Friday, November 26, 2010

So glad we didn't skip it this year

I remember blogging about Thanksgiving last year and commenting that we should just skip Thanksgiving altogether next year. I'm so glad we didn't actually decide to do that. Chris had a horrible stomach bug two Thanksgivings ago and last year, he got a migraine headache that may or may not have been allergies from the Christmas tree we chopped down that weekend. Fun times.

This year, we decided to stay home in STL because Chris only gets a couple of days off and he has a ton of school work to do, and finals are coming up. So, here we are- snuggled up at home the day after Thanksgiving. We're all still in our PJs and I'm about ready to dig out all the leftovers and pig out all afternoon.

I had never made Thanksgiving dinner before so yesterday was quite the adventure. I had fully planned on getting a turkey and trying my hand at cooking it all by myself, but chickened out at the last minute and bought a chicken instead (oh, the funs of puns).
Everything turned out great, if I do say so myself.

I stayed up super late the night before and prepped all my ingredients. I made homemade pumpkin pie, baked the cornbread for dressing, cooked the sweet potatoes and tried (unsuccessfully) to bake my biscuits for the dressing as well. Practically right after I put the biscuits in the oven, the tornado siren went off and we all trekked to the basement for cover. I maybe wouldn't have gone downstairs except for the fact that I'm pretty sure I heard a great roaring sound right after the sirens went off. It was quite the adventure. Our neighbors met us in the hallway and we cuddled our kiddos while waiting it out on the floor of the basement hallway. We watched the live weather map online and decided after about 15 minutes that we were safe to go back upstairs.

So, back to the biscuits....I did remember to turn the oven off before heading out, but when I got back upstairs I turned the oven on and continued baking them like normal. Six minutes later, they were burned. If it wasn't so late and I hadn't been so distracted, I might have thought that yeah, the biscuits had been sitting in a hot oven for much longer than they should have been so they didn't need to be cooked any longer. But no, common sense escaped me at that moment.

I decided to clean up the kitchen, head back to bed and worry about the rest in the morning.
Yesterday morning, we had a neighbor come by to watch the Macy's parade and we ate cinnamon rolls and had delicious coffee. It was really fun.

By noon, I was back in the kitchen, chopping and sautéing, mixing and baking. I praise God that I didn't get overwhelmed- I am thankful everything turned out so great.



In the middle of cooking my squash for the casserole, I looked outside our window and saw snow! I couldn't believe it... I can't remember ever seeing snow on Thanksgiving before. It was beautiful. I took a break from cooking and Hannah and I stood at the window watching while Chris threw snowballs with the neighbor kids. He even brought one back inside for Hannah to see.






When everything was finally done, we sat down to enjoy our first Thanksgiving dinner, just the three of us. Hannah had just about had enough fun and was ready for a nap, but she toughed it out and we had a nice meal. The dressing was my favorite part; it tasted just like my mom's, burnt biscuit debacle and all.




We ended the day watching a movie with one of our neighbors and then promptly plopped into bed exhausted.


It was a great day. Praise the Lord.











We're very thankful for all we have, and mindful of what, or rather who, is missing. God is still worthy to be praised. Hope y'all had a great, peaceful Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

All around us

This time last year I was just entering the second trimester of pregnancy with Hannah Mae. This year, I'm being kept on my toes by my energetic and spunky 7 month old (well, 7 months old on Saturday).
It's crazy- what a year it's been.


Chris has been working non-stop on a research paper for his covenant theology class. And I dare say, it's been kicking his butt. Okay, not really, but I think it's kicking mine. He's been so wrapped up in his paper that I'm having a hard time not feeling neglected.
His paper is important.
Seminary is important and there's nothing wrong with working hard and doing well in school.

