Saturday, November 29, 2014

Five Years was Yesterday...Timehop Tells Me So

It really was.

I honestly do not know how it was just five years ago that I left that hospital without my child.  That John left Georgetown after he held Matthew until he died, and then gave him to the nurses and just left.

Alone.

I still know that if that was me, they'd have had to sedate me and carry my body out.
I would never be able to do that, and am sad that John did, but grateful.

The PTSD episodes I've been having these last few weeks have been horrible.

Like wake up at 1:26  several different mornings just sobbing horrible.

How does a body know that?  I mean, really?  How does my body know that he died at 1:26, and wakes me up crying to remember?  In the last 4 weeks, I've done that at least five different times--the last was on his birthday.

Black Friday.  Oh, don't I know it.

We were overwhelmed, as always, with how much love and support we have.  How many people remember what a beautiful but hard day yesterday was, and more, how hard today was.

How five years ago, the world stopped, even though it didn't, and I had to figure out how to keep breathing.
Literally, I had to tell myself how to breathe.

There is never any milestone that seems easier or better.  Every day is a different thing I've lost.  And, while Luke makes our lives worth living and we are so grateful, there is no denying that the joy in watching him often makes what we lost with Matthew's death even more tangible--we don't have to imagine how amazing parenting our little boy would be--we gratefully get to do it--but not with all we should have.

So five.

Five has been very hard.  Five seems like such a milestone.  So many things that five would entail.
He would be in pre-k this year, being a later birthday.  He'd be writing his name and growing out of his toddlerhood into full-fledged little boy.  Soccer.  T-ball.  Piano.  We always wanted him to learn how to play piano.

So much that we planned.  Just stolen.

I'm sure that plenty out there may think that having Luke makes it less a loss because we still have a little boy we get to do those things with.

But it's not him.
It is not John Matthew Ennis.
He is not, nor ever will be replaceable.

I installed the Timehop app this year.  It's been a really fun way to look back very fondly on Luke as he's grown.

I've also seen my blind, blissful innocence every day.

Every day, I want to tell that me something...


That camera...it died to me the day he died.  And then, I was given the gift of pictures of my son.  That was the day that Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep became a precious ministry to me, and our sweet Maureen became a never-forgotten part of our story.  That camera is now at a shutter count of almost 90k and I can't bring myself to replace it because I will never forget buying it and the purpose...to take pictures of Matthew.  To learn how to become a "Momtographer" and document every second of his long-awaited life.  I have been blessed to pretty much take a picture of Luke every day of his life, but...I'll never, ever forget why I wanted a nice camera and to learn how to use it.


This was last year.  It was so hard then.  Those who say it gets easier?  Liars.


I look at this and really have a lot of regrets.  I've been very blessed these last five years to not have many regrets.  As the years pass, though, I feel like I have more and more of those, "I should have known," moments.  This was just a week before we went to have him.  The room we were in ended up being the exact same room I labored in a week later.  The silly cd of labor music (the craziest heavy metal lullabies) was still in there from a week before.  We didn't know it then, but this was the beginning of pre-e.  Not that I had any major signs other than the blood pressure and swelling, but in hindsight, those were pretty significant for me.  It wouldn't have changed anything.  He didn't die from anything related.  But who knows how it could have been?


I.was.so.wrong!  There were a few weeks to go!

People were surprised I made it that long.  I went out of work at 32 weeks because of swelling and concerns for leg clots.  He wouldn't come for another 9 weeks almost!

Why?  Why do we rush it? I know it is because I was so, so excited.  But...gracious.  What I wouldn't give for some more time with him.  If I'd only known.

I cried this day.  Cried.  I was so swollen and in so much pain.  I remember telling my doctor I still preferred a c-section.  If only I'd stuck to my gut.  Not that they pressured me to change my mind, because really, a c-section is no joke.  But, I knew.  Inside, I knew.  Somehow.  He'd have lived, if only we scheduled a c-section.

This is how I've felt for several weeks.  It was only a little over a month ago that my third son would have turned two.  I would have had a full house.  Three boys running around.
But then I am honest.  Luke would not be here if Matthew had lived.  And then I stop thinking about it because it hurts my head and heart.

Yeah.  WRONG.  This was the last day we saw him on sonogram.  November 23.  I remember vividly.  He only weighed 6lbs, 6 oz at birth so that sonogram was a bit off.  I worried he'd be big for my little body.  Oh, what I should have worried about.


