Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Gratefulness through Grief

November.  The one month of the year that Facebook, Instagram, Twitter...whatever social media you prefer is full of posts on gratitude.


And so on and so forth...

I've been surrounded by these for the past 18 days, and have truly been thinking about my gratefulness through grief.  It can be hard to be grateful when everything came shattering down around me just 4 months ago.  It can be hard to be grateful when something so precious & wanted was supposed to be in my arms this month.  Instead....I have to be grateful with empty arms & a broken heart.

How does one do that?  How does one look at the shattered mess of hopes, dreams & an unknown future surrounding them and find a way to be grateful?  I'll be honest...I'm not completely sure.

But I do know that in the midst of this pain...of this grief that can seem so overwhelming at times, I am grateful.

I am grateful that I have a God that is my safe place.  All the ugliness that comes into your heart after suffering through tragedy- He isn't afraid of it.  I look back at moments when my anger was so big & so overwhelming, that the only safe place to unleash it was upon God.  I've had very serious...very heated talks with the God of the universe...and you know what?  He listened to me.  He cradled me in His arms as I continued to lick my wounds in the only ways I knew how.

I've had many days where worship & prayer only came in the form of tears...I still have those days.  I look at who I am now, and often see a mess of a person.  The woman who once was so put together & seemed to have everything under control...she is no longer.  She is just plain gone.  I think about the anger, hurt, brokenness, tears, doubt, fear....and wonder how God will ever use this for His plan...for good?

And then He reminds me of some things.  "Lea, where do you turn when the anger & hurt is all consuming?  Who do you talk to when you doubt the purpose & plans I have, and who you are to Me?  What do you pray when fear & anxiety creeps upon you in the darkest hours of the night?  Do you know that I know exactly how many tears that have fallen upon your cheeks & the reason behind every single one of them?"

He has drawn me closer to Him through the death of Ellie.  He is the safest place I have.  I don't have to hide my thoughts or spare His feelings.  He isn't afraid of them.  What I have to say doesn't stun Him into silence.  He only wants me to bring it to Him.  Every. Single. Time.  He wants me to bring it all to Him.  And He is willing to meet me right where I am at.  I don't have to look like I have it all together.  I don't have to be anything but what I am in that moment.

I've heard the analogy that God views us as a tapestry.  We see the side that is normally hidden against the wall - it is messy, ugly & convoluted.  But God sees the front side...the image that is being weaved together as He refines us.  It's not just "pretty things" that are part of the tapestry.  It's not without suffering, pain, heartache....but He sees the beautiful picture from the other side.

My daughter dying was not a blessing.  I'm not grateful for my empty arms.  I'm not grateful that this is the road I have to travel.  But I am grateful that I have God with me as I stumble along it.  I am grateful that I have found a safe place in Him.  I am grateful that because of Him, I will be reunited with my sweet Ellie girl in Heaven one day.

I am grateful that God graced me with her presence, if only for the shortest of time.  I will forever be grateful for my daughter, the one who made me a mom.  I'm grateful that I loved someone so much that saying goodbye was the hardest thing I've ever done.

I'm grateful that little by little, day by day...I find more joy.  Some days I take a few steps back.  Other days I completely turn around and run in the opposite direction. But joy is there...patiently tapping on the door to my soul.

I'm grateful that little by little, bit by bit...God is putting my heart back together.  It's never going to fit back together perfectly.  You are always going to be able to see the cracks in it.  That is just what happens when something so important was ripped from your life prematurely.  But He is helping me heal, and I am extremely grateful for that.

Monday, November 9, 2015

A Plain Red Cup

So, it seems according to the internet that I am supposed to be all up in arms about the Starbucks red cups.  Apparently it is a war on Christmas because the cups don't have a snowman, holly or evergreen tree on it.  Images that technically have nothing to do with the true meaning of Christmas.

It's a cup.  At a coffee store.  That has never claimed to be affiliated in any way with Christ.  They sell drinks filled with well over your daily allotment of sugar. 

I'm still stuck on the fact that it's a cup.

There are so many people out there hurting during the holidays.  I never thought I would be one of them, but here I am... wondering how to get through the next two months.  Not wanting to know what it feels like to have to celebrate Thanksgiving & Christmas after the death of my baby girl.  Daily, I cling to Christ in hopes that I will get through it all unscathed.  That I won't become bitter.  That my anger won't get in the way of this magical time of year.

You would never know it by looking at me in line at Starbucks.  I dress well, with my hair done & makeup on.  I patiently wait my turn, and order my drink with a smile.  I say thank you & make small talk with the person taking my order, and wait at the end of the counter for my drink.  I smile at the strangers waiting next to me if we happen to catch eyes. 

