Saturday, October 31, 2009

Marking Time

Today marks 2 months since Samuel died.  Tomorrow marks 3 months since he was born.  Tomorrow also marks Joel's half birthday and my birthday.  I don't want it to be my birthday; I don't feel like celebrating anything, and I don't want to move on without Samuel.  There is something cruel about time marching on when it feels for me like time has stopped, and I'm frozen in this place of grief and heartbreak.  I know the passage of time will ultimately lessen the pain I feel, but as we move farther and farther from the month we had with Samuel, it hurts my heart to see those days grow more distant -- to see the time when I was holding his hand, singing to him, stroking his head, or whispering my love into his ear move farther into the past.  These marker days seem particularly trying for me.

Today has been a heavy hearted one for me.  I have followed the life of another baby boy who struggled with a heart defect and something called CDH -- congenital diaphragmatic hernia.  He was born on Oct. 1, and he passed away yesterday afternoon.  I have never met his parents, but I am continually thinking of them and their new, fresh pain.  I woke up thinking about what this day is for them -- their first without Andrew.  It breaks my heart afresh to know others are experiencing this horrible grief of losing a newborn son.

In the dark days, when I find mysef crying into the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I'm making, it's hard to believe I had some good days.  I know I did, and I know I will again, but they feel like faint memories, and I feel like I'm back where I was 6 weeks ago.  It's another reminder that this grief will be a long road, and I need the courage to walk it well, to trust in my God, and to face the ache in my soul.  Lord, grant me all that I need to honor You in this journey.  And hold and heal my broken heart. Amen.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Weight of Bad Days

After a succession of quite a few good days, I've been caught by surprise by a series of bad ones.  I know grief is an unpredictable beast, and the sadness creeps up unexpectedly sometimes, but knowing that didn't seem to make me any less surprised when yesterday was just a down right bad, hard day.  I cried and cried and cried.  I couldn't stop.  And today I feel constantly on the brink of tears.  The weight of grief has come crashing back down on me, and I feel almost crushed underneath it.  I know this is "normal," but can I just say it sucks?  I miss Samuel so, so very much.  I don't like looking ahead and seeing an interminable barren land of life without Samuel.

As much as I trust God and know He is good (and I do!), I wish I had Samuel.  I wish He had written my story differently.  I wish He had swooped in and saved the day and healed my sweet son.  I wish I could have brought Samuel home with us and put him in his crib and woken up multiple times a night to feed and soothe him.  Instead of sitting at the lunch table typing this entry while waiting for my pokey Joel to finish his lunch so we can go pick up his big brother from preschool, I wish that I was frazzled from trying to get Joel his lunch and also feed Samuel while trying to get a few bites in for myself as well.  I wish I knew what it was like to have 3 boys in the same house, trying to be the mom that they each need.

Instead of the harriedness of having three sons 4 and under, I have to watch the three people I care for most in the world wrestle with their grief.  Not only do I have my own pain to face, I have three very dear, precious souls hurting around me too.  I never thought about how hard it would be to watch Bryan in so much pain much less Caleb and Joel, who continue to struggle with the death of their baby brother.  Joel still doesn't understand that Samuel is never coming home, and Caleb continues to burst into tears out of nowhere, saying, "I miss Samuel!"  It is heartbreaking to watch my husband and sons hurting.  And my heart was already broken before witnessing their suffering.

Because of my surgery, I am not allowed to pick up Caleb and Joel for several weeks.  Since I can't lift Joel, we have been forced to move him out of his crib and into the big bed in his room.  I wasn't prepared for this, and it's been surprisingly sad for me.  Yesterday morning when I went to get Joel up, I looked at his empty crib, and it hit me: we have two cribs in this house and no children sleeping in them.  This was devastating to me.  As Joel hits new milestones marking his growth and graduation into "big boy" status, Samuel's absence becomes more and more noticeable and real to me.  I miss him in new ways.

I woke up this morning reminded yet again of how dependent on God I am.  I really can't do this on my own.  It's disappointing how that lesson had already faded after a few good, manageable days.  I am sad that I haven't been able to better hold onto what He has taught me.  I need Jesus.  Desperately.  And that's always been true, but in my brokenness and sorrow, it's just more tangible to me.  I am grateful that yesterday and today have resurfaced my deep awareness of this truth, but I am hoping I can hold on to this truth even in the good days...'cause I can't do a lifetime of these bad days.  Help me, Lord!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dreaming of Samuel

I've spent the last 2 days in bed, recovering from surgery to repair an intestinal problem I got from pregnancy with Samuel.  It's been kind of nice to stay in bed all day.  Since Samuel died, I've kind of wanted to just stay in bed, and now I have a reason.  Poor Bryan has had to play nurse and be the solo parent on his weekend, but he has been a trooper.