Hotel Mommy.  The best job I've ever been given.  He knew.  He had to know he was going to die and it was already in the works.  And there I was...begging him to come out.

His due date.  He outgrew his first outfit before he was even born.  

This is where I scream, "DO NOT DO IT! DO NOT GO!  Let him stay with you as LONG AS HE WANTS!"  I was terrified of going past 41 weeks.  But if I had...maybe the pre-e would have come on while I was still pregnant with him instead of after and forced an emergency c-section.  If only...


Obviously, Timehop has been hard on my heart.  Has probably contributed to the sleepless nights and the night terrors and PTSD episodes.

But I still looked every day.  I still want to remember because I was so happy.  So thrilled.  So excited.  So. Ready.

Five years later, and it still feels like I was just leaving.  Gut-wrenching and heavy like cement.

We put up our Christmas tree yesterday, as is our tradition for Matthew's birthday.



I pulled out the stocking I'd bought for him in September.  The "My First Christmas" ornaments I'd bought in July.  I remember thanking God for his life, and promising that I'd raise Him to know and love Him.  I promised that I'd remember he was His first and that I was only given him for a short time.

Friends, as well-intended as that talk was, and it really was well-intended, it was not true.
I would have raised him to know God.  To love and serve Him.  I really was thankful for his life.

But really, Matthew was mine.  The 'short time' I casually offered to God was something like 87 years at minimum.  Certainly not the nine hours he lived, most of which apart from me.  And, if I am REALLY honest?  I know that we all belong to God.

But I don't want to offer Luke.  I don't want to offer Luke for whatever time God deems.  I wish I wanted to.

I just cannot fathom the thought of burying another child.  My only living child.  The reason I wake up in the morning.  The mercy I was given after Matthew died.  I cannot and do not want to do it. So, God and I just don't talk about that.  I recognize that I'll hear all about trust and faith and sovereignty and all the things I've lived my life for and by.

If honest, I know His grace is sufficient.  I know it is.
I don't want any more lessons on it though.

And that's just the raw Mama's heart truth.

"Auntie Shelby" and "Uncle Craig" picked up Matthew's favorite cake and John, Luke and I sang him happy birthday.  I asked Luke if he would blow the candles and eat the cake for his big brother and he said, "Sure.  I'll do a great job for him."

I don't know that Luke will ever know what he means to us.




When I think of how fresh this seems, I remember one of the last arguments I had with my mom before she died.  She knew she was dying, and I vehemently denied it because I am Queen of Denial. She told me she wanted to be cremated, and her ashes to be spread over our sister's grave.  This sister was a little girl born still in 1978.  In our family, she was "That baby mom had that died," and my stomach always turns when I think of the disrespect her life was given.  I know it was a different time and a different era, and I know that was probably where my parents' marriage began to unravel, though they stayed married until she died.  It was never the same marriage, though, and I can understand that.  I know my mom mourned her sweet Angel (what my sister was named), and in hindsight, days I'd find her crying and then quickly covering it up make so much sense now.  

When she told me that she wanted her ashes spread over Angel's grave, I was furious.  For the duration of my mom's bout with cancer, I'd driven to her nearly every week or every other week (because John's dad was also battling cancer and I'd alternate weeks) and tend to her every way I could.  I've always been the stereotypical 'oldest child' and a pretty devoted daughter, if I said so myself.  So for her to want her remains to be left with a baby she didn't even know over her 'real, living' children?  I felt it was completely disrespectful to our lives.  WE were her children.  WE loved her.  WE did things for her.  She never even saw that baby. (Oh, the tears I shed over knowing she suffered so silently for so long.  I am heartbroken.)

She realized she'd upset me, and she dropped it.  Never brought it up again, and she was cremated, but her ashes are in a mausoleum in the same cemetery that Angel is buried. 

Now, I get it.  She loved that baby just as much as she loved us because we were ALL her children. She mourned her for the rest of her life because there is no forgetting that a piece of your heart and soul is missing.

And, mostly, I got that nearly 30 years later, she missed that baby so much that her final wish was to be able to finally be together with her.  Nearly 30 years later, the ache in her heart still ached with the same ache it had the day Angel died.  She'd just had to learn to live with that ache, much as I have learned to live with mine.

Life goes on in spite of the ache.  But every now and then, it aches as freshly and as intensely as it did the very day.
Like it was yesterday.  
Five years was yesterday. 

So says the ache in my heart.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

When Christian-ese Grieves the Grieving...


