Wednesday, June 29, 2011

47 Weeks - Missing My Girl

To all who mourn... 
"he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory."
Isaiah 61:2-4

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

11 months - My Stones

 Joshua 4
5“Go over before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, 6 to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 7 tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”

9“Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been in the middle of the Jordan at the spot where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant had stood. And they are there to this day.” 

23 For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The LORD your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. 24 He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God.”

Living along the Missouri river, we are no stranger to flood waters these days.

The text above sites, in part, the story of how Joshua led the nation Israel across the Jordan River, it was harvest and the river Jordan was at flood stage. I'd ask of you to try to envision this day. For those of you living surrounded by the raising and fast flowing river waters I do, it may not be so difficult a stretch of the imagination.

Maybe your imagination will take you to a more loose interpretation of flood waters. Maybe the raging furry, the crushing power of those waters will take you back to a time in your life when it seemed there was no hope. A time when you felt God had abandoned you in the midst of the crushing waters of loss and heartbreak?

At least that's where my mind takes me...

I have often thought it must seem a bit odd from the outside looking in that I "celebrate" the milestones following the loss of Amelia.
No doubt it would seem strange to anyone that has not lost a child, to mark the months that pass, to throw a birthday party for a child that only lived on earth for a few short hours...or maybe never took a breath at all.

Maybe it does seem strange to you that a grieving mother would gather keepsakes such as a bit of hair, foot and hand print molds, keep blood stained baby clothing in Ziploc baggies, or purchase a duplicate of the outfit their child is buried in.

But as I read again this story of the crossing of the Jordan I am reminded of why these mementos are so very special. They are indeed treasured keepsakes of our precious and loved children. But they are more than that to me. Maybe I am not alone in this...

I have stones similar to the stones of the tribes of Israel.
They are memorials of my daughter. They are reminders of her, but even more so they are reminders of what the Lord has carried me (us) through. They are a testament to His mercy and His steadfast love for me in the midst of the raging flood waters.
And when I see these "stones,"
I remember so much more that the heartbreak of losing her.
I remember the gift of having her.
I remember how He carried me.
I remember the peace that filled the room on the day she was born.

I have a Moses Basket sitting in my basement.
I have often thought to myself (and aloud to Tim)
"What should I do with it?"
It is a painful reminder of our loss.
It carried her body to the funeral home.
It carried her casket to her grave.

I put her in the basket;
more to the point, my body failed her
and put her in that basket.
Thank heavens the basket means more to me that just that.

I chose that basket because it reminded me of Moses mother;
her trust that God would protect her child,
that He had a future in mind for him that was bigger than she could ever have imagined.
Through Amelia's life and death, God taught me to trust in that same way.
God gave me the strength to put her in that basket.
God gave me the strength to hand her back to him.
God let me put all my trust in him.
He did that.

We crossed our river Jordan
and find ourselves on the opposite shore looking back
knowing full well
he has not left us empty handed.
He left a pile of stones,
precious keepsakes, photos, blankets, jewelry...
so that in the future,
when my children ask me, ‘What do these stones mean?
I can tell them all about her, smile and say, He carried me.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

46 Weeks - the darkness still finds me...

It's always tough to coordinate appointment times with my work and childcare schedule. This past week as I struggled to find a day and time to get in and see my eye doctor (4 months late and on my very last set of contacts!!!)
I found myself in the middle of an Amelia moment...

As I attempted to negotiate an appointment time with the sweet receptionist, she sensed my frustration and commented "...oh yes, you have another little one now don't you!"
I didn't see it coming.
I wasn't ready with my response.
I should have been prepared,
she always goes out of her way to comment on Noah. :)
She did SEE me pregnant with Amelia after all.

Working in a small community in a fairly public job I clearly have become accustomed to assuming people "know about Amelia."
My eye doctor is closer to where I live in Omaha. It is in fact, the same eye office I have gone to since I was in the 5th grade. They all know me there, so I guess it understandable that I would forget that they would have no idea that our sweet baby is gone.

All I could muster in response was,
"No, we just have one at home."
Oh, she said, I thought there were two, her voice trailing off.
I swear could hear the self-doubt in her voice.  
Was her memory failing her? 
Wasn't I was pregnant the last time she saw me?
I was tempted to explain, but didn't.
Now I regret it.
I should have just explained.
Particularly because when she sees my hugely pregnant belly at my appointment next week the topic is bound to resurface.
She's going to feel horrible.
And then I'll feel horrible for making her feel horrible...

Later that evening, Noah and I met up with my Mom to help her shop for a dress to wear for an upcoming wedding. I was really looking forward to a little retail therapy.
But as usual, there is no hiding from the heartbreak.

