A Disjointed Hot Mess of Getting My Head On Straight, AKA, “Why Am I Posting After Midnight?!?”

Doing that thing I’m never supposed to do…getting on the computer way too late at night, knowing it’s a bad idea but doing it anyway…

I’m quite sure someone will be offended by the time I finish processing whatever is pricking at my conscience, because as we all know, I process by writing and I’m dumb enough to put it online (“dumb enough?” Is it actually dumb? Or is it too genuine to be “comfortable?”).

I’m quite sure the Karens of the world will have their time clucking their tongues and clickety-clacking their keyboards to tell me how I’m not holy enough, or I’m not praying hard enough, or I’m not spiritual enough or whatever, and I’m sure they’re right, but that doesn’t make anyone feel any better, now does it?

KAREN

I’m not going to blame this on Mother’s Day (it sucked, don’t ask, and no, I don’t understand why. Grief is unpredictable, ‘k?). I’m not going to blame this on work stress (do I still have a job? Mandatory pay cuts? A cut in hours? All options, nothing decided, and we’re floating in a pool of what-the-heck-is-going-on?!?). I’m not going to blame this on COVID-19 (although I will tell you that my personal state of mental health is on the decline, if I’m being honest). I’m not going to blame this on the crappy remarks my husband made to me today, or that I made back to him (I don’t remember who started it, but we’re sick of being around each other right now, and I’m sick-to-death of sitting on the couch). I will blame this on the apparently 15 pounds worth of anxiety-eating I’ve done to cope with the last 9 weeks, and that falls squarely on my super-fat shoulders.

Now I’m ticked at myself for failing so horribly (really, what did I expect??!?!?  I’ve baked more in the past 9 weeks than I have ever before, during a non-Christmas season. David’s been doing all of the cooking, and he doesn’t know how to cook without going all Paula-Deen on everything, which is delicious, but terrible–and why I gained #20 right after we got married—and why I gained #15 being stuck in the house with him for 9 weeks, although we all know I could have gotten my fat rear up from the couch and made my own dang food. I didn’t, and now I feel horrible, I look like crap, and my blood pressure is through the roof). I have to put the brakes on EVERYTHING, and that sucks, because PEANUT M&MS ARE AMAZING, and no, David had nothing to do with those. Those are all on me…and on my hips.

I’m struggling with feeling really anxious, really sad, and really, really stressed out…and I know I’m not alone, but I feel like I am. I don’t feel like I can pick up a phone and tell anyone that I’m in a funk, because that’s not uplifting, and aren’t I supposed to be FRICKIN’ UPLIFTING?!?!?!  Because right now, all I am is a giant lead balloon in a forgiving pair of leggings and a piece of fried chicken.

I feel like a giant &$*%&$ failure in every possible facet of my life.

There–I said it. And now it’s permanently embedded into Cyberspace. CASSIDY FEELS LIKE A GIANT &(*$%&($ FAILURE.

Honey-LaBronx-Crying-Mascara

(We interrupt this rant to disclose that searching for a meme of a crying drag queen was enough to make me laugh. Those who know me know I love Jesus…and I also love drag queens. That’s an entirely different discussion. We digress.)

So, yes, much like the mascara on the photograph above, I feel like a failure/hot mess. The problem with getting something that sounds amazing (like working from home, or more sleep–is there EVER enough sleep?!? Not when you don’t have a thyroid, truth) is that over time, it becomes laced with uncertainties and eventually, tinged with paranoia. I’ve said for a few weeks now that everything feels very unsteady, and it’s not a good environment for me to try to live/work/be confronted with 24/7. Tension is building, and I’m not the only one. I’m internalizing more…I’m feeling more and more isolated and bleak and super-Don’t Touch-Me-ish (one can only be a landing mat for a projectile 7-year old without it taking a toll).

brak

David’s getting a shorter fuse. Jericho doesn’t want anything to do with homework and has turned into a screen addict who shrieks like he’s being beaten alive if we tell him the TV needs to be turned off (SERIOUSLY, PUPPET STEVE ON YOUTUBE, IF WE EVER MEET IN PERSON I AM SILENCING YOU WITH A GLUE GUN.). (And yes, KAREN, we know we did this. WE ARE TERRIBLE PARENTS, OKAY?!?!   I SAID IT!!!  Just add it to the reasons why I feel like a GIANT (*$&%(* FAILURE.) Going into this summer, my biggest fear is that if I don’t come up with some kind of schedule or curriculum, both of the guys in my house are going to get sucked into some weird vortex of TV/Legos/YouTube and I will never see any of them again…which is fine, because I will have buried myself with my headphones and my tablet, under a pile of blankets where I will binge watch “Drag Race” until I’ve eaten myself to death with the seemingly-endless bag of Peanut M&Ms that I have discovered. THEN the guys can watch my progress on television on “My 600lb Life,” and we’ll all feel like we’re learning about each other again. 

