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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

In Her Honor




















     Knowing that Caroline's 3rd birthday was approaching, I was praying that God would lead me to a special way that we could serve others in her honor. About a week before her birthday, that prayer was answered! I was so excited to hear about a Life Walk that was happening on the exact morning of her birthday. It was truly an answer from God! The walk happened at Allendale Community Park, and was put on by the Lakeshore Pregnancy Center. 
     When we received Caroline's diagnosis, one of the first options given to us was to terminate the pregnancy. Josh and I both knew immediately that it was never an option for our family, for our baby. We strongly believe that God has a plan and a purpose for each and every precious life, no matter how long or how short their time is here on earth. Choosing life for our baby never felt like a choice. However, I do know that there are many people who are faced with a pregnancy that is not planned. Many who are ready to bring a new life into this world, but do not have the resources or funds to provide for that child. Many who feel trapped, and do not believe they have any other options. So the ministry of the Lakeshore Pregnancy Center, which provides resources, classes, ultrasounds, and guidance is so needed. The work that they do each day is so important. 
     Every single life has a purpose. Every single life has value. Every single life is special, precious, and important. My hope is that by participating in life walk, we were able to celebrate the value of human life. I strongly believe that Caroline's life is a testimony of our Creator, who has a purpose and a plan for each life. We know that God has a purpose for our sweet girl, and although we will never fully understand why she had to be taken away from us so soon, we do trust that His plan for her life is still at work each and every day. Being able to celebrate her life by taking part in this life walk was such a special way to celebrate her birthday. 
     The walk was held early on Saturday morning, June 17. We were able to join others in a celebration for life, as we walked about 1.5 miles around Allendale. The early morning had brought lots of rain and even a thunderstorm, but the storms had blown over by the time we met for the walk. It was humid, and sticky, but it was so special to walk alongside of our wonderful friends and family that morning. What a blessing to know how much they love Caroline along with us! Our little Noah walked almost the entire walk all by himself! It was a perfect morning to celebrate life, and to celebrate Caroline. 
    I also wanted to say a huge thank you to all of those who remembered Caroline along with us on her birthday. There will never be enough words to fully express how much I appreciate all of the love and support that was showered on us. Thank you from the very bottom of my heart to all of those who took the time to text or call me, to say Caroline's name aloud, to wish her a happy birthday, and to reassure my mommy heart that she is remembered and loved and celebrated. Thank you so much to all of the beautiful people who came out on that early Saturday morning to walk alongside of us at the life walk. Wow! I cannot even begin to express how much it truly meant to Josh and I to have you there with us. Thank you for celebrating Caroline with us in such a tangible way! I am so glad that the rain stopped before we started walking! We have so many many special people in our life, and we continue to see the hands and feet of Jesus at work through all of you. Thank you!
     I continue to be overwhelmed by the beautiful outpouring of support from those who read my blog, and comment on my posts. You will never know how much all of your comments touch my heart. Thank you for encouraging me. Above all, thank you so much for the prayers. The day was completely bittersweet, filled with happy memories, and celebration of Caroline's precious life. But it was also filled with tears, grief, aching hearts, and a flood of emotions. Knowing that we were being covered in prayers meant so much. 
     We serve such an amazing God! As I look back over the past 3 years, I can see how far we have come. Each and every day since we said goodbye to Caroline, has been filled with its own challenges and its own struggles. We have experienced happiness beyond measure, smiles that reach our ears, laughter that fills our home, hope that has been fulfilled, and hearts that are content. We have also experienced sorrow beyond measure, tears that seem to never end, conflicting emotions, overwhelming grief, empty arms, and the desperate pleas for things to be different. So much emotion, so many experiences, so many memories. So much has happened in just 3 short years. We have experienced the greatest heartbreak, and yet we are still standing. We have said goodbye, and yet we know that one day we will once again say hello. We have lost so much, yet we have gained immeasurably more. We can say with all of our hearts, that in the good times and in the really really hard times, God has never left our side. He is with us always. And we know that He will continue to stand beside us in the years to come, as we navigate the grief, the joy, the laughter, and the pain.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Happy 3rd Birthday Caroline Joy!






