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On February 19

“I disappeared one morning
Left without a warning
Some thought I was finally gone for good.
But those doubters just got rattled
‘Cause I’m back in the saddle
Doing better then a body should.”

Eleven years ago tonight, I was pregnant, on the cusp of having my second baby, our second child together, a second little girl, a second miracle baby for this infertile woman, a second one in fifteen months.

Five years ago tonight, I was excited and nervous and strong. I had been working out with a personal trainer for the first time in my life… but I was also – surprise! – pregnant again. It was the eve of our Kaity’s sixth birthday and our first doctor visit for the new baby. It never occurred to me that anything could go wrong. Because five years ago tonight, I had never had a miscarriage, but that all changed the very next day, with the simple words, “I’m sorry, there’s no heartbeat.”

Four years ago tonight, all was well. We were living in the daze that parents of a three-week-old all live. Jack, our rainbow baby, had been born after an uneventful, totally planned pregnancy. I had ridden a roller coaster of fear and faith from May 26, 2014 (the day of the first positive test) to January 29, 2015, the day of his birth and my tubal ligation. Faith won. We were overflowing with love and a sense of completeness.

Three years ago tonight, Jack had just turned one, and there was, again, surprisingly, again, miraculously, another on the way. We were sure that Jesse Bean was Jack’s little brother, that our own little Bo & Luke Duke would be tearing it up together for years to come. But three years ago tonight, I had been spotting for two days, and I already knew we would never meet Jesse here.

So two years ago tonight, I was faking it. I was constantly sick. We were in a new house and I felt like a stranger. I felt like I was failing my kids at mothering and homeschooling, I was failing at my job, I was losing friends, my energy was gone. I was depressed and in denial and directionless.

One year ago tonight, I had just started rebuilding. Turning 41 had helped me turn a corner. There were no milestones or events that did it, just me… getting there. I started working out. I made some new friends. I embraced some things that used to bother me and let go of some others that would always bother me. I learned to ask for help and take my space. I let myself spend time writing. I let go of guilt over the things I don’t do well or am not interested in doing at all. I stopped working for love and started loving like I’m meant to.

And now I am here, eleven years, five years, three years, two years, one year later… tonight. I worked an honest hard day. I cooked for my family and took time to listen to them. I ran two miles because I felt like it and it because it makes me feel amazing. And I couldn’t wait to write this when I got home, because as we say in church, y’all… THIS IS FOR SOMEBODY.

“Surprise, surprise, I’m back again
Who says I’ve lost too much to win
That wouldn’t be too safe a bet
No, you can’t count me out, yet.”

Life will knock us down. This is a fundamental truth. I was knocked down a few times before my two miscarriages. I can probably say, though, that those were the worst experiences of my life; they stole something from me on top of the little lives I lost. They changed how I look at everything and they messed with my faith. I know people go through much worse; I know that worse can come at any minute. For me, they were what knocked my down and threatened to keep me there.

“My self-esteem diminished
They said that I was finished
Just a washed up piece of history
But some things needed changing
I did some rearranging
My recovery ain’t no mystery.
Took some time to clear my head
I wasn’t lost and I’m not dead
I’m feeling good as good can get
So you can’t count me out, yet.
Been knocked down a time or two
From blows I didn’t see
But I’m up off the canvas
You ain’t seen the last of me…”

I could say a whole lot about what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, or how 40 is when life begins, or how grief teaches us where to put our hope and blah blah blah. I think every person has to get this for herself through whatever experience life brings to reveal it. And I think the ultimate lesson is the one I constantly try to teach that baby girl who will turn eleven tomorrow.

Know who you are.
Know Who made you that way.
Be her. She’s here for a reason.

At 42, I am still learning about myself and why I am the way that I am. Sometimes that feels, well, rude, or selfish, but at 42, I want to be amazing. I want to be a person who makes people feel safe and warm and welcomed and loved. I want to make people laugh and encourage them when they cry. I want to write every single word that has been bubbling up inside me, and I want to run on the beach and back home again every single day. I want to ride on the back of Rod’s Harley and go on trips with my friends and watch my kids excel and fall down and get back up again. I want to learn more things and teach some stuff and get published. I want to be a good daughter and a reconciled sister and The Fun Auntie and definitely a Cool Gigi. I want to not laugh when someone calls me Pastor. I want to cook and entertain and take naps and read books and get over grudges quickly and eradicate mom guilt. (Okay, and I wouldn’t mind be twenty pounds lighter, but what will I wish and work for once that happens?!)

And listen, it’s okay to want those things. It doesn’t make us selfish to want to be better, to want to be our best.

“So if you feel defeated
Put down and mistreated
Got to show the world there’s something more.
Just get yourself together
No storm you can’t weather
And come back stronger then you were before.
Look at me, that’s what I’ve done
Still raising cane and having fun
I live my life with no regrets
So you can’t count me out, yet.
I’m feeling good as good can get
No, you can’t count me out, yet.”

Yeah. I know I’m quoting a lesser-known Travis Tritt song and not the Bible, but you get what I am saying. The One who lives in me will never be knocked down for the count, and so, neither will I.

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