Thursday, January 31, 2008

Show and Tell and other things

Here is a photo story that I don't think I have yet posted. It was made for us as a gift from a woman in Georgia that doesn't know us. She captured the pictures off the blog and set them to music. I have used it when I do speaking engagements, but wanted to share it here, with whoever is still out there in blog world. The song is now our family anthem. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do...

video


I submitted Noah's story to "Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep" yesterday. I hadn't realized that was something I could do. Anyway, nilmdts is such an amazing organization. They are the ones that sent the photographer the day we gave Noah to the Lord. On their website: www.nowilaymedowntosleep.org you can go to the image gallery and click on any photo to learn the story of the little one pictured. It's a difficult website to look at, but so beautiful at the same time. If you know anyone with an infant, pregnancy, or child that is terminal, I want to encourage you to make this information available to them. We treasure the pictures we had taken the day Noah died so much.


For any other mom out there, even if it seems uncomfortable to have a stranger in the room with you during your most intimate moments with your child, I cannot tell you enough how much of a treasure those photos will be to you later. You may think they will be painful to view, but as time passes, you won't be able to look at them enough.


Anyway, for what it's worth...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A reunion

Noah at one month

We had a reunion with the families and counselors from our grief class on Monday night. We were really happy to see everyone because it had been almost a month and a half since our class ended. Like one of the moms said on Monday night, it was a stark contrast from our first gathering where we were all bawling to the night of the 28th where we were genuinely happy to see each other and the tears weren't flowing as freely. We talked about our children as many of us had either our children's birthdays on earth or in heaven since we had last met, but we also talked of other things...a thought that was refreshing because when you lose someone you love, you wonder if you'll ever be able to talk of other things. You wonder if you should. You wonder if in doing so, are you 'forgetting' the one you lost. 'Forgetting' is not an option, but the devil tries to make you crazy thinking that you actually could. Impossible.

Anyway, after our reunion, missing Noah hit me hard. Last night I couldn't fall asleep. I held my pillow as if it were Noah, spooning him in his hospital bed as we did so many hours. I was angry. I was sad. I was pissed that my pillow was filled with hypo-allergenic bamboo fibers and not the skin and bones of my freaking adorable son that I loved spooning!

Someone said the other day something to the effect that God knew what was best so He took our child. (I don't doubt God knows what is best...) I think that may comfort others, but for people who may already have a chip on their shoulders against God, can you see how that isn't comforting at all!?^#$%* Yeah, God thought it was 'good for us' so He took Noah (or insert your kid's name here) from our lives...no. I think it's more like the whole other 90% thing...well, actually, for God, it's 100%. He sees the whole picture, past, present, and future. Noah, like all of us, was part of that picture. Did God know we would make it through life without Noah physically with us? Yes. Was He trying to be a big meanie to teach us a lesson? No. Does He know something we don't? Obviously. Does that help in the times when I don't feel like being a mom to one out of the three children He allowed to grace our lives? Actually, it does. It helps bring perspective back into my life and helps me be a mom to the wonderful girl that I love loving, who needs my loving everyday. It doesn't make me miss him less. It just brings hope. Hebrews 11:1 says, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." I am sure I hope for Heaven. I am certain it is real. I am positive I am going, and when I get there, I will see that Noah's face is as sweet as it was here on earth.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Part 3: More haircuts

Some more lovely ladies have sent in their 'Locks of Love' haircuts...
Brittany in VA sent this. Wow! That is some seriously gorgeous hair!
Still gorgeous, just shorter!
Thanks, Brittany! It looks GREAT!
Madison from MN has been growing this beautiful head of hair all year to help other kids.
CHOP! CHOP!
That is awesome!
Madison, your hair is so cute! Thanks for what you did in memory of Noah!


I am so excited in my heart to know how many kids will be wearing their wigs soon, feeling encouraged while they battle disease.


I was reading the story of Samson in the Bible to Emily tonight. I was thinking about how when his hair was cut, he lost his strength, but in all of these cases, other people are gaining strength to fight their disease and live life to the full because of a simple haircut. Cool.



Thursday, January 24, 2008

Part 2: "via satelite"

Some long locked maidens around the States joined us "via satellite" on January 12th, or circa, to donate their hair to 'Locks of Love'. Below are pictures of their beautiful gestures of kindness:

Em's friend, Annie, in SD had her own little party with Em's gramma and friends!
I can just hear that cutting sound in my head...
Annie's mommy Janelle is my friend. I hope we are all still friends after the big cut (wink)
So cute! Thanks, Annie!
Carrie from Minnesota has been growing her locks all year in Noah's memory.
Wowzers!
How cute are you! Great cut, Carrie! Thanks!

