Eleven Years of Hope

Just thinking of my beautiful Covenant Hope tonight. Eleven years later, I still remember holding her for the first time. And saying goodbye to my first sweet baby. My gateway into a world of dark grief I never expected. My gateway into a complicatedly gorgeous weaving called Motherhood that I wasn’t prepared for.

Eleven years later, I now wouldn’t change a thing.
But at that moment, I would have given ANYthing to put my baby back in my womb and start that little heart beating again.

Beautiful baby.
Eleven years later, Mommy still loves you more than every freckle your DNA included. Eleven years later, I can still remember the first time I saw you with my own eyes and marveled over the complexity of your beautifully knitted, tiny body. Eleven years later, your life still brings me hope.
And I am eager to join with you in the choir. xx

Grandpa’s Hands

When I was a child, it was your hands that were getting down and dirty, scraping the barbecue, planting seeds, trimming rosebushes, stopping my spinning chair at the kitchen table. I remember watching your hands place toothpicks in the petals and stem of delicate passion flowers so they would stay open. I remember your hands holding the tiny paring knife, standing at the kitchen counter, every morning as you prepared a mound of fruit to top your bowl of mixed cereals. I also remember your hands opening the lids of multiple salad dressing bottles as you mixed dressings to top your salads at dinner.

I don’t remember you playing games, I don’t remember you reading books aloud, I don’t even remember you often holding my hand or holding me on your lap. I guess those weren’t necessary ways for you to show me your love. You brought me alongside you, and allowed me to follow you around, as you did your work. I remember reading the funny papers and watching America’s Funniest Home Videos on your tv on Sunday evenings. I remember sitting on your left side at the dining room table every Sunday night for our weekly family suppers. I remember you always saying supper, rather than dinner. I remember you holding your fork in your left hand, while I held mine in my right and tried not to bump into you over the table corner.

There were years, my most formative years, with a thousand miles between us where I did not get to much practice the art of being a granddaughter. As I look back at it now, with more perspective and wisdom on the subject, I can see that those were also the years where the Alzheimer’s was settling in to your cells and beginning to take over little by little. I remember you coming to visit, especially for Thanksgiving and November birthdays. I remember your addiction with little dogs and the daily newspaper.

The years I was in college, the early years of my marriage, the time I have spent in the trenches of young motherhood, I do not have lots of memories… but I missed you. I remember missing you.

I remember going to California to see you eleven months ago. It was my first time seeing you in a wheelchair, seeing you in “an assisted living center,” seeing your eyes deeply while knowing without a doubt that you don’t see me back. I remember bringing you a gift my children and I had made: a fidget blanket to keep your hands happy. I remember you loving it; in fact, you loved it until just a couple weeks ago.

I remember you moving here in May, and the delight it brought my soul. I remember bringing my children to see you; the newness of that first time, and then the normalcy of seeing you multiple times each week. I loved holding your hands, rubbing your shoulders, scratching your back. The way our eyes connected sometimes made it feel like you knew me deeply and truly: but then I would wonder if, instead of seeing me, somehow your brain saw your wife of years gone by in my visage. It brought my heart so much joy to look into your eyes connecting with your soul, while my body leaned close over yours. I knew your wrinkles, your grizzly whiskers, your long earlobes, your wild eyebrows. Your hands would sometimes let go of your fidget blanket long enough to reach out and touch my face or grip my hand. I loved how your hands would pat my children, rub them, hold them. Both of my youngest children loved to sit on your lap, Simeon especially asking for rides on your lap as we pushed your wheelchair around in big circles in the backyard, crunching yellow leaves this fall. Asher, my special boy you always had a unique connection with, would stare into your soul through your eyes as your hands wrapped around his back. You would smile for him when you wouldn’t smile for anyone else.

Then it happened: every part of you grew suddenly tired, massively weary. I brought you ice cream, I fed you bites of cold caramel creamy goodness when we could not get you to swallow anything else. It was the last thing I fed you, except for the apple cider mixed with Ensure I gave you in a syringe at Colin’s house the week before you died.

