Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hmmm....

I have a lot of thoughts today. Ok, I have a lot of thoughts every day, but more so today, if that is even possible.

Thoughts and questions. Challenging questions.

I have ALWAYS been a question-asker. My elementary school teachers used to go crazy having me in class with all my questions. I was often told not to raise my hand again, and to let someone else have a turn. When I was little my mom knew the answer to every question I asked and I was amazed by that. I would ask her how she knew everything? She just laughed at me.

I can't help it. I like to know how things work and why. I like to understand processes and outcomes. I like to know what comes before and what comes after and what happened in the middle. I like to have all the information available.

And when I don't "get" something, it really bothers me. I have become quite proficient at finding the answers to most all my questions.

Except Why?

My questions used to be so much easier than the ones I ask now. My mom can't answer my questions anymore. And now that I am an official grown-up (I gave myself that title when I said goodbye to my baby girls as I felt that I aged fifty years in a minute losing them) I realize that my mother was not a genius, just an adult, and adults know more than kids.

But they don't know everything.

No one knows why? And try as I may, I can't find the answer on my own.

Not all questions have answers. (They didn't tell me that when I was a kid either, another "lesson" I learned losing my girls.)

But I think it is still ok to ask them.

I think I have made peace with the unaswerable why? Because I know Who.

And that is better than an answer.

Besides, I have moved on to other questions these days.

With a new baby on the way I cannot get this one question out of my head: How do I know everything will be ok?

I don't. (Did I just say that out loud?)

I don't! Sometimes I just want to scream those words at the well-meaning but ignorant people who make empty promises to me that THIS TIME everything will work out...they just know it.

They don't know anything.

I don't know anything.

I certainly HOPE and PRAY I get to bring this new baby home. I am absolutely in love with my little one already and am filled with expectations of raising another child...

I WANT THIS BABY!

But I can't be certain of anything...except HIM.

The same Jesus that walked with me then, walks with me now. The Jesus I know loves my children even more than me will keep his promise...He will make a way where I cannot...He will protect what I cannot....He will save what I cannot not....and NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS I can trust Him.

He is, was, and always will be TRUSTWORTHY.

So on a day like today, when I have a lot of questions, I quiet my heart not with the knowledge of answers, but with a real faith refined by fire...

And simply trust.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!
Love The Crawford Family;
Kirk, Rachel, Dustin,
Aubrey, Ellie, and baby #4!
(My necklace has Aubrey and Ellie's initials on it!)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Worthwhile

Today my son got a stomach flu. Poor little guy. He had been complaining that his stomach hurt for the entire day. I thought he was just hungry. And my husband and I totally did that "stop complaining and finish your sandwich" thing, making him eat because we thought his complaining was just a ploy to get out of eating his lunch. We put him down for his nap and BLAMO! Throw up everywhere!

What is really funny is it only took five minutes or so of throw up odor and I was hanging my head over the toilet too. I held it together long enough to get my son in the bath (he even had vomit in his hair) and clean up the bathroom (my husband tackled the couch and carpet), but once I started gagging it was over. My husband had to laugh. I'll admit, it was a little funny.

These are the challenges of pregnancy unfortunately. I honestly don't get at all how I can be ravenously hungry all day, but nauseous at the same time. Why would my body ask for food only to barf it up as soon as I'm done eating? Argh!!!!

I just really don't like to feel sick. Not that anyone does, but I am probably a worse than average sick person. I like to have my energy to do and accomplish throughout the day, not just mope around unsure if I am going to actually throw up or just feel like it. It is frustrating. I want to do something to fix it, not just endure it.

I want control.

Don't we all?

I really should be thankful. This pukey inconvenience is the evidence of a miracle. Growing a baby is hard work. And it no doubt has its challenges. It is tough to be sick for months, and I know women who get way sicker than me, but I think we all have one thing in common...when we finally hold that baby it is all worth it. The nausea, the vomiting, the constipation, the gas, the heart burn, the midnight leg cramps that wake you up out of a dead sleep, the stretch marks, even labor...ALL WORTH IT!

I am going to remind myself of that the next time my head is over the toilet and try to relinquish my desire for control.

After everything, I am still learning to trust. It is so much harder than I ever imagined.

I also have another confession (as if the aforementioned was not enough personal information). I used to be one of those women who truly believed I, my efforts and will, made healthy babies. When my son was born I was convinced that I caused everything to go so well, that I knew the formula for a healthy pregnancy, birth, and baby. Of course I gave God credit, and thanked Him sincerely. But I also gave myself credit. You can imagine the shock, and eventually guilt, I felt when my girls were born too soon. I had failed them, I just knew it. It was all my fault.

It took me months to accept that it was not my fault. I did not cause the deaths of my daughters anymore than I caused the life of my son. I did not posses the control I thought I did. These things are in God's hands.

I know that is really hard for some of you to understand. I can't wrap my head around it either. But I know that it is true. God is always good, always loving, and always wise. What He allows is always for our good and His glory. That does not mean it isn't painful, but we can trust Him.

We can.

He saved my girls. Not the way I wanted Him to, but in a way I NEVER could have. Yes, it hurt me. It broke my heart completely. But I was not left with just questions and tears...I was left with a promise. THE PROMISE.

He is in control.

And He has made a way.

Isn't that what Christmas is all about?

A long time ago was a young girl, pregnant with the promised Messiah. An angle visited her and told her a baby named Jesus was growing in her womb, God's son and Savior to the world. And instead of getting upset, instead of asking why she wasn't consulted first, instead of demanding control, she simply obeyed. She trusted. God's way was her way.

And it was not an easy way. But she never stopped trusting. Because she knew He would be OUR WAY.

2000 years later I am so thankful for her obedience. Do you think she knew how far reaching it would be? Do you think that she could comprehend that centuries after that angel's visit, her first born son would be this grieving mother's only hope? She probably didn't. How could she?

But God did.

So on Christmas, God birthed a promise. The only promise never broken.

And with hindsight we can see that everything Mary endured was absolutely WORTHWHILE.

Trusting God is always worthwhile.

How far-reaching will our obedience be if we so choose it? Those of us who were not consulted either before our path was made plain...will we trust?

Trusting God does not mean we won't have pain. It won't be easy.

But it will be worthwhile.

John 16:19-23 20 I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. NIV

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Change of Plans

So, in April I wanted to do this run called the Ragnar Relay. I can't even explain to you how awesome it was going to be. A team of twelve runs 177 miles down the California coast in 24 hours. Each team member runs three different legs of the race for a total of 15 miles a piece. I have never done anything like it before. It sounded so adventurous and bold. I had my heart set on it. It was a perfect perseverance project...

But plans have changed.

I have a different perseverance project now.

One that was just sort of handed to me. An unexpected one that cannot be measured in miles nor does it have a definitive finish line. It is a completely different kind of race.

I am one of those people who always knows what the next step is going to be. I have owned (and used) a day planner since I was in junior high. I still have the day planner I used when I was pregnant with Aubrey and Ellie. On October 7th, 2008, are written the words Babies Due. I kept it and put it in their keepsake box because it represents their existence and presence in my life at the time. That planner holds the six months of hopes, dreams and plans I had with them. Sadly on July 11, 2008 are written the words Aubrey and Ellie's Funeral 11am. I certainly didn't plan that.

That was the day it finally sunk it that not all made plans happen. Having my heart set on something is not enough. Writing it in my day planner does not make it so.

Yet even today, after all I have been through, when plans change, I am still surprised. And it takes me a while to adjust. Even when it is good news.

So, in April, I won't be running the Ragnar Relay. Not because I don't want to, but my pregnant belly might be in the way!

Yes you heard right. I am pregnant. Due August 6th, 2010. How is that for a change of plans?

Pregnancy is my next perseverance project. It will be the hardest yet. Makes a half marathon seem easy.

Pregnancy after loss is entirely different. As you can imagine, I am thrilled...and nervous...and excited...and scared. And I think I have every right to be all those things. But mostly I'm soaking in every second of it (morning sickness and all) because, well, I just can't help it.

It is just who I am.

