Empty Bed. Broken Heart. For Tage.


My dear friends returned a very empty baby bouncer today. They walked up my driveway and a lump caught in my throat. I was dreading this day.

A little over 7 years ago, Jeff and I found out that we were expecting. It was the best surprise (TMI? Welcome to my blog) of our lives. We were showered with gifts and prayers for our new arrival. We received lots of foreign items. (Cue Sting: “I’m an Englishman in New York”…) We were in new territory. We received a Rainforest Baby Bouncer (that’s probably trademarked???) to assemble. We didn’t know just how handy it would be. Each of the McBabies would fall asleep peacefully in its comforting sling and vibration.

At that point, it was just an empty bed.

It represented new things to come. Things we knew nothing about, really.

Of course, each of the babies outgrew it and it was passed around to friends and cousins to use. At some points in between, it sat in our garage or shed with the rest of the Goodwill-store-just-waiting-to-be-opened-at-our-address.

It was just an empty bed.

It represented used stuff; stuff that was forgotten about and impertinent and in the way of our new crap routine.

Our sweet friends Josh and Molly delivered news that they were expecting. They took us up on an offer to use some of our baby things. They took the bouncer and then had a precious baby boy, Tage Thomas Monroe. He was beautiful. He had sweet eyes and (as his parents say and I concur) pouty, kissable lips; and in the nooks and crannies too small to see, he had a disease in his mitochondria. Lovely little Tage, at almost 8 months old, went home to be with Jesus just a couple of weeks ago. I’m writing this much more matter-of-factly than I’m both feeling it and than it is. I’m writing this much shorter than the tale that it is. I’m writing this while treading lightly because it’s not my story to tell. (Caveat: I’ve asked permission to even respond to this at all.) I’m writing this to point to Tage’s story and Josh’s heart and Molly’s hope and the Monroes’ written stories and the Church’s loving arms and Jesus’ blood and the Hope of a Savior.

Today, Molly texted me and, minutes later, brought back the baby things. That’s why the sight of them in the driveway with the bouncer brought the lump in my throat.

It was just an empty bed.

It represented loss and heartache. It represented what wasn’t to be. It represented a gift taken much too soon.

The McBabies immediately squished their long arms and legs and big heads (thank you McLaughlin genes) in the bouncer. I’m sure if I would’ve been monitoring the situation (wait… did I just admit negligence???), I would’ve heard the seams ripping and seen the metal frame bending. Sure enough, a fight ensued and I was yelling from the kitchen for the kids to get out of the baby bed and break it up!! The baby toys were now off limits.

Once again, it was just an empty bed.

It represented frustration at my kids. I was angry that they could go from best friends to bullies in moments. It represented guilt that I even have kids at whom to be maddened. Who am I to have a gift so fragile? Who am I to be the one in my shoes while my friends must walk in theirs?

“She hid him for three months. When she couldn’t hide him any longer she got a little basket-boat made of papyrus, waterproofed it… and placed the child in it. Then she set it afloat in the reeds at the edge of the Nile. ” (Exodus 2:1-3, The Message)

Long ago, Jochebed, mother of Moses, had a rich love for her son and a deep trust in the Lord. She received a vision from God and responded obediently by placing her baby in a basket to see his life spared.

It was just an empty bed.

It represented surrender. It represented open-handedness. It represented safety.

“Jesus, with a loud cry, gave his last breath… there were women watching from a distance… among them, Mary the mother.” (Mark 15:37-40, The Message)

Long after, another mother watched helplessly as her son was crucified. She would, inevitably return home. Home – the place where little Jesus had run and played; where she had tended to his skinned knees and scraped elbows; where she had soothed him when he had a fever or a bad dream. It is probable that she would see his childhood room – at the very least, in her mind.

It was just an empty bed.

It represented loss and gut-wrenching grief. It represented injustice.

Of course, being on this side of the story, we know that only days later, Jesus would live again. The stone would be rolled away, curious onlookers would peek in and they would see it…

It was JUST an empty bed.

Hallelujah. For the first time, it represented victory. It represented hope. It represented eternity. It, miraculously, changed every empty bed that had gone before it.

As Josh and Molly portrayed through their faith and transparency, Jesus changes everything. We will all leave behind this world. We will all leave behind, in essence, an empty bed. We all will meet a Maker who desires that we know that death is not the end of the story.