Yep…We’re not in our happy place.

Jericho has been spending a bit of time during the week at my parents’ house during our lockdown. I know that’s controversial, but I live in a 1,000sq. ft. townhouse. My parents live in a house that’s around 3x the size, out in the country, with a bigger backyard and far more to do outdoors. This gives me a bit of time to have some peace in my week (as I’m still working from home…good times) and for David to continue looking for a job (that’s another key point of stress. What do we do if he finds a job? There aren’t any childcare options right now. The “what ifs” are endless, right?). I’ve not seen my parents, as I’m stuck in “pause” regarding health issues right now (and every doctor I have is gonna be livid at the weight gain, so I’m already preparing to hear that lecture), so I miss them. I miss my job (does that make me a terrible mother? To say that I miss being at my office?!?  See, that’s another foothold for “mom guilt”–there are SO MANY.), and I truly, deeply miss my church (Zoom is meh.).

You know what?

The longer I sit here and type about how much everything sucks, the more I am reminded that THIS SUCKS FOR EVERYBODEEEEEE.

GROVER

I’m not special, you’re not special, and yeah, it’s okay for us to take a few minutes and gripe about it. From my blog history, it’s apparent that I’ve been griping about it for a few weeks, so yeah, I’m having some difficulties processing things and then dropping them. Whether that’s because I was raised by an Italian, or because I’m a vengeful harpy, who knows?

THIS SUCKS.

You can say it with me–it’s allowed. This is a safe place.

coronasucks

I know we’re hopefully coming to the end of the lockdown; just this week, I think I’ve officially got a true back-to-the-office date. I think we’ll get through this much more safely if people would get over themselves and wear a dang mask (they’re an “it” fashion accessory now, darling–you can even get them on Zulily!), we’d get through this a bit faster. I kinda think I may stick with wearing one during every flu season forever, because the flu I caught in February was WALKING DEATH, and I’m quite sure a face mask might have kept me from getting it…unless I got it from the germ magnet known as my child…hmm. But if people would just obey the CDC recommendations and wear a silly mask, what harm could it do? JUST DO IT, and get us out of this sooner!!!!!!

Just sitting down and writing things out is helpful for me–I know it’s oversharing, but at least by the end of this, I can sit here and say that my thought processes are linear. I’m not so scattered all over the place, getting slapped in the face by every emotion and feeling of failure that floats my way. I know it’s all a trick of the Enemy to get in my head and bury me–I hate to admit it, but it’s working, because I feel buried under all of this.

I can recognize the attack, but I’m truly so freaked out/worn out that all I can do is roll over and surrender. I haven’t yet, but I’m afraid that I will. I don’t feel like I’m strong enough to put my head up and to fight back, or even to pray enough to fight back. I can laugh at my own patheticness, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t scare me.

The other night, I tried to pray for some kind of peace or relief. I prayed myself to sleep (which is kind of normal for me), but I wasn’t making any sense to myself. It was mostly just me saying, “Jesus…please.” That’s all I got.  My brain is such a mess that I can’t even talk to God naturally. Like, I’m having to tell myself, “Girl, get yourself together and TALK TO HIM!!!!”

But you know what?

I don’t have to get myself together to talk to Him.

I don’t have to sit down and write a blog about how I feel like an epic failure, because He knows how I feel and He knows the truth. He knows every insecurity and He remembers them ALL (I don’t even remember them all. That’s ridiculous.). I don’t have to get “linear” for Him, because He knows me, mess and all, and even though it’s hard for me to believe,

He loves me.

I am without a doubt, a mess.

queen

Most of the time, I don’t want to stop and try to sort me out, because IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

grief

I love this graphic–I’ve seen it before, but it’s so perfect.  Grief isn’t something that exists in one moment, in one event of your life, regardless of how “huge” that moment is. Grief can be experienced during any kind of major transition, and baby, WE ARE GOING THROUGH TRANSITION. This whole lockdown experience is traumatic on many different levels, for many different people….for people who look like they have the “perfect” life, and for people who are in the trenches. We’re all unified by this one theme right now: STRESS.

There’s no coincidence that the word, “pandemic” and “panic” sound the same, and I think every time the word is spoken aloud, that energy goes into the atmosphere and we are in the thick of it!!! It’s oppressive, right?!?!  I can’t be the only one who feels like the sky weighs a million pounds right now.

