Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Five Weeks, Three Days

I shot a wedding on Saturday.  When I got home, we jumped in the car and drove 21 hours to Ouray, Colorado.  We are staying in Ouray, but doing an immersion training in Ridgeway, which is about 10 minutes away.  (The photo above is the town of Telluride from a gondola ride.  It is beautiful here.)  My husband has a dream, and this was the first step towards making it come true.

It was never our plan for me to come along on this trip.  We thought I would still be pregnant with Ellie, needing to stay close to my doctors.  Instead, I needed to come on this trip with him.  I struggle even more when I am apart from Josh right now, and an entire week felt unbearable.

I had an appointment with a grief counselor before we left, and she told me that I need to have some distractions each day.  Something that gives my head and my heart a break from the grief and hurt.  And she was right.  The grief was physically affecting me.  I can say that today a lot of those symptoms have started subsiding or are gone.

Josh was going to try to do this immersion training alone, when it was meant for two people.  That would have been impossible.  So, I'm glad I was able to be here with him.  I did the business side of it, and has made me find some value in myself again.  I have a business degree, and I did really well in business school.  As we went over books, balance sheets and profit & loss statements, the fact that I am actually really good at all of this came pouring back.  And I've remembered that I actually enjoy it too.

We have had fun together.  The area of Colorado that we are in is breathtaking and we have just been drinking it all in.  It has made us miss our beloved Montana.  But we look forward to our future together in Fargo, and wherever our path may lead.  We've laughed together, and at each other.  We've eaten too much bad for you but yummy food, and have sworn that our meals will consist of chicken & veggies when we get home.  And through all of it...we have missed & longed for our daughter.

As I've been in awe of God's beautiful & majestic creation while here in Colorado..I've also been giving Him the silent treatment.  I write this out of transparency.  To let you know that I am not the perfect little Christian, whose grief is this pretty little package tied together with a bow on top.

I do believe that He is good.  That He is perfect.  That He has a plan.

But that doesn't mean that I'm not disappointed.  That I'm not angry.

Arabella Grace was not our final hope & dream.  But she became a part of ALL our hopes & dreams for the future.  And now we are having to figure out how we continue in these hopes & dreams without her.  And it is hard.  She was physically supposed to be part of this dream, and it makes me mad that she isn't.

I believe in an amazingly powerful God who could have healed her...who could have taken this from me.  But He didn't.  And I am left with the disappointment and the anger and the why's.

I know there are some out there who think I shouldn't express this.  That I shouldn't say this publicly.  That these feelings should be kept private...for God's eyes only.  It's possible that I might have felt this way in the past.  But I have learned in this last month that God isn't afraid of my hurt.  He isn't afraid of my anger & disappointment. He isn't afraid of my silence.  He knows that I still deeply love Him & believe in Him.  My heart is just so broken.  He knows and understands that too...all to well.

I want you to know this too.  He isn't afraid of anything you might feel...even doubt.  He isn't a god that doesn't understand our "humanness", because He created us.  He understands us more than we will ever comprehend. 

Yes...I feel angry & disappointed.  But please hear me when I say this.  I do not feel them in disbelief.  I believe with all of my being that He is good, He is perfect and He has a plan.  I believe that the cross makes me flawless.  I believe that Jesus welcomed Ellie into Heaven with open arms.  And I believe that because of Jesus, we will be reunited one day.

It doesn't mean that I don't hurt.  Or feel angry.  Or disappointed.  And that is okay.

I'm going to leave you with some paragraphs from a book by Tommy Mann called "Asleep in Heaven's Nursery".  I read these paragraphs today, and they really hit home for me.  I couldn't express it any better than with his words.

"Another verse that Christians love to quote to each other for encouragement is Jeremiah 29:11, which says, "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end."  This verse is saying that God has good plans in store for his people. 

But so many Christians who never go through hard times cannot fully appreciate the promise of that verse.  That was not some "health, wealth and prosperity" preacher delivering those words during times of abundance.  Actually, Israel had been taken captive and had all but been destroyed.  This was a prophecy that after a long period of suffering God would step in and carry out his good plan for his people. 

No one is exempt from hard times.  They will come.  What is important to know is that when you experience these hardships, God is going through them with you.  He hasn't forgotten about you, and he wasn't asleep when all this happened.  You have to accept the fact that what you are going through is part of his plan for your life. 

Nobody understands the pain of losing a child like God does.  And just like with you, the child that God lost was innocent.  But it was through the death of Jesus that our sin problem was solved, so God allowed his only Son to die as a substitution for us and our children. 

So you can cry out to God during this time of pain.  He has been there, and he knows better than anyone what you need to get through this time.  Better than that, he, more than anyone, is able to give you what you need during this time."

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

One Month

Ellie would have been one month old today if she had survived labor.  She would have been in the NICU, hooked up to who knows how many machines & fighting for her life everyday.  The thought actually makes me shudder a little.

I would have done it though.  We would have paid off her medical bills for the rest of our lives.  I would have stayed by her side every hour of every day in the hospital.  I would have done whatever she needed.

God spared me that life, which I know comes with its own form of grief, loss and mourning.  Instead I am left with the ache of empty arms, mourning an entire life of hopes, dreams & wonder.

