To read the story of our precious Harlynn Renae, start here and follow the "next" links at the end of each post. Thank you for coming and sharing with us in this journey.

Monday, March 31, 2014

March Monday Mumbles

I have a bazillion blog posts running through my head. Apparently the writing part of my brain has become over-stimulated, and I could post a blog a day for the next month. I know some people do that anyway, but that hasn't been my norm. Of course, I of all people should be well aware that just because something was once norm, does not mean it will always be.

This morning I headed to my doctor's appointment with Little Miss in tow. I knew it would be a quicker appointment since the doctor was going to do my biophysical ultrasound herself. Once we were called back, the nurse took my blood pressure (which once again was awesome) and asked if I had any pain. I started to say "no" when Little Miss interrupted to say "My mama has the heartburn today." I started laughing. She was right. She then went on to say, "So she has to take her Tums." Dear gracious, no secrets between us.

The appointment went really well, Little Miss colored most of the time, and Little Man and I were both doing and feeling good. We left when the appointment was over to take Brent a latte and his phone, since he had left it behind at home. I was thankful we only had wind to contend with and no snow or ice. Also, pretty sure my awesome-wife-status bumped up a notch or two with the latte delivery.

Little Miss and I came home and played some, and cleaned up. Eventually it was lunch time and I made her the tomato soup I had planned on serving with her grilled cheese sandwich. I thought it was the perfect lunch for a snow day (even though there was no snow...). Also, when she was in daycare she always raved about how good the "red soup" was. I thought it was a guaranteed win. After everything was made, I set it in front of her. She took a bite of soup, turned to me and said, "You make the worst tomato soup ever." Whoops. Apparently daycare did it differently than Mommy. I've since learned their secret and will try to implement it for next time. Everyone's a critic...

Nap time came and went. I couldn't get much sleep because I kept hearing things hitting the house. Turns out those things were little ice pellets. It was sleeting, and the wind was absolutely pelting those ice balls against the house. Soon enough the sleet turned to snow, and it is, in fact, an awful blizzard outside. I'm very grateful for a home, a heating bill, and our accommodations - especially in these storms. When Little Miss woke up from her nap, I had our dining table converted into a craft table for our much-awaited craft project. Over the weekend, we had purchased bird houses from Hobby Lobby, so we could paint them "for our garden". We don't have a garden, but I know she wanted to paint them, and I thought it was a wonderful craft idea. We got to work, and I was really impressed with the brush control my little four-year-old was demonstrating. She had a million ideas for her bird house. One side has "grass" (green) growing all the way to the roof. One side has roses growing on it. The roof is all yellow which "is the sunshine". Not only does her color scheme look really good, but the kid has some creative ideas. I was focused on relenting my perfectionist tendencies, and just painting in the moment. I still had a plan, and I still frustrated myself with mistakes no one else will care about, but I had more fun painting this afternoon than I've had in a long time. Hearing the excited little quips from Little Miss like, "I love doing school!" or "The birdies might love this birdhouse more than I do!" and better yet, "This is the best project ever!" made my whole day. We only had one mishap when a rogue paintbrush dove onto the floor, but otherwise it was a pretty easy clean up. 

We had to let our projects dry right where we were with them, because it was time to start dinner. She still wants to paint clouds and add a few more roses. She also wants to do a "second code" (coat) like she saw Mommy doing. I did a purple roof (because Harlynn is watching over us), yellow walls (because Little Miss is my sunshine) and blue trim (because Little Man ties us all together). Tomorrow we'll finish our houses and add whatever additions we come up with. Little Miss told me she "loves" my bird house, and that I did a good job with it. Flattery will get her everywhere.

I had decided yesterday we were going to have Hawaiian meatballs and fried rice for dinner. We haven't had it in a long time, and it's one of our favorites. When I say "our" I mean Brent and me. If it's not ketchup, Little Miss will be overly-reluctant to love it, let alone try it. Dinner was delicious, and now I'm just reflecting on what a blessing today was.

We didn't have to contend with weather for my appointment. We got lattes (mine was decaf) from my most favorite coffee kiosk. I can see my living room floor because someone picked up her toys today. I had the most fun afternoon with my Little Miss, working on a project that we both enjoyed. We might end up having a bazillion bird houses, because of how much we both loved our craft time today. We had a wonderful dinner as a family, sitting around a little table in a cozy house, protected from the ridiculous weather outside.

April looms tomorrow, and brings with it uncertain events and some unresolved pain. For today, though, I'm glad I can do one thing right. For one day. 

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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Storm's Comin

It is one of the nicest days we've had this year: 50*, spots of sunshine, no wind...and we're under a blizzard warning. No one seems to know quite where the snow will fall or which parts of our state will get the worst accumulation. I've hard anything from six to 20 inches of snow possible. Wind gusts up to 50 mph. Poor and even "impossible" driving conditions due to blowing snow.

