Finding Joy In The Present.

 “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” – John 15:11

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   There are many times I find  myself either going back to the past when Audrey was in our home, or looking ahead to the future when my arms are no longer empty, but instead filled with a bouncy baby boy. It is when I find myself “stuck” in the middle….. unable to look anywheres but right now, those are the time I feel the saddest.

   I remember one summer night, we had the three girls packed up to head camping. We had been driving for about an hour and I knew the girls were hungry and Audrey would soon need to eat. We pulled off at an exit and stopped at a restaurant to avoid a fast food meal. My great idea quickly turned into an awful one as the girls who had been cooped up were wild. Instead of sitting in a restaurant they just wanted to stretch their legs and oh boy…. did they try. As the driving motion of the car came to a halt, Audrey’s eyes immediately opened and her hunger cry continued to get louder and louder by the time we had been seated.

    The kids never did eat well (nor me for that matter), Audrey pooped through her clothes all the way up to her neck, and as the situations kept arising, my frustration only intensified. What was suppose to be a quick bite to eat… turned into an hour of complete chaos. I couldn’t wait to get out of the restaurant. I couldn’t wait for that supper to be over. I kept telling myself if I could just get through it, then I could be relaxed again.

    After getting the girls resettled into their carseats and back on the road, I vowed to myself never again. Never again would I put myself through the stress or embarrassment of being the mom with the “wild” children in the middle of the restaurant.

    But oh I did, It wasn’t too long before I was back at it again. There were some peaceful dinners out, but….. there were some not so great ones as well. Although I can admit, none as crazy as that summer evening. The thing is, that little stop…..that time I grew frustrated at myself and at my children has become one of my fondest memories of all of our time together. When I look back at that evening full of trying to half bathe a newborn in a restaurant sink, and attempting to one handedly tame my monkey of a toddler who was trying to escape from her highchair, I can’t help but see nothing but joy. I can’t help but smile. I can’t help but giggle. I cant help but thank God for that memory, that moment that wasn’t made on my timing….but on his.Oh how I wish I could have found the joy in it then.

    Why do we do that? When we are suppose to find the joy in every moment, every situation, then why is it we constantly live in the mindframe ” well once we just get through this, or do that, or the house is clean…. that then we can enjoy our kids, enjoy our life….then we can rest in him. I am so guilty of living in the everything and everyone can wait mantra. Wait until my time, wait until things are done, wait until I am ready to take time to do it. This often includes making God wait as well. Putting him on the back burner until I need to haul him out for comfort, help, or saving.

    I often forget that the past, while filled with many memories is just that, the past. I cannot spend my life living in the no more or the no longer. I also am learning that the future I am looking too for joy may not be just so. If I have learned anything this year, it is that my plan for my life is not what often occurs, and by choosing to go and live there in order to be happy…… I am again basing my happiness off of human events… off of my plans….. and not on his.

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    This year… as Christmas is only days away I have found myself again thinking if I can just make it through this first Christmas then I will be okay. The truth is, I am going to be okay. I am going to find joy in laughing with my husband as he attempts to wrangle the hidden gifts out of our attic, at the excitement of watching my children open their presents,  and in spending time with my family. In fact, I found joy this morning as my girls giggled at each other in our oversized chair. Even though there is so much joy in my past, and in my future, I also am missing it right here…. right now….. in my present. Remember to find yours in the busy days ahead.

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Being Thankful In The Unknown.

” God has a reason for allowing things to happen. We may never understand his wisdom, but we simply have to trust his will.” – Psalm 37.5

 Dear Sweet Audrey,

       As Christmas draws nearer and nearer the reality that you are not going to be here is finally starting to set in. I think by now,  people just assume that after five months of your death I should already be aware of that fact….. but a small piece of my heart will always remain in denial. A tiny piece of it will forever be desperately searching for you to just come home.

     Lately I can feel me holding your limp body that dark stormy morning. I can see your Daddy and Grammy desperately trying to breathe life back into you while I stood in disbelief. I have found myself continually going back to the day before it all ended, to find something, anything that would have gave me a clue as to the life rattling events that were about to occur.

     The day before had been perfect. In fact, it was the biggest hurricane we had all year. Daddy had went with Papa to help with a tow call and we hung out in pajamas all day. The power was out so we played games with your sisters, we snuggled,  and we smiled at each others silly faces. That whole day while the outside was ugly, and messy, and cold…our home was filled with warmth, and love. It was truly one of the most beautiful days of my life.

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(The last picture I ever took of you.)

   That evening once your daddy got home, we packed you all up and headed to Aunties for a candlelight board game night. I thought it would be a fun memory for your sisters to have…. but little did I know it would be one I would cherish the most. 

    We spent the night laughing, eating, and being together. You snuggled close to me and nursed through the whole night. I remember placing you next to me in the car seat once you fell asleep. You were so beautiful lit by candlelight. 

