Friday, October 7, 2016

You have not, because you've asked not...

**I have no idea why parts of this are highlighted and can't figure out how to fix it.**

You have not, because you've asked not...This verse from James 4:2 has been going through my head so much in the last several days.  I can't help but think that it is God putting it there.  It is just as clear as when I heard "Be still and know that I am God" from Psalm 46:10 during my darkest days of grieving.

The bible says in Philippians 4:19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

In Matthew 6:34 it says Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.

So does this mean that we are to just simply trust that He will supply?  Are we just sitting by expecting Him to do it.  Remember when you were younger and you had that one gift you were hoping to get for your birthday or Christmas?  Did you just expect your parents to know what you wanted?  Did you mention it once 6 months ago and expect that they would remember?  I'm guessing not.  You probably reminded them on a regular basis, right?  Well, God doesn't forget, but He does want us to talk to Him.  He wants us to ask Him for things that we need and even for the things we desire in our heart.  It's not pestering Him if we ask him repeatedly.  Yes, He knows our needs even better than we do.  But that is not the point.  He is a good good Father and He gives great gifts!

The bible also says...

1 Peter 5:7  Casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.

Jeremiah 29:12-13  12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

1 John 5:14   This is the confidence we have in approaching God:  That if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.

I think these verses are just a sample of proofs that He wants us to bring our needs to Him.

We are currently in a situation where there are mountains that we are needing God to move.  It seems we've been here a long time.  He has been faithful along the way and provided in both little and big ways.  We are so thankful for that and for the people he has used to provide for those needs.  However, until today, we have not made it a regular matter of prayer.  We will be praying in faith about this on a daily basis from now on.  The intent of this post is simply to share what I believe God has placed on my heart.  We'd love it if you would join us in praying for these unspoken requests.  I'm looking forward to seeing God move in the situations that I am praying for.  I invite you to get serious about praying for the needs in your life.  I think you'll be amazed when you see Him move in your life. 

 If there is a mountain in your life that you would like me to pray for, please feel free to email me at fullquiver77@gmail.com or if we are friends on Facebook, you can send me a private message there as well.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

What Parenting a Deceased Child Looks Like

You're in the grocery store waiting to check out.  Noticing your overflowing basket, the person behind you says, "Wow,  that's a lot of groceries, how many kids do you have?"  For most of the population, this question is very simple, but for a parent who has lost a child, this is what goes through their head.  Using my life as an example... Do I include Stephanie and say 8?  If I do, am I being dishonest, Stephanie doesn't eat any of the food?  Should I say 8, but one is waiting for us in Heaven, which typically turns a conversation awkward.  Or do I just say 7, and be filled with guilt for not including Stephanie.  I've said different variations of all 3, but, anytime I've said 7, I get a sick feeling in my stomach.

If you are not a bereaved parent,  you may wonder why this is such a dilema.  Here is why I believe our answer should reflect the amount of children we carry in our hearts and not just the ones the world can see.  We still parent our deceased children.  It looks different than the way we parent our living children, but it's parenting nonetheless.  There is a special place in our hearts for our children that are no longer here with us.  It cannot be filled by anything or anyone else.  We have a desire to act out that love.  Here are just a few examples of how we parent our deceased children.  We think of them daily.  Not in a woe is me kind of way, but a loving reminiscent kind way.  Sometimes it just occurs to us during normal daily things that someone is missing.  Many of us acknowledge their birthday and date of death, for many of us those are the same day.  We may even have a little get together with cake and balloons.  Many parents get a tattoo in memory of their child.  It is a visual representation marking their place in a family.  This also often opens a door for us to share when others ask about it.  Some have started non-profit organizations in their child's memory.  Often providing support to families walking similar paths as they have walked.  Some serve the community in some way.  Sometimes it may just be a change in the way they treat others.  Some may find that their calling is to work in the bereaved community as a Birthday and Bereavement doula or Grief Counselor and put forth a lot of effort to receive the education necessary to provide these services.  Some of us may just drop everything to go help a friend who has just received news that their precious baby has died.  No formal training, just a unique qualification and an overwhelming desire to be there to walk alongside of them as they start their grief journey, just because you know how helpful and comforting it is to have someone like that in your life.  Some raise money to fund the placement of CuddleCots so that future bereaved parents can be offered the gift of time.  Perhaps it's attending a support group where you can share your story and listen to others.  4 years later, I still go.  I go primarily to be a voice of hope to new families, but another important reason is I can go and just be Stephanie's mom in a place where I can talk about her with no awkwardness.  A place where tears often flow.  Sometimes they are mine and sometimes they are others.

