23 August 2008

We're in Michigan this weekend visiting Ryan's parents (Granddad & Groovy). Here are a few pictures from our day yesterday.

Oliver found a bunny mask in the toy box.

Ryan had an LCS Alumni Soccer game Friday night.
Oliver had a great time playing with the balls at the game.

We found a "2" on the track. We try to have one picture each birthday with Oliver and the number of his age.
His birthday isn't until October, but this will be his 2-year-old picture.

I love this picture and can't decide if I like the color or the greyscale better.

Ryan taking a goal kick late in the game.

17 August 2008

Friends, I have told you before about the Smith family here in Nashville. Angie Smith and I both had baby girls due within days of each other. We both had ultrasounds in January that delivered very grim news. Her Audrey and our Evie both went to heaven on April 7th this year. I have been blessed beyond words as I have followed her blog and walked along side her as we grieve the loss of our baby girls.

Angie's nephew, baby Luke, is the sweet baby I mentioned who passed away unexpectedly ten weeks after his birth back in May.

Angie is a beautiful writer and often puts into words what I could only hope to express. Her post this evening is remarkable. I wish you would read it, if nothing else, to perhaps have a clearer understanding of what I am feeling and feel like I am constantly coming short in expressing.

I especially love when she says, "I don't know why she is gone, but I do know Who had the final say... and because I know Who, I am willfully unconcerned with why."

Ryan and I are enjoying Oliver's bedtime very much lately. Now that he is in the toddler bed, we can have a bit more of a routine with him. We lay him down with "dewey" (pacifier) and "choo choo" (his best attempt at blanket???) and get him nice and cozy in the bed. Then, we read a few short stories from his toddler Bible from Granddad & Groovy (Ry's parents). I have a feeling that it won't take Oliver nearly as long to read through his Bible as it's taking Mommy and Daddy! After a few stories we pray for our friends and family (and occasionally Scout and Bobby) and kiss goodnight. He loves the routine and hardly ever fights it.

Last night we started getting him snug in his bed and he started saying "Bible! Bible!". It warmed his parents' hearts!

Also, now that he's in his toddler bed, he has the freedom to leave his room whenever he likes (unless we lock it to enforce bedtime). This morning I woke up to a sweet little grin at eye level by my bed. What a lovely way to wake up!

I took a bit of time to get up and out of bed and Oliver didn't want to wait so he led the way into the kitchen. When I finally made my way out of the bedroom I found him sitting at the dining room table reading Parents magazine, pointing out all the babies. Here are a few photos of the scene:

I hope you all had a restful Lord's Day!

16 August 2008

The other day we took Oliver to the store to buy a new pair of shoes. In the previous week he had managed to loose two pairs of Croc-like shoes we'd bought at consignment sales, and he needed shoes fast.

So, we took him to Target (carried him in with bare feet) in search of a cheap pair of sandals to wear for the remainder of the summer. We had no idea that Oliver would be such an opinionated shopper, but he pretty much rejected every pair of shoes we put on his feet (it probably didn't help that bedtime was quickly approaching).

After several sandals, canvas loafers and "crocs" were declined, he pointed to a pair of green frog galoshes on a top shelf. They were cute, so we let him try them on and he clumsily walked down the aisle and back like a polio patient on tall wooden shoes. We thought we'd had a good laugh and we would keep looking for a sensible pair of shoes.

Oliver felt differently.

We're really not the kind of parents who give in to buying our child something because he'll cry if he doesn't get it. Believe me, Oliver hears "no" plenty. Maybe it was a weak parenting moment, but really, they were just so cute and there weren't any other shoes that we (or he) liked any better. This would give him great joy.

Oliver walked out of Target that evening wearing bright green boots and a grin on his face.

And, they are currently his shoe of choice.

While Oliver watered the (very thirsty) grass,
Bea surveyed the yard with her favorite two fingers in place.