Constant reminders in the media and the press of death, sadness, grief, fear…constant attacks on the mind that torment (and we all know who the author of torment is…stupid jerk). We’re getting hit from every angle by news that’s designed to destroy our morale and to basically fry our hope. I read an article from the Psychiatric Times that mentioned Camus’ The Plague. I’d forgotten about Camus, but from what I remember, he was an existentialist who had no hope. The story was about a town that lost half of its inhabitants due to a plague (thus, the title. Nice.). The article talks about the weight of “death anxiety,” which sounds a bit dramatic (even to me) and about how there is trauma in the persistent, unrelenting state that we’re in right now.

No wonder I feel like crap.

It’s literally in the atmosphere. UGH.

When all of this started, I thought, “YES, GURRL!!!!  You will read the books! You’ll start a workout plan!  You’ll learn new things and GET AWESOME,” not, “Your life will be boring as h*ll, your kid will mutiny, and you’ll get fat again.” I started the books…I WILL get through at least one of them. And yes, I have undertaken some creative projects (lots of painting. Too many flamingos…as if there could EVER be too many flamingos. Baking…which I like way too much of….and sewing! I’m learning to sew, and yes, my face masks are DOPE.). I was doing really well at forcing my household to go on daily walks with me until last week’s cold snap, and I can tell that was a bad idea, because walking really helps my back. So that’s getting restarted, for sure.

But truth be told, I haven’t done all of the things I’d hoped, so it adds a layer to being disappointed with myself…can I just write on all of the mirrors that GOD IS NOT DISAPPOINTED WITH ME?!? My weight or my achievements and/or lack thereof does not make God love me (or you) any less, darn it, so why do I let them make ME love me less?!?  BLAH.

The “Psychiatry Times” article had an interesting quote that, “death anxiety may also result in the following positive opportunities and growth-oriented goals:

• Valuing creativity and creative achievement22

• Generativity23

• Meaning making

• Mindfulness and meditation24

• Positive health behavior changes25

• Prioritizing growth-oriented goals and positive standards26″

Likewise, numerous websites have shown this graphic for finding the positives during this time:

coronacalm

I think there’s a fine line between looking at these great ideas, trying to do them or not doing them, and then using those outcomes by which to judge ourselves. I’m guilty of that, as seen above.

I’m also guilty of writing blogs that are way too long, waaaay past my bedtime, so I gotta wrap this up without feeling added guilt at the fact that I’m crap at writing conclusions (I should just end this here with a, “Bye!”). LOL!

I think I’m just going to say that I, and probably you, have to give ourselves some credit. We’re surviving a pandemic…it’s not only a viral pandemic; it’s a pandemic of misinformation, of unrealistic goals, and of misunderstood, confusing presumptions that affect us on every level. It’s a pandemic that has kids caught in the middle, and that’s a hard one to accept and to work with (I still don’t know how to explain all of this to my kiddo or how we’re going to get back into the routine I swore I wouldn’t let us get out of). It’s a giant ball of confusion and chaos in a world that was already a flippin’ disaster, and now we’re in deep. I’m struggling with feeling buried, and I’d wager that you might be, too, if you’re still reading all of this.

Peace is a concept that sounds so refreshing and so restorative…the other night, when I said I was trying to pray and all I could get out was, “Jesus, please?” PEACE was what I needed, what I was seeking. I didn’t have to say it–He knew, and I slept like a baby. Peace is the antithesis to Panic, and it’s not some global, Michael-Jackson-We-Are-The-World Sing-A-Long. Peace is a spiritual state, and I think it’s like a shield around us to protect us from losing our ever-loving minds during life as a rule. Panic tears holes in that shield, so we gotta get in a place of quiet and worship and GET IT BACK. That’s going to be my goal through the rest of the pandemic…sure, I want to bake all of the things but still lose these 15 pounds, and read all of the books and reorganize my household, but what is it without the very Peace of God?

And that’s my new focus…that’s what writing these nearly-3,000 words has led me to: Seeking Peace. Peace in the face of the Pandemic, Peace in the face of unsteady Mental Health, Peace in the face of Homeschooling and Job Insecurity.

Peace from the very Heart of God…for you and me, for our households and for our families.

Peace to you and to your loved ones….peace in the middle of the noise and the guilt, and the standards and the social media mess. Peace, be still.

 

Click the link to be taken to a list of Bible verses focusing on Peace. Shalom, y’all. 

shalom

Summer Goals, #PlayGloria, and Kindergarten Graduation

I go through phases where I write constantly, and then it’s “crickets,” and honestly, I don’t really know why. Is it a self-discipline thing? An emotional thing?

Maybe it’s an energy thing, and I haven’t written anything lately because I’m perennially exhausted.

I’m still here, in case you were wondering (in case I’m wondering?).