You see, our babies who've been called Home before us, are very much a part of everything we do.  They are woven in to the tapestry of our lives.  We do things differently because they were here.  We can't change them, feed them, bathe them, etc.  We can't hold them in our arms, but we most definitely hold them in our hearts.  We "parent" their memory.  So they wont be forgotten.  So their legacy can live on through us.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

When the most wonderful time of the year is anything but...

Holidays can be especially hard when someone you love is missing.  Though his/her absence may seem more evident on Thanksgiving or Christmas (or whatever Holiday you are celebrating), it's really just another day. The truth is, you miss your baby everyday, you probably won't miss them more just because it's a Holiday. Anticipation of big days (Holidays, Birthdays & due dates specifically) are usually worse than the day itself.  Starting new traditions that honor your baby may be helpful.  We buy an ornament each year in honor of our daughter, Stephanie.  We also have purchased toys for a child her age and donated them.  I've found it very rewarding to demonstrate my love for my daughter, by showing love to others.

Here are a few tips from me to help get through the Holidays when grieving...Saying "No" really is ok.  If you do decide to go to a Holiday event, leave yourself an out.  Park on the street, so you can leave when/if you need to.  If it suddenly becomes too much, don't feel bad about just slipping out without announcing it.  I like to do what I called "controlled grieving".  Find some time to just be alone with the things that remind you of your baby. Your pictures, his/her clothes, his/her blanket or stuffed animal, etc. Cry, bawl, wail if you need to. Get it all out. You will still be sad, but it may be more controlled if you allow yourself time to just let it out in a setting that you are comfortable. Give yourself some grace. You are walking a difficult path. There is no denying that.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Happy 3rd Birthday in Heaven my Angel Princess


To my Angel Princess,

Wow!  I can't believe it's been 3 years.  In some ways it seems much longer than that and in other ways it seems like just yesterday.  We've gotten to the point that most of the time you are remembered with a smile.  Tears creep in from time to time, often when the reality hits that someone is missing from whatever the family is doing.  Occasionally, the overwhelming pain I felt in those first few weeks will hit me like a ton of bricks and that rarely occurs in the times that I expect it to, like your birthday and holidays.  I do welcome those moments though because it is in the pain that I feel closest to you.  I am able to feel that connection in happy times too, it's just not quite as strong.

We went through the box of your things yesterday.  It's amazing the things a bereaved mother hangs on to.  Some things are probably typical, some of your hair, pictures, hospital bracelets, your clothes and blanket with blood on them, all of the sympathy cards from our friends and family, but I kept numerous copies of the songs from your service, the prayer cards, numerous copies of bible verses that were handed out to those who attended your service. Some of the strangest things though have to be the 3 Kleenex with drops of the blood that dripped from your nose and empty "Patient Belonging" bags.  Not to mention the specimen cup with about a teaspoon of your blood that has been in our freezer since.  I held on to empty boxes from the hand/foot molds for almost a year before I could throw them away.

Somehow, I missed writing a blog post for your birthday last year.  We were crazy busy with VBS and by the time things settled, your birthday had passed.  You were thought of and celebrated.  We celebrated you much the way we intend to today.  Joanie is coming and we will enjoy a yummy dinner and a special ladybug cake.  We will release sky lanterns just like last year, watch for them sweet girl.  There is an orange one and a pink one.  Bekah also found some special ladybug fireworks that we will light in your memory tonight. 