   Dear Caroline,

     Happy 3rd Birthday!!! What a very special day that we can celebrate a very special little girl! Your mommy cannot believe that we are celebrating your third birthday today. Oh my sweet girl, it feels like just yesterday that I was holding you in my arms. Whispering my love into your tiny ears, and feeling your silky hair on my fingers. It feels like just yesterday, when we said hello and good bye in one eternal breath. Now here we are, three years later, celebrating your life, and the love that we have for you, always. 
     Last night was full of tears, as I thought back to that night before your birth. I relived each and every detail of those moments, when I was still holding you safely inside. I missed you deeply last night, with each and every breath that I took, wishing with all of my heart that you could come back into my arms once again. I would give anything for just one more minute with you. Oh how much I miss you. How much my heart longs to feel whole again. How much my arms ache to feel full, with a weight that only you can fill. How much I want to celebrate this day, and every day, with you here beside us. How much I wish for the silence to be filled with your little voice, and your squeals of laughter. How much I want to discover who you are, what you would look like, and who your friends would be. How much I wish to see you love on your little brother, and be there as you grow up together. How much I wish I could see the special bond that you would share with your daddy. How much my mommy heart hurts for all of those things, and so much more. 
     But. Joy comes in the morning! As I awoke at 5am this morning, I watched the clock move slowly to the time of your birth. Those precious minutes when your daddy and I met you for the first time. And as I watched those minutes tick by, I smiled. I actually smiled. Your life, your gentle entrance into this world, and the peace filled moment when you slipped away, and went straight into the arms of our Heavenly Father, were so beautiful. It leaves me filled with pride, that I get to be your mom. This year, the hurt is a little less, and the joy is a little more. This morning, as I rejoiced in that moment when I first became a mom, it felt so good. I felt light, and happy, really truly happy. It does not mean that I miss you any less, or that the hole I have in my heart has gotten any smaller. It never will. Yet today I felt thankful, and joyful, and hopeful. God is so good! He has blessed me, over and over and over again. He is good to me. He is good to our family. He is good to you. Three years ago was the best and the worst day of my life. And I am forever changed because of that day. Because of you. 
      I think of you, each moment of each day. Wishing that I could just look down at my belly once again, and feel you growing inside of me. This week, I am so thankful for the warm summer sunshine, when Noah and I could go and visit your special place. We picked out a pink pinwheel, just for you. As we watched it spin in the gentle breeze, I told your little brother all about you. We talked about what you looked like, how much we miss you, and all of the things we dream you might be doing in Heaven. What a joy to watch your little brother's eyes light up when he hears your name. What a joy that each night, as we sing Jesus Loves Me, Noah cuddles up in my arms, and I have a moment to picture both of my babies, who are so loved by Jesus. What a joy to know that I am a mommy to two beautiful babies, that I love with all of my heart. 

   My sweet girl, as much as I wish with all of my heart that you were here on your birthday, and that we could celebrate with you here in our arms. I rejoice in knowing that you are safe, loved, and held in Heaven. Your mommy looks so forward to that day, when we will be reunited forever in Heaven. The day when there will be no more tears, and when every knee will bow in worship. The day when I will meet our Savior, face to face. The day when our family will once again be whole, and my heart will no longer feel the missing piece that only you can fill. The day when we will be together forever. The day when there will be no more death, no more sorrow, no more pain, and no more fear. Oh I look forward to that day with all of my heart! I rejoice in the promise that this life is just a short amount of time, compared to the eternity we will spend together in Heaven. What a glorious day that will be! Your mommy looks forward to that day with all of her heart! 
     So today, we will celebrate your life with joy, and remember you with tears and smiles. We will miss you beyond what words can express. We will praise God for your life, and that we were given such precious time with you. We will cling to the promise of that glorious day, which is yet to come. 
     Happy 3rd Birthday my Caroline Joy! Your mommy will celebrate today with tears, and love, and joy in my heart. Your mommy will miss you, and long for you with each breath that I take. Your mommy promises to continue to speak your name, share your story, and continue to live a life that would make you proud. 
     Today I pray that you would know just how much that I love you, and that you would know how much your family wishes that you were here with us, to celebrate your three years of life. We miss you always, and love you deeply. Happy Birthday to you my sweet girl, mommy loves you from the very bottom of my heart. 