Ellie- I wanted to know you.  I wanted to watch you grow and see who you would become.  I don't just mourn you as a baby, as that time would have been such a small part.

I wanted to hear your cries.
And learn what each one meant....what you needed when they rang from your lungs.

I wanted to know what your first word would have been.
Would it have been mama, or more likely dada?
Or something like ball or dog?
Knowing the stubbornness that ran through your genes, it probably would have  been "NO!".

I wanted to see your first steps, and watch you encounter the deliciousness of cake on your first birthday.

Would you have been introspective and a little shy like me?  Outgoing & boisterous like your daddy?  Maybe a mix of both, or something different...something 100% Arabella Grace.

Would you love reading books like me, or listening to them like your daddy?  Would you love movies & music the way we both do?

Oh, how I looked forward to reading all the stories of the Bible to you.  To teach you about our precious Jesus, and hope that we could adequately portray His love for you.  Instead, you know far more about Jesus than I do.

Lord, will you tell her about me instead?  How much I love her, and how I would have done anything to make sure she knew how loved she was?  Will you give her a glimpse of all I wanted to do with her and for her?

I wanted to wipe her tears when they came.
I wanted to make her laugh.
I wanted to dance and sing with her.
I wanted to watch as she grew into a beautiful woman.

Does she know she could have told me anything?  Without fear of judgement?

Does she know that she could have come to me the first time a boy broke her heart?  That I would have wiped away her tears, held her close and reassured her that it wouldn't always feel as bad? Does she know that I would have told her that You had someone perfect for her and how amazing that love would be?

I wanted to watch her daddy teach her to drive.  And I wanted to know what it felt like to see a piece of my heart back-up from our driveway as she took our car out for the first time alone.  I wanted to know what it would feel like to pray without ceasing until she made it back home safely.

What college would she have gone to?  What career would she have picked for her life?  Would she decide to go to college right after high school, never or later in life?  Please Lord...tell me she would have decided to be a Montana Grizzly or an Auburn Tiger, and not an NDSU Bison or Montana State Bobcat.  :)

I wanted to watch her fall in love.  I would have adored going to all the bridal shops with her, trying on dress after dress until she found the perfect one.  I wanted to cry as I watched her daddy walk her down the aisle, praying for the union she was committing herself to.

Does she know how much I would have still loved her...even when we were at odds?  When we didn't see eye to eye?  I would have loved her even then...probably even more.

I couldn't wait to live all of life with her...the big moments, the happy, the hurt, the mundane....all of it.

This is why my heart is so shattered.  I grieve ALL of this and more.  I don't just mourn the baby Arabella Grace.  I mourn an entire lifetime.  I know that we aren't guaranteed anything in this life, but that doesn't mean we don't still have hopes and dreams and wonder for the future.

A lot of mine came crashing down one month ago.  And I'm left clinging to God, praying He will help me rebuild.  That He will refine me.  That I will be better than before...someone that Ellie can look down on from Heaven and smile.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you," declares the Lord...
Jeremiah 29:11-14a

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Four Weeks

I didn't write as much this week.  What I wrote about is something that I have really been wrestling with ever since Arabella passed.  I've agonized over it, dismissed it, been angry about it, prayed about it & am coming to terms with it (kind-of).  It is a hard, but very beautiful process at the same time.  Honestly, this is a very vulnerable piece of my heart that I am sharing with you, and I wasn't sure if I wanted to do that or not.  But I'm going to, just in case it might be something that someone out there sometime might need to hear. 

Wednesday - 8.5.15
I shared something with my cousin this week that I have grappled with since Ellie died.  I wanted God to bend to my will when it came to Ellie.  I was flat out begging Him with a list of things I wanted him to do.

"Lord, fix her kidneys so she can create fluid."
"Lord, repair her heart."
"Lord, get her the nutrients she needs so she will grow."
"Lord, PLEASE make her grow & just heal her."

And I absolutely believed He could do it.  I still do.   But I see now that very rarely in the thousands of prayers I said over Ellie did I ever mention His will.  And if I did...I can be honest and say that I doubt I meant it.  I wanted my will done.  I wanted Ellie's miracle to be complete and utter healing so I could keep her.

In Angie Smith's book, "I Will Carry You", she weaves the story of Lazarus into the story of Audrey Caroline (the daughter she lost).  She wrote about how Lazarus's sisters sent word to Jesus with the news.  And it has been on my heart ever since reading it.

John 11: 1,3 - Now a man named Lazarus was sick.  He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.  So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is sick."

Lord, the one you love is sick.

Seven simple words.

You's okay that I shared my heart's desire with the Lord.  I absolutely believe that.  It would have been much much worse if I had just quit talking to Him....if I had stopped praying in those final 33 days.  But I think I forgot a couple things.  One, that He already knew what I wanted.  And two, that we don't always get everything exactly the way we want it.

I wanted a miracle for Ellie, but I wanted it my way. God is showing me that Ellie did get a miracle.  She only ever knew love...from me, from Josh, from our families and from the hundreds of people across this nation who prayed for her.  And when she opened her eyes for the first time, she saw the face of Jesus.  She still only knows love.

One of the meanings of Arabella is "answered prayer".  I'm beginning to see that Ellie was my miracle too.  Deep down inside, I've always had a fear that I wouldn't be able to love my child in the way they needed.  That I wouldn't be the mom that they needed me to be.

