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Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Arms of Jesus

"Dear Lord, I would have loved to have held my baby on my lap and tell her about you, but since I didn't get the chance, would you please hold Caroline on your lap and tell her about me?"

     This morning as Josh and I were getting into our car for church, I looked up at the dark sky above me. The rain pounded onto my face, physically reminding me that I am still alive. Yet somehow the rain and the darkness of the morning just seemed fitting. While I was getting ready for church, I had a moment of sadness. As I gazed out across our backyard, I noticed all of the leaves that had fallen off the trees. Already it looks like fall has arrived in our backyard. No longer does the grass look vibrantly green, and there is definitely a chill in the air. The deck that I once sat on for so many afternoons with sweet Caroline inside, now looked cold and wet. I remembered all those moments that I spent outside with Caroline. We would sit for hours talking about the birds, and the leaves, and the squirrels, and the flowers. I would sit in awe as her little body squirmed around inside. She loved being outside with me, I could just feel it. Whenever we felt that warm sunshine, she would start moving and kicking. It brought such joy to my heart to share those amazing moments together.
     This summer, while I was recovering from her birth, I spent hours outside on my deck. When I felt completely helpless, and did not know what else to do, I would go outside and sit on the deck. There I would feel so close to her. As I watched the butterflies flutter and play, it brought tears to my eyes. Those butterflies were such a beautiful reminder. I could just picture her smiling and playing up in heaven. As I felt the sunshine warm my face and my body, I felt renewed. The sun brought light into my darkness, and I could feel my hope being restored. As I watched the flowers bloom into their brilliant colors, I was amazed. Caroline and I had spent time watering the flowers together during the early months of spring, and now I was able to see the beautiful fruits of our labor. The flowers reminded me of how fragile and delicate life can be.
     During those summer months I enjoyed the peace and the quiet. I enjoyed the stillness, and the beauty, and the simple pleasures. It was a time for me to think, to feel, to reflect, and to grieve. There were many tears shed on that deck throughout the summer. Tears of joy and tears of hope, but also many tears of sorrow, pain, and sadness. How much I longed to have her back. To know that we could enjoy those tiny miracles together once again. I wanted to teach her more about the flowers, and have her feel the warmth of the sunshine on her face. I wanted her to feel the cold water on her tiny toes, and to watch as the squirrels climbed high into the trees. I wanted to show her the puffy white clouds, and to hear the sounds of an airplane flying overhead. But this summer, it was only me.
     This morning as I looked out at the deck, I realized how many memories it holds. It not only reminds me of the happy times, when Caroline and I enjoyed many special moments together, but it also reminds me of the sad times, when I was grieving the loss of my daughter. Now as I see the changing of the seasons, I realize that I am again stepping into a new season of my own life. Soon the deck will be covered in leaves, and it will be too cold to sit outside in my chair. It brought tears to my eyes as I realized that this will now be another step away from those joy filled memories. I will forever hold them in my heart, but it will just never be the same.
     The days of my recovery from surgery are now over, and the reality of life has quickly taken hold. I find myself struggling to find time to accomplish even the most basic tasks, because of how busy life can be. No longer do I have time to just sit and smile as the butterflies play, nor do I have time to observe the delicate beauty of the roses. I do not have the time to just sit and wait for the hummingbird to make its brief appearance at my feeder. I even struggle to find the time to just sit in the silence. Instead I am rushing from one activity the next, with a whole list of "to dos" inside my head. It is not where I want to be, and yet it is the reality of life. It is so easy to fill my plate full of activities, and work, and tasks, that I forget to take the time to reflect and enjoy the little miracles.
