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Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Gift of Music

    There are some days where I just cannot find the words to express my thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Today is one of those days. I feel like there are just too many painful things running through my head and my heart. But I believe that it is in those moments that God can speak to us most clearly. Today I am feeling utterly defeated, yet somehow, I can still sing. These two songs have truly spoken to my struggling heart today. I wanted to share them with you, in the hopes that they may bring some peace into your heart as well.

                                                                        Take It All
                                                  Kristian Stanfill


    Already There
     Casting Crowns

From where I'm standing
Lord it's so hard for me to see
Where this is going
And where You're leading me
I wish I knew how
All my fears and all my questions
Are gonna play out
In a world I can't control

When I'm lost in the mystery
To You my future is a memory
Cause You're already there
You're already there
Standing at the end of my life
Waiting on the other side
And You're already there
You're already there

From where You're standing
Lord, You see a grand design
That You imagined
When You breathed me into life
And all the chaos
Comes together in Your hands
Like a masterpiece
Of Your picture perfect plan

When I'm lost in the mystery
To You my future is a memory
Cause You're already there
You're already there
Standing at the end of my life
Waiting on the other side
And You're already there
You're already there

One day I'll stand before You
And look back on the life I've lived
I can't wait to enjoy the view
And see how all the pieces fit

One day I'll stand before You
And look back on the life I've lived
Cause You're already there
You're already there
When I'm lost in the mystery
To You my future is a memory
Cause You're already there
You're already there
Standing at the end of my life
Waiting on the other side
And You're already there
You're already there

You are already there

Monday, November 17, 2014

5 Months

5 Months
Once again the numbers blinked bright red on my clock early this morning.
5:16 am
 I was wide awake. The tears fell quickly, and painfully.
How can it be 5 months already?
 Why must the time go so fast? 
How could it be possible to miss her more today than I did the day I said goodbye?
 It is so hard to believe that it has been 5 months since I had my precious little girl. 5 months since I felt her little body move inside of my belly. 5 months since they placed her perfect tiny body in my arms.
I would give everything to go back to that moment in time. I would give everything to have her back in my arms once again. 
Those memories of that early June morning will forever be imprinted on my heart.  

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.
                                                                                      2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (The Message)

Your longing for heaven is good because it is an extension of your yearning for Me. The hope of heaven is meant to strengthen and encourage you, filling you with wondrous JOY. Many Christians have misunderstood this word hope, believing that it denotes wishful thinking. Nothing could be farther from the truth! As soon as I became your Savior, heaven became your ultimate destination. The phrase hope of heaven highlights the benefits you can enjoy even while remaining on earth. This hope keeps you spiritually alive during dark times of adversity; it brightens your path and heightens your awareness of My Presence. My desire is that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
- Jesus Calling

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Dear Caroline...