Completely disgusting. Yet, isn't that how life's storms are? You're going along, everything is lovely, you're grilling steaks outside, soaking up the spring warmth. The birds are chirping, the neighbors are walking their dogs. Then, in an instant, everything changes. Turmoil arrives. Damages. Blinds. Strands you. Out of nowhere.

That's what this last year has been for me. One day, Harlynn was moving around, vibrant and alive. The next, she was dead. I went from expecting to deliver a crying baby, to holding her lifeless body in my arms as I wept. Fifty degrees and sunshine to impossible-to-navigate blizzard. One day I'm doing pretty well with coping, the next I'm a rubble of tears and despair. 

It's the new normal that has evolved over these last months. On the "spring days" I find myself able to rest peacefully in the comfort of God's strength and promises. On the "blizzard days" I'm usually wrestling with anger or fear. Trying, unsuccessfully, to somehow wake up from the nightmare. Rewind time. Wish her back into existence.

Photo credit: 

Thinking back to those first moments in the hospital, I've said I felt the Lord alongside us, weeping with us, in that room. I remember it clearly. If I could have put Him in human form, he would have been at the head of my hospital bed, standing between Brent and I, an arm around each of us. I felt it. What I didn't, and still don't, understand, is why He didn't bring her back. Why He didn't keep her heart beating. Why He didn't postpone her death until a bazillion years from now. I wrestled with that tremendously in the beginning, especially. Why mourn with us, when you can change it all and give us cause to celebrate? Why?

I've discovered an answer to that, wouldn't help me. If I knew the reason(s) Harlynn passed away (and I'm speaking of reasons beyond the physical cause of her death), if I knew what the long-term purpose of this suffering in my life was, if I saw the end-picture of it all, I would having nothing to trust. Nothing to hope. Nothing to seek. My faith would be a result of already knowing. It would be like checking the answers in the back of the book before coming up with one on my own. It would be foundation-less. 

I hate this pain. I hate that so many parents have to know it, and live with it, every day. I hate that Harlynn isn't here, and that she never will be. I don't, nor will I ever, understand why this is a calling in my life. In Brent's. In Haley's. Even, in Little Man's. Yet somehow, in the midst of the storm, in the smack-dab-middle of this mire, I've come to understand it is already worked out. It is already completed to the end. He knew her heart would stop beating, and He knew it would devastate us, but He also knows what will come from it when we trust, rely, and hope in Him as a result. It isn't easy. It doesn't come naturally. It isn't my instinctive response in my grief. It flat-out sucks. But it's the only way I can find my way through the storm. The only way.

I pray, nightly, to get a glimpse of Halrynn in my dreams. To see her, to see what she's like, hear her voice. Maybe one day this side of heaven, I'll catch that glimpse. A day is coming, though, where I can glimpse upon her for eternity. I hope that day is near.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Four Hours Later...

(It took me forever to get this blog posted because I am still quite sick so focusing on a screen is hard for me, and I also keep taking impromptu naps.)

First of all, the response we've gotten with regard to Harlynn's Labor of Love has been so positive and so overwhelming - thank you, everyone. So much. I wasn't sure if I was overstepping boundaries by asking others to participate, but I am humbled and once again feeling loved and supported, after hearing the enthusiasm and affirmation in your participation. So moved and just....thank you.

Secondly, today is day six. Day six of being totally sick and feeling worthless. It started, actually, last Thursday with me feeling weird and that something was coming on, but Friday and Saturday I felt fine and awesome, even. Sunday, awesomeness was out the window, and what I felt - and have felt for six days - goes far beyond craptastic.

Every day, Little Miss has told me I sound like a man (or that I have a boy's voice). She asks me if I am still sick and if that "means today is a stay-home day?" It's pathetic - I feel so bad for her. I ask her if she can play quietly while Mommy passes out on the sofa for a while. Then I wake myself up because I'm snoring, or choking on whatever the substance is draining from my head to my lungs via the sore-throat-express. On the days I've felt like I had enough energy to shower, I would throw on clean sweats and call it good. No make up. No hair styling. No energy for any of that. Outright sick, and getting sicker instead of better, each day.

This morning I woke up and my throat wasn't on fire. Bonus! I got up and I won't say I sounded like a "lady", but I certainly didn't sound like a man. When I spoke to Little Miss and she heard my voice she asked, "Are you feeling better yet?" I told her I was still sick but asked, "Does my voice sound better?" and she replied, "You kind of sound like my Mommy." I'll take it. I was so encouraged, I decided I would take a shower and put actual clothes on instead of sweats or clean pajamas. After my shower, I put on jeans and my most comfortable shirt and then had to take a rest. I was so wiped out from the energy it took to do those things, I had to sit down. Well, since my brain has been in a fog this entire week, I sat down directly in front of my glass of ice water I had so intelligently placed on the sofa cushion. My shirt, and especially my pants, got a good soaking. Not only did I have to clean water up from the sofa and the floor, but I had to change....into pajama pants that don't quite cover my waistline and a shirt that doesn't quite stretch far enough down. I would be a prime candidate for the People Of WalMart website with this attire today.

