Monday, March 18, 2013

Every Gesture, Big and Small...

In church yesterday,  I heard a quote that brought tears to my eyes.

Crying in church is not really new for me, of course.  Heck, crying in Target is not new for me.

But I was surprised at how even now, how quickly and instantly, I can go from being filled with an indescribable contentment and joy to wondering why I didn't put more tissues in my purse—

The quote was from author Edgar N. Jackson and went, "Grief is the silent, knife-like terror and sadness that comes a hundred times a day, when you start to speak to someone who is no longer there."

Wow.  Yep.  One hundred times a day.


The context of this quote was being used as our pastor talked about the relationship between Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi.

How Naomi had once been known to be so sweet, so pleasant and so happy...but after suffering so much tragedy, losing her husband and both sons, how the grief had changed her...redefined her.

She was bitter.
She didn't want people to think she was happy or sweet any more because she was grief-stricken.

She changed her name.
Naomi, pleasant and sweet, wanted to be called Mara, bitter.

I looked a bit more into the Hebrew meaning of the word Mara.  Not only does it mean bitter, but it often is contextually used with in, though grief made her bitter, it also gave her a different level of strength.

Yeah.  I know that feeling.

The purpose of the sermon was to talk about how Ruth, her daughter-in-law, who lost pretty much the same in that she lost her husband and her dreams of a family, told Naomi that she would go where Naomi went and live as Naomi lived.  This was as Naomi was doing her best to push everyone away and just hermit up in her alone-ness. (Sound familiar?)

In essence, Ruth, even in spite of her own grief, loved Naomi enough to support her and to minister to her grief-stricken heart.  Ruth was not going to let her be alone.  Not going to let her hermit herself up.
Not going to let her heart ache without sharing the weight.

While listening to all of this, I got lost thinking about how differently the days after Matthew died could have been.

How blessed I was, and still am, that so many people enveloped us in that same love and support.

Every friend who called or texted or emailed or left a kind comment on the blog or facebook...every friend who brought or met me for lunch or coffee because they were bound and determined to not let me feel alone, even if that's what I wanted most.

The body of Christ in action.

I try to express my gratitude for everything I can as much as I can.

I just don't know that I can possibly express the gratitude for those who rallied and rally around us.
Every day.

For nearly 4 years.

Four years ago tomorrow, I got the most amazing and unbelievable news I think I have ever gotten.

I was pregnant.

I don't think anyone can possibly imagine how life-changing that news is when one gets it, until she actually gets it.

But for us, and for those who support and love us, I don't think we still, to this day, realize how that news still changes my life.


Like a silent knife a hundred times a day?  Yes.

But with a grateful heart.

Every gesture, big and small...priceless to us and our hearts.

Grateful. Grateful. Grateful.

Friday, March 15, 2013

What Made My Heart Stop...

I'm not really sure if I've ever shared how I knew without question that was Matthew was a boy.  My guess is, with my big mouth, I probably have.

But, in case I haven't, here's how...

I don't really dream much.  Or, if I do, I don't remember many.  VERY rarely does anything come to me in a dream, unless it's more of a nightmare.

But since I married John and we decided we'd start a family (ha we had any say in that....), I always thought I was going to have a little boy.

Honestly, that was a bit disconcerting because I desperately wanted a little girl.  I wanted to have that sweet little Daddy's girl and a best friend in my old age.  I knew girls.  I was a very girly-girl.  I craved that.

But I never dreamed about it.  Through the years of infertility, I actually DID have dreams.  Three or four, maybe five...the same dream, the same snippet.  Always remembered, even though such a small glimpse.

In this dream, I was feeding my little boy.  He was about 2ish, and he was eating a mess of spaghetti and he looked a mess!  He wore a white shirt and and he was in a high chair.  He had brown eyes and blond hair.  I never called him my baby, nor really even spoke, but I very, very distinctly remember knowing his name.

Every time, it was Matthew.

When we were adopting, we preferenced a little girl. I remember at some point, even asking John if we should change to boy because I just felt like there was always a Matthew waiting for me.  He said something to the equivalent of that I was being silly.  By that time, we were pretty entrenched in a little girl, her nursery and who she was going to be and when she'd join our family.

So, it was, as most of you know, no surprise to me when EVERYONE thought Matthew was a girl and I was proven right at the anatomy scan.  I have video of that precious day...telling John, "I KNEW IT!  I KNEW IT! I TOLD YOU!"

I had never been more sure of anything in my life that Matthew was the boy I'd dreamed about and God had finally given what I felt like He'd promised me.