I'm sure Heaven is amazing and we long for the day that we are there with you.  That day seems to be getting closer and closer (though could still be years away) as we are seeing things prophesied in Scripture coming to be.  Until that day comes you will be remembered and I will continue my work to help others going through the devastation of infant loss in your memory.  I pray that I've made you and more importantly God "proud" in the way I've lived and loved others through loss since you were promoted to Heaven.  And that I can continue with that boldness when it becomes harder to do so.

I will close for now my sweet little ladybug.  I hope you are celebrating with the children of all of my baby loss friends that I've met these past 3 years (and the few I knew before, of course).  I love you baby doll!

~Mommy ♥

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Built on the Rock (My Life Story condensed)


Do you all remember this song we used to sing in Sunday School?

The wise man built his house upon the Rock,
The wise man built his house upon the Rock,
The wise man built his house upon the Rock,
And the rains came tumbling down.
The rains came down and the floods came up,
The rains came down and the floods came up,
The rains came down and the floods came up,
But the house on the Rock stood firm.

The foolish man built his house upon the sand,
The foolish man built his house upon the sand,
The foolish man built his house upon the sand,
And the rains came tumbling down.
The rains came down and the floods came up,
The rains came down and the floods came up,
The rains came down and the floods came up,
And the house on the sand fell flat.

So build your life on the Lord Jesus Christ,
So build your life on the Lord Jesus Christ,
So build your life on the Lord Jesus Christ,
And the blessings will come down.
The blessings come down as your prayers go up,
The blessings come down as your prayers go up,
The blessings come down as your prayers go up,
So build your life on the Lord.

So, I always knew this song was more than a song about Construction.  I knew it was based on Scripture.  I knew it referred to Jesus as being the Rock.  Somehow for 35+ years, I missed the point of what the rain and floods and wind really meant.   It was probably explained to me, on many occasions, as a little girl growing up at Bethany Baptist Church.  Perhaps it's because I did not understand how severe and damaging the storms of life can be. 

I didn't grow up in a wealthy home, by the standards of many, I was poor.  None of this occurred to me as a kid.  I did not feel poor.  Perhaps that is because by God's standards, I was very rich.  I had the things that mattered.  I had love.  I had food in my belly and clothes on my back.  I had a home to keep me warm.  My parents took me to church every Sunday where I was greeted by my amazing Grandparents and my amazing church family.  They, along with my parents, planted a seed in my life and continued watering it through the years.  The things I did not have, did not matter because they were pale in comparison to what I did have.

Growing up, I had never lost a close family member.  I never went to bed cold or hungry.  I knew I was loved.  I knew Jesus loved me.  What more could a kid ask for?

During my teen years, things changed a bit.  My parents ended up divorcing when I was 13.   That was very hard.  However, my mom told us that God told her that my Dad would be back.  In hindsight it was probably not wise to share that with me, but I believed it.  Four years later, my Dad did, in fact, come back and they were remarried.  What an amazing thing to witness!  During those 4 years, God did something else amazing.  My dad was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma.  With treatment, he went into remission.  My parents remarried in April of 1994.  In 1998, my Dad's cancer returned.  We were devastated.  Once again though, God allowed healing and 17 years later, He is in remission.  He has some serious complications he lives with daily due to the aggressive nature of his treatment but each day he is here, we not only receive the benefit of having him with us, we get to witness a miracle.

Through all of this God was a steady presence in my life, but sadly not as great of a priority as he should have been.  For some reason He chose to prove Himself faithful, even when I was not. Fast forward to married life.  The time in my life, I was looking so forward to.  The time when I would be loved by the man that God hand picked for me.  The time in my life when I would (hopefully) become a mommy.

