Where did November go?

You guys…..this month!  Its been the kind of month that seems like it should be over by now but it just isn’t. There are still four days left! The weeks have been so full.  Full of highs and lows. Have you guys ever done that at the dinner table? We used to do that with Isaac when he was younger, we would sit at the table and go around and each talk about our high’s and low’s of the day.  It was one of my favorite times as a family.   Maybe I will pick that up again at dinner. There is something unique about that question that opens up the conversation about your day.  All of that to say, we are going to do some high’s and low’s to catch up. 

High:  We bought a car.  A second car to be more specific. When we moved we decided we would go as a single car family and then buy a second one when we got to Georgia.  That was almost three years ago.  The first year and a half were not too bad. I actually enjoyed it a little bit.  Our life as a whole had slowed down so not having a car wasn’t as big of a deal.  Also, Charles worked close enough that if I ever wanted to take the car for the day I could. With the job change his office was farther away and taking the car for the day became a deal.   Getting a second car became more of a priority.  Wish I could tell you I was so fun to car shop with but I am not. I simply get too wrapped up in making the RIGHT choice, instead of just getting what works for us.  It’s a thing I have to consistently work through. WE MADE IT THOUGH.  We bought a car. I am so HAPPY. I forgot what life was like with the ease to grocery shop whenever, or take Isaac out during school breaks, or just go grab coffee at a shop and write.  It’s truly GLORIOUS! 

Low: This one is hard to write because it is tender still and will be for a while.  This was the month that we said goodbye to Charles mom, Gail. She had been battling cancer for years, beating it once, for it only to come back.  When it returned it came with a timeline, one I would like to note, she beat living longer then they expected. With that timeline in mind, we have purposely spent every holiday and as much time as we could in Charlotte with her.   Gail was a fierce lover of her family, there was nothing outside of the Lord that she loved more than Jack (her husband) and her children. Well, maybe the beach but only if Jack and her kids were there. And a good adventure, if Jack and her kids were there.  She was something else and we will greatly miss her.  

There is our high and low like I said it was quite the month.  We opted out of another drive to Charlotte for Thanksgiving, deciding instead to stay home and be. Just the three of us and we did.  It was about as low key as you can get.  I didn’t even cook a turkey but I loaded up on the snacks. Which as a side note I have recently discovered are what I live for, SNACKS. They are the best thing ever, I will pass on Thanksgiving spread every time if I could gorge myself on snacks.  So it was just us, snuggled up, eating snacks, binge-watching football, and Fringe.   I did do something brave though. Well at least brave for me. I wrote a post and submitted it for an online community to possibly publish. Somewhere in my rational brain, I understand its not that big of a deal, however, the confidence to write and submit something has been such a journey for me. It felt good to step outside of the box I put myself in and just do something that made my palms sweat a little. 

This week we are getting back into our groove. Charles is off to the trenches at work, Isaac is gutting out the harsh school life of a 4th grader (I am joking….he loves it) and I am home (or sometimes not because I have a CAR) trying to find my pace with writing again. I hope your November and Thanksgiving found you surrounded by those you are grateful for and who are grateful for you.  

Leave it to Grey’s Anatomy

It was the next thing I did after I pushed the start button on our coffee pot. It wasn’t your normal end of the season shirt. Generally, I pass those ones on to Goodwill. It wasn’t even one of those I am so much smaller now I can’t wear this shirt kind of shirt. It wasn’t even a shirt, it was an undershirt. One of those skinny strapped tank tops that you wear for layering purposes. I have had it for almost 9 years. Yeah, I know…too long. I couldn’t get myself to the place where I parted with it. It’s not like it was any good anymore. The elastic on the bottom was stretched out. There were holes, the fabric so thin it was see through. I had gotten all the use out of this shirt, I was going to get. Yet still, I couldn’t seem to let it go.

Until this morning.

I have been sitting in this place emotionally where I am just letting the heartbreak of having a child who died, be. I am allowing my heart to take this journey and process however that may need to happen. I have no time frame, no clue as what to think or feel, I just am where I am. Open, present, and engaged with my heart for whatever it may need. Last night I decided to do what I call hibernate. It’s basically where I ditch the boys, snuggle up in the back, and just breathe. Sometimes I write, sometimes I listen to music, sometimes I watch tv. I don’t know what is so life-giving about that for me. There is just something about not having to be responsible for anybody. When I hibernate, Charles and Isaac run the house. They navigate meals, bedtime, or whatever is in the schedule. It isn’t always Isaac’s favorite, he loves it when everybody is together. He also gets it and always finds a way to sneak back at least 3 or 4 times for a quick kiss and snuggle. Don’t even know who I would be without that kid! So last night, hibernating, I end up watching some tv. It was Thursday, or course, Thursday. Grey’s Anatomy was on. Now I have not been a fan of Grey’s Anatomy for many years. I like the old school Grey’s, like McSteamy and McDreamy days. Matter of fact when Katie Grace was born, I went back and binged watched the older shows. There was something incredibly therapeutic about it; it was as if I could release my pain through Meredith Grey. The ache in my own life was too much but I could feel it through the dark and twisty life these writers gave her.