The schedule’s returned to an unreachable pace, with David not only being back to work, but working a different shift. I’m so grateful that he’s employed, but I’m not going to lie and say it’s easy. We see each other for around 15-20 minutes per day (usually trying to have conversations that are perpetually interrupted by, “MOOOOMMMMM!” and “LOOOK AT MEEEEEEE!”), and then I’m off to bed, and he’s doing the evening entertainment for the offspring (who couldn’t be happier, because Tired Mom is also BORING Mom). Our marriage is breathing on the fumes of weekends, and our house is perpetually messy.

Our lives are full.

No photo description available.

Meanwhile, since my last post, my son has graduated from Kindergarten. In the ceremony, his class recited Scriptures, sang songs, and basically let us know they were going to join together at some point and take over the world. I believe every one of them could do it. Jericho’s classmates are a beautiful mixture of personalities, and I’ve loved getting to watch them interact over the year. My little guy has matured and learned, and is showing more and more of an amazing personality.

We have Summer Goals (and even as I write that sentence, I’m laughing at myself). None of those goals involve housekeeping, but I supposed it must be done. Frankly, our dog is so old (“how old is she?”) that we’re kind of waiting for her to cross that Rainbow Bridge and go to Jesus, because the carpet will need to be replaced throughout the house…and I’m hankering for a change in our color scheme, so the entire house will need to be overhauled and deep-cleaned. It’s times like this where I’m grateful that we’re still in our “starter home,” and it’s tiny.

I’ve started Jericho on a First Grade curriculum from Brain Quest, and every day, he does 2-4 pages in his workbook. My goal is to get him through the book this summer, just to keep him sharp and to work on his handwriting. He still gets “6,” “9,” “d,” “p,” “g,” and “3” backwards. I haven’t gone so far as to discuss it with my office’s peds department yet…I’m not hugely concerned, because he can correct it when I call him out on it. I’m planning on mentioning it in his eye exam next month.

That being said, get your child’s eyes examined every year! It’s a relatively painless examination that can help their future!!!!  PSA—and done.

ANYHOOO, a little thing happened this week that completely de-railed any attempts that I’ve made to finish this blog in a timely manner. THE SAINT LOUIS BLUES WON THE FREAKING STANLEY CUP, and I’ve cared about little-to-nothing else this week. Image may contain: 1 person, stripes

Since I’m given to panic attacks at the mere THOUGHT of ginormous crowds of people, I’m going to be watching the parade from my app. It’s going to be amazing, and I’m so proud of the team. I’m not a big sports person—I always mention that I don’t like baseball, but I consider myself a Cardinals fan, simply because I love what the camaraderie brings to the city. I do, however, like hockey, and even though I never watch the games (my family is not a “sports” family, but we’ll scream like maniacs at a cooking show), I think hockey requires the most skill and tenacity of any sport. I admire hockey players—anyone that sacrifices their teeth for anything, gets mad respect from me. Also, my youth pastor’s dad was the trainer for the San Jose Sharks back in the 90’s, so my love and appreciation for the game runs deep (I’m SO glad we beat them for the Nationals!).

Sports talk aside, things are moving along at a frantic pace…it’s hard to find time to slow down and EXPERIENCE things, as opposed to just getting through them. I’m usually doing the latter, and by the time a week’s gone by, I’m wondering where it went? Too many hours spent on the couch and not in the sunshine.  Being in a somewhat-constant state of fatigue makes me feel like I’m missing out on so much…oh, and the MOM GUILT!!!  I can’t.

I keep telling myself that I won’t be like this, forever…Jericho asked me the other day, “Mommy, were you ever not tired?” Ouch—that hurt. I basically told him I’ve been tired for the last 7 years. J I’ve been without my Dear Thyroid for 4 years this month, and all of my Facebook Memories that come up threaten to drag me into the Abyss of What-If, so I’m trying to ignore them.

I deal with a lot of “Mom Guilt,” partially because of my personality, and partially because there’s so much to work with.  I’m a working mom who had to use formula, so start there, and work your way up, mom-shamers.  My son is starting to get Six-Year-Old Sassy, and he’s watching too many episodes of “Teen Titans,” (hey, I didn’t start him on it…but they’re hilarious, so now I’m mom-guilting over a moral failure) and eating too many tortilla chips. Overall, though, he’s getting lots of playtime during the day in his summer program, so during the week I’m not feeling tooooooooo horrible about coming home and being chill.

I know this sounds mushy and all, but every day I look at that kid and I swear, I love him more. Even with his sass, he’s still funny and sweet, & he’s creative. His imagination is limitless, and he reminds me of my favorite parts of my own childhood. I need to get back into the routine of reading him a bedtime story; he’s been staying up later than I do, so I’m missing out!!

