Saturday, December 31, 2011

Blessings Abound

Tonight we will all stand watch as the final seconds of this year slip into the next.  365 fresh new days packed full of promise.  As I anticipate the clean slate of a brand new year, I do not want to discount the many blessings that have graced my life in 2011.  Blessings that make ordinary days  remarkable.  This year I got to:

Continue my education
Welcome a precious baby girl into our family
Splash our walls with some of my favorite colors
Dig my toes into the warm sand of the beach
Visit with close friends
Gather a successful garden harvest
Have a weekend away with the love of my life
Grow my faith
Conquor challenges I never thought possible
Savor special date nights with each of my children
Wipe tears and share smiles

Most of all I got to experience all 365 days being held by a God that was there in every mundane task, every impossible hurdle, every hurt, and every joy.  I was provided for, I was protected, and I was loved.  And I can't wait to see what's in store for the next ThRee siXty fiVe!!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas, unraveled.

Christmas will be different this year.

I tried to get my Christmas shopping done quickly because I felt so panicked everytime I had to go out.  Seems everywhere I went I was ambushed.  Racks of little Christmas dresses and matching shoes seemed to mock me and stockings embroidered "Baby's First Christmas" left me feeling punched in the gut. 

There is just such an emptiness, and it feels like in all the cheerful anticipation and bustling, my precious little girl has been forgotten.

People seem to put a time limit on grief, and it seems the older your child is, the more time that is allotted.  I don't understand this, because there is tremendous grief whether you lost a child that was 10, or a baby that left straight from your womb.  We don't have Christmas memories to grieve, but we grieve the Christmas memories we will never create. 

Christmas has come although we hoped to wake finding it had already passed this year.  We are thankful to be surrounded by family and are holding our littles ones tighter than ever and breathing prayers of thanks to have them here to share in the joy and the pain. 

Every time I hear "oh hear the angel voices"... my eyes fill with tears because I know my little girl's voice has joined that angelic choir this year.  I am clinging to the promise that one day I will join her and get to hear that beautiful music for myself...

Until then... I am wrestling this pain and determined that I will choose hope in whatever pit I may find myself standing.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
                                                                        -Horatio G. Spafford

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Letters to Ellie

My Sweet Ellianna Grace,

We never imagined we would not have you here for your very first Christmas.  It saddens our hearts to see your stocking hanging empty, and to know there will be no rushing in to scoop you out of your crib on Christmas morning. 

I try to imagine what is must be like in Heaven... are the angels bustling around preparing for a big celebration?  Are there Christmas carols and sounds of bells?  Is everyone still whispering about the little baby Jesus and what He did for us all those years ago?

I hope that you are held close by your new friends, and that your brother is lovingly showing you the way around.

As we gather to celebrate a Celestial Birthday, you will see a space among us... a space where you will never be far from our thoughts... a tiny purple Christmas tree adorned with sweet memories of you.  There will be tears in your absence, and there will be joy when we think of you dancing near that sea of glass.. a gift no one can top with wrapping and bow.

We will be giving thanks for the blessing of 4 1/2 months here graced with your presence, and for the ways we have grown and the things we have learned. 

Missing you dearly, loving you deeply, and waiting for the day I will hold you again.

All My Love,
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Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Bit of Cheer

We wanted to share something special with you that has been a blessing to us this month...

A few weeks ago we found two large boxes on our doorstep.  We dragged them inside, eager to see who they were from.  Inside was a letter addressed to us from Amanda the Panda.  It said this was a Holiday Cheer box, sent to us because a guardian angel had contacted them on our behalf.  Amanda the Panda is an organization that reaches out to families who have lost a loved one.  Inside the boxes were twenty-five wrapped gifts, one for each day until Christmas, to bring a smile on days that undoubtedly will be some of the most difficult. 

The first gift was for all of us.  An Amaryllis bulb.  A beautiful red flower with a single lonely stalk that with a little loving care will bloom year after year.  We tenderly tucked the bulb into its pot of soil and are anticipating the beauty of Ellianna's Amaryllis when it blooms in a few weeks. 

Every morning after our advent devotion, the kids dash to see whose turn it is to open the gift for that day.  Smiles and cheers erupt, and for a moment there is a sparkle on faces that have been worn by frequent tears. 

People shrug and say children are resilient, they will be fine.  I disagree.  Children are wounded just as much as adults.  We spend many nights holding tiny hands, rocking small bodies wracked with tears and heartache as they try to mend the pain of their sister being torn from their lives.  It is a long and very painful road, which makes moments of joy and laughter mean all the more to us.  We are deeply grateful to all the people that had a part in bringing us some much needed cheer and something to look forward to on some of the hardest of days.

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Rolling With the Punches

"Be still, there is a healer
His love is deeper than the sea
His mercy, it is unfailing
His arms are a fortress for the weak."

~Chris Tomlin

I love this song.  Words that remind us of One who is greater than our troubles, a refuge we can run to.  I have to admit though, some doubt has made me challenge these words the last few weeks.

In the midst of keeping up with busy schedules, work, school, and travels and holidays on the horizon, we were thrown for a loop.  I started having some health problems.  Exams and test results came back concerning, and after seeing a specialist I was told I could be having a blood clotting problem, or it could be cancer. 

What?!?  Even as much as I have been learning about having faith, I was shouting at Heaven.  Surely, I thought, God would not do this to us right now.  We are still picking up the pieces from losing our daughter.  My husband and kids need me to be there for them right now.  He wouldn't let us get kicked when we're down, right?!  He promises not to give us more than we can handle.  I'm not sure I believed that right then. 

As the day neared for a procedure to take biopsies, I was wrestling.  I could see the fear in Mark's eyes, and all I could do was avoid talking about it, trying to ignore what we might need to face.  I was washed with guilt... surely my friend who lost her daughter didn't think she would also have to say goodbye to her husband and raise her remaining children in the thick of so much grief... and here I am complaining.  God never said we would go through something hard and then get a free pass from any more heartache.  In fact, He said in this world we WILL have trouble... but the promise in that is He has overcome the world.  That is a powerful promise, but still difficult for me to cling to when I felt so much fear.

As I felt myself begin to doze under the anesthesia, my only prayer was "God, please."

The news is outstanding.... NO cancer, NO clotting.  It is so much easier for me to praise right now than it was for me to trust.  But God promises to use even a LITTLE faith, so I guess He's not done with me yet:) 

We are breathing a huge sigh of relief and trying to teach ourselves that no matter what comes our way, we are more than conquerors.  We will continue to forge a path through the wreckage, one step at a time.

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