Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas



The angel said to the shepherds
"Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord..." and suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."
Luke 2:11-14

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tonight

I knew this was coming soon, and now the day is here. Tonight in just a little while we will be opening Christmas presents as a family. We were going to wait until tomorrow morning, but the weather is getting bad, so we need to leave to travel to my mom's as soon as we get a window of clear weather tomorrow. Last year we started the tradition of opening our own presents with just our family at home before going to our parents' houses. This way, we get to enjoy our Christmas together, and the boys get a chance to play with their gifts from us a little bit before leaving town.

I am excited to see the boys' faces light up when they walk into the living room and see their new train table and Thomas things and their little keyboards, and then open up the presents we have wrapped for them. But, I know in my heart I will be missing my little Eliana so much, I hope it won't show on my face when I smile back at those two precious boys. I wish I could see her face light up just like her brothers', as she experiences all of it for the very first time, all wide-eyed with wonder. How different and how wonderful it would all be if she was here with us. There will be joy in our house this year, because of the gift of God's son Jesus coming into the world, and the gift of our own two sons, but there will be a deep sadness as well, because each year there will always be someone missing.

We only filled two stockings. There should have been three.

I wrapped presents for three of the people I love most in the world, my husband, and my two boys, but what about my little girl?

Two little Christmas out-fits are neatly laid out on the couch ready to be worn by my children to the Christmas Eve service tomorrow night. There should be a little green velvet dress and burgundy shoes with bows sitting right next to the boys' snowman vests and corduroys, but the dress is still in the back of a closet. She will never wear it.

Nothing is quite the way it should be, nor will it ever be.

And yet, there is hope.

Hope found in another baby, the one who came 2000 years ago, born in a stable though He was God Himself. Hope because God made a way for us to be with Eliana again someday. Because He sent His son Jesus into this world to die on the cross for our sin, all we need to do is believe in Him, and accept Him as our Savior. Then, there is nothing that can break that promise, or steal that blessed hope, that we will all be together in heaven, celebrating through all eternity. That is why we can still celebrate tonight.

And though things aren't as they should be now, we are promised in Revelation 21:3-5 that we will not remain in this unfulfilled state forever. Speaking of the future, John writes:

“Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!”


And that is why when the stockings are empty and the presents are unwrapped, there will be one more box left under our tree; a little package to be opened last. Inside? A little porcelein baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and laying in a manger. Jesus is our greatest gift this Christmas. He is where our hope lies, in placing our faith in Him today, for a future with Him when everything will finally, once and for all be set right.

Merry Christmas, sweet little baby Elli! We wish immensely that you could be in our arms tonight, right in the center of it all, but we are so glad we know with complete assurance that you are with Jesus tonight. I know you are so happy, and so full of awe and wonder at all those beautiful heavenly sights. There you don't even need Christmas lights because the whole place is filled with the light of Jesus, and the angel choirs are singing the most beautiful Christmas hymns there could ever be. I can't wait to see and hear it all with you when the time is right. I love you so much, princess! Can you see the little Christmas tree we made just for you? You are in my heart each moment.
Love,
Mommy


Here is Eliana's tree. We have added lights and a garland, and changed it some since this picture I took right after the boys helped me put some ornaments on.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

7 Months


Happy 7 months in heaven, sweet little Eliana! We are missing you so much as Christmas draws nearer and nearer, and we are remembering you and loving you so much every day!

Over the last two days we have had a big snowstorm, so now your little garden dancer is dancing in the snow! I would so love to be able to spend this Christmas with you, but I feel so much peace when I think of how happy you will be celebrating with Jesus this year. I can't wait till one day when we will be together again. Until then, know that we love you so much, and you will always be our little girl.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Remembering at Christmas


If you are missing someone you love this Christmas, someone of ANY age who is spending Christmas with Jesus this year, I hope you will join us on this very special Walking With You. We are sharing our Christmas memories and the ways that we remember our loved ones who have gone home to heaven at Christmas time. If you do not have a blog or do not wish to link a post, you may leave your Christmas memories in the comments below. If you do a post on your blog, come back and link up on the MckLinky following this post on Kelly's blog, and you can also enter her give-away.

This year is our first Christmas to remember our daughter Eliana. Last Christmas we were excited to announce our pregnancy with her to all our family members. It was especially exciting when my husband's sister announced her pregnancy too. Our due-dates were just a week apart. Here we are at Christmas last year, so happy to be expecting our third child.

This year we thought we would be bringing our beautiful baby girl to all our Christmas gatherings, letting all our loved ones spend time with her. She would be all decked out in that pretty green velvet Christmas dress my Grandma still has hanging in the back of her closet, and we would allow her to be passed around from one set of loving arms to the next until she couldn't take it anymore and we had to rescue her. There would be lots of presents under the tree with her name on them, and a pretty pink stocking we would fill with little baby toys.

Instead, this year I am thinking of ways to honor her life, and trying to remember that as much as I want her in my arms this Christmas, she is so much better off in the arms of Jesus. Instead of wrapping up presents with her name on them, we picked out some toys we might have chosen for her if she was here to enjoy them to donate to a mission project at church, along with Candy Land that my son picked out. We will plan to do this each Christmas in her honor.

I've also been working on making Christmas ornaments for other families who have lost a baby. Please let me know if you would like one of these. I am still planning to make more before Christmas. You can e-mail me at butterflyelli@yahoo.com, include your address, your child's name and gender, and year of their first Christmas in heaven, and I would love to send one to you.


Usually, each year I take off what I have on top of the entertainment center and set up a Christmas display. This year, I am going to leave it as it is, with Eliana's momentos, and I have just added two Baby's First Christmas rattles that each of our children have played with as babies.


I am planning to decorate a small tree for Eliana this year, with ornaments I have collected over the years since I was a little girl, and some butterflies and other things I have purchased specifically for her. I'm just waiting until my mom can bring the little tree I will be borrowing, so I'll have to post a picture of that later.

Finally, yesterday I purchased some Christmas flowers for Eliana's grave. I went to Wal-Mart, and was pretty disappointed in the selection, but ended up with some red and white flowers that would work. I still want to get one more red one to put in if I can find more at a different Wal-Mart. As I stood out in the cold putting them into the vase, I found myself obsessively trying to get them in there just right, and being continually disappointed with how it was turning out. Then I realized, it's not the flowers I am disappointed with, it's the whole act of celebrating my daughter's Christmas by decorating her grave. This is not the Christmas I had envisioned for her, or for our family. I want to be taking care of her this year, and so I do, in each small way that I can.


The gravestone in the picture is actually my Dad's. Eliana is buried in the same plot, and we haven't been able to purchase her stone yet. The plaque stuck in the ground next to it is her temporary marker that is faded now so you can't read it anymore. We're trying to save up money and hope to have her marker in place before her one year birthday in heaven.

Even as I write these things, and think of how much I miss my daughter, I am continually reminded of the joy she will be experiencing this Christmas in heaven. Joy that is greater than I can imagine, and greater than the very best things I could ever give her here on earth. If I could have one wish-to celebrate Christmas with her-I wouldn't ask to bring her back to be with us, I would ask if our family could please visit her in heaven, for just one day, so she could show us how happy she is, and all the love she is constantly wrapped in.

