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.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

10 weeks

Reason.  It's a 4 letter word in my book these days.

Last week I was called with the results on the very final set of tests that were run on me.  And they came back negative.  Most people would be thrilled to not have something wrong with them.  I should be, I guess.

But I wanted a reason.  I wanted a biological reason why my precious Arabella Grace didn't survive.  I wanted an explanation other than "it was a fluke."  It's not a fluke to me.  Two failed pregnancies, one being ectopic & the other being stillbirth at almost 6 months along are not flukes to me.  I have zero of the risk factors/diseases that can cause both things to happen...yet they both still happened to me.  In terms of beating odds...I'm at a big fat 0%, and I am absolutely sick to death of hearing that it was "just a fluke".

Biologically, I'm not going to get a reason.  And that is a hard pill for me to swallow.  But what I wish people would understand is that I don't need nor want any other explanation.  I was waiting for a medical one...and I didn't get it.  Now I have to work through that & come to terms with it.

I read a piece from another mom who lost her baby titled "Everything Does Not Happen for a Reason".  And it just rang true for me.  I stand with her in rejecting the notion that everything happens for a reason.

You might think that sounds strange coming from me.  It's no secret that my faith is very important to me.  I believe in & love God with every inch of my being, with all of my heart & soul.  I believe that He is good, He is perfect, and He has a plan.

I believe that He can use this loss for His purpose & plan.  I believe that He can refine me as I stumble down this road of grief.  But I don't believe that Ellie had to die for a reason.  Because believing that would require me to believe some things about God that I can't reconcile.  And that's not the God that I've learned about my whole life.

Romans 8:28 - And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

This verse is often quoted together with "everything happens for a reason".  That verse doesn't tell me that there was a reason for Ellie dying.  It tells me that God will use it for good somehow, and for His purpose.  I can take comfort in that.

I believe that God hates death.  I believe that because of the shortest verse in the Bible:

John 11:35 - Jesus wept.

Angie Smith really says it better than I ever could in her book "I Will Carry You", so I will just share an excerpt with you:

 "As Mary ran to Jesus and fell at His feet, she was crying (John 11:32).  The emotion that Christ feels at this moment is not fully communicated in most modern translations, but the original Greek words are embrimaomai, which refers to anger, and etaraxen heauton, which means "troubled Himself".  One commentary I love said that a better translation of this moment would be that He "became angry in spirit and very agitated."  

Many scholars suggest that this emotion was not aimed at the women and men who were gathered around Him but rather at death itself.  He was angry at the hurt it was causing, and I believe that on that fateful day with my daughter, He was angry that death stole her from us.  What happens next in the passage brings tears to my eyes as I think of the way we offered our daughter to Him.  Jesus asks where Lazarus is buried, and when the women begin to walk Him to the tomb, Scripture says He weeps (John 11:34-35).

Jesus wept.

Surely those two words are some of the most powerful in all of Scripture, as they reveal the man within the deity.

I want to share a beautiful distinction I came upon months after Audrey's death as I poured over these verses.  At first glance it appears that Jesus, Mary and Martha were sobbing together, but the original language of the text reveals that while Jesus was weeping (dakryo), the women were wailing (klaio).  While Mary and Martha were crying out in agony over the loss of their brother, their tears moved Jesus, and He began to weep.  This is the only occurance of dakryo in the entire New Testament.  He isn't crying over the death of Lazarus but rather the hurt He is experiencing with people He loves dearly.  He isn't crying because the situation is hopeless, but because He is an empathetic God. 

He knows that in a few moments Lazarus will walk out of the tomb. 

He also knows that they can't see that hope. 

And neither can we."

Ellie didn't walk out of the tomb.  And while I believe that she is safe in the arms of Jesus...I can't see it.  I don't have a Dropcam to Heaven.  There isn't a video monitor that allows me to make sure that she's okay.  It's hard to reconcile that anyone, even the God who created her, could love her & take better care of her than me.  I know that He does...  I believe that He does...  But my heart doesn't comprehend it very well.

The Savior of the world can understand why I struggle so much with her death.  He knows why I don't find comfort when people say that everything happens for a reason.  He gets why I feel anger when someone tells me that God needed another "helper", or just needed her more than I did.  Don't even get me started on when people say that He needed another angel.

Like Mary & Martha, he knows that I can't see the other side.  And because He loves me the way that He loved them while on earth, I believe that he weeps with me when I fall at his feet & wail.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

8 weeks, 2 days

It's been awhile, hasn't it?  Part of that is due to travel.  We went to Colorado, were home for a couple days, then went to Montana for almost a week.  We spent time with my family in Montana, and went to the Griz vs. NDSU game {which the Griz won, by the way.  Yay!!!!}.  Getting to spend time with them was definitely healing for me.

The other part is that I haven't had a lot to say.  I haven't written much lately.  I've been a bit stuck in the anger I feel.  Not the rage filled, lashing out, & confrontational anger that most people think of.  This is the anger that just plain hurts.  The anger that you feel because your heart is shattered in a million pieces.  The anger that sometimes you just need to hide from for a bit...and that is where I was.  Hiding.

I did start writing again yesterday, and I wanted to share it with you.

Monday - 9.7.15
Today I put together Arabella's photo album.  The bookmaker that I use for my photography business was so amazing, and she made three matching for me, one for my mom and one for Josh's mom.  They are utterly exquisite.  I've had them for over a month now, but I just haven't been able to put it together.

188.  That is how many photos I have of Arabella Grace.  My album fits 50, so I had to go thru them & pick the ones I wanted in the album.  Tears began to fall as I adhered a treasured photo to each page.

The weight that these are the only photos I will ever have of my daughter just came crashing down.  I'm a photographer.  I planned on taking thousands upon thousands of photos of her.  She was supposed to grow up with a camera in her face.  But instead, all I will ever have is 188 photos of my precious little girl.  188.

I curled up and sobbed after I added the last photo into the book.  It brought me back to the finality I felt when Josh brought her ashes home.  I will never take another photo of my sweet Ellie.

But I will treasure the 188 photos I do have.

"But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  -Matthew 6:20-21

One of my treasures in heaven is my baby girl.  I shed tears for her here on earth because I miss her so much every single day.

But I take comfort that when I get to heaven she will know me.  She will know of my love for her.  And we will be reunited forever, rejoicing in the presence of Jesus.


Recently I've felt the need to just read about Jesus, and his ministry here on earth.  So, I'm slowly reading through all the gospels.  I'm realizing that if you will just pick up your Bible and use will give you what you need.  Those verses were just what my heart needed, and I didn't have to fervently search for them.  They were right there on the page that I flipped to.  God is amazing, my friends.  

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."