I love my children and am thankful for them whether I have them for a minute or a lifetime. The very idea of them inspires hope that even the scariest of outcomes cannot squelch. I am not an idealist, life has taught me about its harsh realities. I know better than most what could happen. I cannot forget what I have endured.

But I also know what else could happen...in August I could be holding a healthy, beautiful newborn in my arms...or maybe two? I just don't know the surprises that may be in store.

Being pregnant again makes me miss my girls more than ever though. I have been caught off guard by the strength of the emotions it has stirred up. I am still so sad. I am learning, yet again, how to live after loss. It never gets easier. There always seems to be something that triggers more pain.

But this time, along side the sorrow, is immeasurable joy. A new baby is on the way! Hope is literally growing inside me. It's amazing.

I will keep you posted as I learn more about the baby in my belly. So far I just feel icky and tired. But that is normal for me. My son seems certain that its a girl. I explained to him that God decides and he confidently told me that he is going to tell God to make it a girl. My husband is working hard to convince my son that he wants a baby brother. But I think we all agree that any baby we get to keep is fine with us.

Please keep my baby in your prayers.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday, December 14, 2009

I Need a Favor...

I need a favor...

As you know, I live in San Diego. And it does not snow in San Diego, ever! It does rain, sometimes anyway.

I would like to have my girls' names written in the snow. It is hard to write in the rain.

Is there anyone out there who could do that for me and take a picture of it and send it to me?

Aubrey and Ellie.

Just those two names, side by side.

If I had their names in the snow, I would have their names written in each season; in the sand in summer, on leaves in the fall, on gardenias in the spring, and hopefully in the snow in winter.

I would be deeply grateful.

So amazingly deeply grateful.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Perseverance Project

I changed my blog.

Running the Race is now The Perseverance Project.

Check out my new post!

I will reveal the next "challenge" soon.

I will give you a hint. It is 177 miles long. That is one hundred and seventy seven miles.

You in?

I dare you!

Make your life a perseverance project.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Another Thoughtful Gift

Thank You Holly (mommy to Carleigh) for making this!
Thank you for honoring my girls and comforting my heart.
It's just beautiful!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sweet Encouragement/God's Provision

This is the conversation my son and I had over lunch today.

"Mom, do you remember when you ran your running race?"

With a mouth full of food I nodded Yes. "Was it fun to watch mom?" I asked.

"Yeah. Some people were faster than you and some were slower than you."

"Yes, that's true." I said smiling.

"And you won!"

" Well, no, I didn't win honey."

"Yes you did. I saw you." He insisted.

"You saw me cross the finish line, Sweetie," I insisted back trying to seize an opportunity to teach him that winning wasn't the point.

"No mom, you were running for a long time and then you won."

"The important thing is to always try our best right?"

"Mom, to me you won."

"Thank you Buddy. That makes me feel good. " My heart melted inside.

He just smiled at me and finished his lunch.

There are moments in my life when the light of God's provision chases away even the darkest reminders of what has been taken from me. My son, without question, is a daily reminder of God's perfect provision in my life through all levels of hardships. Since the day I learned I was pregnant with him, he has been God's instrument of encouragement in my life.

When my husband was in Iraq for 8 months during my pregnancy, it was my growing belly that got me through the loneliness of that time.

Holding Dustin for the first time was the purest form of joy I have ever known. And that joy has only increased. Even in the difficult times, the joy remained.

There was no way I could have known that Dustin would be God's conduit of comfort during the saddest time of my life. But God did. He knew what I would need before I even needed it-grace in the form of a little blond-haired blue-eyed boy.

After Aubrey and Ellie's deaths, my love for Dustin was often the only motivation I had to heal. So much of my hard work to mend my broken heart has been for him. Trust me, I've fallen off the wagon, but I got back on because I never stopped loving my son. Holding him every day kept me going.

I think God gives us these tangible reminders because he knows we need them. Sometimes the spiritual things feel so abstract. Yet God understands. He knows our limits. And He lovingly provides us with exactly what we need.

Sometimes I don't even know what I need, but I recognize it when it arrives.

To me you won...

Those words were perfect. A gentle and much needed reminder from the Holy Spirit that I am not failing.

I am healing.

God has provided all along.

Not that God's provision takes away my pain. I still miss my girls. Nothing will fill that void until Heaven. But it does encourage me.

Before this void ever formed in my heart He made a way to fill it by providing His own son. Jesus went before me so that I can follow.

In this race I will never be first across the finish line. But I don't need to be. God will get me there in His time, not mine. In the meantime I will be confident that I have everything I need to persevere and ultimately this race is won.

I think that is really what my son was telling me.

Friday, November 27, 2009

My List

My List

Let me tell you about it.

It is a list of all the things I am thankful for.

I actually started this list three and a half years ago when my son was just a baby.

My son, for the first year of life at least, NEVER slept. Seriously. It was a rough time. I was beside myself with exhaustion and frustration. Adjusting to motherhood is tough enough and throw in being married to a Marine Corps Pilot on a deployment cycle and it basically brought me to the brink.

Those were hard months. I would sit in the rocking chair in my son's nursery at two in the morning in tears as I rocked, patted or nursed him to sleep for the fourth, fifth, and sometimes eighth time.

Yes, eight times.

Trust me when I say that MY SON JUST WOULDN'T SLEEP.

One night as I sat alone with my son in my arms, exhausted and desperate, instead of just crying, I cried out to the Lord.

I need help Lord. I love my baby but I'm SO TIRED. I need relief. Help my son sleep, He needs it and I need it. What am I doing wrong? I never thought it would be this hard. And I'm so exhausted I don't even know what to do or how to do it. What should I do Lord? What should I do?

No, my son didn't instantly sleep through the night at that point. It was months and months before the sleeping issues were worked out. That was not the miracle I got that day.

In the dark quiet a thought came to my mind (put there by the Lord without question) to make a list of all the things I am thankful for and read it when I was feeling low to shift my focus. God, in his wisdom, wanted to change my heart, not my circumstances. I was dwelling on the difficult things so much that I was forgetting about all the blessings my life was full of.

So I did. I made a list the next day and read it often, even in the middle of the night, and have been doing it ever since.

My first list looked something like this:
  1. The living written word of God, the Bible.
  2. My beautiful and healthy little boy
  3. My husband and his provision for our family though the privilege and honor of serving our country.
  4. My husband's safe return home from Iraq.
  5. Our health
  6. Living near the ocean
  7. The invention of the digital video recorder.
  8. Fresh produce from the farmer's market
  9. Green jasmine tea (basically sanity in a cup) and
  10. Having a two car household

It wasn't an exhaustive list. There is so much to be thankful for when you really sit down and think about it. From the most lighthearted things to the most important, God's blessings are truly too many to count. But at the time, these ten things got me through that season of my life...not the actual things...but how focusing on these things (and the One who provided them) redirected my heart.

In the years since, my list has changed and grown and shrunk and grown again.

Last Thanksgiving was the first without my girls. And I can't lie, it was painful to be thankful that day. I felt that all the things I had to be thankful for all added together did not out weigh the pain of the one thing I was NOT thankful for.

My girls were not with me.

It has been a long journey for me learning how to maintain a spirit of gratitude in the midst of true pain. The sleepless nights of the first year of my son's life pale in comparison to the grief I have endured since the deaths of my daughters.

As it turns out, a ten point list would not do the trick this time. Nor would a thousand point list.

This year my list has but one point.

Not that I am only thankful for one thing, but all that I am thankful for falls under this single point.

I AM NOT ALONE.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Enjoy your holiday.

Deuteronomy 31:8 The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Half Marathon Pictures

Let me just say in advance I am sorry that I don't have more pictures. I know I know...what was I thinking right? These are all from the end of the race. I admit, I am HORRIBLE at remembering to take pictures so thank goodness Tim (Melissa's hubby) remembered his camera. I was also hoping that the official race photographers would have some of me running in the race since last year they took several, but when I checked the data base this year they have not been postede yet. So, when those are available I will add them. For now, this is all I have.

Just crossed the finish line!
Sportin' my medal with my husband Kirk.