"Better is One day in your courts than thousands elsewhere." Psalm 84:10

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Walking With You: Thankful



Walking With You is an outreach of Sufficient Grace Ministries, led by Kelly Gerken. Walking With You is a group of mothers who have lost a baby or child who gather together each month to share our stories, to encourage, and pray for one another as we walk this path together. Our hope is that you will be comforted when you join us here...and maybe that we can offer some grace for the journey as we look to the Lord for comfort and strength.

Kelly writes: "This month we are focusing on our gratefulness for the gifts we were given and the ways our lives were changed by the lives of our babies. I know that many people are busy, so this can be as simple or in-depth as you wish. I hope you will link your own post with us, sharing ways that you are thankful. I do think that reflecting on gratefulness is very valuable...especially in the throes of grief. Grief is big and consuming. The simplicity of counting our blessings refocuses a grieving heart from the giants of pain, sorrow, and hopelessness to the hope, comfort, peace, and eventually joy that waits for us on the other side of the valley. The comfort that waits for us in the arms of our Savior."

I am going to re-post something I wrote back in July, documenting all the ways I saw the hand of God in our journey. It has been a blessing for me just to go back and read what was on my heart at that time, and remember God's grace all over again. Tomorrow, while I am sad not to be bringing Eliana with me to meet all our relatives at Thanksgiving, I am so thankful for the short time we had together, for the beauty she brought to my life, and for the promise of our reunion one day in heaven. I am also immeasurably grateful for my husband, two wild little boys, and Eliana's little brother or sister growing safely inside, precious gifts from our Loving Father.

Here is my previous post:

Throughout our difficult journey, the hand of God has been evident in so many ways. In the midst of our sadness, He has truly given us reasons to be thankful and rejoice. He has been our light in the darkness, and I want to display that light for the world.

and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.
Isaiah 61:3


Here are some of the many examples of God's goodness and grace:

1. Even though we didn’t get to keep Eliana, He answered my prayer, and our desires by giving us a baby girl.

2. Even though she wasn’t with us long, He allowed her life to continue long enough for us to find out we had a daughter and fall in love with her.

3. They almost had me wait until 21 weeks to have my ultrasound, but instead they did it early, at 17 weeks and I am so grateful to have known her more fully for a longer period of time.

4. We brought our kids with us to every prenatal appointment, but on the day we found out the bad news, a friend had agreed to keep them for me because it was a longer appointment with the glucose screen. I am so thankful that my children heard about it from us, instead of the technician, and didn’t have to experience the initial shock or my reaction to the news. It was definitely so much better that way.

5. I had the most amazing angel nurses at the hospital, and especially my day nurse who took lots of pictures and talked me through every step of the way.

6. Even though I wanted the induction process to go quickly and get it over with, God knew that I needed more time to process before giving birth. It was 21 hours from when we arrived at the hospital until she was born, and I was in a much better place emotionally when she arrived than I would have been earlier on. I am eternally thankful that I was able to experience my time with her in the best way possible.

7. They talked with me a lot about the possibility of the placenta not coming out and needing to have an immediate D&C after the birth. We prayed about this, and it came out without any complication. That was very important to me, because the last thing I wanted was to have to be under anesthesia during the precious fleeting time we had with her right after the delivery.

8. We were hoping to have some indication of what went wrong for peace of mind’s sake, and when she was born, it was very clear that the cord was both wrapped and knotted. The doctors say it is still not conclusive, but we feel assured that it is likely the cause of death. Of course it doesn’t make losing her any easier, but we do feel blessed to have an idea of what happened.

9. I am thankful God allowed me to live in this time period, with the current knowledge about the best ways to handle infant loss. I know in the past mothers weren’t encouraged to hold their babies or hold memorial services. There are so many things I have been encouraged to do to honor Eliana’s memory, and I know the healing process would be so much more difficult if I had to face it in isolation.

10. I am so thankful beyond words for a special friend who visited me in the hospital, brought me flowers, and lots of food after we came home. She is the one who was taking care of our kids the day we went into the hospital. The coolest thing of all is that she told us after taking her children home from our house, her oldest son was asking a lot of questions about what happened to our baby, and over the course of the conversation He made a decision to receive Christ! She shared this with us in the hospital before Eliana was even born, and it was so amazing because I had just been telling my husband and mom that what I wanted most of all was for Eliana’s life to have an impact on this world to reach people with the gospel! Our first little convert was that very day. Praise the Lord!

11. I feel that left to myself, I can’t even imagine the state I would have been in during our time at the hospital and immediately following. Before this experience, I had sometimes imagined what it might be like to lose a child, and I felt it might be the one thing that I could not endure. I always hoped I would never know that pain, but when it came time for me to face it, I was not alone. I have said this before, but it was a truly supernatural experience the way God carried us through the early days. I think our hospital room was filled with a myriad of angels, and a blanket of peace was wrapped tightly around us. Our hearts were broken, but we were not without hope and comfort. I am so thankful to have experienced God on such a deep and personal level, and to discover the true meaning of so many of His promises.

12. God showed His love for us on our first Sunday back at church. Instead of having a regular service, a band called Ineloquent played, and their whole concert seemed to relate directly to our situation. It was as if they were there just for us, which I know is not a coincidence.

13. We wanted Eliana's funeral to glorify and magnify God, and the Holy Spirit was very present with us that day. We had our current pastor and the pastor from my home church speak, and it flowed together so beautifully, finishing with my 3-year-old niece spontaneously singing amazing grace from behind the curtain in the nursery. I was so blessed by the service and I know many others were touched as well.

14. I know God had a hand in the timing of all of this. It all happened just after the semester ended for my sister who teaches college. She was able to come for the funeral, and stay with me for a week afterwards helping during a time when I could not have handled it on my own. I am so grateful that she was able to do that for me and I know it was part of God's plan.

15. Soon after we got back from the hospital, I picked up my Bible and began reading Psalms. I was convinced this was the assigned reading for my Bible study group, though I later found out it was actually Proverbs. I know God specifically led me there because He wanted speak those Psalms directly into my heart.

16. Two little boys and a house full of toys. The day we came home, my in-laws offered to keep our boys, but we both wanted to bring them home. It was the most amazing comfort to hug them tightly, hear them laughing, and watch them play. Tucking them in that night was emotional, but so beautiful. The love we have for them has been deepened by our loss, and we are so grateful for the way they fill our hearts and our days with this love. In many ways they have been my lifeline, the reason to get up in the morning and face each day.

17. We have been so touched, beyond words by the outpouring of love we’ve received from so many friends and loved ones. My sisters gave me two special gifts: an angel holding a baby, and a “reunion ring” designed as a heart with a tear-drop shaped hole in it that will only be filled on our reunion day. My mom also gave me some special gifts, and we received meals, gifts, cards, phone calls, visits, and hugs from so many people it is too much to list. God has blessed me greatly through my mom's group at church, our church family as a whole, and other friends and family.

18. I am so thankful for my husband and the wonderful gift He is from the Lord. These types of trials are never easy on a marriage, but He has been such a source of strength and encouragement. He has been so willing to pick up the slack with the kids and other responsibilities. He is patient with me in my grief, and loving to me through my sadness. I'm so blessed to experience all of our weeping and rejoicing together as one.

