Monday, December 31, 2007
The arrangement above was given to us by our church family at Red Rocks Church the day of Noah's service on January 15th. It was such a gorgeous mix of flowers, arranged in a square metal box. From each side of the arrangement, the flowers looked like an entirely different bouquet. It was beautiful, that is why I took pictures of it.
Translate to today...I have been swimming in pools of cardboard boxes and bubble wrap in our new home. We camped here last Thursday night after pulling into town from a long drive on I-70 in white out conditions. Our PODS came the next day and we've been unloading and organizing ever since. I was unpacking a kitchen box. Nothing in it reminded me specifically of Noah, but I thought about how unpacking these boxes reminds me of opening gifts (especially because my mom packed the majority of them!)
Anyway, I had a revelation of different kinds of gifts. I was looking at Emily, thanking God that she truly is a gift to us. Thanking God that children are a gift from Him and then it occurred to me. Obviously I already know that Noah was a gift to us. But I realized, he was more like a beautiful floral arrangement. Unlike silk flowers, fresh, magnificent ones that God created only last a little while plucked from their source of life. Noah was a fragrant bouquet. God delivered him into our lives. We cherished him, were grateful for him, and displayed him in our lives for all to see and also enjoy. But like every fresh flower, he faded...
I have no regrets. I did not waste a moment with Noah. All 7 months and 2 days were savored. I can honestly, thankfully, and humbly say that. Thank you, Lord, for blessing me with the most magnificent flower. Even though he is not physically with me, his fragrance and the delight of having had him in my life...it's my treasure, Lord. Thank You for such a gift. Why You chose us, we will one day know, but in the meantime, I'm just glad You did...
Thursday, December 20, 2007
There's a daddy, mommy and big sister sending out some sweet love to Noah in Heaven. They miss you like crazy, sweet boy. Enjoy the wonderful celebration up There with the One who makes Christmas possible for the rest of us. This one's for Noah, brought to you especially from Bono, The Edge, Larry and Adam. Enjoy!
Monday, December 17, 2007
Tubing with friends
My kid likes attention, but not corporate attention...
I didn't realize her mouth could open so wide. She's pretending to be afraid of the octopus car wash.
Then, after church, I was telling Jason how much I love Em's heart and her sensitivity, emphasizing her thoughtfulness. He told me that one night while I was bawling in Noah's empty room, Emily had suggested they paint a box the colors of Noah's room so I could 'take his room with me'.
For the most part, at the end of each day, Jason and I ask Em what her favorite part of the day was. Today in the car, without even asking, she said, "Mom, my favorite part of today was helping decorate for the Joy House Christmas party." She was our little assistant today, helping to set up for a party for battered women and their children.
Also at church on Sunday, my friend Jill, our pastor's wife, came up and said, "I have a small gift for you but it has a funny story." She handed me a bag with a V*enus razor and a sweet smelling candle. She said, "The other day Emily told me that a really good present for her mom would be a smelly candle and a new razor because the cleaning lady at the loft took hers."
While waiting for the elevator, Emily said, "Mom, look at this brick. It is unusual." There was one green brick among hundreds. That is a four syllable word. (See post on reading *smiley face*)
Man, I love her!
I was watching the presidential debates while I was working out the other day. I have tried to tune in as much as possible lately. Yeah, I decided this round that I'd like to be an educated American citizen and vote for the candidate that overall represents my values, not just the leader of my party. No. No one expresses or holds every conviction I do...they are not...ME. And, I'm not currently running for president, so...Anyway, this is not the point of my post.
The question was posed by the mediator that sounded somewhat like this: "U.S. High School students ranked behind 16 other countries in education last year. Why do you think this is happening in our country and as president, what will you do about it?"
Is the answer not obvious to EVERYONE?! I know this will come off opinionated, and that's fine. Am I right? Partially. Do I think I am better than the next guy? No. Am I smarter because I know the answer? Isn't that the point of the mediator's question? The ANSWER is: Many American parents are lazy and do not read to their children while they are young. It's easier to buy them toys, lots and lots of freaking toys, let them stare at the television until their brain cells resemble a pile of mush, plop them in front of computers for hours on end while they get their botox injections and read crap magazines, and then let other people babysit them for extensive amounts of time, ie. babysitters, grandparents, day cares, school teachers, counselors, thinking that they will do the educating.
No, T.V. is not the devil. Computers are not the devil. Daycare is not the devil. Public school is not the devil. Grandparents are not the devil. Botox isn't the devil, except for the fact that animal serum laced with a bacteria is willingly injected into a person's body parts is beyond me...tangent, sorry. Anyway, wasting time can definitely be the devil and buying into the lie that WE as parents are more important than our kids ALL OF THE TIME is a lie. Yes, you need time to yourself, but NOT ALL THE TIME EVERYDAY...why did you have kids?
Some people should not have kids. I am not talking about 'underprivileged' people or overpopulation or stereotypical first cousin jokes. I am talking about people that have kids to simply let their name live on in history or people that just do it because it's the reasonable next step. "Oh, maybe we should have kids since we're getting old."
KIDS ROCK. Kids take quality time and QUANTITY time. Have kids because you treasure LIFE. Have kids because you love God with a holy fear and desire to raise children that make an impact on earth. Have kids because you have so much stinking love in your heart you can't keep it all inside, you just have to share it! But, DO NOT HAVE KIDS TO MAKE YOU LOOK GOOD, because, if you do that but you don't READ TO THEM, you won't look good and you will be doing your kids a disservice...God is the greatest gift you can offer a child. Reading equips them to study more about God and fall deeper in love with Him through His word.
Learning how to read is not an economical issue. Libraries are free. Schools and teachers are only a small portion of the education equation. They are partial 'facilitators' for the hunger for learning that should be birthed at home. Parents who rely on their child's teacher to do all the teaching will always be disappointed, expecting more and more from their child, blaming the system, enrolling their children in more and more programs to 'make' them smarter. The reality is, if we as parents would make reading to our children a priority early on, EVERYDAY, for as much time as we possibly can (we often do one hour-yes, I have 'more' time because I stay at home and home school, but even the busiest parent can make time...finding it will never happen), our children will be better equipped for high school and college and real life.