"No big deal," I thought. "It's just me and Little Miss at home." I resolved to change before Brent came home from work today, forgetting he would be coming home early because he went to work early. When he walked in the door long before I expected him, I was covered in a blanket, so he couldn't see my pajama pants. 

Let's take a breather for a second. No, it's not like Brent has never seen me in pajama pants before. But I have been wearing pajamas or sweats all week long and I thought, "Wouldn't it be nice for Brent to see his wife dressed like a real person again instead of like a Hanes mannequin?" I'm doing this for my I thought.

The pajama pants that were readily available for me after the water incident, are entirely staticky. One step after putting them on, and the legs ride up to my knee caps. They're comfortable material, but entirely impractical. Being hugely pregnant, they don't cover what they used to. The shirt I grabbed doesn't match at all, and also doesn't cover what it used to, since there is far more of me to cover these days. I almost laughed to myself because every time I go out in public or run into someone I know they always say, "You look great!" Now, this is a phrase I have come to realize in pregnant-speak means, "Hey, for being fat and uncomfortable, you're holding it together pretty decently." I'm to the point where when I'm no longer pregnant and someone tells me I look great, I will question their motives. Whatever, though. I was home under a blanket, with no audience, and no worries.

Until. I was watching my friend Tracy's tidbit, and thought, "Oh how funny, I have a FedEx order coming tomorrow...." and in this FedEx order are two things I asked Brent if I could get, and three things I threw in for good measure, without notifying him first. Whoops. Stupid Amazon, does it to me all the time! They have everything! No sooner did the thought pass through my head, there was a knock at the door. 

From a stranger.

Wearing a FedEx uniform.

I hobbled up out of my spot, and both pajama pant legs were up to my thighs from the daggum static. I tried to shimmy them down to my ankles, and pull the waistband up to cover my exposed belly. I pulled my shirt down, but had to be careful, because if I pulled it down too far, I would expose more than I would cover. I waddled to the door, unlocked it, and the FedEx man - Lord in heaven, please help that man un-see what he saw today. Bless him for being gracious and polite - stammered as he spoke, handed me a small box and I tried, I really tried, to say, "Thank you" and "you too" after he said "Have a nice day." However, since my voice isn't quite what it usually is, it wasn't Val who was saying those words, it was a pubescent male who also coincidentally smoked an entire carton of cigarettes. If I'm not the most frightening person that man delivered to today, I'd be surprised.

To make matters more insulting, it wasn't even what I ordered. Brent ordered himself a new Bible, and that's what came today. Not even any of my fun stuff. Only fun stuff for him.

And the FedEx man sayeth, "Lord, they need you. Thank you for putting a Bible in that scary beer-belly man's home, and be with him to quit smoking and drinking."

Wardrobe Malfunction

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Harlynn's Labor of Love

As we approach one year since losing Harlynn, and as I wrestle with how that is even possible, I've been spending a lot of time thinking about how to honor her on what we've deemed her "Heavenversary". Would we throw a birthday party? Would we have some sort of ceremony? Would we shut the curtains and lock the doors, not answer the phone, and spend time in grief? That last one, I'll probably do anyway. But, I want her to be celebrated. Somehow. Some way. She isn't a sad thing that happened to us - she is our daughter, and she brought us joy and love, and we want to always remember her for the contribution she made, and continues to make, to our family.

The other night I was reading through the prayer journal I occasionally wrote in while pregnant with her. Coming down to the wire, my prayers were filled with anticipation of meeting her, bringing her home, and beginning our life as a family of four. The final entry while pregnant was April 8th, the day before going in to labor, and two days before she was officially delivered. The next and final entry for that particular journal was May 26th, a month and a half later. In that entry, I thanked God for the many, many ways our family had been shown love. Even, and especially, by complete strangers. God's love poured through other people and covered us, and without it, we would have been so very lost. So very defeated. We were lifted up in love in our time of greatest need. We still are.

That's it, I thought. That's what we'll do.

Harlynn isn't here for us to shower with love, but part of starting Harlynn's Heart was to give that love to others who needed it. I still love my daughter so very much, but I can't cover her in kisses. I can't make her laugh or smile. But I can show others love.

For Harlynn's Heavenversary - and not just this year, but every April 10th for the rest of our lives - we're going to remember her by laboring in love. Loving other people. Whether it's a simple random act of kindness, a sweat equity investment at the local food bank, whether it's visiting the cancer ward in the local hospital and brightening the days of those special patients, singing at a nursing home and hugging those grandparents who wheel out to see you, whether it's surprising someone you know is going through a hard time with a grocery gift certificate, or assembling a crew to clean their yard or home - the possibilities are endless, and the entire world is available.

Whatever we decide to do that day, and I imagine I will purposefully fill my day with love labor activities, I plan to give a card to the recipients, that will say something along the lines of April 10th being my daughter, Harlynn's, birthday and heavenversary, and in honor of the love we have for her, we're sharing that love with others. If someone keeps that card and carries it in their purse or wallet, and every once in a while catches a glimpse of it, I hope it not only reminds them of how much they are loved, but I hope it reminds them how important it is to share love with others.