In fact, Caleb and Bryan just made a menu of all the stuff in our fridge, and Caleb brought it up to me to take my order.  They named the restaurant "Joely Loving Orange Restaurant" because Joel does REALLY love orange.  He announces it daily: "Orange! Orange my favorite color!!!"  Caleb has been a very proud server, and when I compliment him by saying, "You're the best server ever!" he replies with, "I know."  He has been beaming every time he's come up to check on me and see if I need anything else.  Leave it to Bryan to think of making a game out of lunch and caring for me.  He is a GREAT dad!

This past week one of my best friends, Kiley, came to visit with her 21 month old daughter.  It was really wonderful to have her here.  We were able to enjoy time together and cry together.  I realized how good it is for me to talk about Samuel and our time in the hospital.  I obviously have lots of opportunities to write about what we've experienced, but I don't get as many chances to talk about it and share some of the parts I wouldn't want to post.  It was healing for me to have such a precious friend here.

Shortly after Samuel died, Kiley told me she was praying I would have dreams about Samuel.  I was a little nervous about this because I thought dreams of him would only be heartbreaking.  But I was wrong.  Last night I had my first Samuel dream.  In it Samuel was at home with us (it was a different house than our actual one -- as is often the case in my dreams).  I was aware in my dream that Samuel was supposed to be dead, and I think for part of my dream he was.  I was holding him, and he was very, very cold.  I kept searching for a blanket to warm him up while Bryan was talking to a neighbor.  At one point I looked down at Samuel, and his eyes were open.  He was looking at me and looking all around at the room.  He was perfectly alert, and he knew who I was.  I was stunned and couldn't stop staring at him and smiling.  I got Bryan's attention, and we both just looked at Samuel and talked to him.  He was about 3 months old -- which is how old he would be next weekend -- and he was beautiful.  Actually, he reminded me of Joel at about 5 months.  His eyes were a blue-green color (I never really could tell Samuel's eye color because the lighting in the hospital wasn't very bright, and later the whites of his eyes turned electric yellow from the jaundice, and I couldn't tell his iris color next to it), and he was so happy.  I kept soaking in his little face because it was the first time I got a chance to really study him without all the tape and tubes on him.  He had a few bruises and scratches from where the tape and tubes had been, but he was gorgeous.  No puffiness, no yellow skin.  Just Samuel as he would have been as a 3 month old baby.  It was such a happy dream, and I woke up feeling that way -- happy for a glimpse of Samuel well and growing, happy for the moments when he looked at me and knew I was his momma, happy to be holding him when he was squirming and not on a paralytic, happy to see his face and his eyes without all the medical things impeding my vision, happy to have a few moments with my Samuel.  It was a good dream!

When I think about Samuel and what I would have dreamed for him if he had lived, it would be simply this: a life walking with Jesus.  And isn't that what he has?  He gets to spend eternity with God, and he got to skip all the parts where he would drift away or make poor decisions or reject His God.  He gets to live out the verse that was on his prayer blanket and that we put on his memorial program: "Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord" (I Samuel 2:21b).  What better thing could I wish for my son?  I am thankful for a dream of holding Samuel, and I am so thankful that my sweet son is living the greatest dream of all -- life with Jesus.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Happy 9th Anniversay, Bryan!

Today, October 21st, is our 9th anniversary.  It's really, really hard to believe we've been married for nine years.  Nine seems like a big number.  And yet, at the same time, I can hardly remember life without Bryan.  We've known each other for 13 years -- first as acquaintances, then big group friends, then small group friends, then as best friends, and finally as the person with whom we knew we'd spend the rest of our lives.  Our journey together has had quite a few significant trials -- Bryan's dad's death, my parents' divorce, and now the loss of Samuel, to name a few.  I can say with all the confidence in the world, there is no other person with whom I would rather face the heartbreaks and heart-swells of life!

Our freshman year of college, when Bryan and I were purely friends, I remember thinking, "Bryan Apinis is one of the most honorable, respectable guys at Wheaton."  I was right.  I think in marriage you get to know someone's character in ways others don't.  My 9 years with Bryan have taught me that he is indeed a man of character, honor, integrity, fidelity, truth, grace, humility, kindness, wisdom, selflessness, enouragement, faith, and generosity.  I have never met another man who inspires me like Bryan does, who leads me to Jesus like he does, and who can serve in such continuously unselfish ways.