All the same, I still miss him and can't wait for Thanksgiving break (he gets 2 days off!). We got into an argument this morning because he wanted to do something tomorrow after his class (the class he's writing the paper for) and I had big plans for the three of us to do something together (grocery shopping and Target!!!!) after he turns in his paper. I was really looking forward to having him back in the present for more than 10 minutes at a time. As I moped around the bedroom, I told him, 'Look around! Life is still happening all around you!'
I would like to tell you that I said it in my sweetest wife voice, but that would be a lie. I yelled. And then I felt bad.

We talked after I cooled off and I hoped we had a better understanding of each other's feelings, but alas, we had another argument after dinner. Good times.

One of the things that Chris' mentor has talked with him about is balance. Seminary is not solely about reading books, gaining knowledge, studying theology and learning to preach. It's about seeing our need for Christ, getting to know the person of Christ more deeply and growing in our relationships, and for us that means growing as a family towards Christ, our center.
We've never been in a situation like this before. I've never had to share Chris with something else so often (besides grief). And I know that this is just the beginning if we are going into full-time ministry after seminary.

I long to find balance during this time. I want to be more gracious with Chris when he needs to hunker down and be enveloped in essays and Word documents and books. I also know I need to remind him (hopefully more gently next time) that life is still happening and we don't want to miss out on it.
Yes, there are papers that need to be written, books waiting to be read, and somewhere in all of this the dishes get washed, the laundry is folded and put away and the toilets are cleaned... this is life. There is a sweet little girl cooing in her exersaucer while I unload the dishwasher, jumping around as I sing the ABCs to her... this is life. And it's happening all around us.


The months and years after Owen died feel like the dead years to me. I could hardly see, let alone feel, the life I was living. I remember sleeping in as late as I could, wishing the hours by until Chris got home from work and then just 'being' with each other. Movies, TV shows on Hulu, or old episodes of the Gilmore Girls. I spent a lot of time killing time. I forgot I was still living.

I don't remember an exact moment where God, in his great mercy, woke me up. But I am thankful. Sometime in the midst of my dead years, I realized I was still living a life. As much as I tried to pretend otherwise, I still had a life and it was happening all around me.

I distinctly remember the first day I felt the wind again. It blew in my face and I could feel its chill. It had a smell, and I couldn't remember the last time I took in the smell of the wind. I rolled the windows all the way down in my car and drove with one arm out of the window, feeling the air flow through my fingers. Then later, I turned on the radio in my house, listened to the rhythm of the music and danced. I felt my body move and my heart pumped faster. I was starting to feel alive again.


My point in this long-winded post is not to paint Chris as an absentee husband or father; he's far from it. Whether it be school work or jobs or grief or our health, we all can focus so much on 'things' and forget that we're alive. I'm not saying that these things aren't important or aren't due their appropriate consideration. I certainly give grief its due, and I think it's important to do that. But there is a balance. A balance I long to learn; a balance I'm sure I'll struggle with until I go Home.

And the struggle? That's life too.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thankfulness

From a blog post almost a year ago:
"I was almost 11 weeks pregnant with her when we bought her first outfit. A little brown bear coat with ears on the hood. We weren't really looking to buy, just looking to look, when we saw it. I wanted it so badly. I wanted everything that it meant in buying that little coat. I wanted the six month old baby just sitting up on her own. I wanted the chubby little face poking out of the hood with ears. I wanted it all."






There are not enough words to convey what this picture means to me. "I wanted everything that it meant in buying that little coat."
Oh, man...


She's talking to me right now, grunting and cooing and staring me down, willing me to look at her. I have to smile back at her, looking up between each word to soak in her precious 6 month old perfection. 
She's really here. Living and breathing and being here with us. It's almost unbelievable, but still, at times I do forget that I never thought we would be here. 

Hannah's had a cold since Tuesday (but really, it may or may not just be teething) and then yesterday she went in for her 6 month well visit and shots. She weighs 16 pounds!!! I almost fell over. That means she's quadrupled the weight she was when she came home from the hospital! Praise God.

