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,


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:

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.”


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.


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.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bittersweet Blankets

It seems this whole summer has been building in momentum toward this one week in August, the week Eliana would have been born. Not just this summer, of course, but the last nine months. It’s so strange how the events of May 9th didn’t change this feeling that something was building, we were preparing for something, something big and life-altering...and it took on a shape I would never have expected.

Since losing Eliana I have felt all the love and energy that a mom showers on her new baby, but it was without a recipient. When I got in touch with Birthright in our city, it was like a healing balm to my heart, to talk with the director and come up with a way to use my passion to help unborn babies and their mother’s in a loving, tangible way.

Birthright is an organization who provides free pregnancy tests and counseling to women facing an unplanned pregnancy. They educate women on the facts about the baby growing inside of them, and offer them lots of love and encouragement. At the end of their visit, they give pregnant women the first gift for their baby. It is a bundle containing a blanket, onesie, and stuffed animal. In many cases, this helps the mom to begin a bond with her baby. She can feel the soft blanket and imagine the softness of her baby’s skin, look at the onesie, and think of the baby growing big enough to dress in it, and imagine playing with her child with the stuffed animal. There are many success stories of women who come into Birthright strongly considering an abortion, who decide either to keep the baby, or have them adopted.

I decided to host a shower for Birthright through our church. I spent the next month picking out adorable fleece fabric, and enlisting the help of lots of awesome friends at church to pick out onesies and stuffed animals and cut fabric. One girl who is a teacher had the cool idea of adding in a baby board book as an extra touch so we did that too. Another friend made special invitations to the event and tags to put on our bundles that say we are praying. Many ladies brought other special items like diapers, wipes, and other newborn layette items to donate, and others contributed financially.

Jayden was so excited about all the ducky's when I brought the fleece home.

Here are all 40 blankets ready to be finished

Last night was when it all came so beautifully together. We all gathered and had a prayer time for Birthright, tied the fleece blankets, and made all the bundles. It was so great to see all the women there united in the cause, working together with a common purpose to honor the lives of unborn babies, and knowing it was all born out of my love for Eliana and all she brought into our lives.

Of course the whole thing was bittersweet. Leading up to the shower I spent evenings cutting fleece for the blankets, praying over the babies and mommy’s who would receive them, while crying for Eliana. I long to be spending this week giving birth to her, getting to know her, and showering her with love, but I am so thankful that God gave me a vision for something else I could do with that love. It was so much fun to see how he worked for this to come together, and I know as we continue to pray for the recipients of our bundles, even though we don’t know who they will be, He will use those prayers on an individual basis to work His plan in their lives.

Today I got to deliver all of our donations to Birthright, and it was so amazing to get to meet Judy, the director face to face. We had several great conversations over the phone and shared lots of stories together. She is a dear woman who has such an amazing heart for God and such a passion for the ministry at Birthright. It is a joy just to know her, and be a part of this work, and it is just one more awesome thing that has come about because of Eliana.

Here I am at Birthright with Judy, the shelf behind us is where they will store all the blanket bundles we brought in.

How beautiful it is to see the mysterious way that God works to bring about His plan for our lives. We planned to hold our baby, to breath in the smell of her hair, and savor the softness of her skin. To go girl-crazy with pink bows, hearts, and flowers, to wrap her up in soft blankets and cuddle her as she sleeps…but that wasn’t to be. Instead we gathered an abundance of fleece blankets, onsies, newborn hats, and stuffed animals in gender neautral colors, to wait for babies who we will never see, but who we love and pray for. I am so blessed by the way we have been able to honor Eliana’s life this week, and so excited as I think of how God can use this in the lives of pregnant women, and even to save the lives of precious babies!

There has been so much momentum leading up to this week...and now here we are, our arms so empty but our hearts somehow full. Our eyes still tearful, but our hearts hopeful. Pain in what has passed, but peace for what lies ahead…peace like a river. There are still lots of tears, there is sadness daily, but hope seeps in slowly, waiting to well up within us and spill over.

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...Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:7-9, 16-18

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Missing You

I can’t believe it has been three months since we were in the hospital waiting to see you for the first time, Eliana, and to tell you good bye. I miss you so much tonight, baby girl, but I know you are having so much fun in heaven. I’m sure Grandpa is giving you lots of love and hugs for me. I can't even imagine the beauty you are surrounded with, and how amazing it is to be in God's presence. I still find it hard to comprehend that you are already there.