Do you see all those pictures?

All I did was Google, "God has something better," and instantly...hundreds and hundreds of similar images.

You might wonder why I even bothered Googling that. I saw something on the internet that made me wonder.
See that picture with the Jesus-looking guy asking the little girl for her Teddy Bear?  She is telling him how much she likes it, but she just can't see that he's willing to give her the BIGGER, BETTER Teddy if she'll just trade.

Seems innocent, right?

I mean, who of us, whether we attribute it to God or the universe or sheer luck, hasn't once said, "Man...if such and such hadn't happened, then I would never have done/met/gone (fill in the blank)," when they think of how differently things could have played out?

I've said it.  If I'd stayed with that boyfriend...If I'd taken that job...If I hadn't changed that major...

I've said it and I think we all have said it, and more, I've said it giving thanks to God for allowing something better to be in my life.

But friends.  Please.

Let's be real.

The LAST thing a person of faith wants to hear, as his or her heart is aching, is, "Oh...but God's got something better!"

Because you know what?  SOME things are not comparable.

Sure.  There are better jobs.  Better places to live.  Better hobbies in which you can engage.

But--and listen to this very carefully, I beg you....

When it comes to losing a loved one...there IS NO better loved one with whom you can replace.

Using that example of Jesus just asking the little girl to trust Him with her little Teddy so He could 'bless' her with the bigger, better Teddy?

Let's see how that sounds:

Your mom died?  Hey.  God's got a BETTER mom waiting for you.
Your spouse died?  Hey.  God's got a BETTER spouse waiting for you!
Your child died?  Hey God's got a BETTER child waiting for you!

JUST TRUST HIM.

(Are we in agreement here that those statements sound RIDICULOUS????)

Trust in Jesus doesn't mean that you may have to relinquish a little control or something you love in order to get a BIGGER reward.

Trust in Jesus means that you have to be willing to stand there...with the most amazing Teddy you will ever hold.  The one you waited your WHOLE life for.  The one you dreamed about and couldn't imagine your life without.  That one.

You have to stand there and give it to Him.

No.strings.attached.

Because you promised that you would.  When you promised to follow Him and love Him and trust Him, you promised you would.

No matter what.

Even if the bigger, better Teddy never came.

Or the ones you loved with all your heart were gone forever.

You have to be willing to accept that giving Him that Teddy means that you'll NEVER live life again the same.  You may get lucky enough to be given other Teddies to love and cherish, but there will NEVER be the one you gave Him again.  And He wouldn't ask you to accept another as bigger and better because the VERY heartbeat He put in each little Teddy is PRECIOUS.

And Purposed.

AND IRREPLACEABLE.

I'm pretty sure there is no doubt that Luke is the most amazing human in our lives.  He is our breath and our heartbeat.

But he was NOT the "Better" that God gave us because Matthew died.

He's just like his brothers.
A miracle.  A blessing. A gift.


Now.
I'm not saying that the Grace of God doesn't deliver us and provides for us even when our own choices may prove non-advantageous.  I absolutely believe He is merciful and I am SO grateful.

I'm just saying that if we constantly, as Christians, use this Christian-ese, we are doing two things very poorly.

1) We are not tending to grieving hearts.  Jesus did not tell Mary and Martha, "Hey. I've got something better for you!" when their brother Lazarus died. No, Jesus wept.  WEPT.  He was so, so sad to lose His friend and for Mary and Martha. He grieved and He grieved with them. No, "Keep your eye on the prize and just trust that I've got something better coming."  If we are to love people like Jesus, then by golly, let's love them like Jesus!  Cry with them.  Ache with them.  Hurt with them.  Love them; don't offer platitudes that will fall on deaf ears.

2) When we use that model--"Just trust that this disappointment is leading to a bigger reward!"--we are STEALING from Jesus!  Yes, STEALING His power.
        "But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” II Corinthians 12:9

When we are asked to give up the Teddy with NO promise of a bigger and better Teddy, we are at our weakest.  And that, my friends, is when His power is made perfect.  Not when He's giving us the bigger, better Teddy.

When we are broken, poured out and left wanting.  No beloved Teddy, but a Jesus who tells us, "My Grace is sufficient."