The lovely Kelly Vasami from New York drew me a stick figure of her 'before' shot, but here's the fantastic 'after'! Woo hoo! Thanks, friend!
Jennifer and her sister, Angie, and I went to college together many moons ago (Of course you wouldn't know it by looking at Jen...young thang!) This cut happened in Missouri! Thanks, Jen! You look great!
(I think you look like Star.)

Here's Emily from northern Colorado with lots of locks to share.

4 ponytails! Holy Smokes!
You are adorable! Thanks, Emily! That was very selfless!

Below is a copy of the letter I sent along with the Denver box full of ponytails to 'Locks of Love'.

Dear Locks of Love,

Thank you for the opportunity to donate hair for a good cause. Our son, Noah, had a beautiful head of hair, but he died of an unknown childhood disease. It is in his memory, on the one year anniversary of his death that my friends and I cut our hair to remember him and to encourage kids and their families wrestling with horrible diseases. We pray that these ponytails will be a blessing to you guys in your pursuit to inspire hope in sick children’s lives. Thank you for your ministry and thank you for accepting these tokens of grief.

Sincerely,
Adrienne Graves
http://www.noahsteven.blogspot.com/

For me, cutting my hair was a gesture of grief even though it was a fun day. I tend to do things by the seat of my pants, and quite frankly, the day Noah died, I wanted to shave my head like G.I. Jane and tear my clothing. I also wanted to walk in front of a city bus, but Jason wasn't keen on the idea...expressions of grief are so real and raw and often difficult to express. I'm glad I was able to express my grief in a productive way along with my friends. (Though, shaving my head would have been low-maintenance.) I like my new hair. I'm not complaining, for real, but I think my new found suffering is that I now have high-maintenance hair. I actually have to do it...like wash it, dry it, smooth it, repeat. I can no longer wake up the next day (or the next) and just go. It's scary. Freaky, actually! I didn't know hair could go in so many different directions on one head, and I've even been in a London subway!

Part 3 will be the before and afters of my friends here in Denver. If there are any more before and afters out there that anyone wants to share, please shoot me an email with them attached. Thanks! Have a great weekend!

Monday, January 21, 2008

The other 90%

"The other 90%" has been running through my head a lot lately. I have been thinking about how scientists have declared that we only use 10% of our brains.

Okay, Lord, if this is true, is the rest of it mush? You are the Creative One, strategic in all You do, so I can't imagine it's just mush. Maybe it's like our appendixes? Useful at one point for consuming raw meat...nah, I doubt that...

I remember a conversation we had with the neurology team when they really really wanted to do a brain biopsy on Noah since EVERYTHING else they thought would give them answers came up inconclusive. I said, "What if the section of brain you want to biopsy is the very part he needs for playing the piano or learning 10 languages?!" They assured me that the part they wanted did not have a known use.

Of course it has no known use because we only function on 10%, so that's the part you are using to make such a declarative statement! Hello! Hellooooo! I don't doubt that humans think it has no use. I do doubt that God, Who created us in His image, made 90% of our brains filler, however. No. As I've been thinking about it, with a radically changed perspective that longs to know God more, just what if, what if, what if that 90% is for life in Heaven? 1 Corinthians 13:12 says, "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." Or, what if it is for more intimacy with God here? I'm not saying it is. BELIEVE ME, I am not saying, "Thus sayeth the Lord." But, what I am saying is being a mom to children on earth and in Heaven, a place I can scarcely wrap my brain around regardless of how many scriptures I read, I would like to think that part is saved for God's presence. The place where I meet Him on my knees here, or maybe saved until I meet Him THERE.

Just the fact that I believe in an unseen God, that I have faith He is real and loves me and desires a relationship with me, a selfish, crusty human on earth...either it's a figment of my imagination or it's part of that 90%? But I tell you what, I could not have thought that one up on my own, that is for sure. It's a smarter thought than I could think of...The King of the Universe, God Almighty, Holy, Beautiful, Righteous, True, Magnificent, Mighty, wanting to actually have a relationship with me. Believe me, I'm not that smart. But, I am that desperate, and because I am, I am grateful that God's love and forgiveness for me is not just a figment of my imagination.