That was the day we gave you a living memorial. We sat you on the big brown leather couch, propped with some pillows, your foot on a little wooden crate. Grandma held one of your hands, Mama held the other. I was kind of wishing you had a third hand I could hold. I sat near your feet, sang toward your face, rested my hand along your cheek, and let my tears fall on your lap as I sang to you of day’s end, death’s disrobing, and being in God’s loving presence. My daughter danced for you. One of my boys read Psalm 90 for you. We sang hymns on end following your birthday songs, with Psalms sprinkled in.

And then the days grew long as we felt the night of death draw near. We rotated sitting at your bedside so you would not be alone. We sang to you, read to you, held your hands.

There were times when you would squeeze my hands when it really seemed inexplicable.
And then you raised your hands. Your body was as wasted away as I could imagine, so I have to believe it was your renewing spirit that was lifting those weary bones and drying skin into the air with praise.
When Mama read you Ephesians 1, your hands were raised in a strength that was clearly not your own.
When we sang you hymns of faith and psalms of hope, your hands would raise – it made us want to keep singing!

Oh Grandpa. Your hands.
I love those hands. I held your hands tight and told you how I could never look at lemons, blueberries, passion flowers, or cherry tomatoes without thinking of you. I also think I will never see tired old hands without remembering yours.
The last week of your life, I got to spend a lot of hours at your bedside, and I hated the time when I couldn’t hold your hands because they were being held by other people instead.

There was a wish inside me that I could be holding your hands when your body was delivered of your spirit. Rather, I held your hands often during the laboring of your body while your soul waited on the Lord for the full renewal of being called Home, and it was my own daddy whose hands held yours and whose voice you heard as the angels escorted the real you away from your body’s shell.

I did not come see your body after your spirit passed away beyond the veil. I heard that your wife and daughter held your hands and kept them warm until you were taken away. I saw a picture of Mama’s hands holding your hands as you lay in your handsomely wrought casket at the funeral home in California two days ago… it was the part that broke my heart. Your hands.

Today I saw a picture from 62 years ago, you holding my mama in your arms. I saw your young, healthy hand holding her chubby little toddler thigh. I cried. I never saw your hands like that. But they were the same hands. Those hands that held my mama in your youth are the same hands I saw working in the garden twenty-five years ago, and are also the same hands that rubbed my babies’ backs this summer, the same hands that I held while I sang to you on your deathbed, and the same hands I saw with no warmth or blood or life as Mama held them in hers two days ago.

Now your hands are crossed across your body, which wears a suit many sizes now too big, as you rest in your coffin of wood beneath the layers of earth, dirt, sod, and California sunshine. Grandpa, my memories of our life together are scattered and incomplete. But as I scatter these words through my fingertips at your memory, please just know how completely I love you. How thankful I am for you. How I will not forget your hands.

You made it to the finish line with valor and integrity. I trust your hands are still raised in victory, praise, and joy.
I love you, Grandpa. xo

Ordinary

There are some days that, while filled with nothing but the ordinary, feel truly extraordinary nonetheless.

In the liturgical Church year, incidentally, today is the last day of Ordinary Time prior to tomorrow launching this year’s Advent season. Well, perhaps it is less than incidental: in fact, it may be the precise reason I thought of this in the first place.

One of my friends is at the hospital in labor today with her first child, after years of longing to be given the gift of motherhood.
One of my friends, who I babysat & taught piano to for years and then who was a flowergirl/maid in my own wedding, is getting married this afternoon.
And my one and only Grandpa will have his bones laid to rest in a couple of hours.

The intersection of some of life’s moments of highest pinnacle!

And here I am at my home, living in the very ordinary routine of my life.
Dishes, laundry, feeding my people, changing diapers, loading up crockpots, listening to a podcast while I walk around in circles between my own needy little people and my weary old brown boxes of Christmas decorations that I’m trying to unload into a semblance of celebratory beauty around my home.

Ordinary.

But just because it is ordinary does not mean it has no value. Some of the most monumental and majestic of events rely fully upon those who are holding down the forts in the world of the ordinary!