Me and Melissa. This was her first half marathon and she
did amazingly. Thank you Missy for sticking it out with me.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Good Question

***UPDATE***
I feel compelled to amend this post a bit. I have receive a number of touching comments and emails that have nudged me to share just a bit more of my heart on this matter.

For those of you who are wondering, it has not been easy for me to say YES to God in this regard. Not at all. As a matter of fact, I have to say yes daily, sometimes hourly, as my grief undermines my trust over and over. It is a daily battle I fight, a choice I continually have to make, to let what I KNOW override what I FEEL as I walk this long, slow journey of healing and restoration.

And I still have moments I honestly can't say it. All I can do I ask God to carry me there again, to the place where I once said yes, to cast yet another stone of remembrance for the grace I have in my Savior who still holds me despite my hurt and anger. He sits so patiently with me while I wrestle my unbelief serving me living water whenever I wearily request it.

And it is these moments of intimacy, these glimpses of my Heavenly Father's heart, when I accept that HE IS ENOUGH. I don't even have to say it, HE JUST KNOWS, as I rest awhile in the same loving arms that hold my girls, that hold all of us, if we just let Him.

For those of you who are not there yet. Don't lose heart. Just this morning I wasn't there again. But I'm back now and so you shall be if you let God finish the work He has begun in your heart and in your life.

It is never a mistake to trust God. Easier said than done I know, but it is the truth. It is NEVER a mistake to trust God. Be strong fellow sojourners. Have faith. You'll get there.

Original Post Follows

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I know I promised pictures from the half marathon, but I don't have them yet. As soon as I do I PROMISE I will post them.

In the meantime I wanted to share something with you.

Those of you who follow my blog regularly probably saw that last week I added a blog button on the top left corner that says "Praying For Lydia." If you click on it to meet Lydia and read her story you'll be blessed I promise. Maybe you will even join me in praying?

Jen (Lydia's wonderful mommy and a friend of mine) is a fantastic writer and photographer. She truly writes from the heart and I have learned so much from her about how to trust God through pain and uncertainty. You would think that I would have something to teach her since my tragedy came first. That my experience would put me ahead of her so to speak. But it is not so. Her post Before Lydia touched me more than any other so far.

I love how God never stops weaving our good and His glory into the tapestry of our lives. What God is speaking to Jen is really what he is speaking to all of us, reminding us of who He is and what He wants to be in our lives. But He can't force himself into our hearts. We must invite him in and allow him to be everything to us. He has to ask the hard questions and wait for our answer.

If I say NO forever, am I enough for you?

I have spent the last year and a half declining to answer. I wanted to use my silence to buy time, waiting to see what God did before I made my decision. Truthfully I was afraid what saying yes would mean for me. Would making God enough mean losing what I loved so dearly? Even now it hurts to think back on all the "no's" God said to me while I prayed for a miracle for my girls, while I prayed for their very lives.

God, please stop my labor.

No.

God, please spare my babies from all the complications of premature birth.

No.

God, please let Ellie live.

No.

God, please let Aubrey live.

No.

And not just no for now or no for a while but no FOREVER.

If I say NO forever, am I enough for you?

I heard this question repeatedly in my own mind the days Aubrey and Ellie were alive. Every time I looked at my sweet girls' faces this question echoed in my soul.

But I could not answer.

As I sat and stared at their tiny casket the day of their funeral I remember hearing it again but differently this time.

Am I enough for you?

God had said no to me. If was no longer in the question.

I still could not answer.

Pain makes everything confusing. Those days were so hard for me and I would be lying if I said God felt like enough.

NOTHING felt like enough.

But God only felt insufficient because of who I am, not because of who He is. Who God is does not depend on how I feel about Him. He remains enough, even in my darkest moments. Even when the answer is no forever. His love is perfect. His ways are always good. It is God's nature, the very essence of who He is, to care and provide for us all that we need if we allow him to. And He is willing and able to do it IN EVERY WAY.

You just have to answer the question Yes.

When nothing feels like enough...

HE IS!

Are you ready to answer yet?

I am.

Finally.

Better now than never.

I'm a little scared.

But completely sincere.

YES Lord, you are enough for me.

I have made you and I will carry you;I will sustain you and I will rescue you. Isa 46:4

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Drum Roll Please.....

I have completed the half marathon!

And let me say, it was an honor. It could not have been a more beautiful day. I wore my t-shirt proudly and ran my heart out.

My official time is 2:11:10.

Better than last year most certainly and faster than my goal time of 2:15:00.

I will post pictures soon as well as the names of all the babies I ran for. I am just too tuckered out right now.

Thank you EVERYONE for your prayers and support. I heard all your comments in my head throughout the race and was honored to wear your child's name on my shirt.

I know Aubrey and Ellie would be proud of me.

Heck, I am proud of me.

I think I ran well today.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Pre-Race Jitters

The Half Marathon is tomorrow and I definitely have the pre-race jitters.

I love them and hate them at the same time.

I love them because they remind me of league final basketball games, packing to leave for college, and the night before my wedding. Those are the jitters that mean something wonderful is about to happen. Something exciting or amazing.

I hate them because they also remind me of sitting in the dentist chair, watching my husband leave on deployment to Iraq (twice), and being told by a doctor that he has something very important to tell us. Those are the jitters that mean something terrible is about to happen. Something scary or sad.

Yet good jitters, bad jitters, or no jitters...

Life keeps happening.

Games won (and lost), college finished, wedding vows said, cavities found (and fixed), deployments over (for now), and races started and...

some never finished. Not in this life anyway.

Tomorrow I will run and I hope that I run well. But even after 13.1 miles my race will not be over.

Its just beginning.

I guess that is why I have the jitters. It is going to be a really long race.

But these are the good jitters. Something wonderful is going to happen. Something exciting and amazing. This might just turn out to be the best race ever.

And the half marathon?

I'll let you know how that goes too.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Aubrey's Name

I don't know if I have mentioned this before, but I have always known that if I ever had a daughter I would name her Aubrey. When I was very young I fell in love with that name. When I met my husband one of the first things I did was ask him what he thought of the name. It was one of my secret husband requirements. I just had to have that name.

I first heard it in a song by a band called Bread. Bread was a very popular band in the 70s and since my dad loved 70s music I grew up listening to Bread a lot. They remain one of my favorite bands today, mostly because their music brings back endless memories of my happy childhood. But also because they have a song called Aubrey, the very inspiration behind the name of my first born daughter.

I wanted to post the lyrics here so that everyone could see what inspired Aubrey's name. As I read through them though they made me very sad. The song is strangely descriptive and hit a little too close to home.

Honestly, it made me cry.

Let me know if you read the similarities too.

Aubrey by Bread

And Aubrey was her name,
A not so very ordinary girl or name.

But who's to blame?
For a love that wouldn't bloom
For the hearts that never played in tune.
Like a lovely melody that everyone can sing,
Take away the words that rhyme it doesn't mean a thing.

And Aubrey was her name.
We tripped the light and danced together to the moon,
But there was June.

No it never came around.
If it did it never made a sound,
Maybe I was absent or was listening to fast,
Catching all the words,
but then the meaning going past,

But God I miss the girl,
And I'd go a thousand times around the world just to be
Closer to her than to me.

And Aubrey was her name,
I never knew her, but I loved her just the same,
I loved her name.

Wish that I had found the way
And the reasons that would make her stay.

I have learned to lead a life apart from all the rest.
If I can't have the one I want,
I'll do without the best.

But how I miss the girl
And I'd go a million times around the world just to say
She had been mine for a day.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Another Song

No, not another Jars of Clay song. This is something new.

Below are the lyrics of a song I heard on Christian radio this week.

These are the very words of my heart. I could never articulate them on my own, but I absolutely recognized them when I heard them.

His Hands by JJ Heller

I have unanswered prayers
I have trouble I wish wasn't there
And I have asked a thousand ways
That You would take my pain away
That You would take my pain away

I am trying to understand
How to walk this weary land
Make straight the paths that crooked lie
Oh Lord, before these feet of mine
Oh Lord, before these feet of mine

When my world is shaking
Heaven stands
When my heart is breaking
I never leave Your hands

When You walked upon the Earth
You healed the broken, lost, and hurt
I know You hate to see me cry
One day You will set all things right
Yeah, one day You will set all things right

When my world is shaking
Heaven stands
When my heart is breaking
I never leave Your hands
Your hands

Your hands that shape the world
Are holding me, they hold me still
Your hands that shape the world
Are holding me, they hold me still

When my world is shaking
Heaven stands
When my heart is breaking
I never leave You when...