It’s been a hot minute since I have tuned in. Until last night in my hibernation. In the episode, they were showing a scene between Owen and Amelia. It’s a long twisted story I don’t want to get into and isn’t relevant to this story. Here is the part that is, Amelia was talking about a child she had that had died. Apparently, when she and Owen were married, he wanted kids and she wasn’t ready, part of the reason was facing the death of her son. As they were talking, she said something about finally being able to say his name, the freedom that it brings and the fact that the memory of him isn’t lost when more children are born. I can tell you 100% that is not what I expected to watch on Grey’s Anatomy. I just cried. I sat in my bed and let the tears fall. Somehow, someway, this fictional character on this fictional show gave my heart permission in a way my mind has not been able to.

Leave it to Grey’s Anatomy.

That undershirt I threw away this morning, is the last article of clothing I own that I wore when I was pregnant with Katie Grace. It seems so nonsensical to feel so connected to an inanimate object. It’s not like I don’t have things of her’s stored away in storage. Items I thin out each time we move or in each new season. I have at least 3 boxes of her. This undershirt though, I could wear it. I could put it on and remember her. I can remember being so massively pregnant with her. I can be in shock that this shirt, was able to cover her in my belly. Somehow this shirt became a connection to not just my pregnancy but also her.

I have tried to throw it away before. I just couldn’t get ever get close enough to the trash can to let it go. This hitch would happen within my heart, and I would go, awe there is no harm holding onto it. My mind would be speaking another story, reminding me how trashed it is. How there are holes and barely any fabric left. Yet still, I would put it back in my drawer and keep it in my rotation of undershirts. My heart unable to follow with the logic of my mind.

Things are changing though. This healing process, the timing that life has given, change is here, my heart is finally catching up to the logic of my mind. The more I stay in this place of heartbreak, sitting freely, safely, and fighting the impulse to be anything but present; my heart is fully feeling and healing. It is also releasing. It is letting go. Gah! It still makes me cry to write it. I don’t want to let go. That momma in me, that bear that fights, I want to hold onto what I know with her. I want to keep what life gave me. Life already took her, it can’t have anything else.

Yet in true Katie Grace form, doing what isn’t natural as a parent has been the only way to do life and death with her. Fighting to keep your children alive, healthy and well rounded, that is the intuitive drive. Not with her. It was almost always about letting that intuitive drive go, finding who she was, and following her lead. Here she is again, leading me into life, just as much as she led me into death.

Seven or so years ago, I was a new mom with a brain damage baby, weeping through Grey’s Anatomy because it was the only way to release the overwhelming pain of what my world was. Here I am today weeping through Grey’s Anatomy on a Thursday because of the overwhelming pain of letting go was too much for my heart to bear on its own. It’s a full circle. The embracing and the releasing of life and what it holds, the good and the bad.

Leave it to life.

Leave it to Katie Grace.

Leave it to Grey’s Anatomy.

P.S For my die hard Grey’s fan, I wrote this two weeks ago so it was not last Thursday episode. Just clarifying 😉

 

Brokenhearted

“That’s really the question you are going to ask here….at Zaxby’s?” Isaac said his opinion apparent in his tone.

“Uh yeah,” was my only response. I didn’t see anything wrong with the question I asked. Yet again I also didn’t realize what emotional door I was opening or the conversation it would lead to.

Before I get into that I have to tell you I have been pondering this question my friend T asked me almost two months ago. We were on our six-hour drive to Kentucky, we started talking about kids and babies. She just said, “I know what your boys want but you know I don’t ever hear much from you about what you want. Do you want another baby?” I guess I knew that I hadn’t really talked about my own thoughts about it, I just kind of went along with, “What, yeah of course I do”. Her question made my heart sit up inside and look around though. What I saw was this spot that I don’t really actually talk about. I have talked around it, discussed aspects of it, but I haven’t verbally revealed that spot. That’s curious for me, we all know I talk about everything. I analyze everything. I find the smallest emotional issues and I dig into it, pushing it around, feeling it, doing everything to understand and come to a place of resolve. This though. I have just left alone.