It will be an emotional day for me, for us, but I hope by sharing and spreading love to others, I can counter my grief with a big helping of hope and renewal. Will you join us in celebrating Harlynn's life, and in Harlynn's Labor of Love? Will you share this with others, so they can join in as well? Feel free to come back to this post and leave a comment below with your special labor of love for the day. We'd love to see how Harlynn's little life spread into the lives of others on what would have been her first birthday. 

One year, baby girl. One long but all too quick year. We will celebrate you and love you by making someone else's day. A lot of someones. As you dance with the angels and bask in the love and glory of our Lord, I hope you feel a surge of love from all of us as well. Happy birthday, Harlynn. Happy Heavenversary, baby girl.

Click HERE to be directed to Harlynn's Heart blog, where you can print off cards to distribute on April 10th.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Four Score and Thirty Pounds Ago

It was March 18, 2010 - a Thursday. I had gone in for an ultrasound on the whim of my doctor, since one of my blood work labs came back "abnormal/non-specific".  We watched our teeny girl moving around on the ultrasound monitor and the sonographer told us she was just going to call up to the doctor to see if we needed to do anything further. Within the hour I was being wheeled to the labor & delivery unit at 32 weeks pregnant, being told I wasn't leaving until I delivered our baby girl, and that it would most likely occur that weekend. I sat in that hospital bed on strict rest orders, compression wraps around my legs inflating and deflating alternately, in total shock and disbelief. I still had two months to be pregnant, yet we were going to have a baby far sooner than we thought.

I started to feel sick. Really sick. I didn't know it then, but my liver and kidneys were shutting down, I was collecting fluid in my lungs, and I was sick to the point if left untreated, I could have died. I thought I was getting the flu. Instead, I had severe HELLP syndrome/pre-eclampsia. The only treatment was delivery of our baby girl. That Sunday morning, March 21st, they bumped a scheduled cesarean to race me to emergency surgery. My blood pressure was 180-something over 100-something, and as they numbed me from the chest down, I just prayed our baby girl would be okay. The doctor did the standard protocol making sure I was who everyone thought I was, and I was there for the purpose everyone expected me to be there for. As I choked out my name and the words, "and I'm here to have my baby", the tears rolled down my cheeks. Brent walked in, dressed in his OR bunny suit, and sat at my head as they began to operate. He was as scared as I was, but you wouldn't have been able to tell. He was my strength in those moments, and he was more than a husband in that operating room - he was a daddy. 

We heard her cry. I saw her for all of two seconds before they whisked her away to the warming bed to evaluate her. Minutes later, she was in the NICU. Before too long, I was being wheeled back to my room for recovery. I had to be on oxygen, and I slept for several hours. Brent went back and forth, checking on his ladies. Eight hours after delivering her, I proved to the nurse I was strong enough to go see my baby girl for the first time. She was so incredibly tiny, 2 pounds 12 ounces, and yet she was so strong and doing so well. Brent and I were both madly in love with her and wanted to do whatever we could to make sure she stayed strong and healthy. 

That was four years ago, and I'm having a hard time believing our tiny little girl is turning four. She's been the cutest kid we've ever laid eyes on, makes hearts swoon with a flash of her smile or her little giggle, and is as princess as princess can be. When I look past the boycotting of naps, look beyond the not-listening rebellion, and catch a glimpse of those big blue eyes, I see our baby. I see our little miracle. I see our peanut. I remember bath time in her isolette. I remember being forever attached to the breast pump. I remember how incredibly nervous I was in the car on that ride home from the NICU with her. I remember the night she woke up crying, and I started crying as I begged her to sleep so mommy could sleep. I even made up a song to sing to her during the day: "Let's stay awake, let's stay awake! Open our eyes, and look all around. Let's stay awake, let's stay awake! So that mommy can sleep sound!" It never did the trick, catchy as it was. I remember her baby giggles. Her love of bananas and strawberries. How she started sleeping through the night at four months old. How she took her first steps on her first birthday. How she potty trained right before her second birthday. How she used to fit inside my shirt for kangaroo care while in the NICU. How she used to take TWO naps a day. How she did, and still does, completely captivate her daddy's heart. It's so sweet to see them together. So much over these last four years....four years....

Lord, I thank you so much for Little Miss and for the tremendous blessing she is to us. I thank you for her (mostly) sweet spirit, and her loving and snuggly demeanor. She means so much to her daddy and me, and we are so honored, blessed, and joyous to be her parents. We pray that we will be the parents she will always need - to be examples in faith for her, to be responsible in our decision making for her, and to be generous in our love and time for her. We pray she will know you, love you, and choose to live for and because of you. Guide her, protect her, and surround her with people who will love her along life's journey. Thank you so much for our Little Miss and for the absolute joy she is in our lives. Thank you for four years with her, and I pray I haven't screwed them up! Be with her all the days and years of her life, especially when her daddy and I can't be.