When my world is shaking
Heaven stands
When my heart is breaking
I never leave...I never leave Your hands

"The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you..."
Deuteronomy 31:8

Thursday, November 5, 2009

NEW POST ON RUNNING THE RACE

The Half Marathon is only 10 days away!
***T-SHIRT UPDATE***
If you want to order one of the t-shirts I designed for the half marathon you can buy one directly from the t-shirt printing company by clicking on the link below and clicking CHECKOUT and following the prompts.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

T-Shirt UPDATE

Ok. So I decided to make life much less complicated and I am ordering a t-shirt with a one shirt minimum. This way, if you want one I can email you the ordering information and you can order it right off the t-shirt design website. I don't have to pre-order this way and worry about recouping my money and for those who want shirts you can get one fuss free in your size sent right to your house. What do you think about that!?!

I look forward to running for you babies. You only have one more day to submit names. I will place my order tomorrow morning and I really don't want to leave anyone out.

Thank you!

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.(Psalm 139:14)

When my son was born it was easy to not only see that he was fearfully and wonderfully made, but I was also. Through conception to birth, I carried my son without a hitch. Everything went so well I was convinced that I was meant to have babies. My body was good at it. It came so naturally. God had certainly made me that way right, wonderfully made to have babies.

Fast forward two years. My second pregnancy was a double blessing as we discovered we were expecting identical twin girls. I was thrilled! And being labeled "high risk" as twins always are did not scare me. To be honest I never gave it a second thought. I was good at having babies remember? I never worried or became paranoid. I trusted my body. I did my part and remained responsible and informed. I followed my doctor's advice, took my vitamins, got rest (as much as I could with a two-year-old) and patiently waited to meet my girls. What could go wrong?

Little did I know the magnitude of such a question. When I woke up the morning of June 24th, 2008 I knew something was terribly wrong. As I drove myself to the hospital I begged God to protect my girls and keep them in my body. It was not their time. When the doctor told me that all attempts to stop my labor had failed I felt resentment toward my own body. Why was it not cooperating? It was failing my girls.

In the days that followed I could not look at my girls without feeling that my body betrayed me and my girls were the victims of its betrayal. I will be honest, I did not feel very wonderfully made. I felt all wrong.

My girls died almost 16 months ago. In those 16 months I have learned as much about what I know as what I don't know. And today when I read Psalm 139:14 I cried because it is yet another thing I can add it to the list of all the things I don't know.

It is something I do not know full well at all.

But I want to.

I believe God's word is true. True always for everyone in all circumstances. Feeling that I am not fearfully and wonderfully made does not make it so. And only an all loving and compassionate God would desire to remind me through His Word that I am in fact these things at a time in my life when I feel like none of these things.

I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Despite it all, I am. Not only when everything is going right, but even in my broken and defective state, I remain a work of the Creator. God's workmanship.

His works are wonderful...even when my eyes are too blurred with tears to see the wonder of what His hands have done.

And I praise Him for that.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;your works are wonderful, I know that full well.(Psalm 139:14)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Half Marathon T-Shirt!!!!!

I am running the Silver Strand Half Marathon in three weeks. I am running to honor my girls and would also love to run in honor of other babies gone from us too soon. I need to order the t-shirts in two days. If you want your child's name on my jersey please let me know ASAP. The name that have already been submitted are:

Audrey Caroline
Jenna Belle
Emma and Chase
Bridgitte and Ashlyn
Amelia Faith
Christian
Sophia and Ellie
Arianna Kim

Please, if there are more send me a comment with your child's name. I will be sure to include them.

Thank you!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

My Valley

Some things just cut to the core.

That is me lately. Cut clean through.

When I look at myself in the mirror I see someone I hardly recognize. I am so wounded. I can still see the pain in me. I wear it in my countenance. I wonder if I am the only one that can see it or if others can tell I hurt?

I think maybe I am just having a hard week. I do better for a while and then the hard days come back. I know I am having a rough day when I feel desperate. Desperate for a change. Desperate for an end. Desperate for the answers to my questions.

Desperate for my babies.

When will I be out of this valley?

On my run the other day some song lyrics spoke to me. I don't need to explain them. They speak for themselves.

The Valley Song by Jars of Clay

You have led me to the sadness
I have carried this pain
On a back bruised, nearly broken
I'm crying out to you

I will sing of Your mercy
That leads me through valleys of sorrow
To rivers of joy

When death like a Gypsy
Comes to steal what I love
I will still look to the heavens
I will still seek your face

But I fear you aren't listening
Because there are no words
Just the stillness and the hunger
For a faith that assures

I will sing of Your mercy
That leads me through valleys of sorrow
To rivers of joy

I will sing of Your mercy
That leads me through valleys of sorrow
To rivers of joy

Alleluia, alleluia
Alleluia, alleluia

While we wait for rescue
With our eyes tightly shut
Face to the ground using our hands
To cover the fatal cut

And though the pain is an ocean
Tossing us around, around, around
You have calmed greater waters
Higher mountains have come down

I will sing of Your mercy
That leads me through valleys of sorrow
To rivers of joy

Yeah

Alleluia, alleluia
Alleluia, alleluia
Alleluia, alleluia alleluia, alleluia
Alleluia, alleluia alleluia, alleluia

I will sing of Your mercy
That leads me through valleys of sorrow
To rivers of joy x4

Sing of Your mercy
Mercy
Your mercy

I don't know when I will be out of this valley. And I still don't fully grasp how healing comes. It seems fleeting at best. I still feel desperate, but this time for a faith that assures, so that someday I can truly sing from my heart of His mercy that leads me through valleys of sorrow to rivers of joy.

Yeah.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fearing Hope

When Aubrey and Ellie died I put a shield over my heart. I kept loving the things I already loved more fiercely and possessively than ever. But I warded off any kind of new love or attachment of any kind. Fear and hurt consumed my life. All my energy was spent worrying if the other things I loved so much would be taken from me too. I bargained with God often.

I'll be a better Christian, I promise, just let me keep my son.
Please, I'll do anything, just don't let anymore of my children die.

Once my husband and I were talking about having another baby and I told him that I was scared to even try. I even said that if I lost another baby I would kill myself. My confession scared him. It scared me. I started seeing a grief counselor after that.

The truth is I would never kill myself. I was just scared...scared of what having my hopes dashed again would feel like. I wanted the pain to stop and never return. And the fear of not knowing if more pain was waiting for me in the future made me not want to move forward with my life.

I couldn't bare the thought of losing anything else.

I still have days when I am gripped with fear and I lose all motivation to hope and dream. Which is really sad because that is who I am. I am a dreamer and a hoper. I lost a huge part of myself when my girls died not just because I had to say goodbye to my own flesh and blood, but because in my pain I had allowed a seed of fear to be planted in my heart.

I feared hope.

Without hope who am I?

I realize that I will never be the same, but there are some changes in myself I am not willing to allow. As I heal I get stronger and more able to fight to regain what was lost. I want hope back in my life. I want hope back in my heart.

I am about to go on a six mile run. And yes I am actually looking forward to it. Like usual I will put in my ipod and let Jars of Clay lyrics fill my head and pray that the Holy Spirit speaks to me. I want the pressed down and covered up dreams at the bottom of my heart to resurface. I want to remember all the things fear caused me to forget. I want to hope today.

I want to hope always and forever.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 NIV (emphasis added)

And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Rom 5:2-5 NIV (emphasis added)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Our New Puppy

This is our new little puppy Chevelle. She is the sweetest thing on earth and I just love her. We have been talking about getting a dog for over a year. Believe it or not, it is a big step after losing our girls. I haven't felt ready. But a few weeks ago the opportunity presented itself and in my heart I knew it was time. We adopted her from the Camp Pendleton Animal Shelter and fell in love with her immediately. Dustin just adores her. She is 8 weeks old now and a wonderful addition to our family. It is nice to have something little to hold again.