I saw Ellie's heartbeat 19 days after taking a pregnancy test.  It was just me, Ellie and the ultrasound technician.  Wide eyed with the biggest smile on my face...I fiercely fell in love with that baby girl.  I became a mom in that instant.  I would do anything to keep her safe.  To make her feel loved and cherished and wanted.  I hope she felt that.

Ellie was my answer to prayer.  She made me a mom.  I didn't get to keep her, but she made me a mom.  She made me realize that I could love someone with every inch of my being, every part of my heart & without any reservations.  I flat out loved her for 25 weeks and 3 days.  And that love will stay the same for the rest of my life.

Lord, the one you love was sick.

But now she isn't.
She is healed.
She dances & rejoices in your presence.
And she is loved.
It's all she's ever known.

Angie wrote in her book, "It is easy to be a believer when He gives you a miracle."

I did get a miracle.
Her name is Arabella Grace.
She resides in Heaven.
I miss her everyday.
And I believe.
I believe that because of Jesus, we will be reunited one day.

Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?"
John 11:40

Until then, my sweet girl...I will carry you in my heart.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Three Weeks

Sunday - 7.26.15
I've always loved to read.  I learned how at the age of 4, and have had a love of books ever since.  But I haven't actually read a book since moving to Fargo almost 2 years ago.  I'm not sure why that is.

I've read two books in the past two weeks.  One of them is called "I Will Carry You" by Angie Smith.  She walked this very same road before me in 2008.  I remember reading her blog, Bring the Rain, as she went through it.  I remember crying and praying for her in the only ways I knew how.  Having children wasn't really at the forefront of my mind yet, so I had no way to relate but I felt so deeply sad for her.

I had no idea.

I had no idea that reading through her archives and remembering that time would feel like deja vu.  Our daughters were given almost identical diagnoses.  Their genetics tests both came back perfect.  We both chose to carry our girls despite the fact that medically the statistics were grim.  And while we both prepared for the fact that we likely wouldn't bring our daughters home...we believed that the Lord could absolutely heal them.

I had no idea.

I had no idea that 8 years later I would need something that makes me feel less alone...less isolated.  That a book would make me feel "normal", and not crazy.  That my thoughts & feelings & actions are all part of this hallowed process called grief.

If you've ever experienced loss as tragic as this, please consider reading this book.  If someone in your life is going through such tremendous grief & you want to understand how to better reach out to them, please consider reading this book.  If you want to look at the story of Lazarus from a very different perspective, please consider reading this book.  Just be prepared to feel...a lot, and know that tears will likely fall.

Tuesday - 7.28.15
The past day or so I have just felt agitated.  My soul...just all of me.  It's hard to articulate how it feels.  Essentially, I want to lash out at anyone around me until they feel as awful as I do.

I can't do that.  That's not the real me.  And it's not fair.  So this's just bottling up & I'm not completely sure how to expel it.  I still cry all of the time.  That helps get out the sadness...but the agitation just stays there, clinging to the darkest & ugliest parts of my grief.

I fell asleep on Monday night completely rattled by this.  I fell asleep just praying for God to be near to me.  I don't even really know how to pray about this.

Josh woke me up in the middle of the night when it started storming.  We listened & watched through our bedroom window for awhile.  The lighting & thunder crashed loudly & swiftly, with very little time between each crash.  Soon the rain started forcefully pelting at the window.  It was very...violent.  If felt like the storm that is raging on in me right now.  The actual storm ended within a couple hours, but mine is still going strong.  And I'm left wondering when I will get some relief from it.

Wednesday - 7.29.15
I can't seem to shake the agitation.  Have you ever seen the movie Steel Magnolias?  There is a part where Malynn erupts in front of her closest friends at her daughter's funeral.  Through tears she exclaims how she just wants to hit someone until they feel as bad as she does.

I know exactly how that feels now.

Biblically, I feel ill equipped for this agitated feeling.  So I typed "Bible verses on agitation" into the search function on my phone today.  My ever faithful God used Google to help me out.  To give me some knowledge...a way to some relief.

I read a Bible based commentary on overcoming agitation.  The author of it defined agitation as a manifestation of fear that is designed to steal our peace.  It makes sense to me.  I can admit that I'm not completely sure what I might be fearful of, but in the wake of the death of my daughter...I am sure there are many that haven't even brushed the surface yet.

He then wrote that "when we grab on to the Word of God during times of agitation, it will settle our hearts and calm our souls."  Then he referenced just one verse, but I chose to read the entire 14th chapter of John.  My Bible titles it "Jesus comforts His disciples".  While I highly suggest reading the entire chapter, I focused in on two verses.

John 14:1 - "Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God, trust in me also."

John 14:27 - "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.  DO not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."

And then I just sat for awhile in stillness & quiet, soaking in those words.  I can't say that the agitation is gone.  It's not.  I feel more able to pray & seek.  I won't give in to it.  I will hold on to that peace for dear life as I feel it trying to be ripped from my fingers.

Thursday - 7.30.15
After the past few days of being fraught with agitation & lots of shed tears, today was...quiet.  There was a season 12 Project Runway marathon on Lifetime which I watched at times, & listened to at other times while doing things in our room.  I'm slowly cleaning & clearing out our entire house.  I hate clutter.  I hate not having room for new, when old & unused sits taking up space.  And during this time when my mind feels cluttered & scattered....I welcome the feeling of having control over something.