     In the midst of the craziness of life, I have to remind myself to slow down. I have to remind myself that it is okay if the laundry does not get done tonight, or if the house is still messy from the day before. I have to remind myself that I do not have to go to the store right this minute, and that it is going to be okay if the dishwasher has not been emptied yet. These things can wait. Sometimes I need to just give myself permission to stop, and to relax, and to enjoy the beauty that is all around me. Because it is in those moments, that I can truly feel the presence of God. There are so many days where I am struggling, and I do not know how I am going to keep moving forward. I feel so overcome with sadness and darkness and pain. Those days I just cry out to God, asking him to take it away. But there are so many times when I just can't feel his presence. Even after I call out to him, I am still in such an awful place. But it is not until I take the time to stop, and to actually breathe and reflect, that I can truly feel him surrounding me with his incredible love. I believe he is reaching out to me in those moments, but sometimes I am just too busy to realize it.
     This morning as I looked out at the deck, it was a powerful reminder to not get so caught up in the busyness of life. It is so easy to make myself busy so that I forget, and so that I do not have time to feel. But the reality is that I need to take those moments, even if they are incredibly painful and sad, and I need to embrace them. I need to be looking for the little miracles, that can so easily pass me by, because they bring joy to my aching heart. I need to find time to be silent, because that is when I can hear God's voice. I need to allow myself time to feel sad, because that is when I can feel the comfort of God overwhelm me. I need to take the time to remember, because that is how I am going to heal.
     This morning as the rain fell upon my face, I imagined what it would be like to be carrying my Caroline into church. I imagined myself covering up her car seat, to protect her from the wind and the rain. I imagined holding her close as we sang the songs together in worship. But most of all, I imagined what it would be like to be able to teach her about Jesus. You see, every night when I was pregnant, Josh and I would read her a Bible story. It was a very special time for all of us. As I was sitting in church this morning, I realized that I will not be given the opportunity to teach her about Jesus as she grows up. However, it brought tears to my eyes as I pictured her now, sitting in the lap of Jesus. I do not need to teach her about him, because she already knows more than I could ever teach her. She does not have to learn about Jesus, because she already KNOWS Jesus!
     Each night as I go to bed, I pray that God would tell her just how much I love her. It is so hard to not be able to say it to my sweet girl each day. Oh how it hurts to not have the opportunity to tell her how much I love her, and how much I wanted her. There is nothing more painful than having those words so deeply ingrained on your heart, but not being able to share them. I am not able to wake up each morning and say it to her sweet face, as I kiss her tiny cheeks. I am not able to hold her in a tight embrace and whisper it in her ear as she sleeps. I am not able to show her my love each moment of the day. It hurts that I only had 35 short weeks to give her a lifetime of my love.
      It scares me so much to think that she might not know now just how much I love her. It scares me so much to think that she might not know just how much I miss her. It scares me so much to think that she might not know just how much I wanted to hold her close forever. It scares me so much to think that she might not know how proud I am to be her mom. It scares me so much to think that she might now know just how much I love her with every breath that I take.
      But yet deep in my heart, I know that she is being held tight in the loving arms of Jesus. I pray that he can whisper in her little ear just how much her mommy loves her every moment of the day, and how much she is missed here on earth. I pray that Caroline will know how much we wanted to have her here with us, but that we had to let her go. I pray that she knows what a beautiful gift she was to her family, and that we are all so incredibly proud of her. I pray that tonight and every night, that she will not only feel the deep deep love that I hold for her in my heart, but that she will also feel the love of her Heavenly Father, who has loved her since the very beginning of time. As much as it kills me each day to have empty arms, I know that tonight and always she is safely in the loving arms of her Maker. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Joy in Life