Last Saturday we (Rebecca, Mom & I) made the garage sale circuit in Spring Hill and near the end of the day came across a little treasure. We've been experimenting with different pool/floating accoutrements and a one-piece floating suit caught my eye.

The nice thing about garage sales is that (and we don't make a big habit of this) if you think you may like something but you're not certain, it's a pretty low-risk purchase. I wasn't spending $30, it was only $2.50.

Anyway, as in most things that are new to him, Oliver completely rejected the "floatatard" (as Rebecca fondly refers to it). **let me clarify that the "tard" in "floatatard" comes from "leotard"** And, the best way to change his mind is to let Bea wear it. Sure enough, as soon as Bea did her first dance to "The Girl from Ipanema" in the suit, Oliver was sold and had to have it. He promptly asked for his "fast" shoes to go with it and started running laps around the dining room table in his new uniform.

It's pretty much the funniest-looking thing he's ever worn, but it does do good work in the pool. Here he is in his Red, White and Spandex!

14 August 2008

There have been a handful of times in the past year that I have woken myself up to the sound of my own crying. I know, that sounds pitiful, but it's true. Crying in my sleep sounds really depressing, but I think it's just part of grieving.

Most of the time I'm crying because of something real (like Evie). Sometimes I cry because of something imagined (yesterday I woke up from my nap weeping because I dreamt that we took Oliver to a well-baby check-up and after observing him for only a few moments his doctor reported to us that Oliver had a dangerous brain tumor). Every time it's because of fear.

I'm afraid of forgetting Evie. I'm afraid that this could happen again. I'm afraid that, now that we are acquainted with grief, that death is not a stranger to us, we will never escape it. What is safe? A 6-week ultrasound? A 20-week ultrasound? Will we have another live birth? What about after that? Will Oliver wake up in the morning? Will Ryan make it home safely from his meeting? What is certain?

About 2 months after we buried our Evie, another family we know buried their 10-week-old son who died suddenly in his crib one night. Around that same time another family we know lost their 5-year-old to an accident in their driveway. I remember waking up in the middle of the night a few days after. It was storming violently outside and I ran out to the driveway in the rain to close the windows in the van. As I stood outside, and even as I continued to pace, dripping wet, inside the house there was a deafening voice in my head that was repeating, "Death is a thief. Satan is a thief. Death is a thief. Satan is a thief!" I ran upstairs to check on Oliver, half expecting to find him cold and still. He was fine. I was not.

There were many nights after that one that I wouldn't be able to fall asleep because of my anxiety. I developed a habit of getting Oliver up out of his crib and taking him into the guest bed or to the sofa to have him lay with me. Feeling him breathing helped me know he was okay.

As these months have passed I have found a new definition of "normal". I have also come to a new understanding of what is "certain". Benjamin Franklin once said, "Certainty? In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes". We have no promise of another day or even another breath. How can I accept that and not live in fear of it?

I propose an amendment to Mr. Franklin's quote. As Christians, we have the glorious benefit of yet another certainty. One in which our Evie is already safe. We have God's promises to us. We have the promise of death (a result of the Fall), but we also have the promise life eternal (a result of Christ's death and resurrection).

I cannot escape the truth that my life and the lives of those I love are fragile. But I don't want to live in fear either. When I wake up crying or when I am paralyzed with anxiety during the day, I have to remind myself that, no, nothing is certain. The big step then is to remember and be comforted that that is a GOOD thing - that though nothing is certain to me, God is in control.

In the April 29th devotional of "My Utmost for His Highest" Oswald Chambers writes:

"To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sign of sadness, it should be rather an expression of breathless expectation. We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God... Leave the whole thing to Him, it is gloriously uncertain how He will come in, but He will come."

These days are sometimes marked by fear and anxiety. But because of God's grip on my life, they are also marked with an air of peace and of breathless expectation.

He will come!