But tonight...tonight my heart is heavy.  I miss Ellie more than I can articulate.  She should still be here, but my deflated abdomen  tells me differently.  I feel like a piece of my heart left me when I had to let her go.  Like I will never be whole again.  Lord, I feel like I am forever going to be broken.

So tonight I got to the Psalms.  I feel like the Psalms teach us that sharing our hearts with God will bring us closer to Him.  They are proof that He wants us to give it all to Him.

Tonight I focused on Psalm 73.  My Bible says that the Psalmist was jealous that the wicked seemed to prosper.  After pouring his heart out, God changed his viewpoint.  He realized that while some will have earthly treasures for a time, God was his forever.

I can see where the Psalmist was coming from.

Everyday there are news reports & articles of horrible things done to innocent babies & children at the hands of their parents.

Every time I leave the house I see someone mistreat their child or flat out ignore them when all they want is a little attention.

I never thought I would be a perfect parent to Ellie, but I at least wanted a chance to try.  Why did that have to be taken from me?  Why can all these other people carry their babies, & I couldn't?

I absolutely can see where the Psalmist is coming from.

"Lea...I will be the strength of your heart and your portion forever."

Sometimes I can only reply in a whispered "I know."  He will be my portion forever, despite how broken & missing I feel right now.

Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterwards you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in Heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Psalm 73:23-26

This world is unfair, but God is my portion.
In other words, He is enough.

Friday - 7.31.15
The nights are hard. The nights are when the grief can become all consuming.  Somehow, if it's even possible...I miss her even more at night.

Tonight I am inconsolable.  Tonight I hold my favorite photo of her to my heart, wishing with all of my being that I could just hold her.

Lord be close to the one who is brokenhearted....the one who is crushed in spirit.

Tonight I sleep on tear stained pillows.

Saturday 8.1.15
August 1st.  Day 1.  When I found out I was pregnant, I had just attended an Oula training weekend and was beginning my journey towards becoming an instructor.

After practically sleeping through my first trimester, my energy slowly returned.  I did some Oula practicing, but something didn't feel....right.

Then we found out that there was basically zero fluid around Ellie, and I knew why it felt wrong.  I'm glad I didn't push myself, and from that moment my life became about her comfort.  Keeping her safe for as long as I could.  I would have carried her to term with the same result if it meant more time.

But instead, today my Oula journey began again.  I worked on two songs for about 35 minutes.  And they kicked my ass.  I am so out of shape.  My body is weird & flabby & feels so foreign to me.

The first song I practiced was by Ellie Goulding.  I smiled & cried as I danced thru it a few times.  She is probably my favorite pop artist...and she's got a beautiful name.  It was the right place to start.

To my Ellie - I look forward to dancing with you one day in Heaven.  Until then, I will dance here on earth.  Wounded.  Broken.  Missing you.  Hoping that it looks beautiful from up there, sweet girl.

Jesus...will you give her a little twirl for me?

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens...
a time to mourn and a time to dance...
Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4b

I would daresay that there is a time for both...together. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Two Weeks

**These posts might be quite long for awhile.  Journaling my days during this time has become quite important to me.  After reading some research on trauma, I've learned that it can affect your memory.  And I want to remember this time.  I want to remember what I've learned about God, my faith & I want to see how He refines me.  I want an electronic version, in case I ever lose the handwritten copy.  By sharing it...maybe it will help you or someone you know.  Maybe it will help you understand more how to reach out to someone going through something similar.  And maybe it will help you see Jesus in a different way.  Maybe it will be nothing, and that is okay too.**

SUNDAY - 7.19.15
I know that no one would have blamed me if I chose to stay home from church this week.  But I feel this deep need to remain faithful.  It's not for prove my faith or flaunt my strength.  It's a desire to feel completely surrounded by His presence.  I don't think a church building is anything special or magical.  But I do feel His comfort when I am surrounded by His children, worshiping Him through song and learning more of His word.  Most of the people in that room had no idea what transpired just one week ago.  They saw me that morning too...just a little more round.

I've never really loved the greeting time, when you are supposed to chat with those around you as parents shuffle their little ones off to the nursery or children's church.  It's not because I don't want to meet new people or learn more about someone.  It's because I'm practically incapable of small talk.  I want to get to know people on a deeper level...I want to be real.  And the 3-5 minute shuffle just isn't conducive to that desire to truly learn about someone.  And honestly...I live in Fargo, ND where midwestern politeness & niceness is the norm.  We want to show off our best & happiest faces.  This Sunday it was impossible.  I shook a couple hands, then just sat down.  No one really noticed, and that is okay.  I wasn't there for the people around me.  I was there for my precious Jesus.

Our message this week was taken from John 13:1-17, when Jesus washed His disciples feet.  The lesson was about serving others, but I've found myself wrestling with the passage differently.  I'm sure at some point it will teach me & touch my heart about servanthood, and I pray that it does.  But for now, here is where it has taken me.

As I deal with the death of my daughter, I find myself much like Simon Peter.  I feel Jesus approach me with the basin of water, preparing to wash my feet.  And I back away.