I should have steered clear of the baby clothes,
but I am having a baby after all!
I tried to avoid the girl stuff...but there it was,
an entire rack of the outfit my sweet girl is buried in.
I looked away as quickly as I could but my mind still went there...
down below the dirt
to my sweet babies body, in that outfit.
I just kept moving forward,
pushed Noah's stroller through the maze of racks and out onto the path,
it was all I could do to not pass out.
Was the store closing in on me? 
Suddenly I couldn't remember the way to the stores exit.
In an instant, it was Aug 4th; the day of her funeral.
I could see my hand fighting with the top button of that rose sleeper in an effort to adjust the ruffles to lay flat against her cheek in the moments before visitation began.

The moment passed.
My Mom was just behind me, had she seen?
Did my face go white? Had I stopped breathing?
It was just a moment.
Just an outfit.
Just her body.

Sometimes I can hardly believe I am still here,
was it all a dream?
Surely it was, there's no way I could have buried my baby girl
without insisting they bury me to.

The darkness still finds me, clings to me like my shadow
BUT the light does to
and just when I think I can't take one more step,
He carries me.

John 14  (NIV)

Jesus Comforts His Disciples 
1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Jesus the Way to the Father
 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”  6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know[b] my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
 8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
 9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit
    15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[c] in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”  22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”
 23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
   25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
   28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. 30 I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, 31 but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.
   “Come now; let us leave.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

45 Weeks - yup, still sending us butterflies

Notice the "A" on the butterfly?

click on this image to enlarge

This photo was sent to me yesterday from a baby loss mommy friend of mine named Stacy.

She has had this stone for sometime...I hope she won't mind me sharing the story (in part) of this little stone and why it means so much to her
and me.
You see I am quite certain that her Rachel and my Amelia are buddies up in heaven. :)
And though her Mom and I have yet to meet, we walk the twisty path through our grief side by side.

As many baby loss mommy will tell you,
we each have little things that remind us of our babies.
I have often referred to them here as Godwinks. ;)
For us butterflies have taken on special meaning since Amelia's death, for Stacy and her Rachel, it's daisies.
I love getting little emails from Stacy - this excerpt from her recent message to me was no exception. 

"I bought this little rock before Matt & I got married.  I got it at my favorite greenhouse and we used this saying on the favors we gave out (1/2 of them were flower seed packets and 1/2 were candles and we had a different saying and verse on each.)  The flower packets said "todays seeds are tomorrows flowers" and had the Romans 8:28 verse - God works all things together for the good of those who love Him.
So, the other day, I was looking at this rock and it dawned on me that it has daisies on it... I mean, I knew it but didn't KNOW it (if you know what I mean) remember my post about how daisies ended up being a big part of my wedding without meaning it?  Well, I was looking at this rock getting all sad about Rachel and I then noticed that it also has a butterfly on it... I looked closer and no joke, the butterfly has an "A" on it.  Not sure if it's supposed to be part of the detail or if it's the artists initial, but I had never noticed it before.  I've had this sitting on a shelf in my bathroom for years and this all came to me the other day.
Then at my moms, I'm not sure if this comment came through to you the other day since I'm having so much trouble with them, but this beautiful butterfly was hanging out with us for a while.  It was big and yellow.  Isaiah was thrilled about it!  I've never seen a butterfly hang around humans like that before.  I tried to comment that night on your blog to tell you about it and let you know I was thinking of Amelia.  But the next day I went up there to swim again and the same butterfly was with us for over an hour again!
Yep, I think our girls are buddies up there :o) ♥"

Thanks Stacy! 
Thanks girls, we miss you and love you so much!

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 
Philippians 3:12-14
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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

44 Weeks - Blessings: Being In The Moment

“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.” 
James 4:13-14

Amelia has blessed my life in so many ways. I doubt I will ever truly see all the ways in which God used her time with us and our time without her to bless our family. As I approach the end of this pregnancy with Sam and creep up all to quickly on the one year anniversary of Amelia's birth and death, I thought it appropriate to begin a series of reflections on a few of the specific ways our Lord has used her brief but impactful life to change me, mold me and move me.

While I was pregnant with her I was blessed daily by a strong lesson in what it means to live in the moment. What it means to treasure the things that really matter, the moments that make a life well lived. We only had moments with Amelia and I was determined to make the most of those moments.

All to often I live my life focusing on the tasks ahead of me, the great things that lie ahead rather than the infinite blessings right in front of me. The desires of my heart become more and more worldly and I lose sight of what really matters. It is all to easy to do in the fast paced, consumption based society in which we live.

In those months with Amelia it was never more clear what it meant to be a mother to my children. My "work" was laid out before me and because I could not bear the weight of losing her I was able to give it all up to God. It took Amelia's diagnosis to really bring me to my knees and refocus my heart.

