Sunday, February 26, 2012

Cheerio Rejection

Anna hadn't met a food she didn't like until she tried Cheerios.  This cracked me up!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Samuels of Life

After suffering two miscarriages within three months, I started bleeding six weeks into my third pregnancy since Joel's birth.  I was convinced I was miscarrying again, and I laid on our bed and wept until I fell asleep.  When I woke up a few hours later, I remember thinking, "Well, if I'm going to lose this baby, I'd rather lose it now than later, and I'd definitely rather have another miscarriage than go through an entire pregnancy, birth this baby, and then lose him or her.  It could be worse.  This at least is better than that.  Lord, if I'm going to lose this baby, let it be now and not later."

I didn't miscarry.  That baby was Samuel, and I of course had no idea that we would go through exactly what I would have called the worst-case scenario, exactly what I prayed against.  But I would have been so wrong.  Miscarrying would not have been better.  I wouldn't have been spared the worst.  Instead, I would have missed out on the very best gift I could have gotten.  I would have missed out on Samuel.  I would have missed out on all he taught me, on all the ways God grew me and continues to grow me, on loving and knowing my beloved third son.  I would have missed it all and never known it.

I think so often we pray against the hard stuff of life.  We pray that God will spare us from heartbreak and suffering and loss and pain and hardship and sickness and sorrow and waiting and grief.  We pray that God will bless us with health, family, friendship, happiness, and prosperity...a life of ease and heaps of earthly blessings.  We ask Him to make the road smooth and our path unencumbered.

But I think we're missing something when we do that.  Perhaps it's faith -- faith that God knows what is best and can be trusted, that's He's good no matter what our circumstances are, that He is truly who He says He is and we can rest in Him, that He will give us what we need to face whatever lies ahead.  When we pray against the hard stuff, we forget that it's the broken places that produce the best stuff.  It's the heartbreak that leads to compassion, the suffering that leads to endurance, the loss that leads to contentment, the pain that leads to depth, the hardship that leads to peace, the sickness that leads to truer faith, the sorrow that leads to courage, the waiting that leads to patience, the grief that leads to greater love.  The very things we hope to avoid are the ones that refine us, that show us Jesus in previously unimagined ways, that deepen us, that solder us to God, that purify us.

Without fail, the hardest parts of my story are some of the most beautiful.  And if God had granted my prayers and the prayers of people who love me, I wouldn't have those chapters to my story, and I wouldn't be who I am.  I am deeply grateful for those hardships and how God has used them to shape me and change me and call me to Himself.  I shudder to think of my life without them.  What blessing and richness I would have missed out on if the suffering in my life was removed.

Honestly, I consider myself the most blessed momma in the whole world to have been given Samuel.  Probably from someone else's shoes I would read my story and think, "Oh, Lord, thank You for sparing me from that.  Thank You that it wasn't me."  But from my shoes, I say, "Oh, Lord, thank You from the depths of my being that You chose ME to be Samuel's mommy.  From all the people in the world, you chose ME to carry him, to birth him, to love him with all my heart, to sit by his side every possible moment I could during his month of life, to hand him over to you when his time on earth was finished, to cherish him in my heart all the days of my life.  You could have entrusted him to anyone, and You chose me.  Thank You, thank You, thank You."  I don't ask, "Why me?" in anguish; I say, "Thank You that it is me" in pure gratitude.

I'm challenged, since Samuel, to pray differently -- to lay my hands open and ask God for the courage to embrace whatever He has for me instead of beseeching him to spare me from the unseemly.   I want to walk what He has, not make a detour around the difficult and heartbreaking chapters.  I want to welcome His will for my life and the work He wants to do in my heart, not skate over the hardship and grief.  I want to trust Him enough to lay aside my hopes and wishes and instead ask for His hopes and wishes for me because I know that they are far better than anything I could desire.  I want the Samuels of life, not the free passes or diminished pain.  I want whatever it is that God wants for me. And I don't want to ask Him to spare me from it; instead I simply want the courage and faith to face it with His grace. 