You would never know that inside my heart is shattered.  That I am broken by numbers & percentages.  1 in 4, 1 in 50, 1 in 200....I am the 1 in all these scenarios.  They rarely leave my thoughts.

Rather than getting bent out of shape about a red cup... why don't you look at the person in line behind you & tell the cashier that you would like to pay for their drink in that red cup.  Then turn around and wish them a very Merry Christmas.  I assure you that it will make them smile.  I would daresay that even if they don't celebrate Christmas, they will be grateful & gracious.  But more than anything... you will have been a blessing to them.

You truly have no idea what is going on in that person behind you.  They might look like me... and their heart might be broken in a million pieces, just like mine is.  That small gesture might give them a shot of happiness during a time that is overwhelming & not as joyful as it once was.

Christ isn't in a red cup.  Christ is in the hearts & thoughts of those who are His.  And maybe, just can show Christ's love through a plain red cup this season.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Capture Your Grief - Day 14 - Share Your Heart

Share your heart, huh? My heart is a bit bipolar these days.  Every hour, sometimes every second it feels different.

It can burst with love in the same moment it feels shattered in a million pieces.  It can rage & feel peace together.  All I know is grief is awful & beautiful at the same time.

While my heart & my mind seem to shuffle through about a million different emotions each day, I've clung to one thing in these past 3 months.

I believe that God is good, that His plan is perfect, and He has a purpose for my life.

I don't say that lightly.  I say that as a woman who has sat crumpled on the floor, feet away from the ashes of my 1 pound, 1 ounce daughter, with tears streaming down my face as I've told my creator that I still believe.

I'm still getting the basics of life back on track right now.  And that's okay.  I hit rock bottom the moment that my daughter died, and it takes time to pull yourself out of a pit like that.

But I'm not doing it alone.  It's only by the grace of God that I've made it as far as I have.

I don't know what my future holds right now.  All of the plans that I had for the future included Arabella, and I'm just not in a place where I can move past them.  I've had to let them go, but I'm not ready to start dreaming again.

So I wait.  I wait upon the Lord in hopes that He will reveal some of His plan to me.  I wait as my heart continues to heal, bit by bit, little by little.  I wait for the time when it feels safe to dream again.

Until then, I will continue to believe that God is good, His plan is perfect and He has a purpose for my life.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Capture Your Grief - Day 8 - Wish List

 I started Seamless with two of my friends this week.  It is a Bible study written by Angie Smith, aimed at understanding the Bible as one complete story.  Obviously, it starts in Genesis.

Genesis chapter 5 is about the lineage from Adam to Noah.  There are two things that jumped out at me while reading it.  One - these people are remembered.  Two - some of them were remembered for walking faithfully with God during their years.

I don't want Ellie to ever be forgotten.  I'm the one to make sure that doesn't happen.  And I want to faithfully walk with God while I honor her memory.

I want her name to be synonymous with faith and hope and peace and love.

I want people to know that like the meaning of her name...she was an answered prayer.  I thank Him for her every single day.  Sometimes through tears, and often with a smile.

I want people to know that while she weighed barely over a pound, she had weight in this world.  She was wanted.  She was longed for.  She was fiercely loved.

She is our daughter.  But even more importantly, she is a daughter of the King.  A child of the Most High God.  Radically loved by the famous One.  Today and forever she resides with her perfect Father.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that I am too.  This broken & wounded girl who is desperately trying to turn her mourning into dancing...I am the daughter of the Most High God.

I am chosen, blameless & holy.
I was bought at a great price.
I intimately understand that cost more now than I ever have before.

And I belong to Him.

Maybe you are like me, and you sometimes forget this.  I hope that this little blog post serves as a great reminder & encouragement to you.  You are a beautiful child of God.  And there is joy in that, even in the midst of heartache.


This month is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness month.  I am participating in a month long healing event called "Capture Your Grief", organized by CarlyMarie Project Heal.  Each day of the month there is a prompt for taking a photo & writing/journaling.  Today the prompt was wish list.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Capture Your Grief - Day 7 - Memory

This month is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness month.  I am participating in a month long healing event called "Capture Your Grief", organized by CarlyMarie Project Heal.  Each day of the month there is a prompt for taking a photo & writing/journaling.  Today the prompt is memory.

Ellie was a bit of a brat when it came to doctor appointments.  Dr. K would try to find her with the doppler, and she would make it extremely difficult.  So, we ended up with ultrasound photos from each of our appointments.   All I have to say about that is...good girl.  ;)  I treasure those ultrasound scans.