I worked at a college for 5 years where I had a lot of interaction with students on a social level in the residence halls. Many of the students were well equipped for the intensity of the heightened level of studying necessary for success in college. Some were not. Some were not even equipped with conflict resolution skills when there was roommate drama. Drama.
Our kids are sponges. They watch and listen to us disagree with our spouses. They observe if we honor one another when we disagree or if we get nasty and morph into psycho meanies that lash out in anger. They learn how to disagree from us and they learn how to reconcile, or at least agree to disagree, from us. They watch to see the way we eat and view food. They listen to if we talk negatively about our weight or appearance, and follow suit. They listen to the way we talk to and about other people. They see if we want them to pray and read their Bibles, and if we show them that example or not. They learn what to value from watching us. Just as they are sponges for all that they see, it is true of what they hear. Children are blank tapes. Are our children, the little humans God entrusted to us, (His children really), our 'on loan' most valuable possessions, learning ALL of their life skills and aspirations from digital 'M*ickey Mouse' or Mama, or 'D*ra' or Daddy? We are responsible to make valuable recordings in their lives. So, yes, read! READ. But, also use discernment and wisdom as to what you read. Just because a book is in print or on a 'Best' list, does not mean it is worth your time or theirs. Heck, that's another lesson...teaching them what kind of books are worth their time will teach them to value time, something that one day they will need to read to their children.
By the time January 12th rolled around earlier this year, Noah had heard the whole New Testament, all the Psalms, all of Proverbs, all of Genesis, many other random passages and several other children's books that his big sis enjoys. She even 'read' to him, having learned the books from hearing them repeatedly.
Not one of the candidates brought up the topic of reading to their children...they all got 'political' and started blaming it on the system, on the other 'party', on freedom of choice, blah, blah, blah. We are faced with the freedom to choose...to read or not to read, that is our freedom.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Anyway, I mentioned it a long time ago, but now it's quite official. On January 12th, 8 of my local girlfriends and I will be donating our hair to 'Locks for Love', http://locksoflove.org/index.html in Noah's memory. No, Noah never needed a wig, obviously, but from living at the hospital for ever 5 months, I am thankful that my eyes were opened to the needs of other children and their families. And, if you want to get technical, hair isn't a need. Yes, we were designed with hair follicles, but many people live without hair everyday. Yes, I realize that food, water and shelter are real needs for children throughout the earth, but donating my hair to a kid that is sick and has lost their hair for whatever reason is an easy thing to do, and let me tell you, my hair needs a serious cutting! There will always be a 'better' or 'bigger' way to fill a need somewhere, but I pray that does not stop people from being generous givers. No, I can't donate a ship or airplane to a ministry that takes food and medical supplies to starving and sick people but I can give food or medical supplies, or 10 inches of hair. You get the point.
Anyway, the owner of a local salon will be donating the cost of our haircuts to a charity of our choice, we'll simply be tipping the stylists. I don't know if you have been saving your hair for a rainy day or feel moved to get a radical new look, but if you happen to have 10 extra inches of hair hanging around, would you and your friends be willing to book out your local salon on January 12th in Noah's memory and any other child that you want to honor? It would be so cool for 'Locks for Love' to have loads of ponytails filling their mailbox that following week! If you, on your own, or you and a few girlfriends (or guy friends...there are some seriously long locks on some guys out there!) are able to do this in your own town, will you please email me and let me know?
Also, please take your camera along for lots of pictures and then email them to me. I'll post them with locations, and your names if you want, along with our pictures on Noah's blog in January.
I donated my hair probably 4 and a half years ago for this, but I'm pretty sure this haircut will go down in my personal history as the most memorable and rewarding. Haircuts aren't just haircuts anymore.
Man, I miss that boy! Every minute, every day.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
My heart has been extremely heavy all day in regards to the two separate shootings that took place here in CO. It's all very close to home, and I'm not talking proximity only. We have been supporters of many a YWAMer over the last 14 years. We have had family and friends go through their training and share in their outreach all over the world. We love their ministry and love what God is doing because of their obedience. My sweet friend goes to that bases' worship service sometimes. As far as New Life goes, we have old friends that we love very much on staff there. We went to college with many of the staffers there. We've prayed for them during their pastoral change of guard and will continue to pray for them during this tragedy. This was just days after I learned that my friend and her two little ones had left the Omaha mall 30 minutes prior to the other maniac's shooting spree. She's moving within miles of New Life church in a few weeks...
Jason and Em and I were praying a lot for the different situations today...that the shooters would be brought to justice (only one is still living and on the loose, I believe), that God would convict their hearts (and if they have friends who knew of their intentions, that they would turn them in...), that healing and comfort would come to all the families, friends, and colleagues involved in each scenario, and that especially for the staff and students of YWAM, worldwide, that their hearts would be strengthened to share the gospel all the more, despite the devil's attempts to discourage.
I think the devil is nervous about something...call me crazy (it's okay, you wouldn't be the first) but it doesn't seem like the devil goes on shooting sprees within 'Christendom' in churches or other para-church organizations that don't really have firm foundations. The pastor that preaches nice fluffy sermons that stroke egos, lack Truth and don't convict their hearers of sin and righteousness should feel relieved if they never have any sort of trouble within the walls of their congregations. I'm not saying that if you don't have problems, your church is dead to the Truth, but an old pastor of mine used to say if he were demon possessed, he'd go to a church where they didn't believe in demons and where they certainly didn't cast them out...Let's face it, Jesus has always ticked people off.