Happy birthday, sweet girl. We love you!

Monday, March 17, 2014

....Excuse me, what?

Today was another appointment day. After less than five hours of sleep last night, my 8:30 a.m. appointment seemed all too early this morning. I put on one of Brent's green t-shirts (Happy Saint Patrick's day), loaded Little Miss up in her car seat, and headed to drop her off. Once she was settled, I headed to check in for my appointment.

The good thing about an early appointment, is there are plenty of parking spots, and no crowds to fight through at registration or elevator entrances. I was called right back and hooked up to the NST test. Little Man was movin' and a groovin' this morning and the NST sounded more like a wrestling match. His heart rate was good, especially after I drank some ice water. I was on the NST for quite a while this morning. I think the doctor wanted to be sure his heart rate was up high enough for long enough. I told the doctor about some random shooting pains I had over the weekend, and - get this, my blood pressure was 118/70. In the third trimester of my pregnancy. What?! The look on the doctor's face was about the same as the look on mine when she told me what it was. We were both pleasantly surprised it was so good. Everything checked out today and I rode the elevator downstairs for my ultrasound.

Usually the ultrasound is first, but since the OB appointment was first thing this morning, it was the earliest they could schedule for today. Kelly & Michael were on TV in the radiology waiting room, and I got a few good hands of solitaire in on my phone before I was called back. Little man was still moving around, and breathing, so the ultrasound didn't take a long time this morning since he got two major requirements out of the way in the very beginning. I did get to see him yawn twice, and it was about the cutest thing I've ever seen on an ultrasound monitor. I find it hard to imagine how he moves around and breathes in there, as if he's not in a giant sac of fluid. It's incredible to me.

After wrapping up the ultrasound, I had one more lab test to submit: the infamous pee-in-a-cup. I went back to the waiting room and sat through a torturous opening of The View until I was called back. The lab tech called my name, "Valerie?" I grabbed my stuff and stood  up as he continued, "....and....Hah....Harlynn?" I froze. I stared. What did he just say? I felt my ears getting hot and my heart start to race. Was this some sort of chart mix up or cruel joke? Just then I heard a gentleman, probably in his late 50s, say, "Yep, I'm Harlan." as he stood and walked over to the lab tech. What are the odds? What are the odds I would be there for an appointment, and someone in the same town, in the same hospital, in the same room, would be called back at the same time, with the same sounding name as my precious little Harlynn? I didn't know what to say or think, so I somehow just made my way back to the area I needed to go. 

When all was said and done, I walked back out to the car. The sun was shining, it was almost warm, and the air was calm. It was a beautiful morning. As tired as I was, I was grateful for a good appointment. A good, but incredibly strange and bizarre appointment. I did have to smile to myself. When we were coming up with names, before we knew what we were having, I had told Brent we could spell it Harlan, same spelling as our friends' last name, for a boy, or Harlynn for a girl. Brent got all up in arms that Harlan was only a boy name and when he Googled it, the only thing he came up with was older men named Harlan. He would have elbowed me or something for sure had he been in that waiting room with me this morning. That is, after he had gotten over the shock of hearing her name called right after mine. Strange as it was, though, it was nice to hear her name. 

I wish you could have come to my appointment today, Harlynn, and seen your baby brother yawning and being all cute. He'll be here in a matter of weeks. May is just around the corner. 

After picking Little Miss up, we went to the cemetery to visit Harlynn. It was seemingly fitting. We saw a couple of (huge!) turkeys wandering around, and Little Miss told Harlynn what she wished we could name her brother. (Today it was "Cosmo or David") We blew her kisses and drove on home, so Little Miss could drink her traditional green milk. Apparently she remembered it from when I made it for her last year, and has had her heart set on it since.

I still can't quite grasp what happened this morning. The odds have to be extraordinary, and then, for it to even happen. I'm taking it as a good luck sign on this Saint Patrick's Day. A little way of knowing she's with me wherever I go.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Wise Guy...

Earlier this week, I spent a considerable amount of time in prayer for wisdom and discernment. With Little Man on the way, Little Miss acting years beyond her age, and life in general, I often feel I'm floundering when it comes to figuring anything out, or having any answers. Since I have so many questions myself, I feel like more of a failure at this faith thing. I look within myself to see what feels "right", what I am capable of, and what I can muster. I never seem to make decisions the way I envision, or with as much confidence as I might have once had. Hence my prayer.
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. ~ James 1:5
The next morning, after making Little Miss her usual breakfast, I got in the shower. From the corner of my eye and out the window, I could see lots of movement in the tree in our backyard. I could tell, without my glasses, it was a squirrel going berserk. I also saw a big whitish blob on a branch right above where the squirrel was freaking. Is that a cat? What would a cat be doing that high up in our tree? Surely not trying to capture a squirrel. I reached out to the sink counter to retrieve my glasses. There in the top of the tree, was a beautiful, huge owl. The squirrel was running laps around the tree, and at times, got right up to the owl to "sniff" it out. The owl did nothing, other than keep a watchful eye on the hyper rodent. Eventually, it tired of the squirrel's antics and flew to the pine tree behind our garage, where it stayed until nightfall. 