This summer, we have Six Flags passes, and are planning on going if the sun comes out any time soon on a weekend.  We’ve had so much rain! I love watching Jericho start to tentatively embrace roller coasters. He’s working on riding his new bike; he got a bit scared of it, so we have to ease him back into it. I don’t think I coddle him (David does), but I know so well what it’s like to be afraid of everything, and to feel like less of a person because of it. I don’t want that, for him. When he’s afraid of something, I tell him that it’s okay to be scared. We take it slow, until we’re ready. If he isn’t ready, I think that’s okay—he will be. I’m surprised at my own patience in those cases, but I think that’s what it takes. I want him to enjoy roller coasters and bike rides, and roller skates and bowling, and everything fun (we’re back to bowling again, BTW—I LOVE it!!!). If it’s fearful, it’s not fun, and I know that too well. We have nothing but time, to make those leaps—even if that’s not true, we can live like it is, at 6 years old.

bowlMy goals for this summer are to take it in…to enjoy parenting, and to not enjoy too much TV…to take my time doing life in general, and to spend less time embracing the things that bring me down. I love that song by Lauren Daigle, called “Look Up, Child.” Rico-Bean sings it a lot, and I think it’s major goals, for me. That’s my goal—to Look Up, and to keep from letting myself be weighed down by fatigue, or stress, or whatever albatross has decided to land on my neck. It’s summer—it’s time to get free, to live free, and to stay looking up.

And maybe, to spend some time blasting “Gloria!!!!!” on repeat while my son yells at me because he’s sick of the song….He’ll get over it, and we’ll have these memories to last us a lifetime. I’m so proud of our team. #LETSGOBLUES!!!!!!!!

Image result for st. louis blues

A Time To Mourn…AKA, “Speaking Christianese Never Made A Heart Heal Faster”