 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                               John 16:21

     This morning I was filled with joy as I read this Bible verse in my devotions. Any mother who has gone through the intense pains of labor can relate. There is nothing great about those painful contractions! However, once the baby makes a grand entrance (and I do mean grand!) into the world, there is no memory of the pain, only the joy! Once that baby is gently placed into your arms, and you see the evidence of a brand new life, the pain is replaced by love, pure love. We can truly thank God for the beautiful miracle of birth!
     It struck me this morning about the amazing beauty of life. In just 9 short months, God creates a new life. Even the smallest details, such as the fingernails, eyelids, eyebrows, and lips are so perfectly formed. As I look at the pictures of my daughter, I cannot help but be amazed at what a great God we serve! Although Caroline was born at 35 weeks, everything about her tiny body was so intricately created. She was so beautiful!
     Everyday I stand humbled at the gift that God chose to give to Josh and I.  As I walk around our house gazing at her pictures, I am reminded over and over again of  our blessings. Not only were we given 35 beautiful weeks to cherish the life of our daughter, but we were also given 19 minutes to hold and love on her while she was with us on this earth. We can also look forward to the day when we will once again hold her in our arms forever. It is such a beautiful promise that we will one day be reunited again with Caroline in heaven!
    On my way into work this morning, I struggled to see through the heavy fog. It surrounded my entire car, and I was thankful for the headlights on the cars driving around me.  Without those lights, I would have been helpless to drive safely through the darkness and the fog. As I was scanning the road ahead of me, I was hit with a thought. At this time, my life seems to be stuck in a fog. There is no consistency in my life right now. I cannot tell you from one moment to the next how I am going to feel. Often the tears hit without any warning. The shadows of grief can creep into my heart when I least expect them. I do not anticipate tomorrow, because sometimes it is hard enough to get through today. There are so many moments of sorrow and of grief, where the pain consumes my whole being. But I find that there are other moments when I feel such incredible joy, and my heart feels full from the strength of God, and the love of others. Being in a fog is not easy, in fact, I have found it impossible to plan my life while I am in the midst of it.
     I have noticed that often I feel like my life is just stuck. I am stuck between remembering the past, and embracing the future. It is an extremely difficult place to stand, and I do not  necessarily know where to go from here. But even though I am stuck in a fog right now, I know that eventually God will break through the fog of my life, and he will provide the light to shine through. This morning as I watched the sunlight break through the density of the fog, I was reminded that I will not be stuck in this fog forever. One day I will be able to see the light break through my pain and suffering. Even now when I can only see a very dim and foggy picture of my life, I will continue to look forward to the moments when I will see clearly once again.
     During the past week I struggled with so many overwhelming and powerful emotions. It was not easy to get up in the morning, and often I would go to bed feeling even worse. This whole journey of grief is so new and foreign to me, and I never know what to expect from one day to the next. But I do know that last week was one of the hardest weeks I have experienced since we lost Caroline three months ago. I can say with all honesty that God has been carrying me throughout this past week, because I did not know where to put my foot down next. There were many days when I just did not think that life could get any worse. But despite the awful fog that consumed my heart for so long, God was able to clear the fog to let me once again see the sunshine. Today as I write these words, I feel happiness inside my heart. Even though I have faced the indescribable pain of losing a baby, and even though I know it will not necessarily get easier any time soon, I can say without a doubt that I am still so incredibly blessed!
     God has given me so many amazing things for which to be thankful. I have an amazing family who loves and supports me unconditionally. They are there for me in the good times and in the bad times. I could not have ever walked this journey without the blessing of family.
     God has given me wonderful friends who have chosen to stand by my side. Even though it is not easy to know what to say and what to do in this type of situation, my friends have gone above and beyond to bless my life in so many ways.
     I have found comfort in the hugs of others. It means the world to me when I receive a simple hug from someone who just wants to show that they care. I have found that it is so true when they say that actions speak louder than words. One of my greatest blessings is hugs from others!
     God has blessed me with those who take the time to send me encouraging messages. I have been so overwhelmed by the love I have felt through all of the cards, texts, phone calls, and messages that I have received from so many wonderful people. It is such a blessing just to know that you care, and that you are still thinking and praying for Josh and I. We thank God each night for all of the amazing people he has placed in our lives.
     Each time I come on my blog site I feel so blessed! It never ceases to amaze me at how many people continue to read my blog posts. Thank you to each and every person who takes the time to read about our journey. It is such an inspiration to me, and it motivates me to continue writing and sharing Caroline's story.
      One of my greatest blessings is the lesson I have learned about never taking the little things for granted. Before, I went about my life with eyes closed to the miracles that take place around us every day. Now I have been given another chance to see the world through open eyes. Never again will I look at a butterfly the same way. Never again will I just walk past the delicate petals of an newly opened rose bud. Never again will I forget to savor the sounds of laughter, and the innocence of a baby's cry. Never again will I turn my head away from the flutters of a hummingbird, or close my eyes on a blue sky filled with puffy white clouds. Never again will I gaze without wonder at a brightly lit star in the night sky. Never again will I miss out on an opportunity to hug a friend, or make someone else smile. Never again will I forget to cherish the warmth of a soft blanket, or the peace that comes after a good hard cry. Never again will I forget the miracle of birth, and the unspeakable joy that comes from the pain.  