I know I will think of more things after posting this list, but I am just in awe of God’s grace to us in our trials, and all the evidence that He is still in control, working all things together for our good in the tapestry of our lives. I once heard that like in a tapestry, all we can see of our lives is the back side, with all the loose threads and changing colors that don’t seem to make sense. God can see the front side of the tapestry, where all the things that appear to be a mess are woven together into a bigger picture that is perfect and beautiful. Someday when this life is over, we will see it as He sees it, and understand the full purpose He has for our lives. I don’t know what my tapestry will look like, but I trust that God's work is always perfect!

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
1 Corinthians 13:12

Monday, November 23, 2009

Remembering...

So, I have taken a little sabbatical from blogging these last couple of weeks, because our lives have been so busy. The cool part is, some of the busyness has related to remembering Eliana, so while I haven't gotten to write about her, I have had other opportunities to think of her lately.

Last week the funeral home we worked with had a special ceremony for the families of children lost this year. It is really an amazing and touching thing that they do. They have a children's garden on their grounds full of metal statues they call garden dancers. Each one depicts either a boy or girl and has a child's name cut out of the metal. I first noticed these in 2007 when I attended a funeral there for another baby at our church, and I wondered about them. Never would I have guessed that I would soon know all to well what they signify.

We received an invitation in the mail to come to a memory ceremony, so we decided to participate. It was at 2 PM, naptime for our youngest, so my husband carried him in on his shoulder, and I was relieved to see when we entered they had big frosted butterfly cookies available to help keep my oldest entertained, and to give our younger son if he woke up during the ceremony. They had a neat program, led by a women who had lost her baby boy in 2005, with a poetry reading, candle lighting, and beautiful violin and harp music. It was emotional to be back in the same place again, where we had her service, but also peaceful to be able to return, and realize that some healing has taken place since we were there in May. At the close of the ceremony, we were told to go outside and get our little dancer.

We went out into the children's garden, and began looking at all the names on the dancers. At first I didn't see ours, but a woman helped point her out to us, and there she was, dancing in the sun, with Eliana written beautifully across her dress. It was so special to see her standing there with all the other kids looking so pretty and joyful, and to know we would be bringing her home.

I think it's such an act of love that the funeral home does this for each family. It was all started by the family of the woman who led the ceremony, to memorialize their son Allan, and bring comfort to all the families who would come through those doors after them sharing similar losses. One thing that has been so precious for me to see through all of this, is how so many people work through their grief by loving and reaching out to others, and turn the love they have for their child into something beautiful to touch the lives around them. I've seen that through so many of you through your blogs, and others in real life.

We took the dancer home in the car and put her underneath a tree at the side of our house. Right away the boys wanted to stand with her and get their picture taken. I felt so glad to have something so beautiful as a memorial, with her name on it, especially since we haven't been able to afford a grave marker for her yet. It's been bothering me for a while that we haven't been able to create a place just for her yet, besides the momentos set up in our house, so I'm really glad this can be the beginning of setting up a special spot in our own yard.

At the same time, it hurt so much to be bringing home a metal statue bearing the name Eliana, when all we wanted was to bring home our little girl, and to watch her blossom and grow and dance in the sun-light. Somehow the reality of all we are missing hit home all over again, and the pain of leaving the hospital with empty arms.

Bittersweet is definitely the word for our little garden dancer. I feel so blessed to have been given this special gift, and yet so deeply sad to have only a hard cold statue to represent the soft, lovable baby I want so much to be holding. And yet, here she is, with her cute little bouncy pony-tail, arms stretched toward the sky with her little heart balloon, and a smile on her face, with the most beautiful name in the world. Always a part of our family, always a part of our souls--Eliana.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wednesdays for Wyatt

Here we go! Our third Wednesday for Wyatt! It’s quite simple to participate. All you have to do is copy and paste this post on your blog, and come back here to link up with MckLinky! Once you do that, your all set to win a great giveaway.

So far, we are up to 1,443 signatures! Lets try to keep them steadily rolling in.

For those of you who are not familiar with my family and what we are trying to achieve, here’s a brief run down...

Our son Wyatt was diagnosed with a fatal condition at our 18 week ultrasound, but chose to carry him to term. We waited to meet our son with love, all the time praying we would get to see him alive.

On June 1, 2009, Wyatt made his way into the world by c-section. To our amazement he had a faint heartbeat and was breathing! He died two minutes later, but I’ve clung to the two minutes my son and I breathed the same air since his passing.

Upon calling to get a copy of Wyatt’s birth certificate, I found out he was listed as a stillborn. You would assume it was a mistake (like I did), but there was no mistake. According to the definition of live birth in Tennessee my son was not “alive enough” to be deemed a live born baby. His two minutes of life has gone unrecognized by my state, and I intend to change this piece of legislation so I can solidify the validity of my son’s short life.

Wednesdays for Wyatt was created to help spread awareness for a law that needs to be changed, as well as to generate more traffic to my petition. So if you’re reading this, thanks for taking the time to help our family!

This contest will be open today only. I will close MckLinky down sometime before midnight, so make sure you get linked up ASAP to make sure you are entered to win this giveaway! Thanks for helping everyone, and good luck.

Monday, November 9, 2009

6 Months

I can't believe it has been six months since we first held our baby girl. In many ways, I am frozen in time. I've continued with my commitments and responsibilities, my son has had another birthday, but sometimes when I am absent-mindedly opening my planner, I flip to a month much further back than the one I am in, and have to stop to think, "Oh yeah, it's not August, it's already November!"

In many ways, I imagined myself at this time much further along in the grieving process than I find myself today. Although functioning, I'm still often in survival mode, living one day at a time. Suddenly a huge dead-line will sneak up on me as if out of nowhere, or, the classic example, one week I actually completely forgot to go to work because the schedule was different than every other week, and didn't even realize it until the next day when I was about to go in! Of course, I can blame some of this on preggo brain, but I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I am still just existing, but not fully investing myself in the long-term.

Many of the things I'm doing now are things I wouldn't be doing if my little three-month old daughter was here. It makes it hard to fully commit my heart to these things, because they are all playing second fiddle to the single greatest thing I would be doing instead, had she lived. This, of course, doesn't include our newest Little One. Although there is little chance we would have had babies this close together, it is definitely possible. Baby June is my little compass, helping me to orient myself, to keep track of the days and weeks, and look ahead, albeit cautiously, with hope toward the future.

While in many ways it seems I've barely moved forward, in other ways it feels like far too much time has passed since Eliana was here with us, growing and kicking in the womb. I feel her slipping away from me, as the memories begin to fade, and the gap gets wider and wider separating her existence from mine. I know she isn't as far away as she seems, but it still saddens me as I feel time increasing the separation.

If she was still here, she would be getting stronger every day, pushing up on her arms during tummy time and trying to roll over. She would be smiling at her big brothers, and snuggling up to her Daddy when he came home from work. We would still have her sleeping in our room, and probably coming into our bed in the wee hours of morning when I would be too tired to get up for a feeding session. Now that this much time has passed, it's hard to even picture these things. They are like a hazy, distant dream that will never be.