And then, lovingly proves to us that it is.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

On A Day of Hope...Grace Beyond the Realm of Reasoning

Today, many families around the world celebrated their children in a most unique and precious way--a WORLDwide memorial service held live online. The dear CarlyMarie invited me to be a ceremony speaker, and if honest, I felt very much like a little fish in a very big pond.  I read a passage from Gerald Stittser's   A Grace Disguised; How the Soul Grows Through Loss, and couldn't have meant each word I read more. Gifts of grace come to all of us. But we must be ready to see and willing to receive these gifts. It will require a kind of sacrifice, the sacrifice of believing that, however painful our losses, life can still be good — good in a different way then before, but nevertheless good. I will never recover from my loss and I will never got over missing the ones I lost. But I still cherish life. . . . I will always want the ones I lost back again. I long for them with all my soul. But I still celebrate the life I have found because they are gone. I have lost, but I have also gained. I lost the world I loved, but I gained a deeper awareness of grace. That grace has enabled me to clarify my purpose in life and rediscover the wonder of the present moment.” 

When my dear friends sent that book to me very shortly after Matthew died, it was hard to read.  One of the first things I did when I got home from the hospital was to order every book I could find that I thought would answer, "WHY?"


Friends, please know.  There aren't any such books.

I know, I know, many of you are in your head saying, "But there is!  The Bible!"

Show me.

Because what the Bible tells ME  is that His ways are not mine.  His thoughts are not mine.  In fact, Solomon, who some would say was the wisest man on earth said this in Ecclesiastes: "When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe man’s labor on earth—his eyes not seeing sleep day or night- then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it." Ecclesiastes 8:16-17

Did you catch that?  Even if a wise man claims he knows it, he cannot really comprehend it.


Which is why that passage I read is so important.  I lost, but oh how I have gained.


(And, for the record, I do not believe I lost SO I could gain.  I think ALL things can be worked for good and that there is beauty to be found regardless of whether or not a lesson is behind that found beauty.)

I've not ever been a big memorializer. I wish I was, and then again, I find less anxiety in not being one.  To participate in this ceremony was really nothing that I thought it would be, but everything I didn't know I'd love it to be.

I shared with other women who have lost children and are Still Standing.  Still Breathing.  Still Surviving.

And best?  Would even say they were thriving. This ceremony was one that allowed people all over the world to see that devastation happens...randomly and recklessly and ruthlessly.

But beauty can and does rise, and I never end a day without expressing my gratitude for that.

Part of the ceremony was the sharing of prayer flags that honored and remembered our dead children. I'm pretty sure that those of you who know me in real life would say a lot of really nice things about me if asked, but that I was creative?  No, that would not be one of them!  I was going to do a flag this year, because I was inspired by Carly and Fran, but wasn't able to because Grandma got sick and really between visiting her and our friends visit, I had no time.

So let me tell you how precious these two "flags" that were made for me are.


The miraculous twins of my friends (who have suffered miscarriages themselves) made these beautiful 'flags' for me and shared with me on social media.  B wrote a lovely passage about the need to break the taboo on speaking of our dead children, and used these powerful words when talking about the two lives she'd lost to miscarriages:  "Those are two lives lost. And those lives weren't taken so that other lives would be born. They were taken for reason beyond us. Beyond our realm of thinking."

So.much.yes!  


It is a fact that had Matthew survived, we would not done another IVF cycle so quickly.  Heck, based on his birth injuries, we may never done another cycle.  It's pretty much a fact that Luke would not live if Matthew had survived.


And while I really do, if for no other reasons but those backed by properties of physics, believe that everything happens for a reason, it is not ours to say why.


My faith and my beliefs are not really a big secret.  If you read this blog or my articles on Still Standing or follow me on Facebook or Instagram (God help you if you follow me on Twitter or Pinterest because I am CLUELESS as to how to use either)--you have a good idea of who I am and what I believe.


I bristle every time I see this quote: "If God tells you, 'No,' it's because He has something better planned for you."


Really, friends.  I'm a Christian, for Pete's sake, and if someone were to tell me that to answer why the response to my DESPERATE prayer to keep Matthew alive was, "No," I think I'd go on ahead and just leave the church.  Surely, I'd leave that friendship. 


I understand that we feel like we have to have reasons for things.  I AM *that* girl.  But there are simply some things that are beyond our understanding, and when people try to comprehend that which is incomprehensible?

Well, that's when you see me check out.  Smile and nod, but bite my teeth and think, "You have no clue. You just don't."

Luke is amazing.  He is wonderful.  I know I am biased, but seriously, he is truly an extraordinary little boy and I don't even have the words to describe the joy he brings to my life.