"The other 90%" mentality has helped me think outside the box of earth life. My perspective has changed in the way I seek God, in the way I view and AIM to treat others, in my prayer life, in my pursuit of parenting Emily. Semantically, "The Other 90%" could be called a life led by the Holy Spirit of God.
  • In my prayer life, Jesus' words, "Not my will but Yours be done" are literal. A lot of people pray that half-hearted because they are fearful that God's will does not line up with their own. A LOT OF TIMES HIS DOESN'T. But, in the same vein, we think since His will isn't lining up with ours, He's off His rocker. Our way is better. I assure you, losing a son SUCKS, but I can't imagine that Noah is wishing he were back here on earth when he's seen Heaven. Perspective. He has seen that God's way is better.
  • In relationships or in meeting new people, there is not one person on earth that God did not create. So, in light of that, I prayerfully seek God's will for our interaction. I don't want to over-spiritualize or under-spiritualize an encounter with another human that God made. Lord, use me to show Your love, or teach me more about Your character, or both, but please help me not to waste the opportunity...
  • In parenting, Lord, You have already messed up the way I thought my parenting life would be, so, please show me Emily's gifts so I can encourage them, train her up to love You passionately, and to not just be a nice, polite Christian girl that morphs into society. Lord, there are plenty of those. Please show us as parents how to train Emily up to love You and desire to do Your will in this life. Lord, give her a hope for Your return, not a fear, but an anticipation and desire to spread that to others...


Maybe I think outside the box too much, but it hasn't hurt me so far...

Friday, January 18, 2008

Part 1: The slide show

While I was pregnant with Noah, I endured a 2 hour haircut at a beauty school. Erin, the lovely girl who has cut my hair for 5+ years now and did my hair last Saturday, informed me I was aiding in the educational process, so that was nice of me...but I won't go back. ANYWAY, while I was getting my hair cut I sat next to a young guy (you know, young, youthful, like me...) and his cute little baby boy who slept soundly during the whole event. I eavesdropped on his conversation and heard him sharing his heart for the Lord. His beautiful wife was getting her hair cut diagonally from me but I did not know it was his wife at the time. I kept looking at her thinking she was Sissy Spacek, but decided Sissy wasn't getting a $12 cut for 2 hours like me. We spoke briefly after the cut about the Lord, I learned that Adam is the worship leader at his church and that their sweet boy, Michael was recently born. We actually did not exchange names, just talked about the Lord and how cool haircuts were because of the opportunity to share your heart with a 'captive' audience for one hour.

Fast forward to Noah's time in the hospital. I received an email from Sara, Adam's wife, who had received a link to Noah's blog to pray for a sick boy and she recognized me from our day at the beauty school. We have emailed periodically ever since and they were able to join us in celebrating Noah's birthday on June 10, 2007. Well, Sara is a fabulously gifted photographer. When she learned of the Locks of Love donation approaching, she emailed me and asked if she could document the event for us. I said 'YES!', and that, people is what this link
http://saralazio.com/locksoflove is all about. We met over a haircut...

Tears streaming. I am vaclempt. Talk amongst yourselves.

Thank you, Sara, for following the Lord in your gifting and blessing people's lives with the gift of pictures. You captured this day beautifully!


P.S. Tomorrow at our church is a mom's day of prayer. We will be praying not only for ourselves as moms but for our friends, families, neighbors, etc. If you have specific prayer for your own journey as a mom and/or wife, please let me know. I'd love to be specific with God along with you.

Meanwhile, Lord, I pray that as moms our agendas would not prevail but Yours alone in our children's lives, the very children You have entrusted to us, actually YOUR children. May we be good stewards of their lives, their gifts, their hearts. May we seek Your will for their lives and may we be led by Your Holy Spirit as we take one day at a time training them in the way they should go. Lord, please don't let us raise just nice christian kids with good manners. Please teach us how to raise men and women of You who will be obedient to Your plan in the earth. Lord, teach us how to teach them to anticipate Your glorious return while living abundantly here on earth. Basically, Lord, You be the mom...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Parts is parts

So, it seems like every time I sit down to read God's word lately, I am drawn to passages discussing the Body of Christ, the Church, its many members, not like how many people, but the roles and gifts in which we function, like actual body parts. The topic keeps coming up in different circles and certain scenarios remind me of the scriptures spelled out in regard to a smoothly operating body. You know, one body, many parts, spiritual gifts, living sacrifices.