Eliana, I still miss you terribly, and wish I could just go back and hold you one more time, making more precious memories. But it would never be enough to last for all the moments I will spend without you. You are always in our hearts, and on our minds. One day this separation will be over and I will hold you in my arms again, together for all eternity praising our Lord. Happy 6 months in heaven, Sweet Baby Girl!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Baby's First Christmas-In Heaven

As the holidays are quickly approaching, I am reminded of Eliana in two different ways. First, we will soon enter the time when I found out I was pregnant last year. As I've posted before, I originally intended to keep it a secret, and surprise my husband on Christmas, but excitement got the better of me, and I gave him an early gift instead. He opened a little package with a Christmas ornament of a baby carriage, so in a way, that is Eliana's first ornament, and that was her first and only Christmas with us.

Fast forward a year, and I am thinking of her as I imagined she would be this Christmas, chubby cheeks and curly dark hair, wearing the beautiful green velvet dress from my Grandma and the little burgundy shoes from my mom lighting up our Christmas in her own special way. I would be hanging a Baby's First Christmas ornament for her this year, and watching her smile at all the Christmas lights and decorations.

Unfortunately for us, that was not our path for this year, we don't get to have her celebrate with us, but we know she gets something better. As happy as our Christmas would have been with her here, it doesn't compare to what she will experience, celebrating in the very presence of Jesus, having the best Christmas party ever, in heaven! I wish I could see her little face light up with joy.

Since I won't be getting to hang the traditional baby's first Christmas ornament, I wanted to find a way to celebrate Eliana's first Christmas in heaven, so I came up with this design.




I would like to make many more for baby's who are spending Christmas in heaven. This is one more tangible way to celebrate and commemorate the lives of our butterflies who flew off too soon. Please let me know if I can make an ornament for your little one! You can comment here, and also e-mail me your address at butterflyelli@yahoo.com so I can send one to you. If 2009 isn't your baby's first heavenly Christmas, let me know, and I can make one with a different year on it, or have it say something different and customize it how you would like it. Feel free to spread the word, I would love to make one for as many people as I can.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Going Back

One of the hardest things for anyone who has experienced a traumatic event is to revisit the scene where the tragedy originally took place, and allow the experience to wash over them anew. Today, I went back to my OB/GYN office for my first appointment for Baby June not anticipating what an emotional event it would be for me. I have been back to this building several times, because our pediatrician also has his office there, and each time I enter the parking lot, I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Today I had to walk through the double doors, down the hallway, and enter into the office where I received the most heart-breaking news of my life.

Near me in the waiting room was one woman looking sick as she swallowed her drink for the glucose screen, the last thing I did before finding out about Eliana. While I sat there, another girl came in for her 6 week check-up with a new baby girl. As she was checking in, the baby began to cry and it just pierced my heart. I was there for nearly two hours, and spent the whole time holding back tears. Words, voices, images from that day in May, kept running through my head as I sat there trying to remind myself that I was there for Baby June. How do you simultaneously rejoice over one baby, when your heart is still aching for another? I have to wait for God to teach my heart how to do this. I love this baby already, but I am sad for Baby June, because I miss just being blissfully happy about pregnancy, instead of cautiously optimistic.

They did an early ultrasound, and I lay on the table just waiting to see the status of my Little One, and trying not to think of the last time I was in that room. I don’t ever want to hear “I’m sorry…” again while I am laying on that table.

Since I am 5 weeks, 1 day into the pregnancy, the tech explained it is very early to try to see anything. When typing out her report, I saw “probable gestational sac, no yolk sac, no fetal pole.” This was not reassuring to me at all. I asked her if this is normal at this stage, and her reply was:

“Yes, it’s very early to detect a pregnancy, and you may have ovulated later than you thought. They will do your blood work today to check your levels and make sure everything looks good.”

Again, not so reassuring when it’s my baby’s life in the balance! While no one seemed to be concerned but me, this put me on absolute emotional overload. After my blood work was done and we left, I was visibly shaken, and my husband decided to take the rest of the day off from work.

It’s not so much that we received bad news about Baby June. In fact, it appears there really isn’t anything to worry about at this point. I did get a call back from the practitioner this afternoon saying my levels are good, and they don’t need me to come back in until my next appointment. Now it’s just a matter of waiting 5 weeks, when I will be far enough along to hear the heartbeat and hopefully have a reassuring ultrasound.

I think it was just so hard being in that room again, going back to the scene of my greatest nightmare, and not being able to see anything that tells me Baby June is doing well. It just brought everything from that day back to me in such a fresh way, it was almost like experiencing it all over again. I still miss my daughter so much, and yet, for the sake of this new little one, I know I need to be strong, and stay positive, and send all the happy thoughts I can to let this baby know how loved he/she is, to help him/her to grow and thrive. At times I wish I could just hit fast forward to June, so I wouldn’t have to live in this uncertainty, but I know I really do need this time to continue to grieve, and to get to know Baby June before I’m ready to meet him/her. Until then I am relying on God to guide me through this journey of the heart; to give me the peace, strength, faith, hope, and love that is only found in Him, as I miss my beautiful baby girl, and anticipate her little brother or sister simultaneously. It’s a dance of love to which I am just beginning to learn the steps.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:16-19

And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 5:5

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hello in There, Little One

Hello in there, Little One! This is what I keep thinking as I try to wrap my brain around the fact that I am pregnant! I got my first BFP a week ago, but it was more of a faint than a fat positive, and proceeded to disappear.
Today I decided to post, after I got my B-er, F-er P.:) This time, the preggo line came out way darker than the control line, and it was the control line that started to disappear, so I don't know what's with me and the disappearing lines.

I am without words when I think about how to post about this. I feel excited, hopeful, happy, and blessed, while at the same time anxious and fearful, to think that there is really life inside of me again. Somehow just a week ago, that concept seemed like such a remote, far away possibility. I've spent the last five months convincing myself, that "no, you are not going to have a baby," and averting my eyes from the infant sections in department stores to protect my heart. Now, all of a sudden, that is no longer the case, and it's time to open my heart to all the wishing, hoping, planning, and dreaming again! It's almost too much to take in! I already love this little one with every fiber of my being, and yet when I try to imagine actually holding a crying baby in my arms in June, I can only tear up, because it still seems like some distant dream. I know this time, it will be a one day at a time journey, as we love our baby every step of the way.

My husband and sons are beyond excited. My youngest son already gave the baby a nickname. After we explained to them the baby was expected in June, he said "Is Baby June gonna come?" So, Baby June it is, until we decide on a name.:) We are praying, hoping, and believing for Baby June to come wiggling and screaming into our lives next summer.