Before we knew that Ellie was an Ellie, we nicknamed her based on what her ultrasound photo looked like.  She was a gummy baby, alien baby, Skelator baby, and our very favorite shown above....Hamburglar baby.  :)

If there was any question that she was our daughter, her stubbornness proved otherwise.  And I kind-of like that.  She didn't like being pushed on or pestered, and she let it be known.  She would move as far away from the doppler as she could.  And she would flail her little arms & legs in protest when pressed on with the ultrasound wand.

She was our little fighter, right up until she just couldn't fight any longer.  One of my fears is that she suffered or felt pain when labor came on so quickly & violently.  When that fear consumes me, I remind myself that the moment her heart stopped beating she was safe in the arms of Jesus.  Safe in the arms of the one who loves her more than I do.  She was healed in that instant.  I cling to that promise daily.

I love you, my tiny stubborn fighter.  I miss you.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Capture Your Grief - Day 6 - Books

This month is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness month.  I am participating in a month long healing event called "Capture Your Grief", organized by CarlyMarie Project Heal.  Each day of the month there is a prompt for taking a photo & writing/journaling.  Today the prompt is books. 

There are three books that have been my sanity over the past three months.  My Bible.  "I Will Carry You" by Angie Smith.  And "You are the Mother of All Mothers" by Angela Miller.
Today I can't give them the justice they deserve.  All of them have truly helped me.  But on days like today I would rather throw them across the room, because I don't want to own them in the first place. 

On days like today I don't want the tree that's planted in my backyard.

I don't want the gorgeous handcrafted album that Priscilla made for me.

I don't want the beautiful remembrance angel that my mom bought for me.

I don't want the molds of her tiny hands & feet that sit on our dresser.

I just want her.


I remember reading a blog post that Angie wrote after her daughter died.  She smashed a pitcher into pieces, and then put it back together.  While putting it back together, she spent the time having a very real conversation with God.

Today I am railing against the world.  And that's okay.  I'm going to have days like this.

Today I think I might need to go buy that pitcher.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Capture Your Grief - Day 3 - Honor

This month is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness month.  I am participating in a month long healing event called "Capture Your Grief", organized by CarlyMarie Project Heal.  Each day of the month there is a prompt for taking a photo & writing/journaling.  Today the prompt is honor.  In honor of.

Introducing a peek at Arabella Grace Lawson.

I am fiercely protective of her.  And of the 188 photos that I have of her.  But I want to give you a little peek at her.  So you will know just how real she is to me.  Why my empty arms ache.  Why my heart breaks every single day. 

This is my daughter.
At approximately 8:21pm on Sunday, July 12th her heart quit beating.
Her heart had been beating just three awful contractions before that.
In a moment, she was just gone.

Less than one hour later, she was born still.
She weighed 1 pound, 1 ounce.
She was 10 inches long.
She had the start of curly blonde hair.
Her nose was probably the cutest one I'd ever seen.
She was so so tiny, but utterly perfect.

And I miss her.  Every single second of every single day.  Some days I'm not completely sure how I put one foot in front of the other.

But I do.  Because I have to.  Because I want to.  Because this tiny person impacted my life in such a big way.

She made me a mama.  And I will honor that for the rest of my days.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Capture Your Grief - Day 2 - Intention

This month is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness month.  I am participating in a month long healing event called "Capture Your Grief", organized by CarlyMarie Project Heal.  Each day of the month there is a prompt for taking a photo & writing/journaling.  Today the prompt is intention, but I didn't take a photo for it.  Instead...I made a little graphic.
Fear.  It's probably the worst thing that has come from dealing with Ellie's death.  I've always been a cautious person, but I've never really been a fearful one until now.  And I hate it.

I KNOW what the Bible says about fear.  I KNOW that God doesn't want me to fear anything but Him.  I KNOW that it isn't Christlike to fear.  My brain gets it.  But try telling that to my wounded heart.

Since that stormy night when we lost Ellie, I've become fearful of my own mortality.  Of Josh's.  Of my family's.  I check my dogs when they are asleep to make sure they are breathing.

I'm fearful at the thought of it happening again.  That I will only ever be part of the 1 in 4 club.  That my only experiences with pregnancy will be death.

And I am fearful to ask God for anything in my prayers.   Especially a miracle.

I've always tried to make sure my prayers aren't self-obsessed.  That they are based in gratitude and praise for God.  That I come humbly when I am in need of forgiveness.  That I share my heart honestly with the God that already knows what's weighing on me.

But I don't ask for much.  If I do, it is typically for other people. 

Then we got the news that everything about Ellie's life was uncertain, and all I wanted was for her to be okay.  I prayed, and pleaded, and cried, and flat out begged for her to be healed.  But it didn't happen...not in the way that I wanted.