Between the teething monster, the runny nose and the after effects of getting shots yesterday, none of us slept well last night. I've had a lot of time to reflect because Hannah has been extra sleepy all day (She's already had two 1.5 hour naps this morning!). I've gone back over a lot of my past blog posts to read and re-read where we've come from. 


It honestly feels like an out of body experience to read the words of a broken woman, desperate to parent her children. There were so many times this morning that I could feel and visibly see the full circle, the redemption that God has brought to us. 
*speaking of that, I've got to interrupt this blog post to change a super poopy diaper!*


As wonderful and amazing and beautiful as it is having Hannah Mae home with us, it's not a complete or perfect full circle. There is not full redemption yet. And there won't be until we are all together, living true life with our Father. I long for that day.

It is undeniable how much my life has changed these past two years since starting this blog. My two year blog anniversary is next weekend. Strangely enough, the date also falls on Hannah Mae's 7th month birthday.

To completely honest, some of the things I wrote about- hope and healing, trust and faith- I've needed to revisit since Hannah was born because I've forgotten. I think this is just part of life though. We learn and grow, we become self righteous with our new found wisdom and maturity, and then we find ourselves struggling with the same issues again and we need to go back to the root of all wisdom. We need to go back to the cross and to Jesus. We think we have it all figured out, but what little insight we've been given makes us feel self sufficient and righteous within ourselves. I have been this way many, many times before and I doubt that I will escape it in the future.

But the good news is that God is more gracious and more wise than we can imagine. He knows we will lose sight of Him and His saving grace, become preoccupied with worldly things; and He knows we'll find no greater comfort, peace, or love outside of Him. We can try to live otherwise, but eventually God in his great mercy will show us the Truth and we'll fall on our knees, not in shame, but in thankfulness.


I'm so thankful for the good news of the Gospel tonight.


It took me literally all day to write this post. Here it is 9:30 on a Friday night and still, I think I could write all night long. There's so much I need to write and share, but I want to be intelligible and I don't think I can do that now. After reading back from my very first blog post to now, I can see the beautiful work of the Holy Spirit and I long to bring Him glory.

I feel such indebtedness to each of you who've walked this road with me. I can't say thank you enough. I want to continue to share our little life with you, and I hope you'll continue on with us. Life and blogging has looked a little bit different since we welcomed Hannah Mae into our arms, but I hope to continue writing here. I'm very thankful for this place.

And I'm super thankful for this sweet little baby girl who has brought us more joy than we thought possible.





Thursday, November 18, 2010

What is Seminary like?

One of my friends from back home asked me the other day what our days are like here in Seminary. Well, here's a (somewhat boring) look into our day-to-day life:

Chris' day starts at around 5 or 6am (some mornings, like yesterday and today, he's up at 4:30). He makes coffee (not that I'm up to see this, but the smell of fresh coffee makes its way back to the bedroom) and begins his school work. He either reads for class, studies Greek or works on a paper or two (again I'm not up to see this, but I do ask him later in the day what he did that morning). Most mornings (except for Mondays) his first class is at 8:30. Depending on how the night went with Hannah, we're up at 8/8:30 too, except we usually nurse and cuddle in bed before straggling into the living room to play (read: mommy makes coffee while Hannah chills in her exersaucer). 
Because we don't have much money to spare and we've never been ones to eat lunch out (even when we both worked), Chris comes home for lunch. We eat together and then back to studying or class he goes. Depending upon what he has going on that week (a test or paper due), Chris tries to get home from either class or studying by 5:30/6pm. We have dinner (I usually have it ready when he gets home, but you know, some days I don't and that's okay too).  Last night, for instance, after spending all afternoon cuddling my stuffy/runny nose baby (her second cold), I didn't get around to making dinner until 7:30. I made homemade burritos out of the ground turkey I had made for spaghetti the night before and we ate them sitting on the couch. :) I'm not gonna lie and tell you that we always eat dinner at the table, because we don't.
Tonight, I have big plans for some curried chicken and potatoes over rice, with a side of broccoli. We'll see if I get it done before 8pm (we're still battling a runny nose, as well as the after-effects of Hannah's six month vaccinations).