       Until we meet again,
      with all of my love, tears, and heart,
Mommy




One day when Heaven was filled with His praises
One day when sin was as black as could be
Jesus came forth to be born of a virgin
Dwelt among men, my example is He
Word became flesh and the light shined among us
His glory revealed

One day they led Him up Calvary’s mountain
One day they nailed Him to die on a tree
Suffering anguish, despised and rejected
Bearing our sins, my Redeemer is He
Hands that healed nations, stretched out on a tree

And took the nails for me

Living, He loved me
Dying, He saved me
Buried, He carried my sins far away
Rising, He justified freely forever
One day He’s coming
Oh glorious day, oh glorious day

One day the grave could conceal Him no longer
One day the stone rolled away from the door
Then He arose, over death He had conquered
Now He’s ascended, my Lord evermore
Death could not hold Him, the grave could not keep Him
From rising again

Living, He loved me
Dying, He saved me
Buried, He carried my sins far away
Rising, He justified freely forever
One day He’s coming
Oh glorious day, oh glorious day

One day the trumpet will sound for His coming
One day the skies with His glories will shine
Wonderful day, my Beloved One, bringing
My Savior, Jesus, is mine

  Casting Crowns

Friday, June 16, 2017

Caroline's Roses



   






    On this night, 3 years ago, my body went into labor at 34 weeks 6 days. I remember that night, wishing, praying, hoping, pleading, that maybe it was false labor. I was not ready to meet my baby and say goodbye. I didn't want the pregnancy to end. Ever. I wanted my precious baby to stay inside me forever, safe, warm, protected, and alive. But God had a plan. Different from my own. He knew that it was almost time for Josh and I to meet our sweet baby. And in those moments of that late Monday night, June 16, 2014, I felt His Presence. I felt His peace wash over my heart. I felt calm, and ready to trust in what He had planned for us, and for our baby. That night, I did not know that only a few short hours later, I would be holding the most precious, beautiful, and loved little girl in my arms. I would cradle her, kiss her, talk to her, and pray over her. That night is forever etched in my heart and my mind. As my emotions are all over the place tonight, and I am reminded of those moments leading up to her birth, I know that God is near. Caroline's beautiful roses are in full bloom, just in time to celebrate her life! I love looking at them, smelling them, and remembering the memory of her life whenever Iook at them. Tonight I am so thankful for the roses, and their delicate beauty. I know that in the same way that God has lovingly designed each one, He has done the same with my Caroline Joy! I rejoice that she is perfect, whole, and surrounded by the greatest of love. I cling to the promise that one day, we will be reunited. But tonight, I am missing her just a lot more, and wishing I could look forward to precious 3rd birthday hugs and kisses tomorrow.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Disappointment


