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.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Look at the Bright Side

Under any normal circumstance, if anyone were to utter the phrase "Look at the bright side" to me, I might have to high five them. In the face. With a closed fist. Today, however, I'm telling it to myself. And since I'm not one for self-induced pain, I will forego the knocking around and simply actually focus on "the bright side."

You see, this weekend hasn't been one of my favorites. My home is more of a mess than I can remember it being in a long time. And if you know anything about me, you know that physical chaos creates emotional and mental chaos for me, and if I can't clean my house, I end up in a corner somewhere, drooling, while reciting random quotes from Pee Wee's Playhouse. (A little sarcasm, folks. But only a little, because I really do go nuts...)

On top of a messy home (and therefore messy mind), my kids have been whiny, crying, cling-ons (and not the sci-fi kind) all weekend long. I couldn't pass them off to hubs because he was gallivanting around the country side shooting stuff up and reffing a football game. And then there was this thing where he had to fix our van so we wouldn't wreck and die. Whatever. He was gone, and I was without a vehicle, and therefore my kids were especially dramatic, and I was trapped. Trapped.

So I'm looking at the bright side.

My son didn't want me to part from him all weekend long. Annoying, yes, because it makes it hard to do *anything* while holding a 14 pound head-banging sumo baby. However, he sought comfort in his mama's arms, and that is totally and utterly sweet. He smiled and giggled and cooed for me and those faces and sounds are so entirely precious. He fell asleep on my shoulder, which doesn't happen too much anymore, and he let me sing to him for almost an hour last night as I put him to bed. I gotta say....that is a moment in bedtime history that will remain forever special to me.

Little Miss chose her own outfits all weekend, and no, they did not go together. Unfortunately it would appear she inherited my complete and total lack of style and goes solely for comfort and convenience. She put this heart shirt on and came downstairs beaming, pairing it with purple corduroy pants. Who still makes corduroy pants, anyway? Wasn't there a law passed against that at some point prior to the early 2000s? I thought for sure it was a Clinton administration thing. I digress. She pointed to the giant heart on her shirt and said, "Mama, when you look at this shirt, does it remind you I love you?" Melt into a puddle of parental goo. "Yes!" I answered, fighting back those sentimental mom-tears. Later, as I was trying to soothe Little Man during one of his fits of rage, I hear, "Mama...." and glance up to see what she needed. Smiling, she pointed to the heart on her shirt. She wanted me to know in that moment, she loved me. Melt again. Fight back more sentimental mom-tears. Little princess of sweetness...

I took the kids for a walk yesterday, and we went nearly two miles while I pushed them around in the wonky stroller. The weather was perfect for walking, though I had to make sure they were warm since there was a cool breeze out. We ran across an angry squirrel, an apple tree that couldn't hold on to its bounty anymore, some flowers, and a puppy. As Little Miss so eloquently stated "It smells like dog poop right here." It did. Unrelated, but relevant, it wasn't until we came home and I was a sweaty, sticky mess, that I realized I hadn't remembered to put deodorant on. Now tell me why my husband wouldn't want to be waiting at home for his hot mess of a wife to come wafting walking through the door... It's a miracle I was showered and dressed, and taking the kids on a walk. One small victory at a time here. I was dog tired after taking them out, but so glad I made the effort. They were both a little happier for having the fresh air.

Last night I got about 45 seconds of sleep. I have a hard time falling asleep these days, and I'm not entirely sure why. I usually end up going to sleep after Brent. After he was everywhere but home yesterday, he was pretty wiped when bedtime rolled around. He went to bed, and I don't know if any of you ladies married a guy like this - but when he is wiped out tired, he rattles the windows with his snores. After several nudges and love-shoves, I soon realized there was no rousing him from his exhausted slumber. I grabbed my pillows and a blanket and headed to the sofa. No sooner had I finally gotten comfortable enough to catch some Z's, I heard our bedroom door open as Brent was headed to fetch a screaming baby. I didn't have to get up with him, but I was awake the entire time they were. I finally drifted back to dreamland only to be awoken by one of the loudest claps of thunder I had ever heard in my life. I held my breath to see if Little Miss was awoken as well. Sure enough, I heard the doorknob. In her sleepy, scared state, however, she couldn't get the knob open so she started knocking on the door. Poor thing. I raced over to save her, and Brent met me at the door. I think he whispered "go get your pillow", (it's hard to say with a hearing loss paired with sleep deprivation) so I did, as I held Little Miss. I took her and my pillow and went and snuggled with her in our bed. She laid in between us, snuggled up tightly against me, and patted my arm as the thunder raged on. And on. And on. And on. I don't know what time it was, but eventually I heard her ask, "Can you carry me to bed?" In my most empathetic voice possible, I barked "No." Mother of the year here, folks. She did walk herself back up the stairs, and I started to fall asleep again. Little Man woke up needing to be fed a couple of hours later. Have you ever seen the Jim Breuer clip on why moms need their sleep? I'm pretty sure he'd been spying at me in my lifetime and did a comedy bit about it. I'm so not nice when I don't sleep. Even when I do sleep, nice is questionable at best. 

