gone very differently.

I am truly amazed at how tangibly God has been surrounding me during these days and weeks. The Sunday before our ultrasound, our new pastor started a series entitled “Seasons.” It couldn’t have been more timely. Trusting God, no matter the circumstances. I felt like the message was just for us. The worship team sang “Thy Will Be Done,” by Hilary Scott. A song that has been narrating my life for weeks prior to all of this.

Three days after our ultrasound didn’t go as hoped, I attended the More Than Enough women’s conference with guest speaker Angie Smith. I first heard Angie speak on Mother’s Day, 2014, while we were still in a season of intense waiting to get pregnant, after our first miscarriage in 2012. I knew I would be in for some serious heart stirring. That was an understatement. On the drive there, I was able to share my heartbreak and pray with a dear friend, who could not have been a more perfect listening ear and compassionate heart. Her words and understanding surrounded me with such love and comfort. During the conference, the stories that were shared about reliance on our Heavenly Father during utter heartbreak and unthinkable loss were nothing short of inspiring, and so specific to what I was going through, that very day. I knew God had planned it, long before I purchased my ticket. Later in the conference “Thy Will Be done” was played. That same song, twice in one week. Once before and once after I found out that I miscarried.

I’m listening, God.

“I know you see me. I know you hear me, Lord. Your plans are for me. Goodness you have in store. Thy will be done.” That song has been speaking to my heart continually.

There are many moments that I have felt the hand of God holding me and healing my wounded heart. Through people I’ve had conversations with, a blog I came across, messages at church, songs, the sweet laugh of my son, the love of family and friends. It’s been a much different experience than our first miscarriage. Not because I’m any less sad or any less disappointed. I was in a very different place, prior to having our son, not knowing if I would get pregnant at all and be able to experience having a child. All of the praise and glory goes to God for his good gifts! I don’t deserve His love and mercy and pure abundance. I am overwhelmed by His goodness and grace. Such grace.

I’m sharing my story, in hopes that maybe it will help someone else. I also share it to proclaim that it’s only because of Jesus Christ that I’m able to get up every day. Before, during and after all of this. My life isn’t perfect - far from it. I have struggles and I’ve had to face some very difficult days throughout my life. Days that, were it not for my relationship with my Creator, my Heavenly Father, the Giver of Life, I don’t know how I would handle it. He is my Living Hope. He is the reason I have joy. True joy. Not just putting on a smile and pretending. Even during the hurt, I have hope. How can this be? Because I am loved and cherished and held by the God of the universe.

I wear three rings now. One with the birthstone or due date month of each of my three children. I get to cuddle and look into the eyes of one of those sweet children, every day. And I look forward to meeting our two precious gifts in Heaven. Three reasons to thank God.

I don’t really know how to close this. To be continued. Because I don’t know what the future holds. Anymore than I knew what the future held a few weeks ago. I’m learning, daily, that as much as I might try, I’m not in control. Of anything. Only God is. And I’m grateful for that, because if I was in control, oh, the mess I’d have made of my life by now. Thank you, LORD, that You are in control, and that You know what’s best for us. You truly are a good, good, Father, and you are so perfect in all of your ways. (Another song that gets to me every time is “Good, Good Father” by Chris Tomlin.)

If you have known the pain of loss, my prayer is that the God of all comfort will heal your heart. I also pray that if you don’t already know Him, that you would pursue a relationship with God, your Heavenly Father, who loves you like crazy. I’m proof that you can love Him and you can trust Him. He created you and knows your heart. He also knows what it’s like to have His heart broken, because He watched His only Son, Jesus, die for you and me. The ultimate gift of love.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 NIV

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Coming Home


Today, I'm honored to be featured in a series called "Coming Home" on one of my favorite blogs, Clover Lane. Years before I became a mom, I began following Clover Lane and was drawn to Sarah's style of parenting (a mom of six children), and her honesty about life, family and her faith. She also has great recipes, reading recommendations and tips on organization. A lot that I admire.

If you'd like to read my story about becoming a stay at home mom click here.

Sarah, thank you for inviting me to be part of this beautiful series that celebrates motherhood!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Wedding Invitation for Janelle and Jeffery


I've mentioned before that designing wedding invitations are some of my favorite projects. They feel more like fun than work! I'm especially honored when a past bride and groom recommend me to their friends. This was the case with Janelle and Jeffery. They were looking for a classic elegant invitation and response card to compliment their wine-colored October wedding, and were open to my ideas.

I presented three different designs and they selected the one focusing on their names with a hand-written style script font and elegant lines. This was fun for me, because I've been wanting to design an invitation like this.



The ink is burgundy and brown, printed on ivory paper with matching envelopes. Sometimes simple elegance is best.

 
Congratulations Janelle and Jeffery! I hope your wedding day was just perfect and I wish you a lifetime of love and happiness! It was a pleasure working with you.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

ExNatura Makeup Remover

IMG: © D'Angelo Photo

It is such a compliment and an honor when I gain a new client from another client’s referral. Especially when it’s a new startup business in my hometown of Rochester, New York. I began working with the owner and creator of ExNatura Products earlier this year, to design a logo and packaging for the first in a new line of plant-based cosmetic products.

As a designer, I was excited to work on this project, because the beauty and cosmetic industry has always appealed to me. I'm also a makeup consumer and part of the target audience for this powerful new remover. I couldn’t wait to try ExNatura for myself! 100% plant-based ingredients make this makeup remover safe and gentle, and best of all, it’s effective, without any parabens, carcinogens, toxins or fragrances. How great is that? Perfect for people with allergies and sensitive skin. 