"No Lord.  My feet are too dirty.  I am too broken.  My heart is too shattered."
"You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand."

"You can't.  I am so angry and so hurt.  I am not cannot wash my feet."
"You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand."

"Please, just don't.  I cannot bear for you to wash my feet.  I just can't..."
"Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."

Silence....  Tears....
"Then Lord, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well."

He is a lot more patient with me than He was with Peter.  He lets me battle with Him.  He lets me say what I need to say, and feel what I need to feel.  But then He gently reminds me of what must be done so that I am part of Him.  And my broken, battered heart finally allows my body to plunge my feet into His basin, and He washes them clean.

These days, this is like a dance.  I weave back & forth, dirtying my feet and stepping away from Him.  He, the ever pefect partner, is waiting with His basin for me to step back towards Him.  An as He washes my feet, He reminds me that He is the same yesterday & today & forever.

At the end we sang "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross".  Well, I didn't sing.  I kind-of sank into the side of Josh & just cried.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Where the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far to small,
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all

He so beautifully & tragically gave His life so that I could have mine eternally.  He loved me so much that it was worth the ultimate cost.  Who else would do THAT for me but my loving Savior?  And all He demands for is me.  ALL of me.  The flaws...the hurt...the joy...the anger...all of it.  He isn't scared of any of it.  He just wants it all.

MONDAY - 7.20.15
We went to look for to plant in remembrance of Ellie and one for our front boulevard.  It was overwhelming.  Mostly I just wanted to scream that I wanted my daughter back, not some stupid tree.

Apart from the battle going on in my heart, I was worried about the cost.  The price of two mature trees + delivery + planting + warranty was a lot.  We just recently had to make a very large payment to our escrow account.  We have no idea how much of the hospital bill we will be accountable for.

I just felt defeated.  In so many ways.

I grabbed the mail when we got home & we sat down on the couch to go through it together.  There were 4 cards from family & friends.  In one card was a beautiful message & a folded check.  As I unfolded it, the tears fell.  Along with what Josh's parents were giving us, it was almost enough to cover the full cost.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."  -Matthew 11:28-30

Thank you, Lord.  Thank you for taking this one burden away from us.  Thank you for using someone we love to show Your love.

TUESDAY -  7.21.15
I woke up from a dream where a little girl was running & twirling around...giggling & smiling...  The features of the little girl were hazed.  Was it you in my dream, Ellie?  Was it your giggle & cute little twirls? 

I woke up with a smile...that quickly turned to sadness...and then anger. 

I wanted to watch you run. 
I wanted to twirl you around and dance with you. 
More than anything in the world, I wanted to hear you giggle. 

Why, God...WHY?!!...WHY!!!...WHY!!!

Psalm 37:23-24
The Lord makes firm the steps of those who delight in Him,
though they stumble, they will not fall,
for the Lord upholds them with His hand.

Every time I feel like I have fallen into this deep dark pit of the why monster, I'm reminded that it is just a stumble.  As it is our instinct to try and grab a child before they hit the ground and hurt themselves, it is God's same instinct towards us.

WEDNESDAY - 7.22.15
Lightning & thunder have become a form of comfort since the night we said goodbye to Ellie.  The weather app on my phone said it was going to happen around 7am.  I went to sleep wondering (& hoping) if it would actually happen and if it would wake me up. 

Much earlier than 7am, in that time of twilight when the sky is illuminated but not with the harshness of the morning eyes popped open from a deep sleep.  Seconds later there were two crashes of thunder.  And that was it.  I smiled, thanked the Lord, told Ellie that I loved her & fell back into the sleep that my body needs right now.

I went with Josh's parents to pick out the trees this afternoon.  As I looked down the rows of pink spire crab apple trees (the only type of flowering tree that can handle the harshness of our winters), my hand touched one.  I asked the man helping us what he thought, and after inspecting them all...he said he thought my choice was the best one.  He had no idea why I was purchasing this tree.  But in his gentle voice, he told me that it was going to be beautiful.  It took everything in me to not grab him & hug him & just sob.  I can't only imagine that poor man's reaction if I had actually done it.  Lord, thank you for touching my soul through the quiet spirit of a stranger.  

Thursday - 7.23.15
Isaiah 46:4

Today I got the call.  The call that I had been anticipating and dreading at the same time.  Deep within my soul, I knew what the results were going to be. 

She was perfect.  Genetically perfect.  Zero chromosomal abnormalities.  46XX.

The tears started falling before I even ended the call. 

I want a reason.

Scratch that.  I want a reason other than it's me.  It's my body.  I've been through a gamut of tests, and they've all been negative.  I know there are a couple more tests my doctor wants to run...yet he calls them "controversial".  At best, they MIGHT provide me with an "uproven" reason.  Key word: might.

"Lord...why?  Why couldn't my body protect my perfect baby girl?"
"I am He who will sustain you.  I have made you and I will carry you."

"I couldn't sutain Ellie.  I couldn't give her what she needed to thrive & live.  I couldn't give her what she needed to make her organs function properly.  The one thing you created our bodies to do...and I couldn't do it."
"I am He who will sustain you.  I have made you and I will carry you." 

"This isn't about me!!  This is about my Ellie!!  This is about the fact that my body couldn't sustain her.  I couldn't carry her.  Why?  Why?  Why?!!!"