One of the very few times I've prayed selfishly, and the answer broke my heart.

I think a lot of my fear stems from the fact that I am having a really hard time trusting in Him after all of this.  I believe that He is good, He is perfect and that He has a plan for me.  But my heart is having a hard trusting in that.  My mind & my heart can't seem to get on the same page.

I am so sick of being fearful.  I want to be faithful. 

"When I am afraid, I put my trust in You."
Psalm 56:3

Lord, let this be the prayer on my lips when fear creeps up on me & my trust in you is failing.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Capture Your Grief - Day 1 - Sunrise

This month is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness month.  I am participating in a month long healing event called "Capture Your Grief", organized by CarlyMarie Project Heal.  Each day of the month there is a prompt for taking a photo & writing/journaling.  Today the prompt is sunrise, and this is how I chose to share it.

This rose bush is in the front of our house, and it reminds me of our sweet Arabella Grace every day.  It started blooming right around the time that we learned of her prognosis, and it is still blooming today.  It is my favorite shade of pink, and was supposed to be the main color of Ellie's nursery.  And the tiny little rosebuds just remind me of Ellie's perfect little rosebud nose & lips.

"He is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings grass from the earth."
2 Samuel 23:4

Just three months ago I would have looked at you like you were crazy if you told me to wake up to see the sunrise.  But these days it's rare if I'm not already awake.  Grief has turned this once solid sleeper into an insomniac of the worst sort...I struggle to fall asleep, I struggle to stay asleep & I struggle to go back to sleep.

As dawn breaks on this first day of October, I've got a lot of things on my heart.

Today I should be miserably pregnant.
Today I should be in full-on nesting mode.
Today I should be talking to a sweet baby kicking me from the inside.
Today I should be nervous about the impending labor & delivery.

But I'm not.
And it sucks.

I've realized that October is going to be really hard.  I've got things planned to get me through it.  Things that will make me laugh & smile.  Things that will inevitably make me cry.  I could fill my schedule to the brim with things to do but one thing isn't going to is going to be hard.  In order to heal, I have to mourn every aspect of this loss.  Including the things mentioned above.

With every inch of my being, I wish we were celebrating Ellie's birth this month.  We will still celebrate the short time that we did have with her here on earth.  But there is still so much sadness for me, and that is part of this month too.

I might need a little extra grace this month.  I will need to extend just as much grace to others.  And as I watched the sunrise this morning, I realized how thankful I am that God's mercies are new every morning.

"Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness."
Lamentations 2:22-23

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

First Day of Fall

Well, we made it to the first day of fall.  I've been anticipating this day.  Ready for the cooler temperatures.  Ready to feel better about the way that I look because my cooler weather clothes fit much better than my summer clothes.  Ready for my favorite part of fall...pumpkin spice lattes (though I've actually been drinking them for a few weeks now.  Lol.)  I know, I know...those are all pretty superficial.  :)

And while it is technically just a day, it is so much more to me.  It is a victory.  A triumph of sorts.  Though it included 12 hours of time that I would never give back (the hours in the hospital with Arabella Grace), I survived the worst summer of my life.  The hardest thing I've ever gone through.  I've somehow made it into another season, wounded & broken, but still standing.  And I thank God for that.  To Him be all the glory.

Today my heart still hurts.  Not just for myself.  For a precious person...a beautiful soul who I just found out today is suffering another loss.  And for everyone who has had to say goodbye too soon to their beloved babies, no matter what stage of life.  No matter how new or seasoned the loss is.  It isn't fair.  It just plain sucks.  And I stand with you, wherever you are at.

"This was not your fault.
This will never be your fault,
no matter how many different ways
someone tries to tell you it was.

Especially if that someone happens to be you....

Do not believe it,
not even for a second.
Do not let it sink into your bones.
Do not let it smother that beautiful, beautiful light of yours.

Instead, breathe in this truth 
with every part of yourself:
You are the best damn mother in the entire world."

-Angela Miller

This is just a couple of clips from her book, "You Are the Mother of All Mothers".  I read this book almost every single day.  It reminds me that I didn't fail.  Not even a little bit.

To all of the mamas that I know who have lost their precious didn't fail.  Not even a little bit.

To all of the mamas that I don't know but somehow happen upon my didn't fail.  Not even a little bit.

While our motherhood feels invisible to the rest of the is not.  It is real.  It is sacred.  And it is hard.  Because we mother with empty arms.  We mother a child we no longer see, that we no longer feel, but that will always be a part of us.  When everyone else forgets, we will always remember. 

I acknowledge your motherhood, mama.  And I stand with you, arm in arm...holding you up when you cannot stand, and leaning on you when it is me who is unable.