But he is not, not, not, not, NOT under any circumstances the "Something Better" God had planned when He told me, "No, Matthew will not live."  Say those words out loud.  Then try being me and reconciling that concept.


The last sentence of the passage I read in the ceremony says that GRACE has allowed me to clarify my purpose in life and rediscover the wonder of the present moment. You can better believe that I cherish the wonder of the present moment. I will fiercely protect and cling to this beautiful, messy, sorrow-woven life that I am so grateful to live, and am able to do so because I just.won't.allow people to attempt to explain the unexplainable to me.


I beg of you who read...especially those of faith.  Don't try to do that to others, either.  While intentions are probably good, and there is power in sharing Jesus's love with a hug, a good cry, toilet scrubbing, meal making, grocery buying, grass cutting or an assortment of other things grieving parents may need but probably won't ask for, don't try to reason the unreasonable.


Years later, if they seem 'better' and 'normal' and 'happy', don't ask them, "But see, wasn't it all worth it?"


Because I promise you, if they are at a place where Grace and gratitude sustain them, they fought long and hard to get there.  Their footing there wobbles regularly as they are desperately trying to balance between the life they lost and the beautiful life they celebrate.


Celebrate with them.  Remember with them.  Cry with them. Laugh with them.  


Leave that which is beyond our understanding out of it.  
You have no idea what a special gift that will be.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

What I've Learned About Death...and Love

You know what?

There is just no good time to die.  Period.

I always bristle because people will say of the elderly who pass, "Well, at least they had a long, good life." (Oh, how I hate any sentence that starts with, "At least...")

The truth is, the dead don't really care one way or the other, do they?

It's those of us who are left behind to live without them that really suffer.  Miss them.  Wish we could give them that one.last.hug.

No matter what, death stings. Becomes embedded in a part of your heart that isn't really ever the same after. By the grace of God, that part doesn't have to win, nor does it have to destroy you, but man...It sure does put up a good battle sometimes.

And whether death is a shock and surprise, or was expected and prayed for to come peacefully, it brings tears.

Tears of sorrow for what will be no more, but hopefully, tears of gratitude for what was and you were privileged enough to be a part of.

Over 25 years ago, I was given a very special gift.  It came in an unusual way, and still probably today makes people scratch their heads, but reminds me regularly that loving someone does not require the sharing of blood or DNA.  I was given a "bonus family."

For over half my life, I have had the privilege of calling two very special people "Mom" and "Dad" and they've treated me as their own daughter.  As extra bonus, I've gotten to call a very precious woman "Grandma" for just as long.  They all love Luke, and he adores them.  For the past three years, we've lived near enough to visit often, and I've been thankful for the relationship that Luke has been able to share in.



Grandma was 91 on her last birthday.  Up until just about a month ago, she was still as sharp as ever, always commenting on Facebook (ALL CAPS, ha ha) and spoiling.Luke.rotten.  Whenever we'd visit, she'd give him candy and a bag of coins.  It didn't take but one visit for Luke to realize that "Grandma 'Neider" was a great gal and that he and she would be very good friends!  For a period, when Luke would ask for something in a store and I'd ask him if he had any money, he'd reply, "Grandma 'Neider money!"




Earlier last week, I hastily packed Luke up and he and I flew up to visit her.  She'd been diagnosed with dementia, and hospice had been called in.  There was no telling how much longer she had, but her ability to remember people was fading quickly and I wanted her to know we were there.  When we last saw her in June before we moved here, I promised her I'd bring Luke back to visit her for her birthday in November.  When we got there last week, though not entirely clear in her thinking, she very much remembered I'd promised that, but was glad I was there then.  Several times she told me she was glad I came.  Several times she talked about Luke and was able to recognize him and smile at some silly antic. Several times I was given a most precious gift in hearing her tell me that she loved me.  Without question, she knew us and remembered us, even though if not all the time.

I'd hesitated in going so quickly.  Since May, Luke and I have not slept in the same place for more than 11 days in a row.  We had friends coming in this week, and John picked us ALL up from the airport as Luke and I returned from Myrtle Beach.  Life has been chaotic, and I thought it might be best to wait until yesterday to go.