Matthew is not a family name.  There is no real connection to it, and honestly, I had never even looked up the meaning of the name.  I just knew that in my dream, I'd been feeding a Matthew.  Once we looked more into it, and saw how beautifully perfect it was, and how it fit so well with a family tradition of names, it was again as Providence just kept waving His mighty hand.

When I was about 5-6 months, I remember telling John I was sort of worried sometimes because in that dream, the same dream I had, I never saw that little boy over the age of two-ish.  That scared me.  He again said I was worrying too much.


In any event....last night, after several days of barely eating anything, Luke decided he was hungry again.  I made spaghetti and loaded it with Parmesan cheese so he'd eat it and eat it, he did!  He even asked for "more sketti, pease!" and I was so glad he was eating something real and nutritious (snuck tons of veggies and protein in that sauce!).

I was somewhat checking FB while he was watching Umizoomi (before you judge, know that part of his therapy basically includes us not really paying attention to anything while eating—him or what he's doing—and allow distraction so he eats and doesn't even realize it.  One day we'll have family meals where we all talk and sing, but until he eats better, I do what I have to do to get him to eat.)

I looked up at him, and I literally stopped breathing for a minute.

I saw him.

I saw the little boy I'd dreamed about 3 or 4 times in the last 13 years.

He was right there in front of me, just like in my dream.

I mean JUST like in my dream.

Friends, my kid does NOT like his face to get dirty.  With food, that is.  He RARELY makes any sort of mess on his face with food and when he does, he immediately wants it cleaned.  Not last night, though...

I got chills.

I got hot all over.

I got choked up.

I teared up.

I of course took pictures.

I still now am a bit....dazed?

I don't know what the word is.  I don't know what to make of it.  It is very, very obvious that he is NOT Matthew.

Was this dream of mine given to me to let me know it was always going to be LUKE that I fed?  Luke that I raised?  Luke????

What in the world?

This is why it's so, so, so wrong to tell ANYONE to 'get over' their grief.  There is no getting over it.

Even the most simple, mundane of activities can make one's heart literally skip a a can of "What???  What???  What does this mean?  Why?  I don't understand!!!!" faster than one blinks.

Totally unexpected.

Totally unimaginable.

Totally unreal.

And yet, very real every day.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Why This Christian Struggles With Will....

A lot of things have been going on lately that have just made my heart hurt.


There aren't words to describe how grateful I am for Luke.  I would imagine it is pretty obvious that he is the biggest joy in my life and in John's.

But unimaginable joy still leaves room for one's heart to hurt.  For others and for myself.

I know there are many, many people who, in the face of tragedy,  find comfort and take solace in the following:

God is in control.
God's will be done.
Everything happens for a reason; one day we will know why.

I'm just not one of those many, many people.

I'm sure this surprises some.  While I doubt many even read this blog much anymore (and I really don't write as much as is swirling in my head anymore), the ones I know do usually tell me how strong my faith is and how I'm really inspirational because of my perseverance and endurance.

Oh boy.

I should really be clear.  I am, without doubt, a believer of Christ.  I am a follower.  I do not believe a single, solitary thing happens on this earth or in this universe without being filtered through His hand.  I believe in His complete omniscience and omnipotence and I believe in His sovereignty.

I just don't believe that every.single.thing on this planet happens because He wanted it to be just.that.way.

I know this makes people bristle.  I have been a good little Baptist girl for about 35 years.  Trust me, I am very fluent in Christian-ese.

I recently heard a sermon about enduring...persevering because we only see a part when God sees the whole.

I agree.

This sermon was done in such a way that I found myself getting really aggravated.  Marriage on the rocks?  Press on.  Finances difficult?  Press on.  Single and lonely?  Press on.  Death of a loved one?  Press on.


I really try very hard not to judge anyone because I know that being judged is rough on the soul.  More, we are called NOT to judge.  Not our place.

But to place the death of a loved one in the same category of 'struggling' as rocky marriages and financial difficulties?

Well, it was obvious that the gentleman speaking had never struggled like I have.

Begging God to show Himself and explain to me how He could love me and still let my sons die.
Desperately clinging to God's goodness while reconciling it with my human feelings of betrayal and disappointment.

Press on?  Easier said than done.

And then to see and hear so many of the cliches..."God let/didn't let this happen because He's got something better around the corner," or "God has a plan," just rubs salt into certain wounds.

At least, mine.

I remember not too long after Matthew died, I asked one of my dearest friends, when she told me that God was in control and had a plan, "So do you think He did this? Do you think He purposely let Matthew be conceived, grow, be healthy and perfect all to just die tragically in John's arms?  Do you think that was the plan?"