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(Playing games at Aunties)

   We stayed out so late…you and your sisters all fell asleep in the car on the way home. We carried you all in one by one and placed you in bed. Your Daddy and I made a great assembly line. I never imagined that would be the last time I would ever carry you into our home.

   I placed you in your playpen at the foot of our bed. You were so peaceful looking. I couldn’t leave you there though. I couldn’t leave you by yourself in the dark and cold. I scooped you back up and brought you in bed with me. You needed your mama, and I needed you. 

   You woke up just one more time to feed. There were no signs, there were no warnings…but it would be the last time you would ever close your eyes on this earth. In a brief moment….in a dark room….in my arms…..in his arms.….you died.

     The day before your death was perfect. The unknown remains just that….unknown. I have learned to be thankful for that because I was able to enjoy your final moments. They were not spent in denial of what was to come. They were not spent in tears or fear of what I was about to lose. They were spent as any other day…filled with laughs and giggles and blowing raspberries on your tummy. I am becoming more and more thankful to God everyday for each and everyone of those moments.

      Oh how I love you. You were so amazing.You have brought so much indescribable joy to my life. I can’t imagine how much joy has been brought to yours now that you are in Heaven. Indescribable and amazing are just a few words Im sure you would use. You were a little piece of Heaven on earth to me. 

     I am coming to realize that final day is an example of Gods plans for us. That if he did not leave things hidden from our view but yet laid out the whole picture before our eyes would we enjoy the moments as much? Would the sufferings and hard times be worth the blessings to follow? Would we work as hard to get the rewards? If God gave us all the clues…and all the answers to our unknowns in life, would we even have any reason to hope and to believe in him in the first place? 

    This Christmas while my heart aches for you and my mind tries to play tricks with my reality, I take comfort in the fact that someone else is in control of it all. That there is someone else to help me through. I am learning to be thankful in each and every moment. To continue to make as many memories as I can in the time that I am given. I am going to remember that you are where HE is…..That you may have left my arms but you will never leave his…and if he is always with me…then you will never be too far behind.

Merry Christmas Audrey

Love, Mommy

When You Become The Statistic….

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   As a little girl from a broken home, I often dreamed of what my life would be like when I was older. Visions of the perfect husband, three children, the smell of homemade bread in the oven, and a white picket fence often visited my thoughts.

   In fact I became even more obsessed with them as life began to throw even more at me. See, my parents separated when I was very young, and apart from that me and my sister both ended up separated in various different foster homes. Expectations for my life seemed to be based on me “messing up” and the statistics of me becoming anything were against me.

   Because of that I spent a lot of my childhood trying to earn people’s acceptance and love. In fact, I spent most of it trying to be perfect. I focused on getting good grades, staying out of trouble, going to church, and being seen with the right crowds. I wanted to defy the odds. I wanted to overcome the statistics. The problem with that was that when I did mess up I would often punish myself by isolating myself from others due to the fear of not being loveable.

  It wasn’t until the age of sixteen that I met a boy and only months later found out that I was expecting our first child. When my honeymoon baby quickly turned into one conceived from the backseat of a car I remember being terrified, I remember being ashamed, but even more I was concerned of what I would look like to others. 

   My little Abigail was born just five months after my seventeenth birthday, and Chad and I quickly learned that marriage was hard, children were work, bread was bought in a store, and fences needed upkeeping. I realized that my dreams had been unrealistic and that life was nothing like I had seen in the movies. 

   There were many times I would feel like I was being punished for something, that I deserved the bad that happened to me. I had stopped going to church, I was an unwed mother, and I had shameful eyes on me at all times to remind me if I forgot.

   Eight extremely hard years and three babies later Chad and I did marry. My wedding day truly felt like a dream come true. Years of relationship struggles, finishing college with a newborn, a brief separation, and a stillbirth had left us wounded, but we had fought through it. Together we had defied the odds. I was proud and honestly (and naively) I thought I was safe. I was married now, and for some reason I felt like that placed me in a giant bubble that would protect me from life’s harm. On July sixth two-thousand thirteen I thought had officially made God proud.

 “Proof” of my foolish thoughts quickly began to follow. We began to attend church again as a family. Very soon after my wedding I found out I was pregnant without the use of any fertility interventions I had to use for my second daughter. In December of that year we found out we were expecting a healthy baby girl at the very same ultrasound we had received bad news from my second pregnancy. Now that I was following the “rules” my life was finally going to be like I had dreamed.

   My dreams were again quickly changed when my perfectly healthy honeymoon baby died in my arms exactly a year to the day I started following the rules. It was an extra hard blow to accept when I began to think of what I could have had possibly done to deserve this hardship. I immediately felt the same feelings of disappointment, shattered dreams, and loneliness I had fought so hard to avoid all these years.  It hasn’t been until recently that I have finally realized something I wish I had of so many years ago.