Nights are our family time, where we enjoy each other and hang out. Chris tries not to work or study past dinner, but again, it can't always be avoided. The end of the semester is upon us and he has some big papers and tests soon, so our nights will be looking a lot different this month. Chris is taking six classes (a full load) this semester, and it looks like in order to finish school in three years (like his scholarship dictates), he'll have to take a full load every semester, as well take January term and summer classes. We have been trying to establish an earlier bedtime, but you know how that goes. It's a slow and trying process. The last few nights we've gone back to the bedroom for bed at 9/9:30, but haven't been able to get Hannah down until 10/10:30. This whole cold/teething monster thing has been hard, but God gives us all the grace we need.

Usually our weekends look the same. Chris gets up around 6am on Saturday and studies until noon. I entertain Hannah all morning and work around the house, and then we spend the afternoon and evening as a family. Some Saturday nights, we hang out with new friends and have dinner together.
Sundays are our day of rest. We sleep in (correction: Chris sleeps in) until about 7:30-8:30, get up and out the door in time for Church. We spend Sundays together and just rest. It's always a nice day. No studying on Sundays. :)

So, that's that.

I think if you ask Chris what seminary is like, he'll answer far differently than this. This is my practical answer to what seminary looks like for us. The boring day to day stuff. You know, life.
Chris is learning so much and though it's extremely overwhelming for him, he loves it. I love hearing about what he learns in class and from his professors. I think it's so cool that he's learning Greek, though I have no desire whatsoever to learn it with him!
Some of the books he's reading sound amazing and I can't wait to dig into them. But I have to be patient with myself and know that things take me longer these days, and that's okay. I am still working on my thank-you notes for Hannah. I should really mail them out as I finish them, but there's something so satisfying looking at the pile grow bigger each night. I can't wait to get them all mailed out!


We're still, well sort of, visiting churches. It's been difficult finding one that we feel we can fit and be apart of. We loved our church back home and find ourselves comparing every church to our home church. I think we've both realized that we're not going to find a church exactly like our home church, so we need to pick one (there are a lot of good churches here) and just get involved.

Well, I guess that's it. :)


Seminary life, life in general, is a beautiful and challenging undertaking. 

Right now

There's a warm, cuddly, little baby girl snuggled up, mouth half open, snoring into my breast.

Sometimes I forget that I never thought we would be here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Owen's third birthday

Yesterday was sweet and sorrowful. Painful and joyful.

It feels like a balancing act to keep living in the world after one of your children dies. A strange and mysterious juggling of emotions on a day to day basis.
My heart longs to dwell on Owen. To let my thoughts linger on him and his life; his absence here and his presence in Heaven. My mind turns to him constantly throughout the day as I remember the time we had with him, and as I long for things that won't ever be reality. I wonder what life would be like with a three year old running around our house, interrupting Hannah's naptime and chattering with me while I make dinner.
At the same time, my mind is occupied with nursing schedules and naptimes. My heart also sits joyfully with Hannah as we play on the floor and giggle with each other.

I am in the present with Hannah and I am also longing for the future with Owen in Heaven. I'm not torn between the two, my heart doesn't love one more than the other or long for one more than the other, but it's a balancing act.

It's difficult to explain and hard to navigate. I've been living with the pain of Owen's absence for three years, but only in the last six months have I had to navigate this road with a child in my arms.

Celebrating Owen's birthday was different this year than the past two years. It was hard to sit in my grief and sorrow while tending to a very needy and adorable six month old. We didn't get to release any balloons because of bad timing and other responsibilities. I did make a cake, but didn't get it iced until after Hannah was in bed. It was just a different kind of day.





I can't believe Owen has been gone from this Earth for three years. It's so hard to believe that he would be three if his birth, his life for that matter, was what we had expected. It wasn't though... it wasn't what we expected, but it is his story nonetheless.