When horrible things like this happen, as strange as this may sound, (perhaps it's because I am a middle kid, a peace maker, an optimist) knowing the fruit of the lives of the people I know in both YWAM and New Life, I can't help but think that their love for God and pursuit of His will really pisses the devil off in a big way. Sorry for the french but really, the ones I know are not fluffy Christians that just claim the name for fire insurance purposes...
No, I can assure you it does not make the grief any easier! I pray for the peace of God to comfort the hearts of all those left to grieve their loved ones and live with an ever-present hole in their hearts. I pray for hope to replace despair. I pray for people to surround them in prayer and in tangible ways. I also pray that just like people still live in New York City, Londoners still ride buses, and students still attend Columbine High School, (and countless other scenarios) that people of all ages will sign up all the more for YWAM bases at any of their 1,100 bases and that people wouldn't be afraid to go to church. One thing many Americans do well is live in fear, crippled by worse case scenarios. What if? Bad things happen. What if you know that but trust God regardless? 100% guarantee: What satan intends for evil, God WILL turn around for His glory! Take that, you sick twisted devil.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Jason highlighted this picture in the book he showed last night because it's one of his favorites of Em. She was ecstatic to be a big sister...
Well, last night was our final group counseling session. It was a schizophrenic combination of emotions for me. I walked in excited to see all the other parents that I have grown to love. I looked at the board where the faces of all our children and their names have been on display for 9 weeks and felt sadness and hope. Then, after we sat down and learned the evening agenda, the task of sharing a nugget from our child's memorial service, then walking up to the board to remove our child's picture, take a rose for remembrance and light a candle, I felt as nauseous and grieved as the first night we learned every one's stories. Grieved because each parent was taking down a picture of their child and nauseous because in the Spring, a new group of pictures will grace that board...
I love the other parents in that room. I loved what they shared of their children and am humbled by the transparency that took place in that room each week. Life is constant change. I know this. We all know too well that life does continue on, but for each of us we live a new normal. Whatever the heck that is...normal.
As Jason eloquently put it last night, "I feel like I'm in Junior High borrowing my friend's homework assignment and trying to pass it off as my own..." With the move last week, even though we kept our folders out, we totally spaced our homework assignment. Jason actually hadn't gone the Monday before Thanksgiving because he was in Kansas City for work and I skipped out a half hour early because I went to join him and see friends for a couple of days. I collected all the paperwork that week but we just never looked at it. We walked into group last night and there were lots of yummy treats to share. Yeah, that was on the assignment...And then, people had 'Show and Tell' tokens from their child's memorial service to share with everyone. The funny thing was when we were getting out of the car I glanced in the back seat and saw the photo album Jason had made for me for Mother's Day. I thought to myself, "I'm supposed to bring that in." I didn't. After we learned the agenda of the evening, Jason leaned over and said, "That photo album is like the video we made for Noah's service. Should I run out and get it?" He did. Jason shared how the book was like the video we made for Noah's service. I shared about the dove release and how we gave out music CD's with Noah's picture on them. Other parents brought their memorial service programs, pictures that were on display during their service, a Cinderella princess crown, a teddy bear 'in lieu of flowers', books, a plaster hand print and footprint.
Looking back on it 10 months later, 'preparing' for a memorial service for your child is nothing you expect to do when you say, 'Honey, let's have a baby!' It's surreal and nauseously business like but necessary. I know that in time, I will finally make a program for Noah's service that was held almost a year ago. Just because I didn't do it then doesn't mean it's too late...
Well, the REASON the photo book was in the back seat of the car was because it was my 'Show and Tell' last Saturday. You see, I had lunch with an old friend, someone I've known for over a year now, that I just met face to face. We still haven't determined the degrees of separation but this wonderful girl named Kelly Vasami (http://www.kellyvasami.com/), who was from PA or DE at the time, who now resides in NY, had contacted me the week of January 12th. She was so moved by Noah's life that she wanted fly out and be our final photographer to help us capture our last moments with Noah. At first I thought, "Wow! That's kind of far to come for a shoot!" But I could hear how much she had fallen for Noah in her voice so I didn't want to take that from her. She got to the airport that morning and they had just closed the gate. She told me that she cried and beat herself up about it for some time. I'm convinced all things work together for the good of those who love God...As I sat eating some of my favorite Mexican food across from this new 'old friend', I was grateful for the few hour lay over she had 10 months later, using the same ticket from January, because we were actually able to talk and hang out. That would not have happened in January, and I likely would not have remembered it...I know that is a selfish thought because she would have been blessed in meeting Noah, I have no doubt. For some reason, it all worked out as it did. I told her about our experience with the photographer who did do the shoot and as I think about that, God had her there for a reason, too. I remember her saying she usually 'holds it together for these things', so as she bawled, she apologized to us. She didn't 'know' what came over her. Anyway, as a result of the whole experience in January, Kelly signed up with 'Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep' out East. NEW YORK, you have a wonderful GIFT, a priceless resource if any of you are ever in need of such services!
Anyway, I showed her the photo book, left it in the car, and it came through for us, the Junior High slackers who didn't do their homework assignments!
Tomorrow I'll share about two beautiful gifts we received from other parents...
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Em decorating hers and Noah's trees at 'the loft'
It was a bittersweet exit. I literally mopped myself out the back door and left the garage at 10:35pm, but not until many tears were shed, many prayers said, and an "Okay, Lord, You know I'll miss the memories of my boy there, so, please fill in my blanks..."
We're excited for the change. We're also glad that even though we could not move right into our new home that we have the opportunity to hang out in our town and do the things we've always talked of doing.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Not that I need to clarify since Noah is gone and it's a little late...the docs never declared Noah as being in a coma. I asked them on several occasions and they said he was definitely NOT in a coma. If people who see Noah's photos on this blog were wondering why I always took pictures of him while he was sleeping, I didn't. The last time his eyes were consciously open was probably October 24th, 2006. His eyes would open once in a while slightly after that, but he had no cycles of wake or sleep time.