Bryan loves me in ways that still amaze me.  He is the most complimentary person I know, telling me many times a day how beautiful he thinks I am (though he gets exasperated with my inability to receive this compliment to his satisfaction), how much he loves me, how blessed he is, and how he loves coming home to me and our boys.  And Bryan is so intentional about our marriage -- about spending time together, talking about the real stuff of life, asking me questions to get to know me better, praying for me, and showing me love in the ways I best receive it.

Just one anecdote that shows what a wonderful man I have married... 9 days before Samuel died, Bryan and I got a very poor report from the night nurse.  We climbed in the car that morning, both wondering if it would be our last day with our 3rd son.  We were quiet and heavy-laden on the drive down to the hospital, both thinking we might be headed to the worst day of our lives.  About 15 minutes from Egleston, Bryan started waving down a homeless man on the other side of a very busy intersection.  I was so absorbed in my own thoughts, I hadn't noticed anything outside of myself, but here was Bryan trying desperately to get the attention of a dirty, scrawny man.  The man came to our car, and Bryan handed him some money.  About 20 feet later, as we were driving away, I heard the man yell as loud as he could, "Hah!  Thank you!"  It turns out Bryan had given him $20.  The homeless man was surprised and grateful, and I just kept thinking, "If he only knew!  That man has no idea that Bryan is headed to the death of his son.  What selflessness to be thinking of others at a time like this."  Bryan then told me, "I've been praying for him for 2 weeks without knowing it.  When I was fasting for Samuel, I asked God to help me love others and see others' needs in this time.  I was praying for that man."  I spent the rest of the drive to the hospital thanking God for Bryan, for a man who can see past himself even in the most dire of circumstances, who can be generous even when life seems to be sucking us dry.  (Incidentally, we never went back home again until after Samuel's death.  It was the beginning of the end.)

I am a ridiculously blessed woman.  I have not deserved my husband.  I am not generous like Bryan is; in fact, so many of his strengths are my exact weaknesses.  Bryan challenges me to be a better woman just by being who he is.  I am so very grateful for my love, Bryan Christopher Apinis, and for a lifetime together as husband and wife.  Thank you, Jesus, for giving me the most admirable man I know!  And, Bryan, Happy Anniversary!  I LOVE YOU!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

We went to Berry Patch Farms today and had a great time.  We were grateful for the sunshine after what feels like a month of rain, rain, rain.  Though the rain was wonderful in its own way, the sunshine is a bit more cheerful.  It's our annual tradition to go to the pumpkin patch, and we enjoyed the time together.

Playing Inside during a Rainy Day

This week I made a tent in the play room, and we read books while it rained outside.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Reminders and Challenges

The last couple of weeks have held a lot of memorable moments: getting Samuel's death certificate in the mail, going to my postpartum OB appointment I'd been putting off and putting off, attending a wedding and watching Bryan perform his first marriage, taking Caleb to his first ever movie theater experience (Toy Story and Toy Story 2 double feature!), finding out I need minor surgery, and receiving more amazing gifts and love from the people in our lives.  These are days I will never forget.

On Thursday, when it was just me and Joel, I was listening to the Sandra McCracken CD that has both songs I most strongly associate with Samuel -- "Grace Upon Grace" and "Thy Mercy My God."  We were in the van on our way to the store for the first time since July, and Joel asked me, "Is that the Samuel song, Momma?  I miss Samuel.  I want to hold him."  I told him, "I do too, Joel."  His next question led me to tears: "Is he coming today, Momma?"  I was so sad to think that Joel is still hoping Samuel might come home.  I thought he understood that we won't see Samuel again until Heaven.  When I said, "No, he's in Heaven", Joel asked his classic question: "Why?"  "Because he died, Joel."  "Why, Momma?"  "Because he had a sick heart, sweetie."  "Why?"  At this point I realized I couldn't keep answering Joel's questions comfortably.  What's the answer to that one?  Because God made him that way?  Of course Joel's next question would be "why?" and how do I answer that?  I have no idea why God made Samuel's heart sick.  I simply broke down into sobs.  Joel then wanted to know if I was sad and told me he wanted me to be happy again.  For the next 5 minutes, he asked every 20 seconds, "Are you happy now, Momma?"