"I am He who will sustain you.  
I have made you and I will carry you.
I will sustain you and I will rescue you."

And I'm reminded that right now, this is about me.  My Ellie is in the arms of her perfect Savior...our perfect Savior.  I am the one in the trenches.  I am the one at war, battling with the enemy...battling with myself...and even battling with the Lord at times. 

I need Him to sustain me.  I need Him to carry me through this.  I need Him to rescue me. 

My Ellie was perfect.  My Ellie is perfect in Heaven. 

He can make me perfect if I'll allow it.  The cross can make me flawless...

Lord, I want to be flawless...

FRIDAY - 7.24.15
The trauma of losing my Ellie manifested itself in the form of sleeplessness & fear in those first days.  I've never been afraid of death before.  But the death of my daughter made me fearful of my own mortality.  I was literally scared to close my eyes because I thought I wouldn't open them again.  And I would leave Josh & our parents to deal not only with the death of Ellie, but the death of me as well. 

I've also never been pregnant before, and what my body was going through to become not pregnant was very foreign & scary.  Every symptom...every pain...every discomfort...was magnified.  After 4 nights of practically zero sleep, I called the nurse in my doctor's office in hysterics...completely certain that something was really, really wrong with me.   She listened as I told her about losing Ellie & every single thing I had felt since that night.  She tearfully told me how sorry she was for my loss, and how she wished I wasn't having to go through all of this.  She went over all the symptoms I listed off...asking me additional questions...telling me how they could be related to the lack of sleep & food.  She told me that most of them were completely normal, but that she wanted me to see Dr. K the next day.  He had rounds at the hospital the night before, so he wasn't in the office that day.  She called me a few hours later to change the appointment time, because she had reached him at home to tell him about my call...and he wanted to make sure that he had ample time to spend with me.  This solidified my trust in Dr. K & his staff.  He is younger, and I don't know that he has ever had to deal with such a hard diagnosis or tragic end before.  But I trust him.  He has delivered all the news honestly & medically...but with compassion.  And he has taken really good care of me...which is his primary job.

That night I took a half dose of Zzzquil, and I slept for 8 hours.  At my appointment the next day, Dr. K went over everything that was worrying me.  He explained that emotional trauma makes physical trauma even harder, and that everything I was feeling & going through was normal.  He suggested that I continue taking a non-habit forming OTC sleep aid because sleep was needed for the healing process.  He told me that he would help in any way needed to get me through this, including finding a counselor when I felt ready. 

So I've been taking Zzzquil for a week to help me sleep.  If you know me at all, you know that I don't really like to take medication.  When someone, even Dr. K, tells me to take two...I take one.  (Unless it's Clomid.  I took that as directed.  Lol.)  When I get a headache, I will try every possible natural remedy before taking a Tylenol or Advil. 

Tonight I decided it was time to try and sleep on my own.  We went to bed a little late, in hopes that I would be physically tired enough and we just had to wait on my brain.  While I waited I watched the window light up with flashes of lightning from off in the distance.  I listened to the rumble of thunder that was pretty far away.  And it made me think of my Ellie.  While it feels like it will be forever before I am reunited with her, I am reminded that our time on earth is literally a vapor.  In eternal is nothing.  While that doesn't ease the hurt I feel now of not having her in my arms, I cling to the fact that one day we will get to be together forever...rejoicing and dancing in the presence of our precious Savior.  Until then, every day I ask Jesus to pull her close, gently tap her nose & give her the biggest hug for me.  And just hope that she knows how much I love her & always will.  And then...I slept. Not perfectly but still unaided sleep. 

To Ellie:  The landscaping company brought your tree today & planted it in the backyard.  It is beautiful & I can't wait to see it flower in the spring.  Is it weird that I prayed for a tree?  That its roots would flourish and will survive the winter?  If it helps...I also prayed for all the mommies & daddies that had to say hello and goodbye this week to their precious babies.  That God would surround them & hold them through their pain & suffering.  That they would have His peace while spending time with their beloved sons & daughters. 

When the sprinklers ran tonight, we found out that one of the support posts hit a water line.  Sadness washed over me.  While in the grand scheme of things it isn't important & is fixable...I just wanted something to go right.  To be easy.

SATURDAY - 7.25.15
I looked at Ellie's ashes for the first time today.  I've never actually seen the ashes of human remains before.  They are the color of sand.  And while I know that Ellie was barely over a pound... I just... I thought there would be more.

The man we worked with at the funeral home explained that there was a coin in the bag that would identify Ellie's remains if ever needed in the future.  I thought the coin would be in the sealed bag of ashes, but it wasn't.  I was surprised when I pulled it out of the velvet satchel that it was covered in had gone through the cremation process with Ellie. 

When I dropped it back into the bag, I noticed that I had gotten black ash all over my fingers.  Instinctively, I ran upstairs to wash my hands.  Before plunging them under the water...I realized that I had a little bit of Ellie on my hands.  I stared at them for a minute.  I looked up in the mirror and as the tears started to fall...I marked the ashes to my forehead in the form of a cross.  I had no idea why I did it.  I'm not Catholic...I haven't attended a Lutheran church since childhood.  This has never been done at any of the churches I've attended in the past 18 years.  I know that I've seen photos of people anointed with ash on Ash Wednesday, but I didn't know why on earth I felt compelled to do that. 

