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.

A note to my daughter

Dear Katie Grace,

I am breathing today. My lungs are expanding and closing yet it doesn’t seem like they are ever quite filling up with enough oxygen. There is a sadness that is dampening their process, taking some oxygen for itself, leaving me just the slightest bit suffocated. I know it’s you, I know it’s my bodies way of feeling the emotion. I want to find you, you know. I want to search this world far and wide to find you, to be able to hold you again. I want lay face to face, nose to nose, to match my breath to the sound of your oxygen machine, to brush my eyelashes against yours…..to steal more moments. My mind knows you’re not here, it knows that you weren’t stolen, I just want to pretend so that I can fool my mind and clasp onto counterfeit hope.

You know what else I know. I know this sadness is stealing away inside because I am coming alive. I promised you, Katie Grace, when you came into this world and stood your ground of love and destiny that I would do everything within my power to be the best me. That I would fight for emotional health and freedom. I planted my feet daughter, deep into the ground, drawing a line that declared I would not stop until I became who I know you saw me as. Your presence relentlessly pursued me, like an announcer on a megaphone yelling volumes of my value and death never silenced that.

Today as I sit here, I see what you saw. The me without the pain, the me without fear, the me without doubt or reserve. I understand now more than ever why you came. I am slowly grasping the pieces of the bigger picture, gently putting together the me I saw in your eyes. The me, who you trusted your broken body with. The me who you knew would draw the line, who would plant her feet deep into the ground, and I want to hold you. I want to wrap you up in my arms squeezing you with gratitude. I want to kiss your cheeks and let my tears speak their thank you. I want to share in this with you. You are not here though. You are running the fields of freedom in heaven….probably giving the Lord a high-five and celebrating with Him.

This note is my squeeze. The words are my tears speaking their gratitude. Daughter, there will be no amount of thank you’s or I love you’s that could ever adequately convey my adoration and gratefulness for you. For how you came into this world, for your tenacity while you stayed in it, or for your resoluteness in who I am.
I love you

Momma

Today you are 6

Dear Katie Grace,

Today you are 6.

This day 6 years ago you blew into our world, according to us you were 2 weeks late, however you were perfectly on your time.  A time frame we continued to live on all the days we had you.

If I were being forthright I am not quite sure how to celebrate you today.  Last year was simply the 1st year and it was so mixed with the beauty and sadness of your graduation, I think we just got by.  This second year seems to demand something different from me, its like a call from within to know how we are going to remember you every year.  You  know what would be the most like you, is to make the tradition a thing we revisit every year.  To be consistently inconsistent.  I mean for all who knew you, they know, that was your MO in life.  Grammie and I always said if you were anything but tenacious, it was consistently inconsistent.

We miss you here.  Although we are joyful always in where you are and who you are with, our flesh can’t help but miss your presence.  Your brother misses you sooo much.  He is continually asking us for another sibling,  we are doing our best but maybe you and the Lord can send us some help on that one.  You left an imprint on his heart that I don’t know if we will ever see the fullness of until he is grown.

This year has held a lot of changes for us, we have rested in a way we haven’t in years.  Our little family of three has connected and grown in who we are.  We have you to thank for that on many levels.  I believe a part of your destiny was to come and love us until death with every piece of you so that we had the opportunity to step into who we are.  You are ingrained into us, and as much as we try we can’t help but talk about you.  About who we are because of you, about what we know because of you, about how we were and are loved because of you. If you hadn’t said yes, and let this day be your birthday, we wouldn’t have had that opportunity.

Thank you baby girl for saying yes to life today.  To coming on your own time and doing life on your own terms.  For choosing us as your family and gracing us with your presence.

We love you with all of us.

Momma, Daddy and Isaac.

 

When Grief invites himself to Thanksgiving

 

Thanksgiving is coming up, in about 4 days to be exact, and man my heart is slowly unraveling at the seams. This is my second Thanksgiving without her. My second year of being a family of three instead of a family of 4, and it is possible that this is my hardest year. Grief surprises you like that, its like one day you hear a knock on the door of your heart so you open it and you see grief there. As you watch him walk in, you realize he actually has always been there, he is just demanding a little more attention. Grief is knocking pretty loudly this year, and I have chosen to welcome him; giving him the attention he is demanding.

I want to run though. I want to bury myself in another family and enjoy the festivities of their function. I want to hide away in their dynamics and pretend for a day that we aren’t simply a family of 3. I had that luxury last year. My community in Redding were aloe to my soul, a buffer in the best way to the magnitude of life without Katie Grace. They held memories of her in their hearts, I could see her legacy in them and it made her closer. Last year at Thanksgiving I hosted at my house, which really meant my Rebekah hosted, we just had it at my house, and at some point it all became too much. I got a little edgy, so I hide away in my room, laid in my bed and just missed her. Not long after, someone came in and just sat at the edge of the bed. It was simple. I am not even sure what we talked about, there wasn’t any demand for a reason, it was a simple don’t forget your loved in the pain check in. Aloe for this heart on that first Thanksgiving without her.

This year though we are thousands of miles away from that community and although we are building community and have had friends offer a place for us, I hear this knocking on my heart. I hear this quiet pounding, calling me to take the time to open the door, invite in the grief, and sit with him. You see, we are a family of 3 here on earth, I cannot get away from that. It is what it is. I will either accept it or I will continue to try to fight it, never at peace with what is.