She passed away very early this morning.  In just a few days, her health declined so, so rapidly.  She went from asking me to have a cup of coffee with her on Monday to Heaven five days later.  I am so glad I decided to go when I did.  Instead of looking at this week with regret, I am now forever able to look at her last days as a gift. Selfish, I know, because really, going was more for me than anyone else, but still...a gift.  I've had a lot of thoughts rambling in my head this week about how much of a blessing it is to be there in those last, sacred days.  That may sound weird, and maybe a little morbid, but it's not. Holding her hand, hugging her...massaging her hands and feet and helping fix her hair so she still felt like as much herself as she could?  Just plain grateful.

Knowing she had lived a long, happy life and that she would be reunited our beloved Poppy makes her passing easier, but still, not easy.


Because death just isn't easy.  Death means we can no longer make memories with our loved one, and that loss hurts and leaves us feeling lonely, regardless of how many we may have been able to make (or, sadly, not).  Death of a loved one often feels like the death of love, doesn't it?

That's what it boils down to.  The dead cannot actively love us anymore.

But oh....how we still actively love them.



Today, I'm giving thanks for the presence of an amazing woman in our lives.  Giving thanks for the selfless and abundant love that she's always shown me and giving thanks for her joyous reunion with so many she loved and had to watch leave this world before her.

Today, death may claim a small victory, but I'm grateful that in the end, it does not win.

Love never fails.
Love always wins.

Always.



Monday, July 21, 2014

What I Can't Come To Terms With...

I picked a winner for the giveaway!!  I wish EVERYONE could have one!  I was happy that it was a sweet friend Amanda...Amanda constantly remembers the lives of so many special little ones who have passed and often generously passes her 'winnings' on to others.  I hope, hope, HOPE she is as blessed with this win as so many have been blessed by her!

We've been back in Florida now for a week.  I spent the week working on eight million things we needed to do for our house in Maryland.  Without detail, it is enough to say that it was expensive.  On my checkbook and my heart.

My heart is the one that's not so easily replenished, and yet...somehow, it always is.  Typically through friends who help, friends who visit, friends who care and friends who understand.  For those things I am very thankful.

In most instances, I'd even say I was blessed.  In fact, I almost ALWAYS say I am blessed.
Blessed by friends.  Blessed with Luke.  Blessed with motherhood.  Blessed with material things.  I never say I'm lucky (unless it's bad luck, and that, I seem to have in spades!) because I don't necessarily believe in 'luck' per se.

I believe things are purposed.

Usually.

Because here's the thing that I've been regularly wrestling with these days.  I'm talking several-times-a-day-regularly.

To me, saying, "I'm blessed," is to use it in the terms of 'being divinely or supremely favored or fortunate'.

And, without question, I believe that I am.

But...I also think, "So does that mean that orphans are not divinely favored? Or that those who get adopted are more blessed than those who languish, even to the point of death?  Those women who desperately want children but for whatever reason never get to hold them are not  divinely favored? Bu Women whose husbands don't come back from war are not divinely fortunate?  One baby survives NICU and another doesn't, so the family of the survivor is divinely shone upon and the other family gets the crappy leaf picture on their door and is out of favor with God?"

I don't buy it.  I can't.  I can't buy that a God who loves us all (and the Bible is very clear that He does) picks and chooses who has food on their table and who doesn't because He favors one person over another.  Or decides who has running water or clothes and who doesn't because He is showering blessings on them (and conversely, NOT showering blessings on those who don't).  Decides whose baby survives and whose doesn't because He favors one family but shuns the other?

Obviously, it's not as black and white as that, but on the same token, it sort of is.  Why does one woman get 'gifted' with several children and another with none?  Or maybe worse, dead ones?  The one with many children?  Calls herself blessed.  The one with none?  Probably not as easy for her to say that.

I just don't know.  And, I know there are no good answers on this side of Heaven either.

But, I DO know this:  I am no more special than any person on this planet.  And that I live in a country where things are SO abundant and easily accessible is, to me, luck.  Purposed, no question, and a blessing to me, yes....but NOT because I am more favored than someone else.  I find myself more and more uncomfortable saying that I am 'blessed' because I do not ever want to give the impression that I deserve more than anyone else; I certainly don't.  I have a pool in my backyard.  Children all over the world don't even have water to DRINK, for crying out loud....and my kid PLAYS in a pool of it. Daily.  My heart rejoices for the sheer 'blessing' of it but aches for those less fortunate and 'favored' than we are.

So I don't know what to say.  I am grateful, I can definitely say that.  Very, very, very thankful.
But to say that I am blessed because of things I have and that others are not because of the very same things they don't have seems sort of like a quiet way of saying that God gives me more (or less) because He loves (favors) me more (or less).