  Dear Caroline,

     It has been one whole year. One year, almost to the exact minute when I first found out. I cannot even explain why I decided to take a pregnancy test that cold November afternoon. But something inside just brought me to that moment. It was the first time in awhile that I was not scared while I waited those two minutes. Normally I would just stand there and watch, willing that test to be positive. But this time I went and washed the dishes, drank a glass of water, and changed the laundry. I was not worried. I was not anxious. I just felt such peace. I was at peace with whatever sign appeared on that pregnancy test screen.
     But Caroline, to your mommy's absolute shock, there it was. A very clear plus sign. I had to look once. I had to look twice. In fact, I walked back to check that test about fifty times. I kept expecting that I was wrong. That maybe I was just seeing things, and that it couldn't really be true. But there it was, and there it stayed. It was not faint, it was very clear. I was pregnant!
     My precious girl, I could not wait to tell your daddy. He just could not get home from work fast enough. I just paced through the house, my heart was absolutely racing. For so many months I had planned out the most amazing ways to share the news. I wanted to make it special. But in that moment, the only thing I could do was run outside, grab your daddy's hand, and lead him to the counter. I was speechless! That does not happen very often for your mommy. I always have something to say. But this time, I had no words. I just pointed to that test, and smiled. My heart was full, and I still could not believe my eyes. Your mommy and daddy were so beyond excited.
     Caroline, that night on November 8, it was the first time I talked to you. I knew that you were way too tiny to hear me. I knew that your ears had not even begun to develop yet. But I talked to you. I welcomed you into our family, and I told you over and over how much I already loved you, and how incredibly excited I was to know that you were growing inside of me. That moment I had already fallen in love with you. You were my baby, even though you were no bigger than a poppyseed.
     Your mommy has such vivid memories of that day. It was the first day that I allowed myself to dream, and to hope of a future with you in our lives. I dreamed of what it was going to be like to be pregnant. I dreamed of what it was going to be like to welcome you into the world. I dreamed of what you were going to look like. I dreamed of all of the things that we were going to do together. But most of all sweet girl, I dreamed of our growing family, and the bright future that was just beginning.    
     Today has been really hard Caroline. Your mommy misses you so deeply. I cannot even begin to tell you how much my heart hurts. When I think back to that day a whole year ago, I realize just how much can change in a year. In that moment, I never dreamed that anything bad could happen. After all, you were alive and growing. Everything should have been okay. All of those dreams should have come true. I should be holding your precious little body in my arms tonight, smiling happily at the memory of how far we have come since that day one year ago. Instead your mommy has aching arms tonight.  I miss you so much sweet girl.
     I remember so clearly, that night as we went to bed, your mommy and daddy prayed together. We thanked God for the joy in our hearts at the news we had just discovered. We prayed that God would hold you close, and help you grow strong and healthy in the coming months. We talked late into the night about how excited we were, and how our lives would be forever changed. But what we did not know Caroline, is what was to come. In that moment we were simply filled with happiness and excitement. There was no doubt in our minds that we would be holding you in our arms in only a few short months.
      Looking back at that day now, I know that nothing turned out as planned. There are so many hopes and dreams that will never be fulfilled. You were not born healthy like other babies. But my precious girl, you were strong. I know that God made you strong. Against all odds you fought each day of your life to meet us. You proved the doctors wrong every day that I carried you. We did get to hold you in our arms, even if it was only for a moment. We did get to tell you how much we love you, even if those 3 simple words have to last forever.
     You changed our lives forever Caroline. Our lives have been changed in such a different way than I ever expected. I always dreamed that I would be an exhausted, forgetful, and crazy mom, who does not always have it all together. I looked forward to those days with all of my heart. But instead I have been changed in such a different way. I am still an exhausted, forgetful, and crazy girl, who certainly does not have it all together. My life is completely unpredictable in every moment. But I am a stronger woman because of you my daughter.  You taught me how to be brave, how to trust, and most of all, you taught me how to love. I now know that it is completely possible to love, even when you know it is going to lead to heartbreak. I now know that it is completely worth it to love so fully and so deeply, even if there is no tangible way to express it. So Caroline, as I think about you tonight, as I miss you so deeply, as my heart pounds and my arms ache, I want you to know how much I love you. I love you more than I ever dreamed possible. I hope that somehow you know just how much I love you. It is a love that grows stronger with each beat of my heart.
     Thank you my princess, for teaching your mommy so much over this year. Even though my heart is broken and tears are streaming down my face, I am so thankful. I am thankful for you. I am thankful for the gift of time that God gave to us. I am thankful for the joy we experienced on that Friday night one year ago. I am thankful for those first words I spoke to your tiny body. I am thankful for the excitement that your daddy and I shared together. I am thankful for the blessing that you have been and continue to be in our lives. I love you my beautiful Caroline Joy. You will forever hold the deepest place in your mommy's heart. Until we meet again...


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Four Months...

Do not judge the bereaved mother.
She comes in many forms.
She is breathing, but she is dying.
She may look young, but inside she has become ancient.
She smiles, but her heart sobs.
She walks, she talks, she cooks, she cleans, she works, she IS,
but she IS NOT, all at once.
She is here, but part of her is elsewhere for eternity.”