And so as I chop onions for chili and cut fat into flour for pie, as I transfer laundry loads and sweep up pineneedles from the family room rug, as I interact with my children and scatter Christmas decorations around my home, I wait for my ordinary little phone to buzz. I get updates from my friend waiting for her body to be delivered of her tiny son. I get updates from my mama who is waiting for her father’s body to be laid to rest. I watch the clock as I anticipate the covenant-making of my friend as two shall become one.

This is ordinary yet it is majestic.

On this last day of Ordinary Time prior to Advent, I am thinking about the power of the ordinary.
Ordinary things like life, birth, death, marriage, parenthood, homes, food, tangible, physical things.
And tomorrow when Advent bursts onto the scene, I anticipate one friend’s arms will be filled with her little son; another young friend entangled with her husband; and my grandpa will be planted in the earth awaiting the harvest of the Resurrection.
I will go to worship, partake of communion, sing, pray, and rejoice because the majestic King of creation came to earth in the ordinary form of a baby with human DNA just like me and lived a life full of ordinary, tangible, physical things.

Maybe it is the ordinary things, after all, which are the true pinnacle of the majestic.

Final Lap of The Race

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Acts 20:24
“I consider my life worth nothing to me;
my only aim is to finish the race
and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—
the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”

I’m not a runner. I may have gone through a short stint a couple years ago where I gave it a try, but it’s quite arduous and painful… so let’s just be doubly honest here, I am not and never shall be a runner. And yet as image-bearers of the Creator, we all do run ~ He is the one that determines and establishes our every step (Proverbs 16:9), He is the one that prepared our good works for us to walk in (Ephesians 2:10). Each step I take is of Him, for Him, by Him, through Him. Some of us run races faster than others (ahem, remember I’m just a walker?).

But I know what it is to run.
I recognize various parts of the race when I see others racing.
I can see the difference between the sprint, the endurance lap, the uphill grind, the downhill blitz.
Known as an encourager, I guess you could say I know something about standing along the sidelines and cheering others on.

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And have you noticed that the beginning and ends of the race are where the most stands are filled?
So much energy and exultation happens when the race begins.
In the middle, when things seem smooth and easy, sometimes there are stretches where there is nobody cheering; simply the occasional medic or someone handing you a water bottle. At other points in the middle when the hills are steep or the terrain dangerous, there may be more people gathering around to make sure you survive the toil and they cheer for you as you make each stride.
But it’s at the end of the race, in that final lap, where the cheering and rejoicing and clapping is most obvious. Even moreso than the energy expended at the outset. It is then, at the end, when you will see so much egging on, encouraging shouts, jumping up and down with loud exults, coming into downright cacophony nearing the finish line.

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Hebrews 12:1-2
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely,
and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross,
despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

My children and I have been spending hours every week at the elderly care home where my grandpa lives. So many of these people are finishing the ends of their races without coaches and cheerleaders. We have even semi-adopted two older men there who are bedridden, and we bring joy to them as they continue on these laps near the ends of their races.

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But recently it is Grandpa himself who has needed the cheerleaders amping up. For him, the final lap has begun. The finish line is getting closer. It can be so tempting to plop myself down along the sideline and just bury my head in my arms. I don’t have the best relationship with grief, I have probably a good bit of PTSD associated with it in fact.

This is not the time, though, for me to take a breather and leave my faithful runner alone on the path.
This is the time to cheer him on the most.
He’s almost there! He’s almost finished! That fullness of joy is nearly within his grasp!

Psalm 16:11
“You make known to me the path of life.
In Your presence there is fullness of joy;
at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

So here I sit, here I stand, here I’ll commit to staying ~ cheering on my grandpa as he rounds the final bend in these final laps. He has run with endurance. The finish line is in sight. His faith will be perfected, it will become sight, and soon he will see King Jesus face to face.

Grandpa! You’re almost there!
I may cling to your weary, wrinkly hand with all my might right now,
but I would not ask your soul to tarry.
Run. Fly.

Finish strong.
You have lived well. You have run with grace.
We will rejoice with you when you step at last
into the victory lap, joining the cloud of witnesses across the finish line.