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
                                                                                                                                 James 1:17

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Uncovered Life

    This week was one of the hardest weeks of my life. It took everything I had to get myself up and moving each day. I cannot explain why I felt so many emotions. But they did not go away. The pain in my heart felt so real, that often I could not breathe. I had to stop and remind myself, breathe in - breathe out. Even a task as simple as walking to the bathroom, felt like more than I could bear. This week was so painful, so sad, so exhausting. 
     It has been three months, so people stop asking. Now I am just Amalia, the girl who is and who always was. To so many my identity has not changed. I am not a mother. I am just me, the me I have always been. I do not carry my baby into the store. I do not have her spit up on my clothes. I do not have a car seat in the back seat of my car. I do not have a diaper bag slung over my shoulder. There is nothing visible to show that I am a mom. 
     Three months is a long time. Long enough for most to forget. Long enough to forget about the poor girl who lost her baby. Now I am back to just me. I walked around for 35 weeks with the glow. I was a mom. I had my precious baby, and most of all I had a purpose. I had a beautiful purpose. But when I was pushed out of the hospital in a wheel chair that Wednesday night,  my purpose no longer remained. The only thing left was to bury the body of my sweet daughter deep into the ground. Never to be seen again on earth. I lost myself that rainy Friday morning. As I knelt to say goodbye, and leaned over to kiss that tiny white casket, I knew that I had lost my heart.
     But now here I sit, three months later. I realize that I am still alive. I still breathe in and out. I still wake up and go to work. I still lay down and go to bed each night. I still cook dinner, wash dishes, drive my car, and talk. But that does not mean I am okay. Some moments I feel alright,  it is easy to smile and to laugh and to sing. I can and do enjoy life. I do find joy in the every day things, and I do hope for a bright future. But other moments, I am the absolute farthest from being alright. 
     This week I had one extremely awful day. There was nothing, absolutely nothing, that could take away the pain and the sadness. I felt so much, yet I felt like I was dreaming. Nothing felt real, like I was watching myself suffer from above, powerless to make it better. So I decided to do the only thing I could do. I jumped on my bike and I peddled. I peddled hard and I peddled fast. I stopped only when I got to the school. There sitting in front of me, was the playground. The reality of what that playground meant to me settled deep inside my heart. All of my lost hopes and dreams stood in front of me, taunting my very soul. As the tears fell, I walked slowly to the swing. Now I have never told this to anyone, but my biggest regret is that I never took Caroline on a swing. The entire time I was pregnant, I had so many opportunities, but I just couldn't bring myself to swing with her. In some ways, getting on a swing was very final. If I chose to swing, it meant in my eyes, that she would never swing again. But now I am so angry at myself. I never had that experience with my daughter. We never shared that moment together. Now three months later, I knew that I had to face it. So I sat down and began to pump. It felt so natural, like I had been swinging my whole life. As I felt the wind in my hair, and my legs stretched toward the darkening sky, I felt alive. The tears continued to fall as I poured out my heart to God. I did not feel better, but those simple motions helped me to feel real again. 
     The journey of grief is entirely different than I ever anticipated. They always said that time heals. Well to tell you the truth, time has not healed me. It feels like the band aid I put on my heart is being slowly and painfully ripped off, to reveal a much deeper wound than a band aid could ever heal. The more of my heart that I expose, the more painful and emotional I get. The first two months I was plagued by nightmares. The kind that keep you wide eyed and sweating all night long. But now I am so physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted by the time I finally close my eyes, that my sleep is now just dark and heavy. The last time I had a happy dream I could not tell you, but at least the nightmares have stopped. 
     The new reality for me is to hold all emotions back during the day. When I interact with others, I am just the old Amalia. The girl who was, but no longer is, a mother. It is hard to be a mother when no one talks about her. When they look at you with pity in their eyes, but not a word about her on their tongues. I hate being that girl. The girl people avoid, because they don't know what to say or what to do. I hate it that I never hear her name spoken, as if she did not exist. I hate having to congratulate those who have a newborn baby, or who are expecting a baby, but nobody even mentions my baby. I hate having to smile and agree when others grumble and complain about their babies and their kids, or the pains of being pregnant. I would give my life to have that morning sickness again, or to be exhausted from waking up countless times throughout the night with my crying baby. But that is my reality now. I will always have to see what others have, and realize it is what I will never have with Caroline.  
     This post has been incredibly difficult to write. I apologize if it is hard to follow. But this week I have felt so many emotions. I have had so many ups and downs.  It has been a very mixed up and crazy week. So somehow this post just seems fitting. I will never be able to fully express in words the journey that I am walking. The goal of this post is not to make you feel sorry for me. Because the truth is that I do not want any pity. This is the road that God has chosen for me, and I accept that completely. But most of all, I want everyone to know that it is not by my strength that I get up each day. On my own I am so weak. I am just barely hanging on. But God did not give me this awful road to walk alone. He gives me His strength, when I have none of my own.  The grief I feel is overwhelming, and I wonder often how my poor body manages to keep going. Grief affects your body not only emotionally, but also physically and mentally. It consumes your every thought, feeling, movement, and heartbeat. My grief counselor told me that many people do not realize how much energy and strength it takes to grieve. So not only are you using every ounce of your energy to grieve, process, and feel, but then you are still expected to go about your day as normal. I often get angry at myself for being tired all the time, and for forgetting things. I get angry at myself for not being as organized as I was before. I get angry at myself for wasting time. I get angry at myself when I do not accomplish important tasks. I get angry at myself for failing at just about everything I do lately. It is so hard to remember that it is okay to fail, and to forget, and to not be productive all the time. I am hard on myself, accepting nothing but my best. Therefore,  I am learning that instead of beating myself up all of the time, when I do not meet my expectations. I need to turn to God, who accepts me as I am.  I know that he does not expect me to be perfect. Instead,  I find that I can be real with him. He loves me for who I am right now, and not for who I wish I could be. He loves me as the grieving mother that I am. 
     In three months my life has changed drastically. I wish that I could say it was for the good, but honestly in this moment, I do not know. What I do know is that my life has only gotten harder. The grief has gotten more intense, the pain has gotten deeper, the hole in my heart has gotten bigger, and accepting myself has gotten much more difficult. But my God has become more real. He has drawn so close to me, that sometimes I feel like he is breathing for me. In those moments, when all I see and feel is darkness, he pulls me close and I can almost feel His arms wrapped around me. This has been the one of the worst weeks of my life, but He has remained faithful and constant. And for that reason,  I still have joy in my heart!