If you were still here, your birthday would be coming up any day now! I wish so much that I was still getting ready to welcome you into this world instead of thinking of you in the next. My heart aches to hold you in my arms, even if only for an hour. Our hearts were once beating together, and I know they are connected forever. I love you more than words can say.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Walking With You: Sibling Grief

Walking With You was created to help support those who have lost a child. Together we share our stories, helpful information, scriptures, encouraging words, prayer requests, and more. Thank you to those of you who have joined us for the past few weeks...for courageously sharing your stories. If you haven't joined us yet, and would like to, you are more than welcome.

This week for walking with you, the subject is the effect that losing our baby has had on our children. This is something I have thought about blogging about, and just haven’t been able to do it yet, so this is an encouragement to go ahead and discuss this subject.

My daughter Eliana has two older brothers, Caedmon, who is 4, and Jayden, who is 2. As mothers, none of us want to see our children in pain. We all long to protect them and shield them from the hardest things in life for as long as we can. At the same time, as hard as it is, we all know that it is through these difficult times that God can mold them into the little people he wants them to become. Compassion and empathy are traits that are deeply significant to me, and I have often prayed and hoped that my children would learn to show them at an early age. Perhaps it is through this loss that God will answer those prayers.

Caedmon had begun praying for a baby before we became pregnant, and when we told him the news, his face lit up like the sun and he said “Is it really true, Daddy?!” He was so delighted and excited. We explained to him that a lot of time would pass before the baby would be born, but it would be here before he would turn 5 in September. He showed love and concern throughout the pregnancy. His aunt had experienced two miscarriages and he was somewhat aware of this, so he did have an inclination that babies don’t always survive.

We let Caedmon help in sharing the news with our family, and we began talking about it with our 2-year-old son Jayden. He didn’t understand quite as well, and since we had our house on the market a lot of our books were in storage, including the children’s books about having a new baby. I hadn’t gotten to get them out yet before we found out Eliana was no longer living, but I wish I had had the chance to read through those with him.

Caedmon would talk to Eliana every night and hug and kiss my tummy good-night. Jayden would sometimes do this too. Caedmon also often talked about the things he would do with his new sister as we remembered together about what it was like when Jayden was a baby.

The day that we found out the bad news, I was thankful that the boys were not with me at the Drs. office, for the first time in all our appointments. After we made the decision to have labor induced that day, we came home to pack and to talk to our boys. Besides the actual labor and birth, that was the hardest things I have ever had to do. My husband did most of the talking, both of us crying, and yet I was also still in total shock. Caedmon immediately began to cry inconsolably as we tried to explain to him that she was already in heaven with Jesus, happy and complete. As Caedmon cried, Jayden was still just happy we had gotten home and was playing with his plastic dinosaur. Mark continued holding and talking with Caedmon, while I went to go call my mom.

When I left the room I knew that Jayden did understand some, because he followed me into the bedroom, climbed up beside me on the bed, and gave me a hug. He looked at me with the sweetest, concerned expression as I was calling my mom and telling her what had happened.

My mother-in-law had come over to take the boys for us, so she began talking more with Caedmon as Mark and I numbly packed our things for the hospital. He eventually calmed down with his Grandma. We were surprised by the depth of some of the things he said through his tears. We had a pet rabbit who had died a year previously named Velvet. He had cried hard that day as well, and remembered that feeling and experience, saying “First Velvet, and now my Baby Sister!” He also said that he wanted to die too so that he could go to heaven to be with her. That just broke my heart.

During our time in the hospital leading up to the delivery, I was very concerned about our boys, and how much I should let them be involved in things after she came. We spoke with our nurse and looked at some reading material, and thought and prayed about it. Our decision was to have them come to the hospital and see their baby sister, and to fully experience the funeral and burial.

I am so glad we chose to do this. I was afraid the way that Eliana looked would be upsetting to them, but they didn’t even seem to notice that she looked different, or show any signs of fear. She was perfectly formed, but her skin was dark with some bruising and tearing, and when they saw her the next morning, there were other things about her appearance that were beginning to change. Still, they touched her hair and looked at her, Caedmon asked some questions about her. Jayden just looked at her curiously and seemed a little confused, but not afraid. I don’t think seeing her caused them any trauma, and was a good experience. The only thing I regret is not having Caedmon hold her. He didn’t ask, but later cried because he had never gotten to hold his baby sister.

To help the boys say good bye, we had them each draw a picture for her that they placed under her in the casket. We called it her little bed, and they helped to “tuck her in” when it was time to close it before the burial. Caedmon also placed in her casket a gift he had made for her out of beads, and a plastic monarch butterfly. In an earlier post I mentioned that when we were reading a book about heaven, it asked to think about the most beautiful thing you have ever seen, and Caedmon said “a monarch butterfly.” This was so cool because I had already been thinking about butterflies and it was like God was confirming that symbol for Eliana.