Sunday, October 11, 2009

Visiting

I visited my girls at the cemetery.

We buried them near my childhood home because being military we don't always know where we will be. My parents will never move so it only made sense to lay them to rest somewhere I would always be able to return to.

My babies are buried where I grew up. There is sad irony in that.

I took them each a bouquet of roses and alstroemerias (different colors of course) and sat with them awhile.

It was a beautiful day. Warm sun, cool breeze. Just lovely. I knelt in the grass and brushed off their headstone. I wanted it to look nice of course. My sister was with me. We sat and talked about Aubrey and Ellie, life, God, faith and the future. Me on one side, her on the other, and a little tiny headstone in the middle. We felt sad. It has been hard on all of us losing Aubrey and Ellie.

It still feels strange going there. It stirs up the memories of the saddest time of my life. I can't imagine ever feeling comfortable at the graveside of my babies.

But I am glad I went.

I wait anxiously to see them again. Until then I have my spot in the grass...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Too Real

Some people may think that there is no such thing as too real. Something is either real or it isn't. But I disagree.

Losing my girls is too real.

This morning I opened Aubrey and Ellie's memory book because I haven't in a while and wanted some time with them. The pictures remind me that they were really here. But now they are not. I still have to remind myself that this all really happened..

It is, in fact, real.

Too real.

That day in the doctor's office when I saw not one, but TWO, babies on the screen was real. Carrying them in my belly for 24 weeks and 4 days was real. Loving them was real. Naming them, planning for them, setting up their nursery for them, buying a double stroller and two infant car seats for them, dreaming about them...all real.

Sitting in a chair staring at the tiniest casket you ever saw with both my girls in it was too real.

My girls really died. That is the too real part.

I don't know why it is still so hard for me to accept that they are gone. I mean, I live it every day and have for over a year now. But for some reason today I am having an extra hard time accepting what is real.

It is simply too real.

And it hurts.

I just miss my girls.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Due Date Anniversary

One year ago today was my girls' due date.

I have been thinking all day about giving birth. I speak from personal experience when I say that giving birth is hard work. It was very important to me to have a natural, medication-free birth, and with my son I did. 8 hours! Not bad for a first birth so I hear. But in the moment it was tough. Hardest thing I have ever endured...until I lost my girls of course.

Yet the most fulfilling.

When I saw my son's smooshed little face and tiny wet body set on my chest it felt as though my life began. He was the most beautiful thing I EVER saw, cone head and all! I never felt more joy in all my life. Every moment of pain was worth it. Every single one. I had a beautiful, healthy little boy. What more could a mother ask for? It was the best moment of my life.

Perfectly beautiful. Wholly fulfilling. It changed me forever.

I have a story to share.

My sister has two little girls. The cutest little girls ever. She had her first daughter just four months after I had my son. Like me, she wanted a natural medication free birth (I know, gluttons for punishment in my family aren't we). And she did! 13 hours and lots of tears later her little girl (with a pretty big head) finally emerged into the world. She got the whole thing on tape. When I watched the video I was completely speechless. Having just given birth myself a few months prior the experience was still fresh in my mind. I felt her pain and winced with every push. She was such a trooper though. She stuck it out.

There was this amazing moment though that lives imprinted on my memory. After hours of labor my sister was completely wiped out. You could see her eyes were glassy and she could barely even talk. She was completely focused on getting that baby out. Finally her daughter came into the world, perfectly fat with a head full of dark hair. We waited in anticipation to hear her baby cry. As the doctor dealt with the baby my sister just laid there. I never saw anyone more exhausted. But as soon as that baby let out her first scream I watched my sister do the most beautiful thing...

She held her arms out for her baby.

She didn't speak, she didn't lift her head, she didn't sit up, she just held out her arms. And the doctor handed her little girl right to her.

When Aubrey and Ellie were born I felt completely cheated out of holding my arms out to them. I had imagined in my mind a million times the moment when my babies would be handed to me all tiny and perfect.

It never came.

They were born while I was out cold. And they were handed to nurses instead of their mommy. For the weeks they lived I had to suppress my instinctual urge to hold them. I could only look through the incubator glass occasionally reaching in to gently touch just a hand.

I finally got to hold my girls when we decided to remove them from life support. I remember watching the doctor take out the tubes and peel off the tape.

I held my arms out...

And she handed Ellie right to me. We whisked her away to our private room and held her all we could. Forty-five minutes later I handed her back.

Six days later I held my arms out again...

He handed Aubrey right to me. I stared into her eyes until she closed them. Two hours later I handed her back as well.

I never imagined that holding my arms out for my babies would be to say goodbye instead of to say hello. Reaching for my babies is supposed to be the first time I get to hold them, not the last.

One year ago today was supposed to be the day that I held out my arms for my babies.

It wasn't.

One year later I still hurt. But I am thankful for EVERY SINGLE memory I have with my girls, especially the one and only time I held them in my arms. I still remember how they smelled and how soft their skin was. I wanted to hold them forever.

Today I am holding my arms out to them in my heart and wait patiently for the day when I will hold them again.

I miss you sweet girls. I miss you.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Light of the World, Are You Still Here?

Jars of Clay is one of my favorite bands. I have been listening to them since I was in High School and have always ALWAYS loved their music. Their lyrics make me feel something and know something at the same. They stir my soul...and I am not being cheesy when I say that. Half of my blog posts are inspired by their lyrics.

On Saturday I was running and listening to, you guessed it, Jars of Clay. Running time is thinking time for me and what better to inspire deep thoughts. One of my favorite songs is Weighed Down. The first line asks a question.

"Light of the World, are you still here?"

When my girls died that was my question.

My very real in need of an answer but too afraid to say it out loud question.

When my girls died I spent the days and months after their deaths reconciling everything I felt with what I knew…or thought I knew…about God. I had spent my life with Him, yet suddenly He felt no where to be found. The faith of my head had forcefully collided with the faith of my heart…and the two were at odds. I wrestled deeply with a single question...

Are you still here?

It didn't feel like it to me.

In the months that past I asked this question in many different ways. All the whys and how-comes and I don't understands were really just different forms of the same question. My broken heart bled doubt. Every emotion I had (and there were many) was fueled by a single common denominator.

Fear.

Light of the World, are you still here?

EVERYTHING I believed and held as Truth hung in the balance. EVERYTHING I staked my life on rested on this single question.

Are you?

I have to admit though that the first time these words left my heart they were more of an accusation than a question. I vividly remember feeling so let down that I could not even lift my eyes toward Heaven when I inquired of God's God-ness. Asking Are you was really my disappointment disguised in a question because in my heart I had my doubts. What I really wanted to say was you aren't are you?

I was afraid.

...afraid that God let me down, afraid that He couldn't be trusted, afraid that I never really knew Him at all, afraid that where I thought I found a refuge there was none. I thought He was my most intimate friend, my rescuer, my protector...and the protector of my children. But He seemed to have stepped back out of my reach. When I needed Him most He seemed distant, absent, or silent.

Was I alone?

This idea that God makes all things right in the end seemed incomplete. What about now, in the middle, in the meantime? A relationship with Jesus has to be more than life sucks and then you die...but at least now you go to Heaven. What is the point of calling out to a God who does not listen? Or worse yet, hears but does nothing.

Things were not making sense to me. My head told me that the God I love is still good, that He loves me and my girls more than I can ever understand, and that He is with me and never left me. He cares deeply about my meantime. But my heart couldn't help but feel abandoned.

Light of the World, are you still here?

Over a year has passed now. Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of what should have been my girls' due date. And although I wish I was updating you all on what life is like with one year old twins, I can honestly say that there has been a miracle in me. Nothing will ever make the loss of my girls "worth it", but it is more than a consolation to be able to share the hope that is in me now that God has done a healing work in my heart. I do not have answers to all my questions nor is all my pain gone. Not even close. I had a breakdown just this morning remembering how my tiny girls felt in my arms as I watched them leave me for Heaven. The pain isn't over. It is still right there on the surface of my broken heart.