You can’t slap a Bible-verse Band-Aid over a severed limb and expect the bleeding to stop.
Healing is a PROCESS–it’s not instantaneous, and it isn’t pretty. Sometimes, we have to take in the full extent of the injury or the loss before healing can even begin. Things take time to process..realizations and understandings come in phases, and we don’t get it all at once, therefore, we can’t process it all at once.
The thing about Jesus, though, is that He meets us where we are in the process. Day by day, hour by hour, He meets us, and He welcomes our honesty. We don’t have to put a smile on our faces and fake it with Him; it’s useless, anyways. No one knows us better, so why do we try to act like we’re fine? There is no weakness in the truth.
Things happen in our lives that reshape every perspective or opinion that we’ve held, but our foundation remains the same. Jesus doesn’t change. His Word says there is “a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” It doesn’t mean that we speed through one to get to the other…it means there is a TIME for each process. It doesn’t mean we avoid one and focus on the other; it means that we endure one and we know we have a hope for the other.
Autumn is always a sensitive time of the year for me. It’s not a time of falling back into those initial days of the heaviest of grieving processes, but it is a time of respecting that you know what? Certain days are going to affect me more than others.  I’ve had a few conversations lately that have reminded me that grief, for any reason, is grief, and it has a process that must be respected.  I’m reminded of a conversation that I’ve referenced  before, but I feel like I need to go back to it:
Around 2 weeks after my daughter passed away, David & I finally made our way back into church. While there, I was having a noticeably difficult time (I suck at trying not to cry), and I went to sit in the lobby. A prominent woman in the church came up to me and hugged me, and said, “Are you better, now?”
I nearly slapped her.
I don’t remember what I said back to her, but the conversation has stuck in my brain as indicative of how Christians handle the process of grieving.
We. Are. Terrible. At. Grief.
It makes sense. I mean, c’mon, every worship song we sing focuses on joy and peace and happiness and glory and awesome and blahblahblahblabityblah. It’s all true. We serve an amazing, glorious, fantastic Lord Who loves us, so what’s not to celebrate?
We have this extremely arrogant tendency to coat our sorrows in Bible Verses, like the paper they’re printed on is going to magically paper-mache a lead balloon and make it float.
You can throw Bible verses at someone all day long, and yes–there IS life in the Word. However, read the room–don’t throw Scripture at a starving man. Feed him first, then tell him about Jesus. Acknowledge the broken heart (yours or someone else’s) with compassion and empathy, not with counter-attacks and guilt-inducing Christianese.
We’re so programmed to put on that joy that we forget that true joy is there, in the grieving process itself. We don’t have to bypass grief to hang onto joy. Joy is there, in the darkest of times, providing the guiding line to lead us out of the cave of heaviness and depression. Joy doesn’t always mean that we smile and dance…joy sometimes means that we lean into the comfort of our Savior, and that we know He is PRESENT in all things.
In the darkest days of my life, I can look back and see that silver thread of joy that is woven through the tapestry. I can see it through the rage; I can see it through the tears. I can see it becoming ever brighter as I walked through the valley of the shadow of death, and I can see it with me even now as I deal with personal battles. Joy is not always expressed as laughter. Joy is sometimes a gentle strength that shows up as an anchor in the waves that want to drown you.
The Fruits of the Spirit (I’ve always thought of that as a funny way to word those characteristics. And now the song is in my head. GAH!!) work together in our lives in many, many ways, but in times of grief or crisis, they really shine the brightest if we let them. The love of Jesus pours over us, capturing every tear we cry. His joy stands firm in the face of sadness that wants to encompass us. His Peace–peace is so, so hard to come by in a crisis, but it’s there. Sometimes it comes when you’ve cried your last tear, and you’re exhausted and can do nothing but sleep. Sometimes it comes when you look at someone’s face that you know understands you, and you see their expression and that they “get you.” Their compassion and empathy give you the peace of understanding without words–that’s huge.
His patience–He is patient with our grieving process, and He gives us permission to take our time. He is kind–Jesus doesn’t get angry with us for being sad or broken. He’s good–He wants us to bring our pain to Him, and He loves our faith. He loves that we believe in Him enough to bring Him our burdens…
He is gentle…He doesn’t rush in to distract us from dealing with our crises, but He loves us like a Father.
The world takes us from drama to drama at an alarming pace. We stay in permanent crisis mode, or in a permanently-hyper-emotional state. The church tries to tell us we should focus on being frenetically joyful all the time, while the world tells us we should be in full-blown Jersey-Shore Drama Mode all of the time (I’ve never actually seen the show, but I don’t think I have to).
Life is somewhere in the middle.
The shortest verse in the Bible acknowledges that Jesus Himself cried when His friend died, even though He knew He was about to raise His friend back to life again. He still grieved, even though He had that hope and that expectation. Why?
Because He was fully God, but also fully Man, and He felt the grief and the loss, even in the eyes of Hope.
We are allowed to weep for a time (“How long?” I don’t know. Ask the person who’s had their arm cut off, how long it takes to get used to not having an arm…to using a prosthesis….to having phantom nerve pains, or physical therapy, or re-learning how to tie their shoes. That’s how long.).
We are allowed our time to mourn (“How deeply?” I don’t know. Hobart Vann once said to me that I would know I was through the healing process of losing my daughter when I could talk about it without crying. That took a while, and it took me a while to understand what he meant and why that was so important. You have to be able to tell the story and point it back to the love of Jesus. It might seem impossible, at first, but it can be done, and when you can do it and you mean it wholeheartedly, you can do it with joy. That takes a while).
And one day…maybe nearer or farther away than we can comprehend…we will see our way back to our time to dance.

Happy Birthday…

Eleven.

You’d be eleven.

I Googled “things 11-year old girls like,” and the results made me smile.

Science.

Design.

Crafts.

Glitter.

I wonder what you’d like, as I do every year…

Time moves on, and we take our steps….

Leaves turn, and winter comes again.

Your brother changes every day; it’s going

So

Fast.

Every day with him is a gift that we

End with a hug and a

Prayer to the

Great God Who

Blessed Us…

The Great God Who

Holds you

Now…

He’s coming to the age where your story

Is told…

I’m not sure how we’re going to tell him,

But we will tell him how much we love you even

Now.

When the darkness comes….

When my soul is overwhelmed,

And when my heart feels every ounce of the memories that

Autumn Brings,

I remember the promises of my Savior…

I remember the promises of His Word…

I remember He loves me.

He loves you.

And I cling to the hope of seeing you again.

I remember the dreams He gave;

One boy, and one little

Red-haired

Princess…

Mine to hold

In eternity.

 

Happy Birthday in Heaven,

Beautiful Girl…

Your name means “Grace,”

And it is by the Grace of God

We live.

We hope.