Over the Top



Thank you to both Bree and Lea for nominating me for an Over the Top Award. Here are my "one-word answers," I just had to get a little "over the top" on a couple of them!;)

1. Where is your cell phone? charger
2. Your hair? down
3. Your mother? work?
4. Your father? heaven
5. Your favorite food? pizza
6. Your dream last night? crazy
7. Your favorite drink? water
8. Your dream/goal? healthy baby
9. What room are you in? office
10. Your hobby? crafts
11. Your fear? loss
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? bigger house with kiddos to fill it.
13. Where were you last night? Home
14. Something that you aren't? Bored!
15. Muffins? raspberry
16. Wish list item? House
17. Where did you grow up? Iowa
18. Last thing you did? baked pumpkin bars
19. What are you wearing? comfy shirt and PJ pants
20. Your TV? off
21. Your pets? none
22. Friends? absolutely
23. Your life? Bittersweet
24. Your mood? rollercoaster
25. Missing someone? Eliana
26. Vehicle? minivan!
27. Something you’re not wearing? Socks
28. Your favorite store? Target
29. Your favorite color? pink
30. When was the last time you laughed? yesterday
31. Last time you cried? today
32. Your best friend? True
33. One place that I go to over and over? grocery store!(twice in the last two days)
34. One person who emails me regularly? Mom
35. Favorite place to eat? Olive Garden

I am passing this award on to:

Franchesca at Handprints From Heaven
Rachel at Waiting for Morning
Amy at From My Point of View
Lisa at House of Collinsworth

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Saying Good Night to My Little Ones

Tucking my youngest son Jayden into bed tonight, I just felt so strongly how much I am missing Eliana. I sat down on the floor next to his bed, and laid my head down next to him as we talked. He brought up Bob the builder, and some other fun topics on his mind, and nestled his cheek lovingly against mine. He stayed like that and began to breath deeper and settle into sleep. I was just overcome by how much I love him. I have hardly been able to look at my sons’ baby pictures without crying since we lost Eliana, but tonight memories of his babyhood just started flooding my mind. Holding, talking, nursing, rocking…you get the picture.

Suddenly it was as though his soft, chubby little cheek could have been Eliana’s cheek, and I could be laying my head beside her at two years old, reliving the same perfect memories I had spent with her. Tears started to come, but the angle that I was laying kept them from dripping onto Jayden and disturbing his rest. What I wouldn’t give to have even one memory of her, holding her in my arms while her sweet little spirit was alive within her body. I know in some ways, it would probably hurt even more, but in another way, it would hurt less. I haven’t dreamt of her yet, but maybe God will let me dream of her in my arms sometime soon.

I wonder if people who haven’t experienced this type of loss would be baffled to know how deeply we grieve for our babies, and how profoundly we are touched by their little lives. For me, the depth of feeling just shows again to me the reality that we are created by God, with a unique spirit, and a sacred quality to our lives because we are designed for Him, and designed for love.

When I carried Eliana, I could feel the weight of her soul within me. Some of you might have seen a little poem that says “your heart within my heart…your life within my life.” It is so true. To actually carry the spirit of a child within your own body, is a bond greater than any of us even realize until we lose one. Since her death, it seems I have felt the weight and significance that her life carries to an even greater degree. She has impacted me so greatly, that it would be impossible to ever carry on as the same person I was before I knew her. Some might say, “but you didn’t even know her at all.” In a sense, that’s true, but in another sense, we had that body/soul connection that can only come from the Creator God. I have to admit that as much as I knew I loved her before, and as much as I loved my sons in the womb, I really didn’t know the true depth of it until I experienced what it was like to lose her at that stage.

I am healing. At first it was difficult, but now I love to just laugh with my boys, and hug them tight. In the beginning, every little thing I did with them was a painful reminder of what I would miss with Eliana. Now, those thoughts come less and less often, and a lot of the time I can genuinely have some light-hearted fun with them. Then there are other times, like tonight, when I am just missing, missing, missing.

Her two older brothers sleep peacefully tonight, my treasures on earth. I know my treasure in heaven is probably not sleeping at all, but I can only guess at what glorious thing she might be doing at this very moment while I miss her.

Good Night, Eliana. Some bright morning, when this life is over, I will wake up with you.

Friday, October 9, 2009

5 Months of Memories

Dear Eliana,

5 months ago today, was the day we saw you for the very first time, held you in our arms, and sang to you. It was the saddest day because we had to let you go, but it was a precious day, because we got to see you for just a little while. Even though I was almost 26 weeks pregnant, I actually only knew about you for 5 months. I can't believe that I have now been living without you for the same amount of time that I knew you were alive. Those are months that I will hang onto forever, remembering until the day we are together again.

When I first found out I was expecting you, I was so happy! It was getting close to Christmas, so I thought it would be a perfect present for Daddy if I could keep it a secret until then. Soon, my excitement won over, though, and I decided I had to tell him sooner. Grandma and Grandpa Kline were taking care of your brothers, so Daddy and I decided to go out to eat together. I told him I had one early Christmas present for him. I wrapped up a little baby carriage ornament and a baby bib. He was really surprised and so happy about you! Soon we told Caedmon he was going to have a baby brother or sister. He said "Is it really true, Daddy?!" He was thrilled to know you were on the way and would be here before his 5th birthday.

When we went out to eat at Long John Silver's, before telling the rest of the family, Caedmon announced loudly to the whole restaurant, "We're going to have a new baby!" Thank goodness no one was there who knew us!



At Christmas, we surprised my family by wrapping up a gift for Grandma Vicky to open. It was a box with some diapers that said "Another Little One to love and snuggle, August 2009." Grandma, Aunt Mary, Aunt Shanya, Grandma and Grandpa Bryngelson, and all Mommy's aunts, uncles, and cousins were so happy for us! People started saying, "Maybe it will be a little girl this time!" Here we are as a happy family on Christmas, full of anticipation to spend Christmas with you next year.



We let Caedmon tell Grandma Kline at lunch. He said "We have a surprise!...A new car!" (Your brother has a silly sense of humor) Then he said, "We're going to have a baby!" At the Kline Christmas, Aunt Sarah and Uncle Jonathan announced they were expecting too! Everyone was so happy about both you and your cousin, and Sarah and I were excited you would be so close in age!

You were with me on my 28th birthday when I made a wish for a healthy baby. My cake even had butterflies on it, and one of them is the one that Caedmon sent with you in your casket.





Daddy spent my birthday painting the house to put it on the market. We wanted to move to make more room for you!



On Valentine's Day, Daddy made a special cookie cake that said "K X 5" meaning that you made us a family of 5 Klines.



Grandma Vicky helped Caedmon make some Valentine people to look like our family, and when he made Mommy, he wanted to make the baby in Mommy's tummy too.



On March 11th we found out that you were a girl, and couldn't have been any happier. Daddy and I went out and bought some clothes for you. Everyone was so excited for us. Grandma Barbara reminded me that she still had a beautiful Christmas dress and a snowsuit in her closet that she was saving for my little girl. They would be just the right size for you this year. Soon after that I began feeling your little flutters and kicks, and a couple weeks later, Daddy could feel it too. I loved feeling you move throughout the day, and sometimes even at night I would wake up just to feel you swishing around. Also in March, we celebrated Daddy turning 30 with a big yummy ice cream cake. I know you loved ice cream just as much as I do!!



In April you were with us at Easter as we celebrated Jesus' Ressurection. Caedmon, Jayden, and your cousin Julia all had fun visiting the Easter bunny, and I looked forward to having you celebrate with us next year, wearing the lamb dress Daddy and I bought for you.



We had our first Snookies' ice cream of the year in April, and I'm sure you got a taste of Mommy's strawberry milkshake!



I was so happy to be carrying you through all our fun times and memories of those 5 months, and always looked forward to you joining us next year in all our fun!



Your last week with us was extra special. We did so many fun things together that week! We took you to Grandpa's choir concert and to the circus.


Caedmon had his last night as a "Cubbie" at Awanas.