I remember each morning at the hospital I would wake up and quickly run over to Noah's crib to see if his eyes were open. I was praying so hard that one day he would just wake up from this sickening prison. I learned so much through my midnight research sessions and continue to make discoveries that I have no doubt are related to Noah's health decline. After more blood work for the three of us, I'll have no qualms about publishing this information in Noah's book.
I have no idea why I'm writing any of this today. I guess in my grief process anger ebbs and flows. My life is an open wound of late because we move out of our home, the only one Noah ever graced with his sweet little presence, the day after tomorrow. I am excited to live in a new home and to finally be able to display pictures of Em and Noah (when you put your house on the market you have to 'depersonalize' it for resale).
His other home, the hospital, is no longer there either. That part is hard for me...I really longed to go to the hospital on Thanksgiving. I thought that if I went over to the new hospital maybe I could satisfy the longing. God had other plans. Em woke up puking. As weird as it sounds, I had a lot of peace knowing I wasn't going to get the opportunity to go wander the halls of the hospital aimlessly looking for the only thing I really was seeking. Em threw up 4 times and was over it, bouncing off the walls the rest of the day, but it gave me the chance to snuggle with the kid I do have and nurture her little soul.
In grief counseling the emphasis remained, "How would we remember our child for the holidays?" My plan to go to the hospital had fallen through, our evening meal was going to be shared with some family and many new faces at someone else's home, so I was not sure how Noah might fit into that setting. As we were sharing around the table things for which we were thankful I thanked the hostess for graciously opening her heart and home to our family two years in a row. This woman, my sister's mother-in-love, is wonderful. Her smile lights up a room, her sincerity can be felt from miles away, and her genuine love for life and people is profound. One of her friends came up to me after dinner and said she did not want to upset me but was wondering if I would tell her everything about our little boy. I was grateful for the opportunity to share my heart, the Source of my strength and hope, and the story of a little boy that changed my perspective forever. He did work his way into our Thanksgiving...
Monday, November 19, 2007
These are the words of a David Crowder song. I believe they are the sentiments of a LOT of people here on earth. I find it interesting that most, if not all people, if asked the question whether they will go to Heaven or Hell when they die, state emphatically, "Heaven". The answer would be followed with something like, "I don't believe God sends 'good' or 'nice' people to Hell" or "I don't believe God would send the people He created to Hell". If the same people were asked if they believe in God the answers would be split between a hardy 'Yes!' and a definite 'No!'. Heaven is God's home. It is His dwelling place. Why on earth would people who do not believe in Him want to spend eternity at His house? It would be like someone who hates your guts or could give a rip about you moving into your spare bedroom until they die. Awkward.
One day you hear the doorbell. You open the door, say hello and standing there is a stranger. They reply 'hello' as if you should know who they are. You figure they are there to sell you something. Then you see they have suitcases, baggage. You are perplexed as to why they are at your door. The look on their face shows their intention of walking through your front door with their bags, and never leaving. You close the door slightly and say, "I'm sorry but I think you have the wrong address." Again, awkward! It's not that you don't like meeting new people...
Jesus said, "Whoever finds his life will lose it and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."
He also said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
Another entry that sheds light on this is I Corinthians 15.
I can't wait to get to Heaven, whether I die first or I'm old and gray and have to wait it out, but in the mean time, I'm enjoying my relationship with God, believing in Him and getting to know Him quite intimately so that when I do die, it won't be like knocking on a stranger's front door...
I am not only thankful on the 4th Thursday of every November, but I am thankful daily that when I get to God's front door, I won't be toting even one carry on because of what Jesus did for me, AND, God's going to recognize me AND know my name. I am not boasting...of this I am sure.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
I miss these little feet and sweet ankles and knees I used to nibble on.
I miss this mighty little man of God. This picture was taken one year ago today. There isn't anything I don't miss about Noah. I wish the tears that were flowing right now were soaking his head, like we used to do so many nights...
I've been too busy lately. Some of the busyness has been self inflicted and much of it is the reality of having to close on our house in less than two weeks. One thing they have tried to emphasize in grief counseling is slowing down, simplifying, and taking time for self-care and grief. I'm not doing this right. I'm too busy and I feel like I haven't been a good friend to any one of my family members or friends, and quite frankly, I do not have the emotional fortitude to be that to anyone presently. It wouldn't feel so hectic if we were moving right into our new house but we have a month of homelessness to figure out. We need to organize storage of our belongings, pack suitcases for the month of December since we'll either live in a hotel or do some house sitting, mail for the month, etc. This wouldn't feel so hectic, I am sure, if every day I weren't reliving hospital life in my head and heart, missing Noah's sweet presence, missing nurses, and quite frankly, missing being a caretaker and researcher. I guess there is a reason why the grief facilitators emphasize not taking trips or moving during the 9 week session.
We covered a lot of material on Monday. A few questions posed were:
"Where is it that you find a sense of hope?" I find hope in knowing that Noah is whole and healed and in God's presence. I find hope in God. I find hope that I was not created for here, but I am here, so while I am here, my purpose is to be used for God's glory. I find hope that one day Jesus will return for the Bride of Christ. I find hope in the God of the Universe who threw every star in place, designed every living creature, and Who knows my name because He loves me.
"What makes you want to go on?" Deep in my heart, I am ashamed that Christ's short life and gruesome death were not enough of a wake up call for me. I didn't learn in 19 years, at the time, of knowing what Jesus did for me what 7 months and 2 days with Noah taught me. What makes me go on is knowing that I am not my own. I was bought with Jesus' death on the cross. As a mom, no, as Emily and Noah's mom, I will not live this life half-hearted nor for my own pursuit. If I don't love God out loud in front of Em, I'm not worthy of being her mom. I'm not worthy of being His child...
"What would your child tell you to do now?" This one was difficult for me to answer because I can be quite literal...since Noah would be 17 months old, he'd be calling me 'Mama' about now. I suppose that's what I am supposed to continue doing, being his big sister's 'Mama'.