Church was powerful, as usual, and the worship made me cry. Big surprise there. I was sleep deprived, personal-space deprived, and ended up crying in church? Weird... I was super excited for nap time today, though. And you know what? Little Man was not at all excited about it. In fact, he boycotted it, beginning 12 seconds after I drifted off into dreamland. 

I'm tired. My house is a mess. My husband is off saving the world. Or the vehicle. Or the dishes. Whatever. But you know what? I got to have moments like this... and moments like this make bad days good, and bright times even brighter. I love these little stinkers, and they are absolutely my bright side.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

"Trust Me"

I've had so much on my mind lately, it's hard to settle on a single topic to post about. I've been dealing with an overwhelming sense of anxiety and oppression lately, though, so perhaps this post stems from those feelings.

As Little Man came upon four months old this week, and as the leaves outside are not only changing color, but starting their descent to the ground, I came to terms with what I believe is a season of preparatory change. For the last few weeks, I've felt the Lord has been leading me to and through a time of preparation. I have no idea what for or what that means, but I see things being put in motion that confirm change is imminent. 

The problem I have, however, is I don't know whether the change is going to be easy, good, stressful, traumatizing, or neutral. I have no idea. I have no control. I have no way to prepare other than to just go with the flow. Being a control freak, this sense of knowing change is coming, not knowing what that change is, and knowing there is nothing I can plan for to contribute to it's success or implementation sends panic and anxiety pulsing through every vein in my being. 

"Trust me." I hear. But what does that mean, to trust?

Up until last year, I always acted as though trust was circumstantial. I trust, in this instance, this will be the outcome. I trust, in this instance, I can rely on this process. I trust, with this information, I can tell this person. Never have I associated trust with an all-encompassing purpose. Even when trusting God in all areas of my life, those areas were compartmentalized separately, as was the trust associated with them. There was no blanketing with a single hope or purpose. "Everything" was one thing at a time, dealt with one piece at a time, with one feeling of trust at a time.

It makes sense in my world to have a place for everything and everything in its place, and making exceptions for emotions or feelings did not compute. Even now, I struggle with an all-encompassing degree of trust, but I'm learning how it benefits me far greater than piecemeal assembly.

We have a women's ministry event coming up, that I have once again been asked to emcee. Prior to being asked, I was writing in my prayer journal a very woe-is-me prayer. I have emceed three times, and knew for sure they were tired of me, I had played out my welcome, and the baton would be passed to someone else. I was feeling sorry for myself because emceeing these events absolutely fills my tank to overflowing. I want to emcee for my own selfish reasons of being filled. The very next morning I got an email stating, "You're probably emceed out, but would you consider being the emcee again..." I felt about four inches tall. Here I was having a pity party, and for no reason. "Trust me." 

Since the planning stages of this event, the Lord has, very purposefully and intently, laid a verse upon my heart. Matthew 11:28 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." 

I am weary. I am certainly burdened. Instead of approaching Him for rest, however, I walk in big circles all around him, dragging my baggage behind me. I can see Him, always keeping at least the corner of my eye on His whereabouts. I can hear Him, keeping Him close enough to catch anything He might say. But I keep my distance, and tread in the path I've indented in the ground, from never straying away from it. What will it take for me to climb out and approach Him, to hand off my weighted worry, fear, doubt, and anxiety, and to trade it all for rest? "Trust me."

But... I did. I did trust you, and my daughter died. I trusted I would finally have a normal pregnancy, and instead we buried our baby. After losing her, I trusted we would bring a baby into this world without a stressful or tragic pregnancy. It was such a close call. Too close. Rather than trusting you now that Little Man is here safely, I focus on the fact he nearly wasn't. "Trust me."

