Five Weeks, Three Days

August 19, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Month

August 12, 2015

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

Four Weeks

August 9, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lord, the one you love is sick.

Seven simple words.

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

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

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

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

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

Lord, the one you love was sick.

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

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

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

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

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

Three Weeks

August 2, 2015

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

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

I had no idea.

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

I had no idea.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know exactly how that feels now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can see where the Psalmist was coming from.

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

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

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

I absolutely can see where the Psalmist is coming from.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tonight I sleep on tear stained pillows.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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