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."
"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.
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
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.
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.
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...