And that's very hard for me to wrap my head around these days.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Jewelry Keepsakes Review and Giveaway!

 Friends.
 I won’t lie.

Often I hear about the lessons I’ve learned or the friends I’ve made as a result of Matthew (and Trey) dying as blessings to me.  And, they are. But I’d never, never, never ask for those events to preface any lesson or any friendship, regardless of the greatness thereof.

However, life being as it is, I also readily admit that the blessings I’ve been given post-loss experiences are so.abundant.  SO abundant.  And I am very grateful.

One of those has been THIS amazing charm a precious company sent me to review. First, you should know that the personal touch of this company is unreal.  After Matthew died, I bought a beautiful charm with his footprint etched in, and couldn’t believe the compassion and personal work with that company.


Jewelry Keepsakes is another company that does the same—has real people with real hearts working with you and for you as you memorialize your most priceless pictures and pieces of your heart.  My representative through the selection and order process was amazing, and bonus?  Became a friend! Like a “we’d probably get into a lot of trouble together if we lived in the same place kind of friend”!  I can’t tell you how important it is when ordering memorial jewelry that you work with someone who cares and sympathizes. Not to mention, creates BEAUTIFUL jewelry at such reasonable prices.  I sent them my favorite picture of Matthew from our precious Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep photographs and cried upon receipt.

Cried at how beautiful that baby was and how beautifully and carefully his image was on this silver circle I am so blessed to wear on my neck.

We visited Matthew's resting spot in Maryland before we left.  The last time we were there was December, and seeing as where we live now is a good 16-17 hours away, this weekend was probably the last time we will visit in a while.  There, we did what we could do at a grave...dusted away the dirt on the stone; tried to move the phlox so we could see the verse.  We took pictures, and for a minute I thought, "Why?  Why am I taking pictures at my dead son's grave?"  More, I wondered why I was trying to insist my three-year-old-who-just-could-not-understand be reflective and somber when that is so.against.what.his.spirit.is.like.  I told John that I didn't even know why I took pictures like that because half the time (more like most of the time), they sit on my computer...devastating if they were ever lost, yet very, very rarely ever reviewed or used.


But...I take them because it is all I can do. I take pictures of just about everything I can because if ever in real life the memory makers are stolen from me, I'll.have.pictures. Pictures are priceless.

So, when a company does something so beautiful with them...I can't help but be grateful.
Just, grateful.  I’m so busy with a million things these days, and I don’t get to do as many reviews as I have offers, but I have to say—this is precious to me, and I have no doubt, will be to you as well.  In fact, for many, many years, I have wondered what to do with the ashes in my mother's urn.  I know now.  And, remember that amazing picture of Luke and John watching a sunset?  Yeah, an amazing keychain for Daddy too. Though Jewelry Keepsakes focuses on remembrance jewelry, there is so much more available.

Jewelry Keepsakes is offering a charm to be given away to one of you, and is also generously offering a 10% discount if you use the code ALWAYS on their site...as in ALWAYS a mother.  Their idea.   Priceless, right?

The giveaway will last until Thursday, and I’ll announce the winner.  Should you choose to purchase one of your own with their discount, be sure to thank them for their sacred work.  We don’t get to keep much of our loved ones when they depart. Jewelry Keepsakes helps us keep as we can, in a beautiful way, and that is an invaluable gift.
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Monday, June 30, 2014

Always Doing Maryland...

Funny, isn't it?  Lori Does Maryland?

That was supposed to be a very sarcastic title.  When we moved from North Carolina to Maryland, I was not happy.

I liked North Carolina.  No, I loved North Carolina.  I did not want to move.

And, growing up in NoVA (Northern Virginia for all of you not-so-lucky-enough-to-be-from-there), my mentality was always, "Why cross the Woodrow Wilson if you didn't have to?"

So, Lori Does Maryland was my attempt at 'navigating' that new and different military assignment.  I mean, really, I'd never even heard of Test Pilot School.
Yes, I realize I am a poor, poor excuse for a pilot's wife.

I didn't bother changing it when we moved back to North Carolina.  Contrary to the, "Test Pilot School is a career killer and you'll never leave Maryland," flung at us all the time, we DID leave Maryland and TPS was certainly NOT a career killer.  And though, enough had happened in my life that made me think I never, ever wanted to leave Maryland again, I was happy that if I HAD to move, it was back to North Carolina.  Safe.  Familiar.  A fun two (ahem, three)-year vacation!