We've had some situations arise very recently that give us cause to worry and fret, that make us uncertain about our future and stability. When the ground has been so shaky beneath your feet for so long, it doesn't take too big a jolt to knock you off balance. We have no idea what's in store for us, we have no idea what these circumstances or situations mean, we have no idea the purpose for them, or the plan for us. We have no idea. "Trust me."

I've realized, today, I'm tired of worrying. I'm tired of fretting. I'm tired of those feelings and emotions being completely unproductive in changing any results. I am not the provider for my family. God is. I have to trust Him. I would much rather lay my burdens at His feet and have rest in return, than continue to carry them and entrap myself in the same rut, as I go about in circles avoiding the One who can help me.

"Trust me." I'm not sure I know how to do that completely, but I've got to try. I can't compartmentalize pieces of my life, or of my trust. It's all or nothing. Here I go, Lord. Head first. Grant me rest.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Challenge That Rocked The World

You've seen about it, heard about it, and even participated in it. I'm talking about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. It has caused a big stir, mostly positive, around the world in raising awareness (and research funding) for ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). Of course, we can't have a positive movement without criticism and fuddy-duddy retorts. "You can't cure ALS with a bucket of ice, so I'm not gonna do that challenge." Whatever. Just shush, and listen up. Here are five reasons you should be proud of this movement, whether or not you or someone you know is currently affected by this disease.

1. People are uniting for a cause.
Raising awareness, or money, or both, people are coming together and calling upon one another to take a stand. It's not anything you've heard of or knew much about before? Huh. That was us before stillbirth. We didn't know babies could die. Our babies. Stillbirth isn't something people talk about. Neither is ALS. It's real, it's out there, and it deserves medical research and advances as much as any other ailment or medical anomaly. A bucket of ice won't cure ALS, or prevent stillbirth. But you know what it will do? Get people talking about it, get people thinking about it, and moving the needle to a worthwhile cause that doesn't get the spotlight as it rests in the shadows of other, also worthwhile, causes. Stillbirth research will always have my heart because of what we've been through, but you know what? I'm okay giving to other causes because I hope one day, those people will want to give to stillbirth research and prevention. Just because.

Celebrities, neighbors, kids, coworkers, bosses, friends - everyone is on the same playing field in this cause. People of all ages, genders, beliefs, and backgrounds are coming together to say "this disease is brutal for those who have it, and I'll support it, if only for five minutes and ten dollars." They may never think about it again, but the point is they're thinking about it now. And they're setting all differences aside to come to aid of those who need it. That is powerful.

2. People are showing self-sacrifice.
Ice water is cold. Really, really cold. Having it dumped over your head makes you really, really cold. It's uncomfortable. But it's temporary, and being temporarily uncomfortable in an effort to show solidarity with those who are uncomfortable living with the disease, is nothing to shirk from. You know what else is uncomfortable? Talking about it. Talking about muscle atrophy. Death. But it's happening, and it needs to be talked about. Another uncomfortable thing - more for some than for others - is to open that pocketbook to give to a cause. Some don't have the extra bucks. But they have heart. Good for ALS for raising research funds they've only dreamed of previously. And kudos to everyone who has chipped a little from their budget to make it happen. 

3. It's tapping into a creative, innovative vein.
I've seen so many videos of the challenge, and people coming up with as creative ideas as possible for having ice dumped on them. I've seen people be incredibly creative with how, who, and where they give money to. I've seen funny videos, I've seen tear-jerking videos, and I've seen videos like mine - no frills and to the point (and hard to hear). But there is a desire within the people who are participating to really make this a memorable experience, and I love that. They're also being creative with who they nominate to take the challenge. Cookie Monster was nominated for pete's sake! I love it. Keep on creating, people. Don't stop putting your imagination to use!

4. It is raising awareness.
It's raising awareness for ALS, absolutely. There are other groups, causes, and people who have had awareness raised for them as well, and I love it. Get out there and shout your cause from the mountain tops! The next time I feel like I'm talking to myself begging for help to clean the kitchen, I might just dump a bucket of ice water over my head, because it will get the attention of my family! This awareness has exploded, all because of a simple challenge, and that. is. awesome. It also raises awareness in the reward of charitable giving. People are learning the meaning of it being better to give than receive. This is a lesson that everyone, everywhere, should be made aware of, and the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is helping spread that message. 