 
I'm thrilled with the logo and packaging and I also helped select the bottle. The look communicates a product that is upscale, on-trend, pure, clean, effective and free from harmful ingredients. 


IMG: © D'Angelo Photo 

ExNatura officially launched this week and is currently available for purchase online at ExNaturaProducts.com You can also look for ExNatura Products on Facebook an Instagram.

Since web design with e-commerce isn’t currently within my wheelhouse, we teamed up with Matt D’Angelo, the creative force behind D’Angelo design. He provided strategy, creative direction, photography, web and social media design, to beautifully showcase and launch ExNatura into the marketplace. 


If you would like to learn more about ExNatura Makeup Remover or to purchase, visit ExNaturaProducts.com

Friday, October 14, 2016

Autumn Leaves Wedding Invitation Set


My friend and former co-worker got married last weekend, on a beautiful fall day, with a fall themed wedding and invitations to match. I was honored that Terry asked me to design her invitations. When she sent me her beautiful (and very organized) mood board/PowerPoint Presentation, I knew we would work well together!
I really like that they wanted to incorporate fall colors and autumn leaves, which printed beautifully on ivory paper. I also designed their ceremony program, place cards and custom chocolate bar wrapper.

The chocolate bar wrapper, in the theme "Love is Sweet", complete with true love ingredients and nutrition facts on the back, was simply adorable. And fun to work on! 




Using traditional and elegant fonts, with a few playful embellishments, creates a modern yet timeless style. 


Photo Credit: Scratch Bakery
I caught a glimpse of their wedding cake on Facebook, which happens to be from one of my favorite bakeries, and I totally swooned over it. Isn't it gorgeous?! I love the leaves and flowers and the natural fall feel it has. And I'm certain it tasted as good as it looks! It completely compliments their theme. If you're craving some gorgeous desserts Scratch Bakery is where it's at. They also have gluten free cupcakes and French macarons which are amazing. Becuase I want to eat all the macarons.


Congratulations, Terry and Ryan! Thank you so much for including me in the details of your special day.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

I Like Gold...Invitations


I had the fun and privilege of designing a wedding invitation suite, using gold foil printing, for a couple in Texas. The sister of the bride contacted me three years ago, via my Etsy shop, to design her wedding invitations, so I was thrilled when I was contacted again. The wedding is today - happy wedding day! 


We started with a save the date earlier this year. The requested style and colors were hot pink and gold with a "love always" theme. Such a fun combination to work with! I incorporated a whimsical script font, a watercolor background and heart, with gold dots and a playful arrangement of wedding details. 




To correspond with the save the date, I designed an invitation, RSVP card, thank you card, and favor tags. (The above photos were wrapped in plastic, ready for shipping, which is why they appear so glossy)


This (unwrapped) thank you card really shows the sheen of the metallic gold foil. I love it! 


This project was one of the most exciting and challenging wedding invitations I've worked on. Thankfully, I have a skilled and very patient printer, who worked with me every step of the way, to get it perfect - even when we had to make multiple adjustments (more times than I'd like to admit!). The complexity of printing with gold foil, is having to set up multiple files for each piece. The example above shows the separate layers required to print gold foil with traditional ink. The intended finished product composite (left), the regular ink (center), and the gold foil (right). The type has to match up perfectly and be thick enough to avoid any gaps in the overlay.



The end result is beautiful, and worth the close attention to detail and the additional cost involved in achieving such an elevated look. Now that I've achieved success printing with gold foil, it's not as daunting as it used to be and I look forward to working with it again.

Congratulations to the bride and groom!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

5 Simple Ways to Add Fall Style to Your Home

When it comes to seasonal home decor, I usually don't change too much, but I really like the feeling of cozying things up when the weather starts getting cooler. How perfect does relaxing on your sofa with a nice blanket and a good movie sound right now?

Here are five simple ways that you can incorporate fall style into your home and enjoy autumn, indoors. 

1. New statement piece
Maybe you've had your eye on a gorgeous metallic mirror, clock or other piece of wall art. A new statement piece can easily change up the feel of any room. It doesn't have to be expensive, either. You can DIY an existing piece with gold spray paint or score a vintage find at a second hand store. 

2. Throw blanket
Who doesn't love snuggling up with a warm blanket in your favorite chair? I can never seem to have enough throw blankets. Pick one up in a warm burnt orange hue, mocha or neutral gray. Maybe even get two so you don't have to share! 

3. Accent pillows
Pillows are one of the quickest and simplest ways to change up the furniture in a living room. You can go a little outside of your comfort zone and select a seasonal color palette or bold patterns. I really like the pillows I've been seeing in stores with words like "thankful", "grateful", and cute quotes. They help personalize a space and add some fun. 

4. Candles 
I don't think I'll ever get tired of candles. They add so much light, warmth, and delicious aromas. I like using tealights on different surfaces, especially in versatile votive holders, like mercury glass. So pretty! When it comes to making my house smell amazing, I'm a sucker for those powerhouse 3-wick candles from you-know-where. "Leaves" is one of my very favorite scents. Along with anything apple, pumpkin or caramel. 

5. Bring nature indoors
Pumpkins are the obvious choice for decorating the exterior of your home, but there's a lot of other elements in nature that you can decorate with, inside - right from your own backyard! Pine cones, acorns, leaves, sticks, corn kernels. I like to fill glass vases with pine cones and acorns and surrounded them with a few tealights to make beautiful centerpieces. 

What are some ways that you like to decorate for the fall season?