There is no way to write this without potential cliché. Far be it for me to say anything that doesn’t represent how shitty a tragedy like this is on this side of heaven.

Nonetheless, I’ve seen a steadfast family serve a steadfast God.

There is nothing more heart breaking than reading the parents’ letter to their late young son. In the case of Tage, who was so used by God and so gifted with incredible parents, there is also nothing more hopeful.

Because their story is powerful and God is still loving, I turn you over to my friend Molly. May her words wash over you and bring hope in the midst of the tension: Visit Molly’s page HERE

The life I want to “pin”.




We fell into bed with our normal end-of-the-day sigh of relief.

“I’ve been thinking that it would be cool to build a loft in our kitchen.” I said.

“A loft? What kind of loft?” McHusband replied with his eyes already closing.

“You know, like one of those ‘tiny house’ kind of lofts so we could sleep up there? And the kids could read up there.”

“Sleep up there? In the kitchen? Like instead of sleeping in our bedroom?”

“Well, that would free up a bedroom for one of the kids or an office or something.”

“Well, I love that you are full of ideas, sweetie. That seems kinda… involved though.”

When my life feels busy, feels crammed, my default idea is to either build/change something or to move. I’ve named this idea for what it is: escapism.

  • es·cap·ism/əˈskāpˌizəm/
  • noun
    • the tendency to seek distraction and relief… especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy.

There’s nothing wrong with having lots of ideas. Life might be, well, boring without the influx. At the same time, I’ve had the ideas in 2014 alone to buy an airstream camper, move to France, build a loft, get some chickens, intern in Nairobi, and buy and convert a school bus among other, you know, more far fetched goals.

Essentially, I believe at some level that these would finally bring the simplistic overhaul that we need. #irony

A couple of weeks ago, we went on a home school field trip with some other sweet families from church. We visited another home school family with a horse farm. Upon first glance, it looked like the life I’ve always wanted. A cute little white farmhouse on acreage with turquoise vintage chairs and red boot flower pots lining the front porch; a barn out back with rows of corn on the horizon; the land where the deer and the buffalo roam… or something like that.

We enjoyed tried to sit through a great science lesson on mammals and heard about caring for horses, bunnies, and chickens. We learned about 4H and life on a farm. It was idyllic. The house was Pinterest-worthy with all sorts of upcycled/recycled/unicycled décor. The teenage children spent their mornings gathering fresh eggs and grooming horses. Ahh, the life…

Fast forward to just under one hour later. ONE. FREAKING. HOUR. I had lost my youngest child. #parentfail #momoftheyear

Cars were pulling in and out of the driveway while I went screaming and waving for everyone to stop their cars. Long story short, we found McBaby #3 wandering around the front porch; the part of the property close-ish to the road. This was after the “science lesson” which consisted of me chasing McBaby #2 around while he was joyfully and obliviously hopping over straw bales, trying to stick his fingers in the bunnies’ cages and juggle farm-fresh eggs.

And it hit me: this isn’t the life I want to live. This is the life I want to put on my Pinterest board. I don’t even want a dog yet, what in the world makes me think I could/would/should be cleaning out coops or scraping sh poo out of hooves?!?

The week before that, I read Dad is Fat, the new book by Jim Gaffigan. Not a deep read, but a funny one fo’ sure. My favorite chapter was when he described (with diagrams) what it is like to do the bedtime routine with 5 children in a tiny two bedroom apartment in Manhattan. He also described how he gets the three oldest to three different schools all around the city using… wait for it… public transportation. Suddenly, this sounded idyllic. Ahh, the life…

We could sell everything and move into a teensy-tiny studio apartment in off-off-off-off-off-off-Broadway. The energy, the diversity, the – wait, sometimes I nearly come unraveled shushing the kids when another is asleep and almost come undone when rolling the stroller and holding the other McBabies’ hands from the Chick-fil-A parking lot. What would happen if living on top of each other and the subway were part of our daily routine?!?

Once again, a life I want to pin.

These are idyllic – for someone, perhaps. What is our ideal though? What works for us? What makes our home a peaceful refuge? I’m not quite sure yet.

I know this much, it isn’t as easy as pinning a DIY plank wall, stenciling a room, or building a rustic beam floating shelf. It is an issue of the heart to pray for direction, for rest, for guidance. It’s a matter of keeping the territory we already have. Tending to the ones with which God has already entrusted us.