We miss you, precious baby boy.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

I don't like today

Sad, sad, hard day.

I don't like remembering today. This is the day, 3 years ago, that we found out Owen was no longer with us. I don't like the memories of this day.

Friday, November 5, 2010

3 years

First off, I have to say how wonderful you guys are. I mean, truly wonderful. I am praising God for you and for your sweet words of encouragement.
There were times during the day on Tuesday that I thought I might just lay down on the floor and not get back up again. I hate feeling that way. Such a hopeless and sad feeling. There were so many days right after Owen died that I did exactly that. I would be in the middle of doing something in the house or after having just gotten up off the couch to go the bathroom, I would lay down on the floor and just cry. I remember those days so vividly.

And now, all of a sudden, it's been 3 years since Owen died. Today is his Heaven day. This time, 3 years ago, I was at work. I was huge, uncomfortably and blissfully pregnant with my precious firstborn. There are details and bits and pieces of that work day that I remember so well. I know exactly what I was wearing (down to the shoes on my feet), I remember walking into my co-worker's office (also my good friend and supervisor) and telling her how great I felt, and I remember the exact time of the day that I felt Owen's last big kicks. I wish I had known that those were his last, but I am thankful (to the best of my knowledge) to know when he entered Heavens' gates.

But I wish I didn't remember that night so well. The night I ignored the sinking suspicion that something was wrong. The night I was so busy with shopping and planning that I didn't want to believe that something could happen this close to his due date.  The restless night of sleep I got 3 years ago will probably haunt me the rest of my life. But, I know I couldn't have changed anything. I believe that he was already rejoicing in Heaven that night. I know that I couldn't have done anything for him, but my heart will always hit replay and wonder and wish.

It's so hard not to, but I don't want to focus on all of that...  I do want to focus on his sweet life with us and on the glorious life he has now.


Rejoice with me today.... the day Owen went home to Jesus. What a glorious day!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Overwhelmed

I'm feeling pretty overwhelmed today. The lead up to the anniversary of Owen's death and his birthday is always really bad.

And I'm just feeling so.... bah... I'm just overwhelmed and crazy feeling.

This new aspect of my life, being the mom of a living baby, and grieving my babies in Heaven is taking its toll. I feel guilty even writing that. I feel guilty that I can't keep it all together. I feel guilty that I don't always know what I'm doing, but I feel like I should.

Mommy guilt is a terrible, terrible thing. I hate the days when I feel like I'm messing everything up. Like I can't do anything right.

I'm not great with schedules or strict with naptimes/bedtime. I must be a horrible mom. I just started solids and I hate it. Well, hate is a strong word. But I don't like it. It's so confusing and complicated. All the information I'm getting is making me feel like if I don't do homemade, organic baby food then I must be a terrible mom. It's hard starting something new and my personality feels like I must find the best/perfect way to do it and then do it perfectly.

Until recently, I didn't really worry about Hannah's bedtime. She went to bed when she started acting sleepy/fussy. I just went with the flow and followed her cues. But now, all of a sudden, I'm comparing Hannah to all the babies around here (there are ALOT) and I feel guilty that I can't get her to sleep before 9:30-10pm. Our upstairs neighbor puts all 3 kids to bed at 7:30 (the youngest was born around Hannah's due date). Seriously, she puts them to bed and they all just go to sleep.
So, last night, after a bath and some cuddling, I put her down to bed at 8pm. And she cried... and cried and cried... for 2 hours. I let her cry for seriously 30 seconds before picking her back up again, but I think the whole thing was just so different for her (I always put her down after she's asleep) and it made her angry. I rocked and walked and cuddled and tried to nurse her but everything just made her angry. Finally after crying with her, I put her in her exersaucer and let her play for a few minutes. She calmed down (probably b/c she got what she wanted), and then 10 minutes later fussed for milk and then promptly fell asleep. At 10pm.
Like usual.

argh.