Our assignment was to make preparations for the holidays. This was a powerful time because each parent in the room had different fears or apprehensions about the upcoming dates. Many plans have been rearranged or changed altogether in order to lessen the pain. One mom will be trudging through her second holiday season without her daughter. Her husband has left her, his family no longer comes around, she made no mention of her own family, just she and her two boys, alone all day, her not motivated to cook a meal and finding no reason to celebrate. The dad in the group that has lost 3 children in the last 3+ years encouraged her that perhaps all she stopped doing the first year may be reintroduced over time. Just because she didn't do that particular tradition the first year doesn't mean she has to stop it altogether. Sitting there, I couldn't help but think of so many other people who have lost someone they love, whether a child or spouse or parent or friend or whomever. The point of our discussion and the goal of our homework over the next week and even as time continues, is to establish memories, ways to remember those we miss dearly. I am very grateful that this is our topic for the next couple of weeks because even as I think of Noah on countless occasions throughout the day, I have not made memorials, really, and it makes the last year and a half all the more distant.
One facilitator stated that this is where we as the grievers need to state our thoughts and desires plainly so there is no guessing. We need to take responsibility to mention our child's (or your loved ones) name and say that for which we are thankful. They gave us a sheet titled, "Creating Memorials", which has many suggestions as to ways to remember and help others remember. Our experience is different, as is the next guys, but we were in the hospital last year at this time. We spent the holidays and my birthday in the hospital and so, for me, not being there this year will leave an emptiness in my heart. We will likely head over to the new hospital on Thanksgiving to try to encourage other families experiencing now what we did just one year ago.
Please, understand I am not stating this for my own benefit because my life is full and my heart runs over with love and generosity everyday from family and friends. I really do hope this has become a resource of encouragement for others who are also grieving or for those of you who are standing alongside friends and family in their loss. But as the holidays quickly approach, don't let the time pass by without acknowledging the memory of the person who is no longer here. Light a candle, make a toast, lead out in prayer, giving thanks for that person, give the widower flowers...whatever you do, don't ignore the elephant in the middle of the room or it might just sit on your face.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
"Hey, Mom, let's add a heart."
"Hey, Mom, let's draw a seashell, too."
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Yesterday we swam in the pool, took a picnic to Venice beach, hit the playground, read books at the library, painted nails and then had dinner with a dear friend who was an RA on my first staff in MN. Em was so wiped out from swimming she actually fell asleep at the restaurant...something she has never done because she's such a socialite. My little sister used to fall asleep in literally every restaurant we ever ate in. One restaurant owner kept a sun chair in the closet for every one of our visits just for my sister.
We had to skip out of grief counseling a half hour early but it seemed like a very full hour. Our topic of discussion for the next two weeks is self-care. We were given a sheet divided into three categories: Physical, Emotional, Spiritual. Under each heading were many manifestations that we may or may not be experiencing as a result of walking through grief. I was able to circle a few in each category, but in assessing each word in each list I was grateful that, at least on Monday of this week, I had moved beyond some of those feelings that were more detrimental to my health and spiritual well being.
We did an exercise where we went up to a table filled with 'treasures' or little objects, pictures or words that represented what we currently treasure and those things that remain in our lives in spite of our loss and because of our loss. Jason shared before we had to go. He had chosen: a small coin that said, "PEACE", the meaning of Noah's name; a feather that reminded him of special memories hunting with his dad and brother; a sticker that said, "Family" because he said he values his time with me and Em; and a wooden cross because Christ is the center of his life. Another man who does not share a lot in class talked about the contents of his cup. One of his stickers said, "Family", too, and he proceeded to share how the men in his family do not really engage in displays of affection, saying, "I love you", or conversation, but as a result of their son's death, much of that has changed and for that he is grateful.
It's funny (not really) how my Beth Moore Bible study last week lined up with the content of grief counseling, as well. Self-care. Even in pouring out, there is a necessity for refilling. Often as Christians we talk about being channels of Christ's love to people we meet, but a channel is a constant stream. That means it needs constant access to the Source. I have lived guilty of trying to coast, so to speak, on spiritual 'highs' of the past, not filling up and not seeking the Lord's strength each day. It's like when the Israelites hoarded their manna instead of trusting God was going to provide it each day, just as He had said.
One of the facilitators on Monday read this quote that I will end with to help bring visual perspective to what I'm talking about...
"We should seek to become reservoirs rather than canals. For a canal just allows the water to flow through it, but a reservoir waits until it is filled before overflowing, then it can communicate without loss to itself. In the church today, we have many canals but few reservoirs."
St. Bernard of Clairvaux - 12th century
Saturday, November 03, 2007
He was her favorite person
She knows how to love like no other...
These are our friends, Matt and Molly
After saying she wanted to be a 'dove' and 'Laura Ingalls Wilder', Em decided she wanted to be a 'China doll'
These will be great to look back on when she and Jackson are older
In 1995 we went to Siberia with these guys, and oh, about 150 teenagers for 2 months. Yes, we were crazy. But, Jason and I would have literally lost it if we hadn't had these guys to keep us laughing and pressing on day to day. Anyone who went on this trip with us knows that there are so many words to describe it yet is was indescribable. One day when I find all my pictures, I'll scan some for fun. Anyway, I mention them because we are blessed. Jason and I have a lot of friends. I am not bragging. This is a reality. We have met many wonderful people growing up, going to college, moving from state to state, going on mission trips, life in the hospital, in blog world. We are blessed because whether in proximity or in our hearts, our friends at whatever stage in life, even if 'inactive', will always be dear to us. Our lives are as busy as anyone else's, but it doesn't keep us from praying for and loving the friends God has sent our way.