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Beautiful crying forth

As I contemplate my thirteen precious children today, on PAIL (pregnancy and infant loss) Remembrance Day, I am praising God for His beautiful crying forth of ideas which created each one of them.

I still daily get to set my eyes on four of them, and I am daily blown away by His imagination in how He formed each one. They are absolutely spoken magic, woven into flesh.

But there are nine other ideas of His which were spoken into creation by His Words. Although my eyes do not see them, nor my hands get to hold theirs, and my days are not filled with teaching & instructing them; and although their beautifully cried forth souls have flown from their woven bodies of flesh; they are still spoken magic. Fully alive. Glorifying God.

How stunning.

God, thank You for giving me so many children.
Thank You for lending some to me for such a long time.
Thank You for balming my heart when You took so many of them to Your heavenly places.
Thank You for crying forth such beauty even through my broken womb.
Thank You for showing Yourself faithful to me in grief.
Thank You for hearing my prayers.
Help me to show my children how beautifully & imaginatively spoken they are by You.
I believe Lord, help Thou my unbelief.

Christ Died

While we were yet sinners.
Christ suffered for us.
Died for me.

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He was stricken. Smitted. Afflicted. Forsaken. Dead in a completely gory trauma.

 

And there was darkness.
Despair.
Agony.
Unknowns.
Hell.

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Many Questions

What about that tree–
the one that would be
sawn asunder,
its limbs
lashed to a T
to brace his
bruised body?
Did he plant it?
Give it water?
Did he bless
or curse it
like the fig?
As a sapling
did it foresee
a day when nails
would join
its marrow,
its meat,
to the hands
and feet
of the Lord?

One Answer

They made my sturdy limbs
a party to their mutiny.

Forgive Man, Lord,
and me.

~Nikki Grimes,
“The cross is often referred to as a tree – a poetic reference perhaps,
but a tree did provide the material
from which the cross was made.
According to John’s Gospel,
Jesus was the Lord of Creation.
Among other things, that means the tree on which he hung
owed its life to him.
I was intrigued by the idea of relationship
between Christ and the tree.
The first poem led to the second.”

Light

Light at the end of the tunnel.
It’s an interesting phrase, cliche, concept, and reality.
I remember spending months and years wondering why every light I would see would end up being a train to pummel me rather than the end of the tunnel.
Just when I would glimpse hope or joy, my life would come crashing to a halt again.
The pain and the sorrow, the tears and the utter devastation.
I kept thinking, I can never survive this again. If it happens again, it will kill me.

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The thick shadow of death’s valley was my home for ages.
And to be honest, I can not put my finger on the time when I felt like I was suddenly out in the light again.
Out of the tunnel.
There was not a time where I saw the light at the end of the tunnel, and suddenly realized that it wasn’t another train.
There hasn’t been a moment where I finally notice the darkness is dissipating and I’m almost out of the shadowy tunnel.

But here I am.
I turn around, and I look back, to see that the tunnel is behind me.
That particular dark journey of thick shadows and tunnel vision is over.

Although I did not know it was coming, or perhaps it was simply that I was afraid to hope against hope and chose the path of denial…
I can tell you now, there was light at the end of the tunnel.
I know because I’m there now.

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To be real, frank, & honest, I haven’t come very far out of the tunnel.
It’s not like I’ve journeyed away.
I still stick my toes in there and dance around the opening.
Sometimes I do it on purpose.
Other times, I simply look up to realize I tripped and somehow ended up inside the tunnel again.
But I stay close to the open edge now – I don’t want to get sucked back into the deep darkness.
If a train is coming, I want to be out in the open so I have a chance to jump out of the way.

~…~…~…~

So here I sit on October 15th.
It’s Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day.
And I specifically purposed not to buy balloons this year.
I don’t know why.
Maybe it’s because the tunnel feels too close right now.
Maybe it’s just because I want to feel like I’m making decisions I want to make,
rather than just continuing with a tradition because, well, it’s tradition.

I didn’t used to believe I would ever come out on the other side. I didn’t know how it would ever be possible to “move on.” I disagreed that I would ever reach a light at the end of the tunnel. I clenched my teeth and sighed to myself when someone would tell me, “there’s always hope.” Honestly, a lot of cliches (true or not) made me want to smack something or someone.