It was a beautiful owl. I bet it was 2/3 the size of Little Miss, and would have come up to her chest in it's own height. I had to laugh to myself, though. I prayed for wisdom the night before, and God sent an owl to my back yard the next morning. Really? An owl? The international symbol of wisdom. Try to tell me God doesn't have a sense of humor.

I got a few good lessons in wisdom that day, however. If I want wisdom, I have to actively seek it. It won't always be obvious. The answer might even be right in front of me, but there will be distractions running around, drawing my focus, and making it hard to see clearly. (Proverbs 17:24) What do I need to focus on? The problem? Or the answer?

Another lesson: I'm not going to find wisdom by searching within myself. I am not the wise one, and wisdom does not simply spring up from introspection. I need to lift my eyes up, depend on the Giver of wisdom, and seek His will.
I lift up my eyes to the mountains — where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lordthe Maker of heaven and earth. ~ Psalm 121:1,2
Yet another lesson: Patience plays a big part in wisdom. (Proverbs 19:11, James 3:17) That squirrel was driving me nuts, and I thought for sure the owl was going to show it whooooo was in charge. The constant pestering and berserk behavior did nothing more than annoy the owl, though, so it flew off to a more peaceful place to spend it's time. How often do people, or circumstances, drive me completely bonkers? My reaction 98% of the time is to interject an obvious attitude of annoyance, say something, and there is usually heavy eye rolling involved on my part. I rarely display grace. I rarely display patience. I rarely think to withdraw myself from the situation to retreat to a more serene atmosphere. Had I been the owl, I would have at the very least kicked the squirrel mid-run, right off the tree. Instead, the owl went to a better location, and was undisturbed. Not only that, but it waited there until nightfall. It was especially awesome to be able to watch it all day, show Brent, and have Little Miss constantly wanting to see it, but I was reminded sometimes you need to sit and think on things rather than rush into a decision. Take your time. Hold your ground a while.

I prayed for wisdom. God sent me an owl. As much as it made me laugh, I learned more than had I just woken up the next morning, knowing all the answers. He sent me a real-life parable instead. And that....well, that's just a hoot.

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. ~ Ephesians 1:17

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Good Ol' Days

This morning when I woke up and the sun was pouring in through the windows, I had a bout of nostalgia (well, when I say it like that, it sounds like an illness....) from days gone by. I remember when Brent and I lived in our "perfect" apartment in Wyoming. I was working nights as either a bartender or waitress, and mostly late mornings or afternoons at the Game & Fish office. I would wake up and he would already be gone for the day, the sun would be shining, and I would start my morning with a cup of hot lemon water, a devotional, then get to work tidying our abode. I usually had a stash of candles in the freezer (they burn straighter across if you freeze them first - you're welcome), and would take out whatever scent I was fancying, let it thaw, and clean by candlelight. Really, it was by sunlight, but the added ambiance of open flame and cinnamon aroma always made cleaning more fun. There were usually deer grazing in the back yard, I had my Third Day CD playing on repeat, and it was just such a peaceful, restorative time in my life. This morning, I was mentally transported back to that time and just had a sense of "the good ol' days". 

As my hips snapped, crackled, and popped upon rising out of bed, and as I waddled to the bathroom to relieve myself of an overactive pregnant bladder, I thought, "Were those really the good ol' days, though?" I often reflect on those days. There was something about starting my day on my own time, having the small, cozy space to be responsible for, (having an attached garage...), watching the deer in the yard, seeing the mountains directly outside my kitchen window, and burning candles every day. As trite or simple as it may seem, it really was such a peaceful time in my life.

This morning, there was a zumba party in my belly. I had a toddler who wouldn't hug me, because she missed her daddy too much. I made her a waffle as she requested, then she warmed up to the idea of a morning hug. We prayed and thanked God for the beautiful morning sunshine (and the waffles, per toddler instruction). I brewed myself some decaf and added a little (lot) vanilla creamer. I went downstairs and got to work on bookkeeping and training while Little Miss dressed as Belle and spelled words on the iPad. Nap time was boycotted for the second day in a row. We made time to play outside as I barbecued our dinner because it was so ridiculously warm and springly outside. I ate five of eight crescent rolls I served with our dinner. Five. In addition to my steak and potatoes. I cook over open flame outside, but I no longer burn candles inside, because I am paranoid of potential disasters when mixing open flame and little children. I clean when my hips let me move or when my feet aren't puffy in protest of me standing too long. My home isn't sparkling or spotless like our little apartment was, but it's cozy and it passes (most) health codes, I'm sure. And here, I wouldn't want to give any of this up, or trade it for another morning of days gone by. 