The last year and a half has really brought to light the importance of friendship, as well as a working definition of the word for us. We have learned through the agony of losing Noah where our deep friendships lie and where other relationships that were teetering between deep and shallow now stand. As part of our grief counseling, we were assigned the task of essentially going through every person in our lives, during our loss and after, and determining their role in regards to whether they are 'Doers', 'Listeners', or 'Not really serving any role or purpose'. I realize the last category sounds cold, but if everyone were to be honest in their own lives, whether you've walked through grief or not, you could compile your own list and there would be people who fall into that column. These are people who have 'checked out' or are draining or so self-absorbed that there is no room for mutual encouragement. These are people that don't really need to be in our lives at this stage, and maybe not in the future. Basically, it's a column where it's okay to say, "No. I'm a grown up and I choose not to have you in my life." Relationships change. They come and go. The ones that remain are those that run deep. New ones that come are those that can endure the 'new' you.
For me, I can plug people into each column quite easily. I am not 'crusty' about being able to do so, either. My expectations were just that, mine, and when people who I thought were supposed to do something or say something did not, God showed me a bigger picture of the Body of Christ. He showed me that it had no walls. He also showed me that it was not okay for me to have those expectations, even though we think it is justified. Maybe I'm a bit jaded. I have always been an optimist. I try to see both sides, at least at first. I want to pray appropriately so when I do form an opinion, it is based on someone else's fruit and not just my assumptions.
Last night (a Friday, mind you), Jason and I went to a grief night for parents at the new Children's Hospital. The speaker shared about the gamut of emotions. Anger. Fear. Anxiety. Guilt. Loneliness. Depression. Non-emotion. I'll go into those on another post, but another thing he touched on was how other people expect 'bereaved parents' (or widows, widowers or any of those 'left behind') to be their old selves again. He talked about men in particular at this point because men do not show emotion like women (nor should they be expected to...FYI). He said that when a person returns to 'life', ie. job, school, social circles, and begins 'doing' some of their old things, ie. responsibilities, tasks, work, other people view that as their 'old self' and expect that the 'griever' is 'over it' and ready to resume life as they knew it. Let me just reiterate what grievers (or even non-grievers who have made radical life changes) have been trying to tell people around them for YEARS...I AM CHANGED AND THERE IS NO 'OLD ME'. THAT PERSON YOU KNEW IS GONE AND FOREVER CHANGED. THIS IS ME. I AM FIGURING OUT THE NEW ME, BUT LET IT BE CRYSTAL CLEAR, I AM NO LONGER THAT PERSON YOU LIKED OR DIDN'T LIKE, SO LET ME INTRODUCE MYSELF. YOU CAN GET TO KNOW ME AS I START LIVING ONE DAY AT A TIME WITHOUT THE PERSON IN MY LIFE THAT I LOVED. IF YOU DON'T LIKE THE NEW ME, THAT'S TOTALLY FINE WITH ME. I AM THE MOM OF A DEAD KID. I AM THE MOM OF A LIVING KID. I AM THE WIFE OF A MAN OF GOD WHO LOST THE ONLY SON HE EVER HAS KNOWN. WE ARE THE FAMILY ON THE BLOCK WITH THE CHILD WHO DIED. I DON'T CARE ABOUT WHAT IS ON THE COVER OF THE 'INQUIRER'. I'M NOT INTERESTED IN GOSSIP. I'M NOT WORRIED ABOUT OFFENDING PEOPLE IF THEY DON'T BELIEVE IN GOD.
Anyway, it was insightful. I appreciated what he shared regarding men and their grief expressions. He said that society has expected men to express their grief in the same way women do, so when they don't cry enough or talk about their feelings, everyone assumes they are cold or 'out of touch' with their emotions. We are all going to grieve the way we are wired to grieve. We don't know how we'll grieve. It's not a course you can take: Grief 101: How to Grieve. It hits at unexpected times, like on the ellipse machine at the gym or seeing someone with the same diaper bag I chose for Noah. I am grateful that God showed us early on that even though we shared the same beautiful son, Jason and I will grieve differently as our losses were varied.
We then toured the new facility and found some of Noah's doctors and nurses. It was good to connect with them and catch up a little on their new roles at the hospital. One of the docs, Noah's last resident, got on the phone and started calling people in the hospital saying, "Noah Graves' parents are here", as if everyone should just know who that is. We teased him about it and he and the other doc said it was true. That there are just some kids that remain in their memories forever. When they say, "NOAH" it is like saying 'Madonna' (except of course, DIFFERENT than Madonna). Everyone knows who they are talking about. As a parent, just as the speaker had shared earlier that night, it means a lot to know that people remember and aren't afraid to 'bring up your child'. EVERY PARENT IN THE ROOM RAISED THEIR HAND WHEN ASKED IF IT WAS A POSITIVE THING WHEN PEOPLE BRING UP THEIR DEAD CHILD.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I don't personally think that the more people who pray, that'll get the job done. If that were the case, what was the 'magic number' that would have 'convinced' God to heal Noah this side of Heaven? This isn't a game of manipulation. I do, however, believe that prayer works in numerous ways. Prayer isn't always answered the way we want. Prayer draws us closer to God because it is the Spirit of God who prays when we don't even know what to pray anymore. In light of that, the more people who pray, the better not because it will turn out as we plan but because it means we are seeking intimacy with the Only True God, and it makes the devil mad.
A girl named Georgie from Australia who has been in a coma for 195 days. http://georginabrooke.blogspot.com/
A little guy named Ethan who was born with leukemia. http://ethanpowell.com/Encrypted.cfm?id=121
Josh Buck, a pastor in GR, MI, who was paralysed January 2006. http://greenhouseministries.org/
A missionary family in Mozambique whose little guy was in the hospital, intubated, without answers as to a diagnosis. http://www.gardnersforgod.org
Paige Stibgen is a 10 year old girl who has cancer. http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/paigestibgen
I know many of you pray for these guys, too, because that is how I learned of them, but would you be willing to post more links for prayer? Last year at Halloween we were praying for Noah. This year the list is just as long:
The Lord's return
The sifting of His Bride
Softening of hearts
Children all over the world
Single parents/Married parents
Prisoners (guilty and not guilty)
Soldiers (and their families and friends)
Seriously, as I ponder how the list is endless, it kind of all boils down to praying for our very own hearts to be changed, one at a time...