It takes great intentionality to stop the board-dom.

I’ll pray for you and you pray for me.

PS – While I did take the afore-mentioned ideas off the table today, I also bought a daybed with a trundle this evening from someone on Craigslist in hopes for the next project… #confession

The Day the Church People Came Undone: On Loving and Leaving My Church


A friend of mine recently told me about a pastor friend of his. This pastor led a small town church of about 100 people. They weren’t a wealthy community, just your average small town country church. One of their members was confined to a wheelchair. So, the pastor and his congregation decided to raise a bunch of money and convert a section of the church into an elevator. My friend commented – “Wow, you did all of that work and spent all of that money for one person? That’s amazing!” The pastor replied “Well no, we did it for the other 99 of us.”

We need each other. We really do. This community understood that.

If there’s one thing that my parents taught me about church, it’s that loyalty is everything. I’m a writer, so I suppose I speak in hyperbole… so, almost everything. They’ve seen their fair share of up and down seasons being on “church staff”. Anyone who has ever worked with the church has. This has nothing to do with the church they attend. That place, my childhood home church, is amazingly generous, sincerely loving, and warmly welcoming. Truth is spoken, talent is abundant, and hearts are genuine. The changing of seasons has to do with the fact that the church is made up of humans.

I think their loyalty to that community tells their friends and family a lot about who they are, who they have been, and who they will be. It speaks of Jesus… of His commitment… of His faithfulness.

I think it’s a valuable lesson as we live in a very “church-hoppy” society. It’s a condition of the greater mentality. If it doesn’t “work” for me, if it doesn’t make me happy, if someone upset me, hey, there’s a church on every corner. (At least there is in the Midwest.) Or, as Miranda Lambert says it in her new hit, “Automatic”, “staying married [is] the only way to work your problems out.”

Time for the caveat for those that are helplessly broken or just peeved at me now: Yes, there are times to leave the church. Yes, abuse happens. God forbid. Yes, sometimes people stop preaching that Jesus is the Son of God. God forbid. Beyond that, perhaps we should question some of our other reasoning.

“I was fighting with so and so. I’m DONE here.”

“I don’t like the music. I’m DONE here.”

“I don’t agree with the pastor on this issue. I’m DONE here.”

With as many opinions/convictions/panties-in-a-wad-type-stuff that we have, we might as well all have our own church.

Perhaps this is especially why the last month at church has absolutely blown my mind. It’s been on the heels of many people leaving. (This is no secret by the way.) And revival has come.

People have come UNDONE.

About a month ago, I wept at what I witnessed. Not just during the service, I wept for 2 weeks and still do when I write about it. Our church, in my opinion, does the hard work it should when it comes to justice issues, serving in broken places, encouraging discipleship, and creating all things artistic. That particular week, our senior pastor put it all on the line and reminded our congregation of who calls us to this, Jesus himself. He drew the line in the sand regarding salvation. It felt less non-denominational, and more old-school-Baptist. I come from a long line of Orthodox-Catholic-Baptist-Methodist-Church of God lineage. I’m a church mutt and am familiar with this type of round up… Where will we spend eternity?

After a message of asking this and other very pointed questions, he sat on a chair placed on the stage and took his shoes and socks off. Lots of the other minions church staff came out from the woodwork and opened up the floor where the baptismal was ready to go.

The water was warm. There were clothes waiting backstage for anyone who would come forward. There were pastors ready to get in the tank. Everything was set for anyone wanting to make a decision. The staff had no idea if anyone would come.

They came. One after the other. A steady stream for four. straight. services in a row. Older couples being baptized together. Teenagers. Children. Mothers and fathers with their on looking kids.

At one point, our sweet little 7-yr old family friend ran to the tank. Her daddy was leading worship. He saw her and started taking off his gear. And his shoes. And he got in the tank. UNDONE.

Over 325 people were spontaneously baptized. And I witnessed it with my own eyes. I came UNDONE.

What struck me more than anything though was one particular “type” of baptizee. Living in what is known (at least within the last few years) as the seventh wealthiest county in all of the US, there are many churchgoing women who look and seem like, well, they live in the seventh wealthiest county in the US. Nails – DONE. Hair – DONE. Makeup – DONE.