So, I did a little research.  In the days of the Old Testament, ashes signified deep mourning, repentance and humility.  Ashes were normally marked to their foreheads & they wore sackcloths on their bodies.  I read mulitple verses & passages that mentioned sackcloth & ashes...wailing & weeping...fasting & repentance...mourning.  I realized that total & utter grief is why I put those ashes to my forehead.  I felt the need, for a moment, to physically bare the ashes of whom I mourn.  

My search also brought me to Isaiah 61. 

[He has sent me...] to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion-
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
(verses 2b-3)

I can't help but pray & believe that this is what Jesus wants for me.  To exchange the ugly & dark pieces of my grief for something beautiful.  I just have to keep faith that He will get me there. 

Tonight we went to the Trollwood production of Mary Poppins.  It was fantastic.  I still can't believe that these are performed & run almost completely by high school students.  I quietly sang along with most of the songs, and just soaked in the magical feeling that the story of Mary Poppins evokes.  At the same time, I felt deep sadness.

I had plans.  I looked forward to a time when Ellie would be old enough to revel in the magic of musicals & ballets.  I couldn't wait to see the look on her face as the singing started and the dancing commenced.

Lord, I had plans.  Why did they have to be taken from me?  Why did she have to be taken from me?  I wanted her so badly.  I wanted to experience & see life through her sweet soul.  I wanted her more than anything I've ever wanted on this earth...

I wish I understood why...

Sunday, July 19, 2015

One Week

To my Arabella Grace,

It's been one week since the delicate balance of your life shifted, and in a were gone.  It's been a week of great sorrow, inexplicable joy and the deepest heartache I have ever known.

We kept you with us until almost 7am the morning after your birth.  We spent that time staring at you & tracing your face with our fingers a million times over, trying to memorize every feature.  We were mesmerized by your perfect little nose & lips.  You had my hair color & by the looks of it, my curls.  Your hands & your feet were big compared to the rest of your little body.  I've never been more in awe of our Creator.  At 1 ounce over a pound, you looked like a baby doll.  Beautiful & tiny & perfect.

In the darkness of the night, we told you how perfect you were & how much we loved you.  We talked about Jesus & how amazing it must feel to be in His loving arms.  We prayed.  We cried.  We stared at you in silence.  The window in our hospital room was frequently lit up with lightning & thunder.  As our heads would turn from you towards Heaven, it felt as if the Lord was letting us know that He was there, mourning with us & counting every single tear.

The morning sun crept up on us too quickly.  We laid together on my small hospital bed & just held you close.  Your daddy prayed one last time, and when the nurse came in to take my vitals a little before 7am, we said that we felt it was time for her to take you.  As the door clicked shut it took everything in me to not jump up from that stupid bed & run after her screaming.  Instead, your daddy held me tight & we sobbed together.  It only took seconds for us to miss the presence of your sweet little face.

Both sets of your grandparents drove through the night & next day to be with us.  They stayed with us all week long, helping us with whatever we needed.  Your brave daddy took care of all the arrangements with the funeral home.  And on Wednesday, we all got to see your sweet face one more time.  I will admit that I was a little bit nervous about seeing you again.  But the moment you were brought in and put into my arms...God covered me in His perfect peace.  Being in your presence one more time made me smile & just filled me with love.  Then we heard the boom of thunder outside and once again, it felt as if the Lord was letting us know that He was there, mourning with us & counting every single tear.

I asked for a bit of time with you alone.  I looked over the little outfit that we asked them to put you in.  It was so big on your tiny little body, but the epitome of what I hoped to dress you in until you put your foot down & decided you wanted to dress yourself.  I played a song for you.  I held you close to me, and the tears fell as I knew our time together on this earth was coming to a close.  Those tears landed on your sweet little face.  I read you a letter that I wrote that morning, and prayed over you again.  I texted your daddy that I was ready, and he came back in to tell you that he loved you.  He wiped my tears from your face and we clung to you a little longer before saying our final good-bye.

Your daddy picked up the tiny velvet satchel with your ashes the next morning.  It is hard to believe that in less than 4 days, we went from hearing your strong little heartbeat to picking up your ashes.  And we sobbed together at the earthly finality of it all.

But we are reminded by our awesome God that this isn't the end.  Because of the saving grace of our precious Jesus we have the promise of Heaven.  I can only imagine the exquisite beauty that you already know.

Even with that reminder, it has been a hard week.  I miss you so much, and I cry.  A lot.  As I've felt my heart shatter more each day, I've been constantly reminded of one thing.  Our Jesus is the same yesterday & today & forever.  As I've struggled to sleep, I've repeated this in my mind over & over again.  He is the same no matter how broken I am.  He is the same when my prayers only come in the form of sobbing.  He is the same when I am angry & asking why.  He is the same when I can only worship Him through tears.  His love for me is unchanging & will not change as I continue this sacred dance called grief.

I love you, sweet Ellie girl.  I miss you like crazy.

your mama.   

Thursday, July 16, 2015


Hebrews 13:8 - Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Arabella Grace was called home into the arms of Jesus on Sunday night.  She was born still at 1 pound 1 oz., & 10 inches long.  She was tiny & perfect & beautiful.