Monday, October 29, 2007
I've been wondering how I can be going along, thinking about Noah and missing him in a 'normal' fashion, to missing him with such intensity that my guts physically ache and I could care less if I existed on this earth. I've felt blind sided at times with the onslaught of emotional extremes but I have come to realize I literally am on a roller coaster, it is called life, and it does not stop until life ceases to exist. There have been some roller coasters that I have ridden and then hopped off only to run to the back of the line for another whirl. Each time I rode it I knew more and more what to expect around the next bend, yet the excitement and intensity did not lessen. I was still totally freaked out. The only problem with this roller coaster called, "Emotional", is that though there may be events in my life with subtle similarities, I don't get to hop on and off whenever I want and I won't ever really know what is around the next bend or over the next hill.
The past two weeks have left me feeling like I've plummeted down an 89 degree drop at 100 miles an hour. Why? I don't know. I do feel like I'm leveling out again, but boy, is this ever exhausting! One thing I shared tonight in grief counseling is that the anticipation of the one year mark on January 12th is HUGE! There will always be anniversaries, but this one forever changed my life, along with Jason's, Em's and obviously Noah's.
We talked a bit about our roles tonight. The facilitator had us think back to one month prior to our child's death and list the roles we were living. One month prior to Noah's death I was a mom, wife, researcher, caregiver, and doctor. Today I am a wife and mom. I know during the last year I have not walked appropriately in the many other roles I purposely laid aside while Noah was sick...sister, daughter, niece, aunt, granddaughter, friend, neighbor, etc. I am not sure when or if I'll ever fulfill those roles as I should.
Our assignment for the upcoming week is an interesting one. We are to assess the support people in our lives, people who have supported us throughout this long journey. Some questions posed are, "Who is a 'listener'?" "Who is a 'doer'?" "Who could you 'do without'?" "Who have you 'lost' through this experience?" "Do you choose to reconnect with them?" "Why or why not?" "Who have you gained?"
As I pray throughout the week, I will share some of my heart here. I think this assignment will be easy for me, even though the losing and gaining have been difficult...
I missed grief counseling last week. Obviously I wasn't physically there, but I missed going. Jason and I had borrowed a couple of grief books to take along on the trip and one day I decided to read them. Three of them were grief books for children. I wanted to pre-screen them before reading them to Em. One of them is entitled something like, We Were Supposed to Have a Baby, but We Had an Angel Instead. It was good. It also sucked. It was the most simple of books, from the big brother's perspective, and I wound up a heap on the floor because of it. I haven't decided when I'll read it to Em.
As we met some new people in SD, Em would say hello and then begin sharing that she had a brother. Two women who may have known our story, I'm not certain, cut Emily off mid-sentence. I was shocked but not shocked. It made my heart hurt for Em because it is important for her to be able to share her side of the story. I think two things happened...one, the women came across as adults who don't address children, at least not engaging in conversation, and two, they weren't comfortable with how they would have to respond, so it 'came across better' as if they just didn't hear her or understand her. Believe me, they heard her.
As adults we are barely comfortable with our own feelings and emotions, but let us not stifle a child's expression of those things...they will be healthier adults, let's give them an advantage and just listen. No, we can't solve it or put a bandage on a grief 'boo boo', but we're the only ones that think it needs 'fixing'...Kids are more pure than that.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Sunday, October 21, 2007
I know that I have strong opinions about some things, but I have also learned with time and maturity (not boasting, just the facts) to bite my tongue and allow others who think they know everything to learn on their own. Just because I have an opinion doesn't mean anyone needs to hear it. Often in the settings where people around me have been so adamant about expressing their views, self-righteousness is the main driving force. "I think I am right = self-righteousness." The pride that permeates the situation is so nauseating that I usually have to leave the room. Have you ever known anyone like this? From the big things like politics and relationships to small things like where to shop and how to run your kitchen, their way is the best way, their way is the only way, anyone who doesn't do things their way is inferior and sub-par, purely ignorant, completely stupid. Oh wait, that is their opinion, they don't define me.
Here is the definition of opinion:
1 a: view, judgment, or appraisal formed in the mind about a particular matter b: approval, esteem
2 a: belief stronger than impression and less strong than positive knowledge
Notice opinion does not equal being right.
The reason I am so fiery about this and can speak out on this is that I used to be that arrogant. My freshman year of college I thought everyone wanted and needed to hear my opinions. It stemmed out of a need to be heard and to be right, but I have learned over time that it was deeply rooted in my own insecurity and need for approval and affirmation from humans. As long as I was right that made me feel better than others. I had this need to know that I was at least better than the next guy. It is this fleeting thought that turns a desire to be good at something into wanting it at the expense of anyone and everyone. It is this small seed that gradually sprouts and grows roots. It is this small seed that one day looks like the beanstalk in Jack's story, at least to everyone who meets you. Somehow you are oblivious that the gigantic beanstalk growing outside your window is obtrusive.
Having an opinion or feeling strongly about something is how we are wired. Having the maturity and wisdom to know when it is appropriate and welcomed is another story. Sometimes in not sharing one's opinion, the other person learns more than if you had shared. Having an opinion does not equate being right.
As long as we think we are right in everything and that everyone we meet is wrong, as long as we think we are better than everyone else because we do, or don't do, this, this, and this, or have this degree or pedigree, as long as we think everyone and their dog needs to hear our opinions when not sought, we aren't building bridges toward life and love.