I continually realize that the way Bryan and I handle our emotions is important for the future of our children.  I think we are laying the ground work for their attitudes and beliefs about emotions.  I want them to know it's ok to cry, to be sad, to mourn.  And I also want them to know it's ok to be happy in the midst of grief, and I want them to know they can turn to Jesus in their sorrow -- that He is a willing ear and friend in darkness.  I believe the best way to teach them this is to model it ourselves, but it takes courage to be broken in front of them.  And it takes such wisdom to know how to point them to God in a way that is authentic and visible.  I don't really know how to do this.

Today Bryan and I spent time planting a Japanese maple tree (thanks Jennings!) in our front yard in memory of Samuel.   It's easier for me to spend time on something like this -- something live-giving and beautiful -- than on something like picking Samuel's gravestone.  I keep putting that off.  I can't quite put my finger on what part of that task seems so revolting, but it does.

We also spent some time trying to find the right place in our house to hang a painting we received as a gift yesterday.  Jennifer Tanksley painted us a beautiful picture of the ocean that she did while Samuel was in the hospital.  It's called "You Sustain Me," and depending on the light, you can see the phrase "You sustain me" painted in different places.  It's just lovely and a wonderful reminder of how God has sustained us in the life and loss of Samuel.  Of course I was crying (in the middle of the parking lot, in the rain) when she gave it to us.  I keep being overwhelmed by people's care and love for us.  We are, indeed, ridiculously blessed.

Lately the thing I've been thinking about the most is a passage from I Samuel.  Hannah beseeches God to grant her a son and promises to give that son back to God.  A few years later she returns to the Tabernacle with her son, Samuel, and sees Eli, the high priest.  She tells him, "'I asked the Lord to give me this child, and he has given me my request.  Now I am giving him to the Lord, and he will belong to the Lord his whole life.'  And they worshiped the Lord there" (I Samuel 1:27-28). 

In so many ways, this is our story.  We did beg God, after our two miscarriages, for a child to grow in my womb, and He did answer our prayer.  And we have had to give our Samuel to the Lord.  I am challenged by Hannah's attitude -- by her willingness to submit to God and by her gratitude to Him.  Hannah worships God knowing full well that she is returning home without her precious Samuel, and she freely acknowledges that God has given her what she asked for even though she will have to part with that gift.  I am praying for the courage and grace to do the same -- to proclaim God's faithfulness in granting us Samuel (something we praise God for every day!) and to continue to worship him in this barren place without our son.  May I have the grace of Hannah.

In these days of continual reminders of Samuel -- some intentional and some unexpected -- I am challenged to honor God in my every response.  In the planting of a tree or the wearing of a necklace with Samuel's name on it or the lighting of a candle on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, I can remember my son with a heart that acknowledges his good Creator, or I can turn my eyes from God and ignore His goodness, grace, kindness, and sustaining love.  I am praying to keep my eyes fixed on the Lord in each moment I think of our sweet Samuel and to put my faith in Him time and time again.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mourning in Faith

“Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.”
- Jesus in Matthew 5:4

It has only recently occurred to me just how counter-intuitive this particular statement is. I’ve heard the word “blessed” interpreted as “happy.” When I see the word “blessed” or “blessing,” I can’t help but think of grace. God’s blessings are His gracious gifts to us. To be blessed is to be the recipient of God’s grace. Either way, it seems ludicrous to say that those who mourn are blessed. In fact, the opposite feels true. Those who mourn do so because they have suffered loss. Since when is suffering loss a blessing?

More recently another counter-intuitive aspect of these words of Jesus has stood out to me. Jesus says that those who mourn are blessed because they shall be comforted. At first glance, this, too, is nonsense. Comfort is peace, healing, presence, and relief. Mourning is deep sadness. Jesus’ claim is that comfort comes through deep sorrow. This makes no sense…apart from God. An analogy has helped me begin to understand Jesus’ teaching and my own experience.

When we experience loss, we all find ourselves on the banks of the River Grief. On the other side of the torrent is the comfort that God offers and that we desire. Of course, God doesn’t offer comfort and then make it inaccessible. But, the way that He provides across the river – the Bridge of Mourning – is not a very attractive option. Frankly, we would rather try to find our own way across – jumping from rock to rock, swimming, wading, building a boat, etc. – than take this unsightly overpass. We think, Surely there has to be another or a better way across. But there isn’t. Such is the nature of our grief, the richness of God’s comfort, the limitation of our humanity, and the depth of our need for God. We cannot cross on our own efforts. We will always be swept away by the current. We need God.

