Saturday, December 31, 2011

Another Christmas without Samuel

It's hard to believe this was our third Christmas without Samuel.  It was easier this year to face Christmas without him, partly because more time has passed and partly because Anna has been such a healing force in our lives.  We still hung his stocking up (and always plan to), and Bryan commented numerous times that 6 stockings seems like A LOT -- that four kids seems like so many.  Our fireplace did seem really full this year.

Every year we use what would have been Samuel's Christmas money to bless others, and this year we decided to join our friends the Stanleys (Caden's family) in their endeavor to bring Christmas joy to those in the CICU.  We contributed to the baskets they made, which you can read about in detail here and here.  I also wrote 20 notes, one for each basket, telling the families that we are praying for them and their child, and made some treats for the baskets as well.  I love what the Stanleys did, and I love that we can continue to be part of bringing some encouragement or thanks to a place we hold so dear to our hearts.

Each year we put some token in Samuel's stocking to represent how we spent his Christmas money.  This year we added a pacifier with a heart on it to represent the heart babies whose families received a basket.  I enjoyed looking back over the things from the past few years and even rereading the letters we wrote him in 2009.  I added a new letter this year as well.  It is easier to write Samuel now, and it feels like sending him a little love from earth to his perfect home in Heaven.  I know he is already full to the brim of love in the very presence of Jesus and in need of no more, but I like the thought of sending just a smidge more his way.

My brother's family and my mom came from Texas to spend Christmas with us at our house, and that was a true joy.  Our house was bursting with children (6 in all), laughter, and Christmas magic.  It was wonderful.  Probably the best blessing of it all was my niece June.  June, who is 16 hours younger than Samuel, offers me a picture of what my little boy might be up to in Heaven.  She is so good for my soul.  June is friendly and very sweet, and I would regularly look down to find her at my knee, reaching for me to scoop her up and cuddle her.  She would wiggle her way into my lap and lean against me, and her favorite thing to do was look at my mommy necklace.  It has a charm for each of my children as well as a birthstone for their birth months.  She would look at each charm and ask who it was for.  My favorite moment was when she held Samuel's charm and said, "This is for Samuel?"  It is so hard for me to believe that Samuel would be talking in complete sentences and be such a big boy by now.  June also blessed my heart by loving Anna.  She would get down on the floor next to Anna and play with her.  They would lay on their tummies face-to-face and talk and smile at one another.  June would reach out and touch Anna'a face and talk so sweetly to her.  It made my heart full to see and made me wonder how Samuel would have felt about his baby sister.  And no surprise, Joel doted on June, kissing her often and being the amazing boy he is.  June really is a gift to us, and I am so thankful that I have her for my niece.

The hardest part of Christmas was learning that sweet Hallie went home to Heaven on Christmas Eve.  I haven't been able to quit thinking about the Greens and hurting for them.  And each new grief stirs up my own, so my longing for Samuel was deepened as I imagined their pain and heartache.

Though I miss my Samuel terribly, I find it easier and easier to think of him and smile.  What a gift that baby boy continues to be to our family.  He continues to bless us, to change us, to make us more fully God's.  I am so grateful for him, for the time we had to love him in person, and for the time ahead when we'll be together again.  This Christmas reminded me of the future we will spend together and of the indescribable gift of baby Jesus.

Saturday, December 24, 2011


I haven't been able to quit thinking about the Greens.  Their daughter, Hallie, was born on Monday.  She is beautiful and perfect -- because she was made just as she is by our loving Creator.  She has Trisomy 13 and won't survive.  I don't know how long Hallie will have breath, but I do know that she is treasured and loved and fulfilling God's design for her life. 