On three different days we went to Waterworks park to enjoy the beauty of God's creation. Every year we love to go there while the cherry blossom trees are in bloom. These were our last special memories as a family of 5. Our times with you were some of the happiest of our lives, and we miss you and love you always!







Loving you with all our hearts, Baby Elli!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Walking through the Flames

As I sit here tonight, I am overcome with love, with joy, and with gratitude for the life of my special little girl. Even as I continue to long for her in my arms, and close my eyes to imagine the sound of her sweet newborn cries, I can still just praise God from the deepest part of my heart, for the gift He has given me in allowing her to come into my life for the short time she was here.

There have been brief moments when I have wondered, why did God give me the deepest desire of my heart, a baby girl, only to take her to heaven so quickly, before I even laid eyes on her? Wouldn’t it have been easier if we had just had difficulty conceiving, or in some other way had been spared the heartache of having her only to let her go? I know I am not alone in these thoughts, but I continue to move past them to embrace the truth.

The truth is, I would never trade one moment of the time I carried Eliana, and if I did I would completely miss God's awesome plan for her life and my life. It only took her 6 months in the womb to fulfill God’s pre-determined purpose for her precious life, and that purpose is still being lived out in us, who love her and have been deeply touched by her spirit. The Bible says in Psalm 139:13-16 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Before we conceived, God knew what would take place. He was fully in control, and allowed it to happen for a reason. We don’t understand all the reasons, but what we do know is, that He promises All thing work together for good to those who love the Lord, to those who have been called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28. He is using all of this for Eliana’s good, and wants to use it for our good. She will never know heartache, pain, rejection, or fear, only love and joy.

In the hospital, soon after hearing the news that Eliana’s life had ended, I had this amazing comfort in knowing that she was already in God’s presence, even as her body remained in my womb. It was strange to think about, but at the same time wonderful, that my own little daughter was already with her Savior and mine, seeing His face, enjoying His presence, learning amazing things, experiencing pure fullness of joy and endless light.

I was in anguish over how much I love her, and want to be with her, and God continually spoke to my heart “I love her even more than you do, and I love you both infinitely more than you can imagine.” It is hard to imagine a love deeper than our own love for our babies, but in our imperfection we can never match the depth of His love. Paul writes in Ephesians 3:17-19: And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. That is what happened in that hospital room, and that is what continues to happen in our lives as we swim through the sea of grief, we are amazed and perplexed by the love God speaks into our hearts.

I finally understand what it really means to turn my life over to Jesus. It goes far beyond turning away from sin. It is the daily surrendering of every single thing I could call my own, and making it His. He created us to love our children with all of our heart, and yet if we love Him we realize that they don’t belong to us, they are His.

To carry Eliana for 6 beautiful months was an incredible gift. To know her and love her has changed my life forever. It has changed our family forever. I pray that it has and will change many more lives forever, and all to glorify God and point people to Him.

I long for heaven more than ever before. Along with the awesome presence of God, it is amazing that I now have another tremendously precious treasure waiting for me when I get there. And yet, while waiting for heaven, I feel a greater sense of purpose on this earth than I have ever felt. I want to allow God to do anything and everything through me that He desires, to work His purpose and will for Eliana’s life and for my own life.

There are so many things that my girl has taught me. For someone so tiny, who never even took a breath of our air, it is amazing what she has already accomplished in this world. All of this is by the hand of God. There is nothing that we can experience that hasn’t passed through His hand first, including our deepest heartaches.

Losing a child was once my greatest fear, and worst nightmare. That was what I hoped never to experience, and I wondered if it could be the only thing from which I would never recover. Now, I am swimming right in the middle of this sea of grief, sometimes rising above the surface, sometimes barely treading water, afraid of drowning. In no way is the trial over, but I am profoundly aware of Jesus as my life preserver, never allowing me to sink. I love Isaiah 43: 1-3 Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. For I am the Lord your God…your Savior.

Dear Father,

Thank you so much for giving me a precious gift, for answering my prayer with the blessing of a baby girl. I love how you are using her to draw me ever closer to You, and to impact the lives of others around me. She is a miracle baby, and you are the Miracle Maker. Whenever my soul aches to be with her, I know you are right here with me, and feeling my pain as only You can. You who gave Your only Son, holy and blameless, so that I could live, and so Eliana and me, and all those who believe in your name can be together one day with You for all eternity. Lord, help me to continue to trust You with my life, and Eliana’s life. Strengthen my faith in You as You continue working in our lives through this time of deep waters and burning flames. Because You carry us, I know we will emerge on the other side not drowned or scorched, but transformed further into Your image, carrying scars that tell a story of Your love and Your grace.

2 Corinthians 4:7-9 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Thank You



I feel so blessed to post two more special tributes to Eliana. Lea from Nicholas' Touch made these beautiful angel wings for her. They help me to think of how she is surrounded by angels in heaven, joining in the most beautiful songs of praise and worship to our great God. I like to think of her being carried to heaven by angels when she left my body, and being personally escorted directly to Jesus. What a lucky girl my Elli is, and I envy those angels who were priviledged to carry her! Thank you so much, Lea, what a beautiful thing you are doing!


I am so excited that Eliana has a butterfly now from my friend ,Bree! I love to think of Eliana whenever I see a butterfly, you can read more about this in my post from the butterfly garden. It really touches my heart to see how Bree and others are reaching out in their pain to help ease the burden of other's who share in the same tragedy. Seeing Eliana's name on Bree's blog is a true gift, to know that she is remembered and honored beyond the walls of our house. Through her butterfly project, Bree is honoring the life of her sweet baby girl Ella in such a meaningful way.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Eliana's Hope Collage



Thank you so much to Franchesca for creating this beautiful hope collage for Eliana. It is so perfect! What a sweet way to honor our baby with her name, and special words of love. View more collages, or request your own at Abiding Hope Collages.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My Dinosaur

Happy Birthday to my ferocious dinosaur Caedmon!! My first little one is getting so tall and growing up so quickly! He is five years old today! Thank you, Caedmon, for filling my days with so many inquisitive questions, so much fun and laughter, and so much love!!!




Five Years ago today:

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

4 Months of Shadows

On May 8th, 2009, something happened in the universe. There was a split of some sort, a glitch, a wrinkle, in time and space, and life has never been the same again. It begins with a visit to the Dr., and heart-wrenching news about our baby. The world splits in two, and my heart and consciousness along with it. The very atmosphere begins to twist and turn, spinning in circles, and we are plunged downward, into the shadoworld. Suddenly, like some macabre version of Alice in Wonderland, everything is upside-down, nothing is as it should be.

My surroundings are a blur as I walk through the double doors and down the long corridors to the hospital. I am vaguely aware that somewhere beside me, behind me, are my husband and his Dad. But I don’t see them, I hardly know they are there. I am not myself anymore, but only a fragment. I continue to walk, first right, then left, up the elevator, and to the desk to check in.

In the waiting room nearby I hear an excited Daddy saying on the phone “Our baby girl is here! She’s little, only 5 lbs., but she is healthy and doing great!” Meanwhile I have to explain to the nurse at check-in why I am here. I am numb as I fill out the papers, J-E-S-S…, is that even who I am anymore?