     Four months is a long time. Long enough for people to forget. Long enough for life to get busy. Long enough to move on. But that is so far from true. No matter how many days have past, no matter how the seasons have changed, the pain is still just as real as it was that warm summer day when I had to say good bye.
     There is no magic number with grief. I cannot simply mark a date on my calendar, and plan on everything being better once that day finally arrives. Because the truth is that there is no end to grief. I have been forever changed. I know I will always grieve the loss of hopes, dreams, a future, and my daughter.
      Today I stopped to just look at my life. In some ways I can see the progress that I have made. It has not been easy, and it has certainly not been on my own. I have had the incredible love and support from my husband, family, and my grief counselor. I know that without this strong support system, I would be a complete mess right now. They have been there through the tears, through the anger, through the silence, through the happy moments and the sad. They have seen me at my best, and they have seen me at my worst. I cannot help but stand amazed at the fact that they still want to see me! I am so thankful that God has placed such amazing people in my life, who continue to encourage me, and who also make a special point to remember and speak Caroline's name. There is no words to explain the joy that I feel when others talk about her, and help me remember her. I am so blessed to have people in my life who love me, who love Josh, and who love Caroline. I am so thankful to not be alone.
     At one time, I admit, there was only darkness in my life. I could not see or feel anything except grief, pain, and sadness. It filled every part of my entire body. Slowly, over time, I have gotten used to the pain in my chest. The ache that never leaves my heart. It has not gotten any less painful, but I now know exactly what it feels like. No longer is it a new feeling, instead, it has become my new normal. I know that when I open my eyes in the morning, I am going to feel it. I know that when I go to work each day, I am going to feel it. I know that with every beat of my heart, I am going to feel it. I know that as I lay awake in the darkness, I am going to feel it. There is not one moment in the day where I do not feel that deep aching pain in my heart.
     However, I can now honestly say that I see small glimmers of light. They are very small, nearly invisible on certain days, but they are there. Those tiny glimmers of light appear at the most random times throughout the day. Usually they hit me without warning, but leave a very sweet taste in my mouth. I eagerly await those moments of hope, because they remind me of God's goodness. They remind me that I can still feel happy, and that there is still light in the world. I am so thankful for those tiny glimmers of hope. I am so happy for those brief moments of light. Right now they are few and far between, but they are there. I pray each day that the light continues to shine through the darkness of my grief and pain.
     I am so thankful for the joy filled moments that God places in my life each day. These moments are not huge, and to most people they would come and go without even a second thought. Yet I need these moments. I still rejoice in the beauty of the world surrounding me. I find such joy in the little things, the warmth of a blanket on a cold night, the comforting shadows of a flickering candle, the beauty of the sunshine, the gently falling leaves, and the generosity of so many people. Once I opened my eyes to the little blessings, I have found that they are all around. All I have to do is stop, take the time to breathe, and look for them. I am so thankful that God has surrounded my life with the little blessings. I pray that he will continue to help me remember to take the time each day to look for them!
     My life has changed in so many ways. I cannot even begin to list them all here for you. The truth is that I feel like a new person. It is hard to admit this, but I am no longer that happy, innocent, life loving girl that I was before. Some days I would love to go back to who I used to be. I would love to have one day, just one day, where I could remember what it was like to just be me. To be free from the grief, pain, and all of the intense thoughts and feelings. But that is not my reality. The truth is that this is the new me.
    I am now the girl who struggles to accomplish even the smallest tasks. Everything just seems too big and too overwhelming. I am now the girl who suffers from anxiety. I constantly fight stomach aches, headaches, and a racing heart. I am now the girl who is very uncomfortable in social situations. It is a struggle for me when talking to people, interacting with people, and just being around people. I feel like I am outside of my own body, watching myself talk, listen, and respond. I am now the girl who is scared to even look at a baby, for fear that I might loose control. I am now the girl who fights the constant fear that something bad might happen to the people that I love. I am now the girl who feels more comfortable being alone than with other people. I am now the girl who cries everyday. I am now the girl who struggles to get out of bed. I am now the girls who is very insecure. I am now the girl who cannot turn off the racing thoughts inside of my head. I am now a new person, and some days it is a very scary reality.