5. It's teaching our children.
I've seen so many families partaking in the challenge together. Kids filming parents. Entire families dousing themselves. Kids seeing their parents involved, seeing others they respect and look up to involved, and being involved themselves, teaches so many valuable lessons. It teaches them there is power in standing together for a cause. It teaches them giving doesn't have to be hard or only ever out of obligation. It teaches them to think outside the box when faced with a challenging situation. It teaches them about facing adversity. It teaches them about hope. It teaches them that they, even as kids, have the power to make a difference. My heart swells up thinking on this last point alone. Go get 'em, kids.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Cleaning Up

I've mentioned before my relationship with "stuff". I'm constantly breaking up with it. Be done with you, stuff! What happens is: I bring it into my home, I eventually no longer have a proper place, use, or function for it, it accumulates, and I physically feel like I'm choking in my own home. I suddenly and without warning enter the "fight" part of fight-or-flight mode, and go on a rampage cleaning and purging. Then I feel amazing. Refreshed. Empowered. Renewed. This was my story last night as I went from room to room, reorganizing, purging, sorting, and reclaiming my home. Restoring order. For whatever reason, as often as we purge belongings from our home, we still seem to be overrun with stuff. It creeps in, settles down, and piece by piece takes over my space and my peace of mind. 

My sister and I call this zero-to-crazy phase, "Dad mode." It's inherited, I say, from my dad. He gets in these modes, these zones, where it's best to just stay out of his way and let him do his power-cleaning. He gets tired of stuff laying around, goes into overdrive to get rid of it or clean it up, and then he feels better. I inherited the "Dad mode" trait, though it is a bit amplified in me.

I drive my parents crazy, I'm sure, when they come to visit. They are not allowed to leave their belongings anywhere within my sight. If they bring their items inside my home, I start to feel that choking feeling again, I become extremely irritable, and I cannot rest until it is cleared up and order is restored. Ask my husband how fond he is of hearing me go ballistic when I find things stacked on top of our deep freeze. If I go to put something away and there is stuff in the way of where that item needs to go, or if there is just plain no place to put the daggum thing I'm holding, the world around me starts to fall apart. I get angry. I'm not just being dramatic here, I'm explaining to you the full-on truth of what happens. Is my home spotless? Far from it. Please. I do reach a point, however, when it just becomes too much, and I physically act out on the clutter. Physical clutter creates mental and emotional chaos for me, and I have to purge it or I will become emotionally overwhelmed. I know I'm not the only one who feels this way.

I have kept a lot of things from over the years. Things I find sentimental, things I find meaningful, things that help me remember events, places, people. Sometimes as years go on, though, the meaning or sentiments wane, and I find I no longer need to hold on to it. Whether something has replaced those sentiments, or they're gone altogether, I'm able to let go of things pieces at a time. My husband thinks I hold on far too long to things and then becomes (annoyingly) proud of me when I decide I can part with it. You would have thought I cured disease when I finally agreed to donate a plate set we had received for our wedding, the way he made a ceremony out of it. 

The cleansing/purging cycle goes beyond physical belongings. Sometimes I hold on to emotional things. Things I feel bad about, things I'm not proud of, things I wish I could redo. They can occupy my heart and mind until they become physically overwhelming. I reach the fight-or-flight moment, and I have to purge. At times, however, I purge good things from my mind or life, in order to make room to hold on to the gunk. The yuck. The stuff I don't want occupying that space to begin with. Yet for whatever reason, I just can't let go.

More and more lately, as I've reached a season of preparation and transition, I've realized there are things taking up residence in my psyche that don't belong there. I've held on to them for long enough. It's time to purge them, to stop feeling like I'm choking from beneath their weight, and to allow myself to feel restored. Empowered. Renewed.  

Guilt. Shame. Doubt. Failure. These things have been choking the joy out of my life. Taking over my mind and spirit and not allowing me to be fully present or available for my family. For myself. 

Yes, it's time to purge.

"And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ - to the glory and praise of God." ~ Philippians 1:9-11

Not filled with crud. Not filled with angst. Not filled with anxiety, fear, or despair. Granted, there is still room for those things. They will find a way in, a place to settle, and eventually need to be cleaned out again. But I will not be filled with them. Consumed by them. Not anymore.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Bittersweet 16

April 16th, 2013, we buried our daughter, Harlynn. I remember at the close of the graveside service, the sun peeked through those gray clouds and I thought to myself, "If only she could see it..."  Of course the light she sees is far more brilliant than the sun. The love she experiences is far more than even I could give her. But oh, how I wish she were here to see the sun. To receive my sloppy kisses.

Sixteen months ago, April 16th, my husband and I laid our daughter to rest. Though I type those words and understand the length of time that has passed since that day, since that moment, my mind cannot comprehend that reality. That truth is so foreign to me. How is this my life? How is this our story? How are babies still dying?