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Love So Deep

   It still amazes me at how the world moves forward each day. Without fail, people get up, get ready, and begin to accomplish the tasks at hand. People drive to work, kids ride the bus to school, and people move about their daily lives. Yesterday on my way home from work, I had a moment of clarity. These moments are few and far in between lately, so I was sure to take some time to reflect on it.
     It is hard to believe that people move forward with their lives. When Caroline took her final breath,  in so many ways I felt like it was my final breath as well. My life changed the moment I realized that I would not be able to share life with my daughter here on this earth. In so many ways, my life stopped. 
     But yet as I lay here in bed, the minutes continue to tick forward on my alarm clock. Without fail the numbers continue to count us forward through the day. As much as I just want time to stop, and to be able to lay in the darkness for just one minute longer, I know that I too must continue to move forward. 
     I knew in my heart that this road would not be easy. I knew that it would be terribly difficult. But nothing, and I truly mean nothing, could have prepared me for the heartbreaking pain that I feel in each moment of the day. The pain that keeps me up at night. The pain that keeps my eyes wide open in the early mornings. The pain that brings tears to my eyes as I try and get myself ready for the day. How am I going to move forward without my daughter?  She was everything to me, and now she is gone. All I have left are the precious memories, and a broken heart. 
     But deep inside I know that I have more. I have a heart that can still love. I have a heart that beats with the deepest of love for a baby who changed my life. I never knew that it was possible to love someone so deeply and so purely. That is why it hurts so much. That is why I cry more than I ever thought possible. That is why I struggle to breathe. That is why I feel so lost. But that is also why I keep moving forward. 
    No matter how much pain I feel in these moments, she is worth it. I would willingly suffer through the heartbreaking pain each day, because I was able to know her. When I feel so sad, and when it hurts more than I can stand,  I think about why it hurts in the first place. It is because I chose to love. I love my little Caroline with everything I have, and then some. I would never trade that love for all the world. 
     So here we are back to the swiftly ticking clock. The flashing red numbers are telling me to get up, it is time to start the day. But just because my feet hit the floor, does not mean she leaves my mind. In fact,  I carry her memory and love deep inside my heart and mind at each moment of the day. My love for her only grows stronger, the longer we are apart. Even though ten weeks have gone by since I said hello and goodbye to my precious girl, it feels like no time at all. In some ways my heart will forever be stopped at that same moment I had to say goodbye. But yet as my love grows stronger, I realize what a gift she has been. I thank God for giving me the chance to love her. I thank God for giving me the chance to hold her in my arms, and to whisper in her ear. I thank God for the sleepless nights, and the tear filled mornings. I thank God for the sadness and the pain. Because it all means that I have loved. He placed that love in my heart, and for that I am beyond grateful. For I would rather have loved and lost, than to never have loved in the first place.