But here I am.
There really was light at the end of the tunnel.
There really was hope.

I have full confidence now that if God did not want us to have another biological child after Gabriel that He would have had a different perfectly wonderful plan for our family. But in all honesty, I did not have that confidence at the time. Everything looked bleak from my perspective back then. So while I know now that God would have been faithful, no matter how black life looked from my unfaithful perspective, I understand from experience that you can not see rainbows when the storm is thick & raging so you can’t even see six inches in front of your face.

But today I am wearing my unwieldy necklace with thirteen metal nametags.
Simeon loves the jingle jangle it makes when he plays with it.
Evangeline likes to find her nametag and read it to me.
The big boys like to read the babies’ names, and ask me their order.
These kids know our family is bigger than it seems.

Life is not what I imagined it would be.
(Me with my dreams of three in diapers.)
But life is good.

~…~…~…~

Crying used to be a form of daily exercise for me. It was that exhausting.
I would bawl my eyes out in the shower each night because I knew it would limit anyone knowing how broken I was.
I used to think I would be drowning forever, that the nightmare would never end.

~…~…~…~

I know that I’m not longer held in the throes of deep, dark, ugly grief.
But how in the world did I survive that nightmare through to this other side, called “someday”?!
Grief is horrible. It is caused by horrible things, and it in turn can cause horrible things.
I didn’t know that, in time, it could also cause something beautiful.
I didn’t realize that “beauty from ashes” would look this way.

~…~…~…~

Grief was exhausting. Not just the crying parts.
But the mourning.
The ache and pain and physical manifestation of internal, emotional, spiritual devastation is horrible.
Just surviving hurt.
The life of being a mama to four little kids, and the underlying pain I have in my physical body on a daily basis still make me exhausted and I still deal with daily pain.
But it’s different. Lesser, somehow.

Mommy-exhaustion from my four miracles is less exhausting than grief.
Grief was a full-time job.
And that’s no exaggeration.
I spent years just enduring.
Ask anyone who has dealt with chronic suffering of any type.
Enduring isn’t for the faint of heart.
I don’t know how people do it without Christ’s strength.

I was telling another loss-mama just this week how encouraging it is, not only to be on the other side of the dark tunnel,
but to be able to better see purpose in my grief.
And not just for myself.
It is good to know that God has woven beauty out of the ashes for my own family.
For me.
But it is even more amazing to see how God allows me to share that beauty with others.
Romans 12:15 and 2 Corinthians 1:4 sum it up pretty spot-on for me.
I love to be that other woman who pulls you through the muck, because I used to be there too.
I love that God urges me to send books and make jewelry for other women whose babies have died.
I love that He lets me burden-bear for grieving women around the world.

~…~…~…~

So for PAIL Remembrance Day today, I want you to know…
I have been there. I get it. Me too. It sucks.

But I also want to gently tell you that while I don’t know God’s plans for my future, or for yours, I do know with confidence that He will be faithful.
He delights in bringing joy and peace to His saints. He rejoices over us with singing.
He is our keeper. He is the shade at our right hands. He doesn’t slumber or sleep.
He knows the beginning from the end, even when all we can see is one moment of dark, tearful despair when it feels like everything might as well be over.

The story isn’t done yet.
I’m praying in whatever chapter is next, His pinions reach you in a tangible peace.

~…~…~…~

Sometimes when I think about my babies in heaven, it knocks the wind out of me.
How much I love them.
How terribly I miss them.
How often I wish others knew about them or acknowledged them.
How happy I am in life now, even though the tunnel of grief is still visible and touchable.
Yep, even that.

There are times when it hits me so much harder than I feel like it should.
But I’m a mommy.
And those are my sweet babies.
So maybe it’s just that my brain doesn’t realize fully that it should hit me hard.
Being bowled over by the mixture of love & grief isn’t out of the ordinary.
It’s normal.