Friday, August 15th, Little Man celebrated 16 weeks of life outside my incubating belly. Sixteen weeks ago, I laid eyes on his scrunched-up face, and fell absolutely in love. I heard him scream for the first time and, believe it or not, it was sweet music to my ears. I didn't realize he would be a screamer going forth, but I love him just the same. Our life took on battles against wayward pee streams, sleepless feeding cycles, and explosive "movements". He is so close to giggling, he smiles so largely when he's tickled or cooed at, and he has teased us several times by sleeping through the night now and again. Again, as I understand the length of time that has passed since the day he was born, I cannot fathom how it has already been 16 weeks. How is my baby boy nearly four months old? 

We went to the park for a picnic tonight, since the weather was perfect. We tend to picnic at the park that is right nearby the cemetery Harlynn rests in. In a way it's like having the entire family together, though there will always be one missing. I held Little Man in front of me, deliberately placing his feet on the grass. I wanted him to be sure to experience the great outdoors, of course. I looked down at his feet in the grass, and momentarily became overwhelmed. The simultaneous feeling of joy and sorrow you've heard me speak of before flooded over me. Last year, Michelle posted a link to a Pink song on my Facebook timeline. "Beam Me Up". In the opening lyrics, it says, "Blades of grass on tiny bare feet." I looked down, and saw Little Man's tiny bare feet among the blades of grass. I thought how adorable it was, and how his sister would have done the same. While I was adoring Little Man's feet and reveling in his experience outside, Little Miss was making the rounds on the playground equipment. Brent was on vigilant-daddy-duty, making sure she wasn't going to do anything to hurt herself on the playground. We had a delicious, indulgent dinner. It was a beautiful, near-perfect, family outing.

This past Sunday marked 16 months since I delivered Harlynn. Tomorrow, the 16th, marks 16 months since her last day above ground. Today marked 16 weeks since Little Man stole our hearts with his safe arrival. This is our bittersweet 16. I know there will be more bittersweet moments to come. While my heart still, always, aches for losing our child, I thank God this little charmer is here with us. These 16 weeks have gone by far too quickly, and it's hard to understand how in such a short span of time, we've become so smitten with this little guy. Even if he does scream. At all hours. 

I love you, Little Man. You're the best little brother your sisters could have asked for. You're your Daddy's and my favorite little buddy. Thank you for enduring (and dare I say, enjoying) Mommy's sloppy kisses.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Robin Williams

Monday, the country received the news that one of the greatest comedic geniuses of all time, Robin Williams, had died. It later was revealed he died by suicide. I was - I am - stunned, saddened, and beside myself. I am 33 years old and, quite literally, have grown up watching Robin. I watched Mork and Mindy on television. I've seen so many of his movies - and when you start listing the movies this man is in, that list gets to be quite lengthy. A piece of my childhood - of my life up to this point, actually - is now gone. It isn't often a celebrity's death affects me so greatly, but this time, I am incredibly saddened.

When Princess Di passed away, I cried. Heavy tears. She was such a genuine person it seemed, and now her boys had to grow up without their mother. I couldn't fathom the tragedy of her death. It was so sudden, so completely tragic. Such a surprise. 

When Whitney Houston died, I cried. A lot. I had grown up wanting to be her. Her voice was incomparable. I cried not only because the world lost such talent, but because her monster drugs had finally taken her life. Was I surprised she died? Not especially. Her struggles were no secret. I was still incredibly saddened nonetheless.

Hearing the news of Robin Williams - I cannot even describe it to you: how you can never know someone but feel like you do. How someone you've never met can have such an impact on your life, on your personal culture. Sure the guy swore more than I would, had jokes that were more crude than I cared to listen to. But he was funny. He was exceptionally talented. He was the real deal. A song from Aladdin came on my daughter's Pandora station, and I teared up hearing his voice sing. He had everything a person wants at his fingertips because of his success, yet what he wanted and yearned for most, seemed completely out of reach for him. 

This is not a post with any philosophical insights. This is not a political, practical, or parishioner stance on suicide. This is simply a post to say I will miss the man God created, giving him gifts of comedic genius, incomparable wit, and immeasurable talent. Those gifts weren't enough for Robin to keep going, though, and so many of us feel an inexplicable loss with his passing.