I have witnessed many circles where people are enjoying the work or ministry in which they are involved. It comes naturally because that particular person was created by God to be an arm or a knee or an ear and they are functioning in it. Then, there are situations where I have encountered crusty, bitter, fried people who are really shoulders or elbows functioning in hand or foot mode. They wonder why everyone else isn't stepping up to the plate doing their part in the Church. They have strong opinions about how everyone should be serving and where and when and whom. Their passionate desire which initially started as a way to show God's love has now resulted in burnout and self-righteousness. And, of course, there are those who sit on their buns and think everything appears to be running smoothly so there is no need to get involved. Usually, this translates into two things; 1: laziness, or 2: a person literally has no clue how uniquely God has created them and they have never tasted the richness of touching someone else's life through their God-given gifts.

I do not pretend to have all the answers. I have been frustrated in the past when people aren't 'getting involved'. I had this idea of what using your gifts looked like and was blown when people weren't 'doing it.' I am guessing that when we are passionate about something that the guy next to us could give a rip about, that means he is passionate about something else, but that we are being led by God to do such and such.

Imagine, if everyone went overseas on missions, no one would be home to hear the gospel. What if every person served in children's church? There would be no one impacting the lives of the elderly or shut ins that suffer loneliness everyday. If every person were an evangelist, there would be a lot of people hearing about the life changing name of Christ, but they would all be babies in their faith because depth and discipleship have to follow evangelism.

The reality is that when we are all functioning in the part for which we were created, burnout levels should be low, self-righteousness should be nipped in the bud, and there would even be joy in serving. Not knowing what you are gifted in is not an excuse, either. It's quite simple...ask God to show you how He created you so that you can be used for His purposes in the earth. People choose vocations everyday based on what they are good at or what they enjoy. Ask God to reveal to you what you are good at and start doing that particular thing. You may be good at making soup. Make some at a shelter. You may love talking to people. Strike up a conversation with a stranger and let God's love do the rest. I admittedly get frustrated with the mentality that there has to be an organized, structured 'outreach' in order to share God's love. Wherever you go, even to the grocery store, we are lights for the Lord. The more we start functioning in the gifts God has given us, the more naturally we'll live in this skin. Not more comfortably. Naturally, the way God intended.

If you aren't a finger, you should not be pointing.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

More to follow...

Check this out:



http://cw2.trb.com/



Click on: Mom marks one year anniversary of son's death



Here's the transcript:



http://cw2.trb.com/news/kwgn-locks-of-love-group-donation,0,1145518.story?coll=kwgn-home-2



I'll post pictures of our before and after shots soon. I actually didn't personally take pictures because I was walking around, looking at my friends cutting their hair off to remember Noah and humbly thanking God for blessing me with such wonderful women in my life...



Jason and Em and I had a good day together with family and friends. We received many cards, emails, beautiful floral bouquets, and loving gifts. We are so thankful so many were celebrating Noah's first year in heaven along with us. One gift we received wrecked me, but in a wonderful way...Jason's sister sent 'The Velveteen Rabbit' book along with a sweet little stuffed rabbit. It was the first time I really saw that story for what it is worth. Of all days, yesterday should have been the day to start wearing waterproof mascara, but why start now?!



As far as one year goes, the reality is, it is just another measure of time. I didn't miss Noah more yesterday than I had the day prior or less than I will in 3 weeks from now. One thing, however, that was poignant were the vivid memories of what we were doing minute by minute one year ago. Everything from our photo sessions to Jason and I sleeping with Noah between us his last night, and then our last night in the hospital with him, lying still amongst his stuffed animals, free from all of his wires and tubes, was fresh in my mind.



The irony is that the reality of this whole journey is often surreal. The further I get from the day he died, I have to pinch myself and ask God if Noah was really here or if that was all some strange dream in bizarro world. I know it sounds weird. I am sure anyone who has experienced a loss feels the same way at times. Anyway, celebrating the day Noah entered eternity by cutting our hair to help other sick kids and children with cleft palates...well, I don't think Noah would have wanted it any other way.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The big haircut

I am one hairy monster. I have used up every hairstyling option imaginable, the ponytails winning out most days...and one friend, who will remain unnamed (Rachel) is looking Amish, which is cool, I like Amish, I'm just saying...

So, Saturday, January 12th at 3:00 pm, my sister, Dana, and I and eight girlfriends will be donating our hair to Locks of Love in Noah's memory. We are doing it in memory of Noah, but in my heart, there are so many children, and grown ups, that I can think of who have lost hair due to cancer or other life-changing diseases. Many of you have emailed and let me know of your hair donation coming up on the 12th, as well. Thank you from the bottom of my heart! Please, if you would like, send me an email with your before and after pictures so I can post them early next week. My dear friend's husband is shaving his head (he only has two inches of hair) to show his support! I am blown by the outpouring of love!