Taking a breather after the first bike ride of the year!
As I look back on my day, and really, on my life, I think these are the good ol' days. We've been through some tough trenches, we're still fighting our way to even survive through some days, but the blessing of sunshine and nonsense and a splash of disorder have brought me around to a new "good". We may have had the perfect apartment back then, but we didn't have so great a marriage. We didn't have our miracle, Little Miss. We didn't have Harlynn. We didn't have the faith roots we have now. We didn't have the expectation of Little Man's arrival. We did have mountains though....oh, prairie land, how I long for some topography.... 

(I found this picture on "The Google" and it isn't an exact view, but it is exceptionally close, and those are the very same mountains I saw from my kitchen and back yard every single day. Hi, Mountains! I miss you!)

Maybe I'll go buy a candle to freeze so I can burn it while I clean after child bedtime. Maybe I'll just turn on my scentsy lamp and some classical music, and get to drinking that hot lemon water as I read my Bible. Maybe I'll withhold waffle making until my hug payment is made up front. Maybe I'll keep doing what I'm doing to make sure that these...each present day...are the good ol' days.

Sunday, March 9, 2014


Tomorrow marks 11 months since delivering Harlynn, and today marks 11 months since I went into labor. Today after church, Haley and I drove out to the cemetery. On previous visits, I had already seen that all but one of her graveside decorations had been completely obliterated by a tractor that had to dig a grave through the snow for another baby. That made me mad on so many levels. Mad that everything, save for her purple butterfly, was gone. Mad that another baby had to die. Mad that I had to stand at a cemetery to spend time with my baby girl. I picked up two pine cones and one ornament salvaged from her Christmas cross - all that remained of it - to bring home. Today's visit showed that the purple butterfly, her one remaining item, was all but destroyed as well. Seriously, Lord?! Can I have NOTHING with Harlynn? Can I not even have one graveside decoration with which to honor her? Nothing?!  Lying on the ground, next to her grave, was a beer can. A beer can. I stomped through the mud and slush and dirtied my boots so I could kick it away as hard as I could because I was....well, mad. I'm still mad. 

Today in church the pastor made the comment "the worst day of your life doesn't have to define who you are." The message was centered more around sin, and regardless of what you've done, Jesus loves you and will accept you and your repentance. I firmly believe that. The sentence itself, however, is not true for me. The worst day of my life, the day we lost Harlynn, completely defines me. It has changed how I parent Little Miss. It has changed how I relate to my husband. It has changed my relationships with everyone. It has changed how I have approached this pregnancy with Little Man. It completely and absolutely defines me.

I am a mother who lost her baby. And there is nothing I could do about it.

I've heard so many times, growing up and even as an adult, "Why be mad about something you can't change?" Well, I'll tell you. I'm mad about something I can't change for the mere fact I can't change it. I can't change that her heart stopped beating. I can't change that everything at her grave was destroyed. I can't change that I will never hold her tiny frame in my arms again. I can't change the fact that the baby girl I carried for 8 1/2 months died. I can't change any of that, and that makes me mad. I can't change the fact that most anything anyone says or does in an attempt to comfort me drives me completely batty instead. Here I am 11 months on from losing her and there's not a daggum thing I can do about it. Being mad is sometimes the only thing I can do.

As we drove away from the cemetery today, I heard, "are you starting to cry now because you miss Harlynn?" from the seat behind me. I wasn't crying, and told her Mommy will always miss Harlynn, but she won't always cry. Not every day, anyway.

Eleven months. Not a day goes by that you aren't remembered or loved, Harlynn. Even if Mommy gets mad, it's because she loves you and misses you. We all do.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Wow. Just....Wow.

There have been so many things on my mind lately, it's hard to sort it all out. Having so many thoughts with free reign over my brain space has had me in creativity-overload. "Oh, sounds fun!" you might be thinking. The problem with creativity-overload, however, is that the thoughts can't get put into motion. The brain becomes so over-stimulated, that the body just shuts down. I can't sleep through the night like I was, I am not getting near as much done around the house as I (need to) thought, and the ideas are just swimming around, bumping in to each other, causing fights when priorities are vying for the shotgun seat. So I sit and think about a lot of things, and that is sometimes as far as I get.

This week has been a big one for personal reflection. Sunday night, our Women's Ministry team at church provided an amazingly powerful program in their spring kick-off event. I emceed, and if there was ever a time I felt completely under-qualified and out-of-sync, it was then. I'm just a goofball who loves to get up in front of people and speak because it mostly means I don't have to do uncomfortable one-on-one conversations (despite your recollection of me, I am certainly more an introvert in regard to personal relationships). Sunday, however, was just a huge dose of God's grace and might, and I cried in front of 120 people. Yes, I blamed the pregnancy hormones, but really they had nothing to do with it. I was so moved, and so touched, and so ...... overwhelmed with God's love, I just lost it right there at the microphone. Twice. And I'm not sure about you, but when I cry, it drains me of all energy and I need to sleep for three days to recover. Obviously that can't happen. I'm lucky to sleep for three hour chunks at this point. Let me tell you, though, God showed up BIG in that auditorium Sunday night, and I'm still trying to process all the answers to prayer I witnessed, and the many hearts I watched as they were freed from guilt and despair. I wasn't the only one shedding tears to be sure, I was just the only one doing it in front of everyone else. 