I'm not going to pretend I understood his pain. I'm not going to compare our lives or our journeys and draw parallels or make up insights. I will simply say: even when it appears you have it all, or have it all together, no matter your surroundings or your successes, your friends or your failures - sometimes you feel an intense emptiness, as if you have absolutely nothing or no one. Even the tiniest amount of hope seems completely out of grasp. As together as one may appear on the outside, the inside can be but a shell, filled only with despair and loneliness. That much I know.

I don't know the depths of his pain. I don't know the far-reaches of his sense of personal emptiness. I simply assume they existed to greater lengths than I can comprehend. The only thing I know is: you can never completely know another's wounds or scars. They are known only by the one who holds them. 

Robin, I am so sorry you are no longer with us. I pray for your family and your friends, and for the emptiness they feel to no longer have you with them. As ironic as it may seem, this clip from What Dreams May Come not only makes me think of Harlynn, and how we grieve what she will never be, but also makes me think of the future we'll never have watching you perform again. Hearing you laugh. Listening to your stories. You were loved, and as you will be missed, you will also be forever cherished.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Kicking...and Screaming

Little Miss & me enjoying our socks

I stub my toes all the time. It's to the point now, when I stub my toes, and crumple in a pile of pain, Brent will chuckle. Not because it's funny I hurt myself, but because he is in total disbelief I stub my toes so often. Instead of "are you okay?" I'm often met with, "I don't understand how you do that all the time." We're talking at least weekly. I don't understand how it keeps happening, either, but since it is so frequent, it's more of a running joke in our home than a legitimate concern. My children will grow up not at all worried when I kick something, cry out in pain, and end up on the floor. It will just be a "Oh, Mama stubbed her toes again." kind of moment. 

If there is a hard, stationary object on the ground, my toes will find it. With gusto, they'll launch themselves into it. I inevitably hit my knees to the floor, stifle several choice vocabulary words, and wait for the pain to somewhat subside before getting back up and continuing on. It's not as if I don't watch where I'm going, or as if I have giant disproportionate sized feet that flail about uncontrollably. For some reason, I have an unexplained magnetism built into my toes, and they can't help but connect themselves to objects at such a speed and angle it results in momentarily crippling me.

A few years ago, I was walking into our bedroom. As I turned to pass through the doorway, I kicked the door jamb with such force, I broke one of my toes. My foot blackened, and I couldn't put pressure on it for a long time. I walked with a limpy gait and prayed I would not stub that foot again - at least until my toe could have time to heal. Yes...I stubbed my toe so hard, it broke. If that same toe gets stubbed today, or if I rub my foot and touch it a certain way, it brings tremendous discomfort. Achilles had his weakened heel. I have my worthless toe.

Just last night, I had gotten the mail, was walking it all of three steps from the front door to the sofa, and stubbed my toe on a table leg. As I hit the ground wincing in pain, I heard the all too familiar chuckles from my husband. "Go ahead, laugh it up Mr. Empathetic" I mumbled. He said, "Well....I just don't understand how you manage to do that so often!" I don't either. I really don't. Call it my "special" talent. A gift. My superpower. Gracious me, it hurts, though. I did laugh right along with him, because it is a bit ridiculous, but I was still in pain! In those few moments I was in a pile on my floor, I thought how this was a reflection of life.

Oh yes, I found a teachable moment in stubbing my toes. Stick with me.

Everything is fine, normal, and we're going about things as we always do. Then... Whether we didn't notice it, it just appeared, we weren't paying attention, or it was just an accident, we get hurt. Maybe it's not a big deal. Maybe it's just a "little hurt". Momentarily, it rattles us a bit, but before too long, we're able to continue on our way. We might even forget it ever happened.

Until the next time.

We get hurt again. It catches us by surprise, comes out of nowhere, throws us for a loop. We tell ourselves we'll be more diligent, more cautious. We build protective barriers around ourselves, we watch our step. We cautiously approach the areas we know we've been hurt in before. We can fix it by avoiding it altogether.

But then...guess what? We still get hurt. We still run into things we didn't want to run into. Head on. We become shaken. How does this keep happening?! How are we not able to avoid these things, when we are so careful, so cautious, so prepared?? Beyond the protective barriers, we build reinforced walls. Sky-high, not even so much as a window, we will not allow ourselves to be hurt anymore! These occurrences chip away at us so much, in order to retain any shredded piece of who we are, we work to prevent becoming anything less. We don't want to do anything to change who we are. What we know. It gets harder and harder to walk forward when we know we're simply going to ache as, or more, intensely as we have before.