But where my pain is my Jesus IS also...

He never left me.

When I feel alone I no longer question if God is with me, but instead ask Him to show Himself to me. Just because I don't see Him doesn't mean He isn't there.

Daily God answers my prayer and reveals Himself to me again just as I need Him to. My fears were unfounded, my doubt unsubstantiated, and once I chose to let it all go to let near my God who didn't leave me but who I, in my pain and disappointment, had pushed away, my healing began.

Light of the World, you are still here.

He will never leave you nor forsake you. Hebrews 13:5

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Barnes and Nobel

I recently visited Barnes and Noble. Since I got my driver's license (and yes, that was a long time ago) I have enjoyed little escapes there. It was often where I went on a Friday night. Yes, I am a little bit of a nerd, but I accept that about myself. Instead of a book store I like to think of it as the most fascinating place on earth. Something about wondering around a room full of ideas and information fills me with excitement. There the world fits into the palm of my hand cleverly disguised as a book.

Whomever invented Barnes and Noble is a genius. Mr. Barnes and Mr. Noble perhaps? Or Mrs? Hmmm, why did I just assume it was a man? I will have to look that up. Anyway...not just the book part is awesome. The whole concept is. Books, magazines, music and food all under the same roof. The idea of drinking a decaf grande nonfat two pump extra hot mocha without whip cream while perusing book heaven is simply...well genius.

And do you know what else they have there? The idea of all ideas my friends. A THOMAS THE TRAIN TABLE! This may seem inconsequential to those of you without children or those whose children are grown now, but for a mother with a three and a half year old little boy obsessed with Thomas the Train it is a godsend. I can actually sit and look through a book while my son plays with Thomas and all his train friends. It is a win win for both of us! My son actually asks to go to Barnes and Nobel just to play with the trains. I gladly indulge him.

On Saturday I was in desperate need of mental stimulation. After a week of cleaning my house and doing laundry I needed a break. My brain had turned to mush. I got Dustin dressed and off we went.

When Aubrey and Ellie died I stopped enjoying visits to Barnes and Nobel. Until just a few months ago I had stopped going all together. I couldn't walk through the doors without feelings of disappointment or bursting into tears. It was a hard place for me to be.

After the one year anniversary of their deaths I decided it was time to get back some of the things I lost when I lost my girls. Listening to music, attending church, weekly visits to the Farmer's Market, days at the beach, holding babies, and browsing Barnes and Nobel all made the list. I had reasons why each of these things were so hard for me, good reasons, but I was ready to face them all. Not all at once of course, but I was committed.

Learning to enjoy these things again meant getting to the root of why they became so difficult for me. Church is the most difficult hands down so I decided to tackle it last. The Farmer's Market was the easiest so I dealt with it first. Barnes and Nobel fell somewhere in the middle. I decided the best course of action would be to force myself to go, get a coffee and a book, and sit for a while and see what emotions stirred up.

This probably sounds silly to you. How could a book store be a difficult place to be after losing my daughters? Well, it may not be difficult for some, or maybe most, but it was for me. That place is my dream factory. The books I find there get into my soul. And not the words on paper, but the ideas they bring to life. When I browse a cook book I am not simply searching for recipes, I am planning dinner parties with friends and holiday meal traditions I hope to pass down to my children. I scan the shelves for books that may help me start my own business, improve my marriage, travel the world, grow in my faith, have a healthy pregnancy...help me become the woman I want to be in every way. Every book there is portal to one of my dreams.

When I found out that my second pregnancy was twins you better believe I went straight to Barnes and Nobel and pulled every book they had on twins. The joys of twins, the challenges of twins, things to know about twins, carrying, birthing, and nursing twins, naming twins...you name it, they had it. I remember sitting with my twenty books learning everything I could. I wanted to be informed, diligent and prepared. I was so excited.

When my girls died I felt so blindsided. None of the books prepared me for this! My heart was so broken I emotionally shelved all my hopes and dreams and anything symbolic of them. I could no longer sit in Barnes and Nobel and dream and plan. Instead I always found myself in the self help section picking up books on grief or in the Christian section drawn to books with titles like Disappointment with God and Where is God When it Hurts. If I even dared to pass the pregnancy and infant section (I avoided it like the plague) I walked away with Empty Cradle, Broken Heart. It wasn't exactly the good time I remembered.

Everything in my life was tainted by Aubrey and Ellie's deaths. Some things always would be, but some things I felt would only be for a season. As I heal, my sensitivities lessen. Forcing myself to return to the things I loved began to restore to me the small joys I treasure so much. As time goes by I continue to grow more and more comfortable with remnants of my former life.
My Saturday at Barnes and Nobel with Dustin was a small victory for me. I enjoyed my books and he enjoyed his trains. There are still twinges of sadness, but I think it has to do more with being alive than being there. No matter what I do, as long as my girls are not here with me, the twinges will remain. But I don't let them steal my joy. I left feeling liberated. Grief will throw its chains on you, but with God's help I am breaking them one by one.

One down...a lifetime to go.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Lemon Tree

I have been inspired by a lemon tree.

And after I tell you the story, you will be too. At least I hope so.

This is not my story but one I heard at my women's bible study (thanks Bonnie) last Tuesday and it resonated with my heart so profoundly that I have to retell it.

It is beautiful (and true).

There was a lemon tree. It was a large and well established tree that sat in the center of the yard. It produced golden yellow lemons without fail year after year. It was lovely to behold and its fruit a delight.

But one day the owner of the property decided to cut it down. Where a magnificent lemon tree once stood, there was now a stump. And to add insult to injury, the stump was slowly being covered by dirt as a wall was being built near by.

All hope seemed lost for the lemon tree. Not only could it no longer produce fruit but it would surly die.

Yet miraculously the tree did not die. From under the dirt it sprouted new branches that (are you ready for this?) produced lemons!

It was so deeply rooted that even when cut down and buried, it continued to grow and yield fruit.

Since my girls died I have felt exactly like this lemon tree. Cut down and covered with dirt. Yet unlike the lemon tree, I underestimated my ability to sprout new branches. The lemon tree knows that producing fruit has less to do with what is above the ground and more to do with what is below. As long as it remained deeply rooted, the tree would continue to grow and produce fruit. Cutting a tree down does not kill it. It has to be uprooted.

I have been cut down, but not uprooted. And if I shift my focus from trying to get out from under the dirt to digging down deeper into it I might find myself growing again and producing fruit.

Or better yet, being grown...

I need deeper roots, not a farther reach.

God has promised that those who stay deeply rooted in Him will produce fruit. And only His power could derive fruit from a dirt covered stump like me. I want to be like the lemon tree, continuing to produce fruit because I am deeply rooted, regardless of my condition or circumstances.

I may still be waiting for morning to come, for a glimpse of the light that will warm my soul and melt the frost from the little branches that managed to sprout from the stump that was left of me after I lost my girls. I am learning patience. In the meantime I choose to become more deeply rooted in He who covers me...

I think the deepest roots grow in the dark.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Messed Up World

I was in my car driving home from the grocery store last week. Sitting at a light, a young man walking down the sidewalk caught my eye. He couldn't have been more than eighteen or nineteen years old. Tall and too thin, his hair was a mess and his clothes were filthy. He was twitching and talking to himself as he walked in a zig zag along the the street. I couldn't stop watching him.

Living where I do I see my fair share of addicts and homeless people. The corner of Ash and Washington is full of them and I'll admit I usually don't think twice about it. I have not had the spare emotional energy these days for people who make such poor choices (as judgemental as that is, it has been true since my girls died).

But for some reason today this boy tugged on my heart. He was most likely an addict, and it made me sad. There was something very wrong about a young man in his condition. I couldn't help but wonder what happened in his life that lead him there. It could not possibly be what God wanted for this boy but nonetheless there he was, swaying down the road high as a kite, resembling nothing of the man I believe God intended him to be.

What should he look like God?

Very different I imagine.

I drove away.