Chris and Katie chose the name Hallie because it means Praise God -- Hallelujah.  And I can't quit thinking about how that's exactly what she's doing.  Her life is an ongoing chorus of Hallelujah.  She is eliciting praise from thousands of people.  Some friends of the Greens started a facebook page called Hope for Hallie, and as I type this there are 3,052 members.  Who knows how many more there will be by the time I publish this post.  I think all 3,052 members have been challenged to praise God -- to see Him at work in circumstances we wouldn't have chosen, to see as beautiful what the world is tempted to dismiss, to thank God for the blessing He's granted us -- both those we asked for and those we didn't and are inclined to label "heartaches" or "despair" or "brokenness" or "unfairness."  To see God for the loving, kind, full of grace God that He is, this is Hallie's blessing to all of us.

At church this morning we sang "Hallelujah" over and over, and I had silent tears streaming down my cheeks the entire time.  Hallie has brought out a new depth of praise in that word.  I praise Him for the fearful and wonderful way He's made her, for letting all of us love her through her parent's courage to share her (Chris posted an incredible look into their hearts yesterday; you really must read it), for giving her to Chris, Katie, Bella, and Farrah who clearly adore her and are showering her with love for however long they have her.  And I praise Him for being God -- for working in our weakness, for Creating life in ways we wouldn't have chosen, for using the most painful and heartbreaking parts of our lives for His glory and to refine our hearts and make us more fully His. 

I carry the Greens with me every minute.  They are on my heart in very real ways.  I know some of the emotions that are ahead, and I am so thankful for the chance to pray for them as they treasure these days with their sweet, perfect Hallie Lynn Green and as they prepare to hand her over to her Creator whenever He calls for her.

The Hope for Hallie facebook page has asked people to post pictures of them holding up signs of love and encouragement for Hallie and the Greens.  Here are ours.
Caleb did this all on his own.  I love his sweet heart.  (Incidentally, there is nothing on the back despite evidence to the contrary.  :) )

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Be Rich

Bryan has worked so incredibly hard this season on our church's giving campaign, Be Rich.  The name comes from I Timothy 6:18, "Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share."  He transitioned into a new role at church this fall, and it's been an unbelievable amount of work.  He now heads up Intersect, which is basically our church's community service arm.  Here is the video that tells about what God has done through the generosity of our church. It's pretty downright amazing.

Be Rich 2011 Celebration from North Point Media on Vimeo.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Join Me in Praying for the Green Family

Tomorrow some friends we know through church, Chris and Katie Green, are being induced with their third daughter, Hallie.  She has trisomy 13, and her family has spent the last months trying to be prepared for countless possible scenarios.  Please join me in praying for them as they welcome their daughter into the world and face the unknown.  Pray that they get beautiful time with Hallie, that their hearts are filled with peace and even joy, that they know how to lead their older daughters through this, that their doctors and nurses and every single person who comes into contact with them treats them and Hallie with tenderness, kindness, compassion, and dignity.  Pray that God continues to deepen and strengthen their marriage and that sharing Hallie will be another cord that binds their hearts together.  And pray that Hallie's life would be an ongoing chorus of Hallelujah to our God.  Thank you, friends.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Blog Avoidance

I've kind of been avoiding the blog lately.  I guess it's sort of two-fold.  For starters, there have been some pretty heavy-hearted happenings in my world in recent weeks, but some of them are not mine to share.  And I haven't known how to write honestly without mentioning them.  So I simply haven't written.  But they've taken a toll, and I've felt their weight.  In a way they all center around loss, though in varying forms -- people dear to us (what a gross understatement) moving away, another heart family losing their baby boy, and a friend walking a really hard road.

We learned in grief counseling that new griefs penetrate the surface and bring up old griefs, and that has certainly been true the last few weeks.  On the night we learned of our loved ones moving away, I felt the return of that horrible, gut-wrenching, earth-shattering ache that I carried around for months after Samuel died -- the one where it was hard to breathe, to speak, to function.  Bryan and I were both overwhelmed with sorrow at the news of the move, and I couldn't bring myself to say a single word for the rest of the night.  I felt crushed under grief once again.  And I realized how much I haven't missed that almost unbearable weight.  It also made me realize just how much God has healed us over the last two+ years.  It used to be that the weight was a constant companion, but it had been a long time since I'd felt it again.  That night I kept thinking over and over again, "I can't do this," but in the morning I woke with an assurance that God is with us, and He will be enough yet again.