Living in the moment seems like a fairly simple thing to put into practice. It is a way of living and prioritizing that has guided me in several aspects of my life, particularly in relationships. I have even been led astray a bit by the ideology once or twice, applying it to justify impulsive and reckless behavior. My time with Amelia broadened my understanding of what it means to "be in the moment." Maybe that's putting it lightly...

God used my pregnancy with her to reveal the daily, infinite blessings of being a mother. To fill me with the deepest of joy that can come only when you pour your entire heart and soul into just one thing; into just one person.

And I realized something in loving Amelia. The way we loved her, spent time with her, focused our family on her...that's the way God want us to feel & live for Him. To center every aspect of our lives around Him. To live our lives as if there's no tomorrow;
at least not here on earth.

I think I could type for hours and feel as if I haven't expressed this sweet lesson in living & loving that is emblazoned in her name on my heart. For now, this post will have to do.

Miss you sweet girl. 
Thanking our Lord every single moment that He chose me to carry you; to call you Daughter.
Until we meet again... 

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

10 Months - more borrowed words

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children
are walking in the truth.
 3 John 1:4

This past Saturday, May 28th, marked 10 months since our sweet little Amelia Grace entered the world and all to quickly left it. 
I can hardly believe it.

On Monday I found some time in the morning to grab a seat at the computer for a few minutes and watch the video footage we have of her in the hospital. There's not much, but am I'm SO glad that Tim thought to grab the flipmino and capture a few moments of her life on "video". (do they even call it video anymore?..I am so not technically savvy!) It is always surreal watching that footage. I love her little voice and I am always struck by how happy I seem. Someone watching the video who is unaware that she will pass just minutes after the last seconds of video were shot, might not think that she is anything other than a newborn baby or that I am about to be a grieving mother rather than the glowing  new mother caught on camera... 

I'm not sure I have ever truly felt God's peace like I did that day.
She was amazing folks, just amazing.

I saw this little story on a (several) blogging mamas site(s) this week and just had to share it with you all - with a few small edits of my own of course. ;)

The Brave Little Soul
John Alessi
with edits by Amelia's Mommy

Not long ago in heaven there was a little soul who took wonder in observing the world. She especially enjoyed the love she saw there and often expressed this joy with God. One day however, the little soul was sad, for on this day she saw suffering in the world. She approached God and sadly asked, "Why do bad things happen, why is there suffering in the world?"

God paused for a moment and replied, "Little soul, do not be sad, for the suffering you see, unlocks the love in people's hearts."

The little soul was confused. "What do you mean?, she asked.

God replied, "Have you not noticed the goodness and love that is the offspring of that suffering? Look at how people come together, drop their differences, and show their love and compassion for those who suffer. All their other motivations disappear and they become motivated by love alone." The little soul began to understand and listened attentively as God continued, "The suffering soul unlocks the love in people's hearts much like the sun and rain unlock the flower within the seed. I created everyone with endless love in their hearts, but unfortunately most people keep it locked up and hardly share it with anyone. They are afraid to let their love shine free, because they are afraid of being hurt. But a suffering soul unlocks that love. I tell you this, it is the greatest miracle of all. Many souls have bravely chosen to go into the world and suffer, to unlock this love, to create this miracle, for the good of all humanity."

Just then the little soul got a wonderful idea and could not hardly contain herself. With her wings fluttering, and bounding up and down, the little soul excitedly replied, "I am brave; let me go! I would like to go into this world and suffer so that I can unlock the goodness and love in people's hearts! I want to create that miracle!"

God smiled and said, "You are a brave soul I know, and thus I will grant your request. But even though you are very brave, you will not be able to do this alone. I have known since the beginning of time that you would ask for this and so I have carefully selected many souls to care for you on your journey. Those souls will help you create your miracle; however they will also share in your suffering. Two of these souls are most special and will care for you, help you and suffer along with you, far beyond others. They have already chosen a name for you. Amelia Grace."

God and the brave little soul shared a smile, and then embraced. In parting, God said, "Do not forget little Amelia, that I will be with you always. Although you have agreed to bear the pain, you will do so through my strength. And if the time should come when you feel that you have suffered enough, just say the word, think the thought, and you will be healed.

Thus at that moment the brave little soul was born into the world, and through her struggles and God's strength she unlocked the goodness and love in people's hearts. For so many people dropped their differences and came together to show their love. Priorities became properly aligned. People gave from their hearts. Those that were always too busy, found time. Many began new spiritual journeys, some regained faith, many came back to God. Parents hugged their children tighter. Friends and family grew closer. Old friends got together and new friendships were made. distant family reunited, and every family spent more time together. Everyone prayed. Peace and love reigned. Lives were changed forever. It was good. The world was a better place. The miracle happened. She happened. God was pleased.