When I got home my husband told me that a fellow Marine he knows had been shot and killed in Iraq three weeks before he was due to return home, leaving behind a wife eight months pregnant with their first child. My heart hurt. All I could think about was the incomprehensible pain of that poor young wife and how her child will never know its father. How what should be the best time of her life has been robbed from her by war, death, and tragedy. And how she will never be able to look at that baby without being reminded of her pain and all she lost. Her love, her dreams, her hopes, her plans, all gone in an instant. Her life now resembling nothing of what it was supposed to look like.

What should it look like God?

It hurt to much to imagine.

I walked away.

My mind rested on just how messed up the world is. Things have gone so terribly wrong. It is not supposed to be this way. Not for me. And not for anyone.

Holding my girls as they took their final breaths could not have been any more a part of what God intended for my life than that boy's drug problem or the death of that woman's husband was intended for theirs. It could not possibly be all just part of the plan.

I felt angry. You could pretty much say that I was mad at the world...the horribly messed up world. I felt helpless and sad. And I missed my girls. I longed for life as God intended it and not as it is...

What should I look like God?

So different I can't imagine.

This time I had no where to go.

The truth is having the life God intended is so much more than having my girls here with me. I have needed God's transforming power in my life since the day I was born, not just since the day my girls were born. And I need it still.

I don't even know how things ought to look anymore. But He does. And I trust Him. Only Jesus can bridge the gap between what is and what ought to be. In the meantime He walks with me through all the wrong things reminding me of how His love will make it all right in the end. What has become unrecognizable will be made identifiable after it is washed in His blood.

My hope rests on that promise.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Hope Collage By Franchesca

This was made by my wonderful friend Franchesca. It is part of her daughter Jenna Bell's legacy. She lost her sweet baby girl only months ago. To honor Jenna Bell she is honoring other babies with Abiding Hope Collages. If you would like to have one made for a baby you have lost you can visit her website and submit your child's name along with words or phrases of your choice and she will create a beautiful collage for you. Thanks you Franchesca! Its beautiful!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Prayer Request for Lydia

Please pray for little Lydia. She is three weeks old and since birth has been experiencing seizures and problems breathing. The doctors have not been able to make a proper diagnosis and she remains in the NICU. Her parents, Micah and Jen, are friends of mine from my Wheaton College days. Both love Jesus. Lydia is their first born and dearly loved as you can imagine. They would love to take their new baby home. Please pray for God's healing and a miracle in Lydia's body. You can read about Lydia here.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Honest Scrap Award!



Apparently I have been nominated for an Honest Scrap Award (Thank you Heather, Franchesca, and Tina!). I will do my duty as an honoree and nominate 7 other blogs I find honest, meaningful and inspirational (and send them a comment to notify them of their nomination) as well as list 10 interesting facts about myself you may not know. If you have been nominated please follow these directions and post them on your blog as well.

My blog list follows:
Summer@ A Family in Bloom
Tina @ Living Without Sophia and Ellie
Franchesca @ Hand Prints from Heaven
Chelsea @ Our Biggest Blessing

Interesting Facts:

1) I had braces for over 5 years. My original orthodontist retired before I got my braces off so I was handed over to orthodontist number two. I also had to wear head gear. Although it felt like the greatest tragedy of my life at the time to be a head gear wearing brace face for almost the entirety of my teen years, I can say I have fully recovered from the trauma. And I now have very straight teeth!

2) My three food loves are tea, chocolate, and wine, in that order. I love their complexity and that each offers a different level of indulgence and satisfaction. Tea inspires thought. I often contemplate life, do my daily devotion, or blog with a cup of tea in hand. Chocolate is the ultimate reward for a long and hectic day and some how feels less bad for me than other sweet treats. And wine makes me feel sophisticated and cultured. Taking a sip of wine in between sentences of a meaningful conversation over dinner makes me feel like a real adult. The experience of these three foods is as meaningful to me as how they taste.

3) Traveling is my passion. Before I was married I went on a lot of mission trips and traveled as much as possible. I still hear the far off places calling to me and it is my life goal to see as much of the world as possible. And I hope to have my husband and son by my side as I do it.

4) I am a pretty good cook. I can't draw or paint, I don't have a knack for interior decorating, and I never learned to play an instrument, but I can cook. I think it is my little dose of artistic talent (everyone has at least one). And since I love to eat and good food brings people together I feel blessed to at least have a little bit of creativity in the kitchen.

5) I met my husband on Eharmony.com. I joined the site on a dare to prove to a friend that only weirdos try to meet people on-line. My social experiment backfired. Not only did I meet my husband there but he was my very first match. We will be married 5 years in January.

6) I also (like Heather) can write with my left hand a mirror image of what I write with my right hand. It isn't something I taught myself, it is just something I have always been able to do. Strange I know.

7) I hate potato bugs. I cannot emphasize the word HATE enough. They are ugly, scary bugs that make my skin crawl just to look at them. My husband does not believe me but one time I tried to kill one with a garden hoe and I hit it dead on and it wasn't even fazed. They are indestructible alien bugs that are impossible to kill and I HATE them.

8) I am in the process of starting a tea company called Teamotions. My sister and I are creating an entire line of teas blended with herbs that have emotional healing and wellness properties. The idea came after losing Aubrey and Ellie. As a matter of fact, I was just in Los Angeles today for my first tasting of our custom blends. The teas are amazing. They smell and taste wonderful. We are starting off with five blends, one for each stage of grieving, but plan to extend our line to cover the entire spectrum of emotions. My hope is that our tea will comfort many other mothers who have lost babies, as well as any other person going through an emotionally difficult time.

9) My favorite movies are Braveheart, Lonesome Dove, and Gladiator. I can't help it. I love epic, triumphant, not even death will stop us-type movies. Truly, they stir my soul. I LOVE to be inspired.

10) When I was in high school I could do bar dips with a 25 lb weight belt on. And a lot of them. Now I don't even think I could do one without a weight belt. I miss youth! Oh to be 16 again.

I hope you enjoyed these little facts. It was a nice departure from my usual post.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Faith, Hope and Camping

We went camping this weekend. By we I mean my husband, son, and I. We were invited by friends from our church to Idyllwild for two nights of outdoor fun. My son had never been camping before and you never saw a more excited little boy. I think boys are hardwired for open spaces, dirt, and the kind of fire that roasts marshmallows.

The weekend was wonderful in more ways that one. I enjoyed watching my son be a little boy, dirt and all. He was brave and slept in his own tent all by himself and genuinely seemed unfazed by it. He went to bed every night way after his usual bedtime yet still managed to wake up too early. I loved hearing his little voice singing and talking to himself while he waited for us to wake up in the morning.

Of course I thought about my girls. First I imagined how filthy they would be crawling around in all that campsite dirt and how I would have lost my mind keeping them away from the open campfire. Then I wondered if we would have even been there if they were alive. It seems I can't get through a day without feeling that my life wouldn't be this way if...

I get confused sometimes imagining my babies. All the what ifs are just emotional rabbit trails that only lead to one place...reality. My girls are not here anymore and they never will be again. 7 days with Ellie and 13 days with Aubrey is all the time we got. And after more than a year, I still struggle accepting that.

But the reality does not stop me from picturing them in my mind. I usually see my girls as they would have been if they went full-term. I set their age by what their birth date should have been, not by what it was. And I almost always imagine them healthy.

Occasionally though I think about if they had survived being born so early. It always ends in tears. It hurts to know that if they had lived they would be very sick little girls. They would not be crawling around in campsite dirt or putting little pebbles in their mouths. Not because we wouldn't be camping, but because my baby girls would have never crawled...or walked...or talked...ever.

My love for my girls is unconditional. I would have loved them, cared for them, and been honored to be their mother in whatever condition they would have been in. They are my babies. But I can't lie and say there is not a part of me that is so relieved that my girls are no longer suffering. It hurts to lose them absolutely. It hurts like nothing I have ever felt. But at least I know they are ok and I don't have to worry about them anymore. I know they are safe now.

As parents we are always talking about turning our children over to the Lord. How they don't really belong to us, they belong to Him. And it is a nice spiritual concept to say to God "my child is yours" while still holding them in our arms. I have done that exact thing with my son. I trust God with his life. His life. But trusting God with my daughters' deaths is not tied up so neatly in a perfect little bow. How easy it is to trust God when we get what we want.