     One of the biggest changes in my life is my ability to pretend. I am able to smile, even when I am crying on the inside. I am able to hold back the tears, until I am able to release them when I am alone. I have learned how to push aside all of my thoughts and feelings, so that I can carry on with my everyday life. Because the reality is that time does not stop for grief. I still have to go about all of my day to day responsibilities. As much as I would love to just lay in bed and cry and feel sad, it is not possible. There just isn't time during the day to really feel. It is hard some days, to pretend to be okay. I feel like I am not always being true to myself. But at the same time, it is necessary. I do not think people could handle a sad and grieving Amalia all the time. I know I could loose my job if I wasn't able to hold it together. I know that I could loose friends if I wasn't able to hold it together. I know that I would loose myself if I wasn't able to hold it together. It isn't easy, but I have gotten extremely good at it. I just wonder sometimes how long I will have to pretend. Will I always have to hide my true thoughts and feelings? Or will I one day feel so much less, and not have to pretend anymore?
     I always worry about those moments when grief hits so suddenly. It may be a commercial on tv, a song on the radio, a pregnant mother in the grocery store, a comment that someone makes, a specific place or memory, or a date on the calendar. Usually these moments come without warning, and I never know quite how I am going to respond. I wish so badly that I had a warning, so that I could prepare myself. But over time, I have learned something so valuable. When I am hit with one of those sudden moments, I need to let myself feel. If I need to cry, I let myself cry. If I need to scream, I let myself scream. If I need to pray, I let myself pray. If I feel angry, it is okay to be angry. For so long I tried to cover up those feelings. I felt guilty for feeling angry, or upset. But now I have learned that it is perfectly healthy and perfectly normal to feel these things. It does me no good to push them away and pretend they do not exist. They will only come out in a different way. Instead, I need to allow myself to feel, to hurt, to cry, and to feel angry. It is okay to feel emotions and to express them in a healthy way.
     I write this tonight and share it with complete honesty. I do not want anyone to feel sorry for me. This is just my reality, it is the path that I must walk. I have come so far since this summer. Just as the leaves have changed color, and the air has become cooler, I have also changed. In so many ways I have grown, and learned how to cope with so many of the thoughts and feelings that come along with grief. But yet I still have so far to go. I try to not look to far into the future, because there is just so much that is unknown. Although I want to believe that God has good things in store for us, I still tend to focus on the very real reality that bad things can and do happen. I just pray that over time I will be able to feel more hope about the future. But for now, I just focus on one day at a time. I find joy in the little blessings, and embrace the moments filled with  sorrow and pain. I try my best to step out of my comfort zone, and put myself in social situations when I feel that I can handle them. I trust in God for the strength to get through each day. My God has been faithful in the darkest of days. I know that just as he walked beside me in the worst moments, he will continue to walk beside me into the future.

I found this quote the other day and just had to share it. In every moment that I miss Caroline, I wonder why God would choose to take her away so soon. I am sad for everything that we will never be able to share together. But this quote is absolutely true. Right from the moment that we found out Caroline existed, I knew that her life was important. Every life matters. Caroline lived 35 weeks in my belly, and 19 short minutes on this earth, but I truly believe that her life and her story has impacted so many people. I am so thankful that God chose to give her life, and I pray that her story continues to touch lives in the years to come. It is such a beautiful thing to know that we serve a God who has a plan that is so much bigger than our own. I am so grateful that my sweet baby was such a fighter, and that her life truly matters. I am so extremely proud of my precious Caroline Joy.

The amount of time on earth matters very little: a man can live in greed and pride 90 years and never find God, know Him or accomplish His Plan. A stillborn baby on the other hand, teaches people to love, brings people to the Lord, teaches us the tenuous nature of life and teaches us a faith that those who have not suffered loss can never know. A child not even breathing for an hour, can have an impact greater than a famous preacher. The purpose of a life is not ours to decide nor in our hands: it is brought about by God.”
                                                                                     -Author Unknown