I was not being hostile when I asked her that.  I was desperately seeking her counsel.  I needed to be able to put myself in a box that gave me some security.  While I'd have some other issues to work out with God if she said, "Yes, I do." and I allowed myself to believe the same, at least there would be some security in Him being in control.

There being a reason...a purpose, if you will.  Something I was chosen for.

She got that 'deer in the headlight' look for a minute.

Because really....who tells one of their best friends, still fresh on the heels of burying her only and cherished baby, "Yes.  I think that's exactly what happened.  Before Matthew was even born, He planned for him to die."

I guess some do.  She didn't.  She said, "Well...I think God's plans for us and what happen sometimes aren't always the same."

I absolutely agree.  And I know that was hard for her to say, because she, like I and so many others I know and love, stand firm in God's sovereignty.

Most of us would define sovereignty and direct control similarly.  Somewhere lately I read something that said something like we can plan all we want, but God's will will be done.  Like, "You can do or say whatever you'd like to but the reality is, you are not in control of your actions because God will make you do or say whatever He wants you to."

This is where, in my humble opinion, God being sovereign and in control gets confused with everything happening because God made it happen that way and God controlling everything like a celestial puppeteer.

To a mother who has lost her child? Big, big, big differences.

So I just cling to scripture.  His ways are not my ways and His thoughts are not my thoughts and I'll never understand.

Do I think that Matthew dying as he did, or us losing Trey as we did was because God purposely planned it that way? No, if honest, I don't.

Do I believe it could be?  Sure.  My pastor once reminded me that if we knew if things happened because God made them happen or God allowed them to happen, we'd have the mind of God figured out, and that's just not meant to be.  So, I keep my mind open knowing that I don't know the mind of God and I never will.  There is no doubt that God allowed Matthew to die.  He allowed Trey to die.  He IS sovereign.  But to tell me, or any mother who is grieving over loss that it was part of God's plan or God's will is, to me...


And to expect her not to grieve or mourn because it's all part of God's plan and He's got it all under control?  Not Biblical.  He comforts those who mourn.  He calls them blessed.  He weeps with us.  Why?  Because there are things in this world He doesn't want for us to have to experience, and yet...we do.

The Bible is very clear.  2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

And we all know that doesn't happen, does it?  People die every day never knowing Him.  His will was for ALL to know Him, but in His sovereignty, He allows what He wants for us to not happen.

His plans for us are to prosper and not be harmed.  This world doesn't always support that.  In His sovereignty, He allows that.

I recognize these things divide entire denominations.  I sure as heck am not competent enough to hammer them out.  I just cringe when I am told, "Everything happens for a reason," or see another mother being told not to grieve because their sorrow is all part of God's plan.

And I struggle.  Often I am on my knees just begging God to make it clearer for me.

More, though, I am overcome with gratitude.  Grateful for the people He's given us these last few years to help us through.  Grateful for the attitude He's given to me in it all. While I don't know much, I do know that I am blessed beyond measure.

This child he's given joy renewed...

There is no doubt this little boy was purposed.  There is no doubt that He was given to us as a precious redemptive gift.  That in my struggling and my confusion and my weeping, He's right there with me, reminding me that I'll never figure it out on this earth and though I shouldn't waste my time trying to, He knows I am human and I will struggle.

That's when He lets Luke tell me he dreams of Mama and butterflies.

Even in the struggle, God is so good.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

On 40 Years...

I would give anything to ask my mom what she was thinking in this picture...holding me...a little over 40 years ago.  Wondering what my life would be like...what I'd become...who I'd marry...what her grandchildren would be like?  I was her first child, born 40 years ago today, and she went through an awful lot of opposition to have me.  I'm pretty sure that if I could ask her, she'd tell me I was worth it. In so many ways, I am my mother's child.  One of the big ones—the fierceness with which we love our children.

I'd love to know what my Grandma was thinking as she looked at me in this picture...I'm pretty new here, not sure but barely a few weeks.  She loved me, and I loved her.  I was her baby's baby, and I grew up pretty much knowing I was the apple of her eye.  I think in this picture, she was telling me the world was going have great things for me.

And it has.  I know a lot of people consider 40 a big milestone in life...and I guess, sort of, so do I.  Not sure why—I don't feel much older than I did in my early 30s (but OH BOY very different than in my 20s, haha!) and I look in the mirror sometimes and see a girl still.  An insecure, bookworm who wished she was as smart as Kate C. always acted like she was or as popular as Cindy F. so that boy I liked from 3rd grade to high school would like me back.  (For the record, made out soooooooooooooo much better with the boy I married than that boy!)