But what happens to our faith when we don't get what we want? When we hand our children over to His hands and He doesn't give them back to us. What then? Where do we stand now?

I can tell you where I stood...on shaky skaky ground. My faith was turned upside down. I didn't lose it, but it had to be completely redefined and re-established. It had to be restored.

Twice within the same week I had to sit with my husband and decided to hand my child back over to God. How I wished I could have instead stood up on the church podium in a sentimental dedication service and given them back as a metaphor and a choice while the congregation sighed at the cuteness of my identical twin little sweeties...but it was not to be so. My husband and I had to walk out our faith in the most tangible way imaginable. For 7 and 13 days we trusted God with our daughters' lives. And then we faced the dreaded moment of trusting Him with their deaths as well.

It was not an easy decision. It was the worst decision I have ever been faced with. And our faith did not remove from us our questions, fears, and profound pain. I could literally feel my chest cave in as the doctors removed life support at our request and handed my babies to me. I held my breath for a miracle. The one I wanted never came.

There is a song I love called Held by Natalie Grant. The song talks about a mother who lost her infant son. It is beautiful but heart wrenching and hits amazingly close to home. One of the lines in the song says "they had no sudden healing" and goes on to say later in the song "who told us we'd be rescued?" I could not get these words out of my head as I watched my girls slip away. Will we be rescued?

I waited so patiently, but our sudden healing never came. Walking out of our private room with each of our girls in our arms after they had passed away was a faith changing moment. Our faith stood on the brink...and I remember only one thought.

Thank You.

Even I don't understand it. Who says thank you in that situation? I never imagined in a thousand years I would ever hold my child as they died. Nor did I imagine I would do it twice. I never imagined that my life would require me to hand my babies back to God literally to never hold again. Nor did I ever think we wouldn't be rescued. And my faith hung in the balance of all of it. Why not a sudden healing? Why not a heroic rescue? Why not a happy ending? Why not...

I could feel the disappointment and anger building up. I felt that all my faith all these years had amounted to nothing more than being abandoned when I needed God the most. As I turned my face upward, ready to confront God with my questions, ready to challenge His decision not to intervene, ready to question His goodness and love...the only words that flowed from my heart were thank you.

Not thank you for allowing my babies to die or thank you that my heart is completely broken, I will never be thankful for that. But thank you for sending your Son Jesus, who by his blood, made right every wrong. That before I felt the pain of losing my own sweet girls God made a way to fix every broken thing so that in the moment of my worst pain I could have hope. At the lowest moment of my life all was not lost...it was found...in the miracle that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that none should perish but have eternal life. We were not forgotten. We have all been rescued. My girls just sooner than the rest of us.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Little Empty Room

We have a little empty room in our house. It was supposed to be Aubrey and Ellie's nursery. When I walk to the top of the stairs it is the first room I see and I pass its doorway a thousand times a day.

But I rarely go in. Only when I have to.

Sometimes I linger in the doorway and look at the blank wall where their cribs were supposed to be. I took their cribs down after the funeral and put them in the garage. It hurt too much to see empty cribs just sitting there with no babies to put in them.

I never linger long. If I do my mind starts spinning with what should have been. I have cried many tears in that doorway. No mother should ever have a little empty room.

Last week my best friend called me to ask if her family could stay with us while they visited San Diego. I was thrilled. On the phone I made a comment about having an extra room they could use and as soon as I hung up I began setting it up.

An air mattress, a pack n' play, pillows and blankets...it was nothing fancy, but it made a cozy little guest room for my visiting friends. When I was done this strange feeling came over me. I sat at the top of the stairs and cried. I couldn't help it. It had been a very long time since I spent time in Aubrey and Ellie's nursery and reconfiguring it into a guest room felt like betrayal.

It isn't a guest room, it's Aubrey and Ellie's room.

At that moment I decided that I am not ready. I am not ready to give their room away. I am not ready to let go of what was...is...was supposed to be...theirs. I am not ready to put this in the past like something that simply didn't work out. That room was for my very real, very loved, very special, very wanted, twin baby girls. And I am just not ready.

We don't have a guest room in our house, we have a little nursery for two baby girls named Aubrey and Ellie. And if someday I have another baby it will become that baby's nursery...because that room is meant to be a nursery. We moved into this house because we needed a nursery, not a guest room. And if from time to time a guest or two visits and they stay in Aubrey and Ellie's room, that is ok. But I refuse to transform it. Guest room by default is a poor consolation. I will not hang a proverbial new sign above the door. It is their room. I need it to be their room. I will keep it their room for as long as I need.

From the hallway it may appear to be a little empty room with yellow walls and no furniture, but inside it is filled...filled with my dreams and hopes that never came true, full of prayers and tears and late night phone calls in the dark to my sisters and supportive friends, with one hand on my empty belly and Aubrey and Ellie's memory book in my lap.

When I walk in that room I feel something. Sometimes I just feel sad, but other times I feel like keeping a room for them in our home is a tangible example of the room I keep for them in my heart.

How I wish I could tell visitors I only have a couch to offer them as all my rooms are filled with children. But since I can't, at least I can say they are welcome to stay in Aubrey and Ellie's room. That way they know what I know...Aubrey and Ellie are remembered here, and always will be.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Join Me!

Check out my new blog dedicated to running the race, and the Silver Strand Half Marathon!

**ANOTHER UPDATE!!!!! For those of you who can't run or don't want to run, but still would like to honor your baby/babies in heaven, I would be happy to put the name of your child/children on my jersey and run for you. Submit the name of your baby/babies as a comment or in an email and I will be certain to include them. I also hope to make the t-shirts available to purchase if you would like to have one as a keepsake. I would be honored to run for your children.

*UPDATE!!!!!!! I have some ideas about what our t-shirts (or tank tops) should say (although I don't have graphics or design ideas yet). On the front it could read: Running the Race, Perseverance Personified! Putting one foot in front of the other after loss. And on the back it could say: In memory of the babies we loved and lost and underneath that will be a list of all the names of our children in heaven. What do you think? Let me know. I am open to other ideas as well. I am thinking out loud here. Original post follows:

I have decided to run the 2009 Silver Strand Half Marathon on Coronado Island in San Diego AGAIN this November, but this time I want to invite you to join me. Before you think I am crazy, hear me out...

Last year, after my daughters died, I was desperate for anything that might take some of my pain away. So what did I do? Well, I decided to run a half marathon. Sounds crazy I know, but I was convinced it would help. I knew it would benefit both my emotional and physical healing so I decided to go for it. What did I have to lose? I had never run a half marathon before nor was I in shape to do so. Between being pregnant for six months and then having a c-section it would take a miracle to get ready and the thought of running 13.1 miles seemed impossible, but I wanted to do it. I had to prove to myself that I could do it. And truthfully it felt small compared to the marathon of grief I was already running.

So I trained for 10 weeks. I could barely run at first. But I kept at it. By the time race day came I was ready. I didn't set any new records, but I finished the race. And it felt amazing! When I crossed the finish line I knew it would not be my last half marathon.

A year later I am ready to run again. And I want to share the experience. I cannot promise that running will fix all your problems or take away the pain you feel, it certainly was not the magic cure to my own grief. But it did reignite in me the desire to persevere and it reminded me of how much I love living, even after the loss of my sweet girls. Both figuratively and literally speaking, I want to run the race.

Do you want to run the race? So come on then, run with me!

I would love to have t-shirts made for all of us running. It would be an amazing tribute to the babies we lost as well as a powerful way to support each other on our healing journey. If you want to run, email me at aubreyandellie@gmail.com or leave your name and email as a comment. I will keep a list and we can all support each other as we train. At the bottom of this post is the link to the race site. You can register there. Also, if you sign up on www.runnersworld.com you can have a half marathon training plan printed out specifically for your running level. I assure you anyone can do this. And you will be glad you did

So lets run the race....together!

You can find information about the race here: http://www.kozenterprises.com/Running/halfdf84.htm
Sign up by October and save some money.
This is a great first half marathon for those of you that are intimidated. It is flat (no hills!) and the weather is great in November. Be brave!

That's me, second from the left!
 
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