I am devastated.  I rejoice in knowing where she is, but I am mourning her physical prescence so much.  I miss her.  I can barely sleep, and the enemy is using my own fears against me right now.

Please keep me, my husband and our families in your prayers.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

An Update

We had our appointment with the high risk OB last week.  He gave Arabella Grace less than a 10% chance of survival after delivery.  If I'm honest, everything about how he delivered the results pointed more towards a 0% chance in his mind...but of course stated that he doesn't deal in absolutes.

What he confirmed from the ultrasound is that there is actually no fluid around her, which presents multiple problems for her lungs.  Mostly...there is just no way for them to develop.  He showed us where there are spots on her kidneys...what he believes to be cysts.  And he confirmed the first diagnosis from last month...thickened heart walls & fluid around the right side of the heart.  She is also about 3 weeks behind in size.

In all my life, I've never been so heart broken.  I have prayed & longed for this little life for such a long time...the fact that she could be taken from me makes it hard to breathe.

With that being said, I'm not giving up on her.  I know medically the statistics are grim.  But I believe in an all powerful God of healing & hope, who truly has the final decision.  I have to trust in Him, and His plan.  Without that, this would be even more unbearable than it already is.  There is a song that says "I will praise you in this storm", and that is where I am at.  Sometimes my prayers only come in the form of tears, but my God knows my heart.

Please keep us in your prayers.  This is a really scary & hard time for all of us...especially me.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

We need your prayers.

**Photos by Lindsay Kaye Photography.**

We had a genetics test done when I was 12 weeks along, and I've known for 7 weeks that we are having a sweet little baby girl.  I've been on cloud 9.  Purchasing the softest, girliest, sweetest items to dress her up in once she made her arrival in October.  We've named her Arabella Grace.  We call her Ellie when we talk about her.  We've only told our parents & some of our closest friends that she is a girl, because I really wanted to announce it with photos.

What I didn't know is that at the same time I would be telling you we are having a little girl...I would also be telling you that everything is uncertain at this point.  Our genetics test came back with perfect results.  But my cloud 9 came crashing down this past week when we went in for our 20 week ultrasound & received very little good news.

What we know is that there is little to no amniotic fluid around her, which means her lungs cannot develop properly.  They also examined the placenta & cord, and while there is a flow between them...she is not getting enough nutrients & blood.  Her heart is having to work to hard trying to get what she can, causing the thickening of her heart walls & fluid around her heart.  Along with all of this...most likely because of all this...she is almost two weeks behind in size.  The doctor said something like 1 percentile.  I hate percentiles.

The good news that we have is that she is alive.  Her heart rate is strong.  Her brain & spinal cord look good.  And although hard for them to see, she does have kidneys and they appear to be working.

The next few weeks are a waiting game.  Waiting until I am 24 weeks along.  Praying & hoping & pleading that she be a little fighter & that her heart keeps beating.  On June 30th I have an appointment with a high risk OB, where I am scheduled for a detailed ultrasound & an echocardiogram on her heart.  This is when they will tell us what our options are.  This is where we will find out if her survival is possible after delivery, and when that will happen.  It is when we might have consultations with the NICU and pediatric cardiologist.  Until then...we wait.  Three weeks.  Time has never felt so slow before.

While trying to remain hopeful & positive...I am hurting.  I am broken.  I am scared.  I feel helpless.  There is nothing I can do to fix this.  We are at an intersection of utter desperation & total reliance on God.  The only thing I can really do is pray for her.  Talk to her & cheer her on.  And pray some more.

If you could, please send up some prayers of healing & health for our little girl.  For strength, wisdom & peace for us.  We really need them right now.

I need something too.  Please don't avoid me.  I know that this is a hard situation to know what to say...but I'm not easily offended.  I promise.  I know that 99% of the time people mean well, even if something doesn't come out quite right.  Mostly...I just need to feel supported & loved right now.

You can call me.  Email me.   Text me.  Message me on Facebook.  I might not reply right away...but I will reply.

I also wanted to say thank you to Lindsay from Lindsay Kaye Photography for taking our photos & being so supportive as we stumble along this scary path.  We really appreciate it. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

LID June Release - Day 3

Hey there, blog friends!  Welcome to day 3 sharing projects using some new stamps & dies from Lil' Inker Designs!!  Today is our final day of inspiration, and I'm sure it will be a treat!

I've gone super clean & simple with my card today, and focused on the super cute new coffee themed stamp set!
 I think this sentiment is so cute, and it really totally fits me!  Even though I drink decaf right now...I'm a bit of a bear in the morning until I get to make my white chocolate mocha or my chai tea latte.  :)

LID Supplies used on this card:

Be sure to check out what the rest of the designers have created for today!

LID Blog
Amy Kolling
Karen Baker
Maureen Merritt
Lisa Henke
Chrissy Larson
Amy Tsuruta (Guest)
Sarah Jay
Heather Hoffman
Lea Lawson
Laura Williams
Jennifer Carter
Link to Store

I hope that you have a wonderful Wednesday!!  Thanks for checking out my latest projects this week! 

Until later,

If you would like to purchase any of the newly released items this month, feel free to click on the links below.  I have included everything that is new for your convenience!