Funny.  Note how I say how Kate C. always acted like she was?  Honestly, I think I was smarter.  I just didn't have the courage to show it.

I wonder when I got so bold?  I'm pretty bold.  It's not my comfort zone, but it comes out of me without me even recognizing from where it came! I can be pretty feisty, too.  I realize some of that is innately inherited and I am  really glad those are traits of mine too.  Fighting for what is right is just ingrained in every fiber of my DNA, and to do so, one often needs to be feisty.

I wasn't really bold in high school.  I really think I am one of those people who bloomed a little bit later, and college was where there were lots of fish in a very big pool...all making their way.   I grew more into myself in college, but really think that a lot of who I am came from my early days in teaching.  Those were days I learned how valuable just a few perfectly chosen words can be to little ears...or to the parents of little ears.  I learned that the system that works for children rarely works the way it should for children, and I decided that at the end of each day, I wanted to be sure that the impact on each child mattered. I had to be bold and courageous if I was going to make a difference.

Because mother told me I was put on this earth to make a difference.

She had lots of big dreams for me, and she never really loved the public school system.  In fact, that's being kind.  I think I somewhat disappointed her and thrilled her at the same time when I told her I was going to go into teaching instead of the other things in which I'd majored.  She loved hearing stories about my kids, and she loved writing about her daughter the teacher, 'doing' school the way it 'should' be done.

It's amazing how perspective can change when one realizes that she may be the only person on the planet fighting for what's best for a child.

So it of course stood to reason that children of my own had to be in my future.  I learned a lot about my mom during our early infertility procedures.  She was as pro-life as they come. (Which is a good thing, or else I'd not be here.)  She surprised me, though, when I told her the details of one of our IUIs.  My doctor had told me he'd like to see a singleton pregnancy, could deal with a twin pregnancy and that we'd have to 'discuss options' with a triplet pregnancy.  Oh, how I laugh at our optimism in those days....but I digress. I told my mother that I'd told my doctor there would never be any discussion and she said, "Well, of course there would be.  You can't die."

My mother had already lost one child in her life.  She sure as heck was not in the market for losing another, and even hypothetically, above all costs, she'd protect me.  Even if it meant going against everything she'd ever believed in or taught me to believe.

That's when I realized there just is no understanding the depth of a mother's love.  It is just.that.encompassing.

The only thing I really regret about turning 40 is that it took us so long to finally be able to become pregnant and have children...and now, I'm out of time.  Luke and I are celebrating with dear friends for the week at Myrtle Beach and he is having a blast with the other boys.  They are 3.5 and 1.5 and my heart smiles and cries watching him interact with them.  He should have that every day.

Every day.  He was robbed.  I was robbed.  We were robbed.  And 40 pretty much puts the nails in the coffin.

I try not to dwell.  It doesn't serve me well.  And though John is gone, and I wish he was here with us to celebrate, this is a pretty great way to spend a birthday!  I was pregnant with Matthew for my 36th, but didn't know it.  We'd done the transfer the day before and I had no idea that he was nestling in.  I was mourning him for my 37th and for my 38th, I celebrated with the most precious little 2 month old gift.  I was pregnant with Trey last year, but also got Norovirus on my birthday, so frankly, little celebrating was done.

This year, the celebration is all in watching Luke live.  I am beyond grateful that this is how I am spending my birthday...making memories and watching him revel in the fun that we are having.  He is amazing.  I've not planned on potty training until he was closer to 3.  Would you believe that in the last two weeks, that boy has pee peed in the potty several times????  He's telling ME he needs to potty.  Seriously???????????  Could he be any easier to his Mama???  He is fun and loves to swim and watch 'TB" in my bed while he is eating a snack.  He giggles when I say, "Must be nice to live the life of Luke!" He immersed himself in so much sand I can't believe there was any left on the beach, and he let me go shopping this morning for 4 hours with nary a peep out of his stroller the whole morning. (iPod Touch.  Best money ever spent!)  Every day I am more and more in love with him and he makes every day as good as the best birthday.

I know my mom's heart would have been broken to see us suffer the losses we have suffered.  I know that she would never have dreamed 40 years ago that her sweet little baby girl would be so lost sometimes and still so abundantly blessed.  I know she wanted to be sure that I went to DisneyWorld (check), knew Jesus (check) and played the harp (not gonna happen!).

And I know she wanted me to know the joys of being a mother.

I do.

Forty years ago, the mother of three precious little boys was born.

Spending it with this miracle?

Best birthday ever.

(Minus the fact that John is gone.  Of course that would make it even better!)