You know how moms start talking about their kids? They go off on a dozen rabbit trails, and sometimes you glaze over and think about how you can’t pay attention to another single tangent about this woman’s kids?
I feel like that at the moment.
I feel like I got started talking about my babies, and went on a few tangents and a bunch of rabbit trails, and I just realized that your eyes look glazed over.

I am their mommy. They are my babies. You will never know how much I love them, how deeply I miss them, how proud I am to be their mommy, how thankful I am that God gave me these babies.

Covenant Hope, you made me a mommy first. You were the first other soul ever to inhabit my body. I never got to hear your heart beat, but I felt you living inside of me. You are something super special. You are the big sister that Gabriel forever talks about. You, in the palm of my hand, with your precious limbs and that perfect little umbilical cord and the deep blue where your eyes were forming ~ I think of you and the one short evening I got to spend with you outside my womb. You are the one (of my thirteen!) that I have taken camping. Those were horribly painful memories for such a long time, but I love that those memories now make me smile. Your daddy and I got to take you camping.
Glory Hesed, you made Gabriel a big brother first. You would have been just eighteen months apart, and I often imagine the level of crazy you would have added to our home. It makes your mommy smile. I remember the days when I walked around with you underneath my skin.
Promise Anastasis, you are my summer rosebud. Your life gave me hope. I love that I can now look ahead to the resurrection, when I will see you again. I remember holding you. I remember the world caving in around me. I think it was when I said goodbye to you that I found myself in the tunnel-that-had-no-end.
Peace Nikonos, there is so much I remember about being pregnant with you. I remember every detail of delivering you into my hands, too. It has been seven years since you were knit inside me, snuggling in my womb. You came on an airplane with us to the East Coast. You are one of the few babies who had a chance to hear the voices of your paternal grandparents and even great-grandparents. Besides Gabriel, yours was the first heart we got to both see and hear beating. The immense comfort and delight of that was indescribable. I remember thinking you were a strong fighter, and that’s how I think of you. Fast and strong. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I never once even considered that you weren’t my son.
Mercy Kyrie, a little one who came along with me for a jump into the deep end of immunology treatments. I was surprised to learn you were growing inside me, and overjoyed. We spent an entire holiday season with you in my womb, and the joy and peace and hope you brought to my soul were deliciously addicting. Your grandpapa brought me a bouquet of flowers one day when we had good news about your health. Christmas that year suddenly felt redeemed. I think of you when it snows.
Victory Athanasius, you make me speechless. I remember when we named you, it specifically stands out to me for some reason. And saying goodbye to you. I remember the day keenly. So does your daddy. Again, you specifically stand out to us. The seventh child to inhabit my body, I love to think of you as a dancing victor.
Hosanna Praise. My son. I remember when your grandpapa called and confirmed you were a boy. It knit you more deeply into my heart than I could ever tell you. There’s something about a mommy and her boy. I remember carrying you in my belly. I remember taking you to Mexico. I remember seeing you on ultrasound and loving to watch your heartbeat. Your ultrasound photos might be my favorites (shh! don’t tell the others!). I named you Hosanna as soon as I found out God was knitting you. I didn’t know the number of your days, but I knew you would forever be my Hosanna. And although God’s plan is different than mine would have been if I had been the author (and everyone is thankful that Mommy isn’t, by the way!), I am thankful He heard our cries to save you. I’m thankful He is your Savior and your Lord. When I think of my sons, you are always there in the corner of my mind.
Heritage Peniel, you are the sweet little girl who made Evangeline a big sister. You and I shared blissful joys, baby. I saw you numerous times on ultrasound. I loved every piece of you. I still do. No bigger than my thumb, you were the most beautiful little thing. Holding you in my hands broke my heart, but at the same time, it was one of the best days of my life. That’s weird to admit. It was a horrible day. But oh! I’m so thankful I got to hold you. And kiss you. I miss having you running around in your big sister’s wake, wearing her old clothes, sleeping together in a pink and grey room full of flowers. Even though you are my January sweetheart, when I close my eyes, I envision you with peonies and lacy bonnets. There isn’t a doubt in Mommy’s mind that you would have been the quiet little freckle who could never quite keep up with the firecrackers.
Fidelis Se’arah, my wee faithful babe. Another little May blossom. Plucked too soon. Blooming fragrantly in heaven. You took my breath away. I still catch my breath when I think of you. You remind me that there is Someone who is faithful in all things, all times, all ways. You were the darling who pushed me to the end of a rope, and who gave me the courage to fall.


