Friday, December 25, 2015

Dear Santa,


Dear Santa,
There is just one wish upon my list this year,
That you will take the time to call on someone I hold dear.
My precious child was deemed to be too beautiful to keep,
And so it's in God's nursery she spends this night asleep.
 
And though its many miles away, on such a busy night,
Please find the time to call on her among the stars so bright.
Oh Santa, stroke her sleeping face, and softly kiss her head,
Then leave a little stocking hanging there upon her bed.

And whisper that the gifts in it were sent by us with love,
Until we walk the golden path that leads to Heaven above.
And when she wakes and sees that she has been visited by you,
  She will know that it is Christmas day for little ones in Heaven too.
 
Merry Christmas, Arabella Grace.
We love you & miss you every day.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

His Power in my Weakness


"You are so strong."
"Your strength amazes me."
"I don't know how you have the strength...."

I've heard these comments a lot in the past 5 months.  I know that people mean well when they say it.  I just often don't know how to respond.  Most of the time I say an awkward semblance of a thank you, and then change the subject.

I don't feel strong.  I feel broken.  Incomplete.  Shattered.  Most of the time I think that if they had seen me earlier that morning, or just a moment ago when I was alone in my car...they probably wouldn't say those words to me.

In the past, I might have smiled at comments like this.  I might have felt proud of myself, or victorious in some way.  But there is something about having your entire life shatter around you....there is something about hitting complete & utter rock bottom that shreds every single possible thread of ego you might have once had.  Now I just realize how completely & utterly untrue those words are.

I am not strong.  I am weak.  If all of this had been left to me...I would have curled up into a ball the night that Ellie died and never unwound myself.  If it had been left up to me, I would have ceased to live the moment that her heart stopped beating.  I say that because alone, this is too much for me.   

There is a quote that says we are never given more than we can handle.  That, my friends, is total & utter crap.  I'm learning that God did not create us to handle this life on our own.  God created us to be in commune with Him.  To cast our cares and our burdens upon Him.  To rip open the death grip we have on our hurt & fear & anger and leave it at the foot of the cross, where we can look upon it and see redemption in it.


Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10,
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I'm not where Paul was when he wrote that.  I do not delight in this.  I wish with every fiber of my being that my story was different.  That my baby girl was healthy & sleeping in my arms right now.  I can't listen to or sing the hymn "It is Well with My Soul", because well....it's just not.

I am not strong.  I am a woman that you see with tears rolling down her cheeks for no apparent reason.  It might be at church.  Or in a store.  Driving my car.  Pretty much anywhere can trigger that deep hurt & yearning I feel for my sweet Ellie.  But through those tears, I ask God to help me take just one step further.  And then another.  And another.  To help me get through the next second.. minute.... hour... day... whatever I need at that moment.

I am not strong.  But when I give Him my weakness, He gives me His power.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

LID December Release - Day 2


This is my final day of the Lil' Inker Designs December release, and I have one more card to share with you using some of the new items.

I didn't do any stamping on this card, but used some of the new 6x6 papers & one of the new dies.  I think it turned out pretty cute!

I grew up in Tucson, Arizona...so I'm pretty fond of the So Prickly papers.  I've added a little bit of gold to my card, because I pretty much think that everything needs a touch of gold these days.

Here is the blog hop list so you can see all of the projects today:

LID Blog http://www.shoplilinker.blogspot.com/
Lea Lawson http://www.lealawsoncreates.com/
Heather Hoffman http://housesbuiltofcards.blogspot.com
Lisa Henke http://mylittlecreativeescape.blogspot.com/
Chrissy Larson http://chrissycards.blogspot.com/
Karen Baker http://thebalddragonfly.blogspot.com/
Sarah Jay http://www.criminalgrace.com/
Laura Williams http://lauralooloo.blogspot.com/
Maureen Merritt http://www.mamamostamps.com/
Jennifer Carter http://jensinkspot.blogspot.com/
Amy Kolling http://stamp-n-paradise.blogspot.com/
Link to Store http://lilinkerdesigns.com/

And here is a link list to all the new product to make your shopping easy!