    I have wanted to share my heart, and I have not quite known how to do this. It is never easy to be open and honest. Especially with parts of our lives that are just sad and painful, it is easier to pretend they do not exist, rather than talking about them openly. But I have learned that through our life, and through our stories, God does use them to help others. So in light of that, I have been praying for God to lead my heart, and speak through my words, so that they can reach those who need to hear them. You see, lately I have been walking down a path of what feels like continual heartbreak and disappointment.  Don't get me wrong, my life isn't all bad, there are many days when the joy and the brightness outshines the pain and the frustration.  But I have felt throughout the past month, as though I have been brought back into the pit of grief, back to the days of anger, of questioning and wondering, and back to the days of ugly and painful tears. As I sit here now, and await the day when healing will once again begin, and the tears will fall less frequently,  I wanted to share my heart with all of you.
     Disappointment is never an easy pill to swallow, in fact, it's something that most of us try to avoid at all costs. So if you feel like you are facing a season of disappointments right now, then my prayer is that this post will speak to your heart.
      In my life, I have always dreamed of being a mom. It was my desire since I was a little girl, and I spent a majority of my years as a little girl playing "house" and barbies with my sisters and our friends. It was always so real to me. Not just something I did because it was fun, but because it was what I knew I wanted to be when I grew up. So of course, in my head I always believed it would be a simple process of having babies, and then being a mom for the rest of my life. I never in my life dreamed just how difficult it would be for me to become a mom. It has been the most painful, heartbreaking, beautiful, love filled journey that I could have ever imagined. God has used each and every step of this journey to teach me, to mold me, and to strengthen me.
     In all honesty,  I absolutely love being pregnant. I love everything about the beautiful and precious gift of growing a new life inside. I have actually told Josh many times that if I could just be pregnant forever I wouldn't mind one bit! So a few months after Noah was born, I found myself missing being pregnant. And I have been anxiously awaiting the day when we could begin the process of adding to our family once again. I would love to provide Noah with a little brother or sister some day. So even though Josh has not always been in full agreement, we have been trying to add to our family for awhile. A few weeks ago, I finally received the much awaited, much longed for, beyond exciting positive pregnancy test. It was faint, but it was there.  The following day it was once again, through my tear filled eyes, positive! My heart was overjoyed in so many many ways. And me, being the crazy person that I am, started talking to that very very little growing person who I believed was inside. I spent an incredibly happy, excited, beyond thrilled weekend keeping my little secret. All the while dreaming of what the next months were going to bring. But a few days later, when everything should have been okay, it was not. A negative pregnancy test, the sense of dread that filled my heart, the questions and the wondering, the desperate prayers, the waiting. Finally the call from the doctor, and the bad news. The pregnancy had ended, almost before it had even began. There was nothing left to do but wait, for my body to do the natural process. Two days later, it did.
     The disappointment. The hurt. The questioning. The anger. The tears. They came immediately. They hit me hard,  until I was just left feeling numb. Once again, I had to say goodbye. There was no reason they could give me as to why it ended. It just did. But that doesn't help. That doesn't make the pain go away. It doesn't fix a broken heart.
     In the same way that I questioned why we had to say goodbye to Caroline. Why we ever had to walk down such a difficult journey. Why God put us in that situation. Why the effects of all that we had lost, are still impacting me so strongly today. I went back to those moments of questioning. Why would God take something that I wanted so badly, that I had been hoping for, praying for, waiting for, and dangle it in front of me? Why would he allow those two early tests to be positive, just enough for me to hope, to dream, to begin to plan, to fill my heart with utter joy, only to snatch it out of my grasp only days later? It just did not feel fair. Once again, haven't I already given up enough?
     In the week before all of this happened, I was dealing with a work disappointment, one that hit me harder than I had anticipated. And of course, in my human understanding, I was praying for a clear answer as to why I had to face that disappointment. When I first saw that positive pregnancy test, I knew with all of my heart that my answer was in that pink positive line. I reasoned that God had closed the door for a new opportunity for teaching, in order to open the door for us to grow our family once again. It all made sense in my mind, in my human understanding. But once again, God was teaching me. I am learning over and over again that sometimes God must take us into the darkest, most hopeless places, in order for us to surrender it all. Yet let me tell you, that is not easy! Especially when you feel as though all has been stripped away, and you are left feeling confused, hurt, heartbroken, and angry. It is so hard to give it all over to God. Your first instinct is to try and put yourself back in control. To try and make everything better. To fix it. To rationalize it all. And just when I had thought I had learned it all during these past three years after losing my sweet girl, I was back in the same square once again. Left at a crossroads.
     As I was driving home one afternoon, the words to this song began filling my car at just the perfect time...