remembering today,
October 15th, 2016
with much mommy love for my nine xxx

Blinding

October has always been one of my favorite months. In fact, if I had been a more patient woman, I would have waited an extra five months to get married just so I could have an October anniversary! But as it happened, seven days post college graduation was all I was willing to wait. (No regrets, by the way!) I had often prayed for an October baby (and an April baby, incidentally), and what’s interesting is that in all of my pregnancies, I never had a due date or a loss date in October. I did have some bad-news days in Octobers, particularly when carrying my sons Peace and Hosanna, both who died in early Novembers. And then the icing of the cake was the delicious joy that God (somewhat unexpectedly) gifted me with Simeon in October.

And now, just a few days into this beautiful month, with its cold nights and crisp days… days for wearing boots & scarves & sweaters… mornings that beg me to bring in an armload of wood & stoke a fire… bellies longing for soup and fresh bread…
Now, on October 4th, I can’t stop crying. No anniversary of anything specific. Not even the 15th, which is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day. It’s simply a random day.

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A day of blinding grief.

I can not explain why. It simply is.

Most days now, I am so busy with focusing on what is right in front of me each day that my grief is faded into a dim shadow behind the hills. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of it. Sometimes it is like a cloud that filters how I see things on a given day, but it doesn’t fill the entire lens.

But there are occasional days where the grief is simply blinding. I wish I could put sunglasses on so I wouldn’t be walking around squinting, with tears running down my cheeks.
Today is one of these days.
The bright, sharp pain of grief is everywhere I look today.

It is in my bedroom. My bathroom. My kitchen. The bread rising in the oven.
It is in the knowledge that the house where I miscarried seven sweeties is being sold.
It is in these precious freckled faces all around me.
It is in the sound of Simeon’s cries.
It is in the ache of a womb that wishes it could be filled again.
It is in the frustration of not having a moment’s peace & quiet.
It is in the silence I feel when I hold Heritage’s box in my hands.
It is in the meal I am making for a friend who just had her sixth child.
It is in the load of diapers I have rinsing in the washer.
It is in the necklace around my neck with nine little crystals.
It is in the necklace that sits in my jewelry case, because honestly the thirteen tags on it have simply become weighty & awkward.
It is in the canvas I ordered today of my family of six. Only six.
It is in the nervousness I feel as I anticipate meeting new people at a homeschool co-op, and realizing I once again get to introduce my family & our life story.
It is in the ache of my muscles and the chap of my lips.
It is in the wrinkles on my hands and the grey in my hair.
It is in the songs I sing and the prayers I say over the four little red heads around my table.

Grief.

It is not as predictable as the path of the sun.
It’s about as unpredictable as the weather.
I have come to understand it and live peaceably with it, as a dim and distant part of my landscape.
But these days of blinding grief that appear sharp and harsh… it stuns me.
I shade my eyes with my hand, I squint, I cry, I turn my face… I run back inside.

I don’t want to face it.
I would rather hide.
There are SO. MANY. good things in my life.
I feel ashamed that there are still days where grief eclipses the rest.

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But I am not ashamed of missing my children.
I am not ashamed of how deeply I still love each of my wee babes.
I am not ashamed of being their mommy.

So I cry.
And I miss them.
My heart longs for heaven.

Lenses

It never ceases to amaze me how our experiences shape and color the lenses through which we look.

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Even something as simple as a devotional title this morning… it struck me…
My eyes read “Riding the Rollercoaster of Miscarriage.”
I was surprised to find, upon reading it & then going back to the top to double-check the title, that it was called “Riding the Rollercoaster of Marriage.”

Oh.
Whoops.
My bad.

Yesterday when I was picking my two big boys up from VBS, someone who I have known casually for over a dozen years made a comment about how perfectly spaced my children are. She seemed to be congratulating me for the beautifully placed stairsteps… and then she asked when the next baby would be on the way (to which my eyes stung and my heart silently cried oh, I wish).