So when the church ran out of clothes in which people could change and these women walked the aisle to the tank anyways, going unabashedly into the water and coming up with flat hair and streaming mascara, I found it to be the most powerful vision in all of the experience. They came completely UNDONE for Jesus. Expensive clothes hung wilted as they rose out of the water – completely saturated in the loving new robe of a rebirth. UNDONE.

I’m thankful that any little tiff or rift that I’ve experience with a fellow human that happened to be in my church community did not cause a gap that caused me to leave before getting a glimpse of this beautiful promised land. Praise God from whom all blessing flow. Praise Him for this revival.

“I see a near revival stirring as we pray and seek. We’re on our knees. We’re on our knees. Hosanna!” ~ Brooke Fraser Ligertwood (Hillsong)

Competition & A guest post


I’m so honored to have been invited to post on my friend and great writer’s blog today! This post has to do with the competitive spirit… another post about letting some of my demons out. :)

Visit Charity’s blog here for the post:



Sarah xoxo

There’s a line under Ana’s chin.


One of the McBabies has a birthday this week. If you’ve followed my blog, you know what that means. Lots of celebrating, lots of prayers and tears. And my traditional bday-eve-viewing of Happy Gilmore. (“…’til the night closes in… big gulps, huh?… you eat pieces of xxxx for breakfast?”… see, don’t you feel better already?)

While we were on vacation a few weeks ago, there were some early mornings. (Refer to a previous post about “vacationing” with kids.) The McBabies were dead tired, up later at night than normal, swimming their hearts out, and – wait for it – getting up earlier than average. It’s as if God was pointing and laughing.

Ana woke one day at the crack of dawn and I brought her into our bed. I knew the routine. She’d quickly wake everyone in the loft where we were staying. Shocker of all shockers; she laid down in between us and conked back out. I honestly don’t know if she’s done that since her newborn days.  I know that I could’ve fallen back asleep next to her, but I was so taken with the sweet line underneath her chin – the little crease that makes her 1-yr old face have a double chin. I could not stop staring at her. She had her arms folded – one resting under her chin and the other crossed across her tummy. She was breathing peacefully and my gratitude was leaking out of my eyes.

I looked next to me at an amazing man. A man who hasn’t aged a year – unless you’re talking negative numbers. He’s like the real-life Benjamin Button. I want to grow old with him – my weird little baby man… 

I looked to one bed and saw my 4-yr old little boy with his bum raising his blankie in the air. He’s got more love in his little finger than I could ever have imagined. I looked to another bed and saw a little girl who oozes with generosity and makes presents and cards and bracelets and paintings and writes songs and crochets designs for all of her friends and family. 

God is good. All the time. But that morning, I felt His kindness in massive waves. 

Thanks be to God.


Strangers in the Flight.


To be honest, I just spent the last hour sobbing. It’s a wave that comes over me from time to time. It’s not just a hormonal thing. It is the depth of my soul crying out for all things good and broken too.

“So what part of your trip are you looking forward to the most?” asked my father-in-law.

“Other than seeing my brother… that’s easy, meeting someone new on the airplane. I love meeting strangers and becoming friends.” I replied.

We were headed to visit my brother who was working in Yellowstone. I’d always had a love for talking to Jane Doe and realizing she was my schoolmate’s cousin… or, you know, something like that. I’d always loved how small the world really is. This most certainly came from my parents. I’ve blogged about this before – my parents have more stories of mutual friends they’ve met in various states, piano bars in which they’ve ended up randomly playing, or unlikely dinner companions than anyone I know. I guess it’s in my blood.

So, maybe it shouldn’t shock me as much as it does that we just vacationed with people that we’d only met one time before. For one day. In another country.

Last June, we visited Quebec City. (Let me add that it was all thanks to Jeff’s grandparents who generously lent us a week of their timeshare! Merci beaucoup!!!) It was our first time there and it fueled my love for all things French, all things quaint and charming. On the last day of our stay, we connected with another family staying at the same resort while at the swingset. We were on our way back to Indiana and made one last stop at the basilica in Beaupre, Quebec. We ran into this family again. For whatever reason, we couldn’t stop chatting and the kids couldn’t stop playing. The wife spoke Polish as her native language, then English, then French. While she was fluent in all three, it was comfortable for us to speak French (seeing that it wasn’t her most rapid speak) with one another… thanks to her patience with me.

Well, long story short, we stayed in touch all year. Our kids were all the same ages – almost to the month. We had both chosen homeschooling – after we’d had our kids in the public school first. This entire post could be filled with things we have in common. So, we decided (after that “chance” 1-day encounter) to meet them in Quebec again this year and vacation together. Is that crazy or what?!?