They say sometimes you win some
Sometimes you lose some
And right now, right now I'm losing bad
I've stood on this stage night after night
Reminding the broken it'll be alright
But right now, oh right now I just can't

It's easy to sing
When there's nothing to bring me down
But what will I say
When I'm held to the flame
Like I am right now

I know You're able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don't
My hope is You alone

They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Well, good thing
A little faith is all I have right now
But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul

I know You're able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don't
My hope is You alone

I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You'd just say the word
But even if You don't
My hope is You alone

You've been faithful, You've been good
All of my days
Jesus, I will cling to You
Come what may
‘Cause I know You're able
I know You can  
I know You're able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don't
My hope is You alone

Even If by MercyMe

These words from that song stuck in my head, and I continue to repeat them over and over and over....
"I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You'd just say the word
But even if You don't
My hope is You alone"

This song spoke directly to my heart, then and now. Because the truth is, yes, it is easy to sing when things are going well. It is easy to praise, and worship, and be grateful. But it is an entirely different story when you are in the middle of a trial, when you are in the midst of sorrow and hurt. You have a choice with how you will handle it, how you will deal with it, how you will work through it. And I would be lying if I did not admit that there were, and still are, moments when I just wanted to give up, because everything, all the failure and disappointment, seemed to be too much. It just hurt so much. Yet just as it says in this song, "you've been faithful,  you've been good, all of my days". I will be the first to tell you, God Is Good! God is Faithful! My life, is a living testimony of His goodness and His faithfulness. He has walked beside me, carried me, and guided me, each and every step of the way. In those moments, when I felt like there was no more hope, when the darkness overshadowed all things good, He was there. He was there. I have walked down the journey of grief and of joy, of heartbreak and of love, for the past three and a half years, and I know that I am here today, because of a good God, who loves me deeply, who holds my tears, and who continually overwhelms me with His promises. The God who continues to place people in my life who surround me with prayer, and love, and encouragement.  The God who knows exactly what song I need to hear, which will help heal my broken heart. The God who gently, yet relentlessly, calls me back into His loving arms. He is there. He is always there.
   
   
     One of my greatest struggles these past weeks is the unknowns. The "whys". Just as they did and continue to plague me with what happened to my precious Caroline,  I have found myself once again questioning why God would put me through this. As I laid on the floor after that phone call from the doctor, crying, I repeated over and over and over, "why God, I am NOT strong enough." In our minds, we feel as though we need to understand it all. We need to know why or why not. We want to know the details, understand why we are suffering, why we are sad, why bad things happen. It is a battle. It is a battle within ourselves to try and bring light to our suffering. We want to understand why a good God, who has complete control, would allow us to face disappointments, and setbacks, and sorrows. Just as the song says, "Cause I know You're able, I know You can, save through the fire with Your mighty hand".  We know our God can, and He does!
     Yet it does not always go as we had planned. I know that this is why this song spoke to me so clearly, because on those days when my body was doing the exact opposite of what it should have been doing. When I felt like my body was failing me, failing that precious life that should have been growing inside. When I felt the failure of losing out on a new position, and the overwhelming failure of not being able to emotionally handle all my daily commitments, I wondered why. Why could God just not fix it, make it all better? Put a nice soothing band aid on my hurting heart, and make it all right again? I had wanted this pregnancy, a new precious baby, so very badly. I had waited so long for that positive test. Yet over and over in my head I knew the truth, my heart shouted it to me with every beat it took, "even if You don't, my hope is You alone. " So I will continue to hope. I will hope in the Lord. The Lord, who is good and who is faithful. I will cling to my God, our God, who loves us deeply. Who wants the best for us. Who will walk beside us, in the sorrow, the hurt, the joys, and the pain. Our hope is in Him alone!
     Tonight my prayer, for each of us, who are facing disappointment, or heartbreak, or sorrow, or feelings of failure, is that we will ask God to fill us with His strength. That even if He chooses to not move mountains, or answer our prayers the way we hoped He would, that He would give us the strength to say, "it is well with my soul."