One day, you'll end up thrust into a situation that is so painful, so hurtful, you will be completely broken. You didn't expect it. You never saw it coming. Not in million years. Whether you have physical or emotional scars, the damage is done and is carried with you. For the rest of your life. And as you lie on the ground in a crumpled pile of pain, you have a choice to make.

Do you get up and try to fix it yourself? You've relied on yourself for so long, you don't know any other way. Then again, you haven't been able to solve your problems. You haven't been able to prevent your pain, and most likely, haven't been able to heal it, either.

Or...when you're there, on your knees, do you cry out to the Only One who can bring beauty from ashes? The One who can redeem your brokenness and shine glory into darkness?

Do you look up and reach your hand for His? Or do you keep your head to the ground, so intently focused on finding the traps before they find you, that you miss seeing everything else? I have to say, earlier today I painted Little Miss' toenails. She was so engrossed in watching her beautiful toes, she only kept her eyes on them as she walked to her bedroom and up the stairs for nap time. I had to physically redirect or stop her - four times - from walking head-long into a wall. That would have hurt! It's not about where you direct your eyes or place your feet. It's about who you're trusting to guide you along the road.

I may be a klutz. I may actually have some bionic magnetism in my toes that draws them to rock hard objects. I'm probably a klutz, though. The thing is, there is so much in life I have no control over. So much I will never see coming. So much I will never know how to avoid, or how to handle when I walk through it. I have to choose, though. Do I keep going as if I'm invincible and deny myself experiencing anything worthwhile for fear it will bring pain? Or do I allow myself to be vulnerable enough to take what comes and seek healing in the midst of my pain?

I can wear all the steel-toed boots in the world. Eventually, I'll have to take them off, however. Eventually, I'll find myself vulnerable if only for a brief moment. And when I'm struck down to my knees, I hope I choose to call upon power and authority. No matter how broken I am, my only hope for healing rests within His mercy. 

I will never be so broken as when Jesus hung on the cross, dying for the world. He willingly suffered so that one day, we will no longer have to.  One day, all of this will be over. There will no longer be heartache. There will no longer be pain. It doesn't matter how many times we've fallen, collapsed, or otherwise ended up in a heap - faith will lead us through to the power of His promises.

Nothing could have broken me any more than when we lost Harlynn. Yet, despite that heartache, I found myself pregnant again. We could have lost Little Man. We nearly did. I nearly not only stubbed my figurative toes, but clamped them in a vice grip to spite myself. I had to have faith He would lead me through. No matter the outcome, no matter the pain, no matter the suffering I would or did endure, I had to believe He was more. He was already there. I would, one way or another, make it through to the other side.

And do you want to know what? The truth is, I'm still finding my way. I haven't arrived. I don't continually rely on Him to help me. I still get hurt. I still feel intense pain. I still find myself scrambling for some escape. I still stub my toes. Constantly. When I find myself in that ball of vulnerability, I sometimes choose to build more walls. To keep my head down. To be continually on the defensive. When my goal is to simply avoid being hurt again, I never succeed. 

And...I don't have any answers. I'm not going to say "stay strong", because as I mentioned previously, I think that's a load of malarkey. I'm not going to tell you it will get better, because I know that's not always the case. I'm not going to tell you to keep your chin up and focus on the positive, because sometimes life is the pits. I'm not going to tell you I've figured anything out, because we all know I haven't. I will tell you when you find yourself in your pain, on the floor, clutching those good-for-nothing-toes, you don't have to stay there. Not forever, anyway. And until you can stand up again, you call on those who will sit alongside you. Then, you call on the One who will pick you up and carry you. 

All parallelism and teachable moments aside...if you could just pray I stop stubbing my toes, my feet would thank you. I would thank you. My husband would sleep better at night knowing he didn't marry a complete clown...

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Silent Suffering

There's a silent suffering that takes place when you're a bereaved parent. A suffering that occurs when you miss your child, but convince yourself no one else wants to hear about it. Again. I've not only been missing Harlynn, but experiencing a nostalgic sense of her absence. The summer air, the trips to the cemetery, the sounds, sights, smells - they all transport me emotionally to this time last year. What I was doing, experiencing, learning. It's not something I can aptly explain, so I experience it quietly. Silently. Alone.