And we love. KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Grief, Gratitude, and the Grace of Pumpkin Spice

4 years ago, I wrote the following (thank you, Timehop):

“I’m in a season of celebrating one new life, while remembering the short life of one gone far too soon. It’s conflicting, celebratory, sad, & a beautiful dichotomy that is not lost on me, even in my current chaos. Hello, Autumn-you remind me again of what is lost, even in the midst of great, wonderful, amazing gain…”

If you’re new to my blog and haven’t read the “About Me” section, then you may not have picked up on the fact that my husband David & I lost our first daughter, Hannah, at 29 days of age, to late-onset Group B Strep with Bacterial Meningitis. I could wax loquacious about the details, but I will spare you (and me), and stick with the general, “Google It” response that I tend to give in order to stop reliving the worst 5 days of my life.  Our daughter was a preemie (34 weeks), and could not fight off the flukiest-of fluke diseases (even though she was born completely healthy). My pregnancy with her basically wrecked my heart (physically and emotionally), and it was nothing short of a miracle that we conceived and successfully delivered our rainbow baby, Jericho, 7 years later. My pregnancy with Jericho was spent partially in the peripartum “spa” (if you’ve been “incarcerated” into peripartum care long-term, you know I’m joking) of the amazing Missouri Baptist Hospital, under the care of phenomenal doctors (shout-out to Michael Paul, MD, life-saving and baby-loving perinatologist) and nurses that I couldn’t have survived (physically and emotionally) without.

Bringing home a newborn after losing one, is a strange, difficult, conflicting process…For Jericho’s first month of life, I’m pretty sure I didn’t sleep (which led to some serious post-partum issues, that I am neither ashamed of nor silent about. Post-partum depression is real, and if you’re suffering from it, save yourself and your family, and get help), and I’m not so sure my husband did, either. I had a full 8 weeks at home with my little guy, and I think I spent most of my time crying happy tears, crying sad tears, swearing about a lousy milk supply, praying that I didn’t screw this up, and thanking God for how He keeps His promises….while also praying with everything within me that we could just get through the first 30 days. I think when Day 30 hit, I finally took my first post-partum breath. It felt like the oceans receded (proceeded? Words are hard) after being held back for a month…like all of the tension flew out of my body with that breath, and I finally, finally, could rest.

I didn’t, of course—hello, sleep training!—but I knew that I COULD, and that made a huge difference. After 30 days, I think I finally went from handling motherhood like a Swarovski crystal spider-web, and began to actually embrace that this really was my life now…he was ours, and he was everything I prayed for. The reality of the answer to years of prayers was staring me in the face, and he wasn’t going away. He was real…my precious boy…and I could truly, sincerely be happy.

After that first 30 days, through the spring and summer, I began to struggle with the “we nevers.” Jericho would have a milestone moment, and I’d think, “We never got to see Hannah do that.” I tried to turn it off, tried to celebrate what was happening, but the thoughts would creep back…”He giggled…I never got to hear her laugh.” “David, he flipped over…we never got to see Hannah do that.”

At one point, I dreamt that Jericho was lying on my bed, and a little red-haired girl was sitting there with him. Even now, as I type this, I can feel the tears at the back of my eyelids…that image was so, so powerful, as was the sentiment with it: “I will never, in this life, have a picture of my children together. What has happened to us? We will never be a normal family.” I woke up from that dream absolutely hysterical…I was deeply, deeply grieved. I can remember that intensity as if I’d dreamt it last night. Family pictures with one boy, one girl? They are still hard for me to see, even amongst friends…You just never have that sense of completion. You learn to accept it, to view it as your “normal,” but as a parent? You will always recognize that missing person in your family picture.

Anyway, the first year with Jericho was tough, as it is for all parents: You’re learning how to be a mom, learning how to juggle a full work-week, and finding trustworthy childcare. I had further complications that first year; my heart still wasn’t functioning correctly, my gall bladder required 2 different surgeries to remove, and my recovery post-C-section caused scar tissue to develop that would later result in a full hysterectomy just one year after having my son.

However, one of the greatest joys of that year was how often David & I would look at each other, or look at Jericho, and just know how great was the love of Jesus? How amazing was it that this tiny little person came about because of healing, grace, and love? We could look at this child and see tangible evidence that when you have a dream in your heart, and you know beyond the shadow of a doubt that God is NOT finished with you, despite what modern healthcare says– He can make miracles happen!  We could look at this child and know that you cannot accept the things men say, when you hear in your spirit the things God says!!  My son is nothing short of a breathing miracle, and frankly, I am, too. He has that legacy—that legacy of prayer, of hope, of determination. There is nothing in this world I am more grateful for, except my husband and my salvation.

Yep—I’m officially crying now. Jesus, I am so thankful! You can’t know how my heart blows up at just writing these words…I am grateful, with every cell of my body.

Even as I write this, though, I come back to how this blog started, with that quote from 2013: “Hello, Autumn—you remind me again of what is lost, even in the midst of great, wonderful, amazing gain…”

The spring and summer of 2013 were full of new-mom fog, surgery, work, etc. We were just trying to get our feet back under us to charge ahead on our new life together as a Party of 3. But then….

Then came Autumn.

And then came The Hardest Part.