I found myself heavy-hearted once again as I followed a heart family's journey.  I hurt deeply for them in the loss of their son, Thomas, and I flash back to our time at Egleston, our fresh grief, our struggle to face each new day.  I ache for anyone who has to walk this road of sorrow.  And yet, I have such hope for the mighty work God will do in them because of their son.  I treasure what God has done in me, and I stand in expectation at how He will reveal Himself in and to them.

I guess the second reason for my blog avoidance is that the three weighty circumstances going on around me have made me rather blue and have resulted in some pretty blue thoughts, and I hesitate to paint my blueness on others.  I wouldn't say my days have been dominated by sorrow or heaviness; in fact I've had lots and lots of joy and laughter and fun, but my blog-related thoughts have been darker, and I've shied away from sharing them.  For some reason I keep having an image of our time in the hospital flash through my head, and it makes my stomach sink every time.  I keep picturing one day when I was at Samuel's bedside alone.  (I think Bryan was praying in the hospital's chapel.)  I was overcome with sorrow that day, and I laid my head down next to Samuel's and wept.  When I think of that day, I imagine it as it looked to our nurse or a doctor walking by or even someone in the entrance hall as our dock was pretty much the first thing you saw when you looked into the CICU.  My agony must have been evident to anyone who so much as glanced over, and when I picture it, my heart is filled with pain.  I can't explain why that image came to mind (it happened during a worship song at church, and I'm sure the lyrics triggered it, but I can't even remember what song it was) or why it has stuck around, but it kind of sums up how I've been feeling lately when I think about writing on here -- just feels uncharacteristically heavy for over two years after Samuel's death.

Apart from those things, life has been joyful lately.  Bryan's sister came to visit last week, and that was wonderful.  Anna Pea took to her, which was precious.  The boys continue to adore Anna.  Today Caleb said he wishes he could have a whole day with nothing to do but stare at Anna.  He called her "the cutest thing that ever lived."  And Joel is always thinking about Anna.  When asked what he was thankful for on Thanksgiving, he answered, "my baby sister" without hesitation.  A couple of days ago when the boys were playing by Anna, Caleb suggested they head upstairs, and Joel immediately protested, "No!  We can't leave Anna!  She would be lonely."  Joel proposes to Anna regularly with variations on, "Anna Pea, will you marry me?"  The way these brothers love their baby sister is amazing.

Ok, maybe now that I have this post out the way, I will be a bit more diligent about posting.  Here are some photos of the last month in my blogging absence.  All but the first two were taken by Marta (Bryan's sister) or at least with her snazzy camera.

At Caleb's school Thanksgiving Feast with all his hard work.  That's our family totem pole Caleb is holding up.  Each of us is an animal.  Caleb wanted to include Samuel.  From top to bottom, it's Samuel the bunny, Caleb the eagle, Anna the bear, Joel the turkey, Daddy the wolf, and Momma the cat.
Anna and Daddy enjoying the Thanksgiving Feast
I love her.

One of my favorites.  I am so, so crazy about this baby girl.
Our Beauty.  Or as I often call her "Button."
Two cuties
Joel's laughter is one of my favorite sounds in the world.  What a fabulous kid.
Anna and her Auntie Marta
Anna kisses
Auntie Marta with her nephews.  Caleb was reading Encyclopedia Brown out loud to M&J.
Love that face.  Such a Joel expression.
And this face.  Love it too!
Playing make-believe.  With protective goggles, a bike helmet, and a lacrosse stick, naturally.

My three sweeties.  Can't imagine life without them and can hardly remember life before them.