The salon owner will be donating the cost of our haircuts to a charity of our choice. Well, since Noah never smiled, it has been on my heart to donate to 'Operation Smile' in his name. Our dear friends recently adopted a son from China who needs a cleft palate repair. He and Noah would have been great pals. Though he does not qualify for 'Operation Smile' in this country, I also think of him in choosing this charity. Did you know it only costs $240 U.S. dollars to repair a cleft palate in another country? We would love to see how many 'smiles' Noah's haircut day can bring into this world...

This isn't just about a kid having a nice smile. Cleft palates make it very difficult to eat, drink and digest properly. It is a correctable physical abnormality and I am blown away that it can be done for such a small amount of money in American terms.

If you would like to join with us in Noah's memory to provide a child with a healthy new smile, here is the link to 'Operation Smile' http://www.operationsmile.org/ . Donations can be made in the name of Noah Steven Graves, or in the name of YOUR loved one. For me, this is about Noah, but for you, it may be about someone you love...either way, someone else benefits from a life well lived!

Even though life is short, it does not mean it has to be fatal. Because of Christ we have hope in eternal life, death is not permanent, the grave is not the end. Think about how you want your legacy to live on after you are gone...meanwhile, think and act how you want to live your life here and now because we literally have but one life to live. Live it with God at the center and it will be a life well lived!

Friday, January 04, 2008

Does He move you?

I've been thinking a lot lately how there was a period of time in my walk with God that the mention of His name didn't really do jack squat for me. It didn't evoke awe. I wasn't drawn to my knees. No tears were shed. My heart didn't beat any faster. I loved Him the only way I knew how, but I was not passionate towards Him. So, then, that became my 'normal'. I knew I loved Him but there really wasn't a reverence or pursuit on my end, above and beyond the weekly church attendance and daily prayer (over meals!) He wasn't that fascinating to me, more of a God who loved everyone, way up high in the sky, doing His thing, but not really interested, truly, if I came to say 'Hi' everyday or not. We coexisted. Yeah, that's it. We totally coexisted. And that's where the indifference sets in. It happens in our human relationships all the time, namely marriages. Who knows, perhaps you literally haven't spoken more than 30 words to your spouse in the last week because, though you love them, you are both busy, have dozens of kids, have errands and events, so coexisting has just become the norm. I assure you it is not.

I have ceased to coexist with God. It wasn't worth it. I was just taking up space and He wasn't being allowed to show His love for me the way He desired. I don't even keep Him at arms length anymore. It's a waste of my time, really. No, instead, I decided to take Him at His word. I decided to actually read, and re-read, and then read again, the words He so lovingly spoke to scribes long ago...for me. I decided to bend my knees and start praying for my family, friends, loved ones, enemies, the world around me. I decided that there was no way on earth with 10% percent brain function that I was even grasping an iota of the infinite God of the universe, the One who understands, LIKE NO OTHER, the depth of sorrow of willingly losing a son. I am daily in awe of my Lord, not just 'God', (Lord reveals Someone on the throne of your heart, which also means you have removed yourself from that position...).

Obviously with Noah my perspective on life, and the reality of God and heaven, changed dramatically. The thought of God evokes awe. The fact that God willingly sent His son to die for me brings humility, thankfulness, grief, and hope. The reality that I am loved by the Creator of the universe and that He really is interested in my daily goings on, brings me to tears when I dwell on it.

Whether I sit, stand, bow, or kneel (hands lifted to God not caring what anyone else thinks since praise & worship isn't about others...) in praise and worship at church to corporately honor God, I am humbled that I am actually in communication with the King of kings and Lord of lords. I don't know why I wear mascara every week when it all ends up on the backs of my hands or down my cheeks like a rock star. As I sit and look at the pink mountains illuminated from the sun He formed in His hand, I am dumbfounded. When I look at Em and really think about the gift she is to us, I am blown, or the way that Jason reflects His character in the way he loves us, I am so grateful to Him. This God I worship is real and alive and loves me almost beyond my comprehension, but not so much that it passes me by. I get it. A little bit, anyway, and I want to 'get it' more. I do, and you can, too, if you simply state the obvious, "Lord, I want to know You more than I do. Let me know Your love the way You want to me know it. Help me get out of my own way." We make it more complicated than it really is. We confuse depth with complication. That's exactly what the devil would want us to think. That's why so many 'coexist'.

How does God move you, or are you coexisting?