At the hospital, Caedmon had also taken his own pictures of Eliana on his digital camera. In the car on the way home from the burial, he asked for his camera and looked at her pictures until he fell asleep. For many nights afterwards, he would cry, and ask for his camera when he went to bed. We could hear him in his room saying “I love you” to his baby sister, and giving a kiss to her on his camera, hoping it would reach all the way up to heaven.

Each night he would be very sad whenever he told me good night, because he used to be telling Eliana goodnight in my tummy, and it was a big reminder that she wasn’t here anymore. I still let him kiss my tummy and say I love you if he needed to.

One thing that has been difficult is the huge baby boom that is going on in our circle. Many of my friends in my mom’s group at church, my two sisters-in-law, two of my cousins, my two high school friends, and apparently a large portion of our city are all pregnant, or have now had their babies. I had no idea my son was as keenly aware of this as I am, until one day he had been acting up and in general having a bad day, and all of a sudden he just said, “Babies, babies, babies. There’s babies everywhere; at the splash park, at the mall…I see them all the time!” I was so surprised that he was feeling exactly the same way as I was! We don’t always realize how grown up our little one’s thoughts really are. We were able to talk about how we miss our baby when we see others, but we are also so happy about all the healthy babies that are born and it helps us to remember that God has given two healthy babies to our family already, and we can pray for Him to bring us another one someday. I have truly felt this myself, as each of my friends has their baby, I experience a sense of relief, and a little bit of healing, to see that God is still the miracle worker and I am truly happy for these other special women while at the same time missing my little girl tremendously. I really feel this perspective is helping Caedmon to cope as well.

We had read that at Caedmon’s age, he might not understand the permanency of death, but for the most part, he seemed to get that. I think it helped that we had already talked a lot about the promise of heaven when we die as believers, and he had a good understanding and assurance of that. We explained to him that God shows special grace to little babies who never had the chance to believe in him, and takes them straight to heaven too. He was sad that he couldn’t see her, but glad that she was in heaven and he would see her again someday. (In November of last year he had placed his trust in Jesus.) If anyone would like to read a great book that discusses the assurance of heaven for babies, I highly recommend Safe in the Arms of God by John MacArthur. This is written for adults, but if you know why you believe what you do, it is easier to explain it to your children.

There was only one time when it seemed for a moment that Caedmon didn’t understand. We’ve had our house on the market for 6 months, and were hoping to have moved into a bigger house before Eliana would be born in August. This week we went to an open house. After we left, we were saying how we like that house, but it didn’t have as many bedrooms as we wanted. Caedmon said “Well, me and Jayden and Eliana can all go in one room together!” I was so surprised, and talked with him again about Eliana going to heaven, and he again seemed to understand. I later realized that we haven’t been to very many open houses afterwards. Before she died, we had been going every week, and saying “This room could be for Mommy and Daddy, this room could be for Caedmon and Jayden, this room could be for Baby Sister…” His mind had automatically reverted back to that time before, when we were all so happy, trying to make room for a new little bird in our nest.

Some other things with Caedmon are, he often draws pictures or makes sticker pages that include Eliana, or he says they are for her. Sometimes he makes something and says “This is a picture of Eliana, just for you Mommy.” He knows how much I miss her and doesn’t want me to be sad. Another thing he has been doing lately is talking in baby talk, I think he thinks it somehow makes him more lovable since we miss our baby and love her so much. I have been trying not to make too big of a deal of it, but remind him that we love him so much because he’s our big boy and has been learning and doing so many big new things.

Jayden, for the most part, has seemed to sail through and do okay. He has shown love and sensitivity toward me, and has seemed a little sad and quiet at times. He has also been much more attached to me since I came home from the hospital. Occasionally he still says “baby in mommy’s tummy?” and I have to remind him that his baby sister isn’t in there anymore, because she went to heaven to be with Jesus. I feel so sad that he doesn’t get to be a big brother yet.

I was so looking forward to seeing each of my boys fall in love with their baby sister. I just knew that she would teach them love in a new and special way and bring out the tenderness of their hearts. Although it isn’t in the way I had expected, I really believe she has done just that, and will continue to be a source of love in their lives as they grow. It is in this way that God is beginning to answer my prayers for my boys, that they would have tender, loving hearts and will learn how to show compassion to others in a meaningful way.