I don't know what I'm doing and I'm afraid that I'm parenting her out of guilt and fear and worry. I'm fearful she'll die, so I try to enjoy and cherish each moment I have with her. But seriously, who can do that ALL the time, so I end up feeling guilty because I get short tempered with her. I worry about her safety and development and well being and health and happiness so much, ALL the time, that I forget to enjoy her. I'm afraid I'm making decisions from the wrong place.
I feel guilty that she has to have this basket case of a mom, so I compensate by letting her do what she wants (i.e. not a strict bedtime or naptimes, not letting her cry or fuss hardly at all- unless I can help it, letting her nap on me).

Maybe that's a big part of it- I feel bad that she has to grow up with a basket case for a mom. I really hate that I can't be a normal mom for her. There is so much fear and anxiety that have come from burying my firstborn. I look at everything differently. I see the worst case scenario in every situation.


Wow. This is such a horrible post.
But it's the truth. This is where I am right now. This is where I am, 3 years after my little boy died.


Every night, when I put Hannah down in her bed, I pray for her safety and health, that she'll live a long, healthy, happy, God glorifying life. That she'll come to know Jesus.
And that Jesus would help me trust Him with her life.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Unseen

My granddaddy died last month. He was a great man; married to my grandmom for almost 69 years.
Because we moved so far from home, we couldn't make it back for his funeral. Hannah and I were in the midst of a pretty yucky cold and flying would have made for a terrible time. I know my family understands, but I'm still very sad that I couldn't be there.
And my grandmom, his wife, died just last weekend. We were unable to make it down for her funeral as well.

At various points throughout my day, I 'remember' that they're gone. I'm not there to see that they're gone and I wasn't there for their funerals, so the finality has not hit me. I don't feel their absence like my dad and mom, or the rest of my family does. I often 'forget' that they're no longer living.

It's a little bit like when my friend from high school died. I had just moved to out of state and it didn't feel like she was gone, because there was no difference in my daily life. I was two states away and she was no longer a part of my day to day life. I couldn't see the hole that she had left behind. The way my mind processed it- she was still living back home; still alive and well, but I was not able to be a part of her life because I had moved away.

My thoughts have been similar since my grandparents died. The year of magical thinking...


These thoughts have caused me to think differently about Owen's life and death and made me wonder.... I wonder if, because his life was almost invisible to others, it's hard to see or feel his absence. Is this why people often refer to Hannah as my first child? Is this why it seems like he is easily forgotten? Or not sorely missed?

Owen's life was lived in me, unseen by our eyes. But-
But I felt his life. I lived his life with him.

When he died, an Owen-shaped-hole was created. I could see, feel, and taste his absence. It consumed my every waking moment, my every thought. I was his mom, he was my little boy.

After almost three years of living with my son's death, God has given me more grace, more understanding when friends or family 'forget' and say or do things that hurt. I know Owen is not always on everyone's mind. I can't expect that. And I'm beginning to see how easy it is to 'forget'.

There really was no Owen-shaped-hole in many other peoples' lives. Everyone was waiting until he was born for his life to start. There are few friends who talk about Owen like they had a life with him; like they knew him like Chris and I did. And it always warms my heart to hear them talk about him this way.
It's so easy to talk about someone you have shared memories with, someone you spent 15 years with, but it's not always so easy to reminisce about someone you never saw beyond their pictures.

I think of the trouble I have processing my grandparents' deaths and I find myself having more grace with people when they 'forget' Owen/when they fail to mention him. In my mind, my grandparents aren't gone- they're right where I left them. I've known them all my life and can't imagine them being gone.
It must be hard for people to conceptualize and process the death of someone they never met, but who was so vitally important and undeniably real to their parents.

It is one week until Owen's third birthday; less than one week until the anniversary of the day he went to Heaven. These new (new to me) realizations have come at a good time. My heart and head ache with his absence and though I've probably done a terrible job at verbalizing my thoughts, I feel a little bit lighter tonight. Grace feels good.