Thanks for checking out my couple of cards for my first release back. 

Until later,
~L. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

LID December Release - Day 1


So, I am participating in 2 of the 3 days of Lil' Inker Designs December release.  I'm still fairly slow when it comes to creating right now, and it isn't second nature like it once was....but I will get there.  I'm only going to have 1 card per day, and probably will not use all of the new products this time around...but Laura is graciously letting me ease back into this.  :)

I alluded to the fact that part of starting up again was making it feel safe.  Part of that is finding ways that I think of Ellie while I create.  So, for today I created a sympathy card.  When we lost Ellie, there were very few moments during a day that I looked forward to.  But I did look forward to getting the mail.  I treasured each & every single card that was sent, and I looked at them a lot during those first 8 weeks.  I don't look at them as often now, but I do still have them.  And they will stay with Ellie's box of items forever.

I never realized how important it is to send sympathy cards.  And I will never, ever forget to send one from now one.  There are some really beautiful items in this release that can be used for them, and here is what I created:

I chose an elegant white, black & gold color palette for my card, & kept it quite simple.

Here is the blog hop list so you can see all of the projects today:

LID Blog http://www.shoplilinker.blogspot.com/
Sarah Jay http://www.criminalgrace.com/
Laura Williams http://lauralooloo.blogspot.com/
Heather Hoffman http://housesbuiltofcards.blogspot.com
Chrissy Larson http://chrissycards.blogspot.com/
Amy Kolling http://stamp-n-paradise.blogspot.com/
Lisa Henke http://mylittlecreativeescape.blogspot.com/
Maureen Merritt http://www.mamamostamps.com/
Karen Baker http://thebalddragonfly.blogspot.com/
Lea Lawson http://www.lealawsoncreates.com/
Jennifer Carter http://jensinkspot.blogspot.com/
Link to Store http://lilinkerdesigns.com/


And here is a link list to all the new product to make your shopping easy!

I will be back tomorrow!  Thanks for checking out my card today. 

Until later,
~L.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Hang a Shining Star

I made a card this weekend.  I don't know how I feel about it.  Sitting at my crafting area, which has been closed & packed up for months now, felt vaguely familiar but so very different.  As I sat at my desk uninterrupted, I grieved over the fact that Ellie wasn't here to pull me away from it when she needed me.  This isn't how it's supposed to be.

I didn't know where to start.  I perused the list of challenge sites on my blog, and checked out the blogs of some of my favorite stamp companies.  Finally I pulled out some products to use, prompted by a challenge to use a specific stamp set from WPlus9.  I'm thankful that it is a stamp set that makes me think of my Ellie...how I would have loved to watch her hang ornaments upon our Christmas tree each year. 

And this is what came of it.
Eh.  It's okay.  Not a masterpiece by any means, but...a start.  Products used?  Well, I have no desire to create a link list right now, so if you want to know something specific...ask in the comments & I will reply. :)

I know I probably sound a tad apathetic about this.  In a way...that is the truth.  I've become indifferent to a lot of things that once meant more to me.  Some of that indifference is good, because those things that I thought meant something were really of little to no value.  I know that isn't the case with creating.  I know there is value in it.  I don't want to be indifferent to it.  So I am trying to find a way to make it feel safe...like I am not moving on or past my sweet baby girl.  I am trying to make it instead, synonymous with Ellie.  That I think of her while I create.

Things about this card that make me think of Ellie?  Well...the cute little girl hanging the stars for one.  And the gold.  Her nursery was going to be blush pink, gold & white/cream.  With hints of mint.  It would have been a really pretty nursery.  Soft & sweet....just like her.

Challenge info:

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.

#30daysofthanks
#begrateful
#blessed

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 maybe....you 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 change...it 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 ones...you didn't fail.  Not even a little bit.

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

While our motherhood feels invisible to the rest of the world...it 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 albums...one 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 it...it 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 truthfully...it 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 know...it'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 body...my spirit...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 agitation...it'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 show...to 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 worthy...you 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 trees...one 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 sun...my 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 time...it 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 soot...it 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...