Since I posted this, I checked my email and found an encouraging (and amazingly appropriate) letter from my sweet friend Susan. Her timing always seems to be just right; sending me encouragement and scripture right when I need it. I want to share with you a part of what she shared with me from a book written by Darrow Miller:

The End of Life

Death was not part of God’s original intention for his creation. Rather, it was a consequence of Adam and Eve’s rebellion (Gen. 3:19). For most people, their inevitable death generates more fear than anything else. They will do nearly anything to delay its onset. Yet from the perspective of God’s Kingdom, death is a defeated enemy. We need not fear death. To those in the Kingdom, the almighty King says, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Rev. 1:17- 18).

The apostle Paul described this fearless approach: "For he [Jesus] must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Co. 15:25-26, author’s italics). Jesus has authority over everything, including death. He even had authority over his own death (Jn. 10:17-18). He also conquered the fear of death. Humans grapple with the fear of dying, and Christians are not immune. Death evokes an apprehension of the unknown and a separation from loved ones. Even Jesus struggled in the Garden of Gethsemane over his approaching death (Mt. 26:38-39). Yet the cross defeated Satan and the fear of death.

Jesus conquered death so we might experience eternal life in his Kingdom. The writer of Hebrews explains, “He too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death (Heb. 2:14-15, author’s italics). Because Jesus conquered the fear of death that enslaved us, we might also think he died to set us free from suffering. Instead, being set free from the fear of death, we are free to risk, to suffer, and to give our lives for the sake of his Kingdom, regardless of the personal cost. The blood of the martyrs gives testimony to this (Heb. 11:32-40). The Kingdom of God is characterized by righteousness, peace, and joy (Rom. 14:17), but also by suffering. The Apostle Peter explains that “to this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Pe. 2:21).

We have not been set free from suffering, but we have been set free from the fear of death. With the Church through the ages we proclaim, “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Co.15:54-56).

~ Darrow Miller God's Unshakable Kingdom

Dear friends, the Gospel is true!

So, many of you may have already heard from Rebecca and Caleb their most recent news regarding their growing family. If you haven't, here is a copy of the letter that the Faries' sent yesterday evening:

Dear Friends,
Ok, about an hour after I sent out our big announcement (which took us hours of prayer and preparation to send out) I discovered that we are not only preparing for babies from Ethiopia, but I am also pregnant. We have really laughed a lot at our house and wondered what in the world God is planning for us. After we got over our initial surprise we started to really think about why we want to adopt. We want to adopt not just because we want to have babies in our arms and in our home: we want to adopt so these babies will have homes and parents' arms. We want to adopt not because we want a baby, but because babies need families. Certainly our motives are mixed, and certainly we have no idea what we are getting into. But we decided that we wanted to continue with the adoption process alongside this pregnancy.
We met with our social worker and spilled our good news to her, fearing that she would think we were completely crazy, and she laughed and told us that she, too, was pregnant when she adopted her son. We couldn't believe how God was putting people around us to encourage us in our crazy mission. Our social worker agreed to talk to the adoption agency on our behalf. We prayed that God would take away our zeal for this if the answer was "no". We waited while our social worker and adoption agency met and discussed.
Our adoption agency, however, in spite of our spirited petitions and letters, believes that it would be best for our family to wait to adopt until after our biological baby is born. This process took two weeks and during those weeks we have felt so sad at the loss of these boys that we have started imagining as our own. But now we know that the boys that God has planned for our family will not be ready to be adopted until we are allowed to adopt them. CWA will let us get a referral beginning in October 2009. It is hard to Caleb and I to wait. (But my morning sickness sure helps me to be thankful that I'm only taking care of Beatrice right now).
We will not lose our place in the program or any of the money that we or you have sent to CWA. Now we have more time to raise the money and that will be a great help. We also have more time to collect all the paperwork and to prepare our home (and to sell our car to buy a VW bus).
It's a funny thing to have to watch how your enthusiasm and zeal behave as time passes. In a year, when we do adopt, our passion for adoption will have settled into a more comfortable thing. Maybe Caleb and I will be grownups next year. We will certainly keep you updated as we continue.
In the meantime, the pregnancy seems great so far. We are absolutely delighted, and I am sick as a dog.
Thank you so much for your love for our little family,
Caleb and Rebecca

06 August 2008

We enjoyed burgers at the Faires' for dinner last night, and after the kids were finished eating we let them play in the swimming pool together. They adore the water and each other.