Now that I am aware though, I have been looking at that spot for two months. I have talked about not talking about it. I have poked it a little bit, pushed the outside of it to see how tough the skin is, but I haven’t dug in.

Well until that moment at Zaxby’s.

We were just sitting there, the three of us, as it usually is. This question just popped into my mind out of my mouth: “Would you guys be okay if it is just the three of us? Can you be content if this was just our family?”. I didn’t expect my voice to crack or my eyes to well up with tears but they did.

They both responded with a resounding yes. Then Isaac asked his, “Really, here.” question. Then Charles paused and said “Wow, wait, I think yes. It just hits me in this spot to think that we wouldn’t have anymore.” (Did I swoon? Or course. I love a man who can identify his feelings and communicate them). We finished up lunch, hopped in the car to finish our drive to see his family in North Carolina.

The next hour was filled with the emotional banter of two parents trying to figure out where their hearts are. Charles kept asking me “What do you want? Do want another baby?” I kept replying “This isn’t about whether I want another baby. Of course, I want another baby. I wanted 4 babies. I wanted to have more than one right now. I wanted to keep both of the ones I had. This isn’t about wanting another. This is about can I accept how life is playing out with regards to our children.”

You see if I ran the world. I would have 4 kids, living in a house somewhere in the country. They would play outside all day and we would have family dinners at night. I would be spending my day’s navigating emotional conversations between them giving space and guidance, to help shape them into the phenomenal beings I know they were made to be.

I don’t run the world though. I don’t have 4 kids and a house in the country. Nobody is playing outside all day to only come in for family dinner at night. I am not spending my days navigating conversation between amazing little people we have been entrusted with. I am a mom of a 10-year-old, trying to figure out how to not be too much most days, and too little the other days. As Charles and I processed, I realized I am a mom who is having to figure out if it is okay to bring another life into the world who doesn’t know the life who left early. If a baby joins us, they won’t know Katie Grace. They won’t have the opportunity to hold her hand or kiss her cheeks or be in her presence. They will come into our family and never know this precious soul who changed who we were. It aches my heart in a way I don’t have words for.

In all honesty, when I first started writing this post I had to stop. Grief showed up in a deeper way than I had expected. I thought I had grasped something during that conversation with Charles, and I did, it’s just that there was more. As the words of the story left my mind and heart, this space opened inside me, and I realized….it isn’t just about can I accept how my life is playing out in regards to children.

It’s about my heart being broken.

We see professional athletes run on injuries or people in stressful situations whose mind pushes the pain of broken limbs or sprained joints out of the way to get them to safety. Our hearts are no different. I was dedicated to living life with Katie Grace, committed to loving her with all that I had even when I knew it was going to hurt at the end. For her entire life, I wrestled with the consequences of loving her thoroughly. Always seeing death looming around, letting the expanse of the impending pain known. Relentlessly I battled back somehow discovering the grit to keep pace with my girl, making sure that when she crossed the finish line of her life, she wasn’t alone. Her race is over though, and rightfully so, my place beside her is also over. All the injuries I suppressed, all the pain I pushed to the side, they have slowly made their presence known. I just didn’t realize how broken my heart is. I think because I processed so much to be so strong beside her, I just figured I was okay, my leg wasn’t that broken.

It is though, I gave that girl all of me. I fought self-preservation to stay wholeheartedly present and madly in love with her unto death. I went against norms to embrace new normals to make space for who she was. I raged against sterile environments to make memories with her, knowing they were going deepen our connection, hurting more when she left this world. I did what parents do, I did the hard things so that she had the best of what this world offered her.

Katie Grace was still with us when I made the decision in my mind that I would have more. I actually blogged about it because it was one of those I won’t live in a sterile world because I know something painful is coming moments. I just decided the trauma of her life wouldn’t stop me from bringing new life. So we stopped preventing and just decided what will be will be. That is where we have stayed for the last five years. It has been easy to write off the lack of pregnancy as life was stressful, or busy, or my body just not being ready.