Gulp.

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I breathed deeply to keep myself from breaking out into a sweat and allowing my heartrate to rise in anxiety.

I told myself quickly and quietly, she sees my family & me through different lenses.

Another deep breath, a squeeze of my little baby in my left arm & squeeze of my daughter’s hand in my right hand…
They do look stunningly like little stairsteps, I guess, was my reply with a smile.
I continued, Maybe you’d never know that there were nine other babies in there along the way.

I kept smiling, and the woman seemed to try processing my words.
She was blinking.
It’s like I was trying to share my lenses with her, but the glasses didn’t quite fit and the prescription was made for my eyes rather than hers.

Since it didn’t work well to share my lenses,
I just put them back on myself and let her keep her own.
Instead, I briefly explained what my view showed.
I described the picture’s colors to her, since she could not see their variety herself.

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We have nine little ones in heaven already. One before Gabriel, six between the big boys, and two between my youngest children.

When she commented that she “hoped I lost them early on,” rather than bristling that her lenses didn’t show her the colors & shadows & silhouettes & nuances more clearly,
once again I just described to her what my lenses show me.
They were young, yes, but they had beautiful little arms, legs, eyes, umbilical cords. I got to hold most of them. They have names. They are my children too, and I love them dearly. Honestly, I can’t wait to meet them in heaven. But until then, I sure am thankful for these four little miracle million-dollar-babies God has given us to raise.

It’s enough.
It is enough to realize that I see things differently than other folks. It goes both ways.
And I praise God that He is giving me peace with my lenses.
He continues teaching me how to see, how to share what I see, and how to learn what others see too.
With thankfulness, grace, contentment, joy.

I pray that He will continue to work on my eyes to better focus
on what He wants me to see in this world
and in the particular life He has given me.

Long-distance and Long-time

Five years ago right now, I found out I was pregnant with my ninth baby, who came on the heels of six consecutive miscarriages.
Five years ago right now, we began the process of building a home out in the country.
Five years ago right now, a friend of mine emailed me a crazy idea.

Boy. That was a busy year.

I now have a four year old Asher to show for that year.
I now have lived in this home, which we had built out in the country, for four years.
I now have participated in sharing a Pregnancy After Loss devotional, our free ebook download, for four years.

So many big things were obviously going on back then, and honestly, they continue to. Sometimes it is hard to see the growth of such blessings. It felt like so much big stuff back then, but when looking through the proper lenses, I can see that God is continuing to do great big things with those very seeds from five years ago. My friend Kristi reminded me this week that it was four years ago that R&R went live. What an exciting day that was for us! And today, she shares a little here about the growing process of our Rainbows & Redemption devotional to give a little special insight to the planting, blooming, and pruning progression.

Later this month, I will get to see Kristi in person for the second time ~ the first time was three years ago. I’ve known her long-distance for 5 1/2 years, as God has taken each of us on similar yet different journeys. We met online when we were both pregnant-after-loss, once: she was pregnant with her little Kyria, I was pregnant with my Peace. Neither of us were having a good time of it at all. We ended up delivering our precious little first trimester babies, three thousand miles apart, that November, in 2009. We have both had more pregnancies since then ~ my Asher and her Caleb were in our bellies while we wrote and edited R&R, so we shared wild roller coasters for months at a time. We have each called one another in moments of panic, straight from our own home bathrooms… because we were either starting to miscarry or had gotten less-than-encouraging blood test results or were worrying our brains to a fritz psycho-analyzing every little twinge and symptom and dream while PAL.

How good it continues to be to know that I am not alone.

We may be separated by basically the entire United States (she is at the SE corner while I am in the NW corner), but we are still there for one another, especially when it comes to specific niche topics. Things like miscarriage and related babyloss topics. Writing, specifically when it comes to words of encouragement. Homeschooling. Rainbow babies.

I hope to continue sharing life, prayers, and writing with Kristi as time goes on ~ my long-distance and long-time friend.  God grows beautiful things from little seeds. Like babies. And friendships. And books. Blessings.