I follow the nurse down the corridor, trying not to see the gigantic blown-up photos of perfect, beautiful, living newborns. I am in complete shock as she shows us to our room. How is it that I am in this place of hopes and dreams, living out my worst nightmare? My father-in-law says something sweet and heart-felt. “Even though she was only with us for a short time, she was dearly loved by all of us.” On some level, it comforts my heart, but on another level I am in disbelief that we could be speaking of her in the past tense. She is right here inside of me!!

Thank God the nurse who is assigned to me is an absolute angel, because when you are in the shadoworld the darkness is so thick that even an angel casts only a pale glow. She is understanding and kind as she explains to me the procedures for the induction and describes what it will be like after she is born. I begin to cry as she talks about holding her, counting all her finger and toes…I am not supposed to hold her yet! It should be another 3 months of blissful discomfort until I am rewarded with her crying and wiggling in my arms. This is not happening, it must be a horrible, bad dream.

The day drags on, and turns into night. Contractions haven’t started yet, and I am given a sleeping pill. In my dreams that night I am swallowed by shadows in a nightmare that my baby has died. I toss and turn and scramble and fight to finally wake up, only to realize that it is life itself that is the bad dream. I weep quietly in the darkness of our hospital room and wish for an escape.

Our time in the hospital is filled with visitors praying with us, sharing scripture, loving us in the Lord, and we have an inexplicable peace. But still there is this sense that life as we know it has been split in two, and somewhere, on the other side, we are living our normal lives, trying to sell our house, and anxiously waiting for Eliana to be born.

I hold my baby girl for the first time, and she is amazing, she is beautiful, she is a gift from God, but she is so tiny, far too tiny. She is so still, and how can we break this unspeakable silence?? We sing to her, we hold her, we love her, but how can we say good-bye when all we want to do is say hello? This is not how it’s supposed to be.

The next morning, our family arrives. It is exactly like when each of our boys were born. I sit on the bed, holding her all pink and wrapped up in her blankets. They all file in, everyone who loves us and loves her so much, waiting to see her, to hold her. I try to be strong, I almost begin to sob as I watch them coming in, but somehow, they are all smiling exactly as if she were alive. It seems inappropriate to cry. They hold her, pass her around, we snap lots of pictures. This is all so surreal, why is she so still and so quiet? Something is wrong with this picture.

In the days that follow, I spend every waking minute working on the plans for her funeral service. Ever detail has to be perfect, the music, the programs, the pictures we will display, the items we will set out in her memory, the special things we will send with her in her casket. This is all I will ever get to do to take care of my baby.

Her service is perfect. Our two pastors do a beautiful job, the whole thing brings glory to God, exactly like we wanted. At the cemetery, the funeral director asks me if I want to help close the tiny casket. My oldest son helps me, and we gently place all the fabric in around her, the only time we will ever tuck her in. We see her face for the last time as the lid is placed on top.

After this, hours turn into days, days to weeks, and weeks to months. Life continues to go by. We get up in the morning, we eat, we live out our day. Life begins to slightly resemble normalcy. Summer meanders along, as we fill our days with activities for the boys: soccer, walks, playground outings, swimming pools. But, I am lost. I feel disoriented and confused. My responsibilities and commitments remain the same, while I am profoundly and permanently changed. I can’t shake this feeling that something is severely wrong.

I am dizzy and falling down from all the spinning of this crazy shadoworld I’ve been thrown into. I have to get back to the other side, back to my former self, back to the way things should be. I ache, I cry, I push and pull and fight, clawing and scraping, longing and yearning to reach…

__________________

The light. It pours in through the window behind me as I sit tired and content in the rocking chair. The sun warms my back and envelopes me in a blanket of tranquility. The room is painted an antique white. Beside me is the cherry wood crib we found on Craigslist for such a good price, adorned with the gorgeous pink and green rosebud bedding I had bought before I was even expecting a girl. On the wall above the crib is her name spelled out in swirling script: Eliana. We had so much fun decorating her nursery. In fact, after we bought our new house the first thing we did was to prepare her room and the boys’ airplane room. We hurried and scrambled to get the rest of the house into some semblance of order before she came. There is still so much left to do, but it can wait, there are more important things to do.

And in my lap, here she is. She is lying on her back across the tops of my legs, the perfect position for our daily ritual of talking and cooing. I gaze lovingly at her and marvel at her exquisite beauty, but I have no tears to cry. This moment is pure, sweet joy, untainted by the shadoworld that exists without her, somewhere in another dimension.

Her to-die-for long lashes are just like her two brothers, and like her cousin Julia, she has more than her share of adorable black curls. Her eyes are a bright, shiny blue, at least for now, and they are a combination of mine and her Daddy’s. Her mouth has the same adorable pout that the boys got from their Dad, but with fuller lips like mine. We have always taken pride in the chubby cheeks of our newborns, and Eliana doesn’t disappoint. She has a cute little round face that just makes you want to kiss her every second.

I smile at her and say “Hello sweet baby girl, are you gonna talk to mama?” She looks up at me so sweetly, and gives me one of those award-winning smiles that spreads across her face and turns into a full body squirm. “What do you say, Elli? Do you have any stories to tell mama today?” She begins to kick and squirm, moving her little fists, and her breath quickens. All the effort finally pays off with one little coo that comes out of her lips and seems to surprise her, as her face lights up all over again.

This continues for quite some time until she begins to get sleepy. She stops making eye contact and begins to fuss a little bit. I put in her paci and lay her on the soft cribsheet, patting her tummy until she closes her eyes.

All of a sudden the door bursts open, and in rushes Caedmon holding a couple of plastic dinosaurs, and Jayden with some trains. “We wanna play with Baby Elli too!” they shout, and immediately she is startled awake and begins an urgent, high-pitched cry. I quickly pick her up from her crib with a sigh. I don’t even want to think about the mess that waits for me in the boys’ room. I haven’t had a shower yet, in fact the only one in the house who has changed out of pajamas so far is Elli. Soon I will need to get lunch on the table. But for right now, it doesn’t matter, we have all the time in the world. The calming ritual begins all over again. I hold her warm body closely and pat her back, singing to her, each of us breathing tranquillity into the other, and we sit like that forever, rocking together across time and space, our love bridging the gap in the universe.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Happy 10 Years!

I just want to say, Happy 10 years to my wonderful husband, Mark! It has been 10 years since the day we met under a tree on our college campus the weekend before classes started.
We hit it off from the start, and it has been an awesome adventure ever since! We got to know each other, became best friends, became more than friends, got engaged, had our beautiful wedding...(and all of that in just 11 months!) We have had so many wonderful times together, including God's gifts of all our babies, and we have also been through great heartache, but with Christ at the center of it all, our love can weather any storm. I love you so much, and thank God for bringing the man of my dreams into my life 10 years ago when I was a college girl! You are my one and only, today more than ever! (This is a scan from a photo taken on one of our first dates in February of 2000.)