03 August 2008

I am missing my Evie this morning. I couldn't pull myself together enough to go to church, so I'm home instead. I am disappointed to miss church today - to miss a sermon from James, to miss assembling with the body of Christ, to miss the privilege of corporate worship.

I'm so glad that God is also here.

Even if I am missing church, I can still seek my Savior. And seek Him, I will.

Ryan told me this morning that there is beauty in grieving for Evie; almost a way of honoring her earthly purpose. He reminded me that God used Evie to point us to Christ. She continues to do this. In the moments that I am aching for her most, I am always drawn to Him. The more that it hurts, the faster I run to my Savior. And He is a great Comforter.

I am sad today. I'm sad that it's August already - almost 4 months since we said goodbye to Evie. I can't believe it's been that long. She feels so far away. I'm beginning to feel the pressure to feel normal.

I don't.

I don't know if I'll ever feel normal again. Life is different because of her. We are doing so many things because she isn't here - that we wouldn't do if she were: taking vacations we wouldn't take if we had a newborn, using the spare bedroom for spare-bedroom-things, going to parties, staying up late, sleeping in. A part of us - a part of me - is missing.

And I am pointed to Christ to fill the emptiness.

A hundred times a day I think of her. I see what we're doing and wonder how it would be different if Evie were here.

And I am drawn to Christ.

I have so many terrifying memories. Memories so awful that I want to forget them - and when I can't hold them back and I picture those moments I feel shooting pain through my body. An awful ache like I've never felt before.

And as time goes by and the shock wears off, the trauma becomes more real. I wonder if it all actually happened - was it real? I want to feel stunned again. The shock is wearing off and it still hurts.

And I am pointed to Christ - cradled in his arms, carried through the dark valley, upheld with the Truth.

And the fear creeps in. The fear of the horrible things that can happen in pregnancy to me or the ones that I love.

And I am pointed to Christ, and cast my anxieties on Him.

I recently read a poem about grief. It's a bit long, but it is also clearly written by someone who knows what they're talking about.
Please Be Gentle
By Jill B. Englar
Please be gentle with me for I am grieving.
The sea I swim in is a lonely one
and the shore seems miles away.
Waves of despair numb my soul
as I struggle through each day.
My heart is heavy with sorrow.
I want to shout and scream
and repeatedly ask 'why?'
At times, my grief overwhelms me
and I weep bitterly,
so great is my loss.
Please don’t turn away
or tell me to move on with my life.
I must embrace my pain
before I can begin to heal.
Companion me through tears
and sit with me in loving silence.
Honor where I am in my journey,
not where you think I should be.
Listen patiently to my story,
I may need to tell it over and over again.
It’s how I begin to grasp the enormity of my loss.
Nurture me through the weeks and months ahead.
Forgive me when I seem distant and inconsolable.
A small flame still burns within my heart,
and shared memories may trigger
both laughter and tears.
I need your support and understanding.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve.
I must find my own path.
Please, will you walk beside me?

I know what it is to weep. I feel like I have been crying for the last eight months. There are times when I don't even notice that I'm crying until my face is soaked and I can't see to complete my task.

God sees these tears.

Psalm 56:8 says, "You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?"

Isaiah 38:5, "I have heard your prayer and seen your tears."

I know that I am not alone in my grief. I know that this is a sinful world, full of pain and sadness - we all hurt. God sees our tears. And, in our grief, He calls us to Himself. May we all, in our trials, turn to Christ. Because there, there is great peace.

01 August 2008

"May I engage in nothing in which I cannot implore thy blessing,
and in which I cannot invite thy inspection."

-Excerpt from "Valley of Vision" Morning Needs Prayer