And it was.  It was also supposed to lead us back to Maryland...where me "doing" Maryland would again be applicable.

But it's not.  We have moved to Jupiter, Florida.  A crazy, unheard of, totally not-on-our-radar job that is a really great opportunity for John and a very different one for me.  No military base.  No military community.  Thankfully, a few people I know and love, and that helps, but otherwise?  Totally, totally far from any comfort zone.

I.so.love.comfort.zones.

A few weeks ago, we came back to Maryland to clean out our storage space.  THREE years of storing stuff and I realized I could have BOUGHT everything in that storage shed new already!  We were only here (I say here because I am currently typing this from Maryland...John has some work and I am able to visit with friends!) for a day and a half, and it was a whirlwind trip.

It was also the first time since we've left that I did NOT visit Matthew's grave whenever we came back to Maryland.

It stung.  I told myself that we'd be back in a few weeks and Luke had been such a trooper traveling and I didn't even have any flowers...all excuses.

The reality was that I just didn't want to cry.  I knew I would if I went and I didn't want to cry.  I was already dealing with an emotional little boy who didn't want to leave the only home he really knew (North Carolina) and trying to tell myself that jumping into the total unknown was going to be GOOD for me...but really, I was overwhelmed with emotions that I've not had in several years.

I cried as we passed the hospital.  I cried as we passed the funeral home.  I cried as I walked in the baby aisle at Target. I cried as I drove into our neighborhood.  I cried when I drove into our driveway.

I was all cried out.

I told John that several years ago, I didn't want to move, but God knew better.  I don't think people really understand that when I went back to Shady Grove, Matthew had died only 3 months before.  When I got pregnant with Luke?  He'd only been dead five months.

Five months is all I had to grieve.  To process.  To breathe.

Five months.  I know  that it's nearly been five YEARS now...but I feel like I only had five months to do some really hard griefwork and then?  I was lucky enough to get pregnant again and lived joyfully every second for my sweet little Luke.  When we moved?  It was as if God was saying, "You need to go away. Go and see how sweet life can be.  Let me show you that happiness still is yours.  Go.  Go away.  When you are strong enough, I'll bring you back and you can continue growing as you live, breathe and grieve.  You just aren't strong enough now."

He was right.  I wasn't.  The last three years in North Carolina have been nothing short of amazing.  Amazing relationships and adventures and mostly?  Balm for my heart.  North Carolina is where my sweet little third son's heart beat for most of his life...and for the last time.  North Carolina reminded me that the life I live is so extreme--extreme joy and extreme sorrow--but that they both coexist because they've become part of me.  Ask anyone.  I'm pretty complex.

Moving to Florida was a surprise, though.  And still...when cleaning out the storage space, I heard it.  Loud and clear.  "You'll come back here.  Just not now.  You're not strong enough yet.  You've done well.  I'm pleased that you are working your way back to FULLY trusting me.  I understand you're not there.  I understand why.  I understand you need more time.  I'm giving it to you.  Take it.  Use it.  Grow with it.  Look for the opportunities I'm going to give you.  Grow.  Enjoy.  Heal.  And then, come back...bravely.  With more strength and courage and determination than you've ever had.

Because you'll need it."

I feel like I've been lucky enough to not have constant triggers in my day-to-day life.  Moving has allowed me space and the pleasure of living in a pseudo-sort of denial and I won't lie.  I'm grateful.  It's allowed me to grieve at my own pace and in my own reasoning without being FORCED into things because I couldn't escape landmarks or people or whatever.

And I feel like I've been given two more years to get stronger.  Braver.  More ready to deal with things that I only had a mere five months to deal with when Matthew died.  I realize that by the time we move back to Maryland, he'll have been gone nearly seven, maybe eight years...to many, for me to do griefwork or face things I've been able to avoid for years will seem very odd.

As if I've not moved on.  Or will be dwelling.  Or whatever.

No matter.

Moving out of comfort zones has also given me some pretty thick skin.  People can think whatever they want to of me.  I don't really care.

I know what strength is.  I know from where it comes.  And, if I'm being given it in the form of a few more years away from things my heart may be too weak to deal with right now?

Taking it. Not feeling one.bit.guilty, either.

So, while I considered changing the name to just "Lori Does,"  I'm holding off.  Because no matter where I am....trust me.  I'm always, always, always 'doing' Maryland.