   See, God didn’t start to love me more on July sixth, two-thousand thirteen. God loved me when I was a tiny cell in my mothers womb. God loved me through my parents separation. God loved me through years of being shuffled through the foster care system. He loved me as I sat sixteen and pregnant next to my unwed boyfriend in the church pew. He loved me through my wedding day. He loves me whether I live in a small house in Tusket or a huge home with a white picket fence. God loved me through the morning my sweet Audrey entered his home and every day since. 

  Even though I am aware that God may have not been proud of some of the decisions I had made….. there was never a time that he has loved me more or less. The years I spent fighting and trying to earn love and acceptance…I already had all along. I always have been enough for him based on what statistic or expectation society has thrown at me….has thrown at you. It is a freeing feeling to know that there was nothing I could have done differently, or more(or less) to “earn” for my daughter not to die.  But that she died because life nor death favors certain people.

  So to the single mama, to the teenage mama, to the mama struggling financially, to the mama who feels like a disappointment, or the mama who is struggling for air….. God loves you just how you are right now. That no matter what you are LOVED. I wish saying that would magically take away the hurt you are feeling.. but it won’t. Life is hard, and often it throws you curve balls you never expected to be faced with…… but with God you can and will overcome them. Just hang in there and cling to the fact that no matter what battle comes next you are not fighting it alone and no matter what expectation you are confronted with there is only one that truly matters…..because with him, there are no statistics…..anything is possible. 

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When It’s Okay To Not Be Okay….

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“Faith, It does not make things easy, it makes them possible.” – Luke 1:37

    The other day as I began to rummage through my attic in an attempt to collect the last of my Christmas things, I came across something that I had been fearing to find. Just eleven months prior…. while Audrey kicked around in my tummy I had made the three girls matching santa bags. I immediately remembered vividly the night I had made them and the time I had taken cutting the individual letters out of black felt. I remembered the excitement as I glued her name across the top and how I dreamed (and stressed) of what it was going to be like to buy presents for three children the next year.

    As I sat there in my cold attic starring angrily at the red and white felt bag with the name Audrey written across the top I was faced once again with a question. The question of whether I really believed in God and that she was with him in Heaven, if I really believed that she was better off with him then me, and then if I did believe in all those things like I claimed to then why was my pain just as strong as the day I had lost her? 

     That happening reminded me that was exactly why December is a month that I have been dreading..no…. fearing to come. A month that regardless of what I try to convince myself of otherwise, I can not help but feel sad. As Christmas preparations begin… no matter how much I try to hide it, the present wrapping, cookie baking, stocking hanging, and family traditions are all going to be a reminder of the absence of a sweet chubby faced little girl that we so desperately miss.

    As I sat in church yesterday morning my pastor begun to speak about how the Holidays to some people can bring on sadness due to stress, or a personal loss. Other years that may have very easily gone in to one ear and out the other….but this year…this year I felt a huge lump in my throat and it took every ounce of strength in my body to hold back the tears in my eyes. Then, as he continued on he mentioned one little word….HOPE.

    I knew in that moment that right there in that seventh row and second seat of that white church with the big green steeple is exactly where I needed to be, because somewhere along the way in these past couple of weeks I had lost just that. I had spent so much time and effort trying to convince myself and everyone around me that I was okay that I had become angry, upset, discouraged, and most importantly hopeless.

    I realized I sometimes forget that I don’t have to show everyone that I have it all together. In fact, I don’t know why I would want people to think that in the first place. I think you just reach a point where you attempt to begin to fit back into a world where you never fully fit back into. A place in your life that you cannot get back because death has left a permanent scar that reminds you that nothing will ever be as it once was.

    Tonight as I came across another hope mom missing their little one and struggling to keep it together, I read these words that someone had left her. ” It’s okay to not be okay you know.”  As I read those words over and over I sensed that God was attempting to speak to me if only I would stop to listen. That he was trying to tell me that I didn’t need to always be okay to follow him. That I didn’t need to write a blog post to convince me or anyone else for that matter that I was strong through him, or that because of my absolute faith in him I am now healed from this tragedy.

    I still have days where I am angry. I still have days where my heart is breaking over and over again and I just can’t seem to pick myself back up…or even let him do the lifting for me. I have absolute faith in God and his plans for my life…but that does not diminish the pain I am still left with to face. 

    I have had hope the whole way through my journey. I had hope that morning of July sixth as I watched my husband breathe into Audreys lifeless body on the floor of our home. I had hope the day that I kissed her cold little cheek and laid eyes on her for the very last time on this earth.  I had hope the days and weeks after her death that seemed like a time I was never going to come through, and I have had hope when I found out there was another precious life growing inside of me.

    As time has passed by I have focused so much on my hope for the future. On my hope that I will get to see her again, and the hope to get through her first birthday or Christmas……that I have lost hope in him in my present life. In my now, and in my today. The hope that through him I can have a crappy day. That I can grieve harder than I did yesterday…..but that I can have hope for a better tomorrow. The hope that I can still believe and be angry at the same time. The hope that with him sometimes it is simply okay…..to not be okay.

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