Now here I am, finally realizing how broken my heart is. It cringes at the thought of loving a new child, not because they are not wanted but because it knows fully the depth of “what if something” happened. It is awakened the vastness of pain that comes with saying goodbye to a child too early. I think also, having another, is truly letting go. Bringing new life into this world, growing our family, is a huge step of moving forward. Right now we are this unit, this tight family of 3 who knew her, loved her, held her, and in a way it keeps her with us. This tender broken heart might just need time to let pain breathe now that it has been brought to light. Maybe all these years it hasn’t been a deficiency in my body but I simply needed time and space for my broken heart to heal

Time is simply something you cannot rush. I know we like to, especially in our culture these days. Yet you can’t rush it. Time is what gives us the space for our memories, our hurts, our victories, our failures.

Right now, I am breathing. I am let the tears fall. I am looking at this broken heart and letting it breathe. I am giving it permission to fully grieve and although it hurts my fingers to type, I am giving myself permission to move on.

I am leaving this post with a song I listen to strategically. It’s a song Isaac and I played almost every day after Katie Grace died. I would pick him up from school and when we hit our neighborhood, I would open the sunroof on our blue van, let him stick his head out the window, and play this song as loud as I could. Take a minute, listen to the words, they will tell you why.

Boxes

If you told me 375 days ago when my family ended their journey from California to Georgia, that God was going to slow our pace down to snails speed and everyday was going to be about identity finding, I wouldn’t have believed you. I would have kindly received your words, pushed them aside in my mind, stuffing them into that place where you put random things people tell you that you either don’t want to believe or you have no grid to understand.

Yet here we are. Here I am once again wrought with realization of the depths in which identity has eluded me all these years.

I am a fan of emotional boxes, or as most people say compartmentalizing, one could even call it rules. I love the emotional feeling of safe lines drawn into the ground of life. Those lines act like a guide of so many things, they reveal right and wrong, good and not good, safe and not safe. They tell me how to act, what to think, and how to know if I am doing a good job. Guess saying I am a fan could be an understatement, I am more of a devotee. Allowing these lines that make up the boxes to shape my ability to know whether or not I am succeeding in life, giving me the peace I need to know that I am doing a good job. And here, this morning, I am finding that, to actually be a predicament. I am realizing I am not the one whose hand has been using the marker to draw these lines that make up the boxes. As a collector of people, of friends, of environments, of community’s, it has been incredibly easy for me to let the environment be the hand which holds the marker which draws the boxes. They have been the artists who have drawn the line of the construct of my boxes, yet here, now I find that very uncomfortable.

This discomfort has left me in a tailspin. A healthy plunging at a high rate in which all the lines of my boxes are becoming blurry. I can see where I have have stood with simple acceptance, pleasurably relishing in the peace and safety of not being the artist holding the marker making the construct of the box. The pressure of discomfort is causing me to question the authority I have given the lines, to ponder why I so easily and pleasurably allow other artists to be the line makers of my boxes.

As my eyes and heart searched for answers this morning, I found myself again taken back to my identity. Have you ever met someone who just kind of knows who they are. Making decisions about what they like and don’t like comes easy to them. Having deep conversations about what they think, agree with, don’t agree seems uncomplicated and straightforward. I have always been envious of those people. It’s like they were born with the marker in their hands and they have always known it, and known how to draw with it. The only predicament they might get in is if someone comes along and raises enough reason for them to maybe change a line here or there, and then just as simply as they made the first line, they erase and re-draw. I have not ever been one of those people. I was born acutely aware of my surroundings and the people in them susceptible to the construct of their boxes made up by the markers in their hands. It is consistently easier for me to lean into my surroundings and use those lines instead of finding my own. You see using the marker placed in your hand, is discovering yourself. It is thinking and deep conversing with the one who dreamed of you about callings, beliefs, values, and temperament. The lines are conversation pieces of you, they are things to lean into when to make sure you are doing a good job. They are the boundaries that help define you. If I don’t know what those lines should be within my heart, if I am not the hand making the marks, then I am just a leaning into the lines of others, using their constructs to measure myself by.

This morning I was overcome with insecurity. Overwhelmed by the blurred lines I am finding in this tailspin so I threw myself at the Lord in worship, pouring out to Him all the insecurity like oil at his feet. He pulled me into his chest quickly, His arms wrapped around me, and his breaths began to breathe me in. That wasn’t what my humanity wanted though, I wanted a box checked, a you’re doing good, or doing bad, so I began whispering what I thought would be my transgressions, reminding Him of the boxes and how I am possibly failing, subconsciously begging him to rebuke me, to check a box, and remove me from His chest. In response I hear:

“You know I love how you live all out for me. How you lay bare all that you are for me. How you face every discomfort and hard thing just to be close to me. My heart can trust you to come to me open and vulnerable. Do you even know how much I love you?”