This morning, I dressed Little Man in a very special onesie. It was given to him by the very first family I visited as a representative of Harlynn's Heart. I put it on him, it fit, and I got a little misty eyed. He began to smile so big, and so adorably, however, I couldn't stay choked up for long. Until....well....he stared directly over my shoulder. Quizzically at first, then began to smile. Not just any smile, but a huge, impressive smile. I welled up again and asked, "Can you see her? Is she here?" He does that once in a while, where he will peer beyond me and smile at something - someone? - else. I search his eyes for an angelic reflection and don't see one. What does he always find to glance at? Granted, it could just be him being a baby and directing his attention to nothing in particular, but I have a hard time believing the wall would be more entertaining than my goofy faces.

I often wonder how I'll breach the subject with him when he's older. How will we tell him he has two older sisters, but one of them died? So much of me believes strongly he already knows, or senses it. But how do we actually tell him? "Don't rub yogurt in your hair, and by the way, your sister Harlynn died in mommy's tummy." Lord, give me the right words at the right time. Give him the understanding when he's ready. When we're all ready.

These last couple of weeks, I have been missing Harlynn pretty intensely. I don't want to "burden" anyone with it, and of course, everyone is interested in Little Man, not his mama's unresolved emotional state. And who can blame them? It's so old hat to be sad isn't it? I don't feel like it is. I suppose I've worn out the welcome in some other's timelines, however. And really, Little Man is adorable and charming and captivating - I am definitely interested in him, and can't fault others for the same. But I do miss his sister. 

Little Miss has been spending a lot of time completely infatuated with herself lately. She'll sit in front of our full length mirror, or she'll grab my hand-held mirror and stare into it at herself. Her reflection has become her "sister, Addison". Or some days her "sister's" name is Olivia. She carries on both sides of the conversation. It's precious and hilarious. And heartbreaking. She has to pretend she has a sister. That should not be. She should have her sister here to play with. To imagine with. To carry on conversations with. As imaginative as she is, and as entertaining as these conversational interactions are to listen to, it still tugs at my heart. Oh Little Miss, I'm so sorry you have to pretend to have a sister to do these things with. I'm so, so sorry.

Will she always remember coming into the hospital room to meet her sister? How uncomfortable she was when she realized we were crying and sad and Harlynn would never move, cry, or open her eyes? Will she ever ask me to recount the events of that day, or the days after? Or will it just be another experience she had as a child, with the full depth of significance eventually getting lost in her distant memory? Am I projecting too many of my own expectations on to her by wanting so desperately for her to always remember, know, and love her baby sister?

I suffer silently. These questions, these thoughts, and one million more, race through my mind continually. There are no answers, though. There is no explaining how the trees rustling remind me of the night we let balloons go, and watched them catch in the tree across the street. Or how the butterfly that hung around our home had me convinced it wasn't 'just' a butterfly. Or how I long to catch a heavenly reflection in the whites of my son's eyes as he smiles mysteriously past me. 

Tonight, I had a gal's date. I was meeting a couple of girlfriends for dinner and encouragement. We share some of the same interests and goals and have started meeting together every few weeks to spur one another on and share our insights and dreams. I wore purple tonight since I've been missing Harlynn so much. As one of my friends walked in, she handed me a bag and said, "This is for you. For later." I wanted to open it then, but something told me, I sensed, I needed to wait. I set it to the side, and we had great conversation over dinner. I was so energized and refreshed, and I just really look forward to my "writer's night out" as I've dubbed it. 

Afterward, we parted ways and I walked to the car. Once inside, I peered inside the bag to see its contents. Everything inside, including the tissue paper, was purple. The card said she wanted me to know she thought of Harlynn often. The thoughtfulness and the (spirit led!) timing of it all, moved me to tears. She had no idea the huge impact her small gesture would have on me. She had no idea I've been suffering silently. She had no idea how much I needed to read those words, to see, touch, and hold those purple items. She had no idea how I've been longing for purple nail polish, but haven't bought myself any. And now I don't have to. She had no idea. But someone did. And after dinner tonight, I crumpled into a puddle behind my steering wheel in that downtown parking space. It was no coincidence we met for dinner tonight and she brought a little something for me. I don't believe in coincidences.

I suffer silently sometimes. I miss Harlynn so very much. I still can't believe in this day and age, my husband and I have lived through the death of our baby. It doesn't seem possible at times. It seems like a bad dream. Like it didn't really happen, because babies don't really die....  I'm realizing, slowly, in those moments when I fight desperately to ensure my daughter is remembered, I'm not forgotten about. I'm not abandoned. I'm not dismissed. I may think I suffer alone and silently, but I've got a band of support and encouragement even I can't fully comprehend. When I suffer silently, there is a silent army all around me, making sure I'm taken care of. 

The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, 
and he delivers them. ~ Psalm 34:7