We had a fun time celebrating on Tuesday by walking around our college campus. The tree we met under has been torn down, and the area transformed, but it is still a beautiful spot to sit and talk. We also went to the diner near campus for burgers, and shared a hot fundge milk-shake. (We didn't actually get a picture, but I'm posting this one from July when we celebrated out 9th anniversary.) It was a fun time of looking back on our early care-free days together as students, and the path God has led us on since then.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Visit to Remember

Here is a little bit more about the week of Eliana's due-date:

On Saturday, August 15th, we continued commemorating Eliana's week by going to her grave. She is buried an hour away from our home, so we haven't gotten to go as often as we would like. I am so glad about our choice for her burial, though. My Dad died when I was six, and we had her buried with him. A piece of my heart is in heaven with both of these two people who I love so deeply, and long to be reunited with. I believe they are together in heaven, so nothing made more sense than for their bodies to be buried together on earth.

Right now we only have a small temporary marker provided by our funeral home. It will be a while before we can save up enough money to buy Eliana's marker, but one of the things we did that day was to meet in the office to discuss pricing and options. I really wished I could have had a marker there by her due-date, but I thought it would feel good to at least take a step in that direction.

While we were there, though, it just struck me how surreal the whole thing was. What were we doing here? Why was I standing in the middle of a graveyard with my husband and two little boys, when I was supposed to be in the hospital just getting to know the face of my new baby girl? It just didn't make sense that I was worrying over saving money to buy a piece of granite, when I should be blissfully unaware of the cares of the world while I watch my daughter have her first bath, and wrap her up in her soft pink blankets. At times it hits me in this way and I can't even cry, I just feel hazy, disoriented, and out of time and reality. After three months I expected to be past the denial part of this, but there are still many days where it is just hard to imagine that this has really happened to us. This isn't how it's supposed to be...

In spite of these thoughts, we still had a good time of remembrance as a family. After placing some flowers in my Dad's vase, we walked around and let our boys run. For the first time, I was actually struck by the beauty of the area. The grave is right underneath a tree that is native to our state. My father-in-law told me on the day of the burial that it is the "tree of heaven." They are very rare and delicate, just like Eliana.

This section of the cemetary is called the Garden of the Good Shepherd. Toward the back stands a statue of Jesus, holding a little baby lamb, with two bigger lambs standing at His side. Our two boys ran up to the statue and each sat on one of the bigger lambs, laughing and playing. My husband and I just gazed at them sitting there, tears filling our eyes, as we both thought of our three little lambs, one in Jesus' arms, and two who we pray will walk all their days on earth by His side. We held each other as he prayed, thanking God for the gift of our three little lambs, and asking Him to take care of each of them. We know He has them in the palm of His hand--all three, along with our sweet baby we lost in 2003, greatly loved, even though we knew for such a short time we were pregnant.

As they sat there, the boys broke out into boistrous renditions of Go Tell It On the Mountain, and Jesus Loves Me. We all sat there singing together, and could almost sense the saints of heaven, joining in one song of praise to Jesus.

Later that night I returned with my sister. We sat by Eliana's grave at sunset and she placed little pink roses one by one around the temporary marker as we talked and cried together. It started to sprinkle and get dark, but still we sat, remembering her, and speculating about heaven. While sad, it is so meaningful to catch a glimpse of someone else sharing in our heartache. It's a gift to know how much my sister loves Eliana and misses her, and to see how deeply she too has been touched by her life. While spending the day at the cemetary was the last way I would have chosen to spend August 15th of this year, it turned out to be a day we can always look back on, of remembering and loving our baby girl, and thanking God for her.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Letter to my Butterfly

I decided today was the perfect day to post this letter that I wrote to Eliana, exactly three months ago, on the evening before her funeral. That day was the last time I held her in my arms, and today is supposed to be the day I would hold her for the first time. The original copy of this letter is placed underneath her in her casket.

Dear Eliana,

I got to see you today. Tomorrow will be the last time until we see you in heaven. You looked so beautiful in your cute white dress with the pink, your long eyelashes, and all your dark hair. You are perfect, created in the image of God and taken to be with Him so early. You would be such a beautiful little girl someday, with little pig-tails in your hair and a ballerina tutu to wear when dancing in the sunshine. Now you're dancing in heaven. I wish I could hear you laugh and hear you sing, but now you sing with the angels. I wish I could hold you in my arms, look into your eyes, and tell you how very much I love you. But somehow, Jesus loves you even more.

I would have held you, rocked you, fed you, dressed you, and sung you lullabies every day. I would have poured my life into you, Eliana. I would give you my life now if I could. Your heart was beating so close to mine for so long, I wonder how mine can go on without you. Only because the same One who made you and cradles you cradles me too. How else could I get through without knowing that the same Jesus who took you to be with Him, loves you, and loves me with a greater intensity than a mother's love for her baby. In the same way that I would give my life for you, He did give His life for me and for you so that we could be with Him and be together one day.

The next time I see you, I don't know what it will be like. I know you won't be my baby girl like you would be on earth, but I hope you will know that I love you in a very deep and special way. I hope we will get to dance and make music, and worship together with full knowledge of the bond we share. I know I have to say goodbye, but I look forward to the day we will really meet. Until then, I will always love you, and you will always be a part of me and of our family.

All my love and hugs and kisses,

Mommy

Heaven is the Face of My Little Girl

Today is the day our baby girl was due to come into this world, the day we would be kissing her, holding her, loving her, looking into her eyes for the first time. One of the things Mark regretted was not getting to see her eyes. Eyes are a window to the soul, and when each of our boys was born, a special bond was cemented for eternity as soon as they looked into their daddy’s eyes. Today all we can do is guess at what that moment would have been like, and long for the day we will gaze on Eliana for the first time, eye to eye, face to face, soul to soul.

Last night Mark and I went to an incredible concert with Jeremy Camp and Steven Curtis Chapman. It was so meaningful to hear SCC open up about the loss of his daughter Maria. It is heart-breaking, but healing at the same time when you hear someone speak out loud the same pain you feel within your own heart. He sang the new single “Heaven is the Face" from his album Beauty Will Rise that comes out this November. This song is so beautiful, and captures perfectly what I am feeling today. Here is a live performance on You Tube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_q3LGYR3oM

Heaven is the Face

Heaven is the face of a little girl
With dark brown eyes
That disappear when she smiles.
Heaven is the place
Where she calls my name
Says, “Daddy please come play with me for awhile.”

Chorus:

God, I know, it’s all of this and so much more,
But God, You know, that this is what I’m aching for.
God, you know, I just can’t see beyond the door.
So right now...

Heaven is the sound of her breathing deep,
Lying on my chest, falling fast asleep while I sing.
And Heaven is the weight of her in my arms,
Being there to keep her safe from harm while she dreams

And God, I know, it’s all of this and so much more,
But God, You know, that this is what I’m longing for
God, you know, I just can’t see beyond the door.

Bridge:

But in my mind’s eye I can see a place
Where Your glory fills every empty space.
All the cancer is gone,
Every mouth is fed,
And there’s no one left in the orphans’ bed.
Every lonely heart finds their one true love,
And there’s no more goodbye,
And no more not enough,
And there’s no more enemy (no more).

Heaven is a sweet, maple syrup kiss
And a thousand other little things I miss with her gone.
Heaven is the place where she takes my hand
And leads me to You,
And we both run into Your arms.

Oh God, I know, it’s so much more than I can dream.
It’s far beyond anything I can conceive.
So God, You know, I’m trusting You until I see
Heaven in the face of my little girl,
Heaven in the face of my little girl.

Eliana, we are longing for the day.