Jon and I met online, which at the time, was a little more unusual than it is now.  He lived not far from where I was working at the time.  On September 14, 2001, he called me and said he would be at a nearby bowling alley and wondered if I'd like to meet him earlier than what we planned (at church Sunday September 16).  I agreed and headed off to the bowling alley.  He was there with some friends, one of which was interested in him as more than a friend.  That was a tad awkward, to say the least.  I left unsure of how things went but a couple of hours later, he called me and we talked for 2 hours.  He met me at church that Sunday and from that day on, we've been together.  We got engaged in November.  Jon likes to tell people that we booked the hall before he even proposed.  Which is technically true, but we had decided we were getting married.  He was working out the details of the proposal.  We married in May of the following year.  We Honeymooned in Toronto.  He graduated in June.  Found out we were expecting our first baby in June as well.  We bought our first house in October.  Life was great.  In February of the following year, we welcomed our first baby.  Life was amazing.  I had everything I ever wanted.  Life as we knew it was about to change though.

Jon's mom suffered from mental illness.  She had lived many years on her own in a city 4+ hours away.  She was experiencing several "episodes" where her meds needed to be adjusted while admitted to a hospital and we felt it was best that she come live near us.   The hospital social worker, worked with us to make that happen.  While we still stand by the decision to do this, we had no idea what we were in for.  For seven years, we had the responsibility of making sure she was taken care of.  During that time, we welcomed 3 more children and had another on the way when she passed in 2011.  Our house got mold and our children were getting sick often.  We moved our family into a relatives basement.  We experienced more hardship with car troubles, money troubles, flooding into the basement where we were living anytime there was significant rain.   During this time we also experienced a difficult time in our marriage. Only a handful of people know the details of this.  We'll discuss it if we feel sharing it will benefit another couple, but in general, it's something we prefer to keep private.

Our 5th child was born while we were living there.  She was born via C-Section which was difficult for me to accept.  We then experienced serious breastfeeding trouble that we fought for 2 months to overcome but were not successful in doing so.  I ended up formula feeding, another difficult pill to swallow.  (I have nothing against those who formula feed there babies for any reason.  It just wasn't what I wanted.)  I prayed and prayed that God would allow her to breastfeed.  I thought this was a huge trial in my life.  If I only knew then what I know now.  During this time a friend visited us in our basement abode.  While the conditions were not deplorable, they were far from ideal.  We were grateful to my family for allowing us to live there for much less than we could have rented elsewhere.  Being below ground took it's toll on my mood.   God laid a burden on the heart of this visiting friend and she and her husband bought a house and offered to rent it to us at an affordable rate.  It was small for such a large family, but it was above ground and didn't flood, and we appreciated it so very much!  My mood immediately improved.

Shortly before moving, we discovered we were pregnant with baby #6.   While we were a bit anxious that we were expecting again so soon after a C-Section, we were happy that we would be adding another family member.  The pregnancy was a little difficult.  I had developed pre-eclampsia and was advised to take it easy not too far in to the third trimester.  I relied on my older girls, Jon and friends to help with household chores.  With meds and rest, my condition actually improved and I started to feel a burden lifted as I approached her due date.  I hit 37 weeks and was able to resume more of my activity.  I had monitoring twice a week and all seemed well with both me and the baby.  We were all ready for her and were just waiting for her to make her appearance. 