"Oh, Lord, I want what You want.  Grant me the courage to accept whatever that may be.  Give me the faith to trust You regardless of circumstances, and grant me a malleable heart that I may learn whatever it is You want to teach me.  Help me not to fear hardship and sacrifice and suffering.  Help me instead to lean on You when those things come my way.  Give me the grace to embrace Your will for my life and to praise You every step of the way.  I open my hands, and I give you my life without exception.  Amen."

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Valentine Short

Most days, most of the day, I am joyful, content, and full-hearted.  But there are moments when grief creeps up unexpectedly.  A couple of weeks ago, Samuel would have turned two and half, driving home from church on Sunday, "Blessed Be Your Name" came on the radio, and days like today, Valentine's Day, I think about how there should be one more valentine on the table.  Missing Samuel is a normal part of life, but there are moments when the longing is poignant.

A few days ago, Joel and I were sitting on the living room floor together reading the journal I keep for him.  (I keep a journal for each of my kids.  I write periodically about their recent doings or sayings, and I write a letter to them every year on their birthday.)  As I was reading to Joel, I felt overwhelmed with nostalgia for what was, for the baby boy and little boy he used to be.  As I choked back tears, I couldn't help but think how I missed all those precious things with Samuel -- all those things only a momma really knows.  And I thought about how someday these precious young days with Anna will be behind me.  I am an extremely commemorative person, and I rue the passage of time in general.  I always want to hold on tight to the present because it feels like it's slipping away.  And with little kids and especially babies, it whisks by in a flash, and I can never have it back.  Thinking of what has already passed -- the first years with Caleb and Joel, Samuel's whole life -- I felt overwhelmed with sorrow and longing and heartbreak.  It was one of those rare out-of-time moments when you can see life clearly from a birds' eye view, if only for a the span of a few heartbeats. It makes me grateful that I soaked up every second I could while Samuel was living, that we created happy memories in the midst of fear and sadness.  That month with Samuel felt like a lifetime in so many ways, though of course it wasn't nearly enough time -- no amount of time with a son or daughter could ever be enough.

I miss that sweet Samuel of mine.  And as often as I imagine what life would be like if he was here, I have no idea how different our family would feel or life would really be if he was with us still.  Nothing will ever fill the Samuel-shaped void in our lives.  And that's as it should be.  Though I miss him, I still have incredible peace in life without him.  And every time I look at Anna, I thank God for how she continues to heal our hearts, to make grief more bearable and this family closer to complete.  I am so glad that this year I have three little Valentines to smother with kisses and cuddles.  And someday when I'm in Heaven too, my fourth little valentine will get his share of those!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Anna Antics

Here is a video of Anna Pea crawling, squeaking, and generally being loved on by her brothers.  It's a pretty accurate depiction of life and how adored Anna girl is.  What a joy she is!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

CHD Awareness

February is CHD Awareness Month, and a dear friend of mine is working with some other heart moms to put together a CHD pinterest board.  You can check it out here.  CHD (Congenital Heart Defects) are the #1 birth defect with 1 out of 100 children affected. 

I remember taking Joel to see our pediatrician, Dr. Roy, a couple of months after Samuel died.  When he realized I was Samuel's mom, his eyes filled with compassion, and he put his hand on my arm and told me how sorry he was.  He knows Dr. V, Samuel's pediatric cardiologist, and Dr. V sent him updates all throughout Samuel's life.  Apparently Dr. Roy followed all the diagnoses, Samuel's progress, and everything that happened during his 31 days.  I will never forget him telling me, "Maybe if Samuel had been born in 20 years, he would have survived.  I think the things Samuel suffered from are some of the things medical advances will really be able to help someday."  Perhaps raising CHD awareness will be part of those advances.  So pass the pinterest board along!

(Pinterest is an online pinboard where you can "pin" pictures with captions to be viewed and shared by others.  You can read about the CHD pinboard here.)