Sometimes I physically bite my tongue. Other times I have to consciously make the choice to keep my lips zipped. Often shutting my cake hole looks like me walking out of a room because the argument just isn't worth my time on this earth. I'm not sure what it may look like for you, and no, we won't always do it right, but if you don't even realize you actually need super glue or surgery to sew your lips shut, take a look around you...if you haven't many friends, have estranged relationships or you are only surrounded by 'Yes men', you are a prime candidate. I'm guessing at times you are right, but I guarantee it is not all the time. Ask God for the wisdom to know the difference...
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Recently God's been showing me His beauty in trees. I've been thinking a lot about the growth process from seed to mature tree, the root system, the necessities for growth like sun, water, time and season change. It's the season change that has me thrown for a loop, even though I know it is necessary.
When Noah was born I felt like a summer tree in full bloom, fresh, green, full foliage, healthy. When he got sick and was in the hospital for 5 1/2 months, it was like after the first frost when a tree experiences shock from the temperature and light change. Even though the outward manifestation of fall is magnificent and glorious, the trees are experiencing messages from external forces that cause changes. Because the outward expression of the changes are so beautiful, I doubt the fall tree knows that its colorful leaves will not stay like that forever.
As I look back to life in the midst of Noah's sickness and even in his death, I felt like a fall tree. Noah's life was a beautiful expression of God's love. His life was not in vain. He was a tree planted for the display of God's righteousness. When I drive around and look at the amazing colors of fall this year, I am daily in awe of God's creativity. If I had been God at the dawn of time, I would have thought leaving trees in a constant green, summer state was just fine. Thankfully for all of mankind, I wasn't there! If I had left it summer or constant spring, the whole seed germination process would not have existed and earth would have died out a long time ago.
Anyway, currently, even though I know what happens with trees, I feel like a dead, dormant tree in the middle of winter. My branches feel bare and unlovely. I know Noah's life changed my own and that his story encouraged others for a time, but I am a winter tree that doesn't know that there is something called "spring" on the other side of this state of being. And, technically, that isn't a promise...that spring comes after winter. Many trees can't take the season change. An aspen in our front yard couldn't take it. I know that spring is the season for fruit, but in the midst of winter, does a bare dormant apple tree know that it has the potential in the upcoming year for a beautiful harvest?
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
I remember the week before Noah was born cramming to sew his bedding. My dear friend Rachel had helped me paint his room maybe a month or two prior to his arrival. His room had been Emily's nursery where I haphazardly painted gigantic red flowers mid-wall with green paint up to chair rail height. Hers was an eclectic mix of cherries, retro kid, and classic toile. It was interesting.
With Noah's room I knew I wanted it to match a little more than Em's nursery had. I moved Em into her new room (a surprise weekend project my friend Molly helped with while Em was out of town. I wanted her to have a special 'Big Sister' room.) and 'nested' the new boy nursery. The only thing I never did in Noah's room that I wanted to was put up large alphabet flash cards on the white trim two-thirds of the way up the wall. I had found some great ones with animals from around the world, but never got around to buying them...
I think the anticipation of having to tear down his room was more difficult than the actual task. I cried at church and left the service. I sat outside thinking the recipe for the day couldn't get any worse:
It wasn't as if we were going to wait until November 27, the day before closing, to pack up his room. Obviously it had to be done and whenever is that convenient? Anyway, after church we went to lunch with some friends and their adorable little boy whose birthday is January 12th. I feel like God has blessed me with knowing two little boys who are sweeter than honey, one is 6 months older than Noah and the other 6 months younger. They would have been his buddies. Anyway, after lunch we headed to the tool store to replenish a few tools Jason needed to disassemble Noah's bed. You see, coincidentally, after one of the 68 showings of our home, ALL of Jason's tools were stolen from the garage. Fun times!
One of my friends, Cindy, who became a friend while Noah was in the hospital, and who was a friend of Noah's, is due with their little boy in about 6 weeks. We 'sort of' systematically organized Noah's things, keeping one mid-size rubber bin of our favorite clothes and mementos. We made a give away pile of things that could be used by someone else in need. And, then we sorted the 6 month and up clothes and are giving them to my friend.
Prior to tearing down Noah's room, Jason and Emily and I held hands in there and prayed. We explained to Em that in our new house Noah wouldn't have his own room but that the room next to her would be a place where her grandparents could sleep when they came to visit. She understood. She enjoyed being daddy's helper using tools to take apart his crib. We also let her pick some 0-3 month clothes for her Cabbage preemie. She named him, 'Noah' and plays with him daily. She has a lot of Noah treasures, but we knew it was important to include her in the process.
We 'reported' a bit of the process at counseling. I have to say, I love every parent in that room. Usually when you get to know someone right away, it starts out trivial. The process of loving that person takes time and concerted effort. When you open your heart and are vulnerable because of a 9-week time sensitive course, there is no time for trivial. But that wasn't an option for any of us, obviously, since the criteria for attending is losing a child...
We talked about the grief process last night. There was a visual diagram with life status quo, then loss hits, then this cycle of emotional and physical 'shock, protest, disorganization, and reorganization', and then life after loss. The line or arrow indicating life after loss was no longer simply horizontal. It naturally had an incline; life pressing on, with more purpose, not distracted by meaninglessness. I'll ask the facilitator if I can scan the chart and show it here on the blog for visual types, like myself. Jason and I both talked about how for us we both hit many of the 'stages' while Noah was in the hospital. For sure the 'shock', 'protest', and 'disorganization' stages.
We won't be able to make it to counseling next week because we are headed out of town for a week, but our assignment is to journal our thoughts on grief. This can look like anything, but the emphasis is getting our thoughts and hearts onto paper, basically not allowing ourselves to 'stuff' our grief, perhaps in the form of letters to our children or to God. The blog has definitely been this for me, but I want to scribe a few treasured thoughts to put somewhere for Em, too.
Well, this is ridiculously long. If you've read to this point, you certainly didn't have to. Thank you for allowing yourself to walk this road of grief with us. Tomorrow I'll post some thoughts God has running through my mind about my personal stage of grief...