And I am done….there is nothing I can say…..not that I don’t protest because I really want him to check a box, to tell me good or bad but he doesn’t. He doesn’t even acknowledge my list in our conversation. He simply takes me back to where it all begins, to love, to identity. He neither said yes or no to my list of possible transgressions, instead He took me back to who I am, firm in His stance of love. A person who loves with all that she is. Who lives all out for the Lord. Who faces the hard things of life to be close to him. I stood taller when I leaned up from His chest, not because I had answers but because I a grabbed a piece of myself. I picked up a marker in my hand, and placed my hand in his and together we drew a line to form a box.

The invitation is made, the gesture of his words stating all that I will need in this journey. The promise that this uncomfortable tailspin is the promise that in this life, He wants to be the one who holds my hand as we make the marker lines of my box construct. Please don’t hear any devaluing of people, their constructs, or community. Please don’t hear any disrespect of authority, leadership or the voice of those with wisdom beyond me. That is not what I am preaching. Those people and community, those words, they hold value beyond compare. I believe in the body of Christ. I am coming to believe even more they should be used as a way to sharpen who you are, like a blade upon a sharpener. You have to know who you are, what YOUR construct is before you can be sharpened by another. If not I am afraid what I am seeing, is that you just replace one construct for another, easily tossed around by the beliefs and constructs of others.

I am a lover of boxes and although in the desperate pressing tailspin of blurred former lines, I am finding my love for markers.

Welcome 2017

I have pondered about these next 48 hours since we celebrated since December 16th.  What to do, what not to do, do we celebrate, do we not, do we stay quiet, do we go loud, what do we do.  In about 28 hours, it will have been two years since we sat huddled around that olive-green love seat that held my mom, cradled that red-headed 4-year-old, watching her breathe her last breath.  Although my brain has run wild with the what to do thought, my body made the decision this morning when I woke up with the stomach bug.

Staying quiet it is.

Between my short naps and brief reprieves, I find myself scrolling through all the Facebook memories and Timehops I can.  I read and re-read the moments we shared and the comments that came after allowing them to take me back to that time. I have noticed that as I sit here, my perspective has changed, the walls of my heart have expanded. Notes left by friends expressed so much love, so much compassion and caring, but I was in survival mode and could only comprehend a fraction of what was poured out. As I read these thoughts now, I can feel the tenderness, the devotion, the love more than ever. Katie Grace didn’t just give me a chance to be loved by her, but she gave me the chance to be loved by my community.

We seriously underestimate the value of letting people love us, God didn’t though; He never has. I wonder if God the Father looks at Jesus, the way I look at Katie Grace, in awe of what her sacrifice gave me. When Jesus walked into the fullness of his destiny and sacrificed his life, he opened the door for us to the Father. He gave us the ability to expand our hearts, and in that He exposed the vastness of God the Father’s heart for us. It allowed us to walk in the fullness of God the Father; to grab revelations of freedom, of wisdom, and of love. Jesus’s sacrifice didn’t just give the Father to us, it gave us to the Father. It opened the door for Him to receive our love freely, and for us to receive His love freely. I can no longer look at the sacrifice of Jesus, without seeing the greater sacrifice of the Father. Much like Katie Grace and her sacrifice gave me the chance to be loved by community in a way not all have the opportunity to be. Will we ever be able to fully comprehend the sacrifice of God the Father in the laying down of His son’s life, so that we can share in a mutually loving relationship? Will we ever be able to grasp the love The Father looks upon his Son with, as he relishes in relationship with us? As he hears our worship and chats with us in our prayers, knowing that that door is open because His son said yes to laying down his life. I don’t know but as I look upon Katie Grace’s picture and reflect on what her life gave me in the ways of love and relationship, I can say I think I have a glimpse, and that glimpse simply easily stops me in my tracks and fills me with emotion that there is no words for.
Tomorrow I will wake up in 2017 and it will be the day my daughter breathed her last breath, and I will be grateful. That is my word for 2016, grateful. Grateful that Jesus’s sacrifice didn’t just give the Father to us, it gave us to the Father. Grateful for Katie Grace and what her sacrifice gave us, a community of people who said yes to love, and expanded my heart in understanding value, worth, and the depth in relationship. A love that stood during my inability to comprehend and stands today as a reminder. As I look at 2017 and the word that it will bring, I will carry the gratefulness of 2016 with me into it. I will hold onto the revelations and my expanded heart, full of gratitude.

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