Monday was another OB appointment, and I was in the hospital for four hours. Between the ultrasound, the labs, the non-stress test, and meeting with the doctor, I was inside those walls for half my day. The non-stress test has become, by far, the most stressful part of every appointment. Little Man likes to play a game called "withhold my heartbeat from the fetal monitor" and it's a struggle to find. Every. Single. Time. Even when I can feel him moving while they're trying to find his heart rate, I can't help but feel that bit of panic rise within me. Those sounds, the looks on the nurses faces - they all take me back to the night of April 9th, when we learned of Harlynn's death. Naturally, then, I'm not the only one who is stressed by these non-stress tests. Here the nurses and doctor are trying to keep me calm and relaxed, and they can't find the heartbeat. Since it does happen every single time, I've trained myself to be expectant of it, and to convince myself it is nothing to worry about. Eventually they'll find it. Of course, this is easy to do when I can feel him moving around at the same time they're searching for it. I will say these next 11 weeks, while they can't go fast enough, will simultaneously be a slow and agonizing wait. We just want to meet you, Little Man. We want to hold you and hear you cry and bring you home, and then you can be a turd every single day. I'll revel in your turd-i-ness. Just get here healthy. Don't give me reason to fret. Of course after the appointment, I had to pick Little Miss up from her play-date, which she was none too happy to leave. I was so completely drained of any and all energy by the time I got home, I conformed my tush to the cushions of the sofa, and I passed out. Brent took care of dinner, and I took care of nothing other than dozing in and out of consciousness.

Yesterday was an emotional day in its own rite. Last week I had the privilege of meeting with a pretty big deal here in town, to ask for some mentorship and help in getting Harlynn's Heart on the right track for the year and for going forward. This person didn't know me from Eve, is the CEO of a major financial institution in town, and then called me himself (not even asking his assistant to call me) to schedule a meeting. What?! I sat in his office and told our story, and what we were hoping to do, but how we didn't know how to do it. He listened and empathized, and it was all I could do not to throw my arms around his neck and cry tears of thanks and appreciation into his suited shoulder. He asked, "So what is your connection with us?" and I admitted I had none. Two years ago I sat in my 35 Under 35 Women's Leadership program, he was on the male panel we had as guest speakers that day, and I knew in about a quarter of a second, he was one of the most genuine, down-to-earth, compassionate souls that walked this ground. I was even seated next to someone who worked for his company and asked, "Is he as much a dream to work for as he seems?" and she testified he was. When I told him it was that encounter two years ago that brought him to the forefront of my mind to seek out now, he was greatly humbled. But he needn't be - he is the real deal. He told me he would contact someone at an organization here in town to give us the help and direction we needed, and he committed a sizable donation - that I didn't ask for, or expect. I was blown away. Blown away. So yesterday, I had a meeting with his contact - another big deal here in town. For an hour and twenty minutes I talked and brainstormed with this gentleman, and could not believe the support and encouragement he was providing. I kept telling myself I was going to get Michelle a shirt with the words "The Little Organization That Could." Folks, after meeting with him, I can tell you Harlynn's Heart is going to do big things, and help a lot of people. We're not fading away. Our emotional investment is here to stay, and it will be benefiting families far outside the boundaries of Fargo in months and years to come. I was just in total awe after yesterday's meeting. I could not believe that small potatoes like us, just doing what we think we can do, would garner such support from such big-wigs in such short order. I am so excited and encouraged thinking about where this will go, and who we have already helped and will continue to help now. Will you join us in praying about it?

I had to wait all day yesterday before being able to go to Michelle's house and tell her all about the meeting and how amazing it was, and how afterwards I just sat in my van and cried. To know that my little girl lives on through this little vision of Michelle's is just so powerful to me. I can't rightly put it in to words. But as she and I shed tears over it at her kitchen table last night, it wasn't out of sadness. It was out of hope and encouragement and just being moved to know that our little baby, our little Harlynn, brought two strangers together, who will combine efforts and talents to help a bazillion or more people in the coming months and years. Don't ever think you don't matter, or you're insignificant, or your ideas aren't worthwhile. Our little Harlynn, who never took a breath outside my womb, has changed the course of our metro and beyond. You are worthwhile. You are significant. There is hope for you.

Now, as I sip the last of my first cup of decaf this morning, my mind is starting to clutter again with the tasks I need to accomplish today, and the projects I need to organize, and the work I need to complete. It's only Wednesday, but I'm more than just halfway through a week; I'm headlong into our new normal.

Also, for your viewing pleasure, a picture of the cutest big sister in the universe, and a window into life from her perspective.