The loss of Samuel has filled my heart with grief – most of it new, some of it old. I long for comfort from this grief. Standing on one side of the river longing to be on the other, I have a choice as to how I will proceed. I can navigate my grief with the help and wisdom of God (i.e. trust Him and mourn), or I can attempt to traverse the rapids my own way. For most of my life, I have tried to cross the River Grief on my own – sometimes out of fear, sometimes because of a lie I believed, sometimes because I didn’t know any better – and the results have varied from fruitless to harmful. I want to grieve Samuel’s death well and, currently, mourning is the clearest and simplest picture that I have of what that looks like. It’s not that Matthew 5:4 now makes perfect sense to me, but that I have less confidence in my ability to figure out my own way through grief and more confidence in Jesus and His ways. After all, He has a perfect track record of faithfulness (which, if I look, for example, at my handling of grief, is a lot more than I can say for myself).

In my grief I want the comfort of God, but I don’t want to have to mourn to get it. But Jesus is, in fact, the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6), and He says that the way to comfort is through mourning. I’m not sure how to do this, and I have far more questions than answers, but I want to trust Him. Mourning, for me, has become an act of faith. I mourn not because it is easy, or most natural, or because it makes sense, but because Jesus invites me to receive His comfort through mourning.

God, please grant me the courage that I need to grieve well. I want to trust You and to express my faith by choosing to mourn this grief. Grant me the grace to trust You. I am broken-hearted, and I long for Your comfort. Thank You that You offer it to me in and through Your Son, Jesus. Help me. I pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Comfort in Acknowledgement

As we were driving home from preschool yesterday, Caleb told me about a girl in his class.  With joy in his voice he said, "Mommy, do you know what?!  Faith knows my baby brother died!  Can you believe that?"  Then he proceeded to list numerous other classmates who know about Samuel.  I asked him how he found out that Faith knows, and he said, "She told me!"  He was very upbeat about communicating this information to me, and I wondered if he could articulate his emotion.  So, I asked, "How did you feel when Faith told you that she knows about Samuel?"  With absolute glee, he said, "I felt HAPPY!"  Caleb's joy touched me because that this is how I feel, too, when people talk to me about Samuel.

I have been thinking about this for a long while, but Caleb's story helped me to see that my feelings are probably not isolated just to me.  Perhaps these particular feelings in grief are more universal than I thought.  Truthfully, when I think of people I know who have faced the death of a loved one, they always seem to appreciate when someone talks about the person who has died.  My mother-in-law, Kathy, loves when we talk about Bryan's dad, Charlie.  My mom and aunts enjoy talking about their parents.  All of us who have lost someone close to us carry that person's memory constantly.  The memories can begin to feel weighty if we think we're the only ones shouldering them.  But when we have someone to share them with, to relive them with, to acknowledge them with, it lightens the load and helps the memories be beautiful again instead of burdensome. 

I realize that people have no idea what to say to us and how to approach us in this season.  I can imagine that the thought of running into me or Bryan is scary -- "What will I say? What should I do? How should I act? Do I mention Samuel or not? What if I say the wrong thing? What if they weren't thinking about Samuel, and then I bring him up, and they feel sad all over again? What if I make them cry?"  The questions are legitimate.  And there is no right thing to say to us.  No one can say anything to make it all better.  But it does bless me every time someone does say something.

Having been back in some social settings now, I can tell you that I appreciate every interaction where people acknowledge Samuel and our loss.  It is validating somehow, and it makes it much easier for me to then engage in conversations about other things.  Almost every mention of Samuel brings tears to my eyes, and I know that can be uncomfortable for whomever is talking to me, but the tears are healing, and they enable me to then sincerely talk about life beyond Samuel instead of trying to force my memories aside, leap over this enormous hurdle of my pain, and then discuss whatever is happening in my friends' lives.  Samuel is never out of my thoughts, so mentioning him will never "take me by surprise" and remind me of my pain.  I am infinitely aware of my pain.  But bringing him up and bringing up our sorrow makes me feel known and cared for.  It makes me feel more real about talking about other things; it makes the interaction more authentic, and honestly, it just takes far less effort to be present in the moment when the true state of our lives has been recognized.

In no way do I write this to criticize those who have not mentioned Samuel.  I assume the best of people we encounter.  I assume each person intends well and is trying to do what would be most helpful.  And sometimes I figure that people don't know our story and haven't said anything simply out of ignorance.  We can hardly blame anyone for their silence on Samuel.  I simply want to process my grief and what has blessed me as I walk through this valley.