The question: How do you make peace and move on with something you don’t allow yourself the ability to accept?

Answer: You can’t.

Well maybe you can, I can’t. It is in the making peace with grief that I am able to receive not just the healing power of God’s love but also the ability to keep living to the fullness in which I was created and Katie Grace came for.

Growing up my family had a tradition of spending Thanksgiving with my mom’s family. We would drive to Northern California and spend it with them. When Katie Grace was with us, I kept that tradition because I didn’t know how long we had with her, and that was the only time that extended part of my family got to see her. It kind of became our tradition. Now that we are here in Georgia I have a blank slate. This is the time for Charles and I to decide what are we going to do for our family, the three of us. How do we want to spend our Thanksgiving? What traditions do we want to put into place so that one day when Isaac has children he tells stories of what we did every year and his children get to experience a piece of his childhood when they experience that same thing. In order to do that though, I have to stay. I can’t run into the arms of another family and their traditions, I can’t use the sweet aloe of my community. It is time to open the door to grief, to acknowledge his presence, to spend time with him, and then usher him out the door.

When grief came knocking last Thanksgiving he suggested he was larger than my heart could handle, this year, after a year of rest, of learning to lean into all that God has taught us and showed us, I know better. The aloe of love from my community oozed into my pores and has taken residence in my heart, the beliefs that have become facts of who God is are the chairs in which grief and I sit and speak. They hold me; mind, body and spirit, and I know grief will only be there for a while, but that love, those chairs, they stay always. It is with those things I want to build the traditions of my family. The three of us.

This year I am making my first Turkey and drinking a glass of wine or two. Our family will piece together a puzzle, play some games, try to figure out how to watch football without cable, and we will laugh. We will think about our girl, talk about her red hair, and the littles things she used to do that made her ours. When the day winds down, in the quiet I will have made peace with grief and I will gently usher him out the door from which he came.

Brittle Whispers

Charles and I attended church this morning. We have found this church that is literally 5 minutes from our house, and it’s wonderful. We were worshipping and the worship crew was leading us in “One Thing Remains,” by Jesus Culture. The room was filled with voices singing out:

Your love never fails, it never gives up
It never runs out on me

As my voice sang out blending in with the ones around me, something switched in my heart. It was as if my heartbeat pounded so hard that it awoke a revelation within; and I realized I wasn’t singing out of belief of who God is. I was singing out of a knowing of who God is. My words were no longer simple beliefs that I hoped He would prove true instead they were steadfast facts birthed out of experiences where He proved himself to be true.

My memory quickly took me back to the days when Katie Grace was born and my heart was reeling with the understanding of what life was going to be, and how painful it quite possibly was going to be. I remembered the word curse spoke over Charles and I. The one that said if we ever left this family we served, we would have children of unsound minds and unsound bodies. I remember how lost I felt. How hopeless it all seemed. How confused my heart was as to how we were in the place we were in. I also remember the decision we made to not be mad at God. Bill Johnson, our church’s pastor at the time,  would commonly say while teaching, God is in a good mood. Charles and I decided we were going to believe that. Despite our circumstance, God is a good mood, and those who are in a good mood, they don’t do mean things. Such a simple decision we made. My heart was not leaning on facts or a huge list of experiences. It was a decision I made with my mind, and I would whisper to my heart, “God is in a good mood”, “He doesn’t do mean things to his kids”. “I am not being punished”. “My daughter and whatever life she has is not a punishment”. That was all I had, those whispers. They were not your normal I don’t want anybody to hear because they seem ridiculous whispers. Instead they were those I don’t want anyone to hear because I can barely believe myself and this belief is so brittle that I have to guard it with my whispers. Everyday was a decision about what I would believe. What I didn’t know at that time was that God was taking me up on my belief. He was holding my whispers with all the tenderness that his love carries, and stepping into my belief. The stories of where He proved himself on my journey with Katie Grace are countless. I guess if you read through my blog, you will find the stories there. Stories about the moments when heaven touched earth through my daughter and life was better. Those moments came because I offered the Lord a brittle belief and He proved himself. Luke 17:6 says:

“He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.”

This is also true for the matters of our hearts. My frail and shatterable belief that God is in a good mood was my mustard seed. Through my quiet whispers and his tender hands, it was planted deep in my heart and as we journeyed together, He showed up. He showed up in her smile, in her laugh, in her pain, and in the opportunity to love her until death. I also showed up. I invited him into the pain, because believing He is good meant that I could trust him with the hurt. It was true, I could. He loved me, showed me where I had faulty beliefs, lead me to truth, and it matured me in him. My heart is a garden of words that I use to help shape life around me, and together he and I planted a fragile belief and together we grew a sustainable knowledge fertilized in the soil of experience where His goodness and his unfailing love proved true.

Today as I stood in that church joining with fellow believers, my words were changed. They were no long quiet brittle whispers, they were instead healthy shouts of praise, strong in their declaration, proven in experience and isn’t that point of this all. This journey with the Lord, to become more than when we started. That as we walk with him, and allow Him deeper and deeper into our hearts and life, that our beliefs about who he is change. That we open ourselves up so much, even with brittle mustard seed like belief, that He is allowed to prove himself. To give us experiences that flips that switch in our heart so our words were no longer beliefs we hope He would prove true but instead they are facts birthed out of experiences where He proved himself to be true.

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