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 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 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 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.
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