And, I want to remember for the future, for those who will face seemingly insurmountable grief, it blesses those who are hurting to know you hurt with them.  It lightens the load of the burdened to acknowledge the weight they are carrying.  It brings joy to the sorrowful to hear a treasured memory of the past.  To speak honestly about the grief and the loss is far more do-able than to pretend an utterly life-altering experience didn't happen.  Though the heartfelt and compassionate mention of the person they love will likely bring tears, each of those tears is a step toward a mended -- though forever changed -- heart.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Longing to Honor God

I've been hesitant to post about this...because it's so personal? because I don't know how it will read? because I am nervous it will come off proud instead of sincere? because I think this will sound crazy to someone who doesn't believe in Christ?  I'm not exactly sure what has been holding me back, but I know I've been thinking about this topic for awhile now, and I think it'd be good for me to put into words.  So, here goes.

A few weeks ago I spent a morning at Starbucks (where I am now) reading my Bible and journaling.  It was a blessed time of reflection and introspection.  I was reading Psalm 86 and journaling my way through it.  Lots of the verses felt very pertinent to my experience and sorrow and longing in grieving sweet Samuel.  When I came to verse 11, I caught my breath.  My eyes welled up instantly, and I began to cry.  I realized how deep my longing is to please God in this journey.  Psalm 86:11 says, "Teach me your ways, O Lord, that I may live according to your truth!  Grant me purity of heart, that I may honor you."  That I may honor you.  That is my deepest longing in all of this.  If at the end of all this grief (which I recognize won't be in this life) I have not honored God with how I have responded, how I have trusted or failed to trust, how I have spoken about or thought of God, then it would feel like Samuel's death would be for nothing.

Bryan recounted to me a couple of things that surfaced these ideas.  Andy Stanley, the pastor of our church, told Bryan, "Thank you for not wasting your grief. A lot of people waste their sorrow."  That stuck with me, and I began to mull over what wasting grief would be.  I came to the conclusion that I can't focus on other people and whether or not God changes them through Samuel's life --whether God uses our story in the hearts of others.  That is entirely out of my control.  However my heart is another matter.  If I "waste" this grief -- if I don't allow it to change me and make me more into the woman God wants me to be, what a tragedy.  If I am not more fully His at the end of this road than I was at the beginning, what a waste.

John Woodall, one of Bryan's bosses, also told Bryan, "God is a good steward of trials."  God uses trials well to shape us, change us, claim us as His.  But I have to let God steward this trial in my life.  I have to open my heart to God's changing work and allow Him to do as He wishes within me.  Oh, that He may have His way in my heart!  God, PLEASE "grant me purity of heart, that I may honor you."  Honestly, nothing frightens me more than the thought that I might waste this loss and find I have not had a pure heart, have not allowed God to mold me into His image, have not kept my eyes on Him and trusted Him in new and growing ways.  I feel myself choking up even now to think of that outcome.  I want Samuel's life to count in my life!  I want Samuel's life and death to be meaningful in my heart!

As I have processed all that the last couple of months have held, all the things we asked of God, all the requests He answered, and the big request He didn't, I have come to a critical conclusion.  We have heard many stories of how God has used Samuel's life in other people's hearts.  Each story blesses us and encourages us.  God has drawn people to Himself, some for the first time and some after time away from Him.  I keep thinking that God could have healed Samuel and still done that -- still called people to His heart.  But he didn't.  He chose to take Samuel to Heaven with Him.  There was work He wanted to do through Samuel's death.  And that work must be in my heart, in our hearts as a family.  So though I don't know exactly what that work is, I want Him to do it!  I don't want to waste Samuel's death.  Oh, God, do in me what EVER it is You want to do!  This heart of mine is broken, is rotten, is proud and selfish.  Cleanse it.  Purify me.  Remake me.

When we first learned that Samuel had a heart defect at our 20 week ultrasound, I remember thinking and saying, "I am confident I will be more fully God's at the end of this."  Oh, may that be true.  May I be more fully His because of our precious Samuel.  Lord, "Look down and have mercy on me.  Give strength to your servant; yes, save me, for I am your servant.  Send me a sign of your favor...for you, O Lord, help and comfort me" (Psalm 86:16-17), and please, please "grant me purity of heart that I may honor you" (Psalm 86:11b).