We just got home from our trip. It was nothing short of amazing. Kindred spirits, our families are. We went dancing together, dining together. Swam and cooked together. Sipped wine and swatted mosquitoes together. Pushed our kids on the swings and went grocery shopping together. Talked exclusively French and taught our kids at times and pushed through the heat and fatigue of pushing six young children through Quebec City together. Watched our children bond and then hold each other’s hands together.

It was a true gift to have connected with “strangers” at such a deep level.

And then we had to say goodbye. There were laughs about how often we’d Skype; there were promises to make it back next year; and there were tears upon saying goodbye.

McHusband told me tonight that while he was driving us home and the rest of us were asleep in the car, he felt a suffocating heaviness after saying goodbye to them. He felt, simply put, bleak. We talked tonight of what that goodbye represented. Another summer vacation gone by where we’re saying farewell to the people. We’re saying ciao to those experiences. Mostly, I’m going to go all existential (or maybe Marty McFly???) on you… we’re saying goodbye to that version of us fully knowing that even if we came back to that same place with the same people the next summer, the kids would be a little older. Things would be the same, but very different.

That thought rabbit trailed us on to a deep heaviness tonight. A few hot topics…

- my friend with the damn cancer that has been told that nothing else can be done and the 6 boys she leaves behind
– the thought of our three grandmothers, now widowed, sitting alone most evenings before crawling into bed solo
– our friends who are overwhelmed with moving an ailing parent into their home for full-time care

After all of this, we had the awesome terrible idea to look at pics of the McBabies from last summer’s vacation. I might as well have asked for a tear duct and snot explosion. The ugly cry happened.

“I am 37. If the Lord lets me live until a normal life expectancy, that means I’m almost halfway there. I feel like I can do it.” McHusband said.

I knew exactly what he meant. Sometimes, life just feels so weighty. We’re aware of our own brokenness, the brokenness of the world too. It feels hard to know that this is a lifelong bag to carry.

And so, we did the only thing that we know how to do. We prayed. And then we each told 10 things we were thankful for. And we chuckled at some of them. And God worked in our spirits and psyche somehow. And I feel a little better.

And just to seal the deal, I think I’ll watch something funny before bed.

bee museum photo_1-2 photo_1-3 photo_2-1 photo_2-3 photo_2-4 photo_3-1 photo_3-2 photo_4-1 photo_4-2 photo_5 photo_5-1


Just a little baby.

le bateau

It could’ve been the wind in my hair or the sound of the waves. It could’ve been fatigue (see yesterday’s post). It could’ve been the excessive amounts of chocolat and biere/vin we’ve had this past week. But, for whatever reasons, watching the people next to us on the ferry boat made me sappy and nostalgic.

McHusband and McBaby #1 & #2 were running around the boat we’d just embarked (to a beautiful little island off of the Charlevoix region’s coast). Because McBaby #3 was taking a long overdue nap, I decided to stay in the car with her. The young couple in the car next to me kept looking at me. I couldn’t figure out if they were just being friendly or what. I kept glancing over and smiling back. Finally, the husband jumped out of the car briefly and I noticed the woman’s familiar pose and gauze-y blanket. This young mother was just finding a convenient place to nurse. I realized they had probably been watching me to see if I was watching them. Been there, done that.

The husband jumped in quickly to check on them, took the little baby and burped and smooched her so lovingly. The baby was covered with a teensy sun hat. The car seat was nice and clean and had cute play things on the handle for baby to look at. It seemed very first-kid-ish. You know, the clean car seat, the right sun protection, the helpful daddy for pass-off.

I feel a little more third-kid-ish wondering if I remembered to feed the baby while hoping that McHubz knows where the other (and their sunscreen/hats/shoes for that matter) are. There is beauty in this too. We are a well-oiled machine in many ways. We know that McHusband is the bath-giver, the trash-taker-out-er, the scary-story-teller. We know that I am the milk-maker, the clothes-packer, the last-bedtime-smooch-giver.

I feel that each season with the kids gets better and better and better, but I got weepy seeing that precious new life and missing my own little forms of my McBabies. I was also moved to tears at the new life that couple was experiencing. They had their own rebirth; the same kind that McHubz and I have had and continue to have. Thank God for this day.