When I went into Missouri Baptist Hospital in October, 2006, the fall leaves were still on the trees. My room overlooked the highway, so I really didn’t get a good handle on watching the season change to winter; when I left my hospital room in November, 2006, winter had come, and the world was bare.  I missed the entire season in a 4-week span, and we brought our little girl home the week before Thanksgiving. By the day after Thanksgiving, she was in a coma, and then she was gone…we buried her on December 1st, the day after one of the worst ice storms Missouri has ever seen. The sun shone, and the world was crystallized for my winter princess.  I’ve never forgotten the beauty of the day my child was buried…it was like the Lord decided to cover the trees in diamonds in her honor. It was stunning, even in the darkness of our grief.

But that year, 2006, I missed the fall. So when the leaves turned in 2007, something hit my heart, and I could only think of that Fall I Had Missed…and every year, I am reminded as such.

In 2013, the reminders came as I was looking into the eyes of my son…my miracle boy…and I was so totally conflicted in ways I hadn’t realized were possible. I had so much, but had lost so much, and the season reminded me of all of it, combined with gutting guilt. HOW dare I mourn, when I had so much to be thankful for?

How could I not, when that world was staring me in the face every day I walked out of my door?

I found myself not necessarily regressing in my grieving process, but really struggling with the dichotomy of grief and gratitude. And I’m writing this not to say that I have ever found an answer to that conflict, but to say that every year, I’m reminded of Hannah’s precious life in so many stronger ways than in my usual daily thoughts.

There is no season like Autumn, in all of its symbolism and glory…it’s a season of death, but a season where colors come alive….where we breath in the dust of the trees as they make their fiery curtain call for the year. It’s a season of living at bonfires and parks, a season where photographers revel in making memories, and where families gather to celebrate all things together…

We know death is coming…that winter is coming…but there is no day like today, and today, we celebrate the abundance of the harvest.  Are we near-sighted, to not hunker down and prepare for the winter? Or do we understand the breath/breadth of life, and own the day with its undeniable charm?

We cram our calendars with activities to take in every moment. That first year? We did it all. And we did the second year, and the third, and I’m getting ready to do it all again in the fourth year with our Rico-Bean. We celebrate the Fall, and we run ourselves ragged with the memories we make…and we make no apologies. I celebrate the Fall season with my little guy, and I never let on that I am internally fighting the conflict of that grief and that gratitude.

And I realize through it all, that there is no “conflict.”

There is only cohabitation.

I miss my little girl. Fall reminds me of her birth, of her death, and of the 29 days we had between…of the crunching of the leaves as I walked into the hospital, and the Christmas decorations as we came out…of that first day home from the hospital with her in our arms…and of the last day, where home was a place I never wanted to go back to…I wish I could separate her birth and her death, but her death came so quickly that I simply cannot. It all happened in the same season…this season…and every day is a reminder…

But every day is also a gift.

Every day, I look at Jericho and marvel at who he is, who he was born as, and what possibilities are to come…Every day, I am so grateful, and so genuinely happy. Every day, I praise God that I get to be that boy’s mother…Every. Single. Day.

This fall, we have adventures planned…it’s his first year in Pre-K, so there are school events (field trips!), fall festivals, our annual events with Parents-As-Teachers, and my favorite, Halloween!!!!!!!! This year, he’s going as Harry Potter for at least one event (he wears glasses, so it’s perfect!).  We celebrate this season; don’t be surprised to see me in my Uggs with my leggings and some S’mores, cradling a Pumpkin Spice Latte in my monogrammed fleece jacket,  as a shining example of Suburban White Chick Bliss (that’s an entire other blog).

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I love this season. I love that it has multiple meanings, deep significance, and a beautiful, melancholy soul. I love the constant reminders of grace, which hovers over the grief and the gratitude. Grace envelopes both feelings, and makes them walk side-by-side instead of in mental conflict.

Grace is how we had our Hannah…how we said goodbye…and ultimately, how we will say “hello,” again…

Grace is how we had our Jericho…how we said “hello” for the very first time…and how we embrace each new day and sleep peacefully each night.

Grace is what brought David & I together in this crazy world—two kids with no idea of what was to come, and no idea how to engage on this life or on this journey—

Grace is what keeps us together, and is what pulls us through the tough times. It pushes us constantly toward the Father Who bestows it in abundance, and works in us independently to keep us engaged…to keep us from throwing up our hands and breaking our hearts in this process.

Grace is what binds our hearts, and binds our hearts to each other.

And Grace is what leads us home…

There is a beautiful loss in the season of Autumn, but it is part of the journey to a beautiful rebirth…and we are constantly on that journey, surrounded by grace, with eternity in our hearts….<3

Ecclesiastes 3:11 “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

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