Here is where we truly discovered how torrential and devastating life's storms can be...On Sunday, July 15, 2012, I woke up after having a startling dream.  The dream was of Jon's mom.  In the dream she stumbled out of a door and into my arms.  She hugged me so tight and I hugged her back.  This hug was different than the hugs we exchanged when she was alive.  I loved her, but due to the difficult nature of our relationship, I didn't express that love often or as well as I should have.  I have much guilt over this and many things I did, thought and said when she was alive, but that is a story for a different time and place.  I woke up in tears full of guilt.  I remember (or at least think I do) the baby, who we had named Stephanie Ruth, moving.  I felt there was significance to this dream and suggested to Jon that we consider changing Stephanie's middle name to his mom's middle name, Joanna.  He thought I was just being hormonal.  He took the older kids to church and I stayed home with Samantha.  She and I drifted off to sleep while watching Dora.  He arrived home and we got busy serving lunch and making a grocery list in preparation for the week ahead.  An induction was planned for that Thursday.  I began to notice, that I had not felt Stephanie move in a while and decided to drink some ice water and lay down to see if I could get her to move.  After 20 minutes, I felt nothing.  I then drank some orange juice, took a shower and laid down again.  Still nothing.  I left Jon with the girls and headed to the hospital.  After attempting to find her with a Doppler, the ultrasound machine was brought in.   I knew the moment I saw the screen she was gone.  My doctor came in and confirmed that.  I was induced and 26 hours later, the most beautiful piece of Heaven was born.  We officially named her Stephanie Joanna.  It was a true knot in her umbilical cord that took her life.  God placed some special people in my life to help me navigate this storm that left so much devastation. 

The week following her death was full of preparations for her Memorial Service.  I also made time to meet with the Women's Ministry Director (and Biblical Counselor) of our church along with the church Psychiatrist.  The day of her service was incredibly difficult but it was so very beautiful.  We felt like we celebrated all of the big events of her life that we were going to miss.  The week after her service, the grief hit hard.  You would not have recognized me.  I continued to meet with the Counselor and Psychiatrist from church.  The counselor drilled many things in to me.  Some of which was very hard to hear at the time, but I am so very grateful for her boldness now.  One thing that really stuck was the parable of the wise man and the foolish man.  At the time, I suspected I was the foolish man.  I had lived many years as a believer but somehow missed some really important things along the way.  Losing a child made me seek the Lord harder than ever before.  We had been through many trials in our marriage.  We prayed about them but that was about it.  I talked the talk, but didn't always walk the walk.  Though my House hadn't been maintained properly, looking back, I believe it was indeed built on the Rock because in the end, it did not fall!  Some cosmetic repairs need to be done, but I am still standing and I believe that the only reason for that is the Rock in which my House was built.

Three months after Stephanie died, we found out we were expecting again...our rainbow after the storm.  Two months later we found out our rainbow was a double rainbow...twins.  Pregnancy after loss is a completely different experience.  My faith was the only thing that got me through without being a complete nervous wreck.  There were times that fear would creep in, but God would quickly replace it with a Truth to battle the fear.  On July 4, 2013 our precious twins were born alive and well.  We give all the Glory to God.   Parenting after a loss is also a different experience.  God calms those fears with Truth as well.

So my challenge to you today is to be like the wise man and make sure your faith is built on the Rock so that WHEN the storms of life happen, you will be able to stay standing because your foundation is secure.  Read your Bible, study it and spend time in prayer.  Surround yourself with friends who share in this conviction and will hold you accountable as a brother or sister in Christ.  Encourage them to speak the Truth in love, even when it's hard to hear.

**This post was written on June 19, 2015.  95% of it was done at approximately 10:30 am.  At 10:45 am, Jon walked through the door with news that he lost his job.  All of our savings, retirement funds and inheritance was gone due to the last 2 years of jobs that just didn't work out for one reason or another.  I was amazed that God prompted me to write this just moments before our faith would be stretched again.  I believe He wanted me to recall all of the times that He has proven Himself faithful throughout our lives and that this time would be no different.**


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Bloom where you are planted...

 

Just recently, I have found myself even more involved in the online bereaved parents community, and I began to feel a little jealous of some of the things some other parents have accomplished in the name of their children often just weeks or months after their child has passed (some even before).  Please, let me explain.  It's not that I begrudge your accomplishments or think my story is more worthy of telling.  I am truly amazed by you.  You have turned your tragedy into triumph.  You inspire me to do more.

It's funny, I never considered myself a prideful person, but God keeps revealing to me that I am.  It looks different than the way I typically see a prideful person.  God will use our most vulnerable moments to reveal some of out biggest sin issues.  While I'm in awe of how God has used our experience to reach many and given me a voice on Facebook especially, I can't help but wonder what He could accomplish if I got out of the way.  If I set aside my wants and desires to use our experience and just let Him guide me.  I am always eager to talk about Stephanie and how God has healed our broken hearts beyond what we could have imagined.  But I only want pursue that if He wants me to.

As a mom to 7 living children, I have a lot on my plate and so that limits me on pursuing some of my wants and desires at this time.  This is not a bad thing.  I love being Mommy to the blessings God has allowed me the privilege of raising.  My training as a Stillbirthday Birth and Bereavement Doula will still be "good"  when I no longer have to worry about finding childcare to go help in a moments notice.  For now, I will be content in being involved in our support group and helping to encourage online.  I will be praying for opportunities for God to use our story to bless others and trusting that he will work out all of the tiny details to make the things He wants to happen possible.

I've been mulling this over for a few days and the phrase "Bloom where you're planted" filled my mind.  This happened in a very similar way to when I heard "Be still and know that I am God."  I can't say for certain God spoke to me, but I strongly suspect it.  A friend of mine also posted this reminder on her Facebook page yesterday.  I didn't see it until today thanks to Facebook's algorithms, haha.  It was quite timely though, and was what prompted me to write this post.

So with that said, perhaps you are feeling like you are limited in how you can help your child's legacy to live on.  Perhaps you've been experiencing a little jealousy yourself.  I just want to encourage you to bloom where you are planted.  Perhaps the people God wants to use you to minister to are in your own homes, neighborhoods, churches, mommy groups or even on Facebook.  That is where you are currently planted.  God may choose to transplant you to another garden at a later date.  Pray for opportunities, wait on the Lord to open doors and be willing to follow Him through those doors in His time.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Great is Thy Faithfulness

♥ I am grateful for who I've become since "losing" Stephanie (for the record, I know she is not lost, I know right where she is)  It is a path I never would have chosen but one I'm grateful for none-the-less.  There's a poem that circulates among the bereaved parents community called "The Ugly Pair of Shoes"http://www.ivillage.com/forums/node/4161067
Though "My Shoes" still ache from time to time, I no longer see them as ugly.  Because of this, I feel different than my fellow bereaved mommy's.  I wonder if I may be less helpful too them because they may not be able to relate.  Or will it be inspiring, to see that God can heal a broken heart faster than anticipated.   Perhaps I no longer see "Ugly Shoes" because God makes ALL things beautiful in His time.  His time for you may be longer or shorter than it was for me.
I do really well most days, sometimes I wonder what's wrong with me because in my mind I think, no normal person can move past the deep grieving as quickly as I did.  However, I have to remind myself that is a LIE from Satan himself.  God graciously granted that healing.  It didn't come from anything I did or didn't do.  But there are moments triggered by songs quotes, pictures and smells that just take me down.  As hard as it can be, I welcome it because they are a reminder that I am indeed human.  Those tears and pain help me feel the bond we still have.  A bond that not even death can break.  Grief tends to be judged.  Some feel you grieve too long.  Some see you happy and think, "Wow! She got over that fast." I post many things on Facebook about grief.  Most of the time it is not a reflection of my emotions at the time.  I have many Facebook friends each of them going through a variety of different trials at any given time.  I am very sensitive to that.  I empathize with so many.  One of my spiritual gifts is that I'm an encourager.

I hope I've made it clear that my healing is not of my own doing.  I give all that Glory to God.  It is by His grace alone that I am who I am. I've recently heard the song "Beautiful" by Dan Bremnes.  I think it describes my healing so well.  I love the following lines to the song...

"And You
Changed me from what I used to be
Opened my eyes 
Now I can see
You're making this life so beautiful
And You 
Making me who I'm called to be
Rescued my heart 
Now I am free
You're making this life so beautiful
So beautiful"